Our clas­sics of­ten come from Ries­ling, Chardon­nay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah grapes

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - > BY KURTIS KOLT

All good wine­mak­ers know the value of ex­pand­ing their palates, and if you fol­low this ad­vice about tast­ings, you will too.

The work of a wine­maker can be gru­elling, par­tic­u­larly when many of them wear more than a few hats. It’s not un­com­mon to have the wine­maker also be the gen­eral man­ager or vine­yard man­ager of a prop­erty, es­pe­cially the smaller or medium-sized ones.

Not to men­tion that for many Bri­tish Columbian small-scale op­er­a­tions, the wine­maker can also be the one in the tast­ing room, greet­ing vis­i­tors and shar­ing sam­ples.

The large amount of time spent at one’s win­ery or, broader, in one’s re­gion has the ca­pac­ity to tighten the pa­ram­e­ters of palate—and it could be easy to lose track of the di­ver­sity of wine styles out there in the world. Most agree that it’s im­por­tant to keep the palate wide open to en­sure qual­ity is kept up to speed with in­ter­na­tional col­leagues, which also can lend in­spi­ra­tion.

Many lo­cal wine­mak­ers are aware of this and spend those chilly months trav­el­ling to other wine re­gions. In the Okana­gan, I am aware of wine­mak­ers who reg­u­larly meet in groups that fluc­tu­ate from 12 to 24 to taste in­ter­na­tional wines fit­ting an al­ways chang­ing theme.

To raise the bar, you have to know where the other bars are. It’s im­pres­sive to see how our lo­cal wines can now stand shoul­der to shoul­der with other sim­i­larly priced wines of the world, par­tic­u­larly when tasted blind. I of­ten run sem­i­nars for trade or con­sumers where we do just that, and although it’s al­ways a gam­ble, I’ve yet to see the home team hu­mil­i­ated.

Of course, I end up tast­ing more B.C. wine over the year than those from any­where else. It’s im­por­tant to me that I also keep my palate on point by look­ing to­ward winer­ies and re­gions that ex­cel with var­i­ous va­ri­eties.

I’ve said here be­fore that I truly be­lieve the four best va­ri­eties we have in B.C. are Ries­ling, Chardon­nay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah (a.k.a. Shi­raz). If you’re read­ing this, it’s likely you have favourites from at least a cou­ple of th­ese cat­e­gories.

Here are a cou­ple ex­am­ples of each I con­sider clas­sic (or mod­ern clas­sic) ex­am­ples of th­ese va­ri­eties. Next time you’re reach­ing for one of your favourite B.C. ver­sions, per­haps pick up an ex­am­ple or two from this list and do your own tast­ing to see which at­tributes B.C. wines have in com­mon with their in­ter­na­tional brethren—but also what makes our wine unique. (Hint: look for fresh, lively acid­ity, a good crack of min­er­al­ity, and a con­cen­trated pu­rity of fruit.) Re­ally, it’s not about which is bet­ter; it’s an en­joy­able study of the dif­fer­ences that make each re­gion spe­cial.

PEWSEY VALE RIES­LING 2016 (Eden Val­ley, Aus­tralia; $19.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) Close your eyes, and you may think this bone-dry, citrus-laden Ries­ling could be out of Kelowna. This Eden Val­ley bot­tling has its own thing go­ing on, though, par­tic­u­larly lime leaf, white pep­per, and a bal­ance of acid well-in­te­grated with the fruit.

WITTMANN RIES­LING TROCKEN 2016 (Rhein­hessen, Ger­many; $22.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) The citrus is on point here—le­mons, limes, and grape­fruit—with river stones and min­er­als bring­ing a touch of salin­ity.

LAFON MA­CON-MILLY-LAMARTINE 2015 (Bur­gundy, France; $38 to $44, pri­vate liquor stores) Lifted cedar and puffed wheat are in the ul­tr­a­clean aro­mat­ics of this lovely Chardon­nay, while a dizzy­ing ar­ray of ap­ples (Yel­low! Green! Red!) are well-wo­ven on the palate. Re­cently spot­ted at Mar­quis Wine Cel­lars.

CAMBRIA BENCHBREAK CHARDON­NAY 2014 (Santa Maria Val­ley, Cal­i­for­nia; $31 to $36, pri­vate liquor stores) If the idea of warm cin­na­mon toast with a cou­ple dol­lops of ap­ple-and-quince com­pote sounds like your thing, then pour your­self a big slug of this show­stop­per.

UN­DER­WOOD CEL­LARS PINOT NOIR 2014 (Ore­gon; $28 to $33, pri­vate liquor stores) All the dark berries like black­berry, blueberry, and mul­berry are stewed and swirled to­gether with a good dust­ing of car­damom. Re­cently spot­ted at Legacy Liquor Store. REMOISSENET BOURGOGNE ROUGE “RENOMMÉE” 2015 (Bur­gundy, France; $38 to $44, pri­vate liquor stores) Light, bright, and singing with red fruit, Ital­ian plums, and a pinch of basil. Put a bit of chill on this Pinot Noir and pour lib­er­ally at your next bar­be­cue. Re­cently spot­ted at Mar­quis Wine Cel­lars.

D’AREN­BERG THE FOOTBOLT SHI­RAZ 2013 (Mclaren Vales, Aus­tralia; $23 to $28, pri­vate liquor stores) Text­book Barossa Val­ley Shi­raz. Gobs of pur­ple and black fruit are teth­ered to medium tan­nins yet kept aloft with gen­er­ous acid­ity.

FALERNIA RESERVA SYRAH 2012 (Elqui Val­ley, Chile; $19.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) Oh, this is quite a meaty lit­tle num­ber. Pas­trami, pep­per, and rasp­berry jam for days. You may want to stock up; it’s on liquor-store shelves for $18.99 un­til April 28.

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