I have found myself frustrated many times over the past number of months when the wines I am hoping to purchase from the liquor store are not available. The reason I have been told is a result of the pandemic. COVID-19 has affected shipping companies and dock workers hard, resulting in huge backlogs and skyrocketing shipping costs.
The global wine supply chain generally starts with the grape grower -> producer -> packer -> exporter -> shipper -> importer -> trucker -> wholesale distributor -> retailer/restaurant/bar. The time to complete this process has increased from 30 days to 3 months or more.
Wine importers are having trouble bringing wine not just from Europe but also from Chile, Argentina and South Africa. Wineries are also experiencing a shortage of bottles, many of which are imported from China.
Many distributors historically operated on a just-in-time basis whereby goods were received as close as possible to when they are actually needed, to keep costs low. However, today just-in-time processing is not working because of all the delays.
Shipping costs have increased by over 50% during the past year. Along with a lack of shipping containers available to ship the wine, the containers get delayed at the dock resulting in additional charges, and there is a lack of truck drivers available to deliver the wine to its final destination. In preparation for the upcoming holidays wine merchants have planned their shipments at least 3 months in advance. However, there is no guarantee that the wines will reach their intended destination in time for the holidays.
It is expected that volume-driven wines will most likely bear the brunt of the skyrocketing costs. Chilean and Argentinian wines will most likely suffer the most from the soaring freight costs. It is felt that these less expensive wines will lose their competitive advantage with the extensive increase in freight cost.
However, there is optimism that the situation will eventually improve, though probably not until mid-2022, as countries come out of lockdown and more truckers are hired. It is now feared that inflationary pressures will take quite a while longer to come back into proper alignment.
It’s hard to imagine an upside for anyone for the foreseeable future, from producers to importers to distributors to retail and hospitality outlets to customers. The impact will soon become apparent on wine store shelves and restaurant tables as we end-consumers will eventually bear the added costs. Isn’t that always the way?
Given that that New Year’s is fast approaching it seems like a good time to talk about sparkling wines; in particular the amount of sweetness in these wines. Sweetness levels range from super dry to very sweet. Because of this extreme variation, the experts have developed a standardized sweetness scale that has been divided into seven levels.
The sweetness level varies due to a step in the wine making process referred to as “liqueur d’expedition” where producers add a small amount of grape must (sugar) before corking the bottle. Since sparkling wine is so acidic, the sweetness is added in order to reduce sour flavours in the final product.
The sweetness scale for sparkling wines consists of the following levels:
0-2 calories and up to 0.15 carbs for a total of 91–93 calories per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
0-6 g/L RS
0-6 calories and up to 0.9 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 91–96 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
0-12 g/L RS
0-7 calories and up to 1.8 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 91–98 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
12-17 g/L RS
7-10 calories and 1.8–2.6 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 98–101 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
17-32 g/L RS
10-19 calories and 2.6–4.8 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of 101–111 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
32-50 g/L RS
19-30 calories and 4.8–7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of 111–121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
50+ g/L RS
30+ calories and more than 7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of more than 121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Brut has a fair amount of variation in sweetness, whereas Extra Brut and Brut Nature have focused sugar content. Therefore, if a dryer wine is your preference it is best to select either an Extra Brut or Brut Nature wine.
Something to keep in mind when considering the sweetness of sparkling wine is how little sugar is required to make it taste sweet. The amount of sugar in these wines is comparatively low to other beverages.
Drink Comparison (sugar levels in grams)
0 g in Vodka Soda
0.5 g in Brut Nature Sparkling Wine
2 g in Brut Sparkling Wine
8 g in Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine
14 g in Gin & Tonic
16 g in Honest Tea Green Tea
17 g in Starbucks 2% Milk Grande Latte
20 g in Margarita on the rocks (made w/ simple syrup)
I did not know this but there are five types of Scotch whisky, each with a slightly different definition. Until now I thought there were only two, single malt whisky and blended whisky. The definitions of the five types of whisky are:
Single Malt Whisky – whisky made at one distillery using pot stills and only malted barley. Example: Glenlivet 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Single Grain Whisky – whisky made at one distillery using a continuous still, or using any type of still and grains other than malted barley. Example: Strathclyde Single Grain
Blended Malt Whisky – whisky made by combining single malt whiskies from different distilleries. Example: Ballantine’s Finest Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Blended Grain Whisky – whisky made by combining single grain whiskies from different distilleries. Example: Teacher’s Highland Scotch Whisky
Blended Whisky – whisky made by combining malt whisky and grain whisky. Example: Chivas Regal 12 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
Each bottle of Scotch whisky you buy will have one of these five types indicated on the label.
Only about 10% of the Scotch whiskies on the market are single malt. However, single malt Scotch made up nearly 28% of the whisky exported from Scotland.
For all Scotch whisky the age indicated on the label refers to the number of years the whisky spent in casks. Very few whiskies come from a single cask. The mixing of spirits of different ages is permitted. The age indicated on the bottle indicates the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle, which has matured in oak casks in Scotland for a minimum of three years.
Are single malts better than blends? Well that comes down to personal taste. Many blended whiskies are cheaper than single malts but that doesn’t mean that single malts are better. Blended whisky can have a great range of flavour and can rival single malts not only for complexity and flavour, but also for price. Case in point: Macallan Estate single malt has a price tag of $349.50 while Chivas Regal 25 year old blend currently sells for $359.75.
Those new to the world of Scotch whisky usually begin by trying one or more blended whiskies, especially since they generally have a more favourable price point. It’s easy for single malt fans, like me, to write them off as cheap and uninteresting. However, after some discussion with a Scotch blend enthusiast and tasting some of his recommendations, I made some new discoveries and had to admit that there are some good blended whiskies.
2021 presented lots of challenges for British Columbia’s vintners. The spring was one of the driest on record with very little rain from late May to the end of June. Temperatures in June climbed up to 47 degrees Celsius. The combination of these things resulted in the grapes maturing faster and earlier than normal. The grape yields were low but the quality was good, producing small, very ripe fruit bursting with flavour. It is hoped that this high concentration of flavour will translate into an excellent, though a low yield vintage.
The wild fires also wreaked havoc on the harvest in some areas, particularly the Thompson and Okanagan Valleys. Fortunately, the worst of the smoke exposure occurred before the grapes began to ripen so the impact is believed to be minimal.
The recent flooding in B.C. has affected all residents either directly or indirectly. With major transportation routes being blocked or damaged, supply chains and mobility have been severely restricted. At this point it is still too early to know what additional burden will be felt by B.C.’s wine industry as a whole because of the flooding.
This year was without a doubt a season with its challenges because of the smoke, heat and floods. However, early indications suggest that the 2021 vintage of British Columbia wines will be very flavourful. Unfortunately for consumers the prices will most likely be higher due to the smaller than normal yields produced. These are some things to keep in mind when the 2021 B. C. vintages begin hitting the store shelves in a year or two.
Ontario had 79 wineries enter this year’s National Wine Awards competition, second only to B.C. With such a strong field of competitors, earning a position in the top 10 is truly an accomplishment.
The wines were presented to the judges without displaying the producer, origin or price. The wines were identified and organized by grape variety or style. The top medalists were tasted in multiple rounds by many different judges.
All ten wineries were from the Niagara region. There were no winners from Prince Edward County, the North Shore of Lake Erie, Norfolk County, Georgian Bay, Huron Shores or the Toronto Wine Region.
The wineries identified in green periodically have their wines available for sale in local liquor stores. The award winning wines identified in blue are available in Ontario through the LCBO.
1. Malivoire Wine Company, Beamsville, ON (1st overall)
Malivoire Wine Company is the National Wine Awards Winery of the Year as a result of their earning 3 Platinum, 1 Gold, 8 Silver and 5 Bronze medals. This was the first year that a winery has received 3 Platinum medals. Malivoire’s wines may be purchased from their website at www.malivoire.com.
Platinum Medal Winners
2020 Le Coeur Gamay – Category: Gamay – $27.95
N/V Bisous Rose – Category: Sparkling Pink – $29.95
2020 Analog Demo Series – Category: Red Blend – $27.95
Gold Medal Winner
2020 Small Lot Chardonnay – Category: Chardonnay – $19.95