Wine is one of those subjects you know is super complex, that you could study for literal years and still feel like you don't know much, but you don't want to do a deep dive at all. While you can identify and like at least six grapes, you're not at the point of actually taking courses yet. You want to know just enough so that some of the regular words make sense-words you've heard thrown about by the friends-of-friends you met a few times, just casually at a happy hour or when you were waiting in line for brunch and just decided to get one large table... well, back when those were normal weekend activities. In the not too distant future, activities with strangers will be completely normal again, so why not start to prepare your wine conversation with this mixed case.
I know there's a difference between Prosecco and Champagne, but I'm not really sure what
The majority of sparkling wine is produced by one of two methods: Charmat-method and traditional method. The main difference between the two methods is that with traditional method, the secondary fermentation (the one that makes the sparkle) happens in each individual bottle. With the Charmat method, the secondary fermentation happens in a large tank and then the wine is bottled.
Prosecco is the most well-known example of the Charmat method, although it's used in many countries and with a variety of grapes of all colours.
Champagne is the most well-known example of the traditional method (& is a trademarked term for the region), but the method is used in many countries and a variety of grapes of all colours.
The method chosen largely depends on the winemaker's intention for the resulting wine, the type of grape(s), and the length of time the winery can afford before the wine needs to be in market.
Benvolio Prosecco 375 ml
The grapes for the Benvolio Prosecco are estate-grown in the heart of the province of Friuli in northeastern Italy. Our Prosecco is made from 100% Glera grapes whose native origins are in the village of Prosecco 35 kilometers to the east of the Benvolio vineyards. Our vineyard sites are on what thousands of years ago was a broad river plain, which now has soils of gravel and sand that stress the vines and provide exceptional drainage. The grapes produced in this environment are very full flavored. The nights are cooled by the breezes from the Adriatic Sea, giving higher acidity to the wine, balancing the natural sugars of the Glera grape for a well-balanced Prosecco.
In the winery, we crush the grapes and immediately pass the juice to cool fermenters. The fermentation process lasts for several weeks in controlled-temperature stainless steel tanks which preserve the delicate fruit flavors expressed in the juice. The finished wine is then passed to stainless steel vessels for the Charmat Sparkling wine method, which is done under controlled pressure for 45 to 60 days. The secondary fermentation is induced with selected yeasts and sugars, giving the finished wine the unique flavors of the Benvolio Prosecco.
Fitzpatrick Family Winery 2016 Brut
Brut means Dry, and refers to the level of sugar present in the finished wine.
66% Chardonnay 26% Pinot Noir 6% Pinot Blanc 2% Meunier
A richer, riper fruitier style than any of our previous Fitz Bruts. Red apple nose with a plush approachable mouthfeel and upfront bubble. Almond brioche is present throughout with a nice lemon rind finish.
Fitz Brut is our signature Cuvée, which is a French term for blend. Our first vintages were made with a combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but as of 2015, also a hint of Meunier.
We take a vintage approach to our Brut much like the grower Champagnes of France where we adjust the blend percentages from vintage to vintage and strive to evoke a clear statement on the year, terroir and people who contributed to the wine’s development. Fitz Brut spends no less than 24 months aging on lees.
Okay, but where does Pet-Nat come in?
Pet-Nat (petillant-naturale), aka Method Ancestrale, is the original way of producing a naturally sparkling wine. In olden times, wines would be bottled unfiltered, and sometimes before finishing fermentation. The wines would be held in bottles over the winter in rivers, and in springtime would be brought out. The warm temperatures would often kickstart fermentation, and the resulting wine would be fizzy.
Els Vinyerons 2018 Cava Pregadeu
A beautifully soft and fruity Cava in the style of a Pet Nat from the Penedes region reflecting the Els Vinyerons philosophy for making easy drinking, easy to understand, clean, simple but satisfying natural wines. They still capture the fruit of the grape, soil and climate. The wines are all named for insects that are active in organic vineyards: “pregadeu” is Catalan for praying mantis. Made 100% from the Xarel-lo grape, this is sparkling wine in its most natural state. Light and fresh, with notes of fresh Granny Smith apples and citrus, it is dry, well balanced, and very easy to drink.
What the heck is an Orange Wine and what do I do with it?
Orange wines are made from white grapes that have spent time on their skins, and the resulting wine takes on more colour with a noticeably grippy texture due to tannins in the skins, seeds and stems. The wines are often very savoury, and are best experienced intentionally paired with equally savoury food.
2018 Glenterra Vineyards Orange Gewurztraminer
Our Gewürztraminer was planted in 1999, the 2018 was crushed and fermented on the skins. This is a dry wine showing aromas and flavours of citrus, melon, lychee, tea & spice. Pair with madras curry, roast chicken, olives, crackers with brie, hummis with tahini, wasabi peas, kimchi or salted marcona almonds, or any other strong-flavoured umami-driven food. The fun of orange wine is experimentation! Do not serve too cold.
Glenterra Vineyards maintains 5 acres of organic dry farmed vineyards in the Cowichan Valley, additional grapes are purchased as needed from vineyards that use similarly responsible farming methods. Our farming practices include mechanical weed control under the vine row to create a mulch which supresses the weeds, creates organic matter and moisture as it breaks down.
The use of beneficial insects and sticky tape for insect control, extensive canopy management to create airflow through our vineyard, which greatly reduces mildew and botrytis pressure. No chemical herbicides, systemic fungicides or pesticides are used, only natural fertilizers with organic ingredients and our composted pomace for the vineyard. We are proud to have been farming our property in this manner for over 20 years.
I've heard Natural Wine tastes pretty weird (it's not supposed to)
Natural wine is a term used for wines that have nothing added or taken away during the winemaking process. Natural fermentations begin with wild yeast, either from the air and/or on the skin of the grapes themselves. Sometimes these yeasts can produce unusual flavours in the finished wine, but properly made Natural Wines will taste no different (other than perhaps better!) than other wines you've enjoyed. Here are a great white wine from Portugal and a fantastic red wine from South Africa that both just happen to be natural.
Anselmo Mendes 'Muros Antigos' Vinho Verde40% Avesso from Baião, 20% Loureiro from the Lima Valley and 20% Alvarinho from Monção e Melgaço in Portugal, the vineyards with granite subsoils throughout. The grapes were hand-harvested, then fermented with indigenous yeast in tank with a 4-month elevage on the lees. The resulting white wine is juicy and fruity with refreshing citrus notes, finishing crisp and dry.
AA Badenhorst 'Secateurs' Red blend
Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache
The 2019 Secateurs Red comes from various Swartland vineyards, fermented in concrete, foudres and barrels. It has a generous bouquet of dark plum and touches of boysenberry, almost pastille-like in terms of purity. The lightly spiced palate is medium-bodied with supple tannins and touches of bell pepper and bay leaf toward the finish. The sheer drinkability of this Secateurs is pretty awesome
All fruit, red and white, is whole bunch-handled so no crushing or destemming takes place. The red grapes are fermented in concrete tanks and open wooden kuipe. The post fermentation maceration is lengthy – up to 4 months -whereafter the wines are put to cask or 4000L foudres. No additions are done to the grapes other than sulfur before and after fermentation.
A really good dry sherry (honestly- dry and delicious!)
Everyone's heard that sherry isn't very good, and that's because it's mostly sweet. Neither of these statements is true, and the wine below should prove that. Fino will always be light, crisp, tangy and dry.
Alvear Fino 375 ml
100% Pedro Ximenez
Assertive, yeasty, crusty-bread nose. On the palate, Alvear Fino is clean and tangy with a refreshing finish and a softness which makes it delightfully easy to drink.
Perfect as a chilled aperitif, accompanied by tapas of olives, shellfish, ham, cheese, fish, snacks or sushi. It is one of those rare wines which will happily partner dishes containing vinegar; might as well try it with that bag of salt & vinegar chips you have open on the counter. Soda water and a lemon twist can also be added to fino for a nice aperitif.
I only drink the same 6 grapes, but it seems like there's way more out there
Since there are so many countries, wine producing regions and grapes available as choices on the shelves at the local liquor stores, it's no wonder that we often stick to countries, grapes and/or brands that we know. It's hard to take the chance that a new brand, wine, grape or region might be as good as what we were already going to buy. Since this is a case for exploration and learning, here are some wines made from lesser-known grapes and regions that were chosen for their similarity to popular grapes/wines.
A couple white grapes that aren't very well known, but should be
Bertrand Picpoul de Pinet
From Languedoc, France, the intense, complex nose reveals notes of white fruit, citrus fruit, honey, and white flowers, and a touch of sea mist. Lively on the palate it offers a remarkable crisp freshness. Ideal to accompany fresh-shucked oysters, shellfish, clam chowder soup, pan-fried white fish. Also, amazing with sea salt potato chips!
The vineyard is situated on the banks of the Thau lake, between the scrubland and the sea, where the vines are grown in limestone soils. The Mediterranean climate tempers the daily temperature swings, with the sea breeze cooling the heat of the day and the mass of water of the lake, acting as a thermal reservoir to offset the drop in temperature at night.
Argiolas 'Costamolino' Vermentino 375 ml
Argiolas is the foremost wine estate on the island of Sardinia producing archetypal wines from native varietals. The winery was founded in 1938 by Antonio Argiolas and was the first on the island to pursue quality over quantity. Today, the Argiolas family is recognized as Sardinia’s leading wine producer. Costamolino, named after the area, is made from Vermentino, an aromatic white grape variety that thrives in the Mediterranean climate of Sardinia. The grapes are harvested in August and September and vinified in stainless-steel tanks to retain acidity. A small percentage sees malolactic fermentation to give the wine roundness and texture.
Beautiful and aromatic, it will remind you of your last vacation on the Italian coast. And it has great acidity with lots of citrus and freshness. As you might guess, this wine is the perfect match to Mediterranean seafood.
Possibly the ideal rosé
The Portuguese island's volcanic soils give the Tinta Negra grapes used to make his rosé fabulous freshness and acidity. Salmon-pink, with delicate lemon citrus and strawberry aromas, it's packed with juicy strawberry and pomegranate fruit, with a clean crisp bite. Enjoy it on a sunny day with a plate of grilled prawns.
Atlantis Rose is a brand new rosé wine from the island of Madeira. It is made from the Tinta Negra grape variety, more commonly known as Tinta Negra Mole, it considered to be the “workhorse” grape in the production of Madeiran wine.
A couple lesser-known red grapes that deserve as much fame as Merlot and Pinot Noir from starring in Sideways
Natte Valley Cinsault
A regional blend from four different old bush vine sites around The Cape in South Africa. Fermented up to 30% whole bunch with gentle punch-downs, it’s perfumed and juicy with a sun-soaked savouriness, depth and energy and slips down very easily.
The father to South Africa's national varietal Pinotage and once stalwart red varietal of the industry, Cinsault has since fallen into obscurity. Affectionately still called Hermitage by the many old timers, it creates superbly drinkable wines festooned with red fruits, spice and surprising structure to age gracefully. This tribute to our wine-making past was hand crafted from selected parcels of old bush vines spread across the Cape, that have resolutely withstood time and showcases this varietal’s essence.
Winemaker Alexander Milner strives to make wine with minimal interference and pretence, merely guiding beautiful grapes into character full wines -preserving the intrinsic link between grape and bottle.
Aurora 2019 Rosso Piceno
50% Montepulciano and 40% Sangiovese, 10% Cab Sauv
Rosso Piceno Aurora is a sincere expression of how Montepulciano and Sangiovese meet together in the bottle after a life of naturalness of organic farming. In the heart of the Sibillini Mountains, almost forty years ago has begun the adventure of the founders - friends who once decided to leave their job at the factory to do something that would satisfy their love for nature, for the pure landscape of central Italy.
Fruity and spicy with notes of wild berries, currant jam, blackberries, coffee and tobacco, this medium-bodied red is warm and soft, with good tannins and a pleasant persistence.