Many of my colleagues believe I became a wine critic accidentally, while pursuing my true calling as a common drunkard. They underestimate me. The main reason I got into writing about wine is that dropping witty observations about the beverage is the best way to seem intelligent at a party.
That’s if you can keep a straight face when talking about “barrel aging” and “sandstone terroir.” After visiting several wineries in Niagara, I have added to my handy list of bon mots. Drop one of these babies in conversation and watch everyone gargle in appreciation at your savoir faire.
“Syrah is the next big thing in Niagara.”
Syrah (a.k.a.Shiraz) is a versatile grape that adapts to both warm and cool climates. Ontario’s version is not the Shiraz that you find stewing in a bottle of Yellow Tail. Rather, it is a light and spicy wine that an increasing number of wineries are beginning to produce in small quantities. Ontario Syrah is elegant and goes especially well with rich dishes such as steak or mushroom risotto because of its trilling acidity.
“Let’s order this one — 2007 was an excellent year for Ontario wine.”
Warm, dry conditions persisted throughout the 2007 growing season, resulting in more complex and flavourful fruit. This means that red wines will taste full and rich, while whites wines will be brighter and more energetic. It was a particularly good year for Cabernet Sauvignon, but be careful of the ’07 Pinot Noir; it will taste like Coca Cola gone flat.
“I apologize for spitting on your shoes, I didn’t realize this wine was from 2008.”
You remember last summer: rainy, cloudy, cloudy, rainy and rainy. Rain at harvest packs the grapes full of moisture which makes the wine taste diluted. Best to stick to white wine, which fares a little better when it’s cool.
If you are trying to impress an imperious sommelier or simply the other hobos around the jerry can, these advanced wine terms are guaranteed to make you sound like a connoisseur:
“This wine has great varietal characteristics!” is an elaborate way of saying “my Merlot tastes like Merlot. It doesn’t taste like Chardonnay or beer.”
“Excellent structure!” is a compliment that means the wine has a good balance of acids, tannins and fruity flavours.
“This wine has excellent corners” is what I say when I’ve forgotten what I’m tasting. It’s completely meaningless — but doesn’t it sound good?
Into the Short Cellar
Organized Crime Winery 2006 Chardonnay Reserve
$25, VQA Beamsville, Ontario
Simply the best Chardonnay you can find in Ontario at this price. Like a Grand Cru from Burgundy, it offers layers of flavour which cascade into one another: green apple segues to baked peach segues to brown sugar. Will improve for years. Order online at organizedcrimewinery. com
Jackson-Triggs 2004 Grand Reserve Methode Classique
$25.50, VQA Niagara Peninsula
This sparkling wine elegantly impersonates true Champagne at a fraction of the cost. It’s not too fruity and has the classic hint of white bread and hazelnut. Very sneaky. Five years of aging has slightly caramelized the flavours. The best place to pick it up is at the Wine Rack.