Grape Revival

There is a recurring theme of grape revivals beginning to take place in Europe. Back on May 28th I wrote about France’s The Forgotten Grape of the Loire, the Lignage grape, and today I will talk about efforts taking place by some of the world’s largest wine producers. Not only do they have the resources to take on such a massive undertaking, but they also have the land, the vineyards and the history to be able to go back in time to re-plant vines for the future.

One such producer is Spain’s Familia Torres where Miguel A. Torres, the fourth-generation president, began the work about 40 years ago after discussing the great phylloxera aphid epidemic of the late 19th century with famed University of Montpellier viticulture professor Denis Boubals. The insect infestation, which unknowingly came from North America, destroyed most European vineyards.  However, Boubals believed that a few vines had probably survived somewhere.

Torres began the search for orphan vines and over several decades his winery has rediscovered 54 ancient grape varieties from Catalonia, including six good enough to produce as wine.  It is his belief that we need a new way of understanding wine in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. With that aim, Familia Torres focused their efforts on reducing their carbon footprint, while recovering ancestral varieties, promoting research and implementing regenerative viticulture to benefit the vineyards and the planet.  What makes these old varietals even more interesting and potentially important in light of climate change is that they have been found to be significantly resistant to both heat and drought.

Regenerating ancestral varieties is an exercise in viticultural archaeology to recover past heritage. By reviving varieties used by their ancestors, they can look to the future and discover the authenticity that will result in extraordinary wines that are truly special and cannot be made the same way anywhere else.

With an understanding of the type of varieties and vines that prospered so well in its soils in the past, the Torres family will be able to work better with the grapes and terroir they now have in their vineyards.

The first step of the project was to try and fine old vines and determine if they were indeed varieties that were no longer cultivated.  This required going to the media outlets and placing ads asking farmers to contact Torres if they came across vines they could not identify.

Their first breakthrough came in the mid-1980s when a vine was found that Torres’s technical team could not identify.  This unknown varietal was eventually identified as Garró.  After much examination and research the decision was made to plant the variety in Conca de Barberà and add it to the blend of the first Grans Muralles vintage in 1996.

In 1998 a second variety was found and named Querol, after the village where it was found. The 2009 vintage was the first Grans Muralles blend to include grapes from the Querol vines.

Since 2000, Familia Torres’s research team has collaborated with France’s National Agricultural Research Institute, the INRA, to establish and implement specific stages when looking to identify and revive ancestral varietals. These stages include:

Search for Varietals

This includes the placement of ads with local and regional media outlets to tell grape growers who to contact if they happen to come across an old vine. When a potential case presents itself, Torres’s technical team conducts a preliminary evaluation on site.

Identification and Classification

To identify different varieties, ampelographers analyze the shoots, leaves, canes and grapes. A DNA analysis of the vine is then completed to dispel any remaining doubts about the variety.  If the variety is identified as being unique, the team then completes a detailed description of all of the plant’s components.

Evaluation and Enological Potential

In order to study the behavior of these varieties under normal reproductive conditions, the vines are planted in a pilot vineyard. This allows for an in-depth analysis of the vegetative and productive parameters of each individual variety. The grapes are harvested to evaluate the enological (science that deals with wine and wine making) potential and organoleptic (being, affecting, or relating to qualities (such as taste, colour and odor) of a substance (such as a food) that stimulate the sense organs) quality of the wines.

Adapting to the Vineyard

The varieties displaying enological potential are planted in vineyards to evaluate their performance under more extreme climate conditions. Once the ideal conditions for each variety have been identified and its enological potential verified, the process of registering it with the relevant authorities begins.

The complete list of ancestral varieties that have been regenerated by Familia Torres include the following:

Garró

Garró was the first variety to be revived. First found on the terraced slopes of the Garraf Massif in the mid-1980s, it was planted in the early 1990s in Conca de Barberà.   It was initially used in the blend of the first Grans Muralles vintage (1996). This is a late ripening, low yield variety with “great aromatic complexity”, according to Torres.  It also “displays intense notes of green leaves and ripe black fruit. They are big on the palate, with lots of character and lively tannins”.

Querol

This old vine, rediscovered in 1998 near Querol (Tarragona,) saw the resurgence of a variety that was named after the village where it was found.  It is one of the few known varieties that is completely female. This means that unlike most vinifera vines, its flowers are female rather than hermaphroditic (having both male and female reproductive organs). s a result, the berries are smaller and more irregular, and produce in a low yield.

Torres says Querol wines “are intense and fruity (forest fruit, pomegranate juice) with a big, concentrated palate that displays good acidity”.

Moneu

Moneu was also found in 1998 near Querol. It is named after Coster de Moneu, located to the south of the village.  It is a red variety that grows well in high temperatures and drought conditions. The wines offer intense aromas of fragrant fresh fruit with well-defined acidity and gentle tannins.

Gonfaus

This is a red variety that was found around Lluçanès in Osona county in 1998. The climate conditions there are extremely dry, with large changes between daytime and nighttime temperatures. Gonfaus is a very low-yielding variety with wine that displays complex aromas of ripe fruit with slightly spicy undertones.  It has well-integrated acidity and ripe, sweet tannins.

Forcada

Forcada is a white varietal found in Ripollès county. It is very vigorous and productive, as well as very aromatic. It has aromas of herbs, white flowers and citrus.

Pirene

Found in the foothills of the Catalan Pyrenees, Pirene is a strongly pigmented red variety with high tannin levels and a spicy, minerally nuance. The flavour reveals flavourful fresh fruit.

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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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Italy’s Sangiovese Grape

The Sangiovese varietal is the most planted wine variety in Italy and has made the Tuscany region renowned for its Chianti wine.  In Chianti, Sangiovese must account for 70% of the blend and in Chianti Classico the minimum rises to 80%.  Other better-known Tuscan wine blends made mainly from Sangiovese grapes include Morellino di Scansano, which must contain 85% and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, with 70% Sangiovese grapes.

Photo credit: blog.suvie.com

Beyond Tuscany, Sangiovese is widely planted in Lazio, Umbria, Marche (all of which border Tuscany) and Corsica. In Corsica the variety is known as Nielluccio or Niellucciu.

In addition to being a mainstay in many varieties of red wines, Sangiovese is often used for Vin Santo wines, which are a style of Italian dessert wine. Vin Santo is traditionally found in Tuscany.

Sangiovese can come in different stylistic expressions based on where it grows.  There are many different mutations of the variety found throughout Italy, which results in very different tasting wines. From the delicate, floral strawberry aromas of Montefalco Rosso to the intensely dark and tannic wines of Brunello di Montalcino, Sangiovese wines have wide appeal.

Sangiovese is seldom found outside of Italy. Of the approximate 70,800 hectares of Sangiovese grown worldwide, almost 63,000 hectares are grown in Italy, followed by about 1,940 in Corsica, and 800 hectares in each of Argentina and the United States.

Sangiovese is savory and offers a wide range of tastes.  Flavours can vary from very earthy and rustic, as in many Chianti Classico, to round and fruit-forward options. Regardless of where it is grown, it always contains hints of cherry and subtle notes of tomato.

The range of flavours include tart cherry, red plum, strawberry, roasted pepper, tomato, leather, tobacco, smoke, oregano and thyme. 

Sangiovese is often lightly oaked in oak barrels.  The tannin and acidity level is usually quite high with ageability ranging normally from 4 to 7 years, with some varieties from the Brunello di Montalcino region being aged from 10 to 18 years.

Sangiovese pairs with a wide range of foods because of its medium weighted body and savory character. Use Sangiovese wine as a congruent flavour with herbs and tomatoes. This technique will bring out more fruity flavors in the wine.

A Sangiovese with high tannins will pair well with rich roasted meat, cured sausages and hard cheeses.  Vegetarian pairings include butter and olive oil; the richness in the fat helps cut through the wines’ tannins.

Sangiovese is a long-time personal favourite of mine, whether on its own or as the mainstay in a Chianti blend.  If you have never tried Sangiovese, it is well worthwhile seeking it out in the Italian Tuscany section of your local wine store.

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The Wine of the North

When you think of Ontario wines, Niagara and Prince Edward County usually come to mind, but there is one of international notoriety near Tweed.  Potter Settlement Artisan Winery has award-winning wine and has been putting Tweed on the map as a good place to grow grapes.

Owner Sandor Johnson says the winery is very small but has been making great strides to create high-end, boutique quality wines.  His team produces more than a dozen different wines, most of which are made with grapes grown on the Tweed property.  The winery only purchases grape varieties that can’t be grown in the cooler climate of Tweed and they never buy finished wine from elsewhere.  If the grapes are not grown on site, the wine label will indicate where they were grown.

As one of the northernmost vineyards in Canada, the temperature is known to drop to -27o C during the winter.  However, being further north has its benefits, as the soil is rich in minerals.  

Potter Settlement makes a unique wine that was accidently discovered during the McClure Arctic Expedition in 1850.  The wine, referred to as Portage, was named in honour of the sailors who pulled barrels of Port across the ice after their ship’s passage through the Northwest Passage was halted by winter weather.

One of the expedition’s participants was Henry Gaun, at that time the ship’s carpenter, and who eventually settled near Tweed in Ivanhoe, and is the founder of Ivanhoe cheese.  Gaun had recorded in his diaries how he and the other sailors created Portage.  The Port that they had taken with them on their journey froze.  They discovered that when the Port froze due to the extreme cold, the bitter acids disappeared making the port very smooth to drink.  Then the Arctic summertime midnight sun cooked the port in the barrels.  According to the diaries, the resulting wine was fit for Queen Victoria’s consumption.  Based on what Johnson read he felt compelled to recreate Portage.

Another example of Potter Settlement’s creativity is their Triple Rare Ferment Chardonnay, which was aged in barrels made of wood from Ontario butternut and extinct American chestnut trees.  In order to make the chestnut barrels, logs had to be salvaged from the bottom of Lake Superior.

At Great Britain’s 2022 London Wine Competition, Potter Settlement was awarded gold medals for the Potter Settlement Cabernet Franc and Potter Settlement Portage fortified wine. Each received 92 out of a possible 100 points.  Last year Potter Settlement won two gold medals and a silver in a competition in Bordeaux, France, at the Challenge International Du Vin competition.  They were the only Canadian winner of the 3,579 wine entries from 27 countries.  They won gold for their Marquette and Pinot Noir, and silver for their Cabernet Franc.

Construction has started to make a cave in the rock on the property that will be used to store the wine.  Once completed Potter Settlement will be the only winery in Ontario with a real cave.  They plan to rent storage space to high-end wineries.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any indication of Potter Settlement wines ever being for sale in wine stores.  However, their wines are available on their website at pottersettlementwines.ca or by visiting them, as I did, at the winery near Tweed, Ontario.  I found the wine tasting, which was hosted by Sandor Johnson, to be both entertaining and educational.  As well, I got to sample some excellent, unique wines; several of which have now found a home in my cellar.

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Syrah or Shiraz?

Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape with two different names.  Syrah is the original name while Shiraz is how it became known in Australia and the Americas.  The terms have become associated with a particular style of wine.

Syrah is the term that is associated with the Old-World expressions found throughout Europe.  It is lighter in body and alcohol, with finer tannins. Shiraz, on the other hand, refers to New World, intense wines, which are generally richer, with riper aromas and fuller in both body and alcohol.

The distinct styles first emerged as a natural consequence of the different growing conditions and microclimates.  The grapes in Australia have the potential of having higher levels of alcohol and more aromas than their European counterparts.

The varietal is believed to have originated in the Rhône region of France.  Some winegrowers in the northern Rhône distinguish between a small-berried, more concentrated version of Syrah, referred to as Petite Syrah, and the larger-berried Grosse Syrah. 

Until the 1970s, French Syrah plantings were mostly concentrated in and around the vineyards of the northern Rhône valley. Since then Syrah has had an extraordinary surge in popularity throughout southern France and has become France’s third most planted red wine.

Australia’s history with the grape began in the 1830s.  It flourished and was quickly adopted by New South Wales and from there to the whole country, eventually becoming Australia’s most planted variety.  The country makes a range of styles, the most recognisable is the distinctively rich, ripe styles from both traditional Barossa Valley and newer Heathcote regions.

There is now a growing trend towards more subtle, elegant, cool-grown Rhône style wines that are less concentrated and have a lighter touch. These are often labelled as Syrah instead of Shiraz. These wines are most likely to be found in the Adelaide Hills region.

The grape was introduced to California in the 1990s.  A group of vintners, known as the “Rhône Rangers”, eagerly promoted the grape as being equally suited to California as Cabernet Sauvignon. Californian winemakers consistently produce very vibrant, refined wine.

In addition to California, Washington State also produces Syrah.  Further afield, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay are producing interesting varieties. It is worth noting that some of those who make the finest South African examples label them Syrah.

There are some noteworthy Syrahs found in Italy, the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain and the Alentejo region of Portugal. Another unexpectedly successful site for mature, concentrated Syrah is the Valais in Switzerland, particularly around the upper reaches of the Rhône valley.

Some Canadian wine makers are growing the Syrah grape as well, though the cool climate limits the growing season and thus the intensity of the flavour. Some winemakers label their offering as Syrah while others choose Shiraz.  While some would argue that British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley has a long, hot growing season that supports the Shiraz style of wine, most of Canada’s wine regions cannot.  Wines made in the majority of the country only truly support the Syrah style of wine. 

One of my pet peeves is to see an Ontario winemaker labelling their wine as Shiraz and not Syrah.  I pity the unexpecting consumer who purchases a Shiraz, expecting the bold peppery flavour of a true Shiraz.  Unfortunately, the wine will not live up to its name.

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Italy’s Aglianico Grapes

Along with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, Aglianico (pronounced alli-yawn-nico ) is generally believed to be on of Italy’s three best wine grapes.  It is a full-bodied red grape found in the Campania and Basilicata regions of southern Italy.  Aglianico wines are known for savory flavours of leather, white pepper, black fruits, cured meat, cracked pepper, dried cranberry, mushroom broth, smoke, cocoa, nutmeg, cinnamon, cedar, tobacco, coffee and dried oregano. 

Photo credit: drinkitalian.eu

Aglianico is full-bodied with high tannin and high acidity.  It contains a medium to medium-plus amount of alcohol and can be aged ten to twenty years.  The best Aglianico wines don’t start to come into their best until they are about ten years of age. The passage of time softens the wine’s firm tannic structure and acidity, revealing lush layers of sweetened fruit and dried floral aromas intermixed with dusty and spiced smoke, savoury flavours.

Given Aglianico’s rigid nature, some producers make it into a much fresher, easy-drinking style. Because the grape has so much tannin and acidity, it easily holds up to new oak aging and modern winemaking. The winemaking techniques are meant to quell Aglianico’s ferocity into a chocolatey, ripe, rich wine with moderately high alcohol and acidity. The modern style of Aglianico won’t age as long as the traditional method and has less of an expression of flavour.  However, it is easier to drink at a much younger age.

The structure of Aglianico pairs well with high intensity foods. Aglianico goes well alongside rich meats with high fat content or vegetarian dishes with a rich umami note, such as black bean sauce, soy sauce, tempeh or dishes that welcome roasted mushrooms.

Meat selections that pair well with Aglianico include beef brisket, smoked pork, barbecue beef, seared prime rib, venison, beef stew, chili, rabbit stew or oxtail.  Cheese pairings include Pecorino, Asiago, Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Provolone. Vegetable pairing include portobello mushrooms, roasted mushrooms, baked beans, black beans, lentils, crispy kale, purple potatoes, roasted purple cauliflower and arugula.

A few warm and dry regions outside of Italy are beginning to produce rich, chocolatey styles of Aglianico wine, in particular California and Riverina, Australia. The grapes ripen late, even in these warm climates, with the best examples offering aromas of chocolate and plum.

Aglianico wines are bound to become more available as growers all over the world look to varieties that grow well because of the rapidly changing climate conditions.

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Gewürztraminer

Alsace, a region in north-eastern France that borders Switzerland and Germany, is the home of Gewürztraminer. The region has been passed between French and German control several times since the early 1680s.  As a result, Alsatian culture is a unique mix of French and German influences.

Today the varietal is grown in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey and the U.S.

Gewürztraminer is an aromatic grape variety that grows well in cooler climates.  It has a high level of natural sugar and the wine is white and usually off dry.  Gewürztraminer generally contains a gram or two of residual sugar but because of the heightened aromatics, higher alcohol and lower acidity, many of these wines will taste sweeter than they actually are.

The aroma or “nose” will be that of lychee or ‘sweet rose’.  However, it may also have hints of red grapefruit, allspice, cinnamon or ginger.  The flavour will consist of hints of grapefruit, pineapple, peach, apricot, orange or cantaloupe.

When serving with food, Gewürztraminer is a great compliment to duck, chicken, pork, bacon, shrimp and crab.  Highly spiced and aromatic herbs such as cayenne pepper, ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, madras curry, sichuan pepper, shallots, soy sauce, sesame, almond, rose water, lime leaf, bay leaf, coriander and cumin are a great match.

Gewürztraminer goes well with less stinky and delicately flavored soft cow’s milk cheese and dried fruit, as well as roasted vegetables and veggies with natural sweetness including red onion, bell pepper, eggplant, tempeh, squash and carrots.

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Wine for a Summer Picnic

With summertime fast approaching it will soon be time to focus on going to the beach and picnics.  The recipe for a great picnic is great weather and food and of course, wonderful wine.   A good picnic wine will be refreshing, balanced, and will pair well with the foods you pack. A picnic should not require a lot of fuss and muss.  The focus should be on sharing good food and wine with family or friends.  If it requires a huge amount of time and effort to prepare, the outcome is probably not worth the effort.

Photo credit: foodbankwma.org

One thing not to do is consider a picnic the same as a barbecue.  The wines that pair well at a barbecue are not necessarily the same ones that work well at a picnic. Barbecues are all about bold and spicy where picnics are more about a broad spectrum of lighter fare. Most of the foods served at a picnic will be cold and on the lighter side.

Common picnic foods include things such as potato salad, cold fried chicken, cheeses and crackers, charcuterie, fresh bread and fresh fruit. Wines best suited include cool, crisp, whites, rosés or very light reds.

White wine options include Sauvignon Blanc and Fumé Blanc which are dry, crisp, herbal whites that are ideal for summer sipping. They won’t overpower picnic food.  Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio or Pinot Blanc are fruitier but still light and perfect for a picnic. They are bright, acidic and loaded with crisp citrus fruit and minerality.

A dry Riesling with crisp acidity and light mineral flavours will pair well with spicier foods such as charcuterie.  Moscato d’Asti is a lightly fizzy white with apricot and almond flavours that will pair well with fruit and salads.

A freezer sleeve that slides over a standard 750 ml. bottle will keep your wine chilled.

Rosé or blush wines are versatile. They should also be served chilled the same as whites. These lightly acidic wines offer fruit flavours such as melon, strawberry and red fruit qualities that pair well with cheese and crackers, seafood, salads or cold chicken.

Light red wines with less alcohol, such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Beaujolais would be good choices for a picnic, particularly charcuterie and cold cuts. While these wines don’t need to be served chilled, they should not be overwarmed so transporting them in a cooler would be a good idea.  Set them out about 10 minutes before serving.

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Rosé With a Difference

Now that the warm weather is here it is a great time to crack open a bottle of Rosé.  Pale Rosé is by far the most common and thus the most popular type of Rosé but there is a second less known, darker Rosé.

Photo credit: winefolly.com

Darker Rosés can have a fuller body and a greater concentration of flavours.  They may be more complex and structured, making them able to pair well with a wider array of summertime foods.

The most common types of red wine grapes used to make Rosé are Grenache, Sangiovese, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault and Pinot Noir.  The skins are generally exposed to the wine for only a short time. Where some red wines ferment for weeks at a time on red grape skins, rosé wines are left for just a few hours.  However, when making dark Rosé, only dark-skinned varietals are used, such as Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Syrah, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon.  The grape skins are also exposed to the wine for a longer period of time in order to gain more flavour.

Where light and medium bodied Rosés pair well with cheese, creamy sauces and dips, savoury canapés, mezes and tapas, darker Rosés will go well with smoke and char flavours of grilled meats and vegetables, as well as full-flavoured sauces.

The occasion for serving Rosé varies by type as well.  Light or medium-bodied ones are best served chilled and lend themselves well to sipping while relaxing at the cottage or in the backyard.  Darker Rosés, on the other hand, fair well served chilled, at a backyard barbecue.

Whichever Rosé you prefer, now is the best time of year to sit back, relax and enjoy a glass.

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Wine From the Canary Islands

Wine is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the Canary Islands.  The Islands are a popular European tourist destination but they also have a thriving wine industry.

Photo credit: foodandwine.com

Wine production has a long history in the Canary Islands, but the modern era didn’t start until about the mid 1980’s. Since then wine exports have been increasing as more people discover these wines.

The Canary Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean about 100 kilometres west of Morocco. The main islands, from largest to smallest, are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa. They are a popular tourist destination because of their subtropical climate.  However, it is the distinctive volcanic wines that have been gaining global attention and critical acclaim over the past 3 decades.

Six of the eight islands, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera produce wine.  The soils vary from island to island, formed by volcanic eruptions, landslides and erosion.  The soil ranges from light stone to very heavy basalt rock.

The climate also varies across the archipelago. The eastern islands consist of older geological formations with lower, more uniform altitude and a dry, desert-like climate. The western islands are higher, steeper and have a greater variation of microclimates.

There are 20 unique grape varieties found in the Islands along with more than 20 new varieties that are currently being studied.  Listán Blanco (aka Palomino) and Listán Negro are the most widely planted grapes on the Islands. Others include white wine grapes Malvasía Volcánica, Malvasía Aromática and Albillo Criollo, along with red wine grapes Negramoll, Vijariego Negro and Baboso Negro. There are a few plantings of international varieties, such as Syrah.  Each of the Islands has its own specialities.

Dry, high-acid whites and light, fruity reds are typical of the Islands but richer, oak-aged options exist as well.

The wine industry is very focused on gaining international recognition based on the unique and ancient grape varieties grown. The aim is for these wines to reach markets where they can gain more exposure and have the opportunity to grow in popularity.

In 2020, around 15 million gallons of wine (51% red and 49% white) were produced in the Canary Islands.

Some of the grapes from the Canary Islands can be found in South America. They were brought there by Spanish settlers in the 16th century.  One of the varieties was Listán Prieto, which can now be found in California (known as Mission), Chile (País) and Argentina (Criolla Chica).

Wine from the Canary Islands is occasionally available in the specialty section of wine stores in Canada.  These wines will be included with the other wines from Spain.

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