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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 8th, Part One

Loire Valley and Smart White Buys
By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The Loire Valley is one of my favourite regions. Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé remain world sauvignon benchmarks. Cabernet franc from the appellations around Tours and Saumur define the perfumy cool climate style. Chenin reigns supreme east of Tours and south of Angers, challenged only perhaps by South Africa for its most singular expression, though the Loire wins hands-down on diversity. And Muscadet remains, dollar for dollar, the best value white wine on the planet (if you define best as dry, stony, lean and taut, as I do). The moments when my home Muscadet supplies run dry are very dark indeed.

The August 8th VINTAGES release features a competent but limited selection from the banks of France’s longest, languidly lumbering river, enough to get you started. We reveal our top in this report, along with a miscellaneous assortment of attention-grabbing whites. Next week David leads off on the larger Pacific Northwest thematic and other memorable reds. I won’t keep you any longer; there’s mid-summer sipping to be done.

Buyers’ Guide for August 8th 2015: Loire Valley

Domaine Bonnard Sancerre Rouge 2013

Domaine des Côtes Blanches Sancerre 2013Domaine des Côtes Blanches 2013 Sancerre, Loire, France ($24.95)
John Szabo – An arch-classic, old school, very chalky-flinty example of Sancerre, with fine depth and length. Textbook. Love the dusty texture and ripe-creamy-taut texture, as well as the length.

Domaine Bonnard 2013 Sancerre Rouge, Loire, France ($23.95)
John Szabo – Pinot noir was more widely planted in Sancerre before phylloxera, and is slowly making a bit of a comeback. Attentive viticulture is key, but even still these are light, transparent, fragrant versions without the meat and fat of even lighter-style Burgundy. But that’s their charm: all lace and grace, pinots to drink with a chill. Bonnard’s fits perfectly within the regional idiom, crunchy and leafy.
Sara d’Amato – This light bodied, fragrant pinot noir is an absolutely delightful sipper. Cherry, thyme and dried rose add elegance and intrigue to the palate. Chill slightly for ultimate refreshment.

Bouvet Nv Brut Excellence Crémant de Loire, Loire, France ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Good Loire chenin sparklers can be great value when they deliver – and this delivers. It is brightly fruity – loaded with chenin’s pear/quince waxy fruit, lemon and a touch of biscuit. It’s light, slender, a touch off-dry with brilliant acidity and fruit on the palate. Quite delicious, penetrating and very good value.

Clos Les Montys 2013 Vieilles Vignes Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie, Loire, France ($13.95)
John Szabo – Lean, crisp, bright, totally transparent and bone dry, in other words, textbook Muscadet. Complexity and length are ultimately modest, but at the price, this delivers everything it needs to and more.
David Lawrason – It is simplistic, but a light, polished, super fresh young Muscadet with green apple fruit, lime/grapefruit and vague stoniness. It’s quite juicy and tart with some bitterness on the finish. Wanted a bit more complexity for a higher rating (87) but at $13.95 who’s complaining.

Bouvet Brut Excellence Crémant De LoireClos Les Montys Vieilles Vignes MuscadetChâteau Favray Pouilly Fumé 2011

Château Favray 2014 Pouilly Fumé, Loire, France ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – Upon the pebbly Villiers limestone soils, sauvignon blanc flourishes in Pouilly-Fumé. This dynamite offering from Château Favray exemplifies the region’s characteristic flinty, mineral character, with racy acids that are refreshing as opposed to austere.
David Lawrason – This is from a 15 hectare estate on pebbly limestone soils, owned by a gent named Quentin David who revived an ancient property in 1980 that had been laid low by phylloxera in the 19thC. It’s an excellent buy in a solid, firm and nicely complex sauvignon with grapefruit, green pear, spice and dried herbs. It’s medium weight with taut acidity, some warmth and very good to excellent length. The herbal elements carry well on the finish, to excellent length.

Buyers Guide for August 8th 2015: Smart Whites

Wegeler Sweet Riesling 2012

Rieflé Steinert Pinot Gris 2010Rieflé 2010 Steinert Pinot Gris AC Alsace Grand Cru, Alsace, France ($24.95)
John Szabo – A pinot gris in the opulent, late harvest, distinctively Alsatian style, dense and robust, from the calcareous Steinert grand cru. Fans of exotic, flirtatious fruit underpinned by residual sugar and acid take note. Would be a treat with roasted pork or chicken, or soft cheeses.

Wegeler 2012 Sweet Riesling, VDP Gutswein, Mosel, Germany ($19.95)
David Lawrason – I looked up Gutswein (good wine) and found the following definition: “VDP GUTSWEIN, or regional wines, originates from an estate’s holdings within a region. They are entry-level house wines that meet the general standards prescribed by the VDP and provide a good introduction to the VDP’s hierarchy that inherently links wine quality with origin”. Well this certainly out-performs that definition. It is a lovely, pristine, off-dry riesling with classic Mosel charm, delicacy yet authority. Expect lifted floral, honeyed, peachy fruit with some lemon. Great fruit here; real precision that only the Mosel can really deliver.

Contrade Di Taurasi 2012 Grecomusc’, IGT Campania Bianco, Italy ($32.95)
John Szabo – An utterly arresting wine made from the unique and rare Rovello grape, formerly known as Grecomuscio (no relation to Greco), this has substantial complexity in a decidedly non-fruity style. It’s focused entirely on stony-flinty-chalky flavours on a lean, almost austere, taut frame, not a crowd pleaser by any means. But I love the tension and the quivering acids, and the green herbs and sea salt wash on the long finish. Very original.
Sara d’Amato – This Campanese rovello is a stunner with the potential for interesting evolution. The broad and complex palate is dizzying and offers compelling notes of honey, stinging nettle, parsnip, lime and white tea. Collectors take note!

Domaine Lafage 2013 Côté Est, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is an exotic, bloomy and spicy young white that combines Mediterranean varieties grenache blanc and vermentino. I would have bet on some muscat as well, but apparently it is the vermentino providing all the lemongrass and floral lift. It is very crisp, tidy and well-balanced, with a tart, stony finish. The catalogue says it is “new at VINTAGES” but it was actually on the General List some years ago and was just as good then.
Sara d’Amato – A grenache blanc and vermentino blend perfect for summer sipping. A sure-fire crowd pleaser, this dry, punchy, flavourful white is well-priced enough for everyday drinking.

Contrade Di Taurasi Grecomusc 2012Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013Vicente Gandía Nebla Verdejo 2014Santa Tresa Rina Lanca Grillo Viognier 2013

Vicente Gandía 2014 Nebla Verdejo, Rueda, Spain ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Attractive tropical notes have been coaxed out of this fleshy verdejo whose bright acidity provides freshness and focus. To boot, you can put your conscience at ease as this 125-year old, highly-awarded Valencian winery is well-known for its sustainable winemaking and social responsibility practices.

Santa Tresa Rina Lanca 2013 Grillo Viognier, Terre Siciliane, Italy ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Located on 50 hectares with a surface layer of light red sandy loam over well-drained limestone base in the vicinity of Mt. Etna, this is great value at $13.95. It’s a sub-tropical, semi-exotic white that combines perfumed spicy viognier with Sicily’s grillo grape of similar aspect. Look for fairly ripe star anise, pineapple, licorice and spicy aromas and flavours.

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

From VINTAGES August 8th, 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!

Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Southbrook Vineyards

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Season 5, Table 12 of “So, You Think you Know Wine?”

Sterling Napa Valley Chardonnay 2012 (aka Quacks Like a Duck)

After weeks of battling for position and points, only six contestants have advanced to the Semi Finals of “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

John Szabo, David Lawrason and Jennifer Huether qualified as group two of the semi-finalists, and they will be up next time. Sara d’Amato, Will Predhomme and Bill Zacharkiw qualified as group one and they will lead off in today’s episode.

The group at Table 12 agree hands-down that the grape variety is chardonnay, but where exactly is it from? Watch to see who goes on to the Finals and takes home the ultimate bragging rights.

Table 12

Watch Table 12 or read on to learn more about the contestants and the scoring method.

Score Card:

Advancing to the Semi Finals are:

Group 1 : Sara d’Amato, Bill Zacharkiw and Will Predhomme

Group 2: John Szabo, Jennifer Huether and David Lawrason

Have a look at the score card below to see how the semi finalist where selected.

Score Card

Table 12

As always, the video series brings together Canada’s top wine experts, but this time a few well-known food personalities have taken on the daunting task of competing against wine critics, sommeliers, and wine educators.

Sara d’Amato

Sara is a Toronto-based wine consultant, sommelier, wine critic and principal partner with WineAlign. She has worked in cellars both in Niagara and in France, as Sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotel and at the Platinum Club of the Air Canada Centre. She is also a contributor to Chatelaine magazine. Sara is the first and only woman to have won the Grand Award at the prestigious Wine Tasting Challenge.

Sara d'Amato

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill is a partner and principal critic at Chacun son vin. His writing career began in 2004 with The Caveman’s Wine Blog, one of the first on the internet. For the last 5 years he has been the weekly wine writer for the Montreal Gazette. His articles are carried across Canada via and other newspapers. Bill can be heard on CHOM FM (Montreal) every Friday morning to talk about Wine that Rocks.

Bill Zacharkiw

Will Predhomme

Will Predhomme is a prominent Canadian Professional Sommelier, beverage business development specialist, and industry liaison. Will’s experience reflects a career based in the beverage alcohol, hospitality, education, government and private sectors. For several years, he was the Senior Sommelier at Canoe Restaurant. Now he teaches WSET courses, is o-producer of Ontario and Oregon-made wines, host of The Globe & Mail Wine Basics videos, and is Managing Director of Predhomme Market Insights. He is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and in 2010 he won the title of Best Ontario Sommelier.



The Scoring

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

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

Let the games begin! Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch table 12.

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

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

Table 1 – Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013
Table 2 – Creekside Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Table 3 – Catena Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Table 4 – The Grinder Pinotage 2013
Table 5 – Faustino VII Tempranillo 2012
Table 6 – Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2012
Table 7 – Laroche Chablis St. Martin 2012
Table 8 – Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2010
Table 9 – Root: 1 Carmenère 2012
Table 10 – Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2012
Table 11 – Ogier Héritages Côtes Du Rhône 2012

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

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

Balderson Cheese

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20 bons vins à moins de 20$ pour juillet 2015

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

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

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

Les choix de Marc Chapleau

C’est l’été, c’est l’été… c’est vite dit ! Tantôt il fait chaud pour mourir, l’humidité nous lessive, et deux jours après on se les gèle — enfin, presque. Par contre, au moment où vous lisez ces lignes, et si la météo ne s’est pas gourée, il fait un vrai temps estival. Que des blancs dans ma besace, alors ? Pas du tout. Il suffit de rafraîchir les rouges plus que de coutume, et ils ont eux aussi droit de cité.

J’ai tout de même retenu deux blancs, parmi les bons achats du mois. D’Espagne d’abord, le Gran Vina Sol 2013 de la maison Torres, qui m’a semblé meilleur que jamais dans cette dernière livrée : un chardonnay à la fois tropical, vif et tendu. Puis, de la Loire maintenant et à base de sauvignon, le Reuilly 2014 Dyckerhoff. Vingt dollars tout rond celui-ci, en principe il ne devrait donc pas faire partie de notre sélection, mais il est si bon, si nerveux et si savoureux, qu’on ne chipotera pas, allez, on l’embarque !

Miguel Torres Gran Viña Sol Chardonnay 2013Domaine Dyckerhoff Reuilly 2014Tsantali Rapsani 2012Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2013Torres Gran Sangre de Toro Reserva 2011

En rouge, un grec pour commencer. Le Rapsani 2012 Tsantali, à seulement 12,40 $ et un intéressant mariage de fruit (la cerise) avec des notes d’herbes amères rappelant le Brio Cinotto. Un vin relativement corsé, par ailleurs.

Enfin, un doublé signé Torres (un triplé en fait pour l’auguste maison catalane, vu qu’on a parlé tantôt de son Gran Vina Sol) : le Sangre de Toro 2013 et le Gran Sangre de Toro 2011 – son grand frère, en quelque sorte. Le premier, reconnaissable en magasin au petit taureau en plastique qui pendouille au goulot, est souple et épicé, à peine corsé. Le second est épicé lui aussi (le bois, sûrement) mais plus corsé, plus profond, avec une bonne trame tannique.

Les choix de Rémy Charest

Ce n’est pas que j’ai bu juste du blanc, en juillet, mais tout ce qui m’a séduit le plus, sous les 20$, se trouve de ce côté des choses – bien que le premier de ces choix ne soit pas un blanc tiré de raisins.

En effet, mon plus grand coup de cœur du mois est un poiré mousseux (bref, un cidre de poire) d’une qualité et d’une finesse exceptionnelles, produit par un domaine tout aussi exceptionnel, Entre pierre et terre. À découvrir absolument. Il vous donnera autant de plaisir que bien des vins mousseux au même prix.

Tant qu’à être dans les découvertes, pourquoi ne pas faire comme le suggérait le collègue Bill Zacharkiw, dans sa plus récente chronique, et choisir des cépages que vous n’avez probablement jamais goûté. Mes suggestions, dans cette catégorie, sont le Prova Regia, un séduisant vin de cépage arinto, un des nombreux trésors blancs qui se méritent de plus en plus d’attention au Portugal – avec raison! Et faites-vous un plaisir royal – mais sans façon – avec un vin de Savoie tiré du cépage altesse, tout en fraîcheur et en énergie.

Entre Pierre et TerreCompanhia Das Quintas Prova Régia Arinto 2013Cave de Chautagne Altesse Roussette De Savoie 2014J F & P L Bersan Bourgogne Aligoté 2012Domaine De La Charmoise Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Je reviens constamment sur les mérites du cépage aligoté, dans cette chronique. Celui de la maison JF & PL Bersan est un bon point d’introduction, pour ceux qui voudraient s’y mettre, puisque ses notes typiques de fruits blancs (avec un peu de pâtisserie) s’y présentent sous un jour rond et généreux.

Finalement, j’ai déjà dit ici tout le bien que je pense des gamays produits par Henry Marionnet dans la Loire et je dois ajouter  son tout premier sauvignon blanc à la liste de ses réussites. Est-il aussi méritant que les gamays en question? Je ne saurais trop dire : la bouteille s’est vidée avant que j’aie pu me décider.

Les choix de Nadia Fournier

En préparation du Guide du vin 2016, j’ai dégusté quelques dizaines de vins sud-africains la semaine dernière. À ma grande surprise, j’y ai trouvé plusieurs vins, rouges comme blancs, tout à fait digestes et vendus à des prix d’aubaine.

Propriété de la famille Dornier, un constructeur aéronautique de renom en Allemagne ce domaine de Stellenbosch marque un autre coup sûr avec The Pirate of Cocoa Hill 2012. Volubile, ample et charnu en bouche, ce qui n’exclut pas la fraîcheur. Bonne longueur pour un vin de ce prix. 

Envie d’un vin plus strict, plus « bordelais » si vous me pardonnez l’expression ? Le Cabernet sauvignon 2012, Manor House de Nederburg est une des belles additions de l’année dernière au répertoire général de la SAQ. Un très bon vin rouge de la région de Paarl; franc, droit et sans maquillage superflu. Sec et assez corsé, il offre un volume en bouche appréciable pour le prix.

Dornier The Pirate Of Cocoa Hill 2012Nederburg Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Secateurs Badenhorst Red Blend 2012Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2014Secateurs Badenhorst Chenin Blanc 2014

La région viticole de Swartland a en quelque sorte échappé au vent de modernisme qui a gagné les principaux vignobles du Cap au cours des années 1990. Cet esprit de dépouillement se reflète aussi dans certains vins, comme le Red blend 2012, Secateurs d’Adi Badenhorst. Ample et volumineux, bien qu’il ne pèse pas plus de 13,5 % d’alcool. Et quelle fraîcheur en bouche! Le vin rouge de soif, version Swartland.

Plus gourmand encore, le Syrah 2014, Porcupine Ridge est un autre bon exemple de l’esprit de Swartland. Vraiment délicieux, gorgé de bons goûts de fruits noirs, sur un fond de viande fumée et d’aromates. Des tanins mûrs et suaves tapissent la bouche et laissent une sensation très rassasiante.

Enfin, dans le même esprit de légèreté et de buvabilité que le vin rouge de la gamme Sécateur, le Chenin blanc 2014 d’Adi Badenhorst est tout à fait délicieux. De jolies saveurs de fruits à maturité, du gras comme il faut, mais pas trop. Excellente porte d’entrée pour saisir l’immense potentiel de la région de Swartland.

Les choix de Bill Zacharkiw

Chaud devant !

La canicule sévit ? Pas de problème ! Ça ne m’empêche pas de jardiner intensivement et de faire des rénovations sur la maison. Sauf qu’à la fin de la journée, ma récompense, c’est de pouvoir relaxer sur la terrasse en buvant du vino et en me demandant ce que je vais ensuite griller sur le barbecue.

J’adore l’apéritif de fin d’après-midi, et j’ai récemment bien aimé un superbe cidre mousseux, le Dandy Dog de la cidrerie québécoise Entre Pierre et Terre. Sec et élégant, il est aussi désaltérant au possible. Si, cela dit, le cidre vous effraie, ce qui serait dommage étant donné que le Québec est rendu un maître en la matière, Le Master de Donatien Bahaud, un muscadet, pourrait très bien prendre la relève. Le millésime 2010 est présentement en succursales, et si vous n’avez jamais goûté un muscadet avec un peu d’âge, l’occasion est toute trouvée.

Dandy Sexy Dog Entre Pierre et TerreDonatien Bahuaud Le Master 2010Château Tour des Gendres Cuvée Des Conti 2014Château La Tour De Beraud 2013Corona de Aragon Reserva 2008

L’un des meilleurs blancs que j’aie bus jusqu’ici, cet été, vient de Bergerac, dans le sud-ouest de la France. Le Cuvée des Conti 2014 du Château Tour des Gendres porte en effet le couple sémillon-sauvignon à son sommet, et il est formidable avec les rouleaux de printemps !

Si vous êtes plus rouge, et en quête d’un vin qui peut être bu pour lui-même tout en se mariant bien aux viandes blanches, alors le costières-de-nîmes Château La Tour de Béraud 2013 est pour vous. Servez-le à environ 16 C et voyez comme la bouteille se videra rapidement. Enfin, si vous prévoyez manger de la viande rouge et que vous avez envie d’un bon rouge bien corsé aux arômes fumés, optez pour le Cariñena Carona de Aragon Reserva 2008. À seulement 18 $, de la richesse, de la fraîcheur et même de la complexité.

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 July 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 July version of the 20 under $20.

Chacun son Vin Critic Team

Bill Zacharkiw’s Picks

30C? Bring it on! It’s my time for intensive gardening and home renovations. But at the end of the day, the payback is a chance to hang out on the terrace, drink some vino and think about what I’m going to slap on the BBQ.

I love the late afternoon aperitif, and recently drank a fantastic sparkling cider, the Dandy Dog from Quebec’s Entre Pierre et Terre. Dry and elegant, keep this cool to quench that thirst. If cider scares you, which it shouldn’t because Quebec is a leader in turning apples into boozy fun, Le Master from Donatien Bahaud is a Muscadet that does everything right. The 2010 vintage is on the shelves right now and if you have never had an aged Muscadet, this is your chance.

Dandy Sexy Dog Entre Pierre et TerreDonatien Bahuaud Le Master 2010Château Tour des Gendres Cuvée Des Conti 2014Château La Tour De Beraud 2013Corona de Aragon Reserva 2008

One of the best whites I have tasted this summer comes from the Bergerac region of France’s southwest. The 2014 Cuvee des Conti from Chateau Tour des Gendres takes the semillon/sauvignon blend to another level, and is killer with spring rolls!

If red is your gig, and you want a wine that you can drink on its own, as well as pair with white meats, the Costieres de Nimes from Chateau la Tour de Beraud is your wine. Keep it around 16C, and watch it disappear way too quickly. And finally, if you are going the red meat route, and want a smokey, full bodied wine for a great price, the 2008 Carinena Carona de Aragon Reserva is what you need. Rich, fresh and for $18, great complexity.

Marc Chapleau’s picks

Summer is here. Summer is here! Well at least the Quebec version where it’s lethally hot for a few days and then we almost freeze. But by the time you read this, if all goes as planned, we should collectively be basking in true summer weather. So am I just packing white wines these days? Not at all. Just chill your reds a touch more than you would normally do, which will suffice to make them a perfect elixir to beat the heat.

I will, however, start with two white wines. From Spain, the Gran Vina Sol 2013 from Torres, which I find is even better than the previous vintage. A chardonnay that is both ripe and tropical, but refreshing and focused. If you have a thirst for a sauvignon blanc, the Reuilly 2014 Dyckerhoff at $20, which is by definition not under $20, but I took the liberty to stretch that extra penny because it is worth it. Tasty and twitchy, just what I look for in a great sauvignon.

Miguel Torres Gran Viña Sol Chardonnay 2013Domaine Dyckerhoff Reuilly 2014Tsantali Rapsani 2012Miguel Torres Sangre De Toro 2013Torres Gran Sangre de Toro Reserva 2011

Now onto the reds, starting in Greece. The Rapsani 2012 Tsantali, at just over $12, is an interesting and relatively powerful mix of cherry fruit with slightly bitter herbs which reminds me of Brio Cinotto. To finish off this month’s suggestions, two more wines from Torres, the Sangre de Toro 2013 and its big brother of sorts, the Gran Sangre de Toro 2011. The first wine, easily recognizable on the shelves due to the plastic bull that hangs from the bottle, is supple and spicy, and drinks with ease. Big brother shows the spice as well, which comes no doubt from the oak barrels, but has more power, depth and a solid tannic finish.

Remy Charest takes a Walk on the White Side

Not only have I been drinking a lot of white wines these past few weeks, but everything that caught my attention is under $20. Call it an affection for the various shade of wine – even though, in fact, my first selection isn’t really a wine.

My top discovery has been a sparkling pear from the truly exceptional producer Entre Pierre et Terre. It shows great finesse and precision, and will give you as much pleasure as any sparkling wine in its price range. A must.

While we’re stepping off the beaten path, let me join my colleague Bill Zacharkiw in suggesting that ‘weird’ whites are the way to go. My suggestions start with the Prova Regia, a delicious wine made from the arinto grape variety, and yet another one of those treasures that are gaining attention in Portugal – as they well should. In the same vein of weird, you will be happy with the Altesse from Cave de Chautagne in Savoie, a grape variety that delivers a lot of freshness and energy.

Entre Pierre et TerreCompanhia Das Quintas Prova Régia Arinto 2013Cave de Chautagne Altesse Roussette De Savoie 2014J F & P L Bersan Bourgogne Aligoté 2012Domaine De La Charmoise Sauvignon Blanc 2014

I’m constantly singing the praises of aligoté in this monthly feature, and the JF & PL Bersan provides a good, easy introduction to the grape. Typical aromas of white fruit (and a touch of pastry) are showcased in a round and generous wine.

Finally, I’ve said a number of times how much I love the range of gamays made by Henry Marionnet in the Loire valley, and I must say I need to add his sauvignon blanc to the list of his very successful cuvées. Is it as remarkable as those aforementioned gamays? I couldn’t tell you : the bottle was empty well before I could make up my mind.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

Last week, while preparing my 2016 Guide du vin, I tasted dozens of South African wines. To my great surprise, I discovered a number of wines, both red and white, that were both wonderfully drinkable, and affordable.

Owned by the Dornier family, who produces aeronautic equipment in Germany, this Stellenbosch winery hits a home run with their The Pirate of Cocoa Hill 2012. Lots of volume and richness without sacrificing freshness and drinkability. Excellent length for a wine at this price.

If you are looking for, and excuse the expression, a Bordeaux styled wine, the Manor House 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Nederburg is one of the better wines recently added to the SAQ’s regular product listing. An excellent red wine from the Paarl region: honest, straightforward and without any superfluous make-up. Dry and powerful, and with a lot of volume for the price.

Dornier The Pirate Of Cocoa Hill 2012Nederburg Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Secateurs Badenhorst Red Blend 2012Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2014Secateurs Badenhorst Chenin Blanc 2014

The Swartland region has somehow managed to stay sheltered from the winds of modernism that has engulfed many wineries in the Cape during the 1990’s. This rebel spirit is reflected best in certain wines such as the Secateurs 2012 Red Blend from Adi Badenhorst. No lack of volume here, even if the wine is no more than 13,5 % in alcohol. And what amazing freshness. A wine to drink, Swartland style.

Even richer, the Porcupine Ridge 2014 Syrah is another great example of the Swartland spirit. Delicious, full of dark fruits with a base of smoked meat and aromatic spice. The tannins are ripe and suave, coat your mouth and offer up excellent length.

Finally, in the spirit of high drinkability as the Badenhorst red, his 2014 Chenin blanc is absolutely delicious. Full of ripe fruits, with a rich texture without going overboard. It’s an excellent entry point into the great potential of the Swartland region.

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!

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The 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada

A Record Medal Haul, A Widening Range of WinesJuly 29, 2015

by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason, Co-Head Judge

The results of the 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada are out (read on or skip to the results), with more medals handed out than Canadian athletes won at the Pan American games that wrapped up Sunday in Toronto (they won 271). Who knew there were so many sports, and so many young Canadian athletes so good at what they do? And who knew that so many different types of Canadian wines from different regions in the country would also rise to the top? This is the 15th anniversary of these Awards. And the stats on this year’s judging, which took place at the Sheraton on the Falls in Niagara Falls, are record-breaking. A total of 1,408 wines were entered from 205 wineries. Sixty wineries entered for the first time, a testament to the growing number of wineries in the country, and faith in these awards as being a way to showcase and benchmark new wines.

We handed out a record number of awards as well – 14 Platinum, 101 Gold, 263 Silver and 375 Bronze. Given that a bronze must have been scored 87 points by a panel of a minimum of three judges, we have hundreds of wines in Canada that our experts felt were ‘very good’or better. That should instill some confidence among consumers.

NWAC15Plat_Cropped_Whiteback NWAC15_Gold_Cropped_Whiteback NWAC15_Silver_Cropped_Whiteback NWAC15_Bronze_Cropped_Whiteback

Among the list of 14 Platinum winners – the top 1% of wines in the country – there were three gamays from B.C. and Ontario, three “Rhone/syrah” inspired reds and one Rhone inspired white from B.C., two cabernet francs from Ontario and one merlot-based blend from B.C., two chardonnays from Norman Hardie in Prince Edward County, a great Niagara riesling, and a classic vidal icewine from the Okanagan Valley.

Among the 101 Gold Medals, we again saw a huge diversity of styles and varietals on the podium, although two thirds were reds, which may come as surprise to those who perceive cool climate Canada as a white wine hot zone. And within the reds there was a fairly equal split among the main genres – pinot noirs,  cabs and merlots as well as syrahs and blends thereof. Both British Columbia and Ontario were dealing with good red wine vintages in 2012 and 2013, the vintages that dominated this year’s competition (To qualify a wine must be bottled and available commercially in 2015).

Among the many silver and bronze medals you will find even more varietal and regional diversity. We saw wines from grapes like arneis, blattner, chasselas, pinotage, tempranillo, carmenere, grenache and a seyval/chardonnay from Quebec. We had western Canada wines from Vancouver Island & the Gulf Islands, the Fraser Valley and Cranbrook. We had eastern Canada wines from all of Ontario’s VQA regions, Quebec’s Eastern Townships, and regions of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

What underlies this success and diversity? It is winemakers – not the varieties or regions themselves. It might be a stretch to compare our winemakers to athletes – in a physical sense at least – but there is certainly no less passion among the many – and often young – Canadians that are taking over the reins of Canada’s wine industry. These men and women are driven not so much by competition with their Pan-American and Euro peers, as they are driven by being different, and exploring with both confidence and a sense of adventure, what Canada can do well. There is now a huge sense of what’s possible here, a spirit that actually does mirror the new attitude fuelling our athletic success.

Richard Karlo

Richard Karlo – Karlo Estates

Speaking of passionate and innovative winemakers, the 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada are dedicated to Richard Karlo, a much loved winemaker from Prince Edward County who passed away earlier this year. As well his ever-present optimism and booming laugh, Richard was known for pushing boundaries in the County, which is defined largely as pinot-chardonnay-sparkling region. He planted winter hardy Minnesota hybrids like Frontenac Gris that resulted in much loved rosé and dessert wines. He worked with a wide range of red varietals from both Niagara and PEC to create a portfolio of wines as generous and outgoing as he was himself. In his memory The National Wine Awards is making a donation in his honour to his favourite local charity, The Loyalist Humane Society.

Richard’s winemaking spirit is pan-Canadian, making it less and less important to be comparing regions in a quality sense. Certainly given geography and vintage variation there will be differences in terms of which varietals might fare better, but when you dig deep into sub-appellations in both B.C. and Ontario in particular, you find that both provinces have micro-zones that are quite capable of producing a wide range of grapes and styles.

So is it time to stop generalizing? Have we matured enough to do so? I personally think Canada, as a multi-regional wine growing country, has a huge future with Icewine, sparkling wine, chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, gamay, cabernet franc and merlot, with perhaps more vintage specific success awaiting cabernet sauvignon and syrah.

Chief judge and awards architect Anthony Gismondi will be announcing the NWAC 2015 Winery of the Year Award on August 5th, as well as the winner of our new WineAlign 2015 National Wine Awards Best Performing Small Winery (10,000 cases and under). He will explain the process of ranking the wineries, one that we think is ultimately the fairest and most objective that can be achieved. This year, because we want to make it easier to relate to wines that might only be available in their provinces, we will be presenting lists of the top performing wineries in each B.C. and Ontario.

The Judges and the Judging

This national blind tasting competition for Canadian wines began in 2001 as the Canadian Wine Awards operated by Wine Access magazine. In 2012 the awards were acquired by WineAlign and re-named the National Wine Awards of Canada. Chief judge Anthony Gismondi and I have been aboard from the beginning, along with a core of veteran judges from east and west. As well each year we have added new judges, including an impressive group from Quebec when WineAlign took over and then created its French language site called Chacun Son Vin.

We had 16 core judges from seven provinces, and those judges were regionally interspersed among six panels so that each wine was judged from a “national” perspective. We also welcomed back Dr. Jamie Goode, one of the leading palates and wine bloggers from the United Kingdom. You can link to read about each of our judges here.

Group photo

Judges and key staff of the Nationals

Last year, under the guidance of veteran Vancouver judge DJ Kearney  we initiated a program called the Judges Training Judges Mentoring Initiative, where “top palates” were selected to attend a pre-competition judging seminar, then sit in on the preliminary round of tasting.  Their scores were not counted but they were fully engaged in the discussion, listened to and respected.  This year we were delighted to have two very accomplished sommeliers working with two of the largest restaurant cellars in Ontario: Emily Pearce, sommelier at Toronto’s Barberians Steakhouse and sommelier Katy Moore from Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario.

The actual judging process is very carefully designed to be fair to each wine entered. They are of course served blind, and served at appropriate temperature. The wines are grouped in small flights by variety/style of 8 to 10 wines.  Judges tasted about eight flights a day (fewer than many other competitions) to help stave off palate fatigue.

Three person panels have about three minutes to judge each wine, in silence – then another five to ten minutes to discuss any discrepancies.  An odd-man-out difference of opinion on a wine would have a huge influence on a straight mathematical score. So it becomes a panel captain’s job to build a fair consensus, making sure that wines don’t fall through the cracks.

But landing the wines on the table requires as much or more diligence as the judging.  The right wine has to be in the right glass, in the right order, and appear thus on all flights lists and the competition database. This requires a detailed wine registration process, then back room set up that begins 48 hours before the first wine is sipped. This year our incredible back room staff of over 20 volunteers processed 1408 entries, handling 4,500 bottles in the process.


Our judge’s tasting experiences in Niagara were not limited to the judging bench. We would begin at 8:30 each day going until about 3:30, with a non-wine lunch break. At 6pm each evening we were off to visit with dozens of Ontario winemakers assembled at various wineries/restaurants in Niagara. Many thanks to fabulous evenings and food, wine and conversation at Ravine Vineyards Restaurant, The Good Earth Winery Bistro, Treadwell’s in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Trius Winery Restaurant and the new Restaurant at Redstone Winery. We all learn a great deal about each other at these events. So a special thanks for all the very efficient co-ordination efforts by Magdalena Kaiser and Joanna Muratori of Wine Country Ontario.


Next year the National Wine Awards return to Penticton, British Columbia, repeating a process of alternating between east and west each year.  From the outset these awards have been designed a national event, not a series of regional awards, and after fifteen years Canadian wine is feeling very much like it is just that – Canadian.  We just need to get it flowing unfettered between the provinces in order for all Canadians to feel the same way about it that we do. Fingers crossed, one day soon!


The RESULTS of the 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada


We would like to acknowledge the following sponsors: Fortessa Canada for the Schott Zwiesel glassware used throughout the judging, Container World for shipping and logistics and Dairy Farmers of Canada for their ongoing support of  our Awards. A special thank you to Jason Dziver for the above images, as well as for each and every Awards bottle image appearing our site. You can see more of his work at Jason Dziver Photography.

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Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia – Australie

La valeur du temps
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Il y a quelques mois, je participais à la 37e édition du International Wine Festival de Vancouver, dont l’Australie était le pays vedette. Au programme, plusieurs dégustations et séminaires portant sur les régionalismes viticoles, les nouvelles tendances, etc. Tous très instructifs à leur manière. La plupart révélateurs du potentiel – immense, mais encore insoupçonné, hélas! – de ce géant d’Océanie.

Un de mes moments forts de la semaine fut le séminaire « Decades Apart », une classe de maître qui jetait un regard très intéressant sur l’évolution de classiques australiens sur une période de plus ou moins dix ans. Dans le lot, rieslings d’Eden Valley (2004 et 2014), sémillons de la Hunter Valley (1996 et 2007); Penfolds Bin 389 (2002 et 2012) et shiraz de Coonawarra (1994 et 2010), entre autres.

Sortie de la salle en me trouvant bien bête – ou ignorante, c’est selon – de n’avoir pas plus de vins australiens dans ma cave, j’ai eu vite fait de corriger le tir dès mon retour au Québec. Enfin, j’ai bien essayé.

Parce que, loin de moins l’idée de taper encore sur la SAQ, mais il faut dire que l’offre de vins australiens sur les tablettes de notre monopole est plutôt décevante. Un seul sémillon de Hunter Valley au répertoire et très peu de rieslings d’Eden Valley ; quatre cabernets de Coonawarra, dont deux pratiquement disparus des tablettes, etc.

Cela dit, en cherchant bien, j’ai quand même réussi à dénicher quelques belles bouteilles pour garnir ma cave. Quelques valeurs sûres qui, j’en suis sûre, évolueront admirablement au fil des ans.

À commencer par le Bin 389, Cabernet – Shiraz 2012 (50,25 $), souvent désignée comme le « Baby Grange », tant par les inconditionnels de Penfolds que par les professionnels de l’industrie. Le 2012 n’a pourtant rien d’un prix de consolation. Équilibre impeccable entre les éléments. L’harmonie dans l’opulence. À laisser reposer aisément jusqu’en 2020. À noter qu’un 1998 dégusté il y a quelques mois était encore dans une forme resplendissante.

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2012 Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2009 D'arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2010Tyrrell's Brookdale Semillon 2013Tyrrel's Brokenback Shiraz 2011

Un de mes collègues mélomanes a défini le Shiraz 2009, Keyneton Euphonium, Barossa (69 $) de Henschke comme un croisement entre un tuba et une trompette… Une image intéressante pour décrire ce vin intense et costaud, mais surtout très serré et doté d’une grande fraîcheur. À garder au moins de 5 à 10 ans en cave. Exclusivité SAQ Signature. 

Donnant encore davantage dans la puissance, le Shiraz 2010, The Dead Arm (51,50 $) de D’Arenberg est dessiné à gros traits pour le moment, mais son équilibre d’ensemble laisse présager un bel avenir.

Si les vacances estivales vous entraînent en Ontario, profitez-en pour mettre la main sur quelques bouteilles du sensationnel sémillon de la maison Tyrrell’s. Une référence en matière de sémillon de la Hunter dont j’ai pu à maintes reprise constater le grand potentiel de garde. Tout ça pour 25 $… 

Penfolds Grange 2009 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012À défaut de sémillon, on pourra apprécier le profil plutôt classique du Shiraz 2011, Brokenback, Hunter Valley (25,40 $) de Tyrrell’s. Chaleureux, mais sans sucrosité; à peine 13 % d’alcool et une finale rassasiante aux accents de cerise et de fines herbes.

Produit depuis 1954, le Cabernet sauvignon 2012 (35,25 $) de Wynns est certainement le plus célèbre des cabernets de Coonawarra. Œuvre de Sue Hodder, une des œnologues les plus talentueuses et les plus respectées du pays, le 2012 ne titre pas plus de 13,5 % d’alcool, mais s’impose avec beaucoup d’autorité en bouche. Racé, élégant, tout en nuances. Chapeau !

Enfin, si l’argent n’est pas une contrainte, vous devez mettre la main sur l’une des dernières bouteilles du Grange 2009, offert dans les succursales Signature. Je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de déguster le 2009 (disponible en ce moment), mais pour avoir goûté le 2004 il y a quelques mois, je dirais qu’une seule gorgée suffit à comprendre pourquoi Grange s’inscrit dans l’élite mondiale. Un vin rare et exceptionnel que tout amateur devrait avoir dans sa cave. D’autant plus que depuis sa création en 1951, Grange se distingue par un parcours quasi sans faute. Hors de prix (752 $) et dans une classe à part.

Parenthèse libournaise

Rien à voir avec l’Australie, mais puisqu’on parle d’évolution, j’ai pensé que vous seriez heureux de savoir qu’on trouve en ce moment dans les succursales Signature de Québec et Montréal, cette mini-verticale des Songes de Magdelaine.

Propriété des Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix (Trotanoy, Lafleur-Pétrus, Hosanna, etc.), le vignoble de Château Magdelaine a été annexé à celui de Bélair-Monange en 2012. Par conséquent, ces trois vins sont l’une des dernières occasions de pouvoir goûter le caractère singulier de ce beau terroir du plateau de Saint-Émilion.

Les Songes De MagdelaineVoilà pour la bonne excuse à saveur historique… Mais c’est qu’en plus, les vins sont impeccables! Tous représentatifs de leur millésime d’origine et de l’élégance proverbiale des vins de la famille Moueix.

Maintenant assez ouvert, Les Songes de Magdelaine 2008 (47 $) met de l’avant le classicisme des bons vins de Saint-Émilion, à défaut de la dimension des grandes années. Prêt à boire et jusqu’en 2017.

Plus nourri et représentatif de la générosité de son millésime, Les Songes de Magdelaine 2009 (68 $) plaira aux amateurs de vins plus enrobés. Bel usage du bois qui élève le vin, plutôt que de le dénaturer et finale persistante aux notes de fruits bien mûrs; la générosité en mode harmonieux.

Enfin, mon favori du lot, Les Songes de Magdelaine 2010 (68 $) résume à lui seul l’esprit Moueix. Trame tannique quasi sensuelle tant elle est suave et coule en bouche comme du velours liquide. Tout en nuances, en complexité, en profondeur. On achete les yeux fermés.


Nadia Fournier

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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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 25th, Part Two

Argentina: Not Just a One Hit Wonder
By David Lawrason with wine notes from John Szabo MS

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Argentina is featured on this release, and I am newly enthused by goings-on after two visits there within the last year. In fact five WineAlign writers have been there in recent months, and we have published the first article of a comprehensive two-part national series that delves deep into the current state of that nation (read part one here). If Argentina wasn’t confident about what’s going on they wouldn’t be inviting the world to have a look. The nub of the story is that Argentina is evolving into something more than a one-hit malbec wonder.

You have an opportunity to explore this in more detail as 20 producers arrive in Toronto next week (July 29) at Wines of Argentina’s Wine Jam and BBQ at the St. James Cathedral. (Find out more and get your promo code here.)

Before continuing I refer you to a ‘letter to the editor’ by Christopher Freeland of the LCBO in response to my June 27 release commentary on VINTAGES handling of the pre-Canada Day selection of Ontario wines. Please go to Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 27 – Part Two and scroll down to the comments section. And yes there is a connection to Argentina.

Mr. Freeland delivers an impassioned and detailed defence of the LCBO’s treatment of Ontario wine, and chastises me for not recognizing everything the LCBO is doing around homegrown wines. Fair enough, but I was not discussing the LCBO’s overall program, only VINTAGES lack of ability to create a meaningful focus on Ontario wine on that pre-Canada Day release.

I repeated the complaint two weeks later around VINTAGES’ Spanish feature, and I will say it again this time, with VINTAGES slender selection of six Argentine wines. Yes, there are already other Argentine wines on the General List and VINTAGES shelves. But why not really make this a feature and give 25 new Argentine reds a shot at a spot? Or 50? The reasons VINTAGES cannot do this are in my original discussion around Ontario wine.

VINTAGES is not being ‘unfair’ to Argentina, Spain or Ontario. They are actually being overly fair to all wines around the world (which makes Ontario wineries crazy). They are limited in what they do because they are in the end the one and only retailer and unable to provide the depth of selection one can find in other major North American markets. If it ain’t at the LCBO it ain’t on shelves anywhere in Ontario – which has underpinned my criticism of the LCBO from the start.

Back to what Argentina is doing now, and how that is reflected on this release. The selection only has one malbec, which indeed recognizes Argentina’s growing diversity. There are two cabernet sauvignons, which is a nod to the importance of this underrated grape, but neither are truly memorable cabernets. There is a Patagonian cabernet franc that is very much worth a look, and it is a variety on the up-tick throughout Argentina. But why no Patagonian pinots, and cab franc from Mendoza? There is a terrific torrontés value, but why not three for the dog days of August?

And none of the wines mentioned so far are above $20, which dismisses legions of premium wines that are available. In limited distribution as an In Store Discovery there is Catena’s excellent icon red named for founder Nicolas Catena. But where are the bonardas, many more great red blends, the biodynamic wines, the unoaked amphora wines from Sebastian Zuccardi, the brilliant French influenced reds from Monteviejo and the other member wineries of Clos de Los Siete, the great cabs and tannats from Cafayate, the syrahs of San Juan, the new lovely roses made from the pais grape.  We just have to wait and hope I guess.

With Sara d’Amato still on vacation John Szabo and I present our value picks from Argentina, as well as other New World and Europe.


Nicolás Catena Zapata 2010

Desierto 25 Cabernet Franc 2012

Pietro Marini 2013 TorrontésPietro Marini Torrontés 2013, Salta ($12.95)
David Lawrason – Torrontés is found in most regions but hits its freshest and most exotic heights in the northern province of Salta. Grown at 1750 metres in the Calchaqui Valley this is huge value! It has a billowing aroma of lemongrass, tangerine, spearmint and licorice – very exotic. It’s mid-weight, nicely smooth and a touch sweet, with great acidity and some warmth. Deep chill for garden sipping.

Desierto 25 Cabernet Franc 2012, Patagonia ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This hails from a remote, parched landscape (see label) in southern, cooler Patagonia. But cab franc is on the rise farther north in Mendoza as well, both as a blender and stand alone varietal. This is nicely done and every Canadian interested in one of our country’s better red varietals should be having at peek at this Patagonian.

Nicolás Catena 2010 Zapata, Mendoza ($110.00)
John Szabo – Yes this is certainly expensive, but if you’re a serious collector, it’s worth your attention. In the context of impressive, age-worthy wines, it’s comfortably in the upper echelon, made since 1997 from Catena Zapata’s top lots of cabernet and malbec. Indeed, I’d say it has better structure and balance than many similarly-priced wines from the new world, and would give plenty of pause to the classics from the old as well. Tuck this in the cellar for another 5-10 years minimum and then stage your own “judgement”-style comparative blind tasting. It’s rare to say, but I’d prefer a single bottle of this to a half dozen commercial, typically, sweet, over-oaked Argentine malbecs. David Lawrason – Ditto :)

Euro Reds:

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Maçanita 2012 RedMaçanita Red 2012, Douro, Portugal ($18.95)
John Szabo – From the dynamic team of Joana and brother António Maçanita (the latter of Fita Preta in Alentejo and the Azores Wine Company), this is a cleverly made wine with wide appeal. 60% Touriga nacional and 40% tinta roriz combine to make a generous, ripe, fruity and floral blend from the Douro, well within the typical flavour wheelhouse, with added polish and well-managed, succulent, rounded texture. Best 2015-2022.
David Lawrason – Very nicely made modern Douro lacking just a bit of depth for 90 points, but close and still good value.

Carpineto 2010 Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon, IGT Toscana Italy ($27.95)
John Szabo – Tuscan cabernet is rarely a detour for me, but I was stopped in my tracks by this concentrated and structured wine from Carpineto. The website provides no real insight (“grown in vineyards considered particularly suited for the production of great wines”, and, “scrupulously field selected”), but marketing fluff aside, I’d speculate that the vineyards are indeed special, as this delivers the type of depth, complexity, structure and length that can’t be manufactured in the winery. Genuinely great wine at a great price. Best 2015-2025.

San Fabiano Calcinaia 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, IGT Toscana Italy ($24.95)
John Szabo – Like the Farnito above, and against all odds, this second Tuscan cabernet in the same release also caused the world to stop spinning for a moment. It’s a hell of a mouthful for $25, full, firm, highly extracted, with immense tannic structure and abundant wood influence. Don’t touch it for at least another 3-5 years, but it’ll never be soft and polished so plan ahead with some salty protein and a decanter at the ready. Best 2018-2028.

López De Haro Crianza 2008

Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2013

Prunotto 2012 MompertonPrunotto Mompertone 2012, Monferrato, Italy ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Monferrato is an underrated  DOC region sandwiched between the powerhouse regions of Piedmont and Tuscany in NW Italy. From a leading peimontese producer this is a refined, well balanced if not showy young red with classic, perfectly ripened blackberry, floral and herbal nuances.

Tessellae 2013 Vieilles Vignes Carignan, IGP Côtes Catalanes, Southwest France ($17.95)
John Szabo – Another terrific value from the Roussillon, showing the wild and savage depths of which old vine carignan is capable. I love the scorched earth, the wild, resinous herbs, the dark fruit, the spice notes, not to mention the superior depth and structure at the price. Best 2015-2023.

López De Haro 2008 Crianza, Spain ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is a good buy at $15, if you like lighter reds, and Spain’s Rioja reds in particular. Lopez de Heridia is one of the great classic, traditional wineries of Spain, indeed of Europe. That they have delivered a minor classic at this price is a very pleasant surprise. It’s lighter, tight and elegant – quite tender in fact.

New World Reds:

Melville Verna's Estate Syrah 2012

Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2012

Paxton AAA 2012 Shiraz GrenachePaxton AAA Shiraz Grenache 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Paxton is a leading biodynamic producer in McLaren Vale, with their minimal intervention mantra stated on the back label. This is big and edgy but like so many BioD wines it delivers consistent, complex, profound flavours of excellent to outstanding length. Compelling if not soothing. Should age well for five years.

Blue Pyrenees 2012 Shiraz, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Festooned with award competition medallions, this bottle hails from the remote, arid and intriguing Pyrenees region 200kms NW of Melbourne. It’s medium-full bodied with great granitic acidity/minerality, fine tannin and juicy, savoury flavours. Excellent length. The medals are deserved.

Melville 2012 Verna’s Estate Syrah, Santa Barbara County, California ($37.95)
David Lawrason – Santa Barbara, with coastal influence at a warm latitude, is one of the great sources of syrah in California. And I find most examples echo the cooler northern Rhone more so than Aussie shiraz styling. This is a classic – full bodied, fairly dense, racy and refined. The focus and length here are excellent.

And that is a wrap for this edition. Next week John and I will return to lead off commentary on VINTAGES, August 8 release, which features the Pacific Northwest and Loire Valley. (I promise not to gripe about lack of selection).  And next week also stay tuned for the results of the National Wine Awards of Canada.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES July 25th, 2015
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Part 1: Wine to Chill

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!

Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Pacific Northwest Tasting - Aug 17th

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (July 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 have many new wine values to report since the LCBO announced lots of big discounts last Monday. So I have picked 20 wines under $20 that are the best values presently. My list includes nine wines new to my Top50 for you to try plus two more wines already on the list that are on promotion i.e.  have Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) that apply or are on sale (LTO), making these wines even more attractive; all this will surely make your summer drinking more affordable.

I have selected eleven wines from 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). To these I added another nine wines, all with BAMs, that make them good choices as well.

The discount period runs until August 16th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I was able to ensure 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!


Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – An inexpensive red for pizza and tomato pasta sauces. Basic but it delivers.

Vila Regia 2013, Douro Valley, Portugal ($7.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 July – A great BBQ red with a smooth texture and just a hint of oak. Chill a little and enjoy with sausages or burgers.

Santa Carolina Merlot 2012, Chile ($8.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 July – A well-priced Chilean merlot that more than delivers on drinkability with its lively vibrant fruit. Very versatile.

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2013 Vila Regia 2013 Santa Carolina Merlot 2012 Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($10.80 + 7 BAMs) – A clean juicy midweight modern cabernet. Just a hint of oak and enough tannin to give a some grip to the finish.

La Vieille Ferme Red 2013, Ventoux, Rhone Valley, France ($11.45 was $12.45) New to Top 50 – A consistent favourite of mine since it is such a versatile food red; so buy some while it is a $1 off

Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Peloponnese, Greece ($11.60 + 4BAMs) – A dry midweight balanced cabernet that would be great with grilled lamb cutlets.

La Vieille Ferme Red 2013 Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 Errazuriz Estate Series Carmenere 2013

Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013, Colchagua Valley Chile ($11.95 + 5 BAMs) – There is an earthy herbal tone to the soft juicy palate, that’s a little sweet on the finish. So try with mildly spicy bbq meats.

Errazuriz Estate Series Carmenere 2013, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($13.95 + 8BAMs) – A vibrant young carmenere, that’s firm but not austere. A good example of just how good this grape can be. Try with grilled meats or baked brie.

Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012 Ribera Del Duero, Spain ($14.40) New to Top 50 – An aromatic midweight red that has just a touch of oak to add to the fruit complexity. Try with BBQ meats.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia ($16.95 + 10BAMs) – A reasonably priced classic Coonawarra cabernet with excellent length and the structure for a steak .

Figuero Tinto 4 Tempranillo 2012Jacob's Creek Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013

Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($17.90) New to Top 50 – A complex elegant powerful red. Decant for an hour or so and enjoy with a steak.

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95 + 10BAMs) – A very appealing, pretty, and fresh pinot with lots of cranberry and raspberry fruit. The floral nose with just a hint of oak is very classy. Sip on its own or with a some rare roast beef.


San Pedro Gato Negro Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Central Valley Chile  (1500mL, $13.95 + 6 BAMs) – A lot wine plus some BAMs for a great price. It’s a basic, clean, fresh sipping white. Enjoy with veggie dips.

Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2013 Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – A basic yet quite fruity Italian white that’s great with grilled calamari.

K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape ($9.45) New to Top 50 – Fantastic value for a floral green apple white that’s great with seafood and white meats.

San Pedro Gato Negro Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Citra Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2013 K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014 Marqués De Riscal 2014

Marqués De Riscal 2014, Rueda, Spain ($11.85) New to Top 50 – Rueda is currently one of the top places European’s shop for inexpensive dry whites but this region has yet to catch on in Canada; try this and you will see why it should. Great with mildly flavoured seafood.

Trapiche Extra Brut Mendoza Argentina ($11.95 + 6 BAMs) – An excellent sparkling wine with lots of flavour for such an inexpensive wine. Great as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or with seafood or cheesy starters.

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2013, Central Coast, California, USA ($14.45 was $16.95) New to Top 50 – A lively fresh cool climate chardonnay with lots of aroma and flavour and very good length. Try with roast chicken.

Trapiche Extra Brut Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2013 Are You Game Chardonnay 2012 Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012, Victoria, Australia ($14.95 +5BAMs) – An elegant cool climate chardonnay with a sleek fresh fruity palate and just a hint of oak. Try with sautéed seafood.

Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Southern Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand ($16.95 was $19.95) New to Top 50 – A classic elegant sauvignon that’s pure, fresh and mouthwateringly delicious. Try with seafood.

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 37 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!


California Square Russian River Chardonnay 2012

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks July 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.

It’s always interesting lacing this column together and seeing what my colleagues have been enjoying over the past month. While we are all in contact regularly, we rarely get the chance to catch up in person, let alone taste together. Already in this month we’ve crossed time zones and terroirs from BC to Washington to California to Greece. Our picks often show some overlap, even when our paths do not. Natural wine, cellar dwellers, France, Italy and one local winery bubble to the fore this month, as does the ever-constant, singular uniting factor – delicious wines.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team


Anthony Gismondi

July is half over and most of us in the west are waiting, some even praying we will get some rain this month. It’s been warm and dry and the long-term outlook is more of the same. Beer seems like a good option, but a Vancouver Sun undercover story (some people have all the luck) revealed when you order a pint you often receive less than you paid for (seriously, who can you trust?) They still put wine in 750ml bottles so we will stick with that for July. Here’s three solid summer picks to enjoy and remember if the heat is oppressive chill down those reds – they will be all the better for it.

CedarCreek Merlot 2012 Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2013 Melini La Selvanella Riserva Chianti Classico 2010I’m betting Melini isn’t on your Chianti Classico mind most nights but the Melini La Selvanella Riserva Chianti Classico 2010 does the commune of Radda proud. If charcuterie is your thing it’s a perfect summer’s eve wine when the sun goes down. Silk plums.

My white pick will surprise some. Often underestimated by the ill-informed KJ’s calling card chardonnay, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay Vintner’s Reserve 2013 is in a good space in 2013, now a full thirty years down the road from vintage one in 1983. KJ’s strength is the sheer size of coastal chardonnay vineyards they own in California and the selection of fruit available to chief winemaker Randy Ullom. It is a chardonnay that will please a wide spectrum of tasters.

Closer to home, the race is on in BC to make better merlot. If there is a blueprint for simplicity and complexity I vote for the CedarCreek Merlot 2012. As noted and worth repeating, this is delicious stuff. The real attraction is the soft, silky tannins and the immediate drinkability of this savoury plum scented and flavoured red. Now, sit back and relax and let the summer wash over you before it’s gone.


Rhys Pender, MW

Domaine Chante Perdrix Chateauneuf Du Pape 2012 St. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2011 Muga Reserva 2010Sometimes a great vintage comes along and you should jump at the chance and stock up your cellar. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to find good cellaring wines either. One of the consistently most interesting and affordable wine regions to find cellar-worthy wines is Rioja. For around $30 there are some seriously good wines. The Muga 2010 Reserva is worth picking up a case to enjoy over the next decade or longer.

Another wine that offers great cellaring potential but is also delicious right now is the complex St. Urbans Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2011. This wine shows how a light, low alcohol Riesling can still be so powerful. And it just keeps changing in the glass, offering layers of complexity.

More for immediate pleasure to drink now is the Domaine Chante-Perdrix 2012 Châteauneuf-du Pape. This will hold for 5-6 years but it is so good and complex now with so many different flavour elements and is so texturally pleasing that you should just drink it. Well priced for Châteauneuf-du Pape too.


DJ Kearney

Ochota Barrels The Green Room Grenache Syrah 2014 Domaine De La Mordorée Lirac Blanc La Reine Des Bois 2014 Château Sainte Rosaline Cuvée Harmonie 2014Grenache is one of my beloved grapes. It is capable of transmitting terroir in a special way, matching the violet fragrance and silky texture of great pinot and reaching haunting, earthy complexity with age. Though often dismissed for being hot, simple or good only for bolstering a blend, when grenache is given respect, vine age and a fine terroir, anything is possible. It’s a Spanish grape of course, but here are three diverting French bottles that I’ve enjoyed this week.

The first, Domaine de la Mordorée La Reine des Bois Lirac Blanc 2014 is, to my mind, one of the great whites of France. It’s a concentrated, complex wine that will transform over 5 years (if you can be patient) in your cellar, into a stone-driven treasure.

Provençal rosé is still high up on my playlist, and I love the role that grenache plays in the aptly named Harmonie Rosé 2014 from Château Sainte Rosaline.

Finally a netherworld wine. Ochota Barrels The Green Room 2014 is made by maverick Aussie Tamas Ochota and his anti-establishment, unorthodox methods conjure this Mclaren Vale grenache blend into something remarkable.


Treve Ring

M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes Du Rhône 2012 Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 2013 CedarCreek Amphora Wine Project Desert Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2013One of the most interesting wines I’ve come across this month is an experimental red from CedarCreek and winemaker Darryl Brooker (recently moved over to Mission Hill). The CedarCreek Amphora Wine Project Desert Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is a natural wine, made without any additions (such as sulphur) and left to its own devices in an unlined clay amphora for eight months. The experiment paid off, and I’m looking forward to future ones.

I always enjoy a chance to taste the fresh, alpine-imbued wines from north eastern Italy’s Alto Adige, a region underrepresented on this market. Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 2013 is one such special delight, transmitting 100+ year old schiava vines into a delicately hued, layered and complexed stony light red. A beauty.

It’s always a bonus to come across well-built, affordable wines that excel and excite with short-term cellaring. M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhône Rouge is a terrific example of this; a $20(ish) dollar red that wears a couple of years age beautifully. I recently cracked the 2012 in my cellar (purchased last year) and was seriously impressed by the progression. This biodynamic grenache/syrah Côtes du Rhone beauty will delight now, and reward later, so stock up.


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.

Join Wines of Greece

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Bill’s Best Bets – July 2015

Going weird with white is really not that risky
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

We are so fortunate in Quebec to have such exceptional access to so many wines from lesser known regions and appellations, especially from Europe. Often, these are the places one finds the strange grapes. While I love trying new grape varieties, I know many people are hesitant. So as many of you are on vacation over the next month, make an effort to try something new.

Here are some recently released white wines that fall into the category of “what the hell is that?” To make things easier for you, I have included comparisons, if possible, to well known wine styles and grape varieties so you know what you are getting.

The whites

If you want a wine that’s aromatic, rather than going for a pinot grigio, how about a moschofilero? You will find the same boisterous aromatics, but with a slightly richer texture. Indigenous to Greece’s Peloponnese, it’s a sure-fire hit and inexpensive alternative. Both the 2014 Mantinia from Tselepos and the 2013 Mantania from Greek Wine Cellars will do the trick.

If you like your wines a touch less aromatic but dry and crispy, à la sauvignon blanc, there are a number of alternatives. A killer wine I drank recently was the 2014 Cuvee Des Conti from Chateau Tour des Gendres. Made with a field blend of semillon, muscadelle with a bit of sauvignon, this is one of the best wines I have tasted this summer, and it’s under $20. Closer to home, the 2014 Cuvee William from Quebec winery, Riviere de Chene is wonderfully dry, and made with vandal-cliche, vidal and frontenac blanc.

Tselepos Classique Mantinia Moschofilero 2014 Greek Wine Cellars Moscofilero Mantinia 2013 Château Tour Des Gendres Cuvée Des Conti 2014 Vignoble De La Rivière Du Chêne Cuvée William Blanc 2014

For those searching for something delicate, that will work as both an aperitif and with lighter fare like white fish, oysters, and salads, how about the grape picpoul? This is the muscadet of the Languedoc and Chateau Saint-Martin de la Garrigue makes a great one, if richer than most. A true classic picpoul comes from the Maison Jeanjean, the Omarine and for under $13, won’t break the bank.

Château Saint Martin De La Garrigue Picpoul De Pinet 2013 Ormarine Picpoul De Pinet Les Pins De Camille 2014 Château Laffitte Teston Ericka 2013 Domaine Aupilhac Les Cocalières Blanc 2013

If you are looking for something more substantial, to pair with white meats or richer seafood, and want to try something other than chardonnay, then look to the 2013 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh from Chateau Laffitte-Teston. Made with gros and petit manseng along with petit courbu, this is a trippy wine that offers spice alongside the rich texture. One of the most regal wines I have tasted this summer comes from the Languedoc, and Domaine Auphilac. The 2013 Cocalieres is made with roussanne, vermentino, grenache and marsanne. Let this warm up to really appreciate its depth and texture.

What about those intriguing wines? The head scratchers which challenge, but reward you for taking a chance. One of those I absolutely loved hails from Corsica. The Corse Calvi 2014 Fiumeseccu from Domaine d’Alzipratu is one of those wines. Mineral, rich yet fresh, with a great complexity of fruit. If you love cooking with spice, this wine will eat it up! Of similar ilk, the 2013 Fiano di Avellino from Mastroberardino will spice up any seafood evening.

Domaine D'alzipratu Fiumeseccu 2014 Mastroberardino Fiano Di Avellino 2013 Dandy Sexy Dog Entre Pierre Et Terre Cidrerie Du Minot Crémant De Pomme 2013

And finally, most people don’t drink nearly enough bubbles. Nothing beats bubbles as an aperitif when it’s hot, and I love a good cider. From Entre Pierre et Terre, the Dandy Sexy Dog is a great cider – dry and refined. For a pure aperitif, if you want just a hint of sweetness, the Cremant from du Minot always impresses.


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


Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

19 Crimes "To the Banished."

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008