Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Shopping for wine online? Here are a few links to help Vancouverites adapt!


Wine Wednesday

Happy Wine Wednesday! Never a dull moment they say. And yet here we are. For those who continue to work from home this may not be the case but for many of us the new norm is boredom. Some of us are bored and some of us are lonely. It’s at time like these that we need to reach out and help other survive and thrive. Why not let it be wine.

You know I love wine. It’s one of life’s pleasures - rich in history, full of flavour, variable and sensory. It makes a great partner to a meal and yet it can stand alone. Wine is life. A day without wine for me is like a day without air. If you are like me, you will need these links to survive not only now but well into the future. I firmly believe that all that is behind us in history and we are in uncharted waters. The best idea I can come up with is creating new habits and one of them is shopping for wine online. To my great surprise a few of my favorite wine retailers were thinking ahead and are now here to help.

Wine Online

Wine Online is not new when talking about the retail experience. Several of the leading liquor stores in the province run online shopping websites and have for many years.
Consider BCL (http://www.bcliquorstores.com/) who has continued to upgrade their shopping site making it easy for customers to source wines by country, region, and grape variety and sortable by price point, bottle size in every direction. What I like about this site is the sorting capabilities and the speed at which it moves. I also like the pricing and descriptions. Some of the listings lack vintage of the bottles so be aware. Vintage matters! This is a great site to do research as well as finding random tasting notes and pairing suggestions. No discounts on 12 bottles and no shipping available. Pick up is still an option. Orders must be phoned in.

Some notable online shops

Marquis Wine Cellar (https://www.marquis-wines.com/) I like this site because the wine selection is awesome. The search response populates fairly quickly and there are limited images per page. This can be a positive and a negative. You can zoom in on the bottle shot which is cool, however most of the bottle info is on the back label so this may be solely for vintage verification or spelling which can be helpful especially for international styles. Check it out. Don’t be shy. Set up an account and start shopping. On orders of 12 bottles of more 10% discount is offered. Deliveries can be arranged for $12.99 or free with orders over $200 which is a bonus!

Everything Wine (https://www.everythingwine.ca/)  This site is extensive and somewhat lethargic probably for that reason. The sorting function has always been a bit odd and can sometimes layer the search leaving you with a single bottle as an option. Make sure you clear your search each time to guarantee a selection. Here you can find lots of inexpensive, exclusive wines so bargain shoppers may find some great deals. If you order a dozen bottles a 5% discount is offered. Pick up is a great option. Delivery is $15 and handled by FedEx which at the moment has an overwhelmed system taking 7 – 10 business days. 

Legacy Liquor Store (https://legacyliquorstore.com/shop) Close to my heart, sadly this site has not improved and likely for many reasons so you can try to search and shop but success is not guaranteed. Legacy does have an inside sales person, Kitty, who, in my opinion, is a winning alternative. She’s the voice at the end of the phone to guide you into some good wine selections, as well as beer and spirits. A dozen bottles of wine will get you a 5% discount. Delivery by courier or pick up available. For orders over $200 delivery fee is waived.

Liberty Wine Merchants (https://www.libertywinemerchants.com/) Again close to my heart and still one of the best selections of quality wine in the city! Liberty has online shopping on their website. Deliveries can be arranged for $10. Free delivery for orders over $200. On orders of 12 bottles or more a 10% discount is available.

Kits Wine Cellar (https://www.winecellarsbc.com/) We love Kits Wine Cellar. While there is no online shopping available a call to the shop could get you in good supply with live recommendations. I couldn’t get through which means they are busy.

The Village Liquor Store at Park Royal (https://www.villageliquorstore.com/) Curbside shopping is the new term for picking up your advance order. Try out their online wine advisor. It’s not sophisticated and based on email auto response you send that provides them with your search parameters. Rich or Tyler will be sure to follow up and email you a quotation. Deliveries can be arranged at no charge with orders over $200. If you purchase 12 bottles or more the discount is 10%.

Swirl Wine Shop (https://swirlwinestore.ca/) Located in Yaletown, Swirl has one of the best selections of BC VQA wine in the city. With 671 bottles, the online shop can be sorted by alphabet, price, vintage along with a few options like best sellers and feature wineries. Jeff and crew can provide great recommendations. Delivery can be arranged (free for locals in Yaletown). Discount on 12 bottles is 5%.

Hope these suggestions are helpful. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Some deals may change. Don’t hold me to them. If you would like any wine advice please message me. Happy Wine Wednesday and remember – life is short! Drink good wine.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Texture of Grand Cru Wines of Alsace? You Bet!

I'm Good Wine Gal. I blog about "good wine" and how to find it! I'm drawn to producers doing things differently for example, following biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming principles. I also appreciate wines made with limited intervention.
One of the rituals of biodynamic farming is filling cow horns with manure and silica and burying it for several months. The compost turns into liquid that is then applied to the vineyard soils.

Keep an eye out for certifications that will appear on wine labels in your favorite wine store that indicate how the grapes were grown.

Minerality in Wines of Alsace

"Minerality has always been a controversial subject in the wine industry." says John Szabo, Master Sommerlier (MS) and Canada's 5th Master of Wine (MW). John is an active member of the global wine community, a published author, and founding member of Wine Align (Canada's largest Wine Rating organization). If you are interested, check out John's latest book "Volcanic wines - Salt, Grit and Power" (my favoite) click here. It's in depth, with a global perspective and quickly becoming a valuable terroir resource for the wine geek in you!

Vins d'Alsace (Wines of Alsace) suggests volcanic soils create texture, body and smoky aroma influences in Alsatian wine. "300 million years ago, volcanoes produced lava and ashes which became solid under water. The rock is hard, compact and doesn’t crumble easily. These dark, stony terroirs which retain the heat, sublimate the grape varieties. These intense and full-bodied wines have a smoky aroma."
Arriving at Demeter Certified Biodynamic Producer Domaine Zind-Humbrecht

Some argue that you can taste minerality in wine from soil. Others argue that you can't. Others compound the conversation by bringing wine making influences of new or used oak barrels or clay and concrete into the conversation. No one is wrong. As a student of wine, this is a complex topic. When studying for the WSET Diploma, I recall grappling with the diversity of Alsace and it's 10 different soil compositions. Was minerality in these dry Rieslings, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blancs originating from the soil, the grape or the wine making style? I thought so.

Guide to the villages, wines and Grand Crus of Alsace from Vins d'Alsace
Alsatian wines are definitely unique. Lucky for us, we visited Demeter certified, biodynamic producer, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht and had a full afternoon with Paul McKirdy who enlightened us as to where the mineral salt texture comes from in each style of wine we tasted. According to Paul, the texture is in the acidity. Acidity comes from the ripeness of grapes at harvest and the nutrients the vines consume from the soil. We are assuming optimal ripeness. We sipped through the tasting looking for markers of texture and discussing where the acidity showed up on our tongue, cheeks, gums and palate. We discussed how the acidity and its character created a taste sensation unique to each style. It was intricate and sensual and a taste experience I won't ever forget. 

Below are Paul's words that informed out tasting.

Limestone terroirs

Limestone shows up as acidity on the inside of the cheeks and the side of the tongue. The younger the limestone the rougher the ‘grain’ or texture of the acidity. That is to say the older the limestone, the more fine grained the ‘chalky’ or ‘talky’ texture of the acidity becomes.

The ancient limestone soils at Domaine Zind–Humbrecht are classified into three periods from young to old.
  • The Oligocene (Heimbourg, Clos Häuserer, Rotenberg) is approx. 34 million years old
  • The Jurassic (Goldert) is approx. 167 million years old
  • The Triassic (Clos Windsbuhl) (approx. 240 million years old). 
Paul points out "of particular interest is the Goldert Grand Cru (Jurassic limestone) which is marked by a very pronounced salinity at the end of the palate."

The oldest soils are found in the vineyards of Clos Windsbuhl and the youngest in the vineyards at Heimbourg.

Granite terroirs and gravel terroirs

Granite and gravel terroirs are glacial moraine from granite or gneiss rock. These soils offer acidity at the tip of the tongue. In this case particularly for the Riesling Brand Grand Cru has a marked crystalline quality of the fruits and a slightly lower acidity than the Rieslings from limestone soils.

Volcanic terroirs

With volcanic soils, the acidity shows up like a pause, very late and at the end of the palate. The case in point here is the Rangen de Thann Grand Cru where the wine has excellent length but is almost always, it is most impressive form, after it has been swallowed!
These are magnums of Riesling from the very distinctive Grand Cru vineyards of Rangen de Thann, Brand and Clos Windsbuhl

Bucket List Wine Destination

Alsace is a bucket list destination. There are so many reasons why a trip to this culturally unique destination is worth every euro you might spend. Alsatian wine is unique in the world for dry to sweet sparkling and white wines. Here is all about style - bright, clean, crisp and unforgettably textured and distinct in the glass, once sipped, embedded in your heart and soul forever. The food is complex and interestingly a mix of traditional French (escargot, pate) and German (dumplings, sausages) delicacies that go very well with these regional wines.

It was a short trip. It was by rail and car. We splurged on excellent accommodation in the old town, near fabulous local gastro-pubs and restaurants, overlooking Le Petit Venise and the pedestrian zone. We visited four wineries that ship to our market recognized for high quality and moderate price. The four wineries: Domaine Weinbach, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Maison Trimbach and Wolfberger (the largest cooperative in Alsace) were unforgettable. If you would like to read about our visit click here and to read more about Domaine Weinbach, click here.

To get the full appreciation which I did, there was no spitting here wine lovers. That is no common for me. I guess you could say at times there are exceptions. This was indeed one of those situations.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Pagadebit? Pecorino? Exploring Grapes Unknown with James Nevison at the Vancouver International Wine Festival


I'm Good Wine Gal. I blog about "good wine" and how to find it! I'm drawn to producers who are doing things differently for example, following biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming principles. I also appreciate wines made with little or limited intervention. 

This past week I attended Vancouver International Wine Festival. It's one of my favorite times of the year here in Vancouver as we experience the wonders of the wine world. With great appreciation I accepted my media assignment - to cover the seminar called "Grapes Unknown" featuring grape varieties of which you have never heard.

Thank you to the producers, the agencies, the sponsors and the festival for making this opportunity to taste "grapes unknown". Interacting with the presentation by tasting and contemplating the wine style is a great way to learn. 


Hosted by James Nevison, and attended by a great panel from around the globe, we wasted no time as we swirled, sipped and savoured our way from Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, and even the Okanagan Valley. Of note, we had three women on the panel, two of which were winemakers. To read the interviews posted on Good Life Vancouver of Maria Lopez and Cristiana Tiberio, click here.

  
GRAPES UNKNOWN
  • VCC West, Meeting Room 118, 1055 Canada Place
  • Friday, February 28th from 5:15pm – 6:45pm
  • Moderators: James Nevison
  • Panelists: Bernard Duseigneur, Daniela Facciani, Nicolas Haeffelin, Maria Lopez, Paride Nardotto, Miron Radic, Laurent Sauvage, Ermes Scardova, Rob Summers, Cristiana Tiberio, Philibert de Vregille, Moreno Coronica 

Do you know these Grapes Unknown?

Verdejo

Presented by Maria Lopez, Proprietor of Bodega Sarmentero we tasted Verdejo 2018 from Rueda, Spain. The root of Verdejo is Verde, meaning green and is the color of the grape before harvest. This variety is common in Spain yet undiscovered here. The style is fresh, dry, medium bodied with aromas and flavours of grapefruit, green apricot, pineapple and peach. This wine has a great balance of acidity, alcohol and the finish is long. It goes great with grilled white fish, goat cheese or a patio! The price is under $20 before tax.

 

Feteasca Regala

Presented by Miron Radic, General Manager of Liliac Winery, we tasted Feteasca Regala 2018 from Transylvania, Romania. This grape variety has siblings Alba (white) and Negra (Black) and grown on terraces at 480 to 600 meters in calcium heavy soils. This cool climate white has crisp, pretty aromas of muscat (orange blossom) and flavours of citrus (lemon, lime and grapefruit) on the palate. It is dry with racy acidity, mineral texture, good balance with citrus finish. It is a perfect oyster wine, raw or pan fried. The price is $23 before tax.



Bombino Bianco

Presented by Daniela Facciani, Export Manager at Poderi dal Nespoli we tasted Pagadebit di Romagna 2018 Emilia Romagna, Italy made from Bombino Bianco grapes. This indigenous variety is resistant to disease and very productive with thick skins that provide color. On the nose, delicate fresh flowers (white jasmine) melon, lime leaves, mineral salts. On the palate dry, good balance of acidity and alcohol. This is juicy, fresh and subtle recommended with seafood and sushi. Great price and a recommended mid-week wine at $15.99 before tax. Available at Firefly at 12th and Cambie (check out their reno).

 

Pecorino 

Presented by Cristiana Tiberio, winemaker at Tiberio we tasted Pecorino IGT 2018, from Abruzzo, Italy. This ancient variety has been resurrected by Tiberio here in Abruzzo and showing it's big character. It is full bodied, dry, rich and silky, with aromas of citrus (lemon curd), herbs (rosemary, thyme), botanical, and nutty (hazelnuts, almonds) with high acidity and flavours lingering on the finish. This wine suits risotto, roasted chicken or pork dishes and stronger cheeses. The price is $25 before tax.


 Trebbiano

Presented by Rob Summers, winemaker at HesterCreek Estate Winery we tasted Old Vines Trebbiano VQA 2019 from the Golden Mile Bench in the Okanagan Valley. These old vines were brought to Canada likely in a suitcase in 1968 from Italy where Trebbiano is common and abundant. These vines are now 51 years old and producing a wine that is youthful. The aromas of fruit and flowers were jumping out of the glass with a definite stone fruit character to follow. On the palate a little off dry with lots of mouthwatering acidity. The balance was great. I wanted to keep sipping. If you are looking for a summer sipper this is it. At 23.95 it's not a bargain but  you won't be disappointed. Nice showing from BC. Call the winery direct.

 Aligote

Presented by Philibert de Vregrille, export manager from Maison Louis Jadot we tasted Bouzeron 2016 from Burgundy, France. Not to be confused with Chardonnay, Aligote (a - lee - go - tay) is one of the approved white grape varieties that is getting better and better. Coming from the Cote Chalonnaise, this grape is grown in high density plantings, machine harvested but not pressed. Part of the juice spends time in oak and you can detect a little of this on the nose. The wine however has excellent balance, dry with a rich medium body, nice mouthfeel and a precise green fruit spine (limes pithe even) that leads to a long finish. Quality wine from a quality producer and you won't break the Burgundy bank on this one at $36 before tax. Not yet available in our market.


Picpoul de Pinet 

Presented by Laurent Sauvage, winemaker from Fortant de France we tasted Picpoul de Pinet Grand Terroirs 2018 from Languedoc-Rousillon, France. Lots of restraint on the nose, if anything salty minerals. It was rich on the palate, dry with more saltiness, herbs and white pepper notes. You can immediately taste why this is an oyster wine. I personally would have liked a little more acidity but this style is very distinctive and specific to this small, ocean facing region in the south of france that is all about oysters, shellfish and patio fun! Not a bargain at $30 a bottle, but if you have not yet tried Picpoul, this is your chance.


Clariette Blanche

Presented by Bernard Duseigneur, proprietor and winemaker at Domaine Duseigneur we tasted Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Catarina 2018 from the Rhone Valley. Clairette is one of the 18 approved grape varieties in Chateauneuf du Pape. This variety comes from a single vineyard which suggest quality and care. In other parts of the south, Clairette blanche is used for blending or for traditional method sparkling wine. It tends brings acidity, alcohol, body but not a lot of aromas and flavours. Here we have lots of  restraint on the nose with delicate fruit and flowers on the palate of citrus (lime, lime zest) herbs (lime leaves, mint) smoke and white blossom. It's a big style that suits roasted poultry and meat dishes. This wine will age. The price speaks to it's high quality and rarity at $70 before tax. What a beauty!



Savagnin 

Presented by Micolas Haeffelin, Oenologist & Wine Specialist of Alsace & Jura, representing Marcel Cabelier we tasted Savgnin from Château Chalon 2009 from Jura, France. This is a very unique grape variety that is indigenous to the Jura. The winemaking style is also very unique where "flor" is allowed to form on the surface of the wine as it ages in barrel, imparting particularly distinctive and identifiable "sherry" like aromas and flavours in the wine. The aromas are mushroomy, citrus (dried orange peel) nutty, dairy (yogurt, cheese) and saline. On the palate you've got dry, mouth watering acidity with medium body and a great balance of acidity and alcohol. This is a savoury wine. It is so unique and delicious that you'll keep coming back and maybe break the budget. Bottles sell for $74 before tax. You can age for a couple of decades or drink now.  I find it hard to resist.

Lambrusco

Pesented by Ermes Scardova, export manager for Medici Ermete we tasted Lambrusco Grasparossa Quercioli NV from Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Lambrusco is an ancient grape variety with many siblings. It is one of the oldest native varieties in Italy. This style is famous for being a foodie's wine and a perfect pairing to salumi, antipasto, and strong cheeses in part because of the ripe black plum and berry fruit flavours and in part because of the sweetness. It's a perfect balance of fruit, acidity and alcohol My teeth were definitely purple after this one. It's a bargain at $17 before tax and will turn you into a foodie for sure.

  

Aglianico

Presented by Paride Nardotto, export manager for Tommasi Family Estates we tasted Paternoster Rotondo Aglianico del Vulture 2013 from Basilicata (which is the arch of the boot of Italy), Italy. Rotondo is the historic village where the vinyard sits at 500 meters of elevation, this area has big sirocco winds that control disease naturally. Here the vines are guyot trained low to the ground in tuffeau soils (which hold water). There is no irrigation. The ripening season is hot and very long with harvest in November. Aglianico is often referred to as Barolo of the south and this is no exception. There was lots of power with high alcohol, high acidity, high texture tanning and tart drying flavours to the finish. I found black fruit herbs, lots of salty minerals and chalky texture. You definitely need a grilled rib-eye to marry power and flavour. Compared to the prices of Barolo this may be a bargain at $56 before tax.

Teran

Presented by James Nevison (as Moreno Coronica was not able to attend) wine writer for The Province and Had A Glass, we tasted Coronica Wines Gran Teran 2015 from Istria, Croatia. Teran is another ancient variety that has grown in Istria for centuries. It's bunches are tight clusters of deep ruby red fruit that has thick skins making it resistant to disease. This high qualtiy grape produces wines that are also deep ruby in color, with color coating the inside of the glass. The nose is spicy black cherry with good intensity. On the palate it's dry, full body, high acid with balanced alcohol and textured young grippy tannins. This style is only produced in the best years. Of late that means vintages 15, 16, 17 and 18 have been produced. You can age this one or decant and drink now with a good grilled Tomahawk steak. The price is right $56 before tax.



Don't be surprised if you can't find these "grapes unknown". It appears that some have arrived and others have not. Some were never meant to arrive. Maybe this gives you reason to travel. Get out there and discover grapes unknown. Ableit, wait until the pandemic passes. You can consider the internet of things for this. Why not try living on line with a glass of wine!

Thank you for reading. This is a lengthy piece. Please leave your comments below. Tell me if you find this interesting or just plain boring. I'm happy to share my passion for wine with you. Please follow me @goodwinegal on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Good Life Vancouver. I also write for Vitis Magazine which comes out in print.



Remember, life is short. Drink good wine!

Shopping for wine online? Here are a few links to help Vancouverites adapt!

Wine Wednesday Happy Wine Wednesday! Never a dull moment they say. And yet here we are. For those who continue to work from home this ...