The Terroirist: The World of Wine
Your bi-weekly look at what's new and exciting in Toronto's wine cellars
This week, the vintages release is featuring the Pacific coast - specifically BC and Washington. While in the past both regions have been accurately described as 'marginal at best', over the past decade they have both improved by leaps and bounds in terms of both quality and quantity of production. There is still sadly much - far too much - that is best avoided, when they're at their best, they're lovely to drink and a fine compliment to many foods. In BC, especially amongst the whites, some of these can be had for reasonable prices, while just to the south, the cost for a really nice bottle (often red, due to the warmer climate and more fertile valleys) tends to be noticeably higher.
One Pacific wine that really impressed me in Saturday's release was the Mission Hill Pinot Gris Reserve 2005 (Okanagan Valley, BC, $19.95, 537076). Pinot Gris is more commonly known in the Canadian market as Pinot Grigio, although this offering from Mission Hill seems more Alsatian in character rather than the typical light, uncomplicated northern Italian offerings we're more used to. A pale straw in colour, the nose is full of citrus, herbs, pear, and grapefruit. On the palate is it lush and full, with flavours of grapefruit, gooseberry, and herbs. If you think that most Pinot Grigio is dull and boring, this is a wine that will change your mind.
The other two top value wines from this release both hair from France, where wines are often better identified geographically than by their grape (The confusion keeps people like me in business, remembering which grapes go where.). Much of this is due to the sense of place that the French put into their wines - amazingly two wines with similar grapes can taste very different even though they're made just kilometres apart.
The first, from the Loire Valley region of France is the Joseph Mellot Sancerre 'La Chatellenie' 2004 (Loire, France, $22.95, 525154), which is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, of which I have spoken of muchly in past columns. This one is beautifully typical of the French style of Sauvignon, and would be a good change for those more attuned to the New Zealand style. The wine, a bright gold in colour, has a vivid nose of grass, herbs, lemon, and rosemary, with a very dry, slightly tart mouthfeel complimented by the same flavours as in the aroma. This would be absolutely delightful with barbecued fish, or perhaps an herb and lemon chicken.
The final wine for the day comes from a much maligned French region, that of Beaujolais. Although technically part of Burgundy, it gets none of the respect that it's more Pinot dominated cousin recieves. While it isn't really capable of making the world-class wines that Burgundy produces, the Gamay-based wines that come out of it, and especially those from the Cru Beaujolais as this one, are immenently drinkable, and often at much better prices. The Domaine des Sablons Saint-Amour 2004 is a pale bright cherry coloured wine, with clean fresh aromas of cherry fruit, rosemary, spice, and a touch of strawberry jam. On the palate is it very light and refreshing, with flavours dominated by cherry and candied herbs. Serve this wine slightly chilled, and enjoy with rare tuna and great conversation.
Happy drinking everybody.
The Terroirist is published bi-weekly on Thursdays
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