Happy New Year! It may be mid-February, but I just got up briefly from my mid-winter hibernation. For all the wonderful RX for Winter out there, this winter is kicking my butt. Wine however, is something worth waking up for and for a fourth year, Slow Food Montreal has organized its Slow Wine tasting event featuring over 35 wine producers from Italy. Producers offer anywhere from a couple to a dozen wines. We’re talking an average of 200 wines to sample. Some producers bottle 600 units a year, others over 200,000 bottles for distribution. For $50 ($38 for Slow Food members), this event is an excellent value for the wine connoisseur who will become an authority on the best organic wines and wines from vineyards using low environmental impact techniques.
I was pleased that it was held at Bonsecours Market , a larger venue from previous years. It is also a venue I haven’t stepped in for over thirty five years which by my calculation, constitutes a Forty and Famished first. Looking out at the snow falling outside the second floor of Bonsecours Market, sipping wine and listening to stories, this definitely constituted a break from the winter blahs.
I’ll spare you the jargon of tannins, bouquets and flabby esters. Sampling wine is like choosing art for your home — there may be guidelines but essentially you buy or consume what you like. I enjoyed chatting with the vintners, hearing charming stories in broken English about how one fell upon the career as wine maker. I learned how Casale Della Ioria discovered certain grapes: the owners bought a horse from a local farmer. When it came time to bind the contract with a toast, my bard informed me of the trepidation with which they reluctantly sampled the home-made plonk from the rare Olivella grape. The owner’s wife admitted their Bacchanalian snobbery, only to be delighted in the discovery of this nearly extinct grape that would soon become their Olivella, Rosse del Frusinate.
This event has grown in popularity with wine agents, restaurateurs and the general public going to taste some original wines you may never get to sample again. Some of these Italian wines need good Quebec homes. Already gaining popularity in other parts of the Western world, some wines are available only in local bistros and restaurants, while others are looking to break into the market altogether. Travaglini from the Piedmont region was pedaling about five different Gattinara reds produced from the Nebbiolo grape, yet only the Gattinara Riserva 2009 will available at the SAQ when stocks are replenished.
The public event is three hours long. Theoretically you could probably spend less than 5 minutes with each Vintner, sample all their wears and still stumble home before closing. So do yourself a favor and use the spittoon, reminding yourself that this isn’t an all you-can drink event. This was my first wine event where I mostly took advantage of the spit buckets. You can thank me later, otherwise this article wouldn’t have gotten written.
The 2015 Slow Wine Guide is available for purchase at the show. I browsed it on my ride home (using public transportation, always the responsible wine sampler) and learned I will get a 10% discount next time I visit a cellar in the region. I may not be packing my bags anytime soon, but glad I can increase my knowledge of Italian wines and browse international markets that dispense inviting wines, from the boot. Contact Slow Food Montreal to become a member, and find out about upcoming events, including Slow Wine Montreal in 2016.