Bill’s Best Bets – August 2017

Closing out the Summer with some Great Whites
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

As August is drawing to a close, I’m hoping that Ma’ Nature gives us a break and makes up for June by making the rest of summer warm and sunny.

I say this because I know that many of you only drink white wine when it’s hot. I’m cracking open those bottles when it’s  -20C, so a less than stellar summer does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the fairer shade of wine. And what am I drinking these days? Here are some great bottles as well as some interesting pairings for you to wind down August, and hopefully beyond.

One of my favourite meals is steak tartare. It’s easy to make and what wine makes the best pairing? After close to 30 years of research, my preference is for richly textured, spicy whites as the texture of the tartare and the wine go hand in hand. I usually go for southern French whites, but I recently drank the Californian 2015 Treana White, a blend of marsanne and viognier, and the results were stellar. This is a wine that will also age exceptionally well if you give it a chance.

The Treana is close to $30. If you want a more inexpensive option, try the 2015 Viognier from Cazal Viel. It’s full of stone fruits and with a texture that will do your tartare justice for well under $20. If you want to cut the difference and taste a real jewel for $23, then try the Château Coupe Roses 2015 Schistee Minervois. It’s a wine that I eagerly await for each new vintage and the 2015 won’t disappoint.

Treana Blanc 2015Château Cazal Viel Viognier 2015Château Coupe Roses Schiste 2015

If you are into spicy (ie. Mouth burning) foods, I recently did a taste test with nine different spicy dishes and 20 different wines. The result was that anything with a decent amount of residual sugar managed to calm the heat, and actually added flavour to the meal. Anything else, you might as well have been drinking water (or beer).

One of the stars of the evening was the 2015 Moyer Road RR1 Riesling from Stratus. Don’t fear the 14 grams of residual sugar as you hardly feel it due to the acidity. And after biting into Siracha coated chicken wings, you’ll be glad it’s there. With a touch more residual sugar, the 2015 Kung Fu Girl also did a fantastic job cooling down the chile mouth.

But the best pairings were with ciders. The combination of fruit and sweetness handled no matter what the Scoville heat units, and actually added nice flavours to the meal. We tried two and both were fantastic, the Cremant de Pomme from Du Minot and the Sparkling cider from Union Libre.

Stratus Moyer Road RR1 Riesling 2015Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2015Cidrerie Du Minot Crémant De PommeUnion Libre Cidre Mousseux 2014

I also spent some time this summer getting re-acquainted with chardonnay. I have a preference for lighter, more acid driven chards like the 2016 La Soeur Cadette Bourgogne or the 2015 Aconcagua Coast Chardonnay from Chile’s Errazuriz. As an aperitif or with mussels to lighter seafood, they are the perfect match.In 2015, even my beloved Chablis wines showed a little extra fat, like the 2015 Vieille Vignes from Jean Marc Brocard. But all that matters is what you are serving alongside these wines. The extra weight of the ’15’s mean they handle even better a fish or seafood in a cream sauce, or lobster, as the minerality is still there despite the extra heft.

La Sœur Cadette Bourgogne 2016Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay 2015Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Les Vieilles Vignes De Sainte Claire 2015Domaine Loubejac Chardonnay 2015

How about with scallops or a white meat? Then you really need some extra fat. I really liked the Domaine Loubejac 2015 Chardonnay. This Oregon winery manages to offer up buttery goodness while keeping things tight.

Finally, sparkling wines. I drink them all the time and aside from red meat, they can handle any dish. With oyster season around the corner, they are the perfect way to start any meal. For inexpensive options, try the Pares Balta Cava or Barmes Buecher Cremant d’Alsace. Both are dry, mineral and drink with great finesse and complexity.

Pares Balta CavaDomaine Barmès Buecher Crémant d'Alsace 2014Pascal Doquet Arpège Premier Cru Blanc De Blancs Brut NatureNathalie Falmet Brut

But Champagne still rules. On the subject of raw oysters, try the Arpege from Pascal Doquet. Extra Brut means no sweetness and just pure chardonnay texture and minerality. For a richer Champagne, one that I would serve with fish, lobster or any tartare, try the Brut from Nathalie Falmet. At $55, it has the freshness but with a slightly richer texture.



“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

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