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Les bons choix de Marc – 2

Chroniques chablisiennes — 2
par Marc Chapleau

Après avoir abordé ce mardi la question de la minéralité (1) et du vieillissement (2) des chablis, et avant de vous suggérer quelques autres belles bouteilles, place maintenant à divers points d’intérêt qui ont été d’une manière ou d’une autre soulevés au cours du récent voyage que j’ai fait là-bas.

Mais d’abord, chose pratiquement promise, chose assurément due. J’ai retrouvé le fameux vidéo du suçage de caillou. C’est ici.

 

Marc Chapleau suce le caillou...

… à la recherche de la minéralité dans le vin ! Avec la complicité de Jean-Guillaume Bret, du domaine Bret Brothers, dans le Mâconnais.

 

Après la pierre à lécher, puisque je vous laisse d’abord visionner l’extrait, on tâtera un peu du liège reconstitué…

3. LE BOUCHON DIAM

Les vins altérés pour cause de mauvais bouchons de liège, on le sait, demeurent fréquents. Or aux yeux des vignerons chablisiens, le défaut pardonne encore moins pour leurs vins, purs et cristallins.

DIAMPlusieurs ne jurent ainsi que par le bouchon Diam, fait de liège réduit en poudre, traité de manière à empêcher toute contamination causant le fameux goût de bouchon, puis reconstitué. Chez William Fèvre, par exemple, tout est bouché Diam.

Mais le Diam a aussi ses détracteurs, qui se méfient, à terme, des colles utilisées pour reconstruire le bouchon : vont-elles un jour, après quelques années, être relarguées dans le vin ? D’autres estiment que le Diam remplit à ce point son office qu’il réduit les vins, qu’il les empêche de respirer comme cela se produirait avec le liège traditionnel, le long de l’interface verre-bouchon.

Si bien que la capsule dévissable, même si elle est fragile, demeure, dans l’esprit de plusieurs, la véritable panacée. Même pour les premiers et grands crus ? ai-je demandé à Bernard Raveneau, qui m’a répondu : « Ils ont fait des expériences voilà quelques années chez Laroche, et les résultats étaient très satisfaisants… »

4. LE GEL ET LE RÉCHAUFFEMENT CLIMATIQUE

Du folklore, le brasero dans les vignes au printemps pour contrer le gel ?
« On l’a fait en 2014, avant ça il faut remonter à 2003, indique Guillaume Michel. Ce n’est plus vraiment une menace, de nos jours. »

Le réchauffement climatique aurait-il donc tout bon, dans la région ? La réponse du vigneron Bernard Raveneau : « Cela est bénéfique à Chablis, oui. Certes, les équilibres acides s’en trouvent modifiés, et oui, c’est vrai, les vins sont plus riches, parfois moins tendus. Mais… peut-être aussi qu’ils étaient trop acides, avant », dit-il, sourire en coin. Il n’en conclut pas moins : « Mais là, au stade où on est rendus, il ne faudrait pas que ça réchauffe plus… »

5. LE BOIS : OUI OU NON ?

Certains, l’excellent domaine Louis Michel est de ceux-là, sont tout à fait contre : on doit produire des chablis sans artifices boisés, nets, purs et précis.

D’autres, Thomas Pico par exemple, du domaine de Pattes-Loup, s’insurgent contre la tendance : « Du Chablis sans bois ? C’est des conneries ! C’est typique de vieillir nos vins dans le bois, mon grand-père le faisait déjà. C’est une mode, le tout cuve ! »

Vincent Dauvissat, du domaine éponyme, exprime la chose ainsi : « On fait 10 % de bois neuf même sur le Petit Chablis… Nous, on utilise le bois comme catalyseur, pour faire parler les terroirs. Grâce au phénomène d’oxydoréduction, le vin “respire”. C’est l’élevage, quoi… »

Chose certaine, la plupart des grands domaines usent du chêne à bon escient, sans que le vin ne se retrouve avec une empreinte boisée marquée — sauf peut-être chez Benoît et Jean-Paul Droin, où certaines cuvées, de l’aveu même des intéressés, ont des accents « côte d’oriens ».

Le vrai problème avec le bois, c’est qu’il y eut une époque à Chablis, dans les années 1980 notamment, où certains vins, ceux de William Fèvre entre autres, étaient boisés au point d’être dénaturés. S’en est apparemment suivie, y compris pour plusieurs consommateurs, une aversion systématique pour la barrique, le foudre et le demi-muid.

6. LE « PETIT CHABLIS »

On le croyait disparu, et voilà qu’il est partout ! Le « petit chablis », élaboré en principe à partir des terroirs les moins valorisés de la région, est de plus en plus en populaire. Longtemps perçu de manière péjorative à cause de son nom, le vin semble aujourd’hui connoter une sorte de retour au Small is Beautiful. À un petit quelque chose d’authentique, sans artifices. Quoi qu’il en soit, les petit-chablis, j’en ai recommandé mardi, sont souvent vifs et rafraîchissants, à défaut d’être complexes. Ils constituent en règle générale de bons rapports qualité-prix.

7. PREMIERS CRUS OU GRANDS CRUS ?

Mon coming out, tout de go : je crois que je préfère les premiers crus aux grands crus…

LOVECHABLISUne hérésie, je sais. Un crime de lèse-majesté. Comment dire… je trouve dans l’ensemble les premiers crus plus minéraux, plus tendus, bref plus vifs et plus énergiques. Et les grands crus, je généralise encore, plus riches, plus profonds, plus complexes aussi, c’est vrai, j’en conviens, avec eux il faut être patient. Mais mon coeur balance, vraiment… Surtout que les prix sont à l’avenant.

8. LA SAGA DES MILLÉSIMES

Dixit Vincent Dauvissat lui-même : « Depuis 10 ou 15 ans, il n’y a pas eu de mauvais millésimes à Chablis. » Cela dit, à peu près tous s’entendent pour mettre sur le dessus du panier 2012, 2010, 2008, 2005 et 2002, pour s’arrêter là. On trouve tout de même de superbes bouteilles en 2011, 2007, 2006, 2004 et même 2013. « Une année qu’on va essayer d’oublier rapidement », dit Bernard Raveneau à propos de ce millésime qui a vu les rendements fondre avec la pluie et les foyers de pourriture qui se sont installés.

9. LE CHABLIS ET LES HUÎTRES

Un mariage naturel, pourrait-on croire. Oui, diront à cela plusieurs vignerons, mais avec un petit chablis ou sinon un chablis tout court bien vif. Autrement, si on pense aux premiers crus et aux grands crus… « Ils ont trop de richesse pour bien aller avec des huîtres nature, je préfère encore pour ma part un bon muscadet », avoue Vincent Dauvissat avec une belle ouverture d’esprit.

10. LES MOTS DU CHABLIS

La minéralité, c’était dans mon texte de mardi. Aujourd’hui, place pour commencer à la salinité : « Le travail des sols apporte ce côté salé aux vins », indique Denis Pommier, qui élabore des chablis vifs et élégants.

Au mousseron, maintenant : c’est une sorte de champignon et de fait, on dit à Chablis que le vin mousseronne quand il vieillit et prend des notes d’humidité, de vieille cave. Quant à la craie, on a encore moins envie de la sucer qu’un caillou, celle-là. En plus ça tache ! La sensation crayeuse, agréable et qui se perçoit surtout en fin de bouche, est liée à la minéralité et à la texture du vin. Enfin, la laine mouillée (qui traduit la présence de minéralité pour les uns, de soufre pour les autres) et le grillé (associé tantôt à la minéralité, tantôt au boisé) reviennent souvent dans les commentaires de dégustation. Ainsi que les agrumes (un côté tropical), le silex et la pierre à fusil.

À boire, aubergiste !

Du côté des premiers crus, j’ai goûté ces jours-ci et bien aimé l’énergique Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2012, l’atypique Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2012 et le déjà complexe William Fevre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2011.

Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2012Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2012William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2011Château Grenouilles Chablis Grand Cru 2009Simonnet Febvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2009

Au sommet de la hiérarchie chablisienne — même si un peu comme à Bordeaux pour les grands crus classés, ils ne comptent que pour 2 pour cent de la production totale de la région —, les grands crus de Chablis brillent de tous leurs feux, avec la colline qui les abrite surplombant le village.

Entre autres disponibles à la SAQ actuellement, le Chateau Grenouilles Chablis Grand Cru 2009 et le Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2009 s’avèrent encore plus riches et concentrés qu’à l’accoutumée dans ce millésime chaud et ensoleillé.

Santé !

Marc

Chroniques chablisiennes — 1

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 30 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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The British Columbia Wine Report – August

It’s Time for B.C. Wineries to Look Further Afield
by Rhys Pender MW

Rhys Pender_Blog

Rhys Pender MW

In British Columbia, we have a strange pricing system for wine, a system that a lot of consumers will not know exists. It is a system not built on the direct cost of making the wine plus markups but rather one of setting a goal final retail price and then working backwards with a series of different discounts depending on which distribution channel the wine is sold through. Needless to say, this isn’t how the rest of the wine world, or any other business that I can think of, operates. While you might say “who cares, it is what it is”, this pricing system has an impact on the way British Columbia wineries do business, especially in times when supply creeps ahead of demand.

Right now, the British Columbia wine industry is in just such a state. Wine production is currently growing at a faster rate than sales. While this may be temporary, there are significant impacts on the short-term stability of the industry. For many years, demand for British Columbia wine far outstripped supply creating a positive environment for wineries to expand, invest in equipment and improve quality. Because of this profitability, many new vineyards were planted and new wineries started to take advantage of the booming industry. The big growth period came between 2006 and 2008 when the acreage leaped from 6,632 acres in 2006 to 9,100 acres in 2008, a 37% surge in just two years. With around three years until a crop is realized off a new planting, the supply should have jumped in 2008, 2009 and 2010. We all remember a significant financial crisis that hit at exactly this time, which resulted in a big dent in demand for higher priced wines.

Okanagan FallsIf it wasn’t for Mother Nature stepping in, the supply and demand issue would have been a lot more serious. In the end, cold winter temperatures damaged many vineyards in 2008 and 2009 reducing crop significantly and resulting in lots of replanting of damaged or killed vines. In fact, production levels didn’t significantly top 2008 levels until 2012. Just a few months ago the British Columbia Wine Institute announced the 2013 crop level as 31,383 short tons harvested, another 18% increase over the record 2012 (27,257 short tons), itself an increase of 20% over 2011 (22,722 short tons). Rumours abound of grape contracts being cancelled and stocks building up in winery warehouses.

Sales of VQA wines increased 11.4% in volume in 2013 (3.7% in 2012), significantly better than the wine category over all but still falling well behind growth in supply. Figures reported by the British Columbia Wine Institute show production levels of about 1.9 million cases (2013) with sales volumes of 1.1 million cases (2013/14). By my quick calculations, if production levels stay the same and sales rates continue growing at 11.4% it will be 2019 before demand for British Columbia wine balances supply. Time to rethink how and where the wine is sold.

A few things have happened as a result of the oversupply. The first is that growth in acreage has slowed down, now steady with around 10,000 acres planted (the results of the first grape acreage survey in three years should be out this summer). The second is the significant increase in the number of wineries as many of those growers whose contracts were cancelled chose to add value to their crop by starting a winery rather than taking a big hit on grape prices. Grape prices in British Columbia are amongst the highest in the world, but making and selling wine is still much more profitable, even if many underestimate the difficulty of slicing off a chunk of the market. The number of wineries in the province has grown from 131 in 2006 to 232 as of July 2014 making it increasingly hard for the new wineries to establish themselves in what is already a competitive marketplace.

There is really only one answer to correct the oversupply – sell more wine outside of British Columbia. Because of the preferential pricing system British Columbia wineries have in their own Province, there has been little incentive to look further afield. Neighbouring Alberta has to be the number one target but even here few wineries currently have a presence. The reason is money. Basically, the high profit glory days where everyone can sell everything they make through high profit channels are over for many wineries.

King Vineyard, Naramata BenchPricing strategies that the rest of the wine world uses will become more commonplace in British Columbia and top quality wines rather than creative brands will be the only way to justify higher prices. Instead of starting with a target price and working backwards, wineries will need to develop a FOB (free on board) pricing model where they set a base price for which the wine can leave the winery and then let the market costs of broker, agent, shipping, taxes and markups be added beyond that. It would not be surprising if many wineries do not know what their FOB price would be because of the way pricing is calculated in British Columbia. If a winery knows what figure they are willing to sell a case of wine for, they should not care which market it goes to. Guaranteed, the price of selling outside the Province will be a lot lower than the high profit channels of selling direct to consumers or restaurants in British Columbia, but it will open up new markets, increase demand and sell the excess supply.

There is always the option of lowering prices but this too will have a significant effect on the industry as the challenging climate of British Columbia makes it a very expensive and sometimes risky place to grow grapes. Also, when supply and demand do come back into balance, the prices would have to increase again, something never popular with consumers.

The government in British Columbia is helping out by opening up some small new distribution channels, such as farmers markets, and overhauling liquor laws but with the higher average price of British Columbia wine ($17.75 a bottle in 2013/14 versus approximately $12.79 for import wine) it will not be enough to soak up all the extra production. Whether lowering prices or pushing the export market, for winemakers the car in the driveway may be a little less fancy, the holidays shorter and closer to home and the brand new state of the art winemaking equipment may have to wait a few more years, but the business will be viable beyond relying on preferential local market treatment.

From Culmina Vineyard, on the Golden MileThere are other benefits that go along with wider distribution too. Those in the British Columbia wine industry often voice their disbelief that their wines aren’t better known in the wider world, but with such narrow distribution it is not a surprise. If the wines start appearing across Canada, in neighbouring States in the USA and further afield, then the reputation will start to grow. Canadian wine can stand $ for $ on quality and as long as the pricing is calculated to compete with the global competition in these markets, success will follow. But that means giving up trying to make the same profits as selling a bottle out of the front door of the winery.

The British Columbia Wine Institute has seen this developing for years and has been working on an export strategy to encourage wider distribution. While many wineries are quite able to sell their entire production in the local market, this is impossible for the current level of wine production. More and more it is becoming necessary for wineries to get on board and develop their own strategy to export across Canada and beyond. It is time for those with wine sitting in cellars or warehouses to take a serious look at how much they need to charge for a box of wine (the FOB) and start looking at selling it far and wide. The bonus will be drawing some attention to all the great things happening in the British Columbia wine industry.

Rhys Pender MW

 

British Columbia photo credits: Treve Ring


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 16th – Part Two

Malbec and Mighty Fine Whites
by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

Argentine malbec is a secondary feature in the August 16th release (south of France was featured in Part One). There are six wines that range from $15.95 (the price many are used to paying) up to $74.95 (which will undoubtedly cause some to question the new world order). And in between there are malbecs at $22.95 and $45.95. The more expensive wines do indeed show elevated quality. In fact the Colomé Reserva ($74.95) may be the best red of the release, at least on par with two just-under-$100 Bordeaux that are In Store Discoveries. But it will likely gather moss on the shelf. Which outlines the huge difficulty New World nations face in establishing the cred that Europeans (and now Napa) takes for granted. Wine reputations take time; and it takes courage to keep putting them out there. I am delighted that VINTAGES has purchased this wine, and so should Argentina be delighted.

But what of Argentine malbec in general – as reflected by half of the lower priced entries? Malbec was a wine that swept to power in the late 2000s as a tasty and affordable red just as the market for pricey wine was going into a recessionary tailspin. But now that the dust is settling we are taking a harder look. It is, if nothing else, big – at a time when sensibilities are lightening up. And you can’t just make malbec lighter with the flip of a switch. You can try to make balanced, complex and more refined malbecs, but this is difficult if you have to sell them under $20. Sweetening and oaking become key tools to impart drinkability, and then they all tend to taste the same. The homogeny of cheap Argentine malbec has become its biggest obstacle. So my mission now is to seek out, and be prepared to pay more for more expensive malbecs from producers focused on making higher quality, smaller batch, regional examples.

Meanwhile, there are several other wines worth a look on this release, including a bevy of nifty Italian and other Euro whites that superbly catch the sultry mood of August. We actually have triple alignment on the enchanting Basa Rueda from Spain. There are also excellent aged German rieslings, and Ontario chips in with a great Norman Hardie chardonnay. Plus there is an assortment of other reds put forward Sara d’Amato, John Szabo and I. Happy hunting!

Argentine Malbec

Colomé 2010 Reserva Malbec, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina  ($74.95)
David Lawrason – This very serious red hails from a historic winery in the province of Salta, far to the north of Mendoza. It registers excellent to outstanding depth, complexity and overall quality, but what I find intriguing is the different, more compact and linear demeanour that it demonstrates compared to Mendoza malbec peers.
Sara d’Amato – Colomé is one of Argentina’s oldest wineries and is home to the world’s highest elevation vineyards (we’re talking 3000 meters above sea level) – no wonder they can produce a wine of such balance, brightness and depth. This highly recommended example, although pricey, is both cellar worthy and undeniably memorable.

Decero 2011 Remolinos Vineyard Malbec, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina ($22.95)
David Lawrason – This is a refined, even keeled malbec from a single vineyard in the sub-region of Agrelo which lies in the heart of Mendoza south of the city. The Remolinos site is at 1050 metres, at the highest point of the region, where ripening is slowed thanks to cooling winds that sweep down from the Andes at night.

Colomé Reserva Malbec 2011 Decero Remolinos Vineyard Malbec 2011 Viña Cobos Bramare Malbec 2011 Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2010

Viña Cobos 2011 Bramare Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina, ($45.95)
Sara d’Amato – Here is a wine that will bring out the fiery tango dancer in you. This is a riveting malbec with the depth and complexity to rival the best in this category. Unctuous and texturally intriguing with the elusive “sweet spot” of balance masterfully achieved. Vina Cobos is a shared partnership between renowned American oenologist Paul Hobbs and Argentine winemaking partners Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barraud.

Graffigna 2011 Grand Reserve Malbec, San Juan, Argentina, ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – In the best value category of this feature, this San Juan gem is refreshingly dry, a little tart and pleasantly fruity. A malbec you needn’t fear will overwhelm your main course but also one that is sure to please a crowd.

Whites

Norman Hardie Niagara ChardonnayBasa Blanco 2013Basa Blanco 2013, Rueda Spain ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a lovely, lively verdejo from great Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriguez. Rueda whites are based on a terrific white grape called verdejo, that often is blended with a bit of sauvignon blanc. That was the formula for Basa as well, but in 2013 the sauvignon was replaced by 8% viura, a high acid native Spanish variety that has perhaps given this wine its amazing freshness.
John Szabo – Another fine edition, perhaps one of the best yet, of the Basa Rueda signed by Telmo Rodriguez. This smells like quality sauvignon blanc, or more accurately fumé blanc, with its gentle sweet herbal aromas and fruit shifting into the tropical – melon, guava, passion fruit spectrum.
Sara d’Amato – A sophisticated blend of verdejo and viura by iconic producer Telmo Rodriguez who is well-known for his work promoting indigenous varietals and delving into lesser known regions. This wine benefits from his keen and gentle touch and delivers a generous dose of zest, mineral and pure, refreshing fruit to the palate. A fabulous summer treat!

Norman Hardie 2012 Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula ($35.00)
John Szabo – It’s more often Hardie’s County wines that excite me, but this 2012 Niagara chardonnay is a beauty – a wine of serious substance and minerality, and terrific depth. I love how he can stuff so much flavour into a wine with under 13% alcohol – a lesson that should be absorbed by more winemakers everywhere. Best 2014-2020
David Lawrason – This took a gold medal at the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada. Both it and its County counterpart are stunningly good in 2012, wowing both local and international critics at i4c. Having followed Norm Hardie from day-one I am not surprised by his success, but in 2012 his chardonnays have leapt to a new level.

Dr. Hermann 2005 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany ($23.95)
John Szabo – What a great price for this superb, mature auslese, by no means at the end of life, with abundant minerality, succulent fruit and gentle spearmint notes (a flavour I often get in aged German riesling) – hard to beat this.
David Lawrason – This mature, sweet, honeyed riesling offers character far beyond its price. It is almost a must-buy for anyone who needs a bit of education on riesling’s ability to age. (no image available)

Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2012 Alana Tokaj Tokaji Harslevelu 2005 Beyra Vinhos De Altitude 2012 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2012

Vineland Estates 2012 Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – This continues to prove a top-caliber riesling, not only for Niagara, but is also a world-class example. This picture of elegance and power stems from an esteemed vineyard site from the Vineland estate itself planted in 1979. Vibrant, nervy and energetic – here is a firecracker of a riesling.

Alana-Tokaj 2005 Tokaji Dry Harslevelu Tokaj, Hungary ($24.95)
John Szabo – And here’s another beautifully mature wine that still has lots of life left, from an artisanal producer in Tokaj. Although the label says dry, it’s more like a gentle late-harvest style with the merest sensation of sweetness, and complexity is off the charts. Look for the saliva-inducing saltiness of volcanic terroir underlying the weighty ensemble – for $25 this is a real tour de flavour. Best 2014-2018.

Beyra Vinhos De Altitude 2012, Beiras Interior, Portugal ($13.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a brilliantly lively and perfumed blend of local varieties siría and fonte cal, like Chablis meets Sancerre. Vineyards at 700m on the schist soils of inland Portugal (just south of the Douro) are cool enough to yield this perfectly ripe wine at just 12% alc, focused on delicate citrus and sweet green herbs, with a killer streak of wet stone minerality.

Valdespino Inocente Single Vineyard Fino Dry SherryMiopasso Fiano 2012Beringer 2012 Private Reserve ChardonnayNapa Valley, California ($44.95)
David Lawrason – In a field of generally boring, over-oaked Calfornia chardonnays, this classic stood out for its poise and complexity – combining all the elements and expressing them with both authority and restraint. I am often hard on California wines for its pricing – this one is worth the money, perhaps even good value.

Miopasso 2012 Fiano Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – The Miopasso range of wines focuses on indigenous varietals from southern Italy. This 100% fiano is flinty, smoky and mineral with a burst of citrus and delicate floral aromas. It is totally refreshing and immensely pleasurable.

Valdespino Inocente Single Vineyard Fino Dry Sherry, Spain ($22.95)
John Szabo – So salty and savoury, this is like an aperitif and an appetizer wrapped into one. Fantastic nuttiness, green olive brine, fresh bread and waxy citrus fruit flavours, in short, tremendous complexity, is apparently not for everyone (considering slumping sherry sales). But why would you spend the same $23 or more on a me-too generic cabernet from anywhere? Bring on the tapas.

Other Reds

Carvalhais 2011 Duque De Viseu Red, Dão, Portugal ($13.95)
Sara d’Amato – Portugal once again proves to be the land of great value. At under $14, this lightly perfumed and characteristically spicy wine from Dao is full-bodied and chalk full of perfectly ripened fruit. This lovely specimen will serve you well from aperitif to main course.
David Lawrason –
About halfway through tasting this dark, delicious, fruit-packed red I paused to check its price and just fell off my chair in surprise.  Enough said. You must try it.

Ninin De Antonino Izquierdo 2009Ribera del Duero Spain ($23.95)
John Szabo – Coming into its own now, I like the florality reminiscent of reds from further north in Spain like Bierzo, and the fine, pleasant bitterness. Best 2014-2019.

López De Haro 2008 CrianzaRioja Spain ($15.95)
John Szabo – It’s hard to ask for more for a $16 wine, especially if you’re a fan of old school Rioja. The resemblance to great traditionalist Lopez de Heredia Bodega doesn’t stop at the name and label design. This is an authentic regional wine. Best 2014-2020.

Carvalhais Duque De Viseu Red Ninin De Antonino Izquierdo 2009 López De Haro Crianza 2008 Apollonio Copertino Rosso 2007 Abad Dom Bueno Mencía 2008 Domaine De L'olivette Excellence Chusclan Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2012

Apollonio 2007 Copertino Rosso, Puglia, Italy ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This mature, rustic Italian country red will work better with a winter stew (the website actually recommends horse meat as a potential food much), but grab some now. It’s a blend of negroamaro 70% and montepulciano 30% that is absolutely stuffed with mouth-filling flavour and it has surprising harmony.

Abad Dom Bueno 2008 Mencía, Bierzo, Spain ($16.10)
David Lawrason – Here is yet another mencia-based red that performs well above its price with the power, structure and depth found in $40 reds from more famous regions of Spain and indeed the rest of Europe. The more I taste Bierzo the more I am convinced the mencia grape belongs in the gallery of the worlds best red wine grapes – up there with cabernet,syrah and company.

Domaine De l’Olivette 2012 Excellence Chusclan Côtes Du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Chusclan is a tiny village appellation of only 250 hectares located on the banks of the Cèze river, a minor tributary of the Rhône and close to the town of Orange. This is a hot a sunny appellation, heavy in grenache, commonly known for its juicy, easy drinking reds and Tavel-style roses. This example from l’Olivette was a delight to discover with delicious botanical notes and distinctive garrigue.

****

That’s a wrap for this edition. Watch next week for our first Preview of the August 30 release, and don’t forget to check out Steve Thurlow’s round-up of the best new LCBO General List arrivals. Our national WineAlign team is convening in Toronto to judge the World Wine Awards of Canada. Busy times indeed.

Until next time!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES August 16th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
August 16th Part One – Southern France

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


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Bill’s Best Bets – August

What’s “nouveau” is that Beaujolais is great wine
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I was speaking at a private dinner function recently and I mentioned that many of my favourite red wines came from Beaujolais. Many “guffaws” were uttered around the table but that’s OK. Even though many look upon Beaujolais with a certain derision, I don’t care. I, along with others who have seen the light know that the region is home to some of the most food friendly, age worthy and delicious wines out there. And for the price you pay, they are some of the best bargain wines as well.

I can understand the hate out there. People were tricked for way too long into drinking Beaujolais Nouveau. But gone are the days when on the third Thursday of November we went and purchased our bottle of this just fermented beverage, bought a baguette and a piece of cheese, and packed it back. You drank before noon if you wanted to be truly in the spirit of things.

The reason that date was picked was so that unscrupulous producers and negociants didn’t put the wine to market too early. How it became a worldwide phenomena is beyond me. But while that craze is done with, the lingering hangover is the image of Beaujolais as a source of cheap, poorly made wines that are meant to be drunk immediately.

Wrong. So wrong.

Mathieu Lapierre talking shop

Mathieu Lapierre talking shop

This southern outpost of Burgundy, where the gamay grape takes over from pinot noir, has gone through a renaissance over the last decade. We are seeing more and more producers from the more esteemed pinot producing regions of the north buying up old vines on the cheap. And producers that were already there are simply doing a better job, not that there hasn’t always been great wines from there.

The region has also been at the forefront of a wine making movement called  “natural wine making,” where the aim is to manipulate the grapes to the minimum, use natural yeasts for fermenting, and in some cases, use very little or no sulphites. They are exciting, if at times challenging wines that have been instrumental in the development of my palate.

The joys of drinking Beaujo are many. They can be drunk immediately but age really well. After five to eight years, many will start to “pinotte,” when they take on “pinot noir-esque” qualities. In my many food and wine taste tests,  Beaujolais always tops the list as the most malleable red wine. From liver and onions to Chinese food to salmon, uncork a Beaujo and you will be happy.

So where do you start? The majority of Beaujolais is exported as either Beaujolais or Beaujolais Villages, accounting for almost three-quarters of the total production. These wines, with grapes sourced from the flatter lands in the south of the region, are where one finds the biggest variation in quality, with the best showing a delicate, fresh fruit character. These are wines to be drunk within a year or two of their bottling to conserve their freshness and the delicate berry fruits.

Domaine Des Marrans Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes 2011Jean Paul Brun L'Ancien Beaujolais 2012But these wines need not be all fluff. Try Jean-Paul Brun’s Beaujolais Ancien to see how good they can be.

The serious wine-making happens in the northern part of the region in the granitic soils of the 10 “Crus.” These are the wines which age, and show just how complex Beaujo can be. Depending on your mood, there is a Cru to match it.

The most delicate wines, where the accent is on the more floral qualities of the grape, can be found in Chiroubles, Regnié and Fleurie. Be ready for seductive floral aromas like violets, rose and iris, with bright acidities and fresh red fruit. These rock as an aperitif or with lighter fare like charcuteries. A great example is the Old Vine Chiroubles from Domaine des Marrans.

For more medium bodied wines, the best known of the Crus is Brouilly. Julienas and Saint-Amour as well fall into this style. A touch more tannin, slightly darker fruits and a hint more peppery spice is what awaits. The 2013 Château De Pierreux is a great example.

Then comes the biggest of the Beaujos where cellaring potential is the highest, and where the rewards of patience are yours if you can manage not to drink them. What was once a volcano is now the Côte de Brouilly. Granite and schist soils produce a much richer and denser wine than Brouilly. Try the Château Thivin for a great example of this Cru.

Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2013 Château Thivin Côte De Brouilly Cuvée Les Griottes 2011 Jean Paul Brun Terres Dorées 2013 Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2013 Jean Foillard Morgon 2012

My two personal favourites are Moulin-à-Vent and Morgon, and in Quebec we are spoiled with wines from three fantastic producers. Jean-Paul Brun’s 2013 Moulin-à-Vent is so classy and elegant, with ripe fruit and spice.

You can’t mention Morgon without talking about Domaine Marcel Lapierre and Jean Foillard. Lapierre’s 2013 is typical of the house style – so bright and fruity, and shows great depth after a few years in the cellar. Foillard’s 2012 shows more earth and spice, with a superb mineral note that refreshes and grounds the wine in the granite and volcanic rock.

Gamay vines growing in Morgon

Gamay vines growing in Morgon

As we still have a few more weeks of hot weather, this is the perfect time to try Beaujo. But remember that Beaujolais is best served slightly chilled, 14C to 16C!

Happy summer and if you too want to gush some love for Beaujolais and its most wonderful grape, gamay, say so on twitter at #GoGamayGo

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 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Mathieu Lapierre photo credited to Jameson Fink; Gamay vines courtesy of Domaine Jean Foillard


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Les bons choix de Marc – Août

Chroniques chablisiennes — 1
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

J’arrive de Chablis. En fait, non, cela fait déjà trois semaines que je suis de retour. Sauf que je n’en suis pas revenu, au propre comme au figuré. Moi qui adorais ce grand vin blanc de Bourgogne, je suis devenu mordu au dernier degré. Non mais, quels beaux vins ! Quelle superbe acidité ! Et ce vignoble au sol si particulier, ces vignerons sympathiques au possible, cette délicate austérité chablisienne dans un monde qui se complaît dans les gros degrés et le sucré…

Mais il y a tant à dire que je vais décliner Chablis en plusieurs temps, à travers divers thèmes. Et en deux mouvements : d’abord aujourd’hui puis avec un autre texte normalement ce vendredi. À chaque fois, je vous aiguillerai vers de bons chablis disponibles à la SAQ, à différents prix.

Aussi, je vous dirige d’entrée de jeu vers un site fiable pour obtenir les informations de base, pour connaître l’a b c de la région et de ses terroirs.

1. LA FAMEUSE MINÉRALITÉ

ChablisHum… Sujet délicat, en ce sens que personne ne s’entend vraiment sur ce que recoupe cette notion, laquelle s’impose néanmoins souvent d’elle-même, à la dégustation. Chose certaine, la minéralité est intimement liée à l’acidité marquée du vin, à l’énergie et à la tension qui l’habite — ou plutôt, plus exactement, qui le sous-tend.

On parle de salinité aussi, souvent, d’astringence également. On a tous entendu parler de silex, de pierre à fusil, des arômes tous deux censément en lien avec cette fameuse minéralité.

L’excellente cave coopérative La Chablisienne a d’ailleurs consacré une brochure entière à ce seul sujet. Deux morceaux choisis : « L’idée de minéraux puisés dans la roche et qui passeraient directement dans le vin pour se laisser sentir et goûter ne tient pas vraiment la route » et « Quant à la pierre à fusil, [il s'agit d'une] molécule qui n’a rien de minéral et que l’on classerait davantage dans les arômes [...] de type “grillé” ou “brûlé”. »

Encore a-t-il fallu que je le suce…

Autre certitude : les producteurs eux-mêmes y croient, ou du moins font-ils souvent écho à cette réalité. Exemple, cette petite conversation qu’on a eue là-bas, un vigneron et moi :

— Il y a du gras et en même temps c’est très minéral, dis-je à mon interlocuteur.

— Merci, merci, répond-il, et oui, comme vous dites, on a vraiment l’impression de sucer le caillou !

Sucer le caillou… Je comprenais très bien ce qu’il voulait dire, cette sensation d’assèchement pas du tout désagréable et qui se trouve en fait à rajouter une couche au vin, à accroître sa complexité.

Par ailleurs, ce n’est pas pour me vanter mais j’ai déjà tété comme ça une grosse roche prélevée dans le vignoble. C’était en Bourgogne, dans le Mâconnais, avec l’un des frères Bret que j’interviewais à l’époque pour l’ancien magazine Cellier.

Et puis ? Et puis… ça ne goûte strictement rien, hormis peut-être la poussière si on ne prend pas soin de polir le caillou avant de le lécher. J’ai même ça sur vidéo ! Si vous êtes nombreux à en faire la demande, je tâcherai de m’organiser pour mettre ça sur YouTube, tiens. Sinon tant pis, moi je sais que je crève l’écran, en tout cas ;-)

2. VIEILLIRA, VIEILLIRA PAS ?

Le discours surprend. Alors qu’à peu près partout ailleurs dans les grandes régions vinicoles, les vignerons disent que leurs vins peuvent durer, ô mon vieux ! quinze, vingt voire trente ans quand ce n’est pas un demi-siècle, ici, à Chablis, on nous dit qu’un premier cru est à son apogée à environ cinq ans. Oui monsieur ! On affirme aussi qu’un chablis tout court livre l’essentiel de ses promesses après deux ou trois ans. Même les grands crus seraient à cueillir au bout de huit à dix ans maximum.

Ce qui se passe, en gros, c’est que passé ces délais, les chablis ont tendance à mieller — autrement dit, à voir s’étioler au nez leur côté floral et fruité pour arborer des notes évoquant plutôt le miel, même le caramel. Ce n’est pas désagréable, loin de là ; sauf que le dégustateur a parfois l’impression de perdre au change, et nommément en fraîcheur.

« Quand vous tombez sur ce côté miellé, oubliez le vin pour un temps, ouvrez-en une autre bouteille quelques années plus tard et vous verrez, il aura retrouvé cette fraîcheur dont vous parlez », de répondre à cela Vincent Dauvissat, du domaine éponyme.

Attention aux caves trop chaudes ?

Domaine Millet Petit Chablis 2012Domaine Laroche Petit Chablis 2013Domaine D'élise Petit Chablis 2012Autre son de cloche, cette fois de Didier Séguier, maître d’oeuvre au domaine William Fèvre, l’un des gros joueurs de l’appellation : « Le chablis, de par sa nature délicate, demande à être conservé dans une cave fraîche. Au-dessus de 18 degrés Celsius, sa durée de vie est réduite. »

Oups ! Et ma propre cave qui monte à 20 degrés l’été, des fois même 21… Si bien qu’à mon retour, la semaine dernière, le coeur battant, très anxieux, j’ai ouvert coup sur coup un Vaillons et un Fourchaume de chez Fèvre, justement, et tous deux du millésime 2008.

Résultat : mon cher Didier, avec tout le respect que je vous dois, vos vins étaient et sont encore toujours excellents et même dans la fleur de l’âge, pas du tout miellés.

À boire, aubergiste !

Assez parlé. La prochaine fois, dans quelques jours comme je disais, j’aborderai notamment la question du bois à Chablis, des millésimes, des accords à table et des tendances de l’heure, comme ce fameux bouchon Diam.

Entretemps, je propose d’y aller graduellement et de se faire la bouche avec de très bonnes bouteilles d’entrée de gamme. Pour commencer, trois « petit-chablis », une appellation dont je parlerai vendredi.

D’abord le Domaine d’Élise Petit Chablis 2012, d’une réjouissante légèreté, puis le Laroche Petit Chablis 2013, plus tropical au nez mais bien nerveux et bouché, bon point pour lui, au moyen d’une capsule dévissable. Enfin, le Petit Chablis Domaine Millet 2012 est peut-être le plus typé chablis des trois, le plus austère et le plus mordant, vraiment très bon.

La Chablisienne Cuvée La Sereine 2011 Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2012 William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2012 Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis 2012 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Drouhin Vaudon 2012

Du côté des chablis d’appellation communale, et dans le millésime 2011 cette fois, difficile de passer à côté du La Chablisienne La Sereine, année après année l’un des sinon le meilleur rapport qualité-prix en vins de Chablis. Également très recommandables, bien typés eux aussi, le Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2012 et le William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux 2012.

Enfin, peut-être une légère coche au-dessus, les Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis 2012 et Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis 2012 brillent dans ce millésime superlatif ; ce dernier, élaboré par les soins de la famille Drouhin de Beaune, faisant preuve de l’élégance typique des vins de cette fameuse maison.

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 30 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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South Africa in the spotlight: Excitement & Revolution

Is South Africa One of the World’s Most Vibrant Wine Countries?
by John Szabo MS

Part One: Revolution in the Swartland, South Africa’s hottest region; Buyer’s guide to South African Wines

(Watch for Part Two next week: The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley)

Cause for Excitement

Though 354 years old, the modern South African wine industry is barely celebrating its twentieth birthday. It’s only been a couple dozen years since Nelson Mandela walked to freedom, and twenty years since the first multiracial elections in the country, which effectively ended decades of international embargos and sanctions. The number of cellars crushing grapes has nearly tripled since 1991 (from 212 to 564 in 2013, with a high of 604 cellars in 2009). What was before an entirely insular industry has grown in the last two decades into one of the most vibrant and exciting wine scenes in the world.

Night falling over Table Mountain, view from Durbanville Hills

Night falling over Table Mountain, view from Durbanville Hills

Change of course hasn’t been easy. When the Cape opened up in the early nineties, the lure of chasing seemingly limitless international wine markets (and a very limited domestic one) was irresistible. Since the fashion of the time dictated red wine, many growers were motivated to rip out old vineyards of white grapes destined mainly for brandy and replant them with fashionable jet-setting grapes like cabernet, merlot and shiraz, which were minor players under the old winemaking regime. In 1990 cabernet represented just 4% of total acreage, and merlot and shiraz just 1% each. In 2012, the proportions had shifted massively, with those grapes representing 12%, 6% and 11% respectively. In the same period, chardonnay quadrupled to 8% of plantings, and sauvignon blanc moved from 2% to 10%, while at the same time, chenin blanc acreage was nearly cut in half from 32% to 18%.

New Plantings In Paarl

New Plantings In Paarl

The strategy at the time appeared reasonable enough, were it not for the reality that South Africans were a couple of decades behind the rest of the world. Revamping a vineyard is not like switching from corn to barley or cotton to sugarcane; it takes many years to establish a new variety. And there’s a truism in the world of wine: if you chase what’s fashionable, by the time you get there fashion will have moved on.

It’s not hard to see why in the rush to join the rest of the world, mistakes were unavoidable. In many cases, grapes and places didn’t match up. Although South Africa is blessed with a variety of climates and soils, many regions are simply too warm to make fine cabernet and merlot, or interesting chardonnay, while the regions that are suited were still being discovered. Not to say that there aren’t fine cabernets and blends – there are, particularly in Stellenbosch, but exceptions always prove the rule.

Many bet heavily on sauvignon blanc, made fashionable in the nineties by New Zealand, but it has proven over time, with rare exceptions, to make mildly interesting wine at best – nothing to shake the world or cause anxiety in Kiwi land. The hope that pinotage – a grape virtually unique to (and created in) South Africa – might one day become the country’s flagship grape were all but dashed by planting it in areas that are patently too warm for a variety that ripens earlier than pinot noir. The lamentable solution: mask the shortcomings with mocha-chocolate-coffee flavours. And there are other examples.

It’s easy in hindsight to say that the South African wine industry should have stuck with what it was already doing well, but that of course would never have happened. Often in this business you have to take a step forward in order to be able to take two steps back. And this is where I see South Africa today: the early leap forward into an uncertain future has allowed the industry to look back into the past with clarity and renewed purpose. Today it is so much clearer which regions and grapes, and their combinations, work, and yield wine that can truly be called distinctive. It would have taken a mighty visionary surveying the wine scene circa 1994 to see the future as it is today.

Fine-tuning the complex matrix of cultivar, climate and soil is well and truly underway, guided by both the important hand of history as well as hyper-acute technological tools. What used to take centuries and multiple generations has been accomplished in a mere couple of decades.

Always with us: Nelson Mandela still watches over vines at Fairview Cellars

Always with us: Nelson Mandela still watches over vines at Fairview Cellars

And the technical proficiency and open-mindedness that comes from travel and exchange of knowledge, unavailable to the previous generation of South African winegrowers, is widely enjoyed by today’s cohort. It has given the necessary confidence to both neglect fashion and be lazy in the winery, letting grape and place speak more loudly than technique. Such an attitude is possible only with self-assurance and a belief that one’s patch of dirt and distinct variety can make something of worth, and something that can finally and truly be called South African. And that attitude is spreading like wildflowers across the Cape’s astonishingly beautiful and incredibly bio diverse landscape.

That’s what makes South Africa one of the most exciting and vibrant winegrowing countries in the world, with so much more great wine to come. And when you throw all-important value into the mix, driven in part by the country’s weak rand, the story is even more exciting.

A full report on the SA wine scene would require far more words than even internet publications accept (not to mention time more time to read than anyone has), so I’ve written up mini profiles on two diametrically opposed but equally exciting regions that give a flavour for the overall South African wine scene. Part one covers the Swartland, along with the producers whose wines you’ll want to find, and drink, and part two next week looks at the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. I wrap up each with a buyer’s guide of South African wines currently available in Canada.

Part One Places to Watch: Revolution in The Swartland

We drive down a dusty, unpaved bumpy road passing parched fields of grass and wheat, grazing cattle, and vineyards scattered here and there with gnarled old vines spread like shrubs across the dry and stony ground. This is the land that was forgotten: The Swartland. The name means literally ‘the black land’, from the now endangered indigenous renosterbos (rhino bush) which once coloured the landscape dark. But it too has been forgotten.

Swartland Landscape - the land that time forgot (or at least the 1990s wine industry boom)

Swartland Landscape – the land that time forgot (or at least the 1990s wine industry boom)

When the wine industry upheaval came in the nineties, excitement was focused on Stellenbosch. Swartland wasn’t part of the boom. But recently it’s been Swartland’s turn for an all-out revolution, and it has become South Africa’s hottest zone for prospectors, punters and winegrowers fuelled by passion but with bank accounts running on empty. But some larger companies are already moving in and/or sourcing fruit in the region (Fairview, Mulderbosch, Boekenhoutskloof), and it’s only a matter of time before everyone is saying “Sf-var-t-lande” in proper Afrikaans.

The cause of the excitement is in plain sight, for anyone who takes the three-hour car ride up from Cape Town: old bush vines of unfashionable grapes. Land prices are still cheap (at least relative to areas like Stellenbosch where creeping urbanization is putting immense pressure on vineyard land, driving up values to unsustainable levels), I’m told about $5,000 per hectare (although most properties are large and can’t be subdivided), which in turn draws an anti-corporate, post-modern collection of young maveric winemakers seeking to make a unique artistic statement rather than simply collect a pay check. And voilà – you have a quality revolution. It’s more or less the same set of circumstances that have made places like Italy’s Mt. Etna or Spain’s Bierzo and Priorat (and what might make Southern Chile’s old vine pais and carignan) the sin-qua-nons of any cutting edge wine list over the last decade.

As a result of being spared participation in the first phase of the industry revamp, a disproportionate number of old vineyards in the Swartland were left untouched, farmed without fanfare by anonymous cooperatives churning out anonymous wines from grapes nobody had heard of or cared much about. But now in the ongoing worldwide search for distinctive regional authenticity, these ancient vines, perfectly adapted to their surroundings, have moved up to the order of national treasures. South Africa is simply identifying and acknowledging its own national viticultural treasures. Today Swartland has the highest percentage of old vines in South Africa, and South Africa has the greatest acreage of old white vines in the new world – that’s cause for excitement.

Grapes that were once thought useful only for distillation or jug wine, like chenin blanc and cinsault are proving otherwise. And they’ve been joined more recently by varieties that fit the region, like grenache, syrah, mourvedre, roussanne and viognier. Considering the scarce rainfall (300-500mm per year) and a heat summation equivalent to region IV – that’s like scorching southern Spain – Mediterranean varieties are logical. And the palette of soils ranging from decomposed granites to shales, schists and iron-rich red soils called Koffieklip provide for diverse expressions and intriguing blending possibilities.

Still, there are many old vineyards whose grapes are pumped into bulk tanks or cheap bag-in-box, so there’s ample opportunity for fine Swartland wine to grow. For now it’s believed that the market is not yet ready to absorb a massive influx of high end wines from this as-yet little known region, which is undoubtedly true. As consumers, we’d be smart to get in and buy what’s currently available before the rest of the world finds out how good these wines can be.

The Swartland Producers To Know

Sadie Family Wines

Eben Sadie

Eben Sadie

Winemaker Eben Sadie is one of South Africa’s most reflective and philosophical characters. On arrival I’m treated to a well-rehearsed one-hour discourse on his beliefs including, for example, the logic of blending grapes in the Swartland, as is done in other warm climates around the world (single variety wines are the domain of cool regions – think about it: Loire, Burgundy, Alsace, Germany, northern Italy, vs. southern France and Spain), or the dangers of dogmatic idealism (he’s on the minimal intervention side of the spectrum, but if the wine needs a touch of sulphur, he’ll add it), or the need to evolve over time (there used to be lots of new wood in the cellar, which has slowly given way to old barrels, large old wooden vats and more recently concrete eggs and clay amphora).

Sadie has one of the best collections of empty wine bottles in his office I’ve ever seen – all of the world’s greats are there – which I find highly comforting. He clearly knows what fine wine is. His passion for wine is matched only by his passion for surfing “I love it like you have no idea. It’s what I do”. He pours his wines in Zalto Burgundy glasses – in my view some of the best vessels in the world out of which to experience wine, and what Sadie describes as being like “flying to the moon”. It’s also reassuring: here wine is treated with care and respect. I later find out that he acquired his large and expensive glassware fleet by trading bottles of his top wine, Columella, with the owner of Zalto glassware in Austria “one for one”. I’m tempted to say that Herr Karner got the better deal, given the finite scarcity of Sadie’s wines; only 4000 cases in total (all labels) are made annually, with no intention to grow.

Sadie and his latest clay amphora

Sadie and his latest clay amphora

I appreciate Sadie’s confidence and thoughtfulness, almost as much as his wines. These are among South Africa’s best wines without question, hitting the right spot on the continuum of naturalness, with depth, precision, genuine complexity, purity and clarity. The multi-cépage blends Columella (red) and Palladius (white) sit at the top of the estate’s hierarchy; they’re also among the South Africa’s most expensive (approximately $130 and $70 respectively), but in an international context, are worth every penny and more.

He has recently introduced a range of single vineyard wines that should expose more consumers to his wines, if not in quantity, than at least in price, at around $40-$50 per bottle. These wines are the result of an obsessive search for old vine parcels that can produce at the highest quality levels. Starting from literally hundreds of potential sites, Sadie has slowly whittled the options down to a mere handful. The collection includes an astoundingly good chenin blanc ‘Skurfberg’ made from vines planted in 1888, a lovely, fine and firm cinsault ‘Pofadder’ (a grape Sadie describes as being “like your brother in jail – you love him but you can’t talk about him”), a floral and powerful, whole bunch-fermented grenache ‘Soldaat’, and a rare and arresting tinta barroca ‘Treinspoor’,  which he describes as being like “syrah married to nebbiolo”.

Sadie Family's latest single vineyard range. No concessions made to international markets - these labels are unapologetically South African

Sadie Family’s latest single vineyard range. No concessions made to international markets – these labels are unapologetically South African

The second label of sorts is called Sequillo (a red and white blend are made) and offer tremendous value. Sadie describes Sequillo as his R&D company. The wines change every year, and “all of the freak stuff goes into it”. But since even the freaky here is freakishly good, these are wines you’ll want to drink.

Mullineux Family Wines

Chris Mullineux

Chris Mullineux

In many ways Chris Mullineux and his wife Andrea are emblematic of the Swartland revolution. Chris has both an accounting degree (useful in the wine business) and a winemaking degree from Stellenbosch, so he is technically well-prepared. Andrea is from a winemaking background in California, and the couple met in the south of France while she was making wine in Chateauneuf and he in Bandol – so both are well traveled and experienced (and they continue to make a little bit of wine together in Napa from fruit grown in the Sierra Foothills). Chris made wine for five years at Fable Vineyards (formerly Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards), where he worked with purchased fruit from all over South Africa, including the Swartland, so he’s familiar with multiple regions.

When it was time for the Mullineux to strike out on their own, the choice of region was easy. Chris already knew that fruit from the Swartland was “the easiest to make into interesting wine without much manipulation”, and the grapes are suited to wine styles they both like to drink. The dry climate makes it easy to farm organically, yields are naturally low, and diverse soils and growing conditions provide lots of possibilities. Plus, Chris already knew all of the top growers and best sites in the region, grapes were available and inexpensive, and it was possible to set up a functional operation with minimal overhead, which would have been impossible in Stellenbosch. The pair moved in 2007 and crushed their first harvest in 2008.

Today they lease 42 different parcels, about 25 hectares in total. Emphasis is on blending, as Chris says “it’s tough to find a single site that has the full balance”. The Mullineux, like all of the avant-garde in the Swartland, are minimalist winemakers, a luxury made possible in part by working with old vines which tend to come into the winery already in balance. There are no additions to any of the wines, Chris tells me, but he’s not “dogmatic or fundamentalist”. He’ll filter if necessary, and bounce out bretty barrels. “It’s not a philosophy. It’s to make the most authentic expressions possible”, he says.

The spartan tasting bar at Mullineux, though outfitted with vineyard rock samples (left to right: schist, koffieklip, sandstone), always a reassuring sign

The spartan tasting bar at Mullineux, though outfitted with vineyard rock samples (left to right: schist, koffieklip, sandstone), always a reassuring sign

The Mullineux Family White, a blend of about 3/4 Chenin, 35-65 years old, clairette blanche and viognier, fermented and aged in mostly old foudre is rich and expressive, layered and textured with intriguing nutty/almond/marzipan flavours. The syrah, blended from parcels grown on granite, schist and koffieklip soils and fermented with 50% whole bunches offers lovely perfume in the violet spectrum, with pure dark fruit, blackberry, a touch of leafiness and lively acidity. “Weight and bigness happen naturally here”, says Mullineux, “it’s the freshness that we focus on, and what takes the most effort”. Mission accomplished, I’d say.

A second label called Kloofstreet has evolved over time from leftover wine that didn’t fit into the main range to a fully fledged brand. From two barrels in the first year that they didn’t want to sell in bulk, the Kloofstreet wines are now purpose-made from earlier picked, younger vines. The chenin blanc, from the ‘young’ 35 year old vines is crunchy and fresh, while the Kloofstreet Rouge, mostly syrah, is pure, spicy and peppery. Both are highly drinkable and fine value at about $20/bottle.

Lammershoek

Lammershoek winemaker Craig hawkins, old vines and Swartland landscape

Lammershoek winemaker Craig Hawkins, old vines and Swartland landscape

Craig Hawkins, winemaker since 2010, got doubly lucky when he met Carla Kretzel, the sales and marketing manager for Lammershoek. In one shot he scored a lovely girlfriend and a job in one of the most beautiful corners in the country (Carla’s father owns the property). It’s a relatively small operation, producing 150,000 bottles annually, and it’s fair to say the style has changed dramatically since Hawkins’ arrival. The wines have lightened up in every sense except character and quality, and the blazes here now mark out unbridled experimentation and rigorous non-interventionist winemaking.

Craig admits to being inspired by his brother, who makes and sells natural wines, and the painted words over the cellar door, “Made From Grapes” sums it up succinctly. Novelties under the “Cellar Foot” range, like the “Underwater Wine”, a carignan-grenache-mourvedre blend aged for a year in barrels stored underwater, the Hárslevelú, one of the only examples of the grape I’ve ever scene outside of Hungary, are just some of the ongoing tasty experiments.

Lammershoek-ageing wine underwater

Lammershoek: ageing wine underwater in a concrete vat

Not everything is successful, mind you, – cidery notes and oxidation creep in here and there – but by and large these are pure, fine, fresh, low alcohol, infinitely drinkable wines. The Lam rosé is one of the most delicious I’ve tasted: pale, 11% alcohol, bone dry and savoury beyond, while the Roulette Blanc, a blend of chenin, viognier, chardonnay and clairette, manages an impossible balance of richness and depth on a lithe 12.5% alcohol frame. The predominance of sandy, decomposed granite soils on the farm tend to yield lighter wines for early drinking, but then again, most are so delicious they wouldn’t last in my cellar anyway.

Lammershoek crest and credo: "Therefore, we drink wine"

Lammershoek crest and credo: “Therefore, we drink wine”

Boekenhoutskloof

Porseleinberg Syrah, Boekenhoutskloof

Porseleinberg Syrah, Boekenhoutskloof

Boekenhoutskloof. Mark Kent’s celebrated operation is based in Franshhoek, but recognizing the potential of the Swartland and the need to secure a reliable grape supply from the region, he recently purchased land on the Porseleinberg. The original parcels were planted in the late 1980s, while others are recent – Kent’s plan is to expand. The fruit finds its way in the excellent value Wolftrap and Porcupine Ridge labels, among others, but the real gem is the Porseleinberg Syrah, a wine of spectacular aromatics and massive depth and structure, made from 100% whole bunch fruit and aged in foudre and concrete eggs. The 2010 is years away still from prime drinking. And check out the beautiful label hand-pressed on a nineteenth century printing press.

Also noteworthy:

AA Badenhorst Family Wines. Although I haven’t visited the estate and their 28 hectares of old bush vines in the Paardeberg Mountain, what I’ve tasted from here has been enough to cause excitement.

If you wish to join the Swartland Revolution, plan to be in the region November 7-8th of this year, where you’ll get to taste what all the excitement is about.

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Buyers’ Guide: South Africa

The following recommended wines show inventory in the LCBO, SAQ or BC Liquors stores at time of publishing:

Sequillo Cellars Red 2009, Wo Swartland

Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc 2012, Stellenbosch (231282) $17.95

Fairview Petite Sirah 2011, Wo Paarl (366252) $23.95

Avondale Cyclus 2010, Wo Paarl (295220) $24.75

Bosman Adama White 2010, Wo Western Cape (282764) $15.60

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2012, Coastal Region (12724) $22.95

Waterkloof Circle Of Life 2011, Stellenbosch (284588) $24.95

Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2012, Wo Upper Hemel En Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, (660878) $26.95

Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Wo Cape Point (285221) $15.95

Bayton Chardonnay 2012, Wo Constantia (269084) $17.95

~

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

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


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The Successful Collector – Old World Riesling

The most undervalued white grape?
by Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Placed in the hands of even the most lacklustre of attorneys, a compelling court case could be made for convincing wine jurists that riesling is the greatest, most versatile white grape in Europe. The fact that other types of wine fetch higher prices at the premium end is neither here nor there. Granted, the best dry white Burgundy and Bordeaux may cost a great deal more, but one could easily argue this is more a result of rarity and present consumer trends than a reflection of comparative worth. Not that the quality of top Burgundy or Bordeaux has been exaggerated, more that prices for top riesling in many parts of the Old World are at present comparatively low, almost to the point of unreasonableness. As a result, there are more bargains for exemplary riesling than virtually any other type of white wine.

In the twenty-first century, few would deny that Alsace, Austria, and the most acclaimed winegrowing regions of Germany represent a sort of vinous triumvirate of unique places where riesling is able to thrive. At the premium level, the types produced in each area are at their greatest distinctiveness.

Alsace

Rows of vines in Alsace

Rows of vines in Alsace

In Alsace, the greatest rieslings usually hail from single-vineyard Grand Cru sites on steep hillsides, oftentimes (though not exclusively) consisting of sand and clay. Site variation in this part of the winegrowing world is extreme, with increasing numbers of producers vinifying and bottling specific parcels within their vineyards as separate wines. Relative dryness and higher alcohol (usually 12.5 per cent or more) remain essential hallmarks, though many top wines will often possess considerable richness, extra body, and some residual sugar. While flavour profiles are hard to generalize, the finest Alsatian rieslings tend to possess a resounding concentration of citrus-infused orchard fruits (such as peaches and pears), taking on more honeyed and kerosene-like tendencies as they age. The greatest bottlings may be easily kept for up to two decades or more. Current prices in VINTAGES for the best bottlings tend to range from $55-85, though many extremely good wines may be found for less than thirty bucks.

Austria

In Austria, the emerging style in the most famous regions for riesling (such as Wachau, Kremstal, and Kamptal) is one of astonishing minerality and heightened gradations of dryness. In most cases, the greatest wines derive from single vineyards, oftentimes bottled as single-parcel cuvées, grown on incredibly steep slopes facing the Danube.

Riesling vines along the Danube

Riesling vines along the Danube

Unlike Alsace or Germany, these vineyards are not officially ranked, though the best sites, usually based on granite, gneiss, and mica-schist, have long enjoyed widespread recognition over their less exalted counterparts. Alcohol levels are even higher than in Alsace (and much higher than in Germany), sometimes reaching up to 15 per cent. Compared to Alsace or Germany, the flavour of fine Austrian riesling is often much more low-keyed in youth, usually consisting of steely green fruits intermixed with lemon citrus, herbs, and an abundance of minerals. With age, more honeyed, kerosene, and nut-driven impressions seem to take over. Cellaring capability for the finest wines easily match those of Alsatian or Germanic extraction. Current availability of Austrian riesling in VINTAGES is profoundly lacking, with prices ranging from around $15-35.

Germany

For many, Germany is where riesling finds its greatest expression. As with Alsace and Austria, the best wines are those of single-vineyard persuasion, from the slate-dominant sites of the Mosel to the more clay-based areas of the Mittelhaart of the Pflaz. Styles are traditionally measured according to sweetness via the QmP (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat) system. From driest to sweetest: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, and Trockenbeerenauslese. The best wines of the Mosel and its tributaries the Saar and Ruwer tend to reflect this system more concisely than most, while producers throughout the Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen, and Pfalz are increasingly crafting their best single-vineyard wines in drier styles. Such wines are often labelled as ‘Grosses Gewächs,’ and invariably contain higher levels of alcohol at the expense of residual sugar. This said, the QmP system is just as useful for understanding different styles throughout most riesling-dominant regions. On the label, a stated vineyard is usually preceded by the village with which it is affiliated.

Riesling vines along the Mosel

Riesling vines along the Mosel

To this day, consumers continue to have difficulty comprehending the meaning behind different types of German wine labels. But this should not prove a barrier to obtaining some of the most underappreciated, undervalued types of riesling in Europe. Currently in VINTAGES, extremely fine, ageworthy examples logging in as low as 8 per cent alcohol (depending on the region) may be found for as little as $20, with top bottlings fetching up to $70. The sweetest versions such as Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese, not to mention Eiswein, are prodigiously more expensive, and are not exactly meant for everyday drinking.

Of more off-dry examples such as Kabinett and (to a lesser extent) Spätlese, flavours often include an addictive cornucopia of white peaches, green fruits, lemon citrus, and traces of kerosene, the latter becoming more pronounced and honeyed as time wears on. As white wines go, the capacity of German riesling to age is incredible, though Kabinett versions are at their best around the vicinity of ten years. Great Auslese, on the other hand, whose special nature places it more in the medium-sweet camp, may keep for decades and decades in the right conditions. Tragically, these types of wines are not nearly as popular as they once were. This may largely be attributed to both lax and unintelligible German wine laws, along with the plain fact that many enthusiasts continue to believe that all German wine, regardless of what is stated on the label, tastes excessively sweet.

A Comeback is Coming

In some respects, this would suggest that German riesling is long overdue for a comeback, particularly as examples in Alsace and Austria continue to enjoy an increasing number of successes. The quality is there, the ageability substantial, the prices even for moderately premium versions beyond modest. What’s more, with legions of ‘wine civilians’ being dutifully summoned every day as serious enthusiasts, it is only a matter of time before this collective jury of palates renders a verdict in riesling’s favour. Impatient as some wine commentators might be, it is only a matter of time.

My top choices:

Trimbach 2010 Réserve Riesling has been recommended more than once this past year, for there are still a reasonable number of bottles remaining in LCBO outlets. From one of the greatest white wine producers in Alsace, this is exactly what great Old World Riesling is all about. Drink now or hold for five years or more. 

Léon Beyer 2005 Cuvée des Comtes de d’Eguisheim Riesling is the top label (in dry format) from this particular Alsace-based establishment. Though nearing ten years of age, it is still endowed with an abundant sense of liveliness, intensity, and harmony. Only just over two dozen bottles remain in LCBO outlets. Drink now or hold for up to nine years or more. 

Zilliken 2011 Saarburg Rausch Riesling Kabinett logs in at a miniscule 8% alcohol, at the same time possessing outstanding roundness, harmony, and weight. Somewhat off-dry, few wines of the Saar (a tributary of the Mosel in Germany) manage to combine such gracefulness with such ferocity of character. Drink now or hold for up to twelve years. 

Schloss 2008 Schönborn Macrobrunn Riesling Kabinett is a premium type of German (Rheingau) Riesling at a remarkably reasonable price. Crafted in an off-dry style, wines like this were all the rage throughout much of the twentieth century and preceding eras. There is no reason why they should not be again. Drink now or hold for up to eight years.

Domäne Wachau 2011 Achleiten Riesling Smaragd hails from the Wachau, easily the most prestigious winegrowing region (at least for whites) in Austria. Retaining remarkable vibrancy and balance, this invigorating example is precisely why premium Austrian Riesling, alongside Grüner Veltliner, is becoming so popular. Drink now or hold for seven years or more.

Trimbach Réserve Riesling 2010Léon Beyer Cuvée Des Comtes D'eguisheim Riesling 2005Zilliken Saarburg Rausch Riesling Kabinett 2011Schloss Schönborn Macrobrunn Riesling Kabinett 2008Domäne Wachau Achleiten Smaragd Riesling 2011

Readers may want to take note that there are many other exemplary wines currently available in VINTAGES and the SAQ that have not been listed as recommendations. This is because I either do not have evaluations for them, or because they are wines from alternate vintages that are no longer available in stores. All price ranges have been researched so as to reflect current availability.

Cheers,

Julian Hitner

P.S. Stay tuned next month for my exciting summary of top riesling vineyards of the Wachau, Austria’s most prestigious white winegrowing region.

Editors Note: You can find Julian’s complete 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 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

All Julian Hitner Reviews


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 16th – Part One

Southern France
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Southern France in general, and the sprawling crescent-shaped region of the Languedoc-Roussillon in particular, is one of the smartest places to go shopping for character-filled wines at inordinately low prices. That’s the focus of this week’s report, and of the VINTAGES August 16th release. Read on for some terrific values in the robust red category and more.

Southern France: Hot Spot for Value

Southern France, or the Midi as it’s popularly known (because the scorching sun always seems to be right above your head, as at noon), continues on the trajectory towards quality wine started back in the 1990s. The bureaucracy-fraught process of identifying unique terroirs (and getting everybody to agree on where to draw the lines) continues in French wine officialdom, even if the most experienced growers in this millennial wine region have known the sources of the top wines since time immemorial.

The latest area to be granted official AOP status (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) is the Terrasses du Larzac, while La Clape awaits its promotion likely later this year, joining now fifteen table wine appellations and four fortified muscat AOPs in the Languedoc. The Roussillon is home to another three table wine and six fortified wine AOPs. In all, this massive region is incredibly varied at best, and hopelessly bewildering at worst, with terroirs as diverse as the sandy seaside AOPs like Picpoul de Pinet, to the more elevated, inland AOPs where altitude (as in the sparkling wine enclave of Limoux), and myriad soils like schist in St. Chinian, limestone in Minervois-La Livinières or sandstones in the Grès de Montpellier play an important role in wine style. Considering that together the Languedoc and Roussillon contribute nearly 30% of France’s annual wine production, there’s a lot to discover.

Sara d’Amato, who has just returned from her 27th trip to southern France, has this to say:

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

“I feel like I know it less than ever before; the region is an incredibly complex tapestry that is still being sewn. It’s both steeped in tradition and yet has some of the most progressive producers, and with every visit there are new appellations to discover (one of interest in the August 16th release is Malepère).”

But what’s also important to know is that this corner of France, perhaps because of its sheer size, its complexity and the historic reputation for inferior bulk wine that still seems to dog the region, is an excellent source for value. The Languedoc-Roussillon still has yet to really establish itself as a source of high quality in the way that many other parts of France have, and thus prices run up against the relatively low ceilings of commercial reality. Yet it’s not for lack of effort or even quality in the glass.

The climate, “one of the sunniest and driest on earth”, a bronzed Sara reminds me, lends itself to quasi de facto organic viticulture. Many of the top estates have been farming this way for generations. Large tracks of old vines are the rule rather than the exception, and the myriad of grape varieties and terroirs offer an enticing palette of styles. And most importantly, a large and growing number of vignerons, including of course locals, but also foreigners (especially English) who’ve fallen in love with the region and its climate and have been inspired to make small batches of quality wine, as well as celebrated winegrowers from other parts of France who’ve recognized the confluence of potential quality and relatively low production costs, are taking advantage of the circumstances to make excellent inexpensive wine.

For the southern France-themed VINTAGES release on August 16th, many of the same, larger producers appear again (thanks in part to their active and competent importing agents), and thus as usual many of the smaller boutique producers get pushed out. But there’s nonetheless a decent collection of wines with which to begin, or renew, your discovery. The following are recommended by one of more WineAlign critics.

Buyer’s Guide for VINTAGES August 16th: Southern France

Hecht & Bannier Minervois 2011Château De Lastours Grande Réserve Corbières 2008Guillaume Aurèle 2013 ViognierGuillaume Aurèle 2013 Viognier, Pays d’Oc, France ($13.95).
John Szabo – Here’s a delicious little value, full of typical varietal character like candied violets and succulent peach-nectarine orchard fruit. The palate remains remarkably fresh and balanced, with tingling acids and integrated alcohol. A smart buy for summer sipping outdoors, when aromatic amplitude is needed to combat gentle breezes.
David Lawrason – Viognier is always an adventure, its strong personality enchanting some, but turning others off. This one may be extra challenging – it’s savoury, powerful and dry – but I can’t believe the gumption and depth it delivers at $14. For devotees or adventurers only.

Château De Lastours 2008 Grande Réserve Corbières, France ($22.95)
John Szabo – This is an evidently ripe, modern style, but the masses of fruit should be more than enough to see it through to full integration. Although a distant analogy, it should appeal to fans of classy Napa cabernet, especially at the price. Despite six years of age, I’d still tuck this away until 2016, and then pull it out blind for your friends and wait for the superlatives to fly. Best 2016-2020.
Sara d’Amato: Corbières is the largest appellation in Languedoc-Roussillon and one of the largest in all of France. Previously known for producing inexpensive but cheerful reds, it now boasts many an interesting gem. Reds dominate, produced from 50% carignan – a variety that does best in warm, dry climates and produces wines of significant tannin, colour and ever-important acidity. Balanced and elegant but rich and full bodied, this example is immensely compelling and memorable – not to be missed!

Hecht & Bannier 2011 Minervois Ac France ($20.95)
John Szabo – The reliable negociant house of Hecht & Bannier established in 2002 rarely disappoints – this dynamic pair specializes in red wines, visiting hundreds of producers each year to select the most representative wines of each appellation, often from higher elevation sites and very old vines. 600l demi-muids preserve fruit as well as the savoury Mediterranean flavours that make these wines so interesting.
Sara d’Amato – Minervois vineyards benefit from relatively high altitude – up to 350m, near Carcassonne on the foothills of the Montaigne Noire that protects the vines from northern winds. The wines can be a little more racy and nervy than typical Languedoc-Roussillon wines and often boast delicious minerality, like this outstanding example.
David Lawrason - Minervois has always struck me as a more rugged, less refined and rustic wine. Even in the hands of these modernist winemakers, the sense is unchanged.   This is solid yet approachable, and it rings true.

Château De Treviac 2011Hecht & Bannier St Chinian 2011Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Pic Saint Loup 2011Château De Treviac 2011 Corbières Ap, France ($17.95)
John Szabo – A deep, dark, resinous herb (bay leaf, oregano, lavender) and spicy fruit-flavoured Corbières, with no small measure of the attractive savage qualities typical of this corner of southern France, which occasionally finds a new world counterpart in Chile.
Sara d’Amato – Another great value Corbières and this time with unusually complex flavours and surprising length. Although we’ve seen this very vintage grace the LCBO shelves in the past, it remains impressive with a solid framework of tannins and a real depth of flavour.

Hecht & Bannier 2011 St-Chinian AC, France ($25.95)
John Szabo - Of the two excellent Hecht & Bannier wines in the release, the St. Chinian is the more characterful, minerally wine, almost painfully so. It’s by no means easy drinking; attentive tasting is required to fully appreciate, but I love the regionally distinctive scorched earth, schistous stoniness and firm, dusty tannins. Best after 2015 – let it unwind a bit.
David Lawrason – H&B is a relatively new, dynamic negociant that purchases grapes, juice and wine across the south of France – paying the highest prices, they claim. And they turn out intense, bright and savoury reds. I love their objective for St. Chinian: “We first focus on finding the areas where the Syrah presents a floral and licorice bouquet”. They’ve nailed it here.

Gérard Bertrand 2011 Grand Terroir Pic Saint Loup, Coteaux du Languedoc, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – One of my favourite terroirs in the Languedoc, the Pic St. Loup itself is a massive limestone ridge about 20kms from the sea that marks the transition from coastal plains to the inland hilly zone. The savoury character of this example is a direct reflection of the wildly fragrant vegetative scrub (garrigue) that covers the region. This is lovely stuff for the money, with additional capacity to improve over the next 2-3 years. Best 2014-2021.

Château De Gourgazaud Cuvée Mathilde Minervois 2011Gérard Bertrand Saint Chinian 2009Château De Cointes Marie Anne Malepère 2011Château De Cointes Marie-Anne 2011 Malepère Ac, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – Malepère marks the divide between Atlantic and Mediterranean-influenced zones, also reflected in the permitted varietal mix. This blend of 1/3 each of merlot, cabernet franc and grenache, works beautifully; I love the freshness and florality from the Bordeaux components, along with the luscious, generous and ripe side from grenache, resulting in a complete and highly appealing ensemble. Best 2014-2019.

Gérard Bertrand 2009 Saint-Chinian Syrah Mourvèdre, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Gerard Bertrand produces some authentic feeling wines and this aged example is no exception. Saint-Chinian is known for wines that are tannic and quite muscular but have a lovely freshness and fruit spice about them. They are planted solely on slopes that face the sea, which allows them to benefit from moderating temperatures and breezes.

Château De Gourgazaud 2011 Cuvée Mathilde Minervois, France ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Gourgazaud deserves an endurance medal for holding up the Minervois category – indeed all of the Languedoc – at the LCBO for years on end. The limestone-soil based estate uses only syrah and mourvèdre, providing a lifted, linear, spicy ambiance that I have always loved. Mathilde infuses more fruit presence and richness. This is delicious and ridiculously cheap.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Aug 16th:

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

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


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20 under $20 in British Columbia (August 2014)

Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team

Even though we’ve just made it through the National Wine Awards, our national judges are already preparing – mentally at least – for the The World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC14), coming up in a few short weeks. These recognize the best wines SOLD in Canada anywhere, regardless of where they are from. They are judged in categories under $15, $15 to $25, and over $25 to a maximum of $50. What’s so fantastic about these awards is that we are judging Canada blind beside wines from France, Australia, Chile, Spain and beyond.

While we’re gearing up for Toronto mid-month, our BC critics have been reflecting on World Wine Awards from past years and anticipating what terrific values we might be seeing in our glasses in competition this year. Our 20 Under $20 wines are readily available in BC Liquor Stores and VQA stores across the province for your shopping convenience.

Cheers ~ Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

Looking back at 2013 “Sauvignon Blanc” results from the World Wine Awards, the top five labels were: Robert Mondavi 2011 Fume Blanc, Napa, Mapu 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Chile, Giesen Sauvignon Blanc 2012, New Zealand, Arboleda 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Chile and The Ned Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. There’s no telling how the 2014 results will go but here are five of my current favourite white sauvignons to finish off the summer on the patio.

The Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012 is easily the best value sauvignon in the country.

No less impressive, save for it drab packaging and Don Max designation, is the Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Don Max Reserva 2013, it’s mix of citrus and dried herbs with enough passion fruit to give it a fruity underbelly. It is delicious.

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Leon De Tarapaca Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Locally, the Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is a fresh, electric-style sauvignon with grassy, grapefruit, gooseberry flavours.

You can spell the Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Regional Collection 2013 c-l-a-s-s-i-c, with no shortage of passion fruit, melon and bell pepper notes.

Finally the big steal is León de Tarapacá Sauvignon Blanc 2012, the perfect luncheon-style sauvignon that is a kinder gentler version of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

DJ Kearney

Wine’s greatest strength is its diversity – and it’s such an exciting time to be a wine lover when diversity can come at a bargain price.

At last year’s Awards the 2012 Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio absolutely shone in the Under $15 category. The 2013 is pretty darn tasty too, especially with a frosty chill and gourmet nachos.

One of my favourite regions to drink from is Austria and I’ve got my fingers crossed that this alpine, landlocked country will be well-represented at the August judging. The Domaine Wachau Gruner Veltliner Terraces 2012 is a crisply taut dry white with subtle fruit and a saline aspect that’s tasty with cheese, or brined then grilled prawns.

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2013 Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner 2012 Trivento Amado Sur Torrontes Viognier 2013 Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvèdre Viognier 2013

Trivento’s Amado Sur Blanco 2013 is a dry and joyful blend of torrontés, viognier and chardonnay that demonstrates how fresh and lively Argentine whites can be.  It’s a great price that’s slashed to $12.99 in BC Liquor Stores until August 30th.

I admire the Falernia Syrah Reserva 2010 every time I encounter a bottle. From the 2010 earthquake vintage, it’s a moving wine to drink, and is showing black fruit, pepper and the sinewy qualities of cool-climate syrah. A runaway winner at last year’s Worlds, I sure hope to see more of Falernia’s range at the WWAC14.

Finally another staple of mine, especially when the charcoal grill is hot and smoky baby back ribs are getting their final burnish, bring on the Wolftrap Red 2013.

Rhys Pender MW

The Rhône valley always seems to feature well in the World competition, the soft and rich texture of both the red and white wines appealing to the judges. An impressive and well priced Rhône red tasted recently that is worth seeking out is the Cave De Rasteau La Domelière Rasteau 2010.

The WWAC judging always turns out some amazing value discoveries, wines you should buy by the case. There was no pinot blanc in the winners list last year but this variety does consistently offer excellent value. The Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Blanc 2012 is a great crisp, fresh summer white.

Malbec is no stranger to the limelight in the value price points but most of it comes from Argentina. There is also serious, if slightly lighter and fresher, malbec being grown over the hills in Chile. A great value example is the Viu Manent 2012 Estate Collection Malbec from Colchagua Valley in Chile.

Cave De Rasteau La Domelière Rasteau 2010 Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Blanc Reserve 2012 Viu Manent Estate Malbec 2012 Quails' Gate Chenin Blanc 2013 Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2013

The WWAC is always a good chance for some of the lesser known grapes to get some attention. The Red Single Varieties and White Single Varieties categories see some exciting entries from all over the world. Chenin Blanc is not the rarest but surely not that well known either. A great example tasted recently is the Quails’ Gate 2013 Chenin Blanc. It is explosive, powerful and crunchy and great value.

Always a consistent performer is the Tinhorn Creek Vineyards Pinot Gris. The 2012 vintage was a judges’ choice at last years WWAC and it will be interesting to see how the 2013 vintage does. It is richer, rounder and more lush than previous vintages offering something a little different and will stand up well to mild curries, poultry and rich white fish.

Treve Ring

As I noted in my intro, the great thrill of the World Wine Awards is seeing how Canada stacks up blind against wines from all corners of the globe. One Canadian wine that excelled last year in its category was Wild Goose Mystic River Pinot Gris 2012, proving pinot gris needn’t be bland and banal or expensive.

Another Okanagan winery that held its weight (and earned its weight in medals) is the Gray Monk Riesling 2011, from a winery forging Germanic roads in BC for decades, and always for a reasonable price.

Wild Goose Pinot Gris Mystic River 2012 Gray Monk Riesling 2011 Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Sogrape Gazela Rosé

Outside of Canada, we always expect certain countries, and regions to fare well in the under $25 category. While many countries are strong here (Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia amongst them), right now Spain and Portugal’s values are second to none, and I think both countries will be big contenders in this year’s competition. Rioja’s Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 value is extremely hard to beat year over year, as the classic tempranillo and graciano blend is traditional and modern all at once.

Of course, Cava is practically equivalent to amazing value, and Segura Viudas Brut NV is top of the heap for taste, value, consistency and availability in any market, worldwide.

And I’m particularly keeping a close eye on Portugal this year, a country category buoyed by a very strong showing in B.C. This summer, there is often a bottle of Gazela Vinho Verde Rosé around, and with good reason. Easy, breezy, off-dry, interesting and pink – what more could you ask for in a $10 patio wine?

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Follow along as WineAlign’s BC critics, as well as all of our national critics, tweet, facebook and instagram live daily from the World Wine Awards of Canada (#WWAC14) from August 18-22.

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 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Gourmet Dinner & Tutored Tasting Featuring Wines from Graffigna

On August 21st, WineAlign is pleased to present a gourmet dinner & tutored tasting featuring wines from one of Argentina’s oldest wineries – Graffigna.

Graffigna HistoryGraffigna

Join us for an exclusive dinner at Jump restaurant with sommelier and global brand ambassador from Argentina, Federico Lleonart. Federico will guide you through a range of Graffigna wines and speak about the unique terroir of San Juan, Argentina as well as the history of the company that started with one man, Santiago Graffigna, in 1870. You will also have the opportunity to experience the exclusive Malbec glass – created in partnership with Riedel and Graffigna, and take home a box of 2 official Malbec Riedel glasses (valued at $50).

Federico will be joined by WineAlign’s Steve Thurlow.

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Event Details:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Location:  Jump (18 Wellington St W – Commerce Court East)

Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm – 9:30pm

Tickets:  $80.00 plus HST and fees

*Please note tickets are limited to 50, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Menu

Sparkling cocktails and hors d’oeuvres

Lime Cured Manitoulin Island Rainbow Trout
Avocado mousse, lemon jelly vinaigrette, lotus root crisps

Wine pairing: Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio

Grandview Farms Grass-fed Angus

Seared Flat Iron, stewed black beans and salt pork, chimmichurri rotolo of oxtail and tongue, braised mushroom forrestiere, escarole

Wine pairing: Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2011

Cheese Course

Wine pairing: Santiago Graffigna (40% Malbec, 30% Cab Sauv, 30% Syrah) 2008

Hazelnut chocolate mousse
Bitter chocolate crunch, fresh raspberry coulis, baby mint

Wine pairing: Graffigna Late Harvest Malbec

*There are no substitutions*

About Jump

In the heart of Toronto’s Financial district, Jump combines classic style with sleek modern eclecticism. The sky high glass atrium, signature New York style bar and courtyard patio provide the perfect backdrop for world-inspired cuisine. Jump is renowned for its locally sourced meat and seafood, and seasonal vegetables, while continually creating fresh and innovative dishes.

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Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

 

Purchase Your Tickets Here

 

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008