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Arts & Culture ᐊᔨᐦᑐᐧᐃᓐ

The return of La Grande Dégustation adds cheer to the coming holiday season

BY Will Nicholls Nov 23, 2022

Another victim of the pandemic, it’s been three years since La Grande Dégustation de Montréal – the wine and spirits exhibition – was able to raise our spirits. An attempt to hold smaller gatherings in multiple places last year never really took off. 

But at the Grand Quay of the Port of Montreal October 20-22, tipplers were able to renew their tastebuds during a pleasurable quest for their next holiday cheer. With over 280 producers showcasing more than 1,600 products, it wasn’t hard not to find something for every palette.

Prices ranged from $15 for a six-pack of White Claw to $357 for a bottle of wine. With so many choices one wonders why only a few days were set aside for this event. In any case, it’s a great way to try out different wines or spirits without buying the whole bottle or depending on the tastes of SAQ employees.

Papegaai is a nice, simple South African wine. It was a semi-dry full-bodied white wine with a price tag of $21.90. 

A sweet rosé I tried is called Crazy Birds, but this is difficult to find. It’s not too sweet but just enough to titillate the tongue and is a relaxing wine to sip and enjoy.

A.A. Badenhorst is a family-owned winery in South Africa. Their vintages range from $14.50 to $51.25. I tried the higher end at first and was pleasantly surprised. Even the lower-end red was decent. This is a wine to serve with moose, goose, caribou and even bear. It would be great to use in Beef Bourguignon.

A great way to clear my palate was with White Claw. I’ve never been into hard seltzers but decided to give it a try. The two I enjoyed the most were the pineapple and lime flavours. The pineapple is a best seller for the company and after tasting it I understood why. Though some might feel this is a summer drink, I have brought it several times since the show. It is cheaper at the SAQ than at depanneurs or grocery stores. Though launched in Canada only a couple years ago, White Claw already accounts for more than half of hard-seltzer sales in the US. 

Some people are tired of Jameson Irish Whiskey because production methods make for an inconsistency in its taste. Not that this is a bad thing, but sometimes you want the flavour that the last bottle offered and often it isn’t there. Glendalough Irish Whiskey is a good alternative. It has a smooth taste that will warm the whole mouth and is a sure pleaser at $42. It would make a great gift that’s sure to impress the father-in-law, boss or co-worker.

You want something to go with dessert? Then order a bottle of Signature Honey Wine, offered at $24.15. This Quebec-based mead is sweet and is quite different from your everyday wine. It also goes well with chocolate.

In South America I learned that not all rums are equal. One way to realize this is to try a glass of Newfoundland Screech ($27.15), which was a rite of passage for young Maritimers back in the day. 

One house that stood out was the Flor de Caña. Lower-end prices are around $28.50 but I didn’t taste those, instead heading to the 15-year-old Flor de Caña priced at $60.25. It has a beautiful scent and is even more beautiful on the tongue, leaving one wanting more. 

For connoisseurs, however, the 25-year-old Flor de Caña is available for a hefty but worthwhile price of $226. It was like waking up just as the sun was starting to come over the trees while out on the land. It provides a sense of well-being that tells you all is well in the world.

Other suggestions include:

Tawse Chardonnay – A good white wine.

Figure Libre Freestyle – Good to have with red or wild meat.

Tamnavulin – A Speyside Single Malt Scotch that is just amazing.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.