The Demystified Vine

Taking the mystery out of wine exploration!

Hello wine lovers! I recently received some intriguing information about world wine consumption trends. I think those of you who enjoy wine will be interested in reading these statistics. I didn’t include all of the report at this time, as I’ll likely be sharing more data in future.

vinexpo

Toronto, February 17, 2015 – Press Release

Vinexpo released the results of the its 12th study of the World Wine and Spirits Market with a forecast to 2018. The International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR) agency out of Britain conducted the survey.

The Trends

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Xavier de Eizaguirre, Chairman of Vinexpo

What the facts divulged are that, essentially, global consumption of wine is escalating. Consumption is growing at a speedy rate, and it is estimated that there will be a 3.7% increase in consumption by 2018, which shows a total growth of 2.732 billion 9-litre cases. Between 2009 and 2013, the consumption of both sparkling and still wines rose by 2.7%, reaching 2.648 billion 9-litre cases. This basically evens itself out to 31.7 billion bottles. Jaw-dropping, I know.

In 2014, the United States became the top consumer of still wines in the world with a total consumption of 336.9 million cases, which was up 11.6% versus 2009 statistics. In US dollars, we are looking at $29.5 billion in business.

In contrast, Canada is keeping its own pace. We are number seven on the world’s wine consumption stage, with business sales in excess of $6.1 billion US dollars. Canadian wine consumption is expected to grow, according to this study, 10.4% by 2018.

On a global scale, the top three consumption countries are the United States, France, and Italy.

Canada a Huge Importer of World Wine

In 2014, Canada became the world’s 6th largest wine importer. Our country is showing a taste for New World wines, and the statistics tell us that since 2008, we favour New Zealand, United States, and Chilean wines. Nearly 18% of imported wine came from New Zealand, almost 10% from the USA, and just shy of 5% from Chile.

What is Vinexpo?

Vinexpo was created in 1981 by the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Bordeaux. This highly-anticipated wine trade show in Bordeaux has “become the premier world wine and spirit destination for decision-makers, distributors and producers worldwide”. It is held on a yearly basis. In 2013 alone, Vinexpo hosted “2,400 exhibitors from 44 countries, 48,858 visitors from 148 countries and 1,290 journalists and writers”. (As a side note, I am currently planning on attending this year in June 2015, and will hopefully be blogging about all of the awesome wine I will be encountering!)

I’d love to hear your comments on these statistics. I know I am surprised at some of the findings.

Cheers!

All quotes taken from the Press Release.

ClosduSoleilPanoramaA Class Act – BC’s Clos du Soleil Winery makes elegant London UK debut at Canada House Reopening

The boutique ultra-premium Similkameen Valley based Clos du Soleil Winery was thrilled to be selected as the sole BC wine sponsor for events surrounding the official reopening of Canada House today by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

“An absolute honour”, said winery Founder Spencer Massie from London, “my fellow Director’s Winemaker Mike Clark, Les LeQuelenec, Peter Lee and our closely knit team of partners and staff are elated that we are here and able to showcase what Canada, BC specifically, can do. It’s an exciting time for the Canadian Wine Industry – we are crafting top world class wines – and on the cusp of them being acknowledged as such internationally.”

Clos du Soleil Winery is based in the Similkameen Valley, billed as the Organic Farming Capital of Canada – a small appellation adjacent to the better known Okanagan Valley.

The wine presented was their flagship white 2013 Capella, a classic old world style blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, barrel fermented in very small lots. It was previously declared the Best White Wine overall at the 2011 BC Wine Awards and a fitting milestone for this highly focused artisan winery with limited production and a tight portfolio of wines displaying “Old World Elegance . . . New World Edge”.

Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Gordon Campbell said:

CanadaHouse_EXT_LR-1“I am delighted that so many leading Canadian firms were eager to participate in helping us to celebrate the Official Opening of Canada House on Trafalgar Square in true Canadian style. I would like to personally thank Clos du Soleil Winery for their generosity. They have indeed brought some of Canada’s finest to the very heart of London.”

For the first time in more than 50 years, the revitalized Canada House brings together all Canadian high commission staff under one roof. The project to return Canada House to its former glory and connect it to the adjacent building on Cockspur Street emphasizes the key historic links between Canada and the United Kingdom.

The revitalized Canada House serves as a showcase for Canadian art and design and features more than 300 pieces, among them works by Emily Carr, Arthur Lismer—a member of the original Group of Seven—and Gordon Smith, another renowned Canadian painter, as well as photographs by Edward Burtynsky and sculptures by Gathie Falk and Joe Fafard, among many others.

SONY DSCThe High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom is one of Canada’s largest overseas missions, offering a range of services including consular support, trade promotion, foreign policy and diplomatic services, the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff, and immigration and visa processing.

Clos du Soleil Winery acknowledges support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture through the BC Agrifoods Exports Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

Timeline: Canada House

1823-1827— Sir Robert Smirke, who designed the British Museum, designed two buildings behind one common façade looking out over Trafalgar Square. The two building were constructed to house the Union Club and the Royal College of Physicians.

July 1923—Canada purchased the Union Club side of the building, located in the heart of what was then known as “Little Canada,” to house all of its high commission activities in the United Kingdom.

June 29, 1925—King George V and Queen Mary officially opened Canada House and were presented with a set of keys minted in Canadian gold, silver and nickel.

July 1, 1927—The cornerstone was laid for the adjacent Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada building, located at 2-4 Cockspur Street.

1963—Canada purchased the Royal College of Physicians side of the building for use by the High Commission for its public events. Much of the High Commission’s administrative business moved to a second location in Grosvenor Square, which Canada named Macdonald House.

1993—Canada considered selling Canada House in light of the need for extensive repairs to the building, but the decision was made to revitalize it instead.

May 1998—Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth reopened a restored Canada House.

November 2012—Canada purchased the adjacent building on Cockspur Street, and planning began to unite the buildings into the new revitalized Canada House.

November 2013—The administrative premises of the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom, located in Grosvenor Square, were sold for £306 million.

December 2014—Staff moved into the newly consolidated premises in Canada House.

February 2015—Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth officially opens the revitalized Canada House. The atrium in Cockspur Street is named The Queen Elizabeth Atrium.

For further media inquiries please contact:

Spencer Massie, Managing Director                                      Mike Clark, Managing Director

wine@closdusoleil.ca                                                             wine@closdusoleil.ca

778 837-4205                                                                          250 808-7744

(London UK 19-23 Feb 2015)

Twenty-thirteen wHaywire-LunarWhiteas the first year that Haywire Winery, located in Summerland, British Columbia, released their annual Lunar New Year wines. Haywire wines are made at Okanagan Crush Pad run by the lovely Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie. As Whitney Law (of Okanagan Crush Pad) communicated, these special wines were “made in celebration of the Lunar New Year and to welcome the Year of the Sheep”. Whitney Law also mentioned that these limited case production wines were crafted, at the heart of things, to complement the “vibrant Asian food scene in Vancouver”.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked when talking about food and wine pairings with people, revolves around pairing wine with east Asian cuisines. Undoubtedly, with all the various spices in Asian cuisine, that, when drinking a glass of vino can cause chemesthesis to occur, it is no wonder why many people avoid enjoying a vino-based libation when consuming such foods. Often, people lean toward Gewurztraminer as the go-to wine choice as a result of its lower alcohol content and fuller body, but I am here to say that these are not your only choices. Page 6 of Haywire’s 22-page booklet called “Pairing Asian Flavours with Wine”, says:

Statistics tell us more and more Asians in Vancouver appreciate the pleasure a bottle of wine brings forth. Nevertheless, it has been said many times pairing Asian cuisine with wine is never easy. Vast climatic, geographic and regional differences; [and] special diets due to religion, culture and customs; all contribute to Asians’ culinary style variations. The complexity of flavour in most Asian dishes due to the spectrum of ingredients, sauces, seasonings, herbs and spices used and the cooking techniques applied, [makes] picking the right wine to pair with the meal […] a challenge to many.

 

Haywire-2012LunarRedAs such, conscious and conscientious creation of a wine or two that will specifically pair well with Asian cuisine is, in my humble opinion, quite welcomed.

The Lunar New Year and the Year of the Sheep

According to www.history.com, the Lunar New Year was:

…born out of fear and myth. Legend spoke of the wild beast Nien (which also is the word for “year”) that appeared at the end of each year, attacking and killing villagers. Loud noises and bright lights were used to scare the beast away, and the Chinese New Year celebrations were born. Today, the 15-day New Year festivities are celebrated with a week of vacation in metropolitan areas of China. Much like the Western New Year (January 1st), the biggest celebration is on the eve of the holiday.

Each Lunar New Year is represented by an animal that has strengths and weaknesses much like the belief in astrological signs such as: Pisces, Gemini, or Scorpio. People born under the Year of the Sheep are believed to be kind-hearted, gentle, friendly, indecisive, and shy.

The Reviews

When I received these wine samples, I was quite excited. Last year, when the first release of Lunar New Year wine (2012 Pinot Noir, Year of the Horse) arrived in liquor stores, I missed my opportunity to try them. You can imagine my excitement of finally getting to taste some new BC wine and wine that would pair with Asian cuisine!

2013 Haywire Lunar New Year White: A fine blend of Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Viognier. Youthful with a good intensity on the bouquet to stand up to stronger aromas in culinary dishes. Notes of fuzzy peach, golden pears, elderflower, citrus, and quince were present. The palate was dry with good acidic structure. There was a solid mouthfeel to the wine, which is likely due to Viognier influences. Some grassiness on the palate with lemon peel, grapefruit pith, flowers, and white tea. My notes show a side comment of, “good, celebration wine”! ~$20 12.9%

2012 Haywire Lunar New Year Red: Predominantly made from Gamay with a “splash” of Syrah, this red blend was a most beautiful ruby colour. The bouquet was very bright with lots of black fruits. Black cherry cola, raspberry, blackberry, and plum were all present alongside a hint of spice. The palate showed a dry wine, high acid structure, medium (-) in body, with juicy red fruit, ripe cherry, and good earthiness (once some air got into it). My notes offer cheese pairings of Cheshire, Chevre, and Havarti. ~$23 12.6%

Why not celebrate the upcoming Lunar New Year with some Year of the Sheep-inspired wine? As Plautus, a Roman playwright born in 254 BC, once said, “Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words”.

Cheers!

You can access the wine pairing booklet here.

To order the Haywire Lunar New Year wines, call 604-800-0601 or email Whitney Law at whitney@okanagancrushpad.com. These wines were released on December 1st, 2014 and will be distributed to stores as they are ordered. If you’d like to see if your local wine shop is carrying them, please visit http://okanagancrushpad.com/ –> Our Wine –> Store Search.

Brent Gushowaty and I at the #WineBloggersCon2014

Brent Gushowaty and I at the #WineBloggersCon2014

Recently, I sat down with Brent Gushowaty (@BCPinotNoirInfo), avid Pinot Noir lover and respected colleague. We met briefly while I was doing a pouring at a local VQA liquor store, and once again at the wine bloggers conference in Santa Barbara, California. Early in the morning of July 24th, 2014, shortly following the conference, Brent and myself met up to have a little chit chat about what other than…wine!

 

 

 

A Little Background

Brent is, for lack of better words to describe it, a devoted assessor of British Columbia’s very own Pinot Noir offerings. Every three weeks, he gathers a set panel of tasters in order to evaluate and critique this province’s wines, all in a seriously standardized setting. Brent says the purpose for running his tastings (and website www.bcpinotnoir.com), is that he began tasting B.C. Pinot Noirs again a few years ago, and felt that the world simply didn’t know enough about how well the heartbreak grape variety was doing in the hands of local winemakers. His mission was to provide others with as much info on B.C. Pinot Noir as he could. And so he does.

As mentioned, Brent also attended the conference, and while we were there, we attempted to meet up to discuss some ideas that I had been entertaining. However, with both of us doing what we do, we had to set time aside once we were back in Canuckland.

The Idea

The idea: as a blogger/wine writer/wine lover, how likely are you to be 100% honest about a wine? As “advertisers” of a product, negative criticism is not usually welcomed. What does “free speech” mean to you as someone who is writing about wine?

The Discussion

After I had provided the idea to Brent, he promptly wanted to clarify how blogging fits into his purpose. He spoke seriously when he said, “My approach hasn’t been about blogging; it’s been about enjoying wine. Blog posts are only one element in this.”

I agreed. The term “blogging” conjures many things. For some, blogging may mean simply stating your points of view or sharing stories. For others, blogging is merely a component to the entire experience of enjoying wine.

As we began to further penetrate the idea, Brent brought up a curiously challenging point. When he addressed the idea of “free speech” as someone who is writing about wine, Brent frankly said, “The winemakers are our audience.”

IMG_1388

Wine Bloggers eagerly learning about Georges Duboeuf wines. Photo Copyright © Valerie Stride 2013

I admit that I was initially confused by his bold words, as I had personally never entertained the idea that winemakers were ‘listening to others’. Yet, upon further thought, I realized that Brent had brought up an interesting point – the point that those who are drinking the wine are the ones that have the biggest say in the world of wine. Think about it for a minute. Broken down into its very basic form, if a winery puts a wine on a shelf in a liquor store and people buy it but don’t like it, then eventually the winery is crap out of luck because people won’t consume what they don’t like. If winemaking is a capitalist-based model, then it is in the best interest of the wineries to listen to those who are not only buying their products, but also talking about those products.

Essentially, consumers have more power than they realize, and those writing about wine have a lot of power, too. This, once again, brought me back to the article I passionately wrote in August about how bloggers need more respect. If you are so inclined… http://demystifiedvine.com/2014/07/16/wineries-need-to-give-wine-bloggers-more-respect/

As such, Brent and his team of tasters publish their notes on B.C. Pinot Noir unedited. One of the reasons that they do this is because of the fine line between being objective and subjective. Brent explains his reasoning behind this:

“B.C. Pinot Noir should be considered as being in the first circle of pinot noir producing areas along with France, New Zealand, Oregon, Australia and California. As far as wine criticism/blogging is concerned, there is no gain for anyone in being harshly overcritical or bitchy when reviewing a wine. All you are doing is making it about you and not the wine. I think you have a duty to touch honestly on its shortcomings, and you can also opt to simply withhold or simplify praise for what you consider a lesser wine and lavish it on the ones you feel are better.

There is no point in being an uncritical cheerleader either. I like to think that everyone including consumers, winemakers and the wineries are genuinely interested in an honest, balanced assessment of a wine’s positive and negative attributes.”

My interpretation of this was that being publicly open about a varietal, through posting unedited tasting notes from professional tasters, creates an objective opportunity for others to learn about specific varietals, and well, possibly for winemakers to utilize to make better Pinot Noir. However, I returned with the idea that his approach to posting unedited tasting notes is uncharacteristic of the average blogger. The idea is that most wine bloggers, whether by choice or not, do not provide detailed positive or negative notes to begin with.

Brent replied quickly. “My impression is that they do this because they aren’t very articulate – for the most part – [and] it’s not their objective.”

I questioned: “So what is their objective?”

Brent returned with, “Their objective seems to be to convey an impression of a fun lifestyle. That’s just where they’re at; they’re celebrating wine.”

Nodding my head in agreement, I responded, “I think this is a good point. Essentially, the average wine bloggers’ objective is to be subjective. Personally, I always attempt to find what works with a wine and focus on that. This is because I know that liking a wine is a matter of personal taste.”

“You have to have confidence in your palate.” Brent replied. “It’s subjective and that’s good. There are variations in human physical palates, but you can’t let things slide into not being irrelevant.”

This reminded me of a quote I saw in Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible. I was reading the section discussing what makes a great wine great, and MacNeil stated,

“One of the most insidious myths in American wine culture is that a wine is good if you like it. Liking a wine has nothing to do with whether it is good. Liking a wine has to do with liking that wine, period.”     [pp. 3]

the_wine_bibleThe point that MacNeil is attempting to make, is that you can’t judge an entire varietal based on one experience of a single made brand/vintage/etc. It is ridiculous to assume that all, let’s say Pinot Noir, is good just because you like that particular bottle you bought at the corner liquor store. She continues with,

“Wine requires two assessments: one subjective, the other objective. In this it is like literature. You may not like reading Shakespeare but agree that Shakespeare was a great writer nonetheless. Getting to the point where you are knowledgeable enough to have both subjective and an objective opinion of a wine is one of the most rewarding stages in developing wine expertise.” [pp. 3]

I remember having this lightning bolt thought. “Where do you then draw the line between subjectivity and objectivity in wine?”

Brent grinned. “It’s always a snapshot, and that’s the lovely thing about wine. It is a complicated distinction to be sure, but I think it is more difficult if you don’t have a wide experience of the subject. How well can you objectively rate what is in front of you (or understand your own preferences and prejudices) unless you have experienced great examples of it? A local painter could seem wonderful… and then you set eyes on a great Picasso (or Braque or Titian or Pollock)!”

[sigh] I love talking wine philosophy.

For more information on B.C. Pinot Noir, head on over to Brent’s website. You can search on his website by entering in a winery or a vintage. www.bcpinotnoir.com.

Cheers!

Artisanal products seem to be the “in thing” right now. Everything from cheeses to jams to coffee are included under this category. Apparently, all the cool kids are buying artisanal products. What does this mean, really, and how does it apply to consumer choices around wine? I rarely buy into bandwagon persuasion, and this whole artisanal culture has me entertaining a number of ideas.

As a result, I have been playing with the idea that many people subscribe to the notion that “small is beautiful and better” when it comes to choosing wines from smaller producers over giant wineries. Is this true?

Local produce tastes better than large-grocery chain options.

Local produce tastes better than large grocery chain options. Photo Copyright © 2012 Valerie Stride

It could be argued that smaller producers are more likely to “take care” of both their vineyards and wine as compared to larger ones. Why? Well, it stands to reason that smaller producers have more of an investment on their hands than larger producers, and thus, there is a larger risk involved with growing grapes and making wine. One could argue that they take more care (and have more interest in) their vines and grapes, or if a small producer is sourcing, then they are actively seeking out and utilizing farmers who they feel they can trust to provide good quality grapes. My experience is that smaller wineries want to make sure that “things are right”.

So, where does this “artisanal” word fit in?

Most small producers claim to be “artisan”. This opens up an entirely new set of questions to examine. I say “most” because I can confidently say that “most” of the small wineries I have visited have used this word to describe themselves.

First, let us get some definitions clear. Artisanal, according to www.dictionary.com, is defined as:

pertaining to or noting a high-quality or distinctive product made in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods

Clearly, many, if not most, smaller wine producers are making distinctive products and in small batches. Does it need to be stated that large producers do just the opposite? No, of course not. However, the next question remains at what point does a winery move from artisan status into, well, non-artisan status? Furthermore, does this mean that the quality of the wine changes?

Does one draw the line as soon as a producer gets big enough to have to stop hand-picking their grapes? Does one draw the line at 15,000 cases per year? Can we even call all small wineries or producers artisanal?

'06 Oak Bay Chardonnay Photo Copyright © 2014 Valerie Stride

’06 Oak Bay Chardonnay Photo Copyright © 2014 Valerie Stride

I will argue that smaller is beautiful, and that quality, from my personal experience, has been higher from small case production wineries as compared to corporate giants. I can smell and taste the differences. Does this mean that “big” is “ugly”? No, not necessarily. However, big producers, in my mind, lack the kind of in-depth quality that I want out of wines. Will I never drink wine from big producers like Yellow Tail? No. However, I try not to because I know that I can spend a few more dollars and buy better, local wine. Am I implying that giant wine-making companies make less-than-beautiful-wine? Sometimes, yes.

 

 

 

Karen MacNeil, in The Wine Bible, states:

In the past, a wine couldn’t help but taste like the grapes from which it came. That is not true today. Advanced technology allows winemakers and viticulturalists to act like plastic surgeons, changing the wine’s acidity, making it taste bigger than it really is, altering the impression of tannin, adjusting the amount of alcohol; even the wine’s basic flavor–its very soul–can be modified. This can be good for jug wines–their deficiencies can be mollified with the right technological help. […] Winemakers who muck around too much with the integrity of a grape end up making overworked wines that taste muddled. Wise, talented winemakers on the other hand are like wise, talented chefs. (pp. 50)

I will entertain the idea that there is a correlation between the size of a winery and how much quality their wines might have. Surely, there are small wineries out there who muddle with their wines and modify the life out of overly-high yields. As such, I suppose this whole idea that “artisanal means better quality” boils down to a matter of reputation, perception, and belief.

Recently, I had a down-to-earth conversation with Luke Whittall, of Wine Country BC, on this very topic. Here is a transcript of parts of our conversation.

The Demystified Vine: Do you subscribe to the notion that “small is beautiful” when it comes to choosing wines from smaller producers over larger ones? How does the word “artisanal” effect perception of quality?

Luke Whittall of Wine Country BC

Luke: I think quality is entirely dependent on expectations. If what you like from a beer is predictability and consistency, and your favourite beers are Bud, Miller, and Coors, then a large scale production brewery for you is going to make quality beer. If you are into micro brews, and single malt scotches, then smaller producers are going to be higher quality, although the consistency may vary from year to year. And that’s okay. Quality doesn’t have to equal consistency, but for some people, that’s a huge deal. It depends on where you are in the continuum.

TDV: So, what does the word artisanal mean within the wine industry today? And then how does that effect perception of quality?

Luke: I would say that artisanal — truly artisanal wines — are wines that have a focus from the winemaker.  They are directed by the winemaker to such a degree that the wines have a kind of uniqueness based on the winemaker’s vision or the terroir (although sometimes the weather isn’t the same from year to year especially for an artisanal winery). Artisanal wines are the artistic wish for the winemaker for that year. A commercial winery could say that they are artisanal, but really, when you’re making wine in such huge volumes, that homogeneity of the product is going to be less perceivably unique as a wine because of its homogeneity, than would a small batch of 500 cases from a more independent artisanal winery. Not only that, but the sales goals and marketing strategies are going to be vastly different based on the winemaker’s desires from a small winery as compared to a corporate directive that’s not from a single person.

TDV: Do you think that large producers can make beautiful wine?

Luke: Yes. It depends on your expectations. The only metaphor that I can use is music. Corporations can make music, for example, pop music that is consumable by the largest number of people who will find it pleasing and will offend the least amount of people. On the other hand, the smaller producers will create more interesting music that will challenge your notions of what music is. Every now and then it’s nice to hear a song that you’ve never heard before, that is effectively unpredictable. The likelihood is that this will upset you, but this difference can be good. Remove the metaphor, and it shows that the people who want that predictability in a wine, that is fine for them. Then there are those who are open to experiencing aromas that they’ve never smelled before. These challenges make them think. If you’re looking for a challenge to change your perception on something that is beautiful, go to an artisanal winery.

 

I am left with drawing the conclusion that it boils down to personal preferences. The word “artisanal” only really effects one’s perception of quality if they care enough about a product being made by hand and of high quality.

Additionally, I am left with even more questions surrounding how wineries are using the term “artisanal” to make sales pitches. Maybe I should look more into this…

Cheers!

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