WineAlign

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

Championship Round: “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Season 4 is a Wrap! Who will come out Victorious?

We have sadly come to the end of So, You Think You Know Wine? – Season 4.  This departure from the previous critic-against-critic challenge of past seasons was very exciting and full of energy. This time the competition had a game show/family feud feel with tasters battling against each other in teams, rather than individually.

Season 4 was certainly a big learning experience for us, as we had originally thought that working in teams would make it easier for the competitors to identify the wines. We soon discovered that teamwork is not always an advantage. We watched despairingly as the critics sometimes strayed from their first, and usually correct, instincts and wandered down a completely different path. But, we also saw teams almost perfectly guess certain wines, like in this, the final, episode.

Click here to watch The Final Round, as Raiders of the Lost AOC battle it out against Whole Bunch Press, or read on for highlights from the last round.

RaidersAOC

WholeBunch

Highlights and Score from Round #8

In the second semi-final round, the last-placed (or as Rhys reminds us, “4th place”) Whole Bunch Press faced The Inglorious Bitters, who were in first place. Whole Bunch Press were on the right track when they guessed California as the place the wine came from.  They said it had “the plush texture of California.”  Unfortunately, they guessed that the grape was Merlot, not Petite Sirah, and they thought it was from Sonoma, not Napa.

The Inglorious Bitters also had a tough time identifying Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah.  Because of the high alcohol level, and very ripe, almost dried grape notes in the wine, they concluded that it was an Amarone from Veneto, Italy.

In the end, Whole Bunch Press won the round and went on to the Championship round against the Raiders of the Lost AOC.

The scoring remains the same as past episodes, with points for Variety, Country, Region, Appellation and Vintage, and a little less emphasis on Price this season. After 8 rounds the totals are in and the Semi Final match-ups have been set:

So, You Think You Know Wine? Scorecard

 

Season 4 For those of you new to our video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?”, we have saved all previous episodes under the Video tab.

We hope that you found this new format entertaining and that you had as much fun watching as we did filming. As usual, please send your comments to feedback@winealign.com and feel free to share this video with your friends and family.

So, You Think You Know Wine?

Special thanks to our glassware sponsor, Schott Zwiesel, for their beautiful glasses and carafes used during filming.

Previously on “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Espisode 4.1: California Square Russian River Chardonnay

Episode 4.2: Louis M Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Episode 4.3:  Travaglini Gattinara

Episode 4.4: Finca Decero Malbec

Episode 4.5 Paul Zinck Eichberg Riesling

Episode 4:6  Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz Viognier

Episode 4:7 Semi-final #1 The Chocolate Block

Episode 4:8 Semi-final#2 Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah

 


Fortessa Canada Inc. Glassware sponsor to SYTYKW

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

LCBO Top Values and New Releases

Welcome to expanded coverage of wines on the LCBO’s “General List”. Each month there will be a report on a regional or grape variety theme, a selection of new release recommendations, and an updating of Steve Thurlow’s Top 50 Value List. (We are very sorry about the inconvenience, but due to the postponement of a VINTAGES tasting and the very recent return of David and John from a trip to South Africa, VINTAGES Preview will be published Friday at about noon)

South America’s Fountain of Value
By Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I have just returned from a two-week trip to Chile and Argentina leading a tour group that included many WineAlign readers. All were delighted by the quality and even more pleased by the value. At virtually every winery we visited there were at least two or three outstanding value wines. Quality is evident at all price points, but at less than $16 wines from these countries dominate the shelves at the LCBO for value.

For some time now, I have been visiting this region about twice a year. South America benefits from low labour and land costs and both places have weak currencies. In many cases wineries also have low capital costs due to infrastructure paid for a hundred years ago. They compete ferociously for market share and export revenue is very important. So costs and hence prices have always been low, while quality improves in leaps and bounds. Take advantage now since it may not last for ever.

I have updated my notes with the latest vintages, including nine highly recommended wines that have made it onto my Top 50 Values list (see more below). 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 as of March 24th of all the wines below. And if you find yourself enjoying them over the next months, perhaps you might be tempted to join me when I return to South America with another group in March 2015? See www.stevethurlow.com

Top 50 White Picks

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2013Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($9.95). This is a beautiful lightweight viognier with tropical fruit aromas with tangerine blossom, peach and baked apple fruit with spice and nutty tones. It is light to midweight with the fruit well-balanced by vibrant acidity. Great focus and very good length with a long fruity finish. Its terrific value. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled with party nibbles or at the table with poultry dishes or sautéed seafood.

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Central Valley, Chile ($9.95). You get a lot of wine for your money with this juicy ripe sauvignon. It had a lively fruity palate with the passion fruit and pear fruit flavours finely balanced by soft lemony acidity. Very good length. Expect mild aromas of lime and melon fruit with mineral tones. Try with oysters or fresh goats cheese salad.

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2012Amalaya Torrontes Riesling 2012Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($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.

Amalaya Torrontés Riesling 2012, Salta, Argentina ($10.95). This is a complex aromatic white from the Salta region, in northern Argentina, which is the home of the aromatic indigenous torrontés grape. It is a blend of 85% of that grape with 15% riesling; the addition of which gives some zip to the mid palate and finish. Expect floral aromas of honeysuckle with ripe melon and canned pear fruit with ginger spice. The palate is mid-weight, rich and creamy with very good length. Enjoy as an aperitif or with mildly spicy Asian cuisine or rich seafood dishes. Delisted there are around 1000 bottles remaining.

Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Aconcagua Coast, Chile ($15.95). 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.

Top 50 Red Picks

Trapiche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Carmen Carmenere Reserva 2013Carmen Carmenere Reserva 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($11.45). A fruity aromatic wine with fresh black cherry and plum fruit aromas and flavours. It is great value with an elegant pure fruity, vibrant palate. There is some complexity with cedar, smoke and tobacco in the mix. Well balanced and juicy with good to very good length. Best 2014 to 2018. Try with grilled meats.

Trapiche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina ($11.95). This is an opaque cabernet with none of cabernet’s greenness and a delicate nose. Expect aromas of blackberry fruit with some subtle oak spice, dark chocolate and a hint of black olive. It finishes dry with the fruit balanced by acidity and fruit. Very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2014 to 2016.

Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina ($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.

Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Maipo Valley, Chile $13.95 until March 30th was ($15.95). Cousino Macul has been making Antiguas Reservas for decades and it keeps getting better. Still very youthful, this is a cellar candidate that’s fine now but even better if you decant for an hour or so before serving. It is very classy with a degree of elegance rarely found in such an inexpensive wine. The nose is youthful with the cassis fruit aromas complicated by tobacco, dark chocolate, menthol and herb notes. It is medium to full-bodied and very smooth with the ripe fruit balanced by soft acidity with a little dry tannin giving some grip to the finish. Very good length. Will develop more complexity with a few years in the cellar. For now, decant for an hour and enjoy with a steak. Best 2014 to 2020.

New Releases on the LCBO General List (GL)

Here are recently encountered new releases worthy of note; sometimes for quality, sometimes for value, or because they add something new to the mix. Click on the links to see reviews by WineAlign critics.

New GL Whites

Wayne Gretzky 2012 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula ($13.95). This is a great buy with real Niagara nerve and authentic riesling persona. Low alcohol is key to its buoyancy.

Riverview 2012 Gewürztraminer Angelina’s Reserve, Niagara River ($18.95). This big, buxom and almost blowsy gewürz has been turning heads, and not just in this vintage. Alsatian gewürz fans should have a look.

Hugel 2012 Sylvaner, Alsace, France ($14.95). Always under-stated and often under-rated dry Alsatian sylvaner is offer an ideal backdrop to subtle fish and pork creations – and asparagus.

New GL Reds

Louis Latour 2011 Gamay, Burgundy, France ($18.95). Here’s a rare French gamay this is not from Beaujolais. Not a world beater but interesting for fans of this increasingly popular light red.

Michel Lynch 2011 Merlot, Bordeaux, France ($16.95). This is a decent, mid-weight fairly fleshy Bordeaux merlot (100%) from a well-regarded negociant. A but more charm than other basic Bordeaux.

Bellingham 2012 Big Oak Red, Western Cape, South Africa ($11.80). This is a fairly hefty, good value shiraz cabernet blend named for a tree on Bellingham’s property, not necessarily length of time in oak barrels.

Goats in Villages 2011 Shiraz Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa ($12.95). This over delivers for the money – a fairly rich, smooth yet not soupy blend that captures syrah pepper and pinotage acidity and curranty fruit.

Bodega Volcanes 2012 Summit Cabernet Syrah, Rapel Valley, Chile ($10.95). Decent value for an approachable, youthful and smooth fruit centred red. Chill a bit.

Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines at LCBO

Steve's Top Value WinesThere are about 1,500 wines listed at the LCBO that are always available, plus another 100 or so VINTAGES Essentials. At WineAlign I maintain a list of the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines selected by price and value – in other words, the best least expensive wines. 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. 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.

Once you have tried a wine, you can use the ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ to agree or disagree with our reviews. Or better yet, you can add your own review and join our growing community of user reviewers. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf, or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. It is very easy to do this. Click on Update This Wine or send an email to feedback@winealign.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

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 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials Wines

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


Advertisements

Quinta do Noval Tawny Port


County in the City

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

Round 8 – Semi Final #2: “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Will they Crack Under Pressure in the Second Semi-Final?

Watch the competition progress as the first place Inglorious Bitters take on the fourth place Whole Bunch Press in the second of two semi-final rounds.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch to see which team will move forward to the final round to battle it out against The Raiders of the Lost AOC.

Click here to watch Round #8 – Semi Final #2, or read on for highlights from the last round.

The Inglorious Bitters

Whole Bunch Press

Highlights and Score from Round #7

Last time on SYTYKW, The Good, The Bad, and The Blind faced the Raiders of the Lost AOC in the first semi-final round.  The Good, The Bad, and The Blind immediately jumped on South Africa as the country the wine came from.  At one point, they almost wavered but decided to stick with their first impressions.  “Go with the guts…and the liver…,” they said.  Their final answer was a 2008 Syrah from South Africa because of the “classic, wonderful, iodiny, smoky, meaty notes” to The Chocolate Block 2010.

Raiders of the Lost AOC also quickly concluded that the wine was South African.  They guessed that the wine was a Shiraz, Cab, Pinotage blend with Shiraz as the dominant grape “because of the peppery notes, and the coffee, and the chocolate.”  While both teams were very close in their guesses, the Raiders of the Lost AOC pulled ahead by one point because they were closer on the vintage.

The scoring remains the same as past episodes, with points for Variety, Country, Region, Appellation and Vintage, and a little less emphasis on Price this season. After 6 rounds the totals are in and the Semi Final match-ups have been set:

So, You Think You Know Wine? - Scorecard

Season 4

For those of you new to our video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?”, we have saved all previous episodes under the Video tab. Season 4 is a departure from the previous critic-against-critic challenge of past seasons. This time the competition has a game show/family feud feel with tasters battling against each other in teams, rather than individually. As always, the competitors have the daunting challenge of identifying the wine with only their nose, eyes, and palate – no other clues are given.

We hope that you find this new format entertaining and that you have as much fun watching as we did filming. As usual, please send your comments to feedback@winealign.com and feel free to share this video with your friends and family.

So, You Think You Know Wine?

Special thanks to our glassware sponsor, Schott Zwiesel, for their beautiful glasses and carafes used during filming.

Previously on “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Espisode 4.1: California Square Russian River Chardonnay

Episode 4.2: Louis M Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Episode 4.3:  Travaglini Gattinara

Episode 4.4: Finca Decero Malbec

Episode 4.5 Paul Zinck Eichberg Riesling

Episode 4:6  Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz Viognier

Episode 4:7 Semi-final #1 The Chocolate Block

 


Fortessa Canada Inc. Glassware sponsor to SYTYKW

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

Steve’s Top 50 at LCBO – Feb 2014

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There are many additions to my Top 50 list this month. Let me tell you about a few of them. I have been tasting the latest vintages of wines on LCBO shelves and have discovered that a few are better than previous vintages. Moreover, two of these wines have jumped onto my list due to their improved quality.

There’s one Ontario VQA wine on sale at present at the LCBO with a discount that propelled it onto the list and sadly one of my favourites has been discontinued and consequently is on clearance for a steal until it is all sold out. Check them out below and then use WineAlign to search your local store and print your list from the Top 50. With your shopping list in hand, you’ll be equipped with lots of good wine, while saving some dollars.

Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there are decent stocks available of all the wines below. (By registering with your postal code, you can find the inventory at your closest LCBO store). Here’s a list of seven great value bottles with the price at your local LCBO.

The Reds

Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011
Ontario VQA, $10.95 until March 2nd was $11.95

Pelee Island Lighthouse Cabernet Franc 2011

Pelee Island continues to improve its grip on this variety that does so well in this part of Canada. A lively fruity midweight red with modest tannin and vibrant acidity. The nose 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 2013 to 2016.

Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2012
Mendoza, Argentina $11.95

Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2012WWAC Top 25 Value Wines

A fruity structured wine with intense flavours and good balance that is suited for fine dining with robust roast meats despite its modest price. Expect aromas of fine black cherry, with forest floor accents, mild oak spice, and some herbal notes for freshness. Medium bodied and juicy with soft mature tannin well-integrated acidity delivering a gentle velvety smooth palate. Good to very good length.

Trapiche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Mendoza, Argentina $11.95

Trapiche Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

This is an opaque cabernet with a delicate nose showing none of cabernet’s greenness. Expect aromas of blackberry fruit with some subtle oak spice, dark chocolate and a hint of black olive. It finishes dry with the fruit balanced by acidity and fruit. Very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2013 to 2016.

The Whites

Trapiche Broquel Chardonnay 2011
Mendoza, Argentina delisted now $8.45 was $11.95

Trapiche Broquel Chardonnay 2011

This is a delicious chardonnay with very little oak showing on the nose since only a small proportion of it was matured in French oak barriques. Expect aromas of melon and baked apple fruit with some spice and toffee notes. It is a big wine and quite rich with a nice creamy texture and lots of flavour. Good focus and very good length. Try with roast poultry, roast pork or fish and chips. About 1000 bottles remain.

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2012
Casablanca Valley, Chile $11.95

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2012

A delicious lightly oaked chardonnay with a creamy lively palate. Expect aromas of melon, oak spice and lemon with mild caramel 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 or you might miss the good stuff.

Carl Reh Riesling Kabinett 2012
Mosel, Germany $11.95

Carl Reh Riesling Kabinett 2012

An elegant well-balanced off dry riesling with pear melon aromas toned by some mineral notes with hints of custard. It is midweight and very fruity with firm racy acidity and very good length. It finishes firmly with apple lemon acidity with just enough sweetness for balance.

Goats Do Roam White 2012
Western Cape, South Africa $11.95

Goats Do Roam White 2012WWAC Top 25 Value Wines

The Goats white is a blend of three whites grapes, all of which originate in the Rhone Valley in France. It is an aromatic white with loads of flavour and a touch of class. Expect aromas of apple and pasty with orange and white peach fruit with some floral and spicy notes. It is medium-full bodied with nice balancing acidity and good length. Very good length. Enjoy as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or try with roast poultry.

There are another 43 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.

There are about 1,500 wines listed at the LCBO that are always available, plus another 100 or so VINTAGES Essentials. At WineAlign I maintain a list of the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines selected by price and value – in other words, the best least expensive wines. The selection process is explained in more detail below, but I review the list every month to include newly listed wines and monitor the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

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.

Steve's Top Value WinesTo 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. 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.

Once you have tried a wine, you can use the ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ to agree or disagree with our reviews. Or better yet, you can add your own review and join our growing community of user reviewers. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf, or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. It is very easy to do this. Click on Update This Wine or send an email to feedback@winealign.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

When I compiled the Top 50 this month, twelve wines joined the list. 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 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials Wines

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


Advertisements
Tenuta Frescobaldi Di Castiglioni 2011

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , ,

Round 7 – Semi Final #1: “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

The Pressure is on in the First Semi Final

Watch the competition progress as The Good, The Bad, and The Blind take on the Raiders of the Lost AOC in the first of two semi-final rounds. The winner will go on to compete in the final round. Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch to see which team will come out on top.

Click here to watch Round #7 – Semi Final #1, or read on for highlights from the last round.

The Good, The Bad and The Blind

Raiders of the Lost AOC

Highlights and Score from Round #6

Last time on SYTYKW, Inglorious Bitters and Raiders of the Lost AOC battled it out in the last chance before the semi-finals. Raiders of the Lost AOC were sure they knew what the wine was even before they tasted it! “Sometimes you can tell by looking at a wine what is, and this is one of those times,” said Steve. Sara added, “I can’t imagine it could be anything else.”

Inglorious Bitters were much quieter, but no less confident with their answer. In the end it was a tie as both teams guessed it was a 2010 Shiraz from South Australia. Both teams also thought that the wine cost more than its actual price, with John saying that Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz Viognier is “classy” and “elegant”.

The scoring remains the same as past episodes, with points for Variety, Country, Region, Appellation and Vintage, and a little less emphasis on Price this season. After 6 rounds the totals are in and the Semi Final match-ups have been set:

So, You Think You Know Wine?

Season 4

For those of you new to our video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?”, we have saved all previous episodes under the Video tab. Season 4 is a departure from the previous critic-against-critic challenge of past seasons. This time the competition has a game show/family feud feel with tasters battling against each other in teams, rather than individually. As always, the competitors have the daunting challenge of identifying the wine with only their nose, eyes, and palate – no other clues are given.

We hope that you find this new format entertaining and that you have as much fun watching as we did filming. As usual, please send your comments to feedback@winealign.com and feel free to share this video with your friends and family.

So, You Think You Know Wine?

Special thanks to our glassware sponsor, Schott Zwiesel, for their beautiful glasses and carafes used during filming.

Previously on “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Espisode 4.1: California Square Russian River Chardonnay

Episode 4.2: Louis M Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Episode 4.3:  Travaglini Gattinara

Episode 4.4: Finca Decero Malbec

Episode 4.5 Paul Zinck Eichberg Riesling

Episode 4:6  Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz Viognier


Advertisements

Wines of South Africa


Fortessa Canada Inc. Glassware sponsor to SYTYKW

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

Season 4, Round 6: “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Will First Impressions Win the Day?

Watch the competition progress as the very confident Raiders of the Lost AOC take on the much more humble Inglorious Bitters. Will first impressions finally win the day? This is the last chance for these teams to improve their scores before we move into Round 7 semi-finals.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch to see which team will come out on top.

Click here to watch Round #6, or read on for highlights from the last round.

Raiders of the Lost AOC

Inglorious Bitters

Highlights and Score from Round #5

Last time on SYTYKW, Whole Bunch Press and The Good, The Bad, and the Blind were practically mirror images of each other in their discussions of the wine. The same grape varieties and regions were tossed around by both groups – riesling, chenin blanc, pinot gris, Alsace, Loire Valley, South Africa.

In the end, Whole Bunch Press decided, incorrectly, that the wine was a chenin blanc from Vouvray in the Loire Valley, France. The Good, The Bad, and The Blind also considered chenin blanc, but “because of reasons of the colour, the late harvest aspect, the residual sugar, the opulence and unctuousness of this wine,” correctly concluded that Paul Zinck Eichberg Riesling 2009 was indeed a riesling from Alsace, France. David Lawrason defended the opposing team’s guess by saying, “Acidity is the key to the variety. It could either be riesling or chenin blanc with that acid level.”  And, higher sugar levels can make the grape difficult to pinpoint, as Anthony Gismondi stated, “Sugar offsets the acidity.  You can get muddled very easily.”

The scoring remains the same as past episodes, with points for Variety, Country, Region, Appellation and Vintage, and a little less emphasis on Price this season. Here’s how the teams stand after 5 rounds:

So, You Think You Know Wine Scorcard

Season 4

For those of you new to our video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?”, we have saved all previous episodes under the Video tab. Season 4 is a departure from the previous critic-against-critic challenge of past seasons. This time the competition has a game show/family feud feel with tasters battling against each other in teams, rather than individually. As always, the competitors have the daunting challenge of identifying the wine with only their nose, eyes, and palate – no other clues are given.

We hope that you find this new format entertaining and that you have as much fun watching as we did filming. As usual, please send your comments to feedback@winealign.com and feel free to share this video with your friends and family.

So, You Think You Know Wine?

Special thanks to our glassware sponsor, Schott Zwiesel, for their beautiful glasses and carafes used during filming.

Previously on “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Espisode 4.1: California Square Russian River Chardonnay

Episode 4.2: Louis M Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Episode 4.3:  Travaglini Gattinara

Episode 4.4: Finca Decero Malbec

Episode 4.5 Paul Zinck Eichberg Riesling


Advertisements
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava


Fortessa Canada Inc. Glassware sponsor to SYTYKW

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

Steve’s Top 50 at LCBO – Jan 2014

New wines on Steve’s Top 50

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There are six additions to my Top 50 list that I want to tell you about. I have been tasting the latest vintages of wines on LCBO shelves and have discovered that a few are better than previous vintages. Moreover, two of these wines have jumped onto my list due to their improved quality.

There are three wines currently on sale with big discounts that have propelled them onto the list as well. And, sadly, one of my favourites has been discontinued and consequently is on clearance for a steal. Use WineAlign to search your local store and print your list from the Top 50. With your shopping list in hand, you’ll be equipped with lots of good wine, while saving some dollars.

Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there are decent stocks available of all the wines below. (By registering with your postal code, you can find the inventory at your closest LCBO store). Here’s a list of six great value bottles with the price at your local LCBO.

The Reds

Peter Lehmann Clancy’s Shiraz Merlot Cabernet 2010
Barossa Valley, South Australia $17.95

Peter Lehmann Clancy's Shiraz Merlot Cabernet 2010

Clancy’s is a blend of 41% shiraz, 30% merlot and 29% cabernet sauvignon from the Barossa Valley in South Australia. It has a lifted nose of ripe plum and cassis fruit with tobacco, menthol and forest floor accents. The palate is medium to full-bodied, very soft and velvety smooth, with a sweet fruit finish with a touch of tannin to bring closure. Very good length, it has pureness and poise and some complexity. Try with roast lamb. Best 2014 to 2018.

La Vieille Ferme Côtes Du Ventoux Red 2012
Rhone Valley, France $11.90Top 25 Value Wines - WWAC 2013

La Vieille Ferme Côtes Du Ventoux Red 2012

This wine was also one of the Top 25 Value Wines at the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada. It is a supple, youthful grenache-syrah red that is generous and vibrant and a step up in quality from last year. Expect cherry raspberry fruit with floral and jammy notes. It is mid-weight and juicy with soft fresh acidity. It finishes dry with some mild white pepper spice. Good to very good length. A good versatile food red. Best 2013 to 2015

Bolla Valpolicella 2012
Italy $10.95 until Feb. 2 was $12.95

Bolla Valpolicella

This is a beautiful lightweight Valpolicella, that should appeal to pinot lovers with its pale ruby colour, firm dry finish and soft fruity palate. Expect aromas of dry cherry with smokey strawberry notes and a hint of warm spice. It is light to midweight weight with soft dry fruit, well-balanced with good to very good length. Try with pizza or tomato based sauces. Best 2013 to 2014.

Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Western Cape, South Africa $9.45 until Feb. 2 was $11.45

Nederburg Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

This is a juicy cabernet that is great value. The nose shows aromas of smokey blackberry and blueberry fruit with some floral and earthy tones plus subtle oak spice. It is midweight fruity with good length and is finely balanced, with a soft plummy lemon finish. Try with grilled red meats or hard mature cheese. Best 2014 to 2017.

The Whites

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Unoaked Chardonnay 2011
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $11.45 until Feb. 2 was $12.95

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Unoaked Chardonnay 2011

A slender finely flavoured wine with aromas of apple fruit with hints of pear, fresh-baked bread and zesty lemon. It is light to midweight with some fruit sweetness on the palate but it finishes quite dry. Very good length. I for one don’t miss the absence of oak, since the flavour depth is good, the balance perfect and it is so fresh. Enjoy on its own as an aperitif or with mildly flavoured seafood starters.

Pasqua Black Label Soave 2011
Veneto, Italy $8.95

Pasqua Black Label Soave 2011

Discontinued at LCBO - This is well made clean fresh and delicate Soave made from garganega grapes. The nose shows green apple, lemon with some nutty tones. It’s lively, light to medium bodied, creamy smooth and dry with good length. Don’t overchill, otherwise you might miss some good stuff. Try as an aperitif with pastry nibbles. There are currently over 2000 bottles in stock.

There are another 44 wines on the Top 50 list so if you didn’t find all you need above dip into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

There are about 1,500 wines listed at the LCBO that are always available, plus another 100 or so VINTAGES Essentials. At WineAlign I maintain a list of the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines selected by price and value – in other words, the best least expensive wines. The selection process is explained in more detail below, but I review the list every month to include newly listed wines and monitor the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

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.

Steve's Top Value WinesTo 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. 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.

Once you have tried a wine, you can use the ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ to agree or disagree with our reviews. Or better yet, you can add your own review and join our growing community of user reviewers. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf, or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. It is very easy to do this. Click on Update This Wine or send an email to feedback@winealign.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

When I compiled the Top 50 this month, twelve wines joined the list. 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 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials Wines

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


Advertisements
Shingleback Haycutters Sauvignon Blanc Semillon


Vancouver International Wine Festival - Feb 27, 28 and Mar 1

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , ,

A 2013 Retrospective: WineAlign Looks Back and Ahead

As the curtain falls on 2013 the WineAlign teams looks back on wines and trends that caught their attention and fancy in the past year. All with the perspective of course that they portend the future. We have assembled an eclectic, perceptive and incredibly well-travelled collection of men and women to review wines, so the range of ideas about what is going on out there globally is quite remarkable.

WineAlign’s Big Year

Before each writer takes the podium, a quick look back at WineAlign’s fifth year. It was the year of our great leap forward, crossing the one million mark in unique annual visitors (currently 1.35M and growing), and 55,000 registered users. We expanded from our Ontario base into full-fledged coverage of British Columbia, with linkage of inventories of the BC Liquor Stores and BC VQA Stores. Four highly respected voices from BC also came aboard: Anthony Gismondi and DJ Kearney of Vancouver, Rhys Pender of the Similkameen Valley and Treve Ring of Victoria. We launched two new wine awards – the National Wine Awards of Canada that attracted 1100 entries from five provinces, and the World Wine Awards of Canada, with a focus on international wine under $50, that also attracted 1000 entries. We released the fourth season of our blind tasting video series called “So, You Think You Know Wine?“, morphing into a more entertaining game show format with four teams. And we anchored all this from a new office in Toronto, managed incredibly well by Sarah Goddard who joined Carol Ann Jessiman, Heather Riley and Bryan McCaw as our fourth full-time employee in 2013.

There is still much to do and improve in 2014, and we have no end of engaged readers and staff who have ideas about how to make things better.  WineAlign is a melting pot of ideas, that at times feels like a cauldron. But the big news in 2014 will be the addition of four Quebec writers and the new French version of WineAlign called Chacun Son Vin. You will be glued to the musings of the Montreal Gazette’s Bill Zacharkiw, Nadia Fournier of Le Guide du Vin, plus veteran wine journalists Marc Chapleau of Montreal and Rémy Charest of Quebec City. And for the first time in the history of wine publishing in Canada there will be a truly national database of international and Canadian wine based on the inventories of the country’s three largest liquor boards – with more to come.

But for now, let’s hear what several of our critics had to say about 2013.

Treve Ring, Victoria

Winemaking Looks Back to Move Ahead – As I sit down to reflect on my 2013 in wine, one key theme sprints to the fore. Strikingly clear in my tastings this year is how much synchronicity I’m seeing around the world of wine. Not synchronicity in a mass-produced global commodity wine recipe (we’ve been there and done that), but synchronicity in goals. From travels through Canada to Chile to Oregon to France to Portugal to Germany I experienced a shared striving for authenticity, faithful trust in terroir and a contemplative and collective gaze backward, giving way to a propulsion of exciting winemaking forward.

Fouassier Pere Et Fils Sancerre Les Romains 2011De Martino Viejas Tinajas CinsaultWhether it’s using concrete (Okanagan Crush Pad, BC) or earthenware amphora at De Martino in Chile practicing biodynamic viticulture, (Johan Vineyards, Willamette), employing wild yeast ferments at Domaine Fouassier in Sancerre, or the natural, sans-sulfite wines at Marcel Lapierre in Beaujolais, there continues to be a heavy, pensive pendulum swing backwards to winemaking traditions of old. Before pesticides and herbicides, MOX, oak chips and stainless steel were invented, people were (gasp) making wine just fine; monks mapped soils painstakingly over decades, vines were treated with naturally derived preparations and grapes grew according to provenance, not fashion.

As Alberto Antonini, one of the world’s most influential wine consultants, as recently named by The Drinks Business magazine noted in Vancouver last week, “We have to free our minds of everything colonizing wine over the past 40 years” in order to move forward. “Those techniques make conventional wine. We want to operate with a free mind.” He’s excited by the potential in the Okanagan Valley, and working with Okanagan Crush Pad to start from square one, as it were, to make serious wine. “To make a wine with a sense of place is easy. To make it serious, is not easy at all.”

People take great care with what they’re feeding themselves. They ask what their free-run heritage chicken ate for lunch and where their heirloom runner beans were cultivated. But up until recently, I didn’t see consumers asking any questions about where their wines were coming from, how they were processed, or who made them. In 2013, I certainly felt a shift, started entering different discussions and was hearing new questions about origin, source and history. The three wines highlighted above are ones I tasted this year that typify this return to authenticity – stripped down and transparent – and are damn tasty.

John Szabo, Toronto

The Rise of Tempranillo and Iberia – What kind of wine can you expect to see more of in the coming years? Kym Anderson of the Wine Economics Research Centre at the University of Adelaide published an amazingly comprehensive report in December illustrating changes in global vineyard area by variety between 2000 and 2010. According to the report, despite the fact that Spain’s vineyard acreage is shrinking, tempranillo is the world’s fastest expanding grape (so who’s planting it?). And this year in Ontario, the Iberian Peninsula (Spain + Portugal) has been on fire, gaining 19% in sales over the previous years in LCBO-VINTAGES, the highest gains of any country. I would bet on seeing more tempranillo in 2014. And while there’s plenty of fruity, cheerful tempranillo, if you still have doubts that the grape should be considered among the top fine wine varieties of the world try Alion, Ribera Del Duero, for a sense of the potential grandeur. Alion is produced by legendary Bodega Vega Sicilia, and this should see its way through to the ’30s in a good cellar with ease. Great wine by definition should also be able to stand the test of time.

The Leaning of Chardonnay –  It’s been ongoing for several years, but 2013 saw lean, fresh, low oak chardonnays from the new world move from the fringe to the mainstream. In fact, the pendulum has swung so far that I’ve encountered many underripe, underoaked chardonnays, leaving me wanting for a few more days’ ripening on the vine, and longer in wood to add interest to otherwise dull, neutral chardonnay grown in the wrong place. But when the right balance is hit, it’s sublime.

Alion 2009Sandhi Sanford & Benedict Vineyard ChardonnayA representative example is the 2010 Sandhi Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, California one of a couple dozen fine chardonnays selected by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Bonné for an international media tasting held in Sonoma in late September. Bonné’s choices were largely on the leaner side for California, highlighting the welcome shift to freshness. Sandhi is a venture launched by the Michael Mina Group’s sommelier Rajat Parr and Sasha Morrman, and this wine hails from the Sandford and Benedict vineyard planted in 1971 – one of the first in Santa Barbara. It’s fermented in 500l puncheons, an ever-more popular size, with only partial new wood, and while there’s a denseness and richness to the orchard and light tropical fruit flavours, there’s an equal measure of riveting acids to balance and moderate alcohol. It’s classy stuff if you can find it.

Ontario’s Red Varieties – Pinot noir and cabernet franc are most frequently put forth as Ontario’s best bets. But for pinot, with the exception of perhaps Prince Edward County, I’d say it’s as much wishful thinking as reality. There are of course many very good examples of pinot from Niagara, but in terms of sheer viticultural suitability and reliability, there’s mounting evidence that cabernet franc has the edge, and probably gamay, too, for that matter. But cab franc and gamay sell for far less on average than pinot, leading growers to try their luck with thin-skinned, rot-prone, difficult-to-vinify pinot.

Rhys Pender, Similkameen Valley

Sweet Red Wine – One of the amazing things that has happened in 2013 is the widespread success of Sweet Red Wines, sugared up with concentrated grape must. One can only think back to the days of Germany and riesling and how the dumbing down of the wines to chase the short-term sale resulted in an entire generation who thought riesling could only be sweet and simple. Sweet red wines are now no longer only the domain of California and Australia but starting to appear all over the world. Every marketer has their eyes on the impressive sales figures achieved by the likes of Apothic and Ménage à Trois and new brand launches are starting to come thick and fast. It will be interesting to see what the future for these sweet red wines will hold and if there will be any backlash further down the track confusing the quality of red wines.

Restraint Please – Even though the sweet red wine trend continues apace, a counter movement seems to be happening with a focus on restraint, lower alcohol and less obtrusive oak use. Throughout 2013, virtually every winemaker I talked to (about making red wine) shared these sentiments. It seems that bigger is no longer perceived as better and wines are and should continue to become increasingly drinkable. With the two diverging paths of red wine trends, maybe this would be a good time to have some kind of legislation instituted to give a separate name to those products with concentrated grape must added before bottling (or at least insist it is written on the label) and let wine be wine.

Janet Dorozynski, Ottawa

The Evolution of Grape Varieties – It’s hard to believe that 2013 is almost over and as I look over my tasting note books, with scores of scribbles on wines from across Canada and the globe, there are several things that jump out from the pages. First, it’s encouraging to see some regions or countries focusing on lesser known or fashionable grape varieties, in particular in the case of lighter bodied and juicier red grape varieties. In Argentina, more attention is being paid to Bonarda, which some are calling the country’s hidden gem and next red. Originally of Italian origin, Bonarda is fruit forward and with just enough tannins and acidity to make it highly drinkable but yet substantial enough to stand up to some Argentian beef. In the case of Chile, there is increasing attention to old vine Carignan from the Maule Valley, much of which was planted in the 1940′s and first started to hit the market as single varietal (or dominant) wines in the early 2000s. Although we still don’t see much old vine Carignan from Chile in the Canadian market, a recent tasting of the Canepa Genovino 2009 made me wish we’d see more in our market, as the vibrant fruit intensity and refreshing acidity make it a welcome change from other dominant red varieties.  And then there’s Gamay, much maligned due to its association with Beaujolais Nouveau, but which is also a highly drinkable and lively red, and in terms of some of the Cru Beaujolais, can be as good if not better than many red Burgundies, which cost much a lot more. I just loved the expression of gamay in Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2011. And while Beaujolais may be the heartland of Gamay, there is also great Gamay coming from Canada, California and New Zealand and I’m hoping that this grape will gain more momentum in 2014

Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve Methode Classique 2005Tawse Quarry Road Riesling 2011Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2011Another positive development is the collective fine tuning of regional and country identities in terms of key wine styles or grape varieties. While individual business decisions ultimately determine what a winery will choose to plant and produce, we’ve seen the success and consumer recognition of New Zealand, Oregon and Austria with their respective focus on Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Gruner Veltliner. Similarly, regions like Burgundy, Alsace, the Rheingau and Mosel have highlighted their signature grape varieties for hundreds of years (though some would argue as the result of restrictive appellation laws which stifle experimentation and creativity), which created an identity for the region and understanding among consumers.

Closer to home, we’ve seen a focus on core grape varieties and wine styles in both Wine Country Ontario and Nova Scotia. While many grape varieties are grown in each province, Ontario highlights Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, alongside the internationally known flagship Icewine, with increasing attention to sparkling wine, which also holds great promise in the region. The concerted, collective effort has gained traction and recognition through events such as the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration, as well as at tastings throughout Ontario and in London and New York, which have caught the attention of consumers, as well as accolades from the wine trade and media in both Canada and globally. Similarly, Nova Scotia has captured the attention of wine drinkers with its signature regional blend called Tidal Bay, which is a blend of various white grape varieties that is often greater than the sum of its parts. Nova Scotia is also keen to let Canadians and the world know that they are sparkling wine territory with impressive examples produced by Benjamin Bridge, L’Acadie Vineyards and Blomidon Estates. A pair of prime examples of what is great about Canadian wine includes Tawse Quarry Road Riesling 2011 from Niagara’s Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation and Benjamin Bridge Brut Traditional Method 2005 from Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley.

DJ Kearney, Vancouver

Key events in Canada ­– Two noteworthy events happened this summer in Niagara and the Okanagan Valley that will help to draw continued attention to our regions and wines. The first, as Janet mentioned, was I4C (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) held in Niagara in July, attracting a serious list of producers, top-level dialogue and important cool-climate discussions and comparisons – in spite of the sweltering temperatures. Then in September, the 1st Annual B.C. Pinot Noir Celebration was staged at Meyer Family Vineyards in Okanagan Falls where selected local pinots were tasted beside global standards. Attended enthusiastically by local winelovers and media, there’s abundant interest and opportunity to turn this event into something important and enduring. Sparking debate and useful comparison, I hope these events grow from strength to strength. (see my reviews of Norman Hardie Prince Edward County Pinot Noir 2011 and Meyer Family McLean Creek Pinot Noir 2011)

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2011Meyer Family Pinot Noir Mclean Creek Road Vineyard 2011Helping shine more light on Canadian wine was Stuart Pigott, well-known and well-loved Riesling crusader who raved yet again about Ontario Rieslings (it’s been 9 years since he first toured Ontario) and visited the BC for the first time (en route to Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle). He admired some of the Okanagan’s completely unique ‘bladerunner’ Rieslings like Tantalus, Syncromesh, CedarCreek, Geringer and Lang. The Wild West of his favourite grape impressed him on his first ever visit to BC.

Diversity and Change – There are two truths that occur to me when I reflect broadly on vinous things (and the New Year encourages reflection): wine’s greatest strength is its diversity; and that the only constant in wine is change. Variety and flux, one dependent upon the other. 2013 has seen a greater choice of natural wines on our shelves, and surely this is just the beginning of a burgeoning interest in wines made with few or no additives. The definition of ‘natural’ is problematic for many, as is the stability of some wines. And while interest and commitment to natural wines will surely evolve throughout 2014 so will the continued success of gigantic commercial brands. It’s paradoxical of course, but all part of wine’s diversity. But more of the natural and less of the industrial please.

Little Farm RoséJulia Kemper Dao BrancoQuinta Do Ameal Escolha White 2011Portugese White and Similkameen Pinks – Speaking of diversity, there’s been a happy leap in dry wines from Portugal available in Canada, particularly white. From the astonishing Vinho Verde spectrum, to characterful sparklers and producers who celebrate high calibre grapes like Arinto and Encruzado, there is so much to discover, like my favourite of the year, Julia Kemper Dao Branco.

We drank more rosé in BC than ever before, and my crystal ball (which looks strangely like a huge Burgundy glass) suggests that 2014 will see us drinking more pink – year round. Rosé consumption is predicted to grow by 45% worldwide over the next 2 years, and by 7.5% in Canada.

The Similkameen Valley with its stone-y, bone-y soils and persistent winds is a region to watch for top rosé. Orofino, Clos du Soleil, Eau Vivre, Little Farm, are some of the best. Drink pink – fresh, local, ideal with food and on-trend.

Sara d’Amato, Toronto

Change in the Wind – 2013 proved to be a tumultuous year with a great deal of consumer activism and outspokenness. With several editorials in the wine and mass media, and the “mywineshop.ca” initiative spearheaded by the Wine Council of Ontario, there was a great deal of momentum towards the need for more individual control for how and where we purchase our wine. The prospect of private wine retailers is now more tangible than it has been for some time in Ontario and the campaign for this fundamental paradigm shift will certainly see continued momentum in the New Year. Although this is still but a campaign, albeit one with a great deal of thrust, purchasing wine through a private agent is currently an outlet that consumers have in order to find wines that do not have places on the limited LCBO shelves. One of my top picks of the year: Musar Jeune White 2012, Bekaa Valley, Lebannon – represented in Ontario by 30 50 Imports.

Palatine Hills Neufeld Vineyard Meritage 2010Domaine Chante Cigale Tradition Châteauneuf Du Pape 2010Musar Jeune White 2012Wine’s Widening Appeal – For me, 2013 saw yet another addition to our family and made me further contemplate the elusive work-life balance. Often moving from very adult settings to more PG scenarios, I’ve been struck by the realization that wine is a topic of interest to a whole array of people who traditional shy away from discussing alcohol. Surprisingly, from mommy groups to post natal exercise settings to conversing with teachers, educators and bus drivers, conversations about wine abound. Folks are looking for ways to fit wine into their changing lives in a responsible manner, whether it be a post-workout mimosa, a play group wine tasting event or advice on wines to give birth by (most maternity wards now list “wine” on their items to bring to the hospital for post-delivery). Even the contentious topic of what is acceptable consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is making headlines like never before. So, for all the mommies and daddies out there who have worked so hard this year and deserve a break – here is an indulgent pick for you with the type of balance, that we as parents, aspire to:  Domaine Chante Cigale Tradition Châteauneuf Du Pape 2010.

The Great Canadian Wine Challenge – And finally, a shout out to our WineAlign Cru Member – Shawn McCormick (Uncork Ontario) who is one of the jump starters of The Great Canadian Wine Challenge which has experienced a response of unprecedented popularity. Canadian Wine Day was not enough for McCormick and counterpart Calvin Hanselmann and as a result of a Twitter discussion, the challenge, asking joiners to only open or purchase Canadian wine for one full year, was born. For more information visit:  The Great Canadian Wine Challenge or follow on Twitter @TGCWC. My contribution – a 100-mile recommendation that particularly turned my crank this year: Palatine Hills Neufeld Vineyard Meritage 2010, Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario.

Steve Thurlow, Toronto

My Best Value Wine – Throughout the year I write about Top Values at the LCBO, so my radar is set on quality/price ratio. This year I can’t think of a better value than The Wolftrap White 2012, Western Cape, South Africa. This wine is an elegant partner to the popular red of the same name. It is an intriguing blend of viognier with chenin blanc and grenache blanc. The nose is very stately with apple pie plus a hint of caramel, with baked peach, honeysuckle and nutmeg tones. The palate is rich with loads of flavour with the fruit sweetness nicely balanced by lemony acidity. Excellent length. Try with a mild curry or tandoori chicken.  Available in seven provinces across Canada.

Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Ambrosia 2010Ornellaia 2001The Wolftrap White 2012My Best Wine of 2013Ornellaia 2001, Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy. 2013 was the 25th year in which this winery on the Tuscan coast has been making wine. To celebrate I was invited to dinner in Toronto on Nov 26th when I tasted many of the vintages of those 25 years. The 2001 was my favourite and, though several of the more recent years may well improve, on that day it was the 2001 Ornellaia that best showed the class of this estate. It was a deep ruby with little sign of age with a complex nose of black and red cherry with chocolate, interwoven with forest floor accents, vanilla, and oak spice. The palate had layers of the same flavours was midweight with soft acidity and firm tannin with a finish that seemed to last for ever. It is elegant, pure and amazingly youthful indicating that though this wine is ready to drink now it will hold for another decade or more.

Malbec from Argentina – Argentina makes a lot of very ordinary malbec. Few wineries have shown the same passion for excellence with this grape as has Trapiche. They have access to over 90 vineyards in different areas of Mendoza which are used each year for the production of their range of malbec wines. Since 2003 Daniel Pi and his team have chosen out of this collection the three best malbec wines from each harvest, produced separately in the winery, following the same wine-making process for their Single Vineyard Series. This project aims to convey the extraordinary potential of the vast array of Argentina’s terroirs for the production of malbec and to demonstrate that this variety can make truly great wine. I have been tasting these wines since the inception of this project. This year my favourite comes from a new vineyard to the program, Finca Ambrosia. Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Ambrosia 2010, Single Vineyard. This is an elegant complex malbec which is opaque purple-red with a very pure nose of ripe cassis and blackberry fruit, with chocolate, mild oak spice and soft minerality. It’s full bodied but has a lightness from soft acidity, very smooth and rich, with soft tannin. It is blessed with layers of fruit flavour and dark chocolate with perfect balance.

David Lawrason, Toronto

Biodynamics – Other writers have touched on this topic, but to me 2013 was the year that biodynamic wines firmly gained critical acceptance, at least among writers and wine enthusiasts. It is based on the simple fact that biodynamics makes better wine! Yes I still hear skeptics sneer at the burying of cow horns. It is actually quite practical for its purpose, but it has become a disproportionately powerful logo for a movement that has much more important things to say about good agriculture. The bottom line is that healthy soils build healthy plants that less frequently need feeding and curing through synthetics. After spending a week in Germany in August for an in-depth look at what’s happening there, with stats gathered from around the world, there is no doubt it is becoming a force, and an essential decision for producers and consumers who value quality, authenticity as well as environmentalism. This was one of my favourite and most affordable and succinct biodynamic wines tasted in 2013: Volpaia Chianti Classico 2010, Tuscany.

Blue Mountain Gamay NoirVilla Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2009Volpaia Chianti Classico 2010New Zealand Pinot Noir – At the very beginning of 2013 I spent three weeks in New Zealand, focused on pinot noir. I attended the four-day 2013 Pinot Noir NZ conference in Wellington, and travelled and tasted through every pinot producing region.  Of course there were some great wines, and some not so great wines. But in retrospect, I am now aware that I had been participating in something much bigger and perhaps more historic – a key moment the evolution of a new Burgundy. I am not going to draw all the parallels at this point except to say that I think NZ has same sense of terroir depth and quality potential. The evolution is at an early stage. There is a youthful rawness to the wines and the people – no end of passion, debate, inquisitiveness, and experimentation, which is all good and necessary.  But they are also insecure, afraid to demarcate and label appellations that are already showing in the glass. My cursory list revealed 22 possible pinot appellations. And the marketing types in NZ need to get out of the way and let winemakers and consumers follow the always intricate path that pinot is laying out for them. In more practical terms, if they are going to charge $50 or more for pinot (which is just fine by me when quality is commensurate) they need to tell people that its origin is guaranteed, no matter how microscopic. Here’s is a fine example: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2009

Canadians Grow Impatient – In terms of the slow, grinding evolution of wine culture in Canada, 2013 reminded me of the years just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when the cracks began to appear. It is of course the liquor boards – propped up by over 80 years of self-sustaining managerial bureaucracy and its unions – that are impeding progress. For most of that time public sentiment (fear) kept them in place. But the public is changing its mind, wanting more choice, price freedom and convenience, and they are increasingly aware this can be achieved without dire social cost. Many politicians are now also in favour. So pressure mounts against the monopolies, and there are longer and deeper cracks in our wall.  BC is reviewing its whole structure; Ontario’s Wine Council is lobbying for private stores that also sell imports; both the BC and Ontario gov’ts have now authorized wine sales in farmers markets; even Saskatchewan is poised to take another run at private stores in 2014 having recovered from a flawed previous attempt. For those who are counting Canada in 2014 will have five provinces selling a blend of Canadian and imported fine wines in private stores. Here’s a Canadian wine that should be sold, unfettered, from coast to coast. Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2012.


All of us at WineAlign hope that you have enjoyed our work over the last twelve months, and we promise a whole lot more in what will be a very exciting year ahead. Thank you for your support, and we send our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.


Advertisements
Penfolds Grange 2008

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

A Sparkling Countdown to New Year’s Eve (Part 3)

If you have not already bought your bubbly for New Year’s Eve take a look at this list of affordable sparklers that WineAlign critics have picked out for you. We know that 90% of the bottles will be popped in the 30 seconds before or after midnight, and that you will be more engaged in a heartfelt Auld Lang Syne than appreciating the nuances of these wines. But you can take our word for it that they offer great value. Our selections were in inventory in the Ontario, Quebec and/or BC liquor stores as of Dec 27, and many are in other provinces as well, with the vast majority under $30. For a rundown of luxury Champagnes see JohnSzabo’s article Luxe Bubbles for 2013 or explore the world of ‘growers Champagne’ with Treve Ring at Farmer Fizz.

Last Minute Affordable Sparklers

Canadian Sparklers

We lead off with Canadian bubbly, because – in case you have not been following along – it is emerging as a great ‘coast to coast’ wine style with fine examples from B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé BrutBlue Mountain BrutBlue Mountain Brut Gold Label, British Columbia

This elegant, lean, beautifully structured sparkling wine from a fine terroir and a pioneering wine family is worth seeking out. It’s reminiscent of good Champagne with a leesy/toasty, lemony nose, but shows its BC origins with pure apple and pear plus a hint of herbs. Vigorous limey acidity leads the palate charge, with zingy green apple and peach flavours, coated in lees and minerals. The bubble structure is small and persistent, and nicely shows off a long and layered nervy finish. (DJ Kearney – BC, ON, QC) 

Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catherine Brut Rose, Ontario

A lovely salmon pink colour, this bubble shows medium intense red berry, floral and citrus notes on the nose which follow through on the dry but fruity palate. Medium-bodied with fine mousse, this is a well balanced sparkler with vibrant acidity and a long red berry and pink grapefruit finish. This pinot noir based pink is one of the great bubblies being produced in Canada, pink or otherwise. (Janet Dorozynski – ON)

Gray Monk Odyssey White Brut 2010Trius BrutCave Spring Blanc De Blancs BrutGray Monk Odyssey 2010 White Brut, British Columbia

Locally there are plenty of accolades for Blue Mountain and they are well deserved but this year a wine that caught my attention with its reserved styling and persistence of flavours comes from Gray Monk, a BC VQA pioneer and family run operation. Impressive wine that would be perfect with most before dinner appetizers. Serve with some tasty BC smoked salmon. (Anthony Gismondi – BC)

Trius Brut, Ontario

This silver medalist at the National Wine Awards of Canada is an excellent value sparkling wine with a lot of class that will appeal to lovers of Champagne. It has a fine mousse with the tiny bubbles that persist well and give a creaminess to the palate. The nose is delicate with nice toasty notes to the apple lemon fruit. Best as an aperitif. (Steve Thurlow – ON)

Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut, Ontario

I poured this razor sharp chardonnay bubbly for a swish pre-Christmas corporate party and the guests loved it. Clearly sparkling has a big future in Ontario. (David Lawrason – ON)

Angels Gate Archangel Chardonnay Brut 2010Haywire The Bub Sparkling 2011Haywire 2011 The Bub, British Columbia

This is the first vintage of traditional method bubbles from the progressive team at Okanagan Crush Pad – and part of the small movement towards terroir-driven sparkling wine in the Okanagan. It pours a foamy flute of apple, stone, pear skin, and light eraser rubbings on the nose, along with tart white peach and crisp lemon in the mouth. Baked apple notes seal the finish and a crown cap seals in the freshness. (Treve Ring – BC)

Angels Gate Archangel Chardonnay Brut 2010, Ontario

A very classy, classic, elegant style here with a real Old World feel – for traditionalists – and a silver medalist in the sparkling category at this year’s National Wine Awards of Canada to boot! The Archangel name is a throwback to the property’s original ownership – the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of Christian Charity. (Sara d’Amato – ON)

Spanish Cava

Spain is one of the world’s largest producers of sparkling wines. Applying traditional method (second fermentation in bottle) production to native varieties like Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel.lo results in wines with complexity and structure and unbelievably good prices.

Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut CavaParés Baltà Cava BrutJaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava, Spain

You always need a couple of bottles of bubbly on hand for when you get those surprise visitors over the holidays, or any time of year for that matter. This is great value Cava. It is dry, fresh and crisp with a soft mousse and aromas of lees, lemon, peach and ripe golden apple with green apple and some salty, mineral notes on the medium length finish. (Rhys Pender – BC)

Parés Baltà Cava Brut, Spain

What could be better than organically grown fruit, a family operation and a great price. Pares Baltà B over delivers on all accounts and proves price doesn’t mean a great deal when it comes to sparkling wine. I’m fond of saying the annual tasting of ‘b” never disappoints although this year the tasting was in Pacs in the heart of the Penedès region that is home to Pares Baltà. The blend is a mix of organically certified (and more recently bio-dynamically grown from several sites spanning 230 to 615 metres. Good value and food friendly and the perfect wedding sparkler to boot. (Anthony Gismondi – BC, QC)

Langa Real de Aragon CavaSegura ViudasSegura Viudas Brut Reserva, Spain

This Spanish cava made from local grape varieties continues is a perennial best buy in sparkling wine, especially in the $15 range. Such complexity, poise and length for the money. Great with hors d’ouevres. (David Lawrason – ON, BC, QC)

Langa Real de Aragon Cava, Spain

Just having this pretty bottle around makes people merry. Wait until they drink it! Tremendous value for this serious, well-crafted Cava – perfect for brunch, small plates and celebrations. (Treve Ring – BC)

Other European Sparklers

Champagne is the most famous French sparkler, but other regions of Europe have been perfecting local styles for generations as well, and most are at least half the price of Champagne. Very much worth exploring; whether a fine French cremant from Bourgogne, Alsace or the Loire; or an airy prosecco from Italy.

De Chanceny Excellence Brut Vouvray 2010Vitteaut Alberti Blanc Brut Crémant De BourgogneIl ProseccoDe Chanceny Excellence Brut, France

I’m a sucker for sparkling Chenin Blanc, so I couldn’t resist this gem from Vouvray in France’s Loire Valley. It highlights the versatility of Chenin Blanc and excellent value of French sparkling wine from outside of Champagne. (Janet Dorozynski – ON)

Vitteaut Alberti Blanc Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, France

Oh-so-charming with incredible complexity for the price. Here is a wine that is sure to impress, as fine Champagne would do. Made from chardonnay, pinot noir and aligoté (for some kick), with a fullness and richness that is sure to satisfy on special occasions. (Sara d’Amato – ON)

Il Prosecco, Italy

Wearing a spiffy looking crown cap and bowling pin shaped bottle this light prosecco has a clean, fresh and simple aroma poached pears and icing sugar. It’s medium bodied, fairly soft, sweet and only lightly effervescent. (David Lawrason – ON, BC)

Other New World Countries

Around the world sparkling wine is enjoying a renaissance in quality and popularity. Here are some reasons why.

Barefoot Bubbly Pinot GrigioYellowglen Pink SparklingYellowglen Pink Sparkling, Australia

Every time I try this wine I think that these are pretty amazing everyday bubbles! This blend of pinot noir and chardonnay over delivers for the money. An orangey pink with fine bubbles that persist well with ample aromas of cherry, toffee and bread with a hint of stewed strawberry. Don’t over-chill or you will miss the fruit and aromas. (Steve Thurlow – ON, BC)

Barefoot Bubbly Pinot Grigio, California

A clean refreshing bubbly at a good price. The nose shows fresh lemon with floral jasmine and bread aromas with some mineral notes. It is quite rich and creamy and well balanced without a lot of complexity. Try as an aperitif with pastry nibbles. (Steve Thurlow – ON, BC)

Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut, California

This is a long standing personal favorite and good example of what happens when you combine Old World traditional method wine making with the New World know-how of California. (Janet Dorozynski – ON, QC)

Domaine Chandon Étoile BrutJansz Premium CuvéeTerra Andina Sparkling MoscatoJansz Premium Cuvée, Australia

One of the best value bubblies from the exciting Tasmania that is taking Australia by storm for not just bubbly but some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The nose is quite rich and autolytic with lots of bread, hazelnut and lees with golden apple and lemon. The finish is long. Great value and now available in BC Liquor Stores. (Rhys Pender – BC, QC)

Terra Andina Sparkling Moscato, Brazil

It’s full of fruit, tasty and it’s from Brazil! – three good reasons to try this value-priced sparkler. Overflowing with Latin exuberance and joie de vivre, it reminds me of how Brazil plays soccer – with passion, righteousness and unbridled devotion to the beautiful game. From muscat grapes grown in the north of the country in the Vale de Sao Francisco, it has energetic grapey, floral and peachy aromas and flavours with a broad and foamy palate. Though quite sweet, it’s balanced enough with fruity acidity. Give it a severe chill and pour for the brunch crowd or make a fizzy Sangria with frozen peach slices. (DJ Kearney – BC)

A Sparkling Countdown Part 1: Farmer Fizz
A Sparkling Countdown Part 2: Luxe Bubbles 2013
Complete list of recommended wines: Sparkling Countdown 2013


Advertisements
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne


Vancouver Wine Festival - Feb 27 - Mar 1

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

Steve’s Top 50 at LCBO – Dec 2013

Value Wines for Holiday Entertaining

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

This is the busiest time of the year in every wine store. When the stores are so crowded, I have found that it’s best to shop with a prepared list. So to ease your wine-buying stress I have selected eight wines, all less than $15, from my Top 50 list that could be all you need to take to parties, stuff into stockings or have on hand at home over the next three weeks. These are all great inexpensive wines that will surely please. There simply is no reason to drink poor wines when there are so many good wines you can easily buy. Use WineAlign to search your local store and print your list from the Top 50. With your shopping list in hand, you’ll be equipped with lots of good wine, while saving some dollars.

Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available as of all the wines below. (By registering with your postal code, you can find the inventory at your closest LCBO store). Here’s a list of eight great value bottles to put on your personal WineAlign shopping list.

The Reds

Inexpensive good pinot noir is a pretty rare find. Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2012, Central Valley, Chile ($10.95) combines good varietal character with a good depth of flavour. It is well structured and is a match for a wide variety of mildly flavoured dishes. Fresh, pure, fruity and very drinkable it must surely be the best value pinot at the LCBO.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2012Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell 2009If you looking for something more full-bodied then Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.00) is good value for an elegant red with a complex nose of cassis and blackberry fruit with some earthy tones, subtle oak spice and sweet basil notes. The palate is finely poised with the fruit supported by some finely grained tannin which give nice grip to the finish. It will be best appreciated with some red meat. Try it with a fine cut of roast lamb or beef.

Probably the best value red at the LCBO comes from southern Spain Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell 2009, Yecla, Spain ($11.80). The monastrell grape makes many delicious juicy dark, full-bodied reds like this one. It is wonderfully smooth with vibrant acidity that gives it a degree of elegance that would cost you over $20 normally. Expect aromas of blackberry with fragrant lavender, vanilla and cocoa plus some raspberry jam notes. The palate is rich yet not heavy and it finishes dry with some meaty notes and fine tannin for grip. Very good length. Try with strongly flavoured mature hard cheese, like cheddar or parmigiana.

Montalto Nero d'Avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Santa Carolina Merlot 2011I don’t usually have much time for single varietal merlot. This grape is often so much better when blended with others, but there are exceptions and for value and its bright beautiful fruit you can’t beat Santa Carolina Merlot 2011, Chile ($8.95). It abounds with pure aromas of raspberry and red cherry fruit with some jammy tones and herbal hints. The midweight palate is brimming with lively vibrant fruit with enough tannin for balance and good to very good length. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled or with a wide range of meat and cheese dishes.

Finally for a more full-bodied red at less than $10, I can recommend Montalto Nero d’Avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Sicily, Italy ($8.95). It is very fruity and well-structured with soft tannins and vibrant acidity. Very good length. Well balanced, it’s ideal with pizza and meaty pasta sauces or hard mature cheese.

The Whites

Poultry and most cheese and pastry nibbles go best with white wines, so try one or all of these three.

Chateau des Charmes Barrel Fermented 2011 Chardonnay, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($13.95) is a juicy well-made chardonnay with just enough oak maturation to add complexity and structure without adding too much unnecessary flavour. It shows how good Niagara chardonnay is these days and at less than $14 it’s great value.

Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2011Trapiche Broquel Chardonnay 2010Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2012My next pick has unfortunately been delisted and is now on sale. Trapiche Broquel 2010 Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina was $11.40 is now $8.45. It has soft creamy texture with lots of flavour plus aromas of melon and pear fruit with just a little oak. Over 2200 bottles are still in stock so you should be able to find it, if not at your store, at one close by.

My final white pick is a classic sauvignon blanc from New Zealand that is $2 off until Jan 5. Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand was $16.45 is now $14.45. It is a very bright, juicy wine with a fine nose of passion fruit, nettle and lemon. It’s fresh and well-balanced with a hint of sweetness and a dry lemony finish.

There are another 42 wines on the Top50 list so if you did not find all you need above for your holiday needs dip into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

There are about 1,500 wines listed at the LCBO that are always available, plus another 100 or so VINTAGES Essentials. At WineAlign I maintain a list of the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines selected by price and value – in other words, the best least expensive wines. The selection process is explained in more detail below, but I review the list every month to include newly listed wines and monitor the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

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.

Steve's Top Value WinesTo 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. 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.

Once you have tried a wine, you can use the ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ to agree or disagree with our reviews. Or better yet, you can add your own review and join our growing community of user reviewers. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf, or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. It is very easy to do this. Click on Update This Wine or send an email to feedback@winealign.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

When I compiled the Top 50 this month, twelve wines joined the list. 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

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

Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials Wines


Advertisements

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Champagne

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

@WineAlign

WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008