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Frugal Wines for Christmas 2023 by Shafiq Jamal

Frugal Wines for Christmas 2023

ARC Restaurant holiday dining

Our wine correspondent, Shafiq Jamal, is back with his annual column––and this time, he's focusing on great-value recommendations for the holidays.

We are living in challenging times that require us to be more discerning about where we spend our money.


One area that allows us to come together, socialize, celebrate or commiserate is wine. As the late Michael Broadbent eloquently stated, “Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.”


I first learned about Michael and his magnified influence in the world of wine when I read The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine. What a book! Author Benjamin Wallace does a fantastic job of diving deep to find the true story of a 1787 Château Lafite Bordeaux—supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson—that sold for US$156,000 at auction, and of the eccentrics whose lives intersected with it.


Anyhow, I digress!


Back to the wines you should consider for this, a contemplative holiday season. Without further ado, here are my recommendations for wines you and your lucky gift recipients can enjoy for the 2023 holiday season. Each of them is available through BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDC) stores in Vancouver and beyond. Enjoy, and of course, please do so responsibly.

Merf Cabernet Sauvignon


First up, is Merf Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley. BCLDB has the 2017 vintage at $22.99. This bold wine, clocking in at 14.5%, comprises Cabernet Sauvignon at 81 %, Merlot at 17 % and Cabernet Franc at 2 %. It should come as no surprise that the producer behind this one is none other than Ste Michelle Wine Estates, the team behind the fantastic wines of Chateau Ste. Michelle.


Merf is a full-bodied Cab Sav evoking notes of blackberry, cassis, baking spice and olives. With a long finish on its palette, it is a pleasurable wine to enjoy on its own or to pair with beef dishes. I should have stocked up on it when I had the chance. I hope you will be able to find it in your neck of the woods.

La Stella Lastellina Rosato


Next on my list is La Stella Lastellina Rosato, a Cabernet Franc-Merlot blend coming in at $25.99. What an amazing Rosé!


A tangy wine––not at all sickly sweet––with a fresh finish and notes of ripe strawberries, herbs and baked bread. This is a wine I went back to regularly over the summer. Along the way, I paired it with a fantastic ratatouille prepared by my former better half (Merci, AKJ!). I would not hesitate to introduce this at the holiday turkey table, although more so to go with the sides.



Moving on, I approached this next wine with much skepticism. The Pirosmani-Godori ($17.49 at BCLDB) is a semi-dry wine made with a grape known as Saperavi that’s grown in the Kakheti Viticulture District of Georgia.


Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather! This is an easy drinking wine with just a touch of sweetness. It has a wonderful and intense ruby colour with a violet hue. It brings out notes of ripe blackberries and blackcurrants with the hints of prune. It is a young wine, and with its touch of sweetness, I would pair it with spicy Asian food as an alternative to going with Viognier or Gewurztraminer. Well done Georgia! I look forward to trying more wines from that part of the world.


The Magic Box Cabernet Sauvignon


As is normal for me, I did find myself gravitating back to Aussie wines this year. The Magic Box Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.99 at BCLBD) is a great gem, I found.


Another bold wine coming in at 14.5%, this deep purple-coloured wine has a long, soft, ripe finish with good tannic structure. Aromas of blackberry and plum dominate, complemented by smoke, cloves, prunes and some notes of candy. It’s a great wine to pair with grilled lamb or burgers as well as with blue, Gorgonzola or Stilton cheese.

Dao Grao Vasco


On this next recommendation, I know many of you will say, “Shaf, you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Is this $8.99 bottle really a good deal?!”. Well, let me tell you: yes, it really is! The Dao Grao Vasco is undoubtedly a youthful wine, but Portugal continues to amaze with its wines. And the Dao region is where many of the country’s most celebrated wines come from.


This is a complex ruby red wine that blends touriga nacional and tinta roriz grapes, and has notes of plum, berry fruit and leather. It is medium to full-bodied with an elongated finish that can be paired with grilled and game meats, plus poultry and cheeses. (As another aside, one of my really good friends Eric Pateman recently introduced me to the wonders and magic of touriga nacional when he treated me to the Moon Curser Vineyards Touriga Nacional––a fantastic wine made right here in B.C.

And there’s more


There are so many other wines that could have made this list. But before you lose interest, here’s a quick round-up of nine more good-value or splurge-worthy recommendations to consider this holiday season:

  • Peter Lehman Clancy’s Cabernet Shiraz Merlot

  • Cote du Rhone La Fiole

  • Cotes du Rhone Les Dauphins Reserve

  • Blasted Church Vineyards Nectar of the Gods

  • Gold Hills Winery Cabernet Franc

  • Frank Hellwig Shiraz Grenache

  • Miguel Torres Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Gray Monk Latitude 50 Red Blend 

  • Corcelettes Estate Winery Merlot


Well, that’s it folks! I wish you all a safe, happy, healthy and joyous holiday season and I look forward to talking to many of you in 2024!


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