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Eiswein in Canada
Exploring the Frozen Elegance of Canadian Eiswein
My first surprise was to see grape vines growing wild. I spotted them immediately as we walked along a local footpath on my first day there. I have never witnessed this before, they twist and turn and bind themselves to the very tops of the trees. Pointing them out to Maggie I said that I had read about how virulently they grow. But this was first hand evidence that I had never seen in Europe. I’m assuming it’s the phylloxera resistant American vines that enables this. Nearly all European cultivated vines are grafted to American rootstock to avoid this devastating little bug.
However, they were acidic and sharp to the taste and what I was more interested in was the delicious Eiswein. Canada has established itself as a global leader in producing some of the finest sweet wines. When it comes to Eiswein, Inniskillin stands out as an emblem of excellence. I went with my Canadian relatives to this lovely vineyard to sample some of these delicious dessert wines.
Eiswein: A Natural Wonder
Eiswein is a luxurious dessert wine made from grapes that have naturally frozen on the vine. We used to import our own from K+K in Austria. However, the climate has not permitted its production for a while sadly. I think the last one was 2014. The freezing of the water content in the grape concentrates the sugars and flavours. This result is in a wine of exceptional sweetness and complexity.
Inniskillin: The Canadian Eiswein Trailblazer
Inniskillin Vineyards were founded in 1975 by Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser. They played a pivotal role in establishing Canada’s reputation as a producer of world-class ice wines. Located in the heart of the Niagara Peninsula, Inniskillin benefits from a unique terroir that’s ideal for Eiswein production. I was curious as to how the up to -30°C winter temperatures didn’t kill the vines. However, my cousin Kevin pointed out the great big escarpment rising out of the flat Ontario lands. This, along with the vast bodies of water (Niagara and Lake Ontario) create that essential rise in temperature. Therefore the vines are not killed by hard frost.
The Harvesting Process
The key to crafting exceptional Eiswein lies in the timing of the harvest. Grapes for ice wine must be picked when the temperature drops to around -8°C (17.6°F) or lower. Typically in the early hours of the morning. This meticulous process requires a dedicated team of vineyard workers who brave the frigid temperatures to hand-pick the frozen grapes.
Inniskillin specializes in several grape varieties for Eiswein production. Riesling, Vidal (Terri’s favourite), and Cabernet Franc are among the most popular. Each grape variety brings its own unique characteristics to the final wine. This results in a diverse portfolio of ice wines to suit different palates. I have of course bought some home for us all to try. So it’s a pudding night for the staff soon! Some lovely fruity puddings or delicate sponges will complement them well. Dylan might make his Cointreau ice cream and some creamy blue cheese for the Cabernet Franc – I get so excited!
Martin Freixa Old Vines 2020
Martin Freixa – a visit from the producer
Today we tried the Martin Freixa wine – with the producer! What a treat. It’s a good job I liked the wine isn’t it? It was rich, full, and fruity. This wine is Limited Edition, with only 5000 bottled, the bottle we opened was number 4860! And it is exclusive to us in the Uk.
The label has Joaquim’s picture on it. His red glasses were in colour, but they were too striking, so he opted for a plainer look!
The wine comes from Montsant, a once ‘forgotten’ region and is a high-end wine region. The climate is Mediterranean with continental influences. Summers are dry and rainfall only occurs in Autumn. The vineyard is 3.7 hectares. The grape is 100% Samso (also known as Carignan)
70 Year Old Vines
The vines are over 70 years old, they need little water, and don’t produce many grapes. The old vines are known for a softer, rounded wine, low in tannins. On tasting, I agree. It is very pleasant.
Joaquin (Kim) says that the wine on a hot day could be chilled at 15 °C to soften the alcohol.
Penderyn Single Malt Whisky
Penderyn Single Malt Whisky has been successful in gaining protection in law as a Welsh product in the UK. PGI means Protected Geographical Indication and it is the 20th product from Wales to achieve GI accreditation, following in the footsteps of the protected designation of origin (PDO) for Welsh wine and the protected geographical indications (PGIs) for wine, cider and perry.
The Welsh whisky industry is growing in importance and is estimated to account for some £23 million of combined revenues this year. This is very impressive in an industry that had all but died out. Read more about the history of Welsh Whisky here. These days, you can visit the Penderyn Distillery in the tiny little village of Penderyn in the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon). They have also opened a site in Llandudno and the old copperworks in Swansea. Whichever one you choose the sites and buildings
The Legend pictured above is a Madeira-finish single malt whisky, bottled at 41% abv. (43% in the USA). It is a clean and well-balanced whisky which is smooth and fresh. It has a long finish of Madeira cake and sultanas. There are many others to choose from and there are miniatures available that make handy gifts or samples to choose which one you like the best! Have a look at our selection in our online shop.
What Wine goes with Lamb?
We are often asked what wine matches certain foods and we really enjoy the challenge of choosing something good. So what wine goes with lamb? It’s a classic meat from North Wales and much loved by visitors and locals. My brother John farms lamb that graze overlooking the beautiful Cardigan Bay, if they were any closer to the sea they’d need snorkels. Richard, our local butcher at Roberts Brothers supplies Dolgellau all year round with some of the best lamb.
What Wine goes with Lamb – Rioja?
So, what do we recommend with lamb? Well, I always open with ‘drink what you enjoy’ and I wouldn’t dream of calling it more than a bit of fun when we do food and wine matches. But it does sometimes really, really work and then it does indeed become food heaven. We do tend to immediately go to a Rioja which is often served with lamb in Spain. Dylan has a much told story of the time when he shared a glass with Javier from Presagio whilst devouring sweet little lamb cutlets cooked on a fire made from the little sticks of vine prunings. He gets to have all the fun!
What wine goes with Lamb – Bordeaux?
Bordeaux reds are also a good match for a grilled piece of lamb such as rack or chops. If it’s a rich slow cooked dish I may opt for something really full like a Malbec or a Rhone red. Dylan’s Riojan Lamb from our book Rarebit and Rioja is delicious and really easy to prepare so here’s the recipe below. Rioja would be a fine match for this but also you could try something different such as Mencia which is juicy and light and will not be too hard on the delicate, sweet flavour of a leg of lamb.
Let’s Get Spicy!
One of my favourite recipes for a shoulder of lamb is from Lisa Fearn’s book. It is cooked in spice, wine and citrus for at least 4 hours until the meat drops off the bone and every ounce of fat has melted away. I mess around with my own version now and sometimes add honey or a new spice combination. Dylan will also finely chop leftover lamb and make a creamy and spicy sort of hash with peas in it to go with rice or your favourite grain. These are dishes that could support a flavour bomb of a Riesling. I would opt for a slightly off-dry if there are spices and cream – why not?
Enjoy your Welsh Lamb!
Whatever you choose, make sure you enjoy it. Remember it’s all about fun and enjoyment with family and friends. Experimenting is all part of the adventure and hopefully we can contribute to making it enjoyable. Let me know if you would like a food match article for a certain food – I’ll do my best!
The equivalent of some 650 million bottles of wine are thrown away every year in the UK. I was shocked when I first read about this wine waste and immediately cross-referenced to see if it could possibly be true. It seems that it is indeed true. How on earth does this happen?
I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise really, as a society, we are extremely wasteful. Mountains of food are shamefully ditched every year and clothing bought almost as disposable items so wine waste is just another statistic. I just thought alcohol would be something no-one would be willing to ditch!
Why do People throw away Wine?
The most common answer is that it is left over and they aren’t sure if it is ok to drink. Sometimes I was told that they simply don’t like the wine or maybe they thought it was ‘off’ in some way. A common one was that a bottle was too much for one or two people and they don’t drink more than once a week or a fortnight. This is a particular problem for someone living alone.
So What’s the Answer to Wine Waste?
Firstly, think carefully about the wine you buy. If quantity is the problem then buy half bottles which will give you 3 small glasses. Better still, cans. These are by far the better for the environment and we have some excellent quality wines in a can and a range of styles. My favourite is the sparkling Riesling which Kiss of Wine produce. A 250ml can is a large glass or 2 small glasses. Cans chill quicker and are super-recyclable. They are great for picnics – nice and light!
Getting it Right
I would say this wouldn’t I, but buy from independent shops. In Dylanwad we pride ourselves on a policy of continuous professional development. Dylan and I and our staff visit vineyards, train and taste in-house and offer the opportunity to sit professional exams. This means we all have or are growing in confidence to give customers advice to buy a wine they’ll enjoy and encourage them to experiment. It’s a different matter if a wine is faulty. Seal it with the cork and take it back immediately so the merchant can assess what is wrong with it. Remember that sediment or lumps of tartrate crystals in your wine are not faults and don’t harm the wine. Neither is a bit of mould on the top of the cork a problem.
Wine doesn’t go off in a day or two. In fact, it will just slowly oxidise so drink it if you liked it! You can invest in a simple preservation kit where you pump the air out of the wine such as Vacu Vin. There is also the more expensive Coravin that allows you to extract a glass without affecting the wine in the bottle. If you seal the wine and keep it in the fridge if it’s white or sparkling it will keep for up to a week. Sparkling a few days (no silver spoon, just seal it). It’s not going to harm you or make you ill. It may just lose a bit of flavour. Port, sherry and dessert wines will keep for longer because of the alcohol level or sugar. Taste them and drink them!
Using left-over Wine
I keep leftover red, white or rosé for up to a couple of months or more. Even if you didn’t like the wine it will add richness and flavour to your sauces and stews. Use red wine in meat or bean stews or gravy. Pour it around a beef or lamb pot roast. White wine similarly goes in chicken gravy or creamy pasta sauces. Recently, I made poached pears with a left-over white which we thought was pretty undrinkable! (Not one of ours I hasten to add!) Add sugar, mixed sweet spices, a cinnamon stick, cardamon pods and poach your pears in the liquid. A wine transformed! So give it a go and let’s cut down on the wine waste in the UK.
Welsh Wine Week
Welsh Wine Week 2nd – 11th June
Welsh Wine Week celebrates the great wineries in Wales every year. In our shop, we stock a range of Welsh wine. Without fail, a number of customers will be surprised that we produce wine in Wales at all. If you want to see the ever-growing list of Welsh vineyards, pop over to the Vineyards of Wales website – you’ll be amazed!
Another thing that surprises customers is the quality of Welsh wines. The growers from all over Wales are well educated in their field and forever developing and experimenting. It’s a real treat to see biodynamic and organic practises in vineyards such as Ancre Hill. This of course is no mean feat in a country like Wales where keeping disease and rot at bay is tricky and a bit easier in a warmer, drier climate.
I cannot keep up with the new vineyards in Wales and this is very exciting. I think the newest development that promises to be a real a game changer is Robb and Nicola Merchant’s plans to develop a winery. If this is successful, it means they can produce their award winning wines on site as well as make wines for other Welsh growers.
Support the Development of Welsh Wine
You can be a part of this exciting project. White Castle have established a Crowdfunding page to raise funds and there are a number of options for you to choose. Have a look and see if you fancy supporting their brave development. It’s this kind of ‘go-for-it’ spirit that will help carve out a promising future for the Welsh wine industry.
Welsh Wine Week in Dylanwad
If you call in to our shop/cafe/bar during that week, we will have a range of Welsh wines for you to taste. Come and see for yourself what the fuss is about if you haven’t tried them before. Alternatively, just enjoy a glass and relax or pop onto our website to discover Welsh wine! Iechyd da!
The Italian Tour
The Italian Tour
How exciting it was to set off on our first training trip to some of the vineyards that Gwin Dylanwad Wine import from. The Italian tour promised some serious training and I was looking forward to it. We set off early on Sunday morning and landed in our accommodation at the foothills of the Dolomites late that night.
I know a lot of people are saying it’s a cushy number being taken off to visit vineyards but it was actually a lot of travelling. Without fail, every wine maker we visited expressed shock at how far away we were staying (about 45 minutes). It was a lot of driving but the experience of travelling through the Italian countryside was worth it and the views were spectacular. And in Wales, we are used to travelling! It was also a good opportunity for a bit of team bonding.
The Italian Tour – Bidoli
Bidoli was a very smart winery. I was very impressed by the quality of the Pinot Grigio. This is the type of wine that I have found bland and uninteresting in the past. Bidoli’s was brimming with lovely stone fruits balanced with a good acidity and was very refreshing. It was a prime example of a well-made easy drinking wine.
I was struck by the welcoming and kind hosts of these vineyards who were so passionate about their company. Even if they didn’t own it, they were so enthusiastic about showcasing their product to the world – even a tiny company from Wales. As a result, we were wined and dined quite lavishly! Excellent food coupled with lots to drink and an absolute overload of education!
I really appreciated the organic practices of Perlage, especially while growing their grapes in Valdobbiadene for their Prosecco Canah. They use local compost and no pesticides. The steep slopes in this area are very impressive and are key to the production of top Prosecco. It was very interesting to be able to work through the 3 stages of the Canah. So we were able to taste the juice of the grapes before fermenting from one tank, then the wine after the first fermentation and the final product.
Special Italian Imports
So why not give these delicious wines a try? Have a look at Perlage on our website or Bidoli. I think the Perlage Sangiovese is a lovely smooth easy drinker and the Bidoli Pinot Grigio delle Venezie will change your mind if you think all Pinot Grigio is bland! Enjoy!
Some frequent questions about Welsh Wines
When customers visit our shop they are often surprised by the fact that there are Welsh wines. It is unusual really because we are on the cusp of the northern hemisphere limit for successfully growing wine grapes for commercial use. However, Welsh wines are increasing in number every year and there are some 40 Welsh vineyards by now. You will see several on our shelves, two being Montgomery and Llaethliw.
Where can grapes for Welsh wines be grown?
As well as finding the correct soil composition the most important fact is probably the aspect of the vineyard. A nice south facing slope is important so that the grapes catch as much of that ripening sun as possible in a cooler climate. One of the greatest problems a grape grower will face is the unpredictable weather. A late frost can decimate your crop and winds can destroy the vine itself. Hailstones or heavy rain can disrupt flowering and of course, damp conditions can encourage mould. So grape growing in Wales has its challenges.
Which grapes are used for Welsh wines?
If we take the above into account, then choosing grapes that are early ripening and disease resistant is wise. There are clones of grape varieties that can answer these needs. Solaris and Rondo are very popular varieties in Wales. The white is a fresh and dry fruity style that is probably comparable to a Sauvignon Blanc. Rondo, the red produces a light juicy fruit wine. There is a Pinot Noir clone (Précoce) which does very well in Wales (White Castle’s Gold Medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards for example) and many growers choose to grow this variety.
What kind of wine can I expect from Wales?
An ever growing variety is the answer. When you see that Ancre Hill have grown Albariño after studying the similarities in climate between Galicia and Monmouth it’s clear that the vision is there. White Castle Vineyard has also ventured with Cabernet Franc (and I see on social media that they’re plotting for something new here too!) It’s patently obvious that the skill and appetite to do something different is growing in Welsh wine makers. They’re doing their research and investigating different possibilities: Gwinllan Y Dyffryn planted a grape called Divico to try and achieve a more robust style of red and it’s also disease resistant. So we can see that we are just at the beginning of our wine adventure here in Wales. We have a range in the shop and there’s usually at least one open behind the bar for you to try. Click here for the online selection.
Newton Johnson, the Last Winery Visit
Newton Johnson is situated at the top of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. This translates as ‘heaven on earth’ and indeed it is a beautiful spot. We arrived in the morning for our final vineyard visit in South Africa. This one was exciting because we stock some of their wines.
Newton Johnson, Foodie Heaven
We met Bevan in the stunning tasting room that has pretty well all-round views of the valley and his vineyards. He introduced himself as being the one ‘who eats and drinks for a living’. Well, he does a really good job of the tour and tasting and if you’re ever there book in for lunch too, the food is delicious.
I asked him how they had started in this particular spot. His answer was, quite simply, that his father had ambitions to grow Pinot Noir. Therefore, they moved! This area is unusually close in proximity to the cooling influence of the South Atlantic Ocean and is further south than the traditional South African winelands. This makes Hemel-en-Aarde one of the coolest, most maritime, wine producing areas in the country. I think when you have that much dedication and ambition for the grape that you’ll relocate the whole family, you are going to produce something particularly good.
His brother Gordon is the wine maker and we met him in the winery. The care taken is quite amazing, he will, for example, walk the vineyards and mark each bunch of grapes he wants to be picked for the first Chardonnay. Then, he’ll select the second picking for the next wine.
In the winery, we noticed suspended tanks and have never seen that before. This was in order for everything to be gravity fed rather than pumped through which seems a gentler way of handling the grapes.
Onto the cellar and we could see the names of the two coopers – Hassin and Tremeaux burnt into the front of the French oak barrels. I was highly entertained to hear about the barrel sourcing. He originally contacted one of his current barrel makers to source good French oak casks. The Frenchman came back to him with the answer ‘send me your wine to taste and I’ll tell you if you can buy my barrels’! I see this as another endorsement of the quality of their wines. This relationship is a close and continuous one. Each year they send their wines to the cooper and the barrel is customised to their wine.
Burgundy Style in South Africa
These wines are produced with care and attention to detail, but the growing ethos is to intervene less. The result is really tremendous and if you want Burgundy style, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. I would highly recommend trying these wines. They’re not cheap, but we do have the entry-level ones in the pod at the moment. They won’t be available for long! Alternatively, have a look at them in our online shop.
Our second day in South Africa and we were bombing along to Tulbagh. Our destination? Twee Jonge Gezellen (two young gazelles) Estate to sample sparkling wine made in South Africa. The scenery is really magnificent with rugged mountains beckoning on either side. I’m not sure I’d take a walk on my own up them like I would at home!
Krone Cellar, South Africa
The knowledgable Didi guided us around what was the first underground cellar in South Africa. They make vintage sparkling wine, nothing else. In Europe, most of the Champagne we buy is non-vintage. This is because the estates blend wine from different years (and grape varieties) to make Champagne. In a region where weather is unpredictable this allows them to make a consistent product. If they have an exceptional year, they may make a vintage Champagne from those grapes. Wine makers are not permitted to call Sparkling wine ‘Champagne’ in South Africa. They call it Method Cap Classique and this uses the same method as Champagne to produce the sparkling wine.
The Grape Harvest, South Africa
Now this was exciting. We normally visit vineyards in Europe during the boring months when nothing happens. For the first time, we were able to see and be present at the initial processing of the grapes after harvesting. These were Chardonnay grapes, and they were sweet! You can see them trundling up the conveyor behind Dylan in the picture. The next picture shows the immediately discarded skins after pressing. These grape skins are used on the land as fertiliser.
Ditching the Sediment
This is a gyro palette. In the first picture of Didi and Dylan above, you can see upside-down bottles behind them in a ‘pupitre’. This was for the purpose of ‘riddling’ to get rid of the sediment in the bottle. Each bottle is be turned a quarter turn, twice a day for several weeks. This slowly gets the sediment down to the neck of the bottle ready to remove it. Using these racks may be seen as somewhat old-fashioned now. For mass production, the gyro palette does this far quicker and with less effort. Can you see the sediment in the bottle below?
The wine bottles are put upside-down in the machine pictured below. The neck of the bottle is in a refrigerating solution which freezes the neck. Remove the cap and the pressure of the bubbles pops out the frozen plug with all of the sediment in it! The bottle is then ready to be sealed with a cork, foil and cage. Our friend Jeremy has just reported from New Zealand a newer method that we haven’t heard of – I look forward to hearing more wine explorers!
What a location!
Finally, we enjoyed a tasting of all of their range of sparkling wines. We all preferred the Amphora Blanc de Blanc. Blanc de blanc means it’s made from just white grapes (Blanc de Noir means white wine made from red). The amphora is that little clay pot you see in which some of the maturation takes place. Finally, here are some more stunning pictures, I mean, what a place to taste wine.