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!


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!


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.


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.


Athiri vines at Domaine Sigalas


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.


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!


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!


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.

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.

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

Ashley, vineyard manager at Cain, imparting her wisdom as we sample many grapes.
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.

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.

Ashley and Francois inspecting the fermenting grapes.
One of the large steel tanks undergoing a pump-over.
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!

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!

The ever-growing wine industry in British Columbia

Early this week, WineCollective got the chance to take part in the B.C. Wine Institute’s B.C. Wine Seminar, hosted at Bar C in Calgary. With a lack of marketing and education on B.C. wines in most wine courses, the B.C. Wine Institute wanted to provide an exclusive look at the ever-growing wine industry in the beautiful Canadian province.

Much like Burgundy and Alsace, British Columbian wine regions are located at the perfect 30-50 degrees Latitude range for healthy vine growth. However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Canadians became convinced of the regions’ potential.


A brief history of BC wines!

1907: Earliest record of a serious attempt at grape production in Salmon Arm.

1930: Extensive plantings of labrusca varietals.

1974: Federal government brings in 4,000 vinifera vines for new plantings.

1990: VQA (Vitners Quality Alliance) standards are put into place.

1993: BC VQA wine sales reach $10 million.

2006: BC VQA wines sales reach $134 million. 133 wineries in operation.

2013: Mission Hill Family Estate Winery wins Best Pinot Noir at Decanter World Wine Awards.

Today: Over 220 wineries in B.C., and sales reach $205 million.

Today, winemakers in British Columbia aim to create wines with a sense of place. With hot temperatures through out the province, mineral rich soils, and a shorter growing season, B.C. wines are beginning to create a name for themselves when considering their characteristics. With a shorter growing period, grapes are harvested with higher acidity and sugar, which translates to less intervention by the winemaker. From north to south, the different B.C. regions are giving noble varieties a new place to thrive!


B.C. wine regions include the following. The Okanagan Valley is B.C.’s largest wine region, responsible for over 87% of all vineyard area.

  • Okanagan Valley (sub regions: Kelowna, Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos)
  • Similkameen Valley
  • Fraser Valley
  • Gulf Islands
  • Vancouver Island
  • Other B.C. regions (including Shuswap and Grand Forks)

White Grape Varieties in B.C.

Northern Okanagan and island regions are making delicious white wines from Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Viognier, and Pinot Blanc.

Red Grape Varieties in B.C. 

Southern Okanagan has been able to produce everything from soft and fruity to big and bold red wines. Merlot leads in production followed by Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Foch, Malbec and Petite Verdot.

Both Oliver and Osoyoos have over 1485 Growing Degree Days (GDD – a measure of heat that impact plant growth) in comparison to Napa Valley with 1450. With statistics like these, B.C. wine makers are beginning to experiment with new varieties such as Tempranillo, which requires plenty of sunny days.


Though the B.C. wine industry has sprouted in just over 20 years, it is still far behind from prestigious regions and even wineries. All together, B.C. produces 1 million cases of wine per year. Meanwhile, some wines (ex. Dr. Loosen Riesling) reaches 2.5 million cases per year on its own.

A ’boutique region,’ B.C. has something new to offer to the wine world and it is up to Canadians, like is, to spread the word! Visit WineCollective today for numerous Canadian features including:

Clos du Soleil Signature

Cedar Creek Mac & Fitz Red or White

Brickyard Riesling

We’d love to hear about your B.C. wine experiences. Have you visited a winery, or have an ultimate favourite B.C. wine? Share your story for a chance to win a Canadian wine gift pack!

Visiting Spring Mountain

WineCollective was fortunate enough to visit Spring Mountain in September, and partake in their annual Touch the Terroir. Amber joined a handful of wine professionals who were given a comprehensive and exclusive experience with the people and vineyards of Spring Mountain.

Touch the Terroir is a program created by the Spring Mountain Association for wine professionals to be able to live and learn directly through the people creating the wine. A rare peak behind the curtain, where we were given the opportunity to get our hands dirty!

Wine map of Sonoma and Napa Valley from Apus Wine.
Wine map of Sonoma and Napa Valley from Apus Wine.

Spring Mountain

Spring Mountain is a small AVA within Napa Valley. Napa covers 225,000 acres and about 8,600 acres are within Spring Mountain’s borders. Napa Valley is broken down into 14 sub-appellations, including Spring Mountain.  The mountain vineyards of Spring Mountain are a short distance from the town of St. Helena, about a 10 minute drive. Spring Mountain neighbours Sonoma to the south-west (on the western slopes of the Mayacamas range), Diamond Mountain to the north, Calistoga to the north-east and St. Helena directly east and south.

The larger Napa Valley was officially recognizes in 1989, not long after in 1993 Spring Mountain was established as an AVA. There are 1,000 acres under vine that are home to 27 vineyards. Approximately 30% of the wine producers are exported, or have been exported to Alberta. You can find small quantities of Paloma, Cain, Frias, Terra Valentine, Vineyard 7 & 8, and Barnett at boutique wine shops and restaurants. We have previously featured wines from all of these producers on WineCollective and Tannic.

View from Barnett vineyards. The rows appear to be spaced far apart, but it is actually the steep incline between the rows.
View from Barnett vineyards. The rows appear to be spaced far apart, but it is actually the steep incline between the rows.

Vineyards in Spring Mountain are found hugging the mountain on steep slopes, where tending to the vines and harvest can be difficult, if not dangerous. The area is planted mainly to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but you can also find Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and a few white varietals (only 10% of the total plantings).

Morning fog over the vineyards at Spring Mountain.
Morning fog over the vineyards at Spring Mountain.
Fog lifting around 9:30 am at Spring Mountain Vineyard.
Fog lifting around 9:30 am at Spring Mountain Vineyard.

AVA’s are created to further distinguish an area’s terroir, grouping together vineyards that have similar soil, elevation and climate. Spring Mountain’s elevation above the valley floor gives a temperate climate, with less temperature fluctuations from day to night. Vines are planted on rugged hillside terrain between 400-2,300 meters in rocky soils. Resulting wines are pronounced and distinguished due to the vine’s plight for nutrients and sun. The majority of vineyards are located above the fog line, where they are exposed to morning heat earlier in the day and cool earlier in the afternoons. The mountainous vineyards also receive more rainfall than the valley floor. However, the past couple of years have been drier than normal. Even within such s small growing region like Spring Mountain, there can be many differences from vineyard to vineyard. Neighbouring vineyards are composed of varying soil, deep or little impenetrable bedrock, and depending on the aspect receive more wind, rain or sun.

Winery dog at Paloma, Palo, giving a tour of the vineyards.
Winery dog at Paloma, Palo, giving a tour of the vineyards.

Further defining Spring Mountain from the rest, are the people.  Home to a ‘everyone knows everyone’ small town community, the residence of Spring Mountain are welcoming and down-to-earth. Not only were the participants of Touch the Terroir invited to participate in harvest, the busiest time of year for winemakers, members of Spring Mountain opened their homes and were gracious hosts.

We look forward to sharing more of our Spring Mountain adventure, stay tuned for a sneak-peak of Cain Vineyards!


You may have noticed a new reviewer on our WineCollective Dal Cero Soave tasting card this month, fOURevrWine. Curtis Litun and Andrew Albert launched fOURevrWine toward the end of 2013. While the company and website are new, the pair are both experienced wine specialists that we have recently had the pleasure of working and chatting with.


Mainly through podcasts posted on their website, Curtis and Andrew aim to bring entertainment, news and know how to wine enthusiasts everywhere. By removing the pretention that surrounds enjoying wine, fOURevrWine is meant to be a fun and relevant means of bringing wine knowledge to all of those willing to learn.

A popular podcast of theirs is #trendingsips, where Curtis and Andrew share what they are drinking, and what maybe you would like to drink during local and worldwide events. For example, the most recent post focusing on Calgary’s Sun and Salsa Festival, and what they recommend pairing with delicious Mexican cuisine.

Curtis says that he encourages wine drinkers to go beyond their norm, to explore their preferences and find new favourites. As WineCollective has mentioned before wine education is continuous, and Curtis feels very much the same.

“I will never know everything there is to know about wine,” says Curtis. “But my goal is to continue to learn and share the stories behind wine.”


Curtis compares the wine world to a “modern library,” where within every spirit, beer and of course wine bottle, there is a story to tell. “Wine has as a culture and history. There is so much more inside the dusty bottle if you want to explore.”

In order to expand their palate, Curtis suggests that wine drinkers move on from what they know, or assume to know. “People should know that Malbec doesn’t just come from Argentina,” he says. “You will never try your next favourite if you never put it in your glass.”

Even more, Litun admits himself to not having a favourite wine. “There are things about certain wines I will always enjoy, but there is a time and place for every wine.”

As an example, Curtis touched on big burly men not wanting to drink rose. A concern we posted on our last blog, as many roses are perfect for hot summer days, and as a pairing with BBQ. To those men out there, Curtis says to move away from the norm of big Californian Cabernets and expand what you know!


Even though we were fortunate enough to have Curtis write a July review for us, and another for August packages, fOURevrWine does not typically concentrate on ratings and reviews.

“What we try and do is give you a starting point, offer some flavours you may taste and then have you try it,” he says. “If I tell you a tasting note, before it’s even hit your lips, chances are you’re going to agree with me.”

Even though Curtis has tasted wines through his wine career over the last decade, he still admits that a review or note is just his opinion. “Just because I think it’s really good, or someone else thinks so, it does not mean that you are going to think the same.”

Instead, Curtis wants to encourage all wine lovers to really drink, enjoy and experience the wine in front of them, and more, to think and talk about it!


“It’s comparable to life with travel, where you visit places, take pictures bring back a little trinket and tell people the stories about it,” he says. “It’s the same with wine in that you can pour a glass, taste it and talk about it.”

As a previous bartender, retail operator, and current wine representative himself for some WineCollective features such as the 2008 Baluarte Crianza, it is no doubt that Curtis Litun is a wine pro. However his work is not done yet.

“I want to experience of all facets of wine. From picking grapes, to pulling corks,” he says.

Hoping to forever be in the wine industry, and forever moving forward, WineCollective can’t wait to watch fOURevrWine continue to grow. We hope each of our members gets a chance to visit their site and social media channels full of tips, tricks and trending sips.

Atlin Mountain Coffee Roasters

Tucked away in the furthest northern corner of British Columbia is the town of Atlin, which sits on the border between the Yukon and Alaska. While absolutely stunning, only around 400 inhabitants get to witness the beauty of the largest glacial freshwater lake and freshwater island in the world, Theresa Island. You may remember the name Atlin from “The Atlin Gold Rush” that took place in 1898. At this time, miners and settlers flocked to the town for its riches and the population once reached 20,000. However, after two fires that burned the town down and as gold does not grow, Atlin once again became a quaint and precious place to few.


Today, Atlin relies on its tourist attractions including fishing and biking and hiking trails left over from the miners, as well as amazing coffee, such as last month’s CoffeeCollective feature, Atlin Mountain Coffee Roasters.

The roastery began only a few short years ago by adventure seekers, Philippe and Leandra Brient. The couple had spent their lives working numerous jobs including running a hotel, dogsled tours, and even winemakers in the Okanagan. Today, in addition to roasting coffee, both Leandra and Philippe are also volunteer firefighters, members of Atlin’s Search and Rescue Society and RCMP detention guards in Atlin.

Prior to their extremely busy lifestyle, Leandra and Philippe grew up in the Netherlands and France respectively. Being constantly surrounded by the sound of espresso machines and grinders gave them the appreciation for coffee that they would use later on in life with their roasting house and café.


Leandra says her experience in Holland gave her respect and appreciation for Indonesian and Sumatran coffee, as well as her and Philippe’s worldwide travel.

“Thinking back, we have been served a lot of different coffees, from coffee grounds boiled in a pan with water, served directly into a cup (grounds included) in Romania to being brought coffee from coffeestands along the road by strangers on motorcycles in Turkey, to drinking qahwah in Syria while staying with a local families who invited us to stay in their homes.”

In the end, their love for coffee, and Leandra’s educational background in hospitality, provided a means to roast coffee on their own. A decision that came to them quite suddenly over a cup of coffee one morning, and in consciousness of wanting to raise their son, Justin, full time in a warming and family friendly environment.


Atlin Mountain Coffee has now mastered numerous roasts including light roast and customer favourite Ruffner Bean and the Brient’s personal favourite, Ranger Strong – named for a 800km trip with the Canadian Rangers. In addition, the pair also opened up Lilly Café in December 2013, which was named after Leandra’s nickname “Lili.” The café serves as an espresso bar with food and drinks for the people of Atlin and a popular hangout for the moms and kids of the town.

For June’s packages, CoffeeCollective featured the Black Gold dark roast from Ethiopia and Nicaragua Tarahne Express. Both of which are complex with layers of sweet flavours of chocolate and caramel.

Should you ever get the chance to visit beautiful Atlin, potentially for their annual arts and Music Festival, take a trip down to Lilly Café where you can find Leandra and Philippe with a cup of coffee – and likely, some amazing stories to tell.

Highlights of the RMWFF

This past weekend, I visited Banff for the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival. As per usual, this event was sold out and attracted wine enthusiasts, importers and wineries from around the globe. I was fortunate in getting to try some amazing, unique wines, perfect for our WineCollective and Tannic wine clubs.


As a challenge, we tried to stick to different wines, either in winemaking style or grape variety. Some of my favourites included:

Chapoutier Bila Haut Blanc (Robert Parker, 92 points)

A blend of Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris. The wine was aromatic and fresh, with pink grapefruit, honeysuckle and golden raspberry.

Rivino 2012 Estate Viognier

True aromatic and flavour characteristics of the grape, such as white peach and tangerine, but with more of a fresh and light mouth feel.

Adega de Borba Reserva

From the Alentejo region and with a unique cork label, this wine is a blend of Portuguese grape varietals for flavours of coffee, black fruits and spice.


One of our trusted wine representatives, Gold Medal Marketing had some amazing tastings for us, including Enkidu Wines from Sonoma, California. Winemaker for Enkidu, Phillip Staehle was there to pour his blends including the 2010 Humbaba. This wine is a blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah, with slight touches of Rousanne and Grenache Blanc. The wine is co-fermented meaning the grapes are all harvested and go through the winemaking process together, instead of being separated by variety and blended later. You may see Enkidu in upcoming Tannic sales.

Andy, from Gold Medal had some amazing Scotch Whiskeys to try, including the previous Tannic feature, Springbank Single Cask as well as some Telling Premium Irish Whiskey.


With North by Northwest Wine Importers and our friend Jeremy, we were able to try some delicious Fox Run Vineyards wines that will definitely be making their way into WineCollective packages. We also got to try some tasty and lively bubbly from the New York winery to finish off the evening!

If you didn’t get the chance to head to Banff, the Rocky Mountain festival will also be coming to Calgary on October 17 and 18, and to Edmonton on October 24 and 25.

Again, if you are outside of Alberta, we would love to hear about some of your local wine festivals and events! Leave us a comment or send an email with some details about previous and upcoming events so we can share with the rest of the WineCollective community!

Colene Clemens Pinot on Tannic

We are excited to introduce you to Colene Clemens Vineyards from Willamette Valley. Brand new to Alberta and with no presence currently outside the province, Colene Clemens is being featured this week on Tannic.


Only 2,200 cases are produced annually, and a very small allocation has arrived in Canada. We have brought in three estate Pinot Noirs from Colene Clemens’ 2011 vintage that offer great value from Oregon. They are named Victoria, Margo and Adriane.

Colene-Clemens-Victoria-2011 Colene-Clemens-Margo-2011 Colene-Clemens-Adriane-2011

The Basics:

  • Colene Clemens is family owned and operated, dedicated 100% to estate produced Pinot Noir
  • Joe and Vicki Stark established Colene Clemens (named after Vicki’s grandmother) in 2008
  • Originally 23 acres (planted in 2006), the estate has grown to 41 acres
  • Clones planted: Dijon 115, 667, 777 and Pommard
  • The estate is located on the western edge of Chehalem Mountains AVA
  • Winemaker Steve Goff has worked previously as assistant winemaker at Beaux Freres
  • Not overshadowing the Pinot, but equally impressive is the views from the tasting room (we highly recommend you visit!)

There are less than 25 cases still remaining in the province. Tannic members, log in at 9 am on Wednesday May 7th to secure your Colene Clemens Pinot!

Canmore Uncorked wine festival April 12th

We have some exciting news to share with you! The first ever Canmore Uncorked is taking place starting today through to April 12th. The food and wine festival is celebrating the great dining and drinking experiences found in Canmore.

Fellow Calgarians will agree, we rarely need an excuse to visit Canmore. The scenery, people and limitless activities found in the town are more than enough to persuade us to make the hour long trek. Give us a festival to further indulge in the bountiful culinary experiences of Canmore, and we can’t say no!  The 10 day event includes a craft beer festival, featured menus at 26 restaurants, cooking courses, progressive dinners, and concludes with a wine festival.

uncorked logo

WineCollective will be in attendance at the wine festival on April 12th, and we would love to see you there! Long-time WineCollective members might recognize some of the 80 wines being poured. There is a great selection that represents many boutique producers from around the world, and also includes a handful of Scotches.

What you need to know:

  • Saturday, April 12th from 7-10 pm.
  • Tickets are $45 and can be purchased in advance at
  • Your ticket covers the cost of the samples!

CanmoreUncorked has all the information on the week’s festivities, including the wine festival on April 12th. You can also visit Tourism Canmore for details on accomodation, and other attractions while you are in the area. We hope to see you in Canmore, WineCollective is looking forward to hearing about your Canmore Uncorked experiences!



The wines of Portugal

There are several reasons as to why Portugal is and further becoming a widely reputable player in the wine industry. First, the country accounts for 50% of global cork production, and second, for its famous and much loved Port wine.


Apart from mastering skills and natural resources in cork oak tree forests and through out the Douro, the Portuguese have an overall love of quality food and wine. I know this not only through personal experience of my nationality, but also in the way that Portugal is becoming greatly appreciated for their overall wine production by critics, industry leaders and everyday wine drinkers.

Various varieties, of both red and white, are rooted and grown only in Portugal’s vineyards and as WineCollective searches for uncommon wines to share, these native grapes offer a unique branch to expand your palate. Some of these varieties include:

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 4.46.38 PM

Many of these grapes have been transferred to countries of similar climate, such as Touriga Nacional in South Africa. Considering its aging potential, richness in colour and tannins, and intense full-bodied flavours, Touriga Nacional deserves to be listed as a noble grape.

There are 14 wine regions in Portugal, all with unique qualities in terroir, climate and grape varieties that allow for recognized specialties.

Image from Wines of Portugal,

The famous Alentejo is known for its bodacious and dry red wines made from varieties such as Borba, Évora, Trincadeira or Tinta Amarela and the widely planted Aragonez (Tempranillo) in addition to noble grapes like Cabernet. Equally as admired, the Douro has branched from its production of fortified wine and uses the typical varieties that are found in Port like Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca, and Touriga Nacional, in making its rich reds.

Last summer, a major trend in the wine industry was the adoration of Vinho Verde, or green wine. The region’s cooler climate and coastal breezes from both north and west creates light, crisp and aromatic wines from indigenous grapes named Alvarinho, Arinto and Trajadura.


2010 Esporão Reserva Red

A very popular wine in Portugal with aromas of spice, red berries, chocolate and oak. On the palate the wine is compact and dense with black fruit and firm tannins. Made from Aragonês, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Alicante Bouschet.


WineCollective has featured many Portuguese wines in the past. These more recent selections may still be in your cellar!

2010 Monte da Ravasqueira Prova

Blend of Aragonez and Trincadeira. The name Prova means “taste” or “proof.” Mid-palate shows soft red fruits and the smoke and spice qualities come directly from terroir as no oak aging is used.

2012 Monte da Ravasqueira Serrana

White varieties of Antão Vaz and Arinto. Notes of stone fruit, green apple and orange peel. A balance of tropical and citrus flavours.


2005 Luis Pato Baga

Made from single grape variety Baga. Weighty core of earth and wood with sour cherry, blackberry and dark chocolate on the palate.

Baga is traditional served with Leitão or suckling pig. For some, the pairing may be out of reach, however, many pork-based Portuguese dishes go hand in hand with the wine such as Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork, clams and potatoes) or a bean stew known as Feijoada. I would argue that my father makes the best of both, but for those willing to try, enjoy the recipe below!

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 4.48.01 PM

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1.    In large bowl, combine wine, paprika, salt and pepper, blend well. Add garlic cloves, bay leaf, and cubed meat, turn meat in marinade to coat pieces. Marinate for 6 hours, turning occasionally.

2.    Drain pork; reserve marinade. Pat cubes completely dry. Discard garlic and bay leaf. Melt 1 teaspoon of oil in large skillet. Add pork cubes, stirring frequently so that the meat colors quickly and evenly. Transfer with slotted spoon to a bowl.

3.    Pour reserved marinade into skillet and bring to a boil over high heat, scraping off any brown particles clinging to the inside of pan. Boil briskly uncovered until marinade is reduced to 1 cup. Pour over pork and set aside.

4.    In 6 to 8 quart pan, heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil; add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until onion is soft but not brown. Add garlic, tomatoes and crushed red pepper. Simmer, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.

5.    Spread the clams, hinged side down, over the tomato sauce; cover the pan tightly and cook over medium to high heat for ten minutes or until clams open. Stir in reserved pork and juices. Simmer for 5 minutes to heat thoroughly. Sprinkle with parsley.


Understanding and reading up on Portugal’s unique grapes and their traits will become very helpful as the wines continue to boom in popularity. Whether we featured it, or you found it on your own, comment below and share with us your favourite Portuguese wine!

A treat from Glen Carlou

Less than an hour outside the beautiful Cape Town, the Glen Carlou estate is producing some of South Africa’s finest wines. While the winery was first established in 1985, it was taken over by Hess Family Estates in 2003. Hess is known for producing highly sought after New World wines and is partial owner to Bodega Colomé in Argentina, and the famous king of the Barossa Valley, Peter Lehmann Wines.


WineCollective’s CEO, Matthew, had the opportunity to visit the Glen Carlou winery in 2013, where he toured the vineyards, taste the wine with the winemaker and landed the very exclusive deal to bring their 2012 Unwooded Chardonnay to WineCollective members. Before our January packages were released, this wine was quite impossible to find anywhere in Canada.

Only at its second vintage, this Chardonnay is rare not just counting its limited availability. Unlike Glen Carlou’s two other Chardonnays, the Classic and single vineyard Quartz Stone, the Unwooded Chardonnay does not receive any oak treatment. Instead, it undergoes an entirely unique winemaking and aging process of its own.


Grapes are sourced from Glen Carlou’s rich vineyard slopes in the Paarl Valley region, where the estate is located. Aiming to make higher quantities of the Chardonnay, because of the first vintage’s popularity, grapes were harvested from mid January to mid February after reaching ideal maturity.

Winemaker Arco Laarman, imported cement egg-shaped tanks to Glen Carlou from France, which was used to ferment both the 2011 and 2012 vintage. These special eggs, that blends the benefits of wood and stainless steel, allows the juice to slowly adjust its temperature. It also gives optimal control of micro-oxygenation, or the process in which oxygen is introduced to the wine.


Another key difference is that the egg prevents the wine from rising, as it typically does with wood and an increase in temperature. The shape causes the fluid and lees to turn naturally and nourish the wine.

Without the use of wood for fermentation or aging, the 2012 Unwooded Chardonnay is left without the oaky qualities the Chardonnay varietal typically carries.  Instead, the wine is fruity and full with a fresh minerality. This extraordinary Chardonnay is now Glen Carlou’s fastest selling white wine in South Africa.


The estate’s restaurant pairs this particular Chardonnay with home cured duck breast that marries rhubarb chitneu, celeriac and pear salad with citrus dressing. While this does sound delicious, the wine will also work wonderfully with grilled seafood or on its own.

WineCollective is very fortunate and excited to have the Unwooded Chardonnay in the Canadian market. We have some extra bottles available in our members only store if you’d like to make this your house white wine! Reach out to the online WineCollective community with your tasting notes and food pairings because we would all love to hear what you think about this rare and celebrated treat!

A taste of Scotland

First used for medicinal purposes, Scotch whisky can be a bit intimidating to the novice malt enthusiast with its recognizable burn. Unlike wine, whisky must be distilled and initially matured in only one location for it to carry the label Scotch. That location of course, is Scotland.


Scotch was first recognized by its name “Aqua vitae” or water of life in the late 1400’s because of its healing properties. However, the liquor gradually increased in popularity between kings and farmers alike. In 1880, the production of wine in France was extremely damaged due to an invasion of the Phylloxera bug. While this bruised the wine industry, the need for delicious alcohol remained and thus the love for Scotch whisky boomed.

Scotch is made by steeping barley in water during the initial production process called malting. From there, the malt is mashed, fermented, distilled and matured for a minimum of three years (although a decade is preferred) in oak casks.


There are five Scotch-producing regions in Scotland, all of which are known for their own qualities or characteristics of whisky.

1. Lowland – Produces more mild and mellow Scotch. Consider distilleries Glenkinchie or Bladnoch.

2. Highland – The largest region that is home to Scotland’s favourite brand of Scotch, Glenmorangie.

3. Islay – Produces Scotch that is heavier and smoky. Distilleries include Ardbeg or Bowmore.

4. Speyside – Houses the most distilleries in Scotland including the well known Glenfiddich.

5. Cambeltown – Smallest production area yet is home to one of our favourite Scotch distilleries, Springbank.


Tannic is very excited to feature the Springbank Single Cask, 12-Year-Old Scotch Whisky, currently in our online store.  This specific single malt was produced exclusively for the Alberta market and is not sold anywhere else. A portion of the proceeds from each sale are donated to the flood relief effort and the Veteran’s Food Bank.

Here are Sprinkbank’s tasting notes on this impressive Scotch.

Eyes: Golden straw in colour

Nose: Very rich and lush with strong toffee and caramel notes to begin with. The nose then develops to really thick treacle with heavy notes of marmalade. This whisky has a really meaty nose with some hints of cinnamon and smoke.

Mouth: An amazingly full-bodied whisky, rich with a thick and oily texture. It has a very rich taste of oranges, tangerines and clementines as well as a hint of cocoa.

Finish: Sweet and very rich. Long finish with a hint of smoke.


If you’re new to the wonders of Scotch, we have a helpful hint to get you started on your tasting experience. While most may think adding ice to Scotch is best, this actually changes the temperature of the liquor. Much like wine, if Scotch is not served at the correct temperature, flavours and aromas are altered or hidden. Instead, we recommend that you add a splash of room-temperature water to your Scotch for two reasons. First, adding water to Scotch helps to enhance the ability to taste specific and individual flavours. Secondly, water will mask the burn that usually strays newcomers from trying or re-trying Scotch.

Visit today for your own exclusive bottle of the Springbank Single Cask 12 Year. If not for yourself, this limited time offer makes for a wonderful holiday gift for the Scotch-lover in your life.