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A Year in the Life of Wine or Why Vintage Matters

Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

As the 2014 harvest winds down across the northern hemisphere I wanted to take a moment to speak to the notion of vintage. The harvest is the culmination of a year’s work for any winery, or to be more specific, the viticultural team that is responsible for growing the grapes. For all the tastings, all the notes and all the scores there is really only one number (four digits) that relates directly to an individual wine and that’s its vintage.

You can think of it as a birthday of sorts but unlike the yearly marker that defines us, a wine’s vintage defines its life in the vineyard and can tell you a lot about the rest of its life in bottle. If you didn’t know by now, I’m a bit of a vintage fiend, especially when I’m spending more than $15 or $20 on a bottle of wine.

I mention this because there is a certain malaise in the wine industry to dismiss vintage. I suspect it’s because it takes time, energy and money to keep track of it throughout a wine’s life. Many large retailers and wineries seem to be conspiring to quietly remove the concept of vintage from their daily life by promoting every wine from every year as being equal. As mentioned, there is a cost to keeping track of the vintage, in the literature and marketing bumpf, on the label (imagine the savings of printing a decade of labels with no vintage listed), changing UPC codes, catalogues et al, but we say, so what? The provenance of a wine includes its vintage and any attempt to obfuscate vintage only reveals a lack of commitment to the soul of wine.

J2272x1704-00937No matter the bother of tracking vintage, we look at it as part of the job. It’s a matter of respect; something fundamental to buying, selling or drinking wine. If a company is too lazy to correctly identify a wine by its vintage it should probably be in another business.

When I first started tasting wine some 35 years ago there was only one harvest of note in the wine world, and that was in Bordeaux. The Bordelais were the masters of vintage, seldom commenting about any harvest until the wines were fermented and sitting in the cellar. Often they would say nothing until the next spring, when their en primeur or advance sale of the recently finished vintage took place for the trade.

In those days, knowledge of growing conditions were confined to a handful of folks; given the difficulty of communicating that knowledge worldwide in a short period of time, it didn’t really affect sales all that much. Vintages were usually graded good, better or best and the price went up regardless.

You could say the laissez-faire attitude surrounding vintages changed after 1982 with arrival of Robert Parker and his yearly proclamations on the health, quality and aging potential of Bordeaux wine. In fact, it was Parker who gave collectors the buy signal for 1982 Bordeaux, when many others critics were panning the vintage. One naysayer included noted American reviewer Robert Finnegan, who after telling consumers to avoid the harvest, was never a serious player in the review business again.

IMG_6412The notion of ‘vintage’ was long suppressed in the New World because back in the day we learned that every year was a good year in California, Chile, South Africa and Australia. It was always warm and sunny, hence no need to ask if it was a good year. It seemed a clear advantage over the wet springs and falls that could plague Western European vineyards. We now know better.

“Warm and sunny” comes in degrees, if you’ll pardon the pun. Even in benign climes we have come to learn that some years are better than others, especially as temperatures rise in many winegrowing regions chosen, shall we say less judiciously, in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

Today we have come to admire the quality of grapes and wine that are grown on cooler, more marginal sites. That said, the truly poor vintage has all but been eliminated by science and viticultural techniques that were not available to winegrowers as little as two decades ago.

For many wineries, harvest reports (including live video via vineyard cams) are more about public relations than any real pronouncement regarding the quality of the grapes picked. Interviews with the owner or winemaker and daily updates from the vineyard have taken the legs out from under the old good-versus-bad vintage assessments once only issued by tight-lipped wine buyers and a few respected tasters, deep from within the vineyards.

IMG_7096Without doubt, growing fruit inside an appellation ideally suited to the grapes helps reduce the failure rate, as do better clones, better farming practices, low yields, and a host of tools available to the modern grape grower. It even appears possible to smooth out the rough edges of the vintage just by being diligent or, even better, passionate about what you are doing.

Some would argue the result of all this work is better wine year after year and less variation in quality, so why should consumers worry about the vintage? We agree today’s harvest is much less of a mystery than it used to be, and much less risky to buy, but vintage goes to the soul of every wine and noting those four digits on every bottle, sales sheet, shelf sticker and wine list adds perspective and respect to a year’s worth of work.

Even so, just when you think you have a handle on it all, global warming is turning parts of Europe and Canada into the likes of the Napa or Barossa Valley. Modern-day harvest reports speak about the lack of rainfall and rising temperatures throughout the growing season. Seasons that are too dry and too warm are challenging everything we know about growing grapes each new vintage.

IMG_7213As the calendar winds down in 2014 two vintages will come to an end. The first finished up six months ago in the southern hemisphere, the second will be completed next month across the northern latitudes. All of which leads us to the story of those four digits.

I like knowing that all things being equal, the 2012 and 2013 Okanagan vintages were superior to the 2010 and 2011. I take pride in knowing the balance from day one of the 1982 Bordeaux, placed it at the same level as the great 1961, 1959 and 1945s, considered by some the finest Bordeaux vintages ever. Why would you buy a 2004 Burgundy off a wine list if there was 2005 listed alongside it?

The best thing about vintages are you live through them. You can remember them, collect them, cellar them and drink them. They are a part of the mystery and complexity of wine. Why anyone would want to strip all that flavour from a wine is beyond us.

Surely in a digital world that seems to know everything there is to know about us 24/7 we could manage to keep track of four little digits as they pertain to a wine’s life. Think of it as commitment to your job, a sign of respect to the customer, the grower and most of all the wine.

Anthony

Photos courtesy of Treve Ring


Bridlewood Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – October

Whiskies, Walter and Caesars
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

The falling leaves and cooler days have me gravitating back to spicy Caesars, whiskies and hot toddies as my drinks of choice. Thus recently I was delighted to find an all-natural handcrafted Caesar mix that makes a delicious premium Caesar in a snap.

Walter Caesar Mix, the brainchild of Aaron Harowitz and Zack Silverman of Vancouver, took over a year to develop. The ingredients are vine ripened tomatoes, grated horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, clam juice, sea salt, onion and garlic powder and organic sugar. The result is a thick, hearty juice that has a “homemade” taste.

In the “Mildly Spiced” version, the tomato and clam flavour jumps forth while there’s still enough of a kick to need nothing more than the addition of a spirit of choice. Ketel One Vodka is my pick. In the “Well Spiced” version the horseradish and hot sauce dominate the sweet tomato notes. To me which you go for is just a matter of the mood you’re in.

Walter Trio Ketel One VodkaI’m just glad there’s an alternative to the ubiquitous Mott’s Clamato. I love that Mott’s pretty much drove the popularity of Caesars across Canada. (In 1969 the Duffy Mott Company developed Clamato, a tomato-clam cocktail that became the mixer of choice for bloody Caesars.) I don’t love the added MSG, glucose-fructose, artificial colours and PET bottles it’s sold in.

Walter is now available in Canada in over 600 select grocers, shops and bars. The current up-to-date listing can be found by visiting: www.waltercaesar.com/find-us

If you want to add your own creativity to the drink, start with Walter and then play around with the spirit (try gin or tequila), the flavour additions (maybe olive brine, pickle juice or soy sauce) and the garnish (cured meats, cheese, whatever).

With the garnish, it seems the sky’s the limit. Hopgood’s Foodliner in Toronto for example offered a Caesar topped with fresh BC spot prawn, salami and jalapeño pepper when the prawns were in season this spring. Score on Davie Street in Vancouver was inspired by the idea of cheeseburgers on Bloody Marys to come up with their versions for a Caesar. The sixty dollar Checkmate Caesar which has been selling out since it was put on the menu features a jaw dropping roasted chicken, pulled pork hot dog, Score burger, pork slider, hot wings, onion rings and a brownie to cap off the meal on a glass.

The newly reopened and renamed Eaton Chelsea Hotel in Toronto has an entire menu of homemade Caesars. The “checkout” includes bacon strips, a pickle spear, half a hard-boiled egg and a cherry tomato. Restaurants on ski resorts across Canada also seem to vie for the best dressed Caesar in town. At Whistler they hold the annual Bearfoot Bistro World Oyster Invitational and Bloody Caesar Battle. The competition keeps all establishments creative with their Caesars: at Christine’s Mountain Top Dining, I had half a delicatessen on my drink.

Whiskies of course have so much character they need no garnish and in truth I like mine neat, on the rocks or in a simple cocktail.

Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky Tomatin 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Tullibardine 228 Burgundy Finish Highland Single MaltDeanston Virgin Oak Single Malt Scotch

Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky from South Africa is an easy to drink introduction to the whisky world. From Scotland, Tomatin 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt gets its gentle, delicate character from its soft water source and sherry wood finishing. Tullibardine 228 Burgundy Finish Single Malt has spent part of its aging in Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet red Burgundy casks. Deanston Virgin Oak is finished in freshly charred new oak bourbon barrels.

Tomintoul 16 Years Old Speyside Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky Isle Of Arran Machrie Moor Single Malt Scotch Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey Knappogue Castle 12 Years Old Irish Single Malt Whiskey

Tomintoul 16 Year Old Speyside Glenlivet Single Malt from master distiller Robert Fleming is ultra-smooth and inviting.

Those who love a gently peaty malt should try Isle of Arran Machrie Moor Single Malt. For a full on whack of peat there’s Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt.

Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth George Dickel RyeTeeling Small Batch Irish Whisky has the gentle, sweet beguiling style of Ireland’s whiskies enhanced by finishing in rum barrels. Triple distilled Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Irish Single Malt aged in bourbon casks has notes of nougat.

Should you want a whisky cocktail, I recommend George Dickel Whisky made from 95% rye mash mixed with Carpano Antica Formula to make a wicked Manhattan.

Whether it’s an awesome Caesar or a sipping whisky enjoy your drink in the fading light of autumn. Winter is coming.

For those of you in Toronto, don’t miss the chance to join the WineAlign team at the ROM this Thursday, October 16th. It’s WineAlign’s inaugural Champions Tasting where you get the opportunity to taste only the top award wining wines from The Nationals and The Worlds. You can still get tickets here.

Cheers!

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!


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“Champions Tasting” this week! Taste Only the Best

Taste Only the Best

Please join us at our inaugural “Champions Tasting” to be held at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) on Thursday October 16th, 2014 at 6:30pm.

Our Champions Tasting is unique compared to other tastings in that all wines being poured are “Champions” from our 2014 wine awards.

These include only Platinum and Gold winning wines from the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada, as well as, Top Value, Category Champion and Best of Country wines from the 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada.

When combining both award competitions our judges tasted 2,433 wines blind.  The wines eligible to pour at the tasting represent only 7% of all of the wines entered.  In short, nothing but the best.

Winery and wine agency representatives will be pouring and discussing their award winning wines.  WineAlign critics will be presenting their “Judges’ Choice” selections. These are wines that they scored particularly high.

Champions Tasting LogoHere’s only a sample of the over 80 award winning wines that you will taste:
– Ascheri 2009 Barolo
– Big Head Wines 2013 Chenin Blanc
– Domaine Laroche 2012 Chablis Saint-Martin
– Domaine Marchand-Grillot 2012 Morey-Saint-Denis
– Edna Valley vineyard 2012 Paragon Chardonnay
– Martin Berdugo 2009 Reserva Ribera del Duero
– Norman Hardie 2011 Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir
– Peller Estates 2012 Private Reserve Gamay Noir Carlton Vineyard
– Poplar Grove 2010 Merlot
– Quails’ Gate 2012 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay
– Redstone Winery 2010 Syrah Redstone Vineyard
– Stags’ Leap Winery 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
– Stoneboat Vineyards 2011 Pinotage
– Tawse 2012 Riesling Carly’s Block
– Villa Ponciago 2012 Beaujolais-Villages
– Winzer Krems ’13’ 2013 Gruner Vetliner

This isn’t just about tasting great wines, it’s also opportunity to buy great wines. There will be a system in place to help facilitate wine purchases after the event.

The ROM is the perfect setting to showcase such high-quality wines. In keeping with the evening’s focus on only the best, caterer par excellence, Daniel et Daniel will prepare gourmet food for your enjoyment. Look forward to Rare Roast Beef Sandwich, Buffalo Chicken Crackling, Whitefish Tacos, Maple Smoked Salmon and many more tasty treats.

DandD_Food

Click to Purchase tickets

Event Details:
Date: Thursday, Oct 16th, 2014
Location: Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queens Park, Toronto)
Trade: 3pm to 5pm (by invite only)
Public: 6:30pm to 9pm (purchase)
Tickets: $100.00 (includes all fees & taxes)

Click to Purchase tickets

Champions Tasting

Photo credits: Wine tasting, courtesy of the Wine Sisters; The ROM, courtesy of The ROM


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Turkey time with bill zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Thanksgiving weekend folks. Time to pull out they sweaters and tuques, rake the leaves and stick that Turkey in the oven. But what to drink? A few weeks back I spent a day in the kitchen putting together a pre-Thanksgiving, traditional turkey feast for the purpose of trying out different pairing ideas. There was roast turkey, stuffing, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes.

Aside from being a great excuse to pack back some Champagne and other refreshers during the day, my aim was to test drive some wines and see what are the range of options we have when it comes to matching wine with the big bird. The results? While it confirmed what I usually suggest, there were a few surprises.

Big Bird theory

Now I am not a turkey hater, but like most poultry, turkey is a rather neutral meat. Okay, the dark meat can have a touch more flavour, but all in all, there’s not much there. So the more flavourful stuff tends to come more from what it is served with the meal than from the bird itself.

So the pairing is about the accompaniments. For most of us that means cranberry sauce (which adds fruit, sweetness and acidity), stuffing and sauces (both which can add richness and flavour). We want our wines to either add something or support what’s on the table.

The first wine style that we can dismiss are young tannic red wines. Turkey is low in fat which is why when it is cooked it can get a bit dry. Because there is little fat, there is nothing for the tannins of a very young red wine to grab on to, so I would leave the powerful, more tannic wines for another meal. This does not necessarily mean that your favourite Bordeaux and high-octane Californian cabernets are out, but they had better have a bit of age under their belts.

One of my favourite wines was a pink Champagne. It had the body for the bird, the acidity to match up the cranberry and was just plain fun to drink. One of the best value Champagnes at the SAQ is from Ayala, so if you want to go classy this weekend, try the Rosé Majeur.

Ayala Rosé MajeurChâteau Laffitte Teston Ericka 2012Hugel Gewurztraminer 2012

If you aren’t big on cranberry, but love lots of gravy, then a rich white can also do the trick. Most chardonnay will work, but if you want something more exotic, especially with aromatic stuffing, then try the 2012 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Ericka from Lafitte Teston.

If you like lots of cranberry as well as stuffing, then a gewurtraminer will do the trick. Hugel’s 2012 is exceptional.

But most of you want red. The best wines too choose are lighter styled reds – Beaujolais and pinot noir, which have bright fruit, low tannin and good acidity to play off the cranberry sauce. So any light fruity wine will do, but as it’s a holiday, it’s the perfect time for Burgundy.

Jean Claude Boisset Bourgogne Les Ursulines 2012Domaine René Bouvier Bourgogne Pinot Noir Le Chapitre 2012Hoya De Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo 2010Tardieu Laurent Les Becs Fins 2012Fattoria Casa Di Terra Mosaico 2010

I tasted two excellent and well priced generic Burgundy recently. Try with the 2012 Ursuline from Boisset or La Chapitre from Rene Bouvier. Both are under $25 and work exceptionally well with everything on the table.

If you have a lot of people, this can be a pricey affair if you are paying for the wine. At under $13, the 2010 reserva from Hoya de Cadenas blew me away for its finesse. Pinot noir-esque in many ways despite being made with tempranillo.

If you want more substance and pinot isn’t your thing, then try the 2012 Les Becs Fins from Tardieu Laurent. Fruit driven Cote du Rhone where freshness is up front and then tannin is ripe and round.

And finally, if you want a wine that incredible elegance and finesse, but still juicy and will work at the table, splurge on the Mosaico from Fattoria Casa di Terra. The 2010 might be one of the best wines I have tasted over the past few months.

Enjoy the long weekend folks!

Bill

“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!


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20 under $20 in British Columbia (October)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

Giving thanks for wine. We have much to be thankful for in BC. We have a thriving, exciting and vibrant wine industry, currently in the midst of a beautiful harvest. We have a selection of outlets to purchase wine, both government operated and independent, ensuring a wide and ranging selection of products at all price points. We have some of the top sommeliers and wine professionals in the country (sorry everywhere east), undoubtedly talented, educated and supportive of each other. And our wine culture, though young and concentrated, is building and confident. I am thankful for a national portal like WineAlign, that unites drinkers, agents, geeks, consumers and professionals all, in our shared quest for great wines. And I am thankful for you, our readers, who fuel our drive to bring you the best, and our best. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours – TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

A few favourites for the long weekend. Whether it’s turkey or ham or salmon or simply a piece of cheese all of these wines work with family and friends and we couldn’t be more thankful.

Chardonnay is on a roll around the globe and the Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2012 is a favourite given how it walks the fine line between rich and lean – plus it is terrific value to boot.

The new Moon Curser Carmenere 2012 speaks to site and climate, I love the pepper and chocolate we see in top Chilean examples. (Sorry for cheating above the $20 here)

Louis Latour Chardonnay L'ardeche 2012 Moon Curser Carmenere 2012 Tabalí Reserva Pinot Noir 2012 Tormaresca Trentangeli Castel Del Monte 2010 Crios De Susana Balbo Malbec 2013

Still in Chile, turkey and pinot can be a comfortable fit and the Tabali Reserva Pinot Noir 2012 fits that bill. The palate is soft and alluring with enough sweet fruit and spice to please a diverse crowd.

More turkey wine and a crowd pleaser is the Tormaresca Trentangeli Castel del Monte 2010. Rich dense warm and spicy it will stand up to the big dinner flavours.

That goes ditto for the handcrafted Crios Malbec by Susana Balbo Dominio de Plata 2013. Aromatic floral/violet black fruits will draw you deep into the glass. Happy Thanksgiving.

DJ Kearney

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and I give thanks for variety in wine; for the simple fact that we can waltz into a wine store and choose a bottle or five from dozens of countries, hundreds of grapes and thousands of producers. Diversity is wines greatest strength, so let’s celebrate a world of choice.

I blind-tasted Nobilo’s Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 this past August at our World Wine Awards, and wow does it deliver freshness and zing for a great price. I’ll be pouring it before Thanksgiving dinner paired with goat’s cheese crostini.

Next up is a sensational South African white, Wild Olive Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013, and you should run, not walk to buy a case. Pair it with pear, thyme and parmesan stuffed mushrooms.

Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Wild Olive Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2013 St. Hubertus’ Pinot Blanc 2013 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013 Goats Do Roam Red 2013

A different kind of botanical white is St. Hubertus’ Pinot Blanc 2013, with precise apple and citrus and the herbal note of the Okanagan’s ‘garrigue’; try this with Dungeness crab cakes.

To round out dinner of either whole baked sockeye salmon or the traditional turkey (smoky bacon atop), I love the 2013 Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir, and the Goat’s Do Roam 2013 chewy Cape red blend.  Being thankful for delicious under-$20 wines is EASY!

Rhys Pender MW

The wine world is so diverse and there are some great wines at great value from all over the place. Take the Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja 2008. A lot of interesting flavours for just $20.

Just creeping under the $20 thanks to a limited time offer, you should stock up on the Wakefield Riesling 2013. This crisp, dry Aussie riesling is fresh and juicy for now and should also cellar well, so tuck a few in the cellar.

Another interesting wine is the Feudo Maccari Nero D’avola 2012 from Sicily. This has the ripe fruit of sunshine but lots of meaty goodness, an excellent wine for beside the fire over the winter.

Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 Wakefield Clare Valley Riesling 2013 Feudo Maccari Nero D'avola 2012 Muscadet Sevre Et Maine Chateau De La Gravelle 2011 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2013

One of the most craveable styles of wine is anything crisp and refreshing and that tastes like licking a wet rock from a mountain stream. The Château de la Gravelle 2011 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine fits the bill nicely. Just add freshly shucked oysters.

Cool nights call for warming meals and there is no better wine to go with Indian curry than viognier. The Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2013 is always a good bet.

Treve Ring

I’m admittedly not the traditional sort, so my Thanksgiving plans generally involve picnics, pizza, brunch or BBQ. However, I always invite folks over – sometimes newly acquainted, sometimes decades-known, often a mix – to share in the festivities. Therefore, my Thanksgiving wine picks veer more to communal camaraderie than a specific menu.

Therapy Vineyards Freudian Sip 2013 will unite a crowd, if not for its herb perfumed florals, then for its memorable label and name.

A well made, well balanced, well priced riesling is good to have in your arsenal, bonus points that it’s from the Mosel. Be sure to stock up on Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 for Thanksgiving and beyond.

Therapy Freudian Sip 2013 Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012 Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2013 Piccini Fiasco Chianti 2012 Bodega Renacer Punto Final Malbec 2012

Monterey’s Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2013 demonstrates how far full-bodied Cali chardy has come, with its lemon, applesauce and gentle lees, it is a great wine to dispel the ABC myth with (test it on your company).

You needn’t fear this holiday fiasco. The Piccini Chianti Fiasco 2012 proudly utilizes the old school basket to present this tart cranberry and fresh cherry Tuscan red.

And if you do find yourself out grilling, like I most likely will be, you may need a spicy, hearty red. The solidly built, stylishly packaged Bodega Renacer Punto Final 2012 Malbec, from Mendoza, Argentina will partner with the fall chill, whatever meats you have grilling and your Thanksgiving table.

****

Watch for Anthony’s insightful Final Blend which speaks to the importance of vintage, followed by the BC WineAlign crew’s monthly Critics’ Picks, as well as Rhys Pender’s look at natural wine in BC. In the meantime, I have shared my take away notes from the biennial Wine & Culinary International Forum in Barcelona.

Cheers,

Treve

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!


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Calliope Figure Eight Red 2012

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Oct 11th – Part Two

Sonomania and Red RavesOct 9, 2014

by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

Today’s publishing date coincides with the arrival of the Sonoma County Vintners wine fair in Toronto, and the WineAlign team will be there. But while we evidently can’t publish additional Sonoma wine recommendations on time in the traditional fashion, we’ve set up an instagram account where we’ll be posting pics of more great picks from the County: http://instagram.com/winealign. Follow the link to see what else we’ve unearthed; availability and price will be included.

It’s almost needless to say that the number of wines at the Sonoma exposition far outstrips the number that are actually, or ever will be, available at the LCBO. I only point that out to say I still find that as irritating as I always have – 30 years later. But despite the retail bunker erected by our one-shop-fits-all monopoly, the Sonoma winemaker delegations keep coming back – and thanks for that. It is something the Sonoma Wineries Association has done diligently over many years as a brand building exercise. And that’s an important exercise when you live next door to world famous Napa Valley.

So what is the Sonoma brand – the difference-maker? They like to promote Sonoma’s geographic and varietal diversity – an easy catch phrase.  But it is an over-used idea, and not really all that useful in a hyper-diverse world. So what really leaps to front of mind for Sonoma here in 2014?

Well for me it is chardonnay. The rest of California could stop making chardonnay without causing me any grief, because Sonoma finds a sweet spot offering bright tree fruit, freshness, some firm acidity yet California suppleness and warmth. In the coolest coastal regions you can find leaner, more mineral driven Burgundy-inspired styles, but if I want that style I will buy Burgundy, or Niagara or Prince Edward County chardonnays. With Sonoma chards I am still looking for some California fruit generosity tempered by just-right freshness and tension (and not too much oak).

8.5 x 5.5_Postcard.indd

Where goes good chardonnay, so goes good pinot noir, and I must say that personally I love drinking the aromatically lofty, texturally rich Sonoma pinot noirs – a bit deeper in colour, with riper often raspberry-scented fruit aromas decked out in the finest new oak spice and vanillin and perhaps a hint of evergreen from the coniferous coastal environment. They are also fairly soft and warm, but the best also trail some minerality and acidity. This is the profile of the many Carneros and Russian River pinots, with the tautness of the latter increasing as sites move into the Sonoma Coast. But as with chardonnay I am not expressly seeking Burgundian stone-sucking minerality in Sonoma pinot; I want California fruit richness too.

Beyond this dynamic duo the brand of Sonoma becomes more fractured. I do anticipate good things from zinfandels coming out of the warmer Dry Creek Valley, but again there are many other sites across the state that also produce very good zins so Sonoma is not so special in this regard. There are also some impressive Bordeaux reds from the warm sites of the Alexander and Knights Valleys, with especially good examples coming from the hilltops. They have a bit more tension than most Napa cabs, but their main attraction is better value, simply because they are not Napa. And that’s about where I start to run out of solid ideas about what Sonoma is. To me it is simply the best one-two chardonnay-pinot punch in California.

Beyond the Sonoma selections below, we have come up with an intriguing selection of other reds. We assembled our white picks and Piedmont reviews in Part One last week.

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

Sonoma Selections

Benziger Chardonnay 2012

Flowers 2012 Sonoma Coast ChardonnayFlowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2012 ($64.95)
John Szabo – Flowers’ vineyards are perched on the coastal ridges facing the Pacific in the far out, “true” Sonoma Coast, one of the first sites planted in the area in 1991, and they’ve been leaders ever since. The 2012 is an elegant, stylish, firm and fresh, ripe and concentrated wine with well-measured wood and tight acids, the way we like them.
David Lawrason   This is quintessential, brilliant, layered subtle chardonnay with centering acidity and minerality. Pricy but a benchmark, with the wherewithal that makes the best Burgundies intriguing, plus a bit of bravado.
Sara d’Amato  This Burgundian styled chardonnay climate features lovely vibrancy, structure and harmony. Refined and sophisticated for the classiest of affairs.

Benziger 2012 Chardonnay Sonoma County ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This is the best value Sonoma selection, white or red on the release, and I chalk that up to organic-based winemaking philosophy, even though the label avoids using the term while delivering lots of green-speak. This is a well-integrated, balanced, enjoyable wine with well-tailored California opulence.
John Szabo – Long time followers of organic/biodynamic and sustainable winegrowing, Benziger is a reliable name for balanced and elegant wines. This is a particularly well-priced chardonnay in the realm of oft-inflated California pricing, stylish, savoury, and judiciously oaked, hitting a fine balance between fruit and spice on a well-proportioned frame.

Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir 2011

Kunde Zinfandel 2012Ridge Lytton Springs 2012Pahlmeyer 2011 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($100.95)
David Lawrason – Some might gasp and/or guffaw at the price, but this Sonoma pinot borders on perfection. It’s a very modern, typical Californian take on pinot, and done very well, with impressive poise for its size and excellent to outstanding length. It is everything I love about Sonoma pinot, if sadly I can’t afford it. Those who can will be pleased.
Sara d’Amato – The cooler vintage was beneficial to this lovely pinot noir brimming with cherry, crab apple, bramble and cedar. An elegant, new world style with a broad palate and exceptional length. Grace and refinement best characterize this incarnation of Pahlmeyer’s pricey pinot noir.

Kunde 2012 Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley ($23.95)
John Szabo – Zach Long is the highly competent winemaking steward of the Kunde Family’s considerable estate in the Sonoma Valley AVA, now in the hands of the fifth generation. This is the entry-level version, but it’s a wholly satisfying, generously proportioned example that should appeal widely. It’s a bit boozy at 14.7% alcohol declared, but it works within the context of large-scaled wine.
David Lawrason – This is a generous, ripe zin that has some chocolate-ness, but it is not overly confected. It is full, sweet and sour with some tension and even minerality. Following on a very good value Kunde Chardonnay last time out I am paying more attention to this property.

Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2011Ridge 2012 Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley ($52.95)
Sara d’Amato – The 115-year-old vines of the Lytton Springs property are used to produce some pretty impressive, high-caliber wines which feature little manipulation and pure, honest and expressive fruit. The 2012 is elegant and lingering with pretty herbal notes and forest fruit and makes for an undeniably memorable experience.
John Szabo – An excellent vintage for Ridge’s Lytton Springs zinfandel blend, 2012 has yielded an open and pure wine in the hands of non-interventionist of Paul Draper, with full palate, woolly tannins (un/minimally filtered) and great length. I appreciate the purity and forthrightness here – there’s no winemaking artifice, just fine, fermented grapes.

Ravenswood 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma County, ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – Ravenswood is a pioneer of California’s signature grape and continues to champion this varietal – still their most successful product. Here is a very characteristic and honest example of pure zinfandel with plenty of succulence and vibrant acids to balance the fleshy fruit.

Decoy 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County ($33.95)
John Szabo – A second wine of sorts from Duckhorn, the Decoy cabernet over-delivers in the category in the excellent 2012 vintage. This has some grit and substance and a solid range of flavours. Best 2014-2022

Other Reds

Monte Del Frá 2013 Bardolino, Veneto, Italy ($13.95)
David Lawrason – It’s back!  One of my all-time favourite easy drinking, lively reds– a lightweight Veneto that effortlessly diagrams the purity and freshness this northern region can render – without getting all fussed up in rispasso-ness. Some lessons here. Killer price – I might consider a case.

Adelsheim 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($34.95)
David Lawrason – Here is the best Adelsheim I can recall, and that’s saying something as David Adelsheim was an Oregon pinot pioneer who I interviewed in Toronto in the 90s. Impressive depth and energy here most of all, if not yet elegant, refined and ethereal. But that too may appear in a couple of years.

Carabella 2011 Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($37.95)
John Szabo – 
It was a toss-up between two fine Oregon pinots in this release (the other was the 2012 Adelsheim, $34.95) and both are fine, though the edge goes to this ambitious, fullish, natural-feeling pinot noir. It’s not perfectly limpid and aromatics are slightly muddled, though it’s all the more characterful for it. The palate delivers substantial flavour and depth, and I like the raw, honest feel. Best 2014-2023.

Monte Del Frá Bardolino 2013 Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2012 Carabella Pinot Noir 2011 Domaine Clos De Sixte Lirac 2011

Domaine Clos De Sixte 2011 Lirac, Rhone, France, ($24.95)
Sara  d’Amato – Lirac is a large appellation in the southern Rhone close to Tavel that produces some exceptional value. Their reds and roses are largely GSM (grenache-syrah-mourvedre) based such as this rather polished example. Sophisticated with concentration and complexity well above the norm.

Bodega Noemía 2012 A Lisa, Patagonia, Argentina ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This is from one of the most far-flung corners of the biodynamic wine world in lower Patagonia (half way to the Atlantic Ocean) along the Rio Negro – and it’s terrific. Very zesty, vibrant and quite particular. Powerful jammy flavours.

Viña Tarapacá  2012 Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Great power, piquancy and complexity here – an amazing cab fireworks display for $18!  It hails from a massive single estate in the middle Maipo where winemaking is overseen by Californian Ed Flaherty.  No country is doing cab this good for this price. Would be a good buy at $30. For the cellar.

Bodega Noemía A Lisa 2012 Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Henry Of Pelham 2012 Reserve Baco Noir Lealtanza Reserva 2009

Henry Of Pelham 2012 Reserve Baco Noir, Ontario  ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This may be the closest Ontario will ever come to making southern Rhone red – rugged, complex, voluminous. Is there is a quiet baco revolution afoot at H of P?  The 2013 “regular” baco on the general list is also dandy.

Lealtanza 2009 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($20.95)
David Lawrason – Rioja is such a confused patchwork of ideas. This wine gets closest to the spirit of this maritime-continental region – a lighter fresh and fruity wine nicely framed by spicy wood and some earthiness. Not too much extraction, not too much oak resin and vanillin. Not too firm, not too soft. Well handled in a warmer vintage.

Champions Tasting LogoTo read reviews all our reviews from the bountiful October 11 release subscribers can follow the links below. And I wish you a bountiful Thanksgiving weekend. For those of you in Toronto, don’t miss the chance to join the WineAlign team at the ROM on October 16th. It’s WineAlign’s inaugural Champions Tasting where you get the opportunity to taste only the top award wining wines from The Nationals and The Worlds.

 

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES October 11th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Oct 11th Part One – Piedmont 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!


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Saltram Mamre Brook Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Troubling Times for Bourgogne Lovers

By John Szabo MSOctober 7, 2014

 

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

Short crops in the last four vintages, skyrocketing demand, rising land prices and the threat of a serious region-wide vineyard disease is just some of the troubling news coming out of La Bourgogne, one of the world’s most famous wine regions. Burgundy lovers are faced with the very real and unpalatable prospect of having to look elsewhere for their fix, or at least pay a hell of a lot for the genuine article. Considering that Canada is the fourth largest importer of Burgundy by value, that’s a serious concern in this country.But there’s also a silver lining: these unfortunate developments will give some of La Bourgogne’s lesser-known corners a chance to emerge from the giant shadow of the most famous Côte d’Or villages. There is, believe it or not, good value red and white Bourgogne still to be had. And at the same time, the very best of the region is better than ever before.

In part I of this report I’ll examine some of the challenges facing La Bourgogne, and follow that up in subsequent postings with a look at a few of the regions/appellations and producers where quality and value intersect: Chablis and Grand Auxerois, Marsannay, La Côte Chalonnaise and the Maconnais. Each section will include a Buyer’s Guide of the best kit currently available, somewhere in Canada.

(Editorial note: the anglicised name of the region, “Burgundy”, has been dropped from all marketing material by the BIVB, so I’ll respectfully follow suit and use the French name – after all, no other French wine region uses a different English name.)

Part One: The Challenges

A String of Small Vintages

The most serious immediate issue facing growers in Bourgogne is the loss of a significant proportion of the crop in all of the last four years, with certain regions also down significantly in 2014. The main culprits have been poor flower set and especially hail, and nowhere has been hit harder than the Côte de Beaune, with Beaune itself, Volnay and Pommard particularly unlucky, as well as Chablis.

Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director for Justerini & Brooks, a British wine & spirit merchant established in 1749, has this to report in his introduction to the 2012 offer:

Gerard Boudot of Etienne Sauzet has been making wine since 1974 and has never known such a small vintage, his Folatieres is just one example – he made two barrels instead of the usual ten. 2013 is also terribly small, and with 2011 and 2010 being short crops, too, Burgundy has effectively produced the equivalent of two decent sized vintages in four years. Cellars up and down the Côte d’Or look empty”.

Old Vinetages at Domaine Henri Gouges, one of the First Domaines in the Côte d'Or to estate bottle wine

Old Vintages at Domaine Henri Gouges, one of the First Domaines in the Côte d’Or to estate bottle wine

Hugues Pavelot of Domaine Pavelot in Savigny-lès-Beaune confirms the situation: “the last four vintages have been the equivalent volume of two average years”, he tells me, referring to the years 2010-2013. It’s late May 2014 as he speaks these words, inadvertently forgetting to touch the wood of the bistro table at La Ciboulette restaurant in Beaune where we’re lunching. A month later, the Côte de Beaune would be struck yet again by devastating hail on June 28th, further compounding growers’ woes.

Estates from Beaune to Meursault reported damage affecting up to 40% of the potential 2014 harvest, after golf ball sized hailstones destroyed leaves, grape bunches and canes. Some areas were even less fortunate, like the famous Clos Des Mouches vineyard in Beaune where up to 90% of this year’s harvest was obliterated in a matter of minutes.

Even more discouraging is that the hail fell despite measures in place to prevent it. Thirty-four ‘hail cannons’ had been deployed every 10 kilometres in the storm-prone areas, which shoot particles of silver iodide and copper acetylacetone into threatening clouds to disperse hail pellets or reduce their size. But the measures ‘failed to work’ according to Thiebault Huber of Domaine Huber-Verdereau and also president of the Volnay Wine Council, or at least didn’t work well enough. This year’s damage has prompted discussions on other anti-hail measures like netting, as is practiced in Argentina. But hail nets are both expensive and reduce sunlight exposure – an estimated 10%-30% – which is not a problem in the intense sunlight of Argentina, but is a genuine concern in far less sunny Burgundy. In any case official INAO approval could be years away.

The slight increase in the 2013 harvest over 2012 is of little consolation for many growers, considering that 2012 itself was exceptionally small. Taking the average of the last five years, 2013 was down 7% and 12% for reds and whites respectively, and also down 12% for Crémant de Bourgogne.

For many, this could spell financial ruin, Thiebault Huber tells Decanter.com. “We have lost the equivalent of two harvests over the last three years”, he says, echoing Pavelot’s and many other grower’s difficult situation. Ultimately prices will have to keep rising to keep domaines solvent.

High Demand

And it seems the unprecedented demand for top Burgundy around the world will encourage and sustain those prices. “I’m not sure why you’re here”, Frédéric Mugnier says to me immediately after arriving at his highly-regarded domaine in Chambolle-Musigny. “I have nothing to sell”. It’s perhaps not a dramatic change of attitude, but noticeable nonetheless, from when I first started travelling to Burgundy in the late 1990s. Back then, doors at all but the very top estates were still open.

The essential tourist photo at Domaine de la Romanée Conti

The essential tourist photo at Domaine de la Romanée Conti

But now Mugnier’s wines, like all of the top wines from the Côte d’Or and especially the Côte de Nuits, are on tight allocation, with importers/distributors bemoaning the few cases they are allotted to broker. Most growers are reluctant to even open their doors to prospective clients (or journalists), knowing that fueling more demand just causes more headaches. The world can’t get enough of sought after appellations like Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle-Musigny, Nuits-St-Georges and Morey St.-Denis (and of course all of the premiers and grand crus within them).

Exports to Hong Kong have tripled since 2008 when taxes on products with less than 30% alcohol were abolished, and growth shows no signs of abating with the first part of 2014 up another 12%. At the same time, Hong Kong importers have set up distribution in Mainland China, which has also increased demand. And it’s not just a handful of prestigious labels – Bourgogne is second only to Bordeaux now in China in terms of the number of different labels offered on average at points of sale.

Elsewhere, the United States remains the number one market for Bourgogne by value and is increasing despite a strong euro and weak dollar, indicating a buy-at-any-price attitude, while Canada also continues to grow, fuelled mainly by Québec, which accounts for 70% of Bourgogne sales by volume in the country. In the UK, allocations for the top wines are ever-tighter. Giles Burke-Gaffney of Justerini & Brooks warns prospective buyers of 2012s in no uncertain terms:

2012 is an extremely small vintage, one of the smallest on record, and in many cases wine will have to be allocated to customers. The crop ranges from 20-90% down on 2011. Add this to furious, ever-increasing demand and we have quite a shortage on our hands and producers will inevitably have to put prices up.”

That pretty much sums it up. Bourgogne lovers and collectors, buy what you can, while you still can.

Flavescence Dorée: The Phylloxera of the 21st Century?

Another spectre is haunting La Bourgogne and threatening to reduce quantities further: Flavescence Dorée. “La Flavescence” is a deadly vine disease – a phytoplasm to be more accurate (parasitic bacteria) – which first appeared in France in the 1950s in Armagnac. It has since spread across the south and into Northern Italy and beyond, and is moving further northwards. There is no cure for the disease, which spreads from plant to plant on vector insects, more specifically the sap-sucking “cicadelle de la vigne” (Scaphoideus titanus) or leafhopper, that also arrived in france in the 1950s, likely on vine rootstocks imported from the Great Lakes region of North America. Once a cicadelle becomes infected with the bacteria, which is harmless to the insect, it will in turn infect the plants with which it comes into contact, including grapevines. Flavescence remains asymptomatic for a year, making early detection difficult, but the bacteria then works quickly to kill the vine within a year or two.

Clos des Epenaux, Pommard

Clos des Epenaux, Pommard

Jean-Philippe Gervais, Technical Director of the BIVB (Bureau Interprofessionelle des Vins de Bourgogne), tells me that Flavescence Dorée first appeared in Burgundy in the late nineties near Puligny but was quickly eliminated. More recently it appeared again but in a much larger area in northern Mâcon around 2011 and has spread. He considers the disease a threat on par with phylloxera: “it’s really epidemic”, he says. “It multiplies almost exponentially. In the beginning you have one vine infected; by the following year, thanks to the movement of the cicadelle, you can infect all of the surrounding vines”. It’s believed that many phytoplasm-infected vines were sold by nurseries up to the mid-nineties, before obligatory hot water treatment was introduced to kill the bacteria. Thus nurseries unwittingly helped to spread the disease to many parts of France. And now with the increasing population and movement of leafhoppers, there is a very real danger that Flavescence Dorée could spread out of control.

Ironically, it’s been the dramatic reduction of insecticide use in Bourgogne over the last 15 years that has allowed the population of leafhoppers to grow virtually uncontrolled. It’s estimated that Bourgogne has 100x more leafhoppers than some other affected regions. The solution to the problem is two-fold: 1) identify and rip out all of the vines infected with the bacteria, and 2) reduce the population of leafhoppers with insecticide sprays.

Rolling barrels at Domaine Philippe Pacalet

Rolling barrels at Domaine Philippe Pacalet

Action last year was swift and decisive, some would argue excessive and reactionary, others necessary. In 2013, all communes of the Saône-et-Loire and Côte d’Or départments (covering a large part of Bourgogne the wine region) were ordered to spray three times against the insect. “We didn’t know how many infected areas there were”, reveals Gervais “there wasn’t time to inspect the entire region. But there were definitely large areas – eleven hectares [in Mâcon] were ripped out after all”. A commune-by-commune inspection of every single vine was also ordered to be carried out just before the 2013 harvest, when the symptoms are most visible. The inspections were preceded by work shops for vignerons on how to identify the symptoms of the disease: coloration of the leaves (reddish for pinot noir, yellow for chardonnay), poor lignification of canes and withering of berries, for example.

The action was considered largely successful, and in 2014, only thirteen communes in the southern part of the Côte d’Or, in which or near which Flavescence was detected, were required to spray, and even then only according to a 1+1 strategy, meaning that a second treatment is required only if the cicadelle population remains above a certain threshold. In the regions where the greatest incidences of Flavescence have been detected, namely in Mercurey (Côte Châlonnaise) and the northern Mâconnais, two obligatory treatments were ordered this year, with a possible third if deemed necessary. “The goal of course is to reduce treatments”, says Gervais. Nobody wants to spray insecticides unecessarily”.

But despite the seriousness of the problem, the severe approach has not been universally lauded, as could be expected from hundreds of individual vignerons each with varying winegrowing philosophies. The highest profile case involved organic/biodynamic grower Emmanuel Giboulot, who refused outright to spray insecticides on his grapes, though he was not alone. Even more dangerous are the countless growers who feigned to follow orders, purchasing the insecticide spray in order to be able to show the authorities the receipt, yet never used it.

Although Flavescence appears to be under control, the danger is still present. And the stakes are very high.

Land Prices Beyond Reach

Another long-term problem, but without any solution, is the skyrocketing cost of land in Bourgogne, some of France’s, and the world’s, most expensive vineyards. According to government figures, vineyard prices in the Cote d’Or rose by 5% on average last year versus 2012, to €515,600 per hectare, though the top grand crus can change hands for the princely sum of €9.5m per hectare ($14m CAD). Headlines were made when luxury goods giant LVMH purchased the 8.66 hectares of the Clos des Lambrays grand cru for a reported €100m.

Priceless grand cru vineyards, Côte de Nuits

Priceless grand cru vineyards, Côte de Nuits

This of course puts upward pressure on the cost of wines from the most prestigious sites. But even more seriously, it puts into question the long-term viability of family-run domaines. According to French inheritance laws, descendants pay 40% of property value in taxes in the succession from one generation to the next. Considering the astronomical value of the top estates, few families will be able to afford the taxes without serious succession planning.

“Our concern is that, in a couple of years, family domaines will have to sell their vineyards to big financial groups,” Caroline Parent-Gros, of Domaine AF Gros, said in the July issue of Decanter magazine.

Benjamin Leroux standing in the Clos des Epeneaux (He has sinced moved on to focus his own wines under his name)

Benjamin Leroux standing in the Clos des Epeneaux (He has sinced moved on to focus his own wines under his name)

The large number of family-run domaines in Bourgogne is one of the defining features of the region, compared to more corporate-run regions such as Bordeaux or Champagne. The family estates have also been instrumental in pushing up average quality across the region over the last couple of generations, in what was before a market dominated entirely by négociants and cooperatives. To see the region fall predominantly into the hands of large multinationals would indeed be a shame.

Impossibly high land prices also stifle development. Anyone with less than a massive fortune can only dream of buying vineyards in the famous communes of the Côte d’Or, which makes the region the playground of a small elite. The only way in for any outsiders is through the route of the “micro negociant”, a business model whereby individuals purchase small lots of grapes or juice, or finished wines in barrel or bottle to sell under their own label, like Canada’s own Thomas Bachelder. And even in this case, you need to be extremely well connected to have access to the best lots, like Benjamin Leroux for example, former régisseur at Compte Armand in Pommard from 1998 until this year, who’s striking out on his own, or Nicolas Potel, whose father, Gérard Potel ran Domaine de La Pousse d’Or in Volnay, who now operates a negociant business under the Maison Roche de Bellene label, and offers an impressive collection of crus. But they are luckier than most.

Part II next week takes a look at where to find value in Bourgogne, along with a buyer’s guide of the top, currently available wines.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

Part II: Finding Value in Bourgogne


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Treve’s Take – Wine and Culinary International Forum II

From molecular gastronomy to minerality, from the latest in iPad winelists, to the return of beverage carts, from texturometers to China’s tradition of KAMPAI, the flying fingers of WineAlign’s intrepid Treve Ring capture an entire day of presentations by leading global thinkers in the realm of food and wine at the Wine & Culinary International Forum in Barcelona. Says Treve: “What I clearly realized is that conventional borders to food and wine no longer exist. The new frontier is breaking through glass beliefs of pairing, and using science and chemistry to better appreciate how certain things react together”.

wine & culinary

Setting the Scene:

Journalists, sommeliers and chefs from around the world descended on Barcelona last weekend for the second Wine & Culinary International Forum. Held every two years, the event was founded by Torres Wines, created to focus on the relationship between wine and gastronomy. This year’s theme is Creativity and Market, and the global presenters linked to this thread. As Miguel Torres Maczassek (Jr.). shared in his welcome address, he feels that some branches of cuisine, especially molecular gastronomy, have moved away from the marriage of food and wine. This weekend of seminars and tastings and workshops, uniting palates and minds from around the world, investigated the importance of uniting food and wine effectively. And inclusively as well – demonstrating how science and molecular studies can aid our understanding of perfect pairings.

I arrived to Barcelona with 70 journalists from 15 nations, and was happy to discover I was representing Canada alongside Toronto’s Tony Aspler. Live translation through headsets allowed all the various languages in the room to understand each presenter. We may not all understand the same language, but we all speak food and wine.

The brief below is a bit rough and tumble, the result of my typing as fast as I could over the course of eight hours. Since not everyone could be there for this important collaboration, here follows a recap of the speakers, and my takeaway thoughts:

IMG_7751

9:30 h. Welcome by Miguel A. Torres (Sr.), President of Bodegas Torres, and Rafael Ansón, President of the Royal Academy of Gastronomy.

9:45 h. “The Sommelier’s psychology and the training of Sommeliers”, by Gérard Basset, World’s Best Sommelier 2010, OBE, MS, MW and MBA.

Wisdom from THE top wine professional in the world, on what it takes to be a good sommelier.

First, sommeliers need to love people. Second they need to be a salesman. Basset recognizes that some become offended by the term salesman, especially ones that see themselves as ‘artists’, but it’s a job, and the end result is making money. Sommeliers very much need to understand people, the profile of the guest, and matching wine to them. This will ensure happy guests = repeat guests. If a wine is out of stock, the somm doesn’t tell that to the guest. He/she brings out a more expensive or better bottle for guest, and sells it at same price. Service is key. Food is very important, and he’s very proud of the menu in his restaurant, but “wine comes first. No food comes until wine is ready.” Sommeliers should read blogs, especially Jamie Goode’s Wine Anorak, keep up on news, magazines, be well educated and up to date. Sommeliers must travel, meet and taste. “For me, I can’t imagine going to any holiday destination without wine”. When he was preparing for competitions, study is most important, but it’s more than just wine preparation. Basset prepared with a business coach, memory work champions, acting coach and psychologist. It’s all about the wine, but it’s about more than just wine.

10:15 h. “When wine inspires the dish”, by Josep Roca, from El Celler de Can Roca, 3* Michelin and World’s Best Restaurant 2013.

This master molecular gastronomy chef gave insight into how he works with scientific tools to better match food and wine.

Implementing a scientific approach to food and wine is difficult because humans are all different in their sensory perception. What he has researched is how different elements that all humans process affect food and tasting – the mechanics. For instance, how saliva affects what we perceive as well as benefit digestion. Aromas also have a major impact, as does texture. Roca wanted to quantify texture of his restaurant’s dishes to better understand how to match wine on a textural basis, so he works with a “texturometer”. Temperature affects texture so that is also closely controlled and timed. He likes working with wine in his dishes because it’s a fluid, and easily enters the body in a seamless way. Instruments and tools in the kitchen allow him to create very special, avant garde, cutting edge flavours and texture based on wine. For instance, he can take the alcohol from wine, freezing and dehydrate (removing water and leaving molecules intact), employ powdering affects and carbonation. Lyophilization is a specialized freeze dehydration technique traditionally used for preservation. Roca also uses other parts of the grape plant – like seeds, grape leaves, etc. He also distils the aromas of spirits, and reintroduces them into his dishes.

11:00 h. “Minerals: harmony through terroir”, by Jamie Goode, author of ‘The science of wine’.

The highly travelled and educated Dr. Goode, a WineAlign friend, is one of the most influential wine bloggers on the globe and author of two very important books, The Science of Wine, and the brand new Authentic Wine.

Dr. Jamie Goode

Dr. Jamie Goode

Goode prefaces that while he’s interested in science, and a trained scientist (phD), he’s not a scientific fundamentalist. He is always questioning.

He describes Terroir by the following:

1st – the way that the quality of a vineyard affects quality of wine (slope, aspect, etc.)
2nd – Sense of place
3rd – Gout de terroir. Related to the soils in which the vines are growing
4th – Actual physical vineyard site itself.

Many definitions of terroir eliminate the human influence. Human intervention – viti and vini – may also confer a shared sense of place to wine. The mechanisms of terroir also need to be considered:

Chemical – light, water, air, elements
Grapes – starting place for wine production – entirely through photosynthesis and biochemistry.
Soil – water and dissolved mineral ions. Scientific consensus is that water availability is key – not soil chemistry. But experience of winegrowers testifies that soil chemistry is important. The bulk of soil mineral content comes from decaying organic material, not decomposed rock.
Microbial activity – breaks down organic matter into mineral ions. Water, food, oxygen affect microbial growth. Oxygen is more available in uncompacted soil.

In conventional agriculture, there is very little organic matter in the soil, thus little microbial activity. Fungicides kill off not just fungi but also a high proportion of bacterial and actinomycetes. The importance of soil microlife makes nutrients more readily available to vines. Organics encourage the soil microlife to develop. Root exudates from plants are important in encouraging growth of soil microlife. Vine age obviously has an effect, in part because of the vine’s expanded root system, encouraging better soil microlife vine interactions. Increased soil microlife could lead to more minerality in wines because the roots can absorb more living things.

Is there a connection with minerality and ageability of the wines? Interesting question not yet answered by science.

Minerality – a relatively new tasting term. Not used much before 1980s – Steven Spurrier started in the mid 1980’s. Jordi Ballester, the leading expert on sensory evaluation showed that there is a cultural basis for the term and its use (in the Loire it is used frequently, for example). The problem is that many people use it to mean different things, therefore there isn’t a clear consensus about what we’re all talking about. Plus, he deftly noted, when people run out of descriptors for a wine, they often throw in “mineral” as a filler – not helping.

For Goode, there are 3 types of minerality in wine:

1 – Mineral smells – matchstick, gunflint, volatile sulphur (mercaptans)
2 – Mineral tastes 1 – high acidity, wet stones
3 – Mineral tastes 2 – salty, textural, grainy

11:30 h. “Thinking outside the wine list: innovative approaches to selling wine in America’s top restaurants”, by Lucas Paya, José Andrés ThinkFoodGroup’s Wine Director 2008-2014, presented by Ray Isle, ‘Food and Wine Magazine’ journalist.

I’ve long admired Ray Isle’s writing, and insight on the American and worldwide drinking scene. Together with Paya, they thoroughly dissected modern winelists in America today, trends and successes.

In many US restaurants, winelists are about breaking boundaries and encouraging wine programs in a traditionally non-wine drinking culture. Most wine sales in the States are through wine stores – but restaurants are seen as trendsetters and arbiters of what people should be purchasing and aspire to purchase. The younger the group of people, the more they are purchasing in restaurants (millennials rank highest with 18% purchased in restaurants).

Creativity in winelists is important to make your mark in a competitive restaurant landscape, and winelists have been turned into a utensil to convey concept of the restaurant. Examples for layout: price, location, grape, weight, colour, alcohol, age, alphabetic order, producer.

Interesting notion – selling wine by weight. 1 mg of wine correlates to 1ml of wine, and pricr and sell accordingly. The Coravin has allowed huge advancements in serving wine in restaurants due to its precision and quality. Guests tried a glass of Mas La Plana 2009 that was first “Coravined” in June 2014 and it tasted as fresh and unspoiled as if it had just been opened.

A great tip on reading a winelist from Isle – “If Veuve is overpriced, the entire winelist will be overpriced.” BAM.

What current trends in winelists?

– Flat pricing – all bottles @ $50, for example
– By soil type (Husk, South Carolina) – Limestone, Volcanic, Alluvial, Granite
– Promotions that go beyond your restaurant – like Summer of Riesling (Terroir, NYC) and collaborations with other sommeliers, restaurants.
– By flow chart/pictograms/diagrams – playful, self directed, easy and short
– iPad lists, allowing customers to instantly look up specs, photos, tasting notes, pairing suggestions, critics’ scores
– Bringing back the traditional – amphora, biodynamic and natural in winemaking, and decanting, sabring, port tongs, drinks cart, wine casks in service.

12:15 h. “Wine in Mediterranean diet”, by Dr. Ramón Estruch, senior internal medicine consultant at Barcelona’s Clínic Hospital, and Domingo Valiente, Executive Director of Mediterranean Diet Foundation.

The Mediterranean Diet is a major theme of the forum. Current science shows that Mediterranean countries Italy and Greece have much lower coronary heart disease than elsewhere in the world. Genetic factors proved improbable; therefore the life habits like diet and exercise are leading contributors.

Mediterranean Diet, like many diets, can be thought of as a pyramid. I found it quite interesting that the bottom of the Mediterranean diet pyramid shows a large social aspect – dining with friends – as of great importance. Other key items to intake include extra virgin olive oil, breads, grains, fruit and veg, olives, nuts, seeds, white meat (vs. red), moderate wine, fatty fish. Substitute refined cereals to whole grain and reduce salt and red meat. And completely avoid soda, commercial bakery sweets and pastries.

13:15 h. Cocktail-lunch offered by Nandu Jubany + Tour around Bodegas Torres’ worldwide wines.

15:30 h. “Far East and wine: how to make it popular”. Journalist and winemaker Víctor de la Serna interviews Jeannie Cho Lee, first MW of Asia.

No one knows Asia and wine better than Jeannie Cho Lee, the first Asian MW, and instrumental in introducing Bordeaux to Asia. She was interviewed by influential Spanish journalist Victor de la Serna.

Cho Lee remembers 1997 as the first boom of wine into Hong Kong and mainland China. Now, 14 years later, she is seeing change in the wine habits of Asians, but it’s still a very slow uptake to culturally accepting wine with a meal. The Kampai culture still rules – wither you’re drinking 85 Bordeaux or 67 Cheval Blanc, you are to chug your glass in a social setting when Kampai is called.

Cho Lee is seeing a gradual uptake of having certain wines paired to certain courses – especially in fine dining restaurants in Westernized cities. One major issue blocking wine culture in Asia is space – there is no room for wine storage in a typical Asian home/apartment or restaurant. The very highest quality sushi, tempura, soba, ramen restaurants don’t think of nor have room for wine storage and service.

In Cho Lee’s opinion, an after-dinner drinking venue is needed: “Starbucks for wine” – casual lounges. She recommends stop fighting the culture and try and fit wine into already existing patterns. The Chinese domestic wine industry makes up 80% of the wine consumption and punitive taxes stomp the growth of import wine. The vast majority of wine imported is red, only 5% is white (better marketed as GOLD wine). Of highest importance – wine must offer value.

Restaurants are hugely hesitant to hire a sommelier – because the hired somm will know more than the owner/chef, and the restaurant will have to trust in the somm. There is very little shared glory to go around. Similarly, there is a hesitation to promote chefs – because then the chef will have a name and become popular and possibly leave the restaurant. Cho Lee noted a massive protectionist mechanism in place. On a positive note, WSET enrolment for levels 1-3 is highest worldwide in Asia = change is coming. On a negative note, women barely register in the fine wine scene; the higher the price point, the fewer the women involved.

16:00 h. Master tasting: “Great family wines – The Primum Familiae Vini”, by Christophe Brunet, Wine Ambassador of the PFV, and Fiona Beckett, journalist specialized in harmonies between wine and gastronomy.

The crowd was very excited for this presentation – from the highly regarded Brunet, noted wine professional, and the widely read Beckett, respected author of 23 books on wine and food pairing and with a hugely popular website Matching Food & Wine, 10 years in the running. As expected, Beckett’s pairings were insightful and acute.

Primum Familiae Vini is an international association of some of the best (11) winemaking families in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal – initially founded by Torres. To gain inclusion in the private group, you have to have a minimum of 5 generations producing wine. It’s evident that the group is united by a passion for the pursuit of excellence, using their collective expertise to share, educate and train the younger generations. Brunet introduced one wine from each family, and Beckett offered her **pairing suggestions**, based on how the wine was showing at the exact moment. Scores are Treve’s, tasting at the forum.

Pol Roger Brut 2004.
Classic. Mineral and toast, shell, lemon pith, pear nose. Very elegant, shell, salt, lees, almond, citrus – lovely finessed acidity. Proper champers. 92 points.
**Vintage champagne has an undeniable umami. Pair with freshly roasted chicken – with well roasted chicken skin.

Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot 2011, Marquis de Laguiche, Joseph Drouhin
Cream, apple and vanillan pear. Stone, perfume. Fresh, creamy palate, white blossoms. lemon curd, Cheerios/grain and fantastic stone spice and length. 20% oak, balance is bang on. 92 points.
**Good quality raw shellfish, crab, langoustine, lobster risotto, scallops. Creamy fennel puree, caramelized cauliflower puree.

Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2013, Egon Müller-Scharzhof
Mosel. 2013 was the lowest yield since 1945 – hard for Egon to send 11 bottles for this tasting! Hugely expressive nose. White blossoms, talc, earth, truffle notes, lees, light botrytis notes, lime pulp. Delicate floral, crystallized lemon, incredible intensity and concentration (11 HL/HA). Off dry, with extreme precise balance between sweetness and lazer acidity. A baby. Great length. Wood ferment yields no wood flavours. 93 points.
**Thai food – pomelo, chilis, tamarind, lemongrass

Guidalberto 2012, Tenuta San Guido
Cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend. Earth, light cherry, savoury, slightly salty. Light red, stone, saline character, black cherry, raspberry. Slightly grippy, light tannins. 90 points.
**Tuna, octopus, black rice, rabbit, shrimp

Tignanello 2011, Marchesi Antinori
1970 was their 1st vintage, kicking off the Super Tuscan regime. 80% sangiovese, with cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon. Black cherry, upright structure, floral perfume, liquorice, black cocoa, concentration, and softer tannin – a bit downy. 90 points.
**Lamb with herbs, Korean steak, Parmigiano Reggiano

Chateau de Beaucastel 2008, Familie Perrin
Have used no chemicals for 60 years. Use all 13 grape varieties allowed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape for this blend (rare). Savoury, aged wood, tobacco, black cherry, leaf, stone. Very layered flavours, Amazing spice, cinnamon, black flowers, savoury spice, black cherry, strawberry, gamy, leaf, herbs, straight up structure, but tannins well integrated. Generous, surprisingly fresh acidity, benefit of the vintage = best of both worlds. 93 points
**Braised short ribs, beef stew, comforting foots

Valbuena 5° Ano 2010, Vega Sicilia
“Best vintage of Valbuena we’ve ever made” according to Vega Sicilia. Not released yet, we had a sneak preview. Tempranillo, merlot, cabernet sauvignon. Black plum, cedar wood spice, black perfumed flowers, Slightly gummy tannins, dense fruit, light eucalypt/branch notes and oak still present. Very young – long way to go. 89 points.
**Perfect steak wine. 28 day or 55 day – look for something with age.

Petit Mouton 2005, Mouton Rothschild
2nd label Petit invented 1930. Browning. Bretty as heck. Underneath, lovely dried raspberry perfume, cherry, leather, aged wood. Light floral vein, stone, cherry. Medium body, fine tannins, graceful and stately. 90 points
**Well aged lamb – like mutton. Or meat pie with fantastic pastry.

Reserva Real 2010, Bodegas Torres
The king of Spain was visiting the winery, and Torres knew he liked Bordeaux wine, so made a wine with those grapes: cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot. Only 200 cases/year. Black fruit, anise, blackberry, branch, black fruit, stone and spice, eraser/dense graphite. Herbal note. Cigarette. Lovely freshness and structure. 91 points.
**Butterflied herbed leg of lamb, Portobello mushrooms grilled with garlic, a high quality, gourmet meat burger.

Gewurztraminer Vendage Tardive 2007, Hugel & Fils
Sweet wines are 2% of production, yet are the flagship wines of the house. Light golden hue, honeysuckle, pear, honey, roses, great stony spice, apricot, hugely concentrated. Sweetness tempered by stone, acid. 91 points.
**Blue cheese, warm beignet with apricot chutney/dip.

Dow’s 2000 Vintage Port, Symington Family Estate
Ink, black cassis, tar, very concentrated black fruit, caramelized sugar, vanilla, black peppery spice. Grippy tannins starting to loosen. Still much power and fresh finesse. Drinkable now. Great length. 91 points.
**Single squares of beautiful, single origin chocolate.

17:15 h. “Cook with wine”, by Manuel Martínez, chef owner of the Parisian restaurant Le Relais Louis XIII. 2* Michelin.

Martínez demonstrated the difference between making a sauce with wine incorporated, and one without – for the entire room to taste and judge.

Live demonstration that showed wine added in at the end is clumsy and disjointed. One with wine reduced in cooking, followed by fresh wine that hasn’t been boiled and then incorporated in proved much more finessed, smooth. Proof in the pudding.

17:45 h. “False wines enemies”, by Ferran Centelles, elBulli sommelier 2000-2011 and www.jancisrobinson.com contributor.

Sitting down to a pairing session with one of the best somms in the world was both insightful and a reality check. Fantastic advice to not let tradition rule your pairing decisions.

Artichokes, eggs and acid are considered for many as the most difficult and challenging food for a successful wine pairing. We tasted through a line up of different white and red wines with flavour pairings (acid, egg, artichoke) and proved that certain long-held assumptions (vinegar kills everything) wasn’t necessarily the case. A great exercise to remind us to question everything, and not take any pairing principle for granted.

Debunking wine and food pairing myths

Debunking wine and food pairing myths

18:15 h. “End of geographical boundaries of taste”, by François Chartier, “Créateur d’harmonies”; Daniel Ovadía, chef owner of Paxia (Mexico); Vineet Bhatia, chef owner of Rasoi (London); and Stéphane Modat, chef of Champlain Restaurant (Canada).

Chartier is a Montreal-based, world-leading researcher in recipe creation and “the number one expert on flavours”. As a Canadian, it was entirely rewarding to see him present the final talk, and tie in everything to maple syrup.

As scientist Chartier got into wine and gastronomy, he released he had to recreate and reinvent the way he thought about tasting – to move past sweet, sour, bitter, acid. There was no exact, measurable science, so he began to investigate pairings based on molecules. His studies proved instrumental on elBulli’s successes, and Chartier travelled very often to Spain to meet with the chefs and restaurant team there. Pairing certain elements together, based on molecules, means 1+1= 3. You could make a more than ideal match, by aligning and partnering like or matching molecules. Each chef in sequence prepared a dish that shared molecular structure with maple syrup, but included no maple in the recipe. Formidable.

20 h. Closure

A full day, packed with science and art. What I clearly realized is that conventional borders to food and wine no longer exist. The new frontier is breaking through glass beliefs of pairing, and using science and chemistry to better appreciate how certain things react together – for the positively and negatively. As a wine critic, it’s always good to remember to present notes clearly and concisely and consistently. What we taste means nothing if we can’t communicate it to the consumer and our readers.

¡Salud!

Treve Ring

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Oct 11th – Part One

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The VINTAGES October 11th release features Sonoma County and Piedmont. But since the Sonoma County Vintners will be in town next week and we’ll be out tasting many more wines beyond what’s on offer at the LCBO, we’ve decided to hold off on that theme to bring you more market coverage – David will lead off with that next week.

Piedmont is one of the regions in which you could lock me up for a long time with little hardship felt, except if I could only drink the wines hitting LCBO shelves on October 11th. This week we’ll cherry pick the best of a middling release. We’ll also highlight a handful of miscellaneous but superior white wines, with reds to come next week.

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

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES October 11: Piedmont

Borgogno 2012 Langhe Freisa, Piedmont, Italy ($21.95)
John Szabo – If there’s one wine from Piedmont worth buying in this release, this is it, especially for fans of traditional and authentic regional specialties. Freisa is a rare local variety, a relative (likely a parent according to DNA) of nebbiolo, and the stylistic similarity is obvious. The colour is pale, the texture is firm and dusty, acids are juicy and the flavours run in the fresh tobacco red berry (freisa means strawberry) spectrum. It’s the sort of wine I could sip all evening with a wide variety of food based on protein, fat and salt, like charcuterie. Best 2014-2018.
Sara d’Amato - There’s more to the reds of Piedmont than nebbiolo and barbera and if you’ve never heard of freisa, this example is not to be missed. The variety is similar to nebbiolo in its bitter and tannic character and is known for its polarizing effect among wine drinkers and critics alike. Regardless, this version delivers serious impact and great complexity for only a small investment.

Sobrero 2009 Ciabot Tanasio Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($37.95)
John Szabo – This reasonably priced Barolo is assembled from three cru sites in Castiglione Falletto: Ornato, Piantà and Valentino, aged in large Slavonian botti in the traditional style. The warm 2009 growing season is reflected in the ripe, supple fruit, even if the palate delivers significant structure, firm and dusty tannins; power and length are impressive. Best 2016-2023.
Sara d’Amato - An absolutely breathtaking Barolo at a steal of a price – I imagine this will fly off the shelves. This compelling find features graceful maturity, near perfect harmony and real elegance. David Lawrason – It’s not the ringer of the year by any means, but it’s certainly decent value in the pricey Barolo category – a maturing 100% nebbiolo from a more approachable vintage aged two years in 50hl barrels.

Borgogno Langhe Freisa 2012 Sobrero Ciabot Tanasio Barolo 2009 Prunotto Mompertone 2011 Prunotto Mompertone 2011 Dolianum San Maté Dogliani 2011 Gaja Sito Moresco 2012

Prunotto 2011 Mompertone, Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy ($18.95)
David Lawrason – I have also been a fan of the reds from Monferrato, a verdant region of eastern Piedmont where Italian and French varieties blend effortlessly. This 60% barbera, 40% syrah blend has verve and style – a little less edgy than its nebbiolo neighbours but still energetic. Excellent value from a great house.

Travaglini 2008 Gattinara, Piedmont, Italy ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This is about the only wine we ever see from Gattinara, one of a handful of small appellations northwest of Milan in the Novara Hills region where nebbiolo presides. Barolo and Barberesco are from further south in the Langhe hills. I find the aromatics to be absolutely emblematic of Piedmont reds with reserved but complex sour currant, tomato leaf, cinna-clove spice, chinoot and fresh herbs. Ready to drink.

Dolianum 2011 San Maté Dogliani, Piedmont, Italy, ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato - A delightful, solo-sipping crowd pleaser with easy appeal. This is a wonderful expression of the soft, fruity dolcetto grape and a very good value.

Gaja 2012 Sito Moresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy, ($61.95)
Sara d’Amato - This sophisticated but unusual nebbiolo, merlot and cabernet blend offers a great deal of fruit, elegance, structure and succulence. Beautifully balanced with lovely notes of rose and black pepper on the youthful but approachable palate.

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES October 11: White Wines

Argyros 2013 Assyrtiko, PDO Santorini, Greece ($19.95)
John Szabo – I highlighted another wine from Argyros, the outstanding 2013 Santorini Estate, in a recent posting on Greek whites, and this wine is very nearly as compelling. Yields were down at the estate in 2013 resulting in wines of singular density and weigh, and there’s palpable astringency from tannins even though this is made from free-run juice (according to the estate manager, the dry extract here is off the charts). At the same time, acids are extraordinarily fresh and crisp, almost electric, and the finish quivers on a mineral-salty string. So tightly wound, this will last 10+ years without any stretch, and really shouldn’t be touched for another 2-3 years.

Studert-Prüm 2012 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany ($28.95)
John Szabo - A gorgeous, lively, slatey, classic Mosel riesling with that inimitable pitch-perfect balance of acids and sugars (this is an off-medium-dry wine) that keeps you coming back for more. Best 2016-2024.

Argyros Assyrtiko 2013 Studert Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2012 Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2012 Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 André Blanck Et Ses Fils Altenbourg Gewurztraminer 2013

Jean-Max Roger 2012 Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre AC, Loire, France ($25.95)
John Szabo - A step up from the 2011 in intensity and ripeness, as well as complexity, the 2012 Les Caillottes (named for the particular soil type in which these grapes grow), is a marvellous wine of place rather than grape. It’s full of very organic, natural wet wool and decaying stone aromas, and waxy, lanolin and honeyed notes. Best 2014-2019.

Le Clos Jordanne 2011 Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($40.00)
John Szabo – The 2011 Clos Jordanne chardonnays (and pinots) have taken some time to come around, but are showing plenty of purity and finesse at the moment. This wine is all about filigree texture and fine length, without the drive and power of some vintages, but all the more refined for it. Cellar for another 2-3 years for a fully mature, savoury, integrated, old world style expression.

André Blanck Et Ses Fils 2013 Altenbourg Gewurztraminer AC Alsace, France ($19.95)
John Szabo - The Altenbourg is a great site for gewurztraminer, and this example from André Blanck captures the depth and the richness potential nicely at the price.

Cave Spring 2012 Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($17.95)
John Szabo – Very nearly as good as the above, and in a similar vein, Cave Spring’s 2012 gewürztraminer is a full, lush, exuberant example, off-dry but balanced by both acids and a pleasant phenolic bitterness, one of the region’s best.

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer 2012 Solar Das Bouças Loureiro 2013 No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason Dziver Albert Schoech Réserve Gewurztraminer 2012

Solar Das Bouças 2013 Loureiro, Vinho Verde, Portugal ($13.95)
John Szabo – For pre-dinner sipping it’s hard to beat the top stuff coming out of Vinho Verde, Portugal’s most improved region in the last decade. The keenly priced Solar das Bouças, belonging to the Van Zeller family, comes from south facing vineyards on the north banks of the Cávado River. The floral loureiro variety speaks loudly in this wine, offering an enticing bouquet of citrus and apple blossom alongside tart green apple fruit.

Nk’mip Qwam Qwmt 2012 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Nk’Mip finished a strong third overall in the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada (it’s consistently in the top ten), and this great value took home a silver medal.  Winemaker Randy Picton and his assistant winemakers from the Osoyoos Band are doing some great work and this bright, ripe and rich peachy chardonnay is a case in point – and very good value.

Albert Schoech 2012 Réserve Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Alsatian gewurz gets snapped up a great rate – whenever I go looking for textbook examples to pour in my WSET classes, the shelves are bare. I expect this new arrival to suffer the same fate. Great value in a very fine gewurz that is not as oily and rich as some but has great aromatics and freshness. Welcome Albert Schoech to Ontario for the first time – and come again.

That’s all for this week. For those of you in Toronto, don’t miss the chance to join the WineAlign team at the ROM on October 16th. It’s WineAlign’s inaugural Champions Tasting where you get the opportunity to taste only the top award wining wines from The Nationals and The Worlds.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Oct 11th:

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


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Champions Tasting

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Les bons choix de Marc – Octobre

Sésame, ouvre-toi !
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Sacré vin, va ! On n’en finit plus de l’aimer, de jouer à cache-cache avec lui. D’essayer de le cerner, de le comprendre ou encore de le démasquer, si on le goûte à l’aveugle – cette dernière activité s’avérant, du reste, un formidable jeu de société, auquel tous les amateurs devraient s’adonner sur une base régulière.

Ne croyez pas, par ailleurs, ceux qui vous disent qu’avec lui ce n’est pas compliqué, que tout s’apprend en criant pinot. Parole de vieux scout, il m’arrive encore souvent d’être perdu et de chercher mon chemin. D’être déboussolé face à telle ou telle bouteille — ou telle ou telle carte des vins bourrée d’importations privées…

Si bien qu’il faut aimer souffrir pour prendre son pied dans le vin. Souffrir que messire nous botte le derrière et se moque de nous, même si on a des décennies d’expérience derrière la cravate. Or, contre toute attente, c’est le fun. On en redemande, même. Un bon signe ; autrement, on serait blasé.

Sauf que parfois, on n’a pas envie de jouer.

Parfois, on souhaiterait plutôt que le vin se livre d’emblée, sans nous obliger à toutes sortes de contorsions et d’expédients…

Désolé, on ferme !

On recevait à souper. Pour accompagner le risotto aux champignons sauvages et au canard, j’ai d’abord hésité. Toscane ? Piémont ? Rhône ? Finalement, je décide d’y aller pour le Mas Jullien 2005, un coteaux-du-languedoc qui dort dans mon cellier depuis six ou sept ans.

Marc's pcitureJe le sers à l’aveugle aux convives et notamment à un certain loustic qui s’avère être mon fils Julien, lequel, si ça continue, aura bientôt plus de bouteilles que moi — mais bon, je réglerai ce cas-là une autre fois.

Tour de table avec la carafe, les quatre verres remplis, moment de silence, l’assemblée se recueille, qu’est-ce qu’il a bien pu nous servir, l’animal…

Moi le premier, même en sachant ce que c’est, je patauge et tourne autour du pot. Ce n’est vraiment pas évident.

— Bordeaux ? avance Junior.

— Tss tss, que je réponds.

Il replonge dans le verre, le fait tourner, hoche la tête, ferme un instant les yeux puis les rouvre en souriant.

— Ok, je pense que je sais… encore un de tes Mas Jullien qui ne s’ouvrent jamais, c’est ça ?

Petit maudit !

Et l’épithète pourrait s’appliquer tant à fiston qu’au vin lui-même.

Parce que, attendez ! je l’avais pourtant carafé énergiquement, avec force éclaboussures, un bon quatre heures auparavant.

Je sais, je sais : j’aurais dû le faire le matin même, voire la veille. Le pauvre, il avait encore besoin d’air, c’est demain qu’il s’ouvrira.

Peut-être. Sauf que, hé, c’est ce soir le souper !

Du plaisir, là, tout de suite…  

Il y a des limites à la fermeture — même si oui, je sais évidemment ça aussi, c’est souvent la marque des vins sérieux, le contenu d’une bouteille gagne quasi toujours à respirer un peu, cela même pour les petits vins, et patati, et patata.

N’empêche que le Mas a gâché la partie, ce soir-là. Comme si le plaisir des sens, relativement immédiat, avait dû céder le pas au plaisir intellectuel, à l’obligation de « comprendre » le vin et au plaisir, finalement, vécu par procuration, imaginé et pressenti plus que réellement ressenti.

Alors que tout ce que je voulais, c’est boire une très bonne bouteille sans me creuser la tête, pour une fois…

À boire, aubergiste !

Philosopher un peu n’empêche pas d’être raccord : mes suggestions de bonnes bouteilles viennent donc elles aussi toutes du Languedoc, cette semaine.

Plus précisément, il s’agit de vins qui bénéficient de l’appellation « Indication géographique protégée Sud de France », laquelle regroupe un paquet de vins du Languedoc et du Roussillon mais à l’exclusion, notamment, des « vins de pays d’oc » — essentiellement pour des raisons d’ordre technique et politique qu’il me reste encore à élucider.

Quoi qu’il en soit, dans un cas comme dans l’autre, peu importe la dénomination, à peu près tout ce qui vient de ce coin de pays est habituellement d’un très bon rapport qualité-prix.

~

Mas De Daumas Gassac 2012 Domaine La Croix Belle Le Champ Des Lys 2012Deux beaux blancs, pour commencer.

Le Domaine La Croix Belle « Le champ des Lys » 2012 vient du secteur des côtes de Thongue : s’il est discret sur le plan aromatique, il parle davantage en bouche, avec sa finale à la fois saline et croquante. Plus cher, plus sérieux aussi et avec le potentiel pour vieillir quelques années, le Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc 2012 est riche et corsé ainsi que marqué par de belles notes d’agrumes.

En rouge, on a encore une fois l’embarras du choix.

À petit prix, le Domaine de Moulines Merlot 2011 déborde de fruit et de notes poivrées, avec de la fraîcheur en prime. Plus costaud, plus tannique et plus rugueux, le Domaine Magellan Ponant 2010 appelle la viande rouge, même assez relevée.

Le Domaine de Gournier Cuvée Prestige 2013 constitue encore un excellent achat, cette année : concentré et généreux, et tout en rondeur. Moins connu, le Enseduna Prestige Foncalieu 2011 est corsé et nerveux, marqué par d’attrayantes notes de garrigue (odeurs d’herbes et d’épices, essentiellement).

Pour terminer, à tout seigneur tout honneur, le Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge 2011. Encore une fois au-dessus de la mêlée, pas donné à plus de 40 $, mais le prix est mérité. Un assemblage d’inspiration bordelaise fruité et charpenté, à la texture bien serrée.

Domaine De Moulines Merlot 2011 Magellan Ponant 2010 Domaine De Gournier Cuvée Prestige 2013 Enseduna Prestige 2011 Mas De Daumas Gassac 2011

Si jamais l’envie vous prenait de jouer un peu… vous pourriez carafer ce dernier et voir s’il se développe à l’aération.

Santé !

Marc

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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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008