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Wiens on Wine - Wine Education

Posted on May 25, 2023

This post originally appeared in our Wine Line email newsletter. Stan was kind enough to let us post it on our blog as well. Thanks, Stan!

Learn alongside Stan as he completes WSET Level 4.

Days to Final Exam: 377

This week’s focus: Wine Education

First, here is an update on where my WSET Level 4 Diploma journey has taken me. A group of 24 students met in Kelowna, B.C., this past January for our first lectures, complete with many wine tours, and a focus on Viticulture and Winemaking. Level 4 takes two years to complete and has 6 required areas of focus, complete with theory and blind-tasting exams. We wrote the first exam in February and I am glad to say, after three months of waiting for the results, I passed. We wrote the second exam in March (Wine Business) and I will let you know when I hear the results…unless I fail. The next theory and tasting exam will be on sparkling wine and fortified wine (January of 2024), followed by a final exam in May of 2024. The sixth component is a research paper on a topic-specific wine, which will be given to us in August (exactly what I want to be working on this summer). All this to say, level four is intense and not for everyone. So what about you? What is the best way to learn about the vast world of wine?

There are many schools of thought (pun intended) on how best to grow your knowledge base about wine and here are two suggestions.

First, take a small but formal step. There are many great education providers – I chose to go with Fine Vintage Ltd. WSET Levels 1 can be done in a day, WSET 2 is usually done over a three-day period. WSET 3 takes a little longer. There is also the International Sommelier Guild, specific classes on wine regions, food pairings and many more. If you go down this road, I encourage you to do it with a friend.

Second, you can learn informally by being just a little bit intentional. Here is what I mean:

Be adventurous and try something new! Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try a varietal or region you haven't explored before. Talk to your wine professional – we love to help with this
Focus on one region, and try three or four wines from one specific area. For example, try a small region like Beaujolais and select an inexpensive and simple Beaujolais, Beaujolais Village (a general blend of grapes from the region), Beaujolais “Moulin a Vent” (or any of the 10 villages, which is a more concentrated style from specific vineyard sites).
Take notes! Keep track of the wines you try, what you liked or didn't like about them, and any other relevant details. This can help you identify patterns and preferences over time, and make more informed choices in the future. 


Obviously, visit your wine store, buy something new, and kee...

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Wiens on Wine - Understanding Sulphites

Posted on May 15, 2023

This post originally appeared in our Wine Line email newsletter. Stan was kind enough to let us post it on our blog as well. Thanks, Stan!

Learn alongside Stan as he completes WSET Level 4.

Days to Final Exam: 384

This week’s focus: The dreaded "S" Word: Sulphites

“This product contains sulphites” is what we will commonly read on the back label of many wines. Is this good or bad? I will start with my conclusion. Yes! Sulphur Dioxide is necessary, even unavoidable in various aspects of winemaking, yet can be harmful if consumed in too large a quantity. Thankfully, regulations around SO2 quantities that are allowed are moving in a more restrictive direction.

Being concerned about sulphite consumption is understandable, but with wine, the worry sometimes needs a bit of context to understand what the proportion is and what it means. Consider that dried fruits, which many of us consume regularly, can carry as much as ten times the amount of sulphites compared to even the most heavy-handed use in wine.

With all of the concern about sulphites, why do wines contain them at all? There are good reasons for adding SO2. Below is an explanation of how, when and why sulphites are used in the wine industry:

  So2 is used as a preservative in winemaking to prevent oxidation and bacterial growth.
They are added to wine in small amounts during fermentation, and again before bottling, to preserve freshness and protect against spoilage.
Sulphites also have a role in stabilizing colour and flavour in wine.
SO2 can be applied in gas, liquid or solid forms and will often be added to the bins of grapes immediately after harvesting to enable a safe trip to the winery.
In red wines, the European countries limit SO2 to 150 mg/L and in white wines, 200 mg/L. Sweet wines will usually contain even more sulphites than dry wines.
The timing of adding SO2 is everything. You can use less SO2 overall if you use larger amounts during more critical times of wine production, such as during grape crushing or just before bottling.
Good winery hygiene and diligent grape sorting limit the amount of microbial spoilage and therefore the need for additional SO2.
Picking grapes often happens at night, when temperatures are cool, which also limits microbial spoilage.

Fun Fact:

Even in organic and natural winemaking, SO2 occurs, well, organically and naturally. SO2 is a natural by-product of fermentation. If it can stay below 10mg per litre, a producer can label their wine “sulphite free”. However, even in the most conservative winery (sustainable, biodiverse, organic, natural or otherwise), a wine will contain more than 10mg per litre.


Just drink wine and enjoy!

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Wiens on Wine - Understanding Aromas and Flavours in Wine

Posted on May 8, 2023

This post originally appeared in our Wine Line email newsletter. Stan was kind enough to let us post it on our blog as well. Thanks, Stan!

Learn alongside Stan as he completes WSET Level 4.

Days to Final Exam: 391

This week’s focus: Understanding Aromas and Flavours in Wine

It can be confusing trying to understand where the aromas in your wine come from. It’s made from grapes, so how come people talk about the aromas of cherry, plum, blackberry, cinnamon, chocolate, smoke, clove, flowers, dried herbs and on and on? Think of it like a great Jazz Trio - great music yet three great and distinctly different musicians!

Wine has aromas and flavours that come from the grape itself (Primary), from the process of how the wine was made (Secondary) and from the maturing process of time after the wine is in the bottle (Tertiary). Almost all wines have primary aromas. Good wines have at least two of the three categories. Outstanding wines often have all three in symphonic harmony (primary, secondary and tertiary). Let’s look at each area:


These are the main aromas and flavours that come from the grape itself. Grape skins and pulp contain compounds (and precursors) which release during the fermentation process. For example, Sauvignon Blanc contains a compound that can give off grassy aromas (Thiols). Syrah is often associated with a peppery taste (Rotundune). Other compounds are more fruity, which can change depending on the ripeness of the grapes at harvest. This is where the cherry, plum, blackberry, floral and herbal aromas originate. Thanks to the presence of so many compounds, we experience an array of sensations.


These give a wine more depth, complexity and enjoyment and come from the fermentation process before maturing or bottling. Three key sources of these unique flavours are yeast; a process known as malolactic conversion; and bottle maturing the wine in oak barrels.

Yeast - as the wine ferments and spends time on the dead (and dying) yeast, compounds are released into the wine that can give your wine hints of toasted bread, pastry, dough, cheese and sometimes a nutty flavour.

Malolactic Conversion – is a fancy term for a process that alters harsh Lactic acid into a smoother Malo acid. This process, which can be blocked or encouraged by the winemaker's choice, brings buttery aromas and flavours (think Chardonnay). This softening process imparts hints of butter, cream and cheese.

Oak - as wine ferments (or matures) in an oak barrel, the wood imparts many flavours, giving your wine hints of vanilla, cloves, coconut, cedar, charred wood, chocolate or coffee. Yum.


These refer to the complex characteristics that develop during the aging process of wine in the ...

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Wiens on Wine - Burgundy

Posted on April 27, 2023

This post originally appeared in our Wine Line email newsletter. Stan was kind enough to let us post it on our blog as well. Thanks, Stan!

Learn alongside Stan as he completes WSET Level 4.

Days to Final Exam: 399

This week’s focus: Burgundy

Burgundy is located on the central, east side of France, nestled between the region of Champagne, in the north, and the Rhone Valley, in the south. Burgundy is the classic home of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and is considered the benchmark for producers worldwide. The climate is cool in the north, providing outstanding, crisp, clean Chardonnay’s, in the region of Chablis. As you travel south, towards Beaujolais, the temperature rises modestly, providing the best expressions of Pinot Noir in the world.

Buying wine from this region of France needs a little explanation and can be confusing. Let’s break it down as simply as possible and then provide you with a little homework – trying a few wines that may be new to you.

Burgundy, Bourgogne, Haute Côtes de Bourgogne, Cote d’Or and so forth are all talking about the same general region. Burgundy is split into five smaller regions (from North to South): Chablis which produces Chardonnay; Cote d’Or (split further into Côte de Nuits and Cote de Beaune) produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (arguably the best in the world); Cote Chalonnais and Maconnais. Many also include the southernmost region of Beaujolais, which makes simple to outstanding red wine from the grape variety known as Gamay.

Fun fact:

Beaujolais is currently in the process of trying to achieve Premier Cru classification for a few select vineyards in the village of Fleurie. One of my favourite red wines comes from the small village of Moulin-a-Vent, a fuller expression of Gamay.


Three wines to drink to help get to know the region: Chablis (Chardonnay - typically unoaked), Pinot Noir from any region in Burgundy; and Beaujolais (from simple to full body…ask your wine expert in the store :)

Stan Wiens can be found working at our shop sporadically in between lengthy bouts of drinking wine ("studying") in order to complete Level 4 of the WSET program.

You can also find Stan on Instagram: @wiensonwine


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KWM 2022 Whisky Calendar Day 25: Scotch Malt Whisky Society 63.99

Posted on December 27, 2022

BONUS CONTENT: Read Andrew's post on the Glenfarclas KWM Casks we have had over the years, including our current 1992 Family Cask!

by Evan

We made it, folks! Twenty-four days straight of whisky in small bottles to make that difficult trudge to Christmas Day all the more pleasant and fulfilling. Did it work? Did you find some new favourites? I know I did.

It is fun to take this time to reflect on the Whisky Calendar as a whole. Did some bottles stand out for you? I had tasted a few of these bottles before, though some I had never paid as much attention to. The most exciting part for myself was tasting some that were entirely new to me. Now that I have written about and tasted them all, here is a list of my personal top five six from the 25 in this year's lineup:

6 - Isle of Raasay Single Malt - From Day 21

5 -  Kilchoman Sanaig -  From Day - From Day 10

4 - Paul John Peated Select Cask - From Day 22

3 - Boutique-y Inchfad - Batch 1 - 13 Year - From Day 20

2 - Boutique-y Teaninich - Batch 3 - 10 Year - From Day 4

1 - Read on... Or click on this link to find out (SPOILERS)!

There is a lot of That Boutique-y Whisky Company on my list! What were your favourites from the 2022 KWM Whisky Calendar? Do you have a top five?

We have a tradition of ending our Whisky Calendar with a special 100ml bottle from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada. If you have purchased and enjoyed the KWM Whisky Calendar in previous years then this is not a revelation. Luckily, the bottle selected for the Calendar is always a surprise and something a little bit different. We will get to that soon. But first, for those new to our Whisky Calendar and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society - what is the big deal?

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is the world's largest whisky club, and also an independent bottler. As a club, it has close to 30,000 members all over the world, and branches in close to 20 different countries. It bottles as broad a range of single cask, single malt Scotch whiskies as any other firm - if not more - and it doesn't stop there. It has also bottled Japanese whiskies, Bourbon, Grain whisky, Cognac, Armagnac, Rum, and Gin. Whether it is a whisky or another spirit, the Society always bottles the spirit from a single cask, straight from the cask, Unfiltered. Undiluted. Unrivalled.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was officially founded back in 1983. Membership to the SMWS is easy and gives you exclusive access to the widest selection of single cask single malt whiskies anywhere in the world. The Canada Chapter of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society celebrated its 10th birthday in October of 2021. Only Scotch Malt Whisky Society members can buy our exclusive...

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