Matches made in the glass

I have been doing a great deal of teaching this winter and there is one area where students have shown special interest: the domaine of food and wine matching.

One of the reasons for this interest is obvious:  my students need to understand the principles, and be able to apply those principles, if they are to pass their exams.  The other reason is, many of these students are front-line staff in upscale restaurants and they need to be able to advise their clients on the wines that will best match their entrée selections – happy customers make happy servers…

Most students understand the classic matches:  Sauternes with stilton cheese, Bordeaux red with prime rib, smoked salmon and Champagne, etc., but they don’t know the rationale for these matches.  Step outside the bounds of the classics and they are generally stumped.

The students I work with are not unique.  Most wine lovers have a small repertoire of food and wine matches they rely on – and the converse: food and wine mis-matches they avoid – but they often don’t have enough experience to go beyond the boundaries of their narrow range of proven matches.

As I teach this material I have found it best to assemble some simple rules to help guide me – and my students – through the amazing realm of matching possibilities.  The goal is to expand our horizons by experimenting and hopefully, in the process, conclude that food and wine, properly matched, can enhance the enjoyment of both.

First, some simple rules:

  • Match the body and/or richness of the food with the body of the wine (such as beef stew with a full-bodied, tannic Aussie Shiraz)
  • Combine food with wines that share the same flavour intensity (try spicy Mexican food with Argentinean Malbec, or spicy Asian food with a pungent Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc)
  • Acidic foods should be served with acidic wines (pasta in tomato sauce matched with a young Chianti Classico)
  • Match sweet foods with sweet wines (such as crème brulée with a chilled glass of Icewine or a Vin Doux Naturel made with Muscat)
  • Chewy meats should be matched with high-tannin wines to allow the protein to soften the tannins (beef brisket with Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Salty foods (olives, certain cheeses, oysters, salted nuts) should be matched with sweet or acidic wines to enhance the food flavours (for instance, stilton cheese and Port, oysters and Muscadet)
  • Pair oily/fatty foods with acidic wines (e.g.  Wiener Schnitzel with Riesling, grilled salmon steak with Grüner Veltliner)

These are some simple rules and they work!

There is a theme to the rules: match weight of food with weight of wine, match intensity of food flavour with wines of similar flavour intensity. Once you have achieved this level of matching refine further to balance texture (e.g. chewy or oily), and other elements such as acidity and sweetness.

Acidity in wines triggers saliva flow and this effect creates the juiciness I describe in many wines. One of the most notable effects food can have on wine is the match one gets when a high-acid wine such as a dry Riesling is properly paired with juicy roast chicken (where acid and fat trump a possible flavour intensity mis-match) or with grilled cold-water salmon (where the acid nicely reduces the fatty character of the fish). Proper matches such as these open doors to wine lovers and even inexperienced tasters begin to appreciate wines that they might otherwise consider too acidic.

if you don’t believe me, try this simple experiment:  open a bottle of extra-dry Riesling that is chilled but not too cold.  Have your entree standing by (for example a filet of grilled trout with some lightly-boiled baby potatoes au beurre).  Sniff, swirl, slosh and swallow a sip of the wine on its own.  Note the juicy freshness of the citrus aromas and flavours.  Note also the intensely-high acidity in the glass and the juices released by your saliva glands.  Clearly this is not a patio sipper wine.  Now tuck into your filet of trout with another sip of the wine.  Now note how much softer the wine is – and how much the flavours and texture of the fish are enhanced by the combination of the crisp and assertive wine and the juices in your mouth.  Sheer bliss!

Here’s another way of looking at matching.  This table provides a picture of the possibilities:


In my scheme green boxes represent the perfect match, an orange box means you should proceed with caution and avoid at all costs where you see a red box.  Note the versatility of sparkling wine (here I refer to a quality traditional method sparkler such as Champagne, Cava, a Crémant from France, or New World delights like the Gloria Ferrer in the last Vintages Release.

I hope this little primer helps you work through the complexities of matching.  More importantly I hope it gives you some cues for your own experimentation.

Enjoy!

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

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LCBO Vintages release – March 5, 2011

Wines of Chile and Argentina are featured in this weekend’s Vintages release. Along with the Vintages feature, the LCBO inserted a Chile/Argentina flyer in newspapers on Saturday. With these promotions this was a big weekend at LCBO stores reflecting the continuing growth in quality and popularity of the wines from these countries – both known for producing wines of great value, using varietals that are easy to enjoy.

A couple of the feature wines made my value list but this week the value list is dominated by some exceptional food-friendly whites from Ontario, France, Australia and New Zealand.

There is also a small feature of wines from the other (LCBO terminology) northern Italy:  Trentino, Alto Adige, Liguria, Friuli.

Unfortunately the wines from the northern Italy feature don’t make the grade:  bad selection by the Vintages team, in my mind.  The wines from these regions can be exceptional with structure: acid, body and expressive fruit – all great with light fare.  Not this time.

I should apologize for the preponderance of whites…from the Loire… made with Sauvignon Blanc… but these wines are all different and are each very fine values.  Buy a sampler of a few of these wines and do a comparison…it will be instructive.

The lean and juicy wines from the cool-climate Loire Valley show their true strength when it comes to matching with fine food.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Twenty Mile Bench Twenty Twenty-Seven Cellars Featherstone Vineyard Riesling 2009

This wine is made by Kevin Panagapka, a young graduate of Niagara College, who uses grapes and winemaking facilities at Featherstone to make this exceptional Riesling. It has lime, green apple and spice on the nose.  The palate is crisp, juicy and full of citrus fruit, melon and minerals.  The body is light, making this an elegant wine with potential for further development over the next 5 or 6 years.  Serve with breaded veal cutlet.

Dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle

Argentina, Salta – Calchaqui Valley Colomé Amalaya 2008

This is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tannat (!).  While it might seem an odd blend, it works.  Red and dried fruits dominate with some spice and a very smooth mouth feel combining to make this wine an easy-drinker – characteristics that have made Argentinean Malbec so popular.  Don’t let this description fool you, however: there is excellent structure – acid and tannins, both – to ensure this wine will match with roasted meats.

Extra dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle (Feature wine)

New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough – Astrolabe Voyage Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Astrolabe is a well-regarded maker, owned by Simon Waghorn, who makes wine for his own brand as well as for a number of other Marlborough wineries.  He uses fruit from several Marlborough sub-regions to make wines considered to have cult status in New Zealand.  This wine is intense on the nose and palate with lime, grass, tropical fruit, gooseberry and tinned asparagus dominating.  This is a very dry, medium-bodied wine with zesty acid and a long, clean finish. Serve with spicy Asian dishes.

Extra dry, white wine- $21.95 per bottle

France, Loire – AOC Sancerre Bernard Reverdy et Fils 2009

Minerals, grapefruit, lime, spice, honey, green apple, intense flavour, crisp acid, minerals, long finish.  This is an elegant wine that will be a perfect accompaniment to summer lunchtime salads on the deck. This is a better wine and a better value than the Vintages essentials Loire Sauvignon Blanc, at a very good price.

Extra dry, white wine – $22.95 per bottle

France, Loire – AOC Menetou-Salon Blanc 2009

Another juicy, high acid wine for your consideration, this is a stunning example of Loire Sauvignon Blanc – minerals, high acidity, citrus and grassy character, honey and exceptional balance.  The perfect food wine, this is one to try…for lovers of pungent New World Sauvignon Blanc this wine will broaden your horizons with its comparative understatement.  Serve with grilled scallops.

Extra dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

Once again I suggest some wines that almost match the top 5 for quality and value:

Australia, South Australia– Penfold’s Thomas Hyland Chardonnay  2009

This is a creamy, oak-rich Chardonnay which shows fine balance with crisp acid and ripe apple, pineapple and lime aromas and flavours.  Very lean – not your typical fat Aussie Chard! (Extra dry, white wine – $19.95)

Chile, Limari Valley – Concha Y Toro Maycas Limari Reserva Syrah 2009

This is an intense cool-climate Syrah showing juicy black fruit, spices, and wood that will have less effect with a couple of years in the cellar.  This is an outstanding value at $14.95 per bottle. (Feature wine)

France, Bordeaux– AOC  Pessac-Léognan Château Couchery Blanc 2008

Sauvignon Blanc dominates this blend (10% Semillon) and it delivers a vegetal character on the nose and palate with grass, citrus fruit, mint, minerals and plenty of crisp acidity. Excellent body and structure: serve with grilled chicken breast or a tuna steak. (Extra dry white wine -$22.95)

France, Loire – AOC Bourgueil Domaine Matabrune 2009

Bourgueil wines are made with Cabernet Franc and this wine shows exceptional fruit and herbal complexity on both nose and palate. Great acid and a very long finish – serve with grilled veal chops. (Extra dry, red wine $14.95 per bottle)

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Strewn Terroir Merlot 2006

This is a dark fruity wine with very rich oak yielding a balanced, juicy wine.  Slight barnyard, savoury aromas add to the interest and complexity. (Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle)

The next Vintages release will be on the shelves on Saturday March 19. Wines of Spain, Portugal and California (icons) will be featured at that time.

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

LCBO Vintages release – February 19, 2011

This weekend was the occasion of another Vintages release – two weeks just flies by, doesn’t it?

The feature wines this weekend were made with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.  We also saw wines for Passover and gold medal winners made in Ontario.  It was quite a diverse selection of features but it was a little light on quality and value.  This fact, aside, there were some nuggets amongst the rubble and I give you my picks, below…

Despite my comment about this release being light on quality and value,  we still have a reasonably solid set of fine wines to choose from in this release, many of them good values.  As a result, once again I have my A-list selections and a short list of B – wines that almost equal the A’s for quality and value.

First the A’s…

British Columbia, Okanagan Valley – VQA Okanagan Valley Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Proprietor’s Grand Reserve Shiraz 2006

This is a single parcel wine from the Osoyoos Lake Bench with 12 months of oak aging on its resume. The colour is deep, brooding ruby and the nose has some wonderful elements of spice, black cherry and violet.  The palate is concentrated and balanced with juicy fruit, medium acid and dry, dusty tannins.  Flavours of black cherry, stewed plum and vanilla dominate.  Match with a beef stew loaded with root vegetables.  I’m pleased to report his wine is priced by Vintages at $2.00 less than its BC price.

Extra dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle

Germany, Franken – QmP, Würzburger Innere Leiste Bürgerspital Silvaner Kabinett Trocken 2009

Here we have a correct Silvaner in every way – an intense floral, fruit-forward nose; a palate with  bright acid and ripe stone fruit; a long finish.  There are white flower, honey, ripe melon, lime and ginger notes on the nose and palate, a backbone of stony minerals and a very slight spritz. This wine is distinctive and memorable – a classic for the varietal. Look for the flagon-shaped bottle (known as a Bocksbeutel).  Very food-friendly, this wine.  Serve with charcuterie or grilled veal chop.

Dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough – Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Spy Valley is a source of sound, well-made, value wines. This Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect example of the type. The nose and palate are intense and pungent: citrus, grass, gooseberry, white pepper – a great, complex combo.  The acid is crisp and juicy, the minerals are sleek and the finish is long and clean.  This is a very good wine for summer barbecue planning, at a very good price.

Extra dry, white wine- $15.95 per bottle

Italy, Tuscany – IGT Toscana Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni 2008

The only feature wine on my A-list, this is a concentrated blend of Bordeaux grapes with a small portion of Sangiovese.  The colour is deep ruby, the nose has red cherry, herb and plum.  The palate is medium-bodied with flavours of plum, black currant and leather.  The mouth feel is juicy with medium acidity, and grainy, concentrated tannins.  This is a well-structured wine which will accompany grilled red meats to a “T”. Excellent value.

Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle (Cabernet Sauvignon feature wine)

California, Carneros – Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs 2005

This wine is a cool-climate stunner and is the first run-don’t–walk wine in a long while. I don’t know where to start so I’ll just throw out words that describe the pleasure: concentrated, biscuit, medium-full weight, citrus, chalky minerals, creamy mousse, juicy, intense, long finish…you get the drift.  This is an exceptional value and is a buy-the-case selection.  Celebrate with this wine on its own or serve at special family meals.  It will go with anything.

Extra dry, sparkling white wine – $24.95 per bottle

This week’s B-list (almost A’s…):

Ontario, Prince Edward County – VQA Prince Edward County Rosehall Run Cuvée County Pinot Noir 2008

One of the better wineries in PEC, Rosehall Run makes some very fine Cuvée County wines.  This is a light P-N with a red fruit-forward nose and spice, cherry, cranberry and earth on the palate. Well-balanced and elegant.  Ontario feature wine (Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle.)

Austria, Lagnereserve – Leth Vineyards Steinagrund Grüner Veltliner 2009

Citrus, lemon and white flowers abound on the nose and palate. This is a delicate, spicy, juicy and peppery wine – all true to the expectations of any Gruvee fan. (Dry, white wine – $16.95 per bottle.)

France, Southern Rhône– AOC  Côtes du Rhône-Villages Rasteau Château Goudray Cuvée Excellence 2009

Rasteau is a reliable appellation for round fruit and herbal aroma and palate expression.  This one delivers, from an excellent vintage. I suggest cellaring for a year or two.  (Dry, red wine – $15.95 per bottle).

The next Vintages release will be out on March 5, 2011.  At that time wines from Argentina and Chile will be featured along with wines from northern Italy.  We’ll see you then.

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

Biodynamics – are there still skeptics?

I was lecturing on the wines of Loire a few days ago and at one point in the class I put up a slide which showed a hazy winter scene in the Loire valley commune of Savennières, located in the Loire sub-region of Anjou-Saumur.

This picture opened up a discussion which travelled from AOC wines in the commune, to famous producers to finally, biodynamics.  The links: the dry Loire white wines with the longest life-expectancy come from the Savennières appellation; one of the most famous estates in the appellation is Château de la Roche aux Moines, owned by Nicolas Joly, a former investment banker-turned vigneron and, Joly is one of the most visible and passionate adherents/advocates of biodynamics.  I should point out that Joly is not a winemaker: according to the Dr. Vino blog Joly describes himself as a nature assistant and not a winemaker.

Nicolas Joly at Return to Terroir - Toronto 2008

Joly travels the world each winter with a group of biodynamic winemakers who are members of the Return to Terroir movement.  This group is made up some 155 makers representing almost every major wine making region.  Many well-known labels are represented in the membership including Chapoutier, Zind Humbrecht, Leflaive, Leon Barral, Cazes, Alvaro Palacios, Benziger, Frogs Leap and Bonterra. The world tours are aimed at promoting the principles of biodynamism and demonstrating the benefits of this form of grape growing and winemaking, in the glass.

It is interesting to note that most of the winemakers listed do not indicate on their wine labels that the wine is produced using biodynamic principles.  Why?  These winemakers believe they adhere to natural principles in their grape growing and winemaking techniques so there is no need to indicate that fact.  If anything, these people would argue that wines not made in accord with natural principles should indicate THAT fact on their labels!

These proselytizers are passionate about their cause and this often gets in the way of the message: let nature do its work, naturally.  If this is done the vines will be stronger, the fruit better and the wines more pure.  Now, who can argue with that logic?

When I was in New Zealand last April I spent a day in the Marlborough region, best known for Sauvignon Blanc and some of the leading proponents of the pungent grassy, gooseberry style that has made the region famous:  Cloudy Bay, Villa Maria and Montana, among others.

That day I spent time at two smaller properties, both under the radar of new World importers:  Te Whare Ra and Fromm.  Both properties are organic and biodynamic and both make exquisite wines that reflect cool-climate zonal effects and principled winemaking.

In both cases the biodynamic techniques employed only entered our discussions by accident.  At Te Whare Ra it was a question about the four cows grazing at the edge of the vineyard that opened up a very animated and scholarly lecture on sustainability, cow manure and biodynamic potions.  At Fromm it was a question about a mound near the edge of the vineyard – this was a hillock of organic material that was composting, eventually to be mixed into some of the potions.  In both cases the vignerons made their own potions, including extensive use of high-nutrient seaweed (which is not part of any biodynamic preparations). Both wineries want to be known for making great wines, not wines that are great because they are organic/biodynamic.

Fromm Winery - the composting hillock

The character of the wines at both places was stunning.  The fruit was assertive and pure, the structure was consistently high: well-defined tannins, crisp acidity, elegant mouth feel. These wines were the highlights of the day and were anything but what you might expect from Marlborough…although Te Whare Ra makes a Sauvignon Blanc made with fruit from the vignerons’ parents property.

Throughout this comment I have tried to avoid any reference to the core vocabulary of biodynamism: fruit/root days, cosmos, phases of the moon, etc.

I did this for two reasons:  first the hocus-pocus of biodynamism makes many people roll their eyes with derision, taking away from the point of the discussion; secondly, biodynamics is now in the mainstream of agricultural practice and it’s not necessary to use the vocabulary to make the point.

As Anna Flowerday at Te Whare Ra says, the core parts of biodynamic practices make sense. Further, people get freaked out by the ethereal parts of biodynamism. She and her husband have seen the practices of biodynamics work and even for someone like her with a science background and who wants explanations that hold up to scientific scrutiny, biodynamic practices clearly makes a difference. She commented that in difficult vintages her vines perform much better than vines treated with conventional fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides… and so on and so on.

I think we will see more and more use of biodynamic practices throughout the wine world and we, and the cosmos, will be the better for it.

By the way, when I asked the class what did biodynamics mean to them, the answer was “organics taken to the extreme”…reasonably accurate, pejorative and by no means the whole story.

à bientôt…

 

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

 

Wine cruising – New Zealand

My wife and I recently spent 12 days cruising from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia on a small ship, the Crystal Symphony.  The highlight of this trip was a series of day-trip land excursions to four wine regions of New Zealand.

Crystal Symphony moored in Auckland

I had one question in mind when planning for these excursions: what are small winemakers doing with grapes that aren’t Sauvignon Blanc?

The question was prompted by a growing sense that the novelty of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is starting to wear thin.  These wines are delightful and have fuelled the phenomenal growth in the New Zealand wine industry over the past 10 years.  This said these wines have a characteristic grassy, herbal sameness that is predictably less interesting than it was when we first tasted Cloudy Bay S-B.  Not all will agree with me on this posture but I speak for many when I think that there must be more possible than this.

From 1999 to 2008 the number of New Zealand wineries grew from 334 to 585.  The volume of annual production increased from 60 million litres to 205 million litres during the same period.  The value of wine exported from New Zealand was NZ$125 million in 1999. In 2008 this figure had grown to NZ$800 million.  No wine country in the world has experienced such dramatic growth and wine has become a major engine for the New Zealand economy growing from less than 1% to over 3% of total exports during the years 1999 – 2008.

This growth is not sustainable going forward and the challenge for New Zealand producers is to demonstrate the diversity of wines that can be produced in the varied climate and terroir conditions found in this stunning country.

To pursue the answer to my question I made appointments with a number of small producers before we left and arranged car rentals in each port before we arrived.  Arrangements with winemakers were a challenge: we travelled in early April, the peak of the harvest in every region we visited.  I was overwhelmed by the email messages I received in reply to my requests for time, tastings and tours:  everyone was welcoming and apologetic for the fact they might be unable to give me all I asked for if harvest conditions called for picking when we were supposed to meet. As events unfolded we threaded the needle of harvest timing and spent time visiting some 10 properties over the four days we toured Hawkes Bay, Martinborough, Marlborough and Canterbury.

At Napier, Wellington, Picton and Christchurch we were the first travellers to leave ship and at each port we quickly motored off with our GPS programmed for the destinations of the day.

The conclusion reached – in answer to my question – was New Zealand winemakers are accomplishing amazing feats with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinotage (!). That is the good news.  The bad news is, except for one property, Te Whare Ra in Marlborough, the wines tasted are not available in Canada.  The production volumes at properties such as Dry River (Martinborough), Unison (Hawkes Bay), Fromm (Marlborough) or Mountford (Canterbury) are simply too small to be of interest to importers who need high volume to offset the low margins of wine importing.

The following wines were the highlights of our trip (listed in order of tasting):

Hawkes Bay – Unison Vineyard Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2007

100% Syrah, this wine is made in an Old World style and represents a very good Cornas-like beauty. Deep purple in colour it has a nose of smoked meat, wet earth, bell pepper and toast.  The palate is dry with an exceptional balance of fruit, tannins, acid and wood. This balance was a characteristic of all Unison wines and reflects the style they seek in their winemaking. Blackberry, black pepper, chocolate and delicate vanilla flavours dominate the palate.  The finish is long and spicy. Needs another 2 years for the green tannins to soften.  This wine will drink well to 2020.

Martinborough – Dry River Pinot Noir 2008

This wine had just been bottled after resting for the past two years in oak (25% new).  As a result it was in a state of bottle shock but it was evident this is a big wine with big potential after it spends the next 2 -3 years in its bottle.  While the

Poppy Hammond - winemaker at Dry River

body was full this wine was refined with plenty of red fruit and vanilla on the nose and palate.  It showed medium-weight silky tannins with stony minerals and a crisp, bright mouth feel.  The structure and balance of this wine was stunning.  For lovers of light, velvety Central Otago Pinots this wine would make you think it had come from the Côte d’Or in Burgundy.

 

 

 

Marlborough – Fromm Winery Clayvin Vineyard Chardonnay 2005

I tasted this wine after spending the previous 90 minutes tasting a cross section of deep and dark reds from barrel and bottle.  The co-owner and co-winemaker of Fromm, William Hoare, was purposeful about opening this Chardonnay last.  Why? It had the bones and character to stand up regardless of the context.  He was right.  This was no ordinary New World Chardonnay. After 5 years it was still showing developing aromas of tropical fruit and light vanilla on the nose.  The palate was lean and taut on a medium-weight body..  It had flavours of pineapple,

Marlborough vines sit in a valley, book-ended by mountains to the north and the south

ripe brown apple, grapefruit and light oak on a foundation of medium acidity. The finish was long and clean.  This wine displayed a linear quality that comes ever so close to a Puligny-Montrachet.  What a beauty!

 

 

Marlborough – Te Whare Ra Gewürztraminer 2009

Te Whare Ra is a long-established property now operated by a young couple, Anna and Jason Flowerday, both accomplished winemakers with experience in New Zealand and Australia.  Their wines are shaped by strict adherence to biodynamic principles and are characteristically delicate and elegant, across all varietals.  The Gewürz is Alsatian in style reflecting the cool-climate of the Wairau Valley. It has great varietal typicity: lichee, peach, pear and ginger on the nose and palate with flinty minerals and medium acidity providing structure to complement the assertive fruit. The finish is long with lingering pear and stone fruit flavours. This wine displayed wonderful complexity and structure.

Te Whare Ra wines are only available in Ontario through the Hemispheres Wine Guild: http://www.hemisphereswine.ca/.

Canterbury – Mountford Chardonnay 2007

This property is located an hour north of Christchurch and the vines are situated on a hilly site reminiscent of the hills to the west of the city of Beaune in Burgundy.  The Chardonnay is aged for some 16 months in medium toasted French oak and displays a Premier Cru character which is Côte de Beaune in origin.  The nose is complex with peach, ripe mango, smoke and minerals present.  The palate is dry with medium acidity, a full body and austere mouth feel. The palate is dominated by flavours of brown apple, pineapple, mango, earth, vanilla and stony minerals. The finish is long and full. This wine has sound structure and intense fruit expression.  It will age and improve over the next 7 – 10 years.

Canterbury – Muddy Water Syrah 2008

Muddy Water is a small winery located next door to Mountford.  The terroir is similar to that of Mountford: west-facing slopes on clay soil with a limestone base surrounded by a cool climate.  The wines of Muddy Water are made by an accomplished wine maker, Belinda Gould, who has studied both in New Zealand and in Germany at the Geissenheim school in the Rhine Valley.  Belinda makes wines of assertive fruit expression with fine structure and balance.  The Syrah is a lean, fresh, zesty wine that has an intense fruit-forward nose accompanied by peppermint, smoke and vanilla notes.  The palate is dry with a medium-full body and medium, delicate tannins. Ripe black cherry fruit, black pepper and toast  flavours dominate the palate.  The finish is clean and long.  For lovers of fat Aussie Shiraz you might as well look elsewhere.

I was very impressed by the wines I encountered in my four-day sampler of New Zealand.  Now we need someone to open the door to bring some of these beauties into Canada.  These are not inexpensive wines but they are a demonstration of what we will see from this country as winemakers and grape growers spread their wings. It is evident that there is great potential beyond Sauvignon Blanc!

à bientôt…

Originally published in WVN May 29, 2010. Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2010.