Franconian Silvaner

  Franconian Silvaner Germany is the land of Riesling. With over 23,000 hectares of it growing Germany is the worlds largest producer of it. There is no doubt about the relationship between Germany and Riesling. But there is another grape that needs some attention too. One that is a bit of a hidden gem but has long history in and around Germany.  One that takes well to the cool climates of Franconia (or Franken in German), where it is most commonly found and one that hipsters are taking a little more seriously. That grape is Silvaner. Although you may know it as Sylvaner in Alsace France. There it is considered a “noble grape” and grows almost exclusively in the region. The grape has a history in Germany. At one time Silvaner was the one of the most planted grapes grown there. Now, with just over 5000 hectares, it has fallen far behind behind Riesling, Muller Thurgau and Grauburgunder! In 2009, Silvaner celebrated its 350th birthday, but according to Jancis, Julia and José’s book, Wine Grapes, Silvaner is likely from Austria, and it has been suggested that the grape is a result of a spontaneous crossing that took place over 500 years ago. Its […]

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German Wine Renaissance

For some wine drinkers, German wines represent sweet wines. Bring out a tall flute bottle and most people turn the glass around and tell me they don’t like sweet wines. “I’d prefer a California Chardonnay,” they say. However, in my opinion, Germany produces some of the finest wines in the world. There was a time that the wines from the Rhine, Germany’s largest growing region, were on par with the classed growth wines of Bordeaux. But things like prohibition, sandwiched between two world wars, really put a hold on wine production. And Germany’s major export market, the USA, dried up. The grape growers needed to make money so they started producing cheap sweet wines, so the world began to know Germany for Liebfraumilch. Wines like Blue Nun and Black Tower were what was on store shelves and the reputation for this style of wines were made. But there has been a change happening over the last 15 years in Germany. The level of winemaking and the commitment to quality has increased. And with Geisenheim, one of the leading universities for winemaking and grape growing, innovation in the vineyard and in the cellars has helped to bring German wines to the […]

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10 years of Laughing Stock Portfolio

When you are standing on the crush pad at Laughing Stock winery on the Naramata Bench, you can see Glaciers. Or at least how glaciers have altered the landscape of the Okanagan Valley during the last ice age. The Naramata Bench is located in the middle of the Okanagan Valley just north of Penticton on the east side of the Okanagan Lake. The small hamlet of Naramata was once a cottage town where Vancouver people would holiday. While there are still small homesteads scattered up and down the bench, most of the land is now planted with grapes. Currently the Naramata Bench Wineries Association has 25 wineries. Owners of Laughing stock David and Cynthia Enns were at one time financial advisors and the marketing of their wines is entirely based around the stock market. From the ticker tape that shows the closing numbers of the day grapes were harvested, to the Bay Street sign in the vineyard, their previous life is evident throughout the winery. The Enns were in Toronto recently, and I attended a tasting of their ten vintages of their flagship Laughing Stock Portfolio, a Bordeaux blend. Their transition to wine making started in 2001 when David bought […]

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Winery Websites

People often think that being a sommelier consists of drinking wine all day and then talking to guests of the restaurant all night. Sure, there is some truth in that. I am lucky enough to taste a great deal of wine, but I also have to do a lot of research about the wine independently. In this day and age, I am thankful for the internet as a resource tool. Most wineries have a website, making it easy to learn more about what is in the bottle. However, many of these wine sites are consumer-focussed and/or purely marketing and lack any sort of the technical detail I require as a professional sommelier. There are waiters to train, other sommeliers to discuss with and most importantly, paying guests that ask questions. When it is 9pm on a Friday I need to know whether or not that Riesling is sweet or just how juicy that Shiraz really is. Is there enough acidity to stand up to the braised lamb shoulder? If I want to completely geek out about a wine and learn about the clones of each variety and what vineyard they are grown in, I should be able to find that […]

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Put your wine in the microwave

So I read this article about putting pinot noir grapes in the microwave before being crushed and made into wine. The basic idea is that the grapes were fermented for a shorter time and had more colour and tannin. I don’t have access to enough grapes or the equipment to see what would happen myself, but I do have wine. And a microwave. I put the wine in the microwave for 60 seconds, and found that it took a very long time to come back down to proper cellar temperature of 62F. Once it did, the effects were noticeable. And it was not just myself, I poured side by side samples (same wine, one nuked, the other not) for a few other sommeliers and even a chef. One word that was repeated with each taster was metallic. The nuked wine simply lacked any life. It was dull and bitter on the finish and lack aroma too. Here is article that might explain why this happens. It also may make you want to throw your microwave out. If you are having a few people over one night, I suggest you try the side by side nuke test yourself. If you do, I would […]

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Writings about my passion for wine, and the people, places, and stories connected to it.