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.

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Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine is a must-have on many holiday cocktail recipe lists but what is it?  A traditional mulled wine recipe is made most often with red wine, though white is sometimes used, heated with a mixture of whole warming spices and other optional ingredients like apple cider, citrus and brandy.

Photo credit: thelondoneconomic.com

Spiced wine tastes like a big, fruity red wine crossed with a spicy batch of apple cider, with a touch of spirit. 

Mulled wine is known by many names such as spiced wine, hot wine, glögg, glühwein, and vin chaud. They all essentially refer to the same drink, although the spices and liquor of choice may vary.

Depending on personal preference, individual recipes will contain varying amounts of spice, sweetness and warmth.  The best wine for mulled wine is dry and full-bodied, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Zinfandel, or Syrah/Shiraz. These will stand up to the other flavors and ensure the spiced wine won’t be too sweet.  Since other flavours will be added, select a budget-friendly bottle. Don’t go bottom shelf, but don’t use the super good stuff either.  Those wines are best appreciated on their own.

At this time of year you will see several brands selling pre-mixed spiced wine in bottles. Don’t be tempted.  These wines tend to be overly sweet and contain artificial flavours.  They are nowhere close to being of equal quality as the homemade versions.

It doesn’t require a great investment of your time to prepare a steaming pot of mulled wine. It takes about 5 minutes to prepare and can be made either on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. It’s totally customizable with your favourite spices and liqueurs. It will make your home smell wonderful and warm everyone up on a cold winter night.

In addition to your bottle of wine, it is suggested to include the following:

  • Brandy or other liqueur such as Cointreau (or another orange liqueur) or tawny port
  • Fresh oranges; one that has been peeled and sliced to mull in the wine; and one to slice and use as a garnish
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Mulling spices, which may include one or more of whole cloves, star anise, a few cardamom pods, nutmeg and ginger
  • Sweetener such as sugar, honey, apple cider, apple juice or maple syrup.

To make it, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and give them a quick stir.  Heat until the wine almost reaches a simmer over medium-high heat but don’t let it bubble, otherwise the alcohol will begin to vaporize and the wine will begin to evaporate.  Reduce heat to low, cover completely, and let the wine simmer for at least 15 minutes or up to 3 hours.

Using a fine mesh strainer, remove and discard the mulling spices. Give the wine a taste and stir in the desired amount of extra sweetener if needed.

Serve warm in heatproof mugs topped with your favorite garnishes.

As an alternative to a saucepan, a slow cooker can be used.  The slow cooker keeps the stove top free and the spiced wine warm, and it’s easy for guests to access for refills.

Happy holidays!

Sláinte mhaith

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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Canada’s Liquid Gold

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

Photo credit: TheDrinksBusiness.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Wine with Comfort Food

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Sláinte mhaith

British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards

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.

Below I have listed the Platinum and gold winners from this year’s completion.  The complete list of winners can be found at http://www.thewinefestivals.com/awards/results/8/1/

Platinum Award Winners

  • Inniskillin Okanagan Estate Winery, 2018 Estate Riesling Icewine
  • Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, 2019 Syrah
  • Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery, 2018 Reserve Syrah
  • Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery, 2020 Original Vines Sémillon
  • Silkscarf winery, 2017 Syrah-Viognier
  • Three Sisters Winery, 2019 Rebecca
  • Tantalus Vineyards, 2018 Chardonnay
  • Enrico Winery, 2020 Shining Armour Pinot Gris
  • Maan Farms Estate Winery, 2020 Raspberry Table Wine
  • Arrowleaf, 2019 Riesling
  • Silhouette Estate Winery, Boyd Classic Cuvée
  • SpearHead Winery, 2019 Pinot Noir Saddle Block
  • SpearHead Winery, 2019 Pinot Noir Golden Retreat
  • SpearHead Winery, 2019 Pinot Noir Cuvée
  • Chain Reaction Winery, 2019 Tailwind Pinot Gris
  • Liquidity Wines, 2020 Rosé
  • Kismet Estate Winery, 2018 Cabernet Franc Reserve
  • Mission Hill Family Estate,  2019 Perpetua
  • Mission Hill Family Estate, 2019 Terroir Collection Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc
  • CedarCreek Estate Winery, 2020 Platinum Home Block Rosé

Gold Award Winners

  • Moon Curser Vineyards, 2020 Arneis
  • Moon Curser Vineyards, 2017 Tannat
  • Moon Curser Vineyards, 2019 Touriga Nacional
  • Lakeside Cellars, 2017 Provenir
  • Lakeside Cellars, 2020 Portage White
  • 50th Parallel Estate Winery, 2020 Pinot Noir Rosé
  • 50th Parallel Estate Winery, 2019 Pinot Noir
  • 50th Parallel Estate Winery, 2019 Unparalleled Pinot Noir
  • 50th Parallel Estate Winery, 2018 Blanc De Noir
  • La Frenz Estate Winery, 2019 Reserve Pinot Noir
  • Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Winery, 2018 Reserve Riesling Icewine
  • Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Winery, 2018 Grand Reserve Merlot
  • Wild Goose Vineyards, 2019 Pinot Noir Sumac Slope
  • Wild Goose Vineyards, 2020 Pinot Gris
  • Inniskillin Okanagan Estate Winery, 2019 Discovery Series Chenin Blanc
  • Black Sage Vineyards, 2018 Cabernet Franc
  • St Hubertus & Oak Bay Estate Winery, 2019 St Hubertus Vineyard Riesling
  • Stag’s Hollow Winery, 2018 Renaissance Merlot
  • Stag’s Hollow Winery, 2018 Syrah
  • Tightrope Winery, 2019 Riesling
  • Tightrope Winery, 2020 Pinot Gris
  • Tightrope Winery, 2019 Chardonnay
  • Wayne Gretzky Estates Okanagan, 2020 Rosé
  • Four Shadows Winery, 2019 Merlot Reserve
  • Four Shadows Winery, 2020 Riesling Dry
  • Four Shadows Winery, 2020 Riesling Classic
  • Nk’Mip Cellars, 2019 Qwam Qwmt Syrah
  • Nk’Mip Cellars, 2020 Winemaker’s Pinot Blanc
  • Bordertown Vineyard & Estate Winery, 2017 Living Desert Red
  • Rust Wine Co., 2018 GMB Syrah
  • Blasted Church Vineyards, 2019 Cabernet Franc
  • Blasted Church Vineyards, 2016 OMG
  • Township 7 Vineyards & Winery, 2015 Seven Stars Sirius
  • Township 7 Vineyards & Winery, 2018 NBO
  • Three Sisters Winery, 2019 Tempranillo
  • Bonamici Cellars, 2019 Reserve Merlot
  • Moraine Estate Winery, 2019 Syrah
  • Black Hills, 2020 Alibi
  • Gray Monk, 2018 Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Upper Bench Estate Winery, 2019 Chardonnay
  • Upper Bench Estate Winery, 2019 Estate Chardonnay
  • Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery, 2019 Pinot Noir Terraces
  • Fort Berens Estate Winery, 2019 Cabernet Franc
  • Deep Roots, 2019 Parentage Red
  • Blue Grouse Estate Winery, 2019 Estate Pinot Noir
  • Blue Grouse Estate Winery, 2020 Estate Pinot Gris
  • Enrico Winery, 2020 Rosé Red Dragon
  • Hester Creek Estate Winery, 2020 Sémillon
  • Monte Creek Winery, 2020 Living Land Sparkling Rosé
  • Clos du Soleil Winery, 2020 Winemaker’s Series Pinot Blanc
  • Arrowleaf, 2020 Summerstorm
  • Silhouette Estate Winery, 2018 Boyd Blanc De Blanc
  • SpearHead Winery, 2019 Riesling
  • Chaberton Estate Winery, 2018 Reserve Cabernet Franc
  • Frind Estate Winery, 2019 Riesling
  • Lake Breeze Vineyards, 2019 Pinot Blanc
  • Lake Breeze Vineyards, 2019 Cellar Series Alize (Roussanne)
  • Lake Breeze Vineyards, 2017 Cellar Series Mistral (Syrah)
  • Liquidity Wines, Brut Reserve
  • Liquidity Wines, 2019 Reserve Pinot Noir
  • Peak Cellars, 2020 Skin Kissed Pinot Gris
  • Time Family of Wines, 2018 TIME Syrah
  • Kismet Estate Winery, 2017 Malbec Reserve
  • Meadow Vista Honey Wines, 2021 Bliss Sparkling Blueberry Haskap Mead
  • Ex Nihilo Vineyards, 2019 Merlot
  • Mission Hill Family Estate, 2020 Terroir Collection Border Vista Rosé
  • Mission Hill Family Estate, 2019 Terroir Collection Jagged Rock Vineyard Syrah
  • Mission Hill Family Estate, 2020 Reserve Rosé
  • Mission Hill Family Estate, 2018 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Mission Hill Family Estate, 2020 Reserve Riesling
  • Plot Wines, 2018 Neighbour
  • Plot Wines, 2019 Merlot
  • CedarCreek Estate Winery, 2019 Estate Syrah
  • CedarCreek Estate Winery, 2019 Estate Chardonnay
  • CedarCreek Estate Winery, 2020 Estate Riesling
  • CedarCreek Estate Winery, 2019 Platinum Block 3 Riesling
  • 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.

Sláinte mhaith

The All Canadian Wine Championships

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.

The overall results by province were as follows:

  • BC          4 Trophies / 29 Double Gold / 81 Gold / 75 Silver / 88 Bronze (759 entries)
  • ON         2 Trophies / 22 Double Gold / 38 Gold / 50 Silver / 40 Bronze  (465 entries)
  • QC          1 Double Gold / 7 Gold / 6 Silver / 4 Bronze (57 entries)
  • NS          3 Gold / 2 Bronze  ( 14 entries)
  • NB          1 Double Gold / 1 Gold / 5 Bronze (23 entries)
  • PEI         1 Double Gold / 3 Silver /  1 Bronze   (10 entries)
  • AB          3 Double Gold / 2 Gold / 1 Silver (11 entries)
  • MB          1 Double Gold (4 entries)
  • SK           1 Double Gold / 1 Gold / 3 Silver / 3 Bronze (18 entries)
  • Yukon     0 (4 entries)

All of the results are available at https://allcanadianwinechampionships.com/acwc-2021-results/

With the All Canadian Wine Awards completed, I look forward to the National Wine Awards that were deferred until the fall.

Sláinte mhaith

British Columbia’s Movers and Shakers for 2021

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.

Reserve 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.

Terroir Collection

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.

Legacy Collection

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. 

Final Thoughts

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.

Sláinte mhaith

The Wines of Switzerland

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.

Sláinte mhaith