Tuesday, June 28, 2011

World Cup of White Wine

I think I got so wrapped up in the Canucks' recent and most excellent run in the Stanley Cup playoffs that I didn't turn my mind to other events coming up on the horizon. The drive to the finals went on for so long that I basically forgot that the Women's World Cup was nearly upon us. I was coming back from the Farmers' Market the other day and realized that I "hosted" a World Cup of Wine for the Men's World Cup a couple summers back. I figured that - in a world of chivalry and fairness - I needed to come up with something to celebrate the women. Particularly since the Canada Women's team is ranked 6th in the world heading into the World Cup.

Since the Men's World Cup of Wine was premised on red wine, it seemed like a no-brainer to come up with a Women's World Cup of Wine that features white wine. I suppose I could have gone with pink wines, but that's just a tad precious methinks.

The easy part was to come up with the concept. As is oft the case, the difficulty was in the details. I needed a format - quickly. There are only sixteen countries entering the World Cup and they don't all produce white wines - especially white wines sold in the Vancouver market. As tough as it might seem to believe, I don't think there are many - or more likely "any" - North Korean, Brazilian, Nigerian or even Swedish wines available on Vancouver shelves.

Going through the teams that made it to the World Cup, I found six countries that have white wines ready for the quaffing. As it turns out, there are two from North America (Canada and the US), two from Europe (France and Germany) and two from Oceania (Australia and New Zealand). Other great possibilities - like Chile, Argentina, Italy and South Africa - just didn't qualify for the competition.

I'm dealing with a limited number here. Six isn't even enough to go directly to the quarter finals grid. So, a little continental qualifier competition was the way to start. We'll determine a continental champion and take it from there.

First up, Oceania.

Australia vs New Zealand

Seeing as how this is only the first round, I figured I should keep the bottle price to under $20. Accordingly, I ended up opening a perennial darling of local wine scribes (the Clancy's) and a bottle that I'd picked up at the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival when New Zealand was a featured region (along with Argentina). I don't even know if I could find the Kiwi wine in Vancouver today, but I still had it around; so, it works for me.

837. 2009 Peter Lehmann Clancy's Legendary White (South Australia)

838. 2007 Omaka Springs Riesling (Marlborough - New Zealand)

The Clancy's is a classic Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend, while the Omaka Springs is a straight Riesling varietal - despite the fact that I (along with likely everyone else) normally associate the Kiwis with Sauv Blanc.

I think the Kiwis might be hitting a new stride with Riesling. One of the most identifiable characteristics about New Zealand Sauv Blanc is the bracing acidity and that acidity can be just as prominent with the best known Aussie Rieslings (think Clare Valley). I suppose there was a distinct possibility of an overwhelming acidity with this Riesling as well. While there was still plenty of acidity on the Omaka Springs, it wasn't a dominating presence and it rather complimented the slight honeyed effect of the fruit coming through on the palate.

I think the general conclusion in wine circles is that it's tough to go wrong with a Peter Lehmann wine, particularly with its consistent entry level wines. Eminently quaffable on a summer afternoon, the Clancy's White was definitely the zestier of the two wines, but its overall profile was maybe a little more one-dimensional than the Riesling.

This wasn't a slam dunk but the Kiwis are going to take the win and move on directly to the semi-finals. I don't know that a match on the field would have yielded the same result but I'm going to give the Kiwis a 2-1 win. The one disappointment about the Omaka Springs is that there were only a thousand cases made. I doubt that there's much of a chance of finding any more around.

And, with that, our World Cup of White Wine is up and running.

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