Salutations de Québec!
My wife and I have safely arrived in Quebec City, where we will be spending the next 30 days. We rented a condo in the Old City, so we can live like the locals. We are walking distance to several cafés and restaurants, and the famous historical sites in the city. In fact, the 400+ year old fortification wall is just out our back door!
We’ve only just begun to explore, but already we are taken with the beauty, charm, and history of this French-Canadian city.
Neither my wife nor I speak French well enough to blend in seamlessly. I only know enough to embarrass myself. (Really.) Fortunately, most everyone here is bilingual, and can converse in English just as well as French. This is especially true in the tourist areas and those working in hospitality. We did run into a couple of folks at a neighborhood supermarket who didn’t speak English, but they were able to summon help from a coworker in the store.
Speaking of the neighborhood supermarket…if you are a wine lover, and I assume you are if you are reading this Wine Blog, please accept some advice and learn from my mistake blunder. Do not buy wine when you are suffering from jet lag and are seriously sleep deprived. Seriously, don’t do it. You see, since we are renting a condo, we needed to find a supermarket and stock up on provisions for our stay. We’ll be cooking in more than eating out, because, money. We Googled a nearby grocery store and headed out. I had an idea where the local wine shop was located, but we were tired and just wanted to pick up a bottle for the first night. So I quickly browsed the very small wine section and grabbed the first bottle I saw that said it was from Canada. (When in Rome, and all that!) It was an $8.50 bottle, so I didn’t have great expectations, but I figured it’d be OK. It wasn’t until I got back to the condo that it dawned on me that there was no vintage listed on this 750 ml bottle. Panic started to set in. I also remembered that at the current exchange rate, that $8.50 CAD was about $6.70 USD. Uh-oh. A closer look at the label revealed nothing about what was inside, other than some fruity adjectives; no varietals listed. In a cold sweat, I logged into Vivino, only to discover, to my dismay, that this wine carried an average rating of 2.1 stars. The first review I read said “water tastes better.” I looked at the label again, and realized it said “Blended in Canada.” So I have absolutely no idea where this wine is from! This is nothing more than jug wine in a 750 ml bottle! Well, never up, never out, so I pulled the (synthetic) cork. It definitely had some nice, fruity aromas of raspberry and strawberry. Beyond that, it tasted sort of like a juice box, with a Sweet-Tart candy finish. It was drinkable, but definitely not what I’m used to enjoying. I rated it 2 stars. So again, learn from my mistakes. Don’t buy wine under the influence of jet lag; but if you must, don’t cheap out.
My wife, travel planner extraordinaire, found us a fantastic little condo through VRBO, in an historic building near the Vieux-Port. When we arrived, the owner gave us a little history, and told us the building has been in the family since the 1860’s, when her great-great-grandfather arrived from Ireland to work on the docks. The condo is a mere block away from the Marché du Vieux-Port, an indoor farmer’s market overlooking the port.
As luck good-planning-on-my-wife’s-part would have it, in addition to the fresh produce, flowers, fresh cheese, fresh seafood, large Asian food section, a Crêperie, and all things maple syrup, the Marché has at least six vendors selling wine, vin de glace (ice wine), cídre de glace, and other delights; all locally produced!
There’s also a vendor advertising more than 300 local craft beers, if that’s your preference. Every stall I visited was staffed by very friendly folks, all of whom offered tastes of pretty much anything on the bar (and many who posed for pictures!) As I expected, actual, genuine Québécois wine is of high quality and pretty tasty! Made from locally grown grapes (many of them hybrids), like Vidal, Ste-Croix, De Chaunac, Frontenac, and Baco Noir, these wines are rich and earthy, with a unique terroir adding to the flavor. The cooler climate also means the wines are lower in alcohol than their southern counterparts; typically 11-12% ABV, from what I saw. They are also higher in acidity than many New World wines, which makes them great with food.
After several tastes, I selected the Domaine de Lavoie Tourelle 2014, a red blend of De Chaunac and Ste-Croix grapes.
Deep purple color. Aromas of ripe blackberry and black currant. Flavors of blackberry, bramble, black currant, and earthy spice. The tannins are smooth and soft, and there is food friendly acidity – more so than most New World wines. Made with local varietals, De Chaunac and Ste-Croix. The finish is medium, with earthy, dark berry notes.
$16 CAD, approx $12.70 USD at today’s exchange rate.
3.5 Hearts (85-87 points)
This was my first Canadian/Québécois wine. I look forward to exploring others over the next month. This is just the first of what I intend to be many posts from the Ville de Québec. Santé!