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Conspiracy, Dream, Petit Verdot: A triple treat from Foreign Affair in Niagara


The appassimento-styled wines of Niagara, a growing list, by the way, always shine a lot brighter in the warm vintages.

Drying grapes, from myriad methods around the province (we need to discuss this at length), concentrates ripe fruit beautifully but tends to amplify greener fruit in cooler vintages. It becomes a tricky blending exercise in the inconsistent climate of Ontario.

Two 2012 appassimento style wines from Foreign Affair, a pioneer with the style in Ontario, caught my attention at a recent tasting at the winery located in Vineland.

Here’s what I liked, plus a look at the 2013 Conspiracy, which should start showing up at Vintages stores this month.


Foreign Affair Dream 2012 ($30, Vintages, winery late summer, 92 points) — The ’12 Vintage of Dream is a blend of 33% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot with 24% of the first three grapes dried to some extent. The wine spends 18 months in a combination of four different oak treatments and chimes in at a rather hefty 14.9% alcohol. Winemaker Barclay Robinson hopes consumers will lay this wine down for a bit before opening, which is the reason he’s not releasing the wine at the winery until late summer (even though it’s in Vintages stores now). This is a gorgeous wine with generous and layered aromas of black currant jam, crunchy raspberry, cherry, blueberry and lavish oak barrel-derived spices. It simply bursts on the palate with flavours of dark currants, raspberry pie, blackberry, cinnamon and nutmeg all built on a structured frame of firm tannins. This is made to be cellared, but would still pair nicely with grilled meat right now.

Foreign Affair Petit Verdot 2012 ($50, winery, 92 points) — With Merlot suffering deeply from Ontario’s deep freeze the past two winters, many wineries are now looking at Petit Verdot as a possible single variety that could fill the gap. Viewed as a nice blender for Bordeaux-style reds, it has in recent years been showing up around the world all by its lonesome. Foreign Affair dries 15% of the grapes and ages the wine for 18 months in French oak. This is only the second time PV has been made as a single variety at Foreign Affair, the first being the 2010 vintage. It’s a pretty wine with a complex and floral nose of currants, cassis, raspberry bush and baking spices. It shows a voluptuous array of currants, cherry and cassis fruit on the palate with touches of licorice and rich spice notes. A good beam of acidity carries this wine nicely through a long finish. Consider this for long-term cellaring, 5-10 years.


Foreign Affair Conspiracy 2013 ($20, winery, Vintages, 89 points) — The Conspiracy has found a permanent home as a Vintages Essential product. You should start seeing the 2013 vintage (for the first time under screw cap) arrive as 2012 depletes later in March. This incarnation of Conspiracy is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc and 16% Merlot with all three components passed over appassimento skins to add complexity and concentration. It spends 12 months in French oak. Good effort here from a so-so vintage in Niagara. The nose shows thick cherry, cassis, violets, toasted oak spice with nutmeg and cinnamon spice. It’s vibrant and punchy on the palate with lovely purity of rich cherry and cassis fruit, integrated spice, licorice and length through the finish. A well-made wine offered at a very good price point.