I must admit that after a long day, I enjoy nothing more than to sit with my favourite book and a good glass of wine. The text normally relates to the contents of my glass and the label is usually mentioned somewhere within the pages. But it runs deeper than this, for after a while, the words all begin to blend together.
Stained by the velvety smooth potion, my mind is filled with thoughts so far removed from importance that for the moment, nothing else seems to matter. And as the wine slips away, I swear that I can taste chocolate, overwhelming dark chocolates, the kind with the soft cherry centres, or wait, was it raspberry? Either way, it’s gone, suddenly replaced by the momentary sensation of black licorice.
I’d like to reintroduce you to a subject that defines fascination. At its extreme, an object so widely sought after that counterfeiting of top labels has become increasingly concerning in recent years. People will travel across the globe to purchase single-bottle-lots from the finest auction houses. If it sounds a bit radical, that’s because it likely is. Though in terms of quality, it does set a precedent. But let’s take the volume down a few notches: I don’t wish to discuss a specific label, but more so a style, and one that is sure to stimulate your sense of curiosity. The subject is fine wine, a term so widely open to interpretation that it raises the question, how does one differentiate high quality wine from that which is infinitely popular?
The answers lie within the vineyard, where deep underground, the vines’ root structure absorbs minerals which in turn impart unique qualities to the fruit. It is said that in fine wine you can taste the sky and the trees, the ocean nearby and the cool breeze that chills the grapes at night. The character of wine should not be manufactured or mass produced, but rather nurtured to a degree of perfection that only nature will allow for a given set of vintage conditions. I do not intend to advocating organic viticulture (we’ll save that discussion for another time), but rather that better wine is the product of exceptional fruit and both care and skill taken during production. The result is almost always purity of expression.
For the enthusiast who waits for the next vintage with anticipation, this has become a quest for the very finest wines. Combine that with good value and you will need to act rather quickly, for in a moment of hesitation, these bottles are gone, sold-out until the next vintage which may or may not exhibit the same qualities. With that, we are very fortunate to have the second largest importer of wine and spirits in the world at our disposal – the LCBO (only Costco moves a greater volume).
At the back of most LCBO stores, consumers will find a selection of wine in smaller more focused quantities. The Vintages program offers the enthusiast a greater opportunity to taste the product of a specific region, such as the great Loirevalley of France or the Ribera del Duero in Spain. Consider this as well: over 90% of all wine available in the LCBO is for immediate consumption and instant gratification.
But when discussing fine wine, we also reference a degree of complexity and the bottle’s potential to improve with age. Over time, complexity will translate into character and depending on how long you wait, it will also dictate how the contents of a given bottle will taste: drink it too early and it might seem astringent – better wine needs time in the bottle to soften or at least decanting earlier in the day; leave it too long and you could miss the opportunity all together; but time it just right and ‘Pow!’ it will knock your socks off, and that dear friends is what this is all about.
As for the ability to detect dark chocolate, black cherries, and licorice… well, until it happens, a skeptic you shall remain. But that is only natural and this does take a fair amount of practice (which incidentally is the fun part). I encourage you to wander into the Vintages department at your local LCBO. Ask the knowledgeable staff some questions, you just might find yourself exploring another dimension in beverage.