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British Columbians wines worth sampling for those on a budget

Time:2016-11-24 20:13wine - Red wine life health Click:

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There was a restaurant manager I used to work for whose stock response to any employee who came to him with a problem or complaint was: “Great. That’s the problem; now what’s the solution?”

Although this might sound like someone shirking responsibility, he was probably the most effective manager I had ever worked for. He never tolerated complaining for the sake of complaining, but if you came to him with a problem as well as a potential solution to that problem, he’d ensure it would be taken care of.

I was reflecting on this during the past few weeks because of, well, a problem that has come up—something I made mention of a few columns back. My issue surrounded wines labelled “international Canadian blend”, also known as “cellared in Canada” wines. These are the dirt-cheap wines, often coming from well-known Canadian brands like Jackson-Triggs, and often found adjacent to the British Columbia section of retail stores.

Any of these wines labelled as above can be made from Canadian wine grapes or international ones, and they are often a mix of the two. This marketing sleight of hand is confusing to consumers, many of whom assume that they are drinking Canadian wine (and supporting local grape growers), yet the bottle they have in their hands may not contain one drop of local juice.

It has been said ad nauseam by many industry players, and I’ll repeat it yet again, that there needs to be a policy change toward clear and concise truth in labelling to avoid consumers being confused. Policy moves slowly, though, and who knows when (and if) this will come to fruition.

So that’s the problem.

Part of coming up with a tangible solution, something consumers can do right now, is to illustrate viable alternatives to these international Canadian blends.

Now, I get the attraction to them. They are cheap wines, usually anywhere from nine to 12 bucks, and for many people, that’s their wine budget. Our British Columbian wine industry is a small-scale industry, and it is difficult to produce wines from 100-percent-B.C. grapes that can come in at the lower end of that price spectrum.

Unlike winemaking regions in many other countries, we just don’t operate at as high an industrial level, with endless vineyard acreage, machine harvesters combing all areas, and wine factories churning out millions of cases each year. Currently, our entire provincial production is below three million cases. This is why the only decent under-$10 wines in this market come from outside our borders, from places like Portugal, Spain, and Chile.

So what’s the solution for those who want to drink local but keep their wine budget to an absolute minimum?

I tasted through a bunch of the cheapest entirely British Columbian wines I could track down and have the following to share. You will end up paying a couple bucks more than for those international Canadian blends, but if your mission is to drink local, then consider this mission accomplished.

Also, by no means are these the best of the best wines in our province. Where we compete internationally and really start hitting our stride is around the $15 to $17 mark when compared to international wines at similar prices. But if you have a $5 and $10 bill in your pocket and want to keep it local, here are some bottles you should be looking for.

Gray Monk Latitude 50 White 2015

($12.49, B.C. Liquor Stores)

Light and aromatic, this blend of Müller-Thurgau, Bacchus, and Gewürztraminer carries floral character and tropical-fruit notes like guava, papaya, and a splash of honeydew. Slightly off-dry. Serve it well chilled with Asian cuisine and feel free to spice it up.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery Birch Canoe Pinot Blanc 2015

($12.29, B.C. Liquor Stores)

The driest of my white recommendations; a bite of Granny Smith apple with muddled lemon and a nice little flinty note.

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery Ogopogo’s Lair Pinot Grigio 2014

($12.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

A richer version of the grape, chock-full of ultraripe peaches and apricots, dripping with honey, and flecked with fresh sage.

Conviction Dreamers & Schemers Red 2015

($13.79, B.C. Liquor Stores)

Calona Vineyards was British Columbia’s first winery, established in 1932. This fresh and accessible makeover brings value to wine-store shelves, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality of this particular bottling. It’s predominantly Merlot, with 21 percent Cabernet Franc, and the zippy, herbaceous red fruit of the latter variety dovetails well with the Merlot’s round blueberry and cherry fruit. A smattering of cocoa and nutmeg offers extra complexity.

50 Peaks Merlot 2012

($10 to $12, private liquor stores)

This one isn’t too easy to find. It’s on shelves at some of the suburban supermarkets that carry wine; otherwise, it can be uncovered at the odd private liquor store in Vancouver. I recently spotted it at Legacy Liquor Store in Olympic Village. It is easily quaffable, with a whole basket of berries on show: strawberries, red currants, raspberries, and blackberries all make an appearance.

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