Posts Tagged ‘Gigondas’

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

THANKSGIVING WINES

October 5, 2016

We are heading into our Thanksgiving Day long weekend up here in Canada, and every year I get questions about what wine to have with the big celebration dinner.

So here are some ideas!

First off, it always depends on what you are having to eat, particularly if the food – or significant components of the meal – is going to be sweet. That sugar can play havoc with both red and white wines, so it is important to plan accordingly.

If you are having a sweeter meal – ham with a sugar glaze, sweet yams or mashed potatoes, lots of cranberry sauce – then I would recommend two kinds of wines.

For whites, go with a Riesling. They are naturally on the sweet side (even the dry ones), so can stand up to just about any level of sweetness in your food. Also, they come in a wide range of price categories! You can get really nice ones from BC, Washington State and California for under $20, for example. Europe is the home to great Rieslings, of course – from France, in the Alsace region, and Germany – so you can also go there if you want a potentially great wine. One caveat, though – some of the best of those wines can get quite sweet, so if you or your guests don’t like sweet wines, that could be a problem.

For reds, that is tougher. Any kind of oak in the wine will not mix well with the sweetness in the food, potentially ruining the taste of both the wine and the food.

My “go to” red wine for sweeter or hotter foods is Zinfandel. It is chock full of sweet (ripe) fruit itself, doesn’t have oak or jamminess to it, and the alcohol level can help combat the sweetness in the food. California is the place, of course, to find it, and you can find options from $10 to $50++++.

It is easier to pair wines with more savoury dishes – turkey/lamb/chicken/beef with herbs, meat stuffing, that kind of thing.

My favourite red wine choice for these kind of meals is actually Grenache-based wines! Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras – all of these wines, even when young, have great herbal (called garrigue) component to them that pairs really well with herbal, meaty food. And they don’t have to be expensive! Basic Cotes du Rhone – solid wines – can be had for under $15.

As for whites, you do need to watch the oak. If you – or your guests – like it, then go for the big Chardonnay or Semillon/Sauvignon-based wines. They will be rich enough to stand up to the herbal meaty flavours. If oaked wines don’t work, you can try Pinot Gris or even Chenin Blanc – the best ones are full-bodied enough to handle the food without the oak.

That should give you enough to make Thanksgiving Dinner – here or in the US – enjoyable. But one last piece of advice.

If you really love wine and/or a certain type of wine, then have it! There are too few excuses to treat yourself, and not matter what the food is, you can still enjoy a fabulous bottle of wine.

Life is too short…so go for it!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

So who are they making $50+++ BC wines for any way?

October 14, 2015

So I read in the local paper recently that one of BC’s biggest, highest profile wine producers has decided to launch a new brand. It will only be available on-line or at restaurants and be priced — I assume for the on-line purchases – from $85 – $120. I expect restaurants would at least double that price.

When I saw this, I was flabbergasted! It adds to a growing number of BC wine producers who are making wine for sale at $50 or more (sometimes a lot more).

Now, I have ranted about BC wine prices before. But after another cup of coffee (and a few deep breaths), I thought of another question – who exactly are these wines being made for any way (regardless of whether they are worth the price or not)?

The ‘casual’ wine drinker? I don’t think so. Few would go over $20 for a bottle of wine (let alone $50++).

The average wine dweeb like me? Again, I don’t think so. When I get to the $50 level – which isn’t very often for my cellar – I think about wines I know are great and will age well. Like northern Rhones (Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Cornas, Cote Rotie), southern Rhones (Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas), Barolos, Barbarescos, Brunellos…All of these have proven histories. The BC wines in question…not so much (if at all). So I am supposed to trust my money on that?

As gifts, perhaps, to wine dweebs like me? Perhaps…although if you know the wine dweeb well, you probably also know the kind of wine they value…and it wouldn’t be these wines.

For restaurant diners, then? Well, at 250 % average markup…I doubt it. If I am going to spend $150 or more a bottle (and that is a big if), I am going to buy one of the wines I mention above!

That leaves me with…tourists particularly those from countries with favourable currency exchanges and/or who want to bring a ‘special’ gift home.

And there it was – bingo! That must be the market!

If that is the case, so be it…and I wish the producers all the best. But I would also offer a warning, and a concern.

The warning? I see lots of those $50+ wines languishing on Liquor store shelves, and assume that is also the case at the wineries themselves. But if the wineries want to take that risk, it is their money!
My concern, however, is bigger.
There are more and more amazing BC wines being made for $20 – $40. Even in a restaurant, they represent good value for money. My hope is that flashy marketing campaigns for more expensive – but not necessarily better – wines won’t mean residents and tourists miss out on what is really the ‘best in BC’!

SB
http://www.sbwinesite.com

What Wines to Bring to Dinner Parties?

March 25, 2015

Here is a dilemma for all of us. You are invited to friends for dinner and say you will bring wine.

But what do you bring?

Well, before I answer that, you need to answer a couple of other questions first!

First off…how close are you? This is the most important question because if you are close friends, you may already know what they like or – more importantly – if they are “wine dweebs” or not (more on that below). If it is more casual, it can be less of an issue (although you never want to bring bad wine, of course!).

Second – are they wine dweebs? If not, see above. But if they are, you face a bigger challenge. Do you try to bring something that impresses them? Or something that you know they like (because you have had it there before)? I would go with the latter…many people say they don’t like to bring wine to our place because they know I am a wine dweeb and may judge them. But if they know what I like – Rhone wines, for example – they can’t go wrong, no matter how much they spend on the bottle.

The third question may seem a bit esoteric, but it is important if you are a wine dweeb like me. And it is – do you expect the wine you bring to be drunk that evening?

For me, this is often the toughest question! I have lots of great wine in my cellar, and I love the chance to share it with friends, even casual friends. But what can drive me crazy is bringing a wine that I was looking forward to tasting, only to have the friends say “wow, thanks!” and then put it away for use later.

I deal with this question in two ways. If they are close friends, I will actually ask what to bring! I couch it around “what is for dinner? What will go best?” That way, I find out right up front whether it will be drunk or not. If I don’t know them that well, I tend to shy away from really good wine – or mature wine – as I don’t know when it may be drunk.

Having answered these questions, then, back to the first one…what do you bring?

Well, I have a couple of safe bets for “casual” friends. For reds, try an un-oaked Argentine Malbec or Cotes du Rhone. They are almost always fruity but a little complex, not full of wood (from the oak) and you can find lots of choices in the $15 – $20 range. And for whites, try Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or B.C. They are fruity (but not too ripe), have just a bit of oak, and there are a fair number in the same price range as the reds above.

For special friends that you know well? Well, if you have a cellar, that is the time to bring something that is mature. A Chateauneuf du Pape or Chianti Classico Riserva that is 8 – 10 years old, for example. If they are really good friends, try a Barolo or Barbaresco that is 10 – 15 years old. If you don’t have a cellar, go for a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Mondavi, Beringer, Caymus…there are lots of big names that have wines in the $40 – $50 range, and the great thing is they drink well on release, so you don’t have to worry about tannins.

And for special whites? Chablis Premier Cru is a great choice, or Alsatian Rielsing or Gewurztraminer. These can be from your cellar (if you are lucky enough to have them) or right off the shelf, as they also drink well young and can be found in the $40 range. Cali Chardonnay is another great idea as long as you know they like oaky, buttery Chardonnays.

So the next time you are asked to bring wine to dinner, think about these simple rules. Follow them, and you can’t go wrong!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

The Annual Bordeaux Release Boondoggle

September 30, 2014

Okay, it’s that time of the year again! The annual Bordeaux release happens this Saturday up here in British Columbia, which also means it is time for me to do my annual rant about it!

For those of you who have seen it before – and don’t want to read it again – feel free to skip this blog and come back next week. But for those who haven’t seen it, or enjoy it, read on!

So, Bordeaux…what art thou?

Not my favourite wine, as readers know. While it is the most prestigious, popular and – most of the time – expensive grape-derived product in the world, it is disappointing to me on so many fronts.

First is style. Except for the ultra-premium first growths and “garagiste” wines (which cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars), there is often little fruit in these wines. The opposite of California and Australia, they are full of wood, herbs and other so-called secondary aromas and flavours (pencil box, tobacco, etc.) that do nothing for me. It’s not so much theses other tastes…well, I guess it is…no, really, it is more about the lack of fruit in the wines.

And that is perplexing to me. Because you read the reviews, and they are full of descriptions like “ripe blackcurrants…ripe plums…ripe cherries…” but, for the life of me, I can count on one hand how many times I have found those flavours, even in the young wines. I understand fruit mellowing over time – and love how that happens in Chateauneuf du Pape, Hermitage, Barolo, Barbaresco, even Aussie Shiraz – but if there isn’t obvious fruit to begin with, there is nothing to mellow from!

Which is the second reason for my disappointment…the tannin level. Of all wines, perhaps Bordeaux is the biggest culprit of the “big wine” syndrome. Huge, searing, mouth-puckering tannins are the norm for even the middling wines, so heavy that it would be hard to find the fruit…even if it was there. Combine the tannins with the lack of fruit, and by the time they resolve in 8 – 15 years…well, let’s just say you have to like drinking wood chips to enjoy most of the wines.

The price is another issue, although I am not that bothered by it. I recognize the market will dictate what people will pay for anything, and Bordeaux is no different. So good on the producers for getting what people will pay. What I do have an issue with, however, is the fact that the price only goes up, regardless of the vintage. Surely, the market should also be about quality…yet very rarely does this seem to happen.

Which brings us to my biggest pet peeve…the hoopla around the release.

Almost every year, I think, we hear the same marketing promotion…”vintage of the century”, “best ever”, “will last for generations”…Then in the so-called “light” vintages, it becomes “beautiful for drinking now” or “these are great food wines”.

As someone who does PR for a living, all of this just rankles me. If – and it is a big if – you truly love Bordeaux, know what it tastes like young or old, “light” or tannic, than fill your boots and spend your hard earned money.

But every year I see the same thing. People wandering through the open cases, clutching the offering guide, trying to pick out a bottle or two of wines that start at $50 and go way up from there. I feel like saying “do you know what those taste like?”, but always force myself to just shut up (and even stay away from the store on launch days).

So, a pox on the annual Bordeaux release!

Phew…that feels better! Now back to regular life…and more balanced blogs!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

FRENCH WINE – WHY IT’S WAY MORE THAN JUST BORDEAUX AND BURGUNDY!

February 12, 2014

The Vancouver International Wine Festival is coming up in a couple of weeks, an event which I always look forward to! But this year, it is going to be a particularly special event – because the feature country is France!

For many people, that may seem like a no-brainer, as France is so often associated with wine. And for wine lovers, it may also be no surprise given that two French wine regions – Bordeaux and Burgundy – are arguably the most famous and popular sources of wine in the world.

But it might seem odd to some of you that my excitement over France being the feature country has nothing to do with Bordeaux or Burgundy. Instead, it is about one of their other major wine regions – the Cotes du Rhone. And so the goal of this blog is to convert people to the fabulous wines from both the north and southern Rhone!

Why? Well, aside from the fact they are my favourite wines – and make up a good quarter of my cellar – I think they have way more to offer than their more famous cousins. And they can also be much better values.

The grapes used are part of the reason for this. While there is a mix in the region, for red wines it is mostly Syrah in the north, which accounts for such famous names as Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie. The flavour profile is instantly recognizable to any wine lover – earthy black cherries, black and white pepper, licorice and little or no oak or wood. They are the polar opposites of their Shiraz cousins from Australia, which are jammy and super fruity. And many of these northern Rhones can develop for years and years in the cellar.

In the south, of course, it is mostly Grenache blends. Chateauneuf du Pape is the most famous wine, followed by Gigondas and then a variety of Cotes du Rhone appellations. Flavour wise, there is the unique herbal aroma that the French call garrigue – once you have smelled it, you won’t forget it! In terms of taste, there are more dried red and black cherries, earth and no wood at all. And some of them can age just as long as their northern cousins.

The key attraction from the above descriptions – for me, anyway – is almost no wood flavours, and ripe but not jammy fruit. Unlike most Bordeaux and Burgundy, you don’t have to worry about a mouthful of cedar or oak, or stringent tannins.

Another factor in Rhone’s favour is quality! Many of the producers of the wines listed above make “90 pt wines”, often more regularly than for their more high profile cousins.

Finally, the overwhelming argument for Rhone wines is – value! There are incredible bargains out there in all price ranges, from under $15 to $40 wines that are worth twice that much money (and rated higher than their Bordeaux and Burgundy brethren).

So if you are in Vancouver – or coming here for the Wine Festival – make sure you check out the Rhone offerings. And if you aren’t, do the same thing at your local wine store. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

SB

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

DO YOU REALLY NEED TO AGE WINE?

October 23, 2013

I saw a column on aging wine this past weekend and, frankly, couldn’t believe the advice that was given. Statements like “virtually all wines benefit from a few years aging”, “3 – 5 years is optimum for most red wines”, and “pay the extra money for a more expensive wine as it will pay off when it is ready”.

In my 30+ experience tasting, drinking and cellaring wine, the response to these statements is – BALDERDASH! And I will take on the fallacies one by one.

First, let’s be clear – over 90 per cent of red wines will not benefit from any aging at all. They may not deteriorate after a year or so, but they won’t get any better either. The vast majority of red wines – including a lot of frighteningly expensive ones – are best drunk right after you buy them. Stand them up for a few hours, then open and consume.

And white wines? Well make that number 99%! Except for sweet white wines, some German and Alsatian wines, and a smattering of white Rhones and Bordeaux, virtually all white wines need to be drunk within six months or a year of purchase. This is particularly the case if they are “oaked”, as the wood can rapidly take over and completely overwhelm the fruit.

Next question, then; for those red wines that can age, how long is best?

Well, for your Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cotes du Rhones (from France), big Piedmont and Tuscany reds from Italy (like Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, and Chianti Classico Riserva), Spanish Rioja, California Cabernet Sauvignon and Australian Old Vine Shiraz, the answer is…it depends!

How much tannin a wine has – that mouth-puckering experience you get when you drink some of the big reds when they are young – is one determinant. The more tannin, the longer it will take to soften, the longer it can age.

But that doesn’t mean it will necessarily taste better five, ten or even twenty years later. Because – as I blogged a few weeks ago – as the tannin goes, so does the fruit. You could be left with a mouthful of wood and herbs; at best, it will be a very different tasting beverage. So if you like your wine to be fruity, don’t age it that long.

The final statement, though, is the one that gets me the most – “buy the most expensive one, as it benefit from aging the most”.

As someone who does PR as a business, I can tell you that is just marketing. Yes, there can be a correlation between price, quality and ageability. But not always. And very few people I know can tell the difference (in a positive way) between a $50 bottle, a $75 bottle and a $100+ bottle (not that I have tried many of the latter). Let alone ones that go way beyond those prices.

Instead, I would recommend a couple of things. First, know the style of wine you like best, including whether you like “old” wine at all. For me, I like – or love, actually – old Chateauneuf du Pape and Barolo. So I will buy those wines to age in my cellar.

But how much I will pay is always a question. Frankly, I can’t find any reason to spend more than $75 a bottle (and rarely go above $50). Maybe if I was rich that would change, although I can’t believe I would ever buy $100 bottles of wine.

To sum it up, buy what you like – and what you think is good value – and drink most of it up young, saving special bottles to age (if you like that style).

I’ll conclude with a story to illustrate all these points. I have a friend who is (or was) a wine dweeb like me. Years ago, the got some new neighbours and the man said he was into wine. They got to chatting and my friend soon got invited over (with his wife) for dinner.

Once there, it didn’t take long to get down to the wine cellar – a converted room, with temperature control, wooden shelves, locked door, etc. Apparently it was very impressive. But then my friend looked at the wines.

All red, but all from Chile…and in the $12 – $15 range! Many of them were also 5+ years old!

I can’t remember if they drank any that night (or what they tasted like if they did). And it may well be that the guy just liked old, inexpensive Chilean wines.

But it might also be he believed in some of the marketing about aging red wines. If so, that was a very unsatisfying – and expensive – mistake.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

WHEN YOUR WINE TASTES CHANGE…AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT!

July 25, 2013

I talk a lot in this blog about knowing your individual taste in wine as a way help make sure you can find the kinds of wine you like to drink.

But those tastes can change over time — and that can present some interesting challenges!

The first time that happened to me was with red Bordeaux. Like many wine dweebs, I began my wine hobby with Bordeaux, because it was (and probably still is) the most prestigious wine around.

I liked it (I think) and — given its reputation for aging — promptly started filling my cellar up with well-reviewed Bordeaux that I could afford.

Then, while I waited for them to mature, I “discovered” California Cabernet Sauvignons. The ’85 and ’86 vintages were on the shelves which — combined with a trip to Napa and Sonoma — got me hooked on that super ripe, vanilla laced black currant style!

In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that when I started to drink the maturing Bordeaux, I was in for a shock.

Cedar, herbs, dried fruit — what was going on here? It took me a couple of years (and about a dozen different bottles) to figure out that my tastes had changed. The Bordeaux wasn’t bad — it was just no longer my style!

The same thing kind of happened with white Hermitage. I say “kind of” because this one actually was my fault for not finding out what the style of the wine was in the first place! My thought process was something like — I like red Rhone wines, so I must like white ones, right? It had worked for Bordeaux (ironically, I like white Bordeaux more now).

The ’89/’90 vintages were available, receiving incredibly high scores, and — relative to those scores — were good values. And they were supposed to age well, a challenge for white wines!!

You can probably guess what happened. Yep — when I started tasting them after 8 years or so, it was — Yuk!! They had a resiny/waxy character which I subsequently found out is supposed to be part of their appeal. Well, not for me!

So what did I do?

Well, first off, I stopped buying both of them for my cellar. That was the easy part (although I sometimes strayed back to Bordeaux when I saw good reviews/reasonable prices!).

The harder part was what to do with the wine I already had there in the cellar! I wasn’t enjoying it…but what to do?

My “Bordeaux” problem was resolved by an idea from a friend who read my blog and liked Bordeaux. John suggested a trade – some of his more fruity BC wines that he had bought (through my wine club) for some of my older Bordeaux. That worked out great for both of us!

But the white Hermitage…well, it’s still there. So if anyone wants to trade for it…

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

How to Build a Wine Cellar Part 2 – What to Put in It

April 17, 2013

Okay, so you have your cellar location picked out and outfitted with whatever you are going to put your wines in. So now how do you fill it?

Well, that is the subject of this week’s blog. And it is a three part question – the kind of wines to put in it, how to buy them and how many you need.

First things first – the kind of wines. White, red and sweet are the categories to consider, of course (since Rose shouldn’t be kept more than the season it is purchased in). So let’s start with the trickiest – the white wines.

I say “trickiest” because few white wines improve with age. And, in fact, they can deteriorate quite quickly even under the best cellar conditions, being overcome by oak.

My suggestions? Well, look first to Germany and the Alsace region of France. Riesling and Gewurztraminer can be good bets for short to medium term cellaring. Few if any see any oak, so that isn’t a worry. What might be, however, is the style. The best of these wines – even the dry versions – have a touch of residual sugar in them, so will taste a bit sweet. Personally, I like that…but taste before you buy. The good news is if you like the style, some of these wines can develop for 10+ years and become amazing, golden beauties!

Another option – if you want Chardonnay – is to look to France. White Burgundies can be really expensive and the quality varies incredibly, but a safer bet is Chablis, especially Premier Cru and Grand Cru. Again, no oak used here – recognizing a trend? – and some of these wines can be had for under $40. The best producers in the best vintages can also make wines capable of lasting 5 – 15 years.

A final potential white wine choice is from the Rhone region of France – white Hermitage. However, beware of this one. When young, these wines taste quite resiny, and sometimes they don’t come around. It is definitely an acquired taste…and one that I don’t have (even though I have a few bottles sitting in my cellar).

Reds are easier, mainly because there are more options. For Cabernet Sauvignons in a more fruit-forward style, I would recommend producers from California and Australia. There are some wines in the $$35 – $50 range that will develop quite nicely over an 8 – 10 year period, keeping their fruit but mellowing out a bit.

Merlot I would avoid – it is best drunk young before the wood overwhelms it.

Pinot Noir is a bit of a tricky choice. Burgundy is an option, of course but, like the white counterparts, very expensive and quite variable in quality. California is a better option, although prices are getting very expensive there too. You can also try the best producers in BC (like Kettle Valley). But don’t expect to age these wines as long – 5 – 8 years is the max before they start to dry out.

Next up is Syrah and Shiraz, and both have great, relatively affordable options for cellaring. The northern Cotes du Rhone is expensive, but Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas can sometimes be found. In the south, some of the Cotes du Rhones are mostly Syrah and far cheaper. The former can sometimes age for 15+ years; the latter, 4 – 6 years. In the new world, California, Washington and BC Syrahs are another good bet, with an age profile of 4 – 10 years.

One of my favourite red wines for the cellar is Grenache-based. Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas from the southern Rhone are great options, and while they are getting expensive too, some can still be had for about $40. And these can really develop nicely, turning into sophisticated, soft, lovely wines after 10, 15 and even 20 years in good vintages.

Finally, if you want to splurge, head to Italy and Piedmont (for Barolo and Barbaresco) and Tuscany (for Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico Riserva, and Vino Nobile di Montalcino). The Piedmontese wines are the most expensive, but might also be my favourite for aging. They are tannic when young but then turn out almost port-like at 15 – 20 years of age (without the sweetness). Just gorgeous! Their Tuscan cousins can be cheaper (except for the Brunellos), and develop for 10 – 15 years.

Last but not least, sweet wines. For whites, Bordeaux in half bottles can be a good deal (Sauternes and Barsac) and for reds, well, Vintage Port can age almost forever. It is very expensive, but sometimes you can find lesser priced half bottles.

So how do you know which specific wines to buy? Well, as I have said before, unless you have unlimited funds to try them first (and the older versions), find a wine critic who has the same style as you and trust him or her, both in terms of what to buy and when to try/drink them.

Which leads into the final question – how many to buy? I advise at least two of each specific wine. That way you can see how they age a little bit, anyway. And overall quantity – that depends how much money you have and how often you want to drink them. But the latter is a question for next week.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com