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Canada's Wine Show Season (May 10, 2000)

"Toronto is part of the international elite wine circuit."

So said Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle, proprietor of the Chilean winery Casa Lapostolle, at the opening press conference to launch Santé - the Bloor-Yorkville Wine Festival (May 4-7).

The event was launched officially when Donald Ziraldo, proprietor of the Niagara-on-the-Lake winery, Inniskillin, sabered a bottle of his sparkling Vidal Icewine 1998 (which was quite a feat since he only bottles it in halves!)

The implication of Alexandra’s effusive statement is that wine producers from Europe and New World regions cannot afford to miss our city when they travel to promote their products.

Given the kind of hoops the LCBO makes them jump through in order to get their wines on the shelves - and the time it takes for the LCBO to actually pay for the wines they sell - I’m surprised that the overseas producers feel this way about Toronto. But, on the subject of monopolies, if the conductor owns the orchestra he’s the guy who gets to waggle the stick, I guess.

Santé, in its second year, did a highly creditable job in attracting winemakers or winery owners from 12 countries to pour their wines and talk to consumers during a variety of tastings, dinners and seminars. Including Ontario producers, there were 75 wineries serving some 300 wines.

The event is modelled on the six-day Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival, held at the end of April and now in its twenty-second year. Vancouver drew 158 wineries from 16 countries this year, including a massive contingent from the theme country, Italy.

We have a lot to learn from Vancouver on how to bring wine to the people. There was a real buzz in the city about the event and all the educational seminars and dinners appeared to be booked out, especially "Riesling - Wine for All Reasons," which featured six German producers with eight wines matched to different national cuisines.

Certainly, Santé’s Education Day on Saturday (May 6) offered wine enthusiasts a host of wine seminars conducted by leading international vintners at Bloor-Yorkville hotels, restaurants and museum venues. I was particularly impressed by the "Comparative Examination of Shiraz/Syrah" which featured wines from Delas Frères in the Rhône alongside two Australian Shiraz producers, St. Hallett and Mildara Blass (got to admit, I still prefer Hermitage and Côte Rôtie).

The only disappointment was the low turn-out for the VQA Ontario Winemakers’ Lunch. There was only one winemaker from outside the province who showed up.

Best value wine I tried during Santé: Quinta do Crasto 1998, a red from the Douro Valley, coming to Vintages in August at $14.95.

 

 

 

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