Posts Tagged ‘bc wine’

Syrah/Shiraz…France, Australia, North America…what’s the difference?

September 14, 2016

As usual, I have been drinking a lot of Syrah lately, and continue to be amazed at how different the style of the wine can be depending on where it is made/what winemakers want to do with it.

Most people are probably familiar with the Syrah/Shiraz differences…same grape, but made in a different way. Syrah is typically full of peppery black cherries, touch of earth, a bit lean (but not unripe) and no oak at all. Shiraz, on the other hand, is often a fruit bomb – blackberry jam, so ripe it almost appears sweet, and the oak appears as vanilla.

Syrah is most famous in France (northern Rhone, to be specific, where it makes such famous wines as Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie). And Shiraz, of course, is almost synonymous with Australia.

But both styles are also made elsewhere, and can be dead ringers for those made in these homelands. Washington State, for example, makes some great Rhone style Syrahs, and I am very proud to say that BC does as well! Cassini Cellars, Moraine, Quinta Ferreira, Moon Curser…all are very nice. And the best is by Nichol Vineyards, which at 8 yrs old is almost indistinguishable from a Crozes Hermitage.

Interestingly, when made elsewhere, Syrah can taste almost totally different!

One of my favourites is California, where many producers balance the Northern Rhone style with additional ripeness (but not the jamminess of Shiraz). Ojai is a good example. But this style also appears elsewhere, including in my home province, where Orofino makes a stunningly ripe wine!

I have also found that when Syrah is made in Italy, Chile and South Africa, it often takes on much more earthiness, and herbalness (if oak is used to age the wine). These wines aren’t my style, but some people swear by them, particularly because the latter examples can be great bargains.

In general, I find that oak — at least overt oak — doesn’t add to my enjoyment of Syrah, adding too much of the Bordeaux style herbs and woodiness.

But that is just me! The important thing is to know the different styles of Syrah, find out what you like, and then follow your style…it may appear in a whole bunch of places you never thought of!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

TOP FIVE WINE WISHES FOR 2015

January 7, 2015

Happy New Year to all! As a first blog of 2015, I thought I would put out my top five wine wishes for the year:

1. The Rhone keeps it going

My favourite wine region has been on a roll for a number of years now, and after tasting many 2012s – and some early 2013s – it looks like the good times will continue! Whether it is Grenache dominated wines in the south or Syrah in the north, the fruit flavours are ripe and pure, the herbs beautifully integrated (love that garrigue!) and there is no wood or jamminess to the wines. Keep it going, Rhone!

2. Wine taxes get fixed

Everybody always complains about “wine prices”…but my beef is with the taxes, not the prices. When I see the values you can get just across the border in the US at places like Costco (and even regular supermarkets), I know that price really isn’t my issue – it’s the government taxes that drive up the price! I have absolutely no beef with the government getting its fair share…but come on! When a wine like Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon is $9.99 at Costco in Bellingham and $29.99 in Vancouver, well…you can see the problem.

3. Wine Competitions and Awards “Come Clean”

This is a particular pet peeve of mine. There are all of these competitions up here every year, and the same things always happen. The big wineries are the only ones that enter – or can afford to enter – so they win the awards. And then they (and the judges, media, etc.) talk all year about the “best wine in BC” or the “best wine in Canada”, even though the wine dweebs know it is a farce. Maybe I will have a competition for the best wines in BC that never enter (or are awarded) prizes…

4. Stupid and/or obnoxious wine labels disappear

As a PR person in my real life, I understand the marketing reasons for catchy wine labels. But it has really gotten out of hand for many countries. Do wine makers (or their marketing departments) really think that what sells a wine is what is on the outside of the bottle (instead of on the inside)? Like in anything, make a good product, build a good reputation, and results will come.

5. Fruit will finally triumph over wood

This final wish is purely a style preference, but I would love to see more fruit forward red wines that don’t rely on a thick coating of cedar and oak. It seems like people have been trying to copy Bordeaux forever, and – in my opinion – it just does it work. California and Australia have the right approach – since wine is made of fruit, it should also taste like fruit!

There you go; a start to 2015!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Value – What it Means and Where to Find It

November 28, 2013

Of all the ‘wine words’ out there, there is perhaps none that is harder to define than ‘value’.

Does it mean, for example, the best cheap wine? Or can you find value wines in all price categories? At the extreme, does that mean for Bordeaux – perhaps the most expensive of wines – can have value wines that cost $80, $90 or even a $100+++?

Well, a few thoughts on what value means to me. Personally, I associate the word mostly with mid-priced wines, say in the $15 – $20 range. Cheaper than that – and I drink lots that are cheaper than that on a regular basis — I tend to call them ‘cheap but good’.

The $20 – $30 category is a tricky one for me. For everyday drinking, I have a hard time thinking that there are any value wines here. Maybe it is the $20 barrier, or I don’t make enough money, or I am cheap…I don’t know! For my cellar, though, that is a whole different story. Wines that can age and develop over an 8 – 10 year period that cost less than $30 — I definitely see those as value cellar wines!

Over $30, I feel there are no everyday values. But the same rule as above applies to my cellar. I rarely spend more than $50 a bottle, so if I can find a highly rated Rhone, Italian, Californian or Australian wine with 10+ years ageability for $30 – $40, I see that as another cellar value.

Also starting at this price range, there are wines that I just don’t see as cellar values, regardless of the rating. Beaujolais, for example, or Malbec. Many BC wines fall into this category as well.

In the $40 – $60 range, all of the above applies, and value for me is tied very closely to a review. I follow Parker and have had good experience with his reviews. And I know that many 90+ rated wines cost from $50 – $100+++. So if I see a highly rated wine of a type that I like and know is usually expensive (and I can’t usually afford it), then I do consider that a cellar value.

Examples? Well, how about Barolo or Barbaresco or Brunello di Montalcino from Italy? Or Hermitage from the northern Cotes du Rhone? Or a reserve bottling from Chateauneuf du Pape or Gigondas? If I can get these wines for under $60 and their scores are 94 or 95+, then I also consider them values.

And over $60? Well, that doesn’t seem like value to me. I guess if I could find a 100 pt wine for $60 or $70 I might buy it, but I wouldn’t call it a value wine.

So that’s my view on value. In the weeks to come, I will give some actual examples — red and white — that fall into these categories.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

How Much Should Certain Wines Cost?

October 17, 2013

I was walking through a wine store the other day (what a surprise, eh?), and found myself shaking my head at the prices — but only in certain sections. So that got me to thinking about my perceptions of what certain wines should cost and how that effects whether I buy them or not.

Let’s start with South America, and Chile first. My first experience with Chilean wines was with the cheap/good value wines of the late ’80s, and I found that was still my expectation. Under $15 is what comes to mind…as well as lots of ripe fruit. But now? Try finding a fruity Chilean red wine for under $20.

Staying in South America, what about Malbec? I love that grape, which can make super ripe wines with lots of black fruit, almost like Zinfandel. I’m not thrilled with the oaked varieties, but the ones without it can be really nice. But price? Again, should be around $15. And yet you look at $25, $30, even $50 Malbecs…I won’t even try them for my cellar!

Next – and just so you know it has nothing to do with the “newer” wine regions – is Beaujolais from France. When I first got into wine, Beaujolais was one of my “go to” wines. Not the “Nouveau” stuff, but the 13 Crus (like Morgon, Moulin a Vent, etc). They were wonderful wines, many almost Burgundy like, and none of them over $22 or $23. But now? There are $40+ Beaujolais!! Fuggetaboutit!

Last, but not least, is BC wine (like you didn’t know this was coming). Now, anybody who reads this blog knows that I am one of the biggest boosters of wine from my home province. But some of the prices – ridiculous! There is definitely quality here, particularly among some of the smaller producers. But, really, there are very few BC wines that are worth more than $30 a bottle (Kettle Valley’s Reserve and Hayman Pinot Noirs, Nichol’s Syrahs, Marichel’s Syrah, Blue Mountain’s Reserve Pinot Noir), but most of the rest – nope! Sorry, but if La Frenz can make the quality red – and white – wines it does for $20 – $30, and wineries like Cassini Cellars, Howling Bluff, Eau Vivre, Moon Curser and Mt. Lehman can make outstanding wines for even less than that, there just is no reason for BC wines to be expensive.

To conclude, I want to be clear – if wines show they are “worth it”, I don’t have a problem if they charge more. And California is the perfect example of wine regions that have evolved over the past 30 years to demonstrate they are as good as any in the world, and therefore are able to justify world class prices.

But the rest? Give your head a shake. It may only be perception, but perception is also reality. And some wines just shouldn’t be expensive.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

What is the “BC wine experience”?

June 28, 2013

We are heading into peak holiday season, and for many people that will — hopefully — mean a trip into BC’s wine country.

The so called ‘wine experience’ is different for everyone, as it should be. For general tourists with only a passing interest in wine, it may simply be enough to visit a few wineries, taste some wines and experience what it is like to be in wine country.

For regular wine consumers, you may have your favourite wineries to visit, new ones to check out, and look forward to the chance to buy a few wines you can’t get anywhere else except at the winery.

And for wine collectors/dweebs (like me), it is a very focused experience – on specific wines you ‘need’ to taste and/or buy, and potential new gems to be unearthed.

So with these different expectations, what should wineries do — and not do — to help ensure they are met, which hopefully will mean return customers!

Well, great customer service is obviously a no-brainer. Many people are intimidated by wine, so anything that makes it easier and more comfortable to taste will be helpful and make it more enjoyable.

Low costs is another. Most wineries charge $2 – $3 to taste, refundable with any purchase, and I think people see that as fair. It probably doesn’t come close to recovering the costs of the wine or staff, but is enough to dissuade any yahoos who might just be looking for ‘free drinks’ or to get drunk (think Miles at the end of Sideways…)!

A range of wine available to taste is another big draw — whether you are a tourist or oenophile. The latter group (i.e. me) may, in particular, want to taste your ‘best wines’, so if that is possible — even with an extra fee — it will be well received. When I was in Napa years ago, I paid extra to taste reserve wines at Beringer and Mondavi, and it was well worth it!

Having said that, if one or more of your wines is made in too small a quantity (or is sold out), just let people know, in advance if possible on your website. Then there will be no surprises during tasting.

One thing I don’t like are the wineries that want you to book your tasting in advance, often with a larger fee. Frankly, there are few wines I would do that for in BC, and it just comes across as snooty to me. If you have wines that you want people to taste, make it easy for them to do that — that’s what will bring more of them in!

Finally, watch out for how much pressure is put on to ‘buy’ wine. I know I feel a bit guilty when I taste but don’t buy, particularly when there is no tasting fee. But I also don’t want any hard selling!

What works better for me is hearing where the wines are available for sale. If it is only at the winery or online (and by the case), that is more likely to entice me to buy. Frankly, that is the main reason I make the trip to wine country, to buy what I want, in the quantities I want, without the markups from the private stores.

That’s my advice, then, on the ways to ensure the ‘wine experience’ is a positive one, regardless of why you are coming!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com