Many of the most well known wine regions are known for specific grapes. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (among others) in Bordeaux, Syrah in the Northern Rhone, Gamay in Beaujolais. And that’s just France!
Even in the newer wine world there are some great grape-region combos. Malbec in Argentina, Carmenere in Chile, Shiraz in Australia, Chenin Blanc in South Africa.
Lately I’ve been noticing something interesting coming out of wineries in Niagara. It’s something I honestly never thought about, though now that I think about it makes perfect sense. Maybe you’ve noticed it too, in adventures to wineries or wanderings through the LCBO.
They’re making Syrah.
I know. You’re probably thinking, ‘Why is this so surprising? Wine is wine, isn’t it?’ I mean, yes. It is wine. But also, it’s Syrah! One of the most prized French grapes! And a grape that Australia has already taken and completely turned on it’s head! What does Niagara think it’s doing here?
After an extended break it’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last time we explored what Cabernet Sauvignon was all about, and today we’ll get to know Syrah/Shiraz.
About the Noble Grape Challenge
Remember the Noble Grape Challenge? Yeah, I kind of forgot about it too. Let me refresh you 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.
Every so often (very often, if I’m being honest with you) I try a new wine and think – why am I not writing tasting notes? Writing tasting notes is a great way for me to explore what the heck I’m drinking and help myself figure out whether I like what’s in my glass or not. So I’ve decided to start writing more notes and, of course, I thought you might be interested.
I know, I know, it’s been a while since we did this. Let me refresh you – 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, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.
About Cabernet Sauvignon
Unsurprisingly, France grows the most Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, buuuuuuuut they usually blend it with other things. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the main five varietals of the Bordeaux region, and most (if not all?) wines in that region are blends.
Also, did you know that the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is actually a hybrid? It’s true! Check out the centre column of the adorable drawing below.
See? Cabernet Franc + Sauvignon Blanc = Cabernet Sauvignon!
I’ll wait while you recover from your newly blown mind.
Cab Sauvs are one of the more fuller bodied reds out there, and tend to be more opaque but still reddish in colour. Flavours found often include dark fruits and black pepper. Generally speaking this is a confident wine that you could drink with other stronger flavours (a burger or some full-flavoured cheese, perhaps) or sip on its own.
Right off the bat I could see some age in the colour. It was still decidedly red, but there were some brownish undertones that tell me this isn’t a wine that was bottled yesterday.
It smelled nice and bright and quite fruity. I came back to it the next day and smelled lots of depth and earth, too. I love how much wine changes over time once you open it, always full of surprises!
The flavour was full of fruit – all I could think of was ‘red fruit’ but, as usual, couldn’t pin it down more than that. I was intrigued and excited to taste some black pepper too, it helped balance the fruitiness. As expected, on day two the flavour had softened quite a bit. It got more velvety and I tasted some vanilla that wasn’t present the first night.
A wonderful and enjoyable Cab Sauv. I know I’m a bit of an omnivore when it comes to wine (there is very little I don’t like) but I do think this is a really solid wine, and in keeping with everything else I’ve had from this maker.
But does it taste like what we now know a Cabernet Sauvignon should taste like? You bet it does! Full bodied and fruity, with some lovely peppery-ness when you take a sip – this is a great example of a Cab Sauv.
It’s also a great example of a wine that can be enjoyed over a couple of nights. No need to finish it on night one – you should get a bottle just for you and taste it over two or three evenings to see how it changes.
Well, that was fun! It’s nice to be back in the swing of things.
I love the holidays. Clementines, pine trees inside the house, ornaments, the food (my god, the food!), the lights – I want it all! One of the things I love most about the holiday lead-up is mulled wine. It’s something I only have a couple of times a year so, like lots of holiday things, it’s pretty special.
A year or two ago my wonderful friend Katie gave me mulling spices and I’ve been breaking them out over the holidays ever since. Along with the spices she also gave me a simple recipe for mulled wine, which is the one I use when making this delicious drink.
Easy peasy! (click to enlarge)
This past weekend I invited some friends over to decorate my apartment for the holidays and decided to tempt them into manual labour by offering to brew (is it brew?) up some mulled wine.
All ready to go.
Let me tell you – it is incredibly easy to make mulled wine! As long as you follow the recipe, anyway. The first time I made it I decided that, since I don’t like oranges, I would omit the zest and juice the recipe calls for. Big mistake – turns out that citrus flavour is kind of crucial! I learned this the hard way when I tasted the wine – something about the heat and the spices and the lack of citrus to balance it made it taste completely sour and downright gross! It’s still a running joke between my mom and I – hot sour wine! HOT SOUR WINE! Anyway, take it from me and don’t omit the citrus.
Citrus – a crucial ingredient.
Glug glug glug
Into the pot they go!
Finished and ready for consumption! (Note to self: get fancy glass mugs for next batch)
My minimal efforts yielded a deliciously wonderful accompaniment to decorating and listening to Christmas music. My friends even brought over chocolate chip cookies! Christmas festivity achieved.
I’m on a big Portuguese wine kick lately. I love the full bodies, the juicy yet grounded flavours and, best of all, the great value. I plan to enjoy as many delicious wines until the LCBO prices them out of my snack bracket.
The LCBO says this wine is opaque ruby/purple colour with aromas of blackcurrant, black licorice, spice and toast as well as black currant, anise, dark chocolate, spice and plum flavours. Clearly a lot going on! If I can taste half that I’ll be laughing.
This puppy is a lovely little Merlot if you’re looking for a smooth, easy drinking wine. Les Jamelles also makes a decent Cabernet Sauvignon, but I chose the Merlot because I’m planning to mull this wine (post coming shortly!) and wanted something easy to drink and middle of the road in terms of body, tannin and general intensity.
The LCBO describes this wine as deep ruby in colour with dark fruit aromas including black berries, currants and cherries – works for me!
Yes, you read that right, this wine is from 2015! Talk about young. Beaujolais Nouveau wines are like mirages, there one minute and gone the next. The wine is fermented quickly and released just weeks after harvesting. The Beaujolais region in France has a festival around the release of the Nouveau wines every year, and lots of importers (LCBO included) tend to make an occasion of their release too. This past Thursday was Beaujolais Nouveau Day so I picked this guy up to celebrate.
As an aside, it’s interesting to see the differences in the label design of Beaujolais Nouveau wines versus other Old World (and especially French) wines. Beaujolais Nouveau wine labels tend to be much simpler, with lots of white space and bright colours. Maybe they’re trying to emulate the quickness of the process and the youthfulness of the wine on the label?
According to the LCBO this wine has a purple colour with aromas of red berry fruit, strawberry, plum and herb and a light earthy, floral/mineral tone. It’s dry, light bodied, and slightly spritzy on the palate. I’m excited to try it!
As always, you can follow me on Vivino to see what I think of my new purchases.
This past June I took a trip to California with my aunt and cousin. It was my first trip there (though hopefully not my last) and took us to San Francisco, Napa Valley, Half Moon Bay, Carmel, through Big Sur, and then on to Hearst Castle, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, Malibu and Hollywood. Whirlwind and whistle-stop would be accurate descriptors for this trip! We drove through the state at such a clip that, unfortunately, pit stops to wineries wasn’t an option.
While I did manage to hit up one winery, my wine experiences during the trip mostly revolved around wines enjoyed at meals, except for the two bottles I brought home – sadly, the maximum allowment by Canadian standards.
I picked up a white wine at a Trader Joe’s in LA and a red wine at an adorable little grocery stop in Yountville in the Napa area. I wanted to bring home the two varietals that California is most known for – Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. These two varietals are what the California wine industry pretty much made their name on, which is why I decided to spend my money on them.
This wine was just what I hoped I’d find in a California Cab. It was sturdy and solid, with some vanilla going on (probably from being aged in oak) and a bit of a punch on the finish. I ended up having it over two evenings, and loved at how soft and mellow it got after being opened for a day.
These wines were both so enjoyable. It’s clear by how much is going on in the glass that California has had the benefit of years of growing grapes and making wine. I’m looking forward to exploring more California wines – if only they weren’t so expensive here in Ontario!
Do you have a favourite California wine? Let me know!