What is Old World Wine?

Old World wine, strictly defined, are wines produced by historically the wine producing regions of Europe. France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain would be the top producers of Old World wine. These countries have been responsible for many innovations in wine making, such as selecting vitis vinifera as producing the most enjoyable wines (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Riesling).The Old World region invented the glass bottle for wine, and sparkling wine, among other accomplishments.

Old World wine is also about a style and a mentality about the land. In the Old World, you hear about “terroir“, and how terroir drives which grapes are grown in a region. For example, in the Rhone Valley, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne are grown. You would not traditionally find these grapes grown in Bordeaux or the Loire Valley.

What is terroir? Terroir is often used to describe the aspects of a wine region such as soil, climate and topography that are often out of the winemaker’s control. These unique features affect the ripening of the grapes, the nutrients that are absorbed from the soil, and more, which combined make the wine from the syrah grape in the Rhone Valley to taste different from syrah made elsewhere in the world. With the thousands of years that wine makers in the Old World have had with experimenting with different grape varieties on different soils, with different slopes and drainage, and climate, they have found the varieties that produce the best wine in each region.

Another aspect of Old World wine, is tradition. Tradition can be good or bad. Traditions help us learn from the past so that we do not have to go through the learning process that our ancestors have gone through. Such as determining that Syrah grows very well in the Rhone Valley. But on the other hand, tradition can be very prescriptive. Telling you that you can only grow Syrah in the Rhone Valley. Some wine makers, may for example want to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. They can, but the wine would not be accredited as AOC in France by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine. This has happened in Italy, where some wine makers in the Tuscany region wanted to grow and produce wine with red grapes other than sangiovese. These wines could not be certified as DOCG of Italy at that time. The wine makers were producing excellent wines, and eventually the Italian wine certification body in Italy relented and made a new category for these Super Tuscan wines, called IGT. So change is possible in the Old World, but it can be a long process.

Old World Wines can also be thought of according to style. If you are thinking of a wine from Bordeaux, you are thinking of a wine, with some fruit, a solid backbone from tannins in the grape and from the oak aging. The wines are restrained. Not super extracted fruit driven wines, with lots of vanilla flavour. In time these Old World style Bordeaux reds evolve in the bottle, with the tannins softening, providing support to the fruit, and the flavours and aromas becoming more complex. Some Old World style wines are produced by the wine maker to reach their peak 5 – 10 or more years after the wines are bottled.

That’s a brief overview of what is Old World wine. Much more can be said about Old World wines, and maybe I will discuss more in future blogs. Enjoy.

A University of Alberta Alumni Getogether at River’s Bend Winery

I’m a University of Alberta graduate. It was a while ago, and I keep getting invites to alumni events, but never joined in until yesterday. The alumni were getting together at River’s Bend Winery in Surrey, BC. As I love wine, I was compelled to join. It was quite easy to find the winery (15560 Colebrook Road). I’ve attached a Google map for you.
View Rivers Bend Map

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the alumni were friendly and I hope to meet some again soon to talk about wine.

Most of the grapes come from their estate in Surrey. I checked out the grapes. Some of their red grapes were starting to turn red (they are originally green btw). This process is known as veraison. There’s a good Scrabble word.

So how were the wines at River’s Bend Winery? Well, they have a gamut of wines: white, red, blush, and dessert. Of the white wines, I think my favorite was their Viognier 2007 ($20). The grapes come from Oliver. It was watery lemon in colour, with perfumy, apple, lychee, and peach aromas. Light in body, with apple, peach and some spice. Medium length. Also notable was their Pinot Gris 2008 ($19). This one had a slightly herbal nose, with some peach and oak. Medium body, slightly round mouth feel, with peachy flavour.

On the reds, I preferred their Merlot/Cabernet 2007 ($22). This one was also made with grapes from Oliver. I was told it has recently won a Silver Medal from the Northwest Wine Summit. Congratulations. This is a blend of 62% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Very dark garnet in the glass. Cassis, cherry, and capsicum/cedar aromas. Medium body, not too dry, with cherry and a bit of spice. Nice.

If you are into dessert wines, you may want to try their Indigo, port style wine ($25). Medium garnet in colour. Oak, porty, chocolate nose. Medium body, with spicy, cherry, and blueberry flavours. Semi sweet. Went well with dark chocolate.

Not a bad trip. Only 30 minutes from central Burnaby. Drop by and give River’s Bend Winery a try.

Cheers.

Le Vieux Pin Dinner

On Thursday, May 20, 2010, I was fortunate to attend the Le Vieux Pin Winemaker Dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver. The event was at the Market Restaurant in the hotel and the food was masterfully designed by Executive Chef Wayne Harris in consultation with Jean-Georges. Keeping to the blog format, I will keep my notes brief and will then provide more details in www.MyWinePal.com.

Rasoul Salehi, the Director of the enotecca wineries that owns Le Vieux Pin, led us through a tasting of white, red, and rose wines he has recently produced.  James Cambridge, the wine maker was unable to attend, but Rasoul is a very knowlegable man about wine and very interesting to hear speak.  Rasoul also brought a small barrel of a new wine for Le Vieux Pin, his 2008 Syrah / Viognier. For those that do not know, Syrah is a red grape, while Viognier is a white grape. Both varieties come from the Rhone Valley in France. Syrah is a bold, spicy grape, while viognier is very flowery and aromatic. In the Rhone Valley, one of their traditions is to co-ferment Syrah is a bit of viognier. The viognier helps bring out more colour from the Syrah grape skin and adds more perfume to the wine. I applaud James for trying this in the Okanagan.

This Syrah / Viognier was deep purple in the glass, with aromas of vanilla, blueberry, plum and honeysuckle. On the palate you get ripe plum, black cherry and vanilla. Quite spicy, round in the mouth and long length. When this wine is released to the public it will be in the $32-$35 range. Well worth the price. This wine was paired with homemade, melt in your mouth, gnocchi, with morel mushrooms, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. The black pepper seemed to bring out the fruit in the syrah.

To start the evening we had the 2009 Vaila Pinot Noir Rose, paired with egg caviar. The Pinot Noir grapes were picked at a ripeness that Rasoul felt did not bring out the tannins of the grapes. Some wineries, when they produce rose wines, use fully ripened red grapes, which have partial contact between skin and juice, then some of the juice is bled off to produce the rose wine, but this also allows the tannins to be imparted to the rose. Rasoul by choosing to pick earlier indicated that the tannin level can be minimized, making a smoother rose. This wine had fresh raspberries and medium cherry aromas. More fresh strawberry and red cherry on the palate with low tannins. Good crisp acidity. The egg caviar was a wonderful mixture of salty, creamy and eggy flavours that blended nicely with the rose.

There are many other wines to talk about from this evening: 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, 2007 Epoque Merlot, 2007 Apogee Merlot, and 2009 LaStella’s Moscato d’Osoyoos, and of course their food pairings. Check on http://www.MyWinePal.com for the full review.

Enjoy!

A quick review of new wines to Vancouver

Last week I attended a Trade Tasting which shows off the new wines coming into the Vancouver, BC market. There were too many wines to try, which is good for everyone, giving us more choices. But without knowing what to pick to enjoy with your bbq or sushi, for example, could be a problem for you. So what were some wines that I think you should look out for? Here they are:

Elephant Hill Syrah, New Zealand, 2007, $25, spec (very smoky aroma, with smoky, cherry flavours and medium tannins)
Delas Cotes Du Rhone, France, 2007, $17.99, spec (another syrah. Cherry and licorice aroma. Cherry, licorice flavours with medium tannins)
Panther Creek, Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir, Oregon, 2006, $31.75 (a fuller bodied pinot noir. Blackberry and vanilla on the nose. Cocoa, orange peel and currant flavours. Smooth.)
Marques de Caceres Rioja Blanco, Spain, 2008, $15.99, spec (Citrusy, green aroma. Lively apple and citrus flavours.)
Pierre Sparr et Ses Fils, Riesling Selection, France, 06/07, $18.01 (Apple/petrol aroma. Petrol, citrus, apple flavour. Light/medium bodied.)
Anakena Single Vineyard Viognier, Chile, 2008, $16.95 (Apricot and ginger aromas. Good acidity. Apricot and ginger flavours continue on the palate.)

Stay tuned for my upcoming trip to Oregon. I’ll be trying lots of Pinot Noir and letting you know the gems I find. Enjoy!

Day 1 at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Fest

March 26, 2009 09:22:25
Posted By Wine With Karl

Today I was at the wine festival waiting for the doors to open. My strategy as I am there today and tomorrow, is to taste mainly white wines today, and red wines tomorrow. Also since BC is the theme region, I’d taste the BC wines before exploring the international offerings. The BC wines I tried:

– Black Hills Estate winery who are noted for their Nota Bene Bordeaux style red blend
– Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars
– Burrowing Owl Estate winery
– Cedar Creek Estate Winery
– Church & State Wines
– Dunham & Froese Estate Winery
– Garry Oaks (I also recorded an interview with Marcel Mercier from Garry Oaks)
– Road 13 Vineyards
– Sandhill (check out the picture of me with Howard Soon their wine maker, and Louise Wilson their sales rep and Sommelier)
– Stoneboat Vineyards
– Tantalus Vineyards (I recorded another interview here)
– Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
– Twisted Tree Vineyards & winery
– Wild Goose Vineyards

Keeping things short and sweet on the blog, the Tantalus Riesling and Old Vines Riesling were exceptional. Sandhill has a wonderful Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Road 13 has a nice pinot noir. Garry Oaks pinot noir was quite beguiling. Cedar Creek‘s Ehrenfelser is a neat change to a gewurztraminer. You can’t go wrong with Burrowing Owl‘s Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

On the international side I tried:
– La Joya Viognier Reserva 2007 (Chile)
– Bouchard Pere & Fils Beaune du Chateau Blanc Premier Cru 2006 (Burgundy, France)
– Catena Chardonnay 2007 (Mendoza, Argentina)
Champagne Deutz Cuvee William 1998 (Champagne, France) LOVED It But >$150 a bottle.
– Erath Pinot Gris 2007 and Pinot Blanc 2006 (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
– Vina Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard 2008 (Aconcagua, Chile) A wild ferment!
– Miguel Torres Milmanda Single Estate Chardonnay 2006 (Penedes, Spain)
– Bodegas Muga Blanco 2007, Rosado 2005 (Rioja, Spain) I enjoyed the Rosado so much I bought a few bottles.
– Murphy-Goode Sonoma County Chardonnay 2006 and “The Fume” 2007 (Sonoma, CA)
– Olivier Lefaive Wines Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain 2006 (Burgundy, France) an excellent wine but over $100
– Santa Margherita / Ca’ Del Bosco / Kettmier Pinot Grigio 2007, Pinot Bianco Alto Adige 2007, Cuvee Prestige Franciacorta N/V. (Italy)
– Vina Santa Rita Floresta Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Leyda Valley, Chile) good gooseberry flavour
– Sokol Blosser Winery Evolution N/V and Dundee Hills Pinot Gris 2007 (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
– Thompson Estate Chardonnay 2005 and Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2005 (Margaret River, Australia) The sparkling just evaporated when it hit your tongue and was quite creamy. A buy!
– Miguel Torres Cordillera de las Andes Chardonnay/Viognier blend (Curico, Chile) Also a nice blend to try.

Did I try enough? I was at it for 2.5 hrs, then did a 2 hour sit down Pinot tasting. I’ll blog about that another day. I will do indepth reviews of wines after the festival is over. Enjoy!

Pinotage anyone?

You have probably heard of chardonnay and merlot, but have you ever heard of Pinotage? It is not a well known grape, but sometimes lesser known varietals can be fun to try. Pinotage is a red grape that is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, both French grapes. Pinot Noir being the signature red grape from Burgundy and Cinsault from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. A South African Professor of Viticulture crossed the 2 grapes in 1925.

The grape does well in warmer areas, such as South Africa, but you can also find some growing in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia (and a few other regions around the world). A wine made from Pinotage has been said to have aromas of banana and tropical fruit. Sometimes it has a bit of a nailpolish remover aroma that turns off some people. Two South African winemakers that make a very good pinotage are Fairview (Primo Pinotage) and Saxenburg (Pinotage Private Collection). In the Okanagan, two wineries that produce pinotage are Stoneboat and Lake Breeze. Try it and see what you think. Nico van der Merwe of Saxenburg said at a tasting that I attended that Pinotage is very flexible and recommended trying it with Chinese food. So go ahead and experiment. Sometimes you will get amazing pairings.

Once you enjoy the thrill of trying new grape varietals, you may want to try:
falanghina
viognier
roussane
nebbiolo
negroamaro (one of my favorites. red and full of flavour from Italy)

Enjoy! Feel free to contact me at contact@mywinepal.com with wines you enjoy or would like me to talk about.