A nod today to wines available mainly in British Columbia and Quebec, the two solitudes of Canada's wine market. (Some are available in other regions.)
No province has embraced the bold, fruit-packed flavours of such New World regions as California, South Australia and - most of all - the Okanagan Valley like B.C. And none genuflects more reverently toward Europe as La Belle Province. British Columbians remarkably consume slightly more domestic wine by volume, the vast majority of it local, than imported. In Quebec, just 4.4 per cent of wine sold in the year ended March 31 was domestic, with a full 54 per cent arriving from two European countries alone, France and Italy.
Suggestions: The splurge, the deal, the domestic
But the consumption landscape is changing, at least in Quebec, where California, New Zealand and South Africa have made strong gains over the past year.
Let's start with British Columbia. (Some wines are sold in stores, mainly in B.C., while others are available only from the wineries.) When the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh toured Eastern Canada in June and July, they were served, among other things, a 2007 chardonnay from Township 7. Lucky them. The Naramata, B.C. winery produces excellent wines from both the south Okanagan Valley and from vineyards around Langley, southeast of Vancouver. I've not tasted the chardonnay, but I can recommend two other new offerings.
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Township 7 Merlot 2007 ($24.99 through www.township7.com) is full-bodied, smooth and velvety, with luscious blackberry-blueberry, chocolate and caramel and firm tannins. It should age well for four to six years. Try it with steak.
Township 7 Syrah 2007 ($24.99) is full-bodied and juicy, with notes of dark berries, peppercorn, charred wood and soft tannins. Good for lamb, it was a gold-medal winner at the Northwest Wine Summit.
Tantalus Riesling 2009 ($22.90 through www.tantalus.ca) is another great offering from one of Canada's riesling stars. Light-bodied and ever so slightly off-dry, it has fresh peach and citrus flavours and a slightly chalky texture. This wine would be nice with slightly spicy seared prawns.
Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($18.99 through www.missionhillwinery.com) is light medium-bodied and relatively soft for a sauvignon blanc, with flavours suggesting guava, green apple and grapefruit. It also finishes crisp and is nice on its own or with shellfish.
Gray Monk Gewurztraminer 2008 ($16.99 in B.C., $18.95 in Ontario through www.graymonk.com) was a best-in-class winner at the All-Canadian Wine Championships. The medium full-bodied white shows textbook gewurztraminer notes of lychee and roses, veering toward off-dry with its sweet fruit and concentration. It would sing with spicy food.
And available currently in Ontario, with the previous, 2006 vintage in British Columbia, is Da Vinci Chianti 2007 ($16.95 in Ontario, No. 171389; $17.99 in B.C., No. 684720). It might seem kitschy to some, with the label's Leonardo sketch of Leda, mother of Helen of Troy.
But there's competent juice in this bottle from a producer in the Renaissance genius's Tuscan hometown of Vinci. Medium full-bodied, it shows good concentration for the money, with hints of cherry, spice and earth, finishing bone-dry and almost salty. Great for grilled meats or pasta in a tomato-meat sauce.
And now to a few selections in Quebec, starting with Salviano Orvieto Classico Superiore 2009 ($14.10 in Quebec, No. 10782034). I have enthused about previous vintages of this Italian white and the 2009 delivers as well as ever. Light-bodied yet slightly creamy in texture, it shows nuances of lemon and honeydew, with a bitter herbal note, crisp acidity and good length. Scallops seared in butter would be a fine match, as would light vegetarian fare.
Altair Sideral 2005 ($26.10 in Quebec, No. 10692830) is available now in Quebec and, on Feb. 19, 2011, through Ontario Vintages stores. This Chilean blend of cabernet sauvignon with 13-per-cent carmenère is a mouthful. The herbal carmenère quality peers through its succulent plum, chocolate, spice and smoked meat, finishing with tight acidity. Steak would make a great match.
Waimea Pinot Noir 2009 ($22.10 in Quebec, No. 10826447) boasts good varietal character. This medium-bodied red from New Zealand is crisp and tight, with bright raspberry-strawberry notes and hints of herbs and spice. The opulent fruit hides its 14.3-per-cent alcohol admirably. Try it with salmon, pork tenderloin or duck breast.
Meia Encosta Dao red 2007 ($10.65 in Quebec, No. 250548; $9.95 in Ontario, No. 179408) is the best-selling Portuguese wine in Quebec and has just been launched in Ontario, and it's a bargain. Full-bodied with an essence of dark plum, it also offers up licorice and a mild note of peppercorn. The texture is silky but the finish firm and dry. Try it with lamb.