Rhys Pender's 10 perfect wine pairings for any situation

There truly is a wine for every occasion

There’s no doubt that Canada has some amazing wine, but sometimes it’s tough to pick the right one for the right occasion. Lucky for us, Rhys Pender, Master of Wine, was nice enough to let us pick his brain for some vino advice.

Pender, an Okanagan-based wine writer, judge, consultant, educator, and new owner of a four-acre vineyard at his B.C. home, knows his shit. He’s worked in the wine trade since he was 14 years old, and in 2010, he became Canada’s youngest Master of Wine. He also has a culinary diploma, so when it comes to questions about pairing food and wine, he’s definitely the right guy to ask.

Here are our 10 trickiest wine nightmares scenarios, and Pender’s suggestions for perfect pairings in any situation:

First date

What to drink on the first date when you’re looking to impress without appearing pretentious (nobody likes a show-off, people)? 

Pender says: Something classy but not showy and not too esoteric.

Try it: Blue Mountain Sparkling Brut NV

Umpteenth anniversary

You want to prove your love, naturally, with alcohol.

Pender says: Go for a wine that ages from the year the anniversary is celebrating.

Try it: Osoyoos Larose Grand Vin

Popcorn and a movie

This scenario can only be made better with a tasty bottle of wine; but does popcorn even pair with wine, or should we just skip the snack and pair the wine with the movie?

Pender says: Popcorn begs for delicious chardonnay with some buttery, oak flavours.

Try it: Meyer Family Vineyards Tribute Series Chardonnay 2011

Late-night cheap-ass pizza (class it up with a bottle of vino, folks)

It’s 11 p.m. and you’ve just ordered a big, greasy pizza. What do you wash it down with?

Pender says: It has to be gamay -- juicy, vibrant, fresh, good acidity and slightly chilled.

Try it: Orofino Celentano Vineyard Gamay 2013

Hot summer day on a patio

You’re hanging out on a patio on a hot day. What’s the perfect summer wine to sip?

Pender says: You need acidity and/or rosé. Riesling is a great, fresh summer wine.

Try it: St. Hubertus Riesling 2013

Cold winter’s night by the fire (come on, it’s Canada, it could happen at any time of year)

What goes down the best on a cold winter’s night by the fire (come on, we’re in Canada, it could happen at any time of year)?

Pender says: Something warming, cuddly and ripe. Canadian syrah is often nice and meaty and smoky, which fits perfectly.

Try it: Laughing Stock Vineyards Syrah 2012

Go-to bottle for a gift

Wine is a great gift, of course, but it’s tough to figure out what to buy. So what do you get?

Pender says: It’s always good to get people to try something new. But you need to know if they are adventurous or not. Otherwise, bubbly is always safe. I'm going with a lesser-known, but delicious, red that ages beautifully.

Try it: Van Westen Vineyards Voluptuous 2010

A little out of the ordinary

People are creatures of habit. What’s the best option for those looking for something a little out of the ordinary?

Pender says: Chenin Blanc is not too far out there for wine lovers, but this grape shows lots of potential in B.C.

Try it: Quail’s Gate Chenin Blanc 2013

Must-try Eastern Canadian wine

Let’s venture out to the East Coast, shall we? What’s one must-try Eastern Canadian wine?

Pender says: There is great sparkling wine being made in Nova Scotia!

Try it: Benjamin Bridge 2009 Brut

Must-try Western Canadian wine

So, what about the West?

Pender says: So many great Rieslings are now coming out of both Ontario and B.C.

Try it: Orofino Vineyards Home Vineyard Riesling 2013