Holiday bottles on a budget

These wines, beers and spirits are proof you don’t have to splurge this season


Château des Charmes Barrel Fermented Chardonnay VQA

Finding great local wines on a dime isn’t easy (climate challenges aside, Ontario wineries face hefty taxation and VQA fees). It’s far from impossible, though, and entry-level wines from the Bosc family in Niagara are a reliable starting point. This weighty, citrus-soaked-pineapple-cake chardonnay should go over well with almost anyone, from know-it-all wine pals to finicky aunts who “only drink it if it’s from California.” 

$14.95/750 ml, available at the LCBO (81653), Château des Charmes Boutique (1560 Yonge #116, 416-780-0297) and select grocery stores

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Lupi Reali Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC Organic

Cheap table wines don’t have to be plonk — they can be broody, fruit-packed playthings made from organic Montepulciano grapes and named after Italian wolves. Don’t get Montepulciano D’Abruzzo twisted with Sangiovese-based wines from the more northerly town of Montepulciano, but do serve it liberally with dinner or finger food, dahling. (Hot tip: we like it best after a few minutes in the fridge.)

$10.80/750 ml, available at the LCBO (486647)

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Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant de Bourgogne

Budgeting doesn’t mean standards should be hurled out the window and into an alleyway dumpster, so back away from the Baby Duck and skip towards a bottle of Crémant. Made in the same method as the ritziest of fizz, Champagne, this Burgundian bubbly is a harmonious little party-starter (because it’s not a legit shindig until corks and frothy wine start flying around the room).

$19.95/750 ml, available at Vintages (991562)

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Rumchata 

I love Rumchata, you love Rumchata, WE ALL LOVE RUMCHATA! (C’mon, be a human and just admit it.) If Santa existed and he plunged down the chimney cradling a bottle of rum-and-spice-spiked horchata liqueur in his arms, everyone would forget about cookies and presents to mob his ass immediately — it’s that delicious. Pour it over ice, grate some cinnamon on top and forget about eggnog forever. 

$31/750 ml, available at the LCBO (380865)

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Jever Pilsener

Way cheaper than Coors Banquet, Woodhouse Lager, Ace Hill and nearly every other crowd-pleasing tallboy glued to the palms of Toronto millennials, Jever is what struggling creatives slug back in Berlin. Crisp and gulpable with all the grassy, bready goodness of an OG German Pils, poor neglected Jever is only ten cents pricier (and a thousand times tastier) than PBR. 

$2.20/500 ml, available at the LCBO (378976)

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Wild Turkey 101

Wild Turkey’s 101 proof (that’s 50.5% ABV) bottling is a shouty, superb bourbon at an incredible price. Power-walking out of the liquor store $40 poorer with a bottle in tow feels kind of criminal, like those “it’s not a mistake” Ikea commercials, but with booze. This whiskey’s got some sass, so mellow it out with water or mix up a batch of next-level old-fashioneds that’ll pry even the shyest guest out of their husk.

$37.75/750 ml, available at the LCBO (479949)

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Juniper’s Wit Gin by Kinsip

Spread that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with supporting small local business (and coincidentally, drinking hard liquor) by forking over part of ye olde holiday slush fund to Ontario’s indie distillers. This tasty gin from Prince Edward County’s newish distillery, Kinsip, is flavoured with regional juniper, lavender and hops. A touch of silky sweetness from the wheat base makes this gin just as lovely on the rocks as it is in cocktails. 

$39.95/750 ml, available at the LCBO (513390) or at kinsip.ca

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Side Launch Dark Lager

Side Launch’s delicious dark lager, a long-running favourite from the Collingwood brewery, brings the rich, malty seasonal satisfaction while blasting your guests with enough carbonation to keep them carousing all night long (or at least until you kick them out). 

$3/473ml, available at the LCBO (437228)

drinks@nowtoronto.com | @S_Parns

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