RAISE A GLASS TO SUMMER: Natalie MacLean’s seasonal wine tips
Wine & Spirits

RAISE A GLASS TO SUMMER: Natalie MacLean’s seasonal wine tips

A roundup of tips and sips to enjoy the best the city has to offer By Natalie MacLean

Bottled Sunshine
Here are my top three wine picks to quench your thirst this summer

2010 Grant Burge Summers Chardonnay
$19.95 • Barossa Valley, Australia • 91 points
Love the hazelnut richness and green apple vibrancy that mingle on the nose of this wine! The palate is a rush of white peach, nectarine, and nutmeg, with refreshing lime acidity on the finish. I also love the backstory on this wine: it was named in honour of the winery’s accountant of 30 years, Miles Summers. His sun will never set with this wine. Pair with roast chicken, lobster in butter, and corn dishes. Best 2012 to 2014. LCBO 269829.

2009 James Oatley Tic Tok Sauvignon Blanc
$14.95 • Pemberton, Australia • 88 points
A refreshing and crisp white with come-alive herbal aromas and mouth-watering lime notes. Not too grassy. A lovely clean finish. Pair with Thai food, grilled prawns, crab cakes, or other shellfish such as oysters and mussels. Best 2012 to 2013. LCBO 187039.

2011 Hungaria Sauvignon Blanc
$9.95 • Etyek, Hungary • 87 points
A zesty white with refreshing notes of green melon, lime, and gooseberry. Thirst-quenching, with a zippy finish. Incredible price for this quality. Pair with creamy pasta, Asian dishes, salads, and seafood. Best 2012 to 2014. LCBO 269688.

Summer School

The president of the National Capital Sommelier Guild, Bill Ellis, offers five suggestions for eager students of the grape.

1. Join the guild. Don’t let the name scare you; we’re a group of wine enthusiasts who make learning and tasting fun. In fact, you don’t have to be a sommelier or work in a restaurant to join. The guild hosts wine tastings and dinner events throughout the year. They are educational, unpretentious, and all about having a good time. Visit the website for more information: www.sommelierguild.com.

2. Get educated. One of the best wine education programs in Canada is the sommelier program at Algonquin College. The program covers everything you need to know about wine, including how to make it, serve it, and taste it.

3. Smell everything. Wine appreciation is even more about smelling wine than it is about tasting. One of the best places to keep your nose in shape is the kitchen. When you’re cooking, smell all the ingredients as they go into the pot. Do the same in the grocery store when you’re in the produce section — remember, though, no tasting until you buy.

4. Host a wine tasting party and hire a sommelier. Why do all the work yourself? Groovy Grapes (www.groovygrapes.com) and Savvy Company (www.savvycompany.ca) do a great job of working with you to create a memorable event.

5. Taste, taste, taste. Practice makes perfect, and wine is no exception. The more wine you taste, the better at tasting you will become. If you’re confused about what to taste, don’t be shy about asking a product consultant at the LCBO. They are knowledgeable about wine and can help you decide on the perfect wine for your tasting pleasure.

Event Watch
One of the guild’s signature events is the monthly Vintages Pre-Release Tasting (VPR) during which the club tastes 12 highly recommended wines from the upcoming Vintages Release of new wines at the LCBO. It’s a great opportunity to taste before you buy. The next VPR tasting will be held Thursday, June 21, at 7 p.m.

Another summer wine event is the guild’s annual Mechoui, which features a spit-roasted lamb accompanied by seasonal vegetables, gourmet cheeses, and a sweet treat, all in a casual outdoor setting. At the time of publication, this event was still in the planning stage, but it is scheduled to be held in late August. Check     www.sommelierguild.com for the latest details.

Natalie MacLean, local author of Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines, writes regularly on her wine site at www.nataliemaclean.com.