MANY years ago, somewhere near the equator, on a choppy Pacific Ocean, we recall opening a bottle of wine in our container ship quarters.
The wine just happened to be Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon (BCLS $17.99) and the fact it was on that vessel was proof of just how widely available it was - and still is - and of the impact that Aussie wines were having even before the remarkable rise of Shiraz.
The man himself - a colourful and much traveled ambassador who can rightly claim much of the credit for putting Australia on the wine world map - makes a return visit to Vancouver next week as part of the B.C. Liquor Board's Oz promo, which runs all month.
At BCLS Park Royal Signature Store, on Saturday, Sept. 24 (12-2.30 p.m) they'll be pouring tastes of the iconic Wolf Blass Black Label 2007 (BCLS $99.99), while you can catch up with the still very lively 76-year-old himself between 1: 45 and 2: 30 p.m.
This is the 35th vintage of the CabernetSauvignonMalbec-Shiraz blend, which has won Australia's hallowed Jimmy Watson Trophy (awarded to the best one-year old wine in the country) an unprecedented four times since 1973 - testament to Blass and his vision, not to mention the blending skills of the Australian winemaker.
Typically, this wine is made up predominantly of Cabernet, Malbec and Shiraz from maritime-influenced Langhorne Creek (which brings a minty, eucalyptus note, along with complexity) along with McLaren Vale Shiraz, that yields a plummy plushness evident on the broad and generous, anise and cassis toned palate.
If the flagship Black Label is too rich for your wallet, there's no shortage of Blass value-driven drops - such as the enduring Yellow Label Cab.
Next on deck after Mr. Blass is Bleasdale's Robert Potts (from Australia's second oldest winemaking family, after Yalumba). The fifth generation Potts is a direct descendant of founder Frank Potts and will be sampling a selection of Bleasdale wines.
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If you're looking for a strong representation of what Australia has to offer these days, check out Dishing Up Australia (Oct. 1, Museum of Vancouver), an acrossthe-board presentation of food-friendly Aussie drops picked out by House Wine girls Michelle Bouffard and Michaela Morris.
House Wine has a well-earned rep for putting on some strong tasting events and this should be no exception, with some 40 wines on offer, from across the Aussie spectrum of regions and varieties; and matched with plates from uber wine chef Dino Renaerts (who also happens to be a certified sommelier). Book early, as they tend to sell out quickly. Tickets are $85 (includes HST) from housewine.ca.
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Belly's Best - Tesch Riesling Unplugged 2009.
There is, of course, never a bad time to drink dry Riesling. But this mineraltoned, well-balanced and intensely green apple and lemon-fruited drop, packed with zingy acidity, just says "summer" all the way, a perfect match for lingering warm days and nights. From one of Germany's (Nahe) most respected producers. $19.99 BCLS. Or, track down the remarkably complex, zestand petrol-toned Karthauser ($27.99, BCLS Specialty).