Every January I like to look back at the year that was in the wine world, contemplate the good and the bad, and look ahead at what to expect. I think I now taste too many wines (about 1,200-plus per year) to go through my tasting notes and pick certain winners, but there are some wines -- be it a specific bottle or simply a style of wine -- that leave lasting impressions. I also like to dabble in some predictions, be they perceived trends or simply wishful thinking...
Best trend of 2012: Spain
While British Columbia and Ontario wines were the official theme regions of the Winnipeg Wine Festival, Spanish wine seemed to be a silent sub-theme. There were more tables pouring Spanish wine than usual and store shelves at Liquor Marts and private wine stores seem to have more wine from Spain for sale than ever before.
From crisp, bubbly Cava to fresh yet complex whites to earthy, food-friendly reds, Spanish wine consistently over-delivers for the price. And let's not forget sherry, Spain's signature dessert/fortified wine that can be made anywhere from nutty and bone-dry to rich and sweet in style.
A few people pouring Spanish wines at the Winnipeg Wine Festival noted the only factor keeping Spain from making a bigger push at a retail level is the country's economic woes. Here's hoping that changes.
Worst trend of 2012: Sweet American red blends
A trip to California last January confirmed most producers are moving away from too much oak aging, focusing instead on letting pure fruit flavours shine through. Well, at least that's what we wine writers tasted -- while we never sampled any of the now-popular sweet red American blends while in California, they're certainly now running rampant through American sections of local shops.
Leading the charge is the Apothic Red, a blend of red grapes that retains quite a bit of sweetness. Like many of its counterparts that have quickly jumped on the trend, the juice in the bottle doesn't taste like wine so much as it does sweet, alcoholic grape Kool-Aid. And before you cry wine snobbery, think of this more as a desire to taste the actual characteristic of a grape/grapes in a wine, something many of these so-called "consumer-friendly" red blends are sorely lacking.
2013 prediction: It's Argentina's time
There's no question Argentine wine is already plenty popular, but with the South American country splitting theme-region duties at the 2013 Winnipeg Wine Festival with New Zealand, this may be the year Manitoba truly embraces wine from Argentina.
Malbec is Argentina's flagship red grape, but they've got much more to offer -- from lighter, juicy reds made from the Bonarda grape to fresh, floral whites made from Torrontes to crisp sparkling wines.
My 2013 wish: The rise of Gamay
Good Gamay has long been espoused by wine writers and wine geeks, and I really hope 2013 is the year it makes a mass breakthrough. While lighter-bodied like Pinot Noir, Gamay typically brings more depth of fruit and less earthy/mushroom notes, yet is still so much more complex than the bubble-gummy Beaujolais Nouveau.
From entry-level wines from Beaujolais Villages to the individual communes in the region (Fleurie, Brouilly, Moulin--Vent, etc.) to our own backyard (Ontario, specifically), Gamay is a juicy, food-friendly crowd-pleaser that is as accessible -- and far more drinkable -- than the popular sweet American red blends.
Correction: In my column two weeks ago I referenced Cava as being a region in Spain -- not true. Rather, it's a term used to identify white and pink sparkling wine made predominately in the Catalonia region of Spain.
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Edetaria 2011 Via Terra Garnatxa Negra (Terra Alta, Spain -- $14.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Garnatxa Negra (a.k.a. Grenache Noir) is the grape here, and as such brings ripe plum, blueberry tea, black grape and hints of toffee and cinnamon on the nose. A medium-plus bodied red, the Via Terra delivers those dark fruit notes wrapped in grippy tannin and a splash of acidity for freshness. Try with stews, roast meats, burgers or skirt steak -- it's a great value. 88/100
Louis Jadot 2007 Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent (Moulin-à-Vent, France -- $35.11, Liquor Marts and beyond)
The Moulin-à-Vent region of Beaujolais produces some of the region's most long-lasting Gamay-based wines and the Louis Jadot is no exception. Despite being nearly six years old, the wine appears relatively young in the glass, with fresh cherry, blueberry, menthol, spice and white pepper aromas bringing great intensity on the nose. It's medium-bodied but shows remarkable complexity, with bright berry fruit on the palate, bright acidity and a touch of oak. Yes, it's a pricier Beaujolais, but the Ch¢teau des Jacques is an excellent example of what Gamay can do. 91/100
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