Posts Tagged ‘Tony Aspler’

Malbec. Tango. Steak.

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018
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I confess.  I have a glass of big bold Malbec red wine from Argentina beside me while I write this article.  What. A. Fabulous. Place.  The wines – both red & whites.  The steak.  The landscape.  The history.  I have told everyone since my trip that if you have the opportunity, jump on a plane and GO!

Argentina holds many mysteries.  Before I embarked on this trip, I did not know what to expect. I did not expect that I would learn about the wine industry while riding horseback in the Andes Mountains.  Nor did I expect that I would be touring the wine regions in a classic Citroen ‘Slowkar’ that was nearly the same age as me! I did not expect that I would be treated like a rockstar at one of Argentina’s largest wineries – Zuccardi Valle de Uco.  I did not expect that most days breakfast with coffee would cost more than a delicious steak dinner.  I also did not expect to see couples dancing tango under a tree that has been the meeting spot in Beunos Aires for over 300 years. And never did I imagine that the blue skies would dramatically turn into a hail and rain storm that pelted down so hard that collapsed the roof in the Buenos Aires airport.  Click here to see my travel photos >>

“Come and visit me at my winery anytime”.  Those words was all that I needed.  When Jose Zuccardi, Owner & President of Familia Zuccardi invited me to his homeland over a 3 hour lunch when I met him at the Vancouver International Wine Festival, I knew that this was a business card that I was going to keep.

The name Zuccardi may ring a bell, and so it should.  Like Yellow Tail and Jacobs Creek, Zuccardi’s wine – FuZion – quickly became a household name in Canada when it WOWed everyone of its quality as well as its incredible price of $7.45.  It still to this day baffles me the economics of how a bottle of delicious Malbec-Shiraz red wine can be made in the southern hemisphere, travel the world by boat and still land in my hands for less than $8.

 

“Malbec is Argentina’s emblematic grape because it is like a friend who will never let you down” – Edgardo del Pópolo, Argonomist

 

Winemaking in Argentina has a deep-rooted history.  For over 400 years, various grape varieties were grown for domestic consumption.  In the 1960 and 1970s Malbec wine was jug wine that was considered rustic.  Winemakers focused on quantity production not quality. This all changed in the mid-1980’s when famous consulting winemakers – Paul Hobbs from California, Michel Rolland and Herve Joyaux-Fabre from Franc, Roberto Cipresso and Alberto Antonini from Italy – recognized how they could dramatically adjust the existing winemaking processes to craft fine Malbec wines that could compete on the world stage. With their Midas touch, Argentinean Malbec took the world by storm.

Wines of Argentina reports that by the turn of the 21st century, there were over 1,500 wineries. Swiftly, Argentina has become the main producer of Malbec, with vines covering with nearly 40,000 hectares, compared to its neighbour Chile with about 6,000 hectares, France 5,300, South Africa about 4,000, New Zealand 80 and California has barely 45.

This stat is particularly interesting as Malbec originally stemmed from France where it was grown as a grape typically used for blending. The name Malbec was attributed to the French ‘mal bouche’ translates to ‘bad taste’, referring to the rustic characteristics of the grape that was used in small proportions in wines with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is amazing how a ‘bad thing’ in France, eventually turned into an incredibly good fortune for Argentina.

In 1852, Malbec vines were brought to Argentina by Michel A. Pouget, a French agronomist who was hired by the Argentine government.  Less than 10 years later, the phylloxera bug decimated and destroyed the majority of the European vineyards (hit especially hard was France) and Malbec instantly disappeared.  The silver lining though is that half a world away, this grape variety was alive and flourishing. Today, with the popularity of Malbec, French winemakers are buying back Malbec vines from Argentina.

Taking a sip of my wine beside me, this Malbec wine begs for a BBQed steak, hearty stew or grilled mushrooms. Most are full bodied and heart warming – great for winters and BBQ seasons.  Winemakers in Argentina are experimenting different styles of Malbec wines to make it a wine to enjoy year round.  I have to admit, while in Argentina, temperatures soared to 38C and for me, a cold beer (not wine) was the best reprieve.

Winemakers are experimenting in every way to Malbec grapes be on everyone’s lips while they are in Argentina.  “Would you like your Malbec chilled?” we were asked at a bistro in Mendoza.  My Spanish is limited but I knew I heard the question right.  Fresh Malbec is a new style of young red wine that has not been aged in oak barrels and best enjoyed within a year.  Chilled like a white wine, this new way to drink Malbec is intended to quench the thirst as a cold beer does on a hot summer day.  “We are trying to encourage this style of wine so that people continue to drink red in heat,” explains Panos Zouboulis winemaker Bogeda Krontiras, one of the few certified biodynamic wineries in Argentina.

Visit a wine shop in Argentina, you will find shelves overflowing with Rose wines of all shades of pink made from Malbec grapes.  White, rose and red sparkling wines made with 100% Malbec are plentiful too.  This style will rapidly grow and take the world by storm with international companies such as Chandon (France), Codorniu (Spain) have established operations in Argentina and bring their talented sparkling winemakers with them.

Sweet late harvest and fortified port style wines and spirits like grappa are made with Malbec. Even Blanc de Malbec crafted by Vincentin Family Wines has turned heads when they launched in 2014 the first-of-its kind white wine made with 100% Malbec and aged in oak barrels. I would have jumped at the chance to try a white Malbec.  When you are at the LCBO or SAQ, periodically these rare Malbec wines are exported, so be on the look out!

 

Raise a glass to the rise of Malbec

Today – April 17 – is Malbec World Day.  Established in 2011 by Wines of Argentina, this is the day in the wine world when we uncork countless bottles of Argentinean Malbec wines at special wine events in over 70 cities around the world.

You can have your own Malbec celebration!  Here’s some of my top picks of Malbec wines at the LCBO:

 

Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013
$19.95

This is a classic expression of Malbec. Deep and dark in colour with violet, blueberry, blackberries aromas wafting from the glass. On your first sip, there is evidence that the wine has soft tannins, juicy black fruit, black pepper tastes with a little dark chocolate on the finish.   Uncork this Malbec to enjoy with a herb encrusted pork tenderloin or Sunday roast beef with all the trimmings.

One of the things that impressed me when I visited the winery was that they are using concrete tanks rather than the typical stainless tanks commonly used in winemaking.  And there are only a few oak barrels in the cellar….the winemaking team focuses on creating wines to bring out the natural flavours without the help of oak. That is incredible and the result is pure and outstanding.

 

BenMarco Expresivo 2014
$39.95

This wine will draw your eye to its stunning label.  A topnotch blend of 80% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Franc, loaded with fruit – pomegranate, boysenberry, ripe & juicy blackberries.

Made by one of the top female winemakers in Argentina –  Susana Balbo – this medium to full bodied red wine has a long dark chocolate and coffee finish can be enjoyed with the full range from meatloaf to prime rib.

Versado Reserva Ancient Malbec 2012
$59.95

You might think that Malbec is a wine that is typically under $25, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you splurge on this one.  A group of renown Canadian winemakers and winery owners joined forces to purchase a vineyard with plantings of 100 year old Malbec vines. Winemaker Ann Sperling (who is head winemaker at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara & from Sperling Vineyards in British Columbia) makes incredible Malbec wines with the grapes that she has salvaged from this old vineyard.

This wine was just released. Wine writer Tony Aspler sampled a pre-release bottle and scored it an impressive 93 points: “Dense ruby colour; spicy, floral, blackberry nose with vanilla and cedar notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, ripe blackberry and blackcurrant flavours with a mineral thread and a lively spine of acidity; silky mouth-feel finishing firmly with a chocolate note.”

 

This article appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Ottawa Life Magazine

 

Travel photos of Debbie’s trip can be seen on Savvy Company’s Facebook page – click here>>

 

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Have 5 minutes?

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
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‘Once you are bitten by the grape there is no known cure – and no redemption.  You are hooked’.  There is no one who can say this better than our long time friend – Tony Aspler.  These are the first sentences of his new ebook – The Five Minute Wine Book.

Tony has provided us the entire collection of 90+ chapters that are humorous & easy-to-read chapters to post & share with you. Love these stories?  Download the full ebook for about $5 from:

Amazon
Kobo

Smashwords

Every month we will post several Tony’s wine soaked stories – read them here, learn tidbits of trivia about wines & the wine world that will make you dangerous enough at any dinner party or download the entire book onto your tablet or Kindle to read when you have a glass of wine in hand. Tony has so many quick stories…so let’s start at the beginning with the first chapter aptly entitled…

Tony Asplers 5 Minute Wine BookIntroduction

I have spent thirty-five years of my adult life chasing the grape around the world. I haven’t caught it yet and if I ever did I wouldn’t know what to do with it. But the journey, whether to the antipodes or down the QEW from Toronto to Niagara, has been one of infinite fascination with and respect for the men and women who can turn a perishable fruit into a beverage than can live for decades.

As a card-carrying member of Pack Rats Anonymous, I have kept everything I have ever written about wine.   This volume is a selection of those writings that goes back to 1976 when I was working for the CBC in London. The first article I ever wrote was on the subject of champagne; it was commissioned by Robert Fulford, then editor of the late-lamented Saturday Night magazine. I didn’t include that one but you’ll find several pieces about champagne in these pages. Champagne (it’s tautology to say French Champagne) has played an integral part in my own story as the drink of both celebration and commiseration.

If my doctor told me I had to restrict myself to one wine for the rest of my life it would have to be champagne. I was introduced to the delights of the Champagne region by the man who taught me about wine – the late Gordon Bucklitsch who ran the Grant’s of St. James wine school in London in the 1970s. He wrote a book entitled, ‘School for Sommeliers.’ Not only was he my wine mentor but this Falstaffian character became the model for my detective in a series of wine murder mysteries I would write in the subsequent years – ‘Blood Is Thicker Than Beaujolais’, ‘The Beast of Barbaresco’, ‘Death on the Douro’ and the newly-finished, ‘Nightmare in Napa.’

As a wine evangelist, rather than a wine critic, my intention has always been to share with readers my consuming passion. If browsing these pages makes you pull a cork (or twist off a screw top) then I have done my job.  I encourage you to read with a glass in your hand.

Cheers!

Tony

tony aspler bio 2014

 

Keep in touch with Tony & his travels on his web site www.tonyaspler.com or follow him on Twitter @tonyaspler

 

Five Minute Wine Book is published by Bev Editions at Smashwords
ISBN: 978-1-927789-39-1
Copyright 2014 Tony Aspler
Cover Image ©iStock.com/SteveGraham

Savvy Company has permission from Tony Aspler to post individual chapters of this ebook. Thanks Tony!

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Savvy Friends & Links

Posted by Debbie

Monday, July 6th, 2009
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Not only do our Savvy Sommeliers give you tips on good wines….count on us for tips on good web sites, blogs, authors and widgets that we find helpful in all things involving wine and food.

 

Award winning Wine & Food Writers…

Natalie MacLean – author of Red, White & Drunk all Over
Be sure to download her Food & Wine pairing matcher widget for your Blackberry or iPhone. Very useful…and fun too!
www.nataliemaclean.com

Tony Aspler – the Wine Guy
Reading all of the content on his web site, one wonders if Tony ever sleeps?  His ever popular ‘Wine Lovers Diary’ gives you insight to life as an acclaimed wine critic & wine writer. Tony makes it all look too easy!
www.tonyaspler.com

Vic Harradine – author of Wine Current
Vic always has a pen & pad in one hand with a glass of wine in the other.  He reviews every wines at LCBO & Vintages
www.winecurrent.com

Ron Eade – Omnivore Ottawa Blog
Ron has a pulse on Ottawa’s food scene.  His blog is one of the top sites read on the Ottawa Citizen online – make it your resource to what is going on in Ottawa.
www.roneade.com

Rod Philips – author of The 500 Best value wines at the LCBO 2009
Rod’s monthly newsletter – Worlds of Wine give you insight on wine industry issues, news on wineries and winemakers dotted with wine tips.
www.rodphillipsonwine.com

 

There’s wine in your mailbox…

VINES Magazine
Editor Christopher Waters & team of wine writers constantly taste and review wines.  In addition to their articles about all things wines, the Buyers Guides help you to create a (long) shopping list of wines to try.
www.vinesmag.com

 

Wine Access Magazine
Each month, this magazine takes you on wine soaked journeys across Canada and to every corner of the wine world to meet winemakers, chefs & wine industry personalities.
www.wineaccess.ca

 

Chefs & their talents…

Mary G’s Artisan Breads
It is easy for Jim to make you fall in love with homemade bread all over again! His trick: it is all in the equipment – his traditional woodfired brick ovens.  His seminars will convert you!
www.marygbread.com

Chop Chop Catering
Call on Ken to be your personal chef or to offer fun cooking classes in your home.
www.chopchop.ca

 

Savvy places to shop…

CA Paradis
Drop by the store and ask for Diane Paradis to provide you insight on buying Riedel wine glasses and stylish decanters…or to simply ooh and ahhh over her wine cellars & fridges.  
TIP: bring your knives and they will sharpen them while you shop for wine accessories
www.caparadis.com 

Wine Cellar Solutions
To buy a wine fridge? Or to build a wine cellar?  This big decision is easy when you call on Louis Titley to take you through your options or bring his team of professionals in to build a custom walk in wine cellar for your home.
www.winecellarsolutions.ca

 

Wine shows to add into your calendar…

Ottawa Wine & Food Show
THE wine show in Ottawa – don’t miss it!  Our team of Savvy Sommeliers organize the details of the wine competition – Cellars of the World – associated with the show.  We will see you there!
www.ottawawineandfoodshow.com

Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival
The wine world comes to this event each year…and so does Savvy Company! There are seminars, tastings, lunches, dinners and a tasting room of 200+ wineries from every corner of the world.  Call on our Savvy Sommeliers to help you determine what to do at this festival.
www.playhousewinefest.com 

 

Wine clubs that the Savvy Team are members!

iYellow Wine Club of Toronto
The iYellow Wine Club is a free social wine club based in Toronto with exciting wine events, wine tours and monthly newsletters.
www.iyellowwineclub.com

National Capital Sommelier Guild
Established for over 20 years, this member-run organisation located in Ottawa has numerous wine events for those serious about wines.  After each of the Savvy Sommeliers graduated, we joined this club to help keep a pulse on the latest releases of wines and to network with other Sommeliers and those in the hospitality industry.
www.sommelierguild.com

 

We will continue to compile this list of Savvy Friends & useful links.  Bookmark this page…and share your tips too!

Cheers,

-Debbie
Follow me on www.twitter.com/savvydebbie

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