Ontario’s Movers and Shakers for 2022

Here is my list of who I consider to be the Ontario wineries of notoriety for 2022.  My opinions are based on several factors: the winery’s performance at both the National Wine Awards and the All Canadian Wine Championships, environmental and sustainability practices of each winery, and my own personal impressions.

By far these are not the only good wineries in the province, they are merely the ones that especially caught my attention this year.

I have listed my choices in alphabetical order and have included several of each winery’s 2022 award winning wines. 

Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery (Ranked 17th at National Wine Awards)

Since 2010, Hidden Bench has followed organic practices, and since 2013, all their estate vineyards have been certified as organic.

At Hidden Bench they believe that the highest quality of grapes and wine can only be achieved by avoiding the use of systemic chemical insecticides and fungicides. Since 2015 they have extended their organic certification into the winemaking processes and as of 2016, most wines carry the Pro-cert certification on their labels. Although becoming an organic certified winery has raised costs significantly, they believe the peace of mind and health of those who enjoy the wines and vineyard is well worth the additional costs they embrace.

Part of their philosophy is to have the smallest impact possible on the environment. They have instituted several initiatives to help reduce the footprint and assist with the recovery of the environment.

Hidden Bench uses geothermal energy to provide heating and cooling for both their building and winemaking processes.  They have also installed a 105 panel/23.5kW solar array on the storage building which reduces their reliance on the electrical grid and works to be energy cost neutral on an annual basis.

Recycled materials are used in product packaging wherever possible. They also only package their wines at the point of sale to reduce the associated environmental impact.

Hidden Bench’s 2022 award winning wines include the following:

  • Hidden Bench 2016 Blanc de Blanc Zéro Dosage
  • Hidden Bench 2019 Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard Unfiltered
  • Hidden Bench 2019 Pinot Noir Felseck Vineyard
  • Hidden Bench 2019 Terroir Caché
  • Hidden Bench 2020 Chardonnay Unfiltered

Hidden Bench last appeared on my annual list in 2020.

Malivoire Wine Company (15th at National Wine Awards)

Malivoire was named Winery of the Year at last year’s National Wine Awards and earned 6 Gold, 6 Silver and 8 Bronze medals at this year’s event.

For over 20 years Malivoire has become a base for innovation, creativity and sustainability.  They are proud to be Certified under Ontario’s Sustainable Winemaking Program.  They promote biodiversity and a healthy living vineyard that protects wildlife habitat. They conserve water and energy in both the vineyard and winery, recognizing the vital importance of natural resources.

While always receptive to new practices or tools to improve their wine, Malivoire recognizes that as a quality-of-life product, wine’s traditions are treasured by many as essential to their fullest enjoyment of the experience. Malivoire has evaluated emerging farm, vinification and bottling techniques, while remaining dedicated to the concept of wine as a natural product.

Malivoire chooses not to use quick-fix chemical solutions to vineyard challenges. Experience has shown that synthetic treatments, while effective in the short term, can cause long-term complications. Natural obstacles can be remedied effectively with natural solutions so the vineyards will thrive without causing deterioration to their surrounding habitat.

Malivoire’s 2022 award winning wines include:

  • Malivoire 2021 Farmstead Gamay
  • Malivoire 2021 Gamay Concrete
  • Malivoire 2021 Le Coeur Gamay
  • Malivoire N/V Bisous Brut
  • Malivoire NV Bisous Rose

Peller Estate Winery (14th at National Wine Awards)

Peller Estates consistently produces fine quality wines.  They earned 7 Gold, 4 Silver and 3 Bronze medals at this year’s National Wine Awards.   Their wine portfolio features four collections: Andrew Peller Signature Series, Private Reserve, Family Series and French Cross.

This year’s award winners include:

  • Peller Estates Winery 2018 Cabernet Franc Icewine
  • Peller Estates Winery 2018 Signature Series Vidal Blanc Icewine
  • Peller Estates Winery 2019 Oak Aged Vidal Blanc Icewine
  • Peller Estates Winery 2019 Signature Series Riesling
  • Peller Estates Winery 2020 Private Reserve Gamay Noir
  • Peller Estates Winery 2020 Private Reserve Merlot
  • Peller Estates Winery 2020 Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc
  • Peller Estates Winery Signature Series Sur Lie Chardonnay

Potter Settlement Artisan Winery

Potter Settlement is very small but it has been making great strides to create high-end, quality wines.  They produce more than a dozen different wines, most of which are made with grapes grown on the Tweed property.  The winery only purchases grape varieties that can’t be grown onsite (because of the cool climate) and they never buy finished wine.  If the grapes are not grown on site, the wine label will indicate where they were grown.

It is one of the northernmost vineyards in Canada, where the temperature is known to drop to -27o C during the winter.  However, being further north has its benefits, as the soil is rich in minerals.  

Potter Settlement is a marriage of rustic, old-world charm with up-to-date winemaking techniques. They respect tradition but strive for progression when creating their wines.  The winery promotes organic farming, as well as the use of solar and geothermal energy. They strive to be considerate and respectful of their surroundings. Potter Settlement consists of 10 planted acres of vinifera, hybrid, and VQA-recognized grapes.

Several of Potter Settlement wines are uniquely crafted adhering to historic processes, specific European yeast, or barrels made of uncommon woods.

This year’s award winners include:

  • Potter Settlement 2019 Cabernet Franc
  • Potter Settlement 2020 Cordova
  • Potter Settlement 2017 Marquette
  • Potter Settlement 2017 Pinot Noir
  • Potter Settlement 2020 Pinot Noir Rosé

Redstone Winery (18th at National Wine Awards)

Redstone is a new addition to my Movers and Shakers list.  They earned a Platinum, 2 Gold, 3 Silver and 4 Bronze medals at this year’s National Wine Awards.

In 2009, Moray Tawse, owner of Tawse Winery, purchased what was formerly the Thomas and Vaughan Estate Winery. Redstone got its name from the red clay soil and large stones that exists throughout the vineyard.

The 38-acre estate vineyard is farmed organically and is perfect for maturing late-ripening varietals including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. There is also Pinot Gris on the property. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay varietals are grown on the recently acquired Limestone vineyard.

Fostering the health of their vines and the soil they grow on requires a labour-intensive and hands-on approach. The yields are kept low by cluster thinning to ensure that all the energy of the vine is focused in fewer grape clusters which then become more concentrated in flavour. The grapes are hand-picked to select the very best fruit.

They practice organic farming, which feeds the vines and controls diseases without the use of synthetic insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers. They have chickens that feed on bugs, sheep that eat the lower vine leaves to expose the grapes to the ripening sun and use horses instead of tractors whenever possible to help prevent soil compaction.

Redstone’s list of award-winning wines for 2022 include:

  • Redstone 2018 Cabernet Franc Redstone Vineyard
  • Redstone 2019 Bistro Gamay Noir
  • Redstone 2019 Bistro Riesling
  • Redstone 2019 Brickyard Riesling
  • Redstone 2019 The Club Riesling

Thirty Bench Wine Makers (10th at National Wine Awards)

Thirty Bench Wines was awarded Best White Wine of the Year at the All Canadian Wine Awards for their 2019 Small Lot Riesling Triangle Vineyard wine.  At the National Wine Awards they received 6 Gold, 7 Silver and 1 Bronze medal.

The vineyard’s location beneath the Niagara Escarpment provides a longer season that allows grapes more time to ripen and cooler nights that help intensify flavours. All Thirty Bench wines are made exclusively with grapes from their own vineyards. Their vines are hand cropped and thinned to produce very low yields to create exceptional quality and an intensity of fruit flavour.

The commitment to “Small Lot” winemaking means many of their wines are made in extremely limited numbers.

2022 award winners include the following wines:

  • Thirty Bench 2019 Small Lot Riesling Triangle Vineyard
  • Thirty Bench 2019 Small Lot Riesling Wild Cask ($32.00)
  • Thirty Bench 2019 Small Lot Riesling Wood Post Vineyard
  • Thirty Bench 2019 Special Select Late Harvest
  • Thirty Bench 2020 Small Lot Pinot Noir
  • Thirty Bench 2020 Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard
  • Thirty Bench 2020 Winemaker’s Blend Cabernet Franc
  • Thirty Bench 2020 Winemaker’s Blend Riesling
  • Thirty Bench 2021 Winemaker’s Blend Rosé

Next week I will present this year’s list for British Columbia wineries.

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Scotland’s Campbeltown Whisky Region

During Victorian times Campbeltown was the most famous whisky-producing region in the world.   Campbeltown is the main town in the remote Kintyre Peninsula in west Argyll; situated between the isles of Islay and Arran.  There were more than 30 distilleries and Campbeltown itself was often referred to as “Whisky City” and “The Whisky Capital of the World.”  However, over time Speyside and Lowlands distilleries became more prominent and as blended Scotch whisky became a consumer favorite, there was a notable decline in the demand for Campbeltown whisky, as popular opinion soured and the whisky was considered to be heavy, oily and smoky.

Greed also began to play a factor in Campbeltown’s decline as distillers began to focus more on the quantity of whisky produced rather than on the quality.

Since the 1930s, only the Springbank and Glen Scotia distilleries remained. While the two distilleries closed during certain periods of time, neither closed permanently. They have become a testament to Campbeltown’s resilience. Together with the new Glengyle distillery, they have revitalized the whisky industry even though their combined whisky output accounts for less than 1 percent of total production in Scotland.  Despite this, Campbeltown remains one of the five official regions in Scotland for malt whisky production.  Even though this remote seaside village is lacking in the number of distilleries it more than makes up for it in history and pride.

The Springbank Distillery has been on the same site since 1828 and is the only distillery in Scotland to complete the entire production process on site.  It has been owned by the Mitchell family for over 180 years.

The Glen Scotia distillery was originally just the Scotia Distillery.  It was built in 1832.  It is said to be haunted by its former owner, Duncan MacCallum who died in 1930. Workers today are said to avoid certain areas of the distillery after dark.

The Glengyle Distillery restarted production in 2004 after being closed for almost eighty years. The distillery is owned by J & A Mitchell & Co, the same company that owns and operates Springbank. However, the whisky made at Glengyle is named Kilkerran.

Campbeltown does not have a distinctive regional style as the other whisky regions do. The use of peat and casks for infusing flavours into the malts varies by distillery. Overall, the distilleries produce a style similar to elements found in the Lowland and Islay.  Campbeltown has gained a cult status among whisky enthusiasts. While it will likely never grow to the heights of centuries past, the town has at least partially reclaimed its heritage.

The offerings of all three distilleries are occasionally available for sale in Canada’s liquor stores.

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Wine and Shellfish Pairings

I previously talked about wine pairings with various types of fish so today I will review the rest of the food that comes from the oceans of the world, shellfish.

Photo credit: 80s-wine.com

So, what kind of wine goes best with shellfish? It is commonly said that white wine goes with seafood and red wine goes with meat. However, since I have written this article and you are reading it, you probably know it isn’t quite as simple as that.

Shellfish served without a sauce tends to call for light whites, like Vouvray from France’s Loire valley or sparkling wines like Champagne.

When it comes to shellfish served in sauce, the sauce should be your guide when selecting an appropriate wine.  Generally, though, most pair well with a medium-bodied acidic white wine like unoaked Chardonnay, white Burgundy or German Riesling.

Spicy dishes will pair well with a wine that has some sweetness, like an off-dry Gewürztraminer or an Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

If you can’t decide or everyone at the table is eating something different, Champagne is a great choice as it is one of the most food-friendly of wines.

You can also look to the cooking style to help you choose your wine.  Generally, Teriyaki and other sweet sauces pair well with a sweeter wine, such as an off-dry rosé.  Spicy sauces like curries go well with a sweet or slightly sweet low-alcohol white wine like Riesling or Moscato.  Herb-based sauces seasoned with basil, parsley, or mint pair well with a Sauvignon Blanc or Torrontés.

Here are some wine suggestions to go along with specific shellfish dishes:

Lobster Rolls

Lobster rolls pair well with a light and fragrant white wine like Spain’s Verdejo or a medium-bodied white wine like Chardonnay.

Ceviche

Light and citrusy ceviche will go well with a high-acid, citrusy white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or an Austrian Grüner Veltliner.

Clam Chowder

Creamy New England style clam chowder goes well with an oaked Chardonnay. On the other hand, tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder pairs well with a light white wine such as a Greek Assyrtiko.

Shrimp Cocktail

There are both red and white wine options to go along with a shrimp cocktail.  A white wine with a touch of sweetness, such as an off-dry Riesling, or a fruity medium-bodied red like Merlot, or even a sparkling wine like Cava are options.

Crab Cakes

Crab cakes go well with a lightly oaked Chardonnay, or a light white wine like Sauvignon Blanc.

Seafood Boil

A southern-style crawfish or shrimp boil will have some spice and heat so it will need a slightly sweet white wine like an off-dry Riesling or Viognier, or even a sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco.

Linguine & Clam Sauce

This light and garlicky pasta goes well with a light white wine like Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio). If you opt for a red clam sauce, a Chianti will go well.

Mussels

Mussels in a white wine sauce will pair well with a white wine, such as Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio), Chablis, or Sauvignon Blanc. Mussels in a tomato-based sauce will pair well with lighter to medium-bodied red wines that are high in acidity, like Pinot Noir.

In Closing …

Any time of year is the perfect time to enjoy shellfish and wine, whether you’re dining at your favourite restaurant, your own dining table, or even in the summertime backyard.

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The Canned Wine Market

It’s no longer uncommon to see cans of red wines, white wines, rosé wines, and sparkling wines on wine store shelves.  Canned wine is increasing in popularity but sales still lag well behind bottled wine. 

Canned wine offers several conveniences over wine from a bottle, such as increased portability, ease of access, zip top versus corkscrew, pre-measured servings, less weightiness and a lower price point than many bottled wines.

But is canned wine of equal quality to bottled wine? In a word, “Yes”.  Wineries make canned wine in the same manner that they make bottled wine. The main difference is that the final product is placed inside an aluminum can instead of a glass bottle.  The key is to look for products made by trusted brands and winemakers that produce high-quality wines.

There are a wide variety of wines offered in cans, including sweet and dry whites, reds and rosés. Wine spritzers, which typically have a lower alcohol content, are also available.

It can be argued that aluminum cans are more environmentally friendly than glass bottles.  Being lighter in weight, transportation requires less of a carbon footprint.  On average, aluminum cans are composed of three times more recycled material than glass bottles.

Canned wines come in many of the same varieties as bottled wines. The canning process doesn’t take away any of the wine’s quality.  Many wineries can the same wine that they put in bottles. The quality and taste are the same and the can doesn’t alter the taste of the wine.  

Canned wine can be drunk directly from the can, but in order to aerate it and experience the bouquet, it may be better served in a glass.  Canned wine will not last as long as a comparable bottled wine might. The average shelf life for canned wine is 12 to 18 months. Canned wines can expire and aren’t intended to be collected and aged in the same way as some bottled wines are.

Store unopened canned wine similar to how you would bottled wine. The only difference is that there is no benefit from laying canned wine on its side. 

If you open a can of wine and don’t finish it in the same sitting, you can store the can in the fridge for two to four days. Plastic wrap or aluminum foil will help prevent air from spoiling your wine. A better option may be to transfer the contents of the can to a sealable, reusable water bottle.

Canned wine provides flexibility, especially when adventuring outdoors. Bottled wines can be a hassle when you want an easy and portable beverage.  Canned wine is the perfect drink to enjoy poolside, at the beach on a hike.

This can be the perfect time to explore the world of canned wine as the quality of these products has seen significant improvement over the past decade.   However, in my own opinion, though canned wine provides a good portable travel alternative, it will not replace bottled wines.

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Italy’s Sangiovese Grape

The Sangiovese varietal is the most planted wine variety in Italy and has made the Tuscany region renowned for its Chianti wine.  In Chianti, Sangiovese must account for 70% of the blend and in Chianti Classico the minimum rises to 80%.  Other better-known Tuscan wine blends made mainly from Sangiovese grapes include Morellino di Scansano, which must contain 85% and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, with 70% Sangiovese grapes.

Photo credit: blog.suvie.com

Beyond Tuscany, Sangiovese is widely planted in Lazio, Umbria, Marche (all of which border Tuscany) and Corsica. In Corsica the variety is known as Nielluccio or Niellucciu.

In addition to being a mainstay in many varieties of red wines, Sangiovese is often used for Vin Santo wines, which are a style of Italian dessert wine. Vin Santo is traditionally found in Tuscany.

Sangiovese can come in different stylistic expressions based on where it grows.  There are many different mutations of the variety found throughout Italy, which results in very different tasting wines. From the delicate, floral strawberry aromas of Montefalco Rosso to the intensely dark and tannic wines of Brunello di Montalcino, Sangiovese wines have wide appeal.

Sangiovese is seldom found outside of Italy. Of the approximate 70,800 hectares of Sangiovese grown worldwide, almost 63,000 hectares are grown in Italy, followed by about 1,940 in Corsica, and 800 hectares in each of Argentina and the United States.

Sangiovese is savory and offers a wide range of tastes.  Flavours can vary from very earthy and rustic, as in many Chianti Classico, to round and fruit-forward options. Regardless of where it is grown, it always contains hints of cherry and subtle notes of tomato.

The range of flavours include tart cherry, red plum, strawberry, roasted pepper, tomato, leather, tobacco, smoke, oregano and thyme. 

Sangiovese is often lightly oaked in oak barrels.  The tannin and acidity level is usually quite high with ageability ranging normally from 4 to 7 years, with some varieties from the Brunello di Montalcino region being aged from 10 to 18 years.

Sangiovese pairs with a wide range of foods because of its medium weighted body and savory character. Use Sangiovese wine as a congruent flavour with herbs and tomatoes. This technique will bring out more fruity flavors in the wine.

A Sangiovese with high tannins will pair well with rich roasted meat, cured sausages and hard cheeses.  Vegetarian pairings include butter and olive oil; the richness in the fat helps cut through the wines’ tannins.

Sangiovese is a long-time personal favourite of mine, whether on its own or as the mainstay in a Chianti blend.  If you have never tried Sangiovese, it is well worthwhile seeking it out in the Italian Tuscany section of your local wine store.

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The Scottish Lowlands Whisky Region

The Lowlands whisky region dates back to the late 1700s when it was first defined as part of the 1784 Wash Act. The distillers often used a triple distillation process instead of the double distillation process used in the rest of Scotland.  To me, the adaption of a triple distillation process is an indication of the region’s Celtic influence as Irish Whiskey is also traditionally made using a triple distillation process.

Generally, the more times the whisky is distilled, the more elements that are removed, or in other words the purer the alcohol becomes.  However, it is those elements that give the whisky its character and there are those who will argue that triple distillation removes much of the whisky’s character and complexity.  Today almost all Scotch malt whisky is double distilled.

Many of the Lowland distillers also used coal rather than peat in the malting process. The combination of the two created what would become known as the traditional Lowlands character of light, soft and smooth malts that offer a gentle palate with hints of grass, honeysuckle, cream, ginger, toffee, toast and cinnamon.

The Lowlands region includes traditional Scottish counties like Ayrshire, Berwickshire, Dumfriesshire, East Lothian, Mid-Lothian, West Lothian, Fife and Wigtownshire. In a broader sense, many Scots consider anything that is not in the Highlands as part of the Lowlands.

At one point there were over 100 producers in the Scottish Lowlands but that number had dwindled to only three by the year 2000. Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie and Bladnoch were the last remaining distilleries.   The combination of competition from the newer Speyside region, World War I and Prohibition took their toll resulting in the distilleries closing.

However, the fortunes of the Lowlands whisky region changed dramatically after 2010 as there are now 13 distilleries in operation with several more in the planning and development stages.  Being the most populous and urban area of Scotland, the distilleries have the opportunity to take advantage of a high volume of tourist traffic. Most of the tourism centres around Scotland’s two largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, both of which are located in the Lowlands.  Many of the distilleries are located between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In addition to producing malt whiskies, they also provide whiskies suitable for creating whisky blends.  Most of Scotland’s grain whisky is also produced in the Lowlands.

Below is a list of operating Lowlands distilleries.  Those highlighted in blue occasionally have whiskies available in Canadian liquor stores.

Ailsa BayAuchentoshanBladnoch
DaftmillGlenkinchieGlen Flagler
InverlevenKillylochKinclaith
LadyburnLittlemillRosebank
Saint Magdalene  

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The Wine of the North

When you think of Ontario wines, Niagara and Prince Edward County usually come to mind, but there is one of international notoriety near Tweed.  Potter Settlement Artisan Winery has award-winning wine and has been putting Tweed on the map as a good place to grow grapes.

Owner Sandor Johnson says the winery is very small but has been making great strides to create high-end, boutique quality wines.  His team produces more than a dozen different wines, most of which are made with grapes grown on the Tweed property.  The winery only purchases grape varieties that can’t be grown in the cooler climate of Tweed and they never buy finished wine from elsewhere.  If the grapes are not grown on site, the wine label will indicate where they were grown.

As one of the northernmost vineyards in Canada, the temperature is known to drop to -27o C during the winter.  However, being further north has its benefits, as the soil is rich in minerals.  

Potter Settlement makes a unique wine that was accidently discovered during the McClure Arctic Expedition in 1850.  The wine, referred to as Portage, was named in honour of the sailors who pulled barrels of Port across the ice after their ship’s passage through the Northwest Passage was halted by winter weather.

One of the expedition’s participants was Henry Gaun, at that time the ship’s carpenter, and who eventually settled near Tweed in Ivanhoe, and is the founder of Ivanhoe cheese.  Gaun had recorded in his diaries how he and the other sailors created Portage.  The Port that they had taken with them on their journey froze.  They discovered that when the Port froze due to the extreme cold, the bitter acids disappeared making the port very smooth to drink.  Then the Arctic summertime midnight sun cooked the port in the barrels.  According to the diaries, the resulting wine was fit for Queen Victoria’s consumption.  Based on what Johnson read he felt compelled to recreate Portage.

Another example of Potter Settlement’s creativity is their Triple Rare Ferment Chardonnay, which was aged in barrels made of wood from Ontario butternut and extinct American chestnut trees.  In order to make the chestnut barrels, logs had to be salvaged from the bottom of Lake Superior.

At Great Britain’s 2022 London Wine Competition, Potter Settlement was awarded gold medals for the Potter Settlement Cabernet Franc and Potter Settlement Portage fortified wine. Each received 92 out of a possible 100 points.  Last year Potter Settlement won two gold medals and a silver in a competition in Bordeaux, France, at the Challenge International Du Vin competition.  They were the only Canadian winner of the 3,579 wine entries from 27 countries.  They won gold for their Marquette and Pinot Noir, and silver for their Cabernet Franc.

Construction has started to make a cave in the rock on the property that will be used to store the wine.  Once completed Potter Settlement will be the only winery in Ontario with a real cave.  They plan to rent storage space to high-end wineries.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any indication of Potter Settlement wines ever being for sale in wine stores.  However, their wines are available on their website at pottersettlementwines.ca or by visiting them, as I did, at the winery near Tweed, Ontario.  I found the wine tasting, which was hosted by Sandor Johnson, to be both entertaining and educational.  As well, I got to sample some excellent, unique wines; several of which have now found a home in my cellar.

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Red Wine Trouble in “Auz”

Photo credit: thedrinkbusiness.com

The Riverland wine region is the largest wine producing region in Australia.  It stretches west from north of Adelaide along the Murray River from Paringa to Blanchetown.  It is home to about 1,000 grape growers who cultivate in excess of 21,000 hectares of vineyards, one third of Australia’s wine production.

Over half of these growers sell their grapes to a multinational company, Accolade Wines.  Accolade now has more wine in storage than the Riverland produces in a single vintage, equating to about 400 million litres of excess red wine.

Accolade is offering financial incentives for growers to switch from growing red to white grapes or to leave their vines dormant for the foreseeable future.  The incentives are not believed to be sufficient to cover the cost, thus making grape growing unviable.

Elsewhere, in the Murray Valley, it’s estimated that 20,000 tonnes of grapes were left unsold this season. Overall, in Australia, wine exports decreased by 26 per cent in 12 months with no relief in sight.  This has been coupled with rising input costs, which have at least doubled in the past year due to the rising cost of chemicals, fertilizer, fuel and labour.

The oversupply of red wine is the result of tariffs on Australian wine being exported to China and global freight issues (see my post from December 31, 2021, on Wine Shipping Delays), which have led to a downturn in red grape prices.  This situation is expected to continue for the next few years.

Although switching from growing red grapes to white would remove unwanted red and replace them with varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Prosecco, which currently have much more demand, the transition would not be cheap or completed quickly.  It takes anywhere between two and six years to switch from one type of vine to another and for them to start producing the same amount of fruit as before.

Grape growers are calling for government assistance but even that may be too little, too late for some.  However, at this point it is most likely that the government would not provide direct financial assistance but instead refer growers to rural small business grants and rural assistance loans.

Some experts are forecasting a generational shift in ownership of vineyards.  There has been a recent increase in the number of vineyards being listed for sale.  Given the current favourable value of the Australian dollar, it is thought that the real estate market may attract the attention of international investors.

Some vintners are even expected to rip out their vines and plant almonds or other crops.

Having experienced fires, droughts and other effects of climate change over the past few years, Australian vintners continue to live in interesting times.  Grape growing is proving not to be a career for the faint of heart.

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Racking Wine

Racking, which is often referred to as Soutirage or Soutirage traditionnel, filtering or fining, is the process of moving wine from one container to another using gravity.   A pump is never used as it can be disruptive to the wine.

Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org

There are two main reasons why winemakers rack their wines.  The first is to remove sediment. An initial racking is done after malolactic fermentation is complete. Malolactic fermentation, also referred to as malo or MLF, is a process where tart malic acid in wine converts to softer, creamier lactic acid, the same acid found in milk. The process reduces acidity in wine and also releases some carbon dioxide.  The dead yeast cells and other solids, referred to as gross lees, accumulate during fermentation that settle over time.

After the first racking, winemakers might then rack additional times to remove what is referred to as fine lees.

The second reason to rack is to provide oxygen to the wine. This impacts its maturation process, managing the tannin in the wine.  Oxygenating the wine can also get rid of reductive aromas. These unwanted aromas, often perceived as rotten eggs or tire rubber, can occur when the wine is deprived of oxygen.

The racking process involves the insertion of a stainless steel, wand-shaped device into the barrel. The wine is then siphoned out. The winemaker then uses a sight glass to observe and halt the process when the siphon starts to pull up sediment. The wine continues on through a hose to a tank.

After the wine has been removed the barrel is cleaned. Then the process is completed in reverse returning the wine to the barrel. If the winemaker wants the wine to receive more oxygen, the wand is placed at the top of the barrel so there’s a splashing, aerating effect. If they want it to receive less oxygen, the barrel is filled from the bottom.

The number of times winemakers rack varies. Generally, the more tannic a grape variety, vineyard or vintage, the more times a wine might be racked. Some may rack their wines only once after malolactic fermentation is complete and then again just before bottling.  Others might do it every quarter. The winemaker’s vision for the wine is also taken into consideration.  A wine that is to be available for consumption early will probably be racked more often than one that is intended to be more age worthy that people are going to cellar for a long time.

All these decisions will impact the wine that ends up in your glass. Who knew?

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Highlands Scotch

The Scottish Highlands are one of the most sparsely populated regions of Europe, making the role of the Scotch whisky industry a major lifeline for small communities in the region.  The distilleries primarily produce single malt whisky, made from 100% malted barley. The whisky is usually made in a pot still, which preserves more of the flavourful constituents giving it more distinctive character.

Note that although Speyside is geographically situated in the Highlands, it is considered to be a separate whisky region because there are more than 60 distilleries in Speyside alone.

Highland whiskies are generally described as being bold, rich, sweet, full-bodied, and sometimes peaty.  However, due to the size and variations of the region, the characteristics of the single malts differ significantly.  Because of this, the Highlands region is often categorized into four subregions based on the four compass points.  

The north produces some big bodied single malts, containing sweetness and richness, for example The Dalmore. In the south there are lighter, fruitier whiskies that are characterized by a definitive dryness, such as Aberfeldy. In the east there are some full-bodied, dry whiskies with lots of fruit flavour, as well as some pungency; Glen Garioch is a good example. Finally, the west part of the Highlands contain full bodied whiskies with peaty, smoky overtones, while closer to the coast there are some more maritime flavoured whiskies including malts from Clynelish and Pulteney.

Below I have identified 34 distilleries in the Highlands.  The ones highlighted in blue periodically have their whiskies available in Canadian liquor stores.

AnCnocAberfeldyArdmore
BalblairBen NevisBlair Athol
ClynelishDalmoreDalwhinnie
DeanstonDrumguishEdradour
GlencadamGlen DeveronGlen Eden
GlendronachGlenfoyleGlen Garioch
GlengoyneGlenmorangieSingleton of Glen Ord
GlenturretKnockdhuLoch Lomond
Loch MorarMacphailMcClelland
MillburnObanOld Fettercairn
Old PulteneyRoyal BracklaRoyal Lochnagar
Tomatin  

Sláinte mhaith