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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Dirty Wine Names

We all know that Sex Sells. Marketing can influence purchasers of all products. Then why has it taken so long for wine producers to start branding with suggestive labels and names?
It is very common for me to hear someone saying 'I pick a wine based on the Label' or 'This wine matches the decor in this house'. So the oenophiles out there cannot be disappointed when dirty or suggestive labels appear. In fact I am shocked it has taken this long for them to become mainstream.  If fact some of these wines are actually very good. Shocking right? I would assume that a wine with a very dirty label would be terrible and that they would be relying on the branding to sell the wine. Not always so.
Therefore here are my Top 5 Dirty or Suggestive Wine Names. Some take a bit of a junior High mentality to find funny so now we know that I am still just a teenage boy sometimes. I hope you find these as funny as I do.  Ha Ha

5) Fetish Wines - Playmates
This wine has notes of Male Chauvinism with subtle undertones of Leather. 

4)Fourplay Wine - Rosso
This wine smells like awkward first date and has a long satisfying finish.

3) Volcanic Hills - Eruption
This wine starts very slow but has quite a big finish.
2)Menage a Trois.
This bold wine comes across very forward but ends in humiliation.

1)Four Skins
This wine has pairs excellently with aged cheese and has a very 'Gentile' or gentle approach. Warning: This wine is not Kosher.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Cork vs screw cap. Wine closures

Why are some wines sealed with corks and some with screw tops? 
We have now seen and tasted enough wines to see that the screw top ( aka Stelvin) sealed wines are just as age worthy and do not affect the quality of wine. 

Pros and Cons 
Why then with a worldwide cork shortage and increasing numer of cork spoiled wines are we still using the cork enclosure. 
When we traveled to Chile and Argentina I asked a few winemakers this same question. 
The common answer was tradition. In South America over 75% of wines are still sealed with corks. One wine maker (who shall remain anonymous) commented to me that when they package a wine with screw tops they do not sell. They produced the same wine and exported it all over South America and the cork version sold much faster and for a higher price than the Stelvin version. 
Therefore it must be assumed that consumers feel like a cork equals higher value. 

In contrast over 90% of wines exported from New Zealand are sealed with screw caps. In that market consumers must either not care or they have come to realize that screw caps don't equal cheap wine. I think the later is true. 

I would consider myself a traditionalist when it comes to wine but I also have to be open minded. Corks have worked for centuries but we have also had faulty wines for centuries. If screw tops will reduce the number of bad wines then we as consumers should not reject this idea. I agree there is a romance with opening wine with a corkscrew and that having a Sommelier at a restaurant unscrew your wine lacks that romantic flair. But we have to protect the wine. What is more important? The wine or the tradition. In efforts to keep the tradition the industry has created these anomalies call 'synthetic corks'. They are not corks and they do not work very well. They are cheap, sterile and require a corkscrew to remove but they also leak, taste like plastic and have a higher chance of failure under change of temperature and shipping conditions. 

The only arguments against the screw cap is the lack of 'cool factor' & time required to age a wine. The sealed cap does not allow the wine to breath as much as a porous cork therefore taking a longer time to properly age a wine that could benefit from it. Just like a larger format bottle, like Magnums, require more time due to the amount of wine to air (fill level or in some wine inert gas) ratio. In my biased opinion the benefits far outweigh the downfall. Especially once we see the consumers embrace the screw cap. Beside it is much more convenient to open a bottle of wine at a party or picnic when you forget to bring a corkscrew. 

To me there are only 2 options. Deal with the faulty corks or embrace the screw cap. I hope to see the whole wine industry accept the Stelvin as a valuable upgrade. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


bubbles white-2.jpg

Would you like some champagne?

Although the obvious answer to that question is "yes" I am often put in a position of wonder. When you offer someone an apple and they say yes would they be shocked if you brought them an orange? Yes they are both fruits and yes they both grow on trees but that does not make them the same thing.
That is the same scenario with Champagne. Often I am offered a glass of champagne and when I say yes to such an offer I am then presented with a glass of prosecco or other sparkling wines.
To clarify a few things there are many different types of sparkling wine. Cava from Spain, prosecco or Franciacorta from Italy. Sect from Germany and even Cremant from France. Sparkling wine is found in many styles and formats and also can taste very different depending of the style.
I do love all sparkling styles but each should be presented in their own way. Not to label all sparkling as 'Champagne'.
Champagne is a region in France and they do make some of the best sparkling wine in the world but often it is mistaken as the label for all bubbly wine. To clarify I will list a few of the types of sparkling wine and it's names so when you are offering a glass of sparkling wine you can also be politically correct. bubbles black-1.jpg
Champagne- France
This is the most common name used for sparkling wine that I hear but around Alberta this is one of the least common form of bubbles served. True Champagne is from one region in France and is only allowed to be made with 3 grapes. Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, & Chardonnay. Many tight production rules mean limited production amounts and expensive costs. Simply put this is not the free glass of bubbles served at a cheap party.

Cremant- France
All other bubbles in France. Much looser Rules but some Great Value Bubbles to be had :)

Cava- Spain
Made in the ‘Traditional Style’ of fermenting in the bottle, riddling, and disgorging. Do not judge this wine by its price because the quality is typically far superior to its dollar required.

Prosecco- Italy
Made in the Charmat method. Most sparkling wines today are almost always produced using the Charmat method which differs from the classic method as the fermentation takes place in a large pressurized container, instead of in the bottle. Prosecco varies in quality drastically and can be excellent and can also be very poor in quality.

Sparkling Wine- Various
There are many more types of sparkling wine that are made all around the world. Some of excellent quality and fetching tremendous prices. Germany, England, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and many more.

Dont be afraid of drinking sparkling wine from all over the world but please do not call it ‘Champagne’


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

What is in my wine?

ViƱa Aquitania
SOLdeSOL Chardonnay 2008
Malleco Valley
$50 to $56

Clean clear straw yellow.
Nose: pineapple. Lemon-lime zest. Hints of coconut.
Palate: medium plus acid is well integrated. Medium body. Hints of structure from the oak but very little oak on the nose. (Appropriate use of wood for the purpose of structure.) Long finish with green apple, pear, white peach and a clear minerality. Alcohol of 13% is very well balanced.
Conclusion: A beautiful representation of a cool climate Chardonnay from Chile.  All parts of the wine join to create a mouth-watering glass that is full of flavours. Drinks like a white burgundy. I would highly recommend this wine to anyone wanting to try a Cool climate Chardonnay that lingers on the palate.

What is in your wine? Some say "ignorance is bliss!" To those I would recommend you do not read this article. To any others; I would love to share with you some of the invisible (and not so invisible) products used in making wine.
The marketing teams from most of the wineries would have you believe that it is a magical combination of grapes mixed with love and sunlight used to make your wine but there is a lot more in your glass nowadays.

It does all start with grapes. I'm not going to go into any of the fertilizers and pesticides today. Just what is added to or a part of the grapes during the conversion into wine.

So assuming we have ripe grapes ready to Harvest. Let's begin there.

1) Bugs, Birds & Rodents.
This is where the harvesting style will make a big difference. There are 2 types of harvesting available. You can have people walk through the vineyards and hand pick the grapes placing them in bins or you can use a huge tractor like machine to drive up and down the rows that pulls the grapes (and other things) off the vines. There are advantages to both styles but I'll stick to the purpose of what is in the grapes. Hand picked and sorted grapes will be free from the majority of all rodents and birds but will still contain some bugs as it is nearly impossible to remove all of the creepy crawlers.  The hand picking typically ends on what is called a sorting table where all the rotten grapes, unripe grapes, sticks, leaves, and other unwanted material is removed, Thus resulting in a cleaner and more pure product.  The offset is that this style of harvest is much more expensive. The labour required and reduced yield makes for a more expensive bottle of wine.

The other style of harvest is machine harvesting. Quicker and lower labour costs equal cheaper wine but at what cost. I have seen full birds nests end up in a wine fermentor. Often rodents are scooped up and included in the mix. The machines are not picky about what grapes (ripe or not) they include or anything attached to the grapes. They take it all. Now to be fair I have heard about fine wine producers using machine harvesters but they also add a sorting table after and they also pre-remove anything from the vines and vineyard before the machines are used. Adding labour costs just as the hand picking style.


2) Yeast

We need to recognize that with all food products safety and cleanliness is important. With that said efficiency is not the same as cleanliness. All grapes have natural yeast on the skins and not to sound like a hippy but I do still believe that some of the God given plans need to be recognized. I am not against helping things along if the natural yeast dies but some wineries inoculate natural yeast with sterilizers and then add Lab created yeast that are more predictable or have a specific flavour profile. 


3) Dyes and ‘MEGA PURPLE’

Somewhere along the way people decided that red wine needed to have deep color to be enjoyable and therefore a wine that is light in color must be light in character.  This is completely untrue but the wine buying public have believed this lie so much that wine makers have taken to adding dyes to make the wine color darker and more 'purple'.

This just screams fake wine to me. If you need to dye your wine to have people purchase it then maybe your wine needs more than just color?

One of the dyes used is called 'Mega Purple' or Deep Purple. To quote wikipedia:

            "There has been some discussion in the industry regarding the use of additives such as Mega Purple to bolster or enhance sensory attributes such as color, taste and mouth feel. It is reported that as much as 20% of the total production of such additives is related to wines. According to journal reports, Mega purple is used by almost every low to moderate value wine producer (below $20US/750-ml bottle) to help standardize the bottled product ensuring a more uniform product.[1]

WOW! I cannot even make this stuff up. Just Google it. You will be shocked to find out what additives are being used. The 'MEGA PURPLE" stuff is solvent extracted. What they are using solvent to make a wine dye?

4) Acid, Tannins & Sweeteners

Some colder areas in Europe such as Alsace are known for doing what is called Chaptalization. This is the adding of sugars to the juice before fermenting to increase the alcohol and body to the wine. It has nothing to do with the sweetness of the finished product. IT is the adding of these types of things after the wine is made that is what needs to be monitored. Adding liquid sugar to create a sweeter wine, adding tannins to balance out the acid, using reverse osmosis to pull water out and concentrate your flavours all are ways winemakers can modify the wine to create a more consumer friendly product. I don't have a problem with winemakers using these types of techniques to help with the wine but I think it should all be public and clear. The wines should be labeled with ingredients like most food products.


5) Clarifiers

Nobody wants to drink a cloudy wine. Most wines are cleared using additives to help pull suspended particles out. What you need to know is what type of clearing agent is used to make your wine clear. This is where you can ask if your wine is vegetarian or not? One product used is Bentonite. This is a volcanic clay that grabs onto the suspended particles and settles down at the bottom of the container. Another option is Chitosan. This is basically the exoskeletons of sea creatures like crabs and crustaceans. Works great in white wines but not reds. Egg whites, gelatin and Isinglass (collagen from fish bladders) are all animal based products used to clear wines. All wines will be cleared in some way (even if it is just waiting for the particulates to settle out). Just think, the cheaper the wine the less time they have to get it out the door. That typically equals more intervention to clear the wine.


There are many more additives used in making wine so don't think this list is exhaustive but it is a good point to remember. Especially when you are looking at the $6 bottle of wine. Think about the cost of the bottle, the shipping and the store mark up. How much the winery paid in labor costs. The time it took to go from grapes to bottle. This is what I typically talk about when people ask me how much I spend on my wine. Friends ask me, "what is a great value wine out there?" and there certainly are a bunch, But before you purchase just ask yourself where did the wine come from and what is in there?

Thursday, 3 October 2013


I am a wine nerd. I will admit that. I love almost everything about wine. Books, Magazines, conferences, blogs, and until now poorly made movies about wine :)
Somm brings a refreshing upgrade in quality to a film about a wine exam. It is hard to believe that a documentary about the Court of Master Sommeliers Exam could be so interesting to the general public but it has remained in the top of the ITunes Chart for Documentaries for weeks now since its release on ITunes June 21st.  Sold out shows across North America with packed theaters.
Viewers get to become a part of the exam with one of the lowest pass rates in history. Less than 200 people have passed this exam in the 40+ years it has been available. Yet Sommeliers from all around try year after year to pass an almost unbeatable exam.  The movie follows a group of Sommelier friends that study together and challenge the exam together. In the process of watching these "SOMM's" train and prepare you get a glimpse into the regimented and grueling life they put up with before the exam.
Your not just learning about the grapes. You are learning about the people and the culture. The food and history of the area. "When you study wine you study history. " These dedicated students share about why they are willing to endure this lifestyle and exam.

"I am nervous but think about how nervous my wines are. Sitting in their glasses about to be devoured"

As a WSET Advanced wine drinker I have had to endure the battle of blind wine tasting. The way your mind plays tricks on you and the intense pressure to identify the notes and flavors of the wine. With that said one of my favorite comments in the film is, "The skill of Blind tasting is learned. A great samurai sword maker is someone who had a teacher, who had a teacher, who had a teacher. We think about this with wine and think that someone must be a natural.  But we never think that someone is just a natural at making swords. "

Paraphrased- it takes practice. Why do people feel like if they don't get it naturally that they are not wine people?  I have developed my skill as a Blind taster and can agree that it takes time. You have to train your pallet like you go to the gym.

4:10 seconds per wine
The movie is a great success as it draws wine connoisseurs and non- Wine drinkers alike into the story.  It does not presume that you are a wine aficionado to understand the content of the movie but I do think it will inspire. Enjoy this movie with a bottle of wine and get ready to join in to the obsessed and intense world of the Court of Master Sommeliers.

 2010 Moulin a Vent Domaine du Dime
$26 bottle. Canmore Wine Merchants.
Paired with Chicago mix popcorn. :)

Light in ruby color. Even in color throughout.

Notes of tobacco and sour cherry. Red twizzlers
Low tannins   Gentle but lingering acidity. (Grainy texture)
Medium plus alcohol

Carmell says that her conclusion is;  this wine Is light but does not leave you disappointed.  Complex for a lighter wine.

Great Movie Wine to share :)

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Mendoza! Vino Uco Valley

So on our recent wine trip to South America we decided to go to Mendoza for a few days. We flew into Santiago, thought we could drive to Mendoza and then drive back to visit Chile's Wine regions. I had heard that the drive to Mendoza is one of the most beautiful drives. It was. Close to 30 of the most intense hairpin tuns, steep inclines and sharp cliffs make it an adrenaline rush to the top. The border crossing was not. Long lineups and chaos in the lines. People were so disorganized and not sure what was going on. At one point someone ran away with my passport and documents. I had to chase him down to find out he needed to make a copy of them for our rental car. 1.5 hrs of chaos and we made it out of there. The drive lost some of its luster.  Then we got lost trying to find our hotel. 2.5 hours of driving around. Duplicate street names and lack of sign posts made for a difficult time. Siri and google could not even help me get there. After that long I really needed a glass o' wine. It had better be good.

Day one in Mendoza. We started with AltaVista. Beautiful garden, winery, and wine. OK, maybe this is worth the drive. The French owned winery has 80+ year old vines and a restored facility that was impressive. Most of all the wines were great. 100% concrete fermentation in epoxy lined tanks. Varying in size and shape in relation to the quality of the wines. The wines that stood out to me were the 2010 Bonarda and the 2007 ALTO. The Bonarda was full of Juicy red fruit, medium to medium low tannins and just and easy excellent drinking wine that was a pleasure. Sometimes it is just nice to drink a wine for the sake of consumption :) Next was the ALTO. A wine full of structure. Big tannins and full of complexities. Deep Ruby in colour. Vanilla, chocolate, plums and Cherries.  Long finish with round tannins and subtle baking spices. This was a wine I could keep smelling for hours.

Next tasting was off to Luigi Bosca. Beautiful facility. Hand carved plaster art everywhere. Mix of concrete and steel fermentation tanks. Concrete only for the lesser quality wines. Lots of modern technology. Here they were experimenting with Russian and Chinese oak barrels to for the malbecs. So far no luck but as we are running out of french oak we may need to look for more alternatives soon.  The wines that we enjoyed here were the Gala 4 and the Icono. The 2008 Gala 4 was a blend of 4% Malbec and 95% Cabernet Franc. Beautiful wine with red fruits from the malbec and pretty floral and Purple notes from the Cab Franc. The well structured wine is one that was hard to judge at this point and need some time for a real test. 8-10 years :)  Next was the 2008 ICONO. Signature wine from Luigi Bosca. At first i thought the wine was a bit too soft and easy on the pallet. It certainly was a drinking kind of wine. After going back i realized  the wine did have a good amount of tannin but they were very well integrated and made for a easy drinking impression. The fruit was very prominent and was full of cherry, and plum with black pepper and leather adding to the wine.  The smell was intoxicating. This was a wine I would be excited to taste again in 5 anos.
Drive up to Catena Zapata

Day Two Mendoza. Off to Catena Zapata. While the reception was less than inviting we did get in and get to taste the Angelica Chardonnay, 3 Malbecs and 1 Cabernet Sauv. The 2010 Angelica Chardonnay was fantastic. Rich mouth, dairy but not oaky. You could barely tell the influence of the oak in the taste but in the mouth feel, It was full of citrus and peaches and had a beautiful creaminess. Almost Creamsicle.  The other wine that stood out to me was the 2007 Adrianna Malbec. Grown at 1500 meters this wine shows complexity and concentrations of flavors  Feminine on the nose but Masculine on the pallet. This was a truly interesting wine. Floral vs Spice. Cherry vs Tobacco. I could not stop going back to this wine. I certainly will be bringing this wine home with me :)  The other malbecs were fantastic as well but i could not stop going back to this one and smelling vs tasting.
Andaluna Lab - The kids loved all the science labs!

After this tasting we were headed to Andaluna. We were told that if we turned south we would get to it but it took up over 2 hours and after getting lost 3 times we finally ended up in the Uco Valley. I had thought we were going to stay just outside of Mendoza but here we were so we made the best of it. 4 wineries later we were spent. We visited Andeluna, Tupengato, Azul and Salentine.
Bodega La Azul. A refreshingly small winery with only 4 stainless fermentors and approx 12 oak barrels. We tasted 2 malbecs and one Cab Sauv and they were all very well made. Their Grand Reserve Wine was all sold out so they offered to taste out of the barrel   I will never say no to tasting out of the barrel ! I wish i could bring back cases of this wine.
Andaluna- Large winery. Is owned by Mr. Frito Lay. Usually i stay away from large wineries like this but we found the locals recommended this winery above any other ones to visit. So we trecked there and were pleasantly surprised by the wines. Sitting in the shadow of the Andes mountains the air felt thin but the concentration of flavors in the wine were certainly not.  We tasted 5 Wines. 2012 Torrontes, Altitude Chard 2011, Altitude Cab 2006, Altitude Malbec 2010, Pasionado Quatro Cepas 05. I left this winery with all 5 wines. Many did not even make it home. Extremely well made wines with distinct character. The Quatro Cepas was Rich and full bodied, subtle vanilla with dark cherry and blackberries. The texture was very velvety. YUM!

Side note- While we were in the UCO valley the wind began to blow from the mountains. This was an extremely strong wind and was uprooting trees and bending the vines over. The locals call this wind the 'SONDA' and were not expecting it during this time of year. They say it is very common in the spring and fall but not summer.

Salentine Entrance
 Salentine- This large and well known winery has a beautiful facility. The hospitality on the other hand was less than welcoming. We felt as more of a nuisance than a guest and had to remind the staff multiple times we were waiting for a tasting. I think this winery had outgrown its capacity to host people. I had all but written this winery off until the wines finally came. They were delicious. I tasted the Primus Pinot Noir (07), Malbec (07), and Merlot (05). Probably because we were in Malbec country I was in awe of that wine the most but I would say I was shocked to find a pinot of that quality here. Worth a visit but don't expect a friendly welcome.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Packing for a wine adventure

So I am days away from a new wine adventure. Chile! I am there for 19 day and hope to visit as many wineries as I can. This will certainly be an adventure for us because there are no Spanish speaking people traveling. :) I guess we will just talk with our hands and iPhones. Ha ha.
So what to pack on a wine adventure. We have a 22hr trip so I want to keep it to a minimum. I have a wine traveler that I am using as a suitcase so I can bring as much wine home as possible. The weather is beautiful right now in chile so I think all I need is thin light clothes. I am bringing my WSET text and some other wine books. Some comfy shoes for walking and plenty of power converters for all the phones, laptops, 3DS, and other gadgets.
I did download a new blog app so I can post wine notes on the go. Hopefully this means I can post much more regularly on my trip and not have to wait till I get home. I guess we will have to see how available the Internet and cell service is once we are down there.
When it is -24c and winter is everywhere I usually crave full bodied reds to keep me warm but I think my body knows we are heading south because all week I was hunting Sauvignon Blancs and other lighter reds. I did enjoy one full bodied red from chile that certainly deserves a mention. 2008 Encierra - a blend of 50% Cab Sauv, 40% Syrah, 8% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. This rich viscous red was mouth filling. Dark fruits and baking spices linger while a clean acidity keeps it balanced. Drinking this wine made made me even more excited to go! See you in chile. :)