Friday, December 31, 2010

Peace, Wine Wishes and Tiny Bubbles for 2011 !!

  May I share with you, on this last day of 2010, my thoughts and wishes.

If you have been under a lot of pressure during this past year, then just let it all go and out of your system, like the Cremant d'Alsace in the picture below. But do not let your cares and worries build up inside you until the inevitable blow up happens similar to the mishap in the below right picture.

Well maybe I was having too much fun, or shall we say maybe one glass of wine too many with the obvious and dubious wording in the video below.

So for 2011 may your troubles be small, like the tiny bubbles in your bubbly.
May your days be filled with sunshine and even on the days when a little rain does fall into your life, may a beautiful rainbow await you at the end of the day.  
Peace, prosperity and tranquility to all for 2011! 

And of course a day without wine is like a day without sunshine. Happy New Year to all my friends and followers of my blog!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Become a Wine Expert

Many tastings, many events, many friends and wow, did I get snow,have kept me from doing a posting. Yes, Vancouver Island with the mildest climate in Canada did get its first and hopefully last snow. Thought I would share this picture taken on my front yard with a little Holiday holly added for the season.
The weather man of course was wrong as usual with the prediction of 4 centimeters and 10 for higher elevations. Well I am not that high, but I got 14 cms. Snowed in for 3 days, but plenty of food and good fire wood on hand to keep a blazing yuletide fire going. And of course tasted some wines from my cellar that had been waiting for a special occasion.
Now the title of this blog entry is 'Become a Wine Expert' and there are plenty of wine courses offered. But if you do not want to spend 3 to 4 hundred and even more dollars and tie up every Tuesday evening for the next 3 months, here is a fun way for the beginner and even those who already have some good understanding of wine, to learn.
It is even more fun when you get a small group of your wine loving friends together. Internationally known wine writer, taster and teacher, Michael Schuster has recently created a handy dandy, nifty little box full of cards loaded with great information. Pick a card, any card and you are presented with very useful information. It starts with a set of cards on the 'basics', then a set on 'grape varieties', followed by 'tasting techniques' and finally 'tasting lessons'. Some great advice for pairing wine and food included as well. Very, very well done Michael. Let the fun begin and you are on your way to becoming an expert.
On my trip to Italy and specifically, Tuscany, I relied heavily on the foremost expert on Italian wines, Joseph Bastianich.
Visit his site and go to media and then books. His book 'Vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy' is a wonderful, excellent read on Italian wines and his 'Vino Italiano Buying Guide, the ultimate Quick Reference to the Great wines of Italy' is a must have book. I took it along on my trip.

Joseph Bastianich is a foremost expert on Italian wines. He is the co-owner, with Mario Batali of some of America's premier Italian restaurants. But he also owns and produces wines on four wineries, three of them in Italy. Busy though he is, he has just finished another excellent Italian wine book, Grandi Vini, an opinionated tour of Italy's 89 finest wines. Now we are getting into some serious writing on Italian wines. With in depth details on wines and their producers, ranging from a superb Sangiovese from Emilia Romagna, to Barolos and a delightfully fresh, dry white Pietramarina from Sicily, Joseph captures the essence of them all. Every wine has its website information included. You will enjoy the hand-illustrated maps of locations of the wineries. Yes, Joseph's richly detailed descriptions of 89 of the world's best Italian wines will lead you to explore some of the world's finest wines. Great opinions and another must have book for any wine lover. I am planning my next visit to Italy.
Thank you Joseph.

Monday, November 01, 2010

No Apologies if you drink Sweet Wine from Alsace!

Recently a number of websites and blogs proclaimed that the wine industry owed an apology to sweet wine drinkers.
The headline from Wine read as follows:
"How Sweet it is: Wine Industry Owes Sweet Wine Drinkers HUGE Apology!" Huge apology? Give me a break!
Harpers Wine & Spirit told us 'Sweet wine drinkers can be best tasters' But when Jancis Robinson's column told us we're all wrong, I wanted to put in my own thoughts.
Tim Hanni's statement:
'glaring errors in understanding by the wine industry have led to the disenfranchisement of millions of consumers and the loss of market share to other beverages' is in my opinion a misleading, headline seeking remark. If sweet white zin is your drink, nobody is stopping you from keeping it your go to wine. No need to say 'Forgive me Father, for I have Zinned'. And there is plenty of it out there.
Furthermore this is hardly a scientific study. It was based on analyzing 1500 'online' questionnaires looking for potential judges for the Lodi Consumer Wine Awards. Come on Mr. Hanni and company you can do better than that.
Now here is a bit of real research that may be worth a second look. At least by those who do not like the bitter taste of tannins in their wine. And nobody is suggesting we should apologize for looking down on those wine drinkers who like their wines less tannic and bitter. That pretty picture is a slide of lung taste receptors. Yes, that's right 'lung taste receptors'.
Dr.Liggett, a pulmonologist,
(and I am not pulling your leg, that is what he is) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and his team, found taste receptors in the lung that react to bitter compounds. Well now isn't that interesting. Perhaps we can now add lung observations to our tasting notes. Such as: 'I found the tannins in that Cabernet overpowering and I experienced a third degree cough'.
Now back to reality. I guess the sweet wine producers in Alsace are more than willing to share their sweet, lush Vendanges Tardives and Selections de Grains Nobles. No one will need to apologize to you for loving every single last drop of them.
On my recent visit to Alsace I had the pleasure of meeting Samuel Tottoli, the outstanding winemaker at the Kuentz-Bas Estate
A big thanks to Lucas De Jong, owner of the Hotel Husseren les Chateaux where I stayed during my last visit, for introducing me to Samuel. Samuel arrived at the winery in 2004 and has made great changes. As of the 2007 vintage Kuentz-Bas is certified organic. The great advantage in Alsace is, that mainly due to the calcareous/limestone soils, the grapes can attain high levels of natural acidity. And during this tasting I found out what an amazing influence that has on the wines.
Lucas, outside the Caveau de Degustation (tasting room) of the Kuentz-Bas winery. And always busy but never too busy to take time out to share his marvelous wines, that is Samuel. I was wrong every time when Samuel asked me to guess what the residual sugar levels were in some of the wines we tasted. That is picture of my notes and the 2007 Pinot Gris Trois Chateau . I have a notation calling it 'the pineapple express" Again I missed the residual of 34 grams on that one due to the amazing acidity.

So in closing this post let me say to all you sweet wine lovers out there, you haven't lived until you taste some of the delicious sweet wines from Alsace.

Me? I will stay with their big, bright, crisp, dry wines with that wonderful minerality and of course you can never get enough of their Cremants. As always, click on the pics to get a close up view. Next up is some bubbly talk and a great picture of a sabering gone wrong!
Cheers and happy drinking for now.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It Takes a Lot of Make a Super Tuscan Wine !!

I do want to share some more on Alsace wine but this entry is dedicated to my friend Alessandro Dondi at Castello di Bolgheri.

Check out the rich history and tradition of the Castello di Bolgheri by clicking on the above link.
I had the pleasure of meeting Alessandro a couple of years ago while doing a tour of Tuscany with my California wine loving friend Sanjoy Ghose.
Castello di Bolgheri is located in the town of Bolgheri, on the Etruscan coast in the province of Livorno. We were scheduled to visit Ornellaia, the very well known and excellent producers of the Super Tuscan, Ornelaia. But since Sanjoy managed to get us to the coast way ahead of our appointment, we had plenty of time for lunch and a little sightseeing in Bolgheri. Just happened to walk into this delightful shop selling locally produced body lotions and creams. I asked the owner why do people drive all the way to the coast to visit Bolgheri. Ah, but of course, Bolgheri is where the famous Italian poet
Giosuè Carducci wrote the poem "Davanti a San Guido", giving everlasting fame to the Viale dei Cipressi ( Cypresses ) As you drive into the town of Bolgheri these stately 200 year old Cypress trees line the road on both sides for a 5 KM stretch.
Then, the charming owner of the shop, Beata, asked me what brought me to Bolgheri. When I told her I was on a wine tasting, wine writing tour of Tuscany, she insisted we meet her husband Alessandro, the wine maker at Castello di Bolgheri. What a marvellous turn of events that turned out to be.

I won't go into details about Super Tuscans. I am sure you know about Sassicaia and the other Super Tuscans but both Sanjoy and I were overwhelmed and duly impressed by the amazing Super Tuscans Alessandro has produced.

The vineyards are about 70 meters above sea level. They are planted facing west southwest. The rows are perpendicular to the Mediterranean Sea
which during the hot summer days allows the afternoon winds coming from the sea to cool the vineyard. The soils are sandy-clayey, skeletal and stone rich and a pH which is mostly basic. This "terroir" produces wines of great subtlety, smooth soft tannins and great complexity with rich aromatics. I noticed when Alex took us into the vineyards that he did a quick inspection of the Cabernet grapes, giving them a gentle squeeze. When I asked him about it
he explained that he wants the skins just

to start getting a touch of softness and that is when he wants to pick. Of course he does lab testing as well. Then he told us that they would be picking these Cabernet grapes tomorrow. Looking a few rows over, he indicated that those Cabernet, Castello was growing for Ornelaia, but that they were not planning to pick for a couple of weeks.

The close-up picture of Alessandro's grapes to the left shows them to be in perfect picking condition. Meanwhile back at the winery we tasted tank samples of the recently harvested Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Wow, I have tasted a lot of tank samples but these were amazing.

Now click on the map to enlarge it. As you can see, the Castello vineyards are located in the same ideal locations as the Ornellaia and Sassicaia vineyards. So what makes the Castello di Bolgheri wines so special? Because they are created by a winemaker with a passion. Truly an artist at work. One of the techniques he employs is called delestage. Very time consuming but with very beneficial results.
Alex joined the Castello in 2005 and as their cellar master here is his wine making philosophy. In his opinion when making a wine, the most important thing is to always have a clear picture in your mind of the kind of wine you want to make. Just like a good chef knows what he wants his dish to taste like, he images the texture,smells and tastes. He knows his grapes and the soils, then lets his feelings and emotions run with his artistic abilities.
And tasting his wines confirms that this winemaker truly makes a super Super Tuscan. In my opinion, among the very best of the Super Tuscans out there.

Fortunately for consumers here in British Columbia, finally almost three years after my visit with Alessandro, they are now available here in BC.
I am looking forward to visiting with Alessandro again and tasting what great wines are all about.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunshine into Wine.....!

Not this year, or at least not at many of the wineries on the west coast of Canada. Following up on my last blog entry, I contacted a few more wineries.

The song everybody seems to be singing is "Rain, rain go away, come back again some other day". But they say every cloud has a silver lining. Perhaps the sluggish economy of the last few years has left most wineries with enough inventory to carry them through till next year. At least those that as part of their marketing plan, hold back some of their inventory for a rainy day. When I spoke to Jerry Mussio at Starling Lane Winery he was fairly optimistic about this year, although their Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir was lagging behind. But since they make one of the best ( or in my opinion 'the best' ) sparkling wine on Vancouver Island that should make fans of their
Célébration Brut happy. Over on Pender Island Keith Watt at Morning Bay Vineyard reports similar conditions and thanks his lucky stars to have a decent inventory. Then this morning, speaking to Eugene Kwan, the managing director of one of my all time favorite British Columbia wineries, once again a similar story emerged. Domaine de Chaberton is located in the Fraser Valley. Be sure to click on 'Winery' and then 'about us' to get the story behind this magnificent winery. I had the privilege of working with Claude and Inge as their Vancouver Island rep while running my wine shop, The Wine Barrel in Victoria. For all you Seattlelites, Domaine de Chaberton is located just across the Washington / British Columbia border and easy to find. Their Bacchus Bistro is very popular year round and is a must visit. Since I am leaving tomorrow to spend a few days on the mainland, I have made reservations at the Bistro and greatly looking forward to it.
Not everyone of course is unhappy about the rain. In the Bordeaux they were crying for rain and finally got it. Looks like they will be bragging about another good vintage and the first growth estates will be able to continue their obscene, outrageous prices.
My good friend Philippe, the export manager at Dopff 'Au Moulin" in Alsace sent me this picture of his Auxerrois and tells me harvest for the sparkling wines has begun.
I must tell you some more about why I love the wines from Alsace and my visit to Kuentz-Bas but will leave that for another entry.
In the meantime, rain, shine or otherwise, no matter how wonderful your wines might be, a little smart marketing goes a long way. So here for your 'viewing' pleasure is how one Okanagan Valley winery shares some fun with us. The View Winery makes a wonderful Pinotage and I reviewed the 2008 vintage for my newsletter. But Jennifer, the star in their video, tells me "Wait till you taste the 2009". OK Jennifer I am looking forward to it. So be sure to click on the above link to the winery and I am sure you will agree when you view the video that it is great marketing.

As always cheers and enjoy your wines!!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

No Sunshine....No wine!

At least that appears to be situation developing on Vancouver Island. On the weekend I visited some of the wineries here on our island.
Veraison is barely visible and the only grape showing any signs of it that I saw, was the Siegerrebe grape at the Blue Grouse Vineyards.
If you click on the picture to enlarge it you might see some of the clusters picking up a bit of color. Summer took a long time coming and unless we see a lot of sunshine over the next 4 to 5 weeks, there will be no harvest this year. Although we might see a lot of sparkling wine produced this year and I do like my bubblies.
Meanwhile back to Alsace, the report I received from my friend Philippe Durst at Dopff "Au Moulin", in the middle of August, veraison was on its way. Slow start to their summer as well but the vineyards are shaping up for another good vintage. And of course that is where it all begins. That is cellar-master and oenologist Pascal Batot at Dopff keeping a close watch in the vineyards. Pascal's winemaking philosophy is that the quality of a wine starts first of all in the vineyards.

It definitely paid off recently when Dopff was awarded two gold medals at the very prestigious
Sélections Mondiales des Vins Canada in Montreal.
They received a Gold for the Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenberg 2007 and a Gold for the Gewurztraminer grand Cru Brand de Turckheim 2007.
Thought I would share with you a photo I took of the Schoenenberg Crus vineyard while visiting there in May. It looks like it is mostly hands on work required there, wouldn't you say?
Yes, the fruit of the vine does like its share of sunshine!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Wild Vine...Todd Kliman

I am going to take a detour from my journey in Alsace and venture down another road. This road leads us to a most interesting and fascinating discovery of a forgotten grape...the Norton grape.
The Wild Vine A Forgotten Grape and the Untold Story of American Wine by Todd Kliman

Fascinating from the beginning to the end. Tod Kliman had me hooked from his opening sentence. We all know a picture can be worth a thousand words. But in a few words author Kliman paints a picture that sets the tone for this book.
"Clouds of dust drift through the open window of my rickety Toyota as it shudders along the bumpy gravel path of Champe Ford Road like a washing machine on spin cycle, stirring up sticks and pebbles."
I knew immediately I was in for a literary treat but little did I know I was in for an amazing story, a true American story. The story of the Norton grape. The grape that was used to make a wine from Missouri that walked away with a gold medal at an international exhibition in Vienna in 1873. History is carefully interwoven with facts that could only have been gotten by long and careful research.
Throughout the book I encountered sentences loaded with wit and wisdom. Here is one of my favorites. describing the scene on the night of the grand "heritage tasting" and the buzz in the room, Todd observes, "Free wine and food have a way of bringing out the best in people - or at least, bringing them out."
Wine culture in Europe is evident in all wine producing countries. it has been that way for centuries. Does North America have a wine culture? A major set back and blow to our wine culture was due to Prohibition. in fact it stopped it dead in its tracks. We are just beginning to recover from that fiasco.

Tod Kliman describes in wonderful details, the historical characters beginning with Thomas Jefferson, who made an attempt to establish a wine industry in America. Interestingly, most of the major players involved with the Norton grape had their last name begin with an 'H'. Horton, Husmann, Held and even the town where it all began, Hermann and its citizens, the Hermannites. But it all came to a grinding halt with the onset of Prohibition.

Virginia, where it all began and where today the story continues, thanks to in large measure, the determined champion of the Norton grape, Jenni McCloud.
This is a must read for anyone interested in wine, wine history and wine culture in North America. In fact I believe this book should be required reading for all oenology courses taught in America.
One final observation. The states of Missouri and Virginia are to be highly commended for their part in promoting the Norton grape, but for me Todd Kliman by writing this book, has done much, very much, in creating an awareness of the true American grape - the Norton Grape !!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Wine and Weather in the Alsace....!

Wether in the Alsace or in other wine regions, weather conditions continue to challenge wine makers. My number one source for info in the Alsace, is my friend Philippe Durst, the export manager at DOPFF "Au Moulin". In the middle of July this is what he reported. ( Photo courtesy Philippe )

"With the thermometer sometimes close to 40°C in the afternoons, we are long way from the -10 and even -20°C that we have experienced in the winter between november and right until Easter. It is tough not having felt spring in between!

And still we are long way from grape picking: at this stage, the grapes have the colour of green peas and they are best suited for producing ball bearings!"

Here in British Columbia weather conditions have not been ideal and unless we get nothing but sunshine for the next month and more, the Vancouver island wineries will be really challenged to produce a decent wine. In the Okanagan Valley it will also be a vintage that will be difficult to work with, except for the best of vintners. In a direct communication with Bradley Cooper of Township 7 and Black Cloud wineries here is his take on this year.

"The crop this year will be full of challenges. The two winters previous to this last one were tough on some varietals. The cold snap of early October 2009 was another kick in the pants. A lot of vines slowed by the late, wet spring will show remarable adaptive ability and appear to catch-up. But the actual grape clusters seem to lag behind the appearnce of the vine as a whole. Pinot varieties seem to be recovering quicker than Merlot and in some cases, Chardonnay. It's a mixed bag, very site specific."

So is this the year we will see a lot more sparkling wine being produced? It likes the higher acid from less mature grapes.

During my recent visit to Alsace, I fell in love once again with their great wines, but I now also have a particular fondness for the "Crémant d’Alsace". Crémants by law have to be aged for a minimum of 9 months. Champagne a minimum of 15 months. So what do you get when you age a Crémant for 24 months? You get Crémant Excellence Brut from La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim.

With an impressive complexity and a fine mousse
this bubbly was pure pleasure to drink. Toasted almond and hazelnut on the nose followed by a richness on the palate, its no wonder they call it "Excellence".

I have to once again extend a big 'thank you' to Lucas DE JONG owner along with his wife Karin, of the Hotel Husseren les Chateaux for introducing me to an excellent winery in the village of Voegtlinshoffen where Eliane Ginglinger weaves her magic at Ginglinger Fix. Eliane produces outstanding Grand Crus wines using grapes from two Grand Crus d'Alsace, the Hatschbourg and the Goldert.
That is my cousin Gerda, who drove me from Holland to Alsace and that is Lucas de Jong posing with the delightfull Eliane Ginglinger. Her beautiful blue eyes are brilliant and sparkling and are matched by the brilliance and sparkle of her
Crémant d’Alsace"

And I just loved her Riesling 2008 Grand Crus 'Goldert' and her Gewurztraminer 2008 'Hatschbourg'.
Once again I must stop and take an 'Alsace' break. I have one chilling in my fridge. So until more on Alsace in my next blog entry, here are my cheers to everyone!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Alsace...the Wine, the Food and its People !

So let me continue where my last post left off. This great French wine region, ideally located between the Vosges Mountains on their western boundary and the Rhine river on their eastern boundary, stretches along a beautiful wine route from Strasbourg in the north to Mulhouse at the southern end. Some of the greatest white wines in the world come from this region and I had the pleasure of tasting a lot of them during my recent visit.
Since in the title of this blog, I mention wine, food and people, let me begin with the people of Alsace.
So very friendly!
On my first visit to Alsace I met David Ling, the Export Director at Hugel et Fils in Riquewihr. David had been invited by the late, great Jean Hugel, for a training session, with a promise that "after the harvest" his future would be discussed. Only which harvest was never specified.
The long and the short of it is that David met and fell in love with a beautiful local girl and never left Alsace. Now back to who are the Alsace people. This description was given to David by a Canadian colonel, stationed at the airforce base in Lahr (across the river in Germany) which is now the Karisruhe-Baden airport. To quote his definition, the Alsace people are 100% Alsatian, 150% French, 100% European and 100% Germanic ( with an emphasis on the "ic" ), while the total of 450% explains their ego; 0. Well that is one man's opinion, but I think they are great!
Now to the middle part of my title ..."Food". Were the wines of Alsace created to match their wonderful cuisine? Or was it the other way around? All I know is. there are many food and wine matches and as the saying goes "are a match made in heaven" and a lot of them come from Alsace.

Finally the wonderful wines of Alsace. I am frustrated at the lack of Alsatian wines available to me here in BC.
I want to go into more details about the wines I tasted but will leave that for my next blog entry. But let me at least say that I was impressed with the great attempt to produce quality wines everywhere I visited. From the smallest to the largest, quality is number one concern. For instance, at the very sizable La Cave Des Vigneron De Pfaffeheim, and I quote "Every one of our wines is the object of scrupulous attention, from harvest to the moment the bottles leave our cellars." Pfaffenheim was started in 1957 by a small group of winemakers and today is a co-operative with 230 members. During harvest, the cellar master keeps a watchful eye on the quality of the grapes and the growers are paid accordingly. All grapes are picked by hand. The plastic containers used to transport the grapes are only half-filled, so that the berries do not get crushed. You can taste it in the end result.
Must go now, the sun is shining and I have a cold bottle of an Alsatian Riesling waiting for me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tulips and Wine from Amsterdam to Alsace ...

I must begin this blog post with a very special thank you, once again, to my good friend Katherine Andes. As regular readers of my blog will have noticed my blog has a new look. ( and thank you to those who have already sent me emails with positive comments.) Anytime I make changes to my newsletter or this blog I run it past Katherine and her extremely useful suggestions have always been very helpful.
Katherine develops custom content for commercial websites. She also has a free, very informative newsletter which you can sign up for by visiting her website. THANK YOU, Katherine !!

So while I am still in Amsterdam, lets stay on the Keizersgracht and go visit with Jessica Lombardo at Art Vine located at 471 Keizersgracht.
They were recently written up in the travel section of the New York Times. I had a great chat with Jessica while visiting her art gallery and plan on doing an art and wine event with her when I next visit Amsterdam. Hopefully next year.

Now before heading for Alsace with my cousin Gerda, who kindly offered to drive me down there, I must show you at least a couple of images that we can all recognize as being truly Dutch.

Windmills and tulips anyone?

It takes about 5 hours to drive from Vancouver to the Okanagan Valley, our main British Columbia wine region. Nice easy drive on a very scenic highway. Then you are only about half way across our province. Holland on the other hand is one hectic highway. When you look at a map, the whole thing is one road after another. Too many cars ! So it was nice to get to Belgium, then Luxembourg and end up in France with our final destination of Alsace. Imagine 4 countries in one day.

My visit to Alsace this time was confined to the Haut-Rhin region. So many wineries and so many wines and not enough time. I will cover some of the wines and wineries in the next few posts.
Colmar, the capital of Alsace, has a population of 67,000 people. Great place to shop and visit. But approximately 6 KM south of Colmar is the little village of Husseren les Chateaux nestled in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains.
That is where we stayed at the marvellous Hotel Husseren les Chateaux.

Fabulous facilities, great swimming pool, excellent restaurant and a bonus for me, the walls are solid cement. So you will never hear your neighbour in the next room snoring. Meeting facilities for up to 45 people. What a great hideaway place to have a group meeting and seminars. Another bonus for me was Lucas de Jong. Very knowledgeable about the local wineries. He took a day out of his busy schedule to take me to some of the best Grand Cru properties. More on that in my next posts. So tulips in Alsace you might ask? Lucas was originally from Holland. Then 20 some years ago before he and his lovely lady, whom he had met in Denmark, moved to Alsace and built the hotel. Lucas,formerly a sommelier, has extensive wine knowledge and yes they also own a vineyard in the Beaujolais. Naturally he would have a few tulips around. Look at them in the entrance to the hotel inviting you to the restaurant Au Sapin Dore.
Next up winery visits and some great photos and of course a discussion on food and wine in Alsace.
A Bientot!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Drinking Wine in Amsterdam !

Having recently returned from a trip to Amsterdam, visiting relatives and a wine tour of Alsace, it has been difficult getting back into the swing of my normal routine. Met with my panel to taste 7 just released delightful wines from the Starling Lane winery and getting ready to taste 12 Rose wines for my next newsletter. And of course wading through all the e-mails and answering as many as possible. I fully intend to share pictures and experiences of my trip in the next few posts. I read with interest, Alder Yarrow's post over at Vinography on wine consumption statistics and thought that would be a good starting point. So I looked at the pdf posted on his site from TDA ( Trade Data and Analysis ) on his site and scrolled down to the Netherlands. The average liters per capita for the Dutch in 2008 was 21.68. Surprisingly that great nation of wine consumers, the United Kingdom, consumed somewhat less than the Dutch with 19.14 liters per capita. There are no silly regulations and restrictions on selling wine in Holland and it is available in grocery stores and great little wine shops everywhere. The picture of De Ware Jacob is an example of one of them, located a 3 minute walk away from my cousin's home on the Keizersgracht.
(Click on the pic)
Its difficult to translate accurately but
' De Ware Jacob' means 'the real Jacob' and is an expression used when a woman has found 'the' real man of her life. The shop was originally owned by a Jacob and after his death his widow continued to run the shop until the new owner took over.

Let me tell you, we did our best to raise the national average during my visit. But while we are at this location, kitty corner from the wine shop is an incredible chocolate shop owned by Mireille, the exuberant and gracious daughter of my cousin. Her shop, 't Goede Soet, at 95 Keizersgracht is a must visit while you are in Amsterdam. 't Goede Soet translates into the Good Sweet and is a chocolate lovers paradise. Google it and see some of the great reviews.

Meanwhile back to statistics. The average consumption for Canada is listed as 12.24 liters per capita but according to Statistics Canada, the official Government of Canada branch that carries out surveys, the national average is 13.1. The Yukon territory leads the way with 18.3 but what else would you do on those long winter days in Canada's great northern white? Second place goes to the province of Quebec with an average consumption of 17.4. Could that be because of its historic ties with France? Once again I am happy to report that I am doing my share of wine consumption in the province of British Columbia which ties down third place with an annual consumption of 14.5. Our burgeoning wine industry would account for that. Newfoundland and Labrador come in 11th place with 6.5 and dead last is Saskatchewan with only 5 liters per capita. Of course they do enjoy their beer. Finally our neighbours to the south of us are working on their annual consumption with a 9.68 liters per capita. But with wine becoming much more a part of our North American culture I would expect these figures to increase in the coming years. As they say in Dutch 'tot ziens' or farewell or until we meet again. Lets all do our share to help the economy and raise the national average.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Awaiting Another Vintage in Wine Country !

I am just a few hours away from flying off to Amsterdam and then on to Alsace. In Amsterdam I will be giving a talk on British Columbia Icewines and of course in Alsace its all good. Good food, good wine and good people.
So what will this year bring to various wine regions?
My good friend Philippe Durst, the export manager at Dopff au Moulin send me this picture a few weeks ago. The vineyards are budding and showing early leaf formation. But he says they are behind last year at this time.

I visited a winery, Rocky Creek, here on Vancouver Island, just a few days ago and early leaf is just starting to show and again somwhat behind last year.
Then I checked with Alessandro Dondi on the Tuscan coast and he reports nothing positive with the weather, cooler than usual and rain three times per week.

So there you have it. But I will be sure to give you first hand reports upon my return. When I told Philippe I was trying to lose a few pounds before coming to Alsace, he reminded me that I wasn't coming to weight watchers country.

So be it!! Food and wine, wine and food. Tell me, is there anything more enjoyable?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Job Security in the Wine Industry !

Some excellent posts recently, as always, on Tom Wark's Fermentation and Alder Yarrow's Vinography. An issue that has made headlines everywhere, especially in the wine blogosphere, is the H.R.5034 bill before congress. Here is Tom's take on it.
Another couple of good analyses are on Palate Press and the 30 Second Wine Advisor.
Alder did an in depth review of "The Coming Carnage in the California Wine Industry" with excellent comments that followed his post.
Even though they are two different issues, what is their common thread? Why jobs of course. Both have the potential of some serious job losses. But hold on, coming back to my previous post about Prohibition and its results, who is not looking for a new job? Massive government bureaucracies were created to interfere, oh pardon me, I meant regulate, alcohol consumption and subsequent contributions to government coffers. Do you know or have you heard of any regulatory inspectors loosing their jobs? If anything, they will be hiring more, with great job security as a bonus thrown in for the lucky candidates.

After all making sure that proper licencing is in place ensures those extra revenues. British Columbia has also seen some significant government lay-offs with the last go around another 230 people losing their jobs.
Recently the Naramata wineries held another very successful annual wine event in Victoria. At the same, in the same hotel, some government liquor inspectors were holding a conference. Guess what? They just could not resist and marched right in to check that every winery had proper licencing for the event. And as an added bonus for their efforts they got to taste some awesome new releases.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

May We Have a Little Culture with our Wine ?

It would have been inconceivable to think of Plato, Socrates and other Greek philosophers to have held their famous symposia without the benefit of wine. Ancient Greek society has contributed much to modern Western civilization, not the least of which is the culture of wine. For centuries Britain dominated the world wine trade and the nouveau rich upper middle class was largely responsible for creating the impression that wine was only for the educated well to do members of society.The poorer members of society went to the local 'Jug & Bottle' when they were thirsty.Thank goodness we are more enlightened these days.
Today there is a problem with young people and binge drinking. So how enlightened can it be for the French government's plan to bring wine education to French university canteens? It is not without opposition of course, but can you imagine some US state or in Canada a provincial government to even think of such a proposal? No, I am afraid we are still suffering from the hangover of Prohibition enacted in the US in 1920. And what were the results? Massive crime waves with the establishment of the Mafia. Ah, but the answer was to regulate alcohol consumption and of course use it as a cash cow for governments. It truly set back North American wine culture. Yes, it should be regulated as far as drinking and driving is concerned. Plato and the boys did not have to worry about getting into a car and causing accidents. It is morally very wrong to drink and drive. Killing yourself is one thing, but to be the instrument of death of another human life is reprehensible. Wine has been around since very ancient times and is not about to go away. So why not introduce wine culture and wine tasting at every opportunity out there?
How refreshing to read that at the California State University at Sacramento there is a course available on wine tourism.There is an enrollment limit of 20 students at a time because it involves field trips and yes, actually tasting wines.
There is I am afraid, a bit of nouveau snobbism out there. In our North American eagerness to catch up, there is a potential of wine education for the sake of the education itself. Consequently these 'experts' have an intimidating effect on large numbers of potential drinkers. They are forgetting about the best part of wine. Wine was made to be enjoyed to the fullest. Notice that the young lady in the picture knows not only how to hold the glass the right way, but most of all that she is taking time to enjoy the fruit of the vine. In Vino Veritas indeed. She has learned and knows the truth about wine. The truth about wine is that it is a most enjoyable drink and was meant to be shared and give pleasure to human kind.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wine & Media at the 2010 Olympics !

I could not resist doing a follow up on my March 4th post on 'Wine & Sponsors at the 2010 Olympics'. On March 12th our national television broadcaster, the CBC, picked up on the Girls Hockey team and their celebration with the Sigura Viudas sparkling wine. It is now enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Permanent inexpensive advertising for Sigura. By the way, the girls have good taste. For the price, it is a delightful bubbly.
On a more serious note I did encounter a lot of misinformation by the foreign media about our outstanding Icewines. Back in 1994 I started a wine shop in downtown Victoria, British Columbia called The Wine Barrel. In 2005 I sold the shop and it is now in the capable hands of Bruce and Merrilee Stuart. During my tenure I sold a lot of BC Icewines and picked up a fact or two about them. But my mentor about Icewines was John Schreiner, the world expert on anything to do with Icewine or the original German version called Eiswein. John is the author of "Icewine The Complete Story" and I had the pleasure of hosting John for a book signing in my shop when his book was first released. I treasure my autographed copy. I have featured John on my blog a few times and here is one entry.

The image on the left is of the 2008 Paradise Ranch Merlot Icewine boasting a residual sugar of 218 g/l and the right image image is of the 2008 Paradise Ranch Riesling Icewine with a residual sugar of 134 g/l. As always be sure to click on the image to get a close up look. I had to give the images a framing of hot and cool. The Merlot is outstanding and will be a 'hot' selling Icewine. The Riesling is such an elegant Icewine that it gave the impression of a really 'cool' fresh and clean Icewine.
But now to the point of picking on the international media. Two write ups in different newspapers drew my attention and I just had to send them a message with the correct version. One writer stated that 'Icewines are often sweet'. NO, they are always sweet! And as my two above Icewines show, they may have different sweetness levels but please they are 'always' sweet. Another writer claimed that they were high alcohol dessert wines. NO again! The high sugar levels dehydrate the yeast cells and kills them before they get a chance to convert more sugar into higher alcohol levels. So they will range from a low of 9% to 12% at the higher level. Both of the above Icewines clocked in at 12%.
The Olympics have come and gone and are part of history but great BC Icewines will be around for a little longer and we might as well get it wright when we write about them.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Wine & Sponsors at the 2010 Olympics !

The 2010 Winter Olympics have been a great success in spite of the lack of snow. The sponsors of course, have been very happy with the huge exposure of their products. But wait a minute here. What was that Canadian Women's gold medal winning hockey team up to? Two of the major sponsors at the Olympics were Molsons Canadian Beer and Vincor Canada's Sumac Ridge Winery in the Okanagan. Fittingly the gold medalists were treated to a three litre sized Molson Canadian beer that looked very much like a Champagne bottle and Sumac Ridge's Tribute Gold sparkling wine. The Tribute Gold and Silver were created in honour of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.
Click on these pictures courtesy Alex Livesey/Getty Images and Surprise !!
That ain't no
Tribute going down that gullet. Looks suspiciously like Sigura Viudas to me. Sigura Viudas was rated as one of the top 100 wines by the Wine Enthusiast. And yes that is a cigar in the picture on the right. Now cigars and beer maybe. But cigars and sparkling wine? That is a no no. Especially when it is not even from one of the official sponsors. Oh well, at least the ladies'?' won't be at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Vincor Canada is again one of the sponsors. Its not cheap to be a sponsor and Vincor did not get their money's worth at this event. But Viudas received a bonus and how do you suppose that happened? Oh the joys of being a sponsor and the politics in wine!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Want to Teach the World to Drink....Wine!

In a recent article in Decanter, philosopher Roger Scruton, postulates that Muslim fundamentalists could become more tolerant were they to consume wine. In the comment section, Stephen Hobley points to the magnificent jade drinking cup of Shah Jahan (picture courtesy London's V&A Museum) in support of Roger's thesis. This theme was also also enlarged upon in the
The Islamic Society of Britain's Ajmal Masroor wonders if Roger made these comments while sober or intoxicated.

I believe the whole world, not just Muslims, could benefit from partaking of the 'fruit of the vine'. Pliny the Elder said it all when he proclaimed 'In Vino Veritas', origin in Latin, there is 'Truth in Wine'.
Do you know how many "World Day of.." there are? There is the World Day of Peace, the World Day of Prayer, the World Day for Water, the International Women's Day and a host of others. I would like to propose a 'World Day of Wine' when the whole world stops for a few precious moments and we toast one another and drink to world peace!
In the seventies the Coca Cola company had a major hit on their hands when they produced the 'I'd like to teach the world to sing' advertisement where the singers proclaimed they would like to buy the world a coke.

Similarly I would like to teach the world to drink of course. We raise our glasses, toast each other, forget our differences and just love one another.
Perhaps I will leave the last word to Alice Feiring at 'Veritas in Vino' who simply wants her wines, like her friends, to speak the truth.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Chinese Wine Made in Australia...!

Before I delve into today's topic, just a quick update on my last post. It seems that Brussel's concern about labeling is not impressing European consumers. In a report just released by the European Food Information Council and published in the Journal of Public Health, it states that only 16.8% of consumers looked at nutritional information on labels. Say no more.
We all know that the Australian wine industry is going through a bit of a hard time and we also know that there is a potentially sizable market in China, but is selling out to the Chinese the answer? Doing business in and with China runs into many governmental snags. It is after all a communist regime running the show. Good for Google for taking a stand. Google stated that hackers had tried to infiltrate its software coding and e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Of course the Chinese immediately condemned the US and Google.
China has a "one child" policy whereby only one child per family is allowed to be born. Forced sterilizations and abortions, especially of baby girls, are not uncommon. Boys are favored over girls. Now there is a problem in the making. Women in the wonderful world of wine are becoming increasingly more important. Starting with some outstanding women wine makers, sommeliers and above all consumers. Maybe that trend will not be possible in China. There won't be enough women around.
Meanwhile back in Australia.... It seems that Chinese communism with a small 'c' is embracing Capitalism with a big 'C'. Chinese companies loaded with cash from state owned banks are on a buying spree in Australia.
Australia pioneered the cute and cuddly critter labels. Look no further than the very successful Yellow Tail with the Wallaby on its label. So can we expect to see the Koala bear replaced by the Panda bear? Click on the pics to get a closer look at these two famous icon bears from both countries. Good luck and best wishes to our Aussie friends!