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2+1 Survey Erin and Michelle at Grape Juice

Grape Juice is not only fun to drink, but also a great blog run by Erin and Michelle. Located in Ontario, Canada, they shared with us their elation in joining our little survey and have provided some great tips on finding Iberian wines in their area. We hope you enjoy their suggestions!

1. How good would you say your selection of Spanish wines and Portuguese wines are in your local wine market? If you exclude Port/Rioja/ and Sherry how is the selection?

Here in Ontario, Canada, the ‘local wine market’ consists mainly of an extensive chain of stores owned and operated by the provincial governing body for wine and spirits: the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). The vision of the LCBO is stated as: “LCBO Discover The World” and as such they do attempt to provide as much international flavour as they can. LCBO stores are found in the majority of towns in the province and all offer varying degrees of wine selection. Some of these stores are specifically designated as “Vintages” stores, identifying them as spots that have an area set aside for fine wine and premium spirits. Generally located in larger centres, these “Vintages” outlets can devote quite a large portion of the retail floor space to premium liquor, but often times the section is relegated to a tiny corner somewhere.

As may be becoming obvious, there is a great deal of store-to-store variation in what is stocked, and in what quantities. Generally though, the selection of Iberian wines in the Greater Toronto and Greater Hamilton Areas (where we’re located) is excellent. A quick search of the LCBO site revealed almost 15 dozen different Spanish wines, only a third of which were from Rioja or fortified. As far as Portuguese libations went, there is approximately a 50/50 split between port and wine, but with 12 dozen wines available, we’re hardly handcuffed for lack of choice.

The great thing about having such a widespread provincial network is that if the store in your area doesn’t have the Iberian wine you wanted to try, they’ll pull it in from a store that does, or at the very least direct you to the closest store that carries it. They’ll call ahead and have them set aside a bottle or six for you if you’d like. Great service. Not only that, but say the LCBO doesn’t even stock some strange little Beiras wine you’ve been burning to tryâ€Â¦they’ll hunt it down for you and bring it in if at all able. The customer is responsible for all freight and import fees on top of the price of the wine, making this a rather costly option, but hey, if you gotta have, sometimes you just gotta have it.

2. What’s the last Spanish or Portuguese wine you had and what did you think of it? Would you buy it again? Got a tasting note?

We’re just starting to get into Iberian wines at Grape Juice, but we have tried and reviewed a Portuguese white and a Spanish red on the blog already. We both found them thoroughly enjoyable and well worth a try. Michelle has found herself enamoured with the region and we’re lucky to escape the LCBO without a bottle or two in tow.

Tasting notes are posted for the Quinta Do Portal Branco 2005 can be found at:

A snippet:

“The Quinta Do Portal Branco 2005 combines Viosinho 45%, Moscatel 20%, Malvasia Fina 20%, and Gouveio 15% (for those not familiar with Portugese wine, Gouveio is known outside of the Douro region as Verdelho) into a refreshing, easy drinking white table wine.”

Tasting notes are also posted for the Bodegas Montecillo Crianza Rioja 2001 can be found at:

A snippet:

“Anything but fruity, his spicy cherry nature was complimented by a rustic, woodsy style. Underlying soft vanilla notes added the perfect touch of sensuality and elegance to this leather-loving bad boy.”

+1 – Our Question For You

We’re very curious about Basque wines. Are the wines as unique as the language and culture, and if so, what sets them apart from the typical Spanish wines we’re likely to encounter? Do you yourself enjoy them? Are there any that you would recommend us trying for an introduction? I realize that’s actually about four questions, but we’re very nosy people, so I hope that’s okay.

First off, when I say “Basque Wine”, people immediately think of Txacoli (Chacoli). Txacoli is a light crisp wine that can either be red or white. Made from grapes that are just about impossible to pronounce, such as Hondarribi Beltza and Hondarribi Zuri, the wines are both distinct and unique, and can only truley be appreciated by trying them. I find the whites have a lot in common with Vinho Verde’s of Northern Portugal. Unfortunately, both the red and white wines are quite rare to find outside Spain, and if you do actually come across a bottle, you most likely found the only bottle in your area. There are very few producers and very little of it has been exported. In fact, if you find a red bottle, let me know because I’ve only had the opportunity to taste one. Here’s a podcast on the Red Txakoli wine that I tried a little while ago.

On the other hand, you may have tried many Basque wines and not have known it. A large part of Navarra and Rioja are in Basque country. Depending on who you ask, these count as Basque wines. La Rioja Alta is where Basque wines reside in Rioja, and in Navarra, almost any wine could be considered Basque. Due to very deep political and cultural lines, I have seen this disputed at trade fairs where a Rioja winery is under the Euskadi (Basque) tent while the winery next door is placed under the Rioja tent!

What is Basque? For the most part, Txakoli, but I do want to point out one other treat that does not derive from Grape Juice! Sidra is a true Basque drink and something not to be missed if you choose to jump over the big pond to Spain. Made from apples, it is a very dry and austere cider that after a bottle or two can lead you to believe that you can understand the Basque language! Although it is quite difficult to find, there is no reason you couldn’t use it as an excuse for a vacation.

Thanks for the great question!

Ryan Opaz

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