Category Archives: White Wine

Pascal Bouchard Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2010

pascal-bouchard-fourchaume

France, $54 

The greatest white wine in the world has been announced! Well, announced by me, but still. Last week the Chablis gang was in town and I couldn’t have been more excited had the Beatles gotten back together (maybe a little more surprised I suppose). The fact is that notwithstanding my excitement at tasting new wines from new regions, the honest truth is that no white wine region is closer to my heart in Chablis. It’s beautiful, it’s hellishly hard to grow grapes there (it gets so cold that they will often water the grapes so the water will freeze and forma protective barrier) and the wines that come out are a relative bargain given all the factors they deal with. You can get a basic Chablis for $25—cheaper than any California Chardonnay with any sort of connection to an identifiable plot of land—a Premier Cru starting at about $40 and a Grand Cru at about $75 (and up). And for that money you get the purest most nuanced handling of the Chardonnay grape in the world. I’m choosing a wonderful Premier Cru from Pascal Bouchard from the Fourchaume vineyard (there are 89 Premier Crus and I don’t pretend to know the difference between all of them) and it sees some time with some used oak, enough to impart some structure but not make it okay by any stretch. Instead you get a wave a crisp, green apples, both fresh and serious with asmall linger of white fruit. What a wine, what a region.

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Township 7 Pinot Gris 2012

township-7-pinot-gris

BC, $22

These days the average diner I run into seems slightly embarrassed ordering Chardonnay in a restaurant, but the reality is that if there’s one varietal that most wine geeks eschew it’s Pinot Gris, and Pinot Gris from the Okanagan is maybe the worst offender. It’s not that it’s bad—it’s not at all—it’s that it often has a uniform taste profile that, while reliable, is often less than exciting. But there’s excitement out there and when it comes—as it did with this bottle—it’s a pleasant surprise.

Even before I opened it there were a few hints of something different. The first is that Township 7 has gone and created themselves a snappy new logo that’s still classic yet not sedate. Secondly they’ve chosen to bottle the Pinot Gris in the long bottle that the Alsatians favour. “What difference does a bottle make?” you no doubt scoff, and you’re right. But the choice of bottle often gives a hint of where the winemaker wants to go with a wine, the same way electing to call your Syrah Shiraz gives me an idea of what style the winemaker prefers. It’s a great hint because Alsatian Pinot Gris is the gold standard and this wine goes for some of the great Alsace trademarks—deeper colour, fuller body and some nice subtle floral notes (courtesy of some gewürztraminer). And unlike Alsatian wine, all this can be had for under $20, making it a worthy bottle to source.

 

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Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante Alouette

hermitage-blancFrance, $76

Michel Chapoutier has become one of the giants of the wine world and his early and large-scale adoption of biodynamics in winemaking is like Nixon in China big for the wine industry. What’s amazing about Chapoutier is that they’ve been able to bring such artisanal quality control to an enourmous wine operation. You’ll be reading a lot about him in the coming month—he’s what amount to the keynote speaker at be this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival—but unlike other titans, there’s a Chapoutier wine whether you’re spending $15 or $750. Try asking for a $15 wine from Angelo Gaja and see how far you get.

Choosing a wine to highlight here is a trick—there’s just so many worthy candidates. For me it comes down to the question: what do you look for in a wine? It’s a simple question that elicits answers that anything but. Usually it’s some combination of taste, value, prestige, but when it comes right down to it, there an x-factor that I’m looking for, that frisson of excitement as to what is to come when the cork (or cap) comes off. This week’s wine has that spark in spades. Hermitage is one of the benchmark wines of the Rhone, but Hermitage Blanc (its pale-complexioned brethren, hardly gets any notice). Not a lot of it is made and the stuff that is is relatively expensive. But what you get in this bottle is something you don’t get elsewhere—an amazing amalgam of a waxy texture cut with citrus notes, and more than any wine I can recall, a pure expression of quince. It works well in winter—this is the antithesis of a patio wine in the very best sense.

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TNT Chardonnay 2012

TNT-Chardonnay

BC, $22.90

The last few years have seen a welcome backlash against the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay), which is good. Excluding an entire grape because you don’t like some of its expression is just plain crazy, but…I confess my heart falls a bit when I open the door to dinner guests and see a bottle ofChardonnay in their hands. It’s not that I don’t like the grape, it’s just that I often have trouble getting excited about it. As with any rules there are dozens of exceptions, but for me the greatest of all of them is my love of Chablis. I sometimes think that I love Chablis more than I love White Burgundy from the Cote de Beaune, which is sort of like saying you like Porsche Boxters more than Porsche 911s. But for me the steely, gravely expression of Chardonnay that Chablis has mastered is a revelation every time. And while lots of new world producers shoot for this style with their unoaked Chardonnays precious few get near. That’s why this bottle grabs me. It’s crafted by Sommelier Terry Threlfall (late of Hawksworth) in partnership with Okanagan Crush Pad and it’s the closest wine to a true Chablis that the Okanagan has produced in a while. It’s zippy and alive but has that underlying body and subtle creaminess that tells you you’re not drinking Sauvignon Blanc. And know it’s not named after either the AC/DC song (which would be sort of awesome) or the Swedish explosive compound—”TNT” are Terry’s initials. Only 150 cases were made—they may have it at you local wine store or you can buy it from OKC okanagancrushpad.com

 

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Anciano Gran Reserva 2003

Anciano Gran Reserva 2003

Spain, $14

There are some amazing Sauvignon Blancs coming out of Chile’s emerging wine regions. They’re miles better but quite a bit pricier (at $20), and they make for the worst hostess gift you can bring. Unless they’re a serious wine geek, they’ll look at the label, see Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and think “Thanks for nothing, you cheap screw.” Conversely, this week’s wine may be the best (affordable) bottle you can give. You hand it to the host and theylook down and see Gran Reserva, 2003, Spain and that funny netting the Spaniards love and think “Here is a person of substance.” And you’ll have spent $6 less. You’d have to be a Wine P.I to notice that the wine is from the Valdepenas region, not the more famous Rioja that it mimics, and even still it’s an amazing bargain. Best of all, it’s very approachable—the age and modern winemaking have taken all the edge of this wine and the result is smooth and velvety trip with some residual spicy notes. It’s a laughably good bargain.

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Hester Creek 2012 Chardonnay

hester-creek-chardonnay (1)Oliver BC, $25

Hester Creek has been one of the Okanagan’s best performing wineries for the last few years. Their Character Red and White blends are, at $20 and $18 respectively, easily among the regions best deals. I chronicled my affection for their heavy-hitting The Judge a few month back (link: Hester Creek The Judge 2007 ) And they make, hands down, the country’s best trebbiano. (Well, it’s the country’s only trebbiano, but still.) So if there was ever a oenological case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, it’s Hester Creek. But they didn’t have a classical Chardonnay and while that milieu has suffered in years past, it seems to be making a bit of a comeback (Foxtrot, Harry McWatter’s Time, Mission Hill’s Perpetua) these days. Hester Creek’s entry is restrained—it’s neither buttery, nor oak-y—but there’s still some richness that’s offset by a slight citrus bite. At $25 it, as usual, well-priced.

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Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Periquita

California, $55

There seem to be an endless number of acolytes of Sauvignon Blanc these days. Driven by the wines Kim Crawford and Oyster Bay, they have no problem plunking down $25 for a grape that never used to rise above $12 in any new world iteration. And I don’t really blame them—I enjoy drinking most NZ Sauvignon Blanc, and they’re as reliable as a Volvo in delivering a refreshing shot of citrus, gooseberry and just a sweet hint of melon. But it’s that very reliability that keeps me from fully joining the revolution: I need some surprise, heck, even some disappoints to keep me excited.

So when I was Sonoma Coast tasting bottle after bottle of the best cool Pinots I needed to mix things up a bit, so at Merry Edwards—whose Pinots are amazing—I took a detour and reached for a glass of her Sauvignon Blanc. My expectations were not high; California SB in general gets little respect, and who in their right mind would grow this grape in the heart of Pinot country, either stylistically or financially?

And, of course, it was amazing. Take a step back, and say “Whoa, amazing.” At $32, it was both half the price of the Pinots and the most expensive new world SB I’d had in a long while. It’s tough to find up here—my friend Paul is on their list so always seems to have a bottle, but Bin 905 and Highlander in Calgary carry it and the price is near $50. But if you’re one of those people who love SB this is your next special occasion bottle. It sees some oak and that saps some of the freshness but not that much and theBordeaux-like depth and complexity more than make up for it. There’s lychee, peach, pear, there’s all you could want frankly. It’s awesome.

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El Petite Bonhomme Blanco 2012

Jeffalin Aligote

Spain, $15

Will someone please tell what it means when someone call a bottle perfect “patio wine”? Is the idea that, as you’re in the warm outdoors, it’s thirst–quenching? I hate to break it to you, but wine is a terrible thirst quencher. More often I think it means you’ll be having a grand old time relaxing in the open air, so it matters much less what’s in your glass–a classic backhanded compliment.

This week’s wine, notwithstanding that it’s a fresh white, is a perfect basement suite wine, meaning that it so pleasing that I don’t have to be in some place nice in order to enjoy it. It’s a new offering from Montreal Sommelier Nathalie Bonhomme, whose red version has been around for a few years and is always solid. This wine is a Verdejo from Rueda–a classic Spanish combo and one I wish they’d have put on the front label. But once it’s in the glass it’s great fun–vibrant, slightly peachy and floral but not cloying. And at $15, it’s good enough to drink anywhere you damn well please.

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Jeffalin Aligoté 2008

Jeffalin Aligote

France, $19

Classic white Burgundy–by which I mean Corton–Charlamagne‚ Meursault‚ Montrachet–is not my first choice for a summer wine. It’s too rich for the ice bucket and it costs too much to let me relax on a patio when it’s around. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the region entirely when the weather gets balmy. There’s Chablis, which at premier cru level and below is a great summer wine, although the price is still rarified. There’s the Sauvignon Blanc–based St. Bris, but it’s tough to find. And then there’s Aligoté, the white–headed stepchild of Burgundy. The Aligoté grape is like Chardonnay’s little brother: it’s lighter, it usually has more acid and it not meant for aging–all of which make it perfect for summer. This Jaffelin is widely available–it likely the only Aligoté you’ll be able to track down. Don’t expect the easy, approachable tropical fruits of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc–from start to finish this wine is resolutely old world with restrained palate of citrus and green melon and a solid core of acidity. It’s lively and unique and, at under $20, a great opportunity to explore the uniqueness of Burgundy without cashing in your kids’ RESPs..

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Terravista Fandango 2011

Terravista Fandango 2011

BC, $25
If I’m being painfully honest here, this week’s wine is exactly the type of wine that I’d normally breeze by—it’s a $25 Okanagan white with a “playful”label and a “fun” name. But there are a few reasons
I didn’t.

Firstly, my pal Kurtis Kolt said it was good. Secondly the varietals used—Albarino and Verdejo—are two of my faves from Spain and not only are they rarely grown in BC as far as I know, they’re rarely blended together—not just here, but anywhere in the world. Google “Albarino Verdejo blend“ and this wine is the only one that comes up. Thirdly, the wine comes from Senka and Bob Tenant, the duo who founded Black Hills winery back in the day and made Note Bene into what was once upon a time the West’s first cult wine. And I am much the richer for having tried it.

The wine addresses the number one complaint many have about albarino—it’s bracing acidity—by pairing it with the softer more fruit driven verdejo and the result is a wine that still retains a balance that skews towards food but can also stand alone as aperitif. A welcome break from the Okanagan’s endless march of Pinot Gris.

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