TASTE Winter 2022-23

NICOLE MACKAY Nicole MacKay is a wine writer and consultant who holds her Level 3 Certification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. Her passion for wine was sparked in the summer of 2004 while working in the tasting room of an Okanagan winery. That passion grew, as did the desire to explore the stories behind the bottles, which led to the creation of her own website, SocialSips.ca. Follow her on Instagram @SocialSips.

You can be nimble with the holiday budget and still spread festive cheer. It’s all about knowing what to look for and at what price.

W ith decorations to buy, gifts to purchase and extravagant family festivities, the holidays can feel like a steady burn on the bank account. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way with wine. You can be nimble with the holiday budget and still spread festive cheer. It’s all about knowing what to look for and at what price. Here are six ways to keep the holiday festivities on track without breaking the bank. Let Cava Shine Bubbles in your wine need not cause a big dent in your wallet. Quality quaffs from around the world are available in various styles (dry to sweet, frizzante to brut) and in a wide range of prices. Though Champagne can be passed over by the budget-conscious consumer, there’s no denying that its winemaking style, méthode Champenoise (or traditional method as it’s called outside of the region), delivers the highest quality. Case in point: Cava from Spain sees its bubbles develop inside the bottle during its secondary fermentation, just like Champagne. The differences? The bubbly blend comprises native Spanish grapes, including Xarel-lo, Macabeu and Parellada, which thrive in the region. The climate is also a factor. For instance, Champagne is a cold northern region that limits grape yields and can have more losses. So, grapes cost more in Champagne than

in Spain. And finally, the required aging times are slightly less for Cava, which also plays into the final cost. Sift Through Icons to Land Among Greats Like it or not, French wine has a hierarchy. First comes Bordeaux, then Burgundy— or vice versa depending on preferences. But when it comes to French wine regions that start with the letter B, try Beaujolais. Beaujolais is made from Gamay, a red grape that produces fresh, fruit-driven wines. Beaujolais crus comprise 10 villages, including the Brouilly appellation, which is one of the most renowned. Brouilly produces robust and full-bodied wines compared to other crus, partly because of the warm sunshine it receives throughout the growing season. Because of this, grapes ripen slightly earlier than the rest of Beaujolais and are some of the first to be harvested in the region. Strive for Something Off the Beaten Path It wouldn’t be surprising if you’ve never heard of Mencía (pronounced Men-thee-ah), a medium-bodied red wine grape grown only in Spain and Portugal. It’s perhaps best known among wine enthusiasts for quality versions from the Spanish DO ( Denominación de Origen ) of Bierzo.

In recent decades, the area’s winemakers have embraced old vines, often averaging more than 50 years old, to produce wines of incredible quality and value. Since becoming an official DO in 1989, wine production catapulted from just over half a million bottles to 7.5 million in 2020. Bierzo is a prime example of a semi-slow burn of exceptional winemaking that is still relatively unknown, yet really delivers far above its price point. Seek Out Reputable Producers The industry can seem a little “inside baseball” at times. Run stats and coaching changes equate to production yields and vintage charts. Avoid the deluge of detail and zero in on your taste preferences from reputable producers. Of course, the term “reputable” can be subjective. It might mean point scores or multi-generational producers for some. For others, it may include biodynamic winemaking practices. One shining example is Gérard Bertrand, a third-generation winemaker in southern France’s Languedoc region. For 20 years, he has successfully transitioned 16 of his properties to be biodynamic, with several also receiving Demeter certification. Bertrand’s portfolio ranges from white to red and rosé to orange, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find something up your alley.



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