Raise a glass

'Tis the season to toast your loved ones with a wonderful wine or champagne
By Natalie MacLean
Raise a glass

Not sure what to serve or even how to choose what's good? Wine columnist and author Natalie MacLean shares her top picks for mid-priced wines that are currently available near you. Her no-fail scoring method guarantees a quality bottle every time. Look for MacLean's column, Pulling corks, in each issue of the magazine.

Sparkling wine and champange
Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling, California: A sparkling wine with loads of fruit and body. This is what I recommend whenever someone asks for my favorite reasonably priced bubbly that's widely available in stores. A great match for seafood. $28
Score: 89/100.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier Non-Vintage Champagne, France: One of the best non-vintage champagnes on the shelf. This top-notch producer owns more than two-thirds of its vineyards, which helps control the quality. Toasty aromas of ripe peaches with yeasty richness. Ring in 2007 with style! $60
Score: 90/100.

2005 Vineland Estates Semi-Dry Riesling, Niagara: A lovely and refreshing white with peach and citrus aromas makes an ideal personal house wine. Drink with salads, seafood, vegetarian dishes and chicken. $13
Score: 87/100.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2005, Marlborough, New Zealand: This is a fresh and tangy wine that many people, including myself, wait for each year. It has delicious and mouth-watering flavors of gooseberry and citrus. Perfect for salad, seafood and vegetarian dishes. $20
Score: 90/100.

Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile: Fantastic value and exceptional quality. This cab is big, bold and brazen with aromas of dark red fruit. Drink with hearty meat dishes. $15
Score: 90/100.

Cline Los Carneros Syrah 2003, California: A rich, full-bodied wine with deep aromas of blackberries and plums. Pair with steak or meat stew. $20
Score: 89/100.

How the wines are scored
Wines are scored using a scale of 100 points – although wines under 80 points aren't included – who wants to keep track of all the less-than-stellar wines when there are thousands of good ones? Wines scored 80 and above are all worth drinking – it's up to you to decide your own cut-off point for scoring and whether a wine at 86 is worth $12, $17 or $25.

80-84: These wines are pleasant – something you'd be happy to bring to a casual get-together with friends or drink on a weeknight.

85-89: These wines are delicious and have more depth of flavour and texture – something you might break open on the weekends (though, of course, you can treat yourself any time).

90-94: These are the wines that make you pause – they are rich in character with a unique and complex flavour.

95-100: These wines are extraordinary, spectacular – words fail to capture them. Truly a treat.

Natalie MacLean is the author of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. She was named the World's Best Drink Writer for the articles and wine picks in her free wine newsletter, available at


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