The Tomato

Wine Maven

European wines and Albertan spirits

by Mary Bailey

Joan Cusine of Parés Baltà was in Edmonton recently, tasting through some of the wines his family makes in the hills near Barcelona. I am a huge fan of Parés Baltà, especially after visiting the property in Penedes a few years ago. The wines define value, and deliver so much quality. For example, the Cava Brut NV. The traditional Cava grapes, Xarel-o, Macabeo and Parellada that make up the blend are grown in vineyards that are no more than 10 k from the sea with altitude. The estate is completely organic and certified biodynamic by Demeter — sheep nibble between the rows, birds and bees flutter through the air. (The site dates to 1790). After a cool fermentation in stainless, the wine has a second fermentation in the bottle for 12 months. It’s a textbook example of Cava (Spain’s sparkling wine), pale yellow, dry, with subtle toasty aromas of pear and apple along with some attractive floral notes and almond. Look also for their equally affordable and delicious still white and red, the Blanc de Pacs and the Mas Petit.

Two Parés Baltà wines

Two Parés Baltà wines

Three new sparkling wines from Italy are on the market, imported by Christina Masciangelo, Salivate Wines. All are made by the traditional method in Franciacorta, the northern Italian wine region that rivals Champagne in quality.

Barone Pizzini was one of the wineries that helped establish the DOC in 1971 (the property dates back to 1870) and was certified organic in 2012.

The Animante Franciacorta DOCG is 78 per cent Chardonnay, with citrusy floral notes on the nose and toasty notes on the palate. It finishes with a long-lasting, savoury creaminess. The Animante comes in the half-bottle size, ideal for a January aperitif, under $30.

The Franciacorta Rosé Edizione is round and rich, yet slightly austere, tasting as if its precise acidity is wrapped in velvet. It spends three years on the less, which contributes to the depth of flavour, with well-balanced tannin present. There is an effortlessness to it, which we find only in the best wines. This wine could easily be drunk at dinner, let’s say with roast duck or salmon. It was also voted best organic wine in the world at the International Wine Challenge in London.

And now for something completely different, a sparkling Verdicchio called Perlugo Zero Pievalta. Barone Pizzini grows the organic fruit in Le Marche, then the wine spends 10 to 20 months on its lees in Franciacorta, producing a traditional method sparkler that is super fragrant, with nutty, biscuity, toasty and fresh apple notes, with juicy acidity and zero dosage. It’s a deliciously refreshing wine worth trying, around $23.

Three new sparkling wines from Italy

Three new sparkling wines from Italy

Nothing says total luxury like a great Champagne, and that would be Ruinart. The history of the house dates back to the early days of sparkling wine in the region. In fact, you might call Ruinart the ur-champagne. In 1729, Nicolas Ruinart founded the first Champagne house, Maison Ruinart. He was the great great-grandfather of Madame Clicquot (as in Veuve Clicquot). The Blanc des Blancs is especially lovely, ethereal with a lovely aromatic freshness. The pale lemon colour is displayed in the distinctive clear bottle. Cavern often has the Runiart available by the glass; indulge for an affordable treat.

Ruinart, the ur-champagne

Ruinart, the ur-champagne

It’s a great time to be a spirits lover. Strathcona Spirits (10122 81 Avenue) in Old Strathcona now has tours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, $10. “It’s more of a turn and point experience, as we are the smallest distillery in North America,” says owner Adam Smith, “but we will introduce you to the stills, the process, our unique ingredients, and the history of Edmonton’s first distillery, not since prohibition, but ever.”

We are big fans of the Badlands Gin made with juniper from the Badlands and Edmonton-foraged seaberry and the Single Grain Vodka, made with hard red wheat grown 23 k from the distillery.

Badlands Gin is made with Badlands juniper and Edmonton-foraged seaberry

Badlands Gin is made with Badlands juniper and Edmonton-foraged seaberry

Eau Claire in Turner Valley released the very first Single Malt Whisky to be made in Alberta (in modern times) with fanfare — a parade of pipers leading a carriage filled with bottles of the whisky pulled by the Eau Claire draft horses. The release was 1,000 bottles so it may be hard to find, but don’t worry they have more quietly resting. We tasted this over the hols and it is unique and delicious, worth seeking out. Plus how fun to have a bottle with the 001 batch number.

All Alberta craft distillers, meaderies and fruit winemakers are rejoicing at the new regulations announced late last year. It allows them to sell their product at their location or at farmers’ markets and pay less of the heavy government markup.

Eau Claire’s premiere Alberta single malt

Eau Claire’s premiere Alberta single malt

Event Calendar

Thursday, January 18
Roadtrippin’ with Beer Thirst Tasting, $10, Sherbrooke Liquor, Sherbookeliquor.com

Sunday January 21
Cavern Cheese School: Winter Wines, $75, The Cavern, cavern.ca

Wednesday, January 24
Island Hopping One Whisky at a Time, $60, Aligra Wine & Spirits, aligrawineandspirits.com

Friday, January 26
(Un)Pretentious Pairings Tasting,
$10, Sherbrooke Liquor Sherbookeliquor.com

Saturday, January 27
17th Century Dinner at NAIT, $105 Ernest’s, 780-471-8685

Tuesday, January 30
Big Bottles in the Butchery,
Rge Rd, 780-447-4577

Saturday, February 3
Beerios Breakfast Beer Tasting,
$5, Sherbrooke Liquor, Sherbrookeliquor.com

Thursday, February 6
Roadtrippin’ with Beer Thirst Tasting, $10, Sherbrooke Liquor Sherbookeliquor.com

Sunday, February 11
Cavern Cheese School: Old World Wines, $75, The Cavern, cavern.ca

Friday, February 16
(Un)Pretentious Pairings Tasting, $10, Sherbrooke Liquor, Sherbrookeliquor.com

Saturday, January 20
Wine, Women & Song Fundraising Dinner, $195, Ernest’s, 780-471-8685

Thursday, February 8
Ricasoli Estate Winemaker Dinner, $105, Ernest’s, 780-471-8685

Saturday, February 10
Chocolate & Wine Dinner,
$105, Ernest’s, 780-471-8685

Sunday, February 11
Cavern Cheese School: Old World Wines, $75, The Cavern, cavern.ca

Tuesday, February 13
Around the World with Pinot Noir Tasting $40, Aligra Wine & Spirits aligrawineandspirits.com

Wed, February 21
Monkey Business Dinner, $79++
The Glass Monkey, 780-760-2228

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