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Getting Fest-ive with wine

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First off, I picked up a bottle of the Cono Sur 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, which has been discontinued in Manitoba and is currently on sale for about $9. Very much worth it - in fact, I may pick up a few bottles and use it as the "house wine" for the time being...

I just finished a column for next Saturday's column about the economic troubles winemakers have been facing in conjunction with the downturn/recession/whatever you call it, so it was with some curiosity that I attended a tasting of some pretty premium wines courtesy of Moët Hennessy.

The purveyors of champagne, cognac, vodka and more (the parent company, LVMH, also makes Luis Vuitton handbags, watches, etc.) presented a tasting of some of their best bubbly and cognac earlier this week. I was happy to attend, and in return I got to taste (amongst other beautiful bubblies) the infamous Dom Pérignon for the first time in my life. My gushy tasting notes:

Moët & Chandon 2000 Dom Pérignon (Champagne, France - $227.71, available at Liquor Marts and beyond)
An extremely complex nose of vanilla, bread dough, apple, melon, pear, lemon candy, fresh flowers and peat emerges from the glass of this iconic champagne.

That complexity carries over to the palate, with light acidity complementing the green apple and lemon candy flavours. Also emerging on the palate are doughy, mineral, pear and watermelon flavours, with hints of saltiness and toasted nuts.

It's an elegant, crisp champagne with many layers of flavours that speak to its centuries-old pedigree. Sensational - worthy of any wedding/graduation/birth ceremony. Too bad my wife wasn't able to try it to celebrate little Owen's arrival. Some other time.

LVMH does great work on their advertising/marketing campaigns too - they're slick, trendy, fashionable and eye-catching. It'll be interesting to see how their wares fare through these tougher economic times.

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The numbers are in, and the Winnipeg Wine Festival has yet again experienced growth, albeit modest. Just over $272,000 was raised for Special Olympics Manitoba from the 2009 festival, an increase of two per cent over the 2008 fest. Just over 6,300 people passed through the doors of the Winnipeg Convention Centre for the three weekend tastings, plus hundreds more throughout the week at ancillary events (dinners, themed tastings, etc.), an increase of 11 per cent over 2008.

Next year's Winnipeg Wine Festival takes place April 25 to May 1, 2010. Once again, the gala dinner will be on the Thursday (April 29) and the weekend public tastings will run on April 30 and May 1. The festival's inaugural theme country was Chile, and next year will see Australia take centre stage - a great choice, in my opinion. Australia will garner a lot of attention from many different levels of wine drinker, and should help carve out a path for future festival themes. Congrats to all involved.

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Meanwhile, if you're wondering what happened to the Wine List Awards at this year's Winnipeg Wine Festival, wonder no more. The Wine List Awards moved with the Independent Specialty Wine Stores of Manitoba, and will be attached to their Wine Stage Manitoba event which takes place in late September.

In its two previous years of existence, restaurants were encouraged to submit their wine lists for consideration for awards - years, bronze, silver, gold and platinum - based on selection, readability, variety, compatibility with food, etc. More info as I get it.

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Finally, keep your eyes peeled for an interactive tabletop display appearing at Manitoba Liquor Marts and a few restaurants/watering holes in the months to come.

Grant's Blended Scotch Whisky has adopted technology created by Microsoft to bring consumers an interactive, engaging display featuring recipes, contests, games, samples and more.

Visitors can have their picture taken and uploaded to the affiliated Facebook site (if you become a 'fan' of the page you can win tix to Monday's Coldplay concert), learn about Grant's Blended Scotch Whisky, have recipes emailed to them from the table, and more.

It's a pretty neat idea that should engage the tech-savvy spirits drinker. Check the Facebook page to see where the display will be located over the coming months. Grant's is rolling this unique campaign out in Manitoba first - it's pretty cool...

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Ok, have a great weekend and GO MOOSE! (email me at uncorked@mts.net if you have a line on some tickets too!)

I use Twitter for updates too: www.twitter.com/WFPuncorked

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.

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