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Stop whining and drink up!

Boys may sell their toys, and girls might consider waiting for a sale to buy those great shoes, but some of life’s pleasures are recession-proof. One of them is wine. (Another is chocolate.)

Savvy sippers will search a little harder for a $10 chardonnay from Chile or hunt for an affordable Hungarian red, but they won’t stop enjoying their glass of liquid luxury just because the daily financial report is gloomy.

Saving money is one of the key reasons people make their own at the many wine-making stores in Greater Sudbury where premium wines can be bottled for less $200 per kit or about $6 per bottle. Each kit yields 28 750ml bottles.

“We are almost recession-proof because we are price-sensitive, says Rob Castron, who opened Cas’s Natural Brewhouse on Second  Ave. in 1992.

In the early days, beer-making was extremely popular, but now it only represents a small percentage of the business.

Those who are still making their own beer are now enjoying a pure micro-brewed style of beer. Cas’s contract with Magnotta brewery allows it to offer  up to 10 different micro-brewed beers that are manufactured right from grain.

Over the years the quality and selection of grape juices and grape concentrates for wine-making has improved significantly which is the main reason Cas’s is still seeing steady growth in wine sales every year.

“People who think that kit wine is plunk haven’t tried a wine made from our premium  grape juices (fermented with the skins),” says Castron.  “When you start with real grape juice, you’ll always get better results, mainly in the body of the wine, the aroma and lastly the balance of the acidity. All three of these attributes are critical for any wine to be satisfying.”

Castron works with importers that are bringing in pure juices and skins from many different wineries around the globe.

Some of the more popular products are coming from Chile in various grape varieties (merlot, cabernet sauvignon, carmenere, syrah, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc).

As well the shop carries a full line of pure juices from Europe, imported directly from wineries in France, Italy and Germany.

“These juices seem to be the most vibrant with plenty of fruit and  good acidity taking on the true character of each varietal grape,”  says Castron.

To complete the premium line, Castron has added another juice supplier from the Washington State region that has been producing some great merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon.

For the first time, this past year, Cas’s brought in some pure juices from Ontario grapes. “We  tried cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon,  riesling and gewurztraminer, four grape varietals that I think Ontario grows well,” says Castron.

“Something we also offer at the beginning of each year is a four-month limited-release program for customers who are willing to put something different in the cellar.”

The wine-making process is a lot easier than most think and it can be fun and educational too. An initial visit takes only 10 to 15 minutes and an appointment isn’t necessary. The regulations in Ontario require customers mix the ingredients and start the fermentation process by adding the yeast.

Once customers start the wine and the fermentation is completed, the wine is then stabilized and transfered into a walk-in-cooler were it is stored at cellar temperature for  up to six months. Clients then return to bottle it.

Some of the wines are ready to drink at a young age, but Castron strongly advises customers store big premium wines on their sides for a period of up to two or three years for better enjoyment.

“We hear it from customers all the time that the last two bottles were so good,” he says.

For 15 years, Cas’s has been acting as a licensed agent for Magnotta Winery which has its head office in Vaughan.

Castron choose to represent Magnotta for two reasons. “They have  a large selection of wines and the product is very affordable. When people buy from Magnotta, they don’t have to pay the markup charged by the LCBO.”

As an agent Cas’s is  not allowed to stock the Magnotta products but can order it for customers.

Visit www.casbrewhouse.com for more info on beer-and wine­-making products. Visit www.magnotta.com for more info on all of Magnotta’s products.

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