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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?


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.


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


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.


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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National Wine Awards : diversité canadienne et succès québécois

par Rémy Charest

Rémy Charest

Rémy Charest

Lors du récent Concours des meilleurs vins canadiens (les National Wine Awards of Canada), qui a eu lieu à Penticton, en Colombie-Britannique, en juin dernier, les juges présents ont eu droit à une diversité incroyable de vins venus de partout au Canada : mousseux de Nouvelle-Écosse, syrah de Colombie-Britannique, rieslings de l’Ontario, hydromels du Nouveau-Brunswick, chardonnays et alcools d’érable du Québec, vin de cerise de Saskatchewan, vin de framboise de Terre-Neuve, la liste est longue.

Certains cépages ont de quoi surprendre : saviez-vous qu’on trouve de l’albarino et du verdejo, du tempranillo, du tannat, de l’arneis, du carmenère, du pinotage, du sémillon et de la roussanne, dans les vignobles canadiens? Vous doutiez-vous que des cépages hybrides comme le frontenac (gris et blanc), le lucie kuhlmann ou le l’acadie pouvaient se mériter des médailles et ainsi, obtenir des résultats supérieurs à bien des vins de cépages plus traditionnels?

L’érable au sommet

Domaine Acer Val AmbreDomaine Acer Charles Aime RobertAmis québécois, vous seriez-vous douté que les érables du Témiscouata pourraient voir leur sève couronnée d’une médaille de platine, accordée à seulement 14 des 1335 vins soumis à la compétition? C’est en effet ce qui est arrivé au Val Ambré, succulent « acer » fortifié du Domaine Acer, une des étoiles de la compétition 2014. Le Charles-Aimé Robert, l’autre fortifié de la maison, a pour sa part remporté une médaille d’argent. Une preuve que les juges des NWAC, une équipe chevronnée qui connaît bien ce qui se fait un peu partout au Canada, évaluent les vins à l’aveugle, mais avec le palais grand ouvert.

On s’étonnera un peu moins d’avoir vu des cidres québécois triompher, vu l’expertise qui s’est développée ici, en particulier pour les cidres de glace. Mais la glace n’a pas été la seule à briller, puisque c’est un cidre de feu, celui du Domaine La Branche, qui a remporté la plus haute note, avec une médaille d’or bien méritée. Le Domaine Pinnacle et un joueur un peu moins connu, Le Flanc Nord, un producteur de Mont-Saint-Hilaire, ont également vu leurs cidres de glace récompensés par l’argent ou le bronze. Autre jolie réussite, hors des vins de raisin, le Rouge Berry, du Vignoble d’Oka, a obtenu l’argent avec son beau mélange de fraise et de framboise, net et éclatant.

Versant Blanc Coteau Rougemont 2012Coteau Rougemont Chardonnay La Cote 2012Vignoble d'Oka Rouge Berry Vignoble d'Oka 2012Côté raisin, justement, le Vignoble Coteau Rougemont, de la famille Robert, a fait une entrée en force aux National Wine Awards avec trois médailles de bronze (notamment pour son très bon chardonnay) et une d’argent (pour son Versant blanc, fait de frontenac blanc et gris). Un domaine à surveiller, très clairement.

Au total, la représentation des vignobles québécois reste limitée, aux National Wine Awards, ce que mes collègues juges québécois et moi ont trouvé un peu dommage. Même sans obtenir de médailles, certains des vins ont recueilli des avis favorables des juges, qui avaient l’occasion de les juger à l’aveugle. Le Vent d’ouest blanc du Domaine du Ridge, par exemple, a obtenu une note très correcte, et j’ai beaucoup apprécié le rouge Réserve du Vignoble Sainte-Pétronille. On aimerait en voir plus l’année prochaine. Les vins québécois ont beaucoup progressé, ces dernières années, et les meilleurs peuvent tout à fait prendre leur place à l’échelle canadienne. Aux producteurs d’oser les faire goûter!

Le meilleur du Canada

Pendant ce temps, ailleurs au Canada, il ne manque pas non plus de bonnes choses à déguster. Les rieslings et les syrahs s’illustrent au sommet de la hiérarchie des cépages, avec la part belle des médailles platine et un nombre élevé de médailles d’or. Les pinots noirs, chardonnays et cabernets francs se classent aussi très bien, à ce chapitre, avec plusieurs excellents vins et une grande diversité de styles. Pour ceux qui hésitent encore à mettre la main sur une bouteille de vin canadien, en passant à la SAQ, sachez que vous ne manquez pas de bonnes cuvées à déguster.

Plusieurs des producteurs primés par les NWAC sont régulièrement présents au Québec, comme les Mission Hill, Norman Hardie, Tawse, Château des Charmes, Orofino, Le Vieux Pin, Laughing Stock ou Mike Weir, pour n’en nommer que quelques-uns. Actuellement, pratiquement aucun des gagnants 2014 ne sont disponibles à la SAQ – pour certains, c’est une question de temps, puisque ce sont de nouveaux millésimes qui viennent à peine d’être mis en bouteille. On peut pour le moment chercher des gagnants 2013 comme le Riesling Échos 2010 de Tawse, une des médailles de platine de l’année dernière. Pour les autres domaines et cuvées qui ne trouveront pas la voie de la SAQ, si seulement on pouvait les commander directement au vignoble…

NWAC13 LogoVous pouvez consulter les résultats complets des National Wine Awards of Canada 2014 (en anglais) en cliquant ici. Les résultats sont classés par médailles, et aussi par catégories (cépages, types de vin, etc.). Vous pouvez également lire le point de vue du cofondateur et juge en chef du concours, Anthony Gismondi, qui donne aussi la parole à plusieurs des juges.

Rémy Charest

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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Mettre de l’eau dans son vin

Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

Même s’il est maintenant considéré par une bonne partie de la planète comme un produit de luxe, le vin est d’abord une boisson populaire. Pour les peuples de l’Europe méridionale, il était avant tout une boisson saine, à une époque où l’eau n’était pas toujours propre à la consommation. Au même titre que la bière dans les pays du nord de l’Europe, en fait.

« Le vin [...] peut être, à bon droit, considéré comme la plus saine, la plus hygiénique des boissons » – Louis Pasteur (1866)

Remettons d’abord les choses dans leur contexte. Le vin est né en périphérie du bassin méditerranéen. Là-bas, le climat est chaud, aride et le soleil rayonne jusqu’à 2 800 heures par année ! On peut donc imaginer que la population avait grand besoin de se désaltérer. Malheureusement, le vin de l’époque était un peu trop alcoolisé pour servir cette fonction. On a donc pris l’habitude de le couper avec de l’eau.

Geste sacrilège s’il en est un pour les œnophiles d’aujourd’hui, mettre de l’eau dans son vin (au sens propre) était jadis perçu comme une façon de se préserver de la barbarie. Pour les Grecs et les Romains, boire du vin pur tenait d’ailleurs de l’hérésie. Rien de moins !

Il faudra attendre le début du 19e siècle pour observer le début d’un changement dans les mœurs des Italiens, des Espagnols et des Français. On prend alors l’habitude de ne couper son vin qu’un service sur deux. Au siècle suivant, cette pratique est réservée presque exclusivement aux repas de famille.

Aujourd’hui, même si le degré alcoolique des vins est sensiblement supérieur à celui d’autrefois, je me verrais bien mal – étant donnée ma profession surtout – m’adonner (publiquement) au coupage d’un vin. Mais une chose est certaine : lorsque le mercure grimpe, je n’ai pas la moindre envie d’un vin capiteux. Je fuis comme la peste les cuvées primées par les magazines américains et je me rabats le plus volontairement du monde sur un pétillant naturel, un cava, un prosecco, un « petit » vin rouge du Beaujolais, de la Loire, de la Grèce… ou de la Patagonie, soyons fous !

La seule chose qui m’importe, après tout, c’est de pouvoir apprécier une bonne bouteille, en bonne compagnie, sans être fatiguée après deux verres. Pour accompagner les journées caniculaires qui reviendront peut-être d’ici septembre, voici quelques suggestions de vins et cidres légers en alcool, mais jamais insipides !

Léger comme une plume avec ses 9,8 % d’alcool, le FRV100 (22,15 $) de Jean-Paul Brun est arrondi d’un léger reste de sucre (30 grammes), plein de vitalité et gorgé de saveurs fruitées. Il donne l’impression de mordre à pleines dents dans une grappe de gamay.

Attrayant à la fois pour l’oeil, le nez et la bouche, le Cidre mousseux rosé (19,95 $) de Michel Jodoin doit sa jolie couleur à la geneva, une variété de pomme à chair rouge. Léger en alcool, mais loin de manquer de saveurs!

Jean Paul Brun F R V 100 Terres Dorées Michel Jodoin Cidre Mousseux Rosé Parés Baltà Cava Brut Bisol Crede Brut Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Superiore 2013

Issu des cépages parellada, maccabeu et xarel-lo, conduits en agriculture biologique, le Cava Brut de Parès Balta (16,95 $) est de ces vins dont on devrait toujours avoir une bouteille au frais. Au cas où des amis se pointeraient pour l’apéro. Seulement 11,5 %, une fraîcheur rassasiante et un rapport qualité-prix remarquable!

Le fait qu’il soit élaboré selon la méthode charmat (cuve close) n’enlève rien à la qualité du Prosecco. Au contraire, on se régalera de la pureté aromatique et de la délicatesse du Crede 2013 (21,90 $) élaboré par la famille Bisol, dans les collines du nord de la Vénétie. Vite, sortez le melon et le jambon de Parme!

En 2004, Piero Incisa – petit-fils de l’illustre Mario Incisa della Rochetta, créateur de Sassicaia – a commencé à acquérir de vieilles parcelles plantées de pinot noir dans la vallée du Rio Negro, au nord de la Patagonie. Issue de jeunes vignes et d’un repli de la cuvée Cincuenta y Dos (vigne plantée en 1955), la cuvée Barda 2012 (25 $), comme tout le reste de la production chez Chacra d’ailleurs, est issu de l’agriculture biodynamique.

D’un domaine de la Loire conduit en biodynamie, la cuvée Vieilles vignes 2011 (17,95 $) est l’un de ces vins rouges qu’on peut acheter les yeux fermés. Élaboré par Vincent Girault au Clos de la Briderie, le vin ne titre que 12,3 % d’alcool, mais il en mène assez large en bouche avec la consistance tannique et le tonus que lui confère le côt (malbec).

Barda Pinot Noir 2012 Clos De La Briderie Rouge 2011 Domaine De La Charmoise Gamay 2013 Jean Paul Brun Terres Dorées Côte De Brouilly 2012

Sur un mode beaucoup plus souple et juteux, le Gamay de Touraine 2013 (17,95 $) du Domaine de La Charmoise est l’archétype du vin gouleyant, c’est-à-dire frais, agréable à boire et léger. Désormais un classique estival.

Légèreté et générosité fruitée n’excluent en rien complexité et nuance. À leur meilleur, les vins du Beaujolais font preuve de profondeur, sans pourtant sacrifier l’esprit guilleret qui fait tout le charme du cépage gamay. Issu d’une très belle parcelle dont le sol est un amalgame de granit bleu et de roches volcaniques, le Côte de Brouilly 2012 (23,25 $) de Jean-Paul Brun est impeccable. Un autre vin qui, comme on dit dans la région : « se boit sans soif »…

Santé !

Nadia Fournier

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 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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Oh Canada! The Best of 2014

Results from the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada
by Anthony Gismondi

NWAC2014webThe results are out for this year’s WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. Believe it or not, 2014 is year fourteen for ‘The Nationals’, first launched in 2001. Back then, the original Toronto-based Wine Access newsletter founded by co-head judge David Lawrason was looking for a way to reliably gauge the quality of the wines being produced in Canada. David and I conceived of a yearly national competition that would span the entire country including wine producers, wine judges and results that consumers could use no matter where they lived. As we proudly announce the medals and winners for 2014 we can report with some pride that we have reached our goal.

There is still one missing component – the freedom to buy and sell these wines around the country, but today we want to celebrate the best in the country not the worst. Our selfish, short-sighted, protectionist and ‘provincial’ in every sense of the word liquor regulations, will have to wait for another day.

Back office with over 4,000 bottles

Some of the over 4,000 bottles of wine involved in the awards.

In 2014 we attracted 1,335 wines from across the country and 209 wineries to compete in The Nationals, our largest competition yet. As you would expect the majority of wine comes from British Columbia and Ontario wineries but with growing numbers from Quebec and Nova Scotia and bits and pieces from the rest of the country it is becoming a very broad, national picture.

We have been always been careful when awarding medals at The Nationals because as a team of reviewers we want each of them to mean something to the producer and the wine buyer. This year we tasted the 1,335 wines in three days and brought back about 265, the top 20 percent, on the fourth day. By the end of the fifth day we had reduced those numbers to 60 or 70 wines as we searched for our platinum medal winners. In the end we issued 14 Platinum medals to the top scoring (golds), a mere one percent of all entries. These wines are simply outstanding and are the cornerstones of the results.

In days gone by we would focus on all the categories and flight winners, still a big part of the results, but by celebrating the top one percent of wines in the competition regardless of grape, category or origin we are trying to send a message about what can be done in Canadian wine at a very high level. Also, we think when you encounter a WineAlign 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada Platinum medal winner you can bet on it. Once the Platinum medals are accounted for, the 2014 competition yielded 81 Gold medals, 302 Silver and 251 Bronze medals.


Platinum winners      Gold winners     Silver winners    Bronze winners

If the numbers look small, it’s because they are meant to be. We agonize over each score, especially where it separates a wine from gold or silver or silver from bronze. We try all week, from the first wine to the last tasted, to set a standard for our readers that they can believe in. We use the regular WineAlign 100 point system to score all wines; the medals simply reflect the score each wine attains. There are no quotas and no pressure to award any medals. There is one final proviso about our scoring concerning bronze medals. We only reward the highest scoring bronze medals in the competition, in a sense they are wines that barely missed getting a silver at 87.5. This makes them worthy medal winners, and again our thinking is to improve the breed (in the case the worth of a bronze medal) by simply rewarding the best.

A great deal of the excitement will surround all the medal winners this week but for my money it’s the annual performance report that tracks a winery’s entire body of work at the competition that is the big prize. Over the years our report that determines Canada’s Best Winery has drawn a great deal of attention and stature to the winning winery. It’s highly coveted by Canada’s most competitive wineries and frankly in a country with over 500 producers any winery getting into the top 25 as a result of its performance at The Nationals is really something to crow about.

NWAC_WOTYIn 2014, for the first time ever, the accolade of the WineAlign Canadian Winery of the Year goes to Ontario’s Peller Estate Niagara-on-the-Lake. As has been the case in the last few years it has taken five gold medals to take top place illustrating how difficult it is to grab the title. For the record, our performance report rates any winery entering six or more wines in the competition, automatically entering that producer into the race for the WineAlign Canadian Winery of the Year. While the report was originally designed to help us assess each winery’s performance in the competition, the results are so compelling we now share them for Canada’s top 25 wineries to help you make better buying decisions.

From a practical point of view, we know consumers are interested in a winery’s top wines, so the final calculation is done by selecting the wineries’ five top scoring entries. It also means large wineries entering 10 or 20 wines have no special advantage over smaller boutiques since only five of the top six wines are used to calculate any single performance ranking.

Each performance score begins with the wine’s raw base score as awarded by the judges out of 100 points. Then, employing a series of calculations the wine receives additional points depending upon whether or not it was awarded a bronze, silver, gold or platinum medal. The value of any medal takes into account the total number of medals awarded in each class and the total number of medals issued overall to produce a unique performance score. That total added together with a winery’s other five top scoring wines is used to assess the winery’s performance against all others entered in the competition and hence the list of top performing wineries. What it all comes down to is one of the most useful wine lists in the country, and a true guide to which wines and wineries are performing at the very top of the Canadian wine industry.

Judges involved with the National Wine Awards of Canada 2014

Judges involved with the National Wine Awards of Canada 2014

We hope you enjoy our report and know that we will roll out further analysis of all the key flights and wines and wineries as we head into the fall and winter. In closing I asked some of our esteemed judges to submit a sentence or two to reflect on their week inside the room, here is what they had to say.

Remy Charest, Quebec City:  [bio] We’re certainly seeing a number of constants and positives that we pretty much agree on among the judges. Riesling and syrah are shining and providing the most complex and exciting wines across Canada followed by chardonnay and to a lesser extent cabernet franc and pinot noir. Another highly positive development is the growing diversity of offerings. What a pleasure to taste delicious tannat, melon de bourgogne, verdejo and albarino blends but also well-crafted reds from marquette or remarkably fine maple wines. The Canadian wine industry is maturing if still young, and seeing winemakers try new things successfully is a cause for rejoicing. On the other hand, some categories are also consistently less exciting. Cabernet sauvignon flights are not the easiest to judge, and many red blends seem like an afterthought, or something put together with whatever was left, rather than something made with purpose and a clear vision. And in the end, purpose and a clear vision are what makes great wine, whether you’re producing a maple fortified wine, a gamay or a blackberry wine. It’s good to see more clarity and focus, year after year.

Janet Dorozynski, Ottawa: [bio] Always a pleasure to judge NWAC and check the pulse of the Canadian wine industry. Based on the range of entries, it is obvious that there is still a fair bit of experimentation going on, both in terms of grape varieties and wine styles. That said, for whites, chardonnay and riesling continue to prove the most reliable and exciting, whereas for reds, syrah continues to shine and it’s great to see a growing number of both entries and award winners in this category.  There were also a number of impressive traditional method sparkling wines, which given that most (if not all) of Canada’s wine regions are cool climate areas, this is a style that makes sense and whose quality improves by leaps and bounds each year.

Jamie Goode, London England: [bio] Judging the Nationals was a really good experience. Any competition is only as good as its judges, and all those I tasted with had consistent palates and showed excellent judgement. The organization was also first rate, allowing judges to concentrate on doing their job. And the wines? I found plenty to love, and this confirms the impression that I’d gained from previous travels in wine country that Canadian wines are going places.

David Lawrason, Toronto: Judging ‘The Nationals” is as precise, fair and technical as we can possibly make it, but of course wine always generates emotional reactions as well.  There is always palpable expectation and excitement in the judging room when certain flights are encountered: pinot noir, syrah, riesling, chardonnay and sparkling leap to mind, with gamay and even cab franc joining the list this year.  This does not mean we are less critical on a wine-by-wine basis, in fact we may be more critical, but overall these varieties have provided more pleasure and excitement year after year, and this makes them, in my mind, Canada’s best varieties coast to coast.

DJ Kearney, Vancouver: [bio] I was particularly impressed and captivated by white Rhone-styled wines.  Planted in the right sites, viognier, marsanne and roussanne are responsible for some of my highest scores, most lavish notes, and the best wines will blossom in the bottle for several more years.  Likewise, syrah is simply going from strength to strength, and not just in B.C., but Niagara too.  Over a decade of judging these awards has made something very clear to me:  we are becoming a confident wine country – you can feel and taste it in our wines like never before.

Rhys Pender MW, Cawston BC: [bio] Every year judging at the Nationals you get a great snapshot of what is happening in Canadian wine and each year I feel the overall standard is getting higher. There are still varieties that are producing mediocre wine across the board but a few, grapes and styles, are very exciting. It seems Canadian wine growers have hit on a style of wine that fits perfectly with the unique growing conditions we have across our many regions. Riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and syrah are the stars, regularly hitting high points that stand up to many top quality wines around the world. Gamay is finally being understood and made crisp, fresh and juicy like it should be. Rhône white blends are also of a consistently high standard. But the best news is there are fewer poor wines and that the better wines are starting to gain complexity, minerality and just be a lot more interesting than they were in the past.

Craig Pinhey, New Brunswick: [bio] It is always a pleasure and honour to judge wines with my qualified peers from across the country. Canadian wines just keep getting better, all varieties from all regions, and the organization of this competition results in the wines being presented to judges in such a way that we can taste without getting over-tired, in totally ‘blind’ flights without rushing and with post flight discussion;  these elements are essential to a thoughtful and fair evaluation.

Treve Ring, Victoria: [bio] I love to see the wineries, and our wine industry gain confidence year after year. Each year at The Nationals the wines become more dialled in, more precise and site-driven rather than sloppy and market-dictated. Yes, there will always be a customer for merlot, but it doesn’t mean you need to plant it in your – often entirely unsuitable – site. Every year I see more experimentation, to great results. Viognier, marsanne, roussanne, albarino, semillon, chenin blanc, melon de bourgogne, lemberger, touriga nacional, nebbiolo, sangiovese and many more. Bring it! Our country and terroir are wide and diverse, and winemakers are becoming keyed into the opportunity and possibilities.

Brad Royale, Calgary: [bio] There is nothing better than being able to try an entire country worth of wine with the country’s best palates.  As a sommelier and wine buyer this competition is one of the most important events for me in the year, honing my palate on the best wines in the country to place in our restaurants.  Judging these awards over the years I’ve seen a wonder in advancement with purity of varietal, oak use and most importantly, a sense of place.  It is much easier now to identify Prince Edward County versus Niagara Peninsula versus Naramata Bench…this is any wine producing country’s goal, and we’re well on our way.

John Szabo MS, Toronto: [bio] The huge number of sub-region, and vineyard-designated wines submitted this year reveals the growing confidence Canadian winegrowers have in their grapes, and the effort to craft an artistic expression rather than simply a commercial product. Winemaking technique is getting relegated to the supporting role, whose sole purpose is to make the place – a special parcel, or a unique sub-area, shine. This transparency was evident across the board, and it’s a clear sign of a maturing industry. It’s that turning point from chasing a style to creating a style. And considering that Canada by nature produces vibrant cool climate wines, which is what the world is increasingly thirsty for, I’d say the industry is currently in a great place. These are exciting times.

Full results of the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada.

A video showing a behind the scenes look at the comprehensive and rigorous judging process for Canada’s largest wine awards.


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20 bons vins à moins de 20$ pour juillet

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

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


Les choix de Bill Zacharkiw

Vive les vacances ! J’y suis presque, alors vous comprendrez que mes choix se portent tout naturellement vers les vins pour l’apéro de fin de journée, ainsi que les rouges faciles à boire et à marier à ce que j’aurai envie de déposer sur la grille du barbecue.

Je commencerai, en blanc, par un superbe assemblage alsacien de la maison Wolfberger. Muscat, pinot gros et riesling donnent ici un vin blanc merveilleusement aromatique, qui s’accommodera aisément de crevettes épicées, par exemple.

Je suis aussi très friand de riesling allemand, particulièrement alors même que je suis en train de cuisiner sur le barbecue. Essayez le Riesling 2013 de Selbach-Oster : à seulement 16 $, votre verre débordera de fruit et vous raffolerez de la finale croquante et minérale.

Wolfberger W3 Riesling Mucat Pinot Gris 2013 Selbach Riesling 2013 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir Rose 2013 Tagus Creek Reserva 2010 Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2012

Lors de la récente canicule, plus le mercure grimpait et plus je buvais du rosé. Un des soirs en question, avec un saumon grillé devant moi, le Stoneleigh’s Pinot Noir rosé s’est avéré un parfait compagnon.

Des côtes levées au menu ? J’ai ce qu’il vous faut ! Du sud du Portugal, dans l’Alentejo, le  Tagus Creek’s 2010 Reserva, un assemblage de touriga nacional et de cabernet sauvignon, s’avère un excellent choix.

Enfin, difficile d’imaginer une viande plus gourmande que de bonnes vieilles côtelettes d’agneau grillées, rehaussées d’herbes fraîches finement ciselées. Dans ce cas, j’opte sans hésiter pour le Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon – Carmenère : biologique par surcroît, et avec une superbe texture veloutée et des tannins fins.

Les choix de Marc Chapleau

Il fait beau, il fait chaud, et même s’il pleut de temps à autre, on a le coeur à la fête. C’est l’été, après tout ! Et le vin, pendant ce temps, nous permet de voyager à travers le monde à bon compte, c’est bien connu.

Le propre de la manzanilla, qui nous vient du sud de l’Espagne, c’est d’être à la fois délicate et goûteuse. Chose certaine, cela se vérifie avec la Manzanilla Papirusa Emilio Lustau, à boire très fraîche, à la température du frigo, et… par ici les tapas !

Tout près de Sanlucar de Barrameda, patrie de la manzanilla, on fait le xérès fino, plus corsé, plus masculin pour ainsi dire, mais tout aussi savoureux. Un bon choix : l’Osborne’s Fino Quinta. d’autant plus intéressant que la bouteille est surmontée d’une capsule dévissable — ce qui garantit plus de fraîcheur. Pour en savoir plus sur le xérès, voir mon article intitulé “Mon petit sherry“.

Le xérès, fino ou manzanilla, c’est trop particulier ? Alors on pourrait aisément se rabattre sur un rosé du Niagara, en l’occurrence le Cuvée d’Andrée 2013 Château des Charmes, à base de pinot noir et qui laisse la bouche bien fraîche malgré la présence d’un peu de sucre résiduel.

Emilio Lustau Papirusa Solera Reserva Very Dry Manzanilla Osborne Fino Quinta Sherry Château Des Charmes Cuvée d'Andrée Rosé Estate Bottled 2013 Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2012 La Vieille Ferme Côtes Du Ventoux Red 2013

Le steak est sur le feu, ou sinon il est en train de mariner au frigo ? Dans ce cas, on pourra mettre au frais également un bon malbec argentin, savoureux et équilibré. Ma suggestion : le Passo Doble Malbec Corvina Masi.

Le malbec argentin, même amadoué par la présence du cépage italien corvina, c’est encore trop corsé ? Alors on pourrait opter pour un vin solidement constitué mais en même temps souple et concentré. Ce La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Ventoux est encore une fois réussi, dans ce millésime 2013, et on serait bien fous de ne pas en profiter ;-)

Les choix de Nadia Fournier

Évitant le piège de la concentration et de la puissance, comme c’est trop souvent le cas avec les vins espagnols modernes, le Gran Sangre de Toro de Torres charme une fois de plus avec sa trame tannique suave et fondue. L’accord parfait avec des saucisses merguez grillées!

J’aimerais dire que la cuvée Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro de Thymiopoulos est mon vin d’été par excellence, mais ce serait mentir puisque je l’aime à l’année longue! Grande « buvabilité » et beaucoup de plaisir pour le prix.

Vos vacances idéales riment avec plaisir et légèreté ? Ça tombe bien, le riesling aussi ! Sans conteste, l’une des belles réussites des derniers millésimes, la cuvée Kung Fu Girl de Charles Smith offre un très bel équilibre entre l’acidité et la rondeur. Vif, pimpant et gorgé de saveurs fruitées.

Torres Gran Sangre De Toro Reserva 2010 Domaine Thymiopoulos Xinomavro Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2013 Carmen Gran Reserva Fumé Blanc 2013 Domaine De Gournier Rosé 2013

Préparé à base de poisson cru mariné et, en quelque sorte, cuit par du jus de lime ou de citron, le ceviche est le plat tout indiqué pour les journées de canicule. Assaisonné d’herbes fraîches ou servi avec une salade de papaye verte, il s’accompagne à merveille d’un sauvignon blanc chilien comme le Fumé blanc 2013 de la maison Carmen.

Envie de rosé ? Celui de Maurice Barnouin au Domaine de Gournier se marie à ravir aux coquillages et autres fruits de mer. Délicatement parfumé, sec et vendu à prix d’aubaine !

Les choix de Rémy Charest

Dans la chaleur et l’humidité du mois de juillet, j’ai bu des blancs et des rosés, bien sûr, mais j’ai eu beaucoup de plaisir à déguster des rouges pleins de fraîcheur et sans lourdeur. Voici quelques bouteilles qui m’ont mis le sourire aux lèvres:

Plus le temps passe, plus j’aime l’aligoté. J’admire ses versions plus complexes et sérieuses (comme celles de Thomas Bachelder ou du domaine De Villaine) qui montre tout le potentiel de ce cépage sous-estimé, et je bois aussi les versions plus simples, comme celle de la maison Bichot, disponible au répertoire général.

Vous cherchez des rouges distinctifs? Regardez du côté du Roussillon, où une pléthore de bons producteurs profitent des masses de vieilles vignes qui ornent les collines de la région et en tirent des vins pleins de caractère. La cuvée Tradition du domaine Ferrer-Ribière, assemblage de grenache, syrah, mourvèdre et carignan, est une cuvée hyper-sympathique, qui s’exprime sur un mode naturel et ouvert.

Albert Bichot Bourgogne Aligoté Domaine Ferrer Ribière Tradition 2010 Lavradores De Feitoria Douro 2011 Azienda Il Grillesino Ciliegiolo 2013 Domaine Elian Da Ros Le Vin Est Une Fête 2011

Quand on se cherche un vin plein de fruit et de rondeur, mais sans le sucre résiduel excessif des Apothic et Ménage à Trois, le Portugal est une excellente destination, comme en témoigne le Douro 2011 d’un collectif de vignerons allumés, chez Lavradores de Feitoria.

Pour sortir de l’ordinaire, faites un petit tour en Toscane, le temps de découvrir un cépage traditionnel aussi méconnu qu’agréable, le ciliegiolo. Le nom vient du mot toscan pour cerise, et c’est effectivement une jolie dose de ce fruit qui marque avant tout ce vin frais et distinctif.

Je triche un tout petit peu, avec cette dernière recommandation, puisqu’elle coûte quelques sous de plus que 20$. Mais le bonheur que vous apportera Le vin est une fête d’Elian da Ros, un producteur du sud-ouest de la France, justifie amplement cette exception à la règle. Une Fête? Mets en!

Santé !

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 30 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de grands vins!


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20 under $20 for July

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

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


Bill Zacharkiw’s choices

Viva la vacances! I’m almost on vacation so my thoughts turn towards leisurely afternoon aperitifs and easy drinking reds that will pair nicely with my whatever I have going on my grill.

For those whites, let’s start with a great Alsatian blend from Wolfberger. Mucat, pinot gris and riesling combine to create wonderfully aromatic and very interesting wine. Pairs nice with spicy shrimp as well.

I love German riesling, especially for drinking while I’m working the barbecue. Try the 2013 riesling from Selbach-Oster. For only $16, you get some pretty fruit and a lip smacking mineral finish.

Wolfberger W3 Riesling Mucat Pinot Gris 2013 Selbach Riesling 2013 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir Rose 2013 Tagus Creek Reserva 2010 Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2012

During the last heat wave, my rosé intake increased with each degree. On one of those evenings, with a grilled salmon in front of me, Stoneleigh’s Pinot Noir rosé proved to be  the perfect compliment.

Cooking up some ribs? I got your wine. From Portugal’s southern Alentejo region, Tagus Creek’s 2010 Reserva, a blend of touriga nacional and cabernet sauvignon proved to be a perfect match.

And finally, few things are as yummy as grilled lamb chops, sprinkled with fresh garden herbs. My choice for a wine. Cono Sur’s blend of cabernet sauvignon and carmanere. Organic, lushly textured with fine tannins.

Marc Chapleau’s choices

It’s beautiful outside, hit and even though it may rain from time to time, we’re always ready for a party. After all, it’s summer! And wine allows us to travel the world, even if you prefer to spend your vacation near the comfy confines of your home.

Manzanilla Sherry, which os made in southern Spain is both delicate and very flavourful. One one excellent an authentic example is Lustau’s Manzanilla Papirusa  . Drink it cool, fridge temperature and don’t forget the tapas.

Right next door to Sanlucar de Barrameda, the home of Manzanilla, another fino Sherry is made that is a little more robust, perhaps more masculine, and just as flavourful, Osborne’s Fino Quinta.

Emilio Lustau Papirusa Solera Reserva Very Dry Manzanilla Osborne Fino Quinta Sherry Château Des Charmes Cuvée d'Andrée Rosé Estate Bottled 2013 Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2012 La Vieille Ferme Côtes Du Ventoux Red 2013

Is the world of Sherry a bit too foreign? Then how about a  rosé made “very close-to-home” in Ontario’s Niagara region. Chatesu des Charmes’  2013 Cuvée d’Andrée is made with pinot noir that leaves a wonderful freshness despite a hint of residual sugar.

And when the steak is on the grill, or perhaps marinating in the fridge, put a well-made Argentine malbec in the fridge as well to cool it off. Masi’s Passo Doble Malbec Corvina is a well-balanced and flavourful accompaniment to any summer steak.

If you find the Masi Passo Doble too powerful to your tastes, even when the malbec is softened up by the Italian grape corvina, you can go for La Vielle Ferme’s Côtes du Ventoux . Once again, the 2013 vintage is a great example of a solid yet supple red.

Nadia Fournier’s choices

Don’t be fooled by simple power and concentration, as is often the case with many modern Spanish wines, the Gran Sangre de Toro  from Torres gives added charm with both its silky and beautifully integrated tannins. It’s the perfect match for Merguez sausages.

I would love to write that Thymiopoulos’ Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro is my favourite summer red but that would be lying as I love it year-round! Such incredible drinkability for the price.

Are you looking for simple and light-hearted pleasures on your vacation? Well that’s good because this riesling brings just that. Perhaps the best of his previous vintages, Charles Smith’s Kung Fu Girl exceptional balance between the acidity and a hidden richness. Vibrant, stylish and bursting with fruit.

Torres Gran Sangre De Toro Reserva 2010 Domaine Thymiopoulos Xinomavro Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2013 Carmen Gran Reserva Fumé Blanc 2013 Domaine De Gournier Rosé 2013

Made with raw fish and seafood, and “cooked” by lime and/or lemon juice, ceviche is the perfect food to refresh and fill you up during a heat-wave. A prickling of fresh herbs or served alongside a green papaya salad, it pairs wonderfully with a Chilean sauvignon blanc like Carmen’s Fumé blanc 2013 .

And if you are looking for a rosé, Maurice Barnouin’s Domaine de Gournier works wonders accompanying a plate of shellfish or any seafood. Delicate aromatics, dry and sold at a very friendly price.

Rémy Charest’s choices

July’s hot and humid, so I’ve been drinking my fair share of whites and rosés, of course, but I’ve had a remarkable amount of fun tasting some fresh, balanced reds. Here are some examples that kept me cool and happy:

My love for aligoté keeps growing and growing. I’m in love with the more complex and serious versions put together by Thomas Bachelder or Domaine De Villaine), which show  this underestimated variety’s full potential, but I also like simpler versions, like the one from négociant Bichot. It’s as easy to find as it’s easy to drink.

Roussillon rocks. It has tons of great producers who work naturally and take advantage of the large swaths of old vines lying around its hills. Ferrer-Ribière is one of them, and their cuvée Tradition is a great, super-fun blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and carigna.

If you’re looking for fruity, round wines that won’t clobber you with residual sugar like Apothic or Ménage à Trois, Portugal is the place for you. The 2011 Douro from Lavradores de Feitoria, a great bunch of bright winemakers, is a great example of this, at a great price.

Albert Bichot Bourgogne Aligoté Domaine Ferrer Ribière Tradition 2010 Lavradores De Feitoria Douro 2011 Azienda Il Grillesino Ciliegiolo 2013 Domaine Elian Da Ros Le Vin Est Une Fête 2011

Want to step out and have a little fun? Head to Tuscany and enjoy a variety that is as fun as it is unknown: Ciliegiolo. The name comes from a Tuscan word for cherry, and that’s what you get first and foremost in this fresh, distinctive wine.

All right, you got me, I’m cheating a bit, here, since this wine is a few cents above $20. But wow, Le vin est une fête, from Elian Da Ros, an exceptional producer from Southwest France, is sooooo worth it and so well-named. Party in your mouth? You bet.

Cheers !

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 2nd – Part Two

The Mid-Summer Acid Test – Riesling, Sauvignon and Chenin
by David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

A small selection of whites from France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions have been grouped as a mini-feature in VINTAGES Aug 2 release. (John covered off the main California feature last week). I thought I would elaborate on the essential concept of these whites from northern France – pure acidity set against pure fruit. No oak to soften or spice. No alcohol (hopefully) to numb the freshness. No blending or oxidation to mask personality. Whites that draw a line through a tepid evening like an ice-cube down the spine.

Three important high acid grape varieties do that better than any other – riesling, sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc – and they grow far and wide beyond France as well. To experience them at their best, open a bottle before dinner is served so you can focus entirely on what’s in the glass. Yes they should be chilled, but when quality is in place they may actually suffer from over-chilling. Whet your appetite with these values, then read on to other whites and reds that John and I have flagged as great buys as well. We have aligned on four wines, most notable perhaps a killer syrah from Chile.

Pierre Sparr Granit Riesling 2010Hidden Bench 2013 Estate RieslingHidden Bench Estate Riesling 2013, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($23.95).
John Szabo - One of the province’s top riesling producers, Hidden Bench regularly delivers quality far above the average, underscoring that there’s simply no substitute for meticulous farming. Even though this is the “mere” estate blend, it could easily sit among the top single vineyard bottlings in the region, at a nice price.
David Lawrason – A cooler vintage like 2013 is ideal for Niagara’s acid driven whites. This is a very fine, firm, subtle and dry riesling. It needs a year or two to open, but it is solid and well-structured with minerality and excellent length.

Pierre Sparr 2010 Granit Riesling, Alsace, France ($16.95). Riesling’s acid core makes it perhaps the best of the hot weather whites. And when acid combines with minerality, and a highly structured vintage like 2010 in Europe the effect is doubled (and so is the value quotient). This has core minerality and firmness that is front and centre, just slightly coarse and tart but nervy and solid. DL

Fournier Père & Fils 2012 Les Deux Cailloux Pouilly-Fumé ($26.95).
David Lawrason – This is a solid, not at all heavy, sauvignon from a lighter vintage that showcases freshness. Almost tingling acidity and a hint of C02 on the palate with dry, bitter grapefruit and stony finish.
John Szabo – A stony, very natural-smelling Pouilly Fumé, with excellent density and concentration. Best 2014-2020.

Jean-Max Roger 2012 Cuvée C.M. Sancerre Blanc ($27.95).
John Szabo - The “C.M” comes from “Caillottes” and “Kimmeridgian Marls”, two of the three prevalent terroirs in the Sancerre AOC. According to Roger, the “caillottes” give the wine its floral and fruity notes, along with its lightness and freshness, while the “terres blanches” (Kimmeridgian marls) provide structure, richness and power. This is a fine synthesis of the two.
David Lawrason – a particularly delicate classic indeed from a staunch producer of quality sauvignon.

Fournier Père & Fils Les Deux Cailloux Pouilly Fumé 2012Jean Max Roger Cuvée C.M. Sancerre Blanc 2012Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2013Ventisquero Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013Domaine Du Vieux Vauvert Vouvray 2012

Greywacke 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95). Just back from Marlborough, I can attest that not all kiwi ‘savvies’ are brash and vegetal. The best, like this fine example, are nicely composed, compact and firm, positioning green herbs (celery leaf), passion fruit, grapefruit and pepper. Fine sense of levity and quench here from Kevin Judd, whose been doing Marlborough sauvignon for as long as anybody. DL

Ventisquero 2013 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($13.95). This is particularly good value. Chilean sauvignon can be heavy and blunt, but this nicely balanced effort from cooler Casablanca blends guava topicality fresh green herbs and pepper. While in NZ I read an article in a local wine industry mag alerting New Zealanders to the rise of Chilean sauvignon. Here’s why. DL

Domaine Du Vieux Vauvert 2012 Vouvray ($15.95). So often I find the chenin blancs of Vouvray bothered by some earthy/fungal character and sulphur. This textbook, great value is squeaky clean with classic quince/pear fruit, light florality and beeswax. Gentle, poised and delicious. There is a hint of sweetness but it does not dull the effect. DL

Other Whites

Domaine Du Chardonnay Chablis 2012Loan Wines 2005 Special Reserve Semillon UnoakedLoan Wines Special Reserve Semillon 2005, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($16.95). The previous vintage of this wine was also a spectacular value, and one wonders how you can get so much flavour in a wine for $17. Admittedly the flavour profile won’t appeal to all (don’t buy it for the wedding party), but this is well worth a look for fans of original, regional specialties. JS

Domaine Du Chardonnay 2012 Chablis ($21.95). A textbook regional Chablis, and a perfect oyster wine, the kind I’d like to be sipping every Sunday afternoon. JS


Matetic 2011 Corralillo Syrah, San Antonio Valley, Chile ($23.95).
David Lawrason - Here is a big, juicy, ultra fresh syrah from a biodynamic producer lodged in the coastal ranges of Chile. There is an obvious juiciness here, but it is also solid and circumspect. Huge blackcurrant fruit is etched with fresh forest greens, pepper, meatiness, dark chocolate graphite. One can argue successfully it is not like syrah from France, or anywhere else for that matter. But does it have to be? This is Chilean to its stirrups.
John Szabo - Cool, coastal Chile is a hot spot for sauvignon blanc, and increasingly, syrah. And make no mistake: this is not shiraz, but much more old world in style. Matetic is certified organic and biodynamic (Demeter), and their vineyards are in the Rosario Valley (a subdivision of the San Antonio Valley), an enclosed valley that runs perpendicular to the Pacific. I love the savoury herbal-bay leaf flavours, reminiscent of native Chilean trees like Quillay, Maitén, Boldo and Peumo that grow in the area. Cellar this for another 2-3 years for maximum enjoyment.

Ascheri 2011 Fontanelle Barbera D’alba Podere Di Rivalta ($17.95). Ascheri nicely buffs the tart edges of barbera, without sacrificing the grape’s natural vibrancy or fruit. The secret seems to be finer tannin management. This has a lifted nose of redcurrant/cherry (pinot fans will like it), a touch of leathery/meatiness and gentle vanillin. Could work lightly chilled on a summer eve with a cold pasta salad. DL

Boutari 2009 Naoussa, Greece ($13.95). As always, an attractively priced, savoury old world red from Boutari, their ‘regular’ bottling of Naoussa (made from xinomavro). To put this into context, think of traditional style sangiovese from Chianti and you’re in the right style zone. JS

Matetic Corralillo Syrah 2011 Ascheri Fontanelle Barbera D'alba 2011 Boutari Naoussa 2009 Santa Alicia Gran Reserva De Los Andes Carmenère 2011c

Santa Alicia 2011 Gran Reserva De Los Andes Carmenère, Maipo Valley, Chile ($15.95). I am studying carmenère closely these days because they continue – through complexity and depth – to offer good value. Then, if they are well balanced too, they can be huge value. The world has not yet caught on to this so many remain underpriced – as is the case with solid, savoury example. DL

Domaine La Fourmone 2011 Le Fauquet Gigondas, Rhône Valley, France ($28.95). There is a certain amiable freshness and vibrancy here but set within the Rhône’s comfy framework. Not at all heavy or thick – a fine drink-anytime red with class and some elegance. Gigondas offers more finesse than any of the other fine villages strung out along the base of the saw-toothed Dentelles in the southern Rhône. DL


And speaking of the southern Rhône, Sara d’Amato and family have been camped out there for July, so expect some thoughts from her when she returns. Other upcoming works include an article by Julian Hitner on the value to be found in classic, dry European rieslings.  And John Sazabo returns next week with the first preview of the Aug 19 release. May your Civic Holiday weekend be wonderfully civil.

Until next time!

From VINTAGES August 2nd release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews
August 2nd Part One – Pure California

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!


CastelloRiservaNwslttr- July

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National Wine Awards of Canada 2014 – Winery Of The Year

 by Anthony Gismondi

NWAC14 Winery of the YearThe first time David Lawrason and I announced the winner of the Canadian Winery of the Year back in 2001 we couldn’t have been more excited. We had spent a week blind tasting 528 wines with eight judges in the attic of the Royal York Hotel and we were over the moon with what we had accomplished in a country where few people were talking local wine let alone drinking it.

Fast forward to 2014. Earlier this summer nineteen judges holed up in the Penticton Lakeside Resort in the heart of British Columbia wine country to taste 1335 wines from across the country and after a week of tasting and re-tasting the best of the 2014 we are equally excited to announce the WineAlign 2014 Canadian Winery of the Year: Peller Estates Niagara .

Consistency is the greatest attribute of any winery and throughout the week the Peller family wines consistently came to the top in round after round as we whittled down the best wines in the country. They also displayed amazing diversity grabbing a platinum medal (the top 1%, only 14 chosen from 1,335 entries) for their 2012 Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc and followed that up with four gold medals for: 2012 Private Reserve Gamay Noir Carlton Vineyard, 2013 Private Reserve Rosé, 2011 Signature Series Merlot and 2012 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.


Peller Estates Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012  Peller Estates Private Reserve Rosé 2013 Peller Estates Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2012  Peller Estates Signature Series Merlot 2011  Peller Estates Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012


“Peller Estates win as Winery of the Year marks a certain maturation of the Canadian wine industry” says the Nationals co-chief judge David Lawrason. “When the country’s largest family owned winery takes the country’s top prize, you know the faith in and commitment to Canadian wine is complete”.

Ontario’s Peller Estates is the flagship VQA brand of Andrew Peller Limited, which also owns Trius and Thirty Bench in Ontario, as well as Calona Wines, Sandhill and Red Rooster and Peller in British Columbia, along with Wayne Gretzky Winery in both Niagara and the Okanagan. Established in 1991, Peller Estates is part of Andrew Peller Limited, the largest Canadian-owned winery in the country that has been producing wines for over 50 years.

“I haven’t felt this good since the Leafs won the Stanley Cup! Everyone in our Peller family is thrilled that our winemakers at Peller Estates have been recognized for their relentless pursuit of quality and commitment to making great tasting wines,” said John Peller, Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Peller Limited.

“I really wish my grandpa could be here to celebrate this award with everyone… he would be so proud. Congratulations to our winemaker Katie Dickieson and her team at Peller Estates who continue to aspire to this dream and consistently produce award winning wines that rank with the best in the world,” he added.

When I starting writing about wine in the mid-eighties” Mr. Lawrason remembers, “Peller wasn’t all that concerned with 100% Ontario-grown wine. That began to change when third generation John Peller became CEO in 1995. In 2001, the same year that Mission Hill Family Estate Winery took home the first Canadian Winery of the Year, Peller Estates opened a showpiece cellar and restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I recall some great dinners and tastings there at the hands of chef Jason Parson s and former winemaker Lawrence Buhler, especially when we delved into the aged Peller Estates signature series reds.”

Ottawa-based judge Janet Dorozynski suggests, “What we are seeing at Peller Niagara is the result and culmination of recent years of hard work and the addition of Craig MacDonald as Senior Winemaker. McDonald, who was at Creekside before and originally from Australia, has been responsible for a new direction and emphasis placing a large importance in terms of quality table wines at both Peller and Trius and has definitely pushed the boundaries in terms of single vineyard wines, wild yeast ferments, with a focus on gamay that was well rewarded by the judges.”

Peller Estates Winery

Peller Estates Winery

Katie Dickieson is the current Peller winemaker, taking over since June 2012. “I remember tasting her very first efforts at an event in Toronto’s Liberty Village in 2013, recalls Mr. Lawrason, and I was impressed.”  Ms. Dickieson, a graduate of food sciences at Guelph University first worked with Peller wineries in Ontario and B.C. in 2006. Since then she has worked at two wineries in New Zealand and at Domaine du Monteillet, Vignobles Montez in the Rhone Valley of France.

Icewine remains Peller’s flagship and focus in terms of domestic and in particular international sales and marketing, though I get the sense there is increased interest on the part of the winemaking team in terms of table wine and the desire to highlight and show Canadians and the global market what Niagara can do both in terms of Icewine and table wines. Winning Canada’s Winery of the Year in 2014 will now help them to sell their wines wherever they like.

Next Wednesday, August 6th we will release all of the results of the WineAlign 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada, you can expect more surprises as we uncover myriad results from “The Nationals”, the country’s most comprehensive wine competition since 2001.

VideoThe WineAlign 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada employs a comprehensive and high quality judging process. The following video provides a behind the scenes glimpse of Canada’s largest wine awards.

Link to Peller Estates.

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Mon petit sherry !

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

On a beau chanter ses louanges sur tous les tons depuis, disons, la nuit des temps, rien à faire : le xérès — ou le sherry, c’est selon — ça ne se vend pas.

Enfin si, la Société des alcools en écoule tout de même une certaine quantité. Sauf que les statistiques ne sont pas reluisantes. Une baisse de 6,3 % pour l’ensemble de la catégorie au cours de la dernière année.

Les seuls à connaître encore du succès au sein de la famille, avec une modeste hausse de 0,5 % des ventes (toujours en dollars), ce sont les finos et les manzanillas – des xérès secs, et même archisecs. Quoique, succès, c’est vite dit, puisqu’il s’en vend tout de même dix fois moins que les autres types de xérès, dont les sucrés : seulement 612 caisses standard de 9 litres l’an passé, alors qu’on parle d’un produit qui coûte en règle générale moins de 20 $ !

La question qui tue, maintenant : pourquoi en parler, de ces vins espagnols si particuliers, si à peu près personne n’en achète ?

Bon point.

La grande raison, je dirais, c’est que le xérès est peut-être, de tous les vins, celui à propos duquel le public et les spécialistes divergent le plus d’opinion. Autrement dit, il s’en vend très peu, mais je n’ai encore jamais rencontré un critique, un sommelier ou un journaliste qui n’aimait pas d’un amour sincère et profond le xérès, nommément le fino et la manzanilla.

la maison Lustau

Image tirée du site Internet de la maison Lustau, et où l’on voit les caves – les fameuses « cathédrales » – où repose le xérès.

Et je ne compte pas, non plus, le nombre de papiers consacrés à ce sujet qui commencent en disant quelque chose comme : « J’adore le xérès, c’est l’un des plus grands vins de la planète et pourtant, il demeure encore aujourd’hui sous-estimé. Permettez donc que je consacre ma chronique de cette semaine à vous convaincre de vous adonner, vous aussi, aux incroyables plaisirs que recèle cette perle de l’Andalousie… »

Bla bla bla.

Je ne me moque pas. C’est juste que je ne sais plus, moi non plus, par quel bout prendre mon consommateur pour l’intéresser à ce grand vin.

Un goût très particulier

Qu’est-ce que ça goûte, pour commencer ? Qu’a-t-il de si spécial pour que personne ne veuille s’en enticher ?

Parlons du xérès sec, de ce fino et de cette manzanilla. La couleur, d’abord : très pâle, au point où on dirait de l’eau. Le nez : ça sent surtout la levure, la poussière et la vieille cave, bourrée de champignons. Enfin en bouche, c’est comme je disais sec et même archisec. Au point où nombreux sont ceux qui font la grimace, quand ils y goûtent pour la première fois. Ouch !

Les Anglais ont une belle expression, pour cela : ils disent que le sherry, it’s an acquired taste.

En d’autres termes, il faut en apprivoiser le goût, les odeurs aussi. Spontanément, vite comme ça, it’s not love at first sight

Par contre, quand on tombe sur une belle bouteille, tous ces attributs en apparence rébarbatifs se conjuguent pour donner un vin fortifié (mais à peine, il ne fait en fin de compte que 15 % d’alcool environ) d’une incroyable pureté de saveurs et doté d’un profil à la fois austère et envoûtant, unique au monde.

Flor, solera, et cetera

Ce caractère distinctif du xérès est en grande partie lié à son procédé de fabrication. Que je ne vais pas vous expliquer ici, vous envoyant plutôt où vous apprendrez l’essentiel à propos de la flor et de la solera, notamment.

Tout de même, cette remarque. On entend souvent dire, un peu partout dans le monde, qu’un grand vin commence dans le vignoble. C’en est même rendu une sorte de cliché. Or, dans le sud de l’Espagne, autour de la ville de Jerez de la Frontera même ou près de Sanlucar de Barrameda (patrie de la manzanilla), les vignobles ont longtemps été délaissés, beaucoup de producteurs — sauf les meilleurs, comme de raison — s’approvisionnant en vin auprès de coopératives, au prétexte que de toute façon, c’est la fortification et surtout la solera qui font le xérès.

Comme quoi même sur ce plan, le fameux vin andalou fait bande à part.

De bons xérès à la SAQ

Il vient d’arriver quelques xérès de la maison Lustau, dans les magasins du monopole. Ça tombe bien, parce que les finos et les manzanillas gagnent à être bus le plus tôt possible. L’idéal serait même de les boire sur place, dans un bar à tapas, tirés directement du fût. Mais bon, contentons-nous de se rendre dans une SAQ près de chez nous…

Pour s’initier au xérès (ou pour prendre ses jambes à son cou — je blague), rien de tel que la manzanilla Papirusa de la maison Lustau, fine et délicate, et avec une odeur évoquant la craie. Plus puissant, et qui sent la noisette ainsi que l’olive verte, le Fino Solera Lustau est à sa façon tout aussi bon.

Emilio Lustau Papirusa Solera Reserva Very Dry Manzanilla Lustau Puerto Fino Solera Reserva Osborne Fino Quinta Sherry (375ml)

Le classique d’entre les classiques, c’est cependant le Tio Pepe, plus corsé encore tout en demeurant bien sec. Bravo, en passant, à la maison Gonzalez-Byass pour avoir inscrit la date d’embouteillage sur la contre-étiquette. Autre bon choix, le Fino Quinta Osborne, épicé et bien vif, et en plus bouché à l’aide d’une capsule dévissable, pour plus de fraîcheur.

Un dernier fino sec, mais pas un xérès à proprement parler puisqu’il provient de la région de Montilla-Moriles, plus au nord : le Fino Capataz Alvear est plus délicatement marqué par la flor et il a une touche sucrée, qui évoque le chocolat blanc.

Enfin, une incursion du côté des xérès doux et aussi un poil plus alcoolisés, à 18 % en moyenne. Par contre, ceux-là sont plus faciles à aimer d’emblée, riches, veloutés et sucrés comme ils le sont.

Alvear Capataz Fino Montilla Moriles Alvear Amontillado Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Oloroso Dulce Gonzalez Byass Noe Pedro Ximenez Aged 30 Years

Le Medium Dry Alvear (un montilla-moriles et donc un quasi-xérès lui aussi) est sucré et noisetté, ni tout à fait sec ni tout à fait doux.

Le Solera Cream 1847 de Gonzalez-Byass est une sorte de vieux tawny portugais, pas trop liquoreux, délicieux à siroter.

Enfin le Noe Pedro Ximenez 30 ans est quasi brun, très très sirupeux et très très particulier, mais sans pour autant être dénué de complexité.

Santé !


Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 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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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008