It's that time of the year when appetizers are being passed around, gifts are being shared and wine is being poured. While enjoying a cozy night in with friends is easy, understanding what's in your glass might be the key to embracing all of the festivities.
After all, levelling up your wine repertoire not only helps you appreciate what you're drinking, but it can add some credibility to that bottle you're gifting to the host or the glass you're pouring for your guests.
That's why Narcity Canada decided to chat with Nicholas Gizuk, Inniskillin Niagara Estate Winery's Head Winemaker.
He’s a guy who truly gets wine and its combination of science, art and creativity — and had both hands in the work that put Inniskillin on the global map as the only Canadian winery in Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of 2022.
So don't stress if your wine knowledge isn't exactly expert-level yet — here are some tips and tricks you've got to know about vino so you can sound like a pro at the office party this year.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Most of the finest wines are balanced ones
Gizuk explains why a balanced wine is a delicious wine.
"It is the understanding that wine is made up [of] compounds that give flavour, colour, texture acids, sugars and alcohol,” he says. “And all of these compounds are at different levels in wine. The trick is to make sure that no one sticks out too much (or too little) to make it hard to distinguish each one individually."
Pairing food and wine is easier than you think
You're often told to pair by complementing or contrasting your wine with a dish. For example, if you're serving a rich meal, you could highlight the depth of flavour with a bold red or contrast it with a crisp white.
While Gizuk checks the menu when selecting his wine, he's got a bit of a different perspective.
"If you like your sweet Riesling with your ribeye steak, and that’s what tastes great for you, then that’s what matters. We, winemakers, make these wines for people to enjoy, whether it’s with family and friends on a Tuesday night [for] dinner or that icebreaker wine on a first date."
You can serve some exceptional Canadian wine
Ditch any preconceived notions you have about Californian or French wines being superior — Canada's got a huge selection of great wines for you to enjoy.
"I can’t promise you will find your new favourite wine on your first try with a Canadian bottle, but you won’t know until you try," says Gizuk.
So don't shy away from sharing your love for local products at your next gathering.
You can get creative with it
Get ready to explore the variety of beverages you can craft with wine, such as a gorgeous wine cocktail.
Play around with your wine selection by considering what kind of mood you want to set too. Gizuk embraces this chilly time of year with the flavours of the season.
"I have a bit of a sweet tooth and like to drink Icewine as a nightcap. I also drink heavier reds in the winter months as our meals in my house tend to be hearty stews and roasts."
Wine tastes even better over time
It's not just a saying — Gizuk says that many wines do get better with age.
"The winemaker’s vision was for his wine to be in the perfect spot of balance 5-10 years in its life cycle, and if you drink it early without that understanding you’re missing the true potential for the wine."
Patience really is a virtue.
Impress guests with a Cabernet Franc
When asked which wine Gizuk would bring along to impress a host, he highlighted a red wine: Cabernet Franc.
"This wine has a great concentration of red fruits, plum and dried raspberry. The tannins are softening and becoming approachable but for me the finish in this wine is outstanding." Sounds like a cozy bottle that anyone can get behind.
Putting ice cubes in wine is a no-no.
Gizuk hopes you avoid making one of the biggest wine faux pas of all: ice cubes.
"We work so hard to craft this beautiful art and preserve all these lovely flavours in our wines. Be patient, trust me it's worth the 10 minutes [it takes for wine to cool]."
If your need for wine is urgent, the Head Winemaker suggests checking out Pinterest for different wine-chilling techniques.
Holiday parties are the perfect excuse to indulge in yummy food, sophisticated drinks and good conversation — and Gizuk advises wine newbies that just chatting about what you’re sipping on is the best way to begin your wine journey.
But while wowing your friends with some vintner's knowledge is a cool way to upgrade your party, just remember that trusting your taste buds is the surest way for anyone to appreciate a good glass.
So enter the cozy season equipped with a few fun facts straight from one of Inniskillin's expert winemakers — and possibly become the resident wine genius at this season's hangouts.