Of course you can get a LE Barbaresco this month.
This grape is grown predominately in the Beaujolais region of France, south-east of Paris. It borders with the Burgundy region which will come into play in a moment. Gamay produces a medium-bodied wine noted for its low tannins and high acidity. The flavours often described in Gamay, are bananas, berries and peaches. It definitely is a fruity wine. And perhaps can best be compared to the predominant grape in the neighbouring growing area, Burgundy which grows a lot of Pinot Noir. Burgundy also gives us a particular wine bottle shape that differs from Bordeaux bottles which characteristically have shoulders. Thus you will see Gamay wines in Burgundy bottles.
Some will describe Beaujolais Noveau as a marketing gimmick as 7-9 week wine is released to the public on the third Thursday of November. In the Beaujolais region 98% of the grapes grown there are Gamay, so you know this is a big thing for the growers and wineries in this region.
In the Limited Edition Black Cab, the Gamay will be perfect blend to the bold Cabernet Sauvignon, providing is a fruit burst to the big bodied Cabernet. A perfect match!
We do also carry a regular offered wine kit in the Beaujolais style, that being Bergamais. It is available in our Vintners Reserve product line. And is on special this month. If you are looking for a lighter fruitier red wine this wine should be perfect for you. We suggest you serve it slightly chilled to bring out its wonderful fruitiness.
The January Limited Edition New Zealand Fume Blanc will have tropical fruit, gooseberry, melon, grassy notes and gentle vanilla oak. It is important to note that this is not an over-oaked wine, just subtle oak flavours.
Those of us who are old enough will remember the bottles of plunk in straw flasks and served on red-checkered at local pizzerias. It is primarily grown in the central and eastern portions of Italy and found predominately in the province of Tuscany (Toscana). Wines produced from Sangiovese are high in acid, with moderate levels of tannins and medium levels of alcohol. During the 1970’s Chianti fell into disfavour as production increased dramatically and quality was sacrificed. But many of the old vineyards have been replaced with Sangiovese clones with outstanding quality. The new Sangiovese plants are disease resistant and allow for better grape maturation and better harvesting which has also contributed to better quality.
Sangiovese has a wonderful bright red cherry character overlaying strawberry notes with hints of violets and white pepper. It has a medium body and a long, wonderfully smooth, tannic finish; livened by a zing of acidity and toasty oak. Very food friendly. Great with veal Parmigiana, pasta with garlic and oil, pizza, blue cheese and fruits such as cherries, figs, plums and raspberries. When Italy signed on to international trade laws kit companies could no longer use the designation Chianti, so the switched to calling it by the grape that Chianti’s contain, Sangiovese. Winexpert offers a wonderful Selection Italian Sangiovese and a World Vineyard Italian Sangiovese.
More and more though, many of the Roses are a blend of two or three grape varieties. The varieties chosen tend to be very fruit wines such as Grenache, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. They can either be produced commercially by fermenting the wine on the skins for a brief period of time to lend the pink colour, or juice is added after fermentation is complete. When we make wines from kits, the latter method is employed.
Typically they are consumed well chilled as an aperitif, something you would have before a meal. Or if you are like most, that time before a meal can extend many hours before a meal, insert smiley emoticon here. But more and more they are being paired with foods such as seafood, fish (try it with cedar plank salmon), salads, light meal dishes or even barbecued foods particularly those with sweet sauces, like ribs. So, get on the bandwagon, try a Rose and be ready to toast each other on a warm summer day on the deck in your backyard, or dare we say a picnic in the park. Winemaker tip… I always make my Rose the previous spring. I plan to start the new Atmosphere Australian Pinot Syrah Rose.
The wine from Carmenere can best be described as Merlot on steroids. It has many of the smooth mouth feels of Merlot but yet overall more body than a Merlot. While having more body than Merlot, it has similar body to Cabernet Sauvignon with softer tannins, good aroma and berry tastes. We highly recommend the Selection Chilean Carmenere to include in your wine cellar.
Many people associate Zinfandel with the blush wine White Zinfandel. This blush wine is produced be removing the wine skins from the juice shortly after fermentation begins, leaving the wine with a pink colour. Of course it is back sweetened to produce an off dry wineperfect for warm summer days.
Of course part of the attraction of White Zinfandel is it’s fruitiness which also finds its way into red Zinfandel wine. These Zinfandel wines are very robust and heavy, with strong berry-like flavours almost spicy. A similar comparison can be made to the wine grape Shiraz. Zinfandel wines are known for having lots of tannins and alcohol.
You can find Zinfandel kits in our top of the line Eclipse Series as well as our World Vineyard product line. You will also find Zinfandel in our March Passport Series Two Roads Red which is a blend.
The same is true for our wine kits. Our supplier often tells us that they are able to source better juice from South America, particularly Chile. So, for the same price, you are getting better juice, and a better wine. We offer a wide range of red and white wines in both our World Vineyard and Selection kits. Quite frankly, I personally believe one of the best Selection wines we sell is the Selection Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. The Selection Chilean Malbec and the World Vineyard Chilean Malbec are the top selling kits in their respective product lines. The Selection Chilean Carmenere is one of my favourite wine kits for those who enjoy medium bodied wines similar to Merlot. Have you tried one of our Chilean wines yet?
While you may not have hear of this grape, it is most comparable to bold New World Shiraz/Syrah. It has sweet tannins, plum, black cherry and licorice flavours. It is high in tannins, and typically Nero d’Avola has an alcohol level of 13.5-14.5%. Nero d’Avola loves a hot and dry climate and is therefore well suited to Sicily. Recently some Nero is grown in California, South Africa and Australia.
If you are having spicy Mexican veggies, particularly with sweet barbecue sauce think of a big Zinfandel or Shiraz to match the sweetness of the veggies. Because of the leanness of veggie dishes, grab a bottle of lighter reds such as Pinot Noir or Bergamais.
When it comes to pastas with tomato sauce, particularly with a touch of salt, a Valpolicella (now called Valroza), or Chianti (Sangiovese) is a go to wine. The high acidity of the tomato sauce lends well to the acidity in these wines. However, dry roses (wait for our March Summer Rose), or Pinot Grigio are also good matches.
If risotto or pasta with cream based sauces with buttery tastes, think Chardonnay. However, if stir fries, curries or Thai food is on the menu for dinner, try matching them with an off dry Gewurztraminer, Liebfraumilch, Piesporter or Riesling. If you find yourself sitting down to a meal of veggies with cheese grab a bottle of a crisp snappy taste, like Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Trinity White or Sauvignon Blanc.
But the wine differs significantly from Sangiovese in that it is much bolder, but yet at the same time smooth and mellow. Wines from this grape are peppery, spicy complete with blackberry flavours. The wine is renowned for having good levels of tannin. Because of it’s bold characteristics it is a perfect accompaniment to anything beef, from stews to briskets, steak and Shepard’s pie.
The Passport Series Montepulciano comes with Crushed grapes and will definitely be one of the most bold wines you will see in kit form. Incidentally we also have a Selection Montepulciano as a regularly offered wine kit. This kit has the highest body rating of any wine kit in this product range. Yum! Yum!
DNA testing has shown that Cabernet Sauvignon was developed by breeding Cabernet Franc with Sauvignon Blanc. Cabernet Franc thus has many of the same characteristics as Cabernet Sauvignon, however it is often called the “feminine side” of Cabernet Sauvignon. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is more aromatic, slightly lighter in body, lower in acids and not massive and tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc is also the parent of Merlot and Carmenere.
Cabernet Franc is seldom used on it’s own, but rather is blended most commonly with Cabernet Sauvignon. It is also found in many French Bordeaux wines which will also include such grapes as Merlot, and Malbec. Cabernet Franc will soften the overall blend, and provide wonderful aromas of tobacco and raspberry. Because it has a shorter growing season than Cabernet Sauvignon it is becoming more popular in Canada, particularly in the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario.
So, what are these Specialty dessert wines. Well this year we are offering the Chocolate Raspberry, Chocolate Orange, and Chocolate Salted Carmel dessert wine. Why make one of these delicious dessert wine kits? Well they are a perfect offering to guests after a meal and along with a delicious dessert. Pair Chocolate Raspberry port with an extra chocolate-y Tuxedo cake and you will finish off the perfect meal. These wines are perfect for sipping.
But perhaps the best reason for making these wines are to give away as Christmas gifts. While, giving a bottle of Merlot or Sauvignon blanc is a nice thing to do, and as wine makers we are always doing that. But these Specialty ports are unique. Bottle them in a smaller 375 ml bottle and put them in a basket with a scented candle, some crackers and cheese, and mixed nuts and you will be the hit of the Christmas season.
The Specialty ports have a higher alcohol percentage, usually 16%, and are ideal to sip on a cold winter night. Typical Port is 22%, and you could achieve this alcohol percentage by adding vodka or brandy, but we do not recommend doing this. Results have found that the additional alcohol content lessens the chocolate and flavour. And that is the reason you make these kits, to appease to the inner chocolate desire.
Likely what the person is looking for is what is known as a fruit forward red wine that has a fruity or pronounced grapey flavour, or sometimes called jammy. These wine again have no residual sugar at finishing but they have a perceived sweetness. Examples of grape varieties that produce fruit forward wines are Shiraz, Zinfandel, and to a certain extent Pinot Noir. Amarone, a blended wine also produces the same bold fruit forward attributes. So chances are, these are the wines that will most likely appeal to folks wanting a red wine that is a little fruitier.
However, a trend lately seen in the commercial wine industry is off-dry reds. While, not as sweet as some of the off-dry white wine counterparts these red wines might have a sweetness score of 1 or 2 at the most. Apothic Red, Canada’s largest selling commercial red wine is a perfect example of this trend. Word on the street is the varieties found in Apothic Red are a Shiraz/Zinfandel blend.
We do have red wine kits that are modeled on this popular selling off-dry red wine phenomena. These wine kits will have small F-packs in them to achieve the desired sweetness. Examples of these kits are the CellerCraft Mystic wine kit and also the Vintners Reserve Diablo Rojo is also an off-dry red. Winexpert’s Selection Enigma wine kit also is a very fruit forward wine produced without the F-pack.
Scientists suggest that an acid found in red grapes could help people manage obesity and fatty liver disease. The acid, ellagic acid was found to dramatically slow the growth of existing fat cells and the formation of new ones, while at the same time boosting metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells. Ellagic acid is a natural occurring acid found in red grapes. However, scientists cautioned that this does not mean ellagic acid is a weight loss miracle, only that the compound may help improve liver function in overweight people.
In an experiment conducted on mice subjected to a high fat diet, the mice fed extracts from Pinot Noir grapes accumulated less fat in their in their livers and lower blood sugar levels, The amount of extract fed to the mice was the equivalent of a human consuming one and a half cups of grapes.
While this study represents preliminary research, and was not conducted with wine, rather with grapes, we will have to watch for more research. I think it points out that moderate consumption of wine, is a good thing. Quite definitely though wine does have calories, and we need to be aware of that, but it will be cool to tell friends that you are having a glass of wine as part of your diet.
What must be understood is how these very popular wines are consumed. They are chilled to exaggerate the fruit tastes and served before dinner, or with appetizers. They are very refreshing and crisp and make for excellent patio wine before switching to a bolder red to accompany those burgers or steak from the BBQ. Having said that Rosé is perfect with BBQ’d salmon, especially with freshly squeezed lemon. We strongly encourage you to make one of these gems and enjoy it this summer.
Brunello wines are big, deep-coloured and powerful, with lots of tannins and structure. This wine has aromas of leather, cranberry, tobacco, and rich flavours of ripe cherry with a hint of earthiness. It is grown in the Tuscany region of Italy, primarily surrounding the kill town of Montalcino, east of Siena.
Enjoy this wine with grilled steak, marinated and grilled Portobello mushrooms or a rich beef ragu and a mix of hard cheese.
The Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon is the easiest to differentiate. Of the 3 kits it produces the wine that is moderate in body and if you are not an oak lover, it is the least oaked wine. This lighter oak produces a fruitier wine with beautiful berry taste, subtle tannins and black pepper finish.
The Australian Cabernet is the big boy, with fully body and hearty oak flavours. The toasted oak in this wine produces smoky assertive tastes. The wine is very fruit-forward with flavours of cherries, raspberries and blackcurrant. This wine is the one you want to pull out of the cellar for those winter roast beef dinners and summer time steaks.
Lastly, the California Cabernet Sauvignon is somewhere in between. With similar full body to the Australian Cabernet Sauvignon but slightly less oakiness. The oak in this wine has vanilla nuances and moderate tannins. Call it the compromise Cabernet Sauvignon.
So many wines, so little time!
Well, dry white fans, we have an awesome suggestion… Symphony! No, not some classical music, rather Symphony the wine. Developed at the University of California, Davis and released in 1981, by crossing Muscat (Moscato) and Grenache Gris. It is grown, almost exclusively in California, particularly in the Napa Valley.
It is a very aromatic wine, similar to Viognier, with good acidity and a hint of tannin. It has aromas of melon, grapefruit, mango, peach, banana and papaya. It is excellent with spicy foods like Szechuan or even Mexican food. If, you would like to try a commercial equivalent Symphony wine, pick up an Obsession Symphony and fall in love. We have a Selection California Symphony.
Lots of numbers for sure, but Stats Canada does not collect more specific data, but a recent article in a trade magazine interviewed key industry people for wine trends. Some of the comments made are interesting. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay continue to dominate the market in both red and white varietals. Moscato, the rage a couple of years ago is finding its interest waning. Spanish wines are becoming vogue, because of their reasonable price and awesome quality. California red blends are gaining in popularity, particularly those are a little sweeter, Apothic Red as an example. Winexpert is addressing this trend with its new Selection Enigma. Sangria is also making a comeback. Throw some fruit into wine and you are jumping on the band wagon!
Why do commercial winemakers blend wine varietals? Well, blended wines tend to have more complexity than single varietal wines. By blending different varietals, winemakers can change the qualities of the wine and therefore the taste of the wine. A winemaker may have a grape not having a strong aroma or scent, but have outstanding flavour. But by adding a grape variety with a powerful aroma the winemaker can make a more complex wine.
Blending can also be from different vintages, which is common in Europe. So, if 2011 produced inferior juice it can be blended with a better 2012 vintage. However, under these circumstances the bottled wine is not labeled with a year.
White wine varieties can also be blended with red varieties, of course the percentage of white wine in the blend is less than 10%. Viognier, a white wine with wonderful fruitiness and flowery aromas maybe blended with Shiraz/Syrah in both Europe and Australia.
Some common commercial blended wines include, Italian wines like Chianti, Amarone, Super-Tuscan, and Soave, French wines like Chateauneuf-du-pape, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cotes-du-Rhones, Australian Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre, even Port is a blend. The #1 selling Canadian wine sold, Apothic Red is a blend.
And you may be thinking you are buying a single grape wine, and you are in fact purchasing a blend. In Canada, commercial wines follow the 85% rule, which means that for example if it is a Riesling, then it must contain a minimum of 85% Riesling. In other words it could have up to 15% of another grape variety or varieties in it. In the United States the minimum is 75%, and in Europe it is 80%. Argentina also has a minimum of 85%. Merlot is often blended with Argentina Malbecs to give better aroma and a smoother finish. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are often used in Argentina Malbecs to give more structure and tannins.
Well the second quote refers to the difficulty growers have with this variety. You see Pinot Noir is extremely difficult to grow. The variety is sensitive to winds and frost, and very susceptible to various disease particularly rot. Pinot Noir growers must use more intense canopy management practices with the variety. This is due to the tight clusters of grapes typical of the variety. Actually that is how it came into its name as Pinot translates into pine as the Pinot Noir grape clusters resemble pine cones.
Assuming the grapes are properly harvested the variety also produces pains to the winemaker as it is unlike other varieties particular to the yeast strain. Basically Pinot Noir is a brat.
Okay, so it is a tough grape to grow, but wow is it an amazing wine to drink. The Pinot Noir grape is thin-skinned, making it lower in tannins and phenolic compounds, but as a result it is very fruity. Being low in tannins it is great for those of us who can get a headache from a high tannic wine. And if you love fruit forward wines, Pinot Noir is a wine for you. Consumed young it delivers flavours of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. Left to age it develops more herbal, mushroom and gamy flavours. Typically new world (North America and New Zealand) Pinots are more fruit forward whereas European Pinots are more earthy. Pinot Noir is also a lower alcohol wine, usually around 12%.
While Canada did well in the Olympics, earning quite a few gold, in 2013 we also achieved world wide recognition for our Pinot Noir. The 2011 Martin Lane Pinot Noir from Mission Hill Winery produced in the Okanagan won best Pinot Noir in the world at the prestigious Decanter World Wide Awards.
Pinot Noir should be served slightly colder than other red wines, best served at 17 C. It is often called the red wine for white wine drinkers. Pinot Noir can be best paired with pork and poultry, lamb, mushroom risotto, and grill salmon.
In March we are proud to offer the Winexpert Limited Edition Pinot Noir. Oregon is the Mecca for Pinot Noir, producing phenomenal Pinots. You would be hard pressed to find a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir in a liquor store for under $40. We highly recommend, if you are going to make a Pinot Noir makes this one.
Those in the “it’s the same grape camp” will tell you that Croatian immigrants brought the grape to America and it became the famous grape of the California wine industry… Zinfandel.
Me, while I find the story mildly interesting, don’t really care. But I love the wine from both grapes. A couple years ago, Winexpert had a Italian Primitivo Limited Edition kits that was fabulous. Very fruit forward, with smoky tastes and soft tannins, almost plummy. Made an excellent pairing with red meats, tomato based meat sauces with pasta and eggplant. I mean c’mon it was Italian.
Well great news, Winexpert’s sister company Vineco has a special edition Italian Primitivo available in February. The juice is from the Puglia region of Italy which is the Achilles tendon of boot shaped Italy. This comes with a high recommendation from the Creative Connoisseur staff.
Rousanne is a white wine grape primarily grown in the Rhone wine region of France. You may not have heard of it as it is primarily found in blends, chiefly Marsanne. Of course the French don’t typically designate their wines by grape variety rather by region and thus you have likely never heard of either of these grapes.
In fact the French authorities allow Rousanne to be in the famous red wine blend Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Yes, a white wine in a red blend!
The grapes from Rousanne are russet coloured, which is probably the origin of its name as the French word for reddish-brown is roux. The wine from Rousanne is very floral, almost like an herbal tea.
Rousanne is a difficult grape to grow, as it is susceptible to mildew, and is not very tolerant of wind and drought. It requires a long growing season, and if harvested early will leave an acidic wine.
It has high sugar content when harvested, resulting in high alcohol content, approaching 14% often, and an out-of-balance wine. Thus it is blended with other grapes but lends it robust, flowery nature to produce quite outstanding full-bodied dry wines.
The South African Viognier/Chenin Blanc/Rousanne will be an excellent candidate for your cellar. It will pair very well richly-flavoured foods, such as curries, Satay and South-Asian dishes, or buttery or creamy sauces and soups. Many of you who attended one of our wine tastings will remember how well it paired with Butternut Squash soup.
Yes, grape variety and not grape varieties. You see the Spanish call it Garnacha and the rest of the world Grenache. You would think the Spanish should conform to the rest of the world, but alas the grape originated in Spain, so perhaps it is us that should change, but I will for simplicity, call it Grenache. Grenache is one of the most widely planted red wine varieties in the world, but it seldom used exclusively in a finished wine, rather it is a blending grape. Why? Well Grenache on its own lacks colour, acid and wonderful tannins. However it makes up for it’s shortcomings with a spicy, berry flavour that is soft on the palate. Because the Grenache grape is loaded with sugars, it will deliver high alcohol and body. This grape has to be grown in hot dry climates as it takes a longer period to mature than other varieties, often weeks longer. Thus, southern France and Spain are perfect growing areas for this grape variety
As mentioned it is seldom used on its own, but very common in French blends such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes-du-Rhône. In Australia, it is often blended with Syrah and Mourvedre and affectionately called GSM. Wines containing Grenache will have great body, fruity tastes of strawberries and raspberries. Generally wines containing Grenache are heart wines that pair well with heart foods such as lamb, stews, ribs and chorizo sausage. Just think meat!
This month grab a Kenridge Spanish Tempranillo/Garnacha or in January go down under with the KenRidge Shiraz/Grenache. It is also Grenache finds its way into our regular offering our, Selection Australian GSM.
Viognier is of unknown origin, but it is thought to have originated in modern day Croatia and then brought to the Rhone region of France by the Romans. One romantic legend has the grape being transported on a cargo ship on the Rhone River, along with some Syrah grapes and being hijacked by a rogue bunch of outlaws who then started growing the grape.
Some say the name Viognier comes from the French city Vienne, a major Roman outpost. Others say the name comes from the Roman pronunciation of a word meaning Valley of Hell.
In the mid-1960’s Viognier almost became extinct, with only 8 acres being grown as the grape succumbed to powdery mildew, a disease haunting grapes. It is a difficult grape to grow with unpredictable yields and a narrow harvest time.
While it is most identified with the Rhone region of France, it has become popular in California and Australia. In Australia it is commonly blended with Shiraz to give the blend some fragrance. Yes a white with a red, but generally less than 15% of the blend.
Viognier is a very floral fragrant wine because of the high amount of terpenes in the juice. Because of the floral bouquet it gives a perceived sweetness, even though it is a dry wine. Medium-bodied, Viognier is a very versatile and food-friendly wine, but goes particularly with spicy Asian food.
Viognier is available in both the premium Selection series as well as the 4 week World Vineyard wine kits. But for sure the one to grab is the Limited Edition Pacific Quartet.
Another reason it is shortened is because of the rules surrounding trade regulations and the use of French names. You see, you have likely had a GSM and not known it. The wines of the Rhone Valley of France, so Cotes-du-Rhone are comprised of these three grapes. But you can’t designate a wine as Cotes-du-Rhone unless it is made of grapes from this region and also made there. So, the rest of the world indicates wines of this particular blend of these 3 grapes as Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre or GSM.
French wines that contain these 3 grapes tend towards the savoury or earthy side, with flavours of blackcurrant, leather and game. Whereas GSM’s from Australia, are noted for their rich berry and chocolate flavours.
While France has always recognized the benefit of blends of different varieties, blends are starting to become vogue in North America. Why not, you get synergy working for you with the fruitiness of Grenache and Syrah, and combine that with the structure and tannic nature of Mourvedre. A perfect match.
For French GSM’s or Cotes-du-Rhones pair with steak or wood-fired lamb. Aussie GSM’s make a perfect match with most lamb dishes, particularly when the lamb is cooked with rosemary.
Called the gateway wine, as most people when they start drinking wine, start with a White Zinfandel. Well White Zinfandel was born 40 years ago.
At that time to make red Zinfandel wine, the winemaker would remove some of the juice, to allow for concentration of the flavours in the wine. This removed juice went down the drain, until 1973, when Sutter Home wineries started to market it as White Zinfandel. They were not very successful until 1975, when an accident happened.
After the 1975 harvest, Sutter Home’s chief winemaker suffered a “stuck fermentation” where the yeast died prematurely. He left to the side for a few days, but then tasted it and preferred this wine to their existing commercial offering. This became the new White Zinfandel which is immensely popular today, comprising some 10% of all commercial wine sales.
This all happened back in 1975, against another huge marketing problem they had in California. You see, no one wanted Zinfandel wine. At that time California Zinfandel lost commercial interest due to a combination of Zinfandel wines being unpopular due to their high-alcohol style, and the popularity in the early 1970’s of Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact a lot of Zinfandel vineyards were plowed under and replaced.
Well the great marketers like Mondavi and Gallo, recognized an opportunity to sell cheap and plentiful Zinfandel juice as light fruity and off-dry White Zinfandel, and sales soared. However, it gained a bad name as Kool-aid, and that is too bad. White Zinfandel can be an awesome patio wine served chilled and sipped, its refreshing. It is great when paired with spicy food, such as Thai or Vietnamese cuisine. This month our Selection White Zinfandel is on sale.
It has a very long history of wine making and wine growing. The first wine grapes were planted in Chile in 1554, brought to Chile by Spanish Conquistadores. Jesuit priests were responsible for growing these grapes for wine used in the Catholic mass, communion or Eucharistic wine. Being a colony of Spain, and to protect their own wine industry, the Spanish monarchy ruled in the 1650’s that wine production should cease in Chile and wine could only come from Spain. Well, the wine arriving from Spain was oxidized and vinegary, practically undrinkable through the long transport. So, the Chileans revolted and continued to grow their own grapes for wine. A Chilean version of the Boston tea party!
A significant event occurred in the mid 1800’s that affected the Chilean wine industry. A North American disease, Phylloxera, arrived in Europe and almost eradicated all wine grape vines. This root disease resulted in many European grape growers and winemakers being out of work. Eventually they resolved the problem by grafting the vines on to the root of native North American rootstock. However, many of the winemakers immigrated to Chile, where Phylloxera was not a problem. They brought with them European vines which grew very well in the Mediterranean growing conditions in Chile. The end result was Chilean wines with outstanding qualities.
A long came democracy to Chile in the 1980’s and Chile started to export wine. Interestingly, in the early 80’s many people that started drinking the Chilean Merlot and Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, that the wine did not taste like either grape should. Most Chilean Merlot was in fact Carmenere, a grape variety that was almost extinct, it was mis-identified. That has all been sorted out and Chilean Merlot and Carmenere are awesome wines. The Sauvignon Blanc was actually Sauvignon Vert, a horrible wine. The Sauvignon Vert vines were replaced and now Chile produces some of the finest Sauvignon Blancs in the world.
It must be remembered that being in the Southern Hemisphere, has harvest from late February to early May, the opposite of North America and Europe.
So what’s up with this trendy grape variety? Moscato is actually comprised of hundreds of different varieties that range in colour from white to almost black. The grape is grown in temperate countries around the world, but most Moscato wines we see in Alberta are from California and are white wines. Some Moscato wines border on port like characteristics and can be consumed as dessert wines.
Moscato wines are noted for their musky, fresh grape flavours. This white wine variety has high concentrations of the antioxidants flavanoids and as high as many varieties of red wine. This means Moscato may have the same beneficial effects attributed to red wine consumption. Just tell that to people as you enjoy your Moscato.
We now offer a wonderful World Vineyard California Moscato. If you are looking for an off-dry white, and an alternative to traditional off-dry whites like Piesporter or Liebfraumilch this is a wine you should try. This kit will be lush, fruity, and delightfully sweet with juicy peach and tropical fruit flavours. In blind tasting at Winexpert and at Andrew Peller Limited, the World Vineyard California Moscato received the exact same scores as Barefoot Cellars Moscato, the top selling Moscato in the U.S.
Barolo and Barbaresco are two provinces in the Piedmont district of Italy that grow the Nebbiolo grape. Most commercial wines containing Nebbiolo are marketed with the name of the these provinces. A decent commercial Barolo will retail typically starting at $40/bottle, Barbaresco maybe slightly less. The folks of this region are particularly proud of their wines and grape orchards. In fact in the 15th century cutting down of a Nebbiolo vine was punishable by cutting off your right arm. Repeated offenses were subject to hanging.
Nebbiolo is described as big, strapping and redolent with aromas of tar and roses, with chocolate, licorice and rich, spicy fruit. It has a good amount of acids like most Italian wines. It is best paired with rich lamb and beef dishes, stews, any mushrooms or root vegetables.
In April, we are featuring a Selection Limited Edition Italian Nebbiolo with grape skins from the Ghiardello Vineyard in Reggio Emilia, Italy. We have a few extras so be sure to snap one up.
What are Super Tuscans? Well, back in the 80’s, see something good came out of the 80’s, several Italian winemakers found themselves in hot water. These guys were producing some outstanding wines, but not using traditional Italian varietals, well at least in pure form. The Italian authorities would not allow the marketing of Italian wines unless they were authorized varieties and sanctioned methods. Chianti, which has Sangiovese as the main grape variety, but also can be a bland with other traditional Italian grape varieties. But heaven forbid if you blended it with non-Italian varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Heresy!
So these renegade winemakers starting blending Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a traditional Italian variety Sangiovese, and sometimes others. These renegades felt they could make a better wine than those wines that had to be made within the Italian regulations. At the same time, the chief Italian red wine Chianti was the joke of the world’s wine. It had become bland table wine often found in cheap wicker baskets. This has since changed and perhaps these renegades were partially responsible to waking the Italian wine industry up.
Because these hooligans were doing this in bold defiance of Italian regulators the wines were branded as Super Tuscans. In the 1990’s the Italian authorities capitulated and allowed the designation Super Tuscans to hold.
Super Tuscans are big, bold, dark beautiful wines, velvety smooth with great structure and decent tannins. Super T’s pair well with any red meat, meat or mushroom based lasagna, or pepperoni or mushroom pizza. Commercial Super Tuscans start around $30, are commonly priced at $80 and can fetch up to $250.
In March, we will be offering the Limited Edition Vineco Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine will provide wonderful ripe blackberry fruit tastes, deep colour and firm tannins. We also offer the Cellar Craft Rosso Fortissimo and Vineco Founders Series Super Tuscan as regular product offerings.
Because it ripens much later than other Bordeaux varietals it is not the primary grape in the blend and in some cooler shorter years maybe be absent. However in Australia, it ideally suited with the longer warm growing season. In Australia it is often sold on its own and not in a blend.
The origins of Petit Verdot are unknown, but it is an ancient variety, pre-dating Cabernet Sauvignon this variety is not for those that prefer fruity wines, but rather for those that like big bold wines.
When consumed young, Petit Verdot has banana-like aromas and pencil shavings. As it ages, strong tones of violet and leather develop.
What foods to enjoy your Petit Verdot? Because of the rigid tannic structure of the wine it goes well with foods with plenty of weight, protein and fat. So think of red meats, particularly barbecued, well-aged cheese such as Stilton, wild game and lamb chops.
You will find Petit Verdot in the February KenRidge Showcase Collection Menage a Trois. It is also available as a single varietal in the Selection Australian Petit Verdot which comes with crushed grapes.
Torrontes is a white grape variety unique to Argentina. It produces a fresh, aromatic, crisp white wine with outstanding quality. This moderate acidic wine, produces peach and apricot aromas. Genetic testing of Torrontes seem to indicate it was derived from Muscat, so no wonder it is so aromatic and fruit like.
So what would we compare it to that you might be familiar with. Perhaps a cross between Viognier, with wonderful aromas and citrus flavours and Gewurztraminer, dry, but with flinty fruit flavours. The New York times calls Torrontes, the white Argentinian counterpart to Malbec.
What to pair it with? Couple of suggestions, apple-walnut salad, grilled Mahi-Mahi, pork with caramelized onions.
Muller-Thurgau is pronounced Moo-Lehr TURR-gow. In the early 1970’s Muller-Thurgau became the most planted grape variety. Why? It can out yield Riesling by 30%, requiring less sun but more rain. However, a particular wicked cold snap in the early 80’s decimated the Muller-Thurgau vines, while the hardier Riesling was able to withstand the cold snap. So, now Muller-Thurgau is the third most planted variety behind Riesling and Pinot Noir.
Muller Thurgau is a mild, mostly off-dry white wine with a lower acidic content than Riesling. It can be consumed younger, and is an awesome sipping wine. It can be easily combined with crispy chips, seafood and lightly-spiced chicken.
Never tried Muller-Thurgau? Bet you have without even knowing it. Muller-Thurgau is the grape variety used in the infamous Black Tower. We have two German Muller-Thurgau wine kits to tempt you, both in our Selection and World Vineyard wine kits.
Port is Portuguese fortified wine, typically a sweeter red wine. Many describe it as a dessert wine. It gets its name from the town of Porto, which is located at the mouth of the Duoro River. The Duoro region of Portugal is the area from which the grapes that find its way into the famous beverage are grown and where Port is produced. Porto, is the port from which Port was exported to the world.
The grapes used for Port are limited to 5 different varieties. They are:
- Tinta Barroca
- Tinta Cao
- Tinta roriz (aka Tempranillo)
- Touriga Francesca
- Touriga Nacional
For those of you who made the Selection Limited Edition, Duoro Tinto in 2011, the last 3 grape varieties were used to produce this excellent wine.
Port is produced by fortifying the wine produced from these grapes with a neutral grape spirit (alcohol) known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation. The high alcohol content, 21-22% becomes toxic to the yeast, which dies.
When we make Port from a kit, we produce it like a regular wine, although an addition of corn sugar part of the way through fermentation in the primary is required. This results in an alcohol content of 14-16%. To achieve the higher alcohol content in the finished product alcohol such as brandy or vodka can be added. Brandy is added if you want a smoky, oakey flavour.
With the Chocolate flavoured ports we don’t suggest you fortify the end product with alcohol. This has been found to take away from the Chocolate and fruit flavours so sought.
Now is the time to consider one of these Chocolate Port kits. Great for Christmas entertaining or gift giving.
The new adage in wine these days is to buy wine from countries which speak Spanish. So, we always think of countries like Argentina and Chile. But, hey, they speak Spanish in Spain, go figure! Spain is now becoming the “in” country to try wine from. Last month we had the Selection Limited Edition Matador Trio as Winexpert captured the trend in wine drinking.
In commercial wines Spain delivers outstanding value, i.e. wines are reasonably priced and yet they have awesome quality. Ask most people which country has the largest acreage of wine grapes, and most would respond Italy, or France. Well in fact it is Spain. Of course, most Spanish vineyards are not irrigated so there production is less than other countries, where they fall to third. However, large investment in Spanish viticulture, primarily from France has increased not only the quality of Spanish wine but also the production levels.
One of the leading varieties in Spain is Tempranillo (pronounced tem-prah-NEE-lyoh) which we wrote about in July 2010. Tempranillo is the Cabernet Sauvignon of Spain. Big bold and wonderful flavours.
In kits, we have a World Vineyard Spanish Tempranillo, a Cellar Craft 12 L Tempranillo, and a new entry a Selection International Tempranillo with Crushed Grapes.
So get on the bandwagon and Go Spanish.
Amarone is a famous full-bodied wine produced in the Veneto region (Venice in this province) of Italy. The same grapes used in Valpolicella, Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella are used in commercial Amarone, however the processing of the grapes is what makes the difference in this wine.
Historically, the grapes are harvested a couple of weeks later than the regular harvest, to allow for the accumulation of sugar. The harvested grapes then were traditionally allowed to dry and shrivel on straw mats. This further concentrates the sugars and flavours. The resulting pomace is then crushed to produce the juice.
Today, the grapes are harvested later than the regular harvest, but are taken to specialized drying chambers to minimize handling and losses. The drying process not only increases the sugar content but increased the contact time with the skins giving the resulting wine higher tannin levels. Of course, the higher sugar content results in higher alcohol and through that more body.
Amarone wine is the epitome of fruit-forward wines. Commercial Amarone starts at $40 a bottle and exceptional Amarone can approach $200 a bottle. Amarone made from kits are undoubtedly the most full bodied wines available and extremely popular. Our Cellar Craft Showcase Amarone continues to be one of our most popular red wine kits. With the new Selection International Italian Amarone with Crushed Grapes customers will have another option for their wine cellars.
Traminer is the parent of the more familiar Gewurztraminer white wine variety. It is thought, through DNA testing that Gewurztraminer is a mutation or clone of Traminer. Next to the Muscat family of grapes it is the most ancient grapes still in cultivation. While, one would think it is of German origin, Traminer is derived from the Tyrol village, Tramin, located in Italy.
The grape does not do well in hotter climates, and although it ripens quickly, it requires longer maturation time than most grapes. It is very common to the Mosel Valley of Germany where it is grown on steep river banks. The grapes give off a pleasant rose petal smell throughout the region.
In March, we have a Limited Edition Traminer Spatlese. The Spatlese is the German word for late harvest. The grapes are allowed to stay on the vine for an extra week after normal harvest to increase sugar content. This does not result in higher alcohol, rather a slight off-dry finish. The wine from Traminer Spatlese is very aromatic, with flavours of lychee, tropical fruit and rose petals. If you would like more information on this wine, view a video at
No, Petite Sirah, or Petite Syrah is not Syrah. Initially Petite Sirah was thought to be related to Syrah, but through DNA testing it is actually related to a now almost extinct grape variety, Durif. But to further complicate matters Durif was found to be a cross between Syrah and a variety called Peloursin. So, it is a confused grape that makes up for its muddled heritage with outstanding characteristics.
Grown mainly in California, Petite Sirah grapes produce deep-coloured, robust, peppery with plenty of tannic punch. The petite in Petite Sirah refers to the small grape size of the variety. The high skin to grape ratio is what produces the powerful punch of Petite Sirah wines. It is also a dark wine. It is often blended with another infamous California grape, Zinfandel. It is this pairing that Winexpert is offering in their February Limited Edition Petite Sirah/Zinfandel.
This month’s red Limited Edition from Winexpert is a Meritage. What is a Meritage?
Meritage is a term coined by the United States to brand wines produced in the US that mirror French Bordeaux style wines. As many of you are no doubt aware, under global patent laws, nations protect their domestic wine industry from “copycat” wine designations. In other words, no non-French winery can brand their wine as Bordeaux.
US wineries wishing to produce similar wines to the French Bordeaux wines now produce them as Meritage. The name Meritage, comes from the compound of words Merit and Heritage. Under the Meritage rules, the wine must be a blend of two or more of the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Gris Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and St. Macaire). It can not contain more than 90% of any single variety.
Can’t wait to try this one!
Chenin Blanc is synonymous with the Loire Valley of France, where it is the chief white wine. However, it has now become the most widely planted variety in South Africa, where it also known as Steen.
This versatile grape variety can often found from crisp dry to sweet wines. Even in its dry form it is fabulously very fruity, almost like Riesling. Tasting notes describe this wine as mineral, green and honey. Its tropical fruit notes of banana, guava, pear and pineapple, while green apple is a mainstay flavour.
Wines from Chenin Blanc have a pale straw colour with a green tinge.
If you are considering matching Chenin Blanc with food, it goes well with salads, fish, seafood, shellfish and chicken. We have 2 Chenin Blanc kits, a World Vineyard and a Selection International.
Carmenere, like Albertans on a beach in the Caribbean in February, loves the heat. It is tough to grow in cold, humid climates as it requires more heat to ripen than other varietals. As a result it has fallen out of favour in France, and for that matter most of Europe.
One of the most ancient Bordeaux varietals, Carmenere, was very common in the Medoc region of France because of its deep colour, and flavour that is recognized as herbal to gamy. Seldom used on its own, this variety was very popular in blends. Because Carmenere has a high juice to skin ratio, it produces wines that are not as astringent as Cabernet Sauvignon. Although some experts think Carmenere is a long-established clone of Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the 1850’s, Carmenere was imported into South America prior to the outbreak of Phylloxera, a microorganism that infects grape plant roots. In the 1980’s Chile made inroads in the commercial wine markets with high qualitiy wines that they labeled as Merlot. In 1994, it was found that these wines were actually Carmenere.
Carmenere is perhaps the deepest, darkest, “purplest” of all red grapes, so it produces deep dark wines. The wine produced from Carmenere is rich in berry fruits and spice, reminiscent of blackberries and black pepper. Carmenere wine is smooth and velvety, almost Merlot-like, with well rounded tannins. In blind tastings it is also quite often mistaken for Malbec. It goes great with red meats.
Discover Carmenere this month, with Selection International Chilean Carmenere and Cellar Craft’s Showcase Chilean Carmenere.
Merlot’s popularity was destroyed by Hollywood back in 2005 with the famous movie Sideways, while Pinot Noir sales soared. Certainly we can relate to this as we saw the same trend in wine kit sales. Miles, the main character in the movie, continually blasts Merlot as terrible, and relishes Pinot Noir. The irony of the movie, was that Miles raves about a 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc wine as his favourite. This wine is predominately Merlot, with some Cabernet Franc.
In France, Merlot is one of the dominant grapes in the Bordeaux wine growing region and finds it’s way into this months Small Lots Estate Series 3 Continents Meritage Red.
Merlot tends not to be a full bodied as Cabernet Sauvignon, instead having slight less acidity, and more herbaceous or vegetative tastes. It is not a fruit forward wine at all and lower in tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon. Many people describe it having great lush mouth-feel due to its lower astringency. While, Wine collectors typically favour Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine drinkers tend to favour Merlot as it is an easier to drink smoother wine. It can also be consumed younger than Cabernet Sauvignon.
As far as taste, apart from the wonder mouth feels, Merlot typically displays fruit flavours of currant, black cherry and caramel. It’s bouquet is often described as truffles, mushroom and coffee.
When pairing with food, Merlot is synonymous with chicken, but also matches up with red meat, pork, pastas and salads. Enjoy it this month on sale in our Vintners Reserve Merlot. Many will know that this author’s favourite wine kit is the Estate Series Stag’s Leap Merlot.
You say tomayyto, I say tomahhto: Is this the case with Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. Yes and no. They are the same grape, one coming from France (Gris) and the other Italy (Grigio); however the styles are an interesting contrast. Pinot Grigio is naturally, lighter, lemony, easy drinking and invariably dry. While Pinot Gris is spicy, weightier, generally more complex and varies from dry to markedly sweet.
The Pinot Grigio grape is a natural mutation of the red Pinot Noir grape, and it can sometimes resemble Sauvignon Blanc, without the grassy and herbal notes. Pinot Grigios are usually not aged in oak as this would overpower the wine and takes away from its simplicity.
And you thought Doris Day was singing Que sera sera, no she was singing about the wonderful attributes of her favourite red wine, Syrah. Don’t you just hate punsters.
Ok, who knows the difference between Syrah and Shiraz? If you said the spelling you are absolutely correct. They are exactly the same grape.
Syrah gained its reputation in the Rhone region of France and has been grown there since Roman times. The grape is thought to originate in the Middle East. Wines containing Syrah are deeply coloured and usually highly tannic. Many describe Syrah having flavours of sweet blackberries, blackcurrants, plums and almost always a peppery taste. Syrah is quite often used in many blends, perhaps most famously in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As the French don’t take to favourably to using their names on wine, the wine kit industry use the handle Vieux Chateau du Roi or in the case of our Cellar Craft wines Chateau du Pays to replace Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
So what is with this Shiraz? Well the Aussies, God love them, adopted the “Syrah” as their own and Syrah grown and produced in Australia is called Shiraz. The name Shiraz is thought to come from the Aussies belief that the grape originated in Shiraz, Turkey.
Aussie Shiraz’s are quite often highly tannic and one swears that they have poured a plank or two of oak into the bottle. The French, until recently have maintained the high road and produced Syrahs that are more flavourful and fruitier and lighter on oak. However with the decline in the French wine industry you can now find French Shiraz. Why? Because most consumers have so accepted Australian Shiraz they are unaware that French Syrah is the same stuff! Marketing huh! The Yankees maintain their state of confusion and you will find both American Shiraz and American Syrah.
Want to try a Shiraz or Syrah? Check out the Vintners Reserve Australian Shiraz which is on sale this month. Note that this kit emphasizes the fruit forward nature of Shiraz. If you are looking for an oakier Shiraz we can help you find something more to your liking. Creative Connoisseur has several different Syrah/Shiraz kits and many more kits that have blends containing this wonderful grape variety.
This month we feature Gewurztraminer. You can check out this excellent wine with the Vintners Reserve Gewurztraminer being on sale in October.
Sounds German huh! Well actually it is Italian in origin. It is thought to have originated in Tramin or Temeno, Italy in the northern Aldo Adige region, near the Italian Alps.
Always hard to pronounce, but here try this guh-VURTS-trah-mee-ner. The German word gewurtz means “spiced” as these wines are known for their crisp, spicy attributes.
Gewurztraminer grapes have a long growing period with high accumulation of sugars resulting in wines of higher alcohol compared to other fruity whites like Riesling. It is not recommended to be oaked or aged in oak.
Goes well with:
aromatic spicy dishes, curry, ginger, Thai food
strong cheeses, especially soft or string such as Caemembert, Muenster and Roquefort
rich dishes, fatty birds
quiche, frittata, one of the few wines that goes well with egg dishes
Spicy food, seafood, cheese
Asian food – esp. spicy (Hunan, Szechuan)
Turkey, think Thanksgiving
Fruity, floral and spicy tastes. Its texture in the mouth is round, rich and smooth. Often the tastes are described as crisp, with flavour characteristics of litchis, roses, flowers in general. Gewurztraminer wines are deeper in colour when compared to other white wines.
If you see a wine described as a Traminer Reisling it is a blend of Gewurztraminer Riesling, which is definitely a mouthful. If this blend tempts you Selection has an excellent Australian Traminer Riesling.
Pinot Blanc produces an excellent white wine very similar in characteristics to chardonnay, but perhaps not as complex. Once it was thought that Pinot Blanc was related to Chardonnay. The Alsace area of France is perhaps Pinot Blanc’s most noted growing region, while northern California and Canada’s Okanagan area also produce some fine Pinot Blancs. Pinot Blanc wines are noted for their Fresh, appley aroma, sometimes with hints of spice. Pinot Blanc is best consumed young. This wine is paired best with light fish and chicken dishes. This month we have the Vintners Reserve Pinot Blanc on sale, so here is an excellent opportunity to give it a try.
This red wine grape is native to Spain where it is widely grown particularly in the north and central region. Tempranillo (tem-prah-NEE-yoh) can generate deep coloured wines with characteristics of strawberry, spice and fresh tobacco. Perhaps the best Tempranillo is grown in the cooler Rioja region which has been growing wine grapes for over 2,500 years. Because this grape is lower in acidity and alcohol it is frequently blended with other grapes such as Grenache.
To try this wonderful wine we suggest Winexpert’s Selection International Spanish Rioja. This medium to full-bodied wine is best served with beef stews and spiced red meats. It has wonderful bright red and black berry flavours with spice and oak. And better yet…. its on sale.
Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear the anti-Chardonnay declaration. It is often coined ABC or Anything but Chardonnay. It is likely linked to the over abundance of commercial Chardonnay wines, particularly 10-15 years ago, where likely 75% of the dry white wines available were Chardonnays. People have grown tired of Chardonnay. Surprisingly, Chardonnay on a wine label didn’t hardly exist 30 years ago, but it increased in popularity, until recently.
Others have grown tired of the buttery, heavy oaked Chardonnay wines, particularly manifested by the big Australian or Chateau plywood Chardonnays. The Californians have “oomphed” up the alcohol in its Chardonnays, giving perhaps too much body in a white wine.
We still believe that Chardonnay offers outstanding wines, and when allowed to show in the absence of oak, gives us fine fruity notes. However, if you want to explore ABC, but still like a dry white wine, we would like to offer a few alternatives.
Sauvignon blanc – Probably prior to the Chardonnay boom, this was “the” white wine of choice. While not as full bodied as Chardonnay it has wonderful grassy notes.
Torrontes – From Argentina, it’s most planted white wine grape Full-bodied and aggressively floral on the nose. Available this month, blended with Chardonnay in our World Vineyard Collection. Live life on the edge try something new!
Viognier – Here is our favourite, yet relatively unknown grape, but very trendy today. Creamy and rich with surprising tangerine flavours. It is very food friendly. If you haven’t tried this wine, you must, put it on your bucket list.
Pinot Grigio – Perhaps should not be mentioned in the same breath as Chardonnay. If you look for Chardonnay opposites, this is it. Light, crisp, never oaked, it is the perfect sipper, great on its own for afternoon get togethers.
With a sale on World Vineyard Italian Pinot Grigio this month we thought we would profile this very special grape. While the Pinot Grigio grape is the same grape as Pinot Gris, the styles are an interesting contrast. Pinot Grigio is naturally, lighter, lemony, easy drinking and invariably dry. While Pinot Gris is spicy, weightier, generally more complex and varies from dry to markedly sweet.
The Pinot Grigio grape is a natural mutation of the red Pinot Noir grape, and it can sometimes resemble Sauvignon Blanc, without the grassy and herbal notes. Pinot Grigios are usually not aged in oak as this would overpower the wine and takes away from its simplicity.
Because of Pinot Grigio’s acidity, it is good at cutting thru the fullness of richer recipes and butter & cream sauces. It is best consumed young.
Pinot Grigio goes well with the same foods as Sauvignon Blanc
simple shellfish esp. oysters, clams and mussels, and pasta dishes including these seafoods
semi-hard cheese such as Gruyere, Emmenthaler, goat or sheep’s milk cheese
chicken, especially fried, grilled, roasted or sautéed
Pinot Grigio does not go well with:
thick and bold food
big red meats
This month consider adding Italian Pinot Grigio to your cellar.
With the Cellar Craft January Limited Release being Syrah and the World Vineyard Australian Shiraz on sale we thought we would focus on this grape. First off it is important to note that Syrah and Shiraz are in fact the same grape. The Aussies can take the blame for adopting their own name for this grape variety.
Syrah has a long history in France, being grown in Southern France since early Roman times, although it originated in the middle East. This grape is found in many famous French wines such as Hermitage, Cotes-du-Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape to name a few. Of course in these cases Syrah is blended with other wines, but undoubtedly Syrah is the backbone of these wines.
The typical characteristics for young Syrah’s are deep-colouring, tannic, with strong tar, spice and pepper. As they mature they take on characteristics are sweet blackberries, blackcurrants and plums and some smokiness.
The grape as Shiraz is synonymous with Australia where it has become the country’s most widely cultivated variety. The Aussies have definitely put Shiraz on the map and perhaps equal footing to other grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. They have been so successful marketing Shiraz that the French have had to react. Many are not aware of the predominance of Syrah in France, because of the French tendency to market their wines not by the grape variety name but rather the region and the style. Now many French wines are appearing as Shiraz’s, an example being the humorously named Fat Bastard Shiraz.
It is important to note that Petit Syrah is an entirely different grape variety, but often confused with Syrah.
Valpolicella is the name of a very important wine growing region in Italy, near Venice that lends its name to a famous red wine. This popular red wine, second in popularity to Chianti, is actually comprised of three primary grapes, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, although other grapes can make up to 15% of the wine. Valoplicella, pronoundced, vahl-poe-lee-CHELL-ah, are typically light, very fragrant and fruity. For those of you Amarone fans, Amarone is essentially Valpolicella, but with higher alcohol, due to the grapes being left longer to accumulate sugar.
With regards to food pairings, Valpolicella, goes well with grilled or roasted chicken, tomato sauce based pasta, pizza, risotto with gorgonzola and mushrooms or grilled pork sausage
Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of all wines, being the most planted wine grape in the world. This powerful grape was actually derived from a marriage of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, yes a white grape. Cabernet Sauvignon’s personality comes from its skins. The juice is clear, colour, flavour and tannins are extracted from the skins.
With regards to food pairings, Cabernet Sauvignon should be married to bold foods as it overwhelms lighter fare. When consumed young it has plenty of oak, tannin and alcohol, so needs a counterbalance such as fat and/or protein
Although one would think “fat” cheese would be a good match, it doesn’t work as it comes off tinny. Best served with cheese that is mild to moderate (Brie, young Camembert, Monterey Jack, and fresh Mozzarella)
Cabernet Sauvignon works well with:
red meats, older Cabs with rarer cuts, younger cabs with longer cooked or stewed meat
grilled foods, grilling adds a bitter component to marry well with Cab’s tannins
oaky Cabs, grilling, smoking and plank roasted meats and seafood with black pepper on steak, pepper tames the tannins
beef – braised, grilled, roasted or stewed
cheese – Blue and/or stinky
Definitely the king of the whites, this grape has recently fallen into disfavour with many. The ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) faction has swung its preferences to other wines such as Pinot Grigio and Viognier. This is in our opinion is likely a fad as Chardonnay has much to offer. Chardonnay is likely the most widely grown grape variety in the world due to its ease in growing and versatility to different growing conditions.
This versatile grape can display a wide variety of tastes due to the wide range of soils it is grown under as well as the winemaker’s influences. While many are aware that Chardonnay can produce a very full bodied wine it can also produce subtle light steely wines such as Chablis.
Today the latest trend with Chardonnay is Unoaked or Naked Chardonnay. Without the oak, Chardonnay can fully demonstrate its terrific fruit forward characteristics with many apple like tastes. To try a Unoaked Chardonnay you might try the Estate Series Dry Creek Unoaked Chardonnay, or sign up for Cellar Craft’s March Limited Release Santa Barbara Naked Chardonnay. Doesn’t that sound very California like, naked that is. Cellar Craft also has a wonderful kit in both 4 and 6 week format called Pousse Blanc. This Unoaked Chardonnay also has a dab of Chenin Blanc. It comes very highly recommended by the Creative Connoisseur gang as a must try.
Chardonnay is quite often found in blends, such as the Bourgeron Blanc or Chardonnay Semillon. The presence of Semillon tames the Chardonnay down and rounds the wine out. We have Chardonnay-Semillon wine kits in both the 4 and 6 week format.
Of course Chardonnay is more known as the full bodied wine that still remains the number one commercial white wine in terms of sales. To taste the full-on Chardonnay wine we highly recommend Australian Chardonnay. The Selection International Australian Chardonnay comes with 4, yes 4 oak packages. This past fall Winexpert introduced an Australian Chardonnay to its Vintners Reserve Passport series. This Vintners Reserve kit produces the most full bodied white wine in its class and it is on sale during the month of January.
Sauvignon Blanc is known as the Avis of the white wine grape world, always playing second fiddle to Chardonnay, the big number one wine grape variety. While Chardonnay is complex, Sauvignon Blanc is simple, but its simplicity is quite frankly its biggest attribute. In North America, it is the second most popular commercial wine.
Wines produced from Sauvignon Blanc grapes have noticeable acidity and are often described having grassy tastes. These wines are crisp and often tart and often flinty. Believe it or not experts often describe as the odour from Sauvignon Blanc as cat pee. Those of us that have cats will attest that those so called experts must have been sniffing something else to come up with this description.
Sauvignon Blanc probably offers the wine loving cook the most versatility. With intense flavour and excellent acidity, Sauvignon Blanc dazzles with its ability to infuse dishes with flavour, while providing the acidic underpinning that they need to stay “alive” on the palate.
If you are looking for a perfect dry summer wine look no further than Sauvignon Blanc. This month you will find Vintners Reserve French Sauvignon Blanc on sale, it comes highly recommended.
Many of you may have not heard of this red wine grape. Barbera, like the Italian wine industry, fell into disfavour in the 70’s and early 80’s. But with an intense effort by the Italian government and wine industry, Italian wines can now hold their own with any of the great wine growing areas in the world.
High production in southern Italy and California’s San Joaquin Valley produced Barbera wine that frankly was high in alcohol and low in flavour and can best be called jug wine. However, the cooler climates of northern Italy, particularly the Piedmont district (site of this year’s Winter Olympics) produce wonderful Barbera wines. Wine from this region is very bold, tannic exhibiting ripe currant flavours with smokiness nuances. The Barbera grape produces a dark almost purple wine. Undoubtedly the Piedmont district produced some of the best Barbera’s in the world. In fact, commercial Piedmont Barbera wines retail for up to $100 per bottle. Rarely will you be able to see a Barbera wine kit so read on how you can add a fine Barbera to your wine cellar.
The Pinotage is to South Africa as Nanaimo bars are to Canada. The Pinotage is a grape that was bred by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes way back in 1925. While you are no doubt familiar with Pinot Noir, Cinsault is not a commonly known grape. It is commonly grown in the French Hermitage region and thus the name Pino, from Pinot and tage from Hermitage. In the 1960’s South African Pinotage made heads turn in the wine world when it won many International Awards. With Apartheid now passed this wine is regaining its popularity. South African Pinotage is medium bodied with low tannins. Try one this month. We also have a Cellar Craft South African Pinotage with a Crushed Grape pack.
Sangiovese is the predominant grape used in the infamous Chianti wines, although the Italian authorities allow Chianti’s to be blended with other wines. During the 1970’s Chianti fell into disfavour as production increased dramatically and quality was sacrificed. Remember the days of Ruffino Chianti and those hand made wicker baskets. Lately through imposition of stricter government rules, Chianti has made a comeback putting the wine on its rightful pedestal. Chief among the rule changes was a stipulation that Chianti wine must be comprised of at least 90% Sangiovese (used to be 80%). This has resulted in more robust Chianti wines. Many producers though have chosen to emphasize the Sangiovese name to differentiate from the tarnished Chianti reputation.
Sangiovese has a wonderful bright red cherry character overlaying strawberry notes with hints of violets and white pepper. It has a medium body and a long, wonderfully smooth, tannic finish; livened by a zing of acidity and toasty oak.
Very food friendly. Great with veal Parmigiana, pasta with garlic and oil, pizza, blue cheese and fruits such as cherries, figs, plums and raspberries.
Winexpert offers a wonderful Selection International Sangiovese and a Vintners Reserve Passport Series Italian Sangiovese. The Vintners Reserve is on special during the month of December. If you would prefer the Selection, mention you read about Sangiovese in this newsletter and receive free labels when you purchase your Selection International Sangiovese. You can also taste the similar styles in the Selection Chianti or Vintners Reserve Chianti.
Undoubtedly the most difficult wine name to pronounce, Gewurztraminer (pronounced Guh-VURTZ-trah-mean-er) is a refreshing, light-medium bodied slightly sweet white wine. With a name like Gewurztraminer, you would automatically think Germany was where this grape originated from. But you would be wrong. It originates in the Alto Adige area of Northern Italy. It is extensively grown in that area, as well as the French Alsace and Germany.
Gewurztraminer does well in cooler climates and therefore wonderful wine is produced in the Okanagan region of BC and Washington state.
The German word gewurtz means spiced, and the resulting wine stays true to definition. These wines are crisp, and spicy, highly fragrant with flavour characteristics of lychee, flowery, cloves and nutmeg. Most Gewurztraminer wines are medium sweet. The wine is typically golden in colour but can be peachy. Gewurztraminer is best consumed as a young wine and not recommended for extended ageing. This wine is well paired with any spicy food.
In June you will find a great opportunity to make a Gewurztraminer and save money. The Selection Gewurztraminer is on sale all month.
Prior to 1956, Malbec was grown extensively throughout the Bordeaux region of France. With some devastating vine killing frosts in 1956, French growers took the opportunity to replace Malbec with other grape types. Why? The Malbec is subject to plant diseases such as mildew and root rot.
While Malbec all but disappeared from France, it found a new home in South America, particularly Argentina. The diseases which led to Malbec’s French demise are not a problem in South America. The hot dry climate found in South America, particularly the Mendoza area of Argentina, allows the Malbec grapes to reach full ripeness. The Malbec is known as the “black wine” because of its deep rich dark colour. This intense wine is lush and fruity with heavy tannic tendency, rivaling a good Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz (Syrah) in terms of body.
A good Malbec is known to possess blackberry, plums, tar, red pepper, licorice and sometimes chocolate and espresso. Because of the full body characteristics of the Malbec it is best suited to beef dishes