The Christmas Gift

It is that time of the year.  Your customers are looking for recommendations of the ideal gift wine.  With all the options that Alberta is lucky enough to have (16 000+ yay) a guiding light can be helpful.  These are some of the most reliable categories that consistently offer quality and value.

Host Gift 

When choosing a bottle for a host gift adaptability is key.  By offering something that has the ability to pair with a large selection of food and circumstance you are facilitating a gift that can be enjoyed many ways.
Alsace –This region of France (that is almost in Germany) has in recent years returned focus to producing primarily dry wines with freshness and intensity.  Riesling particularly has the ability to pair with any number of foods and lush Alsatian Pinot Gris can be perfect for the Christmas Ham.  
It is also the only region in France that allows varietal labeling for premium wine so there is no guessing on behalf of the recipient as to what grape is in the bottle.
Notable Producers in Alberta are Trimbach, Zind-Humbrecht and Zinck.
Light & Fruity Red – Without overt oak influence or high tannins and alcohol levels it is much easier to uncover a wine that can adapt to and be enjoyed in many environments. Beaujolais is produced from Gamay in the region of the same name, south of Burgundy in France.  While much Beaujo can be overly simple and way too dull, wines from the ten Grand Cru sites are more nuanced and complex while often retaining a freshness and fruitiness that can be enjoyed either with food or on it’s own.  For something closer to home there are a new crop of California wine makers who focus on fruit purity, finesse and balance, ideal companions to many wine-drinking situations.
In Beaujolais look for options from the Grand Crus of Brouilly and Fleurie, which are lighter with floral and fruity aromatics, or Julienas and Morgon which tend to be earthier and fuller-bodied.
For California Birichino is a standout as is Domaine de la Cote, Corison and Arnot-Roberts.

The Boss

For an authority figure it is a safe bet to direct customers to a classic wine from a classic region.   This need not be boring or expensive as there are many interesting options to choose from.
Australia can offer value at all levels, particularly at the premium and super-premium tier.  With some of the oldest vines in the world and a winemaking history that dates to the 19th century Australia is the not so new new-world region.  While wines with unbalanced high-alcohol and overt jamminess can still be found those examples are disappearing.
In Australia classic regions and classic producers will not disappoint including Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra and Shiraz and Shiraz blends from the Barossa Valley.  Insider tip - some of the best Chardonnay in the world right now is coming from Australia.  Penfolds, Torbreck, Wynns, Shaw and Smith and Leeuwin Estate are excellent producers.
California – This is one of the largest categories in Alberta.  A search on yields almost 5000 results.  Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa will be recognized and appreciated.  The big and bold Napa style may not be for everyone but it is still a very popular category in the Alberta market and there is balance to be found.
Offer releases from Chappellet, Heitz, Peter Michael and Staglin. Cabernet Sauvignon is king but Meritage is another option

The Patriot

Good things are happening in Canadian wine.  Quality is rising exponentially, vines are aging, the knowledge base is expanding and producers are beginning to export and bring attention to our wine regions.   There are many options for exploring the best wines produced in Canada.
British Columbia has around 30% of Canada’s vines and produces much quality wine.  (VQA that is, not Cellared in Canada which is NOT Canadian wine) The Okanagan is one of the most northerly wine regions but thanks to moderation from Lake Okanagan many varieties do well.
Look to Painted Rock for Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and red blends, Meyer Family Vineyards for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and Quail’s Gate for aromatic whites and Pinot Noir.
Ontario produces the majority of Canadian wine, again in areas with temperatures moderated by bodies of water.  With the continental climate varieties such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Riesling perform the best.
Cave Springs Rieslings are classic Niagara with varying degrees of sweetness.  Also Norman Hardie Chardonnay, Gamay from Malivoire and Inniskillin Ice wine
Nova Scotia has been highlighted as having enormous potential and is already producing some of the country’s most distinctive wine.  The short growing season and unique mesoclimate on the Bay of Fundy is ideal for crisp & aromatic whites and traditional method sparkling wines.
Nova Scotia’s most exciting producer Benjamin Bridge is available in Alberta.  The traditional method sparkling wines are Canada’s best and internationally known and for a crowd–pleaser the off dry, lightly sparkling Nova 7 is loved by all.
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