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The Gift of Wine (December 9, 2004)

My mother used to say it is better to give than to receive – a noble sentiment that I never really bought into. Truth be told, I'd rather receive. It's a lot more fun.

My philosophy of gift giving is to choose something you'd like to receive, buy two and keep one for yourself. This is the Rule of Two, a piece of advice my old wine professor in England used to tell his students: "Whenever you take a wine from your cellar, always replace it with two bottles. That way your cellar will grow and if one of the bottles is 'corked' you will always have a back-up." (Incidentally, if you do come across a corked wine – a wine that has been tainted by the cork and smells like a mouldy basement – recork the bottle and return it to the LCBO, who will refund your money. That is, if there is sufficient wine in the bottle to suggest you didn't suddenly decide the wine was corked at the last glass.)

Since there are twelve days of Christmas, I would like to receive the gift of wine (and spirits) on each of them. So here is my wish list in all prices ranges – from the extravagant to the budget-conscious.

$1,500 range: If you want to impress your boss... no, on second thoughts, an expensive gift would suggest he's paying you too much. If you want to influence a client who has a lot of patience, order from the LCBO, as futures, a three-bottle lot of Château Margaux 2003, the first-growth Bordeaux that will set you back $495 a bottle, $1,485 in all. (You can download the order form from and fax it to Vintages (416) 365-5777.)

$1000 range: The 110-bottle Tuscan Plus Vintage Keeper. Just the job to keep your wines at the right temperature and humidity. If you want to be near them you can place it in your bedroom. You can see it on It usually retails for $1,295.00, but Post City readers can take in this column can get it for $1,000 (plus applicable GST and delivery charge). The Wine Establishment is located at 250 The Esplanade in Berkeley Castle (416-861-1331).

$350 range: A bottle of the finest malt whisky I've tasted in a long time, from Scotland's most northerly distillery in the Orkneys: Highland Park 25 Year Old. (Vintages # 500249, $350.)

$200 range: A bottle of Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia 200, a Meritage blend from Napa Valley. (Vintages # 671172, $199.95). Here are my notes: "Expensive yes, but what a delicious wine! Dense purple-black in colour, replete with dark chocolate and spice, minerals and crushed blackcurrants. Still a baby, but what promise in its firm structure and great length. Full-bodied, concentrated and sumptuous. Five stars out of five." If you can't find it in a nearby Vintages store, call the LCBO Infoline (416-365-5900) for the nearest store that has it – or you can purchase a case of six from Lifford Wines, 416-440-4101 or email

$100 range: A boxed bottle of Henry-Gerard Calvados XO. It looks like a large perfume bottle and smells good enough to use as after-shave. (Vintages # 708404, $99.95 for 700 mL.)

The Trudeau Trulever Elite Gift package for removing corks retails for $124.95 and has a wax remover and foil cutter included in a wood gift box. If you take this column with you into The Wine Establishment you will get a real deal. Your price will be $100 (plus the applicable GST). See address above.

$40 range: Konzelmann Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2002. Less sweet than Vidal or Riesling Icewine, this orange-pink dessert wine has a candied raspberry nose with a cranberry and honey flavour and fresh acidity. (Vintages, $36.95 for 200 mL, Vintages # 652123).

If you're really stuck for a gift idea and don't want to go shopping, you can always order a signed set of my three hard-cover wine murder mysteries, featuring wine writer-detective Ezra Brant in Blood Is Thicker Than Beaujolais, The Beast of Barbaresco and Death On The Douro. The set of three is $30 plus GST and postage. To order, visit my book order page.

$25 range: Henriques & Henriques Single Harvest Madeira 1995. This is a rare and special Madeira that you can open and keep for weeks in a decanter (if you don't finish the bottle at the end of Christmas dinner). Amber-brown in colour, it has a concentrated nose of figs and walnuts with a brown sugar note; it's rich and spicy with a toasty finish, great acidity that gives it length (Vintages # 713073, $23.95, 500 mL).

$20 range: Dow's Late Bottled Vintage Port 1998. This is a blockbuster LBV, richly extracted blackberry and dark chocolate flavours. Just the thing for sipping in front of the fire. Great price. ($18.95, Vintages # 533364).

$15 range: Stoney Ridge Baco Noir "Barrel Select" 2003 from Niagara. Dense purple colour, smoky plum and blackberry nose; medium-bodied, oaky, sweet jammy blackberry flavour, well balanced. ($14.95, Vintages # 640425).

Under $10: Really more of a stocking stuffer – Colio Estate Vidal Icewine 2002 in a 50 mL miniature. Small but packs a lot of toffee, orange peel and baked apple flavours. ($6.95, Vintages # 324749.)




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