Anthony Gismondi: Wine auctions are a game changer for consumers


The ability to buy and sell your wine on auction makes the entire exercise a lot more fun.

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The resounding success of last month’s first consumer wine auction in Calgary has me thinking that starting a wine cellar has suddenly become more practical.

Until now, there was no legal or sensible way to sell your cellar and to drink it all, or giving it away, were never very appealing options. The ability to buy and sell your wine on auction makes the entire exercise a lot more fun.

Acquiring older wine was always an issue, so buying wine that is already aged and having it delivered to your cellar is a game-changer. It also means fastidious collectors will be able to sell their collection or parts of it down the road, thus realizing the profits of collecting or at the very least get their money back should they need cash for something else. On that news, we review a handful of things to think about when starting a cellar.

The underground wine cellar of yore may no longer be an option for most unless you own a castle, but makeshift wine rooms in the basement appear with frequency, and many condominium dwellers are buying specialized wine refrigerators to store their wines in safety. Those strapped for space have also turned to private wine storage facilities such as the Vancouver Wine Vault, Griffin Wine Storage or 13C Wine Storage.


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No matter your choice, maintaining a modest wine cellar makes a lot of sense because almost every wine gets better in the bottle. Storing wine, even a few weeks or months, in a quiet, cool place allows the wine to rest and settle down and recover from the shock of being bottled, shipped and generally bounced around in its early life. Also, not to be dismissed — buying bottles young means you will always pay the minimum price that will inevitably go up, never a bad thing.

My cellar began with a few bottles under the bed. It was too warm for anything good to happen to the wine and too handy for them to last any length of time, but it was a start. I quickly learned there was a better way to store wine, and it is not those fancy wine racks people install in their expensive, showy, renovated kitchens. Dark, cool, and vibration-free is the answer to a proper cellar space.

All this leads to the inevitable questions: how long should you lie down or cellar wine, and for what purpose? Better yet, how will you ever know when your bottles are ready to drink?

Fine red wine is best when given bottle age. I’m a big fan of the seven to 10-year rule, and based on some 40 years of cellaring wine; most bottles tend to excel between seven and 10 years. The best can stay alive for decades. That is when all the components meld together, offering more than just fruit or oak flavours but rather something far more complex. Once you come to know the delight of sipping aged wine, it is very difficult to go back to drinking youthful versions of the same wine.


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There is a caveat for newbies. Remember, not all wines are made to improve with age. The vast majority of white wines require little or no cellar time, although white Burgundy and Champagne lead a small list of collectibles whites that improve with some time in the cellar. Price can be a rudimentary guide as few wines under $15-$20 are designed for aging, although any reds that contain large amounts of Cabernet, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Malbec, and Zinfandel will all benefit from cellar time no matter what their cost.

Because most red wine is fermented on and left in contact with its skins for an extended time to extract large amounts of colour and tannin (before it is aged in wood), it needs time for all the parts to combine and become a seamless, balanced, delicious wine.

How long you can age wine is a tougher matter. Top wines from highly rated vintages can easily age a decade or more under perfect conditions. There is nothing better than opening a wine made 30 or 50 years ago to put your life in perspective from a historical sense.

Weekend wine picks

Frind Estate Winery Brut N/V, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$24.99 I 88/100

UPC: 626990415367

Frind Brut is a new sparkling wine to enter the market and an early release from Frind Estate, just starting to get underway on the west shores of Okanagan Lake south of Quails’ Gate. It is styled for early release, and with 13 grams of residual sugar, the build is friendly, but it’s not overly sweet, thanks to the always-present natural B.C. acidity. It should work with any number of spicy appetizer bites. Solid.


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Monte del Frá Ca del Magro Custoza Superiore 2016, Verona, Veneto, Italy

$19.99 I 89/100

UPC: 838547000050

A darker yellow colour previews a floral, vibrant, honeyed nose stemming from a rich blend of grapes from Verona’s 55-year old Ca’ del Magro vineyard. The mix involves Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Tocai friulano, Cortese, Chardonnay, Riesling Italico, Malvasia, and Incrocio Manzoni, and the result is splendid. Post ferment, it spends six to eight months on full lees in stainless steel, adding a creamy texture and preserving the acidity required to offset the fruit flavours’ richness. Look for honeydew melon, quince, and some citrus cutting into the back end of the wine to keep it fresh on the palate. Ready to drink with chicken, pork or fresh fish.

LaStella Moscato D’Osoyoos 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$19.99 I 89/100

UPC: 808755017492

When you think you know the Okanagan, folks like winemaker Severine Pinte mess with your mind and release something like a Moscato Bianco petits grains, muscat Ottonel, and orange muscat blend that transports you to Piemonte, Italy. Just under a decade in age, the vines are grown on heavier soils or gravel with a high percentage of clay that gives this wine a bit of gravitas on the mid-palate despite an elegance that shadows Piemonte. Medium sweet and low in alcohol, it is bursting with pear and white flowers and mandarin orange aromas and flavours. Simple, well made and delicious.


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Doña Paula Estate High Altitude Malbec 2019, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina

$15.99 I 89/100

UPC: 836950000056

Finca Alluvia is located at Gualtallary, Tupungato, literally in the middle of nowhere, 1350 meters above sea level — that is about 120 meters higher than Vancouver’s landmark Grouse Mountain. The stony, mineral, edgy Malbec is aged in a mix of first, second, and third use French oak barrels. The fruit is black and blue but with a stronger floral, mineral undercurrent firm, dense tannins. Fresh, spicy, and stony, you can drink this now or let it age comfortably for three to seven years. It is a sleeker, drier, more mineral, less puppy fat style Malbec, perfect with a meaty pizza or a favourite Italian cheese.

Le Volte dell’ Ornellaia 2018, Tuscany, Italy

$29.99 I 90/100

UPC: 00818201020235

Le Volte is Bolgheri-based Ornellaia’s red blend, featuring a mix of two-thirds Merlot and 20 per cent Sangiovese, while the remaining 12-14 per cent is Cabernet Sauvignon. The attack is typically generous, with a darker Bolgheri-style blackberry, blackcurrant mixed with a strong savoury, dried herb character and touch of Balsamico. It’s just a baby, but it will blossom over the next five to seven years. The grapes are fermented separately in small steel tanks before spending ten months partly in used Ornellaia barriques and cement tanks. There is no stone left unturned. Drink or hold through a decade and beyond. Good value.


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Halibut steaks with Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean paste created by Deseree Lo, Chef at Fresh Ideas Start Here.
Halibut steaks with Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean paste created by Deseree Lo, Chef at Fresh Ideas Start Here. Jenice Yu

Recipe match: Halibut steaks with Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean paste

Created by Chef Deseree Lo of Fresh Ideas Start Here, this dish sees sustainable halibut seasoned with Sichuan peppercorns, chili bean paste and dried chilies to create a “rich flavour, strong aroma and tongue-numbing heat.” Lo says this recipe for “water-boiled fish,” which hails from Chongqing in Sichuan province, can also be used for ling cod and rockfish.

Recipe: Halibut steaks with Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean paste

2 x 150 g (5.2 oz) Halibut steaks

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground white pepper

1 tbsp (15 mL) Chinese cooking rice wine or Shaoxing wine

1 egg white

1/2 tsp cornstarch

2 cups (500 mL) bean sprouts

1/4 cup (60 mL) canola or grapeseed oil

2 slices ginger, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup (125 mL) chili bean paste

1 1/2 tbsp

25g (22.5 mL) chili oil

2 cups (500 mL) F.I.S.H. Halibut stock

Sugar and salt to taste

1 tbsp (15 mL) Sichuan peppercorns, crushed

2 tbsp (30 mL) dried chilies, cut into halves or third if whole

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped green onions

1/2 cup (125 mL) cilantro leaves

Clean, rinse and towel dry the halibut steaks.

In a shallow bowl or dish, mix together salt, white pepper, cooking wine, egg white and cornstarch until fully incorporated. Coat the steaks evenly and marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water, drain and set aside.

Add 50 g of the oil to a wok or deep-frying pan over medium high heat until hot and then add the ginger, garlic, spicy bean paste and the chili oil. Sauté for about two minutes, add the stock and bring to a boil. Season with sugar (about 1 tbsp) and pinch of salt.


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Add the halibut steaks and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Do not overcook or the fish will be tough. Turn the heat off.

In a separate small pot, heat up the remaining of the oil. It should be hot but not smoking.

Place the halibut steaks on top of the cooked bean sprouts in a serving plate or bowl and pour in the soup. Sprinkle the dried chilies and Sichuan peppercorns and drizzle the hot oil over to “fry” and release the aromas. Garnish with the green onions and cilantro. Enjoy with rice (optional).

Serves 2. 

Recipe match

Halibut steaks can be a blank canvas for wine, but Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean paste suggest a Riesling might best suit the heat that makes the dish so delicious.

Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken 2017, Mosel, Germany $36.99

The attack is intense, offering juicy, citrus, peach lined with savoury tarragon notes and 17 g/l residual sugar that disappears into the wine’s acidity and the dish’s spicy elements.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery Alive Organic White 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia $20

A juicy organic blend of Gewurtzraminer, Riesling, Muscat, Chardonnay and Ehrenfelser grapes is the recipe to take on the spice in this spicy halibut dish.


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