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Last Chance at Four Great Wines; Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines – August 2012

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The Ins and Outs of General List

The LCBO is constantly adding new wines to its general list selection; often as many as five new wines can arrive in one week. As a consequence wines are also being discontinued at the same pace, usually with a 25% reduction in price to move inventory out of the system quickly.

This week four discontinued wines are on the Top 50 list. There are still at least 1000 bottles of each but don’t delay since all will probably be gone by September. You may have to shop around since your local store might not have any left.

Find this WineThe WineAlign ‘Find this Wine’ feature on the review page makes it easy for you to find the closest store that still has inventory.

There are five wines that are new to the list since last month. Read past the next four wines to find more bargains and to discover how the Top 50 is systematically selected.

Last Chance at Four Great Top 50s

These wines are all discontinued and discounted to clear inventory, but all four are great value, as is every wine on my Top 50 Value Wines list.

Deen De Bortoli Vat 8 ShirazDeen De Bortoli Vat 8 Shiraz 2008, Southeastern Australia $11.95

A well structured balanced shiraz which is a step up from the 2007 vintage with its earthy smoky black cherry fruit and well integrated oak spice. The palate is full bodied juicy with firm tannin though it remains juicy to the finish. Very good length. Best 2012 to 2015. Try with a roast or bbq meats.

Xanadu Next Of Kin Sauvignon Blanc SemillonXanadu Next Of Kin Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009, Margaret River, Australia $11.95

A delicate soft white with great varietal characteristics. Expect aromas of hay, lemon, and gooseberry fruit with a touch of sweet herbs and mild spice. It is very creamy with a long fresh finish. Try with sautéed seafood.

Little Yering ChardonnayLittle Yering Chardonnay 2009, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia $10.95

A lean lively chardonnay with lots of juicy fruit and gentle oak treatment. This is not what you would expect in an Aussie chardonnay of old. Aromas of lemon, ripe apple and white peach lead to the juicy yet taught palate. Very good length. Try with creamy pasta sauces.

Montes Classic Series Sauvignon BlancMontes Classic Series Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Curico Valley, Chile $10.45

The 2010 is another excellent sauvignon at a great price. The nose shows gooseberry, lemon, white peach and hay aromas with some mineral, dill and celery notes. The palate is racy, rich, thick with fruit yet well balanced and finishes firmly with a nice touch of celery. Very good length. Try with creamy pasta sauces or herbed chicken. Best 2012 to 2013.

August Top 50 Values List

There are about 1,500 wines listed at the LCBO that are always available, plus another 100 or so Vintages’ Essentials. At WineAlign I maintain a list of the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines selected by price and value – in other words, the best least expensive wines. The selection process is explained in more detail below, but I review the list every month to include newly listed wines and monitor the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

New to the Top 50

Less than $12

Santa Carolina Chardonnay ReservaSanta Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2011, Casablanca Valley, Chile $11.95

The 2011 is very similar to the 2010 that spent the last year on the Top 50 list. It has a lifted nose of complex aromas of peach, melon and grapefruit with honey and toffee notes and a hint of oak spice. It is rich and creamy on the palate with lovely soft lemony acidity which keeps it feeling light. It finishes dry with very good to excellent length. Try with white meats, creamy cheeses and seafood. Don’t overchill.

Amalaya Torrontes RieslingAmalaya Torrontes Riesling 2011, Salta, Argentina $10.95

This is a brand new listing at LCBO which jumps straight onto the Top 50 list since it is such excellent value for a complex aromatic white. It comes from the Salta region in northern Argentina, which is the indigenous home to the aromatic torrontes grape. It is a blend of 85% of that grape with 15% riesling that gives some zip to the mid palate and finish. Expect floral aromas of daffodil with ripe melon, white peach and ginger spice. The palate is rich and creamy with very good length. Try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.

Less than $9

Montalto Nero D'avola Cabernet SauvignonMontalto Nero D’Avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Sicily, Italy $8.95

This is a juicy full bodied red made from the nero d’avola grape a native of Sicily with a nose that shows red berry fruit with herbal and spicy notes. It is very fruity and well structured with soft tannins and juicy acidity. Very good length. Well balanced except it is just a bit hot on the finish from alcohol. Ideal with pizza and meaty pasta sauces. Best 2012 to 2015.

Santa Carolina MerlotSanta Carolina Merlot 2011, Chile $8.95

Amazing value for a vibrant fruity merlot. Expect pure aromas of raspberry and red cherry fruit with some jammy tones and herbal hints. The palate is brimming with lively bright fruit with enough tannin for balance and good to very good length. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled or with a wide range of meat and cheese dishes. Would make a great restaurant wine-by-glass pour. Best 2012 to 2014.

Mezzomondo NegroamaroMezzomondo Negroamaro 2010 Salento, Puglia, Italy $7.95

The 2010 is another good vintage and this wine remains one of the best red values at LCBO. It is a flavourful, fragrant red from Puglia made from the indigenous negroamaro grape. Blackberry fruit with plum jam aromas are enhanced by herbal and warm spice notes and a hint of dark chocolate. It is midweight with the fruit well supported by some mature tannin. Very good length. Very drinkable now but best 2013 – 2016.

Top 50 Value Wines at LCBO

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top50, since it is always changing. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. Moreover if you disagree with our reviews, tell us please why we got it wrong and if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

It is very easy to do this.  Click on Suggestions & Feedback or send an email to feedback@winealign.com.

We look forward to hearing from you.

How I Choose the Top 50

I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep the Top 50 list up to date. You can easily find all of my all Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wine =>Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. I use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database.

Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value.

The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow


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Grooner Grüner Veltliner 2009


The Wine Establishment - Le Nez deu Vin

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Margaret Swaine’s Wine Picks: Perfect for a barbecue party

Distinctive and flavour packed, these wines would add class to a barbecue party. Find them via WineAlign.com/MargaretsPicks.

Sigalas Asirtiko-Athiri 2010
$16.95 (89 Points)
Domaine Sigalas is my favourite producer for white wine in Greece. This blend of 75% asirtiko grape with the rest athiri has an aromatic bouquet. Firm and structured with an intense, dry minerality, ripe fruit concentration and refreshing acidity, it carries its higher alcohol (14.2%) well. Ideal with grilled fish and seafood dishes.

Artesa Chardonnay 2010
$23.95 (90 Points)
This Carneros appellation California chardonnay has a touch (2%) of sauvignon blanc, albariño and pinot blanc in the final blend to add richness and aromas. Fermented and aged 70% in French oak, the rest in stainless steel, it has a slightly toasty nose and well integrated oak. Sleek and complex with tangy fruit and vanilla, tropical overtones, it’s generous yet elegant on the palate.

Tahbilk Shiraz 2008
$20.95 (90 Points)
Established in 1860 in Nagambie Lakes in Central Victoria, this winery is one of Australia’s most historic, with some 200 hectares under vine. This plush red, matured in French oak for 18 months, is velvety and fruit driven with full-on ripe berry, purple plum and spice flavours. Fine tannins give it good structure and a lingering finish. Have with barbecued steak or bison.

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John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for August 4th 2012

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

What’s Your Favourite?; Germany’s Secret Society; Reflections on Cool Chardonnay

The Vintages theme for the August 4th release is “customer favourites”. Although my top smart buys don’t line up with what the LCBO has identified as favourites, this report highlights no less than a baker’s dozen of three star values, with all but 3 wines under $20 and a half dozen under $15. Most of these wines have come through our system in previous years, so perhaps there’s a parallel pattern of my favourites emerging. You’ll find all the details in the Top Ten Smart Buys, as well as the secret about German wines, the mini-theme of the release. And to round it off, I share a few things I learned about cool climate chardonnay, having just returned from Niagara for the 2nd annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c). It was a spectacular event, the best industry and consumer tasting to be held in Ontario thus far. I’m already looking forward to next year.

The Stars of the Stars: Highlights from the Top Ten Smart Buys

Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices SyrahThere’s an excellent line up of value wines hitting the shelves on August 4th. Topping the smart buy list this week is a repeat of a previous favourite, the 2009 Domaine les Yeuses les Épices Syrah ($13.95). The previous two vintages of this wine were also top smart buys, so this is clearly more than a one-off success. The 2009 is a little riper, richer and more noticeably oaky than the previous editions, definitely edging towards a more new world style, thanks no doubt to the warm 2009 growing season. The cuvée is selected from the oldest and lowest vines on the property, situated on gentle limestone hillsides a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean. It’s quite amazing how much flavor is packed into this wine at the price.

Château D'anglès La Clape ClassiqueThe Languedoc continues its streak of over-delivering with the 2007 Château d’Anglès la Clape Classique ($14.95). The story of this estate reads like a clichéd fairy tale, with proprietor Eric Fabre trading in his career in Bordeaux (including eight years as wine maker at Château Lafite Rothschild) to settle in an idyllic Château in the south of France over-looking the Mediterranean. But I suspect it was more than rural beauty and architecture that attracted the Fabres, as there’s clearly something special about the dirt, too. Although this is only the entry-level “classique” range, it’s a delightfully mature, smoky, savoury, syrah-driven southern French red, with well above average complexity for the money and engaging garrigue and dusty fruit flavours. A very attractive value all in all that’s ready to roll anytime.

Tormentoso Old Vine Chenin BlancAnother fine value comes from South Africa and the not-so-fashionable chenin blanc variety: 2011 Tormentoso Old Vine Chenin Blanc ($14.95). But it’s precisely because of its out-of-vogue status that you should be checking it out, especially when it comes from an un-irrigated, bush vine vineyard planted on dry, rocky-shale soils 35 years ago. Tormentoso is the premium range of vineyard-focused wines made by Man Vintners, a successful partnership between three men (MAN is an acronym from the first letter of each of their wives first name) based in Stellenbosch. The wine delivers well-measured barrel influence (40% barrel fermented), lively acids and marked minerality, all stuffed into a sub-$15 wine. Lemon and green apple flavours simmer under the light oak spice and cream. Great length for the money and this even has the stuffing to hold on in the cellar for a few years, too.

Terre Dora Fiano Di AvellinoAnother personal favourite comes from Campania, Italy: 2010 Terredora Fiano di Avellino ($18.95). I’ve long been a fan of fiano, widely considered one of southern Italy’s best white grapes. Terredora has been using exclusively estate grown grapes since 1994, focusing on the indigenous varieties of the region. Indeed, when the famous Mastroberardino family of Campania divided up the family wine business, one part kept the historic name, while the Terredora faction kept the top vineyards. This wine is intriguingly smoky despite being oak-free, with lemon zest and fresh, sweet green herbs, fresh earth, honey and dried hay, all well within the typical fiano spectrum. The palate is medium-full bodied, with bright, tart acids, significant flavour depth and excellent length. It’s a serious, and age worthy, example, that I’d recommend stuffing in the cellar for another year or two for maximum enjoyment.

Fielding Estate Cabernet FrancInniskillin Winemaker's Series Montague Vineyard ChardonnayAnd lastly it’s worth drawing your attention to two fine Ontario wines in the top smart buys this week: 2010 Inniskillin Winemaker’s Series Montague Vineyard Chardonnay ($18.95) and 2010 Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc ($21.95). Inniskillin winemaker Bruce Nicholson has been slowly but surely pushing the Montague chardonnay towards more refinement and elegance as opposed to the buttered popcorn style of early vintages, following a trend that’s occurring worldwide. In 2010 he seems to have hit the mark, avoiding the temptation to harvest over ripe grapes in Ontario’s hottest vintage on record (we’ll see about 2012…) and crafting instead a textbook, modern, new world style, mouth filling example. Wood and buttery notes are well reigned in, allowing ripe orchard fruit to dominate. Fielding’s cabernet franc is likewise another fine paradigm for the province, capturing the ripeness of 2010 while still retaining the sweet herb, tobacco, violet and spice character that gives the variety its noble profile.

Germany’s Secret Society

You might not be aware, but there’s a secret society of German riesling lovers across the world. They’re not easy to spot on the street, but you’ll be able to identify them by how they refer to themselves: sommelier. I’ve yet to meet a savvy sommelier who doesn’t have a disproportionate love for German riesling, especially when you add value to the equation.

Markus Molitor Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling SpätleseKönigschaffhausener Vulkanfelsen Trocken Pinot GrisIf there’s still lingering doubt in your mind, try the 2008 Markus Molitor Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese Prädikatswein ($26.95), a textbook Mosel riesling with perfectly ripe peach-apricot-nectarine, jasmine, light honey, fresh quince and orange peel, aromas, and on and on it goes. How you can put that much intensity on such a light frame is the eternal mystery of the Mosel.

Two other rieslings are included in my quartet of recommend German wines, but the star value has to be the 2011 Königschaffhausener Vulkanfelsen Trocken Pinot Gris. Forget trying to pronounce it; the wine really is as much of a mouthful as the name leads to believe. It has wonderful orchard fruit flavours enveloped in a succulent, rich texture, and drinks like a top notch Alsatian pinot gris for a mere $14.

Chardonnay: Reflecting on Cool

The second annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c) weekend held in Niagara July 20-22nd was an unqualified success (nice to see some of you at the WineAlign Boot Camp led by David Lawrason and me).

WineAlign Member Experience at the 14c

Cool Chardonnay Boot Camp

Perfectionists might argue that winemakers are more useful in a winery than under a tent cooking food for guests (as occurred on Saturday night at the marquee event), but all in all, the spirit was terrific, the attendees enthusiastic, the winemakers from here and around the world utterly devoted to the cause, and the wines, well, simply excellent.

Here are some things I learned over the weekend:

1. There are Many Ways to be Cool.

Several factors can make for cool vineyards. Latitude is the most obvious, as the further you move from the equator, the thicker your thermal underwear needs to be. Exemplifying this were the very fine champagnes of Ayala (especially the Pearl d’Ayala Nature). Champagne sits at 50º-north latitude, about as far north as you can go and still ripen grapes sufficiently to make wine. Under 10% alcohol is common for base wines in the region, which is why sparkling wine makes most sense. Elevation can be cool, too, as shown by Pablo Sanchez of Catena Zapata in Argentina and his White Bones Chardonnay, grown in the Adrianna Vineyard at 1500m elevation, in the shadow of Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas. And where latitude and elevation aren’t so cool, water can chill things out. Coastal vineyards can be heavily moderated by cold bodies of water, such as those of Yabby Lake in the Mornington Peninsula, Australia, near the Bass Straight, and Flowers Vineyard, way out on the Sonoma Coast near the frigid Pacific Ocean.

2. Chardonnay Needs to be Cool

David Lawrason posed the question during the Friday morning technical session on extreme winemaking: Does chardonnay need to grow in a cool climate, or is it just the style of wine that we all like? Well, the technical answer to that is yes, at least according to several winemakers present over the weekend. Aside from that cool, prickly feeling chardonnay lovers get when drinking crisp, minerally versions, the most scientifically rigorous explanation (and justification of what we already sensed) came from David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars in Sonoma. Ironically during one of the hottest lunches I have ever sat through, held in a greenhouse on a 33ºC afternoon (closer to 40ºC inside), he described chardonnay as a “short cycle” variety, one that reaches maturity over a relatively short growing season. The trouble with hot climates is that chardonnay ripens too quickly; sugars (and potential alcohol levels) accumulate rapidly, before much flavour has had a chance to develop, and acidity falls. The result is a simple, sweetish, soft, tropical fruit flavoured version of the grape that may be pleasant enough, but will never be extraordinary.

Stephen Brook

i4c Keynote Speaker
Stephen Brook

Great chardonnay needs a longer, cooler growing season to reach the type of flavour complexity that gets us all so excited about it in the first place. As Stephen Brook, author, Decanter Magazine contributor and i4c keynote speaker observed in his speech, “The consequences of coolness are well known to us all: higher natural acidity, a good attack on the palate, a crispness to the mouthfeel, a more taut structure, and good length of flavor.” I’ll drink to that.

3. Coolness Alone Is Not Enough, and Dirt Makes A difference

“Coolness itself is no guarantor of quality”, continued Brook. And yes to be sure, featureless green wine, absent other qualities, is hardly great wine. The trouble is, chardonnay is a rather boring grape. It’s not particularly aromatic, but rather more understated. It’s greatest strength is its marvelous ability to articulate the composition of the dirt in which it’s grown. “It’s not an intrinsically interesting variety. Paradoxically, its very blandness is its strength”.

So aside from a cool climate, chardonnay also needs the right terroir. They’ve known this in Burgundy for centuries: how seemingly minor variations in composition and depth can make for significant differences in the glass. Chardonnay grown in a vineyard better suited to potato farming will never make great wine, no matter how clever the winemaker is or how cool the climate. Burgundy is not an extreme region by any stretch. It’s neither cold nor hot, rainy nor dry, though it does have more or less the right climate for a short cycle grape like chardonnay. But it’s the soil that makes the difference, that has made Burgundy the reference, the mother ship, the yardstick against which all other chardonnay are still measured. The variations on a terroir theme from Chablis to Corton to Meursault or Puligny translate into fantastic complexity and nuance in the glass.

“I don’t have any clear idea of what Chardonnay should smell or taste like,” reveals Brook. “I can pin down certain manifestations of Chardonnay – a Chablis, a Meursault, a Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve – but they emerge from specific conditions.” In other words, it’s about both climate and soil working in tandem.

4. Heavy Hands Make for Homogeneous Wine

And since chardonnay is such a neutral grape, there’s a strong temptation for the winemaker to impose his or her style. Late harvesting can eradicate the climate effect, while other techniques can expunge the soil’s signature. At the i4c there was little evidence of over bearing winemaking, I suppose precisely because those that came all the way to Niagara to attend the celebration know that it’s all about the climate and the dirt. Winemakers here seemed to get it, that over oaking kills site specificity, and with it, what makes wine different from all other manufactured beverages. Anybody can make a fruity-oaky wine. Only some people have the right vineyards to make distinctive wines, and only a few of those know enough to step back and let nature take over.

So when it all comes together, cool climate, great dirt and savvy hand, the results are sensational. And there’s no world monopoly – dozens of regions, Ontario included, are making fine chardonnay in the key of cool. If you missed this year’s i4c, be sure to sign up next year (scheduled for July 19-21, 2013). Because if you think you know chardonnay, it’s time to drink again.

From the Aug 4, 2012 Vintages release:

Top Ten Smart Buys
German Quartet
All Reviews

Cheers,

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier


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Penfolds Thomas Hyland Chardonnay


The Wine Establishment - Le Nez deu Vin

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Margaret Swaine’s Wine Picks: Refreshing finds

Beat the summer heat with these refreshing wines from July 21’s Vintages release. Find them via WineAlign.com/MargaretsPicks.

Tenuta S. Anna Prosecco
$18.95 (88 Points)
From the Valdobbiadene hills, the classic zone where Prosecco was born, this sparkler has a delicately floral nose and nice subtle pear and peach flavour. Refreshing with decent length, its bubbles are small and fine. Great with appetizers, at a brunch or for sipping on a lazy afternoon.

Chateau Saint Roch 2011
 $14.95 (89 Points)
Pale salmon in hue, this blend of 60% grenache with the rest syrah is sourced from old vines growing in the Roussillon region of southern France. Medium bodied, crisp and dry, it has good solid fruit with cranberry notes on the palate and a refreshing finish. A nice touch of minerality comes through from its black slate soil.

Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011
 $19.95 (91 Points)
This New Zealand white has the elegance of a French sauvignon combined with the ripe flavour intensity typical of its native country. Medium bodied and finely textured, its vibrant bouquet yields white grapefruit, nettle and gooseberry aromas with a touch of herbaceousness. These carry through on the palate with the addition of pineapple and other tropical notes. The finish is long, cleansing and fresh.

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Victoria Rising – Australia’s new cool

Victoria Wine Regions

Victoria Wine Regions

Over forty new wines from Victoria, Australia, are coming through Vintages this year, including 20 released on Saturday, July 21st.   The WineAlign team had an opportunity to taste most of them.  It was a perfect opportunity to dig deeply into Australia’s new image as a producer of more than just shiraz and cute labels. Regional distinction is the new focus, alongside cool climate expressions and an expansion of the varietal repertoire.  Reviews from all WineAlign critics and wines to be found here.  In additon, both David and John have featured Victoria in their respective newsletters and came up with a few top picks.

David’s Top Picks from Victoria

John’s Top Picks from Victoria

David’s feature on Victoria

John’s feature on Victoria

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David Lawrason’s Take on Vintages July 21 Release

Victoria Rising, Ontario Refreshing, Mature Reds and Collector Classics

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Over forty new wines from Victoria, Australia, are coming through Vintages this year, including 20 this Saturday, July 21. The WineAlign team has had an opportunity to taste most of them, with reviews  and wines to be found here.  Please enjoy this expanded newsletter with some personal perspective on this significant release, then read on for other July 21 highlights.

I had a day off in Melbourne last year at the end of a ten day whirlwind visit to Australia’s wine regions. I walked the streets of that spectacular, vibrant city, with its great green spaces, gleaming towers and its classic bridges spanning the Yarra River. It felt somewhat like Toronto.  And I reflected that Toronto was also similar in having thriving new wine regions nearby – Niagara and Prince Edward County. But then Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria, has 21 designated wine regions and over 850 wineries within a four hour driving radius.

Melbourne

Melbourne, capital of the state of Victoria

The stunning range of wines in the state of Victoria hit home when I ended my walk at a small wine bar in time for dinner. Melbourne has a thriving food and wine scene that locals claim is the best in Oz, although there is predictable regional debate on that. But it was hard to argue when I dropped into the tiny, packed City Wine Shop on Spring Street, which doubles as a bistro and retail wine store. You can pick any bottle off the shelf to take home, or open at your table for dinner – very much unlike Toronto, I deeply regret. I study wine for a living and I had not even heard of 80% of the labels on the shelves there.

So I sympathize with Ontarians who may be overwhelmed by all the new wines of Victoria featured in this Saturday’s Vintages release – with names like Kooyong, Punt Road, Tar & Roses and Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch. To my mind, this release is the most interesting and important themed release Vintages has put together in awhile. In a timely manner, with impressive scope, it captures much of the excitement now swirling around the wines of Victoria. And there is more Victoria to come this fall, with a focus on Mornington Peninsula pinot noirs on September 29, and other releases right through December.

Vintages July 21 catalogue captures the mood with its headline “Oz Keeps its Cool: Hot New Wines from the State of Victoria”. And WineAlign colleague John Szabo, gets to the nub with the statement that “… along with Tasmania, Victoria is only state that is able to hang its hat predominantly on cooler climate style wine – where the majority of regions could rightly be classified as relatively cool”.

But Victoria has been making wine since the 19th Century, and the climate has not changed (that much). Which begs the question, why is it only “hot” now?  Why all this fuss?  Why am I saying this is the most important Vintages release in awhile?  Well, it is all about the re-hatching of Australian wine’s reputation.  It’s about Australia’s passage into adulthood as a wine producing country.

Why Victoria’s Rise is Important

Australia took the world by storm in the 80s and 90s with big, tasty jammy, boisterous and unruly teenaged reds. There were also serious, historic wines, but most sent to our shores were delicious, sweetish, hottish and inexpensive; marketed as almost child-like Australian swagger, and no one really cared where they came from – producers or consumers alike.

Visions of Victoria

Visions of Victoria

But every wine type and country has fashion cycles and our palates began to overdose on Australia about ten years ago.  We grew increasingly bored with the flavour homogeny and brashness; we grew weary with alcohol heat, and fed up of all those critter labels that said nothing about the wine. (Some of the current colloquial, yuk-yuk branding is now striking me the same way).  And so we began to go elsewhere – particularly South America – for better value and better communicated wines.

Australia as a wine growing country is huge. There are roughly 2,500 wineries, spread thousands of kilometres across five states. Anyone who has given any thought to European wine, that encompasses the same distance from Moscow to Madrid, must look at Australia and say, ‘well there is just no way that all its wines are the same, or can be considered under one umbrella’. Even within geographically tiny France, regions like Burgundy, Bordeaux and Alsace owe their existence to their individuality as regions, not merely by being French. So why, logically, should Australian wine be identified as only Australian?  There is much, much more to Australia as a country than Ayers Rock and kangaroos.  And as Victoria is now amply demonstrating, there is much more to Australian wine than big, jammy, five alarm shiraz.

So it is a sign of intellectual and/or philosophical maturity as a wine country – among producers and marketers – that Australia is moving rapidly into regionalism. And Victoria is leading the way by capitalizing on the fact that it has more cooler climate vineyards, on average, than the others.  Cool does not mean better, by the way. But is does mean a better probability of diversity, individuality and elegance.

So diversity makes Victoria more interesting on the one hand, but more difficult to learn on the other.  It’s just a matter of how deep you want to dive.  There are some who devote their life to understanding Burgundy alone. And it’s becoming apparent that one could spend their life studying the wines of Victoria – especially by living in Melbourne, and dining at the City Wine Shop. It has crossed my mind.

Delving into Wines of Victoria

This newsletter is not the appropriate place for a long, region by region essay on Victoria’s history, geology, climate and hundreds of wineries. There is a website built for that purpose by Wine Australia at www.apluswines.com.  The essential piece of Victoria wine logic is that vineyards closest to the sea are coolest, those in the mountain and hill ranges are cooler, while those vineyards located at lower altitudes and farther inland are progressively warmer.

After that, the nitty gritty study of Victoria must come one wine at a time, and I can help by pointing you to eight wines on this release that do reflect the diversity and most important themes in Victorian wine, as I know it. So here is a microcosmic journey from cooler to warmer, from sea to mountains, and back again.  If you think of Melbourne, an almost coastal city in the centre of Victoria, as the centre of a clock, we will be starting at six o’clock and travelling counter-clockwise to about ten o’clock.

Caledonia Australis Reserve ChardonnayKooyong Massale Pinot NoirKooyong Massale 2011 Pinot Noir ($39.95) is from a pinot specialist on the Mornington Peninsula, an hour due south of Melbourne (at six o’clock) on a narrow spit of land that divides Port Phillip Bay from the Southern Ocean. Truly maritime it was first recognized as a special cool climate in 1972 and now there are over 50 producers focused on pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris. Varied terrain and soil types create a very complex wine landscape, and in one afternoon there I tasted some of Australia’s most intriguing pinots to date from tiny estates like Quealy, Baillieu and Dexter. In a 2011 issue of Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine that I picked up at the time 14 of the top 29 new Aussie releases reviewed were cool climate Aussie pinots scoring over 90 points. Two single vineyard pinots from Kooyong were in the top eight; and they are coming to Vintages September 29.

Caledonia Australis 2008 Reserve Chardonnay ($39.95) hails from the Gippsland, at five o’clock, southeast of Melbourne. It is definitely cooler climate although most vineyards are farther inland than Mornington. It is large area reaching right to the New South Wales border, so its 50 wineries experience considerable variation in microclimate and soil type. Caledonia Australis is one of several wineries to spring up here in the last twenty years with a solid focus on chardonnay and pinot noir.

De Bortoli Windy Peak Pinot NoirTar & Roses TempranilloDe Bortoli Windy Peak 2010 Pinot Noir ($17.95) is from the Yarra Valley, at about three o’clock east of Melbourne. It is wonderfully lush green enclave within an easy commute of the city, which has hastened its fame and development into a region that is perhaps more Napa-like than any in Australia. Certainly chardonnay, pinot noir and sparkling thrive here, but it is more moderate than the coastal areas, so it’s not uncommon to see shiraz, merlot and cabernet sauvignon as well; if cooler climate examples. Due to Melbourne’s proximity it was Victoria’s first wine region, and one of its most populated, with 80 wineries.

Tar & Roses 2011 Tempranillo ($24.95) is blended from two regions, Heathcote (64%) and Alpine Valleys (36%), located deeper inland and at higher altitude at about one o’clock from Melbourne. Alpine Valleys is apparently as pretty as it sounds, a small region in Australia’s ski country with only ten wineries that is carving out a reputation for alternative European varieties. Heathcote to the west is lower altitude, warmer and larger and known for its bigger reds like shiraz. With similarity to the plains of northern Spain it is no surprise to see tempranillo popping up.

Buller Victoria TawnyTahbilk Museum Release MarsanneTahbilk Museum Release 2007 Marsanne ($22.95) is from the Nagambie Lakes, a sub-appellation of the Goulburn Valley, at twelve o’clock and two hours due north from Melbourne. It is a hot, fairly flat valley land with the Goulburn River and Nagambie Lakes as central features. There are about 20 wineries, and the wine history goes way back to the 19th Century, with Tahbilk’s large planting of marsanne – a white Rhone variety – at the centre of the story. Don’t miss this wine!

Buller Victoria Tawny ($18.95) is a nod to the era of the mid 20th Century when fortified wines, or stickies, were all the fashion. Most of them came from the searing interior of Rutherglen, even deeper inland at twelve o’clock.  It still makes incredibly good fortified muscats, which aficionados rank in the same league as the best Portuguese ports, but the 20 wineries in the area also make red and white table wines. The value expressed in this rich, sweet Buller Tawny is silly good.

Camelback Shiraz 2008Pyrenees Ridge ShirazCamelback 2008 Shiraz ($27.95) is from the Sunbury region, very close to Melbourne, inland at eleven o’clock.  It is a fairly cool, lower altitude and flatter region of grasslands and low hills known for a cool climate take on whatever it grows, with shiraz being the leading varietal. If you wanted to get right off the plane and being wine touring, Sunbury’s ten wineries are closest to Melbourne airport. And by the way, the cabernet franc grown in this region would be a fine transition for travellers from Ontario.

Pyrenees Ridge 2009 Shiraz ($20.95) is the sole representative on this release from the arc of five major regions that lie from nine to eleven o’clock farther inland northwest of Melbourne. The others are Macedon Ranges, Bendigo, Grampians and Henty. They are regions of varying altitude with Pyrenees being located at ten o’clock in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, a subset of the Great Dividing Range. This is fairly warm, dry region with shiraz being the superstar, and the home to about 30 wineries, most of them small, family properties like Pyrenees Ridge.

And so ends the Counter-Clockwise Victoria Wine Tour, at least with wines on this release. The last official region at seven o’clock is Geelong, which lies opposite Mornington. It too is a maritime region, on the rise with pinot noir.  And by the way, despite the arbitrarily drawn state line between Victoria and South Australia to the west, I would group Coonawarra climatically and stylistically with the wines of Victoria as well.

Ontario Refreshes Best

Coolness is relative. Melbourne sits at 37 degrees latitude in the southern hemisphere. Niagara is at 43 degrees in the north. The distance between the two latitudes, if they were in the same hemisphere, would be about 800 kilometres. So indeed Niagara is a much cooler place to make wine than Victoria.  And it explains why our wines are so refreshing compared to those of Australia. The difference in feel was immediately recognizable as I tasted the Niagara whites and rosés in the same room as the Victoria wines at Vintages lab. Even as the Ontario wines warmed, they had a certain spryness and crispness. And the three highlighted below also show great purity, balance and varietal accuracy.

Malivoire GewürztraminerFeatherstone Sauvignon BlancSouthbrook Triomphe Organic Cabernet Franc RoséSouthbrook Triomphe 2011 Organic Cabernet Franc Rosé ($19.95) is a real gem; the only organically produced rosé in the province. The cab franc aromatics are as vivid as a stop-action photo; there is almost crystalline purity and the drinkability is spot on. I would prefer a touch less sweetness but I know this will please the vast majority. Featherstone 2011 Sauvignon Blanc ($19.95) from Twenty Mile Bench crackles with the same kind of purity and intensity, all nettles and lime and bright 2011 acidity.  And Malivoire 2010 Gewürztraminer ($24.95) sourced from vineyards in the broader Niagara Escarpment appellation, may not be as refreshing but gewurz fans will go crazy for its precision, detail and veracity. And by the way, it joins the ranks of several very good Ontario gewurz’s I’ve tasted in recent months. I think our winemakers are finding the handle with this ornery grape variety.

Mature Reds for the Heat Wave

I was surprised to find a handful of very good, not hugely expensive mature reds on this mid-summer release; just as you may be surprised at my suggestion that they might ideal for summer drinking. Well it works like this. Sometimes we drink at night. After you have put all those boisterous daytime rieslings and sauvignons to bed, and you are on the deck as the air softens and little chill descends, a smooth, rich red could be ideal.  I am conjuring up a cheese plate as well.

Pasquale Petrera Fatalone PrimitivoChâteau Lamothe CissacLivio Sassetti Pertimali Brunello Di MontalcinoThere are at least a half dozen mature reds on this release but three are particularly good. The best buy at only $16.95 is Pasquale Petrera Fatalone 2006 Primitivo from the Gioia del Colle appellation in Puglia. It is wonderfully complex, spicy and engaging – reminding me of Lebanon’s Chateau Musar. Or re-visit a terrific now maturing, very tidy Bordeaux from the excellent 2005 vintage. I remembering extolling this vintage a couple of years ago, and Château Lamothe-Cissac 2005 ($23.95) from Haut-Médoc was a reminder of just how good it still is. And from Italy, out rolls another lovely Brunello di Montalcino. Livio Sassetti Pertimali 2006 is sensually smooth and loaded with woodsy aromas and flavours, and a very good buy at $47.95. Bring on the sunset.

Three Classics for Collectors

Again, mid-summer is not the time that most think of buying grand wines for their cellars. So for those who have taken their eye off the ball, here are three classics worth your consideration.

Hewitt Vineyard Estate Grown 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($63) from Napa Valley, is a classic Rutherford cabernet, a bit reserved at the moment but very complex, solid and ageworthy in the manner of a top Bordeaux, as opposed to a flashy, juicy California cab. The vineyard occupies hallowed ground in the neighbourhood of Dominus and Mondavi Reserve.

Every farm in Chianti seems to have a super-Tuscan blend of sangiovese, merlot and cabernet. Some are more famous than others, some are way more expensive than others. This great value comes from a less well-known farm near Siena in southern Chianti. The 21 hectare clay and limestone vineyard was replanted in 1998 to add merlot and cabernet. Canonica a Cerreto 2006 Sandiavolo, is a steal at $24.95 – just beginning to offer maturing complexity, but structured well enough to age another ten years.

After tasting through a raft of chardonnays from around the world, I landed on one that really moved me. Domaine Latour-Giraud 2009 Les Narvaux Meursault is a wine of impressive cohesion, complexity and depth, and if you are a cool climate chardonnay fan you will not regret paying $45.95. White Burgundy from the hot 2009 vintage is often maligned for being too ripe and flabby, and certainly there are examples that I have tasted. This however struck me as very well structured and age-worthy.

Hewitt Cabernet SauvignonCanonica A Cerreto SandiavoloDomaine Latour Giraud Les Narvaux Meursault

Will ICU @ I4C ?

i4c 2012 NiagaraAnd on that note, the long-awaited International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c) rolls this weekend in Niagara. We pray for cooler temperatures, but after 36+ this week anything will feel cooler. And the lakeside venues at Jackson-Triggs on Friday night and the Vineland Research Station on Saturday night should help. John Szabo and I have put our heads and the wines together for our Chardonnay Re-Boot Camp seminar at 4pm Saturday. We will explore what it means to be “Burgundian”.  It’s a term loosely tossed in the Chardonnay-dom, so we will examine white Burgundy alongside Chardonnays from Ontario and elsewhere to focus on what characteristics are unique to Burgundy versus characteristics that might be attributed to similar climates and winemaking techniques. We are almost sold out.  Tickets for the evening grand tasting that follows immediately after our seminar on Saturday evening are still available. So even if you can only spare four or five hours on Saturday, you will get maximum benefit of the I4C.  More details here.

That’s it for now.  From the July 21st Vintages release:

David’s Featured Wines
Victoria Wine Picks
All Reviews

David Lawrason
VP of Wine


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Margaret Swaine’s Wine Picks: Red Regional Classics

These reds are classics in their region and rightly considered Vintages Essentials at the LCBO.  Find these via WineAlign.com/MargaretsPicks.

Crasto Vinho Tinto 2010
$14.95 (88 Points)
This dry red from Portugal’s dramatic Douro region is made from the same grapes used in port production, namely roriz, tinta barroca, touriga franca and touriga nacional. A deep purple opaque colour, it’s intense and fruity with rich yet dry port-like flavours. Well structured, oak comes through in the finish. Perfect with a juicy lamb burger.

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2009
$15.95 (89 Points)
Made from the lively gamay grape, Beaujolais is a chillable red that suits summer to a tee. Purple-edged garnet, medium-full in body, this has easy, smooth tannins and spiced cranberry, red berry flavour. It can handle the spice of a Jamaican jerk, Portuguese piri piri-grilled chicken or peppercorn-crusted tuna.

Perrin Les Sinards Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009
$34.95 (92 Points)
From one of southern Rhône’s finest producers, this beguiling red is made from 70% grenache with the rest syrah and mourvèdre. Medium-full bodied, complex, ripe and fleshy with layers of seductive flavours, its style is come hither and enjoy. It has notes of fig, cherry, red berry with a touch of garrigue and silky tannins. Have with grilled duck breast, venison or other game meats.

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Victoria – Australia’s New Cool; John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for July 21, 2012

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Victoria – Australia’s New Cool; A Loire Valley Quartet; Ten Top Summer Whites.

July 21st will be a cool release. There are plenty of thirst-quenching antidotes to summer heat recommended in this report, from no fewer than ten different countries. The main feature is “Hot New Wines from Cool Climate Victoria”. The WineAlign crew sat down in late May to taste through a couple of dozen wines from across the state of Victoria (capital city: Melbourne), many of which will hit the shelves on July 21st. It was a perfect opportunity to dig deeply into Australia’s new image as a producer of more than just shiraz and cute labels. Regional distinction is the new focus, alongside cool climate expressions and an expansion of the varietal repertoire. Read on to rediscover the breadth and depth of what’s coming up from down under.

The mini feature of this release covers the Loire Valley, long a source of extreme values, and more importantly, of wines those in the business love to drink (and are secretly glad they’ve stayed out of the mainstream and consequent price inflation). Get the inside track on the top four in this release. And to supplement all this refreshment, I have added a list of brilliantly crunchy and crackling whites from Spain to South Africa and New Zealand to Niagara, all yours to discover on July 21st.

Victoria: Oz’s New Cool Spot

Victoria Wine Regions - Wine Australia

Wine Regions of Victoria

Grampians, Nagambie Lakes, Heathcote, Bendigo… These may not be household names yet, but they are just a few of the regions in the Australian state of Victoria that are emerging as sources of more refined elegant wines, what many believe is the future for Oz. Victoria is Australia’s smallest mainland state, but also the most densely populated, a demographic remnant of the discovery of gold in 1851, which led to the largest gold rush in history. When the rivers of gold dried up, people stayed on; some planted grapes. Most moved to the state capital of Melbourne, where nearly three-quarters of the population reside today. Victoria is in the southeast corner of the country, bordered by South Australia to the west, New South Wales to the north and the Bass Straight to the south, opposite Tasmania.

Victoria is Australia’s coolest and wettest mainland state, second only to Tasmania in annual rainfall. Cool air from the Southern Ocean heavily moderates the coastal zones, thought Victoria’s coldest regions are found in the Victorian Alps, part of the Great Dividing Range (what the Aussies call “The Big Crinkle”), which runs east-west through the centre of the state. Wine regions with names like Alpine Valleys, Strathbogie Ranges and Pyrenees give you an idea of the topography. The temperature hit nearly -12ºC in June 1970, damned cold by Aussie standards, and a cool day even for Canadians.

Yarra Valley - Wine Australia

Yarra Valley Vineyards
Victoria, Australia

Victoria is certainly not the only Australian state with cool climate regions (parts of Western Australia, Coonawarra, the Adelaide Hills and Clare and Eden Valleys in South Australia come to mind), but it is, along with Tasmania, the only state that is able to hang its hat predominantly on cooler climate style wine – where the majority of regions could rightly be classified as relatively cool – which is a real marketing bonus. With time, Victoria and cool may well become closely linked in consumers minds, something the folks at Wine Australia are keen to see happen.

Innocent Bystander ChardonnayFor me, many of Victoria’s wines are indeed dramatic departures from the typically broad, super ripe styles commonly encountered in better-known regions like the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in South Australia. The WineAlign tasting of nearly 30 wines from Victoria in May clearly underscored this regional difference. And while I’m still some ways off from being able to distinguish between shiraz from the Pyrenees and the Grampians, for example, various combinations of variety and region are increasingly well articulated. Among the already established expressions out of Victoria’s 20 different regions, I’d count chardonnay and pinot noir from the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley as classics. Both of these Ocean-moderated regions are clearly well-suited for pinot and chard built on acidity, freshness and moderate alcohol, as evinced by wines such as the 2011 Innocent Bystander Chardonnay, Yarra Valley ($23.95) and the 2010 Stonier Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula ($24.95 – Vintages September 29th, 2012 release).

Caledonia Australis Reserve ChardonnayMy top rated Victorian chardonnay, however, comes from the relatively unknown region of Gippsland around the town of Leongatha, further south even than the Mornington Peninsula: 2008 Caledonia Australis Reserve Chardonnay ($39.95). The name of the estate was borrowed from 19th century Scottish explorer Angus McMillan, who upon gazing over eastern Victoria from Mount Macleod was so strongly struck by the landscape’s resemblance to his native Scotland that he named the place “Caledonia”, the Roman name for present-day Scotland, and “Australis”, meaning “southern”. Scotland in Australia? That’s Victoria. In any case the wine is a classy, refined yet substantial example of Australian chardonnay, with uncommon depth and richness on the palate.

Kooyong Massale Pinot NoirDe Bortoli Windy Peak Pinot NoirBut of all the wines presented to the WineAlign panel in May, the pinots stole the show. There’s a terrific range of styles and expressions, all within the cool climate framework of Victoria’s more temperate wine regions. The Yarra Valley is represented in this release by the fine value 2010 De Bortoli Windy Peak Pinot Noir at $17.95, while the Mornington Peninsula is highlighted by the excellent, if a little idiosyncratic, 2011 Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir ($39.95). Kooyong is the sister estate of Port Philip Estate, both owned by the Gjergja family, dedicated to producing pinot noir of the highest order. Expect more on Kooyong in an upcoming Vintages mini-feature in September on Mornington Peninsula pinots.

Tar & Roses TempranilloTahbilk Museum Release MarsanneAside from these classics, Victoria has also proven its suitability for some less mainstream grapes. Worth pointing out is the superb 2011 Tar & Roses Tempranillo ($24.95). A blend of tempranillo from both Heathcote and Alpine Valleys in Central Victoria, this is a dead ringer for excellent Ribera del Duero, one of the most surprising finds at the tasting. And for the intrepid in search of an intriguing experience, don’t miss the 2007 Tahbilk Museum Release Marsanne, Nagambie Lakes ($22.95). It has a fascinatingly complex profile of smoky honeysuckle, wildflower honey, fresh and dried basil, peach crumble, lemon custard and more, plus a balanced, crisp and lean, low alcohol (12.5%) and high acid palate that’s still fleshy, with tremendous length and depth for the price. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a captivating explorer’s selection.

Look for more on Victorian Wine from David Lawrason’s dedicated report, to be published on WineAlign next week.

A Classy Quartet from the Loire Valley

Jean Paul Mollet L'antique Pouilly FuméBernard Reverdy & Fils SancerreI was impressed by several of the Loire selections in the July 21st release, each a regional archetype. The 2010 Bernard Reverdy & Fils Sancerre ($22.95) is a top notch, classy and classically proportioned example of Sancerre, with great poise, balance and tension and a marked terroir component. Across the river, the 2010 Jean-Paul Mollet l’Antique Pouilly-Fumé ($25.95) likewise offers the typically smoky/flinty character of sauvignon blanc Pouilly, though decant this before serving for best results.

Vincent Raimbault Les Terrages Demi Sec VouvrayChâteau De Chasseloir Cuvée Des Ceps CentenairesIf there’s aged goat cheese, rillets, lobster or crayfish on the menu, reach for the 2010 Vincent Raimbault Les Terrages Demi Sec Vouvray ($17.95). It has immediately recognizable chenin blanc character, with honey, citrus, green apple, wet hay and beeswax on the nose, not to mention riveting acids that more or less cancel the pinch of residual sugar. Perhaps the one exception to the archetypal angle to the Loire offerings is the 2007 Château de Chasseloir Cuvée des Ceps Centenaires ($18.95). It’s unusual to see a 2007 muscadet just hitting the shelves now, but those on the inside know just how well these wines can age. This example is excellent, starting to deliver some creamy, lightly oxidative notes, but a long way from tired to be sure. The palate is held together by tight acids and stony-mineral flavours, while the palate lingers on and on with lightly honeyed nuances – a terrific wine.

Ten Top Summer Whites

And if all of the above refreshments are yet still not enough, click on the link below for a shopping list of 10 exceptionally crisp, dry, characterful whites for summer drinking, with all but one under $25. There’s representation from South Africa, France, Austria, Greece, Spain, Italy, Niagara, California and New Zealand. I’m pretty sure there’s something there for you.  And for Chardonnay lovers, join David Lawrason and I on July 21st to celebrate the I4C with an exclusive Cool Chardonnay Boot Camp for WineAlign members.

Victorian Top Ten
Ten Top Summer Whites
All Reviews

Cheers,

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier


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The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Wine education for us all – Valpolicella ~ Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Quintessentially Italian:  The most important DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) (or subregion) in the Veneto, Valpolicella is one of the most famous light-bodied reds in Italy. Located right above starry-eyed Verona, in many ways Valpolicella might remind drinkers of Chianti: easygoing, fresh, and carrying that extra degree of acidity that’s so important with food pairings.

Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico

And like Chianti, there are regrettably more bad versions than good. At the top end, Valpolicella is just as complex and meaningful as any great Italian wine. At bottom, however, the commercial versions often taste artificially sweet, underripe, and excessively acidic. Fortunately, there are nowadays many bottlings, relatively inexpensive, which provide much satisfaction. Most of these hail from the Classico (or heartland) part of the region, with vines located on the best parts of the hillsides.

Tedeschi Valpolicella Classico

According to regulations, Valpolicella must be made from 40-70% Corvina Veronese, 20-40% Rondinella, and 5-25% Molinara, with the option of up to 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Negrara, Barbera, and Sangiovese (as well as a few others). Excepting the very best bottlings, the oak influence in Valpolicella is minimal. Basic versions are usually aged for up to a year in Slavonian oak casks, while those labelled ‘Superiore’ require longer maturations. Here, the primary aim is freshness and a reasonable upgrade in complexity, not tannic extraction or more powerful flavours.

Zenato Valpolicella

Indeed, the key to appreciating good Valpolicella is discovering its gentleness and easygoing attitude. When young, aromas should include fresh cherries, red plums, light savoury nuances, cedar, underbrush, and the slightest hint of almond bitterness. On the palate, the ideal Valpolicella should emphasize these flavours while maintaining as fresh and rejuvenating a disposition as possible. Most Valpolicella should be served between 10-12°C. Though the best examples can be cellared for up to ten years or more, basic versions should be drunk young. Food pairing options are diverse, though pasta dishes (especially lasagna) and light game birds (especially Cornish hen) are a few personal favourites. When in doubt, just follow your own taste buds.

Click here for a few gems from the 7 July 2012 Vintages Release 

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Margaret Swaine’s Wine Picks: Perfect for barbecues

Perfect for patio sipping and barbecue fare, a rosé, white and red that are value priced and easy to enjoy. Find them via WineAlign.com/MargaretsPicks.

Chateau Val Joanis Syrah Rosé 2011
$14.95 (87 Points)
From Luberon, in the south of France, this lightly orange coloured rosé is grown on pebbly soil that gives it a nice hint of minerals and spice. A summer favourite at Vintages, it’s lightly aromatic with red berry flavours. Slightly off-dry with a bright and fresh appeal, this year’s vintage is not shy at 13.5% alcohol.

Bastianich Adriatico Friulano 2010
$18.95 (88 Points)
Friulano, an indigenous grape grown in Friuli in northeastern Italy, is the most typical white of the region. This expresses the grape and the terroir well. Medium bodied with a soft mouth feel and spiced pear and white peach fruit character, its fresh acidity gives it good balance. A slight hint of raw almonds adds intrigue.

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Old Vine Zinfandel 2010
$17.95 (88 Points)
California’s zinfandel-grape reds seem tailor-made for barbecue meals. Ravenswood has made this version smooth and rounded on the palate with lots of ripe sweet raspberry, black cherry and blackberry flavours. A nuance of wood spice from a year in French oak  helps it pair well with barbecue ribs and slow-smoked pork belly.

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