glass tasting

January 18, 2010

I just attended a Schott-Zwiesel wine glass tasting with the Ontario Wine Society which was led by Michael Pinkus, “the grape guy”. The glasses are factory-made blown crystal without the lead; titanium and magnesium are used instead for environmental and health reasons, but the company soon realized that the glasses became more resistant to wear and breakage. The rep actually banged the bowl of a glass on the table several times to prove his point.

The tasting consisted of five wine glass shapes that we tasted each wine in – pouring the wine from glass to glass to taste the difference. The conclusion? Glass shape does affect the taste and aroma of the wine. For example, the cab-cab blend that I tasted was dusty and coarse until I tasted it from the Bordeaux glass. It was definitely interesting to taste the difference that each glass made to a particular wine.

The differences in taste and smell mostly results from the way the bowl shape directs aroma and the way that the wine pours into your mouth – although there is contention about the reality of a strict tongue map as glass-master Georg Riedel (rhymes with needle) would have us believe. I think bowl shape does affect general taste and may flatter one type of wine, but I think it is stretching the truth to say that there is a bowl shape for every varietal or blend. That is just marketing at its best (or worst – depending on your point of view).

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I was in the Bayview LCBO a couple of weeks ago and made it a point to look at the “Cellared in Canada” section – it was two rows of fancy displays (pictures courtesy of Larry Paterson’s website) and wine made from grapes grown somewhere else. Nothing wrong with grapes grown in other countries, but why is the LCBO trying to fool people who would like to support their local wine industry?

Jancis Robinson has written yet again about this embarrassment. She will also be a guest on “The Current” on CBC radio tomorrow morning to speak about this problem.

I just finished an old book by Jancis Robinson called Tasting Pleasure about her early life in wine tasting. I love the way Jancis writes with no arrogance or pretension and with an understanding of the privileges she has. Jancis has released a great amount of information on her web-site and I was thrilled that she had recently released the first season of her beautifully-shot television series ‘The Wine Course’ on YouTube.

I had only just started to watch it when all the videos were pulled down and this was put in its place – “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Robert-Jan Vugts, B-motion”. It brings up an interesting question about copyright and the author’s or main participant’s rights about releasing their work for free.

There are many documented cases where copyright laws actually stifle and abuse the people that the laws were meant to protect. Jancis’s excitement (and subsequent problems) about releasing the videos is another example. In the end, authors want people to read their books and Jancis was interested in sharing an old television series from 1995. Please complain to B-motion if you are upset. What B-motion doesn’t understand is that the uploaded videos would have generated publicity and sales of the full-quality DVDs due to the viral nature of YouTube.

indian bordeaux?

September 7, 2009

I was told recently that India in the grip of economic success for a portion (about 400 Million are or will shortly be middle class) of its population, is embracing wine at a feverish pace. India is now making wine in some of its cooler, high altitude areas. The quality so far has been far from ideal and is expected from a newborn wine region. To advance quality, some in the Indian wine industry have not only taken to importing France’s wine-making talent, but also its soil. Will wine made from grapes grown in India on soil imported from France taste like Bordeaux? Borgogne? Interesting tasting notes to be sure.

take home the rest

September 6, 2009

Ever been to a restaurant for dinner and ordered a bottle of wine for two people? When I do, I drink a couple of glasses with dinner and there is often a third of the bottle left especially if I am driving. The person not driving typically finishes the bottle even if it is more than he or she might have wanted to drink. I have always wondered if we can just take it home like leftover food. It seems likely to reduce driving while under the influence of alcohol and to encourage a healthy relationship to wine.

I found out that since 2005 Ontario has a Take Home The Rest (THTR) program that allows it. I am not sure why this program is not publicized by the LCBO, the AGCO, the government or restaurants. According to the AGCO, any licensee (with no changes to their existing licence) can offer THTR if they seal an unfinished bottle of wine with a cork that is flush with the top of the bottle.

Obviously, restaurants can refuse the program if they cannot (on don’t want to) seal an opened bottle of wine. It is our job to encourage restaurants to offer it in some capacity so that we can enjoy wines not offered by the glass and still drink responsibly. The restaurants should benefit with higher wine sales but may not offer THTR because they are averse to change. I plan on asking from now on.

food to remember

September 3, 2009

I was recently thinking about the top meals that I remember eating. A ten course meal at Accolade (by Michael Potters), Avalon (Chris McDonald), and a couple at Eigensinn Farm (Michael Stadtländer) were exceptionally memorable.

I remember the turn of the century New Year’s Eve at home with smoked salmon and a wonderful bottle of 1990 Charles Heidsieck champagne. A spanish wine tasting (again at home) with accompanying tapas. And of course Tapas the restaurant where I fell in love with Aïoli. A seafood dinner at Artisanale left us completely sated. There are so many more.

cellared in canada

August 18, 2009

What does “Cellared in Canada” or “Product of Canada Wine” mean? It means that high percentages of bulk wine or grape concentrate from other countries can be used in such a product. Beyond the fact that this is malicious false advertising, it also puts a lot of Ontario grape growers at a disadvantage. Recently, the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance protested about this in Toronto and now Jancis Robinson has written an article called The Canadian Con Contd where she derides our liquor boards for allowing it.

A couple of years ago, Tawse (if I remember correctly) released a wine called “99/1” as an humourous (and tasty) protest about our idiotic labelling laws. It contained 1% Ontario Pinot Noir with the other 99% coming from a premiere cru Bourgogne. It was delicious but drinking it made you feel like you were lying to yourself.

Why does the LCBO (and other liquor boards) continue to sell and promote this type of unethical marketing? Because they don’t really care about supporting Ontario wine since the profit margin is less and money talks. What can you do? If you want Canadian wine, buy Canadian wine. Read the labels carefully and complain as much as you can. Hopefully at some point Canada will be embarrassed enough to grow up and act like a legitimate wine producing country.