Note to readers: We’re pleased to introduce Christopher Waters as the Globe’s new wine critic. He replaces Beppi Crosariol, who retired this summer after a long-running career as one of the country’s leading voices on wine. Christopher got his start in the industry at the age of 18 as a tour guide at a winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Within a few years he became the founding editor of Vines, a national wine magazine, and began writing a syndicated weekly wine column that ran in newspapers across the country. In addition to wine writing, Christopher is education director of the IWEG Drinks Academy in Toronto and a WSET-certified instructor at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University, in St. Catharines, Ont. We’re excited for Christopher to bring his passion and expertise to The Globe. You can expect a weekend column from him that includes reviews of the latest bottles in store, as well as a midweek newsletter in which he will answer reader questions about all things wine. Sign up for the newsletter here.
Pleasing palates at Thanksgiving has as much to do with who’s gathered around the table as it does with what’s on the menu. Whether it’s the traditional turkey and all the fixings or something more modern or exotic, you can bet there’ll be a range of flavours on offer.
But over the past 20 years, the approach to shopping for wine for Thanksgiving has changed. For wine writers, it’s no longer simply a case of suggesting safe bottles to buy so that there’s only one turkey at the table. Now, there’s no certainty there will even be a turkey.
What we seek to eat, drink and celebrate has evolved over time. This year, my annual Thanksgiving shopping guide even sees a change in venue (hello Globe readers!).
There is, however, one guarantee I can make: If you’re tasked with bringing wine to a festive celebration or set to host the whole shebang, that bottle won’t be the main attraction. There will be enough going on around the table with animated conversation, shared stories or, who knows, snap happy social media posts that wine won’t be a focal point.
Likewise any gathering of family or friends is sure to bring a host of competing preferences. Some might prefer pinot grigios, others may only reach for chardonnay, while others might steadfastly believe red is the only acceptable wine colour. So, set your sights on a few well-chosen bottles that are made in a crowd-pleasing style and aren’t too expensive.
To aid your cause, here are some well-made, enjoyable selections to seek out. They cover a range of red, white and sparkling options – rosés are ideal for Thanksgiving celebrations too, I just looked elsewhere for new and delicious recommendations.
Château La Croix St-Pierre Grande Réserve 2016 (France)
This Bordeaux red blend offers complexity and charm, with attractive earthy, herbal and spice notes combined with dark fruit aromas and flavours. Available in Ontario at the above price and from select SAQ outlets in Quebec for $19.20.
Diego Pressenda La Torricella Dolcetto d’Alba Superiore 2016 (Italy)
This attractive red shows the dolcetto grape’s juicy fruit character, with noticeable tannins that add structure and grip. This isn’t a red to sip by itself, but it’s a great dinner companion. Available in Ontario.
Domaine Matthias et Emile Roblin Enclos de Maimbray Sancerre 2016 (France)
Fresh and fragrant, with delicious intensity and verve befitting the sauvignon blanc grape. This expressive Sancerre shows true character of the grape and place. Its ripe core of tree fruit gains interest from bright lime zest acidity, which carries through to the mouthwatering finish. Not cheap, but thrilling. Available in Ontario.
Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2016 (Ontario)
Domaine Queylus’s Tradition label should be a beacon for fans of well-crafted and nuanced chardonnays as the same attention to detail that shapes its more expensive labels applies. This is a beautifully made chardonnay, offering terrific balance, concentration and refreshment. Available in Ontario.
Double Canyon 2015 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon (United States)
Cabernet sauvignon from Washington packs much of the flavour and charm of better-known examples from California, but typically with more refreshment and elegance. This is a flavourful cabernet with layers that make it worth trading up. It’s plush, ripe and balanced. Available in Ontario.
Gérard Bertrand Terroir Syrah Grenache 2015 (France)
This blend of syrah and grenache results in a satisfying red with a core of juicy fruit enhanced by coffee and spice notes. Tannins are evident, but the texture is silky smooth. A well-made, solid value red that’s ready to drink. Available in Ontario.
Gota Bergamota Private Selection 2015 (Portugal)
This ripe and fruity red packs a lot of charm. The mix of fruit and floral appeals as does the balance and concentration. The extreme value of red wines from this corner of the world makes it worthy of your attention. This charming example is a terrific introduction. Available in Ontario.
Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2018 (Ontario)
This mouthwatering white wine offers a classic taste of Niagara riesling. Bright citrus and peach fruit contribute to the mix of zesty and juicy flavours. It’s off-dry in style, but the overall character is fresh and pure as opposed to sweet or cloying. Available in Ontario at the above price and various prices in Alberta.
Jim Barry Wines Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (Australia)
Satisfying, this stylish cabernet sauvignon reveals attractive ripe fruit with complexity from earthy and savoury aromas and flavours. Available in Ontario.
Marques de Caceres Antea 2015 (Spain)
Made in a rich and refreshing style, this barrel-fermented white offers appealing toasted and spicy notes with bright citrusy fruit flavours. Oak-aged whites that aren’t chardonnay can confound, but this offers a freshness and verve that make it stand out. Available in Ontario.
M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône Grenache Syrah 2017 (France)
Here’s a pretty and perfumed red that shows the fruity and fragrant appeal of the grenache grape. A touch candied and simple, but easy-to-appreciate with or without food. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.25 in Quebec, $17.99 in Manitoba and various prices in Alberta.
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava (Spain)
Made in the same method as Champagne, with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle, this crisp and attractive sparkling wine is consistently enjoyable. It’s flavourful enough to enjoy on its own or with a meal and affordable enough to use as the base wine for mimosas or other sparkling-wine cocktails. Available in Ontario at the above price, $14.25 in Quebec, $15.99 in Manitoba and various prices in Alberta.
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