How To Choose The Perfect Bottle Of Wine

By / Magazine / December 10th, 2009 / 1

The holiday season is approaching, bringing with it celebrations, entertaining and gift giving. It also means increased wine purchases for 46 per cent of Canadians according to a recent survey commissioned by E. & J. Gallo Winery and carried out by Angus Reid Strategies. With more Canadians buying wine, but only seven per cent feeling that it’s easy, the survey results demonstrate a thirst for more knowledge, according to wine expert Kevin Lefort, Fine WineManager at E.& J. Gallo Winery.

“December is peak wine buying season with more consumers seeking the perfect bottle to serve at holiday meals or give as gifts. This survey shows that we’re feeling the added pressure,” says Lefort. “Canadians are lucky to have a wide variety of wines available in stores across the country, but for some, more choice brings with it even more stress.”

Having travelled the globe, visiting vineyards from California to Australia and most regions in between, Lefort has made a career of bringing knowledge directly from winemakers to Canadian consumers, restaurateurs and sommeliers. For the 44 per cent of Canadians surveyed who indicated they feel adventurous when buying wine, Lefort urges that consumers needn’t be wine experts to make fail safe choices that deliver a sense of adventure.

“I’m encouraged by the emerging trend in Canadians daring to be adventurous in their wine choices, but I understand the challenge they face, especially during the holidays when the wine stakes are higher and there’s more confusion,” says Lefort. “Consumer tastes and behaviours have changed drastically in recent years. The old rules of wine pairing are out the window. There’s a renewed focus on value for money and traditional holiday meals now include exotic flavours and cuisine. I’ve found that even though consumers are looking for adventure, they need help to make sense of it all to make confident choices.”

Holiday wine tips to buy and serve with confidence

Lefort offers expert tips to help consumers along their holiday wine buying adventure from store to table.

–  Look to popular new world regions like California and Australia that offer good value and are renowned for crafting approachable, food-friendly varietal wines, that pair with a range of holiday foods and are crowd pleasers.

–  Consider the occasion and purpose of any wine purchase and always have a budget in mind. An intimate dinner may warrant a special selection while an open house generally calls for softer, easy-to-drink wine styles that are easy on the wallet.

–  Part of the wine adventure is building knowledge

– Refer to a local wine merchant or in-store product consultant, get recommendations from family and friends, or check out wine reviews online or in newspapers.

–  Opt for variety at the holiday table. Don’t pin all hopes on one wine to please everyone. Open a few bottles in a range of red, white, rose or sparkling styles to encourage guests to experiment and find their own favourites.

–  With the emergence of new flavours and regional cuisine, the old “white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat” rules are limiting, so try to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food.

Some holiday-inspired suggestions include:

–  Oven roasted turkey: a fruit-forward, new world-style Pinot Noir or a buttery, oaky Chardonnay

–  Roast prime rib with wine gravy: a full-bodied red, like Cabernet Sauvignon from warm climate regions like California or Australia

–  Baked ham: an off-dry rose or White Zinfandel-  Leg of lamb: a hearty Shiraz or Zinfandel

–  Grilled seafood: a light, crisp white, like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc

Wine gift-giving: when is the price right?

Wine is a popular holiday gift choice because it’s versatile and convenient so it’s not surprising that 68 per cent of Canadians surveyed feel compelled to spend more on a bottle of wine when it’s for a gift.

“Consumers usually know how much they want to spend on a wine gift, but it’s a lot harder for the average wine buyer to understand what they should be able to expect from a higher priced wine,” says Lefort. “For consumers looking to spend wisely, wines between $15 to $20 are a safe bet, they’re complex and balanced, offering great gift potential.”

According to Lefort, wines in this price range offer more complexity and often times, aging potential, because they are generally sourced from smaller, more site specific regions or vineyards and are made in lower volumes, ensuring more intense flavours.

“Red wines over $15, for instance, are often fermented in oak, which is an investment in winemaking that can add intensity of flavour and allow a wine to evolve over time,” says Lefort. “Or, the grapes may be sourced from award winningregions, like Sonoma County in Northern California for example, which is renowned for producing a variety of consistently great red and white wines, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel among them.”

Ultimately, Lefort encourages Canadians to embrace new and adventurous wine choices amongst their tried and true favourites when entertaining and gift giving this holiday season.


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