Maybe it’s because I’ve just returned from the searing heat of Indian summer, but it doesn’t feel like spring has sprung quite yet in Montreal. I’m still gripped by a chill in the air. Yet there’s something endlessly fascinating about Montreal and its inhabitants at this time of year. Just watch how everyone embraces each early glimpse of sunlight and warmth with pure abandon, face upturned to that long-dormant deity.
To me the interesting thing about these transitory times is the flexibility it leaves for wine: almost anything goes. A richer red to deal with that rainy chill, a light, high acid white for when the sun’s out, a broader, fleshier white to pair with Quebec snow crab (one of my favourite things about spring in Montreal), or a light, juicy red for something in between. Or how about some bubbles? You can almost never go wrong with bubbles.
Returning from India has also made me appreciate the tremendous variety of wine we have available here in Quebec. In India, wine culture was virtually nonexistent until fairly recently. Although wine consumption is increasingly rapidly, wine drinkers are still relatively few in terms of the overall population. Whiskey and beer are much more popular beverages, and on a typical menu you’re likely to find more varieties of whiskey than wine. Wine is generally limited to a few Indian selections (usually the same brands, with Sula Vineyards by far the most popular choice) or a sprinkling of imported bottles (usually big names and almost laughably expensive – think $100 for a bottle of Jacob’s Creek).
And so, a few suggestions as we transition into (hopefully) warmer times…
For the terrace, before the sun goes down…
Aveleda Vinho Verde 2013 ($11.55 at SAQ)
It’s rare that I find a wine I feel comfortable recommending for under $15. So when I tried this Vinho Verde during a seminar with Véronique Rivest at a Wines of Portugal tasting the other day, I was impressed by its fruity freshness, but even more so by its price. Characteristic of Vinho Verde, it has just a touch of fizz, with clean flavours of green apple and citrus. For affordable terrace sipping, you really can’t beat it.
A broader, fleshier white…
Goisot Exogyra Virgula Saint-Bris 2012 ($22.80 at SAQ)
A Sauvignon Blanc from Burgundy? Yes! A few kilometers southwest of Chablis, Saint-Bris became an official appellation in 2001, a recognition of its cool climate Sauvignon Blanc. I first discovered biodynamic producer Goisot at the marché bio in Paris last summer, and was happy to see their wine on SAQ shelves when I returned to Montreal. Expressive and unusual, this has flavours of tropical fruit and citrus, with a fleshy texture that lends weight to the focused, mineral-driven core.
An unusual red that’s somewhere in between…
Campolargo Baga Bairrada 2011 ($26.00 at SAQ)
This producer was my favourite discovery from the Wines of Portugal tasting. With a sparkling rosé, some unusual whites and fresh reds, Campolargo’s wines stood out. This particular wine is made from the Portuguese grape Baga, which can be very tannic and heavy in the wrong hands. (It’s a grape that producers love or hate, or perhaps love to hate, as Véronique Rivest suggested during the seminar.) In these hands, however, it’s fresh, fruity, and spicy, with a distinct smokiness that adds an unusual charm.
Bubbles! Rosé! Two for one…
Bisol Talento Rosé Brut Vénétie 2005 ($32 at SAQ)
This wine is more of a splurge than the others, but I think it’s a worthy candidate to celebrate the arrival of spring. I tried it at a recent picnic-themed tasting at oenopole. A gorgeous golden orange pink colour in the glass, it drinks dry, with savory, bready notes, wild strawberries, and a touch of salinity to it. Made with 100% Pinot Noir, it’s super fresh and easy to drink. Perfect for a pre-BBQ apéro on a warm spring evening.