Christmas gifts at the LCBO

Gift giving for the wine, beer and spirit lover on your list has never been easier. There is an incredible amount of product available today at your local monopoly. Some come in gift packs with glassware and flasks, while others sport clothing like mittens or toques. Many are presented in larger format bottles. Either way, you’re sure to find something to please, either on the General List or in Vintages, the fine wine and premium spirits side of the business.

In the wine category, bubbly and Icewine from Ontario top the list, selling four times more than the rest of the year. Many of the reds for sale this season are from the spectacular 2010 vintage and well worth savouring. It’s the time of year to buy higher priced, iconic wines from touted, local producers like Le Clos Jordanne. New World wines, especially from California, New Zealand and Australia are in abundance. Blended reds from California are hot this holiday season, offering up rounded, supple flavours. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Chile are exceedingly popular and aromatic varietals, with their enticing perfume and spice, are turning many heads this year. Argentina with its signature Malbec and Torrontes are high on many folks wish list. From Europe, French champagne is the ultimate holiday favourite. Following close behind, Burgundy and Bordeaux are must have wines for many oenophiles. Italian wines are always huge sellers and that trend continues throughout this season, especially for higher end offerings like Amarone and Barolo. Fortified wines like Port, Sherry and Madeira, for celebrating or holiday baking, are in demand at this time of year.

Beer has been one of the fastest-growing parts of the LCBO’s gift business, and not surprising. There is a plethora of beers available for every taste. Lots come in large format, specialty bottles and mixer/taster packs. Some even feature branded glassware and craft, boutique and imported beers abound. The lower price point is very attractive for gift giving.

Christmas is a huge time of year for spirit sales. Many folks will splurge on brown spirits. Lots of blended and single malt scotches will be purchased by folks for others or themselves. XO Cognac is huge, sales-wise, as consumers are willing to spend a little more. Canadian whisky sales are surprisingly great at this time of year. Rum has become quite a collectible among connoisseurs as of late, especially deluxe, premium and unique, aged brands. Dark and spiced versions, used for baking and eggnog, fly off of shelves. As for white spirits, vodka is the biggest representation. Deluxe and flavoured offerings tickle many people’s palate.

To really personalize a wine, beer or spirit gift this holiday, you can always put together your own gift basket. Get a straw or wicker basket and lay down some coloured, shredded paper as a bed. Put in numerous selections of the person’s favourite imbibe. Add some biscuits, crackers, cheese, chocolates, nuts, paté and a couple of well-chosen tasting glasses, specifically for the chosen imbibe. You might throw in a book on wine, beer, spirits or cocktails. Maybe include some paraphernalia geared specifically for the chosen imbibe, like a corkscrew or cocktail shaker. Wrap it all up in coloured or clear paper and tie a Christmas bow around the top. Presto, a gift fit for a king or queen!

If all else fails, there’s always LCBO gift cards. Available in any denomination between $10 and $500, you can obtain them at all stores and more than 3,000 other retail locations including Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, Sobey’s, Macs, Petro Canada and Walmart.

So if you have a wine, beer or spirit lover on your Christmas list this season, don’t fret, a perfect gift awaits you at your local monopoly. Your only problem will be deciding what to pick.

Remember to sip responsibly and enjoy the season. Happy holidays.

Edward Finstein, a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, is a wine writer, educator, judge &  consultant.

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