Column: Three red wines for three occasions

As we approach the expensive holiday season, it’s often prudent to save money whenever we can. Enter the Oops 2018 Carménère from Chile. $11.99 on sale until Nov. 28th! And it’s well worth the price.

Why the strange name that’s used for recognizing mistakes? It’s because when Carménère was planted in Chile, it looked and tasted like a Merlot. It wasn’t until 1994 when the mistake was realized by an alert French ampelographer, Jean-Michel Boursiquit. Oops!

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The Oops Carménère has a deep purple crimson colour with a fruity aroma of raspberries and cherries. It’s easy to drink and easy to enjoy with rich ripe fruit that’s almost sweet with smooth tannins and a hint of chocolate. There’s nothing to seriously contemplate except it's tasty, very affordable, and perfect for middle of the week enjoyment with pizza or hamburgers. Available at all Richmond government liquor stores.

From Chile let’s travel 10,500 km north to the Similkameen Valley and open a bottle of 2018 Robin Ridge Organic Gamay ($23.25). Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais France but this Robin Ridge is not like a gentle Beaujolais. With its bolder character, this red is more like a Beaujolais Cru.

There’s a floral and fruity bouquet with spicy and toasty notes and rich smooth flavours of raspberries and loganberries, violets and cinnamon. And there’s the classic Simiklameen terroir of minerals in the smooth finish. No wonder it is considered Robin Ridge’s flagship wine. Enjoy with barbecued ribs. Available at Ironwood Save-on or at Robin Ridge Winery.

We’ve saved the 2015 Monte del Frà Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ($57.99) for last, as it’s a wine for a special occasion! U.S. wine critic James Suckling gave it a 91 point rating.

Amarone della Valpolicella is a rich, dry, bold  Italian red wine from the Veneto region. It is produced with 80-per-cent Corvina and 20-per-cent Rondinella. The grapes are air dried through a process called “appassimento”, which allows them to shrivel into raisins. This concentrates the sugar and flavors in the grapes, producing a distinctive and full-bodied wine, well suited to aging.

Amarone is a wine to drink with a lot of contemplation. And it is rarely cheap. The cost of the winemaking is high, as half of the grape volume disappears as grapes shrivel, which means more grapes are needed for each bottle of Amarone than other dry red.

The Monte del Frà Amarone has a beautiful terra cotta colour near the glass rim, indicating it has some age and is ready to enjoy. I had decanted it two hours before dinner and the nose revealed chocolate, violets, and dried red fruit. It tasted of ripe cherries, kirsch, and tawny port with a great balance of fruit, acid, gentle tannins, and a bittersweet finish with a sprinkling of cocoa. Available at all Richmond government stores.

I served the Amarone with braised lamb shanks in red wine with mashed cauliflower topped with sour cream, bacon, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Brussels sprouts. What a delicious match! Click here for the lamb shank recipe. Buon appetito!


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