Somewhere the Beer Gods are cringing – Part 2

On Friday May 18th I wrote a pretty aggressive and negative post about what I deemed “gimmick beers”.  This was largely driven by the recent launches of Coors Light Iced Tea and Bud Light Lime Mojito.  Of course the gimmick beer list does not stop there, but they received the bulk of my wrath on that particular day.  You can read the entire post here if you want to refresh your memory.

This post was met with a lot of commentary on here, on Twitter, and elsewhere.  I appreciate all the feedback and I’m certainly happy the post did exactly what it was intended to do which is generate some discussion.  For the most part I found that people agreed with me and I appreciate that.  However I also appreciate that some people disagreed with the post and are in favour of these types of beers.  Of course I knew there would be those in favour, that doesn’t surprise me in the least, otherwise these products wouldn’t be created and wouldn’t sell.

The commentary which struck me most was from @jps_82 who argued this type of innovation is not new to the industry.  True.  He also pointed out that people all around the world, for centuries, have mixed beer with a variety of other drinks.  Beer margaritas in Mexico, beer in lemonade Germany.  True.  Heck I’ll even add one to the list as beer and tomato juice is hugely popular right here in Ontario.  But it’s not peoples desire to mix beer with other things that rattles me.  Go ahead.  I’ll admit these are not ideal for me, but the concept of mixing a regular beer with something else doesn’t get me as fired up as the aforementioned “gimmick beers”.

Here’s my issue with them – using Coors Light Iced Tea as an example.  It’s that I enjoy the production of beer using the 4 basic ingredients and appreciate the brewmasters work within this basic framework.
Coors Light Iced Tea:             Beer:
- Barley                                       – A starch (Barley)
– Hops                                         – Hops
– Yeast                                        – Yeast
– Water                                       – Water
– Blend of Tea Botanicals
– Lemon

The point of this blog is to educate my readers and to pass along my thoughts and recommendations on how you can better enjoy your experiences with beverage alcohol.  The point of “somewhere the beer gods are cringing” was not just to slam these beers but to continue to encourage the consumption of the wonderful craft beers this country has to offer.  To me that is where the beer experience is truly enjoyed and enhanced.  But here is where I went wrong… I gave zero credit to those out there who may enjoy these products and to whom these products will actually enhance their experience.  Or to those who may not like beer but these “gimmick beers” get them as close as they’re going to get.  So I stand by the notion that these beers are a marketing ploy designed to increase consumption and to steal market share from the growing spirit segment.  I also stand by the fact that to me they are not going to be on my list for enjoyment.  But at the end of the day there is one thing I know and appreciate more than anything else and that is that alcohol is a very subjective subject.  One’s favourite drinks can elicit strong support as well strong emotions and a sense of loyalty.  If Coors Light Iced Tea (or other) does that for you than I say enjoy.  It simply doesn’t for me.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman

Term of the week. May 2012

In keeping up with a feature I started on here in February I am trying to log a “term of the week.” It could be from anywhere, wine, beer or spirits. The hope is this will be a helpful feature making you all more and more familiar with the wide world of beverage alcohol. However I will be the first to admit this is not a unique idea. There are many blogs that have helpful definition sections, plus between apps and websites there are a copious number of ways in which you can get the definition you are seeking. But you came here. Plus the hope is I can provide definitions to terms you may not already know or have ever thought about. I also won’t be simply copying formal definitions from dictionary’s. I will try to provide descriptions that are helpful and easy to understand well also providing some insightful context. Enjoy.

May 7th:
Acidity: So this should be a pretty straight forward definition since acidity is exactly what you think it is. It’s the sour sensation you get in wine. It’s felt on your cheeks and it makes your mouth water. But what is it doing in wine and why do we want it there? First let’s clarify one thing right away. Acidity is not found only in white wines. Red wines actually have plenty of acidity too. Red wines from Northern Italy for example are loaded with acidity. It has bunch of purposes in everyday wines and is sought after in wine making all over the world. Take those Northern Italian wines again for example, acidity in wine helps cut through acidity in food. Tomatoes for example which are a staple of the aforementioned Italian cooking. It also helps cut through fatty and oily foods, which is why high acid white wines are a classic fairing with fatty fish. However one of the most important things acid does in wine is help with its aging potential. No not all wines are age worthy my friends. One of the things an expert will test for when determining how long a wine can sit is how much acidity it has. The acidity will mellow over time and blend with the other flavours to help the wine age and improve with time.

May 14th:
Champagne: In today’s feature I thought I would dive into one of the most well recognized, expensive, and notable wines in the world. Everyone has heard of Champagne whether you like wine or not. Hip hop artists have helped make Dom Perignon one of the most well established and popular alcoholic beverages around. So what is Champagne? Well to be precise Champagne is a region in the North of France. It so happens that the most famous sparkling wine happens to come from this region. Much like facial tissue is often simply referred to as Kleenex, sparkling wine is often incorrectly referred to as Champagne. Technically Champagne is nothing more than sparkling wine produced in this defined region of France. Despite the fact that sparkling wine is made the world over using the same methods as Champagne it can’t legally be referred to as anything but sparkling wine. What makes it so special? Well for starters it is very good wine and recognized as such by critics everywhere, so quality certainly counts. It’s also rich with history and wine making practices which have stood the test of time. Plus it has received some tremendous marketing support including the aforementioned fixation which exists in popular culture everywhere.
Here are some other fun/interesting facts about Champagne for your next dinner party:
– it is made with a blend of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties
– the world famous “Cognac” is a region in Champagne
– sparkling wine that declares it is made in the “traditional method” (often indicated on the label) are telling you it is made using the traditional Champagne production methods

May 28th:
Rose Wine: I have voiced my support of Rose wine on this site many times. I have also declared it the most misunderstood and under appreciated wine style out there. I still stand by both of those things. It’s not my favourite wine by any stretch of the imagination but it certainly has its place and in some cases can be a fabulous wine. Every summer the LCBO promotes Rose wine so if you walk through a store right now you will see more available than you may have previously, so I figured I would take a second to define it for you. The reason I think it is misunderstood is because people don’t understand what it actually is. Pink Zinfandel has given all Rose wine a bad reputation for being sweet, poor quality wine. Then others assume it is simply a blend of red and white wine, so those that enjoy big red wines will avoid it. Here’s the truth. Most Rose wine is red wine. It’s made with famous red wine grapes including many which make the biggest, heaviest, red wines in the world. A red wine gains its colour from the time the juice spends in contact with grape skins. It’s extracts colour from the skins. So when a rose wine is made they simply don’t leave it in contact with the skins for as long so it extracts less colour. Therefore instead of deep red, it remains some degree of pink. Of course there are other differences in the production process just as there are with all wines but this is the fundamental misunderstanding of Rose wine. Furthermore to dispel another myth, most are dry. Especially if you explore Rose wines from Europe, including France and Spain where many of the finest Roses are produced. So the next time you decide to avoid Rose wine because you don’t think it is “real” wine, think again and perhaps even give it a shot.

A peek under the tent… the future of towineman

I have a theory…  I think wine ratings are somewhat misleading under the current system of evaluation.  We all trust Robert Parker and Wine Spectator if they give a wine a 91 or 92 rating and we buy said wine.  But what does that mean?  Do we actually know or care about the subjective opinions of a couple, albeit important, wine critics?  Plus what is the difference between a 92 and a 93, and why is there no 92.5?  Not to mention we now have access to thousands of wine reviews and ratings online from some of the most celebrated critics in Canada.  You can get wine reviews from Tony Aspler (http://www.tonyaspler.com/pub/home.asp) , Natalie Maclean (www.nataliemaclean.com), John Szabo (Master Sommelier, http://www.winealign.com), Gord Stimmell (Toronto Star), David Lawarson (Toronto Life) etc etc etc.  The list goes on and on.  Also note that each critic has their preferences and biases just like the rest of us.

But here is the key element.  Wine reviews very rarely take into account price.  If they do it is often glanced over or a quick comment on the side.  Of course a wine which costs $80 should be rated high.  It only makes sense.  But is the everyday consumer going to buy that wine?  I have my doubts, even if Robert Parker rated it a 94.  In my opinion a wine rated an 88 which costs $12 is likely more valuable than a wine rated a 92 which costs $50.  Call me crazy but with prices at the LCBO being all over the map we need to find value.  Plus who wouldn’t want to know about a great wine at a great price.  Everyone.

So I present a breakthrough at towineman.com.  I will be launching a wine rating scale which finally takes into account price and overall value.  A scale which, in my opinion, will present a true wine rating with all important factors taken into consideration… including price.  I happen to have to have a very good friend who is an expert in statistical modeling.  With his help we have created a revolutionary wine rating model.  The model takes what we call an industry average rating, which is an average rating across all the wine experts who have rated the wine (well the experts from a broad list which I have chosen).  It then adds a price factor to even the playing field a bit.  Therefore theoretically a well regarded wine at $10 could score better than a well regarded wine at $50.  Simple.  Plus it’s not one person’s opinion and it’s not my opinion of the wine.  It’s all the numbers from the critics summarized with price finally being considered.

So stay tuned for a whole new way of rating wines.  Now you will be able to buy wines that you can afford and are also considered excellent quality by all the trusted names in wine.  You can’t get any better advice than that.

Do you think this would be helpful to your wine buying habits? Comments and feedback on this are very much welcome and encouraged.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman 

Arrogant Bastard Ale – What a label!

Courtesy of a good friend I had the pleasure of drinking some wonderful craft beers on the weekend.   Mixed in with a couple Flying Monkeys Netherworld’s (@flyingmonkeys) were some amazing US based craft brews.  The best of which may have been the Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing based in San Diego California.  The beer was great.  The atmosphere and weather were great.  The label on the back of the bottle was outstanding!!

 

I know you can’t quite read the label so here is what it says.

Ar-ro-gance (ar’ogans) n.
The act or quality of being arrogant; haughty; undue assumption; overbearing conceit.

Arrogant Bastard Ale: This is an aggressive ale.  You probably won’t like it.  It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.  We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory, maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal.  Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better.  Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.

The Arrogance Grows: Too many strive towards complacency as a goal.  They stop the urge and desire for discovery somewhere between youth and adulthood.  And when they find their complacency threatened they do everything to recover the warm, fuzzy feeling of that lost complacency as quickly as possible.  Throughout every culture, every country, and every way of thought you will find it.  We grow up thinking that the ability to become complacent is the equivalence of success in life.  True arrogant bastards know that this could not be further from the truth.  The real beauty, richness, and depth in life can only be found if the journey through life itself is looked upon as a constant chance to learn, live, and find life’s passion.  Passion threatens the complacent, and fills them with fear.  Fear is the new, the deep, and the different.  We, on the other hand, seek it out.  Endlessly, joyously… and aggressively.  To this end we bring you the “Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale.” Another reward for those seeking new sources of passion, and another point of dissension for those who are not.

Hillarious!

Check then out online: www.arrogantbastard.com or on Twitter @liquidarrogance

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman

Wine Review – #ZeniTo – Tuesday May 15th, 2012

 

A week ago today I was recovering from my Tuesday evening because last Tuesday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the #ZeniTO wine and food event which took place on Tuesday May 15th at Nota Bene on Queen Street West.  When you’re invited to a dinner and wine pairing at Nota Bene in Toronto, hosted by Zeni wines and iYellow Wine Club… you say yes.  Though I took a ton of notes and did a full tasting note for all 5 of the wines (I will get into some of that in the latter part of this post) the main thing was I had a great time.  Sure my wine glass was constantly full courtesy of the wonderful service, but overall I had a great time.  But here’s the thing… I knew I was going to have a great time.  As I have written before when you go to an iYellow event you have a great time… every time.  So let me start this post by saying if you haven’t joined iYellow yet then stop reading, leave this site now, go to www.iyellowwineclub.com, and become a member.  It’s free and you won’t regret it.  Just be sure to minimize this article and come back to finish reading it.

I posted the menu and the wines on this blog the day before the event and you can take a look at it here #ZeniTo menu.  A 5 course menu was customized by Chef David Lee to be paired perfectly with the wines.  Though some of the dishes aren’t my personal favorites (see bone marrow) the beef carpaccio was the best I’ve ever had, and the dishes were in fact paired perfectly with the wines.  So to my foodie friends and followers out there I would certainly give Nota Bene my recommendation as I left there with a desire to try their regular menu and I went home and told my wife we should pay them a visit. (http://notabenerestaurant.com/)

*all pictures credit to Jolene Aiello

But let’s be honest this was a wine event.  Led by winemaker Fausto Zeni we drank and enjoyed 5 beautiful wines from the Zeni portfolio.  The wines ranged from $15 on the low end to probably over $60-$80, if it was available in Canada, on the high end.  I was lucky enough to be seated at the true wine guru section of the room with @theyummygrape, @saradamato, and Graham Duncan the wine critic for NOW magazine.  When it comes to a wine dinner I was in great company and it made for great wine conversation.  However since this blog tries to take a simplistic approach to wine I will avoid rehashing our entire conversation.

*All pictures credit to Jolene Aiello

To help put this all into perspective let me start by introducing you to Zeni wines (@zeni_bardolino or http://www.zeni.it/index.php).  They are a family owned winery in the heart of the Bardolino region, in the Verona province, in Italy.  First started in 1870 they specialize in Amarone della Valipolicella.  The most interesting part however is what struck me more than the wines themselves was just how much the family ties were demonstrated.  The final wine of the evening was the Zeni Amarone, named for the former owner and winemaker (and father of the current owners and winemakers) who passed away.  Fausto was nearly brought to tears when describing this wine to us.  It meant a lot to him to be serving the wine that honours his fathers name and it was a joy to see.  My favourite thing about those who operate outside of big corporations is that the passion they have for their craft is usually evident in the final product and it certainly was in the Zeni wines.  Sampling these wines that the winemaker is so passionate about is a true joy.

(The wine line-up)

As we moved through the wines it became clear that Zeni is a top winemaker.  Across wines 2 through 4 (the Valipolicella Ripasso, Amarone Classico, and Amarone Barriques respectively) the Ripasso was my least favourite but was perfectly paired with the beef carpaccio.  Once we hit the Amarone Classico you started to notice the great red wine acidity that Italy is famous for.  If there was a negative it was that in all three I was a bit overwhelmed with the alcohol content (I think all came in at 16% or very close).  But that in itself speaks to how ripe the fruit gets in this region.  Plus as I mentioned off the top all 3 were beautiful and well crafted wines which at 16% abv is a testament to the winemaking team.  But the best wine came in at the end (surprise, surprise) with the aforementioned Nino Zeni, another Amarone della Valipolicella.  A 2000 vintage, they only produced 1,870 bottles so we were privileged to have tried it.  A full bodied and classic Amarone, this one would rival anything you could get in the LCBO at any Amarone price point.  If only it was available there.  It didn’t hurt that the wine was served with a hard cheese brought in from Italy by Fausto himself and dried Muscat grapes.  Beautiful.  My mouth is watering just reminiscing about it.

(The Zeni Amarone)

However with all that said I still rank the very first wine we tried as #1 for me on the evening.  The Costalago IGT, 2010 vintage.  Why you ask when we sampled such wonderful wines after it?  Well for starters it is only $15 and available at the LCBO (#220848, though currently sold out).  At $15 this wine would be very hard to beat and could easily compete with many Italian wines priced much higher.  Furthermore it proves there is a misunderstanding in the marketplace that you should only buy Italian wines labelled DOC or DOCG… which is complete BS.  Some of the best wines are in the IGT classification and that is often where you find the best bang for your buck.  This wine proved all of that for me and as a result it climbs to the top of my list and becomes my #1 recommendation at the end of an evening tasting fantastic wines.

(The winner!!!)

So thank you iYellow Wine Club, Nota Bene, and Zeni wines for a great evening.  Consider this my formal RSVP to the next event.

*All photos credit to Jolene Aiello

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter @towineman 

Somewhere the Beer Gods are cringing…

Earlier this week they were giving away free Michelob Ultra beer at the corner of Bay and Adelaide.  People in my office were raving and Twitter was a buzz.  Then I caught wind of a few tweets yesterday that they were giving away samples of the all new Bud Light Lime Mojito at Queen and John.  Once again Twitter was a buzz.  To cap it all off this morning I grabbed a copy of the Metro and it was littered with ads for the all new Coors Light Iced Tea.  Then just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I read an article for “The Smirnoff Rocket.”  Yes ladies and gentlemen we can now get a mix of 50% beer and 50% Smirnoff Ice.

I guess people are excited but all I can think is that somewhere the beer gods are cringing.

I’ll even use this space to rehash a tweet I posted yesterday.

I mean if fruit beers weren’t already enough we had to deal with the rise to fame of wheat beers a few summers ago (Keith’s White launched in May 2009) and the lime beer craze also of 2009 (Bud Light Lime launched to fame in Spring 2009).  Is summer 2012 poised to be another summer filled with gimmicky, over the top, tacky beers?  Are we going to have to deal with these ridiculous beer launches every 3 years or so?

I’ll admit I have not tried any of the beers I am questioning here.  I would certainly try them all once, but I can virtually assure you that I will not like them.  I also understand that these beers are not targeted at me.  But whatever happened to the classic summer promotions for Molson Canadian featuring friends at the cottage, on the dock, enjoying a Canadian? Or even the “Brava… the beer of Summa” radio ads?   Say what you want about either of those beers they are still in another league all together than the “Smirnoff Rocket.”

If any legit brewer out there, anyone from the Ontario Craft Brewers, or just anyone who works for one of the fine craft breweries we have in Ontario (all Flying Monkeys, Muskoka, Creemore, Beaus, Great Lakes, King Brewery, or Mill Street employees I am talking to you) reads this blog I would be very interested in interviewing you for a future post.  I would be interested in getting your thoughts on the beers I mentioned above.  Together we can discuss if the beer gods are in fact cringing.

I’ll even go this far… though I have been overly critical at times of the basic Coors Light please pass one my way this summer!!! I’ll take a Silver Bullet over a Bud Light Lime Mojito any day of the week.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman 

#ZeniTo – Menu & Wine Pairings

Tomorrow is a big day.  I will be participating in #ZeniTo at the one and only Nota Bene Restaurant on Queen West.  A) I have never been to Nota Bene so I am quite excited.  B) I have never had the featured Zeni wines.  C) I get to spend time with the winemaker and the great people at iYellow Wine Club.  D) The menu looks AMAZING!  Check it out below.

ZeniTo – Menu & wine pairings

Look out for my blog post on Wednesday recapping the event.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman 

Grant Burge Wine Tasting Review

Earlier tonight I had the privilege of attending my first exclusive bloggers wine tasting.  Put on by Trialto Wine Group of Toronto and winealign.com I was honoured to be asked to participate and in hindsight certainly glad I took them up on their offer.

The featured winery was Grant Burge Wines of Australia and our host Nick Doumanis is a winemaker at the vineyard.  Now before I get ahead of myself let me first admit that I had never had a single Grant Burge Wine and in fact I hadn’t even heard of them.  But now I sit here as the converted not only to the Grant Burge wines themselves, but to the possibilities of Australia wines that I hadn’t previously given true credit to.

Grant Burge Wines is a family owned winery in the heart of the Barossa Valley in Australia. For those who may not know the Barossa is famous for big, bold, in your face Shiraz wines and they are notable all around the world.  Also for those who may not know I am not a fan of Australian Shiraz… at all.  To the point where I told the winemaker himself that to be sure my bias was on the table.  I also guessed (accurately) that the big, bold, in your face Shiraz we tried was their top selling wine in Australia.  But none of that is the final impression I am left with having just tried 6 of their wines.  Sure we tried two typical Barossa Valley Shiraz wines, but I don’t need to rehash my thoughts on those.  In fact my favourite wine we tried was a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend, called “Holy Trinity, GSM, 2008″ made in a very old world style and available now at the LCBO (Vintages #236257, $33.95).  But even beyond that I was left with a new found appreciation on another level.  We opened with a 2010 Summers Chardonnay and I was pleasantly surprised.  On the top is a sour apple flavour, but it’s simple with a long finish and again a bit old world France in style.  It sounds like it will be available as a general list in the LCBO by the end of June at $19.95 so look out for that.  The other one I was surprised by was the last one we had which was a 2009 Coryton Park, Cabernet Sauvignon and it was unanimous that this was one of the top wines served.  All tasting notes aside I wrote in my book “Is this the next Australian great?”… what more needs to be said.

I will use this space to echo my final commentary from the actual event itself.  I think this market is getting a bit sick of Australia Shiraz but also understands that Austrailia is a winemaking powerhouse.  As such I think this market is ready to try some of the other wonderful things that wine region is doing.  If you can open your mind to this… look out for the future of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.  If Grant Burge Wines are any indication of what Australia can do with these two worldwide powerhouses then I think we are all in for a real treat.  The only catch will be another hotly discussed topic at this event… getting the LCBO to carry some of them.

Side note: We set out to try 6 wines but were treated to a bonus 7th… a 10yr old Tawny Port.  It’s not available in Canada but it should be.  Wow it was amazing and made you realize that we don’t have access to enough good quality Port here in Ontario.  Who knew that Grant Burge wines was hauling award after award around the globe for their production of fortified wines?  Now I know why.

Thanks!
Grant Burge Wines: @grantburgewines and http://www.grantburgewines.com.au/
Trialto Wine Group: @trialtoon
Wine Align: @winealign and http://www.winealign.com/

Available at the LCBO:
 Holy Trinity, GSM, 2008 (Vintages #236257, $33.95)
 Summers Chardonnay, 2010, Coming Soon… Estimated Price = $19.95

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman 

Term of the Week – May, 2012

In keeping up with a feature I started on here in February I am trying to log a “term of the week.”  It could be from anywhere, wine, beer or spirits.  The hope is this will be a helpful feature making you all more and more familiar with the wide world of beverage alcohol.  However I will be the first to admit this is not a unique idea.  There are many blogs that have helpful definition sections, plus between apps and websites there are a copious number of ways in which you can get the definition you are seeking.  But you came here.  Plus the hope is I can provide definitions to terms you may not already know or have ever thought about.  I also won’t be simply copying formal definitions from dictionary’s.  I will try to provide descriptions that are helpful and easy to understand well also providing some insightful context.  Enjoy.

May 7th:
Acidity: So this should be a pretty straight forward definition since acidity is exactly what you think it is.  It’s the sour sensation you get in wine.  It’s felt on your cheeks and it makes your mouth water.  But what is it doing in wine and why do we want it there?  First let’s clarify one thing right away.  Acidity is not found only in white wines.  Red wines actually have plenty of acidity too.  Red wines from Northern Italy for example are loaded with acidity.  It has bunch of purposes in everyday wines and is sought after in wine making all over the world.  Take those Northern Italian wines again for example, acidity in wine helps cut through the acidity in food.  Tomatoes for instance which are a staple of the aforementioned Italian cooking.  It also helps cut through fatty and oily foods, which is why high acid white wines are a classic fairing with fatty fish.  However one of the most important things acid does in wine is help with its aging potential.  No, not all wines are age worthy my friends.  One of the things an expert will test for when determining how long a wine can sit is how much acidity it has.  The acidity will mellow over time and blend with the other flavours to help the wine age and improve with time.

May 14th:
Champagne: In today’s feature I thought I would dive into one of the most well recognized, expensive, and notable wines in the world.  Everyone has heard of Champagne whether you like wine or not.  Hip hop artists have helped make Dom Perignon one of the most well established and popular alcoholic beverages around.  So what is Champagne? Well to be precise Champagne is a region in the North of France.  It so happens that the most famous sparkling wine happens to come from this region.  Much like facial tissue is often simply referred to as Kleenex, sparkling wine is often incorrectly referred to as Champagne.  Technically Champagne is nothing more than sparkling wine produced in this defined region of France.  Despite the fact that sparkling wine is made the world over using the same methods as Champagne it can’t legally be referred to as anything but sparkling wine.  What makes it so special?  Well for starters it is very good wine and recognized as such by critics everywhere, so quality certainly counts.  It’s also rich with history and wine making practices which have stood the test of time.  Plus it has received some tremendous marketing support including the aforementioned fixation which exists in popular culture everywhere.
Here are some other fun/interesting facts about Champagne for your next dinner party:
– it is made with a blend of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties
– the world famous “Cognac” is a region in Champagne
– sparkling wine that declares it is made in the “traditional method” (often indicated on the label) are telling you it is made using the traditional Champagne production methods

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman 

Top 5 Favourite Grape Varieties

The popularity of these top 5 lists has been astounding.   My top 5 least favourite beers continues to be my most read post to date, followed at a close second with my top 5 favourite beers.  So in keeping up with this popular trend I thought I would post another top 5 list, this time with a wine focus.  I present to you my top 5 favourite grape varieties.

Once again your comments and feedback are welcome and very much appreciated.  Leave a message right here on the blog, reach out to me on Twitter @towineman, or send me an e-mail to towineman@gmail.com.

5. Melon de Bourgogne – white wine 
A bit of an unknown grape variety this one is new to my list as well.  Melon happens to be the only grape variety permitted in the Muscadet AOC in France.  Muscadet (not to be confused with Muscat) is a region on the very western end of the Loire Valley in France in the Nantes region.  In simple terms every time you see a wine labelled Muscadet it is made with Melon, though the grape variety will rarely appear on the bottle.  If you haven’t yet tried Muscadet get to the LCBO now.  It is a simple grape by nature but the wine making techniques of the Loire help in the production of some very complex Muscadet wines.  Classic Muscadet will be light bodied, almost always dry, very refreshing, and loaded with acidity.  These characteristics make it the classic pairing for Oysters and that in itself is good enough for me.

4. Sangiovese – red wine
Here is another one that may look a bit unknown when you first read it.  But I assure you that you are familiar with Sangiovese.  It is the classic grape variety of central Italy, most notably Tuscany.  What gets it on this list is it’s the dominant grape variety in Chianti wines, including the beautiful Chianti Classico or Chianti Riserva.  In fact for a wine to be labelled Chianti is must include at least 80% Sangiovese, and some wines use 100% Sangiovese.  I had to include an Italian wine on here and when I think of my favourites Chianti jumps out at me.  But the title of this post is favourite grapes, so folks I present to you Sangiovese.

3. Chardonnay – white wine 
Here is one that may look more familiar to everyone.  That’s probably because it’s the second most widely planted white grape variety in the world (total area) and is planted in more regions around the world than anything else – yes including Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s popularity and versatility to various climates are the reason why.  Now as those who have read this blog know popularity does not guide my decisions, so let’s put that aside.  Why does Chardonnay make this list? Why is it my favourite white wine grape? Simple.  It is used in some of the greatest white wines in the world.  It is the key grape in all classic white Burgundies, it is a vital component in all Champagnes, and is now universally recognized and the best white wine being produced in Ontario.  Enough said.

2. Pinot Noir – red wine 
I guess I am proving I am a Burgundy fan because Pinot Noir is the main grape variety in red Burgundies just as Chardonnay is the key grape in white Burgundies as I mentioned above.  But outside of the classic Burgundies there are great Pinot Noirs being produced all over the world.  Oregon, the South Island of New Zealand, California, and Chile are all producing amazing Pinots these days.  Also in similar fashion to Burgundy where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are king, Ontario follows suit and along with the amazing cool climate Chards we are gaining recognition for outstanding Pinots.  Finally the other beautiful thing about Pinot Noir is its ability to pair well with a variety of food.  It’s not as big as Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz so while some can hold up to red meats, it can also be paired with ham, turkey, and chicken, making it a go to choice on all major holidays.

1. Malbec – red wine 
So without further adieu I give you my #1 favourite grape variety.  Ladies and gentleman the lovely and talented Malbec.  In my opinion this is without a doubt the best wine you can buy.  Sure I might be a bit bias because after you have visited Mendoza Argentina, the Malbec capital of the world, you fall in love with these wines.  Malbec creates big wines which are rich with fruit, plus they are full enough to hold up to all red meats and game which are they main meat dishes in Argentina.  In fact I would argue that Malbec is the absolute best wine to pair with steak.  It’s got the tannin and body to hold up.  Just like Italian wines should be your best bet with Italian food, Malbec and steak are a match made in heaven as steak happens to be one if the main meat dishes in Argentina.  Plus there is another key element of Malbec which simply can’t be said of many other wines.  Malbec provides exceptional value in this otherwise overpriced marketplace.  The LCBO has many fantastic Malbec wines for under $20.  That is a huge factor.  So at the end of the day, for me, Malbec can do no wrong and for that it comes in at #1.

- Mark
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