Many Valuable Insights Learned At 41st Vancouver International Wine Festival

March 4th, 2019

Another success for Canada’s premier wine show at the 41st Vancouver International Wine Festival (@VanWineFest & #VIWF) February 23 to March 3, 2019 featuring 160 wineries from 16 countries each with a representative winery principal in attendance. Many tasting events, seminars, trade day conferences, lunches, dinners, and fund raising Bacchanalia Dinner + Auction. Almost 1500 wines to try and taste with the theme region this year being 53 California wineries. Your scribe has an endurance record of actively participating in all 41 of these Festivals. Great memories. Remember well that first one back in February 1979 featuring only the Robert Mondavi winery with Michael Mondavi leading a component solutions tasting of acids, tannins, and other important elements followed by barrel samples of the 1978 vintage matched with their 1977 Fume Blanc, 1976 Pinot Noir, and 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon. Fun to reminisce about those while tasting the same varieties but from 2017 Fume Blanc and 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon 40 years later with winemaker Genevieve Janssens & Mark de Vere MW. Even better wines now!

So many wine (and food) educational opportunities to be explored every year. Kept busy trying to fit in seminars featuring insightful comments from winery principals on panels so ably moderated by local wine experts including always outstanding presenter Anthony Gismondi, James Nevison, Mark Shipway, and dynamo DJ Kearney so well deserving of the 2019 Spirited Industry Professional Award. Out-of-town stars bring a different perspective and two of the best this year were wine writers Paul Wagner & Jon Bonne. A brief summary of some of their words of wisdom:

Paul Wagner moderated an intriguing “Pinot’s Siren Call of Seduction” of 9 different pinot noirs. He opened his delightful seminar presenting The Adolescent Bacchus painting of over 500 years old from the Italian Caravaggio holding a large wine glass appropriate for this variety as his inspiration. He cleverly challenged each of the winery principals for their own individual creative influence for making top quality pinot noir. Here is a brief summary but you had to be there to experience it all:

1. Matt Dumayne winemaker Free Form from Okanagan Crush Pad: Respect for the land especially that big Rock on the property there.

2. Darryl Brooker president Mission Hill Family Estate: Greyhound Races always chasing the rabbit but the key challenge of never quite catching it.

3. Ross Baker winemaker Quails’ Gate Winery: Passion!

4. Jean-Charles Boisset Proprietor Boisset Collection: a unique complex Birth of Venus painting of Venus de Milo he drew and someone else painted based on his wife Gina Gallo – a real toast to femininity!

5. Shirley Brooks VP Sales & Marketing Elk Cove Vineyards Oregon: Love of underwater diving with an internal journey hearing myself breathing but sharing the fascinating experience with other divers.

6. Thomas Price MS National Wine Educator Jackson Family of Wines: All about Layers using a Prince song “Forever in My Life” video to demo.

7. Randy Fabian Sales Manager Americas Yealands Family Wines: Ocean & cold winds of New Zealand vineyard in the middle of nowhere for something different.

8. Justin Seidenfeld Director of Winemaking Rodney Strong Vineyards: Collector of old unique watches of 1300 components requiring precise hand work and lens like quality pinot noir.

9. Scott Kozel VP Premium Winemaking Gallo Signature Series: Lilith 1994 sculpture by Kiki Smith provides comfort but discomfort up close with imperfections like uncomfortable moments of pinot noir.

Keynote Speaker Jon Bonne played an important role including an interesting Wine Industry Symposium on Canada’s Place in Key Wine Markets plus other events. Yet another insightful delivery was his “Lessons From California” most helpful for other wine regions seeking to grow – including of course British Columbia now at just about 11000 acres with 370 wineries of which 280 are grape using. Jon suggested it is now a glorious time perhaps the best ever for California wines and he wouldn’t have said so 10 years ago as he found the wines then with big flavours but high alcohol not suiting his European palate. He believes the new young winemakers emerging don’t like that style either with more change coming. 4 important lessons:

A. With the generational shift coming there is a shared set of values that needs to show a sense of place in their wines and not just high scores. California grew and will continue to grow by small producers taking a risk.

B. Consumers embrace quickly what is new and cool with social media such as Instagram showing a rapid rate of change in the global wine market of what people are actually drinking.

C. Never place all your bets on the obvious. BC doesn’t want or need 280 BC wineries all making Chardonnay. Go for the 7% solution of new varieties like Gruner Veltliner in Santa Barbara County or Albarino, Verdelho, or Dolcetto. Take risks for something unique. Don’t want 600 Washington State Syrahs using the same winemaking techniques.

D. Innovation takes time searching for answers that don’t come quickly. Pointed out the long term path of success by Ridge & Calera who persevered. Never let anyone tell you your wine has to be a certain way as there is always room to experiment.

Highly recommend you plan to attend @VanWineFest #VIWF2020 for the 42nd edition running from Saturday February 22 to Sunday March 1, 2020 in Vancouver. Put it in your diaries now. Plan to travel to BC for your vacation at that time. What an opportunity to try some amazing wines from Alsace, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Jura, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire, Provence, Rhone, South-West France, and many more. Also a most interesting way to learn some more valuable insights into the fascinating world of wine and food. Enjoy.


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I Have Seen The Future: Examining The Culinary Impact Of The 1939/40 World’s Fair

March 3rd, 2019

By Joseph Temple

On April 30, 1939, with two oceans separating this utopia from a brutal and bloody war that was just on the horizon, Queens, New York played host to the 1939/40 World’s Fair – one of the most memorable fairs of the twentieth century! Located at Flushing Meadows Park, an estimated 45 million visitors experienced “building the world of tomorrow” by witnessing a plethora of technological advancements that promised to greatly improve their lives.  With America still struggling through the Great Depression and about to enter the Second World War, the idea of time traveling to a prosperous ‘World of Tomorrow’ had enormous appeal to every man, woman and child who left New York with a button declaring: “I have seen the future.”

Symbolized by two iconic structures, the Trylon and Perisphere, some of the gadgets and conveniences fair goers saw for the first time included an electric calculator, air conditioning, and a strange new medium known as television. Predicting that automation would soon replace manual labor and that a streamlined and technologically dependent future would lead to an explosion in leisure time, one historian writes, “In a country that was just then beginning to emerge from nearly a decade of want … the vision of a world of plenty, aided by science, industry, and international understanding, was deeply compelling.”

Of course, nowhere was this more evident than when it came to food, which had always played a central role in previous World’s Fairs. For example, at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Americans were introduced to everything from chili to Shredded Wheat while the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 became known for popularizing iced tea and giving us the ice cream cone. And with over 200 snack bars and concession stands spread throughout the thousand-acre venue, this fair proved to be no exception.

Epitomising the overall theme of mechanization, attendees marvelled at a Coca Cola bottling plant that was able to turn out an astonishing 140 bottles per minute, followed by Swift and Company showing them the steps to turn raw meat into hot dogs. Next, the process of converting flour into loaves of bread was put on full display at the Wonder Bakery while at the same time Heinz laid out the blueprint for creating baby food.


Food Exhibit. Photo Courtesy: New York Public Library.

Building on this educational theme, concepts that many had never heard before such as having a balanced diet, watching one’s calorie intake, and the importance of taking vitamins were explored at the fair. Also, through mechanization, refrigerated trucks and trains promised consumers a wider variety of fruits and vegetables year-round. No longer would you have to wait for something to be in season!

In addition to domestic cuisine (millions living outside of New England would experience the fried clam for the first time), food from 58 countries participating in the fair were also available. At the Italian pavilion, Barbera and Barolo were paired with dishes such as saltimbocca and agnolotti – dishes that were rarely seen even at Italian-American restaurants. More impressive was something called a Smörgåsbord that stole the show at the Swedish run Three Crowns restaurant.

But without question, the greatest impact on American cuisine came from France’s Le Pavilion, an iconic New York restaurant that started in 1939 as part of the World’s Fair. Known as Le Restaurant du Pavilion de France, an army of waiters, wine stewards and cooks (including an eighteen-year-old Pierre Franey) arrived on the French liner Normandie in 1939 with the goal of blowing away their competition. Author Paul Freedman in his book Ten Restaurants That Changed America writes, “The popularity of the restaurant was based on its food, but diners were also dazzled by the tableside service that included complicated but seemingly effortless fish-boning operations, elaborate meat carving and flambéed desserts. Although crêpes suzette, the most famous flamed dessert weren’t actually invented here, the restaurant did much to popularize them.”  Building on the success at the fair, many of the staff stayed in America to watch it blossom into one of New York’s most famous restaurants.


Diners at the French Pavilion. Photo Courtesy: New York Public Library.

With a bright future fueled by technology and fostered by international co-operation, the potential of the 1939/40 World’s Fair offered a welcomed distraction to Americans facing economic hardship and an inevitable war in both Europe and the Pacific. And part of this promise came through food, which would be looked at in a completely different way once the hostilities ended and a return to normalcy took place. Whether it was haute cuisine and fine dining or sitting down at the dinner table with your family, the fair marked a turning point in how a prosperous super power would eat in a post-war world.

Sources:

Cotter, Bill. The 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. Mount Pleasant: Arcadia Publishing, 2009.
Freedman, Paul. Ten Restaurants The Changed America. New York: Liveright Publishing, 2016.
Grimes, William. Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.
Machlin, Sherri. American Food by the Decades. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2011.
Mariana, John F. How Italian Food Conquered America. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2011.
Smith, Andrew F. Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Wood, Andrew F. New York’s 1939-1940 World’s Fair. Mount Pleasant: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.


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Portugal Increasing Top Table Wines Available in the Export Market

February 25th, 2019

Portugal has a very long wine history with unique grape varieties grown over wide ranging microclimates producing everything from fortified ports to Mateus Rose. More recently they have done an admirable job in focusing on higher quality table wines especially from the Douro region. Your scribe has even noticed the growing popularity among the younger demographics of using white port of lower alcohol mixed with tonic rather than the traditional spirit for gin and tonic. Portugal is definitely on the move with both their growing tourism industry and the increasing diversity of their wines. This all was brought home last week at an extensive tasting in Vancouver by Avelino Santos of Premium Portugal Wines. Amazing selection of upmarket wines for tasting and purchase from many different producers made by exciting new winemakers. The grape selections included Alvarinho from Vinho Verde, Baga from Bairrada, lots of Touriga Nacional and blends from Alentejo, plus old vines field blends from the Douro & many more. Three very well priced sparkling wines for around $25 from J Rama Lda in Bairrada. Amazed they were able to get by the BCLDB the “Sexy” label for a unique Sparkling blanc de blancs from 4 different vintages by Fita Preda. Surprised by the wide range of wine styles. For example look more closely at these 5 reds:

1. Herdade do Arrepiado Tradicao Reserva 2016 $59 is 100% Touriga Nacional from Alentejo of 5000 bottles at 15 degrees alcohol aged 18 months in French oak by Antonio Macanita the best winemaker of the year in 2018. Like the pure full rich fruit textured statement.

2. Herdade do Arrepiado Collection Reserva 2015 $59 is a blend of 65%TN with almost equal Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon of only 3000 bottles also at 15 with 24 months in new French oak. More modern tasting and open aromas. Both have fun attractive labels.

3. Vasques de Carvalho Velhos bardos Reserva 2013 $81 a Douro field blend of 80+ year vines resulting in 1700 bottles from cool fermentation & 12 months in new French oak at 14.8 with more elegance to the spicy ripe fruit.

4. Quinta Da Costa Do Pinhao Peladosa 2015 $63 from Douro-Cima Corgo another field blend of over 20 varieties top cuvee of 80-90 year vines on Schist at 300-350 metres aged 21 months in 500 litre French oak producing 1920 bottles showing lovely intensity with freshness and structure depth at lower alcohol of 13 plus good aging potential. Another top winemaker from 2016.

5. Luis Seabra Vinhos Xisto Ilimitado 2016 $36 from Douro-Cima Corgo areas of Cotas & Ervedosa at 400+ metres a field blend 35-60 year vines aged 14 months in used French oak for 13000 bottles at only 12.8 is a drinkable good entry level value with ripe tannins from Luis Seabra a top winemaker in 2016.

Are you aware of so many new wines emerging on the export market from Portugal? Have you tried any you are buying? Check them out.


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Where in the world is the largest wine cellar? Hint: It’s the last place you would think

February 24th, 2019

world's biggest wine cellar
Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

By Joseph Temple

Last month, runners from around the world competed in a historic 10 kilometre race that occurred in perhaps the oddest place to hold such an event – an underground wine cellar! Sprinting past giant oak barrels and through dimly lit limestone caves, one runner told Reuters, “It’s unlike any race I’ve ever done, a once in a lifetime experience. Running through a wine cellar is unlike anything else and there were just people cheering everywhere.”

And just as this was no ordinary race, it was also no ordinary wine cellar. Located just outside Moldova’s capital city of Chișinău, the Milestii Mici winery has the distinction, according to Guinness World Records, of being the world’s largest wine cellar. Storing approximately 1.5 million bottles across 35 miles of underground galleries, this state-owned winery proved to be the perfect spot to hold such a contest.

Situated in a country that many Americans can’t find on a map, this whole ordeal leads to a much larger question: how did Moldova, both the poorest and least visited country in Europe, end up with the distinction of having the world’s largest wine cellar?

The answer becomes obvious when you take a closer look at the Republic of Moldova’s rich winemaking history that dates back nearly 5,000 years. Nestled between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova has the highest density of grapevines per person than anywhere else in the world. In fact, almost ten percent of its land is covered in vines. However, unlike other former Soviet republics which have mineral, oil, and gas resources to fuel their respective economies, Moldova is dependent on agriculture, which represented 43 percent of its GDP and was responsible for half of the active labor force when the republic became independent in 1991. Simply put, Moldova loves and needs its wine.

Even more volatile is the country’s political history; in the last 200 years, Moldavia (as it was known back then) was invaded at least nine times including an annexation by the Soviet Union in 1944. After creating a client state known as the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR), Moscow quickly put the nation’s wine industry first and foremost as part of its central planning.

Viewing wine as something that could showcase Soviet success to the entire world, diktats were given by the Ministry of Economy and Food Products to “liquidate the backwardness in the wine industry.” Starting in the 1950s, as part of a production led approach, a massive vineyard planting program was initiated, which topped 550,000 acres by 1960. This was accompanied by an investment in research and mechanization for Moldovan wines, which were already popular with the citizens of Moscow. At its peak, Moldova was responsible for a quarter of all wine consumed in the Soviet Union – a record 9.6 million hectoliters by 1983, making it the sixth largest producer in the world.

It is during this period of continual five-year plans that the Milestii Mici winery was built. Named after the town bearing the same name, construction began in the late 1950s with the first bottles being stored in 1968. Unfortunately, with Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaigns of the 1980s, which led to digging up over 75,000, the pride of having the the world’s largest wine cellar meant little as the country fell on hard times.

Thankfully, events like this race are helping to spread the word that Moldova is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered. With vineyards extending along the southern coasts and around Chisinau, a vibrant capital full of tree-lined boulevards and a lively café culture, Moldova has plenty to offer for wine lovers. And the crown jewel is Milestii Mici – a winery that every oenophile needs to visit!

Sources:

Domine, Andre. Wine. Königswinter: Könemann, 2004.
Egan, James. 3000 Country Facts. Lulu.com
Gilby, Caroline. The Wines of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova. Oxford: Infinite Ideas, 2018.
Philpott, Don. The World of Wine and Food: A Guide to Varieties, Tastes, History, and Pairings. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.


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