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Dollars and wine sense

Pasqua winery in Italy (Photograph supplied)

I noted that the column by fellow writer Catherine Burns last week was titled “Cost-saving kitchen tips” and I have received e-mails asking if I would consider doing the same – so here goes.

I will discuss the wines that I have always referred to as, “wines that paid for my sons’ educations”. This was no easy task with the first private school fees submitted in 1970 and finally, in 2020, one son becoming Dr Robinson after 13 years at a fine university (where he is now teaching). Thank you for buying everyday wines!

During my job interview at JE Lightbourn in 1975 a representative of the Gallo Family winery suggested that I be hired and sent to them in California for training. That is how it started for me. My very first encounter with a European family winery took place here in 1978 when Carlo Pasqua visited us from Italy. Both families have sold tens of thousands of inexpensive cases of wine here since then and they are both very popular and consistently well made.

Gallo ships four times as much wine as all of Canada, or over 75 million cases a year. They own over 23,000 acres, half of which is always left in its natural state for wildlife habitats, trees and so on.

They own the biggest wine brand – Barefoot Cellars - and are also involved with highly respected wineries such as Louis Martini and Orin Swift.

All this from two brothers, Ernest and Julio, who borrowed less than $5,000 to establish their own winery in the early 1940s.

I remember well Ernest’s visit to Bermuda in the 1970s and also one particular luncheon in California where my wife and I joined him and about 20 of his top management, all male except her.

But that was 1980 and now it is daughter Gina that heads up the whole empire. I am sure that this family has done more than any other to see that folks on a budget learn to enjoy a very pleasant glass of wine.

It was so good to see my old friend Carlo Pasqua during my last trip to Italy and this winery is headquartered in Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet renown.

They offer a very wide choice - from quite costly amarone down to pleasant everyday wines such as pinot grigio, valpolicella and bardolino. Their magnums of red sangiovese and white malvasia are probably on every supermarket shelf and, of course, in our own stores.

Before we discuss actual wines let me explain why wine prices vary more than just about any other item.

Wines that I often write about might be made from a vineyard that yields two tons of fruit per acre, or about 60 cases.

Wines that are at the lower price scale may be made from a yield of ten tons per acre or 600 cases.

Equal amounts of the influence of soil, earth, rocks and climate are shared, with a tenth of the wine for the more expensive ones. Land prices in Napa, Burgundy and Chile vary greatly as do worker wages.

Then there is the particularly gifted winemaker and what he/she demands.

If you wonder why you cannot find a $9.99 magnum here, as you will in a Costco or Walmart, consider this: For every single glass of wine that reaches our shores we give our politicians a dollar or more to spend wisely on our behalf - yup, $6 Customs duty for every litre.

If you decide to store it in a bonded warehouse, a 3.75 per cent extra tax is levied on removal.

Can you imagine the cost of moving a case weighing 40 pounds from Mendoza in Argentina, over the Andes to Chile where it is consolidated with more wines, shipped up the coast of South America, through the Panama Canal, unloaded in New Jersey and then put on a ship to Bermuda?

The Pasqua Malvasia di Puglia exhibits a pale straw colour and it is dry and balanced with good acidity and persistence. Malvasia refers to a whole family of grapes that probably originated in ancient Greece.

The flavour is delicate with hints of tropical fruit. Their sangiovese is an intense ruby red colour and full-bodied with fruity perfumes and soft, supple tannins. Sangiovese is also responsible for Tuscan wines such as chianti and a special clone gives us brunello.

If you purchase a bottle of sangiovese (stock #8954), or malvasia (stock #8955) we would ask you for $15.70. If you and a friend enjoy a glass when you get home from work, and another with dinner, you will see the end of that bottle. Why not buy a magnum of (stock #8932) red for $26.70 or the malvasia magnum (stock #8915) for the same price? Now your bottle equivalent just dropped to $13.35.

How will the other half last? I suggest that you do what I often do with magnums. I keep two empty regular bottles and just fill them from the magnum. Push in a cork or screw on the screw cap and the remaining wine will be fine for a long time. Want to save even more? Why not purchase a case of six magnums and get a 10 per cent discount? Now you are only paying $12.01 for a bottle - $15.70 down to $12.01. Wow. At the same magnum price, we offer merlot as well.

Barefoot Cellars’ magnums cost $29.95 and bottles $15.80 and they offer about any grape variety that you could wish for including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, white zinfandel and moscato, to name a few.

You do not become the top selling wine brand in the world unless you offer well made, reliable and tasty wine. Again, why not purchase a six-magnum case and pay a bottle equivalent of $13.48?

Gallo Family wines are just slightly less at $29.70 for magnums and $15.50 for bottles. Stick to my suggestions and the bottle becomes $13.36.

Some folks never spend more than the prices that I have quoted, others like to buy a “Saturday night wine” or a “birthday wine”; some are even fortunate enough to drink any one anytime that they wish. We try to keep you all happy.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published July 08, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated July 08, 2022 at 9:03 am)

Dollars and wine sense

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