As the holiday season gets underway, wine will be an inevitable staple at every party. Here’s how to get the most out of your glass.

cover photo via Andre Castellucci 

The wine world can be intimidating. Light-bodied or full-bodied? Tart or sweet? When a restaurant has a wide selection of wines, without the proper expertise, a chill dinner can quickly become a tricky situation. HOLR caught up with expert sommelier and restauranteur Hemant Bhagwani of Toronto’s Goa Indian Farm Kitchen to hear some wine wisdom just in time for the holidays.

Photo courtesy of Blue Door Communications

HOLR: If you had to name 3-4 of your favourite wine bars in Toronto, what would they be?

My favourite wine bars in no specific order of preference are Grey Gardens, Paris Paris, Via Allegro, and not to forget 360 Restaurant at CN tower. I like Grey Gardens because I love the way the wine list is written and space is quite rustic. At Paris Paris, they have a great selection of wine and prices. Via Allegro is not a wine bar but it has my favourite wine list outside the city and I love the old school style of service. The wine list here is robust and makes any other restaurant wine list look small in comparison. The 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower offers 550 labels from all over the world and a great view to support the experience of the tasting.


HOLR: What would you suggest people do to get the most out of their glass?

Wine tasting is an incredibly stimulating and complex activity, giving the mind a lot to think about. Don’t be intimidated if it takes a while to start paying attention to all these things. To get the most out of your glass of wine, I would suggest that people try to just enjoy it and stop judging it too soon.

First, the wine must be able to breathe to smell the proper aromas. It is also said that some wines pair better with certain dishes. As a sommelier, I don’t believe that this is crucial to the experience. Instead, what’s most important is that the food does not overpower the wine. Clean glassware is a priority too. The key is to ensure that you are drinking unadulterated wine and that there are no rag smells.


HOLR: Can you confirm or dispel some wine myths?

One myth is that white wine needs to be very cold. In reality, white wine does not need to be ice cold. In fact, if your wine is too cold it hides its fruit. If it’s too warm, it dims the acidity and may show any faults.

Another myth is that corked wine always smells bad. Corked is a term used for wine that suffers from cork taint, which is spoilage due to the excess presence of a natural compound called TCA. Mild cork taint can result in poor flavours and aromas, giving a wine a bland flavour profile. One might think the wine is just boring when it is actually faulted. It can be hard to tell sometimes.


HOLR: Which wines do you predict are going to be popular for the upcoming holiday season?

Rosé is popular all year round and can be a great pairing for white meats. Lower alcohol wines are also becoming more available and are now being offered at a better quality than before. Forrest Wines’ ‘The Doctors’ series has some nice options in both categories. At Vintages, Portugal is also exporting great wine at a good value, both red and white.



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