Wine & spirits: House wines
Take a quick look through your pantry. There's flour, pasta, rice -- all staples -- along with some household favourites, perhaps crackers, jars of pickles or relish, canned tomatoes, and sardines or smoked oysters. There's plenty to drink, too: from cola, soda pop, juice and fruit drinks to bottled water and even a case of beer.
Yet when it comes to wine, most people just pick up something for dinner on the way home, or race out at the last minute on the weekend to purchase a decent bottle either because they have company coming or they're in need of a host gift.
To the amazement of wine industry observers (but no surprise to social anthropologists), the lag time between when a bottle is purchased and when it's opened and consumed has diminished significantly in recent years. The biggest drop came soon after provincial governments agreed to open liquor stores on Sundays. Another noticeable shift occurred when wine stores added cooling units and began selling pre-chilled wines. Finally, you could pick up a bottle on the way home and serve it at just the right temperature without delay.
Despite all these conveniences, there are a number of good reasons to have a few bottles of wine on hand at all times: to reduce the eleventh-hour stress of hosting a dinner party, for unplanned moments and unexpected guests, and so you can enjoy a glass of wine at home any time the mood strikes. In a corner of the pantry, park extra bottles or cases of some of your favourite house wines -- reliable, inexpensive everyday brands for drinking every day, if you like.
Best of the boxes
• Alice White (Australia) $8/500 mL
Alice White is a brand name that comes in shiraz-Cabernet and Sémillon-Chardonnay, which are exceptionally tasty. The small size means you can finish one in just a couple of glasses.
• Anfora (Italy) $13/1 L
Good everyday sangiovese red and Malvasia white from Lazio.
• French Rabbit (France) $13 to $18/1 L
The market leader in Tetra Pak wines. Available in six varieties.
• Mommessin Beaujolais Reserve (France) $14/1 L
As good as the bottled version and one of the best-quality wines currently available anywhere in this format.
Good bottles to unscrew
• R.H. Phillips (United States)
Exciting, fruity Chardonnay ($13) and firm yet gentle shiraz ($14) in elegant, easy-to-open bottles.
• Lulu B. (France)
Balanced, spicy, easy-drinking Chardonnay ($12) and Pinot Noir ($13) from the Languedoc region -- designed by women for women.
• Virgin Vines (United States)
These are bold wines with succulent, modern flavours of Chardonnay ($11) and shiraz ($15), bought to you by Sir Richard Branson, the master of all things Virgin.
For cork dorks and other wine classicists
• Egri Bikaver (Hungary) $8
Tannic, fruity and full of gusto. A red meat red wine.
• Naoussa (Greece) $9
Rustic, rugged and ready. Goes well with barbecues, stews and roasted meats.
• Nuviana (Spain) $9
Smooth and suave like a Latin lover. Indulge often with this red.
• Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling (Germany) $10
Aromatic, floral, crisp, fruity white for sipping on its own or in a spritzer.
• Vereto Salice Salentino Rosso (Italy) $10
This Puglian offers a taste you can't refuse. And it defies demise: a bottle sat on my counter for 10 days after opening and was still fresh when I finished it.
Except where listed, all bottles are 750 mL.