I’m gonna come right out and say it. This week’s wine selections aren’t for everyone. If, however, you have a sense of adventure or like to try things that are off the beaten path, then you might just find some new favourites.
In the world of wine, there are popular grape varieties and common styles, but then there are those that go against the tide. If one were to think of it in a musical realm, it’s like having a favourite artist who churns out hit after hit, almost all of them beloved.
And then that artist releases an album of rarities and B-sides. Sure, a couple of those tracks may be a little too experimental or outside of their typical genre, but there are always some gems tucked in there, too.
Here are some of those gems.
Calona Vineyards 2013 Artist Series Sovereign Opal
(Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $12.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
Back in the 1970s, most thought the Okanagan Valley’s extreme climate—the brief, very hot summer and quite intense winter—couldn’t harbour the typical Vitis vinifera grape varieties that were popular in most global wine regions.
We’re talking your common Merlots, Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and so on. In those days, we were planting Vitis labrusca varieties or hybrids of various species that were a lot more winter-hardy, but the drawback with most of ’em was, well, their funky and feral flavour profiles.
With ongoing research as to what would work best around these parts, Agriculture Canada developed the Sovereign Opal variety, a cross of Maréchal Foch and Golden Muscat, at the Summerland Research Station, in hopes that it would be the Next Big Thing in B.C. wine. We know now that it didn’t exactly become a household name, particularly after it was proven that the more common vinifera varieties could indeed be at home here.
Calona is the only winery making wine from the variety, and I hope they keep going with this little slice of heritage; it works well with the way we eat here. Litchi, lime leaf, sage, apple skin, Asian pear, fresh pineapple, and mandarin orange with crisp acidity and a hint of residual sugar will suit curries and seafood well.
Pentage Winery 2013 Rose
(Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $19, pentage.com/ )
A brilliant-pink wine that charms with wild strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries with the slightest touch of sage. You ready for this? It’s made from Zinfandel. Yup, from a few very rare Okanagan plantings of the variety comes this zippy and fresh little number that I guarantee you has nothing in common with the saccharine-sweet Californian white Zinfandels of the 1980s. Order it direct from the winery, or for a few bucks more you can find it at various private liquor stores in Vancouver.
Cave Saint Desirat 2013 Gamay
(Ardèche, France; $20 to $23, private liquor stores)
At first glance, a French Gamay doesn’t sound all that odd. The difference with this one is that it doesn’t share the grape’s typical Beaujolais provenance; what we have here is a Gamay from Ardèche in the Rhône Valley, an area renowned for bolder grapes like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. The wine bridges both regional styles; mulberries, black pepper, wet soil, and potpourri aromas have a solid intensity that leads to dried black plum and stewed blueberries, but then there’s also a bright stream of rhubarb compote from start to finish. This is a little meatier and funkier than a typical French Gamay. Look for it at various Liberty Wine Merchants stores around town.
KWV Roodeberg 2011 Red
(Western Cape, South Africa; $13.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
While this consistent red blend from South Africa’s KWV cooperative is widely available and popular in our market, it’s the grape varieties that the wine’s built from that make it unique. Assembled from the archetypal grapes of various classic regions, such as Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux, France), Syrah (Rhône Valley, France), Tannat (France/Uruguay), and Tempranillo (Rioja, Spain), it manages to be a quintessential South African red. Plenty of red fruit like strawberries and cherries, and echoes of mint and basil, with the slightest touch of heat on the finish. Juicy and quaffable, and it’s a dollar off at B.C. Liquor Stores until January 31.
Rustic Roots 2013 Fameuse
(Similkameen Valley, B.C.; $25.90, RusticRootsWinery.com/ )
If you like scrumpy apple ciders, you’ll enjoy this sparkling wine made from organic Fameuse apples and Santa Rosa plums. There’s a distinct note of bitter orange as well along with juniper and assorted herbs. A few sips in, I realized it shares many flavour aspects of a classic Negroni cocktail, with a little extra sparkle and no mixology required.