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What’s New at LCBO in November 2015

Between our VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide and Steve Thurlow’s top picks from the LCBO Wines, we have the whole store covered each and every month.

Nouveau, Gifts and New Releases
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I found a nice selection of wines to tell you about from my recent tastings of new wines at the LCBO, including one from the Nouveau 2015 release and one from the new gift items on the shelf for the upcoming holiday season. Many are quite exciting; give them a try and let’s hope that some of them stay around for awhile.

Last week, the Beaujolais Nouveau arrived on the shelves. I do not normally like Nouveau wines as the method used to make them so quickly after the harvest does not usually deliver great wine. Fortunately the category is gradually falling out of fashion. So, as expected, I was not impressed by this year’s batch, with one exception from Drouhin that I selected below.

Most of the items in the gift section at LCBO stores are beautifully packaged, but again, not all great wines. The exception here is the Penfolds offering – a superb cabernet. So if your giftee is impressed by packages there are many options, but I for one would be delighted to get this gift from Santa which I’ve featured below.

The wines on the shelves at the LCBO are constantly changing and I am tasting the new ones all the time. Many favourites are always there but the range and variety is gradually being updated. I suggest you read on, pick a few that appeal, then check on inventory at your local LCBO which should be set up as your Favourite Store in Find Wine at WineAlign.

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


The Entertainer Red Blend 2013, South Australia ($13.95 was $15.95) – This wine was created in honour of Wolf Blass, the famous Australian winemaker, whose passion in life has always been to entertain. It is certainly entertaining and at $2 off is also a great buy.

The Entertainer Red Blend 2013

Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2015, Burgundy, France ($15.95) – Nouveau Wine Release: It is youthfully fruity and exuberant but there is more to it than that. It is very pure with some structure and good length. Try with veal scallopini.

Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2015

Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($16.95) – Great value for a juicy fruity pinot with a very harmonious nose. It’s dry, tightly knit and well balanced for food. Try with roast beef.

Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013

Woodwork Pinot Noir 2013, Central Coast, California, USA ($16.95) – A clean ripe sweetish very typical Central Coast pinot. It’s soft and very drinkable. Chill a little and enjoy with a ham and cheese sandwich.

Woodwork Pinot Noir 2013

Mark West Pinot Noir 2013, California, USA ($16.95) – A well made juicy fruity sweetish pinot that’s very appealing with a good depth of flavour and good length. Chill a little and enjoy on its own or with delicate cheeses.

Mark West Pinot Noir 2013

Château Canteloup 2012, Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($19.65) – This has the presence and aromas of a top quality Bordeaux red. It has very traditional styling and though the structure is not that of the top wines, it is still very impressive for the money.

Château Canteloup 2012

Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, South Australia ($23.95) – Holiday Gift Section: A superb elegant cabernet with a gorgeous nose and finely balanced palate. Makes a great gift for any lover of fine red wine who enjoys a steak.

Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013


Chateau d’ Eternes Brut, Saumur, Loire Valley, France ($14.95) – This is a very classy sparkling wine at a great price with an enticing nose. It is dry and finely balanced with very good to excellent length. A great aperitif but also a wine for delicate seafood dishes

Chateau D' Eternes Saumur Brut

Ara Pathway Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand ($14.95) – A fresh mellow sauvignon that’s a little sweet but there is very good length and it makes for a good sipping wine.

Ara Pathway Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Fiol Prosecco Extra Dry Veneto, Italy ($15.60) – A fresh lively non-vintage Italian bubby with clean aromas of pear and melon fruit with lemon and icing sugar tones.

Fiol Prosecco Extra Dry

Woodwork Chardonnay 2013, Central Coast, California, USA ($16.95) – This is a modern California chardonnay with modest well integrated oak adding to the lemon, melon and pear fruit aromas. Chill well and enjoy with chicken, veal or pork dishes.

Woodwork Chardonnay 2013

Villa Maria Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand ($17.95) – A new trend from the Kiwis. Take good quality sauvignon crammed with aromas and flavours, leave some sugar and lightly carbonate just before bottling to get a delightful refreshing bubbly.

Villa Maria Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2015



Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20 for November
Top 50 Value Wines
World Wine Awards of Canada

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!


Bottega Prosecco

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 28, Part One

The Super-Tuscans, Our Finest and New World Picks
by David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

VINTAGES November 28 release offers a once-a-year opportunity to buy all the major super-Tuscans in one fell swoop. And indeed they will be swooped. In most other places you could find them any time of year, but the system here forces them out through a window that can be only open for a matter of hours. I won’t rag on about that. Buyers of these very collectible wines already know that supplies are limited and the appetite is huge.

I thought it might be useful however to provide brief background on the super-Tuscans, and to compare the current offerings, to help you decide which ones to buy. I very conveniently had an opportunity to taste them shoulder to shoulder earlier this month. For starters all scored 90 points or better in my books – so yes they are excellent wines. But all sell for more than $100, with a couple nudging $200 and one at $250. One bottle of each will cost you $865! I have not scored any at 95 or better, which is where I think they should be at these prices. So if you are value shopping you might want to skip down to the other New World wines being recommended this week.

The original, core Super-Tuscans – the royal family – are Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Solaia, Luce and arguably Guado Al Tasso, that came along later. (I would add San Felice’s Vigorello to the list but it is not in the Nov 28 tranche). They were all hatched in Tuscany in the heyday of the New World expansionism – post 1976 Judgement of Paris when California wine’s bold, fruit forward style began seeping into European consciousness. The innovative Antinori and Frescobaldi clans of Florence said – ‘we can do that’. They planted cabernet and merlot in the Chianti hills, and especially along the warmer coast near Bolgheri. They practiced safe winemaking, coddled the wines in French barriques, established high prices and voila – they were a hit, first with news-hungry journalists, then with collectors.

But because they didn’t adhere to local DOC appellation regulations the new wines were only labeled as ‘vino da tavola’, the lowliest classification. It is still debated who coined the term super-Tuscan, but it was Wine Spectator magazine that at least made the name known worldwide. It stuck because it is such an apt name, still enduring 30 years later. And the word super has now been adopted by every Italian producer making non-DOC wines. There are about a billion of them by now. Super this, super- that.  Some not so super-duper at all.

My general sense of those being offered by VINTAGES on the 28th is that they are quite ripe (the summer of 2012 was hot), fairly supple, subtle, layered and refined – all good things. And they are very modern, with only Sassicaia leaning to a more traditional ambiance. I pinpoint my lack of 95-point enthusiasm more around lack of depth and length; and lack of wow factor. They are tidy, pristine and polished, but they are not world beaters; they are not magical or individual. This may be related to youthful reticence, and perhaps the hot summer has depreciated their acidity and nerve.

So here is my take on this royal family. Sassicaia is the leaner, age-worthy still very Euro cabernet, king of the empire, thin and wiry and ruling with a tight fist, but a recluse. Ornellaia, is the queen, a merlot based seductress with beguiling subtlety and depth of character. Luce, in this vintage at least, is the brute elder heir to the throne, muscular, a bit volatile and overripe – perhaps fearful of losing its rights to Guado al Tasso, the dashing yet substantial prince from the coast (and best buy of the bunch). And then there is Solaia, which in this vintage, for some reason, comes across like the court jester – notably sweet and engaging but lacking substance. Which is odd given it is the most expensive.

Here are recommended wines from the WineAlign court of opinion, not only on super-Tuscans and other wines from VINTAGES Our Finest selection, but from the New World offerings as well. Next week John leads off with Old World picks.

Super Tuscans

Ornellaia 2012, DOC Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy ($195.95)

John Szabo – In a side by side tasting of a half-dozen of the top 2012 super Tuscans, Ornellaia (and Sassicaia) came out measurably ahead of the pack. It was a warm and dry vintage with cool nights and a timely splash of rain towards harvest that shepherded grapes through to full and even ripening. The result is a marvellously composed, generous but balanced and seamlessly integrated edition of Ornellaia, bringing together a compelling mix or perfectly ripened fruits, integrated and subtle barrel spice, and slowly emerging earthy and savoury notes. The palate is pitch perfect, well structured, with fine-grained tannins and lively, vibrant acids building around a core of succulent fruit. Exceptional length. It’s not hard to see why this wine was nicknamed “L’Incanto” (The Enchantment) at the estate. Best after 2020, or hold until the late 2030s.

Sassicaia 2012 DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, Tuscany, Italy ($199.95)

Antinori Guado Al Tasso 2012 Sassicaia 2012 Ornellaia 2012John Szabo – The 2012 Sassicaia is surely one of the wines of the vintage in Tuscany, and one of the most impressive from the estate in the last decade. As usual, it delivers the most old world, Italianate expression amongst the elite of the 2012 super Tuscans, focused more on structure and finesse than sheer concentration. It’s very firm at the moment, offering fine detail and remarkable freshness, but still years away from full unravelling. Yet already an impressive mix of red and black fruit, fresh and lightly dried, and subtle barrel spice and dusty, savoury Tuscan character are revealed, boding very well for future development. Best 2020-2035+.
Sara d’Amato – There is a great purity to this Sassicaia, rustic would be too gruff but there is certainly an authentic beauty to this marvellously expressive wine. A classic incarnation of this Bordelaise blend with distinct Tuscan charm.

Antinori 2012 Guado Al Tasso,  Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany ($104.95)

David Lawrason – With the first vintage in 1990, Guado is the late comer to the Antinori super-Tuscan family, from an estate that rises from the sea coast into calcareous hills. It is a gorgeous, vibrant and refined, cabernet-merlot-franc-petit verdot blend with a fine sense integration. Best 2020 to 2030+. Best value among the super-Tuscans in my books.

Others from VINTAGES’ Our Finest

Barossa Valley Estate 2008 E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($89.95)

David Lawrason – I am already quoted in VINTAGES magazine from a release of this wine last year, so I won’t go into full descriptive mode here. But an image came to mind as I tasted it – of a dusty black steam engine dragging a slow freight train across a weathered plain on rails of iron and graphite, spewing smoke and sparks as it goes. My top score of the Our Finest Collection.
Sara d’Amato – E&E’s small production has a cult following and for good reason. This classic, old vines Barossa shiraz is impactful, edgy and exotically spiced offering a complex, lengthy finish. Due to impressive structure and filling, you can happily tuck this one away for 5-10 years.

Catena Alta 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Historic Rows, Mendoza, Argentina  ($46.95)

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2012 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Barossa Valley Estate 2008 E&E Black Pepper ShirazSara d’Amato – Catena Alta’s limited production is sourced from top parcels at various elevations throughout Catena’s estate vineyards. High elevation cabernet sauvignon has a distinctly unique expression with a wild aromatic profile of violets, currants, sandalwood and pepper. A seriously sophisticated and structured offering with surprising approachability.
David Lawrason – This “Historic Rows” is from two older vines sites in the Agrelo heartland of Mendoza. It is deeply coloured with a lovely nose of ripe mulberry, sage, fine oak spice and vanilla. There is sophistication as well as generosity. The focus and length are excellent. Will age 20 years.

Joseph Phelps 2012 Insignia, Napa Valley, California($299.95)

David Lawrason – Here is a beautifully honed wine that showcases all kinds of sophistication through the winemaking, but doesn’t lose the lion-heartedness of cabernet sauvignon. Great aromatics here. It’s dense, continuous and deep. The length is outstanding.

Chateau Montelena 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga, Napa Valley, California  ($187.95)

John Szabo – Although roundly panned in the press, 2011 is proving to be one of my favourite vintages in the Napa Valley, forcing many winemakers into a generally fresher, firmer more balanced style. Not that Montelena needed a push in that direction; the estate has steadfastly produced wines of genuine finesse, complexity and elegance for decades in an unwavering style. The 2011 flagship estate cabernet is outstanding, a beautiful, lifted, fragrant and complex, marvellously savoury and vibrant vintage, with crackling red and black fruit, fully integrated wood, terrifically elegant tannins and exceptional length. This is all class and finesse. Best 2020-2035+.

Ridge 2013 Geyserville, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California  ($62.95)

Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2007 Ridge Geyserville 2013 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011John Szabo – 2013 yielded a terrific Geyserville from Ridge, with pitch-perfect balance, elegance and lingering finish. There are few wines that can carry 14.7% alcohol with so much grace and elegance; wood is not a flavour feature, but rather this is all about the wild and savage fruit flavours, and the California garrigue (resinous herbs). Best 2015-2028.

Quintarelli 2007 Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Veneto, Italy ($104.95)

Sara d’Amato – Quintarelli is not exactly known for value but if you want to know what all the fuss is about for a relatively moderate price (in Quintarelli terms), then here is your chance. This is certainly no ordinary, basic Valpolicella, however, offering a perfectly matured, highly pleasurable experience. Its mid-weight frame belies its power and complexity. A sleek, harmonious and exceptional bottle of wine

Shafer 2013 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, Napa Valley/Carneros, California ($76.95)

David Lawrason – This grand, opulent and silky chardonnay is not afraid to be California. The nose is quite spectacular – so tropical it’s almost as if some viognier is involved. Quite full bodied to be sure (14.9%) with some heat on the finish, and wood tannin as well, yet it has poise and depth within its large footprint.

Kistler 2013 Les Noisetiers Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California ($99.95)

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2012 Kistler Les Noisetiers Chardonnay 2013 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2013John Szabo – Steve Kistler has focused exclusively on mostly single vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay since 1978, and his mastery of, and consistency with these grapes is by now beyond question. Les Noisetiers is a Sonoma Coast blend of mainly Vine Hill, Dutton Ranch and Trenton Roadhouse vineyards, all planted on the region’s coveted marine sedimentary Goldridge soil. In 2013 the results are superb: creamy, ripe but still fresh, a complete wine with balance and concentration, complexity and intensity. Comfortably in the premium category. Best 2015-2023

Cloudy Bay 2102 Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand ($35.95)

David Lawrason – This an elegant, tart edged, cooler vintage chardonnay from Marlborough with a sense of tartness and austerity Shows lovely, almost satiny texture spread thin over sour, lemony acidity. Burgundian to be sure.

Other New World Whites

Josef Chromy Pepik Sekt, Tasmania, Australia ($26.95)

Sara d’Amato – A dry, refreshing and elegant traditional method sparkling riesling from Joseph Chromy, a venerable personality in Tasmanian wine who spent his life investing in and developing its wine producing landscape before opening Josef Chromy Wines at the age of 76. Try with shrimp tempura.
John Szabo – Leading Tasmanian producer Joseph Chromy, nicknamed Pepik, delivers here a fine, fresh and apple –flavoured, riesling-based sparkling wine in the traditional method, with 12 months on the lees adding just a touch of toasty-biscuity character. This would make a fine Sunday morning Brunch wine, not overly complex but refreshing and enlivening.

Spy Valley 2013 Envoy Sauvignon Blanc, Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand ($29.95)

John Szabo – Spy Valley’s premium Envoy range is a considerable step up from the ‘regular’ range. Sauvignon Blanc from the gravelly Johnson Vineyard, Spy Valley’s oldest vines, is barrel fermented and aged on lees for a year before bottling, though wood is barely detectable. It has lovely wild yeasty aromatics with pungent green herbs and dense citrus-pear-pineapple flavours in palate arresting concentration and complexity. Fans of distinctive wines will revel in this.

Josef Chromy Pepik Sekt Spy Valley Envoy Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Tomich Woodside Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Delheim Family Chenin Blanc 2014

Tomich 2014 Woodside Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, ($16.95) (430660)
Sara d’Amato – Master of Wine John Tomich along with his son Randal are an innovative team creating new viticultural practices for cool climate growing regions such as their own Adelaide Hills site. Although there is no shortage of sauvignon blanc on the shelves of VINTAGES, here is one that stands out from the rest. Refined and elegant without overt grassiness or underripe vegetal undertones, it is lively and refreshing with notes of birch bark, lemongrass and quince.

Delheim 2014 Family Chenin Blanc 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($17.95) (429720)
Sara d’Amato – Delheim is a consistent, value-oriented producer who has knack for chenin blanc. This lush and opulent example is sure to quell your craving for anything-but-chardonnay.

Other New World Reds

Lapostolle 2012 Canto de Apalta, Rapel Valley, Chile ($19.95)

John Szabo – Canto is the recently created second wine from Lapostolle’s excellent Apalta Estate in the heart of the Colchagua Valley, which, like the grand vin, is a carmenere-led blend, with merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah.  Wood, fruit concentration, acids and tannic structure are sensibly doled out in balanced measure, giving this high drinkability and an appealing, savoury-gritty edge. Best 2017-2022.

Clos De Los Siete 2012, Uco Valley, Mendoza ($23.95)

David Lawrason – This is one wine sourced from four French owned properties that have formed a foreign legion-like enclave at the base of the Andes in the Vista Flores sub-region of the Uco Valley. This a full bodied, warm, dense and powerful yet also vibrant malbec-based blend. Better than the 2011.

Stags’ Leap Winery 2012 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley, California ($39.95)

John Szabo – A perennial favourite of mine from Stags’ Leap, this savage and savoury petite sirah offers a fine mix of earth, resinous herbs and dark fruit character, and firm and burly tannins, but there’s more than ample fruit to ensure proper integration in time. Best 2017-2025.

Lapostolle Canto De Apalta 2012 Clos De Los Siete 2012 Stags' Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2012 Perez Cruz Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Dos 2 Estacas Reserva Malbec 2012 Montes Alpha Malbec 2012

Perez Cruz Limited 2012 Edition Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Alta, Chile ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This is estate grown from selected higher altitude vineyard blocks. It rings of a cooler climate cabernet with medium weight and lifted, slightly herbal aromas of roasted red pepper, cassis and chocolate mint.

Dos 2 Estacas 2012 Reserva Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – Offering great value, this soft, seamless and compelling malbec has been only mildly oaked and offers impressive aromatics. The cooler, high elevation climate of the Uco Valley contributes the lively notes of pepper and violets on the nose and palate.

Montes Alpha 2012 Malbec, Colchagua Valley, Chile  ($19.95)

David Lawrason – This is a shiny, vibrant and quite juicy young Malbec – with a typically slender Chilean feel as opposed to the chunkier malbecs form over the Andes in Mendoza.  Very nicely balanced and intense.

And that is a wrap for this edition. Tune in next week for a continued look at this huge release.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES November 28th, 2015

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
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!

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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La Rolls et la GTI

Hors des sentiers battus19 nov 2015

par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Cette semaine, en plein Salon du livre et après avoir récemment parlé de bouquins français, je m’attarde à deux guides québécois sur le vin qu’il me serait bien difficile de critiquer.

Pas parce que le milieu est tissé serré et que tout notre monde est plus ou moins copain : plutôt parce que tant le Guide du vin Phaneuf 2016 — Nadia Fournier (29,95 $) que le Guide des Méchants Raisins (24,95 $) sont drôlement bien ficelés.

Je m’intéresse à ces deux-là malgré qu’on trouve aussi sur le marché, entre autres, le Lapeyrie ainsi que le d’ordinaire fiable Guide Aubry. La raison ? Le Guide Phaneuf est le plus vieux sur le marché, tandis que le rejeton du trio Désy/Langlois/Turbide commence à peine à babiller. L’ancien et le nouveau.

Autre contraste particulier, le précurseur parmi les guides sur le vin, publié depuis 35 ans, est aujourd’hui l’oeuvre de ma collègue Nadia Fournier, elle-même un an plus jeune. Tandis que dans l’équipe des Méchants Raisins du Journal de Montréal, il y a le confrère Claude Langlois, qui, « après bientôt 30 ans de chroniques derrière le gosier », en est à son tout premier bouquin, lui qui a passé le cap des 67 ans !


Devoir comparer les deux ouvrages à des automobiles, je dirais que Nadia est aux commandes d’une Rolls-Royce alors que le trio de joyeux drilles nous invite à bord d’une Golf GTI, avec leur style alerte et fringant, ludique même, par moments.

Les guides

Depuis le début, le Guide du vin Phaneuf rime en effet avec luxe, calme et autorité. Le contenu est impressionnant, la finition irréprochable et la tenue de route, on ne s’inquiète pas, fermez les yeux, vous êtes on ne peut plus en voiture…

Nadia Fournier, depuis cinq ans, signe seule l’ouvrage annuel. La transition s’est faite imperceptiblement, l’essentiel de ce qui distinguait la bible du pape québécois du vin a été maintenu et l’héritage de ce dernier, préservé. Nadia devait pourtant chausser d’immenses souliers, de véritables bottes de sept lieues. Au début, je m’en confesse, je me suis demandé moi aussi si elle gagnerait le pari… Or non, ou plutôt oui : le flambeau continue d’être porté. Avec, dans l’ensemble, la même approche, la même rigueur cartésienne, le même type de contenu, le même sérieux.

Parmi ces choses qui n’ont pas changé depuis 1981, la notation dans la catégorie, qui fait, et Nadia l’assume bille en tête, qu’un petit vin à 12 $ peut se voir attribuer exactement le même score qu’un très grand vin à 200 $.


C’est d’ailleurs là une des grandes différences avec l’approche des Méchants Raisins, qui eux notent dans l’absolu. Si bien, comme ils l’écrivent, « qu’un petit malbec argentin à moins de 15 $ a beau être le meilleur de sa catégorie, il n’aura pas pour autant une note équivalente à celle d’un grand cru de Bordeaux. Ce super-malbec pourra recevoir 15 points [sur 20], mais pas les 18 ou 18,5 obtenus par le grand cru. » On sent que les boys tiennent à mettre les points sur les i et à se distinguer, notamment, de leur estimée consoeur.

Sur le plan de la forme, le Guide des Méchants Gamins — pardon, des Méchants Raisins — innove, jusqu’à un certain point. Sur un ton désinvolte, leurs suggestions sont regroupées à l’intérieur d’une soixantaine de listes, ma foi, plutôt amusantes. Exemples : Cinq vins pour les sushis, Dix vins pour épater le beau-frère, Cinq producteurs québécois à suivre dans le monde, Dix vins glougou qu’on boit sans retenue, à acheter à la caisse et Les cinq, non les deux meilleurs vins vendus en « vinier »

Par ailleurs, on aura compris que les divers textes de présentation, courts et punchés, ont été écrits à six mains, collégialement. Même chose semble-t-il pour les notes de dégustation. Or tout coule, on ne sent pas le jupon de l’un ou l’autre auteur qui dépasse. Chapeau pour la coordination éditoriale !

Autrement, pour ce qui est du fond, les deux ouvrages atteignent le même but : proposer et décrire des centaines de bons vins parmi ceux en vente à la Société des alcools – et ainsi guider le consommateur, qui ne s’y retrouve pas toujours, tant l’offre de vin est abondante, au Québec.

P.-S. Tant Nadia Fournier que les coauteurs Claude Langlois et Mathieu Turbide sont ces jours-ci au Salon du livre de Montréal, pour dédicacer leurs ouvrages. Jean Aubry, du Devoir, y sera aussi. Profitez-en, si vous passez par là, pour leur piquer une jasette, sans retarder la file, bien sûr ;-)


À boire, aubergiste !

Les attentats que l’on sait étant encore sur toutes les lèvres, on sera raccord, cette semaine, avec que des vins français parmi les recommandations. On sera aussi d’accord, car même si je n’ai pas vérifié si Nadia ou Claude, Mathieu ou Patrick ont aimé eux aussi, qu’importe, c’est évidemment moi qui ai raison et si je vous dis que c’est bon…

Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Aligoté 2013 — Un très bon aligoté, aux arômes fumés et un brin miellés. En bouche, le vin est mi-corsé et bien nerveux, presque vif même, et la persistance est notable. (21,60 $)

Les Fiefs D’aupenac 2012, Ac Saint Chinian Roquebrun —  Ouf ! J’ai eu peur : le bouchon sentait le liège, ce qui d’ordinaire n’est pas bon signe, cela doit sentir le vin. Mais voilà, le nez dans le verre ça sent bon la syrah, le bacon un peu, peut-être la violette aussi, allez ! En bouche, c’est corsé, assez rond, riche, savoureux. (21,80 $)

Jean Claude Boisset Aligoté Bio Ecocert 2013 Cave De Roquebrun Les Fiefs D'aupenac 2013 Château Mont Redon Lirac 2013 Domaine Des Rabichattes Pouilly Fumé 2014

Château Mont-Redon Lirac 2013  — Un assemblage de grenache (70 %), syrah (20 %) et mourvèdre (10 %) un peu réduit au premier nez, des notes boisées ensuite, et plein de fruit rouge à l’arrière, en sourdine pour le moment. En bouche, ce rouge du sud du Rhône est corsé et un brin tannique, cependant que les saveurs sont relativement serrées. (23,20 $)

Domaine des Rabichattes Pouilly-Fumé 2014  — Un sauvignon de la Loire plein de vivacité, presque tranchant, bien sec c’est dire, quoiqu’il y ait du gras dans la texture, le vin a une certaine épaisseur. Un bon rapport qualité-prix, qui ira bien avec les huîtres nature, sur écaille. (24,95 $)

Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Pinot Noir les Ursulines 2013 — Bon bourgogne rouge d’entrée de gamme, typé, relativement corsé ainsi qu’astringent, mais le vin n’est pas mince et il a une certaine mâche, bien qu’il demeure léger et plutôt acidulé. (23,70 $)

Delas Crozes-Hermitage Les Launes 2013  — Très syrah au nez, fumé, bacon, l’ensemble est vraiment engageant. La bouche suit, avec une bonne profondeur de fruit mais aussi un peu d’astringence, apportée par la barrique ou la minéralité. Bénéficierait de deux ou trois ans de garde supplémentaire, bien qu’il se goûte déjà très bien. (25,15 $)

Jean Claude Boisset Bourgogne Les Ursulines 2013 Delas Les Launes Crozes Hermitage 2013 Château Lacour Jacquet Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois 2010 Château La Forchetière Muscadet Côtes De Grandlieu 2014

Château Lacour-Jacquet Haut-Médoc Cru bourgeois 2010  — Bordeaux rouge solidement constitué, dans un millésime qui a doté les meilleurs vins d’une tonifiante acidité. Celui-ci est relativement tannique, et l’amertume est prononcée. Mais à la bonne heure : la matière est là, c’est vibrant, et avec une viande rouge, ou moyennant quatre ou cinq ans de garde, le baraqué se sera amadoué. Et le prix, en passant, est très bon : 25,40 $.

Château de la Forchetière Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu 2014 — Une médaille d’or à Paris (2015) au Concours général agricole, cela met en confiance. À la bonne heure ! Le vin est sec, nerveux, et avec un soupçon de gaz carbonique qui avive les saveurs. Notes d’agrumes et de fruit mûr (l’ananas ?) en rétro-olfaction. Franchement, à 16,60 $, une aubaine !

Santé !



Note de la rédaction: Cet accès exclusif, ainsi que la possibilité de lire dès leur publication tous les commentaires de dégustation publiés sur Chacun son Vin, est offert à nos membres Privilège pour la somme de 40 $ par année. (Les membres inscrits bénéficiant d’un accès gratuit doivent, pour leur part, attendre 60 jours avant de pouvoir accéder à tout notre contenu.)

Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz 2012

Le guide du vin

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Les choix de Nadia – Novembre 2015

Soif de savoir
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

Chaque année, avant d’entrer dans le vif de la production du Guide du vin, je voyage un peu et je lis beaucoup. Je dévore tout ce qui s’écrit sur l’actualité du vin. Je découvre les nouvelles publications de mes auteurs favoris et revisite les ouvrages intemporels avec lesquels j’ai fait mes premiers pas dans ce monde fascinant.

Chaque année aussi, au hasard des salons des vins, vous êtes nombreux à me confier que vous souhaitez parfaire vos connaissances et approfondir votre savoir dans le domaine du vin. La question qui suit la confidence est presque toujours la même : « par où est-ce que je commence? »

Viennent ensuite : « Quels livres devrait-on lire? Faut-il absolument suivre un cours de sommellerie ? » Et, celle qui, à ma grande surprise, revient le plus fréquemment : « Est-ce à la portée de tous? »

La réponse : bien sûr que oui!

« Z’avez qu’à déguster », comme dirait l’autre. Crachoir et carnet de note à l’appui, si je peux me permettre. Sinon, c’est moins sérieux. D’abord parce qu’on oublie facilement, mais surtout parce que le fait d’écrire nous oblige à mettre en mots les sensations perçues. Donc prenez des notes, même si ça parait laborieux et que ça ne vous dit pas toujours, même si ça vous donne des airs de premier de classe, même si…

Bien se documenter sur les régions viticoles qu’on aborde aide aussi beaucoup à mieux comprendre le style de tel ou tel vin. Au fil des lectures, on s’interroge, on se remet en question, on saisit mieux l’essence du vin et nos propres goûts, accessoirement. Avec un peu de chance, on trouve même des réponses parfois.

Pour vous, chers lecteurs assoiffés de savoir, voici quelques suggestions de livres à dévorer d’un couvert à l’autre ou à feuilleter, au gré des dégustations et des découvertes de nouveaux horizons. Des cadeaux à s’offrir ou à se faire offrir par vos proches qui n’en peuvent déjà plus de vous entendre parler de vin.

Ça tombe bien, les Fêtes approchent… 


L'Atlas mondial du vin – 7e édition
L’Atlas mondial du vin – 7e édition
Publié pour la première fois en 1971, L’Atlas mondial du vin du Britannique Hugh Johnson a donné la piqûre à des millions de lecteurs, dont je suis. Traduit en plusieurs langues et maintes fois réédité, cet ouvrage unique fait autorité tant auprès des amateurs que des professionnels, ne serait-ce que par la précision et la qualité de ses cartes géographiques. Depuis la cinquième édition, Hugh Johnson s’est assuré la collaboration de Jancis Robinson, l’une des écrivains les plus prolifiques et elle-même auteur de nombreux livres importants, notamment la titanesque Encyclopédie du vin. La septième édition est totalement remise à jour, enrichie de nouvelles cartes – le livre en compte 215 au total – et demeure LA référence indispensable à tout amateur.
Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, Broquet, 2014, 400 pages, 49,95 $ 

Wine Grapes
Wine Grapes
Fruit des efforts collectifs des journalistes et auteures britanniques Jancis Robinson et Julia Harding accompagnées de José Vouillamoz, botaniste suisse spécialisé en génétique des cépages, cet opus que certains geeks surnomment « la bible des cépages » a créé une petite commotion dans le monde du vin dès sa sortie. Wine Grapes n’est pourtant pas le premier livre traitant d’ampélographie, la science qui étudie la vigne. Mais contrairement à leurs prédécesseurs, les auteurs de Wine Grapes ont pu compter sur des technologies avancées pour examiner la vigne sous un angle nouveau. Leur étude, étayée sur des analyses d’ADN, dresse un portrait exhaustif de la biodiversité viticole et répertorie 1380 cépages vitis vinifera. Publié exclusivement en anglais pour le moment, ce pavé de près de trois kilos a permis de réfuter plusieurs croyances quant aux origines réelles de certains cépages.

Le livre raconte aussi les différentes migrations des cépages pendant la colonisation du Nouveau Monde et nous conduit jusqu’aux plus lointaines ou profondes racines de la viticulture, dans le sud-est de la Turquie. Un ouvrage un peu pointu certes, mais toujours fascinant à consulter.

Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, José Vouillamoz, ECCO PRESS, 2012, 1242 pages, 185,00 $ 

Une histoire mondiale du vinPOUR LE FÉRU D’HISTOIRE

Une histoire mondiale du vin – De l’Antiquité à nos jours

Le vin fait partie de l’héritage culturel des peuples. Traduit en français et publié en format de poche, un merveilleux ouvrage à ranger parmi les grands classiques. Avec son style inimitable et très vivant, Hugh Johnson retrace l’histoire du vin et la création des grands crus au fil des siècles. Passionnant comme un roman.
Hugh Johnson, Hachette, Collection Pluriel, 1990, 684 pages, 22,95 $. 


Le vin en 30 secondes

Le vin en 30 secondesLa vaste collection 30 secondes (religions, Rome Antique, Shakespeare, psychologie, politique, théories économiques, etc,) s’enrichit d’un ouvrage sur le vin. Sous la direction de Gérard Basset, meilleur sommelier du monde en 2010, ce livre offre un survol de la plupart des aspects du vin, décortiqués et résumés en plus ou moins 300 mots. Britannique d’origine française, Basset propose des lexiques et des explications concises pour mieux comprendre la viticulture et l’élaboration des différents types de vin, un survol des cépages et appellations les mieux connus, des précisions sur le dioxyde de soufre, l’histoire du vin, la dégustation, la santé, etc. En plus de quelques portraits d’acteurs majeurs du monde du vin. Un très bel ouvrage de vulgarisation.
Gérard Basset OBE, Hurtubise, 2015, 160 pages, 21,95 $. 


Les Incollables – VinLes Incollables – Vin
Un jeu-questionnaire sur le vin concocté par l’illustre sommelière Véronique Rivest, dans la collection Les Incollables. On y trouve autant de questions historiques et culturelles que techniques. Une très bonne idée de cadeau pour les amateurs de vin qui souhaitent parfaire leurs connaissances générales.
Véronique Rivest, Caractère, 2014, 14,95 $ 


Ateliers SAQ par l’ITHQ
À compter de janvier 2016, la SAQ, en collaboration avec l’ITHQ (Institut de Tourisme et d’Hôtellerie du Québec), offrira sept cours dédiés au monde des vins et des spiritueux. D’abord un cours d’initiation à la dégustation du vin, nommé Vins 101, de même qu’une série de cours thématiques (cépages, vins de France, vins d’Italie, bulles, etc.) qui se tiendront à Montréal, Québec, Laval, Longueuil, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Gatineau et Sainte-Adèle. Ce nouveau volet éducatif comporte aussi des ateliers d’accords vins et mets, qui seront offerts exclusivement à Montréal, ainsi que des ateliers privés pour les groupes de particuliers et pour les entreprises. 

La pratique maintenant ! 

De Bordeaux à l’Afrique du Sud, avec un petit détour par les îles méditerranéennes – et pas juste parce c’est joli – une poignée de bons vins pour élargir vos horizons (non pas que je les crois limités) et mettre les acquis en pratique. Parce que la pratique, quand il est question de vin, c’est tellement agréable! 

Propriété du groupe Taillan (Châteaux Ferrière, Gruaud-Larose, Chasse-Spleen et Haut-Bages-Libéral), ce cru bourgeois situé près de Margaux est lui aussi administré par Céline Villars. En 2005, on a produit un excellent second vin sous l’étiquette Moulins de Citran. Parfaitement ouvert et prêt à boire, mais pas fatigué pour autant. À boire au cours de la prochaine année. (27,75 $) 

Tout au nord, dans la magnifique région d’Alsace, la famille Barthelmé produit le Pinot Gris 2012 Cuvée Albert (28 $), issu de vignes âgées de près de 40 ans, conduites en agriculture biologique. Aucune lourdeur malgré un reste de sucre, mais une texture grasse et rassasiante. Le vin idéal pour accompagner les fromages puissants et coulants.

Château Citran Moulins de Citran 2005 Domaine Albert Mann Pinot Gris Cuvée Albert 2012 Domaine Ferrer Ribière Les Centenaires 2013 Altaroses Joan d'Anguera Montsant 2013

Nettement plus jeune, vigoureux et enveloppé de tanins mûrs, le Carignan 2013, Les Centenaires de Denis Ferrer et de Bruno Ribière est issu, comme son nom l’indique, de vignes centenaires de carignan. Un très bel exemple de la générosité contenue des meilleurs vins des Côtes Catalanes. (19,85 $)

De l’autre côté des Pyrénées, la région de Montsant ceinture le Priorat et ses vins sont souvent des alternatives économiques à ceux de son illustre voisin. En prenant la relève du domaine familial, Joan et Josep d’Anguera ont converti le vignoble à la biodynamie et progressivement délaissé la syrah au profit de la garnatxa (grenache). L’Altaroses 2013, Montsant (21,90 $) illustre à merveille le nouvel esprit du domaine. Un grenache d’une grande « buvabilité », ce qui n’est pas le cas de tous les vins produits dans cette région espagnole.

La majorité des cépages de la Sardaigne sont originaires d’Espagne. Ça s’explique assez facilement quand on sait que l’île, aujourd’hui italienne, était sous la juridiction du royaume d’Aragon pendant près de quatre siècles, de 1323 à 1720. Force majeure du vignoble sarde, la maison Argiolas met uniquement à profit ces cépages « locaux ». Le Costera Cannonau di Sardegna 2013 est composé de cannonau (grenache), de bovale sardo (graciano) et de carignan. Encore très jeune, il offre beaucoup pour le prix. (18,90 $)

Toujours au cœur de la Méditerranée, mais un peu plus à l’est, sur l’île de Santorin. Si vous croyez que tous les blancs se ressemblent, il vous faut absolument goûter les assyrtikos d’Harydimos Hatzidakis, particulièrement la cuvée Mylos 2014, Santorin. Un vin d’une envergure immense qui ne cesse d’évoluer dans le verre. N’hésitez pas à l’aérer longuement en carafe. 12338834   (45,50$)

Argiolas Costera 2013 Ktima Hatzidakis Assyrtiko de Mylos 2014 Secateurs Badenhorst Chenin Blanc 2013 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2009

Quelques dizaines de milliers de kilomètres plus au sud, le cépage chenin blanc a été implanté dès le 17e siècle par les huguenots qui trouvèrent refuge en Afrique du Sud. Élaboré dans le même esprit de légèreté et de buvabilité que le Red Bend de la gamme Sécateur, le Chenin blanc 2014 d’Adi Badenhorst est l’un des bons vins blancs sud-africain sur le marché. Une belle porte d’entrée pour saisir le potentiel de la région viticole de Swartland.  (18,05 $) 

Enfin, terminons ce tour d’horizon sur une note sublime avec le Klein Constantia, Vin de Constance 2009. En reprenant ce domaine historique en 1980, la famille Jooste a fait revivre ce vin légendaire dont raffolaient les riches et les puissants d’Europe aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, jusqu’à ce que le phylloxéra mette fin à sa production. Toujours issu à 100 % de muscat à petits grains et doté d’une richesse exceptionnelle, le 2009 est un vin hors du commun. Une bouteilles unique, à goûter au moins une fois dans une vie. (65,50 $ – 500 ml)

À la vôtre!

Nadia Fournier

Note de la rédaction: Cet accès exclusif, ainsi que la possibilité de lire dès leur publication tous les commentaires de dégustation publiés sur Chacun son Vin, est offert à nos membres Privilège pour la somme de 40 $ par année. (Les membres inscrits bénéficiant d’un accès gratuit doivent, pour leur part, attendre 60 jours avant de pouvoir accéder à tout notre contenu.)

Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz 2012
Le guide du vin

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BC Wine Report: BC Wine Appellation Task Group

by Rhys Pender, MWNov 17, 2015


Rhys Pender, MW

Rhys Pender, MW

Over the last 8 months, I have spent a good chunk of my time volunteering as part of the BC Wine Appellation Task Group. This group was given the mission statement “To engage the BC wine industry and use their input to recommend improvements on our system of appellations, and the certification for wine produced from 100% BC grapes.” The goals of the group were to take a serious look at what needs to be changed in the BC wine industry to help it evolve and continue maturing into a serious wine business. Now change doesn’t come easy, especially with such a diversity of winery sizes and so many different characters with such varied ideas as to which way we should point the BC wine ship. Luckily the Task Group was made up of many of the industry’s best and most knowledgeable voices, all with the same goal: to help push BC wine forward (See a list of the group – Task Group bios). The Ministry of Agriculture also got in on the act, an important level of support, but other than that there was no link to any of the other myriad splinter groups or organizations that exist for BC wine. I have written some of my views on the appellation subject before back in January 2015 (Sub-Regions in British Columbia) so it was exciting to have a chance to turn what were just ideas and opinions towards what could help with important change and help make BC wine make sense. This month’s BC Wine Report is my personal take on the Task Group recommendations.

The group mandate was as follows:

To work in cooperation with the BC Wine Authority to bring forward industry recommendations to propose amendment(s) to the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation that represent the interests of all 100% BC Wine Producers, to better meet the demands of today’s market conditions and for potential application for other sectors including 100% BC fruit wine, ciders and beer. 

BC Wine Appellation Task Group: Wine Industry Turning PointThe entire report can be viewed here (Wine Industry Turning Point). Skip to page 38 for a list of the specific recommendations.

The most exciting thing about this process was how readily everyone agreed on so many of the things that needed changing. Aside from a few standouts that believe in keeping the status quo, the vast majority of those in the group or those who were contacted through the various surveys and town hall meetings saw the need for evolution and change. The BC wine industry is growing up.

There were a number of issues on the table for discussion that could broadly be summarized as:

– Creation of new regions in BC and sub-appellations with the Okanagan Valley

– Mandatory certification of wineries through the BCWA

– The value of tasting panels to certify VQA wine

– Audits and how to simplify the 3-4 separate audits that wineries are subject to

Regions & Appellations

I was part of a sub-committee to look specifically at the appellation issue. The simplest part of upgrading the appellation system to me seems to be creating new regions to cover the emerging vineyard areas in Lillooet-Lytton, the Kamloops/Thompson Valley area, Shuswap, and the Kootenays. Pat Bowen, researcher at the Pacific Agri- Food Research Centre (PARC), was brought in to give some scientific grounding to the regions and drew up maps for these four areas based on the watersheds of the area, the same criteria that was used for the Okanagan and Similkameen regions.

Dividing up the Okanagan into sub-appellations wasn’t going to be so simple. Many wineries expressed interest that they want to be able to give consumers more information on the label about where the wine is grown. I had argued in my January article that BC needed to build a correlation between place, grape variety and style that consumers can start to understand. The main culprit for needing the relief of sub-appellations is the Okanagan Valley. With 84% of the vineyard acreage and a much higher percentage still of production, the Okanagan is too big and too varied to have any real meaning to consumers in terms of a recognizable wine style. But how to divide it up?

There were a number of important issues to consider in the recommending of new sub-appellations. The world is basically full of meaningless regional boundaries for wine that look okay on paper but don’t hold up to any scrutiny on the ground when you visit the place. They are often politically derived, marketing derived or follow a different set of criteria that has nothing to do with vineyard, grapes and what the wine ends up tasting like. The group wanted to make sure there was some basic degree of scientific rigour behind what was recommended, something that could eventually show itself as terroir in the wines.

The challenge then becomes how to keep it real scientifically while also being user friendly. WineAlign critic and long time advocate for sub-appellations, Anthony Gismondi , was brought in by the group for the first meeting to give an outside view from that of winery owners and hammered home the message that the sub-appellations must be consumer friendly and ideally should link the name of the region to the neighbouring town. Fortunately, this mindset was largely supported by the group and formed the framework for most of the discussions.

As to how to carve up the Okanagan in to sub-appellations, a number of different ideas were floated. Ideas such as dividing the Okanagan into just three regions of North, Central and South kept popping up but the consensus was that it didn’t go into enough detail. The group was also concerned that making too many sub-appellations too quickly could be confusing for consumers. Pat Bowen again came to the rescue and created a number of scenarios that had enough scientific rigour. These first divided the Okanagan climatically into north, central and south, then by geology and finally aspect to take into account the different levels of sunlight depending on which side of the valley the vineyard is located. So far these have been left unnamed but the group did come up with some criteria for naming to keep the appellations very user friendly for consumers. The group recommends only accepting a village or town name, or a place name that is historically associated with a region. The group voted on 15 separate regions, something that seems like a lot but in fact are all quite distinct regions, with a couple of exceptions. One contentious point was the lacustrine benches on the east side of Okanagan and Skaha Lakes which are very similar scientifically but, for the sake of the consumer, the group voted to separate these into the area north of Penticton, commonly known as Naramata, and the benches above Skaha Lake.

Naming the regions will be a bit challenging but if the guidelines are followed the result should make sense for the consumers. I have come up with my own suggestions for the naming of the regions (see below, click to zoom). Some of these are difficult, particularly the area that I have called Okanagan Lake North and the areas around Oliver; they could also be named Oliver West, Oliver North and Oliver East instead of Oliver, Oliver Terraces and Black Sage). Naming after the villages in most cases is the best as consumers are already familiar with the main villages and towns of the Okanagan, and can see them on any map. East versus West side of the valley also makes sense given how big of a big difference there is in morning versus afternoon sunshine.

Okanagan Lake North - Rhys Pender's namesOliver - Rhys Pender's namesPenticton - Rhys Pender's names

One important point to remember is that there is still the potential to create smaller, more terroir based sub-appellations within these proposed regions. For example, Kaleden might want to separate itself from the rest of what I have called the Penticton appellation and Peachland may want to do the same from West Kelowna. The existing sub-appellation (the first in BC) of Golden Mile Bench would be an example of a smaller, more terroir driven appellation that is essentially the next step in defining Okanagan terroir. I will be interested to see what others come up with for naming suggestions.

A number of those consulted were very wary of jumping into sub-appellations when they felt that the Okanagan was just starting to gain some recognition. This is an important point and so the group is recommending that any new sub-appellation can only be used if appended to the name Okanagan Valley on the label. For example, a label would show “Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley BC VQA” or “Summerland, Okanagan Valley BC VQA.” Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

There is also a proposed amendment as to who gets to vote on any new sub-appellations. The current wording only allows those who have the physical winery building located in the proposed sub-appellation to vote. The amendment would allow other wineries that own vineyard land in the proposed area to vote too. It just makes sense.

Compulsory Membership of BCWA

What will probably be the most contentious issue is compulsory membership of the British Columbia Wine Authority (BCWA). Whether known to consumers or not, there has always been a big split in the BC wine industry. Currently, wineries can choose whether or not they join the BCWA. If a winery does join, they are subject to audits ensuring they are following the rules set out in the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation. But if a winery doesn’t want to join then there is no organization with the authority to ensure compliance. Essentially, by opting out you are above the law. For example, a BCWA winery cannot put Naramata on a wine label, even if all the grapes come from there because it is not yet an official region in the Regulation. But a non-BCWA winery could put Naramata as a region, even if the grapes don’t come from there, as there is no group who can police the use of such terms. These wines are currently called BC Wines of Distinction, a term I have never seen on a label. They are essentially non-VQA wines that can still use the regional names. The only thing they miss out on by not being VQA is a few market benefits awarded only to VQA wine. The Task Group is recommending that joining BCWA is mandatory if you want to have a winery license. The internal political splits in the BC wine industry appear petty and make the industry look less serious from a global perspective. It’s time to change.

A non-VQA but 100% BC wine would be labelled as “Product of British Columbia” as a geographical indication (GI) with no further, smaller delineation allowed. This would become a category for experimentation of different styles that could eventually be incorporated into the Regulation. For example, sparkling wines under the Regulation must have a minimum 8.5% alcohol meaning that Moscato d’Asti style wines are actually not permitted as a VQA style. If enough producers were making this style it could be incorporated into the Regulation.

Like I said, this one will be controversial and I am sure it will be heavily debated. However, I believe that as the industry grows and is increasingly getting international attention, working as one will be both necessary and beneficial.

The End of VQA Tasting Panels?

Another recommendation from the group is to end the use of VQA tasting panels. As some voices have said, these panels were helpful when BC wine was a fledgling industry, a lot of the wine was not so great, and we needed a check before the VQA seal could be given in order to help build a quality reputation. Today though, with high quality levels, few really poor or faulty wines and lots of experimentation in things like orange wines, amphora, wild ferments, concrete, etc., the panel is more likely to hold back evolution rather than offer any kind of security of quality to the consumer.

Instead of the tasting panels, the Task Group recommends relying solely on accredited laboratory analysis to ensure that BC wines meet existing health, safety and technical standards as per the Regulation. Wineries have to provide all this information to the BCWA anyway before the tasting panel so it is just one less step and the industry now feels confident that the market, rather than a tasting panel, can decide whether a wine should be successful.

Death by Audit

The final section of recommendations revolves around audits, hardly something to get consumers excited but important for producers. The Task Group recommends that the current three separate audits by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, BC Liquor Distribution Branch and the BC Wine Authority be harmonized into one. All of them look for basically the same info but in different formats wasting the time of everyone so it makes sense on all levels. Wineries would still be subject to a separate Excise audit but reducing the number from four audits to two is a helpful step in the right direction.


If you made it this far in this long article, you must be interested, and you also probably realize that many of these proposed changes would have a significant effect on the ability for the BC wine industry to evolve to the next level. The wine quality is there, it is time to take it seriously and start to build something that can help launch the next level of making BC wine a serious quality contender on the world stage.

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. 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.


13th Street Winery - WineAlign Winery Profile


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Bill’s Best Bets – November 2015

Yahoo for the “R” month
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I’m not a fan of the month of November here in Quebec. Bleak and cold for the most part, no snow to play in, although Mother Nature has been kind so far this year. But one solace I can find in these cold days – when it’s dark by 5pm – is that it is oyster season.

These yummy little bi-valves are in season during the “r” months, those months which end with the letter “r.” Why? You can eat them all year long but during the summer, oysters convert most of their body into one big sex organ. If you eat them then they taste thin and milky. Not my favourite thing. Once they have done their business, they get back to eating and return to their pre-sexual state. So during the fall months, they feed, and their bodies gradually fatten up which is why November and December are the best times to eat oysters. They basically starve themselves from January through Spring, using up their fat deposits.

Oysters don’t taste much of anything, so you can’t drink anything that is too flavourful. Oysters have high levels of iodine which pairs well with mineral wines, while the saltiness matches nicely with delicate citrus and apple notes – think of a Tequila shot where you lick the salt and then bite the lime or lemon. That salt will amplify the fruit in the wine.

Now if you aren’t into oysters, the following wines all work wonders with any seafood, lighter fish or simply as an aperitif. The beauty of this style of wine is that you can find excellent value wine that will do the job. However, you can spend if need be, so let’s start there.

Bill’s favourite pairing is Champagne. Plus, makes for excellent “date nights.” Are oysters really aphrodisiacs? I read that Casanova ate 50 raw oysters for breakfast every day, and he did pretty well for himself. I don’t know if he drank Champagne too. To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s the oysters or the Champagne.

I love drinking very dry, or extra-Brut, bubbles with my oysters. These lean and racy Champagnes might seem edgy on their own, but what they lack in sugar-induced texture is heightened minerality. So try the Agrapart Terroir Blanc de Blancs, or for under $60, Les Vignes de Montagueux from Jacques Lassaigne.

Agrapart Terroirs Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes De Montgueux Blanc de BlancsSegura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Raventos I Blanc de Nit Conca del Riu Anoia 2013

If Champagne is too pricey, there are a number of very dry sparkling wines out there. Cava does the trick and any list of accessibly priced Cavas has to include Segura Viudas. No sparkler under $16 is this good. With a touch more aromatic complexity, yet still rather cutting and edgy, and a rosé at that, the Raventos i Blanc, De Nit Conca Del Riu makes a great match, especially if you like adding a touch of red wine vinegar and echalottes (mignonette sauce) to your oysters.

When talking non-sparkling wines, the list of whites which show minerality is long. Muscadet, Chablis, riesling, Vinho Verde, Picpoul de Pinet – take your pick.

I really love Chablis and I tasted a few recently that will do a great job. The 2014 from Louis Moreau is a great generic Chablis. In the Premier Cru category, Maligny’s 2013 Fourchaume shows both the aromatic complexity and texture that one expects from a Fourchaume while the 2014 Homme Mort will satisfy all those who love the power that great Chablis can bring.

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2014 Château de Maligny Chablis Fourchaume Premier Cru 2013 Château de Maligny Chablis Premier Cru Homme Mort 2014 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 Domaene Gobelsburg Kamptal Riesling 2014

Moving onto riesling, and from Niagara, the 2012 Charles Baker Picone riesling left me wanting 3 more bottles and another couple dozen oysters. I also really loved the Austrian 2014 riesling from Domaine Gobelsburg. At under $20, it’s hard to find a classier riesling at the SAQ.

One of the wine world’s classic pairings is Muscadet with oysters, and there is no shortage of choice at the SAQ. The Domaine Landron, 2014 Amphibolite, is always one of my favourites, while the 2012 Chateau Chasseloir is a classic which never disappoints.

Les Domaines Landron Muscadet Amphibolite 2014 Château de Chasseloir Cuvée des Ceps Centenaires 2012 Atlantis Dry White 2014 Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet Les Pins de Camille 2014 Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2013

And finally, for those of you who love going off the beaten track, then there are a number of interesting and accessible oyster friendly wines out there. From Greece, the 2014 Atlantis is one of the best under $20 whites out there, and shows the mineral joy of assyrtiko. If there exists a Muscadet in the south, it is the Picpoul de Pinet and 2014 Omarine from Maison Jeanjean is a great example, and under $14. And if you love nuance, then the 2013 Pinot Bianco from Alois Lagadar is absolutely sexy in its restraint.

Stay warm and drink well folks,


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

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to Chacun son vin 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!

Wolf Blass - Here's to the Chase

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (November 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 write this from Hermanus; best known for pinot noir and for the whales that can be seen in the bay from my hotel window. I am in South Africa leading a group of wine lovers who are exploring Cape wines with me. I will be bringing another group here in 2017, so if that sounds interesting, you can get more info at

South African wines are relatively inexpensive for the quality they offer. I am delighted to have found three among the many new great values at the LCBO this month.

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

The discount period runs until November 29th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that when we published there were stocks available 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!


Tini Sangiovese di Romagna 2012, Emilia-Romagna, Italy ($7.55) New to Top 50 – This is excellent value for a very drinkable Italian red for pizza and meaty pasta dishes. It is soft and fruity with enough tannin and acidity for balance and good length. Chill a little and try with tomato pasta sauces.

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014 Abruzzo Italy ($8.25 + 4 BAMs) – This red is a little rustic with a savoury herbal nose. Try with mildly flavoured red meat dishes or a mild hard cheese like cheddar.

Tini Sangiovese di Romagna 2012 Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014 Santa Carolina Merlot 2015 Domaine La Gardie Merlot 2013

Santa Carolina Merlot 2015 Chile ($8.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 November – This is an exuberant fruity merlot. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled or with a wide range of meat and cheese dishes.

Domaine La Gardie Merlot 2013, Vin De Pays d’Oc, France ($8.95 was $10.95) New to Top 50 – This is opaque purple-red wine is a great buy for a pure clean structured red. Not a lot of complexity but well balanced for cheese or meat dishes.

Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013 Colchagua Valley, Chile ($9.45 was $11.45) New to Top 50 – Great value at $2 off. This aromatic red with fresh black cherry and plum fruit aromas is well balanced and juicy with good to very good length. Full bodied but feels lighter. Try with grilled meats.

Montecillo Crianza 2010 Rioja Spain ($11.95 was $14.95) New to Top 50 – Stunning value at $3 off. This is an easy-to-drink Rioja crianza that’s midweight and lively with ripe berry fruit yet structured with firm tannin appearing on the finish. Very classy. Try with roast lamb.

Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013 Montecillo Crianza 2010 Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Mendoza Argentina ($12.95 was $14.95) Top 50 November – This is a very fruity fresh malbec is $2 off for next 4 weeks making it even better value. There is a lot of complexity on the palate also which is almost full bodied with excellent length. Try with sautéed duck breast.

Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013 Rapel Valley Chile ($12.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 November – This is a polished, organically grown merlot that’s clean and lively with pure fresh bright aromas and flavours. It is medium to full bodied with good focus and very good length.

Goats Do Roam Red 2014 Western Cape, South Africa ($12.95) Top 50 November – The 2014 vintage continues a long line of consistently great value reds that are close stylistically to a French Cotes du Rhone. Try with burgers.

Guardian Reserva Red 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($13.90 + 7 BAMs) – This juicy fruity red blend is 50% cabernet sauvignon with carmenere and syrah. It is an easy drinking red but there is a good underlying structure to give balance.

Goats do Roam Red 2014 Guardian Reserva Red 2013 KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014

KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95 was $15.95) New to Top 50 – This very consistent cabernet is well balanced with soft minerality to lighten the palate. The nose has a delightful impression of freshness. Midweight and well structured. Try with roast beef.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014, Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95 + 5BAMs) Top 50 November – This deeply coloured blend of syrah, mourvedre and viognier is medium to full bodied with firm tannin which gives a nice edge to the finish. Very good to excellent length. Try with grilled red meats.


Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2014 Abruzzo Italy ($8.25 + 4 BAMs) – Most inexpensive trebbiano is rather boring but this is much fruitier and riper than normal. Chill well and try with grilled calamari.

Shingleback Haycutters Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014, Adelaide Hills and Mclaren Vale, South Australia. ($9.45 was $13.80) Discontinued at LCBO. Top 50 November – This is a classic Bordeaux white blend with subtle oak that is very smooth with the lively fruit well supported by racy acidity. Very good length. Try with roasted poultry or sautéed veal. Around 850 bottles left.

Citra Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2014 Shingleback Haycutters Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014 Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2015 Montgras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2015, Leyda Valley, Chile ($11.95) New to Top 50 – The chardonnay reserva used to come from the Santa Isabella Estate in the Casablanca Valley, but this vintage comes from an estate in Leyda in the San Antonio Valley. It is a fine lively fresh gently oaked white.

Montgras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Leyda Valley, Chile ($13.85 + 7 BAMs) – The Leyda Valley in Chile is fast proving to be the hot spot for great sauvignon blanc and this is an excellent example of just how good it can be. Lots of  flavour and very good length. Try with sautéed seafood, roast poultry or vegetarian quiche.

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($13.95 + 5BAMs) Top 50 November – A concentrated fresh pure grigio with a rich and lively palate that is well balanced by zesty acidity. Very good length. Don’t overchill and enjoy with a wide variety of seafood and white meat dishes.

Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Jerez Spain ($15.45) Top 50 November – The best value white on the Top 50, this lovely wine that has lots of complexity. It is a classic amontillado with its nutty almond, lemon, bread, and salty ham aromas. It is very smooth with the dry, rich intensely flavoured palate lingering for ever. Excellent length. Try with rich white meat dishes. Find it in the fortified wine section.

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014 Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Stoneleigh Chardonnay 2014

Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand ($15.90 + 8 BAMs) – A crisp very juicy kiwi sauvignon that is midweight and well balanced with a creamy rich palate and crisp dry herbal lemon finish. Try with sautéed seafood or goats cheese.

Stoneleigh Chardonnay 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand ($16.95 + 10 BAMs) – This is a bold complex rich chardonnay with the ample oak well integrated with the fruit. The palate is super smooth with the rich fruit buoyed up by lemony acidity and the oak well integrated such that it is only just noticeable on the finish. Well balanced with very good length.

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 Essentials 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 36 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!


Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2015

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20 Under $20 in BC : November 2015

A Brisk November

Though often thought of as a breather month between holidays, November has proven brisk for WineAlign West – and not only due to the temperature. Anthony has been travelling around Australia the past couple of weeks with a Vancouver Sun group (hence sitting out this month’s 20 Under $20), DJ is fresh off duties as head judge for the Vancouver Magazine International Wine Competition – which all four of us WineAlign Westers judged at – as well as leading trade and consumer classes at Cornucopia. Rhys has been babysitting ferments and getting his Similkameen vineyard ready for winter as well as finalizing the BC Wine Appellation Task Group findings, which he’ll be covering in this month’s upcoming BC Wine Report. Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for Italy next week for a taste of Franciacorta and look at Lombardy.

Yes – brisk is good, and refreshing. Our 20 Under $20 will refresh both your wallet and palate this month.

~ TR

BC Crictic Team


Rhys Pender MW

At this time of year when there is less time spent outside due to the change in weather I always start thinking more about cooking. Flicking through cookbooks turns into long, intensive sessions in the kitchen making complex but rewarding dishes. Part of the fun is finding a perfect wine to go with these dishes.

I like to make choucroute garnie at this time of year, a good dish to fatten you up for the winter. The slow cooked, smoky pork and sauerkraut is perfect with a light juicy red such as Beaujolais but even better with a solid Riesling. The new Intrigue 2014 made by Roger Wong is a great match.

I also recently whipped up a batch of empanadas. With their meaty filling you would first think of going to a red wine, but in Argentina they contrast the empanadas with the crispness of Torrontès. I went for a similar theme but using the local Maverick Sauvignon Blanc 2014. Bertus Albertyn is really stepping it up with his wines in recent years and this is a great value rich yet fresh Sauvignon.

Intrigue Riesling 2014 Maverick Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Campo Viejo Reserva 2009 CedarCreek Chardonnay 2013 Lustau Puerto Fino Solera Reserva

With meat cooked outdoors over the fire with the chill of fall keeping you close to the warmth of the flames, practically any hearty red wine will do. But a particularly good pairing is something that is both flavoursome and also has a bit of complexity. And for under $20 the Campo Viejo Riserva Rioja is a great deal.

A little extra butter is always needed in the fall, right?, particularly when searing off some nice BC prawns or scallops. The elegant and surprisingly complex for the price CedarCreek 2013 Chardonnay has some nice lemon freshness and complexity to match perfectly.

Something a little different and quite interesting for many palates is Fino Sherry. It is all about context. Try a bottle of the Lustau Puerto Fino with some green olives, nuts, tapas or little pieces of deep fried seafood and you will probably get what Fino is all about.

DJ Kearney

World Wine Awards of CanadaRepresenting colossal value, these five picks shone at our World Wine Awards of Canada, held in Toronto at the end of August.

First in the glass is a long-time BC hero, Gray Monk 2014 Gewurztraminer has extra depth and freshness from a warm, quality vintage. Pair with Sunday French toast.

On a dryer note, Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from Marlborough expresses pungent, tropical juicy white to a T.  The aqua label always cheers me up.

Back to Argentina for a pinot grigio that’s a sound alternative to Italian grigio. From one of the oldest of Argentina’s wine regions, Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio 2014 is bone dry, with streamlined fruit and an unbeatable price tag.

Gray Monk Gewurztraminer 2014 Matua Hawke's Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2014 Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Finally the only red of my quintet is one of Chile’s acknowledged value stars, Medalla Real Gran Reserva 2010 from the Maipo Valley, affectionately nicknamed ‘the Bordeaux of South America’. Pure cassis fruit, supple tannins and a gravelly finish make it a great choice for skirt steak and zesty chimichurri sauce. It’s a few cents above our $20 limit, but it defines colossal value to me.

Back to budget, you can’t do better than Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. The fruit comes from Langhorne Creek, a quality region in Oz for cabernet, and it will have you craving a good old fashioned meat pie.

Treve Ring

Of course, fizz. Always fizz. One striking value is the organic Parés Baltà Cava Brut, with 18 months on the lees and wild herbs and cracked stone dominating this green apple crisp sparkler.

Spier 2013 Chenin Blanc is a stellar steen from Stellenbosch – and a steal at $14. No oak influence allows the youthful, citrus and honeysuckle fruit to shine. And on the topic of shining citrusy fruit, the new BC VQA Okanagan Valley Fern Walk label brings a bit of Kiwi to BC with the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. Gooseberry, tart lemon, guava and asparagus will let you support the home team while thinking New Zealand.

Parés Baltà Cava Brut Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2013 Fern Walk Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Mistaken Identity Journey 2014 Volcanic Hills Gewurztraminer 2013

Speaking of local, how many wines from BC’s Wine Islands do you get to try? Mistaken Identity Winery is located on Saltspring Island, and their 2014 Journey an estate blend of pinot gris, ortega, siegerrebe, madeline angevine, madeline sylvaner and reichensteiner. Expect apricot, peach and apple blossoms to flow from the nose to the juicy, off-dry palate of this lighter bodied aromatic white. And with a pleasant 11.5 percent alcohol, this could be a new favourite brunching go-to. Or pick from the orchard basket of the Okanagan for the Volcanic Hills 2013 Gewurztraminer, where marmalade, lime pith and anise are lifted with rosewater and moderate acidity. Chinese take-out pairing wine.

For warming alongside braised chicken thighs (and a fireplace), Chile’s Vina Undurraga 2013 Sibaris Pinot Noir will do the trick, its smoked red pepper and poultry spice seasoning the juicy palate. Also in Chile, the Leyda 2012 Reserve Syrah impresses for its ripe fruit framed with firm oak; a compact little syrah. If you’re looking for riper, plusher, plumper and sweeter fruited reds, Sumac Ridge 2013 Merlot Private Reserve will suit.

Undurraga Sibaris Reserva Pinot Noir 2013 Leyda Reserva Syrah 2012 Sumac Ridge Merlot Private Reserve 2013 Alamos Malbec 2013 Fresita Sparkling Wine Infused With Strawberries

Across the Andes, the Alamos 2013 Malbec from Catena Zapata is a potpourri of exotic spices swirled with sweet vanilla, perfumed musk, violets, cassis and blackberry jam. Pour this concentrated red with hearty, fragrant lamb roasts. (The 2014 is

And for an effortless dessert, sweet starter, or indulgent breakfast, reach for Fresita, a bold pink sparkling chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and muscatel blend infused with organic strawberries from Patagonia. A bright cranberry acidity helps tame the sweetness and a foamy mousse keeps it light and fun.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report and include the wines across any price point and channel that excite us each month, 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.

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!

13th Street Winery - Giving a Voice to the Vines

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 14, Part Two

Super-Sized and the Best of the New World
by Sara d’Amato, with notes from John Szabo MS

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Whether you saw it coming or not, the holiday entertaining season is upon us and with this comes some pretty fierce marketing directed at you, consumer. The LCBO and VINTAGES is now committed to convincing us to purchase premium products, and in this release, large format bottles are pushed. VINTAGES is featuring a “simple solution for elegant holiday entertaining: Ten favourite high quality wines in large format bottles.”

Given that the cost of a magnum is often significantly more than double the price of the same standard format 750 ml bottle, is it worth it? To answer that question, it is worth considering what is in the bottle and your intentions for its uses. For those of you, like most, who don’t have a great deal of experience with larger formats, our interaction is usually in the form of imposing bottles at the entrance of restaurants, aiming to impress. Their novelty factor makes us look but the fear of a hefty price tag makes most of us stay away.

It is an indisputable fact that large format bottles make a show-stopping impression. Open a large bottle at any dinner party and it is sure to make for a memorable evening. That dazzle alone is worth an extra buck or two, no? But is the industry just pulling the wool over your eyes or should premiums for large formats not sway your investment?

To answer the question of why they cost so much I spoke with Marlize Beyers at Hidden Bench winery in Niagara who has a good breadth of experience with bottling both magnums (1.5 L) and 3 L bottles (sometimes called Jeroboams, or more prosaically, double magnums). She says: “First, we only consider wines that are age-worthy to go to large format, usually single vineyard pinots and chardonnays from outstanding, cooler vintages. We do not release these wines for at least 2 years after bottling, so there is a storage cost involved, they take up a lot of room.” In addition, the packaging material is significantly costlier, for example, glass for magnums are 4.2x more expensive than a standard glass bottle, corks to match the wider diameter are 9.7x more and labels are 16.8x more expensive due to unique size and small runs.

Because the large format bottles are too large to fit onto a regular bottling line, Beyers needs a week or more to transfer the wine (for just over 500 bottles) to kegs after which they are filled by hand. Everything must be done manually in a smaller scale winery. “To conclude,” says Beyers, “it takes tremendous‎ time, effort, dedication, labour and detail to bring these to fruit and that is why they are worth more.” And although the costs for large format bottling are less for a commercial-scale winery, they are still significant.

But does it taste better and does it last longer? The prevailing opinion is that magnums age more slowly and perhaps result in a greater degree of harmony in the long-term than do smaller formats. The physical explanation for this is that the amount of space between the level of wine in the bottle and the bottom of the cork, known as the ullage, is roughly the same in various size bottles but the volume of wine is significantly different. Therefore, more oxidation would occur in smaller formats than in larger formats. More oxidation leads to more rapid ageing. However, whether such a small amount of oxidation makes a difference is inconclusive. In addition, often times the neck opening is slightly larger in a large format bottle so the difference in oxygen contact may not be that significant. Slower oxidation through the cork may also have an impact, but currently this is more of a hypothesis than a conclusively proven fact. Certainly, experiential and anecdotal evidence seems to point in the direction of slower ageing of large formats and if true, then the bottles clearly have more value in the long term.

The Finest BubbleInterestingly, all is different with Champagne bottles. We have more than anecdotal evidence and more science to demonstrate the intrinsic value of these wines in large formats. There seem to be significant differences in the flavour profile and in the way a Champagne magnum ages that is unlike any still wine bottling. The reason why has to do with a couple of key factors: carbon dioxide and autolysis. If you have ever used a gas preservation system like “Private Preserve” to keep your unfinished bottle of wine fresh, you’ll find that your wine will get a day or two of extra life. The spray is made up of carbon dioxide and nitrogen mix that settles on the surface of the wine preventing its exposure to oxygen. The same principle applies in Champagne where the natural carbonation will help preserve the wine from oxidation, slowing its development. Slower oxidation plus the high level of acidity characteristic to Champagne gives it a longer life in any format. Therefore, Champagne makes an ideal, age worthy addition to a collector’s cellar.

There is yet another factor that sets magnums apart. A degradation of yeast cells into “lees” – known as autolysis – also takes place differently in a large format bottle of Champagne. The explanation given by Nick Baker’s The Finest Bubble, a successful UK-based merchant of Champagne, is that the process “can take up to four weeks longer, but magnums also have proportionally more glass surface than [standard format] bottles, allowing more contact between the lees on the inside of the bottle and the wine. This results in magnums displaying much more roundness as the wine ages and crucially, much more complexity.” In short, a magnum of Champagne has a more extensive lees ageing process in a large format bottle resulting in a more complex wine.

A final factor in the value of a magnum is rarity. Like anything that is rare or scarce, a higher value will be attached to it. A winery may only choose to bottle in large formats in special vintages or for special clients but the runs in almost all cases are limited. A special bottling of your favorite wine may then be of interest to seek out from a collector’s standpoint just like that rare, signed baseball card.

As far as I’m concerned, the worth of a magnum is dependent on what is in the bottle. A large run of a large format by a large producer has very little intrinsic value – you will get wow factor for the bottle, but essentially the same product inside as two standard bottles. If the awesomeness of a large format is what you seek and can’t spend the big bucks, then the acquisition may just be worth a small additional cost. A large format bottling of Champagne, however, seems to be inherently different than standard formats and have value beyond the cost of their production. Thus, they may very well be worth the investment. If you collect, than a rare, large format bottling of your favourite wine is also worthy of your attention. As Marlize Beyers of Hidden Bench highlights, what makes it into these magnums are special wines, often from exceptional vintages that are naturally more age worthy. These large formats are a labour of love for small to mid-sized producers and they can make a very special part of your collection.

In any case, if you find yourself in possession of a magnum, be aware that they come with special needs. Some tips – chilling a white or sparkling wine must be irksomely done outside of the confines of a fridge, in icy water. Use two hands when pouring or decant into two standard size decanters. If you do not have room in your cellar for large formats and thus store them upright, make sure that are they regularly placed on their sides, propped securely, so that the cork stays fresh and moist.

Here are our top picks from this mini release of magnums. Unfortunately there are no whites or sparkling wines in this offering but there is a range of both affordable and collector-worthy bottles. We also offer recommendations on the new world portion of the VINTAGES release. Check last week’s recommendations to find the best of the old world.

Buyers Guide For November 14th: Large Formats

Masi 2009 Riserva Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva, DOC, Veneto, Italy ($149.95, 1500mL)

John Szabo – This is precisely the sort of wine you want to have in magnum, one that will age for a very long time indeed. It’s still another 4-6 years away from prime enjoyment I’d suspect, but already shows terrifically richness, balance, and complexity. Masi is one of the undisputed masters of the appassimento genre. Best 2019-2036++.
Sara d’Amato – The quality of this Masi offering is no surprise as this top producer of Amarone is a consistent overachiever. The wine offers great poise and depth of flavour as well as the structural framework that will allow for masterful evolution over the next 5-10 years.

Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France ($84.95, 1500 mL)

Sara d’Amato – With a traditional feel, this wonderfully complex, fleshy and slightly lactic southern Rhone blend offers a great deal of bang for your buck. A deal at less than twice the price of a standard format bottle.

Masi Riserva Costasera Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2009 Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret 2012 Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012 Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Santa Carolina 2008 Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley Chile ($37.95)

John Szabo – Here’s the best value going in this magnum feature, a nicely mature, savoury, herbal, earthy and balanced cabernet from Santa Carolina, hitting full stride now. Best 2015-2023.
Sara d’Amato – This well-priced magnum is ready to impress and perhaps the best value in this release. There is nothing pretentious about this approachable and gently matured cabernet from Santa Carolina.

Robert Mondavi 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, USA ($70.95)

John Szabo – An excellent value in the rarefied world of Napa cabernet, Mondavi’s 2013 finds a comfortable balance between well-measured fruit and wood, and savoury-earthy components. Tannins are still grippy and angular, in need of another 3-5 years to smoothen out, but this hits all of the right measures in an elegantly styled cabernet. Best 2018-2033.
Sara d’Amato – A solid, dry and age worthy example of Napa cabernet with a tannic firmness that requires three or more years to resolve. A splendid addition to your cellar at a fair price.

Buyers Guide For November 14th: New World White & Red

Jost Vineyards 2014 Tidal Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada ($17.95)

Sara d’Amato – Although there are some great Canadian finds in this release, I am particularly enthusiastic about this bright, cheerful and playful blend from a pioneer wine producer of the east coast. If offers elegant notes of mineral and white peach along with a hint of effervescence that adds to its refreshing character.

Bachelder 2012 Saunders Vineyard Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula Canada ($44.95)

John Szabo – This is one of the more refined and fine-grained, sinewy and linear chardonnays in the excellent Bachelder range, with gentle lees influence and salty finish. It’s showing nicely at the moment, but one of the intriguing features of Bachelder’s wines is their ever-changing character, revealing new facets with each bottle. It’s a wine to buy several bottles of to track its fascinating evolution. Best 2015-2022.

Jost Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014 Bachelder Saunders Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 Stratus White 2012 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2013

Stratus 2012 White, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake Canada ($44.20)

John Szabo – The 2012 is one of the finest Stratus white blends to date, densely woven, creamy, honeyed, very far from the Ontario white wine paradigm and much more at home in some old world, warm climate region (southern Rhône white?). I really appreciate the depth and the extract, almost thick but not heavy. I’d like to see this again in another year or two when the masses of dried fruit will have subsumed and integrated with the non-fruit flavour. This should age well. Best 2017-2024.

Flowers 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, USA ($64.95)

John Szabo – Flowers remains a leader in the Sonoma Coast AVA, on the second ridge in from the Pacific in a decidedly cool slice of California. The natural vocation thus is to produce wines (chardonnay and pinot) of terrific precision and tension. This 2013 represents nicely: pure, fragrant and floral, gently reductive, succulent and savoury, salty and tight, but also generous and mouth filling, achieving a fine power-finesse balance. Best 2015-2023.

Rustenberg 2010 Buzzard Kloof Syrah, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato – The Buzzard Kloof vineyard is located on one of the coolest sites of Rusternberg’s estate and produces a unique, peppery syrah that is terrifically compelling. The site is named after the Jackal and Steppe Buzzards that circle the thermal currents which rise above the ravine (kloof) adjacent to the vineyard.

Grand Vin de Glenelly 2009 Red, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($19.95)

John Szabo – Bordelaise doyenne May-Éliane de Lencquesaing (of Pichon Lalande) is behind the Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch, so the class, balance and composure of this shiraz + Bordeaux varieties blend is no surprise. What is surprising however is the exceptional; this ticks all of the boxes of top wine. Best 2015-2021.

Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah 2010 Grand Vin De Glenelly Red 2009 D'arenberg The High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Strewn Canadian Oak Meritage 2013 Stratus Red 2012

d’Arenberg 2012 The High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95) (943456)

Sara d’Amato – This highly acclaimed wine has been produced for four decades now and is sourced from the first of d’Arenberg’s vineyards (planted in the late 1800s) to be trained above knee height. The power and elegance offered here for under $20 is nothing short of impressive.

Strewn 2013 Canadian Oak Meritage, Niagara-On-the Lake, Ontario, Canada ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato – Although not a new product, Canadian oak is not widely used nor mass-produced and thus you may not be aware of its existence. This elegant Bordelaise blend is a lovely introduction to our tight-grained, homegrown oak that (arguably) some describe as adding a slightly spicy, maple flavour to wine. Regardless, there is freshness but not under-ripeness to this ready-to-drink offering from Strewn.

Stratus 2012 Red VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada ($44.20)

John Szabo – Stratus winemaker J.L Groux evidently had an excellent 2012 season, hitting the both this flagship red, as well as the white, out of the park. It’s an impressive Bordeaux style blend that would be equally at home in Tuscany, with its high-toned, floral and dusty-herbal red and black fruit, thanks in part to long hang time, and long ageing in wood to develop complexity. The style is unique to be sure for the region, but it works very well here. Drinking now, but better in another 3-5 no doubt. Best 2018-2025.

If you don’t already have your tickets for the 2015 Gourmet Games featuring, you are not too late! John and I will be your sensory guides through this great evening of food and fun. WineAlign members will get a $25 discount on tickets AND a $25 Special Gift Certificate. Click on the ad below for all the details.


Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES November 14th, 2015

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys
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!

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
The Gourmet Games

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Join Canada’s Hottest 
New Wine Club

The National Wine Awards Wine of the Month Club

It’s hot off the presses, folks! We’ve teamed up with My Wine Canada, the country’s top online wine store, to bring you a one of a kind wine club!

CHOOSE FROM FOUR PACKAGES Starting at just $85!Join Now!

Every summer, WineAlign hosts the National Wine Awards of Canada where thousands of amazing wines from across Canada are entered into the competition for rigorous judging – and only a select few emerge as medal winners. The Top 25 Wineries in Canada are also named in this competition based on the hardware they take home. “The Nationals,” as the competition has been nicknamed, have quickly become Canada’s most prestigious award competition. Now, you can get your hands on these bonafide winning wines!

Be one of the first 100 people to join the National Wine Club before Nov. 15 and you’ll receive a special gift!

The National Wine of the Month Club

How it Works

Every month, one of the Top 25 wineries will send you a care package of 2, 4, 6, or 12 bottles of wine from their award-winning portfolio, along with tasting notes from respected WineAlign critics. You simply choose your bottle quantity and then sit back and relax, because your wine will be on its way to your door.

Who will be the inaugural winery? Well, we had to start with a Platinum award winner – the highest honour a winery can attain – and we’re pleased to announce that Kacaba Vineyards will be our first featured winery!

Kacaba Vineyards

Kacaba has already sold out of most of their award winning wines, but they are holding a special reserve for National Wine Club members, so hurry and join before Nov. 15 to get in on these amazing wine gems.

Here’s a look at the Kacaba wines featured in this month’s packages:

Kacaba 2013 Cabernet Franc

Every one of you lucky folks will be receiving this treat! One of only 14 wines in the entire country to receive the elusive Platinum medal award, this wine was awarded 92 points. Janet Dorozynski says it was her “top scoring wine at NWAC15 and truly an exemplary Cabernet Franc. Red currant, smoke and tobacco leaf dominate the nose and palate, which is medium bodied with ripe slightly gravelly tannins. Great concentration with a long layered finish of blackberries, cola and dried herbs. Decant and drink now with grilled rib eye or cellar to 2020+.”

Kacaba Cabernet Franc 2013Kacaba 2013 Cabernet Franc

Kacaba 2014 Reserve Riesling

4-bottle subscribers, you can look forward to this wine! Made from Niagara Escarpment bench vines that are almost 20 years old, the grapes for this wine were whole berry pressed before undergoing a long, cool ferment to preserve character and complexity. Quoted from Janet Dorozynski at the National Wine Awards, the wine has “an intense nose of lime blossom, pink and yellow grapefruit with green apple and floral notes on the medium bodied palate. Dry with crisp balanced acidity and a long finish of citrus and apple. A solid, well made Riesling.”

Kacaba Reserve Riesling 2014Kacaba Reserve Riesling 2014

Kacaba 2012 Reserve Syrah

Also accompanying most packages will be this savoury superstar! WineAlign judge Michael Godel calls it a “Pretty and modern, fruit forward red with a good touch of volatile acidity and worthy of its sense of place. The fruit to finish continuum is strong throughout. Oak is used as a house for the Syrah to find a home. Works that wood with comfort and slides out with ease. Late bitters awaken effectively, with precision and length. Drink 2015-2019.” A favourite among many Syrah lovers, this one will sell out soon so join the club and get it before it’s gone!

Kacaba Reserve Syrah 2012Kacaba Reserve Syrah 2012

CHOOSE FROM FOUR PACKAGES Starting at just $85!Join Now!Choose from package of 2, 4, 6, or 12 bottles. All taxes, shipping and handling fees are included in the package price, so you don’t have to worry about any extra charges.  You can rest assured that each wine you receive has been tasted, approved, and selected for you by respected wine critics.

Here’s a peek at what you’ll be receiving by package level:

2 bottle – Red Only @ $85
Cabernet Franc 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Platinum)
Reserve Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)

4 bottle – Red & White @ $159
Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2014
Reserve Riesling 2014 (N.W.A.O.C. – Silver)
Reserve Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)
Cabernet Franc 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Platinum)

6 bottle – Red & White @ $225
Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2014
Reserve Riesling 2014 (N.W.A.O.C. – Silver)
Cabernet Franc 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Platinum)
Reserve Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze
Cabernet/Syrah 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Gold)
Cabernet/Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)

12 bottle – Red & White @ $440
(2x) Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2014
(2x) Reserve Riesling 2014 (N.W.A.O.C. – Silver)
(2x) Cabernet Franc 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Platinum)
(1x) Reserve Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)
(1x) Cabernet/Syrah 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Gold)
(1x) Cabernet/Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)
(1x) Reserve Merlot 2010 (O.W.A. – Gold)
(1x) Reserve Cab. Sauvignon 2010 (InterVin – Silver)
(1x) Reserve Meritage 2010 (A.C.W.C.– Silver)

After Kacaba’s delicious wines hit your doorstep, you can look forward to more Award winning BC and Ontario Wineries in the months ahead, including: Road 13 Vineyards, CC Jentsch Wines, and Tawse.

Be one of the first 100 people to join the National Wine Club before Nov. 15 and you’ll receive a special gift!

Buy Now!

Please note: In order to receive wine through My Wine Canada you must be of legal drinking age in the province or territory to which you are requesting that wine be shipped. Please refer to My Wine Canada’s Terms of Use for further details. WineAlign is not involved in the sale or shipment of any wine.

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008