Why is it that wine is such an intimidating purchase? Is it the enormity of the selection available? Perhaps the scale of price for the same varietal on the same in-store shelf? Is it the ostentatious vernacular that wine connoisseurs impose upon us; the irresolutes? I say, enough already. Buying wine doesn't have to be intimidating and buying a bottle doesn't have to cost the same as a month's worth of MyGym classes. Also, stuff the lingo; wine should be approachable and always fun!
Here are three easy tips to assist your next wine purchasing decision. You can also skip to the end to review my favourite wine selections. Cheers and Happy Friday!!
1. Buy Local: If you're new or intimidated by making a wine purchase for a special dinner I recommend buying a BC wine. There is an abundance of wine options within this small region but reassuring to the novice wine purchaser is the fact that the last several years of "uncharacteristically" hot weather will have produced perfect growing conditions for many of the varietals grown here.
So many of BC's wineries are raking in medal upon medal at wine festivals around North America and the world. Each year, it seems, our grapes get better as our growers and wine makers gain more experience, play with conditions, and create fabulous new wines.
If you need further local assurance, buy BC VQA (or British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance). This simply means that the BC Wine Authority has tested the wine and can attest that the wine meets certain minimum quality standards, including that 100% of the grapes used in the wine will have been grown in BC.
Buying local will allow you to walk into any wine store confidently as you head to the "BC" section, rather than meandering through countless aisles of Chile, Spain, Italy, France, US, Australia, Germany, etc.
Obviously buying local doesn't guarantee a good wine. However, I've had far more good BC wine than bad BC wine, and maybe I should be ashamed to say but I've tasted a lot.
2. Spend a Few Bucks: There is no such thing (in Canada) as a "good" $9 bottle of wine. There just isn't. Don't ever bring a wine to someone's house that cost you $9 or less. I love a good value wine just as much as the next person but I don't like headaches. When buying white wine consider the minimum threshold to be $12 (there are few at this price point but they can be had), for red wine the minimum threshold is higher, like $20 (though I feel like I've found a few for $17). The cheaper the wine, the more sulphites are packed into the wine, the greater the headache.
3. Buy for the Occasion: This is tougher to do if you don't feel like you know anything about wine. Here are my fast and furious varietal choices based on situation / occasion:
a) Patio (hot day) - Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Rose
b) Patio (chilly day) - Merlot, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir
c) Dinner (pork, poultry) - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
d) Dinner (vegetarian, pasta) - Cab Franc (tomato based pasta), Chardonnay (cream based pasta)
d) Dinner (red meat) - Merlot, Syrah
e) Charcuterie and cuddles - Chardonnay, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir, Sparkling
f) Kids tucked in bed - Sparkling
My Personal BC Favourites for 2017:
Rose: Tinhorn Creek, The Oldfield Reserve Rose. I love this rose and we always buy at least a case of it. It reminds me of Provence, it's colour and complexity provides a refreshing sweet beginning and a slightly tarty looong finish. $19.99
Gewurtztraminer: Gehringer Brothers, Gewurtztraminer-Schonburger. This light and refreshing wine with a hint of lychee will transport you to the tropical sun. Uncomplicated and delicate, thoroughly delicious. $14.99!
Riesling: Tantalus, Riesling. Usually I like my riesling to be simple, straight-forward and delightful. However, Tantalus delivers a uniquely complex riesling, bright and citrusy, with an uncompromising long finish that will leave you wondering why you only brought one bottle? $20.00
Chardonnay: Church & State Coyote Bowl Chardonnay AND Church & State Gravelbourg, both of these white are complicated, sultry, and just don't know when to quit. For the first time in BC I was reminded of my very first french white burgundian wine; which I will never forget. If you love caramel, buttered popcorn, and/or nirvana, Church and State Chardonnay is for you. $27'ish - worth every penny.
Sparkling: Stoneboat, Piano Brut. I love sparkling. It is romantic. It is celebratory. It is rewarding. It is soft, delicate. It should be toasty, and moussy. It should be refined and memorable. The Piano Brut is all of these things as it hints at peaches and/or pear. There are many amazing sparkling wines in BC, but this year, Stoneboat has me locked down with their Piano. $25.00
Best Value White: Gehringer Brothers, Desert Sun. I'm not abdicating or advocating for Tuesday wine, but if you have to have it. This is your wine. Described as very "social", this wine beautifully balances citric with delicate acidic to create a very happy go-lucky sipper. $12.30!!
Merlot: Bartier Bros., Merlot. Merlot is meant to be a heavier, bigger wine often paired with a big and delicious steak. Bartier delivers. The tannins of this wine will work with the marbling of a steak to deliver an earthy, velvet, and chocolatey flavour explosion. I would also pair this wine with a cozy blanket and fire. $23.50
Cab Franc: Tinhorn Creek, Cab Franc. This medium-bodied wine is full of meaty, earthy, well-defined but intense flavours. Fabulous with goat cheese or camembert, tomato based pasta, or a chilly starry night. This wine will coat your taste-buds and your desires. Choose a pairing to match intensity.
Pinot Noir: Meyer, McLean Creek Pinot. A muscular pinot that has a lot to say. I loved the hints of blueberry that lay beneath this well-structured wine. This smooth sipper is consistently one of the best Pinots in BC year after year, in my opinion. In fact, I never used to like Pinot Noir because I felt the varietal provided only thin, uncomplicated wine with little to no finish. All of the Meyer Pinots have proved this theory completely and utterly false. Choose any and be delighted. $40
Syrah: Burrowing Owl, Syrah. Oaky, earthy, smoky, savoury, oh and I love lavender. You'll wake up still thinking about this finish. Immense. Intense. Amazing by all standards. A special occasion wine. $41
Best Value Red: Gehringer Bros. Summer Night. Pinot, Cab Franc, Merlot. This blend is not deep, but not shallow. It's a lovely combination of light and refreshing with a slightly darker finish. This is the cheapest GOOD red wine I have ever found in BC, and it won't give you a headache (not guaranteed if you're consumption is greater than your tolerance). $12.30
I suppose I should conclude all of this "great advice" by saying that I am not a wine aficionado. I am certainly not Robert Parker nor Gismondi (points for knowing who they are though). I wish I had the patience for such immense knowledge or the definitive palette to pronounce a region or vintage upon the smallest sip. Au contraire, I am simply a humble fan of their work and enjoy learning about and experiencing new vintages and vines.
There you have it. Happy weekend-ing! Toast well. Stay Blissful. Make Ruckus.