Image by SANDY HIBBARD

2021 Holiday Wine Recommendations

Our guest wine columnist Shafiq Jamal is back to offer his tasty wine recommendations for the 2021 Christmas season!

When I sat down to write this piece, I had something I needed to get off my chest. So, indulge me for a minute and let me vent…

First off, let me express my sincere gratitude to whatever higher powers exist, that have afforded me the good fortune to be able to talk about wine––at a time when we are still in the throes of a global pandemic.

And I think it’s because of this fact, that I felt the need to vent. You see, this year in particular, I had the chance to try a number of wines in the $40 to $80 category, a few in the $90 to $120 range, and mostly in the $15 to $30 price range.

 

What left me bitterly disappointed is that many of those in the $40 to $80 category were almost completely nondescript and not worthy of their price tags. Was I expecting too much? Should I just have accepted that these wines carry these heftier price tags because of some vintner’s overall reputation? Sorry, I don’t buy those explanations. Now I know this may provoke a reaction from some of you, so let me say that while I don’t have a sophisticated palette, I feel confident that I have a good one.

And please know these are just my opinions. Experiencing and enjoying wine is so very subjective––so take issue with my comments if you must, but keep things in perspective, cool?

By the grace of good friends, the select wines I was fortunate enough to have in the $90 to $120 category (Caymus, Stag’s Leap, Prisoner, Orin Swift, etc.), were splendid examples of true value. Unfortunately, I don’t live/exist in a stratosphere where I can indulge in these representations of good quality and value, even on an irregular basis.

So, I reverted to where I had started my wine adventures, under the guidance of one of the most remarkable men I have ever met and worked for––Jim Hoggan. He left an indelible mark on my wine experiences, having astutely advised me and others who would listen, that there are great value finds in the $15 to $30-ish range.

For a while in 2021, I abandoned this principle, thinking that the $40 to $80 might hold better value, better quality, and better bargains. Perhaps it was the peer reviews on Vivino on which I placed great hope, or perhaps, it was a feeling that simply because they cost more, they must be better…

Alas, I have returned to Earth more grounded, more confident, and more determined to continue doing what I can to find the values within $15 to $30. My recommendations are solely on red wines, and in keeping with human attention spans being as stretched as they are, I’ve focussed on my top 5 suggestions. Oh, and one more thing, you’ll notice a leaning towards more bold, dense, and more full-bodied expressions in my choices below.

I’ve read a bit about how one’s coffee choices correlate to one’s wine’s choices, and because I am pretty much a drinker of dark bold roast coffees, there may be some connection there. And this also seems to have played out with our wine club as well, comprised of really good friends of ours, so perhaps there is merit to this correlation? Additionally, you know what? My favourite fruits are exclusively grapes, cherries, and blackberries – so what should we make of that? But I digress. That’s a column for another day and time.

Without further ado then, here are my recommendations for wines you and your lucky gift recipients can enjoy for your 2021 holiday season. Enjoy, and of course, do so responsibly.

First up then, is the De Bortoli Sacred Hill Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon. Available at Everything Wine, it comes in at about $16-ish, and is a great blend that you can sip or pair with some good red meats. Yes, this is a medium-bodied wine so bear with me here: it tastes like it’s a full bodied expression––it’s got good fruit (blackberries, cherries, and strawberries) and has hints of vanilla and good oak. It’s soft and not heavily tannic, with a good balance of acidity. As a sipper it has good length.

Next up, is the Oak Ridge Winery TNT Cabernet Sauvignon Lodi. Also available at Everything Wine, this wine has decadence written all over it, at a price tag of about $22. A great sipper, with lots of fruit (raspberries for sure), rich integrated oak, soft tannins, hints of milk chocolate, and good length that lingers on the tongue. You can’t go wrong with this one––as a gift, and/or for yourself. Act quick though, it’s almost gone.

Then there’s the Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon––recommended by the Toronto Star’s Carolynn Evans-Hammond, a wine reviewer/critic who focusses on finding underappreciated value wines, this comes in about $15-ish. This is a wine you’ll come back to for more. Deep dark and opaque, mouth filling with velvety tannins, it has hints of dark chocolate and will make for a good sipper in front of a crackling winter fire, paired with red meat, or as Evans-Hammond says, with strong cheeses. Again, gift it with confidence and always, get one for yourself!

This next wine is hard to find here in B.C. but can be bought via special order at BC Liquor (BCL) and/or can be found at some indie liquor stores. And this is another wine with a shout out to Evans-Hammond who gave its early vintage, some really rave reviews. Members of our esteemed wine club can’t get enough of this wine. In a word? Sublime.

This is the Submission Cabernet Sauvignon. Cassis, dark chocolate, soft, velvety with a lingering finish. Even though recent vintages have the wine showing some restraint, for us as everyday drinkers, this wine has consistently delivered. Coming it about $24-ish, it delivers as a $50 to $60 bottle should. Perhaps you should secure these bottles all for yourself (I’m even hesitant to share this awesome wine!). But if you do gift it, your guests should be sufficiently impressed!

Last but not least is the Silk and Spice Blend from Portugal, an area that is rapidly escalating in reputation as a producer of some great wines. This one in particular comes in as #4 recommendation on Wine Enthusiast’s Top Buys of 2021. You can’t go wrong with this $19-ish gem. It's a blend that packs dark concentrated fruit, velvety tannins and as intimated in its name, spicy notes, along with blackberries and blueberries that shape this drinkable now wine.

So, there you have it. You don’t need to break the bank to make a great impression on your guests as you host them with COVID-19 safety protocols in mind, or if you decide to gift these wines to friends, loved ones, and hey, even that Secret Santa gift exchange you’ve been dreading…

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to one and all! And remember to be calm, kind, and safe this holiday season.