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Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément…

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Pas toujours facile, la vie d’un amateur de vin. Loin de moi l’idée de vous faire pleurer — nous demeurons, pour la plupart, de grands privilégiés, rien que de pouvoir nous offrir autant de bouteilles pas toujours exactement données. Mais n’empêche : nous nous retrouvons parfois dans des situations sinon compliquées, du moins plutôt délicates…

Exemple : gérer l’abondance.

Sans blague ! Je ne dis pas ça pour écoeurer. S’il y a une chose qui déplaît souverainement à quiconque s’intéresse de près au vin, c’est le gaspillage.

Comme c’est le cas parfois, mea culpa, quand on partage un bon repas avec une tablée d’amateurs…

Chacun a alors tellement le goût de faire découvrir telle ou telle chose aux autres, ou de les surprendre, que pour connaître le total de bouteilles ouvertes au cours de la même soirée, il s’agit de multiplier le nombre de convives par deux, par trois, voire par quatre…

Aïe !

Je ne compte ainsi plus les fois où de très bons vins sont passés à la trappe — ou tombés entre les craques du plancher, comme nous disons ici plus volontiers.

La faute à pas de chance, essentiellement. Parce qu’à trop vouloir embrasser, impossible d’y couper, on mal étreint…

Autrement dit, la surenchère fait en sorte qu’on ouvre des bouteilles à tout va, mais que l’on s’attarde et commente… souvent à peu près pas. Tout ce qui nous importe, tout ce qui nous allume, c’est d’ouvrir la prochaine pour maintenir le niveau d’adrénaline à son maximum.

Normal. L’amateur carbure à ça, les émotions fortes, la nouveauté.

LE CAS DE L’AVEUGLE

Et on n’a pas parlé encore DU sujet délicat entre tous : dans ces soupers-là, où on s’amuse tous à surenchérir, devrait-on servir les vins à l’aveugle ?

Hmm… c’est tentant !

On est comme des gamins, je vous le disais ; alors goûter à l’aveugle, entouré d’autres dégénérés comme nous, c’est la cerise sur le gâteau.

Mais pas parce que l’aveugle permet de goûter sans préjugé et que sans elle, il n’y a rien de vrai, et blablabla…

L’aveugle dans ce contexte, c’est le pied surtout parce qu’elle donne l’occasion de jouer, de s’amuser. Comme si on participait à un quiz et qu’on s’excitait à peser le plus rapidement possible sur le piton, persuadé d’avoir la bonne réponse.

Et le comble, c’est qu’on en rajoute toujours une couche : à tour de rôle, les amateurs réunis jouent au maître de cérémonie (à chaque fois que c’est le contenu de leur bouteille à eux, cachée, que les autres doivent deviner).

Bref on perd vite le contrôle. C’est le fun, je sais. Sauf qu’il y a du dommage collatéral, dans ces soirées abondamment arrosées. De beaux flacons perdus dans la cohue. Et aussi, parfois, des vins qui ne sont pas si percutants, au fond, mais auxquels on s’évertue à trouver des qualités parce qu’il s’agit, en principe, de grands crus…

Ah ah ! direz-vous. Justement, déguster à l’aveugle permet d’éviter ce genre de situation.

Pas toujours.

Même qu’il est très rare qu’un grand vin paraisse à son avantage servi à l’aveugle, laquelle aiguise et focalise le sens critique du dégustateur. Comme s’il goûtait dans un petit verre Inao, voire une minuscule copita à xérès. En cherchant la petite bête, en décortiquant le vin, en compartimentant à outrance ses impressions. Sans compter qu’il est souvent obnubilé par l’idée  de deviner ce que c’est. Autrement dit, il n’est pas nécessairement dans un grand état de réceptivité.

Déguster à l’aveugle, en ce sens, c’est le contraire de déguster l’esprit ouvert.

Mais là j’arrête car si je continue je tombe dans un guêpier et je me fais lapider…

~

À boire, aubergiste !

Trêve de métaphysique, voici ma sélection de bonnes bouteilles, pour la plupart récemment arrivées sur notre marché.

Vous les goûtez à bouteille découverte ou à l’aveugle, comme ça vous chante, l’important c’est de se régaler. 

Beaujolais Duboeuf 2015 — Un beaujolais rosé, c’est plutôt rare. Très pâle, à peine coloré, peu aromatique mais assez riche, ainsi que doté d’une bonne fraîcheur. Une belle bouteille ! Prix : 20 $

Domaine du Pégau Rosé 2015 — Un rosé costaud, puissant et un brin tannique, sec par ailleurs. L’étonnant, c’est qu’il ne fasse que 12,5 pour cent d’alcool. Par contre c’est convaincant, et plein d’allant.

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Rosé 2015 Domaine Du Pegau 2015 Ijalba Genoli Viura 2015 La Crema Chardonnay 2014

Ijalba Genoli Viura 2015 —  Un rioja blanc aux accents floraux, avec des notes beurrées également. En bouche, les saveurs sont assez riches, assez corsées, cependant qu’un reste de gaz carbonique avive l’ensemble. Finale sur les agrumes, et pas de sucre résiduel apparent. Bon rapport qualité-prix (15,55 $). À table, un bon compagnon pour les fruits de mer, crevettes, pétoncles, etc.

La Crema Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2014 — On a rarement de vraies mauvaises surprises, avec les La Crema. Les blancs, et aussi les rouges, sont d’ordinaire généreux et assez rafraîchissants. Il y a du bois dans celui-ci, passablement, mais l’équilibre n’est pas vraiment en péril, on aime les notes fumées, c’est relativement digeste même si on aurait souhaité plus de nerf, plus d’acidité. Prix : 30,50 $

Château La Tour De L’évêque Blanc 2014 — Excellent côtes-de-provence blanc bio, issu d’un assemblage de rolle (76 %) et de sémillon. Richesse et fraîcheur, et une élégante texture, très suave. Finesse et autorité – et que du fruit et du terroir, pas de notes boisées. Prix (21 $) tout à fait mérité.

Au Bon Climat La Bauge Au-Dessus Pinot Noir 2011 — Excellent pinot noir de Californie (Santa Maria Valley), aux notes de rhubarbe typiques des pinots du Nouveau Monde mais avec, en prime, une indiscutable élégance, un côté épuré qui lui va comme un gant. Chapeau ! Prix : 50 $

Château La Tour De L'evêque 2014Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir "La Bauge Au Dessus" 2011Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2014Weingut Geyerhof Rosensteig Grüner Veltliner 2014

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2014 — Coloré, concentré, vanillé, au fruité par ailleurs bien mûr, capiteux (15 pour cent d’alcool) mais néanmoins pourvu de fraîcheur. Pour mémoire : 100 pour cent grenache, et pratiquement pas de sucre résiduel. Dans le style costaud et exubérant, très bien fait. Prix : 21,95 $

Geyerhof Grüner Veltliner 2014 — Blanc bio autrichien à base de grüner veltliner, vif et minéral, avec une pointe fumée tant en bouche qu’au nez. Près de 5 g de résiduel mais il n’y paraît presque pas. Finale sur la lime, tout en fraîcheur. Prix : 24,30 $.

 

Marc

 

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!


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Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – May 28, 2016

Commemorating the 40th Year Anniversary of the Arrival of New World Wine
By David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo MS & Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

On May 24, 1976 eight California wines hand-picked by British wine merchant Steve Spurrier faced off with top Bordeaux and Burgundy in a blind tasting by French experts. It was dubbed the Judgment of Paris. And to the shock of not only the judges, but the entire wine drinking world, they did extremely well. Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay beat a Meursault Premier Cru for first place; Stag’s Leap Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon topped Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1970. A thorough reading of the results, with California nicely intermingled with the French wines, proved the top victories were no fluke.

It was of course an enormous coup for California, but really for a whole generation of pioneers and cowboys who were just beginning during the early seventies to create the foundations of the New World wine wave in places like Oregon, Australia, New Zealand and right here in Canada. Just look at where New World wine is today – 40 years later – by viewing VINTAGES catalogue and considering that here in Ontario – one of the most international markets in the world – New World wines are being consumed by a majority of consumers.

My interest in wine had germinated in 1975 when, on vacation in California, I visited my first winery, in Monterey County. I remember reading the Time magazine piece on the Judgment of Paris soon after, and being so excited that California had done so well. In the late 1970s I visited California wine country at least three more times, then in 1984 spent three months tasting and researching California wine, visiting most wineries in existence at the time (about 200) including those on the Judgment of Paris roster. I then spent two months in France that same year, cementing an understanding of where New World wine had come from, and how different it was at the time.

But times have changed. There will likely always be debate about New World wine versus Old World wine, but nowadays it is debate about style. Climates and regions create wine character and style, while good vine-growers and winemakers who have the vision, understanding of their regions and experience create quality. And viticulture, winemaking and quality have improved so much since the Judgment of Paris that the two worlds are not so much colliding, as slipping into each others arms. This makes modern attempts to repeat such tastings as the Judgment of Paris almost meaningless – at least in terms of officiating quality and declaring one country or region better than another. They become mere popularity contests.

Unquestionably the Judgment of Paris did launch California on the global scene. It is now as globally important as Bordeaux or Burgundy, that for so many years it has striven to emulate. Wines from both regions are highly respected, highly priced and sought after. And many other regions around the world have achieved this as well. Wine is in a much better place now than it was before 1976, thanks partially to that one judgment in Paris.

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to be invited by the California Wine Institute to attend VINTAGES Judgment of Paris dinner at George restaurant in Toronto. I tasted 32 wines that night, from the eight Napa wineries that had competed in Paris. Eight of those wines are being released on May 28, which I re-tasted in the LCBO lab. The remainder are now included in a VINTAGES on-line offer at : Judgment of Paris. This edition of VINTAGES preview features WineAlign team picks from the on-shelf eight, plus my highlights from the rest of the pack. Because the latter were not tasted in proper review conditions they are not rated or fully reviewed.

 

 

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 28th Selections

Ridge Monte Bello 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains ($191.95)
David Lawrason – At VINTAGES Judgment of Paris event, then again in the tasting lab, this towered above, and outlasted the pack in terms of length of finish. It has stupendous cabernet aromatics; so lifted and pure with cassis, mint, background meat, conifer. Great structure and depth. Deep into the cellar for now.
John Szabo – The 2013 iconic Montebello from Ridge stands in its own league in this Judgment of Paris revival, an arch-classic, monumental wine of staggering structure and proportion. A lovely savoury-mineral note sits out on the leading edge, while the palate shows epic (a word I don’t use lightly) concentration allied to balance in this vintage of pitifully low yields, driven by a second straight year of drought stress. Length is simply outstanding. This is really nowhere near prime drinking – I’d speculate another 5-7 years minimum to relax, soften and shift into the mature flavour spectrum that is the joy of drinking properly aged Montebello. Best 2023-2033.
Michael Godel – From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello is a classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality in balance.

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2014 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2013

Chateau Montelena 2014 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($75.95)
David Lawrason – This is one of the most impressive chardonnays in recent memory, combining a sense of opulence in terms of flavours, plus power, intensity and restrained finesse. And compared to the prices of its peers on this release, as well as top white Burgundies to which is still compares today, it is actually a good buy.
John Szabo – The 1973 Château Montelena, made by a young Mike Grgich, took top spot in the 1976 tasting, and remains one of the classiest whites in northern California. The fruit source has changed (most aren’t aware that 40% of the fruit for the ’73 came from the Bacigalupi estate in Sonoma County, which recently began bottling its own wine), but I love the perfectly pitched nature of this 2014, anchored on tight, bright acids but still delivering an impressive dose of citrus-orchard fruit and beguiling floral notes. But it’s really the length and genuine depth of flavour that seals the deal here, plumbing the depths of this wine requires minutes, not seconds, to reach the bottom. A terrific wine all in all, drinking surprisingly well now, but surely better in another 2-3 years. Best 2018-2026.

Grgich Hills Estate 2013 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($67.95)
John Szabo – Having just turned 93, Mike Grgich is involved a little less in the day-to-day operations of the business he co-founded in 1976, though his figure looms large. Nephew Ivo Jeramaz has shepherded the estate into organics/biodynamics, and crafts one of the tightest chardonnays in the Napa Valley from vineyards in cool American Canyon and Carneros in southern Napa, made, unusually, without malolactic and designed to age. This 2013 seems a little less flinty (reductive) than previous vintages, coming across as gently ripe and sensibly wood-influenced, relatively round, soft but balanced on the palate, with toasty-honeyed orchard fruit lingering alongside caramel on the finish. Admittedly I miss the intense mineral-flint note of the last vintage, but this will surely appeal more widely. Best 2016-2023.
David Lawrason – This is an organically grown nervy and powerful chardonnay with lifted slightly reductive/matchstick notes amid pineapple fruit, toast and vanilla cream. It’s full bodied, quite fleshy and warm yet dry – a big chardonnay for the cellar.
Michael Godel – Stylistically consistent yet somehow different and still the feeling remains the same. Another exceptional Chardonnay to further the winemaking legacy of Mike Grgich, maker of Chateau Montelena’s 1976 Judgment of Paris chardonnay winner.

Clos Du Val 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($59.95)
David Lawrason – Since my first visits to California in the late 70s I have had a fondness for the light more French leaning style of Clos du Val. Founder Bernard Portet was from Bordeaux. This is the most approachable of the cabernets at the moment, with pretty, soft, ripe fruit driven aromas, and lighter, quite elegant styling.
John Szabo – For more immediate pleasure, Clos du Val’s pleasantly dark and savoury, lightly herbal Napa cabernet is your best option. The estate has always favoured a more reserved, less exaggerated style, and here the palate is attractively mid-weight, with light but still grippy tannins, and lingering finish. A fine vintage for the estate, best 2016-2023.

Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Heitz Chardonnay 2014 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Heitz Cellar 2014 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($49.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very fine, tender and elegant chardonnay – more refined than most from California. It has generous if subtle aromas of lemon, vague blanched almond nuttiness, crisp apple and lightly warmed bread. Feels slender on the palate, but in any case wonderfully refined.
Michael Godel – When the Napa Valley name Heitz is mentioned it is Cabernet Sauvignon that comes to most minds, 99 per cent of the time. Chardonnay is a Heitz thing, dating back to 1961. Wound tighter than a wire around a boat winch, this 2014 just needs some time to settle in.

Ridge 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains ($74.95)
David Lawrason – Offered as a Flagship In-Store Exclusive, this too is excellent, and great value compared to the Montebello above. Also more evolved and ready to drink. It’s full bodied, dense, yet lifted and superripe. Great tension and richness.

Freemark Abbey 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($54.95)
David Lawrason – This is a bit of a sleeper – not as showy as those above, but worth cellaring. It is a big, brawny cab with reserved aromas of ripe blackcurrant, earth, considerable oak and dried herbs. It’s full bodied, dense, powerful and a touch warm. Into to the cellar now and out in 2020. Tasted May 2016

David’s Recommendations from VINTAGES Special Offer

Judgement of Paris

Chardonnays
Ridge Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, $80
Mayacamus 2013 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $96
Freemark Abbey 2014 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $37

Cabernet Sauvignons
Heitz 2005 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $310
Heitz 2004 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $310
Chateau Montelena 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga Napa Valley, $193
Chateau Montelena 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga Napa Valley, $203
Grgich Hills 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $117
Mayacamus 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, $187
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2013 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $279
Stag’s Leap 2010 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $280
Clos du Val 2012 Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, $126
Cheers!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 28, 2016

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
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!


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Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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The Cellier New Arrivals – May 26th Release

The SAQ’s latest Cellier release will be in the store May 26th but limited quantities will be available on pre-release at SAQ.com as of May 19th. Which wines are worth your interest? Nadia Fournier, Bill Zacharkiw and Marc Chapleau tasted most of the wines and here are a their suggestions. 

A few sizzling slections

All 3 critics were unanimous about two of the wines. Californian Bill Easton’s Terre Rouge 2014 Vin Gris d’Amador, was cited for its texture and generous fruit, making it an ideal rosé to accompany a meal. Equally loved, from the Jura, was Domaine Rickjaert 2012 Les Sarres, a chardonnay which garnered descriptions such as finessed, spicy, lengthy and mineral. If you haven’t tried chardonnay from this lesser known region, this is a fantastic example.

Terre Rouge Vin Gris D'amador Rosé 2014 Domaine Rijckaert Côtes Du Jura Les Sarres 2012 Bodegas Balbas Ardal Reserva Ribera Del Duero 2010 Sangiovese Grosso Braccale Morellino Di Scansano 2011 Château De Fontenille 2015

Both Marc and Bill gave a thumbs up to a big and powerful red from Spain’s Ribera-del-Duero, the Ardal 2010 Reserva Seleccion, noting its power and barrel driven notes. A classy BBQ wine to accompany a steak if there ever was one. They also loved the Braccale 2011 Morellino di Scansano, a red with intrigue and depth that will also do well next to a steak. Marc called it ready to drink but Bill would prefer to store a few away for a couple of years.

Nadia added one other wine to the list of recommendations. On the fresher side of the spectrum, she liked the l’Entre-Deux-Mers 2014 du Château de Fontenille for its lemony notes and how it is representative of this oft overlooked appellation in Bordeaux.

Happy shopping!

~

CELLIER Premium Feature

Cellier New ArrivalsFor Chacun son Vin Premium members, we have a special feature to make your CELLIER shopping even easier. If you look under the Wine tab in the menu bar, you will see an option for <<CELLIER New Arrivals>>. By clicking here, you will be brought to a new page where we have grouped all of the new release wines and reviews together by date.

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!


 

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Alerte Cellier : les bons choix de nos experts pour l’arrivage du 26 mai

Le premier relâchement du dernier arrivage Cellier arrivera en succursales le 26 mai, mais la prévente commence dès ce jeudi 19 mai sur saq.com. Vers quels vins se tourner ? Nos experts Bill Zacharkiw, Nadia Fournier et Marc Chapleau, qui ont goûté plusieurs de ces nouveaux produits, vous conseillent.

De belles bouteilles à saisir

Deux vins ont été choisis à l’unanimité : le californien Vin Gris d’Amador Terre Rouge 2014, un rosé idéal pour la table, pour sa texture et son fruit généreux ; puis, du Jura, le Les Sarres Domaine Rickjaert 2012, un chardonnay qu’ils ont qualifié de fin, épicé, persistant et minéral. Si vous souhaitez goûter un excellent chardonnay provenant d’ailleurs que Bourgogne, ne cherchez
plus !

Terre Rouge Vin Gris D'amador Rosé 2014 Domaine Rijckaert Côtes Du Jura Les Sarres 2012 Bodegas Balbas Ardal Reserva Ribera Del Duero 2010 Sangiovese Grosso Braccale Morellino Di Scansano 2011 Château De Fontenille 2015

Tant Marc que Bill ont aimé l’Ardal Reserva Seleccion 2010, un rouge espagnol de la Ribera-del-Duero à la fois puissant et intelligemment boisé. Le candidat tout trouvé pour le steak sur la barbecue. Également bien apprécié, le Braccale Morellino di Scansano 2011, rouge de Toscane doté d’une belle profondeur. Un vin prêt à boire, selon Marc, alors que Bill l’attendrait pour sa part encore quelques années.

Nadia ajoute un vin à cette liste de recommandations. Un blanc, rafraîchissant et citronné, l’Entre-deux-Mers Château de Fontenille 2014, provenant d’une appellation du Bordelais souvent oubliée.

Bons achats !

~

La fonction Cellier

Nouvel arrivage CELLIERAfin de vous guider encore mieux dans vous achats et faciliter vos emplettes, nous avons ajouté une fonction spéciale au site Chacun son vin pour nos membres Privilège.

Chaque fois que la SAQ met en vente ces nouveaux arrivages, vous n’aurez qu’à visiter notre site et cliquer sur l’onglet «Vin» puis sur «Nouvel arrivage Cellier», dans le menu déroulant. Aussi simple que cela !

Vous pourrez ainsi lire les notes de dégustation sur tous les vins du CELLIER, en un seul et même endroit.

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.)


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La Grèce est dans l’air !

Le pays et ses vins sont très tendance
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Difficile de les manquer : les grecs sont partout ces temps-ci. Je parle des vins, bien sûr, quoique plusieurs vignerons helléniques étaient aussi de passage la semaine dernière dans le cadre du Salon des vins grecs.

J’écris « vigneron », et je me dis que voilà peut-être la différence entre la Grèce et les autres pays qui, à tour de rôle, ont fait sensation, au Québec. Je pense au Chili de l’époque, début des années 1990, et même à l’Australie des premiers temps — ouf, voilà qui nous ramène loin —, à la fin des années 1980.

Tout le monde ne parlait que d’eux — Ah, le Gato Negro chilien ! Ah, le Barramundi australien ! —,  il y avait des salons d’organisés, des dégustations, et bien sûr aussi des promotions à la SAQ.

Même chose avec la Grèce, maintenant, et ses vins qui sont sur toutes les lèvres. La différence, j’y reviens, c’est que ce sont cette fois surtout des vignerons, des plus petits domaines, qui font les manchettes. Et non de grosses corporations comme c’était le cas à l’époque pour les vins de l’hémisphère sud tout juste mentionnés, qui commercialisaient et commercialisent toujours du bon vin, attention, mais souvent moins axés sur le terroir, moins « authentiques », disons.

LE CONTRAIRE D’UN GREXIT

Si, économiquement, la Grèce, on le sait, est acculée au pied du mur et risque fort de sortir de la zone euro, elle est au contraire on ne peut plus in parmi la faune branchée de Montréal, Québec et autres grandes villes de la province. Et les Hellènes sont aussi hot un peu partout ailleurs, et notamment chez plusieurs de nos voisins du sud.

Et dire, il n’y a pas si longtemps, que vin grec rimait avec retsina (rète-sina) et muscat, de Samos ou de Patras, qu’on achetait pour une bouchée de pain.

Or justement, une chose n’a pas vraiment changé, ou alors si peu : le bon rapport qualité-prix des nouveaux vins grecs.

L’offre grecque est d’autant plus alléchante que les sempiternels cépages internationaux — les cabernet, chardonnay et merlot de ce monde — n’y ont pratiquement pas droit de cité.

En lieu et place, on se régale avec entre autres, en blanc, l’assyrtiko, le roditis, le savatiano et le moschofilero ; tandis qu’en rouge, l’agiorgitiko, le xynomavro et parfois aussi le limnio interpellent et retiennent l’attention.

L’engouement, et au premier chef la nouvelle qualité de l’offre, se reflète dans les ventes des vins grecs. Ainsi, à la SAQ, celles-ci ne cessent d’augmenter depuis au moins cinq ans (tant en volume qu’en dollars), alors qu’on compte aujourd’hui pas loin de 60 différents produits au catalogue du monopole.

Or si la vague grecque ne se dément pas, pourquoi ne pas surfer dessus nous autres aussi ? Surtout qu’on en sort gagnant sur à peu près tous les plans — les blancs notamment, les assyrtiko particulièrement, s’avérant souvent d’excellents apéros tout en se révélant passe-partout à table, et pas seulement avec les courgettes frites…

PLUSIEURS BONNES BOUTEILLES À LA SAQ

L’équipe de Chacun son vin a goûté à une vingtaine de vins grecs présentement en vente à la SAQ. Pour consulter nos notes de dégustation, allez sur notre site et sélectionnez « Grèce » sous l’onglet « Trouvez un vin ».

Trouvez un vin

Ci-dessous, en rafale, ceux que je retiens particulièrement.

Domaine Tetramythos Roditis 2014 — Des notes légèrement florales, une bonne tenue en bouche grâce notamment à la présence de gaz carbonique, une amertume qui donne de l’allonge. À 16,20 $, un vin blanc au très bon rapport qualité-prix !

Domaine Mercouri Foloi 2015 — Un assemblage de roditis et de viognier, assez riche, des notes viandées (le viognier), un mélange d’acidité et de gaz carbonique qui lui donne une certaine tension. Prix : 19,25 $

Tselepos Mantinia Moschofilero 2015 — Légèrement floral, le vin a par ailleurs de la fraîcheur, bien que son acidité ne soit pas très prononcée. Prix : 19,20 $

Domaine Tetramythos Roditis 2014Domaine Mercouri Foloi 2015Tselepos Classique Mantinia Moschofilero 2015 Hatzidakis Santorini Assyrtiko 2014

Hatzidakis Santorini Assyrtiko 2014 — Un blanc déroutant, évolué, j’aurais dit plutôt oxydé mais la collègue Nadia, qui connaît bien le domaine, corrige en disant « oxydatif », ce qui serait tout à fait dans le style de la maison. Un assyrtiko atypique donc, plutôt riche par ailleurs, sans tension marquée bien qu’il ne soit pas mou du tout. Prix : 26,40 $

Paranga Kir-Yianni Macédoine 2013 —  Un bon rouge mi-corsé, avec une belle acidité qui lui donne de l’allant, des notes de cuir, de mûre, une touche herbacée. Très ok, d’autant qu’on n’en demande que 14,60 $.

Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini 2015 — Un excellent blanc de Santorini (une île de la mer Égée) tendu, minéral, avec une superbe présence en bouche, et du volume grâce à la présence du cépage athiri (25 pour cent de l’assemblage). Vaut les 24,55 $ exigés.

Kir Yianni Paranga 2013 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Athiri 2015Papagiannakos Savatiano 2015 Estate Argyros Assyrtiko 2015

Papagiannakos Savatiano Vieilles Vignes 2015 — Un caractère à la fois floral et plaisamment rustique, une bonne acidité et un bon équilibre d’ensemble. Prix : 17,05 $

Argyros Estate Assyrtiko Santorini 2015 — Une pointe de silex au nez (caractère de pierre chauffée), de l’ampleur et de la fraîcheur en bouche, et aussi du gras en raison, possiblement, de la fermentation partiellement en fûts de chêne. Vraiment très bon, et vaut son prix (27,30 $).

Agiorgitiko by Gaia 2014 — Notes boisées d’emblée apparentes, style moderne, rondeur en bouche, boisé qui perdure bien que l’acidité, bien présente, aide à conserver l’équilibre. Prix : 19,75 $

Gaia Agiorgitiko Nemea 2014 Thymiopoulos Vineyards Yn Kai Oupavós Xinomavro 2013 Domaine Tselepos Nemea Driopi Agiorgitiko 2013

Thymiopoulos Terre et Ciel Naoussa 2013 — Notes herbacées assez intenses au premier nez, de l’acidité volatile, des saveurs assez corsées ; un ensemble quelque peu déroutant mais qui tient la route car il y a de la profondeur. Prix : 32,25 $

Driopi Nemea Agiorgitiko 2013 — Assez costaud mais nerveux, avec de la tension. Des notes de feuilles vertes froissées, mais rien de franchement végétal. Pas beaucoup de profondeur, mais de la fraîcheur, ainsi qu’une finale légèrement tannique. Prix : 21,25 $

 

Yamas !

Marc

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!


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2016: A Watershed (Dam Busting?) Year for Canadian Wine

The Canadian Wine Report – May 2016
by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The 2016 growing season is underway across Canada, with vines galloping ahead in B.C. where temperatures have been higher than normal. In Ontario and Nova Scotia however, after a mild winter but a slow, cool spring, the buds are barely bursting as I write on May 10th. May is always a ginger moment here in the upper reaches of northern hemisphere, second only to the September harvest window as a time of anxiety and anticipation. Will the flowering be on schedule? Will late spring frosts descend? Whatever Mother Nature determines for this vintage, much in the Canadian wine retail and regulatory landscape has changed or is changing since the harvest of 2015.

Supermarket Wine Sales

Conversation and action around the introduction of supermarket wine sales has moved onto the front burner in both B.C. and Ontario.

In 2015, B.C. announced sales of BC VQA wines in supermarkets, but on a gradual basis, with a few locations established in grocery stores which have purchased licenses of existing VQA stores. This move is viewed to be expanding distribution of VQA wines beyond international trade agreements and Canadian commitments to the World Trade Organization, so it has ushered in official diplomatic protests from California, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. B.C. argues that the although the grocery locations are new the licenses are not; they have just been transferred. I’ll let the lawyers figure that out. On the one hand I am disappointed to see the erosion of VQA speciality stores with deep selections of BC VQA wines by staff who care. It is entirely possible that the grocery stores can mount an equal in-store experience, but will they? On the other hand, how many more consumers who have never been to a BC VQA wine store will now discover BC VQA wine in their supermarket. This is the reason for putting wine in supermarkets in the first place, and the reason to risk the international challenge.

BC Wines in Grocery Stores

In February, Ontario also announced that supermarket wine sales will be implemented this year, but the modus operandi is different. As one plank in a government initiative to liberalize wine sales, expand distribution and selection, Ontario will allow wine sales in 300 grocery stores in the years ahead (a pittance), with about 70 going on stream in 2016. In a political move to give Ontario wines a leg up while attempting to keep the international community at bay, half the new locations will sell only Ontario VQA wines, with the remainder selling a 50/50 split of both international and domestic wines. This formula is also temporary; I have read reports that this framework will dissolve by about 2022, and the supermarket channel will be wide open. Meanwhile, the LCBO seems set to re-focus on a “premium wines and on-line ordering and delivery” model that will include Ontario and imported wines currently beyond its retail offerings. Stay tuned – it’s early days as full of supposition and conjecture as the introduction of legalized marijuana. On that note, imagine the outrage from the wine community if marijuana ends up being less regulated and in freer distribution than wine.

Interprovincial Law: Order, Ship and Sip

On October 6, 2012, Gerard Comeau, a retired steelworker from Tracadie, New Brunswick, was charged for driving fifteen cases of beer and three bottles of liquor across the J.C. Van Horner Bridge over Restigouche River from Pointe-à-la-Croix and the Listiguj First Nation Indian Reserve in Quebec into Campbellton, Brunswick. His alcohol was confiscated. He decided to fight this in court, and caught the attention of a team of lawyers focused on interprovincial trade issues: Arnold Schwisberg, Mikael Bernard and Karen Selick. Comeau’s defence was funded by the Canadian Constitution Foundation which took up his cause and prepared a case that finally came to judgment in late April.

The New Brunswick judge ruled that the law forbidding interprovincial transportation of alcohol was unconstitutional. The contravened phrase in the Constitution states “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces”.  We all wait to see if an appeal is forthcoming, and if it is it will very likely become a case before the Supreme Court of Canada. But even so, Canada’s provincial liquor boards, in my opinion, have certainly lost any moral authority on this issue, and consumers and wineries should just go ahead and order, ship and sip.

Mr. Comeau, meanwhile, was asked by a reporter if his confiscated beer was ever returned to him.  He replied “no, and I am thirsty”. Only in Canada, eh?

Sub-Appellations in British Columbia

Since the 2015 harvest, B.C. has thoroughly embraced the study of sub-appellations and new appellations. The BC Wine Appellation Task Force was assembled, and has recommended a significant parsing of Okanagan wine regions, which makes sense given the incredibly diverse climatic, topographical and geological make up of the Okanagan. A report was tabled, and taken to a series of ‘town-hall’ meetings for discussion through the winter. We still await official reports from that process.

BC Wine Appellation Task Group Report

However, on May 7 Anthony Gismondi reported in the Vancouver Sun that “Some committee members I spoke with suggested it could be five to ten years before any smaller sub-GIs come to fruition in the Okanagan or on Vancouver Island, due mainly to opposition from the large and medium sized wineries who are decidedly content with broad appellations that suit their winemaking. If they all vote “No,” they have enough veto power to defeat any of the recommendations and the word is they prefer things as they are”.

I was rather surprised to read this. The mid and large size wineries have the luxury and flexibility to make wines of all designations, and it would seem wise to make different tiers from different appellations for different consumers and price points.

CheckMate Queen Taken Chardonnay

But Anthony’s comment triggered a recollection of comments by Ingo Grady of Mission Hill Family Estate when he was introducing the new Von Mandl Estates Checkmate chardonnays in Toronto in April. He chided the creation of sub-appellations in Niagara (established in 2005) and referred to creating sub-apps has the “ghetto-ization” of wine. I have long known and respected Ingo, and thought at the time that this was mostly about being playfully antagonistic. But in light of Anthony Gismondi’s comments, perhaps it does reveal an anti sub-app position by larger companies. I find this thinking ironic given that the five new $100 Checkmate chardonnays, which will only be sold to upscale restaurants on allocation, are very specifically single vineyard and by extension, sub-appellation wines.

Anthony Gismondi also reported that” it was very likely” that four “emerging” regions of B.C. would be given VQA approval. As he put it: “A handful of far flung regions benefitting from climate change hope to capitalize on the thirst for local wine with the establishment of four new geographic indications (GIs). The Thompson Valley, Shuswap, Lillooet-Lytton and Kootenays will likely be added to the mix with final boundaries subject to a review in consultation with regional stakeholders”. I have tasted an admittedly small sample size from each of these regions this year in the Canadian Wine Scholar course, but I have been impressed by Harpers Trail 2013 Riesling and Baillie-Grohman 2013 Pinot Noir

Harper's Trail Silver Mane Block Riesling 2013Baillie Grohman Pinot Noir 2013 Lightfoot And Wolfville Ancienne Chardonnay 2013 Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2013

The Terroir Conference in Toronto

In other national news, the annual Terroir Conference held at the Art Gallery of Ontario in late April presented a seminar and tasting on the Culture of Canadian Wine in Canada. Terroir has evolved over the years to be the leading culinary and wine forum for the hospitality industry in Toronto. Our seminar was sponsored this year by Wine Country Ontario. The panel consisted of winemakers and sommeliers from Atlantic Canada, Ontario and B.C., and included two flights of wines from three provinces. As panel leader I tried in vain to steer conversation to an esoteric view of national perceptions of Canadian wine, but rightfully so attention in the 90-minute program drilled into the eleven glasses on the table – sparkling and chardonnay from five appellations in three provinces. Heidi Noble of Joie Farm in Naramata, B.C., made what I thought was the single most important observation. “All these wines are just so elegant”. From Nova Scotia check out Lightfoot and Wolfville 2013 Ancienne Chardonnay and from Ontario Southbrook Poetica 2013 Chardonnay

The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada

National Wine Awards of CanadaLast but not least, we are looking forward to the 15th running of Canada’s leading national wine awards competition in Penticton June 22 to 26. Registration is open and deadlines are looming for entries.

The goal of The Nationals is to expose Canadian wine drinkers to the best in Canadian wines, and to provide winemakers a true benchmarking platform. There are no price categories in the competition, leaving each winery the opportunity to compete with the best wines in the country on a level playing field. More importantly, as barriers to ship wines across the country come down, the combination of winning recognition at The Nationals, and WineAlign’s ability to display the results, makes it the only competition with enduring post-competition sales opportunities. This year I plan to fully use the results of The Nationals as a springboard for commentary and discussion in this space. We are assembling the largest and finest group of judges to date, with the inclusion again of Dr. Jamie Goode of the UK and Elaine Chukan-Brown of Sonoma, California, our first American judge.

Hidden Bench Tête De Cuvée Chardonnay 2012Rosehall Run J C R Rosehall Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2014 Spierhead Pinot Gris 2014 Laughing Stock Portfolio 2013

There is much more I could have covered in this report, but I will save some content for next time. Meanwhile, the click on the bottle images above to link to five more Canadian wines I think you might like to know about. All were encountered in a recent Canadian Wine Scholar course held in Toronto in April. Check www.FineVintageLtd.com for details on upcoming courses in Calgary and Edmonton June 18-19, Vancouver June 25-26, and Kelowna July 9-10.

If you have a minute, Wine Country Ontario would like you to answer a few questions concerning your views on travel and leisure in Ontario’s wine country. When you complete their short survey, you will be entered into a draw for your chance to win a weekend getaway in Ontario’s wine country. (See below to start the survey)

Cheers!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

The Canadian Wine Report brings you News and commentary on Canadian wine from a national perspective. Which means that the subject matter, events and tastings have elements or implications beyond provincial and appellation boundaries.

Past issue: Speaking up for Canadian Wines

 


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Bonus Buyers’ Guide to New Zealand

Sustainability, Low Alcohol, the Rise of Rosé and Profiling Unique Sub-Appellations through Speed-Dating
By Sara d’Amato

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

The New Zealand Wine Fair’s 2016 Tiki Tour through major centers across the country made its final stop on Wednesday at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Never failing to draw a large crowd, this trade tasting attracts consumers, media and sommeliers alike. However, a peculiar invitation I received several weeks ago inviting me to speed-date several travelling winemakers was hard to pass up.

Several hours before the show, a select group of media arrived to be set up at individual tables across from seats that would soon be filled by a winery principal and their local representative agent. We were given 15 minutes of face time to get to know each winery. This forum not only gave us the opportunity for an impressively focused look into the ideology of a particular producer but helped paint a picture of the changing landscape of New Zealand wine. Four noteworthy points are worth sharing from this efficient and perspective changing hour: New Zealand’s unity when it comes to sustainable production, the low alcohol movement sweeping the nation, the importance of rosé and the desire to profile unique sub-appellations.

Sustainability
New Zealand is not a bulk wine producing nation, which is an important consideration when trying to get your head around the fact that 90% of the country’s wine is sustainably produced and another 5% is either biodynamically or organically focused, reports Whitehaven’s Simon Toneycliffe. Undeniably, New Zealand has a world leading sustainability program that is both standardized and certified. In addition, the country derives 70% of its power from renewable energy sources with a goal of 90% by 2025. Given the fact that there is no polluting land mass nearby and even the rain from Australia is barred from entering the country due to the Southern Alps, New Zealand is as clean as it gets.

In appurtenance to those impressive numbers, I was in admiration that so many producers were able to come to a unified conclusion that environmental impact was of utmost importance. When asked how this kind of overreaching consensus could have been reached, Te Pā’s haysley McDonald pointed out that both isolation and climatic conditions ripe for sustainability were most influential.

Low Alcohol
The idea behind the low alcohol movement is impressive and one which New Zealand’s government has invested nearly 20 million dollars to research and market. Obviously, health and safety is impacted but there is more depth to this investment, one that is banking on the global change in attitude towards lighter, more food friendly and most expressive wines. In this context, New Zealand is most favorably positioned.

The producer leading the low alcohol charge in New Zealand is that of Forrest Wines. Dr. John Forrest was my date #3 and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to monopolize his attention for 15 minutes. His research on the topic has been extensive and after many years, he has been able to establish a sound formula for mitigating the leanness of low alcohol wines. This valuable information has been widely shared within the country and has resulted in the production of relatively complex low alcohol wines with texture and mouthfeel. The majority of wineries support the initiative and more and more low alcohol wines are popping up in the market. Keep your eye out for wines that use the “low alcohol” term on their label or declare their alcohol percentage front and center.

Rosé
More rosé appeared on the tables at the fair this year than I can ever remember. Toneycliffe of Whitehaven has noticed that rosé is on the rise in popularity within the country and there is a focus on pinot noir based examples which are dry and fresh in style. Here’s hoping we see an influx of those before the end of the summer!

Sub-appellations
Diversification is not just a trend in wine; it is one that is typically the result of a deeper understanding of terroir and sensitivity to the unique properties of defined parcels of land. It is a consequence of a region growing up and into itself.  The sub-appellations which we are beginning to see appear on the labels of NZ wines are not particularly recent but are now comfortably exported. Over the course of the hour, I was especially intrigued by the premium growing region of Bridge Pā in Hawke’s Bay, producing exceptional syrah such as that of Ngatarawa, and the Wairau Valley of Marlborough producing more fleshy, slightly tropical examples of sauvignon blanc such as those of Te Pā.

Profiles of the four “dates” are listed below: 

Te Pā Family Ltd 

Te Pā Family LtdTe Pā is the oldest family estate in New Zealand but was planting potatoes until 2003. Proprietor Haysley MacDonald sees a growing demand for diversification within the realm of New Zealand sauvignon blanc and favours promoting regional differences.

The ocean flanked site in the Wairu is very fertile which would have originally dissuaded producers from vinifera growth here. However, it turns out that the nitrogen rich soil gives more structure and weight to the wines. Expressive single vineyard sauvignon blanc is the hallmark of Te Pā whose characteristic style is riper and more tropical than most would expect from Marlborough.

Try: Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough ($19.95)

Whitehaven

WhitehavenGeneral Manager Simon Toneycliffe also recognizes the importance of defining sub-regions and produces both single vineyard styles of sauvignon blanc with unique expression, experimental versions and cross-regional wines of character. Wild yeast and some oak usage has been experimentally successful thus far. A 100% pinot noir rosé will hopefully nudge its way into our shelves before long. Due to demand, the range of Whitehaven wines has been steadily increasing to better express the diversity of Marlborough. Low alcohol approach is generally but not explicitly taken.

Try: Whitehaven Rosé 2015, Marlborough

Forrest Wines

Forrest WinesLow alcohol style from “The Doctor’s” line of wines has set the innovative Forrest Winery apart. Owned by Dr. John Forrest, it is a leader in research and innovation and is known for having been a great instigator in the screw cap closure movement that subsequently swept the nation. Dr. Forrest has noticed that low alcohol wines tend to age better and longer than their standard counterparts. Look for “The Doctor” line of low alcohol wines in the upcoming May 30th release.

Try: Forrest Estate The Doctors’ Pinot Noir 2015, Marlborough

Ngatarawa 

NgatarawaEstablished in 1981, is one of the oldest families in New Zealand wine, previously making wine in Lebanon. The winery was named after the famous racing stable now part of the winemaking facilities in their Hawke’s Bay home. The region is known for a slow growing season moderated by maritime influences. The wines are soft and approachable but with great depth. John Mackinder of Ngatarawa also supports the low alcohol initiative and produces 10% of crop in this fashion. The pinot noir and the northern Rhone-like syrah are worth particular attention and are surprisingly expressive.

Try: Ngatarawa 2015 Stables Syrah, Hawke’s Bay

New Zealand was also the mini feature of the May 14th VINTAGES release. John has already highlighted his favourite sauvignon blanc in his VINTAGES Preview, so listed below are the additional picks from the rest of the team.

New Zealand May 14th Buyers’ Guide
with notes from Sara d’Amato, David Lawrason & Michael Godel

3 Stones Premium Selection Pinot Gris 2015, Marlborough ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Dry and elegant with great purity of fruit and a salty, mineral edge. Widely appealing but still quite complex and ponder-worthy.

Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough ($19.95)
Michael Godel – After tasting the winery’s Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc back in 2014 I wrote “If Te Pā can find a way to get their wines into VINTAGES stores, I will buy them by the case and hand them out on Halloween as adult treats.” Why wait for October?
David Lawrason – This is intense, almost searing sauvignon blanc hails from sea level vineyards on a sand bar where the Wairau River meets Cloudy Bay.  Expect complex passion fruit, persimmon, green pepper and lime cordial aromas. Chill well.

3 Stones Premium Selection Pinot Gris 2015 Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2013 Thornbury Pinot Noir 2014 Elephant Hill Le Phant 2014

Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago ($29.95)
Michael Godel – This is a characterful, high-toned and slightly rustic Pinot Noir from Kim Crawford’s Small Parcels program in Central Otago. It will begin to show its best just around the bend.

Thornbury 2014 Pinot Noir, Central Otago ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This is not as structured and deep as the top Otago pinots but it does show the deeper colour and ripe black cherry fruit of the region, framed by oak vanillin, spice and smoke.  Nothing dramatic but it nicely expresses NZ pinot charm, freshness and has drinkable appeal.
Sara d’Amato – Thornbury produces wines over 5 regions on the north and south Islands. This zesty, peppery example from Central Otago shows less characteristic weight and more finesse.

Elephant Hill 2014 Le Phant, Hawke’s Bay ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – A rich and savory blend of merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon harvested from Gimblett, Te Awanga and Triangle vineyards. A captivating and stylish wine from a solid producer.
David Lawrason – This is an unusual but effective blend of cabernet, merlot and syrah, with the latter delivering peppery, meaty character. The fruit is quite ripe cherry and the oak is very notable, with chocolaty, smoky character. It’s quite smooth and supple, for current drinking.

Cheers!

Sara d’Amato

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – New Zealand Sauvignon, A Volcanic Duo & More
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES to Their Favourites, Our Favourites
All May 14th Reviews

Celebrating New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

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!


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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – May 14, 2016

New Zealand Sauvignon, A Volcanic Duo & More
Text and photos by John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

David led last week with the team’s Buyers Guide to Customer Favourites, which was the main feature of the May 14th release. So I’ll get straight to my top picks. The selection is laudable, featuring a smart range of “next generation” Marlborough sauvignon blanc, which is to say distinctive, characterful, and original wines that step outside of the standard industrial mould.

The rest of the release also has some hidden gems, including a pair of terrific value volcanic wines from Italy, an outstanding Croatian white, classic Saar Riesling and a local pinot that’s currently singing.

May is New Zealand wine fair month and our WineAlign coverage reflects it – see Treve Ring and Steve Thurlow’s thorough report from their recent travels and read the bonus feature from Sara d’Amato on her speed dating experience at the NZ trade event.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

If you were under the impression that all Marlborough sauvignon comes out of the same massive vat, then try these three distinctive examples.

The Auntsfield Single Vineyard 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from the unofficial Southern Valleys sub-region of Marlborough ($22.95), is a perfect bridge between past and future, still recognizably Marlborough in style though far riper, denser and better composed than the mean. David Herd planted the region’s first grapes here in 1873 – Marlborough’s pioneer winemaker – and vine material from those original plantings still grows on he same site. The 2015 splits the line nicely between tight citrus, riper tropical and lightly pungent-vegetal notes, with superior flavour depth and length.

The founders of Dog Point Vineyards clearly get it: Ivan Sutherland and James Healy were behind the wine – Cloudy Bay – that put Marlborough sauvignon on the map in the 1990s. Dog Point takes a more radical tack however, and I happen to love their distinctive, flinty style born from wild ferments and no nonsense winemaking. The 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($24.95) is perhaps little less edgy than previous vintages, and with more fruit than usual (I suppose that’s not a bad thing), but it’s is nonetheless still an original expression with terrific length and depth and quivering acids.

Auntsfield Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Villa Maria Southern Clays Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014

It’s heartening to see one of the region’s largest and oldest players, Villa Maria (est. 1961) pushing the quality envelope in their top tier. The 2014 Southern Clays Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($29.95), from the Maxwell Vineyard nestled in the gentle north facing foothills of the Ben Morven Valley, plays on this slightly warmer and more clay rich corner of Marlborough, also associated with the region’s most serious pinot noirs. This wine shows that a bit of bottle age can bring out an entirely new dimension in the genre, here delivering intriguing honeyed/bees wax aromatics, subdued relative to the typical Marlborough style, but all the more interesting and subtly complex for it. And I really love the texture: taught and tightly spun but smooth and seamless, with exceptional depth and length. It’s well worth the premium price, and is also capable of ageing another half dozen years no doubt.

Aromatic Whites

Fans of Mosel riesling will find extreme happiness in the arch-classic Bischofliche Weingüter Trier 2013 Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett, Mosel ($23.95). It’s an exceptional example from one of the Saar’s top vineyards that hits all of the right notes. I love the impossible balance of fully ripe stone fruit framed by electric acids, the perfectly pitched pinch of balancing residual sugar and the excellent length. Drink or hold a decade+.

Further afield in less trodden territory, I’d urge you to take a punt on the Ilocki Podrumi 2013 Traminac, Croatia ($14.95). Ilocki Podrumi has one of Croatia’s oldest cellars next to one of the most modern in the northeastern corner of the country. Traminac (aka gewürztraminer) is rendered here with a distinctively green-gold colour and an amazing perfume of marmalade and rosewater, delivering superb complexity at the price. The rich and creamy palate offers more honey and ripe/dried stone fruit flavours inflected with ginger and star anise – a terrific tour de force of flavour all in all. Try with lightly spiced south East Asian foods.

Bischofliche Weingüter Trier Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2013 Ilocki Podrumi Traminac 2013 D'angelo Sacravite 2013 Antichi Vinai Il Mascalese Nerello Mascalese 2013 Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2012

Duo of Italian Volcanic Reds

Is there something distinctive about volcanic wines? You bet. They can best be summed up by the word savoury – don’t come to the volcano looking for plush fruit. You can read all the details in my book publishing this September, but in the meantime enjoy these two superb value entry points into volcanic reds from two of Italy’s most celebrated volcanoes: d’Angelo’s 2013 Sacravite, IGT Basilicata, Italy ($15.95) is a pure aglianico from the slopes of the extinct Vulture volcano in Basilicata, made from younger vines and aged for a shorter period than the estate’s DOCG version. It’s crafted nonetheless in the traditional style, which is to say marvellously floral and full of pot pourri and dried fruit, succulent and firm with bright acids and fine, dusty-grippy tannins. Oh, and you could forget this is in the cellar for a half dozen years and fear little.

Volcanic Wines - by John Szabo MSMonte Vulture-2111

Sicily’s alarmingly active Mount Etna is the origin of Antichi Vinai’s 2013 ‘Il Mascalese’ Nerello Mascalese, IGT Terre Siciliane ($16.95). Etna has written one of Italy’s runaway success wine stories over the last decade, captivating drinkers with the wild strawberry, smoke and porcini dust flavours of indigenous nerello mascalese. Antichi Vinai, founded in 1877, preserves the variety’s character with just a short ageing period in stainless steel. Tannins are relatively soft and yielding, while acids remain bright and fresh. This is the sort of wine I’d love to sip with a nice chill alongside strips of simply grilled beef or lamb skewers with a generous squeeze of lime and dusting of resinous herbs.

Mount EtnaAlberello Etneo, Fessina-7710

Primed Pinot

And lastly, much is made of the right ‘drinking window’ for wines. Woe unto him who cracks a bottle too early or too late, and misses out on its maximum expression. The trouble is there’s no formula for figuring it out, aside from experience and a little guessing mixed with luck. I was delighted thus to find Thomas Bachelder’s Domaine Queylus 2012 Tradition Pinot Noir, Niagara Peninsula ($29.95) singing this week, clearly in a happy place. It has reached a fine stage of evolution with its silky texture, taught and fine-grained tannins, and expansive range of flavours in the delicately spicy, red fruit and earth spectrum. So grab it while it’s on; next week it may stop singing.

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES May 14, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All May 14 Reviews

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Their Favourites, Our Favourites

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!


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Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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20 Under $20 in BC : May 2016

Let your taste buds travel

These past three weeks, our WineAlign West crew has been in Vancouver, Okanagan, Similkameen, Vancouver Island, Sonoma, Napa, San Francisco, New York, London, Champagne, Loire Valley and Paris. That’s not so bad for a pack of thirsty west coast wine geeks. It’s pretty evident from our picks, that our taste buds travel globally even when we’re shopping for wine in BC.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi 

Summer has arrived early on the west coast. Temperatures are well above average and it looks like its going to be a long, dry season. This bodes well for crisp, fresh, summer-sipper style wine sales to keep you cool while you cut back on your water usage. The recent fire events in Alberta remind us all to be vigilant in the forests all summer.

Errazuriz is doing a neat job with sauvignon as evident by the value in this super tasty Errazuriz Estate Series Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Refreshed by its proximity to the cold Pacific Ocean you get a wine that is slightly less aggressive than the Kiwi style and a lot more affordable.

Speaking of value, the Kvint Solaricco Fresco, a lean blend of pink traminer, viorica and aligoté, is crisp and bone dry. A summer charcuterie plate served al fresco is the ticket here.

My classy no sugar, no oak red pick is the Castello di Gabbiano Chianti 2014. Try it with barbecue grilled pizza.

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Solaricco Fresco 2013 Gabbiano Chianti 2014 Quails' Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2015 Heartland Shiraz 2013 Meyer Family Vineyards Mclean Creek Rd Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2014

Locally, the just released Quails’ Gate 2015 Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris has summer written all over it. Juicy, fun and gulpable but with some minerality for interest.

The Heartland Shiraz 2013 is the best I have tasted in a while. Rich blackberry fruit makes this a classic shiraz that calls for a piece of grilled lamb. Good value.

Finally, can’t say enough about the latest Meyer Gewurztraminer 2014 that comes off a block of 22-year-old fruit that faces the setting sun. A drinkable food-friendly style you can serve on the patio with spicy tuna rolls and or vegetarian dishes. Don’t forget the suntan lotion. 

Rhys Pender MW

I am just back from a trip through London, Loire and Paris. What a mixed bag of wines I have tasted along the way. Here are a few interesting ones worth trying this month.

Spending time in the Loire reminded me just how much I love its wines. They are crisp, fresh, juicy and so very drinkable with their lower alcohol levels and freshness. Because the region isn’t uber-famous the prices are usually very good too. An added bonus. At one market in France they were fortifying market goers by serving up small plates containing a few freshly shucked oysters and prawns with a glass of wine (yes, at 11am). It was a nice Loire Sauvignon Blanc served with it but a Muscadet would have perhaps have been even better. A great value example is the Ch. De La Gravelle 2014 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie. You may have to shuck your own oysters though.

That market happened to be in Chinon, which is much better known for its lively, juicy Cabernet Franc reds. A great value wine in the market for me is always the Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon, the 2013 being no exception.

Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2014 Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon 2013 Bodegas Leceranas Evohé Vinas Viejas Garnacha 2014 Pedra Cancela Dao Selecao Do Enologo 2010 Amalaya Torrontes Riesling 2014

Another wine I enjoyed in April was from a little further south, in Spain’s Aragon. The Evohé 2014 Garnacha Viñas Viejas is rich, soft and round and has some nice earthy and mineral notes for the price.

I feel lately like I keep going on and on about the Dão region of Portugal. It is a very serious wine region, without the recognition to achieve serious prices. This equals great value for the smart drinker. I recently re-tasted the Pedra Cancela 2010 Winemaker’s Selection and found it offered great savoury complexity at a great price.

I didn’t know what to expect when I tasted the Amalaya Torrontes-Riesling 2014 blend but it was quite nicely done. The floral aromatics of Torrontes with the zip and zing of Riesling results in a nice combo worth a try.

DJ Kearney

Here are some of my all-time favourite wines that tick all the boxes: killer value, food-worthy, and have soul.

Here in BC the hotly-anticipated spot prawn season is upon us. You could pull out a pricey Meursault for a fussy culinary preparation, but when those pricey crustaceans are simple flipped in a foaming pan of butter, garlic and parsley, I opt for Domäne Wachau’s 2014 Gruner Veltliner Terraces. And the wine that I’m going to sip as I peel the prawns (and I’ll heave a little in the hot pan in place of a squeeze of lemon) is the zingy 2015 Vinho Verde from Casal Garcia.

Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner 2014 Casal Garcia Vinho Verde 2015 Te Pã Koha Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2014Yalumba Shiraz 2014

Whenever young, local goat’s cheese is in my salad, Marlborough sauvignon is needed, like a new-ish to market one like Te Pã 2014 Koha Sauvignon Blanc from the distinctive soils of the Lower Wairau Valley. Nervy and streamlined, and can handle a salad with grapefruit and chevre.

Finally two reds for the grill: the ever-delicious, soulful Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Clasico 2014 for grilled flank steak and chimichurri sauce, and a juicy, organically farmed 2014 Shiraz from Yalumba that will uplift smoky lamb chops.

Treve Ring 

I have been tasting through dozens of the spring releases from BC, impressed by the generosity of the warm 2015 vintage.

In my mind, there is no better Riesling producer in BC than Synchromesh Wines, releasing no fewer than seven Rieslings this year, four of which are single vineyard from the 2015 vintage. And this pair, both sourced from 4 vineyards in Naramata and Okanagan Falls, illustrate the incredible diversity of style, and amazing value, this producer puts forth. Synchromesh Riesling 2015 is an amply off-dry, Kabinett-style, carrying 34 g/l RS, with perfumed pear blossom, key lime cordial, ripe apricot and fleshy peach on a round mouthfeel. Ample juiciness, with a cut of bitter key lime to hem everything in. Synchromesh Drier Riesling 2015 is in comparison to their straight Riesling (also a boggling $19) and still sings at 27 g/l RS, but with TA at 10.78 to keep the sugars neatly in check. With more late harvest grapes in this blend from Okanagan Falls and Naramata, cold cream, lime pulp, green apple, orange blossom hovers above a base of stone and citrus pith. The acidity here is tight and edgy, ideal for pairing with a wide range of foods – and at this price point, ideal for restaurants by the glass too. 

Synchromesh Wines Riesling 2015 Synchromesh Drier Riesling 2015 Sea Star Vineyards Ortega 2015Unsworth Vineyards Rose 2015

Sea Star Ortega 2015 is also entirely on pointe this vintage, with tight pear, white peach, crystalline lemon and pink grapefruit ringing throughout this Pender Island coastal white. 

From Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley comes the charming Unsworth 2015 Rosé. Pale pink in hue, with a hint of strawberry, red currant and earthy brie, this is a lean, bright and marine styled rosé, reflective of the coastal climate and ready for cured salmon or tuna.

Here’s a quick link to find the 20 Under $20 in stores near you.

~

WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point), as well as Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential 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!


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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Bill’s Best Bets – May 2016

Light reds and big whites
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

One of the questions I am often asked when I am speaking at tastings for regular folk, and by that I mean non-industry people, is what are my favourite wines. After years of hemming and hawing – I like lots of wine – I finally looked at what I tend to drink most often. And what did I find? Well, it turns out that I like light reds and big whites.

I know that this is counter to current consumer tastes, which tend to lean towards light whites and big reds. If you look at popular white wine styles, from New Zealand sauvignon blanc to pinot grigio, the accent is on acidity. Most people still look at white wine as limited to aperitif time, which I agree is when you want to be drinking lighter, higher acid whites. I drink them too.

Although white wine is on the rise in Quebec, while red wine sales actually dropped last year, it’s still a 70-30 split in favour of red. And when it comes to red, the comment I hear most often from consumers is “I like wines that ‘taste’.” No wonder cabernet sauvignon is still the king of grapes, and “sugar bomb” wines like Menage A Trois and Apothic, with their profuse flavourings of chocolate, vanilla and coffee, alongside the powerful jammy and sweet fruit, are so popular.

My wine choices are more a result of my food choices. I have greatly reduced the amount of red meat I eat. I am not dogmatic about it, and I still grill up a T-bone or lamb chop from time to time. I am more than happy to open a “bigger” red at those occasions, but for most of the time, whether it be seafood, Indian vegetarian meals or white meats, white just seems right. And white with might is usually what I go for.

If I’m drinking a bigger, more powerful white, than what is my aperitif of choice? I like to drink a red with fruit, good acidity, delicate tannins and wines are best served slightly chilled at 14-15C. And when I do drink red with my “lighter” meals, then these more delicate reds support but don’t overpower, my key to a great food and wine pairing. And best of all, many of these lighter reds are equally easy on the wallet.

So in honour of those who don’t believe might equals right when talking red wine, and who love richer textured whites with structure and flavour, here are a few suggestions of wines recently drunk. Let’s start with red…

While stocks are getting low, one wine which sells out almost as fast as the bottles are put on the shelves is the Austrian Pitti from Weingut Pittnauer. At well under $20, this blend of zweigelt and blaufrankisch works great as an aperitif, and rocked my hamburgers the other night.

Pinot noir is a classic “keep it cool and pack it back” wine. If you are looking for an inexpensive pinot, try the Pinot noir from Mezzacorna. Slight herbal note on the finish adds some depth to this northern Italian pinot and the texture is right on. At under $16, an easy purchase. A touch more powerful, but with that Marlborough signature brightness is Spy Valley’s 2013 Pinot noir. Super tasty and with crunchy, just ripe fruit.

Weingut Pittnauer Pitti 2013Mezzacorona Pinot Noir 2013 Spy Valley Pinot Noir 2013 Domaine Sauger Cheverny 2013Georges Descombes Brouilly 2014Jean Foillard Morgon 2014

It’s rare to find pinot noir in a blend, but the 2013 Cheverny from Domaine Sauger is just that. Pinot alongside gamay and malbec, this is Loire drinkability at its finest, and all for under $17.

No discussion of light reds is complete without talking Beaujolais, and especially Cru Beaujolais. Both the Brouilly from George Descombes and the Morgon from Jean Foillard show crunchy fresh fruit, minerality and delicate tannins. Stock a few away for a few years as well if you can afford it.

In terms of whites, southern France is a haven for richer whites. While most think red when they hear Minervois, the white from Chateau Coupe Roses is wonderfully rich and elegant. On a similar theme, but with a Condrieu-esque feel to it, the Cotes-du Rhone from Perrin’s Coudoulet de Beaucastel will accompany any lobster or richer seafood dish perfectly.

Château Coupe Roses 2014 Château De Beaucastel Coudoulet De Beaucastel Blanc 2014 Domaine Du Grand Tinel Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2012 Michel Gassier Nostre Pais Blanc 2013Lagarde Viognier 2015 Clos Du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay 2013

While in the Rhone, if you want to spend some cash, try the white Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine du Grand Tinel. I love great grenache blanc and along with a touch of clairette and bourbelenc for freshness, this is a beautifully rich and if you want to go there, thought-provoking wine. Staying in the Rhone, but moving to Costieres de Nimes, Michel Gassier’s 2013 Nostre Pais is a similar blend and while doesn’t have the same finesse, it is half the price and a great example of grenache blanc.

Another Rhone grape, viognier, absolutely shines in Argentina. The 2015 Viognier from Henry Lagarde is a ripe, yet very faithful representation of the grape. Try this with scallops or lobster.

Chardonnay in California can be a touchy proposition, but the 2013 Calcaire from Clos du Bois is an excellent representation of the grape in Russian River. Lemon and orange rinds, a touch of butter and a mineral, edgy finish. Really impressive, especially for the price.

Spring is here folks!

Bill

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

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!


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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008