The Ideal Wine Collection?

As I mentioned in my last article, I have been invited to develop a wine list for a restaurant that a neighbour of mine plans to open in the next four to six weeks.

I was interested, and flattered, that she wanted my input.

It also occurred to me that if a reader wanted to start a wine collection, or just have appropriate wines for almost any meal, you could do a lot worse than stocking a bottle of each of the following and have your bases covered.

As I have expressed in past articles, my philosophy about wine and food is that there is no one “right wine” to be served. Some of the most exciting wines and wine pairings that I have experienced have been unplanned, or unexpected, and I encourage my readers to take risks, and learn what works for them.

With this philosophy, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we sat down and talked about the restaurant menu, but I was immediately encouraged when the future proprietor told me off the bat that she wanted to include a Prosecco, the dry sparkling Italian light champagne-style wine from the area outside of Venice. I can’t think of a nicer way to start a meal, and her idea of wanting one on the menu delighted me.

Because another guideline that she wants to follow is to offer at least one organic wine of each type, we quickly settled on Villa Teresa Organic Prosecco ($17.40 retail, at the Yukon Liquor Corp), which is an excellent example of this wine style, and a very refreshing and festive start or finish to a meal.

The proprietor talked to me of her menu plans, which will include a few spicy dishes, some seafood, as well as some red meat dishes, and some very tasty-sounding desserts, including chocolate fondue and a family recipe ginger cake. The more we talked, the more we were able to define parameters for the wine list.

We’d keep to four reds, four whites, the aforementioned Prosecco, and a couple of fortified sweet Port-style wines to go with those delicious-sounding desserts. We’d offer at least one organic white and red selection, and perhaps an organic Port as well.

In selecting the wines, I wanted to use a selection criteria. I wanted to choose wines that are moderately priced, but above average in terms of their taste, quality and interest.

I also wanted to choose wines that could do double duty or address different people’s wine tastes. For example, some people like a slightly sweeter white wine to drink, and coincidentally a slightly sweet white goes very well with spicy Asian-influenced cuisine, so I included the British Columbia VQA wine Calona Artist Series Sovereign Opal, $14.90 at the YLC.

Because the menu will include some seafood and some Italian-style dishes, I added a light and slightly effervescent Portuguese “Vinho Verde”, Alveda Vino Verde Casal Garcia($13.05 at the YLC), a low-alcohol white with citrus notes, that pairs well with seafood, or even a salad or chicken. And, if the customers want something a little more substantial, perhaps to accompany a pasta Alfredo dish, there will be an Italian Citra Trebbiano D’Abruzzo ($12.80 for a litre bottle at the YLC).

And to round it out, for people who like Chardonnays, I included a good Chilean version, Adobe Organic Chardonnay, which sells for $16.40 at the YLC.

On the red front, again, I was looking for wines that could do double duty. One such example isPinot Noir, which is a little softer in taste than some of the more robust and tanic wines, such as Shirazes or Cabernet Sauvignons. It can appeal to people who want a more-gentle red wine, and at the same time it is a surprisingly good accompaniment to salmon or even roast poultry. So I added Canadian Gray Monk Pinot Noir ($19.90 at the YLC).

To address menu selections that call for a more robust selection, I added the Cono Sur Cabernet/Carmenere blend ($16.20 at the YLC), which is in the style of a classic Bordeaux-style wine … and an organic wine, to boot.

For exciting reds that will go well with both grilled meat and game, as well as spicier dishes, I rounded out the selection with an outstanding example of an Australian Shiraz, Two Hands “The Lucky Country” Shiraz ($20.20 at the YLC) and the exciting new Spanish Emporda Costa Brava Espelt Saulo ($17.30), both of which I raved about in past articles.

And finally, for those tempting desserts, I included Fonseca Terra Prima Organic Port($34.90 at the YLC), and the Blandy’s Duke of Clarence Madeira (YLC price: $30.10), both from Portugal. Both will work with a wide range of desserts, but I am looking forward to the chocolate fondue with the Port, and the Ginger Cake with the Madeira.

It was interesting looking at what ended up on the list: three Portuguese, two each of Chilean, Italian and Canadian wines, and rounded out with a Spanish and an Australian.

Certainly a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would be a worthy addition, and there are no end of other interesting wines to explore.

I was also interested to note that France was not represented. While that country continues to make world-class wines, it seems to me that those offered locally are either relatively expensive standbys like Chateau Neuf du Pape or more modestly priced reds that are being outshone by more exciting Spanish, Argentinian and Chilean wines, in the same price range.

I’ll keep you posted on future developments and, in the mean time, this selection might give you a few ideas as we move into summer in the Yukon.


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