Wine appreciation isn't always a matter of taste 0
Chardonnay has always been a focal point of the Chateau St. Jean portfolio. This entry-level offering is appealing and enjoyable, with some honey and spice notes adding interest to the fruity aroma and flavour. A crowd-pleasing style with character, this shows that California remains a great source of compelling Chardonnay. (Supplied)
For most winemakers describing how a wine tastes seems second nature. They are quick to identify the various fruit, spice or other components that constitute the flavour of the wines that they craft in their vineyards and cellars.
They speak of vanilla, nut and butterscotch notes that aging in oak barrels can impart, the Granny Smith apple acidity of a youthful and mouthwatering expression of Riesling or the blackberry jam and pepper found in a ripe, rich Barossa Shiraz.
For some, however, the meaning of wine runs deeper. It's not merely a question of taste. It's an expression of something more transitory -- and epic.
Recent visits with winemakers in Ontario and South Africa have reminded how much the story of any given wine influences the perception of its quality and appreciation.
Alberto Chiarlo, whose family operates Michele Chiarlo Winery, was making the rounds in Canada earlier this month, looking to showcase the distinctive Barbera d'Astis and Barolos made at his family's estates in Piedmont, Italy.
He poured an extensive portofolio, which included his top-of-the-line Barbera, the juicy and delicious La Court Nizza as well as a range of more expensive and ageworthy Barolos.
"I know that most people will prefer the La Court to any of the Barolos," Chiarlo explained as he poured his dry and complex 2007 Cerequio Barolo, which costs twice the price of the $35 Barbera d'Asti. "It is easier to appreciate the taste of Barbera as opposed to Barolo, which needs a specific type of food and a specific moment to truly enjoy it.
"Barolo, as is the case with Pinot Noir, is a wine to drink with the nose."
Wine geeks and glass manufacturers know this to be true. Why else would anyone invest in those fishbowl-on-a-stem glasses unless you were going to be spending an inordinate amount of time swirling and sniffing. If it were just a matter of conveying the liquid down your throat, any old juice glass or mug would do the job quite nicely.
Likewise, a visit to Backsberg Estate Cellars in Paarl, South Africa, saw a wine tasting conclude with a casual barbecue. Sitting down with a plate of food that included grilled lamb, roasted potatoes and a green salad, winery owner Michael Back asked a visitor to pour him a glass wine.
Asked which wine he believed would be the suitable match for his meal, Back didn't miss a beat. "Whatever's closest," he said.
On a sunny afternoon in South Africa, dining with a view of the Simonsberg Mountains, he couldn't have been more correct. The buoyant mood around the table meant that he was going to enjoy any wine he wanted because the conditions were too perfect to be spoiled. Wine was only meant to be a bit player, not the life of the party.
Wines of the Week:
Chateau St. Jean 2010 Chardonnay
Sonoma County, California
BC $20.99 | AB $19 | ON $18.95 (269738)
Chardonnay has always been a focal point of the Chateau St. Jean portfolio. This entry-level offering is appealing and enjoyable, with some honey and spice notes adding interest to the fruity aroma and flavour. A crowd-pleasing style with character, this shows that California remains a great source of compelling Chardonnay.
Louis M. Martini 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma County, California
BC $19.99 | AB $20 | MB $20 | ON $18.95 (292151)
This focused Cabernet is made in Sonoma County by the newly revitalized Louis M. Martini winery, whose fortunes have sailed since being bought by the Gallo family. Rich, flavourful and expressive, this is a good example of California Cabernet at an affordable price.