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waters on wine

Wineries have adopted sustainable practices to adapt to a changing climate and increasingly competitive markets. Some were able to make consumers aware of those progressive measures, but many have struggled to convey that messaging.Picasa/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

At the start of a new year, it’s topical to consider what trends wine lovers can expect to see. But considering the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, no one knows what to anticipate next week, let alone in the months ahead.

Maybe wines from Spain will finally have their moment as the consumers’ choice. Perhaps riesling producers will see their wines consumed as heartily as pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. These long-standing industry predictions may yet come to pass, but I am not certain this is the year. My crystal wine glass is cloudy.

That said, after one of the most complicated years for wineries around the world – many of whom faced extreme weather patterns in 2021, including devastating frosts and droughts or relentless summer rains and hailstorms depending on their location – I am sure we’ll hear more about sustainable wine growing efforts.

Sustainability in wine isn’t new. Every major wine-producing region has established rules and regulations to make participating wineries and vineyards more sustainable in environmental as well as human terms. Wineries have adopted sustainable practices to adapt to a changing climate and increasingly competitive markets. Some were able to make consumers aware of those progressive measures, but many have struggled to convey that messaging.

For years, the keys to selling premium wine hinged on promoting quality and tradition. Talking about fair wages for vineyard workers or how water shortages affected the flavours of your favourite chardonnay messed with the romance of wine marketing.

Now, authenticity is becoming increasingly important for consumers, and not just of wine, which is where sustainability certifications can help. Although specific rules may vary from place to place, they all address growing grapes to produce quality wine with the environment, social responsibility and economic viability in mind.

Sustainability doesn’t guarantee organically grown grapes or the most incredible quality wine you’ll ever taste, but it does broadcast a framework of how the winery operates for consumers who wish to look behind the label.

This week’s wine recommendations include a range of mostly red wines, including a long-standing favourite from Umbria and an organic wine produced without any additives from Gérard Bertrand, one of the south of France’s most progressive wine producers.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (United States)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $26.95

This full-bodied red wine takes its name from the Indian Wells Vineyard, which contributes to the mix of grapes from vineyards located in Washington State’s Columbia Valley. An effective blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah, with small additions of merlot and cabernet franc, this offers a mix of ripe and sweet dark fruit flavours with some cedar and chocolate accents. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $28.99 in Manitoba, $30.19 in Prince Edward Island.

Citra Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2020 (Italy)

SCORE: 85 PRICE: $8.95

The largest co-operative in Abruzzo, Citra has been a staple on liquor-store shelves thanks to its successful range of simple and agreeable table wines. This fresh and fruity red made from the Montepulciano grape isn’t going to wow you with its complexity or character, but its pleasant mix of berry and spice are easy to appreciate. It’s a pizza-or-burger-night staple that comes in a one-litre bottle in wine shops outside of Ontario. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $11.99 in British Columbia and Manitoba, various prices in Alberta, $10.25 in Quebec.

Fort Berens Cabernet Franc 2019 (Canada)

SCORE: 88 PRICE: $28.99

The white-label cabernet franc made by Fort Berens continues to be one of the most consistent releases from the winery, which is based in Lillooet, B.C. The fragrant and fresh style captures enticing bay leaf and spice notes alongside juicy berry and plum fruit flavours. The texture and tannins are soft and inviting, which makes for an easy-drinking red with plenty of personality. Drink now to 2028. Available in British Columbia at the above price or direct through fortberens.ca.

Fram Shiraz 2019 (South Africa)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $22.95

Winemaker Thinus Kruger labels this expressive and enjoyable red from Swartland shiraz instead of syrah in tribute to an old sign on the outskirts of Riebeek Kasteel that welcomes visitors to “shiraz country.” This dry and savoury red captures the variety’s pure fruit flavours with fragrant spice and earthy notes. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.

Gérard Bertrand Naturae Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (France)

SCORE: 88 PRICE: $19.95

Naturae is a line of organic wines made in the south of France without any added sulphites or additives. Winemaker Gérard Bertrand says that rigorous work in the vineyard is needed to guarantee the optimal level of maturity in pristine grapes in order to produce stable and flavourful wines such as this one. Made in a fresh and firm style, this dry red wine offers a mix of cedar, spice and sweet dark fruit flavours. Decant for best enjoyment. Vegan friendly. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in British Columbia and Alberta.

Liquidity Pinot Gris 2020 (Canada)

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $21

A blend from pinot gris grapes grown on the Liquidity estate in Okanagan Falls and a vineyard on the Black Sage Bench near Oliver, B.C., this is a dry and engaging white wine. A portion was barrel fermented to enhance the texture and depth of flavour, but the overall impression is bright, vibrant and fruity. It’s a terrific style to enjoy now. Available in British Columbia at the above price or direct through liquiditywines.com, various prices in Alberta.

Lungarotti Rubesco Sangiovese/Colorino 2018 (Italy)

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $19.95

Umbria’s most popular red wine brand, Rubesco will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2022. An elegant blend of sangiovese with a small percentage of colorino, this refreshing red offers bright berry and cherry fruit with floral and herbal accents. The wine’s appealing intensity and structure make it best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario at the above price, $25.99 in British Columbia, $19.45 in Quebec, $22.99 in Nova Scotia.

Piazzano Ventoso Sangiovese Toscana 2019 (Italy)

SCORE: 88 PRICE $17

This refreshing and enjoyable sangiovese blend offers attractive cherry and berry fruit with some floral and spice accents. Made in a dry and medium-bodied style, this is nicely balanced and offers solid value for its price. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario.

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