If you want to really fine-tune your wine tasting skills, taste two wines side by side. For example, if you like Chardonnay you might want to try two Chardonnays from different regions.
This past weekend I did just that. First I opened a 2017 Quails Gate Chardonnay ($22.99) from West Kelowna. Made from four different clones of Chardonnay on the Quails Gate estate, the vast majority was kept in stainless steel to maintain the bright, fresh fruit notes. A small percentage was kept in older neutral oak to add texture, mouth-feel, and subtle oak influences.
With a bouquet of melon and gently toasted oak, it has ripe melon and peach flavours with vanilla and crisp acidity. This is one of my go-to B.C. Chardonnays, which is always a joy to enjoy at an affordable price.
And now for something completely different! I also opened a bottle of French Chardonnay from Chablis, a 2018 William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux ($36.99). Compared to the Quails Gate, the Chablis is subtler. Don’t expect a voluptuous oaky Chardonnay. The gentle aroma reveals pears, lemon verbena, and a chalky smell of oyster shells. In fact the grapes are planted in limestone, which often contains fossilized oysters from the Jurassic Period. The flavour is austere with minerality and very crisp acidity. Its bone-dry finish includes a vibrant lemon taste that goes on and on.
The perfect match with Chablis is raw oysters on the half shell. To maximize the flavour of the shellfish and the wine, don’t add anything to the oysters; no lemon, vinegar, or, perish the thought, seafood sauce! And because Chablis is more subtle than New World Chardonnays, do not serve it too cold. Cool is what you want. Keep it cool!
For those who don’t like raw oysters, other white fish will work such as Portuguese sardines on toast, fish tacos, or cooked shellfish like scallops, potted shrimp or lobster.
Our third wine is one I’ve never tried before: the 2018 Road 13 Seventy-Four K ($25.99) from the Golden Mile near Oliver. The winery is named after the road it’s on, but what is Seventy-Four K all about? It’s the distance in kilometres if you placed all their vines end to end. 74,000 km! That’s a lot of vines and that’s a lot of walking the vineyard crew must do every year, time after time. And this wine is a tribute to the extensive vineyards those workers who put in a lot of time and kilometres caring for all the grapes.
Seventy-Four K is produced from a unique blend of Merlot and Syrah. I enjoyed the huge bouquet of dark fruit with overtones of pomegranate and cocoa. On the palate it’s crisp with fresh acid and flavours of ripe plums and boysenberries. This red is big in the mouth, thanks to all that flavour and 14-per-cent alcohol which ends on a smooth fruity finish. Enjoy the Road 13 with a lamb souvlaki and tzatziki sauce.
Both the Quails Gate Chard and the Chablis are available at government liquor stores. The Road 13 can be bought through their website or at Save-On VQA in Ironwood.