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

Top Values at the LCBO (February 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I am writing to you from Marlborough in New Zealand, where I am attending the first ever International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration. As many of you know, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a distinct, very drinkable, usually unoaked white wine that has been recognised all over the world for its uniqueness. It has for at least a decade now been the benchmark by which most producers measure their savvys, as the grape is fondly referred to downunder. I will write more about my trip to New Zealand in March when I get home.

I am not surprised that there a nine new wines on the Top 50 list this month. So much wine is sold in the last six weeks of every year that many new vintages always arrive about now. Some of the new vintages I tasted were better and some not so good, so wines join the list and others fall off. Anyway I am delighted to have found so many new great values at the LCBO this month.

The wines featured are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection which I select from wines on Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The discount period runs until February 28th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

A Dozen Best Value Wines

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014 Abruzzo Italy ($7.95 + 4 BAM) – 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.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2014, Central Valley, Chile ($10.95) New to the Top 50 – Probably the best value pinot in the LCBO. It has classic aromas and  is fresh on nose and palate. Lively red berry fruit and a long lingering finish make it very appealing.

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2014 Cono Sur Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose Montecillo Crianza 2010

Cono Sur Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose, Bio Bio Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $13.95) New to the Top 50 – This is my pink bubbly Valentines pick. It is a fawn pink sparkling rose made from pinot noir brimming with aromas and has a delicate creamy dry palate. Very good length with long lasting fine bubbles. Chill well and enjoy on its own.

Montecillo Crianza 2010 Rioja Spain ($12.45 was $14.95) New to the Top 50 – With its gorgeous classy red label this is consistently a great, easy-to-drink, food balanced red that is traditionally styled. Very good length. Try with a lamb or pork casserole.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2014, Swartland, South Africa ($13.95 was $14.95) New to the Top 50, VINTAGES Essentials – Already huge value so even better at $1 off. This is a lively savoury red brimming with fruit yet balanced with some elegance. Try with smoked or grilled meats.

Cave Spring Cabernet Merlot 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($14.95 was $15.95) New to the Top 50 – This is an excellent vintage for this midweight well balanced red with some elegance. This comes from the fine acid balance not often found in such an inexpensive wine.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2014 Cave Spring Cabernet Merlot 2013 Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009, Douro Valley, Portugal ($16.95) New to the Top 50 – A beautiful fragrant quite fresh LBV that’s full-bodied, velvety smooth and finely balanced with the alcohol well tamed and integrated. Enjoy on its own or with dark chocolate and nuts.

Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Santa Ynez Valley, California USA ($16.90 was $19.90) – Lots of depth, flavour and complexity for a wine at this price; a good deal normally it’s now stunning value at $3 off. Elegant and well balanced. Try with roast beef.

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012 Victoria Australia ($8.75 was $14.95) Delisted – A soft, elegant, cool climate chardonnay with only a hint of oak. It’s midweight and finely balanced. Try with sautéed seafood. Stores are running out quickly.

Stoneleigh Chardonnay 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand ($9.95 was $15.45) New to the Top 50, Delisted – I am saddened to see this delisted since it is a very fine, well balanced, delicious chardonnay with just a touch of oak and lots of aroma and flavour. Under 1000 bottles left, so hurry before they are all gone.

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012Stoneleigh Chardonnay 2014Chateau D' Eternes Saumur Brut Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava

Chateau d’Eternes Saumur Brut, Loire Valley France ($14.95) New to the Top 50 – This is a very classy sparkling wine at a great price that is made using the traditional method from chenin blanc and chardonnay. A great aperitif but also a wine for pairing with delicate seafood dishes.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Spain ($13.95 was $14.95) New to the Top 50 – This batch of this non-vintage classy sparkling wine is especially good with its fresh nose, elegant delicate soft mousse and long lingering finish. Lots of flavour and super creamy texture. A great aperitif.

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

– On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

– Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

– Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. You can access the report any time and read more about it now.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 38 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. 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 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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


Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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

The Goode Report: Commonwealth Cousins – Canadian Wine in the UK Market

Dr. Jamie Goode’s Global View on Canadian Wines

Dr. Jamie Goode

Dr. Jamie Goode

So Canadian wines, how are you doing? Ready for the big time? The UK is one of the most crowded wine markets in the world. Because we don’t have a sizeable wine industry of our own (although: look out for English sparkling wine – it’s a thing!), we are open to wines from everywhere, and we drink a lot. It’s the sixth largest global market and 60% of adults (30 million people) drink wine. This makes the UK market an ideal testing ground. Do your wines really stack up on the global stage? Try selling them in the UK: if you can make it here, you can be reasonably confident that you are doing the right thing.

Until a couple of years ago, there were virtually no Canadian wines in the UK save for a few icewines. This is changing. Several producers have found a way into this hypercompetitive market, and some of them are doing very well. I quizzed a few buyers and importers to get a progress report.

The Wine Society is one of the UK’s best retailers. This not-for-profit society has 120,000 active members who join for life for a modest fee, and the pricing and selection is really impressive. They’ve listed the wines of Norman Hardie from Prince Edward County for a number of years. “The Norman Hardie wines I ship each year sell out in a single fine wine email,” says buyer Sarah Knowles. “I think they offer great value despite reasonably high prices, and clearly members love them.”

“What I find trickier is finding the Normans, who have stock, aren’t over-pricing their wines, and want to enter the UK,” Knowles continues. “To run a multi-wine Canadian offer I would need a number of various producers from BC and Ontario to give the offer authority and members choice.” Knowles says she often finds good Canadian wines but the problem is the pricing. “The winery could sell out in Canada at a higher price with the monopoly’s support.” But she’s actively looking for the right partners and hopes to run a larger Canadian fine wine offer this autumn.

David Gleave, managing director of Liberty Wines (one of the UK’s most prominent agencies) has had good success with the wines of Clos Jordanne and Thomas Bachelder. Gleave himself is Canadian, hailing from Toronto. “We’ve had very good success with our Canadian wines,” reports Gleave. “I said for most of my time in the wine business that I would never let whatever residual affection I have for my homeland get in the way of my commercial judgement, hence the reason why there were no Canadian wines on our list. But when I tasted the wines from Clos Jordanne, where Thomas was the first winemaker, I was very impressed. They took the view that they wanted to make good wines, and not just good Canadian wines. As a result, the wines competed well on the international market.” He continues, “Thomas has carried this conviction through to his own label, and is doing a very good job. Our sales of his wines almost doubled last year. 57% go to the on trade and 43% to the independent off trade, a very good mix for such esoteric wines.”

Collage from the Canada House tasting 2015

Marks & Spencer, one of the leading wine retailers, has also begun to explore Canadian wines. They’ve just listed a BC Pinot Noir, as winemaker/buyer Belinda Kleinig explains. “Dror Nativ [another M&S buyer] and I took a trip to the Okanagan Valley last December and visited a number of wineries. We were really impressed with the quality and style of Jak Meyer’s wines and knew we wanted to pursue a project with him. We worked together to compile a specific blend, including parcels from his single vineyard sites. Highlighting the wine’s Canadian origin on shelf was important to us, so we also worked closely with the Wines of British Columbia, who provided Jak with bottle neck towers.”

How has it sold? “We are really proud to have the Meyer Pinot Noir,” says Kleinig, “and our customers also seem interested by it—it’s selling really well, particularly considering its premium price point.” Kleinig is keen to develop Canada further in future, but notes that Canadian wine is expensive by the time it’s on the shelf in the UK. “However the quality potential is hugely exciting and we are committed to supporting Canadian wines,” she says.

But it’s not all success stories. One importer who has struggled is Ben Llewelyn of Carte Blanche, who for a while was the agent for the Pearl Morissette wines from François Morissette. “Commercially I found the wines hard to sell,” he says, “a classic example of everyone talking it up but with no actual traction with the consumer. We also encountered issues with shipping (we could only ship 120 of each cuvee before François had to pay heavy export taxes) so it meant we only had a tiny amount of what sold (Cabernet Franc) and too much of what did not (Riesling and Chardonnay).”

“Perhaps Canada needs to do more on the home market to prove the wines and find its stride before entering big time onto the export markets,” says Llewelyn. “All the wines I have tried are exciting and show huge potential, but punters will only accept one poor show before they lose interest.”

So, Canada. You are doing pretty well. There’s lots to be optimistic about, and a few things to improve. The trade barriers to imported wines may seem to be protecting Canadian producers, but their removal – far from spelling disaster for the fortunes of the producers – might be just what they need to prod them to become truly internationally competitive. “I judged Canada last year at Decanter [the Decanter World Wine Awards],” says Sarah Knowles. “The majority of wines were from BC and they really had a big hit and miss rate, which is a little worrying for the region.” So, things are going well, but the Canadization of the UK is not yet complete.

The Goode Report

Dr. Jamie Goode is the first international member of the WineAlign team, and one of our core judges for The National Wine Awards. He completed a PhD in plant biology and worked as a science editor before switching careers to wine writing. He’s a book author (The Science of Wine and Authentic Wine), writes a weekly wine column for a national newspaper (The Sunday Express), freelances for international magazines and blogs daily at, the site he founded in 1999 and one of the world’s most popular wine websites. A sought-after speaker and experienced wine judge, he has judged wine in the UK, South Africa, France, Australia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia. He tweets as @jamiegoode and is on Instagram as @drjamiegoode.

Catena MB Goode 1 ON_FEB

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Les bons choix de Marc – Février 2016

L’heure des quilles
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

C’était la semaine dernière. Je devais aller dans une SAQ Dépôt parce que je voulais acheter un baril de bière de 5 litres vendu exclusivement là-bas, pour agrémenter le party du samedi soir, après un tournoi de quilles avec des copains à Saint-Eustache. (Je sais, je sais, mais avec l’hiver qu’on a, les sports d’hiver sont devenus les sports divers, alors on fait ce qu’on peut.)

J’opte pour la « Dépôt » la plus près de chez moi, celle du Marché Central, à Montréal. J’arrive là, facile de stationner – déjà un bon point pour l’endroit. Une fois entré par contre, hmm, ça fait très entrepôt ; c’est voulu ainsi, je sais ça aussi, mais quand même….

Je me dirige vers la section Bières et j’aperçois de fait mon 5 litres, de la lager tchèque. Mais avant de le mettre dans le panier, je vérifie la date de péremption : mars 2016. C’est dans un mois. En principe elle est encore bonne, mais certainement pas de toute première fraîcheur. J’achète, j’achète pas ? Je regarde ce qu’il y a d’autre côté houblon : une IPA de Colombie-Britannique embouteillée en juillet dernier. Pas de date « meilleure avant ». Mais six mois de bouteille pour une IPA, c’est trop à mon goût. Je repère une autre bière, allemande de mémoire. Pas chère, même que c’en est louche. Un coup d’oeil sous la cannette : Best Before February 2015. Oh my god ! j’espère avoir mal lu.

Bon, faisons une croix sur la bière, et arpentons quelques allées, histoire de prendre le pouls des lieux. Après tout, je n’étais pas venu dans une SAQ Dépôt depuis l’ouverture de la première, voilà bien une bonne dizaine d’années.

Premier constat : difficile de s’y retrouver, de simples caisses grossièrement découpées en guise de présentoirs, les gros carrosses des clients qui gênent la circulation… Bref, après 10 minutes à zigzaguer, je prends mes cliques et mes claques et bonjour la visite. Sans avoir rien acheté. Je prendrai un carton de bières au dépanneur.

Sauf qu’il me faut aussi quelques quilles de vin, pour le party post-bowling. Arrêt donc, sur le chemin du retour, à la SAQ Beaubien, angle Saint-André.

Dieu merci !

Je monte à l’étage, où se trouvent en règle générale les meilleures bouteilles. Et là, tels deux phares, tels deux bouées lancées à ma rescousse, j’aperçois les deux Michel (Beauchamp et Lussier), conseillers en vin de la succursale.

Après une couple de salamalecs – mais je n’embrasse pas Beauchamp tant qu’il gardera sa barbe de prophète -, je me détends, l’énergie vitale recommence à circuler dans mes veines, je me sens en symbiose — enfin ! — avec mon environnement, je suis bel et bien en mode « amateur de vin » et non plus pris dans une spirale bêtement consommatrice et pécuniaire.

Moralité : au diable le « rabais escalier » des SAQ Dépôt et les 15 pour cent de rabais à l’achat d’une caisse de produits.

Je préfère payer le plein prix, et me sentir bien, bien entouré, dans un lieu en harmonie avec mon dada, ma passion.

Une sorte de feng shui, d’art de vivre, et affaire, aussi, d’atomes crochus.

L’expérience d’achat, discuter avec le conseiller, soupeser tel ou tel choix de bouteille, passer du temps à sillonner les allées remplies de beaux produits, croiser d’autres amateurs comme nous, piquer une jasette… ça n’a pas de prix !

P.-S. On me glisse à l’oreille que j’ai beau critiquer, ça marche très fort, les SAQ Dépôt. Tant mieux ! Grand bien leur fasse à tous. Ça n’en demeure pas moins du fast-food. Peut-être pas indigeste, c’est vrai, mais, selon mon expérience, en sortant de là t’as encore faim…

À boire, aubergiste !

Finalement, je suis reparti de l’antre des deux Mike avec diverses choses, et encore une fois j’ai trop dépensé…

Deux rouges sous capsule dévissable, d’abord, je n’apporte plus que cela quand je me rends quelque part pour un souper et que je n’ai pas envie de traîner avec moi de plan B, c’est-à-dire d’autres bouteilles au cas où il y en aurait de bouchonnées.

Au premier chef, le très bon The Wolftrap Syrah-Mourvèdre-Viognier 2014, d’Afrique du Sud : généreux, épicé, plutôt nerveux, à la composante boisée bien intégrée, pas trop appuyée. Belle fraîcheur ! À un peu moins de 17 $, un très bon rapport qualité-prix et le compagnon tout trouvé des viandes, grillées ou braisées.

Puis, du Rhône Nord, le Crozes-Hermitage Équinoxe 2014 : Beau nez engageant, très syrah, l’olive, le poivre. Saveurs à l’avenant, épicées, mi-corsées, rafraîchissantes. Longueur très correcte, par ailleurs, et une finale aux accents boisés et aussi, m’a-t-il semblé, un peu sucrés.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014 Equis Equinoxe Crozes Hermitage 2013 Château de Pennautier 2014 Planeta La Segreta 2014

Ensuite, parmi ce que j’ai goûté d’autres récemment et qui m’a semblé fort bon, il y a :

Château de Pennautier Cabardès 2014 — Les rouges de l’appellation cabardès participent de deux mondes : le Languedoc et le Bordelais, tel qu’en témoigne l’assemblage de ce Pennautier, composé de cabernet-sauvignon, de merlot, de syrah et de grenache. Un vin souple et fruité, tout en étant relativement corsé et enrobé. Caractère très digeste, facile à boire, et persistance plus qu’honnête. À environ 15 $, une très bonne affaire !

La Segreta Planeta Sicilia 2014 — Nez engageant de fruit mûr et d’épices, saveurs pas si riches ni corsées en bouche, assez tendues même, avec une bonne acidité sous-jacente, de la fraîcheur. À 17,30 $, un bon achat, qui sera polyvalent à table compte tenu des tannins par ailleurs plutôt aimables.

CAP Wine Pilheiros 2012 — Très bon rouge portugais du Douro, au boisé bien dosé quoique marqué, bien concentré par ailleurs, et avec une acidité relativement élevée, qui donne du tonus au vin. Finale légèrement capiteuse. (21 $)

Gardies Clos des Vignes 2012 — Un rouge du Roussillon au beau nez invitant, au fruité pur, et avec une pointe d’acidité volatile qui ne dépare pas le vin, au contraire. La bouche suit, pleine, corsée, concentrée, bien tendue, bien droite aussi, les saveurs sont bien dessinées. Se laisse boire avec plaisir, et pourrait tout aussi bien vieillir encore quelques années. (33,75 $)

Pilheiros Douro 2012 Domaine Gardiés Le Clos Des Vignes 2012 Jacques Tissot Arbois Chardonnay 2011 Innisfree Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Jacques Tissot Arbois Chardonnay 2011 : Ampleur, fraîcheur, à peine rancio et finement noisetté (si bien qu’à l’aveugle, pas sûr que j’aurais dit Jura). Tout à fait à point par ailleurs. (22,45 $)

Cabernet-Sauvignon Innisfree Napa Valley 2012 : Franchement bon, ce Cabernet de la Napa. Peu de poivron vert au nez (on est en Californie, tout de même), une belle matière en bouche, un boisé appuyé, c’est vrai, mais sans que cela n’engendre de déséquilibre ni n’assèche le vin. Prêt à boire, mais se conservera encore sans problème trois ou quatre ans. Bon rapport qualité-prix. (42 $)

Ça donne le goût d’aller le Golden State, où je serai d’ailleurs la semaine prochaine.

Bonnes dégustations !


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


Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Feb 6, 2016

In the Name of Love
By Sara d’Amato with wine notes from David Lawrason and John Szabo MS

Sara's New Pic Med

Sara d’Amato

‘Tis the month of love, loving, perhaps love-ins, whatever your brand of romance, we have a wine for you. From the city of love, Verona, to the escapist power of Hungarian Tokaji to the aromas of the wind-blown, sunny slopes of Provence – we have all of your romantic destinations covered. So save yourself the airfare and instead spend your precious Canadian dollars at home savoring faraway lands.

If daydreaming of lands afar doesn’t satisfy your cravings, be sure to take in our homegrown selections from Ontario and BC where plush, enveloping merlot and fleshy gewürztraminer are sure to tempt. More babies are born in the early fall than any other season reports Stats Canada, surely caused by our local selection of fragrant, fireside reds and spine-tingling whites best for blistering nights.

In the words of Latin America’s outspoken writer and activist Eduardo Galeano: “We are all mortal till the first kiss and the second glass of wine.” So transcend this mortal coil by indulging with those that matter most this Valentine’s week. We at WineAlign will be doing the same with our top picks from this most important release.

Buyer’s Guide to February 6th: Sparkling, White & Sweet

Taittinger Brut Champagne 2008

Lallier Grand Cru Rosé ChampagneLallier Grand Cru Rosé Champagne, Champagne, France ($58.95)
David Lawrason – This would be my pick to express the depth of your affection on Valentine’s Day. It is very classy, generous pink bubbly with all kinds of freshness, fine fruit, taut minerality and excellent length. It is sourced largely from estate-grown fruit in Grand Cru sites in the Champagne region. This small house was founded in 1903, but purchased by Francis Tribaut in 1984.

Taittinger 2008 Brut Champagne, Champagne, France ($97.95)
Sara d’Amato – Impressive wine has emerged from the rocky 2008 vintage in Champagne and this elegant, lightly matured example sets a high bar. This elegant and savory sparkler with a touch of creamy lees on the palate and a great deal of freshness would make for a cherished Valentine’s gift.

Domaine de Bellene 2013 Les Charmes Dessus Santenay, Burgundy, France ($35.95)
John Szabo – This is a lovely Santenay blanc from Nicolas Potel’s estate vineyards in the Les Charmes Dessus lieu-dit, crafted in the classic style. It’s flavourful but lean, very gently wood-inflected, spicy, savoury, and with a strong hit of umami, and tight enough to need another year or two in the cellar to fully express itself. Depth and complexity in the Burgundy category are exceptional for the price. Best 2017-2023.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Gewürztraminer, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – It is tough to produce a gewürztraminer with such fine balance and upbeat manner despite the characteristic fatness of the varietal. Compelling aromas of lime, ginger and tender blossom are followed by a lightly sweet, ethereal palate. Don’t underestimate the seductive power of a voluptuous gewürztraminer.
David Lawrason – The Okanagan Valley is rounding into shape as one of the world’s best gewurz regions – not unlike Alsace in aspect with a northerly latitude to preserve acidity, and vineyards that sit in a rain shadow creating plenty of warmth in the growing season. This National Wine Awards gold medalist is very intense and complex with all kinds of spice, lychee, lavender and spearmint. It’s medium-full bodied, off-dry yet very well balanced with great flavour focus. Chill fairly well.

Tiago Cabaço 2014 Premium White, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal ($14.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a tidy little value from southern Portugal, a fruity-floral, engagingly aromatic white blend free from oak, with light-weight palate and crunchy, saliva-inducing acids. This is all about the citrus and nectarine flavours, fresh sweet herbs and yellow flowers. Nicely crafted.

Domaine de Bellene Les Charmes Dessus Santenay 2013 Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2014 Tiago Cabaço Premium White 2014 Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015 Gróf Degenfeld Tokaji Szamorodni Sweet 2010

Ken Forrester 2015 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a bargain white – a well balanced, fairly smooth chenin that seems poised to age well. I have had vertical tastings of this wine going back over ten vintages and it becomes very complex. But that’s not to suggest you shouldn’t drink it now. It nicely expresses chenin pear/quince, honey, spicy and waxy aromas and flavours.

Gróf Degenfeld 2010 Tokaji Szamorodni Sweet, Hungary ($18.95)
John Szabo – A sweet but balanced and lively, unusually fresh szamorodni (most are purposely heavily oxidative in style), that would make a great restaurant by-the-glass pour (bottles last several weeks after opening). I enjoyed the pleasant quince, dried apple and pear fruit flavours, and the lingering finish, a fine value all in all. Best 2016-2022.

Buyer’s Guide to February 6th: Reds

Grandes Serres 2012 Rocca Luna, Beaumes de Venise, Rhône, France ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – One whiff of this utterly enchanting Beaumes de Venise from Grandes Serres will transport you to the fragrant, arid, sunny and rocky landscape of the southern Rhône.  Although the appellation of Beaumes de Venise is better known for its sweet muscat, it also produces some top notch reds of good value such as this typical blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre.

Monte del Frá Lena di Mezzo 2013 Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore, Veneto, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo – I find the entire ripasso category challenging, highly varied in style and quality, but Monte del Frà finds the right approach in my view, in this case a balanced and well crafted expression, without excesses of raisined or volatile fruit character, or obtrusive wood, and genuinely dry. It’s an attractively crisp and crunchy red, just with a little more bottom and back end than the (also very good) straight up Valpolicella from the same producer in this release. Best 2016-2023.

Grandes Serres Rocca Luna Beaumes De Venise 2012 Monte del Frá Lena di Mezzo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2013 Cenyth Red Blend 2010 Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2013

Cenyth 2010 Red Blend, Sonoma County, California, USA ($68.95)
Sara d’Amato – Of the Jackson Family of Wines portfolio, Cenyth is the first commercial winemaking project of Hélène Seillan, the daughter of revered Bordelaise winemaker Pierre Seillan. Having studied in France and raised in Bordeaux and Sonoma, her wine feels both traditional and edgy.  There is serious structure here, depth and an abundance of flavours yet to be unveiled. A collector’s find.

Boutari Naoussa 2013 Xinomavro, Naoussa, Greece ($13.95)
John Szabo – Still performing at the top end of the value ladder, I think I’ve recommended virtually every vintage of this reliable bottling from Boutari since I’ve been reporting on wine. The 2013 is another classic, full of dusty, savoury, herbal character, firm but not unyielding texture, and long, dried strawberry-tinged finish. This vintage is reminiscent of good Chianti Classic, for example, and hard to top for value in a flamboyantly old world style red. Best 2016-2023.

Viña Chocalán 2014 Reserva Syrah, Maipo Valley, Chile ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is the bargain New World red of the release pours very deep black purple syrah colour. Expect lifted, surprising complex syrah pepper, boysenberry, licorice, plus thyme and coffee grounds. It’s full bodied, dense, edgy and concentrated.

Viña Chocalán Reserva Syrah 2014 Quadrus Red 2010 Creekside Merlot 2013 Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Quadrus 2010 Red, Douro Valley, Portugal ($21.95)
David Lawrason – So many Douro reds show great value in their classic Euro way. This has a nicely lifted, intense nose of pomegranate-blueberry fruit with peppery, spicy and stony complexity. It’s medium-full bodied with classic Douro tension and granitic minerality. Excellent length. Just starting to mature – should live easily beyond 2020.

Creekside 2013 Merlot, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario, Canada ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – The 2013 vintage in Niagara saw growers scrambling to keep up with wild weather patterns and is generally considered a better year for cooler climate varietals such as riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir. However, winemaker Rob Power shows his experience by assembling a perfectly ripe merlot with great finesse.

Paul Hobbs 2012 Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California  ($49.95)
David Lawrason – This collectible/cellarable cabernet has more complexity and precision than I expected – in fact it has excellent structure within the New World genre, and it should age very well. Expect a lifted, quite fragrant floral nose with finely tuned cassis, mocha, meaty notes and a touch of mint. Within the rarefied air of premium California cabernets this one stands out for value.

For those looking to treat themselves to additional selections from the February 6th release, see Michael Godel’s recent piece regarding the changing face of South African wine where you’ll find an abundance of hedonistic options.


Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES February 6, 2016

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

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

Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon

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

British Columbia Critics’ Picks

by Treve Ring

Treve Ring

Treve Ring

In our January 20 Under $20 piece, I made the case against “dry January” and promoted drinking better wines instead. Unlike your resolution to hit the gym regularly, one way to keep up the positive momentum of the new year in a wine-wise way is to make a commitment to trying something new every month. Whether it’s a grape, region, style or producer, there is always something new to learn in this industry. Here are 12 wines to see you through 2016.

Of course I’m going to kick off with fizz. If you’re in the mood for Champagne, but haven’t a budget for it, try Italy’s best known metodo classico sparkling wine, Franciacorta. The Cavalleri Franciacorta Brut Blanc de Blancs utilizes chardonnay in the creation of a chiseled, finessed bubble.

From closer to home, The Hatch burst strong out of the gate last summer with wines and labels like Octobubble Brut Rosé. Crispy bright (swallowing up the 12 g/l RS), this brut rosé gamay from gloried Secrest Mountain Vineyard has spent twenty months on the lees and carries strawberry, cherry, red apple and meadow flowers though to the crisp and snappy finish.

In the same rosé hue, Codorníu Cuvée 1872 Barcelona rosé recalls traditional winemaking techniques in a tribute to the year that Josep Raventós crafted the first bottle of cava. Musts spend time in oak, amping up the body before spending nine months on the lees. Full notes of cherry, raspberry, red currant jam and brioche on a creamy, expansive palate.

Cavalleri Franciacorta Brut Blanc de Blancs The Hatch Octobubble Brut RoséCodorníu Cuvée 1872 Rosé Barcelona Binner Vignoble d’Ammerschwihr Riesling 2012Franc Arman Jano Malvasia 2012

Here’s a chance to taste pure, unadulterated Alsatian riesling, from a family who has been making wines from this terroir since 1770 (you have to trust they know what they’re doing). Naturally produced with no additives, the biodynamically farmed Binner Vignoble d’Ammerschwihr 2012 Riesling is with old vines from granitic slopes, vinified in large wooden barrels and left on the lees until bottling without fining or filtration. Stunner.

Franc Arman Jano Malvasia 2012 may well be a new wine experience on many levels for you: grape, region and style. Ample dried herbs, thyme, anise and meadow flowers stream through this malvasia istriana, a grape indigenous to the Istria Peninsula and a striking, light bodied but concentrated white that is a fantastic match to oysters or sashimi.

Haywire Switchback Wild Ferment Organic Vineyard 2014 BK Wines One Ball Chardonnay 2013Named in honour of the vineyard owner (yup), the striking upper altitude, organically farmed BK Keys One Ball Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay will cement Adelaide Hills in your mind for cool climate, concentrated and complexed Aussie wines.

One of the leading beacons of “natural wine” in Canada (watch for them at Raw London) is Haywire Winery, and Switchback Wild Ferment Organic Vineyard 2014 wine is an apt example: organically farmed, wild yeast, no additives (including sulphur). The pinot gris fermented and rested in an amphora on the skins for eight months before being pressed off and then left for two more months prior to bottling. The result is as pure an expression of site, and grape, that one could hope for.

Always a flag waving #GoGamayGo-er, I was pleased to come across Te Mata 2013 Gamay Noir, one of the rare New Zealand gamay on the market. There is less than 10 HA planted in the country, and this one has appeared on our shores. Seek out and snap it up for a youthful, juicy, quaffable red.

Fortunately we have more gamay here in BC, and wines like Samantha 2014 Gamay show the diversity in styles we produce. A deeper, more generous gamay, with ripe plum, black and red cherry and a plump cushion of strawberry jam are gently textured through time in concrete. Punchy acidity keeps this fresh and easy, while soft tannins and cinnamon spicing aid in gulpability.

Bodegas Ordonez Zerran 2011 Monsant is a savoury Montsant (Priorat’s neighbour) from mostly very old vine garnacha and mazuelo (aka carignan) with a splash of syrah. Big and concentrated, with dense black fruit, crushed stone, black flowers, kirsch, anise and cracked pepper covering a firm, muscular structure.

Vino Nobile de Montepulciano still struggles in Canada likely because drinkers confuse the label with the much simpler Montepulciano d ‘Abruzzo. Avignonesi 2011 Vino Nobile de Montepulciano comes from the vineyards surrounding the town of Montepulciano and is primarily from sangiovese (known locally as prugnolo gentile), blended with canaiolo nero and small amounts of other local varieties such as mammolo.

Te Mata Estate Gamay 2013 Samantha Gamay 2014 Bodegas Ordonez Zerran Monsant 2011 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 Fattoria di Magliano Heba Morellino di Scansano 2012

Another Sangiovese in disguise is Fattoria di Magliano 2012 Heba, from Morellino di Scansano DOCG, tucked in the Maremma region of coastal Tuscany. Here, sangiovese is expressed through dusty, worn leather, black cherry, black plum, wildflowers, and sweet, scrubby spices. Acidity is pomegranate bright while finely structured tannins carry quite the grip.


WineAlign in BC

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

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!

Gabbiano Chianti Classico

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

Welcome to South Africa’s Capelands

Text and photos by Michael Godel

Michael Godel

Michael Godel

Take Godello to a place that’s far away and it will fill him with words. With memories still thick as Bredasdorp pea soup, it is hard to believe it has already been four months since travelling to South Africa in September for Cape Wine 2015. The southern hemisphere’s three-day vinous congress of producers, winemakers, marketers, buyers, sellers, sommeliers and journalists is a matter of utter energy. That show plus an expansive, wayfaring winelands itinerary included encounters with Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa (PIWOSA), along with South Africa’s newest wine-procuring superstars, the Swartland Independents and the Zoo Biscuits.

South African wine is changing rapidly. Tastings, tours and fervent immersion into Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland and Hemel-En-Aarde acceded to that belief. With your finger randomly plunging onto a map of the world, direct it to land on South Africa and plan to pay her a visit. Time to unearth what revelations lurk.

On Saturday, February 6th, VINTAGES is running a feature on South African wines. Laid out in varietal by varietal terms, South Africa is deconstructed to articulate and accentuate what’s happening in today’s Western Cape and how it translates to markets around the world. I spent some time back in September with VINTAGES product manager Ann Patel in the Cape. Her picks have much to do with what she found, in excitement from “breaking boundaries and forging new ground with winemaking.” As consumers we should look forward to more chances taken in LCBO purchasing decisions, in varietals and from a more eclectic mix of wineries. Read on for my thoughts, or skip directly to the wines below.

Cape Wine 2015

I tasted hundreds of wines over three days at the bi-annual Cape Town event, along with dozens more in restaurants and at wineries in Stellenbosch, Swartland, Franschhoek and Constantia. Three of the more memorable culinary experiences happened at Open Door Restaurant located at Uitsig Wine Estate in Constantia, at Publik and the Chef’s Warehouse, both in Cape Town.

Cape Wine 2015


A visit to the Franschhoek Motor Museum at the Anthonij Rupert Wyne Estate rolled into a tasting of wines with Gareth Robertson, Sales and Marketing Manager at Anthonij Rupert Wines. Verticals were poured; Cape of Good Hope, Leopard’s Leap, La Motte and Optima L’Ormarins. Then the varietals of Anthonij Rupert Estate.

A full on PIWOSA experience at the Car Wine Boot hosted by Journey’s End Vineyards was nothing short of a wine-soaked, large object flinging, Stellenbosch hoedown throw down. A trip down astral memories being laid down lane in the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley is the hardest impression to lay down in words.

South African vineyards are surfeited by demi-century established chenin blanc bush vines, painted pell-mell with expatriate rootstock and varietal cuttings outside the Bordeaux and Burgundy box; nebbiolo, barbera, tinta barocca, albarino, riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, tempranillo and tannat. There isn’t a grape known to human kind that can’t complete a full phenolic journey. Grenache and cinsault on solo flights are producing exceptional wines.

Natural fermentation, skin contact and carbonic maceration have infiltrated the winemaker’s psyche. Fresh, natural, orange, amber, caliginous and tenebrous have established Cape footholds with enzymatic force. The act of passing off pinotage as Bordeaux has been abandoned and now, in the hands of both progressive and praetorian makers, finesse and elegance rule the day.

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains, Anthonij Rupert Wyne Estate

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains, Anthonij Rupert Wyne Estate

What separates South African vignerons from the rest of the world is a playground mentality and their confident executions in consummation of those ideals. The soils and the weather are nothing short of perfect in the vast growing region known as the Western Cape, or, as it is known in the local vernacular, the Cape Winelands. The mitigating effect of Cape winds helps  to eradicate vine disease. The place is a veritable garden of viticulture eden. Or, as in the case of the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley, a verdant, fertile valley known as “heaven on earth,” the adage takes on the paradisiacal guise of the sublime. South Africa exudes progress.

A certain kind of comparison presents South Africa as the wine equivalent of the wild west. In the Western Cape, anything goes. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.

And now for the wines…

In addition to the February 6th South African releases I’ve added some extra highlights. Some are available through their Ontario wine agents while others are not. At least not yet. There are many undiscovered South African wines that will soon be finding their way into our market.

Chenin Blanc

No discourse on new versus old in South Africa can be addressed without first looking at the modish dialectal of chenin blanc. The combination of bush and old vines, coupled with indigenous ferments and skin contact addresses has elevated the stalwart, signature grape to its current, hyper-intense reality.

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc Old Vine Reserve 2015, Stellenbosch – In VINTAGES, February 6th, 2016

Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape

Oldenberg Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2014, Stellenbosch

A. A. Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2015, Swartland

Beaumont Family Wines Hope Marguerite 2013, Bot River-Walker Bay

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015 Fleur Du Cap Unfiltered Chenin Blanc 2014 Oldenburg Chenin Blanc 2014 Secateurs Badenhorst Chenin Blanc 2015 Beaumont Family Wines Hope Marguerite 2013


Other Whites and Blends

The idea of appellative blends as a designated category is not necessarily so far off or fetched. Chenin blanc is most certainly the pillar and the rock with support ready, willing and applicable from clairette blanc, verdelho, chardonnay, viognier, gewürztraminer, semillon, roussane, marsanne, grenache blanc and colombard. Riesling does play a bit part in the white idiomatic presentation of South African wine. With the emergence of Elgin as a cool climate growing area capable of expertly ripening both aromatic and aerified varieties, the future will crystallize with more riesling, gewürztraminer and offshoot concepts.

What obscure or less heralded white grape variety would you like to play with? Ask the Cape winemaker that question and he or she might keep you awhile. The rules again need not apply. Spin the wheel and work your magic. Odds are even that a handful of least employed Châteauneuf and/or Gemischter Satz multi-varietal styled blends will show up at a Cape Wine sometime soon.

Avondale Wines Jonty’s Ducks Pekin White 2014, Paarl – In VINTAGES, February 6th, 2016

Cederberg Bukettraube 2014, Cederberg Mountains

Kleinood Farm Tamboerskloof Viognier 2015, Stellenbosch

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Chenin Blanc-Sémillon 2014, Western Cape

La Vierge Original Sin Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2014, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Avondale Jonty's Ducks Pekin White 2014 Cederberg Bukettraube 2014 Kleinood Farm Tamboerskloof Viognier 2015 Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bushvine Chenin Blanc Semillon 2014 La Vierge Original Sin Sauvignon Blanc 2015Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2014



As the understanding of cool-climate locales dotting the landscape continues to develop, so too does the Sparkling wine oeuvre. The association that determines the authenticity of Méthode Cap Classique is more than just a marketing strategy and a copy of Méthode Champenoise. It is a distinctly South African program, established in 1992. Rules dictate a minimum of 12 months on the lees and post disgorgement, further maturation under cork. Winemakers are free to play with beyond those simple parameters. That is the South African way. Stand together and act alone.

Graham Beck Brut Rosé, Méthode Cap Classique, Western Cape – In VINTAGES, February 6th, 2016

Thelema Mountain Blanc de Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2012, Stellenbosch

Boschendal Cap Classique Grand Cuvée Brut 2009, Stellenbosch

Graham Beck Brut Rosé Thelema Mountain Blanc De Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2012Boschendal Cap Classique Grand Cuvée Brut 2009



There was a time when all South African Rhône varietal wines needed to be compared to the mother land and many continue to encourage the adage “you can take the varieties out of the Rhône but you can’t take the Rhône out of the varieties.” The modern cinsault maker has turned expatriate exploits on its axiomatic head. You’ve not likely had your way with these versions of cinsault and like me, once you have, you may never go back.

The Winery of Good Hope Radford Dale Cinsault ‘Thirst’ 2015, Stellenbosch

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam Cinsault 2015, Darling

The Winery Of Good Hope Radford Dale CinsaultAlheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam Days Of Yore



The globe trekking grape has been backed into a corner, with blood primarily spilled at the hands of big box Australian producers but some blame has also circulated South Africa’s way. Heavy petting, elevated heat and alcohol, street tar and vulcanized rubber have combined in resolute, culprit fashion to maim the great variety. As with cinsault, but in an entirely more mainstream way, the fortunes of syrah are wafting in the winds of change. Natural fermentations, some carbonic maceration and especially prudent picking from essential syrah sites are turning the jammy heavy into the genteel and dignified wine it needs to be.

Nederburg Manor House Shiraz 2013, Coastal Region – In VINTAGES, February 6th, 2016

Journey’s End Syrah ‘The Griffin’ 2012, Stellenbosch

Mullineux & Leeu Syrah 2011, Swartland

Radford Dale Nudity 2014, Voor-Paardeberg

Porseleinberg Syrah 2013, Swartland

Nederburg Manor House Shiraz 2013 Journey's End The Griffin Shiraz 2012 Mullineux Syrah 2011 Radford Dale Nudity 2014 Porseleinberg Syrah 2013


Pinot Noir

The future for pinot noir is bright beyond the pale, with certain exceptional growing sites producing varietal fruit so pure and of ripe phenolics as profound as anywhere on the planet. A few producers have found their way. More will follow and when they do, South Africa will begin to tear away at the market share enjoyed by the likes of New Zealand and California.

Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2014, Hemel En Aarde Valley

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2014, Hemel En Aarde Valley

J H Meyer Cradock Peak Pinot Noir 2014, Outeniqua

Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2014 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2014 J H Meyer Cradock Peak Pinot Noir 2014


For so long we ignorant, pathetic and far away people knew not from pinotage. We imagined its machinations through, by way of and expressed like espresso, forced and pressed with nothing but wood in mind. That the grape variety could have a personality bright and friendly was something we had no reference from which to begin. A visit to the Cape Winelands re-charts the compass and the rebirth is nothing short of born again oenophilia. The new pinotage may be what it once was but it is also what it can never be again.

Cathedral Cellar Pinotage 2013, Coastal Region – in VINTAGES, February 6, 2016

Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Pinotage 2014, Western Cape

David and Nadia Sadie Wines Paardebosch Pinotage 2014, Swartland

Cathedral Cellar Pinotage 2013 Fleur Du Cap Unfiltered Pinotage 2014 David And Nadia Sadie Wines Paardebosch Pinotage 2014


Other Red and Blends

The sky is the limit for what can be attempted and achieved with the varietal kitchen sink of availability. In consideration that any red variety can scour the Cape Winelands in a journeyed search for phenolic ripeness, a prudent pick, ferment (or co-ferment) will certainly, invariably conjoin towards assemblage nirvana. Rhône styling is most often mimicked, from both north and south but OZ indicators and even California flower child prodigies are both seen and heard. Common today is the exploratory cuvée of recherché to examine the diversity of mature dryland bushvines out of vineyards dotting the Western Cape. There is no tried and true in this outpost of red democracy. In the case of Cape wine, anarchy rules and there is really nothing wrong with that.

Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Western Cape – in VINTAGES, February 6, 2016

Rustenberg R.M. Nicholson 2013, Stellenbosch – in VINTAGES, February 6, 2016

Rupert & Rothschild Classique 2012, Western Cape – in VINTAGES, February 6, 2016

Grand Vin de Glenelly Red 2009, Stellenbosch

Ken Forrester Renegade 2011, Stellenbosch

Savage Wines Red 2014, Western Cape

Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2013 Rupert & Rothschild Classique 2012 Grand Vin de Glenelly Red 2009 Ken Forrester Renegade 2011 Savage Wines Red 2014

At the lead there is Wines of South Africa, headed by Michael Jordaan and Siobhan Thompson, chair and CEO, respectively. André Morgenthal and Laurel Keenan head up communications, marketing, events and PR for WOSA, in South Africa and in Canada. The show and the excursions around the Cape Winelands were made possible by their collective efforts. Their immense efforts and impeccable work can’t ever be overestimated.

The act of intense immersion into any important wine-producing nation and its diverse regional expressions can only leave a lasting impression if the follow-up takes a long, cool sip of its meaning. Though just the embarkation point of what I am planning for a life-lasting fascination with South African wine, the wines tasted, people met and places seen were collectively just the beginning.

Good to go!

Michael Godel

From VINTAGES February 6, 2016

Signature South Africa



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

Le bio, des salons à la maison

Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia

Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

Millésime Bio, le plus important salon de vin biologique au monde, se déroulait cette semaine à Montpellier, dans le sud de la France. Ce weekend, ce sera au tour de la Loire d’accueillir pas moins de cinq salons, tous dédiés aux vins naturels.

Selon des données recueillies par Eurostat, l’Espagne, la France et l’Italie seraient la source d’un peu moins des trois quarts de la production mondiale de vins biologiques. Le vignoble d’Espagne sort grand vainqueur en matière de conversion, la superficie du vignoble espagnol cultivé de manière biologique ayant fait un bond spectaculaire de 2002 à 2011, passant de 16 000 hectares (ha) à près de 80 000 ha. Pendant cette même période, la portion du vignoble français en agriculture biologique 15 000 ha à 61 000 ha, un peu devant l’Italie, qui se situe à 53 000 ha.

Souvent montrée du doigt pour son impact néfaste sur l’environnement, la filière viticole européenne avait tout lieu de repenser la gestion de ses matières premières : la vigne et les sols. Depuis l’avènement des désherbants, à la fin des années 1950, puis des pesticides, fongicides et engrais chimiques, la vie microbienne des sols a été complètement sacrifiée dans plusieurs régions européennes.

Ce n’est pas un hasard si, conscients des dérives qui les guettaient, plusieurs vignerons d’appellations prestigieuses ont converti leur domaine à l’agriculture biologique ou à la biodynamie, système de production agricole qui vise à « conjuguer les éléments de la terre et du ciel, au lien qui unit la nature du sol et le climat ».

Parmi les vignerons plus célèbres, citons les Bourguignons Dominique Lafon, la regrettée Anne-Claude Leflaive, Lalou Bize-Leroy et Aubert de Villaine – tous deux co-propriétaires du Domaine de la Romanée Conti – et le Ligérien Nicolas Joly. Même Bordeaux commence à se convertir. Alfred Tesseron, qui avait « tracé la voie » dès 2005 au Château Pontet-Canet, a été rejoint l’année dernière par un autre illustre domaine de Pauillac, Château Latour, qui a annoncé ses intentions de convertir l’ensemble du vignoble de L’Enclos à l’agriculture biologique, puis biodynamique.

Ces vins, qu’ils soient biologiques ou issus de la biodynamie, sont-ils meilleurs pour autant ? Pas toujours. Je dirais seulement que derrière un vin qui me fait vibrer, parce que plus singulier que la moyenne et empreint d’un caractère affirmé, je découvre souvent une vigneronne ou un vigneron rigoureux, qui a à cœur la santé de ses vignes et de ses sols et qui pratique une agriculture respectueuse de l’environnement.

En voici une dizaine de beaux exemples, tous disponibles – sauf un – à la SAQ.

Douce, douce Loire 

Les vins de Cour-Cheverny – une minuscule appellation qui s’étend à peine sur 50 hectares au nord-est de la Touraine – ne sont pas légion à la SAQ. Les inconditionnels du cépage romorantin peuvent donc se réjouir de l’arrivée sur le marché en fin d’année 2015 de l’excellent Cour-Cheverny 2009, François Ier. Issu de l’agriculture biologique, le 2009 est très sec, presque tannique tant l’acidité joue un rôle structurant et joliment parfumé. Impeccable ! (24,70 $)

Au Clos de la Briderie, l’agriculture biologique est plutôt mise au service des cépages côt, cabernet franc et gamay noir. Pour le prix, le Touraine-Mesland 2013 s’avère un très bon vin rouge, guilleret et suffisamment charnu. Ne serait-ce que pour sa constance, il mérite une mention spéciale. (18,60 $)

Si vous aimez le pinot noir dans son expression la plus fraîche et septentrionale, vous serez vite séduit le Menetou-Salon 2013 de Philippe Gilbert. Ancien dramaturge, il a repris le domaine familial en 1998 et l’a ensuite converti à la culture biologique, puis biodynamique. (29,65 $)

Domaine Des Huards François 1er 2009 Clos De La Briderie Rouge 2013 Domaine Philippe Gilbert Menetou Salon 2013 Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray 2014 Domaine de l'Ecu Granite 2013

À l’opposé des chenins opulents produits dans le vignoble d’Anjou, Vincent Carême signe des vins ultra-secs et d’une pureté exemplaire, qui misent davantage sur la structure et sur la garde que sur le plaisir fruité facile et immédiat. Son Vouvray sec 2014 présente une acidité mordante qui déstabilisera peut-être les palais non initiés à un chenin blanc si pur, dépourvu d’artifice. Vibrant, complexe et apte à se bonifier d’ici 2020. (26,10 $)

Maintenant essentiellement géré par son associé, Frédéric Niger Van Herck, le Domaine de l’Écu demeure une des références du Muscadet. Évoluant à contre-courant, Guy Bossard a converti le domaine familial à l’agriculture biologique dès 1975, puis à la biodynamie en 1997. Si le muscadet vous laisse souvent sur votre soif, il vous faut goûter l’Expression de Granite 2013, qui donne tout son sens au terme minéralité. (22,30 $)

Accents du sud 

Château Coupe Roses Les Plots 2014 Le Loup Blanc Le Regal Minervois 2013 Domaine De L'ancienne Cure Jour De Fruit Bergerac Sec 2014À Bergerac, le Domaine de L’ancienne Cure, produit un très bon vin blanc sec essentiellement composé de sauvignon blanc, arrondi par une proportion notable (30 %) de sémillon. Très sec et doté d’une tenue en bouche appréciable, le Jour de Fruit 2014 est juste assez parfumé et étonnamment original, pour un sauvignon. À ce prix, on achète sans hésiter. (17,10 $)

Le vignoble des Montréalais Alain Rochard et Laurent Farre est certifié biologique depuis 2007. Les vins de leur Vignoble du Loup Blanc, à Minervois offrent généralement un bon rapport qualité-prix-plaisir. C’est le cas de la cuvée Le Régal 2013, généreux, mais doté d’une agréable fraîcheur aromatique. (19,85 $)

Toujours à Minervois, la cuvée Les Plots 2014 du Château Coupe Roses mérite une excellente note, ne serait-ce que pour sa constance au fil des ans. Solide, charnu et gourmand, le 2014 déploie en bouche des couches de saveurs de fruits et d’herbes séchées qui rappelle la garrigue environnante. (21,45 $)

Du bout du monde, jusqu’ici

Négondos Saint Vincent 2013 Tetramythos Kalavryta 2014 Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2014Chaque année, ce vin issu de l’agriculture biologique gagne en précision. Plutôt que de miser sur la puissance, Cono Sur a fait le pari de la vitalité pour son Cabernet sauvignon – Carmenère, Organic. Une bonne idée, surtout dans une année plus chaude, comme l’a été 2014. Impeccable pour le prix! (16,45 $)

Tout aussi abordable, mais dans un style complètement différent, le Noir de Kalavryta 2014 du Domaine Tetramythos, dans le Péloponnèse, a presque des allures de gamay du nord du Beaujolais, avec ses saveurs fruitées pures et ses accents poivrés. Un régal! (16,60 $)

Enfin, comment ne pas souligner encore une fois la qualité du Saint-Vincent 2013, un vin blanc sec absolument savoureux, produit dans les Basses-Laurentides au Vignoble des Négondos, premier domaine biologique à avoir vu le jour au Québec. (En vente à la propriété; 17 $)


Nadia Fournier

Agrobiologique / Biodynamiques

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

Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Feb 6, 2016

To Taste or Not To Taste; Beautiful Southern France
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Controversy is currently swirling around Ontario’s own appellation system, regulated by the Vintners Quality Alliance, or the VQA to you and me. A growing number within the industry believe that it’s time to do away with, or at least modify, the sensory – i.e. tasting – evaluation, which all VQA-aspiring wines must pass to earn the VQA designation. Does the VQA’s current definition of “free of faults and defects”, and “character and typicity of the stated wine category or grape variety”, match the reality of the ever-evolving wine world? Is the acceptable style range too narrow, stifling innovation, creativity, and, paradoxically, suppressing the potential quality of locally grown wines? I share some thoughts on the matter, and would love to hear yours.

If you’re more interested in the excellent and surprising wines from Southern France featured in the February 6th VINTAGES release, skip directly to the top smart buys. Next week, the Buyers’ Guide will highlight all of the WineAlign crü’s top picks from February 6th, while Michael Godel will publish a lyrical piece on developments in South Africa (the mini-theme from the release), along with currently available smart buys from this excellent source of value wines.

Op Ed: To Taste, or Not to Taste?

Last month I sat down with Vintners Quality Alliance executive director Laurie MacDonald, winemakers Norman Hardie and Jonas Newman, and wine industry veterans Will Predhomme and Peter Boyd, to discuss the state of the Ontario wine industry, and specifically the role of the Vintners Quality Alliance tasting panel. The VQA is Ontario’s appellation authority, which guarantees provenance, and regulates production, authorized grapes, and labeling. Additionally, all wines hoping for the VQA seal are put through a rigorous blind tasting to evaluate quality and varietal character before earning a pass.

Hardie had called the meeting to raise some concerns about the future of the industry, leveraging recent comments by respected British critic Jancis Robinson, who wrote after a tasting last May in London that, although there were some notable highlights, “several Chardonnays had that slightly formulaic pineapple-chunk quality that I more readily associate with the 1980s and early 1990s than with this century…”

Although Hardie agrees that the tasting panel has played an important role in raising the overall quality of Ontario wines during the past quarter century, protecting their fragile reputation in the beginning, he, along with a growing number of winemakers, contend that the tasting panel is forcing uniformity and standardization on Ontario wines, but not in the positive sense, and preventing innovation and evolution. Although the lows are screened out, so are the highs, which lie outside of the mainstream, a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Hardie’s own 2008 County Chardonnay failed the VQA tasting panel after multiple submissions for a technical fault – excessive sulphides (aka reduction, or flintiness) – despite strong demand from Ontario restaurants, and critical claim at home and abroad. (It was eventually narrowly passed by an appeals panel). Other high-profile failures in the past include Pearl-Morissette’s ‘Black Ball’ Riesling, deemed atypical and oxidized, though it, too, has garnered somewhat of a cultish following in Toronto sommelier circles.

The Benefits of VQA Designation

VQA Logo Leaf B_G BorderNone of this would matter much if obtaining VQA designation weren’t so critical to the financial success of a business. Wines without VQA status (but still 100% grown and produced in Ontario) are forcibly sold at far slimmer margins, under government laws, while VQA-approved wines enjoy significantly enhanced profit margins.

For example, according to a pricing calculator provided by Duncan Gibson, Director of Finance for the Wine Council of Ontario, from a $19.95 bottle of VQA wine sold directly to a restaurant, the winery retains $14.38. The same bottle of wine without VQA designation, sold to the same restaurant at the same price, earns the winery just $9.64, a 33% reduction in profits. Furthermore, non-VQA wines are effectively excluded from the LCBO’s retail distribution network, which leaves only cellar door or licensee-direct sales opportunities. The difference, especially for small wineries, is quite literally the life or death of the business.

As Norm Hardie puts it: “The economic pressure to pass [the VQA tasting panel] is enormous. Winemakers are encouraged to aim inside the box and not to shoot for potential greatness outside of the box, for fear of failure. Without the VQA sticker it is practically impossible for a winery to stay to economically viable.”

Eliminate the margin double standard and the problem is resolved – the panel could carry on maintaining the same standards for VQA wines, while other wineries would be free to pursue their own quality vision for Ontario wines without risking profitability, under some generic appellation designation. The aim of the financial incentive was, logically, to support the nascent Ontario industry, and encourage production of wines that met with VQA approval. But now, it has become a hindrance to further development. As I understand from MacDonald, however, quashing it would require a major government mobilization and take years to push through.

The Panel Process

The VQA hires the LCBO to facilitate the tasting panel process: trained LCBO product consultants taste groups of submitted wines blind at the LCBO laboratory, applying a set of rigid quality standards, established by the VQA. Arbitrary standards are set for acceptable levels, of, for example, volatile acidity, oxidation, sulphides, lack of fruit, and unclean aromas and flavours. And it’s a very tightly run ship. Guidelines, and the results and approval rates, are consistent. That’s not the issue. The real issue is the guidelines themselves.

So the question remains: is the VQA tasting panel’s definition of wine too restrictive? Does upholding minimum quality and style standards come at the expense of stifling experimentation and industry development?

Many, including winemakers and wine buyers, feel that rather than ensure quality, the restrictive mandate of the panel instead now shackles the industry within a very narrow band of acceptable wine styles. Is it time then to eliminate the panel, or at least broaden its definition of acceptable, and allow companies the scope and latitude to follow their own vision of quality?

Such a move would simply recognize the reality that the world wine industry has changed radically in the last decade, and that the thresholds of acceptance of certain aspects of wine, such as volatile acidity, turbidity, oxidation, and brettanomyces, to name just a few, are in constant flux, and change from region to region, country to country, sommelier to sommelier, wine writer to wine writer.

Never has this been more clear than in the last half-dozen years, which have witnessed the rise of ‘counter-culture’ or ‘natural’ wines. A growing cadre of winemakers around the world have begun to reject the limiting definition of ‘quality wine’ that was spawned by numerous wine making schools around the world, obsessed with uniform, standard, technical perfection. They’ve embarked on new trails of experimentation, which in many instances have been the re-discovery of old, pre-industrial trails. And sommeliers, critics and consumers are demanding such wines, viewed as unique and artisanal, reflective of their origins, not a recipe. Who’s to say what’s truly good or bad, authentic or contrived? Everyone has an opinion, but no one has an answer. That’s because there is no single answer.

Skin macerated white wines are a good case in point. Although “orange” wines have become exceedingly popular in bellwether markets like London, New York, Tokyo and San Francisco, such wines currently fall outside of VQA tasting norms and would not be approved. A dossier is currently being drawn up to define skin-macerated white wines in VQA-acceptable terms – I was part of a recent tasting with Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble and a large gathering of professionals to attempt to assess just what the taste/style parameters should be for skin contact whites. But the discussion struck me as doomed from the beginning. Any effort to define necessarily excludes, and I wouldn’t want to be shouldered with the responsibility of defining an entire wine category. Yet that is exactly what the VQA, and the tasting panel it oversees, is expected to do: grapple with the slippery notion of typicity, and box in the notoriously flexible edges of faults and defects.

Ontario would not be alone in implementing change. Australia has eliminated the tasting panel requirement for export approval, faced with the embarrassing reality that certain wines, for which importers were clamoring around the world, had been denied an export certificate based on an arbitrary definition of what’s good. South Africa, too, has overhauled its tastings, adding categories that wholly embrace natural wines. Other countries like the United States never established tasting panels in the first place, opting instead to control origin and labeling only, and let the market decide what is good, as should be the case in any free market economy.

(It’s worth noting, as a side bar, that there is a growing number of imported wines that fail the LCBO or SAQ laboratory tests due to high levels of Volatile Acidity, for example, as determined by arbitrary limits. With enough insistence, however, agents have been able to secure the release of these wines, pre-sold in many cases to an eagerly awaiting market, with the caveat that returns will not be accepted. The point is that there is a market for ‘alternative’ wines. Ontario wineries have no recourse for such a release, if they want the VQA seal of approval and financial benefits.)

The role of the VQA should be first and foremost, like all appellation bodies, to regulate origin and to ensure that wines are safe for public consumption – a mandatory chemical analysis is already provided by the excellent LCBO laboratory for all wines sold in Ontario. Beyond that, in a young region, growing dozens of permitted grape varieties, and with no traditional, established winemaking techniques, how is it possible to determine varietal typicity and intrinsic quality?

Even in Europe, with its long-established history of wine production and traditional wine styles, the regional appellation model is cracking at the seams – many of the rules that were put in place originally often enshrined substandard practices, and top producers are struggling to get out.

It’s true that abolishing the tasting panel would open the door for ‘poor quality’ wines to reach the market under the VQA seal. But the reality is that this is already happening. The rejection rate is extremely low – (on average around 3% of submissions, according to the VQA; the panelists are aware of the economic impact of a rejection). The question is, how many more great wines would be made, how many more ground-breaking wines, how many more successful experimental wines would emerge if winemakers weren’t burdened with the knowledge that a wine must fit into a tidy little box in order to gain VQA approval. I think the risks are worth it. As Hardie states: “An ocean of one-dimensional wines is more damaging than one filled with exciting wines of character, mixed with a few oddball wines on the sidelines.”

And in the end, determining good from bad should be entirely up to you, the consumer. I’d love to hear your comments on the matter – please drop us a line in the comments section below.

Smart Buys from Southern France 

VINTAGES surprises with the February 6th feature on southern France, listing a range of decidedly edgy, out of the box, and notably premium-priced selections. This is anything but a ‘safe’ selection of predictable but dull, widely appealing, commercial wines. Rather, the lineup includes a number of bold and intense, characterful wines, the kind that may polarize the room, but at least force you to take notice. It was refreshing to taste through the releases.

My top value for money is the Cave de Roquebrun 2013 La Grange Des Combes, Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun ($18.95). What a distinctive blend of 50% syrah, with grenache and mourvèdre! It’s rare to find sub-$20 wines with this much character, class and complexity, balance and concentration, grown on the poor schist soils of Roquebrun in northern St. Chinian (Langedoc). This is all cold cream, black pepper, smoke and tar, dried garrigue and much more, over dense dark fruit, aged in stainless steel. Chapeau bas, I’d say, best 2016-2025.

Cave De Roquebrun La Grange Des Combes 2013 Château Pech Redon L'épervier La Clape 2012 Domaine Houchart 2013

Slightly more edgy and bold is the Château Pech-Redon 2012 L’épervier La Clape, Coteaux du Languedoc ($24.95), a stylish, modern, very ripe and wood-inflected red blend (syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and carignan), flirting with volatility (acetic and acetone), and with dense and firm tannic structure. This has impressive depth of flavour and complexity, not to mention length. Palate-warming alcohol (14.5% declared) drives the finish home on wintry nights. Best 2016-2022.

Although Provençal wine production, and exports, are overwhelmingly pink, the region is home to supremely savoury red wines, like the fine value Domaine Houchart 2013 Red, Côtes de Provence ($16.95). This is a typical blend of grenache, cabernet sauvignon, carignan and syrah from near Aix-en-Provence, but somewhere between Bordeaux and the southern Rhône in style. Garrigue and fresh black fruit flavours mingle comfortably, offering above-average complexity, and lively, food-friendly acids. I’d serve this with a chill alongside pâtés, charcuterie and tomato-based sauces. Best 2016-2021.

But if rosé it must be (and it should be enjoyed outside the summer months), pick up former rugby star Gérard Bertand’s 2014 Côte des Roses Rosé, Languedoc ($18.95). It’s a lovely, classic southern French rosé blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah crafted in the Provençal style, which is to say, pale, delicate, fruity and bone dry, a sheer pleasure to sip and showing beautifully right now. The stylish package will make an impression on Valentine’s Day, too.

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012 Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet 2014

Although not technically part of the thematic but grown in southern France just the same, the top red in the genre is hands-down the exceptional Château La Nerthe 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($49.95). 2012 provided for a rich and heady, ripe but balanced vintage, made from nearly equal parts Grenache and Syrah, with 14% Mourvèdre and 5% Cinsault, aged two-thirds in barrel and one-third in foudre. It hits a pitch-perfect marriage of fruit, earth, and spice, as well as acid, tannin and alcohol, meaning that this should age exceedingly well, even if it’s already a joy to drink right now. Consider this an archetype from the modern end of the spectrum, best 2018-2028.

And finally, if you want to run the southern French theme all evening, start off with the fresh and engaging Beauvignac 2014 Picpoul de Pinet AP ($14.95). Picpoul from around the seaside town Pinet is considered the Muscadet of the Languedoc, and this is indeed a fruity and crunchy, aperitif-style white, or perfect accompaniment with the fish/seafood course.

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

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES February 6, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys: Southern France
All February 6th 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!

Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

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

20 vins à moins de 20 $ pour janvier 2016

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

C’est bien beau, les bouteilles coûteuses qui font vibrer d’émotion, mais au jour le jour, avec tous les autres comptes à payer par ailleurs, on a la plupart du temps envie de se faire plaisir avec de bons vins pas trop chers. Ça tombe bien ! À chaque fin de mois, nos chroniqueurs vous suggèrent 20 bonnes affaires à moins de 20 $ parmi les bouteilles qu’ils ont goûtées récemment. Santé !

Notre équipe du Québec : Bill, Marc, Nadia et Rémy


Les choix de Marc

Hmm, moins facile que d’habitude, trouver de bons vins à moins de 20 $ pour ma sélection mensuelle. Sûrement parce que j’ai goûté moins de nouveaux produits qu’à l’accoutumée ces dernières semaines, à cause des Fêtes, des congés, etc. Quand je ne me suis pas tout simplement efforcé de ne boire que de grosses bouteilles assez chères ! J’en ai tout de même identifié cinq qui m’ont paru très recommandables, et que voici :

Louis Roche Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 : Un très bon aligoté, à la fois concentré et nerveux, avec une légère note fumée en finale. Léger (12 % d’alcool) et sec, moins de 2 g de résiduel, dieu que ça fait du bien…

Newen Malbec Reservado 2015 : Un rouge argentin costaud et enrobé, la concentration est notable, l’empreinte boisée aussi, mais l’acidité est également là, qui tonifie le vin et lui donne de l’allant. Une réussite signée Bodegas Del Fin del Mundo et supervisée par les bons soins de Michel Rolland, le célèbre consultant bordelais.

Louis Roche Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 Newen Malbec Reservado 2015 Castillo de Almansa 2009 Blason de Bourgogne Chardonnay Mâcon Villages 2014 Codorníu Selección Raventós Brut Cava

Castillo de Almansa 2009 : Très bon rouge espagnol de la région Castilla la Mancha, corsé et généreux, et doté d’un très bon fruit. Le vin a vu le bois, c’est certain, mais rien de vanillé ni d’outrancier ici, même qu’on note une belle fraîcheur et même une certaine élégance.

Blason de Bourgogne Chardonnay Mâcon-Villages 2014 : À 16,95 $, un bourgogne blanc très recommandable, à la fois assez riche et assez nerveux, avec une bonne acidité.

Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Brut Cava : L’un des bons mousseux espagnols disponibles sur le marché, à la fois goûteux et bien relevé, juste assez acidulé.

Les choix de Rémy : Commencer l’année du bon pied 

Après les fêtes de fin d’année, la très haute saison pour les ventes de vin, on regarde souvent les rayons de la SAQ avec un peu moins d’attention, une fois janvier venu.

Pourtant, il y a encore de belles trouvailles à faire parmi les nouveaux arrivages, comme ce Fuenteseca, un joli blanc de macabeu et de sauvignon blanc venu de la région d’Utiel-Requena, en Espagne. Frais, sympathique, et… en bas de 13$. Belle combinaison.

En rouge, je n’avais jamais goûté le Quinta das Maias 2012, arrivé juste avant Noël. Un fichu beau rouge d’hiver, avec ce caractère énergique et équilibré qui caractérise si bien les meilleurs vins du Portugal. De la poigne et de la fraîcheur.

Fuenteseca Macabeo Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Quinta Das Maias Dâo 2012 Domaine La Montagnette 2014 Paul Jaboulet Les Traverses 2014 Nederburg Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Le Domaine La Montagnette n’est pas, pour sa part, une nouveauté en soi, mais des arrivages récents font qu’on trouve assez facilement encore du 2014, un peu partout au Québec. Profitez en, c’est un des rouges les plus satisfaisants au catalogue, à moins de 20$. J’en ai l’eau à la bouche, juste d’y repenser.

Parfois, ça vaut aussi la peine de jeter un nouveau coup d’œil à des producteurs qu’on connaît depuis longtemps. C’est ce que je me suis dit en goûtant le Ventoux Les Traverses 2014 de la maison Jaboulet, en tout cas, qui offre un très beau rapport qualité-prix (tout comme le Parallèle 45, un classique de la même maison qui a repris du punch, récemment, à mon avis).

Un petit dernier, pour la route? Si vous cherchez un cabernet bien fait, bien mûr, mais sans excès de sucre ou de boisé caricatural, l’Afrique du Sud a de quoi vous satisfaire, notamment avec la cuvée Manor House, de la maison Nederburg. Les classiques, parfois, ça a du bon, aussi.

Les choix de Bill

Rarement les aubaines sont-elles autant de mise qu’en janvier, après l’arrivée du relevé de décembre de la carte de crédit… Je vous emmène pour l’occasion faire le tour du monde. On commence en France, dans la Loire, avec l’excellent Sauvignon Blanc S de Sablette 2014, à moins de 12 $. Bien typé sauvignon sans exagération et plaisamment sec, contrairement à plusieurs de ses homologues sauvignons bon marché.

Autre grand cépage de la Loire, le chenin blanc. Difficile toutefois de révéler son plein potentiel en dehors de l’Anjou ; quoique l’Afrique du Sud lui réussisse très bien. Pour preuve, le Ken Forester Petit 2015, croquant à souhait tout en faisant preuve d’une certaine profondeur et d’une certaine complexité.

S de La Sablette Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2015 Montgras Antu Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2014 Domaine Laurent Martray Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2014 José Maria Da Fonseca J M F

On passe au rouge et au Chili, avec l’étonnant Antu Montgras 2014. Un assemblage de cabernet-sauvignon et de carmenère à la fois mûr et retenu. Maintenant, pour ceux qui veulent simplement siroter un bon rouge au coin du feu, ou pour accompagner le saumon, il y a le Brouilly Vieilles Vignes Laurent Martray 2014 : fruité, texture et caractère éminemment digeste, facile à boire.

Cela dit, mon aubaine du mois vient du Portugal : le JMF Fonseca. Un assemblage de castelaõ et d’aragonez vendu moins de 10 $ et bourré de fruit tout en étant dénué de prétention.

Les choix de Nadia

Début d’année rime avec manque de soleil et froideur. Pour vous réchauffer, faites voyager vos papilles du côté du Portugal. Certes, c’est l’hiver là-bas aussi, mais ce Douro 2013, produit par la cave Lavradores de Feitoria vous le fera presque oublier. Pas plus de 13 % d’alcool, mais beaucoup de volume en bouche pour moins de 15 $.

Épaulé par ses deux actionnaires, le Québécois André Tremblay élabore le Barco Negro, Douro 2013. À peine plus cher et un cran plus étoffé que le précédent, le 2013 est tout aussi rassasiant que les précédents millésimes, avec ses goûts intenses de fruits noirs et d’épices. Belle bouteille!

Dans le même registre plein et chaleureux, la cuvée Tradition 2012 de Denis Ferrer et Bruno Ribière traduit à merveille le caractère méridional des vins du Roussillon, au sud-ouest de Perpignan. Difficile de résister à sa finale vibrante et généreuse dont les parfums d’herbes séchées rappellent ceux de la garrigue.

Lavradores de Feitoria Douro 2013 Barco Negro 2013 Domaine Ferrer Ribière Tradition 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Pinot Noir 2014 Château La Forchetière Muscadet Côtes De Grandlieu 2014

Si vous appréciez la souplesse et la rondeur des pinots noirs du nouveau monde, vous aimerez le Pinot noir 2014, Max Reserva d’Errazuriz. Particulièrement complet en 2014, le vin est maintenant produit exclusivement avec des raisins des nouveaux vignobles côtiers de la vallée d’Aconcagua.

Pour faire honneur aux huîtres – les fêtes sont passées, mais c’est encore la saison – goûtez le Muscadet 2014 du Domaine de la Forchetière. Léger comme une plume, mais loin d’être insipide. Un très bon achat pour l’amateur de muscadet.

Santé !

La liste complète : 20 bons vins à moins de 20$

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

Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012


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

20 under $20 for January 2016

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Ah yes, the end of the month. It’s the time when we pay for our excesses over the previous weeks. Well, fear not, this doesn’t mean that you still can’t drink well. Our four critics have chosen for you their favourite five under $20 wines that they have recently tasted. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here is the first version of the 20 under $20 for 2016.

Chacun son Vin Critic Team : Bill, Marc, Nadia & Remy

Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

If there ever was a need for some inexpensive wine choices it’s when that December’s credit card statement comes in. For this installment, I’m taking you around the wine world. Starting in France’s Loire Valley, the S de Sablette 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent white wine for under $12. Textbook in terms of varietal correctness and unlike many inexpensive sauvignons, nicely dry.

Another great Loire Valley grape is chenin blanc. Few places in the world outside of the Anjou region do it justice, however, South Africa is arguably its second home. Try Ken Forester’s 2015 Petit Chenin which shows the crispier side of the grape, while still showing a certain aromatic depth and complexity.

S de La Sablette Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2015 Montgras Antu Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2014 Domaine Laurent Martray Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2014 José Maria Da Fonseca J M F

Moving to red wine and Chile, I was really impressed with 2014 Antu from Montgras. A blend of cabernet sauvignon and carmenere that shows ripeness, yet great restraint. For those of you who just want to sip a red by the fire, or pair with a piece of salmon, try the Laurent Martray 2014 Vieilles Vignes Brouilloy. Fruit, texture and impeccable drinkability.

My bargain of the month goes to the José Maria da Fonseca JMF. A blend of Castelao and arragonez, for under $10, it delivers great fruit without any pretense. 

Marc Chapleau’s picks

Hmm, it was a little more difficult than usual to find new, good under $20 wines to recommend this month. Due to the festive season and holidays, I haven’t had the opportunity to taste many new arrivals. So just to show that I wasn’t limited to drinking only expensive bottles, I did manage to find five wines that are highly recommendable.

Louis Roche 2014 Bourgogne Aligoté : A very good aligoté that shows both that twitchy acidity and good concentration, with a slight smokey note on the finish. Light in alcohol at only 12% and nicely dry with a mere 2 g/l of residual sugar. After the holidays, both of these qualities are welcome.

Newen 2015 Malbec Reservado : An Argentinian red that is rich and mouth coating. The oak notes are there as well, as is a good acidity which helps keep the wine from getting heavy. A wine by Bodegas Del Fin del Mundo which has the celebrated Michel Rolland as its winemaker-consultant.

Louis Roche Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 Newen Malbec Reservado 2015 Castillo de Almansa 2009 Blason de Bourgogne Chardonnay Mâcon Villages 2014 Codorníu Selección Raventós Brut Cava

Castillo de Almansa 2009 : A very good Spanish red wine from the Castilla la Mancha. Powerful and generous, and marked by a solid fruitiness. The wine has spent some time in oak barrels, that’s for certain, but there are no overly obvious vanilla notes or other overly oak induced markings. Just great freshness and a certain elegance.

Blason de Bourgogne 2014 Chardonnay Mâcon-Villages : At under $17, this is a white Burgundy that is highly recommendable. It shows what makes Burgundy so good – the richness of the chardonnay grape while maintaining a balanced acidity.

Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Brut Cava : One of the better Spanish sparkling wines on the market. Flavourful, and spicy, with a balanced acidity.

Rémy Charest’s Starting the year on the right foot 

After the year-end holidays, which are very much the high season for wine sales, our attention to wine tends to slow down. But there are some excellent wines that just hit the shelves, including some interesting under $20 values. Fuenteseca is a great example – a really pretty little blend of macabeo and sauvignon blanc from the lesser-known Spanish region of Utiel-Requena. Fresh, fun, and under 13$. A nice combo.

On the red side of things, the 2012 Quinta das Maias hit the stores just before Christmas. It’s a really good winter red, with the energy and balance that’s so enjoyable from Portuguese wines. Lots of grip and freshness.

Fuenteseca Macabeo Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Quinta Das Maias Dâo 2012 Domaine La Montagnette 2014 Paul Jaboulet Les Traverses 2014 Nederburg Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Domaine La Montagnette isn’t exactly new but it sells out quickly. The recent release of the 2014 means there is still a fair bit to be found all over Québec. For me, it’s one of the most satisfying under-20$ reds at the SAQ, in any category. I’m get thirsty just thinking about it.

That being said, it can also be worth taking another look at well-established producers. Case in point, the 2014 Ventoux Les Traverses, from veteran Rhône producer Jaboulet. A very nice QPR, just like the Parallèle 45, from the same house, which recently has been stellar in my opinion.

Finally, if you’re looking for a well-made cabernet, ripe but without cartoonish oak flavours or excessive residual sugar, South Africa is a good place to look, as exemplified by the Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon from Nederburg. Cabernet can be fun, too.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

The beginning of the year brings cold weather and a lack of sunshine. To warm up your taste buds at least, choose a wine from the coast of Portugal. Sure, it’s winter there as well, but the Lavradores de Feitoria 2013 Douro will make you forget about it. Under 13% alcohol, but with a lot of volume for a wine under $15.

Québécois André Tremblay is behind another selection from the Douro, Barco Negro 2013. A touch more expensive and dense than the Lavradores, but the 2013 is as satisfying as previous vintages with its intense aromas of dark fruit and spice. It’s a great bottle.

Lavradores de Feitoria Douro 2013 Barco Negro 2013 Domaine Ferrer Ribière Tradition 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Pinot Noir 2014 Château La Forchetière Muscadet Côtes De Grandlieu 2014

In a similar style of sun-filled and full bodied wine, the Domaine Ferrer Ribière 2012 Tradition well exemplifies what’s great about Roussillon’s wine. It’s difficult to resist the finish that is both vibrant and generous, with notes of dried herbs that permeate the air of the region.

If you love the suppleness of pinot noir from the new world, then you’ll love the Max Reserva 2014 Pinot Noir from Errazuriz. The 2014 is particularly accomplished, possibly because all the grapes now come from new vineyards on the slopes of the Aconcagua Valley.

Got oysters? The holidays have passed but they are still in season. Try the 2014 Château La Forchetière Muscadet. Light as a feather, but far from bland. Highly recommended for any fan of Muscadet.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

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!

Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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


WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008