Italian wine gift ideas for Christmas

By Marco Giovanetti

Christmas is around the corner as we start to find ourselves thinking what would be the ideal Christmas gift for our dear friends and relatives.

Wondering what to buy? Maybe the regular gift card? A boring pair of socks? A nice set of pajamas to replace the old one?

To help you prepare your Christmas shopping list, I have the perfect idea that I would like to share with you…

A bottle of Italian wine

You can never go wrong with wine, a great bottle of Italian wine. It is a gift that will have great value and can be enjoyed among close friends and family.

A bottle of wine goes the extra mile and is a gift that creates a cherished moment, an experience and most importantly intimacy. The bottle of wine does not end once it is delivered, but rather is saved for a special occasion.

Now, what to buy? This may be difficult if you are not a experienced wine buyer. This gift helps you determine which type of wine drinker your friend or family member is. Does this person prefer whites, reds or a bit of the bubbly?

One suggestion that can never direct you to the wrong path is to always give priority to quality over quantity. It only takes that one specially selected bottle to make a great impression.

All right, enough said about that. Once you decide on giving wine you have to decide exactly what wine. There are an overwhelming number of wines available in the SAQ and private import so the challenge is to match the wine to the person and/or occasion. And, unless you have an unlimited budget, you also have to consider exactly how much you want to spend on a gift bottle of wine.

To help resolve some of the dilemma I have thought about several wine options with suggested gift price ranges that depend on who the gift recipient is and the occasion.

Thoughtful but not very expensive wines (under $30)

These are wines for gifts to personal friends, office colleagues, or people with whom you regularly meet like your personal trainer, yoga instructor or anyone whose help you want to acknowledge.  They are affordable but interesting wines that show some interest on the part of the giver and that they were not just hurriedly grabbed off a SAQ outlet  shelf on the way to the festivities.

Stemmari Pinot Noir 2016 .SAQ # 13786233, $16.95

A Pinot Noir with Sicilian accents.Lovely seducing red fruit profile with hints of spice and balsamic undertones. Silky and a bit creamy with cool flavours of swedish berries. Gentle  tannins and a chic finale.

San Polo Governo Toscana 2016. SAQ # 13808906, $20.65

The Governo Toscana 2016, a predominant blend of Sangiovese is just marvelous. Inviting aromas of red and black currants with a touch of eucalyptus and tobacco leaf. On the palate, ripe and structured with caressing tannins, sleek acidity and persistent finale. Cool flavours of mocha, leather and sun dried tomatoes. It will please the young and old Italian wine drinker.

Cusumano Jale 2015. SAQ # 13830353, $26.00 

Aromas of peach in syrup, marzipan and nougat with citronella. Creamy and quite intriguing with nuances of roasted herbs and flowers complemented by a smoky mineral finale. This could the equivalent of a Burgundy premier cru in the Mediterranean.

Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2015. SAQ # 13487049, $26.40

Great wine with a lovely freshness and fruit. Aromas and notes of wild red berries, licorice, tobacco, spices and hazelnut. Well balanced, good persistence with ripe tannins and a long finish.

Valpolicella DOC “Iperico” 2016 – Valentina Cubi. ( Private Import, $27.96, 6-pack Case. Onivino Wine and Spirits. Contact: mandi@onivino.ca)

The eponymous Valentina Cubi is blazing a trail with her state-of-the-art, ten hectare, certified organic winery. Cubi uses biodynamic methods and, subject to the quality of the year’s harvest, produces one of the few ‘natural’, sulphite-free Valpolicella.

A step up your standard Valpolicella, the Iperico is fresh with intense floral hints, red and black berries and confit violets. Elegant with a good persistence.

Classy but not overboard ($30 to $50) 

This category is a step-up in price from the previous category and is intended for long-term personal friends like your university colleagues with whom you’ve kept in touch and some family members like your father-in-law or mother-in-law, cousins, nephews and godparents Wines in this category show that you care  and value the  relationship with the recipient.

Tunia sottofondo 2016, igt toscana bianco frizzante orange. ( Private Import, $36.79. 6-pack case. Le Vins Dans Le Voiles-Buy and split with loved ones!!)

Tunia is a boutique winery with a passion for natural wines. It was created in 2008 in the Val di Chiana area, in Tuscany. The philosophy is 100% natural with no shortcuts.

On the nose the aromas are quite complex from ripe white fruit to dry nuts to floral nuances. In the mouth it has a wonderful acidity with a fine bubble and a slight tannic bite.

Nino Barraco 2017 IGT Catarratto ( Private Import, $40.40. 6-pack case. Bacchus 76-Buy and split with loved ones!!) 

Based in Marsala, in the extreme west of Sicily, the Nino Barraco winery was founded in 2004 when Nino and his wife Angela took over the seven hectares that their families had, adding three more for a total of ten hectares.

Barraco has always had a dedication to making natural wines with extended skin contact, no temperature control, and spontaneous fermentations on naturally occurring yeasts in small, stainless-steel tanks, with only the barest minimum of sulfites to ensure stability. While he never sought certification, strict organic practices are enforced both in the vineyards and in the cellar. Producing only the indigenous varieties of his region – Grillo, Catarratto, Zibibbo for the whites and Nero D’Avola and Pignatello (aka Perricone) for the reds – today Barraco produces just around 15,000 bottles per year and has developed quite a reputation as an important Sicilian winemaker.

Deep yellow with loads of floral elements (yellow flowers) lemons and fresh oranges. Full, creamy without the oak but packed with citric fruit nuances such as oranges and tangerines, nutmeg and smoke.