One night when I was around 11 years old, I heard a steady knocking coming from our basement as I got ready for bed. I don’t know what spooky things I was expecting to find, but I do remember holding my breath as I tip toed down the stairs.
It was just my dad hammering some DIY-wine bottle racks together; nothing frightening (although, I guess Dad with a hammer could be a bit of a scary sight). Thus my first exposure to wine appreciation was at home—kid-Katie thought white wine was pretty tasty, but red was revolting. Am happy to report that my taste buds have evolved.
During our family travels our parents would sip samples at vineyards while my brothers and I investigated the grapes. Then, during my time in Spain, I discovered the delicious wine of Andalucía; Sherry, Manzanilla, even orange wine in Huelva. Perhaps the most exciting part of European wine at the time was that it was possible to buy tasty bottles for just a few Euros…at the grocery store! (Clearly this wonder stems from being an Ontarian.)
So I’ve always felt like I’ve known the wine-basics, but it wasn’t until this past year that I learned quite a bit more about fermented grapes – by proxy, admittedly. I guess dating a guy who is in love with the stuff (and arduously studying everything about it) will do that.
This summer, I was lucky enough to visit some renowned French wine regions with my family – Burgundy and Alsace would be wonderful destinations without the wine, but the beautiful vineyards don’t hurt. Then, Tristan and I headed over to Portugal where our time revolved mostly around exploring some of the country’s top wine regions: tasting Madeira on the island it is named for, getting fortified in Porto, exploring the steep terraces in the Douro, and the esoteric wines of sandy Colares.
And, of course, I can’t write about wine regions without giving a shout out to Prince Edward County, just a lovely daytrip away.I’ve found that where there is good wine, there is usually good food, interesting history, nice scenery, and pretty swell people, too. It’s truly a global industry.
Although it doesn’t look like any international travel is in the cards for the next little while, I’m excited to be able to get a taste of the whole wide wine world at this weekend’s Ottawa Wine and Food show. Celebrating its 30th year in the nation’s capital, the show will bring together over 200 exhibitors from around the world from Friday til Sunday, as well as some favourite local producers. The event is always a stylish one, and with it being Halloween weekend, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the fashionable show goers. (Will #Hallowine be a thing?!)
So, whether you’re a wine aficionado, or just enjoy tasting different things (hello!), there’s bound to be something to entice your palate this weekend – see you there? Come clink glasses!
Bonus tip: Aside from learning that the best wine really is whichever wine you enjoy (cliché, but true!), perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that spitting isn’t gross, and it isn’t even really wasting – it’s necessary if you’re going to be tasting lots of vino and not getting sloppy. So remember to stay classy, Ottawa. (That said, if you’ve got a really awesome bottle to try, best to save it for a time you’re not going to be spitting it out!)
[Update post-event: in the interest of being upfront, I was given two tickets to the Wine and Food show to write a post pre-event. After going to the show, I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed. Two of the biggest vendor spots were two brands of coolers that I don’t think I’ve enjoyed since my teenage years, and on top of the tickets to get in (luckily, as I mentioned, mine were compensated), the wine samples got a little pricey. Overall, selection was not exciting, convention centre was practically empty, and had I bought my tickets I think I would have been much happier spending that money to create my own little tasting experience at home. I’ve heard positive things about the event from a few people, so maybe it was just a fluke experience on our part. But, it was disappointing enough that I thought I should update it here…]