Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Canada's favourite wines

Style at Home
Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Canada's favourite wines

The wine consumer can be awfully fickle. Witness the sudden change in drinking patterns that occurred after a widely viewed episode of 60 Minutes, broadcast in November 1991, suggested that despite a richer, fattier diet, French wine drinkers had fewer heart attacks because they consumed red wine. Within days, retailers began to notice more purchases of red wine.

Recently, we've seen a paradigm shift in taste preferences after the movie Sideways anointed Pinot Noir the grape of choice for real connoisseurs. Now winemakers just can't ramp up production fast enough. These are global shifts that have been experienced here in Canada and around the world, and during the decade I've been writing this column, we've made some waves of our own. Here's a look at some of the more notable wines that brightened our glasses, if only briefly, over the past 10 years. If we can drink as well in the next decade as we did in the last, we'll have much to boast about in another 10 years.

1 Southbrook Winery, Framboise
When the first issue of STYLE AT HOME appeared in April 1997, this Ontario wine was Canada's fruit wine export. Once European trade barriers against Canadian icewines and non-VQA table wines were lifted, a flood of new labels replaced it. Today, Inniskillin Icewine is our leading brand internationally.

2 Lindemans, Bin 65 Chardonnay
So fruity, sweet and over-oaked, it completely beguiled our novice palates. As taste preferences have evolved, so has the wine, which continues to sell briskly.

3 Wolf Blass, Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon
When lovable Wolf Blass proclaimed his wines could make weak men strong and strong women weak, we catapulted his brand to Canada's favourite red at $17 a pop.

4 Coopers Creek, Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush
The silly name of this very palatable Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand helped build acceptance for the screw-top closure and sparked a slew of off-the-wall wine names and labels.

5 Fat Bastard Shiraz
This cunning, in-your-face French offering challenged all the myths about Old World wines. Start with traditional grapes (Syrah) grown in old vineyards, apply New World winemaking techniques, give it a risqué name, add some brash marketing et voilà, wine stardom.

6 French Rabbit
The global launch of the first wine in a Tetra Prisma carton by French producer Boisset in Ontario had unprecedented support from the liquor monopoly. Highbrows recoiled at the lowly carton, but consumer sales exceeded all projections and expectations. Debate continues over the environmental friendliness of the Tetra Pak, but the box is here to stay.

7 Sparkling Icewine
Although icewine was first made in Germany more than two centuries ago, the sparkling version is uniquely Canadian. Rare, pricey, luscious, and more complex than regular icewines, it's the pinnacle of post-prandial potables.

8 Malivoire, 2004 Chardonnay, Moira Vineyard
Martin Malivoire once produced a dozen varietals and blends of wine. He's narrowed his focus down to five grapes, and grows them before coaxing out the ripest flavours at his gravity-flow winery in Ontario. This white from his certified organic Beamsville Bench vineyard is a treat.

9 Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate, Grand Reserve Shiraz, 2004
Bruce Nicholson's masterpiece of B.C. winemaking snatched the prized Rosemount Estate Trophy for world's best shiraz from the Australians and South Africans, who had won it every year before.

10 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo
Cabernet Sauvignon is my choice for Wine of the Decade. Wine should be about purity, simplicity, compatibility and affordability. This Chilean flagship delivered in all categories, plus one: consistency. It appeared in one of our early issues as a terrific cheapie, was noted on several occasions for its reliability, and resurfaced last year as a best buy.

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Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Canada's favourite wines