First Argentine Wine: Malbec Calling Catena

Continued from Part 1 of Catena Wine That robust work ethic has been in the Catena family for generations. In 1898, his grandfather Nicola left a small village in Sicily for Argentina. He started planting vines in 1902 and raised a family. His eldest son, Domingo, married Angelica Zapata, a daughter of a large land owner, increasing the family’s holdings. By 1973, the winery had become the country’s largest producer of cheap wines, pumping out 240 million bottles a year. Nicolás, the son of Domingo and Angelica, was a brilliant boy and finished high school at 15. At the request […]

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Like Father, Like Daughter: Nicolas and Laura Catena

Continued from Part 3 of Argentine Wine The Catena Alta Malbec Cabernet we’re drinking smolders in the glass. Its sultry edge is more enticing than the sweet, soupy international style of many brand name grapes. Nicolás believes that drinkers are shifting away from the herbal flavors of Cabernet and turning more toward wines like Malbec (and Syrah, Tempranillo, and Grenache) that have fleshy dark red fruit and violet flavors. Blending Malbec and Cabernet grapes is still traditional: “These blends give us French elegance and Latin passion,” as Nicolás explains. However, he no longer believes that Malbec needs Cabernet Sauvignon—or any […]

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Argentina’s Wine Visionary Sees the Future Rooted in the Past

Continued from Part 4 of Argentine Wine The 1982 Falklands War with Britain also didn’t help the economy or exports. Then there was hyper-inflation that exceeded 3,000 percent a month, which discouraged foreign investment. Vintners made up for the lost revenue by producing high volumes of poor-quality wines that smelled like bananas rotting in an attic. Meanwhile, neighboring Chile’s economy was much more stable and the country was already producing more wine than it could consume, so it was focused on export in the 1980s. Chile took advantage of this to position itself at the very low end of the […]

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10 Best Ripasso Wines to Buy Now + 5 Surprising Facts about Ripasso

Ripasso is not a grape variety, but rather a winemaking process, made famous in Italy. This sends the wine into a second fermentation and gives the wine more tannins, body, flavour, and alcohol. You’ll find my top 10 Ripasso reviews and ratings here. 5 Surprising Facts about Ripasso: 1. The wine of Valpolicella, made from a combination of native Italian grapes most commonly Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, is re-passed over the leftover grape skins and seeds of the wine, also known as its pomace. 2. Some refer to the Ripasso style of wine as a “baby amarone,” more powerful than […]

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10 Best Champagne Wines to Buy Now + 5 Surprising Facts about Champagne

The sparkling wine Champagne is named after the northern region of France where it’s produced. Other regions of France, as well as other countries, make sparkling wine, but only those from Champagne may be called Champagne. You’ll find my most recent Champagne reviews and ratings here. 5 Surprising Facts about Champagne: 1. Supposedly the eighteenth-century blind Benedictine monk, Dom Pérignon, accidentally discovered how to put the bubbles in Champagne when his wines started fermenting again in the spring after the cold winter had stopped them. Other records attribute this discovery to the British scientist Christopher Merret thirty years before Pérignon. […]

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10 Best Sparkling Wines to Buy Now + 5 Surprising Facts about Bubbly

Sparkling wines made outside of Champagne, France, may not be called Champagne as it’s a trademarked term. However, they often use the same methods and/or grapes used in Champagne. 5 Surprising Facts about Sparkling Facts: 1. Bubblies made in Burgundy, France, are called Crémants de Bourgogne while those from Alsace are Crémant d’Alsace. 2. Spain makes Cavas (“cave”), Italy makes either Prosecco (lightly sparkling) or Spumante (fully sparkling and sweet), Germany makes Sekt or Deutscher. 3. Those from New World regions, such as Canada, California, Australia and elsewhere, are simply called sparkling wine. 4. Drink bubbly from a flute glass […]

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Organic Wine: What is it? Toast Earth Day with Wine, Naturally

By Natalie MacLean Earth Hour has passed, and Earth Day is almost upon us. Naturally, you might think about pouring yourself a glass of organic wine on April 22. But what is organic wine and how is it different from “inorganic wine”? Back in the 1970s, the concept of “organic wine” conjured up images of pony-tailed vintners in tie-dyed T-shirts, producing wines more for ideology than taste. Thankfully, those days are just a watery memory now. Today, organic wines are no longer just for health nuts and tree-huggers. Wine lovers drink them for their quality. They’ve gone mainstream and represent […]

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Sulfites in Wine: A Debate to Cause a Headache?

By Natalie MacLean What’s the big deal about sulfites in wine? Most wine labels bear the warning “contains sulfites” (or sulphites, the Canadian and British spelling), which can alarm consumers into thinking that the substance is harmful or unhealthy. In fact, sulfites, the salts of sulfurous acid or sulfur dioxide (SO2), are just a common food preservative that prevents the wine from oxidizing after fermentation (it turns brown and the fruit aromas go stale) or spoiling from bacteria once bottled. Traditionally, in Europe no warning label was required if there was less than 100 parts per million of sulfites added, […]

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Men Versus Women Winemakers: Battle of the Bottles?

In honour of International Women’s Day #IWD2014, I’m posting this piece that I originally wrote for the LCBO’s Food & Drink Magazine on women winemakers. Several of the women have since changed positions, but they are still in the wine industry and more importantly, the issues raised remain. Do women have any natural advantages when it comes to making and tasting wine? Are they still a minority in the industry, and if so, why isn’t that changing? What does the future look like for young women entering the field? In my personal quest for answers, I’ve judged the National Women’s […]

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