As we head into the colder weather most of us are switching from those cool refreshing summer whites to full-bodied reds. When it’s cold outside we naturally want to hibernate by the fireside with a lovely glass of Cab or Chianti.
But just as the weather changes something in us, so does it affect each year’s vintage. As drought, frost and hail have ravaged Europe’s wine grape harvest, some vintners say this year will be the smallest in half a century.
Some wine makers like Cherie Spriggs of southern England’s Nyetimber Winery have gone so far as to forego the 2012 harvest.
A smaller harvest will definitely be costly to vintners and the approximately 2.5 million European families that make a living off the wine industry. But just because the harvest is small doesn’t mean the vintage will be bad. The up side to the bad weather creating a smaller harvest may mean the quality of the wine is better because the flavours are much more concentrated.
But while Europe is dealing with downsizing this year’s production other growers around the world are reporting very good seasons. Ontario in particular harvested early and according to Grape Growers CEO Debbie Zimmerman, red grapes will be especially good this year, thanks to sweltering conditions promising 2012 will be a very good vintage indeed.
So if you aren’t already do so it’s time to support local. If you haven’t tried an Ontario wine lately check out the VQA section at your local LCBO and give something new a try or head down to Niagara to enjoy a winery tour and pick up something you might only find there.
One of my favourites lately was the 2010 Insieme appassimento style red from the Colaneri Winery. In this wine Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot have come “together” to create the perfect sipping fireside wine. It has a beautiful combination of dried figs, cherry and leather on the nose and goes beautifully with everything chocolate (really – wine and chocolate, could there be a better pairing?). Sadly I just checked and saw this one was sold out but I’ve tried serveral wines from Colaneri and have to say you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a full bodied red.
So if you’ve ever heard the expression “go with your first instincts” pay attention and do exactly that, because when you over think it, you’ll get it wrong. I was recently invited to take part in a really fun endeavour called The Label Project. Basically over a period of time I received 3 boxes that arrived by “No Name Sender”.
Each box contained a bottle of wine that was unidentified and through some provided clues and tastings I had to determine what the wines were and where they were from. Then last Friday I had to hand in my tasting notes and today the results were revealed.
The first wine I received was a white and I really thought it was a cool climate chardonnay but wanting to be absolutely sure I totally over analyzed it to the point I got it wrong, and believe me I really hate getting things wrong. I even had a friend (a talented Sommelier try it who also didn’t think it was a Chardonnay after several sips – goes to show the experts are sometimes as challenged as a novice when it comes to blind tastings) The other 2 bottles were reds and I figured I would just enjoy the wine and not try so hard and guess what? I got them both right.
Today I received a letter from the wine maker, Bernard Hickin of Jacob’s Creek thanking me for my participation (no thanks needed – I had a ton of fun). He revealed the 3 wines I had tasted from 3 renowned Australian regions, Barossa, Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills. Along with the letter I also received the same three bottles of wine, this time with the actual label you’ll find on the bottle when you buy it at the LCBO. Now I guess I’m just going to have to open up that Chardonnay again, close my eyes and just enjoy. If you’d like to try them as well, here’s a list of the three bottles:
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2011 (from Adelaide Hills, Australia) $14.95
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2009 (From the Barossa Valley, Australia) $16.95
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Fromm Coonawarra, Australia) $16.95
Recently I had a chance to once again meet one of my favourite men of wine, the ever charming Wolfgang Blass. Over the past decade I’ve met him several times when he’s visited Canada and each time I’ve walked away enchanted by this lovely man.
For those of you who’ve enjoyed Wolf Blass wines over the years and hadn’t thought much about the name, there really is a Wolfgang “Wolfie” Blass. Now 78 years old and an ambassador to this amazing brand he released his first Grey label wine in 1967 and in 2003 Wolf Blass became Australia’s #1 wine brand (by volume & value).
Bronze, silver and gold medals, he’s won them all. Probably too many to count both in Australia and internationally, but a known Wolf fact states his greatest achievement as winning three consecutive Jimmy Watson Trophies, the most prestigious and sought after wine award in Australia.
The Eaglehawk symbol seen on the bottles today was first released in 1987 and there’s a beautiful sculpture of the Eaglehawk at the amazing Wolf Blass visitor center in Nuriootpa, South Australia. Should you ever get the chance to get there not only can you walk around and explore the centre but you’ll have a chance to blend it like Blass or sign up for other wine tasting experiences.
Well known for his love of women and race horses his German/Australian accent instantly captivates you and makes you smile. Always elegant he’s recognisable by his dapper attire which always includes his iconic bow tie. He’s said the bow tie added charisma when he was wearing overalls and rubber boots in the winery, and besides a long tie always seemed to get in the way during wine tastings. Not only is he a great brand ambassador for the wine but he’s also a terrific ambassador for Australia and just like his bow tie, he often brings along a small stuffed “Joey” (kangaroo) carrying an Australian flag. Today the Wolf Blass brand is owned by Treasury Wine Estates a global wine company, but Wolfgang remains a vital part of the wine industry and besides being a statesman for the brand itself he still plays an active role on many Australian wine industry bodies.
When I met him a few years back he autographed a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for me which sits in my cellar. Not wanting to open it, I decided to enjoy the bottle of Yellow Label I’m holding in the photo. And with my very first sip I remembered why I not only enjoyed his company but also his wine.
It seems there’s a day or a month for every important cause now…World Aids Day, Alzheimer’s Day, Heart Health month and Breast Cancer Awareness month. There’s so many more and supporting a charity that helps provide care or research to the ones we love or have lost makes us feel like we’re at least doing something.
But in an economy where most of us are just managing to pay the bills, charities are often the losers. The last few years have seen a steady decline in donations leading to cutbacks in the services these organizations can provide.
So what if you could enjoy a nice bottle of wine, while helping others at no extra cost? Well, now you can through a wonderful idea created by Brett Preston called “The Little Grape That Could”.
Asked to come up with innovative way to raise money for charity Brett figured why not go big…rather than focusing on a single one, he wanted to find a way to share the funds among numerous organizations.
Many years in the making and with the help of friends two wines were created…a Torrontés and a Cabernet Sauvignon both from Mendoza, Argentina that now sell at the LCBO with all proceeds going to charity.
Each bottle costs just $11.95 and has a unique code on the back you key it in at their website, and select the charity you want to support. Every six months, they compile the charities people have chosen and donate all the profits.
Much of this project was inspired by Brett’s father and it took on new meaning when he passed away from Leukemia. Devastated but wanting to honour him Brett continued the project and decided each bottle should celebrate someone special. You even have the chance to nominate someone you believe deserves a toast and if they like your suggestion they will celebrate that person on a limited addition run.
So whether you like red or white, raise a glass and give a toast to a great cause.