There are some who would like to further tax or otherwise impede the sale of imported wines in B.C. in some misguided attempt to give local wines the inside edge at retail and restaurants; I'm not one of them.
The only way B.C. wines are going to get the recognition they crave is to compete head to head with the rest of the world. Worldwide competition is what has made our wines stronger, and it will help keep the lid on ever-rising local prices.
Last month we looked at some of the best reds in the province. Now, as we prepare for the holiday season, we've put together a case of "entertaining" wines made up of six pairings that will allow you and your guests to compare or contrast a highly regarded British Columbia wine with a similar example from elsewhere in the wine world. For a really enlightening experience you should consider hiding the bottles and serving them blind.
Sparkling wine is a holiday favourite and I can report that we're really beginning to get a handle on this bottle-fermented beverage. One of the most consistent labels in the province is the Blue Mountain Brut $23.90 a classy, dry, cool-style sparkler that's fresh and mineral driven and very food friendly. Our match here is from Tasmania, Australia: Jansz Premium Cuvée Chardonnay-Pinot Noir N/V $27.99. The styles are similar, and in this case the Jansz boasts red apple, cherry and citrus flavours with bright pear and grapefruit. Bring on the appetizers.
Chardonnay remains popular and worldwide we see a significant shift to a cooler, cleaner, fresher style that works with food. Winemaker Nikki Callaway has been chiselling the fat from her Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada $20.49, now a refreshing melon and ripe-apple flavoured white flecked with sweet tangerine notes. Meanwhile, in Chile, winemaker Marcelo Papa has done the same, tweaking his Concha y Toro Marqués de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2014 $19.99 from Chile's Limari Valley. Calcium-clad clay is the base for three chardonnay clones, whole-cluster pressed and fermented in oak vats before barrel aging for 11 months. Two great bottles at excellent prices.
One of the best New World red blends we have tasted in a while from B.C. is the Osoyoos Larose 2013 $44.95 from the south Okanagan Valley. All the cassis and black fruit you can imagine, mixed with plums and cherries and perfect acidity makes it highly attractive now, but it will age effortlessly for a decade. Sporting the same sort of New World Euro-style is the Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville District $53.99. Fragrant and complex, the fruit is decidely ripe but with fine-grained supple tannins giving it a sophisticated mouth feel and length. A stunning pairing of reds.
Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Classique 2014 $44.99 is a little more New World and a little less Old World in 2014 but this savoury, brooding red with floral black fruits is a south Okanagan star. You can't help but look to the south of France when you taste it, and we suggest you pair it with the great single vineyard Paul Jaboulet Ainé Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 2013 $55.95. Thalabert was purchased in 1834 so it's not a fair fight yet, but its aromatic, finely ground pepper and black-fruit nose mix with Christmas cake, licorice and a stony minerality that mimics the south Okanagan. If lamb is on the menu serve this pairing to see why we need to embrace the world of wine.
The pinot noir world is a mystery of style and soil so comparisons should be kept simple. In this case we suggest the Meyer Pinot Noir 2015 $25 from Okanagan Falls versus La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013 $29.49 from Sonoma Coast, California. The Meyer entry-level pinot is ripe and round, but what we really like is its juicy, cranberry/cherry fruit and silky textures. Speaking of smooth, the cherries cranberries and wild raspberry fruit of La Crema pinot come with a spicy undercurrent and a supple, slippery finish. Perfect with salmon, roasted birds or soft cheese.
Riesling wraps up our case of wine — a grape with unlimited potential in the coolest parts of B.C. but one that will never be easy to sell. At the value end of the spectrum we love the Wild Goose Riesling 2015, Okanagan Valley $15 from Okanagan Falls. It's an intoxicating mix of mineral, clover, floral honey notes with bright green-apple and citrus lime flavours. Leitz Dragonstone Riesling Kabinett 2015 $18.99 is equal to the task with its lively acidity and juicy lime and green-apple fruit. Both are super food-friendly, made for holiday season entertaining. Think chicken, veal or sushi.
That's an even dozen bottles providing six entertaining evenings of comparison. Of course, you could simply relax and drink them for what they are — quality wines from around the world. The choice is yours.
Anthony Gismondi is a globetrotting wine writer who makes his home in West Vancouver, British Columbia. For more of his thoughts on wine log onto www.gismondionwine.com.