IWFS Vancouver remains active holding virtual events focused on wine education

February 8th, 2021

Hope other branches of IWFS are doing as good a job as Vancouver has in reaching out currently to members. In these difficult times during the prolonged pandemic it is impossible to get together as usual so it has become necessary to pivot to more innovative ideas. Virtual on-line webinars are working well in bringing members together socially and continuing everyone’s wine education. Another successful one was held on Monday January 25, 2021 well organized by Jim & Milena Robertson and dependable host Larry Burr with reds from around the world – anything except cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or pinot noir. Thanks for the Zoom photos Milena.

Your scribe requested a short note on this diverse wine tasting from President Jim Robertson who provided this summary:

“Red, Red Wine” but without Neil Diamond and not enough to go to our head! But the Vancouver Chapter of the IWFS did enjoy an evening of red wines from around the world. Following virtual events featuring pinot noir and sparkling wines, the theme for the first virtual tasting of 2021 was “red wines from around the world” – but NOT cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir. And what an event it turned out to be! The evening featured selections by our members of wines from 9 different countries and 13 different wine regions.

Our Zoom tasting was introduced by host Larry Burr with further information during the evening from the encyclopedic mind of Sid Cross as each member introduced their selected wine, starting with two South American wines, Ruth Grierson’s 2017 Garzon Tannat Reserve and Heb and Shirley Hebenton’s 2018 Dona Paula Malbec from Argentina. We moved across the Atlantic to the Old World with an unusual but very tasty 2017 Frappato from up-and-coming Sicilian producer Ariane Occipinti from Jim and Milena Robertson followed by Michael and Beth Noble’s 2017 Azelia Dolcetto. Judy Maxwell enjoyed a 2010 and also a 2016 Barolo while her Hawaiian guest came back with a 2011 Croix Canon. Alvin Nirenberg and Kim Mead travelled to Slovenia for a 2011 Jamsek Barbera, an interesting wine but not well-loved and Drs. Dorothy Janzen and Bob Rothwell delighted in a 1967 Jaboulet Chateauneuf du Pape, still showing well with some nicely aged fruit. Two more CNPs showed up, a tasty 2006 Le Vieux Donjon from Jim and Karen Esplen and from Vince and Zellie Tan a 2000 Chateau Beaucastel, which showed perfectly.

From the Iberian peninsula, Roy and Christine Gould presented a 2008 Sabor Real Tempranillo and Bob Sinclair and Wendy Taylor enjoyed a Spanish 2012 Cartioxa Scala Dei; moving west, Sid and Joan Cross produced a bottle of 2008 Periquita Superiore Castelao from Portugal. Coming back to north America, Larry and Maggie Burr were enjoying a 2010 Girard Petite Syrah and to finish up, back in good old British Columbia, Ted and Dorothy Chiasson finished up their 2012 Hester Creek Cabernet franc and Nick and Lesley Wright rounded out the evening with a 2017 Syrah from Painted Rock.

The evening was a revelation to some, with several unusual but delicious wines being presented and our special thanks go to Larry Burr for organizing and hosting our Zoom meeting, to Sid Cross for his informative comments and to Milena Robertson for ensuring a proper record of the evening.

This meeting format is recommended with each member having the opportunity to present their chosen wine plus providing detailed background information on it and how it tasted. Many interesting new wines to consider and several memorable highlights to investigate further. One was an old favourite, the 1967 Chateauneuf du Pape Les Cedres from Jaboulet. This is not as well known as their iconic plot of Hermitage La Chapelle and made from purchased grapes. However 1967 was from a special lot of all old vines obtained from Chateau de la Nerthe and was still going strong at over 50 years old! Another mostly unknown top wine worth discovering was our 2008 Periquita Superyor from the Peninsula de Setubal in Portugal by Jose Maria Da Fonseca. Periquita has become a well known inexpensive commercial brand but this Superyor was something remarkable indeed. Produced from 92% Castelao Frances (about 35 year old vines) with 6% cabernet sauvignon and 2% tinta francisca grown on a clay-limestone soil (rather than their usual sand) with some stalks used it was foot trodden in small lagares. It also spent 14 months in small new French oak casks resulting in 9100 litres put in amazing deep punt bottles in May 2010 at an earthy elegant 13.5 alcohol. High marks deserved for this unique top quality wine!

We would really enjoy hearing from you in the comments below as to what innovative new branch events you have experienced over this past year. Please let us know.

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Ask Sid: What is fining & racking of wine and why do it?

February 3rd, 2021
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Question: What is a simple explanation of fining & racking during wine making and why do it?

Answer: Some particles during wine production are not heavy enough to fall out of the wine by itself and remain suspended – such as very small dead yeast cells. This “cloudiness” can be cleared making the wine look brighter if the wine is fined by adding a substance (like egg whites, gelatine, isinglass, or bentonite) to precipitate them out so that the wine can then be racked (separation of the wine from the sediment) into another container. Some producers are against fining but even more are against filtering in the belief that it might strip essential aromas, colour, and flavours from the final wine.

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February 1st, 2021

One benefit of this prolonged lock down has been the opportunity for those with wine cellars to reorganize inventory and find surprising bottles. Over the past months your scribe has enjoyed some glorious old reds from around the world. This also is an appropriate time to reassess vintages and determine those approaching best drinkability and those on the decline. Lots of help with this project from articles such as the one on the weekend by Jancis Robinson in the Financial Post on “Which red wine vintages to drink now”. Jancis states she “will write about white wines next week.” Generally though there is some pressure from sellers to promote newly released vintages plus the more forwardly riper style of most wines resulting from climate change is all resulting in consumption of younger wines. Hard to believe her comment on red Burgundy that  “soft early-maturing 2017 is often the vintage of choice.” There are still some older classics available in  wine stores and especially at auction but these are dominated by reds. What about whites? Most consumers are looking for fresh and vibrant from their whites with hopefully some signature of place. Concerns still continue about pre-mox and bad storage of older whites.  

Pre-Covid it used to be fun to serve our dinner guests the same white wine (often Burgundy) from the same producer both blind one younger and the other several decades old. This usually resulted in a polarization of views with some extolling the merits of the young fresh wine but finding the other one with more colour & honey notes rather too old. Others found the newer one rather undeveloped & acidic but appreciated the smooth rich complex character of the mature wine. This always developed into some spirited conversations around the table based on the personal preferences of the taster. Your scribe tends to enjoy both for those different reasons and depending on the food course. Older is of course much more risky with bottle variability. You don’t want oxidation or too much maderization. Chenin Blanc is a more reliable long aging variety than Chardonnay because of the high acidity.

Last week we decided to study our last bottles from mainly the 1986 vintage (and one 1952) over 4 dinners. The wines were:

1. 1986 Savennieres Chateau de Chamboureau 12.5
2. 1986 Bienvenues Batard Montrachet Louis Latour 13.3
3. 1986 Corton-Charlemagne Domaine Thomas-Moillard 14
4. 1952 Corton-Charlemagne Caves De La Reine Pedauque 12.5 

The food was mainly fresh Dungeness crab but some steelhead salmon and chicken were paired as well. It brought back fond memories of the London Wine Trade Fair as Chair of the Wines Committee IWFS (with John Avery, Clive Coates and others) discussing the differences of 1985 vs 1986 white Burgundy. Sometimes issues of botrytis arose especially with 1986 – like Meursault Poruzots Francois Jobard. No botrytis showing in these bottles. We lucked in as all 4 were splendidly interesting and paired so well with food. The rich old chards paired to crab was a match made in heaven with the matching rich smooth sweetness of both (though 2010 Chablis Les Clos Christian Moreau works well in a different way too). The aged chenin blanc provided better structured lift for the fish. Lovely surprise not having to open an insurance standby younger vintage bottle at any of these 4 dinners. Better showing than even we had anticipated. Seek out a very old dry white wine for a new educational experience. Can be worth the search.

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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 vins-rhone.com 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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