Archive | April, 2018

Cheap Wine Woes – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

27 Apr

I read a piece at http://www.cnn.com about the price of cheap wine rising due to “weak harvests in key markets including Europe and South Africa”. You can read it here. The harvest in 2017 produced 25 billion litres of wine down from 26.7 in 2016 and 27.6 in 2015. Although that’s somewhat depressing – 1.7 billion fewer litres to drink, aargh – it’s doubly troubling as it increases the cost of wholesale basic wine (74% in Italy) and puts pressure on producers with small margins to deliver on cheaper wines. Stay tuned to see how this plays out.

Typical Tinos walkway

We all have cheap wine stories. My worst experience with über cheap wine was while in Tinos, a small island in the Cyclades. My friend and I left our wives behind while we went to pick up some local wine and chips to guzzle and munch back in the sun by our rooms. We wandered into a small convenience store just down the road. We had forgotten that stores were closed for the afternoon but being bargy North American tourists, it was unlocked so we just walked into a dark little store. We could hear the sound of a television (a Greek soap opera?) from the back room. Eventually a woman stuck her head out and we explained that we wanted a bottle of white and a bottle of red. She took us to the back, pulled out a couple used but hopefully clean 2 litre plastic pop bottles and filled each of them from small casks. No mention of variety, barrel age, or terroir. I believe they were €2 each! Suffice to say, that it taught me that price shouldn’t be the deciding factor in wine purchase. Also beware a vintage that’s a month not a year.

The silver lining in rising cheap wine prices for some of us? It serves to reinforce the notion that it’s OK to spend a little more on wine. That’s my mantra when cost rears its ugly head. “Go ahead, Bill, you will just waste that extra money on food and shelter if you don’t go all-in on a First Growth or two.”

This week’s release (April 28th) features a few great values and an impressive Okanagan icon.

I’ve pimped the 2009 and 2013 Abad Dom Bueno Mencía #291989 $16.95 many times here and I see that there’s still a tonne of the ’13 at the mothership. It’s case worthy to have on hand as perhaps one of the safest red wines to pop for company. This week there’s another Mencía wine from the same region of Spain – Bierzo. Topic: Mencía – it’s a red grape that’s predominantly found in Bierzo with a little over the border in Portugal as well. My first run in with the grape was in Alvaro Palacios’ beautiful Descendientes de J. Palacios Pétalos which has been offered here for a few years now. These wines can vary in quality quite a bit. But, lately are a bit more refined and refreshing than, say, a Rioja. Less serious. This week there’s the 2014 Casar de Burbia Mencía #392530 $19.95 to get excited about. This is a nervy effort – fresh, aromatic, and lip smackingly good. You can just sip it around the patio or serve with some seafood tapas. If you’ve never tried Mencía, can I suggest something? How about you pick up a bottle of the Abad Dom Bueno and this one. Invite some friends over, pop a few corks and get acquainted with this grape.

Staying with the aforementioned Alvaro Palacios, the 2016 vintage of his Camins del Priorat #216291 $30.95  hits the shelves this week. I haven’t had this vintage but have had the 2014. If the style is consistent, this will be a savoury effort. Meaty and spicy. I had the 2014 with Manchego, ground black pepper, olive oil and crusty bread. Good news? I still have another 2014 down below.

At a friendlier price point is the 2015 Saint-Roch Vieilles Vignes Syrah/Grenache #195107 $16.95. You may remember fondly the Saint-Roch Chimieres in the 2012 and 2013 vintages. This is its little brother. Although a wine from Côtes du Roussillon, it speaks to me of a Côtes du Rhone. Well, it only speaks when I’m drinking alone and considering a second bottle. But, if you like Côtes du Rhone, you’ll appreciate this – pure fruit without the wood (done in concrete tanks) – red berries, spice, herbs, and tenderness. This, like the Abad above is a perfect wine to pick up enough so that you can confidently pop a cork when company unexpectedly arrives. Like so many reds, this improves with air.

Yes, it does seem like Spring out there finally. So, what better time to celebrate with a rosé? Rosés can be quite inexpensive but a mild splurge can’t hurt, can it? The 2017 Miraval #342584 $23.95 is just the tonic we need after a long winter and shy early Spring. This is made by Famille Perrin for Brangelina. Can you still call them that? And, I wonder how they split this family property. Regardless, it’s a cute bottle (with a yuuuge punt – wink, wink), a cute wine, and a good story to tell. Very strawberry in the sniff, it has  a large presence on the mouth as well – medium-bodied. Citrusy on the finish – refreshing as a good Cötes de Provence should be. Pick this up for your first deck party, chill it well, and discuss who is really to blame for the Brad and Angelina split. I really don’t like either of them.

Niagara does Riesling well. And, in my view, the best is made from Beamsville and Twenty Mile Bench fruit. They are more mineral-driven. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll remember my love of Flat Rock Cellars’ Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling, Vineland’s St. Urban’s Vineyard Riesling or the multitude of different Rieslings from Tawse. Well, this week, Creekside joins the gang with their 2016 Creekside Marianne Hill Riesling #443572 $21.95. This is also a mineral-driven wine with a lively combination of citrus and peaches – I know that’s weird. A vein of acidity that carries through to a snappy finish. A good wine to stick down to allow those Riesling petrol/kerosene notes to develop.

A Riesling that I’m going to try is the 2016 Hidden Bench Estate Riesling #183491 $23.95. These guys and gals make extraordinary wines and I’ve yet to try their Riesling. If you pick one up, let me know what you think.

Some splurge-worthy wines:

2014 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin #626325 $47.95 – From the Okanagan. Made in partnership by Groupe Taillion of Bordeaux (Château Gruaud Larose) and Constellation Brands of Canada. In vintages past, it’s a great reflection of that pedigree as well as the character of the Okanagan. Serious wine.

2012 Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano #368910 $32.95 – Lovely ‘drink now’ wine with substantial Italian fare.

Cheers.

Bill

Big Brother (Wino Edition) – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

13 Apr

I received a bit of feedback on my last piece. One reader suggested that reality shows about wine should be the next trend. I agree. I mean it’s been tried before – 2 British blokes wandering Italy and sipping wine, youtube channels galore with guys and gals downplaying wine snobbery, and the short-lived I’m Getting Graphite -The Robert Parker Channel available on Roku.

If you think of it though, a proliferation of wine shows would get some of the thirty thousand or so wine bloggers out of their pyjamas. And it couldn’t hurt as most of us are significantly underpotentialized.

Here’s Pitch #1: “Twelve shallow, self-absorbed wine bloggers are locked in a house with a $20,000 cellar (above) curated by one of 0ur sponsors. Multiple cameras follow their every move. While they work their way through the cellar, fights about closures break out. Old World hounds align together and plot against the New World order. There’s a fight between Charmat Method versus Methode Traditionelle. And that’s just the FIRST week! At the end of each week, they are given a challenge – they have to name the grape, the country, region, and vintage of a blind tasted glass of wine. All facts known to the audience. The resident with the lowest score is kicked out of the house unless saved by the fifteen people watching on the Hulu channel. And that is repeated weekly until only one blogger is standing and he/she receives the remnants of the cellar.” Cool. It just needs a catchy name.

On to real wine. This past week I received a case of beautiful wine that I split with a friend. The 2015 La Garnatxa Fosca from Projecto Garnachas de España is a pure Garnatxa from Priorat. I thought that although it had a nose of Priorat with a floral vibe. It didn’t have the opaqueness, heft, mouthfeel that we associate with Priorat. It actually had the look and mouthfeel of a young Nebbiolo. Before a significant decant, it was crystalline, light, shy. Anything but ripe.

But, upon getting that time on the shelf and in the glass, it opened to red raspberry fruit, a touch of funkiness, and a minty finish. Although Garnacha higher ABV (14.5%), little heat. I love wines that show you that they’re not a one trick pony. I mean, “Everyone deserves the benefit of being able to change for the better,” he says to those he’s wronged in the past. This wine will improve in bottle for many years. Shout out to importer www.wineonline.ca If you’re wanting to buy caselot(s) of wine that you can’t always get access to, they have a great portfolio of wine, craft beer, and some foods. In fact they have my new favourite Crianza Rioja – Lopez de Haro @ $14.95 per. Bargain! Shipping of a case or more is free.

From this week’s release (April 14), there are a number of solid picks.

There’s a little Italian red that I’ve fallen in love with. I first tasted it at the Grande Marche that I attended a few years ago and since am always on the look out for it. The 2014 La Braccaesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano #566216 $24.95 is a perfect example of what’s right with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. It’s a beaut. I had this vintage while in Italy and it blew me away. Smells of a Chianti-style Sangiovese – cherries, spice box, celery salt (not kidding. I know from celery salt, having rimmed a billion Bloody Caesars. And Bloody Caesars, as we know, are the life blood of many of us before noon). Medium bodied with a distinct vein of acidity that leaves you smacking your lips. Not enough acid or tannin though to cover up the myriad of flavours – cherries, leather, a little barnyard (yum). This is a rocking food wine. Maybe something as simple as a tomato/mozza pizza or a tomato pasta with basil and some sausage. What a great DOCG, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This has become a great story for me. It used to be inconsistent, bland, wandering to find out what it wanted to be. Now solid producers like Antinori, in this case, and Dei have rejuvenated this place for me.

Since Gord Downie passed, I’ve been living on Spotify binges of Tragically Hip and regret that I never saw them live. Well, at least those of us who didn’t can swill some 2016 The Tragically Hip Ahead By A Century Chardonnay #483875 $19.95. This is made by Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, I believe. The style is moderately oaked until a finish which carries some butter. Flavours are citrusy with the typical green apple of Chardonnay. This is a nice Chard for afternoon sipping and falling off, I mean sitting on, the dock.

I took a wander down to Niagara with my niece a few weeks ago. My goal? To see as many wineries that were new to me as possible. What actually happened? First let me explain that there are over 100 wineries in Niagara. And, yes, I should be able to spend a day seeing only ones who’s threshold I haven’t crossed. Well, I tried and saw two of the new ones. But, I still had to take her to Tawse and Malivoire. It’s just not a trip down there without my Visa getting a workout at these two places. This week, there’s a very nice red from one of those guys waiting for you – 2016 Malivoire Gamay #591313 $17.95. Gamay is done really well here. Malivoire has a Small Lot Gamay that’s worth scouting and ordering on line. This one isn’t as complex as that – straight forward, fresh wine. Feels like you’re at the winery even when you’re home. Red, red, red fruit. A little heavier in the mouth – hotter – than usual but a very nice sipping wine or with noshes, salads. A slight cill doesn’t hurt this wine either. Perfect summer hostess/host gift.

If you’re jonesing for a day on the patio, and who isn’t, there’s a whack of 2017 rosé already on shelves:

2017 Gérard Bertrand Côte Roses des Rosé #373985 $18.95

2017 Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel #325076 $29.95

2017 Henry of Pelham Family Estate Rosé #613471 $14.95

2017 Malivoire Ladybug Rosé #559088 $16.95

Keep an eye out for the mess of Provence and Tavel rosés which should be hitting the mothership soon.

Pitch #2: “Four wine bloggers are given different already prepared stages of a three course meal. Then they open a mystery basket of wine barrels. Well, maybe we have to work on that part seeing as barrels are bigger than baskets. But, suffice it to say, there are several barrels of different wines.They have 25 minutes to blend the perfect wine to go with the appetizer, main, or dessert that they are presented with. The worst blender drops off each course. Their wines are judged by other wine bloggers (some savvy cross-marketing with Pitch #1). Winner after three courses gets to take the barrels home and claim the title – Top Blend Champion.” What do you think?

Maybe have to work a bit on the television ideas. Help me out if you’ve got a good one.

Cheers.

Bill

 

 

Lethargy Makes Strange Bedfellows

12 Apr

The end of March and the first few weeks in April can be the most exciting or most depressing time of year. Let me see a show of hands – this year? Depressing? I’m with ya.

I didn’t know what to do with myself and this year I watched way too much television awaiting the change in seasons for me to get outside – yard work, golf, patio time, rosé, open the cottage. And, it was a bit of a revelation in what now passes for entertainment.

I guess when you have a zillion channels to fill with content, you need a lot of content. Did I say a lot? I meant a shitload of content. And, a shitload is a ‘lot’ to the power of 10. And, there are only so many ideas/concepts from which to glean something to air.

Exhibit 1 – shows about cakes. “No, Bill there can’t be shows about making cakes – just cakes,” you say. Uh, yeah there are a bunch of them. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when that concept was pitched. “To capitalize on people’s love of cakes, the premise of the show is that two unknown people who just recently joined ACTRA and will take scale, compete over half an hour to impress judges that no one in the viewing audience has ever heard of. The prize? Seriously, these people would take a pat on the back. Cheap, easy to produce, and we can weave in catastrophes and personal breakdowns with a little editing.”

Exhibit 1a – cooking competitions. Top Salad Chef Venezuela. Mirapoix Kings. National Paring Knife Skills Championship. It’s riveting stuff – winners, losers, baskets of weird foods, shouty major name chefs. And ev-er-ry show is the same. Well, except for what kind of offal is in the basket.

Exhibit 2 – shows about houses. There have been shows about houses since Bob Villa rode into our homes on PBS. But it’s getting crazy. How crazy? Well, I’m very optimistically pitching Flip or Flop London Ontario with HGTV. That would make about fourteen in the Flip or Flop franchise. If you haven’t seen one of these, let me take you through the compelling drama. A man and a woman (soon to appear on covers of supermarket tabloids) view three houses and decide to buy one to flip. Then they flip it. It never flops. It just flips. I’m not kidding you that’s it. The key part – yes there is a key part – of every show is when they find something they weren’t expecting……..which after 50 flipped and counting, you’d kind of think they would have expected.

Exhibit 2a – shows about houses – this genre is about looking for a house and then buying it. Yup, 30 minutes that you cannot ever get back. ‘Nuf said.

Exhibit 2b – shows about houses – where house ‘personalities’ help people buy houses, fix houses, flip houses. It’s an attempt to roll all the concepts from 2 and 2a but dressed up with cool looking people who now have eponymous furniture at Home Depot.

Exhibit 3 – crime dramas. My least favourite is one where each and every week, a crack team of FBI profilers tracks and catches a serial killer. It’s not that I don’t believe that ………….wait a minute. There’s nothing about this show that I believe. And, I’m going out on a limb here but it’s probably going to end up being a crazed white guy whose loveless mother left him alone at night to pull wings off flies, wet his bed, and torch his neighbour’s house. Always Mom’s fault. Just sayin’. And, isn’t there enough scary shit in the real world without adding this guy to our nightmares.

Exhibit 3a – crime dramas. Ever seen one of these? A special unit of great looking law enforcement officers singlehandedly defeat a major crime/terrorist/cake threat. Do they need help from anyone outside of their office? Never. Three of these guys can defuse a national (or international) terrorist threat every week without missing a beat and getting the attractive co-worker to go out with them too (spoiler alert: that will prove to be a mistake in season 2). Each week a cool technological twist that helps them solve the crime. Just plug a hair into the computer and get the guy’s picture, fingerprints, DNA, credit card receipts, browsing history, red wine preference. Solved!

So, the television is off now. Only Jays, Raptors, The National, and………..OK……The Voice. What can I say? We all need a little guilty pleasure and I’m a closet singer – stymied by the cruel vagaries of the music business who value looks over talent. Those kids could be me. Well, if they were a ‘lot’ older and couldn’t sing very well. And that’s a ‘lot’ not a shitload.

Pray for warmer weather before I go completely nuts and/or empty the cellar.

Cheers.

Bill

P.S. More wine and less social commentary before week’s end. Promise.

 

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