Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

MWG July 13th tasting: final thoughts

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Our snapshot of wines made from Prince Edward County’s leading grape varieties leaves me with several thoughts.

Although our sample size was small, it’s apparent that, compared with the wines in the MWG’s last PEC survey (about four years ago) and the occasional bottles tasted since, the overall quality is improving and some world-class wines are now being made in PEC.

That said, the wines’ quality/price ratio is out of whack. For every wine we tasted, you can find more interesting non-PEC wines in the same style for the same price and often for less. While the wineries’ small scale, start-up costs and higher operating expenses (for example, PEC vinifera vines have to be buried to survive the winter, an expense Niagara winegrowers don’t bear) are partly to blame, it’s also clear a premium is being charged, in all likelihood due to the product’s rarity (small production) and the high demand (fueled by Ontario media and local pride). The bottom line: if you want to experience what Prince Edward County has to offer, you’ll pay for the privilege.

Prince Edward County is the nearest fine wine region to Montreal and Quebec. In terms of dry table wines, only one or two Quebec wineries even begin to approach the overall level. Odd then that it’s off the radar of so many Montreal wine geeks, wine bars, restaurants, agents and the SAQ. Of course, Canada’s antiquated liquor distribution laws have something to do with this.

I can’t shake the impression that the area is still feeling its way toward a style. What’s interesting, distinctive, about the region is that it appears to be one of the few in North America with the potential to make the lighter, brighter, mineral-driven wines that wine lovers allergic to the fruit-driven New World style crave. The most successful wines in our tasting fit that mould; the least successful, the tropical fruit Chards, didn’t. My advice: Look to Chablis, not Carneros. Think Loire, not Lodi. Forget the Merlot and consider planting grape varieties from cool-climate regions like the Jura, Savoie, Austria, Hungary and Alto Adige. It’s a niche that needs filling in North America and you guys are uniquely positioned to fill it.

Trying to find technical information on PEC wines is an exercise in frustration. Want to know if a wine was aged in barrels, what the barrels were made from, who they were made by, what percentage was new? Curious about what grapes in what proportion went into the wine? Wondering what kind of agricultural practices are used? Whether a wine is filtered, fined or sulphured? You probably won’t find many if any answers to those and other technical questions on the winery’s website. Yes, some of these are tiny operations. But others aren’t (looking at you, Norman Hardie). And anyway, winemakers, you have this information. It can be typed up in five minutes. It doesn’t have to be nicely presented; the people interested in it don’t give a damn about formatting. What’s important is that it be available. As things stand now, we’re forced to scour the Web for reviews and reports on winery visits, and even when we find information on blogs or in articles, it’s incomplete and often contradictory.

And while we’re in lecture mode, winemakers, how about getting your French act together? “Method Traditional” doesn’t cut it. Neither does calling a Chardonnay-dominated blend a “blanc de noir.” Claiming your wine is inspired by those of “Bougey-Cerdon” doesn’t inspire confidence. And those are only three of several glaring examples of fractured French. You’re located a few hours from the second largest French-speaking city in the world, from the heartland of franco-North American culture, from a hotbed of European and natural wine appreciation and from a potentially big market for PEC wine sales and tourism. You really don’t want to come across looking like des amateurs.

Written by carswell

August 28, 2012 at 10:36

Posted in Commentary

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3 Responses

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  1. Words of wisdom, Carswell. Well put.


    August 29, 2012 at 12:58

  2. […] Mini rant: What is it about German wineries that prevents them from providing even minimal technical information on their products? Want to know where and how the grapes are grown, how old the vines are, how they’re pressed, what kind of yeasts are used, what kind of containers the wine is fermented and aged in, whether malolactic fermentation is stopped, whether the wines are filtered, fined, sulphured or cold-stabilized? You won’t find any answers on the Mönchhof or Loosen websites and precious few from their distributors and retailers. Who do they think they are? PECers?! […]

    Sweet and low « Brett happens

    February 20, 2013 at 10:15

  3. […] Back in 2012, I wrote: […]

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