USING STRATEGY TO PREPARE FOR WSET DIPLOMA UNIT 3 THEORY

If you've read through the syllabus for Unit 3 of the WSET Diploma, you'll know what I mean when I say: OMG! How are we expected to remember all this information, in so much detail?

The answer is: we're not. As students, we have to get strategic to succeed. Here are the strategies I used to pass the exam.

Review Past Exam Questions

The first step before studying is to review past exams to see what kinds of questions were asked. Not just on which region, but paying attention to the scope of the question. For example, an essay I answered asked about the styles of wine in the Loire. A very broad scope, with plenty of opportunity to make enough points to pass. Another was on the sub-regions of Chile - there was no question about just one specific sub-region like Bio-Bio, we were able to choose from several.

Knowing how we're expected to respond to questions is important when we study, so that we don't go too far down the rabbit hole of miniscule detail.

Review the past exams and sample essays to get into the mindframe of the examiners, and think about what level of knowledge they're asking you to demonstrate in your essay. It's not naming every soil type, or knowing the GC's of Burgundy off by heart from North to South - the goal is for us to show mastery of the topic, with concise and applied knowledge, and common sense.

Major - Middle - Minor

As wine lovers, we tend to get super geeky about every region - they're all so fascinating. Sweet wines of Greece? Check. Vin Jaune from Jura? Check. But, for the purposes of Unit 3 Theory, we need to categorize the relative importance of the regions/countries to choose how we'll spend our time studying.

I started with France, and recommend you do too. If you look at past exams, there's always at least one essay question on a French region. Given that you have to answer 5 of the 7 questions, better to know France really well so you can save one of those 2 for something where you're stuck. Starting on France is also smart, because if you have extra time for review before your exam, you'll be getting an additional refresh on the material.

For example, here are some of the countries in the curriculum and how I prioritized them:

Major countries - know these in and out: France, Spain, Italy, Germany.

Middle countries - a good chance you'll see a question about them: South Africa, Australia, USA, Argentina, Chile.

Minor countries - it's a toss up, they could make an appearance, are they trending?: Switzerland, Canada, Uruguay, Bulgaria, China, England.

Know The Fundamentals & Apply Logic

Our minds start getting really full of details towards the exam, and personally, it felt like living in a cluttered house - overwhelming and distracting. Two things helped: the first was to take note of the exception. For example, if five wines of a region require 24 months of aging, but there's just one that needs 36, you only have two facts to remember: 24 and 36.

The other thing that helped with mental clutter was to revisit and memorize fundamental truths about viti and vini at the beginning of my studies. What is a maritime climate? What effect does marl soil have on a finished wine? That way you have a database of fundamentals in your head to refer to, and can show mastery by bringing up specific exceptions to the rules. 

W-W-W-W-H

Did you learn these in high school: who-what-when-where-how? Well, this is one of the ways to think about the regions as you study, but replace them with: Viti-Vini-Climate-Rules-Producers.

As you review regions, ask yourself if you can name the soil, climate, grape varietal, any production rules, and a key producer! Don't worry, the exam is not trying to trick you. I found the overarching theme of the exam questions was centered around how a given terroir (the land, climate, grapes, winemaking, and culture) expresses itself in a given wine.

Mind Palaces

I read a short book about mind palaces called The Memory Palace. It's a quick read, only 64 pages, but it teaches how to effectively use mental imagery to remember a series of facts (like the plays of Shakespeare). I used mind palaces to memorize the 10 crus of Beaujolais and their respective styles. A year later and I can still close my eyes and walk through the different rooms of Fleury and Morgon. It was a game changer for memorizing, and I highly recommend you read the book or listen to it!

Have you written the Theory exam for Unit 3? Share your tips and strategies in the comments!

Cheers & Cin Cin,

Rachel

AUSTRALIA: FROM CLASSICS TO REVOLUTIONARIES

Where to start with Australia? It's a giant country, a continent, and has a continent of wine. It's almost overwhelming once you start to think about all the sub-regions that are producing an unending array of wines.

In a Wine Australia seminar engagingly hosted by Rhys Pender MW yesterday in Vancouver, we were invited to broaden our horizons past the 'sunshine in a bottle' cliché of brash Aussie Shiraz, to reconsider some of the classics that have been quietly keeping on doing what they do well, the evolution to a more modern, light, and fresh style, often in 'new to our ears' regions, and some of those young guns, the new guard revolutionaries that are delighting in breaking the rules. Beeswax-sealed amphora wine? Hmmm.

All this in a tasting of 12 wines... could it be done? Well, if we apply Betteridge's law, then I'm sure you can guess the answer is 'yes'. A fascinating peek into the world of Aussie wine, and some excellent producers to keep an eye out for below.

A Little History

Hunter Valley Semillon

Some of the oldest ungrafted vines in the world live in Australia. Gnarly, knobby survivors from a different age, these stalwart Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre, Riesling, Semillon, and Marsanne plants have rooted deep, deep into the soil to weather the centuries.

When you think of a classic Aussie wine, perhaps Hunter Valley Semillon comes to mind. We learned that back in the day it used to be made as three brands, when it was de rigueur to co-opt European names: Chablis, Riesling, and White Burgundy. How it worked: pick part of your Sem early, so the acid's vibrant and the wine a natural pairing for oysters, call it "Chablis". Harvest the next block a week later, it's got a bit more sugar but still lively, call it "Riesling". Another week after that, you take the last of your grapes in from the field, richer and fuller, give it a decent oaking, and you have your "White Burgundy". How functional!

Today, the Sem is harvested "Chablis" style, early in January (the equivalent of July for us Northerners), and fermented in stainless steel. Drunk young it's full of lime, and about as acidic as you can take. But something rather magical happens as it ages, even under screw cap. Taste a 10 year old HV Sem and you'd swear it'd been fermented in French oak. It's got a rich, toasty, citrus and honey flavour, with another note, the closest I can think of is fresh plastic (it doesn't sound very appealing, but in the glass it is).

We tasted the 2007 McGuigan Bin 9000, and if I was blind tasting, I would have told you it was barrel fermented cool climate Chardonnay... 

The cool thing about HV Sem is that they are released so cheaply new, that they're one of the perfect wines to start your cellar collection with. Even some of the best are under $15 a bottle as a new release. All you need is 5 or so years of patience before your collection is paying dividends.

Barossa Valley Grenache & Shiraz

Grenache might not be the first grape you think of when you picture Barossa. But we had a chance to taste the 2011 Yalumba Tri-Centenary Grenache, made from a block of 820 vines that have called Barossa home since being planted in 1889. It's not every day I get to taste a wine from such a venerable old block, and this had all the concentration of flavour you'd hope for. On the nose, preserved maraschino cherry and sweet dried sage; on the palate, tannins like melted butter, with Kalamata olive and cocoa on the finish. 

Australia is quite rich in these blocks of old vines, so even though there will never be a glut of each wine, there are great examples like this to seek out to get a taste of the dense, layered flavours a 100+ year old plant can produce.

The 2013 St. Hallett Old Block Shiraz is everything you'd wish for and more. A deep purple colour, with dark, slow tears, as I swirled the glass and raised it to my nose I got the most unique perfume. Like exotic black tea, musky violet, or rose incense. Incredibly enticing. On the palate, cassis, black pepper, and very fine tannins. It was lifted by a little oomph of acidity to keep things fresh. This wine comes from 60 to 100 year old vines.

Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

Next up was the 2012 Hollick Ravenswood Cab Sauv. The Terra Rossa soils of Coonawarra are so famous, you'd be forgiven for thinking there was red soil as far as the eye could see, but these iron rich clays are found in only a small strip of land about 2 km wide by 15 km long. The area used to be covered by ocean, and as it retreated, it left a compact layer of marine life that's now the limestone subsoil. A cool wind blows in from the Bonney Coast to the South, bringing Antarctic shivers with it, so the region is surprisingly on par with Burgundy or Champagne for being cool climate.

That means that in addition to the classic 'Coonawarra mint' you should expect freshness and good acidity in your glass along with flavours of black fruit (I got blackcurrant in the Hollick). The tannins are chalky, mouth coating, and dusty, a key tell if you happen to find yourself blind tasting a Coonawarra Cab.

Evolution

There's been a shift to seeking out new terroir, be it to higher elevations, nearer to ocean breezes, or experimenting with unexpected grapes, all in pursuit of drinkable, refreshing wines. Especially in the pursuit of areas that will ripen fruit but not cook it.

Margaret River Chardonnay

This is a lesser-known region with some famous names firmly established: Vasse Felix, Leeuwin, Cape Mentelle. It's a big area, 100 km North to South and about 40 km wide, along the far West coast below Perth, notable for it's low diurnal shift (night and day temperatures don't swing widely). They never have to worry about frost in Margaret River, and apparently you'd have to go back to cold 2006 to find a challenging vintage.

We heard about a renewed focus on clones in the area, with Voyager planting a range including Dijon 95 for its lemon pith notes, and Mendoza, which produces hen and chick bunches, for balanced flavours.

The 2013 Voyager Estate Margaret River Chardonnay was a highlight of the whole flight. On the nose creamy and soft, but all crisp mineral, lemon curd, and silk on the palate. A delightfully pure and pleasing wine with long finish.

Yarra Valley Pinot Noir

NE of Melbourne, and below the Great Divide mountain range, you'll find the maritime influenced Yarra Valley. There are two main soil types here, in the South a rich deep volcanic soil, free-draining and fertile. In the North, a grey, silty lime that's nutrient poor, and perfect for Pinot.

The Soumah Single Vineyard 2015 Pinot from Yarra epitomizes the shift from full and fruity, to a more restrained, thoughtful Aussie PN. They're picking a bit earlier, and focusing on retaining acidity. I found cranberry and rhubarb notes in my glass, and was very taken with the floral nose of fresh iris blooms. 

Winemaker Steven Worley explained the MV6 clone they have gives a full, round flavour, while the 777 Burgundy clone has dark fruit and great tannins, and the Pommard is a bit gamey and feral. A great winery to seek out for elegant, but not austere, refreshing wines.

McLaren Vale Aglianico?

The cool kid at the party was Alpha Box & Dice, who presented their 2011 McLaren Vale Xola Aglianico. Apparently Aglianico is a natural fit for the Vale (over a dozen wineries are doing an Aglianico now), where Italian varieties are being experimented with, and Alpha Box sees itself as an R&D lab for newer varietals in the region.

This wine was made in a biodynamic fashion (not certified), then aged for three and a half years in oak. I got some red cherry cola flavours, a hint of VA, and a little tar, along with very high acidity and grippy tannins. The branding on their wines is noteworthy for being so darn cool, with graffiti touches, bright colours and primitive-chic illustrations.

McLaren Vale wines always strike me with an intensity of smooth, rich fruit that is quite distinctive, but we were reminded in the seminar that this area has some of the most diverse soils in the winemaking world. Which means there's plenty of room for different expressions. 

Strathbogie Ranges Shiraz

The 2012 Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz was a deep limpid purple, so I expected a fruit bomb, but was I ever wrong. A cool 13.2% alcohol, this was more of a Syrah, plumped full of meaty and smokey notes, blueberry fruit, and a field worth of violets. 

If this cooler region is capable of making a Syrah with all the violet and smoked meat you'd find in a Northern Rhone, but with more approachable tannins and at an attractive price point, I say game on!

Revolutionaries

You'll note this next section is, generally speaking, more about the maker than about terroir. Included in this vanguard of producers are some risk takers who are embracing the old-fashioned-is-new again (hence the amphora and beeswax reference above). Another commonality, besides the natural wine ethos, is that the names sound more like album or painting titles than wines. I'm feeling old for my age just writing that sentence.

The wines in this flight found favour with about half the crowd. Fans of the 'natural' wine philosophy were in their element, and while I enjoyed two of the wines, the others left me considering who would take a chance on a $50 bottle full of challenging-to-enjoy flavours? This is where things get interesting!

Evolution I am down with, revolution, caveat emptor.

BK Wines

We tasting their Skin n' Bones White 2015 from Adelaide Hills, made from the Savignin grape. Apparently, it was planted as Albarino, the vines being shipped over from Rias Baixas directly (does that mean lots of Savignin in RB?). In 2008, they realized what variety the vines were.

This wine had 30 days of skin contact before fermentation. On the nose, I got white floral, then a weightly apricot palate, a dense texture. It was tannic, with grapefruit, and saline. Lighter alcohol at 11.8%. My notes say 'jasmine finish'!

Jauma

The 2015 Like Raindrops Grencache from McLaren Vale was next. This is sealed with a crown cap, and it came out cloudy and pale, with a yogurty nose. On the palate it had all the tannins and less of the fruit than desirable in a Grenache.

That being said, a goodly number of people raised their hand to express they were fans of this wine.  

Ochoa Barrels

Their 2015 I Am The Owl Syrah from Adelaide Hills was up next. It had a deep purple colour, with pronounced nose of black fruit and pepper. Very appealing stemminess and violets. The tannins were lighter and more delicate than expected, and while the wine had a good weight, it had lovely flexibility on the palate. This is a style of Syrah I could get into.

Brash Higgins

Last, we reached for the 2015 Amphora Project Nero d'Avola from McLaren Vale, made using a wild ferment during six months fermenting in an amphora. In the glass a medium ruby, this had a somewhat muted nose, on the palate it had notes of green peppercorn, thin red fruit, light bodied with choppy tannins. Interesting rather than enjoyable to drink. Again, half the hands went up for this wine. 

What do you think?

Do you have a style of Aussie wine that you gravitate towards, or a region? How do you feel about revolutionaries? I await your opinions!

WINES FOR VALENTINE'S DAY

valentineswine.jpeg

Need an idea for a new wine to buy for your Valentine? Or a bottle to open with friends? I’ve put together a list of fun options worth checking out.

When I think of wine and Valentine’s, it’s: something sweet... perhaps? Something fizzy, something fun... definitely.

For bubbles, here’s a bottle that’s cheapy-cheap yet super tasty, plus it gets bonus points for its bright red sparkles and being under <$15: Casolari Lambrusco Di Sorbara. This juicy frizzante is Lambrusco from Italy, land of lovers and sparkling red wine. It’s got a hint of sugar, and would be gorgeous in a flute with a raspberry garnish. Perfect for a Galentine’s cocktail too!

If my Valentine were to pour something sweet, I’d ask for a Pedro Ximenez sherry, known in wine shops as ‘PX’ (plus, asking for a bottle of PX is like a secret handshake that tells the wine clerk how cool and knowledgeable you are). It’s sweet stuff, verging on luscious, made from grapes that have have been sun dried to almost raisins before pressing. PX can be paired with very sweet desserts, so don’t worry, it will hold it’s own. It tastes like brown sugar, toffee and caramel deliciousness, so would make a great team with sweet apple pie, sticky toffee pudding and the like. Expect to pay between $15 and $40 for a bottle, depending on the maker. I like the Lustau PX, it’s widely available too.

When you want to say to your Valentine, this is something special and so are you, pull out the Tawny Port. Think of the bright ruby red port you’ve seen before, then mellow it out in cask for 10 or 20 years until it’s smooth, silky and sexy. Think fireside, think warming up after a romantic walk on a chilly beach, or maybe the perfect way to cap off an indulgent meal… The Taylor Fladgate 10 year old Tawny offers an excellent value to flavour ratio. I was just gifted a Ramos Pinto 20 year old Tawny for my birthday, and if you're lucky enough to be my Valentine, you can have a sip! 

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, I hope you’re able to try one of these wines and share with the one you love. 

CHECKMATE ARTISANAL WINERY

 Photo courtesy of CheckMate Artisanal Winery

Photo courtesy of CheckMate Artisanal Winery

Winery Visits: By Appointment Only

Location: Golden Mile, Oliver, BC

Website: www.checkmatewinery.com

A no-expenses-spared undertaking funded by the Mission Hill umbrella, this top secret project is finally available to taste. The winery has released just five wines: all are 100% Chardonnay from the 2013 vintage.

CheckMate’s winery is tucked away off the road south of Oliver in the Golden Mile area - near CC Jentsch and Culmina - available to visit only through privately arranged appointment (and it sounds like those are very exclusive indeed). Actually, until recently almost everything about this project has been cloaked in a shroud of prestige and mystery, including the wines themselves.

Before we talk wine, though, a little history: in 1994, Mission Hill Winery's reserve Chardonnay won Avery's Trophy at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London. This was to put it mildly, a game changer for the Okanagan. The grapes used in that wine are from some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in Canada, from a plot on the Golden Mile that’s newly under the ownership of CheckMate. The plot’s still planted with this not yet identifiable clone that's being called Heritage.

These are wines several years in the making, and no corners have been cut. From three different sites, Aussie winemaker Philip Mcgahan (a transplant by way of the Hunter and Russian River Valleys) had his pick of the best rows from the best sites. Grapes are hand picked, hand sorted, and in the winery they’re experimenting with wild ferments. Kudos for their championing of no fining or filtration, instead letting the work of gravity and time take place. The bottles themselves are a tactile person’s delight, heavy and stubbily 19th century in shape.

The five wines, in what some may consider hubris, others brilliant marketing, range from $80 to $125 per bottle, and are available only through direct purchase on their website or from a restaurant wine list. Online, they are offered in elegantly packaged sets of three or five wines.

As I tasted the wines, I had a mixture of thoughts: not wanting to be accused of provincialism, but proud that these marquee wines may further help put the Okanagan on wine lover’s minds and maps. I’ve talked with some people ready to dismiss them as outrageously priced, and others ready to drink the kool-aid before they’ve even drunk the wines.

After tasting, I’m converted. They’re impeccably made, beautiful wines with soul.

Capture $90 - 94 points

The grapes for this wine are from the Border Vista vineyard, a warm site on the east bench of Osoyoos overlooking Osoyoos Lake. The wine spent 18 months in French oak, and only seven barrel’s worth was made. 

This was my favourite of the five, peaches and cream in the mouth, mineral, then with a clementine-citrus ring of acidity that kept going and going. Just amazing.

Queen Taken $125 - 92 points

Made from those mysterious Heritage grapes, on the cooler slopes of the Golden Mile, aged in French oak for 17 months.

Pear, apple, white peach, less linear than Capture but there’s lime here, and a touch of feminine floral perfume.

Little Pawn $110 - 93 points

Grapes are from the Barn vineyard, on the sunny eastern side of the valley’s Black Sage Bench.

Playful, with mineral on the nose, then pepper and ginger spiced apples on the palate. Sophisticated, hinting at ripeness yet taut.

Fool’s Mate $80 - 91 points

A blend of all three vineyard sites, aged 17 months in French oak.

Delightful yeast and biscuit nose. Generous but balanced oak, vanilla cream, mandarine, citrus, and peach.

Attack $115 - 93 points

A blend of grapes from the Black Sage Bench and Golden Mile sites. Aged 18 months in a substantial and new French oak foudre (large oval barrel).

Restrained toast and vanilla nose, silky textured palate, with gunmetal and gravel, then a hint of lemon, almond blossom, white pepper and ginger root.

STUDYING FOR THE WSET DIPLOMA?

Do you know someone who’s signed up for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust WSET Diploma? Or is that person you?

It’s a big investment, and massive commitment. I’m approaching the final exam to finish it – Unit 3 – and I can’t wait to pop some vintage Champagne to celebrate!

I’ve been getting lots of questions popping up asking which books are worth investing in. For me, there are two indispensable books that you’ll read every day while you’re studying: The Oxford Companion to Wine, and the World Atlas of Wine. 

But… I bought at least 30 books while studying. Did I need them all? No way. But about a dozen were well worth the money and made studying much easier.

So I put together the guide I wish I’d had when starting out in my diploma studies, including: which books you NEED to buy, a full list of websites to bookmark for each unit, what specifically to do 90 days before, 60 days before, and 30 days before your classes start, what one magazine you should subscribe to, what one social media site to join and who to follow, and how to find people for a tasting group.

Cheers,

Rachel

PS: The next enrollment for the Diploma Prep courses will begin in January 2017!

NEW YEAR’S EVE BUBBLY & CANAPES

NYE is the perfect time to pop some bubbly. Whether it’s a Prosecco, BC sparkling, or a splashy Champagne, you’ll be sitting pretty with these easy to prepare canapés.

Below are recipes for some of the most popular bites from recent wine tastings I’ve hosted. The best part – no matter what kind of sparkling you serve, they’ll pair perfectly! These are the recipes I recently made on Global TV and CTV News.

Puff Pastry Roulade

Ingredients:

1 package of puff pastry

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

To garnish:

Small wedge of brie or camembert cheese

Jam (such as cranberry or pear)

Chives

Instructions:

Cut puff pastry in half, and on a floured board, roll into a rectangle approximately 6” wide by 14” long

Brush the top of the pastry with water, then sprinkle with Parmesan, paprika and herbes de Provence

With the long side facing you, roll the pastry into a long thin cylinder

Slice into 1/4” rounds

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 450F for 8-10 minutes, or until golden

Once cooled, top with a dollop of jam, plus a small piece of cheese, and garnish with chives

Caviar Potato Chips

Ingredients:

Kettle-cooked plain potato chips

1 ounce caviar (such as Northern Divine)

1 small jar crème fraîche

Finely shredded lemon zest of half a lemon to garnish

Instructions:

Select round flat potato chips

Top with a small spoonful of crème fraîche

Add caviar using a non-metal spoon

Garnish with shredded lemon zest

Cheese & Grape Parcels

Ingredients:

1 package phyllo pastry

1 small bunch seedless green grapes

4 ounces Goat cheese

6 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, cut into thin slices

Vegetable oil to brush with

Instructions:

Lay two sheets of phyllo together, brush lightly with oil, then cut into 6 pieces (once lengthwise, then into thirds)

Cover unused pastry with a damp cloth

Lay each 2-ply piece into a muffin tin or onto a baking sheet, then top each with one grape, a tablespoon of goat cheese, and slice of tomato

Gather and twist the phyllo to create a parcel

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400F for 7-10 minutes, or until golden

HOW TO PAIR WINE & FOOD

Which wine will pair best with a meal? Or, which meal will pair best with a wine? It’s the number one type of question I get. But it’s really not that complicated, I promise.

Think about how you would go about decorating a room. If you’ve watched Sarah’s House, featuring the lovely Sarah Richardson, you’ll know she always chooses her key fabric first, the one that has all the colors she’ll be working with. Then she chooses the paint and accessories to pop from that key fabric. I think you know where I’m going with this…

The ‘fabric’ in our case is the meal. When pairing wine, we always want to start with the food that will be served. That dish will give us all the key flavors and textures to pair with. Then we start thinking about, is the dish light, or rich? Is one flavor dominant, like lemon, or is there a blend of flavors like roast onion, herbs, and pepper? Is it rustic or elegant?

Next, choose your color. What color wine do you think will go best?

Body – do you need a heavier bodied wine or lighter one? This will lead you to cool or hot wine regions.

Flavor intensity is important. The wine should bring out the best in the food and vice versa, never dominate and overpower. This is where the grape you choose will play a big role.

Most important though, is to have the courage of your convictions…

If you’re ordering for the table, or have chosen the wine for a dinner party, don’t let them see your fear! I’m convinced 99% of their reaction will be based on how confident you appear. So remember: be confident, be creative, and as Julia Child said, “Never apologize”!

Here’s a fun Pinterest graphic that my talented friend Susannah of Feast + West created based on my top pairing tips {I recently wrote a series of Wine 101 articles featured on her site, be sure to check them out}!

 

YES WAY, PORTUGUESE ROSÉ

Portugal, not just the land where Port comes from! This little country makes some delightfully refreshing rosé wine, perfect for sipping in the Summertime.

Here are a selection that range from glou-glou (think pocketbook friendly, but tasty) to ‘had me at hello’. Bonus: if you’ve been looking for some hot weather wines that won’t knock you out, these range from only 9.5-12.5% alcohol.

Mateus Original Rosé (sparkling): There’s no other way to put this… If you bring this wine to a party, any snobs present will likely be secretly judging you :O. If you’re fine with that, enjoy! It’s tasty (think strawberries), Tempranillo rosé with a little sweetness and moderate alcohol (11%), the definition of cheap & cheerful. Perk: no one will feel guilty mixing a cocktail with this. Serve well chilled. ~$8

Aveleda Casal Garcia Rosé 2014: A crisp, yet off-dry and fruity (think strawberry & rhubarb) wine from the Vinho Verde area in the North of Portugal. Pretty label and bubblegum pink colour, perfect for the beach. Only 9.5% alcohol. ~$10

Casa Santos Lima Portuga Rosé 2014: A drier style, but still fresh and fruity (raspberry & strawberry) made from the Castelao grape. Would be delicious with grilled fish or lighter Summer pastas. 12.5% alcohol. ~$12

 

REFRESHING AUSSIE WHITES FOR PATIO WEATHER

What do patio umbrellas, floppy hats, coconut scented sunblock and backyard bbqs bring to mind? If you’re a wine lover, it’s a crisp, refreshing glass of chilled white wine.

Here are a few selections from a country that knows how to rock the outdoor get together, Australia! They may be best known for their powerhouse Shiraz reds, but I think you’re going to fall in love with these distinctive, lively whites from some of the oldest family wineries in the country.

Next time you head to the wine shop, seek out the Aussie section for these tasty bottles:

‘The Money Spider’ Roussanne 2013 – d’Arenberg

Rumour has it, if the tiny money spider crosses your path, money is soon to follow. This zesty, zingy wine is vibrantly full of lime and honey blossom. If you’re into NZ Sauv Blanc, give this little number a try! $17+

Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013 – McWilliam’s

Made from high altitude grapes, which helps capture bright acidity, and concentrated crisp green apple and pear flavors. If you’re into Chablis, give this zinger a chance to delight you at your next picnic. $18+

‘Museum Release’ Marsanne 2008 – Tahbilk

Not too many people have had the chance to taste a Marsanne-based wine, a bit of a shame really, as with a little age like this 2008 release, it has incredible mineral, peach & melon, plus a nutty, toasty richness. Perfect for a leisurely glass on a chic patio. $21+

‘Vat 1’ Semillon 2011 – Tyrrell’s

This lux sipper is perfect for bringing to a fancy BBQ, a total crowd pleaser with hints of lemon, lime and a hit of popcorn richness from bottle aging. Pair with some shrimp kabobs and you’re golden! $35+

CHATTING WITH SOMM DLYNN PROCTOR

 Image of Magill Cellar Door Courtesy Penfolds

Image of Magill Cellar Door Courtesy Penfolds

Have you seen the documentary Somm? A great movie for wine lovers, it follows the travails (and wine-mad drama) of four aspiring Master Sommeliers, as they study, prepare and panic for the big exam, one of whom is Mr. DLynn Proctor.

DLynn is now a Brand Ambassador for Aussie giant Penfolds (#dreamjob), travelling around the world to promote, pour, and chat about their wines. Tonight in Vancouver, he’s impeccably dressed, just like in the movie, complete with natty tie and pocket square. In person, he’s animated and ready to pour while charming the crowds with a tip or anecdote, a born entertainer.

Before chatting with DLynn, I tasted the Penfolds wines on offer. The Hyland 2008 Chardonnay from Adelaide stood out as a winner, it had great texture and body, with a hint of vanilla on the palate. For those with a sweet tooth, the Penfolds Club Australian Tawny is a steal at $20. It’s all brown sugar, dried fruit and caramel, with over 200 component wines in the blend – there’s a reason Aussies call these wines ‘stickies’, they’re sticky like a good toffee pudding.

I also had a chance to taste the super premium 2012 RWT (Red Winemaking Trial) Barossa Shiraz, which retails for about $200 – nice wine if you’re buying! If you’re shopping for Aussie reds, not just those of the super premium variety, keep an eye out for the very good 2010 and 2012 vintages.

Q: What’s the your best tip for someone just getting into wine?

DLynn: Find what you like. Whatever you’ve tasted and liked, whether it’s wine with blue fruit, dry wine, tell your somm what you like and have them make a recommendation for you. Drink what you like, don’t be pressured into drinking what your friends talk about.

Q: What’s a region in Australia that you think we should check out?

DLynn: Adelaide, for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs.

Q: How about a top new area worldwide?

DLynn: Walla Walla, Washington.

Q: What’s the coolest opportunity that’s come out of the success of Somm?

DLynn: I’ve been in the wine world since the age of 20, 21, so I’ve had the chance to experience lots of things before Somm. The coolest wine related experience was in 2007 at Vinitaly, I wandered over to the stage where the band was on a break and just started playing the guitar. Before I realized what was happening, the band had joined me at the stage and suddenly we were playing for everyone. Very cool experience.

Somm’s sequel Inside the Bottle is out as of Summer 2015. Expect to catch up with familiar faces while delving behind the wine industry’s velvet curtain. Cheers!