Are You Done Yet?

I’m not.

Getting there though – just a few gifts left to take care of, mostly stocking stuffers really. How about you – still looking for some last-minute Christmas gift ideas? Well maybe we can help.

Is there a gardener on your list? Good – we gardeners are easy to buy for. Gardening can be hard work, so anything that makes it a little easier on us is always appreciated. Ergonomic secateurs, long-handled shears, a really good pair of buttery-soft leather gardening gloves, gardener’s soap and hand balm – all make very thoughtful gifts. Or how about a beautiful gardening book?  A gardener can never have too many of those – we especially like books with big glossy pictures (my husband calls this plant porn).

Not a gardener? Sorry I can’t be of much help then – our Sommelier extraordinaire has some ideas though…….

The Spirits of Giving

by Len Steinberg

It’s that time of year. We’re preparing for the season of giving and not everyone on our list is easy to buy for. Some already have everything they need, some are just picky and some we just don’t know very well.  I have some solutions for you.

Rich foods, baking and sweets are a big part of the Christmas Season. There a number of wines that will work very well with those sweet indulgences and make excellent gifts.


This is a fortified wine which finds its origin in the Douro Valley of Portugal. Port is produced by arresting the fermentation process with neutral spirits – this preserves the natural sweetness of the grapes while boosting the alcohol level to 17 to 22%. It comes in a number of styles:

  • Ruby, a young fresher style.
  • Tawny, a barrel aged oxidized style which is classified by age.        
  • LBV or Late Bottled Vintage, which fits in the middle of the two styles. I feel LBV port is one of the best values on the market.
  • Vintage port, declared in only the best years, has great longevity in bottle and is of course pricey.
Tawny Port

Tawny Port. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Port is usually served after a meal and pairs well with baking, chocolate and nuts.

The classic cheese pairing would be Stilton, and Christmas cake or Christmas pudding also work splendidly.

Dessert Wines

Dessert wines come in a number of styles:

Late Harvest Wine

Late Harvest wines are produced from grapes left on the vines for an extended period of time, which allows for a concentration of flavour and sugars. This style of wine is produced around the globe, Canada being a premier producer, along with Alsace, Germany and Australia. Look for grape varieties of Riesling, Vidal, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. They pair well with fruit flans, caramel tarts and strong cheeses, even blue cheese.

Ice Wine

Ice Wine is a unique production process that can only take place in colder climates. Grapes are left on the vine to freeze to temperatures of -8 to -10 Celsius. The grapes are then picked and fermented into beautifully structured dessert wines. Canada produces some of the world’s greatest examples of Ice Wine, from both Ontario and British Columbia. In Quebec they are producing Ice Apple Ciders that are delicious. These wines are concentrated and as a result the prices tend to be a little higher.

Ice wine grapes frozen on the vine. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Ice wine grapes frozen on the vine. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Ice Wine is produced mostly from white grapes like Riesling or Vidal but some producers are making wines from red varieties like Cabernet Franc. These wines present rich fruit on the nose and due to the high acidity, are much crisper and more structured than you might expect. They pair well with a full range of desserts – be sure to take into account the grape variety when pairing.


Sauternes and other Botrytis Affected wines are quite extraordinary. The grapes used to produce these wines are infected with the benevolent form of Botrytis cinerea or Noble Rot. This fungus breaks down the cellular walls of the grape which causes the fruit to lose moisture, concentrating the sugars and flavours, and developing bold structure.

Botrytis cinerea on Semillon grapes. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Botrytis cinerea on Semillon grapes. Photo credit: Wikipedia

In the Sauterne region of France the classic grapes used are Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, in a blend.

In Alsace, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Muscat grapes are used. You can find BA wines from many wine-producing countries, including Canada and the US.

Sauternes are the standard for this style of wine. They have great cellaring potential, improving with age. They are complex enough to be paired with savoury dishes, classically Fois Gras and Roquefort. For dessert pairings, accent flavours of apple, pear, cinnamon or exotic fruits. Ginger Bread is always a favorite too.  These wines come in many price ranges, with the quality being directly linked to price.

Champagne and Sparkling Wines

These are the sought-after wines of celebration.

Champagne uncorking. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Champagne uncorking. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Sparkling wines are made around the world, but the classic bubbles – true Champagne – comes from Champagne, France. Here the wines are produced in various styles, from 3 grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Champagne is produced by secondary fermentation in bottle, producing the mousse or bubbles we love so much. You can find less expensive sparkling wines that use the Charmat or tank method of production, like Prosecco or Asti.

All sparkling wines are very versatile and make excellent aperitifs, on their own or with the addition of a flavoured liqueur. As well, they can be paired with almost any course with an affinity to seafood, shellfish and fresh fruit.

The gift of wine is always a treat, but there are also alternatives for those that prefer stronger beverages.  Choose someone’s favorite Whisky, Brandy, Tequila, or Rum. For those who don’t imbibe there are Sparkling Ciders, and Alcohol-free wines and sparkling wines.

Essentially there is something for everyone in the world of wine. Let’s raise a glass to the season.

“To Life”
© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2 comments on “Are You Done Yet?

  1. Ice wine is great, but nothing beats a good port on a cold, snowy night. I’m off to get my Christmas bottle.

    • Sue Gaviller says:

      Ah yes, Port on a cold snowy night….by the fire, with a little Cranberry Stilton. Sounds like a fine snack – I think Santa would like that (are there rules about drinking and sleigh-driving?).

      Anyways, thanks for reading and for your comment. So what’s your favourite port?

      Sue & Len


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