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20 Under $20 in BC : May 2016

Let your taste buds travel

These past three weeks, our WineAlign West crew has been in Vancouver, Okanagan, Similkameen, Vancouver Island, Sonoma, Napa, San Francisco, New York, London, Champagne, Loire Valley and Paris. That’s not so bad for a pack of thirsty west coast wine geeks. It’s pretty evident from our picks, that our taste buds travel globally even when we’re shopping for wine in BC.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi 

Summer has arrived early on the west coast. Temperatures are well above average and it looks like its going to be a long, dry season. This bodes well for crisp, fresh, summer-sipper style wine sales to keep you cool while you cut back on your water usage. The recent fire events in Alberta remind us all to be vigilant in the forests all summer.

Errazuriz is doing a neat job with sauvignon as evident by the value in this super tasty Errazuriz Estate Series Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Refreshed by its proximity to the cold Pacific Ocean you get a wine that is slightly less aggressive than the Kiwi style and a lot more affordable.

Speaking of value, the Kvint Solaricco Fresco, a lean blend of pink traminer, viorica and aligoté, is crisp and bone dry. A summer charcuterie plate served al fresco is the ticket here.

My classy no sugar, no oak red pick is the Castello di Gabbiano Chianti 2014. Try it with barbecue grilled pizza.

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Solaricco Fresco 2013 Gabbiano Chianti 2014 Quails' Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2015 Heartland Shiraz 2013 Meyer Family Vineyards Mclean Creek Rd Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2014

Locally, the just released Quails’ Gate 2015 Chasselas – Pinot Blanc – Pinot Gris has summer written all over it. Juicy, fun and gulpable but with some minerality for interest.

The Heartland Shiraz 2013 is the best I have tasted in a while. Rich blackberry fruit makes this a classic shiraz that calls for a piece of grilled lamb. Good value.

Finally, can’t say enough about the latest Meyer Gewurztraminer 2014 that comes off a block of 22-year-old fruit that faces the setting sun. A drinkable food-friendly style you can serve on the patio with spicy tuna rolls and or vegetarian dishes. Don’t forget the suntan lotion. 

Rhys Pender MW

I am just back from a trip through London, Loire and Paris. What a mixed bag of wines I have tasted along the way. Here are a few interesting ones worth trying this month.

Spending time in the Loire reminded me just how much I love its wines. They are crisp, fresh, juicy and so very drinkable with their lower alcohol levels and freshness. Because the region isn’t uber-famous the prices are usually very good too. An added bonus. At one market in France they were fortifying market goers by serving up small plates containing a few freshly shucked oysters and prawns with a glass of wine (yes, at 11am). It was a nice Loire Sauvignon Blanc served with it but a Muscadet would have perhaps have been even better. A great value example is the Ch. De La Gravelle 2014 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie. You may have to shuck your own oysters though.

That market happened to be in Chinon, which is much better known for its lively, juicy Cabernet Franc reds. A great value wine in the market for me is always the Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon, the 2013 being no exception.

Château De La Gravelle Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2014 Jean Maurice Raffault Les Galuches Chinon 2013 Bodegas Leceranas Evohé Vinas Viejas Garnacha 2014 Pedra Cancela Dao Selecao Do Enologo 2010 Amalaya Torrontes Riesling 2014

Another wine I enjoyed in April was from a little further south, in Spain’s Aragon. The Evohé 2014 Garnacha Viñas Viejas is rich, soft and round and has some nice earthy and mineral notes for the price.

I feel lately like I keep going on and on about the Dão region of Portugal. It is a very serious wine region, without the recognition to achieve serious prices. This equals great value for the smart drinker. I recently re-tasted the Pedra Cancela 2010 Winemaker’s Selection and found it offered great savoury complexity at a great price.

I didn’t know what to expect when I tasted the Amalaya Torrontes-Riesling 2014 blend but it was quite nicely done. The floral aromatics of Torrontes with the zip and zing of Riesling results in a nice combo worth a try.

DJ Kearney

Here are some of my all-time favourite wines that tick all the boxes: killer value, food-worthy, and have soul.

Here in BC the hotly-anticipated spot prawn season is upon us. You could pull out a pricey Meursault for a fussy culinary preparation, but when those pricey crustaceans are simple flipped in a foaming pan of butter, garlic and parsley, I opt for Domäne Wachau’s 2014 Gruner Veltliner Terraces. And the wine that I’m going to sip as I peel the prawns (and I’ll heave a little in the hot pan in place of a squeeze of lemon) is the zingy 2015 Vinho Verde from Casal Garcia.

Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner 2014 Casal Garcia Vinho Verde 2015 Te Pã Koha Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2014Yalumba Shiraz 2014

Whenever young, local goat’s cheese is in my salad, Marlborough sauvignon is needed, like a new-ish to market one like Te Pã 2014 Koha Sauvignon Blanc from the distinctive soils of the Lower Wairau Valley. Nervy and streamlined, and can handle a salad with grapefruit and chevre.

Finally two reds for the grill: the ever-delicious, soulful Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Clasico 2014 for grilled flank steak and chimichurri sauce, and a juicy, organically farmed 2014 Shiraz from Yalumba that will uplift smoky lamb chops.

Treve Ring 

I have been tasting through dozens of the spring releases from BC, impressed by the generosity of the warm 2015 vintage.

In my mind, there is no better Riesling producer in BC than Synchromesh Wines, releasing no fewer than seven Rieslings this year, four of which are single vineyard from the 2015 vintage. And this pair, both sourced from 4 vineyards in Naramata and Okanagan Falls, illustrate the incredible diversity of style, and amazing value, this producer puts forth. Synchromesh Riesling 2015 is an amply off-dry, Kabinett-style, carrying 34 g/l RS, with perfumed pear blossom, key lime cordial, ripe apricot and fleshy peach on a round mouthfeel. Ample juiciness, with a cut of bitter key lime to hem everything in. Synchromesh Drier Riesling 2015 is in comparison to their straight Riesling (also a boggling $19) and still sings at 27 g/l RS, but with TA at 10.78 to keep the sugars neatly in check. With more late harvest grapes in this blend from Okanagan Falls and Naramata, cold cream, lime pulp, green apple, orange blossom hovers above a base of stone and citrus pith. The acidity here is tight and edgy, ideal for pairing with a wide range of foods – and at this price point, ideal for restaurants by the glass too. 

Synchromesh Wines Riesling 2015 Synchromesh Drier Riesling 2015 Sea Star Vineyards Ortega 2015Unsworth Vineyards Rose 2015

Sea Star Ortega 2015 is also entirely on pointe this vintage, with tight pear, white peach, crystalline lemon and pink grapefruit ringing throughout this Pender Island coastal white. 

From Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley comes the charming Unsworth 2015 Rosé. Pale pink in hue, with a hint of strawberry, red currant and earthy brie, this is a lean, bright and marine styled rosé, reflective of the coastal climate and ready for cured salmon or tuna.

Here’s a quick link to find the 20 Under $20 in stores near you.

~

WineAlign in BC

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

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


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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20 Under $20 in BC : April 2016

Great value pairings

Writing this column always makes me hungry, because the WineAlign West crew always seem to tie their under $20 values to their stomachs. But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Every day of the week we want great values to pair with our dinners, lunches and yes – breakfast. And we don’t want to spend big bucks to dine well daily. Here are 20 from around the globe to pair with the first hint of the patio and BBQ this month.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi 

Hope springs eternal when it comes to finding great wine selling for less than $20 in BC but the reality is most are closer to good, than great, and even they are getting harder to find. This month I begin with Esquinas de Argento 2015 Pinot Grigio Cool Climate Selection, a delicate, fresh, apéritif white from Argentina’s Tunuyán region of the Uco Valley. The Argento folks have their pulse on simplicity and freshness and they do it by using high altitude fruit.

Across the Atlantic and much farther north, for your first barbecue red of the season go classic with the Delas 2013 Côtes Du Ventoux. This 80/20 grenache syrah blend is packed with smooth, peppery, juicy fruit. Try it with barbecue ribs.

While you are heating up the barbecue reach for a bottle of Loosen Bros 2014 Dr. L Riesling. This is the perfect aperitif white with its soft, easy-sipping styling and fresh red apple, lime, orange and honey flavours.

Esquinas de Argento Pinot Grigio 2015Delas Côtes du Ventoux 2013 Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling 2014 Falernia Carmenere Syrah 2013 Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Winemaker Giorgio Flessati, hails from the Trentino region in Northern Italy but has become an unabashed Elqui Valley crusader. His 60/40 carmenère/syrah Falernia Reserva 2013 is a delicious bottle of ripe, red wine that will work with spicy ribs.

Still in Chile we can easily vouch for the Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha 2014 Cabernet SauvignonThe 2014 blend is 92/6/1/1 cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and syrah, all grown at Puente Alto 650, metres above sea level, and at Pirque some 570 metres high. It’s tasty stuff with savoury, cassis, meaty, coffee black fruit flavours all in balance. Steak or game dishes are the match.

Rhys Pender MW

A nice mixed bag of selections this month mostly focusing on my increased desire for crisp wines to sip in the warm spring afternoon sun before it plummets behind the mountain. These are some serious wines for less than $20.

We’re starting off with a couple of local whites that are fresh and crisp, complex, powerful, and have a bit of textural richness. These are nice on their own but particularly good with some grilled seafood. Semillon is one of my favourite varieties, yet all too rare. Mike Bartier is doing a great job making drinkable and age-worthy wines. Try the Bartier Brothers 2014 Semillon while putting a few bottles away for five or so years for a nice surprise.

From just up the road from me in the Similkameen Valley comes the Orofino Hendsbee Vineyard 2013 Riesling. It is dry, racy, steely, mineral, long and so damn refreshing.

Bartier Brothers SemillonOrofino Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling 2013 Gassier Sables d'Azur Rosé 2014 Lopez de Haro Rioja Blanco 2014 Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli Friulano 2013

Sun means rosé and to me it should be dry and a bit crunchy and fresh but just be very drinkable without having to think about it too much. The Gassier Sables d’Azur 2014 Rosé is just such a wine.

For a little richer white, try the Lopez de Haro 2014 Rioja Blanco. The little bit of oak treatment and some ripeness make this a great wine for our Sunday rotisserie chicken. Just enough gumption to stand up to the chicken but still plenty of freshness to keep it lively.

Another delicious white with good texture and weight and plenty of complexity is the Villa Locatelli 2013 Friulano. Friulano may be trendy but it is probably because it is delicious. A great interesting fish and shellfish wine.

DJ Kearney

Relaxed wine with no ego is what I demanded from my five supreme value wines this month. Three whites and two reds that stimulate the appetite, uplift spring meals and appeal to the mind just as much as the tastebuds.

First is a perennial favourite from Portugal’s Setúbal (say Stoo-bal) Peninsula that shows how Moscatel can make alluring dry wines. The Jose Marie da Fonseca 2014 Albis is in a lovely state of openness now, with aromatic rose and peach character on nose and palate. Dry with a good jolt of acidity its perfumed character needs quince paste crostini or orange-y scallop ceviche.

There’s no question that the Savoie is the next big thing, and if you are unfamiliar with the secret region that nestles in Alpine hills and valleys, Domaine de la Rosière 2014 Jongieux (sort of sounds like jon-jhoo) is a delicious way to meet the jacquère grape. Subtle and savoury, you’ll find that soft cheese or rustic pâté unlocks its fruit layers.

Jose Marie da Fonseca Albis 2014 Domaine de La Rosière Jongieux 2014 Bougrier Vouvray 2014La Bastide Pays D'oc 2014Paul Autard Côtes Du Rhône 2014

Vouvray for under $20 bucks is a find, especially when it’s a succulent, off-dry beauty like Bougrier’s offering from the high-quality 2014 vintage. It begs for crispy pork belly or top take-away sushi. You could drink La Bastide 2014 with pork belly too, or a push towards a simple spring dinner of chunky pâté de campagne, crusty baguette and frisée salad. Take the time to smell this much-loved bargain, and note its herbal resin and breezy fruit aromas.

Elegant, silky, and kirshy sums up Domaine Paul Autard’s 2014 Côtes-du-Rhône red, saturated with equal amounts of fruit and stones. Take the time to dwell on the nose of this sensational red. Relax, eat simple, real food and drink some value wines that lack a shred of pretense.

Treve Ring 

One of the biggest benefits of being the theme region for Vancouver International Wine Festival is the uptick of wines sold in the province immediately following the festival. Frescobaldi Attems 2014 Ribolla Gialla Venezia Giulia is one that caught my attention recently, highlighting the diversity of ribolla gialla in this herbal, earthy and oily slicked white, all lifted with brisk citrus acidity. 

Similarly, Concerto Reggiano 2014 Lambrusco was a memorable drink, due to the striking contrast between its deep and dark hue and light and crisp acidity. A blend of 85/15 Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Ancelotta filled with black wine gums, florals, balsamic and tart raspberries, textured with crunchy acidity and a fine grip of tannins.

Attems Ribolla Gialla 2014 Ermete Medici & Figli Concerto 2014 Cococciola Cuvee Brut Fantini Farnese Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Combes Aux Jacques 2012 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014

A new grape, and a new kind of (bedazzled!) label for me came courtesy of Farnese Fantini Cuvée Cococciola Spumante. This Abruzzo fizz is from 20-30 year old cococciola grapes, produced in the charmat method and bottled to be fresh, lively and light. In addition to its distinctive bejewelled label, the squat bowling pin bottle allows for more of the wine to be submerged in ice at a time – smartly, since this value buy is best chilled for your next party for a crowd.

France’s Village level Louis Jadot 2012 Beaujolais-Villages Combe aux Jacques is peppered with fine dusky spices, dried florals and shows darker berry fruit, with a finely structured grip, an excellent example of this quality level just below Cru. With partial grapes sourced from Cru Régnié, and partial carbonic maceration, this shapes the joyful raspberry and cherry tart fruitiness with an herbal, dusty and rustic edge. #GoGamayGo. 

If you’re firing up the BBQ for a braai, crack the top off Boekenhoutskloof 2014 The Wolftrap. Pointed black fruits, thorns and smoked meats rule this syrah/mourvèdre/viognier blend from Franschoek on the Western Cape of South Africa. Tobacco and tar take over the ripe palate, one supported by smoothed, sticky tannins and ready for chargrilled red meat.

~

WineAlign in BC

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

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


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks March 2016

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics – wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution. All are currently available for sale in BC. The Agent or Winery name is provided on the details page, if you need help finding a wine near you.

March may have roared in like a lion, but with cherry blossoms in full bloom on the coast and on the verge of bud burst in Okanagan vineyards, she’s leaving like an Easter lamb (sorry). We’re getting our first look at the new spring releases this month, so watch for those to fill this space in the coming weeks. In the meantime, it seems we’re collectively and actively seeking out exciting frontier regions and interesting grapes from around the globe. Much like spring itself, we’re always growing.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

Yes, it’s spring, but I’m not quite ready to leave the realm of meaty, complex, layered big reds behind – just yet (wait for BC spot prawn season). Especially when they’re as exciting, electric and mineral-laden as Clos des Fous 2011 Grillos Cantores Alto Cachapoal Cabernet Sauvignon. An extreme in viticulture, organic and biodynamic farming and non-interventionist winemaking and it doesn’t get much better. Clos des Fous is the New Chile with old-vine heritage varieties (including malbec, pais, carignan, and cinsault).

Sella & Mosca 2010 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva is a regular favourite on our local market, but it never fails to impress. In the 2010, expect that special Mediterranean warmth and even more plummy/raspberry cherry fruit aromas and flavours. The palate is balanced with a juicy, dry, fruity, savoury, cherry flavour throughout.

Clos Des Fous Grillos Cantores Alto Cachapoal Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2010 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

And if you want to really go all out with that easter lamb, decant a bottle of the Don Melchor 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Vineyard from the Maipo Valley. Expect a fragrant, stylish cabernet with bits of savoury cassis flavours flecked with pepper and vanilla. The plate is juicy, with fresh, well balanced acidity. If you don’t crack now, this will easily keep a decade in your cellar.

Rhys Pender MW

Kenji Hodgson left his life as a wine writer in Vancouver to head to the Loire Valley to make wine. Along with his wife Mai they are now making beautiful, interesting, slightly funky but absolutely delicious natural wines. Until recently, you were more likely to find their wines in trendy wine bars in Paris, where they have a good following, but now there is a small amount of the 2014 Galarneau (Cabernet Franc) and Faia (Chenin Blanc) available at private stores in BC. The Galarneau is beautifully aromatic, juicy and complex with some gamey and meaty notes along with bright floral and red fruit freshness. Very moreish.

Tignanello is always a wine worth a bit of a splurge for a couple of bottles for the cellar. It is not cheap but the price hasn’t gone off the charts like so many of the worlds other top wines. The 2011 is a great youthful combination of savoury complexity and great fruit intensity that should age well for a decade or two.

Mai & Kenji Hodgson O Galarneau 2014 Tignanello 2011 Paolo Conterno Ginestra Barolo 2007

Barolo rarely fails to impress if you like wines that combine power with a complex mix of savoury, spice, earth and minerality and that finish firm and grippy, perfectly standing up to roasted meats. It is also a great one for the cellar, giving decades of ageing potential. An example that will not disappoint is the Paolo Conterno 2007 Ginestra Barolo. 

DJ Kearney

Outlier is the common fabric for my wines this month… three wines that share a rich tapestry of individuality and out-there-ness. I truly love wines like these as they stretch one’s notion of what wine is, and send the tastebuds in weird and wonderful directions.

The first is a raw and wild chenin blanc from Kenji and Mai Hodgson who packed up from Vancouver in 2009, only to unpack in a tiny village near Angers and get down to the business of making micro-batches of old vine chenin, cab franc and grolleau as naturally as possible. From Faia 2014’s heraldic label to the bone-dry, tangy and mineral-driven flavours, it’s a genius fusion of grape and ground.

Mai And Kenji Hodgson Faia Vin Blanc 2014 Tibor Gāl Egri Csillag 2013 Suvla Vineyards Kabatepe Kirmizi Red 2013

Just as intellectual is Tibor Gal’s 9-grape blend from Eger, an ultra-traditional Hungarian wine region famed for red blends. Egri Csillag 2013 unites indigenous grapes with a few internationals to great effect, and its appeal is very broad as a result. I highly recommend the pinot and red bikaver as well.

I’ve not yet tasted all of the Turkish wines that are nipping to market these days, but I like Suvla Kabatepe 2013 Red blend for its enthusiastic forward fruit and clean lines.  There’s obvious skill and ambition behind Suvla Vineyards and I’ve tasted a great rosé and marsanne/roussanne blend in the past. My research revealed that their vineyards are not far from the moving ANZAC Memorial, and the climate is a fusion of Bordeaux, Rhone and Napa. With over 600,000 hectares of grapes in Turkey, and over 60 varieties, the future could be exciting.

Treve Ring

Less is more. Twenty-five year old arneis vines go into the Vietti Roero 2013 Arneis, see no MLF and are put into stainless steel. The result is a pure, fresh expression of herbal meadow flowers, wild herbs, potent honeysuckle, apple, bitter almonds and walnuts and mineral salts. Lovely concentration, with a watery wash mid-palate and brisk acidity throughout to the lingering finish. Pairs beautifully with simple dishes with some herbal heft – think brown butter and sage pasta.

The new Bartier Bros 2014 Semillon continues to show how striking and impressive this grape can be in the Okanagan. From Oliver’s Cerquiera Vineyard, laced with granite cobbles coated with calcium carbonate, this sem is fermented with wild yeast and partially in concrete, releasing intense and striking medicinal herb-laced yellow fruit, green fig, apricot fuzz, subtle elderflower, thorny desert bush and mineral salts. Though lean and narrow, with lively, almost prickly acidity, the concentrated, oily white brings a textured generosity to the palate which is highly alluring. Drinking lovely now in youth, but will last 10+ years.

Vietti Roero Arneis 20132014 Bartier Bros SemillonBodegas Gurrutxaga Txakoli 2013

Txakoli is classic in the pintxos bars of San Sebastien and the Basque region, and classically (brilliantly) poured from above (at least 5 inches) into the glass to allow the wine some air, some bubbles and a lot of show. The deliciously authentic Bodegas Gurrutxaga 2013 Txakoli is a light and brisk blend of predominantly hondarrabi zuri, with a touch of hondarrabi beltza, folle blanche, petit corbou, and cabernet franc. Saline and astutely ringing of the sea, making the mouth water for savoury bites – and another cold glass. At a refreshing 11 percent alcohol and this much seriously gulpable fun, why not?

~

WineAlign in BC

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

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


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico

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20 Under $20 in BC : March 2016

Spring is Springing 

With the cherry blossoms out, it sure feels like spring in the west. During this transition month from the wets of winter to the sun of spring, we’ve a mix of wines suitable for all moods, and climates. Charming, authentic reds and fresh, herbal whites seem to rule our selections this month, with picks stretching all around the globe. While providing great value, all are food-friendly and ready for drinking now, ideal for stocking up on for your Easter celebrations. 

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi 

Though Italy has been top of mind and tongue this past month, I’ve also been busy tasting wines from around the globe that typify great value, even on our market.

Delas 2013 Côtes-du-Ventoux is a spicy resin-laced 80/20 grenache/syrah blend of black cherry, licorice and light charcuterie notes. The juicy fruit finishes with smoky, savoury, tobacco flavours in the finish. Try this with barbecue ribs.

Spain and value go hand in hand on this market, and where else can you find a decade plus old well made red selling for $18? Monasterio de las Vinas Gran Reserva 2005 is a mature mix of garnacha, tempranillo and cariñena that delivers with soft, round, complex savoury flavours of tobacco, spice, old barrels and a bit of spicy fruit cake.

Another great Spanish red – this one five years younger and a few dollars less expensive – is the Castillo de Almansa Reserva 2011. A 60/20/20, monastrell, tempranillo and garnacha tintorera blend from Alamansa, this is matured in American oak casks for about a year. The attack is supple, the textures smooth with medium rich, juicy, smoky, spicy, plummy fruit flavours.

Delas Côtes Du Ventoux 2013 Monasterio De Las Viñas Gran Reserva 2005 Castillo De Almansa Reserva 2011 Backyard Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013 BenMarco Malbec 2013

From here at home, Backyard Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013 gives you a taste of BC’s highly promising cabernet franc grape, here highlightin the savoury red and black fruit, cedar and spice. Youthful and robust, this would suit a grilled piece of lamb (perhaps for your homegrown Easter).

Judging the Argentina Wine Awards last month reminded me about the fresh, bright, smartly-priced wines we do see on our market, like Dominio del Plata Ben Marco Malbec 2013. Ripe red fruits with a dash of blueberry and that typical but not overwhelming savoury undercoat, softly textured with spice, licorice and chocolate. A wine in transition (somewhere in the middle) from the old style to the fresher more mineral, red fruit, modern style. This was a gold medal winner at the 2016 Argentine Wine Awards.

Rhys Pender MW

I have been inspired by the recent Vancouver International Wine Festival for this months picks and particularly by many of the indigenous (or autochthonous as was the fancy word of the festival) grapes that are starting to emerge from the shadows to plunge wine students into further despair while giving wine drinkers an ever expanding world of interesting wine to enjoy.

Italy was the theme of the festival and that is where the first four picks come from. As you should always start things with bubbly, we will kick things off with a lovely Lambrusco. After a recent visit to Italy and through an obsessive desire to eat fantastic charcuterie, I have fallen in love with Lambrusco. And we are not talking the sweet, simple, red plonk you may have stereotyped anything with the name Lambrusco as, but rather the more serious side of this large family of grapes. The Medici Ermete 2014 Lambrusco Reggiano Frizzante is made from the Lambrusco Salamino variety and is juicy, savoury, slightly fizzy and beautifully dry. Just add Salami or Coppa and happy times are ahead.

Medici Ermete Lambrusco Reggiano Frizzante 2014 Attems Ribolla Gialla 2014 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna 2014 Feudo Maccari Nero d'Avola 2014 Lovico Gamza 2011

The north-east of Italy is a bit of a hotbed of experimentation and another area falling in love with its native grapes. One of these varieties is Ribolla Gialla which can have a lovely floral and citrus, lemon scent. The Attems 2014 Ribolla Gialla at just $17 is crisp and citrusy and has some nice weight to make this stand up to some serious seafood dishes.

Another even richer white comes from the toasty warm shores of Sardinia. The Argiolas 2014 Costamolino is made from the increasingly trendy Vermentino grape. It is rich, ripe and honeyed while remaining dry. Great with heavy, rich white fish.

Still in the south but from the Island of Sicily comes a lovely Nero D’Avola from Feudo Maccari. The 2014 has ripe, sun-warmed berry fruits but finishes dry and savoury with some complex graphite minerality.

Sticking with the theme of indigenous grapes, I recently re-tasted the Bulgarian Lovico Gamza 2011 that I had written up more than a year ago. Still in the BC LDB stores and a great price of $9.99 it was delicious on a chilly night around a fire pit. Savoury, good fruit and just a great Monday/Tuesday wine.

DJ Kearney

Variety is arguably the most appealing aspect of wine. That grapes can transform into so many flavours and textures is an insane delight. These five bargain wines are made from eight different varieties, and each is an honest, workaday wine, made to give pleasure, relaxation and keep tasty food company.  Just what you’d hope for vino that’s under twenty bucks.

We all need more chenin blanc in our lives, and South Africa has some of the oldest preserves of this noble Loire grape. Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc 2014 combines weighty fruit and lick-smacking acidity for bring-home sushi or melon and shrimp cocktail.

And perhaps we all need interesting Spanish whites in our lives too, like the snappy, lime flavoured Cal Y Canto Blanco made from verdejo, just made for take-out sushi or a salad of crunchy greens, avocado and cucumber. Built for richer food is Lopez de Haro Blanco 2014, an all vuira (macabeo) white with a kiss of oak, and the kind of sneaky creamy weight that will prop up roast chicken or an oozing, crusty grilled cheese sandwich.

Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc 2014 Cal Y Canto Blanco 2014 Lopez De Haro Rioja Blanco 2014 Masi Bardolino Classico Frescaripa 2014 Cave Saint Désirat Syrah 2013

Think of Bardolino as a region that makes reds that are lighter, juicier and even more refreshing than next-door Valpolicella. Masi Bardolino Classico Frescaripa 2014 is so well named – fresh and lively and ready for spag bol or just classic pizza.

And finally, one of my favourite red wine deals is Cave Saint Desirat Syrah 2013, a confidently rustic wine from the Ardeche. It balances lean fruit with a rust/stone character for shepherd’s pie or merguez sausages and cous cous. 

Treve Ring 

You know when you find one of those value gems that blows you away and you’re nearly hesitant to tell people because you’re tempted to stuck up and drink it all yourself? Well – Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie 2014 is one of those wines for me. From one of the region’s leading sustainable vignerons, this is organic, wild ferment Muscadet, aged sur lie in earthen vessels, buried in the ground to keep cool and rest (obviously no racking) until the following spring. Light pear, subtle earthy lees, river stone, white florals and a fine vein of saline-laced lemon. Stunner. Save me some.

I feel similarly about the 2014 vintage of Bartier Bros. Semillon. Intense and striking though lean and narrow, with lively, almost prickly acidity, the concentrated, oily semillon lends a textured generosity to the palate which is highly alluring. Tempting to drink now, but you will be rewarded over a decade in your cellar.

Domaine De La Pépière Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie 2014Bartier Brothers SemillonCedarCreek Pinot Gris 2014 Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015

From further north Okanagan in east Kelowna is the 2014 CedarCreek Pinot Gris. Fresh and vibrant, pear, orange zest, almond, white peach and brisk acidity is bathed in savoury dried herbs and buoyed by a pillow of fine, creamy lees. This would make a great match for Easter ham. 

Shooting down the coast – a long way – are the vines for Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015. The Manzanar Vineyard, less than 13 kilometres from the Pacific, is home to this snappy, brisk fruit, while three months on the lees increases creamy, voluminous texture.

A hop over to Colchagua Valley, is the unbeatable king of value on our market. The latest vintage of Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier, 2015, highlights the grape’s cold cream, guava, bright pear, lime oil and apricot, with a nuzzle of peach fuzz on the medium bodied, creamy palate. Pour with Chinese-styled seafood hot pot or pad Thai.

~

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!


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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Rooting for Italian Wine

Gismondi’s Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

It didn’t take a wine festival to understand Canadians love Italian wines but the recent love affair in Vancouver between consumers and the visiting throngs of Italian wine producers would suggest the bonds are stronger than ever. In fact, Italian wine sales are now number two in British Columbia and closing in on the USA. So much for those infamous west coast palates we are said to possess.

The truth is the Italians seem comfortable making wine and selling it seemingly effortlessly around the world. Maybe it is the way they dress – there is no denying they were the most stylish delegation in the room. Maybe it’s their labels – classic yet modern, understated but artsy and all the while projecting a mystery that makes you want to buy every one of them. It might be that accent that had consumers swooning at the booths.

Okay that’s whimsy but there is something magical at the moment about Italian wines and consumers appear to have picked up on it.

My guess is that it’s all about diversity. Be it the style of the wines, the wealth of grape varieties or an even more primal attraction, the way the wines taste. No matter the reason, the more diverse Italian wines become the more it would appear wine drinkers are attracted to them.

Then there is the food. Italian restaurants are thriving in just about every corner of the world, they all sell Italian wine and they have for decades. Most of us grew up with Chianti in the kitchen, first as a wine, then as a candlestick. Either way, Italian wine was never far away, and as mentioned, always present in those restaurantes italianos.

Imagine the future of Canadian wine if ‘Canadian’ restaurants were spread across the globe and if they were important enough to be part of a yearly top ten list in most major cities. Visibility and familiarity has to have played a role in the spread and success of Italian wine globally.

It’s been said that consumers are confused when it comes to wine. Too many labels, too many, producers, too many grapes etc., etc. Yet Italians can sell a wine like Barolo, which is a region and a commune, made from the nebbiolo grape, a name that doesn’t appear on the label and everybody gets it. As for needing something new to capture the imagination of wine drinkers. Barolo is Barolo is Barolo, made with same grape, from the same place for many, many years.

Tignanello 2013 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna 2014But don’t take my word for it; you can seek out most of the following wines anywhere you live in Canada and embrace the modernity of Italy. That the wines are technically better now versus historically is a given, but you could make a case they are also more authentic now than at any other time in their life. 

Who doesn’t love vermentino, in this case Argiolas Costamolino 2014 Vermentino di Sardegna grown at some 190 metres above sea level. It isn’t chardonnay and it isn’t sauvignon blanc but it is the perfect, fresh white to pair with seafood appetizers in the garden all spring and summer.

At the Antinori Tignanello/Guado al Tasso vertical tasting one wine stood out above all others: Antinori 2013 Tignanello. We remember visiting Tignanello a few years ago when the folks at Antinori were saying they thought the 2010 could be greatest Tignanello ever. Make no mistake, it is excellent, but the 2013 has something more. Already more elegant than its many predecessors, expect a glass full of power with amazing vibrant, juicy fruit and elegance. Long and complex this is one of the finest young Tignanellos we have tasted. The wine made its world premiere at the festival and will be released at Vinitaly next month but you will have to wait a few more months for its release in Canada. (No worries, the 2012 is excellent).

Ruffino Ducale Oro Riserva Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2010 Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012There’s a new flavour in Chianti Classico – red fruit – making the modern CC story more classic. I love the affordable and available Castello di Gabbiano 2012 Chianti Classico Riserva replete with its violets and supple manner. Can you smell the roasted chicken? As it turns out the festival was a great place to catch up on the state of Gran Selezione, the highest order of merit now accorded a Chianti Classico’s top wines. It signifies the top of the quality pyramid, sourced from the heartland of the historic region. It would appear after anecdotal chats with many producers that the anti Gran Selezione group is fading as consumers embrace the terminology.

In the case of the Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro 2010 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, it’s always been the top label at Ruffino, but maybe Gran Selezione makes it easier for everyone when they are shopping to know it is the top dog. Refer to the first part of this story regarding success in the marketplace. 

Italy’s sparkling wine was a big hit in Vancouver spanning all levels from Prosecco to Franciacorta. Two favourites included what Treve Ring refers to as the blinged out Bottega Gold N/V Prosecco Spumante Brut, and the Ferghettina 2006 Franciacorta Extra Brut. The former is sophisticated fun bubble, produced to order, via a single fermentation in the winery’s specialized pressurized cuve close tanks for forty days. The latter is a serious, structured bubble with Champagne aspirations. It is an 80/20 mix of chardonnay and pinot noir spending 69 months on its lees.

Bottega Gold Prosecco Ferghettina Franciacorta Extra Brut 2006 Adami Cartizze Dry Valdobbiadene Superiore

The Adami Cartizze N/V Dry Valdobbiadene Superiore sparkler grows in a 1,000-foot-high vineyard. The 107 hectares of vines are owned by 140 growers. Sounds like Burgundy, tastes like heaven. Like I said, the Italians get it on all levels and for the moment it seems consumers can’t get enough of Italy.

At the packed Vietti booth, consumers learned when the nebbiolo from declassified cru sites is aged for less than the minimum legal requirements it becomes a varietal, Langhe IGT. How good is the Vietti 2012 Nebbiolo Perbacco? Well, very good. True it’s not a Barolo DOCG, but the price and its stature in the glass suggest this Langhe red is a bargain to be enjoyed now.

The folks at Mastroberardino have been into old, indigenous grapes for quite some time. Preserving the past by bringing it back to the future was another important theme at the festival and is part of a more organised movement across Italy especially with the next generation of winegrowers.

Vietti Perbacco Langhe Nebbiolo 2012 Mastroberardino Radici 2008 Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria

The less is more, old might be better movement, is reflected in the Mastroberardino 2008 Radici Taurasi. The word radici means roots in Italian and the wine is a nod to winery’s mission to preserve the local grapes well adapted to Campania’s volcanic soils.

A little farther south, the folks at Donnafugata have nurtured a Sicilian treasure also grown in volcanic soils. The grape is zibbibo and the Donnafugata 2011 Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria is a sweet breath of Mediterranean air.

Our own John Szabo has just reported on the latest from Brunello and the return of the sangiovese to its most attractive form. But did you know on the other side of the Apennines the growers of Emilia-Romagna claim to have sent the sangiovese to Tuscany?

Italy is steeped in history and it stretches from the past to the future, history to modernity, which is probably why we all like it so much.

Salute!

 

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!


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20 Under $20 in BC : February 2016

That’s Amore : Italia

Italia! Vancouver Wine FestivalYes, it’s February, and the month of Valentine’s and cupid and all that. But that’s just one fleeting day (sorry Hallmark) and the reality is that we would prefer to cheers to our loves all year round: the love of wine. Later this month, the Vancouver International Wine Festival rolls into Vancouver, trumpeting theme region Italy. So what better filter to colour our picks this month than through l’amore per il vino – the love of wine.

~ TR

Anthony Gismondi

Ruffino Extra Dry Prosecco Mionetto Treviso Prosecco BrutWith one eye on Italy, and another on the budget, it was easy to lay out wines for this month’s column.

Start your brunch off with Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Brut. Juicy fun and off-dry you can serve it with spicy, prawns dishes or serve solo well chilled.

In a classic, softer style, you can go for Ruffino Extra Dry Prosecco. A fresh honeysuckle nose mixes with apples and lemon lime. The palate is similar with more apple, pear and honey fruit with a soft creamy, off-dry finish.

Great for everyday, the Colle Secco Rubino Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 is soft and round and very easy to sip. Clean, fresh red fruit, black cherries and licorice root end with good length and a persistent smoothness.

Purato Nero d’Avola Organic 2013 is a friendly, solid, fresh organic red for mid-week spaghetti/pizza dinners. Expect an open aromatic menthol red fruit nose with pepper highlights.

A more serious example of the grape is Feudo Maccari Nero d’Avola 2013. A savoury, red-fruited nose springs from 12 to 34-year-old bush vines growing a little more than a kilometer from the sea. The attack is smooth, fresh and elegant with meaty, cherry, resin, liquorice and dried herb flavours with perfect acidity.

Colle Secco Rubino Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2010 Purato Nero d'Avola Organic 2013 Feudo Maccari Nero d'Avola 2013 Sella & Mosca Riserva Cannonau di Sardegna 2010 Tormaresca Trentangeli 2012

The grapes of Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2010 are aged for two years in large Slavonian oak barrels before spending several more months in bottle. The nose is fresh with that special Mediterranean warmth and even more plummy/raspberry cherry fruit aromas and flavours. The palate is balanced with a juicy, dry, fruity, savoury, cherry flavour throughout. Impressive for the price.

Tormaresca is an Antinori project in Puglia bringing modern attitudes to ancient grapes. This Trentangeli Rosso Castel del Monte 2012 is a 70/20/10 blend of organic aglianico, cabernet sauvignon and syrah that brings silky textures, spiced black fruits, raisins and liquorice together with freshness that breathes vitality into the finish. Perfect for lamb osso buco.

Treve Ring 

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you’ll recognize that there is pretty much always fizz. What I’m loving about prosecco as of late is the serious, dryer styles settling into our market, at not crazy prices. Desiderio JEIO Brut is one from the legendary Bisol family. Glera makes up the majority of this Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, accompanied by verdiso, pinot bianco and chardonnay. Crisp and bright, the 9 g/l RS is gobbled up by crunchy acidity.

In a marginally sweeter style, Bottega Il Vino dei Poeti Prosecco Brut steps up, with red apple, white flowers and peach sitting atop foamy mousse and a fuller, creamy body.

Desiderio Jeio Brut Bottega Vino Dei Poeti Prosecco 2015 Valdo Marca Oro Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Lini 910 Labrusca Lambrusco Rosso

Carrying more residual sugar still is the stalwart Valdo Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Marca Oro Extra Dry. Candied grapefruit acidity manages the sugar fairly well in this extra dry style (from 12-17 g/l RS), leaving an impression of sugared pear, candy apple, juicy peach, white flowers and candy necklace.

Of course, you can bypass Prosecco and pop over to Emilia-Romagna for some Lini Lambrusco Rosso 910. Here notes of plum, blueberry and cherry compote are juicy and lively in the mouth, reigned by cherry pit/chalky tannins. Pour with pizza and enjoy.

One thing I love about Italian white wines is that you can get a whole lot of character and individuality without spending a lot of money. Anselmi San Vincenzo 2014 is a ringer example. The expressive garganega/chardonnay/sauvignon blanc blend carries almonds, wild herbs, honeysuckle and tropical orange along a waxy palate, one finely textured with broken stones. Nimble acidity keeps this light for all its concentration. Excellent value.

Umani Ronchi Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi Classico 2013 is hard to miss with it’s vibrant green Exclamation Point label, and it’s a good thing too, because this young, bright and fresh oil-slicked verdicchio is brill with grilled seafood.

To debunk the myth that Italian pinot grigio is banal and insipid, break out the Tolloy Pinot Grigio 2014 from the foothills of the Dolomites. Tight and lean, with almonds, meadow, bitter lemon, medicinal herbs and quiet white florals riding along a river bed of stones.

Anselmi San Vincenzo 2014 Umani Ronchi Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi Classico 2013 Mezzacorona Tolloy Pinot Grigio 2014 Kris Pinot Grigio 2014 Citra Abruzzo Pecorino 2014 Poderi Dal Nespoli Pagadebit 2014

Kris Pinot Grigio 2014 stands out as much for its striking label as juice within. Alpine herbs, peach blossom, anise and dried apple opens this north eastern Italian white, and continue to the palate, where crunchy acidity plays against a honeyed cushion of white peach, acacia, almond and citrus

Crisp, bright and juicy, Citra Pecorino 2014 is all orchard-fruit driven and  an excellent introduction to the pecorino grape. Stainless steel preserves the tight Asian pear and lemon notes, while a medium cushion of white peach, white flower and light almond adds support.

Pagadebit, a grape that ripens even in cool years, gives its name the ‘debt payer’ to this delicious, perfumed floral Emilia Romagna white, Poderi dal Nespoli Pagadebit 2014. Look for a crisp and juicy blend of bombino bianco/sauvignon blanc with a vein of citrus that streams through the bitter almonds, mandarin, white florals and pear skin notes.

Passori Rosso Veneto 2014 Barone Di Valforte Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2013 Fantini Farnese Primitivo 2013Of course, there are great red wine values from Italy as well. The honest Farnese Fantini Primitivo 2013 shows dark flowers, plum and perfumed blueberries throughout this smooth, fresh red. Black and red raspberries, blackcurrants, red liquorice and dried rosemary sit along finely grained tannins. The end is a bit clipped and granular, but I’ve no complaints for an $11 red.

Barone di Valforte Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013 draws deep, wild black plum and cherry, herbs, branch and charred meats, all tempered with a bright, crisp vein of bright acidity. Steeping on the skins for two weeks lends a riff of textured intensity and light tannins to this juicy red.

Ripe, rich and concentrated, the Passori Rosso Veneto 2014 is a blend of later harvested merlot and corvina fermented to medium dryness and retaining the velvet underbelly of intentional residual sugar. This full bodied Venetian holds the 14 percent alcohol easily, making a pair for richer braised lamb casseroles or sharp cheese plates.

~

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!


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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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.

Salute!


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Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

 

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20 Under $20 in BC : January 2016

Resolve to Drink Better

We all know them – maybe we’ve even been one ourselves. The person who swears off alcohol in a New Year, new start, liver cleansing, clean living kick. Yes, post-holiday restraint and moderation is a smart and healthy move. But, no wine? The thought to me always sounded a bit too unmoderate. Wine, in many cultures, is a part of daily life. Grapes are key members of the fruit group, yeah? Numerous studies have shown that wine, in moderation, leads to a healthy, lengthy, and much more fun life. Pay attention you January resolutioners – it doesn’t get better than this!

However, what many do need to cut back on after a holiday season of excess is expenses. Here are our January 20 Under $20 to boost your health and your bank account.

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

It’s a new year but I’m loathe to change my philosophy of trying to always drink wine that matters no matter what the situation, or the price. Of course under $20 is a challenge in BC. Don’t be suckered in by the new tax-out pricing. Make sure you add that 15 percent in your head before you get to the till where some of these prices will quickly make some under $20 wines, well, more than $20. Add to that a brutal Canadian dollar and no respite in local prices and it all points to a column that will continue to be tough to write all year. The good news is we are doing all the work for you.

First up, a dealcoholized wine worth having around the house. Loxton N/V Cabernet Sauvignon is for that guest who would like a glass of wine that looks real yet does not pack that alcoholic punch that comes with regular wine.

Rustic reds are always better in cold weather so look to the mid-weight, easy-sipping Navarro López 2012 Pergolas Old Vines Tempranillo Crianza from Valdepeñas, Spain to help warm up a mid-week stew or a casserole.

If you are up to try something new, sparkling and affordable, from Moldova, check out Cricova Crisecco N/V Sparkling Brut, a medium-weight fruity sparkler you can serve most nights with some pre-dinner taste bites. It is a good value prosecco lookalike, but drier.

Loxton Cabernet Sauvignon Navarro Lopez Valdepenas Crianza Tempranillo Pergolas Old Vines 2012 Cricova Crisecco Sparkling Brut Feteasca Alba Muscat Bartier Bros. Gewürztraminer Lone Pine Vineyard 2014 Heartland Spice Trader Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Elephant Island Orchard Wines Fortified Framboise 2014

I love winemaker Michael Bartier’s style. Try his delicious Bartier Bros. 2014 Gewürztraminer Lone Pine Vineyard from Summerland: an orchard fruit party in a bottle. Where’s the curry chicken?

Finding an inexpensive Oz red that isn’t sweet and sour is no easy task but I like the Heartland Spice Trader 2012 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon. There is good balance here, and even better, it is not acidic in the back end. From a superior vintage too.

Finally a simply amazing fortified fruit wine you might enjoy on your ice cream or solo in a glass. Elephant Island Orchard Wines 2014 Fortified Framboise is a treasure trove of intense raspberry/chocolate flavours.

Rhys Pender MW

Ahh, the hangover that is January. Memories of all the great wine, great food and nights of indulgence are etched in that extra belt hole and the hollow bank account. This makes January an important time for finding value wine. With your palates still tuned to the high quality wines you gulped down with abandon over the holidays, the budget bottles of the New Year have a lot to live up to. This makes it tough to find pleasure for under $20. Here are some wines I find that over deliver for their price. I hope you enjoy them.

You cannot easily wean yourself off celebratory bubbly and there is no need to as many of the best value wines on the market are sparkling. You can still get something with a little toasty autolysis and stay well under $20. That is worth celebrating in itself. The Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava is consistently one of the best.

We also need something crisp, fresh and white to pair with all those health conscious salads we are now eating as part of the new years resolutions. I was impressed by the new 2014 Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling both in price and quality.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Quails' Gate Dry Riesling 2014 Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013 Niepoort Dialogo 2013 Ricossa Barbaresco 2011

I will admit I’m often not the biggest fan of Fumé Blanc but I was presently surprised and impressed by the 2013 Robert Mondavi Fumé. These guys invented the stuff so I guess they really know what they are doing. This vintage is probably the best I have had and is a lovely balance between racy freshness, a little tropical fruit and just a dusting of vanillin oak. Sear a bit of richer white fish in the pan to serve with your fresh vegetables or greens and with this wine you are set.

You also need some red wines that over deliver with a little complexity at a low price. A regular winner is the Niepoort Diálogo Tinto and the 2013 is a delicious mix of juicy, earthy, savoury and a good whack of fruit and complexity. This can please all comers and is a versatile food wine too with anything from basic pasta with tomato sauce to any grilled meat.

Another consistently good value wine is the Ricossa Barbaresco. The 2011 is lighter and savoury but gives a hint at some of the flavours you will find in the more concentrated Barbaresco and Barolo but at a fraction of the price.

Treve Ring

As I mentioned in my intro, wine is a part of daily life in many cultures, including the Trevehouse. I would much rather use up my “resolution budget” to try something new. Why not stretch into a new grape or region this month? It’s an especially apt opportunity when you’re not laying out too much cash as well.

Always fizz. There are many value quality : value fizz to explore this month. If you are adamant that you are cutting down on alcohol, then pick up Fresita, a Chilean fizz infused with organic Patagonian strawberries. Only 8 % alcohol and effortlessly delicious.

The act of drinking fortified wines regularly is new to most folks, so picking up a bottle of Bodegas Hidalgo Manzanilla La Gitana from Jerez’ neighbouring Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain is pretty much a must-do. This popular Manzanilla wins with its dry delicacy, sea salt freshness and lingering tanginess. A natural pair for almonds, olives, sardines and cured meats – as well as sushi. Pick up the 375ml to stay under $20.

Fresita Sparkling Wine Infused With Strawberries Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Stag's Hollow Viognier Marsanne 2013 Friulano Tenuta Di Angoris Villa Locatelli 2014

Search hard for the new Stag’s Hollow 2013 Viognier – Marsanne, a ‘natural’ wine made without added sulfur or yeast, and one that was unfined and unfiltered. One year on the lees in older acacia barrel yields, gentle honeysuckle, heady floral acacia and lime on a very textured palate, where an undercurrent of herbal fennel, apricot, ginger spicing stream in with brisk acidity. A striking adventurous wine for BC.

If you aren’t familiar with the friulano grape, the Friulano Tenuta Di Angoris 2014 Villa Locatelli is a great gateway wine. Fragrant wildflowers, honeysuckle, nectarine and fennel are drawn across the waxy palate, one kept bright and fresh with 12.5% alcohol.

Portugal is a treasure trove of quality wines that hit far above their price – plus are comprised of indigenous grapes that are probably new to you. See Rhys’ Niepoort red pick above as prime proof. The Niepoort Dialogo 2011 Douro Branco is another prime example. This white blend of codega do larinho, rabigato, gouveio, dona branca, viosinho and bical entices and intrigues with its texture, concentration and easy lightness of being.

Another entirely overlooked and completely underrepresented category in BC is South Africa. There are some real wines / real values to be found, like the Spier 2013 Chenin Blanc, a steal at $14. Meadow, white grapefruit, perfumed gooseberry and ripe pear weightiness, without any oak influence which allows the fruit to shine.

Maybe Austria is a region you haven’t explored much of? Right that, right now, with Laurenz Und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner 2013 from Niederösterreich, a stony, herb-basted GV with crisp orchard fruit and green fig carried on a dry, oily, medium bodied palate, and an ideal pour against your pissaldiere.

Niepoort Dialogo Branco 2011 Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2013 Laurenz Und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner 2013 Leyda Reserva Syrah 2012 Regis Boucabeille Les Terrasses 2014

Winter warmer needed? Are you familiar with Chile’s Leyda Valley? The Leyda Reserva Syrah 2012 was a gold value winner at the 2015 World Wine Awards, gold lit for its ripe, spicy and floral notes, grilled meatiness and smoothed tannins. Compact and tidy.

I think you’ll spare me the extra $0.49 to recommend the newest vintage of Regis Boucabeille Les Terrasses 2014, Cotes Du Roussillon Villages. Having southern France red blends like this remind me how much I adore southern France red blends. This organic grenache/syrah/carignan blend is planted on shale slopes that were abandoned in the 20th century because it was too hard to farm, but now is made into a seriously quaffable fresh, juicy red with ripe plums, smoked stone and garrigue riding a plump, sun-ripened cushion, one supported and defined by slightly gritty tannins. Stock up.

~

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!


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Anything to declare?

Gismondi’s Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

You can strike another one off the calendar. Another year, that is. Did 2015 flash by in a blink or does it just feel that way because my email box seems as if it was overloaded with editors asking where is that copy?

My year began sensibly in Hawaii on a deserted beach in Maui. I’m not really a beach person but living in an insignificant Pacific Time zone in a world that never shuts down, I’m connected 24/7 to the world of wine. If it isn’t Europe all evening, it’s eastern Canada in the morning, and all the rest in between, so recharging has now become as important as anything. Best of all, it is time that allows you to think. That said, the whales and the turtles are a distant memory as 2016 approaches, and I can’t wait to get back.

Australia kicked off 2015 with an ambitious upbeat showing at the Vancouver Wine Festival. The almost futuristic showing of what’s really possible Down Under was inspiring. Translating that into new listings and change on store shelves is proving to be a much bigger challenge.

It’s interesting to consider that when North America was a wine world afterthought in the 1970s and 1980s, most every import producer was breaking down the doors of North American retailers trying to get their wine into the country. By the 1990s Canadian monopolies were a showcase for wines of place. Dozens and dozens of boutique Napa Valley producers dotted our shelves and they were vying with their contemporaries from Australia and New Zealand and Chile and Italy. It was a time of super-Tuscans, Chianti Classico, class-growth Bordeaux, countless Burgundy négociants and exciting new New World finds almost weekly. There was even hope for South Africa. It’s hard to believe but visiting a wine shop back then was a real thrill for what was the forerunner of a wine geek.

It’s a different wine milieu today. Big brands and big retailers rule the world. The lowest price, the highest margins (and the sweetest wines) drive the business and we are all the poorer for it. There was much jubilation when the U.S. wine market surpassed France as the world’s largest wine-consuming nation two years ago. A lot was expected, or perhaps we should say was dreamed about, but what is really going on in the world’s number one wine market still lags far behind other countries in per-capita consumption.

In 2015 Shanken’s IMPACT Databank Review and Forecast for the US market noted slow growth especially among the on-trade environment where it is projecting “a tiny 0.2% increase by the end of this year, to a total volume of 321.7 million nine-liter cases. The 2015 volume increase represents the smallest increase since 1994 and after steadily increasing from 1994-2011, the per-capita wine consumption is projected to decline for the fourth consecutive year, as Americans bypass wine in favor of spirits, RTDs [ready to drink beverages] and cider.”

When you include bulk imports used for American brands (the equivalent of our Cellared in Canada or, more recently, International Canadian Blends) the domestic table wine category is projected to inch ahead in 2015. The report states “The primary growth driver in recent years has been Moscato, while on the import side double-digit gains continue to come from New Zealand wines, and on a much smaller scale, French rosé. Barefoot Cellars owned by Gallo is the “only brand with retail sales value exceeding $1 billion. Australia’s Yellow Tail leads all import labels comfortably by both value and volume.”

The numbers are somewhat shocking given it’s the age of the ‘Somm.’ Could it be natural wines and grower Champagne, just about all you read or hear about from sommeliers these days, are not on the radar of American wine consumers? If Hawaii restaurants are any indication the answer is a resounding no. But before we get too patriotic, it’s not much different here in Canada.

We have the provincial monopolies to thank for our shrinking selection. The changes are subtle, but as the expansion of big brand ‘facings’ (the number of bottles set side-by-side on a shelf) in liquor stores continues, each new facing spells the death of a boutique label likely produced in a legitimate appellation by a small family producer. In other words, every extra facing of Yellowtail, or Apothic or Sawmill Creek or Copper Moon means one less Rioja, or McLaren Vale Shiraz or Alto Maipo cabernet.

In March I attended ProWein. It turned out to be like a bowl of homemade chicken soup for the damaged wine soul. So much energy and so many great bottles and so few in Canadian stores. Like most foreign stops lately you learn that fewer and fewer family wineries are interested in dealing with the leviathan of rules and regulations that come with selling to Canada’s liquor monopolies. Between the regulations and the paperwork most say it’s no longer worth the effort to ‘maybe’ sell a single pallet of wine. And in another self–fulfilling way it’s not worth the monopoly’s time either. Bring on the sweet moscato and the sweet Prosecco and the critter labels and mega brands.

A better story is Canadian wine: production is up, sales are up, prices are up and the quality is up and all that is happening despite the best efforts of the country’s two largest markets, Ontario and Quebec, both of whom continue to block the sale of domestic wines made outside of their provincial boundaries.

Canadian vintners not exactly known for coming together to grow the market internationally may want to look to Adrian Bridge. Bridge is CEO of one of Portugal’s oldest and most important wine firms, the Fladgate Partnership, purveyors of several global brands led by Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca ports. Speaking at Spain’s Wine Vision 2015, Bridge was quoted in Drinks International as saying “The patchwork of different interests that exists in the world of wine often obscures our common areas of interest and gets in the way of cooperation and yet many of the significant challenges that are faced in the wine industry can be overcome by cooperation between competing producers, regions and even countries.”

Bridge speaks from experience revealing he has worked with Fladgate’s “archrivals/ competitors”, the Symington Group, holding joint port tastings. Bridge warned there are limits to what can be done but it is his view is that “The advantages of collaboration will generally outweigh the risks associated if the rules are clear and the parties look beyond their immediate goals and look to the medium and long term.”

Maybe 2016 is the year someone stops our quagmire that is Canadian wine politics, sidesteps the monopolies and brings together the industry under one banner. There is a sense the monopolies are on their last legs, not because of any reasoned or eloquent arguments that they should be terminated – and there are many – but rather like ancient Rome in the process of arrogantly trying to control everything to do with liquor they have finally upset Jack and Jill Citizen who think buying wine in a grocery store or a private wine shop is not the mortal sin it has been portrayed.

As I type this, Ontarians will have beer in 58 grocery stores by the end of the year. Ironically the folks who did all the work lobbying for grocery store wine sales will get nothing because according to government, the case for wine is far more complicated. Like BC, Ontario is learning grocery store wine sales are extremely complicated especially when you try to create a system that favours the home team and then try to implement it with special interest groups who are friends of government. An open market with a flat tax would eliminate all the problems, but then the only people who would benefit from that are consumers.

Somehow we will all survive in 2016 because Canadians will do what they have to do to buy interesting wine, even if a good portion of that will be illegal in the eyes of our goofball liquor laws that stretch from the Queen of England, to Ottawa to our photo-op obsessed provincial politicians. Consumers in Quebec and Ontario will continue to shop across provincial boundaries in search of bargains. British Columbian consumers and restaurants will continue to clean out Alberta wine shops and illegally ship their wine booty home, thumbing their nose at laws that make no sense and never have.

It’s tiresome to say the least, which has me wondering if I should go back to spending more time outside of the country in 2016. I have to say it is tempting. At WineAlign we spend an inordinate amount of time covering a lot of overtaxed dross bought and sold by the monopolies and I wonder whether we shouldn’t be going in another direction. It could be fun to report on the real wine world with tips on how to exploit the vast underworld of wine delivery needed to get those bottles into your homes.

I’m going to think about all this in Hawaii and get back to you soonest. Aloha, and Cheers to 2016.

 


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British Columbia Critics’ Picks December 2015

BUBBLES!

While the WineAlign West crew drink fizz, well, daily, there’s even more reason to pop the cork at year’s end. Between festive gatherings, Christmas dinner (and brunch!) and toasting to the start of a prosperous 2016, there is ample reason to celebrate this season. Here are a dozen of our favourite sparkling wines tasted this past year, any one of which we would be happy to raise a glass of to you, dear reader and fellow wine lover.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics – wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.

Anthony Gismondi

If you want to know which of your friends is really into wine, check their refrigerator. If you find a chilled bottle of sparkling wine just waiting to be opened for no particular reason, chances are they are wine freaks. Some thirty years down the wine path I’m still baffled by consumer resistance to open, share, and generally drink sparkling wine on a regular basis. It’s almost as if we dare not be seen consuming a product widely associated with “celebrating” something. Confounding the issue is sparkling wine’s ability to pair with an almost infinite number foods. But why dwell on the dreary; it’s time for a break and a great bottle of fizz to celebrate a few days off.

My picks for the holidays are not cheap but if you are only going to celebrate with sparkling wine you might as well drink the best. The Veuve Clicquot 2004 La Grande Dame comes from a large harvest but you would never know it. Big and rich, yes, but with a brightness and acidity that travels throughout. Showing at its peak now but should age gracefully.

Taittinger 2005 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs is not as big as the 2002 or 2004, so it’s ideally situated to drink now, providing breathing room for those wines to continue to age. Elegant as ever and delicate with full flavours.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin La Grande Dame Vintage Brut Champagne 2004 Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc De Blancs Vintage Brut Champagne 2005 Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne Piper Heidsieck Rare Champagne 2002

The delicious Louis Roederer N/V Brut Premier Champagne continues to impress in recent years, especially for the price. Love its cherry, citrus, chalky salty mineral palate. Always classy.

Finally the latest Piper-Heidsieck 2002 Rare Brut is a treat. One of the last tête-de-cuvées to come to the market, it doesn’t look or taste its thirteen years. Balanced and complex consider this serious enough for the dinner table.

Rhys Pender MW

Let’s make no mistake. Bubbly should not be reserved only for this holiday time of the year. Yes, we loosen our wallets a bit more around Christmas and upgrade from Cava to Champagne a little more often but we have to remember that it is fine to drink the sparkling stuff year round.

That said, the holidays are a great chance to try some classy wines and really see what you get for those extra dollars. You should get wines with more intensity, more complex flavours and greater length. They should leave you thinking with each sip. Here are four sparklers I would recommend for this Christmas and New Year.

The first is a delicious chardonnay based wine from the small Philipponnat house. You can currently buy the Philipponnat 2004 Grand Blanc Brut at private stores in BC and it is worth seeking out. Great combination of racy freshness and complex age and autolysis.

Another Champagne that is new to the shelves of the BC Liquor Stores, and new to me, is the Tendil & Lombardi N/V Brut Champagne. On special ’til Jan 2 for $46.99 this has fresh, crisp, racy minerality and just a hint of toastiness. Pairs well with oysters. I tested this personally for you.

Philipponnat Grand Blanc Brut 2004Tendil & Lombardi Champagne Brut Arras Grand Vintage 2004 Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne

Tasmania is Australia’s Champagne region – making its best sparkling wines. We are lucky to have another wine with some bottle age on the shelf in BC for a special treat. The Arras Grand Vintage 2004, is $60.99 and offers a richer style of wine with lots of developed character and still holding on with freshness. Try it with gougères.

Of the more widely available Champagnes you often end up developing a favourite. Admittedly I have a couple, but perhaps my favourite is the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne. This has the combination of toasty richness balanced with crisp, mineral acidity that I look for and it seems more complex and intense than most of its competition.

Treve Ring

Fizz goes with everything from brunch to dinner and intimate date night to grand showy celebrations. And really, everything else. I’ll self award an A for Effort in my attempt to taste as many sparkling wines as possible in 2015. Here are four memorable bottles of bubbles.

The pristine, Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils N/V Brut Rosé de Blancs is for those people who may not generally gravitate towards rosé champagnes (ahem – people like me). Delicate and intense at once, with a chalky textural minerality and precision that befits its 96 percent chardonnay. Four percent still pinot noir from Bouzy is added to the blend, yielding an ever-so-delicate peach hue and whiff of wild strawberries. One of the most memorable wines of my year.

Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grande Réserve N/V Brut Premier Cru is a graceful grower champagne, from premier cru vineyards around the village of Rilly, organically farmed. A fuller cushion of red fruit (red apples, currants) reflects the majority pinot noir in the cépage, balanced out with a vein of bright acidity from the chardonnay and plumped up with a minimum of ten months ferment and aging in oak.

Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Brut Rosé de Blancs Champagne Vilmart & Cie Grande Réserve Brut Premier Cru Coates & Seely Hampshire Reserve Brut Haywire The Bub Bottle Fermented & Aged

You’ve probably heard about British bubble, and now you can taste it, with the first to our province, Coates & Seely Hampshire N/V Reserve Brut, currently on shelves. This is a tiny, hands-on, traditional method (Méthode Britannique) sparkling house. Salt, wet chalk, lemon pith and subtle earthiness rings on the intense nose and palate before a bite of crunchy, citrus-spun acids. Charms with honest exuberance.

It’s always rewarding to see local wines shine and stand shoulder to shoulder with their peers worldwide. That’s what I thought when I tasted the latest Haywire The Bub, Bottle Fermented & Aged 2013. Pinot noir and chardonnay from cooler sites in Summerland and Oliver were used in this crisp, bright, bone dry (brut zero) fizz. Stock up, drink up.

~

WineAlign in BC

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

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!


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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008