Not encouraging alcohol consumption but if the City of Yellowknife or the GNWT is ever looking for an alcoholic beverage to be the official drink for the north, I would like to nominate “Private Stock”. It would be ideal for official receptions, dinners, galas, dances, soirees, parties, and balls.
It is already the drink of choice for many northerners, so why not make it official. It can be used as an aperitif before a meal, a dinner wine, a liqueur for after dinner or even a chaser. It can also be used as you would port, sherry or brandy. It can even be used as a nightcap on a cold winter’s eve. Heck even Santa might like a little dram or toddy of it.
It says on the bottle that it is a fortified wine, although they don’t say what it is fortified with. Most wine has an alcoholic content of around 14 per cent, Private Stock is 20 per cent alcohol. So that is half of what hard alcohol like vodka has at 40 per cent. Private Stock is made by Brights, a company established in 1874 and located in Oliver, British Columbia. So, none of that fancy imported stuff for us. Apparently, the company is also partly Indigenous owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band.
We had picked up so many of these empty bottles along the trail, so we went to the liquor store to buy a bottle to try out. The teller was a little surprised when we asked for it. She asked if we were buying it for someone waiting outside. We assured her we weren’t. That might be construed as bootlegging, wouldn’t it? Anyway, she pulled a bottle out from under the counter and gave us a bottle with a puzzled, slightly bemused look. It came to $10.72 to which they add a 5% sales tax, a 10-cent bottle charge and an 8-cent environmental fee It came to a grand total of $11.55, if I have done my math correctly.
This, of course, pretty much makes it the cheapest alcohol sold in the store, which could be why it is so popular. Next to vodka, which some people prefer because it is odorless. Private Stock, being a fortified wine, has a distinctive sweet wine flavor and odor.
We took a bottle of it, to a cookout we were attending, to get an impartial taste test of the stuff from some friends. Traditionally, I believe it is consumed by passing the bottle around and everyone takes a slug of it. Theoretically the alcohol kills the germs. However, this being the era of covid we took a more gentile approach and used individual glasses for everyone.
Everyone took a glass and gave their comments which I later translated into the international wine rating score card that I looked up online. I took a sip but disqualified myself because I don’t drink anymore and when I did drink, I wasn’t fond of ports, sherries, or fortified wine because they are way too sweet for my palette. Mind you in an emergency, like if I was freezing to death or dying from a snake bite, I would discard my preferences and chug it back.
Many of the participants said it wasn’t bad or that they liked it and given the opportunity might even buy a bottle. The international scale starts at 50. Why? Because that is the way it is. 50 to 74 points means it is not recommended, so it certainly scored better than that. 75 to 79 gets a ranking of mediocre and no one wants to admit to liking mediocre. The next range 80 to 84 was very good with some “special” quality. Old Stock did have those special qualities because it was incredibly cheap when one considered its alcohol content. So, our panel of experts would likely give it four out of five stars.
So, there you have it. Its not great and it’s not outstanding, but it soars well above being mediocre. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is pleasing to the pocketbook. This is one of those wines you might consider using to fill up a fancy decanter, and your guests will think they are getting a fancy wine at a price you can afford.
So, we should make it the official fortified wine of the NWT. Which in a way, it already is judging by the number of empty bottles I find laying around all over the place.