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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 8th – Part One

Sparkling, Whites and Fortified Wines
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

As the end-of-year releases start to roll out, the selections broaden and prices edge up. With nearly 170 products hitting (or re-hitting) shelves for the November 8th VINTAGES release, the media tasting was mercifully split over two days rather than the usual one. We’ll report this week on some of the top sparkling, white and fortified wines on offer, and next week we’ll follow up with red wines and other sundry specialties.

I’d like to make special mention of the fortified wines – sherry and port. I know these aren’t terribly popular categories these days, and I myself am guilty of not reaching into the dark and dusty corner of my cellar where I keep these wines often enough. But a recent visit to both Jerez de la Frontera, the heart of sherry country, and the Douro Valley where port is made, reminded me of just how astonishingly satisfying these wines can be.

And then there’s of course the value equation – few would argue that sherry and port are among the most complex wines on the planet for the money. Moreover, considering the ageing has already been done for you at the winery (with the exception of vintage port), so that you can stop in on the way home from work to buy a bottle of ten or twenty year old wine and enjoy a glass that same night, it’s a wonder that sales aren’t far more brisk.

So if it’s been awhile since you’ve experienced the mesmerizing range of savory, nutty flavours delivered by the best wines in the fortified category, try one of the recommendations below.

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!


Tawse 2012 Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling Sparkling Wine

Fleury Fleur De l’Europe ChampagneFleury Fleur De l'Europe Champagne, France ($63.95)
John Szabo - The first, and one of still very few certified biodynamic producers in the region, Fleury is a reliable name in the grower champagne arena. The house style is one of very mature, toasty, highly complex wines, and considering the excellent range of flavours on offer, I’d serve this at the table with suitably elegant dishes involving, nuts, cream, mushrooms, flavourful grains like barley or kasha, or other savoury, umami-rich plates.

Tawse 2012 Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling Sparkling Wine, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($19.95)
John Szabo - Sparkling wine may not be the house specialty at Tawse, but this is a well-priced, riesling-based bubbly from the newly acquired Limestone Ridge vineyard on the Beamsville Bench. It’s crisp and very dry, fresh and fruity, with a dash of mineral flavour to enhance the overall interest. All in all, a widely appealing bubbly for the aperitif slot.


Cathedral Cellar 2013 Chardonnay, Western Cape, South Africa ($15.95)
John Szabo - The KWV, the much derided former government-controlled cooperative, has quietly ratcheted up quality over the last few years to the point where just about everything produced is worth a look. This is fine entry-level chardonnay that ticks all of the boxes at an attractive price.

Hidden Bench 2012 Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($28.95)
John Szabo - Hidden Bench moves from strength to strength, and the latest range from 2012 shows a mature and steady hand at the helm. The generosity of the vintage was reeled in beautifully while still capturing the full, concentrated house style. And at this price Bourgogne drinkers should take note.
David Lawrason – Hidden Bench is oft highlighted as one of Ontario’s best producers; but owner Harald Thiel has always maintained that he’s striving to be among the best in the world. This tied with a much pricier Burgundy as the best chardonnay of the release.
Sara d’Amato - Hand-picked grapes, whole bunch pressed, cold fermented using indigenous yeast – all care was taken in the vineyards and in the cellar to produce this fine and classic chardonnay whose price is well matched to its high quality. Showing impressive integration of flavours, complexity and harmony, this slightly restrained chardonnay begs for another sip.

Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay 2013 Hidden Bench 2012 Chardonnay Rene Muré Signature Gewürztraminer 2012 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2012

Rene Muré 2012 Signature Gewurztraminer, Alsace, France ($21.95)
John Szabo - A textbook Alsatian gewurztraminer, full-bodied, succulent, rich and intensely aromatic with lush, plush texture and off-dry styling.
David Lawrason - This has all the opulence, smoothness and generosity you could ask of Alsatian gewurz at the price. What really caught my eye was its sense of purity and brightness. A touch sweet, but very nicely done.

Beringer 2012 Private Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley, USA ($44.95)
John Szabo - I’ve tasted this wine a few times now, and grow more and more fond with each sip. It’s unquestionably a big, rich, creamy chardonnay in the unabashed California style, yet winemaker Laurie Hook has managed to sneak in a measure of reserve and balance. Considering the high-stakes game of Napa chardonnay, this is a relative bargain to be sure, for fans of the plus-sized genre.

Menade 2013 Verdejo, Rueda, Spain ($16.95)
John Szabo - Here’s a great ‘party pour’ over the holidays for your sauv blanc-loving friends if they’re open to something different. It’s reminiscent of sauvignon from warmer climes with a kiss of wood, while the palate is soft and round, smooth and easy drinking.

Menade Verdejo 2013 Andre Delorme Bourgogne Chardonnay 2010 Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Chante Alouettes Pouilly Fumé 2013 Domaine Du Grand Tinel Chateauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2012

Andre Delorme 2010 Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy, France ($19.95)
David Lawrason – The great thing about great vintages like 2010, is how they elevate “lesser” wines. Fans of traditional white Burgundy will be clicking their heels to find such a good example at $20.

Jean Max Roger 2013 Cuvée Les Chante Alouettes Pouilly Fumé, Loire, France ($28.95)
Sara d’Amato - A textbook Pouilly-Fumé, this elegant wine exhibits notes of mineral, lemon, flint and saline. Makes for a very conversational aperitif wine or an exquisite match for shellfish.

Domaine Du Grand Tinel 2012 Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc, Rhone, France ($49.95)
Sara d’Amato - Many consumers don’t appreciate the existence of white Châteauneuf–du-Pape and given that less than 7% of Châteauneuf production is white, it is not surprising. Grenache blanc, roussanne , marsanne and clairette are dominantly used in the production of these wines that can range from bright and minerally to rich and savory. This lovely example leans more towards the former with lovely verve and freshness along with a very appealing peppery quality – quite compelling.

Fortified Wines

(JSz -For a quick primer on sherry styles, see my latest article in CityBites Magazine.)

Dalva Colheita Port 1995

Emilio Lustau East India Solera SherryEmilio Lustau East India Solera Sherry, Jerez Spain ($22.95)
John Szabo – This is a case in point of how amazingly complex sherry can be at near give-away prices. It’s technically a cream sherry, meaning a sweetened oloroso, which hits all of the expected, nutty, roasted, caramel, marmalade, dried fig/date/raisin, old furniture polish and antique shop notes typical of the genre. To be sipped or served alongside roasted nuts and blue cheese.

Dalva 1995 Colheita Port, Douro, Portugal ($32.95)
John Szabo – A delectable treat, this is a port from a single harvest (“colheita”) that has been in cask since 1995 and bottled this year (Vintage ports are bottled no later than 2 years after harvest, while tawny ports are a blend of vintages). Technical details aside, this is authentically mature in both colour and aromatics, and smells as I imagine an old wooden, weather-beaten and repeatedly stained sailing vessel might.
David Lawrason  - A colheita is a vintage-dated tawny port made only in the best years – and in Portugal they are as prized as great vintage ports but sell for much less. This is a slightly rugged version that has amazing complexity.
Sara d’Amato - This colheita Port benefits from longer than typical ageing contributing to its distinctive character and swoon-worthy effect. There is something quite absorbing about this wine that slowly unveils itself in the glass.

Sandeman 2011 Vintage Port, Douro, Portugal ($70.00)
John Szabo – Buy this as a 21st birthday gift for someone born in 2011, or a 25th year wedding anniversary gift for a couple married in the same year, or for yourself as a test of patience. But in any case, DO NOT TOUCH THIS WINE FOR AT LEAST 20 YEARS. It’s a belligerent vintage port, one of the most impenetrably deep-coloured wines I’ve seen in my career, with a brutal and savage palate, all hard acid and rasping tannins for the moment. But when it comes around, it will be a stunner. Best 2031-2071.
David Lawrason – Sandeman is a large company with a mid-size reputation overall, but 2011 is such a great vintage for port that this stands shoulder to shoulder with the best. So refined and rich.

Noval 10-Year-Old Tawny Port, Douro, Portugal ($34.95)
John Szabo – Noval’s latest ten year-old is still quite fruity and powerful in the house style, with marked sweetness checked by residual tannic grip. An excellent hard cheese or blue cheese option.
Sara d’Amato – There is very good value to be found in this intriguing 10 Year Old Tawny with an abundance of character. Nutty and figgy with a silky texture and a finish of freshly baked sticky buns.

Sandeman Vintage Port 2011 Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port Dow's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009 CLA Special Reserve Porto

Dow’s 2009 Late Bottled Vintage Port, Douro, Portugal ($17.95)
David Lawrason – LBV’s continue to be undervalued in my books, increasingly so as top labels strive for the finesse that marks their much more expensive vintage ports. This is fine example from a leading label, and a steal at $17.95.

CLA Special Reserve Porto, Douro, Portugal, $29.95
Sara d’Amato - A lush, dense port which is generous, creamy and very appealing. Clean and full-bodied, very smooth but also gutsy and satisfying. Break out the good chocolate for this one.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Nov 8th:

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


Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay

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20 bons vins à moins de 20$ pour Octobre

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

C’est bien beau, les bouteilles dispendieuses qui font vibrer d’émotion, mais au jour le jour, avec tous les autres comptes à payer par ailleurs, on a la plupart du temps envie de se faire plaisir avec de bons vins pas trop chers. Ça tombe bien ! À chaque fin de mois, nos chroniqueurs vous suggèrent 20 bonnes affaires à moins de 20 $ parmi les bouteilles qu’ils ont goûtées récemment. Santé !


Les choix de Rémy Charest

Les dernières feuilles finissent de tomber et la neige n’est pas encore près d’être arrivée. Ça enlève un brin le goût de sortir… Que faire? Voyager dans le monde par le vin.

Un petit tour en SAQ, par exemple, vous permettra de trouver un blanc de Turquie comme le Qattro Beyaz de la maison Vinkara, un assemblage rond et expressif des cépages narince, emir et chardonnay. Un vin très ensoleillée, dont la touche internationale est en retrait, par rapport aux arômes originaux des autochtones turcs.

Vous rêvez déjà au ski? Les sommets de Savoie vous appellent, tout comme ses… Abymes – en particulier le 2013 du Domaine Labbé. Simple, vif et énergique, ce vin issu du cépage Jacquère appelle la raclette ou la fondue d’après-ski de tous ses vœux.

Vous fantasmez plutôt sur le soleil du sud? Pourquoi pas un tour en Sicile, avec un petit frappato tout frais, tout flamme, le Terre di Giumara 2013 de la maison Caruso et Minini. Une belle preuve que le vin, même quand il fait chaud, peut garder de la fraîcheur et de la gourmandise.

Vinkara Quattro Beyaz 2013 Domaine Labbé Abymes 2013 Caruso & Minini Terre Di Giumara Frappato 2013 Domaine De La Charmoise Gamay 2013 Henry Of Pelham Baco Noir 2012

C’est dire, le frappato susmentionné rappellerait presque un gamay. Mais pas tout à fait, comme vous le constateriez en goûtant les belles notes de clou de girofle et de fraise des bois du Gamay de Touraine 2013 du Domaine de la Charmoise, qui vient de revenir en SAQ. Il a la légèreté d’un rouge d’été, mais pourtant, ses notes épicées et son côté accueillant vous donneront l’envie de faire un détour par la Loire avant le temps des Fêtes.

Pour sortir des sentiers battus, même pas besoin d’aller très loin, comme le montre le Baco Noir 2012 de la maison ontarienne Henry of Pelham. Produit tout près de chez nous, dans le Niagara, cet hybride créé en France en 1902, dans la foulée du phylloxera, offre un profil bien particulier, sur les petites baies noires, surtout, mais avec un côté viandé et fumé qui fait un beau contrepoint au fruité exubérant. À 15$ à peine, ça change de l’ordinaire à peu de frais…

Les choix de Marc Chapleau

Quand j’étais jeune, voilà quelques années, on disait de novembre que c’était le mois des morts. Les temps ont changé, parce qu’aujourd’hui, dans le milieu québécois du vin et de la gastronomie du moins, c’est 
« Joyeux Novembre ! » Et donc le mois des « corps morts », plutôt…

Il faut évidemment entendre par là ces bouteilles vides qui témoignent, le lendemain venu, de soirées dignement arrosées. Première suggestion, et parmi les vins du mois pas chers et qui se laissent facilement écluser, le Côte-de-Brouilly 2012 Georges Duboeuf, léger et acidulé, marqué par un bon goût de griotte.

À peine plus corsé, le Verona IGT 2012 Bolla a le même type de profil que le beaujolais tout juste mentionné, l’astringence italienne en prime.

Georges Duboeuf Côte De Brouilly 2012 Bolla Verona Rosso Retro 2012 Château De Ricaud Réserve Des Coteaux 2010 Château Du Grand Caumont Impatience 2011 Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Plus charpenté, et d’une appellation bordelaise surtout connue pour ses blancs doux, le Château de Ricaud 2010 est un cadillac-côte-de-bordeaux rouge qui marie très bien le fruité et le bois — et à bon prix lui aussi.

Du Languedoc, le très bon corbières Château Grand Caumont 
« Impatience » 2011 est plus généreux, plus riche et plus enveloppé.

Enfin, du Chili, le corsé Cousino Macul Antiguas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 se révèle à nouveau à la hauteur, avec peut-être même une élégance qu’on ne lui a pas toujours connue.

Les choix de Bill Zacharkiw

Inutile de le cacher, novembre n’est pas mon mois préféré. Il fait froid, sombre, puis apparaît la première neige. Pas assez, cependant, pour pratiquer des sports d’hiver. Le temps est alors aux repas bien arrosés, à l’intérieur, avec des amis. Voici d’ailleurs cinq vins très intéressants qui aideront à passer le temps.

D’abord, deux blancs italiens. Le premier, le Maculan 2013 Pinot & Toi est un assemblage composé de tokai, de pinot blanc et de pinot grigio. Résultat : l’un des plus intéressants blancs aromatiques que j’aie goûtés récemment. Idéal à l’apéritif ou avec des fruits de mer légers.

Maculan Pino & Toi 2013 Casal Di Serra Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi Classico Superiore 2013 Masciarelli Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2012 Montecillo Crianza 2010 19 Crimes Shiraz Grenache Mataro 2013

Le deuxième vient des Marches, une région située plus au sud, le long de l’Adriatique. Le 2013 Casal di Serra Umani Ronchi, fait à partir de verdicchio, est à la fois élégant, savoureux, et d’un caractère on ne peut plus facile à boire.

Pour les rouges, j’ai arrêté mon choix sur trois vins différents tout en restant tous polyvalents. Comme vin de milieu de semaine tout en fruit et en fraîcheur, ne cherchez pas plus loin que le 2012 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Masciarelli. Buvez-le frais, à environ 16 degrés, avec ce qu’il vous plaira.

Quelque chose de plus traditionnel ? Alors le Montecillo 2010 Crianza est pour vous ! Un rioja classique, au fruit délicat et aux tannins bien polis, et avec de subtiles notes de tabac et de cuir. À 18 $, un très bon achat.

Enfin, qui dit saison froide dit, en ce qui me concerne du moins, viandes longuement braisées dans le vin rouge agrémenté de tamari, de gingembre et d’ail. Rien de tel que les vins australiens pour aller avec ces plats réconfortants. Essayez le 2013 19 Crimes : élaboré dans la région moins chaude qu’est Victoria, voilà le parfait assemblage de syrah, grenache et mataro (mourvèdre), sans sucre résiduel et sans boisé trop appuyé. Très bien fait, pur fruit, sans lourdeur aucune.

Les choix de Nadia Fournier

Contrairement à Bill, j’aime bien le mois gris de novembre. Un mois qui foisonne d’activités culturelles et de manifestations vineuses : la Grande Dégustation de Montréal, le Salon des Importations Privées, Montréal Passion Vin, le Salon du Livre, etc. C’est aussi le mois des plats braisés, mijotés longuement. Et puis, voyons les choses du bon côté, avec les journées qui racoursissent, ça nous laisse quelques heures de plus à passer à table et à profiter de ces belles bouteilles.

Parlant de soirées qui s’éternisent, voici un vin dont on devrait presque se méfier. Produit dans les collines de Sienne, en dehors de la zone du Chianti Classico, le Carpineta Fontalpino Colli Senesi Chianti 2013 est si bon et affriolant qu’on a vite soif d’un second verre. Tout en nuances, vibrant et tellement digeste. Il en vaut bien d’autres, et des plus chers…

Aussi, un très bon vin rouge du Dão au Portugal, provenant d’un domaine en conversion à l’agriculture biologique. Le Quinta dos Roques 2011 est le vin idéal à servir avec un flanc de porc braisé. Encore meilleur s’il est rafraîchi autout de 15°C.

Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino Colli Senesi Chianti 2013 Quinta Dos Roques Vinho Tinto 2011 Château Bouissel Classic 2012 Cliffhanger Riesling Mosel 2013 Château Tour Des Gendres Cuvée Des Conti 2013

Dans la même veine : charnu, sur des notes florales et épicées, le Château Bouissel Classic 2011 met en valeur les vertus du cépage négrette une variété très ancienne, qui contribue à l’originalité des vins rouges de l’appellation Fronton, dans le Sud-Ouest de la France et qui appartient à la même famille que le malbec et le tannat.

Soif de blanc pour l’apéro? La saison des huîtres commence et pour les accompagner, vous voudrez goûter le Cliffhanger, Riesling 2013, Mosel. Nerveux, presque mordant tant son acidité est vive, mais désaltérant, sans le moindre doute.

Sur un mode plus substantiel, qui pourrait convenir à des huîtres rockfeller, entre autres, la Cuvée des Conti 2013 du Château Tour des Gendres m’a semblé particulièrement intense cette année. Presque austère en attaque tant il est vif, il a le mérite de ne pas verser dans la facilité. Un achat les yeux fermés pour les amateurs de vin blanc sec.


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

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

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

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20 under $20 for October

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Ah yes, the end of the month. It’s the time when we pay for our excesses over the previous weeks. Well, fear not, this doesn’t mean that you still can’t drink well. Our four critics have chosen for you their favourite five under $20 wines that they have recently tasted. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here is the October version of the 20 under $20.


Rémy Charest picks

It’s Autumn and there are more leaves on the ground than in the trees, and still no snow on the ground to play with. It makes you just want to stay inside.

But you can still travel around the world through wine- call it grey weather avoidance.

Going to the SAQ will, for instance, allow you to take a trip to Turkey and taste an expressive, round white like Vinkara’s Qattro Beyaz, a blend of narince, emir and chardonnay. It’s a very sunny wine, whose international contribution from chardonnay sits quietly in the background of the Turkish natives’ unique aromas.

Already dreaming of sliding down the ski hills? Savoie would be a terrific destination, although it’s simpler to dive into a bottle of Abymes 2013 by Domaine Labbé, a simple, bright and energetic wine made from the Jacquère grape. It screams for raclette or cheese fondue.

Vinkara Quattro Beyaz 2013 Domaine Labbé Abymes 2013 Caruso & Minini Terre Di Giumara Frappato 2013 Domaine De La Charmoise Gamay 2013 Henry Of Pelham Baco Noir 2012

Now, if the southern sun is what floats your boat in the cold season, head for Sicily and grab a bottle of the delicious and bright Terre di Giumara Frappato from Caruso and Minini. It’s bursting with lovely cherry and spice, and everything nice, and shows how wine from the warm side of the planet can still be fresh and balanced.

Saying that the frappato could remind you of a gamay is no joke. Still, it’s not quite the same thing, as you can tell when you taste the scrumptious strawberry and clove notes of the 2013 Gamay de Touraine by Domaine de la Charmoise, which just made its return to the SAQ shelves. It has the light and bright character of a summer red, no doubt, but its spicy and approachable character make it a wine for all seasons.

You don’t need to even go very far to discover something different, like the 2012 Baco Noir from Henry of Pelham. Grown right next door, in Niagara, Ontario, this hybrid grape was created in France in 1902 in response to the phylloxera scourge that had come from the Americas. Its profile is quite unique, with bright black berries up front, in counterpoint with meaty, smoky undertones. For barely $15, you’ll be getting quite a nice change of scenery.

Bill Zacharkiw’s suggestions

I must admit that November is my least favourite month. It’s cold, there’s the first snow on the ground, but not enough of the white stuff to play outside. So time to hunker down inside and have some fun. I’ve picked five very interesting wines to help you pass the time.

First up are two Italian whites. The first is Maculan’s 2013 Pinot & Toi - a blend of tokai with pinot blanc and pinot grigio. The result is one of the more interesting aromatic wines that I have tasted of late. Great as an aperitif or with lighter seafood.

The second is from further south along the Adriatic coast. The grape is verdicchio and the wine is the 2013 Casal di Serra from Umani Ronchi. So versatile, so tasty and so elegant, I was blown away how well this is drinking.

Maculan Pino & Toi 2013 Casal Di Serra Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi Classico Superiore 2013 Masciarelli Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2012 Montecillo Crianza 2010 19 Crimes Shiraz Grenache Mataro 2013

For my reds, I’ve chosen a few wines to satisfy a variety of palates, and for every occasion. If you are looking for that go to, mid-week red that just revels in fruit and freshness, then look no further than the 2012 Montepulciano-d’Abruzzo from Masciarelli. Keep it at 16C and drink it with whatever you want.

Want something even more traditional? I was really happy when I saw the Montecillo’s 2010 Crianza in my tasting line-up. This is classic Rioja, from the delicate fruit and tannin, to the subtle notes of tobacco and leather. At $18, an easy purchase.

And finally, one of my favourite cold weather meals is braised meat. Slow cooked in red wine, tamari, ginger and garlic, it is my definition of comfort food. To pair with this richly textured meat, I love drinking Australian wines. Try the 2013 19 Crimes GSM. Made with grapes grown in the cooler region of Victoria, this is the classic syrah, grenache and mataro (mourvedre) blend, but with no residual sugar or excessive oak influence. Well done, pure fruit, and so easy to drink.

Nadia Fournier selections

Contrary to Bill, I love November. While it may be grey, it’s a month replete with cultural and vinous activities: la Grande Dégustation de Montréal, le Salon des Importations Privées, Montréal Passion Vin, le Salon du Livre, etc. It’s also the month for slowly cooked dishes and long dinners. So look on the bright side: with days getting shorter, that gives us a few extra hours to sit down at the dinner table.

Speaking about those protracted dinners, here’s a wine that will be a worthy part of those evenings. Grown on the hillsides of Sienna, outside of the Chianti Classico appellation, the Carpineta Fontalpino Colli Senesi Chianti 2013 will rapidly hasten a second glass. Nuanced, vibrant and so drinkable.

Another wine with high drinkability is a very good red from Portugal’s Dão region. In the process of converting to organic agriculture, the 2011 Quinta dos Roques is the ideal wine for to accompany a braised pork. It’s even better when served at 15C.

Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino Colli Senesi Chianti 2013 Quinta Dos Roques Vinho Tinto 2011 Château Bouissel Classic 2012 Cliffhanger Riesling Mosel 2013 Château Tour Des Gendres Cuvée Des Conti 2013

In the same vein, with floral and spice notes is the  2011 Château Bouissel  which shows the virtues of the negrette grape, an ancient indigenous French grape variety that is emblematic of the Fronton region in France’s southwest, and is part of the same family as malbec and tannat.

Looking for an aperitif? Oyster season is here and to accompany them , you should try the 2013 Cliffhanger Riesling from the Mosel. Nervous, with a biting acidity that is so refreshing and thirst quenching.

On a much more substantial level, and which would pair nicely with Oysters Rockefeller, the  2013 Cuvée des Conti from Château Tour des Gendres struck me as very intense this vintage. The attack is almost austere. While its merits lie in how it is not necessarily an ‘easy” wine, for any lover of dry white wines, this is a choice you can make with your eyes closed.

Marc Chapleau’s choices

When I was young, and I’ll admit that it’s been a few years, we referred to November as the “dead month.” Well times have changed. Now in the world of Québécois wine and food culture, it’s “happy November.” And that means lots of wine.

My first suggestion is the Côte-de-Brouilly 2012 from Georges Duboeuf. Delicious and light bodied, with refreshing acidity and a gorgeous note of cherry .

A touch more powerful, the Verona IGT 2012 from Bolla has a similar profile to the Beaujolais I just mentioned, but with a touch more of those classic, rustic Italian tannins on the finish.

Georges Duboeuf Côte De Brouilly 2012 Bolla Verona Rosso Retro 2012 Château De Ricaud Réserve Des Coteaux 2010 Château Du Grand Caumont Impatience 2011 Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Even more power can be found in a wine from a Bordeaux appellation best known for its sweet wines. The Château de Ricaud 2010 is a red Cadillac-Côte-De-Bordeaux that marries  fruit and oak magnificently, and at a very reasonable price.

From the Languedoc, the Corbières Château Grand Caumont 
« Impatience » 2011 is even more generous in its fruit and texture.

Finally, from Chile, 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva from Cousino Macul Antiguas once again scales the heights of this great grape, and perhaps with an elegance and finesse that I have yet to see from this wine.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20 for October

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

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Oct 25th – Part Two

Chile’s Fine Cabernets, Value Reds (and oh yes, Modernizing the LCBO)
by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

A huge release of 154 new products awaits on Oct 25. Last week John Szabo penned an article about the Tuscany feature, and we also suggested some fine whites. This week we move on to the second, smaller feature – Chile, and we offer our thoughts on other good value reds as well. But as this is also an historic week that sets a new compass for the LCBO, I hope you will indulge a brief digression. Or you can skip to our reviews below.

Queen’s Park announced this week it is ready to embark on the “modernization of the LCBO”, based on a panel review headed up by TD Bank CEO Ed Clark. Premier Kathleen Wynne has accepted his report with gusto. The current LCBO retailing model is essentially a one-shop-fits-all system of neighbourhood stores – some larger, some smaller. A modernized LCBO would include Costco-like box stores, specialty boutiques, sales in grocery outlets and expanded private stores for Ontario wine. It all adds up to far more shelf space, so the end game should be vastly larger and on-going selection of both favourites and obscurities. I would set a goal of triple the selection that Ontarians now have – more in line with such radical locales as Alberta and B.C. We could also aspire to be like Chicago or New York but let’s not go crazy.

I am disappointed that Kathleen Wynne won’t really do the right thing for Ontario consumers and taxpayers – take on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), sell off the LCBO completely and let the private enterprise do the modernization. I understand that a large constituency in Ontario still believes Ontario will make more money by owning the ship (rather than by licensing and taxing alcohol to collect as much as it needs). And that others believe alcohol is more safely retailed by government stores. But they are beliefs that ignore the facts. As witness I give you THE WAY IT WORKS IN THE REST OF THE WORLD, including five other Canadian provinces. But hey, if we have to take this baby step of “modernization” I am all for it, and for doing it well. So we need architects of modernization who will think big, far and wide.

Chile’s Unique Cabernets

On October 30 Eduardo Chadwick of Errazuriz will be in Toronto for a sold-out VINTAGES-hosted gala dinner to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Tasting, which pitted top Chilean cabernet sauvignon-based wines against the best cabernets of the world.  Similar tastings then rolled out to major wine capitals around the world – Hong Kong, Dubai, London, Toronto (2006), New York and Beijing to name some. Throughout the ten-year project Chilean wines placed among the top three in 20 of the 22 tastings, achieving a remarkable 90 per cent preference rate by over 1,400 participating key palates from around the world.  All of which would indicate that Chile is perfectly capable of making outstanding expensive wine.

But what about the less expensive $12 wine that we open on Tuesday night or the $25 bottle on Saturday night? I have recently had an opportunity in preparation of the Toronto Life Eating and Drinking Guide to taste a lot of Chilean wine at this level, and whenever I do that I come back to the same conclusion that the quality level is very high at any price point. And another recent experience with just one wine – a five year vertical of Santa Carolina’s Reserva de Familia – proved that Chilean cabernet not only ages well, it shows quite distinct vintage variation. Just like that other region where cabernet thrives – Bordeaux.

There is a sense of purity and freshness and vibrancy to Chilean wine that is quite unique among New World wines, and it’s based on Chile’s intriguing position as a maritime region blessed with almost endless sun during the growing season. It’s cool and bright at the same time, the fruit ripens well but does not lose its acidity. I find this particularly true and important for Chile’s later ripening cabernet sauvignons and cousin carmenere, which are of course the backbone of Chile’s wine industry. Yes, it can also be experienced in the emerging syrahs and the whites, but Chilean cabernet is to me among the very best in the world.  Few other regions in the world capture cab’s aromatic essence so well (I would include Coonawarra and Margaret River in Australia).

So Chilean reds are where we begin our picks this week, and I only wish the selection were larger.

Miguel Torres Cordillera De Los Andes Syrah 2010

Morandé Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Emiliana 2011 CoyamEmiliana Coyam 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($29.95)
John Szabo – I’ve long admired Emiliana; the majority of production is certified organic and biodynamic from vineyards stretching from Casablanca in the north to Bío-Bío 500kms further the south. Coyam is the top-of-the-line, Demeter-certified blend (2/3 Syrah and Carmenere, 1/3 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a drop of Mourvedre and Malbec) that stands out for its complexity, appealing savouriness and firm, age worthy structure. Best 2016-2021.
David Lawrason – Coyam is a biodynamically grown blend from a single property in the heart of Colchagua. It captures that vibrant, juicy blackcurrant essence of Chilean cabernet perfectly; with less of the mentholated greenness found in Maipo versions.
Sara d’Amato – The word “coyam” refers to the oak trees which surround the estate’s hand-harvested vineyards. This approachable and supple blend features lovely notes of violets and pepper a long with a local spice called “boldo” (aromatically, a cross between verbena and oregano).

Morandé 2011 Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile ($17.00)
David Lawrason –
 This is a Maipo classic from a cooler vintage, so expect a strong updraught of almost pine/balsam greenness around the blackcurrant fruit. Morandé’s main site is the Romeral Estate, a 50ha property in Alto Maipo, at higher elevation in the Andean foothills. The vineyards were only planted in the mid-2000s, indeed this modern winery was only founded in 1996.
John Szabo – This is a rare Chilean cabernet aged in large foudres rather than the more usual barriques, and is all the more fruity and savoury for it. This will appeal to drinkers who prefer earthy, resinous (old world style) wines over chocolate-vanilla-tinged examples. Yet it’s still distinctly Chilean with its succulent fruit core.  Best 2014-2019.

Miguel Torres 2010 Cordillera De Los Andes Syrah, Maule Valley, Chile ($19.95)
John Szabo - The reliable house of Torres has been in Chile since 1979, and today owns 400ha of vineyards on six properties. The Cordillera syrah is selected from Maule Valley fruit several hundred kms south of Santiago, and is crafted in a balanced and firm, typically smoky style, more savoury than fruity. Best 2014-2020.
Sara d’Amato – This sensual syrah from Torres’ Cordillera line (small batch production with more careful attention to detail) exhibits cool climate elegance and very mild oak spice. Great finesse here for the price.
David Lawrason – One of the difficulties with Chilean syrah is that some are almost as green on the nose as cabernet or carmenere. This avoids that scenario, perhaps because the vines planted in the lee of the low coastal Cordillera in southern Maule. It shows nicely ripe lifted, grapy/blueberry fruit; good weight, density and acidity. Wanted a bit more length, but it is fair enough at the price.

Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Caliterra Tributo 2011 Single Vineyard CarmenèreCaliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Carmenère 2011, Colchagua Valley ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This took a Judges Choice in the World Wine Awards of Canada offering very good value. One of the great attributes of carmenere is its complexity, and here the quite lovely fresh currant fruit is nicely fitted with spice, chocolate and a touch of fire ember smokiness.

Montes 2013 Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc, Zapallar Vineyard, Aconcagua Valley ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – The Outer Limits attempts to push boundaries in terms of viticulture – planted in a coastal area of Aconcagua, only 7 kilometers from the ocean, this unique site offers an intense freshness and appeal. Compounding that cooler climate is a cooler vintage. The wine feels like a classy Marlborough sauvignon blanc at a very competitive price.

Other Red Highlights

Henry Of Pelham 2012 Estate Cabernet/Merlot, Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($24.95)
John Szabo – One of the best cabernet-merlots from the Speck brothers in some time. The warmth and generosity of the 2012 vintage shines through, yielding an arch-classic, cool(ish) climate wine that hits all the right notes. Best 2014-2022.

Heartland 2012 Shiraz, South Australia ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is drawn from vineyards in Langhorne Creek and Limestone Coast, both cooler areas of South Australia, perhaps lending the very lifted, appealing aromatics of menthol and blackcurrant/blackberry fruit with well integrated pepper and oak. It’s full bodied, dense, linear and vibrant with excellent focus and length, especially for the money.

Alpha Crucis 2010 Titan Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia, ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – Alpha Crucis is the “boutique” label of Chalk Hill winery (no relation to the California winery). There is some impressive depth here for the dollar and despite the wine’s big, unctuous profile, it remains balanced and varietally characteristic.

Henry Of Pelham 2012 Estate Cabernet Merlot Heartland Shiraz 2012 Alpha Crucis Titan Shiraz 2010 Domaine Des Bacchantes Côtes Du Rhône 2012 Famille Perrin Les Christins Vacqueyras 2012

Domaine Des Bacchantes 2012 Côtes Du Rhône, France ($16.95)
John Szabo - Here’s a keenly priced, organically-farmed, satisfying and authentic Côtes du Rhône to buy by the case to enjoy over the winter with comfort food like braised meat dishes and stews. Best 2014-2019.

Famille Perrin 2012 Les Christins Vacqueyras, Rhone Valley, France, ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A highly appealing, romantic southern French red that is sure to sweep you off your feet. Perrin has been hard at work attempting to define the quality appellations of the southern Rhone by making this line of appellation specific wines. Vacqueyras has begun to give its more esteemed neighboring appellation, Gigondas, a run for its money as of late and this is a terrific example of the finesse, restraint as well as the appealing peppery spice and garrigue offered by this fine region.

Château Rigaud 2012 Faugères, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Faugeres is a southern French appellation located just north-east of the city of Beziers and gets unfortunately overlooked in terms of quality appellations. Lucky for us, the prices remain extraordinarily reasonable for these schist grown wines that offer a surprising amount of complexity, depth and often exhibit a charming, meaty character. The 2012 Chateau Rigaud is certainly a find worthy of your attention.

Pelissero 2012 Munfrina Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy  ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is one of the best dolcettos of recent memory –  a fresh, firm and engaging youngster with fairly lifted, complex aromas of blueberry, pickled beet and black pepper, with a touch of smokiness. It’s from a single site (Munfrina) planted in 1980 near the village of Treiso.

Château Rigaud 2012 Pelissero Munfrina Dolcetto D'alba 2012 Quinta De Cabriz Seleccionada Colheita 2011 Andreza Reserva 2011 Viticultors Del Priorat Vega Escal 2008

Quinta De Cabriz 2011 Seleccionada Colheita, Dão, Portugal ($15.95)
John Szabo -
I find touriga nacional-based blends from the Dão to be more floral and fresh than their Douro counterparts, and this example delivers the business at an attractive price. Tinta roriz (tempranillo) contributes its succulent acids and fresh red fruit, while alfrocheiro adds its own savoury dark fruit. Enjoy over the next 1-3 years.

Andreza 2011 Reserva Douro, Portugal ($16.95)
John Szabo –
2011 was a superb vintage in the Douro (a widely declared vintage port year), and this smart value will satisfy fans of big and impactful wines, with more power than finesse. Best 2014-2018.
David Lawrason – Ditto, great value!

Vega Escal 2008 Priorat, Spain ($21.95)
David Lawrason – Top Priorats can weigh in at five times this price; so at $22 I was not expecting the great structure, tension and depth that makes Priorat so intriguing. But this more diminutive example captures the essential elegance of the appellation very nicely, and it has achieved the right state of maturity.

Wines of ChileAnd that’s a wrap for this edition. In November the VINTAGES releases grow even larger, with press tastings divided in two and scheduling becoming more erratic. We will do our best to follow the bouncing ball and review as many as possible. Remember that only by subscribing will you get instant access to our reviews, which is especially critical at this busy time of year when wines move quickly. Hopefully one day soon – if indeed the LCBO does modernize as described above – the supply and demand issues we face will become evened out.

In the meantime, WineAlign Toronto area readers are invited to discover the diversity of Chilean wines with an exclusive offer. The Chilean Wine Festival is returning to the Royal Ontario Museum this coming October 28th. Purchase your tickets using the promotional code WINEALIGN and you will get $10 off the regular admission price of $75.  (details here)

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES October 25th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Oct 25th Part One – Tuscany and Miscellaneous Top Whites

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 to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

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The British Columbia Wine Report – October

Natural Wine in BC?
by Rhys Pender MW

Rhys Pender MW

Rhys Pender MW

One of the trends to hit the wine world, or at least its enthralled fringes, in recent years is the provocative subject of “natural” wine. The term itself belies definition as what it means and is largely in the eyes of the beholder; purists demand nothing at all be added or taken away while others have a less dogmatic view. In any case, the concept is linked with not messing around with the wine and guiding, rather than forcing, a wine down its chosen path. Before we enter a heated natural wine debate, and that is not what this article is intended to be about, we should skip to the topic: how this trend has spread beyond the tradition-steeped regions of the old world and is now taking place in our own British Columbian backyard.

BC wine, like that of so many new world countries, has grown up surrounded by whizz kid winemakers with the gleaming technology to steer a wine down whichever style road they may choose. Again, like all new world countries, BC has come to the point of realization where fancy winemaking tricks can only take you so far. Yes, very good wines can and are made with a heady dose of technology and intervention but they are more technically good than they are exciting, evocative, interesting and inspiring. A heavy hand of winemaking rarely results in something that is seamless, elegant and has that elusive complexity and sense of place. To gain the level of intricacy necessary to make the leap to really interesting wines, it is all about the quality of the grapes and letting them show their true merits through gentle guiding rather than trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

Dwight Sick

Dwight Sick, winemaker at Stag’s Hollow

Natural wine takes this logic even further, eschewing even things like yeast, nutrients, fining and filtration and in the most extreme cases of natural wine devotion, any addition of sulfur. For some, even that is not enough and only eliminating technology altogether is natural enough. Wine is now being made in many countries, including here in BC, by essentially just dumping grapes into clay amphora and letting them ferment and age, skins and all, until they have cleaned themselves up and are deemed ready to stick in the bottle. Winemaking as the Greeks or Romans might have known it.

Obviously not all natural wine is good or even interesting. Things can go badly and some wines are either faulty, or intriguing but a bit of an acquired taste, much like Fino Sherry, Vin Santo, Vin Jaune and some of the oxidized fortified wines. What does it come down to? Good grapes. Good, clean, quality grapes are the best bet to end up with a successful, natural wine. Organic and biodynamic grapegrowing seems to be more common and it is not surprising to see many winemakers already playing around with wild yeasts, lees and other “hands off” techniques to try to make something a little more complex. The techniques of natural winemaking, which are often just leaving the wine be, creates flavours that are interesting and they usually seem well integrated into the wine because they come naturally.

Darryl Brooker, winemaker of CedarCreek Estate Winery

Darryl Brooker, winemaker of CedarCreek Estate Winery

Some of you might be thinking that natural winemaking is some kind of bonkers, idealistic craziness, but there is some science behind it too. Doing nothing to a wine often means little goes wrong, providing the grapes were sound in the first place. On the other hand, over-winemaking to try to steer a wine against its will often creates a series of reactions that need to be treated. The result can be a long path of one adjustment after another, an ongoing series of winemaker created imbalances and corrections.

In spite of the new world image of winemaking in BC there are a number of wineries adopting natural techniques. It is exciting to see Canadian winemakers playing around with natural winemaking and it will only benefit the industry in seeing what is possible and what nuances of flavour can result. BC is the ideal place to do it as we have plenty of natural acidity, nature’s protection against many evils, and dry weather and sunshine, the best way to get clean, healthy grapes. Nobody expects to convince the current breed of sweet red wine drinker that skin fermented white wine is what they should be drinking every night, but these small batch wines sure add an interesting element to what BC is offering.

Darryl Brooker, winemaker of CedarCreek Estate Winery was inspired to make a natural wine by drinking some Italian reds saying that he “fell in love with the texture and silkiness of the wines.” These wines were made in amphora, giving Brooker enough encouragement to order an unlined 500-litre amphora (they are often lined with beeswax but he wanted to keep things as natural as possible). Into the amphora went the best cabernet sauvignon that CedarCreek grows. The science behind it? “I basically wanted to see if the tannin could be softened/changed by the amphora. It is very permeable to oxygen, so I had a hunch it would,” says Brooker. The grapes went in, the lid went on and they waited. No yeast, no sulfur, nothing. The wine was not touched for 8 months until it had completed primary and malolactic fermentation. “The original plan was to put it in a neutral barrel for about 1 year and then see the wine. But we were so impressed with it that we decided to bottle it as it was, straight from the amphora after settling in stainless steel for a few weeks. The wine was bottled unfiltered without any additives at any stage, including no sulfur at any point.” The wine tastes fresh, intense and juicy with great, soft tannins. The plan is to hold it in bottle for a year to see how it evolves.

David Enns

David Enns, winemaker and co-owner of Laughing Stock

David Enns, winemaker and co-owner of Laughing Stock, was also playing around with an amphora in 2013. The VRM is a viognier, roussanne and marsanne blend that spent 4 weeks aging on skins and fermenting wild with sulfur only added later on. It is rich, concentrated with some tannic grip from the skin contact and has plenty of flavour intensity. Dwight Sick, winemaker at Stag’s Hollow in Okanagan Falls, has been interested in natural wines for a while. “I have always been fascinated with oxidative winemaking but have never had the courage to attempt it. This was my maiden voyage into this style.” Sick took the 2013 vintage viognier and marsanne from a Penticton vineyard, destemmed it and put the whole berries into a tank with no enzymes or sulfur. It started fermenting on its own after 48 hours and then spent 14 days on the skins before being lightly pressed. As of October, a year later, it is still sitting on its lees, having received only a little sulfur in the summer and is scheduled for bottling in December.

Okanagan Crush Pad concrete eggs; photo CA Jessiman,WineAlign

Okanagan Crush Pad concrete eggs

Okanagan Crush Pad, Valley pioneers of things such as concrete eggs and constantly pushing towards more and more natural winemaking, also have a couple of amphorae fermenting away, one pinot noir and one pinot gris. Both are on their skins and expected to stay there for about six months. These follow on from a 2013 sauvignon blanc/chardonnay blend that spent 7.5 months on the skins and was bottled unfiltered. While the technology might be old, it has many great properties. Winemakers Mike Bartier and Matt Dumayne talk scientifically about benefits such as thin walls to keep fermentations cool, the slow oxidation through the porous material, the great environment for yeast in the wild ferment and many more complex reactions including things like convective currents, cap compression and protein and cold stabilization, things that sound more futuristic than rustic and ancient.

With wines becoming dumbed down to meet the tastes of a generation of pop-swilling consumers with added sugar, tannins, acid and various concoctions, it is only logical there will be a push in the complete other direction. Reverse osmosis, spinning cones, micro-oxygenation, oak products, enzymes, flavour, and bacteria? Not necessary. While nobody expects lines of stainless steel tanks to be replaced by exotic clay versions, at least some of this experimentation will find its way into the larger production wines and as a result make something more interesting and characterful. And after all, to backlash against so many overly made, cookie cutter wines, going natural is only natural.

Rhys Pender MW

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Bill’s Best Bets – October

Rediscovering Chianti
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

The mere mention of Chianti evokes images of bottles in straw baskets which were later made into lamps, red-checkered table cloths and a big bowl of spaghetti. But few regions are as synonymous with wine as is Chianti. Located in the centre of Tuscany, it is the most prolific region in all of Italy, exporting over 900 million litres of wine per year.

But how many of you drink the stuff?

I do. The best examples are solidly built wines that have exceptional cellaring capability. It ’s a wine that combines aromatic complexity with elegance, and is one of the world’s most versatile wines. But many examples can be, well, rather banal. So what is the real Chianti and why is there such a difference in quality between bottles?

The fiasco: A short history

First, let’s deal with the straw basket, ironically called a “fiasco” in Italian. The English translation of the word might be a better descriptor of the modern history of Chianti. The first significant event in the region took place in 1713, when it became one of the first wine-producing area in the world to define the laws governing wine production. But while the decree touched on production methods, more importantly it was the first of many expansions of the geographic boundaries of what is considered Chianti.

Chianti’s modern history began in 1932 with a massive expansion that increased the size of the appellation to more than 22,000 hectares, twice the size of modern-day Bordeaux. Chianti was divided into seven sub-regions, the most notable called “Classico,” which included the original Chianti-producing area from the 1713 decree. However, after the expansion, this original area made up only 40 per cent of this new “Classico” appellation and only 10 per cent of the total Chianti region.

The Chianti classico region

The Chianti Classico region

With such a large growing area, it became increasingly difficult to identify a Chianti style. In 1967, the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) was enacted. This was another opportunity for producers to jump on the bandwagon, so the area was further expanded by another 10 per cent.

While 1967 DOC law further concretized the importance of sangiovese, the stringent laws left little room for experimentation. One of Chianti’s most famous families, the Antinoris, had long experimented with Bordeaux varietals cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, dating to as early as 1900, when Piero Antinori purchased the now famous Tignanello vineyard. This culminated in 1971, when his grandson Piero decided to market a sangiovese-based wine from this vineyard that also contained both cabernets. Although the Tignanello vineyard was in the heart of Chianti, because the wine included cabernet but did not have white grapes, it could not be called Chianti. Instead, it was labelled as a simple “Vino da Tavolo.”

But it was a resounding success. In response, a new denomination called Denominazione di Origine Controllatae Garantita (DOCG) was created in 1984 to allow for more experimentation. Yields were lowered to increase quality and, while the percentage of sangiovese as a part of the blend was maintained, winemakers could now use up to 20 per cent of other grapes in the blend, including international varieties like the cabernets, merlot and syrah.

Drinking Chianti

Despite the change of rules, Antinori never labelled its Tignanello a Chianti. Who could blame him? So many poor quality Chiantis had cheapened the name of the appellation. Chianti at that moment was not synonymous with “fine wine.” And while it seems that every major winery now has its own “super Tuscan,” their fame and success have also inspired a number of more traditional winemakers to make a better Chianti.

Quebec born Paula Cook makes wine and owns Chianti producer Le Miccine

Quebec born Paula Cook makes wine and owns Chianti producer Le Miccine

In the 1990s, the Riserva classification was created for wines aged a minimum of 24 months in oak, and at least three months in bottle prior to being put on the market. And in 2005, a decree raised the minimum percentage of sangiovese to 80 per cent of the final blend with the possibility of using 100-per-cent sangiovese.

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 San Felice Il Grigio 2010The increased role of the sangiovese grape is important in a world dominated by international varietals. For me, it is distinctly Italian. Sangiovese’s signature flavour profile is a blend of cherry and plum flavours combined with leather and other earthier notes. Its relatively high acidity and good tannins make it an ideal wine for long cellaring when yields are low. And when made into less expensive wines, providing attention is paid to bringing in ripe grapes, the wines can show great acidity combined with vibrant fruits and floral notes, making it one of the more versatile wines on the shelves.

If you are looking for Chiantis that can age exceptionally well, look no further than the fantastic 2010 vintage wines of  Il Grigio , Castello di Volpaia and Gabbiano. All three will reward you with a minimum of 3-5 years of patience, and can hold much longer.

For a more modern approach to Chianti, which still shows everything that is good about the region, try the 2011 Riserva from Le Miccine or the 2012 from Isole e Olena. Both wines have the accent on the fruit and while they can hold for longer, can be enjoyed right now.

If you are looking Chianti to drink right away, the 2010 Villa Antinori shows great complexity with  traditional styling. Equally interesting is Banfi’s 2011 Riserva. Again, a more modern touch but just rocks with spaghetti and meat sauce.

And finally, while they don’t come in a straw basket, you can still find quality Chianti for under $20. Try the 2010 Azienda Uggiano, one of my favourites I have tasted recently.

Le Miccine Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 Antinori Villa Antinori Toscana 2010Isole E Olena Chianti Classico 2012 Banfi Riserva Chianti Classico 2011 Azienda Uggiano Casa Di Dante 2010


“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva

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Les bons choix de Nadia – octobre

Cellier octobre 2e vague
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

D’entrée de jeu, mes excuses pour le léger retard à vous donner mes impressions sur les vins relâchés jeudi dernier dans le cadre de la promotion du Cellier d’octobre. J’étais occupée à temps on ne peut plus complet à terminer la rédaction du Guide du vin 2015. Voilà qui est fait. La 34e édition est maintenant entre les mains de l’imprimeur et devrait arriver en librairie dès le 5 novembre prochain!

N’ayez crainte, tous les produits sont encore disponibles en bonne quantité dans le réseau de la SAQ. Dans le lot, une belle sélection de vins rouges et blancs portugais. Encore trop peu représenté au Québec et évoluant encore dans l’ombre de son voisin espagnol – la popularité ne va pas toujours au mérite –, le Portugal a beaucoup à offrir à l’amateur de vin en quête d’aubaines et de dépaysement, surtout.

Le pays est méridional et le soleil tape fort, mais les vignobles bénéficient aussi de l’effet modérateur de l’océan Atlantique. Le charme de ces vins réside donc dans leur caractère authentiquement chaleureux, mais néanmoins digeste, ce qui les rend en fait de bons compagnons de table.

Quinta Da Romaneira 2009 Quinta Da Ponte Pedrinha 2005D’abord connu pour le porto, le Douro produit aujourd’hui plus de grands vins de table que toute autre région viticole portugaise. Le Sino da Romaneira (20,20 $), deuxième vin de cette vieille quinta gérée par l’équipe de Quinta do Noval (AXA Millésimes), en est un bel exemple. Passablement riche en 2009, mais façonné dans un style plutôt dépouillé, assez strict et tannique, il sera mis en valeur par une viande rouge saignante.

Si les vins de table du Douro ont été la révélation portugaise des années 1990, ceux du Dão pourraient bien être celle de la présente décennie. Avec les investissements soutenus dont elle bénéficie depuis une vingtaine d’années, cette région, qui a beaucoup souffert du monopole de coopératives instauré sous la dictature (1933-1974), est en voie de réhabilitation. Il reste encore beaucoup de travail à faire au vignoble, mais le potentiel est énorme.

Dégusté à au moins cinq ou six reprises depuis 2010, ce vin rouge du Dão produit par Quinta da Ponte Pedrinha (24,60 $) ne cesse de me surprendre. De retour dans le même millésime cette année encore – apparemment les stocks de 2005 sont inépuisables – il m’a paru étonnamment jeune et frais. Déjà ouvert, il devrait tenir la route jusqu’en 2017, au moins.

Esporao Reserva 2013 Herdade Do Sobroso 2010Plus au sud, à une centaine de kilomètres à l’est de Lisbonne, le vaste vignoble de l’Alentejo donne des vins rouges généreux, comme celui de Herdade do Sobroso (24,30 $). Plus chaleureux que vraiment complexe, il plaira à l’amateur de vin gorgé de soleil.

Créé au début des années 90, ce domaine de l’Alentejo est l’un des plus imposants du Portugal. L’œnologue australien David Baverstock y produit des vins rouges passablement concentrés, mais aussi de bons vins blancs, comme ce Esporão Reserva 2013 (21,60 $), issu d’un assemblage d’antão vaz, d’arinto, de roupeiro et de sémillon. Une autre preuve qu’en cultivant des cépages adaptés à leur terroir, on peut obtenir des vins frais et équilibrés, et ce, même dans le sud de l’Europe.

Basque ou Breton ?

Originaire du pays basque, le cépage cabernet franc compte une multitude de clones et donne, par conséquent, des vins de style très différent. S’il joue un rôle de second plan dans la Gironde, c’est dans la vallée de la Loire qu’il prend toute son importance, surtout en Touraine (Bourgueil et Chinon), où on le nomme « breton ». On en tire tantôt des vins souples, vigoureux et coulants fruités, vifs et avant tout fruités; tantôt des vins de garde, profonds et concentrés.

Même s’il a changé de propriétaire en 2008, le Château de la Grille demeure fidèle au style classique et ferme qui a fait sa renommée. En 2009, on a produit un très bon vin de Chinon (29,55 $), plus charnu que la moyenne, mais d’un très bel équilibre.

Dans un autre millésime compliqué – ils se succèdent dans la Loire depuis quelques années –, Yannick Amirault et son fils ont bien tiré leur épingle du jeu, puisque leur Bourgueil 2012, La Coudraye (21,90 $) ne fait preuve d’aucune verdeur ni rusticité. L’agriculture biologique y est-elle pour quelque chose ? Peut-être, peut-être pas. Mais ce qui ne fait aucun doute, c’est que l’amateur de cabernet franc se régalera pour pas cher !

Château De La Grille 2009 Yannick Amirault La Coudraye 2012 Domaine De La Taille Aux Loups Clos De Mosny 2012 Château De Brézé Clos David 2011 Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013

On voudra aussi retenir cet excellent vin blanc de Jacky Blot, l’artisan qui a donné ses lettres de noblesse à l’appellation Montlouis-sur-Loire, trop longtemps dans l’ombre de son illustre voisine : Vouvray. Loin d’être un pis-aller, la qualité des vins de Montlouis égale et surpasse parfois celle de Vouvray. Pour s’en convaincre, il suffit de goûter le délicieux Clos de Mosny 2012 (34,25 $), produit au Domaine de la Taille aux Loups. Un vin de texture, hyper harmonieux et promis à un bel avenir.

Conduit en agriculture biologique, le Château de Brézé, à Saumur, est sous la gouverne d’Arnault et d’Yves Lambert depuis 2009. Leur Saumur 2011, Clos David (26,30 $) mise avant tout sur la vitalité du chenin. Le compagnon idéal des huîtres, rehaussées d’un trait de citron.

Toujours en chenin, mais dans un autre hémisphère. Implanté dès le 17e siècle par les huguenots qui trouvèrent refuge en Afrique du Sud, le chenin blanc représentait 32 % de l’encépagement national en 1990. Peu à peu remplacé par des variétés rouges, il ne couvre aujourd’hui que 18 % du vignoble national, mais les vignerons qui ont décidé de le conserver en tirent des vins savoureux, comme le Bellingham Vieilles vignes Bernard Series 2013 (24,95 $), soumis à un élevage en barrique qui apporte un bel enrobage à l’acidité caractéristique du cépage. Cette winery a d’ailleurs été fondée en 1693 par un couple de huguenots franco-hollandais et ressuscitée par Bernard Podlashuk, d’où le nom de la cuvée.

Pour en finir avec le pipi de chat

« Pipi de chat sur buisson de groseille », vous connaissez ? Des petits comiques ont inventé cette expression pour décrire le parfum parfois rustique et, avouons-le, désagréable – de certains sauvignons blancs.

Cantina Terlano Winkl Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Domaine Fouassier Les Grands Groux Sancerre 2011Rassurez-vous, il n’y a pas de pipi de chat qui tienne pour décrire cet excellent sancerre, mais une palette aromatique singulière et une fraîcheur qui appelle un second verre. Ce domaine familial connaît une certaine renaissance depuis l’arrivée en poste, au début des années 2000, de Benoit et Paul Fouassier – représentants de la dixième génération – qui ont notamment converti le vignoble à l’agriculture biologique, puis biodynamique. Leur Sancerre 2011 (25,25 $) étonne d’abord par son registre aromatique singulier, puis par son envergure en bouche. Complexe et nuancé, c’est l’un des bons vins de l’appellation goûtés cette année.

Au cours des dernières années, j’ai souvent été étonnée par la profondeur et de la diversité aromatique des bons sauvignons blancs de l’Alto Adige, dans le nord de l’Italie. Celui-ci, produit par la cave coopérative de la commune de Terlano dépasse même toutes les attentes. Pas étonnant que cette cave fondée en 1893 soit reconnue à juste titre comme l’une des plus qualitatives du pays. On voudra apprécier le Winkl 2013 dès maintenant pour la complexité de son registre aromatique, mêlant le thé vert japonais aux notes de poivre blanc et d’agrumes, et reposant sur une texture juste assez vineuse pour laisser en bouche une sensation de plénitude. À 25 $, on se régale encore plus!

À la vôtre!

Nadia Fournier

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!

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

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Bourgogne Lovers Part II: Finding Value in Bourgogne

By John Szabo MSOctober 18, 2014


Some Regions & Producers to Seek Out, and a Buyer’s Guide of Currently Available Wines

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

Part I last week surveyed some of the challenges facing La Bourgogne. But despite the doom and gloom outlined, all hope is not lost for Bourgogne lovers. In fact, there are several pockets within the region that remain relatively good value in this high stakes game, and the quality of Bourgogne wines in general is better than anytime before in history. Not even Bourgogne’s lauded name on a label is sufficient to sell mediocre wines in today’s hyper competitive market. Ironically, Bourgogne’s versions of chardonnay and pinot noir remain the yardstick for the majority of producers globally, even if not all will admit it, so there are plenty of excellent alternatives from every coolish climate between Ontario and Tasmania to buy instead of poor quality Bourgogne. So even the homeland has had to keep apace qualitatively.

But it’s important to be realistic: you’ll never find great sub-$20 red Burgundy, or sub $15 white. And $30 and $20 respectively are more probable entry prices. I’ll never tire of quoting Burghound Allen Meadow’s brilliant observation about pinot noir pricing: “you don’t always get what you pay for, but you never get what you don’t pay for”. This is true not only in Burgundy, but just about everywhere else, too. So here, I’m talking value at the premium end of the wine spectrum, relative to the oft-inflated prices of wines from any well-known region. For the best of the originals, look for these regions and producers, or skip to directly to the Buyers’ Guide for wines currently available somewhere in Canada.

Chablis: Get It While You Can

For reasons I fail to fully understand, Chablis remains both a world reference for chardonnay as well as perhaps the single best value within La Bourgogne. Considering that many, including me, believe Chablis to be the world’s most unique, effortless expression of cool climate chardonnay, it’s puzzling, and even more so now that demand outstrips supply. How long can this last?

The Latest Developments

Guillaume Michel of Domaine Louis Michel

Guillaume Michel of Domaine Louis Michel

If 1980 was a critical turning point for Chablis in the cellar, with the widespread arrival of stainless steel tanks (enamel-lined tanks or wood vats predominated before), the most important recent changes have occurred in the vineyards. “The pruning has changed quite dramatically”, Guillaume Michel of Domaine Louis Michel tells me. “Today, it’s much shorter, as there’s much less risk of frost damage.” Global warming has been keenly felt in this part of France, and production is more regular now than in the past, even if average quantities are down as a result.

Overall, viticulture has also improved dramatically. “Thirty years ago, Chablis was like the moon”, continues Michel, referring to the widespread use of herbicides. “Nobody ploughed their vineyards. Now it’s commonplace.” Bernard Ravenau, one of the region’s most celebrated vignerons, further explains: “Twenty years ago, the top producers were the ones who had the balls to harvest late. Now, the top producers are the ones who harvest earliest. The goal is not a wine with 14% alcohol”.

Bernard Raveneau

Bernard Raveneau

Raveneau’s extraordinary 2010s weigh in at around 12.5%, so it’s clearly not just talk. The net result, at least in the top tier, is better wine than Chablis has ever produced before. And there’s little excuse for thin, mean and acidic Chablis, unless you’re greedy with yields.

At its best, Chablis captures an inimitable profile and bottles its essence. It’s that electrifying structure and palpable minerality that blatantly defies the naysayer scientists who claim that soil cannot possibly impart the taste of its rocks to a wine, which keeps me coming back.

Yet even Chablis’ grandest expressions, a Raveneau or a Dauvissat grand cru for example, cost a half or a third of a top grand cru from the Côte de Beaune, for a sensory experience you simply can’t find anywhere else. These are not cheap wines – c. $250 is a hell of lot to pay for any bottle – but all things considered, they are awesome value in the rarefied realm of fine wine.

Maybe it’s because of Chablis’ relatively large size (just over 3,300ha producing a little more than 25m bottles annually), which is double the size of the whole Côte de Nuits, where yields per hectare are also much lower on average than in Chablis. Or perhaps it’s because the quality of the region’s bottom-tier wines is bad enough to scuff the luster of the entire appellation, keeping average prices down (about 40% of regional production is still made by négociants), or that the silly money of the punters is spent mostly on red wine.

Whatever the case, learn a few reliable names, and buy their wines. $20 gets you fine quality entry-level village Chablis ($30 in BC), while an additional $10 or $15 gets you into premier cru territory. $70 gets you Chablis from one of the seven grand cru climats, with most still under $100. I realize we’re talking about the ultra premium wine category here, but if you’ve read this far, you’re interested enough to know the deal.

Recommended Producers (Not an exhaustive list)

Domaine François Raveneau and Domaine Vincent Dauvissat

I include these two producers more as a reference – you’ll be lucky to ever find a bottle from either. Production is tiny, and every last drop disappears quickly into the cellars of the enthusiasts lucky enough to get an allocation. The quality of both Bernard Ravenau’s and Vincent Dauvissat’s (and increasingly his daughter Etienette’s) recent and future releases experienced during a tasting in May 2014 confirms the iconic status of these two producers. Don’t miss a chance to taste either; the Raveneau 2010 Montée de Tonnerre is about as fine a white wine as I’ve ever had. [Barrel Select, ON]

Domaine Louis Moreau

Moreau is a sizable 50ha domaine with an enviable collection of five grand cru parcels, the jewel of which is the Clos de l’Hospice, a 0.4ha duopole within the Les Clos grand cru, shared with kin Christian Moreau. Although wood was experimented with in the past, it has been abandoned for all but the Clos de L’Hospice, which is fermented in 500l barrels and aims at a richer style. Louis Moreau believes that wood fermenting/ageing sacrifices both finesse and the mineral signature of each cru, a sentiment heard frequently, if not uniformly, in the region. The left bank Vaillons is considered the most delicate 1er cru in the Moreau range, though even it shows satisfying depth. [Vins Balthazard Inc., QC; Lorac Wine, ON].

Domaine Louis Michel et Fils

Guillaume Michel works on 25 hectares spread over all four appellations in the region (Petit Chablis, Chablis, 1er cru and grand cru) including six premier crus totalling 14ha, of which the highly priced Montée de Tonnerre is the largest. The house style has not changed here since Guillaume’s Grandfather Louis abandoned wood altogether in 1969. “He spent his time in the vineyards and didn’t have time to mess around in the cellar” says Guillaume. Wines ageing in wood are much more likely to go sideways than those sitting in a neutral environment like stainless steel.

The Michel style is all about tension and precision. From Petit Chablis to grand cru, everything is made in the same way: long, cool fermentations with wild yeast. Lees contact depends on the vintage: in 2012, for example some lees were retained to add texture, even if these are never remotely fat or creamy wines. The 2010 Grenouilles grand cru is a particularly special wine, though the 2012 Montée de Tonnerre and the 2011 Forêts are also excellent. [H.H.D. IMPORTS, ON]

Domaine de Pattes Loup

Thomas Pico, Domaines Pattes Loup

Thomas Pico, Domaines Pattes Loup

Thomas Pico is a rising star in the region. This fast-talking (literally) winegrower was born into the métier; both his father and grandfather made wine. Pico returned to the family estate in 2004 after oenology studies in Beaune and took over control of eight hectares, a part of his father’s Domaine Bois d’Yver. Control of the remaining Bois d’Yver vineyards will slowly shift to Thomas from his father; it was too much to take over all at once, and “my father had existing markets and relationships to respect” he says.

Pico immediately converted his parcels to organic farming (certified ECOCERT in 2009) and created the Domaines de Pattes Loup. Today he makes four premier crus and a village wine, including a delicate and mineral Vaillons and a rich and a powerful Butteaux (a 1er cru within the larger Montmains cru). Everything is barrel-fermented and aged in old wood, though like in all great barrelled Chablis, wood is rarely, or only very subtlely, detectable. The impact is rather more layered and textured, managing a seemingly mutually exclusive combination of richness and density with laser-sharp precision and freshness. I suspect Pico will be considered among the very best in the region in short order. It’s a shame that he refuses to deal with Ontario: “trop compliqué” he says, a familiar refrain from top growers who could sell their production twice over to importers who pay up within a reasonable time frame. (Oenopole, QC; The Living Vine, ON).

La Chablisienne

The cooperative La Chablisienne is well deserving of inclusion on this list. Established in 1923, this association of nearly 300 producers represents 25% of the entire production of the region (c. 2 million bottles), with an enviable collection of vineyards including eleven premier crus and five grands crus, of which the prized Château de Grenouilles vineyard is the coop’s flagship. It counts among France’s best-run and highest quality cooperatives, which, considering it’s size and relative influence on the image of the appellation, is a very good thing for everyone in the region.

The Venerable La Chablisienne Coop since 1923, with winemaker Vincent Bartement

The Venerable La Chablisienne Coop since 1923, with winemaker Vincent Bartement

Beyond the usual approach to quality of reduced yields and attentive viticulture, La Chabliesienne follows a couple of other notable qualitative protocols, such as extended ageing even for the ‘village’ wines, La Sereine and Les Vénérables, which spend a minimum of one year on lies in stainless vats and barrels, and the bottling of all wines in a single lot (as opposed to bottling to order). According to Hervé Tucki, Managing Director of La Chablisienne, “the aim is not to make fruity wine”.

Indeed, these are not simple green apple flavoured wines – chalkiness and minerality are given pride of place. The range is highly competent across the board from the “Pas Si Petit” Petit Chablis up to the Château Grenouilles Grand Cru. Of the 2012s tasted in May, I was especially enthusiastic about the left bank Montmains 1er Cru, 95% of which comes from the Butteaux climat, and the right bank Vaulorent 1er Cru, adjacent to the grand cru slope. Though it must be said that the “basic” Chablis “Les Vénerables Vieilles Vignes”, made from vines aged between 35 and over 100 years, is a terrific value and fine entry point to the region. [Vinexx, ON]

Northern Burgundy: Grand Auxerrois

I’m willing to guess that this is the least-known part of Burgundy. The “Grand Auxerrois” is a collection of regional appellations all beginning with prefix “Bourgogne”: Chitry, Côte-Saint-Jacques, Côtes d’Auxerre, Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Épineuil, Tonnerre, and Vézelay. The exceptions are the appellations of Saint Bris, the only AOC in Burgundy where sauvignon blanc is permitted and obligatory, and Irancy, an AOC for red wine made from Pinot Noir and, more rarely, César.

Pre-phylloxera, this part of the l’Yonne department was heavily planted; I’ve read that some 40,000 hectares were once under vine. But the region was all but forgotten subsequently. Yet now with global warming, this could once again become an important source of Bourgogne.

Jean-Hugues et Guilhem Goisot

Rocks and fossils on display at Domaine Goisot

Rocks and fossils on display at Domaine Goisot

Goisot is a multi-generational family Domaine with 26.5 hectares in Saint Bris and Irancy. After Guilhem Goisot had discovered biodynamics first in Australia and subsequently in France, he began trials on the family vineyards in 2001. In 2003 he converted the entire domaine and received the first certification in 2004. According to Goisot, a measured, deliberate thinker and speaker, biodynamics helps to “temper climatic variations”. After hail, for example, it used to take a couple of weeks for the vines to re-start the growing process. “Now with arnica applications, the vines get back to work after just two days” says Goisot.

All wines are bottled in single lots, and I’m reassured that place matters by the collection of rocks and fossils from different vineyard sites that Goisot has on display in the small tasting room. I have a terrific tasting here – from the tightly wound Irancy Les Mazelots  on highly calcareous soils, to the darker and spicy Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre La Ronce from a south-facing site on kimmeridgean blue marnes, each wine is clearly marked by soil, each like a window on the earth, pure and totally transparent. [Le Maître de Chai Inc., QC]

Marsannay: Last Refuge of the Côte de Nuits

As mentioned in Part I, top Côtes de Nuits wines are scarce. One village that remains accessible, however, is Marsannay, just south of Dijon. For myriad reasons the wines of Marsannay, the only Côte d’Or communal appellation to permit red, white and rosé wines, have failed to achieve as much renown as those from the villages to the south. Yet the name of the climat “Clos du Roy”, (formerly the “Clos des Ducs”) gives some insight on the degree to which certain vineyards were esteemed in the past. There are no official premier crus for the time being (the proposal has been made), but for single-parcel wines the appellation may be followed by the name of the climat as in “Marsannay Clos du Roy”. There are some 17 growers in the village with an average of 10 hectares each, far above the average for the rest of the Côte d’Or and one of the reasons that Marsannay is still reasonably priced and available. Stylistically the [red] wines of Marsannay resemble those of neighboring Fixin and Gevrey, which is to say pinots of darker fruit and spice character, and marked minerality, if lighter than most Gevrey.

Domaine Jean Fournier  

Laurent Fournier, Domaine Jean Fournier

Laurent Fournier, Domaine Jean Fournier

Jean and his son Laurent Fournier currently farm 17 hectares principally in the village, but also 1.5 in Gevrey, 1.5 in Côte de Nuits Village near Brochon and a half-hectare in Fixin, with another three being planted in Marsannay. Fournier began with biodynamics in 2004 and the domaine was certified in 2008.

On arrival I like the vibe immediately; the young Laurent Fournier is energetic and enthusiastic, the sort of vigneron who brings a smile to your face. It’s all the more pleasing when the wines, too, live up to expectation, and the range chez Fournier is uniformly excellent. The Clos du Roy and Longerois are the two red house specialties, the former made from vines over 40 years old on average, 50% whole bunch, aged in large tonneaux (half new) for 18 months and very grippy on the palate, a wine for cellaring another 3-5 years minimum, and the latter a more generously proportioned, plush and immediately satisfying wine. My favorite on the day however is the outstanding Côte de Nuits Village Croix Violettes Vieilles Vignes, from a half-hectare parcel of vines planted straight on the bedrock near Brochon between 1937 and 1943 in the days before tractors, and thus super high density.  It’s made with 80% whole bunch and delivers marvellous spice and firm tannins and minerals on the palate.

A Word on Coteaux Bourguignons AOC

In 2011, a new regional appellation called Coteaux Bourguignons was created. It covers essentially the former unfortunately-named Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire AOC, as well as Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains. Grapes can be sourced from anywhere within the four départements that make up greater Bourgogne. It was created in part to deal with the shortage of pinot noir over the last few vintages; even basic Bourgogne Rouge will be scarce and certainly more expensive – examples under $30 in CAD will be very hard to find. “The grapes have become too expensive” Thibault Gagey tells me, the man at the head of the formidable Maison Louis Jadot in Beaune. “In many cases the price of a pièce [a 228l barrel] have more doubled.”

But wines under this appellation will need to be selected with care. At the bottom end, Coteaux Bourguignon will become a dumping ground for poor quality gamay from the Beaujolais, while the best will incorporate a high percentage of pinot, or at least good quality gamay. Jadot’s very good version, for example is three-quarters gamay, but includes several declassified cru Beaujolais, including Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent from the Château des Jacques.

La Côte Châlonnaise: From the Miners to the Majors

Half way between Dijon and Mâcon, La Côte Chalonnaise, which is sometimes referred to as the “third Côte”, lies south of the Côte de Beaune a few kilometers from Santenay. It is the geological continuation of the Côte d’Or, sitting on the same fault line that gave rise to the Jurassic limestone and marls underlying the great wines of La Bourgogne, as well as those across the Sâone Valley in the Jura. The hillsides of the Côte Chalonnaise meander more erratically than the more uniform southeast-facing slopes of the Côte d’Or and this irregular topography means that site selection becomes critical.

Vineyards of the Côte Chalonnaise

Vineyards of the Côte Chalonnaise

And the feel of the region changes too. The more compact, well-appointed villages of the Côte d’Or, fairly dripping with the prosperity of the last decades gives way to more sparsely populated villages worn with time. Former grandeur shows the cracks of neglect, like aristocratic Vieille France in need of a makeover. The countryside is beautiful, but the charm is decidedly more rural than cosmopolitan, and one gets the sense that this was once a more important place that has somehow been left behind, like a former capital after the politicians and ministers have decamped with their expense accounts.

It was more a series of historic circumstances, rather than inferior wine quality, that led to the relative obscurity in which the Côte Chalonnaise lies today. For one, the villages of the Côte Chalonnaise are far enough away from Dijon to have been overlooked by the Ducs de Bourgogne – it’s about 70 kilometers from Bouzeron to Dijon, a long road to travel by horse-drawn carriage.  And during the industrial revolution, the miners of the nearby mines of Montceau and Creusot and slaked their unquenchable thirst on the wines of the region, leaving little for outsiders, and little incentive for local vignerons to break their backs for quality. Phylloxera, too, dealt its decisive blow, and the region has never fully recovered. Today less than 50% of the previous surface area is planted.

Yet the miners and the dukes are gone, replaced by insatiable worldwide markets for Bourgogne wines. And considering the shortage of wine, for reasons outlined above, now is the time for the Côte Chalonnaise to recapture its former position of importance and realize its quality potential in the major leagues. This after all, the geographic heart of viticultural Burgundy.

Wines of the Côte Chalonnaise

Wines of the Côte Chalonnaise

From north to south the Côte Chalonnaise encompasses the communal appellations of Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry and Montagny as well as the regional Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise AOC. Each is authorized to produce both red and white wines from pinot noir and chardonnay, with the exception of Bouzeron, an appellation reserved for whites from aligoté – the only one in Bourgogne – and Montagny, which is exclusively white from chardonnay. Whites dominate reds overall.

Styles of course vary widely, but in general the wines are endowed with an exuberant and appealingly fruity profile, the reds redolent of fresh raspberries and the whites full of pear and apple. The entry-level wines are for the most part accessible and immediately pleasing, while wines of the top echelon deliver a minerality that has nothing to envy the Côte d’Or. I’d pick Givry and Mercurey as the two most reliable villages for red wines, and Rully and Montagny for whites. Considering that prices are about half to two-thirds of equivalent quality wine from further north, the value quotient is high.

Climats de la Côte Chalonnaise

An association of nine quality-minded, family-run domaines was formed in 2010 with the aim re-positioning the region in its rightful place of respect. Known as “Les vignerons des Climats de la Côte Châlonnaise”, the group is hoping that 2012 will be their breakout vintage. The vintage was excellent in the region, and both it and members of this association are an excellent starting point to discover the wines of the “third côte”.

Côte Chalonnaise Producers

Domaine Jean-Marc Joblot, Givry

Jean-Marc Joblot, Givry

Jean-Marc Joblot, Givry

Although not part of the association, Jean-Marc Joblot, a fourth generation winemaker, has been a quality leader in the village of Givry, and in the region, for years. It was in fact the wines of Joblot that first turned me on to the Côte Chalonnaise back in the 1990s, when he was already well-known and respected in Canada, especially in Québec. Joblot farms thirteen hectares including nine premiers covering both red and white. Vines are meticulously tended and he is a self-declared “constructionist”, believing that wine is “the result of a hundred things that are interdependent”. Little is left to chance, but although he approaches winemaking with the mind of a scientist, he is not an interventionist, nor a technocrat. “When you make an apple or a peach pie, you won’t go and analyse the fruit. You taste it. It’s that simple”, he says. Seasonal rhythms are strictly respected; if you show up for a visit in May for example, a period Joblot considers critical for vineyard work, don’t expect the door to open no matter who you are.

Admittedly I find his insistence on 100% new wood for all of his crus curious, and in youth they are certainly marked by wood influence, yet the fruit depth and structure to ensure harmony over time is clearly there  – I’ve had ten year-old examples that prove the point.  Indeed, these are wines built on tension and intended for ageing, not immediate enjoyment. He most representative crus are the Clos de la Servoisine and Clos du Cellier aux Moines, both best a minimum of five years after vintage.

Domaine A et P de Villaine, Bouzeron

Purchased by Aubert and Pamela de Villaine (of Domanine de La Romanée Conti) in 1971, Domaine A et P de Villaine is run today by Pierre de Benoist, the nephew of de Villaine. This is a leading domaine, and both de Villaine and de Benoist were instrumental in the establishment of the association « Les Climats de la Côte Chalonnaise ». Of the 21 hectares under vine, ten are devoted to aligoté, coinciding with outcrops of granite where aligoté is most happy. Bouzeron is considered by most to yield the finest examples of this lesser-known variety in Bourgogne.

Pierre de Benoist, Domaine A&P de Villaine, Bouzeron

Pierre de Benoist, Domaine A&P de Villaine, Bouzeron

De Benoist reflects back on a 1964 Bonneau de Martray aligoté that was life changing – it was then he realized than Aligoté, treated with care, could produce mesmerizing wines. Unfortunately over-cropping and the negative association with crème de cassis (to sweeten and soften the shrill acids of over-productive vines) in the infamous Kir cocktail reduced aligoté to anecdotal acreage. Even today the entire appellation of Bouzeron counts less than sixty hectares (even Puligny-Montrachet is over 200ha), so don’t expect a revolution any time soon. Though I wish there were more Bouzeron of this quality to go around.

In an interesting twist, the INAO has asked several times for local producer to assemble a dossier of 1er crus in Bouzeron, but de Benoist has refused each time. “It would be a shame to ruin the quality-price rapport of the appellation” he says in uncharacteristic anti-capitalist fashion.

But the domaine isn’t all aligoté; there are also exceptional pinots and chardonnays, especially the marvellously mineral Rully Blanc Les Saint Jacques, the fragrant and fruity Bourgogne Côte Châlonnaise Rouge La Fortune, and the structured and brooding Bourgogne Côte Châlonnaise La Digoine from 65 year-old vines.

Domaine Paul et Marie Jaquesson, Rully

Henri Jacqusson established this domaine in 1946 in the wake of WWII when vineyards had been abandoned. Today Henri’s son Paul has passed the baton on to his daughter Marie to manage the thirteen hectare estate in the AOCs of Rully, Bouzeron and Mercurey. The Rully Blanc 1er Cru Grésigny is a particularly fine and layered white Bourgogne.

Domaine Ragot, Givry

Nicolas Ragot took over the family domaine from his father Jean-Paul, making him the 5th generation to farm vineyards in Givry. Nine hectares are divided between red and white all within the commune, and the wines are elegant, structured and refined in the old school style. The Givry Rouge 1er Cru Clos Jus is especially impressive, succulent and structured.

Stéphane Aladame, Montagny

This domaine was created in 1992 by Stéphane Aladame, and counts today eight hectares under vine of which 7 are in premier crus. Aladame favours freshness and minerality, particularly in the Montagny 1er Cru  Selection Vieilles Vignes from over 50-year-old vines (partially fermented in steel).

Cellier aux Moines, Givry

Originally established by Cistercian monks in 1130, the Cellier aux Moines is run today by Philippe and Catherine Pascal. There are seven hectares under vine including five in the original clos surrounding the ancient cellar. Wines are classically styled and built to age, with the Mercurey Blanc Les Margotons and the Givry Rouge 1er Cru Clos du Cellier aux Moines particularly fine and sinewy examples.

Château de Chamirey, Mercurey

Château de Chamirey

Château de Chamirey

The most important property in Mercurey since the 17th century, the Château de Chamirey is owned today by Amaury and Aurore de Villard. They are the fifth generation in this long family story, having taken over from their father Bertrand, who in turn succeeded from his father-in-law, the marquis de Jouennes. The style is more international, aimed overall at wide commercial appeal, though the Mercurey Rouge 1er Cru Les Ruelles is particularly sumptuous and satisfying.

Domaine de la Framboisière (property of Faiveley), Mercurey

The Domaine de la Framboisière is the recently re-launched domaine of the Faiveley family, formerly called simply “Domaine Faiveley”. La Maison Faiveley was founded in 1825, and the family remains one of the largest landowners/negociants throughout La Bourgogne. George Faiveley set up he first “ en fermage” contract with a Mercurey grower in 1933, and Guy Faiveley bought the family’s first property in 1963 in the same village. The domaine has since expanded into Montagny and Rully and counts now 72 hectares – one of the largest in the Côte Chalonnaise. The quality has improved greatly here in recent years with the arrival of a new winemaker. The style is pure, clean and generously fruity, perhaps not the most profound wines of the Côte Chalonnaise, but frightfully drinkable. The 1er cru monopole La Framboisière from which the domaine takes its name is especially enjoyable.

Domaine François Raquillet, Mercurey

Roots run deep in Mercurey; the Raquillet family has been here since at least the 15th century according to local archives. François officially established the domaine in 1963 and ceded control to his son, also François, in 1983. I find the house style a little heavy-handed, with grapes verging on overripe and the use of oak overly generous, though the wines are certainly not without appeal. The Mercurey Blanc 1er Cru Les Veleys is the best of the lot.

Buyer’s Guide: Top Smart Buys

The following recommended wines are currently available somewhere in Canada (Merci to Nadia Fournier for adding her picks from the SAQ). Click on each for the details.

John’s Picks:

Jean Marc Brocard Vau De Vay Chablis 1er Cru 2012

Domaine Du Chardonnay Chablis Vaillons Premier Cru 2010

Louis Michel & Fils Chablis 2012

Sylvain Mosnier Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2010

Domaine Le Verger Chablis 2012

Jean Marc Brocard Montmains Chablis 1er Cru 2011

Domaine Chenevières Chablis 2012

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2011

La Chablisienne Sauvignon Saint Bris 2013

Maison Roche De Bellene Côtes Du Nuits Villages 2011

Bouchard Père & Fils Côte De Beaune Villages 2011

Maison Roche De Bellene Montagny 1er Cru 2011

Caves Des Vignerons De Buxy Montagny Les Chaniots 1er Cru 2010

Les Choix de Nadia:

Jean Claude Boisset Bourgogne Les Ursulines 2012

Jean Claude Boisset Bourgogne Chardonnay Les Ursulines 2010

Domaine René Bouvier Bourgogne Pinot Noir Le Chapitre 2012

Domaine Faiveley La Framboisiere 2010

Jadot Couvent Des Jacobins Bourgogne 2011

Domaine Michel Juillot Bourgogne 2012

Domaine Michel Juillot Mercurey

Domaine Goisot Bourgogne Aligoté 2012

Domaine De La Cadette La Châtelaine 2012

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2012

Domaine Louis Moreau Petit Chablis 2012

Domaine Stéphane Aladame Montagny Premier Cru Sélection Vieilles Vignes 2012

Pierre Vessigaud Mâcon Fuissé Haut De Fuissé 2012

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

Part One: The Challenges

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names. 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!

Photo credit to John Szabo MS

Le Serein, the river that runs through Chablis Looking west onto Chablis from the top of Les Clos grand cru

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Harmonies, dissonances et cie

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau sm

Marc Chapleau

J’ai vu d’étranges bouteilles que je crois contenir du vin, récemment, dans une épicerie. Avec des noms d’aliments écrits en gros sur les étiquettes et à peu près juste ça comme information…

Déjà qu’il y a eu naguère une levée de boucliers quand les Français avaient fait mine de laisser tomber les appellations pour les noms de cépages, histoire de simplifier les étiquettes et mieux concurrencer le Nouveau Monde, eh bien cette fois on va encore plus loin : jusqu’à gommer carrément la carte d’identité du vin.

Remarquez, en épicerie, ce n’est plus ce que c’était. On y trouve des crus très honnêtes, comme en témoigne le test que nous avons fait récemment au magazine Protégez-Vous. Sûrement même que ceux vendus par le sommelier François Chartier, ceux aux désignations invraisemblables et quasi exclusivement alimentaires, sont potables.

Le malaise n’est pas là, mais plutôt dans cette « culinarisation » à outrance, une tendance lourde amorcée voilà une vingtaine d’années. Comme si, parce que le vin se boit le plus souvent à table, tout devait tourner autour de son appariement avec les mets.

pecheJe ne suis pas en train de dire, attention, qu’on peut boire n’importe quoi en mangeant n’importe quoi. Mais il suffit de maîtriser quelques règles de base pour s’en sortir la plupart du temps.

Alors un vin « Boeuf, Noix de Coco, Chocolat » (je pastiche et j’invente à dessein), non merci, aucun intérêt, j’ai déjà tout ça dans mon panier.

D’autant que ce type d’étiquette, ainsi libellé, ne fait que nous suggérer où devrait atterrir le vin, avec quoi dans l’assiette. Alors qu’à l’exact opposé, on aime en général d’abord savoir d’où il vient, le rattacher à un terroir, éventuellement une histoire, etc.

L’argument imparable à cette objection : les gens, demandez-le aux conseillers dans les SAQ, veulent d’abord et avant tout savoir quoi boire avec tel ou tel plat ; les cépages, les appellations, les particularités de telle ou telle bouteille, ça ne les intéresse pas vraiment.

Moralité : suivons le mouvement et proposons-leur des étiquettes délirantes annonçant du rosbif, des pâtes et des sushis en bouteille… Comme ça, le vin est réduit à la portion congrue, il devient un simple liquide pour mieux faire passer le solide.

Un procédé d’autant plus discutable que, posons-nous la question, à la maison, à table, les consommateurs s’attardent-ils seulement à constater si oui ou non l’accord en question fonctionne, s’il y a ou non création d’un faux goût, d’une sensation désagréable en bouche ? Ma main au feu que non, dans 99,9 pour cent des cas. Une fois rassurés au moment de l’achat, ils boivent ensuite à gorge déployée, sans vraiment goûter ni discriminer.

Autrement dit, l’information communiquée, même si elle peut par ailleurs s’avérer fondée et pertinente, ne leur est au fond d’aucune utilité.

Loin de les aider, toutes ces palabres autour des accords ne font qu’accroître la distance entre eux et le vin, que rendre ce dernier plus mystérieux. « Retenez “Agneau, Thym et Carotte”, bonnes gens, c’est un excellent vin, ne posez pas de questions. »

J’aurais pour ma part envie de dire aux consommateurs de laisser couler, plutôt, libérez-vous du carcan des accords prémâchés. Si vous y tenez, contentez-vous par exemple d’apparier la couleur du vin à la couleur du plat, dans les grandes lignes. Vous serez surpris : ça fonctionne très souvent.

À boire, aubergiste !

À présent, une série de bonnes bouteilles goûtées récemment, et provenant d’un peu partout sur la planète Vin.

Maintenant, qu’on règle une certaine question tout de suite : vous prendrez les blancs à l’apéro, pour eux-mêmes, ou sinon avec des bouchées ou des fruits de mer. Avec les rouges, pas difficile : n’importe quelle viande grillée, rouge ou même blanche, et le tour sera joué. Voilà.

Pas de quoi. ~

Des bulles et des blancs, d’abord. En provenance du Luxembourg, ce qui n’est pas coutume, le Crémant Poll Fabaire Brut se distingue par son caractère fin et nerveux. Un saut en Alsace et voici le Pinot Blanc/Muscat Bestheim 2013, un bon assemblage marqué par le tabac blond au nez suivi de saveurs relativement concentrées.

Poll Fabaire Brut Crémant De Luxembourg Bestheim Pinot Blanc Muscat 2013 Velenosi Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi 2013 Beni Di Batasiolo Granée Gavi Del Commune Di Gavi 2013

D’Italie, le Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi Velenosi 2013, malgré son nom un peu long, s’avère à la fois généreux et rafraîchissant. On quitte les Marches et on remonte plus au nord pour aboutir au Piémont avec le Beni di Batasiolo Gavi del Commune di Gavi 2013, assez corsé tout en étant bien soutenu par son acidité.

Du côté des rouges, on s’accroche à l’Italie avec, pour commencer, le Masseria Setteporte 2010, un délicieux rouge sicilien aux accents bourguignons. Plus costaud et plus boisé tout en demeurant équilibré, on a le Velenosi Brecciarolo Gold 2011, une valeur sûre année après année.

Masseria Setteporte 2010 Velenosi Brecciarolo Gold 2011 Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino 2012 Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2010

De Toscane, j’ai bien aimé le Altesino Rossi di Montalcino 2012, qui marie habilement le bois et le fruit. Enfin, de Sardaigne, cette île qui voisine la Corse, le classique Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2010 arbore déjà une certaine patine, il est souple, fondu et savoureux.

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!

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Oct 25th – Part One

Tuscany and Miscellaneous Top Whites
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report covers top smart buys from Tuscany and recommended white wines from the October 25th VINTAGES release. Next week’s report will follow-up with the best from Chile and more red wines.

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!

The Tuscan “Wine Miracle”

Despite intense competition from other regions of Italy, I’d rank Tuscany as Italy’s most improved wine region of the last generation, at least the last half of the 20th century. In time, regions like Campania or Sicily may claim that title for the first half of this century, but it’s hard to argue with Tuscany’s miraculous turnaround since WWII. Sure, Tuscany has a history of fine wine, and indeed Chianti was one of the first demarcated wine zones in the world (1716), but overall quality has exploded over the last fifty years.

In the aftermath of World War II, when most of Italy had been reduced to rubble, the country underwent a period of miraculous growth – what economists called il miracolo economico. In barely more than a decade, Italy shifted from a rural, agriculture nation to a major world industrial power. But this led to a massive exodus from the countryside, and many wine estates were all but abandoned, even in beautiful Tuscany, and there was little money to focus on top quality production.

Montalcino counted barely a handful of producers, and the majority of Chianti was harsh, acidic red wine sold in a straw-covered flagon.

But from the 1970s on, everything changed. “Super Tuscan” wines emerged from the ashes thanks to the vision of producers like Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia) and Antinori (Tignanello). These wines were so radical that Italy’s entire appellation system would have to be overhauled to accommodate them.

Tuscany - The view south from Montalcino; Photo: John Szabo MS

Tuscany – The view south from Montalcino

Sangiovese, Tuscany’s most planted red grape, along with other local varieties became the objects of serious research in the sixteen-year project called “Chianti Classico 2000”, an effort to identify the viticultural parameters (clones, rootstocks, planting density, soil characteristics, clones, etc.) that would raise quality. The full benefits of this research are just now coming to a wine glass near you.

Money trickled into the region, then flowed, from within the region and other regions in Italy, and eventually from foreign sources. Today the list of wine estate owners in Tuscany is as international as the starting lineup for a Serie A football club. Land prices have skyrocketed; if only my parents had bought a little Tuscan villa with vineyards back in the 1970s.

Montalcino, for example, has grown to over 200 producers making premium quality, and priced, wines, while the baseline quality of Chianti Classico today would be mostly unrecognizable to farmers of the pre-war generation.

The coastal Maremma, and especially Bolgheri, essentially swamps up until the time of Mussolini, have emerged among the world’s most suitable sites for premium wine. Montepulciano has seen the rapidly changing landscape and has been pulled into the quality upswing. And many other regions, like the Val d’Orcia, Cortona, Montecucco, Val di Cornia or Suvereto, among many more, have become serious sources worth investigating. In short, the last generation could be characterized as il miracolo del vino Toscano.

With fame comes higher prices, but the top entry-level Chianti remains one of the best sub-$20 values in the world of wine, especially if you like eating while you sip. And even at the high-end, $40 or $50 for top Chianti Classico or Vino Nobile, or $60+ for Brunello, in light of the average prices for Bordeaux, Burgundy or Napa, are also relative bargains. You can of course easily spend over $100 for fine Tuscan wine, but I don’t recommend it – it’s not necessary. There’s so much unmatchable pleasure in the sub-$50 category; any higher spend is mostly name-brand label buying.

Here are several excellent, sub-$50 wines hitting shelves on October 25th.

Buyer’s Guide October 25th: Tuscany

Antinori Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

Soffocone Di Vincigliata 2011Soffocone Di Vincigliata 2011, Tuscany, Italy ($34.95)
John Szabo – From the stable of Bibi Graetz, one of Tuscany’s most lauded vintners and a man who believes in purity and authenticity, this sangiovese (with a splash of other local varieties) is a wonderfully elegant and pure, savoury and balanced wine of haunting beauty. If that’s not intriguing enough, then perhaps the label will be – it was banned in the US for it’s overt sexual imagery. Best 2014-2023.
Sara d’Amato - Here is a wine with sex appeal, literally. The secluded vineyards near Vincigliata, where the grapes are sourced for this utterly pure, edgy and verve-filled wine, offer scenic views of Florence and are also knows as the local “make-out point” where “soffocone” (fellatio) inevitably happens (hence the erotic imagery on the label). This largely sangiovese based blend is made from 40-year-old vines that deliver serious structure and lovely musky spice. Keep this one for Valentine’s Day.

Antinori 2009 Badia A Passignano, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($44.95)
John Szabo – A former monastery established in 891 (not 1891), Badia a Passignano has been in the Antinori family since 1987. It’s a gorgeous property in Sambuca Val di Pesa, with vineyards stretching up to 300m, producing a reliably excellent Chianti Classico from old sangiovese clonal material cut from the nearby Tignanello estate. This 2009 is a fine example of Chianti Classico’s new top-level classification called Gran Selezione; tasted blind I’d be far more likely to guess Brunello. Best 2016-2024.
Sara d’Amato - This gracefully maturing Chianti Classico Riserva produced from the serene monastery of Badia A Passignano is drinking quite beautifully now. Notes of plum, prune and delicate, exotic spice linger nicely on the finish of this sophisticated wine.

Poggio Verrano Chance 2006

Avignonesi 2011 Vino Nobile Di MontepulcianoAvignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Tuscany, Italy ($35.95)
John Szabo - A terrific, balanced, pure, perfumed and savoury, firm and dusty Vino Nobile here from the storied house of Avignonesi, under new ownership since 2009. The entire estate has been converted to biodynamic farming and the positive results are beginning to show in the 2011. Best 2014-2021.

Poggio Verrano 2006 Chance, Tuscany, Italy ($37.95)
John Szabo - For fans of Super Tuscans, this is an exceptional blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc at a fine price within the genre. Poggio Verrano releases this wine at full maturity, a rarity in the world of Tuscan wine, and this is a ready-to-enjoy wine of considerable class. Best 2014-2021.
David Lawrason – This is very good value in a mature (but not at all tired) Tuscan red from an excellent vintage. It spent its first five years ageing at the winery. Verrano is a relatively new venture founded in 2000, based on a 17 ha site in Maremma only 15km from the sea that grows cabernet sauvignon and franc, merlot and sangiovese.

Castello D’albola 2008 Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a balanced, authentic and appealing Chianti. I was struck by its freshness as it embarks on its sixth year, with most of its first two years spent in barrel in the cellars of this classic, old property near Radda. Good value for a Riserva.

Ca’marcanda 2011 Promis, Tuscany, Italy ($48.95)
David Lawrason - From the coastal Tuscan property of Angelo Gaia in the Maremma zone comes a real beauty, an exquisite, very fragrant and complex thoroughly modern expression of Tuscany. It is comprised of 55% merlot, 35% syrah, 10% sangiovese that are fermented separately and aged 18 months in new and one year old barrels.

Castello D'albola Riserva Chianti Classico 2008 Ca'marcanda Promis 2011 Livio Sassetti Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 Ornellaia 2011

Livio Sassetti Pertimali 2007 Brunello Di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($45.95) –
David Lawrason – The Sasseti family has been turning out classic Brunello from their 16 has site for three generations. Aged 36 months at the winery, this somewhat lighter vintage has now matured to ideal drinking condition – very complex, very smooth yet braced by fine acidity. Classic styling.

Ornellaia 2011, Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy ($189.95)
Sara D’Amato – An interesting vintage proved 2011 – mainly hot and dry with a period of cooler temperatures in mid-summer. Thus this marked wine shows a great deal of character, colour and richness of fruit but has also preserved an elegant vein of acidity. Classic, highly appealing and worth tucking away for at least the near future.

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES October 25th: White Wines

Vincent Prunier Saint Aubin La Chatenière 1er Cru 2011Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett 2013

Domaines Schlumberger 2010 Saering RieslingDomaines Schlumberger Saering Riesling 2010, Alsace Grand Cru, France ($30.95)
John Szabo - The sandstones and marls of this 27ha grand cru are tailor-made for riesling, especially dry and floral styles. 2010 was a terrific vintage, and this wine shows an advanced, earthy, very stony, terroir-driven character on a bone dry, mid-weight frame. Best 2014-2022.

Gunderloch 2013 Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett, Rheinhessen, Germany  ($21.95)
Sara D’Amato – Old vines, low yields and plantings on unique red slate soils produce this compelling wine brimming with energy, vibrancy and appealing mineral. Excitingly bright with terrific balance and a great deal of staying power.

Vincent Prunier 2011 Saint-Aubin La Chatenière 1er Cru, Burgundy, France ($48.95)
John Szabo - Still very youthful and even reductive (flinty), this has depth and intensity above the mean for both the vintage and the appellation, and would sit comfortably alongside more expensive white Burgundy from loftier appellations. Best 2016-2021.
Sara D’Amato – Saint Aubin is known for its floral character and delicacy but this example has much more riveting appeal with racy crispness bolstered by mineral and nicely balanced by saline and stone fruit – a class act.

Dog Point 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95)
John Szabo -  Another superior wine from Dog Point, one of the clear leaders in the region. The 2013 has beautiful purity and depth, still in the typical house style of flinty and lightly reductive (matchstick notes), while the palate is beautifully balanced and crystalline with terrific length. Best 2014-2020.

Andrew Murray 2012 RGB Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA ($29.95) John Szabo – Andrew Murray is a Rhône-fanatic; he sources Rhône varieties exclusively from a long list of vineyards in Santa Barbara and Paso Robles, a sort of micro-negociant. RGB is an equal parts blend of roussanne and grenache blanc with surprising verve and vitality. I like the interplay of ripe orchard fruit, with almost viognier-like perfume and richness, not to mention glycerous mouthfeel, with underlying acids prop up the ensemble. For those who like it both big and balanced. Best 2014-2020.

Castello Della Sala 2013 Bramìto Del Cervo Chardonnay, Umbria ($21.95) David Lawrason –  This is the junior, unoaked chardonnay from Antinori’s excellent white wine estate in Umbria, not far from the classic town of Orvieto. Bramito has long been personal favourite –  stylish, yet light on its feet and fresh, with integration ration of chardonnay apple/pear, lemon and light toasty and nutty notes.

Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Andrew Murray Rgb Camp 4 Vineyard 2012 Castello Della Sala Bramìto Del Cervo Chardonnay 2013 Loimer Grüner Veltliner 2013 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2013Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2011

Loimer 2013 Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria ($19.95)
David Lawrason – From one of the leading producers of Austria comes a beauty gruner made in an easier, simpler style. Fine structure and elegance if not great complexity or depth, but the fruit aromas ring true and run long on a spine of firm acidity.

Yalumba 2013 The Y Series Viognier  South Australia ($16.95)
David Lawrason – What amazing finesse and freshness (and value) for a wine with so much fruit power. Yalumba has taken on viognier as a cause celebre in Australia, and along the way has emerged as leading global producer of the beguiling perfumed white grape that originated in the south of France.

Le Clos Jordanne 2011 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario, Canada ($40.00)
Sara D’Amato – A bold chardonnay with poise and presence and a great deal of crunchy, textural appeal. Non-believers in the excellence of our local wine – take note!

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Oct 25th:

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

Photo courtesy of John Szabo, MS

AdvertisementsStags' Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2011

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008