Provence Marinaside epitomizes the blossoming of Vancouver’s food and wine culture —especially in matters of wine. As anyone who travels knows, especially when it comes to wine by the glass, this city is well ahead of most.

This popular restaurant on Vancouver’s False Creek north shore draws on a combination of storage techniques. They include kegs, bottles and one special, not so secret weapon.

Provence's premium wine by the glass program is expanded thanks to Coravin

Coravin: a boon to Provence’s premium wine by the glass program

Much of the credit for getting wine by the glass going falls to Raincity Grill, which pioneered the idea in Vancouver some 20 years ago. They would open any bottle on their substantial Pacific west coast list—as long as you ordered two glasses.

Raincity sowed the seed for the exception that eventually became the rule. Today, any Vancouver restaurant worth its salt has at least half a dozen wine by the glass options, if not more.

wine by the glass proponents Rachelle Goudreau and Provence owner Jean Francis Quaglia

Provence sommelier Rachelle Goudreau and owner Jean Francis Quaglia in front of their impressive line-up of taps

However, these days Provence Marinaside can claim the crown for championing the most wines by the glass. Provence Sommelier Rachelle Goudreau offers a remarkable choice of 145 labels (give or take a drop) on any given day.
So, why drink wine by the glass?

  1. Choice

    Not having to buy the bottle allows you to sample more broadly. Also, Goudreau makes up taster flights to order, from one to four ounce pours.

  2. Wine by the glass = flexible food pairing

    What happens if your dinner date wants Joie Pinot Noir to go with their Sockeye but you’d like a crisp Bartier Brothers Semillon for your oysters? Done. Or, if you want to enjoy different pairings with your appetizer and main course? Done.

  3. Discover new wines

    How do we expand our wine horizons? Other than heading to a tasting, there are few better ways than at the hands of a good restaurant sommelier. For example: Clos Cibonne Tibouren, a Provence Cru Classé. Soft and plush, earthy, peppery Tibouren (Goudreau likens it to “a meeting of Pinot and Syrah) is used as a rosé blender. And it’s excellent with peppery country paté.
    Who knows? You might even find your new fave, a deal of a house wine, or both.

  4. It’s affordable

    You can spend a little or a lot, from a flute of Montelvini Prosecco ($8) to a glass of 1er Cru Burgundy, such as Latour-Giraud Mersault-Genevrières 1er Cru ($50), or Jadot Chassagne Montrachet ($35). But the point is that, even in premium wines, the opportunity to taste by the glass a wine that would set you back four to five times more, if you had to buy the whole bottle is very appealing. Goudreau’s list is smartly divided between new and old world, and her French selections in particular are well researched to offer a full spectrum.
    For the real deals and budget bites, check out daily Tappy Hour.

  5. It’s sustainable: Wine by the glass is greener

    More wines poured by the glass means far fewer bottles used, far less breakage and spoilage—and less disposal costs. In short, every five glasses replaces one bottle. That adds up to huge benefits, from less storage needs to fresher wines—and an overall lower carbon footprint.

wine by the glass paired with mussel at provence

When Provence opened TWB (The Wine Bar), Goudreau started out with just eight wines on tap, along with a Vinotemp dispenser.

Part of an impressive facelift last year, the number of taps rocketed to 48. Also, the ability to preserve still more open bottles increased with the addition of a Coravin. It’s like a giant hypodermic needle that injects inert gas through the cork while the wine dribbles out. Coravin is a highly effective process: the wine remaining will keep up to several months.

“The expansion just made sense … we needed a good selection of French wines, so it was a natural progression, “ says Goudreau, who usually pours five ounce glasses but also obliges with taster flights of one, two, three or four ozs.

 

Building a Keg Culture

Wine by the glass stored in Bartier Bros keg at Provence

A keg of Bartier Bros. Semillon at Provence

Putting a keg in place isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, explains Goudreau: it takes about a year to organize from when first sampled, usually in a bottle. The exception is when wines might be customized or special blends made at the winery. That can bring added benefits.

“I need to consider that the wines I’m choosing are ready to drink,” says Goudreau. “Take Misconduct Merlot. They have 32 barrels in their reserve program. We tasted and chose a barrel that was luscious and ready—so we added 25 percent of a more structured barrel.”

“Ultimately, it’s about creating relationships with local wineries,” she says.

Provence’s best kept secret? Perfect Pairings: sample small bites paired with three different tastes under Goudreau’s guidance. Offered every other Thursday, for just $14. But you need to book ahead—and it sells out fast.

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wine by the glass: A row of glasses above Provence's keg storage area

A row of glasses above Provence’s keg storage

Even if you can’t make it to Provence, here’s a few worthy wines from their list that you can easily find for your own table.

  • Joie Farm Noble Blend 2015. Joie’s flagship blend is mainly Gewurz and Riesling with Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, and a splash of Muscat and Schoenberger. The result is an aromatic wine with spicy and floral notes through a juicy, gently tropical toned mid palate and a zesty end. 91 pts. $23.90
  • Bartier Bros. Semillon 2014. Even though limited, Okanagan Semillon is growing in popularity. Here’s one reason why: appealing citrus and mineral aromas, followed by balanced fruit and acidity with tropical notes and a crisp, clean close.$16.49 90 pts.
  • Sables d’Azur Rosé. (Côtes de Provence) Good value, everyday drinking rosé blends Grenache, Syrah and Cinsaut for a burst of lively berry notes, some citrus and a hint of mineral in the traditional shaped ‘skittle’ bottle. BCLS $15.99 / 88 pts (‘2011)
  • Rubinelli Vajol Valpolicella Classico 2014. Bright red and blue berry fruit with some cedar hints, lively, fresh fruit palate, bright acidity with medium body and pleasing tension through the close, plus good fruit acid balance. $22-25 / 90 pts
  • Quinta do Crasto Old Vines Reserva. Perenially convincing polished example of the new era of Portuguese table wines. NR. $41
  • El Petit Bonhomme Monastrell Garnacha Syrah 2013. Ex Montrealer Nathalie Bonhomme’s ‘feel good’ modern blend of Monastrell, Garnacha and Syrah delivers a robust red with black cherry notes and a touch of anise and oak that goes well with braised dishes or stronger cheeses. (2012)  90 pts $13.29