A DIY Wine Tasting for the Holidays

The holiday season is coming up quickly and if you are wondering what to do for your office or party with friends, how about have a wine tasting?  Sounds fun, but how do I pick the wines?  Well, I’ve taken care of that for you, with a sample of wines that you can purchase through the BC Liquor Stores.  I’ve included my tasting notes for most of the wines.

MyWinePal’s Holiday DIY Wine Tasting

Having a theme for a wine tasting is fun.  The theme could be Cabernet Sauvignons from around the world or different sparkling wines from Europe.  My theme for this tasting are grapes that you may not hear about but should try.

I have listed the wines in the order that I think they should be tasted.  I always like to start a tasting off with a social glass of sparkling wine.  I’ve suggested this prosecco from Italy, but if you have a favourite sparkling wine, feel free to substitute.

Before serving these wines make sure that they have all spent some time chilling in the fridge.  The prosecco and white wines could be put in the fridge an hour or longer before your tasting.  Take the prosecco out just before you serve it.  The white wines can come out 30 minutes before serving.  When you take the white wines out, put the red wines in the fridge and leave them in for 30 minutes before serving.

Glassware and Tasting the Wines

A tulip shaped wine glass

A tulip shaped wine glass

Glasses are important.  If you have glasses in a tulip shape that is best, as when you swirl the wines the aromas will tend to stay in the glass, as well as the wine.  You don’t need a new glass for each wine.  If you have at least 3 glasses, you can use these glasses for the 3 white wines, then give them a rinse with mineral water (unchlorinated water), then refill the glasses with the 3 red wines.

Before you taste any wine, take a quick look at the colour. Is it bright and clear, dull, deep and dark?  Colour can sometimes give you an idea about a wine.  A darker coloured white wine can indicate that it has a few years of aging.  A light coloured red wine can indicate the type of grape, in this case, Pinot Noir, while a red wine with some orange-brown around the edge could indicate an aged wine.  The wines below should all be relatively young and fresh.

After a quick check of the wine’s colour, give it a swirl in the glass, hold it up to your nose and have a sniff.  Does it smell fruity, flowery, oaky, smoky?  Are the aromas light or intense?  These aromas can give you a hint of what to expect when you take a sip.  Take a sip.  Is the wine fruity? Are the fruit flavours you taste the same as you smelled earlier?  If it is a white wine, is the wine sweet, tart, smooth, or dry?  Do the flavours start with one kind of fruit, like lemons, and change later on, like to peaches?  For red wines, is the wine very dry and tannic (like when you taste strong tea), or light and fruity? What kind of fruits do you taste? Strawberries, raspberries, red cherries, blackberries, plums?  Do you also get some non-fruit flavours like tobacco, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, vanilla, cocoa, bacon?  It’s exciting to try wines and tell each other what you smell and taste.

Sparkling Reception Wine

SOMMARIVA CONEGLIANO VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE BRUTSommariva Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut, Italy ($22.99) – This brilliant straw-yellow coloured prosecco has rich aromas of citrus fruit and fresh vegetables. Its fine bubbles give clean finish, making this sparkling wine excellent for the table. Perfectly pairs with fish, seafood, sushi or sashimi.  This review comes from the BC Liquor store website.

Prosecco from the Veneto region in northestern Italy can be viewed as the hottest wine in the sparkling wine category.  It is made from the indigenous Glera grape.  Many of the proseccos are fermented in stainless and the second fermentation, where the sparkle comes from, is also made in stainless tanks.  This keeps the price for prosecco lower than other sparkling wines made with the second fermentation happening in the bottle, e.g. Champagne.  Proseccos tend to be lighter bodied, off-dry with floral, apple, and stone fruit flavours.

White Wines

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough, New Zealand ($18.49) – Green fruit nose.  Medium body, soft and dry with integrated acidity and minerality.  Stone fruit and green fruit flavours.

Sauvignon Blanc originates in France, where it is one of the grapes in white Bordeaux blends and is a single varietal wine from Sancerre in the eastern Loire Valley. Sauvignon Blanc is the grape that made people take notice of New Zealand wines.  Most of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Marlborough region, which is located at the north end of their South Island.  It can be viewed as New Zealand’s signature grape, and it is often associated with its bright acidity, citrus and green fruits and vegetal flavours.

Wild Goose Pinot Gris 2016, BC ($17.99) – BC’s most popular varietal! This vintage shows true varietal character from the hot growing season of 2016. The nose expresses peach and pear while the palate fills your mouth with flavours of melon and honey layered with spicy, earthy undertones, finishing with a hint of spice. A wonderful nose, well balanced and a beautiful finish.   This review is from the BC Liquor Store website.  I’ve tasted many Wild Goose wines and they always please the palate.

This is one grape you may have heard of, but not yet tasted.   I think BC produces very good Pinot Gris, with the Okanagan Valley with its desert climate producing a wine that is very fruity, usually stone fruit flavours, as well as keeping nice acidity.

Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc, 2016, South Africa ($26.49).  if you were to taste this wine without knowing anything about it, you would guess that it was a oaked Chardonnay, but it is more than that.  It also has some of the waxiness you get from this grape, plus the higher level of acidity than Chardonnay.  It had nutmeg, honey and tropical fruit flavours.  Really an outstanding wine.  This is a review I did of the wine 2 years ago.  The current vintage should have a very similar profile.

Chenin Blanc is a white grape, originally from the Loire Valley in France.  It can make dry to sweet wines, still and sparkling.  Vouvray is a sparkling wine made from Chenin Blanc.  Chenin tends to have a similar flavour profile to Chardonnay, but has higher acidity, and may have a waxy mouthfeel to it. This Chenin is from South Africa.  South Africa makes the most Chenin Blanc wines outside of France.  It could be viewed as the white signature grape of South Africa.

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Wild Goose Pinot Gris, and Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Wild Goose Pinot Gris, and Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc

Red Wines

Alpha Box & Dice Tarot Grenache 2015

Alpha Box & Dice Tarot Grenache 2015

Alpha Box & Dice Winery ‘Tarot’ Grenache 2016, Australia ($24.99) – A wine that I have tasted many times and it never fails to impress me.  This vintage has pretty candied red cherries and floral nose.  Dry, with medium body and medium acidity.  Candied red cherries and cranberry flavours. Very good.

This is a very interesting winery.  They are very non-interventionist in the winemaking process.  The Grenache grape is one of the 3 grapes that make Aussie GSM wine (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre).  The grape also used in Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhone, where it is the major component.  The grape is usually quite fruity and has low tannins.  AB&D have very interesting wines, with interesting labels.  Try their Blood of Jupiter wine, a “Super Tuscan” styled wine (Sangiovese + Cab Sauv).

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Italy ($28.49) – Red cherries, violets, and vanilla aromas.  Full body, with firm tannins. Red cherries and vanilla on the palate.  A quality wine. Tasted earlier this year.  This wine is a bit more than the other wines, but it is well worth trying a wine a bit higher price point.

A wine from Tuscany. Tuscany is best known for its most famous, and probably Italy’s most famous, red wine called Chianti.  This wine is made primarily from the indigenous Sangiovese grape and then blended with other red grapes, either Italian, like Colorino, or international, like Merlot.  Any wine that Barone Ricasoli is fantastic.  Just buy it if you see it.  The Ricasoli family invented the Chianti Classico red blend.

Vina Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere

Vina Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere

Vina Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere 2014, Chile ($19.99) – Nice nose; a mix of coffee, cocoa, chocolate and dark fruit aromas.  Medium plus body, dry and round, with medium acidity.  Peppery, coffee and dark fruit flavours.  A great value wine. Tasted earlier this year.  The 2015 is now out but should be very similar in flavour profile.

Carmenere is Chile’s signature red grape.  Before it was planted mixed together with Merlot and nobody knew.  Carmenere needs more time to ripen, so when the Merlot was ripe and picked, so was the Carmenere, but it was still green, so Chilean Merlot had a green pepper flavour to it from the unripe Carmenere.  A French grapevine expert identified the Carmenere grape in Chile and soon Chilean vineyards separated the 2 grapes from the fields.  Now Carmenere can ripen fully.  Carmenere is originally a Bordeaux red grape, but it rarely ripened due to the cool climate of Bordeaux, so it was dropped.

After tasting through the wines, I’d suggest taking a vote for your overall favourite wine, or maybe your favourite white and favourite red wine.  I hope you enjoy this wine tasting list.  Let me know if you do and if you would like me to offer more wine tasting lineups.  Cheers.

If You Cannot Find These Wines

If you are in another province or outside of Canada you may not find all these wines.  The non-BC wines I think are well-distributed around the world, so you may be able to get these.  For the BC wine, the Wild Goose Pinot Gris, try to find a Pinot Gris from a region near where you live.  Pinot Gris is produced by many countries.  Oregon and California in the USA are big producers of Pinot Gris.  From France, there are Pinot Gris from the Alsace region.  Australia and New Zealand are both producers of Pinot Gris.  Italy also is a big producer of Pinot Gris.

For the other wines, I listed the grape variety or varieties used for a wine, and the country where the wine was produced.  The best option would be to try to find another wine with the same grape varieties from the same country.  If you can’t find that, find another country that also produces a wine from that grape.  This is where you may want to ask someone in your local wine shop for their recommendation.  If you do make your own variation of my wine line up, I’d love for you to post a message and let me know which ones you purchased, and how you enjoyed the wines.

Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Some people prefer red wines. Some only like Cabernet Sauvignon. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I met many great wine makers. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.

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