Archive for January, 2017

What Role Does the Vessel Play in Winemaking?

January 30th, 2017

grape debate What Role Does the Vessel Play in Winemaking?

Lots of buzz out there these days on what is the preferred vessel to be used for producing wine. Stainless steel and oak continue to lead the way but lots of support is growing for amphora (clay/terracotta), concrete both in vats and egg-shaped, glass, fibreglass, or plastic carboys – well maybe not plastic! The 5th Grape Debate (an educational joint project of @alumniUBC, @dineoutvanfest & @winebcdotcom) was held last week with a lively discussion on the pros and cons of all vessel types. Check back to the UBC site later on for the video presentation of it. Your scribe participated again for the fifth time on the side in support of the more traditional stainless steel and oak being introduced this year with the appropriate music playing of Tony Orlando’s Tie a Yellow Ribbon ’round the Ole Oak Tree!

My opening thoughts were that as a wine consumer like most of the audience I didn’t really care what vessel was used. I compared it to the popcorn that was served on arrival at the event. We aren’t analyzing whether it was air popped or micro-waved aided by more or less butter, or olive oil, caramel or sea salt. The question is “How does it taste”? Stated that I was really from Missouri and you had to show me what worked best. My own experience has been that the wine treasures I have enjoyed from around the world usually have some wood used to provide complexity, improved stability of colour and clarity with benefit of wood tannins, and smoother deeper textures and improved aromatics from controlled slow oxygen infusion. Also provides a lot of subtle seasoning elements from vanilla, coconut, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, caramel and the like. Of course the age of the barrels, their size, their level of toasting and the type of oak are all important. Recalled how Lucien Lemoine using very fine oak with slow toasting from Jupilles forest for all his Burgundies but adapted each year by ordering late to suit the vintage’s cru specific flavour definitions from the grapes. Also in Chablis with lower Ph and higher acidity levels similar to the stats in the BC northern Okanagan extra dimensions can be obtained for the wines from being in used oak with 2012 Christian Moreau Le Clos & Vaillons Cuvee Guy Moreau good examples of this. Poured for tasting in support of my argument the 2013 The Waltz pinot noir Naramata Bench from Foxtrot Vineyards ( as an example of a wine that was improved by 20 months in Francois Freres oak (50% new, 50% second & third use) with malolactic fermentation in cask. Wouldn’t be the same made in concrete or clay!

Lots of good arguments raised on the other side. Stainless steel is inert and can be reductive We argued that concrete is not flexible and can be attacked by the high acidities of the fermenting musts plus are very difficult vessels to keep clean. Terracotta eggs have attracted the interest of Michel Chapoutier and even Screaming Eagle & Harlan. The stable temperature without the need for refrigeration is helpful in the cellar and some wines result in a better mouthfeel. Told the story of my visit last year to Frank Cornellisen on Mt. Etna with his unique terracotta in ground volcanic rock for Magma from Nerello Mascalese that results in an excellent earthy elegant red. Final opinions were divided with most people feeling oak suited cabernet well while gamay prefers a clean fresh vessel. Maybe they do have a better use than just for large clay flower pots.

Have your tried wines made in stainless steel, oak, clay, concrete…? Do you have a preference?

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10 Big Dishes to make your Super Bowl party even better

January 28th, 2017

dishes for the Super Bowl

By Joseph Temple

Beginning in 1967 when over 60,000 fans paid an average ticket price of nine dollars to watch the Kansas City Chiefs face the Green Bay Packers in the first ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game, the Super Bowl has morphed from an experimental football endeavor pitting rival leagues against each other into a must-see extravaganza.  And over the decades as television screens have gotten bigger and bigger, so has this annual spectacle, which is watched in over 100 million American homes.  In fact, the festivities have become so huge that several petitions have been launched to make the following Monday a national holiday.

But how can you talk about the big game without mentioning the pivotal role that food plays?  After all, Super Bowl Sunday represents the second largest day for food consumption in the United States, second to only Thanksgiving.  As one author wrote, “Unlike Thanksgiving … it’s all about football and food.  Thanksgiving may go food, then football, but Super Bowl Sunday is simply eat food, watch football while you eat food, and then eat more food.”

So in honor of the big day, here’s a spin on ten classic dishes that no Super Bowl party can go without.  Enjoy!

Super Bowl snacks chili

1. Chili (for a spin on the classic, skip the habanero and add some spicy smoked sausage)

pulled pork sandiwches superbowl recipe

2. Pulled Pork Sandwiches (for something fun even the kids will like, try slow cooking pork in root beer)

burgers for the superbowl

3. Hamburgers (jazz up a traditional burger by making them into bite sized sliders – try different cheeses too like pepper jack or smoked Gouda for something special)

Pizza bbq super bowl

4. Pizza (for a crispy and smoky crust, grill your favorite pizza on the BBQ)

bean dip recipe for superbowl party

5. Bean Dip (for a healthier alternative, mix in some veggies like fire roasted corn and peppers)

Pigs in a blanket super bowl

6. Pigs in a Blanket (don’t limit yourself to tiny franks – see what your guests think of duck or chicken sausage)

Nachos super bowl

7. Nachos (for a low carb option, replace tortilla chips with zucchini medallions)

Pizza bbq super bowl

8. Chicken Wings (for a more exotic flare, bake in a curry sauce and serve with a cool yogurt dip)

Chicken wings recipe super bowl

9. Meatballs (buns, sauce, cheese,
veggies…presto! A meatball sub bar!)

Super Bowl cake

10. And of course, you can never go wrong with a football shaped cake and team themed cupcakes

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Ask Sid: Where on the wine label does it show whether or not oak has been used?

January 25th, 2017
Ask your question here

Ask Sid: Where on the wine label does it show whether or not oak has been used?

Question: Where on the wine label does it tell you whether or not oak has been used?

Answer: Good idea. Wish it was that simple. Usually it doesn’t tell you. There may be a specific word like unoaked or unwooded used – especially for chardonnay. There may be some helpful information on the back label including descriptors like crisp, fresh or vibrant that probably indicate no oak was used. Even those terms can be confusing though because say wines like Chablis Premier or Grand Cru are in that style but still may see some old oak barrels. It can be a difficult issue somewhat like the sugar one in a wine – though many producers now are providing more information about residual sugar on their back label. It really depends on the overall balance of the wine whether the oak or sugar seems prominent to you. Remember that new oak diminishes with bottle age. Best way is to smell and taste the wine for oak but you raise another good reason why I support ingredient labeling.

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Château Leoville Poyferre St. Julien Vertical

January 23rd, 2017

Bordeaux Leoville Poyferre St. Julien

The name Leoville is a magical one in Bordeaux. The Estate was one big St. Julien property for a long time until being divided in 1840 resulting in the 1855 Classification as three all highly rated Second Growths. Since then over the years there have been ups and downs but Leoville Poyferre (LP) fell behind their well respected neighbours Leoville Las Cases and Leoville Barton. However the modern era starts in 1979 with a young Didier Cuvelier replanting vines with more cabernet sauvignon while expanding vineyard size (48 to 80 hectares) yet lowering yields and raising quality at LP. Today it is clearly recognized as an equal to and in some vintages (like 2009) arguably better than the other two Leoville estates. Last week your scribe was fortunate at a tasting/dinner to update his knowledge on how 9 key older vintages of LP are presently showing:

2005: Dark colour 68% cab sauv. Nose backward somewhat closed and not giving much. However improves with airing and outstanding cassis fruit on the palate with refined tannins & admirable balance. A classic in the making and just needs more time to blossom.

2000: Good depth. Impressive cedar black currant bouquet. Delicious with full rich wonderful weight and sweeter supple textures that should appeal to everyone – even California cabernet aficionados. Drinking on lovely plateau more forwardly than its 2 sister Estates.

1996: Deep still dark. Young solid aromas. Bit brawny perhaps but 70% cab sauv results in a full bodied ripe traditional St. Julien that continues to slowly develop well. Lots there. Promising. No rush.

1995: Much lighter rim. Quite herbal red cranberry notes but nice balance. Good merlot vintage that can be slightly overrated in the Medoc because of the lesser quality of the 4 years from 1991-1994 that preceded it.

1990: Maturing rim. Pure elegance majestic complex perfumed nose! Somewhat similar to 2000 in that spectacular style with a seductive exotic personality. Exquisite lush fruit on a beautiful plateau of enjoyment now. Group favourite.

1986: Dark. Backwardly cellar nose at first but opened more later. Highly thought of by their cellar master on initial release. Harder tannins sterner more abrupt taste. Believe it will get better with cellar patience.

1983: Briary fruity plums yet sound surprisingly drinkable and enjoyable with food. Under rated.

1982: Great anticipation of this vintage. Not pleased with this atypical bottle showing more shoe polish with mint smells than the cigar cedar spices text book St Julien expected. Extract and the kind of smooth polish you like on the palate. Still good. Can be more outstanding.

1975: Inconsistent wine with no Parker rating. Experienced the same. However, this bottle shows very well indeed with open complex mature bouquet plus smooth round rich textures on entry full of life before the drier tannins show on the finish. Has come around much better as shown here.

Have you tried one of the Leoville wines? Do you have a preference among the 3 properties?

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10 Interesting Facts about Mexican Wine

January 20th, 2017

Mexico wine history

By Joseph Temple

For a country known more for its tequila and cervezas, you may be surprised to learn that Mexico also has a rich history when it comes to winemaking. Dating back to the early 16th century when the first vines were planted in the New World, Mexican vintners have endured their fair share of peaks and valleys in order to produce some wines that have gained a very loyal following. And while their estimated annual output of 20 million liters is miniscule compared to their neighbors to the north, it appears that when it comes to quality, Mexico has clearly stepped up its game, moving beyond the watery grapes and poor vintages that were commonly associated with their nation. So to get you up to speed on the 25th largest wine producer in the world, here are ten interesting facts. Gracias!

Hernán Cortés and Mexican wine
1. The first Mexican wines were produced in the early 1500s after Hernán Cortés and his fellow Spanish Conquistadors overthrew the Aztecs. Quickly going through their own supply, he ordered each colonist to plant a minimum of 1000 grapevines.


Casa Madero first winery in Mexico
2. Casa Madero, the first winery in the Americas was established in 1597 in the town of Santa Maria de las Parras and is still in existence to this day.


King Philip II Mexico wine
3. Surpassing Spanish wines in terms of quality while facing stiff competition from France, King Philip II in 1595 ordered that all production stop immediately. After this edict, only the Jesuits and other religious sects made wine on Mexican soil for sacramental purposes.


Molokans Mexico wine
4. In the early 20th century, a group of pacifist immigrants from Russia known as the Molokans arrived in Mexico after escaping the Czar. With their knowledge of agriculture, they were able to revitalize the country’s wine industry in the Guadalupe Valley, which came to a halt during the Mexican Revolution.


Mexico’s National Viticulture Association
By Gabriel Flores Romero from Tecate, México (originally posted to Flickr as viñedos) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5. Serious attempts to make quality wines again began during the 1980s using modern techniques and backed by Mexico’s National Viticulture Association.


Mexico wine growing provinces and areas
By Marrovi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

6. Today, Mexican wine is made in three main areas—in the Baja Peninsula, the states of Coahuila, Durango and Chihuahua that are south of Texas and New Mexico, and in the central states of Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, and Queretaro.


Baja California mountain range Mexico wine
By Tomascastelazo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

7. Of these three, the Baja Peninsula is where more than 90% of all Mexican wine is produced. Divided by the Sierra de Baja California mountain range, all vineyards in the peninsula are located west of these mountains where the climate is similar to the Mediterranean with the Pacific Ocean helping to cool the grapes.


Baja Peninsula Mexico wine
By Jaime Sanchez Diaz (jsanchezd) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

8. Along the Baja Peninsula, Guadalupe Valley is considered to be the Napa Valley of Mexico, being home to approximately half of the all the country’s wineries.


Mexico wine grapes varietals
By Tomas Castelazo (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

9. Many of the grapes grown in Mexico are of either Spanish or French origin. These include syrah, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and chardonnay.


Mexico wine bottle labeling
By Kjetil2006 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

10. With no system of denominations of origin, all bottles simply need to be labeled “Product of Mexico.” (However, some may note the valley it was made in.) Also, the grapes listed may not be listed in the order in which they dominate the blend.


MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing, 2015.
Micallef. (2017, January 7). Wine Stories: Mexico’s Wine Renaissance. Huffington Post. Retrieved from
Newton, James. Mexican Cookbook – Traditional Mexican Recipes: Recetas Mexicanas. Springwood EMedia, 2014.
Palmerlee, Danny. Baja California and Los Cabos. Oakland: Lonely Planet, 2007.

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