As holiday preparations approach fever pitch, it’s a good time to remember the guidelines for selecting wine for festive gatherings should incorporate who is attending as well as the style of gathering. A cocktail party calls for different beverage options than a seated dinner. Likewise, some dietary restrictions – notably, gluten-free or vegan diets – should be reflected in the drink selections you plan to serve as well as the food.
Holiday entertaining is ultimately about setting the conditions for everyone to have a good time, including the hosts. With that in mind, here are some sparkling-wine recommendations to add style to a cocktail party, a plea to lean into balanced and flavourful white wines for dinner and a shout out to the growing range of vegan-friendly wines that are truly delicious even if you’re a confirmed carnivore.
Sparkling wines aren’t only seen as being inherently festive, their fresh character works with a wide variety of flavours. Those bubbles help to refresh your palate between bites. Here are three traditional method (fermented in the bottle you’re pouring out of) sparkling wines to consider.
Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Extra Brut Rosé Champagne 2013 (France), PRICE: $106.95
A product of a challenging growing season in Champagne, with grapes harvested in October as opposed to the common late August and September timeframe, this is a racy and flavourful rosé Champagne. It will age nicely, but I really enjoy the freshness and intensity right now. Drink now to 2029. Available in Ontario.
Noble Ridge The One Sparkling 2017 (Canada), PRICE: $39.99
Noble Ridge continues to impress with the quality of the sparkling wines produced from its Okanagan Falls estate vineyard. A blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, this benefits from extended aging on the lees (the spent yeast cells left over after secondary fermentation) that impart rich nutty and bready aromas and flavours to the finished wine. Drink now to 2025. Available direct, nobleridge.com
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava (Spain), PRICE: $16.95
Made in a consistently enjoyable style, this classic cava label offers a pleasingly fruity and refreshing character. The crisp finish will cleanse your palate between bites, making this a great wine to enjoy with appetizers or a meal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $17.99 in British Columbia ($16.99 until Dec. 31), various prices in Alberta, $18.99 in Saskatchewan, $18.99 in Manitoba, $15.75 in Quebec, $20.49 in New Brunswick, $21 in Nova Scotia, $19.99 in Prince Edward Island, $20.83 in Newfoundland.
Undue attention is typically afforded to red wines for meal planning, but white wines are equally important – if not more so. The best white wines to bring to the dinner table offer appealing fragrance and flavour, with nice balance between acidity, alcohol and sweetness like these recommended current releases.
Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (United States), PRICE: $21.95
True to the Gott style, this sauvignon blanc is a blend of grapes grown throughout California to produce a balanced and concentrated white wine. Layers of citrus, peach and tropical fruit make this easy to appreciate and enjoyable. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $29.99 in Saskatchewan, $19.99 in Manitoba, $21.60 in Quebec, $27.97 in Nova Scotia.
Matua Sauvignon Blanc Hawke’s Bay 2021 (New Zealand), PRICE: $18
A different take on New Zealand sauvignon blanc, this fresh and juicy style of sauvignon blanc comes from Hawke’s Bay on the North Island. Expect more tropical fruit aromas and flavours than you’d find in styles from Marlborough, with some floral and herbal notes. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $19.99 in British Columbia ($15.99 until Dec. 31), various prices in Alberta, $20.49 in Saskatchewan, $18.49 in Manitoba, $38.68 (1.5 litres) in Newfoundland.
It might come as a shock that most wines don’t conform to vegan diets. For instance, animal-derived products are often used during production for clarification and stabilization purposes. Vegan-friendly wines are ones where no animal products are used to fine or filter the finished wine. Vegan-certified wines are audited by a third party to confirm that practices in the vineyard and winery, including packaging, conform to vegan principles. This information is typically displayed on the back label.
Bottega Rose Gold Brut Sparkling (Italy), PRICE: $29.95
Many of Bottega’s extensive range of sparkling wines, grappas and liqueurs are vegan-certified, including this attractive rosé Prosecco, with its pleasant mix of berry and citrusy flavours. Drink now. Available in Ontario at that above price, $34.99 in British Columbia ($32.99 until Dec. 31), various prices in Alberta, $28.70 in Quebec, $34.99 in Nova Scotia.
Cave Spring Estate Grown Cabernet Franc 2020 (Canada), PRICE: $19.95
Produced from the original Cave Spring Vineyard on the Beamsville Bench, this fragrant and focused red wine is a terrific expression of cabernet franc. The core of juicy berry fruit is nicely balanced by polished tannins and bright acidity. Drink now to 2028. Vegan-friendly. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct, cavespring.ca, various prices in Alberta.
Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec Organic 2021 (Argentina), PRICE: $15.95
A great value expression of malbec, with plummy fruit and spice accents. The smooth texture adds to the appeal. Drink now to 2025. Vegan-friendly. Available in Ontario at the above price, $17.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $16.04 in Manitoba, $18.99 in Prince Edward Island.
El Petit Bonhomme Blanco 2020 (Spain), PRICE: $17.99
This fresh and inviting white wine is produced with verdejo grapes grown on 50-year-old bushvines in the Rueda appellation. A blend of tank- and barrel-fermented lots makes for a wine with nice balance and intensity. Drink now. Vegan-certified. Available at the above price in British Columbia ($16.99 until Dec. 31), various prices in Alberta, $18.99 in Manitoba, $15.75 in Quebec (2021 vintage).
Taittinger Brut Réserve Champagne (France), PRICE: $61.20
Appealing, rich and refreshing, the Taittinger style is bright and balanced. A terrific all-round expression that is pleasurable on its own or with a meal. Vegan-friendly. Available in Ontario at the above price, $74.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $60.25 in Quebec, $88 in Nova Scotia (Bishop’s Cellar).
Zonte’s Footstep Chocolate Factory Shiraz 2019 (Australia), PRICE: $19.95
Made in a rich and ripe style, this concentrated and full-bodied shiraz from McLaren Vale offers the chocolate flavours promised in the name along with an intriguing mix of herbal and spice notes. Drink now to 2026. Vegan-certified. Available in Ontario at the above price, $27.20 in Newfoundland.
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