One of my tasks at our sister publication of Vancouver Magazine is to pour over the city’s wine lists and parse them up based on selection and price (mostly price) in a column called the Wine List Once-Over. And you quickly learn there are certain hallmarks on every list that are illuminating: How much do they charge for a bottle of Veuve Cliquot? Do their mark-ups go down as the wine becomes more expensive? And so on.
One thing you also see are a few sleeper bottles that end up finding their way on to a disproportionate number of lists. I’m not talking about the big names like Dom or Oculus that are there because people expect them. No, I’m talking about the small production gems that the somms hand pick out of love so that they can turn their customers on to something unexpected. That’s where this bottle comes in: I spied it most recently on the list at Yaletown’s Provence Marinaside (where it’s very well priced at $55).
For starters it’s an oddity—a Canadian wine, made with a Italian grape (and a relatively obscure grape at that). Arnies is native to Piedmont, the home of the great reds Barolo and Barbaresco, and it was almost extinct four decades ago until the producers Vietti and Bruno Giacosa brought it back from the brink. But it’s still a nice grape and given it grows in the very pricey real estate of Piedmont, when we do see it here it’s quite pricey.
Enter Moon Curser. I think it’s fair to say the Osoyoos-based to team of Beata and Chris Tolley push more varietal boundaries than almost anyone in Canada (Okanagan Falls-based Stag’s Hollow would be up their too). In addition to their Syrahs and Cabernet Sauvignons they grow Tempranillo, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Touriga Nacional. Wine writers love the experimentation, but I can’t imagine it’s an easy road to hoe—each one of those grapes require them to educate most consumers about them before they’ll make a sale.
Which brings us to their Arneis. It’s a magical wine: it’s both bone dry and juicy at the same time with citrus skin and citrus pith and what seems like a daily dose of minerals thrown in. It’s serious but still quite approachable and most importantly it doesn’t taste like anything else on most wine lists. And the price—$23 at the winery—is a steal, much less expensive than any Italian import we can get our hands on out here.
For a producer or a somm, selling any wine is hard. But selling a wine that almost no one has heard of—that’s where the heavy lifting comes in. In some cases that heavy lifting is worthwhile. So when you see this wine—at the winery, the store or a restaurant—give it a whirl. It’s the product of the road seriously less-travelled.
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