Gamay is often known as the grape that makes lowly beaujolais nouveau, the gassy juice that’s sold only weeks after the grapes are picked. However, top-notch gamay can be silky, fruity and rich, yet light—the perfect red for late-summer evenings. The best ones in the world come from 10 cru villages strung out along the slopes of Beaujolais, where 99 per cent of the vineyards are devoted to gamay. The 2009 and 2010 vintages from these appellations are excellent, and the LCBO has released some great buys under $20 at Vintages. Here in Ontario, winemakers plant gamay because it ripens early and ought to be a winner in our short growing season. In a tasting of gamays from Beaujolais, Niagara and Prince Edward County, however, I found our local editions were thin and joyless by comparison, likely due to cooler temperatures. The trick to buying good Ontario gamay, then, is finding a hot vintage; luckily, 2010 was warm and long, and it’s on LCBO shelves now. Here are my favourites, from France to Niagara.
In France, where the weather is relatively cool and fluctuates drastically from year to year, vintage is a huge factor in determining quality—and a subject of impassioned debate. Torrid heat waves in 2000 and 2003 had wine experts arguing over which vintage should be declared the best of the century. To my mind, both years produced ripe, sometimes soupy wines that age far too quickly; when I see them on wine lists, I avoid them altogether. No, the best French vintage of the century is 2009, and it’s hitting LCBO shelves right now. It was a hot summer, but less extreme than 2000 and 2003, and much longer, lasting until October. The resulting wines have exceptional weight and fruit richness, while maintaining the essential firm structure and elegant flavour signatures of France’s varying grapes and regions. New World devotees who usually find French wines tart, thin and expensive will be pleasantly surprised at the fuller-flavoured reds and more fragrant whites. Here, nine affordable selections from my favourite French vintage.
Barberian’s celebrates Louis Jadot’s 150th birthday with Geddy Lee, Jamieson Kerr and a meal money can’t buy
Like a speakeasy holding a social during prohibition, Barberian’s Steakhouse quietly hosted 29 guests in its wine cellar last Thursday evening to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Burgundy winemaker Maison Louis Jadot. The setting and menu were brazenly recession-unfriendly, with vintages easily costing hundreds, if not thousands, per bottle. Invitees were mainly from the owner Aaron Barberian’s wine club—which he says is currently looking for a new member—and Toronto foodie celebs (there was one rock star, too). Though fighting off a sore throat, Barberian made his guests feel extra welcome because there were actually two anniversaries to commemorate that night: Louis Jadot’s 150th and Barberian’s Steakhouse’s 50th. Read the rest of this entry »
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