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Argentina Part II : Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sparkling in Search of Place and Purpose

by Anthony Gismondi, David Lawrason and Treve RingJuly 27, 2015

Over the past seven months, five of our WineAlign contributors travelled to Argentina, each bringing back different stories and aspects of the country. You can read Rhys Pender MW and Sara d’Amato’s views in Part One of the series here.


A number of years ago I noted that when visiting Argentina, or most any other region for that matter, I was spending too much time in cars, eating lunch and dinner and not enough time tasting wines as they relate to the region, its terroir and its place in the world of wine. Hence the switch to early morning hotel tastings where themes and wines can collide and information is gathered in a much more efficient manner in a neutral space. Then the rest of the day, on the road, makes more sense.

A special thanks to the elegant Hyatt Hotel Mendoza for the room required and to Wines of Argentina for keeping an open mind and especially Edgardo del Popolo (Dominio del Plata) and Roberto de La Mota (Mendel Wines) for sharing some fabulous nuggets of information about their country, its wines and the places that make them special.

We wish we could see all these wines in Canada but the monopoly system and the general trend to taxing quality wine out of reach of the average wage earner in Canada makes it less and less likely. There are so many agendas that can foil the fine wine business in a heavily controlled liquor market like Canada. From ignorance to greed and back, the chances of seeing the brightest Argentina has to offer is left to a dwindling select few retailers and restaurants. Undaunted, our job is to uncover the latest and the best and push the names forward. The irony is, as the wine gets better and better, the quality, brought into Canada by many distributors, and sold by many retailers, government and private, is anything but. Certainly it does not reflect fast moving modern developments of a place like Argentina.



Cabernet Franc Ascending
By David Lawrason

I am going to state a bias upfront that Argentine malbecs poses difficulties more me. I understand them but I also find many to be blunt and monochromatic, especially at lower price points where young malbecs can have joyless rawness. I really do appreciate all the work underway in Argentina to fashion malbecs with more elegance, and I do score many very well.  I also like the current movement to find more complexity and elegance by blending other varieties.

After two trips to Argentina since December I would argue that perhaps the best blender and alt-variety is cabernet franc. The first visit with WineAlign colleague Anthony Gismondi was a tightly focused, intense tasting foray, anchored by themed, comparative flights of wines at our hotel before we ventured into the fields of Mendoza and Cafayate. The second trip provided a much broader lens, accompanying a Gold Medal Plates group of Canadians to many of the same wineries, this time from a consumer perspective.

Globally, cabernet franc has long been used as a vehicle for bringing aromatic life and palate freshness to heavier wines. The negative can be that it thins too much and encroaches on ripe fruitiness with its herbal, tobacco leanings, even at moderate proportions. But the very ripe, full bodied reds of Mendoza are the perfect canvass on which to splash a little greenish franc-ness.  The best show just a bit more elegance, freshness and complexity.

A caveat here that none of the wines I want to speak about are currently available in Canada – so not on the WineAlign database – but what else is new? Canada’s liquor boards always lag years behind trends on the ground abroad.  It is articles like this that might one day make them appear.

View from Bodega El Esteco

View from Bodega El Esteco

Among the handful of varietal labelled cabernet francs that scored 90 points or better I was most surprised and impressed by Kaiken 2013 Cabernet Franc, that would sell here for about $40. Sourced from a small block of “massal” or original vines in the Uco Valley, it presented very pretty, totally correct franc aromatics with excellent balance and length. Melipal 2013 Cabernet Franc from the Agrelo district of Mendoza showed classic currants, tobacco and great oak integration, a creamy palate then that tweak of cab franc greenness on the finish. Still in Mendoza, but from the very high altitude Guatallery sub-zone of Tupungato, Los Noques 2013 Cabernet Franc showed amazing lift, florality and freshness. And up north in Cafayate, Etchart 2013 Cabernet Franc showed lovely savoury cedar and tobacco and pink flowers. Very charming and less heavy than Mendoza peers.

As surprised as I was to find so many excellent ‘solo’ cab francs, I was just as intrigued to discover what cab franc does in blends. A little goes a long way. Staying up north in the province of Salta, Bodega El Esteco 2011 Altimus from the remote Valles Calchaquies carried only 14% cabernet franc and 25% cabernet sauvignon – a rich, quite oaky wine that really showed refreshing, dusty cab franc on the finish. Fuego Blanco 2012 from chalky soils in the Pedernal Valley of San Juan carries 10% cabernet franc co-fermented with malbec – lovely freshness, elegance, some minerality. The Pedernal Valley landscape is desert or semi-desert but at 1400 metres above sea level the temperatures are moderate with warm sunny days and cool nights. The rocky, poor-quality soils, glacial in origin, are dotted with flat, dark stones that give the valley its name, pedernal being the Spanish term for flint. Poor soils, low yields, it is a pattern.

Fuego Blanco Malbec Cabernet Franc 2012Per Se Le Craie 2012Manos Negras Malbec Atrevida 2010

Per Se 2012 La Craie from the Gualtallary region is a co-fermented gem with 65% malbec and 35% cabernet franc and another big winner from limestone (craie) soils. *See Anthony’s in-depth look at this special wine below.

Manos Negras 2010 Atrevida is 97% malbec but the remainder is cabernet franc and it shows with just a touch of lift and franc tobacco. Perhaps this is all that is needed to keep Argentine malbecs aloft.

Whether the lead actor, or best grape in a supporting role, I came away convinced that cabernet franc’s future in Argentina is assured.


Argentina’s Cup Bubbles Over
by Treve Ring

When you think about Argentina, sparkling wine isn’t top of mind, and possibly not even in the picture. That’s poised to change, as vineyards climb ever higher and cooler, grapes are picked ever earlier and the diversity of styles more accepted than ever before. At the 2013 edition of the Argentina Wine Awards, the number of sparkling wine samples had increased by 220% over the 2007 edition, and a full 30% over 2012. In that year, this sparkling wine sector totaled $22,900,515, an 8.2% growth with respect to 2011.

Though espumante has been produced since the 19th century, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century and the proliferation of pinot noir that bubble began to bubble upwards. Wineries both local and foreign started to show interest in the unique dry and sunny climate and unspoilt terroirs; Chandon, Mumm, Bianchi, Norton and Nieto Senetiner amongst the leaders in the sparkling stride. In the 1950’s and after a worldwide search for new regions to develop, Moët & Chandon’s oenologist, Renaud Poirier, named Mendoza the more suitable terrain for sparkling wine outside of France. Today, the Argentinian subsidiary of Moët & Chandon produces a wide variety of bubbles including Terrazas de los Andes and Baron B.

Refreshing with Norton with the Andes as a backdrop

Refreshing with Norton with the Andes as a backdrop

Unquenchable global demand for Prosecco may have helped in recent years, with consumers wanting to branch out, safely, from a familiar charmat or tank style, not to mention a comfortable entry level price point which Argentina can hit. Though styles range from frothy and fruity to traditional method and serious, the majority that I saw in my travels there and on the shelves back home are akin to Prosecco, easy, approachable, fresh and accessible. Last year Moet Hennessy announced they will spend £1.5m in the UK to back the launch of Argentinian sparkling wines that it believes will tempt drinkers away from top-end Prosecco without asking them to pay Champagne prices.

The best examples, across all sparkling styles, come from altitude, allowing the grapes to take full advantage of relief from the intensity of Argentine sun. In the Uco Valley, and especially in the 1000m heights of Tupungato, chardonnay and pinot noir thrive, ripening easily while retaining crisp acidity when harvested early. In the high desert of Salta, and the arid otherworldly landscape of Patagonia, potential is great, and being recognized and utilized with greater reach every year. Malbec, sauvignon blanc, Chenin, torrontes, viognier and sémillon are also utilized, while pioneering producers trial other grapes.

Here are a few of my top sparkling picks from a brief visit to Argentina in earlier this year, as well as some that are available on our shelves in Canada. Salud.

Bodega Ruca Malen Brut NV, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodegas Norton Cosecha Especial Brut Nature 2010, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodegas Escorihuela Gascon 1884 Extra Brut NV, Mendoza
Familia Zuccardi Cuvée Especial Blanc De Blancs NV, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodega Santa Julia Brut Rosé 2012, Mendoza, Argentina

Bodega Ruca Malen BrutBodegas Norton Cosecha Especial Brut Nature 2010Bodegas Escorihuela Gascon 1884 Extra Brut Familia Zuccardi Cuvée Especial Blanc De BlancsBodega Santa Julia Brut Rosé 2012

From Calchaqui to Rio Negra. In Search of Place and Purpose
by Anthony Gismondi

David Lawrason and I had not travelled together in years but our recent visit to Argentina was certainly one of the best weeks we had spent on the road in ages.

Our first morning tasting (there were several) was hosted by two giants of the Argentine wine business: Edgardo Popolo, the general manager of Dominio de Plata and Roberta de la Mota, partner Mendel Wines.

We began with the oldest working winery in Argentina (1831) and one of the highest vineyards. Colomé Auténtico 2012 from the Calchaqui Valley in Salta is pure Malbec, from 90 year old vines made with little intervention. The vineyards are grown and worked using sustainable practices thus presenting the “authentic” expression of the terroir. The winery practices pigeage, does not use commercial yeasts or lactic bacteria to speed up the fermentation, acid correction and the use of sulphur dioxide is minimal and it has no oak influence. This begs the question why so many softer, sweeter versions of malbec make their way to Canada? If you are making under 100,000 cases we see no need for the fruit bomb malbecs that do little if anything for your image and frankly aren’t all that healthy to drink.

One degree south takes us to Tolombón, where shallow, stony, splinter shale soils with quartz are the norm. The malbec here has a slightly riper, sweeter profile as seen in the Anko Flor Cardón 2012. It’s classified Winkler IV, as was the Auténtico, but it seems a touch warmer likely due to the lower altitude. The fruit is sourced from the Estancia Los Cardónes district of Salta, the northernmost winemaking province of Argentina, located just south of the town of Cafayate at roughly 1700 meters along the eastern slopes of the Valle de Calchaquies. The little soil found there is packed full of crushed mica. Winemakers and co-owners Jeff Mausbach, Alejandro “Colo” Sejanovich and Saavedra Azcona and family have planted the rockiest sites looking for minerality. I know, I know the notion of minerality doesn’t really exist in any wine… until you sense it. All I know is I’ll take the stony minerality of this wine over a residual sugar, soaked brand any day.

High desert vineyards of Salta

High desert vineyards of Salta

Old vines are a big part of the story told by Viña 1924 De Angeles Gran 2012 Malbec. There are many old blocks offering different styles, weight and structure. The fruit here is 100 percent malbec and it comes off Parcel 3 at Vistalba, a site planted in 1924 at 980 metres. Density is a medium at 7,200 plants per hectare and the irrigation is old school by furrow. This wine never ceases to amaze from its big black licorice, black cherry, earthy, smoky nose to its savoury, intense palate awash in black cherries, smoked licorice root, tobacco, orange peel and vanilla flavours. A wonderful expression of old vine malbec made with just the right touch of modernity. The farming is organic and the fruit picked for the Gran Malbec is picked a week later than the regular.

Next up was the Viña Cobos Bramare Marchiori Vineyard Malbec 2012 that hails from Lujan de Cuyo, at Perdriel, (33°10’29.45″S). The site is at 980 metres above sea level and faces southeast presumably to escape the desert sun. The terroir is clay over sandy loam that gives way to gravel and stone. In fact the soils are alluvial and low in organic material but very well drained. The result is bigger, sweeter tannins with plenty of flavour. More Napa in style, it tends to jump the terroir and rely more on its dense sweet tannins, floral, black berry, tobacco aromas and intense black cherry and blueberry fruit with flecks of orange zest and violets. There’s just enough minerality and acidity to keep it all interesting. Steak is a must.

A glimpse at two new wines from Gualtallary, Tupungato followed. This stony, high-altitude paradise lies just south of the city of Mendoza. First up was Bodega Aleanna Maldito Cabernet Franc 2012. At 13.8 percent alcohol this wine goes through a whole cluster co-fermentation with some malbec in cement before aging in 100-year old foudres. With no real wood influence other than it oxidative contribution the fruit is given a chance to shine. At 1400 metres the acidity is prominent at this stage and somewhat overbearing; it’s a style but it’s tart. According to La Mota and Popolo, Argentine cabernet franc needs time in the vineyard and time in the bottle.

Bodega Colomé Autentico 2012 Anko Flor Cardón 2012 Viña 1924 De Angeles Gran Malbec 2012 Vina Cobos Bramare Marchiori Vineyard Malbec 2012

Two kilometers away and some 100 metres below Maldito, Del Popolo makes 800 bottles of Per Se La Craie 2012, (translation by itself; and chalk). Some 1300 metres above sea level Per Se La Craie sits in the remarkable stone paradise of Tupungato. This elegant Gualtallary red, micro-fermented, tops out at 14.50% alcohol but you hardly notice it on the palate. In 2012 the grapes come from minuscule parcel selections originally planted for Dona Paula and in what was a warm year, Del Popolo chose all the limestone spots, in cooler vineyards to cope with the challenges of a warm growing season. The 65/35 malbec and cabernet franc is co-fermented; the wine spends 16 months in second use French barrels. Soils are amazingly complex: calcareous and alluvial gravels with the aforementioned spots of limestone. Both varieties were de-stemmed and they are fermented together with wild yeasts in French oak used barrels. Elegant and well-stitched Del Popolo credits talented winemaking partner David Bonami (Norton) for his assistance in year one. The fruit was destemmed before a 35 day maceration fermented on wild yeasts. The textures are chalky, silky and amazing. Bursting with fruit and minerality, it is a story teller. All class.

Vista Flores is the next stop heading south through the much heralded Uco Valley. Popolo’s departure from Dona Paula was feisty winemaker Susana Balbo’s gain. Upon his arrival at Dominio del Plata the first thing del Popolo asked Balbo was to consider taking her signature Nostros and set it free to travel to the best vineyard (fruit) each year. Originally the best vineyard in Agrelo it is now a Single Vineyard Nomade, a name meant to celebrate its journey every year to the best grapes they can find. Enter Dominio del Plata Nosotros 2012 Vista Flores, Uco Valley, Mendoza. In 2012 Nosotros is sourced from selected parcels in the region of Chacayes at 1200 metres, along the far west, high side of Vista Flores. The soils are complex, colluvial-alluvial origin with a sandy-loam frame in the first 10 inches. The second layer of calcareous soil and white gravels goes down two metres. Clearly more and more limestone sites are being planted to vine. More vertical and more linear, Popolo likes minerality and freshness while winemaker Susana Balbo likes sweetness and roundness with toast. So far it’s a fine match; Nosotros 2012 is a delicious, intense juicy vibrant red wine made with intensity and balance. A star is born.

Familia Zuccardi Aluvional 2012 La Consulta, San Carlos, Mendoza was next and the level jumped another notch. At 15% alcohol you might expect it to assault you but after 12 months in concrete vats using indigenous yeast there is an electricity and freshness and fruit that is almost overwhelming. Aluvional is made from several sites, all handpicked by winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi in the La Consulta, San Carlos region. At 990 metres above sea level, some 130 km south of Mendoza City, this is the mother lode. The vines were planted in 1974 on poor alluvial soils of sandy-silt-clay mixed with rock. Love the tension and the acidity of what is a complex rich, powerful red, full of floral fruit. All hail Sebastien and his relentless fire to find the true home of malbec.

Next door to Zuccardi’s Aluvional, the Mendel Finca Remota 2011 offers another look at Altamira, surely one of the finest pieces of terroir in all of Argentina. The 2011 was a little cooler than 2012 and the wine is a bit tighter. The vineyard is older, thought to be planted in 1950, the alcohol is a little lower at 14.3% and it spends 18 months in new French oak. Easily the most complex of the bunch, no doubt one of the most important characteristics of Mendel La Remota is the intensity and complexity of the fruit. Like the Angelus, it presents its old vines in the texture and viscosity that you don’t get in younger vines. It presents as a polished river stone, not one you have just cracked open.

Dominio Del Plata Nosotros Vista Flores 2012 Zuccardi Aluvional La Consulta 2012 Mendel Finca Remota 2011

Another step south takes us to Doña Paula Los Indios Parcel 2012, a tiny sub-section of Altimira in San Carlos area of the Uco Valley. The fruit here is grown on sandy, silty colluvial soils with small brick-like stones in pink and orange scattered about. Yields are only four tons per hectare. Microvinification takes place in second-used 225 liters, French oak barrels filled with 170 kilograms (375 lb) of pure-clean berries. The barrels are closed up and sent to a temperature controlled room where the alcoholic, wild culture and malolactic fermentation takes place. To make a soft extraction, the barrels are rolled daily for 10 to 15 days. After that the wine is racked to new French oak barrels where it is aged for 18 months. This artisanal vinification method ensures that grapes are handled gently and all the process is carried out by gravity. Only exceptional years can spawn a Los Indios Parcel Malbec limited in quantity to 2000 bottles. Like the Aluvional the spice and violets dominate the nose with impressive acidity and or freshness followed by texture, texture, texture. Impressive to say the least at this young age.

We concluded the tasting with two ‘southern’ reds from Patagonia. First up was the Marcelo Miras 2012 Malbec from Ing. Huergo, General Roca, Río Negro planted in 1979. This was made in the traditional style and aged for 15 months in French and American oak barrels and from a typical north Patagonian desert climate – think warm days and cool nights at 39º 08´ S. Here you can get big colour and structure thank to the thickness of the skins so you must pay attention to prevent the wine from being to rustic. The growing season can be shorter, much like the south Okanagan Valley. Solid but in tough against the group.

Doña Paula Los Indios Parcel Malbec 2012 Marcelo Miras Malbec 2012 Bodega Noemía A Lisa 2012

The finale was Noemia de Patagonia A Lisa 2012 from Mainque, Valle Medio, Rio Negro, a 90/9/1 blend of malbec/merlot with a touch of petit verdot that are sourced from estate grown limestone and purchased from nearby vineyards, managed biodynamically. Again, freshness permeates this red with only 13.5 percent alcohol. Long days of light in the summer compensate for the wind and cool temperatures bring out the floral aspects to lift the mid-palate flavours. The tannins are soft here and almost sweet. Impressive already and yet only a baby; like all the wines in this tasting it needs time to reach its full potential.

A stunning morning that only reinforces how little we see from Argentina in Canada and how little we are likely to see if the gatekeepers continue to demand cabernet and chardonnay to fill a retail philosophy completely out of touch with the reality of modern wine.

As we wrapped up the tasting both del Popolo and La Mota reminded us, “We tried to show you our terroir. There wasn’t any wine where our hope was to show you the grapes.” Aclamaciones to that los caballeros. Your objectives were accomplished and more.


Argentina Part I : Rewarding Freshness
Argentina: Not Just a One Hit Wonder (VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide)

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

Wines of Argentina - Wine Jam & BBQ

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Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia – Australie

La valeur du temps
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Il y a quelques mois, je participais à la 37e édition du International Wine Festival de Vancouver, dont l’Australie était le pays vedette. Au programme, plusieurs dégustations et séminaires portant sur les régionalismes viticoles, les nouvelles tendances, etc. Tous très instructifs à leur manière. La plupart révélateurs du potentiel – immense, mais encore insoupçonné, hélas! – de ce géant d’Océanie.

Un de mes moments forts de la semaine fut le séminaire « Decades Apart », une classe de maître qui jetait un regard très intéressant sur l’évolution de classiques australiens sur une période de plus ou moins dix ans. Dans le lot, rieslings d’Eden Valley (2004 et 2014), sémillons de la Hunter Valley (1996 et 2007); Penfolds Bin 389 (2002 et 2012) et shiraz de Coonawarra (1994 et 2010), entre autres.

Sortie de la salle en me trouvant bien bête – ou ignorante, c’est selon – de n’avoir pas plus de vins australiens dans ma cave, j’ai eu vite fait de corriger le tir dès mon retour au Québec. Enfin, j’ai bien essayé.

Parce que, loin de moins l’idée de taper encore sur la SAQ, mais il faut dire que l’offre de vins australiens sur les tablettes de notre monopole est plutôt décevante. Un seul sémillon de Hunter Valley au répertoire et très peu de rieslings d’Eden Valley ; quatre cabernets de Coonawarra, dont deux pratiquement disparus des tablettes, etc.

Cela dit, en cherchant bien, j’ai quand même réussi à dénicher quelques belles bouteilles pour garnir ma cave. Quelques valeurs sûres qui, j’en suis sûre, évolueront admirablement au fil des ans.

À commencer par le Bin 389, Cabernet – Shiraz 2012 (50,25 $), souvent désignée comme le « Baby Grange », tant par les inconditionnels de Penfolds que par les professionnels de l’industrie. Le 2012 n’a pourtant rien d’un prix de consolation. Équilibre impeccable entre les éléments. L’harmonie dans l’opulence. À laisser reposer aisément jusqu’en 2020. À noter qu’un 1998 dégusté il y a quelques mois était encore dans une forme resplendissante.

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2012 Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2009 D'arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2010Tyrrell's Brookdale Semillon 2013Tyrrel's Brokenback Shiraz 2011

Un de mes collègues mélomanes a défini le Shiraz 2009, Keyneton Euphonium, Barossa (69 $) de Henschke comme un croisement entre un tuba et une trompette… Une image intéressante pour décrire ce vin intense et costaud, mais surtout très serré et doté d’une grande fraîcheur. À garder au moins de 5 à 10 ans en cave. Exclusivité SAQ Signature. 

Donnant encore davantage dans la puissance, le Shiraz 2010, The Dead Arm (51,50 $) de D’Arenberg est dessiné à gros traits pour le moment, mais son équilibre d’ensemble laisse présager un bel avenir.

Si les vacances estivales vous entraînent en Ontario, profitez-en pour mettre la main sur quelques bouteilles du sensationnel sémillon de la maison Tyrrell’s. Une référence en matière de sémillon de la Hunter dont j’ai pu à maintes reprise constater le grand potentiel de garde. Tout ça pour 25 $… 

Penfolds Grange 2009 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012À défaut de sémillon, on pourra apprécier le profil plutôt classique du Shiraz 2011, Brokenback, Hunter Valley (25,40 $) de Tyrrell’s. Chaleureux, mais sans sucrosité; à peine 13 % d’alcool et une finale rassasiante aux accents de cerise et de fines herbes.

Produit depuis 1954, le Cabernet sauvignon 2012 (35,25 $) de Wynns est certainement le plus célèbre des cabernets de Coonawarra. Œuvre de Sue Hodder, une des œnologues les plus talentueuses et les plus respectées du pays, le 2012 ne titre pas plus de 13,5 % d’alcool, mais s’impose avec beaucoup d’autorité en bouche. Racé, élégant, tout en nuances. Chapeau !

Enfin, si l’argent n’est pas une contrainte, vous devez mettre la main sur l’une des dernières bouteilles du Grange 2009, offert dans les succursales Signature. Je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de déguster le 2009 (disponible en ce moment), mais pour avoir goûté le 2004 il y a quelques mois, je dirais qu’une seule gorgée suffit à comprendre pourquoi Grange s’inscrit dans l’élite mondiale. Un vin rare et exceptionnel que tout amateur devrait avoir dans sa cave. D’autant plus que depuis sa création en 1951, Grange se distingue par un parcours quasi sans faute. Hors de prix (752 $) et dans une classe à part.

Parenthèse libournaise

Rien à voir avec l’Australie, mais puisqu’on parle d’évolution, j’ai pensé que vous seriez heureux de savoir qu’on trouve en ce moment dans les succursales Signature de Québec et Montréal, cette mini-verticale des Songes de Magdelaine.

Propriété des Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix (Trotanoy, Lafleur-Pétrus, Hosanna, etc.), le vignoble de Château Magdelaine a été annexé à celui de Bélair-Monange en 2012. Par conséquent, ces trois vins sont l’une des dernières occasions de pouvoir goûter le caractère singulier de ce beau terroir du plateau de Saint-Émilion.

Les Songes De MagdelaineVoilà pour la bonne excuse à saveur historique… Mais c’est qu’en plus, les vins sont impeccables! Tous représentatifs de leur millésime d’origine et de l’élégance proverbiale des vins de la famille Moueix.

Maintenant assez ouvert, Les Songes de Magdelaine 2008 (47 $) met de l’avant le classicisme des bons vins de Saint-Émilion, à défaut de la dimension des grandes années. Prêt à boire et jusqu’en 2017.

Plus nourri et représentatif de la générosité de son millésime, Les Songes de Magdelaine 2009 (68 $) plaira aux amateurs de vins plus enrobés. Bel usage du bois qui élève le vin, plutôt que de le dénaturer et finale persistante aux notes de fruits bien mûrs; la générosité en mode harmonieux.

Enfin, mon favori du lot, Les Songes de Magdelaine 2010 (68 $) résume à lui seul l’esprit Moueix. Trame tannique quasi sensuelle tant elle est suave et coule en bouche comme du velours liquide. Tout en nuances, en complexité, en profondeur. On achete les yeux fermés.


Nadia Fournier

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins !

19 Crimes

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 25th, Part Two

Argentina: Not Just a One Hit Wonder
By David Lawrason with wine notes from John Szabo MS

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Argentina is featured on this release, and I am newly enthused by goings-on after two visits there within the last year. In fact five WineAlign writers have been there in recent months, and we have published the first article of a comprehensive two-part national series that delves deep into the current state of that nation (read part one here). If Argentina wasn’t confident about what’s going on they wouldn’t be inviting the world to have a look. The nub of the story is that Argentina is evolving into something more than a one-hit malbec wonder.

You have an opportunity to explore this in more detail as 20 producers arrive in Toronto next week (July 29) at Wines of Argentina’s Wine Jam and BBQ at the St. James Cathedral. (Find out more and get your promo code here.)

Before continuing I refer you to a ‘letter to the editor’ by Christopher Freeland of the LCBO in response to my June 27 release commentary on VINTAGES handling of the pre-Canada Day selection of Ontario wines. Please go to Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 27 – Part Two and scroll down to the comments section. And yes there is a connection to Argentina.

Mr. Freeland delivers an impassioned and detailed defence of the LCBO’s treatment of Ontario wine, and chastises me for not recognizing everything the LCBO is doing around homegrown wines. Fair enough, but I was not discussing the LCBO’s overall program, only VINTAGES lack of ability to create a meaningful focus on Ontario wine on that pre-Canada Day release.

I repeated the complaint two weeks later around VINTAGES’ Spanish feature, and I will say it again this time, with VINTAGES slender selection of six Argentine wines. Yes, there are already other Argentine wines on the General List and VINTAGES shelves. But why not really make this a feature and give 25 new Argentine reds a shot at a spot? Or 50? The reasons VINTAGES cannot do this are in my original discussion around Ontario wine.

VINTAGES is not being ‘unfair’ to Argentina, Spain or Ontario. They are actually being overly fair to all wines around the world (which makes Ontario wineries crazy). They are limited in what they do because they are in the end the one and only retailer and unable to provide the depth of selection one can find in other major North American markets. If it ain’t at the LCBO it ain’t on shelves anywhere in Ontario – which has underpinned my criticism of the LCBO from the start.

Back to what Argentina is doing now, and how that is reflected on this release. The selection only has one malbec, which indeed recognizes Argentina’s growing diversity. There are two cabernet sauvignons, which is a nod to the importance of this underrated grape, but neither are truly memorable cabernets. There is a Patagonian cabernet franc that is very much worth a look, and it is a variety on the up-tick throughout Argentina. But why no Patagonian pinots, and cab franc from Mendoza? There is a terrific torrontés value, but why not three for the dog days of August?

And none of the wines mentioned so far are above $20, which dismisses legions of premium wines that are available. In limited distribution as an In Store Discovery there is Catena’s excellent icon red named for founder Nicolas Catena. But where are the bonardas, many more great red blends, the biodynamic wines, the unoaked amphora wines from Sebastian Zuccardi, the brilliant French influenced reds from Monteviejo and the other member wineries of Clos de Los Siete, the great cabs and tannats from Cafayate, the syrahs of San Juan, the new lovely roses made from the pais grape.  We just have to wait and hope I guess.

With Sara d’Amato still on vacation John Szabo and I present our value picks from Argentina, as well as other New World and Europe.


Nicolás Catena Zapata 2010

Desierto 25 Cabernet Franc 2012

Pietro Marini 2013 TorrontésPietro Marini Torrontés 2013, Salta ($12.95)
David Lawrason – Torrontés is found in most regions but hits its freshest and most exotic heights in the northern province of Salta. Grown at 1750 metres in the Calchaqui Valley this is huge value! It has a billowing aroma of lemongrass, tangerine, spearmint and licorice – very exotic. It’s mid-weight, nicely smooth and a touch sweet, with great acidity and some warmth. Deep chill for garden sipping.

Desierto 25 Cabernet Franc 2012, Patagonia ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This hails from a remote, parched landscape (see label) in southern, cooler Patagonia. But cab franc is on the rise farther north in Mendoza as well, both as a blender and stand alone varietal. This is nicely done and every Canadian interested in one of our country’s better red varietals should be having at peek at this Patagonian.

Nicolás Catena 2010 Zapata, Mendoza ($110.00)
John Szabo – Yes this is certainly expensive, but if you’re a serious collector, it’s worth your attention. In the context of impressive, age-worthy wines, it’s comfortably in the upper echelon, made since 1997 from Catena Zapata’s top lots of cabernet and malbec. Indeed, I’d say it has better structure and balance than many similarly-priced wines from the new world, and would give plenty of pause to the classics from the old as well. Tuck this in the cellar for another 5-10 years minimum and then stage your own “judgement”-style comparative blind tasting. It’s rare to say, but I’d prefer a single bottle of this to a half dozen commercial, typically, sweet, over-oaked Argentine malbecs. David Lawrason – Ditto :)

Euro Reds:

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Maçanita 2012 RedMaçanita Red 2012, Douro, Portugal ($18.95)
John Szabo – From the dynamic team of Joana and brother António Maçanita (the latter of Fita Preta in Alentejo and the Azores Wine Company), this is a cleverly made wine with wide appeal. 60% Touriga nacional and 40% tinta roriz combine to make a generous, ripe, fruity and floral blend from the Douro, well within the typical flavour wheelhouse, with added polish and well-managed, succulent, rounded texture. Best 2015-2022.
David Lawrason – Very nicely made modern Douro lacking just a bit of depth for 90 points, but close and still good value.

Carpineto 2010 Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon, IGT Toscana Italy ($27.95)
John Szabo – Tuscan cabernet is rarely a detour for me, but I was stopped in my tracks by this concentrated and structured wine from Carpineto. The website provides no real insight (“grown in vineyards considered particularly suited for the production of great wines”, and, “scrupulously field selected”), but marketing fluff aside, I’d speculate that the vineyards are indeed special, as this delivers the type of depth, complexity, structure and length that can’t be manufactured in the winery. Genuinely great wine at a great price. Best 2015-2025.

San Fabiano Calcinaia 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, IGT Toscana Italy ($24.95)
John Szabo – Like the Farnito above, and against all odds, this second Tuscan cabernet in the same release also caused the world to stop spinning for a moment. It’s a hell of a mouthful for $25, full, firm, highly extracted, with immense tannic structure and abundant wood influence. Don’t touch it for at least another 3-5 years, but it’ll never be soft and polished so plan ahead with some salty protein and a decanter at the ready. Best 2018-2028.

López De Haro Crianza 2008

Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2013

Prunotto 2012 MompertonPrunotto Mompertone 2012, Monferrato, Italy ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Monferrato is an underrated  DOC region sandwiched between the powerhouse regions of Piedmont and Tuscany in NW Italy. From a leading peimontese producer this is a refined, well balanced if not showy young red with classic, perfectly ripened blackberry, floral and herbal nuances.

Tessellae 2013 Vieilles Vignes Carignan, IGP Côtes Catalanes, Southwest France ($17.95)
John Szabo – Another terrific value from the Roussillon, showing the wild and savage depths of which old vine carignan is capable. I love the scorched earth, the wild, resinous herbs, the dark fruit, the spice notes, not to mention the superior depth and structure at the price. Best 2015-2023.

López De Haro 2008 Crianza, Spain ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is a good buy at $15, if you like lighter reds, and Spain’s Rioja reds in particular. Lopez de Heridia is one of the great classic, traditional wineries of Spain, indeed of Europe. That they have delivered a minor classic at this price is a very pleasant surprise. It’s lighter, tight and elegant – quite tender in fact.

New World Reds:

Melville Verna's Estate Syrah 2012

Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2012

Paxton AAA 2012 Shiraz GrenachePaxton AAA Shiraz Grenache 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Paxton is a leading biodynamic producer in McLaren Vale, with their minimal intervention mantra stated on the back label. This is big and edgy but like so many BioD wines it delivers consistent, complex, profound flavours of excellent to outstanding length. Compelling if not soothing. Should age well for five years.

Blue Pyrenees 2012 Shiraz, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Festooned with award competition medallions, this bottle hails from the remote, arid and intriguing Pyrenees region 200kms NW of Melbourne. It’s medium-full bodied with great granitic acidity/minerality, fine tannin and juicy, savoury flavours. Excellent length. The medals are deserved.

Melville 2012 Verna’s Estate Syrah, Santa Barbara County, California ($37.95)
David Lawrason – Santa Barbara, with coastal influence at a warm latitude, is one of the great sources of syrah in California. And I find most examples echo the cooler northern Rhone more so than Aussie shiraz styling. This is a classic – full bodied, fairly dense, racy and refined. The focus and length here are excellent.

And that is a wrap for this edition. Next week John and I will return to lead off commentary on VINTAGES, August 8 release, which features the Pacific Northwest and Loire Valley. (I promise not to gripe about lack of selection).  And next week also stay tuned for the results of the National Wine Awards of Canada.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES July 25th, 2015
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Part 1: Wine to Chill

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

Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Pacific Northwest Tasting - Aug 17th

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (July 2015)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I have many new wine values to report since the LCBO announced lots of big discounts last Monday. So I have picked 20 wines under $20 that are the best values presently. My list includes nine wines new to my Top50 for you to try plus two more wines already on the list that are on promotion i.e.  have Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) that apply or are on sale (LTO), making these wines even more attractive; all this will surely make your summer drinking more affordable.

I have selected eleven wines 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). To these I added another nine wines, all with BAMs, that make them good choices as well.

The discount period runs until August 16th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I was able to ensure that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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


Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – An inexpensive red for pizza and tomato pasta sauces. Basic but it delivers.

Vila Regia 2013, Douro Valley, Portugal ($7.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 July – A great BBQ red with a smooth texture and just a hint of oak. Chill a little and enjoy with sausages or burgers.

Santa Carolina Merlot 2012, Chile ($8.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 July – A well-priced Chilean merlot that more than delivers on drinkability with its lively vibrant fruit. Very versatile.

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2013 Vila Regia 2013 Santa Carolina Merlot 2012 Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($10.80 + 7 BAMs) – A clean juicy midweight modern cabernet. Just a hint of oak and enough tannin to give a some grip to the finish.

La Vieille Ferme Red 2013, Ventoux, Rhone Valley, France ($11.45 was $12.45) New to Top 50 – A consistent favourite of mine since it is such a versatile food red; so buy some while it is a $1 off

Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Peloponnese, Greece ($11.60 + 4BAMs) – A dry midweight balanced cabernet that would be great with grilled lamb cutlets.

La Vieille Ferme Red 2013 Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 Errazuriz Estate Series Carmenere 2013

Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013, Colchagua Valley Chile ($11.95 + 5 BAMs) – There is an earthy herbal tone to the soft juicy palate, that’s a little sweet on the finish. So try with mildly spicy bbq meats.

Errazuriz Estate Series Carmenere 2013, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($13.95 + 8BAMs) – A vibrant young carmenere, that’s firm but not austere. A good example of just how good this grape can be. Try with grilled meats or baked brie.

Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012 Ribera Del Duero, Spain ($14.40) New to Top 50 – An aromatic midweight red that has just a touch of oak to add to the fruit complexity. Try with BBQ meats.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia ($16.95 + 10BAMs) – A reasonably priced classic Coonawarra cabernet with excellent length and the structure for a steak .

Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012Jacob's Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013

Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($17.90) New to Top 50 – A complex elegant powerful red. Decant for an hour or so and enjoy with a steak.

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95 + 10BAMs) – A very appealing, pretty, and fresh pinot with lots of cranberry and raspberry fruit. The floral nose with just a hint of oak is very classy. Sip on its own or with a some rare roast beef.


San Pedro Gato Negro Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Central Valley Chile  (1500mL, $13.95 + 6 BAMs) – A lot wine plus some BAMs for a great price. It’s a basic, clean, fresh sipping white. Enjoy with veggie dips.

Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2013 Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – A basic yet quite fruity Italian white that’s great with grilled calamari.

K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape ($9.45) New to Top 50 – Fantastic value for a floral green apple white that’s great with seafood and white meats.

San Pedro Gato Negro Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Citra Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2013 K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014 Marqués De Riscal 2014

Marqués De Riscal 2014, Rueda, Spain ($11.85) New to Top 50 – Rueda is currently one of the top places European’s shop for inexpensive dry whites but this region has yet to catch on in Canada; try this and you will see why it should. Great with mildly flavoured seafood.

Trapiche Extra Brut Mendoza Argentina ($11.95 + 6 BAMs) – An excellent sparkling wine with lots of flavour for such an inexpensive wine. Great as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or with seafood or cheesy starters.

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2013, Central Coast, California, USA ($14.45 was $16.95) New to Top 50 – A lively fresh cool climate chardonnay with lots of aroma and flavour and very good length. Try with roast chicken.

Trapiche Extra Brut Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2013 Are You Game Chardonnay 2012 Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012, Victoria, Australia ($14.95 +5BAMs) – An elegant cool climate chardonnay with a sleek fresh fruity palate and just a hint of oak. Try with sautéed seafood.

Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Southern Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand ($16.95 was $19.95) New to Top 50 – A classic elegant sauvignon that’s pure, fresh and mouthwateringly delicious. Try with seafood.

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

Top 20 Under 20There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either in the LCBO Wines section 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

In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 37 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.


Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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


California Square Russian River Chardonnay 2012

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks July 2015

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics – wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.

It’s always interesting lacing this column together and seeing what my colleagues have been enjoying over the past month. While we are all in contact regularly, we rarely get the chance to catch up in person, let alone taste together. Already in this month we’ve crossed time zones and terroirs from BC to Washington to California to Greece. Our picks often show some overlap, even when our paths do not. Natural wine, cellar dwellers, France, Italy and one local winery bubble to the fore this month, as does the ever-constant, singular uniting factor – delicious wines.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team


Anthony Gismondi

July is half over and most of us in the west are waiting, some even praying we will get some rain this month. It’s been warm and dry and the long-term outlook is more of the same. Beer seems like a good option, but a Vancouver Sun undercover story (some people have all the luck) revealed when you order a pint you often receive less than you paid for (seriously, who can you trust?) They still put wine in 750ml bottles so we will stick with that for July. Here’s three solid summer picks to enjoy and remember if the heat is oppressive chill down those reds – they will be all the better for it.

CedarCreek Merlot 2012 Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2013 Melini La Selvanella Riserva Chianti Classico 2010I’m betting Melini isn’t on your Chianti Classico mind most nights but the Melini La Selvanella Riserva Chianti Classico 2010 does the commune of Radda proud. If charcuterie is your thing it’s a perfect summer’s eve wine when the sun goes down. Silk plums.

My white pick will surprise some. Often underestimated by the ill-informed KJ’s calling card chardonnay, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Vintner’s Reserve 2013 is in a good space in 2013, now a full thirty years down the road from vintage one in 1983. KJ’s strength is the sheer size of coastal chardonnay vineyards they own in California and the selection of fruit available to chief winemaker Randy Ullom. It is a chardonnay that will please a wide spectrum of tasters.

Closer to home, the race is on in BC to make better merlot. If there is a blueprint for simplicity and complexity I vote for the CedarCreek Merlot 2012. As noted and worth repeating, this is delicious stuff. The real attraction is the soft, silky tannins and the immediate drinkability of this savoury plum scented and flavoured red. Now, sit back and relax and let the summer wash over you before it’s gone.


Rhys Pender, MW

Domaine Chante Perdrix Chateauneuf Du Pape 2012 St. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2011 Muga Reserva 2010Sometimes a great vintage comes along and you should jump at the chance and stock up your cellar. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to find good cellaring wines either. One of the consistently most interesting and affordable wine regions to find cellar-worthy wines is Rioja. For around $30 there are some seriously good wines. The Muga 2010 Reserva is worth picking up a case to enjoy over the next decade or longer.

Another wine that offers great cellaring potential but is also delicious right now is the complex St. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2011. This wine shows how a light, low alcohol Riesling can still be so powerful. And it just keeps changing in the glass, offering layers of complexity.

More for immediate pleasure to drink now is the Domaine Chante-Perdrix 2012 Châteauneuf-du Pape. This will hold for 5-6 years but it is so good and complex now with so many different flavour elements and is so texturally pleasing that you should just drink it. Well priced for Châteauneuf-du Pape too.


DJ Kearney

Ochota Barrels The Green Room Grenache Syrah 2014 Domaine De La Mordorée Lirac Blanc La Reine Des Bois 2014 Château Sainte Rosaline Cuvée Harmonie 2014Grenache is one of my beloved grapes. It is capable of transmitting terroir in a special way, matching the violet fragrance and silky texture of great pinot and reaching haunting, earthy complexity with age. Though often dismissed for being hot, simple or good only for bolstering a blend, when grenache is given respect, vine age and a fine terroir, anything is possible. It’s a Spanish grape of course, but here are three diverting French bottles that I’ve enjoyed this week.

The first, Domaine de la Mordorée La Reine des Bois Lirac Blanc 2014 is, to my mind, one of the great whites of France. It’s a concentrated, complex wine that will transform over 5 years (if you can be patient) in your cellar, into a stone-driven treasure.

Provençal rosé is still high up on my playlist, and I love the role that grenache plays in the aptly named Harmonie Rosé 2014 from Château Sainte Rosaline.

Finally a netherworld wine. Ochota Barrels The Green Room 2014 is made by maverick Aussie Tamas Ochota and his anti-establishment, unorthodox methods conjure this Mclaren Vale grenache blend into something remarkable.


Treve Ring

M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes Du Rhône 2012 Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 2013 CedarCreek Amphora Wine Project Desert Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2013One of the most interesting wines I’ve come across this month is an experimental red from CedarCreek and winemaker Darryl Brooker (recently moved over to Mission Hill). The CedarCreek Amphora Wine Project Desert Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is a natural wine, made without any additions (such as sulphur) and left to its own devices in an unlined clay amphora for eight months. The experiment paid off, and I’m looking forward to future ones.

I always enjoy a chance to taste the fresh, alpine-imbued wines from north eastern Italy’s Alto Adige, a region underrepresented on this market. Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 2013 is one such special delight, transmitting 100+ year old schiava vines into a delicately hued, layered and complexed stony light red. A beauty.

It’s always a bonus to come across well-built, affordable wines that excel and excite with short-term cellaring. M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhône Rouge is a terrific example of this; a $20(ish) dollar red that wears a couple of years age beautifully. I recently cracked the 2012 in my cellar (purchased last year) and was seriously impressed by the progression. This biodynamic grenache/syrah Côtes du Rhone beauty will delight now, and reward later, so stock up.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

Join Wines of Greece

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Bill’s Best Bets – July 2015

Going weird with white is really not that risky
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

We are so fortunate in Quebec to have such exceptional access to so many wines from lesser known regions and appellations, especially from Europe. Often, these are the places one finds the strange grapes. While I love trying new grape varieties, I know many people are hesitant. So as many of you are on vacation over the next month, make an effort to try something new.

Here are some recently released white wines that fall into the category of “what the hell is that?” To make things easier for you, I have included comparisons, if possible, to well known wine styles and grape varieties so you know what you are getting.

The whites

If you want a wine that’s aromatic, rather than going for a pinot grigio, how about a moschofilero? You will find the same boisterous aromatics, but with a slightly richer texture. Indigenous to Greece’s Peloponnese, it’s a sure-fire hit and inexpensive alternative. Both the 2014 Mantinia from Tselepos and the 2013 Mantania from Greek Wine Cellars will do the trick.

If you like your wines a touch less aromatic but dry and crispy, à la sauvignon blanc, there are a number of alternatives. A killer wine I drank recently was the 2014 Cuvee Des Conti from Chateau Tour des Gendres. Made with a field blend of semillon, muscadelle with a bit of sauvignon, this is one of the best wines I have tasted this summer, and it’s under $20. Closer to home, the 2014 Cuvee William from Quebec winery, Riviere de Chene is wonderfully dry, and made with vandal-cliche, vidal and frontenac blanc.

Tselepos Classique Mantinia Moschofilero 2014 Greek Wine Cellars Moscofilero Mantinia 2013 Château Tour Des Gendres Cuvée Des Conti 2014 Vignoble De La Rivière Du Chêne Cuvée William Blanc 2014

For those searching for something delicate, that will work as both an aperitif and with lighter fare like white fish, oysters, and salads, how about the grape picpoul? This is the muscadet of the Languedoc and Chateau Saint-Martin de la Garrigue makes a great one, if richer than most. A true classic picpoul comes from the Maison Jeanjean, the Omarine and for under $13, won’t break the bank.

Château Saint Martin De La Garrigue Picpoul De Pinet 2013 Ormarine Picpoul De Pinet Les Pins De Camille 2014 Château Laffitte Teston Ericka 2013 Domaine Aupilhac Les Cocalières Blanc 2013

If you are looking for something more substantial, to pair with white meats or richer seafood, and want to try something other than chardonnay, then look to the 2013 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh from Chateau Laffitte-Teston. Made with gros and petit manseng along with petit courbu, this is a trippy wine that offers spice alongside the rich texture. One of the most regal wines I have tasted this summer comes from the Languedoc, and Domaine Auphilac. The 2013 Cocalieres is made with roussanne, vermentino, grenache and marsanne. Let this warm up to really appreciate its depth and texture.

What about those intriguing wines? The head scratchers which challenge, but reward you for taking a chance. One of those I absolutely loved hails from Corsica. The Corse Calvi 2014 Fiumeseccu from Domaine d’Alzipratu is one of those wines. Mineral, rich yet fresh, with a great complexity of fruit. If you love cooking with spice, this wine will eat it up! Of similar ilk, the 2013 Fiano di Avellino from Mastroberardino will spice up any seafood evening.

Domaine D'alzipratu Fiumeseccu 2014 Mastroberardino Fiano Di Avellino 2013 Dandy Sexy Dog Entre Pierre Et Terre Cidrerie Du Minot Crémant De Pomme 2013

And finally, most people don’t drink nearly enough bubbles. Nothing beats bubbles as an aperitif when it’s hot, and I love a good cider. From Entre Pierre et Terre, the Dandy Sexy Dog is a great cider – dry and refined. For a pure aperitif, if you want just a hint of sweetness, the Cremant from du Minot always impresses.


“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 to Chacun son vin see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

19 Crimes "To the Banished."

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Hors des sentiers battus17 juillet 2015

par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

L’évolution n’est pas qu’une théorie, dirais-je d’entrée de jeu pour singer ce bon vieux Charles. En tout cas, dans le vin, elle se vérifie. La preuve, si l’on veut, ce changement que j’ai pu observer au fil des années…

Quand j’en étais à mes premières armes dans le vin, je feuilletais jour après jour des livres comme Le Goût du vin, de l’oenologue français Émile Peynaud, et souvent je tiquais sur les photos : mais comment font-ils pour bien déguster dans de si petits verres, droits, ouvragés parfois, et qui ne se referment même pas vers le haut ?

À l’époque, fin des années 1980 et début des années 1990, le verre Inao (voir la photo) partout volait le show. C’était l’outil parfait, conçu par un sérieux et scientifique institut. Hauteur, largeur, épaisseur, courbes idéales, minceur du buvant pour un contact optimal là où on pose les lèvres… Bon sang ! un peu plus et on aurait couché avec, tellement il était canon, le petit !

[photo: À gauche, ce bon vieil Inao ; au milieu, l’Expert Tasting de Spiegelau ; et à droite, un verre qui ressemble au précédent mais en légèrement différent et en plus volumineux, fabriqué par Stölzle et que, personnellement, j’utilise de plus en plus.]




La prédominance de l’Inao a duré une quinzaine d’années. Puis, vers 2005, il a commencé à céder du terrain devant un nouveau venu : l’Expert Tasting, fabriqué par la maison Spiegelau, rachetée depuis par le géant Riedel.

Surtout pour les vins blancs, mais pas seulement, l’Expert s’est répandu comme une traînée de poudre : plus haut sur patte que l’Inao, moins pataud, et avec un calice plus gros, plus rond, qui laisse plus facilement les arômes s’exprimer.

Aujourd’hui, il n’y a pas photo, comme disent les cousins d’outre-mer, ceux qui ont un drôle d’accent pointu : au point où si nous, professionnels du vin, arrivons sur un lieu de dégustation et qu’on aperçoit de vieux et ringards Inao sur la table, eh bien on prend nos cliques et nos claques et on rebrousse chemin, pas question de déguster là-dedans.

J’exagère, à peine.

Sauf qu’on s’habitue à un format, et on en est rendu là, avec l’Expert Tasting. (Déguster dans un Inao demeure bien sûr possible, sauf que celui-ci a aujourd’hui la fâcheuse réputation de ne pas mettre les vins en valeur et, au contraire, de faire ressortir leurs éventuels défauts.)


Mais voilà, on n’arrête pas le progrès.

Moi qui ne jurais que par le remplaçant de l’Inao, voilà que je le trompe de plus en plus souvent. Même que ces temps-ci, l’Expert Tasting est à mes yeux devenu trop petit, trop étriqué, trop rabougri…

Je suis passé à l’acte pour de bon alors que j’achetais des verres pour un copain. J’étais dans la boutique, je capotais un peu sur l’étendue de l’offre — la segmentation est telle qu’on vend presque aujourd’hui des verres spécifiquement pour « vin rouge corsé du Nouveau Monde à base de cabernet-sauvignon moyennement boisé »…

Puis je vois les Exquisit du verrier « Stol-zé », ça doit se prononcer comme ça. J’aime leur forme, leur volume, j’en soupèse un, hmm, un peu lourd peut-être mais au moins comme ça, il ne sera pas trop cassant.

Il a une certaine surcharge pondérale, c’est vrai, mais rien à voir avec ces espèces de gros aquariums et de pots à fleurs qu’on nous propose parfois pour nous en mettre plein la vue.

Mainteant, la rangée d’Expert Tasting, à côté dans l’armoire, fait un peu pic-pic. Et que dire l’Inao ! Quel minus !

La seule chose qui me taraude, bien que je sois évidemment content d’avoir évolué, c’est : qu’est-ce que ce sera la prochaine fois ? Toujours plus gros, toujours plus haut ?

L’avenir le dira !

P.-S. Je n’ai pas ici parlé de l’autre référence, cet excellent verre avec lequel on déguste aujourd’hui tant le blanc que le rouge et le rosé et même le mousseux, parfois : l’Ouverture du fabricant Riedel, et plus précisément l’Ouverture à vin rouge.


À boire, aubergiste !

Voici mes suggestions de la semaine. Que vous boirez dans le type de verre que vous voulez, sauf que… s’il fait beau et pas mal chaud, mieux vaut opter pour un plus petit contenant, pour ne pas qu’une trop grande quantité de vin réchauffe trop vite. Le contexte, mon vieux, le contexte…

Le Pive Gris Rosé 2014 : Savoureux rosé du sud de la France, très pâle mais goûteux, avec de l’éclat et même un peu de gras, de texture. Bio, par-dessus le marché.

Saumur blanc Domaine Langlois-Chateau 2014  : Très bon blanc de la Loire à base de chenin blanc, à la fois vif et savoureux, marqué par des notes miellées ainsi qu’une odeur rappelant la résine de conifère.

Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2014Domaine Langlois Château St. Florent 2014Viña Cobos Felino Chardonnay 2014

Chardonnay Felino Vina Cobos Mendoza 2014 : Un restant de gaz carbonique avive dans ce blanc argentin des saveurs par ailleurs mûres, à la fois citronnées et vanillées. De la générosité (14,5 % d’alcool) ainsi qu’une certaine fraîcheur.

Rosé Le Grand Cros « L’Esprit de Provence » 2014  : Un rosé de Provence étonnamment puissant, corsé c’est dire, avec une belle richesse. L’équilibre est préservé parce que l’acidité est là, et qu’il n’y a pratiquement pas de sucre résiduel.

Pinot noir Pepik Josef Chromy Tasmanie 2013 : Un bon pinot noir du sud de l’Australie, de la Tasmanie en fait, au nez fumé, de rhubarbe et de mûre aussi. En bouche, l’ensemble est encore bien tendu, légèrement tannique.

Le Grand Cros l'Esprit de Provence 2014 Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2013Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2013Alma Negra 2013

Passo Doble Malbec-Corvina Masi Tupungato 2013 : Mariage réussi entre l’Argentine (le malbec) et la Vénétie (la corvina). Une certaine complexité au nez, des notes d’herbes amères et de griotte, notamment. En bouche la fraîcheur est là, sur fond agréablement tannique et astringent.

Alma Negra 2013 : Un assemblage de malbec (85 %) et de bonarda (15 %) et une coentreprise dans laquelle est notamment engagée la famille Catena. Résultat : un vin corsé, avec du coffre, passablement boisé mais aussi bien pourvu en fruit et en acidité.

Santé !



Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son Vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins !

19 Crimes


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 25th, Part One: Wine to Chill

By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason

Don’t Forget to Chill Those Reds

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

A water-and-ice-filled bucket might just be the greatest wine gadget ever invented. Just a few minutes in one of these simple but magical devices can turn your red wine from a flabby, alcoholic and soupy drinking chore, into a crisp, fresh and fruity thirst-quenching delight. Not only in summer, but throughout the year, red wines are almost always served too warm; anything above 20ºC is a service faux-pas akin to aerating in a blender. For many reds, 12º-14ºC is far better. Most restaurants are guilty of this disservice. All of those open reds sitting out on the back bar in July? Forget them. That goes for January too. Don’t be afraid to ask for the ice bucket when dining out. At home, you’re in full control, so use the fridge, or your own ice bucket, to bring those reds into the best temperature zone to maximize enjoyment.

This report focuses on and handful of reds (and whites), which are particularly sensitive to temperature. The LCBO calls them “Wines to Chill” – the main theme for the July 25th VINTAGES release. David and I have included our top picks that are best with a chill, including whites. Read on to find out why temperature matters, or just skip to the recommendations.

Why Temperature Matters

When it comes to eating and drinking, temperature matters. Cold cheese straight from the fridge, for example, offers only a shadow of its aroma and flavor potential. Warm soft drinks are mostly sugary, aggressively carbonated, and hard to swallow. Chefs also know that any dish served cold, such as terrines, patés, or soups, need to be slightly more salted than the same dish served hot, because your perception of salt decreases at lower temperatures; that’s to say things taste less salty. The interplay between temperature and sensory perception likely occurs by many mechanisms, including the direct action of temperature on sensory receptors, but in any case, it’s clear that people’s taste receptors are modulated by temperature change. Basically, the same foods and wines taste different at different temperatures, so when you’re serving wine, consider the effects, both positive and negative, of the wine’s temperature.


Temperature dramatically affects aromatics. At a chemical level, when a substance is warm, its molecules vibrate fast. When cold, they slow down. In other words, the colder a wine is, the slower and less volatile its aromatic compounds are, and thus the less aromatic a wine will be. At the other end, when a wine is too warm, many of the enjoyable aromatic molecules are so active they’re gone before you can smell them, leaving little but the light burn of alcohol vapors. It’s always smarter to err on the side of too chilled than too warm – cold wine will warm up. The only solution for a glass of hot red wine is an ice-cube, which is not ideal.

Taste and Texture

Beyond aromatics, temperature also affects wine texture and taste. Wine served cold seems more acidic (which makes it more refreshing), fruitier, and more tannic (which makes it more astringent and bitter). This is why red wines are generally served warmer than whites: they contain tannin (the substance in wine that causes the astringent, drying, mouth-puckering sensation), while whites and rosés rarely have any tannin at all. The curious thing about tannin is that you perceive its drying effect more at lower temperatures. That means if you take the same tannic wine and serve it at both 10ºC and 18ºC, the cooler sample will appear more astringent and more bitter, perhaps unpleasantly so. At 18ºC the wine will still be tannic, but much more tolerable. Then when decanted and served with a little salty protein, the tannins may no longer be a significant factor at all.

But many reds grapes have naturally low tannin levels such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Barbera. These wines are more enjoyable when served with a chill, as are most unoaked reds of any variety. You can increase the fresh, fruity aspect without danger of making them too astringent. Creeping alcohol levels across the world is yet another reasons to serve reds chilled to knock down the burn of alcohol. And because the majority of red wines produced today are intended for immediate consumption, that is, with little tannin, you can serve just about every thing in your cellar at least slightly chilled, especially in the summer and with spicy foods. Even your most prized bottle of massive, concentrated red wine is best below room temperature, which for most folks is above 20ºC.

Bottom line: serving wines cooler increases their crispness, fruitiness, and astringency, and decreases aromatic intensity. Serving wines warmer makes them seem more sweet, flabby and alcoholic, less fruity and less astringent.

Buyers’ Guide: Reds To Chill

Remelluri Lindes De Remelluri 2010 Viñedos De Labastida, Rioja, Spain ($22.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a classy, polished, well composed and elegant “second” wine from the respected Rioja house of Remelluri. Made from vineyards in the village of Labastida, adjacent to the historic Granja Nuestra Señora de Remelluri estate, it’s neither ultra modern nor traditional in style, finding it’s own just balance. I appreciate the finesse and elegance; a very classy wine over delivering by a wide margin. Best at 16ºC, from 2015-2022.

The Good Earth 2012 Gamay Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($19.95)
John Szabo – Gamay is a classic candidate for chilling, capitalizing on the variety’s mists of strawberry, raspberry and red currants, and increasing the cut of its juicy acids. The Good Earth’s wines have improved notably since bringing on winemaker Ross Wise (also at Keint-He), and this 2012 is delightful, especially alongside a plate of charcuterie or grilled sausages.

Remuelluri Lindes de Remelluri Viñedos de Labastida 2010 The Good Earth Gamay Noir 2012 Seven Terraces Pinot Noir 2013 Lailey Merlot 2013

Seven Terraces 2013 Pinot Noir, Canterbury, New Zealand ($19.95)
John Szabo – Lighter style pinot, like this crunchy, leafy, cool climate example from Canterbury on New Zealand’s south island, needs a light chill to deliver its full message of refreshment.

Lailey 2013 Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($24.95)
John Szabo –  Merlot swings both ways, from delicate and elegant to dense and extracted. Derek Barnet’s version leans to the former style, an open, honest, no-nonsense wine with lovely fresh herbal notes, lively red and black fruit, minimal oak and maximum floral-violet character. It’s reminiscent of cool climate malbec, a positive association.

Buyers Guide: Whites (To Chill)

Dog Point Vineyard 2012 Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand ($42.95)
John Szabo – This is a chardonnay of terrific intensity, so be sure not to serve ice cold (10-12ºC would be about right). Though the lovely, edgy, reductive-flintiness character will shine through at any temperature. A classy example from one of New Zealand’s most reliable and accomplished producers, and fine value in the worldwide context of premium chardonnay. Best 2017-2026.

Jean-Max Roger 2013 Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre, Loire, France ($26.95)
John Szabo – Here’s another terrific Sancerre from the ultra-reliable Jean-Max Roger, this one very floral and mineral, like an essence of chalk dust and sweet green herbs. Best 2015-2020.

Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2013 Momo Pinot Gris 2014 Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne

Momo 2014 Pinot Gris Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95)
John Szabo – Tone down the impression of sweetness in this rich, Alsatian-style gris with a proper chill. It’s quite unctuous and indeed off-dry with overripe orchard fruit, yet balanced by more than sufficient acids. Length and depth are excellent for the money – a terrific option with spiced-up dishes.
David Lawrason Momo is a second label of Seresin, a prominent organic producer. NZ tends to like its ‘gris’ on the lush side. This has generous ripe peach cobbler, bready, honey and floral notes. It’s quite full bodied, fleshy and warm with some firm acidity. I wouldn’t open it for refreshment in the hot sun, but over an evening meal of chicken, pork – with Asian accents – it could perform very nicely.

Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, Burgundy, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – Bubbles last longer in chilled wine, and are perceived as less aggressive. Low temp also hides the pinch of sugar added to virtually all sparkling wines to balance their ripping acids. This is a beautifully balanced crémant, elegant and fresh, with a fine streak of stony flavour, hazelnuts and marzipan, and fresh brioche. And half bottles ($11.95) are perfect for two.

Tenute Messieri 2012 Visioni Offida Pecorino, Marche, Italy ($16.95)
John Szabo – I love the unusual herbal and resinous, licorice, tarragon and citrus zest notes in this pecorino, a wine to take you out of the rut of standardized fruity white wines. Perfect for fresh herb-inflected salads and fish dishes on the terrace, chilled, of course.

d’Arenberg 2014 The Stump Jump White, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is a creative blend from one of the iconic producers of McLaren Vale, nicely combining riesling, sauvignon with Rhone white varieties like roussanne and marsanne. It is mid-weight and quite fresh without distinct characteristics, as often is the case with blends. Nicely bridges refreshment and richness, and it has the weight to stand up to grilled foods.

Tenute Messieri Visioni Offida Pecorino 2012 d'Arenberg The Stump Jump White 2014 Crossbarn Chardonnay 2013 Wolfberger Signature Muscat 2013 Miraval Rosé 2014

Crossbarn 2013 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This is from Paul Hobbs, a very successful international winemaker born and raised in a vineyard in upper New York State, and currently consulting at Stratus in Niagara.  The oak is very nicely played here – supportive of the peach fruit with leesy/vaguely toasty complexity. It’s mid-weight, serious yet fresh. A style to which more California wineries should aspire.

Wolfberger 2103 Signature Muscat, Alsace, France ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This is a dry muscat, a style that Alsace is doing better than any other region. I love the soaring aromas of lavender, spice, shaved ginger, orange marmalade and persimmon. Exotic indeed. Chill well and serve with Asian inspired salads, pad thai. I was reminded of Argentine torrontes.

Miraval 2014 Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France ($22.95)
David Lawrason – This is perhaps the best ‘Brangelina’ rose yet (by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). It’s more restrained and lower alcohol than previous years. Very pale pearl pink colour typical of Provence. Lovely soft and pure aromas of red plum, watermelon with vague herbs. It’s mid-weight, very smooth, dry and elegant. A fine afternoon sipper but do not overchill.

Ktima Gerovassiliou 2014 White, Epanomi, Greece ($18.95)
David Lawrason – No austerity measures here. This is a lively, firm blend of malagousia and assyrtiko – two principal indigenous grapes of Greece. It has a quite lifted, exotic nose of lychee, pineapple, fennel and clover honey, with some white pepper. It’s mid-weight, fresh, lively and quite spicy on the palate and finish. Very good value.

Ktima Gerovassiliou White 2014 Jermann Pinot Grigio 2014 Dal Cero Pinot Grigio 2013 Louis Jadot Clos de Malte Santenay Blanc 2011

Jermann 2014 Pinot Grigio, Venezia-Giulia, Italy ($31.95)
David Lawrason – I am dead certain most would never venture $30 on an Italian pinot grigio, but this does not mean the category can’t attain these heights. For a generation Jermann has been a leading producer of Italian white wines. And if you prize, elegance, purity, subtlety and finesse you will love this understated wine.

Dal Cero 2013 Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This was not highlighted in VINTAGES Chillable feature but add it to the list.  It is a quite lovely, light, fresh and pure pinot grigio with apple, florals and lemon. Straightforward, zesty and pure with very good length. Ideal for an Ontario summer.

Louis Jadot 2011 Clos De Malte Santenay, Burgundy, France ($39.95)
David Lawrason – A good buy in serious white Burgundy – and underpriced because Santenay doesn’t have the cachet of neighbouring Chassagne-Montrachet.  It is quite powerful, well-structured and complex with lifted notes of barrel toast, lemon curd, pear puree, candle wax and toasted almond. It is mid-weight, firm and quite dry. Excellent length. Drink over the next three years (maybe longer).


That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

From VINTAGES July 25th, 2015
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

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

Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Argentine Wine Jam & BBQ

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BC Wine Report: Reinventing Tasting Rooms

by Rhys Pender, MWJuly 16, 2015


Rhys Pender, MW

Rhys Pender, MW

I’ve just come back from a quick visit to Walla Walla Washington, the town so nice they named it twice. If you haven’t visited the place, the region isn’t much to look at compared with the visual beauty of BC wine regions and in fact it was pretty hard to find any vineyards at all amongst the sea of golden fields of wheat. They have got one thing very right though in Walla Walla and that is the vibrancy of the town and the way the place is energized with over 20 small tasting rooms in the downtown, all within walking distance. This is a concept that I think could revitalize many BC towns.

Walla Walla is about the size of Penticton and equally remote as it is over four hours drive from the main markets of Seattle and Portland. Yet, it has managed to become a thriving wine town, a real food and wine destination. There are many parallels with Penticton in the Okanagan and imagine the boost the town could get if it too became a hub for the local wine industry with a vibrant downtown filled with tastings rooms?

It is not that things are going badly for winery tasting rooms in British Columbia but there is starting to be an awful lot of them and the pieces of the wine tourism pie are getting spread ever thinner as growth in the number of tasting rooms outpaces the growth in numbers of wine tourists. Naramata Bench now has nearly 40 wineries. Investment in creating an attractive tasting room and staffing it is resulting in lower and lower returns, unless the draw of a great wine reputation or such a magnificent facility is enough to help you take a bigger piece of the pie.

Tasting rooms are important for many wineries. Having customers actually make the effort and come to the vineyard and winery and see things first hand can result in a relationship that no amount of advertising, marketing and public relations could ever achieve. They can meet the main people involved in the business, see the vineyards and forever have that personal link to a place. But with so many wineries spread so far apart it makes it inefficient for both visitors and winery investment. Could downtown tasting rooms in the small towns of BC be just what is needed for a new lease of life?

Seven Hills Winery

Many of the wine towns of BC would hardly be considered to be bustling and instead are often teetering on the edge with many small but characterful shop fronts sitting empty and the towns looking and feeling unloved and neglected. Picture a number of wineries giving these empty shops a facelift and setting up individual or combined tasting rooms where wine lovers could come and taste a whole bunch of wines from a sub-region without having to drive for miles and miles between each stop.

Think of the benefits that could arise as these towns become destinations and all of a sudden there is the need for restaurants, cafés, artisans, small hotels and countless other amenities to cater to the tourist. Jobs, a boost to the economy – only good things as far as I can see. Less people driving on the road should also reduce risks of drinking and driving as people could park in a town for the night and explore the region’s wines before eating at its restaurants and staying at its hotels. This certainly seems to be the plan in Walla Walla.

A more visible presence in the town could also help wineries become a more integrated part of the local community, something that doesn’t always exist as the sudden rise of the wine industry has often been met by resentment and mistrust in small communities. Even though it isn’t justified and wineries are generally big supporters of local communities the feeling that winery owners are generally rich outsiders prevails. The world is full of examples where a community embracing its wine industry and vice versa has given a giant boost to its wellbeing.

It is understandable that many wineries would be against the concept of downtown tasting rooms as they have worked hard and spent a lot of money building destinations and a strong customer base that comes to visit the winery. Nobody would want these off-site tasting rooms to completely replace visits to a winery, as seeing a place and its vines is essential to showcasing a region and a brand. Downtown tasting rooms would have to be in addition to what is on offer and could take the form of a second tasting room for some producers. They would provide an efficient way for both growth in new wine customers and allow small wineries to have a presence when they can’t compete on grandeur for driving traffic to the winery door.

The concept of downtown tasting rooms might not work for every place, as there simply might not be enough traffic through the town to justify it. It could, however, expand the number of customers as there are probably many potential wine customers who drive through places like Keremeos, Summerland, Oliver or Okanagan Falls to whom the wineries are merely names on signs and possibly considered too intimidating to visit. We can’t forget that many customers are still incredibly intimidated by wine and that visiting a winery would be like throwing oneself into the fire.

It is still legality that is holding back this concept. Currently, satellite tasting rooms are not allowed in BC although the issue has been at the forefront during the recent reforms to the liquor laws in the Province and the government appeared to support satellite tasting rooms as an area of priority. The concept was floated along with the idea of allowing sales of BC wine in farmers’ markets, which has received the green light and is happening successfully. For some reason, progression on satellite tasting rooms has come to a standstill.

It feels to me that allowing towns to showcase local wineries away from the traditional boundaries of their production facility could be a win-win for all. There would be benefits to the towns, reduced costs to the wineries, more consumers, a greater integration of the wine business with local communities and even a few safety benefits. This could help make some of these BC towns’ serious wine towns to visit. The side benefits are immense and, quite simply, the whole concept just makes sense.

Rhys Pender, MW


WineAlign in BC

The BC Wine Report is a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. In addition to this, we publish our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide and the BC Critics’ Picks report including the wines that excite us each month. Treve Ring shares her wine travel adventures in a periodic report entitled: Treve Travels. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic. Hope you enjoy.


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Buy The Case: Cavinona Wine Agency

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario


Each month we will taste wines submitted by one importing agent. WineAlign core critics will independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews will be posted to WineAlign. We will then independently recommend wines to appear in our Buy The Case report. Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines.

These recommended wines can only be purchased by the case from importers registered in the LCBO’s Consignment Program. They are ‘already landed and stocked’ wines that can be delivered directly to your restaurant, home or office. For an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here.

July – Cavinona Wine Agency

Cavinona was launched close to a decade ago as an independent business mainly to supply the Terroni Group of restaurants with unique Italian wines. The original company remit was to fill the gaps in selection of Italian wines then available through the consignment program in Ontario, which at the time was heavily skewed towards the usual name brand appellations. Traditional producers in under-represented regions were the focus, especially from the south. Such was the success that the portfolio was expanded significantly, and now covers a broad swath of the Peninsula (still exclusively Italian). Demand has also led to direct-to-consumers sales. But Cavinona’s emphasis on small-scale, regionally authentic producers, with few exceptions, remains largely intact. The wines provided to WineAlign for review represent just a fraction of the portfolio; the full selection can be sampled at any of the Terroni locations in Toronto, with many available by the glass. – JS   [Disclosure: John Szabo used to consult for the Terroni Restaurant Group]

Click on the wine name or bottle image to see full reviews by the WineAlign team. Prices shown below are retail and do not include taxes (licensee prices may be less). Cavinona has submitted their agency profile with more details below.

Cellaring Wine

Fattoria Di Milziade Antano Montefalco Sagrantino 2011

Fattoria Di Milziade Antano Montefalco Sagrantino 2011John Szabo – Sagrantino is a burly wine at the best of times, but in the hands of ultra-traditionalist Francesco Antano, following in his father Milziade’s footsteps, this example is a massive grizzly bear of a wine, with Amarone-like dried fruit extract. And at 15.5% alcohol there’s a significant dried grape component to be sure. This is how I imagine wine might have been made in Umbria in the 16th century (although probably sweeter). Tannins are thick and chewy – you’ll need a chain saw to carve a path to the finish if you open it now. It’s not to be touched without a giant roast of beef or lamb on the table, or hard cheese, or anything with salt and protein to soften the impact. Better yet, tuck this away for a decade; it will reward patience. For the Cellar.

David Lawrason – This is pricey, but not out of the realm at $50. This traditionally rendered example is 100% sagrantino aged over three years in large oak, and several months in bottle before release. It pours deep ruby black. The nose is chock full of blueberry/prunish and black olive fruit well framed by spicy, woodsy oak and licorice. It’s full bodied, dense and firmly tannic and drying yet surprisingly, not too austere. The length is excellent. Ready to drink now despite the tannins suggesting otherwise. They will melt into a hearty stew or lasagna.

Steve Thurlow – Though this is fine to drink now it will surely improve in the cellar over the next decade if one can resist. It is a deep almost opaque ruby red made from the sagrantino grape with an appealing elegant nose of black cherry fruit with a floral tone plus licorice, black olive, prune and tar. The fullbodied palate is well balanced by soft acidity making it feel lighter and adding to the elegance. The finish is dry with the fruit persisting well. Excellent length. It is fine now but will reward from some time in the cellar.

Fattoria Di Milziade Antano 2011 Montefalco Rosso Riserva

Fattoria Di Milziade Antano Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2011David Lawrason – Proprietor and winemaker Francisco Antano is making quite traditional, concrete fermented, long aged reds in Montefalco. The ‘Riserva’ is based on 65% sangiovese with sagrantino, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, aged 36 months in large barrels. This is a very seductive, rich but old-styled, slightly oxidative and volatile red. The bouquet nicely weaves complex leather, dusty wood, forest notes and curranty fruit, with a touch of acetone. It’s full bodied, dense and smooth with impressive texture. The acetic notes creeps on the finish. The length is excellent. Needs a rich meat dish.

Michael Godel – The WineAlign team tasted three wines by Milziade side by side by side. This was a great learning experience and a portal into their style. It also allowed us to imagine the aging potential of these monster reds from Umbria. This is Italian wine to define the meaning of provinciale, deeply ingrained for place, history and tradition. This Riserva is a perfect candidate for up to 10 years in the cellar.

Function Wines

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé, Lombardy

Steve Thurlow – This is a very classy rose bubbly that would be a sure hit at an upmarket reception if those attending are Champagne lovers. It is a pale caramel in colour but there is little sign of worrisome oxidation to its complex nose of white cherry fruit with mineral and brioche aromas plus some floral and mild toffee notes, which could easily be mistaken for real Champagne. The palate is lightweight with a touch of sweetness and lively vibrant acidity. Finely balanced with very good to excellent length.

David Lawrason – This very pale, almost pearl pink traditional method rose is made from 60% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir, part of which was aged in barrel as a first wine. Together they were aged 24 months on the lees. It has a fairly generous, vaguely sour cherryish fruit, bready and mineral nose that could easily be mistaken for Champagne. It’s light-bodied, slim and quite elegant with a touch of sweetness. Really very tender, but not soft. The length is very good to excellent. Good value in elegant rose bubbly.

Micheal Godel – Franciacorta is not the most well-known or understood bubbles but it can be fascinating stuff. This is a total, classical, storied package of gastronomy in a bottle. Not so much Rosé as much as bubbles with a fostered history of age.

La Cavalchina 2014 Bardolino Chiaretto, Veneto

La Cavalchina Bardolino Chiaretto 2014 Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta RoséMichael Godel – It’s summer and with outdoor functions in full swing, every host needs to have a Rosé on hand. Bardolino from Verona in the Italian Veneto does blush in a beautifully subtle way. This Chiaretto is a true food Rosé. It has everything you might want or need to pair with a feast of cuisine.

David Lawrason – This pale coppery, onion-skin shaded rose is from the shores of Lago di Garda in northeast Italy. Chiaretto is the local name for the rose genre in this area. It has mild and subtle nose of dried strawberry and herbs. It’s light to medium bodied with firm but not tart acidity, a hint of background sweetness yet a dry, slightly mineral and earthy finish. Nice sense of poise and polish, with very good length.

Personal House Wines

Terre Di Giurfo 2013 Kudyah Nero d’Avola, Sicily

John Szabo – This is a pretty, floral, rather elegant version of Sicily’s flagship red variety, with fine-grained, dusty tannins and lively acids. I love the freshness and balance here, often missing in many over-wrought versions of nero d’avola. It’s the sort of versatile, easy-drinking, but authentic and characterful wine you want to have around at all times. Drink with a light chill.

Michael Godel – Kudyah is the arabic name for the Sicilian town of Licodea Eubea nearest to the producer Terre di Giurfo’s vineyards. Nero d’Avola not shrouded in oak, full of red fruit and all about simple, direct pleasure. A stress reliever. What else can you ask to get out of a house wine?

Contadi Franciacorta N/V Brut, Lombardia

John Szabo – No house should be without a stock of bubbly on hand, and this Franciacorta plays double duty: classy (and expensive) enough to impress on special occasions, yet not so far out of reach that grabbing a bottle on Tuesday night will end in financial ruin. Contadi (est. 1987) is a quality spin-off operation from the excellent Bellavista winery in the same region (under the Terra Moretti umbrella), a lovely fullish and fleshy Franciacorta, on the richer side of brut to be sure, ample, mouthfilling and satisfying.

David Lawrason – Franciacorta is considered the finest classic method sparkler of Italy. It’s a nicely slim, fairly intensely flavoured bubbly with a hint of sweetness cushioning the tart acidity. Expect complex aromas of dried pear/apple fruit, almond, light toast and an undercurrent of mushroomy earthiness. Lively, light and pleasant on the palate, with serious flavour depth. Excellent length; very good value.

Terre di Giurfo Kudyah Nero d'Avola 2013Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta BrutCarvinea Frauma 2008

Gifting Wines

Carvinea 2008 Frauma, IGT Salento Rosso, Puglia

John Szabo – Although this is a thoroughly modern wine made by consulting oenologist Riccardo Cotarella in his unabashedly international style, and has little to do with Pugliese traditions, it’s nonetheless a bottle with massive appeal that will impress widely. The blend of 60% Aglianico, and 40% Petit Verdot yields plenty of dark, ultra ripe fruit, very dense, battling with generous lashings of coffee-flavoured oak for domination on the palate. This could handily compete with many in the super Tuscan genre; be sure to share with your naysaying friends who believe that Italy begins and ends in Florence.

David Lawrason – Wow – great aromatic fireworks here, with considerable depth and elegance. No wonder it has earned a rare three glasses from Gambero Rosso. The winery is small but consulting winemaker Riccardo Cotarella is a big name in Italian wine. Love the lifted, complex riot of dried currant/pruny fruit, soya, balsamic, olive and smoked herbs. It’s full bodied, intense yet silky on the palate, with excellent to outstanding focus and length. Love the mineral/pencil lead trail petit verdot leaves on the finish.

Steve Thurlow – This is an excellent complex Italian red that would be a good restaurant wine by the glass since it is from a relatively unknown region and is consequently well priced for such a complex wine and would benefit from some promotion (plus any wine remaining in an opened bottle would probably improve over several days). It has a very enticing nose of dried blackcurrant, black cherry and prune fruit with smokey bacon, dried herbs, kelp and tobacco. The palate is midweight and very juicy with fine balancing tannin and vibrant acidity. Excellent length and great focus. Will gain in complexity as the tannins fold into the wine.


For more reviews, visit the agent’s profile page on WineAlign: Cavinona Wine Agency. Because these wines are not in stores, remember to click “All sources” and “show wines with zero inventory” to see all of the reviews.

Cavinona Wine Agency

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

This report was sponsored by the Cavinona Wine Agency. WineAlign critics have independently recommended the above wines based on reviews that are posted on WineAlign as part of this sponsored tasting. Cavinona has provided the following agency profile with more details on their consignment program and delivery options.


Cavinona Wine Agency

Cavinona Wine AgencyCavinona is an Ontario-based wine agency that imports Italian wines.

Cavinona has handpicked over fifty wine producers throughout the Italian peninsula and distributes their wines exclusively to the Terroni family of restaurants and to private consumers through our online store at

We seek out small regional producers who are driven by passion for quality and devotion to traditional Italian culture. All our wines come from producers who go against the grain of mass marketing and the homogenization of wine. Rather, they strive to uphold the principles of regional diversity. Our producers create wine that reflects the indigenous grape varieties and the soils and climate of their region.

Our goal is to offer the best expressions of Italy’s enormous range of native grape varieties. From vintners whose winemaking philosophies tend toward tradition and minimal intervention, we invite you to discover wines that are true to the grape, the people and the place.

For consumers living within the Toronto area we offer daytime delivery to your home or office starting at $10.50 for the first case (5 cases or more are free). For clients living outside of the Toronto area we can also ship wines to an LCBO of your choice at no extra cost. The shipment usually takes 2-4 weeks, but may take up to 8 depending on the business of the season and distance the case must travel. Your chosen LCBO store will give you a call to let you know when your order has arrived.

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