Spring (and Summer) 2005:
July 21: LCBO Premium Tutored Tasting: The ABCs of Italian Wine; LCBO Summerhill, Toronto, 416/922-0403.
July 23: Fiesta Buckhorn (Noon-7:30 p.m.; featuring Canadian wine, beer and local cuisine); www.fiestabuckhorn.com
Aug 28-29: Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Course; Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Toronto, led by John Szabo, MS, 416/654-9695; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sept 18: Frescobaldi Fine Wine Tasting; Grano Restaurant, Toronto, vertical tasting with Marchese Leonardo Frescobaldi); Grapes for Humanity, 416/922-7776, 1-800/218-1422; email@example.com
Sept 27: Portuguese Group of 7 Tasting, featuring: Aliança, Esporão, Messias, José Maria Da Fonseca, J.P. Vinhos and Sogrape; Portuguese Trade Commission, 416/921-0259; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sept 27: Australian Wine Tasting; National Trade Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto; in support of Heart & Stroke Foundation, 416/870-8000; www.australianwineexperience.com
Sept 28: Spain: Old Vines New Wines; Hart House, University of Toronto, Toronto; 416/967-0488 ext. 612; Toronto@mcx.es
Oct 4: Bravo España! 2005, an interactive gastronomic seminar with tastings, chefs and personalities from Spain; Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex, Toronto; 416/967-0488 ext. 612; Toronto@mcx.es
Ontario Wine Awards 2005
Winemaker of the Year: Carlo Negri, Colio. Wine of the Year: Reif 2002 Vidal Icewine. Wine Journalism Award: Gordon Stimmell, Toronto Star. Ontario Sommelier Award: Zoltan Szabo. Sparkling Wine: Peller Founder's Series Cristalle NV. Riesling Dry: Château des Charmes 2003 Riesling Dry Estate Bottled.
Riesling Off-Dry: Fielding 2004 Riesling Semi-Dry. Other Dry White: Silver: Hernder 2004 Vidal. Other Off-Dry White: Pillitteri Semi-Dry 2003 Vidal. Aromatic White: Stoney Ridge 2004 Muscat Ottonel. Pinot Gris: Magnotta 2003 Pinot Gris Special Reserve.
Sauvignon Blanc: Château des Charmes 2004 Sauvignon Blanc St. David's Bench. Chardonnay Reserve/Single Vineyard: Cilento Chardonnay 2003 Signature Reserve and Henry of Pelham 2003 Chardonnay Barrel Fermented.
Oaked Chardonnay: Palatine Hills 2003 Chardonnay Proprietors Reserve. Unoaked Chardonnay: Fielding 2004 Chardonnay Musqué. Rosé/Blanc de Noir: Silver: Peninsula Ridge 2004 Cabernet Rosé. Gamay: Thirteenth Street 2002 Gamay Noir Reserve.
Pinot Noir: Inniskillin 2002 Pinot Noir Reserve. Hybrid Red: Hernder 2002 Chambourcin. Cabernet Franc: Coyote's Run 2003 Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon: Mountain Road 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot: Pillitteri 2002 Merlot Reserve.
Syrah/Shiraz: Creekside 2002 Shiraz Signature. Cabernet/Merlot Blends: Henry of Pelham 2002 Cabernet Merlot Speck Family Reserve. Meritage: Thirteenth Street 2002 Meritage.
Late Harvest White: Château des Charmes 2000 Riesling Late Harvest. Select & Special Select Late Harvest White: Konzelmann 2002 Vidal Special Select Late Harvest.
Vidal Icewine: Reif 2002 Vidal Icewine. Vinifera Icewine: Jackson-Triggs Proprietors Reserve Riesling Icewine 2002. Sparkling Icewine: Inniskillin 2002 Vidal.
Best Label Design: Inniskillin 2002 Sparkling Vidal Icewine.
& The Cuvée Winners Are:
Red: Jackson-Triggs Proprietor’s Grand Reserve Meritage 2002. Ltd. Ed.
White: Niagara College Chardonnay Barrel Fermented/Barrel Aged 2003. Ltd. Ed. White: Cilento Chardonnay Reserve 2003.
General List Red: Cave Spring Cabernet Merlot 2002.
General List White: Cave Spring Off-Dry Riesling 2003 and Strewn Riesling Semi-Dry 2003.
Sparkling: Jackson-Triggs Proprietor’s Grand Reserve Méthode Classique 2001. Ltd. Ed.
Sweet: Pillitteri Riesling Icewine 2002. Birchwood Riesling Icewine 2003.
Red Hybrid: Creekside Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2001. Lakeview Baco Noir Reserve 2002.
Merlot: Colio Reserve 2002. Pinot Noir: Creekside Signature 2001.
Off-Dry Riesling: Cave Spring 2003 and Strewn Semi-Dry 2003.
Sauvignon Blanc: Magnotta Special Reserve 2003.
Gewürztraminer: Palatine Hills 2003.
Sweet Red: Magnotta Cabernet Franc Icewine Limited Edition, 2002.
How Sweet...And Dry!
Lighter, More Elegant Wine
Good news, however. Scientists are developing wines with a lower alcohol and more flavor. The Australian Wine Research Institute has found a new yeast that, when added to fermented juice, reduces alcohol by (a huge) 4%.
At present, winemakers resort to costly reverse osmosis to reduce alcohol content and this can damage flavor. However, Institute managing director Sakkie Pretorius says the new yeast doesn’t hurt flavor. “In fact, it will probably enhance favor." And the cost is virtually nil.
As the popularity of fruitier-tasting wines has increased, so has the alcohol level, as grapes are left to ripen longer and natural sugar levels soar. Instead, the new yeast converts sugar to glycerol and gluconic acid, already found naturally in wine.
There are many benefits: “It has to do with the flavor and what you expect from the wine. And the alcohol has a big effect on duties and taxes. And some people just prefer less alcohol."
* In case you missed it: you could have saved $550.00 on a single bottle of Château Pétrus ’82 at Vintages recently....marked down from $3,999.95. The GST alone was over 200 bucks. I missed it, too.
The Soap Opera Of Wine...
Mondovino, Jonathan Nossiter’s fly-on-the-wall winumentary will do OK and you’ll miss a thought-provoking treat. His unblinking camera ingests writers who own farting bulldogs, a flying winemaker with the mantra “oxygenate, oxygenate,” the royalty as well as the dirt-farmers of wine. Mussolini-loving aristos, Napa power brokers and terroirist visionaries, they’re all there. It’s about the fight for the soul and profit of wine, where transition collides with transition.
As Nossiter, a one-time sommelier, puts it: “A wine grower is at once a farmer, a businessman and an artist. His attachment to the earth is simple and humbling, dependent as he is on the cruel whims of nature. But at the same time the wine he fashions is linked to the greatest cultural ambitions and pretensions of his time.”
"Our study suggests that moderate consumption might provide older women some cognitive benefits," said Dr Francine Grodstein of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
*This wine seems very closed and in a dumb stage. Sort of a Marcel Meursault -- Paul Winalski
Aussies Plugging The Screw-cap
Southcorp's R&D winemaker Allen Hart says oxygen is “not a vital component for the evolution and maturation of red wines after bottling.” Maturation accelerates with small amounts of oxygen but red wine matures anaerobically in any case. The fact is, red wines are already much more heavily exposed to oxygen than whites before bottling: through pumping over (of the juice over the floating cap of grape skins during fermentation), during barrel aging, and in the final blending.
Clare Valley winemaker Jeffrey Grosset adds: “We can now say with a high degree of confidence that oxygen is not necessary and that zero or low permeability closures (i.e. screw-caps) are the obvious choice for quality.” Synthetic and natural corks are too permeable and inconsistent, he adds.
According to Bernie Hickin, senior winemaker at Jacob’s Creek: “In our research, we’ve found 3-7% of wines contaminated by cork taint and a further 33% affected by other off-flavors from the cork: woodiness, bitterness, loss of fruit, etc., and the corks are a major factor in bottle variation.
Wine scientist Pascal Chatonnet, meanwhile, says the wine flaw Brettanomyces (that rubbery, Band-Aid character) is more common than previously thought, affecting up to 70% of reds. “Under 500 micrograms/litre, it adds to the complexity, above that it’s a noticeable fault.”
This is not a cork problem, it’s related to wood preservatives, Chatonnet told a UK clinic sponsored by cork maker Amorim, but he did present a wine spiked with MDMP, a compound found in corks which has an earthy, woody, musty aroma.
Some commentators suspect this may be second in importance only to TCA in cork taint, although no survey of MDMP in wines has yet been carried out.
Jacob’s Creek’s Hickin says: “Australians want all their whites in screw-cap bottles nowadays and lots of high end reds are also being put in screw-caps. It’s been a top-down process of change over the last five years or so: with the best wines being offered in screw-cap and selling out fast! It’s the same in New Zealand.”
Folie à Trois
*For the world’s most entertaining wine tour, join the Spanish Wine Society’s Barry Brown, Barcelona-Priorat-bound Sept. 11. It’ll change your life (at least for a week!) 416 927 9464.
*Add to your enocabulary: Pneumontage bubbling air up through fermenting red wine to gently break up the floating cap of grape skins, extracting desired color and tannins.
Vintage 2003 For Ports
The Symingtons own Graham's, Dow's, Warre's, Smith Woodhouse, Gould Campbell and Quarles Harris, and Quinta do Vesuvio.
It’s the first vintage declaration since 2000. On average, there are three per decade. Vintage Port accounts for 2% of production.
Rupert Symington calls 2003 “an optimal viticultural year. Hot, arid summers are the norm in the Douro but, thankfully, the heat was not excessive. We had excellent weather during the harvest, mid-September to early October. Our grape yields were quite low, so our quantities are limited, but the wines are especially flavorful."
*Don’t forget to pick up your (very good) Official Guide to the Wineries of Ontario 2005 at the LCBO, and you can also get up-to-the-minute stuff at www.winesofontario.ca
Get Into The Spirit
Ne Plus Ultra is aged (like Sherry) in soleras of 500-litre American casks from distillates of several vintages. Rich, mahogany-colored; with a nose of plum and currant. Balanced, soft, warm, persistent and deep, with hints of old mahogany.
Savor it before and/or after dinner with coffee. Fourteen bottles were released as an In-Store Discovery @ $219.95. An 80-year-old is also available.
Enough To Float a Battleship
Bordeaux exports to Russia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan posted increases of 34%-50% in volume. Exports to Japan rose by 7%. These, however, are not the main markets.
By 2008, South Africa will overtake Germany, Portugal and Chile as a producer. It will be producing 35% more wine while global production will have increased by 6.4%, says the International Wine & Spirits Record.
The study predicts that the global wine surplus will return to 2000 levels. The surplus rose sharply in 2004, and by 2008 will represent 11.3% of world production.
Château des Charmes Seminars, Tastings
Family winemaker dinner series: June 24: Madame Andrée Bosc, wine country living. July 22: Paul Bosc Sr., the art and science of wine making. Aug. 12: Paul Bosc Jr., Vineyard Smoker. Sept. 9: Michèle Bosc, East Coast Meets Niagara. Call 905/262-4219 for reservations.