Whether you are a wine connoisseur or just choose wine by its colour, the following article may offer interesting insights into winemaking and the joy of wines!
I consulted with Bipin Bhatt, Outlets Manager and Sommelier at The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa. He started his career as a mixologist in Dubai in 2002. It didn’t take long for him to become infatuated with wines and began training as a sommelier. His employer recognized his passion and talents and supported his education.
“The only way to stay current [about wine] is to realize there is no end to the varietals and complexities of wines,” Bhatt told me. “Winemaking is a truly limitless, creative endeavour. Vintners around the world are always experimenting with various grape varietals, vineyard management and replanting techniques to find out what works best for their region.”
Historically, wines have always been paired with food.
“Wine is not like anything else,” says Bhatt. “Wine asks for food. Without wine when you are eating, you not doing any favour to the food. When you have wine with food, it makes you realize what you have been missing. It lets you taste so much more and lets you enjoy all those flavours. It’s true when they say that ‘gastronomy is on one leg without wine’!”
Everything is so much more appealing with wine—even simply prepared food. In fact, says Bhatt, the simplest of meals with wine will give you the most pleasure. That’s what has attracted people to sipping wine with tapas appetizer platters. The condiments are so easy to assemble.
Natural Food Source
There are no flavour additives or preservatives in wine either. The hundreds of aromas, like cherry, berry, jam, and herbs, that you discover in red wine come from just grapes.
“Wine is nothing more than fermented grapes that may or may not be aged in oak barrels” says Bhatt. “Think of any other food and there is no telling what was applied to give the product more flavour, a longer shelf life, and so forth.”
Wine, on the other hand, is made without chemicals or additives. It’s all natural. For significant options of wines out there, there is little to no intervention in the vineyard and winery. Older barrels may no longer impart any flavors and are considered neutral. So as wine matures in older barrels, it remains pure fruit without any further interference.
Tradition vs. Trends
What makes a wine rare? Market forces, says Bhatt. Modern day winemakers market wines that work with what is trendingseasonally: for example, in summer, it’s Pinot Blanc and Rosé; in winter, it’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Meritage.
These days, the big trend is for bright, fruity wines. “That type of wine appeals to younger wine drinkers who prefer a sweeter wine, like a Riesling or a Chardonnay. Efforts are being made to win them over to drier wines, so they can come to appreciate the diversity of wines, especially when there are so many to enjoy.”
The practice of marketing wines hinders the exploration of choices that you may have had a couple of decades ago, Bhatt explains. “These days, it’s very common to sell wine off after aging their wine minimally to make space for the incoming harvest. Investors enter bidding wars for the name of the wine they will market and distribute.”
That is not true for all winemakers. Over time, certain winemaking regions in the old world developed a way to produce wine that follow strict traditions set a long time ago. These rigorous practices allow for very little deviation during/ the production process. They age the wine very well and only release their wine when it is ready to drink—usually after aging in barrels for 3-6 years. These are the familiar, classic wines such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, Brunello and Borolo.
“They never have to follow what the market dictates,” Bhatt explains. “They are the standard bearers for quality wine and, as such, are assured there will always be a market for them, regardless of the season. They take the time to produce a prestige product.
One species, so many varieties!
Did you know that nearly all red wines are made from one species of grape? It’s true. About 90% of cultivated grapes in the world—and the most common red wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Pinot Noir—are from just one species of grape: Vitis vinifera.
BC Wines Are Here to Stay!
Vancouver Island wineries may have some way to go by comparison, but wine making is a marathon, not a dash, Bhatt says. So, for the moment, production can be a bit inconsistent. Over time, climate change may introduce opportunities to plant tougher grape varietals that will be able to ripen with more heat and sun.
The Okanagan region is becoming more successful in producing what the market really enjoys.
“The wine from the Okanagan today is a night and day difference from the wine they produced even 10 years ago. They are using the same land and vineyards, yet they are producing totally different wines.”
Last year, over stiff international competition, the Okanagan wineries were awarded ‘The Best Wine Tour in the World’. They are attracting a lot of international ambassadors for their wines as a result! The experience of the winemaker is what makes the difference.
“Wine making is a lot more complicated than it looks,” says Bhatt. “It takes time to find out what grapes grow best in certain types of soil, region or climate zone. Wineries always benefit when they import seasoned talent from overseas to help them deal with any given vintage. It shortens their learning curve.”
Explore South Vancouver Island Wineries
1.Averill Creek Vineyards, Duncan
Established in 2001. 40 acres. 1,400 vines currently planted on the southern slopes of Mount Provost. Signature wines are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Maréchal Foch, Foch Cabernet, Cabernet Libre, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
2. Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard, Duncan
Established in 1990. 31 acres. Owned by Cowichan Tribes. Award-winning signature wines include Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Siegerrebe. Coastal Red and White blends.
3. Cherry Point Estate Wines, Cobble Hill
Established in 1989. 31 acres. Signature wines include Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Bacchus, Ortega, Black Muscat, Muller-Thurgau.
4. Damali Lavender & Winery, Cobble Hill
Established in 2010. Signature wines include blends of fruit, grape and lavender wines grown at the farm.
5. Divino Estate Winery, Cobble Hill
Established in 1996. 40 acres. 40-year tradition of wine making. Signature wines include Chardonnay, Trebbiano, Castel, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio.
6. Enrico Wineries, Mill Bay
Established in 2010. Signature wines are Pinot Grigio, Ortega, Cabernet Libre, Cabernet Foch.
7. Merridale Estate Cidery & Brandihouse, Cobble Hill
Established in 1980s. 20 acres. Signature ciders include Traditional and House Craft cider varieties.
8. Rocky Creek Winery, Cowichan Bay
Established in 2004. 10 acres. Third generation, award-winning wine makers. Signature wines include Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Wild Blackberry, TLC – White blend, Robin`s Rose, On the Mark – Red blend. Katherine`s Sparkle.
9. Silverside Farm Winery, Cobble Hill
Established in 1982. 40 acres. Specialties include Raspberry, Blueberry and Blackberry wines, jams, jellies and syrups.
10. Unsworth Vineyards, Mill Bay
Established in 1982. 12 acres planted in Foch and Blattner. Signature wines include Blattner and port-style wines, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Cab Merlot, and signature blends.
11. Venturi-Schulze Vineyards, Cobble Hill
Established in 1988. 20 acres. Signature wines include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Auxerrois, Madeleine Sylvaner, Siegerrebe, Schönburger, Ortega and Kerner. Also, make outstanding Balsamic Vinegar.
12. Vigneti Zanatta Winery and Vineyards, Duncan
Established in 1988, Vancouver Island’s first estate winery. 25 acres planted in vines that include Ortega, Cayuga, Auxerrois, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero, Muscat, Merlot, Madeleine X Sylvaner.