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Column: Two lively wines to add brightness to a dark January

Pinot Noir and Verdejo are two wines to help brighten the gloomy new year.
Moraine Pinot Noir wine
The Moraine Pinot Noir and the Bonhomme Verdejo are two versatile recommendations for enjoying this month.

What’s the world’s most popular light-bodied red wine? It’s Pinot Noir, which is loved for its red fruit, spicy flavours and earthy tones with a smooth finish.

In B.C., Pinot Noir is the second most planted red grape after Merlot with just over 1000 acres planted. It has grown more rapidly in terms of area planted than any other red grape. Growers find it well-suited to the climate and soil in the central and northern part of the Okanagan where it is not too hot. And wine drinkers realize how delicious and food friendly Pinot Noir can be.

A very good example is Moraine’s 2018 Pinot Noir ($26.99 Save-On Foods VQA) from Naramata. The Pinot displays a deep Burgundy colour and it has a generous bouquet of violets and red fruit with toasty notes. The palate reveals cherries, cranberries, with minerality and savoury notes of beets, as well as toasted oak with a velvety smoothness. And with high acidity, the Moraine is refreshing, especially if you cool it for half and hour in the fridge.

Then let it breath and serve with some cheese. Reach for some raclette from Savoie France. This pairing of Pinot Noir and raclette works best when the cheese is heated in front of a fire or under a grill. Then the nutty, sweet and fruity aroma intensifies and the melted cheese becomes gooey and stringy. When grilled it becomes crunchy and becomes savoury in flavour. Raclette and Pinot Noir are a perfect way to enjoy January’s long dark nights.

Switching from the Okanagan to Spain’s Rueda region, let’s unscrew Le Petit Bonhomme Blanco 2018 Verdejo ($15.99 BCLS). Verdejo is a dry white which now happens to be Spain’s most popular white wine. Its home is in the Rueda region of Spain in Castilla y Leon, 150 km north-west of Madrid.

If you’re wondering why a Spanish wine has a French name, it’s because Montreal transplant, Nathalie Bonhomme moved to Spain decades ago and started a company exporting Spanish wine to Canada. She specializes in smaller family wineries from various parts of Spain whose wines over deliver for the price.

Bonhomme’s Verdojo is produced from 50-year-old bush vines whose grapes are fermented in stainless steel. The wine reveals a pleasant floral aroma with ripe stone fruit and spice. On the palate there’s lime, peach and nectarine, with a touch of jasmine, fennel and zesty acid with minerals. On the finish, there’s a lovely crescendo of flavour, ending with an orange find finish.

The Bonhomme is a very versatile wine. Enjoy with a variety of foods such as vegan rice bowls with tofu, beets, and spinach, or seared scallops, lemon chicken, and curries, or sip it alone as you plan your spring garden.