On the Real! - The Outside Looking In.

Music paired with this entry - Stormzy 'Shut Up' - really it's about striving to be the best at what you do....However you want to interpret…display....portray....it's up to you....as long as nobody gets hurt. 

From Burgundy on King Street to Rum on Dundas… today was a good day of wine tasting and industry harmony. In brief the afternoon started with a Master Class tasting of Wines of Burgundy hosted by Sopexa and moderated by John Szabo. A fantastic and welcome seminar on the 'village wines' of Burgundy. About 20 Village level wines, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, tasted blind for structure and relevance in a new world and old world context. The experience was profound for many of us. A room full of 20 hardcore Sommeliers, Wine Writers and Industry professionals, it's not often we get to taste wines blind and learn…most often we are there to taste and offer analysis and critique and then think of purchasing. Here we were students once again as we are always meant to be. Bravo Sopexa and John Szabo. 


Then off to service. Normal for a Tuesday night. Though this evening, over at Archive Wine Bar, Will Predhomme and Nicholas Pearce were hosting a unique wines of South Africa tasting. Showcasing some cool wines that they tasted and experienced on a recent trip to the Cape, they shared these wines with a good dollop of Toronto's crème de la crème wine elite in attendance…'the Cru' as Nick Pearce put it in a text to me as I was riding over. Exploring a series of above normal wines from South Africa I missed the bulk of the tasting but had the opportunity to taste the 'Sparkling Horse' sparkling wine. Delicious. Over glasses of Bouzeron, Clos de la Roilette and Toro Albala Sherry we all discussed life in Paris, wines of the County, while I sipped Mount Gay XO Barbados Rum and the Cru rocked out to what's his name…Queen and Freddie Mercury. A good night pre-Christmas Madness. 

A full report in on the Burgundy tasting…in blog format to follow….

A Taste of Bourgogne - April 8th Luncheon Tasting.


Earlier this month I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a structured seminar on the fine wines of Burgundy, France. It would be impossible to fully capture the true essence Burgundy in one sitting, in reality it would take a lifetime. I and a few other Sommelier and Media Representatives were presented with a well curated snapshot of the whole region via 15 different wines starting in Chablis continuing down to Rully and further down to Pouilly-Fuissé in the Maçonnais.

Vins de Bourgogn le 8 Avril 2014

Vins de Bourgogn le 8 Avril 2014

This seminar hosted by Sopexha was presented in tandem, by John Szabo, Master Sommelier (Toronto), and Francois Labet, vigneron and Chairman of the BIVB* Marketing and Communication Commission (France) with the assistance of Nelly Blau, Manager of Export Marketing and Communication for BIVB* (France)

  *Bureau Interprofessinnel des Vins de Bourgogne.

All wines selected for the seminar were sourced from the LCBO and through Consignment Agents. During the introduction given by Francois, it was made clear that Burgundy and Canada enjoy a positive and longstanding relationship that has lasted for many years. The Quebec and Ontario markets are very important to the Burgundians. Recent vintages have been good but reduced in quantity and availability. The purpose for the visit/tasting was to reconnect  with a Toronto public, the Restaurant and Hospitality community and for those of us attending the seminar, it was another opportunity to taste and understand the region, this time in a very non-academic format. 

Francois Labet introduces the Wines of Burgundy

Francois Labet introduces the Wines of Burgundy

During the introduction to the tasting there were a few important key facts about Burgundy  that were brought to our attention, facts that I feel should be shared with you for a greater understanding of Burgundy and its' importance in the continued history of wine. 

1. Burgundy, and particularly the vineyards of the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits are soon to be recognized as an Official UNESCO World Heritage Site. A worthy consideration because of the Burgundian geographical history of soil, and for it's European Cultural and Historical significance of which a great part of this history is based on the vine and wine.

2. Some would argue that the notion of 'terroir' was born in France, with Burgundy as the clearest example. John Szabo offered up this formula for the argument supporting the 'terroir case for Burgundy. The following is the formula: Soil + Climate + Vine + the Intervention of Man + HUMILITY. Humility being the key factor, stemming from the Burgundian history of the Cistercian Monks crafting the first of Burgundy's great wines. The life purpose of the monk was to work and live by god and to produce the best wine that they could offer up to the heavens. In producing such wine only an extreme amount of Humility would allow the the best possible wine, even in the face of the ever unpredictable nature of the elements of the earth, sky and the heavens. The monks discipline was to perfect gods work exemplified through wine. It was the monks that identified that different plots of land that gave way to different qualities of wine. Thus the creating of the base for 'cru' vineyards and the notion of terroir that we know and understand today. 

John Szabo defining Burgundy and Terroir

John Szabo defining Burgundy and Terroir

3. Burgundy has a history of wine making that started in the middle ages, a history that has been more or less uninterrupted throughout the ages. Even through the decades of political, economical unrest and the turmoil due to war, the vineyards of Burgundy have remained intact thus creating a long period of production which has allowed continual development and growth. There are few regions around the world that have been so favoured by so many. A long and rich history is a key factor adding to the prominence and importance of this region in current times. 

soil + climate + intervention of man + humility = the true notion of Terroir. Humility being an important factor determining man’s purpose in wine.
— John Szabo

Here I will list the wines tasted and highlight the wines which I found of particular interest. Based on my limited experience these notes are by no means based on a score or critique. They are simply a sommeliers analysis of wine. The omission of notes on a wine is by no means an indication of judgment or a lack of quality. 

An intimate conversation with Nelly Blau, a native Burgundia

An intimate conversation with Nelly Blau, a native Burgundia

CHARDONNAY based wines.

1. Chablis AOC,  2012. Domain Gautheron. $24.95. Vintages 207902. A wine with a bright lemon and citrus attack, a nice touch of lees leading to slight melon and banana with a nervy amount of acid. Some texture on the palate, mineral and driven of medium complexity. Oak maturation was evident but restrained.

2. 1er Cru Montmains AOC, 2010. La Chablisienne.  $28.95. Vintages 265090

3. Bourgogne Blanc AOC, 2013. Louis Jadot. $20.95. Vintages Essential. 

4. Mâcon-Villages AOC, 2012. Maison Joseph Drouhin. $17.75 Vintages 356956

5. Rully 1er Cru, Mont-Palais, 2011. Domaine Jaeger-Defaix. $41.99 Consignment. I found the wine to be quite taught and focused, with a nutty almond character under the fruit. There was a slight spiced component to the aromatics of the wine which I found intriguing and added to the complexity of the wine. Palate was dry, saline, mineral and tart like that of plum skin. 

6. Pouilly-Fuissé AOC, 'Vieilles Vignes', 2010 Château Vitallis $27.95 Vintages 360495

7. Pouilly-Fuissé Ver Cras AOC Château de Beauregard 2010. Masion Joseph Burrier $49.95 Consignment. This wine was deliciously tart and lifted, rosemary, lemon, lime, chalky minerality and bright presenting a complex 'nose'. The follow through on the palate was equally tart and textured, fresh pear to slightly bruised apple, soft spice and a certain viscosity t the palate. 

NOTE: I found the Pouilly-Fuissé wines to be of great value and quality. The discussion upon tasting the wines lead to the admission by our hosts that some vineyards had been submitted for 'premier cru' status, which would lead to an eventual stratification of Pouilly-Fuissé, much like the rich cousins of Côtes de Beaune and des Nuits to the north. Creating a new profile of quality for the region of Pouilly-Fuissé. 

8. Chassange-Montrachet AOC, 'Vieilles Vignes' 2012. Maison Vincent Girardin. $55.75 Vintages 364141. The aromatics on the wine gave way to ginger, lemon and a nice mineral touch. The wine was tart, mineral and with a bright acid structure, all of this contributing to its great elegance on the palate. Sourced from 50 year old vines there was a lot happening in this wine, with chalky, stoney and some vegetal tones shining through. 

PINOT NOIR based wines: 

9. Bourgogne Rouge AOC, 2010. Maison André Delorme. $20.95. Vintages 366427. 

10. Givry 1er Cru, Cellier aux Moines AOC, 2008. Domain Thénard. $32.50. Consignment. A pleasant wine of fresh red berry fruit, some caramelized chocolate, floral and a slight herbed nose, to a palate that was earthy, mineral, elevated in acid, with medium tannin. Some bitter vegetable, and more earth adding a complex dimension to the wine. 

11. Beaune 1er Cru, Beaune du Château AOC, 2009. Dom. Bouchard Père & Fils. $36.90 LCBO Signature 325142

12. Beaune 1er Cru, Les Grèves AOC, 2010. Maison Roche de Bellene. $46.95 Consignment. 

13. Pommard, Clos des Ursulines AOC, 2011. Dom. du Paviollon, Masion. Albert Bichot. $49.95 Vintages 23820. This was a very attractive wine, with dark bramble and rhubarb fruit, wrapped by smokey and hickory tones, celery and a touch of espresso or raw chocolate. The mouthfeel was that of bright red cherry fruit over the dark berry from the nose. firm tannin and great structure.

14. Morey-Saint-Denis AOC, 2010. Domaine Aurélien Verdet. $36.25. Vintages 354316 One of the few wines in the tasting based on biodynamic practices. The wine was plush and elegant with a soft earthy feel. more bramble of red and black fruit, fleshy. A sweet and tart pleasant sipping wine. I think future vintages will certainly produce better wines as a result of biodynamic practices. 

15. Nuits-Saint-George AOC 'Vieilles Vignes', 2011. Domaine Daniel Rion & Fils. $53.75 Vintages 356600. A continuation of that delightful bramble fruit nose, that wafts between cherry and other red berry, nice cinnamon and warm wood spice - similar in tone to the Pommard but a different range. The palate had what seemed like sweeter, rich black fruit, with candy cinnamon to fine elegant acid and tannin.