Who would have thought the stress of holiday shopping could actually intensify? Traditional complaints about crammed mall parking lots and overcrowded stores seem almost nostalgic right now. Everyone I know who’s celebrating or exchanging gifts has been actively making a list and checking it twice to ensure everything is in hand long before … whatever it is that comes next.
With that in mind, here are a range of recent wine and spirits releases that have impressed me as being distinctive and enjoyable. There’s even a new edition of a classic book that offers an epic account of how wine has evolved over time and become so tightly ingrained in many cultures of the world. It goes without saying that these selections work equally well if you’re looking to treat yourself with a special bottle to make a night in more gratifying.
Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2018
The release of Le Clos Jordanne’s 2018 vintage shows the outstanding character of these single vineyard wines from a warm vintage. Production levels were lower than anticipated, which means there’s half of the production of this rich and rewarding chardonnay compared with the 2017 release available to consumers. Already a nicely integrated white wine, this shows considerable weight and intensity, with a concentrated mouth-filling character that’s easy to appreciate. Drink now to 2026.
Available in Ontario at the above price or direct through leclosjordanne.com.
Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Violette 2018
Violette is Le Vieux Pin’s fragrant and fruity expression of syrah, the one that’s most approachable upon release. It’s traditionally one of my favourite wines from the Okanagan because it’s a serious wine that’s a joy to drink. A tiny addition of viognier adds some attractive floral notes to the core of ripe, red fruit and makes for a stylish red that’s enjoyable with or without a meal. Drink now to 2028.
Available direct through levieuxpin.ca.
Lightfoot & Wolfville Brut Rosé
Lightfoot & Wolfville ranks among the best bubbly producers in Canada, which makes this fresh and delicious sparkling rosé a most welcome addition to the portfolio. Produced from pinot noir from two vineyards in the Avonport-Wolfville area of Nova Scotia, this is packed with appealing crushed berry fruit with some lemon sherbet and biscuit notes. The elegant character and length make this fine by any standards. Drink now to 2024.
Available direct through lightfootandwolfville.com.
Luce La Vite Lucente 2017
The second wine from Tuscany’s Luce truly impresses with this vintage. A fragrant and rewarding blend of merlot and sangiovese, this offers appealing berry fruit, tobacco and spice notes. Its nicely balanced acidity and youthful tannins make a great style to enjoy now with a meal or stow away for later. Drink now to 2023.
Available in Ontario at the above price, $35.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $40.99 in Manitoba, $34.10 in Quebec, $39.99 in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Nikka Coffey Gin
Best known for its distinctive whiskies, Japanese distillery Nikka expanded its range to include this fresh and zesty gin, which is flavoured by 11 selected botanicals, including a variety of Japanese citrus fruits, such as yuzu and kabosu, as well as the expected juniper berries, coriander seeds and angelica. Produced from a base of corn and barley and distilled through Nikka’s traditional Coffey column still, the crisp and tangy nature makes it a solid spirit for classic cocktails like a gin and tonic or negroni.
Available in Ontario at the above price, $69.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $69.75 in Quebec.
Stratus Vineyards Blanc de Blancs 2013
Prior to joining Stratus Vineyards in 2004, winemaker Jean-Laurent (J-L) Groux worked for 16 years at Hillebrand Estates (now Trius Wines) in Niagara-on-the-Lake where he established the popular Trius Brut brand, one of the country’s earliest bottled fermented sparkling wines. That legacy means his first sparkling wine release from Stratus has created quite a stir. “People are expecting the moon,” he says. Even with such high hopes, this outstanding 100-per-cent chardonnay bubbly is sure to impress. Charming and bright, with great balance and purity, this is dry but not austere. It’s a stunning debut. Drink now to 2025.
Available direct through stratuswines.com.
Tattie Bogle Vodka
Arbikie Highland Estate dubs itself a field-to-bottle distiller. Based in Angus, Scotland, the Stirling family grows maris piper, King Edward and cultra varieties of potatoes to produce this smooth and creamy vodka, named in honour of the scarecrows (“tattie bogles” in ancient Scots) that protected the crop from wildlife. It’s velvety texture and mellow nature make it suitable for enjoying straight or in cocktails.
Available at the above price in Ontario, $58 in Quebec.
Taylor Fladgate 20-Year-Old Tawny Port
Price: $69.95 ($62.95 to Nov. 29)
This rich and luscious fortified wine is a great treat to have on hand and enjoy over the course of the holidays. The long spell in wood casks sees the red wine colour change to a golden brown (hence the name tawny) and the flavours become more concentrated and intense, suggesting a complex array of sweet, nutty and savoury notes with a long spicy finish. Once opened, this will keep for weeks in the fridge.
Available in Ontario at the above price, $69.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $82.99 in Saskatchewan, $70.03 in Manitoba, $69.75 in Quebec, $72.49 in New Brunswick, $63.99 in Nova Scotia, $78.98 in Newfoundland.
The Story of Wine: From Noah to Now by Hugh Johnson
Part of the Academie du Vin Library, founded by Steven Spurrier and friends to publish the best wine writing of the past, present and future for a specialist audience, the latest edition of Hugh Johnson’s The Story of Wine updates a detail rich chronicle – the author pointedly explains how he’s wary of the word history in the preface – of wine’s evolution over time, from Noah to Napa and beyond. “Every year now we are introduced to a neglected grape variety, or a classic being grown in a new place and challenging all received ideas,” Johnson writes. Which is why this incredible tale, hundreds of tales in truth, is worthy of our attention and merits telling and retelling.
Available direct through academieduvin.com.
Plan your weekend with our Good Taste newsletter, offering wine advice and reviews, recipes, restaurant news and more. Sign up today.
Globe and Mail subscribers can register to join Christopher Waters on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. ET for a wine tutorial on buying bottles for the holidays, developing your palate and serving for best enjoyment.