Posts Tagged ‘Cornas’

A “Wine” Road Trip!

May 18, 2017

Coming to you tonight from Revelstoke, BC on our way to Okotoks, Alberta for the 65th Wedding Anniversary of my father-in-law’s sister. Going for the right reason – taking my aging father-in-law – but also an opportunity for a “wine road trip” to Calgary (about 45 minutes north)!

As self proclaimed “cow-town” you wouldn’t think that Calgary is a great wine city, but you would be wrong! When the government privatized the liquor industry a couple of decades ago, they created a true open market, where the same wine can be a different price in two different places.

And with lots of oil money, the wine selection – and the private stores that sell it – exploded!

Twenty years ago, the price difference was so significant (compared to my home province), that the savings paid for the cost of a return flight from Vancouver and a rental car!

Alas, post-911 you can’t bring wine on board anymore, so that ended. But we are driving…and the almost empty trunk literally beckons for wine!

It looks like there are still at least a dozen high quality wine stores to look at during my one free day…and while I won’t be able to get to all of them, even a selection will be worth it from the look on their websites.

I’m looking for my “cellar retirement wines” – Southern Rhones (Chateauneuf, Gigondas, Vacqueyras), Northern Rhones (Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Cornas, Cote Rotie and St. Joseph), Piedmont wines (Barolo and Barberesco) and Tuscan treasures (Brunello’s and high end Chianti Riservas). Plus, maybe a smattering of Washington and Cali Syrah and Grenache.

What actual wines to buy? My rules are simple:
• be rated over 90 points by Parker;
• at least a decade of aging potential (meaning I drink them when I retire in my early 60s); and
• be a maximum of $60 a bottle

Also, I won’t forget to stop at Costco (which sells wine in Alberta) and the Real Canadian Superstore Liquor Store. The latter is hit and miss, but the prices can be ridiculously low – including on special Cognacs (up to $50 less than in BC).

So think of me on Saturday morning – the stores open at 10 am, and I will be there. Watch for my tweets…and next week’s blog for my purchases!

SB

http://www.sbwineblog.com

VIWF PRIMER #2: RHONE AROUND THE WORLD

February 8, 2017

Okay, the Vancouver International Wine Festival is now less than a week away, so my second primer – what to expect from wines made from two of my favourite red grapes, Syrah and Grenache!

I called this blog “Rhone around the World” because the Rhone Valley is the home of these grapes, and where they have become justifiably famous. Syrah is associated with the northern Rhone, where it makes some of the greatest and most long lived wines in the world – Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas are the leaders. Look for pepper, dark cherries, earth, and licorice. No wood, lean but ripe, these wines can be amazing!

Grenache is from the southern Rhone and usually associated with Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and a range of other appelations. The nose is the give away here – lots of dried French herbs (called garrigue), followed by rich red and black fruit, almost kirsh-like in concentration. Again, no wood, and almost as long an age profile as their norther cousins.

But when these two grapes are made elsewhere, the flavour profiles can be both the same – and different!

For Syrah, I am pleased to say that my home province of BC makes some beautiful Rhone-like versions! In Washington State and California, the wines can be riper – not jammy (see what follows), but not as lean, although still with no wood. In Chile, Italy and South Africa, there is way more earthiness and less fruit – not my favourite style.

But the biggest difference is when Syrah is made in a different style – as Shiraz! Famous in Australia, these wines show jammy, super-ripe blackberry and licorice fruit, almost sweet sometimes. I love the best of these wines, but they couldn’t be more different than the ones from France.

And Grenache? Well, I find it fascinating, because while southern Rhones from this grape are among my favourite wines, when they are made in Spain – I literally hate them! And I know why – oak!

When Garnacha (as it is called in Spain) is made, the oak seems to take almost all of the fruit of the wine, leaving herbs and wood behind. No thank you!

Interestingly, in Australia, they find a balance – more wood, but in the form of vanilla covered cherry fruit – and that I like.

What about the festival, then, in terms of wineries to look for?

For northern Rhone style Syrah, we have Jean Luc Columbo, Chapoutier and Ferraton. But don’t overlook a number of BC wineries as well, including Burrowing Owl, Cassini, Moon Curser, Moraine and NkMip. For the Shiraz style, check out Inland Trading (Cimicky, d’Arenberg, Kilikanoon, Penfold’s) from Australia, and La Frenz from BC.

As for Grenache? Aussie winery Yalumba makes some beautiful wines in the riper style. For the traditional southern Rhone style, check out Chapoutier – their Chateauneufs and Cote du Rhones are beautiful wines.

Enjoy!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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

AGING WINE: WHY YOU SHOULD – AND SHOULDN’T – DO IT

October 24, 2012

How many times have you seen the following expressions – “That wine will last for years”; “it will develop nicely in the cellar”; “after a few years, it will be much better”. I know I have. Heck, I use some of them myself in this blog!

They all, of course, refer to aging wine. But what does that really mean and – more importantly – is the end result going to be something you like?

But before we get to the answers to these questions, let me first emphasize that we are talking almost exclusively here about red wine, not white wine. Very few dry whites benefit from any aging at all (Sweet whites, and reds, are a whole other story). German and Alsace Rieslings and Gewurztraminers, white Hermitage from the northern Cotes du Rhone, and a few Burgundies (like Chablis) are the exceptions. But if you cellar the vast majority of white wines, you run the very real risk that the oak that most of them are originally made in will quickly overpower the fruit, leaving you with a mouthful of vanilla flavoured wood.

For red wines, the main reason for aging them is to mellow the tannins, which come from the grapes’ skins and stems. They are what can make a young red wine “pucker” your mouth, a sensation similar to when you drink tea that has been steeping too long. Over time, the tannins in wine break down and soften, combining with the fruit to produce secondary aromas and flavours, and increasing overall complexity.

Now, over 99 percent of red wine doesn’t have to worry about this. It doesn’t have a lot of tannin and is best drunk within a year of release.

But the big problem with the rest is that while they taste different as they get older, they doesn’t necessarily taste any better! The main reason for this is a tradeoff – as wines age, they may get softer, but they also lose their fruit. And many people – including yours truly – like the taste of fruit (currants, cherries, plums and the like) in wine. After all, it is made from grapes, which are fruit!

As a result, older, mature red wines can be a very different experience indeed! The fresh fruit is replaced by more herbal and woody characteristics, as well as mushrooms, earth, pepper and other spices. More complex, yes…but more enjoyable? Well, that depends on your tastes!

I will never forget a Burgundy event I went to years ago. We were tasting what were supposed to be some very good red wines from the 1969, 1970 and 1970 vintages, all of which were over ten years old. But as we went through them, one by one, it was obvious the crowd was growing restless. Finally, when it was time for questions, one guy boldly said “These don’t have any fruit in them at all; they taste like %$&^@!”

The poor host tried to explain, without being condescending, what older wines taste like, how complexity was a good thing, but with little success, as most of the audience seemed to share the questioner’s perspective.

Personally, I find this a particular problem with Cabernet (Sauvignon and Franc) and Merlot-based wines. The wood seems to really take over in many of them. My nemesis, of course, is Bordeaux, where this is seen as a positive quality by many (don’t get me started again about Bordeaux…). Offered wines from California and Australia made from the same grapes, I would take the latter every time, even when they age. The fruit just seems to stick around longer!

There are some dry red wines that I enjoy when they are older. The big ones form the northern and southern Rhone (Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas, respectively), as well as the “two B’s from Piedmont (Barolo and Barbaresco) and a few Chianti Classico Riservas, Interestingly, none of those show their wood even when older – the fruit is so powerful, you end up with complexity without “slivers”. I also enjoy Shirazes from Australia and Cabs from California as they age because – as I mentioned earlier – there seems to be more fruit and it sticks around longer.

But enough about me – what should you do when it comes to aging, or drinking, old wine?

Well, the best advice I have is taste some before you invest in more than a few bottles. Many liquor and wine stores carry older versions of some wines – you can often find 6 – 10 year old wines. They may be pricey, but better to buy one now and find out if you like it, rather than start collecting and then find in ten years that you don’t like what you end up with!

So, like so many times before, this isn’t a case of “good vs bad”. Instead, it’s a matter of taste. Find out if you like older wines. If you do, feel free to buy them young – and cheaper – and keep them a while. But if you don’t, there is lots of great wine out there that doesn’t need any longer than the trip from the store back to your home!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com