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Top Values at the LCBO (August 2016)

Your Guide to Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Since I last wrote to you, I have tasted close to 200 new wines, mostly new vintages of existing listings, but also about 50 brand new wines to the LCBO General List. So this makes for another exciting month for my Top 50 Best Values.

Among the seventeen wines in today’s report there are:

• Three wines that are brand new listings. Congrats to the smart buyers at the LCBO
• Two new vintages that scored 90 points
• Four wines for less than $10
• Two 89 point wines with big discounts (LTOs) this month, and
• Three 89 point wines with loads of bonus Air Miles (BAMs)

The current promotional period runs until September 11th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015, Central Valley, Chile ($9.10 was $11.10) – This is an excellent unpretentious pinot with a harmonious nose and a pure well structured palate which is mid-weight with the fruit well balanced by acidity and mild tannin. It is fresh, pure, fruity and very drinkable.

Luccarelli Primitivo 2015, Puglia, Italy ($9.45 was $10.95) – At $1.50 off this is a great buy for a well balanced red made from primitivo (aka zinfandel).  It is midweight with ripe fruit well balanced by acidity and soft tannin. The finish is lively with fruit persisting well; maybe a little tart for some so try with a tomato based meat sauces.

K W V Roodeberg 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($10.60 was $12.60) – This is medium bodied Cape classic has been in our stores for years and at $2 off it offers good value for a well balanced and fairly complex red. Try with juicy lamb cutlets.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015Luccarelli Primitivo 2015 K W V Roodeberg 2013 Spier Signature Merlot 2014

Spier Signature Merlot 2014 Western Cape, South Africa ($10.95 was $12.95) New to the LCBO – This seems to be an unoaked merlot. In fact it spent some time in old barrels which has made it very smooth on the palate with lively lemony red berry fruit and fine grippy tannin. It is midweight dry and well structured with very good length. Try a little chilled with bbq meats.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa ($11.15 was $13.15) – This delightful blend of shiraz and 5 other grapes comes from high mountain vineyards above Stellenbosch.  It is very smooth and quite dense with a degree of elegance. Try with pizza or burgers.

Les Jamelles Merlot 2014, Vin De Pays d’Oc, France ($11.95 was $13.95) – This is a lovely juicy fruity merlot with ripe but not overripe fruit well balanced by vibrant acidity and soft supportive tannins. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled or with mildly spicy gourmet sausages.

Las Mulas Reserva Merlot 2015 Central Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $12.95) New to the LCBO – This fresh bright fullbodied merlot is an excellent addition to the LCBO list.  The palate shows ripe berry fruit with lively acidity and nice grippy tannin. Very good length. Try with BBQ meats.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012 Les Jamelles Merlot 2014 Las Mulas Reserva Merlot 2015 Trapiche Reserve Merlot 2015

Trapiche Reserve Merlot 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($11.95) New to the LCBO – This is an elegant well priced merlot with a beautiful creamy rich smooth palate with lots of flavour and very good to excellent length.  It is midweight and nicely structured with a firm finish.  Try with a steak.

Trapiche Pure Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.95 was $15.95) – A pure malbec made without oak maturation, so there are no sweet mocha, dark chocolate and vanilla aromas and flavours overwhelming the fruit. Quite complex with good focus and lovely vibrant acidity. Try with a juicy duck breast.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2015, Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95) – The 2015 is just as good as the 2014. This is deeply coloured red blend that is medium to full bodied with firm tannin which gives a nice edge to the finish. Very good to excellent length. Try with grilled red meats.

Trapiche Pure Malbec 2015 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2015 Castillo de Monseran Reserva Garnacha 2011 Jacob's Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2014

Castillo De Monseran Reserva Garnacha 2011, Cariñena, Aragon, Spain ($14.10) – An old-world styled mature red with herbal tones to the fruit. Very classy and superb value. Very good length. Try with a steak.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2014, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($16.95) – For under $17 this is great value for a shiraz with structure and elegance. It is full bodied with the ripe fruit nicely supported by well integrated oak, juicy acidity and firm tannin. Try with a steak.

Whites

Mezzomondo Pinot Grigio Chardonnay 2014 Sicily, Italy ($8.95 was $9.95) – Great value for an easy drinking pure clean white with loads of flavour and a soft nutty fruity nose. Its crisp yet quite rich with good to very good length. Great by the glass as aperitif or with seafood starters.

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015, Western Cape, South Africa ($9.50 was $11.00) – A fresh and very flavourful dry white. It is rich with the ample fruit well balanced by racy acidity. Try with creamy pasta sauces, grilled chicken or sautéed seafood.

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2015, Coastal Region, South Africa ($13.10 was $15.10) – Just enough oak for added complexity and structure makes this a very classy, rich, smooth chardonnay with a lot of appeal to nose and palate. Try with rich poultry dishes or creamy veal.

Mezzomondo Pinot Grigio Chardonnay 2014 Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015 Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2015Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2015Alvear Medium Dry

Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand ($17.15 ) – This juicy fruity sauvignon has a complex very appealing nose with the fruit on the palate nicely balanced with fresh lemony acidity. It is creamy and rich with very good length.

Alvear Medium Dry, Montilla Morilles, Spain ($12.75 + 4 BAMs) – This wine is a beautiful golden brown with orange highlights. It is just off-dry with the sweetness very well counter-balanced by the acidity. Try with seared foie gras or sip it with mixed dried fruit and nuts. It is especially good with blue cheese when the sweetness nicely balances the bitterness from the blue parts.

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

Steve's Top Value WinesToday’s report pulls best buys from Steve’s Top 50 which is a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio of the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. 

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection. (You can access these lists under the Wine tab on WineAlign.)

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

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

• Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping.

I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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


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Top Values at the LCBO (July 2016)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

It is mid-summer and so it’s a quiet time at LCBO for activities like delists and promotions but new wines have still been arriving and I have been busy tasting them as well as sampling some new vintages of existing listings.

As a consequence I am pleased to tell you that it is another exciting month for my Top 50 Best Values with six wines joining the list since I last wrote to you.

I also write about another wine that is brand new to the LCBO. It is great when a wine is added to the system and, without any discounts,  jumps straight onto the list. Congrats again to the smart buyers at the LCBO.

These are the usual reasons for wines joining the Top 50 Best Values list. There are also another five wines on the list that all have lots of Bonus AirMiles (BAMs) for the next 4 weeks, making them a little more attractive.

Steve’s Top Values are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection which I select from wines on Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The discount period runs until August 14th.  So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Tini Sangiovese 2014, Romagna, Italy ($7.75) – This is a drinkable soft clean Italian red for pizza, pasta and risotto. It is dry and fruity with enough tannin and acidity for balance and very decent length considering the price. The finish is a little lean and a bit tart, but for the money, not bad.

Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2013, Wrattonbully, South Australia ($10.95 was $11.95) Delisted – This is a full-bodied powerful fruity red with smoke and spice from oak and some herbal tones and a dash of raspberry jam. The palate is juicy and fully flavoured with a long fruity finish. Very good length. Drink cautiously before running with bulls. Over 800 bottles remain.

Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($12.05) – A very juicy full bodied red with an appealing nose and lots of fruit that is balanced by soft tannin and soft acidity. Good focus and very good length. Try with lamb kebabs.

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($12.95 + 8 BAMs) – This is a pure fresh elegant wine with complexity and structure that usually costs a lot more. It has a youthful nose and very even palate which is finely balanced with excellent length. Enjoy with fine cuisine.

Tini Sangiovese 2014Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2013Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014

KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Western Cape South Africa ($13.45 was $15.95) – This cabernet shows classic Cape minerality which lightens the palate and nose giving the impression of freshness. It is full bodied with excellent length. Try with a steak.

Argento Reserva Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.95) – This is a big powerfully flavoured malbec with a freshness and elegance to nose and palate. It is very smooth, well balanced with a fruity dry finish. Try with a juicy duck breast.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014, Western Cape, South Africa ($14.10 + 8 BAMs) – This is deeply coloured red blend that is medium to full bodied with firm tannin which gives a nice edge to the finish. Very good to excellent length. Best 2015 to 2019. Try with grilled red meats.

Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 2011, Douro Superior, Portugal ($18.10) – A rich powerful port with fresh sweet black berry fruit aromas with vanilla and floral notes. It is full bodied very rich with the 20% alcohol finely balanced by soft acidity. Try with hard mature cheese and dark chocolate.

Kwv Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Argento Reserva Malbec 2014The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 2011

Whites

Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2015, Sicily, Italy ($8.20) Grillo is one of my favourite Sicilian native grapes which, when blended here with pinot grigio, delivers a deeply flavoured well balanced white at a great price. It is fairly simple but well balanced with very good length. Don’t overchill and try with sautéed seafood.

Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015, Argentina ($12.00) – This is a very rich smooth white blend that is probably mostly chardonnay maybe with a splash of viognier. It is midweight and deeply flavoured with very good length. Try with roast white meats like pork or veal or rich mature cheddar cheese.

Goats do Roam White 2015, Coastal Region, South Africa ($12.00) – The aromatic Goats white is a blend of three Rhone whites grapes and  is quite classy smooth and flavourful considering its price.  Enjoy as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or try with roast poultry.

Domaine Chatelain Les Vignes De Saint Laurent L’Abbaye Pouilly Fumé 2015, Loire Valley, France ($20.30) – This is a very classy dry white that is crisp and elegant with a mineral core to nose and palate which is so typical of Pouilly-Fumé. It is 100% sauvignon blanc. Minerally rich and very elegant. Try with sauteed seafood.

Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2015Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015Goats Do Roam White 2015Domaine Chatelain Les Vignes De Saint Laurent L'abbaye Pouilly Fumé 2015

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 38 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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


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Top Values at the LCBO (June 2016)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I spent the last week in BC with over 20 colleagues from WineAlign judging the 2016 edition of the National Wine Awards of Canada. Between us we tasted over 1500 wines in the competition plus many more at wineries we visited. It was a great exposure to the many good wines being made in Canada today.

I am now back in Ontario and am pleased to tell you that it is another exciting month for my Top 50 Best Values with twelve wines joining the list since I last wrote to you.

Some are de-listed favourites, others are discounted or have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive. I also write about some wines that are brand new to the LCBO. It is great when a wine is added to the system and, without any discounts, jumps straight onto the list. Bravo to the canny buyers at the LCBO.

Today’s report pulls best buys from Steve’s Top 50 which is a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio of the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The current discount period runs until July 17th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2013, Wrattonbully, South Australia ($10.95 was $11.95) Delisted – This is a full-bodied powerful fruity red with smoke and spice from oak and some herbal tones and a dash of raspberry jam. The palate is juicy and fully flavoured with a long fruity finish. Very good length. Drink cautiously before running with bulls. Over 2300 bottles remain.

Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.95 was $11.95) – An elegant fruity structured wine for fine dining. It is medium bodied and dry with soft mature tannin and well integrated acidity delivering a gentle velvety smooth palate. Try with roast beef. Very good length.

Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2013 Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2014 Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Castilla León, Spain ($11.65) – This is juicy vibrant clean red with fresh raspberry and red cherry aromas with good focus and very good length with an intense fruity finish. Chill lightly and enjoy with BBQ meats.

Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2014, Cachapoal Valley, Chile ($11.95 + 8BAMs) – Carmenere is rapidly becoming the signature grape of Chile where they have now mastered this difficult grape. It is a dense powerful wine that is full bodied but still very juicy with ripe fruit and fine tannin. Very good length.

Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2014 Ogier Cotes Du Ventoux Red 2013 Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2013

Ogier Cotes du Ventoux Red 2013, Rhone Valley, France ($11.95) – This is a soft spicy red with raspberry, grapefruit and cherry fruit aromas and white pepper spiciness on nose and palate. It is mid-weight with soft tannin and very good length. Try with a grilled lamb cutlets.

Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2013, Mendoza, Argentina ($14.10 was $14.95) – The Masi team that has crafted a savoury acid driven style of wine that is eminently food friendly. So do not expect mocha and chocolate laced ripe berry fruit; this is more Bordeauxlike than what Mendoza’s Uco Valley often delivers and I like it a lot.

Whites

Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2015, Sicily, Italy ($8.20) Grillo is one of my favourite Sicilian native grapes which, when blended here with pinot grigio, delivers a deeply flavoured well balanced white at a great price. It is fairly simple but well balanced with very good length. Don’t overchill and try with sautéed seafood.

Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2014, Argentina ($10.95 was $12.95) – This is lightly oaked to give some added complexity and structure and very smooth with a mineral tone to the fruit. Very good to excellent length with a dry finish. Try with creamy pasta sauces.

Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2015 Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2014 Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015

Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015 Argentina ($12.00) – This is a very rich smooth white blend that is probably mostly chardonnay maybe with a splash of viognier. It is midweight and deeply flavoured with very good length. Try with roast white meats like pork or veal or rich mature cheddar cheese.

Goats do Roam White 2015, Coastal Region, South Africa ($12.00) – The aromatic Goats white is a blend of three Rhone whites grapes and  is quite classy smooth and flavourful considering its price.  Enjoy as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or try with roast poultry.

Goats Do Roam White 2015 Lacheteau Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Malivoire Chardonnay 2013

Lacheteau Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Touraine, Loire Valley, France ($14.10 + 5BAMs) – This is an elegant flavourful sauvignon with good varietal character that is midweight and quite rich with lots of flavour and fine balancing acidity. Very good length. Try with herbed chicken.

Malivoire Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($17.95 was $19.95) – This is a very classy white with a beautiful soft creamy texture and vibrant zesty acidity that is finely balanced and midweight with the fruit graced by minerality on the finish. Try with mildly flavoured poultry or seafood dishes. Happy Canada Day!

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 38 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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


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Bodega Argento: A brand new wine

The Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi Portrait Colour_Cropped

Anthony Gismondi

Every once in a while the normally staid wine business can surprise you when it changes direction. Screwcaps, wine on tap, the art of growing vines under biodynamic rules or even the idea of the United States becoming the number one wine market despite its conservative winemaking base that has done its best to avoid most of the aforementioned trends – all unforeseen advances.

Recent announcements touting the ginormous amounts of money paid for American wine brands Meiomi and The Prisoner, where the buyer had zero interest in the land or anything to do with the wine other than its label or brand, has me doubting my own journey and whether caring about wine, and where it comes from is anything more than a pipe dream.

It’s deflating to see so many people I assumed were in it for the long run – you know, generations of winemaking, stewards of the land – cashing in on the growing interest in wine but I’m sure they have their reasons. It is clear not everyone is suited to farming and the massive amount of hard work required to grow meaningful wine that can add something to our culture.

All of which brings us to a story about a South American brand headed in a very different direction. It’s rare to see a commercial wine brand turn itself into a full-fledged winery with a solid lineup of wines (in fact they often go in the other direction) but that is what’s happening in Argentina at Bodega Argento. Argento, under the leadership of Carlos Pulenta, has literally rediscovered its roots in the vineyards of Mendoza, in effect transforming itself from an ordinary brand to a story of people and place all seeking a higher level of excellence.

Argento the brand was born in 1998, and was malbec focused. It’s easy to see by the nomenclature of the time that Argento was all brand – “Intrinsically entwined with its country of origin. When you drink our wines, you experience the real Argentina.” Compare those dreamy words first tagged to the brand back in the early 2000s under the new Bodega Argento, where “There is a strong belief that blending fruit sourced from a variety of altitudes, soil profiles and microclimates creates more interesting wines with greater complexity and balance.”

A lot of the credit for Argento’s transformation lies with winemaker Silvia Corti. Corti heads up the winemaking team since 2004, and she has implemented a philosophy of “achieving fruit purity, vibrancy and elegance” at all levels of the winemaking process. Mentoring Corti is renowned Italian winemaker/consultant Alberto Antonini.

Winemaker Silvia Corti

Winemaker Silvia Corti, Bodega Argento

Antonini has been instrumental in convincing Pulenta, Corti and the team that when you are seeking purity and truth in wine less is more. To paraphrase the quixotic Italian “it’s the high quality minimal ingredients that make the Margherita pizza, it doesn’t need a dozen toppings to be great.”

After moving to a larger facility at Cruz de Piedra, Maipú, Mendoza, Corti has the space and the equipment to really dial in the Argento philosophy. It’s an old property built in the 1970s that will get a facelift for visitors, but inside and underground, it’s the large concrete vats that have Pulenta, Antonini and Corti smiling.

Argento is unlikely to get the attention of a Bordeaux first growth or a Napa Valley icon label, but it may be the best quality wine coming out of Argentina at the lowest possible price. Careful fruit selection and paying attention to its source has proven to be the key to the Argento team getting its amazing texture and concentration of flavour into the bottle. The use of concrete and old methods simply serves to enhance those characteristics and protect them throughout the ageing process.

Winemaker/consultant Alberto Antonini

Winemaker/consultant Alberto Antonini, Bodega Argento

Silvia Corti’s love of wine is rooted in its social aspects. As she puts it, “It has always intrigued me to watch people engage their senses. When you make a wine people like, it’s so satisfying because it means that you have accurately interpreted what they want. To have this result the wine must have significant fruit purity, with good weight in the mouth, great persistence on the palate and enough softness to be easy to drink.”

Corti goes on to say “The style of Argento wines is based on finesse and aroma concentration, freshness, a clear expression of the terroir and varietal typicity. There is widespread use of selection tables at reception to maintain a high quality of grapes. The fruit goes into stainless steel tanks with cooling jackets, concrete tanks with epoxy covering, and barrels of different dimensions (including big casks) that allow us to elaborate diverse wine styles conferring a complexity and identity to each line of our wines.”

Today, Bodega Argento has the authorization to make organic wine with grapes coming from its organically certified vineyard in Altamira. It is the first step towards sustainability as the company moves to attain organic certification in all its vineyards. Argento has what seems like an ever-changing mix of labels in markets across the country. The good news is this is a brand you can rely on no matter which wine is in your market.

Here are a few of the labels that caught my attention during a recent visit to the property.

The Argento Classic 2015 Pinot Grigio is a great example of the style change. After sitting on its lees in stainless steel tanks, with intermittent stirring, the fresh, textured white is a step above the crowd when it comes to an easy-sipping white for summer.

The Argento Classic 2015 Malbec is simply pure fun, and pure fruit. So fresh and savoury with juicy black and red fruits that is all Mendoza from Rivadavia, Junín, Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, Tunuyán and Tupungato. Crazy value.

Bonarda remains underappreciated by the gatekeepers in North America who seem to have given up on listing or selling it but the Argento 2015 Bonarda offers a juicy, peppery red with aromas and flavours of raspberries and other red fruits, ending with a dusting of pepper. Simple, fun and very drinkable.

Argento Pinot Grigio 2015Argento Malbec 2015 Argento Bonarda 2015

Esquinas de Argento 2015 Pinot Grigio Cool Climate Selection turned my head first for its clever label that celebrates life of Buenos Aires street corners often cut back on a 45-degree angle to accommodate restaurants and retail stores that harbour the energy of the neighbourhood. This high altitude pinot grigio boasts bright fresh fruit from the Tunuyán region of the Uco Valley. Delicate and crisp, it is a perfect summer sipper for chicken or seafood salads.

Wow is how I describe the Argento 2014 Reserva Malbec, reflective of all the hard work going on at Argento. Floral (violet) notes mix with beautiful pure plum and blackberry fruit that is super juicy and slippery on the palate. Back up the truck and serve around the barbecue all summer.

The Argento Reserva 2014 Cabernet Franc is equally beguiling full of aromatics on this wine. An expressive rich, soft red with texture and length.

The jewel in the lineup is the Argento Single Vineyard Paraje Altamira 2014 Malbec. The new focus is all about making wines of purity, vibrancy, elegance, balance – or the highest expression of the terroir. Easy to say but not so easy to accomplish yet winemaker Silvia Corti and consulting winemaker Alberto Antonini are getting there thanks to an amazing selection of fruit from Argento’s Paraje Altamira estate in the Uco Valley, a vineyard that sits some 1090 metres above sea level. Style with structure and length at a very fair price.

Esquinas De Argento Pinot Grigio 2015 Argento Reserva Malbec 2014 Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2014 Argento Single Vineyard Paraje Altamira Malbec 2014

It’s inspiring to see the transformation at Argento. Antonini has a lot to do with the change, but as he likes to say he does it “By doing nothing.” It takes a lot of confidence to do less in pursuit of more but Corti and Antonini, along with the team and the blessing of Pulenta, are heading in a brand new direction few could have guessed Argento would, just a few years ago.

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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Top Values at the LCBO (May 2016)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There is a lot to tell you about this month with 12 wines new to my Top 50 Best Values list. Sadly four of those are de-listed favourites with big discounts to quickly clear the shelves. So don’t hesitate on those or you will miss out. There are good stocks for now; but they may be all gone in the next week or so.

Four new vintages of current listings, that I have tasted since I last wrote, were better than the last vintage and so they also joined the list as did four wines that jumped onto the list because they are on discount for the next four weeks. These are the usual reasons for wines joining the Top 50 Best Values list. There are also another eight wines that all have lots of Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) for the next 4 weeks if you are a collector of miles.

Today’s report pulls best buys from Steve’s Top 50 which is a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio of the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The current discount period runs until June 19th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

La Posta Cocina Tinto Red Blend 2014 Mendoza, Argentina ($7.45 was $12.95) DELISTED – An opaque red blend of malbec with syrah and bonarda that is full bodied and flavourful with some firm tannin giving grip and acidity for vibrancy. Good to very good length just a little hot from alcohol on the finish. Try it with steak.

Beso De Vino Seleccion Red 2011 Carinena, Spain ($8.95 was $9.95) – This is a ripe structured red with a nice lemony tone to nose and palate. The palate is full bodied with some tannin and lemony acidity for balance. Try with sweet ribs.

La Posta Cocina Tinto Red Blend 2014Beso De Vino Seleccion Red 2011Frisky Zebras Seductive Shiraz K W V Roodeberg 2013

Frisky Zebras Seductive Shiraz, Western Cape, South Africa ($8.95) – This batch of this non-vintage red from the Cape is better than last time it came my way. It is a dry soft shiraz with black cherry fruit with a hint of tobacco. The palate has soft acidity to keep it lively and mild tannin. Good length. Try with grilled red meats.

K W V Roodeberg 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($9.95 was $12.45) – This is medium bodied Cape classic had been in our stores for years because it offers good value for a well balanced and fairly complex red. Impressive depth for a wine that’s less than $10 for the next few weeks.

Tons de Duorum Red 2014, Douro Valley, Portugal ($10.35 was $12.55) – DELISTED – This is an elegant fruity red that is midweight to full bodied and juicy with the fruit well balanced by lemony acidity and mild tannin. Very good length. Chill a little and try with bbq meats.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015, Central Valley, Chile ($10.95 + 5 BAMs) – The 2015 vintage is one of the best I can recall of this excellent unpretentious pinot with a harmonious nose and a pure well structured palate. It is fresh, pure, fruity and very drinkable.

Tons De Duorum Red 2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015 Tribunal Red 2012 Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013 Fielding Fireside Red Cabernet 2012

Tribunal Red 2012, North Coast, California, USA ($11.45 was $18.95) – DELISTED – This slightly peppery red is brimming with berry fruit. Its youthful exuberance is very appealing. Enjoy on its own or with bbq meats.

Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.95 was $16.95) – A structured juicy fruity pinot that is midweight with decent length and a fine balancing vibrant acidity. Quite elegant with new world styling but dry and tightly knit.

Fielding Fireside Red Cabernet 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($13.95 was $14.95) – This blend of cabernet franc with cabernet sauvignon is very appealing. It is well structured for food with red cherry and plum aromas and flavours. Try with a steak.

Whites

Jaszbery Etyek Budai Riesling 2014, Hungary ($7.55) – The 2014 vintage is a fine dry riesling with aromas of melon, lemon and pear fruit with a floral tone. It is lightweight well balanced with just enough sweetness to cover the acidity. Very drinkable at a good price.

Brazos de Los Andes White 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($7.95 was $13.90) – DELISTED – This is blend of chardonnay and torrontes with a splash of pinot grigio. It is midweight and creamy smooth with a good depth of fruit flavour a little sweetness but if finishes dry. Very good length. Try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.

Alvear Medium Dry, Montilla Morilles, Spain ($12.60) – This smells and tastes like toffee with floral orange and nutty tones, but with only a little sweetness. It is a great price for such a complex, zesty rich wine. Try with blue cheese. The delicate sweetness nicely balances the bitterness from the blue parts.

Jaszbery Etyek Budai Riesling 2014 Brazos De Los Andes White 2015 Alvear Medium Dry

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 37 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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


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Top Values at the LCBO (April – 2nd Edition)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

When I wrote to you a few weeks ago, I thought that spring would soon be here; I was so wrong. So to console you I have found some great value wines to drink while we all wait for the weather to improve.

For you bargain lovers I have some great news. Although there are only three new wines on my Top 50 Best Values this month there are another six, that were already on the list, that are either discounted or have Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) that apply, making these wines even more attractive and your spring drinking even more affordable.

There are also some new listings that are fine buys. As usual wines have been joining the Top 50 Best Values list and others have fallen off over the last 4 weeks. Those of you who follow me know I really enjoy discovering inexpensive gems. I have also included in this report four wines that almost made it onto the Top 50. I am writing about them because they all have lots of BAMs for the next 4 weeks.

Steve’s Top 50 is a standing WineAlign best buys list based on quality/price ratio of the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The current discount period runs until May 22nd. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine highlighted.

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

Reds

Citra 2014 Sangiovese Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.95 +5 BAMs) – This red is a little rustic with a savoury herbal nose, but quite tasty with mildly flavoured red meat dishes or a mild hard cheese like cheddar.

Santa Carolina 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rapel Valley, Chile ($8.95 + 5BAMs) – This is a pure and very even red with a good depth of flavour. Not a lot of complexity but then it is under $9. Try with roast meats.

Santa Carolina 2015 Merlot, Chile ($8.95 + 5 BAMS) – Great value for an exuberant fruity merlot. The palate is brimming with lively bright fruit with enough tannin for balance and good to very good length. Enjoy on its own or with cheese and meat dishes. Very versatile.

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2014 Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Santa Carolina Merlot 2015 K W V Paarl Cape Ruby Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell 2013 Château Canteloup 2012

K W V Paarl Cape Ruby South Africa ($9.85 + 6BAMs) – This is a fullbodied fortified red made in similar way as ruby port. It is medium sweet well balanced with decent length. Try with blue cheese, semi-sweet dark chocolate or dried fruit and nuts.

Bodegas Castaño 2013 Hécula Monastrell, Yecla, Spain ($10.45) New to Top 50 – The monastrell (mourvedre) grape in southeastern Spain makes many delicious juicy full bodied reds like this. The palate is very smooth with a good depth of flavour and it finishes dry with some fine tannin for grip. Very good length. Try with roast meats.

Château Canteloup 2012, Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($19.65 + 10 BAMs) – This is great value for a good quality Bordeaux with the aromatics of a great wine. Though the structure is not that of the best, it is still very impressive for the money. It’s medium weight with a silky mid-palate, then a firm tannic finish. Excellent length.

Whites

Periquita White 2013, Portugal ($8.95 + 5 BAMs) – A juicy blend of three white grapes with a very smooth palate and a good depth of flavour. Enjoy with mildly flavoured seafood.

Domaine Jean Bousquet 2015 White Blend, Argentina ($11.90 + 4 BAMs) – This is an aromatic white that’s midweight and deeply flavoured with the fruit well balanced by soft acidity. Try with roast veal or pork.

Periquita White 2013 Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015 Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015

Santa Rita 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($11.95 + 7BAMs) – A juicy nicely structured sauvignon with just enough sweetness to balance the acidity and not too much greenness. Try with sautéed seafood.

Marqués de Riscal 2014, Rueda, Spain ($12.70 + 6 BAMs) – This is a pure fresh crisp white with an aromatic nose of grapefruit, passion fruit, white pepper with some honey notes. Since it is lively and juicy with very good length and is so refreshing, it is a great selection for seafood and mildly flavoured white meats.

Wolf Blass 2014 Yellow Label Chardonnay, Padthaway/Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($12.95 was $14.95) – This is a well balanced fruity lively chardonnay with a touch of oak; quite elegant for such an inexpensive wine. Try with rich seafood dishes, roast pork or sautéed veal.

Marqués De Riscal 2014 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Riverlore 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.90 was 15.90) New to Top 50 – This crisp very juicy kiwi sauvignon shows classic Marlborough aromas and flavours. It is midweight and well balanced with a creamy rich palate and crisp dry herbal lemon finish. Try with grilled calamari or creamy goat cheese.

Peter Yealands 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.95 was $15.95) New to Top 50 – There is a soft appealing mineral tone to the aromas and flavours of this juicy vibrant mouthwatering sauvignon. Nice concentration and very pure with very good length. Try with seafood dishes.

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 37 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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


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Top Values at the LCBO (March 2016)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There are ten new wines on my Top 50 Best Values this month, which in itself is amazing news, however I also found that another three, already on my Top 50, are discounted making them an even better deal. Plus another four on the list have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive for the next four weeks or so.

It is an exciting time for me since so many new vintages arrive this time of the year. Some of the new vintages I tasted were better and some not so good, so wines join the list and others fall off. As those of you who follow me know I really enjoy discovering inexpensive gems, so I am delighted to have found so many new great values at the LCBO this month.

The wines featured in this report are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials collection which I select from wines on Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The current discount period runs until March 27th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Castilla León, Spain ($9.45 was $11.45) – A juicy vibrant red with red berry fruit and just enough tannin for balance. Try with grilled meats or mature hard cheese.

La Casona De Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2014, Yecla, Alicante, Spain ($9.65) New to Top 50 – This is a bright ruby red with appealing berry aromas. It is a medium-bodied, full-flavoured wine with juicy ripe fruit, well balanced, with the fruit persisting well onto the finish. Try with meaty pasta sauces or pizza.

Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014 Colchagua Valley, Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – A typical Chilean cabernet at a great price. Juicy full bodied and well balanced. More complexity than you would expect for such an inexpensive wine. Try with a steak.

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 La Casona De Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2014 Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014 Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Maipo Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $13.95) New to Top 50 – A juicy rich well balanced cabernet with good varietal character. Its full bodied and nicely structured with very good length. Try with grilled meats or a creamy cheese like Brie.

Santa Julia Reserva Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.95 was $12.95) New to Top 50 – This is a rich malbec with a creamy texture and enticing aromatics. Flavourful with a long lingering very dry finish. Try with a rack of juicy ribs.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa ($11.00 was $13.00) New to Top 50 – This delightful blend of shiraz and 5 other grapes has a lifted nose that shows ripe blackberry and blueberry fruit. It is very smooth and quite dense with a degree of elegance. Try with pizza or burgers.

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Mendoza, Argentina ($12.95 was $14.95) – A consistently solid buy and at $2 off a fantastic deal. A rich, full flavoured malbec with aromas of chocolate, spices and berry fruits. Buy an armful while the deal lasts.

Santa Julia Reserva Malbec 2014 Thelema Mountain Red 2012 Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Château De Vaugelas Le Prieuré Corbières 2013 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Château De Vaugelas Le Prieuré Corbières 2013 Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($13.95) – The 2013 is a big improvement for this syrah grenache blend. Well balanced nicely structured with very good length. Quite classy for such an inexpensive wine. Try with a steak.

Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA ($19.90) – Lots of depth, flavour and complexity for a wine at this price, the 2013 is just as good as the superb 2012. Elegant and well balanced. Try with roast beef.

Whites

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Colchagua Valley Chile ($8.95 was $9.95) – At $9.95 it was already the best value white, so at $1off its time to stock up on this aromatic flavourful white. Enjoy on its own or with mildly spicy white meat dishes or rich poultry or with Swiss Gruyere cheese.

Dunavár Pinot Grigio 2014 Hungary ($8.95) New to Top 50 – This is a simple, fresh and lively pinot grigio, that is quite flavourful and very easy to drink.  It is midweight with a slight spritz adding to its freshness. At this price it provides plenty of basic refreshment.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Dunavár Pinot Grigio 2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2015 Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2015 Central Valley Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – The 2015 vintage is just as good as the excellent 2014. Aromatic and flavourful it is probably the best value grigio at LCBO. Chill well and enjoy with grilled calamari, cheesy pasta sauces or sauteed seafood. Why pay more when you have all you need here?

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015 Casablanca Valley, Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – Consistently one of the best white wine values at LCBO. Good varietal character with lots of flavour. Try with cheesy pasta sauces or roast chicken.

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 37 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Jan 23, 2016

Playing the Currency Markets; Portugal and South America
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The Canadian dollar took a beating last year, and continues to languish against most currencies. While this is good news for exporters, it’s nothing but strife for importers, who must continually wrangle with their suppliers and distributors over whose belt gets tightened to maintain steady prices.

In the Ontario wine world, however, there’s no wrangling with the retailer. The LCBO doesn’t cut margins to keep shelf prices of import wines steady. The onus is instead on the supplier, or the supplier’s Ontario agent, to cut profits, or see shelf prices rise. And even a $1 or $2 increase in the most vulnerable sub-$20 category can have a direct and dramatic effect on sales.

Last week, the Canadian dollar reached a 10-year low vis-à-vis the US dollar, dropping nearly 20% over the course of the past year. And the trend is predicted to continue. The full effects of that significant bottoming out have yet to be felt. The LCBO buying cycle is very long, often more than 6 months, so most of what is currently on the shelves was purchased at a more favourable exchange. And large companies can buffer currency fluctuations with foreign exchange reserves – for a while – but not forever. So you can expect to see the prices of all your favourite Californian wines inch inexorably upward in 2016, and real values will be ever more elusive.

The Euro on the other hand, gained a relatively modest 6% against our dollar in 2015, which, to be fair was already very strong in previous years, but is predicted to trend sideways or even lose against the dollar in 2016. The Australian dollar remained steady last year, and the Argentine peso actually dropped 4% against the dollar. The Chilean peso was almost steady, but the sputtering South African Rand has been on a downward spiral for several years, losing around half of its value in the last five years against our loonie.

So, what does this mean? In terms of pure currency exchange, for my money, the bargains to be found in 2016 will come from Europe’s already depressed economies, namely Spain and Portugal, and South America, while Australia will continue to regain the market share it lost in the first decade of the millennium. South Africa has been one of the best bargains of all in recent memory, and will continue to impress at every level.

Now factoring production costs into the equation, my predictions are similar. Wine is cheaper to produce in all of the above-named countries compared to the US or northern Europe. This same group of countries will be the ones to watch when seeking the biggest bang for your buck.

Portugal and South America – Playing the Markets

And as if to drive home the point, by luck or coincidence, or improbable foresight, the January 23rd VINTAGES release features a fine range of values from both Portugal and South America.

Portugal in particular is producing wines of exceptional quality at prices that hardly seem sustainable. For Europhiles looking for their fix of savoury, dusty, firm reds under $20, Portugal should be the first stop.

The Barão de Vilar 2012 Proeza, DOC Dão ($13.95) is a case in point, made by a port house belonging to the Van Zeller family. Proeza is a collection of wines from “meaningful” Portuguese regions, and this Dão is indeed a tidy little value, not fabulously complex or life changing, and a touch sweet, but at least as good as many similar wines at twice the price.

Similarly, the Flor de Maio 2012 Mayflower, Vinho Regional Alentejano ($13.95) is fine and spicy-floral, savoury red blend (Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, Syrah, Trincadeira, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon) aged in stainless steel, juicy and firm, perfectly serviceable for the money, made by a partnership of three enologists under the company Magnum Vinhos. In fact, the complexity is quite high and the balance very good for the sub-$15 category.

Barão De Vilar Proeza 2012 Flor De Maio Mayflower 2012 Vale Do Bomfim 2013 Pomares Tinto 2011

It’s clear that the low prices for Douro table wines cannot be maintained. Once considered an afterthought, and subsidized by grapes destined for port wine production, the high production costs of dry Douro reds – made essentially from the same steep, low yielding vineyards as port – are not currently reflected in their price. Enjoy the likes of the Vale do Bomfim 2013 ($15.95) and the Pomares 2011 Tinto ($16.95) while you can. Both are representative of the region, on soft and supple frames. The former is attractively dark-fruited, the latter plush and supple, spicy and licorice-tinged. Each offers plenty of pleasure, and drinkability for the money.

South America

South America, on the other hand, is a value haven for fans of new world style, generously proportioned fruit forward wines. Chile is particularly dynamic. A country in the midst of a comprehensive renovation from monochromatic cabernet and chardonnay, to a multi-coloured display of depth and diversity. One of the most exciting developments is the re-discovery of a wealth of old vines of once-unfashionable varieties, mainly in the deep south, and their revalorization.

The 2011 Santa Carolina Specialties Dry Farming Carignan, Cauquenes Valley, Chile ($17.95) is a prime example, made from 80 year-old vines dry-farmed in the Maule Valley. Santa Carolina’s Specialties range is where you’ll find the company’s most exciting wines, and this is an attractively herbal, succulent and juicy, yet still fruity, very ripe, almost liqueur-like carignan. 15% alcohol is high, but think of this in, say, a southern Rhône context and you’ll see that it fits into the world of fine value, with a savoury edge. Try with braised meat dishes.

But Chile also still does classic cabernet as well as anyone, as in the Cono Sur 2014 Single Vineyard El Recurso Block 18 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.95). It’s a high-toned but varietally accurate Maipo Valley red from the company’s top vineyard, which finds a balance between succulent and juicy fruit, neither over nor under ripe. Modest wood influence adds another layer, rather than dominates, the flavour profile. Decant and serve with salty protein.

Chile has long been a source of particularly good value sauvignon blanc, and Casa Silva’s 2014 Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc ($16.95) from the far out Paredones sub-region of the Colchagua Valley captures the cool pacific influence nicely in its lean, bright, sharp, and tangy and profile, as the name promises.

Santa Carolina Specialties Dry Farming Carignan 2011 Cono Sur Single Vineyard El Recurso Block 18 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Viña Cobos Felino Chardonnay 2014 Trapiche Broquel Bonarda 2013

Over in Argentina, the market is still overwhelmingly dominated by malbec, but fans of rich and creamy west coast style chardonnay will love the Viña Cobos 2014 Felino Chardonnay, Mendoza ($19.95) by peripatetic winemaker Paul Hobbs. It delivers multiple layers and terrific texture, seamless, with excellent length, a fail-safe option to bring to any gathering.

For something other than malbec from Mendoza, check out the Trapiche Broquel 2013 Bonarda ($14.95) Made from a grape I’d like to see more of, this is a juicy, dark, succulent red with a touch of coffee liqueur on the finish from toasted wood, but still a fine mouthful of wine for the price.

That’s it for my VINTAGES Preview, but we’ll be back next week with our complete BUYERS’ Guide for the January 23rd release, with David and Sara’s picks as well.

See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES January 23, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys: Portugal and South America
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!


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Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Argentina Part II : Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sparkling in Search of Place and Purpose

by Anthony Gismondi, David Lawrason and Treve RingJuly 27, 2015

Over the past seven months, five of our WineAlign contributors travelled to Argentina, each bringing back different stories and aspects of the country. You can read Rhys Pender MW and Sara d’Amato’s views in Part One of the series here.

~

A number of years ago I noted that when visiting Argentina, or most any other region for that matter, I was spending too much time in cars, eating lunch and dinner and not enough time tasting wines as they relate to the region, its terroir and its place in the world of wine. Hence the switch to early morning hotel tastings where themes and wines can collide and information is gathered in a much more efficient manner in a neutral space. Then the rest of the day, on the road, makes more sense.

A special thanks to the elegant Hyatt Hotel Mendoza for the room required and to Wines of Argentina for keeping an open mind and especially Edgardo del Popolo (Dominio del Plata) and Roberto de La Mota (Mendel Wines) for sharing some fabulous nuggets of information about their country, its wines and the places that make them special.

We wish we could see all these wines in Canada but the monopoly system and the general trend to taxing quality wine out of reach of the average wage earner in Canada makes it less and less likely. There are so many agendas that can foil the fine wine business in a heavily controlled liquor market like Canada. From ignorance to greed and back, the chances of seeing the brightest Argentina has to offer is left to a dwindling select few retailers and restaurants. Undaunted, our job is to uncover the latest and the best and push the names forward. The irony is, as the wine gets better and better, the quality, brought into Canada by many distributors, and sold by many retailers, government and private, is anything but. Certainly it does not reflect fast moving modern developments of a place like Argentina.

-AG

 

Cabernet Franc Ascending
By David Lawrason

I am going to state a bias upfront that Argentine malbecs pose difficulties more me. I understand them but I also find many to be blunt and monochromatic, especially at lower price points where young malbecs can have joyless rawness. I really do appreciate all the work underway in Argentina to fashion malbecs with more elegance, and I do score many very well.  I also like the current movement to find more complexity and elegance by blending other varieties.

After two trips to Argentina since December I would argue that perhaps the best blender and alt-variety is cabernet franc. The first visit with WineAlign colleague Anthony Gismondi was a tightly focused, intense tasting foray, anchored by themed, comparative flights of wines at our hotel before we ventured into the fields of Mendoza and Cafayate. The second trip provided a much broader lens, accompanying a Gold Medal Plates group of Canadians to many of the same wineries, this time from a consumer perspective.

Globally, cabernet franc has long been used as a vehicle for bringing aromatic life and palate freshness to heavier wines. The negative can be that it thins too much and encroaches on ripe fruitiness with its herbal, tobacco leanings, even at moderate proportions. But the very ripe, full bodied reds of Mendoza are the perfect canvass on which to splash a little greenish franc-ness.  The best show just a bit more elegance, freshness and complexity.

A caveat here that none of the wines I want to speak about are currently available in Canada – so not on the WineAlign database – but what else is new? Canada’s liquor boards always lag years behind trends on the ground abroad.  It is articles like this that might one day make them appear.

View from Bodega El Esteco

View from Bodega El Esteco

Among the handful of varietal labelled cabernet francs that scored 90 points or better I was most surprised and impressed by Kaiken 2013 Cabernet Franc, that would sell here for about $40. Sourced from a small block of “massal” or original vines in the Uco Valley, it presented very pretty, totally correct franc aromatics with excellent balance and length. Melipal 2013 Cabernet Franc from the Agrelo district of Mendoza showed classic currants, tobacco and great oak integration, a creamy palate then that tweak of cab franc greenness on the finish. Still in Mendoza, but from the very high altitude Guatallery sub-zone of Tupungato, Los Noques 2013 Cabernet Franc showed amazing lift, florality and freshness. And up north in Cafayate, Etchart 2013 Cabernet Franc showed lovely savoury cedar and tobacco and pink flowers. Very charming and less heavy than Mendoza peers.

As surprised as I was to find so many excellent ‘solo’ cab francs, I was just as intrigued to discover what cab franc does in blends. A little goes a long way. Staying up north in the province of Salta, Bodega El Esteco 2011 Altimus from the remote Valles Calchaquies carried only 14% cabernet franc and 25% cabernet sauvignon – a rich, quite oaky wine that really showed refreshing, dusty cab franc on the finish. Fuego Blanco 2012 from chalky soils in the Pedernal Valley of San Juan carries 10% cabernet franc co-fermented with malbec – lovely freshness, elegance, some minerality. The Pedernal Valley landscape is desert or semi-desert but at 1400 metres above sea level the temperatures are moderate with warm sunny days and cool nights. The rocky, poor-quality soils, glacial in origin, are dotted with flat, dark stones that give the valley its name, pedernal being the Spanish term for flint. Poor soils, low yields, it is a pattern.

Fuego Blanco Malbec Cabernet Franc 2012Per Se Le Craie 2012Manos Negras Malbec Atrevida 2010

Per Se 2012 La Craie from the Gualtallary region is a co-fermented gem with 65% malbec and 35% cabernet franc and another big winner from limestone (craie) soils. *See Anthony’s in-depth look at this special wine below.

Manos Negras 2010 Atrevida is 97% malbec but the remainder is cabernet franc and it shows with just a touch of lift and franc tobacco. Perhaps this is all that is needed to keep Argentine malbecs aloft.

Whether the lead actor, or best grape in a supporting role, I came away convinced that cabernet franc’s future in Argentina is assured.

 

Argentina’s Cup Bubbles Over
by Treve Ring

When you think about Argentina, sparkling wine isn’t top of mind, and possibly not even in the picture. That’s poised to change, as vineyards climb ever higher and cooler, grapes are picked ever earlier and the diversity of styles more accepted than ever before. At the 2013 edition of the Argentina Wine Awards, the number of sparkling wine samples had increased by 220% over the 2007 edition, and a full 30% over 2012. In that year, this sparkling wine sector totaled $22,900,515, an 8.2% growth with respect to 2011.

Though espumante has been produced since the 19th century, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century and the proliferation of pinot noir that bubble began to bubble upwards. Wineries both local and foreign started to show interest in the unique dry and sunny climate and unspoilt terroirs; Chandon, Mumm, Bianchi, Norton and Nieto Senetiner amongst the leaders in the sparkling stride. In the 1950’s and after a worldwide search for new regions to develop, Moët & Chandon’s oenologist, Renaud Poirier, named Mendoza the more suitable terrain for sparkling wine outside of France. Today, the Argentinian subsidiary of Moët & Chandon produces a wide variety of bubbles including Terrazas de los Andes and Baron B.

Refreshing with Norton with the Andes as a backdrop

Refreshing with Norton with the Andes as a backdrop

Unquenchable global demand for Prosecco may have helped in recent years, with consumers wanting to branch out, safely, from a familiar charmat or tank style, not to mention a comfortable entry level price point which Argentina can hit. Though styles range from frothy and fruity to traditional method and serious, the majority that I saw in my travels there and on the shelves back home are akin to Prosecco, easy, approachable, fresh and accessible. Last year Moet Hennessy announced they will spend £1.5m in the UK to back the launch of Argentinian sparkling wines that it believes will tempt drinkers away from top-end Prosecco without asking them to pay Champagne prices.

The best examples, across all sparkling styles, come from altitude, allowing the grapes to take full advantage of relief from the intensity of Argentine sun. In the Uco Valley, and especially in the 1000m heights of Tupungato, chardonnay and pinot noir thrive, ripening easily while retaining crisp acidity when harvested early. In the high desert of Salta, and the arid otherworldly landscape of Patagonia, potential is great, and being recognized and utilized with greater reach every year. Malbec, sauvignon blanc, Chenin, torrontes, viognier and sémillon are also utilized, while pioneering producers trial other grapes.

Here are a few of my top sparkling picks from a brief visit to Argentina in earlier this year, as well as some that are available on our shelves in Canada. Salud.

Bodega Ruca Malen Brut NV, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodegas Norton Cosecha Especial Brut Nature 2010, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodegas Escorihuela Gascon 1884 Extra Brut NV, Mendoza
Familia Zuccardi Cuvée Especial Blanc De Blancs NV, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina
Bodega Santa Julia Brut Rosé 2012, Mendoza, Argentina

Bodega Ruca Malen BrutBodegas Norton Cosecha Especial Brut Nature 2010Bodegas Escorihuela Gascon 1884 Extra Brut Familia Zuccardi Cuvée Especial Blanc De BlancsBodega Santa Julia Brut Rosé 2012

From Calchaqui to Rio Negra. In Search of Place and Purpose
by Anthony Gismondi

David Lawrason and I had not travelled together in years but our recent visit to Argentina was certainly one of the best weeks we had spent on the road in ages.

Our first morning tasting (there were several) was hosted by two giants of the Argentine wine business: Edgardo Popolo, the general manager of Dominio de Plata and Roberta de la Mota, partner Mendel Wines.

We began with the oldest working winery in Argentina (1831) and one of the highest vineyards. Colomé Auténtico 2012 from the Calchaqui Valley in Salta is pure Malbec, from 90 year old vines made with little intervention. The vineyards are grown and worked using sustainable practices thus presenting the “authentic” expression of the terroir. The winery practices pigeage, does not use commercial yeasts or lactic bacteria to speed up the fermentation, acid correction and the use of sulphur dioxide is minimal and it has no oak influence. This begs the question why so many softer, sweeter versions of malbec make their way to Canada? If you are making under 100,000 cases we see no need for the fruit bomb malbecs that do little if anything for your image and frankly aren’t all that healthy to drink.

One degree south takes us to Tolombón, where shallow, stony, splinter shale soils with quartz are the norm. The malbec here has a slightly riper, sweeter profile as seen in the Anko Flor Cardón 2012. It’s classified Winkler IV, as was the Auténtico, but it seems a touch warmer likely due to the lower altitude. The fruit is sourced from the Estancia Los Cardónes district of Salta, the northernmost winemaking province of Argentina, located just south of the town of Cafayate at roughly 1700 meters along the eastern slopes of the Valle de Calchaquies. The little soil found there is packed full of crushed mica. Winemakers and co-owners Jeff Mausbach, Alejandro “Colo” Sejanovich and Saavedra Azcona and family have planted the rockiest sites looking for minerality. I know, I know the notion of minerality doesn’t really exist in any wine… until you sense it. All I know is I’ll take the stony minerality of this wine over a residual sugar, soaked brand any day.

High desert vineyards of Salta

High desert vineyards of Salta

Old vines are a big part of the story told by Viña 1924 De Angeles Gran 2012 Malbec. There are many old blocks offering different styles, weight and structure. The fruit here is 100 percent malbec and it comes off Parcel 3 at Vistalba, a site planted in 1924 at 980 metres. Density is a medium at 7,200 plants per hectare and the irrigation is old school by furrow. This wine never ceases to amaze from its big black licorice, black cherry, earthy, smoky nose to its savoury, intense palate awash in black cherries, smoked licorice root, tobacco, orange peel and vanilla flavours. A wonderful expression of old vine malbec made with just the right touch of modernity. The farming is organic and the fruit picked for the Gran Malbec is picked a week later than the regular.

Next up was the Viña Cobos Bramare Marchiori Vineyard Malbec 2012 that hails from Lujan de Cuyo, at Perdriel, (33°10’29.45″S). The site is at 980 metres above sea level and faces southeast presumably to escape the desert sun. The terroir is clay over sandy loam that gives way to gravel and stone. In fact the soils are alluvial and low in organic material but very well drained. The result is bigger, sweeter tannins with plenty of flavour. More Napa in style, it tends to jump the terroir and rely more on its dense sweet tannins, floral, black berry, tobacco aromas and intense black cherry and blueberry fruit with flecks of orange zest and violets. There’s just enough minerality and acidity to keep it all interesting. Steak is a must.

A glimpse at two new wines from Gualtallary, Tupungato followed. This stony, high-altitude paradise lies just south of the city of Mendoza. First up was Bodega Aleanna Maldito Cabernet Franc 2012. At 13.8 percent alcohol this wine goes through a whole cluster co-fermentation with some malbec in cement before aging in 100-year old foudres. With no real wood influence other than it oxidative contribution the fruit is given a chance to shine. At 1400 metres the acidity is prominent at this stage and somewhat overbearing; it’s a style but it’s tart. According to La Mota and Popolo, Argentine cabernet franc needs time in the vineyard and time in the bottle.

Bodega Colomé Autentico 2012 Anko Flor Cardón 2012 Viña 1924 De Angeles Gran Malbec 2012 Vina Cobos Bramare Marchiori Vineyard Malbec 2012

Two kilometers away and some 100 metres below Maldito, Del Popolo makes 800 bottles of Per Se La Craie 2012, (translation by itself; and chalk). Some 1300 metres above sea level Per Se La Craie sits in the remarkable stone paradise of Tupungato. This elegant Gualtallary red, micro-fermented, tops out at 14.50% alcohol but you hardly notice it on the palate. In 2012 the grapes come from minuscule parcel selections originally planted for Dona Paula and in what was a warm year, Del Popolo chose all the limestone spots, in cooler vineyards to cope with the challenges of a warm growing season. The 65/35 malbec and cabernet franc is co-fermented; the wine spends 16 months in second use French barrels. Soils are amazingly complex: calcareous and alluvial gravels with the aforementioned spots of limestone. Both varieties were de-stemmed and they are fermented together with wild yeasts in French oak used barrels. Elegant and well-stitched Del Popolo credits talented winemaking partner David Bonami (Norton) for his assistance in year one. The fruit was destemmed before a 35 day maceration fermented on wild yeasts. The textures are chalky, silky and amazing. Bursting with fruit and minerality, it is a story teller. All class.

Vista Flores is the next stop heading south through the much heralded Uco Valley. Popolo’s departure from Dona Paula was feisty winemaker Susana Balbo’s gain. Upon his arrival at Dominio del Plata the first thing del Popolo asked Balbo was to consider taking her signature Nostros and set it free to travel to the best vineyard (fruit) each year. Originally the best vineyard in Agrelo it is now a Single Vineyard Nomade, a name meant to celebrate its journey every year to the best grapes they can find. Enter Dominio del Plata Nosotros 2012 Vista Flores, Uco Valley, Mendoza. In 2012 Nosotros is sourced from selected parcels in the region of Chacayes at 1200 metres, along the far west, high side of Vista Flores. The soils are complex, colluvial-alluvial origin with a sandy-loam frame in the first 10 inches. The second layer of calcareous soil and white gravels goes down two metres. Clearly more and more limestone sites are being planted to vine. More vertical and more linear, Popolo likes minerality and freshness while winemaker Susana Balbo likes sweetness and roundness with toast. So far it’s a fine match; Nosotros 2012 is a delicious, intense juicy vibrant red wine made with intensity and balance. A star is born.

Familia Zuccardi Aluvional 2012 La Consulta, San Carlos, Mendoza was next and the level jumped another notch. At 15% alcohol you might expect it to assault you but after 12 months in concrete vats using indigenous yeast there is an electricity and freshness and fruit that is almost overwhelming. Aluvional is made from several sites, all handpicked by winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi in the La Consulta, San Carlos region. At 990 metres above sea level, some 130 km south of Mendoza City, this is the mother lode. The vines were planted in 1974 on poor alluvial soils of sandy-silt-clay mixed with rock. Love the tension and the acidity of what is a complex rich, powerful red, full of floral fruit. All hail Sebastien and his relentless fire to find the true home of malbec.

Next door to Zuccardi’s Aluvional, the Mendel Finca Remota 2011 offers another look at Altamira, surely one of the finest pieces of terroir in all of Argentina. The 2011 was a little cooler than 2012 and the wine is a bit tighter. The vineyard is older, thought to be planted in 1950, the alcohol is a little lower at 14.3% and it spends 18 months in new French oak. Easily the most complex of the bunch, no doubt one of the most important characteristics of Mendel La Remota is the intensity and complexity of the fruit. Like the Angelus, it presents its old vines in the texture and viscosity that you don’t get in younger vines. It presents as a polished river stone, not one you have just cracked open.

Dominio Del Plata Nosotros Vista Flores 2012 Zuccardi Aluvional La Consulta 2012 Mendel Finca Remota 2011

Another step south takes us to Doña Paula Los Indios Parcel 2012, a tiny sub-section of Altimira in San Carlos area of the Uco Valley. The fruit here is grown on sandy, silty colluvial soils with small brick-like stones in pink and orange scattered about. Yields are only four tons per hectare. Microvinification takes place in second-used 225 liters, French oak barrels filled with 170 kilograms (375 lb) of pure-clean berries. The barrels are closed up and sent to a temperature controlled room where the alcoholic, wild culture and malolactic fermentation takes place. To make a soft extraction, the barrels are rolled daily for 10 to 15 days. After that the wine is racked to new French oak barrels where it is aged for 18 months. This artisanal vinification method ensures that grapes are handled gently and all the process is carried out by gravity. Only exceptional years can spawn a Los Indios Parcel Malbec limited in quantity to 2000 bottles. Like the Aluvional the spice and violets dominate the nose with impressive acidity and or freshness followed by texture, texture, texture. Impressive to say the least at this young age.

We concluded the tasting with two ‘southern’ reds from Patagonia. First up was the Marcelo Miras 2012 Malbec from Ing. Huergo, General Roca, Río Negro planted in 1979. This was made in the traditional style and aged for 15 months in French and American oak barrels and from a typical north Patagonian desert climate – think warm days and cool nights at 39º 08´ S. Here you can get big colour and structure thank to the thickness of the skins so you must pay attention to prevent the wine from being to rustic. The growing season can be shorter, much like the south Okanagan Valley. Solid but in tough against the group.

Doña Paula Los Indios Parcel Malbec 2012 Marcelo Miras Malbec 2012 Bodega Noemía A Lisa 2012

The finale was Noemia de Patagonia A Lisa 2012 from Mainque, Valle Medio, Rio Negro, a 90/9/1 blend of malbec/merlot with a touch of petit verdot that are sourced from estate grown limestone and purchased from nearby vineyards, managed biodynamically. Again, freshness permeates this red with only 13.5 percent alcohol. Long days of light in the summer compensate for the wind and cool temperatures bring out the floral aspects to lift the mid-palate flavours. The tannins are soft here and almost sweet. Impressive already and yet only a baby; like all the wines in this tasting it needs time to reach its full potential.

A stunning morning that only reinforces how little we see from Argentina in Canada and how little we are likely to see if the gatekeepers continue to demand cabernet and chardonnay to fill a retail philosophy completely out of touch with the reality of modern wine.

As we wrapped up the tasting both del Popolo and La Mota reminded us, “We tried to show you our terroir. There wasn’t any wine where our hope was to show you the grapes.” Aclamaciones to that los caballeros. Your objectives were accomplished and more.

~

Argentina Part I : Rewarding Freshness
Argentina: Not Just a One Hit Wonder (VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide)

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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Wines of Argentina - Wine Jam & BBQ

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 25th, Part Two

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

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Argentina:

Nicolás Catena Zapata 2010

Desierto 25 Cabernet Franc 2012

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

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

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

Euro Reds:

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

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

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

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

López De Haro Crianza 2008

Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2013

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

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

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

New World Reds:

Melville Verna's Estate Syrah 2012

Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2012

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

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

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

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

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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

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


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