News from the wine world, wines to buy now, and an expert wine match for our creamy pea risotto recipe.

On June 28, the hottest day of the recent European heat wave, vines in the Herault and neighbouring Gard regions — home to the Pic Saint Loup and Coteaux de Languedoc appellations — were severely burnt. SYLVAIN THOMAS / AFP/Getty Images

It’s all bits and pieces today to kick off summer and catch up on some recent wines that made an impression on this taster, but we begin with last months’ passing of Bill C-97 (the 2019 Budget Implementation Act).

A part of the bill was amended to remove the federal restriction on the interprovincial shipment and transport of alcohol which has been in place since 1928.

Technically  there is no longer any federal prohibition on the movement of alcohol between provinces, but before you start to rush out to buy or ship wine all over Canada, the flow of liquor is still subject to provincial laws, which have been the problem all along.

So for now, nothing has changed in the two largest markets in the country — Quebec and Ontario — where the monopolies are king. Stay tuned to see who turns off the taps first.

There has been some sobering news from the south of France by Science X Network, a leading web-based science, research and technology news service.

On June 28, the hottest day of the recent European heat wave, vines in the Herault and neighbouring Gard regions — home to the Pic Saint Loup and Coteaux de Languedoc appellations — were severely burnt.

Local vigneron Catherine Bernard saw her withering vines as a warning of what is to come from climate change. Speaking about her native Mediterranean vines, acclimatized to the weather over centuries that were no match for the heat that week, Bernard said: “If we cannot grow them (vines) in the south of France, we must accept that we cannot grow anything else here either, and that humans are no longer in their rightful place here.”

I caught up with two delightful Chilean winemakers last week from Vina Santa Carolina to taste a handful of exciting wines that will likely never get to B.C.

Chilean wines sales are finally growing again in this province, surpassing Australia of late to move into second place behind California. The problem is Chile’s best wines no longer come to B.C. because our interest is only at the lowest end of the market.

Chile is unable to shake its “value for money” tag in restaurants or wine shops. The top wines are starting to sell out in Chile, where locals now know much more than we do about their best wines.

Alas, our store shelves remain flooded with the cheapest brands possible, and after tax and gouging we don’t pay anything near what they are really worth.

I did taste two excellent wines that in many ways illustrate the great Chilean wine conundrum — well-made and underpriced.  Both are from the Santa Carolina Reserva tier, and both boast fruit from the terrific, fresh, well-respected coastal sub-appellation of Leyda Valley.

The Sauvignon Blanc is a cross between Marlborough and Sancerre, selling for six to seven dollars less than it should. The Pinot Noir is simply off-the-charts cheap for an everyday juicy, drinkable Pinot Noir with real Pinot character; it’s selling for about $10 less than similar quality wines in the market.

What is the price you ask? Both are a ridiculous $13.99 a bottle in government stores. There I said it, and I stand by it. Now, back up the truck and stock up by the case before the winery comes to its senses and prices these wines at their true worth.

The longtime Calona/Peller/Sandhill chief winemaker is currently the master winemaker at Vanessa Vineyard in the Similkameen. Soon was named as a member “for his leading role in shaping, expanding and elevating British Columbia’s wine industry.”

I would add Soon’s most significant contribution to B.C. wine may be as a role model and teacher, and he is to be especially commended for expanding opportunities for women to enter winemaking roles and  perform at the highest level.

As we head into summer, the U.S. — mostly California — leads all countries importing wine into B.C. with 23 per cent of total import sales. Chile has edged out Australia taking second place at 13.8 per cent, while the latter is also at 13.8 per cent but falling.

The name 50th Parallel says it all: cool, refreshing, lively, and fun to drink. What more do you need? The fruit is all hand harvested and whole-bunch pressed. It’s left to settle in an oxygen-free environment to up its primary aromatic ante. The ferment is an 80/20 split of stainless steel and three-year-old French oak barrels, which appears to be the perfect mix of freshness and texture. I love the fresh orchard fruit mix of peach, nectarine and citrus, with a dash of figs in the back end. Grilled salmon, chicken samosas or grilled prawns shine with a glass of this Gris.

One of the best value pinks in the market is available in a 3 litre bag-in-the box, party format that will keep the neighbourhood going all night. Expect a medium-pale pink colour from this dry rosé, along with vibrant, floral, jammy strawberry and orange flecked with notes of tangerine and red licorice. Fresh, highly-affordable and food-friendly, it’s a hard-to-beat patio pink. The perfect fridge wine for a long weekend.

The signature of top producers is consistency, and this medium-bodied blend of Verdejo, Viura and Sauvignon Blanc from Rueda delivers that, and more. Expect a fruity style (well, as fruity as Euro whites can be) with bits of mandarin, peach and assorted orchard fruits on the nose. The palate is more of the same, with lime pith, melon, pineapple and spice that finish juicy and tangy with a twist of chalk for texture. The Rueda region remains undervalued as a producer of fresh white wine, which allows Telmo Rodriguez to build his company’s basa (basement/ foundation) with this larger production white. Private wine shops only.

In a picture perfect 2016 vintage, a 14.5 per cent alcohol in one of the warmest vineyard sites in the Okanagan is to be commended. The style is hedonistic, expressing all the aromas of Cabernet Franc with a softer edge than you get with Cabernet Sauvignon. There is plenty of sweet black fruit, but the savoury sagebrush ameliorates the ripeness and the tannins are all in line. The finish is long and pleasing and will gather a following. Another two to four years in bottle would be useful, but grilled lamb or mushroom dishes would be equally welcomed as a match.

Spain’s Hecula is the benchmark producer of commercial Monastrell (Mourvèdre in France),  courtesy of the Castaño family owners of more than 410 hectares in the Yecla DO, and 80 per cent of those planted to Monastrell. This wine comes from a mix of sandstone and limestone soils located 750m above sea level  and the vines are a tantalizing 50 years old. It’s all stainless fermented and then aged six months in oak 80 per cent French, 20 per cent American). Modern and accessible, it is the perfect barbecue red, marked down $3 all July.

Food Network’s celebrity chef Ricardo is instantly familiar by his first name alone (but for the record, his last name is Larrivée). Between TV series, newspaper columns and publishing his own magazine — also called Ricardo — the man is literally a brand. His latest cookbook Vegetables First is a collection of vibrant dishes that make veggies the star. As always, Ricardo wants you to share this verdant risotto with friends and family.

In a pot, bring the broth to a boil. Keep warm. In a large pot over medium-high heat, soften the onion and garlic in half of the butter. Add the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to coat the rice. Add the white wine and reduce almost to dry. Over medium heat, add the broth, about 1 cup (250 mL) at a time, stirring frequently, until the liquid has almost entirely evaporated between each addition.

Cook for 18 to 22 minutes or until the rice is al dente. Season with salt and pepper. Add more broth as needed. Remove from the heat and add the peas, grated Parmesan, and the remaining butter. Mix well until the texture is creamy and the peas are hot. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Garnish with Parmesan shavings. Serve as an appetizer or main dish.

Risotto with peas is a green, fresh and creamy dish: all it needs is a squeeze of lemon-like wine to refresh each bite.

Boldly Kiwi in style, with a lip-smacking citrus, peppery, tropical, passion fruit palate that will freshen every bite of the risotto.

This tightly wound white with tangerine, apricot, citrus and green apple will cut into the risotto and peas, lifting it off the plate.

Bulk Varietal Chardonnay Wine

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