Hot, Hot, Hot! What Does Alcohol Do for Wine?

Continued from Part 2 of High Alcohol Wine … So for every fifty samples I taste, I probably consume the equivalent of a glass of wine—and that adds up. As the day wears on, my spitting technique becomes less refined, more like dribbling. Between that and my increasing enthusiasm for swirling my samples, the purple-stained napkins are piling up around me. My voice rises, my carefree laugh floats across the room, until someone inevitably asks, “Enjoying yourself, Natalie?” Where was I? Oh yes, back in the vineyard, talking about grapes. “Ripeness is all,” as Shakespeare once said and a growing […]

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Big, Bad and Scary: Who’s to Blame for High Alcohol Wines?

Continued from Part 3 of High Alcohol Wine … This is legal in some regions, especially in cool climates where the grapes don’t fully ripen, but not in others. Some critics liken feeding more sugar to yeast cells to force-feeding geese to make foie gras. Even the yeasts themselves are changing. Ten years ago, most natural yeasts produced 13.2 percent alcohol from grapes harvested with 24 brix. However, modern cultured strains can convert that same sugar into 14.8 percent. These Godzilla yeasts can also survive high-alcohol environments of 16 percent or more, which kill natural yeasts. The fermentation vessel is […]

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Is High Alcohol a Wine Fault or Freedom of Liquid Expression?

Continued from Part 4 of High Alcohol Wine … It’s like the difference between attending a concert and putting on some music as background while I’m working. At the tasting, I’m sampling my forty-seventh Chilean cabernet. A crimson flower blooms inside my mouth, its fiery tendrils licking at the back of my throat. I think my lips are starting to peel off. I’ve definitely lost a layer of enamel from my teeth: bathing them in acidity for five hours will do that. For the drive home, I’m not calling a cab, I’m calling an ambulance. This physical anguish gets me […]

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Best LCBO Wines: Vintages Release August 16

You can access the 79 wines that I reviewed for August 16 as a text wine list with my complete tasting notes, scores, food matches and the stock for each bottle in their closest LCBO stores. You can also see my wine reviews for August 2. You can add my wine picks to their custom shopping list with one click and access that list on their smartphone. This is one of the benefits of becoming a Paid Member. Inventory stock numbers are usually posted online a day or two before the release based on the LCBO doing so. Here are […]

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Do Flights of #Wine on This Airline Give You a Vertigo Tasting?

My dream flight begins with the wine selection: “We’d like to direct your attention to the wine list in the seat pocket in front of you. You’ll note we have a fine selection of first-growth Bordeaux at the rear of the plane (using the double-arm, two-finger signal), 40-year vintage port is being decanted in the middle aisles and, for our first-class passengers, a vertical of Chateau d’Yquem 1945 through 1960, at the front of the plane. At any time during this flight, should you run out of wine, it is imperative that you help yourself before assisting other passengers. This […]

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Is This Taking Airline #Wine to a Whole New Plane?

Continued from Part 1 of Airline Wine … Turns out, of course, the same wines were served in all three tastings. Before the wine even gets on board, it must survive the labyrinthine logistics of thousands of flights and destinations. Ken Chase, who consults to Delta, admits to doing strange things with wine, such as heating, chilling and shaking it, to ensure that the wine can withstand the cooking on the tarmac in Mexico or being rick-shawed through bumpy streets in Bangkok. Will the wine still perform in your glass after it’s been rerouted through Iceland? Fortunately, most airlines have […]

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Flying First Class, Drinking Economy: Is This Cloud Nine #Wine?

Continued from Part 2 of Airline Wine … The now defunct Canadian Airlines’ wine program used to take take the opposite approach, serving wines that passengers couldn’t buy on the ground — wineries had agree not to sell the airline’s selections in Canada. (That’s probably not the primary reason the company went under, but you never know which is the last drop that makes your cup overflowth.) Many airlines use an outside tasting panel to make the final choices. The oenological literati advises British Airways: Hugh Johnson, Michael Broadbent and Jancis Robinson who says in her memoir that after gushing […]

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Airline #Wine is Taking Off

Natalie MacLean is an accredited sommelier, wine journalist and author of Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. I understand you travelled extensively to research your book. Yes, I spent three years sipping and spitting my way through various vineyards around Europe and around North America – Burgundy, Champagne and California, among others. How do you research your stories? You can only say so much about wine by just opening the bottle: it’s wet, it’s fruity, it tastes good or it doesn’t. The story of wine is the story about the place, where it’s […]

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Size Does Matter > Big Bottles of Wine

These are big-game bottles. Drink one and you become a character in a Hemingway story. We hunted for the bottle under the hot sun. We brought it down. The bottle was big. Drinking it felt good. We drank until the bottle was empty, and then we fell asleep. Known in the trade as large formats, big wine bottles are larger animals than the standard 750 ml. They range in size from the magnum, which equals two standard bottles (1.5 litres), to the nebuchadnezzar (neb-kd-NE-zr), which equals 20 standard bottles and weighs in at a table-warping 15 litres. According to a […]

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The Paperbag Princess: She Who Brings Her Wine to Restaurants

As we walk into La Colombe restaurant, we’re greeted with warm light and laughter. All the tables in this modest 36-seat bistro are taken, except the one we reserved. On every table there are open bottles of wine that the diners pass back and forth, topping up their glasses. Occasionally, someone reaches discreetly under the table and brings up a new bottle. I spent my early adult years in Nova Scotia and Ontario, so I’ve been trained to select wine politely from the restaurant’s list. I’d no more bring my own booze than I would my own cutlery or linen. […]

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