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Bill’s Best Bets – November 2015

Yahoo for the “R” month
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I’m not a fan of the month of November here in Quebec. Bleak and cold for the most part, no snow to play in, although Mother Nature has been kind so far this year. But one solace I can find in these cold days – when it’s dark by 5pm – is that it is oyster season.

These yummy little bi-valves are in season during the “r” months, those months which end with the letter “r.” Why? You can eat them all year long but during the summer, oysters convert most of their body into one big sex organ. If you eat them then they taste thin and milky. Not my favourite thing. Once they have done their business, they get back to eating and return to their pre-sexual state. So during the fall months, they feed, and their bodies gradually fatten up which is why November and December are the best times to eat oysters. They basically starve themselves from January through Spring, using up their fat deposits.

Oysters don’t taste much of anything, so you can’t drink anything that is too flavourful. Oysters have high levels of iodine which pairs well with mineral wines, while the saltiness matches nicely with delicate citrus and apple notes – think of a Tequila shot where you lick the salt and then bite the lime or lemon. That salt will amplify the fruit in the wine.

Now if you aren’t into oysters, the following wines all work wonders with any seafood, lighter fish or simply as an aperitif. The beauty of this style of wine is that you can find excellent value wine that will do the job. However, you can spend if need be, so let’s start there.

Bill’s favourite pairing is Champagne. Plus, makes for excellent “date nights.” Are oysters really aphrodisiacs? I read that Casanova ate 50 raw oysters for breakfast every day, and he did pretty well for himself. I don’t know if he drank Champagne too. To be honest, I’m not sure if it’s the oysters or the Champagne.

I love drinking very dry, or extra-Brut, bubbles with my oysters. These lean and racy Champagnes might seem edgy on their own, but what they lack in sugar-induced texture is heightened minerality. So try the Agrapart Terroir Blanc de Blancs, or for under $60, Les Vignes de Montagueux from Jacques Lassaigne.

Agrapart Terroirs Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes De Montgueux Blanc de BlancsSegura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Raventos I Blanc de Nit Conca del Riu Anoia 2013

If Champagne is too pricey, there are a number of very dry sparkling wines out there. Cava does the trick and any list of accessibly priced Cavas has to include Segura Viudas. No sparkler under $16 is this good. With a touch more aromatic complexity, yet still rather cutting and edgy, and a rosé at that, the Raventos i Blanc, De Nit Conca Del Riu makes a great match, especially if you like adding a touch of red wine vinegar and echalottes (mignonette sauce) to your oysters.

When talking non-sparkling wines, the list of whites which show minerality is long. Muscadet, Chablis, riesling, Vinho Verde, Picpoul de Pinet – take your pick.

I really love Chablis and I tasted a few recently that will do a great job. The 2014 from Louis Moreau is a great generic Chablis. In the Premier Cru category, Maligny’s 2013 Fourchaume shows both the aromatic complexity and texture that one expects from a Fourchaume while the 2014 Homme Mort will satisfy all those who love the power that great Chablis can bring.

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2014 Château de Maligny Chablis Fourchaume Premier Cru 2013 Château de Maligny Chablis Premier Cru Homme Mort 2014 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 Domaene Gobelsburg Kamptal Riesling 2014

Moving onto riesling, and from Niagara, the 2012 Charles Baker Picone riesling left me wanting 3 more bottles and another couple dozen oysters. I also really loved the Austrian 2014 riesling from Domaine Gobelsburg. At under $20, it’s hard to find a classier riesling at the SAQ.

One of the wine world’s classic pairings is Muscadet with oysters, and there is no shortage of choice at the SAQ. The Domaine Landron, 2014 Amphibolite, is always one of my favourites, while the 2012 Chateau Chasseloir is a classic which never disappoints.

Les Domaines Landron Muscadet Amphibolite 2014 Château de Chasseloir Cuvée des Ceps Centenaires 2012 Atlantis Dry White 2014 Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet Les Pins de Camille 2014 Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2013

And finally, for those of you who love going off the beaten track, then there are a number of interesting and accessible oyster friendly wines out there. From Greece, the 2014 Atlantis is one of the best under $20 whites out there, and shows the mineral joy of assyrtiko. If there exists a Muscadet in the south, it is the Picpoul de Pinet and 2014 Omarine from Maison Jeanjean is a great example, and under $14. And if you love nuance, then the 2013 Pinot Bianco from Alois Lagadar is absolutely sexy in its restraint.

Stay warm and drink well folks,


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

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!

Wolf Blass - Here's to the Chase

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (November 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 write this from Hermanus; best known for pinot noir and for the whales that can be seen in the bay from my hotel window. I am in South Africa leading a group of wine lovers who are exploring Cape wines with me. I will be bringing another group here in 2017, so if that sounds interesting, you can get more info at

South African wines are relatively inexpensive for the quality they offer. I am delighted to have found three among the many new great values at the LCBO this month.

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

The discount period runs until November 29th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that when we published there were stocks available 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!


Tini Sangiovese di Romagna 2012, Emilia-Romagna, Italy ($7.55) New to Top 50 – This is excellent value for a very drinkable Italian red for pizza and meaty pasta dishes. It is soft and fruity with enough tannin and acidity for balance and good length. Chill a little and try with tomato pasta sauces.

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014 Abruzzo Italy ($8.25 + 4 BAMs) – This red is a little rustic with a savoury herbal nose. Try with mildly flavoured red meat dishes or a mild hard cheese like cheddar.

Tini Sangiovese di Romagna 2012 Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014 Santa Carolina Merlot 2015 Domaine La Gardie Merlot 2013

Santa Carolina Merlot 2015 Chile ($8.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 November – This is an exuberant fruity merlot. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled or with a wide range of meat and cheese dishes.

Domaine La Gardie Merlot 2013, Vin De Pays d’Oc, France ($8.95 was $10.95) New to Top 50 – This is opaque purple-red wine is a great buy for a pure clean structured red. Not a lot of complexity but well balanced for cheese or meat dishes.

Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013 Colchagua Valley, Chile ($9.45 was $11.45) New to Top 50 – Great value at $2 off. This aromatic red with fresh black cherry and plum fruit aromas is well balanced and juicy with good to very good length. Full bodied but feels lighter. Try with grilled meats.

Montecillo Crianza 2010 Rioja Spain ($11.95 was $14.95) New to Top 50 – Stunning value at $3 off. This is an easy-to-drink Rioja crianza that’s midweight and lively with ripe berry fruit yet structured with firm tannin appearing on the finish. Very classy. Try with roast lamb.

Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013 Montecillo Crianza 2010 Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Mendoza Argentina ($12.95 was $14.95) Top 50 November – This is a very fruity fresh malbec is $2 off for next 4 weeks making it even better value. There is a lot of complexity on the palate also which is almost full bodied with excellent length. Try with sautéed duck breast.

Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013 Rapel Valley Chile ($12.95 + 4BAMs) Top 50 November – This is a polished, organically grown merlot that’s clean and lively with pure fresh bright aromas and flavours. It is medium to full bodied with good focus and very good length.

Goats Do Roam Red 2014 Western Cape, South Africa ($12.95) Top 50 November – The 2014 vintage continues a long line of consistently great value reds that are close stylistically to a French Cotes du Rhone. Try with burgers.

Guardian Reserva Red 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($13.90 + 7 BAMs) – This juicy fruity red blend is 50% cabernet sauvignon with carmenere and syrah. It is an easy drinking red but there is a good underlying structure to give balance.

Goats do Roam Red 2014 Guardian Reserva Red 2013 KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014

KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95 was $15.95) New to Top 50 – This very consistent cabernet is well balanced with soft minerality to lighten the palate. The nose has a delightful impression of freshness. Midweight and well structured. Try with roast beef.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014, Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95 + 5BAMs) Top 50 November – This deeply coloured blend of syrah, mourvedre and viognier is medium to full bodied with firm tannin which gives a nice edge to the finish. Very good to excellent length. Try with grilled red meats.


Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2014 Abruzzo Italy ($8.25 + 4 BAMs) – Most inexpensive trebbiano is rather boring but this is much fruitier and riper than normal. Chill well and try with grilled calamari.

Shingleback Haycutters Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014, Adelaide Hills and Mclaren Vale, South Australia. ($9.45 was $13.80) Discontinued at LCBO. Top 50 November – This is a classic Bordeaux white blend with subtle oak that is very smooth with the lively fruit well supported by racy acidity. Very good length. Try with roasted poultry or sautéed veal. Around 850 bottles left.

Citra Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2014 Shingleback Haycutters Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014 Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2015 Montgras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2015, Leyda Valley, Chile ($11.95) New to Top 50 – The chardonnay reserva used to come from the Santa Isabella Estate in the Casablanca Valley, but this vintage comes from an estate in Leyda in the San Antonio Valley. It is a fine lively fresh gently oaked white.

Montgras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Leyda Valley, Chile ($13.85 + 7 BAMs) – The Leyda Valley in Chile is fast proving to be the hot spot for great sauvignon blanc and this is an excellent example of just how good it can be. Lots of  flavour and very good length. Try with sautéed seafood, roast poultry or vegetarian quiche.

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($13.95 + 5BAMs) Top 50 November – A concentrated fresh pure grigio with a rich and lively palate that is well balanced by zesty acidity. Very good length. Don’t overchill and enjoy with a wide variety of seafood and white meat dishes.

Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Jerez Spain ($15.45) Top 50 November – The best value white on the Top 50, this lovely wine that has lots of complexity. It is a classic amontillado with its nutty almond, lemon, bread, and salty ham aromas. It is very smooth with the dry, rich intensely flavoured palate lingering for ever. Excellent length. Try with rich white meat dishes. Find it in the fortified wine section.

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014 Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Stoneleigh Chardonnay 2014

Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand ($15.90 + 8 BAMs) – A crisp very juicy kiwi sauvignon that is midweight and well balanced with a creamy rich palate and crisp dry herbal lemon finish. Try with sautéed seafood or goats cheese.

Stoneleigh Chardonnay 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand ($16.95 + 10 BAMs) – This is a bold complex rich chardonnay with the ample oak well integrated with the fruit. The palate is super smooth with the rich fruit buoyed up by lemony acidity and the oak well integrated such that it is only just noticeable on the finish. Well balanced with very good length.

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 Essentials Collection.

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

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

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

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

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


Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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


Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2015

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20 Under $20 in BC : November 2015

A Brisk November

Though often thought of as a breather month between holidays, November has proven brisk for WineAlign West – and not only due to the temperature. Anthony has been travelling around Australia the past couple of weeks with a Vancouver Sun group (hence sitting out this month’s 20 Under $20), DJ is fresh off duties as head judge for the Vancouver Magazine International Wine Competition – which all four of us WineAlign Westers judged at – as well as leading trade and consumer classes at Cornucopia. Rhys has been babysitting ferments and getting his Similkameen vineyard ready for winter as well as finalizing the BC Wine Appellation Task Group findings, which he’ll be covering in this month’s upcoming BC Wine Report. Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for Italy next week for a taste of Franciacorta and look at Lombardy.

Yes – brisk is good, and refreshing. Our 20 Under $20 will refresh both your wallet and palate this month.

~ TR

BC Crictic Team


Rhys Pender MW

At this time of year when there is less time spent outside due to the change in weather I always start thinking more about cooking. Flicking through cookbooks turns into long, intensive sessions in the kitchen making complex but rewarding dishes. Part of the fun is finding a perfect wine to go with these dishes.

I like to make choucroute garnie at this time of year, a good dish to fatten you up for the winter. The slow cooked, smoky pork and sauerkraut is perfect with a light juicy red such as Beaujolais but even better with a solid Riesling. The new Intrigue 2014 made by Roger Wong is a great match.

I also recently whipped up a batch of empanadas. With their meaty filling you would first think of going to a red wine, but in Argentina they contrast the empanadas with the crispness of Torrontès. I went for a similar theme but using the local Maverick Sauvignon Blanc 2014. Bertus Albertyn is really stepping it up with his wines in recent years and this is a great value rich yet fresh Sauvignon.

Intrigue Riesling 2014 Maverick Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Campo Viejo Reserva 2009 CedarCreek Chardonnay 2013 Lustau Puerto Fino Solera Reserva

With meat cooked outdoors over the fire with the chill of fall keeping you close to the warmth of the flames, practically any hearty red wine will do. But a particularly good pairing is something that is both flavoursome and also has a bit of complexity. And for under $20 the Campo Viejo Riserva Rioja is a great deal.

A little extra butter is always needed in the fall, right?, particularly when searing off some nice BC prawns or scallops. The elegant and surprisingly complex for the price CedarCreek 2013 Chardonnay has some nice lemon freshness and complexity to match perfectly.

Something a little different and quite interesting for many palates is Fino Sherry. It is all about context. Try a bottle of the Lustau Puerto Fino with some green olives, nuts, tapas or little pieces of deep fried seafood and you will probably get what Fino is all about.

DJ Kearney

World Wine Awards of CanadaRepresenting colossal value, these five picks shone at our World Wine Awards of Canada, held in Toronto at the end of August.

First in the glass is a long-time BC hero, Gray Monk 2014 Gewurztraminer has extra depth and freshness from a warm, quality vintage. Pair with Sunday French toast.

On a dryer note, Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from Marlborough expresses pungent, tropical juicy white to a T.  The aqua label always cheers me up.

Back to Argentina for a pinot grigio that’s a sound alternative to Italian grigio. From one of the oldest of Argentina’s wine regions, Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio 2014 is bone dry, with streamlined fruit and an unbeatable price tag.

Gray Monk Gewurztraminer 2014 Matua Hawke's Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2014 Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Finally the only red of my quintet is one of Chile’s acknowledged value stars, Medalla Real Gran Reserva 2010 from the Maipo Valley, affectionately nicknamed ‘the Bordeaux of South America’. Pure cassis fruit, supple tannins and a gravelly finish make it a great choice for skirt steak and zesty chimichurri sauce. It’s a few cents above our $20 limit, but it defines colossal value to me.

Back to budget, you can’t do better than Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. The fruit comes from Langhorne Creek, a quality region in Oz for cabernet, and it will have you craving a good old fashioned meat pie.

Treve Ring

Of course, fizz. Always fizz. One striking value is the organic Parés Baltà Cava Brut, with 18 months on the lees and wild herbs and cracked stone dominating this green apple crisp sparkler.

Spier 2013 Chenin Blanc is a stellar steen from Stellenbosch – and a steal at $14. No oak influence allows the youthful, citrus and honeysuckle fruit to shine. And on the topic of shining citrusy fruit, the new BC VQA Okanagan Valley Fern Walk label brings a bit of Kiwi to BC with the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc. Gooseberry, tart lemon, guava and asparagus will let you support the home team while thinking New Zealand.

Parés Baltà Cava Brut Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2013 Fern Walk Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Mistaken Identity Journey 2014 Volcanic Hills Gewurztraminer 2013

Speaking of local, how many wines from BC’s Wine Islands do you get to try? Mistaken Identity Winery is located on Saltspring Island, and their 2014 Journey an estate blend of pinot gris, ortega, siegerrebe, madeline angevine, madeline sylvaner and reichensteiner. Expect apricot, peach and apple blossoms to flow from the nose to the juicy, off-dry palate of this lighter bodied aromatic white. And with a pleasant 11.5 percent alcohol, this could be a new favourite brunching go-to. Or pick from the orchard basket of the Okanagan for the Volcanic Hills 2013 Gewurztraminer, where marmalade, lime pith and anise are lifted with rosewater and moderate acidity. Chinese take-out pairing wine.

For warming alongside braised chicken thighs (and a fireplace), Chile’s Vina Undurraga 2013 Sibaris Pinot Noir will do the trick, its smoked red pepper and poultry spice seasoning the juicy palate. Also in Chile, the Leyda 2012 Reserve Syrah impresses for its ripe fruit framed with firm oak; a compact little syrah. If you’re looking for riper, plusher, plumper and sweeter fruited reds, Sumac Ridge 2013 Merlot Private Reserve will suit.

Undurraga Sibaris Reserva Pinot Noir 2013 Leyda Reserva Syrah 2012 Sumac Ridge Merlot Private Reserve 2013 Alamos Malbec 2013 Fresita Sparkling Wine Infused With Strawberries

Across the Andes, the Alamos 2013 Malbec from Catena Zapata is a potpourri of exotic spices swirled with sweet vanilla, perfumed musk, violets, cassis and blackberry jam. Pour this concentrated red with hearty, fragrant lamb roasts. (The 2014 is

And for an effortless dessert, sweet starter, or indulgent breakfast, reach for Fresita, a bold pink sparkling chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and muscatel blend infused with organic strawberries from Patagonia. A bright cranberry acidity helps tame the sweetness and a foamy mousse keeps it light and fun.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report and include the wines across any price point and channel that excite us each month, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.

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

13th Street Winery - Giving a Voice to the Vines

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 14, Part Two

Super-Sized and the Best of the New World
by Sara d’Amato, with notes from John Szabo MS

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Whether you saw it coming or not, the holiday entertaining season is upon us and with this comes some pretty fierce marketing directed at you, consumer. The LCBO and VINTAGES is now committed to convincing us to purchase premium products, and in this release, large format bottles are pushed. VINTAGES is featuring a “simple solution for elegant holiday entertaining: Ten favourite high quality wines in large format bottles.”

Given that the cost of a magnum is often significantly more than double the price of the same standard format 750 ml bottle, is it worth it? To answer that question, it is worth considering what is in the bottle and your intentions for its uses. For those of you, like most, who don’t have a great deal of experience with larger formats, our interaction is usually in the form of imposing bottles at the entrance of restaurants, aiming to impress. Their novelty factor makes us look but the fear of a hefty price tag makes most of us stay away.

It is an indisputable fact that large format bottles make a show-stopping impression. Open a large bottle at any dinner party and it is sure to make for a memorable evening. That dazzle alone is worth an extra buck or two, no? But is the industry just pulling the wool over your eyes or should premiums for large formats not sway your investment?

To answer the question of why they cost so much I spoke with Marlize Beyers at Hidden Bench winery in Niagara who has a good breadth of experience with bottling both magnums (1.5 L) and 3 L bottles (sometimes called Jeroboams, or more prosaically, double magnums). She says: “First, we only consider wines that are age-worthy to go to large format, usually single vineyard pinots and chardonnays from outstanding, cooler vintages. We do not release these wines for at least 2 years after bottling, so there is a storage cost involved, they take up a lot of room.” In addition, the packaging material is significantly costlier, for example, glass for magnums are 4.2x more expensive than a standard glass bottle, corks to match the wider diameter are 9.7x more and labels are 16.8x more expensive due to unique size and small runs.

Because the large format bottles are too large to fit onto a regular bottling line, Beyers needs a week or more to transfer the wine (for just over 500 bottles) to kegs after which they are filled by hand. Everything must be done manually in a smaller scale winery. “To conclude,” says Beyers, “it takes tremendous‎ time, effort, dedication, labour and detail to bring these to fruit and that is why they are worth more.” And although the costs for large format bottling are less for a commercial-scale winery, they are still significant.

But does it taste better and does it last longer? The prevailing opinion is that magnums age more slowly and perhaps result in a greater degree of harmony in the long-term than do smaller formats. The physical explanation for this is that the amount of space between the level of wine in the bottle and the bottom of the cork, known as the ullage, is roughly the same in various size bottles but the volume of wine is significantly different. Therefore, more oxidation would occur in smaller formats than in larger formats. More oxidation leads to more rapid ageing. However, whether such a small amount of oxidation makes a difference is inconclusive. In addition, often times the neck opening is slightly larger in a large format bottle so the difference in oxygen contact may not be that significant. Slower oxidation through the cork may also have an impact, but currently this is more of a hypothesis than a conclusively proven fact. Certainly, experiential and anecdotal evidence seems to point in the direction of slower ageing of large formats and if true, then the bottles clearly have more value in the long term.

The Finest BubbleInterestingly, all is different with Champagne bottles. We have more than anecdotal evidence and more science to demonstrate the intrinsic value of these wines in large formats. There seem to be significant differences in the flavour profile and in the way a Champagne magnum ages that is unlike any still wine bottling. The reason why has to do with a couple of key factors: carbon dioxide and autolysis. If you have ever used a gas preservation system like “Private Preserve” to keep your unfinished bottle of wine fresh, you’ll find that your wine will get a day or two of extra life. The spray is made up of carbon dioxide and nitrogen mix that settles on the surface of the wine preventing its exposure to oxygen. The same principle applies in Champagne where the natural carbonation will help preserve the wine from oxidation, slowing its development. Slower oxidation plus the high level of acidity characteristic to Champagne gives it a longer life in any format. Therefore, Champagne makes an ideal, age worthy addition to a collector’s cellar.

There is yet another factor that sets magnums apart. A degradation of yeast cells into “lees” – known as autolysis – also takes place differently in a large format bottle of Champagne. The explanation given by Nick Baker’s The Finest Bubble, a successful UK-based merchant of Champagne, is that the process “can take up to four weeks longer, but magnums also have proportionally more glass surface than [standard format] bottles, allowing more contact between the lees on the inside of the bottle and the wine. This results in magnums displaying much more roundness as the wine ages and crucially, much more complexity.” In short, a magnum of Champagne has a more extensive lees ageing process in a large format bottle resulting in a more complex wine.

A final factor in the value of a magnum is rarity. Like anything that is rare or scarce, a higher value will be attached to it. A winery may only choose to bottle in large formats in special vintages or for special clients but the runs in almost all cases are limited. A special bottling of your favorite wine may then be of interest to seek out from a collector’s standpoint just like that rare, signed baseball card.

As far as I’m concerned, the worth of a magnum is dependent on what is in the bottle. A large run of a large format by a large producer has very little intrinsic value – you will get wow factor for the bottle, but essentially the same product inside as two standard bottles. If the awesomeness of a large format is what you seek and can’t spend the big bucks, then the acquisition may just be worth a small additional cost. A large format bottling of Champagne, however, seems to be inherently different than standard formats and have value beyond the cost of their production. Thus, they may very well be worth the investment. If you collect, than a rare, large format bottling of your favourite wine is also worthy of your attention. As Marlize Beyers of Hidden Bench highlights, what makes it into these magnums are special wines, often from exceptional vintages that are naturally more age worthy. These large formats are a labour of love for small to mid-sized producers and they can make a very special part of your collection.

In any case, if you find yourself in possession of a magnum, be aware that they come with special needs. Some tips – chilling a white or sparkling wine must be irksomely done outside of the confines of a fridge, in icy water. Use two hands when pouring or decant into two standard size decanters. If you do not have room in your cellar for large formats and thus store them upright, make sure that are they regularly placed on their sides, propped securely, so that the cork stays fresh and moist.

Here are our top picks from this mini release of magnums. Unfortunately there are no whites or sparkling wines in this offering but there is a range of both affordable and collector-worthy bottles. We also offer recommendations on the new world portion of the VINTAGES release. Check last week’s recommendations to find the best of the old world.

Buyers Guide For November 14th: Large Formats

Masi 2009 Riserva Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva, DOC, Veneto, Italy ($149.95, 1500mL)

John Szabo – This is precisely the sort of wine you want to have in magnum, one that will age for a very long time indeed. It’s still another 4-6 years away from prime enjoyment I’d suspect, but already shows terrifically richness, balance, and complexity. Masi is one of the undisputed masters of the appassimento genre. Best 2019-2036++.
Sara d’Amato – The quality of this Masi offering is no surprise as this top producer of Amarone is a consistent overachiever. The wine offers great poise and depth of flavour as well as the structural framework that will allow for masterful evolution over the next 5-10 years.

Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France ($84.95, 1500 mL)

Sara d’Amato – With a traditional feel, this wonderfully complex, fleshy and slightly lactic southern Rhone blend offers a great deal of bang for your buck. A deal at less than twice the price of a standard format bottle.

Masi Riserva Costasera Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2009 Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret 2012 Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012 Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Santa Carolina 2008 Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley Chile ($37.95)

John Szabo – Here’s the best value going in this magnum feature, a nicely mature, savoury, herbal, earthy and balanced cabernet from Santa Carolina, hitting full stride now. Best 2015-2023.
Sara d’Amato – This well-priced magnum is ready to impress and perhaps the best value in this release. There is nothing pretentious about this approachable and gently matured cabernet from Santa Carolina.

Robert Mondavi 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, USA ($70.95)

John Szabo – An excellent value in the rarefied world of Napa cabernet, Mondavi’s 2013 finds a comfortable balance between well-measured fruit and wood, and savoury-earthy components. Tannins are still grippy and angular, in need of another 3-5 years to smoothen out, but this hits all of the right measures in an elegantly styled cabernet. Best 2018-2033.
Sara d’Amato – A solid, dry and age worthy example of Napa cabernet with a tannic firmness that requires three or more years to resolve. A splendid addition to your cellar at a fair price.

Buyers Guide For November 14th: New World White & Red

Jost Vineyards 2014 Tidal Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada ($17.95)

Sara d’Amato – Although there are some great Canadian finds in this release, I am particularly enthusiastic about this bright, cheerful and playful blend from a pioneer wine producer of the east coast. If offers elegant notes of mineral and white peach along with a hint of effervescence that adds to its refreshing character.

Bachelder 2012 Saunders Vineyard Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula Canada ($44.95)

John Szabo – This is one of the more refined and fine-grained, sinewy and linear chardonnays in the excellent Bachelder range, with gentle lees influence and salty finish. It’s showing nicely at the moment, but one of the intriguing features of Bachelder’s wines is their ever-changing character, revealing new facets with each bottle. It’s a wine to buy several bottles of to track its fascinating evolution. Best 2015-2022.

Jost Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014 Bachelder Saunders Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 Stratus White 2012 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2013

Stratus 2012 White, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake Canada ($44.20)

John Szabo – The 2012 is one of the finest Stratus white blends to date, densely woven, creamy, honeyed, very far from the Ontario white wine paradigm and much more at home in some old world, warm climate region (southern Rhône white?). I really appreciate the depth and the extract, almost thick but not heavy. I’d like to see this again in another year or two when the masses of dried fruit will have subsumed and integrated with the non-fruit flavour. This should age well. Best 2017-2024.

Flowers 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, USA ($64.95)

John Szabo – Flowers remains a leader in the Sonoma Coast AVA, on the second ridge in from the Pacific in a decidedly cool slice of California. The natural vocation thus is to produce wines (chardonnay and pinot) of terrific precision and tension. This 2013 represents nicely: pure, fragrant and floral, gently reductive, succulent and savoury, salty and tight, but also generous and mouth filling, achieving a fine power-finesse balance. Best 2015-2023.

Rustenberg 2010 Buzzard Kloof Syrah, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato – The Buzzard Kloof vineyard is located on one of the coolest sites of Rusternberg’s estate and produces a unique, peppery syrah that is terrifically compelling. The site is named after the Jackal and Steppe Buzzards that circle the thermal currents which rise above the ravine (kloof) adjacent to the vineyard.

Grand Vin de Glenelly 2009 Red, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($19.95)

John Szabo – Bordelaise doyenne May-Éliane de Lencquesaing (of Pichon Lalande) is behind the Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch, so the class, balance and composure of this shiraz + Bordeaux varieties blend is no surprise. What is surprising however is the exceptional; this ticks all of the boxes of top wine. Best 2015-2021.

Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah 2010 Grand Vin De Glenelly Red 2009 D'arenberg The High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Strewn Canadian Oak Meritage 2013 Stratus Red 2012

d’Arenberg 2012 The High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95) (943456)

Sara d’Amato – This highly acclaimed wine has been produced for four decades now and is sourced from the first of d’Arenberg’s vineyards (planted in the late 1800s) to be trained above knee height. The power and elegance offered here for under $20 is nothing short of impressive.

Strewn 2013 Canadian Oak Meritage, Niagara-On-the Lake, Ontario, Canada ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato – Although not a new product, Canadian oak is not widely used nor mass-produced and thus you may not be aware of its existence. This elegant Bordelaise blend is a lovely introduction to our tight-grained, homegrown oak that (arguably) some describe as adding a slightly spicy, maple flavour to wine. Regardless, there is freshness but not under-ripeness to this ready-to-drink offering from Strewn.

Stratus 2012 Red VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada ($44.20)

John Szabo – Stratus winemaker J.L Groux evidently had an excellent 2012 season, hitting the both this flagship red, as well as the white, out of the park. It’s an impressive Bordeaux style blend that would be equally at home in Tuscany, with its high-toned, floral and dusty-herbal red and black fruit, thanks in part to long hang time, and long ageing in wood to develop complexity. The style is unique to be sure for the region, but it works very well here. Drinking now, but better in another 3-5 no doubt. Best 2018-2025.

If you don’t already have your tickets for the 2015 Gourmet Games featuring, you are not too late! John and I will be your sensory guides through this great evening of food and fun. WineAlign members will get a $25 discount on tickets AND a $25 Special Gift Certificate. Click on the ad below for all the details.


Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES November 14th, 2015

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys
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!

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
The Gourmet Games

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Join Canada’s Hottest 
New Wine Club

The National Wine Awards Wine of the Month Club

It’s hot off the presses, folks! We’ve teamed up with My Wine Canada, the country’s top online wine store, to bring you a one of a kind wine club!

CHOOSE FROM FOUR PACKAGES Starting at just $85!Join Now!

Every summer, WineAlign hosts the National Wine Awards of Canada where thousands of amazing wines from across Canada are entered into the competition for rigorous judging – and only a select few emerge as medal winners. The Top 25 Wineries in Canada are also named in this competition based on the hardware they take home. “The Nationals,” as the competition has been nicknamed, have quickly become Canada’s most prestigious award competition. Now, you can get your hands on these bonafide winning wines!

Be one of the first 100 people to join the National Wine Club before Nov. 15 and you’ll receive a special gift!

The National Wine of the Month Club

How it Works

Every month, one of the Top 25 wineries will send you a care package of 2, 4, 6, or 12 bottles of wine from their award-winning portfolio, along with tasting notes from respected WineAlign critics. You simply choose your bottle quantity and then sit back and relax, because your wine will be on its way to your door.

Who will be the inaugural winery? Well, we had to start with a Platinum award winner – the highest honour a winery can attain – and we’re pleased to announce that Kacaba Vineyards will be our first featured winery!

Kacaba Vineyards

Kacaba has already sold out of most of their award winning wines, but they are holding a special reserve for National Wine Club members, so hurry and join before Nov. 15 to get in on these amazing wine gems.

Here’s a look at the Kacaba wines featured in this month’s packages:

Kacaba 2013 Cabernet Franc

Every one of you lucky folks will be receiving this treat! One of only 14 wines in the entire country to receive the elusive Platinum medal award, this wine was awarded 92 points. Janet Dorozynski says it was her “top scoring wine at NWAC15 and truly an exemplary Cabernet Franc. Red currant, smoke and tobacco leaf dominate the nose and palate, which is medium bodied with ripe slightly gravelly tannins. Great concentration with a long layered finish of blackberries, cola and dried herbs. Decant and drink now with grilled rib eye or cellar to 2020+.”

Kacaba Cabernet Franc 2013Kacaba 2013 Cabernet Franc

Kacaba 2014 Reserve Riesling

4-bottle subscribers, you can look forward to this wine! Made from Niagara Escarpment bench vines that are almost 20 years old, the grapes for this wine were whole berry pressed before undergoing a long, cool ferment to preserve character and complexity. Quoted from Janet Dorozynski at the National Wine Awards, the wine has “an intense nose of lime blossom, pink and yellow grapefruit with green apple and floral notes on the medium bodied palate. Dry with crisp balanced acidity and a long finish of citrus and apple. A solid, well made Riesling.”

Kacaba Reserve Riesling 2014Kacaba Reserve Riesling 2014

Kacaba 2012 Reserve Syrah

Also accompanying most packages will be this savoury superstar! WineAlign judge Michael Godel calls it a “Pretty and modern, fruit forward red with a good touch of volatile acidity and worthy of its sense of place. The fruit to finish continuum is strong throughout. Oak is used as a house for the Syrah to find a home. Works that wood with comfort and slides out with ease. Late bitters awaken effectively, with precision and length. Drink 2015-2019.” A favourite among many Syrah lovers, this one will sell out soon so join the club and get it before it’s gone!

Kacaba Reserve Syrah 2012Kacaba Reserve Syrah 2012

CHOOSE FROM FOUR PACKAGES Starting at just $85!Join Now!Choose from package of 2, 4, 6, or 12 bottles. All taxes, shipping and handling fees are included in the package price, so you don’t have to worry about any extra charges.  You can rest assured that each wine you receive has been tasted, approved, and selected for you by respected wine critics.

Here’s a peek at what you’ll be receiving by package level:

2 bottle – Red Only @ $85
Cabernet Franc 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Platinum)
Reserve Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)

4 bottle – Red & White @ $159
Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2014
Reserve Riesling 2014 (N.W.A.O.C. – Silver)
Reserve Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)
Cabernet Franc 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Platinum)

6 bottle – Red & White @ $225
Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2014
Reserve Riesling 2014 (N.W.A.O.C. – Silver)
Cabernet Franc 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Platinum)
Reserve Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze
Cabernet/Syrah 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Gold)
Cabernet/Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)

12 bottle – Red & White @ $440
(2x) Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2014
(2x) Reserve Riesling 2014 (N.W.A.O.C. – Silver)
(2x) Cabernet Franc 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Platinum)
(1x) Reserve Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)
(1x) Cabernet/Syrah 2013 (N.W.A.O.C. – Gold)
(1x) Cabernet/Syrah 2012 (N.W.A.O.C. – Bronze)
(1x) Reserve Merlot 2010 (O.W.A. – Gold)
(1x) Reserve Cab. Sauvignon 2010 (InterVin – Silver)
(1x) Reserve Meritage 2010 (A.C.W.C.– Silver)

After Kacaba’s delicious wines hit your doorstep, you can look forward to more Award winning BC and Ontario Wineries in the months ahead, including: Road 13 Vineyards, CC Jentsch Wines, and Tawse.

Be one of the first 100 people to join the National Wine Club before Nov. 15 and you’ll receive a special gift!

Buy Now!

Please note: In order to receive wine through My Wine Canada you must be of legal drinking age in the province or territory to which you are requesting that wine be shipped. Please refer to My Wine Canada’s Terms of Use for further details. WineAlign is not involved in the sale or shipment of any wine.

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Cellaring wines, try those which are drinkable now

Caveman Speaks
By Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I recently had one of “those” chats with a wine lover and collector.

“You must have a big cellar,” he asked.

“Yeah pretty big I guess,” I replied. “I have around a thousand bottles.”

The fellow listed off a number of classic wine cellar bottles that he figured I must surely have stored away. There were top flight Bordeaux, hard to get Burgundy, the “superest’ of the Super-Tuscans, as well as a few “icon” wines I had tasted from new world places but frankly have never considered buying.

“I don’t know man, I don’t have any of those,” I answered with a shrug of my shoulders.

The fellow, a bit stupefied that a big time wine critic doesn’t share his penchant for the fancy bottles, then asked what made up my collection. So what do I have in my cellar? I do have a few expensive wines crated up. But the vast majority of wines gathering glorious dust in my basement are bottles that cost under $40 and have as their primary appeal one and only one characteristic: drinkability.

The money myth of cellaring wines

The most common misconception about cellaring wines is that you need to spend lots of money on a wine and then wait over a decade to drink them. Well, I don’t have that much available cash to spend on really expensive wines and to be honest, these big red wines (my cellar is half white wines by the way) are often tannic, concentrated and so heavily oaked they melt your teeth in their youth. Patience, they say, will be rewarded.

If there is one thing that I have learned over my 25 year career in wine, it’s that:

1 – I’m impatient.

2 – I don’t believe any wine on this planet is worth much more than $100 a bottle.

3 – If a wine doesn’t turn you on in its youth, it doesn’t matter how long you let it age, you probably won’t like it much more later.

Produttori Del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2010 Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008 Treana Red 2009 Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Sure my beloved Barolo and Barbarescos can be quite tannic in their youth, but they are still very drinkable and rarely show much in terms of oak. Try the 2010 Barbaresco from Produttori del Barbaresco and you will see that at $40, you can get ageable and drinkable all in one package. Or what’s even better, many Barolo houses only release their bottles after they have already aged. Try the 2008 Dardi le Rose, Bussia from Poderi Cola. Under $50, it’s good for now and the long term future.

For those of you with a New World palate, I have noticed more and more wines showcasing fruit that’s ripe and not overripe, and with less emphasis on all the oak. The 2009 Trenna Red from Austin Hope is a perfect example of this, as is the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags’ Leap.

“Icon” wine?

Domaine De La Vieille Julienne Lieu Dit Clavin 2013 Le Clos Du Caillou Bouquet Des Garrigues 2012The quotation marks should be heavily bolded around the word icon. Somehow this word which is used to denote “an object of uncritical devotion” has been usurped by wineries the world over to draw consumer attention to their top wine. These wines, which for the most part are excessively concentrated and were raised in new and expensive oak barrels, often make me dream of simpler times, and simpler wines.

The reality is that anyone can make these super concentrated wines, and if you have enough cash, you can buy new barrels. But terroir is not democratic, and the majority of the world’s terroirs produce grapes with moderate complexity that are best made into good quality table wines. There is nothing wrong with that; in fact, I revere wineries that can produce a great wine for $20-$30. While these wines will age and get better in the short term, three to five years, the beauty is that they can also be drunk now.

I have been drinking lots of grenache-based wines from southern France these days and they are perfect example of this. The 2012 Clos de Caillou, Garrigues is a remarkable grenache-dominant Côtes du Rhône which will reward with just a modicum of patience. On a similar vein, the 2013 Lieu Dit Clavin from Vieille Julienne is an inspired effort at under $30.

White is definitely right

When I’m asked why I have so much white wine in my cellar, my answer is that for me it is more of a sure thing for aging than red wines. That’s right. I have had great success with wines with striking acidity like the 2014 Vacheron from Sancerre. I recently opened a 2009 Saint Joseph from Pierre Gaillard and it was mind blowing. I am sure the 2014 will be of equal magnitude in three to five years.

Wines that combine acidity and sugar, like riesling, are simply hard to kill. I have been lucky enough to taste verticals of Cave Spring’s CSV and the extra depth and complexity that these wines gain, in a relatively short time frame, is remarkable. The 2013 is a classic example of the worthiness of the Niagara terroir’s ability to produce great quality riesling at a decent price. I have also stocked up on the 2012 Charles Baker Picone Riesling. I just hope that I can refrain from drinking them down too soon.

Domaine Vacheron Sancerre 2014Pierre Gaillard St Joseph 2014Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012

The bottom line is that many people are afraid from starting wine cellars because they feel that one needs to spend enormous amounts of money on wines. This is simply not the case. Any wine done with a modicum of care will gain complexity with even a few years in a wine cellar. So if you buy a wine, no matter what the price, and love drinking it now, then throw a few in your basement. Chances are that it will be even better in the not-so-distant future.

Until next time.


“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 wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic’s reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Gourmet Games - Nov 17

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 14, Part One

Our Finest from Europe
by John Szabo MS, with notes from Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

November 14th marks the first major holiday release at VINTAGES, with nearly 170 wines and spirits arriving (or re-arriving) on shelves. The theme is “our finest”, which means a healthy collection of premium products that stretch into the upper echelons of price. On that note, in this report I offer some perspective on wine pricing, before Sara and I line up our recommendations from Europe ranging from $17 to $100+ (David is hopping across Canada to raise funds for Canadian athletes via Gold Medal Plates and returns to cover the November 28th release). The rest of the world follows next week.

Read to the bottom for details on upcoming events and tastings, including the Gourmet Games, the Thirty Bench Wine Makers’ dinner, the Food and Wine Show Tutored Tasting on Volcanic Wines, and an upcoming grower champagne masterclass.

Is Wine Overpriced?

First, a warning: You may find some of the recommendations in this report expensive. $50 or $100 is after all a considerable sum to spend on a bottle of fermented grape juice. Even $20 can seem unnecessarily high. I’ve been among the first to lament the steadily increasing baseline price of decent wine, and even more so the ever-inflating price of premium bottles. So, are wines overpriced?

A recent experience helped me regain some perspective. The scene was a new hipster juice bar in Toronto, the kind that serves fresh-pressed juices from exotic organic ingredients that have popped up like mushrooms after the rain across the city. I ordered the Refresher, a healthy-sounding mix of cucumber, romaine, celery, ginger and green apple. The price? $7 for a 500ml plastic cup’s worth. I wasn’t shocked; that’s a standard ticket for such juices. But then I paused to reflect on what it takes to make them.

The cost of ingredients is of course minimal, even for grade A organic produce. Inventory costs are equally low, since the majority of ingredients come in and out in a matter of days, or hours. No special expertise is required to acquire or process the materials – it’s basically a shopping list, fulfilled with a quick call to a supplier or two, or a few minutes at the Ontario Food Terminal. If one supplier is out of an ingredient, you can go to another without compromising your product. There’s no cost to train the servers behind the counter to prepare the beverages; a couple of minutes on how to operate the juicer should do it. Packaging is cheap, a few pennies per unit, less for the straw. There’s little marketing or promotional necessary. The space was small and décor minimal. There’s no commission to pay, and no shipping and handling fees. They don’t give out free samples to convince you to buy a whole cup, and no one returns the juice because they don’t like how it tastes. There’s no special added juice tax that pays for health care and infrastructure, so beyond standard HST, all of those 7 dollars go towards the shop’s revenue.

In the food & beverage industry, that’s about as low risk as it gets. People were lining up for these juices; evidently, no one was balking at the cost.

Now consider the wine business. Decent quality grapes cost anywhere from about $3 per kilo (you can find cheaper, but you usually get what you pay for), and up to $30 in extreme, ultra premium cases, which is about what you need to make one bottle of wine. The cost of purchasing land, and planting and maintaining a vineyard to supply your own needs is extravagant to say the least. Then, growing grapes and making wine competently requires years of schooling, training and practical experience, or paying someone else handsomely to do it for you. And don’t forget that grape growing is fraught with countless perils, at the mercy of everything from a long list of diseases, to heavy rain, wind, frost, drought, hungry birds and animals, and other sundry acts of God that can severely reduce or entirely decimate a year’s harvest. The worse the year, the higher the farming costs; and even with zero crop, you still have to pay.

Production and equipment costs make accountants weep. A new oak barrel alone immediately adds $3 to the cost of a bottle of wine. And fine wine, as you know, needs to rest in the cellar before release, a massive inventory expense. The cost of bottles themselves, and closures and labels and cartons add up quickly, at least another couple of dollars/bottle.

And you’ll need to get your message out if you expect to sell anything in such a saturated, hyper-competitive market. That means building a tasting room and staffing it with properly trained people (it takes considerably more than a couple of minutes to teach a wine salesperson the necessary production details and the messaging you want to convey), travelling extensively (airplane tickets, hotels, meals, etc.) to pour and talk about your wines with professionals and consumers, paying for expensive stands at wine fairs, buying advertising, giving away free samples to writers, distributors and sommeliers, among other activities. And really, I’ve only scratched the obvious surface costs that need to be covered by the price of a bottle of wine; lots more lurk at every turn.

And don’t forget that a winery only sees about a third of the dollars you spend on wine in Ontario; the rest goes to the government, shippers, brokers and agents. A $7/500ml juice, the equivalent of about $10 worth of liquid in a 750ml bottle, made from fermented grapes and imported into Canada, would retail on our shelves at close to $30 (you can roughly calculate how much a winery actually gets from the sale of a bottle by dividing the retail price by 3). But compared to the juice shop model, the actual profit margin for the winery is incomparably lower, if there’s any left at all.

Most start-up wineries, even those with hopes to charge premium prices, count roughly a decade and a half before expecting to see the account books turn black, and that’s not including initial capital expenditures – I’m talking break even on operating expenses. Starting a winery from scratch these days is almost invariably the folly of the ultra-wealthy in search of tax deductions, for which the wine business is unparalleled.

So despite rising prices, wine growers are not getting any richer, if anything, the wine business is growing less and less profitable. I see many, even multi-generational vignerons all around the world struggling to keep their businesses afloat in a frighteningly competitive market, which only grows more cut-throat each year.

These thoughts and others crossed my mind as I sipped my fancy juice. You can only conclude that A) taxes, shipping and commissions on wine are too high; B) wine is necessarily a costly luxury; C) starting a winery is a bad idea if profit is your goal, or D) starting a juice business is an awesome idea.

But it’s unfair, at least in most cases, to conclude that wine is overpriced. Wine is not expensive, even if it costs a lot.

It’s something to think about as you contemplate the seemingly inflated price tag on any of the recommendations below. Or maybe, you’ll open a juice bar.

Buyers Guide For November 14th: Our Finest European White

Terradora 2014 Falanghina IGT Campania, Italy ($16.95)

John Szabo – Falanghina is a great entry into the compelling whites of Campania, a region with as much history as another in Italy – this grape was planted in the vineyards of Pompeii. While it’s not the top cultivar in terms of depth and complexity (look to Greco and fiano for that), in the hands of Terradora, it hits a perfect mix of terroir and pleasure at the price.
Sara d’Amato – Although one of southern Italy’s largest wineries, Terredora produces dynamite Falanghina that can be happily found on the VINTAGES shelves year after year. Falanghina is a varietal known for its floral aromatics and flavours of fresh lemon, lime and tangerine, as are notable in this example. The grape is widely planted around the volcanic soils of Mount Vesuvius. This lovely vintage is fresh and fruity, very characteristic and perfect with pan-seared white fish.

La Chablisienne 2012 Montmains Chablis 1er Cru, France ($32.95)

John Szabo – The cooperative La Chablisienne continues to impress, and this 2012 Montmains was a standout from my last visit and tasting across the entire range in 2014, and again now in international context. It comes from mostly from the Butteaux sous-climate (95%) of this left bank hillside cru, strikingly mineral and notable earthy – a wine that “looks down” for its more earthy-stony stylistic guidance, in the words of director Hervé Tucki, a more clay-rich cru that gives a powerful, dense expression with terrific length. Best 2015-2022.

Terredora Falanghina 2014La Chablisienne Montmains Chablis 1er Cru 2012Domaine Billaud Simon Chablis Premier Cru Mont De Milieu 2010Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuissé 2013

Domaine Billaud-Simon 2010 Mont de Milieu Chablis 1er Cru AC, France ($44.95)

John Szabo – Striking Chablis from a terrific vintage, hitting a beautiful stage of maturity now, though with lots of life ahead; be sure to use large glasses or decant before serving to give it some air. This has density and complexity at grand cru level. Best 2015-2025.

Louis Jadot 2013 Pouilly Fuissé, Burgundy, France ($35.95)

Sara d’Amato – With verve and energy, this upbeat Pouilly Fuissé is fresh, enticing and packs a punch. Although it still has some years ahead, this chardonnay can be pleasurably enjoyed now with soft, ripened cheeses.

Buyers Guide for November 14th: Our Finest European Red

Château Croze de Pys 2010 Prestige Malbec, Cahors, Southwest, France ($16.95)

John Szabo – This is a terrific find for fans of solid, well-built wines, ready to enjoy alongside some salty protein. It blends the iron-like minerality of classic Cahors, but with ripe fruit and tannins that are firm but not hard or astringent. Best 2015-2022.

Château De Ségure 2012 Fitou, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($16.95)

Sara d’Amato – Fitou is located in southeastern Languedoc where carignan and grenache make up the majority of the blends. It butts up against Corbieres and although very similar, Fitou insists on remaining proudly independent. This sultry, voluptuous and peppery example is also juicy and fresh with characteristic notes of licorice and raspberry and blackberry. Won’t disappoint – an excellent value.

Château Croze De Pys Prestige Malbec Cahors 2010Château De Ségure Fitou 2012Boutari Grande Reserve Xinomavro 2008Cantina Del Taburno Fidelis Sannio Aglianico 2011

Boutari 2008 Grande Reserve Xinomavro, Naoussa, Greece ($18.95)

Sara d’Amato – As usual, the Boutari Grande Reserve is an outstanding value. Older vintages of xinomavro such as this allow full expression of this age-worthy varietal. From a hot and dry vintage, this mid-weight example is wildly complex and savory with notes of dried herbs and cherry along with earth and fig. Ready to drink.

Cantina del Taburno 2011 Fidelis Sannio Aglianico, Campania, Italy ($19.95)

John Szabo – Benevento province is Campania’s source of softer and riper versions of Aglianico, relative to Taurasi or Monte Vulture in Basilicata, the other two main regions of production, as reflected nicely in this wine. The accomplished coop of Taburno has rendered a polished and appealing style, without abandoning the grapes typical savoury dark fruit. A satisfying mouthful, ready to enjoy or hold until the early ‘20s.

Château De Nages 2012 Vieilles Vignes Costières De Nîmes, Rhône, France ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – Located in a cool pocket in the southern Rhone, Costières de Nîmes is influenced by the Mediterranean breezes of the Camargue, the warmth of the Languedoc and soils similar to that of the southern Rhône. This nexus of a locale is responsible for some pretty intriguing wines. This old vines example from leading producer Michel Gassier is farmed organically with grenache and syrah that make up the majority of the blend along with mourvèdre, the up-and-comer of the region. This cooler vintage is easy to drink with a lovely peppery character and an abundance of red and black fruit.

Château Rahoul 2010, Graves, Bordeaux, France ($29.95)

Sara d’Amato – This old school charmer exhibits a little funk and rusticity but also with characteristic Graves minerality and extensive breadth of flavours. Drinking beautifully now but can do with another 2-3 years in cellar.


Marchese Antinori 2012 Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy ($32.95)

John Szabo – I’m glad the marketing department at Antinori put Tenuta Tignanello on the label, a reminder that I can drink three bottles of this for the price of one bottle of this wine’s big brother, Tignanello without giving up too much. It’s mature, savoury, earthy and dusty, i.e. a classic Tuscan expression, classy, sophisticated and elegant. Best 2015-2027.

Poggio Verrano 2005 Dròmos, Maremma Toscana, Tuscany, Italy ($39.95)

John Szabo – Your ticket for a perfectly mature Tuscan red (alicante, cabernet, cabernet franc and merlot), with terrific complexity. I love the earthy, wet clay, succulent ripe blue fruit character and leathery notes, with fully integrated wood and great length. Best 2015-2020.

Alvaro Palacios 2013 Velles Vinyes Les Terrasses, Priorat, Spain ($46.95)

John Szabo – Priorat pioneer Alvaro Palacios’ old vines 2013 is a dense and full, concentrated and balanced wine, with great palate presence, offering loads of immediate pleasure up front though will surely hold, and improve, over the next decade or more. Best 2015-2028.
Sara d’Amato – Breaking the noteworthy familial tradition of production in Rioja, Alvaro Palacios, a winemaker with serious clout (years at Chateau Petrus), is considered a pioneer of modern Priorat. Progressive and dynamic, like the wines he creates, Palacios’ old vine blend of almost equal amounts of garnacha and cariñena is distinctively heady and aromatic, intense but polished.

Château Haut Corbin 2000 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France ($58.95)

John Szabo – A very good choice for those seeking classic Bordeaux, with age. This is pretty much at full maturity, on a plateau no doubt for another half dozen years or more judging on structure. Best 2015-2020.

Alvaro Palacios les Terrasses 2013Château Haut Corbin 2000Le-Serre-Nuove-Dell'ornellaia-2013Masi-Amarone-Della-Valpolicella-Classico-Campolongo-Di-Torbe-2009

Le Serre Nuove Dell’Ornellaia 2013 Bolgheri Rosso, Tuscany, Italy ($59.95)

John Szabo – It’s entirely inadequate to call this a second wine from Ornellaia – at any other estate this would be a highly respectable top wine. The 2013 is really singing – evidently an excellent vintage. Leave this in the cellar for at least another 4-5 years, or hold into the late ’20s. Best 2020-2030+.

Masi Campolongo di Torbe 2009 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy ($101.95)

John Szabo – When it comes to dried grape wines, few can match the technical prowess and fine vineyard sources of Masi. Campolongo di Torbe is for me the more elegant of this great house’s single vineyard Amarone, though 2009 is a massively structured wine to be sure, crafted with that hard-to-achieve balance between full ripeness, lack of green/vegetal flavour, and no appreciable volatile acids (varnish), often inevitable in this style of wine. It’s at least a decade away from prime maturity, and surely more. This should reach into the ’40s without a stretch. Monumental. Best 2024-2045+.

Buyers Guide For November 14th: Our Finest European Fortified

Sandeman Vintage Port 2011Lustau East India Solera SherryLustau East India Solera Sherry, Spain ($24.95)

John Szabo – A terrific bottling from Lustau, medium-sweet, rich, treacly and caramel-flavoured, with tremendous length and depth, and the lovely aromatic lift of wines that spend years in barrel. I love the salted caramel and pure hit of umami on the finish. A beautiful sipping wine, or for hard cheese, nuts, figs dates and pecan pie.

Sandeman 2011 Vintage Port, Portugal ($70.00)

John Szabo – Dense, intense, incredibly ripe and powerful, decades away from prime enjoyment – this is a real tour de force. Tannins are big, thick, rich, puckering. To be revisited after 2026 or so. A spectacular vintage for long ageing. 2026-2050.

Upcoming Events

The 3rd Annual Gourmet Games

525x225-JPG VersionThe Gourmet Games is a food and wine experience that goes beyond simply consuming food and wine. It aims to educate, excite, and challenge. Wineries and distilleries from 18 global regions will sample over 75 products at the Games. With many 90+ rated wines in the room, the Gourmet Games offers an array of exemplary taste profiles to satisfy every palate. Buy tickets now – Save $25 .

When: Tuesday, November 17th, 6:30 – 11pm
Where: Gladstone Hotel
*Special offer for WineAlign Members*

An Exclusive Dinner Celebrating the Best Small Winery of the Year – Thirty Bench Wine Makers

Thirty BenchOn Thursday, November 19th, WineAlign and Thirty Bench Wine Makers are pleased to present a special winemaker’s dinner celebrating the 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada’s Best Performing Small Winery. Buy tickets now.

When: Thursday, November 19th, 6:30 – 10 pm
Where: Holts Café (Holt Renfrew)

Gourmet Food and Wine Show Tutored Tasting: Volcanic Wines

Tutored Tastings - GFWEFrom the Ring of Fire to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the meeting of the Eurasian and African Tectonic plates in the Mediterranean, join Master Sommelier John Szabo for an exotic tour of the world’s best volcanoes! Or rather, the exceptional wines that grow on them. Since the dawn of time, humankind has been drawn to these lethal but irresistible fissures in the earth, not least because the soils surrounding them are incredibly mineral-rich and whatever grows on them, including grapes, has flavours as intense as a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. Salty, gritty and powerful — these are the world’s best volcanic wines. Buy tickets now

Host: John Szabo, Master Sommelier
When: Friday November 20th, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Cost: $85

Maison Bereche Champagne vineyard

Maison Bereche Champagne vineyard

IWEG Masterclass: The Intrigue of Grower Champagne

Hosted by John Szabo, Canada’s first Master Sommelier and IWEG WSET Diploma Graduate, experience the nuances that make grower Champagne so exceptional and unique! Taste 8 premium single estate Champagnes produced in limited quantities, most of which will not be available in the LCBO.

Event Details:

When: Tuesday, November 24th, 7-9pm
Where: IWEG Drinks Academy, 211 Yonge St., Suite 501
Cost: $105 / $95 for IWEG alumni

Sign up at


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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES November 14th, 2015

Szabo’s Smart Buys
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!

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Les bons choix de Marc – novembre

par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Il y a beaucoup de vignerons en ville, ces temps-ci. Il vient par exemple d’y avoir Montréal Passion Vin, un gros événement caritatif, puis ces jours-ci, jusqu’à samedi soir 21 heures, se tient La Grande Dégustation de Montréal – événement naguère connu sous l’appellation Salon des vins.

J’y serai bien sûr, à la Place Bonaventure ; dès demain jeudi et jusqu’à samedi en soirée – tantôt au stand de Chacun son Vin, tantôt dans les allées, à folâtrer. Comme vous, je vais découvrir à cette occasion un certain nombre de beaux vins. Et comme vous, je ne manquerai pas de saluer voire de fraterniser avec tel ou tel vigneron ou vigneronne, vu qu’il y en aura ici et là derrière les stands.

J’entretiens, cela dit, un rapport un peu spécial avec les producteurs de vin du monde entier. Je les respecte, je les admire même, parfois, mais jamais je n’ai été vraiment groupie – ou fan inconditionnel, si vous préférez.

C’est probablement ce qu’avait dû penser aussi, à l’époque, un certain vigneron italien, mécontent du traitement qu’on lui avait réservé dans un reportage du magazine Cellier première version. Fâché noir, l’individu, parce que j’avais mis l’accent sur un aspect de notre rencontre qu’il aurait préféré taire. Et il trouvait, dès lors, que je n’étais pas assez groupie à son goût…

Je n’ai encore jamais publiquement parlé de cet épisode. Ni ici, ni ailleurs.

En fait, si – du moins en partie.

J’avais effectivement raconté dans le magazine comment nous avions été froidement reçus par cet homme. Qu’il était arrivé en retard, mal luné, sans s’excuser, et qu’il avait bougonné quasi tout au long de l’entrevue.

Il s’est ensuite agi, pour nous, au retour, de restituer fidèlement les faits ainsi que l’ambiance. Après tout, nous étions les yeux et les oreilles de milliers de lecteurs qui vivaient l’aventure par procuration, à travers nos textes et nos photos.

Sauf que… le type en question, par agent interposé et une fois l’édition en question publiée, m’avait téléphoné chez moi, à la maison, un vendredi fin de journée, pour me passer un savon. En beau fusil il était, furax, furiosa.

Il n’avait jamais vu ça, un tel traitement, dans un magazine de vin. « Et je voyage à travers le monde et j’ai donné des centaines d’entrevues. Alors quand je lis ce que vous avez écrit, et venant d’un magazine comme Cellier, qui appartient à la SAQ, c’est le comble, vous ne pouvez tout simplement pas… »

Alors là, dottore, I’m sorry.

C’est justement parce que le Cellier était l’organe officiel de la Société qu’on a pu avoir les coudées aussi franches – et du reste merci à la SAQ, en passant, de nous avoir collectivement donné cette chance, durant six ou sept ans, jusqu’au changement de garde et de cap.

Pas de comptes à rendre à des annonceurs ou à quelque autre entité, pas trop de pommade non plus à passer : nous n’étions au fond redevables qu’aux consommateurs québécois, qu’aux lecteurs. Je pensais d’ailleurs surtout à eux, en préparant chaque édition. Tant pis si d’autres en ont pris ombrage.

J’ai recroisé voilà peu le vigneron qui m’aurait à l’époque volontiers crucifié. Le temps a bien fait les choses : on s’est parlé courtoisement, sans qu’il y ait d’étincelles, autour d’un verre de sa meilleure cuvée.

Le vin quand même, quel lubrifiant social !

À boire, aubergiste !

Un mot d’abord sur le Guide Hachette des vins 2016 (49,95 $), dont la toute dernière édition se distingue notamment par l’ajout, en tête de chapitres, de portraits de vignerons.

Le Guide Hachette s’avère surtout utile pour les agents promotionnels, les acheteurs de la SAQ et les amateurs prévoyant se rendre en France et avides de découvertes. Parce que la majorité des vins recensés, classés de « vin réussi » à « vin exceptionnel » et à « coup de coeur x, ne sont en effet pas offerts sur notre marché.

L’amateur de vins français gagnera toutefois à fureter dans les 1 300 quelque pages qui contiennent par ailleurs une foule d’informations sur les principaux vignobles.

Cela dit, comme dans beaucoup de guides, le fait que certains gros noms n’y soient pas ne signifie pas qu’ils ont raté l’examen d’entrée. À Sauternes par exemple, il serait étonnant que les châteaux Climens, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sigalas-Rabaud, Coutet et Yquem aient fait chou blanc. Vraisemblablement, ils n’ont tout simplement pas soumis leurs cuvées aux dégustateurs du Guide Hachette.

Bon. Maintenant, buvons.

Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser Blanc de Chardonnay – Un des bons champagnes à (relativement) bas prix – 38,50 $ – vendus à la SAQ, à la fois brioché et nerveux malgré le dosage à 11 grammes de sucre. Pas très long cependant, bien que l’ensemble demeure rafraîchissant et satisfaisant.

Fougeray de Beauclair Bourgogne rouge 2013 – Beau nez qui pinote, invitant, au fruité légèrement bonbon ainsi qu’avec des accents vanillés. Un rouge peu corsé, peu concentré mais relativement élégant, très bien travaillé. – 22,90 $

Domaine des Perdrix Bourgogne rouge 2013 – Un beau bourgogne d’entrée de gamme, épicé et relativement corsé, typé également, avec de la mâche – 27,40 $

Tribaut Schloesser Blanc de Chardonnay Brut Bourgogne Fougeray de Beauclair Rouge 2013 Domaine des Perdrix Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013 Hugel Gentil 2014 Hugel Riesling 2013

Hugel Gentil 2014 – Toujours aussi impeccable, nerveux, pas trop sucré (moins de 4 g), fruité exubérant. Assemblage de différents cépages typiques de la région. À table, et tel que suggéré par, le compagnon tout trouvé pour les plats de fruits de mer par exemple aromatisés à la noix de coco ou à la mangue. – 17,95 $

Hugel Riesling 2013 – Toujours à moins de 20 $ et toujours aussi satisfaisant. Un peu moins de 5 g de sucre qu’on perçoit à peine, étant donné l’acidité et le caractère « pommé », quasi comme un cidre.

Anwilka Petit Frère 2012 – Une belle bouteille sud-africaine, principalement issue d’un assemblage de syrah (60 %) et de cabernet-sauvignon (30 %). Beaucoup de fruit, de corps aussi, des tannins ronds et de qualité, et une empreinte boisée bien intégrée. – 20 $

Vin de Constance 2009 – Grand vin, inutile de tourner autour du pot. Cent soixante-cinq grammes de sucre résiduel, mais aussi 8 g d’acidité. Résultat : un blanc liquoreux nerveux à base de muscat passerillé (séché sur pied) absolument dé-li-cieux. – 65,50 $

Anwilka Petit Frère 2012 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2009 Pascal Jolivet Pouilly Fumé 2014 Bailly Lapierre Pinot Noir Brut Crémant De Bourgogne Col D'orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2008

Pascal Jolivet Pouilly-Fumé 2014 – Une indéniable pureté de fruit, des saveurs bien nettes et bien ciselées, vives et tendues. Le sauvignon est notable, sans trop d’exubérance, et une pointe fumée vient assurer la typicité. Par ici les huîtres ! – 26,20 $

Bailly-Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut – L’un des meilleurs mousseux hors Champagne sur le marché. Légèrement brioché, beaucoup de fraîcheur, un dosage pas trop appuyé (11 g tout de même, mais il n’y paraît presque pas). – 24,95 $

Col d’Orcia Brunello-di-Montalcino 2008 – Excellent rouge toscan à base de sangiovese (appelé brunello, localement), serré et minéral, à peine corsé par ailleurs et d’une indiscutable élégance. Persistance notable. – 47 $

Santé !


Note de la rédaction: Cet accès exclusif, ainsi que la possibilité de lire dès leur publication tous les commentaires de dégustation publiés sur Chacun son Vin, est offert à nos membres Privilège pour la somme de 40 $ par année. (Les membres inscrits bénéficiant d’un accès gratuit doivent, pour leur part, attendre 60 jours avant de pouvoir accéder à tout notre contenu.)

La Grande Dégustation de Montréal

Les vins du Sud-Ouest de la France

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Whites on the Rise and Ports on the March

Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – November 2015
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

White spirits are on the rise in Canada and it doesn’t seem to matter what season. The reasons for this are multifold. The growing number of micro-distilleries popping up tend to at least start with white spirits as they can be released unaged and thus quickly bring in cash. The overall quality and variety of white spirits such as tequilas, vodkas and gins has improved considerably. And the cocktail craze encourages the proliferation of all spirits.

The tequila category is growing in almost every province across the country with Ontario and BC leading the charge and premium 100% Agave tequila driving this growth. According to statistics from the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera (CNIT), the national chamber of the tequila industry in Mexico, in 2014 the volume of tequila exported to Canada was up 14% compared with 2013. More tellingly the value of the tequila exports to our country was $5.4million USD up 36% compared to 2013.

“Canadian consumers are asking for more added value tequilas, so the increase of the exports value,” said Christian Rosas, Análisis Estratégico (Strategic Analyst) at CNIT. “Not only in Canada, the global trend for our industry is to offer each time more and more brands of tequila in the high end and super premium categories, which is the result of years of education to the consumers who now are looking for this kind of tequilas, specially tequila 100% agave,” said Mr. Rosas.

Tequila is produced from the fermented sugars of the Tequilana Blue Weber agave plant primarily in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and within limited regions in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. By law all tequila must be produced from no less than 51 percent of sugars from the blue agave, with the rest from other natural sugars, most commonly corn or sugar cane. If the label doesn’t say “100% Agave,” or a similar statement, the product is a 51/49 tequila (the correct name for the category, not mixto as is commonly used).

All authentic, 100% agave tequilas will have a NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) identifier on the bottle, which represents governance of agave harvesting, production, bottling and exporting.

Cabo Wabo Reposado Tequila Casamigos Tequila Blanco Casamigos Tequila Reposado Maestro Dobel Diamante Tequila

More than 140 companies are currently authorized for the production of tequila of which 68 producers are members of CNIT (and responsible for 80% of the total production). The combined companies offer more than 1,300 different brands bottled in Mexico and 250 brands that have been created and/or developed outside of Mexico.

The major styles are Blanco (white) the traditional tequila that started it all: a clear spirit that is most often bottled straight from distillation, although it can be aged a maximum of two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels. Reposado (rested) is aged in any size oak barrel, from 2 months to one year. Añejo (aged) is produced from aging a minimum of one year to no more than three years, in a small oak barrels. Extra Añejo (extra aged) is a relatively new category, for any tequilas aged over three years.

A number of the newer brands to come on stream have a real cachet. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Sammy Hagar launched Cabo Wabo tequila inspired by his Cabo Wabo nightclub which opened in 1990 in Cabos San Lucas. (It’s a rocking party place that’s a must go for everyone who visits the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.) The tequila was born in 1996 on the back roads of Guadalajara when Hagar went searching for a tequila exceptional enough to serve inside his cantina.

1800 Silver Tequila 1800 Reposado Tequila Don Julio Blanco Tequila

Casamigos is an independent brand owned by the three founders, Rande Gerber, heart-throb actor George Clooney and Mike Meldman. Casamigos uses the highest quality highland blue weber agaves, roasts them for 72 hours (very much longer than the industry average), uses extra-slow fermentation and ages the tequila in small American oak barrels – no corner cut or expense spared. The Blanco and Reposado are in our markets.

Maestro Dobel Tequila, is a new product in Canada, arriving only earlier this year. It’s the world’s first clear multi-aged tequila: a rule-defying blend of Extra-Añejo, Añejo and Reposado tequila, aged in the European oak barrels and double filtered to remove all colour. Only the most traditional production methods are used.

Putting money behind the cocktail trend is 1800 Tequila (Silver and Reposado), a major sponsor of Made with Love – Canada’s Most Extravagant Cocktail Competition. 1800 Tequila’s marketing strategy in Canada focuses on integrating the product into exceptional and creative cocktails. Another good 100% agave brand nice in cocktails is Don Julio Blanco.

White Owl Whisky Ginger Lime Dillon's The White Rye Rendle's Original Gin Wódka Zoladkowa Gorzka

White whiskies such as White Owl Ginger Lime Whisky and white ryes including Dillon’s The White Rye are among the other neat white spirits in our market. Rendle’s Original Gin debuted in Canada this year – a pink hued charmer with exotic notes. Wódka Zołądkowa Gorzka, an herbal Polish vodka based on a 1950 recipe is another interesting spirit to reach our shores. Two other flavour packed liquors are Varnelli L’Anise Secco and Varnelli Amaro Sibilla. 

Finally ports are on the march as winter is coming. The Association of Port Wine Companies came through Toronto in October with a big contingency of producers. I was able to taste some wonderful old whites such as Dalva Porto Colheita 1963 Golden White that was nutty, lengthy and amazing but alas not available in Canada. (Unless you can persuade Dalva’s agent, The Case for Wine to private order it.) However the much younger but still aged in barrel, Taylor Fladgate Fine White Port is available at a bargain price. Warre’s LBV Bottle Aged Port 2003 and Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage 2012 are two new releases to stock up on.

Varnelli Secco Speciale Anice Varnelli Sibilla Amaro Taylor Fladgate Fine White Port Warre's LBV Bottle Aged Port 2003 Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 2012

Have white, pink or red – whatever it takes to keep you warm this winter.


Margaret Swaine

To find these and other picks at stores near you, click on: Margaret’s Whisky and Spirits

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

Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny Port

Gourmet Games - Nov 17th

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Buy The Case: Azureau Wines and Spirits

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by WineAlign

Buy the CaseIn this regular feature WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single importing agent. Our critics independently, as always, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in our Buy The Case report. Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines. 

For an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here

November – Azureau Wines & Spirits

Where are some of the world’s great new white wines lurking? That would be Spain, from grape varieties like grenache blanc, viura, godello and albarino being grown (often organically) on old vines ekeing out their existence in very rocky granitic and slate soils. Very few of this new breed of well made, minerality-studded whites are finding their way to the LCBO, but a couple of gems lurk right under our noses in the portfolio of Azureau Wines & Spirits. There are two huge Spanish white bargains among a diverse collection that also includes an affordable, cellarable Napa cabernet and other new world reds.

Below our critics have assembled their picks submitted for tasting in October, and they suggest reasons why you might consider buying by the case.

Or you can try them for yourself on November 17 at “The Gourmet Games”, a public tasting and food pairing event created by Azureau. The event is typical of CEO Dan Rabinovitch’s role as an importer. “Moving beyond the traditional agency’s role of simply representing a winery to a customer, Azureau also takes on the role of managing the entire brand experience of the winery in Canada. This entails developing engaging experiences–such as winemaker dinners and special events–in this market where consumers can taste the wine and get a taste for the passion that went into its creation”. (Special to WineAlign subscribers, a ticket purchase ($95) includes a $25 gift certificate redeemable towards a wine purchase the evening of the Games.)

The Spanish Collection

Señorio del Bierzo 2012 Godello, Bierzo, Spain ($24.95)

Mas Igneus White 2013 Senorio del Bierzo Godello 2012John Szabo – Excitement has been gathering in this cool northwest corner of Spain for some years now, mostly for the red wines, but indigenous whites are proving to be just as compelling. This is a fine and flavourful, rich and minty example from 100 year-old vines, with evident depth and concentration. Partial barrel ageing contributes more texture than flavor and the aromatic range is impressive. An affordable curio that over-delivers in the premium white wine category.
David Lawrason – This is a very nicely made, smooth yet fresh and almost elegant white from the local godello grape in the Bierzo region of northwest Spain. Quite exotic ripe yellow fruit (melon/pineapple) aromas are gently infused with herbs, wet stone, fennel and lemon meringue. The flavours have good focus and continuity; the length is excellent. A curio to be sure, but also priced for fine meals and gatherings at home.
Sara d’Amato – The modish winery of Senorio del Bierzo aims to promote the indigenous varieties of mencia and godello in the most expressive fashion possible. This clean and tangy example is pleasantly smoky with a mineral and saline component that adds freshness as well as a food-friendly character. The wine from these 100-year old vines is aged on the lees contributing additional body and complexity. A lovely “anything but chardonnay” house wine to have on hand for unexpected guests or for personal nighttime drinking pleasure.
Michael Godel – The rise of the Galician white grape Godello is happening, in part because it’s new and exciting to those who don’t know about it. But it’s also vindication for those who do. This example is both enervating and profoundly complex. It has the kind of white to make it a real autumn white wine. Fine as a restaurant pour as well.

Mas Igneus 2013 White, Priorat, Spain ($39.95)

David Lawrason – Whites are rare in Priorat, but perhaps should be more prevalent. When I visited the region in May I was taken again, and again, by the whites. I love the tension here from the slate soils, the sense of balance and finesse. It’s aromatically generous with oak spice, stone and vague green melon/pear fruit. It’s medium-full bodied with a sense of power yet restraint. I was reminded flavour-wise of a fine white Bordeaux.
Sara d’Amato – White Priorat is a rare treat to find in Ontario but this 100% white garnacha happily fills the gap. Brimming with nervy zest and energy and showing delicious purity of fruit, this is a sophisticated find that will have you mourning its quick departure from your glass. Sharing a case is the way to go with this premium priced curio selection.
Rioja Vega 2013 Paco & Lola Prime Albarino Lias 2011John Szabo – Split a case of this with a like-minded friend who finds occasions from time to time at the table for a heady and sumptuous white, like, say, with that roast lobster or wild mushroom risotto. Priorat may be far better known for its reds, but this organically-grown white is outstanding, very ripe and intense, wood-tinged, and amazingly complex. It’s is the sort of wine you can spend a lot of time tasting and unraveling, and enjoying its savoury, succulent saltiness.
Michael Godel – Garnatxa Blanca (Grenache Blanc) is one of northern Spain’s best kept secrets and one of the world’s wondrous whites. Whether from Aragon or here in Priorat, when it refreshes while walking the oxidative wire with intensity and complexity, it is a real treat.

Paco & Lola 2011 Prime Albarino Lias, Rias Baixas, Spain ($29.95)

Sara d’Amato – The Adega of Paco & Lola is one of the largest in the DO whose distinctive polka dot bottles have taken the export market by storm.  The Lias is a step-up from their entry albarino. This version is made from the free run juice winery’s oldest vineyards is aged on fine lees for 6 months. Although it sees no oak, it is lightly creamy, round and fleshy.  Due to its attractive packaging and price point, it makes an excellent gifting selection.

Rioja Vega 2013 Rioja, Spain ($15.95)

John Szabo – A great little house red or by the glass pour here, not your grandfather’s Rioja but rather a fresh and fruity, young and vibrant red for immediate enjoyment. A touch of CO2 prickle boosts the impression of liveliness.
David Lawrason – This is a fresh, young Rioja with minimal barrel ageing if any, letting the lift floral, raspberry/strawberry fruit of tempranillo shine through. It is light to medium weight, with some sense of fruit density and smooth texture, but it is the liveliness and evenness that is most memorable. Not much tannin here, but there is fresh acidity and lovely berry fruit jam on the finish. Ideal house red for casual meals and restaurant pours.

New World Reds

Girard 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa County, California ($44.95)

Salentein Numina Spirit Vineyard Gran Corte 2012 Girard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012David Lawrason – In the over-hyped world of Napa cabernet, it’s pretty rare to find authenticity at a decent price. I am finding many 2012 Napa cabs a bit shut down and blocky at the moment, but this has all the right cabernet blackberry/currant fruit, sage, oak spice and vanillin. A touch earthy as well. It’s full bodied, fairly dense, warm and a touch sweet, with considerable tannin. A wine to cellar for sure; best 2018 to 20122.
Michael Godel – This is the kind of Napa Cabernet that offers a generous amount of wine for the money. Really stylish Napa Cabernet at a very affordable price. The kind of recognizable wine to split a case with friends.

Salentein 2012 Numina Spirit Vineyard Gran Corte, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($34.95)

Sara d’Amato – A favourite at the Argentina Wine Awards early this year, Salentein winery is located high up in the Uco Valley and focuses on premium, sustainably produced wine along with fostering an economically stable community by creating fair wage jobs. This high elevation blend of five Bordeaux varieties is a unique style which is most expressively found in Argentina’s wine regions of Mendoza and Salta. Peppery and floral with an abundance of blue and black fruit, the tannins are ripe and silky but there is a fresh backbone which gives the wine lift and elegance.

Alpha Crucis 2012 Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($74.95)

David Lawrason – Named for the brightest star in the Southern Cross, this  is from a single limestone based vineyard in central McLaren Vale. It was made by Rebecca Willson, who also makes the wine at Bremerton, and she has gone the unusual and effective route of ageing in Hungarian oak barrels. This is certainly a big, rich and complex shiraz but within its weight class I still found considerable elegance and great fruit depth that manages to hide its 15% alcohol. Very impressive concentration and excellent length. I would age it another year or three. Given the price, split a case with like-minded fans of premium Aussie shiraz.

Casa Viva 2013 Carmenere, Rapel Valley, Chile ($15.95)

David Lawrason – Excellent value here in a fairly smooth yet vibrant young carmenere, but you need to enjoy the grape’s greener side. It offers up typical black and red currant fruit, vanillin, the fresh green herbs/juniper for which carmenere is known, and Chile’s familiar meaty note. It’s mid-weight, even and fairly soft, with easy tannin, making it easy going for immediate enjoyment. By the glass.
Sara d’Amato – A juicy, very pleasant carmenere showing some distinct varietal character such as dried herbs, soy and spice. Rather plush with velvety tannins and good colour. Nicely concentrated, open and generous. Ready-to-drink.

Alpha Crucis Titan Shiraz 2012 Casa Viva Carmenere Reserva 2013 Cocchi Vermouth di TorinoVarnelli Sibilla Amaro

And the Grand Finale

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Italy $29.95

John Szabo – Artisanal vermouths are making a big comeback in the cocktail world, with bartenders ditching the industrial stuff for fortified/aromatized wines with genuine complexity, made from a quality base. Cocchi’s vermouth should be on hand in every liquor cabinet for those more sultry cocktails, like a smoky Manhattan, or in fact anything with bourbon or rye, with its intensely medicinal, beeswax and honey, burnt orange peel and caramel flavours. But it’s also interesting and bold enough to be the main show itself, served over ice.

Varnelli Sibilla Amaro, Marche, Italy

Margaret Swaine – Made since 1868, the first product of founder Girolamo Varnelli, from herbs, roots and barks (including quinine from the cinchona tree) and local honey, this is medium brown in hue. Intense aromas of coffee, vanilla, black walnuts and herbs overlaid with honey carry through on the palate. Coffee and honey linger on the finish. An elegant amaro with lots of personality and complexity; long aging and decanting help to give it smoothness with just the right touch of bitterness. This is great as a digestive after a hearty winter meal or on the rocks with lemonade in summer.

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



This report was sponsored by Azureau Wines & Spirits. WineAlign critics have independently recommended the above wines based on reviews that are posted on WineAlign as part of this sponsored tasting. Azureau Wines & Spirits has provided the following agency profile.

About Azureau Wines & Spirits

Azureau Wines & SpiritsAzureau Wines & Spirits was founded on a basic principle: Inspire Loyalty. From the quality of products to their price to the sales person who represents them, a standard must be upheld that keeps clients coming back for more. Company founder, Dan Rabinovitch, learned the value of this credo from his years as a marketing manager at Vincor where he managed the Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin brands. “I learned this business at the feet of giants in Canadian wine sales. Pioneers like Don Triggs, Allan Jackson, and Donald Ziraldo understood how competitive this business is and how we have to over-deliver every day to keep our clients happy,” explains Rabinovitch.

Azureau began in 2007 with a handful of boutique wineries from the Mediterranean. Hence the name: Azure for blue and Eau for water. “I have found the wines of Southern France, Spain, and Italy to be some of the most exciting and best values out there today,” says Rabinovitch whose portfolio covers every notable region in Spain including the Iconic Bodegas Roda, Rioja Vega, and Enrique Mendoza.

The agency’s focus has broadened over recent years with the addition of several best-in-class wineries like Casas del Bosque (Chile), Clos Pegase (Napa), Giullio Cocchi  (Piedmont), and Bodegas Salentein (Argentina). “We don’t feel our portfolio needs to be everywhere; just excellent wherever we are,” Rabinovitch says with pride. The agency has a comprehensive process for vetting new suppliers which includes pre-tasting any wines with its network of leading Toronto sommelier-buyers. The agency turns away many more wineries and distilleries than it eventually works with in this process to ensure every product that comes to market is outstanding. “Our products have become an important component of some of Ontario’s leading restaurants; places like Bar Raval, Patria, and the Distillery Group of Restaurants. I don’t think you can achieve that without hard work and eye for quality,” concludes Rabinovitch.

Azureau Wines & Spirits has six sales representatives covering the province of Ontario.

How to order:

Order by E-mail: or Phone: 416.940.1641



Gourmet Games - Nov 17th

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