Wednesday, December 3. 2014
I get over to PEI about four times a year. Whenever I am there, I make a point of visiting the flagship Oak Tree Liquor store in Charlottetown. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to serve several times on the judging panel for the PEI Festival of Wines competition. This has helped me to familiarise myself with the evolving product selection. Substantial improvements have been taking place on the Island over the past several years. The Oak Tree store layout has been redesigned to give a more spacious and open appearance, making it much more appealing. Wines are now organized by country, colour and grape variety so it is also easier to find what you are looking for.
The most notable improvement, though, is the broader wine, spirits and beer selection and, just as important for such a significant tourist destination, pricing is now much more in line with regional norms. Overall product range and selection is now quite good, given that the population is much smaller than sister Provinces, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Selection is clearly more thoughtful, with some good, fairly priced products on the shelves which are not available elsewhere in the region.
Jean-Sebastien Morin, Wine Category Manager for the PEI Liquor Control Commission, tells me that the focus for the near future will be on doing a better job of helping customers at the shelves. To this end, the Commission has embarked on an ambitious program of staff training. Specialist Product Advisors are now being developed who will be able to offer expert knowledge and advice to consumers. Initially, this service will be available at the largest stores, with further expansion envisaged down the line. Retail staff in all stores, however, will be expected to meet certain standards of wine knowledge, even at the casual staff level.
All this augurs well for PEI consumers, as well as visitors to the Island during the tourist season. Plans are also well under way for the 2015 edition of the PEI Festival of Wines which will take place on May 22 and 23, 2015 at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. Over 250 wines from 13 Countries will be available for tasting.
Have a look at some of my selections from the PEI list below:
Reduced Prices are in effect until early in the new year
douRosa 2011, Vinho Branco Douro DOC, Portugal 13% % $18.95 ($1 Off) This interesting white comes from Quinta da Rosa, near PinÄ¥ao in the central Douro. I had the great pleasure of staying at this classic Douro Quinta a couple of years ago. The vineyards are planted on spectacular steep terraces overlooking the river far below. The native grapes for this wine come from granite soil vineyards some 600 meters above the Douro. Ripe green and tropical fruit scents with some green herbal notes open the way for full-flavoured green fruit with hints of green olives backed by gritty drying mineral on the palate. Drink as an aperitif or pair with full-flavoured grilled fish. ***
Barco Negro 2009, Douro DOC, Portugal 13.5% $15.90 ($2 Off) this full-bodied Douro red is a blend of Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz. It is loaded with flavours of thickly concentrated dark fruit and licorice encased in sooty dry tannic structure. It could benefit from further ageing to soften the tannins and integrate more fully. Drink with robustly flavoured dishes like cassoullet or richly braised red meats. **
San Lorenzo 2009, Rosso Conero DOC 13.5% $17.44 ($2 Off) From Umani Ronchi, one of the better producers in Central Italy’s Marches region, this is a robust yet refined wine. It is 100% Montepulciano, the regional variety that somewhat resembles Sangiovese. Subtle scents of spice and fine oak mingle with developed fruit on the nose. In the mouth, warmly rounded fruit, oak and spice are harmoniously integrated and elegantly balanced with good weight and structure. With several years bottle age, it is already drinking well but has more room to develop. Outstanding value! ***
Pierre Andrè Macon Rouge $15.90 ($1 Off) Macon Blanc is far more common than the Gamay-based Macon Rouge which can be compared to its more prestigious cousin, Beaujolais. It offers the same bright cherry fruit with zesty acidity and sour cherry bite on the palate, finishing crisp and clean. Pair it with bistro style foods or cheese with crisp fresh baguette. ***