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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES April 4th – Part One

Easter Lamb and Red Wine, plus Pre-dinner Whites and a Glass for Dessert
By John Szabo MS with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

It’s Easter time again. But whether or not you celebrate the holiday, any dinner that involves succulent roasted or grilled lamb and fine red wine is reason enough to get the family and friends together. In this report we share some of our favourite recipes for lamb, one traditional that I’ve made and enjoyed on many occasions, and one a little more exotic from our friend, chef Michael Pataran.

We’ve picked our top reds from the April 4th release to match with each, and because the chef is always thirsty, we’ve lined up some pre-dinner sipping wines for your consideration, both classics and exotic. We’re happy to welcome long-time WineAlign contributor Michael Godel in this report – he’s filling in for David Lawrason who’s still scouring the globe for more great stories. If at first you don’t understand Michael’s reviews, just drop a couple of hits of acid, smoke a joint or put on some classic 70s tunes and they’ll all make more sense. Maybe.

Traditional Easter Lamb

Lamb and mint are tried and true soul mates. They just seem right together. But it’s not an accident. As it turns out, the two ingredients share some flavour molecules, so their synergy seems to be preordained. In this simple recipe you’ll be mixing mint, garlic, sea salt, black pepper and olive oil to make a savoury rub for your leg of lamb, which you’ll then roast to rosy rare-doneness. You can use a food processor to make the rub, but I find that pounding in an old-style mortar and pestle releases more flavour from the mint – like a bartender muddling – and prevents the garlic from turning bitter from the violent steel blade chopping action of the machine. It’s also more cathartic. But either way, with enough of the right wine in the end, it’ll all be fine.


– 1 leg of spring lamb, about 2kg
– Coarse sea salt
– Freshly ground black pepper
– 1 large bunch fresh mint, washed and leaves picked
– 2 cloves garlic, peeled
– About 75 ml olive oil
– 500 ml chicken stock (buy from your butcher; avoid the sodium-laced supermarket cans)


Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Score the lamb all over with a sharp knife (not too deeply). In a mortar and pestle (or in a food processor), pound the mint leaves with the garlic cloves until pasty. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper to your mixture to make a moderately thick paste then brush all over the lamb. Roast in the oven for 1½ hours or until done (still pink by the bone), brushing with the seasoned oil from time to time.

Remove the lamb from the oven and set aside to rest in a warm place. In the meantime, drain off some of the fat from the roasting tin and deglaze with red wine. Be sure to scrape up all of the tasty bits. Add the chicken stock and simmer until reduced to a dense and savoury liquid.

Slice the leg of lamb and serve with a drizzle of the lamb jus and your favorite side dishes.

Recommended Wines

This recipe works beautifully with classic cabernet sauvignon and blends, as these wines, too, share a touch of herbal minty-ness, while the rich protein of the meat binds up those tannins and softens the texture of the wine. But most medium-full-bodied reds with a lick of acid and firm texture will work well enough.

Château Haut Selve 2010 Réserve, AC Graves, Bordeaux, France  ($27.95)

John Szabo - Here’s another superb 2010 Bordeaux, from south of the town in the Graves district, one of my favourite corners in the region. It’s a wonderfully classic, unapologetically leafy-herbal red with genuine zest, freshness and crunchy black fruit flavour. I’m willing to wager that it’ll be perfect with the lamb, and your guests will think you spent far more than $28 on it.
Michael Godel – Who wouldn’t want to find a well-priced and expertly made Bordeaux to accompany an Easter feast? The abstraction is not as easy as it may have once been but once in a Paschal full moon a wine comes along and affords the opportunity. This Graves will seal the Easter deal with its cool savour and chocolate hops.

Mayschoss 2013 Trocken Pinot Noir 140 Jahre Jubiläumswein, Ahr, Germany ($21.95)

John Szabo – I know pinot and lamb aren’t exactly old friends, but I had to slip in a mention of this terrific value pinot noir from the northernmost region of Germany, the steep Ahr Valley, and its volcanic soils. And I do think there’s sufficient stuffing and fruit to manage the dish, and certainly the acidity to slice through the tasty, fatty bits. Don’t be afraid to decant this for maximum effect.
Michael Godel – Ahr Pinot Noir (as opposed to those from Germany’s Baden region) are just that much more accessible and wider table friendly. That’s because of volcanic soil and older vines like you find in this Qualitätswein. The fruit is richer, the cure more refined, the flavours full and the wine structurally sound. No matter the colour of your braise or roast, this Pinot Noir will compliment the hue.

Château Haut Selve Réserve 2010 Mayschoss 140 Jahre Jubiläumswein Trocken Pinot Noir 2013 Stephane Aviron Domaine De La Madrière Vieilles Vignes Fleurie 2011

Stephane Aviron Domaine De La Madrière Vieilles Vignes Fleurie, Beaujolais, France ($21.95)

Michael Godel – Old vines and Fleurie together scream “holiday dinner wine” in my books. This is where it’s at Gamay that struts out from a terrific Cru, of maturity, chutzpah and depth. Talk about a red wine that could equally double down for the Easter and Passover table. Gamay that swings both ways, AC/DC, “it’s got two turntables and a microphone.”

Moroccan lamb loin chops

If you’re looking to spice it up, try this exotic, mildly spicy and flavor-packed recipe courtesy of Michael Pataran, executive chef of L’Eat catering. It needs a day of marinating so plan ahead, and it’s best on the BBQ, so keep your fingers crossed for fine weather. It also works as a tasty snack or hors d’oeuvre. Adjust quantities as needed.


– 12 lamb shoulder chops (3oz.)


– 6 cloves Garlic, minced
– ½ medium Spanish onion, finely chopped
– Zest of one lemon
– 2 tbsp pink peppercorn, crushed
– 3 tbsp Rosemary, chopped
– 2 tbsp Paprika, sweet
– 1 tbsp saffron, ground
– 2 tbsp thyme, chopped
– 2 tbsp coriander seed, crushed
– 2 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed
– 1 tbsp salt
– ½ cup olive oil


Marinate lamb loin chops, overnight or up to a couple of days, in the minced garlic, chopped onion, lemon zest, crushed pink peppercorns, chopped rosemary, sweet paprika, ground saffron, thyme, coriander seed, fennel seed, salt and olive oil.

Grill over hot coals until desired doneness (recommended medium-rare). Serve with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

Recommended wines:

The sommelier recommends bigger reds with sweet, ripe fruit and full, generous but soft texture. Look to warmer climates and new world style wines.

Seghesio 2013 Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, USA ($31.95)

John Szabo - Seghesio is a leader in the Zinfandel category in my view, crafting bold and ripe but balanced wines – a tough act to get right. This 2013 is generously proportioned, intensely fruity and lively, with terrific length and depth. This should handle the spice well.

Mendel 2011 Malbec Mendoza Argentina ($27.95)

John Szabo - Mendel is another producer who crafts balanced wines in a region known more for monolithic bulldozers. This is full and plush, richly concentrated to be sure, and it delivers the fruit intensity needed for this spicy lamb preparation. Yet it stays composed and poised throughout.
Michael Godel – On the rare occasion when a Mendoza Malbec exhibits restraint, balance and all around congenial behaviour, it is imperative to sit up and take notice. The Mendel will seduce, hypnotize and cause general swooning. Like a Grand Budapest Hotel box of treats, it will sooth even the savage beast.

Seghesio Zinfandel 2013 Mendel Malbec 2011 Andrew Rich Red Willow Vineyard Merlot 2010

Andrew Rich 2010 Red Willow Vineyard Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA, ($29.95)

Sara d’Amato – This small-lot, boutique wine from a prime vineyard within Columbia Valley has an impressive hook. This is holiday in a glass with notes of Christmas pudding, bayberry and liquorice complimenting the generous plum and red berry fruit proving an excellent choice for an exotically spiced main course.

Barque Smokehouse: Smoked Lamb Ribs

Our last recipe comes to us from Barque Smokehouse, from the complex BBQ mind of owner David Neinstein. Lamb Ribs will blow your mind and smoke along with your wine.


– 2 racks of lamb ribs, trimmed
– Herb Spice Rub (see below)
– Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Sauce (see below)


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside

– 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
– 1 tbsp brown sugar
– 1 tbsp kosher salt
– 1 tsp granulated garlic
– 1 tsp granulated onion
– 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
– 1 tsp ground cumin
– 1 tsp freshly ground coriander
– 1 tsp mustard powder
– 2 tsp dried rosemary

Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Sauce:

In a sauce pan over medium-low heat, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer at low for 15 minutes, careful not to burn.

– 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
– 2 tbsp honey
– 2 tbsp orange juice
– 2 tbsp ketchup
– 2 tsp red wine vinegar
– 2 tsp kosher salt
– 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Smoker Method (see below for backyard grill instructions):

Set the smoker to 280F and season the Lamb with rub on both sides, be generous. Smoke bone down for about 2 hours and 15 minutes, depending on how meaty your ribs are. They’re done when the meat evenly pulls back from the tips of the bone.

– Remove from the smoker and let cool.
– Pre-heat the oven to broil.
– Cut the ribs into individual pieces and place them on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.  Baste the ribs with the pomegranate bbq sauce.
– Place the tray on the middle rack and cook with the door slightly ajar until the sauce starts to bubble slightly.
– Remove the ribs and serve right away with lime wedges if you’d like.


Set a deep fat fryer to 325F and fry the individual bones for 60 seconds and then toss in the pomegranate bbq sauce.

Set and serve with lime wedges.

Backyard Grill Instructions

To turn your backyard grill into a smoker, follow these simple steps:

1. Remove half of the grill from the bbq and turn on only the element from the exposed side to its lowest setting. This method will heat the average grill to 250 F (120 C). Adjust if needed.

2. Take a square foot of foil and fill with two cups of wood chips (hickory is a good choice). Create a pouch and pierce multiple times with a fork or knife to allow for airflow. Repeat, making enough to last throughout the cooking process.

3. Place the pouch directly on the heat source. Wait about 15 minutes, or until smoke appears, then place the food directly on the side of the grill without heat underneath. Follow the same cooking instructions, keeping the lid of the grill closed as much as possible.

4. Place a large metal bowl with water in it beside the grill. Using long metal tongs, place used smoke pouches in the water bowl to douse. Discard them once they’ve soaked through and there are no hot coals left inside.

Recommended wines: 

Luigi Bosca De Sangre 2011 Diemersfontein Pinotage 2013Smoky, earthy wines tend to compliment this richly flavoured dish best. Look to South African and Southern Italian reds along with robust new world blends for inspired matches. 

Diemersfontein 2013 Pinotage, Wellington, South Africa ($18.95)

Sara d’Amato – I’ve been a long admirer of Diemersfontein’s rich, robust and smoky pinotage which proves an exciting match for earthy or gamey red meats. Try with smoky barbeque or coffee/cocoa rubbed lamb.

Luigi Bosca 2011 de Sangre, Mendoza, Argentina, ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato – From the high altitude desert region of Lujan de Cuyo, butted up against the Andes, and known for its lush malbec comes this compelling blend of cabernet sauvignon with a touch of syrah and merlot. Impactful and head turning so it needs an appropriately bold and flavourful food pairing.

Pre-Dinner Sipping wines

Dog Point 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, South Island New Zealand ($24.95)

John Szabo - I love the house style of Dog Point: comfortably flinty, grapefruit-driven and gently reductive, clearly more ripe and concentrated, and less grassy, than the average from the region. But it really shines on the palate with its exceptional depth and density, and terrific length. You’ll wait patiently, and happily, for the lamb to roast while sipping this.
Michael Godel – This Sauvignon Blanc may just be the most consistent in every vintage, not only stylistically but also for the hedging of probability bets for guaranteed Marlborough quality. Like school in fall, winter and spring, the Dog Point is all class.

Krauthaker 2013 Grasevina Kutjevo, Slavonija Croatia ($23.95)

John Szabo - Don’t be frightened by the name. Just think aromatically intense, sauvignon blanc-like, with uncommon density and weight. This was evidently grown with care and the low yields that lead to this sort of concentration.  Grasevina (aka welschriesling) is the company’s focus and flagship.

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Krauthaker Grasevina 2013 Montresor Soave Classico 2013

Montresor 2013 Soave Classico Dop, Veneto, Italy ($13.95)

John Szabo - A tidy little value from one of Italy’s most overlooked areas, still dragging the baggage of the bad old wines from decades past. This is fresh and lively, with gentle peach flavours and a light dose of petrol-like minerality. Length and depth are impressive for the price category.

Fielding Viognier, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($25.95)

Michael Godel – Winemaker Richie Roberts has worked tirelessly with Viognier to find out where it fits into the lexicon and ambience of Niagara Peninsula white grape varieties. The 2013 vintage marks a turning point in his and by extension, all of our understanding. The tropical fruit is now reigned in and the tension on the back bite a perfect foil to that well-judged, rich fruit. Sip it joyously on it own or bring on the Easter Rijsttafel!

Sara d’Amato – The seductive viognier is not only characteristically viscous, honeyed and peachy, it also exhibits refreshing balance with verve and brightness. This warm climate varietal does not often exhibit such beauty in our local fringe climate.

Fielding Viognier 2013 Cdv Brazão Colheita Seleccionada Arinto 2013 La Jara Organic Brut ProseccoChâteau La Tour Blanche 2011

Cdv Brazão 2013 Colheita Seleccionada Arinto, Vinho Verde, Portugal ($16.95)

Michael Godel - A highly unique Vinho Verde that works as a sipper and as a solid, pair me with just about anything table wine. This Arinto will tie appetizers together and buy time until the bird, hock or shank is on the table with the feast’s big reds.

La Jara Organic Brut Prosecco, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)

Sara d’Amato – This dry, charmat method Prosecco is one of the best values in this release and although it may not fool anyone into thinking it is Champagne, it is a festive delight with an impressive amount of complexity. Peach blossom, pear, honeysuckle and lemongrass make for an exotic, lush and spontaneous bubbly. “La Jara” is the name for “gravel” in local dialect referring to the large calcareous white stones of the river Piave adjacent to the vineyard – a similar surreal landscape to the much warmer vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

And For Dessert

2011 Château La Tour Blanche AC Sauternes, 1er Cru France — Bordeaux  ($49.85)

John Szabo – An arch-classic, beautifully balanced, complex and silky textured Sauternes, still extremely youthful but already nicely layered and complex. Dessert? Who needs dessert after a glass of this?

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES April 4th, 2015:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Picks
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!

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2011

County in the City

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20 bons vins à moins de 20$ pour mars

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

C’est bien beau, les bouteilles dispendieuses 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 !


Les choix de Marc Chapleau

Je l’ai déjà mis dans mes choix de la semaine, et je retape sur le clou ici même, dans notre revue mensuelle : c’est qu’il est très honnête, ce Fuzion Malbec-Shiraz 2013 argentin. Boisé à l’aide de copeaux, sûrement, torréfié un peu, mais le fruit et une certaine fraîcheur sont là. À 10 $, une bonne affaire.

D’Italie, le Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Illuminati 2012 est à la fois gourmand et généreux, corsé et acidulé. Et son prix, moins de 17 $, le rend particulièrement attractif.

Deux vins d’Espagne, maintenant. Le rioja Tempranillo Artadi 2012 se distingue par son mariage bois-fruit très réussi. En bouche, les saveurs sont mi-corsées et les tannins, de qualité. Le Garnacha Las Roscas Catalayud 2011 est plus mûr, plus confituré. Mais il conserve de la fraîcheur, l’ensemble est corsé et généreux.

Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2013 Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2012 Artadi Tempranillo 2012 Las Rocas Garnacha 2011 Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2012

Enfin, du Chili cette fois, on reste en territoire hispanophone, le Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Cono Sur 2012 dépasse de deux poils notre limite fixée à 20 $ (il faudra, je le crains, allonger un 25 sous supplémentaire), mais le jeu en vaut la chandelle. L’ensemble est un peu évolué, mais il y a de la profondeur, et suffisamment de fruit et d’acidité.

Les choix de Bill Zacharkiw

Cet hiver qui n’en finit plus s’accroche, tant bien que mal, mais la saison de la pêche au crabe commence aujourd’hui même, le 26 mars, si bien qu’on a toutes les raisons d’espérer. Voilà par contre un crustacé difficile à marier aux mets. Sa chair est si délicate, et un brin sucrée, qu’on l’écrase facilement, le vin prenant toute la place.

J’opte le plus souvent pour un pinot blanc. ll a la délicatesse nécessaire et son acidité basse se marie de belle façon à la texture de la chair du crabe. Le Trimbach, particulièrement dans son millésime 2013, convient très bien.

Si vous préférez les blancs plus aromatiques, alors essayez le Sauvignon blanc 2014 du Domaine Bellevue, qui nous vient de la Touraine, dans la Loire. Son acidité n’est pas trop marquée, et sa texture s’accommodera bien du crabe.

Trimbach Pinot Blanc 2013 Domaine Bellevue Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Cave De Tain Crozes Hermitage 2012 Torracia 2011 Terre Di Talamo Tempo Morellino Di Scansano 2011

Du côté des rouges, je vous emmène d’abord du côté du Rhône avec le Crozes-Hermitage 2012 élaboré par l’une des meilleures caves coopératives de France, la Cave de Tain. Avec ses arômes de mûres et ses tannins délicats, ce crozes rend tout à fait justice à ce que connote le nom Hermitage.

Plus rustique, et par ailleurs biologique, le 2011 Torracia, de Corse, est un excellent rouge au fruit bien mûr et aux tannins marqués. Des côtelettes d’agneau seraient indiquées, ici.

Enfin, et bien que le prix dépasse d’un poil (15 cents !) le prix limite que nous nous fixons pour cette revue mensuelle, j’ai vraiment aimé le  Morellino Di Scansano 2011 de Castello di Bossi. Un sangiovese bien mûr, quasi charnu, davantage marqué par le fruit que par des notes terreuses. Veau parmigiano ? Ne cherchez plus, vous avez trouvé.

Les choix de Rémy Charest

Quand je me suis baladé au Salon des vins de Québec, l’autre jour, j’ai spécifiquement cherché des vins à moins de 20$, en vue de ce rendez-vous mensuel. Bonne idée, au final, puisque ça m’a permis entre autres de goûter des vins québécois bien mitonnés, à commencer par le Voile de la Mariée 2013, du Vignoble Sainte-Pétronille, un assemblage de vandal-cliche et de vidal frais, droit et juste assez aromatique. À 16,60$, c’est un très bon rapport qualité-prix.

Sur un mode plus rond et festif, j’ai souri en goûtant le mousseux rosé du Domaine de Lavoie, assemblage étonnant de frontenac gris, d’eona et de sainte-croix, à la couleur assez foncée et aux jolies notes de fruits rouges. Un brin de sucre, mais juste un brin, le rend certainement capable de plaire au plus grand nombre.

Vignoble Sainte Pétronille Voile De La Mariée 2013 Domaine De Lavoie Vin Mousseux Rosé 2013 Domaine Gerovassiliou White 2012 Campagnola Chardonnay 2013 Alma Negra 2012

Après le Québec, j’ai fait le saut vers la Grèce, pour goûter le blanc du Domaine Gerovassiliou, fait moitié-moitié d’assyrtiko et de malagousia. Le premier est vif, le second très aromatique, et la somme de ces deux cépages à tendances opposées est harmonieux et charmeur.

Au même comptoir que le grec, il y avait un vénitien inattendu : un chardonnay, sous les 15$, le Campagnola, IGT Veneto. Simple, fruité, sans lourdeur, accessible : certainement aussi bien fait que ceux de régions plus généralement associées au chardonnay, comme la Californie, mettons.

Finalement, j’ai aussi été surpris agréablement par le malbec Alma Negra 2012, vivifié par un 15% de bonarda. Là où les malbecs argentins sont souvent ronds à l’excès, il y a là un surcroit d’énergie et de jolies notes fumées qui viennent donner de la complexité et du caractère.

Les choix de Nadia Fournier

Casa Ferreirinha , Vinha Grande 2010, Douro – Toujours très satisfaisant, les vins de cette vénérable maison du Douro demeure fidèle à un style très classique. À défaut du spectaculaire Barca Velha – le grand vin de Ferreirinha, toujours absent de la SAQ au moment d’écrire ces lignes –, on pourra se consoler à prix doux avec ce vin courant dont la qualité au fil des ans ne se dément pas.

Domaine d’Aupilhac, Lou Maset 2013, Coteaux du Languedoc – 
Sylvain Fadat pratique l’agriculture biologique sur le terroir de Montpeyroux, le cru le plus élevé des coteaux du Languedoc. Il y élabore ce très bon vin rouge dont la feuille de route au cours des dernières années est impeccable.

Chionetti, San Luigi 2011, Dogliani
Le dolcetto est tout le contraire du nebbiolo en ce qu’il n’a rien de bien noble. C’est plutôt un cépage populaire, utilisé pour l’élaboration de vins de soif qu’on boit sans trop réfléchir. Celui de la famille Chionetti est un pur régal de simplicité.

Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande 2011 Domaine D'aupilhac Lou Maset 2013 Chionetti San Luigi Dogliani 2011 Bodegas Moraza Tinto Joven 2013 Tetramythos Kalavryta 2013

Bodegas Moraza, Tinto Joven 2013, Rioja – 
Anciennement chez Cryomalus, le Québécois Patricio Brongo assiste sa conjointe dans le travail à la vigne et commercialise les vins de cette bodega familiale de le Rioja au Québec. Très bon vin de tous les jours, à apprécier dans sa prime jeunesse.

Tetramythos, Achaia, Noir de Kalavryta 2013 – Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos a perdu sa cave et une majeure partie de ses vignes dans les feux de forêt qui ont ravagé le Péloponnèse à l’été 2007. Les parcelles ont depuis été replantées et sont conduites en agriculture biologique. Parmi les cépages cultivés, le noir de Kalavryta, une variété rare dont Papagiannopoulos tire un vin rouge aussi original qu’abordable.


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!

Gabbiano - Emmène-moi en Toscane!

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20 under $20 for March

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 March version of the 20 under $20.

Chacun son Vin Critic Team

Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

Winter is holding on by the bare knuckles, but Snow Crab fishing season is to start March 26, so at a minimum we can feast while this way-too-long winter comes to a conclusion. Snow crab is a tough one to pair with wines. The flesh is very delicate and slightly sweet. It is easy to overpower.

My wine of choice is pinot blanc. Its delicate fruit notes won’t over power and its low acidity matches nicely the texture of the flesh. One of my favourite pinot blancs comes from Trimbach, and the 2013 will do the job with a delicate hand.

If you want a wine that has a little more aromatic oomph!, then try the 2014 sauvignon blanc from Domaine Bellevue. Hailing from the Loire appellation of Touraine, it is more textured than overtly acidic and will also do a good job with the crab.

Trimbach Pinot Blanc 2013 Domaine Bellevue Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Cave De Tain Crozes Hermitage 2012 Torracia 2011 Terre Di Talamo Tempo Morellino Di Scansano 2011

For the reds, I have gone for a few different styles. From one of France’s better co-operatives, a must try is the 2012 Crozes-Hermitage from the Cave de Tain. It does justice to its Hermitage namesake with its blackberry fruit and refined tannins.

If you are looking for a wine with a little more rusticity, and organic as well, the 2011 Torracia from Corsica is an excellent wine that offers ripe fruit and gritty tannin. Think lamb chops here.

And finally, while the price is a hair over $20, well $0.15 actually, I really liked the 2011 Morellino Di Scansano from Castello di Bossi. It’s a riper style of sangiovese that is more about the fruit than the earthier tones. Veal Parmagiano? This is your wine.

Remy Charest’s selections

At the recent Salon des vins de Québec, I made it a point of hunting down under-$20 wines for this monthly feature. The search yielded several very interesting finds, including some very pleasant local wines from Québec.

First among the locals was the 2013 Voile de la Mariée from Vignoble Sainte-Pétronille, a fresh, clean and pleasantly aromatic blend of vandal-cliche and vidal. At $16.60, it offers a great QPR.

On a rounder, more festive note, the Rosé sparkling from Domaine de Lavoie made me smile. It’s a surprising blend of Frontenac Gris, Eona and Sainte-Croix, with a fairly dark color and lovely notes of red berries. It has a touch of sweetness – but just a touch – which makes it quite the crowd-pleaser.

Vignoble Sainte Pétronille Voile De La Mariée 2013 Domaine De Lavoie Vin Mousseux Rosé 2013 Domaine Gerovassiliou White 2012 Campagnola Chardonnay 2013 Alma Negra 2012

From Québec, I headed straight to Greece and tasted the Domaine Gerovassiliou white blend of equal parts Assyrtiko and Malagousia. The first variety is sharp and crisp, the second round and aromatic, and when you put those two opposites together, the result is surprisingly harmonious and charming.

Right next to the Greek wine, there was an unexpected white from the Veneto: a chardonnay selling for under 15$, the 2013 Campagnola Veneto. Simple, fruity but not heavy, accessible, it could certainly compare favorably with those from regions more often associated with chardonnay –  like, say, California.

My most pleasant surprise, on the red side of things, was the Alma Negra 2012. Made mostly from malbec, livened up by 15% bonarda. Argentinian malbecs can sometimes be excessively round and fruity, but this wine has a nice jolt of energy and some nice smoky notes that provide complexity and character.

Marc Chapleau’s picks

While I mentioned this wine in my last article, I’m going to hammer the same nail again in our monthly under 20 under $20. The Argentine 2013 Fuzion Malbec-Shiraz is oaked with wood chips for sure which gives its roasted notes, but the fruit and freshness is undeniable. At $10, it’s a easy purchase.

From Italy, the 2012 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Illuminati is richly textured, generous with its fruit, solidly tannic and with a good acidity. Its price, just under $17, makes it even more attractive.

Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2013 Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2012 Artadi Tempranillo 2012 Las Rocas Garnacha 2011 Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2012

Now onto two Spanish wines. From Rioja the 2012 Tempranillo Artadi distinguishes itself by its well executed marriage of fruit and oak. Finessed tannins and just enough fruit follow in the mouth. The 2011 Garnacha Las Roscas Catalayud is riper, and jammier. But still maintains a certain freshness despite the power and richness of the ensemble.

Finally, this time from Chile, the 2012 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir from Cono Sur surpasses our limit of $20. You will have to lay down an extra 25 cents, but it is worth it. The wine strikes me as showing certain signs of evolution, but there is depth, and still enough fruit and acidity.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande 2010, Douro 
- Always satisfying, the wines from this venerable Douro domaine are always faithful to the classic style of the Douro. Since we can’t drink the spectacular Barca Velha – the most reputed wine of Ferreirinha, which is still absent from the  shelves of the SAQ as I am writing this, we can console ourselves with the relatively inexpensive regular listing wine whose quality over the years has remained undeniable.

Domaine d’Aupilhac Lou Maset 2013, Coteaux du Languedoc – Sylvain Fadat practices organic grape growing in his vineyards in Montpeyroux, the highest elevation “cru” in the Coteaux du Languedoc. This, his entry level wine, has maintained an impeccable consistency over the years.

Chionetti San Luigi 2011, Dogliani – Dolcetto is in many ways the opposite of nebbiolo in that it is by no means considered “noble.” It is without doubt a grape variety “of the people,” known for its high drinkability without having to reflect too much about what’s in your glass. This offering from the Chionetti family reflects the joy to be found in pure simplicity.

Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande 2011 Domaine D'aupilhac Lou Maset 2013 Chionetti San Luigi Dogliani 2011 Bodegas Moraza Tinto Joven 2013 Tetramythos Kalavryta 2013

Bodegas Moraza Tinto Joven 2013, Rioja – Québécois Patricio Brongo got his start at cider producer Cryomalus, but he and his wife now work the vines of their family bodega in Rioja. This is an excellent weekday wine that is to be drunk in the prime of its youth.

Tetramythos Achaia Noir de Kalavryta 2013, Greece – Panayiotis Papagiannopoulos lost his winery and the majority of his vines in a forest fire that ravaged the Péloponnèse in the summer of 2007. The vines have since been replanted and are now grown organically. Of the grapes being grown, one is a rare variety called the noir de Kalavryta, which Papagiannopoulos makes into a red wine that is both original and affordable.

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!

Gabbiano - Take me to Tuscany

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks March 2015

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

Spring has certainly sprung in BC, and we’re utilizing that extra hour of daylight to flex our spring cooking repertoire. Along with the cherry blossoms and magnolias, we’re celebrating the start of fresh halibut season (the best) and first of the 2014 wines from the Okanagan.

Rhys Pender is currently travelling through France, and we must be collectively missing him because we’ve all independently selected French wines in our picks.

Accueillir le printemps!

Cheers ~ TR

BC Team Version 3

Anthony Gismondi

It’s springtime in Vancouver and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. While we should be preparing for warmer days and lighter meals most of us are completely consumed by the current wholesale pricing debacle being foisted on the wine community come April Fool’s Day – and that is no joke. This month my picks reflect a very urgent need for all of us to get back to the business and culture of wine, a subject infinitely more interesting than taxes and the machination of the monopoly. This month my three picks bring something to the table that no tax or bureaucrat possibly could. These are wines that have a soul, that tell a story of place and uniqueness only a true wine lover could appreciate.

Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos Des Mouches Blanc Premier Cru 2010 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Halbtrocken Riesling Kabinett 2013 Château De Lancyre Vieilles Vignes 2012From the south of France Château de Lancyre Vieilles Vignes Pic St-Loup 2012 tells a stunning story of terroir and flavour through 50 year old grenache and syrah vines. It’s never too early to fire up the barbecue and this wine would be a worthy companion to grilled lamb.

I spent a wonderful week at ProWein in Dusseldorf, renewing my impressions of the great wines of Germany. In a rare occurrence BC has received the fine fortune of a shipment of Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken 2013. This wine amazes almost all who taste it, even if few in the world know what ‘Halbtrocken’ wine is. If you guessed half dry, good for you, but many will find it drier than most of the so-called dry wines you normally drink. Not to mention salty, mineral, stony and ridiculously electric. From seafood to chicken and beyond this wine will jumpstart your spring.

Finally get a group of friends together and buy a bottle of Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc 1er Cru 2010. Clos des Mouches Blanc can live a decade with ease but 15 to 20 years is possible in great vintages. At five years old the journey here has just begun for this white wine whose site was once home to bee-hives and mouches à miel (honey flies) the origin of Clos des Mouches. No tax, good or bad will move you like this wine.

DJ Kearney

Spring means one thing to me… lamb. Yes, I eat lamb in the winter, but somehow its intense rangy, lamby flavour – at once sweet, earthy, pungent and succulent – evokes the pulsing life force of spring.

Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon 2013 Château Meyney 2010 Godelia Mencia 2010A favourite preparation is a simple oven roasted leg, infused deeply with flavour from garlic cloves and anchovy fillets inserted into slits all over the meat. The anchovies melt into something not at all fishy, but intensely savoury and rich, creating a simple umami-rich jus. Magic with this pure 2013 Les Galchues Chinon from Jean-Maurice Raffault.

Simple grilled chops (massage first with rosemary and olive oil before flinging over hot coals), will uplift the pure cassis of Chateau Meyney 2010, a vigorous Saint-Estephe stalwart.

And because the bald truth is that warmest weather is still months (yes months) away, braising is still an option. How about lamb shanks simmered in a thick and flavourful broth, washed down with the Godelia 2010 Mencia from Bierzo, Spain, where robust meets robust and your tastebuds are the winners.  So join me in welcoming spring by cooking some lamb – at least once a week until July when it will finally be summer.

Treve Ring

I’m certainly a member of the rosé-year-round camp, but it’s a lot more fun to enjoy a lively pétillant natural rosé like 2013 Jean Maupertuis Pink Bulles outside on the patio, warmed by the sun. This blend of 50+ year old d’auvergne gamay and gamay is an ideal aperitif – lifted, edgy and subtly sweet – and far too easy to down at 11 percent.

Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay 2013 is another spring signifier, with its effusive meadow flowers, and lean and juicy palate of lime. Surprising concentration in this Nova Scotian blend of l’acadie blanc, chardonnay, ortega and new york muscat – especially considering its 10.5% alcohol. Hello brunch!

I mentioned fresh halibut season, and it certainly is cause for rejoicing on the coast. I grilled a fresh off the boat catch last week alongside roast potatoes and green beans and the lively, crisp, mineral salted 2013 Tolloy Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige- Südtirol in northeastern Italy. No wimpy pinot grigio here.

Jean Maupertuis Pink Bulles 2013 Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay 2013 Mezzacorona Tolloy Pinot Grigio 2013 Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillon Cuvée Guy Moreau 2011 Haywire Chardonnay Canyonview Vineyard Rainoldi Sassella Riserva 2007

Of course, if you wanted to up the game with your fresh halibut dinner or have a deeper cellar (or deeper pockets) to dip into, the oaked 2011 Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillon Cuvée Guy Moreau would be a stellar, classic  choice.

Like Chablis, and on the vein of chardonnay that isn’t really about chardonnay but about the place, I recommend the 2013 Haywire Chardonnay Canyonview Vineyard. Alluringly ‘Raised in Concrete’ though the savoury dried herbs, scrubby meadow bush, creamy, potent palate of desert citrus, herb-laced pear, musk melon, stony, savoury lees and fine spices is really all about Canyonview Vineyard. And a new, brave frontier of chardonnay in BC.

I was intrigued by the 2007 Rainoldi Sassella Riserva recently, the faded orange red hue, heady smoked Ricola nose, alpine herbs, fernet and amaro bitterness and candied marascino cherry creating a memorable connection. From the Valtellina Superiore DOCG in Lombardy, this Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo) would pair with truffled risotto or sautéed mushrooms on rapini.


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!


Take me to Tuscany - Gabbiano

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What’s New at the LCBO – March 2015

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

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I am writing this from my hotel room in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. It is nighttime and very dark outside, but from my window I can still hear a machine harvesting merlot from the Laura Hartwig vineyard nearby. It is quite noisy so I hope that they will finish before it is time for sleep. If not, I suppose this is one downside of sleeping among the vines that I will tolerate. I’ll bring you more about Chile’s newest wines next month, but for now let me highlight the current LCBO focus which seems to have most of the new wines coming from the Pacific North West wine regions of Canada and USA.

Outside of special VINTAGES releases, we do not see a large selection of wines from British Columbia in the stores in Ontario and, if it was not for Mission Hill Winery, there would be next to nothing. I have picked two of their new wines from the Five Vineyards series. The other new wine picks come from Washington State and Oregon in the USA. These new wines from the Pacific NW, though good, are premium priced at more than $15. Time will tell whether consumers are happy to pay the extra few dollars.

I did spot a couple of new bargain wines from Italy and Germany. These two stood out among many new entrants, which though they were deliciously packaged, left much to desire on nose and palate.

The wines on the shelves at the LCBO are constantly changing and I am tasting the new ones all the time. Many favourites are always there but the range and variety is gradually being updated. I have chosen to highlight eight new wines that have refreshed the system out of the more than 40 that I have tried since I last reported. Most are on shelves already with the rest to arrive over next couple of weeks. Anyway, I suggest you read on, pick a few that appeal and then check on inventory at your local LCBO which should be set up as your Favourite Store in Find Wine at WineAlign.

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


Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2012, Calabria, Italy ($8.40) – An easy drinking and pure, quite yummy red with decent length and structure. Enjoy with burgers.

Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2012, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada ($16.95) – A well-balanced flavourful Bordeaux style blend with very good length. A big improvement over some recent vintages.

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2012, Washington, USA ($18.95) – This is a delicious plummy very fruity merlot that is midweight to full-bodied with very good length. Quite classy and nicely balanced for food. Try with a rack of lamb.

Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2012 Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2012 The Velvet Devil Merlot 2012 Erath Pinot Noir 2012 Amity Pinot Noir 2011

Erath Pinot Noir 2012, Oregon, USA ($24.95) – A well-balanced juicy ripe pinot with a perfumed nose of cherry jam that is midweight with good length. Chill a little and enjoy on its own or with mildly spicy crab cakes.

Amity Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($25.55) – This is quite Burgundian in style with its lean earthy herbal tinged palate and cranberry and red cherry fruit. Its light to mid-weight with very good length. Enjoy with roast beef.


Rethink Dry Riesling 2012, Mosel, Germany ($12.80) – A well-balanced almost off dry riesling with firm balancing acidity and a good depth of flavour that finishes almost dry. Try with Asian cuisine.

Mission Hill 5 Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2012, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada ($15.95) – A bold highly extracted white with lots of flavour and excellent length with the power nicely tamed.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2013, Evergreen Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA ($18.95) – This is a rich and powerful riesling with lots of nervy tension between the ripe tropical fruit and a mineral lemony undertone.  Try with Asian cuisine as indicated by the packaging.

Rethink Dry Riesling 2012Mission Hill 5 Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2012Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2013


We would love to get your feedback on this report. Meanwhile check our my list wine values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. In two week’s time I will be back with a look at the updated list in our WineAlign Top 20 Under $20 report.


Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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


Luccarelli Primitivo 2013

California Wine Fair - 2015 Canadian Tour

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Trafic d’influences

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

J’avais prévu vous parler de biodynamie aujourd’hui, plus spécifiquement du fameux calendrier établi, notamment, en fonction des mouvements de la lune. Vous le savez peut-être déjà : ce dernier stipule qu’il y a des jours plus indiqués que d’autres pour tel ou tel type de travail agricole. On aurait ainsi intérêt à planter en jour « racine », à récolter en jour « fruit », à effectuer la taille en jour « feuille ».

Et tout cela pourrait se transposer sur le plan de la dégustation comme telle, du vin en l’occurrence. Celui-ci semblera plus fruité en jour fruit, plus acide en jour racine, et ainsi de suite.

En fait non, possible plutôt que je mêle les pinceaux ici, ce n’est pas exactement cela. Mais peu importe, inutile de s’embourber dans les détails. (Et du reste, pour avoir l’heure juste sur ce calendrier biodynamique, on ira jeter un oeil sur ce que ma coéquipière Nadia Fournier a écrit récemment à ce sujet, ainsi que sur l’article fouillé du confrère Marc-André Gagnon, sur Vin Québec.)

Je ne nie pas, cela dit, que les vins se goûtent mieux certains jours pour des raisons en apparence inexplicables et pour ainsi dire abstraites, quasi ésotériques. Exemple, la lune.

Pleine lune au-dessus d'un vignoble de Wolf Blass

Pleine lune au-dessus d’un vignoble de Wolf Blass, en Australie, dans l’Eden Valley, non loin d’Adélaïde.

Sauf que la pression atmosphérique jouerait apparemment un rôle au moins aussi grand. Ce qui expliquerait qu’à une dégustation à laquelle je participais récemment et tenue un jour racine (et donc en principe défavorable), les vins ont tout de même bien paru, le fruit était éclatant, l’équilibre, impeccable.

Cette affaire de pression peut sembler tirée par les cheveux, sauf que le phénomène est bien connu du monde de l’aviation, les vins goûtés par les passagers paraissant en altitude souvent plus minces et plus acides.


Mais ce n’est rien, attendez. Aux humeurs de la lune et aux soubresauts de la pression atmosphérique, il faut ajouter, parmi les facteurs influençant les dégustateurs (tous, sans exception) et qui pèsent dès lors sur leur
jugement :

– l’état de santé du dégustateur lui-même

– son humeur du moment

– les odeurs environnantes et possiblement adverses

– le son ambiant et possiblement distrayant

– la propreté des verres, leur caractère tout à fait neutre

– la température de service

– l’ordonnancement des vins, par exemple un très costaud pouvant faire en sorte que le vin suivant paraîtra malingre, alors qu’il est pourtant normalement constitué.

Mais l’influence sinon la plus forte du moins la plus pernicieuse, on n’en sort pas, demeure encore celle exercée par les pairs, par les compagnons de dégustation.

C’est pour cette raison que dans une dégustation technique le silence est de rigueur. Il est même capital ! Hélas, il s’en trouve encore, même lors d’événements réunissant des professionnels, pour prendre à témoin la galerie en s’extasiant ouvertement sur tel ou tel vin, ou en le dénigrant à l’aide d’un soupir appuyé, voire d’une grimace.

Le pouvoir de suggestion, dans ces cas-là, est immense. Le phénomène est d’ailleurs bien connu : il suffit que quelqu’un près de vous dise par exemple « Ça sent la fraise », pour qu’en replongeant le nez dans son propre verre, on détecte nous aussi, sans même trop se forcer, ladite odeur…


Comment peut-on alors se fier aux jugements émis par les critiques, si leur évaluation est tout sauf objective parce que soumise à un tas de facteurs souvent incontrôlables ?

Est-ce que ça ne veut pas dire qu’ils peuvent fort bien aimer un vin et nous le recommander chaudement, pour le regoûter le lendemain, dans un autre contexte, et ne plus en raffoler autant ?

Non seulement c’est fort possible, mais ça arrive assez souvent. Nos évaluations, nos commentaires, les scores qu’on donne aux vins, tout ça est à prendre avec des pincettes.

J’ose croire que si vous nous suivez malgré tout, si vous m’accordez par exemple à moi quelques onces de crédibilité, c’est juste une question d’atomes crochus. De confiance, quoi.

Ce qui compte, c’est notre performance globale par rapport à vos attentes et à vos propres constatations. Peu importe qu’on déguste sous influence ou non. Comme on dit dans le baseball, l’important, c’est notre moyenne au bâton.

Pour le reste, et il en va probablement ainsi pour tous les critiques, dans tous les domaines, on est là essentiellement pour l’entertainment.

Et, perso, je m’en accommode très bien ;-)


À boire, aubergiste !

Hmm… je me suis compliqué les choses un peu, avec tout ça. Vous permettez quand même que je vous recommande une série de bons vins, à divers prix, sans mettre en contexte ? Sans vous dire dans quelles conditions ils ont été goûtés, il y avait qui à mes côtés (et peut-être lui, là, que je ne peux pas sentir), et si je les ai aimés encore le lendemain — si d’aventure je les ai regoûtés ?

Je vais présumer que oui, que j’ai votre absolution…

Je commence par le Fuzion Shiraz-Malbec 2013, d’Argentine. C’est dingue, je sais ! Moi le premier, j’ai goûté ce « petit » vin vendu une bouchée de pain en esquissant mentalement une moue… Eh bien c’est bon, tout à fait potable, et je n’ai pas eu besoin de le déguster à l’aveugle pour m’en rendre compte. Il y a du bois, oui, c’est racoleur, certes, mais le compte y est, ça ne s’écrase pas dans la bouche.

Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2013 Domaine Michel Juillot Bourgogne 2012 Osoyoos Larose Petales D' Osoyoos 2011 Fontanafredda Barolo 2010

On change complètement de registre, et bien entendu de prix, avec le très bon Mercurey Domaine Michel Juillot 2012, un bourgogne rouge savoureux et énergique, déjà très agréable à boire, et un bon candidat pour le cellier.

Autre vin de très bonne tenue, relativement élégant même, le Pétales d’Osoyoos 2011 Osoyoos-Larose, rouge britanno-colombien qui a des airs de bordeaux et au boisé bien dosé.

Plus corsé, très piémontais, le Barolo Fontanafredda 2010 semble plus réussi que jamais dans ce millésime, il a du corps et de la mâche en plus d’une bonne acidité.

En blanc maintenant, j’ai bien aimé le Bourgogne aligoté Jean-Claude Boisset 2011, finement boisé (si tant est qu’il l’est) et rehaussé de notes de silex, de pierre à fusil. Autre belle surprise, le Pinot Gris Réserve Pierre Sparr 2013, blanc alsacien à la fois riche et rafraîchissant, avec une pointe de sucre résiduel.

Jean Claude Boisset Aligoté Bio Ecocert 2011 Pierre Sparr Réserve Pinot Gris 2013 Warre’s Otima 10 Year Old Port

Enfin, du côté des vins de dessert, le Warre’s Otima 10 Years old Tawny Port a un bon goût de noisette, d’amande et de caramel. Ne pas oublier de le servir frais, presque froid, pour tempérer l’alcool et exacerber le fruit.


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

Emmène-moi en toscane! avec Gabbiano


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Ode to the Hills: Why Hillsides Make Better Wine

Szabo’s Free RunMarch 23, 2015

Text and photographs by John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

“This is where I would plant”, Kevin Pogue tells me as we wind our way up the valley on the north fork of the Walla Walla River near the Washington-Oregon border. I look on either side of the road at the surrounding Blue Mountains, more rounded hills in this part really, covered with pale green wild grasses framed by the occasional outcrop of black basalt bedrock breaking the surface on the thin hillsides and peaking out on the ridge tops in surprising geometric precision. Stands of Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs dot the higher hills in the distance.

Aside from a few isolated patches of young vines that have yet to yield their first crop, vineyards are notably absent. I say notably, because that’s what Pogue is strangely referring to. This is where he would plant grapevines, if he were ever to establish a vineyard. Pogue is a professor of geology at Whitman College in Walla Walla and a respected vineyard consultant – he’s dug pits and analyzed soil structure and chemistry throughout the region, and advised many of the top producers on what, and where, to plant. So it’s telling that he’s pointing to virgin hillsides as the promised land for fine wine – land with no history, no track record to prove its suitability. There are plenty of other areas in Walla Walla, and Washington State for that matter, which have established reputations for yielding good grapes. That’s where you’d think the smart money would go. But Pogue has more than a hunch that these hills are destined for greatness. He knows.

Kevin Pogue in the future grand cru of Walla Walla

Kevin Pogue in the future grand cru of Walla Walla

Why Pogue can say this with confidence is not exactly a mystery. Hillsides have been considered prime terroir for fine wine production since long before Roman times. The steeply carved river valleys of the Northern Rhône, Douro and Mosel, the hills that rise up to the Chianti and Soave Classico districts, the flanks of the Vosges Mountains in Alsace, the vertiginous terraces of the Valtellina and the Wachau, the precipitous schists of Priorat, or the volcanic nubs of Mt. Badacsony, Somló and Tokaj that mark the northern edge of the great Plain in Hungary, to name but a very few old world examples, have been celebrated for centuries for the magical properties they impart to wine.

The Douro Valley

The Douro Valley

So what is it that makes hillsides so well suited to fine wine? In a word, it’s drainage. I’m referring mostly to water drainage, but air drainage is also important, especially in frost prone areas. Cold air drains off hills and pools, like water, in the lowest spots it finds. In cold climates, this is where you’ll get the most vine damage, which is inconvenient to say the least, even if it doesn’t affect quality directly. Just ask winegrowers in the low-lying parts of Chablis, or Prince Edward County or Washington State or the Okanagan Valley.

It’s About the Drainage

But water drainage on the other hand, does affect quality directly. Indeed, water availability is the single most important quality parameter for grape growing according to every one of the dozen or more soil scientists and geologists I’ve interviewed in the last year.

Here’s the simplified version.

Drainage, or more technically “water holding capacity”, is so important because a vine’s access to nutrients is largely a function of water availability in the soil. Macro and microelements must be dissolved in water first before roots can absorb them.

Ürziger Würzgarten, Mosel, looking at 3rd rate flatlands

Ürziger Würzgarten, Mosel, looking at 3rd rate flatlands

Terraced Vineyards on the slopes of Mt. Etna-7482

Terraced Vineyards on the slopes of Mt. Etna

It’s a fine balance: no water in the soil and the plant dies. But excessively water-retentive soils are equally bad news. When vine roots are immersed in water, they suffocate, literally. Excess water excludes oxygen, which is critical for the nitrogen cycle and other processes that feed the plant.

The ideal – at least from the quality winegrower’s perspective – is closer to the drier end of the continuum. Well-drained soils make nutrients less available – i.e. they are less fertile – and thus produce vines with less vegetative growth, and fewer and smaller but more concentrated grapes (less juice-to-skin ratio) due to the moderate water/nutrient stress. For a winegrower aiming for high quality, this is perfect. Overly wet soils, on the other hand, promote “luxury consumption” of nutrients, which in turn leads to high vigour, high yields and less ripe, more vegetal-flavoured, watery grapes.

Nutrient Poor

Dry soils are also inherently less fertile – they have fewer nutrients to offer the plant in the first place – because they support less natural vegetation. Fewer weeds, grasses or even desired cover crops can grow between vine rows in arid soils. That means less accumulation of organic material derived from decaying plant matter over time. Thus dry soils remain naturally poor in the vigour-promoting nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium of which organic matter is composed. Excessive vine vigor, the nightmare of the quality grower, is rarely a problem in well-drained soils. But wet soils, short of an all out chemical war against weeds, are perpetually re-fertilized by organic matter and thus doubly vigorous.

“Physical characteristics are the dominant factor of soil potential”, confirms James A. Kennedy, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at 
Fresno State in California. He’s referring to such things as particle size and the percentage of organic matter and clay (and what type of clay) a soil contains, all of which contribute to its water holding capacity.

Rangen de Thann, Alsace

Rangen de Thann, Alsace

Napa Hills vs. the Valley Floor-8363

Napa Hills vs. the Valley Floor

I press another California-based soil and viticultural specialist, Daniel Roberts (AKA “Dr. Dirt”) at length for some kind of relation between soil chemistry and wine quality, but he finally shakes his head and raises his hand to stop me. “That soils are well drained is the most critical factor” he declares, closing the door on any fantastic theories I might have had about magic dirt. “Soil chemistry can be adjusted. Soil structure is much harder to adjust. But that’s what matters.” He’s quite right. Soils can, and are regularly amended through applications, man-made or organic. That’s not to say soil chemistry doesn’t matter to wine – it clearly does. It’s just not as important as drainage.

In a similar vein, when I ask Chilean “terroirist” and international vineyard consultant Pedro Parra to describe his “ideal” terroir, the most important factor he cites is: “a very stony soil, with plenty of fractured rocks”. The reason is simple: pebbles and rocks tend to break up the soil, providing avenues for water percolation and root penetration. In other words, he’s after well-drained soils.

No Modifications Required

So why hillsides? Because they come ready-made with low water holding capacity and scarce nutrition. Of course, there are many examples of flat vineyards with low fertility and excellent drainage, mostly on ancient riverbeds full of the drainage-promoting stones that Parra looks for. Consider the gravel terraces of Bordeaux’s Left Bank, the Gimblett Gravels of Hawke’s Bay, the oft-photographed pudding stones of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or even the new Rocks District of Millton-Freewater AVA in Oregon, sighted entirely on basalt cobbles carried down from the Blue Mountains by the Walla Walla River, for prominent examples. But the fact that these areas also produce excellent wines only strengthens the evidence that drainage is key.

But hillsides are favoured for quality winegrowing because they are invariably less fertile and better drained than low-lying flat ground. They can’t help but drain – they have the natural advantage of gravity on their side. Have you ever seen a waterlogged hillside?

Hillside vineyards in Orvieto, Umbria, Italy

Hillside vineyards in Orvieto, Umbria, Italy

High above the Valley in Colchagua, the future of great wine in Chile -7011

High above the Valley in Colchagua, the future of great wine in Chile

Erosion is also inevitable on hillsides, resulting in shallower soils, that is, less physical soil to hold water or nutrients. And all that soil washed down from slopes accumulates and makes valley floor soils deep and rich in organic matter, and even more fertile and water retentive. Add to that the fact that valley floors also effectively receive double rain – the water that falls from the sky and the water that drains off of surrounding hills, and the challenge of growing quality grapes is further compounded.

On hillsides there’s far less distance for roots to travel to reach the hard, non-water-retentive bedrock. The minimal moisture available is nonetheless sufficient to allow the vine to absorb critical trace elements that have weathered from the bedrock: enough but not too much. If you believe that geology does influence wine flavor, hillsides would be the place to look for evidence.

There are other advantages of hillsides, notably an improved angle for sunlight reception, favoring photosynthesis, and greater air movement, which keeps vines dry and healthy. Higher elevations can be exploited for their cooler temperatures to slow ripening down – critical in hot climates – or to locate vineyards above fog lines or inversion layers (when warm air sits on a dense mass of cold air, and the temperature actually increases as you go higher) to promote ripening. The sugar-acid balance of ripe grapes is almost always better (more natural acid at the same degree of ripeness) on a dry hillside than on a moist flatland vineyard in any given situation.

Mt. Badacsony, Hungary-5037

Mt. Badacsony, Hungary

The downside is higher cost of production. Vineyards planted on the flats are more productive (you can grow more tons per acre) and easier to farm (because they’re flat and tractor-friendly). But on hillsides the yields are naturally low and farming is more labor intensive. In the case of the steepest hills, all work must be done by hand, which increases costs dramatically. The maintenance of terraces and retaining walls to keep soils on the hills are yet other expenses not shared by flatland farmers. In recognition of this, European winegrowers on hills with a greater than 30% gradient have recently sought EU subsidies to help maintain their vineyards, without which many will disappear. That would be a great loss of vinous patrimony.

Of course there are dozens, if not hundreds of other factors than play a role in wine quality. And proper site preparation before planting, such as installing under row drainage tiles, and smart grape growing like regular plowing and applying compost to improve (read: loosen) soil structure can mitigate the negative effects of low-lying, water-greedy soils. But all things being equal, given the choice between the flats and the hills, I’ll always opt for the hillside wine. The vineyards that Kevin Pogue envisions for the Blue Mountains may cost more to farm than anywhere else in Walla Walla, but the results, I wager, will be well worth it.

Buyer’s Guide for the Love of Hills: Great Wines from Steep Hillsides

Set your wine search to any of the regions mentioned in this report to find the wines currently available in your province.

Studert Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2012 Dalva 20 Year Old Tawny Port Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny Port Quinta Da Romaneira 2010 Touriga Nacional Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Studert Prüm 2012 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany

Laurel Glen 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain, California

Ridge Vineyards 2011 Monte Bello Domäne Wachau Dürnstein 2013 Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Domäne Wachau Achleiten Smaragd 2011 Riesling Aurelio Settimo Barolo 2010 Domaine Des Baumard Clos De Saint Yves 2010 Savennières

Ridge Vineyards 2011 Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Aurelio Settimo 2010 Barolo, Piedmont, Italy

Domaine Des Baumard Clos De Saint Yves 2010 Savennières, Loire, France

Wolf Blass Gold Label 2013 Chardonnay Stoller 2012 Pinot Noir Hirsch Heiligenstein 2013 Grüner Veltliner La Moussière 2012 Sancerre J. L. Chave Selection 2011 Offerus St Joseph


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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

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!

Montresor Amarone della Valpolicella

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Season 5, Table 2 of “So, You Think you Know Wine?”

Blind Tasting meets Sauvignon Blanc

The oh-so serious sport of wine tasting is receiving a major reality check in Season 5 of WineAlign’s “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

Seán Cullen

The multi-camera format of Season 5 captures up-close jousting between participants who sit at a studio round table and focus on identifying the concealed “jug of freedom” (as host Seán Cullen calls it) in front of them.

Without any clues, comedian Seán Cullen takes each table through the sniffing, tasting, and gurgling ritual—asking them to correctly identify the grape, country, region, vintage, and price of the wine. Cullen then issues each player a score but not without, first, testing a few of his own theories against the experts. A champion eventually emerges.

The series showcases some of Canada’s most widely recognized, award-winning sommeliers and wine critics as well as three top local food personalities.

Seán Cullen is a triple Gemini and Canadian Comedy Award winner. He has made multiple appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and CBS’s The Late Late Show and has a number of his own specials including Comedy Central Presents, Comedy Now and was a finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing.

Click here to watch Table 2 or read on to learn more about the contestants in this round and the scoring method.

Table 2

At Table 2, wine experts David Lawrason (WineAlign, Toronto Life), Sara d’Amato (WineAlign, Chatelaine) and Will Predhomme (Sommelier, Wine Educator) battle it out to see who can correctly identify Creekside Sauvignon Blanc 2013.

David Lawrason

Sara d'Amato

Will Predhomme

The Scoring

The scoring on each wine remains similar to past seasons with points for Variety, Country, Region, Appellation, Vintage and Price.

Variety:  3 points
Country, Region, Appellation:  up to 4 points
Vintage:  up to 2 points
Price (within 10% on either side): 1 point

Let the games begin! Pour yourself a glass of wine and Watch Table 2 here.

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

Previously on Season 5 of “So, You Think You Know Wine?”:

Table 1 – Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013

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

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


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Cellier Italie (2e partie) – Bien plus que la «piquette»

Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Je vous rassure, je n’ai pas l’intention d’alimenter le débat lancé plus tôt cette semaine. Il a déjà fait couler beaucoup trop d’encre.

Seulement, comme presque tous mes collègues, je suis d’avis que les quelques échantillons sélectionnés pour cette enquête étaient loin (très très loin) d’être représentatifs de l’offre que l’on trouve sur les tablettes de notre monopole. La SAQ a un inventaire courant de plus de 9000 vins. De ce nombre, 54 (listés ICI) sont importés en vrac et embouteillés au Québec. L’enquête de laquelle est ce scandale porte sur dix bouteilles.

Dix bouteilles choisies méticuleusement sur un inventaire courant de plus de 9000 vins… Je n’oserais pas vous dire que les dés étaient pipés, mais vous êtes intelligents, chers lecteurs, et vous saurez lire entre les lignes.

Soyons critiques, restons lucides

Oui, la SAQ agace. Le système de monopole d’État dérange. On est en droit de le critiquer, comme on est en droit de critiquer le gouvernement duquel il relève. Mais de grâce, restons lucides dans la critique. La fin de la SAQ ne solutionnerait pas tous les problèmes. Rien ne solutionne tous les problèmes. Sauf la magie peut-être, mais ça, j’ai passé l’âge d’y croire.

Oui, l’offre à la SAQ a très longtemps été banale, navrante, gênante. Comme tant d’amateurs de vins, j’ai souvent ressenti un petit pincement au cœur en voyant ce qui se trouvait sur les tablettes de cavistes à l’étranger. Mais depuis qu’elle a adopté le virage Cellier en 2006, je dois reconnaître que la SAQ a fait de gros efforts pour diversifier son offre. Et elle y parvient. Il lui arrive même parfois de me surprendre… agréablement.

Pour preuve, cette sélection de crus italiens commercialisés aujourd’hui, dans le deuxième arrivage Cellier du mois de mars. Dans l’ensemble, des vins authentiques et originaux, presque tous vendus sous la barre des 30 $.

Pour relire les commentaires au sujet des vins commercialisés il y a deux semaines, vous pouvez cliquer ICI 

Piémont : le ventre de l’Italie

La cuisine piémontaise est l’une des plus généreuses d’Italie. Une cuisine taillée sur mesure pour des vins forts en caractère. À leur meilleur, ce sont des vins rustiques, mais combien savoureux et parfaits pour toutes sortes de repas à la bonne franquette.

À commencer par un très bon vino da tavola, Paolo Scavino Vino Rosso 2013 (18,35 $) issu de jeunes vignes, pas complexe, mais bien piémontais par sa vigueur. À savourer de préférence à table, où son acidité prendra tout son sens.

Paolo Scavino Vino Rosso 2013Castello Di Neive Barbaresco 2010G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso 2011

Bien qu’il n’ait pas l’étoffe des meilleurs crus de l’appellation, le Barbaresco 2010 du Castello di Neive (22,95 $) offre, pour le prix d’un nebbiolo courant, toute la tenue en bouche souhaitée. À ce prix, on peut difficlement demander mieux d’un vin de cette appellation. 

Enfin, l’un de mes coups de cœur de la dégustation a été pour ce simple Langhe Rosso 2011 de la famille Vajra (21,55 $). Assemblage de nebbiolo, de dolcetto, de barbera, conjugués à une petite proportion d’albarossa, de freisa et de pinot noir, c’est tout le bon goût du Piémont, mis en bouteille. On apprécie autant son grain tannique un peu austère, que sa vivacité et ses délicieux goûts de griottes.

Gerardo Cesari Jema Veronese 2010Albino Piona Bianco Di Custoza 2013Prà Otto Soave Classico 2013

De Vénétie, on voudra surtout retenir le Jema 2010, Veronese (29,80 $) de Gerardo Cesari, bon vin rouge séduisant, suave et flatteur, à boire sans se presser jusqu’en 2019.

Ainsi que les Albino Piona Bianco di Custoza 2013 (18,75 $) et Prà Otto 2013 Soave Classico (20 $). Deux bons vins blancs d’apéritif, modestes, mais digestes et assez originaux à leur manière.

De Firenze à Vittoria

J’ai beaucoup de respect pour San Felice, une vaste propriété située au sud-est de l’appellation Chianti Classico. Grâce aux efforts conjugués de ses oenologues cette grande maison a grandement contribué à la réhabilitation de variétés autochtones de Toscane, en plus de produire des vins dont la qualité n’a d’égal que la constance, comme le Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010. Déjà assez ouvert et évolué, comme en témoignent ses accents de champignon séché, il a assez d’étoffe pour tenir jusqu’en 2018.

Produit quelques centaines de kilomètres au sud de la Toscane par Di Majo Norante, le domaine le plus connu de la région de Molise, l’Aglianico Biorganic 2011 (18,80 $) remontera le moral aux déprimés de l’hiver. Biologique et plein de soleil, avec de l’étoffe et du caractère. Comment ne pas aimer?

Pour clore cet arrivage Cellier, un vent d’exotisme de Sicile.

Il Grigio Da San Felice Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2010Di Majo Norante Algianico 2011Cos Rami Sicilia 2012

Sauf erreur, le Cos Ramì 2012 (31 $) est le premier vin orange vendu à la SAQ. Rappelons que la dénomination « orange » n’a rien à voir avec le fruit, mais bien avec couleur du vin, qui résulte d’une macération d’environ 10 jours avec la peau des raisins inzolia et grecanico (le garganega de Soave).

Produit depuis l’Antiquité, le vin orange serait né il y a plus de 7000 ans, en Georgie ou dans le sud-est de la Turquie, dès les premiers balbutiements de la vinification des raisins par l’homme.

Depuis quelques années, ce style de vin gagne en popularité, mais les résultats obtenus ne sont pas toujours heureux. Plusieurs vins orange sont lourds et dépourvus de fraîcheur, quand ils ne sont pas complètement déviants. Ce qui n’est pas du tout le cas ici. Au contraire, la texture ferme soutient l’intensité aromatique de l’inzolia et du grecanico (le garganega de Soave) et donne un vin exquis, ultra sec, quasi tannique tant il a de la matière en bouche. Tout ça à 12 % d’alcool. Une curiosité à découvrir !


Courrier Vinicole – L’art d’enrichir sa cave 

Les membres du Courrier Vinicole ont jusqu’au 23 mars 2015, à midi, pour confirmer leur commande parmi les vins de la présente promotion.

Le Courrier vinicoleParmi la vingtaine de produits goûtés il y a quelques semaines, voici ceux qui, à mon avis, constituent de bons achats.

Joseph Phelps, Pinot noir 2012, Fogdog, Sonoma Coast
12065389 (45 $)

Etude, Pinot noir 2012, Grace Benoist Ranch, Carneros
12477826 (49 $)

Casa Ferreirinha, Quinta da Leda 2011, Douro
12511271 (55 $)

Domaine François Villard, Comme une Évidence 2012, Crozes-Hermitage
12474019  (34 $)

Mullineux, Syrah 2012, Swartland
12490545  (36 $)

La Rioja Alta, Gran Reserva 904 2001, Rioja
12407810 (58 $)

Rocca di Frassinello, Ornello 2010, Maremma
12490342 (30 $)

Grgich Hills, Zinfandel 2010, Napa Valley
12477957 (48 $)


Présentation dela 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 mes notes de dégustation sur tous les vins du CELLIER, en un seul et même endroit.

À la vôtre!

Nadia Fournier

Tous les vins mis en vente le 19 mars
Les favoris de Nadia
Les Choix de Nadia – Premier arrivage

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.)

Gabbiano - Emmène-moi en Toscane !

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES March 21st – Part Two

Southwest France, Riesling & the Best of the Rest
By John Szabo MS with notes from Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The deep southwest remains one of those lost and misunderstood corners of France, as seemingly impenetrable as the local accent. I’ll never forget watching a news report in Paris in which a farmer from the Gers, a region to the west of Toulouse, was being interviewed. His accent was so thick the TV station posted subtitles so the rest of France could understand.

The region’s two marquee appellations, Cahors and Madiran, featured in the March 21st release, could likewise use some subtitles to help consumers understand them a little better. I was also inspired by a quartet of rieslings from three classic regions, and Sara and I have a handful of additional smart buys for you, filling in the gaps while David continues his peripatetic wine research.

Buyers’ Guide March 21st:
Southwest France, Cahors, Madiran & Fronton: Lost in Translation


Considering Argentina’s success with malbec, a grape that originates in southwest France on either side of the Lot River near the town of Cahors, you’d have thought that some reflected spotlight would have shone back home. But I’d wager that most enthusiastic drinkers of deeply fruity malbec from Mendoza would have little inkling of the grape’s true origins, a perfectly understandable knowledge gap considering for one that the French original is rarely labeled with the name of the grape, but more importantly, how radically different the two styles are.

Ironically, these days it’s Argentina that has a more clearly defined style for the variety, and the old world is busy reinventing itself. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been to that corner of France, so I asked local writer and wine importer Alain Laliberté for his most recent impressions of the region – Laliberté is somewhat of a specialist and has travelled there on many occasions over the last decade for his importing business.

“A generation of young producers have picked up the baton since the turn of the century, with a far more rigorous approach to quality than the previous generation. And they’ve already had a big impact”, he reveals [my translation]. “The rustic, bony wines of the ‘70s, ’80s and even ‘90s, with their drying tannins, have ceded place to structured wines that are more like an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

Cahors has indeed improved a great deal, and the top examples highlight malbec’s floral character, like a field of violets, and bring graceful natural acidity to bear on chiseled tannins, lifting and framing the wine. It was in fact that naturally high acid working with green tannins in the past that made the old “black wine” of Cahors so unruly.

Pont-Valentré, Cahors. (Photo from

Pont-Valentré, Cahors. (Photo from

There are also notable style differences depending on precisely where the grapes are grown, as the Cahors appellation has three distinct areas. “Malbec from the low-lying, gently inclined parcels facing the Lot River are less dense”, Laliberté confirms, “while the elevated inclines above produce more structured wines.” The Cahors most suitable for long ageing, however, are those grown on the iron-rich limestone plateau that sits above the river and the other two areas, which yields the most firm and dense wines, according to Laliberté, but also the most finessed. Clos Troteligotte, one of the producers Laliberté represents, has vines on the plateau and produces no fewer than six malbec cuvées according to the concentration of iron in each micro-parcel. (Clos Troteligotte K-Or Cahors 2012 is set to be released in April or May).

For more immediate gratification, try the Château Pineraie 2011 l’Authentique ($39.95) from this release. It’s a bold and seriously pure malbec from the plateau. Sixty year-old vines are harvested very ripe and grapes are fermented in wooden vats (more oxygen, softer tannins) before ageing in barriques, 2/3rds of which are new, for a year and a half. The net result is a dense and supple wine with excellent quality tannins: ripe but firm, fine-grained and neatly woven. Even at the premium price this over-delivers. Best 2015-2026.


Tannat, the principal variety in the appellation of Madiran even further southwest of Cahors in Basque country, has yet to really garner any significant international attention. Unlikely Uruguay has made it somewhat of a signature variety, and I’ve seen it pop up in regions as far-flung as Greece and Australia, but its wiry, impermeable character make even malbec look like a plush and cuddly stuffed animal, and has limited its appeal in a new world looking above all for soft, fruity wines. During my first visit to Madiran in 2000, my palate was stripped of all flesh and saliva after a barrel tasting of just four wines, needing a full afternoon to recover from the blitzkrieg of tannin.

It’s not tough to imagine why micro-oxidation (or “micro-ox”), a technique of gently dosing wine with oxygen bubbles to soften tannins, would have been invented here to deal with tannat. But as in Cahors, more attentive viticulture, lower yields, and riper grapes have altered the style landscape. Also, in theory tannat need only represent 40% of a Madiran final blend, even if in practice the percentage is much higher, and producers have the option of adding cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon or fer to complement (it’s telling that cabernet sauvignon would be considered a softening variety here).

Château Pineraie l'Authentique Cahors 2011 Château Peyros Vieilles Vignes Madiran 2009 Château Bellevue La Forêt 2011

Most take advantage of the rules and blend 20%-30% of other grapes, as in Château Peyros 2009 Vieilles Vignes Madiran ($18.95). For this old vines cuvée, average 50 year-old Tannat is blended with 20% of cabernet franc to great effect yielding a very pretty, violet-scented example with an engaging medicinal note, like walking into an herbalist’s shop. For the money you’d be hard pressed to find more complexity; this is a flavour trip into wonderland. Now five years on it’s drinking very well, though it’s still Tannat, and tight tannins call for salty protein. Best 2015-2021.


It seems only one estate waves the flag internationally for the small AOC of Fronton north of Toulouse and its unique specialty, négrette. Sara d’Amato recommends it:Château Bellevue La Forêt 2011 ($13.95). The blend is primarily made up of négrette, a grape found in very few places outside of Fronton or the southwest. As the name suggests, it produces deeply coloured wines, spicy with medium tannins but short on acids. In this case it is blended with syrah (adding appealing notes of black pepper and purple flower), cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. Impactful and memorable.”

Buyers’ Guide March 21st: Riesling Rules!

A quartet of excellent rieslings from regions with proven track records of success – Germany, Alsace and Ontario – inspired this mini-thematic. Gather your tasting group and line these up for a thorough schooling in riesling styles. Lovers of classic Mosel will find happiness in the Dr. Hermann 2010 Erdener Treppchen Kabinett Riesling ($17.95). It would be hard to imagine stuffing more regionally distinctive character, and just plain lots of wine, into a bottle for less. And if you saw how steep and difficult to farm the Treppchen vineyard is, you’d almost feel guilty. Almost. This wine will live on until the early ‘30s no doubt.

Ontario is by now internationally recognized for the quality of its riesling, and March 21st sees two of the finest examples offered. Since the first vintage in 2002, Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling ($19.95) has turned heads. The 2013 is yet another lean, tightly wound, sharp riesling the way we like them, finely woven and very nicely balanced. Drink or hold until the early ‘20s.

And with an even longer track record, and some of the oldest riesling vines in Canada panted in the late 1970s, Vineland Estates 2012 Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling ($19.95) continues on in the Germanic tradition, carrying amazing flavour intensity on a featherweight, 9% alcohol frame. I like the off-dry, crisp-balanced, spiced apple flavours and the lingering apple blossom finish. Drink through 2022.

Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Kabinett Riesling 2010 Flat Rock Nadja's Vineyard Riesling 2013 Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2012 Trimbach Riesling 2012

If you prefer your riesling fully dry and upright, you need only knock on the centuries old house of Trimbach, where dry riesling has been a specialty since 1626. The 2012 Trimbach Riesling ($21.95) is a terrific, arch-classic dry Alsatian style with deceptive intensity and length on a seemingly light frame. This quivers and reverberates on and on. Best 2015-2022.

Buyers’ Guide March 21st: More Smart Buys

Force Majeure 2011 Collaboration Series VI Red Mountain, Columbia Valley ($64.95)

John Szabo - In a short time Red Mountain has become Washington State’s premium red wine AVA, and Force Majeure one of its maximum interpreters. Paul McBride planted his first vines in 2006, but while waiting for them to mature, embarked on a series of collaborative wines with Ciel du Cheval vineyard. The series is being phased out as estate fruit comes into production, so it’s unlikely we’ll see this again, a sturdy and well-structured blend of mourvèdre and syrah with a splash of grenache offering plenty of dark fruit and spice, integrated wood, and liqueur-like concentration. Best 2017-2026.

Tinto Pesquera 2010 Reserva, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain ($44.95)

John Szabo - One of my first great wine moments involved a bottle of Pesquera, and happily, some years later, the wine is still as memorable. There are few places, and indeed fewer wines on earth that can pull off such a fine balance of fruit and oak, structure and suppleness. This wine also ages magnificently, and I recommend cellaring another three years or so before making your own memories. Best 2018-2030.
Sara d’Amato – An iconic, generous wine sure to etch itself in your memory. Drink selfishly or please, give a taste to a first time wine drinker and you may just be responsible for the birth of a new oenophile.

Force Majeure Collaboration Series VI 2011 Tinto Pesquera Reserva 2010 Domaine J. Laurens Le Moulin Brut Blanquette de Limoux E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2013

Domaine J. Laurens Le Moulin Brut Blanquette De Limoux, Languedoc, France ($18.95)

Sara d’Amato - Limoux is known as the “original Champagne” as the bubbly was thought to have come about in the 16th century, close to 200 years before Champagne became prominent. With lots of depth, succulence and creaminess, this appealing and frothy example has me wanting to celebrate.

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2012, Rhône, France ($18.95)

Sara d’Amato - White Rhône floats my boat and it is a shame we see it so infrequently on our shelves. This is a fine, well-priced southern example, very characteristic and easy to appreciate. Notes of lush apricot, lavender and crunchy sea salt will have you salivating. Try with white fish in a peppery lemon butter sauce.

That’s all for this week. But in case you missed it, check out d’Amato’s and my report on Cuvée 2015 and the best from Ontario, complete with compromising photographs! See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES March 21, 2015:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
March 21st Part One – Icon Wines Demystified
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!

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2011

County in the City

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008