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The name Port comes from the city of Porto in Portugal. British seafaring merchants created this wine in the eighteenth century. They needed to transport wine that would survive long sea voyages and not go bad. Because Port is a fortified wine, it can undergo changes in temperature and long periods of time in the bottle and maintain its quality.
Port is produced in Portugal and up to eighty different varieties of grapes can technically be used the production although 29 varieties are usually recommended. Some of those varieties include Tinta Roriz (known as Tempranillo in Spain), Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Cao, Tinta Barroca , Sercial, Malvasia and a list of others.
How is Port made? A base wine is made in the first step of Port production. During the pressing of the grapes, the goal is to extract as many tannins and as much colour from the grapes as possible in a short period of time. This always used to be done manually, with people stomping the grapes with their feet. Nowadays, manual stomping only takes place occasionally in the production of some high end Ports; otherwise machinery is used that mimics foot stomping with mechanical "feet". Once the desired level of alcohol is reached in the base wine during the fermentation process (usually between 6-9 % abv), neutral grape spirit (brandy) is added. The additional of the spirit kills the yeast and stops the fermentation and "fortifies" the wine (raises the level of alcohol). This fortification takes place in old oak vats or stainless steel vats. The fortified wine then stays in these vats until the next spring and is then transferred to "shippers' lodges" which are basically Port warehouses. In these lodges, the Port is put into traditional 550 litre wooden casks and aged there. The ageing process depends on the type of Port being produced.
There are many different types and styles of Port but the main categories are White Port, Ruby Port, Tawny Port and Vintage Port. Ruby Ports are dark ruby- coloured and fruity in taste and are ready to drink when bottled and do not benefit with ageing. Tawny Ports, as the name suggests, are browner (and paler) in colour than Ruby Ports. They are also bottled ready to drink. They have a mellow, nutty, dried fruit character due to the oxidization process during the maturing of the Port. Vintage Port is only declared in stellar years and needs a long process of ageing. Vintage Port is very long lived and can spend decades in the bottle maturing.
Most people enjoy Port after a meal, enjoyed with cheese ( a Stilton, Blue cheese or aged Cheddar go nicely) , dessert or with chocolate. It can also be drunk on its own after a meal.
Firefly on Cambie will be hosting a dessert wine event on Thursday December 5 from 7-9 pm in which different ports and dessert wines will be tasted along with chocolate. Sweeten your life and sign up for this delicious event! Tickets are limited and can be obtained online or by phone.
Firefly Fine Wines and Ales will be hosting a evening of Premium Tequila tasting on Thursday, November 21 from 7-9 pm. A spectacular lineup of premium tequilas will be offered paired with small bites. Two tequila producers will be featured along with one Mescal producer.
Azuñia tequila will be showcasing its 3 tequilas: Platinum, Reposado and Añejo. All Azuñia's tequilas are 100% Weber Blue Agave and the agave heart is "baked" in traditional clay ovens for 36 hours after harvesting. Unlike many other tequila producers who use commercial yeast, Azuñia uses natural fermentation during the fermentation process. After the fermentation process, the tequilas are double distilled allowing for more purity of flavour in the tequila. The Platinum Azuñia is unaged and has peppery, lemon and agave notes on the palate. It can be drunk alone or made into a delicious cocktail. The Azuñia Reposado is aged for more than 3 months in oak barrels and is a perfect sipping tequila for its smoothness. It has notes of vanilla and nuts as a result of its time in the barrel. The Azuñia Añejo is an ultra premium tequila which has spent more than 12 months in American oak and has notes of vanilla, chocolate and caramel.
T1 Tequilas will be tasting through its line of tequilas. Its white Ultrafino has notes of pear, quince and dill followed by smooth agave flavours. This premium tequila can be served neat for sipping or mixed into your favourite cocktail. The Reposado Excepcional has been aged for 6 months in American oak barrels and contains aromas of spiced citrus, apple, peach, followed by agave flavours. Enjoy this tequila neat or on the rocks. The Añejo Estelar has been aged for 24 months is American oak and is a golden tawny colour. It is an extremely smooth drinking tequila with aromas of chocolate and citrus.
Don't miss this exciting event! Tickets can be purchased at Firefly or online and are only $30 plus tax.
In the wine industry there is a divide as to what is considered good wine making when it comes to organic wine. Some wineries choose not to get certified organic feeling there is a stigma involved. Others who are certified organic choose not to advertise this on the label because they want the product to "stand on its own" and avoid being categorized as ‘better’ than non-organic wines on wine store shelves.
Part of having certified organic status means that the use of commercial pesticides and herbicides isn't used, (though natural methods are allowed), or the winery risks losing its certified organic status.
Upon inquiring about some of these natural processes, one winery described its practice of pest control as, “a big family who goes out at night with headlamps and takes off the worms themselves.” Obviously for larger vineyards, this type of labour intensive practice is unfeasible, but for some smaller vineyards, this process is necessary for creating what the winery considers to be good wine, free from the use of unnatural chemicals.
Another winery declared that no pesticides or herbicides are used simply because the winemaker is allergic. When inquiring as to why the winery doesn’t label its wine as organic, the response was, “What’s organic? You may be, but your neighbour isn’t.”
Other wineries that reject the necessity of being labelled as ‘organic’ may still practice natural processes in the vineyard. Inspired by French winemaking practices from the Alsace and Burgundy, Joie Farm, like many other vineyards in BC, wants to reserve the right to spray if needed in order to save the crop. Being labelled as certified organic would prevent a vineyard from doing so, as it would risk losing its certified organic status. However, Joie Farm which has created award winning wines since 2006, is a winery that uses as many natural processes as possible in its winemaking.
The‘en famille’ Gewurztraminer was sourced from an all organic vineyard in the 2011 vintage. Vineyard practices such as vertical shoot positioning (VSP), and timed leaf removal, allow for growers to, “use minimal, but well timed controls...for mildew, replacing the need for constant chemical sprays.” In addition Joie Farm uses a natural, “bacterial control to dominate powdery mildew, instead of fungicide.” Joie Farm is also mindful of the addition of sulfites to its wines, keeping them relatively low. Firefly carries a variety of Joie wines.
For a wine to be labelled as ‘organic’ in Canada, it must meet the following labelling requirements:
Natural yeasts (no commercial yeasts)
No artificial fertilizers
No additives (oak flavour, etc)
No or little sulfur added
Diversity of organisms in soil/vineyard
Firefly carries a variety of certified organic wines from around the world, but if you are looking for something local, try a bottle of Beaumont which has been a certified organic winery since 1995. Beaumont, “investigated the best kinds of grapes to grow and embarked upon the more labor intensive organic farming methodology.” Beaumont Trio, an aromatic blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, presents a fruit forward, off-dry, example of what can be produced from an organic winery. Lots of tropical fruit such as mango and lychee, as well as juicy pear and a hint of citrus are integrated with a soft rose finish that makes this a perfect pairing for any spicy meal. Beamont Gamay is also very fruit-forward representing a palate of blackcurrant and blackberries and plum. Dry, with soft tannins, there is a hint of smokiness on the finish which means that it can be enjoyed with a smoked sablefish, Ahi tuna, or barbequed vegetable skewers.
Unfortunately, for the health conscious consumer, labelling standards for wine aren’t as stringent as food standards. Wine ingredients, including any additives added to the wine including artificial tannins, colour, or oak flavouring, are not required to be listed on the label like any food product. The one exception is sulphites and the label must read as ‘contains sulphites’ if the product exceeds 10ppm. There is no other consumable product on the market like this in Canada that doesn’t require ingredients to be listed in full.
However, as far as ‘organic’ goes for the health conscious consumer, it may take some personal research, or a visit to the winery itself to find out what kind of farming practices are used. Or better yet, talk the staff at Firefly in order to assist you in making a healthy and environmentally conscious decision when purchasing your wine.
Thanksgiving has come and gone and most of us enjoyed turkey with all of the trimmings and for dessert, pumpkin pie. For those of you still longing for more pumpkin related goodies, why not try some pumpkin ales? These seasonal ales are only available for a short time every year, usually emerging from craft breweries in mid-September and disappearing by the beginning of November.
Central City Brewery makes Red Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale, which has pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices in it. It's light and refreshing, but delicious and savoury. This is the closest thing to pumpkin pie!
Parallel 49 Brewery, famous for its interestingly-named seasonal beers, has released Schadenfreude, a malty pumpkin lager which has notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. During the brewing process, pumpkin is used in the mash along with the above traditional pumpkin pie spices.
Elysian Brewery from Washington has come out with its seasonal brew, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale. It's a light to medium-body ale in which both roasted and raw pumpkin seeds are added to the mash . It also contains the traditional pumpkin pie spices.
Cannery Brewery's seasonal ale is Knucklehead Pumpkin Ale. Knucklehead is actually a type of pumpkin which is roasted and used in the mash to brew this ale. Knucklehead ale has a rich mouth feel and a touch of sweetness.
Howe Sound Brewery's addition to the line-up of pumpkin ales available on the market is their Pumpkineater, a pumpkin ale brewed with barley, hops, fresh roasted pumpkin, spices and yeast. Try it with cheese, nuts or pumpkin desserts!
If you would like to experience this array of pumpkin ales, come to Firefly's Pumpkin beer tasting event on Thursday October 24 from 7-9. The cost is only $15 plus tax. You can purchase tickets online or at our Cambie store location.
Is it whisky or whiskey, which one is correct? If you are referring to the spirit distilled in Scotland, Canada, Wales or Japan, it's whisky. If the spirit is distilled in Ireland or the USA, then it's whiskey.
There are many types of whiskies and whiskeys but probably the most well- known one worldwide is Scotch whisky. To be termed "Scotch whisky", the whisky must be distilled in Scotland, it must be distilled to a strength of less than 94.8% alcohol by volume and it must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years. Any age that appears on the bottle, for example "10 years" must be the age of the youngest whisky used. There are 2 types of whiskies in Scotland, grain whisky and malt whisky. Malt whisky must be made from malted barley whereas grain whisky can be made from other grains and malted barley . A single malt whisky is a whisky that has been produced from the malt in one distillery only. A blended malt whisky means that single malt whiskies from different distilleries have been blended together.
There are five permitted regional indications for Scotch whisky: Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown. A range of styles of whiskies are made across the regions. Styles of whiskies vary considerably and there are many reasons for this: the type of still used, the level of peat, the length of time the whisky matures, the type of wood used in the barrel, the style of the distiller and the skill of the person who blends the whiskies.
One famous distillery in Scotland, Highland Park, produces high quality single malt whiskies. Highland Park has been producing whisky since the late 1700s and much of the production is still carried out as it was over 200 hundred years ago. An example of this is that the malt is still turned by hand. This is a physically demanding and time consuming task. The malt has to be turned every 8 hours to aerate it properly and prevent the roots getting tangled . One man, Ean Tait, is responsible for this job which he has been carrying out for the past 35 years. Tradition and quality are the hallmarks of Highland Park.
Firefly Fine Wines and Ales will be hosting a Scotch Whisky tasting on Thursday October 10 from 7-9 pm. You will have the opportunity to taste an amazing lineup of scotches from Macallan Distillery and Highland Park Distillery. Tickets are $30 and are available online or by phone. Don't miss this opportunity to savour these scotches, some of which have won awards for "Best Spirit in the World".
Grapes have been grown in Italy for thousands of years. Before the Romans arrived, the Greeks had already planted vines there. Nowadays, Italy is the second largest producer of wine in the world (after France, which is still the number one producer) and is home to over 1000 different kinds of grape varietals . However, of these varietals, about 40 are used for commercial production.
Almost everyone is familiar with the Italian sparkling wine, Prosecco, but few know that the grape used in making Prosecco is called Glera. In the past, the grape varietal was known as Prosecco, but the name was changed to Glera, in order to protect the integrity of the region. There are two wine regions in Italy where the Glera grape is grown to produce Prosecco. One region is Prosecco DOC and the other is Valdobbiadene DOCG and the Prosecco produced there is of a superior quality. Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore comes from that region.
The region of Tuscany is well known for its beauty, superb food and fabulous wines. The primary grape of the region is Sangiovese which is used to produce Chianti and Brunello. The Sangiovese grape is high in acidity and tannins (and pairs perfectly with Italian tomato-based dishes) and has notes of earth, blueberry and sour cherry. Rosso di Montalcino Il Poggione is 100% Sangiovese and is a younger and more accessible version of Brunello.
A little known grape, but one of the oldest know to humanity, is the Aglianico grape. It is grown in Southern Italy, in the region of Campania where the Roman emperors lived. They drank wine produced from this grape. Luckily, you don't have to be an emperor to afford this wine, Rivera Cappellaccio Aglianico Castel del Monte Riserva DOC 2005. This Aglianico is a full- bodied wine with flavours of wild cherries, sweet herbs, menthol, tobacco and cured meats. This is a big wine meant for hearty fare.
In the famous area of Piedmont, in Northwest Italy, there is more land under vine than any other part of the country. In addition, Piedmont is home to the largest number of appellations (50 in total), more than any other region in Italy. Piedmont is famous for the Nebbiolo grape which is used to make of one the best known wines in the world, Barolo. Outside of the five communes which can legally use the name Barolo, Nebbiolo is also grown. Many of the wines produced outside the DOCG of Barolo represent good value for the money. One of these wines is Travaglini Garrinara DOCG Riserva. This is a wine which can be drunk now (it has already been aged for 5 years) or cellared up to 15 years . On the palate, there is cherry, rose, licorice and a strong minerality. Its pairs perfectly with red meat and game as well as aged cheeses.
There is a great selection of Italian wines at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales on Cambie . On Thursday, September 26 from 7-9 pm, Firefly will be hosting a tasting of Italian wines. The four wines mentioned above will be offered along with 2 others. Don't miss this exciting opportunity to learn more about Italian wines and food pairings and at the same time, sample some delicious wines. Tickets are $30 plus tax and are available online or can be purchased at the store.
Autumn and Winter Wines
As the days become shorter and the evenings cooler, we're less inclined to sit out on decks and enjoy a glass of white or rose wine. The indoors beckon along with comfort food: stews, soups and braised meats. Red wines immediately come to mind to partner with these hearty dishes, but which reds pair best with which dishes?
Boeuf Bourguignon, the quintessential French beef "stew", requires Pinot Noir in the recipe, traditionally a red Burgundy (Pinot Noir from the region of Burgundy) and a Burgundy for drinking with the meal. However, a New Zealand Pinot Noir can also be used in the stew and for drinking. Eradus Pinot Noir is from the region of Awatere in New Zealand. This Pinot is elegant and restrained, not overly oaked or jammy. On the nose, it has spicy tobacco, raspberry and savoury notes. On the palate, there is berry fruit (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry) with spicy undertones and silky tannins. It exhibits minerality and a long finish. It is superb.
Slow braised lamb shanks is a perfect dish for a cold fall evening and goes best with a wine with body and complexity. Penfolds Bin 138 from the Barossa Valley in Australia and is a blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mouvedre. It is a medium plus bodied wine that on the nose, exhibits rhubarb and red berry fruits along with Asian spices and white pepper. On the palate, there are juicy tannins, red and dark berry fruit, stewed dark fruits, vanilla and white pepper with a long finish.
Slow roasted lamb shoulder and Syrah are a perfect pairing. Nichol Vineyards from Naramata in the Okanagan Valley produces an elegant Rhone style Syrah. On the nose, it is aromatic with aromas of lilac, pepper, sage and sweet game meats. On the palate, there are red and dark berry fruits along with damson plum and sage. It's a full bodied wine with a long finish. You can drink this 2010 vintage now or cellar it for at least 5 years more.
If you are doing a classic roast prime rib, a Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well. Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon is an award winning wine from Concha y Toro. It's deep red in colour with flavours of cherry, cassis, cedar and blackberry on the palate. It has firm tannins but a silky texture and a long finish. As well as pairing this with a roast, you could also pair it with a simply grilled steak.
Stop by Firefly Fine Wines and Ales on Cambie to pick up any of the above wines. If you have any questions about food and wine pairings, you can ask any of the knowledgeable staff at Firefly and we will be pleased to help you.
Traditionally, gin and vodka have not been known for sipping. If you wanted to sip on a spirit, you would usually choose some kind of whiskey. However, a number of small, local distilleries are changing the face of gin and vodka and are producing premium spirits with unique flavours. These spirits aren't really meant to be hidden in a glass of tonic or soda water, but can stand alone and can be sipped, savoured and enjoyed. Let's take a look at the local bounty of spirits.
Long Table Vodka and Long Table Gin hail from Vancouver and are hand crafted and produced in small batches by Charles Tremewen and his wife, Rita. What makes Long Table products unique? Well, the gin (London Dry) is distilled in small batches in a handmade Christian Carl copper pot still . It's very pure, smooth and clean- tasting, defined by bold notes of evergreen juniper (locally sourced and foraged), citrus, followed by mild earthy notes. It can stand on its own or also makes for a wonderful gin and tonic or a martini. The vodka , "Stoned Texada", is filtered through Texada Island limestone. The result is a "full-bodied" vodka with more mouthful and smoothness. There is also a hint of lemongrass. Charles and Rita were inspired to start Long Table Distillery after visiting "Distillery Row" in Portland. A number of years of planning on their part along with changes in the B.C. liquor laws, finally allowed them to realize their dream.
Schramm Vodka, distilled in the Pemberton Valley, is run by Taylor Schramm and his two brothers. The vodka is made from locally grown organic potatoes ( 5 types) from the Pemberton Valley and is hand-crafted and made in small batches. The recipe was developed by Tyler Schramm who studied his Master of Science in Brewing and Distilling in Scotland. This is a vodka which is made for sipping on the rocks. It's smooth with complex flavours. It's also an ideal gluten free vodka!
Hornby Island Distillers have been producing gin and vodka for some years now under the brand name Phrog. The vodka and gin are highly refined and the distillers have figured out a way to remove the hangover effect from their products. According to their organic chemist, it is Propanol, Isopentanol, Methyl Butonol and Butonal which give people hangovers. These have been removed from Phrog gin and vodka, resulting in pure, clean, natural spirits.
If you are interested in finding out more about local spirits, come to Firefly's Table Commune Event on Wednesday, September 11 from 7-9 pm. Tickets are $20 . You will have the opportunity to meet Charles Tremewen of Long Table Distilleries and be regaled by his stories of starting and running a craft distillery. As well, you will be able to sample his products in a variety of applications. Seating is limited to 12, so don`t delay in purchasing your tickets!
We often think carefully about which wines we will serve with appetizers, salads and main courses, but dessert is often neglected. However, a carefully chosen dessert wine paired with the right dessert can make for a perfect ending to a meal.
We can find different dessert wines from all over the globe: Port from Portugal, Sauterne from France, Recioto from Italy, Icewine from Canada, Moscatel from Spain...the list is almost endless. Below are six dessert wines and suggested pairings. I have sampled each of these delicious wines and can highly recommend all of them!
Let's start with our own country, Canada. Although Canada's wine industry is small compared with the big players, we have an international reputation for our Icewine. A great example of Icewine is Tinhorn Creek's Kerner Icewine (2011). On the nose, it has notes of peach preserves, ripe apricot and marmalade. On the palate, it is ripe, full and elegant with pear, apricot, honey, butter and baked citrus. It has great acidity and is well-balanced. It pairs well with fruits, biscotti, chocolate, creme brule or strong cheeses such as Gorgonzola or Blue cheeses. It can also be drunk on its own as dessert.
Another wine also hails from B.C., from the Forbidden Fruit Winery. Forbidden Fruit Winery makes a range of fruit dessert wines, from apples, pears and plums. Pomme Desiree is made from six varities of apples. It's gold in colour with complex aromas of candy apple and tropical fruit. It's a natural to pair with apple desserts such as apple pie, crisp and crumble. In addition, it always goes well with pumpkin pie (Thanksgiving is approaching), cheesecakes as well as 5-year-old cheddars (Balderson's).
The grape, Muscat, is often made into sweet wine. In the appellation of Beames de Venise in the Rhone Valley in France, the great wine producer, Chapoutier, makes an outstanding Beaumes de Venise from Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains. The wine is golden yellow in colour. On the nose, it is powerful, rich and elegant with aromas of candied fruits, lychee and flowers. On the palate, it is bold, well-balanced and aromatic. This wine can either be paired with sweet desserts such as chocolate desserts, cheesecakes, sorbets or savoury desserts such as Blue cheeses.
Lustau Winery from Spain produces a number of sherries, one of which is Moscatel Emilin. The grapes used to make this wines are Muscat, and after picking, are left to dry until they raisinate. This allows sugar to build up inside the grapes. The grapes are then fermented and put into a Sherry solera system. The result is a luscious, weighty wine. On the palate, there are notes of orange marmalade, dried figs, raisins, molasses and caramel. This is a perfect wine to accompany fruit cakes, toffee pudding, caramel and chocolate desserts.
Full Fronti by Petaringa Vineyards is made from Frontignac, the name Australians use for Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains. The Petaringa Vineyards are located in the McLaren Vale in South Australia. Full Fronti is a fortified wine (18.5 ABV). The wine is amber-coloured with aromas of rancio, raisins, coffee, treacle, candied orange peel and brazil nuts. On the palate, it is luscious, with notes of toffee apple, caramel, fig, dates and spicy fruitcake. Pair this with chocolate desserts, toffee or caramel puddings, panforte, salted caramels, or blue cheese for a savoury touch!
In Italy, the grape Garganega, is used for making the famous wine of Veneto, Soave, a dry white wine. Anselmi Winery produces I Capitelli, a sweet dessert wine made from Garanega grapes done in the passito or appassimento style. The grapes are carefully picked in the fall and left to dry in a well-aired room until December. The grapes are then pressed and the very sweet must (unfermented grape juice) is left to ferment in small oak barrels after which it is left to mature for 8 months in the same barriques. The resulting wine is a sweet, complex wine which pairs well with cheeses, pastries and foie gras.
All of these wines are available at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales on Cambie Street. Stop by the store to take a look at our extensive selection of wines and beers.
Before I worked at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales, I had no idea of what a Lambic was. I suspect that many people don't know what a Lambic is, and that is understandable, especially if you are not a beer drinker.
Lambic is a specific type of beer that comes from the region of the Senne River Valley, southwest of Brussels in Belgium. Unlike other beers, which are generally intentionally fermented with different strains of yeasts, Lambic beers undergo a spontaneous fermentation from the wild yeasts which are found in the brewery and the surrounding environment of the area. Lambics are made from local barley, unmalted wheat (wheat that has not been germinated and then heated) and ambient local yeasts. Generally, Lambics are made with 30-40% wheat and the rest malted barley.
Because Lambics are made by spontaneous fermentation, Lambic is a seasonal beer which can only be brewed from October to May . During the summer months, because of the increase in temperature, there can be too much undesirable bacteria which can come into contact with the fermenting beer and cause negative effects.
There are different kinds of Lambic beers: Lambic, Geuze, Kriek, Faro, Framboise, Pecheresse, Cassis and Tea Beer.
Fruit Lambics, such as Framboise (raspberry), Peche (peach), Abricot (apricot) and Cassis (blackcurrant) are gaining popularity because of their refreshing taste and lower alcohol. These Lambics tend to range in alcohol from 2.5% to 3.5% ABV . These fruit Lambics start with the regular spontaneous Lambic fermentation process . After, fruit is added to the beer and the fruit causes a secondary fermentation in the Lambic.
The beer is then matured in oak casks. Because of the sweetness and fruitiness of these Lambics, they can be drunk alone or paired with a variety of desserts (Framboise and chocolate cake!).
Another type of Lambic is the Kriek. This is a Lambic in which black cherries are added to a barrel of Lambic which is six months old. Like the fruit lambics mentioned above, a secondary fermentation is produced in the barrel. After another 8-12 months, the Kriek is filtered and bottled. Try a glass of Kriek with a Black Forest cake! One doesn't usually think of beer and dessert together.
Geuze is an unusual type of Lambic that is a blend of younger and older Lambics and has a sherry or vermouth-like taste to it.
Firefly Fine Wines and Ales on Cambie carries a wide variety of all of these Lambics and we would be happy to assist you in selecting one for your taste. Drop by Firefly and check out the selection!