Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Intimidated? Put a cork in it

New wine-tasting book clears up confusion for lovers of the grape

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Ever thought about taking a wine-tasting course but were too intimidated to give it a go? As someone who knows most of the city's wine educators, I'd say you have nothing to worry about, as you'll feel anything but intimidated in their capable hands.

But if you're just not feeling equal to the task (or are a bit anti-social), there are resources out there to educate yourself about vino. From Wine for Dummies at one end of the spectrum to Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson's dense, weighty The World Atlas of Wine at the other, there are plenty of take-home options for learning about wine -- just don't forget to pick up some "homework" on the way home.

New to the bookshelves is Wine: A Tasting Course (DK Canada, 256 pages, hardcover), by Philadelphia-based (and Winnipeg-born) sommelier Marnie Old, author of Wine Secrets and co-author of He Said Beer, She Said Wine.

The press release for Wine: A Tasting Course calls the book a "crash course in wine for those who find the world of wine confusing," emphasizing the visual aspect of the book. Sure enough, the book relies heavily on visual cues to guide readers from start to finish.

The book starts with the basics, detailing wine lingo, how to smell and taste wine, as well as identifying oak, acidity, tannin and more. White and red wine styles are detailed in their respective sections, with colour, weight and flavour profiles explained.

With the basics covered, the reader is gently guided through increasingly complex aspects of the wine world: how red, white, sparkling and fortified wines are made; the influence of terroir (climate, soil, etc.); Old World vs. New World wines; some of the more popular grape varieties; and specific wine-producing regions and countries.

Old's writing manages to be both thorough and accessible, educating and engaging the reader without becoming head-spinning or condescending. Without her valuable insight, the abundance of colour-coded graphs, diagrams, checklists and charts could easily become confusing or overwhelming -- indeed, some pages feel a bit cluttered with graphics. In the end, however, readers will come away surprised with just how much they have learned about wine.

Wine: A Tasting Guide will provide a valuable resource to those looking to bridge the gap from Wine for Dummies-level knowledge to a more comprehensive understanding of what it is that ends up in your glass, and why it tastes the way it does.


Think you've got a finely tuned palate? Maybe it's time to put your Merlot where your mouth is.

The Winehouse has announced their second annual Manitoba Wine-Tasting Championship. Contestants schedule an appointment to come in and take the initial test -- blind-taste five wines in 40 minutes to in an attempt attempt to identify grape(s), country, region and vintage.

Scores will then be tallied, and the eight contestants with the best scores will head to the championship final, to be held at the store (110-1600 Columbia Dr., in Kenaston Commons) on March 27.

Interested? Starting Monday you can email the store to book your initial tasting appointment. Visit for more.

Twitter: @bensigurdson

MENHIR SALENTO 2010 PRIMITIVO DI MANDURIA (Manduria, Italy -- around $15, private wine stores)

Made from Primitivo (aka Zinfandel) grapes grown way down in Manduria -- think the heel of Italy's boot -- the Menhir brings great aromatic depth, with plum, leather, raisin, floral, blueberry and mocha notes on the nose. That almost-dried fruit -- raisin, plum and blueberry skins -- comes through up-front on the full-bodied palate, with secondary leather, spice and black licorice notes as well as light acidity and tannin and a slightly hot, alcoholic finish. Pizza wine, all the way. 3.5/5

CONCHA Y TORO 2012 SERIE RIBERAS GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Marchigue, Chile -- $14.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)

Can a red wine be both bright and dark in colour? Yes: the youth of this wine means the deep blackberry colour is quite vibrant. It brings intense aromatics, with ripe blueberry, cassis, eucalyptus as well as hints of vanilla and spearmint. A medium-plus bodied Cabernet, there's plenty of ripe brambly blue/black fruit here, although the vanilla and charry notes from barrels get a touch aggressive for the oak-sensitive. Needs steak. 3/5

ROLAND GALARRETA 2010 TEMPRANILLO MERLOT (Ribera del Duero, Spain -- $23.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)

A joint venture between French flying winemaker/consultant superstar Michel Rolland and Spanish wine entrepreneur Javier Galarreta, this deep Spanish red fuses Old World leather, earth and spice notes with ripe dark berry notes that tip the hat to the New World. Despite its Spanish origins, this full-bodied Tempranillo-Merlot blend leads with New World tendencies -- think big, ripe dark fruit -- while retaining Old World peppery/black tea notes as well as medium tannin and a hint of acidity from the Tempranillo. Complex, delicious stuff. 4/5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2014 D14


Updated on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 8:25 AM CST: Tweaks formatting.

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