Wednesday, April 11, 2012

if I HAD to choose...

2008 Inniskillin Winemaker's Series Two Vineyards Cabernet Franc VQA Niagara Peninsula
. . . the most interesting wines of the largest Niagara producers come from Inniskillin. Interesting, in the sense that, it actually tastes like a varietal wine and not a watered down approximation; their Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir is a good example of that. I first tasted this particular bottle (blind) at the Fermentations! tasting a few months ago, and it was clearly the best red wine of the evening - not just in the cabernet franc flight. Surprise, no? It was varietal, with excellent texture and structure.
Is there a contradiction between size of winery and production of truly exciting wines? Not suggesting that Inniskillin is simply pumping out wine in volume, like certain global wine brands; but with a seriously extensive lineup of products from white, red, sweet, and sparkling wines, can these large wineries ever claim to produce fine wines? I tend to roll my eyes, because wineries that put out tv ads, with a huge marketing budget and all kind of tells you everything you need to know. Generalizing, yet again, but these large wineries are concerned with yes, branding. You're buying brand wines, not vins de terroirs. These wineries have been very commercially successful, especially their icewines. Can you imagine, the only Canadian wine in PuDao, one of the best wine shops in Shanghai, was an Inniskillin Vidal Icewine. No, I don't mean to say that success comes at the expense of making real wine, but too often, consumers are fooled by clever marketing and fancy packaging. Even this, a wine I like, is a prime example. Why is there the need to label it as the Winemaker's Series? So you can justify charging more than your entry-level bottles? Does that make the cheap wines Non-Winemaker's bottles? The Two Vineyards bit is just as silly, because it simply refers to the fact that the wine is a blend of fruit from two (or possibly more) vineyards. Just like any other blended wine, most of which don't have to resort to kitschy, catchy wine phrases on the label.

I'm being a bit negative, because all this takes away from what is otherwise a very well-made wine. On sale the week I dropped by my local LCBO. And a very credible example of why cabernet franc can be a success in Niagara. I just don't believe at all in the methods used to trick the consumer into thinking that the wine is unique from the rest of the lineup. And I'm slightly upset because consumers have bought so hard into the marketing that Niagara for them instantly reminds not of the small, artisanal producers, but the big names. No, we've got too many people working too hard to be dismissed by consumers simply for the fact that they're not going to waste money on advertising. Since when is the strength of your advertising a barometer of success for wineries? Where does the quality of the wine fit into all of this?

We need to get back to the wine, and come to an understanding that lets us filter out all the marketing nonsense and focus on what the stuff inside the bottle is. We are, after all, drinking the wine, and not the words on the label or the media ads we see. But how do we accomplish this?


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