Joined: 23 Mar 2005
|Posted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 7:33 pm Post subject: You can love wine and still drink beer and rum
|Don't forget the other great beverages
The Ottawa Citizen
September 28, 2005
There's been a massive change in wine's place in our lives over the past 10 years or so. Wine was of interest to few people until the 1990s, but now there are wine programs on radio and television, Internet wine sites, electronic newsletters, and more magazines, books and newspaper articles on wine than ever.
If you want to learn about wine, there are courses at all levels, from wine appreciation sessions to professional diplomas and degrees.
There have been changes in the other beverage alcohols --beer and spirits -- too, with growing interest in tasting and in appreciating the varieties, styles and production methods. This has long been true of scotch, bourbon and some styles of beer, but it's now more widespread. Books, magazines and other media on beer and spirits abound.
Historically, ruling classes in Euro-American societies rated wine higher than beer and spirits on the moral scale, probably because they drank wine and associated beer and cheap spirits with the unruly working classes. It was one thing to drink yourself unconscious at home on Bordeaux, another thing to get drunk on beer or cheap rye in a bar.
Wine also had a long association with health. It was considered a general sort of tonic that was particularly good if you had digestive problems. Some pioneer Australian winemakers were doctors: think of Dr. Lindeman and Dr. Penfold, whose names grace labels in the LCBO, and who started out making wine for their patients.
Although the popularity of wine as medicine fell off in the late 1800s, it came roaring back in the 1990s when the "French Paradox" suggested that wine (especially red wine) was good for the heart.
Spirits had no real tradition of being healthy, although they could give you a good jolt and a warm feeling. You still see workers in Europe knocking back brandy in the morning, as you get a similar effect from your espresso.
Each of the three forms of alcohol has its supporters. Many young people take an even-handed attitude toward drinks, but most of the wine drinkers I know drink pretty much only wine. Ditto many beer drinkers.
What's happening to these drinks? Consumption of wine has been rising slowly in Canada over the past decades, and beer has been gently slipping: per capita consumption is down about 10 per cent since the mid-1990s. The big gains have been posted by spirits, especially in the form of coolers.
It's a pity to get too limited in terms of drinks, because there's a huge range of beers and spirits that taste really good. A recent tequila tasting reminded me how wonderful that spirit can be, and the chance to try a few premium rums was also an eye-opener.
It's not that you need to increase your alcohol intake, but a bit of variety is a good thing, in beverages as in other aspects of life. We rarely start a dinner with sherry, move to wine, and finish with either fortified wine (like port) or a spirit, like brandy. Of course you can vary the flavour, weight and texture of your drinks by selecting different styles of beer or wine. But there's also something attractive about offering the wider range of beverages, too.
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Toronto-based wine writer Konrad Ejbich has just published A Pocket Guide to Ontario Wines, Wineries and Vineyards (McClelland & Stewart, 272 pages, $22.99). It's the first comprehensive guide to Ontario wineries, rates hundreds of wines, and has useful vintage charts. It should be widely available in Ottawa bookstores.
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Some different styles today, including a couple for the Indian summer.
E-mail questions or comments to Rod Phillips at email@example.com . Previous columns are archived at www.worldsofwine.com, where you can subscribe to a free wine e-newsletter.
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Bacardi Coco Coconut Rum Liquor
Infused with coconut, this is an aromatic, clean-textured rum that's easy drinking on its own and a good base for many cocktails. (Try 1 oz. Coco, 1 oz. cranberry juice, 3 oz. pineapple juice and a sprig of mint.) Alcohol 35 per cent; $23.50 a bottle. LCBO No. 200295.
Similar to a fino sherry, this can be treated like a bone-dry white. It has pungent mineral, herbal, citrus and grassy flavours and pairs well with olives and seafood appetizers like grilled calamari. Alcohol 16 per cent; $9.95 a bottle. LCBO No. 112771.
Cruz Garcia Real Sangria
Some pretty awful concoctions are served up in restaurants as Sangria, but this makes the grade. It's fresh, fruity and refreshing, but has a good dry texture. Alcohol 7 per cent; $6.95 a bottle. LCBO No. 620609.
Osborne "Santa Maria" Cream Sherry
Look for quite intense dried fruit (raisins, figs) and roasted almond aromas and flavours with a creamy texture. It finishes on a clean, citrus note. Sip it in late afternoon with roasted almonds and dried fruit. Alcohol 19 per cent; $10.95 a bottle. LCBO No. 31120.
"If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go."