Out of the Box Gifts & Drinks

By / Magazine / December 13th, 2012 / 2

I want to give my picky father-in-law a cutting edge Christmas gift. What liquid do you suggest?

You mean to say that a bottle of hooch and a trinket with a company logo stamped on it — all jammed into a cardboard box with a see-through front panel — doesn’t show enough love for the old guy? Look, I’m pretty much in agreement that for an industry that prides itself on being innovative, the typical fare created by liquor makers for the all important gift-giving season is too often lowbrow at its worst and boring at its best.

I mean, how many cheap pairs of branded glasses does one person need? I’m sorry to say that if you’re looking for something really cutting edge you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and make it yourself.

My father-in-law enjoys a glass of Scotch or two, so over the years I’ve introduced him to a bottle of something new each Xmas and supplemented it with a classy add-on of my choosing. One year it was a guidebook to whisky, another it was proper tasting glasses and last time round, a decanter with which he can show off his tipple when his booze-loving buddies pop over.  

If wine is your FIL’s thing put together a small group of like-minded bottles. Maybe it’s a series made with the same grape varietal, maybe you can get your hands a selection of the same wine from a few different vintages, or simply a set of vino from up-and-coming countries.

Nothing beats a homemade gift and this is really where the staff at your local liquor store can step up and help you put together something truly unique.

It’s just us this Christmas. With no one else to accommodate, what’s an “outside the box” wine we can match with our roast turkey?

Ah, there’s nothing I love better than a holiday sans relatives. To paraphrase Mickey Rourke from the movie Barfly: “I don’t dislike my family; I just seem to feel better when they’re not around.” You are right though; when you’ve only got yourself to satisfy anything goes: especially when it comes to finding a liquid partner for some full-bodied roast poultry.

Though generally quite accommodating, I’ve always found the traditional marriage of Tom turkey with either a lightly oaked New World Chardonnay and/or a plump and deep-fruited Pinot Noir to be near perfection when I’m hacking up the big bird with my less than subtle carving skills.

But you asked for something unconventional.

Well, my favourite alternative red for turkey is a Spanish Rioja. One designated Crianza (which means it’s been aged at least two years, one of which has to be in oak) makes for a nice cherry-berry partner for this white meat, while one designated Reserva (which means it’s been aged for at least a minimum of three years, one of which has to be in oak) cranks up that cherry expression and ups the ante on the cedar woodiness.

For a new wave white try something made with the peachy and spicy Gewürztraminer grape. Though French versions tend to be drier (which works best with the meat when in my mouth) most German and New World styles sway to the slightly sweeter.

Feeling particularly daring? Swing back to the red side and look to France’s northern Rhône. That’s where Syrah (a.k.a. Shiraz) traces its roots and I’m quite partial to the peppery black fruit that oozes from the region’s wines with turkey and all the trimmings.

Just remember that when pairing wines with a big holiday feast the main course isn’t necessarily the flavour profile of the whole meal. All those side dishes (both sweet and savoury) often speak louder than the star of the show, so you’ve got licence to experiment.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on Alliant.net to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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