Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Few Thoughts on the Great Canadian Wine Challenge

I see that "two Canadian-wine-loving guys" have taken to promoting the Great Canadian Wine Challenge and that it's kicked in with the start of September.

The most pertinent paragraph on the Challenge website states "you may only purchase or open Canadian Wine for the duration of the Challenge. This allows for a few exceptions like international wine events that may be attended, dinner parties where the host unwittingly opens something non-Canadian, wine-related courses you may be taking where other wines may be opened, and events like i4c2014 or The Riesling Experience where it would be terrible to miss the international wines on offer. With feedback, we decided to allow for international travel exemption as well, as we know how hard it is to get Canadian wine within Canada, let alone the rest of the world!"

The "rules" also state that "you must drink wine from at least three provinces during the 12 month period, and at least 12 different wines during that time."

It might be that "at least 12 different wines during that time" part that made it abundantly clear that this wouldn't be my kind of challenge. If I were the type that only drank one bottle of wine a month, easy-peasy, but those that read this blog know that we tend to down wine on a considerably more aggressive schedule.

Now, I figure that I love my Canadian wines as much as the next guy. You only need to take a look at the wines that I've added to The List and you can see that Okanagan Valley wines are by far the biggest category there. Once you add the other BC bottles from the Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island and a smattering of Ontario and Nova Scotia wines, I think it's fair to say that I do my more than my share to support the Canadian wine industry.

I understand that over a hundred folks have registered - including the lovely and talented Shelback who is a regular drinking buddy of mine. I've warned her that I'm going to be watching her closely and - nasty guy that I am - may have to try and tempt her so that she fails at the challenge. After all what's a little vintage Port, California Cab or Italian Nebbiolo between friends?

Kidding aside, I can't say that I fathom the reasoning behind the challenge. I'm all about expanding the average Canadian's enjoyment of wine, but why would you want to limit yourself to all the possible bottles to choose from? I can easily think of 3 reasons why I won't commit:

1) I don't think my wallet could handle it. One might argue that you can find a Canadian wine to fit all occasions but we're big fans of big reds in our household and most of the big Canadian reds come with an equally big price tag. The top BC reds often command $50+ nowadays. I'm not saying that the wines should be sold for less. With all the high costs of land, labour and taxes here, we just can't compete with some of the other regions of the world. I just can't do that week in, week out. Sometimes a guy just needs a $15 bottle of Argentine Malbec or a Sicilian blend.

2) I truly enjoy discovering new regions and interesting varietals and I can't see limiting myself to cool climate wines that are going to almost all be from BC. Beyond the Port, Cab and Nebbiolo I'd be missing, what about the Prosecco I need for my Aperol Spritzers or the Aussie Shiraz I need to enjoy while cheering on my favourite Aussie Rules footy team (West Coast Eagles by the way)? I could expand on this list but the thought of doing without would only make me sad - and I see thinking of and drinking wine as a happy occasion.

3) Even supposing that every varietal and wine style was produced in Canada - finding them for purchase is an entirely different matter. Visiting the actual wineries doesn't even guarantee you that a specialty or award winning wine will be available. Production levels are often extremely low and there have been countless occasions when I would have loved to buy a particular bottle only to find out that it's completely sold out - and those are just BC wines. There's a ridiculously limited selection of Ontario wines for sale in BC. At last count, I think the current government listings include one or two wines from each of a whopping seven wineries (if you don't count Icewine or Baby Duck). As for other provinces, don't be silly. Ever tried to find a wine from Nova Scotia in a BC bottle shop? I have and I might bet you one of $50+ bottles of BC red that you likely couldn't find even one during the whole year that the Challenge is on.

As such, buying and drinking locally is a grand and noble gesture - and I highly commend the concept. Just don't count on me to voluntarily limit my options to enjoy wines from elsewhere in this crazy world. I wouldn't limit myself to Napa or Sonoma wines if I lived in California. Nor would I drink nothing but Mendoza Malbec or Salta Torrontés if I lived in Buenos Aires.

I might consider a Canadian Wine Week though where I'll open a different bottle of Canadian wine every night for a week. That's an idea I can commit to. So, stay tuned.

But I still don't think I'll be able to find a Nova Scotian wine - and, hell, my last name is Halifax.

No comments:

Post a Comment