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Why drinking natural wine is worth it

When I lived in Europe I was introduced to natural wine and this changed my palate forever. Although it is a little harder to come by when I am in Canada, the situation seems to be changing. The LCBO magazine Food and Drink published an article in its winter 2018 edition about the top trends in wine, and natural wine was # 2. It also now carries a few organic wines. But does organic necessarily entail natural? What, is the difference and does it matter?

Although there is no board that will certify a wine as ‘natural’, unlike organic or biodynamic wines, I understand natural wine to be altered as little as possible throughout its making process. This means the vines are not  sprayed with pesticides, the grapes are harvested by hand, often in a biodynamic manner, no artificial yeasts  are added, it may be unfiltered and, most of all, little to no sulfites are added. In short, all the additives found in conventional wines are removed so that instead, the ‘natural’ microbiological process of wine making takes place.

This is why most natural wines are also organic and biodynamic, but the reverse may not be true. Unlike natural wine, conventional wine makers add chemical agents, such as sulfur dioxide, to create a uniform product from year to year. These additives are the reason why after drinking a couple of glasses I might get a headache the next day. And most of all, they alter the taste of wine—drastically!

The first time my husband and I brought home a bottle of natural wine  I wondered why it was so fizzy, and why some even taste a little ‘funky’. But with trial and error I learned that to appreciate a natural wine it has to decant for at least an hour—minimum. Countless times I have opened a bottle, tried a few sips, thought it was a bad choice, only to try it a few hours later and discover an amazing new wine. And what a difference in taste! Natural wine really tastes like fruit, and it is not tainted by the vinegary, acerbic taste sulfites bring.

Although natural wine only accounts for 1% of total wine production worldwide, there is a whole array of natural wines that vary in quality, taste, and prices. The bottom line is that the quality of wine does not have to be lesser when drinking natural wine.

 

Eat, explore, and relax in South America

Popular vacations typically include European back-packing trips or Caribbean cruises, but let us not forget about South America and all the beauty this continent has to offer. Truly different than the North — South America is home to some of the world’s most natural wonders as well as culture, activity, food, and dance. Here is a breakdown of the top places you should visit in South America, if you are looking for a different type of vacation. Let us explore, eat, and take ease:

Explore:

In the past few years, many travellers have decided to indulge in vacation spots that have more to offer in terms of eco-tourism. With pristine rainforests and exotic wildlife, every day in South America is an adventure.

Colombia
The Amazon adventure: Colombia is home to about 55 natural reserves and 23 of them have park rangers to help tourists engage in safe and fun adventures. The Amazonia also occupies 42 per cent of Colombia. The Amazon River that passes through Colombia is home to famous Anaconda snakes and pink dolphins. The Amacayacu Park is the most easily accessible spot and is located on the southern side of the Amazon River near the city of Leticia. The visitor’s centre of the park has been closed since 2012 due to severe flooding, but accommodations have been made with several Indigenous communities in the area that offer camping, cultural display, and craft activities.

Pink Amazonian Dolphin

Guyana
If you are ready to immerse yourself in a truly natural rainforest experience, Guyana is the place for you. Located along the northern coast of South America, this English-speaking territory is home to vast areas of untouched land, from savannahs to a portion of the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest stretches into nine different countries in South America, with the majority in Brazil. The Iwokrama Reserve located in central Guyana is home to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway in the Mauisparu region. This is the only tourist canopy walkway in the Guyana shield. The canopy, which is located 100 feet above the forest floor,  cost US $180,000 to construct and is made using adjustable steel cables and aluminum. The canopy has a unique design that allows trees to grow normally between the four spacious platforms. Tourists can spot wildlife, including the famous spotted jaguar, as well as engage in bird watching and night walks to explore biodiversity in the area. At the base of the canopy walkway is the Atta Rainforest Lodge where guests can stay overnight.

‘On the Canopy’ Iwokrama Guyana

 

Eat:

South America is home to many different cultures and meals, including arepas in Venezuela and peanut soup in Suriname. There is something unique to find in every country.

Argentina
This beautiful and vast South American country is home to one of the most spectacular landmarks, the Andes mountains. Argentina is also known for its food, in particular their steaks. The cut of steak is very important in Argentina and many farmers raise their cattle as free roaming. In Argentina, they also cook the steaks through a process called asado. Asado is similar to what we would refer to as barbecuing, however, it is slower and smokier. The primary base for asado are compressed charcoal pieces instead of propane. There is a popular steakhouse in Buenos Aires called La Brigada where the steaks are so tender they can be cut with a spoon. Some popular choices include ‘Asado De Tira’ which are essentially short ribs and ‘Bife De Chorizo’ which is a juicy sirloin steak.

Chile
The love affair with Chile and red wine dates back to the 16th century. The most popular types of wine available is Cabernet Sauvignon, Pais, Carmenere and Merlot. There are many varieties of vineyards in Chile and many are located in the southern region near the flat lands at the base of the Andes Mountains, providing a stunning backdrop for wine tasting and exploring. Chile is voted as one of the top ten wine producers in the world and some one of the most popular spots includes Casablanca Valley, which is located along the coast near Santiago and Valparaiso. One of the most popular times to travel to Chile for wine tasting is during the Grape Harvest Festival, which takes place from March through April.

 

Ease:

An important part of a vacation is the relaxation — a time to be lazy and to enjoy the simple things in life, even if that includes reading a book on a sandy beach or relaxing by a midnight bonfire.

Bolivia
This relatively small South American country is landlocked between Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, but still has its own unique cultural experiences to offer. Bolivia is known for the world’s largest salt flats, located in the southern region of Uyuni. The stunning salt flats attract wondering tourists due to its unique ecosystem and stretching views of the glistening salt late. There are, however, many areas in Bolivia that offers different experiences. For something more low key visit the region of Copacabana, located near the border with Peru, which offers a warm and comforting feel of a small town. Copacabana is nestled between two hills near the Titicaca Lake, one of South America’s largest lake. Copacabana is also known for its many churches and religious festivals. The stunning Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana takes up a whole block in this small town. The Basilica is home to the Camarin de la Virgen de Candelaria— a famous 15th century statue. Legend says that if she is removed Lake Titicaca will rise up in rebellion.

Basilica de Copacabana

Brazil
This list would not be complete without one of the largest and well known countries of South America —Brazil. Various parts of Brazil provide different experiences, from carnival in Rio de Janeiro to the famous rodeo. If you are looking to relax along a beach you are in the right spot.  Copacabana beach is the most famous beach in the country, but if you are looking for something more tranquil and quiet, Prainha beach may be the best choice. Located just a short drive away from the busy Rio de Janeiro, this beach sits at the forefront of rainforest covered mountains. This is the ideal getaway from all the excitement and hectic nature of travelling. For more information and the best rated places to stay in Brazil, consider using a site such as AllTheRooms.com that offers comprehensive event guides for different areas and the best suggested places to stay.

Prainha Beach – Rio de Janeiro


Hope you enjoyed our short trip around South America and let us know in the comments below where you plan to visit next.

5 delicious summer patio drinks

It’s finally patio season! To the disbelief of most Canadians, the sun actually peeked out from behind the clouds this long weekend— the same clouds that gave us rain and hail the weekend before. Personally, I took advantage of this beautiful summer weather and spent most of it outside.

While some of these outdoor activities included cycling, hiking, and gardening, it also involved a number of cold frothy beverages. Let’s face it — there is nothing more appealing than a cold beer on a patio on a hot summer day.

Sadly, inhaling beer on a regular basis can be a bit harsh on the digestive system. If you, like me, are getting tired of ordering whatever is on tap this summer, take a look at some of these delicious and light summer patio options:

 

white wine

White wine spritzers: This is one of my favourite things to order on a hot summer day. I’m a big fan of wine, but I find it a bit heavy with a light meal. A spritzer is a combination of white wine and carbonated tonic water. This gives the beverage a slightly sweeter taste and adds some bubbly texture. It’s very light and is half the calories of a regular glass of wine!

Ciders: If you aren’t a big beer person, a cider may be the perfect option. They are typically sweeter than the typical hoppy beer and contain hints of fruit (apple or grapefruit is my favourite). There are a number of local breweries across Canada that specializes in these beverages and each one offers their own twist. They range from being lightly sweetened to tasting a bit like juice.

15072446911_1db00c8ac9_o
Photo by Personal Creations.

Mojito: Made of white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water, and mint, mojitos are dangerous drinks. The lime cuts through the sweetness and it may seem like you are just drinking a refreshing minty lemonade. Be warned: consuming too many mojitos may impair your thinking.

Ceasar: This drink is not as light as the others, but it is refreshing on a hot day. Make it with tomato juice, vodka, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to taste. I’m partial to making it with gin instead of vodka. Serve with celery — does anyone know why we serve it with celery? Either way, it’s a great drink to have with appetizers like chicken wings. You can also count it as a serving of vegetables, which is a plus!

margarita-415360_960_720

Margarita/daiquiri: I love blended drinks! There is absolutely nothing more relaxing than a cold, frosty, iced beverage. The delicious blend of tequila and lime, or mango and rum is life-changing. The unfortunate part is that it is jam-packed with sugars. If you choose to go this route, make sure you are at a restaurant or bar that makes them well. This is not a drink you want to order from a pub with cheap alcohol.

Bonus drink!

H20: Don’t forget to hydrate!!! It’s easy to get carried away with all of these delicious alcoholic options. If the weather is particularly hot, make sure to alternate between water and alcoholic beverages to ensure you don’t become dehydrated.

What’s your favourite patio beverage? Let us know in the comments below! 

Are you using the right wine glasses?

by Nicola Burrows

A true wine connoisseur appreciates a delicate glass of wine and values the difference between a bold red and a crisp white, or possibly an autumn blush with fragrances of berries and citrus, which are sweeter on the pallet. The choices are endless, but the wine glass that is used is as essential. Bringing the flavours of the wine to life can enhance your experience. The wine you choose is as important as the wine you serve, especially to maximize the flavour. A typical wine glass has three sectors: bowl, stem and foot. The shape of the glass generally influences the type of wine used. When serving the glass to your guests, hold the glass by its stem to avoid leaving fingerprints on the bowl.

Red wine glasses

Red wine needs to go through an oxidation process. This chemical process enhances both the flavour and aroma of the wine, making it more enjoyable. The bowl of a red wine glass is both rounder and wider to allow more air to come in contact with the wine. They usually stand taller than white wine glasses to allow for an easier swirl of the wine to further oxidize the flavour. Red wine glasses are also held by the bowl since it doesn’t normally make a difference if the temperature of the wine changes from the warmth of your hand. Red wine glasses are further divided into two common discrete shapes: the burgundy glass, which is broad and is suited to take the wine to the tip of the tongue; and the bordeaux glass, which is tall and not as broad as the burgundy glass.

For a bordeaux glass, you are going to be serving Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah as these are more full bodied wines. The bordeaux glass is shaped to allow the wine to reach the back of the throat when sipped. Burgundy glasses are made to further enjoy the aroma of the red wine. Wines such as Pinot Noir are best served to customers in burgundy glasses.

White wine glasses

Most white wine glasses have smaller mouths, which reduces the area of contact the wine has with the air, reducing the rate of oxidation. Their bowls are not as wide as red wine glasses while the entire glass appears thinner.

Champagne glasses are thinnest of all the wine glasses. Their shape is known as the flute, which has a longer stem and thin brim. Part of the novelty of champagne is its sparkling display of bubbles. The less oxidation it gets the longer the wine will sparkle.

White wine glasses are meant to be grasped by the stem to avoid both finger prints on the bowl as well as prevent the wine from being affected by that of your body temperature. The smaller mouth also allows the aroma to be directed more precisely towards the nose which a very important part of wine appreciation.

Serve Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio in the wider of the white wine glasses and use the Champagne Flutes for Champagne. You can pretty much follow this rule of thumb to be successful with the whites.

You will be able to maximize the flavour of wine and appreciate the wine to its fullest capacity.

Fact or myth: Red wine is good for you

by Greg Thomson

There’s nothing like a great red wine when the snow starts to fall outside and the fireplace once again becomes a gathering place to warm chilled bones.  And of course there are rationalizations – I don’t think I could get through a single day without a few great rationalizations. In this case, it’s the favourite: “Red wine is good for me.”

I have a lot more trouble with this after the report I did on cancer for Charity Intelligence. I read many studies that showed a link between alcohol consumption and the incidence of numerous cancers, including breast, colon, and liver. My father died from colon cancer, so I am a tad uneasy with this particular rationalization. However, there is also a lot of data on the side of this argument that I like.

While there is still little causal data, many studies have shown a correlation between moderate consumption of red wine and reduced mortality. Some studies show benefits from white wine and other alcoholic beverages, but the resveratrol and flavonoids – the main causes of the benefits – are found in grape skins, and red wine stays in contact with its skins far longer than white.

The “health benefit” that I like the best is the so-called French paradox. The French and Americans have similar high-fat diets; however, the French have a much lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and some evidence points to the increased consumption of red wine by the French. I love red wine with a juicy steak, so I’ll accept this evidence.

Moderate wine consumption has also been correlated with lower stroke incidence, fewer kidney stones, and reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s. So overall, I’m perfectly happy believing that, as long as I continue to have regular colonoscopies, my two glasses of wine (sorry, “moderate consumption” means only one glass for women) are, on balance, “good for me.”

Wine Reviews

Dominus Estate, Christian Moueix, California, 1997 ($100+) 94
This wine has an absolutely gorgeous aroma full of earthiness and fruit.  The taste is the definition of terroir – you can sense the soil on your tongue.  Leather, peat, and overripe strawberry meld in beautiful union.

Chateau Trotonoy Pomerol, France, 1995 ($150+) 92
What a treat.  It fills the mouth with earthy flavour mixed with licorice, dark chocolate, and deep ripe cherries.  I love a wine that can bring so much together and yet melt in the mouth.

Flor de Pingus, Spain, 2000 ($100+) 91
Ribera del Duero is one of my favourite regions and this Duero is a beautiful wine.  Nice tannins and mouthfeel.  Flavour is tobacco (leaf, not smoke) mixed with cherry candy.  Absolutely sumptuous.

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino, Italy, 1997 ($100+) 90
Wow.  Big, peaty wine with loads of tannins – I can feel the health benefits in my teeth.  Aroma of soil (with a hint of manure!) and flavour bursting out all over.  Chocolate, black plum, and earth all mix together well, but provide a hint of irritation at the end.