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Are you getting the most from your expertly cultivated and perfectly aged wine collection?
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From France, Jim Hoggan's August wine pick – and more.
In an age of scientific exactitude, offering the herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers necessary to club nature into submission, an aggressive wine grower can deliver a grape of uncommon – if unnatural – purity, a grape uncluttered by influences that weren’t part of the plan.
But certain among the best French wine houses might ask, What do you lose by sterilizing the soil and terrorizing the native flora and fauna? What subtle pleasures lurk in the weeds and the bugs, in the natural influences that dwell exclusively in the French soil?
If you test grapes scientifically, you can find no difference between those from natural circumstances and those grown sans competitors and pests. But the best noses in the business agree that naturally grown grapes produce richer, more complex wines. They have a higher level of the phenolic compounds that affect the taste, colour and mouth feel of a really fabulous wine.
Take, for example, the 2001 L’Esprit de Pennautier, from the Appellation Cabardès, wedged between the Rhône and Bordeaux regions in France. It’s a pricey $59.99 (from Liberty Wine Merchants, libertywinemerchants.com), but it drinks like wines that cost a great deal more. An unusual blend of Syrah (which likes the Rhône’s limestone soils) and Merlot (which prefers Bordeaux’s clay), this de Pennautier is a perfect introduction to wines grown under the new agriculture raisonée, which translates as “precision farming” but is understood to mean “integrated farming.” It’s not quite organic, but it honours the French wine-growing traditions and all the elements of the terroir.
These vintners know an important truth. The old way ain’t broke; be wary of using science to “fix” it.
Tuscan Farm Gardens, located in Langley, takes organic Fraser Valley honey and infuses it with the essential oil of lavender imported from the high-altitude regions of France. The result: a delicately flavoured treat that’s perfect for your breakfast or tea table. For special occasions, add a small spoonful to your cup of lavender tea. $8 (240-millilitre jar), tuscanfarmgardens.com.
Add some spice to your barbecue with easy-to-use premium grilling papers. Just soak in water for 10 to 15 minutes, wrap around your meat or vegetables and place on the grill to cook in the usual way. Available in cedar, cherry or maple, the papers add a moist, smoky flavour to any food and look good too. For added flair, soak the papers in whiskey or wine instead. Outset Premium BBQ Grilling Papers, six per package, $13.99, gourmetwarehouse.ca.