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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Oct 3, Part Two

Spain and Thanksgiving
by John Szabo MS, with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week, the WineAlign Crü takes a look at VINTAGES’ first serious crack at raising the profile, and average price, of Spanish wines in Ontario, with a handful of top buys and multiple “triple alignments” between us. And since Thanksgiving is around the corner, we’ve also assembled our favorites from the October 3rd release, laid out in handy menu format; just plug and play.

Welcome Back, Spain

Consider for a moment some of Spain’s contributions to world culture. The country is a mecca for students of architecture, offering an encyclopaedic range from Frank Gehry’s landmark Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, to Antonio Gaudi’s magnificent designs in Barcelona, the spellbinding high Renaissance masterpiece El Escorial near Madrid by Juan Bautista de Toledo, the serene beauty of the Moorish magnum opus Alhambra Palace in Granada, the radical juxtaposition of Islam and gothic Catholicism in Córdoba’s Mezquita, countless medieval churches and monasteries, and even one of the old world’s best-preserved Roman aqueducts in Segovia.

The world’s first novel was penned here – Cervantes’ El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, while the international molecular gastronomy movement had its genesis in a small restaurant called elBulli in the hamlet of Roses overlooking the Costa Brava in Catalonia, inspiring a wave of culinary exploration both domestically and internationally. And where would we be with jamón Ibérico, hands-down the world’s best, or those tasty little charred padrón peppers that seem to be popping up on restaurant menus across Ontario, or Marcona almonds or hard Spanish sheep’s cheese in all of it’s kaleidoscopic variety? I haven’t even touched the legions of painters, dancers, filmmakers, musicians….

But what of Spanish wine? Spain of course produces wine, quite a lot of it in fact. The country has more acreage under vine than any other on the planet, and its production history stretches back to the earliest days of trade in the Mediterranean. So why is it you know so much about Spain, but so little about Spanish wine?

For one, Spain was a very latecomer on the international wine scene, having slept through a good part of the 20th century for various, mostly political reasons. It wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that Spanish wine awoke from its 19th century slumber. Alejandro Fernandez and his Tinto Pesquera from Ribera del Duero started to turn heads in the mid-1980s. René Barbier, Álvaro Palacios and their band of radical friends wagered on the immense potential of remote Priorat in the early 1990s, where Carthusian monks had been drawing precious drops from withered old vines clinging to bare rock for centuries in quasi secrecy. Their long odds came in, and they won large.

Soon after, bagpipe-playing vignadores in northern “Green” Spain, more familiar looking to Gaels then Andalucíans, realized that they had a treasure in their aromatic albariño grown in the misty maritime hillsides of Rias Baixas. Their neighbours in Bierzo likewise awoke at the turn of the millennium to find that nobody had replanted a vine for the last century, leaving vast tracks of ancient bush vine mencía for the current generation to exploit, capable of producing Spain’s most elegant reds.

The alarm reverberated throughout the country like the peeling of church bells on Sunday morning. The ripples eventually reached even the sleepiest regions like Calatayud, Campo de Borja and Cariñena, where there, too, they found acre upon acre of ancient hills covered in bonsai-like old garnacha vines, inexpensive to transform into a rich and heady style of wine that the world wants more and more of. The old classics like Rioja and Sherry were compelled to dust off their images and start producing better wines. Viticulture has never been sharper, and terroirs better understood in Rioja then they are today, and their brief, rebound fling with thick and soupy internationalized wines has more or less ended, sagely returning to the marvellously mid-weight, vibrant and savoury, eminently age-worthy reds for which the region is so well suited. And sherry gains new converts every day, at least among smart drinkers who know where to lay down their money to get the most singular and complex drinking experience for the least outlay.

All of these developments, and many more, have been simmering away in Spain for a couple of decades now, but admittedly, you would have been hard-pressed to know it living in Ontario. Few of the exciting wines were imported, and little promotion was done. But, it seems the pot has finally come to a boil.

Last night, Wines from Spain and LCBO-Vintages held the first significant tasting of Spanish wines in Toronto in longer than I can remember. A pre-tasting seminar sold out in short order, and some 350 people crowded into the Roundhouse to sample the wares of nearly three-dozen producers covering a fine cross-section of the industry. Just the week before, the LCBO launched a Spanish Specialty Store, the third in the laudable “Products of the World” initiative (read David’s report about it, and we’re planning a full review of the Spanish selection, triple the previous number of products available). And to line up everything neatly, the October 3rd VINTAGES release features a collection of Spanish wines.

What’s different from previous Spanish releases is the evident effort to shift consumers up-market; the average price of the featured wines is about $30. And while Spain has plenty of excellent wines in the sub-$20 range, those few extra dollars allow you tap into some of the more regionally distinctive and representative wines – the stuff that makes a country unique – as you’ll see in the category-leading Terras Gauda Rias Baixas or the comfortingly classic Viña Real Rioja Gran Reserva. It also permits exploration of some innovative curiosities that aren’t just weird but also wonderful, like the pure Rufete from Bodegas Bhilar, one of the most memorable discoveries at last night’s event.

Let’s hope this is the beginning of a more regular and representative selection of what Spain has to offer, so Ontarians can add wine to the list of Spain’s world culture contribution.

Speaking of Sherry

Love sherry? Or think you might? Check out the Canadian premier screening of Sherry and The Mystery of Palo Cortado, this Sunday October 4th, part of the Eatable Film Festival in Toronto (drinking sherry and eating pintxos is part of the deal). Go all in and have dinner at Bar Isabel after the screening with a crazy collection of sherries presented by winery principals.

Buyers Guide for October 3rd 2015: Spain 

Terras Gauda 2013 O Rosal Blanco, Rías Baixas, Spain ($24.95)
David Lawrason – When I first visited this region I remember being so impressed by examples that combined dancing, exotic fragrance and freshness with grounded structured and great depth. This is one of those wines, the best albarino of the year, giving full expression to the grape and the maritime terroir of Galicia.
Sara d’Amato – The O Rosal Blanco is blended from native varieties of albariño, loureira, and caiño blanco and fermented with wild yeast. This complex and highly pleasurable white is perfect for pairing with Thanksgiving fare although I plan to enjoy it all on its own.
John Szabo – Terras Gauda has been a Rias Baixas reference for me for many years now, and this O Rosal (sub-regional designation) may just be the finest yet. A splash of Loureiro adds additional aromatics to albariño’s impressive floral-fruity range, while caiño blanco chisels and tightens the palate with its stony wash. I love the salty taste, too, like the Atlantic mist-infused air of Galicia.

Viña Real 2008 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($36.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a lovely, succulent, deliciously savoury Rioja, salty and infinitely drinkable. Unlike most in the traditional camp (in which this wine can be included as well), this is not dripping in spicy American oak flavour, but finds a balance between fruit, wood, and developed spicy-earthy character. Length is excellent, too. Drink or hold a dozen years without concern.
David Lawrason – Grand indeed! This traditional Rioja is so elegant, tidy, refined and surprisingly youthful – with subtle floral notes among cherry fruit and fine oak vanillin. Great weave and finesse, and still able to age. Predict peak about 2020.
Sara d’Amato – Opulent and modern with velvety tannins, this Gran Reserva is a standout from other Riojas in this release. Offering the characteristic concentration and ageability of a wine at this level with only a hint of maturity. A cooler weather wine best enjoyed with hearty stews or braised red meats.

Marqués De Cáceres 2009 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($24.95)
John Szabo – Firm, succulent, juicy, genuinely savoury and saline Rioja from the ever-reliable Marqués de Cáceres, this has firmness and cut, mouth-salivating acids and marked minerality. I’d tuck this away for another 3+ years for maximum enjoyment, or hold another decade.

Terras Gauda O Rosal Blanco 2013 Vina Real Gran Reserva 2008 Marqués De Cáceres Reserva 2009 Phinca Encanto Rufete 2011 Baron De Ley Gran Reserva 2008

Bodegas Bhilar 2011 Phinca Encanto Rufete, Sierra de Francia, Spain ($32.95)
David Lawrason – This is incorrectly indicated as a Rioja in Vintages catalogue (the winery is based in Rioja but the fruit is from a less well known region in central-northwest Spain).  It is a delicious and fascinating wine. Winemaker David Sampedro Gil (“DSG” is its brand) is a young gun from a 5th generation of vintners who is on mission is recover indigenous varieties.  Rufete is an early-ripening, well-under-the-radar red grape centred in the Duero/Douro region of Spain/Portugal. It is all tangy cranberry (making it a great Thanksgiving turkey pick as well).
Sara d’Amato – A rather unusual find, this 100% Rufete (also known as tinta pinheira in Portugal) is a real stunner. Although my reference for this a wine such as this is quite low, the grape is known for producing wine with high acids and tannins and thus with great ageing potential. This example is immensely compelling offering verve and intensity with a complex array of flavours from clove and plum to kirsch and violets.
John Szabo – Damned if this isn’t both intriguing, and high quality. I can’t say classic rufete (can anyone?) nor even classic Spanish style, but fans of sharper, mid-weight reds – think nebbiolo, or cool climate syrah or pinot noir – will get into this. Tannins are still a bit burly, but there’s enough weight and density to envision future harmony, after 2017 or so I’d speculate. An exciting find.

Baron de Ley 2008 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Because a Gran Reserva must be held back for at least five years, older releases such as this 2008 are not uncommon. This traditional version from a reliable producer delivers great intensity and power for the price. Still quite youthfully rugged, the wine deserves time in a decanter or another 2-3 years tucked away before it can be optimally enjoyed.

Buyers’ Guide For October 3rd 2015: Thanksgiving dinner 

Bubbles to start 

Jansz Premium Cuvée TasmaniaJansz Premium Cuvée, Australia ($26.95)
John Szabo – Along with Ontario, and Crémant de Bourgogne, Tasmania should be on your list of sources for fine value, traditional method sparkling. Jansz is among the most reliable (and regularly available) names in Ontario, a bright, lively and fresh version. I like the vibrant citrus-orange zest and freshly baked white bread aromatics, and the well-measured crisp-dry-balanced palate. Fine length, too. 

White & Rosé

2013 Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Grüner Veltliner Dac Kamptal, Austria ($24.95)
John Szabo – A terrific, arch-classic grüner from Bründlemayer, at once fleshy and lean, richly flavoured but sharply defined and stony. This hits the mark, with expansive finish and broad flavour range, a perfect segue from aperitif into first course.

2014 Coffin Ridge Bone Dry Riesling VQA Ontario Canada ($17.00)
John Szabo – The best yet from young Coffin Ridge Crisp, this is bone dry (as advertised), lime-flavoured Riesling, uncompromising, reminiscent of the Clare Valley in Australia (a good reference). Ready to crack open your taste buds.

Angels Gate 2010 Mountainview Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Ontario, Canada ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – I was pleasantly surprised by the outstanding value this Beamsville Bench chardonnay delivers with appealing viscosity, great concentration of fruit and very good length of finish. The oak is a tad showy but also seductive and integrated. A rich offering that will prove a decadent addition to a Thanksgiving feast.

Seresin 2012 Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This profound, complex chardonnay has the stuffing to match the big bird and all its stuffing.  In fact flavour-wise it is not dissimilar, with buttered asparagus, corn, tobacco, nutmeg and barley sugar. It is biodynamically farmed, giving it great energy and depth.

Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Grüner Veltliner 2013 Coffin Ridge Bone Dry Riesling 2014 Angels Gate Mountainview Chardonnay 2010 Seresin Chardonnay 2012 Gassier Sables d'Azur Rosé 2014

Gassier 2014 Sables d’Azur Rosé, Côtes De Provence, Provence, France ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – We don’t often see a rosé featured this late in the year but it is a welcome addition to this week’s release. Just in time for Thanksgiving, this style of wine makes a versatile pairing for fish, poultry, pork or as a pre-dinner sipper. Well-priced, from a reliable house and offering a dry, crisp palate with a pleasant salinity and notes of lavender and savory herbes de Provence.

Lighter Reds

Herdade do Sobroso 2013 Sobro Red, Alentejano, Portugal  ($14.95)
David Lawrason – I was just about finished a large tasting when along came this lively, smooth and juicy wine packed with sour red fruit, herbs and spices. It was invigorating and pleasant, and just the right weight for a turkey dinner.  Then I looked at the price.  If your table will be including extended family and friends this year, you can afford three or four bottles of this one.

Stephane Aviron 2012 Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte du Py, Beaujolais, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a terrific cru Beaujolais, firm, meaty, substantially flavoured with an authentic and natural twist. Oenologists may dither about the touch of volatile acidity, but for me, it lifts the earth into the floral sphere and extends the back end. This is no carbonic fruity style, but traditional, old school, worldly gamay with legs to run another half dozen years or more. It’s the cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving turkey.

Herdade do Sobroso Sobro Red 2013 Stephane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte du Py 2012 Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013 Castello di Volpaia Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

Cave Spring 2013 Cabernet Franc, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)
David Lawrason – I hunted through this large release for a great Thanksgiving turkey pinot noir, but couldn’t find one rating highly that was ready to drink.  But this charming, lighter weight, pure and well-balanced cab franc will do the trick. Cave Spring is known for riesling but its reds are impressing of late.

Castello Di Volpaia 2012 Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($41.95)
John Szabo – This is great vintage for Volpaia – maturing beautifully now – high-toned, floral, savoury and herbal, arch-classic Chianti Classico with elegance, depth and staying power on the palate. Drinking now, or with any Thanksgiving dinner up until the early ‘20s.

Domaine La Tour Vieille Reserva Banyuls Tenuta San Vincenti Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2011 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013Medium-Full Reds

Le Vieux Donjon 2013 Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, Rhône, France ($58.95)
John Szabo – If you’re going big, you might as well go really big with this dense and rich, full, fat, sweet and savoury, generously proportioned yet finely tuned CdC  – it has the full package. A top vintage for Vieux Donjon. Decant an hour ahead of dinner at least.

Tenuta San Vincenti 2011 Gran Selezione Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($54.95)
Sara d’Amato – The “Gran Selezione” is a relatively new qualitative rank representing the peak of the pyramid and about 10% of the Chianti Classico produced. This mid-weight red is no lightweight when it comes to flavour and impact. It is wildly complex and its tannins are supple enough for immediate drinking pleasure.


Domaine La Tour Vieille Reserva Banyuls, Roussillon, France ($29.95)
David Lawrason – We see so little Banyuls that it’s almost a must for the curious. It’s a deep amber-brown, fortified ‘vin doux naturel’ with a lifted nose of prunes, walnuts, molasses, and a touch of earthy oxidation. It’s medium-full bodied, sweet, well balanced yet nicely dry and dusty. A wine for meditation after dinner, or with nut and dried fruit based desserts.  

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Oct 3rd, 2015

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

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

Stags' Leap 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Les bons choix de Marc – Cellier d’octobre

par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Plusieurs bons vins, dans l’arrivage Cellier mis en vente en succursales aujourd’hui, 1er octobre. Et il y en aura quelques autres de très recommandables avec la deuxième vague, offerte celle-là dans deux semaines – avec, comme à l’habitude, une prévente en ligne à compter de jeudi prochain. Mais chaque chose en son temps. Ceux que vous pouvez vous procurer dès maintenant ou cette fin de semaine, d’abord.

Les blancs, pour commencer. Avec un petit bijou : le Pinot Blanc Mise du Printemps Josmeyer 2014, vin d’Alsace bien engageant au nez, des notes de tabac, un peu de volatile, de la pêche aussi, juste un soupçon. La bouche est à l’avenant, toute en fraîcheur sans être dépourvue de richesse. Miam ! À 21 $, un incontournable.

Autre très bon vin, de Provence celui-là, le Domaine de Triennes Viognier Sainte-Fleur 2013. Un viognier sur la retenue, pas du tout exubérant ni parfumé comme beaucoup de ses congénères. Néanmoins convaincant, relativement fin, bien construit, bien structuré. À 22 $, on ne se trompe pas.

Pour amateurs de chardonnay, maintenant. Mais de chardonnay lui non plus pas expansif, discret au nez même, avec une pointe d’acidité volatile et un boisé en bride. Sans briller par son éclat, ce Bachelder Chardonnay Minéralité 2012, de la vallée du Niagara, a des saveurs délicates et harmonieuses, qui convainquent.

Josmeyer Mise du Printemps Pinot Blanc 2014 Triennes Viognier Sainte Fleur 2013 Bachelder Chardonnay Mineralité 2012

C’est la manne du côté des rouges, également.

Et mon coup de coeur est allé pour le Domaine de la Pinte Poulsard de l’ami Karl 2013 en appellation arbois, dans le Jura. Des amis comme ça, moi, j’en veux tout plein. Quel beau vin ! Original, cela dit, qui peut dérouter les non-initiés. La couleur est en effet rouge avancée, presque tuilée, en tout cas bien orangée ; pour un peu, et à l’aveugle total, on pourrait croire que le bougre est tranquillement en train de passer l’arme à gauche. Sauf qu’en bouche, il est on ne peut plus en vie ! Goûteux, nerveux, rafraîchissant, léger et poivré. Une sorte de pendant d’un beaujolais, en moins friand, en plus sérieux, mais en terriblement convaincant.

Parlant de gamay, le Damien Coquelet Fou du Beaujo 2014 est d’un rouge violacé pâle, son nez est fin, légèrement herbacé, floral également, il y a de la griotte aussi là-dedans. La bouche suit, tout en fruit et en délicatesse, avec une agréable finale saline. Super vin de soif ! À siroter donc pour lui-même, à l’apéro, ou avec un viande blanche rôtie ou grillée.

Autre rouge sinon de soif, du moins rafraîchissant et très avenant, le Domaine d’Aupilhac Lou Maset 2013, un coteaux-du-languedoc floral, vif, fruité, à peine corsé. À seulement 16,15 $, un excellent rapport qualité-prix.

Domaine de La Pinte Poulsard de L'ami Karl 2012 Damien Coquelet Fou du Beaujo 2014 Domaine D'aupilhac Lou Maset 2013 Château Juvénal La Terre du Petit Homme 2013 Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Plus corsé, beaucoup plus même, le ventoux Château Juvénal La Terre du Petit Homme 2013 est marqué par la syrah au nez, un arôme plein, lourd, engageant. Les saveurs sont pleines également, le taux d’alcool tourne autour de 15 pour cent, c’est presque capiteux, mais voilà, l’ensemble garde de la tension, du tonus. Il s’agira de le boire légèrement rafraîchi, et de sortir, peut-être pas l’artillerie lourde, mais les mets assez relevés et jusqu’au gibier, sans hésiter.

Enfin, on revient chez nous, dans le Niagara c’est-à-dire, avec le Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 élaboré par la réputée maison Tawse. Plutôt finement typé cabernet (légère odeur de poivron), des notes vanillées (boisées) en sourdine, du corps, une bonne charpente et une indéniable fraîcheur. Très réussi !

À boire, aubergiste !

On se calme, on se calme. L’aubergiste vient de vous en suggérer tout plein d’entrée de jeu, des vins à boire.

Je vous laisserai seulement avec cette pensée : vous vous souvenez, il y a un mois à peine, on ne donnait pas cher de la peau de la SAQ ? Privatisation, démantèlement, refonte en profondeur, et ainsi de suite.

Ça va peut-être se faire, remarquez. Sauf que pour le moment, les chiens ont à peu près fini d’aboyer. Et la caravane, bien, j’ai l’impression qu’elle est passée…

Allez, une bonne bouteille, de bons copains, une bonne discussion, et on lui règle son cas, au monopole.

Santé !


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


CELLIER d’octobre

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.)

Les vins du Sud-Ouest de la France

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The Question of Ageing, and an Unlikely Protagonist

Szabo’s Free RunSeptember 29, 2015

Text and photographs by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

Consider this more of an around-the-water-cooler type of conversation, neither the first nor certainly the last word on what is a devilishly complex subject: the ageability of wine. At least, this is the sort of thing we chit-chat about around the water cooler at the WineAlign office. I trust your conversations are a tad racier and more interesting.

What prompts these reflections is a recent deep dive into the small sea of Hunter Valley Semillon, arguably the southern hemisphere’s most unique white wine (read about my adventure with WineAlign regular judge Brad Royale here). For every other wine, there is a compass that points north to somewhere in the old world, some original paradigm or model to follow. For Hunter semillon, there is no model; no other region in the world produces semillon in even a remotely similar fashion (or the Hunter has become the magnetic pole). And it’s also one of the world’s most unlikely, most age worthy whites. Just why and how this is so was cause for pause.

A couple of hours north of Sydney by car, the Hunter Valley is an improbable place to make fine wine. It’s blistering hot in the summer. The mercury pushing past 40ºC is a common sight, as are big fluffy white, and frequently dark, clouds. The semi-tropical climate means rot-inducing high humidity and rain, and especially harvest rain, which arrives with Swiss dependability. The most memorable comment from my first visit to the Hunter several years ago came from Scott McWilliams of Mount Pleasant Wines, in answer to my question of how he makes the decision to harvest: “mate, we know it’s time when it’s bucketing rain outside”. (In equally memorable fashion, when I brought up the comment on this visit, Stuart Hordern of Brokenwood didn’t miss a beat with his own quip: “sounds like he was a day late, mate”.)

Braemore Vineyard

The point is that the season is compact. Semillon is harvested at a potential alcohol of around 10%-11%, or it rots. The majority is fermented completely dry with little to no skin contact in stainless steel, and bottled young with no exposure to oxygen. The result is a bone dry, low alcohol, high acid (low pH) wine with slim body and slight structure, vaguely fruity (unless some aromatic yeast strain is used to make a sauvignon blanc look-alike, but left to it’s own devices, semillon is a far less aromatic variety). According to the textbooks, this, like most light, dry, reductively-made wines (in the absence of oxygen) should be in the DYA category, a “drink youngest available” sort of proposition. What could such a wine possibly gain over time? The answer, in this case, is everything.

Back to Ageing Basics

The understanding of the mechanisms of wine ageing has progressed considerably in the last couple of decades, though the mystery is far from fully unraveled. Numbers alone do not tell the whole story. There’s the science of wine, and then there’s the reality of wine.

According to conventional wisdom, phenolics, acid/pH, sugar and alcohol are the key components that modulate the ageability of wine. Complex polyphenolic compounds, mostly tannins and colour pigments extracted from grape skins, are what give (mostly red) wines their “structure”. But more importantly, according to researchers, polyphenols are anti-oxidants, which is to say they scavenge and neutralize oxygen molecules that inevitably make their way into wine, preventing them from doing their nefarious work of oxidizing everything else. The more polyphenols, the more soldiers in the war on oxygen. This explains why red wine, which is made by soaking skins in the juice and thus richer in polyphenols, is by and large more ageworthy than white wine made with little or no skin contact.

Acidity, and closely related pH, are also critical for wine’s longevity. Generally the more acid (lower pH), the better for long term cellaring. Like oxygen, acids are responsible for catalyzing a whole series of reactions that create new aromas/flavours from existing “precursors” (stuff already present in grape must/wine). The pH level sets the tempo in which these reactions unfold. Lower pH also makes wine inhospitable to spoilage organisms (yeasts and bacteria) that would otherwise hasten a wine’s demise, or at least send it terribly sideways.

The preservative effects of alcohol are well known. The discovery sometime in the 18th century (or perhaps even earlier) that a generous shot of brandy added to casks of wine would “fortify” (i.e. stabilize and protect) them for long sea journeys under sub-optimal cellaring conditions, to say the least, quite literally changed the world of wine. And sugar, while a great source of nourishment for yeasts and bacteria, also seems to stabilize and slow the ageing process, while contributing a wide range of desirable traits in old sweet wines.

John Szabo and Brad Royale ready for Benchmark tasting. (photo: Damien Harrison, Brokenwood)

John Szabo and Brad Royale ready for Benchmark tasting. (photo: Damien Harrison, Brokenwood)

So, wine with all four of these elements in generous measure, like, say, a sweet, fortified wine such as vintage Port or especially Madeira, are certainly good bets for forgetting in the cellar. Conversely, wine with none or just one of these elements usually heads downhill straight after bottling. Hunter Valley semillon, propped by nothing but acidity, should fall apart.

It’s important to note at the same time that all of these elements can be added to any wine. Tannins come in convenient powdered form that can be dosed into wine at will. Acid, too, can (and is regularly) added by the bag-full into vats of wine to raise total acidity and lower pH. Sweetness is an easy fix, usually in the form of concentrated grape must added to adjust a wine’s flavor profile before bottling. And when added in its crystallized form during fermentation, in an old technique called Chaptalization (a bag of standard Redpath will do) you can subsidize nature’s shortfall and boost a wine’s final alcohol level, if dumping brandy into the wine seems too drastic.

Other techniques can improve a wine’s potential for ageing, such as clarifying juice (by settling, centrifuging) before fermentation begins, thereby essentially removing many of the compounds that will otherwise oxidize somewhere down the line. Critical decisions around bottling can also make a big difference, namely dosing out sulphur dioxide, the great wine preserver, or in many cases, particularly with white wine, bottling with some dissolved carbon dioxide, either natural CO2 from fermentation still trapped in the wine, or added on the bottling line, which keeps oxygen at bay. Closure, too makes all the difference, ranging from synthetic cork (the worst, which allows the most oxygen in), to cork (with huge variability in “oxygen transmission rate” – generally the longer the cork the less oxygen gets in), to near oxygen-proof Stelvin screw caps.

Brokenwood bottles

So, with all of the possible chemical tinkering and other techniques that can be used to extend shelf life, would it not be possible to tailor-make a wine for long-term cellaring? By this logic, even the most humble wines made by a competent winemaker who knows basic chemistry should be able to survive as long as the grandest of cru classé Bordeaux. But this is patently not the case.

The Anti-democratic Nature of Wine

Here’s where science get’s left behind and the magic comes in. The amazingly complex biochemical stew that is wine is an entirely a dynamic system. Everything affects every other thing. Many, but certainly not all, of the reactions are known. Measuring, and therefore predicting the outcome of ageing is staggeringly complex, and programming it reliably is beyond the grasp of current wine science.

Mount Pleasant Lovedale

What is clear is that a natural balance and relative abundance of these elements is what makes wine ageworthy. In other words, there’s no substituting what nature provides. Competent farming is thus a sine qua non, but it also follows that only certain regions have the right basic conditions to yield naturally balanced grapes, which stand a chance of being turned into ageworthy wine. As I’ve said before, the wine world is profoundly undemocratic; try as you might, if your region is too hot, cold, wet, dry, cloudy or sunny, you are naturally disadvantaged from the get-go (and you’ll probably have to tinker in the winery). If on the other hand the climate is conducive to yielding fully ripe grapes with a balance of components, naturally, then you have no excuses.

There are also un-measurable elements that work mysteriously to lengthen a wine’s lifespan. One of these is genuine flavor concentration, the kind that comes often, but not exclusively, from low yields and old vines. I call it the “invisible force shield of flavour” that protects wines, ensuring that they don’t just survive, but also improve over time. In other words, a wine needs stuffing. That’s why not all wines from great regions age well – it takes some effort, and expense, to get the stuffing in.

Then there’s the contribution of the soil – structure and chemistry, which is very difficult to quantify (especially chemistry). But yet, it’s as plain as day. Some vineyards naturally produce more ageworthy wines than adjacent ones, with the same macroclimate, and clones/rootstocks/vine age, farmed and vinified in precisely the same fashion. Call it the magic of terroir. Every winemaker with more than one site knows this. Swimming around in the biochemical soup of the greatest, most ageworthy wines is a group of unidentified vigilantes  – the mineral gang – coming to the aid of official forces to protect their turf from time.

The Lovedale vineyard, planted 1946

The Lovedale vineyard, planted 1946

All of which brings me back to Hunter Valley semillon. There’s something magic about the combination of grape and place that makes this wine so well suited to ageing, against all odds. The closest paradigm is riesling (there’s good reason why Hunter semillon was called Hunter Riesling for years before the days of official appellations), with the difference that riesling is aromatic and can be enjoyed young. Hunter semillon is neutral and frankly boring before it’s 5th year. Acid is of course a big factor, as is SO2, CO2 and the almost exclusive use of screwcaps. But since none of these things are exclusive to the Hunter Valley, there has to be something more. It’s the ability to reach full ripeness (full flavour potential or phenolic maturity) at high acid/low pH (Champagne, Chablis, Mosel anyone?), thanks to high heat, regular cloud cover, free-draining sandy soils and no doubt a bunch of other unique factors that happen to suit semillon. You can harvest semillon in the Barossa Valley at 11% alcohol to approximate the Hunter style, but the flavours are green and the wines no where near as age ageworthy. As Stuart Hordern, senior winemaker for Brokenwood says quite simply, “you can’t fake it”.

Of course not all Hunter semillon ages gracefully for twenty years (and some wines have acid added to them, I was shocked to learn), but the overall track record of the majority proves the case. Then there are particularly special places, like Mount Pleasant’s extraordinary Lovedale vineyard, which only starts to get moving after a decade. According to winemaker Adrian Sparks, “Lovedale [planted in 1946] has a much lower pH at picking than younger vines, and also retains more of its natural acidity. And the naturally low cropping levels of these wines produce an intensity of fruit [and a large gang of mineral vigilantes] that can age for decades.” He’s not exaggerating. After a decade or so, great Hunter semillon blossoms from relative neutrality into a wildly unique and delicious mix of hot buttered toast slathered in honey, wrapped in a wool blanket and left in a spearmint patch.

So, extrapolating this knowledge to answer the age-old question: “which wines should I age”, my best advice is to check the track record of the region first, and then specific producer. You probably already knew that, but maybe understand now why it’s so important. This may sound unfair to young regions, but frankly without a minimum of 30-40 years history (15-20 for vineyards to mature, plus another 20 to see how wines age afterwards), it’s mostly speculative.

Buyers’ Guide: Hunter Semillon for the Cellar (or mature wines to enjoy now)

Note: availability varies across Canada, but pretty much any semillon from Brokenwood, Tyrrell’s and Mount Pleasant (McWilliams) is worth a look, and time in the cellar.

McWilliam’s 2007 Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon
Mcwilliams 2007 Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon
Brokenwood 2014 Hunter Valley Sémillon
Brokenwood 2009 Latara Vineyard Semillon
Tyrrell’s 2010 Vat 1 Hunter Semillon
Tyrrell’s 2013 Brookdale Semillon 2013

Mcwilliam's Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2007 Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2007Brokenwood Hunter Valley Sémillon 2014 Brokenwood Latara Vineyard Semillon 2009Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2010 Tyrrell's Brookdale Semillon 2013

Read more on ageing in these great Wines & Vines articles What Really Makes Wine Age Well? and Winemakers’ Views On Why Wines Age by Tim Patterson.

At WineAlign we strive to provide some guidelines on ageing in our reviews – check the drink from/to dates – based on our knowledge of the region and experience with specific producers. But sometimes it’s an educated guess. Have you found any surprisingly ageworthy wines? Let us know in the comments section. (Another of mine is Muscadet.)

Oh, and lastly, once you have one of those ageworthy wines, make sure you store it properly. But that’s a whole other water cooler conversation.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

Catena Malbec & Catena Cabernet Sauvignon

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Le Sud-Ouest – Au-delà des terroirs battus

par Marc Chapleau28 sep 2015


Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Je n’ai pas vraiment hésité, quand on m’a demandé d’écrire un texte sur le Sud-Ouest.

Et ça n’a rien à voir avec le fait que j’ai déjà été — oh my god ! ça fait longtemps — intronisé dans l’Ordre de la Dive Bouteille de Gaillac. À l’époque du journal Voir, c’était. Tu te souviens, Dominique-Ann ? « Boivons, boivons, pâ-pom pâ-pom, boivons, boivons… ce saint clystèreeeeee de qualité, ohé ! » Et là, après avoir chanté devant un parterre d’invités endimanchés, il fallait faire cul sec avec un immense verre à vin bien rempli genre pot à fleurs ou aquarium, dans ces eaux-là. Épique, la soirée.

Mais trêve de sentimentalisme.

L’idée d’aborder le Sud-Ouest m’a souri d’emblée parce que c’est toujours agréable, pour nous autres chroniqueurs, de parler de vins et de régions moins bien connues et dans l’ombre, si on parle par exemple de la France, du Bordelais, de la Bourgogne, du Rhône et même du Languedoc. Même si, cela dit, il se vend à la SAQ moins de vins de la vallée du Rhône, de la Loire ou de l’Alsace que du Sud-Ouest.

Quel est le problème, alors ? Pourquoi, les ventes montrant pourtant le contraire, la notoriété de la région ne semble pas être ce qu’elle devrait être ? C’est à cause du nom, j’ai l’impression : une banale juxtaposition de points cardinaux. Voilà qui n’interpelle pas beaucoup, et qui ne fait pas vraiment rêver.

Ajoutons un peu d’eau au moulin. Nommez-moi la ville centre de cet important vignoble. Pas évident, n’est-ce pas ? Même bibi, pourtant rompu à ces pirouettes géographico-municipales, je ne suis pas certain. Toulouse ? Vérification faite, oui, c’est bien elle.

Et cependant, malgré cette méconnaissance, malgré cette situation pour ainsi dire en demi-teinte par rapport aux autres grands vignobles français, le Sud-Ouest propose des vins particuliers, à la fois originaux, généreux et souvent droits comme des i, qui incitent à la découverte.


Beaucoup de cépages autochtones

Car les atouts de la région sont bien palpables. À commencer par le réservoir de cépages autochtones qu’elle constitue, dont certains, le lauzet et le camaralet, tous deux aux arômes épicés, ont été réintroduits il n’y a pas si longtemps à Jurançon. Il y a aussi les valeurs sûres, depuis longtemps utilisées : le mauzac et le len de l’el (« loin de l’œil » en langue d’oc, ainsi appelé parce que la grappe pend loin du bourgeon du fait d’un pédoncule plus long — vous me suivez ?), le mauzac et l’autre bigleux disais-je, deux cépages blancs du Gaillacois ; le fer servadou, de la famille des carmenets comme le cabernet-sauvignon et utilisé en assemblage à Saint-Mont, Gaillac et Madiran mais presque à 100 % à Marcillac, où il est souvent appelé mansois ; le courbu, associé aux mansengs [man-sein] grand et petit de même parfois qu’à l’arrufiac pour donner les moelleux d’appellation jurançon et pacherenc-du-vic-bilh [pache-rinque-du-vic-bile] ; et aussi bien sûr la négrette, cultivée pour l’essentiel autour de Toulouse et qui entre dans l’élaboration des vins du Frontonnais.

Sans oublier, évidemment, les autres cépages emblématiques que sont le tannat à Madiran et le malbec à Cahors.

Des rouges moins tanniques qu’avant

À ce propos, il s’est passé une sorte de révolution dans le secteur du Madiran et celui de Cahors, au tournant des années 2000.

Les vins de ces deux régions, des rouges, demeurent toujours relativement costauds mais ils sont désormais en quelque sorte plus amènes, moins tanniques. Les vignerons s’organisent en effet pour vinifier de manière à ne pas accentuer l’astringence naturelle, sans pour autant renier la personnalité des vins.

Résultat : les madirans, cahors et cie sont toujours des vins de repas par excellence, auxquels la nourriture riche et roborative va comme un gant — les magrets et les confits, notamment. Mais, ils sont plus accessibles en jeunesse, on n’a pas, comme avant, à attendre une bonne dizaine d’années pour qu’ils s’assagissent.

On trouve aussi des blancs secs, des blancs moelleux, des blancs liquoreux et des rosés, dans le Sud-Ouest.

Les jurançons d’Henri Ramonteu et de Charles Hours, par exemple, continuent à briller, tandis que les pacherenc-du-vic-bilh — la version en blanc des madirans —, ceux d’Alain Brumont, notamment, font d’excellents compagnons de table entre autres avec les fromages de la région : bleu des Causses, ossau-iraty, tomme des Pyrénées, etc.


Y aller

De mon dernier passage là-bas dans le Sud-Ouest, j’ai rapporté quelques bonnes adresses.

Mais d’abord, pour traverser l’Atlantique et choisir un bon point de chute pour sillonner le vignoble, Toulouse est bien indiquée (surtout via un vol direct avec Air Transat). On peut aussi atterrir à Bordeaux ou à l’aéroport Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées (en transitant par Orly).

Suggestions pour l’hébergement — et outre le désormais incontournable Airbnb : l’hôtel Central, à Pau, un sympathique deux-étoiles au très bon rapport qualité-prix et situé au coeur de la ville. À Cahors, l’Inter-Hôtel de France, un trois-étoiles près du fameux pont Valentré. Ou sinon, à Cahors toujours mais en périphérie, on peut s’offrir le grand chic au restaurant-hôtel du Château de Mercuès, établi dans une forteresse du 13e siècle.

Le tourisme : Rocamadour et Saint-Cirq-Lapopie sont deux très beaux villages historiques du Sud-Ouest, accrochés sur des falaises. J’ai personnellement préféré Saint-Cirq [saint-cirre], plus paisible et plus coquet bien que très fréquenté aussi.

À boire, aubergiste !

Voici une série de bons rouges du Sud-Ouest, pour l’essentiel sélectionnés à partir d’une dégustation organisée par l’agence Sopexa, qui veille aux intérêts des vins de la région, notamment au Québec.

Château Eugénie 2011 Cahors (15,95 $) : À petit prix, un cahors très satisfaisant, déjà fondu et prêt à boire, rien de complexe ni de compliqué mais on ne va pas chipoter, la matière est là, et ça goûte bon tout en étant conforme aux normes de l’appellation.

Domaine Rotier Renaissance 2011 Gaillac (22,15 $) : Violacé moyen, nez attrayant de fruit bien mûr, des notes épicées ; un rouge mi-corsé, souple en bouche mais avec du tonus, une bonne acidité. Convaincant, et rafraîchissant, sans être dépourvu de longueur.

Château Eugénie 2011Domaine Rotier Gaillac Renaissance 2011Causse Marines Les Peyrouzelles 2013Château De Haute Serre Malbec 2009

Causse-Marines Les Peyrouzelles 2013 Gaillac (21,15 $) : Violacé plutôt pâle, un peu de réduction au nez, d’assez intenses notes de cuir et de poivre blanc. Bouche à l’avenant, un brin « sauvage », résolument épicée jusqu’à la finale. Mi-corsé par ailleurs, et un léger reste de gaz carbonique. Original et rafraîchissant.

Château de Haute-Serre 2009 Cahors (25,25 $) : Un cahors qui a bien vieilli, a caractère fondu, en souplesse, cependant que le vin demeure charpenté et avec une solide dose de fruit. Tout à fait à point, bref, et on aime bien l’amertume finale, qui appelle la nourriture.

Château Bouscassé 2010 Madiran (21,25 $) : Très madiran, très tannat, tannique c’est dire, mais avec une bonne assise acide, qui apporte de la fraîcheur. Le vin demeure toutefois pour l’heure monolithique, bien qu’il ait déjà cinq ans bien sonnés. À carafer plusieurs heures à l’avance, ou à mettre de côté quelques années.

Château Montus 2010 Madiran (30,25 $): Profondeur manifeste dès l’étape du nez, il y a du bois, c’est normal, mais aussi beaucoup de fruit. La bouche suit, bien bâtie, bien serrée, avec de la minéralité. Déjà très bon, et un excellent candidat pour la cave (horizon 2018-2020).

Château Bouscassé Madiran 2010Château Montus 2010Château Les Hauts D'aglan Cuvée A Cahors 2009Château Montauriol Tradition 2013

Château Les Hauts d’Aglan Cuvée A 2009 Cahors (26,95 $) : De la complexité au nez, des accents herbacés également, réglissés aussi. Bouche à l’avenant, concentrée et fondue, en souplesse.

Château Montauriol Tradition 2013 Fronton (15,40 $) : Caractère engageant au nez, très sur le fruit ; saveurs à l’avenant, pas très corsées, nerveuses, tout en fruit. Rien de compliqué, mais on en a pour son argent, vraiment.

Santé !


P.S. L’équipe de Chacun son Vin s’est réunie il y a quelques semaines, le temps d’une dégustation de vins du sud-ouest de la France.
Pour voir la gamme complète des vins goûtés, cliquez sur : Les vins du Sud-Ouest de la France

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 !

Les vins sud ouest france

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Oct 3rd Part One

Musings on Bordeaux and Global Indulgences
by Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

While John Szabo is on the lam, in Hunter Valley (or so we think), in pursuit of semillon with a team of Canadian sommeliers as part of a scavenger hunt for Wine & Spirits Magazine, David and I have been tirelessly tasting away at a selection of new wines that are about to appear on your local VINTAGES shelves.

This week we delve into that great intimidating abyss, the giant that is Bordeaux. However, instead of talking about the region’s guts and glory, I’d rather talk about modern Bordeaux. Although it has fits and fads, it is a region that wavers remarkably little in its style, in its tenacious grip on aristocratic holdings and its class system – a bubble that is perhaps less of a “republic” than the rest of France. This has in some measure to do with its historical success and the world reverence it has built but also to the price it can still (to some degree) command.

Bordeaux’s upper class of wine can secure some of the world’s highest prices and it inevitably turns its head to the highest bidder, even if that bidder takes it away from more traditionally supportive markets. Relatively recently, the movie “Red Obsession” had us talking about Asia’s influence on Bordelaise pricing in the upper echelons and highlighted the dangers of focusing so much interest in one market.  In the spring of this year, a group of respected UK wine merchants wrote an open letter to owners of négociants and Châteaux asking for a return to more “reasonable” pricing with regards to the 2014 en primeurs – to prices similar to those of 2008. What they got was not exactly what they were asking for.

While top Bordelaise producers are busy creating new roles and positions in Asia to deal with its recent boom, as well as funding the planting of Bordelaise varieties in foreign soils, more traditional markets are certainly feeling neglected. However whether these top ranking bottles be sold in China or elsewhere, there is still the problem that they have unfortunately become commodities rather than beverages. The highly lauded back-to-back stellar vintages of 2009 and 2010 in Bordeaux really broke the bank and highlighted the out-pricing of great Bordeaux in many markets. For many, this most vividly brought to light the fact that brand and status had become more important (to some at least) than the holy grail of French wine: terroir.

However, modern Bordeaux is not only about big names and big games, but rather the struggling underbelly: the mass of Bordelaise wine at affordable price points. These lesser ranking producers and growers, of which there are many, must sell their glut of wine. I use term glut, not disparagingly, however, but as a testament to the spirit of perseverance of an industry in the shadow of its upper class.

There is a common misconception that great Bordeaux is never cheap, which may have been true five even ten years ago. But as I have been tasting, year to year, almost every new entry into our VINTAGES tier of wines, I am more and more pleased by the offerings at relatively low prices. Why might this be so? Competition from the new world is steep especially from regions that have more flexibility in changing their styles and methods of production. There is also a great deal of lower ranked and more humble Bordelaise wine on the market that must be sold. Bordeaux has been therefore forced to compete by the only means at their disposal – an increase in quality and value. It is a very Darwinian world now in Bordeaux with “arrachage” (or “vine pulling”) on the increase as well as the collapse of smaller houses. If you can’t sell you must then fold. The only option open now is a forced increase in quality – dare I say this is a benefit of a global capitalist market (my inner socialist self cringes at this statement).

Its commodification aside, Bordeaux is a region that produces a unique wine with plenty of diversity. The apparent lack of emphasis and appreciation of terroir and quality of the wines of Bordeaux is merely a result of circumstance, of literal situation. Located on a tributary leading to one of the most important of European ports, the trade value of the wines of Bordeaux was easily established. The marriage of Eleanor d’Aquitaine to King Henry II in the 12th century made Bordeaux British and the wine a lucrative export commodity. The coupling’s son Richard’s ascension to the throne of England solidified this very important trade relationship. As Bordeaux was the wealthy, controlling region of this great port, its wines were given preference over nearby regions – one of the reasons that wines of Bergerac have had so little international recognition even to this day. Dutch traders were responsible for yet another phase of the agrandissement of Bordeaux – the arduous task of draining of the marshlands around Médoc made planting vines north of Graves possible. This had the added benefit of increased accessibility to those wines with better roads. It is thus money, trade and power that are responsible for overshadowing what is beneath the label, within the bottle.

Its situation and its history established, what has become of modern Bordeaux? Undeniably, Chateaux and négociants suffer from the loss of important markets due to the pressure of increased prices but also international competition. Its future and international reputation may just lie in its less expensive, less known, less important regions, appellations and price points.

As much as I had mentioned previously that Bordeaux likes to hold on to tradition, it is secretly a very progressive part of the world. In fact, it is probably one of the most progressive wine regions of the world in terms of pushing the boundaries of the usage of new oenological technologies and biological innovations.  Just because it doesn’t show it outwardly like the flashy stelvin caps of Australia and New Zealand, it doesn’t mean magic doesn’t happen behind the curtain. Of course such assistance from the new happens discretely, if not downright covertly. French wine culture asserts that terroir is the key element to making great wine and in one of its greatest wine regions; it must also uphold that belief. However, the Bordelaise have a unique way of blending respect for terroir with ways of improving quality to for greater marketability.

Many have heard of Vinexpo, one of the most important international trade shows in the wine world and an international platform on which the great wines of Bordeaux may show their stuff. However, between the years of Vinexpo, biennially, there is one of the most important wine tech fairs in the world held known as Vinitech – a marvel of new advances in the world of wine showcasing everything from new types of machine harvesters to carefully engineered yeasts. It is at this time of year that Bordeaux takes off its veil and shows, at least to the industry, its inner workings.

Beyond the history and prestige, there is a great deal to appreciate about Bordeaux. From left to right bank, it produces distinctly differently wines, each putting rival varietals cabernet sauvignon and merlot on pedestals showing what makes them both gutsy and elegant. Beneath its classification systems, producers are being forced to live up the grandeur of the region for their very survival. It is fight or fail now for those that make up the majority of wine production in Bordeaux. And in these times of stress, that creativity, innovation and competitive nature may just be responsible for producing exceptionally exciting wines.

Without further ado, here is a selection of our top picks from a modern Bordeaux. In addition, we’ve included our favorites from the rest of the release from both the new world and old.

Bordeaux Feature

Château De l’Orangerie 2013, Entre deux Mers, Bordeaux, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Literally “between two seas”, Entre deux Mers is the wide open space that lies between the rivers Gironde and Dordogne.  Good value can be found in this expanse such as this perky white with notes of lemongrass, honeydew and passion fruit. A more interesting than average weeknight white.

Château Le Caillou 2009, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France ($52.95)
Sara d’Amato – The 2009 vintage is developing beautifully and is just beginning to shed some of its tanninc aggression to reveal its complex under layers. A wine that will prove widely appealing, its right bank origin make it a little more friendly at present that its neighbors from across the bank. Saline and an abundance of voluptuous fruit are brimming within its constraints.

Château De L'orangerie 2013 Château Le Caillou 2009 Vieux Château Gachet 2000 Château Donissan 2011

Vieux Château Gachet 2000, Lalande-de-Pomerol, Bordeaux ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This is fully mature 2000 merlot based red from a very hot vintage, so its delivering more weight and plushness than I would expect from Lalande de Pomerol.  Also mature flavours on the edge. I recommend it as an education in mature Bordeaux at an affordable price, and it scores on complexity and balance. Drink up.

Château Donissan 2011, Listrac-Médoc ($19.95)
David Lawrason – The 2011s lack the depth and structure of 2010s, but this scores on complexity, tension, fragrance and just a bit of intrigue with cranberry-raspberry fruit, violets, mild green pepper/veg and creative, nicely honed oak. There is a certain unique sensuality.

Château Lagrange 2011 Lussac-Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Again, at this price point you can’t expect Bordeaux of depth and structure, but I am not missing that when there is so much charm to be had. This is a lighter, pretty, youthful merlot-cab franc blend with lifted aromas of violets, raspberry and fresh herbs and nettles.  Bordeaux might want to think of rebranding as a source of fresh, delightful young wines instead of pompous, over-priced grand crus that languish in cellars of the rich.

Château Lagrange 2011 Château Les Tourelles 2010 Château De Lisennes Cuvée Tradition 2010Château Guiraud Sauternes 2011

Château Les Tourelles 2010, Bordeaux, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Although Tourelles has a solid reputation for white wines it also produces some exciting and well-priced merlot/cabernet franc blends. This is a very peppery, aromatic version from 2010 with good intensity and little notable oak.

Château de Lisennes 2010 Cuvée Tradition, Bordeaux Supérieur, Bordeaux, France ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – This terrific value 2010 offers compelling floral and herbal notes with tomato leaf and lavender at the forefront. An everyday Bordeaux poised for immediate consumption.

Château Guiraud 2011, Sauternes, 1er Grand Cru Classé, (375ml), Bordeaux, France, ($39.85)
Sara d’Amato – The lush, southern wines of Bordeaux are not only head-turning but can prove greatly distracting in a tasting of three or more. Lucky for it, the Chateau Guiraud was the only offering from Sauternes in this release – but it does not disappoint! Hold on for another decade for optimal enjoyment.

Other White

2027 Cellars 2012 Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($30.00)
David Lawrason – From one of the best Niagara “virtual wineries” by Kevin Panakapka, this is a delicious, demure, tight and elegant chardonnay – very sleek and well balanced, not as blowsy as expected from the warmer 2012 vintage in Niagara. The nose shows finely woven hazelnut, smoke, vanilla and pear fruit. Niagara needs to aim for this kind of restraint and elegance in chardonnay.

Domaine Séguinot-Bordet 2014 Chablis, Burgundy, France ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Whereas many regions of Europe are reporting a less good 2014 vintage (especially for reds)  Chablis, with its early ripening chardonnays, is very happy indeed. From a 16 ha family domain this well-priced, tidy basic Chablis may be the proof.  It’s firm, well-structured with subtle aromas of apple, lemon, wet stone and at touch of youthful leesiness. Nice sense of brightness and focus.

2027 Cellars 2012 Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block ChardonnayDomaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis 2014 Gorgo San Michelin Custoza 2014 Carpinus Dry Furmint 2013 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2013

Gorgo 2014 San Michelin Custoza, Veneto, Italy ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This demure but delicious white is a blend of cortese, tocai, trebbiano  and  garganega grown on rocky, limestone soils near Lago di Garda in northeast Italy. It offers dandy flavour depth and richness, and elegance with ripe aromas of peach, honey, fennel and marzipan – very much the signature of the Veneto whites. Huge value.

Carpinus 2013 Dry Furmint, Hungary ($14.95) (417865)
Sara d’Amato – Here is an outside the box pick for dinner with company but would also make a compelling solo sipper. Playful with brightness, verve and pleasantly unexpected viscosity on the palate. The slightly honeyed finished would make it a great match for pork Schnitzel.

Joh. Jos. Christoffel 2013 Erben Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany ($28.95)
Sara d’Amato – A shockingly good wine in which you will overlook completely the sweetness and instead savor the balance. This is part of the In-Store-Discovery program so seek it out it in more prominent VINTAGES stores.

Other Red

Cavino Grande Reserve 2008, Nemea, Peloponnese, Greece ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Agioritiko is the grape of southern Greece’s Peloponnese wine growing region. A gutsy wine with presence and a food-friendly attitude, this well-priced find to whom age has been kind, would pair nicely with cool-weather stews.

Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California, USA ($39.95) (944843)
Sara d’Amato – A long time favourite California cabernet sauvignon of mine which benefits from higher elevation fruit and careful winemaking. There is restraint, dryness and purity in this wine that gives it an old world character. If you are impatient, decant.

Cavino Grande Reserve 2008 Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec 2012 Tabali Reserva Syrah 2012 Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2013

Altos Las Hormigas 2012 Terroir Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This is from Italy’s Alberto Antonini, one of most talented and terroir-driven of the many European winemakers working in Argentina. This is a refined, fresh and engaging, naturally produced, synthetic-free malbec with minimal old oak. Expect accentuated, ripe jammy raspberry/plum fruit, with licorice, herbs and some earthiness in the background.

Tabali 2012 Reserva Syrah, Limarí Valley, Chile ($14.95)
David Lawrason – I have rated this 90 points, almost impossible at $15. It is so pretty, so syrah, so Chile!  I don’t add points for value but if I did it would be even higher a rating. What a fine nose of violets, blackberry, wood smoke pepper and vanilla cream. It’s mid-weight, slender and quite elegant with fine tannin. Even a mineral tweak on the finish.

Fonterutoli 2012 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($25.95)
David Lawrason – This is so stylish, nuanced, complex yet fresh – a great modern Chianti.  Very pretty, lively, firm and elegant with classic sour cherry/raspberry fruit, herbs and some minerality, nicely framed by new oak. It has fine tension and firm tannin. Excellent length as well.


Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES Oct 3, 2015

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

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

Stags' Leap 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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20 bons vins à moins de 20$ pour septembre 2015

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

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

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

Les choix de Marc Chapleau

On peut appeler ça l’esprit de contradiction : les journées raccourcissent, les soirées fraîchissent, et me voilà qui débarque avec trois blancs et seulement deux rouges. À tout seigneur tout honneur… ces derniers d’abord.

À 16 $, le cahors Château Eugénie 2011 m’estomaque — ça sonne drôle dit comme cela, je sais, mais on se comprend : j’ai beaucoup aimé. Le vin est la fois fondu et prêt à boire tout en étant généreux et juste assez tannique.

Plus à l’est, et sauf erreur en gros à la même hauteur sur la carte, le rouge Versant Syrah Foncalieu 2014, en vin de pays d’oc, est à peine corsé, poivré et rafraîchissant. À 15 $, on ne réfléchit pas trop longtemps.

Château Eugénie 2011Foncalieu Le Versant Syrah 2013Pfaffenheim Cuvee Jupiter RiesChâteau De Chasseloir Cuvée Des Ceps Centenaires 2012Birichino Malvasia 2013

Les blancs, maintenant. D’Alsace, le Riesling Pfaff Jupiter 2013 est vif et précis, avec d’engageants arômes d’agrumes.

De la Loire, le Muscadet Comte Leloup 2012 est nerveux et bien goûteux. Ses accents fumés (la minéralité ?) sont si marqués au nez que j’ai un instant cru, suis-je bête, qu’il était boisé…

Enfin, on passe à la Californie avec un Malvasia Birichino 2013 parfumé au nez, qui rappelle même le viognier, et riche et corsé en bouche. À réserver aux fromages de fin de repas, qui vont bientôt se réinviter plus assidûment avec le temps qui se refroidit peu à peu…

Les choix de Bill Zacharkiw

Les dernières semaines ont été belles et assez chaudes, c’est vrai, mais la nuit dernière il a fait 3 degrés chez nous, dans les Laurentides. Cela dit, l’automne est l’une des meilleures périodes pour manger puisque les potagers regorgent encore de tomates et de courges, tandis que les champignons abondent et que les huîtres sont en pleine saison.

Allons-y tout de suite avec les huîtres. J’aimerais que tout le monde boive plus de mousseux l’année durant, et ça tombe bien parce qu’avec les huîtres sur écaille, le Freixenet Elyssia est un excellent compagnon. De superbes arômes, beaucoup de persistance, ce mousseux espagnol est en outre sec et minéral — les huîtres adorent !

Amateurs de fruits de mer, de crevettes et de pétoncles notamment, vous serez ravis de savoir qu’à moins de 12 $, le Marques de Marialva 2014 est tout indiqué. Rafraîchissant, juteux, minéral et avec juste ce qu’il faut de texture pour accompagner la plupart des plats à base de fruits de mer.

Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut CavaMarquês De Marialva Bairrada Colheita Seleccionada 2014San Fabiano Calcinaia Casa Boschino 2013Barahonda Barrica Monastrell Syrah 2012Château Rouquette Sur Mer Cuvée Amarante 2012

Je prépare de la sauce tomate chaque semaine, ces temps-ci, et pour jumeler avec toute cette acidité, rien ne vaut le sangiovese. Le Casa Boschino 2013, qui contient aussi 30 % de cabernet et de merlot pour arrondir les angles, est bio et parfait pour toutes les recettes à base de sauce tomate. Sans compter qu’à moins de 15 $, c’est toute une affaire.

J’ai commencé à ramasser des champignons sauvages, que je cuisine à peu près à toutes les sauces. À table, l’un des mariages les plus réussis avec ces fungi a été avec le Barahonda 2012. Fait de monastrell et de syrah et provenant de la région espagnole de Yecla, c’est, à moins de 18 $, un impressionnant rouge mêlant habilement les épices et les petits fruits noirs.

Enfin, alors qu’on se dirige de plus en plus vers les plats riches et notamment les viandes rouges, les vins rouges costauds et savoureux ont la cote. Essayez par exemple le Cuvée Amarante 2012, du Château Rouquette-sur-Mer. Pur Languedoc, bourré de fruit, d’herbes et de tannins bien mûrs.

Les choix de Rémy Charest

Je suis tout juste de retour d’Afrique du Sud, où j’ai été épaté par la diversité et le caractère original de la production, tout au long du grand salon des vins du pays, Cap Wine. Remis sur les marchés internationaux il y a à peine plus de vingt ans, le pays progresse à grande vitesse, tant grâce à des bons rapports qualité-prix qu’à des vignerons artisans du Swartland ou d’ailleurs qui reprennent des vieilles vignes ou essaient des styles rafraîchissants au sens propre comme au figuré.

Avec plus de 150 vins en SAQ, dont près de la moitié sous les 20$, il y a de quoi faire de belles découvertes sans se ruiner. Le chenin, raisin blanc abondant en Afrique du Sud, en offre plusieurs exemple, que ce soit celui de Robertson (beau, bon pas cher), ceux de l’énergique Ken Forrester, ou encore celui de Fairview, à la fraîcheur et à la minéralité exemplaires.

Fairview offre aussi un des beaux pinotages disponibles à la SAQ – et un des rares, aussi. Normal, puisque la réputation du cépage a été malmenée par des vinifications maladroites, autrefois. Plutôt frais et souple, celui-ci mérite qu’on le revisite.

Fairview Darling Chenin Blanc 2014Fairview Pinotage 2013Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Babylon's Peak Shiraz Carignan 2014The Goatfather 2013

Dans la catégorie rapport qualité-prix, difficile de battre le cabernet sauvignon Douglas Green, bien typé, honnête et sans les excès techniques qui frappent souvent les vins d’entrée de gamme de Californie ou d’Argentine, par exemple. À 11$, c’est une belle aubaine.

Le Swartland est un des endroits les plus créatifs d’Afrique du Sud, avec plusieurs producteurs qui penchent solidement vers les vins nature et les cuvées hors normes. Les vins d’Adi Badenhorst sont probablement les plus représentatifs de cette approche, en SAQ, mais l’assemblage Syrah-Carignan du domaine familial Babylon’s Peak vaut aussi le détour, avec son fruit noir intense et sa structure joliment rustique.

Autre exemple de la diversité vinicole sud-africaine, le Goatfather 2013 offre un assemblage expressif de barbera, de sangiovese, de nebbiolo et de cabernet sauvignon, qui a un bon accent italien. Et il ne sent pas du tout le caoutchouc brûlé, un cliché sur les rouges du pays qui mérite d’être mis de côté pour de bon.

Les choix de Nadia Fournier

Gaba Do Xil, Mencia 2013, Telmo Rodriguez : Telmo Rodríguez démontre une fois de plus son talent à produire des vins de facture moderne, fidèles à leurs origines. Coulant, plein de fruit, avec des notes de fleurs séchées, de poivre, de garrigue. Beaucoup de vin dans le verre pour le prix!

Yllera, Coelus 2013, Joven, Rioja : 100 % tempranillo. Si vous vous êtes déjà arrêté au hasard de la route, dans un petit restaurant de campagne en Espagne, il y a de fortes chances que le vin rouge qui accompagnait votre repas ressemblait à ce jeune rioja.

Gaba do Xil Mencía 2013Coelus Rioja 2013José Maria Da Fonseca J M FMission Hill 5 Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2014Domaine Les Brome Cuvée Charlotte 2014

Fonseca, José Maria Da Rouge, Península de Setúbal : Tout nouveau à la SAQ, un très bon vin rouge constitué de castelão et d’aragonez, chaleureux et tout en souplesse. Un rapport qualité-prix irréprochable, parmi les plus intéressants au rayon portugais.

Mission Hill Pinot blanc 2014, Five Vineyards, Okanagan Valley : Depuis quelques années, j’apprécie de plus en plus le charme discret de ce pinot blanc de l’Okanagan. Un conseil : servez le frais autour de 12°C, mais pas froid. Vous apprécierez mieux la délicatesse de ses saveurs.

Courville, Léon; Cuvée Charlotte 2014 : La « petite » cuvée de Léon Courville mise sur la vitalité et les notes de citronnées et sur un soupçon de geisenheim, pour la touche floral qui contribue à son charme.

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!

19 Crimes

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20 under $20 for September 2015

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

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

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

Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

While Mother Nature is being unreasonably kind to us, last night it was a cool 3C in the Laurentians. But autumn is one of the best times to eat as vegetable gardens are still producing tomatoes and squashes, mushrooms are abundant and yes, oysters are in full season.

So let’s start with oysters. I want everyone to drink more bubbly year round and if you are a fan of shucking and eating raw oysters, open a bottle of Freixenet’s Elyssia. Great length and with exceptional aromatics, and dry and mineral enough to match perfectly with oysters.

Seafood fans who want to eat such things as shrimp and scallops, but don’t want to spend too much on a wine will be delighted to know that under $12, you can drink the 2014 Marques de Marialva. Fresh, juicy and mineral with just enough texture to handle most seafood recipes.

Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvée Brut CavaMarquês De Marialva Bairrada Colheita Seleccionada 2014San Fabiano Calcinaia Casa Boschino 2013Barahonda Barrica Monastrell Syrah 2012Château Rouquette Sur Mer Cuvée Amarante 2012

I am making tomato sauce weekly these days, and to properly pair with this high acid sauce, nothing does it like sangiovese. The 2013 Casa Boschino is 70% sangiovese with cabernet and merlot rounding out the blend, organic, and exactly what you need for any tomato sauce driven recipe. And for under $15, an exceptional deal.

I have started harvesting wild mushrooms more and more, and cooking them up with nearly everything. One of the more interesting matches I have made with the wild fungi is the 2012 Barahonda. Made with monastrell and syrah grown in the Spanish region of Yecla, for under $18, it is an impressive mix of dark fruit and spice.

Finally, as we gravitate toward heavier dishes and more red meats, I am always on the lookout for more flavourful, bigger reds. Try the Languedoc 2012 Cuvee Amarante from Château Roquette Sur Mer. Classically Languedoc, full of fresh fruit herbs and ripe tannin.

Remy Charest’s Selections

I’m just back from South Africa where I was impressed by the diversity and personality of the wines I tasted during the country’s triennal national wine fair, Cape Wine. After making a return to international markets just over twenty years ago, the country has been progressing by leaps and bounds. You can see this progress through both large-volume wines that offer great value, as well as those of the artisan vignerons of Swartland and elsewhere who are showcasing some terrific old vines and/or creating styles that are refreshing, both figuratively and literally.

With over 150 wines available at SAQ, and about half of those under 20$, there’s plenty of interesting inexpensive wines to be found. There are certainly several chenin blancs in that category, like the ones from Robertson (simple and really inexpensive) or from the energetic Ken Forrester, or the fresh and mineral version produced by Fairview in the coastal region of Darling.

Fairview Darling Chenin Blanc 2014Fairview Pinotage 2013Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Babylon's Peak Shiraz Carignan 2014The Goatfather 2013

Fairview also produces one of the good pinotages available at the SAQ – a wine style that was once clumsily vinified. Now, the varietal wines are getting fresher and more supple, and that’s good news for all.

As far as QPR goes, the Douglas Green Cabernet Sauvignon is pretty hard to beat. For just over 11$, you get a well-defined cabernet sauvignon with bright fruit and good structure, that actually tastes like wine, rather than a technical beverage. At that price, that’s saying something.

Swartland is one of the most creative regions in South Africa, with many producers making natural wines and unusual approaches to more classic styles. Those by Adi Badenhorst are probably the most representative of that trend, but the syrah-carignan by Babylon’s Peak is also worth a look with its intense dark fruit and rustic structure.

Another example of the growing diversity of South African wines is The Goatfather 2013, an expressive blend of barbera, sangiovese, nebbiolo and cabernet sauvignon. A unique blend  that speaks with an Italian accent. Also: it doesn’t show even a hint of burnt rubber character, a cliché about the country’s reds that really should be dropped once and for all.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

Telmo Rodríguez demonstrates once again his talent to produce wines which have an international feel yet still harken notions of antiquity. His mencia is so drinkable, loaded with fruit with notes of dried flowers, peppercorn and aromatic herbs. Lots of wine for a small price.

Rioja come in many styles. But if you have ever stopped at a local roadside restaurant in Spain’s countryside, there’s a good chance that the wine you order to accompany your snack will taste, thankfully, just like this young rioja.

Gaba do Xil Mencía 2013Coelus Rioja 2013José Maria Da Fonseca J M FMission Hill 5 Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2014Domaine Les Brome Cuvée Charlotte 2014

One of the better new listings at the SAQ comes from Fonseca . An excellent little red wine made with castelão and aragonez. Rich and supple and at under $10, yet another excellent quality price wine  amongst the many great inexpensive wines hailing from Portugal.

Over the last few years, I have come more and more to appreciate the charm and subtlety of Mission Hill’s pinot blanc from British Columbia’s Okanagan. Serve this around 12°C, so not too cold to better appreciate the nuanced flavours.

The entry level cuvee from Quebec’s Léon Courville put the emphasis on acidity and vibrancy, with lemony notes coming from the seyval grape combined with the floral touches of  geisenheim.

Marc Chapleau’s picks

Let’s call it the spirit of contradiction: the days are getting shorter, the evenings are cool, and here I go recommending three whites and only 2 reds. So let’s at least start with the latter.

At under $16, the Château Eugénie 2011 simply flabbergasted me. Am I being overly enthusiastic? No, I loved it. The wine is ready to drink, generously fruity, and with tannins that are both supple yet grippy.

A touch to the east, the red Versant Syrah Foncalieu 2014, in the region of the Pays d’Oc, has just enough power, has a peppery finish and ultimately is just so refreshing. And at just over $15, no need to overthink this purchase.

Château Eugénie 2011Foncalieu Le Versant Syrah 2013Pfaffenheim Cuvee Jupiter RiesChâteau De Chasseloir Cuvée Des Ceps Centenaires 2012Birichino Malvasia 2013

Now onto the whites, let’s start in Alsace and the Riesling Pfaff Jupiter 2013 – focussed, precise with engaging aromas of citrus.

From the Loire, the Muscadet Comte Leloup 2013 is a fidgety white, as you would expect. But with lots of flavour. Its smokey accents, perhaps this is how it expresses its minerality, made me think that perhaps, though erroneously, that it had spent some time in barrel.

Finally, from California, the Malvasia Birichino 2013 is wonderfully perfumed, reminding me of viognier in many ways with its rich texture. Keep this wine for that cheese plate at the end of your meal, another sign that the evenings are indeed cooling down.

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!

NOVA 7 - The Toast of Nova Scotia

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks September 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.

Always one of the busiest tasting seasons of the year, September is a steady stream of portfolio tastings and holiday pushes, fall releases and harvest fetes. Though the sun is still shining brightly in BC, autumn’s nip is apparent in the evening air and early sunsets, ushering in the warming whites, fuller rosés and hearty reds of fall. Here’s what has caught our eye this month in the transition.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team


Anthony Gismondi

Just back from the Okanagan Valley where the 2015 harvest is now well along the timeline and depending upon the latitude of your fruit you could be anywhere from 30 to 60 percent finished. So far most of the fruit looks fabulous, and spirits are high, though fingers are always crossed until the last grape comes in.

Artesa Winery Pinot Noir 2012

Quails' Gate Richard's Block Pinot Noir 2013

Bartier Bros. 2012 Merlot

Bartier Bros 2012 Merlot is an example of the high quality we can look forward to with the 2015 vintage. I just love the purity of Okanagan fruit in this 87/13 mix of merlot and cabernet franc that comes of the warm, west sloping Cerqueira Vineyard on the lower Black Sage Bench. In 2012 everything conspired to make this a delicious bottle of serious merlot, maybe the best I have had in some time from BC.

I enjoyed Quails’ Gate Winery’s 2013 Pinot Noir Richard’s Block, a special bottling to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the winery. The pinot is dedicated to Richard Stewart who purchased the original family vineyard in 1956. Richard’s Block is a sleeping giant at this point but with powerful spicy fruit just waiting to explode.

From further south, another pinot noir impressed this month. Artesa is a Carneros-based winery owned by Spain’s Raventos family, owners of the highly respected cava house Codorníu. The Artesa 2012 Pinot Noir is open and inviting with a mix of spices, black tea and black cherry; a delicate touch supported by California styling. 

Rhys Pender, MW

Having just come back from the Colour event in Vancouver that saw nearly 100 BC wineries run both a trade tasting in the afternoon and the Chef Meets Grape event in the evening, I am focusing on good local wines for my picks this month. In particular I was impressed with some of the wines’ ageing capability.

I have written about BC wines’ ability to age many times and my beliefs were further strengthened with a seminar I conducted pouring BC wines as old as 10 years. The natural climate conditions in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are as well suited to creating ageable wines as any in the world. Few places get the sunshine and warmth for fruit ripeness while also combining this with refreshing natural acidity and firm tannins. When the winemaker and grape grower get it right and the tannins are ripe, the wines have an incredible ability for developing complex and interesting flavours with time in the cellar.

Van Westen Vineyards Voluptuous 2012

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2012

Corcelettes Menhir 2013The first wine I will mention is from a newer winery from the Similkameen Valley. Corcelettes started small but has expanded as they took over the beautiful former Herder winery between Keremeos and Cawston. This has increased their vineyard size as well as the options for wine styles and there are some positive results so far. One wine that should age well is the 100% Similkameen Corcelettes Menhir 2013. It is nice now but I’d love to see what other flavours evolve with 4-6 years in the bottle.

Two of the wines that showed very well in the seminar in Vancouver were the Laughing Stock Portfolio 2012 and the Van Westen Voluptuous 2012. While Laughing Stock is well known and has built a good reputation for the ageability of their top Bordeaux varietal blend, Van Westen is still operating slightly under the radar. The Laughing Stock Portfolio 2012 nicely combines fruit and savoury, elegant notes while the Van Westen Voluptuous 2012 is still firm, fruit driven and concentrated with a big whack of ripe tannins that will evolve slowly but surely over 10-20 years. We tasted a 2006 of both wines next to their younger brethren and at nine years both are still looking fresh and full of life. Stick half a case or so away of each and wait.

It is time we started taking the aging potential of BC wines seriously. Look at what you can get for your money with the upcoming release of 2012 Bordeaux and all of a sudden BC wines look both top quality and great value.

DJ Kearney

Godelia Mencia 2010

Maremma Toscana Camillo Ciliegiolo Principio 2013

Secateurs Badenhorst Chenin Blanc 2014It’s a mixed bag for me this month, with wines from South Africa, Italy and Spain topping my charts. All three are authentic, expressive wines that speak of a place, of respectful winemaking and massive human ambition.

One of my most memorable moments in wine has been a visit with Adi Badenhorst (a star winemaker by any metric) to his old vineyards in the Swartland, where he lavishes care on chenin blanc like few others. The Secateurs 2014 embodies this reverence for grape and Adi’s weathered granitic/clay terroir.

Lithe and juicy, Antonio Camillo’s 2013 Ciliegiolo from the Maremma can stand in when you feel like Beaujolais. Ciliegiolo is one of the parents of sangiovese and it means ‘little cherry’, and I love the crunchy bright red flavours and raspy acidity of this cheerful food red.

And the boldest for last: full of gravitas and old vine fruit from high hills in Bierzo, Godelia’s Mencia 2010 possesses heft and savoury intensity for pairing with a prime beef cut, or lusty lamb braise. 

Treve Ring

This is one of my favourite columns to compose each month because it’s the easiest – what three wines have I tasted recently that stand out. Actually, it’s harder than that, because (thankfully) there are many more than three wines I could select – especially in the fall tasting season.

Gabriel Meffre Cotes Du Rhone Blanc Saint Vincent 2014 Joseph Drouhin Cote de Beaune Blanc 2012 Nichol Vineyards Syrah 2012This month, however, Nichol Vineyards 2012 Syrah remains in my memory bank. What would you expect from the oldest syrah vines planed in Canada, growing on sloping granite at the northern end of the Naramata Bench? Yup, all that and more, can be found in this savoury, sustainably farmed, unfiltered and textured red. Authenticity.

From estate grapes on the Côte de Beaune as well as some declassified wine from the young vines off the famous Clos des Mouches vineyard. Joseph Drouhin 2012 Cote de Beaune Blanc. Lively fine citrus lifts the palate, carrying light nuts, honey, stony mineral and fine lees. Very harmonious now, but will reward with 2-4 more years in the cellar.

One of my biggest surprises this month came out of the tidy value for price of the Gabriel Meffre 2014 St Vincent Cotes du Rhone Blanc. A bright blend of grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette, marsanne, viognier and bourboulenc opens with pretty white blossoms and herbal lees before the finely spiced, lightly savoury palate, drawing light pear, green fig and citrus along with the flow. At $16, this was a stock-up worthy treat.


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.

19 Crimes - To the Banished

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La gazette du palais

Hors des sentiers battus18 sep 2015

par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Chronique en forme de gazette, cette semaine. Deux ou trois sujets dans le collimateur, envie de parler de ceci, d’écorcher cela, enfin, vous voyez le genre, mais on ne va pas se prendre la tête, promis, déjà assez de soucis comme ça, avec les élections, les migrants et le futur capitaine de la sainte bébelle.

Primo, je reviens sur le bouchon AntiOx. Après en avoir vanté les mérites au début de l’année, je persiste et signe, et deux fois plutôt qu’une. Je ne compte en effet plus le nombre de bouteilles entamées que j’ai rebouchées avec ce bouchon spécial et que j’ai ensuite exhumées du frigo plusieurs jours après, seulement pour découvrir, à de rares exceptions près, que le vin n’avait pratiquement pas bougé, il était encore bien fruité, bien en vie, et moi, bien content…

Parlant de gadget, en voici deux autres qui n’ont cependant jamais changé ma vie : le bidule pour simuler l’effet Venturi machin, qui soi-disant aère le vin au service, et le truc refroidisseur, le RAVI ça s’appelle, je crois. Remarquable invention, mais qui se sert de ça ? Dites-moi. Ça ne paraît pas, je viens d’opposer mon veto, mais je suis tout ouïe…


Je ne sais plus où j’ai lu ça. Le champagne, paraît-il, n’est que très rarement bouchonné.

Sauf que ça arrive de temps à autre. J’en ai d’ailleurs fait l’expérience, voilà peu.

La sonnette d’alarme avait pourtant retenti dès l’extraction (sobre, sans esbroufe) du liège – il faudra d’ailleurs un jour parler de cette grotesque mode du sabrage de bouteille. Mais bon, passons. Le bouchon en question : je l’ai senti, comme on doit toujours le faire (vous prenez des notes, j’espère) avec tout bouchon de liège qu’on vient de retirer d’une bouteille. Résultat : il sentait le liège un peu, alors qu’en temps normal, un bouchon sain ne sent rien, ou alors il sent un peu le vin.

Champagne Corks

Je nous sers tout de même une rasade en me disant que c’était moi qui parano-yeah sûrement, ça n’arrive à peu près jamais, et patati et patata. Sauf que non, putain, le nez dans le verre ce n’est pas brioché comme il fallait s’y attendre. Enfin si, un tout petit peu, mais à peine. Hmm… je ne suis vraiment pas rassuré. L’est bouchonné ou non ? Allez hop, on goûte. Et là… patatras !


Pas le fait d’employer des expressions franchouillardes, qui picosse. Juste que quand t’ouvres une bout’ de champ’, le party est déjà à peu près pogné. Or t’as pas envie de rabattre la joie de tout le monde en t’écriant, genre, « Stop tout le monde ! Ce champagne XYZ est impropre à la consommation. Il y a tout lieu, j’en ai bien peur, de suspecter un goût de bouchon… »


Tu laisses aller, d’autant que c’est plutôt malaisé à reconditionner et à retourner à la SAQ, une bouteille de vin effervescent.


Ce n’est pas le fait de noter les vins sur cent, qui m’embête – d’autant que j’utilise moi-même ce type d’échelle bourrée de défauts, comme tous les autres systèmes de notation, du reste.

Ce qui me fait suer, ces temps-ci, c’est plutôt l’avalanche en succursales de bouteilles affublées d’autocollants pour dire que le vin, dedans, a été coté 90 %, 91 % ou encore 93 % par tel magazine ou chroniqueur, très souvent états-unien.

James Cufflink, sors de ce corps !

L’ennui, c’est l’inflation dans les notes, l’enflure verbale, l’oedème cérébral même, dont semblent atteints certains.

L’autre problème, sinon le vrai problème, du moins le plus pernicieux, c’est que plusieurs commentateurs, et pas qu’aux States, écrivent d’abord pour faire plaisir au vigneron, au producteur ou à son représentant. D’où ces scores prodigieux aux allures complaisantes…

Chacun son métier.

À boire, aubergiste !

Voici mes suggestions de la semaine. Toutes n’ont pas décroché la lune, rapport aux pourcentages accordés, mais pour le prix, et compte tenu de la qualité, toutes constituent de pas mal bonnes affaires.

Caliterra Tributo 2014 – Très bon sauvignon blanc chilien, typé buis (l’arbuste odorant) sans excès, assez riche et pas très nerveux; n’empêche, la finale est agréablement salée et l’ensemble, bien équilibré. À moins de 17 $, bravo !

Pouilly-Fuissé Boisset 2014 – Excellent bourgogne blanc, citronné, finement boisé, nerveux, harmonieux. (23 $)

Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Jean Claude Boisset Pouilly Fuissé 2014 Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2012 Château de Marsannay Les Longeroies 2013

Pinot Noir Adelsheim 2012 – Très bon pinot de l’Oregon, pas très nerveux mais bien typé et bien concentré. Bénéficierait probablement d’une garde de deux ou trois ans, bien qu’il se boive déjà très bien. (32 $)

Marsannay Les Longeroies 2013 Château de Marsannay – Le fruit et la profondeur sont là, ainsi qu’une texture serrée. Déjà très bon, et le potentiel pour s’affiner sur quelques années (2018-2020) (43,75 $)

Minervois Le Régal 2012, Domaine Le loup blanc – Une petite bombe de fruit, assez corsée par ailleurs, bien tendue. Finale épicée. Un régal, vraiment ? Pas loin, effectivement ! (21,40 $)

Insoglio del Cinghiale 2013 Toscane – Très bon vin, charnu et plein, généreux même. L’empreinte boisée est marquée, mais bien intégrée. Savoureux ! (30,25 $)

Le Loup Blanc Le Regal Minervois 2012 Campo di Sasso Insoglio del Cinghiale 2013 Château Eugénie 2012 Francis Ford Coppola Director's Cut Zinfandel 2012

Cahors, Château Eugénie 2011 – À petit prix (15,95 $), un cahors très satisfaisant, déjà fondu et prêt à boire, rien de complexe ni de compliqué mais la matière est là, et ça goûte bon tout en étant conforme aux canons de l’appellation. (15,95 $)

Coppola Director’s Cut Zinfandel 2012 – Beaucoup de bois au nez, mais une solide masse de fruit en bouche (la cerise), ce « zin » est même rafraîchissant, enfin, façon de parler, ça demeure costaud mais avec du tonus. (29,95 $)

Bonne fin de semaine !


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

19 Crimes


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

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I am delighted to have found many new great values at the LCBO this month. From among all the wines I have tasted since I last reported to you, I have found ten new wines to join the my standing list of Top 50 Value wines.

Additionally many wines from that list are discounted and a some have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive for the next four weeks or so; all making your fall drinking more affordable.

I have selected six wines that did not quite make it to the Top 50 but they all have BAMs this month. Several of you have written to me saying that BAMs are only of marginal interest. I do somewhat agree however they do have some value. All the wines chosen below are good value already; the BAMs simply add temporarily to their appeal.

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

The current discount period runs until October 11th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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


Mike Weir The Underdog Red 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($6.45 Discontinued at LCBO) New to Top 50 – This lightweight simple red is now at a great price. Over 700 bottles remain.

Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012, Spain ($9.90 Discontinued at LCBO) New to Top 50 – A lively juicy red with soft berry aromas and a lively fruity palate.

Fuzion Alta Reserva Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($9.95) Top 50 September – A fruity juicy malbec. Chill a little and try with pizza or meaty pasta sauces.

Trapiche Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.45 +4 BAMs) – Pretty good malbec for the price, not that complex but quite correct. Try with grilled meats.

Mike Weir The Underdog Red 2012 Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012 Fuzion Alta Reserva Malbec 2014 Trapiche Malbec 2014

Quinta Do Valdoeiro Baga, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah 2011 Bairrada, Portugal ($10.80) Top 50 September – A fresh clean blend of the Portuguese grape baga with cabernet and syrah. It is midweight with an elegant juicy palate, lively acidity and fine tannin. Very good length. Try with roast meats.

Errazuriz Estate Series Carmenere 2013, Rapel Valley, Chile ($11.40) New to Top 50 – This is a vibrant young carmenere with lifted aromas and lots of flavour and shows just how good this grape can be. It’s smooth and quite firm but not the least austere, with chalky tannin and a lemony tone to the finish. Very good length. Try with grilled meats or baked brie.

Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2013, Cachapoal Valley, Chile ($12.95 + 8 BAMs) – A well made juicy ripe carmenere with none of the greenness sometimes associated with this grape. Try with bbq and roast red meats, casseroles or mature hard cheese.

Quinta Do Valdoeiro Baga, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah 2011 Errazuriz Estate Series Carmenere 2013 Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2013 Fielding Fireside Red Cabernet 2012 Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Fielding Fireside Red Cabernet 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($14.95 +5 BAMs) – A well structured youthful red that needs a decanter for an hour then it will be great with a steak.

Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($9.35) New to Top 50 – A clean juicy dry midweight modern cabernet with a mild oak treatment. It is a little sweet but finishes dry with decent length.


San Pedro Gato Negro Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (1500ml) Chile $13.95 +6BAMs – A clean pure sipping white for a good price with some sauvignon character. Chill well and enjoy with vegetable dips.

Periquita White 2013, Portugal ($8.95 + 3 BAMs) – Top 50 September – Aromatic with a very smooth palate and good depth of flavour and some fruit sweetness, yet it finishes dry with good to very good length. Enjoy with mildly flavoured seafood.

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2014, Sicily ($9.45 + 4 BAMs) New to Top 50 – This grigio from Sicily has a lot of aroma and flavour with more complexity than one would expect from such an inexpensive wine.

San Pedro Gato Negro Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Periquita White 2013 Montalto Pinot Grigio 2014 Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2014

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2014, Central Valley, Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – A warmer climate sauvignon with lots of flavour. Try with grilled chicken.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – A floral rich dry white with an appealing aromatic nose. Great as an apertif or with strongly flavoured cheese.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Chardonnay 2014 Casablanca Valley Chile ($10.50) New to Top 50 – Mild aromas with just a hint of oak led to the fresh pure palate with delicate fruit and very good length, Try with sauteed seafood.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Cono Sur Bicicleta Chardonnay 2014 Cono Sur Chardonnay Reserva Especial 2014

Cono Sur Chardonnay Reserva Especial 2014, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($10.65) New to Top 50 – This vintage is quite sauvignon like; fresh lively with just a touch of oak and mouthwateringly delicious.

Osborne Santa Maria Cream Sherry, Jerez, Spain ($12.95 + 6 BAMs) – Excellent value for a classic cream sherry from Spain with abundant aromas, great depth of flavour and excellent length. Enjoy with a quarter of a fresh orange squeezed on ice as an aperitif.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Catalonia Spain ($13.45 was $14.95) – New to Top 50 – This is my favourite LCBO bubbly under $15, great for receptions as an aperitif; essentially anywhere you would consider Champagne.

Osborne Santa Maria Cream Sherry Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015 Villa Wolf Riesling 2013

Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($13.95) New to Top 50 – A pure rich zesty sauvignon with good varietal character. Try with sautéed seafood.

Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Qualitätswein, Pfalz Germany ($14.95 + 8 BAMs) – A racy juicy quite elegant riesling that’s finely balanced with very good length. Just what you need in a riesling at this price.

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 36 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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


Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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


Tilia Malbec

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008