October 24th, 2016
This edition of A Rich Pour marks something of a departure from the usual format, as I’m profiling just a single wine rather than a selection of spirits, wines or a region.
After decades of purchasing, cellaring and writing about wines, I’m not one to be seduced by attractive labels. This particular instance proved an exception. For one, the front label had an elegant simplicity about it that seemed to whisper, “Quality.” Secondly, the Rioja certification sticker on the back of the bottle stipulated the lowest regional Denominación de Origen Calificada classification – no Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva to be seen here – and this despite some words from the winery to the effect that this red was a traditional blend, which had spent a year and a half in the cellar prior to release. Last but not least, I’d never before come across any products from this winery. Given the approximately CDN$20 cost of the bottle, I was intrigued, and took the plunge.
The sun is shining, and any memories of the chill of winter are now distant ones. A sudden hankering for liquid coolness demands to be satisfied. What to reach for? There are countless choices – an Indian pale ale perhaps, a gin and tonic, a Mojito or Pina colada, a mint julep, a whisky and soda or a refreshing white wine. That last option sounds like a pretty good one. Let's explore it further.
White wines can, of course, be enjoyed throughout the year. But they really come into their own when the hours of daylight lengthen and the thirst factor escalates.
For the northern-clime residents among us who are, as yet, dealing with snow and cold, the thought of food and wine of the warming sort is, well, a comforting one. And given the vagaries of El Niño this year, we’re not alone.
When it comes to winter wines, reds rule. I’m a big fan of the dry red wines from Spain, as I find they often offer tremendous quality at relatively modest cost. Garnacha and Graciano may not be the most widely planted red grape varieties in Spain, but they’ve certainly gained in stature of late – not the least because of the resurrection of old vineyards and the efforts of a few pioneering winegrowers.
It has become a growing tradition that the as yet expanding craft beer industry will produce a selection of labels for the Christmas Holiday marketplace. The good news is there are options out there beyond the flood of IPAs choking the shelves these days. While some of these options represent little more than novelty packaging, there are many quality selections for beer lovers and those who enjoy various styles. Best of all, the types to be found serve as nice complements to a smoke.
Personally, I infrequently pair a decent beer with a cigar, because I find many craft brews lose their character and flavor against the tobacco. But winter in general – and Christmas in particular – manages to offer up numerous choices that actually hold up well. You begin to find heartier styles, spicier flavors and stronger content – all which means you can enjoy two worlds at once.