Spring is Springing
With the cherry blossoms out, it sure feels like spring in the west. During this transition month from the wets of winter to the sun of spring, we’ve a mix of wines suitable for all moods, and climates. Charming, authentic reds and fresh, herbal whites seem to rule our selections this month, with picks stretching all around the globe. While providing great value, all are food-friendly and ready for drinking now, ideal for stocking up on for your Easter celebrations.
Though Italy has been top of mind and tongue this past month, I’ve also been busy tasting wines from around the globe that typify great value, even on our market.
Delas 2013 Côtes-du-Ventoux is a spicy resin-laced 80/20 grenache/syrah blend of black cherry, licorice and light charcuterie notes. The juicy fruit finishes with smoky, savoury, tobacco flavours in the finish. Try this with barbecue ribs.
Spain and value go hand in hand on this market, and where else can you find a decade plus old well made red selling for $18? Monasterio de las Vinas Gran Reserva 2005 is a mature mix of garnacha, tempranillo and cariñena that delivers with soft, round, complex savoury flavours of tobacco, spice, old barrels and a bit of spicy fruit cake.
Another great Spanish red – this one five years younger and a few dollars less expensive – is the Castillo de Almansa Reserva 2011. A 60/20/20, monastrell, tempranillo and garnacha tintorera blend from Alamansa, this is matured in American oak casks for about a year. The attack is supple, the textures smooth with medium rich, juicy, smoky, spicy, plummy fruit flavours.
From here at home, Backyard Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013 gives you a taste of BC’s highly promising cabernet franc grape, here highlightin the savoury red and black fruit, cedar and spice. Youthful and robust, this would suit a grilled piece of lamb (perhaps for your homegrown Easter).
Judging the Argentina Wine Awards last month reminded me about the fresh, bright, smartly-priced wines we do see on our market, like Dominio del Plata Ben Marco Malbec 2013. Ripe red fruits with a dash of blueberry and that typical but not overwhelming savoury undercoat, softly textured with spice, licorice and chocolate. A wine in transition (somewhere in the middle) from the old style to the fresher more mineral, red fruit, modern style. This was a gold medal winner at the 2016 Argentine Wine Awards.
Rhys Pender MW
I have been inspired by the recent Vancouver International Wine Festival for this months picks and particularly by many of the indigenous (or autochthonous as was the fancy word of the festival) grapes that are starting to emerge from the shadows to plunge wine students into further despair while giving wine drinkers an ever expanding world of interesting wine to enjoy.
Italy was the theme of the festival and that is where the first four picks come from. As you should always start things with bubbly, we will kick things off with a lovely Lambrusco. After a recent visit to Italy and through an obsessive desire to eat fantastic charcuterie, I have fallen in love with Lambrusco. And we are not talking the sweet, simple, red plonk you may have stereotyped anything with the name Lambrusco as, but rather the more serious side of this large family of grapes. The Medici Ermete 2014 Lambrusco Reggiano Frizzante is made from the Lambrusco Salamino variety and is juicy, savoury, slightly fizzy and beautifully dry. Just add Salami or Coppa and happy times are ahead.
The north-east of Italy is a bit of a hotbed of experimentation and another area falling in love with its native grapes. One of these varieties is Ribolla Gialla which can have a lovely floral and citrus, lemon scent. The Attems 2014 Ribolla Gialla at just $17 is crisp and citrusy and has some nice weight to make this stand up to some serious seafood dishes.
Another even richer white comes from the toasty warm shores of Sardinia. The Argiolas 2014 Costamolino is made from the increasingly trendy Vermentino grape. It is rich, ripe and honeyed while remaining dry. Great with heavy, rich white fish.
Still in the south but from the Island of Sicily comes a lovely Nero D’Avola from Feudo Maccari. The 2014 has ripe, sun-warmed berry fruits but finishes dry and savoury with some complex graphite minerality.
Sticking with the theme of indigenous grapes, I recently re-tasted the Bulgarian Lovico Gamza 2011 that I had written up more than a year ago. Still in the BC LDB stores and a great price of $9.99 it was delicious on a chilly night around a fire pit. Savoury, good fruit and just a great Monday/Tuesday wine.
Variety is arguably the most appealing aspect of wine. That grapes can transform into so many flavours and textures is an insane delight. These five bargain wines are made from eight different varieties, and each is an honest, workaday wine, made to give pleasure, relaxation and keep tasty food company. Just what you’d hope for vino that’s under twenty bucks.
We all need more chenin blanc in our lives, and South Africa has some of the oldest preserves of this noble Loire grape. Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc 2014 combines weighty fruit and lick-smacking acidity for bring-home sushi or melon and shrimp cocktail.
And perhaps we all need interesting Spanish whites in our lives too, like the snappy, lime flavoured Cal Y Canto Blanco made from verdejo, just made for take-out sushi or a salad of crunchy greens, avocado and cucumber. Built for richer food is Lopez de Haro Blanco 2014, an all vuira (macabeo) white with a kiss of oak, and the kind of sneaky creamy weight that will prop up roast chicken or an oozing, crusty grilled cheese sandwich.
Think of Bardolino as a region that makes reds that are lighter, juicier and even more refreshing than next-door Valpolicella. Masi Bardolino Classico Frescaripa 2014 is so well named – fresh and lively and ready for spag bol or just classic pizza.
And finally, one of my favourite red wine deals is Cave Saint Desirat Syrah 2013, a confidently rustic wine from the Ardeche. It balances lean fruit with a rust/stone character for shepherd’s pie or merguez sausages and cous cous.
You know when you find one of those value gems that blows you away and you’re nearly hesitant to tell people because you’re tempted to stuck up and drink it all yourself? Well – Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie 2014 is one of those wines for me. From one of the region’s leading sustainable vignerons, this is organic, wild ferment Muscadet, aged sur lie in earthen vessels, buried in the ground to keep cool and rest (obviously no racking) until the following spring. Light pear, subtle earthy lees, river stone, white florals and a fine vein of saline-laced lemon. Stunner. Save me some.
I feel similarly about the 2014 vintage of Bartier Bros. Semillon. Intense and striking though lean and narrow, with lively, almost prickly acidity, the concentrated, oily semillon lends a textured generosity to the palate which is highly alluring. Tempting to drink now, but you will be rewarded over a decade in your cellar.
From further north Okanagan in east Kelowna is the 2014 CedarCreek Pinot Gris. Fresh and vibrant, pear, orange zest, almond, white peach and brisk acidity is bathed in savoury dried herbs and buoyed by a pillow of fine, creamy lees. This would make a great match for Easter ham.
Shooting down the coast – a long way – are the vines for Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015. The Manzanar Vineyard, less than 13 kilometres from the Pacific, is home to this snappy, brisk fruit, while three months on the lees increases creamy, voluminous texture.
A hop over to Colchagua Valley, is the unbeatable king of value on our market. The latest vintage of Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier, 2015, highlights the grape’s cold cream, guava, bright pear, lime oil and apricot, with a nuzzle of peach fuzz on the medium bodied, creamy palate. Pour with Chinese-styled seafood hot pot or pad Thai.
WineAlign in BC
In addition to our popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide, we publish the monthly Critics’ Picks report and include the wines across any price point and channel that excite us each month, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.
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