The St. Catherine's Standard recently opined on Esprit, the official "Canadian" wine of the Olympic Games. To summarize: Vincor is the official wine supplier of the 2010 Olympics (as it was at Beijing 2008, and as it will be at London 2012). Along with toting the Olympic logo on their VQA brands, Vincor created the Jackson-Triggs Esprit line of wines in support of Canada's Olympic athletes.
With every purchase, $1.25 will go directly into the coffers of the Canadian Olympic Team and the 2010 Games. Kudos for that. I worked with Team Canada for the Sydney Games; I know about the financial hardship faced by many athletes. So I'm all for giving them the support they need to excel.
But like the LCBO with its misleading "Cellared in Canada" category, Vincor is pulling the wool over tourists' eyes with Esprit. As much as 70 per cent of the content in the Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc are from foreign suppliers. Bulk fruit and juice from as far away as Australia, wherever Vincor's growers may reside.
I'm with Rick on this one: is it too much to ask to have all-Canadian grapes in what will become and internationally shlepped product? The eyes of the world will be on Canada next February. Why not focus on varietals that are successfully thriving in Canada? Where's the marechal foch? The pinot noir? I went on Vincor's corporate site and found a line about how the successful 2007 vintage in both the Okanagan and Niagara will mean 100% Canadian content in all future bottlings of Esprit Merlot and Chardonnay. Nice try, but this looks to me like desperate scramble to fix a major PR screw up.
So before you buy your Olympic-themed wine, check the labels. Let's support our athletes - but let's make sure to support Canadian growers, too.
For more information on how to support Canadian athletes, please visit the Web sites of the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.
Edit: My brother came for dinner over the weekend and brought a bottle of the Esprit Merlot with him. He challenged me to try it, since I was so willing to criticize it on my blog. Realizing that it would, indeed, be highly unfair to judge a wine by its label, I tried a glass ... and ended up pouring myself another. Good nose of cassis, cedar, mint, eucalyptus and green pepper. Light body, with acids and tannins that were well balanced, although the whole package went better with food. Not thrilled with the finish, which was abrupt and under ripe, but overall, not too shabby. I still won't buy it, though, just on principle alone.