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In the last few years, we have seen an astonishing resurgence of a certain contention in wine Doctrine. Feisty millennials and thirsty enthusiasts alike are ferociously curious with the moniker ”Natural Wine“. The “natural” approach to wine is a thorny concept to define. These wines have become extremely popular with the younger generation of wine professionals and enthusiasts. Many have skipped “classic” styles and have curiously dived straight into the story of Natural Wine.
Natural Wine, both in concept and in practice, have unlimited dispositions, and so giving clarity to their characters in simple or painless explanation is reasonably difficult.
However, while natural winemakers can share differing styles and philosophies, their convictions are cut from the same cloth…
Valentine’s Day is all about spending time with your special someone. We notarize the idea of splurging our significant others with chocolates, flowers, wine, and cheese, and stress ourselves out to make sure Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year. I think this concept is fully bogus, to be completely honest. We lose the magic, we stress ourselves and aggravate our credit card for some commercialized ideal. So why don’t we just take a step back, relax and just enjoy ourselves?
This tasting was created to show how to pair wines with food, to allow you to make a special pairing at home, to bring the romance back into date night.
How to Pair Wine with Food
I always look at pairing as if I was creating a meal; what flavour would work together, and what components do I need to balance out the dish?
When it comes to creating the perfect pair, we look at the elements of the dish vs the elements of the wine. Here is a basic guide of what to look for:
The general rule is to have a higher level of sweetness in the wine than in the food. Sweetness in food increases the perception of bitterness, astringency, acidity, and alcohol whilst decreasing the perception of body, sweetness, and fruitiness in the wine.
Acidity is generally a good thing with a pairing, especially if you have a very high acidity wine where it brings everything into balance. But if you pair a somewhat acidic dish with a low acidity wine, the wine will show as flat, flabby and lifeless.
I’ve never been super comfortable with the idea of whisky and food pairings. Not because I don’t believe you can find complimentary flavour profiles, but because I don’t think they make the best of bedfellows. Food fights the whisky. Whisky fights the food. And at the end of the day, you lose a little of the best of each.
Alcohol, by nature, is going to anesthetize the tastebuds. And, as any professional taster will tell you, food is going to taint the palate for maximizing how receptive you are to nuance and subtlety. Hence the reason most of them insist that ‘tasting’ should be done in the morning and on an empty stomach. Hmmm…perhaps they’re more inclined to maximize the effect of alcohol, too.
We are definitely in the middle of a Gin renaissance or Gin Craze, if you will. With distilleries popping up left and right, and the difficulties of laying down barreled spirit for years and years, gin is both a stream of revenue and an outlet for sensational creativity. You can extract nearly any flavour you can think of from many herbs, spices, nuts, berries and, really, nearly anything you can think of, and this, combined with the use of varied grains and distilling practices means that ethanol is more or less a blank canvas on which an artist can paint and layer swaths of sensations and create their vision rather than see what evolves out of wood and time.
For this little adventure through Gin land, we were lucky enough to have Last Best’s own Master Distiller Bryce Parsons to help guide us through some of the nuances of the practice, along with some first-hand knowledge of 3 of our 6 gins for the evening. We are equally if not more lucky to have our neighbour’s Peasant Cheese to provide food to gorge on while tasting! We started off with a simple cocktail I’ll describe later on, and dove right in!
What Makes Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir?
Pinot noir is not a grape to be messed with. It is notoriously difficult to grow, with it being nicknamed the heartbreak grape. It’s thin-skins burn easily in hot temperatures, and are too delicate in cold areas, so there are only a few areas where it thrives. The epicentre of Pinot Noir is Burgundy. Burgundy is located in central-eastern France, where is a mild continental climate, making ita suitable area for Pinot Noir. Another reason why Pinot Noir does so well there is because of the terroir. Millions of years ago, Burgundy was part of a vast, tropical sea, which in time created limestone soils famous in the region. Because of this geological makeup, Burgundian Pinot Noirs develop some zesty minerality that makes them irresistible.
Burgundian wines are the heart and soul of Pinot Noir or have been previously, but because of rising prices, people have started to look elsewhere for their pinots. But what other regions could compete with the OG Burgundy? That’s where this tasting comes in.
In this tasting, we explored Pinot Noirs from other regions, and if they could stand up to Burgundy. Given the restrictions of the tasting, we didn’t get to explore every region we wanted, but we chose wines that would best represent the main opposing regions; New Zealand, Australia, British Columbia, Oregon, and California.
Woo! This was my first rum tasting! So much fun deciding my lineup, figuring out what to talk about, research the points I’m not quite as clear on. Tasting through my lineup to set the order and prepare notes. It’s definitely one of the most fun parts of the job. It’s even more fun when I get to share all my knowledge and these tasty spirits with you all.
We went from India to Central America and the Caribbean and down to South America to taste some of the more interesting rums on my shelves. On the way, we got to talk a bit about Rhum Agricole Rum, along with the spirit’s ties to the navy, trade and -like all things back then- slavery.
We snacked on some specifically selected cheeses and sweet accompaniments from Peasant Cheese, and dove right in to taste the following.
February typically marks a shift here at Kensington Wine Market. You would think that January would slow down for us, but it doesn’t – at least not much. Christmas and New Years might be done but the first month of the year was crammed with events. We hit the ground running with the January Outturn on the 3rd and 4th followed by plenty of other wine, whisky and beer tastings over the following two weeks. Then the already fast pace became even more frenzied with three festivals, our sale weekend and then inventory all happening within only eleven days from the 17th to the 28th.
We are finished our big winter holiday rush and it almost feels as if there is time to breathe. Don’t get me wrong: I love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, especially working in a small shop like KWM. We are a tight-knit crew that typically gets along with little to no issues cropping up. Not that we would time for personality clashes or friction to come into play. The importance of momentum cannot be understated. Any serious strife would take too much planning and effort when you have to keep all of these plates spinning as well.
Those plates will keep on spinning, too. There is always plenty that needs to be done at the shop and seemingly never enough time to deal with it all. The pace may not be quite as chaotic and frenetic as it is from November (actually, more like early to mid-October) until the end of January, but that means we can look up, calmly take in our surroundings, and thank our lucky stars that we are all here, scoping out these wonderful green bottles once more.
As we enter a new year and work our pocketbooks through the holiday season hangover, there is nothing better than finding delicious wines that fit a budget. It happens to us all: we have a fantastic and very busy Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, or just time of the year where it seems like everything is and festive and celebratory. There are so many reasons to spend more money over the time, so it is fair that when January comes around all you want to do is tighten your wallet a bit but still enjoy the pleasures of life! That is what these tastings are all about. Finding wines that speak to you and don’t beat up your bank account. We try to find value-driven wines that are still well-made and delicious.
Going into this tasting I faced some of the dilemmas that I always seem to fight, which wines should I pour? I want to make sure that they are something that will be enjoyable for everyone, something different that we have never tried before, as well as things that are interesting. We are spoiled for options in the store so trying to decide what would work best is definitely something that takes some planning and creative decision-making. In the end, I was able to come up with a fun line-up and paired with some of the best cheese and charcuterie around from our neighbour’s Peasant Cheese. Continue reading
It’s time, it’s time! My annual tradition of balling out on stouts to kick off a new year of beer tastings! Typically this is one of my most popular tastings, though this year there was a slight slump in attendance. That’s okay though, because those that passed up the opportunity may regret it after seeing what was poured. They will rue the day! Next to mixed fermented and barrel fermented sour beers, stouts and porters are among the most expensive and thoughtful beers available. These sorts of tastings allow us to open the beers you may normally shy away from and share them among friends. On top of that, Peasant cheese puts together boards full of delicious snacks to go with our beverages. It’s a lot of value packed into a couple of hours!
It’s always fun to tweak these tastings to make something new and keep them fresh. Normally I would run the gamut of thick dark beers, and take you on a tour of porters, Baltic porters, Stouts, imperials and all the like. This time, however, I wanted to showcase modern beer making because with beer being at the absolute height of its popularity, it’s forcing the crowded brewing market to push creativity and boundaries. So there are a lot of flavours flying around, a lot of non-traditional ingredients and even new sub-styles (or maybe even sub-sub-styles?) being utilized and created. As much as I love a good ol’ classic stout, some of the world’s best brewers are incorporating some very special things into beer and creating things of true beauty. Strap yourself in and read on! Continue reading