Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

WHAT IS THE “BEST” WINE?

October 18, 2018

I get the question a lot, and I’m sure we have all heard it – what’s the best wine? Seems simple…but its not…and the answer really goes to what wine is all about!

At the most basic, “best” is a relative term, whether in business, sports or wine. And that’s because it all depends on what you, the individual, value the most.

Wine is a great example. We just went through the annual Bordeaux release. Regardless of the quality of the vintage, there are some of the world’s most famous wineries involved, names that are legends – Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Petrus…but does that make them the best, or making the best wine?

This is an easy example for me, because – deep breath – I don’t like Bordeaux. So my answer would be “no”.

But the reason I don’t like it is actually the answer to the definition of “best”…I don’t like the Bordeaux style of wine. Herbaceous, woody, super tannic…and not a lot of fruit (at least in the cheaper wines, as I have never been able to afford the wines I mentioned above).

So for me, I would say the best wines come from the Cotes du Rhone – north or south, made from Grenache and Syrah – or the Piedmonte in Italy (Barolos and Barbaresco). The mix of ripe fruit and underlying herbs, lack of oak/wood, ageability…that is the recipe for “best” for me.

When I started getting into wine over 35 years ago, a wine educator said “the best wine is the wine you like the best”. That seemed simplistic to me at the time, but the more wine I have tasted and drunk over the years, the more I believe he was right.

So the next time someone asks you “what is the best wine”, answer it with another question…”what wine do you like the best”?

Because that’s the answer!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

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What to do with wine you bring to – or receive at – dinner parties

September 20, 2018

We had some family and friends over for dinner last weekend, and they brought wine! That is nice, obviously, but especially for me as a wine dweeb because a lot of people seem too intimidated to do that.

I ended up serving all the wine that was brought – which wasn’t what I would normally do — and that made me think the topic might be good for a blog.

When receiving wine from guests, I think there are a couple of options. If you already have wine planned for the evening, you of course don’t have to open the guest’s wine. Unless they ask you to – which is what happened to us on the weekend (as they had been to a new winery and wanted us to taste the wines).

Another reason to open it is just to help make sure you have enough for the dinner party! Depending on the number of guests, it can get a bit crazy – and expensive – to be providing all the wine.

The main reason not to open a wine is if it is for your cellar/to keep. How do you know that? Well, your guest may tell you…or you may be able to figure it out yourself (I previously was given a 2014 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon…it would have been nice at dinner, but will be even better in about 10 years!).

And if you bring wine…what should you expect from the hosts? That’s actually the tougher question for me.

I have come to judge it by the person I am bringing it to. If I know they are a fellow wine dweeb, I will ask in advance – do you want it for dinner or can I bring you something for your cellar?

If I don’t know them, I usually bring something that is good value but which I have had before. That way I won’t be disappointed if the don’t open it, and I know they will like it when they do!

I learned that approach after a couple of years of bringing a wine from my cellar that I wanted to try…and then not getting a chance to taste it!

Bottom line on bringing wine is always bring something you would be happy to drink yourself!

I hope all this helps!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

Wine Tastings and Wine Dinners – a Few Tips

September 13, 2018

Fall is a great time for many reasons, and wine is one of them! A return to red wines is a must, as is the hearty food that shows them off so well.

It can also mean more wine events, including tastings and wine dinners. I had the good fortunate to attend one of both this week and found a few “bugaboos” at each I thought I would share…they might increase you enjoyment at such events (and limit how much you annoy others!).

Wine Tastings

Select your wine and move on

This has to be my biggest pet peeve! People ask for a one from the rep and then just stand there, either tasting it or talking to the rep, while the line waits behind them! The unwritten rule – maybe it should be written – is get your wine, ask a quick question, and then move on so others can taste.

Spit don’t drink

If you are planning to taste more than a couple of wines, I strongly advise you to spit. Some people think its gross, but it isn’t – in fact, winemakers see it as as sign of respect. And its easy to do. If you don’t, you could end up getting drunk or worse (i.e. getting sick or falling down on someone…).

White then red…not back and forth

At most tastings, the red wine are young, which can mean at least some are tannic. That tends to coat the palate, making it harder to taste other wines. It can also make it almost impossible to taste more delicate white wines.

So have a plan…white before red works well. Same as with sweet wines, by the way…save them till the end or it could ruin any dry wines you go back on.

Wine Dinners

I won’t get into basic social niceties here…although they can definitely play a role (especially the more you drink!). But here are a couple of wine suggestions.

Drink the wines in order

There is a reason the wines are paired the way they are – they are supposed to go with certain dishes, and also not upstage the wines to come. If you jump around, it often impacts your enjoyment of both the food and the wine.

You don’t have to finish all the wine

If you are having 5 or 6 courses, the quantity of wine can add up quickly! So don’t feel like you have to finish each glass…it can end up making you tipsy before you get to the end of the meal!

Save a little in each glass to taste later

Depending on the wines, its also interesting to come back and taste them later. Young wines, in particular, soften up with exposure to air, and can end up tasting remarkable different – and better – after even 30 minutes sitting there!

So there you go…a few tips to help you through Fall!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

 

Reflections on Summer 2018

September 6, 2018

Well, I’m back…both from summer and from spring (judging from the last time I wrote a blog!).

Lets start out with some reflections from the summer of 2018!

  1. Rose is good, but it needs to be cheap – we were fortunate enough to spend some time in France in June, and while it wasn’t stinking hot yet, it was hot enough that Rose was the wine of choice! And that was fine, since it was available for cheap – like 3 – 4 euros a bottle in the store! So when we got back and I couldn’t find it for less than about $15 a bottle plus tax…ouch!

2. Rhone style whites are better than I remember – Over the years, I have been off Rhone white wines. My memory was a lot of acidic, resiny wines. But in the south of France I tasted some super fresh blends, and found that when I got home they were the same!

3. You can still drink red wine  in the heat – Also in France, I was tasting big reds – Hermitage, Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas – and even though the temperature was in the 80’s, I had no problem at all, including with having them at lunch and dinner!

4. Pinot Noir and Syrah are the best BC reds – I also got up to the Okanagan this summer, and tasted at some of my favourite wineries (as well as some new ones). And it confirmed what I already knew – Syrah and Pinot Noir are the best red wines in BC! Minimal oak, lots of fruit, great ageability! Oh, and by the way – La Frenz is still the best winery in BC by a country mile!

5. Wine prices are still too high at home – Last but not least – surprise – is that wine prices at home are still way to high. I was able to buy some Gigondas in Gigondas that was rated 95+ points for 14 euros…wine that when I can get it here is over $40 a bottle! That is crazy…if I lived in France, my cellar would be crazy good for half the price!

Here comes fall…stay tuned for more!

SB

 

http://www.sbwinesite.com

 

Wineries and Wines to Look For At the Evening Tastings

February 28, 2018

The popular International Festival Tastings are up next at the Vancouver International Wine Festival!

But with over 170 wineries and over a thousand wines to choose from, let me give you a few safe bets for the evening.

Portugal

As co-host country, lots too choose from, but don’t ignore the obvious – Vintage Port! All the major producers are there, including Fonseca, Nieport, Dow’s, Warre’s, Graham’s and Taylor Fladgate. With at least one Vintage Port per, you can’t go wrong!

Spain

The other host country, and I would go ‘old school’, which means Rioja! Two solid producers – Marques de Murrietta and Marques de Riscal – are with some of their old Gran Reservas. A different style perhaps – lots of wood – but smooth, baby!

BC

Not as many of my favourite local wineries this year, but one to definitely ty is Moon Curser! In particular, their Syrah – a Cotes du Rhone clone that is a killer value at $25.

France

Similarly, fewer producers than normal, but a couple of notable Rhone wineries to check out. Domaine de Cristia has their 2015 Chateauneuf du Pape to taste, a good wine from a great vintage. And northern Rhone specialist Jean Luc Colombo has at least one single vineyard Cornas, so make a bee-line for his booth.

 

USA

Finally, our wine friends to the south! A couple of old reliables are there – Beringer and Robert Mondavi – so go taste some Cabernet Sauvignons.

 

But the ‘find’ may well be the Washington State winery K Vintners. They make amazing Syrahs, some of which are achieving cult status.

 

So there you go – a Wine Festival cheat sheet. Enjoy!

 

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

WINE EVENTS AT THIS YEAR’S VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL WINE FESTIVAL

February 15, 2018

It’s almost here…the 2018 Vancouver International Wine Festival!

Lots to talk about and choose from, but today I am going to focus on a few events to go to (and will talk about wineries/wines to taste next week).

First off, with Spain and Portugal the “focus” countries, I hoped there would be Port tastings…and there are three great ones to choose from! “The Fladgate” will focus on the vintage Ports of both Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca, two of the top Port houses. “Graham’s: A Port Dinner” is actually a dinner, which is something I wouldn’t normally expect, so should be interesting especially since it is at La Bodega on Main Street (the best Tapas restaurant in the city).

But “Dow’s: A Legendary Producer” is the tasting I am going to and will review. The line up of vintage Ports looks amazing, which includes wines from 2011, 2003, 2000, 1985 and 1970 (can’t wait for the last one – how many times do you get to try a 48 yr old wine!).

My next recommendation is actually from France…a wine dinner with producer Jean Luc Columbo! He is a noted negotiant and producer in the Northern Rhone, particularly famous for his single vineyard Cornas. The fact that the event is at West Restaurant doesn’t hurt either!

Finally, I love Barolo…so an event called “The Night of Barolo” at Frederico’s Supper Club caught my eye! I’m not familiar with the producer (Sordo), but given the title of the evening I can’t help but think it will include multiple vintages of one of my favourite wines!

So that should get your started…lots more to choose from at https://vanwinefest.ca.

See you next week with my wineries – and wines – to check out at the International Tastings!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

Can’t Wait for the 2015…Rhones!

November 15, 2017

Ha, ha, gotcha Bordeaux lovers!

Although people who follow/know me may say I ‘gotcha’d’ myself, given how often I have written about the perils of falling for the latest vintage promotion.

But here I am, doing it anyway…but I have learned, and wanted to pass that on.

First off, as someone who works in PR, I know the yearly vintage promotions – Best Ever, Vintage of the Decade, etc – are designed purely to sell wines, at higher prices if possible. But if you want to wade into the fray, there is a way to manage things.

First and foremost, make sure you like the kind of wine being promoted. Sounds basic, but I am amazed by how many people – myself included – have been sucked into buying Bordeaux, even though they don’t really know what it tastes like or, like me, don’t like the style. So make sure you know you like it before you buy those 90 pt bottles!

Also, if you are buying to cellar the wines, make sure you know what mature wine tastes like and, again, that you like it! Too many people don’t understand that “older” means less fruit, more wood, herbs, etc. Completely different!

Third, buy/try before you buy/cellar. That doesn’t have to be expensive – even Bordeaux has cheaper wines that are well rated. Buy a bottle, open it…better to find out before you spend a lot if you agree with the reviews.

That can also help you with find out what it tastes like when it matures. You don’t have to find an (expensive) ten-year version of the wine either. Open the bottle and try it…then leave it open for few hours, and try it again. Then put the cork back in. Leave it overnight, and try it the next day.  Air will mimic the maturation process, and give you a sense of how it will age/taste years from now.

Finally, if you know/like the style, have tasted cheaper versions/like them…how do you decide what to buy?

First, have a budget per bottle and stick to it; don’t get sucked into spending ridiculous amounts of money just because of ratings.

Second, find a wine reviewer who likes the same style as you, and buy based on that. How? Well find some cheaper wines they reviewed, buy them and try them. If you agree/like what they like, then you are set. Few people can afford to buy a bunch of $50 ++ bottles to try first…so you have to trust someone!

Finally, buy 2 bottles at least…that way you can track how it develops. Try one in a few years, see how it is, then decided when to drink the other(s).

So, there you go…how to get involved in the latest vintage frenzy if you want!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

WHAT WINE REVIEWERS MEAN WHEN THEY SAY…

October 4, 2017

Okay, I have written about this before, but a couple of recent media articles made me think I should do it again.

The topic? Wine recommendations in general…and specifically some of the verbiage that is used. It may sound great, but what do wine dweebs like me really mean when we use the following terms?

  1. A food wine

This is the description I hate the most…and, personally, one that will cause me not to buy a wine! By saying a wine is a “food wine”, reviewers are essentially saying it will taste better with food. Hogwash! If I wine doesn’t taste good on its own, that means it is either too young, or just not good enough. It shouldn’t need food to make it better. So avoid like the plague!

  1. Old world style red wine

Another one to be careful of! This usually means not a lot fruit in the wine…more wood and herbs instead. If you like that style, then great. But if not…watch out!

  1. Chocolate, coffee and mocha flavours

This is another moniker for little or no fruit. You usually see this with reviews of Merlot-based wines. Again, if you like this style, that is great. But if you are expecting plummy, ripe fruit, you probably won’t get it.

  1. The Fruit will Develop over time

Hogwash again…straight and simple! Red Burgundy is the most regular example of this kind of review. But the fact is, if you can’t taste the fruit in the wine when it is young, there is little chance it will be there when it is older. So, if you like fruit, be careful!

  1. Drinks beautifully now, but will evolve for 10+ years

Last is the most complicated one. I buy wines for my cellar based on them developing over an 8 – 10+ year period. That usually means they are tannic when young, and need time to soften. But when I see this kind of review, I wonder…will the wine really drink “beautifully” in 10 years? In this case, I recommend buying a bottle and trying it…if it is tannic but fruity, okay. If only fruity…be careful.

There you go…five wine reviews to think about before you buy!

SB

www.sbwinesite.com

Ripe, Jammy and Sweet – the Difference!

September 20, 2017

I have had some very nice wines in the past month or so, and from looking at my tweets   it occurred to me that there was enough for a blog!

A constant in many of my wine recordings and tweets is the word “ripe”. To me, that means the fruit in the wine is pure and really comes through – currants and cassis (for cabernet sauvignon), black and red cherries (for Syrah and Grenache), and so on.  It seems to me that the riper the fruit the more delicious the wine. Make sense? Wine is made from fruit, fruit needs to be ripe…and so on!

 

And then there is the word “jammy”. I use it mostly for Aussie Shiraz, and both in a positive and negative way. Done right (in my opinion, anyway), jammy blackberry fruit can also be super ripe and pure – like the preserves you put on toast in the morning. I love it in Old Vine Shiraz! But done wrong…it can be cloying and sweet…watch out for not only some of the “animal” label Aussie wines, but also some of the California wines that are becoming popular with some palates these day.

 

Finally, there is the word “sweet”. I reserve that term for a wine that is supposed to be sweet in the traditional sense. Usually that means a German Riesling or a dessert wine from Portugal, France or somewhere else. But it has to be balanced – not cloying or over the top, but with good acidity as well.

 

So three words…very similar, but very different…at least for me!

 

SB

 

www.sbwinesite.com

OAK – WHEN, WHY AND WHY NOT?

August 3, 2017

Is there a more controversial topic in wine – at least for wine dweebs like me – than oak?

 

I have written about it a number of times, and it is tough to try and stay balanced. Most people know what they like when it comes to oak, and they tend to really like it…or really hate it. But this week’s experience with a couple of wines made me think of another potential angle to this controversy.

 

First, though, let’s back up a bit. What is oak used for anyway?

 

Well, at the most basic it is what many wines are aged in. That as been the case for hundreds if not thousands of years. A whole area of France  – Limousin – built up an industry producing wood for wine barrels. And others followed in other countries

Why? Well, oak barrels can impart some very specific, and popular, flavours, textures and colours to wines as they age. Wood flavours to begin with – cedar – as well as herbs. But also vanilla, butter, butterscotch and even caramel notes from the wood, depending on how new the oak barrels are and how long the wine is kept in them. Colour too – golden yellow in white wines can be a sign of oak aging. And texture, especially in reds – the oak can help soften the harsh tannins that sometimes dominate in “big” red wines.

 

So what’s the problem, then? Its the fact that some people believe certain wines should taste a certain way based on history, style, personal preference. Red Bordeaux, for example, is supposed to have cedar, herbs and led pencil overtones. California Chardonnay has a reputation for vanilla, butter and even caramel flavours.

 

And that is what got me thinking when I had two different BC wines from the same producer this week. Both were recommended by a reviewer that I respected, so I thought I would give them a try.

 

The first was a Syarh/Mourvedre blend. Now, Syrah from France typically does not show very much oak influence at all (regardless of whether it is aged in oak or not), particularly in the Northern Rhone. Either does Mourvedre, a blending grape from the Southern Rhone often mixed with Syrah and Grenache in Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and other wines.

 

So it was with surprise, and disappointment, that I opened the wine and, upon smelling it, picked up the vanilla notes right away! That followed in the mouth – smooth, vanilla covered cherries. It was lovely to drink – my wine loved it – but it didn’t taste at all like what I thought Syrah/Mourvedre should taste like!

 

Fast forward to tonight, same winery, but a wine that was 100% Syrah. Open it up and – boom! All pepper, black cherries, earth – a Northern Rhone clone! I loved it!

 

So that got me thinking…with oak, like a lot of things in life, it is about expectations and familiarity. I know what I like in different wine styles – give me a butter California Chardonnay any day, a Spanish Rioja with vanilla covered cherries, or a Cali Cab with vanilla and cassis. But Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache…nope…I want the style from France that I like, because that’s what I like!

 

The lesson here? I’m still note sure…but it has something to do with expectations, and managing them!

 

SB

 

www.sbwinesite.com