Spanish Wine Society on Dream Steak from Montreal… Spanish Wine Society on Barry Brown formally inducted… iwolkoff on A Dozen Good Wines Priced Unde… Bernie Uhlmann on A Dozen Good Wines Priced Unde… iwolkoff on Wolkoff’s radio intervie…
We bought this twenty eight ounce t-bone at Boucherie les Viandes at the Atwater Market in Montreal (for $61.70.) It’s Charolais beef (a great strain from Burgundy) organically farmed by the St. Vincent family and dry aged for sixty days! I grilled it for twelve minutes over Mesquite charcoal. The texture was lovely–not a single fibroblast was left in the thing. The aroma and flavour was like a beef version of Jamon Iberico with floral and wine-like notes. A 2010 Gingondas partnered perfectly with the steak. If you’re carniverous and find yourself in Mtl., call them at 514 937-4269 and get yourself a hunk.
Barry Brown, my cherished friend and founder and long-time president of the Spanish Wine Society in Toronto, was formally awarded the Officer’s Cross Order of Civil Merit of Spain at a small celebration in the city’s Mideastro Restaurant. The Consul-General of Spain, Francisco Pascual de la Parte, presented Barry with a certificate from the King of Spain and the regalia of his office. Barry is also entitled to the use of a coat of arms.
This recognition of Barry’s love of Spanish wine, art, culture and most of all the Spanish people proves that sometimes nice guys don’t finish last! The photo of Barry was taken by Tony Aspler, Canada’s most widely read wine writer.
Great wine has been made in Burgundy for almost a thousand years. Cistercian monks planted Pinot Noir grapes on the region`s limestone slopes. Over the centuries they refined the red wines they produced to breathtaking heights of elegance, intensity, complexity and character. (White Burgundy, made from Chardonnay, was the weak sister until about six decades ago.)
Red Burgundies are not at all like the famous French reds from Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley. For starters, Burgs are a lot lighter and paler in colour and weight than their Cab- or Syrah-based counterparts. On the nose and palate they marry translucence and intensity like no other wine. Lovely strawberry, cherry and red and black berry fruit steals the show with support from potentially enchanting earthy mineral, sandalwood, wood violet and sweet spice aromas and flavours. The mouthfeel is delicate and silky with fresh acidity and very fine tannins. At their best, red Burgundies are enchanting.
The bad news about Burgundy is that its wines fell into decline in the mid-1980s. Vineyards were replanted with high-yielding easily harvested clones of Pinot Noir that lacked aroma, flavour and texture. The excessive use of potassium-based fertilizers led to lower acidity in the fruit, reducing the freshness and vibrancy of the wines. Lower quality and high prices precipitated a decline in sales which has only recently been reversed.
Domaine Chanson was established in 1750. The venerable firm has large vineyard holdings of its own but by the 1990s the house was resting on its laurels rather on its wines. Bollinger, of Champagne fame, bought the company for its vineyards and brought in Burgundian heavyweights Gilles de Courcel and Jean-Pierre Coufran to study the vineyards and improve the quality of vine-growing and winemaking there.
Chanson’s Reserve du Bastion is a good inexpensive introduction to red Burgundy, and a perfect light summer red you can serve slightly chilled. It’s a characterful age worthy bottling priced at a very fair $21.95. The wine is a 75/25 blend of Côtes de Beune/Côtes de Nuits, elegantly fruity and mineral in character. Agents Hanna and Sons presented a vertical tasting of Reserve du Bastion covering the ’12, ’11, ’10, ’09 and ’08 vintages. Here are my notes on the five vintages. (The 2011 is in the stores now but should be replaced by the 2012 by August or September.)
Chanson Reserve du Bastion 2012: (Score 90.) Medium violet-tinged ruby with a watery edge offers intense aromas of cherries and red berries with focused minerality. In the mouth it’s fresh with very fine tannins. It’s deeply but elegantly fruited with a long fruit and tannin finish. This vintage is widely regarded as the best so far for the new Chanson.
Chanson Reserve du Bastion 2011: (Score 89.) Medium pale ruby with a watery edge, this wine is less intense than the ’12 but still offers ripe rich cherry berry and soft mineral notes. The tannins are fine and grippy with fresh acidity. The slightly lean fruit is elegantly presented with mineral grace notes through a long slightly bitter finish.
Chanson Reserve du Bastion 2010: (Score 90-.) A deep medium pale ruby wine with a watery edge, this bottling shows cherry and other fruit with some depth and ripeness. There’s a beetroot note and earthy minerality. It’s fresh and satiny with buttoned-down tasty red fruit and a long rich finish.
Chanson Reserve du Bastion 2009: (Score 89+.) From a dark serious vintage, this wine is a deep medium dark colour with that trademark watery edge. It’s plush and sweetly ripe with mixed berry fruit. On the palate fresh acidity and firm fine ripe tannins carry the ripe elegant fruit through a long finish. What it lacks in complexity it makes up for with yumminess.
Chanson Reserve du Bastion 2008: (Score 89+) Garnet coloured with a watery edge, this wine has warm aromas of dried cherry-berry fruit and dried flower petals. It’s fresh with sweetly mature fruit and fine persistence. It’s of a certain age and won’t last another year at most.
Barry Brown, a nice Jewish boy from Kitchener Ontario, is one of my closest friends and a very dear chap. He’s also North America’s foremost authority on the wines of Spain. His “Spanish Wine Society” in Toronto is famous for the high quality of the wines it offers its membership and the events at which those wines are tasted. He’s led scores of tours to wineries all over Spain and knows all the major players in the industry there. I’ve walked down the street with him in Jerez and heard people shouting “Eh, Barri” from doorways. He could justify opening a business called “Spain-R-Us.”
Barry’s activities on behalf of Spanish wine and culture have been formally recognized by the King of Spain who has awarded our boy with the “Officer’s Cross of the Order of Civil Merit.” I could tell you more, but I’ll leave it to Barry’s kid brother Howard who wrote the following media release. (It looks like Howie has resolved any rivalry he had with his older sibling.) Congratulations, Braunschweiger!!
KING OF SPAIN HONOURS A CANADIAN FOR HIS SUPPORT OF SPANISH WINE & TOURISM
(TORONTO – JUNE 11, 2014) – The Consul-General of Spain, Francisco Pascual de la Parte, will award Toronto-based President of The Spanish Wine Society, Barry Brown, The Officer’s Cross of the Order of Civil Merit on June 29. The presentation will occur at a dinner at Mideastro Yorkville Restaurant in Toronto.
Mr. Pascual de la Parte will honour Mr. Brown on behalf of King Juan Carlos of Spain for Mr. Brown’s 30 years supporting and marketing Spanish wines and tourism to Canadians. He stated: “No other Canadian has done more to promote Spanish wine and tourism than Barry Brown.”
Mr. Brown, 64, is one of only a few Canadians to receive this honour. Past recipients included poet and singer Leonard Cohen.
“Perhaps no one in North America has a better grasp of the soul of Spain than Barry Brown,” said Tony Aspler, one of North America’s most influential wine educators and authors.
Over the last five years, wine sales from Spain to Canada have increased by almost 40 per cent, from $75 million to $113 million in 2013. Spanish wine imports are now the fifth highest into Canada after France, the US, Italy and Australia, surpassing Argentina and Chile.
Mr. Brown has presented over 200 wine events across Canada in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Montreal, Kitchener and Toronto. Mr. Brown shares: “I’ve served over 250,000 glasses of Spanish wine across the country—glass by glass.”
Growth in Canadian tourism to Spain has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. In 2003, 141,825 Canadians visited Spain. By 2013 those numbers had increased to 245,916—a 73% increase.
In addition to wine events in Canada, Mr. Brown, with his Spanish heritage wife Patricia, have organized and led over 25 tours, involving over 600 people to the various wine regions of Spain. They generated approximately $3 million in wine and tourism revenue for the country.
“The combination of interest in Spain’s vinous bounty and Spanish tourism has resulted in an increasing interest in wine tourism in the country,” said Mr. Brown. “There are wineries in Spain attracting over 200,000 visitors annually!”
Portugal is famous for its beautiful ceramic tiles. In Barcelos, the street-fronts of houses are embellished with them.
The Minho region of northwest Portugal where Vinho Verde is produced, has centuries of history baked into charming market towns like Barcelos where the street-sides of buildings are tiled with trademark Portuguese ceramics. side of buildings are tiled with trademark Portuguese ceramics. Besides serving as home to a market that’s been operating since the 13th century, the town is also home to Portugal’s national symbol, the black rooster. According to legend, a pilgrim on the road to St. Iago da Campostela was convicted by a bishop of stealing silver. The man protested his innocence and declared that the roast bird on the bishop’s table would crow when he was hanged. It did. Legend established.
The Minho offers more contemporary pleasures. I stayed at the stunning Aquafalls Spa Hotel Rural. The restaurant, spa and reception area and the cabin-like suites are set on a hilltop with panoramic views of the Cavado River and the surrounding forested hills. The restau was superb. If you think it sounds a little rich for your blood, keep in mind that all this can be yours for under $200 a night!
Last but not least, there’s Oporto. It’s the largest city in Northern Portugal and the hub of the Port production industry. It boasts a number of excellent restaurants, as well as the shopping and cultural opportunities you’d expect of any large city.