Archive for January, 2021

Ask Sid: Is there a good reference book on Rhone Valley wines?

January 27th, 2021
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Question: Reference work on Rhone wines?

Answer: Yes – a most topical question. Your scribe likes the website with detailed information on the history, grape varieties, and appellations of the Rhone Valley with useful maps. The old standard reference books from John Livingstone-Learmonth & Robert Parker among others need updating. A brand new book on Wines of the Rhone by Matt Walls $39.95 US @mrmattwalls is just out published January 25, 2021 covering all the appellations and available through The Classic Wine Library – which also has other excellent wine publications. Check it out. 

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January 25th, 2021

Most of us now are quite familiar with some good wine values coming from South America. Certainly Argentina (unique Malbec) and Chile (unique Carmenere) have established themselves as interesting wine regions growing many grape varieties with diverse styles. Even Brazil (high altitude Syrah) and Uruguay (Tannat) are working on making a statement about unequalled wines of quality. This past decade showed Bolivia trying to get into the game as well. Many articles published in the Economist to the Guardian have spotlighted the potential of this wine region. Another important factor contributing to this emergence is due to climate change resulting in the seeking out everywhere of higher elevation vineyards. We all know about these from the high altitude regions like Mendoza (in Tupungato) Argentina which help to extend the growing season and preserve the natural acidity in the grapes. Bolivia has this desired overall high altitude in spades with a wine history that dates back to the 16th century but is being revived again just recently. The Wines of Bolivia website shows wines such as 100% Cabernet Franc “pleasant and round” & 100% Tannat “elegant tannins that balance the body of this powerful, noble and sincere wine” both from Aranjuez the first Bolivian winery to win an international gold medal for their Tannat 2013. Also suggest you check out the Chufly website who are bringing Bolivian wines to America. They have set out some interesting background information on this region. There is a current article of January 20 on Conde Nast Traveler linked here by Megan Spurrell on “Why Bolivia Should Be Your Next Wine Destination – And how you can start drinking Bolivian wine right now.” Your scribe has tried a couple of them but am intrigued to explore them further. Would appreciate anyone who knows better about Bolivian wines to chime in with their experiences. Yet another wine region to monitor.

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Ask Sid: The first organic & biodynamic wine vineyard in New Zealand?

January 20th, 2021
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Question: Which winegrowers established the first organic and biodynamic vineyards in New Zealand?

Answer: Believed to be Annie & James Millton with their eponymous Millton Vineyard established in 1984 with their first plantings from 1969. They are situate on the banks of the Te Arai river on the East coast of the North Island with a Gisborne appellation in New Zealand.

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January 18th, 2021

Over the decades your scribe has developed a real admiration for Wynns Cabernet from their Coonawarra Estate on Terra Rossa “red earth” soils in Australia. Their Black Label (first appeared as such on the 1965 vintage) wine is an amazing story of consistency from the first one produced in 1954 to the current release of 2018 being the 63rd one. Started to follow them in the seventies and first visited some 40 years ago in 1980 during our trip to the IWFS Australian Festival. Collected many vintages since then and so impressed with the complexity and longevity of cellared bottles like their 1976 Jimmy Watson Trophy winner at 12 alcohol & outstanding 1986 at 12.9. All this came rushing back to me last week while enjoying a bottle of their 58th vintage of 2013 in screw-cap (introduced first from the 2006 vintage) over a dinner of wild widgeon with rice & peas. Hope followers of this Blog took my recommendation here on January 4, 2016 to buy this wine as it is just starting to show development on a wonderful long plateau of graceful aging. Marvel at how winemaker Sue Hodder and her talented team are able to present such intense fruit showing that distinctive Coonawarra minty terroir always at such an easy drinkable elegant balanced 13.5 alcohol so complementary to food. Amazing concentration at lower alcohol levels. How do they do it?

Sue Hodder presented a brilliant Wynn’s wine seminar on February 26, 2015 during the Vancouver International Wine Festival. She spoke about the history of the winery with first plantings back in 1891 and completing their first building in 1896 with this unique strip of land there only 21 kilometres long & 2 km wide. Her focus was mainly on the 2010 vintage using only 20-25% top fruit for Black Label from vineyards over 35 years old showing that typical  “blackberry dark cherry black olive licorice violets tobacco oak and cigar box”. Sue also showed us differences between Coonawarra single vineyards with best aromatics coming from a southern section “Messenger” (4C cooler than Western Australia & Tasmania) compared to the bigger more tannic muscular but only 7 km away “Alex 88” (Alexanders Block planted in 1988) – often used in their iconic “John Riddoch” label. Treat yourself to a bottle of Wynns Black Label to get this memorable value wine experience.

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Ask Sid: A good value widely available all purpose white wine?

January 6th, 2021
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Question: Do you know a good valued widely available all purpose white wine?

Answer: What a question. So many wines from around the world competing for your selection. Difficult to name just one white among the diverse grape varieties and blends. My suggestion would be to try quite a few different examples to find out what style you actually prefer. One good choice to start with might be a Riesling. So many excellent regions for Riesling including classic Germany & Alsace, expanding Austria vineyards, worth-discovering the USA (Washington State & Finger Lakes region of New York State), underrated from Canada (both Ontario & BC), and New Zealand. You might enjoy the drier style from either the Clare or Eden Valley in Australia. OK if your scribe has to suggest one that might fit the bill – how about Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling. You can find 2017, 2018, or 2019 in the marketplace all in screw-cap showing fresh structured dryish fragrant citrus-lime with tropical notes. Useful both as an aperitif or with a variety of food dishes. As it ages in bottle it will keep developing more petrol honey toasty notes of complexity that also are fun to monitor. A rather delicious choice.

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