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Vine Lines: Give a gift of great (fermented) grapes this Christmas

So a couple of weeks ago, I talked about the cheap stuff. Boxes of wine.

Now it’s time to go to the opposite extreme.

I thought it might be fun to suggest some higher-end wines for those who might want to gift the winos in their lives with a special bottle. These are not crazy-expensive by any stretch of the imagination — I mean, you could spend hundreds or thousands on a single bottle of wine at the Liquor Marts right here in Brandon. But since I figure the vast majority of folks aren’t likely to be doing that, here are some splendid single bottles that should make great presents for your nearest and dearest, especially if they’re into the fermented fruit of the vine.

For Chardonnay lovers, two wonderful options are the Mer Soleil Silver Chard from California, with its aromas of butter and grassy hay. It has a pronounced mineral quality that I really adore — it’s unoaked and completely contradictory — smooth but acidic, light but with some depth, delicate but full of flavour (stone fruit and lemon). While it’s $28.95 a bottle, the ceramic container it comes in can be cleaned and stored in the freezer. Then, when you want another white to stay chilled, simply pour it into your freezer temp Silver ceramic bottle, and the wine will stay cold much longer. So once the wine is gone, the bottle becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

I also love the Valdivieso Wild Fermented Single Vineyard Chardonnay from Chile. Delicate yet intense, layer upon layer of flavour trips across the tongue when this wine is served slightly cool, as opposed to cold. With rich fruit, nut and mineral aromas and flavours, this is a terrific Chard for the price — $21.48 — and sure to please any Chard lover on your list if he or she is into trying something interestingly different and delicious.

For those who adore Sauvignon Blanc, it’s hard to beat the Kim Crawford Sauv Blanc from Marlborough in NZ. Fruity, not minerally or herbaceous, you can’t go wrong with this wine — it’s won multiple awards over many years. For $21.99 a bottle, it really is a steal of a deal.

If you’ve a Pinot Noir person for whom to purchase a present, I think the Wagner Family of Wine Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir from California is a complete delight. Gently earthy with the expected Pinot flavours of cherry and red fruit, this Pinot is not quite as edgy as some, which is probably why I like it. At $24.99, it’s a great Pinot, suitable for a true Pinot fan or anybody who’d like to become one.

For those who are enamoured with Old World wines, La Fiole du Pape.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is rich and complex, musty enough to be authentically Old World, but well-rounded enough to please a lot of palates. It’s delicious with turkey and duck, so it would be a perfect traditional Christmas dinner accompaniment. But I’d rather drink it without food — at least some of it — because it’s so good, it deserves to be savoured on its own. This one is also a keeper bottle — it’s sway-backed and has a permanent coating of "dust," which makes it look like it’s been sitting on a rack in a French cellar for decades. It’s just a cool bonus to a lovely wine. La Fiole du Pape Chateauneuf-du-Pape sells for $34.99 a bottle.

I picked up this next wine as a gift for friends who constantly, consistently and contentedly spoil us every year, not just during the holidays, but all the time. They like Cabernet Sauvignon, so I figured the nicest one I’ve ever had, the 2008 Wolf Blass Gray Label ($39.99) should be wrapped up and presented to them. So it was! I hope they like(d) it — it features all the Cab properties we appreciate — black currant, violets, leather, and tobacco — and while it’s plenty gutsy, it’s also got that slightly rounded texture that comes with a bit of age. (Insert your own vintage joke here.)

Shiraz/Syrah/Petite Sirah fans will likely adore the 2008 Australian Nugan Estate Durif (pronounced, I was told by an Aussie, derr-RIFF) — the grapes are similar if not variations of the same thing. And while the Nugan Estate is perhaps a smidge drier than some Shirazes, I like that about it, as I do the deep black fruit, chocolate and spice flavours. This wine sells for $25.95 a bottle.

For Keith, who emailed and said I should write about more Canadian wines in my column, and for other fans of sparkling wine, try the Cipes Brut from the Okanagan ($34.41). Yeasty enough that it smells like Champagne, it’s oaky with just the faintest hint of lime, and the toasty caramel flavour on the finish just sends me over the moon.

If you want to play in the big leagues, it’s hard to go wrong with any true Champagne. But while I’ve flirted with most of them, I always end up going back to Veuve Clicquot Brut. It’s just glorious. Doughy with very little, if any, citrus, it’s alive with never-ending bubbles that are simply divine. The Brut is $68.38, while the Veuve Demi-Sec — a fair bit sweeter — sells for $72.63.

And for the beer lover on your list, check out the Champagne of beers, Deus Brut des Flandres. With "divine grain bubbles," this is unquestionably the best beer I’ve ever had. It should be, at $18.83 for a 750 ml bottle. But it’s rich, deeply flavoured, and it really DOES taste, somehow, like Champagne. It’s probably the yeastiness, but whatever it is, it’s spectacular. We also picked a bottle of Deus for friends who appreciate beer, and I can only hope they like it as much as my husband and I did when we tried it at a recent Brandon Wine Society tasting.

So jolly shopping, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays — pick whichever phrase you approve of and ignore those you don’t. If you’re fortunate enough to be around family and friends for a celebration, enjoy their company along with a glass — or two — of wine, or whatever your preferred beverage is. A little indulgence and a lot of love — that’s what the season should be all about.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 22, 2012

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So a couple of weeks ago, I talked about the cheap stuff. Boxes of wine.

Now it’s time to go to the opposite extreme.

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So a couple of weeks ago, I talked about the cheap stuff. Boxes of wine.

Now it’s time to go to the opposite extreme.

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