Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bacchus - A Varietal Fit For A God

It would seem that the NHL has decided to give us the weekend off as far as games in the Stanley Cup Final go. So, the Mission Hill wines for the series will have to wait until Monday's game, but I'm not going the weekend without any wine. So, I figured I might as well stay on a somewhat "competitive" note and open a bottle that will give me another varietal in my quest to conquer the Wine Century Club application.

I'm going to have to go back and tweak the list (which can be seen as one of the side page or panel options) and make sure that everything is copasetic but a quick glance looks like, by adding tonight's varietal, I'm now at 97.

827. 2009 Domaine de Chaberton Bacchus (VQA Fraser Valley)

I'd recently added a Domaine de Chaberton wine to The List (#783) back at Easter and was surprised to learn as much as I did about the winery's history as one of the oldest and largest wineries in the province. I'd heard about them for years but had never really patronized their wines. During that bit of research, I'd seen that the winery considers Bacchus to be its signature grape. It seemed like a no-brainer to grab a bottle and give it a try.

Back in the 1980's, when the original folks behind Domaine de Chaberton started setting the groundwork for the first winery in the Fraser Valley, they planted an assortment of vines to see which, if any, would flourish. Knowing that the Valley, located just 45 minutes outside of Vancouver doesn't exactly boast the growing season and heat of the Okanagan, that selection included primarily Germanic whites. Bacchus was one of the varietals that quickly established itself and, indeed, some of the winery's Bacchus vines are now 30 years old - placing them among some of the oldest grape vines in the province.

Named after the Roman god of wine, the varietal was developed in the 1930's at a German grape research institute and was created by taking a Sylvaner x Riesling cross and crossing that with the Müller-Thurgau varietal. Once the offspring received varietal protection, it was made available for general cultivation in the 1970's. Known to ripen early and have expressive fruit, it is sometimes seen as a possible replacement for Riesling in regions where the latter doesn't fully ripen on a reliable basis. It is not know for its high acidity, however, which can be less than ideal for making varietal white wines.

Accordingly, growing Bacchus has largely remained centred in Germany but, even there, the varietal is often used for blending and, in 2006, only constituted around 2% of all plantings in the country. Considering the varietal's low profile on the wine shelf, it might be somewhat surprising to learn that a 2010 BC Wine Institute study shows Bacchus to be the 8th most planted white varietal in the province - also constituting about 2% of provincial production.

Domaine de Chaberton actually produces two versions of its Bacchus - its standard label, slightly off-dry bottle, that we tried and a dry version (that I didn't see in the store where I found this bottle). We didn't have a whole lot of spice or heat to our butter chicken but the touch of sweetness and big fruit went well with the richness of the dinner and would match nicely with spicy Asian cuisine.

I'd have no problem reaching for another bottle. In fact, at $14.50 a bottle, it's quite a nice little find when looking for a wine with this flavour profile.

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