When giving the gift of wine, look for something that’s unique, memorable, and doesn’t require a decade of cellaring to be drinkable. Whether you want to curry favour with the boss, impress the in-laws, or wow an oenophile friend, these bottles have got your back.
Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino 2010
If you want the wine wonk in your life to break into a Joker-like grin this Christmas, then put this bad boy under his or her tree. Two thousand and ten is shaping up to be one of Brunello’s greatest vintages, and this bottle is Exhibit A. The nose is decidedly savoury with scents of roasted mushrooms, truffle and wet earth – all good things in the world of Tuscan reds. Those funghi aromas carry over on the palate with sour cherry fruit, superb structure and mouth-watering acidity. Considering the quality and old-school appeal, this wine offers terrific value for Brunello. It will improve with three to five years in the cellar, but a vigorous decant will open it up for current enjoyment. Pour with rich Italian fare like wild mushroom risotto or braised short ribs on soft polenta.
Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne
Champagne is never a cheap proposition. There are, however, a few internationally renowned brands that taste like 50% of the price tag goes to their insane marketing budgets. Not Bolli, darling. One of the best house champagnes under three digits, Bollinger is tailor-made for those who like a richer, more evolved style. Even in the constraints of a flute, your nose is set a twitching with aromas of piecrust, dried apple and roasted nuts. The unbelievably creamy mousse coats your palate like a Hermes scarf before a lightsaber of acidity reminds you that this wine is meant for food. Open with special occasion fare like smoked salmon, lobster and really good take-out sushi. To appreciate all the finer nuances, take the bottle out of the fridge 10 minutes before serving.
Stratus White 2012
To celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, Stratus is dropping the price of their flagship white to the original 2002 tag. (It’s a stunning winery, by the way, well worth a visit if you’re headed to Niagara-on-the-Lake.) Made from almost equal parts Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grown in a warm vintage, it was aged for close to two years in a combination of new and second-fill oak barrels. The result is like no white wine you’ve ever tasted. The scent of flowers and beeswax is so pervasive that you’re tempted to check the bottle for a piece of honeycomb. It’s full-bodied, yet impeccably balanced with a certain force that will appeal to ardent red wine drinkers. Save for Christmas dinner when a golden turkey or pork roast is at the head of the table.
Eric Vellend was a professional cook for more than a decade before trading in his knives for a laptop. Since then he’s been a restaurant critic at Toronto Life, the wine columnist at The Grid, and the food editor at Canadian House & Home. You can follow his eating and drinking exploits @ericvellend.