|February 04, 2004|
|Product of Canada, eh? The mystery of labels|
In the Bad Old Days, you couldn't trust anything you read on a wine label. Any old red wine made in Australia, the United States, New Zealand or Canada was labelled Burgundy, any white was called Chablis, and anything with bubbles was Champagne.
Although appellations (the names of designated wine regions) had been around in Europe since the early 1900s, they didn't mean much to many producers.
Then along came stricter wine laws, international agreements to protect appellations, better enforcement, and better educated and more demanding wine consumers (like you). People began to look at wine labels as reliable guides to the grape varieties used, alcohol content and even style and quality.
But look along the labels on the shelves in the LCBO and you'll still see some pretty troubling things.
First, the Bad Old Days haven't disappeared entirely. There's a sparkling wine called "Canadian Champagne" and a white called "Vineyard White. Canadian Chablis." Champagne and Chablis refer to prestigious French wine regions, and it's like being in a time warp to see them used like this.
Then there are wines (many inexpensive and in 1.5-litre bottles) labelled "product of Canada" and "cellared" in Canada. Am I wrong in thinking these phrases give the impression that the wine is Canadian? In fact, they're blends of imported and Canadian wine. And while most labels also note this one way or another, some are less than transparent.
For example, the front label of one generic dry white wine reads "product of Canada" and notes that the wine is blended from imported and domestic wines. But it's in much smaller print and it's more difficult to read than the back label, which boldly extols the virtues and character of the producer's vineyards in Ontario. A consumer looking over the bottle quickly would reasonably think this was Ontario wine.
Surely it's time to get rid of "product of Canada" and "cellared in Canada" - not to mention the shabby use of Chablis and sham champagne. Doesn't "cellared" in Canada give the impression that the wine has been … well … cellared in Canada? Cellaring implies aging - what the LCBO means when it says a wine has "cellaring potential."
In fact, these wines haven't had any meaningful aging anywhere, let alone in Canada.
Let's just have a clear statement like: "This wine is a blend of wines from Chile and Canada" or wherever. There's nothing wrong with blending wines from two countries or regions, and if the product is good and inexpensive, great. Europeans blend table wines from different countries, Australians often blend from two or more states, and Vincor recently released the very good Unity brand that blends Niagara and Okanagan wines.
The question has come into focus because of the shortage of Ontario wine from the 2003 harvest, following the vine-killing winter of 2002-03. For one year only, the wine-law authorities are allowing producers of "cellared in Canada" wines to reduce the Canadian content to as little as 10 per cent.
Doesn't that make it even more important to be transparent about what's in the bottle?
- - -
Four well-made wines from the New World this week, not one bearing a hint of an Old World appellation.
Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut Sparkling Wine Get an extra bottle of this elegant Niagara sparkler for Valentine's Day. Lovely red berry, peach, apple and citrus aromas and flavours, with bright, crisp acidity. Excellent for sipping on its own or with smoked salmon appetizers. Alcohol 12 per cent; $27.95 a bottle. LCBO No. 616458. (Vintages Feb. 7.)
Woodbridge California Syrah 2001 Lovely, fresh, vibrant red fruit in this well-made Syrah that gives a lot of finesse for the price. Well concentrated, with notes of spice and black pepper, it's balanced to make an excellent accompaniment to well-seasoned red meat dishes. Alcohol 13.5 per cent; $13.95 a bottle. LCBO No. 594176.
Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2001 A great full-bodied effort from Chile that resonates of plum, raspberry, spice, pepper, and smoke. Big bodied with a good tannic grip and nice balance, this is a lovely mouthful that goes well with something equally weighty like a steak au poivre. Alcohol 14 per cent; $12.20 a bottle. LCBO No. 253872.
McGuigan 'The Black Label' Shiraz 2002 Not one of those huge Australian fruit-bombs, this is Shiraz in a more food-friendly style. Dense black fruit (plums, berries), pepper and menthol flavour this well-concentrated wine. It's medium-weight with light tannins and pairs with roasted venison. Alcohol 13 per cent; $11.10 a bottle. LCBO No. 325787.
|Home Welcome A Short History of Wine Wine Classes Presentations Wine Facts and FAQs Newsletter Archives Contact Me|