Recently, I read an online article on the Eat This, Not That! site. In it, they identified the worst wine you could drink.
When I read it, it reminded me of Alexander Pope’s couplet about knowledge: “A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring.” In Greek Mythology, this spring is considered a fountain of knowledge. Drink too little, and the depth of knowledge might be a little shallow.
That is the case with the “worst wine” article, in that the wine identified was Zinfandel. Seeing this, I cringed. At no point did the author make a distinction between red Zinfandel wine and Blush Zin – and the difference is significant.
Blush Zins – which can be very sweet at up to 14 grams of sugar per glass according to the article – arose in 1975 when a fermentation of juice at Sutter Home Winery had stopped early, remaining sweet. They bottled it anyway, and it became a sensation. At one point, this was the most popular style of wine sold in American restaurants.
We can’t fault the “Eat This” writer for advising us that really sweet wines aren’t the healthiest for us, but I do think it was a definite oversight not to distinguish between the blush and dry red versions of Zinfandel.
Checking out the red zins on the LCBO shelves, you will find that they tend to have 4 to 8 grams of sugar per litre. That works out to less than 2 grams of sugar per glass which is a big stretch from the 14 the article identified.
I know that many have associated Zinfandel with the blush type, not realizing that there is also an excellent red version. Given the popularity of the former, it is understandable for consumers to have this misconception; however, professional writers shouldn’t leave room for any misunderstanding.
That said, people are free to drink what they like. In much the same category as ‘Blush wines are Moscatos. The Marketview Liquor blog of May 2017 noted that Moscatos are sweet dessert wines with a slightly bubbly finish. They tend to display flavours of peach and apricot with touches of berry, cherry and pomegranate. A Pink Moscato just has a bit of red grape blended in for colour.
The blog goes on to tell us that “Moscato pairs best with fruit, so think “light and delicate” when considering dessert, and skip the heavy chocolate cake or anything too dense. We suggest looking toward berry pies or tarts or a piece of fluffy white cake topped with strawberries, or perhaps something a bit more citrusy.
On the savoury side of things, you can also use Pink Moscato as a lovely way to complement light lunches or a summertime dinner outdoors. In this case, think about pairing the wine with an aromatic Thai salad with cilantro, citrus and chicken. It also goes well with seafood such as oysters, shrimp, lobster and clams – just avoid drenching them in any heavy cream sauces.”
In contrast, they explain, “A moderately sweet pink wine, White Zinfandel features a sweet lineup of flavours like cotton candy, berry and melon. White Zinfandel is much sweeter than other rosé wines because it lacks some of the dryness found in its other pink counterparts…White Zinfandel is full of fruity, melon notes. It’s best to offset the sweetness with a bit of spice. Try pairing it with Thai or Szechuan cuisine for a high contrast blend of flavours, or you could go more traditional and pair this wine with bacon or pork, creamy pastas and mild cheeses like brie.”
It is important to note that, by far, most Rosé wines are dry, with those from the south of France typically carrying just 2 to 4 grams of sugar per litre. As with the confusion with Zinfandel, many drinkers familiar with blush wines have the perception that most rosés are sweet when the truth is actually the reverse.
Tawse Sketches of Niagara 2019 Rosé, $17.95, is a deep pink with an orange tinge to it. Writer Rick Van Sickle describes a “forward nose of ripe cherries, brambly raspberries, watermelon, peach and citrus zest. There is some sweetness on the palate (8 grams of sugar per litre) with confected red berries, peach and lemon zest on the finish.”
Flat Rock Cellars Pink Twisted Rosé 2020, $17.95, slated for release on June 25, will provide an interesting equally dry comparison to the Tawse version. Van Sickle detects “a nose of plums, citrus, lychee, and red berries. Lovely ripeness and flare on the palate with red berries, citrus zest and plums.”
As for Moscatos, the LCBO carries several. One of the sweetest with 121 grams of sugar per litre is Australia’s Banrock Station Pink Moscato Rosé. Usually $12.45, it is on sale for $10.95 until July 18.
Voga Moscato Frizzante IGT, $12.75, from Italy has only half the sugar of the Banrock Station at 67 grams per litre but is still more than sweet enough. The LCBO mentions ginger and melon along with “fruit salad flavours.”
In blush zinfandels, the Gallo Family Vineyards White Zinfandel is currently $8.95. It has 40 grams of sugar per litre – which would suggest that Moscato, not “zinfandel”, should have been ‘the worst wine to drink’! In fact, of the 8 or so White Zinfandels carried by the LCBO, only one, the Arbor Mist Exotic Fruits rivalled the Moscatos with 67 grams of sugar per litre.
An inexpensive illustration of what we can typically expect from a true, red Zinfandel is California’s Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel, at present $2 off at $13.85. It carries a good depth of fruit –blackberry, pomegranate, cherry – with a touch of spice. On the finish citrus kicks in, along with a cedary, cigar-box note.
In Vintages, you will find Seven Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel, $24.95, which claims to be America’s best-selling Zin. At 15% alcohol, it finishes hot and spicy but carries plum and raspberry jam notes. It has very good length and cries out for barbeque.
June 25 Vintages Release
Distribution issues have changed the way our stores learn about what they will be getting with each release. Instead of receiving confirmation a couple of weeks ahead, they are now learning only a few days in advance. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what will have been received by the time we go to print, but there are wines I hope make their way here.
Paul Jaboulet Aîné Ventoux Les Traverses 2018, $13.95, could easily have made the Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Best Buys list. This Rhone white, according to Anna Lee C Iijima, is a “full-bodied, juicy blend of Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc and Clairette. It’s fruity but delivers a lingering salt-rimmed finish.” – 90.
Vilarnau Barcelona Reserva Brut Cava, $15.95, is a Spanish sparkler that will serve well in the hot weather. In the realwinereview.com, Bob Campbell found it quite appealing with “soft acidity and a moderately smooth texture. It carries some “nut and stone fruit flavours” along with a toasty note. – 90.
Yalumba Organic Chardonnay 2019. $16.95, should be very pleasing From a most reliable Australian producer, expect, as their tasting notes tell us, a wine that is “Pale straw in colour with green hues. Natural ferment characters dominate the nose leading to peach, melon and ripe stone fruits. Stone fruits are initially dominant on the palate with hints of lemon rind and pineapple, leading to a creamy custard apple finish.”
Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Entourage Brut 2016, $29.95, has always been impressive. Round and full with a persistent mousse, it carries toasty notes and peach and citrus accents. It is made with the same grapes used in champagne – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The 2016 is quite refreshing, and great for celebrating or for lighter fare, fish and fowl. It is available on this Vintages release, and can also be found in the Wine Rack stores.
Montepaldi Tagliafune Chianti Classico 2016, $17, is a winner. According to rodphillipsonwine.com, “The flavours are quite gorgeous, with well-defined red and black fruit and some spiciness at the core of a complex flavour profile. – 93.
Callaway Cellar Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, $17 comes to us from the Callaway Golf family. Though the winery itself is in Temecula, north of San Diego, the wine has a generic “California” designation, and so the fruit could come from elsewhere in the state. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah, and Zinfandel. Vintages calls it “lithe, with dark fruit wrapped in notable oak, cloves, cedar and smoke.”
Mi Terruño Expresión Cabernet Franc 2016, from Argentina’s Mendoza region, demonstrates “aromas of box hedge and red-currants with wild herbs and a subtly spicy edge,” says James Suckling. Calling it “fluid and seamless” with a fresh finish, he gives it a – 93.
I sincerely hope we find all of them here. Happy Hunting!