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White Wine

White Wine, Wine

Going Natural in the Okanagan

Something interesting is happening in BC. Specifically in Summerland, a small town in the Okanagan Valley.

While winemaking in the Okanagan actually has roots in the 1850’s, the winemaking situation we know now started in the mid 1970’s. The geography of the valley is really cool. It’s buried in the BC interior, nestled between a bunch of mountains and right next to Lake Okanagan, which is incredibly deep. All these things protect the vines as they grow the grapes, and you know what that means – good wine.

Like many cool climate regions the Okanagan makes excellent pinot noir and chardonnay, but there’s also a bunch of great merlot, cab sauv, cab franc coming out of the region. Not to mention one of my faves, pinot gris.

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Noble Grape Challenge, White Wine, Wine

The Sweet and Subtle Moscato

white wine

It’s time for the next installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last time we explored the underrated Chenin Blanc, and this time around we get to know another grape that tends to fly under the radar – Moscato.

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.

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Noble Grape Challenge, White Wine, Wine

Sauvignon Blanc, Acidity’s Reigning Champion

It’s time for the next installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last time I had the great pleasure of nerding out to the Riesling grape for your benefit. This time to move on to a highly acidic wine and a great summer sipper – Sauvignon Blanc.

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…

Noble Grape Challenge, White Wine

Riesling, the Wine Lover’s Grape

It’s time for the next installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last time around we began the second half of the challenge by getting to know Pinot Grigio. Now it’s time to move on to one of my favourite white varietals – Riesling!

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…

Red Wine, White Wine

Tasting California From the Comfort of My Couch

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.

So, what did I bring home?

 

Cuvaison 2013 Chardonnay

CuvaisonChardonnay

Lovely sunny little bottle, isn’t it?

I wasn’t sure about spending half my customs allotment on Chardonnay, a varietal I have yet to love. But, I thought, California is known for their Chards. I had to at least give it a shot.

This wine had such a lovely golden colour, and a pleasantly full flavour that I am slowly getting used to from whites. I’m surprised to say it, but I’m really starting to get into this varietal.

Say it loud, say it proud – I like Chardonnays now!

 

Cuvaisoninglass

Golden nectar…

 

Cannonball 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

CannonballCabernetSauvignon

I love the simple whimsy of this label.

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.

Also, it’s amusing to me that, the very day I decided to open my bottle, I saw this wine in my local LCBO. Ha! Good job, LCBO buyers!

 

Cannonballinglass

So dark!

 

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!

Red Wine, Rosé Wine, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

How I Taste Wine

I’ve talked in the past about how to taste wine in general, but it recently occurred to me that I haven’t talked about how I, specifically, go about tasting a new wine.

UNTIL NOW

I should preface this by saying that this isn’t how I taste wine every time I open a bottle. There are definitely some days where I come home from work, pour myself a glass, and turn my brain off as I laze back on the couch, happy that the day is over. In those instances the wine is merely there as a delicious cherry on top of a relaxing, television-filled evening. I mean cake. Or something.

But when I am being intentional about my wine, when I really want to get to know it, this is how I taste.

 

How I Taste

  • I don’t usually pair food with the wine. Some might think this is an error, but when I’m meeting a wine for the first time I want to meet just the wine, not how the wine affects or is affected by food. It’s like meeting a blind date – I want to know how they act around me before getting to know how they act at a party.
  • I’m usually alone. Sad, I know! There are many people in my life who share my love of wine, but I can’t always find someone to sample a new bottle with me on a random Tuesday night.
  • I usually do it at home, on the couch, in front of the tv, with my macbook in front of me, jotting down anything that comes to mind as I sip, sniff and swirl.
  • I start by looking at the colour. I love wines that are so dark they become opaque, and ones that take on a purpleish tone – Malbecs and Carménères from Chile and Argentina often look like this.
  • Then I give the wine a good sniff. Often when I’m tasting I’ve just opened a bottle so getting something off the nose is a challenge for me. I often feel like I should pour the glass and let it sit for a bit, but in all honesty I’m an incredibly impatient person and can’t usually resist starting the process once the wine is poured and sitting next to me.
  • Next, and FINALLY, I get to taste it! I alternate between taking quick sips and long ones because the flavour can change depending on the two. While sipping I think about and try to discern the differences in flavour depending on where on my tongue the wine is hitting. I also pay attention to the flavour I’m left with as I swallow (the finish) and how lingering the wine is once it’s gone. I love when a wine stays with you!

 

Let’s be real. Some days I can’t get past ‘yep, tastes like wine’. And actually, I read an article recently that mentioned a study where they concluded that you can’t really taste more than three or four things in one go. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel MUCH better about times when I’m able to get much off a wine.

That being said, I do love the endless possibilities of flavour and enjoyment that come with each bottle. It’s a game I like to play. What am I actually tasting here? What’s going on on my tongue right now? And when I get stuck (because I do get stuck – OFTEN!) I do as Jancis Robinson says and try to pay attention to the dimensions of the wine, asking myself “how tough/tart/powerful/sweet/ready is it?”

I try to be methodical about tasting, mostly because I get a kick out of that process and am genuinely interested in the world of wine, with all its complications and vagaries.

 

I’m nowhere near these guys though, they take tasting to a whole other level. Underripe green mango? Crushed hillside?? FRESHLY OPENED CAN OF TENNIS BALLS?! COME ON!!

No, I fully acknowledge that the only real question worth asking is – do I like it? The rest is simply learning ways of learning whether you do/don’t or will/won’t like a wine.

So really, it’s not that complicated after all.

Red Wine, White Wine

The Truth About Blends

I don’t love blends. If you’ve been here before you know that, but I never really took the time to explain why – until now.

Let’s be honest here: blends aren’t all bad. Places like France and Italy blend so much they don’t even tell you the varietal on the label, and they must be doing something right. Right!?

Wines from these two countries tend to label their wines by region or appellation, and drinkers are expected to know the grapes common to that region and even the blends commonly used there. Wine is such big business that I wouldn’t be surprised if each winery’s blend information was locked away in a vault somewhere, only to be shared with the head wine-makers.

Let’s take the Bordeaux region in France as an example. Red wine from the Bordeaux is almost always made with some kind of blend of the same five grapes – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere. Each grape brings something different to the wine and there’s more leeway than you’d think in terms of bouquet, flavour, and even aging potential.

Thanks to Pierre LANNES on flickr for this photo.

Thanks to Pierre LANNES on flickr for this photo.

But! I only learned this after doing some research. I have never seen a bottle of Bordeaux that identified the varietals used, much less the percentages.

I don’t like blends because they make it difficult to learn wine simply by tasting. How is my novice palate ever going to know the characteristics of a grape (much less what I like and what I don’t) with so many varietals at play in my glass?

Drinking blends means you have to trust the wine-maker, and when you’re a casual a drinker or a new one that can be a big gamble. Who do you trust when you don’t have the knowledge to know when they’re talking smack?

This is why I tend to shy away from blends. It’s only in the last few months, as I’ve gotten to know more French wine, that I’ve learned more about blending – which regions of the world regularly do it, what grapes they use, and so on. My ultimate goal is to know each varietal well enough to easily understand what each brings to a blend, which will probably mean doing a lot more homework both on single-varietal wines and then on blends.

See what I mean? Blends are complicated! Deliciously, wonderfully, complicated.

Learning About Wine, Red Wine, Rosé Wine, Sparkling Wine, White Wine

Every Wine Journey Begins With a Single Sip

My family was a liberal one by North American standards, and as soon as I turned twelve I had crossed the threshold into acceptable wine-drinking territory. My family began offering a tipple of vino as part of the weekly ritual – it was at my Grandmother’s dining table that I began developing my palate.

It might not be a surprise that I didn’t like wine much at those dinners. The taste was often overpowering, or bitter, or just downright unpleasant on my tongue. But, like coffee and olives, I acquired the taste and eventually came to love the flavour of fermented grapes.

Even though I’d been tasting for a while, it wasn’t until meeting my Stepdad that I got serious about wine. An experienced wino himself, he introduced me to the five Premier Cru wines of France, taught me how to choose a wine based on my personal taste and budget, and demystified how and why to choose a bottle to cellar. In short, he turned me from casual admirer to lifelong learner and full-in enthusiast.

I have spent many hours and many bottles in the last few years sipping and learning, and have added winery tours and structured tastings to my self-made roster of wine lessons. Now that I’m well on the path to wine nirvana I want to bring my novice knowledge to the wider world and get to know other wine geeks out there who are just like me.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get tasting!