GLORIA ZHANG/THE VARSITY

As the holidays draw near, celebrations are in order. While I’m no wine connoisseur, in another life I would drop everything and become a sommelier in the South of France. Wine can be intimidating, but there’s a bottle for any occasion. If you’re unsure where to start, here are some recommendations that are all available at the LCBO.

For writing final papers: 

I live by the advice that is often — though not reliably — attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “write drunk, edit sober.” Though there are obvious limitations to this, I’ve found over time that creating a fulsome essay plan then indulging in a few glasses of wine can do wonders to loosen the shackles of writer’s block. Just remember to edit the next day with coffee.

Misterio Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina: $9.25

Some of my favourite inexpensive wines come from Argentina, and the one I buy most often is the Cab by Misterio. It doesn’t have a very complex profile, but I find it reasonably full-bodied and smooth. Trapiche makes a comparable Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.45) that has fruitier undertones.

Folonari Pinot Grigio, Italy: $14.45

I don’t usually drink white wine, but I like this crisp Pinot from Folonari. It has a fresh taste that’s not overly sweet and is perfect for sipping away while you crank out your paper.

For playing host to friends: 

When it comes to holiday parties, you should be able to count on your guests to bring some bottles to share. Still, it’s always a good idea to have some crowd-pleasers on hand. These selections are not only sure-fire hits, but they’re noted for their drinkability and festive flair.

E. & J. Gallo Winery Apothic Red, California: $16.95

This enchanting Apothic red blend lives up to its name: the remarkable smoothness and reasonable price make it a popular pick amongst wine drinkers of all experience levels. That said, avoid paying full price for this choice if you can — it frequently goes on sale.

Cantina Sociale Valdobbiadene Val d’Oca Prosecco Docg, Italy: $17.45

When an occasion calls for sparkling wine, it’s hard to select a good bottle that fits a student budget. Avoid picking up a sparkling rose at random — sparkling wine loses its celebratory sheen when you need to cut it with ginger ale. There are a number of reasonably-priced Proseccos that are worth the indulgence — this is one of them.

For a date: 

Wine is meant for sharing. These wines are perfect for snuggling up with that special someone, who just might happen to be your cat:

Fielding Estate Winery Fireside Red, Ontario: $14.95

Fireside is a VQA selection, meaning that it meets the quality standards of Ontario’s local wine authority. It’s dry, round, and pleasantly warm. Because it’s not too sweet, it can complement meaty pairings without overwhelming the taste of your meal.

Concha Toro S.A. Casillero del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile: $13.95

‘Casillero del Diablo’ translates to ‘Devil Locker,’ which may be an apt name for this spicy blend. This full-bodied, intense choice is quite versatile; it could be an excellent pairing for a flavourful meal or a satisfying night cap to share.

As a gift: 

Bringing wine to a gathering is often dictated by etiquette, but it can be bewildering given the range of options. Here are four selections that I find are consistently well-received, in ascending order of price:

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay, Australia: $15.95

I used to recommend this wine to guests who ordered meaty seafood dishes like lobster or salmon and it always went over well. If you’re looking to spring for something a little more refined, Wolf Blass also boasts a ‘gold label’ Chardonnay selection for about $10.00 dollars more.

Sterling Vintner’s Pinot Noir, California: $16.00

Sterling wines are a staple in many household wine collections, even small ones. All of this winery’s vintages are reliable and well-made. Pinot Noir makes a good host gift because of its versatility; it can be served with most mains since it has a lighter texture than other reds.

J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, California: $22.95

This has been the most popular bottle in the LCBO’s vintage section for as long as I can recall. While it’s not the boldest choice, it shares many of the virtues of the more expensive Cannonball selection on this list, especially in its mastery of cherry undertones.

Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California: $24.95 

This wine accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of evoking fruity aromas while remaining smooth and oaky. It’s one of my favourite, but it can be difficult to find. However, the more ubiquitous Merlot by Cannonball is not as impressive.

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