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If I could buy only one – Aug 20th, 2016 VINTAGES Release

As part of our VINTAGES recap for August 20th, we asked our critics:

If you could buy only one wine from this release – which one would it be and why?

Here’s what they had to say about the release. You can find their complete reviews, scores and store inventory by clicking the highlighted wine name or bottle image below.

John Szabo – Great value whites are always in demand, at the tail end of summer, and always. And Soave is fertile hunting ground, where quality has risen astonishingly since the turn of the millennium, with prices yet to follow suit. La Cappuccina 2014 Soave is a fine example of the value to be found, a gentle but fresh and nectarine-flavoured wine with appreciable character and evident depth and concentration, not to mention an extra dimension of stony-minerality on the long finish.

La Cappuccina Soave 2014

David Lawrason – I have known Norman Hardie’s pinots from the beginning, watched his evolution in the County over the years, and tasted every vintage multiple times. So call me a homer if you want, but there is an aromatic thrill in this pinot that I don’t get anywhere else. And I will never tire of it.  As in my review – gorgeous, impeccable pinot nose with vibrant cherry/strawberry, light spice, lazy woodsy smokiness and wet stone.  You can judge its weight or lack thereof as you will, but great wine captivates on the nose. And this is great value in the pinot firmament, even at its new $45 price.

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014

Michael Godel – The label on this four endemic varietal red blend from the Douro tells us it’s “unoaked.” This seemingly insignificant bit of marketing is simply brilliant. Such knowledge is power and usually reserved for whites, especially chardonnay. Why not tell us your red wine spent no time in barrel? This is nothing short of awesome for the consumer. And so we have pure fruit and a simple, unadulterated experience. Quinta Nova de Nossa 2011 Senhora do Carmo is a terrific summer red (especially with grilled chicken on the BBQ) when procured with a chill that will serve and protect your palate and your will. At five years of age it has held up beautifully, a testament to hands off and trustworthy winemaking.

Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo Colheita Tinto 2011

Articles covering the VINTAGES August 20th release:

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES

For Premium Members, use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release including John Szabo’s First-In-Line.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 20th Reviews

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Editors Note: You can access critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews and scores 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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South Africa: Best Value Wines in the World

…and Worth the Drive to Pickering
by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Earlier this year I spent virtually the entire month of March in South Africa, on dual assignments. The same happened in 2014. So after spending almost 60 days in this fascinating land, I am getting nicely familiar, more so than with almost any wine producing country beyond Canada, and perhaps New Zealand.

I have even fantasized about taking advantage of the weakness of the South African rand to spend several weeks there each winter – running a sort of WineAlign field office as it were. Some Canadians are doing just that. Once you have ponied up the airfare you can live very well for very little – in a wine paradise.

The Cape winelands are alive with innovation, diversity, regionalism/terroir – and huge value. I often tell anyone who is interested that South African wines are the best value wines in the world at this point in history. Which should be joyous news to all who care.

But the issue of price – SA’s low price – is also creating difficulties for South African wine in Canada, and elsewhere. We all like a bargain, but when the overall price of a country’s wines is too low, low-grade expectations follow. And this creates an inability to have more expensive and even higher quality wines taken seriously.

Very few South African wines on the LCBOs General List are priced over $13.95, and several are under $10. And the thirty-odd South African wines that come through VINTAGES each year seldom break $19.95. The LCBO buyers will tell you it’s because no one will buy more expensive South African wines. (But they aren’t offered either). So dog dizzily chases tail.

While in South Africa I suggested the entire wine industry should unilaterally increase prices by 10% or even more. Just to equalize with the price/quality ratio with the rest of the world. Eyebrows arched! They could take that 10% windfall and put it into programs that help the winery and vineyard workers better cope. Their wages are dismal – by Canadian standards – which is a major reason that the wines are cheap in the first place.

In this article I don’t want to rehash the climate, geography, sociology and history of South African wines. Several WineAlign critics have travelled there recently and done a great job of this – as well as writing about the youth movement in the wineries and the “Swartland Revolution”. So I link you to the thorough pieces by Treve Ring: Cape Wine Discoveries and Michael Godel’s: South Africa’s Capelands. I also published a too-long treatise on pinotage – South Africa’s heritage variety – last year.

Worth the Drive to Pickering

I do want to make you aware that a new LCBO South African destination store is opening at 1899 Brock Road in Pickering east of Toronto on September 16. It will feature all the LCBO general list wines, any VINTAGES wines in the system, plus wines only otherwise available directly from importers. More importantly, these will also be available at the new website and available for home delivery. So you don’t have to drive to Pickering, although for instant gratification it might well be worth it.

This newest “Products of the World” store is a foot in the door for higher priced Southern African wines.  And I just hope Ontario’s importers seize the opportunity. Indeed, they should be stampeding to do so.  The value that can be found in all price ranges from $10 to $50 is terrific. And believe me when I say that I tasted dozens upon dozens of 90-point plus wines in South Africa in March, wines that deserve to be on your table and in your cellar.

Barrels in Klein Constantia wine Cellar; Credit : Klein Constantia

Barrels in Klein Constantia wine Cellar

Here are many of the fine producers I encountered this year, most that you are not encountering- but we might hope to see some day: Leeuwenkuil, De Trafford/Sijnn, Constantia Glen, Klein Constantia, David and Nadia, Fram, Stranveld, Black Oyster Catcher, Crystallum, Thorne and Daughters, Chris Alheit, Creation, Newton Johnson, Reyneke, Tamboerskloof, Keinrood, Keermont, Glenelly, Drift Farm, Journey’s End, Raats, Paul Cluver, Radford Dale, Cederberg and Boekenhoutskloof.

Even some of the larger wineries that are represented here from time to time – KWV, Fairview, Glen Carlou, Mulderbosch, Bellingham, Ken Forrester, Jardin (Jordan) and Hamilton Russell – have much larger, more diverse and high qualities portfolio to which we are not exposed.

Should wines from this bunch ever show up in the LCBO South Africa destination store, or at, I will let you know.  Meanwhile, here is my hit list of a dozen great value South African wines available right now. Some are being promoted and discounted in Ontario until September 11. Yes, they are cheap, but the best are also great value. So why not capitalize?


Bellingham 2014 The Bernard Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region ($23.95)
Coming to the Pickering LCBO store, “The Bernard” is locally famous as being one of the finest chenin blancs of South Africa. Picked from old vines, fermented with natural yeast and barrel aged, it is indeed big (14%), but it carries itself well with confidence, even some elan. Expect lifted aromas of poached pear/peach fruit, lemon blossom, oak spice, cedar and honey.

The Wolftrap 2014 White, Western Cape ($13.95)
Blending Mediterranean varieties like viognier, grenache blanc and South Africa’s chenin blanc, this an exotic white with a generous nose of tropical green melon, pineapple fruit, a floral note (lily) and vaguely herbal complexity. It’s medium weight, fairly soft and warm but maintains a nice sense of freshness.  Marked down to $11.95 until Sept 11

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2015The Wolftrap White 2014Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015 Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc The Winemaster's Reserve 2015 Bellingham Homestead Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Boschendal 2015 The Pavillion Chenin Blanc ($11.00)
Yours for $9.50 until Sept 11th, this certainly offers piles of flavour for the money. There is trace sweetness start to finish despite its dry designation. Look for generous aromas and flavours of banana, elderflower, lemon and gentle nutmeg-like spice. It’s quite full bodied, soft yet has just enough acidity and alcohol to balance.

Nederburg 2015 Winemakers Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal Region ($12.95)
This is mid-weight, fresh and lively sauvignon with pleasant cool climate aromas of fresh dill, snow pea, diced green pepper and a touch of guava. It does have refreshing acidity but alcohol heat rises on the finish.

Bellingham 2015 Homestead Sauvignon Blanc, Tygerberg ($16.95)
Sauvignon Blanc is a strong suit in coastal regions. Coming to the Pickering store, this grassy, peppery sauvignon hails from small appellation near Cape Town. The nose is loaded with fresh dill, some green melon/guava and mustard flower. It’s medium weight, fleshy yet enlivened with just enough acidity.


Porcupine Ridge 2015 Syrah, Swartland ($14.95)
In the 2015 vintage this great value VINTAGES EssentialS becomes a Swartland DO wine, sourced from the warmer inland region that produces such great old vine syrah. This is terrific for $15 – a dark, smoky, very peppery, smoked meat syrah with background violets and dark spiced cherry jam fruit. Fine depth and class for the money.

Spier 2014 Signature Merlot, Western Cape ($12.95)
From an historic Stellenbosch winery just arriving in Ontario, this is very good value, especially while discounted to $10.95 until September 11. It’s a quite fine, complex merlot that crosses Euro and New World lines and delivers some elegance. There is certainly ripe fruit with baked plum, chocolate, leather and herbs on the nose.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2015 Spier Signature Merlot 2014Man Family Wines Bosstok Pinotage 2014

MAN Family 2013 Bosstock Pinotage, Coastal Region ($13.95)
This is a modern Stellenbosch winery making nicely pure, gentle and juicy wines. This very well priced pinotage catches the essential strawberry, earthy and slightly meaty character of South Africa’s heritage grape. Not highly structured but it offers good intensity and amiable drinkability. At Vintages while it lasts.

Kloof Street 2014 Red, Western Cape ($19.95)
From leading new wave winery called Mullineux, this syrah-led Rhonish blend is not showy but it is nicely balanced with well integrated but not very intense plum, earth, pepper aromas and flavours, with some licorice and vague Cape tar. I like the palate tension. At Vintages until stocks deplete.

The Wolftrap 2015 Syrah Mouvedre Viognier, Western Cape ($13.95)
One of the great values in modern South African winemaking, Wolftrap is a bargain brand from the Boekenhoutskloof winery that has specialized in and elevated Rhone wines in South Africa. This rings with great syrah authenticity for under $15 – steeped in smoky oak, cured meat, olive brine, dark cherry and almost soya sauce like notes.

Kloof Street Red 2014The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2015 Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 K W V Roodeberg 2014

Boschendal 2014 The Pavillon Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Cape ($12.05)
From one of the largest and best estates of the Cape, this is very good value in a shiraz cabernet blend that nicely positions both varieties. Not hugely aromatic but the shiraz pepper and subtle meatiness works nicely with cabernet’s currants, plus a well placed touch of oak spice.

KWV 2014 Roodeberg, Western Cape ($12.95)
The first vintage of Roodeberg – one of South Africa’s most well known reds – was made in 1969. Today it is a cabernet based (43%) blend of seven varieties, that spends 12 months in French and American oak. It is a fairly complex, quite meaty, spicy, peppery red. It is full bodied, a bit hard and hot with some cab greenness on the finish. But there is bang for the buck, especially at $10.60 until Sept 11.

Good luck and keep searching.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Sign in to WineAlign and use this link to find Wines of South Africa in stock at your favourite store: Discover South African Wine

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium 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!

Discover South African Wine

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Inspire, expire, Inspire…

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

« Air Miles ? Besoin d’un sac ? Seriez prêts à faire un don ? Cette semaine, on aide la grenouille transparente et l’alligator albinos, tous deux en voie de disparition… »

Je déteste passer à la caisse, au sens propre comme à l’autre, que vous pouvez certainement figurer.

La SAQ est toutefois plus relax, plus civilisée que les IGA et Provigo de ce monde.

« Oh là, bons choix monsieur, on a goûté celui-là hier à l’arrière avec les autres employés, bien aimé, j’en ai acheté trois moi aussi ! Bon, maintenant, trêve de bavardage… vous avez la carte Inspire ? »

Si, je l’ai, dès sa sortie j’en ai fait la demande, je me demande encore pourquoi, mais non, je ne la traîne jamais avec moi. En fait je suis contre, pour tout dire.

« On serait fou de s’en passer », dit pourtant le slogan sur

Question de principe, disons. Même si un de mes confrères, à qui je m’ouvrais récemment de ma dinguerie, n’en revient toujours pas… « Tu devrais, Marc ! Ça coûte rien ! »

Gratos tant que tu veux. Je me méfie. Pas à cause de Big Brodeur ou quelque chose de ce genre. Juste que je n’aime tout simplement pas l’idée d’être fiché, ausculté et interpellé, fut-ce pour mon bien.


Ainsi parlait Cowabunga.


À présent, au lieu d’inspirer ou d’expirer, que diriez-vous de siroter ?

Du 26 au 28 août prochains, c’est en effet l’IBU à la Tohu, dans le quartier Saint-Michel, à Montréal, un festival organisé par l’Association des microbrasseries du Québec. Des dizaines de micros d’ici, les brasseurs souvent sur place, des brassins élaborés exprès pour le festival, et quatre grands thèmes pour ces trois jours : IPA, Sour/Chêne/Funky, Saison et Bières aux fruits. Food trucks sur place, droit d’entrée à 15 $ par jour incluant le verre officiel et 10 jetons de consommation.


IBU, c’est pour « Immersion Brassicole Unique » mais aussi comme dans International Bitterness Units, l’échelle numérique de mesure de l’amertume des bières. Naguère encore, seuls les initiés parlaient d’IBU, et jamais, ou à peu près, ce degré n’était indiqué sur les bières. Alors qu’aujourd’hui, jusqu’à la Farnham Ale & Lager qui a baptisé ses bières chacune avec son chiffre IBU correspondant.

Quoi qu’il en soit, difficile de voir comment on pourrait ne pas vouloir faire un saut à la Tohu la fin de semaine prochaine, à peu près tout ce qui compte dans la pétillante industrie brassicole québécoise y sera !

Même moi, imaginez, je vais y traîner mes savates, sauf erreur le vendredi.

Et je serai facile à repérer puisque je serai probablement l’un des seuls à recracher…

Autre milieu, autres moeurs.


À boire, aubergiste !

Domaine de la Garrelière Cuvée Cendrillon 2014  — Blanc d’appellation Touraine (sauvignon) avec du caractère et passablement de corps. Empreinte fumée (la minéralité ?) marquée et fruité bien mûr, qui confère presque une impression sucrée. Reste de gaz carbonique qui avive l’ensemble. [25,15 $]

Naudin-Ferrand Côtes-de-Nuits-Villages 2014 — Pur fruit, pur pinot, pur plaisir. Aussi simple que cela ! Un bourgogne rouge à la fois généreux et rafraîchissant, appuyé par une tonifiante acidité. [36,50 $]

Domaine De La Garrelière Cendrillon 2014Naudin Ferrand Côte De Nuits Villages 2014 Refugio Valle de Casablanca Pinot Noir 2015 Copains Tous Ensemble Syrah 2013

Refugio Pinot Noir Casablanca 2015Bourgogne, ne va pas te rhabiller, quand même, mais en voilà un qui te chauffe le popotin! Un pinot noir chilien à l’étonnante pureté de fruit et avec du tonus, ainsi que de la fraîcheur. Pas donné, mais franchement, ce vin est bluffant, vraiment. P.-S. Non filtré, le vin est un peu réduit, il a besoin de respirer un peu. [26,05 $].

Copain Tous Ensemble Syrah Mendocino 2013 — Une syrah californienne fringante, fruitée et enjouée, c’est fou de dire ça, je sais, ce n’est que du vin, mais on sent bien la générosité et le côté désinvolte du Nouveau Monde dans ce rouge par ailleurs bourré de fraîcheur et avec une finale rappelant la menthe. [36,75 $]

Aponte Reserva Toro D.O. 2006 — Rouge espagnol assez évolué bien que toujours bien frais et fougueux, avec ses notes épicées et chocolatées ainsi que son acidité marquée. L’ensemble demeure équilibré, à point et corsé. (La bouteille est très lourde, en passant.) [25,35 $]

Frontaura Aponte Reserva 2006 Château Bujan 2014 Causse Marines Les Greilles 2015 Cave De Roquebrun Les Fiefs d'Aupenac 2015

Château Bujan Côtes-de-Bourg 2014 — Très bon bordeaux rouge d’une appellation moins connue (côtes-de-bourg), corsé et concentré, et aussi plutôt finement boisé. Bel équilibre d’ensemble et excellent rapport qualité-prix. [22,95 $]

Causse Marines Les Greilles Gaillac 2015 — Blanc du sud-ouest français issu d’un assemblage de cépages locaux (len de l’el surtout, mauzac, un peu de muscadelle aussi) qui sent bon la pomme chaude et épicée (muscade), la poire également. En bouche, les saveurs sont corsées, légèrement sucrées (4,8 g), un peu capiteuses, avec de la minéralité. Notes fumées en finale. Excellent ! [23,85 $]

Cave de Roquebrun Les Fiefs d’Aupenac Saint-Chinian blanc 2015 — Qui a dit que Languedoc rimait avec vin rouge ? Chose certaine, je n’apporterai pas d’eau au moulin, tant j’ai de bonnes choses à dire à propos de ce blanc de la cave coopérative de Roquebrun, à la fois riche, parfumé et nerveux. On sent le chêne (vinifié en fût, élevé sous bois durant neuf mois) mais rien d’excessif, l’apport est bien dosé. [19,95 $]


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!

Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

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A Rendezvous with BC Riesling

BC Report – August 2016

Rhys Pender

Rhys Pender MW

I’m recently back from a trip to Seattle where I was attending Riesling Rendezvous, a big love-in for riesling geeks from around the world. These riesling homages take place on a rotating schedule between Washington, Germany and Australia. My wife and I were there pouring our Little Farm Riesling but I was also there with my media hat on, filling my boots with what is happening in the world of riesling. A number of Canadian producers were pouring their wines alongside established heavyweights from Germany, Australia, France, Austria, New Zealand and all corners of the USA. In short, Canadian rieslings showed particularly well, raising many eyebrows when the wines were unveiled in the blind tastings and clearly showing that Canadian riesling is a serious, important wine that can stand up proudly on the global stage.

Riesling, as most of us know, has had its challenges in life. It has spent much of its existence being misunderstood. Its current status is a far cry from its early heady days in the late 19th and early 20th century when German riesling was considered one of the greatest wines in the world and its reputation and prices held equal to or above such illustrious wines as Burgundy and Bordeaux. I’ve always wondered how a grape with such history – that can be so crisp, refreshing, citrusy and lively – cannot gain widespread appeal amongst the masses, especially considering varieties like sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and even moscato somehow managed to become immense global brands. Surely riesling has all the elements to have similar appeal? But no, it has never happened and the much-written-about pending riesling revival or revolution has never materialized. I finally figured out at Riesling Rendezvous why this is. It is because riesling is just too complicated. Too complicated to be simple enough for casual wine drinkers to make sense of it. It is too complex in its flavours and too diverse in its styles. It simply can’t be reduced to a single simple message. Its strengths as a grape also turn out to be its weaknesses.

In fact, the only time riesling was close to being a massive global success was during the 70s and 80s when it firmly established the unfortunate and misleading image that it is always cheap, sweet, fruity and, for the most part, German. These stereotypes have held strong to this day despite the fact that this style seems to be on the decline. Ernie Loosen summed up riesling’s fight very well when he said, “it feels like we are hitting our head against a brick wall. The wall was built by us. But we are making progress.” Riesling producers are stubborn and will not give up easily. Many of us still think of German riesling as sweeter, light and delicate in style although this style is less and less popular in Germany. As John Haeger reports in his book Riesling Rediscovered, more and more German riesling is made in a dry style, and sweeter styles are mostly made for a North American market that is hanging on to the preconceived image. Germans themselves now drink mostly dry styles of riesling, similar to what North Americans would associate with wines coming from Alsace or Australia. Loosen talked of rebuilding the noble reputation of the grape and dealing with new markets and generations who might not hold negative preconceived ideas. Riesling may never be a great mass success but it certainly can build its quality reputation, and getting it in people’s mouths and letting them see what riesling really is all about is the answer.

Riesling Rendevous

But this is the BC Report and I am deviating off topic. Time to come back to BC and BC riesling. Things are looking pretty good in BC. There are now a number of producers making serious efforts to produce top quality riesling, and the results are impressive. At Riesling Rendezvous, Tantalus, Synchromesh, Kitsch, Martin’s Lane, Cedar Creek, Mission Hill and Little Farm were joined by Cave Springs and Hidden Bench from Ontario. Not surprisingly given the limited export reach of Canadian riesling, nobody in the international crowd picked out any of the BC wines (Tantalus, Synchromesh and Martin’s Lane) in the blind tastings (20 wines blind two days in a row) but all wines were heavily praised and there was pleasant surprise when the wines were revealed. One speaker commented that the quality of Canadian riesling might be the key takeaway message from the event. That’s quite the honour amongst hundreds of great rieslings from around the world.

Plantings of riesling in BC have actually grown strongly over recent years. There were 511 acres of riesling planted in 2014 (the last survey) making up 10% of the white variety plantings and 5% of overall acreage. It has grown 116% from 236 acres in 2004, but is still only the fourth most planted white behind pinot gris, chardonnay and gewurztraminer. The good news is that less and less of these grapes are being turned into wines made to the global riesling-stereotype style and instead are more focused on intense, serious, high quality wine. These could be in the bone dry, high acid style or the equally successful styles that balance racy acidity with residual sugar, but always with a powerful intensity of flavour. Serious wines.

Gray Monk Riesling 20138th Generation Riesling 2015La Frenz Riesling Freedom 75 2015Lake Breeze Winemaker's Series Riesling 2012Mt. Boucherie Riesling Estate 2013Oak Bay Gebert Family Reserve Riesling 2013Synchromesh Riesling Thorny Vines Vineyard 2015

It feels to me that the last few years have seen a really strong focus towards quality in BC. Not that good wines weren’t made, but most of the riesling seemed to be aimed at being a low price, broad crowd pleaser. More and more wines are a little pricier but a lot more intense and quality focused. This was evident in the recent judging of the National Wine Awards of Canada. To be honest, Ontario riesling has pretty much always been superior to BC in these competitions and while there were still many great Ontario wines, this year things were different and many of the best rieslings I personally tasted in my flights were from BC. Less simple, fruity wines and more serious, intense and concentrated examples. Seven of the top ten riesling overall were from BC this year including the Gray Monk 2013 Riesling which won a Platinum medal. An impressive showing.

This all bodes well for the future of the grape in BC. With the wine world taking notice and new generations coming along with open minds there is room for BC winemakers to explore just how good this complex grape can be.

Rhys Pender MW


WineAlign in BC

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


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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – August 20, 2016

The Next Big Thing, Again? Let’s Focus Instead on Real Big Things.
by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The main theme for the August 20th release is ‘the next big thing’. It’s a common vinous leitmotif that I’m sure must drive winemakers and winery owners wild. Countless articles are dedicated to reporting on the hottest, latest, trendiest things in the world of wine: new grapes, emerging regions, cutting edge or re-discovered ancient techniques, and anything else that might be deemed the next big thing. Journalists by nature, and necessity, are desperate for news, which consumers are eager to lap up to stay ‘in the know’. Many sommeliers have built careers and reputations by listing only new, fashionable, invariably obscure wines. I am guilty on several counts. But, for a change this week, let’s focus instead on genuine big things. Here’s why.

The trouble with chasing the next big thing in the world of wine is that making the stuff – and here I mean the kind of wine that causes pause for intellectual or artistic reflection – is a pursuit of incredible patience and unswerving dedication to an ideal, not a trend. The reality is that, cosmetic changes aside, the wine industry is as nimble as an aircraft carrier. It’s impossible to re-tool your operation overnight to produce the latest shiny object for people to chase. It takes at least 4-5 years to establish a vineyard, and another decade or so before its full potential begins to reveal itself. Establishing the sort of cultural framework that gives rise to a distinctive and identifiable regional style – the old world appellation model – takes much longer still, generations in fact of doing the same thing over and over. Overnight success, as they say, is a lifetime in the making.

Sure, you can graft new varieties onto the roots of existing vineyards and change your production from one year to the next. It’s frequently done. But that’s the game of corporate wine factories, chasing trends like a dog chases its tail, seeking quarterly profits, not meaningful cultural patrimony. Step one: plant the darling grape of the day, say, chardonnay. When consumer preferences shift to red, graft the vineyard over to cabernet. Then a movie comes out and everyone wants pinot noir. Then pinot grigio is all the rage. Or is it moscato, or fiano, or trousseau? Vineyard managers and nurserymen are ever grateful for the next big thing. They’ll never be out of work. But the results of flip-flopping your vineyard or planting what’s trendy, not necessarily suitable, are predictably poor – basic commercial wine at the lowest level.

On the contrary, memorable, distinctive wine is by definition the antithesis of trendy, born of a long, well-crafted story arc, not a loose reality TV script. It takes years to create, fine-tune, and perfect. And when you start, predicting trends at least 15 years into the future is both impossible and foolish, doomed to fail. You’re far better off focusing on what your patch of dirt will likely do best, and dedicating all efforts to maximize that potential, not guessing at what hipsters will be drinking in 2030. There’s always a market for quality, timeless fashion.

That’s why slavish devotion in the media and sales to celebrating the newest and shiniest, at the expense of the established and reliable, must really cause winemakers deep exasperation. It can jeopardize a decade’s, or several generations, worth of effort, as consumers are encouraged to forget the old and embrace the new, until something newer comes along.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t experiment, explore and discover. That’s what keeps us – writers and sommeliers, passionate wine drinkers and yes, even winemakers – permanently engaged, and keeps the industry evolving positively. But it shouldn’t be your exclusive MO. Save some liver function for those old-time, non-trendy classics. They deserve the lion’s share of the spotlight. So let’s forget the ‘next big thing’ this week, and focus instead on the wines that have earned the right to call themselves a genuinely big thing.

Our Top Picks from the August 20th VINTAGES release:

Big Thing Sparkling & Whites

The region of Champagne has been producing wine since Paris was a swampy village, even if champagne as we know it today, sparkling, is only about three centuries old. But hell, let’s call it established anyway. I was floored by the Guy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne, France ($61.95), an archetype in every way from a family-grower operation founded in 1892. From all grand cru-rated chardonnay vineyards in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, next door to Champagne Salon’s vineyards, it offers classic blanc de blancs finesse and precision, balanced on razor-sharp acids, and blends a just measure of white chocolate/blanched almond-brioche character from reserve wines and sur lie ageing, with zesty-bright green apple and citrus fruit showing no signs of tiring yet. It’s for fans of refined and sophisticated champagne with no small measure of depth and power in reserve.

Chablis has rightfully established itself as one of the most original places on earth to grow chardonnay. It was trendy perhaps half a century ago, now a genuine and lasting big thing. Why would anyone want to make anything other than classic Chablis in Chablis? Tinkering with it would be like trying to perfect the wheel. For example, try the Jean Collet & Fils 2014 Montée de Tonnerre Chablis 1er Cru, France ($37.95). It’s a lovely, balanced, convincingly concentrated Montée de Tonnerre with exceptional length, while flavours are absolutely textbook, all quivering stones, fresh cream and lively green apple and citrus – a superb value in the realm of fine white wine. It’ll be better in 2-3 years, or hold into the mid-’20s.

Guy Charlemagne Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne Jean Collet & Fils Montée De Tonnerre Chablis 1er Cru 2014 Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo 2014 La Cappuccina Soave 2014

At the risk of appearing trendy, I’m including Mastroberardino’s 2014 Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy ($19.95) in this list. But while greco may not be a household name, the grape has been planted in Campania for at least two thousand years, and Mastroberardino is the grand old company that brought it back to prominence starting in the early 20th century. The current generation, Don Piero Mastroberardino, is most decidedly not chasing trends. This latest release is sharp and phenolically rich, putting the variety’s almost extreme minerality on display. A lively streak of acids pins down the ensemble – a crackling backbone of energy, while fruit is very much a secondary feature. There’s plenty of wine here for the money, but it needs at least another 2-3 years to really start showing its best.

Once ultra-trendy Soave is thankfully past that awkward era in the ‘70s when practically anything wet and white would sell under the regional name. Now it’s so untrendy in fact that winemakers can (have to) again focus on quality, which has risen astonishingly since the turn of the millennium, with prices yet to follow suit. La Cappuccina 2014 Soave, Veneto, Italy ($15.95) is a fine example of the value to be found, a gentle but fresh and nectarine-flavoured wine with appreciable character and evident depth and concentration, not to mention an extra dimension of stony-minerality on the long finish.

Big Thing Reds

Montalcino came perilously close to collapsing under the sinister pressure of international trends last decade when the excessive use of new barriques and illegal grapes conspired to thicken, darken and denature the gorgeous perfume and delicacy of many of the region’s Brunelli in an effort to make everything taste like then-fashionable cabernet. Many wineries were accused, and some convicted, of blending grapes other than sangiovese in the ‘Brunellogate’ scandal, since Brunello must be 100% sangiovese by law. The region subsequently voted narrowly in favour of keeping the appellation pure, a clear victory for the anti-trend faction.

For a taste of what Brunello should be, cursed trends aside, try the Caparzo 2010 La Casa Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($73.95). This is Caparzo’s single vineyard expression from the premium north side of Montalcino in an excellent vintage, a wine of exceptional structure, depth and character. Don’t expect it to bowl you over with masses of fruit; it’s a toned and firm expression, lithe and sinewy, energetic and tightly wound the way we like it, still a couple of years away from prime drinking. Length is terrific and complexity will only continue to build from an excellent, savoury, umami-laden base in classic sangiovese style. Best 2018-2028.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has arguably done a better job than any other new world region in forging an identity within a single generation based on regional vocation, not pie-in-the-sky trend chasing (only Marlborough Sauvignon comes close). Pinot noir was among the first grapes planted in 1966 and today still accounts for the overwhelming majority of production. And remember, that pre-dates the big trend for pinot by over three decades – no one succumbed to the temptation to plant cabernet in the interim (which would never have ripened anyhow).

Caparzo La Casa Brunello di Montalcino 2010 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2013 Viña Olabarri Crianza 2011

Domaine Drouhin’s excellent 2013 Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills sub-AVA ($52.95) is a classic of the genre: light, fresh, balanced, firm but not hard, with a scratchy bit of minerality on the palate, generous tart red berry flavours and impressively long finish. It’s fitting, too, that Drouhin was the first major foreign investor in the valley in 1987, and from Burgundy no less. Was Véronique Drouhin chasing a lucrative trend? Hardly. Most Americans at the time didn’t know pinot from peanuts. She simply understood that the Dundee Hills would make an excellent place to grow pinot, now robustly proved.

Rioja, and indeed all of Spain, is living on the edge of a dangerously trendy abyss, emerging as the nation is from its 20th century isolated slumber. So many wineries/regions/wines are seeking a foothold in the 21st century, tempted by various fashionable styles. Viña Olabarri’s 2011 Rioja Crianza ($14.95), however, stands steadfast in traditional garb. It delivers the classic resinous/balsam/sandalwood flavours of abundant American oak, in use since the 16th century, (albeit in rustic form), with a nice dose of tart red and black berry fruit. Tannins are a little rough-and-tumble, but nothing that some grilled, salty, fatty protein couldn’t soften at the table. It’s a decent little value for fans of traditional style Rioja.

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


John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES August 20th, 2016

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August Whites

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New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 20th Reviews 

Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Bill’s Best Bets – August 2016

Praise to chenin
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I get asked all the time about my favourite grape varieties. I make no bones about it, I am predominately a white wine drinker. But asking me my favourite grape is like asking me which of my kids I prefer. I guess it depends on the day.

If it’s not at the top, than very close to the top, is chenin blanc. I love its versatility and ability to make wines in a plethora of styles, which is why it can be confusing for the consumer. But be it sparkling wine, completely dry, or sweet, they are some of the most interesting white wines out there, and with an ability to age with the best of them.

Part of the reason why chenin blanc is not as well known as other white grapes has to do with its history. Even for many winemakers, it was a rather marginalized grape. That was never an identity problem in its home in France’s Anjou/Touraine region of the Loire Valley. But in South Africa, where at one time it made up a third of all planted vines, it was used primarily for distillation for the country’s excellent brandies.

During my last trip to South Africa back in 2012, I was amazed by how many winemakers were indifferent to chenin blanc. One, when asked why more high quality chenin blanc wasn’t being produced – considering they have so many old vines scattered around the country – responded that “if you grew up hating peas, then it’s hard to like them when you get older.”

By 2009, chenin blanc plantings had dropped to under 20%. When growing grapes destined to be made into booze, one need not take the same care as in making table wine, so it’s understandable that the quality was middling. Thankfully the carnage is over and chenin has stabilized at 18% of South Africa’s total vineyard and we are seeing more and more fantastic chenin coming out of South Africa.

California once was one of the world’s biggest growers of chenin blanc, but it was consistently used to make bulk wine or cheap sparkling wines. Over the last 30 years, chenin plantings have been decimated to the point that there is barely any left. But since 2010, more is being planted.

Chenin blanc growing in Vouvray

Chenin blanc growing in Vouvray

Chenin never had these problems in the Loire Valley. Here, chenin blanc reaches levels of greatness that put it on par with the great white wines of the world. You might know some of the appellation names like Vouvray, Jasnières, Savannières, or Anjou.

So why don’t we see the same greatness from other places around the world? Much like merlot, chenin blanc can grow pretty well anywhere and produce large quantities of grapes. But to get quality, the vine requires a very particular mix of climate and soils.

Wine maker Thierry Puzelat explained to me that “too much to the west it is too humid (so they grow Muscadet) and too far to the east, it simply won’t ripen (so they grow sauvignon blanc). It works best halfway between and Oceanic and continental climates. And all these factors, he says, “explains why it has never become an international grape like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc.”

Swartland's Adi Badenhorst walking his old vines

Swartland’s Adi Badenhorst walking his old vines

Puzelat compares chenin blanc to riesling in that it is a “terroir pump.” Chenin can generate truffle notes when grown in the limestone of Touraine and more petrol notes on the shales of Anjou. I love it because of this mystery. Chenin truly is an adventure to drink.

Even within the Anjou-Touraine, chenin comes in a number of different styles, which makes it a hard grape to communicate. The easiest style to understand is the sparkling. The region is second in France in terms of sparkling wine production, and is made in seven different appellations including Vouvray, and Cremant de Loire. These are made using the “méthode traditionelle,” or a secondary fermentation in bottle as in Champagne.

Sparkling wine is always a good idea and one of my favourites is the Vouvray from Vincent Carême. And if you can’t find that one, one of the better value sparkling wines at the SAQ is the Cuvée Prédiliction from Château Montcontour.

Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray Brut 2013Château Moncontour Cuvée Prédilection Vouvray Mousseux Secateurs Badenhorst Chenin Blanc 2015 Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015

If you want a still wine, the options are many. Some wines play the acid/sugar balance, much like German or Niagara riesling, while others are technically dry. You will often find aromas of quince, apple, apricot, pear and peach in the wines. For older wines – even after one or two years in bottle – aromas of honey, olive and mushroom start to appear.

If you want “bone dry” wines, look to either Loire’s Savannières, Saumur, or try a wine from South Africa or from around the world. One of the top chenins from South Africa is from Ari Badenhorst, both subtle and finessed. From Ken Forrester, the 2015 old vines has a touch more power, and well worth your $20 investment. And if you want real value wines, few whites at the SAQ match the chenins from Douglas Green and Robertson Winery.

Douglas Green Chenin Blanc 2015 Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc 2015 By Chadsey's Cairns Chenin Blanc 2014 Domaine Patrick Baudouin Anjou Effusion 2014

And while it is not available at the SAQ, just next door in Prince Edward County is a great little chenin from Chadsey’s Cairns. Stop by the winery and pick up a bottle if you are in the region.

From the Loire, you have many choices at a number of different price levels. One of my favourite wines I have tasted recently was the lean and oh-so-interesting 2014 Anjou Effusion, from Patrick Baudoin. A touch richer and with more of an earthier theme of herbs and mineral is the Vouvray 2014 Épaulé Jeté from Catherine and Pierre Breton. You might have to hunt around a bit, but there is still some of the extraordinary Château Yvonne 2013 Saumur in stock. Ready to drink and it garnered a rare 4-star rating from myself.

And if you want some Loire wines under the $20 price tag, try the 2015 Saumur from Domaine Langlois. Great both as an aperitif or with spicy seafood. If you want a wine with a touch more sweetness, an SAQ classic is the Vouvray from Domaine des Aubuisieres.

Catherine Et Pierre Breton Épaulé Jeté 2014 Château Yvonne Saumur 2013 Domaine Langlois Château St. Florent 2015 Domaine Des Aubuisières Cuvée De Silex Vouvray 2015

Enjoy the rest of summer folks,


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

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

Beringer Founders' Estate

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It’s cucumber time and the living is silly

The Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi Portrait Colour_Cropped

Anthony Gismondi

While I’m recovering from the National Wine Awards and enjoying some of the sunshine, there are a few loose ends, or better yet, bin ends, running through my mind. It’s mid-summer in Canada and for a change this year we have the weather to prove it. In fact, the drought has been so intense in southern Ontario wine country, Vineland grower/winemaker Brian Schmidt made the ultimate sacrifice and removed the fruit from his four-year-old Legacy cabernet franc vineyard to prevent the young vines from expiring, trying to ripen fruit in a bone dry environment.

In the Okanagan Valley, another warm spring and an early bud break pointed to a record early harvest in the West but a change in weather and a fair bit of rain has cooled expectations literally and figuratively. That said, veraison is well underway, suggesting another year where the harvest window is going to peak earlier than normal.

In Vancouver, Burgundy winemaker Philippe Pacalet, who makes natural wines, was explaining to a youthful room of sommeliers how he used to harvest his pinot noir in mid-October. These past years he has been forced to pick his fruit at the height of the warm summer season in August. Those dates would have been something unimaginable to Burgundy producers only a quarter century ago.

It would seem the ancient clones and vineyard selections of Pacalet’s forefathers may have to change to survive and be productive in a warmer environment. Burgundy crop levels are falling due to warmer winters, and the vines that never really go dormant are subject to additional risks that a cold winter would eliminate. In what sounds like heresy, Pacalet may need new pinot noir clones better suited to the changing conditions. If Burgundy is to adapt to the new climate they will need local researchers to develop more clones suited to a warmer future.

Yet after all the talk of change, Pacalet warns that a traditional Burgundy vintage, “Is the way the wine is dressed; it’s not the point.” I love the way the Burgundians see the soul of wine although some days I’m not so sure they see the massive amount of energy and effort the competition is expending to catch up. No one can stand still, not even in the midst of summer holidays.

They say that summer is the silly season, and it would appear some of Canada’s provincial Premiers decided to pile-on regarding the free trade of wine across Canada by suggesting that they would make Canadian wine, from outside “their” provinces, available online, through some newly minted portal on their monopoly websites.

FreeMyGrapesI think we can say free trade in Canadian wine, or any wine for that matter, across Canada is officially dead. I’ve come to the conclusion that wine isn’t that important to Canadians or they wouldn’t put up with a suffocating monopoly system that appears to exist to extract gobs of money out of every bottle of wine. After stalling for four years, literally ignoring a federal ruling to allow Canadian wine be traded freely across the country, some provincial monopolies want to run Canadian wine from outside their fiefdoms through the monopoly gauntlet and generate another level of income. I’m guessing the “Free My Grapes” folks were not counting on another layer of taxes and handling when they lobbied for the free movement of Canadian wine. I’m sure David Lawrason will have much more on this topic and be keeping a close eye on proceedings in his monthly Canadian Wine Report.

Conversely, there does appear to be a light at the end of the monopoly tunnel with the announcement that the LCBO will start selling wine on-line and have it shipped to your local store, or right to you home using Canada Post. To re-jig a Home Hardware jingle, it’s government workers helping government workers.

Jingles aside, it’s a good idea for so many reasons and better late than never. Monopolies can access just about any wine in the world if they want to and with a little practice and work they should be able to satisfy the ten percent of the market that causes them 80 percent of all complaints. If you can order wine, especially wines not available at the LCBO and have them shipped to your home or a nearby store, that would end most of the issues wine lovers have with the monopoly. The same goes for restaurants. If there is a reasonable timeline here, it is going to be a home run.

Price will always be an issue, but often price is less important than availability and access at the higher end of the market. In any event, the over-sugared, junk blends that pass as wine and that currently dominate store shelves will still be sold in monopoly stores, so everybody wins. One of the advantages of being a government monopoly is you get to make the rules, so we do not foresee any regulatory problems relating to online sales that are currently faced by any other retailers.

As for Canadian wine sales, always a big issue with monopolies, there is no reason not to make every provincial wine available online. That should satisfy local producers by giving them access to the entire market as long as they can come up with a price that works for everyone. By the way, as a Canadian citizen and a lover of all wines, I would have no objection to being able to order any wine online in Ontario, Quebec or Alberta or anywhere in Canada for that matter and having it shipped to my home via Canada Post. But then that is probably just wishful thinking.

It may be just a coincidence, but the shift to online sales perfectly aligns with a recent Wine Intelligence report about Online Retail & Communication in the Chinese Market 2016, where the WI reports “49% of Chinese urban upper-middle class wine drinkers now shop for wine on the internet, making the country the world’s largest and fastest-growing e-commerce market for wine with approximately 21 million online wine buyers.”

GinTonicCucumberFinally, while Canadian monopolies continue to search for new sources of revenue they may get some help from a new industry they could never imagine may inject $100 billion into the worldwide liquor business. It’s been suggested that in the not too distant future the rise of driverless cars and car-sharing will make a large impact on liquor sales in restaurants, bars and clubs.

In a Business Insider report, Morgan Stanley was suggesting “Shared and autonomous vehicle technology [could] help address the mutual exclusivity of drinking and driving in a way that can significantly enhance the growth rate of the alcohol market and on-trade sales at restaurants. After calculating current global alcohol consumption and its monetary value, and compared with estimated figures under the impact of car-sharing and driverless cars the analysts found that the booze market could get an extra $98 billion.

We did say it’s the silly season, or as they say in many countries, cucumber time. I’ll take my cucumber in a cocktail on the patio please. Back to more serious, maybe even complicated, wine thoughts next edition.



Beringer Founders' Estate

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August 20, 2016

Hot August Whites from Germany and Beyond
by David Lawrason, with notes from Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

If there was ever a time and place to drink German riesling, with its crisp acidity, lithe body and blooming aromatics, it would be during steamy August evenings in Ontario. So a German wine feature in the August 20th release makes all kinds of sense.

However, it’s obvious from the petty selection of only five German wines that the LCBO figures we are not really into German wines (and perhaps more into Niagara, which is perhaps a good assumption). However, this German release should have been so much bigger and better. Only one is a must-buy. Another is pretty good for the money. The others are commercially driven and forgettable with frankly dumb, populist labels as the only reason they might be purchased.

Germany has tried for decades to colour its wine populist (Blue Nuns, Green Labels and Black Towers) but it is hopeless. No lowest-common-denominator wine from Germany can really capture what is so narrowly superb about great German wine.

So it’s time Germany stopped trying so hard to be mass market. It must pick its moments and bring Audi-like precision and confidence to its delivery. And the LCBO needs to recognize such wines when they are offered. This would be a good moment in history to strive for this. The devalued pricing of German wine currently favours those that can bring great value, like the very fine Schloss Schoenborn Qba Riesling recommended below.

To be balanced, there are some good German wines on the shelf from previous VINTAGES releases, if you want to use WineAlign’s Find Wine function. And the selection of German wines should improve a lot when the LCBO opens a “German destination store” in Waterloo this October. It will include all German wines on the General List and VINTAGES plus consignment offerings that will also show up at for home delivery.

Elsewhere on this release, I choose a variety of recommended wines focused on other aromatic, summery whites, plus some fine reds. John and Sara are deep into summer vacations, so Michael and I stand in.

Schloss Schönborn 2011 Riesling Qualitätswein, Rheingau, Germany ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Hailing from a venerable estate in the Rheingau this is great value –  a lovely, brisk, lively riesling with classic aromas of apricot, stone and a touch of honey and minty freshness. It’s light to medium bodied, with fine, mouth-watering acidity – but not at all austere. Stock up.
Michael Godel – Schloss Schönborn’s basic, entry-level, come and get it Qualitätswein is seemingly riesling from out of a designate void and no strings attached. It’s actually highly specified riesling but without label verbiage and from a most excellent vintage. There is a balanced, posit tug between acidity and sweetness, over the line and back again. The cumulative flavours recall long lasting pastilles, of gin, tonic and agave.

Thörle 2015 Feinherb Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Feinherb is a new term replacing the halbtrocken or “half dry” designation. The Germans love to tinker with their labels (and who can keep up?). This is a nicely generous, fairly soft but lively Rheinhessen riesling with lifted aromas of grapefruit, green apple and white flowers. It’s medium weight, with notable sweetness and a strong sour edge through the finish.

Schloss Schönborn Riesling 2011 Thörle Feinherb Riesling 2015 Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2014

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara 2014 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($18.20)
David Lawrason – This gold medalist at the 2016 National Wine Awards is wonderfully fresh, brisk and generous, with floral, honey, peachy aromas. It’s off-dry but brings scintillating acidity to the game. Towers above many German rieslings at this price.

Contini Pariglia 2014 Vermentino di Sardegna, Italy ($18.95)
Michael Godel – You might imagine riesling from calcareous soils or semillon off of dry, arid plains, but this vermentino is striking on its own accord and illuminates as a developing experiment. The next big thing perhaps for geeks and mineral freaks in search of a profound, axiomatic, aromatic experience?

La Cappuccina 2014 Soave, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This is an organically produced Soave. It’s a classic – not hugely expressive but classy with a subtle, detailed aromas of yellow plum, licorice and wildflowers. It’s mid-weight with only medium acidity but the balance is very good. Will grace an elegant patio seafood, poultry or pork meal that’s not all about grills and sauces.

Contini Pariglia Vermentino di Sardegna 2014 La Cappuccina Soave 2014 Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2014André Goichot Les Guignottes Montagny 2014

Cave Spring 2014 Chardonnay Musque, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($16.95)
David Lawrason – From a particular chardonnay clone with muscat florality, this is a unique wine that Cave Spring has mastered. It is solid and interesting year after year, involving some aromatic razzle dazzle with solid pear fruit, waxy, pepper and lime. It’s medium weight, firm and dry with some mid-palate generosity.

André Goichot 2014 Les Guignottes Montagny, Burgundy, France ($26.95)
Michael Godel – As in the case of Chablis, 2014 is a stellar vintage from the ever-increasingly excellent Côte Chalonnaise subregion from which chardonnay fervently shines. André Goichot’s fruit is rich, ripe and beautifully pressed, expressed and plays with the determination of the mineral obsessed. Simply wow Montagny.

Lighthall Progression Sparkling 2014

Guy Charlemagne Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut ChampagneGuy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne, Champagne, France ($61.95)
David Lawrason – This will slice and dice beautifully during a classy reception or light dinner on a tepid, hot August night. It is a nicely firm, balanced and elegant Champagne with very generous, complex toasty, dried fruit, hazelnut and vaguely earthy aromas. It’s all here. Really like the firm, stony mouth-watering feel.

Lighthall 2014 Progression Sparkling Wine, VQA Ontario ($20.00)
Michael Godel – Progression is 100 per cent sparkling vidal by Glenn Symons, a.k.a. “Ward 5 Brut,” made in the Charmat method, that is, by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Vidal has never played a tune like this before. Charmat or otherwise, grapes grown on Lighthall’s beautifully stark, wind-swept and electrifying property destined for sparkling wine does so with profound meaning. It’s simply meant to be.

Norman Hardie 2014 County Unfiltered Pinot Noir, VQA Prince Edward County ($45.20)
Michael Godel – A second taste four months later confirms the impossibility from Hardie in 2014, a vintage that just begs for Norm’s magic handling, from exemplary, slow-developed, quixotically sweet Pinot Noir fruit off of a vintage’s hyperbole of low-yielding vines. Humility only exceeded by impossibility.

Quinta Nova de Nossa 2011 Senhora do Carmo Colheita Tinto, Douro, Portugal ($19.95)
Michael Godel – The label tells us it’s “unoaked.” Brilliant. Such knowledge is power and usually an exclusive bit reserved for whites, especially chardonnay. Why not tell us your red wine spent no time in barrel? This is nothing short of awesome for the consumer. This Tinto is a terrific summer red when served with a chill that will serve and protect your palate and your will.

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014 Quinta Nova De Nossa Senhora Do Carmo Colheita Tinto 2011 Castello Collemassari Rigoleto Montecucco Rosso 2013 Celler De Capçanes Mas Donís Barrica Old Vines 2014

Castello Collemassari 2013 Rigoleto, Montecucco Rosso, Tuscany, Italy ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From a little known zone south of Montalcino in Tuscany, comes a lighter bodied, nicely energetic and juicy red that is organically grown. Expect quite generous, complex, redcurrant and cherries, herbs, leather and meaty notes and a touch of oak. Very generous, if not highly structured or age worthy, but it is balanced and delivers nicely for the price.

Celler de Capçanes 2014 Mas Donís Barrica Old Vines, Montsant, Spain ($17.95)
David Lawrason – A delicious if slightly rustic blend of old vine grenache and syrah from the region that encircles Priorat southwest of Barcelona. It has a lifted gamey, smoky/flinty nose with sour red fruit and oak vanillin. It’s medium-full bodied, open knit, sour edged and a touch volatile, but it works overall. Imagined savoury, grilled lamb kebobs as I tasted this.

Tune in next week when John returns from unknown vacation whereabouts to present his preview of this release. Sara is still drinking Tavel on riverbanks in the south of France.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine


Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium 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!

For Premium Members, use these quick links for easy access to all the top picks in our New Releases:

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

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All August 20th Reviews 

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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20 Under $20 in BC : August 2016

Your Summer Shopping Guide

Light and lively, bright and juicy, here are 20 wines that provide a lot of refreshment for not a lot of money.

~ TR 

BC Critic Team

You can find complete critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below

Anthony Gismondi

Let’s not rush the summer away, there are still a few weeks left to linger over those sunsets and simply relax before the madness of September arrives. To get you started the Leitz Dragonstone Riesling Kabinett 2014 will jump start any street party with its juicy, lively acidity and fresh orchard fruit flavours.

Similar in style is the Meyer Gewurztraminer 2014 but its litchi fruit and orange flavours make it a fine match for vegetarian dishes.

The folks at Spierhead are best known for their pinot noir but the Spierhead Pinot Gris Golden Retreat Vineyard 2015 is a delicious citrus, red apple-scented affair – almost a riesling in pinot gris clothing. The perfect weekend patio white.

Leitz Dragonstone Riesling Kabinett 2014 Meyer Gewurztraminer Mclean Creek Road Vineyard 2014 Spierhead Pinot Gris Golden Retreat Vineyard 2015 Quails' Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2015 Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc 2015

If you are detecting a pattern here, remember it’s summer and I don’t like cheap sweet red wines. One my favourite Quails’ Gate party wines is the Quails’ Gate Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris 2015. Orchard fruits, lime rind and the mysterious wet stone minerality call out a pizza off the grill.

Finally, the Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc 2015 is a passion fruit and jalapeño flavour bomb you can drink tonight – think a corn and bean salad. I promise to find some reds next time out. Enjoy the last weeks of summer.


Rhys Pender MW 

I’ve picked a real mixed bag of wines this month that shows the diversity of place and grape you can get for your $20. First is a pair of Chardonnay wines from Australia and California. The Lindeman’s Bin 65 2015 vintage is the best in a long while for this good value wine. There is nice fruit but also some freshness making it very drinkable and at a great price.

The second Chardonnay is the Chateau St Jean 2014 Chardonnay from Sonoma in California. It is Californian in its generosity but keeps a nice fresh crispness.

Another white that I recently enjoyed is the Bartier Bros Lone Pine Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2014. Many find gewurz too pungent, thick and sweet but this one will surprise you with its freshness, dryness and elegance.

Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 2015 Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay 2014 Bartier Bros. Gewurztraminer Lone Pine Vineyard 2014 Gabbiano Chianti 2014 River Stone Estate Winery Malbec Rose 2015

A wine that always delivers good value for me is the Gabbiano Chianti. The 2014 vintage is very savoury and meaty with lots of dried herbs, leather and spice. A lot of interesting flavour for under $15 and a real go to for something savoury for the BBQ.

It might be rosé season all year but I seem to drink even more of it in the summer. A good BC example is the River Stone Malbec Rosé 2015. It is a pretty big, intense, dark rosé and quite delicious. 


DJ Kearney

A nostalgic tour of some of my favourite dependable deals had me tasting whites like Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015, humming with apricot and zesty citrus flavours. For just 10 bucks, it’s a perennial killer value.

So is the excellent Emiliana Adobe Chardonnay Reserva Orgánico 2015, made from organic fruit, just like Cono Sur.

An excellent red standby since 1970 is La Vieille Ferme Ventoux 2015, a chewy blend ready to jump into action with grilled sausages.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Emiliana Adobe Chardonnay Reserva Orgánico 2013 La Vieille Ferme Red 2015 Ricossa Barbera D'asti Superiore 2011 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2014

Or if a meatball pizza is blistering on my grill (yes, you can bbq pizza), then I’ll give Ricossa Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2012 a chill, and splash into a chunky tumbler. Fresh and juicy, it’s a true steal for under 15 bucks.

If big mouthfeel and sweet/spicy fruit is called for, Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend 2014 will do nicely. All great deals, all widely available, and all delicious.


Treve Ring 

Always on the hunt for new great fizz, I was thrilled to discover the Dibon Brut Reserve Cava this month. Bright, fresh and zippy, with earthy fennel, almond, pear skin, peach pit, heady brioche and meyer lemon brightened with brisk acidity makes for a lovely turn from the norm in this well-priced sparkler.

Hands down, one of BC’s top values for quality year over year is Blue Mountain Vineyards, and their new 2015 Pinot Blanc reinforces this. Entirely wild ferment this year, the thirty-year-old estate vines hold their own against the challenging warm 2015 vintage with ripe yellow apple, florals and white peach lined with apricot fuzz and spices.

Dibon Brut Reserve Cava Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2015 Blue Grouse Quill Rosé 2015 Bees Knees Chenin Blanc Viognier 2015 Santero Asti Dolce

From one BC Blue to another, the 2015 Blue Grouse Rosé from Cowichan Valley rested on skins for eighteen hours, giving fine, lithe tannins to quenching cranberry and juicy strawberry fruit. Finishes crisp and bright.

I am a huge fan of chenin blanc, South Africa, and killer values, and the Bees Knees Chenin Blanc Viognier 2015 scores the triad. Ripe pear, peach and melon carry this friendly and fuller Western Cape white before white florals, honeysuckle and fine spice take over on the waxy palate.

Sometimes you just need a little sweet thing. Santero Asti Dolce is a mid-sweet fizz to open brunch or close afternoon tea, with frothy bubbles cut with a pithy citrus and scented with white honey. With only 7.5% alcohol, this is an attractive choice for many reasons.


WineAlign in BC

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

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

Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

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Pour l’amour du chardonnay

Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia

Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

Si vous avez, comme moi, déjà travaillé en restauration, vous avez certainement entendu des dizaines, sinon des centaines de clients vous dire qu’il ou qu’elle – c’est plus souvent une cliente, selon mon expérience – « n’aime pas le chardonnay ».

Avec un peu de chance, vous avez peut-être entendu ces personnes affirmer du même souffle qu’elles raffolent des vins de Chablis – issus de chardonnay –, avant de commander une bouteille de pouilly-fuissé (100 % chardonnay, lui aussi).

« C’est pas parce qu’on rit que c’est drôle », pour reprendre la devise de feu le magazine Croc.

Connu universellement et planté à peu près dans tous les pays viticoles du monde, le chardonnay est un peu devenu un nom générique pour désigner un vin blanc gras, beurré, boisé. Malmené par tant d’entreprises qui le réduisent au statut de caricature, ce cépage est pourtant un formidable révélateur des grands terroirs et n’a pas son pareil pour traduire explicitement le goût du lieu où il est cultivé. Cultivé dans les règles de l’art avec de faibles rendements, il sait s’effacer pour exprimer tantôt la puissance d’un Meursault-Perrières, tantôt l’élégante minéralité d’un Montée de Tonnerre.

Né en Bourgogne quelque part au Moyen-Âge – à Chablis, les moines de l’abbaye de Pontigny le cultivait déjà au 12e siècle – le chardonnay a révélé plusieurs grands sites viticoles du monde. Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne, Chablis Le Clos et tous les grands vins blancs bourguignons lui doivent leur envergure proverbiale.

Et si la Bourgogne a depuis longtemps perdu le monopole des grands vins de chardonnay, il reste que ce cépage n’atteint vraiment des sommets de complexité que lorsqu’il est cultivé dans des zones fraîches ou tempérées. Voilà pourquoi la Bourgogne donne des chardonnays infiniment plus fins que ceux de l’Arizona, par exemple. En fait, l’histoire a depuis longtemps prouvé que les vins fins et subtils provenaient de régions où le climat n’avait rien d’excessif.

De toutes les nouvelles régions du monde où le chardonnay est cultivé, la péninsule du Niagara est, de loin, celle qui suscite le plus d’intérêt de la part des critiques internationaux – Jancis Robinson, Steven Spurrier et Matt Kramer, pour n’en citer que les plus célèbres. Et si la tendance se maintient, l’enthousiasme est là pour rester puisque, chaque millésime, les chardonnays produits sur l’escarpement du Niagara (Beamsville Bench, Lincoln Lakeshore, St. David’s Bench, Twenty Mile Bench, Vinemount Ridge) gagnent en précision et en complexité, mais aussi en caractère. Le succès du cépage bourguignon sur la péninsule est tel qu’on lui consacre un festival de trois jours.

En plus d’une vingtaine de producteurs locaux, la sixième édition du International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C), qui se tenait du 22 au 24 juillet 2016, réunissait une trentaine de vignerons «étrangers», depuis la Nouvelle-Écosse jusqu’à la Nouvelle-Zélande, en passant par la Bourgogne, la Sicile, le Trentin, le Péloponnèse, le Chili, la Colombie-Britannique et la côte ouest américaine.

Pour redécouvrir le chardonnay sous un jour «cool» et étancher votre soif en ces belles journées d’été, voici une sélection d’excellents chardonnays goûtés récemment au i4C ou en préparation du Guide du vin 2017.

1. Depuis qu’il est à la barre de Flat Rock Cellar, l’œnologue Jay Johnston ne cesse d’accroître la qualité des vins du domaine. Son Chardonnay 2013 Twenty Mile Bench est nettement plus achevé, avec un boisé mieux intégré et une élégance digne de mention pour le prix (23 $).

2. Le financier Morey Tawse est un amoureux des vins de la Bourgogne. Son domaine est la source du très bon Chardonnay d’entrée de gamme, frais et subtil, mais l’immense talent de l’oenologue Paul Pender se manifeste surtout dans la cuvée Quarry Road 2012, seulement disponible au domaine, pour le moment.

Flat Rock Chardonnay 2013Tawse Chardonnay 2013Tawse Winery Chardonnay Quarry Road Vineyard 2012

3. Établi à Beamsville depuis 2003, le Québécois Harald Thiel a fait de Hidden Bench l’un des domaines les plus réputés de toute la péninsule. Élaboré par l’œnologue sud-africaine Marlize Beyers, le Chardonnay Estate 2012 traduit la générosité caractéristique du millésime, avec une belle ampleur aromatique et une finale fraîche.

4. Les Montréalais Mary Delaney et Thomas Bachelder ont mis sur pied un commerce de négoce « haute couture », qui s’étend de la Bourgogne jusqu’à la côte Ouest américaine, en passant par la péninsule du Niagara. Bien plus qu’un chardonnay variétal, leur Minéralité 2012 Niagara porte très bien son nom, avec un usage mesuré du bois de chêne et une expression typée du terroir de Niagara. (23,30 $)

5. Même producteur, autre région, le Chardonnay 2013 Oregon de Bachelder déploie un nez intense aux accents de pomme blette et de notes grillées du bois, qui lui donne des airs d’un vin blanc de la Côte de Beaune et fait preuve d’une élégance peu commune dans la région de Willamette.

Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2012 Bachelder Chardonnay Mineralité 2012 Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2013 Ramey Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2013

6. Un peu plus au sud, dans la Russian River Valley, Ramey continue de produire un très bon Chardonnay qui se distingue du lot par son équilibre et par une subtile touche boisée, 14 % du volume étant vinifié en fûts (français et hongrois) neufs. Généreux sans être lourd; très réussi.

7. Mené avec brio par Dimitri Bazas, la maison de négoce bourguignonne Champy continue de produire un très bon Chardonnay 2014 Signature; à retenir parmi les bons vins blancs génériques de Bourgogne à la SAQ.

8. Dans une dégustation à l’aveugle, on aurait vite fait de prendre le Chardonnay 2014 Sans Barrique de Bouchard Finlayson pour un vin de Chablis. Très sec, minéral et tranchant, sans la moindre verdeur. Excellent!

Champy Signature Chardonnay Bourgogne 2014 Bouchard Finlayson Chardonnay Sans Barrique 2014 Planeta Chardonnay 2014

9. Enfin, on pourrait débattre longtemps sur la pertinence d’inclure un vin sicilien dans un festival dédié au chardonnay de climat frais – l’île italienne étant située à la même latitude que la Tunisie. Mais pour Thomas Bachelder, l’un des instigateurs de l’événement, la définition d’un «cool climate» chardonnay ne se résume pas à la situation géographique. « On peut produire des gros chardonnays boisés un peu partout dans le monde, même au Canada, mais ce qui nous intéresse ici, ce sont des vins digestes qui traduisent les subtilités de leurs terroirs d’origine. » En cela, le Chardonnay 2014 de Planeta répond à toutes les attentes. Issu de raisins de différents secteurs, dont une parcelle plantée à 450 mètres d’altitude, sur des sols calcaires, le vin a beaucoup gagné en fraîcheur depuis quelques années; le bois occupe une place moins importante et l’onctuosité a fait place à plus de tension. Évidemment, on est loin d’un profil chablisien, mais on est aussi très loin de l’idée d’un chardonnay de climat chaud.


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 grands vins!

Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008