So many wines, so little time!

Ottawa Business Journal – Executive Dining Guide

April 9, 2007

When it comes to buying a bottle of wine, people tend to be creatures of habit. It is too easy to select a wine label or grape variety that one knows and has enjoyed.  With wine stores full of rows upon rows of wines waiting to be enjoyed, why not be adventurous and discover some hidden gems?

To minimize the risk of purchasing an unknown wine, here are some suggested ‘Hidden Gems’ to try:

White Wines

Viognier (pronounced Vee-on-NYAY)

This white wine grape grown in the northern Rhone region of France, was once considered “rare” as the French would keep this wine for themselves. But the secret is out about this delicious wine and Australia, Spain, Italy, South Africa, California and Canada are growing this grape variety and creating outstanding dry medium bodied wines. Australia is also blending Viognier with Shiraz to give the red wine more intense aromas and a touch of sweetness.

What to expect of this white wine? Light gold in colour, this medium bodied wine has intense aromas of floral, peach, pear and mango that continue into the taste with a light acidity that makes this wine refreshing and notably different.  Perfect to enjoy on its own, or with roasted pork, chicken, ham, and shellfish.

Suggested Viogniers to try:

Domaine des Aspes, France, LCBO Vintages $15

Graham Beck Viognier, South Africa, LCBO Vintages $18

Renwood Select Series Viognier, California, LCBO Vintages $20

Albariño (pronounced al-bah-REE-nyoh)

Until I attended a wine industry conference last summer, I knew nothing of this rare white grape variety grown in the Galicia region of southern Spain. Since my introduction to this hidden gem, I have noticed more wines of this grape variety on the store shelves…and good thing as the wines are refreshing!

What to expect of this white wine? Albariño grapes are considered high premium quality grapes.  They are thick skinned, so only a small amount of juice is extracted creating an intensely flavoured, medium to full bodied white wine. The colour ranges from pale yellow to golden, rich with complex aromas of peach, pear and apricots with a zing of citrus.

Suggested Albariños to try:

Adegas d’Al Tamira Seleccion Albariño, Spain, LCBO Vintages $18

Laxas Albariño, Spain, LCBO Vintages $20

Red Wines

Aglianico (pronounced ah-LYAH-nee-koh)

This grape red variety is primarily grown in the Campania and Basilicata regions of southern Italy.  The grapes are grown to be blended, however, recently more single varietal wines (winespeak: wines made with one grape variety) of Aglianico are making their way to the store shelves.  Aglicanico wine is intended to be aged as it starts out with concentrated aromas and flavours with light acidity and tannins. Over time, this wine evolves into a nicely balanced wine with earthy and chocolate flavours.

When to enjoy with this red wine?  With younger Aglianicos, pasta with meat sauce complements the acidity in the tomatoes as well the wine. As the wine ages, serve with heartier dishes of stuffed beef tenderloin, veal marsala, lamb chops and grilled mushrooms.

An Aglianico that is currently available at the LCBO:

Tenuta del Portale Aglianico del Vulture, Italy, LCBO Vintages $17

…be on the look out for more!

Carmenère (pronounced car-men-EHR)

Truly a hidden gem….Until recently, Chilean winemakers thought this grape was Merlot.  After clinical testing it was found to be slightly different from Merlot and determined that it was a long lost grape variety originally from Bordeaux that was phased out and never replanted in France. When the immigrants left France to settle in South America, they took rootstock (thinking it was Merlot) with them and planted the vines in their new ‘home’.  Today, Carmenère grapes are only grown in Chile and the Chileans are proud of showcasing this grape as Chile’s signature wine.

What to expect from this red wine? Typically medium bodied, the wine has a deep red colour with intense aromas and flavours of spice, smoke and plum. A great wine to sip on its own, or with lamb, spareribs, BBQed beef or vegetables.

The Chileans don’t often export Carmenère wine as they like to keep it for themselves, so be on the look out!  Some currently available at the LCBO:

Casillero del Diablo Carmenère – LCBO $13

Errazuriz Estate Carmenère – LCBO $14

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Carmenère – LCBO Vintages $30

There are many more hidden gem wines waiting to be sampled.

Wine and food events are great ways to sample a variety of wines…and find some of your own Hidden Gems.  These Ottawa events sell out quickly. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance.

California Wine Fair – Friday April 13th 7:30-9:30pm at the Westin Hotel. 

Hidden Gems wine tasting hosted by The Savvy Grapes – Thursday April 19th 7pm at Nicholas Hoare Bookstore.

LCBO Vintages Taste Our Latest: Premium Taste and Buy Event – Monday April 30th 6:30-9:00pm at the Chateau Laurier. 1-800-266-4764

Be adventuresome and you may be pleasantly surprised with your new discoveries. 

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