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12 Reds for the Christmas Crunch

By David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Well we can’t shorten the LCBO cashier line-ups for you, but WineAlign can reduce the time you spend in the store by helping you create your shopping list before you leave home. For weeks now we have been guiding you through your Holiday wine purchasing, and I suspect that many of you have already tuned in and done your shopping. The annual surge in traffic on WineAlign attests to that (we are having a banner year!). We are also welcoming dozens of new members every day. So if you are just joining us, here is what we have covered off in recent weeks.

Back in November, VINTAGES released its “finest” big guns, and we picked our faves, most of which will have evaporated from the shelves by now. From the last, huge December 6th release, we highlighted several whites, reds and fortifieds to add to your gift list. Earlier this week Steve Thurlow presented an intriguing selection of less expensive LCBO wines for The Five Days of Christmas, and last week Sara d’Amato guided you to VINTAGES recommendations for the various Personalities on your list. On December 23 watch for John Szabo’s annual Fizz Guide on the run up to New Years.

Today I simply want to present a varied selection of 12 international reds. They should prove to be horizon-expanding for those getting into wine. They are of excellent quality (over 90 points); good value (under $50) and still stocked in decent quantities (about 1000 bottles in inventory as of December 17). It’s up to you of course to decide why, which and how many you select: whether a single bottle for stuffing a stocking, a pair packaged as a host/hostess gift, a six-bottle splurge on wines for entertaining, or a generous twelve pack to seed the cellar of a new collector.

European Reds

Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2012

Confidences De Prieuré Lichine 2010

Domaine De Vieux Télégraphe 2012 TélégrammeDomaine De Vieux Télégraphe Télégramme Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012, Châteauneuf Du Pape, Rhone Valley, France ($49.95) – This is the second wine of Vieux Télégraphe the flagship of the meticulous Brunier family. It is refined and engaging, a great gift for the wine fancier, but no harm done if it’s opened and decanted over the holidays.

Confidences De Prieuré Lichine 2010, Margaux, Bordeaux, France ($48.95) – From a great Bordeaux vintage that has been thrilling me in recent months, this is second wine of Chateau Prieuré-Lichine, the producer of a very refined cab-merlot based blend in the Margaux appellation.  It’s the ideal introduction to the seamlessness that can make Bordeaux very special. Ideal inspiration for the start-up cellar.

Domaine Les Yeuses 2012 Les Épices Syrah, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($15.95) – This ebullient peppery syrah from the south of France is so well priced, you might consider gifting a six-pack as an instant “house wine” stock-up. Great for Mediterranean cuisine, and that includes pizza.

Sori' Paitin Barbaresco 2010

Ontanon Gran Reserva 2001

Tenuta Sette Ponti 2011 CrognoloTenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2011, Tuscany, Italy ($34.95) – This is a very well made, mid-weight red that walks that fine line between Tuscan elegance and Italian heart. It’s a slightly rugged sangiovese buffed by a small proportion of cabernet and merlot, aged in new French oak. A fine specimen for those setting off to explore/cellar higher end Italian reds.

Ontanon 2001 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($39.95) – In my Dec 6 newsletter I focused on the joys of drinking older wines over the holidays. This is another that is ready to go, but will still age another five years. Spanish Rioja still leads the world in producing mature table ready reds you can buy off the shelf.

Sori’ Paitin 2010 Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy ($41.95) – At some point every wine fan gets enthused about the gritty nebbiolo-based reds of Barolo and Barbaresco in northwest Italy. I tend to gravitate to the slightly lighter, earlier evolving Barbarescos, and this is a fine example from a great year. Needs ageing for about three years, or three hours aeration in a decanter.

New World

Calera Pinot Noir 2012

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Domaine Tournon 2012 Shay’s Flat Vineyard ShirazDomaine Tournon Shay's Flat Vineyard Shiraz 2012, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia ($37.95) – From a rugged outpost of granitic grape-growing 200km northwest of Melbourne comes a biodynamic shiraz by Michel Chapoutier, a leader in biodynamics in Rhone Valley. Click to read more about this French-styled syrah with outback ruggedness.

Wynns 2012 Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia ($27.95) – Coonawarra is among my top three go-to regions in the world for cabernet sauvignon; just cool enough to showcase the herbaceous side of cabernet yet warm enough to capture classic blackcurrant fruit. Winemaker Sue Hodder’s sensibilities have drawn a fine portrait, at a very reasonable price.

Calera 2012 Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California ($33.95) – California has come a long way with pinot noir, guided by Josh Jensen’s pioneering work in the terrain of the Central Coast. This generous wine weaves Burgundian rusticity and California fruit ripeness, and is just plain delicious. Could grace your Christmas bird.

Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel 2012

Bodega Noemía A Lisa 2012

Hidden Bench 2010 Terroir Caché Meritage, Beamsville BenchHidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2010, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($32.80) – Since 2005 Harald Thiel and his winemakers have been honing what is becoming one of the top Bordeaux-inspired red blends in Ontario (out of 100s that try this combo with very mixed success). I served it blind in a recent WSET class in Montreal, where a student who professed never to have found a Niagara red she liked, picked it as her favourite of the afternoon. Go to school here.

Bodega 2012 Noemía A Lisa, Patagonia, Argentina ($25.95) – From way off the beaten track, in the middle of scrub-infested nowhere in southern Argentina, this biodynamically grown malbec is nothing like those you might have had from Mendoza. It’s vibrant, funky, a bit meaty and shows some great finesse and depth for the money.

Frei Brothers 2012 Reserve Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, USA  ($24.95) – One of my great peeves of 2014 is the confection-ization of California red wines – and red zinfandel in particular. So this honest to goodness rendition of the California’s heritage grape came as a relief. I chalk it up to the Gallo’s deep roots among the old zin vines of the Dry Creek Valley. This is delicious.

Finally, if you just don’t have time to get out there to shop, you can always purchase a WineAlign gift certificate, and be responsible for turning your friends and family on to a lifetime of drinking better wine. Remember again to check in next week for The Fizz Report, and until then I hope you enjoy the run up to Christmas and all the anticipation.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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


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A simple resolution for 2015

The Caveman Speaks
By Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

It’s not December 31 quite yet but it is never too early to make a few resolutions. If you are looking for a bit of inspiration, and want to do something good for the wine industry, then here’s a suggestion as to how you can make the wine world a better place.

Be courageous – choose indigenous grapes.

By indigenous grapes I mean grape varieties that have a history firmly entrenched in a particular region, having been grown there for a long period of time. While travelling the world’s wine regions over the last few years, I have seen old vine sylvaner in Alsace ripped out to make room for pinot gris. One hundred year old carignan in the Languedoc replaced with syrah. I could go on but the list is long and littered with dead vines.

While in some cases replacing the vines made sense, and made for better wine, in most cases it was simply a question of economics. Grape growers can get more money with well-known grapes, even if they are less well suited to that climate and soil type.

The reason they are doing this is because consumers, especially in North America, tend to drink the same grape varieties – cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay etc… And this makes me sad. With each indigenous varietal that is replaced, another thread of the wonderfully complex tapestry that is the world’s wine culture becomes a touch less colourful (read – the wines are less good.)

In many wine producing countries, people tend to drink locally as opposed to internationally. They drink wines from their own region, or if they branch out, from their own country. We are fortunate here in Canada to have a choice of wines from all over the world.

But with choice comes responsibility. Wine stores, whether they be government controlled monopolies or privately owned, might take a chance on a wine once but if it doesn’t sell, the wine will not be reordered.

So this leads me to you, the wine lover.

These wines might be made with unfamiliar grapes, or come from places you have never heard of, but that’s what so interesting about wine. Will you like everything? Not necessarily, but exposing your palate to different textures, flavours and aromas will merely expand your wine horizons. And my bet is that you will discover wines that you absolutely love.

The tide is starting to turn. In many of these regions, especially with younger winemakers, they are looking at their own indigenous varieties with more respect. I have seen winemakers searching out these old vines and protecting them rather than replanting them. They have started to understand that these grapes are not only part of their heritage, but what makes them distinctive.

So in 2015, forsake the familiar and make one out of every three bottles you buy something you’ve never tried before. Give the wine a chance. Try and understand it. You will be helping the wine industry, and you will make yourself a better and more knowledgeable drinker.

If you need some suggestions, then here are a few wines currently available in BC, Ontario or Quebec that you can try. As I mentioned sylvaner, try the 2011 from René Muré. Works as an exceptional aperitif as well as with lighter seafood. Another white in a similar vein comes from Greece and Domaine Gerovassiliou. The 2013 Assyrtiko/Malagousia is a beautiful example two indigenous grapes working hand in hand. The rare freisa grape gets a solo show in the juicy, earthy tobacco leaf layered Borgogno Langhe 2012 Freisa from Piedmonte. Pair with charcuterie and sip throughout the night. Of course, if you really want to support indigenous wines, pick up a bottle of sherry and support not only native grapes, but method as well. Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana, a Manzanilla from Sanlucar De Barrameda is 100% palomino fino grape, and a bone dry tangy, salty, nutty sipper to signal festivities.

René Muré Sylvaner 2011 Domaine Gerovassiliou White 2013 Borgogno Langhe Freisa 2012 La Gitana Manzanilla

Looking for a really interesting white with body to spare? Elisabetta Foradori’s 2012 Manzoni Bianco will satisfy the most curious white wine drinker. Made with extended skin contact, which is unusual for white wines, it combines body and aromatics like few wines I have tasted this year. Similarly, Mastroberardino’s 2012 Greco Di Tufo showcases the stony, waxy power of the greco grape, by way of the volcanic soils throughout Campania. And Telmo Rodriguez 2013 Basa Blanco combines the familiar – sauvignon blanc – with the curious – verdejo and viura – in this herbal, citrus-driven, linear white.

Foradori Fontanasanta Manzoni 2012 Mastroberardino Greco Di Tufo 2012 Telmo Rodriguez Basa Blanco 2013

On the red side, the choice for indigenous grapes is just as interesting. Hailing from the region of Marcillac in France’s southwest, Lionel Osmin’s 2012 Mansois offers up delicate fruit and lots of exotic spice with fine, razor-sharp tannins.

One of my favourite reds from the past year is Arianna Occhipinti’s SP68. From Sicily’s DOCG appellation of Cerasuolo di Vittoria, it combines delicate fruit with beautiful acidity. Sicilian Beaujolais!

Marcillac Mansois 2012 Occhipinti S P 68 2013 Quinta Da Pellada Àlvaro Castro Reserva 2011 Tilenus Envejecido En Roble Mencía 2010

And if you are looking for a bigger red wine, try a blend of alfrocheiro, tinta roriz and touriga national. Alvaro Castro’s 2011 Dao is a beautiful example of how the region can produce finessed, yet very powerful wines. Rustic winter stews and casseroles were made to be served alongside a wine like Tilenus 2010 Envejecido En Roble, from Bierzo, Spain. The mencia grape’s wild and succulent black fruit and firm tannins might become a new cold weather favourite.

Happy holidays and new year folks!

Bill

“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

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


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Wines for the Personalities on Your Christmas List

By Sara d’Amato

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Although it may not be possible to hop in to the LCBO for all your gifting needs over the holidays, you’ll certainly be able to please most of the personalities on your list with the gift of wine. In fact, there is nothing more perfect than the gift of wine for those hard-to-shop-for-folks, especially when time is tight.

This year, instead of a simple list of what I would most like to receive over the holidays, I will endeavor to be more selfless and put together a gift list based on needs and personalities you may encounter among your circle of friends and family.

Not only are these wines chosen because they are personality-appropriate, our experts have also vetted them as delicious.

The Jetsetter

Stobi Vranec 2010 Domaine de Sahari 2012A taste for the exotic is certainly what the jetsetter craves, so here are wines sourced from beyond the classic growing regions to rouse and inspire their adventurous spirit.

Domaine De Sahari 2012, Guerrouane, Morocco ($16.95) – A Bordelaise blend from Morocco which is surprisingly on the shelves of our LCBO. Elegant, floral and even subtle – certainly a diamond in the rough.

In reality, Morocco has some serious potential for producing quality wine in North Africa because of its proximity to the cooling Atlantic and higher elevation terrain which can combat the plentiful heat.

Stobi Vranec 2010, Tikves, Macedonia ($13.95) – Macedonian wine is slowly creeping into our market and its signature red grape is vranec – darkly coloured, crisp and tannic often with notes of exotic spice and chocolate.

The Chef

Whether they are a professional chef or that person in your life with great culinary prowess, (whose home you hope to get an invitation to over the holidays) a wine that a chef will appreciate takes some thought.

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer 2012

Di Majo 2011 Norante Contado Riserva Aglianico Del MoliseDi Majo Norante Contado Riserva Aglianico del Molise 2011, Italy, ($18.95) – Italian wine is widely regarded among the most food friendly styles of wine in the world which is in part due to its often high levels of acidity in whites and a common zesty bite in reds. Aglianico produces a full-bodied and flavourful red with vibrant acids that call for rich and aromatic Mediterranean flavours. Maybe they’ll even invite you back to try the pairing!

Cave Spring 2012 Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer, Cave Spring Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($17.95) – Chefs love to make use of the most local ingredients and what better offering than a food-friendly, local selection such as this from Ontario quality wine pioneer, Cave Spring.

The Vegan

Most people don’t realize that animal-derived products may be used in winemaking, especially during the fining process (which removes protein, yeast, sometimes colour and other undesirable organic compounds). However, there are many alternative fining agents on the market and wineries such as Southbrook produce lip-smacking wines that are also vegetarian and vegan friendly:
Southbrook 2012 Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario, Canada ($22.95)

The Martha Stewart

Perrier Jouet La Belle Epoque 2006 Descendientes de J. Palacios Pétalos 2012Everyone knows someone like this, the crafty DIYer whose home looks like it has just been the subject of a magazine shoot, whose beautifully presented meals seem effortless and who can pleasantly speak to just about everything. That friend who makes you wonder if they have the annoying super-ability to stop time, just for themselves, so that they can bake those six different types of shortbread just before you arrive. Well, it’s just about time you turn the tables and wow them with an exceptional bottle of wine that they know nothing about.

Descendientes de J. Palacios 2012 Pétalos, Bierzo, ($26.95) – Beautiful inside and out, this clean, floral, spicy and seductive blend is sure to whisk you off your feet. Palacios is a progressive producer who uses a region blend from several villages in the Bierzo region located in northwestern Spain (I bet they didn’t know that!).

Perrier Jouet 2006 La Belle Epoque, Champagne, France ($189.95) – Possibly the most beautiful wine bottle ever created, your artistic and resourceful friend will not want to throw this away once they have reveled in every sip of this exquisite and ethereal cuvée.

The New Parent

You can barely recognize them, sleepless, disheveled, and incoherent – these are the folks that need the gift of wine the most. And just because they don’t realize that they’ve accidentally just poured breast milk into their coffee, that doesn’t mean that they won’t appreciate a terrific bottle of wine. Throw in a night of babysitting and a massage and you’ll forever be their hero.

Delouvin Bagnost Tradition Brut Champagne, Récoltant Manipulant, Champagne, France ($47.95) – They are so busy that they forgot to celebrate the arrival of their child – an ornate and distinctive grower’s Champagne ought to fix that.

The Hipster

Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Lingenfelder Bird Label Riesling 2012 Delouvin Bagnost Tradition Brut ChampagneWhat to pair with topknots, plaid and carefully manicured facial hair? How about sustainably produced, unusual or esthetically pleasing labels with ample cool factor?

Lingenfelder Bird Label 2012 Riesling, Pfalz, Germany, ($14.95) – Lingenfelder is certainly an idiosyncratic producer with a keen sense of what will fly in just about every market. The attractive and vintage looking label is sure to catch the eye of your bohemian buddy and the wine inside is a funky and succulent treat.

Bonterra 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, California, USA ($19.95) – Travel and Leisure Magazine voted San Francisco the No.1 city for hipsters in the USA recently and luckily some of the world’s most revered wine regions are located a quick trek north.  This affordable, excellent value cabernet is organically produced and although widely pleasing, has edgy acidity that makes it a versatile pairing with almost any kind of cuisine.

The Health Nut

Cygnus Brut Nature Reserva Cava Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2011Health conscious folks still imbibe, but may need justification to do so. Recently, as reported in The Daily Mail, a former World Health Organization expert, Dr Kari Poikolainen, claimed: “The weight of the evidence shows moderate drinking is better than abstaining and heavy drinking is worse than abstaining . . .”  (as long as we don’t inflate moderate standards.) I’m willing to believe and perhaps those who want to justify their drink will do so as well. Need something more? It should be noted that wine is gluten-free, being made from grapes. Certain additives may contain gluten but even so, the vast majority of wines would contain such a small amount that they are generally considered safe even for those with Celiac disease (but a doctor’s advice is better than mine).

Le Clos Jordanne 2011 Village Reserve Pinot Noir, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($30.00) – Cool climate pinots are known to have the greatest concentration of resveratrol – an antioxidant found in the skins of red grapes which lessens the likelihood of cancerous tumors.

Cygnus Brut Nature Reserva Cava, Méthode Champenoise, Penedès, Spain ($19.95) – The Zero Brut or Brut Nature styles are marketed as low-cal styles of wine. Due to the zero dosage (the sweet liquid added to traditional method sparkling wines before bottling), these wines are very dry and low-cal. As a bonus, this wine is also organically produced making it a more healthy option.

The Jock

Mike Weir 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Wayne Gretzky Estates No. 99 Cabernet Merlot 2010Hockey is winter, summer is football and basketball is there to bridge the gap. The Olympics shuts down your friend or family member’s house. During playoff season your sporty pal becomes incoherent. Fear not, with these selections you may be able to find some common ground with them even through game season.

Wayne Gretzky Estates No. 99 2010 Cabernet Merlot, Niagara Peninsula, $14.95 – This cabernet, not made by Wayne Gretzky (thankfully) but under this named label gets better and better with every vintage. Rich, muscular and agile – a wine a sportsman can be proud to call his own.

Mike Weir 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, $14.95 – Although this label has been inconsistent in the past, I am holding the torch for this zesty and goosebump-inducing sauvignon blanc whose proceeds go to the Mike Weir Foundation, dedicated to advancing the physical, emotional and educational welfare of children in Canada (so you can feel charitable too!)

Seasons greeting to you and your eclectic group of friends and family!

Sincerely,

Sara d’Amato

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


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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (December)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers and Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO this month

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I was in Italy last week and found a wine from Sardinia to join the Top 50. In total there are 11 new wines on the Top 50 for you to try. Sadly four of those have joined the list because they have been discontinued, so their price has dropped by around 25% to clear inventory. There are still good stocks of all four, so take advantage while you can.

Additionally seven wines, already on the list, have Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) that apply, making these wines even more attractive for the next five weeks or so; all this must make your December drinking more affordable.

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection. I select most from wines on Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The discount period runs until January 3rd. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Apelia Agiorgitiko 2012 (1000ml), Greece $9.95 plus 4 BAMs
Agiorgitiko is one of Greece’s best red grapes. This is a is fruity, midweight, well balanced good everyday wine.

Esporao Alandra Red 2013, Alentejo, Portugal $7.60
NEW TO TOP 50 – A ripe fruity vibrant red with a fragrant nose of blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with some floral and spicy notes. Try with salty fatty meats like salami or soft creamy cheese like brie.

Casa Planeta Syrah 2012, Sicily, Italy now $7.95 was $9.95
DISCONTINUED AT LCBO – A lightweight, very drinkable versatile food wine for pizza and meaty pasta sauces. 500 bottles remain.

Apelia Agiorgitiko 2012Esporao Alandra Red 2013Casa Planeta Syrah Igt 2012K W V Contemporary Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013Sella & Mosca Rosato 2013J. Portugal Ramos Loios Red 2013
KWV Contemporary Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013, Western Cape, South Africa now $7.95 was $9.45
DISCONTINUED AT LCBO – Great value for a balanced fruity red blend with mild aromas of plum, lemon and blackcurrant jam. Simple clean and refreshing. Try with sausages. 1600 bottles remain.

Sella & Mosca Rosato 2013, Alghero, Sardinia, Italy now $8.95 was $9.80
NEW TO TOP 50 – This summer rosé has gone on sale to clear inventory. It is a deep salmon pink almost light red, very fruity yet dry with very good length. Try with baked ham. Over 5000 bottles remain.

J. Portugal Ramos Loios Red 2013, Alentejo, Portugal $9.05
NEW TO TOP 50 – A ripe, fleshy, clean, easy-drinking wine with soft tannins and fresh red berry fruit flavours with more complexity than you would expect for such an inexpensive wine.

D’Arenberg The Stump Jump Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre 2011, South Australia now $9.95 was $14.95
DISCONTINUED AT LCBO – This delicious fragrant plummy red will soon be no longer available. Around 1500 bottles remain so pick up a handful, while you can, at this great price. 1500 bottles remain.

Errazuriz Estate Series Merlot 2012, Curico Valley, Chile now $9.95 was $13.95
DISCONTINUED AT LCBO – This is a ripe, fairly soft and plummy merlot with mild oak spice. It’s midweight smooth with a long finish. Try with a rack of lamb. 1000 bottles remain.

D'arenberg The Stump Jump Grenache:Shiraz:Mourvèdre 2011Errazuriz Estate Series Merlot 2012Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva Douro 2010La Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2013Guardian Reserva Red 2012Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008

Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva Douro 2010, Douro Valley Portugal $12.30 plus 5 BAMs
TOP 50 DECEMBER – A very fruity well balanced rich red wine with a solid structure and very good length.

La Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2013, Mendoza, Argentina $12.95 plus 8 BAMs
TOP 50 DECEMBER – An easy drinking well-balanced red with juicy berry fruit, lively acidity, just enough tannin, and a mild spicy tone.

Guardian Reserva Red 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile $13.65
NEW TO TOP 50 – A complex red cabernet blend, finely balanced and fruity, with a long, lingering finish, and some fine tannin. Try with a steak.

Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008, Douro Valley, Portugal now $15.45 was $16.95
TOP 50 DECEMBER – A full-bodied, very fruity, smooth, rich and powerful port with a fragrant nose.

Whites

Apelia Moschofilero 2013 (1000ml) Greece $9.95 plus 4 BAMs
Moschofilero is one of Greece’s best indigenous grapes. This is a fresh dry white with lifted aromas of floral apple, with a green olive herbal tone, plus some mineral notes.

Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2013, Mendoza Argentina $12.95o
NEW TO TOP 50 – A classy rich flavourful chardonnay with just a touch of oak for added complexity and structure.

Apelia Moschofilero 2013Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2013Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014The Wolftrap 2013

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand $13.95 plus 5 BAMs
TOP 50 DECEMBER – This is a is fresh, pure and fragrant grigio, with pear and melon fruit, toned by minerality with hints of lemongrass with a rich lively fruity palate.

The Wolftrap White 2013, Boekenhoutskloof, Western Cape, South Africa $13.95 plus 5 BAMs
TOP 50 DECEMBER – An appealing aromatic nose of peaches, melons, spices and floral notes lead to rich creamy palate with crisp acidity and lots of fruit.

Frisky Beaver White 2013, VQA Ontario $13.95o
NEW TO TOP 50 – A gewurztraminer led white blend that’s aromatic, almost off-dry and very flavourful.

Lustau Amontillado Solera Reserva Los Arcos, Jerez, Spain $14.85
NEW TO TOP 50 – A complex dry white with beautiful nutty, citrus, toasty aromas. Perfectly balanced, would be excellent with roast turkey and a rich brown gravy.

Frisky Beaver White 2013Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los ArcosLustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Don NunoErrazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Don Nuno, Jerez, Spain $14.85
NEW TO TOP 50 – This tawny brown dry white has been aging for decades, yet still gives an impression of freshness with nutty raisin fruit. Intensely flavoured and finely balanced. Try with rich pork or veal dishes.

Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Aconcagua Valley, Chile $15.95 plus 10 BAMs
TOP 50 DECEMBER – Great complexity and balance, this is unmistakably sauvignon, with an herbal tone to the tropical citrus fruit. Try with rich creamy cheese dishes to balance the wine’s acidity.

How does a wine get selected for the Top 20 under $20.

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

- On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines  I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

- Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

- Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection (Top 50,) that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. You can access the report any time and read more about it now.

Steve Top50The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

There are another 36 wines on the Top 50 list so if you did not find all you need above for your current needs dip into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. I use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database. I review the list every month to include newly listed and recently tasted vintages of current listings as well as monitoring the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top 50 (Click on Wine =>Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list), since it is always changing. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. Moreover if you disagree with our reviews, tell us please us. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

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

Top 20 Under $20 for December
Top 50 Value Wines

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


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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – December

A Gift of Spirit for the Holidays
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

The holiday season and Christmas will be upon us before we know it. I always feel a slight frisson when December hits knowing that there will be too much to do and not enough time. To make your gift giving a little easier, here are some suggestions for those spirit lovers on your list. Brown spirits and especially Cognac really max out in popularity during the winter months. The high end XO level for example sees almost half of its annual sales in November and December in many markets.

The city of Cognac in southwest France lies 110 km north of Bordeaux, close to the Marrenes-Oléron Atlantic basin where half of France’s oyster beds lie. The town thrived in olden days as an established centre of the salt trade, an activity which dates back to the 11th century. The Charente River winds through giving access to merchant boats. Early on the traders of northern Europe discovered the thin acidic wine which they brought back from there after delivering salt, survived the voyage better if distilled, and even more so when held in oak barrels. This improved “burnt wine” named after its city of origin is so much in demand today that most of it sells outside of France.

The top growing areas (crus) are named Grande and Petite “Champagne”, after the chalky whitish calcium rich soil. Beyond these two crus (known as Fine Champagne when combined in the bottle), are the Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Borderies. Ugni blanc is the main variety grown, a grape generally best when distilled. The young, always double distilled, grape spirit gives off floral aromas. Oak from French forests, toasted by fire when the barrels are made, add their aromas of vanilla, brioche and cocoa. Then slow oxidation in these barriques puts the final touches of mushroom, Roquefort cheese and leathery/nutty “rancio” to the mix.

Rémy Martin XO Excellence Cognac Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal CognacRémy Martin, founded in 1724, is the sole great cognac house to use only eaux-de-vie from the two best crus of the region namely Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. Their latest product launch is the 1738 Accord Royal, named after the decree granted on that date to King Louis XV to plant new vines on his Fine Champagne land. Rémy Martin XO Excellence Cognac is an opulent blend of 85 per cent Grande Champagne with 15 per cent Petite Champagne containing up to 28 years of vintages.

Hine located in Jarnac and founded in 1763, is one of, if not the biggest Cognac house outside of the big dominant four of Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin and Courvoisier. Its vintage-bent also gives it a caché. (I have a vintage bottle from my birth year given to me when I toured the distillery with Bernard Hine, a descendent of the founder. It’s a rarity I’m savouring slowly. A barrel from this particular vintage was named the vintage of the century by cellar master Eric Forget and bottled as Hine 250 to celebrate that anniversary of the company. Check out what vintage was selected for Hine 250 and you’ll know mine.)

H by Hine VSOP in an elegant long bottle housed in a beautiful metallic red box is ready made for gifting. It’s a harmonious blend of 20 cognacs aged for a minimum of 4 years, from grapes grown in the Grande Champagne and the Petite Champagne. Hine Rare VSOP a Fine Champagne blend of over 25 cognacs (more than fifty percent from Grande Champagne) is sophisticated and elegantly fruity.

H By Hine Vsop Hine Rare VSOP Chabasse XO

Chabasse is an historic 17th century cognac estate in the depths of Saint-Jean d’Angely. This family run business is in the hands of Réné-Luc Chabasse, the ancestor of the founder of the estate, Jean-Baptiste Chabasse. The Chabasse XO is big, full and delicious with toasted hazelnut and toffee notes.

The cognac house Meukow was acquired by Michel Coste in 1979, who created the panther bottle – today the emblem of the brand. Still a family business now run by son Philippe Coste, the famous logo of the luxury cognac brand, the black panther, can be seen on all its products. Meukow Feline is ultra-smooth and creamy textured.

Crown Royal Monarch 75th Anniversary Blend Meukow Feline VSOP CognacThose who want to gift a special Canadian brown spirit should look no further than our own good old Crown Royal – namely the new 75th Anniversary Limited Edition Canadian Whisky. In 1939 the Royal Couple, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, made history when they became the first reigning monarchs to journey across North America, travelling the vast distance by train. To honour the pair, a Canadian entrepreneur crafted a whisky to suit the occasion by sampling over 600 blends and reviewing hundreds of different types of glass, labels and caps. He cloaked his perfected blend in a purple bag to represent the purple robe of royalty and called the whisky Crown Royal.

Seventy five years later, Crown Royal’s master blender has created a velvety smooth limited edition whisky to commemorate the brand’s monumental anniversary. Crown Royal 75th Anniversary Blend cloaked in an embroidered silver bag combines hand-picked whiskies from the brand’s extensive stock including that from the historic Coffey rye still, in Gimli, Manitoba.

They may not like our tar sands oil in the US but they like our traditional whiskies. Crown Royal is the number one selling Canadian whisky brand in the US by value.

In the single malt scotch category, there’s a fascinating newcomer. It’s the Glenlivet’s first crowd-sourced whisky, “Guardian’s Chapter” chosen exclusively by The Guardians of The Glenlivet. Tastings were conducted in 19 markets, including Canada and over 3,500 votes were cast to select The Guardians’ Chapter Single Malt Whisky. Some critics say it’s the proverbial camel horse made by committee. I say it’s a triumph but not for the weak of heart.

Glenlivet Guardians ChapterEau Claire Three Point VodkaDillon’s Pear Eau De VieQuartz Vodka

Not all like a dark spirit. For the white spirit aficionados on your gift list there are several Canadian top-drawer newbies. This is a bit of a tease as they are available only in their province of origin or via the distillery online but what could be more local than that.

Eau Claire Distillery is Alberta’s first craft distillery located in Turner Valley, not far from Calgary. The distillery uses locally-farmed ingredients and clear water from the nearby Rocky Mountains. Summer 2014 marked its first-batch release. Eau Claire Three Point Vodka, its initial product launched in June is creamy smooth and crystal clear. For the moment you’ll have to go to Alberta to buy it via the distiller or in Calgary liquor retail stores such as Willow Park.

In Ontario Dillon’s has come out with Dillon’s Pear eau-de-vie that’s made from locally grown Niagara Bartlett pears that is soft and gently pear. From Quebec comes Quartz Vodka, a joint venture with Domaine Pinnacle and Lise Watier. Crafted from ESKA water sourced in northern Quebec, it’s micro-distilled five times.

Luxardo Maraschino Originale Liqueur Hayman's London Dry Gin Chartreuse Green LiqueurI’ll leave you now with my favourite cocktail recipe of late. It’s not new, but it’s a classic that’s been overlooked for too long. Slightly green in hue, it’s right for the festive moment and a knock out on all levels. It’s called The Last Word and it is. Be warned two of these and you’ll be flat on your back. But with no regrets in the morning or at least you won’t remember enough to be sorry. That’s my story.

A balance of sweet and sour with a strong herbaceous tone, it’s made with equal parts of gin, fresh lime juice, maraschino liqueur and Chartreuse. You won’t go wrong with Hayman’s London Dry Gin and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur for the other spirits. Divine. Decadence. Merry celebrations.

Cheers!

Margaret Swaine

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

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


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What’s New at the LCBO in November

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The LCBO has taken a bold step by launching two new superb dry wines from Jerez in Spain onto their shelves, just in time for the upcoming holiday season. These wines are from Lustau, one of the top producers in the region. At $14.85 they are amazing value. If you have never tried a dry aged fortified white, now is the time. If you are already a lover of the wines of Jerez, then don’t hesitate. Bravo LCBO.

The wines on the shelves at the LCBO are constantly changing and I am tasting the new ones all the time. Many favourites are always there but the range and variety is gradually being updated. I have chosen to highlight ten new wines that have refreshed the system out of the more than 40 that I have tried since I last reported.

Surprisingly there is a slew of very good new whites. November is not usually the best time to launch whites when sub-zero temperatures outside make us lean towards red wines. They must know what they are doing, I am sure? I hope they will survive in the system until next summer arrives. Please try a few. You will not be disappointed.

In addition to these new wines, I have tasted many of the latest batches of sparkling wines, a category which is popular at this time of the year. Sparkling wines often are not vintage dated, since they are blends from many different harvests. Winemakers try to make the wine consistent from batch to batch but they do vary. I have picked four current wines that represent good value.

I suggest you read on, pick a few that appeal and then check the inventory at your favourite LCBO. Most are on the shelves already; the rest will arrive over the next couple of weeks.

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

SPARKLING WHITES

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Penedes, Spain ($14.25)
My favourite bubbly at LCBO for less than $15. It hits all the essentials for the genre. Fresh clean aromas, super creamy mousse and fine bright palate with very good length.

Val d’Oca Prosecco Brut Superiore 2013, Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy ($16.50)
The best Proseccos from Valdobbiadene are now vintage dated. This explodes in the mouth with a creamy mousse and fine balance.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Val d'Oca Prosecco Brut Superiore 2013 Mumm Napa Brut PrestigeTarlant Brut Reserve Champagne

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Napa Valley, California, USA ($25.95)
A rich bubbly with an appealing nose and a degree of sweetness that endears it as an aperitif.

Tarlant Brut Reserve Champagne, France ($41.65)
If you are looking for a fine Champagne then this is a good example at a fair price (for Champagne).

WHITES

Casa Planeta Grecanico 2013 Chardonnay, Sicily, Italy ($11.95)
A delightful fresh dry white blend great for all sorts of seafood.

Mascota Vineyards O P I 2013 Chardonnay, Mendoza Argentina ($12.95)
A classy rich flavourful chardonnay with just a touch of oak for added complexity and structure.

Frisky Beaver 2013 White, VQA Ontario ($13.95)
A gewurztraminer led white blend that’s aromatic, almost off-dry and very flavourful.

Casa Planeta Grecanico Chardonnay 2013 Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2013 Frisky Beaver White 2013 Montgras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2014Villa Wolf Riesling 2013Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013

Amaral Sauvignon 2014 Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile ($14.45)
The Leyda Valley is fast proving to be a hot spot for great sauvignon blanc and this is an excellent example of just how good it can be .

Villa Wolf 2013 Riesling, Qualitätswein, Pfalz Germany ($14.80)
Great value for a juicy flavourful well balanced riesling that is such a  versatile food wine with seafood, pastry and white meat dishes.

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($14.85)
A rich full bodied creamy chardonnay with powerful aromas and flavours with the oak well integrated.

SHERRY AND REDS

Lustau Amontillado Solera Reserva Los Arcos, Jerez, Spain ($14.85)
A complex dry white with beautiful nutty, citrus, toasty aromas. Perfectly balanced, would be excellent with roast turkey with a rich brown gravy.

Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Don Nuno, Jerez, Spain ($14.85)
This tawny brown dry white has been aging for decades yet still gives an impression of freshness with nutty raisin fruit. Intensely flavoured and finely balanced. Try with rich pork or veal dishes.

Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Don Nuno Guardian Reserva Red 2012 Graffigna Elevation Reserve Red 2012

Guardian Reserva 2012 Red, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($13.65)
A complex red cabernet blend finely balanced and fruity long lingering finish with some fine tannin. Try with a steak.

Graffigna Elevation 2012 Reserve Red, San Juan, Argentina ($14.95)
An impressive red blend from high altitude vineyards about a 2 hour drive north of Mendoza. It s powerful and complex with a rich flavour but is also bright and lively.

We would love to get your feedback on this report. Meanwhile check out my complete list of Top 50 wine values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. In two week’s time I will be back with a look at the updated Top 20 Under $20 report for December.

Cheers,

Steve Thurlow

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


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Where did all the Nouveau go?

by Michael Godel

Michael Godel

Michael Godel

Of which camp are you? Have the Nouveau got the hairs raised on the back of your neck? Do you love it or hate it? Are you giddy with annual excitement? Are you agitated by what you feel is a black eye dis to properly produced Beaujolais Cru? Are bubble gum and fermenting banana your go to sensations? If you were playing the Family Feud and asked this question: “What is your favourite winemaking technique?,” would you answer, “carbonic maceration?”

Today marks the third Thursday of November and the annual Beaujolais Nouveau release has hit the shelves around the globe, including here in Ontario’s LCBO stores. Beaujolais Nouveau, as in barely fermented, Burgundian nether, or to the curiosity seeker, best friend.

Last year’s Godello Beaujolais Presser offered up a quick Nouveau 101. A reminder that the wine formerly known as Beaujolais Nouveau is now simply Nouveau because other wine growing nations have joined the party. Italians produce a Novello and in Niagara they have adopted the Nouveau, if only because the English “new wine” is not the most marketable of phrases. Neither is the Franglaise, Newvin, or Nouwine.

Nouveau has reached critical mass and is now stationed at a vinous crossroads. Long-time LCBO Product Consultant Neal Boven offered me fair facetious warning as I sat down to taste the 2014 crop. “Just be careful, those are some really tannic wines.” Not, but what they are, more than ever, are new Gamay (and Syrah, Merlot, etc.) reds soaked and macerated in maximum thrust, skin-contact extrication for full neon hue and blinding fluorescent glow. In many examples they go deeper still so some wanna be fierce tannin is actually getting through. The question begs. Is that what this perversion of Beaujolais was meant to be, or is Nouveau no longer the correct vernacular? Where did all the Nouveau go? Also, what happened to last year’s clear-cut winner, Seven nation Gamay, Generation Seven? Where did you go Château des Charmes?

Bottle images

Cries of “Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!.” can still be heard and so the 2014 Nouveau wines  have arrived in select LCBO stores today. Here are my notes on the nine presented.

Ontario

Reif Estates The Fool Gamay Nouveau 2014, VQA Niagara River, Ontario ($11.95)

The rich hue is so like a Côtes du Rhône, a young one mind you, a Rhône Nouveau. The aromas conjure up corner stores and a wonderland filled with bubble gum and cotton candy sprinkled with dried lees dust. Sweet and sour, with a spritz of lime and the bitter citrus pith of grapefruit. Also green tobacco leaf and coffee beans. The concentration is admirable and even though the wine is as raw as open sores on feet hiked in new boots, give credit to the complex nature of the festivities.

France

Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2014, Burgundy, France ($13.95)

Quite consistently the most accomplished if unabashedly contrived BN, year in and year out. The hue has deepened, the extract been probed and the senses muted. Acting like the real deal in southern Burgundy, the Mommessin feigns Morgon with simulated scenes of burlesque and method acting. The grit of earth mixed with the brightness of black cherries may give you reason to believe. If not for the banana blow moment, this could have been as much Zappa as Ween. “A little something to help the time go by. Just a little something to help to keep you high.” In the end, Morgon throws out the counterfeit lawsuit and congratulates the Nouveau for acting like itself.

Art’s Beaujolais Primeur Nouveau 2014, Beaujolais, France ($13.95)

In the upper echelon of the BN cost continuum and it shows. The sulphur must be blown off to keep moving in the assessment, but that is does. Does not come across cloyingly candied and breathes dark fruits mixed with some plum instead. A touch dusty and adroitly Gamay so there is patronage in the Arts. The acidity is pleasant and adjunct the ripe but not over extracted fruit. Still the hue goes for expression over the wine’s impression but the restraint and the aromatic profiling fit the old school bill. Dry and possessive of quite decent length.

Catalans Primeur Syrah Merlot 2014, IGP Southwest, France ($9.95)

Everything about this Syrah and Merlot mélange is steroidal and an oxymoron within the contextual happenstance of the thematic. So skintastic in extraction and wildly sauvage in aromatic impropriety. A thick, viscous liqueur of mashed banana and Chapati paste. Sickly sour and Lik-m-Aid sweet. It is dry on the finish, I will give it that. But it’s so over the top, if Syrah-Merlot Nouveau can be.

DuBoeuf Gamay Nouveau 2014, Beaujolais, France ($9.95)

A return to the olfactory confection and the colour of Cru Beaujolais though it is weeks and years away from turning the page and living that dream. The carbonic crafting is in full marauding maceration in this ’14 DuBoeuf. The saving grace is a minor lead funk in the key of autumn plants, trampled underfoot. “Greased and slicked down fine, groovy leather trim.” Quite rustic despite the sugar-coating.

Italy

Negrar Novello Del Veneto 2014, Veneto, Italy  ($9.95)

The aromatic waft of this Venetian (Bardolino-Valpolicella) Novello is like fruit and vegetable road kill beneath a truck. So very composted and steaming, it’s as if this is still fermenting away in bottle. This gives the word carbonic a whole new meaning. The texture and body are quite elegant (used with creative license, not in any disparaging way I promise) and the finish is long and puckering.  It is what it is.

Tollo Novello Rosso Terre di Chieti 2014, Abruzzo, Italy ($9.45)

The Giocale is an interesting specimen from Abruzzo, qualified as a “regional blended red.” Not exactly Nouveau material is it. With what must likely be MdA as its dominant grape variety, strawberries in many incantations are its focus, in leaf, of near-ripe fruit and mixed with avocado for one odd smelling (and tasting) milkshake. This has a young Negroamaro or Nero d’Avola feel, but also a raisined, pruny appassimento appointed sensation. There is forest floor in its nose, vineyard funk in its flavor and tension in its voice. It’s already evolved, slightly oxidized and needs to be consumed with haste. That said it shows some interesting complexity and even a few stanzas of structure so give it points. It’s also correctly priced.

VINTAGES

France

Drouhin Beaujolais-Nouveau 2014Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2014, Beaujolais, France ($15.95)

The paid piper in the group of nine leads by example. At $16 Drouhin had better fashion an exemplary Beaujolais Nouveau to justify the price. With so many just plain stellar $15-16 wines on the market today, the caché  of just recently pressed Gamay juice spiked by 12 per cent alcohol is not enough of a presser. Does this Drouhin raise the bar? Yes, that it does, but not in the way it should. There is clearly developed acidity, tannin and quality grapes in this pour. What happened to Nouveau? Why so proper in pH, TA and so low in RS? Where did the new juice go? Sorry Mr. Drouhin, if I want Gamay this good I can buy it any other week of the year.

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2014, Beaujolais, France ($14.95)

This Duboeuf more closely resembles what Beaujolais Nouveau should be and has been for a near-half Millennium. Like ripe raspberries and bananas mashed together, shaken and even baked into short pastry for a quick cobbler or clafouti. The most aromatic on the table, this reminds me of years gone Nouveau by, of bygone Beaujolais that has just kissed the tank and been kissed by the yeast meets sugar marriage of a young wine. Hits the mark, finishes dry and leaves you not wanting anything more.

Good to go!

Michael Godel

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Photos courtesy of Godello.ca


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The Successful Collector – Sud-Ouest France and Duck

Julian Hitner reports on his latest trip to the assorted appellations of Sud-Ouest (Southwest) France, shedding some much-needed light on one of France’s most sundry winegrowing regions and its inhabitants’ enthusiasm for duck. His visit to the Southwest (courtesy of Sopexa) includes Cahors, Gaillac and Fronton, tossing in Madiran and Jurançon (both not visited) for their jigsaw-like significance. Readers may also wish to take note that the wines of the Dordogne (ex. Bergerac) have been omitted on account of the similarities to their counterparts in Bordeaux.

The most diverse region in France?
by Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

In terms of sheer diversity, few regions are as varied as that of Sud-Ouest France. From titanically tannic reds and alternate renderings to whites of inordinate obscurity and rare dessert versions, the Sud-Ouest (Southwest) continues to writhe as one of France’s most enigmatic winegrowing sectors. Fortunately, many producers seem undeterred, crafting increasingly better wines in the hopes of attracting new followers. The odds seem in their favour, particularly as quality improves and prices even for premium versions remain relatively low.

Of reds, two appellations have traditionally enjoyed the strongest reputations: Cahors and Madiran. These days, the former, arguably the stronger of the two, owes much of its current revival to Malbec, the most important grape in Cahors (from which it originates) though made popular in Argentina. Most Cahors is a blend of two or three grapes, containing at least 70 per cent Malbec and up to 30 per cent Merlot and/or Tannat. But even this is changing, with increasing numbers of producers crafting wines containing 100 per cent Malbec in their top offerings. Over the past several years, VINTAGES has been diligent in its selections, with prices ranging from $15-60.

The history of Cahors is a fascinating one, worthy of a brief digression. As early as the Middle Ages, it was known as ‘The Black Wine’ because of its dark appearance and weighty structure, a choice drink for connoisseurs. Then in the late-nineteenth century phylloxera struck, annihilating most of the vineyards. At the time, shortsighted growers replanted with inferior, high-yielding hybrids, leaving Cahors all but a distant memory. This began to change in the years following the Second World War, when some producers banded together in faint hopes of reviving their beloved Black Wine. Though it has taken decades, these growers’ descendants have largely succeeded in replanting their vineyards, and are again crafting wine of outstanding dimension, elegance and quality.

Though back on form, the modern-day reds of Cahors (there are no whites) taste nothing like their Argentinean counterparts, the latter oftentimes much more concentrated and excessively oak-reliant. In Cahors, the most balanced examples, sourced from a wide range of terroirs (the higher terraces and plateau are considered top locations), often possess wonderful quantities of blackberries, purple fruits and menthol in youth, taking on more claret-like characteristics as they age, yet always retaining a unique sense of balance, crystalline texture and breed. What’s more, such wines are often resoundingly tannic, requiring several years (sometimes decades) of aging to open up. Vigorous decanting can do much to alleviate the mouth-puckering effects of a young bottle of Cahors.

Tannat Grapes (Courtesy Official Website for Madiran Wines)

Tannat Grapes (Courtesy Official Website for Madiran Wines)

This said, no wine of France is better known for its tannins than Madiran. The name of its principle grape says it all: Tannat. According to current regulations, this most tightly structured of French grapes most comprise at least 50 per cent of the blend. Other permitted grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Fer Servadou. As in Cahors, many producers are now crafting their finest versions with 100 per cent Tannat. With many exceptions, the best examples seem strikingly Bordelaise, containing similar flavour profiles of currants, blackberries and damson plums, albeit with much more tannic structure in youth. Time is Madiran’s friendly companion. As the finest bottlings age, they routinely tend to mirror their counterparts in Cahors and Bordeaux, assuming notes of cedarwood, tobacco and wild game. Modern winemaking methods have played no small role in the expanding success of this superb appellation, with many producers utilizing a technique known as ‘micro-oxygenation’ to soften tannins during the vinification and maturation process. Selections in VINTAGES are usually reasonable, with prices ranging from $15-30, sometimes more. Like Cahors, great Madiran routinely represents excellent value for money.

Then there’s Gaillac, home to more obscure grape varietals than any other part of the Southwest. For producers, this is something of a double-edged sword: plenty of unique wines yet continuous confusion on the part of potential patrons. For reds, the primary grapes are Braucol (the local name for Fer Servadou) and Duras, oftentimes accompanied by Gamay, Syrah and the three main Bordeaux grapes (plus a few others). Braucol and Duras share many similarities. Both are medium-bodied at most and tend to contain flavours reminiscent of plums, blackberries and pepper. Only the best bottlings are usually aged in oak, and may be kept for at least several years. Simpler versions really ought to be consumed immediately. Selections in VINTAGES are minimal, though some decent examples may be had for less than twenty bucks.

Loin de l'Oeil Grapes (Courtesy Official Website for Gaillac Wines)

Loin de l’Oeil Grapes (Courtesy Official Website for Gaillac Wines)

The white wines of Gaillac are even more complicated. By tradition, the most common grape is Loin de l’Oeil (or Len de l’El), so named because of its long-stemmed clusters as it appears on the vine. Although occasionally appearing on its own, it is often blended with Mauzac (another major grape of the appellation), Ondenc, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc, the latter largely viewed as an unwelcome intruder. Historically, such esoteric grapes were used to make sweeter-style wines of considerable quality. Now such bottlings represent only a very small minority. Instead, growers have increasingly turned to rosés and sparkling wines in order to increase sales. Crafted from 100 per cent Mauzac, sparkling versions in Gaillac are produced via the ‘ancestral method’ (or ‘méthode ancestrale’), whereby the wine is bottled during fermentation, thus trapping carbon dioxide inside the wine. As with the reds, quality remains patchy in a few cases, though there is no doubting the determination of the appellation’s many young winegrowers.

This same resolve has also taken hold in Fronton. Located just north of the city of Toulouse (one of the largest cities in France), this appellation is fairly easy to understand. In this soothingly pastoral neck of the Southwest, reds must contain at least 50 per cent Négrette, the most important grape in Fronton. Though 100 per cent is permitted, most growers opt to blend their wines with varying percentages of Fer Servadou and Syrah. Despite its name, Négrette may have a dark colour but does not take kindly to aging in oak. Usually light-bodied and containing moderate notes of damson plums, most Fronton is really best admired for its youthful freshness and fruitiness. As in Gaillac and other appellations, rosé versions are also now being produced in sizable volumes. Selections for both types of wine in VINTAGES are sparse, with prices hovering around fifteen dollars. As a recommendable everyday wine, Fronton is seldom expensive, for Toulouse is a thirsty city.

Map of Southwest France

Finally, there is the appellation of Jurançon, home to the most famous type of sweet wine in the Southwest. Many wine commentators and sommeliers have a soft spot for this distinctive, underrated offering, crafted in relatively small amounts and usually drunk at the beginning of a meal. As elsewhere, the grapes are unique: Petit Manseng and its thinner-skinned (and larger-berried) cousin Gros Manseng, along with Petit Courbu and several others of preposterous obscurity. Unlike Sauternes, these delectably sweet moelleux wines are not affected by botrytis, nonetheless left on the vine as late as December to order to concentrate their sugars and flavour content. In France, this process is known as passerillé. In Alsace, wines labelled as ‘Vendanges Tardive’ are treated almost exactly the same. In youth, great Jurançon often presents notes of honey, lemon curd and elderberries, becoming increasingly Sauternes-like as it ages, though almost never as full-bodied. Pickings in VINTAGES are uninspired, though are often extremely reasonably priced when available, usually at around $25 or less. Dry white versions, labelled as ‘Jurançon Sec’ (crafted mostly from the earlier-ripening Gros Manseng) usually cost only half as much, and are often recommendable as everyday wines.

As if choices from the Southwest aren’t varied enough, scores of other appellations also slowly on the ascendancy. Value for money is key to their future prosperity. Though almost never available in VINTAGES, names to watch out for are Marcillac, Buzet, Côtes du Marmandais, Côtes du Duras, Béarn (and Béarn-Bellocq) and Irouléguy, the latter the only French appellation located in Basque Country. For lovers of diversity in wine, this vast sector of France truly is a proverbial treasure-trove of possibilities.

A few estates to watch:

Château Bouissel (Fronton): Run by Anne-Marie and Pierre Selle, the wines of Château Bouissel are among the most enjoyable in Fronton. At this 22-ha estate, freshness and approachability are prominent features. Three reds are currently produced, along with a very clean rosé. Le Bouissel seems their most balanced label, crafted mainly from Négrette and equal parts Syrah and Cot (Malbec) Ontario representative: Ruby Wines & Spirits

Château Bouissel 2012 Le Bouissel Fronton is one of several impressive examples produced at this reputable estate. Though more serious wines are increasingly being attempted, the best wines of Fronton seem to be those that manage to retain a proper sense of fruit expression and approachability. This is just such a wine. Drink now or hold for up to four years or more.  

Domaine Rotier (Gaillac): One of the finest properties in Gaillac, this 35-ha property is owned by Alain Rotier and brother-in-law Francis Marre. Though the reds respectable enough, the estate’s sweet wine (crafted from 100 per cent Loin de l’Oeil) is a very special offering. Like many operations in this part of the Southwest, the future holds more potential than it does obstacles. Ontario representative: Rouge et Blanc

Domaine Rotier 2011 Renaissance Vendanges Tardives Gaillac harkens back to the days when this ancient part of winegrowing France was best known for its sweeter-styled wines. Impeccably styled and elegant, it is a shame more of these wines aren’t produced nowadays. Drink now or hold for ten years or more.

Domaine du Moulin (Gaillac): Owned by the Hirrisou family, the wines of Domaine du Moulin are among the most impressive in Gaillac. Concentration, cleanliness and character seem to be common traits, particularly as far as the premium labels are concerned. Every visitor to this charming appellation should make a point of tasting this property’s wines. Not represented in Canada

Domaine du Moulin 2012 Florentin is easily the greatest pure Braucol (Fer Servadou) I have tasted to date. Possessing first-rate fruit expression, harmony and character, I would have never believed this lighter-bodied grape could yield a wine of such seriousness. Drink now or hold for six years or more. Decanting recommended.

Château Bouissel Classic 2012 Domaine Rotier Renaissance Vendanges Tardives 2011 Domaine Du Moulin Florentin 2012 Domaine Du Prince Lou Prince Cahors 2011 Château Montus 2009

Domaine du Prince (Cahors): Owned by the Jouve family, the wines of Domaine du Prince (especially the more premium versions) are certainly among the more concentrated versions of the appellation. Recent vintages from this 27-ha property seem superb, which currently produces four reds and one rosé. This is a very serious operation. Québec representative: À Travers Le Vin

Domaine du Prince 2011 Lou Prince Cahors is the flagship bottling of the estate, sourced from two separate parcels. Like the property’s other premium labels, this marvellous offering manages to combine a unique sense of modernity with the inherent characteristics and flavours of a top-sited Cahors. Drink now or hold for a dozen years or more. Decanting recommended.  

Château Montus (Madiran): Generally considered the star estate of the appellation, the wines of Château Montus seldom disappoint. Owned by Alain Brumont, a master of Tannat, this stellar establishment currently produces five reds and one white. For Madiran enthusiasts, and fans of the Southwest of France in general, few properties are as significant. Québec Representative: Mark Anthony Brands

Château Montus 2009 Montus Madiran is a wine of outstanding character, power and breed. Just as significant, the Montus is not even the flagship label of the estate, which just goes to show how serious owner Alain Brumont takes his wines. Drink now or hold four fourteen years or more. Decanting recommended.

~

Duck (canard) and Sud-Ouest France:

Thanks to a sensational foie gras extravaganza at Château Montauriol (see list below) in Fronton and many other opportunities to partake of local specialties, Julian’s time in the Southwest of France was as much wine-themed as it was duck-oriented. Feast your eyes on his report.

As I am loath to the concept of photographing my food, a type of avant-garde ritual amongst smartphone and tablet owners as an alternate form of saying grace, I leave it to readers’ old-fashioned imaginations to conceive of the wondrous and innumerable types of duck (canard) cuisine to be found in the Southwest of France. Though enjoyed throughout France and many other parts of the world, few peoples seem as attached to this sinfully satisfying creature as the inhabitants of France’s southwestern quadrant, particularly in and around Gascogne.

Controversy aside, foie gras is the most celebrated genre, the best examples sourced from the livers of free-range ducks (though geese is considered superior) fattened on maize. Foie gras is produced in many formats. Those prepared ‘entier’ are generally considered the finest, consisting of the entire liver and usually containing no preservatives. Those presented as a ‘bloc’ are typically derived from smaller pieces whipped and condensed together. ‘Mousse’ de foie gras consists of puréed pieces, while ‘pâté’ is usually combined with other meat products. When cooked, entier or bloc versions (most common) are among the most appetizing of culinary delights. Foie gras is typically begun at the start of a meal, ideally with sweeter-style wines. Jurançon or sweet Gaillac are both optimal pairings.

Though modes of preparation are vast, two types of duck are most often served as main courses. Confit de canard is certainly the most decadent. Crafted from the leg, the meat is first rubbed with salt, herbs and garlic, after which it is covered in rendered fat. The duck is then cooked at a low temperature in the oven for at least several hours. The result is incredible flavour and richness. Another common type of duck is magret de canard, the breast of the bird, typically lined with a half-centimetre layer of fat on one side. Usually pan-fried and containing several slits for accuracy, a moist helping of magret de canard is one of the region’s great offerings. Cahors or Madiran are ideal accompaniments.

The options don’t end here. In salads, duck gizzards (gesiers) are quite common, as is smoked duck served in slices, usually from the breast. There are many others of greater complicatedness than the ones mentioned above, and I would list them, yet I am made to recall the trials and tribulations of my most beloved cartoon characters and feel the need to pause. It seems my appreciation of duck is not without a sense of screen imagery after all.

A duck feast at Château Montauriol (Fronton):

Foie gras de canard mi-cuit (half-cooked)

Fois gras de canard entier

Cou de canard farci

Rillettes de canard

Pâté de canard

Saucisse de canard

Magret de canard frais séché

Gesiers de canard (served in salad)

Tartare de canard

Carpaccio de canard (with garlic and parsley)

Cheers,

Julian Hitner

Click here for Julian’s complete list of red wines from Southwest France

Editors Note: You can find our 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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (November)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers and Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO this month

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I am delighted to have found many new great values at the LCBO this month. From among all the wines I have tasted since I last reported to you, I have found nine new wines to join the Top 50.

Additionally many wines on my Top 50 Best Values list are discounted and some have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive for the next four weeks or so; all making your fall drinking more affordable.

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. I select most from wines on Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The discount period this time runs until November 29th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Fuzion Alta Reserva Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina $8.95 was $9.95
NEW TO TOP50 – A fruity juicy malbec for pizza and meaty pasta sauces.

Xplorador Carmenere 2012, Central Valley, Chile $9.15 was $10.95
DISCONTINUED AT LCBO – Sadly this juicy, fruit-forward red will soon no longer be on the shelf.  There are over 800 bottles in stock so one can still enjoy at the sale price for a while I think.

Berco Do Infante Red Reserva 2012, Lisboa Region, Portugal $9.80 + 4BAMs
From the Lisbon area in Portugal comes this tasty fruity red, great for pizza and burgers.

Fuzion Alta Reserva Malbec 2013 Xplorador Carmenere 2012 Berco Do Infante Red Reserva 2012 Tini Sangiovese Di Romagna 2012 Beso De Vino Old Vine Garnacha 2011

Tini Sangiovese Di Romagna 2012, Emilia-Romagna, Italy $9.96 + 6BAMs
A Sangiovese (the Chianti grape) that’s great with tomato sauces.

Beso De Vino Old Vine Garnacha 2011, Carinena, Spain $9.95 + 5BAMs
A fresh vibrant soft juicy red ideal for grilled meats made from grenache (aka garnacha).

Argento Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina $9.95 + 4BAMs
An inexpensive cabernet with lots of varietal character and a decent structure without too much confection.

Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2013, Sicily, Italy $9.95 was $11.95
TOP50NOVEMBER – Super value for $9.95; worthy of a multiple bottle purchase of this delicious Sicilian red.

Quartetto 2009, Alentejano, Portugal $10.00 plus 4BAMs
Made from four native Portuguese grapes. Chill slightly and enjoy with pizza, burgers and meaty pasta sauces.

Argento Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Cusumano Nero d'Avola 2013 Quartetto 2009 Farnese Casale Vecchio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2013 Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011 Luccarelli Primitivo 2013

Farnese Casale Vecchio Montepulciano D’abruzzo 2013, Abruzzo, Italy $10.95
NEW TO TOP50 – The 2013 is a very good vintage for this very classy Italian red. Ripasso lovers should be shopping here at less than $11!

Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011, Ontario VQA $10.95 was $11.95
NEW TO TOP50 – A juicy fruity ripe cabernet franc for roast meats or lamb cutlets.

Luccarelli Primitivo 2013, Puglia, Italy $11.05
NEW TO TOP50 – Known as zinfandel in California, this is a full-bodied succulent red great with a rack of lamb.

Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile $11.45 plus 4BAMs
NEW TO TOP50 – Great value for a fragrant ripe well balanced Chilean cabernet.

Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2012, Catalonia, Spain $12.95 + 8 BAMs
This wine has been around for ever and still keeps going strong. Time to try again. Always a safe bet.

Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2012 Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2012 Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina $12.95 was $14.95
TOP50NOVEMBER – Was great value at $14.95 now outstanding at $2 off. Time to stock up on this delicious elegant malbec.

Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso 2012, Tuscany, Italy $14.45
NEW TO TOP50 – A fragrant soft red with lots of flavour and character for a wine at this price.

Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Aconcagua Valley, Chile $15.95 was $18.95
NEW TO TOP50 – 2012 is one of the best vintages ever for this classic Chilean cabernet. Enjoy while $3 off.

Whites

Poquito Moscato Sparkling (375ml) Spain $2.85 was $5.00
DISCONTINUED AT LCBO (Over 8,000 in inventory currently) – This floral sweet summer bubbly listing is coming to an end so this half bottle has gone on sale. Pick up an armfull, chill well and enjoy as an aperitif.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile $8.95 was $9.95
TOP50NOVEMBER – Was already the best value white in Ontario; now a $1 off. It’s time to stock up on this fragrant juicy white.

Poquito Moscato Sparkling Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2014 Cono Sur Chardonnay Reserva Especial 2014

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2014, Central Valley, Chile $9.90
NEW TO TOP50 – This delicious grigio has deservedly been so popular since it launched in the summer that the LCBO keeps running out of it. Use WineAlign’s inventory tracking to make sure there is some in your store and pick up a few.

Cono Sur Chardonnay Reserva Especial 2014, Casablanca Valley, Chile $12.95
NEW TO TOP50 – The new vintage is quite sauvignon like; fresh lively with just a touch of oak and mouthwateringly delicious.

How does a wine get selected for the Top 20 under $20.

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

- On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines  I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

- Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

- Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection (Top 50,) that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. You can access the report any time and read more about it now.

Steve Top50The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

There are another 36 wines on the Top 50 list so if you did not find all you need above for your current needs dip into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. I use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database. I review the list every month to include newly listed and recently tasted vintages of current listings as well as monitoring the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top 50, since it is always changing. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. Moreover if you disagree with our reviews, tell us please us. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

How I Choose the Top 50

I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep the Top 50 list up to date. You can easily find all of my all Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wine =>Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

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.

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

Top 20 Under $20 for November
Top 50 Value Wines

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


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Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013

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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – November

A Plethora of Great Spirits
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Margaret Swaine

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

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


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Glen Garioch Founders Reserve Highland Scotch Single Malt

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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008