All wine is really just for the birds

  • The wine lover’s friend: scarecrows are used by vineyard owners to keep birds from eating ripe grapes (Photograph supplied)

    The wine lover’s friend: scarecrows are used by vineyard owners to keep birds from eating ripe grapes (Photograph supplied)

Birds love grapes and vineyard owners resort to many methods to keep them away from the ripe fruit.

“Bird sirens” emit the sounds of distressed or dying birds.

“Boom boxes” frighten them. Bird repellent (non-toxic) can be sprayed.

Nets cover the vines and, of course, scarecrows and owls can be placed among them.

A magazine, that I have just received from the Masi winery in Italy, mentions 29 grape varieties that are named because of their relationship with various birds.

It also mentions how birds helped spread wild vines, found in the woods around the world, over the past 12,000 years.

This also helped various vines to cross pollinate with each other and develop new strains.

The grapes used in our Pasqua Villa Borghetti Valpolicella Classico 2017 are corvina, rondinella and molinara that combine to give us fresh perfumes of currants, wild cherries and hints of spices and vanilla.

The balance is good, and the price is $17.65.

Sporophila corvina is a bird also known as the black seed-eater; rondinella is said to match the colour of dove plumage.

Molinara is the one not associated with birds, but instead seems to mean “from the mill”.

Our Pasqua 2012 Famiglia Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella is 65 per cent corvina and 25 per cent rondinella.

The rest consists of two little-known varieties.

The semi-drying of grapes used in amarone (developed and perfected by Masi) always results in a “big” wine.

This one would be a fine match with grilled red meats, game dishes and richly flavoured hard cheese.

To quote Wine Enthusiast magazine: “90/100. This opens with aromas of mature black currant and dark baking spice.

“The full-bodied palate offers mature black cherry, ripe blackberry, liquorice and pipe tobacco, alongside a backbone of firm, fine-grained tannins.

“Drink 2017 through 2022.” $42.45.

Masi Campofiorin 2014 at 70 per cent corvina, 25 per cent rondinella and 5 per cent molinara is a wine that I like to refer to as “baby amarone”.

This “super Venetian” was first made in 1964 by letting valpolicella soak on the lees left over from amarone production.

I think of it as the parent teaching the child.

In the 1980s, they further perfected their method.

The 2014 offers ripe plum, black cherry and a touch of liquorice.

Most vintages receive excellent reviews and Wine Enthusiast rates this one 90/100. $23.35.

Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2012 really shows the potential of these grapes with powerful, complex aromas of dried plums and “balsamic” (anise, fennel, mint) traces.

It is soft with bright acidity, baked cherry, chocolate and cinnamon flavours and structured, noble tannins. Pair with grilled or roasted red meats, game, and hard cheeses like Parmesan.

Considered a “wine for meditation”, to be sipped on its own, this is also perfect after dinner.

James Suckling rates it 94/100.

Possibly, we are out of this in our stores.

The 2013, however, is due in a few days and it is also rated 94/100 at, which commented: “Proud, majestic, complex and exuberant: this is Masi’s gentle giant.

“A benchmark for the amarone category, which, together with barolo and brunello, makes up the aristocracy of the Italian wine world.

“The product of Masi’s unrivalled expertise in the appassimento (drying) technique, whereby traditional grapes from the valpolicella classica area - corvina, rondinella and molinara - are laid out on bamboo racks to concentrate their aromas during the winter months.” $56.30.

Merlot, a little blackbird in French, is the best known “bird grape”.

It is so named as it is early to ripen and these feathered fowl love to get to merlot grapes first.

We could do a complete article on merlot, but instead I will finish with a winery named after birds.

Back in the 1970s, when Joel Peterson (the godfather of zin) was picking his first crop, a flock of ravens were taunting him from tree branches above, hence the name Ravenswood was born.

In another reference to these birds, Ravenswood “Besieged” was created.

We have the 2014 vintage that was produced based on the red blend trend, which it truly is, as it consists of petite sirah, carignane, zinfandel, syrah, alicante bouschet and barbera.

It lives up to Ravenswood’s motto of “no wimpy wines” as it offers us luscious dark cherry, red currant, spices, vanilla and even a touch of coffee, chocolate and sweet plums.

The tannins are suede and supple.

Even though it has received good reviews, for instance 91/100 from Natalie Maclean in Canada, it has not managed to fight it out well with all the other new red blends on the market.

Ravenswood has decided not to make any more and we find ourselves with a wine with no future to build on.

It has been selling for $26.90 and we have decided to reduce it to $19.95.

If you are among the many fans of these modern blends you really should try it as it has developed well in the bottle and would be lovely with pasta and red meat dishes and many cheeses.

Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay is one of our finest and it is named for the red-shouldered hawks that keep pests at bay in their Carneros Vineyard. Bird in Hand Rosé from Australia is one of our most popular sparkling offerings. I could keep going …

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit

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Published Feb 1, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 1, 2019 at 9:39 am)

All wine is really just for the birds

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