The onset of spring is always welcome, but there’s something about this year’s vernal equinox that’s long-awaited. Increasing daylight hours and warming temperatures are sure to boost moods as we’re able to shed layers of clothing.
Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight. March 20 merely points us in the right direction.
To set the stage for the sunny days ahead, here’s a selection of fresh, aromatic white wines, two easy-to-appreciate red wines and a collection of gins that ranges from classic to innovative.
Gin continues to boom, with consumers embracing new releases that feature increasingly exotic botanicals, the peels, barks, seeds, spices, fruits, flowers and other ingredients that contribute aroma and flavour to the white spirit during distillation. There are also sweeter examples hitting the market.
Depending how innovative and ambitious the distiller is, a bottle sold as gin could be bright and clear, fruity, spicy, floral or smoky. The resulting array of flavours can contribute to any number of classic gin cocktails or, in some cases, can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
This week’s recommendations – wines and spirits – include a diverse mix of styles that put the emphasis on raw materials. Much of the pleasure comes from the aromatic charge of these wines and gins, which were intentionally selected to help awaken our senses. They range from light and crisp to full-bodied and flavourful; they are styles that are right for the season.
Broker’s Premium London Dry Gin (England)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $30
While most modern gins are produced with a continuous still, which is capable of significantly higher production than pot stills, Broker’s continues to be made in batches with a traditional copper pot still at a 200-year-old distillery. Despite the extra effort, this remains one of the bargain bottles in the gin section. The resulting style is heavier and more complex than many gins, with a fresh, citrusy character enriched by juniper and licorice notes. Available in Ontario at the above price, $28.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $29.99 in Nova Scotia.
Dr. L Riesling 2020 (Germany)
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $15.95
This straightforward style of riesling is peachy and appealing. It’s generously ripe and puts the emphasis on its fruity character, which is medium in sweetness but nicely balanced by lively acidity that leaves a lasting citrussy note on the refreshing finish. Drink now-2025. Available in Ontario and Quebec at the above price, $17.99 in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, various prices in Alberta, $15.99 in Manitoba, $18.99 in New Brunswick, $18.47 in Nova Scotia, $18.29 in Prince Edward Island, $18.98 in Newfoundland.
Flat Rock Twisted White 2019 (Canada)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $17.95
This off-dry white blend has consistently been one of Ontario’s bestselling wines. The 2019 is mostly riesling with gewurztraminer and chardonnay, which focuses more on grapefruit and apple notes for a crisp, refreshing style. The finish is fresh and pleasant. Drink now-2024. Available in Ontario at the above price or $18.15 direct, flatrockcellars.com
Gemtree Dragon’s Blood Shiraz 2021 (Canada)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $21.25
This certified organic and biodynamic shiraz from McLaren Vale is made in a soft and juicy style, with vibrant acidity complementing the dark berry flavours. This has the generous, full-bodied Australian shiraz character with more grace and delicacy than usual. Drink now-2026. Vegan friendly. Available at the above price in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
Guy Lafleur No. 10 Gin (Canada)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $47.95
Distilled from Canadian grains by Verger Hemmingford cidery in Montérégie, Que., this peppery and spicy gin is made in consultation with the Montreal Canadiens’ great. The unique flavour profile makes this stand out from traditional gins, but it works well mixed with tonic water and garnished with cucumber. Available in Ontario at the above price, $49.99 in British Columbia, $47.75 in Quebec.
Glendalough Wild Botanical Gin (Ireland)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $43.75
This Irish gin displays a dramatic pine scent that gains interest from lemon and honeysuckle aromas. The juniper kicks in on the palate, making for a more classic gin character. The style works well in a martini or a Tom Collins. It’s flavourful enough to enjoy neat or on the rocks. Available in Ontario at the above price, $49.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $44.99 in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
Hester Creek Old Vine Pinot Blanc 2021 (Canada)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $17.99
Made from pinot blanc vines on the estate, including a section planted in 1968, this vibrant white offers citrus and apple notes that carry through to a refreshing finish. Some peach and melon add interest and depth to the flavours. A terrific wine to enjoy with seafood dishes. Drink now-2024. Available at the above price in British Columbia or direct, hestercreek.com, various prices in Alberta.
Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Violette 2020 (Canada)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $34.99
Syrah from the Okanagan continues to impress thanks to compelling and complex examples like this. Winemaker Severine Pinte explains this co-fermentation of syrah and viognier, a white grape that contributes floral fragrance and charm to the blend, shows the elegant side of syrah. Behind the scenes, this is described as a syrah for pinot noir lovers. Its mix of dark fruit, black olive and floral make for a seriously enjoyable red with a fleshy, easy-drinking character. Drink now to 2030. Available at the above price in British Columbia or direct, levieuxpin.ca, various prices in Alberta.
Plymouth English Gin (England)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $45.55
Distinctly different in style from London Dry Gin, Plymouth has a softer, silkier texture and flavours that are more earthy in nature, with sweet citrus and spice notes along with the traditional juniper and spice botanicals. This works well in a wide variety of cocktails, but this time of year, I’m thinking about a gimlet (mixed with lime cordial or fresh lime and simple syrup) or served with one part gin, three parts club soda and a dash of bitters. Available in Ontario at the above price, $46 in Quebec, various prices in Alberta, $46.19 in Prince Edward Island.
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