BC wine "state of the union 2019"
Angels are hard at work all over BC, preparing liquid treasure for your eyes, nose, and tastebuds.
I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip through the top terroirs of Western Canada. So here’s a little travelogue of the best and brightest, and what you can expect in the coming few months from my wine club, Crushable.
Meet The “Almost Wine” Called Piquette
Ever heard of Worker's Wine or Slave Wine?
Basically it’s very simple wine with water added. Meant to be a quick-n-dirty thirst quencher with just enough alcohol to make it interesting. The Romans and Greeks made a type of piquette to tide over their slaves.
The practice continued into modern Europe, where it became a sort of everyday wine of farmers and fieldhands (before us current degens just started demanding fancy wine all the time).
Anyway, on my travels through the Okanagan I was delighted to find a few winemakers experimenting with piquette of their own.
I’m not saying to run out and find all the 4% watered down wine you can handle.
But how bloody refreshing is it that instead of chasing inflated $100 “award winner” bottles of manipulated oak drink, these wonderful vintners are keeping their feet grounded with simple worker’s wine?
About as refreshing as a cool glass of piquette on a bright fall day.
Endless Barrel & Tank Samples Of Riesling
At one winery we sipped estate-grown riesling straight from the stainless steel tanks.
Not one sample, nor two. More like 4-5 different tanks. From vines no more than a few quick strides from one another. Yet each with absolutely unique characteristics.
Some was from an early pick (so more to the searing acid side). Others were a later pick (such that gives a fruit explosion).
The coolest part was that I was told this was the day they were halting fermentation; that the riesling was exactly where they wanted it. And from that point on it would be a matter of blending and balancing the textures and flavors for a full expression of the entire vineyard.
Yet at the next winery, we also did riesling samples. But this time from neutral oak barrels.
This winemaker wanted his juice to breathe more.
“When will your ferment finish?” I asked, hoping to compare to the previous winery.
“Oh, whenever the wine chooses” was his reply. “We’ll keep it nice and warm in this room, and let it do its own thing.”
In contrast to the amazing acid dance of lively fruit from the previous winery, his riesling was heavier... wider.
It’s still young, but it already carried a hint of truffle. A wonderful touch of richness and depth on an otherwise dry and refreshing white wine.
And neither of these winemakers is doing it the “right” or “wrong” way.
We’re so lucky to finally have this kind of choice as Canadian wine supporters. Two (of many) fascinating and different expressions of what riesling can do here, when grown in a superlative vineyard and tended by an artist.
In that sense they are both “right”, because they are both passionately bringing us their vision of the most complex and enjoyable rieslings possible.
All The Pet Nats Under The Rainbow
The cool kids are all making (and drinking) pet nat now.
That is: a sparking made in the ancestral method that pre-dates champagne, and produces some smashably fun juice.
I lost count of how many pet nats I was offered on this trip.
But each time I left one winery, they asked me where I was going, and more often than not joined in on the next destination. Of course, everyone wanted to show off their best new stuff. So halfway through the day we ended up with a row of gorgeous, cloudy, pastel pet nats all lined up.
Most of this bubbly is super limited in quantity. Some of it is meant for club members of the various wineries. A lot of it is just experimenting for family and friends.
But I’m hustling as hard as I can to be able to offer it in future Crushable packs, so stay tuned!
Collectively, I witnessed the supportive spirit of community along with healthy competition that has come to define the cutting edge wine producers of BC. These guys and gals are exchanging tips and stories, pushing each other, beaming with joy at the success of their neighbor, and banding together to share the load during the rough times (like the brutal patch of weather that just hit this harvest). I don’t know if you’re a fan of history or the arts, but nearly all the great movements of the past had groups of pioneers creating and innovating in unison. Together, as witnesses, we are really blessed to be around for this era of Canadian winemaking. I swear, they are just getting warmed up!
If you haven't enrolled in Crushable, you can do so here: www.crushable.club