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Not-so basic Bordeaux

Delving into Bordeaux and trying to understand this classic region and its iconic wines can be a daunting task. There is literally lots of ground to cover, Bordeaux stretches over 296,000 acres, compare to the more familiar Okanagan Valley, with just 8,619 acres of vineyards. We will provide you with some of the most important information you need to know about the not-so basic region of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux bottles

 

Geography

Where most people start, is the explanation of right bank vs left bank. The Gironde estuary is fed by the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, which split the wine region into two main areas. The left bank is west of the Gironde and Garonne and north of Bordeaux city. The right bank is on the east side of the Dordogne.

The left and right banks are home to some of the more recognizable regions and prolific Chateaux. Within the greater Bordeaux, there are many other sub-regions and thousands of vineyards. In the north-east you will find Cote de Blays and Cote de Bourg. Between the two prongs of the ‘fork’ is Entre-deux-mers. As well, south of Bordeaux city, Sauternes and Barsac produce some of the world’s best sweet wines.

The 296,000 acres make Bordeaux the second largest wine growing region in the world. The large acreage produces a wide selection of styles of wine from sweet wines in Sauterne, sparkling Crémant de Bordeaux, inexpensive, to the most regarded in the world.

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Map sourced from Table Wine at tablewineasheville.com.

 

Regions and sub-regions

There are 38 sub-regions in Bordeaux, which cover 57 appellations. A region’s classification will influence the price and demand for its wines. WineFolly shows a table of the premium regions, partnered with the more affordable options.

bdx regions
Chart sourced from WineFolly.com

 

The left bank, in Haut Médoc is where you can find some of the finest red wines of Bordeaux: Margaux, St. Estephe, St Julien and Pauillac. The regions in the left bank have higher rock content, which provides well-draining soils. Cabernet Sauvignon performs best on well-drained soils. The rocky soils also retain more heat, helping to ripen the grapes. The right bank is home to the highly-prized reds of Pomerol and St. Emilion. The rigth bank has greater clay content in the soil, making it a more ideal location for Merlot.

Understandings the classifications

Among the thousands of  vineyards and growers, approximately 200 properties are classified. Châteaux that are ranked within the three classification systems provide the benchmark for quality wines from Bordeaux.

The 1855 Médoc classification is the most expansive and recognized. The list of classified properties was created for the Universal Exposition in Paris, in 1855. Producers whose wines consistently commanded the highest prices were ranked from first to fifth growth.  Here is a list of the Chateaux in each of the 5 rankings, provided by Winewisdom.com.

All the classified properties were on the Left Bank, and most were in the Médoc Since 1855 there has only been a single amendment, Château Mouton-Rothschild was raised from a second to a first growth. You can identify wines in this ranking system by “Grand Cru Classée en 1855” on the label.

Since the inception of the 1855 classification, other regions have created their own rankings. Most notable is St. Emilion Classification, and the communes of the northern part of the Graves  region, known collectively as Pessac-Léognan in the 1959 Graves Classification.

 

Bordeaux as a style of wine

The popularity of wines from Bordeaux have created a style of wine that is replicated around the world. From Napa to Adelaide, winemakers produce wines in a ‘Bordeaux style’, using Bordeaux  varietals and techniques to achieve a Bordeaux-esque wine. In tasting notes, reviews and media, a wine may be referred to as a ‘Bordeaux blend”, but unless it is from Bordeaux it is referencing a style of wine and not the origin.

The permitted red varietals found in Bordeaux blends are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The left bank wines are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, producing a more tannic, structured wine with higher alcohol and acid. Merlot based, right-bank blends offer a softer style and tannin, that is more approachable in it’s youth.

Vintages matter

Bordeaux is unique in that it is an ideal, but also volatile area to grow grapes. The climate is moderate and maritime, vintage variation is high and weather patterns vary year to year. Typically, Bordeaux is temperate with mild winters, damp springs and rainy autumns.The unpredictable nature of the seasons leads to high risk, and potentially high reward. It is important to research vintage notes, especially when investing in an expensive bottle. Most critics and journals will publish vintage scores, like the one shown on Bordeaux.com.

bdx vintages
Vintage ratings from Bordeaux.com

 

With a deep history, thousands of acres under vine, and many styles of wine produced, Bordeaux is a complicated, but worth while region to study. Many try to simplify the complex structure and terminology of Bordeaux wine, but it is difficult to do this without leaving out important information.

Tell us about your experiences with Bordeaux, your favourite places to visit, the most memorable bottle of wine, or what questions have gone un-answered!


Summer Sipping: Radlers in Canada

The WineCollective not-so definitive ranking of Radlers, available at Highfield.

new_grapefruit1

The German Beer Institute (yes it exists) defines Radlermass (aka Radler in North America) a beverage that is a half-and-half mix of blond lager, usually Pils or Helles, and lemonade and/or fruit juice such as grapefruit. This drink originated in Bavaria in the early 20th century, but it is now bottled and canned premixed and available in all of Germany.

Literally, Radler means cyclist and mass means a litre of beer, which makes a little more sense when you discover their initial creation.

Radlers were invented by Franz Xaver Kugler, an innkeeper, who opened a bar outside of Munich in the late 1800s. After WWI, bicycle riding became very popular and Herr Kugler’s bar was on a popular bike path. As legend has it, Herr mixed lemon soda water with beer to improve his inventory of beer so to not run out.

kugler

When mixing this lemon soda with his remaining beer at a 50/50 ratio, Herr proudly declared that he had invented this concoction deliberately just for the cyclists so that they would not fall off their bikes on their way home. He called the mixture a Radlermass.

This is not the first time beer had been mixed with other substances. Shandy in the UK is a mixture of beer and ginger beer and even in Canada we have beer mixed with a Caesar. However, the unique characteristics of an enjoyable blond lager and refreshing juice has made Radlers the go-to summer drink this year!

So, while WineCollective loves its summer wines (Rose is the appropriate answer here), we also love Radlers and have recently had a blind tasting of four of the most popular Radlers available at Highfield by WineCollective. This tasting was made up of twelve people who simply enough, tasted the radlers one at a time and identified the one they liked the most and the least.

WaterlooRadler

Winner: Waterloo Radler

Made in Ontario and recently awarded a gold medal from the 2015 Monde Selection, the Waterloo Radler was the big winner garnering the most first place votes. The Waterloo was significantly sweeter than some of the other radlers, and this is likely due to the addition of high fructose corn syrup to the mixture. Also, while it markets itself as “grapefruit” grape juice concentrate is actually the second ingredient. Waterloo was the only radler to not receive a “liked it the least” vote from our esteemed panel as well. It also has the highest alcohol level in the group at 3.1%.

Ingredients: Beer, Grape Juice Concentrate, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Grapefruit Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Flavour.

SteiglRadler

Runner Up: Stiegl Radler

The German original, but not really because it’s actually Austrian. When most people think radlers they think Stiegl, as this is by far the most prevalent option out in the general public right now. This Austrian import was the runner up with the second most first place scores but also a couple of “liked it least” scores in there as well. A more polarizing radler made from Stiegl Goldbrau beer and lemonade. It is significantly less sweet than the Waterloo with more of a lemon, lime taste than grapefruit. Brewed in accordance with the Bavarian purity laws, this is a more straight up example of a radler.

Ingredients: Beer, Lemonade

BavariaRadler

Third Place: Bavaria Grapefruit Radler 

Confusing all around. Not Bavarian, actually brewed in the Netherlands. Grapefruit radler, but actually shows it’s ingredients as lemonade with elderberry flavour. The lightest of the radlers, with only a 2.0% alcohol content. This one skated through in the middle, eliciting neither a love it or hate it sentiment from our dozen tasters. Only one person ranked it the best and one ranked it at the bottom, with no strong feelings either way.

TreeBrewingRadler

Fourth Place: Tree Brewing Grapefruit Radler

Now talk about polarizing! Brewed in Kelowna, the Tree Brewing Radler is a love it or hate it affair. Garnering almost solely “best” or “worst” ratings with only two tasters in between. Most tasters found the grapefruit taste to be too strong and too tart, which isn’t surprising given the ingredient list is: 50% grapefruit juice, 50% beer. That’s it. For full disclosure, this was my favourite radler, it was tarter and less sweet than the Waterloo and has just the right amount of kick coming in at 2.5%. You can also get 40% of your daily vitamin C intake with one of these.

Ingredients: Beer, Grapefruit juice

While the majority of our WineCollective tasters preferred the sweeter, higher alcohol Waterloo Radler (North American flavour profile anyone?) we found that all of the radlers here would be huge hits as the summer rolls on.

We stock a wide selection of radlers (including a couple not tasted here) in Highfield by WineCollective. Pop by and pick up one, or four, and enjoy them outside as the perfect drink for summer heat.


What wine to pair with wild Stampede food

It is Calgary’s favourite time of the year again, Stampede! Along with the boots and cowboy hats, us Calgarians are also used to seeing some adventurous food and treats on the midway.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetGlazed donut grilled cheese, via The Big Cheese. 

Each year, vendors release some delicious, or disturbing, menu items. Last year’s scorpion pizza or the mini donut poutine, we can only imagine how the wrong beverage pairing could off throw these gutsy food combos. This year, after picking up some yummy (hopefully) grub, head to the beer gardens or the Western Oasis, wine garden for the perfect Cabernet, cowboy.

Better yet, try these recipes out for yourself with the best match from the WineCollective store!

GLAZED DONUT GRILLED CHEESE

A single glazed donut stuffed with the exceptional string cheese!

The creamy cheese and sweetness calls for sparkling and specifically, the vibrant bubbles and fruity character of Prosecco!

Terre-di-San-Venanzio

Terre di San Venanzio Fortunato 

Club price: $17.99

With plenty of sweet ripe fruit (melons, apricot and pear) the sweetness of the donut glaze will be matched. White flowers and bountiful acidity will cut through the cheesy goop. With textured bubbles, your palate is left cleansed and refreshed!

DRAGON DOG

At $100, this is the most expensive hotdog in the world according to Guinness Book of Records! Kobe beef, cooked in truffle oil with lobster tail, garlic, truffles and ricotta cheese.

Grain-fed Kobe beef* needs a wine with earthy quality and balanced tannins. Combined with lobster, truffles and ricotta cheese a versatile wine is a must with fruity nuances and just enough structure.

elios---Consters-del-priorat-2010

Costers del Priorat Elios

Club price: $20.50

A $100 hot dog deserves the fanciest Stampede dinner possible. Fortunately, you can find this blend of Grenache, Cab Sauv, Syrah and Carignan at the Western Oasis! Juicy fruits and soft tannins won’t overwhelm this combo of foods and texture.

MAPLE BACON BOX

Maple + bacon = every Canadian’s dream! Add noodles and chicken and you’re on top of the ferris wheel!

High acidity is needed to break through the salty fats, so we would definitely recommend a refreshing rosé! For a sneak peak into July’s package, check out the…

Domaine-du-Savard-Cheverny-Rose

Domaine du Salvard Rosé $20.49

Made with Pinot Noir, the rosé is full of bright red fruits, peaches and minerality with big but balanced acidity. Not overly sweet, this dry example will stand up to the bacon and chicken as well all while matching the sweet maple!

 

Check out the WineCollective store for any of the wines listed, or others similar to for delicious pairings to wild Stampede fare.

If you find something strange or tasty on the grounds and are eager for a wine pairing, share with us on social media! Chances are we’ll be two-stepping somewhere near by and are willing to take on the challenge!

 

* For the best wine pairings for particular cuts of beef, check out our Cuts & Cabernet blog!


Message in your bottle

By just looking at a bottle of wine, you are given hints as to what wine is inside. The bottle’s shape, colour and label can help you identify the style of wine.

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Varietals, regions and styles can have distinguishable bottles types. There are approximately 8 to 12 predominant bottles and a few other quirky ones. Here are a few of the most common bottles and how to identify them.

Chateau-Grand-Puy-Lacoste-Pauillac-2006

Bordeaux

From the name, we know that this bottle was traditionally used for the wines of Bordeaux, France. It is common for bottling wines in many regions, both old and new world. Many different types and styles of wine are found in Bordeaux bottles. From traditional  Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Semillon, to Chianti and sweet wines. The broad shoulders of the bottle help to stop the sediment of tannic or aged wines, from ending up in your glass.

Dr.-Von-Bassermann-Jordan-Deidesheimer-Leinhohle-2012-Spatlese

Mosel, Alsace and Rhine

Most commonly you will find Riesling in these bottles. They are noted by a tall and thin neck with very narrow shoulders. Wines from Mosel and Alsace are traditionally in green glass, while Rhine is in brown glass bottles. Wines in these bottles will range from dry to sweet, so it is important to read the label carefully.

Billecart-Salmon---Brut-Rose

Champagne

Champagne’s bottle is built for practicle reasons. The pressure of the contents inside requires that the bottle be made of thick glass, with a deep punt (indentation on the bottom of the bottle). Cava, Prosecco and Sparkling wine are also bottled in the Champagne-style bottles. Most noteably, you will find a foiled cork and cage, which helps to contain the contents.

Domaine-Faiveley---Corton-Clos-des-Cortons-Faiveley-Grand-Cru-2010

Burgundy and Rhône

Both these regions have similar shaped bottles. This is a popular format for many wines, and you will commonly find Syrah, Grenache, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in these bottles from Australia to Washington. The defining character is their gently sloping shoulders and wide base. Wines from Rhône, mainly Châteauneuf du Pape, will also have a coat of arms on the neck, above the label.

Quinta-de-Ventozelo---LBV-2007

Fortified wines

Port, Madeir and Sherry are all types of fortified wine. The most common and consistent bottling is the Port bottles, with the bulge in the neck. The bulge is meant to catch sediment as the wine is being decanted prior to serving.

These bottles are not regulated in many regions and are not required by governing bodies. New world producers will typically follow European traditions, but are not held to any bottling rules and regulations. These most common types of bottles will give you an idea of the wine inside.


What can you see in your glass?

In order to evaluate, interpret and judge the wine we are drinking, we examine it’s appearance, smell and taste. It is tempting to skip the first step and go nose-deep into the glass. But you could be missing some valuable information, how a wine looks can tell you a lot about its style.

Wine Tasting - Eyes

Your tasting environment should be as neutral as possible. Natural light is best when inspecting the appearance of your wine. If your table or countertop is dark, grab a piece of paper or white napkin to place under your glass. Pour the wine into an appropriate drinking vessel, preferably not a mason jar or plastic cup. The proper stem ware is important, as it is produced to maximize the potential of your wine. Once the wine is in your glass, tilt it to a 45 degree angle.

What are we looking for when we look at our wine? The standard, industry set of checkpoints are: clarity, intensity and colour. There are other observations you might make, but these are the basic components of ‘appearance’.

Clarity

Is the wine clear or cloudy? There could be sediment in your glass that can be avoided with proper decanting. Or the lack of fining and filtering could leave the wine hazy. What can be interpreted from your wine’s clarity?

  • Visible sediment may indicate that a wine is older. Sediment will accumulate as the wine ages, this tannic acid collects and creates a mass that is suspended in the wine. In a wine that has aged and is stored properly, the sediment will tend to collect around the neck of the bottle. This is why you should stand the wine up to allow the sediment to collect at the bottom of the bottle before decanting and serving.
  • Minimal or no fining and filtering. Some producers opt to only perform basic sedimentation (allowing gravity to pull particles away from the wine) then rack the wine from the lees. You may ‘rack’ a wine multiple times to increase the clarity of the wine. After racking, wines may be fined. Fining is the process of adding a coagulate to the wine that bonds the small particles together. They are then large enough to form a sediment that can be racked.
  • Faults. Sometimes an excess of sediment or cloudy-ness is indicative of a fault in the wine.  If you are unsure whether your wine is faulty at this point, assessing the intensity, colour and aromas/taste will help confirm your suspicions. Possible culprits to a hazy wine?
    • It was not in a temperature controlled environment. When a wine is exposed to prolonged heat, the proteins in the wine can appear hazy.
    • There could also be some microbiological activity. This will be clear to you when you taste the wine – it won’t taste good, but will not be harmful either.
    • If there is some effervescence to the wine and it has a soda-water quality, the wine may have undergone a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Again, this is not ideal, but is not harmful to you.
    • Lastly, is your glass clean? We know stem ware is pesky to clean and polish, but be sure that your glass isn’t smudged or dirty, and that there is no debris that would be confused with cork or sediment in your wine.

IMG_2995

Intensity

The intensity is the depth of colour, and is described as either pale, medium or deep. To determine the intensity, we look at how deep the colour is at the core and how consistent the colour is from core to rim.

  • White wines are easier to determine intensity based on the transition of colour from core to rim. Because all white wines generally have a core that is paler than reds, you need to judge on a scale separate to red wine. The outermost rim will always be colourless. If the colourless rim extends towards the core, it is pale. If the deepest colour from the core extends consistently, close to the rim, the wine is deep.
  • Red wines can be examined similar to white wine. If the colour from the core extends consistently to the rim, it is deep. And if the outside watery rim is very broad, it would be considered pale. Another trick to help determine the intensity, place a book or print underneath your glass. Can you read the words (pale), see the words, but not clearly (medium), or not see anything through the wine (deep)?

Wine Tasting - Colour

Colour

There are some differences in technique when examining a red wine compared to white wine. When examining the colour of a white wine, tilt the glass and look at the core. This is the centre of the glass and will be the deepest and darkest colour. For red wines, tilt the glass and look at the wine between the core and the rim. The colour of the wine can help us determine many different things, or at least give us hints!

  • The most important and easiest to identify factor of a wines’ colour is its age. A white wine that is youthful will typically be lemon, or lemon-green. An aged white wine will have turned to amber or brown. Red wines in their youth are are purple or ruby, and will transition to garnet or brown. Wines will show their age at different rates. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon will hold it’s youthful appearance longer than a Pinot Noir.
  • It is difficult to determine the exact varietal of a wine based on it’s colour, but certain wines are easier to identify than others. Most white wines will fall within a spectrum of lemons. A light bodied whites with reflections of green, we we would infer is a Pinot Grigio, not a Chardonnay.  Similar in red wines, a purple wine is more likely a Mourvedre and not a Grenache.
  • You can also deduct whether a wine is grown in a cool climate or warm climate. The appearance of green in a white wine, is actually chlorophyll. This could tell us that the grapes might not be fully ripened, from a cooler climate or a cooler vintage. Red wines from a hotter climate will be more opaque and deeper. Cooler climate red wines have less pigment. Think of a Pinot Noir from Sonoma compared to a Pinot Noir from Washington. There are other implications that can affect the depth of colour, but these 2 very different climates will produce a Pinot with a different depth of colour.
  • A winemakers methods and preferences also have an impact on the colour of a wine. A Chardonnay that is fermented in stainless steel will be brighter lemon, while a barrel fermented Charonnay will have more gold hues. Some wines are also deliberately oxidized, these are usually fortified or dessert wines. Their colours will appear ‘aged’, amber, brick, tawny and brown. These methods of production are all controlled by the winemaker, and not indicative of fault or wine that is too old.

Wine-Colour

What else is in my glass? 

Bubbles in sparkling wine are a great thing, bubbles in a still wine are not. If you find that your Syrah is fizzy, the wine most likely went through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This is not intentional. If you are drinking a Prosecco, Champagne or Cava, take note of the bubbles. Are they tiny and delicate or vigorous? Do they dissipate quickly, or last for a long time in your glass? You can assess the quality of a sparkling wine by its bubbles. After tasting the wine, you will be better equipped to determine if the bubbles are delicate, creamy or aggressive.

Tears or legs? All wine will form tears on the side of the glass. Have you noticed when you swirl your glass to open the aromas, the wine tends to stick to the side and run down in a pattern around the glass? These demonstrate the viscosity of the wine, with higher sugar and alcohol content, the tears are thicker.

Next time you enjoy a WineCollective wine, be sure to log in and give your comments! We want to know what you see in your glass.


Fine Fiano

The WineCollective team loves to focus on introducing new varieties and regions to our members across Canada. We love when someone who is stuck in a Cab Sauv craze, or Sauvignon Blanc addiction turns a new cheek and discovers a new wine to take place as their favourite after years of going after the same wine, or wine style.

Fiano-grape-variety

In March packages we featured an excellent Fiano, produced by Masseria Surani – one of many Tomassi Family Estate projects. This is only the third Fiano wine featured on WineCollective over the last six years, and with such an excellent example, we wanted to bring to you some much needed wine education.

Fiano is a high quality white variety produced mainly in southern Italy, and specifically, Campania. Historically the grape was used to make sweet or sparkling wines because of its natural sweetness, but today Fiano is used to make varietal wines. At times the wine is blended with smaller amounts of Chardonnay or Trebbiano.

Campania-italy

In the 13th century, Fiano was widely planted in the Campania region, however following the phylloxera crisis of the 19th century, the grape was nearly forgotten. It was not until the 1980’s when local producers rediscovered and reintroduced the grape to consumers. Fiano is widely recognized as Fiano di Avellino because of its wide production in Campania on the volcanic hillsides of Avellino, just east of Naples. Other synonyms include Apiana, Foiano and Minutola.

Aroma and flavour characteristics

  • Spice
  • Florals
  • Honey
  • Hazelnut
  • Tropical fruits

The grape’s traditional name Vitis aping “the vine beloved of bees” is no surprise as bees are typically quite attracted to Fiano vineyards because of the sweet honey profile. It is also quite common for the vines to be planted among Hazel trees, lifting the nutty flavour of the wine.

Experts agree that Fiano is not the easiest of wines to create. The grapes are tiny and thick skinned leaving little juice and therefore a higher yield is required to produce a significant amount of wine. In addition the wine requires harvest to take place two to three weeks prior to the average variety. A well made Fiano should be weighty, often created by stirring in lees for added texture, and two to three years of aging can really leave behind an impressive bottle.

Masseria-Surani-Arthemis-Fiano-Puglia-2013

The 2013 Surani Arthemis Fiano is produced in Puglia, Italy. A very fresh and sweet example, we noted honeydew melon and tangerines followed by spiced florals and minerality. It also holds quite a weighty texture and a silky mouthfeel. Our food pairing recommendation was quite scarce as we think this Fiano makes an excellent companion to a patio on a sunny day. It is easy to see why the grape was produced in sweater styles back in its former glory.

Fiano production does not stop in Italy. With its increasing popularity, wines are beginning to appear in Australia’s McLaren Vale and La Rioja, Argentina. We look forward to tasting new examples and differences in Fiano from across the globe.

We would love to hear what you think about the Surani Arthemis Fiano, or even the Pirro Le Vigne Rare Varone Fiano, which was featured not too long ago in October packages. Sign onto WineCollective.ca where you can rate and comment on the wines. Don’t be shy!


Is wine spoiled after being frozen?

Our second WineCollective myth busters video asking the question: is wine spoiled after being frozen? David and Larissa taste and investigate!

Leaving wine overnight in a car is just one way wine can freeze during cold Canadian winters, though if the wine is brought back to room temperature and the cork remains in tact, it may still be drinkable. Watch and find out what we discovered after taking this myth to the test!


Green beer or bubbles?

When given the choice of green beer or green Champagne, the WineCollective team will always reach for bubbles – even on Saint Patrick’s Day! While the Irish may be more famous for their beer intake over wine production, we think crafting flavourful green bubbly cocktails is a much better route than indulging in food colouring.

st-patricks-day

Liqueurs like Midori and Crème de Menthe create a vibrant green colour that does not diminish when mixed with bubbly wines. So, for wine lovers looking to celebrate on March 17th with their Irish friends, here’s some delicious bubbly cocktails that won’t leave you feeling left out, should you choose to pass on green beer.

We’ve recommended both a sparkling wine and Champagne to use in these cocktails, both of which are available in the online store, and at Highfield by WineCollective.

Undurraga-Brut

Sparkling Wine: Undurraga Brut

WineCollective member price: $15.50

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Orange blossoms, apricots, peaches and green pear aromas and flavours with vigorous yet delicate bubbles. Textured and weighty, this sparkling has all of the components necessary to stand out in a cocktail.

Champagne-Liebart-Regnier-Brut

Champagne: Liebart-Regnier Brut

Member price: $46.80

Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Citrus and pink grapefruit with apples and pears. Soft bubbles and a touch of minerality make this a complex and finessed Brut Champagne.

Midori Mimosa

Skip the OJ, Midori is a sweet melon liqueur that works as a mixer for this mimosa cocktail. Use the recommended dry sparkling or Champagnes, or similar styled bubbles, as the liqueur is sweet enough to lift the character of the wine.

MIDORIMimosa

Pour 1 oz. of Midori into a Champagne flute and mix in 1/3 oz. sweet and sour bitters. Then, add 4 oz. of either Champagne or sparkling wine!

Minty Citrus Irishman

Ireland is not only known for its green lush meadows, but also its orchards and of course, WHISKY! This cocktail celebrates Ireland while of course, adding in some bubbly flair. Fruity, minty and green!

IrishmanCocktail

Pour the wine into a flute glass about half way. Add 1 oz crème de menthe, 1 oz citrus or pear liqueur and 1 oz Irish Whisky (we recommend Writer’s Tears).

 

If you try a yummy green drink next Tuesday, be sure to send us a picture on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. We love to see what our members are sipping on!

For the next week, March 10th – March 17th, members will receive 15% off all products mentioned in this blog including the Undurraga Brut, Liebart-Regnier Brut, and Writer’s Tears Irish Whisky at Highfield by WineCollective.

Even more, all Irish products will also be 15% off including Jameson Irish Whisky, Baileys and Guinness beer!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Sláinte!


Can you open wine with a pen?

The first video of a new WineCollective series, where we will be debunking wine myths, as well as showing off some nifty tricks. Our first question: Can you open wine with a pen?

The wine we’ve selected is Cameron Hughes, Lot 464 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel. Sneak peak, you may find this wine in an upcoming package!

We would love to hear from you! Share with us some wine questions myths that you would like solved.


Your WineCollective Dropstop

This year, in WineCollective Holiday Packages, we included a custom dropstop to assist you in serving all of the delicious wines you receive. In case you pulled the gift out from your shipment and sarcastically whispered, “thanks for the sticker,” we bring to you a step by step guide on using this small, yet handy tool.

Dropstop1

Step 1. Whether the bottle is capped with a cork or screw top, open it up!

Dropstop

Step 2. Remove the dropstop from its packaging and roll it into a funnel.

Dropstop3

Step 3. Stick the funnel shaped dropstop into the mouth of the bottle.

Dropstop4

Step 4. Pour away! No need to twist the bottle at the end of the pour.

Dropstop5

Step 5. Check out the bottle, and notice no drops down the label.

Step 6. Drink and enjoy!

Don’t be mistaken, your dropstop is reusable! Simply wash with mild soap and warm water and you’re ready to pour again!

You can find the WineCollective dropstop in store too for only $2.90 for club members!

We look forward to sharing with you details on all of the additional gifts added to WineCollective holiday packages. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on Vines Magazine. Members gifted three months of wine or more, receive a complimentary year subscription to the publication, beginning in March!


Discover Greek Wine!

Can you name any Greek wine varieties? Unfortunately, most wine lovers will stumble on this question, as the Greek wine industry remains a mystery to most.

Well, we would like to change this! We believe in the uniqueness of Greek wines and in wanting to educate both WineCollective members, and ourselves, we have included a Greek wine in November packages!

In order to prepare you for the 2011 Sigalas Asirtiko-Athiri, here is our need-to-know basics blog for Greek wine. This way, you can hold your own when tasting, or travelling to Greece!

So, if you asked yourself, what is Asirtiko or Athiri, this blog is for you!

Sigalas---Asirtiko-athiri-2011

Wine Regions of Greece

Macedonia: Located top north of Greece, Macedonia has replanted vineyards and upgraded to modern technology in recent years.

Epirus: One of the most mountainous regions in Greece. Nestled between the slopes of Mount Pindos, these vineyards are extremely difficult, yet satisfying, to cultivate.

Thessalia: On the southeastern slopes of Mount Olympos and neighbouring the Aegean Sea, Thessalia has a unique microclimate perfect for indigenous varietals.

Sterea Ellada: One of the oldest regions in Greece. Holding the city of Athens, this region is where Dionysus (the Greek God of Wine) introduced wine to the people.

Peloponnese: Most southern region on the continent. Vineyards are spread through hillsides and plateaus making the terroir throughout the region incredibly diverse.

Aegean Islands: Including the island of Santorini, where wine production thrives due to Mediterranean climate and volcanic soils.

Ionian Islands: Mostly parallel and west to Sterea Ellada, these islands including Cephalonia are green and mountainous.

Greece Wine Regions

There are many white grape varietals native to Greece, including those that compose November’s Greek wine!

Asyrtiko

Arguably Greece’s most known grape, Asyrtiko is native to Santorini, and maintains acidity as ripens, leaving a wine that is bright in acidity yet bone dry. The wine carries citrus and mineral notes from the volcanic soils of the island. It is also blended with Aidani and Athiri for VinSanto (holy wine). On the mainland, more mild and fruitier examples are created.

Athiri

Also originates from Santorini, and is even named after the island that is at times known as “Thira.” These wines are sweet and fruity with medium alcohol and low acidity.

SigalasAthiri

Athiri vines at Domaine Sigalas

Lagorthi

Planted in the Pelaponnese, these wines are high in acidity from the concentration of malic acid in the grape. Notes of peach and melon are typical with herbal undertones.

Other white grapes include:

  • Aidani – typically used in blends
  • Malagousia
  • Robola – a noble grape, native to Greece grown in the high mountain ranges
  • Savatiano
  • White Muscat
  • Moschofilero
  • Roditis
  • Tsaoussi

While Greece grows the widly known and noble grapes of the world, they also have indigenous red grape varieties.

Agiorghitiko

Originating in the Peloponnese region, this red grape creates a wine with soft tannins. Winemakers can create everything from fresh aromatic reds from the variety to deep aged reds or even rose!

Xinomavro

Translating to ‘acid black’ Xinomavro wines have rich drying tannins and characteristics of gooseberry, olives, dried tomatoes and spice – a great pairing for Italian tomato dishes!

SigalasVineyard

Harvest at Domaine Sigalas

Like most countries, Greece has their own class stamps and qualifications for quality wine and appellations. AOQS (Designation of Origin of Superior Quality) marks areas where historical winemaking took place. In these areas, there are limits on artificial additions in winemaking, and oaking and aging times. These wines are marked with a red band across the neck of the bottle.

AOC wines (Controlled Appellation of Origin) are marked with a blue band. In addition to the same restrictions as AOQS, these wines are sweet and must follow regulations on processes for additional sugars, either by creating fortified wines (adding alcohol – usually brandy – to the wine) or sun drying, where the grapes are left in the sun, bumping up their sugar levels.

We are very excited for WineCollective members to receive their 2011 Sigalas Asirtiko-Athiri in this month’s packages. If you have any questions about Greek wines, please contact us!

Don’t forget to rate and comment on the wine, as we’d love to see how you enjoy the Greek treat! Let us know if you would like to see more Greek wines on WineCollective!


Spring Mountain: Cain Vineyard

Cain Vineyard & Winery was one of many hosts during Touch the Terroir. Chris Howell, manager and winemaker, along with his team entertained the large group of participants at the winery for the reception and dinner. It was a great chance to meet everyone and share Spring Mountain Wines.

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Chris Howell, manager and winemaker of Cain, looking over the vines.

Cain Vineyard was also one of the wineries that we were able to spend time at during harvest. Our day started with a vineyard tour of a portion of the 550 acre ranch. 90 acres are currently planted to vineyards, with much of the property dense with trees. The majority of their grapes had already been harvested, with several blocks remaining. We walked through the rows of Cabernet vines with Chris Howell, Ashley Anderson-Bennett, vineyard manager and Ouzo ( the winery dog), inspecting the grapes’ ripeness.

We learned a trick to help determine how ripe a grape is off of the vine; if the flesh peels away from the seed easily, the grape is ripe, if you have to suck the pulp off the seed and skin with your tongue, it isn’t ready to pick.

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At Cain, La Piedra in the distance, surrounded by Cabernet Sauvignon.
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The journey to La Piedra.
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Ouzo admiring the view from La Piedra.

The undulating rows that bow and dip across the hillside provide pockets of more fertile soil. A grape tasted from a dip will be more plump than a grape from the same vine, 20 yards away on a peak. There are also varying ripeness within the clusters, a grape at the bottom of the cluster can ripen quicker than a grape in the centre or top of the cluster.  It is also interesting to taste the difference in flavour of grapes with different exposures to the sun. Whole clusters will look entirely different depending on whether they are on the east or west side of the vine.

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Ashley, vineyard manager at Cain, imparting her wisdom as we sample many grapes.
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Cabernet that was scheduled to be harvested in the next several days.

We were given the opportunity to harvest several rows of Cab Franc with the crew at Cain. Armed with a glove, bin and pruning sheers we made our way down rows of Cabernet Franc.  It would be a painfully long harvest if amateurs were left to pick the grapes by hand. The experienced crew at Cain flew down the rows, completing about 4 rows/1 tonne in less than 30 minutes. They probably would have been faster if we weren’t there to get in their way!

Cain is experimenting with biodynamic farming, and has restricted this block of Cab Franc to strict biodynamic practices. Ashley says she is not 100% convinced of the benefits, but notes that there are positive differences.

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1 tonne of Cabernet Franc en route to the winery.

Another interesting factor to consider when visiting a vineyard, is the type of vegetation that surrounds the vineyards. Near the Cabernet Sauvignon, there is large California bay trees, with bay leaves that are quite strong in aroma and flavour. Similar to the herbs and brush that grows wild in Provence and Rhone, or the eucalyptus in McLaren Vale, the vegetation around the vineyards in Napa impart their qualities on the wines.

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Ashley and Francois inspecting the fermenting grapes.
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One of the large steel tanks undergoing a pump-over.
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The barrel room at Cain.

We met associate winemaker François Bugué at the winery, where we inspected the grapes at different points in their fermentation. The winery team was busy with pump-overs, circulating the liquid from the bottom of the tank to the top. The juice flows through the cap of skins, increasing colour, tannins and flavours. The barrel room was also full of action!

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Sampling different wines/grape juice and measuring sugar levels.

We tasted grape juice prior to fermentation, during fermentation and as a finished product. Although the wine is a product of the grapes and terroir, there are many people involved in the process of making a great wine!

Look out for very limited exclusive of Cain Five on Tannic next week!