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waters on wine

This Thanksgiving may be the first time in 18 months that families gather for a big meal. All the more reason to pick the right wines.skynesher/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Many Canadians are preparing to host or attend their first holiday gathering with friends and family in 18 months, which has prompted the usual requests for suggestions of crowd-pleasing bottles to serve or bring along. Even in the case of small gatherings, it’s been such a long time in most instances that people are trying harder than usual to impress.

This selection of 10 wines fits that bill. They are some last-minute suggestions to grab with confidence. They’re mostly affordable, truly enjoyable and will work with a mix of flavours on the table and taste buds gathered around the table. Best of all, they are bottles that would be memorable even by pre-COVID standards.

The red wine selections offer a dramatic range from the bright and juicy pinot made for Okanagan Crush Pad’s Haywire label to the rich and complex selections from El Enemigo in Argentina and Hedges in Washington State. Even if you’re not reconnecting with loved ones, these are solid wines to seek out while you can.

The whites are focused on the sauvignon blanc grape, a change from my usual Thanksgiving suggestions of riesling, viognier or chardonnay. These are versatile wines – in a bright and refreshing style – that are good to have on hand for any occasion.

The two Chilean selections offer terrific value for the money, a common theme for the country’s extensive wine offerings. A new release from Jackson-Triggs in Niagara really stood out in a recent tasting, so I’m happy to pass along its details.

El Enemigo Syrah/Viognier 2017 (Argentina), $24.95

Rating:92 /100

This exciting red is remarkably fresh and lively considering its age. A blend of syrah and viognier, which represents 12 per cent of the blend, this showcases a winning combination of spice and ripe fruit notes as part of an easy-to-appreciate wine that’s ready to drink. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario.

François Villard L’appel des Sereines Syrah 2018 (France), $19.95

Rating:91 /100

An expressive red wine that carries the generic Vin de France appellation on its label, L’appel des Sereines is made by one of northern Rhône’s top winemakers. Made with syrah, with a small amount of viognier, this offers appealing fruity, spicy and floral aromas and flavours. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $20.55 in Quebec.

La Marca Prosecco Rosé (Italy), $19.85

Rating:87 /100

Made in a crowd-pleasing style, La Marca Prosecco Rosé offers a combination of sweet and sour notes, including tart red berry and watermelon flavours with some green apple and citrus notes. A candied note gives this mass appeal, but fans of crisp sparkling wines might find it cloying. Available at the above price in Ontario, $19.99 in British Columbia and Manitoba, various prices in Alberta, $20.49 in Saskatchewan, $16.50 in Quebec, $23.99 in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Grand Reserve White Meritage 2020 (Canada), $25.95

Rating:91 /100

This stylish sauvignon blanc and semillon blend is made in the model of the structured and flavourful white wines from Bordeaux. This is nicely layered with citrus, apple and grassy/herbal notes and is rounded out by a bright, refreshing finish. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct through

Hedges CMS 2018 (United States), $29.95

Rating:91 /100

A blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot from one of Washington State’s pioneering family wineries, this dry and harmonious red has a lot to offer. The mix of ripe dark fruit and savoury aromas and flavours combine to make a serious first impression. The wine’s texture and tannins are smooth without distracting from its freshness or focus. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.

Matetic Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (Chile), $15.95

Rating:88 /100

The family-owned Matetic winery specializes in producing cooler climate wines made in San Antonio, near the Pacific coast. The focus is on syrah and pinot noir, but this racy and dry style of sauvignon blanc, with its tangy citrus and grassy aromas and flavours, is worthy of your attention. Drink now. Available in Ontario.

Haywire Pinot Noir Secrest Mountain Vineyard 2019 (Canada), $27.90

Rating:88 /100

This bright and juicy pinot noir comes from Secrest Mountain, an organic vineyard in Oliver. Made at Okanagan Crush Pad, which produces Haywire, Free Form and other Okanagan brands, this combines berry and plummy fruit notes with savoury and herbal notes. It’s a simple and enjoyable wine to drink now. Available in B.C. at the above price, direct through, various prices in Alberta.

Ortas Rasteau Tradition 2018 (France), $19.95

Rating:89 /100

A hearty red blend from the southern Rhône region of Rasteau, this combines grenache, syrah and mourvèdre for a spicy and generously structured wine. The fruit flavours are juicy and nicely accented by earth, smoke and cedar notes. It’s a sturdy yet accessible bistro wine. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $17.45 in Quebec.

Roche Nuances 2018 (Canada), $32.90

Rating:88 /100

Located in Penticton, the family-owned Roche produces a range of wines from estate vineyards in Naramata as well purchased grapes from other parts of the Okanagan. This Bordeaux style blend is made from merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon and suggests an attractive mix of ripe dark fruit and fragrant herbal notes. Drink now to 2026. Available direct through

Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (Chile), $12.95

Rating:88 /100

This fresh white wine is made in the Leyda Valley, a sub-region of San Antonio, located 12 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean. The cool ocean breezes made for a crisp and refreshing style of sauvignon blanc that delivers the purity and intensity of the grape variety. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $13.99 in B.C. ($10.99 until Oct. 30), Manitoba and Nova Scotia, various prices in Alberta, $15.50 in New Brunswick, $16.99 in Prince Edward Island, $13.69 in Newfoundland.

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