Planning Your Summer Wines - Four Styles to Keep On Hand

Eric Jackson

 Whether you're hosting a backyard barbecue, lounging by the pool, or simply enjoying a quiet evening on the patio, having the right wines on hand can elevate your summer experience. In this guide, we'll explore the essential wines to keep at your cottage, camp, or other summer paradise through the summer months.

A dry white

Summer calls for whites that are light, crisp, and refreshing. Opt for styles that are known for their lively acidity. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are mainstay choices, or you can mix it up with unoaked Chardonnay or Viognier.

Dry white wines with above-average acidity have the versatility to be enjoyed with or without food.

A bold red

The warm weather means outdoor cooking, and no barbecue is complete without a full-flavoured red to pair with steaks, grilled chicken, and all your other favourite summer proteins. Australian wines are generally a solid pick, but any Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon will serve you well.

A crisp rosé

Rosés are versatile, fun and food-friendly. They can also be extremely diverse, so don't be afraid to ask for a recommendation. If your summer include lighter fare like seafood, salads, and picnic fare, something like a Grenache rosé is a great choice.

A lower-alcohol option

Most of us are a little more prone to day-drinking on those lazy summer Saturday. Full-strength wines are 10-15% abv, which will hit you pretty quick if you start a lunchtime.

There are more (and better-tasting) low- and no-alcohol options all the time. Wine coolers and beer are great choices. So is water. Stay hydrated out there!

Non-alcoholic wines are much better than they were ten years ago, but take a look at the label before purchasing -- some are loaded with sugar (and taste like it too).

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Wine Storage: Best Practices for Home

Eric Jackson

Proper wine storage is paramount to preserve the flavour, aroma, and overall quality of your precious bottles. Whether you're starting a modest collection or already possess an extensive assortment, understanding the best practices for storing wine at home is crucial. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your wines age gracefully and reach their full potential.

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Why is liquor so expensive in Nova Scotia?

Eric Jackson

Last updated April 2024.

You don't need tell Nova Scotians that they pay too much for liquor. They already know.

At the time of writing, a 12-pack of Molson Canadian is $30.99, or $2.58 per can. A bottle of Apothic Red, one of the top-selling wines in Canada, is $22.99. Just south of the border in Vermont, the same bottle sells for $12.99 USD ($17.66 CAD), a difference of 20%.

Why such a difference? It's the result of a number of factors. Some are unavoidable, but others are the deliberate choice of the governing bodies in charge of alcohol manufacturing and sale here.

Bottom line: it's mostly taxes. 65% of the retail price of wine is due to taxes. 47% of the price of beer. Almost unbelievably, 80% of the price of spirits.

Federal excise tax - manufacture and import

At the top of the chain is the federal excise tax. Beer, wine and spirits made in Canada (or imported into Canada) are subject to a per-litre tax at the time of manufacturing. "Per-litre" makes it sound like it's a flat tax, but it isn't: every year, the per-litre tax goes up automatically every year with inflation.

Provincial monopolies jack up the prices

In Canada, the federal government has delegated the responsibility of regulating the import and sale of liquor to the provinces. Most provinces (with the notable exception of Alberta) have established a provincial crown corporation that has a monopoly over the sale of liquor.

Here in Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation is our crown monopoly. In 2002, the Province permitted the opening of four private liquor stores, all in Halifax, but has never allowed more since.

Since the Nova Scotian liquor market has almost no competition, we suffer with whatever high prices they choose to charge. Talk about perverse incentives! Not only does the NSLC keep prices artifically high in order to generate more money, it also purposefully keeps prices high so that Nova Scotians buy less alcohol, a scheme it calls "Social Reference Pricing".

And you can forget about interprovincial competition. In the infamous "Free the beer" case in 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, despite the fact that the Canadian Constitution protects free trade within Canada, provinces are free to prevent Canadians from transporting alcohol over provincial borders anyway.

Economies of scale and geographic realities

In fairness, it's not all due to government policy decisions. Canada is a big country with a small population, which increases transportation and storage costs. This cost is more significant the farther you get from major urban centers and the United States border.

There is a solution for wine drinkers.

In 2013, Nova Scotia legalized on-premise winemaking. Under these new rules, urban wineries like Water'n'Wine Truro can produce small batches of wine for consumers, without having to charge all of the taxes and fees described in this article. The result is that wine drinkers are routinely saving 50% or more on their wine, while at the same time getting their wine customized to their tastes.

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Top 5 wines to enjoy on their own

Eric Jackson

Wine descriptions and wine critics will often recommend food pairings to go with each wine. And in many cases, wine can enhance the experience of the food, and vice versa. But sometimes, you just want to enjoy the wine on its own.

Some wines are only at their best when paired with foods, such as bold, heavy Italian reds with lots of astrigency. The fat from meat or cheese is necessary to soften the aggressive tannins. But not all wines need a complementary food to balance them.

Here are our top 10 choices for wines to enjoy on their own, without food.

5. Sparkling Wines

It's often associated with celebrations, but sparkling wines like Prosecco and Champagne can be enjoyed any time. The carbonation, lighter body, and crisp finish make many bubblies a refreshing drink enjoyed on their own.

4. Pinot Noir

While some reds are too aggressive to sip on their own, Pinot Noir stands out as the steadfast exception. The lighter body, reduced tannins, and smooth finish make this varietal friendly and approachable.

3. Sauvignon Blanc

Crisp, fruity, and refreshing -- there's a lot to like about Sauv Blanc. The full flavour and acidic finish make this a perfect choice for sipping.

2. Riesling

Often a little sweet, and always supported with acidity, Riesling is a natural choice. The sugar helps to bring out the fruit flavours of the wine, and prevent your mouth from puckering from the acids.

1. Rosés

Some of the most versatile wines on the market are rosés. They'll pair with almost anything -- including nothing! Enjoy dry or semi-sweet rosé wines on their own and enjoy the flavours of red fruits like strawberries and raspberries.

There are lost of great wines that can be enjoyed without food. While the perfect pairing can enhance your experience, don't let that stop you from a enjoying a glass while you're cooking dinner or relaxing by the pool. Cheers!

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British versus American IPAs -- what's the difference?

Eric Jackson

India Pale Ale (IPA) is a popular style of beer that has its roots in colonial India. Over the years, the IPA style has evolved and split into two distinct sub-styles: British IPAs and American IPAs. While both styles of IPA share some common characteristics, they are different in several important ways. In this article, we'll compare and contrast British IPAs and American IPAs to help you understand the differences between these two popular beer styles.

British IPAs are the original IPA style, originating in the 18th century. They are characterized by their relatively low alcohol content, typically ranging from 4.5% to 7% ABV. British IPAs are also known for their balanced bitterness and sweetness, with a mild hoppy flavor profile. The hops used in British IPAs are typically English hops, which impart earthy, floral, and spicy flavors to the beer.

American IPAs, on the other hand, are a more recent development, originating in the late 20th century. They are characterized by their high alcohol content, typically ranging from 6% to 10% ABV. American IPAs are also known for their intense bitterness and hop flavors, with a more prominent hoppy aroma and flavor profile. The hops used in American IPAs are typically American hops, which impart piney, citrusy, and resinous flavors to the beer.

Another difference between British IPAs and American IPAs is the brewing process. British IPAs are typically brewed with a traditional yeast strain that produces a cleaner, drier, and maltier flavor profile. American IPAs, on the other hand, are often brewed with a more aggressive yeast strain that produces a fruitier, spicier, and more complex flavor profile.

When it comes to appearance, British IPAs are typically a deeper amber color, with a more modest head and lacing. American IPAs, on the other hand, are usually a lighter golden color, with a more pronounced head and lacing.

In conclusion, while both British IPAs and American IPAs are styles of IPA, they are different in several important ways. British IPAs are known for their balanced bitterness and sweetness, mild hoppy flavor profile, and relatively low alcohol content. American IPAs, on the other hand, are known for their intense bitterness and hop flavors, high alcohol content, and prominent hoppy aroma and flavor profile. Whether you prefer the balance and elegance of British IPAs or the bold and hoppy flavors of American IPAs, there is a beer style out there for everyone.

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What Sets Bordeaux Apart

Eric Jackson

Bordeaux is one of the world's most famous wine regions, known for producing some of the finest and most prestigious wines in the world. Located in southwestern France, Bordeaux is home to over 10,000 vineyards, producing a wide variety of red, white, and sweet wines. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the wines of Bordeaux and what makes them so special.

Red Bordeaux is the most famous and sought-after wine from the region. It is made primarily from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot grapes. The wine is known for its rich, full-bodied flavor profile, with notes of dark fruit, leather, and spices. The best red Bordeaux wines are known for their ability to age and develop complex flavors over time.

White Bordeaux is also produced in the region, although it is not as well-known as the reds. White Bordeaux is made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes and is known for its crisp and refreshing flavor profile, with notes of citrus, green apples, and minerals. Some of the best white Bordeaux wines are capable of aging for several years, developing more complex flavors and aromas over time.

Sweet Bordeaux is a type of wine that is produced in the Sauternes region of Bordeaux. This wine is made from grapes that have been affected by the noble rot, a type of mold that concentrates the sugar in the grapes. Sweet Bordeaux is known for its rich and intense flavor profile, with notes of honey, apricot, and vanilla.

The production of Bordeaux wine is regulated by a strict classification system, which was established in 1855. The classification system divides the vineyards of Bordeaux into five different categories, ranging from First Growth to Fifth Growth. The classification system is based on the reputation and quality of the vineyards and wineries, with First Growth being the most prestigious and sought-after.

Whether you're a fan of red, white, or sweet wines, Bordeaux has something to offer for everyone. So next time you're in the market for a bottle of wine, consider exploring the wines of Bordeaux and discover what makes them so special.

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Amarone - the biggest and boldest

Eric Jackson

Amarone is a full-bodied red wine that is known for its rich and intense flavor profile. This wine is produced in the Valpolicella region of Italy and is considered one of the country's most prestigious wines. The production process of Amarone is unique and sets it apart from other red wines. In particular, the appassimento process is what makes this wine so special.

The first step in the production of Amarone is the harvest of the grapes. The grapes used to make Amarone are primarily Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. The grapes are carefully selected for their ripeness and quality, as the flavor and intensity of the wine depend on the quality of the grapes.

Once the grapes are harvested, they are subjected to the appassimento process. Appassimento is the process of drying the grapes before fermentation. The grapes are laid out on mats or hung up in well-ventilated rooms for several months, where they lose much of their moisture content. This process concentrates the sugar and flavor in the grapes, resulting in a wine with a higher alcohol content and a more intense flavor profile.

After the appassimento process, the grapes are fermented and then aged in oak barrels for several years. The aging process helps to further develop the flavors and aromas of the wine, creating a complex and well-rounded wine that is ready to be bottled and sold.

The appassimento process is what sets Amarone apart from other red wines. The concentration of sugar and flavors in the grapes creates a wine with a rich and intense flavor profile that is unmatched by other red wines. The process also results in a wine with a higher alcohol content, typically between 15% and 16%.

The production process of Amarone is unique and sets it apart from other red wines. The appassimento process, in particular, is what makes this wine so special. The concentration of sugar and flavors in the grapes creates a rich and intense wine that is renowned for its quality and flavor. If you're a fan of full-bodied red wines, then Amarone is definitely worth a try!

> Our top choice: En Primeur Winery Series Amarone

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"I only like dry wines" 🤔

Eric Jackson
Is it possible that you appreciate sweetness --  but not unbalanced wines?

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Christmas Wine Checklist

Eric Jackson1 comment

Christmas is near, and one challenge over the holiday season is having wine on hand that everyone will enjoy. While it's not always possible to please everyone, here is a checklist of four basic categories that will satisfy most of your house guests this season. 

A versatile red wine.

In our experience with clients at the shop, dry red wine drinkers generally enjoy most dry red wine styles. Therefore, you can often get away with serving only one variety of red wine. That red wine should be smooth enough to be approachable and drink well without food, and full-flavoured enough to stand up to common Christmas fare like cranberries, turkey and cookies.

Consider medium-bodied, fruit-forward styles like Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Tempranillo. Generally speaking, wines from California, Chile and Spain are approachable to a wide audience.

A crisp, dry white wine.

Dry whites are an excellent pairing to typical Christmas foods. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and apple pie all pair well with a dry white wine that has some acidity. This includes many varietals that your guests will recognize, like dry Riesling, Pinot Grigio, or Chardonnay (unoaked or lightly oaked).

A white wine with some sweetness.

Sweeter white wines are a hugely popular category, and you’ll need to offer at least one to appeal to those who prefer a touch of sweetness. They don’t have to be extremely sweet either. Off-dry describes wines with a small amount of sweetness, often just enough to soften the acidity that some people perceive as sour or tart. Popular off-dry wines include some German Rieslings, Muscat, and off-dry Viognier.

A low-alcohol option.

Often during the Christmas season, we like to sit around, catch up with loved ones and just chat. With a glass of wine in our hands. For hours! So it can be nice to have a lower-alcohol wine available for people who want to drink all afternoon without falling asleep on your couch. Wine coolers and other sweet wines like Moscato are great for this. Rosés can also be lighter in alcohol, but check the label to make sure.

You can also get creative! Make your own mulled wine, sangrias, spritzers or wine cocktails to have control over the alcohol content and try a new drink.

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