WineAlign

Find the right wine at the right price, right now.

Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (July update)

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

It was fun again this month finding 20 wines under $20 for this report. Some new wines joined  my Top 50 Best Values and there are some monthly discounts (LTOs) from the LCBO as well as a slew of Bonus AirMiles (BAMs) making some wines even more attractive for the next four weeks or so; all making your summer 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 some from 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  for this report runs until August 17th – so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available when we published.

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

Reds

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013, Abruzzo, Italy $7.75 + 4BAMs – Italian flavour and character at a good price for a food balanced wine.

Casal Thaulero Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Abruzzo, Italy $7.75, New to Top 50 – A simple red for enjoying with pizza and meaty tomato pasta sauces.

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2011, Chile $7.95 + 4BAMs, Top 50 – A solid midweight red for enjoying with roast or bbq meats.

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013 Casal Thaulero Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2011 Fonseca Periquita 2012 Santa Carolina Merlot 2012

Fonseca Periquita 2012, Peninsula De Setubal, Portugal $8.95, New to Top 50 – Dependable value medium bodied red with a spicy side to the fruit.

Santa Carolina Merlot 2012, Chile $8.95 + 4BAMs, Top 50 – A very drinkable red at a good price for everyday enjoyment.

Argento Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina $9.95 + 4BAMs – A well made pure cabernet that has not been adulterated with over-oaking and sweetness.

Castillo De Monseran Garnacha 2013, Carinena, Spain $9.95 + 5BAMs – An exciting youthful red finely balanced for enjoying with many foods.

Quartetto 2009, Alentejano, Portugal $10.30 + 4BAMs – A full bodied red made from four Portuguese grapes with some elegance – rare for this price.

Argento Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Castillo De Monseran Garnacha 2013 Quartetto 2009 Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011 Montes Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011, Ontario $11.95 was $12.95, New to Top 50 – A soft fruity sweetish midweight red that’s balanced with good length.

Montes Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile $13.40 + 4BAMs – An easy drinking ripe cabernet with lots of flavour. Very tasty.

Pascual Toso Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina $13.95 + 5BAMs – A juicy fairly complex malbec with very good length.

Fifth Leg Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2011, Western Australia $16.00 + 5 BAMs – A cool climate elegant red with a long juicy finish.

Las Rocas Garnacha 2011, Do Calatayud, Spain $16.75 + 8BAMs – An aromatic midweight red with good length and complexity.

Pascual Toso Malbec 2013 Fifth Leg Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2011 Las Rocas Garnacha 2011 Jacob's Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia $16.95 + 10 BAMs – Classic Coonawarra cabernet at a good price. Finely balanced with some ageing potential.

Grahams Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008 Douro Valley, Portugal $16.95, New to Top 50 – A soft powerful fragrant Port with the alcohol finely balanced by fruit and acidity.

Whites

Periquita White 2013, Portugal $8.80, New to Top 50 – A fruity fragrant white for mildly flavoured seafood.

Dunavar Muscat Ottonel 2012, Hungary $8.95 + 3BAMs, Top 50 – Great value for an aromatic flavourful juicy white for Asian cuisine or rich poultry.

Two Oceans Chardonnay 2012, Western Cape, South Africa $10.25 + 6BAMs, Top 50 – The 2012 is a big improvement. Lots of ripe flavours yet crisp and fresh. Great value.

Periquita White 2013 Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2013 Goats Do Roam White 2013

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2013, Casablanca Valley, Chile $11.95, New to Top 50 – The new vintage is just as good. A mildly oaked vibrant juicy chardonnay.

Goats Do Roam White 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $11.95 + 5BAMs, Top 50 – An aromatic rich dry white, great as an aperitif or with Asian cuisine.

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.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesThere are another 39 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 July
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 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Advertisements
Luxardo Amaretto Di Saschira

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

Cool White Spirits

by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Vodka in North America once was a colourless flavourless way to booze up orange or tomato juice. Then came the flavoured vodkas often used to add jazz to cocktails. Now along comes a Swedish vodka created specifically to max out flavour without the addition of flavourings. Just pure unfiltered distilled grain – albeit distilled 34 times – and best served unadulterated by anything but water.

Master Blender Thomas Kuuttanen travelled recently to Canada to present his Purity Vodka to bartenders and spirit writers. Kuuttanen who has worked for over 25 years as a distiller of whisky, eau-de-vie and liqueurs said “I didn’t like what vodka had become over the years – colourless, tasteless and odorless.”

He set about developing an old school style vodka that played by the rules (i.e. could not according to regulations be solely made in a pot still) but had texture, aroma and flavour. To do this he had to invent his own distillation method and his own distillation apparatus which took over a year to create (a pot still and two special distillation towers).

Purity VodkaVodka can be made with any agricultural ingredient however most use wheat. Kuuttanen used a combo of winter wheat and two-row organic malted barley (the same type used for whisky) for Purity. The 34 extremely slow distillations over several days are what make the biggest difference. He uses only the finest 10% distillate and he doesn’t filter his vodka (it’s so pure there’s no need he says).

The result is the first vodka to score a perfect 100 points (organic category, The Vodka Masters 2011) and is the most awarded ultra-premium vodka in the world with over 80 gold medals. At the tasting I attended we compared Purity with Smirnoff (the biggest selling vodka in the world), Grey Goose, Stoli Elit and Absolut Elyx. Smirnoff as could be expected was the most neutral, Purity the most aromatic and deep with flavour and Stoli Elit the prettiest and silkiest.

He presented a vodka flavour chart to demonstrate which vodkas fell where on the scale of neutral to complex and light to rich. In the quadrant of complex and rich were such vodkas as Stoli Elit, Ketel One, Belvedere Intense, Vermont Gold and right up at the top, Purity.

Kuuttanen’s signature cocktail for Purity is 3 parts vodka, one part water stirred over ice and strained out into a martini glass. To make a smoky martini he recommends using the same formula but swirling Laphroaig in the martini glass first. Then toss out the whisky, rub an orange peel on the top of the glass and pour in the vodka/water mix.

Spud Potato vodka is another interesting vodka to come to Canada. Made in Poland from distilled potatoes grown without chemicals or pesticides, its creamy texture works well in highball drinks. It’s also free of additives. (Many vodkas contain additives such as glycerine, sugars or softeners to make the vodka taste better.)

Spud Potato VodkaBroken Shed VodkaI Spirit VodkaGrey Goose VX

Additive free Broken Shed Vodka from New Zealand currently has a small distribution in British Columbia through Indigo Hospitality Solutions (www.tasteindigo.com) with a view to grow its presence throughout Canada. It’s also making a name for itself in the US. Its unusual twist is that it’s made from whey.

The Italian vodka, I Spirit Vodka debuted in 2009, a project of three Italians: Arrigo Cipriani of Harry’s Bar, Lapo Elkann (from the Fiat family)and wine producer Marco Fantinel.

Available only in Duty Free in Canada, Grey Goose VX is silky, smooth and exceptional.

Deluxe gins are trendy in Canada. In Ontario those in the over $32 category are up 80 per cent. That said it’s good to see value priced ($27.95) elegant and citrus crisp Hayman’s London Dry Gin on the shelves too. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is a lovely old style juniper dominant, ginny gin.

Hayman's London Dry GinHayman's Old Tom GinBombay Sapphire East

From Islay in Scotland, The Botanist Dry Gin has nine classic gin botanicals plus an astonishing 22 local herbs and flowers to flavour it. Bombay Sapphire East has an addition of Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorns to lend it an exotic flare. For a most refreshing G&T press 3 small bulbs of lemongrass and a lime wedge into the base of a glass. Add 1.5 ounces Bombay Sapphire East Gin, Fever Tree Tonic (less sweet than standard commercial sodas) and ice to the glass and stir. Garnish with a sprinkle of cracked peppercorn and a stem of lemongrass.

Auchentoshan 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch WhiskyThose who prefer a brown spirit for their cocktails or just for sweet summer sipping on the rocks by the dock should stock up on triple distilled Auchentoshan.

For an alternative to a G&T; mix a good quality ginger beer with 1.5 ounces Auchentoshan in a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange slice. This single malt Lowland scotch is smooth yet distinctive. Ideal like those gins and vodkas above to mellow out and relax on a midsummer day.

Cin cin, salud, santé, cheerio, skål, slainte – whatever your toast – have a cheer filled summer.

 

Margaret Swaine

To find these and other picks at stores near you, click on the link below:

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


Advertisements
LUX_amarettoNWSLTR

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

The Successful Collector – The Haut-Médoc

Stomping grounds for value
by Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

If there’s one problem Bordeaux has yet to overcome, it’s convincing enthusiasts that great claret need not break the bank. Yet many less-esteemed appellations throughout one of France’s most celebrated winegrowing areas are nowadays consistently able to combine both quality and ageability with youthful scrumptiousness and value. Of these, the Haut-Médoc is arguably at the forefront.

The largest appellation on the Left Bank of the Gironde, the Haut-Médoc surrounds the far more renowned appellations (excluded like a jigsaw puzzle from the map shown right) of Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac, and St-Estèphe, each home to the lion’s share of the most famous estates in Bordeaux. The others are situated further upriver, just south of the city of Bordeaux, in the appellation of Pessac-Léognan. As a result, the finest estates of the Haut-Médoc are routinely overlooked.

But this has begun changing for some time, particularly in parts of the Haut-Médoc most blessed with higher gravel mounds on which to plant vines. As with the finest sections in the more celebrated appellations mentioned above, these gravel mounds represent one of the most significant characteristics of the greatest terroirs on the Left Bank. While regrettable, estates with vines sourced from lower-level locations simply cannot make the same wines.

The boundaries of the Haut-Médoc are extensive. Extending only several kilometres into the hinterland, the appellation begins just northeast of the city of Bordeaux along the Left Bank of the Gironde. It concludes several kilometres north of St-Estèphe, where the gravel mounds finally give way to lower-lying vineyards located in an appellation known simply as Médoc. Merlot tends to play a much greater role in the blends at this point along the river, with Cabernet Sauvignon habitually used in much smaller amounts.

Throughout much of the Haut-Médoc, Cabernet Sauvignon is used in fairly generous proportions, reinforced by Merlot and small percentages of Cabernet Franc. Petit Verdot may be found from time to time, while Malbec may turn up in extremely small sums here and there. While the most illustrious estates may employ hand pickers at harvest time, many estates will often bring in their grapes via mechanical harvesters. Unlike the most famous estates of Margaux or Pauillac, many establishments in the Haut-Médoc are unable to afford such a luxury. The use of new French oak barriques will also vary according to financial constraints and/or quality of the grapes.

Of rankings, the Haut-Médoc contains only five estates belonging to the famous yet contentious 1855 Classification, each varying in quality and typically ranging in VINTAGES and the SAQ from $45-100. In terms of overall value, better examples may be found among the numerous estates ranked as Cru Bourgeois, the chief ranking category of the appellation. With the odd exception, prices in this category usually range from $20-40.

In the past, the majority of such wines were excessively lean and required years of cellaring in order to blossom. Not anymore. As a result of better winegrowing techniques and changes in climatic conditions (think global warming), the best Cru Bourgeois wines nowadays routinely offer immediate, concentrated appeal, and may be kept for up to ten years or more in the cellar. What’s more, their prices are strikingly reasonable, unlike their counterparts in St-Julien or St-Estèphe, where estates included in the 1855 Classification have all but been cordoned off except to the most well-heeled of buyers.

In the twenty-first century, never before has the winegrowing region of Bordeaux made such sizeable quantities of excellent wine. Yet the consequences of celebrity have grown all too apparent in appellations like Margaux or Pauillac, where wines once considered reasonable have become anything but. For diehard claret lovers, therefore, the fast-improving Haut-Médoc could not be more of a lifesaver.

My top choices:

Château Peyrabon 2010 Haut-Médoc is situated in the commune of St-Sauveur (just to the east of Pauillac) and represents terrific value for money. Although a rather oak-driven affair, all the component parts of this sumptuous claret are in marvellous alignment. Drink now or hold for up to ten years or more. Decanting is recommended. 

Château Sénéjac 2009 Haut-Médoc is situated in the commune of St-Pian (located in the southern part of the appellation) and is easily the most serious vintage I’ve tasted from this estate to date. Regrettably, only a handful of bottles are left in VINTAGES at time of publication. Drink now or hold for up to eight years or more. Decanting is recommended. 

Château Peyrabon 2010Château Senejac 2009Château Larose Trintaudon 2010Château Moulin De Blanchon 2009Château De Gironville 2009

Château Larose-Trintaudon 2010 Haut-Médoc is based out of the commune of St-Laurent (just to the east of St-Julien) and is the largest estate on the Left Bank. Though quality has been limited for many years, recent vintages such as the ’10 have been excellent. Drink now or hold for up to eight years. Decanting is recommended.

Château Moulin de Blanchon 2009 Haut-Médoc is based out of the commune of St-Seurin (just to the north of St-Estèphe) and represents a sincerely beautiful outing. From a part of the Haut-Médoc with some extremely fine wineries, it’s wines like these that typify the future of the appellation. Drink now or hold for up to six years or more. Decanting is recommended.

Château de Gironville 2009 Haut-Médoc is based out of the commune of Macau (just to the south of Margaux) and is a truly delicious affair. Containing 10% Petit Verdot (unusual for a Haut-Médoc), there are only a handful of bottles left in VINTAGES at time of publication. Drink now or hold for up to eight years or more. Decanting is recommended.

Château La Lagune 2010Château Belgrave 2009Château Belgrave 2009 Haut-Médoc is based out of the commune of St-Laurent (just to the east of St-Julien) and is ranked as a Fifth Growth in the 1855 Classification. Though twice the cost of a standard Cru Bourgeois, the ’09 really is an outstanding claret. Drink now or hold for up to fourteen years or more. Decanting is recommended.

Château La Lagune 2010 Haut-Médoc is based out of the commune of Ludon (located in the southern part of the appellation) and is ranked as a Third Growth in the 1855 Classification. This is widely regarded as one of the finest wines of the Haut-Médoc, and is highly recommended for serious collectors. Drink now or hold for up to twenty years or more. Decanting is recommended.

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

Cheers,

Julian Hitner

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

All Julian Hitner Reviews


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

Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (July 2014)

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 always get a great deal of pleasure finding the 20 wines under $20 for this monthly report, and this time was even more pleasurable as I was in Portugal last week visiting wineries. I was impressed to find some modern fresh reds and whites at great prices to add to the selection below. They should make excellent summer drinking.

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO wines and the VINTAGES Essentials collection. I select some from 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 does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs) and Bonus Air Miles (BAMS).

The current discount period runs until July 20th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available when we published. You can also use WineAlign to create and print your list of those available at your local store.

[Stay tuned: John Szabo will be up next with his observations and recommendations on the July 5th VINTAGES release.]

Reds

Mezzomondo Negroamaro 2011, Salento, Puglia, Italy. $8.95 + 5 BAMs, Top 50 – An easy drinking flavourful red.

Obikwa Shiraz 2012, Western Cape, South Africa. $9.45 + 5 BAMs – An excellent inexpensive BBQ shiraz

P K N T Carmenere Reserve 2012, Central Valley, Chile. $9.95 was $10.95, Top 50 – A full-bodied red with supple juicy fruit, not at all spicy, as might be suggested by the label.

Mezzomondo Negroamaro 2011Obikwa Shiraz 2012P K N T Carmenere Reserve 2012Trapiche Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Shiraz 2012

Trapiche Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Mendoza Argentina. $9.95, New to the Top 50 – An amazingly good cabernet for the money. Enjoy with BBQ meats.

Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2012, Western Cape, South Africa. $11.95 + 7 BAMs, New to the Top 50 – A fullbodied red with freshness from minerality and vibrant acidity.

Thelema Mountain Red 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa. $11.95, New to the Top 50 – Shiraz plus five other grapes in a dense complex red.

Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Western Cape, South Africa. $11.95, New to the Top 50 – A lightly oaked savoury ripe red with a lot of complexity for the money.

Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Peloponnese, Greece. $12.60 + 4 BAMs – A fresh midweight cabernet ideal for BBQ meats.

Thelema Mountain Red 2011Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva Douro 2010Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011Quinta Do Encontro Q Do E 2011

Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva 2010 Douro Valley, Portugal. $12.95 New to the Top 50 – An opaque purple with a fragrant fruity nose, that’s full-bodied. Try with a steak.

Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario. $13.95 + 6 BAMs – A fruity pinot with some spice and smokey complexity.

Quinta Do Encontro Q do E 2011, Bairrada, Portugal. $14.25 + 4 BAMs – An elegant structured red.

Whites

Citra Trebbiano D’abruzzo 2012, Abruzzo, Italy. $7.45 New to the Top 50 – A good inexpensive fruity white.

Periquita White 2013, Portugal. $8.80 – A fruity fragrant white for mildly flavoured seafood.

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Central Valley, Chile. $9.95 Top 50 – A juicy very ripe sauvignon blanc with lots of balancing acidity.

Citra Trebbiano D'abruzzo 2013Periquita White 2013Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013Carl Reh Riesling Kabinett 2012

Carl Reh Riesling Kabinett 2012, Mosel, Germany. $11.95 New to the Top 50 – An elegant balanced off-dry white ideal for Thai food.

Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Leyda Valley, Chile. $11.95 New to the Top 50 – A fresh floral creamy sauvignon blanc.

The Wolftrap White 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $13.95 + 5 BAMs, Top 50 – An intensely flavoured white.

Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Reserve 2013, Adelaide Hills, South Australia $14.95 + 10 BAMs – New style Aussie chardonnay; fresher, crisper and less oak.

Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand $14.95 + 10 BAMs – Good value for a typical kiwi sauvignon blanc

Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Southern Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand $19.95 + 10 BAMs – Classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc, elegant, fresh, pure and mouthwateringly delicious.

Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013The Wolftrap White 2013Jacob's Creek Chardonnay Reserve 2013Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013

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.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesThere are another 39 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 July
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 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Advertisements
TigerHorsePGnwsltr

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

Inconvenient Truths

The Caveman Speaks
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I have a pretty good life being a wine critic. I get to travel the world and hang out with “gourmandes” and bon vivants. Aside from having lost pretty well all the enamel on my teeth, there is very little to complain about. Oh, there is one other thing, I have to taste way too much wine.

Now before you all start thinking “Cry me a river you spoilt baby,” understand that it is work. First, much of the wine we critics have to taste isn’t all that exciting. Many in fact anger me due to their lack of character or simply because they taste bad.

But that’s not what bugs me most. Maybe 15 years ago, when I started getting serious about wine, I made a commitment to myself to mostly drink from my basement as opposed to buying wines at the SAQ and drinking them the same night. And for years I happily drank wines from my modest cellar. Most of those wines were pretty modest, between $20-$30 a bottle.

Those days are gone. Since I became a wine writer, I spend most of my drinking time testing out the latest arrivals – drinking young wines. And this leads me to a very inconvenient truth about wine: drinking young wine is just “ok.”

The point was driven home at a dinner party I threw last winter. We had just started to eat – rib roast, cauliflower baked with Gré des Champs cheese, roasted potato, and all doused with a truffle sauce. We were seven around the table and I opened one of the magnums I had in my cellar – a 1990 Château Barbeyrolles. This mourvèdre-based, Côte de Provence was given to me by wine maker Régine Sumeire on my last trip to Provence. A couple of minutes after the first few bites of truffled cheesy cauliflower and prime rib, I glanced over to the other end of the table and my buddy Herve raised his glass in silence, gave it a quick swirl, finished his bite and drank it down. He gave me that “Damn this is ever good” look.

And it was. The wine was wonderfully “thin,” much like a classically made nebbiolo. The aromatics were staggering – flowers, cherry blossoms, mushrooms. All that boisterous primary fruit and oak of a young wine had become kirsch, sweet earth and spice. And a beautiful counterpoint to the truffle sauce. The tannins were there, but gave the wine just enough heft to stand up to the richness of the rib.

Despite that myself and Herve were the only wine “experts” there that night, the reaction of my normally not so “wine fussy” friends was unanimous – this was a meal to remember. Everyone thanked me for opening such an expensive bottle of wine. Never being one to shun a bit of flattery, I didn’t say anything that night, but if you were to buy a bottle of a recent vintage of Barbeyrolles, which unfortunately is not available here in Quebec, it would set you back around $20. Let’s call that magnum $45.

As you can see from the price tag, it has less to do with the price of the bottle, rather it’s a question of bottle age and pedigree. And here is another inconvenient truth – every wine has its time. It might be six months, a few years, or 18 as was the case with that magnum of Barbeyrolles, but nothing rewards a wine lover like patience.

Inside the cellars of Lopez de Heredia

Inside the cellars of Lopez de Heredia

Unfortunately this is not part of our drinking culture and it isn’t for a number of reasons. Most people don’t have wine cellars. Storing wine takes up space and if you live in an apartment, when the temperature in mid-summer climbs to 30ºC, we are not talking ideal cellar conditions. It also requires a certain amount of cash outlay, even if you are stocking wines in the $20-$40 range. And for many, it simply isn’t a priority.

This is not to say that drinking wines in their youth is necessarily a bad thing. Young wines can have a wonderful ‘fruitiness,’ and because of their spicy tannins and vibrant acidity, can feel very “alive” in your mouth. I remember a dinner a few years back with wine maker Jean-Paul Daumen of the Rhône winery Domaine de la Vieille Julienne. We drank his 2005 and 2006 Châteauneuf-de-Pape and they were very good. Not transcendent but as good as one could possibly expect from any well-made young wine. But we finished our meal with his 2001, and there we started to see the evidence of maturity – depth and complexity, a caressing mouthfeel, the beginnings of greatness.

There is always a risk involved when cellaring wines, that they may become too old, devoid of any real fruit and lacking any real structure. Did I know that the 1990 magnum would be that good? Nope. What I knew was that 1990 was a phenomenal year in the south of France and wine maker Régine Sumeire makes wines in a very traditional manner – never over ripe which translates into wines with enough acidity and a quality of tannin to be able to evolve with grace. It was an educated guess and the payoff was that we got to drink a wine at it’s apogee – when all wines should, in a perfect world, be drunk.

So for those of you who have a cellar, or are thinking about starting your own wine collection, as much as I would love to give you the formula as to when your wines will be at their best – I can’t. I can however say that by drinking wines as they age, you will get a different perspective and a deeper understanding of what wine can be, and how wine can inspire at times such reverence.

Apostolos Thymiopoulos' Naoussa is a great inexpensive wine for your cellar

Apostolos Thymiopoulos’ Naoussa is a great inexpensive wine for your cellar

And for those who don’t that’s fine too. Well made wine can be drunk and enjoyed in their youth – it is simply a case of not witnessing the beauty of its full potential. Unfortunately nothing is able to replace patience – as inconvenient a truth as that may be.

So if you are looking for some mid-priced wines that will gain with a few years, or decades, in a cellar, here are a few suggestions. And yes, they can all be enjoyed now as well.

We’ll start in Greece with one of my favourite wines, the 2011 Noussa Terre et Ciel from Apostolos Thymiopoulos. So graceful and complex with a structure that reminds me of nebbiolo.

Speaking of nebbiolo, Cantina del Pino’s 2009 Barbaresco shows all the signs of traditional wine making. Great acidity, gritty tannin and a delicate fruitiness. For the price, a great buy and can live for a least a decade.

Staying in Italy, one of the better under $30 bargains is Umani Ronchi’s Cùmaro. The 2009 shows what is great about the montepulciano grape – ripe but not jammy fruit and some super grippy tannin. Easily will cellar well over the next 5 years.

One of the better wines I have tried recently is Dominio De Pingus’ 2011 Psi. Made from old vine tempranillo, this is but a baby and will gain so much more depth and complexity over the next decade.

Finally, the cellar isn’t just a place for red wines. I probably have as much white wine down there as red. Try to put away a few bottles of Prà’s 2012 Soave Monte Grande. So delicate, yet as it opens up, gains so much depth and complexity. Would love to see this in 3-5 years.

If you are looking to have your mind blown, then try the 2004 Rioja Gravonia from Lopez de Heredia. Just read the review to get a sense of what you are up against here.

Thymiopoulos Vineyards Yn Kai Oupavós Xinomavro 2011Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2009Umani Ronchi Cùmaro 2009Dominio De Pingus Psi 2011Prà Monte Grande Soave Classico 2012Vina Gravonia Rioja Crianza 2004

Happy summer folks,

Bill

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

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

New at the LCBO: Essentials and Good Buys for June

Picking through the New Arrivals
by Steve Thurlow with selections from Sara d’Amato

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Here is what’s new – and what’s good – on the LCBO’s General List and VINTAGES Essentials Collection – the wines that are widely available and probably on shelf now at your local LCBO.

The LCBO is constantly adding new wines to the General List (GL) to replace wines that fail to achieve sales targets that have been removed or “delisted”. This keeps the number of wines available at around 1500. There were 27 new wines presented at a recent tasting. Most were underwhelming but we found some that we thought to be noteworthy.

We also tasted through over 100 of the VINTAGES Essentials Collection (E). These are wines that are always available in the VINTAGES section of the store. We found a few new wines and some new vintages that we think are worth a try.

The Reds

Viticoltori Acquesi Brachetto D’Acqui, Piedmont Italy ($13.35 GL) It’s actually a sparking rose, so almost a red with lots of flavour and aroma.

Porcupine Ridge 2013 Syrah, Swartland, South Africa ($14.95 E) This has been a great buy for the last umpteen vintages. A flavourful versatile well-balanced red.

Lan 2010 Crianza, Rioja, Spain ($15.95 E) New to the Essentials Collection. Classy, distinctive and just as appealing on its own or with grilled flank steak.

Featherstone 2012 Cabernet Franc, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($17.95 E) This is impressively fine – very characteristic of cabernet franc and a prime example of the surprisingly wonderful results this grape can achieve in Niagara .

Viticoltori Acquesi Brachetto D'acquiPorcupine Ridge Syrah 2013Lan Crianza 2010Featherstone Cabernet Franc 2012

Louis Jadot 2012 Beaujolais Villages Combes Aux Jacques, Beaujolais, France ($17.95 E) Although this vintage is considerably lighter than previous, it is still lovely, compelling and highly enjoyable.

19 Crimes 2012 Shiraz Durif, Victoria, Australia ($18.95 GL) Great packaging for this perfumed, dense very fruity shiraz that’s perfect for bbq meats.

Concha Y Toro 2012 Marques De Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto Maipo Valley, Chile ($21.95 E) Always reliable this is the best vintage in a while of this well structured, very classy cabernet from the Maipo Valley.

Stags’ Leap Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA ($44.95 until June 22; was $49.95 E) This is a beautiful California cabernet, balanced, elegant and nicely structured for mid-term cellaring.

Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Combes Aux Jacques 201219 Crimes Shiraz Durif 2012Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Stags' Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

The Whites

Fleur Du Cap 2013 Chardonnay, Western Cape, South Africa ($12.80 GL) This wine has been sadly absent from our market for a few years and it is a welcome return to the LCBO list. It’s a mildly oaked richly flavoured bold chardonnay.

Torres Viña Esmeralda 2013, Catalonia, Spain ($13.95 GL) It is great to have this aromatic white blend once again in our stores.

Bonterra Chardonnay 2012, Mendocino County, California, USA ($16.95 until June 22; was $18.95 E) Well priced for a complex floral lively Californian chardonnay.

Cave Spring 2012 Estate Riesling, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($17.95 E) An unbeatable riesling value, the 2012 shows a real dynamic tension and complexity of flavours that can only come from older vines and vigilance in the cellar.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($31.95 E) Cloudy Bay is back on top with one of its finest ever sauvignons from the exceptional 2013 harvest. This is classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

Fleur Du Cap Chardonnay 2013Torres Viña Esmeralda 2013Bonterra Chardonnay 2012Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2012Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013

We would love to get your feedback on this report. We will look at the July thematic at LCBO next month, as well as more new arrivals. Meanwhile check out all of my top values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. And in two weeks time I will be back with the June 20 Under $20 report.

Cheers
Steve Thurlow

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


Mas Elena Newsletter

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , ,

Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – June 2014

Rum and Summer Cocktails
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

The rums are rolling in just in time for summer festivals and cool cocktails. Some rums are new while others are repackaged or reinvented to refresh our palates and our days. Rum has a slew of legendary drinks; the Daiquiri, Cuba Libre, the Zombie, Piña Colada and the Mojito to name several with long histories. Get on island time with these smooth spirits and join the festivities.

Bacardi is launching a new campaign “Bacardi Untameable Since 1862” to highlight their origins in Santiago de Cuba in 1862 and famous rum drinks such as the Cuba Libre, the original name given to the now ubiquitous rum and coke with a lime wedge. (According to various reports, the Cuba Libre was first mixed at a Cuban bar in August 1900 by a member of the U.S. Signal Corps.) Bacardi’s biggest seller is Bacardi Superior Blanco, a light bodied white rum that’s tailor made for cocktails.

Bacardi Superior RumJuly 3 – 6th sees the launch of Bacardi Festival Libre, a multi-day festival in Toronto followed by consecutive events in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal. The five day kick-off festival takes place in Toronto’s Distillery District with live music, dancing, stalls of local artisans and vendors, samplings and Cuban food stations.

Bacardi’s bat logo has also been redesigned based on hand-drawn designs from the early 1900’s and the Bacardi word mark has been updated, influenced by the Cuban Art Deco style from the late 1920’s to 1930’s.

Mount Gay made in Barbados has also gone through a recent redesign. Barbados is called the birthplace of rum: it’s believed rum was made there as early as 1493. It’s often said that the spirit got its name in the taverns of Bridgetown, where life was “rumbustious”. The island still plays homage to its heritage. When I last visited Barbados they boasted 1,600 rum shops, about six to every square kilometre. Luckily Barbados is blessed with rum’s other vital ingredient; pure, clean and abundant water, naturally filtered by the coral which makes up its land mass.

Mount Gay Rum Extra Old RumMount Gay EclipseMount Gay was created by Sir John Gay in 1703 and for over 300 years the distillery has remained true to their signature style of aging and blending single and double distillates matured in toasted oak barrels. Eclipse has two to seven year rums and a distinctive banana aroma. Enhance the banana character by making a Rum Runner cocktail: one ounce Eclipse, quarter ounce each of blackberry and of banana liqueurs, two ounce orange juice and a splash of grenadine poured over crushed ice. Silky long aged Mount Gay XO just poured over ice goes down very smoothly indeed.

There’s also been a relaunch for the Dominican Republic’s Brugal rum range (including 1888, Añejo and Especial Extra Dry) with package redesign and new rums introduced. Those visiting Puerto Plata in DR should include a visit to nearby Brugal to taste on location. (Puerto Plata is much more of a real city with a history compared to the Punta Cana area that’s mainly a string of over 80 resorts spread along 60 kilometres of east coast beaches.) In the mid-19th century Spaniard Andrés Brugal Montaner settled in Puerto Plata and founded Brugal Distillery in 1888. His rum-crafting skills have been passed through five generations of Maestros Roneros in the Brugal family. Brugal rums have a distinctive dry, woody taste profile that have helped make them the number one selling rum in the Caribbean and the third largest rum brand worldwide.

BRUGAL ANEJOBRUGAL EXTRA DRYBrugal 1888 Gran Reserva Familiar RumIn the distillation process for all Brugal rums the heavy alcohols and congeners which give most rums their characteristic sweetness are removed. The rums are then aged in high quality oak casks – an element that’s important to brand owner Edrington which acquired the company in 2008 and also has top whisky brands such as The Macallan and Highland Park.

Brugal Añejo is aged two to five years in American oak casks. Brugal Especial Extra Dry is a white rum aged up to five years. Brugal 1888 is aged in medium-toasted American white oak for up to eight years, followed by a second maturation in Spanish sherry-seasoned oak. All the rums have the characteristic dry woody Brugal signature.

For refreshing summer sipping I leave you with the Golden Mojito recipe courtesy of Brugal. Ingredients: 1.5 ounces Brugal Añejo, ¾ ounce fresh lime juice, ½ ounce sugar syrup, 10 mint leaves, ginger ale and one lime wedge. Add lime juice, sugar syrup, mint and rum to a glass and muddle at the bottom of the glass. Fill with crushed ice and stir. Top up with ginger ale and garnish with the lime and a sprig of mint.

Salud!

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


Advertisements
BM_WhskyNLjune14-Rev

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (June 2014)

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 excited to have found another 20 wines under $20 this month to be your focus for value for the next four weeks. Top 20 Under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection.

The selection came from some new vintages of wines tasted recently that are better than the last vintage and from a large raft of discounts (Limited Time Offers – LTOs) and Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) announced by LCBO on Monday. Especially interesting are some big discounts on wines on the VINTAGES Essentials list. There are around 120 Essentials wines that are always available in the VINTAGES section of stores – $2 discounts make some of them more affordable for the next four weeks.

Check out the 20 selections below of wines on offer and also wines that have joined my ongoing list of Top 50 Best Values. (Read on after the wine reviews to find how a wine is selected for Top 20 under $20 and the list of Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines). You can use WineAlign to create and print your list of those available at your local store. Furthermore, thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available when we published.

On Sale This Month (LTOs and BAMs)

Here are the best of the best among the Limited Time Offers and Bonus Air Miles selections this month. They are on sale until June 22nd, so take advantage right now.

Reds

Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina $12.00 was $13.00

This is a finely balanced cabernet with complex aromas and flavours. Expect violets, blackberry and prune fruit with mild oak spice and some earthy tones. It is medium to full-bodied with a balanced finish and mild tannin. Very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2014 to 2020.

Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2010, Sardinia, Italy $14.95 was $16.95 – VINTAGES ESSENTIALS

This is one of my house reds. It is an honest well balanced versatile mid-weight Italian red for a good price. It is made from grenache (Italy:cannonau) with a harmonious and fairly complex red cherry fruit nose with mild spice, tobacco, and herbal and floral tones. It is mid-weight and fruity with some nice savoury herbal and bacon flavours and finely balanced with firm lemony acidity and mild structural tannin. Needs food. Very good length. Goes well with a wide range of meat and cheese dishes. Best 2014 to 2017.

Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2010Gran Feudo Reserva 2007Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico 2011

Gran Feudo Reserva 2007, Navarra, Spain $14.95 was $16.95 – VINTAGES ESSENTIALS

This is an evolved mature Spanish red with blackberry fruit, mild spice with earthy and herbal tones plus well integrated oak aromas. It is elegant and juicy with a soft yet structured palate that comes with mature wines. The tannins have folded into the wine giving additional complexity yet enough remain on the finish to give some firmness. Very good length. Enjoy with lamb cutlets. Best 2014 to 2016.

Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico 2011, Tuscany, Italy $16.95 was $18.95 – VINTAGES ESSENTIALS

A very typical Chianti that’s correct for a good price. Expect aromas of dried black cherry fruit with some herbal and oaky notes and an earthy tone. There is some vibrancy to the palate with a degree of elegance and a dry fruity and mildly tannic finish. Very good length. Try with a Bolognese sauce. Best 2014 to 2017.

Whites

Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $8.45 was $9.45

There is a lot going on here for the money. The 2013 is one of the best vintages in a long time with a fresh nose of zesty lemon apple pear fruit. The palate is juicy and flavourful with good focus and good length. Try with sautéed seafood or bbq chicken.

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile $9.95 was $11.95

A delicious lightly oaked chardonnay with a creamy lively palate. Expect aromas of melon, oak spice and lemon with toffee notes. It is very smooth on the palate with soft acidity which keeps it feeling light. It finishes dry and a little bitter with very good length. Try with white meats, creamy cheeses and seafood. Don’t overchill.

Fleur Du Cap Chardonnay 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $12.80 plus 8 BAMs

This wine has been sadly absent from our market for a few years so it’s a welcome return to the LCBO.. It is an oaked chardonnay with just enough oak to add complexity to the nose and palate. Expect aromas of baked apple with vanilla, caramel, with lemon and cinnamon notes. The palate is rich and very smooth with intense flavours and very good length. It is old school but well done. Try with fish and chips.

Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2013Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2012Fleur Du Cap Chardonnay 2013 Willm Réserve Riesling 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Willm Reserve Riesling 2012, Alsace, France $14.95 was $15.95 – VINTAGES ESSENTIALS

The 2012 is classic Alsatian riesling, clean fresh and vibrant; one of the best vintages I can remember. Expect aromas and flavours of fresh apple with apple skin and mineral tones with some floral notes. It is midweight dry and crisp with lots of flavour and finely balanced. Try with sautéed seafood. Very good length.

Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Aconcagua Coast, Chile $15.95 plus 10 BAMs

This is an exceptionally good sauvignon from the cool Aconcagua coastal region. Expect pure clean mineral aromas of green apple skin, nettle, dill and cucumber with lemon freshness. It’s light to midweight and well balanced with very good to excellent length. Good focus. Try with poached fish with a tangy lemon dill sauce.

New to Steve’s Top 50

To round off the 20 Under $20, here are other great value bottles that have joined the Top 50 this month LCBO.

Reds

Apelia Agiorgitiko 2012, Greece (1000mL) $9.95 plus 4 BAMs

A clean fresh red wine from Greece that is fruity, midweight, well balanced and a good everyday wine. Agiorgitiko is one of Greece’s best red grapes The nose shows red berry fruit with some hints of spice and tobacco. The palate is fruity with good to very good length. Good value. Try with BBQ meats. Best 2014 to 2016.

Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011, Ontario $10.95 was $11.95

Pelee Island continues to improve its grip on this variety that does well in this part of Canada. A lively fruity midweight red with modest tannin and vibrant acidity. The nose is shows mild red berry aromas with a hint of smoke, raspberry jam and tobacco. The palate is juicy and well balanced with very good length. The finish is fruity with some chewy tannin. Enjoy with roast beef. Best 2014 to 2016.

Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2013, Sicily, Italy $11.00

This 2013 vintage of this fruity Sicilian red is one of the best ever. The nose shows bright pure aromas of blackberry and raspberry fruit with lemon tones. It is midweight and juicy with enough tannin for structure and acidity for liveliness. Very good length with a lemony dry finish and some fine tannin to give a little grip. Try with roast or bbq meats or hard mature cheeses. Best 2014 to 2017.

Apelia Agiorgitiko 2012 Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011 Cusumano Nero D'avola 2013Hardys The Chronicles Butchers Gold Shiraz Sangiovese 2012Pérez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Hardys The Chronicles Butchers Gold Shiraz Sangiovese 2012, South Australia $13.50 was $15.00

Sangiovese, the Chianti grape from Italy, is blended in this wine with shiraz to deliver a fresher more vibrant wine than one normally expects from this region. Expect aromas and flavours of blackberry and blueberry fruit with earthy and herbal notes plus dark chocolate. It is soft and smooth on the palate with very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2014 to 2018.

Pérez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Maipo Valley, Chile $14.45 was $15.95

The 2012 is one of the best vintages in a long while, with a perfumed nose of sweet basil with blackberry and black cherry fruit with some jammy notes and soft oak spice. The palate is very smooth and juicy with enough acid and tannin to give it some structure. Very good length. Try with bbq meats. Best 2014 to 2017.

Whites

Apelia Moschofilero 2013, Greece (1000mL) $9.95 plus 4 BAMs

Moschofilero is one of Greece’s best indigenous white grapes. This is a fresh dry white that pinot grigio adherents should try. The nose shows lifted aromas of floral apple with a green olive herbal tone plus some mineral notes. The palate is midweight and simple with lots of fruit flavour and it is well balanced. Good to very good length. Enjoy with seafood and creamy pasta sauces.

Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio 2012, Osco, Molise, Italy $8.45

This is among the best pinot grigio on the shelves at the LCBO despite being one of the least expensive. Expect mild aromas of pear and melon fruit with nutty and lemon tones. The palate is very fruity and creamy with the lively acidity well balanced by the fruit. It is dry and clean with very good length. The finish shows lots nutty fruit. Don’t overchill and enjoy on its own or with seafood, white meats and mild cheese.

Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2012, California $9.95 was $11.95

Great value for a charming, apparently unoaked, chardonnay with a nose of apple and mango fruit with some nutty and floral tones. The palate is creamy smooth with the ripe fruit well balanced by soft acid. Very good focus, very flavourful and very good length. It is pure clean and juicy. Enjoy on its own or with pastry based appetizers.

Apelia Moschofilero 2013 Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio 2012 Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2012 Goats Do Roam White 2013 The Wolftrap White 2013 Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2012

Goats Do Roam White 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $11.85 plus 5 BAMs

This is a consistently great value white. The 2013 vintage is an aromatic blend of three white grapes with lifted floral fruity aromas and an intensely flavoured palate. The nose shows apple and custard with pasty, floral orange and white peach fruit. It is medium-full bodied with firm balancing acidity and a long firm finish. Very good length. Enjoy as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.

The Wolftrap White 2013, Boekenhoutskloof, Western Cape, South Africa $13.95

This is an amazing white for the money with its intensely flavoured palate and pure complex nose. Expect aromas of melon and baked pear fruit with lemongrass and floral heather plus some typical South African minerality. The palate is intense and very solid with some bitter tones nicely closing the finish. It’s a bit chunky and does not have the elegance of the 2012 vintage. Very good to excellent length. Match with sautéed pork chops.

Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2012, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $ 17.95

This wine is consistently one of the best values in Niagara riesling and the 2012 does not disappoint. Despite the warm vintage, which has led to a greater intensity of flavour and aroma, it is has a steely mineral and acid backbone to give it a fine balance. Expect aromas of pear and white peach with mineral and mild petrol notes. The lively palate is clean and elegant with very good to excellent length. Try with baked ham.

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 AirMiles then you will be getting Bonus AirMiles 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.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesThere are another 39 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
Top 50 Value Wines
All Limited Time Offers
All Bonus Air Miles

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


Advertisements
AnselmiSV_nwslttr

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

The Caveman Speaks in May

Welcome to The Caveman Speaks. Bill Zacharkiw’s monthly rants and raves from the world of wine.

Drink Different: Go Greek!
By Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Funny thing happened last week. I went to a wine tasting and left re-invigorated, hopeful, enthusiastic. I was, yes, happy. No, I wasn’t tasting a vertical of Romanée Conti or some other absurdly priced member of the pantheon of mythical wines. I wasn’t awash in top end Napa Cabernet or 95-point Bordeaux. That would have made me even more cynical, though admittedly that brings me a certain degree of happiness as well.

I was at a tasting of Greek wines.

There were around 120 wines, a couple dozen winemakers and a plethora of great value wines that, and this is the kicker, weren’t loaded with sugar or tasted as if they were the made in a laboratory. They spoke of a place. They were different. They were tasty. And very few were over $25. Most, in fact, were under $20.

Yes, I can hear you out there. “Ewww, Retsina sucks!” Well, in Retsina’s defense, when done well, it doesn’t. Cheap, weedy cabernet also sucks but I don’t see people refusing to explore the Niagara or BC wine regions because of it. And anyways, Greece is much more than the pine-resin infused Retisna. Unfortunately, cheap Retsina has become Greece’s version of lousy Liebfraumilch: known by many, loved by few.

So let’s wipe the slate clean here. Greece is a paradise for the inquisitive wine lover. While there are some good examples of international varietals – you can find quality cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, syrah and the rest – it’s the indigenous grapes which are the strength of the industry.

Savatiano grape grown just outside of Athens

Savatiano grape grown just outside of Athens

There are hundreds of indigenous varieties, many of which have been grown for thousands, yes thousands, of years. Finding the right grape for the right place takes time, so we can safely presume that after millenia, the Greeks have done their due diligence. Many of these grapes are grown only in a single region, or sometimes, on a single island.

But as most people have never heard of these varieties, it requires a certain leap of faith. I made that leap a few years ago. One of the greatest red wines I have ever tasted was made with vertzami, which only grows on a small island called Lefkada. Slap that sucker in a blind tasting of Cru Bordeaux and watch it shock and awe. Malagousia, roditis, robola, assyrtiko? All are unique in terms of their aromas and flavours. And the vast majority are very accessible, both in taste and even more importantly, price.

And that is what makes Greece so easy to explore. Taking a chance on a $16 bottle is a lot easier than one that costs $25. The wine making is decidedly European, built along classic lines of acidity and tannin.

So where to start? How about dealing with this Retsina question. When I was last in Greece, I visited Vassilis Papagiannakos, who makes wine just outside of Athens in the region of Attica. These have been the vineyards of Athens before the time of Socrates. It is also the birthplace of Retsina and the savatiano grape which acts as its base. Papagiannakos makes an excellent Retsina, and he explained that by adding the pine sap during the initial fermentation, it integrates into the wine. The result is that the pine flavouring remains subtle, bringing an almost minty freshness to the wine. I challenge anyone to find a wine that matches better than a well-made Retsina while sitting in the sun, and eating traditional Greek entrées like tatziki, olives, and taramasalata.

Tselepos Mantinia Moschofilero 2013Boutari Moschofilero 2013Papagiannakos Savatiano 2013I couldn’t get enough, and maybe one day it will be available here in Quebec. But what is available is Papagiannakos’ straight savatiano, and his 2013 is one of the best I have tasted. Fresh, subtle and with texture. Think of a blend of Petit Chablis with viognier if you want an idea of the style, and at just over $16, it’s hard to beat.

Further south in the Peloponnese, the peninsula which makes up the southern part of the country, another more aromatic white grape is grown, Moschofilero. The appellation is Mantinia, and the wines are strikingly similar to pinot grigio. Perhaps a touch less aromatic, the wines show a striking freshness, as well as a rich mouthfeel depending on where it was grown.

Try Boutari’s 2013 for a good entry priced version or if you want to spend a touch more, for $19 you can pack back Tselepos’ 2013, which is a touch more aromatic and richer textured.

No discussion about Greek whites is complete without mentioning assyrtiko. While it can be found throughout Greece, it’s greatest expression is on the volcanic island of Santorini. Winemaking here dates back to 1000BC. With 3000 years of growing experience, I have never come across such an enduring history between a place and a grape.

Want “old vines” ? Here in Canada, an “old vine” might have been planted 20 or 30 years ago. In Burgundy, 40 to 50 years is generally considered the beginning of old age. But on Santorini, it’s not hard to find vines over 200 years old. Some are even closing in on 500.

Gaia Thalassitis Assyrtiko 2013Tsantali Rapsani 2011Boutari Grande Reserve 2008 bottleThe result is a synergy between a grape and a place which should be considered in the same breadth as chardonnay in Chablis, sauvignon blanc in Sancerre, or pinot noir in Burgundy. Its comparative is in fact sauvignon blanc, though less aromatic and more mineral. Try Gaia’s Thalassitis as a great example of how good it can be.

Red wine lovers can also explore on the cheap. The undisputed king of red grapes is xinomavro. Grown in the northern part of the country, it tastes like a cross between nebbiolo and dolcetto. Red fruit, structured and aromatic. Look for notes of oregano and sun-dried tomato as well.

No lack of selection available. A good entry point is Tsantali’s Rapsani. Grown at the foot of Mount Athos, this blend of xinomavro, krassato and stavroto is fruity and incredibly interesting. And at $12, hardly a risky purchase.

The home of xinomavro is in the northwestern region of Naousa. There are still a few bottles left of Boutari’s exceptional, 2008 Grand Reserve if you want to taste for yourself how well xinomavro can age. That’s $19 folks and it will easily age another decade. Very traditionally styled with red fruit, herbs and a touch of tobacco.

Gaia Agiorgitiko NemeaThymiopoulos Vineyards Yn Kai Oupavós Xinomavro 2011Domaine Thymiopoulos XinomavroFor a less serious but exceptionally tasty version of the grape, Thymiopolous’ Jeunes Vignes has become a staple at my house. The 2012 shows brilliant fruit and garden herbs, and exceptional finesse. And again, it will cost you under $19.

For those of you in Ontario, who want a serious deal, there are still some of his 2010 Terre et Ciel available. At $19.95, compared to $29.90 at the SAQ, the LCBO is practically giving this away.

There are many more but I’ll stop with one last recommendation. Gaia’s Agiorgitiko is Barbera styled, red fruit driven, and perhaps the best version I have tasted of this grape. For more Greek wines and reviews, set you “Find Wine” country filter to Greece and explore the possibilities at a store near you.

Until next time.

Bill

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

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic’s reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

 

Fields of 200+ year old assyrtiko vines on Santorini

Fields of 200+ year old assyrtiko vines on Santorini

 

Greece photos courtesy of Bill Zacharkiw

 


Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

New at the LCBO: Pinks and Wine Styles 101

Pinks and Wine Styles 101
by Steve Thurlow with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Welcome to a new monthly report on what’s new – and what’s good! – on the LCBO’s General List and Vintages Essentials list – the wines that are widely available and very likely on shelf now at your local LCBO. We will be covering major themes and promotions – like rosé this month – as well as rating new arrivals.

Best of the New Rosé

Each spring the LCBO rolls out a selection of pink wines under a “seasonal selection” theme. There is growing sentiment that more rosé should be available year’ round. Dry rosé – especially from the south of France and Spain, as well as carefully made wines the world over – are increasing in popularity and proving ideal as dinner wines paired with a wide range of milder and nuanced recipes.

This month there are 35 or so new rose or pink wines, mostly from the 2013 vintage, arriving on the shelves, of which we have tasted several. Some are indeed for the table, others for sipping on the patio when the weather allows.

Concha Y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Shiraz Rosé 2013, Chile ($11.85). Despite a little sulphur on the nose, this is a neatly composed shiraz-based rose with very good length and a dry finish. Lovely acidity and minerality is present on the palate boosting the delicate red berry fruit. Polished, stylish and quite versatile. Sara

Barefoot Refresh Perfectly Pink,  California USA ($11.95). A lightly sparkling pink moscato with lifted aromas of floral tangerine with peach and sherbet tones. It is off-dry with the fruit well-balanced by soft acidity. Decent length. Enjoy on its own or with pastry nibbles. Steve

Roodeberg Rose 2013, South Africa ($12.35). Bright and vibrant with a dark, pink colour and nicely concentrated fruit. Succulent but edgy and tart with wild earthiness on the palate. Dry with notes of cherry blossom, peach and pink grapefruit. Sara

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir Rose 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($16.95). This is a very bright, fairly deeply salmon coloured, pinot noir based rose with red currant, cherry and strawberry fruit aromas – a bit confected or jammy on the nose and sweet on the palate. There is also some herbal character. It’s mid-weight, balanced and fresh with a hint of sweetness but good balancing acidity. Very good length. David

Concha Y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Shiraz Rosé 2013  Barefoot Refresh Perfectly Pink  Roodeberg Rose 2013  Stoneleigh Pinot Noir Rose 2013

Picking through the New Arrivals

The LCBO is constantly adding new wines to the General List to replace wines that fail to achieve sales targets that have been removed or “delisted”. This keeps the number of wines available at around 1500. Given all the new rosés this month there were only another ten new wines shown for tasting. Here are three that we thought to be noteworthy

Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso 2012, Tuscany, Italy ($14.95). A fragrant soft flavourful red with a lot going on for the money. Expect aromas of raspberry and plum fruit with vanilla and mild oak spice well-integrated with some floral rose. It has a degree of elegance not often found at this price. The palate is midweight is very smooth and finely balanced with very good length. Best 2014 to 2018. Good value. Try with roast lamb or beef. Steve

Jaszbery Etyek Budai Riesling 2012Chateau Des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso 2012Château des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario ($14.95). A ripe, firm cabernet with just the right amount of acidity to prove juicy and the appropriate level of tannins to give a solid scaffolding to the wine. Notes of blackberry, graphite, thyme, dried leaf and cedar present themselves on the distinctive palate. Elegant, taught and age-worthy. Very good length. Sara

Jaszbery Etyek Budai Riesling 2012 Hungary ($8.95 + 4 BonusAirMiles). A delicate dry riesling with fragrant aromas of honeysuckle lemon and pear fruit. It is lightweight well-balanced with just enough sweetness to cover the brisk acidity. The finish a little harsh, so it needs food. Try with a creamy pasta dish. Steve

Wine Styles 101

This month the LCBO is introducing a new educational promotion called Wine Styles 101. All wines on the “General List” have been classified into eight style categories; four for whites and four red styles. In each category there are wines on special promotion this month, that are supposed to be typical of a wine of that style. You can pick up a leaflet in stores that explains the wine style categories and promotes the 24 examples. We thought it would be useful to look at these wines to see which we might recommend and also to add some other examples to flesh out some categories where those on promotion are not very noteworthy.

Light Bodied and Fruity Reds

Sterling Vintners Collection Pinot Noir 2012, Central Coast, California, USA ($15.95 + 10 Bonus Air Miles). There is marked improvement here. The nose is bright, engaging and clean with typical California pinot raspberry nicely embedded with spice and a hint of vanilla. It’s light to mid-weight, fairly supple and spicy, with a gentleness that is appealing. A bit warm and bitter and dusty on the finish, with good to very good length. A nice chillable summer sipping pinot. Best now to 2017. David

Medium Bodied and Fruity Reds

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina ($12.95 was $14.95). This is not the fruitiest malbec on the block, which is one reason I really like it. There is a ring of Argentine authenticity in the vaguely leathery, chocolaty, garrigue (dried herb), peppery notions around the otherwise ripe floral, mulberry fruit. It’s quite full bodied, dense and smooth with some elevating sourness then a dusty tannin. Very good length. Excellent length. Great for BBQ. Just a hint of oxidation so not one to age long. David

Full Bodied and Smooth Reds

Folonari Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2011, Veneto, Italy ($15.95 was $17.95). The 2011 is again an elegant mid weight red with nicely integrated oak and red berry fruit aromas and flavours. Expect red cherry fruit with plum jam, mild spice with hints of tobacco and vanilla to lead to a soft yet structured palate with lots of ripe red berry fruit to balance the tannins and acidity. Very good length. Try with game, lamb or hearty beef dishes. Best 2014 to 2018. Steve

Full Bodied and Firm Reds

Bertani Secco Bertani 2011, Veneto, Italy ($15.95). This is a lighter more elegant style of red wine from Verona. Expect delicate aromas of red cherry with some cranberry jelly and mild spice notes plus a hint of mint. The palate is juicy and well-balanced with lemony acidity driving through to the finish which is dry with some mild tannin appearing at the end. Good to very good length. Try with roast meats or a hamburger. Best 2014 to 2017 . Steve

Sterling Vintners Collection Pinot Noir 2012  Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2011  Folonari Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2011  Bertani Secco Bertani 2011

Light and Crisp Whites

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Aconcagua Valley Chile ($12.95). A juicy creamy sauvignon from the Aconcagua coast which shows that Leyda Valley isn’t the only great place for this variety in Chile. Expect aromas of passion fruit and lime with hay tones and hints of green peas. It is very smooth with good to very good length. Try with asparagus quiche and salad. Steve

Off-dry and Fruity Whites

Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany ($10.45 was $11.95). Consistently good value the 2012 is again a well made riesling at a good price. It is a typical Mosel riesling with aromas of melon fruit with lemon with floral and honey tones. It is off dry with the fruit nicely supported by racy lemony acidity. It finishes dry. Well balanced with good length. Try with mildly flavoured seafood. Steve

Aromatic and Flavourful Whites

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012, Victoria, Australia ($15.95). The cooler state of Victoria is carving out a reputation for more elegant chardonnay, and although not as complex and nuanced as top examples this captures the essential acidity, apple fruit and some vanilla/butterscotch and a hint of toast. It’s quite sleek, fresh and pleasant. Some alcohol heat and minerality on the finish. David

Full-bodied and Rich Whites

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2012, Australia ($12.95 was $14.95). The 2012 is an especially good vintage for this chardonnay with a lot of flavour and some complexity. It is very well-balanced with abundant racy acidity to freshen and lighten the palate. Expect aromas of pineapple, peach, baked lemon and resin with mineral tones. The palate is quite full, creamy smooth with a nice vibrant feel and very good to excellent length. The fruit flavours persist well on the finish. Try with roast pork or sautéed veal. Steve

Ghost Pines Winemaker’s Blend Chardonnay 2012, California, USA ($17.95 was $19.95). A good example of modern California chardonnay with just enough oak for added complexity. Expect aromas of baked apple and melon fruit with buttered toast, oak spice and a hint of lemon. It is medium bodied, rich and creamy but also racy with the focus well maintained from nose thru palate to finish. A little sweet for me with some resin notes on the finish. Best 2014 to 2016. It needs strongly flavoured white meats like pork, veal or chicken. Steve

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013  Deinhard Green Label Riesling 2012  Are You Game Chardonnay 2012  Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2012  Ghost Pines Winemaker's Blend Chardonnay 2012

We would love to get your feedback on this new report. We will look at the June thematics at LCBO next month, as well as more new arrivals. Meanwhile check our my 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. And in two weeks time I will be back with a look at the updated Top 50 list in our WineAlign Top 20 Under $20 report.

Cheers
Steve Thurlow

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


Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

@WineAlign

Recent Comments

WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008