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Riesling

Newly released: What makes Riesling a “BC” Riesling?

By: Amy Chen XEFP_hiE_400x400

As the world’s 20th most grown grape varietal, Riesling is said to have originated from the Rhine region of Germany during the 15th century. Over time, Riesling made its way to Canada, where it is most commonly used to produce stunning Icewine in Ontario and table or sparkling wines, like the Summerhill Cipes Brut, in British Columbia (BC).

Every wine lover knows the importance of terroir in influencing the taste and flavour of a wine. Even if BC is a relatively young wine region, it still has its unique terroir that defines this region.

According to the British Columbia Wine Institute (BCWI), there are currently 440 acres of Riesling grapes planted throughout vineyards in BC. Regardless of the winemaking style, BC’s Riesling is fairly balanced and acidic.

The general flavour profile for Riesling ranges from fruity flavours of pear, apple, stone fruits, to herbal, citrusy, and floral notes. Minerality and petrol is occasionally tasted in older vintages. It’s also dry to sweet with a light to medium body.

This seems like a wide spectrum of tasting notes for Riesling. So, is there a more specific and distinct flavour profile that is unique to BC Riesling? What makes BC Riesling special?

Acclaimed wine, food and travel writer, Karl Kliparchuk of MyWinePal began to explore this question from the angle of soil. Karl collected BC Riesling (mostly from 2014 vintage) from 35 wineries in various wine regions of BC, including samples from our clients: Evolve Cellars, and Haywire / Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland, Monte Creek Ranch in Kamloops, Mt. Boucherie Winery in West Kelowna, and Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna.

Evolve 2014 Riesling

Evolve 2014 Riesling ($16.99)- Lime juicy with floral notes and a touch of honey sweet. Well balanced citrus and peach, smooth and full-bodied with a seamless palate. Pairs well with crab cakes, other seafoods, Asian cuisine (think red curry), or sweet and spicy dishes.

OCP Mike Bernardo Riesling Cabinett 2014

Mike B Riesling Cabinett 2014 ($25.00)- This Riesling was made in a stainless steel tank and a concrete egg to build complexity and showcase a bright acid and mineral style. This wine stopped fermentation naturally, leaving a touch of sweetness which balances the wine magically. Lemons, lime, and pure fresh Okanagan minerality all lead to a bracing zing that only Riesling can deliver.

Monte Creek Ranch 2014 Riesling ($16.99)- This classic Riesling beauty entices with a brilliant green gold colour and aromas of kiwi, lime rind, wet stone, and honey. Mouth watering acidity and a long, flavourful finish that will make you crave more. Harvested October 13th, 2014.

Mt Boucherie 2013 Riesling

Mt. Boucherie Winery 2013 Riesling ($16.00)- An off-dry white. Refreshing stone fruit, apricot, peach and a hint of citrus and green apple on both the nose and the palate. Pair with smoked salmon, fish tacos or a broccoli and apple salad.

Summerhill 2014 Organic Riesling

Summerhill 2014 Organic Riesling ($22.95)- This classic version under-went a cold stabilized stop of fermentation resulting in a balanced, off-dry wine with low alcohol. Pair with egg dishes such as quiche, frittata or omelette. Also try pairing with seafood, salads and tapas style meals or just enjoy as a sipping wine with friends.

His months-long analysis included an extensive comparison of the tasting notes, soil and geographic region of Riesling throughout BC.

The body of work that Karl developed is unlike anything done in the past, and is such a gift to both the wineries who have been evaluated, as well as the industry at large.

To better guide you through understanding BC Riesling, Karl divided his research into several parts, all of which offer an impressive and comprehensive insight into this aromatic varietal in BC.

What’s your experience with BC Riesling? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet us @TownHallBrands to start the discussion.

Compare and contrast: Finger Lakes Wine and BC Wine

by Sujinder Juneja #TownHallOnTour

#FLXWine vs #BCWine

We have been lucky enough to attend the 8th annual Wine Bloggers Conference, a gathering of bloggers (naturally), industry professionals and wine lovers. This year, the event was held in Corning, New York with a focus on the great wines, producers and the people of the Finger Lakes AVA.

FLX_Vineyard

A diverse, progressive and passionate industry, the Finger Lakes wine region shares many similarities with that of British Columbia, where we are happy to call home. Here are a few of our observations on the connections between the two regions, for your reading pleasure:

Cool Climate Viticulture

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia are both described as ‘cool climate’ wine regions and on average, share a similar amount of degree growing days. However the Finger Lakes region experiences a highly variable climate, with cold winters, cool to warm summers and a short growing season. While there is diversity of climate within the five main BC wine regions (Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands), the climate is less extreme overall and degree days are higher on average.

FLX_Traminette

Planting Grapes To Site

The most established wine regions in the world plant grape varietals that are best suited to that particular site or climate. The most planted grapes in the Finger Lakes are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc along with a selection of lesser known Vitis vinifera (Blaufränkisch, Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni), native Vitis labrusca (Catawba, Niagara) and French-American hybrids (Traminette, Vidal, Seyval Blanc, Valvin Muscat) that suit the climate and produce balanced and delicious wines. By contrast, the top white grape varietals in BC are Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. Other crosses and hybrids such as Ortega, Marechal Foch and select Blattner Hybrids are also planted to produce successful wines. The Finger Lakes and BC wine industries began with native and hybrid varietals with the belief that they would better suit the climate, but consumer preferences in the Fingers Lakes and British Columbia are favouring the more popular vinifera varietals.

Bottled sunshine within the Ventosa Pinot Noir.

What’s Wrong With Hybrids Anyway?

Nothing. If a hybrid grape is grown on a site which allows it to mature to full ripeness, and in the hands of a talented winemaker, they can produce wines that are both balanced and delicious. It’s worth noting that hybrids sell for significantly less by the ton, compared to vinifera varietals, which can affect a winery’s bottom line. Add to that the fact that hybrids are generally less well-known and often hard to pronounce, and therefore market to consumers. One of the most vocal debates during Friday’s Introduction to Finger Lakes Wine Country panel discussion swirled around the contentious use of crosses and hybrids in the region. Consider this: if a hybrid varietal, developed specifically for a particular climate, can produce tasty wines, should they not be celebrated, granting uniqueness to the wine region as a whole? Not all winemakers are convinced. But if you ask someone like Art Hunt at Hunt Country Vineyards, he’ll tell you that his varietally-labelled Seyval Blanc and Valvin Muscat are among their most popular wines. “Millennials want to try new things,” he says. “You can taste 100 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, but wine drinkers want experience something unique.”

Judy Wiltberger at Keuka Spring Vineyards is proud to show off her Vignoles, a French-American hybrid that sells out every year. In her experience, the key is to market regionally, get people into the tasting room where people can try the wines in person. 70-75% of her sales are through her cellar door and challenging her guests with distinct varietals is a way to excite their palates with something new.

A view towards Seneca Lake.

A Sense of Community

Unlike other more competitive regions in the global wine world, the Finger Lakes and British Columbia both enjoy a strong sense of community and partnership. I know firsthand that winery owners and winemakers in BC regularly collaborate and share information and ideas that make the region stronger as a whole. The same is absolutely true for the wineries of the Finger Lakes. If you had the chance, for example, to taste the Tierce Riesling, made by Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt, you’ll know that the wine – and the wine region – is greater than the sum of its parts.

A Window to the World

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia wineries both face the double-edged sword that most of their wine is consumed in their local areas. The challenge offered by the locavore movement in North America means that major cities such as New York and Vancouver consume most of the wine produced in each respective region. Add to that the high tourism rate that each region enjoys means that most wine is sold via the cellar door, limiting the chance for export and global distribution. What this means is that fewer consumers internationally have the chance to taste the wines and understand what the region is all about. At this point, allocation to outside markets becomes a critical path to increasing the prestige and recognition of the regions as a whole.

Fox Run  Vineyards owner Scott Osborn & Town Hall's Sujinder Juneja.

With Open Arms

At the end of the day and at the end of this conference, the greatest impression left on us about the Finger Lakes wasn’t the wine. It was the people. It wasn’t just the wineries and winemakers that opened their arms to welcome us, but also the restaurants, shops, hotels and the community at large. From our first day in Keuka Lake, throughout the expertly-organized pre-conference excursion and to the last day of the conference itself, there was an excitement and overall warmth that was impossible to ignore, and wonderful to be a part of. When the wine bloggers visited Penticton, British Columbia for #WBC13 it was a similar experience as well. Community, a sense of place, and the celebration of diversity were as much a part of the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference as they are in 2015.

See you in 2016 in Lodi, California.

Bob Halifax, April Yap-Hennig, Leeann Froese, Jeff Kralik at James Melendez at Wine Bloggers Conference 2015.