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Wine and Cheese Pairing: Shiraz and Le Maréchal

Thursday, November 26, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

The Wine: De Bartoli Vat 8 Shiraz 2007 (about $13 US, $16 Cdn)
The Cheese: Le Maréchal, Switzerland

It’s amazing how good wine and cheese can taste when you’re hungry and thirsty. I ran home from work and then immediately got to work with this week’s wine and cheese pairing . De Bartoli’s Vat 8 Shiraz 2007 (about $13 US, $16 Cdn) matched up well with Le Maréchal cheese from Switzerland. On the nose, the Shiraz showed anise, cardamom, black pepper and cherry, and a peppery palette, with salty black liquorice (the Dutch kind). It’s a medium-bodied, easy-to-drink wine that cuts off a bit short on the finish, but exhibits nicely rounded initial flavors.

Le Maréchal, a Swiss cheese made from raw cow's milk, has a distinctive barnyard and herb aroma. It smells like barn hay that cows have been sitting in. A little funky, but somehow still an addictively pleasant smell. The cheese has some fruitiness that complements the peppery aspect of the Shiraz and the cheese’s manure and fruit flavours play off the cherry and liquorice of the wine. Neither have very long finishes, which makes you want more of both as soon as you've finished tasting them. Dangerous! A very good combo – especially after a run.

Wine Quaffability Rating: 88

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Run for cover –Beaujolais Nouveau is here!

Friday, November 20, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

It’s the third Thursday in November, so you know what that means? Beaujolais Nouveau is here! All over the world, lovers of the light, fruity French wine will celebrate the release of the season’s first wine at parties, festivals and various other events. While sales of the early-bottled, Gamay-based wine have plunged in France, emerging supporters of Beaujolais Nouveau are keeping worldwide business brisk.

What will I be doing to ring in the BN season? I’ll be drinking a wine from southern Italy – a Nero D’Avola, with rich, concentrated flavors. My review of Beaujolais Nouveau is simple – yuck. I can’t stand them. Yes, I have tried many BNs over the years and they are all more-or-less equally insipid to me. There’s nothing wrong with an easy-drinking, unpretentious wine, but the taste of these ones provides only a hint of wine – the equivalent of drinking a mass-produced light beer. Beaujolais Nouveau is the Coors Light of wine. It’s also a brilliant marketing ploy by the French government, which has created this artificial release date at the strike of midnight on the third Thursday in November. Quick, everybody consume!

If you need an excuse to party, a BN event is as good as any. But tonight, I’ll be raising my glass to the Sicilians.


Wine Review: Super-Sipping Shiraz

Thursday, November 19, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Hewitson Ned and Henry's Shiraz 2007 ($20-25) succeeds in a department where many other Shiraz-based wines fall short: “sippability.” Yes, I just made up that word, but it’s not often you find a flavorful Shiraz that’s also easy to sip on its own. Australian winemaker Dean Hewitson named this one after his two sons, so you know he’s not going to mess around. The Ned & Henry's has a dark ruby hue and aromas of cassis, cloves, cinnamon, oak, ink and fresh road tar (that addictive smell when you walk past a construction crew pouring hot tar). Classic Barossa Valley Shiraz notes of brambly blackberries and other wild fruit pop off the palette, along with oak, spice, pencil lead and bitter chocolate. Oddly, the fine tannins and lively flavors remind me of cream soda - maybe because it’s so drinkable. My wife’s two-word rating: “Nice wine!” And I concur.

Quaffability Rating: 90

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Australian Reds: A Blind Tasting

Friday, November 13, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

A blind tasting of three Australian reds at different price points

The wines:
Peter Lehmann Mentor 2002 - $35 Cdn
Magpie Estate The Sack Shiraz 2006 - $20 Cdn
Hardys Bankside Shiraz 2007 - $15 Cdn

My friends Matt and Chris came over last night for a blind tasting of three Australian reds. Our mission was twofold: to enjoy some wine and to determine whether we could tell the different between three different price points ranging from $15-35. My wife Dianne joined us as well.

I wrapped the bottles in brown paper bags, marked them 1, 2 and 3 and off we went. After we tasted all three, we could all try to the guess how much each of them cost, knowing that one was $15, one was $20 and one was $35.

Bottle #1:
We all had trouble pulling aromas out of this one and the flavour profile wasn’t any more obvious. Chris said it smelled like low-VOC paint, I thought it tasted like watered-down blueberry juice, Matt said it was buttery but lacked flavour and Dianne tasted a hint of mince pie.

Bottle #2:
A couple of us noted sweet plum and pepper aromas and similar flavour on the palette. Dianne tasted figs and Chris called it “syrupy.” The flavours were much more apparent on this one, and the aromas jumped out of the glass compared to Bottle #1.

Bottle #3:
To me, this wine was a blockbuster in the aroma department. My immediate reaction was “Wow.” I noted walnuts, baseball glove, raisins, smoke and a fascinating mix of pineapples and exotic fruit. Chris immediately picked up smoke aromas and dark fruits and citrus on the palette. Dianne tasted Christmas cake, dark fruit and spice. Everyone liked this one a lot.

Now the fun part: guessing the prices. Matt and I both guessed the same bottles. We chose Bottle #1 at $35, figuring the pricey one would be smooth and subtle. We guessed Bottle #2 was the mid-level wine and Bottle #3 – our favourite – was the inexpensive one, as it had a rustic character. Dianne picked the price points based on what she liked, choosing Bottle #3 as the $35 wine, Bottle #2 as $20 and Bottle #1 as $15. Chris picked Bottle #2 as $35, Bottle #1 as $20 and Bottle #3 as $15.

The verdict:
Bottle #1: Hardys Bankside Shiraz 2007 - $15
Bottle #2: Magpie Estate The Sack Shiraz 2006 - $20
Bottle #3: Peter Lehmann Mentor 2002 - $35

The winner: Dianne

Matt and I were hoping we had found a great value in Bottle #3, but in this case, our preferences followed the price point.

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Australian Wine Crisis

Thursday, November 12, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Too Much of a Good Thing

Australia has too much wine. According to this article in Wine Economist (yes, there is such a magazine), the wine glut Down Under has risen to 100 million cases, and that number is projected to double in the next two years if demand doesn’t increase. According to a joint report released by two days ago by four Australian wine industry groups:

Structural surpluses of grapes and wine are now so large that they are
causing long-term damage to our industry by devaluing the Australian brand,
entrenching discounting, undermining profitability, and hampering our ability to
pursue the vision and activities set out in the Directions to 2025 industry

Coupled with inefficient and/or inappropriate vineyard and wine
operations, oversupply is amplifying and exacerbating fundamental problems in
the industry, notably our decreasing cost competitiveness. As such it is
compromising our ability to adopt new pricing structures and market solutions
and adapt to changing market conditions.

Comprehensive analysis and consultation suggests at least 20% of
bearing vines in Australia are surplus to requirements, with few long-term
prospects. On cost of production alone, at least 17% of vineyard capacity is

These structural problems in Australia echo those experienced in France a few years ago. You may remember reading about the massive amounts of fine Spanish and French wine being turned into industrial fuel. As a wine lover, this kind of news make my heart sink. You spend your hard-earned money on a well-crafted bottle, savoring every drop, only to read about 100 million cases of the stuff that could very well end up being destroyed. The E.U. implemented some changes to their system. Hopefully, the Australians can pull things together to stem their oversupply tide before their wine industry collapses.

In the meantime, I’m going to do my part in whittling down the oversupply by doing a blind tasting of Australian Shiraz tonight. Results will be posted here tomorrow.

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Australian Pinot Noir

Friday, November 6, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

My boss Dave (at my other job as a magazine editor) challenged me the other day to try and discern the difference between an $8 Australian Shiraz and a $15 or $20 bottle. He seems convinced that the Aussies have mastered the art of the inexpensive, generic-tasting Shiraz, and that it’s not worth it to move up from the sub-$10 level to spend twice as much for the same type of indistinguishable flavor. I’m not at all convinced that this is the case, so next week I’m going to do a blind tasting to try and figure this out.

In the meantime, I recently tasted a Rosemount non-Shiraz from Australia, based on a grape you don’t often see grown in the country: Pinot Noir. The Rosemount Diamond Label Pinot Noir 2008 (about $9) is a medium-bodied, fruit-forward Pinot designed for easy drinking and it is. If you’re expecting a complex, earthy wine, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but for those who enjoy fruity Pinot Noirs like those from New Zealand, the Rosemount is right on the mark. Luscious strawberry and cherry juice flavors dominate the palette, and a medium-length, smoky finish tapers off with soft tannins. The wine gets an extra point for having a cool bottle.

Quaffability Rating: 88

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Wine Clubs

Thursday, November 5, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Join the Club

Last week I had a chance to try a couple of the wines from the USA Today Wine Club. Both were very enjoyable. First up, the Père et Fils Syrah-Grenache 2007 from the Pays D’Or in southern France had a rich pomegranate aroma and spicy background notes. Supple flavors of raspberry and jammy plum are spiced up with some leather and white pepper. A nicely rounded, easy-to-quaff red. The Marlegan Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, falls into the same easy-drinking category. It’s medium-bodied, but the flavors are full, with New World toasty oak and blackberry all the way. Old World snobs may turn their noses up at this bottle, but everyone in our office tasting last week loved it.

If you’re not able to find these wines, you can either join the USA Today Wine Club, or consider signing up with a wine club that delivers to your area (if you live in Canada, for example). Since I wrote about wine clubs about a year ago, many more have launched. Here are a few options:

The Wall Street Journal Wine Club
USA Today Wine Club
New York Times Wine Club
Cellars Wine Club

Winery to Home (http://www.winerytohome.com/)
Bring My Wine
Discover Wines

B.C. Wine Club



Michal Kapral has been enjoying wine at home since way before he was of legal age. The editor-in-chief of Canadian Running magazine runs marathons to burn off all the calories he consumes on wine and cheese. Kapral spent some time living in Italy as a teenager, solidifying his appreciation for all things wine-related. In his days as a journalism student, he was likely one of the youngest – and poorest – subscribers to Wine Spectator magazine. In 1999, Kapral turned down a job at a winery to work at Captivate, where he spent 11 years as a news editor.


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The Quaffer

Highlighting the best new wines from around the world, in the price range of $10-40, Michal "The Quaffer" Kapral reminds viewers some of the finer things in life are most definitely within their reach. This feature focuses on North American wines and includes reviews, food pairings and news from the world of wine.