Ontario is internationally acclaimed for its Ice Wine (also spelled Icewine). However, it is said to have been discovered by accident in Franken, Germany in 1794 by farmers trying to save their grape harvest after a sudden frost. Winemakers that year had to create a product from the grapes available for harvest. The resulting wines had an unusually high sugar content, along with great flavour. As a result, this new technique became popular in Germany and by the mid-1800s, the Rheingau region was making what the Germans called Eiswein.
In the 1980s, Ontario’s vintners recognized that their cold winters would provide the perfect conditions for producing exceptional Ice Wine. In 1984, Niagara’s Inniskillin winery was the first Canadian winery to produce Ice Wine for commercial purposes. This wine was made from Vidal grapes and was labelled “Eiswein”. Canadian Ice Wine soon became popular and more Canadian producers picked up the idea. The international breakthrough of Canadian Ice Wine came in 1991, when Inniskillin’s 1989 Vidal ice wine won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at VinExpo in Bordeaux, France. By the early 2000s, Canada was established as the largest producer of ice wine in the world. In 2001, the EU recognized Canada’s high standard for producing Ice Wine and began allowing its importation.
At the normal fall harvest time, producers leave select vineyards unharvested and wait for winter to set in. Being left on the vine, the grapes are vulnerable to rot, high winds, hail, hungry birds and animals. The grapes are harvested in the middle of the night at temperatures below -8°C. The grapes are picked by hand and must be pressed immediately while they are still frozen.
Only about 10 to 20% of the liquid in these frozen grapes is used for Ice Wine. The juice is so sweet that it can take from 3 to 6 months to make ice wine. When it’s all done, wines have around 10% alcohol by volume (ABV) and a range of sweetness from around 160 to 220 grams/litre of residual sugar, which is two times the sweetness of Coca-Cola.
Grapes that grow well in cold climates make the best ice wines. These include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc.
To produce Ice Wine, summers must be hot and winters must be cold. Of all the wine-producing regions in the world, only Ontario has a winter climate consistently cold enough to produce Ice Wine every year. Even Germany cannot produce an Ice Wine every vintage.
Regulations in Canada, Germany, Austria, and the U.S. prohibit dessert wines from being labeled as ice wine if grapes are commercially frozen. Instead, these products are usually labeled as “iced wine” or simply “dessert wine.” So, if you’re looking for true ice wine, be a wary shopper and read the labels or look up the production information.
Ice Wine is not just a dessert wine, but if you do serve it along side dessert, make sure the dessert is less sweet than the Ice Wine. Pairing suggestions include fruit cobbler or pie or cheesecake. White Ice Wine goes well with apple pie, cheesecake, vanilla pound cake, ice cream, fresh fruit panna cotta, fruit compote, crème brûlée and white chocolate mousse.
If you are serving dark chocolate, it pairs well with Cabernet Franc or other red Ice Wine. White chocolate goes well with a Riesling or Vidal Ice Wine.
White Ice Wine pairs well with savoury dishes, such as chicken liver pâté, oysters or foie gras. These salty foods enhance the wine’s sweetness. The acidity of the Ice Wine cleanses the palate between bites.
Spicy foods, such as spicy chicken or Thai curry will pair well because the sweetness of the wine will control the heat of the food while maintaining the flavours of the spices.
White Ice Wine pairs well with snack foods such as soft cheeses or blue cheeses. Red Ice Wine goes well with nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans.
Ice Wine should always be chilled, whether that be for 15 minutes in an ice bucket or 2 hours in the fridge before enjoying. It can be served in an Ice Wine glass, which is a narrow, tulip-shaped long-stemmed glass or it can be simply served in a white wine glass. A standard serving is about 1.5 ounces or 45 ml per person.
Once opened, unlike other wines, Ice Wine will keep in the fridge for several weeks.
Given that that New Year’s is fast approaching it seems like a good time to talk about sparkling wines; in particular the amount of sweetness in these wines. Sweetness levels range from super dry to very sweet. Because of this extreme variation, the experts have developed a standardized sweetness scale that has been divided into seven levels.
The sweetness level varies due to a step in the wine making process referred to as “liqueur d’expedition” where producers add a small amount of grape must (sugar) before corking the bottle. Since sparkling wine is so acidic, the sweetness is added in order to reduce sour flavours in the final product.
The sweetness scale for sparkling wines consists of the following levels:
0-2 calories and up to 0.15 carbs for a total of 91–93 calories per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
0-6 g/L RS
0-6 calories and up to 0.9 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 91–96 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
0-12 g/L RS
0-7 calories and up to 1.8 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 91–98 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
12-17 g/L RS
7-10 calories and 1.8–2.6 carbs per 5 oz. (~150 ml) serving for a total of 98–101 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
17-32 g/L RS
10-19 calories and 2.6–4.8 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of 101–111 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
32-50 g/L RS
19-30 calories and 4.8–7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of 111–121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
50+ g/L RS
30+ calories and more than 7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving for a total of more than 121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Brut has a fair amount of variation in sweetness, whereas Extra Brut and Brut Nature have focused sugar content. Therefore, if a dryer wine is your preference it is best to select either an Extra Brut or Brut Nature wine.
Something to keep in mind when considering the sweetness of sparkling wine is how little sugar is required to make it taste sweet. The amount of sugar in these wines is comparatively low to other beverages.
Drink Comparison (sugar levels in grams)
0 g in Vodka Soda
0.5 g in Brut Nature Sparkling Wine
2 g in Brut Sparkling Wine
8 g in Demi-Sec Sparkling Wine
14 g in Gin & Tonic
16 g in Honest Tea Green Tea
17 g in Starbucks 2% Milk Grande Latte
20 g in Margarita on the rocks (made w/ simple syrup)
With the warmer weather becoming a distant memory and the dark cold days of winter coming, thoughts turn to hunkering down in front of the fire and indulging in comfort foods. When pairing your wine to your meal there are 5 factors about the wine to consider: tannins, the body or ‘weight’, acidity, intensity and sweetness.
Tannins are the components in red wine that make your mouth feel dry and give a wine its texture. When served with food tannins will soften proteins and provide a good balance to fatty foods. Therefore such wines go well with rich meats and cheeses.
Body is the perception of weight in a wine. A light body wine will feel lighter in your mouth than a wine that is full-bodied. When pairing with foods, it is best to pair full-bodied wine with heavier foods.
Acidity in wine generally ranges from being soft and light, like a pear, to crisp and bright like a lemon. Acidity will cut through rich and fatty foods. Wines with crisp acidity pair well with rich meats and cheeses, creamy sauces and oily foods.
Intensity is the speed in which the wine’s aromas and flavours react to your sense of smell and taste. Wines with more intense flavour and aroma (bouquet) will be best with subtly flavoured foods like creamy pasta, risotto or mild cheeses.
Sweetness relates to the taste of the wine rather than the actual amount of sugar content. When pairing a wine with food the wine should taste as sweet as, or sweeter than the food. Sweet wines also pair well with spicy foods.
Based on this information it can be a simple process to pair wine with your favourite comfort foods. For example here are some suggested wines to pair with my own comfort foods:
Homemade Mac & Cheese Light unoaked Chardonnay goes well but if you like to add lobster or crab then a white Burgundy or Chenin Blanc may be more to your liking
Spaghetti and meatballs A red wine such as Sangiovese, Chianti, Barbera, a fruity acidic Merlot or a Zinfandel
Homemade Pizza Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or Merlot
Grilled Cheese Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio), Gewürztraminer or Riesling
Meat Lasagna Primitivo, Sangiovese, Barbera or Valpolicella
Chicken Noodle soup Pinot Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay or light-bodied, low-tannin reds such as Beaujolais, Gamay, Baco Noir or Pinot Noir
Beef stew Red Bordeaux, Malbec, Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon
Chicken and dumplings Oaked Chardonnay
Chili Malbec or Zinfandel
Shepherd’s pie Syrah (Shiraz) or Zinfandel
Chicken pot pie Chardonnay or Merlot
Comfort food and a nice glass of wine; what better way to brace yourself for the cold weather ahead!
Over 800 of B.C.’s finest wines from more than 120 B.C. wineries were judged by a panel of 15 judges at the 2021 B.C. Lieutenant Governor Wine Awards. The results were released earlier this month.
The top honour went to the Tantalus Vineyards’ 2018 Old Vines Riesling. The wine was produced from Riesling grape vines first planted in 1978. The vineyards and winery are situated on the eastern shores of Lake Okanagan overlooking the lake and the City of Kelowna.
CedarCreek Estate Winery, 2019 Platinum Cabernet Franc
Church & State Wines, 2019 Marsanne
Church & State Wines, 2019 Trebella
Unfortunately from what I can tell, none of this year’s winners are presently available outside of British Columbia. I have indicated in green those wineries that do have products that are occasionally found east of the Rockies. Even though the winners may never travel beyond B.C., other wines from these vineyards would be well worth trying.
With COVID seeming to be lessening its grip, life as we used to know it is once again beginning to slowly return. Part of that are the various wine competitions. The 40th edition of the All Canadian Wine Championships was held from July 6th to 8th. In total, 208 wineries submitted 1,327 wines to assess.
Assessments and awards were based as follows:
Trophies : “All Canadian Best Wines of the Year”
All wines are judged using the 100-point system. Trophies are awarded for each of the following categories:
Best Red table wine
Best White table wine
Best Dessert wine
Best Sparkling wine
Best Fruit wine
The award for Best Red Wine of the Year went to BC’s Dark Horse Vineyard for their 2016 Red Meritage ($60.00).
The Best White Wine of the Year was the 2020 Gewürztraminer ($20.69) from BC’s Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery.
The Best Dessert Wine of the Year went to Ontario’s Peller Estates Winery for their 2019 Andrew Peller Signature Series Riesling Icewine ($89.85).
BC’s Forbidden Fruit Winery won the Best Fruit Wine of the Year award for their 2020 Flaunt Organic Sparkling Plum ($22.00).
Finally the Best Sparkling Wine of the Year award went to BC’s Gray Monk Estate Winery for their 2018 Odyssey Rose Brut ($29.90).
Double Gold medals / Best of Category were awarded to the single highest rated wine (using an average of the aggregate judges’ scores) from each of the categories. These wines were all submitted for the Trophy round.
Medals of Merit: Gold, Silver, Bronze were awarded in the following manner:
Gold awards were awarded to those wines scoring in the top 10 percentile.
Silver awards of merit were issued to those wines scoring in the second 10 percentile.
Bronze awards of merit were given to those wines scoring in the third 10 percentile.
I have put together my 2021 list of British Columbia wineries to watch for. Not all of these wines will be available at your local wine store; some are available in British Columbia wine stores, but most may be purchased online or directly from the winery.
My selections are based 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.
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery, West Kelowna
Mission Hill uses sustainable organic farming practices with the use of modern technology. Their wines are carefully aged with new and Old World techniques. They employ the use of bees, falcons, and chickens in lieu of pesticides and insecticides. Cover crops, earthworms, and compost are used in place of chemical fertilizers.
Their winemakers’ practices are fundamentally rooted in Old World techniques that are supported with modern technology. Drones provide a high-level view of the vineyard’s health. Soil science pinpoints the areas where best to plant the vines.
The winemaking team strives to be continually innovative, combining fermentation and maturation vessel traditions with future trends. The equipment and processes are designed to best serve the wines.
Mission Hill has 3 collections of wines: the Reserve Collection, Terroir Collection and the Legacy Collection.
The Reserve Collection expresses hand-selected blocks of grapes, extreme viticulture management, longer barrel time, and increased lees stirring, which is a process to handle the yeast during the fermentation process.
Only the top 3% of all of the winery’s fruit is hand-selected for these wines and each individual lot is carefully tasted throughout the winemaking process to ensure its quality level before the final blend.
The grapes are hand-harvested and hand-sorted, consisting of the top 1% of the harvest from all of their vineyards. They benefit from extended barrel aging which is followed by a 24-month period in-bottle prior to release.
These wines are small lot and limited production collectibles. Cellar-worthy, they may be aged for decades. The collection includes Compendium, Quatrain, Prospectus, Perpetua and their flagship wine, Oculus.
Covert Farms Family Estate, Oliver
Covert Farms Family Estate practices organic farming with minimal intervention winemaking. Regenerative agriculture offers many benefits to the farming ecosystem such as increasing soil organic matter, greater water holding capacity, improved nutrient cycling, pest and disease suppression through enhanced soil biology, and ultimately higher nutrient density in the vines.
They hope to introduce Dry Farming to the vineyards within the next few years which would provide such benefits as enhanced resiliency to climate change and potential increase in wine quality attributes.
They practice regenerative farming, which is based on five principles that need to be implemented together: no-till or minimal tillage, keeping the ground covered, species diversity, keeping living roots in the soil as much as possible and integrating livestock.
Regenerative agriculture offers many benefits to the ecosystem such as increasing soil organic matter, carbon capture, greater water holding capacity, improved nutrient cycling, pest and disease control through enhanced soil biology, and ultimately higher nutrient density within their crops.
Minimizing tillage is challenging in organic agriculture as this is one of the only means to manage weeds. They have been adapting their systems and processes and have had good success in the vineyards. Interestingly, the longer the soil is undisturbed, the fewer weeds there are.
Tantalus Vineyards, Kelowna
Tantalus Vineyards put incredible care into everything they do, from farming to winemaking and including the winery being Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. It is also LIVE certified. LIVE has independently certified the sustainable practices of winegrowers in the Pacific Northwest, using the latest in university research and internationally accredited standards.
Riesling is the major focus at Tantalus; it is an Okanagan icon. However, their Pinot Noir is very good as well.
Obviously these are far more than just 3 good wineries in British Columbia. In fact I have purposely excluded some of my personal favourites from this list as they were not what I consider as the innovative leaders this year. Included in that list would be Osoyoos Larose, Quails Gate and Gray Monk.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will find many of the wines produced by these wineries outside of British Columbia. However, lucky for us many of the wineries offer online ordering.
Switzerland may be a little known wine producing nation but it has been making wine for more than two thousand years. Swiss wine’s lack of fame is not due to any lack of quality or quantity, but because it is produced mostly for the Swiss themselves.
The Swiss consume nearly all the wine they make. In 2016, Swiss residents drank 89 million litres of domestic wine which made up only about a third of the total 235 million litres of wine they drank. They export only about 1% of their wine production and the majority of that goes mainly to Germany.
Things are gradually changing as the world is beginning to discover the high quality of Swiss Pinot Noir and white wines made from the locally grown Chasselas.
Switzerland possesses multi-cultural influence. The Germanic wine influence is demonstrated by a preference for varietal winemaking and crisp, refreshing wine styles, and is most prevalent in the German-speaking north between Zurich and the Rhine. French influences are felt mostly in the French-speaking south-west in Geneva, Vaud and Valais. Switzerland’s favourite grape varieties – Chasselas, sometimes referred to as “Fendant”, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Merlot are all of French origin.
Do to the terrain, Swiss wines are some of the world’s most expensive. Many vineyards are inaccessible to tractors and other vineyard machinery so most work is done by hand. This substantially increases production costs. This does have an advantage; when grapes are harvested by hand, there is an obvious incentive to favour quality over quantity.
The Chasselas white wine grape is gradually giving up production to more popular ‘international’ varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer are also grown in Swiss vineyards.
Red wines now outnumber whites in Switzerland. Pinot Noir, also known as Blauburgunder, is the most widely produced and planted variety in the country, making up almost 30% of wines produced. Chasselas represents just over a quarter of all wines.
The next most popular wine in the red category is Gamay. It is often blended with Pinot Noir to produce “Dôle” wines.
Also significant among Swiss red wine grapes is Merlot. Syrah has also done well here, even if only in the warmest parts of the country.
Wine has been produced in Switzerland for more than 2,000 years. As in France, the spread of viticulture during the Middle Ages was mainly driven by monasteries.
Today the Swiss wine industry has about 16,000 hectares of vineyards that produce about 100 million liters of wine each year.
The government body in charge of the Swiss appellation system, the OIC, has a separate title for each of the country’s three official languages: “Organisme Intercantonal de Certification” in French, ‘Interkantonale Zertifizierungsstelle” in German and “Organismo Intercantonale di Certificazione” in Italian. The OIC is responsible for delineating the official Swiss wine regions and creating wine quality guidelines and laws. The OIC is reportedly in talks to bring their labelling practices into line with European standards even though the country is not a member of the European Union.
I myself have never had the opportunity to try Swiss wine but I will keep an eye out for it whenever I cruise the aisles in the Vintages section of my local liquor store.
There are in excess of 100 grape varietals that have 2 or more uniquely different names. Many of these have multiple names within the same country! I have compiled a list of the more common ones that make an appearance in wine stores in North America.
So what’s in a name? Are they always interchangeable, or does their place and name hold a clue to their style?
Where a grape is grown may greatly impact its flavour. I have compiled some examples where this is the case.
Blaufränkisch grapes, also known as Lemberger, Kékfrankos, Frankovka, and Frankinja, are found in the temperate and distinctly continental latitudes of Central Europe. In eastern Austria, it’s known as Blaufränkisch. In southern Germany, it’s Lemberger. It also goes by Kékfrankos in Hungary, Frankovka in northern Croatia and western Slovakia and Frankinja in eastern Slovenia. No matter the name, it produces quality reds that age well. It also forms part of Egri Bikaver, Hungary’s historic “bulls’ blood” wine.
Fairly full-bodied for such northerly reaches, Blaufränkisch produces structured, elegant wines. Cooler vintages or sites add an irresistible pepperiness to the usually dark-fruit spectrum, where there are notes of dark cherry and blueberry.
Vinified in stainless steel, Blaufränkisch is sometimes confused with fuller-bodied Gamay. However, when aged in small, new oak barrels, Blaufränkisch attains some punch and needs to be laid down for a few years to return to its inherent subtlety.
Grenache, also known as Garnacha and Cannonau is known for its luscious red fruit flavours. Grenache is an archetypal Mediterranean variety. It needs full sun, will withstand heat and drought and it thrives on meager, stony soils.
Grenache is full-bodied without being tannic. It can also make charming, aromatic reds in the Rhône cru villages of Vinsobres, Rasteau, Gigondas and Vacqueyras. As Cannonau in Sardinia, it’s bigger, stronger and bolder.
Malbec, also known as Côt, is synonymous with Argentina, where this aromatic, black grape revels in the bright, high-altitude sunshine of the Andes.
Malbec is sometimes referred to as Côt in France. It’s even one of the five permitted varieties in red Bordeaux, even though it ripens unreliably there. In France’s cooler Loire Valley, Côt produces wines that are very fresh, and often spicy.
The Mourvèdre grape also referred to as Monastrell, Mataro, Rossola Near and Garrut, is a thick-skinned, small-berried grape of Spanish origin that thrives in hot climates. Mourvèdre is at home on the Mediterranean coast in Spain, where it’s called Monastrell, and forms the gutsy, heavy, tannic reds of Yecla, Jumilla and Alicante. In Australia, where it’s known as Mataro, it is included in Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blends.
The Primitivo grape of Italy is also known as Tribidrag or Crljenak Kaštelanski in its native Croatia and Montenegro, as Primitivo in Puglia and as Zinfandel in California.
As a red wine, Zinfandel always boasts full, juicy and plump fruit that covers a spectrum of ripeness, often with elevated alcohol levels of up to 14%. In Puglia, Primitivo is smooth and warming. On an inland elevation, Gioia del Colle produces the freshest versions, while coastal Primitivo di Manduria is strong, dense and powerful. In Croatia and Montenegro, Tribidrag is produced as a fruity local wine.
Syrah, also known as Shiraz, can taste almost like polar opposites depending on the climate. Syrah was traditionally a French grape found in the Northern Rhône region. There the grape has firm, drying tannins and is more slender.
Known as Shiraz in Australia, the grape is most distinct in the hot Barossa and warm McLaren Vale regions, but it also thrives in cooler Canberra. Australian Shiraz is often described as peppery, big and bold.
Chenin Blanc is also known as Pineau de la Loire and Steen. It is native to France’s cool Loire Valley, where it is also called Pineau de la Loire. Its acid is high, and its expression always tinged with apple flavors that range from green to dried.
It’s inherent acidity makes Chenin Blanc a popular grape in South Africa, where it’s referred to as Steen.
Pinot Gris, also known as Pinot Grigio, Grauburgunder, Fromenteau, Pinot Beurot, Ruländer, Malvoisie, Pinot Jaune and Szürkebarát, may range from being an easy-drinker to a full-flavoured white.
Easy-drinking, lighter versions are often labeled Pinot Grigio, while rounder wines, often with some residual sweetness, are designated Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris makes full-fruited, rounded whites heavy enough to accompany red meat and are suitable for aging.
The Vermentino grape is also known as Rolle, Pigato, and Favorita and thrives in Italy, France and on the islands of Corsica and Sardini., prized for its fine, crisp acidity.
On its own, Vermentino displays citrus aromatics and inherent crispness. From the Tuscan coast, it evokes a citrus-scent. Pigato, from Liguria, while still fresh, is a little more robust and structured.
As Vermentino di Gallura from Sardinia, the grape is fuller-bodied with intense, medicinal notes of lemon balm and yarrow. When grown in places such as Italy’s Piedmont region, it is known as Favorita. There the grape takes on an aromatic quality. More recently, Vermentino is also finding a new home in Australia.
Below is a more complete list of both red and white varietals and countries where they are located.
Blaufränkisch / Limberger
Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Italy, USA
Have you ever noticed the variety of shapes and colours of wine bottles? Have you ever wondered whether there is any rhyme or reason for this? The differences in wine bottle shapes are purely regional variations that have more to do with glassblowing techniques than the flavours of the wine.
The Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris bottle shape differs from a Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc bottle shape. Bottles are deliberately shaped a certain way in order that the region of origin may be identified. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are presented in a Burgundy shaped bottle with less pronounced shoulders that slope downward. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot are presented in a Bordeaux shaped bottle, which has distinct, high shoulders and a deep punt on the bottom of the bottle.
There’s no scientific reason why you couldn’t put Pinot Noir in a Bordeaux bottle, but vintners around the world still use the traditional wine bottle shapes for the region with which their wines are associated. For most, it’s simply a matter of tradition. But it also makes it easy for people to identify different types of wine by sight. Bottles are colored differently for the same reason.
While there are innumerable varieties of wine available in the market, the bottles themselves generally fall into a few specific shapes. There are 12 basic shapes of wine bottles.
It’s the most common shape of bottle and as the name indicates, it originated in Bordeaux. It has straight sides and distinct shoulders. The bottle is generally dark green or brown for red wines and light green or transparent for white wines. There is a good reason for the colour difference. The coloured glass protects red wines from the sun’s rays, and a transparent bottle improves the colour of white wines.
This type of bottle is used for a variety of grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Sauternes.
The burgundy bottle was introduced in Burgundy around the 19th century, before the Bordeaux bottle. This bottle has sloping shoulders and the colour of the glass is green. The grape varietals stored in a burgundy shaped bottle include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Nebbiolo and Pinot Gris.
This bottle originated from Langhe, Piedmont, Italy. It was first used near the beginning of the 18th century. It looks similar to the Burgundy bottle and is used for the great red wines of Piedmont, such as Barolo and Barbaresco.
Côtes de Provence
The shape of the bottle is a mix between a Greek amphora vessel and a bowling pin. It’s the typical bottle for the wines of Côtes de Provence, which includes a variety of rosés and reds. In Italy, it’s used for Verdicchio wine.
The glass for this type of bottle is typically transparent or light green in the case of Verdicchio wines.
Alsace bottles are taller and thinner in shape compared to the other bottles. They have gently sloping shoulders. The colour is green for German wines and brown for French. The main grape contained in this type of bottle is Riesling.
Champagne bottles are unique because they need to withstand up to 90 psi of pressure of the sparkling wines contained within them. It’s also heavier and thicker, with a hollow bottom. The shape looks similar to the Burgundy bottle. The colour is usually varying shades of green, ranging from light to dark.
This shape is used for Hungarian Tokaji and it has a capacity of 0.5 litres. The glass is transparent.
A Port bottle is typically used for Port, Madeira and Sherry wines. The bottle has a bulb in the neck, which is intended to trap excess sediment during the pouring. The colour of the glass can be varying shades of green or brown.
A Marsala bottle looks similar to the Port bottle but it is higher and thinner. It’s used for Marsala wine. The glass is typically dark brown or black in colour.
This bottle is short, stocky and heavily built. It’s the only bottle authorized for Vin Jaune. Its capacity is 0.62litre. Vin Jaune (French for “yellow wine”) is a special and characteristic type of white wine made in the Jura region of France. It is similar to dry fino Sherry.
Bocksbeutel is completely different from the other wine bottle shapes; it is a flattened ellipsoid. The glass is a dark green colour. It’s used for the red wines of Germany’s Franconia region, some Portuguese wines, and Italy’s Orvieto wines. This particular shape is protected under the European Union.
This is the old bottle of Chianti wine which is no longer in use. The bottle gave a rustic aspect to the wine. It was round, so it required a basket to allow it to stand upright on the table. The capacity was about 2 litres. Once empty these bottles were often used as candlesticks.
Over the past few weeks I have been asked several times for recommendations for wines that can be obtained from the local liquor store. The truth is I can’t really suggest any particular wine as I don’t tend to favour any particular winery. Instead I usually select my wines from the Vintages section at the LCBO. I do this for a couple of reasons. First the LCBO has a rule whereby in order for a wine to appear on the regular shelves it has to be available on an ongoing basis. This restricts the suppliers to only the largest producers; those who often purchase grapes from a wide variety of growers thus increasing the risk of producing an inconsistent product. Also because these wineries have become so well-known, some of them over-charge for the quality of the product produced.
The challenge with the Vintages section is that many of the wines brought in are in limited supply with new releases appearing every 2 weeks. The wines are often from estate wineries that produce smaller and limited volumes. Thus if you are seeking wine from a specific winery you may go months or even years before it reappears on the shelves. I have found that I have been very rarely disappointed in any of my Vintage purchases. What I focus on is the grape varietal or the region the wine comes from rather than who the vintner is.
I find the LCBO’s Vintages magazine, a bi-weekly production that identifies and provides reviewer notes and comments about the various wines being released, to be very informative. It provides the necessary details I need to assist me with my purchasing decisions. Helpful information includes the name of the vintner, varietal(s), tasting notes, suitability for cellaring, and of course, the price. If you have questions or need assistance in making a decision as to which wine to buy, the staff are very informative and helpful.
The price of wine in the Vintages section is no more expensive than those found on the regular shelves but dollar for dollar I find them a better value. Personally, I am a big fan of Italian Barolo, Valpolicella and Chianti; French wines from the Rhône and Bordeaux regions; Rieslings from Germany’s Mosel region; Spanish wine from Rioja; and a wide variety of wines from Ontario and BC.
Due to COVID-19 there have been challenges in the liquor stores receiving many of the wines they expected; or if they have received the wines they are sometimes of a lesser quantity than anticipated. On more than one occasion during recent months have I been unable to acquire many of the wines I was hoping for. One week the liquor store received only two of the seven wines I was looking for and on another occasion they received none of my desired selections.