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Weekend wine News and Observations

Saturday, July 04, 2015   by: Vin Greco

This past Canada Day I visited Union Jack Brewery on Queen near Gore Street for their Grand Opening. At the moment, you can only purchase their beer in “Growlers” –that is, dark, half-gallon glass jugs. 

Each growler is $15, but that includes a $5 deposit.

One of the assistant brewers, Scott Bowman, explained that it takes about 8 hours to brew up a batch of ale, using Canadian Two Row Malted Barley and adding specialty grains for colour and texture.

Once the water is brought up to the right temperature, the grain is added to a Mashing Tank, creating an oatmeal-like slurry, and the brew sits in the tank for an hour converting starches into simple sugars.

Next comes Sparging, where water is added to settle through the grain, and hops are added to introduce specific aromas and flavours; it takes an hour to release the hop oils into the brew.

After running the brew through a plate chiller, it is then oxygenated and placed in one of the fermenters which can hold up to 1500 litres. Fermentation can take from three days to a week and a half, depending on the brew, with an IPA (India Pale Ale) requiring the longer period.

After filtering through dietomacious earth, the beer enters a Bright Tank to cool down to 2° Celcius, and Carbon dioxide is added.

Presently, Union Jack makes an India Pale Ale or IPA, Cream Ales (some of which are flavoured –e.g. vanilla or maple) and California Common.

California Common is a dark ale that developed out west when German brewers couldn’t get temperatures in the cellars low enough for lager yeasts to work – the only commercial California Common available at the LCBO is from Anchor Steam.

Union Jack’s Cream ales have 4% alcohol, the California Common 4.7%, and the IPA 6.6%.

Union Jack recommends that a Growler should be consumed within about 4 days.  Presently, their beer is available on tap at Low and Slow, Embers, Fresco, and the Laird Raceway.

I found that, stylistically, the beers are less carbonated that we find in most commercially packaged brews, more like what you might find in a British pub, and so they are satisfying without being too gassy.

Brewery hours are 5 to 9 on Thursday, 2 to 10 Friday and Saturday, and Sunday 12 to 6. Drink up!

 I have said that I think I can tell the difference between a $20 and a $60 bottle of wine, but that I couldn’t necessarily say that the one was worth three times more than the other.

Recently, in the case of a pair of sparkling wines, there was no question that the Pol Roger Champagne, $63.20, was worth the difference when compared to Antech Expression Brut Crémant de Limoux, $19.95, from the Midi region of France.

The Antech, as the LCBO’s Vintages suggests, certainly demonstrated freshness and vibrancy, but otherwise wasn’t a whole lot different from most sparkling wines in that price range; however, the Pol Roger was in another league totally.

There was a sense of freshly baked bread on the nose, and an intriguing complexity of flavours a well as a terrific persistence of fine bubbles that simply demanded that you appreciate what you were drinking.

Pol Roger is one of the few Champagne houses that is still family-owned, and they age their non-vintage champagne such as this for about three years - much, much longer than the regulations require, and this certainly adds to the complexity.

The wine is a blend incorporating the product of many vineyard sites and many vintages and this contributes to the depth and character.

Normally, I content myself with far less expensive tipples, but, if the occasion requires the best, one couldn’t go wrong with the Pol Roger.

Then there is the question of decanting or aerating. Decanting is the process of pouring wine into a broad bottomed vessel either to avoid sediment in the bottle or to allow the wine to ‘breathe’, opening up its flavours and aromas.

There are also aerators on the market, devices that, when the wine is poured through them, causes it to swirl or bubble exposing the wine to more air.

There are varying opinions on the effectiveness of aerators, but there is no doubt that decanting definitely works. Alternatively, pouring a glass of wine and swirling it, and waiting, let’s say fifteen minutes, will also allow it to “open up” to a degree.

A case in point is Inniskillin Reserve Cabernet Franc 2012, $24.95, available at the Wine Rack stores.  Straight out of the bottle, it shows density, decent dark berry flavour, and some tannin, but it is relatively dumb, or closed.  It is still a young wine, and from an excellent vintage, and the immediate effect is…okay.  BUT.  Decant it and let it breathe for an hour, and it is amazingly good. The aromatics are now easily sensed, the complexity of flavours dances, and the tannins are in perfect proportion, bringing the wine to a pleasing conclusion. Now we know what the $25 price tag is all about, and it is justified.

If, as is often the case, you don’t intend to finish a bottle at one sitting, then you don’t want to leave wine sitting in a decanter, continuing to oxidize.  That will just make the wine taste bitter ultimately.  This is when, instead of decanting, using an aerator and some ‘glass time’ might be the better way to go.

In Vintages July 11

From Puglia, San Marzano Falò Negroamaro 2013, $14.95, took bronze at the International Wine Challenge for its sweet cherry fruit and smokiness – it will pair well with grilled meats.

We will have a good opportunity to compare a ripasso with a good “regular” Valpolicella when the two wines from Monte Del Frà, the Lena di Mezzo Ripasso 2012, $19.95, and the regular Classico Superiore 2012, $17.95 arrive.

The Ripasso comes highly recommended with extracted fruit and earthy notes, while the other is “plummy and fresh”.

Chateau Recougne 2012, a Bordeaux Supérieur, will hit way above weight at $14.95, carrying a Wine Enthusiast 90 with great fruit, good structure, and the perfect touch of oak.

Equally attractive will be Chakana Andean Wines Estate Malbec 2013, $16.95, described by James Suckling as having herbal notes on the nose and sweet fruit along with “espresso, tobacco character” - 90.

Spain’s Finca Las Caraballas Verdejo 2013, $16.95, looks like the best buy in whites – this excellent organic wine has good concentration, and deep flavours with “aromas and notes of hay, straw…anise and apples with some spiciness and pungent…acidity,”  a 91 according to erobertparker.com.

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