Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Shiraz Mataro 2009 by Banrock Station

November 17, 2010

Wow, in the search for inexpensive, tasty, quality wine I found this little  warrior. Nicely scented nose and firm, juicy body. Loved the blend. By the way, Mataro is the Australian word for Monastrell (Spain) and Mourvedre (France). 10.99 is a great price for this red. Try it with spicy tomato sauce on spahgetti.


South African World Cup. Of Wine.

June 19, 2010

Well, with the Bafana Bafana team virtually out of the competition, it’s time to take a look at the country’s wines again. On June 15th Wines of South Africa celebrated the cup with a tasting at the V room at Earl’s in Yaletown. Nice atmosphere, great venue with windows facing Mainland St. and a lot of good snacks set the tone for a good tasting. A very convenient booklet with information about South Africa’s wine industry, about the exhibitors and their wines made a big difference. Also, the tables were arranged in a sequence mirroring that one of the pages of the booklet, so it was easy to find the wines you wanted to taste.


South Africa has just over 100K hectares of vines cultivated. That is close to 50 times the amount in BC. Considering the size of the country, there is plenty of room for expansion.

Over 50% of grapes produced are white, with Chenin Blanc (called “Steen”) leading the pack. Contrary to popular belief, neither Pinotage nor Shiraz are the most ubiquitous red grape in the country. That honor is taken by Cabernet Sauvignon.

Many wineries are leaders in offering empowerment and opportunity to poor people, through work and education in the wine industry.

South Africa’s wine industry is a leader in fair and ethical trade wines.

Contrary to popular belief, Pinotage (a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut) tastes really good.

To the vino and the show.

First of all, South Africa offers incredibly good value.

Second, it seems that consumers are getting over the “black legend” about the wines from the land of Winnie Madikazela Mandela being  stinky or of lesser quality.

Third, I am convinced now that Vancouverites will never get that there is NOTHING WRONG  with spitting at a tasting.

Let me start by saying something about the entry level products. The Sauvignon Blancs and Chenin Blancs around the 10 dollar mark offer fantastic quality for the money. Here a few examples of what you should look for if you want really delicious value:

  • Man Vintners Chenin Blanc 2008
  • Robertson Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2009
  • Stormy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009
  • Fish Hoek Sauvignon Blanc 2009

But really the wine that stood out in this group was the Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Riesling 2009. Off dry and minerally with firm fruit and beautiful limey acidity, this is a real winner at 12-14 dollars retail.

To be continued….

Down with Snooth

April 29, 2010

It’s so FRUSTRATING. Have you ever searched for tasting notes to find that the first 5 Google hits are all Snooth? And then you click on the links only to come back to your search, disgusted by this encroaching monster of the web? Well, you are another one. Welcome to the club. Why I don’t like Snooth? Look at the pic above for my reasons.

One. Disgusting color scheme. Was this site designed by some color blind geek? That green reminds me of Linda Blair’s vomit in The Exorcist. Hard to spend time in front of the screen with that gall bladder hue. Yuck.

Two. Clutter. Just look at the site. It gives you vertigo.

Three. The “tasting notes” rarely have pictures. Instead they give you those ugly icons.

Four. I am sick and tired of going to Snooth when it looks like they have a wine review to find the “not yet rated” icon. Come on. If you dont have the tasting notes, take it out until you do. That is hogging.

Five. I don’t know about you but I’ve never found any tasting notes in Snooth that I could use either to pick a wine or to educate others.

Out of the way, Snooth. Leave the first hits to other more useful wine sites.

From Greece -cheap- with Love

April 29, 2010

Skeptical. Very skeptical. Not the only one, when it comes to Greek wines. Who hasn’t been to a Greek restaurant and tasted a caraffe of horrible, harsh red or pinesol sour white? Well, times change. There is the ODE blend of Agiorgitiko and Cabernet Sauvignon. There is the delicious white wine called Moschofilero by Boutari. Who would think that a 9.99 bottle of wine packaged in a coarse green glass bottle with a tacky label is any good? Gotta taste it to believe it. Nothing out of this world, for sure. But really, from the pretty yellow greenish shiny robe,  through the floral waxy nose, to the full creamy body, 2007 Makedonikos Tsantali delivers quality for the price. The finish is smooth and staying and the acidity convincing. On its own on the deck under a sunny sky, with kalamaria, with grilled octopus or Greek antipasti. Break your skepticism, enjoy this lovely wine from the land of great philosophers, democracy and spanakopita and save a couple dollars for your next bottle, you wine addict!

Vancouver Best Value Red

April 28, 2010

I dont get it yet. What is the connection between the picture of the bird in black and white on the label and the wine’s name? Lujuria means lust. Are birds gifted with some sexual overdrive I havent heard of? Whatever. At $9.99 this 2006 wine from the Yecla region of Spain, famous for its Monastrell grape, is the real deal. Monastrell, which in its own can be a bit too much on the nose and palate for its agressive pungency of liqorice, tobaccoeish, animal aromas and flavors is mellowed out with soft, silky Merlot, improving body and mouthfeel. I love it and so will you once you taste it. Available at LDB liquor stores. Oh, let me know what is the thing with  the lusty Lujuria, if you do get it.

Winegeek tip: Monastrell is called Mourvedre in France, Mataro in Australia

About Winecouver Acerca de

April 22, 2010

Aconcagua Mountain, near Mendoza,  2008

Amazon forest biologist turned Alaska marine biologist turned winophiliac, Ivan Loyola is a wine consultant, writer and speaker with WSET studies. Ivan is a member of the South World Wine Society‘s executive committee and works as a sales consultant with Everything Wine, BC largest wine-only store. Ivan’s favorite wines come from Argentina, Chile, California, Oregon, Washington, Italy, France, Spain, Israel, Greece, Lebanon, Canada, Georgia, Montenegro, Croatia, Uruguay, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Slovenia, etc. Not necessarily in that order. Ivan wants you to eat well and sustainably, especially when it comes to fish and seafood. He aspires to live in a world free of all forms of cruelty against humans and animals. He lives in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.

Blog en Castellano peruvino sobre vinos y maridajes con comida peruana

How to Find your Wine in British Columbia

April 14, 2010

Looking for Bronzinelle? Or for any other wine in British Columbia? Go to the Liquor Distribution Board aka “Liquor Store” webpage. Since a reader asked about Bronzinelle, let’s say that is the wine you are looking for.

Click on PRODUCTS. You will see something like this:

Enter the name of your wine in the search box:

Click on the GO link. You can now see that your product “Bronzinelle” is available and have information on the country and region of origin, the vintage, the price and the SKU number.

Next click on the PRODUCT DETAILS link. You get a table with the regions in which this product is available. Let’s say you want to find a store in the LOWER MAINLAND. Click on that link.

Now you need to know how many stores are there and where in, let’s say, Burnaby, so you click on BURNABY

The table shows that there is a total of 72 bottles in Burnaby. Click on the BURNABY link to find out where are the stores located.

Voila! You have three choices. You are in North Burnaby but you don’t know where the store is located exactly. That’s when you click on the VIEW MAP link…

Wow! Now you just realized that the store that carries your wine is the one across the street from your home! Well, next time get off the couchputer and check the stores around your place! If you drink wine you must exercise to move those 150 calories per glass…

It doesn’t get any easier than this. Time to enjoy your Bronzinelle…


Hot Wines from Argentina, IVSA March 2010

March 23, 2010

Pulenta Estate Winery, Mendoza

Thanks to warm weather the IVSA show was not as packed as the last two episodes. Packed is good; one feels the vibrancy of wine lovers pushing to get a taste of the stuff they love. But hey, its nice to get some room too, and probably this is the last IVSA of the year to get just that. As I promised before, most postings these days will be devoted to Argenwines, that is, Argentina wines. Let’s start by one of the very best. Vistalba Corte C Blend. I have been wondering for years why we don’t get Carlos Pulenta wines here in BC. That is Argentina at its best. Small production runs? I don’t know. Thank god, Patagonia Imports brings the Vistalba Corte “C” (corte is Spanish for blend) to Vancouver. Cortes A and B are really spectacular and hopefully, we’ll have them here soon. Lucila Planas of Patagonia Imports treated me to their Xumek Reserve Blend 2006. All adjectives fall short for this soft,  crème-bruleey  textured 14% alcohol blend. Lovely under 30 bucks. Another offering by this importer, the Acequias Oak Malbec , which I tasted in its native Mendoza a couple of years ago, still satisfies with its chocolatey tobacco notes, its concentrated flavors and its excellent price. Not very many Malbecs deliver this quality at 20 bucks.

The surprise of the night was Enoteca Bacco with Natino Bellantoni. I always loved to taste his particular –unique- picks from the land of Garibaldi, Pasta Faggiole and Pizza Napolitana. Verve Negroamaro, Belisario Verdicchio and Nero di Troia are usual staples at this booth. But tonight, Natino poured an unbelievably good Malbec, with all you expect from a good Argentinian varietal plus an Italian touch in the tannin and acidity. The Altavista Malbec Grande Reserve, at 35 dollars, will turn many heads. If that were not enough, Natino challenged me to estimate the price of the 2007 Altavista Atemporal Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah-Petit Verdot blend. It was delicious and I overshot way higher than the humble 22 dollar price tag. This is a wine you don’t want to miss.

Renaissance Wine Merchants had but one Argentinian wine, and they hit right on the nose with their Tapiz Malbec 2008. There is a muddle of inexpensive Malbecs and most of them as are good as you would like them to be. Fruit forward, plummy, aromatic, soft-tannin, they all share the goods. Tapiz is a bit like Maradona; lots of players are really good. Only a few make that special move that nobody else does. At 19 dollars, this a serious contender for best Malbec under 20. With the Playhouse looming ever closer with the Argentinian theme, Red Dog keeps up with their Calafate wines. These wines hail all the way from Patagonia and they want to be noticed. The Calafate Pinot Noir Grande Reserva is probably the first Argentinian Pinot Noir to really challenge the undisputed reigning champions of this segment, the Chilean Pinots. With sweet fruit and confident tannin, this Pinot will make its mark in the Vancouver wine market. The other offering by Cafalate is the Reserva Malbec 2009, a lovely smoothy of chocolate, plum, cigar, double cream cheese and sweet tannin for 18 dollars.

For those who don’t know yet Winecouver is also a wine scout in Argentina and Uruguay. The first successful effort by yours truly is the impressive Mapema line of wines. Lone Tree Cellars’ Susan Doyle poured Mapema’s first arrivals in Vancouver. The Sauvignon Blanc, at 18 dollars, departs from the classic grassy nose and instead delivers a self-confident blitzkrieg of lime and melon. Wonderful. The Tempranillo-Malbec blend is the perfect sip for those who look beyond the classic Malbec offering. Lighter, less plummy and more strawberriesh, this is a wonderful drink for a lazy mid-afternoon, with or without snacks. But Mapema really shines with the Malbec varietal. From the elegant label and packaging, it delivers all the plummy soft tannin goods you expect from a good Malbec. Plus an unflagging acidity and Bordeaux reminiscent elegance that sets this wine apart in the 20-25 dollar category. Winecouver was not wrong when he approached Pepe Galante, one of the most knowledgeable Argentinian winemakers.

Time to snooze.

More Argentinian wine in the next one.



Book Review: Wines of the World

March 18, 2010

Wines of the World

Susan Keevin et al.

Eyewitness Companions

DK Publishing, New York



If you are at all like me –and I think I am an average Vancouver denizen- you probably own a lot more books that you have never read than the ones you have. It is a bit embarrassing to confess this, coming from me, being a writer. Writers are supposed to read or to have read a lot. When I became more interested in wine I started to collect wine books, thinking “now, I have a real passion here, so I will read all these books.” 

Of course I was fooling myself. We are animals of habit and now, looking back, I should have known that, just as with my other books, I would only read a fraction of them. I must also say, however, that although I have not read most of my books front to back, I have definitely used them for reference, both for my fiction and wine writing. Just in case you started thinking “why should I read this blog? This guy is cranking wine stuff out of his head.” 

In any case, what I wanted to say on this one is that  if I had to choose one book, if I had the money and space on my shelf for only one wine book I would pick the one that gives name to this posting.  Wines of the World provides all the basic information you need in a mere 672 pages. It is compact, it has beautiful photographs, it’s made with nice, thick paper. Plus, it packs condensed, quality information on the world wine regions, grapes, wine people, top producers, history. If that were not enough, you will find handy maps too. 

I don’t know how they managed to pack so much into such limited space but that shows craftsmanship. (Should I write craftswomanship to be gender correct here? Just kidding). These guys knew what they were doing. I also find the language simple, accessible to all, avoiding the excessive industry jargon that drives the wine curious back to beer and rye. Nothing wrong with those two, don’t take me wrong.

If you only read the first chapter “Introducing Wines of the World” (it’s ok if you skip the old stuff and go straight to the 20th century) you will have already a pretty good grasp on the wine areas, who is making what, who is making more -or less- and who is drinking it.  For instance, on page 13 there is a neat table of production and consumption. For the year 2001, the consumption in liters per capita put Canada on place 15th, after France, Portugal, a long list of etceteras and even tiny Switzerland and beer oriented Germany. What they don’t say is that Vancouver drives the Canadian consumption up, with West Vancouverites downing a staggering 90 liters per head a year. That is a whole lot, and yes, this is fresh info that is not in the book. But that is why you come to this blog, see? Now, seriously, I have the 2004 edition, so expect updated info on the current one. You still need to come to Winecouver though. 

Pages 24 to 35 will make you a quasi-expert in terroir, vineyard soil and grape varieties. Knowing red from white and having Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay only in your wine knowledge arsenal doesn’t cut it any more, bud. The terroir explanation text is wittingly accompanied by cool illustrations that will cut through that looming boredom. Then you have the main grapes, both black (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir) and white (Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon) explained in detail, as it should be. Most wine drank today still comes from those main grapes. Then you have shorter descriptions for other grapes that are becoming more popular. Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sangiovese, for the dark ones and Viognier, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer among many other whites. Stuff you should know to help you understand and appreciate better your new choices. 

The continuing pages until the end of the introduction chapter give some insight on vineyard management and vinification. I find this latter one is quite relevant, as it relates directly to the stuff you are putting in your mouth. Oak vs no oak, blending, bottle aging, malolactic fermentation, these are all areas in which you want to have a working knowledge, for your drinking’s sake. Huh! Talking about sake, this book doesn’t include a Sake chapter, which makes complete sense. I still don’t get why wine people have got into the idea that Sake should be included in wine books, wine courses, wine tastings and wine shelves on stores. Even the Playhouse International Wine Festival has a Sake section! C’mon. Sake may be very tasty but is not grape wine. 

Pages 42 to 45 complete the introduction and are essential. They are about wine styles, meaning sparkling or still, light, medium or full body, red vs white. Here, as you go through the styles, you learn the basic wine lexicon associated to each style, plus a few aromas and flavors you may typically expect. To close this smartly put together chapter, pages 43, 44 and 45 have an inset each, telling you about stuff you definitely want to know: Tanninaged vs young wine and the building blocks of wine. I am talking about sweetness, acidity, tannin and alcohol, the properties you assess when answering two essential questions: do I like the wine? Is this quality wine? I must really like this book Have you noticed how many times I used the word “essential”? 

By the time you finish reading through the first 40 pages you will feel a lot more confident. You only have 630 more to go! ; ) You have now all these sections to explore on the wine regions, from Burgundy in France to the top producers in Lebanon. Yes, they do make wine in Lebanon, as they do in Israel. This a really good section for reference, both for when you want to take a quick look or when you find a wine you like and want to know more about the region. It is also fun to look for the “top producers” segment at the end of each wine region. Chances are that you will recognize some of the wines you have seen at your local store. 

The last bit of the book has some wine tasting technique tips, basic wine and food matching and main aromas and flavors you will easily identify in your wines. There is a very solid index, which I deem truly essential in any good wine book. And, huh, there is a wine glossary near the end too.  You should look at it. In case someone asked you what Qualitatswein mit Pradikat is. No. Seriously. I totally recommend this book. Essential.


Ivan Alfonso


South World Wine Society Event

March 18, 2010

Event cancelled