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Red, White and New; Lawrason’s Take on Vintages Feb 2 Release

Winter Warming Reds, Ontario Whites and New Zealand’s Scintillating Syrahs

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Valentine’s Day is the theme of this release, but it is a candy coated selection that doesn’t seem particularly relevant or romantic. I was much more struck by some of the big reds – both expensive reds and great value reds – that will warm the winter soul and fuel romance in their own in way. I was also struck by two snappy Ontario whites to put away for a spring day. And finally I want to bring you a report on New Zealand syrahs – one of the great revelations of my current stint in the other hemisphere.

More Expensive Reds

Villa Girardi Amarone Della Valpolicella ClassicoBarossa Valley Estate Ebenezer ShirazCirrus Syrah 2007Cirrus 2007 Syrah from Stellenbosch ($33.95) is one of those wines that could make you re-evaluate your perceptions of South Africa. It has certainly re-enforced my thinking that South Africa has gone off on the wrong tangent in emulating Bordeaux (cabernet) when the climate and terroir is much more south of France/Australia. This is profound, edgy, challenging wine. Not a thing of grace, but it has energy.

Barossa Valley Estate 2007 Ebenezer Shiraz from South Australia ($40.95) is absolutely delicious and virtually at peak readiness – a real cracker. Ebenezer is made from 100% Barossa grapes that just miss the cut for the famous E & E Black Pepper Shiraz, which became legendary in the 1980s as one of the monumental wines of the region.

Villa Girardi 2008 Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico ($41.95) is from a fairly new winery established in 1986 – new by Italian standards. I have always enjoyed the elegant and more polished touch of this house, perhaps having to do with the limestone soils of their estate near Verona. Regardless, this is a real smoothie and a cuddler.

Less Expensive Reds

Chateau Tanunda Barossa Tower ShirazHecht and Bannier Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2010Aneto Red 2009If the Ebenezer above is just a bit rich for your pocketbook have a go at Chateau Tanunda 2010 Barossa Tower Shiraz ($18.95). It is not as complex and deep, but still a Barossa classic at an excellent price. It is claimed that the restored Chateau Tanunda – an iconic building that really does have a tower – is the birthplace of the South Australian wine industry in 1854. Many of Australia’s best winemakers have worked in its cellars.

Hecht & Bannier 2010 Côtes Du Roussillon-Villages ($23.95) is yet, another rich and polished wine, this time from the sunniest corner of France up against the Spanish border in the Mediterranean southeast. The boys of Hecht & Bannier only went into business ten years ago but they have done a great job as “negociant eleveurs” to highlight wines from various appellations and present them in a modern style, at good prices.

Aneto 2009 Red from the Douro Valley is a fine example of the youth movement underway in Portugal’s famed port region. Founded only in 2001, with a mere seven hectares of vineyard, Francisco Montenegro has fashioned a rich wine with poise and structure, and delivered it for only $19.95. It really is quite delicious, yet built to last as well.

Ontario Whites

Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2009Tawse Sketches Of Niagara RieslingTawse 2010 Sketches of Niagara Riesling is not one of the nuanced single vineyard biodynamically farmed Tawse rieslings. But nonetheless, priced at only $17.95, it captured a gold medal in the Canadian Wine Awards last year and helped propel Tawse to its third straight honour as Canada’s Winery of the Year. There is an infectious brightness and balance to this riesling.

Norman Hardie 2009 Chardonnay ($35) hails from a Niagara vineyard, not Hardie’s home base in Prince Edward County. But the combination of a leaner, high acid vintage in 2009, as well as Hardie’s riveting winemaking style makes this a mouth-watering chardonnay of the traditional Burgundy school. The length is quite remarkable.

New Zealand’s Scintillating Syrahs

This report was penned in New Zealand when I was attending Pinot Noir NZ 2013, a massive event held every three years in Wellington, the windy capital, to celebrate NZ’s most famous red grape. There were certainly some wonderful wines and great surprises among the hundreds of pinots I tasted, and I will report on them in due course. But for now I want to talk syrah, the great revelation of the journey.

Syrah is a newcomer to New Zealand, a place once thought to be too cold for syrah to ripen properly. But around the world, syrah keeps proving that it can perform well in cooler or moderate climates, as long as one is seeking a more northern Rhone-like expression of syrah, and not an Australian shiraz expression. The northern Rhone wines of Hermitage and Côte Rotie, are after all, from a more moderated climate that straddles continental and Mediterranean.

Gimblett Gravels

First syrah planted in Hawkes Bay’s Gimblett Gravels in 1984

What is the Rhone expression? It is mid-weight, more acid and mineral driven style of syrah with lifted scents of pepper and smoked meat amid the fruit. The fruit is normally “black fruit” like black cherry, blackberry, but in cooler climates it can express as red fruit as well – raspberry, currants. The syrahs of New Zealand move between the red and black fruit spectrums, depending on microclimates, but there is no question that they are Rhone-like and not Australian.

This point was amply made in a blind syrah tasting staged by the Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers that pitted eight Hawke’s Bay syrahs against three Rhones and one Australian (that stood out like a sore thumb). It was more difficult to separate the NZ and Rhone syrahs, although I did well enough getting two out of the three. The organizers of such taste-offs always claim the purpose is not necessarily “to win” but to show their wines belong on the same playing field. In this case my favourite wine was a terrific Cote Rotie from Yves Cuilleron, and my least favourite wine was also a Rhone – Jaboulet’s legendary Hermitage La Chapelle, which was a disappointment to one and all.

But that left the Hawke’s Bay syrahs comfortably in the middle ground, and those from the excellent 2010 vintage really stood out – Crossroads 2010 Syrah Winemaker’s Collection, Craggy Ranch 2010 Syrah Gimblett Gravels and Trinity Hill 2010 Syrah Gimblett Gravels, all hit ratings above 90 pts, as did Villa Maria 2009 Reserve Syrah. All were perfumed, complex, elegant, almost silky yet finishing with depth and firmness. Later, still in Hawkes Bay, Trinity Hill would rise to the top again as I encountered one of the great red wines of New Zealand.  Trinity Hill 2010 Hommage Syrah, is one of those wines that leaps from the glass and imprints directly into your memory banks. Sourced from very low yielding, 15 year old vines in the Gimblett Gravels sub-region, it sells for $120 in NZ. Yes folks – Hawke’s Bay syrah over $100. And worth it!

Trinity Hills Winery

Trinity Hills Winery, home of
Hawkes Bay’s finest syrah

But Hawke’s Bay, with its moderate climate and seams of excellent well drained, riverbed gravel soils is not the only place I tasted great syrah. One of the first wines I encountered on Waiheke Island off shore of Auckland was the silky, quite dense and powerful Man O’War 2010 Dreadnaught Syrah, from a young vineyard planted on a steep volcanic slope that almost seems to rise from the sea. In the Martinborough region at the bottom of the South Island I tasted a fine 90 point Kusuda 2010 Syrah, among others. And even farther south in Marlborough I encountered excellent examples in Fromm 2010 La Strada and Staete Lane 2009, the latter organically grown.

So how relevant is all this to us here and now in Canada? NZ syrah is still only being produced in relatively small quantities and not much finds its way to us yet. However, VINTAGES did release two excellent examples (and only two) last fall, and both remain in stock despite achieving 90 point WineAlign ratings. And nor are they very expensive. So I encourage you to try them – Trinity Hill Syrah 2010 and Alpha Domus The Barnstormer Syrah 2010, to get a sense of the elegant styling, and to glimpse what will surely be an important wine in NZ’s future.

And that’s it for this time. I did not get to taste all the wines on the February 2 release, but I will try to catch up on my return. Next stop is Nelson and a conference built around aromatic white grape varieties; then back to Canada and B.C. for the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna on Feb 8 and 9.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From the February 2, 2013 Vintages release:

David’s Featured Wines
All Reviews


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Beringer Napa Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008


Rosehill Wine Cellars

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Letter from Gisborne; John Szabo’s New Zealand

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Dateline: Gisborne, New Zealand’s North Island
January 22, 2013

Gisborne. A sleepy little town. I struggle to see signs of civilization as the small prop plane circles out over Poverty Bay before heading back inland to touch down on the small, grass-lined airstrip. The airport is a single, low-slung building. Lots of private, single-prop aircraft line the field, and I get the feeling I’ve landed at some far-flung outpost, which, it seems, I have. I’m struck by the scent of the sea and of wildflowers and of lush, sub-tropical flora as I step out of our small plane onto the tarmac and into the bright summer morning sun. 

Hertz Rental Car Welcome

Hertz Rental Car Welcome

At the Hertz rental car desk I’m greeted by two friendly ladies who know my name before I even open my mouth. “You must be Mr. Szabo”, exclaims one. I nod, weary after 30 hours of travel, barely able to string together a muffled syllable. The longhaired brunette, welcoming and bubbly, informs me of the score of the Leafs game from Saturday night. She’s better informed about the Leafs than I am. It turns out that she has cousins in Mississauga. Damned, it’s a small world.

She leads me to my rental car and opens the right side door. I start to throw my knapsack down onto the passenger seat as I always do, until I realize it’s not the passenger’s side. It’s the driver’s side. Oh yeah, this is a former British colony and they drive on the wrong side of the road. Time to pay attention. I jump into the car and head to the Emerald hotel in ‘downtown’ Gisborne. I pass several roundabouts and a single one traffic light on my way in. I check my cell phone; coverage is still weak in this part of the world.

Nick Nobilo and his GW vines

Nick Nobilo and his GW vines

There’s just enough time to strap on the trainers and head out for a quick run before I’m to be picked up by Nick Nobilo, formerly of the eponymous estate, sold to BRL Hardy’s/Constellation in 2000, and now the proprietor of the boutique Vinoptima Estate winery. I turn left out of the hotel and pick up the nearby trail down by the river that leads out to the sea. Within seven minutes I’m on a expanse of beach that must be 30 meters wide. Several surfers in wet suits are out limping along on modest waves. I can’t resist, and after a few minutes of running on the soft sand, I take off the shoes and jump in the cold, salty water. It’s heaven. Just what you need after 24 hours in a tin can.

Today, Gisborne is known for it’s voluptuous chardonnay, viognier and gewürztraminer. Few reds are grown, though there’s speculation that malbec may prove suitable, and there’s a strong case for chenin blanc, based pretty much entirely on the efforts of Millton Vineyards to date.

I have a fine time with Nick Nobilo. Here’s a dedicated man. After pioneering so many successful wines, including New Zealand’s first commercial pinot noir in 1973, the most popular Muller-Thurgau brand of the 70s and 80s (“Nobilo Muller-Thurgau German Style”) and NZ’s most successful export wine of the 80s, he returned to Gisborne after the big cash-out with Hardy’s in 2000 to nurture his first true love: gewüztraminer. It’s an affair that dates back to the 60s when, after planting a trial vineyard at the family estate outside of Auckland, he fell for the variety’s “strong physiology” and unique, perfumed taste.

Auckland proved not to be the spot for gewürztaminer, but Gisborne is another story. Today, it’s the only wine Nobilo makes: Vinoptima Gewürztraminer Reserve (and very occasionally, tiny quantities of a nobly rotten version of the same). We tour vineyards; we taste a mini vertical of 04, 06, 08, 09, and 10. It’s astonishing how well these wines age.

Foudres at Vinoptima

Foudres at Vinoptima

Usually GW is in the drink-as-young-as-possible category, but the extract and concentration of Nobilo’s wines give them the power to age. Nobilo picks very ripe at 25-26º brix when the skins of the grape are deep pink-garnet. He’s not concerned about low acidity or excessive sugar, as he believes that phenolics (extract from grape juice and skins with a pleasantly bitter taste) provide the balance for the wine’s high alcohol and residual sugar. He approaches winemaking like a chef approaches a dish, combining as many ingredients as necessary to create layers of flavour: some wild yeast ferments, some inoculated, some parcels aged in big old German oak foudres, of different sizes, some stainless components. That’s the attention to detail one can effectively manage when there’s only one grape variety in play. In the end, my favourites are the 06 and 04.

After a welcome spread of patés, terrines, salads, grilled skewered prawns, marinated chicken and bacon-wrapped scallops (pronounced skah-lopes here), and cheese, its time to move on to Millton Vineyards. 

(Vinoptima is Represented in Ontario by : John Hanna & Sons)

John Szabo, MS

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25th Anniversary Cuvée Weekend Wine Experience • Exclusive WineAlign VIP access

Exclusive WineAlign VIP Access to Cuvée’s 25th Anniversary Party

Celebrate Ontario’s finest at the Cuvée Grand Tasting Gala and Après Cuvée

Cuvée Weekend Wine ExperienceOntario’s hottest wine event kicks off on Friday evening, March 1st, with the Grand Tasting Gala at the Niagara’s Fallsview Casino Resort. New features have been added in 2013, making the gala event more buzz-worthy than ever before. Over 40 winemakers will play favourites and each will pour a wine for which they feel most proud of.

As always, guests have the opportunity to mingle with the winemakers as they sample locally inspired cuisine prepared at live cooking stations by 10 of Niagara’s top chefs. Après Cuvée is returning in 2013, so as the Grand Tasting winds down, the party keeps going with live music, dancing, an Icewine and Bubbles Bar and Craft Beer.

Cuvée en Route

Each Cuvée ticket is also your passport to Cuvée en Route, which allows guests to tour and taste along Niagara’s Wine Route from Friday through Sunday. En Route participants will enjoy exclusive tastings, special meals and menu items at participating wineries and restaurants. Cuvée en Route guests have the exclusive opportunity to shop for featured Cuvée wines direct from the wineries.

Pre-Gala VIP Tasting for WineAlign members

Cuvée Weekend Wine ExperienceAs part of an exclusive offer, WineAlign members are invited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Cuvée in style with VIP Access.

In addition to the Grand Tasting Gala, Après Cuvée and Cuvée en Route, WineAlign Members are invited to come early (5:30pm) to attend the pre-event VIP Gala tasting – which until now has only been open to wine writers and Ontario wine industry leaders.

To take advantage of this exclusive WineAlign VIP offer, you can order your tickets on-line, by phone at (905) 684-8688, or download and fax this this order form.  If ordering by phone, don’t forget to mention that you are a WineAlign VIP!

Ticket Info:

WineAlign VIP Access Ticket • March 1 to 3 • $200 per person
Includes access to the VIP Pre-Gala Tasting, the Grand Tasting Gala, Aprés Cuvée and Cuvée en Route

Schedule for Friday March 1, 2013:

WineAlign VIP Access Tasting – 5:30pm to 7:30pm
Grand Tasting – 7:30 pm to 10 pm (black-tie optional)
Après Cuvée – 9:30 pm to Midnight

Schedule for the week-end, March 1 – 3, 2013:

Cuvée en Route: Visit the wineries at your leisure, Friday through Sunday

For more information on Cuvée 2013, including a list of participating wineries and chefs, our sponsors and special rates on accommodations, visit Cuvée 2013.

Making Our Community Stronger

A tax receipt will be issued for a portion of the ticket price. Proceeds will go to the Niagara Community Foundation, which builds and manages income earning endowment funds to support charitable activities. 


Cuvée 2013 - WineAlign VIP Access

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Serving Wine Right; John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for Feb 2, 2013

Why Temperature Matters, a Trio of Sparklers and Top Ten Smart Buys

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

You’ve researched and emptied your pockets to get the right wine for the occasion, and then, disappointment. But before you blame the winemaker or WineAlign critic, consider: was it served at the right temperature? Just as cheese served straight from the fridge offers only a shadow of its flavour potential, and warm soft drinks seem sugary and aggressively carbonated, service temperature has a significant effect on wine aroma, taste and texture. Read past my Top Ten Smart Buys and a trio of sparklers to find out how and why.

Top Ten Smart Buys

Marimar Estate La Masía Pinot NoirHecht and Bannier Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2010Topping the smart buys list this week is another fine value from Hecht & Bannier, the 2010 Côtes Du Roussillon-Villages ($23.95). I’ve highlighted wines from this premium negociant before, as the quality/pleasure/price rapport is generally excellent across the range. Hecht and Bannier are merchants who purchase grapes and wines from growers throughout the Midi of France, from Provence to Perpignan. The majority of vineyards are certified organic, very old and low yielding. The house has no contracts with growers, which means flexibility to select the best grapes/juice/wine of each vintage. And despite being known as the highest-paying negociant in the region, the value offered is excellent. This wine is comprised of grenache from the village of Maury (also known for it’s amazing port-like fortified grenache), plus syrah and carignan from Belesta and Caramany, and mourvèdre from Tautavel. The resulting blend is explosive and concentrated, with ultra ripe but not jammy black and blue fruit, cold smoke, blueberry pie, and wet schist, while the palate reveals substantial structure and depth, with remarkable density and complexity. It’s easily the equal of many Chateauneuf-du-Papes at half the price.

Also excellent is the 2007 Marimar Estate La Masía Pinot Noir ($34.95). Marimar Torres is the daughter of Catalan legend Miguel Torres. She moved to California in 1975 and began planting the Don Miguel vineyard in 1986, focusing exclusively on pinot noir and chardonnay. The estate was converted to organic farming in 2003 and is now pursuing biodynamic certification. La Masía is made from grapes grown in Green Valley, the coolest end of the Russian River Valley. At five years of age, this is nicely mature, inviting and ripe, with excellent balance, complexity and class. It’s quite a ride for the money.

Studert Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling KabinettPoderi Angelini Primitivo Di ManduriaEmiliana Novas Gran Reserva Carmenère Cabernet SauvignonI never tire of recommending Mosel Riesling, nor drinking it, and fans of the genre shouldn’t miss the outstanding 2008 Studert-Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett ($16.95). I constantly marvel at how much flavour intensity can be lashed onto such a light and lithe frame – the Mosel is about the only place on earth where this happens with comforting regularity. This 2008 is a textbook example of kabinett, medium-dry up front though cleansed and dried out on the back palate by riveting acids. Pure, honey-slathered slate, peach and apricot flavours linger on amazingly.

Amarone drinkers will be pleased at the quality/price ratio offered by the 2008 Poderi Angelini Primitivo Di Manduria ($17.95). It’s a complex and refined example of primitivo, with a complex mix of smoky, savory, dried fruit and herbal flavours that’s indeed reminiscent of good quality Amarone.

And the 2010 Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Carmenère/Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.95) is a terrific value for fans of full flavoured reds. Emiliana’s organically farmed vineyard in the Colchagua Valley delivers a bold, aromatic very fruity and spicy, vegetal and floral blend, with substantial body and suave texture that will please widely.

Also in the top ten smart buys you’ll find a concentrated old vine chenin blanc and a delicious sub-$14 chardonnay from South Africa, a stylish agiorgitiko from Nemea in Greece, A zesty Dâo red from Portugal and a fine value Rhône-like Costières de Nîmes. See them all here.

Three Sparklers to Try

Loosen Bros. Dr. L. Sparkling RieslingMuga Conde De Haro Brut CavaR. Pouillon & Fils 1er Cru Brut RoséThree dry sparkling wines caught my attention out of the mini-theme of the Vintages February 2 release. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, consider the R. Pouillon & Fils 1er Cru Brut Rosé Champagne ($44.95). I classify this as a “food” rosé champagne, resembling a smoky-earthy Burgundian-style pinot noir with bubbles, complete with a touch of animal and leathery aromas and impressive flavour concentration. Try with veal or duck magret.

The Muga Conde De Haro Brut Cava ($19.95) is an atypical example but well worth the detour for those who enjoy barrel-aged champagnes. It’s mature and intriguingly nutty with coconut and yellow fruit flavours and impressive depth.

And finally, the Loosen Bros. Dr. L. Sparkling Riesling ($13.95) is a fun and friendly, just off-dry sparkler with good varietal character for those moments when a glass of bubbles is just the ticket to lift the spirits.

I’m writing this from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, where I’m taking part in a conference entitled “Hawke’s Bay in your Glass”. The summer temperatures, although not extreme, have nonetheless been in the 20s. Many of the tastings we’ve participated in have seen the larger scale reds of the region served at room temperature, which has been detrimental to wine quality, emphasizing the alcohol and diminishing the fruit quality. It’s been a sharp reminder of the importance of the service aspect of wine, also commented on by several of my colleagues on this journey.

Serving Wine Right: Why Temperature Matters

Just as cheese served straight from the fridge offers only a shadow of its flavour potential, and warm soft drinks seem sugary and aggressively carbonated, service temperature has a significant effect on wine aroma, taste and texture. Let’s look at how and why.

The interplay between temperature and sensory perception likely occurs by many mechanisms, including the direct action of temperature on sensory receptors, but in any case, it has been shown that our taste receptors are modulated by temperature change.1 Translation: the same things taste different at different temperatures.

The Aromatics

It’s fairly obvious that temperature affects the volatility of aromatic compounds, that is, how many reach our nose and can thus be smelled. At a chemical level, warm molecules vibrate fast, and when cold, they slow down. A dramatic example is water: at 100ºC H2O vibrates so much it becomes a gas. At 0ºC those barely-moving molecules solidify into ice. Aromatic compounds, the molecules that make wine smell so inviting, are similarly affected by temperature: the colder, the slower and less volatile they are, the less aromatic a wine will be. At the other end, when too warm, many of the enjoyable molecules are gone before you can smell them, and alcohol becomes the dominant smell.

All wine types are affected in the same way. So a simple rule: the more aromatically interesting a wine is, i.e. complex, the warmer it should be served to maximize your smelling pleasure. Simple, inexpensive wines are best a little cooler to maximize the refreshment. The range is from about 4ºC (average fridge temp.) for the simplest wines up to about 18ºC for the seriously complex, which is slightly cooler than the average home or restaurant. And yes, this goes for white wines, too. Top-flight whites are most interesting around 12º-14ºC.

This means that any wine pulled straight off the shelf, counter or back bar should be at least slightly chilled – this is my biggest gripe when ordering wine, mostly red, in restaurants. I see the bottles sitting on the bar, or languishing above on shelves or in wine racks without temperature control. A quick check of the thermometer in my back pocket reads 23ºC, or even higher. A few feet up near the top racks and it’s probably closer to 25ºC. At this temperature the wine tastes of alcohol and not much else, with an unpleasant burning sensation decreasing the enjoyment even further.

Texture & Taste

Temperature also affects wine texture and taste. Wines served cold seem more acidic (read: refreshing) and more tannic (read: astringent). This is why red wines are generally served warmer than whites: they contain tannin (the substance in wine that causes the astringent, drying, mouth-puckering sensation), while whites rarely have any tannin at all. The curious thing about tannin is that we perceive its drying effect more at lower temperatures. That means if you take the same tannic wine and serve it at 10º and 18º, the cooler sample will appear much more astringent. At 18º the wine will still be tannic, but more tolerable; then decanted and served with a little salty protein, and the tannins may not be a significant factor at all.

John's Recommended Serving Temperatures

Whites and rosés without tannin can be served chilled without the fear of increasing that astringent sensation, while emphasizing the refreshment factor and favoring fruity over alcoholic aromatics. Barrel-aged whites, on the other hand, will not only likely be more aromatically complex, but will also contain some tannin derived from the wood, and are therefore best served slightly warmer than un-oaked whites.

There are many reds with low tannin such as gamay, pinot noir, grenache, tempranillo and barbera that can also be served chilled for the same benefits, along with most un-oaked reds of any variety.

Sweet & Sparkling Wines

Temperature affects the perception of sugar and carbon dioxide. Sweetness is perceived less at lower temperatures (while the freshness is increased), which is why off-dry and sweet wines are served chilled, emphasizing fruit and decreasing the cloying aspect. But don’t serve complex, high quality sweet wines ice-cold, however, since you’ll be missing out on the aroma and flavour that makes them expensive and interesting in the first place. It’s a fine balance.

Sparkling wines are likewise served chilled to slow down those CO2 molecules. At higher temperatures they are more aggressive on our receptors (like warm, fizzy pop), and escape more quickly, with the wine soon becoming flat. Cooler temps also help to lessen the sweetness that virtually all sparkling wines contain and improve the crisp, vibrant aspect.

When in doubt, serve cooler rather than warmer. The wine will eventually warm up. Wine served too warm from the start is doomed, unless, of course, you live in an igloo.

Practically Speaking

Chill whites for a couple of hours in the fridge; for most reds, 20 minutes should do. If you didn’t get it organized ahead of time, the fastest way to cool a bottle is in a bucket of water and ice, about half and half. Two minutes in a bucket will drop the temperature by about 1ºC. So if your wine is at 22ºC (average room temperature), count on about 12 minutes to bring it down to 16ºC (about right for a light-medium-bodied red), or about 25m for a basic white.

And don’t forget to store unfinished bottles of wine, red or white, in the fridge. They won’t spoil as rapidly – remember, all reactions, including oxidation, occur more quickly at higher temperatures.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

From the February 2, 2013 Vintages release:

Top Ten Smart Buys
All Reviews

1 DEG/ENaC ion channels involved in sensory transduction are modulated by cold temperature, Candice C. Askwith*†‡, Christopher J. Benson*, Michael J. Welsh*†‡, and Peter M. Snyder*†§, Departments of * Internal Medicine and dagger Physiology and Biophysics and Dagger Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA 52242; Contributed by Michael J. Welsh, March 28, 2001


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Beringer Napa Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008


Rosehill Wine Cellars

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Robert Burns Day Drams; Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

We’re coming up to January 25 which marks the annual celebration of Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns who lived from January 25, 1759 to July 21, 1796. Many of Burns’ songs and poetry were inspired by the beauty of Scotland, particularly the breathtaking scenery of Ayrshire, his birthplace and the romantic setting of Dumfries & Galloway where he lived in later life. It’s believed his love of nature stemmed from his working life on the family farm in Alloway, Ayr, where he wrote poems such as ‘To a Mouse’, ‘The Primrose’ and ‘A Winter Night’. Burns’ most famed poems are Auld Lang Syne and To a Haggis – the latter is oft recited at Burns Nights. Traditional Burns suppers centre on haggis (innards stuffed in a sheep’s stomach), neeps (turnips), tatties (potatoes) and plenty of whisky and music.

In Scotland it’s the Year of Natural Scotland 2013, and Burns celebrations are planned countrywide, forming the culmination of Scotland’s Winter Festivals. In Edinburgh Scotland’s national storytelling centre has a packed program from January 18 to 26 of Robert Burns related events, including storytelling, music, songs and of course haggis. Events include traditional Burns Suppers, café Ceilidhs, and music nights. In Perthshire, the Famous Grouse Experience (January 25) includes a distillery tour, a dram, a serving of haggis, neeps and tatties and a Burns recital. January 25 – 27 the “Big Burns Supper” is Dumfries’ newest festival of contemporary arts. The program consists of poetry performances, 10 minute Burns Suppers, and a Spiegeltent which will provide a hub for the festival’s live performances from acts such as Deacon Blue and Eddi Reader.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

The National Museums of Scotland offer Burns Unbound: over the weekend of 26 and 27 January visitors can for example join celebrity hosts to celebrate the life and work of Scotland’s National Bard by attempting to beat the world record for a mass recital of Burns. In Ayrshire on January 27, Alloway 1759 takes place in and around Burns Cottage and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum where the streets will be lined with costumed characters and performers. Participants will enjoy such events as horse and cart trips, haggis hurling, The Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra, Burns Childrens’ Party, Hoots Owls and Willie Stewart singing songs of Burns. The museum also offers visitors a chance to sing or play Auld Lang Syne and become part of Robert Burns Museum. They say “No matter how good or bad a performer you are – Burns himself had a notoriously terrible singing voice – you can add to this growing exhibit by posting your video to our facebook page.”

Of course you can hold your own Burns celebration and you can sing and post a video without leaving Canada. To loosen your vocal cords and get in the mood here are some recommended scotches available at the LCBO:

Té Bheag Unchilfiltered WhiskyThe Balvenie Double Wood 12 Year OldThe Balvenie Double Wood 12 Year Old

Established in 1892 in Speyside, Balvenie grows its own barley, does traditional floor malting, has its own coopers to tend to casks and its own coppersmiths for the cooper stills. This is matured first in American bourbon barrels, then oloroso sherry oak casks both which show in the bouquet and taste. Sweet, rich and warming with vanilla bean, fruit and honey notes, it is unctuous with good depth. Flavourful, layered and velvety mellow with a warm spirited finish, it’s a great dram for winter nights.  (PMA)

Té Bheag Unfiltered Gaelic Scotch Whisky

This is a great value with a neat story behind it. The Gaelic Whisky Collection dates to 1976, when Sir Iain Noble set up a whisky company to create employment in the South of the Isle of Skye and provide authentic whisky for the Gaelic speaking islands of the North West coast of Scotland. Headquartered in the Scottish Hebrides, the Gaelic Whiskies have pioneered the reintroduction of “un-chill filtered” to preserve character. Té Bheag means “the little lady” and is pronounced “chey vek”. A blend of malt whisky with lighter grain whiskies, it’s soft, smooth, malty and delicately peaty (there’s Talisker in the blend). Toffee flavours, and a rich soft finish make it an easy pleasure to sip.

Springbank 10 Year Old Single MaltHazelburn 8 Year OldSpringbank 10 Year Old

Located in Campbeltown and founded in 1828, Springbank claims to be the oldest independent family owned distillery in Scotland. The full production process is carried out entirely on the one site from traditional floor malting to maturation and bottling. The distillery has never chill-filtered nor added any artificial colourings to their single malts. Aged 60 per cent in bourbon casks, the rest in sherry, Springbank is amber gold in colour with a suggestion of maritime breezes in its bouquet. Intense, with good depth, it has intriguing brown spices, vanilla and bourbon infused oak on the palate. There’s a lovely tang of the sea in the rounded malty finish.

Hazelburn 8 Year Old

Produced at Springbank, pretty Hazelburn is triple distilled and unpeated making an elegant, silky smooth, feminine style of whisky. Delicate and sweetly honeyed, one can find hints of bourbon and sherry especially in the finish. Vanilla, malt and a touch of peppery spice also come forth. This is a whisky that could seduce vodka lovers to embrace the “dark” side.

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength 10 YearsRobert Burns Arran Single Malt ScotchHighland Park Thor 16 Years Old Orkney Single MaltHighland Park Thor 16 Year Old

The Valhalla Collection has been created by Highland Park to recognize the Scandinavian heritage of the Orkney Islands and the whiskey that’s made there. Four Viking gods have been chosen to have whiskeys created after them in a manner that speaks to their character. Thor as the god of thunder and war packs a punch. At cask strength (52.1%) it’s tough but fair. A few drops of water help open it up to reveal nuts, fruit and a sweet mid-palate from the former sherry casks that it’s aged in. Make no mistake however the sweetness only slightly tames Thor’s power. This is complex with a firm lengthy finish.

Robert Burns Arran Single Malt

From the Isle of Arran Distillers, one of the few remaining independent distilleries in Scotland based at Lochranza on the Isle of Arran, which lies off the West Coast between Ayrshire and Kintyre.  Although the bard never actually visited the Isle of Arran, he certainly would have seen it on clear days as he laboured in the fields of Ayrshire on his father’s farm. At that time there were several illicit stills on Arran which produced whisky. The hooch was shipped to Dunure in Ayrshire – then the centre of the illegal whisky trade – before being shipped to the gentry in Scotland’s major cities where they “took the Arran waters”. This is an eloquent smooth dram, never chill filtered. The nose is of spiced pear, malt and honey. The taste is light, fruity and sweet at first, followed by a nutty, spiced finish. Silky and smooth overall.

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength 10 Year Old Highland

John Grant, born in 1805, purchased Glenfarclas Distillery in June 1865. To this day, Glenfarclas Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky is distilled and matured at the Grant family owned and run distillery. Glenfarclas, which nestles at the foot of the Ben Rinnes Mountain, from Gaelic translates as “glen of the green grassland”. At 60 per cent alcohol this has brute strength and yet has an overlay of sherry sweetness to tame it enough for pure enjoyment. Assertive and dry with spice and smoke, it’s long and full on the palate. Warming and smooth despite the searing alcohol, it’s quite dramatic.

Tomintoul 16 Years Old Speyside GlenlivetDunkeld Atholl BroseTomintoul 16 Year Old Speyside Glenlivet

Tomintoul Distillery is located near to the village of Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands of Scotland in the prestigious Glenlivet Estate at the heart of the Speyside region. The high altitude, pure air and fine water from the Ballantruan Spring, combine to create the special quality of Tomintoul – the gentle dram. Master distiller Robert Fleming has created an aromatic, yet complex and elegant whisky with this. It has spices, marmalade, barley and touch of florals with a candied ginger and orange peel finish. A dram that fascinates to the end.

Dunkeld Atholl Brose Liqueur

This liqueur is commonly sipped to nicely cap off a Robbie Burns Dinner. A blend of single malt, herbs, spices and honey, inspired by an ancient Highland recipe, it’s sweet but not too. Minty, menthol notes combine with candied orange, tangerine, honey, cinnamon and clove aromas and flavours for a warming liqueur with a subtle cloak of whisky.

Balblair Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky 2001anCnoc 12 Year Old Single MaltAnCnoc 12 Year Old Single Malt

Knockdhu Distillery established in 1894 is one of the smallest in the Scottish Highlands. Nearby Knock Hill, known by its Gaelic name anCnoc, is the source of the pure spring water for the whisky. Very aromatic with the perfume of honey and heather in the bouquet, it’s sweet and fruity with a smooth finish. Some smoke, nuttiness and malt add complexities. Very few bottles are left as of mid-January 2013 so buy now if interested.

Balblair Single Highland Malt 2001

The first release of this vintage, natural colour, non-chill filtered, from a distillery established in 1790. It’s full bodied, malty and fruity, with a bouquet that’s fruit forward with floral notes. The maturation in ex-bourbon casks comes forth on the palate as toffee and vanilla. The alcohol strength at 46 per cent is in harmony with the body and soul of the dram. The finish is long and fruity touched by spice and toffee.

For all of Margaret Swaine’s reviews:

Margaret’s Whisky and Spirits
Margaret Swaine’s Wine Picks


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Bowmore 12 Years Old Islay Single Malt


Rosehill Wine Cellars

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Anthony Gismondi Joins WineAlign!

Press Release: Another highly respected wine critic added to the WineAlign team

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

TORONTO – January 18, 2013WineAlign, Canada’s largest community based service for reviewing, sharing and discovering wine, today announced that Anthony Gismondi is joining its highly respected team of professional wine critics. Gismondi is one of Canada’s most respected wine critics and one of Canada’s best-known critics on the international stage. He has been writing about wine for almost 30 years and has been the wine critic for the Vancouver Sun since 1989. Gismondi was the former editor in chief of a national wine magazine and founded several wine awards.

“I have a great deal of respect for the WineAlign team already in place and am excited to be joining them as a principal critic and partner in a purely wine-focused role,” says Gismondi. “I also look forward to assisting with taking WineAlign to a new level nationally as plans to roll it out across the country are put in place. Canada has a diverse collection of wine drinkers, none more enthusiastic than those on the West Coast, and I look forward to sharing the team’s thoughts and opinions on wines with the rest of the country as we move forward.”

WineAlign’s VP of Wine, David Lawrason added: “I have tasted, judged and travelled with Anthony for over 20 years, and have grown to admire not only his knowledge and experience, but his straightforward approach to wine and whether the wine in turn is honest and good value for the consumer.”

“We are delighted that Anthony is joining us,” says Bryan McCaw, President of WineAlign. “Anthony is joining some of the most respected wine critics in the country in helping consumers find the best wines at their local wine store. He’ll bring a new perspective to our readers and will be a key part of our B.C. and national expansion.”

WineAlign is a free community-based service for reviewing, sharing and discovering wine. It was launched in December 2008 in collaboration with several top wine critics to create a resource for consumers to find the best wines at the LCBO. WineAlign, which is growing rapidly with close to 1M unique annual visitors, answers the question: What wine do I buy? It combines reviews from top-critics and community members to create an objective resource to help users find great wine. For wine lovers outside of Ontario, Canada, WineAlign provides the most comprehensive wine resource, including reviews of the latest wines and vintages from some of the country’s top sommeliers and wine critics.

About WineAlign

WineAlign is the ultimate service for making informed buying decisions at the LCBO. Use it before you shop from your home or office computer, or while standing in the store aisle with your mobile device. It aligns current store inventory, professional critical ratings and reviews, your budget, your food choices, your taste preferences and those of your friends. It is also a practical site, providing valuable tools to manage your own cellar and inventory and build your own personal rating system. It is also a social site that enables you to share information and discuss wine recommendations with friends and associates. You can also follow us on Facebook at www.Facebook/WineAlign or on Twitter @WineAlign.

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Highlights and Values; Lawrason’s Take on Vintages Jan 19 Release

Highlights & Values from Spain, B.C. and Around the World, plus Postcards from New Zealand

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The January 19 release is a large and rambling affair with over 100 wines, and the vast majority are priced under $25 to reflect the post-holiday impecuniary blues. I must say that there were more disappointing wines than normal, with several scoring below 85 points. But there were also many worth your attention, which is why we spend hours in the VINTAGES lab tasting them all.

Spain’s Priorat and Montsant

Baronia CIMS Del Montsant 2010Planets De Prior Pons 2008The many faces of Spanish wine are featured in this release, in a selection that manages to cover most of the country, albeit with only one or two selections each. WineAlign colleague John Szabo has penned a comprehensive look at the various wines and the fortunes of Spanish wine in Ontario, so I won’t repeat, except to highlight very good buys from two of my favourite DOCs – Priorat and Montsant. These appellations neighbour each other in the harsh, arid mountains of southern Catalonia not far from the Mediterranean.

Whereas many Spanish reds are softer, there is a nerve and minerality to the wines of this region that is invigorating, which will appeal to those who like pinot noir and some of Tuscany’s reds. Priorat in particular emerged in the 90s as a super-premium niche region, followed soon after by less expensive Montsant that sits in less steep terrain nearby. Both use the same blend of Mediterranean grapes like carignan and grenache along with syrah, cabernet and merlot. Planets De Prior Pons 2008 from Priorat at only $22.95 is a fine example of the value that can now be attained in post-recession pricing of Priorat. And the 2010 Baronia CIMS Del Montsant is simply a steal at only $15.95.

B.C.’s Range

Unlike four other provinces, Ontario has still not “approved” the direct purchase and importation of B.C. wines via the internet for your personal use here in Ontario, despite the federal government legalizing the practice last June through Bill C-311. Many Ontarians are doing it anyway, as the government’s position is unenforceable. If you are squeamish about doing it however, or you just want to buy a bottle or three, instead of ordering by Gray Monk GewürztraminerMission Hill Quatrain 2008the case, then VINTAGES offers a small but quite good selection on this release. It’s a microcosm of what the Okanagan Valley is doing in terms of styles – aromatics in the north, chardonnay and pinot noir in the centre, and big reds in the south, including the iconic plush reds of Burrowing Owl, the winery that first drew attention to just how big and rich B.C. southern reds could be. I draw your attention to two wines that define the polar extremes of Okanagan winemaking.

Gray Monk 2011 Gewürztraminer ($19.95) is a super bright, fresh and fruity example of a lovely patio/picnic style of gewürz – indeed Gray Monk (sitting right on the 50th degree of latitude) is a veteran, reliable producer of good value, pristine aromatic whites. Consider this one for spring/summer drinking.  From the opposite end of the valley, almost within view of the 49th parallel and the US border, comes a big red from almost desert vineyards that leads the way in a growing field of multi-grape blends based on merlot and cabernet. Mission Hill 2008 Quatrain ($41.95) deftly adds about 30% syrah to the mix, and ferments them in small French oak to create a wine of considerable depth, complexity and elegance.

Three White Highlights

Château De Montmollin Chasselas 2011Roche De Bellene Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne ChardonnayMcnab Ridge Shadow Brook Farms RoussanneThe roussanne grape, which is indigenous to the Rhone Valley in France, is in global expansion mode, especially in New World as winemakers in warm climates grow to appreciate its natural acidity and tropical yet understated fruit. McNab Ridge 2009 Shadow Brook Farms Roussanne ($18.95) from Mendocino California is a fine example. The Parducci family is a pioneer in this neck of the woods, and this off-shoot winery by Chris Parducci is focused on less well known grape varieties.

Roche De Bellene 2010 Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay from Burgundy’s Nicolas Potel is not all that unusual, but it is made in a bright, pure style that defines the grape and region very well for $19.95.  A dandy, affordable and quite classy chardonnay.

And Château De Montmollin 2011 Chasselas from Auvernier-Neuchâtel in Switzerland is also very well made. Chasselas can be soft, flabby and boring, but this fine effort brightens the quiet fruit and presents flavours that remind me just a bit of sake. It’s all very subtle, very nicely balanced and easy to drink.  Very much worth exploring at $18.95.

Four Red Values

For several years now I have watched Chile struggle with pinot noir. There is a juicy exuberance in Chilean reds that somehow does not wear well in pinot, which should be very layered, restrained and elegant. Terra Noble 2010 Reserva Pinot Noir from the Casablanca Valley is still exuberant, with raspberry and evergreen scents, but somehow manages better balance and more length than most, and at a very good price of $14.95. A fine little chillable summer patio pinot.

Terra Noble Reserva Pinot NoirHeartland Shiraz 2009From Australia, Heartland 2009 Shiraz has shockingly intense, perfumed and pure aromas of cassis, a signature I have come to expect in reds from the Langhorne Creek region of South Australia that borders the Murray River delta. Langhorne is home base for Heartland, a collaboration among several partners but Ben Glaetzer is the magician behind this wine. And Ben Glaetzer is the nephew of John Glaetzer, who put Wolf Blass on the map with some remarkable Langhorne reds back in the day. In any event, this is a real mouthful for $19.95, richly fruited and wonderfully vibrant.

Château Ksara Réserve Du Couvent 2009The Grinder PinotageSouth African pinotage, a hybrid grape bred on the Cape, has over the decades, become something of a plaything for winemakers. There is a shrill and unusual native character in pinotage that many seem to want to avoid, and the latest trick is to infuse highly roasted coffee bean flavours, as in Café Culture. The Grinder 2011 Pinotage is in that camp, but less coffeed than I expected given the blatant coffee references in the packaging. I think one reason that the pinotage fruit manages to stay so vital in this example is its origin in Swartland, a warmer area of old vines. Anyway, at $13.95 you can afford to try this out for yourself.

And for something really off the beaten track, don’t miss a great little winter red from Lebanon. Château Ksara 2009 Réserve Du Couvent is a blend of syrah, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon aged six months in oak. Ksara a historic 19th Century producer in the high altitude Bekaa Valley has modernized its production, but this wine maintains a very smooth, warm and leathery ambiance that is pleasantly older school. The main point is that offers a lot of character for $14.95.

Postcards from New Zealand & A Tasting of Villa Maria

I am writing this report from a small, comfortable motor lodge in the farming town of Cromwell in the heart of Central Otago on New Zealand’s South Island. I am in the country for a three week tour of eight regions, that also includes three conferences, centred by Pinot Noir NZ 2013 in Wellington January 28 – 31. I am visiting three to four wineries per day, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing. But you can follow some observations on Twitter @DavidLawrason, and I am also sending updates via WineAlign’s Facebook page. You can check out the first in the series on Waiheke Island’s Man O’ War winery at Postcards from New Zealand

Auckland Winery

Villa Maria Winemaker – Alastair Maling
Auckland Winery

On my second day in the country I sat down to a terrific tasting with Villa Maria winemaker Alastair Maling, a Master of Wine and chair of Pinot 2013 conference. It was held at Villa Maria’s impressive new winery/restaurant/vineyard improbably located and almost hidden within a dormant volcano crater in an industrial area near Auckland airport. The quality across the range of wines rather took me by surprise. I was well aware of the Private Bin general listings in Ontario – Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2011 and Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2012. But as the tasting moved along I was struck by the consistent purity and accuracy and inviting drinkability of all the wines, regardless of variety and price point. Suddenly all the medals won by Villa Maria over the years made sense, and it proved that you can do things well on a large scale if quality control is truly the focus of the exercise.

In the very near future all my reviews from this tasting will be posted on WineAlign. It was assembled to reflect wine now available, or soon to be available in Canada, so if you want to search for a particular wine, or scan the entire range simply search by Villa Maria.

So that’s it for this time. I will be writing my next report from New Zealand as well. Meanwhile check out all my January 19 reviews below.

David Lawrason,
VP of Wine

From the January 19, 2013 Vintages release:

David’s Featured Wines
All Reviews


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Beringer Napa Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008


Rosehill Wine Cellars

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10 Great New Values join Steve’s Top 50 at LCBO

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The Top 50 list changes all the time. Prices go up and down, new vintages of current listings arrive, over 200 new products are launched each year and as a consequence around the same number of wines are discontinued.  All these cause changes to the list.

This month there are ten wines that are new to the list since December 2012. So let’s look at the arrivals in detail, but please also check out all the rest of the wines on my Top 50 Value Wines list, since all offer great value. So read beyond the new entrants to find more values, and to discover how the Top 50 is systematically selected.

Bolla ValpolicellaMontecillo Reserva 2006New to the Top 50

Ten wines arrived on the Top 50 this month.

Less than $17

Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2006, Spain
$16.55 on sale until Feb. 3 was $18.55

The is a classic Rioja reserva from Montecillo with a sophisticated blue label to describe a very classy wine. It shows fine lifted aromas of raspberry and cherry fruit with sandalwood spice, and hints of mocha and prune. The palate is midweight finely balanced with very good length. Try with roast lamb. Best 2013 to 2016.

Less than $11

Bolla Valpolicella 2011, Veneto, Italy
$10.95 on sale until Feb 3 was $12.95

This is a beautiful lightweight Valpolicella, that should appeal to pinot lovers with its pale ruby colour, firm dry finish and soft fruity palate. Expect aromas of dry cherry with raspberry tones and a hint of warm spice and cranberry jelly. It is lightweight with soft dry fruit, well balanced with good to very good length. Try with pizza or tomato based sauces. Best 2013 to 2014.

Jackson Triggs Black Series ChardonnayJackson Triggs Black Series Chardonnay 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula
$10.95 on sale until Feb 3 was $11.95

There is a lot going on here for a chardonnay at this price with lifted aromas of ripe apple pineapple fruit with mild oak spice honey and vanilla tones. It is full bodied, rich and creamy with a powerfully flavoured dry palate. Very good length. The finish is maybe a bit green, but it persists well. Try with strongly flavoured white meat dishes or strong mature cheese. It will gain in complexity and integration with another year or two of bottle age. Best 2013 to 2016.

Less than $9

Sicily

Sicily is one of my favourite wine places to visit. I been there many times and am looking forward, as snow falls here in Canada, to bathing in its warm sunshine again this fall. Try these two value sun-Montalto Pinot Grigio 2011drenched wines to warm up your winter.Montalto Nero D'avola Cabernet Sauvignon

Montalto Nero d’Avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
$8.95

This is a juicy full bodied red 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 2013 to 2015.

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2011
$8.95

A ripe fruity rich pinot grigio from sunny Sicilian vineyards. It is awesome value when compared to some more expensive dull examples on the LCBO shelves. Expect simple fruity aromas of ripe apple and melon with some floral and mineral tones. The palate is medium bodied and dry with decent length. Try with creamy pasta dishes or bbq chicken.

Chile

Chile is delivering fine wines at all price points. Santa Carolina is a major player in Chile and you get a lot for your money across their entire range of wines. These two reds are excellent everyday wines for enjoying with pizza, meaty pasta sauces, Santa Carolina Cabernet SauvignonSanta Carolina Merlot 2011grilled meats or strongly flavoured cheese or simply sipping on their own while enjoying the company of friends and family.

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
$8.95

This is a fresh, pure and clean cabernet with a good depth of flavour, decent structure and very good length. There is a lot going on for the money, with mild aromas of black cherry and cassis fruit with spicy and earthy tones. It is midweight, juicy and very drinkable. Try with bbq meats. Best 2013 to 2014.

Santa Carolina Merlot 2011
$8.95

A nice vibrant fruity merlot from Chile. 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.  Best 2013 to 2014.

France

Partager Reserve Merlot 2010Its time to take another look at French table wine. Those ordinary big bottles with their boring contents have been replaced in recent years by more exciting, vintage dated, varietally labelled wines like this one from the south of France.

Partager Reserve Merlot 2010, Pays d’Oc
$8.95

The Partager label has been in our market for decades so it was due for a makeover. This wine is labelled merlot and vintage dated 2010 and comes from Pays d’Oc in the south of France and is a great buy. Expect a deep purple red with mild aromas of black and red berry fruit. It is full bodied and flavourful with a long dry finish. It needs some juicy grilled meat or rich cheese for best enjoyment. Decant for an hour before serving. Best 2013 to 2015.

Australia

Emu Amontillado Medium Dry SherryAustralia has long made wines, fortified by brandy, in the style of both Sherry from Spain and Port from Portugal. In fact until 30 years ago such wines formed a major part of  Aussie wine production. This is a medium dry wine, not at all like the sweet cream Sherry that is favoured by my aged aunts.

Emu Amontillado Medium Dry Sherry
$8.95

A delightful light slightly sweet sherry with aromas of candied orange peel, honeysuckle and baked apricot. It is lightweight with good acidity and finishes dry so would work well with cold creamy sweet red pepper and tomato soup, or enjoy well chilled on its own or with biscotti while watching tv.  I tried it with Chinese sweet and sour pork and it was just perfect. Very good length.

Argentina

Finca Flichman Misterio MalbecThere are many great value reds on the Top 50 list from Argentina. Look out for malbec, cabernet sauvignon and blends of the two.

Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec 2011, Mendoza
$8.95

This is a simple, fruity wine which with a slight chill is very drinkable. Expect prune and blackberry fruit with spicy and jammy nuances, there is not much tannin and its a bit flabby so it will benefit from modest chilling before serving. It is clean pure and quite quaffable with decent length considering the price. Best 2013. Try with pizza or a ham and cheese sandwich.

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.

How I Choose the Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesI 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.

Once you have tried a wine, you can use the ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ to agree or disagree with our reviews. Or better yet, you can add your own review and join our growing community of user reviewers. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf, or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. 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.

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

Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials Wines


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Amalaya Torrontes Riesling


Rosehill Wine Cellars

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John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for Jan 19, 2013

Enigmatic Spain (and discovery picks); Top Ten Smart Buys; Best Bet from B.C.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The January 19 VINTAGES release puts the spotlight on Spain. But commercially speaking, the light has yet to really shine on the Iberian Peninsula, at least not a Canadian light. Spanish wines continue to be an enigma for most Ontario consumers and have failed thus far to perform here as they have elsewhere, notably in countries like the UK, Germany and the US, where they enjoy significantly more notoriety. Spanish wines were conspicuously absent from the LCBO’s latest available product trend report (2010-2011), which highlights the fastest growing wine categories, though a spokesperson at the LCBO revealed that more recently, Spanish wines sales are up in the last 12 months.

Considered globally, Spanish wine amounted to just 2% of the total volume of wine sold in the province through the LCBO in 2010-2011, and 2.7% of the total value. But for the year ending December 31, 2012, Spanish wines were up 3.5% by value over 2010-2011, thanks mainly to stronger red wine sales. According to Linda Hapak, the LCBO’s manager of corporate communications, “Spanish wines are performing extremely well for the LCBO WINES category. Spanish reds represent approximately 3.5 per cent of our business and are up 13.8 per cent over last year. There are plans to add some more premium-priced Spanish wines ($12-$15) in the coming year. In VINTAGES, Spanish reds are about nine per cent of the VINTAGES European wine portfolio and are trending up 7.5 per cent.

Wines from Spain (ICEX Image Bank)That’s certainly a positive sign, though despite the recent growth, the figures are still pretty low. Considering that Spain has the world’s largest acreage devoted to grapevines: 970,000 hectares (in 2011), which represents fully 30% of the European Union’s vineyard area, and nearly 14% of the world’s. (In terms of volume of production, Spain sits just behind France and Italy as the world’s third largest producer since yields per hectare are lower on average than in either France or Italy). By comparison, Italy, the largest foreign supplier of wines in Ontario, accounted for over 17% of Ontario wine sales by value and over 16% by volume in 2010-2011. Spain is proportionately under represented in local sales.

And yet, wine is one of Spain’s star export products. Figures from the Spanish government’s Department of Customs and Special Taxes reveal that wine exports were up 13.5% to the end of the first half of 2012, while in 2011, the wine industry posted impressive increases of 26.3% in volume and 16.7% in value. The country has been grinding through the slow and painful modernization of its wine industry, a process that has been ongoing since at least 1986 when Spain joined the EU. And the fruits of this leap into the 21st century are finally starting to be reaped.

Spain is one of the world’s most dynamic countries, what I’ve referred to in the past as the most ‘new world’ country of the old world, that is, a nation in the process of inventing or in some cases re-inventing itself. The 80s and 90s love affair with international varieties has mostly faded, and today, rediscovering native varieties and reviving ancient vineyards is the latest word. This is music to the modern sommelier’s ears, and Spanish wines are being embraced with enthusiasm in cutting edge wines bars in northern Europe and the US. In short, Spanish wines are hot, just not yet here.

I think several factors account for Canada’s lukewarm embrace of things Spanish compared with other nations’. Consider how many Brits and Germans vacation on the Costa del Sol, just a short, cheap Ryan Air or Easy Jet hop away. Citizens of the UK and Germany have developed a cultural connection through proximity with Spain that most Canadians do not have, and people tend to bring their vacations home with them. There’s nothing like reliving that Spanish sojourn with a bottle of Rioja back home.

And south of the border, nearly half of the population of the United States claim Spanish as their mother tongue. Even many non-Hispanics understand or speak Spanish through sheer exposure. Thus there’s a linguistic familiarity around those ñs and double ls that can otherwise intimidate English speakers. And there’s also more cultural heritage linking US citizens with the Spanish world. In Canada, the percentage of the population of Hispanic origin and familiarity with the language doesn’t compare. The fact that Spanish restaurants are few and far between doesn’t help, either. Spanish cuisine is not so neatly branded and doesn’t export as well as, say, Italian or French cuisine.

Such factors, and many more, have conspired to make Canada a ‘low priority’ country for Spanish export initiatives. When export promotional funds are limited (no need to go into Spain’s economic situation here), they’re usually focused on the markets with the greatest potential for short-term return. Consequently, Canada receives very little promo budget for Spanish wines. No industry-sponsored generic ‘fam’ trips to Spain for wine writers or wine buyers, no trade or consumer tastings of Spanish wines in Ontario. This in turn leads to low consumer awareness of Spanish wines, which leads to fewer listings of Spanish wine in restaurants and on LCBO shelves, which discourages import agents from dealing with Spanish wineries in the first place. And so the vicious circle continues. But if the last year is any indication, perhaps there’s a new era of awareness dawning for Spanish wine. And let’s hope so.

January 19 is your opportunity to discover at least the tip of the iceberg of what Spain has to offer. There are 19 Spanish wines hitting the VINTAGES shelves, several of which I’d consider fine examples of some of the marquee regions and native grapes, at reasonable prices, another one of the country’s strengths. Download a Pedro Almodóvar film (don’t pirate it – the Spanish economy needs support), and conduct your own tour of Spanish wines. Here’s a brief run down on nine Spanish wines to consider:

Jerez-Xerés-Sherry

Almirante Marqués Del Real Tesoro OlorosoEl Maestro Sierra Fino SherryTwo of my top scoring picks and hottest values are from the roughly triangular denominación of Jerez, or Sherry, in the southwest corner of Spain. You can find an excellent primer on Sherry from certified Sherry educator Derek Kranenborg on the WineAlign Cru postings – A Manifesto for Sherry. But before logging in, grab a bottle of the El Maestro Sierra Fino Sherry ($17.95) and the Almirante Marqués Del Real Tesoro Oloroso ($16.95), which will make the reading all the more pleasant.

The first is a somewhat atypical fino, more deeply coloured than the norm, and more oxidative in style – almost into amontillado territory, but in any case, it’s a rich, powerful and complex wine with masses of flavour and terrific finish – really remarkable at the price. I’d serve this with a piece of 12 month aged Manchego cheese for a fine experience.

The second is a more typically nutty and oxidative oloroso, reminiscent of dried hay, toasted walnuts, old coffee grounds, and caramel, with a full, dry palate and amazing umami-laden finish. As is so frequently the case with sherry, this offers astonishing complexity for the money.

Spanish Reds

Get tuned into the rich, substantial reds of the Priorat DOQ with the 2008 Planets De Prior Pons ($22.95). Prior Pons is a small, family operation in the heart of the denominación with vineyards planted in the prized fractured slate soils called locally “licorella”. They make just two wines; Planets is the less expensive, a blend of both young and old vines that’s both generously alcoholic and mouth filling. Fruit is dark and brambly, with slightly raisined/dried/baked character, while spicy wood notes and wild herbs add an extra flavour dimension. It’s a fine introduction to the region at an attractive price.

Planets De Prior Pons 2008Solar De Sael Crianza MencíaAlbret Crianza 2009Fans of the old school style of Rioja will want to pick up the 2004 Don Jacobo Reserva ($17.95). It’s arch-traditional, dripping with American oak-derived flavours of melted butter, cedar, sandalwood and toasted coconut alongside tart red berry/sour cherry fruit, juicy acids, fine-grained tannins and lingering, savoury finish. It’s fully ready to enjoy; Spain is one of the few countries where wines are often cellared at the winery until they’re ready to drink – all the ageing has been done for you.

2005 Legón Reserva do Ribera del Duero ($23.95) offers a more modern interpretation of tempranillo, widely considered Spain’s flagship red grape, even if it’s not the most planted (that distinction belongs to garnacha tinta). This is intensely dark fruited, savoury and earthy at once, well structured, with good to very good length. It’s ready to enjoy or hold short term.

One of my favorite Spanish regions is Bierzo in the cooler, northwest corner of the country often referred to as “Atlantic” or “green” Spain. The 2007 Solar De Sael Crianza Mencía ($15.95) is a decent entry-level, if awkwardly oaky (Spain is still getting over its love affair with oak flavours), example of mencía, the principal grape. Leave this another 6 months to a year in the cellar; there’s sufficient depth and structure to ensure positive evolution, which is rare at this price.

And rounding out the reds, 2009 Albret Crianza ($19.95) is a forward, fruity, nicely structured wine made from a blend of tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and merlot in the modern style. Navarra has long been on the forefront of innovation in Spanish vineyards thanks to the fact that the country’s most important viticultural research station is located in the region, and experimentation with international varieties has been going on for decades.

Spanish Whites

Cuatro Rayas Viñedos Centenarios VerdejoSeñorio De Rubios Albariño 2011Classy whites are more of a rarity in Spain, but two regions stand out for their unique contributions to the realm: Rias Baixas and Rueda. The former shines with albariño, the latter with verdejo. Try the fine 2011 Señorio De Rubios ($17.95) for an example of the lively and fruity character of albariño, with its lemon-lime, blossom, apricot and pear aromas that reminds one of viognier on the nose, and the taught, tight structure and underlying minerality that brings to mind Riesling on the palate.

Verdejo can often slip into the (unpleasant) Delmonte tropical fruit cocktail spectrum of flavours that’s reminiscent of sauvignon blanc grown in the Sahara, but the 2011 Cuatro Rayas Viñedos Centenarios ($15.95), made from over 100 year-old, pre-phylloxera vines is well worth discovering. Cuatro Rayas is the largest producer in the Rueda DO, accounting for 20% of the total production, proving that big is not necessarily bad. But to be fair this wine is described as a “whim” of winemaker Angel Calleja, made in limited quantities from the company’s most prized parcels. You’ll find intriguing incense and dried spearmint leaf aromas on the nose, with citrus-lemon-grapefruit notes underlying, while the palate delivers considerable flavour impact carried by sharp acids and above average concentration. A fine, pre-phylloxera vines cuvee for under $16? Welcome to Spain.

If you’re enticed to discover more after this tour, visit the Spanish Trade Commission’s website, Winesfromspain. To find more Spanish wines in Ontario contact the following consignment agents who carry a solid range (variable availability):

B&W Wines (Especially the Spain Only One Portfolio)

TWC Imports (including excellent Cava from Agustí Torelló Mata, Bierzo from Finca Losada and Pittacum, Rias Baixas from Terras Gaudas, godello from Bodegas Valdesil, Rioja from Bodegas Tobías)

Recommended Toronto Restaurants with a good selection of Spanish wines:

Cava (Yonge & St. Clair) and Edulis (King St W & Bathurst)

Top Ten Smart Buys

This week’s top ten smart buys include a mesmerizing marsanne from Mendocino, a terrific teroldego blend from Tuscany, a bloody good baga from Portugal, and a pair of impressive local wines. See them all here.

Best Bet from BC

Mission Hill Quatrain 2008

British Columbia is the mini theme of the release, with five wines on offer. Of these, my top pick is the 2008 Mission Hill Quatrain, Okanagan Valley ($41.95). This is a nicely evolved, polished, bold, modern red with better than average class and depth (a blend of merlot, syrah, cab franc and cab sauv).

From the January 19, 2013 Vintages release:

Top Ten Smart Buys
Top Spanish Releases
All Reviews


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Journey to Middle Earth: News from New Zealand by Janet Dorozynski

Janet Dorozynski

Janet Dorozynski

Although much of the recent attention on New Zealand has been focused on the Hobbit, I managed to visit and escape just before the hordes descended on Middle Earth for the official movie premier. The adventure began as I boarded Air New Zealand, which not only featured a Hobbit-themed safety demonstration video, but an extensive selection of the country’s wines. New Zealand wines are front and center in the mind of the travellers long before they step off the plane.

Astrolabe Province Sauvignon Blanc 2011Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2009My journey took me to Marlborough and Central Otago, the regions that put New Zealand on the world wine map and are best known respectively for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. I also had the opportunity to explore, and was inspired by, the lesser-known regions of Hawkes Bay and Gisborne, the second and third largest growing areas after Marlborough.

While Sauvignon Blanc comprises just under half of the total plantings in New Zealand, there are now over 25 different grape varieties grown commercially. The “other” whites – Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer, along with Bordeaux varieties and Syrah, have shown that New Zealand is far from being the one (or two) trick pony that some may think. So after nearly two weeks of tasting hundreds of wines, here’s a snapshot, from north to south, of what stood out and what we will hopefully see more of in the Canadian market.

Gisborne

Gisborne, on the western side of the North Island, is New Zealand’s third largest growing area and first region to see the sun rise. Formerly known as a bulk wine producing region, there have been a number of small and interesting wineries who’ve put down roots in Gisborne, while many of the larger wineries like Villa Maria and Cooper’s Creek, continue to source quality fruit from the region’s numerous growers. The region’s calling card is Chardonnay and aromatic whites, with Gewurztraminer having been produced here since the 1970s. Wineries like Vinoptima make Gewurztraminer only, both a Noble Late Harvest and an off-dry, dramatically rich and opulent style, which are among the best in the country and internationally acclaimed. (Vinoptima is represented in Ontario by John Hanna & Sons)

Other whites like Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc and Viognier also do well in Gisborne. James Millton, one of the region’s trailblazers, was the first biodynamic vineyard in the southern hemisphere and makes a stunning array of certified organic wines that we see periodically in Ontario and Quebec. Millton is an ardent proponent of white varieties and produces very good Chardonnay (Crazy by Nature Shortberry Gisborne 2011 and Clos de Ste. Anne 2010), along with a range of superb Chenin Blanc (Crazy by Nature 2012, Millton Te Arai Vineyard 2010 and Clos de Ste. Anne La Bas 2009) and impressive Viognier (Millton Riverpoint Vineyard 2010, Clos de Ste. Anne Les Arbres 2010). He also mentioned that he believes that no other grape is better suited to Gisborne than Albarinho, so keep an eye out for this variety in the future. (Millton Vineyards & Winery is represented in Ontario by : The Living Vine)

Hawkes Bay

Craggy Range Hawkes Bay Sophia 2010CJ Pask Gimblett Road Cabernet Merlot MalbecHawkes Bay first made its name with cool climate Bordeaux red varietal wines; in particular those from the Gimblett Gravels, a 850 hectare parcel of sandy gravelly soil, hence the name, with free-draining, low vigor soils. Fine Bordeaux reds include CJ Pask Gimblett Road Cab/Merlot/Malbec 2009 from one of the Gimblett Gravels’ pioneers, Hawkes Bay Sophia 2010 from Craggy Range, one of New Zealand’s preeminent producers and Crossroads Winemaker’s Collection Cabernet Franc 2010, one of the rare Cabernet Franc that I tasted in New Zealand. Syrah, which requires less heat than Bordeaux varieties, also does well in Hawkes Bay and the region is increasingly known as the heartland of Syrah in New Zealand.

Trinity Hill SyrahElephant Hill Syrah 2010While total plantings remain small, Syrah shines at the Hill wineries with the Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010, the Deerstalkers Syrah 2010 from Sacred Hill and the Elephant Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010 worth seeking out. Other notable examples include the Gimblett Gravels 2010 and Le Sol 2010 from Craggy Range, CJ Pask Declaration Syrah 2009 and the dynamite La Collina Syrah 2009 from tiny producer Bilancia. There is also a small amount of white produced in Hawkes Bay, with very good Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from many of the above producers.

Curiously, many Hawkes Bay wineries (and throughout New Zealand) have wines from other New Zealand wine regions in their portfolio, be it a Central Otago or Martinborough Pinot Noir or a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. When asked why, several explained the decision was purely market-driven, as consumers and especially buyers, notably from Canadian liquor boards, prefer New Zealand wineries to have everything in their portfolio. This expectation to have it all, or one stop shopping, may work against honing in on New Zealand regionality in the long run, if wineries are expected to make everything, rather than specialize in making what their region does best.

Marlborough

Baby doll sheep at Yealands Estate

Baby doll sheep at Yealands Estate

What’s there to say about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that hasn’t already been said? The success of the region and Savvy, as the Kiwis call it, is nothing short of remarkable, having captured the hearts and palates of many white wine drinkers who were weary of overly-oaked Chardonnay and saw crisp, unwooded Sauvignon Blanc as the perfect antidote. But with success came saturation or the Savalanche as it is colloquially known, when in 2008, increased plantings, over-cropping and an unusually large harvest led to the country’s first major grape surplus in decades.

Sauvignon Blanc remains New Zealand’s most widely exported wine (now at 84% of total exports) though the style of Sauvignon Blanc we first saw in the Canadian market – crisp, dry and pleasantly herbaceous, with an attractive sweaty, tropical/passion fruit character, seems to have been deluded and replaced, in particular for the bigger, well-known brands, by wines with too much residual sugar that are often dull.

Wairau Valley vineyards

Wairau Valley vineyards

While in Marlborough, I met with a good number of wineries who are not content to rest on their laurels and are committed to moving beyond the same old, same old. There is growing interest to produce sub-regional wines, as the three Marlborough sub-regions have different growing conditions and show distinct identities and characteristics in the wines. Wairau Valley Sauvignon (think Nautilus 2012, Wairau River Reserve 2012, Mahi Wine 2012) tends to have riper tropical fruit; Awatere Valley wines (Astrolabe 2011, Yealands Estate Awatere 2012) show more pronounced green and leafiness, while wines from the Southern Valleys have more volume and citrus characters. In addition to the exploration of sub-regionality, wines like the Staete Landt Duchess 2008 and Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2009, utilize partial oak fermentation and/or aging, to add the complexity and creaminess of oak to the bright, vibrant fruit of the Marlborough.

Although best known for the Savvy, wineries here also produce very good Pinot, both Noir and Gris (Seresin Raupo Creek Pinot Noir 2008, Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2009 and Mahi Pinot Noir 2010; Seresin Pinot Gris 2010, Momo Pinot Gris 2010; Wairua River Pinot Gris 2011, Cloudy Bay Pinot Gris 2011), in addition to a smattering of Chardonnay and other aromatic whites (Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Viognier) worth a taste.

Central Otago

View from "tasting room" at Mount Difficulty

View from “tasting room” at Mount Difficulty

The history of grape growing in Central Otago dates back over a century even though the region’s international reputation as Pinot Central is relatively recent. Pinot Noir is the most widely planted red grape in Central Otago, as well as in New Zealand as a whole, and thrives in the rugged landscape and continental climate of the region. Central Otago is divided into several sub-regions with the Alexandra sub-region being the southern-most wine growing area in the world. If you’re a Pinot lover, then this is the place for you, with well- known producers Felton Road, Mount Difficulty, Carrick, Akarua and Two Paddocks, along with a handful of others, like Quartz Reef and Peregrine, which should be on your radar if they aren’t already.

Many of the wineries here and throughout New Zealand, have been certified through the New Zealand Winegrowers Sustainable Winegrowing scheme, which includes a commitment to protect the place where the wines are made, along with a commitment to improve economic, environmental and social outcomes, locally and globally (New Zealand Wine website for more info). A number of Central Otago producers like Quartz Reef and Felton Road are also seriously committed to organic and biodynamic grape growing and winemaking practices, to protect the fragile soils of the region and because they believe it results in better wines. In addition to Pinot Noir, keep an eye out for superb Rieslings from Peregrine, Mount Difficulty and Felton Road.

Sustainable Vineyard at Carrick Wines

Sustainable Vineyard at Carrick Wines

While Central Otago may be best known for Pinot Noir internationally, other regions make a range of styles, from the black fruit of Central Otago, to the bright red fruit and earlier drinking styles of Marlborough, and everything in between from Martinborough and Canterbury/Waipara. The progress of Pinot Noir has been fuelled by the tri-annual Pinot Noir Conference, where winemakers, media, trade and consumers from New Zealand and around the world converge to get a snapshot and better understanding of the prospects and promise for Pinot Noir. The fifth edition of the Pinot Noir NZ 2013 conference takes place in January with further impressions and stories to follow by David Lawrason and John Szabo in Wine Align.

What’s next for New Zealand?

While still in its adolescence, I definitely got the sense that the New Zealand wine industry has a sense of purpose, confidence and maturity beyond its years. Many whom I met seem determined to figure out what to do next, what to plant where and what the second phase of their international success will look like. While Canada is the fourth largest export market for New Zealand wines, it’s not always easy to sell in our market. Many wineries I spoke with explained how, in comparison to the UK and US, the Canadian market is perplexing and difficult to establish a long term business relationship with liquor boards, in particular for smaller producers who don’t have the volume and find it hard to sit on stocks for a tender they might not get, especially when they can easily sell their wine elsewhere. It’s a familiar lament from small producers everywhere and which the recently launched initiative mywineshop.ca, to create private, specialized wine stores, would surely benefit both smaller producers and the range and selection of New Zealand wines available in the Canadian market. (For more on the private wine shop initiative, read what my WineAlign colleagues have written on the subject in these recent WineAlign articles: John Szabo’s Vintages Preview and David Lawrason’s Take).

Until the next time:

Janet’s New Zealand Picks
All Reviews by Janet Dorozynski

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