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Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – July 2011 – 12 New Summer Wines

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There are twelve new wines on the Top 50 this month as a result of recently tasted wines, new additions to the LCBO’s selection and new vintages of existing listings. The Top 50 list features the wines commonly referred to as General List and Vintages Essentials.  I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep this report up to date. You can easily find my Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wine => Top 50 Drop Down MenuTop 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. We use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database.

Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value.

Recent additions to the Top 50

I have recently tasted many new vintages of wines and some new listings which resulted in twelve wines joining my Top 50 list.

Italy

Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio 2010Masi Serego Alighieri Possessioni Rosso 2009Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio 2010 is an excellent pinot grigio for a great price, lots of flavour and well structured for food, with no oak. The nose shows melon pear fruit with mineral and herbal complexity. It`s midweight and quite fat with very good length. Don`t overchill or you might miss the good stuff. Try with seafood veal or poultry.

Masi Serego Alighieri Possessioni Rosso 2009 is an elegant sophisticated red wine at a great price. It is made from corvina and sangiovese grapes matured in large cherry wood barrels. Expect soft complex fragrant aromas of blackberry fruit with spice, leather and jammy notes. It is ripe and bolder due to the vintage than is usual, with the plum and berry fruit nicely supported by tannin leading to a long lingering finish. Excellent length. Try with roast duck or hard mature cheeses.

Spain
Castillo De Monseran Garnacha 2010Candidato Oro 2007Castillo De Monseran Garnacha 2010 is a delicious unoaked, simple yet exuberantly fruity red with aromas of plum and raspberry fruit plus a hint of white pepper and cranberry jelly. The palate is full and juicy with some sweetness and soft tannin, which is most noticeable on the dry finish. Chill lightly and enjoy with burgers, sausages and ribs. Very good length.

Candidato Oro 2007 is a soft lightweight fruity red that should appeal to lovers of pinot noir. The nose is harmonious with red berry fruit nicely integrated with gentle oak spice. The palate is clean well balanced and simple with modest tannin. It finishes dry with very good length. A versatile food wine for meats and cheese dishes.

Portugal

Catedral Reserva 2007 arrives at the LCBO this month. It is an elegant fresh vibrant red recently debuted at LCBO. It has a lot of complexity and flavour for the money. The perfumed nose of blueberry/blackberry fruit plus vanilla and mild oak spice and chocolate is very appealing. It is midweight and velvety smooth with bright lively fruit and modest supportive tannin. Very good length. Try with roast red meats, game or hard mature cheese.
Catedral Reserva 2007

Chile

P K N T Carmenere 2010 is another newcomer to the LCBO. It is a vibrant well balanced red with good varietal character. Expect earthy black cherry fruit with some warm spicy and tobacco notes. The palate is super smooth and full bodied with supple juicy fruit not at all spicy as might be suggested by the label. It is clean and fresh with very good length. Try with mildly spicy bbq meats.

Cono Sur Tocornal Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2010 is a full bodied and fairly vibrant wine with modest aromas of cassis fruit with a hint of black pepper and dark chocolate. The palate is full with the ripe fruit toned by firm tannin and fresh lemony acidity. Good length. Try with lamb cutlets. It comes in a 1500ml bottle; so make sure you have friends on hand to enjoy.

Casillero Del Diablo Carmenere 2010 is the best value among the Casillero reds. It is quite complex for a wine at this price point. The nose is very harmonious with red cherry, plum and raspberry fruit plus well integrated oak spice with dark chocolate, cranberry jelly and mocha notes. The palate is well balanced midweight and quite elegant with good focus and very good length. Try with roast lamb or beef.
P K N T Carmenere 2010 Cono Sur Tocornal Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 1500ml 2010  Casillero Del Diablo Carmenere 2010

Ontario VQA

Pelee Island Blanc de Blanc 2009Pelee Island Lighthouse Riesling 2009Ontario VQA means that the wine was made 100% from grapes grown in Ontario. Two wines from  Pelee Island winery join the Top 50. This winery is much improved and they have many good value wines in addition to these two whites.

Pelee Island Blanc de Blanc 2009 is much improved over earlier vintages and that’s probably because it is now vidal and riesling blend. It is a very versatile food wine for white meats, cheesy sauces and seafood. Expect zesty lemony apple-pear fruit aromas and flavours with a rich full palate with some fruit sweetness but it finishes dry with very good length.

Pelee Island Lighthouse Riesling 2009 is just off dry with a perfumed nose of rose with orange and white peach notes. The palate is very smooth and rich with fruit and it is balanced by soft lemony acidity. Very good length with the fruit persisting well. Enjoy lightly chilled as an aperitif or match with seafood, creamy pasta sauces, roast poultry or braised veal.

BBQ Reds

We are into BBQ season at last; now is the time to enjoy simple inexpensive reds outdoors with friends and family. Four regions of the world are supplying most of the Top Value wines at present. Here are four reds, all for around $8, that are great for enjoying with BBQ meats; one from each of those regions.

Tini Sangiovese Di Romagna 2009 is a very drinkable soft clean Italian red for pizza, pasta and risotto. The nose shows cherry and plum fruit with some herbaceous notes. It is soft and fruity with enough tannin and acidity for balance and very decent length considering the price. Chill a little to give some edge and enjoy with bbq meats.

Obikwa Shiraz 2010 is a great value shiraz from South Africa; its most promising variety. Expect smoky herbal blackberry fruit with pine and mocha notes. It vibrant and fruity and very easy to drink with a fruity dry dark chocolate finish. It’s a great buy for pizza, bbq meats or an inexpensive party wine.

Trivento Tribu Syrah 2010 from Argentina offers a lot of flavour for a wine at its price. It shows ripe fruit yet is balanced by soft tannin and juicy acidity and has very good length with the fruit persisting well. The nose is a bit slender with some blackberry fruit with tobacco notes. Try with meaty pasta sauces, pizza or bbq meats.

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2010 is quite an amazing wine considering it’s price. It is a very correct Bordeaux blend from Chile with good balance and decent length and even a little complexity. The nose shows black cherry fruit with some spice and leathery tones and a hint of beet. It is midweight dry with good acidity and fine ripe tannin. Try with bbq meats.
Tini Sangiovese Di Romagna 2009  Obikwa Shiraz 2010 Trivento Tribu Syrah 2010  Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2010

Please click here for a complete list of the Top 50 Value Wines at your local LCBO. The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow


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Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – June 2011

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There are eleven new wines on the Top 50 this month as a result of recently tasted wines, new additions to the LCBO’s selection and new vintages of existing listings. The Top 50 list features the wines commonly referred to as General List and Vintages Essentials.  I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep this report up to date. You can easily find my Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wine => Top 50 Drop Down MenuTop 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. We use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database.

Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value.

New Reds
K W V Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
K W V Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon (V) 2008KWV is a large South African wine producer that has two cabernet sauvignon from the Western Cape now on the Top 50.

KWV Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is an improvement over the last vintage. It is an excellent young cabernet with good varietal character at an great price. The nose shows aromas of cassis with black olive and some spicy earthy tones underneath. It is midweight, vibrant with good length and has clean lines and modest ripe tannin. Just enough grip. Try with grilled red meats or meaty pasta sauces.

KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Western Cape  is a Vintages Essential and is a very classy cabernet for the money. The nose shows cassis and black cherry fruit with a minty freshness plus some mild oak spice and tea and herbal influences. The palate is fresh and lively with the fruit laying over some nice grippy tannin which shows up on the finish. Excellent length. Try with a steak or roast game.

Two new reds for Argentina are also new arrivals on my list.

Trapiche Malbec 2010, Mendoza in Argentina is a finely balanced midweight red. There is a lot going on here for the money, good depth of flavour and very good length. Expect aromas of blackberry fruit with minty freshness and a hint of prune. It is medium bodied and juicy with the fruit persisting well on the finish with some finely divided mature tannin to add a little grip. Try with roast duck or bbq ribs.

La Puerta Syrah 2010, Famatina Valley in Argentina is a fresh lively and juicy wine with the fruit well balanced by soft tannin and good acidity. The nose shows aromas of black cherry fruit with smoke and black pepper spice. It is full bodied but not heavy with the ripe fruit toned by some earthy character. Try with bbq meats.

Trapiche Malbec 2010 La Puerta Syrah 2010

New Whites

Cesari Chardonnay Delle Venezie 2010  from Italy is only $7.35 and you get a lot for the money. It is a juicy fruity clean unoaked chardonnay with modest depth of flavour and complexity but it is balanced with decent length. Expect aromas and flavours of ripe peach pear fruit with some herbal notes. Try chilled with grilled seafood or pasty based nibbles.

Trapiche Astica Sauvignon/Semillon 2010 from Argentina is another very inexpensive white which delivers more than you would expect at the price, with its depth of flavour, palate length and complexity. The two grapes that form the blend are the basis for white Bordeaux wine. Expect aromas of green apple, grapefruit and melon with celery and some hay notes. The palate is rich and creamy well balanced with good length. Perfect for cheesy pasta sauces, sautéed seafood or chicken pie. Don’t overchill; it is very rich and you might miss the good stuff.

Montes Classic Series Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Curico Valley in Chile is an excellent sauvignon blanc for a cooler region. The nose shows gooseberry, lemon, white peach and hay aromas with some mineral, dill and celery notes. The palate is racy, rich, thick with fruit yet well balanced and finishes firmly with a nice touch of celery. Very good length. Try with creamy pasta sauces or herbed chicken.

Cesari Chardonnay Delle Venezie 2010  Trapiche Astica Sauvignon/Semillon 2010 Montes Classic Series Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Limited Time Offers (LTO)

Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc 2010Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2010Every month 100 or so products at the LCBO go on sale for four weeks. As a consequence of the current LTO, two wines  joined the list.

Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Coastal Region from South Africa is an excellent sauvignon blanc with intense aroma and flavour, maybe a little too much greeness for some but will be great with a crisp summer salad. It is medium weight, with some rounding sweetness and lemony acidity driving through to the finish. Good to very good length. Try with roast herbed poultry.

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2010 from Chile is great value at $11.95. So on offer at $9.95 it is a great buy with its lifted nose of  intense complex aromas of peach, melon, grapefruit with honey and toffee notes and a hint of oak spice. It is rich and creamy on the palate yet there is some lovely lemony acidity which keeps it feeling light and, unlike many chardonnays these days, it is only a little sweet and finishes dry with very good length. Try with white meats, creamy cheeses and seafood.
You have until June 19, 2011 to take advantage of these price offers.

Discontinued Wines

One excellent wine has unfortunately been discontinued by the LCBO and has gone on sale to clear inventory. Domaine Bassac Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Vins De Pays Des Cotes De Thongue is a well made clean easy drinking cabernet from the Midi. The nose shows blackcurrant, herbs and earthy notes in an approachable style. It’s juicy, fresh and quite quaffable with drying tannin on the finish. Good to very good length. It is now discounted to $6.95. There are around 500 bottles left so don’t wait too long before jumping on this one.Domaine Bassac Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

New wines

Farnese 2010 Montepulciano Cerasulolo d’Abruzzo is an excellent new rose listing at LCBO which should appeal to red wine drinkers this summer. Think of it as a light red with aromas of plum, red cherry and white peach with floral and spice hints. It is medium bodied rich and creamy with lots of flavour and very good length. Try with a ham sandwich or sauteed shrimp. Don’t overchill.
Farnese Montepulciano 2010

Please click here for a complete list of the Top 50 Value Wines at WineAlign. This list will show you all of the Top 50 Value Wines currently available at your local LCBO. The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.

Cheers!
Steve Thurlow

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , ,

Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – April 2011 by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

As usual several new wines join the Top 50 this month as a result of recently tasted wines, new editions to the LCBO’s selection and new vintages of existing listings. Here I feature the wines commonly referred to as General List and Vintages Essentials.  I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep this report up to date. New Drop Down MenuYou can easily find my Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wines => Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must have a high score, indicating high quality, while being inexpensive. We use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database.

Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value

Additions to my Top 50
Efrat Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009Tucked away at the back of LCBO stores is a section devoted to Kosher wines. These wines come from all over the world and are made from grapes, like all wines, except there are special rabbinical controls over the process and additives in order for a wine to be certified Kosher. Normally this is a section of the store that I taste reluctantly, since many are sweet and unbalanced and some are boiled (mevushal). However while doing research for a Passover article I found several that were quite good and one of these makes it on to the Top 50. Efrat Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009 from Israel is an elegant well-balanced Bordeaux blend with delicate aromas and is finely balanced with very good length. Would be great with a steak or rack of lamb.
Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer 2009People often tell me that they mostly drink red wines. They find whites too wimpy or tart or herbaceous. I often suggest that they might try gewürztraminer, which is usually bold and fully flavoured. Pierre Sparr 2009 Gewürztraminer from Alsace is a consistent favourite of mine and the 2009 is an especially good vintage that has recently arrived at the LCBO. The palate is rich with the fruit well balanced by firm acidity. Very good to excellent length. Try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.
Pelee Island Cabernet Franc 2009Everyone knows that Ontario is producing fine wines these days, but these come not only from the Niagara region.  We need to pay more attention to wineries established near Lake Erie on Pelee Island and Lake Erie North Shore (LENS). This region has a longer, warmer growing season and can more reliably ripen the red cabernet varieties, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. Cabernet franc is the best suited to the climate and Pelee Island winery made a delightful VQA wine in 2009. Pelee Island 2009 Cabernet Franc is a midweight lively red with a vibrancy that gives it an Italian feel. Try with meaty pasta sauces or juicy sausages.

Limited Time Offers (LTO)

Every month 100 or so products at LCBO go on sale for four weeks. As a consequence of the current LTO, three wines joined the list and one, already on the list, is even better value for a limited period.
Crasto Vinho Tinto 2008 is a wine from Portugal made from the same grapes as used in Port. It is very stylish and smooth, with aromas of blackberry, blueberry and chocolate, with mineral tones. Mid-weight, focused and juicy on the palate, with fine tannin. Very good to excellent length.
Crasto Vinho Tinto (V) 2008
Lovers of cabernet sauvignon will appreciate the quality of KWV Cathedral Cellar 2007 from the Paarl region in South Africa . It is elegant with aromas of cassis, black cherry, with floral, smoky oak and savoury notes with hints of pencil shavings. It’s dry, medium-bodied and the palate is rich with fruit yet supported by firm tannin. Well balanced with good focus and excellent structure. It is even better value than usual with a $1 discount.
Kwv Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon (V) 2007
The Casablanca Valley in Chile is renowned for Chardonnay. Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2009 is good example, gently oaked, midweight, creamy with good length and well balanced. Quite sophisticated for the money. Aromas of melon, honeysuckle, baked apple with mineral complexity. The super smooth palate keeps the focus on to the long finish. Even better value with a $2 discount.
Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2009
Vila Regia 2007 from the Douro valley in Portugal is an elegant structured red with a lot going on for the money. Try with a steak. It would make the Top 50 at its regular price of $8.95, so it is super value at $7.95.
Vila Regia 2007
You have until April 24, 2011 to take advantage of these price offers.
Sicily
I have been visiting Sicily regularly since 2001 often taking groups of wine lovers with me. I was there last September and was struck by the remarkable improvement in quality of wines being made. There are three examples in the Top 50.
Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2009 is a very good inexpensive white with as much flavour and structure as wines from this grape at twice its price. Great with sautéed seafood or creamy pasta sauces.
Nero d’Avola is a native Sicilian grape, from the town of Avola near Syracuse, producing wines similar to shiraz/syrah. Cusumano Nero D’Avola 2009 exhibits a lot of of complexity for a wine under $10. It is well-balanced and fruity and goes well with bbq meats or hard mature cheeses.
Nero d’Avola is often blended with cabernet sauvignon to give a little more structure. Montalto Nero D’avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is a juicy vibrant red ideal with pizza and meaty pasta sauces.
Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2009 Cusumano Nero D'avola 2009 Montalto Nero D'avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Please click here for a complete list of the Top 50 Value Wines at WineAlign. This list will show you all of the Top 50 Value Wines currently available at your local LCBO. The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.

Cheers!
Steve Thurlow

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , ,

Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – March 2011

Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO
February 2011

Steve ThurlowSeveral new wines join the Top 50 this month as a result of recently tasted wines, new editions to the LCBO’s selection and new vintages of existing listings. In this report we feature the wines commonly referred to as General List and Vintages Essentials.  I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep this report up to date. I write this report from New Zealand where I am currently leading a wine tour. Though the wines here are excellent, none make it this month into my Top50.

New Drop Down MenuYou can easily find my Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wines => Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must have a high score, indicating high quality, while being inexpensive. We use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database.

Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value

Limited Time Offers (LTO)
Every month 100 or so products at LCBO go on sale for four weeks. As a consequence of the current LTO, five wines joined the list and two, already on the list, are even better value for a limited period.
The Graffigna winery is in San Juan, Argentina a few hours drive north of Mendoza. TheGraffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio Reserve 2010 and Graffigna Centenario Shiraz Reserve 2008 are both produced from high altitude vineyards which are bathed with warm sunlight during the day and are chilled at night by cool mountain air, so that both wines are brimming with flavour and are vibrant with acidity. They are both discounted this month.
Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio Reserve 2010 Graffigna Centenario Shiraz Reserve 2008
Two malbecs from Argentina also join the Top 50 as a result of discounts. Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2008 is an elegant fruity structured wine that is designed for fine dining with robust roast meats. Fuzion Alta Malbec Reserva 2009 is not to be confused with its very popular Fuzion cousin. This wine is made 100% from malbec and delivers more structure, tannins and depth of flavour for a few dollars more.
Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2008 Fuzion Alta Malbec Reserva 2009
Two wines made from Chile’s signature red grape, carmenere, are also discounted such that they are in the Top 50 for a while. Xplorador Carmenere 2010 is a juicy fruity structured red  that should match well to mildly spicy bbq meats. Caliterra Bio Sur Reserva Especial Carmenere 2008 is a midweight fruity red with some lean tannin showing up more on the finish, but the fruit does persist well so try with a juicy cut of meat or hard mature cheese.
Xplorador Carmenere 2010 Caliterra Bio Sur Reserva Especial Carmenere 2008
Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2010 is a beautiful wine with passion fruit, gooseberry and hay aromas and flavours and loads of mouthwatering acidity, and will appeal to lovers of New Zealand sauvignon. It would make the Top 50 at its regular price of $11.95 so it is super value at $10.95.
Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2010

You have until March 27, 2011 to take advantage of these price offers.

Delisted (no, relisted!)
I reported in January that Passion Of Portugal Rose 2009 has been delisted which was a pity since it is a well made fully flavoured dry rose. However a few weeks ago I noticed that another large quantity has arrived and there are over 7000 bottles in the system (as I write this) at $6.00 each. I strongly suggest grabbing a few of these since it will be just fine for enjoying as summer approaches.
Passion Of Portugal Rose 2009
Abruzzo Reds
The Abbruzo region of Italy is known for producing inexpensive wines from the black grapes Montepulciano and Sangiovese. There are five on the list that I recommend.
Montepulciano
This grape excels in the warm dry climate of Abruzzo producing deeply coloured fragrant juicy red wines that are great for casual drinking with bbq meats, meaty pasta sauces or pizza.
Eclipse Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo 2008 is probably the best value Italian red at the LCBO. It is well balanced and fruity with a degree of complexity not often found in wines at this price. It is a good food wine for red meat dishes and hard mature cheese. Farnese Montepulciano D’abruzzo 2009 is a deep purple red colour that is almost opaque. Its full bodied, round and dense with lots of fruit with some elegance. Try with roast meats. Lastly Farnese Casale Vecchio Montepulciano D’abruzzo 2009 is a step up in quality from the previous wine and is a very classy Italian red. Ripasso lovers should be shopping here since it is stately with some fine tannin for structure and very good length. Try with meaty pasta sauces or a steak.
Eclipse Montepulciano D' Abruzzo 2008 Farnese Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2009 Farnese Casale Vecchio Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2009
Sangiovese
Sangiovese is best known as the basis for many great Tuscan wines. It is however grown in every region of Italy and in Abruzzo it produces ripe vibrant reds that marry well with tomato sauces and fatty meats like sausages or bbq chicken.
Farnese Daunia Sangiovese 2009 is a great buy for everyday drinking. It is full bodied with ripe fruit though the finish is quite dry. Casal Thaulero Sangiovese 2009 has an enticing lifted nose. It’s medium bodied quite juicy with vibrant fruit.
Farnese Daunia Sangiovese 2009 Casal Thaulero Sangiovese 2009
Please click here for a complete list of the Top 50 Value Wines at WineAlign. This list will show you all of the Top 50 Value Wines currently available at your local LCBO. The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.
Cheers!
Steve Thurlow

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , , ,

The New Wine Map 2010 – By John Szabo

John Szabo


Every new vintage changes the world’s winescape. Winners and losers are fashioned by weather, wine trends and market whims. New regions distinguish themselves, classics are re-established or plummet in popularity. What was new becomes old and what was unknown becomes hot. It’s my job to track those changes, and here’s a short list of next year’s countries, regions and wines to watch.


Canada

Loyal readers are already tuned in to great Canadian wine, but this year saw some major upheavals that will change things for the better still. First there was the CIC debacle. In case you missed it, the ball got rolling when the story was broken that Vincor, our largest wine company and official sponsor for the Vancouver Olympics, would be passing off non-Canadian wine to unsuspecting consumers using the perfectly legal but devilishly misleading “Cellared in Canada” designation for their Olympic wine, Esprit. These wines can contain up to 70% foreign grapes and still qualify as “Cellared in Canada”, which appears to all but the seriously pedantic as “Canadian” wine. Major embarrassment for Vincor, Olympic organizers, and Canada. They’ve since agreed to put only VQA (100% local) wine into Esprit.

But the PR fiasco, along with irreconcilable differences with 100% VQA producers, have led Vincor and the 6 other major companies dependent on CIC revenues to withdraw from the Wine Council of Ontario, the industry’s promotional organization. With them goes 20% of the WCO’s promotional budget. But the WCO may finally be cured of its split personality disorder, the mutually exclusive agendas of satisfying both the gods of CIC (more powerful) and VQA (only demi-gods, financially). Now the WCO can get down to promoting local juice exclusively. Labeling and signage in provincial monopoly stores will also be tidied up (a clear separation between VQA and ‘international blends’), and consumers will finally no longer (we hope) be duped.  Now we can focus on our great Canadian wines; check out wineaccess.ca for the results of the 2009 Canadian Wine Awards.

South Africa

FIFA World Cup fever hits South Africa next June, when the world’s attention will be squarely focused on the Cape. Local wine producers know that this is their 15 minutes, so expect dozens of over-delivering values from the bottom to the top shelf. If you’re traveling to see the Cup, you can have wines matched up with the Big 5 game animals. Yes, that’s right. Wines of South Africa has undertaken to train 2010 front line servers by 2010 to deliver the message of SA wine to football fans, a tall order, considering that few locals have any wine knowledge. But WOSA has devised a clever training program in which the major grapes are compared with African animals to make wine more accessible, a way of teaching that makes sense to the African wine un-educated. Doesn’t cabernet sauvignon remind you of elephants? Huge, thick hide, lives for a long-time, long backbone, king of animals… Or Shiraz, the rhino of the wine world, the feisty, spicy one with the horn…

South Africa is already known as a source of hot values, from the traditional areas of Stellenbosch and Franshhoek to more cutting edge regions like the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Elgin, and the dry-farmed vineyards of Swartland. I’m betting on crisp sauvignon blanc, characterful chenin Blanc and innovative Rhône-style red and white blends to win the crowds over.

Portugal

Dog stranglers, fly droppings, little rats, sheep’s tails and bastards are just a few of the over 350 evocatively-named grapes from this sliver of the Iberian Peninsula to try out. Remember that Portugal pretty much checked out of the 20th century politically speaking, and thus thankfully avoided the industrialization and globalization that took place in the rest of post-war Europe. Chard, cab and co. are thankfully just footnotes in vineyard registers here, and indigenous grapes have pride of place. Some of the vineyards in traditional areas like the Douro Valley and Dão look as though they haven’t changed in a century. Maybe that’s because they haven’t. Ancient vines in mixed plantations, the way grandpa used to do it, means that distinctive, uniquely flavoured and densely concentrated wines are commonplace, and sold at no-name (or at least, what-the-hell-is-that?) pricing. Look to Vinho Verde for vibrant, sashimi and ceviche-friendly whites, Dão for finely etched, elegant reds, The Douro Valley for massively concentrated beauties (and of course port), and Alentejo and the Sétubal Peninsula for pocket-friendly, internationally appealing red and whites. And stop worrying about which bloody grapes and their precise percentages are in each blend. Many producers don’t know, and don’t care. All I care about is whether it tastes good and if it’s worth the money (yes is the answer to both generally).

John’s Essential Vintages Essentials:

2007 Hillebrand Trius Red, Niagara Peninsula, $21.95

2007 Malivoire Chardonnay Estate, Beamsville Bench, $19.95

2006 Cave Spring Indian Summer Select Late Harvest Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, $24.95/375ml

2007 Goats do Roam Red, Costal Region, South Africa, $12.95

2008 Crasto Vinho Tinto, Douro Valley, Portugal $14.95

2006 Quinta dos Carvalhais Duque de Viseu Dão Tinto, Portugal, $13.95

2006 Esporão Tinto Reserva, Alentejo, Portugal, $24.95

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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008