Red wines make great gifts…

  • Dec. 7, 2017 1:30 p.m.

Picking the right red wine to give as a gift can be challenging – there are so many to choose from.

This short list of wines has been chosen with gift giving in mind. Regardless of price, these are red wines that overdeliver within their category. Any red wine lover would be happy with these treats.

Italy has been awash with wine for centuries. No surprise, then, that some of the most affordable and highest quality reds come from this Mediterranean paradise.

A blend of 60 per cent Merlot and 40 per cent Corvina, Gran Passione Rosso (509018) $17.49 is crafted in an ‘Appassimento’ style like the Amarone wines of the Veneto. Over the centuries, this technique of drying the grapes before crushing has clearly been perfected. Ripe dark cherry, plum, vanilla and cake spices predominate in this remarkably luscious red.

Closer to home, California has been a dependable source of wonderful wines for more than 50 years. Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are favourites… but California Merlots can be rich and seductive with a dash of other wine grapes in the blend.

Grown in the Livermore Valley, east of San Francisco, the grapes that make up Wente Sandstone Merlot (171025) $21.99 are harvested, fermented and aged separately before they are blended together. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot are added to the blend. Expect to be captivated by the aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry, blackberry and fig with wisps of toast, caramel, and spice.

Cabernet Franc is one of the traditional varieties – with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec – in red blended wines from Bordeaux, France. Not nearly as widely planted in British Columbia as Merlot, Cabernet Franc is making a name for itself in the Okanagan Valley.

Knowing they couldn’t ripen Cabernet Franc on Quadra Island, Jill Ogasawara and Ben McGuffie compromised their principles and brought in Cabernet Franc grapes from the Okanagan to make SouthEnd Farm Principles (284497) $27.05. Outrageously flavourful, this is an inky, dry red wine with lots of peppery liquorice, dark red and black fruit and sweet vanilla notes in the lengthy finish.

Quality red wines from Chile outnumber equivalents from Argentina on our shelves. Tapiz ‘Alta Collection’ Cabernet Sauvignon (119485) $27.79 is an overwhelmingly intense red that would be a prefect pick to cellar for 5 years. Classic blackcurrant, mint and cedar notes emerge slowly as the wine opens after an hour in the glass.

We’ve become so accustomed to enjoying the jammy fruitiness of affordable Australian reds that we routinely overlook the extraordinary depth and complexity of carefully crafted premium wines from legendary regions like the Barossa Valley.

Langmeil Three Gardens SMG (640821) $33.99 is a silky Barossa blend of 40 per cent Shiraz, 32 per cent Mataro (aka: Mourvedre in France, Monastrell in Spain) and 28 per cent Grenache. Pepper-spiced raspberry and blackberry aromas and flavours ride a base of earthy mint, black olives and tree bark.

Great French wines from Bordeaux are rarely even remotely affordable. Beyond that, the best red wines from Bordeaux need to be aged a few years to allow the tannins to settle down and the fruit flavours to develop.

A treat from the exceptional 2010 vintage, Chateau Bibian Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois (375881) $39.99 is a sturdy red wine just moving into its prime. Raspberry, blueberry and cedar aromas lead into blackberry and cassis flavours with subtle notes of liquorice and mint. Decant for an hour and drink now or cellar for 3-5 years.

The wines of Ribera del Duero are mainly red – white wines here are not exported or revered. The reds come primarily from a variation of Tempranillo, called Tinto Fino or Tinto del Pais in this region. Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon are also used. The best wines of the area are refreshing yet sturdy and complex, with an ability to age and mature gracefully.

The 2010 Finca Villacreces Ribera del Duero (317826) $63.15 is intensely aromatic seductively attractive on the nose. It’s a blend of 86 per cent Tempranillo, 10 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 4 per cent Merlot aged for 14 months in French oak barrels. Aromas of violets, morello cherries, and exotic spices predominate, with touches of graphite and tar.

Any red wine lover would be happy to receive one of these beautiful wines as a gift.

Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com

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