Halloween Re-post: Return of the Living Red

30 Oct
vineyard zombies?  delicious!

vineyard zombies? delicious!

Mash Design, the marketing brains behind the labels for Mollydooker, Two Hands and Magpie Estate, is back with old friends Redheads Studio for this genius new brand. From the unmarked, wax-dipped bottle to the small envelope of crime files, vineyard zombies and disturbing photos, this packaging is utterly unique. The contents of the bottle (yet to be reviewed) is just as unique, blending the Portuguese variety Touriga Nacional with Cabernet Sauvignon from different regions and different vintages. Download this .pdf file for more. Scroll left-to-right to view all images.

Ret_of_living_red3

The attached package of medical images and eerie photos is more than mildly reminiscent of Pearl Jam's Vitalogy liner notes.

Something new every day

29 Oct

20111029-201044.jpg

This lovely Montsant wine taught me something new today. One of its main components (40%) is Mazuelo. What’s Mazuelo? I had to look it up, myself. Turns out Mazuelo is a synonym of Carignan. So there you go. Something new.

Bula 2009, Montsant D.O.
Mazuelo, Grenache, Syrah
available in BC early 2012, ~$20

A great Malbec, if…

27 Oct

20111027-004317.jpgHumberto Canale Estate Malbec 2008
Alto Valle del Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina

So, this is a new (to me) Malbec from the most southerly wine-growing region in Argentina. Patagonia lies more than 990 miles (1600 kms) south of the much more famous Mendoza and is a considerably cooler climate than the major regions to the north. In the early 20th century, Humberto Canale imported vine cuttings from Bordeaux and established the first commercial winery in the region^.

I found myself with a bottle of Humberto Canale Estate Malbec 2008 from that most southerly region and wondered about how it might differ from wines from its northern Argentine neighbours. When I finally got around to opening it, I found a complex, nuanced wine with blackberry, cocoa, mint, smoked meat, and a host of other intriguing flavours. The profile and structure reminds me more of premium high-altitude Mendoza wines than the ubiquitous fleshy, sweet-fruit reds that currently flood our wine shops. So, is this a great-value wine? Good question, as I no longer have pricing info. I’ll get back to you on that, but for now, I will say that this is either an excellent sub-$20 wine or a less-exciting buy, it’s value inversely related to price.

BC Pinot Blanc

26 Oct

20111026-233412.jpgPeller Estates Family Series Pinot Blanc 2009
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC

BC makes good Pinot Blanc. Many Okanagan Valley Pinot Blanc wines are of very good quality and well-priced, relative to other white wines from BC and elsewhere. I would like to see greater focus and emphasis on this variety. Winemakers should aim for ripe fruit, balanced acidity and moderate alcohol. Tonight’s example, Peller Estates Family Series Pinot Blanc 2009, displays decent fruit-acid balance, but with pronounced (14%) alcohol. There are better examples, but at $12.99, this should be a popular choice.

Lingerings of VPIWF: More Malbec wines you should try

24 May

Malbec: VPIWF left me somewhat smitten with the grape.

Malbec, also known as Auxerrois, Côt, and about 1,000 other synonyms, is a black grape variety that tends to produce inky, violet-black, tannic wines. The thick-skinned variety traditionally used to add colour and tannic structure to Bordeuax wines has found a home in Mendoza, Argentina, where it is used for everything from rosé wine, to simple, mass-produced red table wine to supremely rich and concentrated luxury wines of world-class calibre.

The main aromas of Malbec include cherry, raspberry and plum, dried fruits, blue flowers like violets, coffee and chocolate, leather and balsamic. Ageing in oak contributes vanilla aromas and flavours.

Doña Paula ‘Paula’ Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina $16.99
Lighter-bodied than expected. Varietally correct nose of plum, dark berries, violets, tar and spice.  Satisfying fruit, well-balanced acid & tannins. Excellent value.

Bleasdale Second Innings Malbec 2007, Langhorne Creek, Australia $17.99
Expected a full-force plush Aussie fruit bomb, but this wine is actually quite elegant and well-structured for the price. A food wine, to be sure, with acid and tannin for red meat and subtle Langhorne-esque herbal notes.Bodega Sottano Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina $19.99
Big nose on this one: all the requisite dark berries and fruits, plus licorice, root beer, tar, violets, earth and cracked pepper, all of it distinct and concentrated, but perfectly balanced.  The fruit is mouth-filling, the tannins soft and long, and the acidity provides just enough zing to invite the next sip. Serious Malbec for $20.

Luis Felipe Edwards Family Reserve Malbec 2008, Colchagua, Chile $19.99
The lone Chilean offering stands up to the Argentine competitors without denying its origins.  Chile’s Malbec wines offer fruit, spice and aromatics in a leaner, meaner package. The LFE Family Reserve has an intense, Cabernet-like nose of dark fruits, brambleberry tart, black currant black licorice, tar, toffee, mint, dill and subtle floral notes. The palate is a super-concentrated melange of sticky-sweet fruits like blackberry preserve, a bright berry acidity on the mid-palate and grippy bittersweet chocolate tannins on the finish. Dispite its weight and dense black fruits it remains more austere, less ‘obvious’ than most Malbecs. One step left from Argentina on the Old World:New World spectrum. *My value-for-money pick. I’ll buy this again!

Finca Decero Remolina Vineyard Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina $25.99
Talk about “Old World meets New World”, this is one solid Malbec that shows its feminine side with swirling floral notes and lifted aromatics.  The structure is sound, yet delicate; the fruit big, yet soft. From a young vineyard (Decero means “from scratch”) high in Mendoza, this producer shows real promise.

Mapema Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina $26.99
After 34 years as chief winemaker at Catena, Jose “Pepe” Gallante is now making world-class (and well-priced) Malbec for his new venture “Mapema”. The high altitude, fresh air and intense sun of the vineyard in Consulta, Mendoza have contributed to the formation of a profound Malbec.  Twelve months in new French oak has produced a wine with aromas of black cherry, combined harmoniously with fine notes of chocolate and tobacco, a rich fruit character, and smooth tannins.

Reviewed: Catena Alta Chardonnay (2007)

23 Apr

Catena Alta is the benchmark for premium Argentine Chardonnay

Bodega Catena Zapata
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2007

Mendoza, Argentina
14% alcohol/volume
$44.99 at Everything Wine (not available at BCLS)

Sourced from Adrianna vineyard at 5,000′ (the highest in all of Mendoza) and a small portion from Domingo at 3,700′, Catena Zapata’s Alta Chardonnay is the benchmark for premium Chardonnay from Argentina.  100% barrel fermented, with 50% new French, and aged sur lie for 12 months.

This wine is remarkable from start to finish, beginning with an aromatic  and complex nose of pear and apricot, almond and lemon cream.  Subtle hints of white flowers and warm, smoky notes follow.  The palate is full and concentrated, with citrus, honey, vanilla, nutmeg and toast. The wine has a wonderful viscosity, mouth coating and pleasantly creamy, but with an exciting streak of minerally acidity that leaves me wanting more.

This wine is everything I love in Chardonnay and is near-perfect now.  Still, it shows much potential, and will reward careful ageing until 2014 at least.  At $45 CAD it’s not for everyday quaffing, but compares very favourably with other Chardonnay wines around the $50 mark, from any region.

see also: Catena Rules Argentine Chardonnay from Stephen Tanzer’s Winophilia.

#VPIWF: The 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival in Tweets

21 Apr

How much has the (Vancouver) wine world really embraced twitter? This post is a bit of an experiment in the matter, and depends wholly on Twitter users for the quality of its content.

I’ve added a new feed (right sidebar) so you can follow along in real-time with all the action of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival (#VPIWF), courtesy Vancouver’s most hardcore wine-geek tweeps.

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Please note, this post is a WIP: I will compile interesting tweets from various VPIWF events in this post as the festivities continue.

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» Diva(s) at the Met

What happens when a group of women get together? They talk wine, of course! Host Daenna Van Mulligen (aka Wine Diva) will introduce you to an international group of winemakers, proprietors and industry principals, who will share not only the wines they represent, but also the stories of their journey as a woman in the grape trade. After, schmooze and enjoy a selection of small bites prepared to match each wine by Diva at the Met Chef Dino Renaerts. Diva(s) at the Met

TheWineDiva Trying to get to my Divas at the Met event #vpiwf but the 4/20 pot protest has shut down traffic- great- come early. You’ll be stuck too

rtay Heading to the Metropolitan Hotel for Diva(s) at the Met, my first official @PlayhouseWine fest event of what will be a very boozy week.

lfroese Food porn: canapes from Divas at the Met MMMMMMMMM #vpiwf #wine @thewinediva http://tweetphoto.com/19277394

TheWineDiva Divas at the Met 2010 has wrapped. Inspiring women, stories and wine. I am awed-thanks to all you wine divas out there!! #vpiwf

» Canadian Wine Summit as interpreted by @yaffler

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is pleased to announce a very special dialogue about Canadian wine issues as part of the Trade Days Conference.  What is Wine Brand Canada?   Is it Icewine internationally?  How does Cellared in Canada fit in?  How relevant are issues regarding sustainability?

Master Sommelier John Szabo moderates the morning, in-camera Strategy Session (9:30 – 11:30 am) featuring presentations by Mike Weir Wine, Tinhorn Creek, LCBO, Vincor, Brock University, Flat Rock Cellars, Andrew Peller and Mark Anthony Brands. The Canadian Wine Summit

Yaffler Interesting perspectives in this morning’s Canadian Wine Summit. Although As in all things, the big producers dominated proceedings #VPIWF

Yaffler Purpose of this morning’s Canadian Wine Summit: define winebrand Canada. Initial ideas: focus on diversity & sustainability. #VPIWF

Yaffler But before understanding & defining winebrand Canada, should everyone agree on just what it means to be Canadian in a general sense #VPIWF

Yaffler Key Canadian #wine asset is wine tourism. Vital to building the brand & creating emotional ties #VPIWF

Yaffler The big 3 want cooperation in building winebrand Canada. But only on their terms… #VPIWF Continue reading

Reviewed: Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz Viognier (2005)

13 Apr

The iconic producer Wolf Blass has been making some of Australia’s best, and most-awarded, wines since its inception in 1973.  Early on, Wolf Blass recognized the marketing value of a range of wines in distinct tiers, from everyday to luxury.  Right in the middle of the 8-tier range lies the Gold Label:

The wines created for the Gold Label range are an ever-evolving proposition: emerging varieties, groundbreaking techniques, and the most progressive regional styles are incorporated into the range as they become available. All vineyard parcels are kept separate until final blending and bottling and production levels are dictated by vintage quality. [1]

I recently tasted the 2005 Adelaide Hills Shiraz Viognier from the Wolf Blass Gold Label series of wines:

Wolf Blass Wines
Gold Label Shiraz Viognier 2005

Adelaide Hills, Australia
15% alcohol/volume
$33.99 at Everything Wine (not available at BCLS)

Beautifully bold colour in the glass with a black cherry core and a ruby/violet meniscus.

The nose is intense and Shiraz-dominated, with big, bold blackberry pie filling, cassis, wood smoke, and cured meat. The Viognier offers only a touch of a violet/floral component and hints of dried peach and apricot jam.

The palate is full-bodied and lively, with brambly berry jam, spicy sausage, cherry cola, anise, menthol and white pepper. The finish is long and sweet, with subtle tannins and good acidity. It has the structure to age longer, but must be very near its peak at this point.

I greatly enjoyed this wine with wild mushroom, herb and sherry soup, but it would also be delicious with lamb dishes, duck sausage, and other earthy, rustic fare.

For more information on Shiraz/Viognier blends, from Côte-Rôtie to Australia, check out the new post by Bitch Casserole‘s Ruby Bricks.

W(h)ining: Australia Learns by Rôtie with Shiraz-Viognier

13 Apr

Three Rhône wines, one from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, that are all blends of red and white grape varieties.

I remember the first time I stumbled across an Australian bottle brandishing the Shiraz-Viognier label, and in my youthful ignorance, I was thrilled to have discovered what I thought was a whimsical Aussie conception.  Mixing red and white wines?  This must be a new idea!  After the initial embarrassment of eagerly sharing my brilliant discovery with a wine-guru confidante, who informed me of my mistake, and then eventually acquiring some formal sommelier education of my own, I came to learn that blending red and white wines, and often cofermenting the different grapes,  is a French winemaking tradition.

For many wine neophytes, like myself some years ago, French wine is a bit of a mystery because it does not label grape varieties, although this is changing to meet demands of new world consumers.  The Rhône valley, in the South of France, produces many blends of both red and white varieties, including some familiar Côtes-du-Rhône wines, and the Côte-Rôtie is only one of several Rhône appellations renowned for them.  In fact, the Côte-Rôtie is the original Shiraz-Viognier producer; these two varieties are, indeed, the two grapes of the appellation, but here the red variety goes by its original moniker, Syrah.

Three wines from the Côte-Rôtie, all Syrah-Viognier blends. The Rostaing (center) is worth $140 and the two Guigal wines (right and left) are both over $450 each.

While there are many Côtes-du-Rhône bottles available at varying prices at most wine shops, Côte-Rôtie wines available in BC are not for everyday sipping.  Also bear in mind, reader, that only some wines from the South of France are blends of both red and white varieties, if this post has influenced your shopping list.

Most red and white blends, like Shiraz/Syrah-Viognier, contain only a small amount of white, and French wines follow strict regulations; AOC law permits only 5% of white wine in Côtes-du-Rhône red blends, for example, and Côte-Rôtie Syrah-Viognier wines can include as much as 20% of the white variety.  But just a touch of Viognier goes a long way.  This unique variety typically adds a delightful perfume of stewed apricot and floral notes and softer palate to red grape varieties… Read more…

W(h)ining: Aromatic Whites and a Toast to the Spring Season

25 Mar

I was delighted to pour a flight of three aromatic white wines on Sunday to celebrate the first day of spring.  I was a bit apprehensive, though, that many of my tasting-bar customers would be less than excited by the offering of all white, off-dry wines.  But the intense fragrance and vibrant, mouthwatering, palate of wines poured from unassuming, Alsatian bottles, pleasantly surprised many folks who might normally shy away from this style of wine.

I’ve noticed that a majority of consumers drink only red, or very little white, and almost everyone, it seems, is afraid of a touch of sweetness in their wine.  I’m not sure if it’s the memory of sugary, flavourless, mass-produced American White Zinfandel circa 1980, or the surprisingly explosive sweetness of that first sip of quality icewine, but it seems to me there is a general reluctance to try off-dry, or, as many people mistakenly call them, ‘sweet’ wines.  An off-dry wine, unlike a sweet wine such icewine, late harvest wine, or port, has just a touch of residual sugar, and, if made to my liking, a good amount of mouthwatering  acidity to balance the sweetness; indeed, this is precisely the difference between an exquisite off-dry Gewürztraminer, and an unpalatably cloying wine of the 80s blush variety.  Acidity in off-dry wine is kind of like a squeeze of lemon in a recipe; it brightens the flavours of the wine, adds a bit of tartness to balance the sweetness, and provides a clean finish to a round palate.

Now, to answer the obvious question I’ve neglected thus far:  What is an aromatic wine?  Wines that are considered ‘aromatic’ exhibit an intense nose, or fragrance, of flowers, fruit, and spices that come from the grape itself, Vinification, by contrast, or the winemaker’s tinkering, produces what we call the bouquet rather than the aroma of the wine.  The bouquet of a Syrah might exhibit characteristics of vanilla and smoke from the oak barrels it is aged in, for example, and its aroma might show luscious black fruit and white pepper.

Some wine varieties (or grapes) considered aromatic are Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Pinot Blanc, although wines from these grapes do not always exhibit the intense nose characteristic of an aromatic wine, and sometimes wines can be aromatic even if they’re not made from grapes that are typically considered ‘aromatic.’

The wines I poured on Sunday, however, were all exceptional examples of aromatic wines, and perfect for welcoming the spring season, with their bright aromas of fresh fruit and flowers. Continue reading

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