Does Price Influence Taste?

Studies have shown that there is a common perception that the higher the price of a bottle of wine, the better the taste and the more enjoyable it is.

Image credit: Fix.com

During one of these studies the participants were provided with incorrect information regarding the price of the various wines tasted.  It was discovered that the participants found that an inexpensive wine was far more enjoyable when it was believed to have a higher price.

The study took place at Switzerland’s University of Basel where 140 participants were provided with six different wine samples which they had to rate for pleasantness and intensity.  Three of the samples provided no price information while the others displayed a price; a low, a medium and a high price.

The three wines indicating price had none, one or two of the wines incorrectly priced.  The mislabeled wines were either four times higher or four times lower than the actual price.

When the price of the wine was not displayed the study showed no difference in the pleasantness rating, irrelevant of the actual price.  However, the mislabelled wines showed that the level of enjoyment was directly related to the indicated price.  Low-cost wines displaying an erroneous high price were found to be more enjoyable than the true higher priced wines.

In another study researchers used MRIs to scan participants’ reactions while tasting deceptively labeled wines.  The research indicated that as the label price increased so did the enjoyment of the wine.  During a subsequent study the same results were achieved.

The studies also showed that decreasing the displayed price of an expensive wine did not affect the overall rating for its pleasantness.  However, when the price was deceptively increased most participants preferred the wine more.

Even when one wine has a legitimate higher price it should be kept in mind that the higher price can often be attributed to being produced by a prestigious winery or vintner, being a rare vintage, being produced from exceptionally old or historic vines or wines consisting of varietals that are not in abundant supply.  None of these reasons necessarily noticeably impact the flavour or quality of the wine; food for thought when perusing the aisles of your local wine merchant.

Sláinte mhaith

Ontario’s Movers and Shakers for 2021

With COVID-19 finally starting to loosen its grip over the country and the hopes that people will be able to begin moving more freely again, I have put together my 2021 list of wines to watch for.  Not all of these wines will be available at your local wine store; some can only be purchased online or directly from the winery. 

One significant indicator of which wineries are making an impact is usually the Ontario Wine Awards.  However, COVID-19 caused the 2021 awards to be cancelled.  The 2020 awards were conducted virtually but the organizers decided to forego the 2021 awards with the exception of the ‘Winemaker of the Year Award, which will be announced sometime during the summer.  A second indicator is the National Wine Awards, which for 2021 has been deferred from June to October.

Selecting a list of top wineries is very subjective.  Depending on the reviewer, ratings may be based on any or all of:

  • Customer visit experience at the winery
  • Overall service of the winery
  • The winery facility and amenities
  • The variety of wines offered for sale
  • Price point
  • The quality of the wine

For the purposes of this review I have based my opinions on my interpretation of recent trends, the wineries successes, and the quality of their wine, their wine-making practices and what makes them stand out above their competitors at the present time.  My list is presented in no particular order.

Rosehall Run Vineyard, Prince Edward County

Having won the 2020 Ontario Wine Awards “Red Wine of the Year” for its 2018 ‘JCR Pinot Noir Rosehall Vineyard’ I am looking forward to seeing what Rosehall Run will do this year.  I was fortunate enough to visit The County last fall and taste this prize winner, as well as bring a few bottles home.  Based on last year’s performance, I would think that this year’s Pinot Noir release will be worth getting a hold of.

2020 was not the first time Rosehall Run has received an award.  Their recognized achievements go back to 2006 and they have even had their wine included on the menu for a Royal visit.

Angels Gate Winery, Niagara

Winemaker Philip Dowell was named 2020’s ‘Winemaker of the Year’ at the Ontario Wine Awards. Dowell has a simple philosophy on winemaking; it’s all about balance both in the vineyard and in the actual wine. It’s about bringing together the ‘terroir’, ‘elevage’ and ‘typicity’ of wine. The ‘terroir” is the character of the grape from a specific vineyard site; ‘elevage’ is the progress the wine takes through the cellar during its maturation; and ‘typicity’ is the distinctive vinous character each wine has.

Angels Gate Winery produces Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Shiraz.

Karlo Estates Winery, Prince Edward County

Karlo has rebounded after some struggles following the 2014 death of its founder and winemaker, Richard Karlo.  Karlo has redeveloped its vision, which is to promote sustainability and show that it is possible to be respectful of the planet while producing award-winning wines. Karlo was the first certified vegan wine in the world. Not only is the wine in the bottles certified vegan but all the vineyard practices are vegan as well.

Personally, I am a big fan of both the Van Alstine white and red Port, as well as their Quintus which is made using Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

The Picone Vineyard, Niagara

The Picone Vineyard was a complete mystery to me prior to their winning the White Wine of the Year award at the 2020 Ontario Wine Awards for their 2017 ‘Charles Baker Riesling’.  The vineyard is small, only 10 acres.

In addition to the Riesling, they produce Fogolar Cabernet Franc, which is made from a one-acre block with prized vines that are 30+ years old.

Being committed to enhancing the environment by using sustainable practices in their winery and vineyard, the Wine Council of Ontario has certified Picone for sustainability management of their vineyard.

Interestingly, the owner, Mark Picone, is an internationally trained chef.  As well as owning the winery, Mark is a Chef Professor at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute.  What better way to showcase his wine than by pairing them with his own food creations.

Picone Vineyard may be small but it seems to have great future potential to become mighty.

Final Thoughts

Obviously these are not all the good wineries in Ontario, in fact far from it. However, these are the ones that caught my attention this past year.  Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will find any of their offerings in your local wine or liquor store.  However, if you find yourself in either the Niagara region or The County, visiting these wineries could be a fruitful (no pun intended) experience. Most of the wineries offer online ordering as well.

Sláinte mhaith

Red Varietals Grown in Canada

Photo credit: WinesInNiagara.com

This week I conclude my review of the grape varietals grown in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia.  The focus is on red wine grapes grown in these 3 provinces.

Baco Noir

Baco Noir is a hybrid red wine grape variety created by Francois Baco.  In 1951 the variety was brought to the cooler viticulture regions of North America, such as British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone. In addition to being used in blends and produced as a varietal in all 3 Canadian provinces and the United States, it is sometimes made into ice wine in these regions.

Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon making a bright, pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. From France and Spain, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World where it found new homes in places like California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, Napa Valley, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Chile, British Columbia and Ontario.

The classic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be a full-bodied wine with high tannins and noticeable acidity that contributes to the wine’s aging potential. In cooler climates like Canada, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to produce wines with blackcurrant notes that can be accompanied by green bell pepper notes, mint and cedar which will all become more pronounced as the wine ages.   In more moderate climates the blackcurrant notes are often seen with black cherry and black olive notes while in very hot climates the currant flavours can veer towards the over-ripe and “jammy” side.

Castel

The grape was created in 1953 by Ollie A. Bradt, at what is now the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Today the grape is widely planted in Nova Scotia with some plantings in Ontario. The grape is hardy, early-ripening and disease resistant.

De Chaunac

De Chaunac is a French-American hybrid wine grape variety used to make red wines. The grape was named after Adhemar de Chaunac, a pioneer in the Ontario wine industry.

De Chaunac is known to have a very vigorous growth habit and good resistance to mildew. It is grown in varying amounts for wine production across northeastern North America, especially in the winegrowing regions of New York, Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Michigan and Ohio.

Gamay

Gamay is a purple-coloured grape variety used to make red wines, most notably grown in Beaujolais and in the Loire Valley of France.  It has often been cultivated because it makes for abundant production.  It is grown in all 3 of the Canadian wine provinces.

Leon Millot

Léon Millot is a red variety of hybrid grape used for wine. The variety was named after the winemaker and tree nursery owner Léon Millot.  The grapes are grown in Nova Scotia.

Lucie Kuhlmann

This is a Kuhlmann hybrid variety, with growing and ripening characteristics similar to Leon Millot and Marechal Foch, though less widely grown. The wine, like Leon Millot, is capable of deep colour with a pronounced berry-like fruitiness. Wines made from Lucie Kuhlmann tend to have a slightly firmer tannic structure compared to Leon Millot.  These grapes are grown in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Malbec

Malbec is a purple grape variety that creates a dark red intense wine with robust tannins.  In addition to being bottled on its own it is also commonly blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create the red French Bordeaux blend or is blended with Cabernet Franc and Gamay. Other wine regions use the grape to produce Bordeaux-style blends.

In addition to France, Malbec has become an Argentine varietal but is also becoming popular in British Columbia and Ontario.

Marechal Foch

Marechal Foch is a hybrid French red wine grape variety. It was originally known as Kuhlmann 188-2.  The vines were imported to North America in the mid 1940s, where it was subsequently renamed Marechal Foch in honour of Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War.

Marechal Foch ripens early and it is cold-hardy and resistant to fungal diseases. The quality of wine produced is dependent on the age of the vines, and the flavour profile associated with many new-world hybrid varietals is much reduced in comparison to wine made from older vines.

Today Marechal Foch is grown in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Marquette

Marquette is a blue/black-berried variety introduced in 2006 by the University of Minnesota in the United States. Marquette is the cousin of Frontenac, a well-known French-American hybrid.

Marquette is promising for cold-climate producers in North America, and a number of plantings have been established in Minnesota, Vermont, New York and Nova Scotia.

The grape has high sugar levels and moderate acidity. Marquette wines are typically medium bodied, with aromas of cherries, blackcurrants and blackberries. In some cases more complex aromas such as tobacco and leather may also be exhibited, with spicy pepper notes on the finish.

Merlot

Merlot is a dark blue wine grape variety that is used by itself, as well as a blending grape and for varietal wines. Its softness and fleshiness, combined with its earlier ripening, makes it a popular grape for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.

Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals.

While Merlot is made around the world, there tends to be two main styles.  There is the International style that produces inky, purple coloured wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit.  The second style is the Bordeaux style where the harvesting of the grapes takes place earlier to maintain acidity. This style produces more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavours of raspberries and strawberries.

In Canada Merlot is grown in British Columbia and Ontario.

Mischurnitz

This vine is from Eastern Europe but is now being grown in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. In 1983 a wine from Nova Scotia was voted the ‘best wine of Canada’ in a blind competition to supply the Canadian Embassies around the world. More recently two other Nova Scotia wineries, Jost Vineyards and Sainte Famille, are making notable wines with Michurinetz.

This extremely cold-hardy and vigorous vine typically produces red wines with tannic strength. The grapes also typically have extremely high natural acidity, and low sugar levels.

Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot is a variety of red wine grape that is mainly used in classic Bordeaux blends. It adds tannin, colour and flavour, in small amounts, to the blend. Petit Verdot has attracted attention among winemakers in the New World, where it ripens more reliably and has been made into a single varietal wine. It is also useful in ‘stiffening’ the mid palate of Cabernet Sauvignon blends.  It is grown in British Columbia and Ontario.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a red wine grape that is grown around the world, mostly in the cooler climates.  It is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Pinot noir is now used to make red wines around the world. Regions that have gained a reputation for red Pinot Noir wines include Oregon, California, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the wine regions of Canada.

When young, wines made from Pinot Noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. As the wine ages, there is the potential to develop more vegetal and barnyard aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine.

Syrah

Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is a dark-skinned grape variety grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce red wine.

The style and flavour profile of Syrah wines are influenced by the climate where the grapes are grown.  Moderate climates tend to produce medium to full-bodied wines with medium-plus to high levels of tannins and notes of blackberry, mint and black pepper. In hot climates, Syrah is more consistently full-bodied with softer tannin, jammier fruit and spice notes of licorice and earthy leather.

Syrah is used as a single varietal, as well as in blends. It can be found all over the world from France to Chile, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, California, Washington, British Columbia and Ontario.

Zweigelt

Widely planted in Austria, Zweigelt vines have made inroads in Washington and the Canadian wine regions of Ontario and British Columbia.  There are some plantings in Hungary. In the Czech Republic it is known as Zweigeltrebe and is the third-most widely planted red-grape variety, comprising approximately 4.7% of total vineyards. It grows in most of the wine regions in Slovakia and now in Belgian and Polish vineyards.

Sláinte mhaith

Wine and Cheese to Prevent Alzheimer’s?

A study has been completed suggesting that the foods you eat can have an impact on your cognitive ability in the future.  It suggests that eating cheese and drinking red wine may actually improve your brain’s cognitive abilities  Diet has long been considered a marker for our health later in life and studies have shown a link between diet, Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Photo credit: gourmetcheesedetective.com

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, analyzed data over a 10-year period from 1,787 people between the ages of 46 and 77 in the United Kingdom. The researchers specifically looked at participants’ ability to think quickly, as well as their diet and alcohol consumption over time.

Researchers found that certain foods and drinks, including red wine and cheese, seemed to have protective effects against cognitive decline. Moderate consumption of red wine and cheese was found to have the best correlation for participants who had no genetic risk of developing cognitive diseases.  However, the experts caution against going overboard. The researchers were able to explain up to 15.6 percent of the variation in cognition over time.  They did go on to say that they were only able to see what the participants were eating and drinking during the 10-year study.

Though the findings are encouraging from a wine lover’s perspective, the researchers did say you shouldn’t load up on wine and cheese just yet as more research is needed.  They warn that the correlation does not equal cause. We shouldn’t leap to the assumption that drinking wine and eating cheese lowers our risk of cognitive decline over time as the study did not examine which components in cheese and wine were beneficial. Further clinical trials would be needed to determine if explicitly changing diet could impact brain health.

Diet and exercise remain as the two most important things that a person should manage for body health and brain health.  Doctors say that active people with good body weights are far more likely to retain good brain function, regardless of genetics.

Regarding the link with alcohol in this particular study, doctors warn against being too zealous. All things should be consumed in moderation.  While it’s nice to think that modest red wine consumption could have benefits, it’s also important to remember the harm that can result from over-indulgence.  However, it is good to know that eating cheese and drinking wine in moderation has potential benefits beyond just helping us cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sláinte mhaith

Summertime Wine Drinks

Photo Credit: WeSpeakWine.com

Wine cocktails make a light and refreshing summertime drink.  Whether you have a bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine on hand, you can use it to mix up some great wine cocktails. From fruity sangrias to imaginative cocktails, these drink recipes are cool and refreshing for summer.

Simple Syrup

Several of these recipes contain simple syrup.  Simple syrup is made by combining equal parts of sugar and water, which is stirred over low heat (or microwave) until the sugar is dissolved.  It is then cooled to room temperature before using.

Fragole on Ice

Ingredients

  • 1 strawberry
  • 1½ oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz. basil simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Rosé
  • Fresh strawberry slice.

Steps to Make It

  • Muddle a strawberry in a shaker
  • Combine vodka, fresh lemon juice, basil simple syrup and ice in a shaker
  • Shake well
  • Pour into a cocktail glass with ice
  • Top with chilled Rosé
  • Garnish with a fresh strawberry slice

Grapefruit Spritz

Ingredients

  • 1 ½  oz. grapefruit juice
  • ½ oz. sweet vermouth
  • ½ tbsp. simple syrup
  • 4 to 5 oz. Prosecco

Steps to Make It

  • Add grapefruit juice, sweet vermouth and simple syrup to cocktail shaker
  • Fill cocktail shaker with ice
  • Shake until chilled
  • Strain the liquid into an iced glass
  • Top with Prosecco
  • Garnish with a slice of grapefruit

Ice-y Martini

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Cabernet Franc ice wine
  • 2 oz. vodka

Steps to Make It

  • Combine ingredients in a glass and stir

Pinot Noir-tini

Ingredients

  • 1 ½  oz. Pinot Noir
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. dry vermouth
  • Ice
  • Amarena cherries

Steps to Make It

  • Pour Pinot Noir, vodka and dry vermouth in a mixing glass
  • Add ice
  • Stir until the glass is chilled
  • Strain into a martini glass
  • Garnish with a couple of Amerena cherries

Sangria

Peach Sangria

What is different about this one is that it uses fruit liqueurs instead of fresh fruit so there’s no need to make it the day before. The recipe yields about 8 1/2 cups or about 16 four-ounce servings. Since the liquors and juices are all poured equally, it’s easy to increase or decrease as needed.

Ingredients

  • 1 (750 mL) bottle dry white wine (Pinot Grigio)
  • 1 1/4 cups mango rum
  • 1 1/4 cups peach schnapps
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 1/2 cups lemon-lime soda
  • Fresh peach slices
  • Fresh mango slices

Steps to Make It

  • In a punch bowl or large pitcher, pour the wine, mango rum, peach schnapps, citrus juices, and lemon-lime soda. Stir well
  • Fill with large pieces of ice
  • Serve in glasses
  • Garnish with peach and mango slices

Pineapple Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 750 ml bottle of Moscato
  • 1 cup coconut rum
  • ¼ cup Triple Sec
  • Splash pineapple juice
  • Splash orange juice
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Sliced orange
  • Sliced lemon

Steps to Make It

  • Mix the bottle of Moscato, coconut rum and triple sec together
  • Add pineapple juice and orange juice
  • Stir in strawberries
  • Garnish with  orange and lemon slices

Raspberry Lemonade Moscato Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 (750 ml) bottle white wine
  • 12 ounces/1 1/2 cups lemon-lime soda
  • 12 ounces lemonade
  • 2 lemons (sliced)
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries (frozen can be used)
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Steps to Make It

  • Mix the wine, berries, lemons, lemonade and sugar in a pitcher
  • Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight
  • Add the lemon-lime soda just prior to serving
  • Add ice in either the pitcher or individual glasses
  • Garnish with lemon slices

Sauvignon Blanc Summer Sangria

Ingredients

  • 1 750 ml bottle of Sauvignon Blanc
  • ¾ cup of vodka
  • ½ cup tropical fruit juice
  • 6 tbs. thawed frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 package fresh raspberries
  • 1 package fresh blueberries
  • 2 cups club soda

Steps to Make It

  • Mix the Sauvignon Blanc, vodka, tropical fruit juice, lemonade concentrate, sugar, raspberries, blueberries and club sod

Spicy Summer

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ oz. tequila
  • 1 ½ oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 1-inch cubes of watermelon
  • 1 slice of jalapeño pepper
  • Sparkling Rosé wine

Steps to Make It

  • Combine tequila, lime juice and simple syrup in a shaker
  • Add cubes of watermelon and circular slices of jalapeño pepper to the shaker
  • If you want it less spicy, omit the pepper seeds
  • Muddle until thoroughly blended
  • Add ice and shake for at least 30 seconds
  • Double strain into a wine glass over a large ice cube
  • Fill a glass to the top with Sparkling Rosé
  • Garnish with mint, rose, and jalapeño

Strawberry Rhubarb Sangria

Ingredients

Rhubarb Syrup:

  • 2 cups rhubarb (diced or roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Sangria:

  • 1 bottle Pinot Grigio
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup St. Germaine Liquor
  • 1 cup strawberries (sliced)
  • 1 lime (sliced)

Steps to Make It

  • Begin by preparing the rhubarb syrup. Heat the water, sugar, and rhubarb in a small saucepan  Cook for about 5 minutes on medium low heat, until the mixture has thickened and turned a light pink
  • Strain the rhubarb out of the liquid.; place the strained liquid in the refrigerator to cool
  • Combine the bottle of wine, vodka, St. Germaine liquor, strawberries and limes in a large pitcher. Once the rhubarb syrup has cooled, add it to the wine mixture. Let the sangria sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. 
  • Garnish with sliced strawberries and limes

Tequila Sangria

Ingredients

Hibiscus Syrup:

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (white granulated)
  • 1 tea bag hibiscus tea

Sangria:

  • 1 1/2 cups tequila
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 3/4 cup hibiscus syrup
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 2 ounces cranberry juice
  • 1/2 liter club soda

Steps to Make It

Make the Hibiscus Syrup

  • In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until it’s completely dissolved
  • Remove from the heat, add the tea bag, and steep for 10 minutes
  • Discard the tea bag and let the syrup continue to cool. Bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Make the Tequila Sangria

  • In a pitcher or punchbowl, combine the tequila, wine, hibiscus syrup, and orange and cranberry juices
  • Stir well
  • Add ice and fill with club soda
  • Garnish with orange, lemon and lime slices

Source the Raleigh

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. watermelon juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • Soda water

Steps to Make It

  • Fill cocktail shaker with ice
  • Add Sauvignon Blanc, vodka, watermelon juice, simple syrup, and lemon juice to the shaker
  • Shake and strain into a glass filled with ice
  • Top with soda water

Strawberry and Rosemary Rosé Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of Brut Rosé Champagne or Sparkling Wine
  • 1 cup strawberry-flavored vodka
  • 2 cups lemon-lime soda
  • Strawberries for garnish
  • Rosemary for garnish

Steps to Make It

  • Pour Brut Rosé Champagne or dry Rosé Sparkling Wine over ice
  •  Add strawberry-flavored vodka and lemon-lime soda
  • Garnish with strawberries and rosemary

Tropical Twist

Ingredients

  • ½ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ oz. honey syrup
  • ½ oz. rum
  • 2 oz. Prosecco

Steps to Make It

  • Combine lime juice, honey syrup and rum in a cocktail shaker
  • Add ice and shake
  • Add Prosecco
  • Strain into Champagne flute
  • Garnish with lime peel

Watermelon Wine Cooler

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. watermelon juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • ½ oz. lemon
  • 1½ oz. soda water

Steps to Make It

  • Combine ingredients except soda water in a cocktail shaker filled with ice
  • Shake and strain into a glass filled with ice
  • Top with soda water

White Wine Spritzer

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces chilled white wine (Riesling, Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc are used most often)
  • 1​ ounce ​cold club soda (or mineral water)

Steps to Make It

  • Fill a white wine glass or highball glass with ice
  • Pour in the wine
  • Top with club soda or mineral water
  • Garnish with lime wedge or orange peel

Enjoy your summer while sipping one of these cool refreshing wine beverages!

Sláinte mhaith

Good Inexpensive Wine

What is considered cheap or inexpensive depends on who the consumer is. It is a very relative term.  For example, to some people an inexpensive wine is one with a price point under $50, for others it may be one under $10.  The definition of inexpensive or cheap is as individual as the person making the purchase.  For the purposes of this discussion, I am considering a value of under $20 as an inexpensive bottle of wine. 

If a wine is too cheap there are those who believe that profit is being achieved mainly by producing large volumes sacrificing quality.  Producers operating in this manner have minimal control over the quality of the grapes or the manner in which they are produced.     Under these circumstances vintners purchase grapes from a number of different growers whom they have limited or no influence over how the grapes are produced.   However, each producer should be judged on their own merits.

I love the challenge of scoping out good inexpensive wines, especially those that need to mature for a few years before enjoying.

Finding the Diamond in the Rough

There is certainly some luck involved in finding great inexpensive wines but there are ways of putting the odds in your favour.  The clues are often right under your nose starting with the label on the bottle.  Don’t forget to check out the label on the back of the bottle as well.  The label will provide the name of the vintner and often identify the varietal(s).  Selecting a varietal you enjoy will increase the odds of you selecting a wine to your taste.

It will also identify any quality designation that the wine has been provided by the nation where the wine was produced.

The country of origin will also provide clues as to the wine’s flavour and intensity.  Generally speaking, wines produced in hotter climates have more intense flavour.

The label will also display any sustainability or organic qualifications that the wine has.

Information regarding the wines offered for sale will often be provided by the seller.  Look for information in brochures, catalogues, or stock cards that may be available in the store or on the merchant’s web site. 

Many wineries have their own web site which may provide detailed information pertaining to the various wines they produce, including such information as the varietal(s) contained, how the wine was aged, tannin content, acid levels, etc., all of which impact the flavour and help determine if the wine may be a good fit for you.

However, when all else fails or you like to select wines solely on how the label inspires you, simply standing and gazing at the wines on the shelf may be the only information you need.  This is how my wife does it and though I am aghast at this process I cannot argue with her success rate.  Her most recent victory was in selecting a 2019 Fantini Sangiovese which is now our general house wine.  The price is a whopping $8.95.

Sláinte mhaith

How Sweet Wine Is

The sweetness of a wine is determined by how our taste buds interpret the interaction of a wine’s sugar content, the relative level of alcohol, acid and tannins. Sugars and alcohol enhance a wine’s sweetness; acids (sourness) and bitter tannins counteract it.

Among the components influencing how sweet a wine will taste is residual sugar. It is usually measured in grams of sugar per litre of wine (g/l). Residual sugar typically refers to the sugar remaining after fermentation stops, but it can also result from the addition of unfermented must (a German practice known as Süssreserve) or ordinary table sugar.

Even among the driest wines, it is rare to find wines with a level of less than 1 g/l. By contrast, any wine with over 45 g/l would be considered sweet, though many of the great sweet wines have levels much higher than this. The sweetest form of the Tokaji or Eszencia, contains over 450 g/l, with some vintages reaching 900 g/l. Such wines are balanced by the use of acidity. This means that the finest sweet wines are made with grape varieties that keep their acidity even at very high ripeness levels, such as Riesling and Chenin Blanc.

The sweetness of a wine is also controlled by factors such as the acidity and alcohol levels, the amount of tannin present, and whether the wine is sparkling or not. A sweet wine such as a Vouvray can actually taste dry due to the high level of acidity.  A dry wine can taste sweet if the alcohol level is increased.  

Medium and sweet wines are perceived by many consumers as being of lower quality than dry wines. However, many of the world’s great wines, such as those from Sauternes  or Tokaji, have a high level of residual sugar, which is carefully balanced with additional acidity.

People with more proteins in their saliva do not feel the drying effect of tannin as much as people with less. Another interesting fact is that the taste of tannin is reduced when paired with salty and fatty foods.

Our sense of smell also greatly affects our perception of sweetness. A wine that smells sweeter will also taste sweeter. Wine varieties are often referred to as ‘Aromatic’ because of their sweet floral aromas.  A few examples of this are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Torrontés, and Moscato.

The sweetness scale for wine ranges from bone dry to dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, sweet and very sweet.

THE WHITE WINE SCALE

Bone Dry with flavours of lemons and minerals

  • Pinot Grigio (Italy)
  • Pinot Gris (France)
  • Albariño (Spain)
  • Garganega (Italy)
  • Dry Furmint (Hungary)
  • Gavi (Italy)
  • Muscadet (France)
  • Chablis (France)
  • Grenache Blanc (Spain, France)
  • Macabeo (Spain, France)
  • Vinho Verde (Portugal)
  • Grillo (Italy)
  • Arinto (Portugal)

Dry with Savory and herb flavours

  • Sauvignon Blanc (France)
  • Verdejo (Spain)
  • Grüner Veltliner (Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic)
  • Veroiccho (Italy)
  • Colombard (France, California)

Dry with flavours of grapefruit and green apple

  • Vermentino (Italy)
  • Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
  • Dry Chenin Blanc (France)
  • Dry Torrontés (Argentina)

Dry with flavours of yellow apple and pineapple

  • Chardonnay (France, Australia, North America)
  • Marsanne (Switzerland, France)
  • Roussanne (France)
  • Sémellon (France, Australia)
  • Trebbiano (Italy, France)

Dry with flavours of peach and lemon

  • Pinot Gris (United States, Canada)
  • Viogner (France, Australia, North America, South America, New Zealand, South Africa)
  • Dry Riesling (Germany, Australia, Hungary, Washington State, Canada)

Off-Dry with flavours of honeycomb and lemon

  • Kabinett Riesling (Germany)
  • Spätlese Riesling (Austria)
  • Chenin Blanc (France)
  • Torrontés (Argentina)
  • Müller Thurgau

Semi-Sweet with flavours of tropical fruit

  • Moscato (Italy)
  • Gewürztraminer (Germany)

Sweet with flavours of sweet lemon and honey

  • Late Harvest white wine (Everywhere)
  • Sauternes (France)
  • Ice Wine (Canada)
  • Auslese Riesling (Germany)
  • Tokaji (Hungary)

Very Sweet with flavours of golden raisin, fig and apricot

  • White Port (Portugal)
  • Moscatel Dessert Wine (United States)
  • Passito (Italy)
  • Vin Santo (Italy)

THE RED WINE SCALE

Bone Dry with a bold, bitter finish

  • Tannat (France, Uruguay, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, South Africa, Italy
  • Nebbiolo (Italy)
  • Sagrantino (Italy, Australia)
  • Malbec (France)

Bone Dry with savory flavours

  • Chianti (Italy)
  • Bordeaux (France)
  • Tempranillo (Spain)
  • Mourvèdre (France)
  • Anglianico (Italy)
  • Barbera (Italy)
  • Montepulciano (Italy)

Dry with flavours of vegetables and herbs

  • Sangiovese (Italy)
  • Carménère (France)
  • Cabernet Franc (France, Canada)
  • Lagrein (Italy, California)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (France, Canada)

Dry with flavours of tart fruits and flowers

  • Mencía (Spain)
  • Valpolicella (Italy)
  • Rhône Blend (France)
  • Beaujolais (France)
  • Burgundy (France)
  • Syrah (France)
  • Merlot (France)
  • Trincadeira (Portugal)

Dry with flavours of ripe fruits and spices

  • Garnacha (France, Spain)
  • Amarone Della Valpolicella (Italy)
  • Negroamaro (Italy)
  • Pinotage (South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, United States, Zimbabwe
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia, Argentina, Chile, California)
  • Merlot (United States, Canada)
  • Alfrocheiro (Portugal)
  • Alicante Bouschet (France)

Dry with flavours of fruit sauce and vanilla

  • Shiraz (Australia, Chile, California)
  • Monastrell (Spain)
  • Malbec (Argentina)
  • Nero D’Avola (Italy)
  • Petite Syrah (United States)
  • Primitivo (Italy)
  • Zinfandel (California)
  • Grenache (California)
  • Touriga Nacional (Portugal)

Semi-sweet with flavours of candied fruit and flowers

  • Lambrusco (Italy)
  • Brachetto D’Acqui (Italy)
  • Recioto Della Valpolicella (Italy)

Sweet with flavours of fruit jam and chocolate

  • Port (Portugal)
  • Banyuls (France)
  • Maury (France)

Very sweet with flavours of figs raisins and dates

  • Tawny Port (Portugal)
  • Vin Santo (Italy)

Final Thoughts

Depending on where a grape is grown, the characteristics may change somewhat.  The climate and soil can be a great influence over taste.  For example Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France can be very different from the same varietal grown in Canada or the United States.  The same applies to any other varietal grown in multiple climates.

Sláinte mhaith

The Wines of European Georgia

The country of Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world.   Grapevine cultivation and wine production has been taking place for at least 8,000 years.  The traditions of wine are considered entwined with and inseparable from the national identity.

Georgia has five main viniculture regions.  The principal region is Kakheti, which produces seventy percent of Georgia’s grapes. Traditionally Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like France does.  As with French wines, Georgian wines are usually a blend of two or more grapes. For example, one of the best-known white wines, Tsinandali, is a blend of Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes from the micro regions of Telavi and Kvareli in the Kakheti region.

The best-known Georgian wine regions are Kakheti (further divided into the micro-regions of Telavi and Kvareli), Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Adjara and Abkhazia.

Traditional Georgian grape varieties are not well known outside the region.  Although there are nearly 400 varietals grown, only 38 varieties are officially grown for commercial viticulture in Georgia.

Georgian wines are classified in one of six different ways:  sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry, dry, fortified and sparkling. The semi-sweet varieties are the most popular.

The better known Georgian wines include the following:

  • Lelo is a port-type wine made from the Tsitska and Tsolikauri grapes.  The wine has a rich harmonious taste with a fruity aroma and a beautiful golden colour.
  • Akhasheni is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made from Saperavi grapes. The wine is dark-pomegranate in colour and has a harmonious velvety taste with a chocolate flavour.
  • Khvanchkara is a naturally semi-sweet red wine made from Alexandrouli and Mudzhuretuli grapes.  It is one of the most popular Georgian semi-sweet wines.  It has a dark-ruby colour.

There are at least 17 different white wines, 16 red wines and 8 fortified wines produced in Georgia, all produced with grape varietals unique to the region.  Though I wouldn’t consider Georgian wines a staple in North American wine stores, they do become available periodically.  If you do come across one it would be well worth picking one up to try.

Sláinte mhaith

Wine and Eggs

If you listen to the ads on television, eggs are no longer just for breakfast and thus could be enjoyed with a glass of wine beyond the traditional mimosa, which is champagne and orange juice.

There’s a reason why mimosas are a brunch mainstay. Dry sparkling white wines like Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco are the number-one pick for any egg-based dish. Eggs, particularly the yolks, are rich and coat your palate with their savory flavor, which means their flavour lingers when you take a sip of wine. That makes the wine taste a little funny; maybe bitter or metallic or it’s difficult to taste at all. Sparkling wines, however, have that effervescence that actually cleans out your palate. They also tend to have high acidity, which does the same thing, as well as cuts through the natural richness of eggs. So that lingering egg yolk washes away and you can taste the wine again.

Below is an assortment of egg dishes that have been paired with a complimentary wine for enjoyment as a lunch or dinner entree.

Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine is the original form of quiche, from the French region of Lorraine. It is an open savory pie, filled with a cream and egg custard, and usually containing pork in one form or another, often bacon.  Quiche pairs well with Riesling.

Classic Rancher’s Meal

The Classic Rancher’s Meal consists of eggs, potatoes, pork (ham, sausage or bacon), and toast.  The combination, with the exception of the toast, is fried in a skillet.  Due to the nature of this fried meal, it is best paired with a Sauvignon Blanc.

French Toast

Chenin Blanc is a White wine grape variety from the Loire Valley of France. It is high in acidity to help cut the sweetness of French Toast with maple syrup.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs can be poached on the stovetop or in the microwave, and then set on English muffin halves topped with a slice of back bacon and a spoonful of creamy Hollandaise sauce. Chardonnay or Rosé will pair well with this rich delicacy.

Breakfast Sandwich

This ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on toasted bread or an English muffin pairs well with Lambrusco which is one of the oldest wines of Italy.  It dates all the way back to the Bronze Age. 

Huevos Ranchero

Huevos rancheros, or “ranchers’ eggs”, is a classic Mexican breakfast. Fried eggs are nested in a bed of refried beans, sour cream and salsa and served atop a warm tortilla. Try adding a bit of your favourite hot sauce for a touch of heat.  Pair with a Gamay.

Whatever egg dish you choose, there will be a wine that will pair well with it.

Sláinte mhaith

Wines for the Holidays

To say that this year has been unique would be an understatement, and though the holidays may not be the same as other years, there are still opportunities to celebrate even if only to reward yourself on navigating through these trying times.

Wines such as Amarone or Châteauneuf-du-Pape would be a wonderful gift for a wine enthusiast or add elegance to any holiday dinner.  However, keep in mind that for a wine to be worthy of gift giving or dinner presentation, it need not be expensive.  If you would like some guidance for gifting or dinner pairing, your local wine merchant can be most helpful at providing suggestions in all price ranges. 

Given that 2020 has been very challenging for local businesses it has been suggested to pair wine that is being gifted with cheese, crackers, nuts or fruit from a local merchant, or a gift certificate from an area butcher or favourite restaurant.  If this idea interests you, people have been sharing their thoughts at #PairitForward.

Below I have provided a list of wines that have caught my interest this season, a number of which are on my own personal shopping list.  To help you decide whether any of these wines are best for you, I have included some of the reviewers’ comments and rankings.

White Wines

Domaine Chanson Les Chenevottes Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru 2014 – Burgundy, France ($89.95). This wine contains flavours of apple, lemon, pastry and honey.  It was rated 93 by Bruce Sanderson of Wine Spectator.

Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2018 – California ($21.95). There are light tropical notes, lemon confit, tangerine and mint.  It was rated 90 by Antonio Galloni, vinous.com.

Lundy Manor Chardonnay 2016 – Niagara, Canada ($25.95). It has hints of vanilla and caramel.  It was rated as 89 by Michael Godel, Wine Align.

Stoney Ridge Excellence White Meritage 2017 – Niagara, Canada ($22.95). There is an array of flavours of grapefruit, guava, passion fruit, lime and vanilla. This is the first time this wine has been offered for sale beyond the winery.

Tawse Limestone Ridge – North Estate Bottled Riesling 2017 – Niagara, Canada ($21.95). This wine is just off dry and well balanced between acidity and sweetness.  It was scored a 93 by David Lawrason, Wine Align.

Whitehaven Greg Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – New Zealand ($23.95).  There are hints of pear and tropical fruit.

Red Wines

Borsao Berola 2016 – Spain ($18.95). This wine has hints of cherries, other berries and herbs are prevalent.  I have had this one before and am looking forward to buying it again.  It provides great value for the price.  It was rated a 90 by James Suckling. 

Faust Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 – California ($59.95). This is a medium to full bodied wine that should be drunk from now until 2030.  It was rated 92 by James Suckling.

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2015 – Tuscany, Italy ($19.95). The solid tannins suggest that this vibrant cherry-like wine will age well.  It can be enjoyed today or kept for up to 15 years.  It was rated 92 by Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator.

Luce Brunello di Montalcino 2015 –Tuscany, Italy ($150.95). Enjoy the aroma of berries, cherries, flowers, black truffles and black tea.  It is full-bodied with great tannins.  It scored a perfect 100 from James Suckling.

Montecillo Gran Reserva 2010 – Spain ($29.95). This wine presents silky tannins that will keep it drinkable through to 2025.  It was scored a 91 by Decanter.

Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Meritage 2018 – British Columbia, Canada ($29.95). This wine consists of a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  It has a classic French style structure.

Nicolas Père & Fils Le Jardin Du Pape Châteauneuf-Du-Pape 2016 – Rhône, France ($55.95). It is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 20% Mourvèdre.  Big acidity and tannins provide great aging potential.  This is one of the wines on my list to purchase this holiday season.  It was ranked a 95 at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards.

Pieropan Vigna Garzon Amarone Della Valpolicella 2015 – Veneto, Italy ($63.95). With plummy prune aromas, sweet spice and cherries, the drinking window is now to 2030.  It was rated 94 by Michaela Morris of Decanter.

Queenston Mile Pinot Noir 2017 – Niagara, Canada ($40.00). It contains hints of cranberry, currants and cedar.  This wine is full of flavour.  It was rated as a 90 by David Lawrason, Wine Align.

Redbrooke Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2016 – Australia ($39.95).  There are flavours of cassis and red berries.  It was a gold medal winner at several Australian wine competitions and was scored a 95 by James Halliday, Wine Companion.

Sparkling Wines

Featherstone Joy Premium Cuvée Sparkling 2014 – Niagara, Canada ($34.95).  It is crisp and fresh with hints of lemon, apple and pear.

Gardet Cuvée Tradition Saint Flavy Brut Champagne – France ($47.95). There are flavours of baked apples, croissants and almonds.  It was rated a 90 by David Lawrason, Wine Align.

Graham Beck Brut Sparkling – South Africa ($18.95). With notes of apple and marmalade it will pair well with either turkey or ham.  For the price it can’t be beat.

Wines to Cellar

Ascheri Barolo 2015 – Piedmont, Italy ($49.95). There are notes of roses and tar and is available at an excellent price.  It has been rated a score of 93 by Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator.

Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne – France ($91.95).  It has hints of orange peel, freshly baked bread and honey.  It shouldn’t be uncorked until 2022 but can remain cellared until 2035.  Rated with a score of 91 by William Kelly, Robert Parker.

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Riesling 2018 – Niagara, Canada ($27.95). This dry Riesling should remain in the cellar until 2022 but should be consumed by 2028.  It was rated a score of 91 by David Lawrason, Wine Align.

Roche de Bellene Curvée Réserve Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2018 – Burgundy, France ($22.95). There are hints of cherry and raspberry.  It is best consumed from 2022 to 2025.  David Lawrason, Wine Align scored it 89.

Tawse Quarry Road Pinot Noir 2017 – Niagara, Canada ($35.95) It contains notes of black cherry, pepper spice and cloves.  It was rated a score of 91 by Sara d’Amato, Wine Align.

The Chocolate Block 2018 – South Africa ($79.95). This wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Cabernet and Viognier. The drinking period is from 2022 to2035. It scored 92 points by Neil Martin, Vinous.  The good or the bad is that it is only available in a 1,500 ml. bottle.

Final Thoughts

During these difficult times and trying to minimize interaction with others, I have become a fan of online shopping through the LCBO.  My overall results have been favourable and my selections are not limited to the products available at one particular store.

Sláinte mhaith