The Gift That Keeps Them Drinking
Invited to an engagement party? Or bridal shower, graduation, or simply over to watch the big game? What better way to show your appreciation than with wine? It makes the perfect host gift for any occasion. But go one step further and choose a wine that’s also perfect for each specific occasion.
In past columns, I’ve paired wine with junk food, moods, music, and, of course, a variety of food, but wine can just as easily be paired with an occasion. Think beyond the popular flavour of the month. It doesn’t take much to choose a wine that both best conveys the feel of any get-together and appropriately thanks your host for the invitation.
This one is easy. Bring something unique and interesting that isn’t available in every corner liquor store. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but choose a wine from a small producer. It should be food-friendly and versatile enough to go with a variety of dishes. If you know your host’s preference for a country of origin, go with something cool from there. If you don’t know their favourite region, select something that is unique, yet still approachable like the Ceuso Scurati Nero d’Avola 2006 from Sicily ($25). From 100 per cent Nero d’Avola, Scurati is indicative of the tremendous quality coming from Sicily these days. Intense spicy nose, full, penetrating flavours of dark cherries and blackberries with tons of red licorice and a touch of fresh cut herbs and great length. Powerful, yet elegant and fresh, unoaked and a great food wine. A great value.
Although it might be a bit cold outside, here’s another pretty easy choice. Go for something spicy and/or smoky to match the flavours coming off the grill. Ribs, smokies, beer-can chicken, burgers … a good value Zin is the perfect choice. One of the consistently best Zinfandels for the price is the Renwood 2005 from the Sierra Foothills of California ($22.99). Ripe, zesty and jammy with upfront exuberant raspberry flavours and a very appealing vibrancy. A hint of spiciness, a juicy finish and definitely the right price. Casual yet still great quality.
Invited over to watch the big game or race? Select something to fit the sport. Watching the Super Bowl? Bring something with grace and power like the ripe, modern and muscular Kaiken Ultra Malbec from Mendoza in Argentina ($28), with its layered currant, plum and brambly flavours. If you’re invited over for the Kentucky Derby, a bottle of sweet, luscious bourbon like the mellow, vanilla-, nutty-flavoured Maker’s Mark ($49) is more fitting. The Indy 500 calls for the shear power and seductiveness of the bold, ripe and rich EOS Petite Sirah Reserve 2005 from Paso Robles ($32). It packs a wallop of wild berries and spice. The quaffability and finesse of the cherry, plum and spiced S.Maria la Palma Cannonau Le Bombarde 2006 from Sardinia ($17) would be the perfect match for NCAA Final Four.
A bunch of your closest girlfriends are hanging out, telling stories, eating finger foods, chic sandwiches, dips and dessert. A bridal shower calls for something fresh and fun, and what is more fun than bubbles? Go for something sippable and fruit-driven. The Ruggeri Prosecco Santo Stefano from the Veneto in Italy ($23.99) is slightly off-dry, exhibiting beautiful fresh-fruit flavours of apple, pear, peach and citrus. The small, refreshing bubbles of this quaffer dance effortlessly over your palate, finishing with hints of almonds. Impossible to stop at only one glass. It will keep both the party and the stories flowing.
An engagement party generally involves friends and family from both sides getting together to meet each other. This is a getting-to-know-you occasion that calls for a getting-to-know-you wine. Choose something unfamiliar but very approachable like the Black Lagoon Carignan Reserve 2005 from the Languedoc in France ($18.99). Inviting blueberry, cherry and plum flavours with a hint of vanilla and smooth, approachable tannins and a great finish. Your host may not know it at first, but it’s so friendly, forward, elegant and delightful that he/she will love it once he/she gets to know it.
Venturing into adulthood and tackling the unknown calls for a new experience. Something that may take some time to get used to and something that may not be embraced immediately. Sounds like grappa. A well-made grappa like the Nardini Grappa Riserva from the Veneto ($58). Its baked apple, cloves, vanilla and cinnamon flavours are a beautiful thing, but your first taste of it generally sends shivers down your spine as this Italian moonshine burns its way down your throat. Ah, but that’s just because you’re not used to this “grown-up” spirit and it’s a shock to your system. But over time, you’ll get comfortable with it and come to appreciate its nuances beyond just the alcohol. It makes you realize that adulthood really isn’t all that bad.
Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Hoopla all make you think, so ideally you want to bring a thought-provoking wine. The Domaine Grangeot des Beaumes Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2003 from the Languedoc ($32) is effusive with aromas of cassis, black cherries, strawberry jam, sage and cocoa with flavours of more ripe black cherries, cassis, strawberries and plums, a beautiful earthiness and hints of chocolate and coffee. It’s deceivingly soft and elegant, but multi-dimensional with an underlying structure and an incredibly long, lingering finish. A brilliant wine that has so many layers it will make your host think “hmmmmm, boy is this good.”
Crop Party (Scrapbooking)
Bring something high in alcohol and lots of it … a Zin, maybe a Port. No, better off with a single-malt Scotch like Glenmorangie’s The Quinta Ruban. Finished in Port casks, which adds a touch of sweetness and makes this already tasty Scotch even easier to drink. Insist that the host open it RIGHT NOW. You’ll need it to get through the evening. And use it to make friends. There are surely others in the room that would welcome the opportunity to escape mentally from the cutting and pasting.