WineAlign

Find the right wine at the right price, right now.

20 bons vins à moins de 20$ pour Novembre

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

Décembre, on sait ce que c’est : le mois des cohues, du magasinage, des cadeaux à acheter, des vacances de Noël à planifier. Heureusement qu’avec notre liste de bons achats pas chers, publiée chaque fin de mois, cela vous fera un chat de moins à fouetter…

Group

Les choix de Marc Chapleau

En blanc d’abord, et en présumant que vous serez bientôt à la recherche d’un bon vin pas trop cher – 16 $, ça va ? – pour égayer l’éventuel party de bureau, je vous suggère un classique, le Muscadet La Sablette 2013. Vif et léger, ça se boit tout seul.

En rouge, on commence en Vénétie, on se rend ensuite dans le Languedoc, on redescend vers le sud de la Catalogne et on finit le périple en Afrique.

Le Valpolicella Allegrini 2013 rappelle le beaujolais nouveau, et cela n’est pas péjoratif du tout. Corps léger, rien de compliqué, de la fraîcheur et une finale épicée.

La Sablette Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2013 Allegrini Valpolicella 2013 Château Rouquette Sur Mer Cuvée Amarante 2012 Ètim Negre 2011 Robertson Winery Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2012

Du Languedoc, et une valeur sûre année après année, le Château Rouquette sur Mer Cuvée Amarante, dans sa livrée 2012, déborde de générosité, comme à l’accoutumée. Corsé et facile, il passera lui aussi comme une lettre à la poste avec les viandes et les sandwichs du buffet.

En Espagne, dans l’appellation priorat, difficile de trouver mieux que le Montsant Etim Negre 2011, qui a du corps, de la minéralité et une texture étonnamment serrée pour un rouge à seulement 16 $.

Enfin, d’Afrique du Sud, le Robertson Winery Shiraz Mourvèdre Viognier 2012, à 14,95 $, s’avère très recommandable, peu corsé, fruité et fumé sans excès, avec la juste dose d’acidité.

Les choix de Bill Zacharkiw

J’adore les vins qui se laissent boire facilement, à plus forte raison dans un environnement festif. Y aura-t-il aussi à manger ? Peut-être. Aussi est-il important de choisir des vins, des rouges surtout, qui iront bien avec les amuse-gueule tout en étant très bons pris pour eux-mêmes, sans nourriture. En voici d’ailleurs cinq, que je vous recommande chaudement.

Pour commencer, deux blancs très différents. Le 2013 Chardonnay Campagnola  provient de la Vénétie et offre des saveurs mûres tout en étant sec. À seulement 13 $, vous pourrez aisément en faire provision pour étancher la soif de tout le monde.

Dans un tout autre registre, j’aime parfois que mes vins d’apéritif aient une légère touche sucrée. Le 2012 Black Tie de Pfaffenheim est un assemblage de riesling et de pinot gris aux odeurs de fruits tropicaux et de gingembre, avec la juste pointe de sucre. Des canapés épicés circulent parmi les invités ? Ce blanc alsacien calmera les ardeurs piquantes, également.

Campagnola Chardonnay 2013 Pfaffenheim Black Tie Pinot Gris Riesling 2012 Hoya De Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo 2010 Bolla Verona Rosso Retro 2012 Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

On me demande souvent de suggérer des rouges bon marché à prendre à l’apéritif. À moins de 13 $, peu de vins vendus à la SAQ donnent autant de plaisir fruité que le 2010 Hoya de Cadenas. L’impression de boire un pinot noir, avec ses notes de petits fruits rouges et son acidité rafraîchissante.

À la recherche d’un vin plus charpenté, par exemple parce que vous le prendrez à table, alors le Bolla 2012 Rosso Retro  combine la fraîcheur italienne à un soupçon de puissance à la bordelaise. Le vin est légèrement tannique, mais le merlot contenu dans l’assemblage lui donne par ailleurs une texture soyeuse.

Et enfin, pour les friands de rouges plus costauds, le 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Luis-Felipe Edwards déploie ces odeurs de cassis et de mûre recherchées par les amateurs de cabernet-sauvignon, tout en restant bien sec et en étant déjà très accessible.

Les choix de Nadia Fournier

Déjà bien connu des amateurs de vins du midi de la France, le Terres de Méditerranée 2012, élaboré par la Québécoise Emmanuelle Dupéré et son conjoint Laurent Barrera est toujours au sommet de la catégorie des vins courants du Languedoc offerts à la SAQ. Franchement, à moins de 15,75 $, on peut difficilement imaginer meilleur vin pour accompagner la tourtière.

Dans la même veine, gorgé de soleil, mais un peu plus pimpant et vigoureux, le Quinta du Convento 2009 a été l’une de mes belles surprises de la dernière année dans le Douro. Ce domaine appartenait jadis à Patrick et Ruth Landanger (Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, Volnay) et a été acquis par le Canadien Donald Ziraldo  (cofondateur d’Inniskillin à Niagara) en 2011. Un nom à suivre de près au cours des prochianes années…

Dupéré Barrera Terres de Méditerranée 2012 Quinta do Convento Douro 2009 Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Carmen Chardonnay Reserva 2013 José Maria Da Fonseca Moscatel De Setùbal 2008

À l’apéritif, avec des bonnes huîtres bien iodées, accentuées d’un trait de citron, vous voudrez redécouvrir le Chili à travers le prisme de la fraîcheur. Sous la marque Caliterra, Eduardo Chadwick (Errazuriz) élabore le très bon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Tributo dans la zone côtière de la vallée d’Aconcagua. Rien à voir avec tant de sauvignons-bonbons du Nouveau Monde. Juste un bon vin blanc sec, aromatique, désaltérant.

Toujours sur le littoral chilien, mais un peu plus au sud, dans la région de Casablanca, la bodega Carmen appartient au groupe Santa Rita, mais est gérée indépendamment. Au répertoire général de la SAQ et donc distribué dans l’ensemble du réseau, le Chardonnay 2013 offre un rapport qualité-prix impeccable. Juste assez gras pour se marier aux plats en sauce, mais assez frais pour l’apéro. Tout ça à 13 $ et des poussières…

Enfin, les becs sucrés découvriront (ou redécouvriront) avec plaisir le charme quasi irrésistible du délicieux Moscatel de Setúbal 2008 de la maison Jose Maria da Fonseca. Séduisant, original et vendu à prix d’aubaine.

Les choix de Rémy Charest

Du vin pour tous

Quand arrivent les grands rassemblements des fêtes, un grand défi, côté vin, est de trouver des bouteilles qui peuvent faire plaisir à beaucoup de monde et qui peuvent aussi naviguer à travers les bouchées et plats. De quoi rallier les amateurs de Ménage à Trois et les passionnés de mondeuse. Des vins pas trop lourds et riches, pas trop vifs – sans être plates non plus.

La cuvée Les galets dorés, du Château Mourgues du Grès, est un blanc qui me semble remplir ces conditions, avec un équilibre original entre la fraîcheur et le parfumé. Assemblage de grenache blanc, de roussanne et de vermentino, il fera particulièrement bien sur des bouchées, des fromages et des charcuteries. (Les rouges de la maison, soit dit en passant, sont aussi excellents.)

Ceci dit, même en jouant dans des cépages archi-connus, on peut trouver des vins qui ont du caractère, tout en étant consensuels. Prenez par exemple le sauvignon blanc Klein Constantia, très frais et sans excès : même si je suis loin d’être fan de sauvignon du nouveau monde, en général, j’ai beaucoup de plaisir à le boire.

Château Mourgues Du Grès Les Galets Dorés 2013 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2013Del Fin Del Mundo Malbec Reserva 2012 Ogier Héritages Côtes Du Rhône 2012 Hardys Stamp Of Australia Shiraz Cabernet 2013

Dans le même esprit, côté rouge, le Malbec Reserva del Fin del Mundo fera plaisir aux amateurs de vins argentins ronds, souples et généreux, mais sans fatiguer ceux qui aiment les cuvées plus fringantes et fraîches. Le fait qu’il ait poussé en Patagonie, région plus fraîche que Mendoza, n’est sûrement pas étranger à cet équilibre agréable.

Vous voulez pousser du côté français, en gardant le même esprit de ralliement? Un rouge du Rhône, simple et généreux, comme la cuvée Héritages de la maison Ogier, fera certainement l’affaire. Un peu en miroir du Fin del Mundo, il plaira à l’amateur de vin français tout en ralliant celui qui aime son Nouveau Monde rond et (malheureusement) sucré.

Côté beau, bon et vraiment pas cher, il est facile également de recommander le shiraz-cabernet 2013 Hardy’s Stamp of Australia, qui livre une belle dose de poivre et de fruit rouge, pour à peine 12,95$. Même Scrooge en serait ravi.

Santé!

La liste complète : 20 bons vins à moins de 20$

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de grands vins!


Publicité

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

20 under $20 for November

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

The holiday season is here! From office parties to family gatherings, parties abound! As this is the time of the year when even the most conservative drinker will fill their glass more than one time, best make sure you have enough wine on hand. So in honour of the festivities, our four critics have looked hard for readily available party wines – ones that drink with ease, and are equally easy on your wallet.

Group

Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

I’m a big fan of wines that show high drinkability, and that’s even more important when it comes to party wines. Will there be food? Maybe, maybe not. So it’s important to choose wines, especially when looking at reds, that will work well with snacks while also drinking well on their own. So my five wines this month all fit into this category.

To start, two whites that offer different things. The 2013 Chardonnay from Campagnola hails from Italy’s Veneto and offers up a ripe palate, is dry, and at $13, you’ll be able to buy those extra few bottles to satiate a thirsty crowd.

On a completely different angle, I like a hint of sweetness in my aperitif wines. The 2012 Black Tie from Pfaffenheim is a riesling and pinot gris blend that is full of tropical fruits, ginger and just a touch of sweetness on the palate. Offering up spicy canapés? This wine will calm the heat as well.

Campagnola Chardonnay 2013 Pfaffenheim Black Tie Pinot Gris Riesling 2012 Hoya De Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo 2010 Bolla Verona Rosso Retro 2012 Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

I get many requests for inexpensive reds for an aperitif. For under $13, few wines at the SAQ can match the pure fruitiness of the 2010 Hoya de Cadenas. This drinks like a light pinot noir with its delicate red fruit and refreshing acidity.

If you want a little more structure, or are having a meal, then Bolla’s 2012 Rosso Retro is a nice mix of Italian freshness with a hint of that Bordeaux power. So while there is a touch more tannin, the merlot in the blend offers up nice silkiness on the palate.

And finally, for those of you who want a bigger red, then try the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Luis-Felipe Edwards. The Gran Reserva shows the cassis and blackberry cab lovers will appreciate, but stays dry and very approachable.

Marc Chapleau’s selections

Let’s start with a white, presuming that you will soon be needing a good inexpensive wine to get things going at an office party. How about $16 for an SAQ classic? The 2013 Muscadet La Sablette is light and refreshing, and drinks with ease.

For the reds, let’s start in Italy’s Veneto, then down to the Languedoc, over to Catalonia and then finish in South Africa.

The Valpolicella Allegrini 2013 is reminiscent of Beaujolais Nouveau in many ways, and that is not an insult at all. Light bodied, nothing complicated, simply great fruit and freshness with some spice on the finish.

La Sablette Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2013 Allegrini Valpolicella 2013 Château Rouquette Sur Mer Cuvée Amarante 2012 Ètim Negre 2011 Robertson Winery Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2012

From the Languedoc, always a great value year after year is the Château Rouquette sur Mer Cuvée AmaranteThose who know this wine have become accustomed to the wines generous fruit and the 2012 is no different. Easy drinking yet with power, it will work wonders with meats and sandwiches at a buffet.

From Spain’s Priorat, it’s hard to find better than the Montsant Etim Negre 2011. Body, minerality and admirable structure for only $16.

Finally, from South Africa, the Robertson Winery Shiraz Mourvèdre Viognier 2012, at $14.95, is well worthy of a recommendation. Easy drinking with the right balance of fruit and oak driven smoke notes and just the right amount of acidity.

Nadia Fournier picks

Already well appreciated by lovers of France’s Midi region, the Terres de Méditerranée 2012, made by Québécoise Emmanuelle Dupéré and her husband Laurent Barrera, is always at the top of my choices of the Languedoc category. At $15.75, it’s difficult to even imagine a better wine to accompany a tourtière.

In the same vein, sun-drenched, but a touch more perky and vigourous is the Quinta du Convento 2009. This wine was one of my pleasant surprises last year from Portugal’s Douro. The winery was owned by Patrick et Ruth Landanger (Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, Volnay) and then purchased by Canadian Donald Ziraldo (co-founder of Niagara’s Inniskillin) in 2011. It’s a wine to follow over the next few years.

Dupéré Barrera Terres de Méditerranée 2012 Quinta do Convento Douro 2009 Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Carmen Chardonnay Reserva 2013 José Maria Da Fonseca Moscatel De Setùbal 2008

For an aperitif, or to accompany the iodine notes of raw oysters, you should re-discover Chile via a wine that shows impeccable freshness. Caliterra, Eduardo Chadwick (Errazuriz) produces a very good Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Tributo in the hillsides of the Aconcagua valley. This has little in common with the sweet and candied Sauvignon Blanc’s of the New World. Just a good, dry white wine with the accent on lemony fruit – that is aromatic and thirst quenching.

Staying in central Chile, but a touch further south in the region of Casablanca, the bodega Carmen is a part of the Santa Rita group, but run independently. A regular product listing at the SAQ, and thus available throughout Quebec, the Chardonnay 2013 offers both impeccable value and versatility – just rich enough to pair with recipes that include a creamier sauce, but fresh enough to drink as an aperitif. All that for just over $13.

And finally, those with a sweet tooth should discover (or re-discover) the charm of the irresistible and delicious Moscatel de Setúbal 2008 from Jose Maria da Fonseca. Seductive, original and a bargain.

Remy Charest’s choices

One wine to please them all? 

When holiday party season starts, one of the challenges may be to find wines that can please everyone while navigating a wide array of bites and dishes. In short, you have to find a way to rally those who love Ménage à Trois and those who swear by Savoie’s mondeuse, with wines that aren’t too heavy, but not too racey – without being boring, either.

On the white side of things, Les Galets Dorés, by Château Mourgues du Grès, totally fits the bill, with a unique balance between freshness and intense aromatics. A blend of grenache blanc, roussanne and vermentino, it will do particularly well with cheese, charcuterie and those little oven-baked bites that everybody jumps on when the party gets started. (Mourgues du Grès reds are also delicious, by the way…)

Even the most common grapes can provide wines that will rally everyone with character and personality. Take Klein Constantia’s Sauvignon Blanc, for instance. It’s fresh, balanced, enticing, even for someone who, like me, is not a fan of New World “savvy”.

Château Mourgues Du Grès Les Galets Dorés 2013 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2013Del Fin Del Mundo Malbec Reserva 2012 Ogier Héritages Côtes Du Rhône 2012 Hardys Stamp Of Australia Shiraz Cabernet 2013

The same can be said, on the red side, with the Malbec Reserva del Fin del Mundo, which will please those who love the round, supple and generous character of Argentinian wines, but won’t tire those who go for fresher, zippier wines. The fact that the grapes come from Patagonia, a region that is much cooler than Mendoza, certainly helps provide that balance.

You want to generate a similar consensus with French wines? Simple and generous Rhône reds like Ogier Héritages Côtes-du-Rhône, will do the trick. French wine lovers will be pleased, and it should cater well to those who love their New World Reds big, round and (unfortunately) sweet.

To go really, really easy on your budget, it’s hard to go wrong with something like the Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Shiraz-Cabernet, which delivers a lovely dose of pepper and red fruit, for barely $12.95. It would even put a smile on Scrooge’s face.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20 for October

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


Advertisement

Wolf Blass Culinary Experience

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

Mentoring Judges for the Future

The first year of our new initiative – Judges Training Judges
by DJ Kearney

DJ Kearney

DJ Kearney

At WineAlign, judging wine is central to what we do. The entire point of our nationwide wine scoring and wine sourcing website is to help you, the wine-loving consumer find great wines in stores in your province.

We do this by posting thousands of wine reviews from our talent pool of Canada’s best wine palates and writers. In addition, we stage two important annual wine competitions; one that evaluates the best of Canadian wine (WineAlign’s National Wine Awards of Canada), and another that focuses on great value wines of the world (WineAlign World Wine Awards). These two colossal events involve thousands of wines and months of logistical planning before 16 judges sit down for an intense week of swirling, smelling, sipping and scoring.

The top results of these two competitions have just been published in Maclean’s 2014 Newsmakers edition; so please rush out to grab a copy, or go to WineAlign.com/Awards for complete results.

We are extremely pleased to have this new national platform that broadcasts our results, and we hope it means many more opportunities in the years ahead for our up and coming judges.

Maclean's Special Edition - Wine report

Judging wine is not new, by the way; it’s very likely that wine has been ranked from its earliest days. It is estimated that wine was made as long as 9,000 years ago, but there is little known about those early ferments. We do however know a great deal about wines made by Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans who produced on a considerable scale and marketed wine around Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. They inscribed clay amphorae with place names, winemakers and dates, and we know they had a well-developed ‘cru’ system. Certain wines were held in higher regard than others, and that by definition involves judging, the ranking of one wine over another.

Over the millennia wine continued to be judged and rated; the 1855 classification in the Medoc, the Judgement of Paris, culminating in the rise of the wine critics. The hundreds of wine competitions that are staged around the world today are evidence of the reality that results matter and scores matter. Competitions are only as good as the people who organize and lead them (in particular the head judge), and those who sit and judge. So what does it take to be a good judge? This is something that I have pondered for years now, since my own first judging experience.

A word on that: it was a mix of exhilaration and terror that I have never forgotten. As a first time judge, I felt thrilled and honoured to be asked, excited about using my tasting skills honed over the years of studying and teaching about wine. But sitting down before a large flight of wines with a room full of people I admired (if not idolized) made me anxious, dry-mouthed and doubtful. Judging is a mental endeavour and it takes non-stop concentration, physical endurance and constant resetting of the palate. A good judge should care enormously about the outcome, and only the best effort will do. You should feel an almost crushing sense of responsibility about your work and scores. And I sure did, all those years ago, but everything was ok because I had two Canadian wine greats show me the ropes of judging. Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason briefed me, helped me stay on-time, were patient when I did not, gave me both gentle and not-so-gentle feedback, and asked me back the next year. Phew.

Hao Judges Table

Over the years Anthony, David and I have talked and schemed about how to improve and increase the judging pool in Canada, how to offer opportunities to up-and-comers, and how to start our succession planning. This past year we put our words into action. Repeating the trust shown years ago, they’ve let me spearhead a judge mentoring initiative. We call it ‘Judges Training Judges’, because all of our regular WineAlign palates are deeply committed to helping develop the next generation of wine judging talent in Canada. Before our wine competitions in 2014, we organized seminars and tryouts in both Vancouver and Toronto for a group of invited young guns we pre-scouted as having the right stuff.

What makes a good judge? This is what we discussed during the seminar.

- essential to have experience with all wines of the world

- be consistent when scoring

- be a strong structural, systematic, analytic taster

- be able to articulate your opinions free of personal biases

- be decisive and swift

- be confident

- be a team player

Then came the tasting tryouts. We put the apprentice judge candidates through many rounds of tasting, then evaluated their scores and discussions based on metrics we had established: consistency, parity with our experienced scores, speed, ability to defend scores, personality, etc.

DJ Training session

After the judging score sheets were assessed and ranked, we chose two judges for The Nationals from Vancouver, Sally Campa and Hao Yang Wang, and two from Toronto, Emily MacLean and Adam Hijazi. To allow our apprentices to really relax into the process, they scored all wines just like the full-fledged judges, but their scores did not count. You can read about their experiences below.

So how do we fund this? Adding two apprentice judges to the roster adds hard costs. Wine competitions are not money making ventures – not even close. Our core WineAlign judges contribute their own money to a fund that helps pay travel and hotel costs for the rookies. So, not only do we resident judges mentor, guide, encourage and share our own experiences and lessons, but we pay for the privilege. This in turn makes us completely invested in the process of developing the future and ensuring a succession plan with Canadian pros who are ready to step up and lay down their scores with confidence and accuracy. And that’s why this initiative is called ‘Judges Training Judges’. We really are.

What’s ahead? More of the same, but on a bigger scale. In 2014 we cast the net only in Vancouver and Toronto in our search for top judge prospects, but plan to eventually spread to every province. Watch us grow and watch us improve the quality of scoring wines and building even better competition results.

My take-away from this? There are so few opportunities for aspiring wine pros to break into judging, and our unique program gives them a chance to learn, observe, connect and expose themselves to challenges and opportunities. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and I cannot wait to see our initiative flourish.

Here is what our apprentice judges had to say:

Hao Yang WangHao Yang Wang directs the show at Vancouver’s Farmer’s Apprentice, voted Best Restaurant, in Vancouver Magazine’s 2014 awards, as well as Best new and Best Casual, and snatched second place in Enroute Magazine’s recent awards. Before this he was Sommelier and AGM at Pidgin (# 5 in Enroute Magazine in 2014 awards). Adding wine retail experience to the mix, Hao Yang sharpened his palate at Liberty Wine.

“It was an exciting and humbling experience to be an understudy amongst extraordinary mentors and talents. To taste and discuss at such high volume, and intensity, it required immense focus to stay alert. It was learning about keeping a truthful, honest and respectful mind to the products laid out in front of the panel, as well as the judges next to you; learning to speak with your gut, and leaving the ego back upstairs in the hotel room. I would participate again in a heartbeat, and would recommend any growing wine professionals in the industry to participate whenever such an opportunity arises.”

Sally Campa is the General Manager and Sommelier for Vino Volo at YVR airport. A Torontonian, she relocated to Vancouver to attend Dubrulle International Culinary and Hotel Institute of Canada. With over 15 years as a personal chef and caterer, she shifted her focus in 2007 to pursue her passion for wine further. After spending 3 years in wine retail, she returned to the restaurant industry in 2012 to open the Vino Volo locations at YVR.

Sally Campa“I was so delighted to be invited to sit as an apprentice judge at the Canadian WineAlign awards this past spring. Over the years, I have eagerly looked forward to judging wine as another branch of my career in the business. I was elated when I heard I would have an opportunity to sit amongst the judging panel as one of this year’s apprentices.  The WineAlign team are people who I have looked up to as mentors, and learned from over the years.  The idea of this experience was exciting, though somewhat daunting.

When I arrived in Penticton, I received warm welcomes from the entire WineAlign crew.  I knew right away that spending days amongst this talent would be an incredible education, as well as a true examination of my knowledge and skill. 

To evaluate so many wines in such a short period of time is an incredible test of staying focused while keeping your palate on point.  From glass to glass, flight to flight, I was quietly intimidated to say the least.

 On the first morning, I was full of nerves as well as a sense of overwhelm. As we began to taste, I felt mental and physical exhaustion, as I have never been exposed to quantity volumes and time restrictions like these during tastings. It takes time to get into a groove in such an environment, and to continue to keep oneself in check while coming to understand others on a panel. I received excellent tips and advice from my mentors.  They coached me through the tough parts and offered helpful tips all along the way.

While judging, I rotated around from panel to panel while tasting, providing excellent exposure, endless advice and guidance through the process. Each table offered a new experience, through the different energy and style of each judge. It was educational to listen to all of the discussions – from wine styles to quality levels. The conversations are full of wisdom and never shy on insight.  It didn’t take long to observe that at each table, every base is covered!

When I had completed my portion of judging, and finally got a tour of the back storage room, I was honestly speechless. To see such volume, the systems in place, and the organization behind the entire process is incredible. This is an extraordinary practice of judging, one I feel privileged and grateful to have been part of.  This was an experience and invite not be taken for granted.”

Adam Hijazi is a chef, sommelier, and adventurer. After going to culinary school and working in some of the hottest restaurants in Toronto he began travelling and working throughout Europe and North America. He is certified as a sommelier through CAPS and CMS and has worked internationally including cooking at 4 three Michelin starred restaurants. He is currently the general manager of Terroni Price Street, the flagship restaurant of the southern Italian inspired hospitality company.

Adam Hijazi“The apprentice judging program with WineAlign was a wonderful experience to be a part of. From the moment we arrived, DJ, David, Anthony and all were quick to welcome us with open arms and shortly after, get right into it. Wines kept coming and coming and with each glass of red or white I was given an insight into how the veterans approach each sip. It is a vigorous pace and you start to understand each judge’s style and proclivities within a few hours. Then the next day it starts again with a whole new panel. Your preconceived notions from packaging and marketing are thrown out the window and you focus on what’s in the glass. After several rounds with the expert palates every wine is sifted through and whittled down to the best of the bunch. In the grand tasting in Toronto (an event months later that featured Platinum and Gold winners) I was impressed to say that there were no duds.The WineAlign system really put together a fantastic bunch of wines! I am so happy to have been a part of this process and continue to build WineAlign into the go-to destination for wine buys. 

DJ and WineAlign are forerunners in a program of this nature and their efforts don’t go unnoticed.The world of experts is tightly booked and yet they all offered their time and knowledge to us in hopes of building the future generation of wine judges. We were matched with different judges each day to glean a little bit of their individual expertise that benefits the group and it became apparent why each of them was a part of this team. It was amazing to see so many different opinions come towards the common goal of the most delicious juice. They have started something that I hope carries on and spreads into adjacent vocations so that we all benefit from the dedication and efforts of these titans of the wine world.”

Emily MacLean narrowly missed a career in nursing in favour of shucking oysters and slinging wine. A few wine courses later, a dream job at the legendary restaurant Scaramouche, and then the chance to call the wine shots at Hopgood’s Foodliner, where she curates a killer list.

Emily MacLean“Being chosen as an apprentice judge for WineAlign’s 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada was one of the greatest experiences since beginning to focus on a future in wine; a personal growth experience that will resonate and will not be forgotten.

The three day experience began with a debriefing from the head judges, where we were introduced to the judging scheme and were given the opportunity to apply this in the form of test flights. This concise and well administered training program is vital, as it further prepares you to sit on the team of judges with whom you will spend the following days.  You are quickly reminded of the sheer value in tasting a wine blind. Prejudices are removed, and you focus on the varietal, method of production, and quality level for the price – aspects that unfortunately may be swayed in the presence of a visible label. 

The Mentorship Program has immense value, as it allows for an industry professional who has had no previous experience in judging to bring a different dynamic and a new perspective to the team. It allows for that individual to learn from and work alongside a team of high-calibre judges. Such an opportunity may not have surfaced otherwise.

After this experience, I was left with a pleasantly exhausted palate and a deepened appreciation for WineAlign. Through celebrating accessible wines, there is strong movement toward bridging the gap between the enormous and intimidating world of wine and their main focus, the consumer.”

~

Visit the WineAlign Awards page for more information and a complete list of 2014 results:

National Wine Awards of Canada
World Wine Awards of Canada

nwac2014webwwac2014web150x150


Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

What’s New at the LCBO in November

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The LCBO has taken a bold step by launching two new superb dry wines from Jerez in Spain onto their shelves, just in time for the upcoming holiday season. These wines are from Lustau, one of the top producers in the region. At $14.85 they are amazing value. If you have never tried a dry aged fortified white, now is the time. If you are already a lover of the wines of Jerez, then don’t hesitate. Bravo LCBO.

The wines on the shelves at the LCBO are constantly changing and I am tasting the new ones all the time. Many favourites are always there but the range and variety is gradually being updated. I have chosen to highlight ten new wines that have refreshed the system out of the more than 40 that I have tried since I last reported.

Surprisingly there is a slew of very good new whites. November is not usually the best time to launch whites when sub-zero temperatures outside make us lean towards red wines. They must know what they are doing, I am sure? I hope they will survive in the system until next summer arrives. Please try a few. You will not be disappointed.

In addition to these new wines, I have tasted many of the latest batches of sparkling wines, a category which is popular at this time of the year. Sparkling wines often are not vintage dated, since they are blends from many different harvests. Winemakers try to make the wine consistent from batch to batch but they do vary. I have picked four current wines that represent good value.

I suggest you read on, pick a few that appeal and then check the inventory at your favourite LCBO. Most are on the shelves already; the rest will arrive over the next couple of weeks.

Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to reviews of great value wines!

SPARKLING WHITES

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Penedes, Spain ($14.25)
My favourite bubbly at LCBO for less than $15. It hits all the essentials for the genre. Fresh clean aromas, super creamy mousse and fine bright palate with very good length.

Val d’Oca Prosecco Brut Superiore 2013, Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy ($16.50)
The best Proseccos from Valdobbiadene are now vintage dated. This explodes in the mouth with a creamy mousse and fine balance.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Val d'Oca Prosecco Brut Superiore 2013 Mumm Napa Brut PrestigeTarlant Brut Reserve Champagne

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Napa Valley, California, USA ($25.95)
A rich bubbly with an appealing nose and a degree of sweetness that endears it as an aperitif.

Tarlant Brut Reserve Champagne, France ($41.65)
If you are looking for a fine Champagne then this is a good example at a fair price (for Champagne).

WHITES

Casa Planeta Grecanico 2013 Chardonnay, Sicily, Italy ($11.95)
A delightful fresh dry white blend great for all sorts of seafood.

Mascota Vineyards O P I 2013 Chardonnay, Mendoza Argentina ($12.95)
A classy rich flavourful chardonnay with just a touch of oak for added complexity and structure.

Frisky Beaver 2013 White, VQA Ontario ($13.95)
A gewurztraminer led white blend that’s aromatic, almost off-dry and very flavourful.

Casa Planeta Grecanico Chardonnay 2013 Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2013 Frisky Beaver White 2013 Montgras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2014Villa Wolf Riesling 2013Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013

Amaral Sauvignon 2014 Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile ($14.45)
The Leyda Valley is fast proving to be a hot spot for great sauvignon blanc and this is an excellent example of just how good it can be .

Villa Wolf 2013 Riesling, Qualitätswein, Pfalz Germany ($14.80)
Great value for a juicy flavourful well balanced riesling that is such a  versatile food wine with seafood, pastry and white meat dishes.

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($14.85)
A rich full bodied creamy chardonnay with powerful aromas and flavours with the oak well integrated.

SHERRY AND REDS

Lustau Amontillado Solera Reserva Los Arcos, Jerez, Spain ($14.85)
A complex dry white with beautiful nutty, citrus, toasty aromas. Perfectly balanced, would be excellent with roast turkey with a rich brown gravy.

Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Don Nuno, Jerez, Spain ($14.85)
This tawny brown dry white has been aging for decades yet still gives an impression of freshness with nutty raisin fruit. Intensely flavoured and finely balanced. Try with rich pork or veal dishes.

Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Don Nuno Guardian Reserva Red 2012 Graffigna Elevation Reserve Red 2012

Guardian Reserva 2012 Red, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($13.65)
A complex red cabernet blend finely balanced and fruity long lingering finish with some fine tannin. Try with a steak.

Graffigna Elevation 2012 Reserve Red, San Juan, Argentina ($14.95)
An impressive red blend from high altitude vineyards about a 2 hour drive north of Mendoza. It s powerful and complex with a rich flavour but is also bright and lively.

We would love to get your feedback on this report. Meanwhile check out my complete list of Top 50 wine values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. In two week’s time I will be back with a look at the updated Top 20 Under $20 report for December.

Cheers,

Steve Thurlow

Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to reviews of great value wines!


Advertisements

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

Chile 2.0 The Next Generation

Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

The modern Chilean wine business is closing in on 25 years in Canada. That’s right, Chilean wine spans an entire generation of Canadian wine drinkers and is already working on a new generation of wine consumers. Unfortunately what worked in the 90s or even the 00s is unlikely to be successful over the next decade and how Chile evolves and reshapes its image in foreign markets is going to be crucial to its long-term success.

Long known for its value, the time has come for Chile to ask itself why they would want to continue down that path. There is nothing wrong with offering value, especially at all price points, but countries, and important wine regions, usually build their pedigree from the top down. As they say at Ford, ‘quality is job one’ and it’s quality wine from recognised appellations that will reshape the modern Chilean wine landscape.

Chile need look no farther than Canada’s Niagara Peninsula or the Okanagan Valley to see how much money they are leaving on the table. It’s all in how you position yourself. In my opinion, and for too many years now, Chile’s best wines have been suppressed by wholesale buyers, distributors, monopolies and supermarkets content to sell expensive French, Italian or American wine while convincing the Chileans they need to attack the market from the bottom end up, because, well they were Chilean and well, the wine was from South America.

Value was the password and while the French and Italian were busy selling Grand Crus, First Growths and Riservas, Chile was asked to sell a case of wine at the same price its competitors were getting for a single bottle. That kind of thinking has to end. I have long been interested in Chile’s ultimate development which surely must move beyond the value for money moniker that attaches itself to Chilean wines in the same way an early morning Pacific fog blankets Chile’s coastal vineyards.

The current mantra is to get to the coast or up the mountains, but beyond that it’s more about exploring all of Chile and finally matching each grape with a specific soil. It’s not breaking news; we know the wine will be better, but the point is the Chileans have finally come to see that their future success will be dependent upon their ability to be different from the rest of the wine world and not to be at the beck and call of British supermarkets, giant American distributors and, of course, our own monopolies, all of whom have ridden the pony for a generation demanding nothing but cheap, loss leader wines to get customers to come into the store.

Casa Silva - Largo Ranco Sauvignon Blanc - Wines of Chile

Casa Silva – Largo Ranco Sauvignon Blanc

Arguing against value is not something I’m used to doing but if it means an end to bland, faceless brands that bring nothing to retail wine aisles, I accept the challenge. Chile’s blanket value brand identity has to disappear if it is going to make the jump to prime time.

Last week I spent some time with a number of the WineAlign team in Chile and we found plenty to rave about starting with Winemaker Mario Geisse of Casa Silva, who blew me away with his Lago Rancho 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from the Futrono, Region Austral Patagonia, Chile. The vineyard is eight years old and dry farmed thanks to 70 inches of annual rainfall. Futrono is situated in the Chilean Patagonia, 904 km south of Santiago where the average maximum temperature is 18.5 degrees Celsius from January to May. Extreme? You bet. Electric, you bet. Different than anything you will see in Canada from Chile, you bet.

About 1700 kilometres to the north in the Atacama desert, winemaker Felipe Toso was pouring the Ventisquero Tara Red from Huasaco. The vineyard, now seven years old, is located at 28º 31’ 54,85’’ S  and is planted to ungrafted syrah and merlot over chalky soils. The mix is 66/34 and the fruit was all picked in the first week of April. The two varieties are fermented separately in small, open 500-kilo tanks, ‘pinot style.’ After a week of pump overs it was racked to fifth-use French barrels, where the malolactic fermentation took place. The wine is simply amazing and has nothing to do with the Chile you know.

Ventisquero - Tara Red Wine - Wines of Chile

Ventisquero – Tara Red Wine

Another sure sign of change is a movement among the big wineries to be more responsive to the need for Chile 2.0 wines. Case in point, the Marques de Casa Concha Pais Cinsault 2014 made by winemaker Marcelo Papa. The hundred plus year old país vines are grown at Cauquenes, Maule Valley; the 50-year old cinsault is from Trehuaco in the Itata Valley. The mix is 85 percent país with 15 percent cinsault, a blend no one would have thought possible even a decade ago. Fresh bright red fruit flavours dominate, revealing a minerality and freshness that is the polar opposite of those old icon reds. Make no mistake; Papa is taking a chance by attaching this wine to the famed Marques brand but he wanted people to pay attention to it and at $20 a bottle this wine is making waves.

The question is will it make it to wine lists in New York, or London or San Francisco where traditionally you can check off the likes of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Shiraz, Brunello, Chianti and lately even Mendoza malbec. Yet more often than not, Chilean wines are nowhere to be found. True, you may find some carmenère but like South African pinotage these curiosities do not a country establish.

Chile’s strength is its fabulously natural and isolated wine regions, uncontaminated by most of what goes on in North America. Naturally made wines should be the focus of its future. My notes from numerous trips would suggest sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, carignan, pinot noir, and yes, old vine pais, will likely be the stars of the next decade along with riesling, chardonnay and more innovative and creative red blends. Many could be organic or biodynamically grown. But there is more.

As varietal wine comes to the end of its useful life, this more than anything could provide the springboard Chile needs to recreate its international image. Temperature, altitude, longitude and yes even latitude are all part of a new story that should be told. As discussed in the pinot noir tasting there is no need to be Burgundian but we can all learn from them. Pinot noir and chardonnay cover the vineyards but the story is always about its people and its places. Puligny, Chassagne, Meursault, Corton, Faiveley, Leflaive, Latour, DRC: the French are the masters of terroir-based wines because they learned decades ago that no one can copy your dirt.

No one knows better what the wines of Chile have to offer than the Chileans themselves. It is time Chile decided what is best for its future. Shaking that ‘cheap’ moniker is not going be just about raising prices. There has to be an attitude change; the industry’s youngest and brightest will need to step up and pursue the next 20 years with the same passion Aurelio Montes, Eduardo Chadwick, Agustin Huneeus, Alvaro Espinoza and Ignacio Recabarren have done in the last two decades.

The Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI)

The Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI)

Groups such as The Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI) and Vignadores de Carignan (VIGNO) are a great start. Young and vigorous, the plan is to explore the limits of Chilean wine while respecting its history. MOVI calls itself an association of small, quality-oriented Chilean wineries who have come together to share a common goal to make wine personally, on a human scale and to promote a passion for the endeavours of growing grapes and crafting fine wine.

But can you be a serious wine producing region if you don’t produce so-called first growth, a grand cru-like wines or in the case of Chile — a super-premium blend? Frankly, I seldom measure a wine region by its greatest wines but rather by its most simple. Using that scale Chile moves well up my world wine chart of quality producers and with 1700 kilometres of potential vineyards to explore the possibilities are limitless.

Winemaker Aurelio Montes has fought the good fight for a long time and he is to be congratulated for pushing The Wines of Chile and its members to think outside of the box as it moves forward. Montes suggested the entire industry needed to “be brave,” moving forward as it reveals the story of the New Chile. Indeed as the song says, “Honestly, we want to see you be brave.”

Oh and be Chile, because no other country can replicate that.

 

Anthony Gismondi

(Photos courtesy of Wines of Chile & MOVI)


Advertisements
Beringer - Holiday the California Way

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , ,

British Columbia Critics’ Picks November 2014

Our critics have been on the move this month – crossing paths, and crisscrossing seasons between Vancouver, Similkameen, Okanagan, Whistler, Argentina and Australia. Whether we’ve just been in spring (flowering and bud break in the southern hemisphere) or dreaming of spring (the earliest icewine harvest ever for many in BC), the wines we’ve individually selected will warm you. Naturally, since we’re all crazy for food, our finds specifically pair with meals that will comfort.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Wind, rain, snow and cold is all on its way and that makes it easier to slide into some richer wines from warmer climates to help warm up your disposition.

Zuccardi Q Tempranillo 2010 Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Chateau de Caraguilhes Classique 2012From southern France my pick is a delicious organic Corbières: Chateau de Caraguilhes 2012. Believe me it is far easier to drink than to pronounce.

This syrah/grenache/mourvèdre/carignan blend is textured with savoury licorice undercurrent and makes a great match for fall’s cassoulets.

A tough year in Napa was no problem at Beringer where several vineyards from the valley floor to the mountain top contributed to a fresh and aromatic Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, ready to drink now with your steak.

If lamb is on your fall menu the Zuccardi Q Tempranillo 2010 will stand up to its wild flavours and impress with its richness, power. A bargain red for all you year-round barbecue fanatics this juicy and round high altitude (620m) is the best yet from Zuccardi. Impressive now but will age easily for five years.

DJ Kearney

Drinking whites in the winter is something I anticipate each year with the kind of deep-seated pleasure that stirs my soul and tastebuds. Earthy, savoury, botanical, spicy, broad wines embrace flavours in a bearhug of body and warming alcohol. Wines like creamy oaked chardonnay, ripe white Rhones, mineral-drenched Wachau gruners, honeyed Alsatians, Italians like arneis, top soave and vermentino, and even the right kind of rich, leesy, toasty champagne are perfect. The dishes that I crave and cook for these cool-weather whites are leek risotto, cream-braised endive, veal and mushrooms, roast pork with onion soubise, cauliflower and cheese, roast chicken with truffle oil…  you get the picture? Here are three whites that I am drinking now to warm palate and spirit.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013

La Spinetta Vermentino 2012

Verus Vineyards Pinot Gris 2012Wolf Blass Gold Label Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2013 is broad and surging, with lemon curd, crème brulée and gingerbread flavours kept fresh and crisp with succulent acidity. Worth keeping for a few years for the oak to snuggle into the exotic fruit density, but will be delicious now with lemongrass risotto or winter baked fish with rich Mornay sauce.

La Spinetta Vermentino 2012 is a remarkable wine with savory flavours and emollient texture, held together with just enough acidity to coat the wine sleekly. Completely fascinating and serious vermentino for winter dinners or savouring by the fire.

An attention-getting smoky nose opens Verus Vineyards Pinot Gris 2012 from Slovenia before impressive mineral heft and complexity, reminding me of both Alsace and Soave. It’s a sign of the high calibre wines that Slovenia is capable of, and we want more sent our way, please.

Rhys Pender MW

With the holidays rapidly approaching, it is time to think about starting to loosen the purse strings a little bit and treating yourself.  You want to avoid the wines that are expensive on reputation ahead of quality, and hopefully we steer you on the right track with our winealign.com notes. Of course, there are many great wines that are worth the occasional splurge. There are also some great value alternatives if you look to some lesser-known regions.

Boutari Grande Reserve 2007 Poderi Di Luigi Einaudi Barolo Terlo 2009 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2013Chardonnay is still the greatest white wine and it turns up top quality wines in surprising places. Take the Hamilton Russell 2013 Chardonnay from the cool, coastal part of South Africa where it achieves wonderful elegance but still with some new world gumption.

One wine that is nearly always worth a splurge is Barolo. And not to just have a few sips, you need to sit with a big glass full and let it open up over time to enjoy all the nuances and complexities that lie hidden in its slowly evolving self. The Luigi Einaudi 2009 Barolo Terlo does just that.

Okay, we can’t all afford Barolo and there are some wines that offer a pretty good facsimile at much more approachable prices. The best bet for me is Xinomavro from Naoussa in northern Greece. While we don’t get a lot of good Greek wine options in BC, one stalwart on many BC Liquor Stores shelves is the Boutari Grande Reserve 2007 Naoussa. Great complexity for $23.

Treve Ring

When I approach pairing wines with food (or with seasons), it’s not so much about the flavours or the hue; it’s all about texture. My November wines are much like my November wardrobe – thick and layered, cozy and familiar, with grippy fabric, warming thread throughout and a comforting, lingering memory. Pass the wool scarf – I mean semillon!

Ferrari Carano Chardonnay 2012

Bartier Bros. Semillon Cerqueira Vineyard 2012

Alvear Pedro XimenezFerrari-Carano Chardonnay 2012 from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley is one such wine, full bodied and weighted on the palate, built with creamy pear and hazelnut paste, and primed to partner with your white sauced pastas or fish.

Bartier Bros. Semillon is another such wine that has palatable texture and depth that seems to grow each time I taste it. Though the 2013 is on the shelves now, I recently opened a 2012 (these wines age beautifully) and was impressed by its thorny, herbal wildflower spice and chalky, tactile acidity. Pair with pork belly, savoury risotto or scallops with herbed leeks.

And it’s hard to think of a more textured wine than pedro ximenez, some rumoured to be so thick and unctuous you can take with a spoon. Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez is unapologetically and confidently a bit of a conundrum; exceptionally sweet, and overtly salty with baked figs, coffee and cloves that linger far past a single sip. Try this memorable PX with (or over) vanilla bean ice cream and cracked black pepper for a dessert you won’t forget.

About the BC Critics’ Picks ~

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks column is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics, wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


Advertisements

Beringer - Holiday the California Way

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

Sortir du placard

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau sm

Marc Chapleau

La semaine dernière, mon collègue Bill faisait son coming out, confessant son amour pour les vins blancs du Rhône. Il ne dénigrait pas les rouges rhodaniens pour autant, cela dit. Heureusement, du reste, car sans lui réserver un chien de ma chienne, je l’aurais alors remis à sa place, notre anglophone préféré !

C’est que dans mon placard à moi, il y a justement ces grands rouges provenant tant du sud de la région, royaume du grenache, que du nord, où la syrah brille de tous ses feux – même si elle s’acoquine, ici et là, avec un peu de viognier.

Et si je suis entiché des côte-rôtie, des hermitages et des châteauneufs, c’est que mon baptême dans le monde du vin s’est en grande partie passé là-bas…

J’étais à l’époque, en 1986, rédacteur en chef du défunt magazine québécois Vins & Vignes, fondé par Pierre Séguin, devenu depuis un des grands experts de la Bourgogne. Comme premier reportage effectué sur le terrain, je me suis retrouvé dans le Rhône pour deux semaines.

Des diverses rencontres alors faites, celle chez Guigal s’avéra mémorable.

Pour commencer, comme Marcel avait à travailler dans son chai cet après-midi-là, c’est son père Étienne – le « E » de la raison sociale « E. Guigal » — qui nous a emmenés, ma blonde et moi, dans les vignes.

Le Château d'Ampuis, propriété de la famille Guigal, en plein coeur de la Côte-Rôtie.

Le Château d’Ampuis, propriété de la famille Guigal, en plein coeur de la Côte-Rôtie.

La maison Guigal venait de racheter sa voisine du bout de la rue, Vidal-Fleury, où le patriarche Étienne avait longtemps travaillé. Celui-ci, homme de peu de mots, sa casquette sur le crâne et son écharpe nouée autour du cou, nous a montré le vignoble, sans l’expliquer en long et en large. Pas disert, il était. Sauf que nous l’avons marché, ce vignoble, nous avons escaladé (c’est le mot) les coteaux pentus de la Côte-Rôtie avec lui, malgré ses 70 ans et quelques, qui emboîtait le pas.

Une petite dernière du tonnerre

De retour à la cuverie, Marcel Guigal, maintenant libre, nous fait visiter les lieux. Il s’arrête bientôt à une barrique pour nous faire goûter, prélevant à la pipette « une nouvelle cuvée dans laquelle nous plaçons beaucoup d’espoir et qui s’appellera “La Turque” ».

On venait de l’arpenter, cette parcelle. Une vigne de cinq ans, qui produisait depuis un an seulement. In petto, du haut de mes 28 ans, je me dis quelque chose comme « Cause toujours, monsieur Guigal, seules les vieilles vignes autorisent ainsi les plus fous espoirs, vous devrez attendre encore quelques années avant de tirer la substantifique moelle de la Turque… »

Jeune présomptueux !

Aussitôt humée et dégustée, le côte-rôtie La Turque 1985 nous jette par terre. Quelle profondeur, quelle race. Un bagout d’enfer. Comment est-ce possible, demandai-je à notre interlocuteur, les vignes sont si jeunes ? « Le secret est dans la taille », de répondre doucement son père Étienne, précisant un rendement très minime dont je ne me rappelle plus, désolé.

Quand on aime, on ne compte pas…

The rest is history. C’est peu après l’avoir goûtée lui aussi que Robert Parker, déjà bien installé au sommet de la critique mondiale, lui a décerné le score parfait de 100.

Je n’ai évidemment pu rapporter de La Turque pour la faire goûter à mes collègues du magazine, vu qu’elle allait passer au bout du compte l’incroyable durée de 40 mois en barrique de chêne, et donc qu’elle ne se serait commercialisée qu’en 1989.

Par contre, on a fait main basse sur une caisse de six bouteilles de ses autres côtes-rôties, trois La Landonne et trois La Mouline, toutes deux du millésime 1981. Au prix affiché sur le tarif de 23 $ pièce… alors qu’elles en valent plus de 300 $ aujourd’hui.

Le bouquet, c’est qu’au final, après être descendus au sud et avoir passé entre autres par les châteaux de Beaucastel et la Nerthe (je vous raconterai un jour), on s’est retrouvés à Charles-de-Gaulle avec 46 bouteilles à enregistrer – avant qu’on ne nous serre exagérément la vis à la frontière, comme aujourd’hui, cela revenait à seulement trois ou quatre dollars en droits et taxes par bouteille, sans égard à la valeur de celle-ci.

Il a fallu conscrire d’autres passagers, car on dépassait allègrement la limite de 12 bouteilles par personne prévue par les douanes. Pas mal de trouble, c’est vrai, et beaucoup d’encombrement.

Mais quel butin !

À boire, aubergiste !

J. L. Chave Selection Offerus St Joseph 2011 Yann Chave Le Rouvre 2011 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Domaine De Thalabert Crozes Hermitage 2010Évidemment, tout a été bu, depuis belle lurette. (D’autant je les aime jeunes, c’est bien connu, et cela m’a d’ailleurs causé quelques ennuis par le passé, j’y reviendrai aussi). Je n’en ai pas moins toujours gardé une affection particulière pour le Rhône — et y compris pour ses grands blancs, je rejoins l’ami Bill là-dessus.

Or à défaut de m’offrir ces grands crus pour la plupart devenus hors de prix, je me rabats, un peu comme on le fait avec les bordeaux, sur les seconds vins, ou du moins les noms moins prestigieux, mais qui produisent de très belles bouteilles, néanmoins.

Parmi les bons rouges du Rhône, tant du nord que du sud, bus récemment, je retiens le Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 2010, qui se révèle surtout en bouche et au potentiel évident. De la même appellation, j’ai bien aimé également le Yann Chave Le Rouvre 2011, à l’odeur qui surprend (le pet, un peu) mais néanmoins souple et élégant. Toujours en provenance du Rhône septentrional, le Saint-Joseph Offerus Jean-Louis Chave Sélection 2011 constitue à nouveau une valeur sûre, bien typée syrah.

La récolte est très bonne dans le Sud. À preuve, et à commencer par la fameuse famille dont j’ai parlé tout à l’heure, le Côtes-du-Rhône Guigal rouge qui n’en finit plus d’étonner : étant donné qu’il est produit à très grande échelle, sa qualité, à nouveau avec le millésime 2011, est franchement remarquable.

Autre valeur sûre de l’appellation, le Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2011 ne démérite pas lui non plus, même qu’il est plus charmeur que jamais, avec cependant toujours la même solide structure. Classé pour sa part dans les « Villages », le Domaine La Montagnette 2013, élaboré par l’une des meilleures – et plus petites – caves coopératives de France, est à la fois épicé et rafraîchissant.

E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône 2011 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes Du Rhône 2011 Domaine La Montagnette 2013 La Vieille Ferme Red 2013 M. Chapoutier La Bernardine Châteauneuf Du Pape 2010

En appellation côtes-du-ventoux cette fois, le La Vieille Ferme rouge 2013 est corsé et impeccable, comme à l’accoutumée.

Enfin, à Châteauneuf-du-Pape, appellation phare du Rhône Sud, le La Bernardine 2010 Chapoutier est très beau, serré et concentré, fin également.

Santé !

Marc

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de grands vins!


Publicité

HR_WolfBlass_WebBanner_525px x 225px_FR

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

Where did all the Nouveau go?

by Michael Godel

Michael Godel

Michael Godel

Of which camp are you? Have the Nouveau got the hairs raised on the back of your neck? Do you love it or hate it? Are you giddy with annual excitement? Are you agitated by what you feel is a black eye dis to properly produced Beaujolais Cru? Are bubble gum and fermenting banana your go to sensations? If you were playing the Family Feud and asked this question: “What is your favourite winemaking technique?,” would you answer, “carbonic maceration?”

Today marks the third Thursday of November and the annual Beaujolais Nouveau release has hit the shelves around the globe, including here in Ontario’s LCBO stores. Beaujolais Nouveau, as in barely fermented, Burgundian nether, or to the curiosity seeker, best friend.

Last year’s Godello Beaujolais Presser offered up a quick Nouveau 101. A reminder that the wine formerly known as Beaujolais Nouveau is now simply Nouveau because other wine growing nations have joined the party. Italians produce a Novello and in Niagara they have adopted the Nouveau, if only because the English “new wine” is not the most marketable of phrases. Neither is the Franglaise, Newvin, or Nouwine.

Nouveau has reached critical mass and is now stationed at a vinous crossroads. Long-time LCBO Product Consultant Neal Boven offered me fair facetious warning as I sat down to taste the 2014 crop. “Just be careful, those are some really tannic wines.” Not, but what they are, more than ever, are new Gamay (and Syrah, Merlot, etc.) reds soaked and macerated in maximum thrust, skin-contact extrication for full neon hue and blinding fluorescent glow. In many examples they go deeper still so some wanna be fierce tannin is actually getting through. The question begs. Is that what this perversion of Beaujolais was meant to be, or is Nouveau no longer the correct vernacular? Where did all the Nouveau go? Also, what happened to last year’s clear-cut winner, Seven nation Gamay, Generation Seven? Where did you go Château des Charmes?

Bottle images

Cries of “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!.” can still be heard and so the 2014 Nouveau wines  have arrived in select LCBO stores today. Here are my notes on the nine presented.

Ontario

Reif Estates The Fool Gamay Nouveau 2014, VQA Niagara River, Ontario ($11.95)

The rich hue is so like a Côtes du Rhône, a young one mind you, a Rhône Nouveau. The aromas conjure up corner stores and a wonderland filled with bubble gum and cotton candy sprinkled with dried lees dust. Sweet and sour, with a spritz of lime and the bitter citrus pith of grapefruit. Also green tobacco leaf and coffee beans. The concentration is admirable and even though the wine is as raw as open sores on feet hiked in new boots, give credit to the complex nature of the festivities.

France

Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2014, Burgundy, France ($13.95)

Quite consistently the most accomplished if unabashedly contrived BN, year in and year out. The hue has deepened, the extract been probed and the senses muted. Acting like the real deal in southern Burgundy, the Mommessin feigns Morgon with simulated scenes of burlesque and method acting. The grit of earth mixed with the brightness of black cherries may give you reason to believe. If not for the banana blow moment, this could have been as much Zappa as Ween. “A little something to help the time go by. Just a little something to help to keep you high.” In the end, Morgon throws out the counterfeit lawsuit and congratulates the Nouveau for acting like itself.

Art’s Beaujolais Primeur Nouveau 2014, Beaujolais, France ($13.95)

In the upper echelon of the BN cost continuum and it shows. The sulphur must be blown off to keep moving in the assessment, but that is does. Does not come across cloyingly candied and breathes dark fruits mixed with some plum instead. A touch dusty and adroitly Gamay so there is patronage in the Arts. The acidity is pleasant and adjunct the ripe but not over extracted fruit. Still the hue goes for expression over the wine’s impression but the restraint and the aromatic profiling fit the old school bill. Dry and possessive of quite decent length.

Catalans Primeur Syrah Merlot 2014, IGP Southwest, France ($9.95)

Everything about this Syrah and Merlot mélange is steroidal and an oxymoron within the contextual happenstance of the thematic. So skintastic in extraction and wildly sauvage in aromatic impropriety. A thick, viscous liqueur of mashed banana and Chapati paste. Sickly sour and Lik-m-Aid sweet. It is dry on the finish, I will give it that. But it’s so over the top, if Syrah-Merlot Nouveau can be.

DuBoeuf Gamay Nouveau 2014, Beaujolais, France ($9.95)

A return to the olfactory confection and the colour of Cru Beaujolais though it is weeks and years away from turning the page and living that dream. The carbonic crafting is in full marauding maceration in this ’14 DuBoeuf. The saving grace is a minor lead funk in the key of autumn plants, trampled underfoot. “Greased and slicked down fine, groovy leather trim.” Quite rustic despite the sugar-coating.

Italy

Negrar Novello Del Veneto 2014, Veneto, Italy  ($9.95)

The aromatic waft of this Venetian (Bardolino-Valpolicella) Novello is like fruit and vegetable road kill beneath a truck. So very composted and steaming, it’s as if this is still fermenting away in bottle. This gives the word carbonic a whole new meaning. The texture and body are quite elegant (used with creative license, not in any disparaging way I promise) and the finish is long and puckering.  It is what it is.

Tollo Novello Rosso Terre di Chieti 2014, Abruzzo, Italy ($9.45)

The Giocale is an interesting specimen from Abruzzo, qualified as a “regional blended red.” Not exactly Nouveau material is it. With what must likely be MdA as its dominant grape variety, strawberries in many incantations are its focus, in leaf, of near-ripe fruit and mixed with avocado for one odd smelling (and tasting) milkshake. This has a young Negroamaro or Nero d’Avola feel, but also a raisined, pruny appassimento appointed sensation. There is forest floor in its nose, vineyard funk in its flavor and tension in its voice. It’s already evolved, slightly oxidized and needs to be consumed with haste. That said it shows some interesting complexity and even a few stanzas of structure so give it points. It’s also correctly priced.

VINTAGES

France

Drouhin Beaujolais-Nouveau 2014Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2014, Beaujolais, France ($15.95)

The paid piper in the group of nine leads by example. At $16 Drouhin had better fashion an exemplary Beaujolais Nouveau to justify the price. With so many just plain stellar $15-16 wines on the market today, the caché  of just recently pressed Gamay juice spiked by 12 per cent alcohol is not enough of a presser. Does this Drouhin raise the bar? Yes, that it does, but not in the way it should. There is clearly developed acidity, tannin and quality grapes in this pour. What happened to Nouveau? Why so proper in pH, TA and so low in RS? Where did the new juice go? Sorry Mr. Drouhin, if I want Gamay this good I can buy it any other week of the year.

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2014, Beaujolais, France ($14.95)

This Duboeuf more closely resembles what Beaujolais Nouveau should be and has been for a near-half Millennium. Like ripe raspberries and bananas mashed together, shaken and even baked into short pastry for a quick cobbler or clafouti. The most aromatic on the table, this reminds me of years gone Nouveau by, of bygone Beaujolais that has just kissed the tank and been kissed by the yeast meets sugar marriage of a young wine. Hits the mark, finishes dry and leaves you not wanting anything more.

Good to go!

Michael Godel

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Photos courtesy of Godello.ca


Filed under: Featured Articles, News, , , , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 22nd – Part Two

Holiday Gift Bottles
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week the WineAlign crü has come together to offer some gift suggestions for the wine lovers on your holiday shopping list. And since all love is not equal, we’ve split the recommendations into three price categories: under $30, under $60 and “money is no object”. Instructions: select the recipient, select the price category, then cut and paste in the suggestion of your favorite WineAlign critic, and send. Don’t forget to include the write-up in the gift card; that way, if your recipient is disappointed, you can blame us.

Under $30

Vallado 2011, Douro, Portugal ($22.95)
John Szabo – The perfect wine for anyone looking for a horizon expansion. A dense and ripe red blend, thanks to the soon-to-be-legendary 2011 vintage (what a port year!). This will satisfy high-impact new world style wine lovers as well as those after a little more earth, minerality, genuine tension and structure. Enclose this photo of the magnificent Douro Valley for added vicarious value, and mention that Vallado has a beautiful boutique hotel, just in case.

View over the Douro River

Lungarotti 2010 Rubesco, Rosso di Torgiano, Umbria, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo – A fine discovery for the Italian wine lover on your list who’s stuck in the more popular tourist destinations. Lungarotti single-handedly established this appellation surrounding the beautiful hilltop town of Torgiano in the “green heart” of Italy, as Umbria is known, and has been producing classic dusty, red-fruited sangiovese for decades. As fine as any Chianti at the price, and something a little different.

Finca Constancia 2011 Altos De La Finca, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain ($21.95)
David Lawrason – This is for the explorer on your list who relishes rich reds. Finca Constantia is a very modern new winery by Gonzales Byass – a large Spanish wine company based in Jerez. This creative multi-grape blend includes tempranillo, petit verdot and syrah. At this price you might want to buy several and spread them around – as a curio host/hostess gift, or for mates at the office Christmas party.

Quinta Do Vallado Vinho Tinto 2011 Lungarotti Rubesco 2010 Finca Constancia Altos De La Finca 2011 Paolo Conterno Bricco Barbera d'Alba 2013Humberto Canale Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Paolo Conterno 2013 Bricco Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy ($19.95)
David Lawrason – For the lover of all things Italian (who may be also happen to be Italian) here is a wonderfully exuberant, approachable young barbera from one of my favourite Piemontese producers. The wines are always meticulous and exact for their variety. This would be ideal around a holiday charcuterie and cheese board. Better buy two or three.

Mcwilliam's Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2007

Salomon Undhof Alte Reben Grüner Veltliner 2012Humberto Canale 2013 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Alto Valle Del Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina, ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato - Cool climate growing areas are all the rage and if you’ve wondered why, check out this exceptional value sauvignon blanc from the cool and arid reaches of Patagonia – one of the world’s most southerly wine regions. Humberto Canale is a pioneer of this sunny and windswept part of the world, having established the winery in the early 1900s.

Salomon Undhof 2012 Alte Reben Grüner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato - Flavour-wise, this is a textbook grüner veltliner but with more oomph and power than the norm. It is immediately impressive and is an excellent introduction to this exotic and compelling varietal.

McWilliams’s 2007 Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon, Hunter Valley, Australia ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato - For those who love aged semillon, you will find this 2007 Hunter Valley an absolute treat. I couldn’t get enough of its lovely nuttiness, its youthful vibrancy and its long, creamy finish.

$30 to $60

Cune 2008 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($39.95)
John Szabo – As all great Rioja, this wine should be on the list for all old world pinot noir fans (including Burgundy) considering the parallels in elegance, finesse and minerality. They also age magnificently; mention to the recipient that he/she can drink it now or hold twenty years or more sin problema.

Confidences De Prieuré-Lichine 2010, Margaux, Bordeaux ($48.95)
David Lawrason – In great vintages like 2010 the “second” labels of famous chateau like Prieure-Lichine offer great value. I would give this to the budding, young wine enthusiast who would normally not fork out $50, but needs to experience the seamless finesse that Bordeaux, and indeed Margaux, does better than most. A very similar Margaux was my first true fine wine experience and I have never looked back.
John Szabo – I couldn’t agree more with David. This is very classy, elegant, highly pleasurable Bordeaux, and a great reference for Margaux. The budding sommelier/wine enthusiast will thank you for this experience.

Cune Gran Reserva 2008 Confidences De Prieuré Lichine 2010 Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Malbec 2009 Daniel Rion & Fils Les Grandes Vignes Nuits Saint Georges 2011 Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc De Blanc 2008

Cuvelier Los Andes 2009 Grand Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($61.95)
David Lawrason – An ideal gift for the wine drinker on your list who loves inexpensive Argentine malbec but might never spring for an expensive example. This is from one the great new properties of Mendoza, owned by the Cuvelier family that has made wine in France since the early 19th Century. They bring the Bordeaux vision of a structured, layered wine for cellaring, and it’s a dandy!

Daniel Rion & Fils 2011 Les Grandes Vignes, Nuits Saint Georges, Burgundy, France, ($59.95)
Sara d’Amato - This Nuits Saints Georges is impressive across the board from complexity to length and finesse. If pinot noir is the heartbreak grape, then prepare for a tear-jerking episode. But truly, pinot noir can provoke knee-quaking sensations when exceptional and this is an experience you won’t want to miss.

Henry Of Pelham 2008 Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc De Blanc, VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario, Canada ($44.95)
Sara d’Amato - Whether to ring in the New Year or to crack open and enhance the mood, the Carte Blanche Estate Blanc de Blanc over-delivers and is a great way to get the experience of a vintage Champagne for a fraction of the price.

Masi Campolongo di Torbe Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2007

Masi Mazzano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2007Money No Object

2007 Masi Mazzano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy ($101.95) and
2007 Masi Campolongo di Torbe Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy ($101.95)
John Szabo – So, if money really is no object, buy a bottle of each of these extraordinary amarones for someone special – preferably a friend you still intend to have in twenty years. Then, hopefully, you’ll also be invited to compare these two side by side, for a truly memorable experience. I’ve done it with the last handful of vintages of Masi’s two great crus (alas when far too young), and I love the consistently muscular, herculean strength of the Mazzano, accurately described by Masi as “austere and majestic”, as much as I love the ethereal finesse and opulence (relatively speaking) of the Campolongo di Torbe, “Masi’s elegant cru version of Amarone”. Both of these 2007s will surely be counted among the great Amarones of the modern age.

Stags’ Leap 2010 The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA ($89.95).
John Szabo – For the Napa collector, invite him to compare this wine, preferably blind, with more expensive versions. In the perilously over-valued world of Napa cabernet, this is an example with true depth, complexity and concentration that’s worth the money. There won’t be any disappointment.

Spottswoode Estate 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California ($167.95)
David Lawrason – Regular readers know I struggle with the lack of value in California – not so much due to lack of quality but exaggerated pricing. Well if I were to buy one $100+ Napa cab as a gift for a California wine collector this would be it. Spottswoode is spot-on in terms of finding nuance and complexity. The cool 2011 vintage is panned by some, but I think it is providing added vitality and nuance.

Stags' Leap The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Barossa Valley Estate E & E Black Pepper Shiraz 2008 Château Pontet Canet 2010

Barossa Valley Estate 2008 E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($89.95)
David Lawrason – I suggest you don’t dither over this – it will be gone in a flash. It’s an iconic Barossa shiraz from a great vintage, and it’s packing incredible intensity, layering and depth. It’s actually decent value at $90, so if you were thinking in this generous but non-ostentatious price range for a business associate who loves wine, this is the ticket. And it doesn’t need to be cellared further, though it will certainly live another decade with ease.

Château Pontet Canet 2010, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France, ($249.85)
Sara d’Amato - Thrilling, riveting, downright sensational and perhaps the finest example from this Chateau I have ever tasted. Quite impressive already, this is also a gift with a great deal of staying power.

Volcanic Wine Tour

Still wondering what to do Friday night (November 21st)? Join me at the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo at 6:30pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, for an exotic tour of the world’s best volcanoes. And, of course, the exceptional wines that grow on them. Find out why I spent the last 4 months touring volcanoes from Hungary to the Canary Islands to Chile. To buy tickets, go to foodandwineexpo.ca. Guaranteed explosive fun.

That’s all for this week. Happy shopping and see you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Nov 22nd:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews


Advertisement

Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz 2012

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

The Successful Collector – Sud-Ouest France and Duck

Julian Hitner reports on his latest trip to the assorted appellations of Sud-Ouest (Southwest) France, shedding some much-needed light on one of France’s most sundry winegrowing regions and its inhabitants’ enthusiasm for duck. His visit to the Southwest (courtesy of Sopexa) includes Cahors, Gaillac and Fronton, tossing in Madiran and Jurançon (both not visited) for their jigsaw-like significance. Readers may also wish to take note that the wines of the Dordogne (ex. Bergerac) have been omitted on account of the similarities to their counterparts in Bordeaux.

The most diverse region in France?
by Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

In terms of sheer diversity, few regions are as varied as that of Sud-Ouest France. From titanically tannic reds and alternate renderings to whites of inordinate obscurity and rare dessert versions, the Sud-Ouest (Southwest) continues to writhe as one of France’s most enigmatic winegrowing sectors. Fortunately, many producers seem undeterred, crafting increasingly better wines in the hopes of attracting new followers. The odds seem in their favour, particularly as quality improves and prices even for premium versions remain relatively low.

Of reds, two appellations have traditionally enjoyed the strongest reputations: Cahors and Madiran. These days, the former, arguably the stronger of the two, owes much of its current revival to Malbec, the most important grape in Cahors (from which it originates) though made popular in Argentina. Most Cahors is a blend of two or three grapes, containing at least 70 per cent Malbec and up to 30 per cent Merlot and/or Tannat. But even this is changing, with increasing numbers of producers crafting wines containing 100 per cent Malbec in their top offerings. Over the past several years, VINTAGES has been diligent in its selections, with prices ranging from $15-60.

The history of Cahors is a fascinating one, worthy of a brief digression. As early as the Middle Ages, it was known as ‘The Black Wine’ because of its dark appearance and weighty structure, a choice drink for connoisseurs. Then in the late-nineteenth century phylloxera struck, annihilating most of the vineyards. At the time, shortsighted growers replanted with inferior, high-yielding hybrids, leaving Cahors all but a distant memory. This began to change in the years following the Second World War, when some producers banded together in faint hopes of reviving their beloved Black Wine. Though it has taken decades, these growers’ descendants have largely succeeded in replanting their vineyards, and are again crafting wine of outstanding dimension, elegance and quality.

Though back on form, the modern-day reds of Cahors (there are no whites) taste nothing like their Argentinean counterparts, the latter oftentimes much more concentrated and excessively oak-reliant. In Cahors, the most balanced examples, sourced from a wide range of terroirs (the higher terraces and plateau are considered top locations), often possess wonderful quantities of blackberries, purple fruits and menthol in youth, taking on more claret-like characteristics as they age, yet always retaining a unique sense of balance, crystalline texture and breed. What’s more, such wines are often resoundingly tannic, requiring several years (sometimes decades) of aging to open up. Vigorous decanting can do much to alleviate the mouth-puckering effects of a young bottle of Cahors.

Tannat Grapes (Courtesy Official Website for Madiran Wines)

Tannat Grapes (Courtesy Official Website for Madiran Wines)

This said, no wine of France is better known for its tannins than Madiran. The name of its principle grape says it all: Tannat. According to current regulations, this most tightly structured of French grapes most comprise at least 50 per cent of the blend. Other permitted grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Fer Servadou. As in Cahors, many producers are now crafting their finest versions with 100 per cent Tannat. With many exceptions, the best examples seem strikingly Bordelaise, containing similar flavour profiles of currants, blackberries and damson plums, albeit with much more tannic structure in youth. Time is Madiran’s friendly companion. As the finest bottlings age, they routinely tend to mirror their counterparts in Cahors and Bordeaux, assuming notes of cedarwood, tobacco and wild game. Modern winemaking methods have played no small role in the expanding success of this superb appellation, with many producers utilizing a technique known as ‘micro-oxygenation’ to soften tannins during the vinification and maturation process. Selections in VINTAGES are usually reasonable, with prices ranging from $15-30, sometimes more. Like Cahors, great Madiran routinely represents excellent value for money.

Then there’s Gaillac, home to more obscure grape varietals than any other part of the Southwest. For producers, this is something of a double-edged sword: plenty of unique wines yet continuous confusion on the part of potential patrons. For reds, the primary grapes are Braucol (the local name for Fer Servadou) and Duras, oftentimes accompanied by Gamay, Syrah and the three main Bordeaux grapes (plus a few others). Braucol and Duras share many similarities. Both are medium-bodied at most and tend to contain flavours reminiscent of plums, blackberries and pepper. Only the best bottlings are usually aged in oak, and may be kept for at least several years. Simpler versions really ought to be consumed immediately. Selections in VINTAGES are minimal, though some decent examples may be had for less than twenty bucks.

Loin de l'Oeil Grapes (Courtesy Official Website for Gaillac Wines)

Loin de l’Oeil Grapes (Courtesy Official Website for Gaillac Wines)

The white wines of Gaillac are even more complicated. By tradition, the most common grape is Loin de l’Oeil (or Len de l’El), so named because of its long-stemmed clusters as it appears on the vine. Although occasionally appearing on its own, it is often blended with Mauzac (another major grape of the appellation), Ondenc, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc, the latter largely viewed as an unwelcome intruder. Historically, such esoteric grapes were used to make sweeter-style wines of considerable quality. Now such bottlings represent only a very small minority. Instead, growers have increasingly turned to rosés and sparkling wines in order to increase sales. Crafted from 100 per cent Mauzac, sparkling versions in Gaillac are produced via the ‘ancestral method’ (or ‘méthode ancestrale’), whereby the wine is bottled during fermentation, thus trapping carbon dioxide inside the wine. As with the reds, quality remains patchy in a few cases, though there is no doubting the determination of the appellation’s many young winegrowers.

This same resolve has also taken hold in Fronton. Located just north of the city of Toulouse (one of the largest cities in France), this appellation is fairly easy to understand. In this soothingly pastoral neck of the Southwest, reds must contain at least 50 per cent Négrette, the most important grape in Fronton. Though 100 per cent is permitted, most growers opt to blend their wines with varying percentages of Fer Servadou and Syrah. Despite its name, Négrette may have a dark colour but does not take kindly to aging in oak. Usually light-bodied and containing moderate notes of damson plums, most Fronton is really best admired for its youthful freshness and fruitiness. As in Gaillac and other appellations, rosé versions are also now being produced in sizable volumes. Selections for both types of wine in VINTAGES are sparse, with prices hovering around fifteen dollars. As a recommendable everyday wine, Fronton is seldom expensive, for Toulouse is a thirsty city.

Map of Southwest France

Finally, there is the appellation of Jurançon, home to the most famous type of sweet wine in the Southwest. Many wine commentators and sommeliers have a soft spot for this distinctive, underrated offering, crafted in relatively small amounts and usually drunk at the beginning of a meal. As elsewhere, the grapes are unique: Petit Manseng and its thinner-skinned (and larger-berried) cousin Gros Manseng, along with Petit Courbu and several others of preposterous obscurity. Unlike Sauternes, these delectably sweet moelleux wines are not affected by botrytis, nonetheless left on the vine as late as December to order to concentrate their sugars and flavour content. In France, this process is known as passerillé. In Alsace, wines labelled as ‘Vendanges Tardive’ are treated almost exactly the same. In youth, great Jurançon often presents notes of honey, lemon curd and elderberries, becoming increasingly Sauternes-like as it ages, though almost never as full-bodied. Pickings in VINTAGES are uninspired, though are often extremely reasonably priced when available, usually at around $25 or less. Dry white versions, labelled as ‘Jurançon Sec’ (crafted mostly from the earlier-ripening Gros Manseng) usually cost only half as much, and are often recommendable as everyday wines.

As if choices from the Southwest aren’t varied enough, scores of other appellations also slowly on the ascendancy. Value for money is key to their future prosperity. Though almost never available in VINTAGES, names to watch out for are Marcillac, Buzet, Côtes du Marmandais, Côtes du Duras, Béarn (and Béarn-Bellocq) and Irouléguy, the latter the only French appellation located in Basque Country. For lovers of diversity in wine, this vast sector of France truly is a proverbial treasure-trove of possibilities.

A few estates to watch:

Château Bouissel (Fronton): Run by Anne-Marie and Pierre Selle, the wines of Château Bouissel are among the most enjoyable in Fronton. At this 22-ha estate, freshness and approachability are prominent features. Three reds are currently produced, along with a very clean rosé. Le Bouissel seems their most balanced label, crafted mainly from Négrette and equal parts Syrah and Cot (Malbec) Ontario representative: Ruby Wines & Spirits

Château Bouissel 2012 Le Bouissel Fronton is one of several impressive examples produced at this reputable estate. Though more serious wines are increasingly being attempted, the best wines of Fronton seem to be those that manage to retain a proper sense of fruit expression and approachability. This is just such a wine. Drink now or hold for up to four years or more.  

Domaine Rotier (Gaillac): One of the finest properties in Gaillac, this 35-ha property is owned by Alain Rotier and brother-in-law Francis Marre. Though the reds respectable enough, the estate’s sweet wine (crafted from 100 per cent Loin de l’Oeil) is a very special offering. Like many operations in this part of the Southwest, the future holds more potential than it does obstacles. Ontario representative: Rouge et Blanc

Domaine Rotier 2011 Renaissance Vendanges Tardives Gaillac harkens back to the days when this ancient part of winegrowing France was best known for its sweeter-styled wines. Impeccably styled and elegant, it is a shame more of these wines aren’t produced nowadays. Drink now or hold for ten years or more.

Domaine du Moulin (Gaillac): Owned by the Hirrisou family, the wines of Domaine du Moulin are among the most impressive in Gaillac. Concentration, cleanliness and character seem to be common traits, particularly as far as the premium labels are concerned. Every visitor to this charming appellation should make a point of tasting this property’s wines. Not represented in Canada

Domaine du Moulin 2012 Florentin is easily the greatest pure Braucol (Fer Servadou) I have tasted to date. Possessing first-rate fruit expression, harmony and character, I would have never believed this lighter-bodied grape could yield a wine of such seriousness. Drink now or hold for six years or more. Decanting recommended.

Château Bouissel Classic 2012 Domaine Rotier Renaissance Vendanges Tardives 2011 Domaine Du Moulin Florentin 2012 Domaine Du Prince Lou Prince Cahors 2011 Château Montus 2009

Domaine du Prince (Cahors): Owned by the Jouve family, the wines of Domaine du Prince (especially the more premium versions) are certainly among the more concentrated versions of the appellation. Recent vintages from this 27-ha property seem superb, which currently produces four reds and one rosé. This is a very serious operation. Québec representative: À Travers Le Vin

Domaine du Prince 2011 Lou Prince Cahors is the flagship bottling of the estate, sourced from two separate parcels. Like the property’s other premium labels, this marvellous offering manages to combine a unique sense of modernity with the inherent characteristics and flavours of a top-sited Cahors. Drink now or hold for a dozen years or more. Decanting recommended.  

Château Montus (Madiran): Generally considered the star estate of the appellation, the wines of Château Montus seldom disappoint. Owned by Alain Brumont, a master of Tannat, this stellar establishment currently produces five reds and one white. For Madiran enthusiasts, and fans of the Southwest of France in general, few properties are as significant. Québec Representative: Mark Anthony Brands

Château Montus 2009 Montus Madiran is a wine of outstanding character, power and breed. Just as significant, the Montus is not even the flagship label of the estate, which just goes to show how serious owner Alain Brumont takes his wines. Drink now or hold four fourteen years or more. Decanting recommended.

~

Duck (canard) and Sud-Ouest France:

Thanks to a sensational foie gras extravaganza at Château Montauriol (see list below) in Fronton and many other opportunities to partake of local specialties, Julian’s time in the Southwest of France was as much wine-themed as it was duck-oriented. Feast your eyes on his report.

As I am loath to the concept of photographing my food, a type of avant-garde ritual amongst smartphone and tablet owners as an alternate form of saying grace, I leave it to readers’ old-fashioned imaginations to conceive of the wondrous and innumerable types of duck (canard) cuisine to be found in the Southwest of France. Though enjoyed throughout France and many other parts of the world, few peoples seem as attached to this sinfully satisfying creature as the inhabitants of France’s southwestern quadrant, particularly in and around Gascogne.

Controversy aside, foie gras is the most celebrated genre, the best examples sourced from the livers of free-range ducks (though geese is considered superior) fattened on maize. Foie gras is produced in many formats. Those prepared ‘entier’ are generally considered the finest, consisting of the entire liver and usually containing no preservatives. Those presented as a ‘bloc’ are typically derived from smaller pieces whipped and condensed together. ‘Mousse’ de foie gras consists of puréed pieces, while ‘pâté’ is usually combined with other meat products. When cooked, entier or bloc versions (most common) are among the most appetizing of culinary delights. Foie gras is typically begun at the start of a meal, ideally with sweeter-style wines. Jurançon or sweet Gaillac are both optimal pairings.

Though modes of preparation are vast, two types of duck are most often served as main courses. Confit de canard is certainly the most decadent. Crafted from the leg, the meat is first rubbed with salt, herbs and garlic, after which it is covered in rendered fat. The duck is then cooked at a low temperature in the oven for at least several hours. The result is incredible flavour and richness. Another common type of duck is magret de canard, the breast of the bird, typically lined with a half-centimetre layer of fat on one side. Usually pan-fried and containing several slits for accuracy, a moist helping of magret de canard is one of the region’s great offerings. Cahors or Madiran are ideal accompaniments.

The options don’t end here. In salads, duck gizzards (gesiers) are quite common, as is smoked duck served in slices, usually from the breast. There are many others of greater complicatedness than the ones mentioned above, and I would list them, yet I am made to recall the trials and tribulations of my most beloved cartoon characters and feel the need to pause. It seems my appreciation of duck is not without a sense of screen imagery after all.

A duck feast at Château Montauriol (Fronton):

Foie gras de canard mi-cuit (half-cooked)

Fois gras de canard entier

Cou de canard farci

Rillettes de canard

Pâté de canard

Saucisse de canard

Magret de canard frais séché

Gesiers de canard (served in salad)

Tartare de canard

Carpaccio de canard (with garlic and parsley)

Cheers,

Julian Hitner

Click here for Julian’s complete list of red wines from Southwest France

Editors Note: You can find our critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , , , , , ,

@WineAlign

WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008