Archive for April, 2017

Ask Sid: What is TDN in Riesling?

April 12th, 2017
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tdn riesling wine grape petrol

Question: Why and how does the Riesling varietal produce so much TDN (Trimethyl Dihydronapthalene), especially in comparison with other varietals, which, apparently, also produce TDN, but not on the scale of Riesling? What is it about the genetic heritage/chemical reactions of Riesling that give rise to the “petrol” notes in the wine?

Answer: Here are some wise technical insights on this difficult petrol question that have been provided to me by a learned attendee at the Alsace tasting-dinner with top Rieslings I blogged about earlier this week. So today’s answer is really all Ask Mary:

1. TDN is created during the aging process from carotenoid precursors by acid hydrolysis. The initial concentration of precursors in the wine determines the wine’s potential to develop TDN and petrol notes.

2. Factors that increase the potential for TDN include ripe grapes and low yield at harvest, high sun exposure, water stress, ie. no irrigation and hot, dry years, and high acid content.

3. If the “petrol” notes are too pungent/aggressive, the fault is not in the presence of TDN, but due to the fact that the wine is probably out of balance.

4. TDN belongs to the chemical class Benzenoids, and subclass Napthalenes – (think mothballs) –napthalene is made from crude oil or coal tar, and occurs in cigarette smoke, car exhaust, smoke from forest fires…

Olivier Humbrecht (the “god from Alsace” according to the Wine Advocate) says that “off aromas” like petrol can be caused by harvesting under-ripe grapes, machine harvesting, and “reduction” – ie. a reduction in fruit aromas which leaves something that is mistaken as petrol, caused by the winemaking process (airtight environments, stainless steel or old oak, poor use of sulfur, leaving wine on the lees). He says a good winemaker can avoid all that, and that a young Riesling should never smell like petrol. He further states that there is a desirable form of petrol in mature Riesling but the term is ill chosen. Instead, the terms should be “wet stone, minerals, sea air, iodine”. However I would like to note that several of the wines at our Alsace dinner and especially the 2011 Riesling Clos Windsbuhl Zind Humbrecht really did smell and taste of petrol!

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A Flourishing Wine Tasting Group with a Difference

April 10th, 2017

wine tasting for women

The International Wine & Food Society has been forwardly thinking allowing joint memberships which encourage couples to join and attend together at their wine & food events. However some branches around the world are still mainly composed of men. Other associations including Commanderie de Bordeaux, Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin and others for a variety of reasons have been less successful in bringing in women. The result in Vancouver has been the recent formation of two flourishing wine tasting groups aptly named “Steal a Bottle” and “Women and Wine”. Most members are already very wine knowledgeable but always interested in learning more as they and their spouses are keen wine collectors. Their events are usually scheduled to coincide with evenings when those guys are scheduled to be out at another fancy tasting-dinner to which they have not been invited. The latest one last week was hosted at home by my wife Joan (without me) with the usual BYOB and contributing food course based on an Alsace theme. Another tour-de-force tasting of top wines matched with appropriate foods supplied by the attendees. In fact the current buzz is that these informal female events are as good as or even better than the main event for males held at a downtown restaurant. There is a social aspect to these gatherings but also preparation research resulting in intense discussion for nearly four hours on the merits of the wines served, the order of them, and the success of the food pairings. Someone should be writing these special events up!

Here is a brief second-hand overview of the Alsace dinner. 10 wines half of them Riesling and the other half Gewurztraminer nearly all Grand Cru with vintages ranging from 2015 to 2002. I am told the Albert Mann vieille vignes 2012 gewurz furstentum matched so well with crispy flatbread with gorgonzola & pears. The Faller family Domaine Weinbach at Kayserberg used to advantage their old large oak casks for the fresh 2015 Riesling Schlossberg Clos de Capucins paired with another classy Riesling the Clos Windsbuhl 2011 of Zind Humbrecht. Both of those wines were apparently delicious with the traditional tarte flambee with micro greens salad. Main course was the Alsace classic Supreme de Volaille au Riesling et Legumes (chicken braised in Riesling with fresh vegetables) with a magical pair of aged Riesling from the fuller Zind Humbrecht 2003 Herrenweg de Turckheim to the drier Trimbach 2002 Frederic Emile (actually a blend of 2 Grand Cru vineyards Geisberg & Osterberg). For the cheese course the mature spicy flavours of two Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminers 2009 & 2002 was supposed to have been amazing. The apple and berry tart dessert with vanilla ice cream tamed the young sweetish 2014 Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Laurence.

Congrats on this fantastic wine and food menu that seems to deliver the best of Alsace in Vancouver. Really like your concept. Please keep it going and hope someone who actually attends will report these memorable tasting dinners on another blog site.  Do you have a similar unique wine and food tasting group in your city?  Let us know!

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10 interesting facts about the wines from Nova Scotia

April 8th, 2017

nova scotia wine

By Joseph Temple

At just under 600 vineyard acres and producing around 500,000 cases annually, Nova Scotia’s wine industry is relatively small, representing just 2% of all Canadian production.  However, given a number of positive articles and endorsements that have appeared over the past couple of years, it appears that this peninsula is destined for bigger and brighter things!  With its local wine industry earning approximately $196 million dollars per year, expect to see more award-winning vintages from Atlantic Canada’s most promising winemaking province.

wine nova scotia samuel champlain

1. Legend has it that French explorer Samuel de Champlain attempted to plant Nova Scotia’s first grapes in 1611.

Annapolis Valley winemaking Nova Scotia
[GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Nova Scotia had no documented history of winemaking until 1913 when horticulturists from an Agriculture Canada Research Station began experimenting with different grape varieties in the Annapolis Valley, located in the western part of the peninsula.

l'acadie grape nova scotia wine
By Charles Hoffman [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

3. In 1972, a political science professor from California successfully harvested a hybrid grape he called l’Acadie Blanc, which flourished in Nova Scotia due to the cooler climate.  It become the province’s signature varietal.

climate for winemaking in Nova Scotia

4. Mostly surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and home to 5400 lakes, Nova Scotia is considered to be a cool grape growing region.

grapes grown in Nova Scotia
By gLangille [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5. The most successful grapes to be harvested in Nova Scotia are usually white hybrids such as Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, & l’Acadie Blanc.

wine regions Nova Scotia
By James Ellison [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

6. The four main wine growing regions are Annapolis Valley, Gaspereau Valley, South Shore, and the Malagash Peninsula.

prohibition wine nova scotia

7. A major hindrance for the local wine industry is Nova Scotia’s antiquated liquor laws that date back to the Prohibition era.  In fact, today there are 105 dry communities throughout the province.

wineries in Nova Scotia

8. Nova Scotia’s two dozen wineries are all within a few hours’ drive from Halifax, the provincial capital.

sparkling wine in nova scotia

9. In addition to white wines, Nova Scotia is earning a reputation for producing quality sparkling wine, which some have compared to Champagne.

icewine production in Nova Scotia
By Dominic Rivard [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

10. Much like its provincial cousins, Nova Scotia is also home to icewine, which isn’t harvested until after the first frost.


Aspler, Tony & Leslie, Barbara. Canadian Wine for Dummies. Mississauga: John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd., 2000.
Canadian Press. (2017, February 9). Nova Scotia’s bizarre liquor laws that date back to Prohibition are under review. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from
Crosariol, Beppi. (2011, September 6). Surprise! One of Canada’s best wines is from Nova Scotia. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from
Pellechia, Thomas. (2017, April 1). Settled in The Seventeenth Century, Nova Scotia’s Wine Industry Has Just Begun. Forbes. Retrieved from
Schriener, John. The Wines of Canada. London: Octopus Publishing, 2005.

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Ask Sid: Best Style of Tawny Ports?

April 5th, 2017
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styles of tawny port

Question: I have become a big fan of Tawny Ports. What is the best style?

Answer: There really is no best style of tawny ports but it comes down to your subjective personal preference. This was clearly shown again at a Port and Douro Wines Institute (IVDP) tasting I recently attended. Tawny comes in 3 main types: Reserve, Vintage Colheita (with a minimum of 7 years in oak) and those with an indication of age usually 10, 20, 30, or 40 years old. This last type is becoming very popular for interesting current drinking. At my tasting the 10 year old tawny still showed some aged pink colour at the rim with a hint of red fruits combined with figs and dates. Two 20 year olds (which usually offer the best value for the quality) showed completely differently. Graham had a deeper bronze look with woodsy spicy roasted nuts & coffee showing richness & weight in a long finish. The 20 year Sandeman was a much lighter amber colour displaying more citrus orange peel apricot notes with more acidity for freshness. Votes were evenly divided for a preference of the two opposite styles. A 30 year Taylor had a deep brown mahogany look showing the result of a longer oak time with older complex flavours but it is much more expensive than the 20 year old. While I don’t always agree that the best wine is the wine you like best when it comes to tawny ports that definitely is the case.

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Château Léoville Las Cases Vertical

April 3rd, 2017

Château Léoville Las Cases
By BillBl (Flickr: Chateau Leoville Las Cases) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most respected properties in Bordeaux is Château Grand Vin de Léoville du Marquis de Las Cases in St. Julien ranked a second growth in the 1855 Classification. In fact many collectors feel strongly that it is the best of the super seconds even giving the first growths a competitive run in most vintages. The late Michel Delon did a remarkable job during the eighties and nineties to raise the quality of this property starting what is now a common practice of strict selection of the best casks for the Grand Vin. Their second wine Clos du Marquis has developed a loyal following and is now recognized as an excellent St Julien in its own right at a fair price – check out the 2000 vintage! Michel’s son Jean-Hubert carries on this tradition and all their wines remain so consistently elegant.

Your scribe follows this château closely and enjoyed the opportunity to try 9 vintages of same at a dinner vertical on March 28, 2017. Some brief impressions:

2003: Good roasted fruit showing full ripe extraction. A bit atypical for the property in a variable hot vintage. Actually prefer the excellent developing Pauillac Château Duhart-Milon 2003 over this one.

2000: Deep colour with a more classic still somewhat subdued nose expressing some cassis cedar and lead pencil notes. Like the full smooth textures with harmonious balanced pure flavours. Showing well indeed!

1998: Also dark but shows cooler fruit from a vintage that favoured the Right Bank in a fresh lively more herbal style just coming into its own.

1995: Very dark and deep look. Impressive concentration of mineral fruit in a textbook St. Julien style. Tried against the riper sweeter more highly regarded 1996 last year where the 1995 was of at least equal quality. Another excellent showing here where the strict selection for the Grand Vin clearly shows. No rush to consume.

1990: Surprisingly mature paling rim. First wine in vertical that has a compelling bouquet of aged complexity. Charming delicious more forwardly with a softer lower acidity concentrated profile. Popular.

1986: Impressive still young colour. Like the classic very Léoville Las Cases cabernet structure and easy to see why this was a favourite vintage of Michel Delon. Still showing fresh vigour in a drier still tannic mode. Be patient because the future looks very bright for this one.

1985: Interesting to compare with the 1986. This is lighter and showing more herbs from this merlot favoured year. The elegant balance and more supple tannins are lovely for earlier drinking before the younger year. 

1982: Fond history memories of this beauty. Recall trying it blind on initial release in the mid eighties at those exciting Vintner’s Club tastings held every Thursday at Café Bedford 761 Post Street in San Francisco. Just think about this wonderful club concept and foresight of always serving most Thursdays 12 quality wines double blind for the member’s amazing price of $6.50. One of them turned out to be 12 St. Julien wines of the 1982 vintage where your scribe was blown away by the impressive depth of power plus elegance of the 1982 Léoville Las Cases. This was confirmed shortly after that by another tasting in Vancouver by the Commanderie de Bordeaux of 12 wines from 1982 where Las Cases again showed best over Ducru, Lynch Bages, Palmer and worthy others. Been on a continual search for bottles of this wine ever since those tastings and have enjoyed many of the treasures collected. Here coming in with high expectations again the bottle was excellent & magical with extra dimensions but after 35 years there is inevitable bottle variation resulting in this one not being one of the top ones tried in the last 10 years. Not hedonistic enough! Still it can score close to 100 with a well stored best bottle.

1979: High fill bottle with red young colour preserved by the higher acidity. Leaner simpler from not a heralded year but was the surprise of the night. Holding so well and matches a slow roasted leg of lamb course brilliantly. Tried another 1979 last year against the 1978 with more fruit and the still tannic concentrated 1975 both of which showed more depth than 1979. Encouraging nonetheless to see how all these older vintages of Las Cases dependably age.

Have you tried Château Léoville Las Cases and do you have a preferred vintage?

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