August 9, 2012
Liquid Refreshment

Slow Wine in Niagara

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Vintner transplanted Old World technique . . . .

They call it “slow wine.”

Made with grapes that are partially dried before pressing, slow wine is revered in the Old World. This technique is known as appassimento, and The Foreign Affair Winery imported it to Ontario vineyards.

This summer, I visited the boutique winery on the premises of the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, and discovered an elegant tasting room run by a passionate vintner.

Winery founder Len Crispino pioneered and adapted the appassimento method at a 40-acre vineyard in Niagara at the turn of the millennium, and introduced the first vintage in 2004. The drying grapes are allowed to “evolve,” as they say, for up to six months before pressing and fermenting. Appassimento concentrates flavours (and pushes up prices). Think of Amarone-style wines, rich and full-bodied, with a relatively high alcohol content.

You can order a case online ( Better still, you can sip, sample and browse at the tasting studio. The décor may be Old World, but you don’t have to be hushed and reverent. Crispino himself exhibits a fine sense of humour.

He called his operation The Foreign Affair because he fell madly in love in Italy the moment his lips caressed the “Old World temptress” a.k.a. appassimento wine. And he named his 2008 cabernet franc, priced at $163 a bottle, “Unreasonable.”

Although some people may tell you so, Crispino says, following one’s dreams is not unreasonable.

       Foreign Affair’s Unreasonable wine. Credit: Susan Sampson