Christmas is the time of year when apostates like myself are supposed to rediscover the better angels of our nature, joining together with family, friends and perfect strangers in a spirit of harmony and generosity. Expectations reach a crescendo at Christmas dinner when we count our blessings, consider the less fortunate and set aside petty family grievances for that one ideal Norman Rockwell-esque moment.
Barring a visit from three ghosts, there will be no Damascene conversion for me, or my family, this year. More likely, our holiday dinner will be fuelled by characteristic chaos, excessively loud conversation and recriminations over spending too much.
Depleted as funds may be on Dec. 25, dinner hosts and guests still need to consider what wines to buy for the big meal. It’s just not cool to show up empty-handed, and homemade plonk is, well, cheap.
Still, who wants to splash out with an expensive wine that may not be appreciated by all and sundry? Better to strike a balance with a value wine that matches both the food and your New Year’s resolution budget.
To that end, the following under-$25 wines will keep your spirits up over the holidays and make interminable family dinners much more agreeable:
Villa Teresa Prosecco
750 mL, 11 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV), $17
It’s always nice to start off with festive bubbles, especially if they carry on to dinner, where bright acidity, lemon citrus, green apple and toasty lees make this sparkling wine right at home with the bird.
Pewsey Vale 2012 Riesling
Eden Valley, Australia
750 mL, 12.5 ABV, $24
Riesling is the default wine of choice for most holiday dinners. Its natural high acidity, residual sweetness and signature flavours of apple, lemon, lime and minerality make it a versatile choice for roast turkey and assorted accompaniments.
Pewsey Vale’s Riesling has fresh acidity and intense concentration of citrus aromas and tropical fruit flavours, making it an excellent companion for turkey and ham, as well as the rich, meaty sides that go with holiday meals. And if Christmas dinner isn’t your thing, try pairing it with spicy Asian takeout.
Cono Sur Reserva 2009⊇Viognier
Colchagua Valley, Chile
750 mL, 14 per cent ABV, $13
News flash: British Columbians pay through the nose for liquor.
Fortunately, price is no indication of quality, so consumers dialled into value are sometimes rewarded with exceptional discoveries.
This Viognier is one such find. True to the varietal, it has fragrant aromas of peach and apricot that come alive with crisp acidity and zesty citrus flavours that can complement roast turkey or fruit-glazed ham, while keeping pace with assorted side dishes.
Only $2 more than Cono Sur’s run-of-the-mill Viognier ($11), the Reserva has greater complexity and structure — the kind of slap-fight in a bottle you’d expect from a more expensive wine.
Garry Oaks 2011 Pinot Gris
750 mL, 12 per cent ABV, $24
Garry Oaks’ 2011 Pinot Gris is a meticulous local white capable of pairing well with holiday meals.
Pale gold in the glass, it has invigorating fresh honeysuckle aromas and crisp, dry flavours of pear, green melon and lemon citrus, combined with bracing acidity in a medium finish. Definitely a local hero.
Bodegas Olivares 2011 Jumilla Rosado
Hoya de Santa Ana, Spain
750 mL, 13 per cent ABV, $13
Most consumers consider rosé a seasonal wine for lazy, hazy summertime sipping.
Attitudes change, of course, as mine did at the Vancouver Wine Festival two years ago when an awards luncheon served this soft, dry and fruity Spanish Rosado (rosé), made with 70 per cent Monastrell and 30 per cent Syrah.
Because the grape juice is only in brief contact with the skins, this rosé lacks the tannic astringency that would normally overpower a typical Christmas dinner.
Instead, floral aromas and fleshy red fruit collaborate with sufficient acidity and low tannins to sync in harmony with the variety of foods found in a holiday spread.
Castillo de Monséran 2008 Old Vines Garnacha
750 mL, 13 per cent ABV, $14
Reds are tricky to pair with holiday meals. Medium to high tannins generally make red wine too astringent and powerful for white turkey meat. Of course, turkey — or goose for that matter — has darker, fattier meat that can stand up to a medium-bodied red with soft tannins and restrained acidity such as Garnacha (Grenache).
Castillo de Monséran’s Old Vines is marginally more expensive than its garden-variety Garnacha ($10), but there is an exponential return on the modest price difference.
On the nose are aromas of raspberry and spice that resonate on the palate with juicy flavours of jammy red fruit and savoury herbs. You just don’t expect this kind of complexity in a $14 wine.
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