The Mysteries of the Wine World

Given the severe winter storm that is expected to arrive later today and the power outages that are anticipated to accompany it, I am publishing the blog earlier this week.

The world of wine can be intimidating, appear complicated and very mysterious.  Understanding the flavours of the large number of grape varieties and complicated regional appellations can be somewhat daunting.

Photo credit: theundergroundbottleshop.com

If you’ve been firmly staying within your comfort zone and continually drinking the same type of wine, it’s time for a change.  Although it’s great to have a safe choice or two, it is good to explore new horizons. There is an exciting world of wine ready to be discovered.

If you insist on staying with the same grape variety, then try wines from different regions and styles. For example, if you normally drink a California Chardonnay, try an Australian one or a French Chablis.  If an Australian Shiraz is your preference, sample a French Syrah. For great Merlot, consider lesser-known varieties with similar flavour profiles, such as Spanish Mencía or Saperavi, an ancient red grape from Georgia. Pinot Noir enthusiasts should explore those wines of Burgundy France, Oregon, New Zealand, Australia or Argentina.  Region can have a great influence on character and flavour.

The total experience, from purchase to consumption, can affect your perception of the wine you are drinking.  Grocery stores are great for picking up a few cans or bottles of your favourite coolers or beer, but not a great option when purchasing wine.  To best ensure that you have a good buying experience, always go to a good quality liquor store or specialty wine shop that has knowledgeable staff. You can ask for advice and receive suggestions, especially if you become a regular at a place with experienced and well-trained employees.

To help you select a good bottle, don’t be afraid to ask about new products or releases, innovative winemakers and local wines, or ask for pairing suggestions for an upcoming dinner. You can help the staff understand your likes by revealing your favourite varieties and styles.  One thing to remember is that there are good wines in every price range so don’t be intimidated by wanting to stay within a specific price range.

Regarding price, it is one of the most common misconceptions about wine. People often have the perception that more expensive wines taste better.  Purchasing wine varietals that you like from less familiar locations can save you money.  Instead of buying wine from the most popular regions, discover reasonably priced quality wines from new, smaller or less popular regions.  For example, Chardonnay (Chablis) from France or California tends to be more costly than a wine of the same varietal from Australia or South Africa. 

When reading the label on the bottle, resist the urge to simply purchase one with an attractive label or an intriguing name.  Neither of these are an indicator of the quality and character of the wine. 

The label will tell you whether it is an Old World or New World wine.  Old World wines are from Europe whereas New World wines are from anywhere but Europe.  New World wine labels will generally identify the actual varietal or varietals that the wine consists of.  In contrast, Old World European wines indicate the regional appellation where it was produced.  Examples would include Bordeaux or Burgundy from France, Chianti from Italy or Rioja from Spain.  However, there are many more appellations.  Back in the blog archives are posts on the various wine regions of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc. that identify which grape varietals are produced in each region.

Recognizing the name of the wine producer or importer may give you a hint about the quality of the wine, but location and grape variety will provide the best idea of what to expect in a bottle.

The labels will also display the vintage, which indicates the year the grapes were harvested. When purchasing a wine to be enjoyed in the immediate or near future, the vintage doesn’t reveal much about quality.   There is a common misconception that older wines are always better.  Though this applies to some bold wines that need time to rest before reaching their full potential, it represents only about ten percent of wines produced.

Whether a wine bottle has a cork stopper or screw cap is not an indicator of a wine’s quality.  Though cork has been the traditional method for sealing bottles, it is not necessarily the best way.  There are both pros and cons to both methods and neither comes out as a clear winner.  My blog, Cork versus Screw Cap from January 8, 2022, presents the arguments for both.

Lastly, when selecting a wine at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask the wine steward or sommelier for advice.  These are typically well-informed individuals who are there to share their knowledge so take advantage of their presence to receive expert advice.  They will help you select a wine that will both suit your palate and complement the food.

Sláinte mhaith

British Columbia’s Movers and Shakers for 2022

Here is my list of what I consider to be British Columbia’s most noteworthy wineries 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.

However, there are many more great wineries in the province.  These are just the ones that I paid particular attention to this year.

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

Black Hills Estate Winery

Black Hills Estate Winery vineyards have some of the most favourable grape growing conditions in the country, located in the middle of Canada’s only official desert. The resulting microclimate provides one of the hottest, driest and sunniest sites in the country.

Black Hills irrigation techniques and viticulture practices provide ideal growing conditions for the Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.

Black Hills grows four clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, two clones of Cabernet Franc and four clones of Merlot. Each clone has a unique flavour profile. When they are blended together, this Clonal diversity gives multi-faceted depth and complexity to the wine.

Black Hills is committed to sustainable, environmentally friendly farming and winemaking practices. All the vines are hand picked, hand pruned and manually maintained. They have been awarded Environmental Farm Plan Status by the British Columbia Environmental Farm Plan, which is administered by the Federal and Provincial Departments of Agriculture, as well as the BC Agriculture Council and the Investment Agriculture Foundation.

Black Hill’s 2022 award winning wines include:

  • Black Hills 2020 Addendum
  • Black Hills 2020 Chardonnay
  • Black Hills 2020 Ipso Facto
  • Black Hills 2020 Per Se
  • Black Hills 2020 Roussanne
  • Black Hills 2021 Alibi

CedarCreek Estate Winery (Ranked 1st at The National Wine Awards)

CedarCreek was named Winery of the Year at the 2022 National Wine Awards. The award was earned based on the number of wines receiving awards as well as for their approach to growing grapes and producing their wine.

CedarCreek works to build a healthy ecosystem, utilizing animals and plants to naturally combat disease or pests. Cover crops, like alfalfa and crimson, keep the soil healthy while animals bring a diversity and balance to the land.

Bees pollinate cover crops and wildflowers contributing to the diversity of the vineyard and helping eliminate the need for synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.  Chickens eat many unwanted pests and help scratch and aerate the soil and their eggs are served in the winery’s restaurant.

There are three Scottish Highland cows that wander the vineyard rows breaking up the soil.  Also, their manure is good for compost and attracting beneficial bugs and birds. Their Scottish roots make them a hearty stock, comfortable in the cool Okanagan winters and known for their friendly temperament.

CedarCreek’s 2022 award winning wines include:

  • CedarCreek 2019 Aspect Collection Block 5 Chardonnay
  • CedarCreek 2020 Aspect Collection Block 3 Riesling
  • CedarCreek 2020 Platinum Jagged Rock Chardonnay
  • CedarCreek 2020 Platinum Jagged Rock Syrah
  • CedarCreek 2021 Pinot Noir Rosé
  • CedarCreek 2021 Platinum Home Block Riesling

La Frenz Estate Winery (5th at The National Wine Awards)

La Frenz was the Small Winery of the Year at the 2017 National Wine Awards. They are located on the Naramata Bench in the heart of the Okanagan Valley.  Over time the winery has grown to encompass 17 hectares across four different vineyard sites, each with its own distinctive soils and aspects.

Their 2022 award winning wines include:

  • La Frenz 2018 Aster Brut
  • La Frenz 2019 Cabernets Rockyfeller Vineyard
  • La Frenz 2019 Grand Total Reserve
  • La Frenz 2019 Malbec Rockyfeller Vineyard
  • La Frenz 2019 Syrah Rockyfeller Vineyard
  • La Frenz 2020 Pinot Noir Desperation Hill Vineyard
  • La Frenz 2020 Reserve Vivant
  • La Frenz 2021 Riesling Cl. 49 Rockyfeller Vineyard
  • La Frenz 2021 Semillon Knorr Vineyard
  • La Frenz Liqueur Muscat

Mission Hill Family Estate (4th at The National Wine Awards)

Mission Hill is the only winery to appear on both my 2020 and 2021 Movers and Shakers list.

Mission Hill follows organic farming practices.  Bees, falcon, and chickens replace pesticides and insecticides. Cover crops, earthworms and compost are used in place of chemical fertilizers.

Their practices are fundamentally rooted in Old World techniques supported with modern technology.  The winemaking team continuously innovates, combining fermentation and maturation vessel traditions with future trends.

The 2022 award winning wines includes:

  • Mission Hill 2020 Perpetua Chardonnay
  • Mission Hill 2020 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Mission Hill 2020 Reserve Merlot
  • Mission Hill 2020 Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Syrah
  • Mission Hill 2021 Reserve Riesling

SpearHead Winery (3rd at The National Wine Awards)

SpearHead was named Best Performing Small Winery at this year’s National Wine Awards.  Their focus is on premium quality wine produced from grapes grown on their estate vineyard and from selected Okanagan Valley vineyards. The hand harvested grapes are sorted at the winery and fermented in small lots.

Approximately 80% of the 15 acres of vines is comprised of Pinot Noir, including four different Dijon clones, 2 California heritage clones and Pommard.  This combination of plantings enables their wine maker to select from the different characteristics exhibited by the clones in order to create a harmonious, complex Pinot Noir from the home vineyard.  They also draw from several other vineyards in the Okanagan including Golden Retreat in Summerland and Coyote Vineyard in West Kelowna.

They have extended their wine making methods to other varietals including Chardonnay, which is made from a single clone. 

Spearhead’s 2022 award winning wines include:

  • SpearHead 2019 Botrytis Affected Late Harvest Riesling
  • SpearHead 2019 Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • SpearHead 2019 Golden Retreat Pinot Noir
  • SpearHead 2019 Pinot Noir Cuvée
  • SpearHead 2020 Clone 95 Chardonnay
  • SpearHead 2020 Club Consensus Pinot Noir
  • SpearHead 2020 Pinot Gris Golden Retreat Vineyard
  • SpearHead 2020 Riesling
  • SpearHead 2020 Saddle Block Chardonnay

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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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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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The 2022 National Wine Awards

The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC) is Canada’s largest and most respected competition for wines which are one hundred percent grown and produced in Canada. Niagara Falls, Ontario was the host of this year’s event, which took place from June 19th to 23rd, with results published on July 29th.

This year’s awards were the first to be conducted since 2019 without the influence or restrictions from the pandemic. 

There were 24 judges who tasted 1,890 entries from more than 250 wineries. The entries came from British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The wines were all served blind; producer, origin, and price were not revealed to the judges. The top medalists were tasted in multiple rounds by many different judges.

The top ten wineries are presented below, along with a listing of their Platinum and Gold medal wines.  For a complete listing of all the winning wines please see the Canadian Wine Awards website, at www.winealign.com/awards.

The 2022 winery of the year is CedarCreek Estate Winery, located in East Kelowna, British Columbia.  The winery first opened in 1980, then known as Uniacke Wines. In 1986 it was purchased by the Fitzpatrick family, who changed the name to CedarCreek, and began planting some of the earliest pinot noir vines in the valley.

Over five years ago CedarCreek embarked on a massive refit converting the family-owned Estate vineyards to organic farming that encompasses every aspect of the winery, from regenerative farming and sustainable viticulture to farm-to-bottle craftsmanship in their wine cellar.  As of 2021, all vineyards were Ecocert certified.

CedarCreek has partnered with local environmentalists to collect native plant seeds from the property – the seeds are used for fundraising, for native plant re-establishment on other sites, and at the boundaries of new vineyards to support biodiversity.

The estate is the home of five Scottish Highland Cows, a flock of chickens, beehives, worm farms and cover crops to create a thriving ecosystem.

CedarCreek was awarded two Platinum Medals, four Gold, eight Silver and five Bronze.

Platinum Medal

  • CedarCreek Platinum Jagged Rock Syrah 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • CedarCreek Aspect Collection Block 5 Chardonnay 2019, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • CedarCreek Platinum Jagged Rock Chardonnay 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • CedarCreek Aspect Collection Block 3 Riesling 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • CedarCreek Pinot Noir Rose 2021, Okanagan Valley
  • CedarCreek Platinum Home Block Riesling 2021, Okanagan Valley

Rounding out the top ten producers for 2022 were the following wineries:

The second-place finisher was Ontario’s 13th Street Winery, who was awarded 2 Platinum, 2 Gold, 7 Silver and 9 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • 13th Street Reserve Syrah 2020, Niagara Peninsula
  • 13th Street Premier Cuvee 2015, Niagara Peninsula

Gold Medal

  • 13th Street Gamay 2020, Niagara Peninsula
  • 13th Street Blanc De Blanc 2019, Niagara Peninsula

Third was British Columbia’s SpearHead Winery that had 1 Platinum, 7 Gold, 3 Silver and 5 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Spearhead Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • Spearhead Botrytis Affected Late Harvest Riesling 2019, Okanagan Valley (375ml)
  • Spearhead Pinot Noir Cuvée 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • Spearhead Golden Retreat Pinot Noir 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • Spearhead Pinot Gris Golden Retreat Vineyard 2020, Okanagan Valley

In fourth position was British Columbia’s Mission Hill Family Estate which earned 1 Platinum, 4 Gold and 9 Silver medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Mission Hill Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Syrah 2020, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • Mission Hill Reserve Riesling 2021, Okanagan Valley
  • Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2020, Okanagan Valley

The fifth-place winery was British Columbia’s La Frenz Estate Winery which won 1 Platinum, 9 Gold and 8 Silver medals.

Platinum Medal

  • La Frenz Syrah Rockyfeller Vineyard 2019, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • La Frenz Malbec Rockyfeller Vineyard 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Grand Total Reserve 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Aster Brut 2018, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Reserve Vivant 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Pinot Noir Desperation Hill Vineyard 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Semillon Knorr Vineyard 2021, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Riesling Cl. 49 Rockyfeller Vineyard 2021, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Cabernets Rockyfeller Vineyard 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • La Frenz Liqueur Muscat, Okanagan Valley (375ml)

The sixth-place finisher was Ontario’s Vieni Estates which had 1 Platinum, 4 Gold, 2 Silver and 9 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Vieni Riesling 2020, Vinemount Ridge

Gold Medal

  • Vieni Cabernet Franc 2018, Vinemount Ridge
  • Vieni Cabernet Franc Reserve 2017, Vinemount Ridge
  • Vieni Pinot Grigio 2021, Vinemount Ridge
  • Vieni Unoaked Chardonnay 2019, Vinemount Ridge

In seventh position was British Columbia’s Black Hills Estate Winery, with a record of 1 Platinum, 5 Gold, 3 Silver and 3 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Black Hills Ipso Facto 2020, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • Black Hills Per Se 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Black Hills Chardonnay 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Black Hills Roussanne 2020, Okanagan Valley
  • Black Hills Addendum 2020, BC VQA Okanagan Valley
  • Black Hills Alibi 2021, Okanagan Valley

The eighth spot went to British Columbia’s Fort Berens Estate Winery which earned 1 Platinum, 3 Gold, 2 Silver and 6 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Fort Berens Pinot Noir 2020

Gold Medal

  • Fort Berens Small Lot Grüner Veltliner 2021, Lillooet
  • Fort Berens Merlot Reserve 2019, Lillooet
  • Fort Berens Merlot 2019

The ninth-place position went to British Columbia’s Bordertown Vineyards & Estate Winery which had 1 Platinum, 3 Gold, 3 Silver and 3 Bronze medals.

Platinum Medal

  • Bordertown Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Okanagan Valley

Gold Medal

  • Bordertown Cabernet Franc 2019, BC VQA Okanagan Valley
  • Bordertown Malbec 2019, Okanagan Valley
  • Bordertown Syrah 2019, Okanagan Valley

Earning the tenth spot was Ontario’s Thirty Bench Wine Makers with 6 Gold, 7 Silver and 1 Bronze medal.

Gold Medal

  • Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Cabernet Franc 2020, Niagara Peninsula
  • Thirty Bench Special Select Late Harvest 2019 (375ml)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Wood Post Vineyard 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2020, VQA Beamsville Bench
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Triangle Vineyard 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench

The best performing small winery award goes to the winery with a production of 10,000 cases or less that chalked up the highest aggregate score for its five top-scoring wines.  This year the award was presented to the Okanagan Valley’s SpearHead Winery.  SpearHead 2019 Coyote Vineyard Pinot Noir took a coveted Platinum Medal.  In addition to this, SpearHead wines received seven Gold, three Silver and five Bronze medals.

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Ontario Wine Get-Aways

If you ever have the desire to relax and immerse yourself in any of Ontario’s wine regions, an overnight stay at a winery may prove to be ‘the icing on the cake’.  If you would like to consider pursuing this idea, here are some Ontario wineries, organized by region, that offer accommodations at the winery.

NIAGARA REGION

13th Street Winery (Escarpment and Area)

1776 Fourth Avenue

St. Catharines, Ontario L2R 6P9

Celebrating over 20 years of winemaking in Niagara, 13th Street Winery’s mission is to create exceptional wines that reflect the unique terroir of Niagara. They provide a unique blend of wine, food and art. You can experience the tasting bar, wander the sculpture gardens or relax with a glass of wine.

For accommodations, there is a choice of two contemporary houses, both offering private, luxurious accommodations. Both are set amongst the vineyards on the winery estate. Each house sleeps up to eight guests and include a fully equipped kitchen, living room, expansive deck and 3 ½ baths. The Cottage has 3 bedrooms and the Farmhouse has 4. Both are available to book on Air Bnb.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • King’s Court Estate Winery
  • Creekside Estate Winery
  • 16 Mile Cellar
  • 13th Street Bakery & Farmhouse Bistro
  • The Deck at Creekside Estate Winery
  • Inn on the Twenty
  • Alvento Winery Vineyard Villa

Alvento Winery (Escarpment and Area)

3048 2nd Avenue

Vineland Station, Ontario L0R 2E0

Alvento Winery was established in 2001.  It offers visitors a unique boutique wine country experience. This 13-acre vineyard features an authentic 19th Century barn with a renovated tasting room, as well as unique, luxurious accommodation in the four-room, picturesque Bed & Breakfast.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Di Profio Estate Wines
  • Harbour Estates Winery
  • Honsberger
  • Zinc Bistro at Di Profio Estate Wines
  • The Harbour Patio at Harbour Estates Winery
  • Inn on the Twenty
  • Accommodations at Vineland Estates

Cave Springs Winery (Escarpment and Area)

3836 Main Street

Jordan, Ontario L0R 1S0

Cave Spring is located in the centre of Jordan Village. The wines capture the terroir of this prime sub-appellation. Visitors may enjoy an intimate, seated experience in the tasting room, featuring curated wine flights paired with local charcuterie.

The Estate House at Cave Spring Vineyard is a stunning Victorian-style farmhouse located at the heart of the vineyard. Nestled high on the Beamsville Bench of the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Lake Ontario, it offers some breathtaking vistas of Niagara wine country. It is a fully equipped, self-catered rental with many of the region’s top estate wineries within a 15-minute drive and hiking on the Bruce Trail literally on your doorstep.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Di Profio Estate Wines
  • Honsberger
  • Stoney Ridge Estate Winery
  • 2027 Cellars
  • Inn On The Twenty Restaurant
  • Jordan House Tavern
  • Inn on the Twenty
  • Alvento Winery Vineyard Villa

Commisso Estate Winery (Escarpment and Area)

564 Kemp Road East

Beamsville, Ontario L0R 1B2

Commisso Estate is a 32-acre estate winery and Bed & Breakfast located on the 75-year-old Commisso farm at the top of the Niagara Escarpment in the heart of wine country.  The winery focuses on premium, small-lot VQA wines, particularly Appassimento wines and big bold reds.  Situated amidst lush vineyards and breathtaking gardens it is also the perfect venue for corporate events and private functions.

The property includes beautiful landscapes, acres of vineyards, gazebos, a pond and other attractions to make any occasion truly memorable. The hospitality suites provide the option for overnight stays and the wine boutique will showcase wines produced from the vineyard as well as feature small-batch wines from local vineyards.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Angels Gate Winery
  • Organized Crime Winery
  • Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery
  • London Born Wine Company
  • London Born Winery Restaurant
  • The Restaurant at Peninsula Ridge
  • Vieni Estates Wine & Spirits Bed and Breakfast

Vieni Estates (Escarpment and Area)

4553 Fly Road

Beamsville, Ontario L0R 1B2

Vieni means “come” or “welcome” in Italian and that is just how they want you to feel – welcomed and at home at Vieni Estates. The winery is situated on a diverse 175-acre estate on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. In addition to their fine wines, Vieni Estates offers traditional Italian-style sparkling wines, Icewines, grappas and spirits distilled from the many fruits of Ontario.

You can stay at the beautifully updated Bed & Breakfast, where every room has a stunning view of the vineyards and 30 acres of protected forest along the Niagara Escarpment.  You can unwind and relax poolside, visit the winery or discover the property and enjoy a picnic by their pond, or hike the Bruce Trail.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Cave Spring Vineyard Tasting Room
  • Rennie Estate Winery
  • Kew Vineyards Estate Winery
  • The Restaurant at Redstone
  • Megalomaniac Food+Drink
  • Alvento Winery Vineyard Villa

Vineland Estates Winery (Escarpment and Area)

3620 Moyer Road

Vineland L0R 2C0

For over 30 years Vineland Estates Winery has offered an unparalleled wine and food experience within a setting of breathtaking vistas and welcoming warmth. Vineland is passionately committed to authenticity and excellence in all things and has been singled out as a top producer of award-winning Riesling and Cabernet Franc as well as locally sourced cuisine.

Vineland Estates Winery operates two accommodation options adjacent to the estate vineyards. The Bed and Breakfast Cottage and Estate Guest House both provide great experiences.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Vineland Estates Winery
  • Kacaba Vineyards and Winery
  • Tawse Winery
  • Ridgepoint Wines
  • The Restaurant at Vineland Estates Winery
  • Ridgepoint Wines Restaurant
  • Inn on the Twenty
  • Alvento Winery Vineyard Villa

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY

Casa-Dea Estates Winery

1186 Greer Road

Wellington, Ontario K0K 3L0

This picturesque property was the first winery on Greer Road and is now one of the largest wineries in the County. The 65-acre vineyard is planted with Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. They are focused on making VQA wines from 100% County grapes. Enjoy Italian cuisine at La Pergola in the summer. There are also banquet facilities for your dream wedding, including outdoor ceremonies.

Their guest house, the ‘Casa del Silenzio’, is located at the winery, just steps away from the vineyard, tasting bar and patio restaurant. Rent it for two nights (minimum) or a week and experience ‘The County’. Casa del Silenzio also makes the perfect addition to a wedding at Casa-Dea, providing accommodations for the bride, groom and wedding party.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard
  • Rosehall Run
  • Traynor Family Vineyard
  • Sandbanks Estate Winery
  • La Condesa
  • Drake Devonshire
  • By Chadsey’s Cairns Farmhouse
  • Huff Estates Winery

Huff Estates Winery

2274 County Road 1

Bloomfield, Ontario K0K 1G0

In addition to the winery, Huff Estates has an inn and art gallery. You may sample their wines in the tasting room; have lunch overlooking the vineyard and discover contemporary Canadian art in the Oeno Gallery and stay at the luxurious Inn at Huff Estates.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Sugarbush Vineyards
  • Karlo Estates
  • Broken Stone Winery
  • Closson Chase
  • La Condesa
  • Drake Devonshire
  • The Waring House

Three Dog Winery

1920 Fish Lake Road

Picton, Ontario K0K 1W0

At Three Dog Winery they strive to become a gathering place for the community where you not only want to enjoy a glass of wine but gather to dine with friends. On weekends enjoy live music and wood-fired pizza on the patio. Their wines are award-winning, affordable and easy drinking. Just 15 minutes off Hwy 401, they have 6km of hiking trails – plenty of room to walk your four-legged friends.  You can also book your stay at the Vineyard Loft which overlooks the vineyard.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Black Prince Winery – Canadian Vinegar Cellars
  • Amanda’s Vineyards
  • Waupoos Estates Winery
  • Huff Estates Winery
  • The Inn at Lake on the Mountain Resort
  • Hartleys Tavern
  • Three Dog Winery – Vineyard Loft
  • Merrill House

Waupoos Estate Winery

3016 County Road 8

Picton, Ontario K0K 2T0

Waupoos is the oldest winery in Prince Edward County and has a wide selection of award-winning wines. The winery features boutique shopping with chocolate and gelato, a petting zoo and fine dining experience in the full-service Restaurant overlooking beautiful Prince Edward Bay. Accommodations are available in the 1900 Century Farm House. The Farmhouse is a beautifully restored century home situated on the 100 acre grounds of Waupoos Estates, with breathtaking views of Prince Edward Bay and the vineyards.  A 2 night minimum stay is required.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Amanda’s Vineyards
  • Three Dog Winery
  • Black Prince Winery – Canadian Vinegar Cellars
  • Huff Estates Winery
  • Waupoos Estate Winery Restaurant
  • The Inn at Lake on the Mountain Resort
  • Merrill House

NORTHERN AREA

Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery (Georgian Bay)

599448 2nd Concession North RR1

Annan, Ontario N0H 1B0

Situated in Grey County, Coffin Ridge has a modern tasting room that opens to an elevated deck overlooking Georgian Bay and the vineyard. Carefully researched winter-hardy varieties flourish here, with hybrids like L’Acadie Blanc and Marquette gaining critical acclaim. Visit the winery to try their Riesling Bone Dry or Back From the Dead Red blend VQA wines.

An overnight stay at the Resting Place will give you access to a gorgeous and tranquil escape from the norm, including a games room, theatre, gym, pool, hot tub and a library as well as various sitting areas overlooking the vineyard and beautiful Georgian Bay. 

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Georgian Hills Vineyards
  • The Roost Wine Company
  • Adamo Estate Winery
  • Windrush Estate Winery
  • Bruce Wine Bar Kitchen
  • Barrhead Pub & Grill
  • Burning Kiln Wilderness Suites

Schatz Winery by Hessenland Inn

72981 Bluewater Hwy

Zurich, Ontario N0M 2T0

Schatz is Hessenland Inn’s winery, located on the Lake Huron Shores nestled between Bayfield and Grand Bend, offers a unique combination of history, innovation, and European elegance.

Also onsite is Hessenland Inn & Restaurant which serves a locally sourced menu.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Cornerfield Wine Co.
  • Dark Horse Estate Winery
  • Maelstrom Winery
  • Alton Farms Estate Winery
  • Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro
  • The Little Inn of Bayfield
  • Burning Kiln Wilderness Suites

LAKE ERIE NORTH SHORE

Burning Kiln Winery

1709 Front Road

St Williams, Ontario N0E 1P0

Rooted in the agricultural significance of tobacco and Norfolk County, Burning Kiln offers a vision of this emerging VQA region’s bright future. The picturesque winery is a repurposed tobacco pack barn overlooking Long Point Bay on Lake Erie, close to some of the best vacation areas and beaches.

You can book a stay at the Farmhouse located at the vineyard. The 1865 home has been fully restored to its original charm.  The house is situated at the highest point of the estate providing picturesque views of the surrounding winery.

WHAT’S NEAR BY

  • Front Road Cellars
  • Smoke & Gamble | Frisky Beaver
  • Hounds of Erie
  • Ridge Road Estate Winery
  • The Combine
  • Barrel Restaurant
  • Burning Kiln Wilderness Suites
  • Vieni Estates Wine & Spirits Bed and Breakfast

Sláinte mhaith

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

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.

Sláinte mhaith

Sugar Levels in Champagne & Other Sparkling Wines

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.

Photo credit: ScientificAmerican.com

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:

Brut Nature (Brut Zero)

  • 0-3 grams (g) of natural residual sugar (RS) / litre (L)
  • 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.

Extra Brut

  • 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.

Brut

  • 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.

Extra Dry

  • 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.

Dry (Secco)

  • 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.

Demi-Sec

  • 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.

Doux

  • 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)
  • 33 g in Rye & Coke

Happy Holidays!

Sláinte mhaith

Ripasso Style Wines

Ripasso is an ancient wine making technique used for centuries in Italy’s Valpolicella wineries. Ripasso, also known as double fermentation, is a method used to give more structure, body and flavours to the basic Valpolicella wine.  Ripasso is an Italian word meaning “review“, “re-pass” or “go over again“.

Photo credit: VinePair.com

Once harvested in autumn, selected grapes to be used in both Amarone and Recioto wines remain in lofts above wineries to dry for about four months. All the rest of the harvested grapes are squeezed and fermented to make the basic Valpolicella Classico wine.

At the end of January or beginning of February the semi-dried grapes for Amarone and Recioto are squeezed and fermented together with grape skins. Once the fermentation is complete the grape skins are removed and wine is then stored for ageing.

The Valpolicella wine that was fermented back in the fall is then put over these Recioto and Amarone skins which, being still full of un-fermented sugars, starts a second fermentation. These skins still contain aromatic compounds and tannins that are transferred to the Valpolicella wine.

Valpolicella Ripasso shares the freshness and lightness of basic Valpolicella wine but has more of the structures and flavours of the more expensive Amarone.  This is kind of a happy medium between the other two. There is cherry fruitiness of a classic Valpolicella but it will have more tannins and flavours from the dried grape skins; providing flavour of darker fruits, spice and leather and will have a longer finish.

Valpolicella Ripasso wine will be identified in one of several ways.  On the label beside the words ‘Valpolicella Classico DOC’, will appear an additional description such as Ripasso, Double Fermentation or Second Fermentation.

You can count on the wine being a medium bodied wine, fruity and having tertiary flavours and aromas.  Some will have flavours similar to a basic Valpolicella wine, while others will be closer to an Amarone wine.  Each vintner has their own style of making it as they use varying percentages of fresh to dried grapes.  It is worth while trying several different ones to find your own preference.

Sláinte mhaith