Tag 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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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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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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Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Santa Carolina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Chile, $13

For the June issue, I was tasked by one of our editors to help her find a replacement for Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, the super-popular, very well made wine from New Zealand. I came up with three (you=ll have to wait until June to find out which ones!) but this selection from Chile’s Santa Carolina could just have easily been on
the list.

It comes from the cool Leyda Valley, which sits just off the Pacific and is really making a name for itself in their world of sauvignon blanc. Expect a roundish sack of vanilla, grapefruit and some grassy notes. It tastes like a wine twice its price, and has very little in common with the Chilean sauvignon blancs from the Casablanca Valley which, though only a few dollars cheaper, tend toward one-note flavor profiles.

I’ve had a soft spot for Santa Carolina since I worked in Edmonton’s The Wine Cellar in the early 90’s—we sold cases and cases of their cab/merlot blend, bringing most customers their first taste of the wine juggernaut that is Chile. This sauvignon blanc only reinforces my faith in the brand.

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Niepoort Dialogo Branco Douro 2011

Niepoort Dialogo Branco Douro 2011

Portugal, $20

I’m not so naïve as to assume that the pleasure one derives from wine comes solely from what’s inside the bottle. There’s the joy of discovering a new region, a new grape and the small charge one gets from a well-designed package…AND there’s what’s inside the bottle. This new-to-the-market bottling from Portugal’s famed Niepoort family succeeds on almost every level. It’s from the Douro, which is famous for Port, but only now is it starting to gets props for its table wine (and the white are even more nascent).

It’s a blend of—wait for it—codega do larinho, rabigato, gouveio, dona branca, viosinho and bical. I’m not making those names up—they’re actual Portuguese grape varieties. And the label is super engaging and fun. All that would only go so far if the stuff inside weren’t so compelling and lively in the glass. It’s fresh without being overly acidic or bracing, and has lovely white peach aromas and—just so you know you’re in Portugal—a long, almost salty but pleasing aftertaste. One of the most fun white wines I’ve had all year.

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Joie Farm

Joie Farm

It was a big week for Naramata’s Joie Farm. They blew out the door at the Northwest Wine competition (for all the results see here), scooping a Double Gold (whatever the heck that means), 3 Golds, 5 Silver and 4 Bronzes. Seriously, that’s bit much—if proprietors Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble weren’t such good eggs, other vintners might get a little jealous. Their 2012 release is now widely available and they ship at no charge to all the major centres in Canada. And not to get too gushy, but it’s tough to choose just one the whites—the entire line-up is dynamite. But if pressed, I’m going for the Pinot Blanc, for a few reasons. Firstly, almost everyone else in the Okanagan (save for Blue Mountain) treats the grape like some sort of red-headed step-child choosing to lavish the love on the often-mediocre Pinot Gris. Secondly, they go full Alsace on this wine—they keep the alcohol low (12.5%), but still get a blast of fresh peach, pear and the bite of quince and a lush mouth feel that one doesn’t normally get with this grape. Thirdly, they price it on par with the Un-Oaked Chardonnay and Riesling—at Joie they actually do love all their babies equally.

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Holiday White Wines

Domaine Laroche Chablis Les Vaudevey 2009
France, $40
It’s funny, buying Premier Cru Chablis always seems like a big indulgence even when it’s not much more expensive than a lot of California or B.C chardonnays. This Laroche is just lovely—vibrant and zippy with just a hair of oak aging to lend the hint of heft. Make someone’s Christmas with this bottle, or better yet, three.

Road 13 Jackpot Viognier Roussanne Marsanne 2011
B.C, $29
$30 isn’t chump change, and there are definitely great B.C. wines that are cheaper, but this bottle gives you both the reliably exciting Road 13 team and some wonderful Rhone varietals we don’t get to see much grown locally. A fragrant, honeyed and rich white that will convince your New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc drinking cousin to expand his horizons.

Quinta do Ameal NV
Portual, $17
So $17 is not really a splurge, but when you consider that this is Vinho Verde, the Portuguese wine where $10 and below is the norm, you see where I’m coming from. This is the Porsche of Vinho Verde: racy, sexy, and very drinkable due to its low alcohol. It 100% Loureiro (ah the Portugeuse and there crazy grapes!), and you can be pretty sure you’ll be the only guest who shows up with a bottle of it.

 

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