A friend of mine came into my office after she received a quick lesson in wine pairings from Kevin Brauch, The Thirsty Traveler (@drinkingrobot). Marcia said the lesson left her determined to learn more about wine so she won’t feel intimidated visiting the wine store. Two days later, I heard the same message from another two colleagues who talked about the stress of picking the wrong wine.
There is no such thing as a right and wrong wine. Just like there is no such thing as a right song or a wrong song. Be it Lou Reed (RIP) or ABBA, it simply comes down to a matter of taste (my husband might disagree on the ABBA point). Coincidentally it came up again at a wine club event, which you might think would be full or cork dorks, but you would be wrong – they are just people who love wine.
Someone asked what happens if you can’t smell the wine notes or aromas that have been identified. Brian Schmidt (@benchwineguy), the winemaker at Vineland Estates, expressed it beautifully. Essentially, as they say in Jersey, fuhgeddaboudit. Schmidt said the wine industry could not have done more to complicate the drinking of wine. “It’s like we made it sound like if you don’t taste certain flavours in a wine, you are not part of the club. Just enjoy it“, Schmidt said.
Then he promptly proceeded to prove his point by admitting, that on a hot day, he enjoys sipping from a bottle of Mateus. Mateus??? Cue the gasp from the alleged cork dorks.
Remember Mateus? The stubby shaped flat bottle looks snazzier now than when I smuggled it into a party in the 70’s. Apparently Mateus also continues to be one of the top selling wines in Canada.
Schmidt couldn’t have used a better example. Enjoy what you enjoy. whether it is Yellow Tail, Fuzion, or a Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild (though that one will cost you a mortgage payment). I attended a wine seminar a couple of years ago and everyone was raving about an Australian Chardonnay and I didn’t like it at all. I assumed it was because I didn’t know enough about wine. And while I am sure it was very fine wine, it’s not very fine to me.
So there is no reason to feel intimidated when walking through the LCBO, SAQ or any other liquor store. It’s an adventure. And the more you try different grapes, countries, regions, the more you will start to recognize the type of wine you like.
And the same thing goes for wine critics – Peter Gago, the man responsible for the jaw-droppingly good Penfolds, says by sampling their picks, you find out if you have similar tastes.
For example, I love Italian wines. There are regions that I pick from that I know will not disappoint. They may not all be award winners, but when I pick a wine from Tuscany’s Bolgheri region, I am 90% sure I will be very happy with my pick. I feel the same way about a Shiraz from the McLaren Vale region of Australia. The quality and price can vary widely – but at whatever level – my risk is minimal because I like that style of wine.
So if you have enjoyed a few of my wine picks, here are a few more, including one that made my taste buds somersault for joy.
Luis Canas Crianza 2009, Rioja, Spain $17.95
I randomly picked up this bottle. It was the last on the shelf which is often a good sign (Sorry Mr. Leaside who, seconds later, asked a staffer where he could find Luis Canas. I slinked away hugging mine tightly). I tried it that night and it was spectacular. Smooth, full-bodied, with raspberry and dark cherry notes. I went to the LCBO web site to see where I could buy more and picked up the last 5 bottles at the Danforth Store. Incredible value for $17.95. If you see them, buy them (or let me know and I will.) Apparently they have the potential of aging well. As if.
Cheval Quancard Reserve Sauvignon-Semillion 2011, Bordeaux, France $14.95
This wine is my white find of the week. My daughters prefer white to red so I always have a few on hand. This one particular wine had me wishing they switched to red so I could finish it off. It is fruity and full of flavour, slightly creamy with lovely aromas. I loved the wine and especially loved the price!
Ripa de Manderole, IGT, Tuscany, Italy $15.95
My third pick is a medium-bodied blend of Tuscany’s favourite Sangiovese grape blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the creation of John Matta, who has been voted Italian winemaker of the year four times since 1997. It is a friendly approachable wine that is a terrific with a simple pasta or pizza.
Enjoy your discoveries and share your favourites!