At home in one's glass

michel phaneuf guide du vinMichel Phaneuf and Cuvée réZin Nature - two big reasons why it's great to be in Quebec and drinking wine

As much as I enjoyed exploring New York, discovering new tastes and meeting new people, it is very nice to be back home.

November is always a great time for the wine lover in Montreal. For starters, Quebec's premier wine writer Michel Phaneuf publishes Le Guide du Vin -- more or less required reading for shoppers at the government-run provincial wine seller, SAQ. The book, which weighed in bigger than ever last fall for its 25th anniversary edition, is traditionally released in early November, offering value-based guidance on virtually all of SAQ's general repertory and very many of the spécialités found in select stores across the province.

The guide is indeed in French, but it is infinitely useful at a glance, as most better guides strive to be. Reviews are arranged intuitively by wine region and assessments come with more than descriptive notes. There are star ratings, rankings for wine evolution, and other symbology along with plenty of practical lists extracted for the reader into a simple and informational format. A little knowledge of French will help you maximize the usefulness of this book but pretty much everyone can refer to it and make themselves an informed purchase.

Usually, I favour descriptive notes on wine over any type of wine scoring, but Phaneuf's succinct reviews feature a five-star system that seems quite appropriate, especially when you consider his guide is conveying the SAQ repertoire within a pocketbook. Beyond that, I admire how he places the greatest emphasis on wine bargains and exceptional bottles (called Les Aubaines and Les Grappes d'or respectively). These worthy wines are endorsed as the cream of the crop without being ordered into a top one hundred or what have you.

Expect Le Guide du Vin 2007 in bookstores within a week's time.

rézin cuvée thierry puzelat 2005 Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France Clermont-Beaudoin blancThe other notable wine event on the Montreal wine calendar is the annual fall launch of the Cuvée réZin. réZin is a local distributor and private importer that routinely comes out with its own "house wine" and then sells the stuff under its Importation Sauvage collection. These cuvées represent the Quebec agency in its unique, usually all-natural, refreshing approach to wine.

For 2005's edition, renowned Loire winemaker Thierry Puzelat has once again been recruited and the resulting wine was tasted last Wednesday at réZin's launch party. Not only was what I tasted delicious, it inspired me to play Michel Phaneuf -- if only en attendant -- while the wait for the 2007 Guide continues.

Cuvée réZin blanc J. Clermont-Beaudoin 2005 Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France - Vibrant and mineraly with a strong northern profile: grippy and grassy but floral, and with more depth than pucker. This is substantial support for the Loire as the greatest site for Sauvignon bar none. It's a bonus this wine is all natural. "1" (drink now). ****

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