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Bill’s Best Bets – November

The other side of the Rhône
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Every successful wine region has an identity, mostly founded on the wines that sell best, which is hopefully based on what they do best. In the Rhône, that identity is definitely red, and based on syrah in the north, and grenache in the south. While the region’s best estates definitely merit this “red-putation,” the downside is that their white wines tend to be overlooked. And that’s a shame, because many are truly world-class.

One of the problems in navigating the whites of the Rhône, and this is more directed at the south, is that there are a variety of different grapes being used, which will have an effect on the flavour and more importantly, texture profile of the wine. Most, however, will tend to be on the richer end of the texture spectrum.

So let’s start with the easier to understand region, the north, where some of the world’s greatest white wines are produced.

The duo of Marsanne and Roussanne

M. Chapoutier Chante Alouette Hermitage Blanc 2011 Domaine Jean Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc 2011 Two grapes which for the most part mimic one another. Both are relatively low in acidity, though roussanne is considered a touch more aromatic. For those of you with a love for richer whites like chardonnay, then these wines should be right up your taste alley.

The most reputed wines come from Hermitage. On these granitic soils, the wines, despite their intense richness, manage to show an admirable mineral quality, which is more associated with cooler climate whites.

White Hermitage is an extraordinary wine and despite low acid and being completely dry, still somehow manages to be one of the best whites for aging. The reason is due to the fact that these two grapes have a high proportion of what is called “dry extract,” what is left in a wine if you boiled off all the liquid. And as they age, they tend to get leaner and leaner as they “cannabalize” their own fat.

The downside is that they can be quite pricey. If you have the cash, then best to start at the top. Jean-louis Chave’s 2011 Hermitage is a rich and already beautifully textured wine that will live for decades. More accessibly priced is Chapoutier’s 2011 Chante-Alouette. Made with 100% marsanne, it shows all the hallmarks of white Hermitage.

Domaine Belle Les Terres Blanches 2012 Pierre Gaillard St Joseph 2012 Pic & Chapoutier Saint Péray 2011You can find some exceptional whites in Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitages, especially on sites which have more granite and limestone. A great example is from Domaine Louis Belle. The 2012 is a perfect example of these two great grapes grown on granite, but at a fraction of the price of a Hermitage. I was particularly impressed by Pierre Gaillard’s 2013 Saint-Joseph. Peaches, mineral, great depth and texture. Wow.

But for a bargain, look to the appellation of Saint-Péray. Just south of Cornas, old vines grown on this hillside of granite and limestone are the source of not only superb versions of the style, perhaps a touch more mineral and fresh, but at very reasonable prices. Try the 2011 from Pic & Chapoutier.

Viognier and Condrieu

François Villard Le Grand Vallon 2011Condrieu, just south of the Rhône’s northernmost appellation Cote Rotie, is where one of wine world’s most elusive and temperamental white grapes, viognier, reaches its greatest expression. Viognier is perhaps the white version of pinot noir, attempted by many but mastered by few. Why is it so difficult? Viognier is a grape which has a relatively low acidity, and when grown in regions that are too warm, can easily become flabby. So the key is to find a climate which is warm enough to ripen the grape while not moving into over-ripeness.

Yields are always very low, which is why these wines are rare and often quite expensive. However, when you drink great Condrieu, there is nothing like it. I have called it on a number of occasions an oboe concerto for your mouth. Great Condrieu is subtle, often showing delicate florals and honeysuckle, and notes of white stone fruit like pear and peach. The texture tends to be oily as opposed to buttery, and the length is exceptional. There is a “low level”, almost saline mineral hum that continues for minutes after every sip.

Condrieu works magnificently with lobster, scallops, and richer cheeses. Look no further than François Villard’s 2011 Le Grand Vallon for an excellent example of how good these wines can be.

The mixed bag of southern whites

In the southern part of the Rhône, things are not quite as uniform with respect to grapes, and therefore wine styles. Although they represent a relatively small amount of the total production, many wine makers are particularly proud of their white wines, even though they are far less well-reputed.

Clos Bellane Les Échalas 2010 Château Mont Redon Lirac Blanc 2012Unlike in the north, wine makers have a number of grapes to choose from, including clairette, bourbelenc, viognier, marsanne, grenache blanc and roussane. Many clairette based wines tend to be quite fresh at first, but as they age, can gain a certain amount of richness.

On a more northern taste profile, try the biodynamically grown Clos Belanne. There isn’t a ton of bottles left but this was one of my favourite whites I have tasted over the past few months. A great example of a white that balances freshness with a richer texture is 2012 Mont-Redon’s Lirac. Clairette-based, but with grenache blanc, roussanne and viognier, it is a great deal for the $23 price tag.

One of my fetish wines are white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It represents less than 5% of the total production, but these wines can be very long-lived. Grenache blanc and Clairette are the primary grapes, but many producers also use roussane and another grape called bourboulenc. Jerome Quiot, who makes a great white Châteauneuf-du-Pape  describes these wines as “having two lives.” The first life”, he says is “refreshing, youthful, but still rich enough for white meats. But after 5 years, they gain a smoky, truffle quality that makes them perfect for cheeses.”

Chateauneuf Du Pape Blanc Domaine De Nalys 2012

Quito’s 2011 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret 2011is a great introduction to the style, as is the 2012 Domaine de Nalys. Both are under $40 and exemplify how these whites can show great complexity and depth, while maintaining a wonderful freshness.

At a Christmas dinner a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to drink a 1989 bottle of Château Beaucastel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape vieilles vignes. This is made entirely with roussane grapes from vines that are a minimum of 75 years of age. It was rich, honeyed and just oxidized enough to have some interesting nutty notes. On a night when a lot of great wine was poured, this is the bottle that I remember.

One final note about service – these wines must be served on the warmer side of the spectrum if you want to appreciate fully their richer textures. Start them at 10C and let them warm up. I have drunk them up to 18C and they are fantastic.


“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!

Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2012

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20 under $20 in British Columbia (November)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

No matter where we are in this vast vinous world (Similkameen, Vancouver, Chile, Australia…) we always have our ears finely tuned to value wines. Yes – we love to taste all wines, but we tire of the reserve, grand reserve, super premium reserve, icon extra reserve and every other uber, super, ultra premium tier wines – all with a price to match. When I talk to my colleagues about what they’re excited about, and what they’re drinking at home, it’s often under $20, and it’s a great find that doesn’t dent the bank account. That is what this column is about, and what we’re out there roving around and finding for you.

- TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Though I’m writing this en route to spring in Chile, I’ve just left wind, rain and cold, so my mind is tuned to wines that will warm from the inside out.

A bargain red for all you year-round grilling fanatics is La Posta Tinto Red Blend 2013 and fun easy-sipping-style made from malbec, bonarda and syrah.

Syrah also dominates the Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Syrah 2011 from Yolo County in California. Here, a splash of cabernet sauvignon ups the smoky chocolate notes and results in a solid mid-week red.

La Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2013Matchbook Syrah 2011Tommasi Vigneto Le Prunée Merlot 2012Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason Dziver

If your tastes veer more European, try the fresh Tommasi Merlot Le Prunée 2012  from Veneto, Italy with your grilled meats or mushroom dishes.

Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is ready to crack with your cheeseburger or beef dip, the smoked earth and cassis notes working with the freshness in this Western Cape rustic red.

And when you’re craving creamy pasta or warming clam chowder, pour a glass of the bread and orchard fruit-full Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2013 to match.

DJ Kearney

It’s time to lay in some wines for a crowd… trust me, November will evaporate and you’ll find the entertaining season arrives before you know it. Here are a few of my favourite bargains to stock up on this month.

Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2013 has a spark of acidity that works well with a variety of dishes from seafood through poultry, and it’s always a smart idea to have a solid, well made chardonnay in the house.

Another great wine to stock up on is a varietally-sound, drinkable and affordable pinot noir – not an easy thing to find. Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2012 covers all bases and impresses with its gorgeous pinot fragrance.

Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2013Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2012Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013San José De Aguarón Monasterio De Las Viñas Reserva 2006Crios Torrontés 2013

With hearty beef or lamb braises to warm you from the inside out, a tankard of Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 from Colchagua, Chile will work well, with its currant, black plum and light smokiness.

If you are looking for a more savoury, Spanish red for your lamb, the Grandes Vinos y Vinedos Monasterio de las Vinas Reserva 2006 from Carinena, Spain is an exceptional value, with a chewy/silky blend of garnacha, tempranillo and carinena from vines aging 35-45 years offering up complexity and amazing value.

And if you really need a sunny lift? Stock up on Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2013. A salty note adds interest to this dry, citrusy high-altitude Salta aromatic white.

Rhys Pender MW

This month I have been enjoying a lot of soft, rich, cuddly red wines. The Rhône, southern France and southern Italy are always good bets plus I have thrown in a new Bulgarian listing and one Similkameen grown red to the list this month. These all over deliver for under $20 and should be enjoyed with some hearty food, ideally standing around an open fire in the chilly fall air.

The Château Millegrand 2012 from Minervois is the perfect soft, warming style and great with anything grilled and meaty.

Another similarly styled southern French value buy is the 2012 Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes du Rhône. Both have plenty of fruit but also lots of savoury notes to add complexity and interest.

Château De Millegrand Minervois 2012Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2012Verso Rosso 2013Lovico Gamza 2011Sandhill Cabernet Merlot Vanessa Vineyard 2012

Southern Italy also makes some very soft yet savoury reds perfect for around the fireplace. The 2013 Verso Rosso from Salento IGT is a good buy at $19.99.

Bulgarian wine practically disappeared from BC shelves over the last decade but there may be signs of a comeback. The 2011 Lovico Gamza is a delicious, light, juicy and fresh savoury red for just $13. Maybe there will be some Mavrud and Melnik coming to follow in Gamza’s footsteps?

Closer to home is the 2012 Sandhill Vanessa Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot. This is nice and ripe but shows some of the Similkameen minerality underneath its toasty oak.

Treve Ring

I’m writing this column, as I often do, at an airport, waiting for a flight. I’ve just spent a couple of weeks visiting wine regions in Australia and struck by the innovation and energy coming out of this vast country. Forget about critter labels and commodity wine – the new Australia is focused on regionality and freshness above all – and there are great values to be found.

With my vote for one of the most value-for-money wines on our market is the Tahbilk Marsanne 2010. An absolute steal for under $20, Tahbilk’s ties to the rare French-born Marsanne grape stretches back to the 1860’s when the first grapes were recorded. Though those initial plantings are no longer around, the Estate still produces Marsanne from 1927 plantings – some of the oldest in the world!

Did you know that Oxford Landing is a place, not a brand? I have proof, drinking this bright and sunny Oxford Landing Pinot Grigio overlooking riverfront Oxford Landing, in the sleepily scenic Riverland region in South Australia.

Tahbilk Marsanne 2010Oxford Landing Pinot Grigio 2013Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2013De Bortoli Db Selection Petite Sirah 2011De Bortoli La Boheme Pinot Gris And Friends 2013

Credited, rightfully so, with saving viognier from extinction, the Yalumba Y Series Viognier remains a consistent staple and benchmark for this exotic, apricot spiced grape. Partner with your Thai or Vietnamese dishes for pairing perfections.

If you’re grilling up a quick weekday steak to ward off the chill, De Bortoli Family Selection Petite Sirah 2011 would be a great choice. Uncomplicated sweet plum, dark cassis over a polished, cool finish will match up to your easy midweek dinner plans.

DeBorts, as they’re casually called, have just recently released a new line of wines into Canada. The La Boheme line is a higher tier wine, in smaller production and focus on region. La Boheme Pinot Gris & Friends 2013 is from grapes sourced in the cooler upper Yarra Valley, highlighting the tart lemon, anise and pear skin character of pinot gris, alongside aromatic friends gewürztraminer and Riesling.


Watch for the BC WineAlign crew’s monthly Critics’ Picks, as well Anthony’s Final Blend and DJ’s overview of wine judges mentoring judges. Later this month, I will kick off a series taking a closer, detailed look at Australia’s regionality and John Szabo, Bill Zacharkiw and I write a joint piece about our travels through Portugal – Bill, John and Treve’s Excellent Portuguese Adventure. You can check out John’s terrific introduction to the diversity of Portugal here.



Here’s a short-cut to the complete list searchable by store: 20 under $20 in British Columbia

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

Calliope Figure Eight Red 2012

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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – November

A Plethora of Great Spirits
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

As we head towards winter, more and more great spirits are being launched from our Canadian distilleries and coming to our shores from abroad. Recently I talked with Dave Broom, author of the World Atlas of Whisky about this boom in spirits.

Broom has been writing about spirits for 25 years. Two of his eight books (Drink! and Rum) won the Glenfiddich award for Drinks Book of the year. The Whisky Atlas (an updated 2nd version which includes Canada) is a visually gorgeous, well written book that would make an excellent gift for the whisky lover. You can find it on Amazon or in Chapters Indigo (

Canadian Club Chairman’s Select 100% RyeBroom told me he’s a huge fan of Canadian whisky and the innovative spirit that drives our distilleries. When I showed him Canadian Club’s new Chairman’s Select 100% Rye Whisky he said he had to get a bottle before he returned to the UK. It’s distilled at Alberta Distillers who really know their rye. “Alberta Distillers makes more rye whisky than anyone else in North America. They are the experts,” said Broom.

“The rye boom has just started in Europe,” he said. “The new wave of distilleries are using rye. There are three great ones from distilleries in England now for example.”

As to Scottish whisky, he said we really haven’t seen such a distillery boom since the 1890’s. There are now 114 distilleries in Scotland with another ten in the planning. “My fear is that soon after the 1890 boom there was a bust. I hope this time people are looking properly to the long issue. It’s a long term business,” Broom said.

Ireland has about 20 new distillery applications and there are now even 7 distilleries in England (four years ago there was only one).

The trend to “finish” a scotch in a barrel that’s different from the traditional ex-bourbon barrels is starting to slow down according to Broom and that’s a good thing. “Barrel finished when it works is great. Sadly it doesn’t as frequently as it should,” he said. I just tasted Tullibardine 225 Sauternes Finish Single Malt and would say this is one that does.

Tullibardine Sauternes 225 Finish Single Malt The Balvenie 12 Year Doublewood Old Pulteney 12 Year Old Hghland Single Malt Scotch Bowmore 12 Years Old Islay Single Malt Ardbeg Supernova Islay Single Malt

Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old is matured first in American bourbon barrels, then oloroso sherry oak casks. Keep your eyes out for Balvenie Tun 1509, a single barrel sherry cask version that is expected to sell for around $163.

I’m glad to see the lovely Old Pulteney 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt from Inverness Distillers back on the shelves. Bowmore Islay 12 Year Old Single Malt is another classic but with the peaty, briny, smoky Islay character. For a powerful hit of peat, Ardbeg Supernova Islay Single Malt delivers it in a big way.

Mount Gay Rum Black BarrelIn other brown spirits, Mount Gay Rum has just launched Black Barrel, a small batch blend of matured double pot distillates and aged column distillates finished in deeply charred bourbon casks.

Angostura is well known the world over for its Angostura bitters and for its rums. It all began in 1824 when founder Dr. Johann Siegert first produced aromatic bitters in Angostura, Venezuela (today called Ciudad Bolivar). In the 1870’s, Dr. Siegert’s three sons migrated to Trinidad and transferred the Angostura business there.  Over the years, Angostura Aromatic Bitters became a required product on every bar around the world as an integral ingredient in premium cocktails. (Bitters have become a huge trend today with many other companies making their versions.)

The family’s Siegert Bouquet Rum became a Trinidadian tradition up until the early 1960’s and part of the company’s rich rum heritage. By 1965, Angostura was making more money from rum than from their bitters according to master distiller John Georges. In the 1970’s, Angostura expanded, acquiring the Fernandes family distillery, which was founded in the 1890’s by Manuel Fernandes, an immigrant from Portugal, and known for making high quality rums. This year marks the 190th anniversary of Angostura.

The company aims for subtlety and finesse in their products by using high quality molasses, a proprietary yeast isolated in 1947, continuous still distillation and aging in charred American first fill bourbon oak casks Angostura 5 Year Old aged a minimum of five years, is a light blend made for cocktails. Angostura 1919, a blend of rums up to eight years old, is pretty, delicate and silky. Angostura 1824 aged for a minimum of 12 years is a deeper, heavier, “chewable” rum.

Angostura Anejo 5 Year Old Rum Angostura 1919 8 Years Old Rum Angostura 1824 Aged 12 Years Rum

Cocktail lovers might want to download the free Angostura app of excellent cocktail recipes. A dash of bitters in your drink is sweet heaven.


Margaret Swaine

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

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


Glen Garioch Founders Reserve Highland Scotch Single Malt

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 8th – Part Two

Red Highlights, Bargains and Obscurities
by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

Last week we covered the whites and fortifieds from the massive Nov 8 release; this week we focus on the reds. Vintages has grouped several under the title ‘Star Quality’, which begs the question as to whether stardom automatically equates with quality. You probably just answered that yourself.

So off we go with various picks from the WineAlign team. I have focused somewhat on Italian entries – a mini-tour de force of Italian regions and style. This is partially inspired also by having attended the Italian Trade Commission tasting that landed in Toronto on Monday, part of a four-city Canadian tour. I was very impressed by the overall quality of the wines that Italy is producing; the new wines they are always attempting, and the sense of style and modernity they possess. It was a great tasting, and I have written a short report with personal picks that follows. But we give you our Vintages picks first – organized by Italian Reds, Other Euro Reds and New World Reds.

Italian Reds

Giacomo Mori Chianti 2011Aurelio Settimo Rocche Dell'annunziata Barolo 2008Orestiadi Ludovico 2008Orestiadi 2008 Ludovico, Rosso Sicilia, Italy ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This is perhaps the best buy of the release in my books – a complete surprise in terms of the tension, structure and perfume it displays for $20. Usually Sicilian reds based on nero d’avola are softer and rounder. It is likely that the 10% cabernet here is giving it some of its lift and elegance, but the rest must be coming from the site in the hills above the Belice Valley in the westernmost province of Trapani. Into the cellar!

Aurelio Settimo 2008 Rocche Dell’Annunziata Barolo, Italy ($51.95)
David Lawrason – I do not put this forward as a wine that I think everyone will love. But if you are fan of traditional maturing Barolo, you will certainly appreciate the complexity, tension and depth of this vintage – a wine that will carry on another decade. It is from a prized calcerous ‘cru’ of 3.4 hectares with a southwest exposure. I met Tiziana Settimo at the Italian Trade Commission tasting and was totally impressed by this small firm’s attention to authenticity and detail.

Giacomo Mori 2011 Chianti, Tuscany, Italy ($19.95)
David Lawrason – So many Tuscan reds are becoming “juicy”, that combo of being brightly fruity yet tart. This struck me as a beautifully balanced, compact, drier and ultimately authentic Chianti. It is largely sangiovese with a small percentage of colorino (no merlot or cab or syrah, although these varieties are grown at this small estate). It was aged in Slovenian and some French oak, giving it that fine-grained wood seasoning (no vanilla or cocoa).

Other Euro Reds

Roger Champault Les Pierris Sancerre Rouge 2013Domaine Michel Magnien Cote De Nuits Villages 2011Domaine Michel Magnien 2011 Cote De Nuits Villages, Burgundy, France ($36.95)
Sara d’Amato – A true beauty, this Cote de Nuits Villages is elegant, ethereal and absolutely captivating. Grapes are sourced from 50-year old non-certified organic vines on this reliable estate’s tiny 19-hectare property.

Roger Champault 2013 Les Pierris Sancerre Rouge, Loire Valley, France ($23.95)
John Szabo – A rare red Sancerre (pinot noir), suited to fans of crunchy, zesty versions full of joyful berry fruit and ripe acids. I’d expect to pay at least 30% more for similar quality from more heralded pinot regions. Best 2014-2020

Giroud 2013 Terra Helvetica Pinot Noir, Valais, Switzerland ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – A rare find in these parts but a rather common varietal to find in Switzerland. In fact pinot noir (also blauburgunder) is the most planted red variety in the country. This example proves undeniably seductive with lovely notes of sandalwood and musk and featuring above average depth and complexity.

Pascal Aufranc 2013 Vignes De 1939 Chénas, Beaujolais, France ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – I am excited to see this lovely gamay once again grace the shelves of the LCBO -produced from 75-year-old vines (pre WWII) no less! Chénas is the smallest of the Beaujolais Cru designations – no larger than one square mile of planted vine. The area gets its name from the oak trees (chêne) that once used to fill the slopes.

Hermanos Peciña 2009 Señorío De P. Peciña Crianza, Rioja Spain ($21.95)
John Szabo – I love the old school, zesty, American oak-tinged wines of the brothers Peciña, encapsulating the best of traditional style Rioja. This is the sort of wine you can drink all evening without tiring, blending savoury and fruity notes with uncommonly good balance. Best 2014-2020.

Alvaro Palacios 2013 Camins Del Priorat, Priorat Spain ($24.95)
John Szabo – An excellent value from Palacios that captures the stark graphite minerality and savage, wildly herbal and generously proportioned character of Priorat, without breaking the bank (relative to Palacios’ L’Hermita at $700+/bottle, I’d say this is smoking value). Best 2014-2020.

Viña Real 2009 Oro Reserva Rioja, Spain ($29.95)
David Lawrason – Rioja is such a chameleon, depending on the winemakers philosophy on the use of oak. One in this release (Pecina Crianza above) is plugged with resinous oak; another finds a nice fruit/oak balance through age (Otanon 2001), this one tilts to a fruitier style – perhaps due to the warmth of the 2009 vintage. It is a very elegant wine with pitch perfect balance, and oak nicely tucked in the corners.

Quinta Da Romaneira 2010 Touriga Nacional, Douro Portugal ($29.95)
John Szabo – Although 2010 was considered a cooler, lighter, non-vintage port year, the table reds from the Douro benefited from the less extreme climate, and like this lovely example from Romaneira, show great finesse and complexity. Best 2014-2020.


Giroud Terra Helvetica Pinot Noir 2013Pascal Aufranc Vignes De 1939 Chénas 2013Hermanos Peciña Señorío De P. Peciña Crianza 2009Alvaro Palacios Camins Del Priorat 2013Viña Real Oro Reserva 2009Quinta Da Romaneira Touriga Nacional 2010

New World Reds

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2010No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason DziverBurrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2012Burrowing Owl 2012 Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($40.95)
Sara d’Amato – This Canadian gem is modern, juicy, exotic and features an abundance of fruit. A new world style done exceptionally well with huge appeal and surprising complexity.

Flat Rock 2012 Gravity Pinot Noir, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($29.95)
John Szabo – A fine, classically-styled pinot from Flat Rock, one of the best yet from the estate. Give it another year or two in the cellar to mesh. Best 2015-2020.

Hidden Bench 2010 Terroir Caché Meritage, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($38.95)
John Szabo – Hidden Bench’s 2010 Bordeaux-style blend is showing beautifully at the moment, certainly one of the best in the genre and with nothing to envy Bordeaux itself. Yet it still has plenty of potential development ahead; enjoy this now or in a half-dozen years or more.

Raven’s Roost 2012 Cabernet/Merlot, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)
John Szabo – this is the first I’ve seen of this label from Coyote’s Run, and I find it compelling. It’s a dead ringer for solid Bordeaux Supérieur, the kind of savoury, twiggy, earthy wine that sings with the right piece of salty protein. Best 2014-2019.

Laurel Glen 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain, California ($77.95)
John Szabo – A classy wine from an historic vineyard site on the cooler west side of Sonoma mountain and its volcanic soils, recently purchased and revived by Bettina Sichel. Sichel, ironically, is a former executive of the Napa Valley Vintners association, but has found love in Sonoma. It’s a rare Californian example that proudly displays an authentic herbal, minty, spicy edge. Best 2014-2022.

Frei Brothers 2012 Reserve Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California ($24.95)
David Lawrason – I have often lamented the demise of zinfandel, an intriguing, storied grape that has been commercialized as a chocolatized confection with punster labels that play on the word zin, or allude to the grape’s potential to make powerful, high alcohol reds (like the Boneshaker in this release). So make room from an honest, authentic and delicious zin from a classic hillside site in Sonoma County. Frei Brothers is a line by E & J Gallo.

Halter Ranch 2011 Syrah, Paso Robles, California, ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – An innovative producer that uses all sustainably grown estate fruit to make this immediately appealing syrah. An impactful California style yet the wine has delightfully retained its peppery and expressive character.

Domaine Tournon 2012 Shay’s Flat Vineyard Shiraz, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia ($37.95) David Lawrason – This is a biodynamic wine by Michel Chapoutier of France’s Rhone Valley. It is one of three labels from individual granite-based vineyards in the remote Pyrenees regions of Australia about 200 km northeast of Melbourne. Simply but – Australia meets Hermitage, with stunning result.

Meerlust 2012 Pinot Noir, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($27.95)
Sara d’Amato – You may very well find yourself lusting over this pinot noir at first sip. More mature looking than it tastes, the wine over-delivers in terms of complexity and sophistication. Pinot lovers take note.

Raven's Roost Cabernet:Merlot 2012Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel 2012Halter Ranch Syrah 2011Domaine Tournon Shay's Flat Vineyard Shiraz 2012Meerlust Pinot Noir 2012

The Annual Italian Trade Commission Tasting

For as long as I can remember the Italians have been coming to Toronto the first week of November, with a massive array of wines. On November 3rd ninety producers were pouring at Roy Thomson Hall. With an average of six wines per stand, that’s just under 600 wines crammed into a five hour tasting window for media and trade, and any consumers pro-active enough to get themselves invited. It was a tour de force of what’s happening in ever-evolving Italy. I was taken by many of the wines I tasted but that amounted to less than 10% of the offering. And that’s about the same percentage that will actually ever show up at the LCBO or Vintages. No wonder the general public is not invited. It would only feed their frustration. And for the same reason I am hesitant to write about the wines that most interested me. You will not be able to buy them easily here in “not yours to discover” Ontario.

I entered the tasting – after an impolite security search of my knapsack – with the plan of focusing on one region (Piemonte) but that quickly fell apart as different producers and some obscure grapes and regions caught my eye. There was a viognier from Casale del Giglio in Lazio near Rome. I loved the dolcettos from Clavesana in the Dogliani zone of Piedmont. I was very impressed by the value and modern vibe of the general list Cusumano 2013 Syrah from Sicily. I was totally smitten by the Pasetti 2013 Pecorino from Abruzzo as well as their trebbiano/pecorino white blend called Testarossa. I loved Planeta 2013 Etna Bianco from Sicily, 100% from a white variety called carricante. There was another white that was sensational too – Tenuta Malgra 2013 Roero Arneis from Piedmont. And I found my favourite bargain red of the year, Monte del Fra 2013 Bardolino that is still kicking around in a few Vintages outlets.

But after three hours, as the crowds began to swell, I was done for the day. After another knapsack search to ensure I was not unleashing a bottle of dolcetto on an unsuspecting world, I took my leave. As a personal journey it was very fulfilling and enjoyable, and it was very well organized. But as a professional exercise from which to generate meaningful reviews, it was all but pointless. And this event has always been thus, as are many of the large fair-type tastings. This is not the fault of the organizers. It is the product of the oh-so limited LCBO retail environment in which all we wine lovers must live and work.

And that’s a wrap for this edition. We will back at the end of next week with Part One from an equally massive November 22 release 0f about 200 wines, that features many heavy hitters under Vintages “Our Finest” Feature.

For those of you in the Toronto area, please join WineAlign’s John Szabo MS at the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo on Friday, November 21st for an exotic tour of the world’s best volcanoes! And, of course, the exceptional wines that grow on them.  The Volcanic Wines tasting will take place from 6:30 to 8 pm at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  To buy tickets, please go to

David Lawrason

VP of Wine

From VINTAGES November 8th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Nov 8th 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!

Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2012

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Les bons choix de Marc – Novembre

Vous allez y goûter !
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau sm

Marc Chapleau

On l’appelait encore naguère le Salon des vins et il se tenait aux deux ans. Aujourd’hui, on dit plutôt La Grande Dégustation, et l’événement est devenu annuel. Il s’inscrit par ailleurs dans la vaste campagne gastronomico-viticole Joyeux Novembre !  laquelle vise apparemment à stimuler la fibre consommatrice dès après l’Halloween, sans attendre que le véritable blitz de Noël ne s’enclenche, début décembre. À boire et à manger pendant la grisaille des prochaines semaines, c’est de bonne guerre.

Le verre et l’assiette… ça me fait penser à mon premier Salon des vins, en 1984, au Vélodrome devenu depuis le Biodôme.

À l’époque, le vin partageait l’affiche avec le Salon de l’agriculture — sans blague ! D’un côté les stands avec les bouteilles et de l’autre, pas très loin, parfois vraiment tout près, les vaches, les chevaux, les chèvres et leur cortège de senteurs animales. Nous, amateurs de la première heure, avons vraiment été exposés très tôt aux odeurs de brettanomyces

Autrement, ce qui n’a pas changé, c’est que l’occasion est toujours belle, cette année du 6 au 8 novembre à Montréal à la Place Bonaventure, de découvrir en un seul lieu une vaste gamme de vins et de spiritueux provenant d’un peu partout dans le monde.

Nous pourrons aussi peut-être nous voir, vous et moi, puisque Chacun son vin aura pignon sur allée, en l’occurrence le stand B08, près des bornes de commandes privées de la SAQ.

J’y serai essentiellement jeudi (journée réservée aux gens de l’industrie) et vendredi, en principe jusqu’en soirée. Pas sans bouger, bien sûr, si bien que vous me verrez peut-être plutôt dans un couloir, ou en train de déambuler, de déguster ou de recracher une gorgée…

D’ici là, voici quelques conseils pour mieux réussir son passage à La Grande Dégustation.


La Grande Dégustation de Montréal- D’abord, se trouver si possible un ou une complice, ne pas y aller seul. On peut alors s’échanger non seulement des impressions, mais aussi les verres et les portions de dégustation, ce qui permet de goûter deux fois plus de vins pour le même prix.

- Établir un plan de match, un plan d’attaque. Impossible de tout goûter — vous finiriez à quatre pattes en moins de deux. Par exemple, si vous aimez les pinots noirs mais que vous n’avez pas la chance d’en essayer beaucoup, ciblez par exemple la Nouvelle-Zélande et la Bourgogne et identifiez à l’avance, à l’aide du programme, les stands qui proposent de ces vins. Comme ça au moins, vous repartirez avec de nouveaux points de comparaison. Vous saurez probablement aussi quoi acheter, la prochaine fois que vous irez à la SAQ.

Remarquez qu’il est aussi bien sûr possible d’y aller au jugé, sans itinéraire prédéterminé. De bonnes chances alors que vous passiez à côté de quelques belles bouteilles, mais probable, en revanche, que vous découvriez telle ou telle appellation méconnue, voire pays producteur dont vous n’aviez jamais suspecté l’existence — l’Arménie ou le Liban, par exemple.

- Ne pas hésiter à demander à ce qu’on vous verse seulement des demi-portions : au lieu, par exemple, de 4 coupons, on n’en exigera que 2 et vous pourrez ainsi goûter à encore plus de vins. Encore une fois, même avec cette ration diminuée de moitié, il y en aura assez pour partager une gorgée avec votre complice.

- Maintenant, pour que la Grande Dégustation ne devienne pas quelque chose comme la Grande Débacle… crachez, pour l’amour de Dieu ! Je sais je sais, c’est loin d’être évident. Le plus souvent, on se positionne au-dessus du seau et tout ce qu’on arrive à faire, c’est de dégouliner, ça coule le long du menton de manière tout à fait inélégante. C’est d’ailleurs pour ça, après s’y être essayés, que bien des gens préfèrent s’abstenir. Erreur ! Prenez votre courage à deux mains et débarrassez-vous d’un maximum d’alcool.

Pas évident, non plus, de recracher quand on a payé sa portion (maudits coupons !). Compromis : n’avalez que les meilleurs, en principe acquis à plus fort prix.

- Dans tous les cas de figure, ne bloquez pas l’accès aux crachoirs (avis aux organisateurs : il devrait y en avoir un peu partout dans les allées et pas juste aux stands) et ne vous incrustez pas non plus, monopolisant un producteur durant de longues minutes alors que d’autres amateurs comme vous attendent derrière…

- Enfin, si possible, évitez de vous présenter à l’événement le vendredi soir et le samedi en après-midi. La foule est d’ordinaire alors dense, c’est souvent la cohue, ça joue du coude, bref, ça risque d’être un peu le bordel…

À boire, aubergiste !

À la Grande Dégustation, on a l’embarras du choix. Dans une SAQ aussi, du reste. Voici donc quelques bonnes bouteilles que je vous recommande, si vous passez par un des magasins du monopole.

Pfaffenheim Black Tie Pinot Gris Riesling 2012Frescobaldi Castello Di Pomino Pomino Bianco 2013 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Drouhin Vaudon 2013 Pierre Gaillard St Joseph 2012 Domaine Labet Fleurs 2012

En blanc, d’Alsace, le Pfaff Black Tie 2012 a un nom affreux mais il s’agit d’un savoureux assemblage de pinot gris et de riesling. D’Italie maintenant, de Toscane plus précisément, le Frescobaldi Castello di Pomino Bianco 2013 n’est pas sans ressembler à un chablis, mais en plus riche et plus corsé. Parlant de Chablis, justement, le très bon Joseph Drouhin Chablis 2013 a étonnamment de gras ; possible, et je ne blague pas, qu’à l’aveugle je l’aurais d’abord pris pour un blanc toscan comme le précédent.

Produttori Del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2009 Domaine Du Gros Noré Bandol 2010On reste dans le blanc avec l’excellent et relativement corsé Pierre Gaillard Saint-Joseph 2012, un vin du Rhône qui sent bon la cire d’abeille et les agrumes. On se régale, par ailleurs, avec le Domaine Labet Chardonnay Fleurs 2012, un « chardo » du Jura délicatement noisetté et peu alcoolisé.

En rouge, vendu comme le saint-joseph autour de 40 $ mais vraiment remarquable, le Bandol Domaine du Gros’Noré 2010  vient de Provence et allie la puissance à l’élégance — et c’est un excellent candidat pour le cellier, soit dit en passant.

Pour terminer, un rouge piémontais exemplaire, peu corsé et qui a des airs de bourgogne, même : le Barbaresco Produttori del Barbaresco 2009, au goût inimitable de réglisse noire et de mûre.

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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Courrier vinicole – Grandes richesses d’Italie

Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Ce vendredi 7 novembre, la SAQ mettra en vente par le truchement de son Courrier vinicole une vaste sélection de vins italiens de renom, provenant de la plupart des régions du pays — avec une préférence marquée, comme toujours, pour le Piémont et la Toscane. Parmi les belles bouteilles proposées, voici quelques vins dégustés au cours des dernières semaines. La liste est concise, car je n’ai pu goûter à tous les vins du catalogue. Ainsi, j’ai pris la liberté d’ajouter une liste de valeurs sûres, offertes à des prix (relativement) abordables.

À Barolo, plus que nulle part ailleurs en Italie ou dans le monde, les producteurs sont divisés en deux camps : les traditionalistes et les modernistes. Les premiers privilégient de longues macérations dans des foudres, les seconds de courtes macérations, souvent en barrique. Pour flirter avec le style traditionnel, rien de mieux que le Barolo Monprivato 2009 élaboré par Mauro Mascarello. Éminemment racé, digeste et drôlement accessible pour un barolo si jeune.

La famille Scavino appartient certainement aux camps des modernistes, et elle le revendique avec brio. Son Barolo 2008, Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata est musclé, mais sa puissance s’accompagne de saveurs intenses et persistantes. À apprécier tout au long de la prochaine décennie.

Mascarello Monprivato Barolo 2009 Paolo Scavino Rocche Dell'annunziata Riserva Barolo 2008 Ceretto Bricco Asili Barbaresco 2009 Quintarelli Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2004

Asili est l’un des plus grands terroirs de Barbaresco et certainement le triomphe de Ceretto. Je tombe rarement dans les superlatifs, mais j’oserais dire que le Barbaresco 2009 Bricco Asili est plus grand que nature ! Un pur bijou d’élégance; très séduisant, éthéré et d’une classe inimitable.

Figure légendaire de la Vénétie, le vigneron-artiste Giuseppe « Bepi » Quintarelli s’est éteint en 2012. Sa fille et ses petits-enfants ont pris la relève et n’ont rien changé à la façon de faire ultra-traditionaliste qui a contribué à la réputation de la maison. Sans surprise, l’Amarone della Valpolicella 2004 est sublime ! Une seule gorgée suffit pour comprendre pourquoi une légion de fidèles accepte de payer des sommes folles pour les vins confectionnés par ce grand maître.

Fondé en 1984, Tua Rita fut le premier domaine à s’établir dans le secteur de Suvereto, dans la province de Livourne. Il s’est fait connaître sur les marchés internationaux notamment grâce au Redigaffi, une cuvée issue exclusivement de merlot et vendue à un prix astronomique. Le 2010 se situe dans une classe à part, ample, élégant et doté d’une profondeur certaine.

De la même trempe, mais composé de syrah, le Per sempre 2011 (« Pour Toujours ») est une autre belle réussite que les amateurs de ce cépage rhodanien – au portefeuille très bien garni – voudront découvrir.

Tua Rita Redigaffi 2010 Tua Rita Syrah 2011 Duemani Altrovino 2011 Duemani Suisassi 2010 Falesco Montiano 2008

L’œnologue Luca D’Attoma est un adepte de la biodynamie. Sur son domaine Duemani, à Riparbella, une vingtaine de kilomètres au nord de Bolgheri, il produit le Altrovino, un vin particulièrement complet, issu de cabernet franc et de merlot. Saveurs pénétrantes, texture velours et excellent potentiel de garde.

Du même producteur, le très bon Suisassi 2010 est composé à 100 % de syrah, cépage que l’on devine au nez, avec ses tonalités animales qui rappellent la viande fumée. Servi frais autour de 17°C, le vin était particulièrement engageant et faisait preuve d’une fermeté caractéristique du cépage. À revoir dans cinq ans.

Plus au sud, les frères Riccardo et Renzo Cotarellla ont développé la marque Falesco, sous laquelle ils commercialisent des vins d’Ombrie et du Latium. Dans cette dernière région, ils élaborent le Montiano 2008, un merlot très séduisant, qui a de quoi rivaliser avec bien des cuvées plus coûteuses produites en Toscane. Pas spécialement profond, mais flatteur et finement boisé.

Sans les avoir tous goûtés récemment, je vous suggère de porter une attention particulière aux vins suivants comme autant de valeurs sûres :


Gini, Contrada Salvarenza 2010Italy  38 $

Jermann, Vintage Tunina 2011  74 $

Masciarelli, Marina Cvetic 2010  45 $

COS, Pithos Bianco 2012  42 $

Benanti, Pietra Marina 2009  52 $


Aldo Conterno, Langhe 2010  37 $

Fèlsina Rancia 2010  49 $

Fontodi, Vigna del Sorbo 2010  65 $

Montevertine, Le Pergole Torte 2010  138 $

Masciarelli, Villa Gemma 2006  69 $

Occhipinti, Siccagno 2011  45 $

Occhipinti, Grotte Alte 2008  69 $

Feudo di Mezzo Il Quadro delle Rose 2011  54 $

Argiolas, Turriga 2009  69 $


Quelques vins de Toscane

Même si ces vins sont moins étoffés et moins intenses que les « grands vins », leur qualité est loin d’être négligeable. Et surtout, ce n’est pas parce qu’ils coûtent deux – sinon cinq ou dix – fois moins cher, qu’ils sont deux fois moins bons.

Personne ne nous oblige à dépenser une fortune pour les gros canons vendus ponctuellement. Les Solaia, Ornellaia, Redigaffi sont très bien, mais on peut aussi acheter les Vistorta, San Felice, Vigna del Sorbo et combien d’autres beaucoup moins coûteux.

Grâce aux efforts conjugués des œnologues Enzo Morganti et Leonardo Bellacini, San Felice, une vaste propriété située au sud-est de l’appellation Chianti Classico, a grandement contribué à la réhabilitation de variétés autochtones de Toscane. Chaque année, le Il Grigio est à retenir parmi les meilleurs chianti classico de facture classique; sans artifices, mais non moins savoureux.

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 Capezzana Ghiaie Della Furba 2008 San Fabiano Calcinaia Cellole Gran Selezione Di Chianti Classico 2010 Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

Créé en 1804 au coeur de la Toscane, Capezzana est l’un des plus vieux vignobles d’Italie. Malgré son âge vénérable, la propriété des Bonacossi conserve tout son dynamisme et demeure une force motrice de Carmignano, situé à l’est de Florence, à l’écart de la zone de Chianti Classico. Chaque année,  le Ghiaie della Furba étonne par sa fibre très toscane, malgré qu’il soit issu de cabernet, de merlot et de syrah. Chaleureux, sans jamais sacrifier l’élégance.

La dénomination Gran Selezione n’a été approuvée qu’en 2014, mais les vins de millésimes antérieurs qui respectaient les critères de cette nouvelle appellation de chianti classico peuvent aussi être commercialisés comme tels. Loin de miser sur la puissance brute, le Cellole de San Fabiano Calcinaia brille par son large spectre aromatique; intense et complexe. Un excellent vin de garde.
Depuis plus d’un quart de siècle, dans les hauteurs de Gaiole in Chianti, Marco Pallanti veille sur Castello di Ama, domaine appartenant à la famille de son épouse, Lorenza. Du plus modeste au plus grand, tous ont en commun un équilibre et un raffinement exemplaires. Lorsque goûté en août dernier, le Chianti Classico Riserva 2009 était dans une forme exceptionnelle. À apprécier tout au long de la décennie.

Et du Piémont

À leur meilleur, les nebbiolos d’Alba peuvent constituer d’excellentes solutions de rechange – parfois économiques – aux vins de Barolo et Barbaresco. Le Nebbiolo 2012 dai Vigneti di Proprietà du domaine Mascarello (Giuseppe e Figlio) n’a pas d’égal. Substantiellement plus cher que la plupart des nebbiolos, mais sa qualité égale celle de bien des vins de Barolo et Barbaresco.

Plus chaleureux que le 2010 commenté l’année dernière et faisant bien sentir ses 14 % d’alcool, le Nebbiolo 2011 de Pio Cesare n’était pas très volubile lorsque goûté en septembre dernier. Néanmoins recommandable pour son équilibre et ses saveurs franches.

Sans surprise, le Nebbiolo 2012 des Produttori del Barbaresco propose une interprétation juteuse et friande du cépage nebbiolo, davantage reconnu pour la charpente et l’ossature tannique qu’il confère aux Barolo et Barbaresco. Authentique et vibrant. Bravo !

Scudetto 2010, c’est la barbera en mode majeur, interprétée avec brio par Mauro Mascarello. L’attaque en bouche est très mûre, laissant presque une sensation de sucrosité, mais le tout forme un ensemble parfaitement harmonieux, racé et haut en couleur.

Pio Cesare Nebbiolo Langhe 2011 Produttori Del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2012 Mascarello Giuseppe E Figlio Scudetto Barbera d'Aalba 2010 Bava Stradivario 2001, Barbera d'Asti Poderi Colla Pian Balbo Dolcetto d'Alba 2012

Fidèle au style classique du domaine de la famille Bava, tout en subtilité et en finesse, le Stradivario 2001 est encore incroyablement jeune pour un vin âgé de près de 12 ans. Pas donné, mais il y a un prix à payer pour avoir dans son verre un vin à parfaite maturité.

Les vins de Poderi Colla, vénérable maison piémontaise, ne donnent jamais dans la facilité racoleuse. Loin de miser sur le seul potentiel fruité du cépage, le Dolcetto 2012 Pian Balbo fait preuve d’une certaine sève et de beaucoup d’authenticité.

À votre santé!  Salute!

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 bons vins !



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Portugal The Refuge: A Hot Spot For Diversity

Szabo’s Free RunNovember 3, 2014

Text and photographs by John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

Most European countries are fiercely proud of their indigenous grapes. Unique local varieties provide a critical point of difference on the over-crowded shelves of wine shops and attract the attention of sommeliers. But the term “indigenous”, so frequently used in the world of wine, is, as it turns out, often incorrectly applied to grape varieties. Technically, an indigenous plant originates in the region in question, a true native as it were. Most European grapes are more correctly termed endemic varieties, that is, belonging exclusively to or confined to a certain place, even if they are not originally from there.

The true origins of most Vitis vinifera varieties is almost certainly somewhere in the Middle East. Over the course of millennia, vines moved from the East throughout continental Europe, each finding their ideal growing environment, first through Nature’s, and later man’s vast experiments of trial and error during domestication. Many varieties have since become confined to relatively small areas.

Although the line is purely arbitrary, most would consider a grape that has been growing somewhere for more than a few hundred years to be indigenous, even if it is really only endemic. Sure, it will have adapted to local conditions, but its origins are nonetheless elsewhere. The distinction may seem overly academic, and it surely is, though in a wine world increasingly hungry for diversity and originality, the discrepancy may one day take on some importance.

Truly Indigenous

And if such is the case, then recent research just might give Portuguese winegrowers a marketing leg up on their competitors, arming them with unassailable proof that the country’s 250-odd grapes can truly be called both unique and indigenous. The discovery of wild grape vines growing in southern Portugal has led researchers to hypothesize that this corner of the Iberian Peninsula was a so-called refuge for Vitis vinifera during the last ice age.

Vineyards in the Cima Corgo, Douro Valley-3428

Vineyards in the Cima Corgo, Douro Valley

Until some 12,000 years ago, Europe and Central Asia (and North America) were covered under a vast ice sheet, and had been for over 100,000 years. During this period, it’s believed early man built underground refuges to survive and escape the cold. Grapevines, of course, had no such recourse, and many of the wild European grapevine species known as Vitis vinifera sylvestris would have perished during the endless cold like merlot on a frigid Niagara night.

It had long been speculated that only the area around the Middle East and the Caucasus Mountains was spared the worst of the Ice Age, enabling plants such as grapevines to survive. The scientists call these areas “refuges”, and many of today’s popular grapes can trace their DNA breadcrumbs back to this Middle Eastern refuge. Yet there’s increasing evidence that the grapevine found refuge elsewhere in Europe. Southern Italy, for example, displays genetic diversity not found in the Middle East. But the scientific jury is still out.

But a refuge on which the scientists do seem to have recently agreed is the southwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula. The proof? “Most native Portuguese varieties are not found in the Middle East, or anywhere in between the two presumed refuges”, says António Graça, the technical director for the Sogrape Wine Group, one of Portugal’s largest wine companies.

Growing Wild

António Graça

António Graça

What’s more, several populations of wild grapevines have been discovered in the southern half of Portugal, covering more territory than any other population found so far in Western Europe. The vines were found growing up trees in woods near riverbanks that regularly overflow. The repeated flooding is believed to have kept phylloxera out, the louse that may otherwise have killed the wild vines, as it did virtually all of Europe’s commercial vineyards around the turn of the 20th century.

And according to Graça, “recent advancements in DNA studies have confirmed that many of Portugal’s unique native varieties are more closely related to these wild Iberian plants than to anything found in Eastern Europe or the Middle East”. This leads to the tempting suggestion that the vines must have originated there, otherwise they would show more genetic similarities to other common European grape varieties.

This evidence is corroborated by Swiss researcher Dr. José Vouillamoz, co-author with Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW of the monumental tome Wine Grapes, published in 2012. Vouillamoz quotes via email that “According to Arroyo-García et al. (2006), over 70% of the grape varieties of the Iberian Peninsula display chlorotypes (i.e. categories of chloroplastic DNA) that are only compatible with their having derived from western Vitis vinifera subsp. silvestris populations of wild grapevines, thus suggesting a secondary domestication centre. This is backed up by Cunha et al. (2009) who found a predominance of chlorotype A both in wild populations and cultivars in Portugal, and by Lopes et al. (2009) who have found evidence for a gene flow between local wild grapevine populations and domesticated vines in Portugal, suggesting that this region was a possible refuge during the last glaciation, giving rise to many of the Western European cultivars.”

Continued Research To Preserve Diversity

Although Graça and others have already spent years studying the native grapes of Portugal, the research is set to continue with the establishment of a far-reaching program called PORVID, whose aim is to preserve, protect and evaluate the commercial potential of Portugal’s rich vine biodiversity.

PORVID, founded in 2009, is a public-private funded association composed of universities, technical groups, wine companies, municipalities and the Ministry of Agriculture. 110 hectares of public property have been set aside outside of Lisbon to establish a vine conservation park for a 50-year term. 50,000 clones of 250 native varieties have been planted in the park, with vine cuttings taken from Portugal’s enviable collection of old, and in some cases abandoned, vineyards. “About a quarter of native Portuguese varieties have already been studied extensively”, says Graça, “but there’s still a lot of work to be done”.

Over the next 50 years each of the varieties and their clones will be grown and observed, and made into wine, and the results of the research will be shared with the industry.

I consider this critically important work, especially considering the erosion of vine diversity that has occurred across Europe since the era of phylloxera, and the predominance of a small handful of grapes transplanted outside of Europe. In the end, the world can only benefit from preserving vine, and thus wine, diversity.

Biodiversity in a Glass and the Benefits of Government Non-Intervention

New high density, field blend planting at Quinta das Carvalhas-3413

New high density, field blend planting at Quinta das Carvalhas

Origins aside, no one would argue that Portugal has a marvelous collection of unique varieties. And one reason why such a deep repertoire of vine diversity was retained is the fact that up until the 1970s, virtually all of Portugal’s vineyards were planted to field blends, rather than the monovarietal plantations that came to dominate in the rest of Europe. The persistence of these valuable field blends was the unanticipated benefit of Portugal pretty much missing the industrial revolution, as well as other international developments during the 20th century under the Luso-centric dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar, whose introverted right-wing government ruled Portugal until 1974.

It was during the period of post war growth that many of Europe’s vineyards were “rationalized” and mechanized for industrial agriculture, and converted to monocultures. Portugal (and Spain) followed a different path, and even today there are many old vineyards in the Douro Valley, for example, that still contain over 50 different grapes co-planted. By comparison, the top 20 most planted grapes in France in the 1950s represented just over 50% of vineyard area. Today, that figure is over 90%, as local specialties have been replaced with more “popular” grapes.

Back to the Future

But now the benefits of interplanted cultivars are (re)gaining recognition. Among other advantages, mixed plantings confer greater resistance to disease, thanks to genetic diversity. In monocultures, a single pathogen can wipe out an entire vineyard. But with mixed plantings, usually only some, but not all plants succumb. Mixed plantings could lead to a reduction in pesticide use.

Many also claim that field blends make for better, more complex wines, which is logical enough – more instruments make for a richer sounding orchestra.

Alvaro Martinho Dias Lopes extolls the virtues of old field blends, Quinta das Carvalhas-3420

Alvaro Martinho Dias Lopes extolls the virtues of old field blends, Quinta das Carvalhas

The most common disadvantage cited is that the ripening times between varieties differ, leading to complicated harvests and an inevitable mix of under and overripe grapes. But Cristiano Van Zeller, a leading figure in the Douro Valley at his Quinta Vale Dona Maria, points to empirical evidence that the ripening cycles of grapes harmonize over time, leading to more uniform ripeness (Jean-Michel Deiss, another proponent of mixed plantings, has observed the same phenomenon in Alsace). Van Zeller has vowed only to plant field blends in the traditional style in the future. “The results are far superior”, he says, and he’s far from alone in his belief.

Alvaro Martinho Dias Lopes, the man responsible for viticulture at the Quinta das Carvalhas – the jewel in the crown of the Real Companhia Velha in the Douro – is also a believer. “The best parcel we have every year is the old vine field blend”, he tells me. The site, a north-facing slope down towards the river produces the exceptional Quinta des Carvalhas Vinhas Velhas [old vines], one of the Douro’s top red table wines, so the evidence is compelling. All future plantings at Carvalhas will be field blends of at least a dozen varieties, Martinho reveals, pointing to a recently re-planted parcel to prove the point.

There are many more great wines from field blends yet to come it seems, something I look forward to seeing.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

Oporto at dusk-3820Vila Nova de Gaia at sunset-3806

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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

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Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

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