Red wines for gift giving…

Choosing red wines as gifts is really easy. Start by noticing what your friends like and then decide what you want to spend. The range of options is very wide in both instances…

Will the deciding factor be the region or country that the wine comes from – Italy, France, South Africa, California, British Columbia? Or will it be the variety – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, maybe even Pinotage?

Any Italian wine lover will be intrigued by Torrevento’s Torre del Falco Nero di Troia $16.99. An uncommon wine grape, even by Italian standards, Nero di Troia is a specialty of Puglia, in the heel of the boot of Italy. Stiff, ripe tannins give the spicy prune and cherry flavours of this dry full bodied red some serious ‘weight’.

Perhaps a traditional French staple? Grenache and Syrah are the main grapes in numerous French blends from the sunny slopes of the Côtes du Rhône. Spicy Syrah adds structure to the gorgeously fruity Grenache in the best of these wines.

Domaine De Beaumiere Côtes du Rhône $19.00 takes 80 per cent Grenache and 20 per cent Syrah and turns out a heady, ultra-ripe red that flaunts a mouthful of jammy strawberry and dusky, peppery blackberry fruit in every sip. Wisps of thyme and sage linger in the finish.

How about something ‘exotic’? Pinotage is South Africa’s signature red wine grape. It was developed in 1925 at Stellenbosch University by crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault – which was known in South Africa. as ‘Hermitage’ at that time,

Named for a legendary Zulu leader, King Shaka-Zulu Pinotage $27.99 features aromas and flavours of raspberries and plums over notes of coffee bean and smoky cappuccino. Surprisingly dry on first sip, the sweet and peppery fruit flavours open up slowly before teasing with subtle hints of oregano and liquorice.

Not so long ago our own home-grown British Columbia red wines were ignored or deliberately overlooked by many local wine lovers. With BC Syrah, BC Pinot Noir and BC Bordeaux-styled red blends winning awards internationally, it is long past time to investigate our home-grown reds.

Judged #4 of the Top 10 BC wineries at the 2018 National Wine Awards of Canada, Naramata’s Bench 1775 Winery makes beautifully balanced wines. Bench 1775 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013 $31.90 is a deliciously drinkable Bordeaux-styled blend of 63 per cent Merlot and 37 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon. Framed in oaky notes of coconut, silky ripe red and black cherry flavours slide into silky plum and blackcurrant.

It may not be currently very politically correct to discuss the depth and elegance of California’s wines but the 41st Vanwinefest is coming to BC, February 23-March 3. The heart of the Festival – the International Festival Tastings – run Thursday, February 28 – Saturday, March 2. The featured region will be California.

Taking two red wine grapes that have become particularly Californian specialties, Clarksburg-based Bogle Vineyards’ Phantom Red Blend $43.49marries 44 per cent Petite Sirah with 44 per cent Zinfandel, then tops it up with 10 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 per cent Merlot. Lusciously rich, it struts jammy blueberry, cranberry and blackberry flavours that are underpinned with notes of mint, chocolate, liquorice and cola.

Die-hard traditionalist red wine lovers would be very pleased to receive something from one of the most revered wine regions in France. A notch up from the wines of the Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape usually adds dark and earthy Mourvèdre to the Grenache-Syrah combo of the simpler Côtes du Rhône red blends.

Marked down $5 for the month of December – from $57.99 to $52.99 – Chateau de la Gardine Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015 is a blend of 65 per cent Grenache, 15 per cent Mourvèdre, 15 per cent Syrah and 5 per cent Muscardin. Still youthfully fruity, this classic will benefit from an hour or two in a decanter. Dark and dusky berry fruit opens up to show a melange of fresh fig, sweet prunes, new leather, coffee and dark chocolate and wisps of thyme and sage.

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