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Montreal Wine and Spirits Show

Posted by Amie / March 22, 2010

Montreal Wine and Spirits Show
The Montreal Wine and Spirits Show takes place this Thursday to Sunday at the Palais des Congres (March 25th-28th). That's 4 days to sample wine and liquor. Bad, bad Palais...last weekend the "Eat Well Expo...and Living Green" (lost in translation: "Expo Mangez Vivez Vert") had full reign in the Palace, but the good intentions and the healthy effects of the expo, much like a New Year's Resolution, were seemingly short-lived. In comes the alcohol.

A little bit of red wine is supposed to be good for you, so you can almost rationalize these expos occuring so close together...but there's a whole lot more than a simple glass of red wine being offered. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the floorplan (loosely grouped by country, winery, producer, or type of drink) and end up wasting your valuable tasting coupons on lacklustre wines ($15 entry does not include tasting coupons, and the amount of coupons you need to sample a wine depends on the prestige of the wine). If you're from Quebec, you probably understand how important wine is in the local culture, and if you're new to Montreal, you kind of need to see this Expo to understand how seriously alcohol, especially wine is often taken here.

To help guide you through the tipsy maze that is the Palais des Congres, here are my top 10 picks on what to sample:

1. Deshora from Aranléon. Start the day off with some champagne! Well, some Cava. It's basically the same thing except France won't let any other country use the name 'champagne'. Sure, there's Italian prosecco, and every winery seems to have a cheap sparkling wine ("You need to pay for good prosecco", I was lectured in an Italian wine shop while drinking free bad wine and listening to Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion...), but Spanish Cava is probably the most under-rated and under-priced wine purchase right now. This one's not cheap (around $60 a bottle. Not available at the SAQ), but it's light, dry, and a sample of these bubbles will make the day feel like a celebration. It'll also give you an idea of what you can look for at the SAQ the next time you want bubbly without the price tag.

2. Riesling Kirchberg de Barr 2005 from Alsace Willm. I've never had an Alsace Willm I didn't like and I hope I never do. Their Reislings and Gewurztraminers are impeccable. Fairly sweet, but very, very good with fish, or fruit. I think it's just the intoxicating smell of lychee that does it for me. German lychee...go figure ($24.70 at the SAQ).


3. Cabernet Franc 2005 from Colio Estates.
This Ontario Winery is picking up award after award. Golds in Ontario, Bronze internationally. It's not available at the SAQ, so trying/buying it at the Wine and Spirits Show is your only option ($20.95). If you're really nice, Colio might give you a small sample of some of their other products for free (like their Cabernet Sauvignon, late harvest vidal or ice wine. Skip their lower-quality, more cutely named "Girls Night Out" line...It doesn't have to be good to sell)

4. Reserve Vidal Icewine 2006 from Mission Hill. Gold medal winner in the 2008 Indy International Wine Competition, this is something you don't want to miss if you like sweet ($33.75 at the SAQ. The $80 Reisling Reserve Ice Wine is also available, but is not being offered at the Wine Show to sample). The BC winery has been lauded as one of the country's best, and this is a good chance to try a few of their other selections, like the 2008 Compendium. It's too young to be entered in any competitions yet, but it's supposed to be like a Bordeaux. So if this winery is half as good as it's supposed to be, you might want to buy a few bottles of this now before the price explodes. Might be tough to let it age a few years before you drink it, but if you want a potentially amazing bottle to save and show off, this might be it. If not, just try it, and then go sample a good bordeaux, and see how the grown-up wines taste.

5. Karmeliet Tripel Strong Beer from Brasserie Bosteel. A Belgian blond with citrus and vanilla flavours. I'd try it just to compare to the strong Belgian blonds you can get at Dieu du Ciel or Benelux ($3.40 at the SAQ). It's only worth your precious sampling tickets if you love beer and hate wine, and got dragged through the world of wine/exposition hall when all you wanted to do was sit down with a nice glass of something somewhere quieter. You are now very tired and grumpy, and thirsty for something refreshing after the sugar shock of whites, reds and late harvests that have been forced upon you. You probably don't want to know that this is a triple beer, and won't help your growing headache...

6. Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru Chanson 2006 from Domaine Chanson Père & Fils. This is a very, very expensive bottle of wine ($174.75 at the SAQ)...pieces of music have been written about it. Think minstrels singing their praises, men sighing over its flavour; delicate notes in homage to a truly amazing wine.

7. Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2002 from Bouchard Père et Fils is another wine from Bourgogne that will set you back a pretty penny if you could actually get your hands on it. Definitely worth a sample, and then buy something more affordable from the winery. It's all very good, I believe. The 2006 version costs $55.75 at the SAQ, but you'll have to buy this 2002 bottle at the Salon des Vins, budget permitting.

8. Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2004 from Casanuova delle Cerbaie. DOCG means it's the highest quality ranking that Italy can give it. Doesn't mean it's the best Brunello, but it's a benchmark in Brunello quality. It's also very young, so sampling it might now might not be very fair representation of what it will be years down the road (About $50 for the bottle at the Wine Show, not available at the SAQ).

9. Amarone della Valpolicella 2001 from Romano dal Forno. This is a $489.99 bottle of wine...Amarone is something you need to try because it's a very uniquely-made wine. Kind of like an icewine, the grapes are left to shrivel a little and dry (but this happens after they're picked, not before, and they don't freeze) on straw mats, which concentrates the flavour. When the grapes are fermented, though, the sweetness leaves. If the fermentation is stopped early you end up with an overly sweet wine, but a properly-made Amarone will be dry and nothing like an ice wine. Really, it'll be nothing like anything else...Amarones are also unique because of the high alcohol content (usually around 15%) and the labour-intensive process. You will probably never buy this bottle of wine, but you can taste it for the low, low price of lots of coupons.

10. Tequila! I know absolutely nothing about good tequila. If someone would like to enlighten me, I would appreciate it, because there are a whole lot of options and it'll get messy pretty fast if I just start trying things haphazardly...

What You Want to Skip
1. Newfoundland Iceberg Vodka. It's my home province, but well, it's just vodka. If you're really, really into vodka, maybe you should try it just because it's local and you're patriotic, or maybe just to compare it to Russian vodkas. They've been drinking vodka for a long, long time in Russia. In Newfoundland they've just been drinking for a long time. Mostly rum, though, and bad rum at that. So bad that none is being offered at the Wine and Spirits Show. Also because "Newfoundland rum" is actually Jamaican rum (Jamaica has no rum to sample at the show either, sadly)...anyway, don't waste your tickets on this.

2. Mike Weir Wines. Again, yay local, boo bad wines. Sure, Mike's doing a lot better than Tiger right now, but if Tiger had a winery I wouldn't want to buy that wine either...

3. Sake. There are only four types of Japanese sake being presented and four Californians. They're all available at the SAQ and none of them are particularly great, but if you've never tasted Nigori sake (the cloudy, sweet version of sake), and you get sick of wine, it might be fun for you to try.

4. All the Portuguese Wines and Ports. After the Montreal Highlights Festival, what's being offered here just doesn't compare. Either you're sick of Portuguese wines and ports because you've tried a lot of them in the last month, or you're thinking you could have had better a few weeks ago. That being said, there are some very good aged ports being the Cabral tawny 40 ans from Vallegre Vinhos do Porto ($86.00 at the SAQ)

5. If you're adventurous you could try the Uruguayan or Tunisian wines...but don't expect to be overly impressed. You'll probably end up with perfectly fine table wines, but nothing to write home about. Same goes for the Quebec table wines (Quebec dessert wines are exceptional, like the fortified red Ete Indien, but these are not well-represented at the Wine and Spirits Show) that are fine for cooking and eating at home with a meal, but it's much better to take a car, go to the vineyards and enjoy the experience of the wine, its producers, and its family than to buy a bottle at the SAQ thinking it'll be the best thing you'll ever purchase.

Could Be Great:
1. Midnight Sun Espresso Stout from the Yukon Brewing Company. If you try it, let me know. Montreal breweries should be all over checking out this one.

Salon des Vins et Spiritueux de Montreal Wine and Spirits Show
Hours: Thurs March 25th 4pm-9pm; Fri-Sat March 26th-27th noon-9pm; Sun March 28th noon-5pm
Price: $15 plus tasting sample coupons (includes a sampling glass you can keep). Cash and debit only, it seems?
Where: Palais des congrès de Montréal, 1001, place Jean-Paul-Riopelle at rue de Bleury
Metro Place-d'Armes, Viger exit.



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