The Okanagan Crushpad who make Haywire wines almost evangelical about expressing and revealing the distinctive, herbal fruit of the valley. And few grapes are better for this than Sauvignon Blanc. Zippy, fresh, citrus fruit, fermented and aged in concrete to leave exposed the essence of the land. This needs something like citrus salmon, fattoush or fish with cool, green herbs.
This is the sort of wine that makes people realise Canada is playing with the big boys now. Rich, complex, multi-dimensional wine that lingers on the palate. It’s a new world-style Chardonnay with baked pastry and spice over fleshy fruit. But seamless in the glass. Turbot, Halibut or Monkfish are the perfect matches while in time it will become more complex and is clearly meant to become a benchmark for the region’s top wines.
Canada’s most famous wine style is also one of its rarest wines. Mostly because of the punishingly difficult challenge of harvesting wines in the dead of night in the bitter cold. The berries are pressed while frozen leaving the skins and (water) ice behind, just eking out dribbles of sweet nectar. So we enjoy a sweet wine layered with marmalade and quince, with a tang of zest. Extraordinary with citrus puddings.
Named after the owls that burrow in Prairie Dog holes, this is the kind of Chardonnay that gets you excited about Canada. And we’re excited. The 2014 was a ripe, nectarine-scented vintage, while others have had more cool-climate restraint. It’s made using all the classic techniques of barrel-fermentation and gentle handling and it shows. Put Canada – East and West Coast – on your drinking “to do list” this year.
Two things you perhaps didn’t expect to hear in wine recommendations – Canada and concrete. Yet these are the secrets to this exceptional wine. The concrete captures the cool, raw, essence of Okanagan, leaving the wild, herbal, berry fruit naked for you to enjoy. The texture too is alive and exposed. Simple grills, roasted vegetables and mushrooms are this wine’s bedfellows.
See if you can dig out the 2010 vintage of this wine. It’s has a palate packed with fruit, so much so that it’s almost jammy, but just veers the right side of overdone. It was a big, lush vintage, and the winemakers have gone to town on new, glossy oak too. It’s no wallflower, but a fleshy, young-drinking claret with bags of fruit. Great for a sunday lunch, just keep a glass to snooze in front of the TV.
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Château Pichon Longueville Baron (or Château Longueville au Baron de Pichon-Longueville) is commonly referred to as Pichon Baron but not the same as Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Is that clear? Non? Don’t worry, but leap at the chance to try these opulent, fleshy, sexy wines with oodles of sumptuous fruit. In spite of the name similarity, the Lalande wines are more restrained, reserved and classic. This is why people become obsessed with Bordeaux.
One for when Matthew Rhys pops round for supper (buy two bottles). The dragon on the label is an homage to winemaker Nicola Allison’s Welsh upbringing. Today she makes this full-flavoured, minerally rose with her Kiwi husband Sean on the banks of the Gironde. Lots of fruit to match… well, anything. But my own favourite is a mild lamb tagine.
We don’t know what vintages of Chateau d’Issan were like in the mid 12th century. But they must have been good because Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine had it at their wedding. But I’ll wager this deep, intense, silky wine is better. The ’11 vintage (famously) put grander names, ten times the price, in its shadow. Floral today with the tannins to last decades. A joy.
Red Burgundy is one grape, many soils. And from some of those soils come magic. Clos Vougeot is one magical site, where Pinot Noir’s plum and cherry fruit is joined by clove and nutmeg. It’s a weighty wine, perfect for roasts and even game. But also complex and nuanced. Don’t overwhelm it with spice. And it lives on too. Those firm tannins gradually slip away to reveal truffley, woodland sweetness.
Red Burgundy is a game of two halves: the dense plum, currant and raspberry wines of the northern Cote de Nuits; and the fragrant, strawberry and redcurrant wines of Beaune. This is silky, refreshing and supple. It almost has the lift for the richest fish dishes, certainly lighter meats. It’s certainly worth serving a little cooler than room temperature to enjoy that lift at its heart.
How many wines come from Winter Olympic cities? It’s a select club but includes this red from near Albertville, host of the 1992 Winter Games. Mondeuse may look dense and black but it’s less forbidding than it looks. Fruity and supple, there’s a delicious spice and warmth, and great with cheese and lighter dishes.
Matt (not Matt) chose a Vermentino from the monastery, and this is another fragrant, Vermentino from the south of Tuscany. Vermentino has a characteristic elderflower aroma with a palate that mixes citrus with savoury, the perfect balance to serve with baked fish, pasta with clams or even a fish pie.
This wine’s candied orange aroma and tangy-sweetness hint at an ancient style of wind-dried wine. The ‘Dammusi’ house on the label and name (derived from the Arabic ‘Son of the wind’) hint at the waves of invaders on this Sicilian island. Great with little pastries like Sicilian Cannoli with candied fruit.
For years this has been quietly recommended for those with a Champagne taste but a beer budget. Drink in the exquisite colour, elegant crushed berry fruit and then the lingering perfume in the mouth that comes with traditional bottle ageing. Drink on the veranda, over dinner or just sitting in the bath.
Persan almost died out in France in the great Phylloxera blight of the nineteeth century, but now this rustic, plum and cranberry scented wine is enjoying a modest revival. It’s hearty rather than refined and all the better for it, making a fresh unoaked wine great for mid-week stews and rustic flavours.
Please promise me you’ll try this wine. It sparkles with electricity, a mix of sherried nuttiness and crackling tingly acidic spark. It’s ‘natural’ whatever that means today, but more importantly it’s captivating. Quite simply the best wine to match with rich, creamy, mountain cuisine. It’s life-affirming wine.
A wine that defies labels. Well other than beautiful and fascinating. Don’t be put off by the tag of a ‘savoury white’, it’s a wine with a salty purity. There’s fruit in a crystalline way, but it’s the walnut and iodine freshness that makes it so good with Comte Cheese, fondues and raclettes.