Aussie wines focus on a sense of place

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      I often find wine seems to taste better when I’m enjoying it with the winemaker. Sure, there’s the power of suggestion—the Guinness always tastes better in Ireland, after all—but enjoyment is always enhanced when hearing the story of the vineyard, the nature of production, and so on. It’s kind of like gaining an appreciation of a work of art when the curator speaks to the story behind it.

      Well, there’s a great opportunity to experience Mac Forbes wines out of Victoria, Australia, with the man himself next Thursday (May 2).

      So are we talking a fancy-pants winemaker’s dinner that’s gonna set you back a hundred bucks?


      In what seems to be a rather Aussie fit, Forbes will be sharing his wines at Kitsilano’s crazy-popular Hundy burger joint, which pops up each Thursday through Sunday night at the AnnaLena team’s Their There café (2042 West 4th Avenue). I have to say, chef Michael Robbins’s burgers have quickly become my favourite in town. The patty made from Two Rivers Specialty Meats beef brisket and shoulder, the pillowy brioche bun, and a good dose of pickle make it a home run for me every time.

      There will be a nice little array of wines to wash it all down. Forbes’s wines, coming from six different vineyard sites in the Yarra Valley, are pristine and elegant. It’s where he grew up, but he actually got his winemaking chops at a young age working in the south of France. The mentality there, of letting the vineyard’s terroir come through authentically in the bottle without an abundance of intervention or manipulation in the winery, stayed with him when he returned to Australia to begin his wine project in 2004.

      Three of his wines are going to be available by the glass. Mac Forbes Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2017 is sourced from a few different vineyards, giving a broad look at the cool-climate nature of the region. Citrus and stone fruit are framed well by the wine spending 10 months in older oak after a wild ferment. Mac Forbes Pinot Noir 2017 was partially foot-trod, just like in the good ol’ days, then macerated a month or so with the skins. After a wild ferment, it spent almost a year in older oak, which brings a nice little smattering of cardamom and clove to the cheery red and purple fruit. I could drink this lip-smackingly juicy stuff by the pint.

      The third wine that will be on tap is Mac Forbes Yarra Valley Syrah 2017. It has a buoyant and bright style and is a far cry from the gloopy, bombastic, jammy Shirazes that became synonymous with Australia back in the day. A little fresh-carved roast beef enjoys a good dusting of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and pepper, lifted with plenty of blackberries, mulberries, and plums. These wines are in step with where much of the Australian wine industry now seems to be heading, with a focus on sense of place, freshness, and food-friendly character and nary a critter on the label.

      It is highly recommended to arrive early; the place is known to fill up fast. For those impressed by the wines, which is very likely, Kitsilano Wine Cellar, just a few blocks up the street, carries a wide array of Forbes wines.

      The following Thursday, May 9, another tiptop wine producer is going to be hitting town. Alex Sokol Blosser, the second-generation winemaker from Oregon’s Sokol Blosser winery, is doing a casual in-store tasting at Marquis Wine Cellars (1034 Davie Street) between 5:30 and 7 p.m. For a mere 10 bucks, attendees will have the opportunity to chat with the guy while tasting through his Evolution sparkling and white wines, a little rosé, and then four different Pinot Noirs, each from different vineyard blocks. Oregon is well-known for some of the best Pinot Noir on the planet, so this deep dive into the variety will be a good chance to see what makes them tick. Visit to score your ticket.

      Finally, an advance heads up. A few colleagues and I are putting the finishing touches on the sixth edition of our annual Top Drop Vancouver wine events, happening May 23 and 24. We have 40 terroir-driven wineries from Champagne to Chile coming to town for our grand tasting at the Roundhouse in Yaletown, where, as always, proceeds go to the B.C. Hospitality Foundation, our industry’s charity that assists those in financial hardship due to medical issues. New this year, we’ve added a whole bunch of grazing events around the city, from a pizza party at Campagnolo with a quartet of Italian producers to a big natural-wine throwdown at the American to a rosé-and-sausage jamboree at Wildebeest. All the info you need is at