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A Journey in Wine: The Wines of the United States

America doesn’t have as long a wine history as other countries, but it is the fourth largest wine producer in terms of volume worldwide. Let’s have a closer look at the wines of the United States, known for its big, bold wines.

Go big, or go home: it seems a fitting phrase not only for the country, but for the American wine industry as well. The country boasts some impressive stats:

  • The USA is the globe’s largest wine consumer.  
  • The country is one of the world’s leaders of exports and imports of wine and shows no signs of slowing down. 
  • They are also the world’s largest luxury wine market. 

In short: America drives the global wine industry. 

map of USA superimposed on a vineyard

An Overview of the USA as a Wine-Producing Country

Almost every American state has a thriving wine scene. California is the largest, and best-known. The country produces many wine styles, but is best known for big, bold and juicy Cabernet Sauvignons and boldly oaky and buttery Chardonnays. 

  • Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling also play an important role in American winemaking, as they are cold-hardy grapes that can survive extreme temperatures and are suited to less than ideal growing conditions. In recent years, American winemakers have been creating amazing wines from their lesser-known regions in Oregon, Washington and New York. 
  • America is a large country and produces wines in a variety of different styles. For example, Chardonnay can vary widely from unoaked, citrusy and acid driven styles to oaky buttery and tropical notes. 
  • America is known for creating wines that embrace modern winemaking. American winemakers aren’t subject to the strict winemaking laws so common in Europe and therefore can make wines with more freedom of expression.

Winemaking in California

American wine is almost synonymous with Californian wine, but why is it such an ideal environment for growing grapes?

  • It has a Mediterranean climate
    Temperatures during the growing season average 13-21 ºC.
  • There’s an Ideal amount of sunshine

Morning fog cools the vineyards with full sunlight in the afternoon giving an even ripening to the grapes.

  • There’s minimal rainfall and clouds 

Rainfall typically amounts to less than 20 inches in an average season.

  • Mild winters

On the coast the average daytime temperature hovers around 20°C and up and can get up to 30 °C or more on the hottest summer days. Freezing temperatures are rare, even in winter.

  • Low humidity 

Dryer, almost desert-style conditions with relatively low humidity prevent disease from spreading in the vineyard.

With 80 percent of the vineyard acreage in the country and 88 percent of the wines being made here, California is by far the largest wine producer of the 50 US states. Areas in the north and along the coast have cooler climates ideal for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, whereas inland areas get plenty of heat perfect for ripening red grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ripe bunches of Cabernet Sauvignon

The Roots of American Winemaking

1560-1800

The history of wine in America dates back to the early 1560s when the first American colonies were settling on the East Coast. The settlers brought vine plantings with them, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that a sustainable wine industry developed. This had a lot to do with the West Coast becoming part of the United States after the Mexican War. 

1800-1920

When gold was discovered in California in 1849, the population of California skyrocketed as did the demand for alcohol. However, problems started to develop in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the spread of phylloxera, a deadly insect pest that attacks vines. The phylloxera louse had come from Europe through grapevine cuttings. 

The bigger problem however, was a political one that started in 1919. Moral crusaders were questioning the culture and safety of alcohol, eventually leading to the 13-year Prohibition period. Production in California surprisingly increased, as wine was being used for sacramental wine, and consumers started buying grapes to make homemade wine. As most winemakers were not allowed to produce more than 200 gallons of wine, they planted high yield grapes and often made blends of different grape varieties. This started the red blend trend we commonly know to come out of California today.

Focus on varietal wine and innovations

1920-1960

Prohibition was followed by the Great Depression and World War II. These were some of the toughest times to be living in America and it took several decades for the wine industry to recover, rebuild and establish a consumer base. 

1960-1980

The early 1960s were a time of growth and wine became fashionable again, increasing the demand in the industry. Winemakers like Robert Mondavi, Warren Winiarski, and Mike Grgić pioneered the success of producing quality wines that could compete with their European counterparts.

 In France, the Judgment of Paris Tasting that took place in 1976 put California on the map. After a blind tasting, the French wine judges unknowingly voted for a California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon as first-place winners above the finest white Burgundy and Bordeaux classified growths. This was an important date in history as it gave California winemakers the confidence that their wines could compete with well-established winemakers around the globe. It also paved the path for a new level of sophistication among American wine consumers, demand for varietally-labeled wines rather than generic labels became the new standard and place of origin became important. The American wine industry has been gaining traction ever since. 

fog rolls in over the vineyards in California

Introduction of American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s)

American Viticultural Areas (AVA’S) are different from their European Counterparts in that they do not dictate a specific style of winemaking, but they do give a sense of place. There is no minimum or maximum size for an AVA, but it is generally thought that smaller AVAs produce wines of greater quality. America has over 261 distinct AVAs of which 142 are dedicated to California. AVA’s became important as winemaking started to expand as climates can differ quite a bit from place to place. 

In California alone, it would take 12 hours to drive from the most northern edge of the growing region to the very southern end of the growing region. If we look at the AVA’s in the North Coast, we can see a difference in how the wines are made:

  • The Santa Cruz Mountains, which are further north, produce wines with greater acidity and more tannic structure. Example: Ridge Vineyards, a great place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
  • Further south, in Sonoma County, we get wines that are more fruit-forward with softer tannins due to the influence of San Pablo Bay. An example is Shug Estate, which produces good medium and light-bodied reds like Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir and more structured whites like Chardonnay.
  • Inland, in Lodi, the air quality is very different and the valley acts like a vacuum sucking in all of the cold air from the ocean which is great for growing acidic white wines. 

Knowing these qualities about certain AVA’s can help consumers best decide which wines suit their preferences.

Modern Winemaking in California

California has come a long way in the last decade and in many ways is still being defined. More AVAs have been distinguished even in the last few years, with the newest San Luis Obispo Coast AVA just coming on the map in March of 2022. California has added an additional 23 AVAs since 2018 and the wine trade is still growing. 

Online Wine Sales

The latest trends, however, have been centered around technology and more sales are made online than in brick-and-mortar stores since 2021, with Vivino being the largest player. New technology fueled by a thirst for alternative assets has also started a trend in wine investing online, something previously only available to the elite high-net-worth individuals is now readily accessible and helping wineries stay in business. 

Other important American Winemaking States

California has the largest area under vine in the US, but the state has some serious contenders with Washington, Oregon and New York. These states are gaining traction and making a mark on the map. Although these three are the most-recognized American regions after California, it’s important to note that Virginia is an up-and-coming contender for winemaking, with 10 winemaking regions and 8 distinguished AVAs. The US also has a few AVAs in Texas, New Mexico, and one in Arizona, although we don’t normally see these wines on the export market.

Winemaking in Oregon

The Oregon wine industry is primarily dominated by small family-run wineries and is a great source for unique wines. Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines are highly acclaimed and sought-after wines from the region. These are also the most widely available in the Canadian market. 

Oregon is home to 18 AVAs, with the Willamette Valley, Walla Walla Valley and Columbia and Columbia Valley as the best-known ones. Oregon is best suited to cool climate grape varieties and has a climate similar to that of Burgundy. Although to a lesser extent, some of the wineries are producing Rhône varieties which are sourced from the warmer southern parts of Oregon’s Rogue Valley.

Number of AVAs in Oregon: 18

Primary Grapes Grown in Oregon: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wine

Winemaking in Washington

Washington is the second largest producer of wine in the US and has the most land under vine next to California. Although winemaking in Washington started near Puget Sound, minimal sunshine made it more viable to grow grapes east of the Cascade Mountains. 

Although the region has nearly desert-like conditions, the vines still get ample water from the glacial runoff from the mountains as well as influence from the Columbia River for irrigation, without which viticulture would be impossible. Washington has 14 AVAs, and most are protected by the rain shadow formed by the Cascade Mountains – creating an ideal and unique climate for grape growing.

Number of AVAs in Washington: 14

Primary Grapes Grown in Washington: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling

Winemaking in New York

New York plays a significant role in America’s winemaking as it was one of the eastern pioneering regions where grapes were first planted in the Americas. However, the state isn’t always ideal for grape-growing as hot, humid summers foster mold and disease, and the climate can often face harsh winters. 

Despite the challenges, New York still maintains a flourishing wine industry. In recent years, New York has grown and modernized its winemaking capabilities substantially. The Finger Lakes are the most important, with 85 percent of the state’s wine production. With a climate similar to Germany, Riesling and Cabernet Franc do well here and most of the region is planted to cold-hardy grapes.

Number of AVAs in New York: 7

Primary Grapes Grown in New York: Riesling, Cabernet Franc, hybrid grape varieties

Want to Discover American Wine?

At WineCollective, we love the wines of our neighboring country. We often feature wine from famous AVAs in California, such as Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, or the Russian River Valley. Occasionally, we feature a wine from Oregon or Washington as well. If you’d like to discover great American wines that are exclusive to Canada, sign up as a member today!


A Journey in Wine: The Wines of Germany

If you’ve ever stared at a German wine label, you probably assumed deciphering it requires next-level skills (and most likely, some reading glasses). However, we urge you to set aside your fear of impossibly long words and umlauts and hear us out. The wines of Germany are worth discovering – and not just Rieslings – and cracking the code of the German wine label is easier than you think.

What’s Germany as a Wine Country Like?

Germany is known as one of the world’s coldest-climate wine regions. Its northernmost vineyards lie well above the normal latitude range for growing grapes and are far from the moderating influence of a large body of water. Through determination (or is it stubbornness?) and hundreds of years of experience with carefully chosen vineyard sites, German winemakers have found a way to produce world-class wines. Many regions have a unique terroir of red and dark blue slate soils that are ideal for absorbing solar heat during the daytime and radiating it back at night, which is why these grapes can still grow and ripen properly even in a harshly cold climate.

Riesling is king, a grape that is one of the most cold-hardy grapes. German Riesling has a worldwide reputation for quality, complexity and ageability. However, German wine is about more than just Riesling: the country also produces many white, red and even sparkling wines. 

Wines of Germany: steep slopes of the Mosel

Why You Should Know About German Wine

Due to its unique climate, Germany can produce wines with a high acidity, which makes them extremely food-friendly and a great pairing to a vast amount of different dishes. Much like German engineering, the wines stand for quality and precision: they are a force to be reckoned with. Read our blog about acidity in wine, and why high-acid wines pair well with food.

What Grapes Are Grown in Germany?

It’s no surprise that white grape varieties dominate the nation, accounting for 66% of the country’s total wine plantings. Germany is home to over 100 different grape varieties however, 20 of those make up most of the plantings that we see in the German export market. 

Riesling

Riesling is the most widely planted variety, accounting for roughly 20% of total production. Rieslings from Mosel and the Rheingau are the most sought-after worldwide. 

Müller-Thurgau

Müller-Thurgau comes after Riesling. This is a Riesling crossing developed for heartiness and its ability to grow in cold climates, but it lacks in flavour and longevity compared to Riesling. You could consider it a “drink now while you are waiting for your Riesling to age” variety. 

Other German Grape Varieties

Germany’s leading grape producers also grow:

  • Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is the most planted red grape variety.
  • Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) is also common and sometimes labeled as Ruländer
  • Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) is less common but still widely available
  • Chardonnay. Germany produces a small amount in a Chablis-style.

Other important grape varieties that are indigenous to Germany and exciting to try include Silvaner and Kerner (whites) and Dornfelder and Portugieser (reds). Most of the red grapes grow in southern German growing regions, whereas most of the whites come from Germany’s northernmost growing regions.

Wines Of Germany Riesling in the vineyard

Quality German Wine Levels

In Germany there are two main quality levels to look for:

Qualitätswein [“Kvahl-it-AYTS-vine”]

These wines are defined as quality wine from a designated region. The wine must come from one of the 13 designated wine growing regions in Germany. This means these wines meet basic level quality standards and are above average table wine. 

Prädikatswein [“Pray-dee-CAHTS-vine”]

This is the highest quality level designation, a notch up from Qualitätswein. This classification is divided into different degrees of ripeness of the grapes at harvest time. 

Kabinett [“Kah-bee-Net”]: Light to medium-bodied wines made from grapes with the lowest ripeness level. Around 7% – 8% alcohol and good for acidity. And if you are a member of WineCollective, you’ll know that this means Kabinett will pair perfectly with lots of different foods!

Spätlese [“SHPAYT-lay-zuh”]: These are late-harvest wines with additional ripeness and can be made in an off-dry or dry style. Perfect to pair with roast pork of moderately spiced Asian dishes.

Auslese [“OWS-lay-zuh]: Selected harvest. These are wines from grapes that have stayed on the vine a bit longer to develop more sweetness. They can also be made from dry to sweet – with the drier styles around 14% alcohol. The drier versions pair better with food, while the sweeter styles are best savoured on their own.

Beerenauslese [“Bih-ren-OWS-lay-zuh”]: Rich, sweet dessert wines made from individually harvested berries. Often affected by botrytis, a fungus that pierces through the grape’s skins and concentrates the juice, and affecting the grapes to exhibit honeyed flavours similar to Sauternes. 

Trockenbeerenauslese [You can do this! “TROH-ken-bih-ren-OWS-lay-zuh”]: Wines from individually picked berries. They are overripe to the point of being raisins and among the sweetest, most unctuous dessert wines.

Eiswein [“ICE-vine”]: Ice wine made from frozen grapes harvested late in the season and very sweet. Yes, Frozen. Picked at temperatures that are a minimum of -7 ºC (We can almost hear the harvesters sing “The cold never bothered me anyway!”)

Wines of Germany: Eiswein - frozen grapes on the vine

What Are Germany’s Main Wine Regions?

Mosel [“MOH-sehl”]

The Mosel is the best-known wine region in Germany. It’s famous for its Rieslings and one of the largest areas in terms of production. This is the most northern wine region in Germany with vineyards so steep that they must hand-harvest the grapes, while balancing on the slopes (see: stubbornness, above).

Known for producing high quality white wine, Riesling takes up 60% of total production with the rest being mostly Müller-Thurgau. Acidity is the hallmark of these wines, balanced by rich flavours of stone fruits and honey. As these wines grow in regions so far north, they usually contain no more than 10% alcohol and are a great choice for those looking for low-alcohol wines.

Rheingau [“RHAYNE-gou”]

This region only produces about 2% of Germany’s wines but is also the most famous for producing the highest quality wines in all of Germany. Among the best examples are Riesling and Spätburgunder [“Sh-PATE-boor-gun-der”] (Pinot Noir). Look to this region for a fuller body-style Riesling.

Nahe [“NAAH-huh”] 

This region is dominated by indigenous white grape varieties. Nahe is a great place to look if you want to find something unique, like a Kerner or Sylvaner. 

Rheinhessen [“RHAYNE-hessen”]

The Rheinhessen leads Germany wine production with the most land under vine and overall wine production. Best known for its Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Dornfelder.

Pfalz [“Pfahlts”]

This region’s name comes from a Latin word meaning “palace” and given this region gets the most sunlight and least cloudy days it’s rather fitting. The Pfalz lies along the border of France and is a stone’s throw away from Alsace. This is the best place to look for affordable Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

Baden [“BAH-dun”]

The warmest of Germany’s growing regions and most famous for its red wine production, this is the best place to look for Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Dornfelder and Portugieser.

How to Read A German Wine Label

Now that you know something about the German grape varieties, quality classification system and regions, you can get a lot of information from a German wine label. 

Source: Thomas Er/Wikimedia Commons]

On these labels above, you can spot the name of the producer (“Dönnhoff”), the vintage (“2005” and “2003”), the town (used as an adjective, so “Oberhausen (an der Nahe)” becomes “Oberhäuser”, and the specific vineyard is “Leistenberg”). These are wines from Nahe, with 9% and 11.5% alcohol, respectively. They are both “Qualitätswein mit Prädikat”: one a Riesling Kabinett, the other one a Riesling Kabinett trocken, an off-dry and dry wine.  

Or, if you’re still confused, watch Ernst Loosen, one of the Mosel’s most renowned winemakers, explain it:

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All About Cool Climate Wines

Whether you’re talking about tasting notes, techniques, or even regions, the vocabulary of wine is constantly evolving. As our understanding of the science of winemaking grows, so too does our understanding of what wine is and how we classify it. One way of describing wine that has become increasingly popular in the last decade is by referencing the growing climate. Wine grapes and vineyards in growing regions with cooler temperatures are said to produce “cool climate wines.” 

But what counts as a “cool climate” and what characterizes the wines from these regions? Read on to learn all about the cool climate wine flavour profile, which grape varieties do best in cool climates, what makes a cool climate wine growing region and why it’s more complicated than you might think. 

What is a Cool Climate Wine? 

It might seem like an easy question, but if you’ve ever asked a wine enthusiast or a sommelier, “What exactly IS a cool climate wine?” you probably got a lot more answer than you bargained for! Sure, the basic answer is simple enough – wine made from grapes grown in a region with colder weather – but the factors that go into a “cool” growing region in terms of wine can actually be quite varied!

No matter how they define “cool climate” for themselves, there is one thing that cool climate wine enthusiasts can agree on — what a cool climate wine tastes like. Whether red or white, cool climate wines tend to be light-bodied and lighter on alcohol, and with a fresh, acidic bite. 

The reason for this has to do with how heat interacts with grapes. High temperatures help grapes grow and develop more sugars, faster. Up to a certain point, this is of course a good thing! However, an overexposure to heat and sun – say, if you don’t harvest on time – will lead to an overproduction of sugars and a loss of acidity, which is why grapes grown in hot climates can end up tasting flabby and even jammy. 

On the flip side, grapes in cool climate regions have to really work to ripen, so they’re not overly sugary and have an acidic zing to them since the acidity is not broken down. And of course, since the sugars break down into alcohol during fermentation, a wine’s alcohol content is directly tied to the grape’s sugar content. Basically, a cool climate = less sugar = less alcoholic wine! 

Which Grapes Grow Best in Cool Climates? 

While growing grapes in a cool climate region is always going to be challenging, the type of grape makes a huge difference to a winemaker’s success and failure. In fact, many grape varieties would stand no chance of ripening in a cool climate region! White grapes tend to do better in cool climates, as their thinner skins allow more sunlight and heat to pass through, helping them to ripen fully despite shorter, cooler growing seasons, but some red grape varieties can also stand up to the cold. So what are the best grapes for producing cool climate wines? 

Best Grapes for Cool Climate Red Wines

Like all cool climate wines, cool climate reds tend to have a lighter body, lower alcohol content and high acidity. They also often have tart flavour profiles. 

Red wine grapes that do well in cool climates include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay Noir, and Merlot.

Best Grapes for Cool Climate White Wines

Just like the reds, Cool climate whites will be very light-bodied, have a zingy acidic mouthfeel and low alcohol content. They also tend to have citrusy flavour profiles. 

White wine grapes that do well in cool climates include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer.

What Makes a Cool Climate Wine Growing Region? 

Cool climate wine regions often have colder weather, all four seasons, and a lower average monthly temperature across the growing season, typically 13-15 °C. Of course, even regions outside of that range have been labeled “cool climate” and an average temperature for a span of seven months hides a lot of variety. If you’re looking to nail down some specifics, you might be surprised to learn that there is no official criteria for what makes a cool climate wine region!

That’s because the factors that go into a wine region being “cool” are pretty complex. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the common features of cool climate wine regions. 

Latitude 

Probably the most obvious factor in the climate of wine growing regions is latitude. While there are exceptions, viable grape growing regions are generally confined to latitudes ​​between 30° and 50°. Any closer to the equator, and the grapes get burned up in the extreme heat, any further and they simply fail to ripen. Within this range, geographical regions that are at or close to the 50th parallel are usually considered cool climate wine regions. 

A diagram from WSET, showing the the latitudes where most viable grape-growing regions are located.

High Elevation

Even in warmer regions closer to the equator, higher elevations can dramatically alter the local climate. As a result, vineyards in high elevation areas will often see weather patterns that closely follow those of more “classic” cool climate wine regions. 

Large Bodies of Water

If you live near a large body of water, you’ve probably noticed a pretty dramatic swing in temperature as you drive further inland. Large bodies of water are slow to change temperatures, staying cooler in summer and warmer in winter. They also have a tempering effect on air currents passing over them, which means coastal regions generally get a much more moderate climate overall. Because of this effect, coasts in cold weather regions can make great cool climate growing zones, as nearby bodies of water help make the otherwise frigid temperatures tolerable for the crops. 

Dramatic Diurnal Shifts

While the mental image that “cool climate” produces is usually along the lines of frozen lakes, mounds of snow, and parka-clad children, grapes do require heat and sun to grow, and cool climate wine countries can actually get quite hot in the summers! Even places that you would never associate with a cool climate, such as Australia, have regions that are considered cool climate wine regions. 

This is partially because of elevation, but it is also down to the phenomenon of diurnal temperature variation. Say what? Basically, this refers to the difference in temperature between the hottest and coldest point in a single day. In wine growing regions with dramatic diurnal shifts, hot days that boost sugar development give way to cold nights that stop it in its tracks. As a result, the wines that develop in regions like Southeastern Australia are lighter in body and alcohol content and high in acidity, just like wines made in more “traditional” cool climate wine regions. 

Want to Learn More about Cool Climate Wines? 

This month, WineCollective members have gotten the scoop on cool climate wines with content like our “Ask a Somm” feature, where we interviewed River Café wine director Bruce Soley. If you’ve been enjoying these articles and want to get more knowledgeable about wine, become a WineCollective member today to enjoy informative monthly articles on all aspects of wine and the winemaking industry! (And, of course, a curated selection of incredible wines delivered straight to your door.) 


Exploring the Bordeaux Wine Region

When shopping for wine by region, it’s common to want to start with the best. Which frequently leads people to France’s Bordeaux region. Everyone wants the greatest experience possible when choosing a wine. Why risk getting bad wine?! What can be frustrating about this process, is that “best” can mean “most expensive”. Although it’s nice to splurge sometimes, it isn’t always possible. Classifying the “best French wine” is a subjective topic that we can start to break down by understanding the region better. What makes the Bordeaux wine region so special? Let’s find out!

What is Bordeaux Wine?

Bottle of Bordeaux red wine placed on a map of the Bordeaux wine region

The name Bordeaux derives from “au bord de l’eau,” which means “along the water.” The region is divided by three important rivers: the Garonne, Dordogne, and Gironde. As you may have guessed, any wine produced in the Bordeaux region is considered a Bordeaux. This includes both red and white wines, and includes a vast appellation system to categorize the region. As a result, the appellation system in Bordeaux can be very complex, and dates back to the original classification of the Haut-Medoc AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in 1855. 

How are Bordeaux Wines Classified?

The trick is to imagine Bordeaux like a set of Russian nesting dolls: highly specific and prestigious appellations are nested within increasingly larger sub-regions. The more specific the location on the label, the better (and more expensive) the wine. While broader location names (like the catch-all “Bordeaux” or the slightly smaller “Médoc”) indicate humbler bottlings.

Wine Regions in Bordeaux

Bottle of Bordeaux wine next to a glass of red wine.

The Gironde river provides the most basic, unofficial classification of wines from Bordeaux’s left and right bank. The left bank (to the south and west of the river) is home to the AOCs: 

  • Médoc
  • Haut-Médoc
  • Graves
  • Sauternes 

The red wines here tend to have a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. The right bank, to the north and east, generally have a higher percentage of Merlot, and includes the AOCs: 

  • Cotes de Blaye
  • Pomerol
  • Fronsac
  • St.-Emilion 

What Grapes are in Bordeaux Wine?

Bordeaux grapes on a vine

Red Grapes of Bordeaux

Of the five traditional red grapes of Bordeaux, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are by far the most popular. Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot play a smaller, but still important, supporting role. Red wine in total makes up approximately 90% of all wine produced in Bordeaux.

White Grapes of Bordeaux

White grape varieties are evenly split between Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, with very small amounts of Muscadelle, Ugni Blanc, and Colombard. The most famous whites of Bordeaux are the Botrytis-affected sweet wines of Sauternes.

The grapes in Bordeaux are some of the most sought after in the world. Whether you’re looking for a white or a red, there is something from Bordeaux that will excite your palate. And not necessarily break the bank.

Shop these Amazing Bordeaux Wines!


WineCollective’s Quick Guide to South African Wine

Why drink wine from South Africa?

Boasting nearly 3000 km of coastline, South Africa is the only wine region in the world that is bordered by two oceans. With the Atlantic to the West and the Indian ocean to the East, South Africa is home to many beautiful vistas. One thing South Africa has in common with other wine countries in the world: incredible landscapes. We are hard-pressed to think of a wine region anywhere in the world that isn’t beautiful to look at—and South Africa is no exception. The unique environment created by its combination of geography and climate has made South Africa ideally suited to wine production. South African wine is known for pairing easily with food, approachable price points, and offering a wide range of grapes. Therefore, your next bottle should definitely be South African wine!

How did winemaking start in South Africa?

treed hillside in South Africa's wine country

With a grape-growing history stretching back over 300 years to early Dutch colonists, South Africa is not new to the wine game. Cape Town was an important re-stocking station for trade voyages between Europe and the East Indies. Local wine production was critical and kick-started early-on by cuttings from French grape varieties. Despite South Africa’s wine-growing history starting with colonization, it has been able to flourish past its harsh beginnings. As a nation it does not crack the top 10 in volume of wine production. However, many wine lovers around the world continue to seek out the exceptional quality wines grown and made in South Africa.

What grapes grow in South Africa?

close shot of grape vine

The signature grapes most commonly associated with South Africa are:

  • Chenin Blanc (also called Steen)
  • Pinotage (a made-in-South-Africa crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault)

In addition to these, other major French varieties are also thriving. Some varietals are becoming increasingly available in export markets and are well worth seeking out, including: 

  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Syrah
  • Merlot

The variety in South Africa vineyards is always expanding. As a result of South Africa’s incredible biological diversity, sustainability has become an important watchword for wine producers. Many of such producers invest considerable resources in preserving their land. As a result, you will find new varietals growing in innovative ways here.

Try South African wine today!

bottle of Spier Golden Thread wine laying on its side

We feature South African wine throughout the year and are always happy to help our members discover exciting bottles from regions they may not be familiar with. One of our favourite South African wineries, located just outside the Stellenbosch region, is Spier Wine Farms. Their Golden Thread red blend is excellent and always a great wine to indulge in. Shop Spier now and get exploring South African wine!


Explore Wines From Argentina

What Makes Wines from Argentina so Special?

The world of wine is a vast one. You can find winding vines of red and green grapes in countries on (almost) every continent. So it isn’t hard to find new places with a thriving wine industry and culture. One iconic wine country is South America’s Argentina. With majestic mountains in Patagonia, sweeping coastlines, and desert-like climates in much of the country, Argentina’s wine production is thriving. As a top five producer in the world, wines from Argentina can be found at varying price points and satisfying any discerning palate. Let’s explore Argentine wine and what makes it a frequent WineCollective feature.

World Access to Argentine Wine

Closely-cropped bottle of 2017 Malbec from Argentina

Argentina might be the 5th largest wine producing country in the world, but it wasn’t always that way. Wines from Argentina weren’t always easy to find internationally. Until the 1990s, wine produced in Argentina was mostly consumed within their own borders. As a result of increased exporting, the quality of wines being made in Argentina improved significantly. This caused great growth in purchases around the world and is why we’re all able to enjoy access to wines from Argentina today.

What Type of Wine is Argentina Known For?

Rows of grapes growing in an Argentinian vineyard

There are many varietals to enjoy from Argentina. Firstly, you probably think of Malbec, which is the country’s most notable grape. However, there is plenty to explore when it comes to wines from Argentina, where you can also find:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Petit Verdot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Pinot Noir
  • Torrontes
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc

Two Argentinian Malbec Wines You Have to Try

Proemio Terroir Red Blend

Bottle shot of an Argentinian Malbec, Proemio Terroir Red Blend
  • Why We Love It: In the cellar, the Proemio team employs a unique style of oak barrels for aging — rather than barrels made from staves from the trunk of an oak, they use staves sourced from the tree’s branches. This is not only an effort in sustainability, but also lends a slight rusticity to the finished wine to complement the bright fruit.
  • Taste: This wine is a berry bonanza on the palate! All the red fruit from the nose comes through loud and clear with flavours of wild strawberry, tart raspberry, and ripe cherry. It’s fully dry though, so don’t be fooled by all the juicy fruit flavours. 
  • Food Pairing: This is a party-friendly BBQ wine perfect for spring and summer. While it doesn’t need food, try this with a bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin on the BBQ, or seared halloumi served on crunchy grilled baguette and drizzled with balsamic.

Vaglio Aggie Malbec

Vagglio Aggie 2016 Malbec Wine bottle
  • Why We Love It: Vaglio wines are meant to showcase the qualities from their vineyard, with each wine demonstrating a different expression of Malbec. The Aggie, one of five Malbecs produced under Valgio Wines, is harvested from a 52 acre vineyard planted in 2008.
  • Taste: Bitterness of plum skin or cherry pit, combined with light leather notes and toasted nuts, give more depth to the fruity profile that enchanted us from the nose. Aged for eight months in 40% new French oak.
  • Food Pairing: Portobella mushroom burger with sautéed onions on a toasted brioche bun. Underlying earthy qualities and strong tannins will balance well with the richness of butter and caramelized flavours. An easy wine to pair with almost anything on the BBQ!

Featured May 2020 Wines

The eleven wines featured by WineCollective in May 2020

Each month we feature many wines from around the world, which often includes Argentina! We are are always finding high quality wine, at exceptional prices. Which is why it continues to be a wonderful source for WineCollective.;lzxaq’ Take a look at the wines we shared with members this month and maybe try some new bottles you didn’t get to.

We hope you’re able to indulge in some Argentine wine soon. It’s an exciting wine country well worth exploring! And don’t forget, you can shop our wine selections any time at WineCollective.ca.

Want to Continue to Explore the World Through Wine?

There is an entire world out there of wine to enjoy. So if you want to start your next wine adventure, we’re happy to guide you!