Drink This (Not That) - Valentine's Day
Vancouver this week has been the rainiest and weirdy spring like. One of my favourite morning pastimes is googling Vancouver weather in one tab and Toronto weather in the other and just cackling.
Basically I am Cruella De Vil, but with less dogs. Someone please buy me many dogs (and then take care of them, but I will walk and cuddle them I promise) pls k thx.
Anyways, normally this time of year, Toronto is in a deep freeze. People are drinking Zinfandel with gnarly vines on the label. California Cab in a bottle as heavy as time. Or maybe just clutching a thermos of tea - with as much added brandy as humanly tolerable - waiting for a streetcar that never comes.
You can imagine my surprise when this week, on an afternoon of tastings, not one but three accounts complained at my (obviously stellar, come on guys), offerings. Yeah, this 2006 single vineyard Sangiovese tastes likes dreams and the passionate embrace of young love, but I'm really working on adding some bright whites and fresh rose for spring. Spring?! In February?! hahaha fuck. Vancouver! What a place.
Anyways, it is almost Valentine's Day and for most of us that means drinking. For some, staring into their lover's eyes and toasting the greatness that is them while this plays. Gross. For others, staring into their lover's eyes and wondering how many days after this celebration of love they are allowed to break up. I'm sorry. For more still, drinking alone or with friends (#galentines) and laughing at everyone else a little too loud... to drown out the tiny voices that wonder why nobody loves them. Just kidding!
All this to say, regardless of where you live and who loves you, a day of drinking approaches and you should be ready.
Love means bubbles, expressive whites and light reds.
Do: drink "traditional method" bubbles. Traditional method means sparkling wine made in the Champagne style of production; the wine undergoes a second fermentation in bottle vs. being injected with bubbles or being made in giant pressurized tanks (prosecco, wassup). Basically, champagne method = finer, more persistent bubbles and a yeasty, bready taste and flavour (we call autolytic to be fancy) that comes from yeast contact during this longer fermentation process.
Don't: drink Champagne. Jesus, it's not your wedding. Save your money for a trip to Hawaii (or Whole Foods). There is so much badass sparkling beyond this (obviously delicious) usually overpriced appellation.
Do: buy Cremant instead - sparkling wine from France made in the same method as Champagne, but from a different region. Basically can't go wrong with Cremant d'Alsace or Cremant de Bourgogne. If you want something a little different seek out a Cremant du Jura - Jura is a weird, ancient, wonderful appellation between Burgundy and Switzerland making super interesting, deliciously oxidized things. The climate is cold, which is great for spakling wine. If you like sour beer or fermenting your own kefir, this will be your jam. The other always safe bet is Cava, tradtitional method spakling from Spain. Cheap, easy, good, do it, yes.
Do: nothing says love like sweet, bursting fruit with steely mouthwatering acidity. Riesling basically wants to make out with you. Germany is the king of Riesling. You should go to it. The labels are confusing as fuck. Work through it. Look for a Riesling from the Mosel or the Rheingau that says "Kabinett", meaning the driest designation with bursting pure flavour and laser-sharp acidity. Other great Riesling regions are found in Austria, Clare or Eden Valley, Australia or of course, Alsace (other confusing looking tall labels, I believe in you). As a good Canadian I must also point out what great Riesling is found in Niagara and Prince Edward County.
Don't: buy Chardonnay from a non-descript California winery with an animal on the bottle. Just stop. There is only one part of oak chips that are delicious and we are talking about wine not doritos, so move on. If you want Chardonnay - because it is great! - do yourself and everyone else a favour by buying Chablis.
Do: find something that tastes like the best first date (flowers, red fruit, sweet spice, fresh earth) and won't stain your clothes too badly when you spill it all over darling trying to get "more comfortable".
Choose Gamay. The best. Light on its feet and full of prettiest floral character. Skip Beaujolais Nouveau and grab a Beaujolais Villages. If you fancy, go big with a cru: Fleury, Saint-Amour (come on, too good!), Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent. A great write up on the crus of Beaujolais here. They're all going to taste pretty damn good.
Pinot Noir is your other top pick. Often more earth and leather and savoury and structured than gamay with tons of acidity, red fruit and above all silky finesse. Some examples smell like 'barnyard', which is a nice way of saying shit, but like tasty shit. It is also super hard to grow on account of those thin skins and is famously dubbed "the heartbreak grape". Go get 'em, you heartbreaker. Best bets: Bourgogne Rouge, New Zealand (Martinborough, Central Otago and beyond), Patagonia, Tasmania, Prince Edward County/ Niagara, Oregon, other cold places I can't think of.
If you must have something with more flesh on its bones - you awful, North American! - try Grenache from the Southern Rhone because that's fresh, but fat and generous like the babies you will make on Saturday. Something with a village name in front of "cotes du rhone". Recently I've had some wicked Grenache-heavy blends from Seguret and Cairanne.
Don't: nobody wants your Malbec teeth. Put the Meritage blends away. Back away from your micro-oxigenated Chilean Cab Reserva Grand Reserva. This is valentine's day, not the superbowl.