End-of-vacation w(h)ining

Friends,

Let us take a moment of silence to mark the end of a glorious two weeks of vacation. It was a brief staycation, cut short by my employer’s requirement that I actually return to work. Total buzzkill. This time off will be sorely missed. But it’s time to get back to saving the world, one translation at a time [translator’s note: this may be a gross exaggeration].

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Je vois la vie en rosé – part 2

Before reading on, be sure to read part 1 on rosé winemaking!!

If you’ve been to a liquor store in the last few months, you may have noticed a surge in rosés on display. Rosé is—for some reason—only a seasonal wine. It shows up on shelves in April and disappears by the end of the summer. This is why it is imperative to stock up if you find one you like. These wines are only made in limited quantities, so once a vintage is out of stock, that’s it. You probably won’t see it again until the spring of next year. That said, depending on how much you drink, you probably shouldn’t get a whole case—these wines are for immediate consumption and are not typically meant to be aged.

As promised, here are my Summer 2016 rosé recommendations!

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The perfect sailboat wine

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Pig Roast Pairings

Fellow wine lovers!

It has been a busy few weeks! Is it just me, or do busy work weeks lead to increased wine consumption? No? Just me? Oh well, at least it means I have a whole slew of wine insights for you.

Last weekend we headed down to southern Ontario to attend the husband’s cousin’s annual pig roast, in the thriving metropolis of Embro, ON. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and when David told me to pack my jean skirt and cowboy hat, I got nervous. I began to expect the worst.

Besides the pig on a spit, it was a potluck. I used to love potlucks. In my student days, if there was free food, I was all over it. But now that my own cooking skills have improved and I am less desperate for food that I don’t have to cook or pay for, I am less interested in dishes of varying degrees of quality.

Even more importantly, if you don’t know what you’re going to be eating, how the heck do you pick out a wine to go with your meal??

As usual, this will have as much to do with your personal tastes as your budget. The first question is, red, white or maybe rosé? Since I knew the staple of the meal was going to be pork, I decided to eliminate red from the options. So that’s good, that only leaves 46% of LCBO wines to choose from!

If you’ve ever been to the LCBO with me, you’ll know that it’s not something I take lightly. Very rarely do I spend any less than 15 minutes in this fine establishment. I’m like a kid in a candy store, and I like to see what’s new, and what’s on sale, and what will go with my meal, and what will I feel like next Wednesday, and what would go with a sunny Saturday afternoon in the backyard, and are there any occasions coming up I need to buy wine for…etc. Needless to say, I could spend hours in there. Have I also mentioned that my decision-making skills are crap? This means that I tend to walk away from LCBO excursions with no less than 2 bottles each time. Which is great because the two-bottle paper bags they give you are fantastic as compost bin liners. You’re welcome.

So when we got to the LCBO Saturday evening, my husband, who knows me and my exasperating LCBO tendencies well, gave me a 5-minute time limit. My desicion-making abilities put to the test, I had to think quickly: something that pairs well with pork, that will go with most other foods that could potentially end up on the hillbilly potluck table and something that won’t take me half an hour to pick out.

That last bit made me park myself in front of a rosé promo section at the end of an aisle. There I found a bunch of rosés all in one place and I didn’t have to roam up and down all the country-based aisles in search of one I liked. Excellent time management, I thought! Especially since rosés account for less than 5% of the table wines in the LCBO general list. And as we already know, I love drinking rosés in the summer, since they go well with food and are easy to drink on their own as well.

I didn’t want anything too sweet, so that meant I was looking for a dry or even extra dry wine. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the LCBO’s sweetness codes found on the bin tags, here they are:

Source: LCBO

Source: LCBO

This sweetness criteria seemed to eliminate many of the rosés in the display. With time running out (I still had to get through the cash), I quickly selected a Spanish rosé made of one of my favourite grapes: garnacha. This dry wine was nice and light, yet had enough fruity flavour to stand up to most foods. For $12 a bottle, it was the perfect wine for a pig roast where most of the revelers were drinking Coors Light. Plus it was an excellent exercise in quick decision-making and self-restraint. I managed to limit my LCBO visit to less than five minutes AND left with only one bottle in my possession!

Gran Feudo rosé, perfect for any BYOC (bring your own chair and cooler) gathering.

Gran Feudo rosé, perfect for any BYOC (bring your own chair/cup/cooler) gathering.

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The pig-roasting contraption. I was very sorry to have missed the spit in action. Note my father-in-law in the background, caught red-handed at the dessert table.

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The food table

The dessert table, with beer backdrop.

The dessert table, with beer backdrop.

Beach Wining

There is nothing like being on a beach on a hot day, especially when you have gorgeous mountain views!

Jericho Beach in Vancouver

Jericho Beach in Vancouver

Finding a nice beach wine is not hard. But there are a few key characteristics I look for in a beach sipper:

1. High acidity

Acidity is the mouth-watering aspect of a wine, and is what makes you salivate even after the wine has left your mouth. High-acidity wines can be described as zippy or refreshing, and are great palate cleansers. Both reds and whites can be acidic, however for a beach day, my preference would be a white or rosé – something refreshing and light.

2. Low alcohol content

In general, the more body a wine has, the higher its alcohol content. That is why the fullest-bodied wines like cabernet sauvignon and shiraz tend to be higher in alcohol. On the other hand, lighter-bodied whites tend to have a lower alcohol content. And that’s the sort of easy drinking I’m looking for in a beach wine. I don’t like to dehydrate too quickly under the sun!

3. Twist-off cap

This may be shocking to some of you, but despite being a wine snob, I don’t carry a corkscrew around with me at all times. There are enough things to remember when packing for the beach: bathing suits, towels, hats, sunscreen, cooler, snacks, glasses, dishes, etc. When choosing your wine, think ahead and save yourself some trouble by getting a wine with a twist-off cap. It will facilitate matters significantly. I’ve witnessed people trying to get a cork out without the proper tools and it is not pretty. Add a beach to the mix and you will invariably end up with bits of cork and lots of sand in your wine. Not really the smooth mouthfeel I’m looking for…

Suggestions

Of course, personal preferences will come into play here, including price point and sweetness. In the lower range for price, an excellent value beach wine and excellent summer go-to is the Portuguese vinho verde. This slightly effervescent wine is incredibly refreshing, with the bubbles magnifying the already high acidity. I found this great vinho in Vancouver and it’s what I drank on our beach day:

The only thing about vinhos is they should be drunk COLD. Bring a cooler!

The only thing about vinhos is they should be drunk COLD. Bring a cooler!

In Canada, this particular bottle only seems to be available in B.C., so here are some you can get from the LCBO:

  • Aveleda – tried, tested and true for under $10!!
  • Gazela – I haven’t personally tried this one, but I hear that for $9, you really can’t go wrong!

This wine is generally dry, so if you’re looking for something sweeter, try an off-dry riesling or a moscato.

Rosés are also great on a hot summer’s day. A lot of people tell me that they don’t like rosés because they are too sweet, but we’re not talking about those ridiculously sweet pretty-pink zinfandels from Beringer that we drank in first year in our failed attempts to be sophisticated. Today, I can attest that there are a myriad of rosés to suit all tastes, ranging from extra-dry to sweet. I personally love rosés from the south of France, but I may be biased. They smell of fresh strawberries and raspberries and their refreshing acidity makes me feel like I am sitting in the shade of an olive tree with a view of Mont Ste. Victoire. My favourite appellations are Bandol and Tavel, so those may be a good place to start, but I encourage you to just get a bunch of bottles, invite some friends over, and taste a few to find your favourite!

Enjoy! And don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

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P.S. Just because this post is entitled “Beach Wining”, the consumption of the wines discussed herein is not strictly restricted to beach locales. “Beach” can easily be replaced with “Boat,” “Backyard,” “Patio,” “non-air-conditioned apartment” or anywhere else where a cool, refreshing wine is required.