WineAlign

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

New at the LCBO for August

The latest general listings & current features
by Steve Thurlow with selections from Sara d’Amato

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

It may sometimes seem as though nothing really changes at the LCBO – the most popular wines are always there. But in fact new wines are constantly being added to the General List to replace wines that fail to achieve sales targets or have been removed or “delisted” for other reasons. This keeps the current number of wines available at around 1500. Over the last couple of months we have tasted about 50 new arrivals and have chosen 13 of them to highlight for you.

To check on inventory at your local LCBO set up your Favourite Store in Find Wine. 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 newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!

Reds and a Rosé

Radio Boka Tempranillo 2012, Valencia, Spain $11.00

A midweight balanced tempranillo red from Spain’s eastern region; should be great with a rack of lamb.

Sella & Mosca Rosato 2013, Alghero, Sardinia, Italy $11.65

A deep salmon pink rose with lots of flavour, made from the cannonau or grenache grape grown throughout this Mediterranean island.

Tons De Duorum Red 2011, Douro Valley, Portugal $12.30

An excellent BBQ red; fruity, flavourful with some structure. The new wave of reds from Portugal’s port country offer some of the best values today.

Radio Boka Tempranillo 2012Sella & Mosca Rosato 2013Tons De Duorum Red 2011Vina Leyda Reserva Pinot Noir 2012

Vina Leyda Reserva Pinot Noir 2012, Leyda Valley, Chile $12.50

A soft fragrant, juicy and very flavourful pinot noir from the exciting, new cool coastal Leyda Valley.

Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva Douro 2010 Portugal $12.70

Exceptional value for a fragrant structured dense fruity red. Another great Douro buy.

Castel Freres Haury Grenache Petite Edition 2011, Vin De France $12.70

A generous, supple, spicy and flavourful grenache from the generic Vin de France appellation.

Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva Douro 2010Castel Freres Haury Grenache Petite Edition 2011Wakefield Promised Land Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012

Wakefield Promised Land Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 South Australia $14.85

A soft vibrant juicy cabernet. Loads of flavour here.

Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012 Ribera del Duero, Spain $17.75

A great price for a classy elegant red for fine dining.

Whites and a Sparkling

Periquita White 2013, Portugal $8.80

A fruity fragrant white made from indigenous Portuguese grape varieties, that is ideal for mildly flavoured seafood.

Laroche Viognier De La Chevaliere 2013 Pays D’Oc France $12.70

A rich powerful viognier – the queen of the Rhone whites varieties – with strong aromas and flavours.

Winzer Krems Sandgrube 13 Grüner Veltliner 2013 Kremstal, Austria $12.80

A good entry-level gruner – Austria’s signature white – with a typical white pepper spice tone to nose and palate.

Periquita White 2013Laroche Viognier De La Chevaliere 2013Winzer Krems Sandgrube 13 Grüner Veltliner 2013Cavas Hill 1887 BrutSilver Bay Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013

Cavas Hill 1887 Brut, Penedes, Spain $13.20

Bright, cheerful and dry sparkling Spanish Cava with a lightness befitting the warmer months.

Silver Bay Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013 VQA Ontario $13.95

New from the Speck brothers of Henry of Pelham fame, this is a fruity, fresh and fun, rather simple but with good varietal character in an elegant beachy package.

*****

Feel free to share your feedback on these wines or on any of your favourties. We’ll be back in a few weeks time with our Top 20 Under $20. In the meanwhile  if you still need picks, 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.

Cheers,
Steve Thurlow


Advertisements
LaurentMiquelChardNwsltr_Aug

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

Spirits to Sing About

The Spirits Review
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

For another man it would be a hard act to follow. When Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Sammy Hagar expanded his repertoire to launch Cabo Wabo tequila he struck it rich, very rich. The brand was inspired by his Cabo Wabo nightclub which opened in 1990 in Cabos San Lucas. It’s a rocking party place that’s a must go for everyone who visits the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.

Said Hagar, “Cabo Wabo is a lifestyle. Something that requires only a willingness to enjoy your life and embrace all that makes you happy.” And oh boy do people party there, I can attest.

Cabo Wabo Tequila was born in 1996 on the back roads of Guadalajara when Hagar went searching for a tequila exceptional enough to serve inside his cantina in Cabo San Lucas. He partnered with a tequila-making family with over 80 years of experience where the agave used to make Cabo Wabo is grown, cultivated and harvested by this same family.

In May, 2007 Hagar sold an 80% interest in Cabo Wabo Tequila to Gruppo Campari, the world’s sixth-largest spirits company, for $80 million. In in 2010, Sammy Hagar sold his remaining 20% stake in Cabo Wabo to Campari for $11 million.

Sammy's Beach Bar RumThat’s a pretty profit. The 66 year old now ranks among the highest-net-worth rock stars. So what’s he doing now? For act two in the spirit world, he’s launched a rum from Maui, Hawaii called Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum. Distilled from two year old Maui Gold Sugar Cane using unique column stills it’s bound to be a success.

When I asked Hagar, the multi-platinum former front man of hard rock champions Van Halen, if he was going to write a rum song, he said “After Mas Tequila, it’s a hard act to follow.” (Cabo Wabo Cantina was where the video for the 1999 hit song “Mas Tequila” from the Red Voodoo album was filmed.) I’m not sure I believe him. His next acts seem as strong if not stronger than the previous ones.

I had the pleasure to meet the fun loving Hagar in Toronto during his promotional tour for the launch of his rum in Canada. He quipped, “When you work for me it’s mandatory to drink.” Where do I sign up? For more on him go to: www.redrocker.com

Hagar’s right on target with today’s tastes. All deluxe white spirits are trending up: rum, vodka and gin.

Barbancourt 5 Stars 8 Year Old Reserve takes pride in producing rum from sugar cane juice instead of molasses which is the norm. Barbancourt rum produced in Haiti since 1862 is double distilled in pot stills and aged in French Limousin oak barrels. This well-aged version is lovely.

Appleton Estate ReserveRhum Barbancourt 5 Stars 8 Yo Special ReserveAppleton Estate Reserve rum is a smooth, full and flavoursome rum. Visiting the estate itself is more on the rough side. The distillery is in the picturesque Nassau Valley in St. Elizabeth in the interior of the island. Almost as soon as we left the protective walls of the Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall (our base on the island), we were in what I like to call the un-sanitized Caribbean.

The narrow, twisting road had a raging case of potholes, with sharp edges that slashed at our tires (and did manage to puncture one). The verdant countryside was teaming with life: huge bamboo groves, towering palms, fruit trees of all sorts and fields of agricultural crops. Amidst the green were houses – many wood shacks in colourful shades of robin egg blue, chartreuse, bright yellow and the like with corrugated zinc roofs; others imposing cement McMansions with several storey’s either completed or in the works and not yet painted. Cows, goats and chickens scurried about the yards.

Along with schools, each town we passed had its share of churches, largely Seventh-day Adventist and charismatic types where singing and dancing are part of the service. Beside just about every church was a rum bar, many painted with the slogan “Show me the Wray”. (Wray and Nephew Ltd own Appleton Distillery.) “We like to sooth both spirits,” explained Joy Spence, master blender at Appleton.

This colourful countryside was a captivating prelude to our Appleton Tour and almost before we knew it we had arrived. Joy met us and began our tour by taking us up the hillside to gaze upon the over 4,000 hectares of sugar cane fields owned by the distillery. These fields supply the entire base product needed for Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum. This single estate in a small circumscribed geographic area makes Appleton one of the few rum brands in the world to claim a “terroir”.

And the “terroir” of the Nassau Valley is unique. The valley’s fertile fields enjoy a regular afternoon rain shower and warm sunshine – the optimum conditions to grow sugar cane – a giant grass belonging to the genus saccharum. The valley is also part of Jamaica’s world famous Cockpit Country, a Karst formation which was formed over millions of years. (Karst is a generic name given to limestone that has been eroded by the chemical action of rain.)  There are just three Cockpit Karst formations in the world; the others are in Montenegro and China. The hilly landscape looks like an egg carton turned upside down.

Once the cane is harvested, it’s brought to the factory where the sugar manufacturing process begins. Animals are not encouraged to go anywhere near this factory. We saw a sign that proclaimed “Goats will be shot, cows impounded.” When asked about that, Joy replied with a laugh, “Jamaicans like curry goat a lot more than beef.”

The cane is washed, chopped and milled to extract the cane’s sweet juice. The juice that is extracted is boiled to make a syrup. The fibres (bagasse) that are left behind after the juice is extracted are used to fuel the factory’s boilers. Sugar crystals are spun out of the syrup and molasses is left; the latter is what’s used to make rum.

Ten tons of sugar cane makes one ton of sugar and 0.4 tons of molasses. From that 30 cases of rum can be made.

As part of the tour we got to grind the juice out of some sugar cane and sample the result. We also tasted the syrupy mixture of sugar crystals and molasses. We toured the distillation area with its pot stills and continuous stills; a hot part of the plant filled with the aromas of molasses. We cooled down in the aging cellar, stacked with old barrels and intriguing smells of its own.  Then of course it was time to sip the range of rums. Joy called her seminar “The Joy of Rum” no pun intended.

We learned that sugar cane was brought from Papua New Guinea to the Caribbean in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. The first documented rum production at Appleton was in 1749. By 1893 there were 148 distilleries in Jamaica producing 73 million litres of rum. In 2011 there were just six distilleries left but they manage to produce 20.5 million litres.

Bacardi AñejoAppleton Estate VXThe secret to many exceptional rums is blending- a creative step that demands a true artist of the palate. Master Blender, Joy Spence, the first woman to be appointed Master Blender in the world, uses many different types and styles of rum to create each blend that has the Appleton Jamaica Rum name. Pot still rums are more aromatic and flavourful. Continuous still rums have subtle fruit notes and lightness. Aging in former American bourbon barrels adds notes of vanilla, coffee and toasted almond. Joy can pick from 240,000 barrels of aging rum at Appleton.

Of the Appleton rums available in Canada, the best all-rounder is Appleton Estate V/X, the flagship brand of the rum family.

Bacardi Anejo has a soft open style and light bronze hue. On a recent trip to Puerto Rico I visited the Bacardi rum distillery. The company’s free distillery tour in San Juan includes two drinks per person so no surprise that it draws crowds from morning to closing. The Puerto Rico distillery goes 24/7 and produces 100,000 gallons of rum a day from imported molasses. Bacardi was founded by Don Facundo Bacardí Massó in Cuba in 1862. Now the largest privately held, family-owned spirits company in the world, it set up distilleries in other countries (including in Brampton, Ontario) after the Cuban Revolution.

Let’s all sing to the success of rums throughout the world. Maybe if we pen the right words or create the perfect spirit we’ll make a fortune. If not, at least we’ll be happy.

 

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

LuxardoSambucaNwslttr_Aug

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

The Successful Collector – Old World Riesling

The most undervalued white grape?
by Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

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

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

Alsace

Rows of vines in Alsace

Rows of vines in Alsace

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

Austria

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

Riesling vines along the Danube

Riesling vines along the Danube

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

Germany

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

Riesling vines along the Mosel

Riesling vines along the Mosel

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

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

A Comeback is Coming

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

My top choices:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Julian Hitner

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

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

All Julian Hitner Reviews


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

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, , , , , , , ,

@WineAlign

WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008