Your handy guide to holiday wines from Winnipeg's top sommeliers
Discover the most interesting wines to gift, what to drink on a snowy day and the perfect pinot to pair with turkey
From aligoté to zinfandel, Winnipeg's wine shops are stocked with everything you need to stay satiated this holiday season. They've even fine-tuned online ordering to make delivery and curbside pickup easier than ever. The only problem: how to know which bottles to buy?
We asked sommeliers Mike Muirhead of Jones & Company Wine Merchants, Tom Bima of The Winehouse and Sean Dolenuck of De Nardi/La Boutique del Vino for recommendations on unique wines to gift, wines best suited for cold winter days, upcoming trends, what to pair with your holiday dinner and more.
Here's what they had to say:
An interesting wine to gift for the holidays:
Mike Muirhead: I’m a big fan of ’something new’. We have a great wine called The Juice Asylum from Italy (sort of feels like we’re all in an asylum, might as well drink something that goes with that). Fresh, juicy, gulpable.
Tom Bima: Tokaij— a Hungarian dessert wine made from furmint grapes. Regarded as one of the best wines in the world because of the way it’s made.
Sean Dolenuck: There are so many wines in the world and too often we get stuck in our favourite grape, style, region. What better way to take someone out of their comfort zone than to gift them something they would never get on their own?
Enigmatic, eccentric and unexpected, Morgante Bianco is a white wine vinified entirely from nero d'Avola (Sicily's most noble red grape). Or, Judith Beck Ink is a fresh, juicy, vibrant and delicious blend of 80 per cent Zweigelt and 20 per cent St. Laurent from Austria.
The best wine(s) if you miss travelling:
MM: All of them. That's the best/worst part of being in Manitoba — no local wine. I would love to be back in the Rhone valley right now or in the hills of Tuscany. Try the Bonpas for a hidden gem, or the Ragnaie Troncone Sangiovese from Tuscany.
SD: All day rosé! Look for wines from the South of France, Spain and Canada. We love the Ontanon Clairette, a blend of viura and tempranillo. A perfect harmony exists between the fruit and acidity, transporting you away to a faraway beach with nothing but you and the sunshine in a glass.
The wine you’ll need for the first -30 C day of winter:
MM: The Flight Shiraz/Petit Verdot from South Africa. Big, rich, organic, unfiltered, unfined. Perfect for binge-watching a new series while staying in.
TB: The Guilty Shiraz. A bold, monster Aussie Shiraz that’s perfectly balanced. Dark, brooding and filled with character and nuance.
SD: Port. The rich, full-bodied fortified wine will bring warmth to your soul with flavours of dried orange, honey, maraschino cherry, cinnamon spice. Try the Bulas Reserve Tawny.
The best wine to pair with brunch takeout:
MM: Bubbles! Bubbles are great with everything, but really, just a great way to start the day. I would suggest one of our favourite Canadian producers, Bella Gamay Rose Pet Nat.
TB: Pepperwood Grove Old Vines Zin from the USA. A nice, jammy zin that is fun and easy. The Ned Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Crisp, bright and fresh, and perfect for cleansing your palate between each bite.
SD: Riesling. An off-dry style gives a little bit of sweetness yet not too much to be overpowering and brings balance to many food pairings with ease. Colaneri Estates from Niagara, Ontario has it all — pear drops, honeyed apple, lime sorbet and mouth-watering acidity to add freshness on the finish.
A wine that sparks a conversation:
MM: There are wines to talk over, and wines to talk about. One of my favourites right now is from northern Spain, the region of Txacoli (Cha-ko-lee) Bat Gara ‘Urtaran’. When was the last time you enjoyed the grape Hondarrabi Zuri? Maybe now is the time.
TB: Vranec Black Label. This is an intro-priced wine from Macedonia. When you think of really approachable, friendly wine that anyone would enjoy, Macedonia is not the first country that comes to mind.
SD: Champagne, sparkles or bubbles of any kind. We need to embrace the fact bubbles should be a part of our daily life and not necessary just for special occasions. Bott Freres Cremant d'Alsace Blanc de Noir is a great example of finesse and amazement. It's a sparkling white wine made from 100 per cent pinot noir.
The secret to enjoying wine at home:
MM: A good glass, a good corkscrew and good people to share it with.
TB: Take your time. Some people like using aerators to get oxygen quickly to the wine, but we like to pour the wine into a glass straight from the bottle. Notice how the wine changes from sip to sip as oxygen slowly allows it to show its character.
SD: Don't make it more pretentious than you need to. If you want to drink wine out of rocks glass or margarita bowl—giv'er!
Any upcoming wine trends you think we’ll see in 2021:
MM: Wine is so fun. It changes all the time, but the pandemic has really slowed down people's desire to go far outside their box. I think we’ll see a year of ‘let’s drink what we know and be happy’ and then the public will stretch its legs again. For me, fun whites and the new Spain.
TB: After 2020, I’m not making any predictions on 2021. We’ll likely see a rebound of American wine sales in Canada and around the world.
SD: I think shopping local might drive a more instinctive approach to looking at our domestic market of wines and supporting our fellow Canadians during this time. We make great wines, far better than we started off in the 1980s, and now is a great time to try out our wines from coast to coast.
A crowd-pleasing wine pairing for holiday dinners:
MM: My go-to for turkey pairing is a great pinot noir and a rich white (or blend). This year I’m looking at the First Creek Pinot Noir from Australia and my go-to holiday favourite: Terlan Terlaner (white blend) from Northern Italy.
TB: Buried Hope Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a great U.S. cab for under $25. Or Tightrope Pinot Gris, one of the best pinot gris to come out of B.C. in years. There is a limited amount left in Manitoba.
SD: The gamay grape from the Beaujolais region of France is an easy choice to match a variety of foods and flavours. Domaine Bel Avenir Beaujolais Villages has easy bright red fruits of raspberry, cranberry and candied pomegranate.
Winnipeg's wine stores are working hard to keep you safely stocked during the holidays. City-wide delivery, curbside pickup, gift baskets and monthly wine subscriptions make it easy and are offered by each store.
Additionally, Jones & Company has a fun, handy Text-A-Sommelier service. Send any burning wine queries or requests for food pairing reccs to 204.400.0499 for a quick response from one of their six sommeliers.
La Boutique del Vino offers virtual private events as well as an upcoming sparkling wine and champagne sale (their biggest ever!) and an excellent deal on their holiday mixer packs (six wines for $59.99).