Posts Tagged ‘shiraz’

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.

A FEW FACTS

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….

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Buller Shiraz Limited Release 2004 Rutherglen

April 3, 2010

If you are one of those rabid fans of the big, impetuous, tanned, vociferous and unabashedly Australian Shiraz, the Buller 2004 Limited Release Rutherglen is the one for you. I would say this is the cheapest trip down under ever. It takes you there. Starting with the color, it makes you drool. Beautifully developed crimson tones. A   whole lot of jammy yummy spicy Shiraz with extraordinary presence on the palate, at entry, during tasting and after. It’s almost like good sex. No. It’s better.  The Australian authority says “Drink with pork or ribs”. I say, drink on its own and enjoy every bit of it. If you are going to spend 32 dollars on a bottle of wine this weekend, buy this one.

Argentina’s Las Moras: Great Quality Under 20 Dollars

March 11, 2010

With the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival looming in the distance, it is time to pay some attention to the land of Che Guevara, Evita and Maradona. That Argentina is producing wines of great value is news to nobody. We all are familiar with all those under 10, 10-15 and under 20 dollars Malbec bottlings that embellish our tables and bring joy to our parties. In this category, there is a winery that really is scoring goal after great tasting goal.

 
I am referring to Finca Las Moras, or “mulberry estate” as it would be in Spanish, which is the language spoken in the southamerican country. I make this point clear because, had you the chance to meet an Argentinian you may think he comes from somewhere in Europe. Argentinians gesture like Italians, have the self confidence of Spaniards and the pomp of Englishmen but they are just Argentinos. Never mind. Us, fellow southamericans love to make fun of them; we call them che’s (like in “Che” Guevara), but we all know well they are true masters at three things:
 
fútbol, football (soccer, as the unbelievers call it )
sound and fury
vino, mucho vino
 
They also have the best meat in the world, but I don’t intend to offend vegetarians, vegans and those practicing abstinence here…
 
Las Moras, unlike most che wineries known here in Vancouver, is not located in sunny, dry, hot, beautiful Mendoza but a little further North, in sunnier, drier, hotter, beautiful San Juan. Soils and climate there suit non-wimpy grapes, as in the case of Syrah. San Juan’s best wines today are produced in the Tulum Valley, which is where Las Moras has its viticultural headquarters. The winery’s vineyards lie at 630 metres above sea level and conditions are such that there is very little -or none- need for the use of pesticides, making the wines virtually organic.
 
In Vancouver you can find some of their varietals and blends. Best marks go to their exquisite Malbec, Tannat, Shiraz, Cabernet/Shiraz and Chardonnay, all priced between 15 an 17 dollars. In the higher price bracket, the Gran Shiraz 3 Valleys is one yummy sip at 25 Cnd. All these products are excellent value and have in common an onslaught of ripe, full-flavoured fruit coming off and out of the glass.
 
The first four products are really worth every penny you pay. Particularly impressive is the Malbec, juicy and plump, hard to beat in this price category. The Tannat, which is a more recent entry in the City of Glass, is surprising in its mouthfilling fruit but particularly in its tannins, abundant but very fine grained, smooth as no French Tannat will be. (Many Madiran Tannats are blended with Merlot to soften the otherwise excruciatingly raspy tannins). The Shiraz is also very competent at the price, mellow and with sweet tannins and the right dose of spice. The Chardonnay, the only white from this house to be found in YVR, is  lovely, balancing good appley acidity with popcorn butter, although those not fond of oak may not enjoy the latter characteristic. I don’t really care for such niceties. I drink wines all across the board; from the anorexically lean to the Boteroesquely curvaceous. As long as they offer quality, I love them. The same approach goes for my mating preferences. This Zen of Drinking requires time, patience, self-discipline and $$$. Reasons for which I am growing older, hermit-like and broke.
 
To finish this entry, all in all, top marks for Las Moras. Even the packaging is attractive, with front and back labels offering good information without offending the eye with bright shiny coloring or cartoon-like illustrations. On the down side, they should seriously give a second thought to their website efforts. Wine geeks and lovers and drinkers look wineries up in the net. Nothing is more aggravating than broken links or pages that appear etternally “under construction”. The currently working website, www.fincalasmoras.co.uk provides very little information on either the winery, the wines or anything. Plus, aesthetically speaking, is a bit tacky. Come on guys, the quality of your wines deserves better. Communications are important too, you know.
 
A note to the importer, Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits. Great job, guys, but when are we getting the Las Moras Late Harvest Viognier here? After the Olympics (not to mention the bill hanging over their heads), Vancouverites only deserve gold. 
 
ps. Apologies for the formatting. Used a new clipboard and showed up in color green and other font. Will try and fix soon.
 

Sex by the Glass. Chapter I: The Shiraz Wine Rep

September 29, 2009

SEX BY THE GLASSsexy_wine[1]
Eight Short Stories of Wine und Sex
By Ivan Loyola

“Let me introduce you to the world of Shiraz”. The woman standing in front of me was tall, prepossessing, self confident to the point of being aggressive and definitely red, both in hair and personality, fiery and determined, voluptuous and with an unlikely touch of spice showing through the mischievous glint of her tea-green eyes. Her accent was thick as the wine she poured for me in the long-stemmed chalice she held in a hand that had less of a hand than of an eagle’s claw. It fashioned a gold band around one of its fingers, which made me think she was married, which she was, although, as I would understand later, in her own words, “it didn’t matter”.

I had met her a month earlier, at a wine tasting to which I, a firm believer in European lager when times were good and local piss when cash -strapped, was dragged by a friend whose girlfriend had left him a few days earlier. “The bitch” he growled “went for this young uneducated buck who struck it rich working in construction”. He paused and looking distant he mumbled “the damn Olympic Games.” Hmm…. I thought my friend might’ve been a bit jealous. I knew he had applied –without luck- for a couple of jobs in the booming construction industry of Vancouver’s first decade of the third millennium. “Wine tasting? Forget that”, I said, with a resolve that only a Neocon willing to launch a bombing campaign on a Muslim nation could boast. “I’m not drinking that stuff, it gives me headaches”, I added, thinking myself out of the hook. “Sorry man” he said, with a confidence that reminded me of the monies I owed him. “Tomorrow you’re supposed to pay back the interest. I could forgo it if you come”. I didn’t have a bargaining chip. “Ok”, I said. “With the condition that we will go and drink ourselves silly with beer before hitting the snob crowds”. “No problem”, he grinned. As it usually happens in my life, I had let somebody else decide for me.

The great 1998 Australian Shiraz wine tasting. That is where I met Jennifer Audrey Sarah Wilkinson, the potent red beauty that kept looking at me with piercing eyes while I sipped the mesmerizing, ruby red liquid. The Convention Centre at Canada place gleamed like a jewel under the twilight of that wondrous summer night. I looked at the reddish stuff, feeling like a sacrificial lamb. I took a deep breath and lifting the glass, I tried to detach from myself, in the way prostitutes are instructed to do while exercising the trade of the flesh. “Wait!” She said, with a commanding energy in her voice that would have been impossible not to obey. Her hand grabbed my forearm and removed the glass from my hand, with the simultaneous determination and gentleness that only the daughters of Aphrodite can wield, either as a weapon or a charm, depending on the situation. Tall enough to lean over the table she pulled me toward her, putting her mouth a few inches from my ear. A whiff of eucalyptus came off her hair, a scent that –I would find later- was the hallmark of her favorite Australian shampoo brand. “First you have to swirl it” she whispered, or I thought she did, half drunk as I was. “Yeah, just like that, give it a few good swirls”. Her voice was now soft and velvety, her eyes followed the circular motion of her hand holding the glass. One would have said she was enamored with the whole ritual. She looked at me with all the intensity of her eyes, the green tea tone of her irises highlighted by the dark mascara she had artfully applied. This I learned later, when dating a Mediterranean woman who, in spite of her rather paltry beauty, made herself into a radiant female through the masterful use of make up. I tried the swirling myself, clumsily, my hand going back and forth in a choppy fashion. Then something incredible happened. “Hold on” she said, and her hand landed on mine, and holding the glass together she showed me what she meant. “See, it’s easy if you just do it gently, from one side to the other, in wide open circles, just like that”. As she said this I felt the warm pressure of her hand on my knuckles, the dexterity of her wrist bending mine back and forth as we swirled, together. In that moment I knew this woman who insisted to be called by all three given names would teach me much more than just wine tasting. Or at least, that is what I thought. What do you see? She asked me. I looked up and saw her healthy, beautifully layered hair. Red and thick? I ventured. She stared at me approvingly. “A quick learner, aren’t you?”. She was talking not about wine, I figured, but about herself, and so was I. Soon I would learn the joys and sorrows of drinking Australian Shiraz….

stay tuned….

Food and Wine Matching For The Un-initiated

September 17, 2009

This is an almost esoteric subject for most. So much has been written about it that you may think -I do think- why write another line? Well, I do it because it is fun and because I love food and I love wine. So there you go. Like everybody else, I guess, except for those who like chips out of a bag, burgers out of a fast-crapfood joint and prefer carbonated drinks to accompany their “fare”.

“White wine is for fish, red wine for meat”. Who hasn’t heard this from people who are in the wine “know?”. And the reality is that there is certain validity to the claim. But as a guideline only. Remember Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean? Same idea. It is not a code, it is just a guideline. You need to know a bit more than that, basic, intuitive (we all have tastebuds after all) understanding. And you need an imagination, you need to let it soar, you have to exercise it.

For instance, every time I eat, I am thinking mmm….what could I pair this with? I was just thinking about this when a few days ago, I had a plate of lentils on white rice. The lentils were seasoned with sauteed chopped garlic, onion, tomato and pureed roasted red pepper. So, very tasty indeed, and sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley and generously splashed with olive oil at serving. One of my favorite brunch meals indeed. Viognier, I thought, almost intuitively, bringing to mind the moderate acidity of that varietal matching the dish’s. A little more acidity in the wine to cut through the olive-oily film coating my palate? Perhaps an unoaked Chardonnay. Something with a bit of body to go with the weight of seasoned lentils.

So, there you go. White wines would work well. But what about red? Some people, as we know, cannot tolerate white. Not too much body here. A big heavily oaked Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Shiraz would suffocate the rather bland character of the dish. Unoaked? Check. Medium to light medium body? Check. Low alcohol? Check? I figured something like Periquita, a Portuguese table wine made of Castelao, Tinta Roriz and Trincadeira grapes. Easy, smooth, fruity, uncomplicated. Perfect. It could be anything like that. Don’t bring the heavy artillery for this small infantry job.

To conclude this note, keep in mind things that are no mystery: Acidity of the dish, acidity of the wine. Let them run together. Weight, or body. How strong is the imprint of the food on your palate? The wine chosen should be equally strong, or weak. And it must be added, you don’t need a great wine to do pairing. White wine for fish, red wine for meat? Yes, but as a guideline only, not code. Don’t be intimidated. Is no rocket science.

South African Beauties

July 28, 2009

Bafana, brother, here is the good news. Too many of us avoid South African wines, some because they are header_logotoo exotic. Others heard stories of burned rubber as a prevailing aroma. Well, I must admit I was among those and carefully chose not to pick wines from the land of Mandela, Rugby champions and the great five.

That until Andre Morgental, communications manager of Wines of South Africa, guided us through a flight that went from a bubbly all the way to rich Shiraz and Merlots. The contentious issue of burned rubber was brought up and Andre gave us an insight on the matter. In spite of tremendous efforts to pinpoint the nature of this smell that has created a bad reputation for some of their wines, South African researchers have not been able to determine a single compound responsible for it. Furthermore, studies show that in blind tastings, subjects find the smell in wines from all over the world. It may have a strong psychological component and perhaps, once the consumer knows the wine is South Africa, he “finds” the odour. True or not, we had eleven wines and not a trace of the said stench.

Graham Beck, Chardonnay Pinot Noir, sparkling. A lovely wine with a yeasty, biscuity nose, subtle floral aromas and creamy palate, accentuated by fine fizz. Definitely worth a try. $25

MAN Chenin Blanc 2008. Inexpensive white wine, filled with ripe banana and dry pineapple aromas. Granny apple and mineral flavors, good acidity and overall, a very nice everyday white. $12

Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc 2008. Another great value white, lighter than the MAN, with tropical fruit and a nice long finish.

Excelsior Paddock Viognier 2008. This Viognier surely has no low self-esteem issues. Big nose, leesy and tropical, some floral notes and a nutty, lemony medium-bodied palate. $15

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2007. A good rendition of this controversial grape, which seems to be adored in South Africa but does not have the same following overseas. Smoky, medicinal notes on the nose, coffee and honey, juicy palate.

Saxenburg Private Collection Merlot 2005. Gamey aromas and a juicy, fleshy, mineral palate. Soft tannins, rich with good finish.

Stormy Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. This one stole the show. Black currant galore, pepperleaf, game and resin on the nose. Sweet, ripe fruit and soft tannin for an excellent value wine. At 13.99, this is a winner.

MAN Shiraz 2007. Deep purple robe with a minty, diesely nose. Palate peppery, medicinal notes and a bit puckering. Not my favorite but for the price -11.99- does quite well.

Boekenhouskloof The Wolftrap Shiraz 2008. Never had coconut on the nose of a Shiraz before. This one has plenty, plus toasty, gamey notes. Rich palate with tchai spice, lots of ripe red fruit and peppery minerality. A dash of Mourvedre and Viognier makes this Shiraz a serious contender in the price range. 14.99

Leopard Frog Vineyards Midnight Masai Shiraz 2002. A juicy, fruit driven, rich broth. Tannins firm and mouth puckering, in a agreeable way. 24.99

Thelema Reserve Merlot. A Mafuta (BIG) Merlot, with plenty of fruit, velvety texture, flavorful and convincing. Great way to close the tasting. 29.99

I would recommend any of the wines described above. Plus visit the Wines of South Africa website, for information on their very interesting food. Mafuta Bafana!

Drinking Shiraz Down Annie’s Lane

June 16, 2009

Another delicious Shiraz from the annies laneland of kangaroos, venomous spiders and beer swilling crowds. Deep ruby red garment and a pronounced, sweet nose with vanilla, black pepper and blackberry. Full bodied, rich and with a somewhat medicinal –eucalyptus- streak. Good acidity and soft tannins in the tasty finish, which is smooth and long, packed with red fruit and spice.

Product: Copper Trail Shiraz

Variety: Shiraz

Vintage:2002

Winery: Annie’s Lane

Origin: Clare Valley, Australia

Alcohol: 15.0%

Price: 29.99 (Everything Wine)