Ask Sid: Are the words “Variety” & “Varietal” interchangeable?

September 13th, 2017
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variety varietal wine what's the difference

Question: Confused about the wine speak words of variety or varietal. Are they interchangeable?

Answer: Not really.

“Variety” is best used to describe the grape type: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir etc.

Use the word “varietal” only to describe the wine made from that specific variety: a varietal wine made from the grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot, or Pinot Noir etc. Not used for blends.


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Some Old Red Burgundies Surprise – Especially 1983!

September 11th, 2017

1983 Burgundy wine

Red Burgundy went through some bad vintages in the seventies and eighties. Among the winners 1985 & 1978 are deservedly celebrated but there are lots of mediocre years of large yields produced from under-ripe grapes. Rot was sometimes a problem too as shown by vintages like 1986 and particularly 1983. Your scribe remembers some big tasting-dinners spotlighting the release of 1983 organized in San Francisco mid-eighties by the inimitable Haskell Norman for the Marin County Branch of IWFS. Boy there sure was some dry tannic rotting vegetables of “gout de sec” showing in so many of the young wines. Caveat emptor applied! Tried many different producer’s 1983s over the next 30 odd years and most were quite disappointing as to be expected from the difficult harvest conditions.

However more recently your scribe has been tasting the last few remaining cellared bottles and has been delightfully surprised. It started with the last bottle of 1983 Echezeaux Grand Cru Domaine des Perdix from B. Mugneret-Gouachon. Never much cared for this wine with that typical vintage 1983 characteristic of very light brown colour (looked like one of those now trendy orange wines) plus coarse tannins and high acidity. However now nearly 35 years later the unclean aromas seem to be gone combined more into an earthy aged open bouquet that was quite enticing and the flavour entry was smooth with refreshing finishing acidity. Lacks fruit of course but still interesting and excellent with food. Since then have sampled successfully quite a few Faiveley that are showing quality like the amazing Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru les Saint-Georges & the Clos des Cortons (their Mazis-Chambertin 1986 also is a delight!), elegant clean fined Drouhin Clos de la Roche, and even that rich big tannic Trapet Chambertin seems now somewhat improved. Wish there were more bottles left!

burgundy wine 1983

A key lesson to be learned is that even less celebrated vintages that have structure and acidity can with patience develop into something special and surprise you. Even though experts may tell you your wine is over-the-hill that may not always be the case. Continue to marvel over older bottles of red Burgundy (and wines from other regions) you find that are astonishing and contrary to your expectations. That is a real treat and what makes us all such wine lovers!

What older vintage has surprised you?


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10 back-to-school lunchbox snacks for grown-ups

September 10th, 2017

lunch snack ideas for work

By Joseph Temple

Back to school always brings back memories of falling leaves, freshly sharpened pencils, and of course, brown paper bag lunches.  A thermos of milk and a PB&J has its place, but if you’re looking for something a little more grown-up, try some of these tasty treats.


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1. Fresh salad with a bit of cheese and crunchy fresh bread – add some salmon or chicken
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2. Creamy Greek yogurt with seasonal fruit, nuts, and a touch of honey is perfect for the mid-morning break.
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3. An upgrade for the classic pizza roll-up, spinach, spicy sausage and soft cheese.  When you make it at home, the flavour combinations are limitless.
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4. Fruits and Veggies are always a healthy choice and easily jazzed up with with a bit of dip.  Why not try some chocolatey hazelnut spread mixed with yogurt for berries?
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5. Like a hot lunch?  Bake an extra portion in a smaller container for tomorrow’s lunch.
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6. Kick up a regular sandwich with sprouted grain bread, brie, and a combination chutneys and greens
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7. A left-over vegetable frittata is an simple way to get an afternoon protein boost
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8. Popcorn is a snack favortie!  Why not add some Parmesan cheese or chipotle seasoning for an afternoon pick-me-up?
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9. Cheese and crackers are great for a dinner party, so why not for lunch too?
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10. No matter how old you are, cookies, especially homemade are on just about everybody’s list!
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Ask Sid: Best Sushi Wine?

September 6th, 2017
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Wine pairing sushi

Question: My boyfriend and me are eating more sushi and haven’t found our best wine match yet. Your tip please?

Answer: Yes an ideal match with a variety of sushi can be elusive. Cold beer usually works quite well – especially with the wasabi. Any well chilled Sparkling should also be a safe bet. Bubbles help avoid that sometimes metallic taste you can get with some still white wines and especially bolder reds when matched with fish but usually shellfish. However, there are lots of softer fuller whites that will accentuate the rich buttery textures of tuna. My tip would be to experiment with different Sparkling wines to find the one pairing you enjoy most.


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Paulée: Grand Cru Chablis

September 4th, 2017

Paulée: Grand Cru Chablis
By CocktailSteward (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Vancouver Branch held their Summer Paulée on Sunday August 27, 2017. This exciting annual event is always an educational focus on wines from a specific region of Burgundy. Some good previous spotlights with Puligny Montrachet studied last year, Meursault Perrieres in 2015, Corton Charlemagne in 2014, five Grand Cru whites (Montrachet, Chevalier, Batard, Bienvenues, & Criots) in 2013, and Chassagne Montrachet 1er in 2012. It was back in 2011 that we invited members to bring along Grand Cru Chablis so it was time to re-visit this now higher profile most terroir driven region. Those Kimmeridgian soils of limestone, clay and fossilized oyster shells really make a statement in top Chablis. Lets look briefly at the 7 Grand Cru listed from smallest to largest in vineyard size:

Grenouilles: Smallest just under 10 hectares, rounded slope dominated by Chateau Grenouilles of La Chablisienne (though William Fevre has about 6%) often showing creamy full softer honey style with a touch of earthy orange peel zest. Good young examples tasted from typical 2013 Ch. Grenouilles & dynamic 2012 Les Vaux Sereines.

Preuses: On a gentle slope of deep top soil & compact whiter clay over a limestone base with the lower section more Vaudesir in style. Neighbour of north facing Vaulorent 1er Cru (sub-climat of Fourchaume) is late ripening but an exciting mineral-laden value to look for. Tend to be less aromatic but very rich in body. 2007 William Fevre solid still in top shape.

Blanchot: Eastern extreme with fully south-east facing vineyards (with that special blue clay) enjoying the early morning sun but less in the late afternoon. Often less ripe and accessible younger. Always admire the charm & finesse of Domaine Laroche La Reserve de L’Obedience but it was not tasted here. 2014 Vignaud shows potential. Value the quality of 1er cru neighbour Montee de Tonnerre.

Valmur: Saucer shaped valley with somewhat variable soil depths but clay & limestone over marl producing powerful dense yet elegant steely Chablis that ages so well. 2010 William Fevre was a perfect example of this impressive power and elegance still having room to excel further with more cellaring. 2009 Christian Moreau was full and rich as expected as was Raveneau a rare treat. However 2009 J-M Brocard (often in screw-cap) was ironically corked as was 2006 William Fevre which was among the top wines tasted at 2011 event.

Bougros: North-west corner on a south-east slope and very steep nearer the road at the bottom (often labelled Cote de Bouguerots) has less stones and more deep clay. Variable but sometimes cooler floral crisp lime-grapefruit styling with less austerity for younger accessibility.  Certainly 2008 Jean-Marc Brocard in screw-cap was slightly reductive on opening but cleared with decanting to show well in this style. Two bottles of William Fevre Bougros Cote de Bouguerots 2008 were richer more saline with real depth while their 2005 one of the best in 2011 was now quite soft and mature.

Vaudesir: Ampitheatre protected from winds of double exposure with northern part full south facing and southern portion more south-west but steep on less calcareous soils but more clay & marl resulting in citrus complex minerals elegant classy wines. Also where the separate “eighth” Grand Cru “Moutonne” a 2.35 hectare monopole of Domaine Long-Depaquit is 95% situated (with 5% in Les Preuses). Fresh young elegant examples from 2014 Louis Michel and 2012 Domaine des Malandes needing more age.

Les Clos: By far the largest at just under 26 hectares. Stones plus white clay (very little marl) with dense limestone just 80 centimetres below the surface giving that special mineral firm edge to this Chablis. Amazing combination of generous power with consistent balance that allows Les Clos to age so remarkably. A couple bottles of 2010 Christian Moreau already are so delicious with that rich powerful depth of flavour but no rush to open them because the young underlying acidity balance means you need patience to wait for more complexity still to come. Their 2012 and 2014 Les Clos also are both so outstanding so drink the 2011 first. In fact all the Les Clos showed well from an austere 2014 Pinson & young 2013 Domaine Dampt, 2009s forwardly with Domaine Billaud-Simon quite earthy ripe but a magnum of Faiveley really shone brightly as so delicious drinking right now, 2007 Domaine Vocoret & Fevre were solid bottles as was stylish 2005 Christian Moreau.

Your scribe was requested to comment on his impressions of the about 40 different Chablis tasted at this Paulee. Really appreciated the opportunity to compare this many wines in three different ways: by same vineyard, by same producer, and by same vintage. Some of the comments are set out in this posting. Must say the even vintages are showing good consistent quality: 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008. The top 2 wines may have been from that intense 2010 vintage. However special terroir-driven Chablis can be found in every vintage. Premier cru can be excellent value for money too. Always look for Raveneau (a 2004 Butteaux is still so youthful)  & Rene & Vincent Dauvissat (a 2002 La Forest was particularly sublime) as top producers. Some short crops from the recent vintages so buy your Chablis early on first release.

Do you have a favourite Chablis Cru?


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