Archive for July, 2017

Last Four Years of Okanagan Wines Show Quality With Interesting Vintage Variation

July 31st, 2017

Okanagan British Columbia wine

Winemaker Val Tait and her team at Bench 1775 in Naramata report that they have been busy already this year in the vineyard because “record levels of rainfall in the Spring resulted in explosive vine growth. We have been in the vineyards shoot thinning, tucking and cluster thinning, to get our vines ready for veraison and … so far the vintage is looking amazing, with potential for great ripening. Note that this work in progress vintage is projecting some of the hottest temperatures ever in BC for the first week of August 2017. Exciting to see these vintage variations over the past 4 years.

2014 provided dry consistent temperatures right into October with less heat spikes which has resulted in some really excellent balanced reds worth cellaring. Rhys Pender MW owner of Little Farm Winery in the Similkameen Valley calls it “optimum ripeness.”

2015 was an early bud break (March 30 says Winemaker Severine Pinte at very southerly LaStella & Le Vieux Pin) followed by very hot weather (surpassing 1998) with issues of vine shutdown and an earlier harvest. Lovely rich softer more forwardly drinking quality wines.

2016 reports Winemaker Taylor Whelan of Cedar Creek had their earliest bud break in 25 years in Kelowna but followed by a long cool growing season “led to exceptional ripeness of flavour, and a long slow development of sugars. As a result, we’re seeing beautiful freshness and balance in these wines with good acidity and real intensity of flavour.” Heidi Noble Owner & Winemaker of JoieFarm confirms earliest budbreak ever at her winery on April 13 and despite an early start (bubble first pick started August 22) “saw low pH and lower brix than previous vintages demonstrating that 2016 will express a cooler vintage profile. Overall, expect more freshness, minerality, and better balance than the warmer three preceding vintages.”

My own experiences particularly with the many released whites certainly confirms this. Tasting the excellent different Synchromesh Rieslings from both 2015 & 2016 clearly shows that much fresher vibrancy with outstanding acid balance in the latter vintage compared to the fuller richer more forwardly drinking 2015. Agree with the Cedar Creek assessment who say their Riesling 2016 is different from recent vintages (usually “very lemon-lime profile”) with the extended hang time of the long cool year evolving flavours to more “tangerine/orange spectrum … lower alcohol touch richer and more overtly aromatic.” My overall conclusion is that 2016 whites are superbly well balanced! Buy some and try them. Watch also for the reds that are starting to arrive. Fun to drink this Summer that fresh chilled 100% Malbec Nouveau 2016 from Bench 1775 at 12.3 alcohol using 3 fermentations: carbonic, primary alcoholic, and malolactic. Highly recommend the wines from the 2016 vintage!

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Revisiting the glorious legacy of Constantia Wine

July 29th, 2017

Constantia wyn wine south africa

By Joseph Temple

Way back in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there was one wine that was all the rage. A wine so popular that some of its biggest fans included Frederick the Great of Prussia, King Louis Philippe of the French, and Catherine the Great of Russia. Novelist Jane Austen once remarked that it had magical healing powers that could even cure a broken heart. And Napoleon Bonaparte drank so much of this particular brand while living in exile on the island of Saint Helena that he refused any other wine as he lay on his death bed. With a plethora of endorsements from Europe’s most powerful monarchs and rulers, one might easily think that this wine came from a famous estate in Bordeaux or Burgundy. However, if that was your first guess, you would be wrong; this world famous wine was produced just outside of Cape Town on the estate known as Groot Constantia.

As mentioned in last week’s blog entry, South Africa’s wine industry was born in the 1650s as an outpost to fill the thirsty needs of Dutch sailors as they headed towards the Orient. But with the arrival of French Huguenots, a more sophisticated level of expertise arrived in Cape Town—and just in time as Simon van der Stal, an early Dutch governor had his 1,850 acre estate sold and divided. Named after van der Stal’s wife Constance, the vineyards that became Groot Constantia fell into the hands of a German named Hendrik Cloete, who eventually made a wine that became the Cape’s hottest export.

Planting a combination of Frontignac (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), Pontac and some Chenin Blanc, “Constantia Wyn” became a rare exception amongst the lackluster wines made around the Cape. Although records are sparse and incomplete, some speculate that Cloete left the grapes on the vines long after ripeness, which achieved a shrivelled but not botrytized concentration.

Whatever the secret may have been to Constantia’s success, there was no denying that it was a smash hit from London to Saint Petersburg. In The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson writes, “Their [Constantia’s] fame was never matched by any other New World wines and their height they commanded more prestige, more fabulous prices, and enjoyed more crowned patronage than the most celebrated wines of Europe (with the possible exception of Hungarian Tokaji).” While praised by author Charles Dickens and poet Charles Baudelaire, its most famous customer Napoleon had 297 gallons shipped in wooden casks to his home every single year.

Unfortunately, by the 1860s and into the 1870s, Constantia was no longer in vogue. Due to a number of reasons that included the collapse of the export market for Cape wines and the fact that sweet wines had become unfashionable in Europe, the vineyard fell on hard times. Along with low yields which drove up expenses, by 1885, the estate went bankrupt and was purchased by the government, bringing things to a painful end.

When looking back on the legacy and impact of Constantia, its stunning success proved that wines harvested in the New World could compete with the very best of France. One hundred and fifty years later as remarkable vintages from California, Argentina, and Chile are sold across the world, they all owe a debt of gratitude to this special fortified wine!


Alexander, Patrick. The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine: A Celebration of the History, the Mysteries and the Literary Pleasures of Drinking Wine. Coral Gables: Mango Media Inc., 2017.
Estreicher, Stefan K. Wine: From Neolithic Times to the 21st Century. New York: Algora Publishing, 2006.
James, Tim. Wines of the New South Africa: Tradition and Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.
MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing, 2015.
Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Schoonmaker, Frank. Encyclopedia of Wine. New York: Hastings House, 1964.

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Ask Sid: What is the punt?

July 26th, 2017
Ask your question here

punt wine bottle bottom

Question: What is a punt?

Answer: The word has various meanings from kicking the ball in football to a flat bottomed boat. However with reference to wine it is that indentation at the bottom of the bottle. Some old wine bottles and some heavy newer ones have very deep punts. It helps to collect the sediment and is a useful design for the pressure build-up in sparkling wines. Also is a place to put your thumb when pouring out the contents of the wine bottle.

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La Grand Paulee Highlights Successful 1st Burgundy Week in London

July 24th, 2017

La Grand Paulee Highlights Successful 1st Burgundy Week in London

Your scribe is an enthusiastic supporter of all Paulee events. These always offer a chance to meet winemakers and fellow wine collectors with an opportunity to share a variety of top Burgundies. The original one La Paulee de Meursault is a long exciting Monday lunch as the final part of Les Trois Glorieuses held on the third weekend each November and has become an important international wine event. Your scribe has been fortunate to taste many memorable bottles there. This has inspired many other versions including those hosted by American sommelier Daniel Johnnes as La Paulee de New York & La Paulee de San Francisco. Montreal celebrated their second edition at the end of April this year. Many branches of La Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin hold their own local Paulees including an outstanding yearly one held each August in Vancouver with a specific theme bottle to bring along – this year any vintage of Grand Cru Chablis. So it was with great anticipation to attend June 22, 2017 the first La Grand Paulee at Cabotte Burgundian restaurant 48 Gresham Street in the East End of London to finish up their inaugural Check out the site for more details on the events, the winemakers, and merchants. What a wonderful final evening!

Menu: Confit Rabbit Leg Consomme with Summer Vegetables; Jambon Persille Ham & Parsley Terrine with Capers & Cornichons; Cotswold White “Poulet Gaston Gerard” & Grilled Poitou Asparagus; Selection of French Cheeses from Androuet.

Wines: Beautifully orchestrated by Master Sommeliers Gearoid Devaney & Xavier Rousset. So thrilled to taste so many top Burgundy wines and managed to scrawl short notes on 31 0f them (9 white & 22 red) as they were passed around:

2014 Meursault Les Narvaux Domaine Ballot-Millot Magnum: Fresh lighter bodied stylish very Meursault

2012 Puligny Montrachet Les Referts Louis Jadot 3 Litre: Richer but even fresher this large format & so structured Breed

2002 Puligny Montrachet Les Enseigneres Coche-Dury: Premox issues but still shows some class of top producer

2006 Meursault Coche-Dury: Only an AC wine but so elegant balanced and complex. Arguably the top white for pure class.

1998 Meursault-Charmes Dom. Lafon: Aged surprisingly fresh intense peaches & nuts with refined integrated oak. Wow.

2012 Chassagne-Montrachet Maltroie Bernard Moreau: Stones + tropical + floral combo. Young showing quality. No rush.

1996 Meursault Perrieres Dom. Roulot: Favourite Vineyard & Producer but premox caramel overwhelms so disappoints.

1992 Chablis Valmur Raveneau: So delicious and lively with aged complexity showing outstanding minerality. Classic.

1966 Batard Montrachet Claude Ramonet: Good shape so nutty and rich almost like an old dry Sauternes.

2007 Gevrey Chambertin Le Poissenot Geantet-Pansiot: Solid energetic blackberry fruit from old vines in a lesser year.

1947 Aloxe Corton Charles Vienot: Open enticing bouquet. Aged so well at 70 years for just an AC wine from a super year.

1982 Richebourg Dom. Gros Frere et Soeur: Mature. Weaker year but fragrant charming a bit lean with acidic finish.

2014 Chambertin Clos de Beze Lucien Le Moine: Power & potential. So impressive for aging. Would like to have in cellar.

1985 La Grande Rue Dom. Francois Lamarche: A terroir treat. Mature elegance using low temp ferment. Lovely drinking.

2008 Clos de la Roche Dom. Herve Arlaud Magnum: Shows smoky but well for this tougher year & is still fresh in Mag.

1996 Clos de la Roche Dom. Dujac: Lots of character but more herbal & floral with softer fruit. Easy to like.

1996 Beaune Greves Vignes de L’Enfant Jesus Bouchard: Good juicy fruit coming around now from a harder tannic year.

2006 Vosne Romanee Aux Reignots Dom. du Comte Liger-Belair Magnum: Outstanding delicious plush classy pinot noir!

1999 Vosne Romanee Cuvee Duvault-Blochet: Special treat to try this rare commodity for the first time. DRC revived harvesting young Grand Cru vines separately for this Cuvee in 1999 and this shows pure strawberry fruit with ginger.

1990 Volnay Clos de la Bousse d’Or Dom. La Pousse d’Or Mag: Lighter aromatic graceful 1990 has lovely elegant spice.

1996 Vosne Romanee Les Suchots Confuron-Cotetidot Mag: Classy top 1er cru but stems. Told 1996 but no neck label.

1990 Pommard Hospices de Beaune Raymond Cyrot Louis Jadot: Very attractive Pommard styled. Solid full & rich.

1985 Roumier Grand Cru Mag: Served blind in a decanter. Brown colour + light sediment. Lean but stylish. Told it was a Roumier Grnad Cru. Never saw what it actually was. Doubt a Musigny or Bonnes Mares. Maybe Charmes or Echezeaux?

1966 Clos de Vougeot Charles Noellat: Very pale & cloudy. Drying out but still shows well with some charm. Drink up.

1993 Musigny Comte de Vogue: Always great class edge. Better bottle of the 1991 recently and even more variable 1990.

1985 La Romanee Dom. du Comte Liger-Belair (or Bouchard): Lots of sediment but exquisite! Pure charm & class so harmonious. Never saw the bottle and just told it was La Romanee but not the producer.

1971 Clos de la Roche Armand Rousseau: So intense for 35 years old. Perfumes at a level above most. Long special flavours!

2001 Clos St. Denis Dom. Dujac: Very spicy & distinctive Harder with good acidity. Better with food.

1990 Bonnes Mares Moillard: Some aristocracy but slightly drier coarser soupy styling. Pairs nicely with chicken course.

2001 Bonnes Mares G. Roumier: Deep colour. A bit of VA at first. Needs air to develop in glass. Rich full still backward.

2009 Latricieres Chambertin Dom. Duroche: A baby but love that ripe 2009 fruit with ethereal aromas. Buy this.

Another really marvellous Paulee! Congrats. Please continue with your second one in London next year!

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10 interesting facts about the wines from South Africa

July 22nd, 2017

South African wine facts

By Joseph Temple

No non-European country has a greater winemaking past than the Republic of South Africa.  For hundreds of years after the first Dutch settlers arrived, the country has experienced both highs and lows, emerging as one of the biggest wine producers in the world.  So have a look below at ten interesting facts that have led to this modern era for South African wines.

vineyards in South Africa

1. In 2015, with approximately 3,500 grape growers and 323,000 vineyard acres, South Africa was ranked the eighth world’s largest wine producer.

wine history of South Africa

2. The first vines were planted in the 1650s by Dutch colonists on the Western Cape. Looking to establish an outpost for ships sailing to towards the East Indies, they quickly discovered that native grapes were inferior and asked for French vines to be sent by the Dutch East India Company.

Constantia wine history

3. In 1685, using French Muscat, Simon van der Stel planted vines of what became known as Constantia – the most popular fortified wine of the late eighteenth century, consumed by Russian czars, British monarchs, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

wine history cooperatives South Africa

4. Following the devastation caused by both phylloxera and the Anglo-Boer War, a series of wine cooperatives that wielded enormous power for over a century were established throughout South Africa.

wine during apartheid South Africa

5. Despite over 300 years of winemaking, few in Europe and North America had tasted South African wine due to trade restrictions resulting from the country’s apartheid government. This all changed in the 1990s as democratic reform caused the sanctions to be lifted.

wine Coastal Region Western Cape
By Western_Cape_rural_education_districts [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

6. The finest wines in South Africa are produced in the Coastal Region, located within the Western Cape, one of the Republic’s five major wine zones.

popular wine grapes in South Africa

7. The five popular grape varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, & Syrah.

chenin blanc South Africa

8. For years, Brandy was such an important part of the South African economy that the vast majority of grapes were white. Currently, white grapes represent 55% of all grapes grown in 2011.

5 wine zones geography south african wine

9. Most South African vineyards run parallel to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, benefiting greatly from cooling deep waters and maritime breezes.

issues involving South African wine industry

10. Today, the South African wine industry is experiencing numerous problems that include labor abuses, inefficiencies, diseased vine stocks and outdated equipment.


Clarke, Oz. The History of Wine in 100 Bottles: From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond. London: Pavilion Books, 2015.
James, Tim. Wines of the New South Africa: Tradition and Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.
MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing, 2015.
McCarthy, Ed & Ewing-Mulligan, Mary. Exploring Wine For Dummies. West Sussex: Wiley, 2011.
Parker, Robert M. Parker’s Wine Bargains: The World’s Best Wine Values Under $25. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

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