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If you follow me on twitter you’ll know that I’ve been having fun voting for Riesling in the great #marcmad wine vote-off. Riesling emerged as the winner of the white wine category and is in the final today against Pinot Noir. To celebrate (and to compensate you for the volume of tweets) I’ll open a bottle of Riesling for tasting Friday 8th April between 3 and 6pm and all Rieslings are 10% off all day.
We’ll be opening wine for tasting every day from 4pm from Friday December 17 -24. The eight days of tasting will include our new Spanish line up featuring the wines of Castilla la Mancha. See our other blog post on these wines for more information.
Although subject to change, here’s the planned schedule:
Friday 17 – Cal y Canto (r, Spain)
Saturday 18 – Castillo de Morante (r, Spain)
Sunday 19 -Armand ’09 Riesling Kabinett (w, Germany)
Monday 20 – Senorio de Iniesta ’09 (r, Spain)
Tuesday 21 – Young & Wyse ’09 Merlot (r, BC)
Wednesday 22 – Finca La Estacada ’08 (r, Spain)
Thursday 23 – Finca la Estacada Crianza ’06 (r, Spain)
Friday 24 (2pm to close) – Varnier-Fanniere Grand Cru Champagne (sparkling, France)
I was on twitter a couple of weeks ago talking to Jayson Bryant from New Zealand (twitter: @jayson_bryant) about wine when it struck me that the selection of white wine from NZ relative to Australian white wine on our shelves had changed rather dramatically over the 3 years I have been in the store.
Today, our selection ratio of NZ to Australian wine is less than 1:2. 3 years ago it would have been more like 1:5. I thought that we on Bowen might not be representative of the general Vancouver market so decided to check things out in downtown Vancouver.
Much to my surprise, our ratio is not markedly different to most stores. The 5 private wine stores I visited had ratios varying from 1:1 to 1:2 and then I visited the big BCLDB flagship store on Bute and Alberni. Their selection was very much closer to 1:1 and, checking the BCLDB website, the actual listings in BC for NZ white to Australian whites is 54 to 73 or very nearly 1:1!
This is a dramatic shift in market balance from years ago when the Australian powerhouse dominated the two countries white wine sales in BC. How has this come about?
Firstly, although there have been an increase in NZ wine selection, the primary reason the ratio is closing is that there has been a marked reduction in Australian whites in the market here. This is reflective of the shift away from all those heavily-oaked Aussie chardonnays so popular in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Secondly, here in BC, New Zealand was the theme country for the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival (VPIWF) this year so NZ received lots of local exposure for their increasingly diverse selection of both red and white wines.
Both countries still make great wines but the trend is very much in favour of NZ at the moment. While NZ is hugely strong with their Sauvignon Blancs, I was really impressed with the Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminers and Rieslings I tasted at VPIWF plus NZ Pinot Noirs are coming on in leaps and bounds with Syrahs not far behind.
There are potentially lessons for the BC wine industry here too. Although our industry is younger than NZ’s, the total population of NZ is the same as BC’s and their domestic wine consumption is almost the same per capita as here. NZ is growing now on the strength of its export prowess not so much on its local support. Perhaps it is time that the BC wine industry focuses more on exporting than on local marketing – after all, we should have huge advantages in being next door to the USA whereas NZ is 20ookm away from its nearest large market and major competitor – Australia.
On Bowen, we have already increased our NZ selection in both reds and whites and more to come in our new store (opening January 2011) I think the white ratio will drop much closer to 1:1 then. Maybe we’ll even start to see the selection ratio on the reds starting to shift too.
Update 23/11/10: BC breathalysers are being recalibrated to o.o6. The law about 0.05 is unchanged so blow 0.06+ and you will be subject to new penalties. What happens between 0.05 and 0.06 is unclear but very much depends on the discretion of the police officer. I have checked with local RCMP and even they have no clear guidelines on this situation.
Now the new drinking driving 0.05 rules are here, it is even more important to know about alcohol consumption and blood alcohol count (BAC). Exceeding the new lower level has serious consequences if you are caught and here on Bowen our local RCMP detachment seems to have become extra zealous.
First, this link will open the Official BC BAC chart. With this you, in theory, can calculate whether your consumption will take you over the 0.05 limit and how long before you’ll be back under it. However, there is a HIDDEN TRAP if you rely on this solely.
Note that the chart is based on standard drinks. For the record a standard drink is reckoned as either a) 12oz beer or b) 1.5oz of spirits or c) 5 oz of wine (roughly equivalent to one fifth of a standard 750ml bottle). However, for the purposes of setting standard drink sizes the servings make an assumption about alcohol levels in each serving. For beer that is 5%, spirits 40% and wine 12%.
The hidden problem is that your actual drink at standard serving size may contain considerably more or less alcohol than given in these charts. In some cases this may mean you are consuming more alcohol than you think.
Consider the following:
Most spirits and beer servings contain exactly the alcohol prescribed in the standard servings. Some beers especially IPAs and specialty imports can have more alcohol though. For instance Quebec’s Fin du Monde has 9% so one glass of that is nearly the equivalent of 2 beers.
Wine, however is a different matter altogether. Looking around our store I’d estimate the average bottle of wine runs to about 13%, no big deal – but variations can be significant. Those big Australian Shiraz can often come in at 15% or above, so one glass is the equivalent of 1.25 standard servings in alcohol content. If you are a 125lb female just one glass of this wine will push you to 0.05%. A 175lb male drinking two of these would be well advised to not drive for 2 hours from the time of the first drink.
So what can you do?
1. Ask the server what the ABV (alcohol by volume) on the bottle is and factor that in to your calculations. The ABV is displayed on every bottle. If you are a bar or restaurant you should be considering adding ABV information to your drinks lists.
2. Try wines that have less alcohol. For instance the very popular Dr. Loosen Riesling has only 8.5% ABV (most Rieslings run between 8 and 11%). That’s just about 1/3 less than the standard measure so not only is it reasonably safe to have one glass – at any weight – and drive straight away, for most it will allow you to have a couple and not run the risk of blowing over o.o5 (but check your weight against the BAC chart first). Another suggestion is one of our best selling white wines, the Gazela Vinho Verde that has only 9% ABV.
Nowadays you really have to be very scrupulous about not only how much you drink but what you drink. There is precious little margin of error at 0.05 and the Holiday Season roadchecks are coming up fast so there’ll be even more chances to lose your car and license. Your best choice at any time is simply not to drink and drive. Take Transit, a cab or nominate a DD from your party.
If you are in our store please ask us to recommend good lower alcohol wines for your party or event.