WHETHER you're a winemaker, wine enthusiast or casual consumer, 2012 offered plenty to cheer about in Canada's wine world, in which change came at an uncharacteristically rapid pace.
The seed sown in the previous year to abolish absurd cross provincial shipping restrictions on wine finally took root when federal MP Dan Albas' private member's bill (which coalesced into the Twitter fueled #FreeMyGrapes movement) was ultimately passed. As a result, several provincial governments (including B.C.'s) moved quickly to make it now legal for wineries to ship and for consumers to receive Canadian wines between provinces - although Ontario and Quebec continue to drag their feet.
New B.C. wineries continue to push the boundaries with promising results, often in areas considered unsuitable until a decade or so ago. Of note, Harper's Trail (Kamloops) and Fort Berens (Lillooet) both of whom garnered favourable reviews of early estate releases - which just happen to include Riesling, among others.
B.C.'s wine horizons also broadened thanks to the arrival of custom crush facilities such as Alto Wine Group and Okanagan Crush
Pad, which offered smaller labels and negociants the chance to get their wines to market more easily. Okanagan Crush Pad (in the hands of a powerhouse team of B.C. industry stalwarts) burst onto the scene with a range of labels that includes its own Haywire and BS (Bartier Scholefield) as well as newly launched Rafter 'F,' Bella single vineyard sparkling wines, Di Bello wines and (just before Christmas) Haywire's own first sparkler The Bub. This crisp apple and mineral toned, well textured drop (closed with a crown cap), that quickly sold out of its first batch, will no doubt find its place among B.C.'s top tier of sparkling wines.
In early spring the folks at Blasted Church gave us the heads-up that their popular Hatfield's Fuse white blend was about to get a whole lot more popular, thanks to go-getters Mike Macquisten and Steve Thorp - the young entrepreneurs behind Vancouver Urban Winery.
We checked out their east side facility and were impressed, as, apparently, were others. By mid-summer, wine on tap had arrived with a vengeance, at places such as Olympic Village's shiny new Tap and Barrel, where sommelier Dave Stansfield works closely with a score of Okanagan wineries.
While many (wrongly) dismissed the idea of keg wines as being concerned primarily with bulk wines, Vancouver Urban Winery and Tap and Barrel have proved the easy to install system's suitability for small batch wines from mid size wineries. One good taste recently: a Summerhill 2010 Syrah from Sekhoor Family Vineyards - available only at T&B (which also serves wines kegged by Okanagan Crush Pad). To date, Urban Winery (which now also supplies eight taps at Village Tap House) figures they've eliminated some 50,000 glass bottles.
With about 200 restaurant wine taps installed in 2012 in B.C. and Alberta (and 5,000 kegs in circulation), Urban Winery expects growth to continue at a rapid pace, with more than double that planned for next year.
All this and a couple of well made, value priced regional wines imported in bulk and bottled under the Roaring Twenties label (Mendoza Malbec and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc) bode well for the forward-thinking duo.
. . . Belly's Best: de Martino Cinsault Viejas Tinajas 2012
Ranked among the top finds of our Chilean visit, de Martino is a trailblazer focusing not only on specific terroirs but also revisiting traditional practises, such as this charming Cinsault made in amphora (earthenware jars) from non-irrigated vines in the Itata Valley, 400 kilometres south of Santiago. Look for fragrant ripe red berry fruits on top followed by a light to medium bodied, intense juicy, damson palate with balanced freshness and a hint of minerality. Very food friendly; think pork tenderloin. BCLS $24.99. 91 pts.
Tim Pawsey covers food and wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at hiredbelly.com. Contact: rebelmouse.com/hiredbelly, on Twitter @hiredbelly or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2013