What better way to usher in a New Year than with a toast? Here, we raise a glass to trying new grapes – and perhaps some sparkling varieties too. Edmonton wine expert Gurvinder Bhatia offers his eight wine resolutions for 2017.
1. Try something new
There are over 1,000 grape varieties in the world used to make wine and Bhatia says most people tend to stay with the two or three grapes they’re comfortable with.
Use 2017 as a chance to branch out.
“Let’s not make it hard, let’s just say: every month, try a wine made with a grape variety you haven’t had.”
“Italy and Portugal are actually really great for that because Italy has the greatest variety of grape varieties in the world – over 540 that have been identified to make wine – and Portugal is second – there are over 300 grape varieties in Portugal used to make wine,” Bhatia said.
He added Italy and Portugal also produce the most value – or bang for your buck – wines.
So, be adventurous “or just ask somebody in the shop” for some new suggestions.
2. Drink healthier
Steer clear of wines with a lot of added sugar, Bhatia suggests.
“They don’t taste better, they are cheaper, they’re not good for you and there are too many better inexpensive wines on the market,” he said.
Also, drinks with high sugar content can give some people headaches.
“All those people who are coming in saying, ‘oh, you know, it’s the sulfites…’ Most often, it’s the type of wine they’re drinking that’s packed with sugar,” Bhatia said.
3. Don’t agonize over food and wine pairings
Don’t stress out about finding the perfect match, Bhatia says. Instead, have fun and learn as you go.
“Get well balanced wines and if the dish is made so that it’s tasting good and well balanced, chances are the two are going to go well together.”
“Part of the beauty of food and wine pairing is the experimentation and the fun,” Bhatia said.
“As soon as you start to make it something that you’re stressing over, you take away the fun of it.”
Of course, there will be some pairings that work better than others but you’ll only find out by trying.
4. Raise your price point to $15
If you’re hoping to take home a solid bottle of wine for $10, you’re out of luck, according to Bhatia.
“With the cost of production, with the shipping costs, taxes, tiered system of importers and retailers, $10 isn’t a reasonable expectation to get a decent bottle of wine.”
He suggests upping your threshold to around $15.
“Raise it up to about $15 and it will open such a huge range of great quality wines.”
5. Don’t shy away from sparkling
Bubbles should not be for special occasions alone, Bhatia says.
“And drink it with food,” he suggests. “Whether that’s Champagne, or Cava or Prosecco, or Trentodoc or Lambrusco or a great quality Canadian sparkling.”
Partaking in more bubbles was on Bhatia’s list last year and he’s echoing it again for 2017.
“Sparkling wines are not just for special occasions; sparkling wines make everyday special!”
6. Splurge every once in a while
There’s no need to stick with the status quo, Bhatia says. In fact, special wine doesn’t even require extra special food.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a real bottle of Champagne with french fries or have a good Barolo or Cabernet from California or a nice Bordeaux with a burger.”
Bhatia recommends wine drinkers have fun and treat themselves now and then, with or without a special reason.
7. Drink more Canadian wines
“We are, in this country, producing some absolutely outstanding quality wines that are comparable to some of the best quality in the world,” he said. “We should be proud of that.”
However, Bhatia admits that doesn’t mean drinking Canadian wine for the sake of drinking Canadian wine.
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“We should support our Canadian industry and we should support the producers who are doing a good job.”
He adds there are plenty of good quality Canadian wines out there to sample and savour.
8. Support small, sustainabilty focused producers
“Support small producers, those that produce sustainably and those whose wines exhibit a sense of place. Wines should be a reflection of where it’s grown.”
He says consumers have become more focused on where their food comes from and that idea should translate to wine as well.
“If you do that, you’ll find that you’re also drinking better quality… better value and you’ll find that you’ll feel better.”