I did another one of those fun collaborations with Sharman Yarnell, of Montreal radio station CJAD, this week. The theme was Holiday wine giving, by which she meant: what wine do you buy someone as a gift that will be distinctive and, hopefully, impressive.
I made many suggestions, from Alvaro Palacios’ Petalos, a scrumptious Bierzo with a lot of fight in it (see my tasting note), to Miguel Torres’ Mas La Plana, an exceptional and age-worthy cabernet sauvignon from the catalan part of Spain, and to the oft-forgotten madeira (the perfect match for plum pudding and fruitcake) with a Henriques y Henriquest 1995 Single Vintage as an excellent starting point.
But the idea that really stuck with me was: Go Big.
By which I don’t mean heading for overripe, overextracted fruit bombs with humongously high alcohol levels. Of course not.
I just mean: buy the magnums, or even the bigger bottles at 3 liters or even six liters, that regularly come into Québec’s more specialized SAQ stores. After all, Christmas is the time to splurge, the time where there are a lot of people at the table. So a big bottle makes sense: you’ll actually drink through it. And if it’s a wine to lay down, many reports from friends who have drunk wine from the bigger bottles indicate that wine ages better in magnums – lower oxydation rate is one frequently worded hypothesis.
And you know the best thing? You really won’t have to mortgage your house to buy one. At SAQ, in Québec, magnums start at barely over 20$, with a pleasant, fun Spanish red called Borsao, with a very extensive range of prices going all the way to mortgage-level with a magnum of 1947 Pétrus for just under 25,000$. (To find the whole selection, do an Advanced Search and specify “wine” and bottle size)
At Waitrose, in Britain, prices start at 30 pounds, with the very decent Château Pey la Tour from the exceptional 2005 vintage. But Berry Bros And Rudd has even better, with prices starting at just over 12 quid. In the US, I spotted a magnum of Finca Allende from the Rioja, at 45$, from Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library (yes, he sells wine too, did you know that?). Meanwhile, at Domaine 547, a magnum of Orin Swift’s 2007 The Prisoner fetches 80$: this zinfandel blend is just striking (which is why I’m very happy to collaborate in bringing it to Quebec with Insolite Importation) and the bottle, with its somber, elegant design, is just the thing to create an impression. Which, again, is the whole point about going big, isn’t it?