• Aug. 12: Sen5es Summer School, Toronto, Wines of France, www.senses.ca.
• Sept. 10 and Oct. 8: Spanish Wine Society, Bodegas Ochoa, Navarra, and Gala Wine Fair, email@example.com or www.spanvino.com.
• Sept. 23: 13th annual Toronto Symphony Fine Wine Auction tasting, Ontario Club, Auction Oct. 2, www.finewinefestival.com
• Oct. 2: The wineries of Sonoma, "the Provence of California", pour at the Toronto Hilton, 1-800/558-CORK (2675) or 905-336-8932, www.calwine.ca.
As well as offering the world’s finest VQA winelist, the Fairmont Royal York is also Canada's largest hotel purchaser of international and domestic wines, and good on ‘em! To create the year-round Great Canadian List for the '4-Diamond' Epic restaurant, says Food & Beverage Director Christophe Le Chatton, wineries were invited to submit their very best, which were blind-tasted for varietal character, quality and value, and the hundreds submitted were then pared down to the list of 60. www.fairmont.com
These "best of the best" wines are paired with Chef J-C Dupoire's table d'hote menus. They include the superb Château des Charmes Brut sparkling, Peninsula Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, Lailey Merlot, Mission Hill Pinot Gris, Cave Spring CSV Chardonnay, Lakeview Cabernet Sauvignon, Angels Gate Cabernet Franc Icewine and Rockway Glen Vidal icewine. The international wine list is top-notch, too. For reservations, call 1-800-441-1414.
Foreign Vino? 9-9-9, Danke!
Foreign wine is banned from the Reichstag, home of Germany's parliament. Bureaucrats have removed Chianti, Champagne and Austrian Gruener Veltliner from government winelists and insist on German wine for state banquets.
Meanwhile, German wine exports 5.6% to 377 million euros despite a 10% drop to Britain, the biggest customer. A 36% surge to the US helped the cause. The next big markets are the Netherlands, Japan, Belgium, Canada, Denmark and Sweden.
To Your Very Good Health!
A British hospital, Great Western, in Swindon, gives heart attack patients two daily glasses of red wine. Research shows that this cuts the risk of heart attack by 50% and stroke by 20%. The tipple is paid for by the hospital, not the NHS. Heart surgeon William McCrea says red wine's antioxidants "stop blood clotting and stop the build up of cholesterol." Patients say they feel it doing them good.
Somebody paid $85 for a case of Charles Shaw -- a.k.a. Two-Buck Chuck -- on WineBid.com. It retails for $2 a bottle. Eight bidders were in the running.
Cleanskin Wine Making Inroads
Too much wine and too many brands have created a "cleanskin" boom in Victoria, S. Australia. Sourced from all over Australia, it's sold without labels. Almost 50 stores in Melbourne sell only cleanskins and there’s 30 million litres available.
"Every week we'd have a winery contacting us with wine to sell," says Cleanskin Kings' Adam Howatt. "We have enough in storage for the next three years."
The alternative for small wineries is slashing prices and margins and eroding their brand. Meanwhile, huge number of competitors are vying for shelf space. Consolidation of retail through Coles and Woolworths buying up independent retailers has added to their woes.
Cleanskins go from $4 to $18. Retailers say a $7-$12 bottle would retail for $18-$20 as a brand and the $15-$18 range would sell for $32-$40.
Funding Search For Finer Wine
Don and Elaine Triggs are donating a $150,000 endowment for an International Premium Vinifera Lecture Series at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock, in St Catharines.
"By learning from the top viticulturists in Europe and the New World, we hope that our industry, and those about to join it, will place more emphasis on premium vinifera grape quality, the fundamental ingredient in every great wine," says Triggs, President of Vincor International and a Brock trustee.
The announcement was made at Delaine Vineyard, owned by the Triggs, on the Niagara Parkway in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
You Can Take It With You...
Archaeologists have found a 2,000-year-old rice wine, clear and blue-tinged, in a full, 1.3 gallon bronze jar, like a phoenix, in a nobleman's tomb in Xiâ'an, western China.
Drinking vessels, bells, jade pieces and part of a skull were also found.
A Great 2002 In Washington
It's a high-quality Washington vintage, up 9% from 2001 at 100,000 tons. "We thinned the crop through late summer and fall for lower yields and richer flavors," says Rick Small, winemaker at Woodward Canyon in Walla Walla. "It's spectacular."
Vinotherapy was born at Caudalie Spa in Bordeaux, offering body scrubs with crushed Cabernet seeds and soaks in barrels of spring water and grape extract. At the Fairmont Sonoma, couples sip wine in a brass tub of grape-seed bubble bath and rose petals before emerging for a grape-seed body lotion massage.
Now, New York City's Just Calm Down spa offers the Grape Gatsby, giving your feet a 30-minute exfoliating soak in red wine and a moisturizing rub with crushed red grapes. Do-it-yourselfers can stomp a few grapes instead.
* Eyedropper: clumsy ophthalmologist.
Food for Thought
Near A Thousand Tables, A History of Food, by Felipe Fernández-Armesto, $34.95, Key Porter, is a scholarly treatise on food as history, culture, commodity and connector, the defining characteristic of a culture. It's a sampler of civilization, and, after all, it's only cooking that separates us from the things we cook.
* Sudafed: litigate against a bureaucrat.
No Threat To Chardonnay!
As of the 2001 vintage, the Sauvignon Blanc growing zone of Saint-Bris -- formerly Sauvignon de Saint-Bris VDQS -- is Burgundy's 100th appellation.
* Parasites: views from the Eiffel Tower.
Winery to Home
About 70% of Ontario wines, especially their best wines, highly prized limited editions, are regularly available only at the wineries own stores. You can still get your sticky fingers on them through the Web: Shop www.winerytohome.com 24/7 and select your delivery time Mon-Sat, for yourself or as a gift. Helpful hints and tasting notes are there, too.
Don't ask me how it works, it just does! Wine Cellar Express coaster, softens and mellows tannic, astringent young wines, especially reds, through some weird magnetic action! This simple coaster really seems to help, and it's ideal if you don't have the time to decant and aerate a big young red for supper. Takes about 30 minutes. $59.95, firstname.lastname@example.org
Drink no wine before its time! Reusable VinoTag neck tags are a good way to index the bottles in your cellar. With the producer, variety, vintage and drink-by date. Last forever and easy to use. 905/876-4229.
The Doc Is In...
Dispensing a friendly 296-page consultation on a useful range of FAQs from wine fans, in sippable Q & A format: the prognosis is a healthier insight into the where's, why's and how’s of the grape, courtesy of Edward Finstein, Dr. Wineknow, in his new Ask The Wine Doctor, $24.99, McClelland & Stewart, 416/598-1114.
Oz, US Wines Wow Brits
Britons' wine thirst continues and Australians are reaping the benefits.
Almost US$7.74 billion of wine was sold by UK shops and off-licences last year vs $3.25 billion in 1992, with a continuing trend outside Europe.
Aussie sales in Britain are up ten-fold in a decade. Over $1.8 billion last year -- from $191.2m in 1992.
US wine has seen a similar explosion, from $83.3m to $469.9m in the same period. John McLaren of the Wine Institute of California says: "Consumers are drawn to innovative wine styles, greater customer choice and stylish, easy to understand labeling. The consumer-friendly nature of the wine is underpinned by the image of California, suggesting sun-kissed beaches, fresh food and fresh air."
Demand for Old World producers is relatively flat. French sales rose from $1.09 billion in 1992 to $1.63 billion. Italian sales fell from $846m to $796m while German wine sank from $489m to $451m -- down from $783m in 1992.
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