Archive for May, 2016

Ask Sid: Chablis Vintages

May 18th, 2016
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

Ask Sid: Chablis Vintages
By jenny downing [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: I know you like the top vineyards in Chablis Sid so what is your favorite recent vintage there?

Answer: Yes I continue to admire that distinct terroir shown by some top Premier Cru & most Grand Cru Chablis vineyards. The body of Valmur on clay soils, more delicate floral notes of Vaudesir on limestone and the amazing overall structure with mineral complexity of Les Clos are all Chablis to be respected. There have been increasing frost and hail issues there with variable weather conditions impacting the harvested grapes but some excellent vintages have been produced. My favourite is still 2010 which magically combines a ripe smaller crop of rare intensity combined with a wonderful balanced acidity perfect for longer aging. My next choice as a close runner-up would be 2012. The 2011s are more open forwardly and softer in style for earlier drinking as are the opulent 2009s. 2013 is a less consistent year but some very good wines were produced while 2014 are looking even more promising. Still recommend cellaring some 2010 and 2012.

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Burgundy Wines La Paulee

May 16th, 2016

Burgundy Wines La Paulee

La Paulee de Meursault started back in the 1920s and now is a well established annual lunch event ending Les Trois Glorieuses including the Hospices de Beaune Auction & Clos de Vougeot formal dinner on the 3rd weekend of November where winemakers and guests bring choice bottles to share. Sommelier Daniel Johnnes alternates yearly a similarly focused La Paulee de New York & La Paulee de San Francisco (

The Sous-Commanderie de Vancouver of Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin hosted May 5-7, 2016 the Grand Conseil North America of over 200 members so well organized by Chairman Doug Loughran & Grand Senechal Vancouver Ritch Younger and their hard working committees. So many highlights including UBC Wine Library Tour and Lecture, Lunches, Dinners, 24 at home hosted dinners with the same choice wines including a 5 vintage vertical of Pommard Grand Epenots (97, 98, 99, 01, 02) from Michel Gaunoux, and of course La Paulee.

So many generous Tastevin members bringing a remarkable selection of top Burgundy to sample at this Paulee. Among the top whites I tried were a fresh young lemony austere magnum of 2013 Meursault Les Narvaux from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, full forwardly 2009 Chevalier-Montrachet Demoiselles Louis Latour, a complex rich 2006 Chablis Valmur Grand Cru from Raveneau, a surprisingly vibrant mineral loaded 2001 Meursault-Perrieres Domaine Lafon, and a superbly maturing hazelnut 1999 Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet from Domaine Leflaive. Reds were a diverse lot with prime interest for me in an excellent 2005 Savigny-Les-Beaune Les Peuillets Pavelot (almost that similar aged vines depth of La Dominode) much better than lighter 2005 Les Guettes bottle, more classy 2005 Clos de la Roche Nicolas Potel, surprising big fruit of 2002 Mazis-Chambertin Hospices de Beaune Cuvee Madeleine Collignon Bouchard Pere, and mature gamey 1985 Latricieres-Chambertin Louis Trapet. What a tasting opportunity!

Some other Burgundy insights confirmed this weekend:

-Extensive comparison of 2006 & 2007 white Burgundies from different terroirs Corton Charlemagne, Batard, Chevalier, Montrachet and producers like Bouchard Pere, Remoissenet, and Lucien Le Moine generally favoured the fresher more vibrant 2007 vintage (and 2008) over the sometimes pre-moxed 2006s.

-Various vintages of Musigny Comte de Vogue showed early promising 1990 somewhat bottle variable while 1991 is on a splendid elegant consistent plateau now and 1988 with still higher acidity and tannins.

-Older Red Burgundy out of often hard to find Grand Format sizes can be delightfully fresh – magnums & jeroboams of Clos Vougeot Remossenet 1962 & 1964.

-Both white & red Burgundy does not always develop in a linear progression and there are always surprise bottles to experience.

Recommend you plan your own BYOB Paulee!

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10 interesting facts about Japanese wine

May 13th, 2016

10 interesting facts about Japanese wine

By Joseph Temple

With Tokyo being home to an unprecedented 226 Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s safe to say that Japan is, as wine writer Karen MacNeil states, “one of the most gastronomically sophisticated countries in the world.” Whether it’s a traditional kaiseki meal or European inspired dishes, the Japanese have without question turned their country into a culinary mecca. And when it comes to wine, the Land of the Rising Sun continues to be Asia’s most important market for exporters.

Helping to spark this interest was Shinya Tasaki who, in 1995, became the first Japanese winner of the Sommelier World Championship.  Since then, a plethora of wine schools combined with a taste for the finer things in life has caused wine consumption to more than double from 1990 to 2012. But in addition to importing Bordeaux and Burgundy, domestic labels represented nearly a third of all Japanese wine sales in 2010.

Given the volcanoes, monsoons and its high population density, it’s amazing that Japan even has a domestic wine industry beyond rice-based saké. Experiencing intense humidity during the summer months along with torrential downpours and Siberian winds, the 6,852 islands of this archipelago nation make it one of the least hospitable places in the world for practicing viticulture. Despite this, local vintners have continued to defy the odds, carving out a niche market for oenophiles. So have a look below at ten quick facts that will get you up to speed on this proud nation’s wine heritage.

Japan's first wines
1. It is believed that Jesuit missionaries from Portugal gave Japan its first wines in the 16th century as gifts to the feudal lords of Kyushu.


Meiji Restoration and Japanese wine
2. Japan’s modern wine industry began in the 1860s during the Meiji Restoration where the country opened itself up to western influences.


Grapes used in Japanese vineyards
3. The first plantings in the late 19th century were mostly Vitis labrusca varieties brought over from the United States that included Delaware and Niagara grapes.

How many acres are dedicated to vineyards in Japan
By Sophie Jacquin (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Today, Japan ranks 47th in the world for vineyard land with approximately 45,000 acres of vines.


humidity Japan vineyard wine
5. Humid weather makes it very difficult to grow vinifera grapes in Japan.

Koshu wine Japan
By genta_hgr (Grape) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

6. However, one of Japan’s most successful varieties is koshu, a humidity tolerant Vitis vinifera white grape with a pinkish hue.

Japanese wine grapes
By jetalone [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

7. Another popular grape is “Muscat Bailey A” – a red wine hybrid created by Zenbai Kawakami by combining Bailey and Muscat Hamburg grapes together.


Winemaking in Japan
8. Most vines in Japan are planted on the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido.

Japanese vineyards

9. Small and independent growers own most of Japans’ vineyards with the average vineyard size being less than 1.2 acres.

Japanese wine growing techniques
By Aw1805 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

10. To achieve maximum sun exposure, vintners will use various techniques like planting their vines on steep mountain terraces or constructing trellises to keep the grapes as high as 10 feet.


Bunting, Chris. Drinking Japan: A Guide to Japan’s Best Drinks and Drinking Establishments. North Clarendon: Tuttle Publishing, 2014.
Brostrom, Geralyn G. & Brostrom, Jack. The Business of Wine: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2008.
MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing, 2015.
Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

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Ask Sid: Lychee?

May 11th, 2016
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

lychee aromas wine

Question: A friend is excited about a recent wine she ordered as being so much like fresh lychee fruit. What is she talking about?

Answer: Descriptive wine terms can be quite subjective. Wine drinkers often have different experiences on tasting the very same wine. However some wines have a distinctive signature. Lychee or litchi is a Chinese fruit with unique fragrant honey sweet aromas almost like smelling a really spicy rose. It is a good characteristic to remember for identifying in a blind tasting a wine made from the gewürztraminer grape variety. I believe your friend likes gewürztraminer wines!

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Evolution of Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand

May 9th, 2016

Evolution of Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand

May 6, 2016 was Sauvignon Blanc Day. So what? Well it is worth celebrating the progress of this variety in New Zealand. Producers describe their wine using terms such as “pungently aromatic with undertones of red bell pepper, gooseberry, kiwifruit, passion fruit, tropical fruit overtones, cut grass, tomato stalks, grapefruit or limes.” Certainly it is the “explosive varietal that awoke the world to intense, expressive, fruit driven New Zealand wines” but is evolving now into something more.

Latest stats show New Zealand with 35,463 hectares planted of which sauvignon blanc leads at 20,497 followed by pinot noir at 5,514, chardonnay is popular with three other emerging aromatics pinot gris 2422, riesling 767, and gewürztraminer 277. The South Island Marlborough is by far the largest sauvignon blanc region at 18,234 hectares followed way back at 907 by Hawke’s Bay on the North Island. There are now over 700 wineries with over 94% under sustainable programs with 90% of total production being exported. They proudly declare there are only 4.5 million people but 39 million sheep!

A Sauvignon Blanc Revealed Masterclass showed 17 wines with differing profiles of regional & stylistic diversity now some 40 plus years since those initial plantings made in 1973 by Montana:

Villa Maria Private Bin Lightly Sparkling 2015 – They claim using Charmat (like Prosecco) rather than methode champenoise (Champagne) helps preserve the lime fruit vitality of the variety. Only 5.2 sugar RS.

Forrest The Doctors’ Marlborough 2015 (lower alcohol) – Experimentation and innovative vineyard practices result in a very drinkable modest 9.5 alcohol. High acid + 8.5 RS. A good emerging trend.

Te Mania Nelson 2015 – Higher rainfall warm days cool nights in Nelson shows more richness from the clay soils & certified organic.

Palliser Estate Martinborough 2015 – Excellent aromatics from the lees aging.

Te Pa Marlborough 2015 – Grapefruit & lime zest with some tropical notes has refreshing finish.

Rapaura Springs Reserve Marlborough 2015 – Use of “Reserve” name should be discouraged or better defined but here means extra time on the lees. Lovely intense passion fruit.

Whitehaven Greg Marlborough (Awateere Valley) 2015 – Lower fermentation temperatures & less skin contact make for a crisp good acidity match for shellfish.

Loveblock Marlborough (Awatere Valley) 2014 – Limestone soil helps lower the phH to 3.08 for balance.

Ara Single Estate Marlborough (Waihopai Valley, Southern Valleys) 2015 – One site using both early & late picking.

Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough (Southern Valleys) 2015 – Classic cool Marlborough fruit from driest vintage in Marlborough in 85 years.

Tiki Estate Marlborough (Upper Wairau) 2015 – Use yeasts which enhance variety definition.

Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Marlborough (Lower Wairau) 2015 – Parcel identified by winemaker blind tasting as best batch produced “Reserve”.

Stoneleigh Wild Valley Marlborough (Wild Ferment) 2015 – 100% wild yeast & 10% in older oak. Delicious.

Greywacke Wild Marlborough 2013Kevin Judd of Cloudy Bay fame produces a complex wine. Stylish.

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon Waipara Valley 2013 –  Semillon in older French oak adds to this blend all 8 months sur lie.

Te Mata Estate Cape Crest Hawke’s Bay 2014 – Unique 87% sauvignon blanc with 10% semillon & 3% sauvignon gris from mature 35 year old vineyards and 1/3 new oak impressive. Polished. Reminds me a bit of the outstanding Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte (with a similar grape mix) at a very reasonable price.

Jules Taylor Late Harvest Marlborough 2015 – Picked mid-May. Sweeter 168 g/l RS with total acidity 8.24.

The volume of New Zealand sauvignon blanc exports continues to increase and the future looks bright.

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