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Announcing the Results of the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada…

Nothing has value unless you give it some
Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend

Anthony Gismondi, co-head judge

Anthony Gismondi, co-head judge

There’s a lot of great wine tasted at WineAlign every year and you can read about it on the site daily. In fact, we write about nearly every bottle we taste that is for sale in Canada. It’s our job, and pleasure, to search for wines you can buy and enjoy. And even more importantly, we want to answer the two biggest shopping questions you have: How much is it, and where can I buy it?

In order to best answer What, Where, How Much, When and Why, once a year we make a gargantuan effort to gather as a team in Toronto and spend a week locked away in an airport hotel tasting as many wines as we can amass for the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada [2014 Results].

The word ‘world’ is important because anyone in the world can enter their wines, as long as they are sold somewhere on Canadian soil. We give Canadian wine its due at The Nationals, but we know it is just as important to taste globally to complete the perspective. I know that comes as a surprise to some Canadians who think we should only be drinking local wines but truthfully, that isn’t how the wine ‘world’ works. How do we know where Canadian wines stack up against the world if we only taste Canadian wines? Same with consumers. The goal is to make wonderful wine that expresses its terroir or uniqueness and share it with everyone. That is, the world.

Group tasting shot

The 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada is a tool we use at WineAlign to assess a large segment of wines Canadians buy and drink daily, and we do it as a team. In addition, it gives our judges a valuable chance to calibrate our palates and taste wines that aren’t available for sale in all provinces. It keeps us in check without constraining our opinions – ones shaped by years and travel and study and tasting. It’s a neat exercise on many levels, not the least of which is tasting blind for a week and keeping our palates and minds sharp. We also love the challenge of searching for great value wines and as we head into a busy fall season we can’t wait to arm you with the results.

If you are like most Canadian wine drinkers, you delight in discovering wine bargains. And why not? In a country where everything from hospitals, to roads, schools and social welfare are dependent on liquor revenues, there is no escaping high wine prices. We pay far too much for wine, so much so that the price on the bottle seldom corresponds to the quality of the wine inside. The price also reflects marketing, trends and tax. But let’s get back to the bargains.

The WWAC works because it is conceived to uncover the best value wines selling wines in Canada under $50 in a manner no other competition does. The tastings are computerized from start to finish allowing wineries, agents or retailers to enter, pay, and eventually track their results online. The same software allows us to build panels and flights of wine and then assign those wines to various panels all in an unbiased fashion, before they are served to our highly experienced tasters, blind.


The same technology spits out scoring sheets for each individual judge and tracks their scores from start to finish. When our judges leave at the end of the competition they take all their tasting notes, scores and the answer key with them in a highly prized binder. This binder, full of hundreds of detailed notes, tasted blind, is a bible that judges can refer to in articles, purchasing and consulting for the year to come. Since individual scores are only a part of the final picture, judges do not know the competition’s final results until they are released to the public. It all may sound logical but I can attest to a lot of competitions around the world where that information is never returned to the judges.

More than technology, we are particularly proud of our winners because they have to win twice to win big. In the first round they need to outscore the majority of the entries just to get to the finals. Then in the second round they must beat out the best of the best to win and should there be a tie, they may have to face-off again against the very best. It is thorough and challenging, whether the public or producers know about it or not. We know, and we care.

I also know this: If I was a running a private retail store (sorry Ontario) I would stack the winners to the ceiling. If I were running a winery I would brag for an entire year to anyone who would listen secure in my mind that what I was producing a wine that is among the best in its class.

WWAC Panorama

Yet we do not do any of this for wineries, agents or writers. We run the competition for you, the consumer. As mentioned earlier, we think you need a break from ridiculously high wine prices and our coveted Category Champions and Judges Choice winners are our way of saying thanks for coming back to the site as often you do. As we approach the two million unique visitors in 2014, it is clear you come back often, and we work hard to bring you value.

We pledge to continue the competition because we love sharing our highly vetted list with you and we would love your feedback.

Now for the results and few disclaimers…

We have spent an inordinate amount of time tracking down the prices of these wines because the results are predicated on the lowest available price for the wine sold somewhere in Canada. Please remember that the lowest price may not be the price in your province or territory.

The Category Champion bested all the wines in its category while our Judges’ Choice awards went to a short list of the remaining top scoring wines in the category. Best of Country selections represent the top wine across all categories and grape types in which that country’s wines were entered. The Top Value Wines takes into account the wine’s average score as well as its price, thereby ranking the wine by a price/value quotient.


It’s hard to explain the energy that goes into these awards but suffice to say the hours are off the charts and it’s all for the pleasure of our readers.

Thanks for supporting WineAlign and wine culture in Canada. Now it is time to shop and taste  – and by the way  – congratulations to all the winners.


Use these links to access the complete results of the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada:

Results Summary Page
Complete list of Top Value Wines 
Complete list of Best of Country

Photos by Jason Dziver

Champions Tasting

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks September 2014

Focusing on the WineAlign World Wine Awards

The results of the World Wine Awards are about to be released, and co-Head Judge Anthony Gismondi is busy finalizing the results and preparing for the announcement, so the rest of the BC team is reporting on BC Critics’ Picks for September, and reflecting on some of our favourite themes and wines that came out of last month’s competition.

Anthony’s Final Blend column will be posted tomorrow, along with the full results. I can’t wait to see what we all had to say, collectively. In the meantime, these picks may give you a little sneak peek!

Cheers, Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

DJ Kearney

Chile rocks. My wine picks were inspired by two events:  our recent WineAlign World Awards which re-invigorated my palate for global flavours, and spending a little time with Pedro Parra, Chile’s charismatic geologist/terroir hunter.   Pedro is helping to decode the relationship between grapes and rocks and consults not just throughout Chile, but around the world, including here in British Columbia (at Okanagan Crush Pad).

Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012 Koyle Reserva Syrah 2011So with Pedro’s passionate rants echoing in my ears, I looked at my WWAC notes and instantly remembered the Koyle Syrah Reserva 2011.  It can age a few years more but will be nicely tamed by a smoked brisket or herby lamb braise.

Just as evocative of regional identity is Cono Sur’s 2012 Single Vineyard Block 21 Pinot Noir, with its cool-climate racy acidity, but gorgeous fruit sweetness and mineral twang.  Salmon wine par excellence given mild tannins and leafy savour.

Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile’s most planted grape (over 40,000 hectares of it) and I loved the classic correctness of Carmen’s Gran Reserva Alto Maipo 2011 cab with its chewy black cassis, hint of mint and quiet power.  Built for a prime steak and a few years of bottle-ageing too, for the Alto Maipo’s gravelly signature to emerge fully.

Rhys Pender MW

Having spent the best part of the week sifting through my tasting notes from the World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC), it is obvious that there are some great wines available around the country and often great value for money. Below are a few of my selections that really hit the mark in the under $15, under $25 and over $25 price categories.

Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2012 wine_50012_web San Pedro 1865 Limited Edition Cabernet Syrah 2011It is great seeing wineries breaking the mold with less traditional blends that just work really well. Chile has historically been very Bordeaux variety focused but syrah is making waves in its short history in the country. The blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah is common in Australia and seems to work well in Chile is the San Pedro 1865 Limited Edition Cabernet Syrah 2011. Serious wine for just under $25.

Another top class wine, worth every penny of its $40, is the Wolf Blass White Label Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 2010. This is classy chardonnay showing the big changes that have happened in Aussie chardonnay. Don’t expect toasty oak, butter and bigness but rather a very complex, subtle and restrained wine with plenty of elegance.

We are all looking for great wine deals and sometimes they come along right under your nose. For under $15 you can get the Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2012. You have probably had this wine in the past, and it isn’t always overly exciting, but the 2012 vintage offers a great blend of fruit and savoury complexity to make it bat above its weight.

Treve Ring

For me, a valuable and rewarding part of the competition is finding out that you prefer – sometimes overwhelmingly – a wine in the under $15 category more than one in the over $25 category.

Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 Laurenz V und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner 2012 Brumont Gros Manseng Sauvignon 2013One particularly appealing lean, bright, mountain herb and smoked stone white that I enjoyed was Alain Brumont’s characterful 2013 Gros Manseng-Sauvignon blend from Southwest France’s Gascony area. Though just a shade over $15 on our market, it settles under the $15 mark in other provinces – a steal at this mark.

Sometimes wines stand out in a flight for all the wrong reasons. In the case of Laurenz V und Sophie Singing Gruner Veltliner 2012 from Austria however, this grape stood out and shone in its flight, memorable for its green fig, herbal spice and tangerine peel notes.

It’s always comforting to see that local wines can command high scores in a mixed international flight, and I was duly rewarded to see that one particularly graceful and elegant young pinot was Vancouver Island’s Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012.

About the BC Critics’ Picks ~

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

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

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Un petit quelque chose aux pommes avec ça ?

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau sm

Marc Chapleau

Notre site s’appelle Chacun son vin, c’est vrai, mais pour ma part, et j’ose croire qu’il en est de même pour plusieurs d’entre vous, je ne dédaigne pas une bonne bière, la plupart du temps. Surtout avec l’éclosion incessante de nouvelles microbrasseries au Québec, et des combinaisons de saveurs parfois un peu tirées par les cheveux mais ô combien réussies, et je pense notamment à la Lambic Fruit de la passion de la ferme-brasserie Schoune de Saint-Polycarpe, près de Valleyfield, vendue dans certaines épiceries et dépanneurs spécialisés.

Cette digression, désolé, pour vous emmener plutôt vers le cidre –  on ne peut plus de saison alors que l’action, en cette fin d’été, se déroule surtout dans les vergers.

Que les 50 ans et plus ne s’enfuient pas tout de suite ! Et que les plus jeunes sachent, si ce n’est pas déjà le cas, que le cidre qu’on a recommencé à commercialiser dans les années 1970 après avoir connu une longue période d’interdiction était sinon infect, du moins traître au possible…

Les cuvées alors proposées titraient allègrement 13 ou 14 pour cent d’alcool et étaient bourrées de soufre. On faisait le cidre dans ce temps-là, ont par la suite colporté les mauvaises langues, à partir de pommes tombées au sol et souvent pourries.

J’en sais quelque chose. À propos de tanguer à cause de ça en direction du plancher des vaches, j’entends…

Nous sommes d’ailleurs plusieurs quinquas à avoir pris nos premières brosses avec ce maudit cidre. On était à l’époque des hipsters et des Pôpa avant l’heure, avec nos barbes de prophètes et nos chemises à carreaux. Et tout ce qu’on a récolté pour toute cette peine qu’on s’est donnée à faire de la réintroduction du cidre un succès… c’est des mals de cheveux carabinés. (Je sais, au pluriel, mal c’est maux, mais « des maux de
cheveux », de vous à moi, ça ne fait pas très sérieux…)

Tout ça pour dire que si un gars comme moi dit aujourd’hui du bien du cidre québécois, il ne faut surtout pas le prendre à la légère.

Ça a été long, pas loin de 20 ans, mais l’industrie s’est bel et bien reprise en main. Le cidre de glace par exemple, qui ne le sait pas, est même devenu l’un de nos fleurons gastronomiques. Quant aux cidres de table, appelons-les comme ça, tranquilles, mousseux, secs et demi-secs proposent aujourd’hui une boisson saine et équilibrée, au fruité souvent très pur, on ne peut plus « pomme ». C’est tout ce que le client demande, la plupart du temps.

De fait, le cidre – sauf exception – est rarement très complexe. Il l’est du reste moins que le vin et même que la bière, souvent. N’empêche : compte tenu de notre long passé pomicole, et ne serait-ce que parce qu’on compte au Québec actuellement dix fois plus d’hectares de vergers que d’hectares de vignes, le cidre n’en demeure peut-être pas moins la boisson du terroir la plus authentiquement et plus naturellement québécoise.

Il s’agit seulement, pour les baby-boomers, de faire abstraction du passé et de l’aborder sans préjugé.

À boire, aubergiste !

J’ai goûté ou regoûté récemment un certain nombre de cidres vendus à la SAQ. Tous, ou à peu près, sont bons et bien faits, équilibrés et bien fruités. Certains ressortent tout de même du lot. Surtout au niveau de la texture, ai-je noté, les meilleurs exemples ayant plus de profondeur, une structure en bouche plus affirmée et parfois même, une légère et délicieuse astringence.

Trois cidres tranquilles pour commencer, c’est-à-dire sans effervescence.

Les Vergers Lafrance Légende D'automne 2012 Domaine Pinnacle Verger Sud La Face Cachée De La Pomme Dégel

Le Légendes d’automne 2012 Vergers Lafrance, à base de McIntosh, n’est pas trop sucré, plutôt léger (9 % d’alcool), simple et de bon goût.

Le Vergers du Sud Domaine Pinnacle m’a de prime abord fait sourciller, étant donné sa bouteille très lourde. Pas d’esbroufe en bouche cependant, équilibre exemplaire, et une agréable pointe saline.

Enfin, le Dégel La Face cachée de la pomme est comme le précédent riche et corsé, avec juste ce qu’il faut d’acidité pour le garder pimpant. À réserver par exemple pour les fromages, plus que pour l’apéro, étant donné son coffre, sa corpulence.

Michel Jodoin Cidre Mousseux Rosé Domaine Lafrance Cidre Mousseux 2013 La Face Cachée De La Pomme Bulle De Neige

Du côté des cidres mousseux, j’ai à nouveau bien aimé le Cidre léger rosé Michel Jodoin, élaboré à partir de la variété de pomme Geneva, à la chair rougeâtre, d’où la couleur du cidre. Une belle réussite à seulement 7 % d’alcool, signée par le duo Michel Jodoin/Laurence Lamboley.

Plus sucré et assez corsé, le Cidre mousseux 2013 Domaine Lafrance a tout de même une bonne fraîcheur et d’engageants arômes de pomme dès l’abord.

On renoue en gros avec le style du cidre léger de Jodoin avec le Bulle de Neige La Face cachée de la pomme, demi-sec, rafraîchissant et bien soutenu par son acidité.

Les cidres de glace

La Face Cachée De La Pomme Neige Première Ice Cider 2011 La Face Cachée de la Pomme Neige Récolte d'HiverJ’aurais pu ici parler des produits du domaine Pinnacle, du Clos Saragnat, des Vergers de la Colline et de bien d’autres encore. Si je n’en retiens que deux, du même producteur qui plus est, c’est que je viens tout juste de les regoûter et donc mon commentaire est plus à jour.

De bons points, ainsi, pour le Neige Récolte d’hiver La Face cachée de la pomme , liquoreux et quasi sirupeux mais qui demeure nerveux, malgré ses quelque 190 g de sucre résiduel par litre.

Même constat pour le Neige Première 2011 La Face cachée de la pomme, celui-ci issu d’une récolte d’automne obtenu par cryoconcentration naturelle (jus mis à geler à l’extérieur). Très compote de pomme et pas trop sucré, un excellent dessert par lui-même.

Santé !


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

Penfolds clinique de rebouchage

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Rarer Than Unicorn – A Tasting of Rare Wines Represented by Alto Vino

WineAlign is delighted to present an exclusive tasting of highly acclaimed rare wines on October 8, 2014. 

2014-09-18_11-24-57Alto Vino is the importer of some of Australia and New Zealand’s best wines. Also they are the agents for Dumangin Champagne which will have 4 cuvee’s on show. This WineAlign event will showcase some examples of the wines represented by Alto Vino. They are from numerous producers and all punch above their weight in terms of quality versus price. With the small production of many of the wines, some are rarely ever opened for public tasting. All wines tasted will be available for private ordering at great prices.  This is a walk-around tasting event.  A selection of hors d’oeuvres, including cheese and charcuterie platters will be served.  WineAlign’s David Lawrason will also be in attendance.

 Purchase Your Tickets Here

Wines being sampled include:


Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2012 (97 points James Halliday)

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2012 (95 points James Halliday)

Clonakilla O’riada Shiraz 2012 (95 points James Halliday)


rob dolan

Rob Dolan True Colours Chardonnay 2012 (89 points James Halliday)

Rob Dolan White Label Pinot 2012 (94 points James Halliday)


by farrBy Farr Chardonnay 2012 (96 points James Halliday) 

By Farr Tout Pres Pinot 2010 (96 points James Halliday)

blankBy Farr Farrside Pinot 2011 (97 points James Halliday)


2014-09-18_12-05-44Farr Rising Chardonnay 2009 (95 points James Halliday)

Farr Rising Geelong Pinot 2010 (96 points James Halliday)

blankFarr Rising Saignee(Pinot Rose) 2013 (93 points Winefront)


philip shaw

Philip Shaw Idiot Shiraz 2012 (new release)


blankPhilip Shaw No 17 Merlot Cabernet 2011 (new release)


jasper hill

Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock 2010 (96 points Jeremy Oliver)




Kalleske Pirathon Shiraz 2012 (95 points James Halliday)



DumanginDumangin La Cuvée 17 (93 points Tyson Stelzer, 91 points Wine Enthusiast)
Dumangin Le Rosé 1er Cru (94 points Tyson Stelzer)
Dumangin Le Vintage 2004 (92 points Wine Enthusiast)
Dumangin L’Extra-Brut 1er Cru (93 points Tyson Stelzer, 90 pts Wine Enthusiast)

Gladstone VineyardNEW ZEALAND

12,000 Miles Sauvignon Blanc 2013
12,000 Miles Pinot Gris 2014
12,000 Miles Pinot Noir 2013


Event Details:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Location: Crush Wine Bar (455 King St W, Toronto)
Time:  5:30 to 9:30 pm
Tickets: $50 (includes all taxes and fees)

 Purchase Your Tickets Here


About Crush Wine Bar:

Located in Toronto’s trendy King West entertainment district, CRUSH Wine Bar offers a blend of casual fine food and winning wines in a vibrant atmosphere. From organic meat, fresh fruits and vegetables from surrounding local farms, Executive Chef Trista Sheen constructs a menu rooted in the French style but highlighted with continental flair. Sommelier Tiffany Jamieson-Horne is on hand to guide guests through the extensive wine collection to enhance the flavours of Chef Sheens’ simple yet stunning dishes.

crush wine bar

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Sept 27th – Part One

Whites for Thanksgiving, Value Portugal and Bordeaux for the Cellar
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The September 27th VINTAGES release is rich with choice, like a groaning table at a Thanksgiving feast. And with Thanksgiving around the corner, we’ll look at some of the best white wine options to consider for the holiday, with reds to follow next week.

I’ll still be in Portugal by the time this report is published, a trip that coincides unintentionally with VINTAGES mini-thematic on this outer sliver of the Iberian Peninsula. I’ve long considered Portugal fertile hunting ground for value thanks to the confluence of numerous factors, not least of which include a wealth of little-known but high quality indigenous grapes, the tremendous stylistic diversity born of multiple terroirs from the scorching Alentejo to the cool, green Minho in the north, the technical proficiency acquired in the post Salazar, post coop-dominated era, and the complexity of untangling it all which slows commercial success and results in lower price to quality ratios. There are a couple of enticing values that are worth your attention in this release.

And finally, we’ll cover a particularly strong range of Bordeaux red hitting the shelves on the 27th, highlighting some top candidates for mid or long-term ageing mainly from the excellent 2010 vintage. The 2010s seems to once again be revealing their true potential after an initial “closed” period when they were obviously angry for being awoken prematurely from their slumber. You can of course spend really big money on 2010 Bordeaux, into triple digits and beyond, but we’ve found a handful at $60 or under that should satisfy the most discerning palates. But, patience required.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images. You can also find the complete list of each VINTAGES release under Wine >> New Releases. Remember, however, that to access this list and to read all of the reviews you do need to subscribe (only $40/year). Paid subscribers get immediate access to new reviews, while non-paid members do not see reviews until 60 days later. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES September 27th 2014:

Thanksgiving Whites

I find that whites with just a pinch of sweetness, or at least the impression of sweetness (not fully desert-style), make for some of the best pairings with a traditional Thanksgiving Turkey. All those side dishes often have a sweet taste of their own, like the sweet-sour tang of cranberry sauce, or that sweet potato mash, which will turn most bone-dry wines sour and hard. Then there’s the turkey meat itself: lean, dry (often too dry from over-roasting), in need of an acid snap and some succulence and fat from the wine. Enter the perfectly balanced, off-dry genre.

Try one or more of these recommendations out, either in the off-dry, floral/fragrant/ fruity, or rich and satisfying categories, each with engaging character.


Wegeler 2012 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau Germany ($24.95).
Clos Le Vigneau Vouvray 2012 Wegeler Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett 2012John Szabo – One of the great vineyards of the Rheingau, this example of the Berg Schlossberg is terrifically mineral, fresh, crisp and off-dry, with great length and depth. Everything is in picture-perfect balance. Best 2014-2022.

Clos Le Vigneau 2012 Vouvray, Loire, France ($19.95).
John Szabo – Made by well-respected winemaker Alexandre Monmousseau, this is a Vouvray of superior complexity and balance. I appreciate the purity and freshness, the fine-tuned balance between a modest pinch of sugar and tight acids, and the lingering finish. Classy and elegant; best 2014-2020.


Tegernseerhof 2012 Grüner Veltliner Bergdistel Smaragd, Wachau Austria ($24.95).
John Szabo – “Smaragd” is a regulated term in the Wachau which refers to ripeness at harvest and finished alcohol – it’s the richest category after Steinfeder and Federspiel (it comes from the word “emerald”, which in turn describes the colour of the lizards that sun themselves on the warmest rocks of the region). Tegerseerhof has mad a terrific 2012, evidently ripe and concentrated, full-bodied and plush yet briskly acidic. This has layers and layers of flavour, and superior complexity. Best 2014-2020.

Tegernseerhof Smaragd Bergdistel Grüner Veltliner 2012

Castello Di Neive Montebertotto Arneis 2012

La Guardiense Janare Senete Falanghina 2012Castello Di Neive 2012 Montebertotto Arneis, Piedmont, Italy ($18.95).
John Szabo – Castello di Neive regularly over-delivers (they make a fine Barbaresco for the money, too), and this is a pleasantly fragrant example of the aromatic arneis variety. I enjoy the vibrant apple and pear flavours, slipping over into an engaging floral range. Enjoy now.

La Guardiense 2012 Janare Senete Falanghina Sannio, Campania, Italy ($14.95)
David Lawrason – I was very taken with this wine; with it’s fine sense of florality and freshness. But its southern hot climate weight and richness should make if a good candidate for heaviness of a Thanksgiving meal. Sannio is new appellation (est 1997) that confines viticulture to cooler hillside locations to ensure better structure in the wines.

Rich and Satisfiying

Bonterra 2012 Viognier, Mendocino & Lake Counties, California, USA ($19.95).
Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2012 Gloria Ferrer Chardonnay 2011 Bonterra Viognier 2012John Szabo – An intense, very floral and ripe viognier dripping with peach and apricot jam, violets, apple purée and ginger spice – tailor made for Thanksgiving dinner. The palate is full and gives an impression of sweetness, while the finish is long. Enjoy now.

Gloria Ferrer 2011 Chardonnay, Carneros, California ($24.95)
David Lawrason – I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to open two or three bottles of this for a Thanksgiving banquet, (as long as red (pinot) is open as well.  The richness and weight of California chardonnay is ideal in this setting. This is a somewhat mild mannered, very well balanced edition that will appeal widely before and during your Thanksgiving dinner.

Shafer 2012 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, Carneros, California ($67.95)
David Lawrason – If you want to go big with your Thanksgiving dinner – and also show some largesse –  this is a beauty. Not too fat and sweet; not to lean and green. Great balance and depth here. Very polished as well. Red Shoulder Ranch is large single vineyard of 68 acres near San Pablo Bay; and has long been one of my favourite California chardonnays.


Deu La Deu Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2013

Quinta De Pancas Selecção Do Enólogo 2010Deu La Deu 2013 Alvarinho Vinho Verde, Monção e Melgaço, Portugal ($19.95).
John Szabo – Albariño, as it’s known in Spain, has by now gained some mainstream traction thanks chiefly to the fine wines emerging from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia. But northern Portugal, and particularly the vineyards around the towns of Monçao and Melgaço that are just across the river from Spain, are quickly catching up on quality. This is a perfumed, lime and lemon-scented example, with apple blossom and other pretty white floral notes, more full-bodied and drier than the basic level of Vinho Verde. Sara d’Amato – A head-turner in the tasting lab at the LCBO last week, this terrific Vinho Verde is sure to have wide appeal. This fresh, vibrant wine’s release begs for an Indian Summer! Notes of Asian pear, green apple, starfruit and tender floral blossoms linger on the finish of this full-flavoured wine.

Quinta De Pancas 2010 Selecção do Enólogo, Lisboa, Portugal ($18.95).
John Szabo – A particularly spicy, black pepper scented blend of touriga nacional, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and alicante that could pass for syrah tasted blind. The palate is fullish and plush, ripe but balanced, with succulent acids and genuine depth. Drink now. David Lawrason – Quinta de Pancas is fine 50 ha property north of Lisbon that has been producing wine for over 500 years, most recently focused on combining native varieties like touriga and alicante with cabernet and merlot. This is packs notable complexity and depth for the money – great value!

Quinta Do Côa Vinho Tinto 2012

Casa Da Passarella 2010 Somontes RedCasa Da Passarella Somontes Red 2010, Dão Portugal ($13.95).
John Szabo – The Dão is one of my favourite regions in Portugal. It’s cooler here than in either the Alentejo or most parts of the Douro, and consistently yields wines of character, elegance and class. This is a cracking value blend of touriga nacional, tinta roriz (tempranillo), alfrocheiro and jaen (mencía), firm and juicy, fresh and pleasantly herbal. Best 2014-2017.

Quinta Do Côa 2012 Vinho Tinto, Douro, Portugal ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – Producer of the better known “Carm” series of wines, Quinta do Côa’s “estate” series is equally appealing as is exemplified in this expressive touriga nacional based blend. With the balance, weight, concentration and structure of a much more expensive wine, you’ll be sure to impress with this divine Douro.

Bordeaux For the Cellar

Château Rol Valentin 2010, Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France ($61.85).
John Szabo –  A big, full, solidly composed, densely structured and very ripe Saint Emilion here, with palate warming alcohol declared at 14%, and abundant but very ripe tannins. This is massive and concentrated, still years away from prime drinking. Try after 2018, or hold until 2030 or beyond.

Château Fonréaud 2010, Listrac-Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($30.95).
John Szabo – A classic and structured left bank Bordeaux from the less-celebrated Listrac AOC, and hence fine value, over-delivering on all levels. This should develop nicely over the next 2-4 years or so, and drink well into the mid-twenties.

Château Rol Valentin 2010 Château Fonréaud 2010 Château St. Georges 2010

Château St. Georges 2010, St-Georges St-Émilion Bordeaux, France ($39.95).
John Szabo – this is an evidently ambitious and ripe, concentrated “satellite” Saint Emilion, which could be mistaken for Napa cabernet out of context with its 14.5% declared alcohol and dense, ultra ripe dark fruit flavour. Yet there’s still acid and tannic grip underlying the ensemble, which should allow much better integration over the next 3-5 years. Best 2018-2030. David Lawrason – And while we are on the subject of venerable properties producing undervalued great wine, don’t miss Chateau St. Georges.  The chateau itself, which sits back on the plateau a few kms from St. Emilion the town, is one of the great monuments in all of Bordeaux.  And given the  class, depth and youth of this wine (thanks in part to the 2010 vintage) it clearly belongs in the company of the classed growths. Our gain price-wise that is not in the official hierarchy

Château Grand Corbin-Despagne 2010, Saint-Émilion Bordeaux, France ($46.85).
John Szabo – This wine is for the more classically-inclined, refined, old school drinkers. Admittedly I enjoy such structured and dusty examples, with firm texture and zesty acids. This should develop fine complexity over the next 3-5 years or more. Best 2018-2028.

Château Grand Corbin Despagne 2010 Château d'Aiguilhe 2010 Château Des Moines 2008

Château d’Aiguilhe 2010, Côtes De Bordeaux Castillon, Bordeaux, France ($42.85)
Sara d’Amato – A long time favourite of mine, this high end Castillon from the right bank gives the region the due attention it deserves. The price may appear steep but its quality easily matches some of the best in St. Emilion. David Lawrason – This large estate may not enjoy the luxury of sitting in St.Emilion but the property itself, as well as the current family owners –Count Stephan von Neipperg – has a lineage dating back hundreds of years. There are 50 ha of vines here (80% merlot) that sit on clay-limetone soils, which lends real elegance amid all kinds of fruit and barrel complexity. The great 2010 vintage also adds structure. If this wine was produced in St. Emilion I am sure it would be double the price.

Château Des Moines 2008, Lalande De Pomerol, Bordeaux, France ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – In a right bank state of mind, here is another gem that holds merlot to high standards. Many estates in and around Pomerol have less ingratiated and historically prominent backgrounds. Chateau des Moines’ real wine-growing history doesn’t begin until the 1960s despite its proprietors’ ancestry of coopers. Its more humble beginnings (or reinvention) have forced the estate to work hard to achieve recognition among houses with greater status. As a result, an excellent value product is now on our shelves – sleek with great structure and longevity.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Sept 27th:

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

Sbragia Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

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Les bons choix de Nadia (2e vague)

Cellier Septembre 2014 (2e vague)
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Ce matin, le 18 septembre, la SAQ met en vente la deuxième vague de produits du sud de la France. Ce nouvel arrivage Cellier propose une quinzaine de vins rouges chaleureux et bien en chair, en provenance du sud de la vallée du Rhône et du Languedoc-Roussillon.

Avec son climat chaud et le souffle constant du mistral, le Rhône méridional est un terrain de prédilection pour le grenache noir qui donne des vins joufflus et chaleureux. Près de 90 % des vins de la vallée du Rhône sont produits dans cette zone située au sud de Montélimar.

Beaucoup plus vaste que la partie nord, elle regroupe : les Côtes du Rhône Villages, les appellations Ventoux, Luberon, Grignan-les-Adhémar, Costières de Nîmes, Clairette de Bellegarde et Côtes du Vivarais, sept crus (Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Lirac, Rasteau, Tavel, Vacqueyras, Vinsobres) et deux vins doux naturels (Muscat Beaume-de-Venise et Rasteau).

Je vous ai perdu ?

Ça ne fait rien. Tout ce qu’il vous faut retenir, c’est que ces vins sont les compagnons rêvés pour vous tenir le cœur et l’esprit au chaud avec le retour des soirées – et bientôt des journées – froides.

À la vôtre! Bon automne !

Châteauneuf-du-Pape et compagnie

Dégusté à deux reprises pendant l’été 2012, le Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009 (44,75 $) du Château Mont-Redon m’avait laissé une excellente impression. Deux ans plus tard, le constat est le même. Le vin est encore étonnamment jeune et vigoureux; son équilibre et son envergure en bouche ne font aucun doute.

André Roméro, propriétaire du Domaine de Soumade, a largement contribué à l’émergence et à la reconnaissance de l’appellation Rasteau au cours des dernières décennies. En fait, Roméro, c’est Monsieur Rasteau en personne, et sa cuvée Prestige a longtemps été considérée comme l’exemple à suivre dans l’appellation. Sans surprise, le Rasteau 2010 (27,50 $) est tout aussi corpulent que dans mes souvenirs. Amateurs de sensations fortes, vous serez servis !

Château Mont Redon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2009 Domaine La Soumade Rasteau Cuvée Prestige 2010 Domaine De Grangeneuve La Truffière 2011 Domaine De Montvac Vincilia Vacqueyras 2010

Jugeant que le nom « Tricastin » – davantage connu en France pour sa centrale nucléaire que pour ses vignobles – nuisait à l’image de leur appellation, les vignerons des Coteaux du Tricastin ont choisi de la rebaptiser Grignan-les-Adhémar. Produit par le président de l’appellation, La Truffière 2011 (25,70 $) est concentré et déploie de bons goûts de fruits mûrs et d’olives noires. Solide et bâti pour tenir la route.

Moins flamboyant, mais très bien tourné, les amateurs de vins rouges du Sud apprécieront la forme classique du Vacqueyras 2010 du Domaine de Montvac. (28 $)

En descendant vers le Languedoc…

Parcé Frères Zoé 2011 Domaine René Rostaing Puech Noble 2010 Philippe Uusswitz Orénia 2012Jadis considéré comme l’usine à vin médiocre du pays, le Languedoc-Roussillon est résolument orienté vers la qualité depuis une quinzaine d’années. Ce vaste croissant, qui s’étend de la frontière espagnole à la vallée du Rhône, est d’autant plus attrayant qu’il mise désormais à fond sur les multiples facettes de ses terroirs et de ses cépages.

Les vignerons redécouvrent les qualités de cépages comme le carignan ou le cinsault, autrefois considérés comme roturiers, mais dont les vieilles vignes, cultivées adéquatement, peuvent donner des vins racés, empreints du fameux goût de la garrigue…

Finie, la puissance à tout prix. On cherche avant tout à produire des vins rouges authentiques et digestes et des vins blancs originaux. Bien plus qu’un simple rayon à aubaines, le Languedoc-Roussillon est l’une des régions les plus riches et les plus diversifiées de France.

Les vignerons d’Uzès ont obtenu l’AOP (appellation d’origine protégée) en juillet 2012, plus de trente ans après avoir entamé des démarches auprès de l’INAO. Une reconnaissance bien méritée, comme en fait foi le délicieux Orenia 2012 (18,65 $) élaboré par Philippe Nusswitz, couronné meilleur sommelier de France en 1986 et désormais dédié à la mise en valeur de ce terroir situé au nord-ouest de Nîmes. Le vin de soif idéal pour les journées d’automne : juste assez chaleureux et rassasiant de fraîcheur !

En parallèle à ses activités dans le Rhône septentrional, René Rostaing, force majeure de l’appellation Côte-Rôtie, a aussi développé un domaine dans les coteaux du Languedoc, non loin de la ville de Nîmes. Son Puech Noble 2010 étonne par son élégance et par son caractère très digeste. Comme quoi il n’est pas nécessaire d’assaillir le palais pour le charmer… Pas donné (38,75 $), mais vraiment excellent!

Plus au sud, dans le Roussillon, les frères Marc et Thierry Parcé du Domaine de la Rectorie gèrent cette cave située à une quarantaine de kilomètres au nord de Collioure. Leur cuvée Zoé 2011 (17,40 $) est un régal de fruit. Juste assez rustique et combien sympathique.

Tessellae Louis Roche Old Vines 2011 Vignoble Du Loup Blanc La Mère Grand 2011 La Chapelle De Bébian Rouge 2009Sur un mode nettement plus ferme et consistant, La Chapelle de Bébian 2009 est le deuxième vin du Prieuré de Saint-Jean de Bébian. Issu de grenache, de carignan et de mourvèdre, on reconnaît bien dans ce 2009 la corpulence qui est devenue la marque de Bébian.

Partenaires en affaires depuis plusieurs années déjà, les propriétaires du restaurant défunt restaurant Le Continental à Montréal, Alain Rochard et Laurent Farre, ont acquis une exploitation viticole dans le midi de la France. Leur vignoble est certifié biologique depuis 2007. Classique de la gamme du Loup Blanc, le Mère Grand 2011 (25 $) m’a semblé un peu moins corsé que par les derniers millésimes, mais non moins savoureux. Bel exemple de Minervois, équilibré et déjà très accessible. Un régal avec des côtelettes d’agneau en croute d’herbes.

Enfin, l’amateur de colosses voudra goûter le Tessellae 2011, commercialisé sous l’étiquette Louis Roche. S’il manque un peu de nuances pour le moment, ce vin solide et compact ne manque pas de faire son effet en bouche…


Cellier septembre 2014 (1ere vague)

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

Penfolds clinique de rebouchage

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (September)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers and Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO this month

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I am pleased to tell you that since my last report I have found 18 new wines to join my Top 50 Best Values. Over the last few weeks I have tasted around 300 wines so it is not surprising that there are so many new finds. Some additions are due to monthly discounts (LTOs) from the LCBO, plus a couple of delisted wines as well as a slew of Bonus AirMiles (BAMs) making some wines even more attractive for the next four weeks or so; all making your fall drinking more affordable.

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection. I select most from wines new to Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The discount period runs until October 12th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available when we published.

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


Fonseca Periquita 2012, Peninsula De Setubal, Portugal $8.95 + 5BAMs
TOP50SEPTEMBER – Dependable value medium bodied red with a spicy side to the fruit.

Montalto Nero d’Avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Sicily, Italy $8.95
NEW TO TOP50 – A finely balanced red for red meat dishes or pizza from sunny Sicily.

Beso De Vino Old Vine Garnacha 2011, Spain. $8.95 was $9.95
NEW TO TOP50 – A fresh vibrant and tasty BBQ red from grenache known as garnacha in Spain.

Fonseca Periquita 2012 Montalto Nero d'Aavola Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Beso De Vino Old Vine Garnacha 2011 Xplorador Carmenere 2012 Santa Carolina Merlot Reserva 2012

Xplorador Carmenere 2012, Central Valley, Chile $9.15 was $10.95
DISCONTINUED AT  LCBO – Sadly this juicy fruit forward red will soon no longer be on the shelf.  There are over 3000 bottles in stock so one can enjoy at the sale price for a while I think.

Santa Carolina Merlot Reserva 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile $10.95 was $12.95
NEW TO TOP50 – A bright fresh merlot with pure aromas and flavours of black cherry and pomegranate fruit with some spice and leather tones.

Cusumano Syrah 2013, Sicily, Italy $11.95
NEW TO TOP50 – This red gets better with every vintage. Fantastic value for a cool climate unoaked red.

La Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2013, Mendoza, Argentina $13.50
NEW TO TOP50 – Try this opaque purple red with steak or enjoy with a cheese platter.

Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso 2012, Tuscany, Italy $14.60 + 5BAMs
NEW TO TOP50 – An elegant and very Tuscan red that is balanced just right for tomato based sauces.

Cusumano Syrah 2013 La Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2013 Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso 2012 Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2012 Pascual Toso Malbec Limited Edition 2012 Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina $14.95
NEW TO TOP50 – This full bodied malbec is an Argentine classic, charming and delicious with a very inviting nose.

Pascual Toso Malbec Limited Edition 2012, Mendoza, Argentina $15.95
NEW TO TOP50 – The best vintage yet of this elegant harmonious malbec with lifted aromas of blackberry fruit plus well integrated oak, dark chocolate, vanilla and black plum jam.

Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Maipo Alto, Chile $15.95
NEW TO TOP50 – Try this elegant fruity, very aromatic, cabernet with a rack of lamb. A great price for a fine dining red.


Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Rapel Valley, Chile $8.95 + 4BAMs
TOP50SEPTEMBER – Best vintage yet of this lightweight juicy, crunchy, fresh sauvignon.

Dunavar Pinot Blanc 2013, Hungary $8.95 + 3 BAMs
NEW TO TOP50 – A juicy flavourful white that shows mild mango and melon fruit aromas and flavours.

KWV Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa $9.45
NEW TO TOP50 – The 2014 vintage of this wine shows that South Africa can make good inexpensive chenin with a good depth of flavour and also well structured.

Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Dunavár Pinot Blanc 2013 K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2013 Inniskillin Niagara Estate Unoaked Chardonnay 2011

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2013, Central Valley, Chile $9.90
NEW TO TOP50 – Another beautiful flavourful white from Cono Sur at a great price.

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Unoaked Chardonnay 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $9.95was $11.95
NEW TO TOP50 – It is tough to make a good unoaked chardonnay so enjoy this slender pure wine at such a great price.

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc Viognier 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $10.95
NEW TO TOP50 – A ripe and exotic white with a beautiful nose. South Africa is making some delicious aromatic white blends with lots of flavour.

Dopff & Irion Gewurztraminer Cuvee Rene Dopff 2012, Alsace, France $13.00 was $15.45
DISCONTINUED AT  LCBO – Regrettably this juicy textbook gewurz from Alsace will soon no longer be on the shelf but there are around 600  bottles in stock. So use WineAlign to locate the nearest to you and enjoy at the sale price while stock remains.

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc Viognier 2013 Dopff & Irion Gewurztraminer Cuvee Rene Dopff 2012 Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand $13.95
NEW TO TOP50 – Now sourced from Hawkes Bay this is a major improvement on earlier vintages of this brand. It is a fresh pure flavourful grigio at a great price.

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand $16.95
NEW TO TOP50 – I have tasted this vintage several times this year. It keeps getting better as it matures in bottle; often the case with sauvignon blanc. So pop a few in a cupboard at home to enjoy over next six months.

How does a wine get selected for the Top 20 under $20.

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines  I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection (Top 50,) that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. You can access the report any time and read more about it now.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesThere are another 39 wines on the Top 50 list so if you did not find all you need above for your current needs dip into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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. I review the list every month to include newly listed and recently tasted vintages of current listings as well as monitoring the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top 50, 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 us. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

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.

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.


Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20 for September
Top 50 Value Wines

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


Michel Lynch Merlot 2011

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The Successful Collector – Wachau Riesling

Austria’s greatest white wines?
by Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Conversing with colleague — and my former instructor — John Szabo MS several months back, I was shocked to learn that riesling accounts for less than 5 per cent of total plantings in Austria. 4.1 per cent, to be precise. How can this be? Would someone explain why Austria, home to the wondrous Wachau, one of the greatest and most beautiful winegrowing regions in the world, produces such minuscule quantities of this magnificent grape?

As a partial explanation, it is only relatively recently that the potential for riesling in the Wachau and nearby regions has been meaningfully set to purpose by more than just a handful of producers. Unfortunately, this means that overall plantings have had to play an unwinnable game of catch-up with grüner veltliner, Austria’s most famous grape, red or white, for popular recognition. Not that this has discouraged producers from expanding their holdings throughout this glorious 20-km stretch of the river. Based mainly on extremely steep terraces overlooking the water, the best riesling parcels are usually found on the upper slopes, where soils consist mainly of granite, gneiss, and mica-schist.

Wachau Map (Courtesy Domäne Wachau)

For the most part, great Wachau riesling is often low-keyed in youth, routinely consisting of steely green fruits intermixed with lemon citrus, herbs, and an abundance of minerals. Yet with just a smidgen of bottle age (depending on the wine), more honeyed, kerosene, and nut-driven impressions seem to take over. Cellaring capability is extremely high, the best examples potentially lasting for at least a few decades. The richest and longest lived are those labeled ‘Smaragd’ (named after a local lizard), with alcohol levels at 12.5 per cent or higher. Wines labeled ‘Federspiel’ (11.5 – 12.5 per cent) are usually drier and less pronounced, while those labeled ‘Steinfeder’ (up to 11.5 per cent) are the lightest.

At this year’s VieVinum in Vienna, I discovered a great deal about the Wachau’s greatest vineyards. Out of 900-odd Rieden (or sites), about a dozen stand above the rest for riesling. Furthest west, along the Spitzer Graben tributary, Bruck is situated on an extremely high hillside, with terraced rows so narrow that tractors cannot even pass through — a common theme throughout many of the best sites. These are extremely minerally, citrus-laden wines. Further east, the Offenberg and Setzberg vineyards are also of similar configuration and quality, though perhaps more fruit-driven in youth. In these cooler parts of the Wachau, soils are mainly derived from mica schists, resulting in wines of considerable elegance and vitality.

East of the village of Spitz, the Danube plays an even greater role in most of the top riesling vineyards, particularly in terms of temperature moderation. Singerriedel is just such a Ried, well-protected from wind and privy to the warm autumn sun late in the evening. Wines of excellent concentration and class are produced here, along with those of Hochrain to the south. Much more famous, however, is the Ried of Achleiten, situated just to the north of the village of Weissenkirchen. Composed of slate and gneiss, it produces riesling of unmistakable minerality and finesse. Those of neighbouring Klaus are also of significant regard.

Singerriedel (Courtesy Domäne Wachau)

In what might be considered the heart of the Wachau, the villages of Dürnstein and the Loibens (Unter- and Ober-) possess some of the most renowned riesling vineyards in Austria. Of these, Kellerberg is traditionally ranked at the top, though grüner veltliner also comprises a large minority of plantings here. Mixed vineyards are very common in the Wachau. Enjoying ample sunlight, broad day-/night-time temperatures, and complex soils consisting mostly of granitic gneiss, Kellerberg riesling is both marvellously fulsome and long-lived. Other nearby vineyards of great repute are Loibenberg, Schütt, and Höhereck, each with their own distinctive personality and eminence. Last but not least, great riesling is produced south of the river around the village of Mautern. The top producer here is indisputably Nikolaihof, a boutique winery whose greatest offerings from Steiner Hund (located across the border in Kremstal), Vom Stein, and Im Weingebirge are widely in demand.

Indeed, small producers throughout the Wachau are routinely among the finest riesling cultivators. Unfortunately, availability in VINTAGES is profoundly lacking, with only one or two wines currently in the system. As something of a small mercy, however, some of the top producers possess agency representation in Ontario, several of which presently carry Wachau rieslings on consignment (immediate delivery) or are able to handle orders directly from the winery. As usual, such wines must be ordered in twelve- or six-bottle cases, though delivery usually takes several months.

Granted, ordering such wines from private agencies might be a nuisance—not because of poor service but because of the necessity of buying by the case—but the rewards are truly beyond measure. When it comes to top-notch Wachau riesling and the best sites from which they are sourced, all one has to do is be in the know.

Top estates in the Wachau

F.X. Pichler – The wines of F.X. Pichler are generally regarded as the most stunning in the Wachau, at times equalled by several other estates, yet never surpassed. With parcels in some of the greatest vineyards around the village of Dürnstein and the Loibens (Unter- and Ober-), every bottling is a testament to the originality and quality of each individual terroir. Ontario Representative: Le Sommelier

F.X. Picher 2013 Dürnsteiner Kellerberg Riesling Smaragd is perhaps the most sensational, most in-depth dry white I have ever tasted (at least to date) from the Wachau. From what is widely considered the most prized vineyard in the region, this sensational offering will keep for up to two decades in the right conditions.

Franz Hirtzberger – Based out of the village of Spitz in a more westerly sector of the Wachau, few wines are as singularly delicious as those of Franz Hirtzberger. Much of the region’s modern-day successes may be traced to Franz’s tireless efforts in spearheading the Vinea Wachau (an association of winegrowers) and promoting perfectionist winegrowing techniques. Not represented in Canada

Franz Hirtzberger 2013 Hochrain Riesling Smaragd is both remarkably intense and stylish. Located just below the famed Singerriedel vineyard, Hochrain routinely yields wines of this design, oftentimes with astonishing aging potential. This particular example may be kept for up to fifteen years or more.

Emmerich Knoll – With 15 ha of vineyards, Emmerich and Monika Knoll (along with their son) are among the most committed, most dynamic winegrowers in the Wachau. Based out of the village of Unterloiben, the style here is one of luminosity and breed. Normally tight in youth, these are wines of phenomenal elegance and ageability. Québec representative: Les Vins Alain Bélanger

Emmerich Knoll 2013 Ried Loibenberg Riesling Smaragd is one of several spellbinding wines produced at this estate. Possessing incredible sophistication and character, it will probably require a vigorous decanting if consumed young, and will likely keep for nearly two decades if cellared correctly.

Mature Nikolaihof RieslingNikolaihof: – Perhaps the most celebrated Biodynamic producer in the Wachau, the Saah family’s approach to winemaking is unique. From a mindboggling number of bottlings to an innate understanding of individuality, the wines of Nikolaihof are as mouth-watering as they are unique. Based out of Mautern, to taste from here is a special experience. Ontario representative: The Living Vine

Nikolaihof 2013 Vom Stein Riesling Federspiel is only barely alluding to its potential at such a young age, though it should open up if given a coaxing. Invigorating and balanced (to mention resoundingly dry), this will likely benefit from a thorough decanting if enjoyed young. Drink now or hold for up to eight years or more.

Alzinger – One of the most up-and-coming estates in the Wachau, the wines of Leo Alzinger (now produced with his son) merit profuse exploration. Based out of Unterloiben, this gifted family of winegrowers possess parcels in some of the best vineyards of the region, each with their own personality and charm. Québec Representative: Vinealis

Alzinger 2013 Höhereck Riesling Smaragd is a wine of remarkable purity and harmony. Situated just under the famed Kellerberg vineyard, Höhereck is an especially brilliant site, resulting in wines of incredible vitality and elegance. Drink now or enjoy over the next dozen years or more.


Julian Hitner

Link to Julian’s complete list of Austrian white wines
Link to John Szabo’s Austria Report

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

Kellerberg (Courtesy Domäne Wachau)

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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – September

Fall for Dark Spirits – the apple of my eye
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

As we head into fall, I start sipping more dark spirits. None speaks of the season in Canada to me better than Calvados, the wonderful apple brandy best known from Normandy. Our apple harvest means freshly baked apple pies, hot apple cider and the tangy crunch of newly picked apples. We also have a few distillers making apple eau-de-vie or brandy.

Dillon’s Distillers in Ontario is working on an apple eau-de-vie and has recently come out with a pear one made from Niagara Bartlett pears. Michel Jodoin Calijo is an apple brandy from Quebec. Canados (play on the word Calvados) mainly distilled from BC Hyslop crab apples and aged in oak, made by Okanagan spirits in BC is an apple brandy that I’ve enjoyed in the past. As soon as I get samples to critique them for WineAlign, I’ll be posting reviews.

Meanwhile I have a selection of fine Calvados to recommend. Normandy in northwest France is the home of Calvados, the world’s premier apple brandy as well as a Norman cuisine rich in cream and butter. Between dishes and meals, a calvados — or “Trou Normand” — is said to aid digestion. All over the region, producers will happily invite you in for a nip. Boulard, one of the most famous, has a restaurant onsite with tables inside giant barrels.

Pâpidoux Fine Calvados Calvados Lecompte 5 Year Old Calvados Boulard Pays d'AugeThe finest Normandy apple brandy bears the Appellation Calvados Pays d’Auge Contrôlée label and is produced only from apples grown in the Pays d’Auge. The quality and variety of the Auge apples is second to none and the small size of the area is constantly kept in check, enhancing the rarity factor. In addition, the production of cider and the required double distillation must be carried out within the geographical boundaries of the Auge region in order to be considered part of the appellation d’origine contrôlée or “AOC”.

Founded in 1825, the company Calvados Boulard has been passed down from generation to generation and is now in the hands of Vincent Boulard, the great great grandson of founder Pierre-Auguste. Grand Solage Boulard Calvados Pays d’Auge is double distilled in copper stills over an open flame, from up to 120 different apple varieties, then matured in oak.

Calvados Lecompte 5 Year Old, is aged 5 years in oak, double distilled and from the revered Calvados de Pays d’Auge appellation too. Calvados Domaine Dupont V.S.O.P. from Pays d’Auge has subtle yet persistent cider apple notes with a cognac like character. Pâpidoux Calvados Fine has a youthful apple and alcohol hit best showcased in a cocktail.

The most recognized type of brandy is made from grapes of course. Remy Martin of France, which has been making cognac (from distilled grapes of the region) since 1724, is one of the most famous. Remy Martin VSOP, the leader in Europe and North America in the VSOP segment of the cognac market, is a classic which while lovely on its own, but also makes a superb cocktail.

Remy Martin VSOP Cognac Carlos I Gran Reserva E&J XO Brandy

A sweeter, more old wood, mellow style can be found in Spanish brandies especially Carlos I Gran Reserva from Jerez at about half the price. E&J XO Brandy from Gallo in America is so smooth and sweet it almost tastes candied.

Vintages in Ontario teamed up with Dalmore Highland single malt earlier this year to present a rare Constellation Collection tasting at the National Club in Toronto. Master Blender Richard Paterson led the tasting of four single-vintage, single cask bottlings from 1992, 1989, 1973 and 1966. Cost for the dinner evening at $495 per person might have seemed steep, if one didn’t know the price of these bottles. Starting at $5,266 a bottle for the 1992 up to $48,297 for the 1966 the offer was an event exclusive so I won’t tease you with my in-depth tasting notes. Suffice to say the flavours namely the porty, chocolate notes of the 1992, the marmalade hit of the 1989, the more oaky cognac like 1973 and the cinnamon, coffee, nutmeg aspects of the 1966 were all distinctive and memorable.

Drambuie Dalmore 12 Years Old Highland Single MaltWhether they are worth the cost is relative to the depth of your wealth. The only 200 bottles of this 1966 were produced for the world. A complete Dalmore Constellation Collection of 21 individual bottles created between the years 1964 and 1992 (not all years are represented and some are twice but from different casks) goes for $300,000 and apparently buyers in BC and Alberta have already ponied up. This was the collections first foray into Ontario. No word yet on how much sold but the LCBO did have buyers waiting to pounce.

Dalmore established in 1839 north of Inverness on the shores of the Cromarty Firth is a classic Highland malt. The distillery warehouses feature some of the oldest whisky stocks in the world. Dalmore 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt, the epitome of the Dalmore style is the more accessible, affordable spirit in its line-up.

Another great Scottish drink is Drambuie – I always have a bottle in my liquor cabinet for making cocktails. To make a hot apple toddy with this elixir of scotch, spices and heather honey: mix two ounces of Drambuie with 6 ounces of hot apple cider. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon wedge, add a cinnamon stick and serve in a coffee glass.


Margaret Swaine

To find these and other picks at stores near you, click on: Margaret’s Whisky and Spirits

Editors Note: You can read Margaret Swaine’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great spirits!


Luxardo Sambuca

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Gourmet Games – October 2

Special Offer for WineAlign Members:  $15 Off the Ticket Price (Promo Code: WineAlign)

Join Azureau Wine Agency on Thursday, October 2, at the 2nd Gourmet Games to sample over 60 wines from 14 award-winning wineries from around the world.  Guest chefs from some of Toronto’s best restaurants will also conduct high concept cooking demonstrations as top sommeliers engage in a food/wine pairing competition designed to educate consumers on how wine professionals recommend enjoying wine.2014-09-11_14-00-50

“We invented the Gourmet Games as a fun way for consumers to get into the minds of top chefs and sommeliers and learn to think as they do,” says Dan Rabinovitch, President of Azureau Wine Agency. “No one is going to tell you a pairing is wrong, but our guests may learn something new about the magic that can occur when two sets of flavours and textures are combined. Of course, simply walking around and discovering new wines is also welcome at the Games.”

The Gourmet Games features world-class food & wine talent including Master of Ceremonies Bob Blumer of the Food Network, WineAlign’s Sara d’Amato (who will be moderating the Premium Experiences), Sommelier Zoltan Szabo, and chefs from perennial top Toronto restaurants Cava, George on Queen, and newcomer Cluny Bistro. Wineries from Spain, Italy, Argentina, California, Australia, South Africa, and Chile will be pouring wines that are available for order at the show or purchase at the LCBO.

Sara's New Pic_Sm

Sara d’Amato

Premium Experiences (moderated by Sommelier and WineAlign critic Sara d’Amato):

World Wine Bubbles, Exploring Non-Traditional Sparkling Wines 7-7:45 pm

The Winemaker Series by Alpha Crucis  8-8:45 pm

Vino & Smoke, Cigar and Wine Pairing with Mombacho Cigars  9-9:45 pm

Event Details:

Thursday, October 2, 2014
Location: Berkeley Church – 315 Queen St. East
Time:  6:30 to 10 pm
Tickets: $80 for General Admission/$25 for each Premium Experience

WineAlign Members receive $15.00 off ticket price – Use Promo Code: WineAlign

 Purchase Your Tickets Here


Participating wineries include:

Bodegas Salentein/Callia – Argentina
Chalk Hill/Alpha Crucis – McLaren Vale, Australia
Armas de Guerra – Bierzo, Spain
Vega Sindoa – Navarra, Spain
Rioja Vega – Rioja, Spain
Casas del Bosque – Casablanca, Chile
Erste + Neue – Alto Adige, Italy
Antica Fratta – Franciacorta, Italy
Winery Exchange – California, USA
Bodega Rejadorada – Toro, Spain
Paca & Lola – Rias Baixas, Spain
Simonsig – Stellenbosch, South Africa

Click here for more information on the wineries and the wines they will be pouring.

About Berkeley Church:

berkeley-st-church1Built in 1871, The Berkeley Church has been transformed into Toronto’s most original event venue. Nowhere else will you find such a beautiful blend of traditional ambiance and modern decor. Details such as the original 17-foot stained glass windows, hard wood floors and Victorian Inspired bar makes the Berkeley Church a stunning escape from the ordinary. This location is accessible by TTC, taxi and Green P parking is available on all surrounding streets for responsible designated drivers.

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008