Did you know that every year Germany crowns a new Wine Queen?! I didn’t either, until recently. I had the chance to spend some time with Nadine Poss, who is Germany’s 65th Wine Queen and find out more about what it means to wear her glittery tiara.
Each year there are 13 candidates, one from each wine region in Germany. That prompted me to look up what the 13 regions are: Ahr, Baden, Franken, Hess. Bergstraße, Mittelrhein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Nahe, Pfalz, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen Württemberg. I’ve had wine from several of these regions but certainly not all of them. The candidates don’t have to come from a winery but they do require a strong knowledge of German wine, the wine industry, oenology and wine-making. As it turns out, Nadine’s family have a winery in Nahe which specialises in Pinot Gris, Blanc and Noir (Grauer Burgunder, Weißer Burgunder und Blauer Spätburgunder). http://www.weingut-poss.de/cms/index.php?id=poss0
From the 13 regional queens, six were selected for the final competition. This year, for the first time ever the competition was divided into two parts: first it was narrowed down to three finalists and then each of them had to speak about a special experience in their lives. Nadine won the jury over with her speech about a hike with her family through Norwegian ice fields. She ended with the statement “this is what initiated my pleasure for travelling abroad and getting to know other people and cultures.” Considering the year ahead for the Wine Queen involves a lot of travel as she represents German Wine industry at all major wine festivals, exhibitions, tastings and international events. The other two finalists were crowned as Wine Princesses and they play a supporting role as ambassadors for the German Wine industry. This year they were Ramona Diegel and Sabine Wagner.
Nadine was in town for a Generation Riesling event which focuses on German winemakers that are 35 years old and under. It’s all about being young and innovative. I had the chance to go out for dinner with her on Saturday night for dinner and she was such a pleasure to spend time with. On the Monday of the event she donned her tiara and I found out what the downside is to the weight of royalty on your head – sometimes when you spit the darn thing may fall off into the spittoon! As always, Nadine was cheerful and quick to laugh at the mishap along with me. Charming, smart and classy!
Yesterday I attended a BC Wine 2013 Preview tasting put on by the BC Wine Institute. The tasting was led by DJ Kearney who guided us through a panel of winemakers from around BC. I was intrigued off the bat as DJ mentioned that we were going to ‘decode’ the vintage. This is not a term I’d ever heard used before and I suddenly felt like a secret agent looking for clues. She talked about ‘authentic and honest expression’ of the vintage. I’m all for that!
BC now has ‘emerging’ regions joining the five existing wine regions.
Existing regions: Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Fraser Valley, Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley
Emerging regions: Shuswap, North Okanagan, Lillooet, Cache Creek, Thompson-Nicola, West Kootenays
As DJ was commenting on the good yields of 2013 another term came up that I hadn’t heard of – short tonne. A short tonne is 2000 pounds. A full vintage report will come out in July.
On the panel were:
Bob Johnson - Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery
Darryl Brooker - CedarCreek Estate Winery
Robert Thielicke - Joie Farm
Michael Bartier - Okanagan Crush Pad
Dwight Sick - Stag's Hollow Winery & Vineyard
John Weber - Orofino Vineyards
Some of the things that I learned:
The soil at Baillie-Grohman is glacial with a mix of granite and clay. The high mineral content is their biggest challenge. Their 23 acres of estate land are influenced by the Kootenay Lake which is 20 miles away. They don’t really have any problems with insects and there are about 700 crows which chase away any birds that would normally eat the grapes. Land there goes for about $40,000/acre and there’s vineyard land available. The winemakers in this region share their knowledge and experiences with each other.
CedarCreek has 150 acres in Kelowna and Osoyoos. 2013 came with challenges and the acidity was harder to rein in on the whites. They had a great Bordeaux red harvest though. I was interested to hear how they co-pick and co-ferment these reds. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, some Malbec and Petit Verdot: sounds like a great stew in the making!
Joie had a tough year but still managed to make good wine! They suffered from something called ‘sour rot’ which is essentially wet/bad botrytis. They lost a lot of their Rosé program grapes. What they could save started to ferment immediately. They saved themselves by reacting quickly!
At OCP their grapes ‘galloped into ripeness’. This can be a challenge if hang time is reduced as that’s what brings flavour to the grapes. Their pruning techniques and a cool fall helped save them.
- At Stag’s Hollow they have vineyards that have come to maturity. Dwight likes to refer to their region in Okanagan Falls as the ‘Goldilocks of the valley’ – not too hot and not too cold. I love this term!! They can have a 9° variance from one part of the vineyard to the other. Their soil is gravel, rock and sand. We were very lucky to try some of their small production Renaissance Sauvignon Blanc. Such an interesting wine that emulates a Bordeaux Graves.
The Similkameen Valley, where Orofino is located, is a very hot place to grow wine. Their soil is sandy loam on gravel and river rock.
I will never tire of opportunities to hear people speak passionately about grape growing and wine making. As one winemaker joked, Canada is considered an ‘emerging region’ when it comes to wine. Leaders such as the ones on this panel will help to pave the way for Canadian wines to take the lead roles in the wine world.
In conclusion DJ announced that 2013 is going to be a ‘solid’ vintage. Solid and more!
If there’s a fly in your wine you’re going to know right? It will either be swimming around wondering how it got so lucky or it’ll be floating lifelessly. Either way, it’s going to be pretty obvious.
Did you know there could very easily be things in your wine, potentially as unappetizing as a fly, that neither you or your waiter are going to know about? Things that you may even be allergic to such as nuts. NUTS IN WINE??!! Yes, nuts. They’re sometimes used in commercial tannins to improve the wine’s structure, among other things.
As much as I love the art of a beautiful wine label I’d like to see more transparency on the back label. I check ingredients when I shop for groceries so why wouldn’t I do that when I buy wine? I’d want to know if there was added sugar or something called Mega Purple which is used to darken the colour of wine.
Actually a simple QR code could easily link to a site listing all the ingredients so it wouldn’t even have to be a hideous back label. Only those truly motivated would check it. People who consume a lot of processed food probably wouldn’t care. Some people just want things to taste the same every time, like their favourite soda pop. I want to taste the authenticity of the region and the vintage.
If producers really don’t think that what they’re adding is bad for consumers or there’s anything wrong with how they’re manipulating their product then they shouldn’t feel the need to hide what they’ve added to achieve the outcome. What do you think?
Recently I was very involved in coordinating the French theme region events for the Vancouver International Wine Festival. One thing that kept striking me was the amazing value in many of the wines from France. I think a lot of people are under the impression that French wines are very expensive. Of course, there are a lot of very expensive, highly sought after wines from regions such as Bordeaux, Champagne and Bourgogne. That said, you can still find great value wines even from these regions.
This inspired me to make this the theme of my recent wine club. Here are some of the wines that we found to be the most impressive from the selection I chose.
Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé NV Bourgogne – I bought this wine up at Kitsilano Wine Cellar on 4th Ave for $26. This blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir offers some lovely creamy strawberry notes. As much as I love to support our BC bubbles I have to admit that this wine offers strong competition in that under $30 price range. The beautifully ornate gold packaging enhances the feeling that you’re drinking something special as well.
Charles de Cazanove Brut NV Champagne – Now this was a wine that got a lot of people talking at the France Bubbly party that kicked off the 2014 Vancouver International Wine Festival French events. It retails for $49.99 which is a fantastic price for Champagne and was a favourite among many to boot! Find it here http://bcliquorstores.com/product/420315
Domaine Lathuiliere Pisse Vielle 2012 Brouilly – Although this wine may not have been an overall favourite at the wine club I want to mention it because I really enjoyed it. The more I try Gamay Noir, the more I like it. Don’t be expecting an in-your-face wine here but for $25 this Cru Beaujolais will deliver interesting complexities that inspire conversation. Find it here http://bcliquorstores.com/product/924365
Chapoutier Bila Haut, 2012 Côtes du Roussillon Villages – This blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan is actually the wine that inspired me to plan a theme around the great value wines of France. For $18.99 this wine delivers a load of juicy berry fruit combined with some lovely smoky, peppery notes. Find it here http://bcliquorstores.com/product/40790
Rigal les Terrasses Malbec, 2011, Cahors – The hottest discovery of the evening was also the least expensive wine that I chose. I knew that everyone at the wine club had tried Malbec from Argentina but I was confident most of them realised it originated in France or had ever tried a French Malbec. I was right. For $14.99 this wine packs a lot of bold flavours into a smooth wine offers stiff competition to anything at this price out of Argentina. The 10 months it’s seen of oak aging adds some complexity but the fruit shines through. Find it here http://bcliquorstores.com/product/786590
The bubbles and whites
I was asked to host a wine club this month and I wanted to think of something different to use as a theme. As I’d just come back from Burning Man I had the desert on my mind. Drinking wine in the desert requires some thought – not everything is going to sate your desires if you’ve been spending the day sweltering and all you want to eat is salad! That said, desert nights can get kind of cool so maybe a red wine wouldn’t be so bad.
I decided to go with the ‘Desert Island’ theme, as in – if you could only take one wine to a desert island what would it be. I wasn’t super surprised that most people think of sparkling wine in this scenario. Cava and Prosecco took the lead in votes. Personally I wouldn’t want something with too much acidity ’cause let’s face it – if I’m stuck on a desert island with cases of one wine I’ll probably end up drinking a bottle or two per day. Too much acidity could end up making your tongue feel like it’s been ripped to shreds after a couple of days. I did get a couple of people saying they’d go for a big red which is fine.
I’ll let you know how the final line up goes over with the group and any interesting finds I discover in my research.
Talk soon! xo
Wow! Too much time has passed since I was last able to blog. November and December were full of much excitement including a very festive wine club. My Chix Who Wine group always bring the spouses along in December so it was a lively group of eighteen. That posed some challenges with this group when it came to presenting the wines. Let’s face it, when you get 18 rather extroverted people together and include wine, it will get noisy. I made very detailed booklets for everyone with all my research notes and maps. Instead of having everyone sit down to a formal tasting they mingled and I moved through the room, one wine at a time and simply introduced the wine as I poured out the tastes.
It worked really well! Each wine was enjoyed along with a wonderful selection of food brought by the group. I had a break in between wines so if anyone wanted to talk in more detail there was time for a more personal chat. By the time we got through all of the wines there was enough left, as I’d brought two bottles of each, for the party to continue revisiting their favourites or re-trying with various foods. What I thought might be overwhelming went extremely smoothly.
I wanted to do wines to pair with Christmas dinner which of course can vary from turkey to prime rib and just about everything in between. Each person had brought dishes that covered the gamut of flavours for the more traditional feasts.
We started with a Zardetto Prosecco as there’s really nothing like bubble to kick off a celebratory mood. It’s delicious, affordable, family owned and versatile when it comes to food pairings. Next up was Gosset Champagne. You can’t really have a special occasion wine tasting without serving Champagne if you ask me. My budget allowed for the entry level Brut Excellence from this oldest wine house in Champagne.
Moving on to still wines we started with Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve. This winery is known for its family history, pedigree and dry Alsatian wines. I followed this with the Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer, also from Alsace with an amazing reputation for quality. The Delaporte Sancerre Rouge from a magnum was the perfect transition into reds and this Pinot Noir was showing beautifully. I always love how people go wild for magnums. If you’re having a dinner party and are planning on getting two bottles of a wine, see if it’s available in a larger format. There’s something undeniably impressive about pouring from a big bottle. The Faiveley Moulin-a-Vent was a good segueway into the big bold realm of the Austin Hope Troublemaker. I can tell you that many a man likes to consider himself just that – a Troublemaker. This red blend from Paso Robles was a hit! Of course, Christmas and Port are meant for each other. At least they were when I was growing up! I needed a good value Port and chose the Dow’s LBV Port. A colleague gifted me the Grant Burge Aged Tawny as well. What a treat!
Everything showed incredibly well and I caught myself off-guard as I commented that I should check what the biodynamic calendar had to say. As soon as the words were uttered I remembered that I’d chosen the dates for October’s tasting and December’s well ahead of time, based on the biodynamic tasting calendar. I know there are many who may guffaw at this ‘hocus pocus’. I understand that it may be too much for some to swallow but the more I test out this theory, the more I believe. Sure, it may simply be that all of the wines that I chose were solid choices. They were. The reality is that even with a smaller group, I find it rare that every wine will be a hit with the majority, or in this case – all. Anyway, in my attempt to always offer the best experiences to my wine clubs I’m going to hedge my bets and try to pick dates for optimal tasting. I’ll let you know how my theory holds up.