The Demystified Vine

Taking the mystery out of wine exploration!

majella

Majella Wines of Coonawarra, South Australia, is a family-based winery focused on a non-interventionist style of wine making. The Director of the winery, Brian Lynn, a.k.a. “The Prof”, was cheerful and cordial as tasters approached his booth during the Vancouver International Wine Festival in February 2015.

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“The Prof”, Brian Lynn, and I at #VIWF 2015

I remember walking up to the Majella table at the festival, glass in hand, notebook in the other, ready to taste what seemed-to-be the only sparkling Shiraz in the entire tasting room. Generally speaking, Australia makes a lot of wine from Shiraz. I was slightly disappointed because Australia was the key country and Syrah/Shiraz the key grape. I am a bubbly person! [Ha!] That being said, I was happy to have found one in that ginormous room.

As soon as The Prof poured my taster he confidently said, “You’ve got the wine that’ll make me smile.” Indeed.

Since We’re Talking About Bubbles and Wine and Everything Fine…

The 2008 Majella Sparkling Shiraz ($39.99) was a very entertaining wine. According to Brian, they only make this Methode Champanoise sparkling in the very best years. This animated bevvy hosted sweet plum, raspberry, cherry, and candy apple notes. It was slightly off dry with a good acidic structure. The mousse was charming and not overly aggressive. I liked.

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Photo Copyright © Valerie Stride 2015

The second wine I tried at the Majella booth was the 2012 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. I have a soft spot for Coonawarra, and this was definitely a winner when it came to the heart of things. Oodles of blackcurrant, cherry, and blackberry came out of this developing wine. It was a smooth, easy drinking Coonawarra that did not shout capsicum at you (although I quite enjoy that characteristic in this region’s wines). The tannin was soft and inviting, and the gentle toast notes were the result of being aged 23 months in French oak – half of the barrels new.

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Photo Copyright © Valerie Stride 2015

Post-festival, I had a chance to catch up with The Prof and dig up some dirt on the winery.

The Chat

[TDV] You mentioned during our conversation that Majella is focused on a non-interventionist style of wine making. Can you tell me a bit more about why that is a focused practice with your winery?

I think we all know now that great wines are made in the vineyard.  The simple philosophy is to develop great grape flavour out there in the vineyard and then try to capture that flavour in the bottle. To this end we have planted our vines in great Coonawarra “terra rossa” soil, trellised them very simply and try to do as little to them as possible.  Every time you do something it costs money, so we use the minimum of fungicides to keep disease at bay, very rarely use insecticides (and then only the BT type, which is organic larvicide) and pick by machine so we can harvest when the flavour profile is just right. WE [do] not use – or need – sorting tables! Our fermentation regime is very simple – and orthodox; we really just let nature take its course.  No cold soaking or extended maceration, no fancy new-style fermenters – just simple, practical winemaking.  After that it’s just oak maturation, a light filtering and bottling.  It’s easy, takes a minimum of labour and achieves exactly what we want – to capture that mouth-watering fruit flavour and get it into the bottle.

vineyard shot

The terra rossa soils at Majella – Photo courtesy of Brian Lynn

[TDV] I’m curious about the history of Majella and why wine making has continued to be a part of that history.

I left school in 1967 and my brother Tony a year later.  I’d decided to defer my university studies (I never did go to uni!) for a year or so and spend some time on our parents farm.  Dad had bought a block in Coonawarra to grow prime lambs on and by sheer good fortune the front part of that block was pure Coonawarra terra rossa soil.  I’d done a project on the (small) wine industry in Coonawarra and the idea of planting a vineyard intrigued us all. And so over twenty years or so we’d planted 60 hectares of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Riesling.  We were quite happy growing and selling grapes to larger wineries, but in 1991 we decided (for various reasons) to make a 10 ton batch of grapes into wine – the 1991 Majella Coonawarra Shiraz.  The rest is history.  Once you’re on  the wine “treadmill” everything seems to follow. After a few years of getting the wine made up in another winery we decided to build our own facility, and eventually all our grapes were processed on site and the Majella we know was established.

shiraz grapes

Gorgeous Shiraz grapes at in Majella’s vineyard – Photo courtesy of Brian Lynn

[TDV] When you saw me with the 2008 Sparkling Shiraz, I loved how you said to me, “You’ve got the wine that’ll make me smile.” (It was delicious, by the way.) With sparkling Shiraz being made all over Australia, how do you make Majella’s stand out?

We make the Majella Sparkling Shiraz in a very traditional (Australian) style.  Obviously it’s great fruit, from some of our best Shiraz, put through the traditional secondary fermentation method, at two years on lees and then “liqueured” with a dash of Australia Vintage port.  I think it’s the quality of the fruit that makes it stand out.

You can find Majella’s wines in British Columbia at both private and provincial liquor stores.

Cheers!

It was truly an early morning on Friday, February 27th, as I headed into the doors of Vancouver’s Convention Centre to attend the International Wine Festival’s seminar Excitement in a Glass.

Photo Copyright Valerie Stride 2015

The panel sits awaiting to reveal their wines at Excitement in a Glass at VIWF 2015

Moderated by comedic sommelier and wine educator Mark Davidson, a panel of five top wine experts & buyers sat down to showcase the top two wines that have recently caught their attention. The panel consisted of:

  • Mike Bernardo
    Wynns Coonawarra Estate ‘The Siding’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
    Undurraga T.H. Carignan 2012
  • Barbara Philip MW
    Damilano Cannubi Barolo DOCG 2010
    Moorooduc Estate Robinson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012
  • DLynn Proctor
    Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2009
    Louis Bernard Chateauneuf du Pape 2011
  • Treve Ring
    Tahbilk Group Museum Release Marsanne 2008
    Fowles Wines ‘Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch’ Shiraz 2010
  • Terry Threlfall
    Stina Pošip 2013
    Bodega Catena Zapata Chardonnay White Stones Mendoza 2011

The wines were drawn from the world’s wine stage. Crisp whites from South America, hearty reds from Australia, and a few new friendly wrenches were thrown into the mix. While the crowd was overall quiet and probably mentally preparing for a big tasting day, I sat there at the edge of my seat, wondering what explorations there would be in the glasses that sat before me. Yes, this is the kind of person I am when trying wine. My calm exterior that Friday morning did not reveal the wonder and anticipation that was streaming inside.

Mike Bernardo: Heavy Hitting Reds

Not too many people can deny that finding a solid Carignan can be a real discovery. This particular variety is known mostly in wine making for its high tannin & acidity, its depth of colour, and lack of fruit forwardness. Keeping that in mind, this example of Carignan was stuffed to the gills with black fruits, cassis, sweet spice, and toasty vanilla notes. The finish was elegantly long with a lingering note of black pepper on the back palate. Principal Axel Vade, Export Manager USA & Canada, said that the dry-bush grapes from this bottle came from two very small vineyards out of Cauquenes and Locomilla. Vade stated, “We love to show how this variety shows from this area. [The wine is] not over extracted or sugary at all.” I would agree; this Carignan was a true pleasure to try because of the rarity of this varietal in provincial liquor stores, but also because of its competance. Bernardo said it well when he commented that this wine flies “under the radar”. $25.99

Photo Copyright Valerie Stride 2015

The flight of wines

Barbara Philip MW: Food Friendly Wines

While I have concluded that both of Barbara’s wines are the perfect food-pairing libations, I preferred the Barolo to the Pinot Noir. This wasn’t because of pricing (the Barolo is sitting at ~$94.99 on the CAD market), but because I just felt a little let-down by the Pinot Noir. The Damilano Cannubi shimmered with the facets of clean red fruit, dry strawberry, toast, black tea, and hints of fig. There was a slight hardness to it that I found attractive despite its body. Philips informed us that in BC, Barolo sales are up 22%. Of this wine, she said, “This represents everything that the modern consumer is told they don’t want.” I agreed with her. It was “angular” as she said. How could I not agree? With the kind of edginess of Fonzie from the sitcom Happy Days, this is one Barolo with a different style.

DLynn Proctor: Focus on Feminine

For me, the Louis Bernard Chateauneuf du Pape at its current state of being left a little to be desired. However, I did enjoy the Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz for its complexity. This wine radiated blackcurrant leaf, leather, Ribena, plush tannin, and a toasty finish filled with black fruits and dark spice. Of the entire tasting experience, the finish was most interesting for me. DLynn noted that, Penfolds is “essentially looking for the best rows for the St. Henri”. The 2009 was a cooler vintage, and has a “kiss of Cabernet” according to Proctor. The make-up is 97% Shiraz, 3% Cabernet. $64.99.

Treve Ring: A Mix of Classic & Daring

I enjoyed both of Treve’s choices. The Marsanne was classic and sturdy, and the Shiraz was poignant and daring. The Tahbilk was loaded with notes of sweet grass, orange flower, gooseberry, and citrus. It had a very good length with strong minerality on the palate. Wet stones and hints of honey peaked through. There is not a lot of Marsanne on the planet, and as it was pointed out, Australia vinifies most of this variety. Tahbilk has the oldest estate in Victoria, and Marsanne can be aged about 20 years. Matt Herde, the Export Director for Tahbilk said, this is “a lot of wine for not a lot of money”. At $25.99, I genuinely agree.

Photo Copyright Valerie Stride 2015

Quickfact about the Carignan!

Terry Threlfall: The Fearless One

Well, well, well. If these two chosen wines didn’t get my non-existent pantyhose all in a knot, I don’t know what would have. Sure, let’s bring Croatia to Vancouver’s International Wine Festival. Stina’s Pošip was a definite interest of mine during the tasting. Considering I had never had Croatian wines (along with most people, I believe), it was exciting to try! The Pošip is a youthful wine with whispers of tropical fruits, strong citrus & apple notes, peach, and minerality. The mouthfeel was pleasant also. Stina means “stone” in Croatian, and Pošip is actually an indigenous variety of Croatia. It cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. Additionally, it is not connected genetically to any other variety. Very cool! Terry said that it is a fantastic food wine because it is a “bit tannic”. For a white, this is wondrous! My only issue was the price. A bottle will run you $49.99. Personally, I would pay $28-$30.

Other than having a good laugh at Mark Davidson’s jokes, I truly enjoyed the Excitement in a Glass seminar. It was a fantastic way to start off a long day of tasting, as I was able to discover some gems that I will definitely purchase in the future.

Thank you to all of the volunteers, the panel, the Vancouver Convention Centre, and of course, to the organizers of this great wine fest.

Cheers!

As of late, I have been pondering the question of whether or not wine has become a “classless drink”. I am highly fascinated with how quality plays a role in this question, and if people even care about quality playing a role in whether or not wine has indeed become a “classless beverage”.

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For the record, I dislike the fact that there is a class system in the first place, but that is another topic of discussion. Thus, for the sake of this discussion, I shall use the term “classless”. By definition, this word means “not connected to a particular social or economic class” or “belonging to no particular social class” according to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

My instincts tell me that many of you might be immediately driven to the conclusion that yes, wine has become a classless drink. Why? Well, we can infer that many might be drawing conclusions that wine is now available to all social and economic classes as a result of budget bottles and, well, even cheaper budget bottles. Currently, ten dollar wines from a variety of global grape growing areas are at the fingertips of the consumer. Additionally, wine is now available in almost all regions of the world. Wine is being imported and exported all over the planet, and it is in high demand.

Fair, right? Of course wine has become a classes drink…if you stop there.

Though I am inclined to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

Kindly entertain the idea that wine has indeed not become a classless drink. While wine is wine in its most basic form of fermented grape juice, I beg you to consider quality as a factor in determining if wine has truly broken these boundaries.

For a bit of background knowledge, wine has been around for centuries — this cannot be debated. One factor to consider, though, is who was historically drinking the wine.

According to the Professional Friends of Wine:

Wine drinking had started by about 4000 BC and possibly as early as 6000 BC. Priests and royalty enjoyed wine, while beer was drunk by the workers.

Moreover, in Greco-Roman civilization, wine was important to commerce and those of higher society.

Wine was an important article of Greek commerce, and Greek doctors including Hippocrates, were among the first to prescribe it.

I do not think it is an accident that wine has been deemed as an “upper class” beverage even throughout the 20th century. Historically speaking, wine was for the kings and queens of court, for the doctors, philosophers, priests, and politicians. Additionally, as stated above, it had its place in business and with money.

Nowadays, wine consumption by young people is on the rise. For example, let’s consider the social and economic classes of adults in their twenties. What can they (and what do they) typically purchase? The less expensive bottles. Currently, within the wine market, thirty-five dollar bottles are deemed as “expensive” wines. In my experience working in liquor retail stores or pouring at tastings, the average consumer (whether under 25 or not) will avoid a $35 bottle of wine like the plague. (Sorry, no pun intended there.) What a $35 dollar bottle of wine can offer to any consumer of any class is enticingly better than your average $10 bottle. [NOTE: I do understand that there are crappy $35 bottles, too, but I will stick to my price ranges for the sake of examples.]

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Coming back to the quality and class dichotomy, what you get in a $10 bottle is not (always) good quality wine. In fact, it could be argued that that wine is not good quality at all. I am not saying that all cheaper bottles are not worthy of drinking. In fact, I know of a few bottles that are about $12 CAD that I absolutely adore. However, the assumption follows that wine may now be available to the world at an inexpensive dollar amount, but what you are getting in that bottle is not a wonderful expression of wine. (Obviously, these factors change again if you do not care at all about the characteristics or quality of a wine.)

In its most basic form, herein deeply lies the idea of supply and demand in the world market. Inexpensive wine has become desirable to many. Thus, vineyards grow grapes. Wineries make wine. Wineries and liquor retailers sell wine. And while technological advances in wine making have increased quality to a degree, issues surrounding good quality (and thus pricing and thus affordability) become apparent if you examine this question through the lens of sales. Inexpensive wines often do not show their variety well, are not able to be aged, are often off balance, and could be made with not-so-nice-additives such as oak flavoring. It’s true, let’s be real.

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I have tasted numerous wines. Not as many as others, of course, but I have some experience under my belt. In my humble opinion, for a wine to be of decent quality, it should provide a sense of the grape, of terroir…of where the wine came from – of its place. While you can find wines like this at fairly decent prices, the lower in cost per bottle you go, the further away from these characteristics things seem to get. I suppose my thoughts leave me wondering if those who purchase the less-expensive bottles are actually getting a good taste of what “good” wine can be. While I understand that there are a number of factors that go into pricing a bottle of wine (ie. first year barrel costs), I am wholeheartedly wishing that we could find better quality wines at the $10 mark. I could start to rant about British Columbia liquor taxes now too, I suppose…

I cannot deny the fact that at its very basic nature, wine exceeds all classifications, as anyone of legal drinking age has wine at their fingertips. Sadly, I am inclined to conclude that wine is still a class-driven drink if, and only if, we are considering quality as a factor.

Cheers!

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

unnamed

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)

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