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waters on wine

Planning for the festive season started earlier than usual for many of us who were looking forward to once again celebrating with family and friends, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t last-minute items to gather or replace – it is all too easy to succumb to temptation and open bottles that have been set aside for later.

If you need to grab some things to serve or take to end of year gatherings, here are recommendations for your shopping list. There are some crowd-pleasing bargain wines, which are good to note for the months ahead as well as any immediate needs, and a few splurge-worthy wine and whisky selections. The list also includes a delicious non-alcoholic alternative to sparkling wine, produced in Ottawa.

Fish Hoek Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (South Africa), $10.10

Rating:88 /100

This inexpensive South African sauvignon blanc captures the vibrant and fresh nature of the grape, with a pleasant mix of citrus and tropical fruit flavours on display. Certified by Fairtrade International, which helps ensure that farmers and workers receive fair wages for their labour, this refreshing white is ready to drink. Available in Ontario.

Fonseca Periquita Red 2019 (Portugal), $10.95

Rating:87 /100

Established in 1850, Periquita is believed to be the first bottled wine brand from Portugal. Its juicy and rewarding style has made it a perennial best value performer in markets across Canada. It offers a good amount of character and flavour for its price, which sets it apart from many of the simple and sweetly fruited red wines selling at this price. Available in Ontario at the above price ($9.95 until Jan. 2, 2022), $10.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $9.59 in Manitoba, $14.49 in Newfoundland.

Gray Monk Odyssey Brut 2018 (Canada), $25.99

Rating:89 /100

This fresh and inviting sparkling wine is produced from a base wine that blends riesling, pinot blanc and chardonnay musque with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. The result is a refreshing and juicy bubbly that’s easy to appreciate. It’s flavourful enough to enjoy by the glass and balanced enough to serve with a meal, which makes this a go-to for entertaining needs at any time of the year. Available in British Columbia at the above price, $26 direct from graymonk.com, various prices in Alberta.

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc de Blancs 2016 (Canada), $49.95

Rating:94 /100

Henry of Pelham’s vintage dated, chardonnay-based Carte Blanche label has cemented its sparkling wine program as one of Canada’s best. Produced from some of the original plantings of chardonnay vines on the estate in St. Catharines, Ont., this rich and refreshing sparkling wine offers pleasing complexity and a persistent lemony fresh finish. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct through henryofpelham.com.

Lumette Bright Light Non-Alcoholic Distilled Spirit (Canada), $35.99

Rating:89 /100

Distilled in Sooke, B.C., Lumette is a fragrant and complex zero alcohol gin. Its botanicals include juniper, citrus, rose, mint and cucumber, which contribute to the balanced and layered aroma and flavours. Made to be blended as part of a cocktail, this mixes well with tonic water as expected, but more creative uses can be found on the website. I recommend trying the Zero Proof Mimosa, which combines Bright Light with orange juice and orange marmalade. Available direct through enjoylumette.com.

Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc 2021 (South Africa), $9.95

Rating:88 /100

The latest vintage of this soft and fruity white continues to impress. It shows appealing ripe apple, honey and herbal aromas and flavours with a fresh finish. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, $11.99 in British Columbia ($8.99 until Jan. 1, 2022), various prices in Alberta, $10 in Quebec, $10.99 in New Brunswick.

Silver Swallow Kombucha Blanc (Canada), $19

Rating:89 /100

Part of the evolving selection of premium non-alcoholic products on the market, Silver Swallow is brewed in Canada with its namesake Silver Swallow, a rare organic white tea from Yunnan, China. Made to be an alternative to sparkling wine, Silver Swallow comes in a stylish, curvy bottle with a cork and cage. In the glass, it’s hazy, with gentle effervescence that adds some vibrancy to the grassy, honey and tropical fruit notes. Drink now. Available direct, sold as a pack of three 750 ml bottles for $57, through silverswallow.co.

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland), $66.95

Rating:89 /100

Glenlivet’s popular 12 Year Old Single Malt offers a smooth, light and fruity character that’s easy to appreciate served neat, on ice or in a cocktail. Its gentle style makes it a good introduction to single malt whisky. Available in Ontario at the above price ($63.95 until Jan. 2, 2022), $65.99 in British Columbia ($61.99 until Jan. 1, 2022), various prices in Alberta, $62.99 in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, $66.49 in Manitoba, $60.75 in Quebec, $63.48 in New Brunswick, $62.19 in Prince Edward Island, $61.99 in Newfoundland.

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2019 (Germany), $14.95

Rating:87 /100

It may come as a surprise that Germany is a major producer of pinot noir because most examples that reach wine shops in Canada are labelled as Spaetburgunder. This affordable example broadcasts pinot noir on its label and from the glass, with its simple but enjoyable red cherry and spice aromas and flavours. The supple texture and refreshing finish make for a food-friendly red to enjoy with a meal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $18.49 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $16.99 in Manitoba, $16.70 in Quebec.

Vina Real Gran Reserva 2015 (Spain), $37.95

Rating:93 /100

Vina Real has been producing a distinguished range of red wines in Rioja Alavesa since 1920. This polished Gran Reserva offers tremendous value for money, with its layers of ripe fruit and oak-derived spice and coffee flavours, which gain depth from some earthy and leathery notes. Its complex character is easy to appreciate right now, but this style of wine has tremendous aging potential if you’re interested. Drink now to 2035. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.

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