Natural or "LOW INTERVENTION" Wines

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Natural wines. Yeah, I'm going there, but here's why.

I've been on a bit of a health journey ever since my first visit to a naturopath in 2012. After which, I was more mindful of how my body reacted to what I put in it. The next evolution in my health journey occurred more recently when a friend was recommended testosterone cream to help her acne. The change in her skin was staggering, and it made me realize that if something applied topically was able to change her skin that much, it was time to rethink what I was putting on mine.

Fast forward a few years and I'm trying to be as a low-toxic as possible from skin care, make up and cleaning products (a work in progress). However, as I was walking around Toronto one day listening to a podcast on wine with Marissa A. Ross , I was called out BIG TIME.

Her argument made sense and I felt so stupid I hadn't realized it before. It went something like this. Consumers are more educated than ever before about health. We consider if produce is organic, local or sustainable and put time and energy into buying foods (and supplements) that support our well-being. Yet, after picking up our organic veggies at Whole Foods we then buy a bottle of $10 wine and think nothing of it.

The lightbulb went off. If I'm concerned about what I'm putting in my body, then why on earth isn't wine part of that equation?

There is a diconnest between how we view produce and how we view wine. To the masses, wine is an alcoholic beverage, but in reality it's an agricultural product. If only wine listed its' ingredients on the label - maybe then we'd think twice. And for me, organic/biodynamic wine isn't a far off concept  (I explain about it here). It rather, was something I didn't care to make an effort to find. Good wine is good wine and I'd make the excuse that I want to drink what I want, and I wasn't about to restrict myself to the handful of organic wines the LCBO has tucked away in a far off corner. But truth is, how many of us have suffered through a horrible hangover, had a glass that makes our face go flush, or causes an immediate headache? I've had all 3 happen (and yes, the 1st can very much be attributed to too much wine!) but more often than not, those symptoms are brought on by a shit ton of chemicals found in conventional wine. Just as my naturopath shifted my perception on food, this podcast forced me to re-consider the integrity with which the wine I was drinking was made.

In this podcast, Melissa refers to these wines as "low intervention"; wines made with as little done to them in the winery and in the vineyard as possible. After all, there's no set definition for "natural wines" and many of these low intervention wines aren't necessarily certified organic or biodynamic. I loved this terminology because it gave me more freedom as a consumer to make conscious decisions.

So, that's where I'm at. As pretentious as it sounds and as reluctant as I am to confess it, it's the truth. I guess my health journey and my wine journey finally crossed paths. It's not to say I won't drink non-organic wine ever again (I did this past weekend!), but balance, is simply the aim for now. So I'll ask more questions, educate myself, research importers and try to find these elusive natural wines that I honestly turned my nose up at before. I'm excited for what I will find and humility, after all, is a beautiful thing.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

It's officially Spring here in Niagara, although most days you wouldn't know it. With many a rainy day, and cool temperatures, it's hard to believe it's now June. However, there's the odd day when the sun is shining and the evenings are warm, and it's those kind of days, that have me thinking "rosé".

To say rosé is trendy is an understatement. Madonna calls it her summer water and "Yes way rosé" has become a brand in itself. Yet, I still find people either love it or hate it. It's come a long way from the perception it once had, but what is it about this wine that makes it so unique?

How is it made?

There are 3 ways to make rosé. The most popular being to let the grape skins sit with the grape juice for a very short period of time. When any grapes are pressed, their juices run clear. Red wine gains its' colour through skin maceration. The skins and the juice normally sit together for weeks if not months. In the case of rosé, they sit together for 2 to 3 days.  The juice doesn't have time to get red, and voila! have pink wine.

You can get any shade of pink under the sun, from salmon to strawberry, fuschia, and peach. It's simply up to the winemaker and the style they're looking to create. Rosé can be any level of sweetness and is actually more often made dry than sweet. It's a wine that, due to the skin contact, can take on structure and complexity that a white wine doesn't offer, yet still leaves you with a crisp, easy drinking wine. It's the best of both worlds. The most popular place in the world for rosé is France and in particular, Provence and these wines are typically inexpensive and good quality.

My favourite rosé in Niagara has always been Mallivoire's Ladybug Rosé (a blend of Cab Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay). This past weekend I finally enjoyed my first rosé of the season at Midfield Wine Bar in Toronto. It was a Spanish rosé and it was delightful. Paired with ample sunshine, cheese and oysters it doesn't get much better than that on a Saturday afternoon in June.

What is Orange WIne

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

With green beer nearly upon us as St. Patricks day draws nearer, I had orange wine on the mind. Why? I don't know, especially because even I find it hard to understand what the big deal is with this newest trend in wine. So what is it and why is everyone talking about it?

I first came across this wine while living in Nothern Italy, where it's nothing new nor trendy and is how many Nothern Italian producers have made white wine for thousands of years. I also came across it while in Australia, where it was secretly being poured behind bars of restaurants. One night I remember curiosity getting the better of me and I asked the bartender what he was pouring.  He reached for an unlabelled bottle of wine and poured me a glass of this murky, copper coloured substance. To say I didn't love it would be an understatement.

What is orange wine? It's white wine fermented with grape skins. Normally, white wine is separated from the skins in order to avoid bitterness in the wine. On the other hand, red wine is always fermented with the skins. Red grapes, after all, don't have red flesh and it's the skin which makes red wine red. Alternatively, red wine which sits with skins for only a short period of time is one way of making rosé.

But orange wine is made from white grape varietals only and it results in a bigger and bolder style of white wine. As Winefolly's Madeline Puckette says here, make sure you're sitting down when you try your first glass.

I find it a bit "funky" depending on how the wine is finished and they're typically very "au-natural", often left unfiltered. Orange wine is not very fruit forward, instead, offering up aromas of bruised apple (slightly oxidative), honey, marmalade, wood varnish, nuttiness, and soughdough.

With all this said (can you tell it's not my favourite!?) it's always worth trying.  I think of fashion trends when I think of orange wine. Just because it's trendy doesn't mean you have to wear it and the same goes for wine. If you come across it, however, it's great opportunity to see what exactly grape skins do to a wine. So, experiment and don't be afraid to try something a little out of the ordinary.

The best wine and chocolate pairings

Sunday, February 12, 2017

With Valentines Day around the corner, I'm already planning what wine and chocolate I'll have (to drown my sorrows...just kidding!). Regardless of February 14th, the pairing of wine and chocolate is one of my favourite indulgences at any time of year, and below are a few stellar combos.

Dark Chocolate
- Shiraz
- Zinfandel
- Cabernet Franc Icewine
When one thinks "wine and chocolate", red wine and dark chocolate typically reign supreme. However, this pairing can be better in theory than in reality if not done right. Why? If you have dark chocolate which is too bitter and a red wine which is dry, the combo can lead to quite an unpleasant experience for your palate. Go with dark chocolate which isn't too dark (75%) and a red wine with some residual sugar in it.

White Chocolate
Sparkling (Moscato d'Asti)
- Beaujolais Nouveau
For a chocolate which can be difficult to pair, the suggestions above can work well. Beaujolais Nouveau is a super light and fruity wine, with tonnes of fresh berry fruit on the nose and palate. The result is a berries and cream effect, and sparkling can compliment white chocolate's creamy texture. Moscato d"Atsi is a sweeter style with a gentle effervescence, which helps to balance this more delicate chocolate.

Milk Chocolate
Pinot Noir
If you're going with milk chocolate go for a lighter red, so it doesn't overpower the chocolate. A fruit forward Pinot can be a good choice which can lead to a "chocolate covered cherry" taste.

2 More Ideas:
Mint Chocolate
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvingnon can often have notes of menthol (or mint and eucalyptus) on the nose. With the right Cabenerat Sauvignon mint chocolate can make for a great accompaniment.

Orange Chocolate
An unconventiaonal pairing, but it works. So many chocolate pairings cater to the red wine crowd, so if you prefer white, this is a great option. Just esnure the Riesling has a bit sweetness to it.

Happy Galentines & Valentines Day!

My favourite stop on the beamsville bench

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Whenever I'm asked which wineries to visit in Niagara, I name the usual suspects, but lately KEW has been topping the list.

There's something about this winery that feels like home. It could be the fact that the winery, is in fact, a converted home, but from the moment you enter, you'll feel its' warm and inviting vibe.

Last year I learned you could bring your own picnic which pretty much solidified them as my new favourite. They have a gorgeous property, tucked atop the escarpment, far from neighbouring wineries with vineyards as far as the eye can see.

KEW is known for their sparkling, so if you go I suggest getting a flight. It's one of the few times I've noticed a dramatic difference in sparkling wines from one producer. Whether it's their Blanc de Noir (100% pinot) or their Blanc de Blanc made from barrel aged chard, each offers something different and unique to the Beamsville Bench.

My favourite wine at KEW, however, is their Old Vines Chardonnay. It's one of those chards you can't stop smelling.  The perfect balance of tropical and classic aromas, with a dense yet soft mouthfeel. The last bottle I opened was ripe full of cooked pineapple, vanilla and apple pie notes, but there was something I couldn't put my finger on. I kept going back to it and this will sound strange but I think this is the elusive smell I love in chardonnay. It was the scent of a freshly opened bag of gummy bears. I'm pretty sure I nailed it, but the jury will forever be out on that one. The description on their website does a much better job.

I highly recommend, not just a stop at this winery, but a picnic in the warmer months, a flight of sparkling wine and a taste of their chardonnay. You won't be disappointed.

New Year

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Many people believe we have cycles of years. There are years of unrest, years of teardown followed by the year of rebuilding and looking back on 2016, it's hard for me to say just what type of year has passed.

I wrote the post below when I first moved back from Melbourne. For me, 2016 will forever be the year I came "home". We never quite know what our next year holds, and it's the excitement coupled with a small dose of fear which makes each year its' own adventure. So here's to a clean slate, new possibilities and the moments and memories that will fill your next 364 days.

I was working the tasting bar of Southbrook Vineyards one day, when a colleague of mine came in having just arrived back from living in Australia. Within seconds she uttered a sentence which I will never forget, "Molly, you'd love Melbourne!" Little did I know this one chance encounter would change the trajectory of my life. Her energy was contagious and a feeling bubbled up inside me and I  knew I would eventually go. I didn't know why or when, and I didn't know how but I was certain one day I'd make the move to Melbourne. And sure enough, I did.

I flew over on a whim. A one-way ticket $100 to my name and a whole lot of hope it would all work out. When a destination in the world pulls at you like a magnet and you feel drawn to it for no particular reason, you must go. The reason will only be explained to you once you arrive, or perhaps it will come in hindsight.

Melbourne was everything I'd hoped it would be and more. I'm thankful for everyone I met there, trips taken and sights seen along the way. Australia, I will miss your flat whites, your Cherry Ripes, and saying "reckon" without a look of judgement. Most of all I'm thankful for what I learned about myself on the other side of the world. There's no better way to grow than to get out of our comfort zone. So, if you feel the need to stretch beyond your boundaries and even though you're scared of the unknown, go. You'll thank yourself later.


Winter Cocktails Made with Wine

Sunday, December 18, 2016

We all know about mulled wine come winter, but how else might we reinvent that bottle collecting dust around the house.

I found myself scouring the internet looking for such recipes for an upcoming Birthday I was hosting and was overwhelmed with the number of options. If you're hosting a holiday party this year and want to serve something a bit more special, I hope the list below offers a few new ideas.

1. Winter Sangria
I love Sangria, and it's so easy to make. Best part being, you can use any wine, be it red, white or rosé, it doesn't matter at all. Once you've picked a wine, you just need a clear sparkling beverage, fruit juice and whatever fruit you have on hand. In the winter I like adding cinnamon sticks and sticking to cranberries, oranges and pomegranates as opposed to summer fruits. This recipe from Half Basked is perfect!

2. Red Wine Hot Chocolate
I'll admit, when I first heard about this I wasn't sold, but when you combine 2 of your favourite things, what's not to enjoy? My suggestion is to make sure the chocolate is as dark as possible, and avoid the packaged stuff. The red wine needs to be full bodied and fruit forward (nothing aged). I'd also experiment using Port instead of red wine. This is what I did and I found the texture and flavours of Port to be more complimentary. Recipes for this seem to be trending this season, but here is a simple one to follow from "Imma Eat That"  (great name eh?)

2. Sage Ginger Pear Prosecco
You can pour a glass of Prosecco (any sparkling), add a few garnishes and you've just turned a normal glass into a festive cocktail. This can be the easiest way to quickly make an eye-catching drink. Garnishes that work best are frozen cranberries, green grapes, pomegranates, and a sprig of mint or rosemary. Take creative reigns with this and know that you can't really go wrong. However, if you're looking to follow a tried and tested version here's a unique cocktail by Avocado Pesto for some inspiration

Happy entertaining!