Palate Practice

tasting with intention

Semillon, the Grape You Never Knew You Loved

It’s time for the next instalment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last time we learned about the G grape, Gewurztraminer, and this time around we get to know a grape that I love returning to time after time – Semillon.

About the Noble Grape Challenge

Let’s refresh ourselves on what’s going on here – Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of flavours and characteristics found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites and going through them from lightest to darkest, we’ll learn about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

About Semillon

Semillon isn’t a very well known grape, which is a real shame because it’s delicious. It’s also probably because it’s most often used in blends. Like many of the world’s favourite grapes Semillon got its start in France – Bordeaux to be exact. I know, weird right?

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Yes, Climate Change is Affecting Wine Too

It might sound shocking to some, but I had no interest in learning about climate until studying wine. Astounding, right??

In short? Climate is everything (well, along with soil). Don’t believe me? Let’s look at Chardonnay and you’ll see what I mean.

The Chameleon Grape

Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. It also grows well in a large variety of climates, which is part of why it’s so popular.

Put Chard in a cold climate and you get lots of citrus and green fruit. Omit oak treatment or lees contact and it’ll also pick up minerality (flint, chalk, gravel) from the soil it’s grown in. Great examples of cool climate Chardonnays include Chablis and, in my opinion, Ontario.

Put Chard in a warm or hot climate and things change a LOT. Citrus and green fruit give way to stone and tropical fruit. Peach, pineapple, melon and mango are all fair game in a warm weather Chardonnay. There also isn’t as much minerality but there does tend to be more oak treatment, I’m guessing because the wines aren’t as subtle and delicate and can take the stronger flavours that oak imparts. Oak would leave flavours like vanilla, coconut or banana in its wake, further adding to the difference between warm and cool climate Chardonnays.

And all that based on the climate. Makes you wonder how climate affects people…

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Ontario Wine’s Growing Pains

I think the Ontario wine industry is going through some growing pains.

Last week an article was published about wine in Ontario generally and about the province’s appellation system specifically. It was… not kind. The article was hard hitting in its critique of how wines are evaluated and forceful in its push for change.

I was impressed and intrigued.

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Why is Some Wine So Dang Expensive?

One of the most opaque and frustrating things I ran into when I first got into wine was the wide range of prices for seemingly similar bottles. Why the hell is one bottle $12 when another is $30? IT MAKES NO SENSE.

I mean, it does make sense, but only after learning more about how grapes are grown, wine is made and the history of the places each wine comes from.

In an effort to help explain (and hopefully not go totally off the rails), here are some reasons why some wine is so dang expensive.  

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Gewurztraminer: The Grape That Makes You Work For It

It’s time for the next instalment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last time we learned what Moscato is all about, and this time around we get to know a grape that often leaves people confused – Gewurztraminer.

About the Noble Grape Challenge

Let’s refresh ourselves on what’s going on here – Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of flavours and characteristics found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites and going through them from lightest to darkest, we’ll learn about the key characteristics and flavours of each.

Continue reading

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Wine Writing and What Not to Do

It’s a big, busy week here in Toronto. Our annual film festival, TIFF, is in full swing. Celebrities and filmmakers alike are descending upon our fair city, and local film buffs are losing their shit over it all. Even one of our daily papers is getting in on the fun.

Last week the Toronto Star ran a wine article offering pairing suggestions with films that have premiered at the festival. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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The Safety Net That is the LCBO

Here in Ontario there are no neighbourhood wine shops. No discount stores. No wine huts or liquor depots or beer barns. Instead, we live in the land of the LCBO – the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

If you’re not familiar let me paint you a picture. Every town in Ontario has at least one store dedicated to the selling of beer, spirits and wine. These stores are provincially owned and operated and are often the only place you can buy alcohol for miles (or kilometers, for us Canucks). I’ve been to one-stop-light towns where they have a gas station with an LCBO authorized retailer attached – that’s how ubiquitous these stores are. The LCBO, or lick-bo to those in the know, holds an immense of power when it comes to Ontarians and their alcohol.

Still, living under such regulation has its perks.

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What Being an English Major Taught Me About Wine

Back before I was a true wine devotee, I was an eager and slightly naive university student studying theatre and English literature. While some people might think having a degree in English essentially amounts to a degree in bottled air, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in university and have become more and more grateful and proud of my degree as time passes.

Among other things, my degree taught me how to read pieces with a critical lens, to think of how context affects a work, and how to write coherently and effectively. As I’ve gained time and experience to fully digest all the learning I did in university I’ve started to realize that the things I learned are actually a great way to treat all things in life – wine included.

Let me explain what I mean.

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