BRITISH COLUMBIA’S STAR RED WINE
Considering the fact that up to 1970’s, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley produced only mediocre wines at best, today’s quality coming out this 200 km. long valley is nothing short of miraculous.
All 95 wineries in the valley produce fine wine. Small quality oriented wineries market individualistic wines for a small market segment of connoisseurs.
Vincor, a very large corporation has built a separate winery and planted a 25 hectare vineyard to supply it to ensure the highest possible quality.
Vincor, the fourth largest winery organization in North America, although a conglomerate of a number of businesses and wineries, has visionary management. Some of the divisions specialize in fine wines; others concentrate on volume products for the mass market.
The company launched in the last five years two major Canadian joint projects, of which one is in British Columbia and with Groupe Taillan from Bordeaux, the other in Ontario with Boisset from Burgundy.
The British Columbia project’s wine Osoyoos Larose is now on the market and by all accounts is excellent particularly because it was made from the fruit of three year old vines.
The objective of the project was to produce an excellent red wine in British Columbia using the expertise of an old and reputable Bordeaux wine establishment. Vincore contributed the land, and winery, Groupe Taillan expertise and specialists to create the wine.
After long research 25 hectares of land, comprised of sand, clay, rock and gravel was purchased just north of the 49th parallel next to Osoyoos Lake.
Blocks were planted to merlot (66 percent), cabernet sauvignon (25) and cabernet franc (9) with 3968 plants per hectare in 1998.
A bi-lateral cordon with vertical shoot positioning system was chosen to obtain uniformly ripe bunches.
The 2001 vintage was hand picked to ensure healthy, uniformly ripened and intact fruit. All bunches were hand-sorted, destemmed and crushed. The must was fermented in cone shaped stainless steel tanks at 28 – 33 C for 12 days, and “hand punched” daily, followed by pumping over to extract maximum flavour and colour. The fermented free run juice was racked to one-year old and new French oak (Allier and Nevers) barrels for 16 months. The yield of the first suitable crop per hectare was 24 hectolitres, which by comparison to Bordeaux vineyards (35 – 40 hectolitres) is considerably lower, due to the youth of the vines.
In fact, it is remarkable to produce such a fine wine from a three-year-old vineyard. This can only be attributed to the expertise, terroir, and care lavished to the whole process.
During the aging process, the wine was racked by gravity only every three months in an attempt to avoid forceful handling. At bottling on April 28 – 30, 2003, the final blend consisted of: merlot 66 percent, cabernet sauvignon 25 and cabernet franc 9) had 13.9 percent alcohol, 3.2 grams/L sugar, 5.2 grams tartaric acid per 100 ml, and a pH of 3.89.
However, all the technical data is irrelevant to the average consumer. He/she cares about aroma, appearance taste and balance.
The 2001 Osoyoos Larose has an appealing brilliant crimson, colour, aromas of ripe strawberries, full body, and layers of flavours. It has a firm tannic backbone, suggesting the need for two to three years of bottle aging. The after taste is long and satisfying.
The most remarkable thing about this wine is the introductory price of $ 35.- per bottle. As far I am concerned, this represents an extraordinary value., considering quality and depth of flavour.
Groupe Taillan is the largest producer of A O C (appellation d’origine controlee) wine in France, with large negociant branches in Bordeaux, Rhone- and Loire Valleys, Provence and Languedoc. It owns six chateaux, of which three carry the prestigious grand cru classee designation – Chateau Gruaud Larose, Chateau Ferriere and Chateau Haut Bages Liberal (located in the communes of St Julliene, Margaux and Pauillac respectively).
The three other estates are Chateau Chasse-Spleen, Chateau La Gurgue and Chateau Citran.
Osyoos Larose’s first release consists of 2200 six bottle cases and is distributed in Canada, France, the U K and USA.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu