Tastings and Rankings

Although the subject of my writing today is on whisky, the same thoughts apply to wine reviews as well.  The beverage is different but the prejudices, influences and considerations remain the same; food for thought.

Photo credit: etsy.com

Taste is subjective; remember the saying “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure”?  My own opinions as to preference will vary within reason depending on my mood.  I suggest treating these articles as a curiosity and entertainment, not as gospel.   I read some of the reviews to see how the writer’s opinions may compare to my own.  For the article to have any kind of validity, the author needs to reveal what selections were sampled and how that list was determined.

Before assessing the writer’s results, you need to be aware of any bias the person may have.  If comparing peated whisky with non-peated whisky, the writer may allow a personal bias of whether they are a fan of the smokiness of peat be an influence.  On the other hand, if a group of whiskies were being ranked based on the sweetness and/or peatiness, without comment as to personal preference, that can be valuable to a reader in matching their personal preferences.

Double-blind tastings where the reviewer is unaware of what whiskies are being sampled, as well as the order in which they are presented is best.  That way personal prejudice may be better avoided.   For example, Zach Johnston of uproxx.com was quoted during his review, Scotch Whiskies Tasted ‘Double-Blind’ And Power Ranked, “I had no idea what this was (Johnnie Walker Blue Label). I do feel that had I known it was in the lineup, I’d had sussed it out and ranked it higher. So, this is a pretty good example of how double blinds really push the envelope.”  This is a good example of how a whisky’s reputation or price point can bias opinion on how good a whisky is.

Should price be a consideration?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  In the example above, Johnnie Walker Blue was ranked 6th of the 8 whiskies tasted. It carries a price tag in excess of $300.  The 5 whiskies ranked higher ranged from $100 to slightly under $300.  However, the whisky that ranked last was also by far the least expensive, priced at under $85. 

It is important to make sure that the reviewer is comparing apples to apples.  It hardly seems fair to compare a simple 10-year-old malt with a price point in the $80 range with a 25-year-old that was aged in an ex-bourbon or ex-sherry cask, in the $250 and up price range.  After all, for a difference of $200 or more, there should be a differentiating factor, otherwise why would you pay the extra money?

Finally, if the reviewer is from outside of Canada, the selection list isn’t often completely relevant.  Many of the whiskies are often not available to try.  Therefore, from a practical standpoint, a comparison or ranking of a good sampling of whiskies may be reduced to a comparison of only 2 or 3, depending on accessibility.

However, after all is said and done, reviews do provide a new perspective for consideration and thought.

Sláinte mhaith

Dinner for the April Long-Weekend

Photo credit: lcbo.com

With COVID restrictions lifting, friend and family gatherings are once again permissible.  In the event you are planning to host a spring celebration, here are some of the standard menus that have been paired with complimentary wines.

Roast Beef

The reds from Bordeaux France are a good match for the robust flavour of roast beef.  Bordeaux consists of a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and often lesser amounts of Petit Verdot, Malbec and sometimes Carmenère.  Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon will also pair well.  Younger wines will have more tannins and fuller flavour so they will be better suited for to stronger cuts of beef.

Baked Ham

Pinot Noir is typically paired with glazed baked ham as its supple flavour will not overpower the ham while its fruitiness will offset the saltiness of the meat.  Smoked ham will pair well with a Grenache, French Syrah, or even a California Zinfandel.

Roast Lamb

The stronger flavour of lamb will overwhelm the gentler wines so it is better suited to bolder reds such as a Spanish Tempranillo, South American Malbec or Australian Shiraz.

Salmon

The oily richness of salmon needs to be complimented by a wine containing sufficient acidity. One of the most classic pairings for salmon is Pinot Noir or a French red Burgundy wine.  However, Grenache, French Beaujolais, Chardonnay, French White Burgundy, Torrontés, Sauvignon Blanc or Dry Rosé will work equally as well. 

Turkey

Turkey has been traditionally served with white wine, however there are some reds that will compliment your dinner equally well.  If you choose a white, a dry Riesling will work well.  The alternative is to select a Pinot Noir or a French Burgundy.  All of these wines have enough acidity while not overpowering the turkey.

Final Thoughts

No matter what you are serving on the holiday weekend, most importantly take this opportunity to enjoy the company of friends and family as we don’t know what new COVID variant and restrictions lurk around the corner.

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Cooking with Wine

Cooking with wine was first introduced by the Romans but it is French chefs who have been credited with refining the techniques.  Even though other cultures have used wine in cooking, it is the classic French methods that have prevailed.  These include braising, deglazing, marinating and poaching.

Photo credit: WinesOfCanada.com

Braising with Wine

Braising will help to take a modest cut of meat and make it become extra special.  You can use simple cuts such as beef, lamb or pork shoulder, beef or lamb shanks, chicken thighs, beef brisket or various stewing meats. You can even use this process with vegetables.

Braising meat in butter or oil sears it to create a dark golden flavourful crust.  Wine and stock are then added and the meat is then left to simmer.  The acidity of the wine tenderizes the meat while the alcohol cooks off.

Bold flavourful red wines such as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon are best for braising as they will provide good flavour, complexity and richness to your dish. 

Deglazing with Wine

Deglazing a pan with wine is one of the easiest ways to make a sauce. Start by pan-searing chicken, pork, beef, lamb or even eggplant to brown them as described in braising above.  Once seared, add wine to the pan to loosen the caramelized brown bits.  The wine reduces and becomes concentrated in the hot pan.  In addition to helping to make a tasty sauce it helps to clean the pan.

Deglazing works best with meats and vegetables that are thick enough to brown before becoming overcooked.  Be careful not to rush the process in order to prevent charring.  A generous amount of oil in the pan will help with the browning.  Any excess can be poured off prior to adding the wine.  To give the sauce more length and flavour, stock, cream, chilled butter, sour cream, water or jam may be added.

Depending on what’s on the menu, either red or white wine may be a suitable choice.  When selecting a red however, it is important to select one with lower tannins.  Otherwise, when the wine is concentrated it will become bitter. A Pinot Noir or Gamay is always a good choice.

Marinating with Wine

Wine will infuse flavour into whatever meal you are preparing. The acidity in the wine will break down meat tissue and tenderize it.

Marinades usually consist of an acid (wine, lemon or lime juice or vinegar and oil) as well as flavour additives, such as maple syrup, soy sauce, brown sugar, herbs, spices, sesame seed oil or mustard.

The wine to use in the marinade should be selected in the same manner as you would when pairing a wine to enjoy with the dinner itself.  The meat, fish or vegetable being prepared should determine the wine selected for the marinade.  For darker meats like beef or lamb, red wine will complement their flavour.  White wines are better suited for fish, poultry or vegetables.

That being said, keep in mind that the wine needs to have enough acidity to tenderize the dish.  Either the description on the wine label or the store shelf should provide the necessary information.  If not, the store staff should be able to assist you in making the appropriate selection.

Poaching with Wine

Poaching simmers delicate foods like fish and poultry in a flavourful liquid.  The acid in wine, lemon or lime juice or vinegar helps cook the food and enhances its flavour.  The poaching liquid needs to be well seasoned and the food is often served with a sauce to give additional flavour.  The food being poached should always be simmered and be completely submerged to ensure it cooks evenly.

In order to avoid discolouration of what is being cooked, white wine is usually recommended when poaching.  Suggested grape varietals include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

Final Thoughts

When pairing the wine with what you are preparing, select a wine of the same colour and similar characteristics. Lighter dishes should be paired with a lighter bodied wine while heavier dishes should be combined with medium or full-bodied wines.

No matter what you are preparing and how you are preparing it, keep in mind that you will also want to drink it.  Most recipes don’t require an entire bottle of wine so what’s left should be something that you will enjoy drinking.

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Wine’s “Best Before” Date

Photo credit: CanadianTire.ca

As a follow-up to my blog “To Age or Not to Age” from January 15th, I have put together a list of generally accepted retention times for common varietals of white and red wine. However, proper storage methods need to be followed in order to best achieve these results.  Refer to Wine Storage Options for information on how best to retain wine.

The information provided here refers to the length of time a wine can be retained, not the length of time a wine will necessarily continue to be enhanced.  In certain instances some vintages may be retained longer while others should be drunk shortly after purchase.

White Wine

There are a several white wine varietals that age well. The most renowned is Chardonnay, which gets its ability to age from a combination of higher acidity paired with oak-aging.

Sémillon is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc in the white blend of Bordeaux. Sémillon has been shown to age gracefully and develop interesting nutty flavours over time.

Riesling is Germany’s aromatic and often subtly sweet white has proven to do well during aging. As it matures it turns a rich yellow colour with aromas of petrol.  It may sound disgusting but tastes wonderful.

White Rioja or Rioja Blanca is a white wine that begins with citrus and mineral flavours but then becomes increasingly rich and flavourful with age.

Chenin Blanc wines from France’s Loire Valley have produced some great choices of wines suitable for aging. There are also some new options from South Africa that are making a name for themselves.

Fortified dessert wines tend to age longer than stilled wines. Sherry, Madeira and some Marsala have shown to improve in flavour over decades.  There are several botrytized white wines such as Sauternes and Riesling that age nicely for up to 30 years.

Drink Within 1 to 3 Years

  • Albariño
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Grüner Veltliner
  • Moscato
  • Pinot Gris/Grigio
  • Prosecco
  • Dry Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Torrontés
  • Verdicchio
  • Vermentino
  • Vinho Verde

Drink Within 3 to 5 Years

  • Alsace White
  • White Bordeaux
  • Oaked Chardonnay
  • Oaked South African Chenin Blanc
  • Sémillon
  • Trebbiano
  • Oaked Sauvignon Blanc

Drink Within 5 to 10 Years

  • Oaked Grüner Veltliner
  • Kerner
  • Muscat
  • Oaked Albariño
  • Sweet Loire Valley Chenin Blanc
  • Hungarian Furmint
  • White Bordeaux
  • Burgundy Oaked Chardonnay
  • Chablis
  • Auslese German Riesling
  • White Cotes du Rhône
  • White Rioja/ Rioja Blanca

Drink Within 10 to 20 Years

  • High quality Chablis
  • Beerenauslese Riesling
  • Ice Wine
  • Late Harvest Riesling
  • Sauternes
  • Rutherglen Muscat
  • Vendage Tardive Alsace

Some red wines with high acidity and high tannin are perfect to lay down and age for a few years.   Here are some red wines that are known to age well:

Cabernet Sauvignon has a high range of variability because there are a wide range of quality levels and regions. Look for wines with deep color, a higher level of acidity, balanced alcohol levels and noticeable tannins.

Merlot will age in a similar manner as Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines become softer and often smokier with age. Right-bank Bordeaux wines are a great place to start when looking to find cellarable Merlot.

Monastrell/Mourvèdre has extremely high tannins and colour. In the Bandol region of Provence, France, this grape doesn’t usually fully develop its taste until after at least 10 years of aging.

Tempranillo is one of the best varieties for long-term aging.

Sangiovese is another top-notch grape variety to age long-term because of its spicy acidity. Over time it will mellow out and produce sweet fig-like notes.

Nebbiolo grapes produce wines with incredibly high tannins that softens and seems to sweeten over time.  Barolo and Barbaresco are great examples of wines made with Nebbiolo grapes that age extremely well.

Red Wine

Drink Within 1 to 3 Years

  • Beaujolais
  • Dolcetto
  • Gamay
  • Lambrusco
  • Primitivo

Drink Within 3 to 5 Years

  • Barbera
  • Cotes du Rhône
  • Garnacha
  • New world Merlot
  • Petit Syrah
  • Most Pinot Noir
  • Crianza Rioja
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

Drink Within 5 to 10 Years

  • Most Cabernet Franc
  • Carmenere
  • Chianti
  • Grenache
  • Malbec
  • Old World Merlot
  • Pinotage
  • Reserva Rioja
  • Sangiovese-based wine
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo

Drink Within 10 to 20 Years

  • Amarone
  • Bandol
  • Barbaresco
  • Barolo
  • Red Bordeaux
  • Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre)
  • Brunello di Montalcino
  • Douro reds
  • Most Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Dulce Monastrell (sweet red)
  • Nebbiolo
  • Red Port
  • Some Sangiovese
  • Some Tempranillo

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An Italian Region Revival

The ancient Italian wine region of Basilicata is undergoing a revival thanks to a new generation of wine makers. Although wine has been commercially produced there for over a century it is not well known, but that may be about to change.

Photo credit: winefolly.com

Basilicata is a mountainous region located in the south, stretching north from the arch of Italy’s boot.  Its climate is dominated by the Alps of the north rather than the warmer climate of the south.  The region’s wineries are scattered around the extinct Monte Vulture volcano.

The region is primarily a red grape growing region predominately consisting of:

  • 42% Aglianico del Vulture
  • 8% Sangiovese
  • 5% Aglianico
  • 4% Primitivo
  • 3% Montepulciano
  • 3% Italica
  • 2% Malvasia
  • 2% Trebbiano Giallo
  • 1% each of
    • Malvasia Bianca di Basilicata
    • Barbera
    • Malvasia Nera di Brindisi
    • Moscato Giallo
    • Merlot
    • Cabernet Sauvignon

Basilicata has two major wines: Aglianico del Vulture Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), established in 1971, and the Superiore Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), which was established in 2010.  In total there are only four DOC wines and one DOCG wine produced in the region.

If you are interested in trying the wines of Basilicata, keep an eye for any of these though they are often difficult to come by:

  • Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG
  • Aglianico del Vulture DOC
  • Matera DOC
  • Grottino di Roccanova
  • Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri DOC

You are more apt to find these wines in the specialty section of your wine store as they will not be available on a day-to-day basis.  Happy hunting!

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The Styles of Irish Whiskey

In recognition of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day, I decided it is a good time to discuss the different styles of Irish Whiskey.  As with most things Irish, there is disagreement as to how many styles of whiskey there are; some would argue there are four, while others claim only three.

Photo credit: Forbes.com

I will begin this discussion by identifying the three styles that all the experts agree upon.  Those are malt, pot still and grain.  The debated fourth style is a blended combination of two or more of the other three styles.  Those who argue that there are only three styles base their argument on the fact that blends can only exist because they are the product of a combination of the other three styles.

Below are definitions of all four styles, as well as examples of each.  The whiskies highlighted in blue are periodically available in Canadian liquor stores.

Single Malt Whiskey

Malt whiskey is produced from 100% malted barley. It is double or triple distilled in copper pot stills. To qualify as single malt, the whiskey must be made in its entirety at one distillery. Irish single malts are typically soft in texture, smooth, sweet, and malty in flavour.

Examples of single malt whiskies include Bushmills single malt, Knappogue Castle single malt, Connemara 12 Single Malt, Teeling Single Malt, West Cork, Tyrconnell and The Sexton.

Single Pot Still Whiskey

This style is unique to Ireland.  It is made from a mash of at least 30% malted and 30% unmalted barley, which gives pot still its characteristic full-rounded and spicy flavour. In addition to the barley, the mash may contain up to 5% of other cereal grains, such as rye or oats. The mash is fermented and then double or triple distilled in copper pot stills.

Examples of single pot whiskies include Redbreast, Powers John’s Lane and Powers Three Swallow, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy, Green Spot, Yellow Spot, Red Spot, Blue Spot, Drumshanbo and Teeling.

Single Grain Whiskey

Unlike pot still and malts, grain whiskey is distilled using a column still instead of a copper pot still. This produces a spirit that is lighter and cleaner in body and sweeter in taste. It is most often distilled from a base of corn (maize) with up to 30% malted barley added. Other grains such as wheat or oats may also be used.

Single grain whiskey must be made at a single distillery.

Examples of single grain whiskies include Kilbeggan Single Grain, Teeling Single Grain, The Busker, Clonakilty Bordeaux Cask, Egan’s Vintage Grain and Glendalough Double Barrel.

Blended Whiskey

A blended Irish whiskey should not be automatically considered to be inferior to a single grain, single malt or pot still whiskey. The success of the blend comes down to the quality of the whiskeys it is contrived of and the skill of the blender who creates it.  A blend is a mixture of two or more styles of Irish whiskey. There are no specific names to differentiate between blends made from malt and grain, pot still and grain, malt and pot still, or even malt, pot still and grain.

Blends are often light when grain whiskey is included in the mix, while the addition of pot still or malt whiskey will give body and complexity. Blended whiskeys can be a great alternative to a single pot still or single malt whiskey, which may be too rich or intense in flavour.  Blended whiskey is generally smooth, mellow and silky.

Blended whiskey may be distilled in pot and/or column stills and can be made at a single distillery or multiple distilleries.

Blended whiskey examples include Jameson, Powers Gold Label, Clontarf, Bushmills Black Bush, Teeling Small Batch, Writers’ Tears Copper Pot, Dubliner Bourbon Bask, The Irishman Founder’s Reserve, The Busker ‘Triple Cask Triple Smooth’, The Dubliner, and Teeling Blackpitts.

If you are a whiskey fan and have not tried all four variations of Irish Whiskey, you owe it to yourself to sample them all.  You may discover a new favourite.

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Canada’s Liquid Gold

Ontario is internationally acclaimed for its Ice Wine (also spelled Icewine).  However, it is said to have been discovered by accident in Franken, Germany in 1794 by farmers trying to save their grape harvest after a sudden frost.  Winemakers that year had to create a product from the grapes available for harvest. The resulting wines had an unusually high sugar content, along with great flavour. As a result, this new technique became popular in Germany and by the mid-1800s, the Rheingau region was making what the Germans called Eiswein.

Photo credit: TheDrinksBusiness.com

In the 1980s, Ontario’s vintners recognized that their cold winters would provide the perfect conditions for producing exceptional Ice Wine.  In 1984, Niagara’s Inniskillin winery was the first Canadian winery to produce Ice Wine for commercial purposes. This wine was made from Vidal grapes and was labelled “Eiswein”. Canadian Ice Wine soon became popular and more Canadian producers picked up the idea. The international breakthrough of Canadian Ice Wine came in 1991, when Inniskillin’s 1989 Vidal ice wine won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at VinExpo in Bordeaux, France. By the early 2000s, Canada was established as the largest producer of ice wine in the world. In 2001, the EU recognized Canada’s high standard for producing Ice Wine and began allowing its importation.

At the normal fall harvest time, producers leave select vineyards unharvested and wait for winter to set in. Being left on the vine, the grapes are vulnerable to rot, high winds, hail, hungry birds and animals.  The grapes are harvested in the middle of the night at temperatures below -8°C.  The grapes are picked by hand and must be pressed immediately while they are still frozen.

Only about 10 to 20% of the liquid in these frozen grapes is used for Ice Wine. The juice is so sweet that it can take from 3 to 6 months to make ice wine.  When it’s all done, wines have around 10% alcohol by volume (ABV) and a range of sweetness from around 160 to 220 grams/litre of residual sugar, which is two times the sweetness of Coca-Cola.

Grapes that grow well in cold climates make the best ice wines.  These include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc.

To produce Ice Wine, summers must be hot and winters must be cold. Of all the wine-producing regions in the world, only Ontario has a winter climate consistently cold enough to produce Ice Wine every year. Even Germany cannot produce an Ice Wine every vintage.

Regulations in Canada, Germany, Austria, and the U.S. prohibit dessert wines from being labeled as ice wine if grapes are commercially frozen. Instead, these products are usually labeled as “iced wine” or simply “dessert wine.” So, if you’re looking for true ice wine, be a wary shopper and read the labels or look up the production information.

Ice Wine is not just a dessert wine, but if you do serve it along side dessert, make sure the dessert is less sweet than the Ice Wine.  Pairing suggestions include fruit cobbler or pie or cheesecake.  White Ice Wine goes well with apple pie, cheesecake, vanilla pound cake, ice cream, fresh fruit panna cotta, fruit compote, crème brûlée and white chocolate mousse.

If you are serving dark chocolate, it pairs well with Cabernet Franc or other red Ice Wine.  White chocolate goes well with a Riesling or Vidal Ice Wine.

White Ice Wine pairs well with savoury dishes, such as chicken liver pâté, oysters or foie gras.  These salty foods enhance the wine’s sweetness.  The acidity of the Ice Wine cleanses the palate between bites.

Spicy foods, such as spicy chicken or Thai curry will pair well because the sweetness of the wine will control the heat of the food while maintaining the flavours of the spices.

White Ice Wine pairs well with snack foods such as soft cheeses or blue cheeses.  Red Ice Wine goes well with nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans.

Ice Wine should always be chilled, whether that be for 15 minutes in an ice bucket or 2 hours in the fridge before enjoying.  It can be served in an Ice Wine glass, which is a narrow, tulip-shaped long-stemmed glass or it can be simply served in a white wine glass.  A standard serving is about 1.5 ounces or 45 ml per person.

Once opened, unlike other wines, Ice Wine will keep in the fridge for several weeks.

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The Colour of Wine Bottles

Wine bottles come in a variety of colours but the most common ones come in shades of green, brown, and clear. Winemakers will consider several factors when choosing between the colours of wine bottles to use. The decision will be based on aesthetics (packaging), whether or not to showcase the wine’s colour, the level of required UV protection and any consumer expectations such as traditional European bottling concepts.

Some wines are fermented in the bottle while others are bottled after fermentation. In recent years the bottle size has been standardized, measuring 750 millilitres. Wine bottles are produced, however, in a variety of volumes and shapes.

Many European winemakers base their glass colour selection on tradition.   However, some vintners select a glass colour on visual aesthetics, design and packaging. Others choose a bottle based on the colour schemes associated with the label design or a presentation that fits a certain marketing goal. For example, occasionally you may come across a blue bottle, which is driven by marketing. Flint/clear bottles may also fall into this category because the clear glass is the only way to showcase the colour of the wine.

Photo credit: BruniGlass.com

Producers need to choose between a clear bottle that displays the wine colour or a dark coloured bottle colour that provides UV protection. Wine is sensitive to both sunlight and fluorescent light.  As little as a single hour of sunlight can cause lightstruck, which impacts the flavour of a wine. This can cause wine to taste like rotting leaves, cooked cabbage, leeks, onions, skunk, wet wool or soy.

Certain grape varietals, wine styles, and wines that have more amino acids or hydrogen disulphide (H2S) are more at risk to develop off-flavours. Because of this, sparkling wine is rarely bottled in clear glass. Since aromatic and neutral white wines are delicate, you can taste any off flavours more easily.

Not surprisingly, clear/flint bottles filter the least amount of light, resulting in more light damage than other glass colours. Wines bottled in flint/clear glass are meant for immediate consumption. Tests on white and sparkling wines bottled in flint/clear glass and trials show that citrus aromas in wines decrease and off-flavors increase after only 3.3 – 3.4 hours of exposure to fluorescent lights.

Clear colourless bottles have recently become popular with white wine producers in many countries including Greece, New Zealand and Canada, as well as for sweet white wines from Bordeaux.

Antique/Dark Green Glass

Antique Green is a darker shade of green that is the traditional glass colour for red wines that need to age, including the red wines from Bordeaux, Rhone and Burgundy, France.  It is also popular in the U.S. as it provides the wine with UV protection from fading or oxidation.

Many white wines also come in dark green bottles in order to reduce the effects of UV light.

Champagne/Vibrant Green

Champagne Green is a vibrant green that is the dominate colour used in the Champagne and Alsace regions of France. It is also commonly used within Germany and Austria for bottling Riesling and in California for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Champagne Green filters out 63% to 92% of UV light.

Dead Leaf/Pale Yellowy Green

The third shade of green is Dead Leaf Green which is almost a light yellowy-green colour. This shade of green provides some UV protection and is traditionally used for white wines. It is one of the traditional glass colours for wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, France.

Wine in a colourless bottle is meant to be drunk right away, not stored and aged.

Amber Brown Glass

Amber/brown glass filters out 97% to98% of the light wavelengths and offers the best UV protection but is rarely used outside of the Rhine region of Germany. If wineries were always basing their decision on the glass that best protects their wine, amber brown coloured bottles would be the most common bottle used.

Final Thought

The choice of colour for a wine bottle depends on several considerations and each winery selects the colour(s) that they feel are right for them and their brand. Their choice is based on their priorities between marketing, tradition, wine integrity or a combination of the best practices in each area. Those decisions impact your wine experience.

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Wine with Pasta

Photo credit: NicoBoston.com

Pairing wine with pasta is somewhat of a misnomer as what you are really doing is pairing the wine with the pasta sauce. For the purposes of today’s discussion I will stick to the basics, focusing on five common types of pasta sauce:

  • Tomato
  • Cheese
  • Seafood
  • Pesto (herbs)
  • Primavera (vegetable)

Tomato-Based Pasta

The tomatoes in these sauces make them high in acidity.  Because of this, a relatively tart but not too heavy wine is often best suited for these dishes.  If you want an Italian wine, Primitivo, Sangiovese or Chianti would go well.  Other options include Grenache, American Zinfandel or a French Rhône blend.

Cheese-Based Pasta

Cheese is very versatile and pairs well with either red or white wine.  It is best to pair the cheese with a wine having similar characteristics.  For example, creamy cheeses, such as ricotta, will go well with an oaked Chardonnay or Italian Trebbiano.  Light body red wines compliment sauces made with hard cheese.  Some suggestions are Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Langhe Nebbiolo.

For additional cheese pairing ideas see my blog Cheese Pairings from March 6, 2021.

Seafood Pasta

For everything except tomato-based seafood dishes, a lighter weight, acidic white wine is the ideal choice.  Options include Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio, Grenache Blanc, Muscadet, Verdiccio or Vernaccia.  For tomato-based dishes a Rosé is a good option.

Pesto or Herb Pasta

Although pine nut and basil pesto is probably the most common of the herb pasta sauces, other options include basil and walnut, parsley and pistachio and peanut and cilantro.  A white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Austrian Grüner Veltliner would be a good choice.

Primavera Pasta

Primavera sauce may consist of a variety of vegetables such as onions, garlic ramps or artichokes.  For non-tomato based primavera sauces, a flavourful white wine is well suited.  Options include Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino and Trebbiano di Luana.  For tomato-based primavera, follow the suggestions for tomato-based pasta above.

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Triumph to Tragedy

My wife and I recently hosted a family dinner and for the occasion I asked my wife to purchase a Riesling to go along with it.  One of the challenges of living in a rural community is that the local liquor store doesn’t have a lot of choices when in search of a particular varietal. She returned home with Tawse 2017 Sketches of Niagara Riesling. 

When we opened and served the wine with the dinner my wife and I identified the bouquet right away, diesel fuel.  My wife was immediately turned off by it while I became positively excited.  This was the first Ontario Riesling that I have had that authentically portrays its Old-World style German cousin.

The wine was vibrant with subtle floral, nutty, fig, smoke and pear notes, a soft sweetness and long finish.   It is a great value at only $18.95.  Even though my wife was not a fan of the nose of a traditional German style Riesling, she did enjoy the overall flavour of the wine.

When I clicked on Tawse website to see if I could learn more about their German style Riesling, I saw that their wine maker, Paul Pender, had been tragically killed several days prior.  I never had the opportunity of meeting him but after tasting the Riesling, as well as other wonderful creations from Tawse, I certainly wish I had.  His untimely passing is a tragic loss to the entire wine community.

If you are a fan of Riesling, I suggest picking up a bottle or two of the Sketches of Niagara as a tribute to its creator.

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