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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Feb 6, 2016

To Taste or Not To Taste; Beautiful Southern France
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Controversy is currently swirling around Ontario’s own appellation system, regulated by the Vintners Quality Alliance, or the VQA to you and me. A growing number within the industry believe that it’s time to do away with, or at least modify, the sensory – i.e. tasting – evaluation, which all VQA-aspiring wines must pass to earn the VQA designation. Does the VQA’s current definition of “free of faults and defects”, and “character and typicity of the stated wine category or grape variety”, match the reality of the ever-evolving wine world? Is the acceptable style range too narrow, stifling innovation, creativity, and, paradoxically, suppressing the potential quality of locally grown wines? I share some thoughts on the matter, and would love to hear yours.

If you’re more interested in the excellent and surprising wines from Southern France featured in the February 6th VINTAGES release, skip directly to the top smart buys. Next week, the Buyers’ Guide will highlight all of the WineAlign crü’s top picks from February 6th, while Michael Godel will publish a lyrical piece on developments in South Africa (the mini-theme from the release), along with currently available smart buys from this excellent source of value wines.

Op Ed: To Taste, or Not to Taste?

Last month I sat down with Vintners Quality Alliance executive director Laurie MacDonald, winemakers Norman Hardie and Jonas Newman, and wine industry veterans Will Predhomme and Peter Boyd, to discuss the state of the Ontario wine industry, and specifically the role of the Vintners Quality Alliance tasting panel. The VQA is Ontario’s appellation authority, which guarantees provenance, and regulates production, authorized grapes, and labeling. Additionally, all wines hoping for the VQA seal are put through a rigorous blind tasting to evaluate quality and varietal character before earning a pass.

Hardie had called the meeting to raise some concerns about the future of the industry, leveraging recent comments by respected British critic Jancis Robinson, who wrote after a tasting last May in London that, although there were some notable highlights, “several Chardonnays had that slightly formulaic pineapple-chunk quality that I more readily associate with the 1980s and early 1990s than with this century…”

Although Hardie agrees that the tasting panel has played an important role in raising the overall quality of Ontario wines during the past quarter century, protecting their fragile reputation in the beginning, he, along with a growing number of winemakers, contend that the tasting panel is forcing uniformity and standardization on Ontario wines, but not in the positive sense, and preventing innovation and evolution. Although the lows are screened out, so are the highs, which lie outside of the mainstream, a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Hardie’s own 2008 County Chardonnay failed the VQA tasting panel after multiple submissions for a technical fault – excessive sulphides (aka reduction, or flintiness) – despite strong demand from Ontario restaurants, and critical claim at home and abroad. (It was eventually narrowly passed by an appeals panel). Other high-profile failures in the past include Pearl-Morissette’s ‘Black Ball’ Riesling, deemed atypical and oxidized, though it, too, has garnered somewhat of a cultish following in Toronto sommelier circles.

The Benefits of VQA Designation

VQA Logo Leaf B_G BorderNone of this would matter much if obtaining VQA designation weren’t so critical to the financial success of a business. Wines without VQA status (but still 100% grown and produced in Ontario) are forcibly sold at far slimmer margins, under government laws, while VQA-approved wines enjoy significantly enhanced profit margins.

For example, according to a pricing calculator provided by Duncan Gibson, Director of Finance for the Wine Council of Ontario, from a $19.95 bottle of VQA wine sold directly to a restaurant, the winery retains $14.38. The same bottle of wine without VQA designation, sold to the same restaurant at the same price, earns the winery just $9.64, a 33% reduction in profits. Furthermore, non-VQA wines are effectively excluded from the LCBO’s retail distribution network, which leaves only cellar door or licensee-direct sales opportunities. The difference, especially for small wineries, is quite literally the life or death of the business.

As Norm Hardie puts it: “The economic pressure to pass [the VQA tasting panel] is enormous. Winemakers are encouraged to aim inside the box and not to shoot for potential greatness outside of the box, for fear of failure. Without the VQA sticker it is practically impossible for a winery to stay to economically viable.”

Eliminate the margin double standard and the problem is resolved – the panel could carry on maintaining the same standards for VQA wines, while other wineries would be free to pursue their own quality vision for Ontario wines without risking profitability, under some generic appellation designation. The aim of the financial incentive was, logically, to support the nascent Ontario industry, and encourage production of wines that met with VQA approval. But now, it has become a hindrance to further development. As I understand from MacDonald, however, quashing it would require a major government mobilization and take years to push through.

The Panel Process

The VQA hires the LCBO to facilitate the tasting panel process: trained LCBO product consultants taste groups of submitted wines blind at the LCBO laboratory, applying a set of rigid quality standards, established by the VQA. Arbitrary standards are set for acceptable levels, of, for example, volatile acidity, oxidation, sulphides, lack of fruit, and unclean aromas and flavours. And it’s a very tightly run ship. Guidelines, and the results and approval rates, are consistent. That’s not the issue. The real issue is the guidelines themselves.

So the question remains: is the VQA tasting panel’s definition of wine too restrictive? Does upholding minimum quality and style standards come at the expense of stifling experimentation and industry development?

Many, including winemakers and wine buyers, feel that rather than ensure quality, the restrictive mandate of the panel instead now shackles the industry within a very narrow band of acceptable wine styles. Is it time then to eliminate the panel, or at least broaden its definition of acceptable, and allow companies the scope and latitude to follow their own vision of quality?

Such a move would simply recognize the reality that the world wine industry has changed radically in the last decade, and that the thresholds of acceptance of certain aspects of wine, such as volatile acidity, turbidity, oxidation, and brettanomyces, to name just a few, are in constant flux, and change from region to region, country to country, sommelier to sommelier, wine writer to wine writer.

Never has this been more clear than in the last half-dozen years, which have witnessed the rise of ‘counter-culture’ or ‘natural’ wines. A growing cadre of winemakers around the world have begun to reject the limiting definition of ‘quality wine’ that was spawned by numerous wine making schools around the world, obsessed with uniform, standard, technical perfection. They’ve embarked on new trails of experimentation, which in many instances have been the re-discovery of old, pre-industrial trails. And sommeliers, critics and consumers are demanding such wines, viewed as unique and artisanal, reflective of their origins, not a recipe. Who’s to say what’s truly good or bad, authentic or contrived? Everyone has an opinion, but no one has an answer. That’s because there is no single answer.

Skin macerated white wines are a good case in point. Although “orange” wines have become exceedingly popular in bellwether markets like London, New York, Tokyo and San Francisco, such wines currently fall outside of VQA tasting norms and would not be approved. A dossier is currently being drawn up to define skin-macerated white wines in VQA-acceptable terms – I was part of a recent tasting with Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble and a large gathering of professionals to attempt to assess just what the taste/style parameters should be for skin contact whites. But the discussion struck me as doomed from the beginning. Any effort to define necessarily excludes, and I wouldn’t want to be shouldered with the responsibility of defining an entire wine category. Yet that is exactly what the VQA, and the tasting panel it oversees, is expected to do: grapple with the slippery notion of typicity, and box in the notoriously flexible edges of faults and defects.

Ontario would not be alone in implementing change. Australia has eliminated the tasting panel requirement for export approval, faced with the embarrassing reality that certain wines, for which importers were clamoring around the world, had been denied an export certificate based on an arbitrary definition of what’s good. South Africa, too, has overhauled its tastings, adding categories that wholly embrace natural wines. Other countries like the United States never established tasting panels in the first place, opting instead to control origin and labeling only, and let the market decide what is good, as should be the case in any free market economy.

(It’s worth noting, as a side bar, that there is a growing number of imported wines that fail the LCBO or SAQ laboratory tests due to high levels of Volatile Acidity, for example, as determined by arbitrary limits. With enough insistence, however, agents have been able to secure the release of these wines, pre-sold in many cases to an eagerly awaiting market, with the caveat that returns will not be accepted. The point is that there is a market for ‘alternative’ wines. Ontario wineries have no recourse for such a release, if they want the VQA seal of approval and financial benefits.)

The role of the VQA should be first and foremost, like all appellation bodies, to regulate origin and to ensure that wines are safe for public consumption – a mandatory chemical analysis is already provided by the excellent LCBO laboratory for all wines sold in Ontario. Beyond that, in a young region, growing dozens of permitted grape varieties, and with no traditional, established winemaking techniques, how is it possible to determine varietal typicity and intrinsic quality?

Even in Europe, with its long-established history of wine production and traditional wine styles, the regional appellation model is cracking at the seams – many of the rules that were put in place originally often enshrined substandard practices, and top producers are struggling to get out.

It’s true that abolishing the tasting panel would open the door for ‘poor quality’ wines to reach the market under the VQA seal. But the reality is that this is already happening. The rejection rate is extremely low – (on average around 3% of submissions, according to the VQA; the panelists are aware of the economic impact of a rejection). The question is, how many more great wines would be made, how many more ground-breaking wines, how many more successful experimental wines would emerge if winemakers weren’t burdened with the knowledge that a wine must fit into a tidy little box in order to gain VQA approval. I think the risks are worth it. As Hardie states: “An ocean of one-dimensional wines is more damaging than one filled with exciting wines of character, mixed with a few oddball wines on the sidelines.”

And in the end, determining good from bad should be entirely up to you, the consumer. I’d love to hear your comments on the matter – please drop us a line in the comments section below.

Smart Buys from Southern France 

VINTAGES surprises with the February 6th feature on southern France, listing a range of decidedly edgy, out of the box, and notably premium-priced selections. This is anything but a ‘safe’ selection of predictable but dull, widely appealing, commercial wines. Rather, the lineup includes a number of bold and intense, characterful wines, the kind that may polarize the room, but at least force you to take notice. It was refreshing to taste through the releases.

My top value for money is the Cave de Roquebrun 2013 La Grange Des Combes, Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun ($18.95). What a distinctive blend of 50% syrah, with grenache and mourvèdre! It’s rare to find sub-$20 wines with this much character, class and complexity, balance and concentration, grown on the poor schist soils of Roquebrun in northern St. Chinian (Langedoc). This is all cold cream, black pepper, smoke and tar, dried garrigue and much more, over dense dark fruit, aged in stainless steel. Chapeau bas, I’d say, best 2016-2025.

Cave De Roquebrun La Grange Des Combes 2013 Château Pech Redon L'épervier La Clape 2012 Domaine Houchart 2013

Slightly more edgy and bold is the Château Pech-Redon 2012 L’épervier La Clape, Coteaux du Languedoc ($24.95), a stylish, modern, very ripe and wood-inflected red blend (syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and carignan), flirting with volatility (acetic and acetone), and with dense and firm tannic structure. This has impressive depth of flavour and complexity, not to mention length. Palate-warming alcohol (14.5% declared) drives the finish home on wintry nights. Best 2016-2022.

Although Provençal wine production, and exports, are overwhelmingly pink, the region is home to supremely savoury red wines, like the fine value Domaine Houchart 2013 Red, Côtes de Provence ($16.95). This is a typical blend of grenache, cabernet sauvignon, carignan and syrah from near Aix-en-Provence, but somewhere between Bordeaux and the southern Rhône in style. Garrigue and fresh black fruit flavours mingle comfortably, offering above-average complexity, and lively, food-friendly acids. I’d serve this with a chill alongside pâtés, charcuterie and tomato-based sauces. Best 2016-2021.

But if rosé it must be (and it should be enjoyed outside the summer months), pick up former rugby star Gérard Bertand’s 2014 Côte des Roses Rosé, Languedoc ($18.95). It’s a lovely, classic southern French rosé blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah crafted in the Provençal style, which is to say, pale, delicate, fruity and bone dry, a sheer pleasure to sip and showing beautifully right now. The stylish package will make an impression on Valentine’s Day, too.

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012 Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet 2014

Although not technically part of the thematic but grown in southern France just the same, the top red in the genre is hands-down the exceptional Château La Nerthe 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($49.95). 2012 provided for a rich and heady, ripe but balanced vintage, made from nearly equal parts Grenache and Syrah, with 14% Mourvèdre and 5% Cinsault, aged two-thirds in barrel and one-third in foudre. It hits a pitch-perfect marriage of fruit, earth, and spice, as well as acid, tannin and alcohol, meaning that this should age exceedingly well, even if it’s already a joy to drink right now. Consider this an archetype from the modern end of the spectrum, best 2018-2028.

And finally, if you want to run the southern French theme all evening, start off with the fresh and engaging Beauvignac 2014 Picpoul de Pinet AP ($14.95). Picpoul from around the seaside town Pinet is considered the Muscadet of the Languedoc, and this is indeed a fruity and crunchy, aperitif-style white, or perfect accompaniment with the fish/seafood course.

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

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES February 6, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys: Southern France
All February 6th 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!

Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

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20 vins à moins de 20 $ pour janvier 2016

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

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

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


Les choix de Marc

Hmm, moins facile que d’habitude, trouver de bons vins à moins de 20 $ pour ma sélection mensuelle. Sûrement parce que j’ai goûté moins de nouveaux produits qu’à l’accoutumée ces dernières semaines, à cause des Fêtes, des congés, etc. Quand je ne me suis pas tout simplement efforcé de ne boire que de grosses bouteilles assez chères ! J’en ai tout de même identifié cinq qui m’ont paru très recommandables, et que voici :

Louis Roche Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 : Un très bon aligoté, à la fois concentré et nerveux, avec une légère note fumée en finale. Léger (12 % d’alcool) et sec, moins de 2 g de résiduel, dieu que ça fait du bien…

Newen Malbec Reservado 2015 : Un rouge argentin costaud et enrobé, la concentration est notable, l’empreinte boisée aussi, mais l’acidité est également là, qui tonifie le vin et lui donne de l’allant. Une réussite signée Bodegas Del Fin del Mundo et supervisée par les bons soins de Michel Rolland, le célèbre consultant bordelais.

Louis Roche Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 Newen Malbec Reservado 2015 Castillo de Almansa 2009 Blason de Bourgogne Chardonnay Mâcon Villages 2014 Codorníu Selección Raventós Brut Cava

Castillo de Almansa 2009 : Très bon rouge espagnol de la région Castilla la Mancha, corsé et généreux, et doté d’un très bon fruit. Le vin a vu le bois, c’est certain, mais rien de vanillé ni d’outrancier ici, même qu’on note une belle fraîcheur et même une certaine élégance.

Blason de Bourgogne Chardonnay Mâcon-Villages 2014 : À 16,95 $, un bourgogne blanc très recommandable, à la fois assez riche et assez nerveux, avec une bonne acidité.

Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Brut Cava : L’un des bons mousseux espagnols disponibles sur le marché, à la fois goûteux et bien relevé, juste assez acidulé.

Les choix de Rémy : Commencer l’année du bon pied 

Après les fêtes de fin d’année, la très haute saison pour les ventes de vin, on regarde souvent les rayons de la SAQ avec un peu moins d’attention, une fois janvier venu.

Pourtant, il y a encore de belles trouvailles à faire parmi les nouveaux arrivages, comme ce Fuenteseca, un joli blanc de macabeu et de sauvignon blanc venu de la région d’Utiel-Requena, en Espagne. Frais, sympathique, et… en bas de 13$. Belle combinaison.

En rouge, je n’avais jamais goûté le Quinta das Maias 2012, arrivé juste avant Noël. Un fichu beau rouge d’hiver, avec ce caractère énergique et équilibré qui caractérise si bien les meilleurs vins du Portugal. De la poigne et de la fraîcheur.

Fuenteseca Macabeo Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Quinta Das Maias Dâo 2012 Domaine La Montagnette 2014 Paul Jaboulet Les Traverses 2014 Nederburg Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Le Domaine La Montagnette n’est pas, pour sa part, une nouveauté en soi, mais des arrivages récents font qu’on trouve assez facilement encore du 2014, un peu partout au Québec. Profitez en, c’est un des rouges les plus satisfaisants au catalogue, à moins de 20$. J’en ai l’eau à la bouche, juste d’y repenser.

Parfois, ça vaut aussi la peine de jeter un nouveau coup d’œil à des producteurs qu’on connaît depuis longtemps. C’est ce que je me suis dit en goûtant le Ventoux Les Traverses 2014 de la maison Jaboulet, en tout cas, qui offre un très beau rapport qualité-prix (tout comme le Parallèle 45, un classique de la même maison qui a repris du punch, récemment, à mon avis).

Un petit dernier, pour la route? Si vous cherchez un cabernet bien fait, bien mûr, mais sans excès de sucre ou de boisé caricatural, l’Afrique du Sud a de quoi vous satisfaire, notamment avec la cuvée Manor House, de la maison Nederburg. Les classiques, parfois, ça a du bon, aussi.

Les choix de Bill

Rarement les aubaines sont-elles autant de mise qu’en janvier, après l’arrivée du relevé de décembre de la carte de crédit… Je vous emmène pour l’occasion faire le tour du monde. On commence en France, dans la Loire, avec l’excellent Sauvignon Blanc S de Sablette 2014, à moins de 12 $. Bien typé sauvignon sans exagération et plaisamment sec, contrairement à plusieurs de ses homologues sauvignons bon marché.

Autre grand cépage de la Loire, le chenin blanc. Difficile toutefois de révéler son plein potentiel en dehors de l’Anjou ; quoique l’Afrique du Sud lui réussisse très bien. Pour preuve, le Ken Forester Petit 2015, croquant à souhait tout en faisant preuve d’une certaine profondeur et d’une certaine complexité.

S de La Sablette Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2015 Montgras Antu Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2014 Domaine Laurent Martray Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2014 José Maria Da Fonseca J M F

On passe au rouge et au Chili, avec l’étonnant Antu Montgras 2014. Un assemblage de cabernet-sauvignon et de carmenère à la fois mûr et retenu. Maintenant, pour ceux qui veulent simplement siroter un bon rouge au coin du feu, ou pour accompagner le saumon, il y a le Brouilly Vieilles Vignes Laurent Martray 2014 : fruité, texture et caractère éminemment digeste, facile à boire.

Cela dit, mon aubaine du mois vient du Portugal : le JMF Fonseca. Un assemblage de castelaõ et d’aragonez vendu moins de 10 $ et bourré de fruit tout en étant dénué de prétention.

Les choix de Nadia

Début d’année rime avec manque de soleil et froideur. Pour vous réchauffer, faites voyager vos papilles du côté du Portugal. Certes, c’est l’hiver là-bas aussi, mais ce Douro 2013, produit par la cave Lavradores de Feitoria vous le fera presque oublier. Pas plus de 13 % d’alcool, mais beaucoup de volume en bouche pour moins de 15 $.

Épaulé par ses deux actionnaires, le Québécois André Tremblay élabore le Barco Negro, Douro 2013. À peine plus cher et un cran plus étoffé que le précédent, le 2013 est tout aussi rassasiant que les précédents millésimes, avec ses goûts intenses de fruits noirs et d’épices. Belle bouteille!

Dans le même registre plein et chaleureux, la cuvée Tradition 2012 de Denis Ferrer et Bruno Ribière traduit à merveille le caractère méridional des vins du Roussillon, au sud-ouest de Perpignan. Difficile de résister à sa finale vibrante et généreuse dont les parfums d’herbes séchées rappellent ceux de la garrigue.

Lavradores de Feitoria Douro 2013 Barco Negro 2013 Domaine Ferrer Ribière Tradition 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Pinot Noir 2014 Château La Forchetière Muscadet Côtes De Grandlieu 2014

Si vous appréciez la souplesse et la rondeur des pinots noirs du nouveau monde, vous aimerez le Pinot noir 2014, Max Reserva d’Errazuriz. Particulièrement complet en 2014, le vin est maintenant produit exclusivement avec des raisins des nouveaux vignobles côtiers de la vallée d’Aconcagua.

Pour faire honneur aux huîtres – les fêtes sont passées, mais c’est encore la saison – goûtez le Muscadet 2014 du Domaine de la Forchetière. Léger comme une plume, mais loin d’être insipide. Un très bon achat pour l’amateur de muscadet.

Santé !

La liste complète : 20 bons vins à moins de 20$

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

Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012


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20 under $20 for January 2016

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Ah yes, the end of the month. It’s the time when we pay for our excesses over the previous weeks. Well, fear not, this doesn’t mean that you still can’t drink well. Our four critics have chosen for you their favourite five under $20 wines that they have recently tasted. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here is the first version of the 20 under $20 for 2016.

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

Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

If there ever was a need for some inexpensive wine choices it’s when that December’s credit card statement comes in. For this installment, I’m taking you around the wine world. Starting in France’s Loire Valley, the S de Sablette 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent white wine for under $12. Textbook in terms of varietal correctness and unlike many inexpensive sauvignons, nicely dry.

Another great Loire Valley grape is chenin blanc. Few places in the world outside of the Anjou region do it justice, however, South Africa is arguably its second home. Try Ken Forester’s 2015 Petit Chenin which shows the crispier side of the grape, while still showing a certain aromatic depth and complexity.

S de La Sablette Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2015 Montgras Antu Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère 2014 Domaine Laurent Martray Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2014 José Maria Da Fonseca J M F

Moving to red wine and Chile, I was really impressed with 2014 Antu from Montgras. A blend of cabernet sauvignon and carmenere that shows ripeness, yet great restraint. For those of you who just want to sip a red by the fire, or pair with a piece of salmon, try the Laurent Martray 2014 Vieilles Vignes Brouilloy. Fruit, texture and impeccable drinkability.

My bargain of the month goes to the José Maria da Fonseca JMF. A blend of Castelao and arragonez, for under $10, it delivers great fruit without any pretense. 

Marc Chapleau’s picks

Hmm, it was a little more difficult than usual to find new, good under $20 wines to recommend this month. Due to the festive season and holidays, I haven’t had the opportunity to taste many new arrivals. So just to show that I wasn’t limited to drinking only expensive bottles, I did manage to find five wines that are highly recommendable.

Louis Roche 2014 Bourgogne Aligoté : A very good aligoté that shows both that twitchy acidity and good concentration, with a slight smokey note on the finish. Light in alcohol at only 12% and nicely dry with a mere 2 g/l of residual sugar. After the holidays, both of these qualities are welcome.

Newen 2015 Malbec Reservado : An Argentinian red that is rich and mouth coating. The oak notes are there as well, as is a good acidity which helps keep the wine from getting heavy. A wine by Bodegas Del Fin del Mundo which has the celebrated Michel Rolland as its winemaker-consultant.

Louis Roche Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 Newen Malbec Reservado 2015 Castillo de Almansa 2009 Blason de Bourgogne Chardonnay Mâcon Villages 2014 Codorníu Selección Raventós Brut Cava

Castillo de Almansa 2009 : A very good Spanish red wine from the Castilla la Mancha. Powerful and generous, and marked by a solid fruitiness. The wine has spent some time in oak barrels, that’s for certain, but there are no overly obvious vanilla notes or other overly oak induced markings. Just great freshness and a certain elegance.

Blason de Bourgogne 2014 Chardonnay Mâcon-Villages : At under $17, this is a white Burgundy that is highly recommendable. It shows what makes Burgundy so good – the richness of the chardonnay grape while maintaining a balanced acidity.

Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Brut Cava : One of the better Spanish sparkling wines on the market. Flavourful, and spicy, with a balanced acidity.

Rémy Charest’s Starting the year on the right foot 

After the year-end holidays, which are very much the high season for wine sales, our attention to wine tends to slow down. But there are some excellent wines that just hit the shelves, including some interesting under $20 values. Fuenteseca is a great example – a really pretty little blend of macabeo and sauvignon blanc from the lesser-known Spanish region of Utiel-Requena. Fresh, fun, and under 13$. A nice combo.

On the red side of things, the 2012 Quinta das Maias hit the stores just before Christmas. It’s a really good winter red, with the energy and balance that’s so enjoyable from Portuguese wines. Lots of grip and freshness.

Fuenteseca Macabeo Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Quinta Das Maias Dâo 2012 Domaine La Montagnette 2014 Paul Jaboulet Les Traverses 2014 Nederburg Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Domaine La Montagnette isn’t exactly new but it sells out quickly. The recent release of the 2014 means there is still a fair bit to be found all over Québec. For me, it’s one of the most satisfying under-20$ reds at the SAQ, in any category. I’m get thirsty just thinking about it.

That being said, it can also be worth taking another look at well-established producers. Case in point, the 2014 Ventoux Les Traverses, from veteran Rhône producer Jaboulet. A very nice QPR, just like the Parallèle 45, from the same house, which recently has been stellar in my opinion.

Finally, if you’re looking for a well-made cabernet, ripe but without cartoonish oak flavours or excessive residual sugar, South Africa is a good place to look, as exemplified by the Manor House Cabernet Sauvignon from Nederburg. Cabernet can be fun, too.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

The beginning of the year brings cold weather and a lack of sunshine. To warm up your taste buds at least, choose a wine from the coast of Portugal. Sure, it’s winter there as well, but the Lavradores de Feitoria 2013 Douro will make you forget about it. Under 13% alcohol, but with a lot of volume for a wine under $15.

Québécois André Tremblay is behind another selection from the Douro, Barco Negro 2013. A touch more expensive and dense than the Lavradores, but the 2013 is as satisfying as previous vintages with its intense aromas of dark fruit and spice. It’s a great bottle.

Lavradores de Feitoria Douro 2013 Barco Negro 2013 Domaine Ferrer Ribière Tradition 2012 Errazuriz Max Reserva Pinot Noir 2014 Château La Forchetière Muscadet Côtes De Grandlieu 2014

In a similar style of sun-filled and full bodied wine, the Domaine Ferrer Ribière 2012 Tradition well exemplifies what’s great about Roussillon’s wine. It’s difficult to resist the finish that is both vibrant and generous, with notes of dried herbs that permeate the air of the region.

If you love the suppleness of pinot noir from the new world, then you’ll love the Max Reserva 2014 Pinot Noir from Errazuriz. The 2014 is particularly accomplished, possibly because all the grapes now come from new vineyards on the slopes of the Aconcagua Valley.

Got oysters? The holidays have passed but they are still in season. Try the 2014 Château La Forchetière Muscadet. Light as a feather, but far from bland. Highly recommended for any fan of Muscadet.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

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

Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Italy – a special place for both wine and food

Gismondi’s Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

There’s already a buzz in Vancouver about the massive contingent of Italian wine producers headed for the west coast in late February to headline the 38th Vancouver International Wine Festival. The city will host some 60 producers that make wine in just about every important region of the vine land they call Enotria. But are we ready?

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be in Italy I take my watch off. It’s not so much that time stands still, but rather that it moves at its own pace and that rarely includes 60 beats per minute. Italians can be gregarious talkers and use a whirlwind of gestures when doing so, but when it comes to food and wine there is a calmness and a sense of purpose in their choices that few other cultures can match.

It’s not that they spend a lot of time thinking about pairing wine and food as much as they serve what comes naturally, or might I say historically, in the region where they live. What we can say is there is a simplicity and a clarity of flavours on the plate that make Italy a special place for both wine and food. Often only one or two flavours are present in any dish and rarely more than three and it is this reliance on simplicity and uncluttered flavours that gives Italian cuisine its wide appeal.

When you think about it, the Italian way is probably a good road map for where we need to go in Canada. Certainly there could be some relevance between modern-day high end Canadian wine and the mostly lean, fresh style of Italian white and red wines. Freshness and minerality are the hallmarks of many Italian whites and when paired with equally fresh seafood dishes they can move to another level, revealing finesse and character from the front of the glass to the back.

Pasta and Italian wine is an easy match and if you think like an Italian and add perhaps only one or two ingredients the results can be stunning. In the case of verdicchio, a crisp white with plenty of minerality and acid, it is a quick match for tossed fresh pasta, available at most specialty markets, with a variety of pesto. In Canada, pasta, some fresh clams in a butter sauce, and a steely chardonnay could result in a perfect match.

Map of Italy - Vancouver International Wine Festival

Pinot grigio is probably the best know Italian white wine but often the light-bodied, dry, crisp wine is overwhelmed by the food we serve with it in North America. A case in point is squid. It is almost always breaded, spiced and served as an appetizer when in Italy, pan-seared squid with a little olive oil, salt and pepper is the perfect match for a refreshing pinot grigio.

Red wines with vital acidity, like barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese, are incredibly versatile food wines working with mushrooms, tomatoes, wild boar, raw beef and more. I can think of many local Canadian gamay, cabernet franc, grenache and pinot noir that fit that bill.

Enter Italy. There is something about Italian cuisine that simply does not intimidate the average food and wine aficionado in the way French food and wine traditions do. Perhaps it’s the Italian propensity for showing up late and staying late that sets a tone for informality. This month as the Canadian dollar heads south faster than a snowbird, I suggest you consider organizing an in-house dinner party and end a hectic day, Italian-style, at home, with friends.

It’s easy enough to pull together a no fuss menu and share it before hand with your guests and then suggest they bring along some of their favourite Italian labels to accompany one of the courses. With no restaurant mark-ups to double the price consider spending a bit more at retail and bring along a great bottle of wine for the night.

Friulano Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli 2013 Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco SuperioreTo get the party underway think about serving a selection of antipasti and your favourite Prosecco. The best Prosecco, the DOCG, are made from the glera grape and grown in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene regions of Veneto, just north of Treviso. It’s a softer style bubble, with ripe fruit and a brisk finish, well-suited to all types of antipastos and pre-dinner bites. Think marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, a selection of olives, and some thinly sliced sopressata, capicola and Genoa salumis. I recommend the Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

Make pasta your secondi or second course and keep it simple. You can pick up a variety of fresh pastas at most specialty markets. Simply decide on the saucing and you are ready-to go. Linguine with pesto is both satisfying and easy to prepare and it’s relatively wine friendly. All you have to do is boil some water, cook the pasta al dente and then toss with the pesto.

To accompany the pasta, think about the cooler, fresher style Italian whites from the north or those grown near the sea, or at altitude. A current favourite is Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli Friulano 2014 from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Fragrant wildflowers, honeysuckle, nectarine and fennel set the stage for a white wine that will cut through the pasta.

The main course sounds impossibly challenging but grilled Florentine steak or Bistecca alla Fiorentina could not be simpler to prepare. Rub the steak with a good olive oil and generously season it with salt and pepper. Then simply toss it on a pre-heated grill and prepare it to order for your guest. Grill some vegetables ahead of time – they taste sensational as the dry heat concentrates natural sugars and gives them a bold and rustic look. Now you have a main course built for big reds.

Tuscan sangiovese or Super-Tuscan reds are perfect match or you could look to the south of Italy for slightly more rustic reds that are big on value. Begin with Rocca della Macie Roccato 2009, a super Tuscan bled made by Sergio Zingarelli. Roccato is a 50/50 mix of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon all picked by hand and vinified separately aged in French oak barriques. It easily has the heft to handle any grilled meats.

Similarly, fans of big reds will enjoy the Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010.  Colledilà has been a part of the Brolio estate for centuries, and is the cru that stands above all others. Expect a rich, round, smooth, juicy palate with a long but warm, meaty finish.

Rocca Delle Macìe Roccato 2009 Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 Il Passo Nerello Mascalese E Nero D'avola Vigneti Zabu 2013 Batasiolo Bosc Dla Rei Moscato D'asti 2014

The ultra bargain steak wine comes from Sicily: Il Passo Nerello Mascalese e Nero d’Avola Vigneti Zabu 2013, Sicily. An 85/15 mix of nerello mascalese and néro d’avola whose canes are cut allowing the grapes to naturally dry out on the vines. The nose and palate is a savoury mix of baked fruit including plums, figs and black currants flecked with a peppery, cherry, chocolate finish.

If you have paced yourself through this multi-course marathon you can easily cap off the evening with an array of chocolate truffles from your favourite local purveyor and a lightly frizzante fruity ending based on the aromatic moscato grape. The fruity, orange ginger notes of the lightly sparkling moscato will all but set off the chocolate and send your guests home smiling.

The Batasiolo Bosc Dla Rei Moscato d’Asti 2014, as reviewed by Sara d’Amato, will suit.

Now all you need do is add music (Italian of course), and lively guests (Italians not a prerequisite) and you’ve yourself una serata perfetta – a perfect evening.


Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012


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Un scotch de femme, hein ?

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Notre site s’appelle Chacun son Vin mais cela ne veut pas dire qu’on ne triche pas, de temps à autre. De toute manière, il est bien évident qu’aimer le vin, c’est sinon aimer aussi la bière et les spiritueux, du moins ne pas rester complètement insensible, quand une belle offrande liquide et alcoolisée se présente à nous.

Voilà en tout cas la grâce que je vous souhaite. Une bonne IPA, une sublime grappa, un vieil armagnac…

Je n’allais pas oublier le scotch, que les amateurs du genre se rassurent. C’est juste que j’entretiens une relation un peu spéciale avec ce dernier. En fait, pour tout dire, je suis plus du type « eau-de-vie blanche ». La grappa dont je parlais à l’instant, ainsi que les eaux-de-vie de fruit alsaciennes, par exemple.

Mais je demeure curieux, de nature et par culture. Ainsi, quand un bon scotch atterrit en face de moi, un certain frémissement me parcourt l’échine. Miam : de nouvelles odeurs, de nouvelles saveurs, une nouvelle texture aussi sûrement, pour ça je suis toujours partant.

La seule chose qui me débecte, ce sont les whiskys, écossais souvent, très fortement goudronnés et créosotés. Qui donnent l’impression d’être pris par les pieds et pendu la tête en bas dans le tuyau de la cheminée de poêle, après trois ou quatre mois de chauffe… « Allô, la Terre appelle Ardbeg, allô ? » (Ardbeg — le 10 ans notamment — est l’un des scotchs les plus créosotés qu’il m’ait été donné d’approcher. Le plus déroutant, c’est qu’il sent la suie, le goudron, le « noir » mais il est parfaitement blanc, transparent, incolore, pour un peu on dirait de l’eau. Le traître, qui nous prend par surprise…)

Le Guide Hachette des Whiskies

Misère ! Comment un être décent et normalement constitué peut-il aimer ça ?

Car mon truc à moi, je l’ai appris l’autre jour alors que je dégustais avec des experts en la matière, c’est le scotch… de femme.

Je ne sais pas si ces derniers pensaient que j’allais rougir. Ou me rétracter. Sauf qu’il en faut plus pour m’ébranler, mes gaillards.

Va donc pour le « scotch de femme », pas de trouble.

Un Cardhu ou un Glenfiddich 12 ans font effectivement tout à fait mon bonheur. Des trucs lisses et sans aspérités, qui coulent, sans couilles…

M’en fous : encore une fois j’assume pleinement ce côté féminin, cette anima, comme dirait Carl Jung.

Voilà, c’est dit, je suis sereine, maintenant ;-)


À boire, aubergiste !

Avant de picoler, un mot sur le nouveau Guide Hachette des Whiskies, paru à la fin de l’année dernière sous la plume de Martine Nouet, rédactrice en chef pendant six ans de Whisky Magazine France.

Un bel ouvrage, plutôt complet et surtout très accessible, sans approche ni vocabulaire trop alambiqués (!).

Notes de dégustation, historique, conseils de service et de conservation, brève présentation des principales distilleries : le compte y est et le graphisme, la mise en pages, est à la fois aérée et invitante. Un excellent ouvrage d’introduction.

À noter, avant de passer aux suggestions de la semaine, qu’au Québec, à la SAQ et au rayon des spécialités, les ventes de scotchs ont progressé de 12 pour cent l’an dernier, alors que celles des whiskies toutes origines confondues (Écosse, Irlande, Canada, Japon, etc.) ont pour leur part bondi de 42 pour cent.

Scotch is in the air…

Speyburn 10 ans Highlands Single Malt — Complexe au nez, herbacé et vanillé, finement épicé également ; le caractère tourbé ressort en bouche mais sans excès, la texture est grasse. Persistance notable.

Ancnoc 12 ans Highland Single Malt — Prononcer a-noc. Résolument tourbé au nez, épicé, de la finesse en bouche, caractère élégant.

Speyburn 10 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Ancnoc 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky Glenfarclas 25 Year Old Highland Single Malt Chic Choc Spiced Rum

Glenfarclas 25 ans Highland Single Malt — Excellent scotch, complexe et profond, vanillé (fût de xérès), finale tourbée et finement créosotée, je le reconnais volontiers. Cher, mais exceptionnel.

Domaine Pinnacle Chic Choc Rhum Épicé Un rhum aromatisé élaboré par la microdistillerie du domaine Pinnacle, basée à Cowansville, dans les Cantons de l’Est. Couleur ambrée, et odeur rappelant d’entrée de jeu le Egg Nog – la muscade, la cannelle. En bouche, cette eau-de-vie titrant 42 pour cent révèle des saveurs à la fois enrobées et épicées. Assez agréable à boire seul, pour lui-même, rafraîchi – bien qu’on puisse bien entendu aussi le préparer en cocktail.

Ijalba Rioja Reserva 2011 — On se trompe rarement avec la bodega Ijalba, qui élabore des riojas de facture moderne sans pour autant être racoleurs. Avec juste ce qu’il faut de bois, de tannins et d’amertume. En prime, telle une trame sous-jacente, on détecte un côté pierreux et agréablement asséchant, qui donne à penser qu’il s’agit d’un peu de minéralité.

Newen Reservado Malbec 2015 — Costaud et enrobé, la concentration est notable, l’empreinte boisée aussi, mais l’acidité aussi est là, qui tonifie le vin, lui donne de l’allant. Une réussite argentine signée Bodegas Del Fin del Mundo et supervisée par les bons soins de Michel Rolland, le célèbre consultant bordelais.

Ijalba Reserva 2011 Newen Malbec Reservado 2015 De Sousa & Fils Cuvée 3A Champagne

De Sousa Cuvée 3A Champagne Grand Cru — Un champagne bio vif et tendu, bien sec également. Au nez, on perçoit des notes de levures ainsi qu’un engageant côté madérisé. Rien de franchement brioché ou beurré par ailleurs, plus marqué par des notes d’olive verte. Excellent !

Château Vignelaure 2010 Coteaux d’Aix-en -Provence — Quel beau vin ! Corsé, savoureux, avec de la profondeur. Assemblage de cabernet-sauvignon (2/3) et de syrah (1/3). La générosité méridionale et une certaine droiture, du nerf, apportée par le cabernet. Déjà très bon et relativement souple, et se gardera aisément un bon trois ou quatre ans.

Château Vignelaure 2010 Château Mont Redon Lirac Blanc 2014 Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja 2009

Château Mont-Redon Lirac blanc 2014 Un vin savoureux, corsé et généreux, qu’une belle acidité vient rehausser. Un blanc à servir assez frais (7-8 C) et à réserver pour la table, par exemple avec des moules – marinières ou autrement apprêtées, par exemple au cari. Très bon rapport qualité-prix (23 $).

Imperial Gran Reserva Rioja 2009 —Puissant, généreux, charmant. Et profond, qui plus est ! Et suave, tout en élégance ! Et avec ce boisé typique du Rioja, avec des notes rancio également. Le tout sur une trame fondue, indiquant que le vin est prêt à boire bien qu’il pourrait être conservé sans problème quelques années. Prix ( 51 $) justifié.

À bientôt !


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


Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz

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Regions, sub-regions and appellations in France

The Caveman Speaks
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw: Image credit Jason Dziver

Bill Zacharkiw

If you have ever checked out a French wine label and have very little idea as to what everything means, I get it. It’s confusing stuff. Take the Burgundy region for example. Within the region of Burgundy, you will find 100 different appellations, which include regional appellations, village appellations, Premier and Grand Cru appellations, as well as lieux-dits and Monopoles.

To illustrate, Réné Bouvier’s Bourgogne, Le Chapitre, is a regional appellation (Bourgogne), while Jean-Claude Boisset’s Côte de Nuits Villages, Au Clou, is a village appellation (Côte de Nuits-Villages) with the distinction visible on the labels below.

Though on the surface this seems very complicated, and admittedly it is, the idea behind all these different classifications is to give the wine lover an idea as to what’s in the bottle. In theory, all wines which share a similar classification or name should also share a similar taste profile. The more precise the appellation, the more one should find things in common.

Domaine Rene Bouvier Bourgogne Pinot Noir Le Chapitre 2012 Jean Claude Boisset Côtes De Nuits Village Au Clou 2013

Region, sub-regions and appellations

So let’s start with the difference between region, sub-regions and appellations. A region, simply put, is a large territory which groups together a large number of vineyards. In France, the country is divided into 13 wine producing regions: Alsace, Bordeaux, Beaujolais, Burgundy, Champagne, Charentes, Corsica, Jura-Savoie, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire Valley, Provence, Rhône Valley, and the South West.

These regions, for the most part, share a relatively similar climate and grow a limited number of grape varieties. But aside from the smallest regions, like Champagne, Burgundy or Beaujolais, where every wine is similar in style – Champagne is always bubbly, Beaujolais is always a red wine made with gamay, and Burgundy is for the most part pinot noir or chardonnay – it’s hard to get more than a very general idea as to what a wine will taste like by looking only at the region.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier ChampagneDomaine Laurent Martray Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2014Marchand Tawse Pinot Noir Bourgogne 2013 Domaine Vincent Girardin Émotion Des Terroirs 2013

It is when these regions start getting sub-divided that you begin to see more commonality in the wines. These sub-regions group together vineyards which share similar climates and soil types, as well as grow the same grape varieties.

For example, here is how Bordeaux is divided into sub-regions:

Region: Bordeaux

Sub-regions: Médoc, Graves, Libournais, Blayais, Entre-deux-Mers

This sub-dividing continues. Within each sub-region, even smaller vineyard areas are grouped together. Basically, the smaller the sub-region, the more all the vineyards in that area will share similar soils and climates, grow the same grapes, and in theory, produce a similar style and quality of wine.

Continuing with the Bordeaux example, the Médoc sub-region is divided into two smaller sub-regions: Bas Médoc (lower) and Haut-Médoc (upper). Within the Haut-Médoc, there exist six even smaller sub-regions, called communes, which were deemed to have even more similarities from one vineyard to the next: Margaux, Saint-Julien, Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Listrac-Médoc and Moulis.

Maison Blanche Medoc 2011Louis Roche Grand Listrac 2010

So then what is an appellation? An appellation is a legally defined growing area with distinct rules designed to assure that every winery using the appellation name make a similar style of wine and quality. In France, if a region or sub-region produces what is considered to be distinctively good wine by the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO), then the area is granted appellation status.

The appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system was designed to recognize and regulate each of these regions, sub-regions, and if you permit me, sub-sub-regions. So each of these growing areas which have been granted appellation status have rules to follow if the winery wants to use the appellation name on the bottle. You may see the letters AOP rather than AOC in recent vintages. Appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) is the new European classification system, replacing AOC, and essentially meaning the same thing.

Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) or Appellation d'origine protégée (AOP)

Back to Bordeaux and the Médoc. Each of the sub-regions I listed above are considered an appellation. So if the vineyard is located in the area of the Haut-Médoc, but not in one of the even smaller sub-regions, the wine can be labelled Haut-Médoc AOC. If the vineyard is in, for example, Margaux, then the wine can be labelled Margaux AOC. This is providing the winery follows the rules governing the appellation with respect to grape varieties, yields, and minimum ripeness (alcohol) levels.

So if I am a winery owner in Margaux, the permitted grapes are cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. If I want to grow syrah, I can, but I cannot use the appellation name Margaux on my label. What I can use however, is another classification called Vin de Pays. While in general this classification denotes lesser quality wine, that is not always the case. The Italian version of this, IGT or Indicazione Geografica Typica, is where one finds Supertuscans, which are Italy’s most expensive wines.

As AOP is becoming the defacto European classification, replacing AOC in France and DOC in Italy, a new streamlined classification called IGP will replace Vin de Pays and IGT.

Once you learn the ABC’s (or AOPs, DOCs, IGPs, etc.) of the wine world, your knowledge of what’s in the bottle will increase, and hopefully your buying and drinking pleasure as well.



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

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

Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Jan 23, 2016

From Macedonia to the Snake River in Idaho
By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Last week I covered the two main features of the January 23rd release, Portugal and South America, with some thoughts on where you’ll likely find the best wine values in 2016. This week, the whole WineAlign crü weighs in with their top smart buys from all regions, covering a wide swath of the world from Macedonia to the Snake River in Idaho, with a little California sunshine thrown in for good measure.

Buyer’s Guide to January 23rd Whites: 

Porcupine Ridge 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95)
John Szabo – A subtle and smoky, fairly rich and concentrated sauvignon blanc, especially in this price category. This has ample complexity and depth to satisfy, not to mention fine length.

Domaine de la Janasse 2014 Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Rhône, France ($21.95)
John Szabo – Every time I taste great Rhône whites like this, I wonder why I don’t drink them more often, especially in these cooler months. This is a really lovely, rich, salty, fruity, and complex white, balanced and flavourful, with genuine flavour concentration. I love the white flowers, marzipan and cherry blossom flavours added to the symphony of white fleshed orchard fruit. Best 2016-2022.
Sara d’Amato – A brother and sister duo leads the winemaking team at the innovative Domaine of La Janasse in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Proficient winemakers are exactly what were required in the cool and rainy year of 2014 to manage and compensate for this unusual vintage. This refreshingly zesty blend dominated by grenache blanc is packed with peachy, citrus flavour and a mouthfilling texture. Highly memorable.

Marchand-Tawse 2011 Saint Romain, Burgundy, France ($31.95)
John Szabo – This is fine, old school white Burgundy with great complexity and plenty of chalky texture and flavour from Pascal Marchand and partner Moray Tawse (owner of Tawse and Redstone wineries in Niagara). It’s bright and sharp, still lightly reductive, flinty, with inviting lemon custard and green nut flavours. Drink or hold this into the twenties without concern – the acids will hold this together for some time yet. Best 2016-2021.
Sara d’Amato – A Burgundian-Canadian collaborative negociant project that has proved immensely successful, consistently delivering top examples of a range of appellations throughout Burgundy. Saint-Romain’s characteristic notes of white flower, dried herbs and mineral are nicely expressed on the palate of this fresh and focused chardonnay.

Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Domaine de La Janasse Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2014 Marchand Tawse Saint Romain 2011 Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2014Domaine Chevallier Chablis 2014Martin Ray Chardonnay 2013

Blue Mountain 2014 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, BC  ($24.95)
David Lawrason – The Mavety family purchased their stunning property in 1971 and have created Canada’s finest 100% estate winery, farmed organically from the beginning. The result – up and down their portfolio – are wines of real structure and depth. This subtle barely oaked chardonnay shows a lovely, generous aromas of ripe apple nicely framed by vanillin, subtle herbs/fennel and spice. It’s medium-full bodied, fairly intense with great grip. I would age it a year or two.

Domaine Chevallier 2014 Chablis, Burgunday, France ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – A dependable favourite of VINTAGES, this new vintage is a superb value delivering an authentic, traditional  Chablis at an impressive depth. A terrific match for moules marinières.

Martin Ray 2013 Chardonnay Russian River Valley, Sonoma County ($28.95)
David Lawrason – Martin Ray was a pioneer of boutique California winemaking. He was based in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The winery that now bears his name is centred in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. This suave, rich chardonnay has fine bones, showing welcome restraint for California chardonnay with lovely subtle aromas of yellow/Japanese pear, gentle wood spice, dried herbs. Very focused, poised and complete with excellent length.

Russian River Valley Vineyards ©John Szabo, MS

Russian River Valley Vineyards ©John Szabo, MS

Buyer’s Guide to January 23rd Reds: 

Tormaresca 2012 Trentangeli, Castel del Monte, Puglia, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo – Antinori’s establishment of the 100 hectare Boca di Lupo estate, certified organic and within view of the Vulture volcano next door in Basilicata, was a real shot in the arm for Puglia, historically a bulk wine producing region. Fans of plush and dense reds will love this blend of aglianico with cabernet and syrah, delivering massive fruit extract – the sort of modern style southern Italian red wine that turns heads in North America. Best 2016-2022.

Vincent Girardin 2013 Vieilles Vignes Santenay, Burgundy, France ($37.95)
John Szabo – Genuine values in Burgundy are few and far between, so it’s tempting to snap them up when they appear. Vincent Girardin has been a reliable name in the negociant world of Burgundy for as long as I remember, and this is a particularly compelling red from the southernmost commune in the Côte d’Or, best left for another 2-4 years in the cellar. It’s more structured and vibrant than the mean; I like the juiciness and vibrancy, and the tanginess on offer. Best 2018-2025.

Popov Versnik 2011 Merlot Tikves, Republic of Macedonia ($13.95)
John Szabo – Go on, get out of your comfort zone and try this exceptional fine value from Macedonia. You’ll be surprised, as I was, by the complexity delivered here, as well as firm structure and spicy fruit flavours. This would not be out of place in a tasting of premium Right Bank Bordeaux.

Tormaresca Trentangeli 2012 Vincent Girardin Vieilles Vignes Santenay 2013 Popov Versnik Merlot 2011Château des Demoiselles 2010

Château Des Demoiselles 2010 Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux, France ($17.95)
David Lawrason – There is a fine little tranche of 2010 Bordeaux on this release, and this is a great value example – a delish yet structured merlot from the region neighbouring St. Emilion up-river.  It nicely combines ripe berry fruit, cream, oak spice and some gentle earthiness. There is some green tannin and heat, and it has very good fruit and depth at the price.

Carpineto 2010 Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy  ($29.95)
David Lawrason – From a leading Tuscan family, here’s an estate Chianti Classico from an excellent vintage. It is showing great lift, presence and maturing complexity. The nose is nicely spiked with meaty and herbal bits, but also with classic sangiovese currants, vanillin and smoke. It’s mid-weight, firm and tart edged, and the length is excellent. Still could use a year or two.

Terrazas de los Andes 2013 Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($18.95)
David Lawrason – The challenge with inexpensive, young malbec is how to balance such a big-boned, flavourful and often tannic wine – without resorting to sweetness and trickery.  Not sure of the secret here but it is a very complete, natural and detailed malbec with ripe blackberry, subtle herbs, licorice and oak. So well stitched and effortless. One of my favourite Argentine producers year after year.

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 Terrazas de Los Andes Reserva Malbec 2013 Ste. Chapelle Gem State Red 2012 Mocali Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Ste. Chapelle 2012 Gem State Red, Snake River Valley, Idaho, USA ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Idaho is known as the “Gem State” due to its abundance of natural resources and its substantial rare mineral deposits. Although this is not the first release in VINTAGES of a wine from Idaho, such an offering easily qualifies as a seldom seen, curio selection. The Snake River valley is a shared appellation that also runs into the state of Oregon and produces fresh and elegant reds nicely portrayed in this value-priced example from Ste. Chapelle.

Mocali 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosso Toscano, Tuscany, Italy ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – In a “Super Tuscan” style, this inexpensive IGT delivers impressive power and structure for the price.  It’s bold and satisfying, and may just cure the chills, though a touch tannic, so be sure to decant and pair with a salty protein.

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

From VINTAGES January 23rd, 2016

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

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

Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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An Exclusive Gourmet Dinner & Tutored Tasting Featuring Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon – Ottawa

‘Terra Rossa Trends’ –Discover the Latest Chapter in the Wynns Coonwarra Estate Cabernet Story

On Thursday, January 28th, WineAlign is pleased to present an exclusive gourmet dinner and tutored tasting featuring wines from Coonawarra’s pre-eminent wine producer, Wynns.

WYNNS woodcut

Join us for an intimate (only 16 tickets) tutored tasting and gourmet dinner at Ottawa’s Restaurant e18hteen with Wynns‘ senior winemaker, Sue Hodder. Sue will guide you through a tasting experience that explores expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon through the microclimates of Coonawarra, showcasing the variety of the region. Subtle changes in soil type within one region can provide quite different grapes, critical from a winemaker’s perspective.

Taste the different Cabernet wines from this revered terroir with creatively matched food selections.

Wynns is the Coonawarra region’s pre-eminent wine producer, with the largest holding of the region’s best and longest established vineyard sites. Today the wines are regarded as benchmarks for the district, lauded for their consistent quality and depth of flavour.

About the Winemaker:


Sue Hodder

Sue Hodder is one of Australia’s best-known winemakers and this year celebrates her 21st vintage with Wynns – making wine from wonderful, expressive fruit grown in the heart of the terra rossa. Sue commenced her career as a viticulturist. Sue believes her early viticultural training – assessing vines, analysing mature fruit and tasting the finished wine – gave her an invaluable insight into the importance of the vineyard in quality winemaking. Sue brings valuable experience with vintages in other noted wine regions around the world and has judged extensively in regional, national and international wine shows.

Sue will be joined by WineAlign’s Janet Dorozynski.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Event Details:

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Location:  Restaurant e18hteen (18 York Street, Ottawa K1N 5T5)

Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm

Tickets:  $125 including taxes and fees

*Please note there are only 16 tickets available for this event, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Reception Wines:

2014 Wynns Coonawarra Chardonnay
2012 Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz

Wine List for Tutored Tasting:

2013 Wynns “The Gables” Cabernet
2012 Wynns V&A Lane Coonawarra Cabernet  Shiraz
2013 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 Wynns “The Siding” Cabernet
2012 Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon

Purchase Your Tickets Here



Seasonal Soup


Roasted Beet Salad
Sourdough cedar lavash, fromage blanc, lemon confit


Roasted Black Cod
Miso beurre blanc, rutabega, furitake


Spiced Squash Fritter
Vegan walnut velouté, pickled and seasonal vegetables


Grilled Bone in Pork Loin
Caraway, braised cabbage, pine nut cream


Sourdough Babas
Vanilla and brandy, chantilly cream, fruit preserves


Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée
Fruit preserves, spoon sweets

*There are no substitutions*

About Restaurant e18hteen

Restaurant e18hteen was named after its unique location in an 19th century heritage building in the ByWard Market Ottawa. Our adaptation of a Modern Steakhouse with a signature “Canadian Freestyle Cuisine” is a destination for local foodies, politicians, artists, celebrities and out of town visitors.


Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Purchase Your Tickets Here


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2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

The Wine World is Here
February 20 – 28, 2016

The 38th Vancouver International Wine Festival, Canada’s top wine show, takes place February 20 to 28. Over the course of eight days, the festival pours 1,450+ wines from 155 wineries from 14 countries at 54 events and 30 venues. The focus is on Italy this year.

Widely considered one of the best wine fairs in the world, the rock stars (or “vine stars”) of the world’s vineyards – a proprietor or family member, winemaker or other senior executive – come to the festival annually. You’re quite likely to find that the person pouring your wine has his or her name on the bottle. All 155 vine stars are in their booths in the Acura Tasting Room, and at outstanding dinners, lunches, grazing events and everywhere their wines are served. Identify them by the royal blue lanyard holding their name badge. Among the Italian vine stars you’ll find Sergio Zingarelli, proprietor, Rocca delle Macìe; Barone Francesco Ricasoli, president (and 32nd Baron of Brolio), Barone Ricasoli; Francesco Zonin, executive vice-president, Zonin; Pio Boffa, owner (and great-grandson of the founder), Pio Cesare. Check out more of the vine stars coming to Vancouver this year.

VanWine Fest

WineAlign critics at VanWineFest

WineAlign’s BC Critic team will be on hand tasting and reconnecting, leading seminars or co-hosting events. In addition to manning the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) education booth in the tasting room, DJ Kearney will take you on a wine and food pairing journey at Signature Pairings, featuring wines from around the world matched with small bites prepared by some of Vancouver’s top chefs. Anthony Gismondi brings together a collection of legendary personalities crafting Italy’s most iconic wines at the Legends of Italy seminar. Master of Wine Rhys Pender will be co-hosting Iconic Grapes Around the Globe and the trade event Excitement in a Glass. Several events have already sold out or are going fast, so check out the Festival at a Glance for the latest look at what’s still available.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

ITALIA! takes centre stage

Each year the festival designates one of the participating countries or regions as the theme, and this year the spotlight shines on Italy. The sophisticated ITALIA! theme country section in the Acura Tasting Room showcases 60 Italian wineries and some 240 wines from nine distinct regions, including Veneto, Tuscany and Piedmont. Another 48 wines will be served at Italian tasting stations, including two stations presenting wines from the key viticulture regions of Chianti Classico and Valpolicella. Nearly one third of the Italian wineries are participating for the first time.

This marks the largest assembly of Italian wineries in VanWineFest history. “This gathering of Italian producers will allow Vancouver wine lovers to explore nine of Italy’s storied regions, discovering an extraordinary range of grapes – more than 50 varieties in the tasting room alone,” says VIWF winery selection chair David Hopgood. “No other country in the world could come close to offering such a diverse array of rare and exciting grape varieties.” In addition to its own sophisticated section in the Acura Tasting Room, Italian wine and food will be featured in 30 special events

Italia! Theme Country for 2016

The heart of the festival

The Acura Tasting Room is where the wine world gathers. All 155 participating wineries are gathered in one room, with vine stars in attendance pouring selections from their cellars at four International Festival Tastings and two trade-only Trade Tastings, presented by ContainerWorld. This is your opportunity to meet the men and women behind the wine and ask them questions about the wine you’re sampling. When you discover wines you like, you can buy them at the BC Liquor Store wine shop onsite. And should you find a wine you like a lot, if it has a BUY THE CASE sign, you may order a case directly from the booth. For BC residents, whether you buy one bottle or 100, BCLS offers free delivery to your nearest store within two weeks of the festival.

Free ticket with hotel booking

Don’t Wine and Drive

Festival goers who book a downtown hotel by February 9 via can get a free ticket to their choice of four International Festival Tastings, a value of $75 to $95. Quantities are limited and the weekend tastings are expected to sell out soon, so act now.

Trade Days Conference, presented by Sysco

In addition to the 44 consumer events, the festival features a three-day, 10-event Trade Days Conference, presented by Sysco on February 24 to 26 that will shed light on the trends, tastes and topics that affect the business of wine. With wine experts and principals from around the world pouring their products and sharing their trade secrets in person, this is the preeminent opportunity in Canada to meet the men and women behind the wines. For the last three consecutive years, Trade Days has been voted the “#1 Food, Wine & Hospitality Industry Event in Canada” by New York’s BizBash Top 100 Events. The Trade Days lineup includes two Trade Tastings, presented by ContainerWorld. These trade-only tastings will feature all 700+ wines offered at the consumer International Festival Tastings, plus an additional 146 wines for trade only.

The conference features Dr. Ian D’Agata, an international expert on Italian wines, as keynote speaker. Dr. D’Agata is a wine writer based in Rome, whose Native Wine Grapes of Italy won the 2015 Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year prize. Dr. D’Agata is contributing editor of Decanter magazine, staff wine writer at Vinous and has twice been named Italy’s “best wine journalist” by the Comitato Grandi Cru. He is the Scientific Advisor of Vinitaly International and Scientific Director of the Vinitaly International Academy. Canadian-born and multilingual (English, French, Italian), Dr. D’Agata’s interests stretch beyond wine: he is a pediatric physician practicing in Rome. He is the keynote speaker at Italy’s Indigenous Whites, Italy’s Autochthonous Reds, and Italy’s Great Wines.

Note that Trade Days events are available only to those in the wine, restaurant and hospitality industries who buy, sell, serve or market wine in their business. Registration is required. Ticket limits may apply to some events.

Tickets on sale now

Tickets to all public events at Canada’s premier wine show are now on sale. VanWineFest is an eight-day celebration of wine and food that features 54 events, including winery dinners, Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction, lunches, wine minglers, educational seminars, and of course the Acura Tasting Room.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Tickets for public events are on sale now.

Trade Days tickets go on sale Tuesday, January 26 at 9:30 a.m.


Online: (24/7)
By phone: 604-873-3311, toll free 1-877-321-3121
In person: Box office: 305-456 West Broadway, Vancouver
Box office hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Friday

Email Queries:


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Les bons choix de Nadia – janvier 2016

La vie après la surdose
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Mi-janvier. À l’heure qu’il est, vous vous êtes peut-être déjà remis de la surdose habituelle de vin, de bière, de bouffe – de tout, en fait – qui accompagne le temps des fêtes. Avec un peu de chance, vous vous êtes peut-être même remis des innombrables chroniques qui ventaient les mérites de telles ou telles bouteilles avec la dinde, la tourtière, les huîtres, la musique folklorique, les lumières multicolores, et tout, et tout. Un raz-de-marée de suggestions de vins!

« Trop, c’est comme pas assez. Pu capab de voir des articles sur le vin », ai-je lu quelque part sur les réseaux sociaux vers la mi-décembre. Mes excuses donc, à l’auteur desdites lignes et à tout ceux qui n’en pensaient pas moins.

Cela dit, et même si au cours des dernières semaines, j’ai moi-même eu plus soif de tisane et de jus vert que de boisson alcoolisée, je me permets néanmoins quelques suggestions pour accompagner la froideur de ce début d’année. Il y a toujours bien des limites à mener une vie monastique, non ? 

Et comme l’heure est aux résolutions, je me suis dit que je vous aiderais à commencer du bon pied en vous proposant un peu de changement. Pas trop, juste un peu.

Si vous aimez, vous aimerez

Si vous aimez les barolo, barbaresco et autres vins de nebbiolo, vous aimerez le caractère austère de la Grande Réserve 2010, Naoussa (20,60 $) de la maison Boutari. Rien d’extravagant et sans la profondeur ou le fruité irrésistible des cuvées produites par Thymiopoulos, mais un bon vin droit, franc et somme toute très charmant avec son goût d’une autre époque.

Si vous aimez les vins courants du Languedoc-Roussillon, vous aimerez le profil méditerranéen du Firriato, Nari 2012, Sicilia. D’autant plus recommandable qu’il est offert sous la barre des 10 $ jusqu’au 31 janvier. Peu de vins à la SAQ procurent autant plaisir pour si peu cher.

Boutari Grande Reserve Xinomavro 2010 Firriato Nari Nero D'avola Petit Verdot 2012 Donnafugata Sedàra 2013

Si vous aimez les vins de Maremma, vous aimerez la fermeté doublée de générosité du Donnafugata, Sedara 2013 (18,75 $), un assemblage de nero d’avola, de merlot, de cabernet sauvignon et de syrah. J’ai particulièrement aimé sa finale parfumée.

Dans le même registre, mais un cran plus gourmand et juteux, le Easton House 2011 (23,60 $) est d’emblée séduisant par son nez de fruits noirs et d’épices. Généreux, mais pas du tout sucré, contrairement à tant de vins californiens de cette gamme de prix. Une bonne bouteille pour accompagner la cuisine des jours de semaine.

Si vous aimez l’intensité des vins du Priorat, vous voudrez redécouvrir les vins du Douro. Parmi les valeurs sûres à la SAQ, le Vila Regia, Douro 2014 (10,55 $) s’appuie sur des tanins assez fermes et déploie en bouche comme au nez, toute la générosité des bons rouges du Douro. Chaque année, un très bon achat.

Easton House 2011 Vila Regia 2014 Nyakas Budai Irsai Oliver 2014 Suertes Del Marques 7 Fuentes 2013

Si vous aimez les parfums des muscats d’Alsace, mais pas leur teneur habituelle en sucre, vous aimerez le Nyakas, Irsai Olivér 2014 (14,45 $). Variété de l’Europe de l’Est qui a été développée vers 1930 comme raisin de table, l’irsai olivér donne des vins hyper parfumés, mais celui-ci est parfaitement sec et s’appuie sur une acidité vive.

Enfin, si vous aimez les parfums singuliers et la vigueur des bons vins rouges du Piémont ou ceux de l’appellation Bairrada, au Portugal, vous ne voudrez pas manquer le retour en succursales du 7 Fuentes Suertes del Marques 2013 (21,20 $). Un vin espagnol hors-norme, produit sur l’île de Tenerife, à quelques centaines de kilomètres du Maroc, mais qui regorge pourtant de fraîcheur. Un voyage aux îles Canaries en classe économique. Comment résister ?


Nadia Fournier

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



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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008