Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

  • More booze isn't always a good thing

    The other day I revisited the Lammershoek 2012 Syrah from South Africa (it got a four-star review from me a couple months back) and as I sat there, thoroughly enjoying it, I was trying to figure out what it was that made this particular Syrah so compelling. Then it hit me -- or, rather, it didn't hit me. The Lammershoek has this beautiful subtlety that comes from the fact it clocks in at a mere 12 per cent alcohol by volume.
  • Feel free to ignore the Gris

    Last year around this time I wrote a column espousing the virtues of drinking Pinot Gris/Grigio in summertime. I'd like to apologize for that. In that column, I warned of the possibility of buying insipid Pinot Grigio, calling it "peachy grape-water." Sadly, over the last year, most Pinot Grigio I've tasted has been just that.
  • Touchdown for Bombers' wine lovers

    Nothing goes together like beer and football. But the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, bless 'em, have decided that wine deserves its fair shake as well. The club has enlisted Ontario's Strewn winery to produce wines under special labels for the Bombers, and I had a chance to taste a couple of the wines a few weeks ago (they were also being sampled for fans at the two recent home games).
  • Waltzing through Vienna's weins

    Two weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2014 edition of VieVinum, Austria's biggest and best wine show, courtesy of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience, if for no other reason than the three-day tasting took place in Vienna's stunning Hofburg Palace, the official residence of the president of Austria and home to some of Europe's most powerful rulers over the centuries, including the Habsburg dynasty.
  • Weisse ways to beat the heat

    After my recent fall down the mostly sweet rabbit hole of artificially flavoured coolers and beers, I needed something crisp, fresh and flavourful to cleanse the palate. And with today being the first day of summer, it's tough to resist turning back to beer -- and there are few drinks I associate as closely with hot weather and summer as I do wheat beer.
  • Wicked wine gadget is a gas, gas, gas

    If you've been thinking about picking up Dad a wine-related gadget this year for Father's Day, you may want to hold off on buying the much-lauded but pricey Coravin wine preservation system. The device's premise is simple and, quite frankly, ingenious. The user pushes the Coravin's thin needle through the cork, pressurizing the bottle's contents with argon delivered through the needle from an attached canister. The pressure sends wine back through the needle and into a glass, all the while keeping a layer of the inert argon gas between the wine and oxygen, preserving the wine from typical deterioration.
  • Wine lovers score with World Cup

    One of the world's largest sporting events officially kicks off Thursday in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The 2014 FIFA World Cup gets underway, beginning a month of the world's best soccer players representing their country in an attempt to claim supremacy on the pitch.
  • He will serve no wine until he serves time

    Forged works of art, fake currency, doctored passports, phoney high-end watches -- it could be the stuff of James Bond movies. Add wine to that list. Over the last few decades, wine fraud or forgery has become more of a regular occurrence.
  • Warm weather arrives — and so has the ale

    After powering through nearly 200 wines -- including some big, tannic, tooth-staining reds -- during the Winnipeg Wine Festival's ancillary events and public tastings, nothing resets my palate like a cleansing ale (other than maybe a trip to the dentist). On the local front, there are some new and old favourites coming down the pipes as summer approaches (if it ever comes).
  • Shiraz adds pizzazz to festival

    With Australia as the theme region for this year's Winnipeg Wine Festival, there are plenty of grapes being showcased from a number of different regions: Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra, Yarra Valley Pinot Noir and Clare Valley Riesling, just to name a few. But when you think of Aussie wine, there's one grape that still comes to mind first and foremost -- Shiraz. It's long been Australia's flagship grape, and producers have been delivering ripe, rich reds that typically deliver good quality for the price.
  • So much wine, so little time

    Having pored through the list of wines being poured at the Winnipeg Wine Festival's public tastings (via the program, available at Liquor Marts), I've noticed a few trends that run through the Friday and Saturday main events. Here are a few observations and tips for as you descend on the RBC Convention Centre next weekend...
  • The wine that gets no respect

    Up until the last week or so, has anyone really been in the mood to talk (or drink) spring? Winter was dragged out, pummelling us into weary submission with its massive piles of snow, bracing winds and incredibly low temps. Now the brown grass emerges, the potholes prevail, and I'm finally ready to talk (and drink) spring wines.
  • Any day is a Malbec day

    In the last few years, many wine-related marketing boards have promoted a specific grape or region by proclaiming a certain day to be "________ Day." And while I'm not one to jump on these kinds of promotions -- I like drinking what I want, when I want -- I'll admit it's a good opportunity to explore a certain grape or place. Such is the case with Malbec, which will be fêted on April 17, declared Malbec World Day by Wines of Argentina. Anyone who enjoys a glass of Malbec now and then knows it's Argentina's flagship red grape, so it makes sense the country would spearhead the charge in promoting the grape worldwide.
  • Step up for Down Under

    There are plenty of very good red and white wines from Australia in our market at the entry-level (read: $15-ish) price point. From crisp, fresh blends to slightly sweet Moscatos to richer Chardonnays, Aussie whites are dependable. Similarly, there are a whole host of single-grape reds as well as blends that work well on their own as well as with food. But spending an extra couple of bucks means you'll go from the generic "South Australia" or "South Eastern Australia" designations on the bottle to specific regions, with the accompanying breadth of style.
  • So you've opened that bottle...

    Hundreds of thousands of wines are made from thousands of different grape varieties, from many corners of the world and using techniques that have gradually evolved over the centuries. With such a wide range of products and styles in the world of wine, it goes without saying there are no stupid questions.
  • There once was a beer on St. Pat's...

    There are plenty of rituals and traditions associated with St. Patrick's Day: the massive marching parade in New York City, the dyeing of the Chicago River an emerald green in the Windy City, and so forth. No matter where you are, beer is almost always part of St. Patty's festivities. Ireland has been crafting some of the world's most iconic brews, excelling especially with rich, dark stouts.
  • Changes afoot at the vineyards

    Some news on wineries changing hands -- one of which turned deadly... * One of B.C.'s most well-respected wineries has a new owner. CedarCreek Estate Winery and its Kelowna and Osoyoos vineyards was bought by Mission Hill Estate Winery owner Anthony von Mandl from the Fitzpatrick family. Given that CedarCreek wasn't even on the market -- as well as the fact it's one of the most respected wineries in the region -- it's safe to say von Mandl shelled out a pretty penny. (If you've ever seen Mission Hill Estate Winery in West Kelowna, you'll know he's got plenty of pretty pennies.) The Fitzpatricks are said to have hung on to the beautiful Greata Ranch Estate Winery and nearby Peachland vineyard.
  • Around the world on $12 a bottle

    Ah, the end of February: the holiday decorations are long since been packed away, the last of the seasonal credit-card bills have been taken care of and the mercury has been locked below freezing for longer than we care to remember. In short: not exactly many people's favourite time of the year.  
  • Intimidated? Put a cork in it

    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.
  • There's whisky in the jar

    For the fearless imbibers who have delved deep into the world of Old World red wines, craft beer, dessert wines and beyond, whisky is the ultimate in flavour w-- both powerful and subtle -- when it comes to beverage alcohol. (Sorry, marshmallow-flavoured vodka... next time.) Which is why so many of the city's palates are fired up for the second annual Winnipeg Whisky Festival. Taking place Friday, Feb. 21, the event is presented by Manitoba Liquor Marts as a fundraising event for the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
  • Betting on Super Bowl underdogs

    The eyes of football fanatics will turn east this weekend, as the National Football League's Super Bowl championship is played in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday. Under the guidance of veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos enter the game as favourites over the strong defensive core of the Seattle Seahawks. OK, so that's pretty much the extent of my NFL knowledge right there.
  • New-world wines, old-age vines

    The origins of modern winemaking lie in Europe -- French, Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese winemakers have perfected the art of turning grapes into wine over the course of centuries. But it has been in the Southern Hemisphere where many of the advances in the world of winemaking have taken place. From screwcaps to higher-alcohol wines to environmentally conscious wineries and beyond, many countries south of the equator have been pivotal in changing what we drink and how we drink it.
  • Taking a swing at life's curveballs

    I had initally planned to run my drinks-related resolutions a couple of weeks ago, but sometimes life throws you a curveball or two. First off, there was no column in the first weekend of 2014, as the paper ran its annual Power 30 feature and year-end obituaries in the 49.8 section. I had planned to pull everything together for Jan. 11. As I was planning on my resolutions together for last weekend's column, curveball No. 2 came across my plate: my appointment to take over the books section at the Free Press from the now-retired Morley Walker. As such, I've been up to my eyeballs in book reviews everything else Morley somehow tackled effortlessly.
  • When the bills are due

    This time of the year can be tough: the holiday decorations have been put away, there are months of sub-zero temperatures ahead, and the December bills start piling up. Which means that while you might want -- or, depending on how bad the bills are, need -- a little something in your glass, chances are you don't want to shell out an arm and a leg.
  • Looking into the crystal glass

    At a time when people are compiling lists of all sorts -- best of 2013, predictions for the New Year, etc. -- it's tough to resist jumping into the game. So if you've read your 2014 horoscope via Georgia Nicols, pour yourself something tall and festive and enjoy my drinks-related predictions for 2014...

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