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British Columbia Critics’ Picks August 2016

Drink Ahead to Fall

How does the saying go: Minds that think alike, drink alike? Or is it the other way round – minds that drink alike, think alike? Either way, it seems the WineAlign West crew is already starting to think ahead, and drink ahead to fall. Richer reds are making their first appearance in many weeks, while the whites are all structured and savoury enough to take on some heartier foods. And the fizz selected? Serious stuff. Bring it, September. We’re ready, with a case of serious (and delicious) wines like these.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

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

Anthony Gismondi

Champagne Bollinger 2005 La Grande Année is only made in the best years, and while 2005 doesn’t fit that accolade, Bollinger tends to overcome most obstacles of weather. It was disgorged in 2014 after eight years on lees, so it is ready to go. There is more sugar ripeness and less acidity, which is why it’s drinking well now and will likely age faster than the norm. When you find yourself losing faith in wine, this champagne will recharge your batteries.

Bollinger La Grande Année Brut Champagne 2005 Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz 2013 Domini de la Cartoixa Formiga de Galena 2013

The Two Hands Garden Series is a six-shiraz-set bottled to expose the terroir of individually approved South Australia wine regions. Two Hands 2013 Bella’s Garden Shiraz makes up the largest production, and since the inception the use of new oak has fallen, setting this wine free. It’s not for the timid and it could use a few years in bottle, but many will enjoy the rambunctious new world fruit now, served with a well-seasoned leg of lamb. Bring on the fall.

When I last visited the folks who make Domini De La Cartoixa 2013 Formiga De Galena, a blend of garnacha, samsó and syrah, I was blown away by its intense stony, black fruit aromas and similar smoky, savoury, black cherry fruit flavours. Terrific value here in what is a serious, modern, organic red made in an old school way.

Rhys Pender, MW 

I started last month’s critics’ picks bemoaning the fact that summer had somehow seemed to disappear with chilly autumn like nights and cool days. August has seen summer come back full throttle with rarely a day in the Okanagan and Similkameen under 30 degrees over the last few weeks. The grapes are moving along quickly as a result and harvest has started for many wineries already.

When the apéro hour hits in this warm weather, a crisp white is calling and I’ve picked two wines that fit the bill well. The first is the Culmina 2015 Unicus Gruner Veltliner. There is very little gruner in BC but this shows its potential. Crisp, mineral, varietally correct and super refreshing, showing the power and freshness that BC whites can achieve. A little ceviche or a fresh green salad wouldn’t go astray.

Culmina Unicus 2015 Bk Wines One Ball Chardonnay 2013 Fontodi Chianti Classico 2012 Pol Roger Brut Réserve Champagne

We don’t always think of Chardonnay as crisp and refreshing but most modern Chardonnay is going down that path, particularly those from cooler parts of Australia. The BK Wines 2013 One Ball Single Vineyard Chardonnay from Kenton Valley in the Adelaide Hills is just that – restrained, refined, crisp and fresh with plenty of complexity from the lees aging and subtle use of oak. A bit of grilled white fish with some brown butter would be a perfect match.

When the night cools off but it is still perfect BBQ weather and warm enough to do some star gazing, a complex, rustic and savoury red is the perfect match. The Fontodi 2012 Chianti Classico Chianti Classico will not disappoint. There is plenty of savoury complexity to think about while on shooting star watch.

Any excuse is a good excuse to drink Champagne, and if you pick a good, dry, crisp one with a decent amount of autolysis it will taste good out of any vessel, from a surreptitious water bottle, a tumbler, a plastic cup or maybe even a proper wine glass or flute. If you are on the beach, the boat or the campsite just remember to bring a bubbly stopper to keep those bubbles fresh between pours. One that never disappoints and that I have probably tried out of all those vessels and more is the Pol Roger N/V Réserve Brut Champagne. One of the best in my mind, it has plenty of autolysis richness as well as providing great refreshment.

DJ Kearney 

Three mesmerizing wines that I want to drink again and again, all memorable because of texture, mineral force and the characters behind them. If one of wine’s gifts is to distract, relax and stimulate, then these three are richly endowed with vinous powers.

Acústic Cellers 2012 Blanc may need a scuttle around a few private wine stores, but it’s a fatty/stony/salty marvel for Mediterranean halibut or Iberian ham and well worth the hunt. Thanks to Monsant’s Albert Jané Ubeda for this heroic white.

Celler Acústic Blanc 2012 Les Pavillons Du Chateau D’arlay 2014 Pedro Parra Y Familia Pencopolitano 2014

I drank three bottles of Les Pavillons du Chateau d’Arlay 2014 Rosé in a row (well not drank drank, but you know, opened three to try with three dinner pairings) and applauded the triumph of texture and terroir. To me, the Jura is a powerfully eloquent terroir, and this innocent-looking rosé packs a whallop of fruit and mineral heft. It’s a blend of two Jurassien red grapes: pinot noir for curranty fruit and silky mouthfeel, and trousseau for a spicy weight.  Comte Alain de la Guiche is visiting Vancouver in October, and I hope that helps ensure that we have a constant flow of Arlay wines.

And then the Pencopolitano. I drank this wine with Pedro Perra, and I’m always prepared for his wines to be full of soul. After more than a decade of digging calicatas across the globe – from Burgundy and Barossa to the Okanagan and Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley – Chilean geologist Pedro Parra is well established as the world’s leading expert on the influence of rocks and soil on wine quality and character. He is still young, but he continues to rise inexorably through Decanter’s annual Power 50. Now he has started a project in his home region of southern Chile that focuses on terroirs, not just grape varieties.  Pencopolitano is a different kind of ‘field blend’, celebrating the heritage of dry-farmed bush vines from old vineyards scattered across the isolated and impoverished regions of Itata and Cauquenes. Five grapes, powerful terroir, venerable vines, old oak and concrete, and Pedro’s inimitable winemaking. Like I said in the beginning, mesmerizing.

Treve Ring

Lock & Worth Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2015 Terravista Vineyards Fandango 2015When I look back at the last month of tasting and think about the wines that stood out, excited and impressed me, a duo of local talents quickly come to mind, co-incidentally both from the Okanagan Valley. You may need to drive to the Naramata Bench to pick them up, but, it’s worth it.

The Terravista 2015 Fandango stands alone in all the ways, starting with its singular blend of Albariño and Verdejo from the granitic soils of their Naramata Bench estate. Concentrated, focused and vibrant, with perfumed lime oil, mandarin, gooseberry and yellow plum along a raft of fine ginger spicing. Dialed in.

While Lock & Worth is located on the Naramata Bench, near Terravista, the grapes for their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon are from a graveled site near Oliver. Seventeen year-old-year old vines make up this 77/23 sauvignon blanc/semillon blend, resulting in medicinal herbs, meadow grass, lemon thistle, hay and vibrant citrus acidity streaming through the lees-lined palate. Tighter and more linear than the 2014 now, this has the structure to reward with a few years in your cellar (if you can wait that long). Amazing value.

~

WineAlign in BC

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

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


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Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – August 20, 2016

The Next Big Thing, Again? Let’s Focus Instead on Real Big Things.
by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The main theme for the August 20th release is ‘the next big thing’. It’s a common vinous leitmotif that I’m sure must drive winemakers and winery owners wild. Countless articles are dedicated to reporting on the hottest, latest, trendiest things in the world of wine: new grapes, emerging regions, cutting edge or re-discovered ancient techniques, and anything else that might be deemed the next big thing. Journalists by nature, and necessity, are desperate for news, which consumers are eager to lap up to stay ‘in the know’. Many sommeliers have built careers and reputations by listing only new, fashionable, invariably obscure wines. I am guilty on several counts. But, for a change this week, let’s focus instead on genuine big things. Here’s why.

The trouble with chasing the next big thing in the world of wine is that making the stuff – and here I mean the kind of wine that causes pause for intellectual or artistic reflection – is a pursuit of incredible patience and unswerving dedication to an ideal, not a trend. The reality is that, cosmetic changes aside, the wine industry is as nimble as an aircraft carrier. It’s impossible to re-tool your operation overnight to produce the latest shiny object for people to chase. It takes at least 4-5 years to establish a vineyard, and another decade or so before its full potential begins to reveal itself. Establishing the sort of cultural framework that gives rise to a distinctive and identifiable regional style – the old world appellation model – takes much longer still, generations in fact of doing the same thing over and over. Overnight success, as they say, is a lifetime in the making.

Sure, you can graft new varieties onto the roots of existing vineyards and change your production from one year to the next. It’s frequently done. But that’s the game of corporate wine factories, chasing trends like a dog chases its tail, seeking quarterly profits, not meaningful cultural patrimony. Step one: plant the darling grape of the day, say, chardonnay. When consumer preferences shift to red, graft the vineyard over to cabernet. Then a movie comes out and everyone wants pinot noir. Then pinot grigio is all the rage. Or is it moscato, or fiano, or trousseau? Vineyard managers and nurserymen are ever grateful for the next big thing. They’ll never be out of work. But the results of flip-flopping your vineyard or planting what’s trendy, not necessarily suitable, are predictably poor – basic commercial wine at the lowest level.

On the contrary, memorable, distinctive wine is by definition the antithesis of trendy, born of a long, well-crafted story arc, not a loose reality TV script. It takes years to create, fine-tune, and perfect. And when you start, predicting trends at least 15 years into the future is both impossible and foolish, doomed to fail. You’re far better off focusing on what your patch of dirt will likely do best, and dedicating all efforts to maximize that potential, not guessing at what hipsters will be drinking in 2030. There’s always a market for quality, timeless fashion.

That’s why slavish devotion in the media and sales to celebrating the newest and shiniest, at the expense of the established and reliable, must really cause winemakers deep exasperation. It can jeopardize a decade’s, or several generations, worth of effort, as consumers are encouraged to forget the old and embrace the new, until something newer comes along.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t experiment, explore and discover. That’s what keeps us – writers and sommeliers, passionate wine drinkers and yes, even winemakers – permanently engaged, and keeps the industry evolving positively. But it shouldn’t be your exclusive MO. Save some liver function for those old-time, non-trendy classics. They deserve the lion’s share of the spotlight. So let’s forget the ‘next big thing’ this week, and focus instead on the wines that have earned the right to call themselves a genuinely big thing.

Our Top Picks from the August 20th VINTAGES release:

Big Thing Sparkling & Whites

The region of Champagne has been producing wine since Paris was a swampy village, even if champagne as we know it today, sparkling, is only about three centuries old. But hell, let’s call it established anyway. I was floored by the Guy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne, France ($61.95), an archetype in every way from a family-grower operation founded in 1892. From all grand cru-rated chardonnay vineyards in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, next door to Champagne Salon’s vineyards, it offers classic blanc de blancs finesse and precision, balanced on razor-sharp acids, and blends a just measure of white chocolate/blanched almond-brioche character from reserve wines and sur lie ageing, with zesty-bright green apple and citrus fruit showing no signs of tiring yet. It’s for fans of refined and sophisticated champagne with no small measure of depth and power in reserve.

Chablis has rightfully established itself as one of the most original places on earth to grow chardonnay. It was trendy perhaps half a century ago, now a genuine and lasting big thing. Why would anyone want to make anything other than classic Chablis in Chablis? Tinkering with it would be like trying to perfect the wheel. For example, try the Jean Collet & Fils 2014 Montée de Tonnerre Chablis 1er Cru, France ($37.95). It’s a lovely, balanced, convincingly concentrated Montée de Tonnerre with exceptional length, while flavours are absolutely textbook, all quivering stones, fresh cream and lively green apple and citrus – a superb value in the realm of fine white wine. It’ll be better in 2-3 years, or hold into the mid-’20s.

Guy Charlemagne Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne Jean Collet & Fils Montée De Tonnerre Chablis 1er Cru 2014 Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo 2014 La Cappuccina Soave 2014

At the risk of appearing trendy, I’m including Mastroberardino’s 2014 Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy ($19.95) in this list. But while greco may not be a household name, the grape has been planted in Campania for at least two thousand years, and Mastroberardino is the grand old company that brought it back to prominence starting in the early 20th century. The current generation, Don Piero Mastroberardino, is most decidedly not chasing trends. This latest release is sharp and phenolically rich, putting the variety’s almost extreme minerality on display. A lively streak of acids pins down the ensemble – a crackling backbone of energy, while fruit is very much a secondary feature. There’s plenty of wine here for the money, but it needs at least another 2-3 years to really start showing its best.

Once ultra-trendy Soave is thankfully past that awkward era in the ‘70s when practically anything wet and white would sell under the regional name. Now it’s so untrendy in fact that winemakers can (have to) again focus on quality, which has risen astonishingly since the turn of the millennium, with prices yet to follow suit. La Cappuccina 2014 Soave, Veneto, Italy ($15.95) is a fine example of the value to be found, a gentle but fresh and nectarine-flavoured wine with appreciable character and evident depth and concentration, not to mention an extra dimension of stony-minerality on the long finish.

Big Thing Reds

Montalcino came perilously close to collapsing under the sinister pressure of international trends last decade when the excessive use of new barriques and illegal grapes conspired to thicken, darken and denature the gorgeous perfume and delicacy of many of the region’s Brunelli in an effort to make everything taste like then-fashionable cabernet. Many wineries were accused, and some convicted, of blending grapes other than sangiovese in the ‘Brunellogate’ scandal, since Brunello must be 100% sangiovese by law. The region subsequently voted narrowly in favour of keeping the appellation pure, a clear victory for the anti-trend faction.

For a taste of what Brunello should be, cursed trends aside, try the Caparzo 2010 La Casa Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($73.95). This is Caparzo’s single vineyard expression from the premium north side of Montalcino in an excellent vintage, a wine of exceptional structure, depth and character. Don’t expect it to bowl you over with masses of fruit; it’s a toned and firm expression, lithe and sinewy, energetic and tightly wound the way we like it, still a couple of years away from prime drinking. Length is terrific and complexity will only continue to build from an excellent, savoury, umami-laden base in classic sangiovese style. Best 2018-2028.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has arguably done a better job than any other new world region in forging an identity within a single generation based on regional vocation, not pie-in-the-sky trend chasing (only Marlborough Sauvignon comes close). Pinot noir was among the first grapes planted in 1966 and today still accounts for the overwhelming majority of production. And remember, that pre-dates the big trend for pinot by over three decades – no one succumbed to the temptation to plant cabernet in the interim (which would never have ripened anyhow).

Caparzo La Casa Brunello di Montalcino 2010 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2013 Viña Olabarri Crianza 2011

Domaine Drouhin’s excellent 2013 Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills sub-AVA ($52.95) is a classic of the genre: light, fresh, balanced, firm but not hard, with a scratchy bit of minerality on the palate, generous tart red berry flavours and impressively long finish. It’s fitting, too, that Drouhin was the first major foreign investor in the valley in 1987, and from Burgundy no less. Was Véronique Drouhin chasing a lucrative trend? Hardly. Most Americans at the time didn’t know pinot from peanuts. She simply understood that the Dundee Hills would make an excellent place to grow pinot, now robustly proved.

Rioja, and indeed all of Spain, is living on the edge of a dangerously trendy abyss, emerging as the nation is from its 20th century isolated slumber. So many wineries/regions/wines are seeking a foothold in the 21st century, tempted by various fashionable styles. Viña Olabarri’s 2011 Rioja Crianza ($14.95), however, stands steadfast in traditional garb. It delivers the classic resinous/balsam/sandalwood flavours of abundant American oak, in use since the 16th century, (albeit in rustic form), with a nice dose of tart red and black berry fruit. Tannins are a little rough-and-tumble, but nothing that some grilled, salty, fatty protein couldn’t soften at the table. It’s a decent little value for fans of traditional style Rioja.

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES August 20th, 2016

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August Whites

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


For Premium Members, use these quick links for easy access to all the Premium Picks:

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 20th Reviews 


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Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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An Exclusive Champagne Dinner Featuring the Iconic G.H. Mumm Brand – Toronto

On Thursday, August 4th, WineAlign is pleased to present an exclusive champagne dinner with world-renowned Cellar Master, Didier Mariotti, from the iconic G.H. Mumm brand.

Join us for dinner at The Chase with G.H. Mumm’s Cellar Master, Didier Mariotti.  Didier joins us for the evening from Epernay, France to guide us through a range of champagnes from this iconic House.  As the latest in a line of passionate Cellar Masters responsible for crafting the House style, Mariotti is both the guardian and the beneficiary of G.H Mumm’s long heritage.  Didier will be joined by WineAlign’s David Lawrason.

Mumm 3 pics

Event Details:

Date: Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Location: The Chase (10 Temperance St., Toronto)

Reception: 6:30pm (on front terrace)

Dinner: 7:00pm (private dining room)

Tickets: $104 per person (plus tax and fees)

*Please note tickets are limited, so book early to avoid disappointment.

G.H. Mumm Champagne Dinner - Purchase Tickets

Menu and Wine List

Reception
Pearl Platter
East and west coast oysters, shrimp, crab, and tuna
G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut

Appetizer
Avocado
With albacore tuna, cured egg yolks, white anchovy, olives, and baby romaine
G.H. Mumm Rosé

Main Course
Halibut
Roasted with wild mushrooms creamed spinach, linzer potatoes, and brown butter tartar sauce
G.H. Mumm Millesime 2006

Dessert
Lime
Angel food cake, lime curd, coconut cream, toasted marshmallow icing
Coffee & Tea

*There are no substitutions*

G.H. Mumm Champagne Dinner - Purchase Tickets

About Didier Mariotti:

G.H. Mumm’s Cellar Master, Didier Mariotti, is the guardian and beneficiary of nearly two centuries of expertise – shaping the distinctive House style. He adds his own winemaking contribution and continues to perfect the balance of tradition and innovation that brings out the exceptional character of the unique terroir rated at 98% on échelle des crus.

This is Didier’s first trip to Toronto, celebrating the VINTAGES release of the highly acclaimed G.H. Mumm Millesime 2006 vintage champagne.

Didier photo

About The Chase

The Chase offers small plates with big flavours; entrées that are satisfying and adventurous, but healthy, and experiences that exude sociability and interaction with our staff.

The Chase is our passion for casual elegance. Our rooftop restaurant highlights what we love most about upscale dining, and presents it in a modest and thoughtful way. Our ongoing chase for the finest ingredients from around the world, coupled with simple and uncomplicated flavours, is the foundation for our culinary philosophy.

The Chase logo

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

G.H. Mumm Champagne Dinner - Purchase Tickets


 

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What’s New at LCBO this Spring

Between our VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide and Steve Thurlow’s top picks from the LCBO Wines, we have the whole store covered each and every month.

Red, White & Fizz
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Since I last reported to you I have found some excellent new wines on the shelves of the LCBO. It is a mixed bunch from all over the world ranging in price from $9 to $74. Some are brand new and others may have been in VINTAGES in the past, but have now made their way to the front of the store. Two-off dry Champagnes are the standouts for quality but they come with a hefty price tag. My advice is to checkout below the classic Rioja Reserva, a very inexpensive red from Puglia, and a cabernet shiraz blend from Australia, for the best values among the new wines.

The wines on the shelves at the LCBO are constantly changing and I am tasting the new ones all the time. Many favourites are always there but the range and variety is gradually being updated.

I suggest you read on, pick a few that appeal, then sign in to WineAlign to check on inventory at your local LCBO which should be set up as your Favourite Store in Find Wine at WineAlign.

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 reviews of great value wines!

REDS

Oggi Primitivo 2014, Puglia, Italy ($8.85) – Primitivo is called zinfandel outside of Italy. This is a simple and well priced red that offers a lot for such an inexpensive wine. Fruity and easy drinking. Try with meaty pasta sauces or pizza.

Farm To Table Cabernet Merlot 2012, Victoria, Australia ($14.80) – A rather understated, delicate, almost austere Aussie red that’s quite mature for its age. It is midweight and dry with a long lingering fruity finish. Very good length.

Oggi Primitivo 2014Farm To Table Cabernet Merlot 2012 Mallee Rock Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Antano Rioja Reserva 2009

Mallee Rock Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, South Australia ($14.95) – The cooler Limestone Coast has delivered a juicy fresh yet ripe red that is full bodied but feels lighter. Very good length. Try with grilled meats.

Antano Rioja Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain ($16.70) – A typical mature traditional Rioja. Perfumed with sweet oak aromas and a dry well balanced palate. Very good length. Needs food try with grilled meats.

Young Brute Red Blend 2014, Wrattonbully, South Australia ($18.95) – The perfumed complex nose is quite enticing but it turns into being quite a brute, unbalanced and bitter in the end. Good to very good length.

Young Brute Red Blend 2014 Lakeview Cellars Merlot P.G. Enns Farms 2012 Piccini Villa Al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino 2010

Lakeview Cellars Merlot P.G. Enns Farms 2012, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario ($29.95) – An impressive red from the warm 2012 vintage with ripe aromas and flavours. After an hour in the decanter it is fine now, but another year or two in the cellar will help develop more complexity as the tannins fold into the wine. Best 2018 to 2023.

Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello di Montalcino 2010 Tuscany Italy ($37.75) – Though inexpensive by Brunello standards this is a pricey wine for what you get. It is mature and quite dry with a complex nose but lacks the depth of flavour for which Brunello is noted. Very good length. Try with roast beef

WHITES & SPARKLING

Mallee Rock Pinot Grigio 2015, South Eastern Australia ($13.95) – The nose is initially marred by a hefty dose of sulphur. It is a simple fairly inoffensive fresh white that is midweight and creamy with a slightly bitter finish. Good to very good length.

Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial Champagne, France ($69.90) – This is an off-dry Champagne though not that sweet. Enjoy on its own as an aperitif or with mildly spicy Asian cuisine. It is midweight and very juicy with great focus and a long lingering finish.

Mallee Rock Pinot Grigio 2015 Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec Champagne13th Street Cuvée Rosé Brut

Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec Champagne, France ($74.30) – This off-dry Champagne makes for a much better aperitif than brut Champagne since it can easily be sipped on its own without food. It also is balanced for mildly spicy items and not-too-sweet desserts. A fine wine with good power, depth and finesse.

13th Street Cuvée Rosé Brut, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($24.95) – This pink bubbly is a new addition to the Vintages Essential Collection. It has an enticing nose of ripe McIntosh apple with vanilla, raspberry and strawberry fruit. The palate is rich with just enough sweetness to balance the acidity with a good depth of flavour and a soft creamy mousse. Very good length. Enjoy with baked or smoked salmon.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Here are some quick links to great values:

Top Value Report for May
Top 20 under $20

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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William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

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Regions, sub-regions and appellations in France

The Caveman Speaks
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw: Image credit Jason Dziver

Bill Zacharkiw

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

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

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

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

Region, sub-regions and appellations

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

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

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

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

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

Region: Bordeaux

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

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

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

Maison Blanche Medoc 2011Louis Roche Grand Listrac 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bill

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

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


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Faites sauter le bouchon !

Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia

Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier

C’est la saison des paillettes, du strass, des couleurs brillantes et de l’effervescence un peu partout, à commencer par les verres.

Vrai, la consommation de champagne et autres vins effervescents n’est plus réservée aux grandes célébrations et au temps des Fêtes, mais si je vous demandais ce que vous comptez ouvrir le 31 décembre, je serais très surprise de ne pas vous entendre me nommer au moins une, sinon deux ou trois cuvées de bulles.

Un rapport de l’Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV), publié en début d’année 2015 permettait d’ailleurs de confirmer que les vins effervescents se taillent maintenant une place dans les habitudes régulières des amateurs de vin. La tendance s’observe facilement sur le marché québécois puisque la SAQ affiche des ventes en hausse de 78 % depuis 2010 – 48 % pour les champagnes seulement.

L’autre bonne nouvelle, c’est que tout ne se joue pas dans le volume, mais aussi dans la qualité et dans la diversité.

Le choix des vins mousseux à la SAQ n’a jamais été aussi vaste qu’aujourd’hui. Au cours des cinq dernières années, la SAQ a ajouté plus de 150 vins de Champagne à son répertoire, la plupart venant de petits propriétaires récoltant-manipulant. Longtemps seules dans leur bulle, les grandes marques champenoises doivent désormais jouer du coude à l’exportation, avec ces vignerons indépendants, dont les vins connaissent une forte popularité, tant dans la restauration, qu’auprès d’une clientèle de connaisseurs, mois sensible aux arguments du marketing.

Pour vous guider dans vos achats de la fin d’année, voici mes coups de cœur de la dernière année.

Allez-y, à toute occasion, faites sauter le bouchon!

Brut Non-Millésimé 

De Sousa & Fils Cuvée 3A Champagne De Sousa & Fils Brut Tradition ChampagneLes champagnes non-millésimés – aussi nommés « brut sans année » ou BSA – représentent plus de 80 % des ventes annuelles de la Champagne. Créés à la demande des marchands britanniques qui souhaitaient réduire les variations d’une année à l’autre, ces cuvées sont issues d’un assemblage de vins de plusieurs millésimes, cépages et terroirs. Chaque maison a son style et obtient ainsi un vin plus constant au fil des ans.

Tout fraichement arrivé à la SAQ, le Brut Tradition de la maison De Sousa & Fils donne pleine satisfaction pour le prix. Un bon vin de facture classique, délicatement brioché et porté par une mousse fine et assez persistante. (56,50 $)  Plus complexe encore, la Cuvée 3A s’appuie sur un assemblage de trois terroirs de Grand Cru sur les communes d’Avize, d’Aÿ et d’Ambonnay, d’où le nom. Belle bouteille qu’on pourra apprécier dès maintenant ou laisser reposer en cave encore quelques années. (74 $) 

L’amateur de Champagne à l’affut d’aubaines voudra aussi découvrir le Grand cru, Blanc de noirs de la maison Barnaut, produit sur le terroir de Bouzy, à une vingtaine de kilomètres au sud-est de Reims. Vineux, structuré, ample et on ne peut plus rassasiant à ce prix. (48 $)

Marque-culte, célèbre pour ses vins riches et profonds, vinifiés en fût de chêne, Bollinger est aussi propriétaire du domaine Langlois-Chateau, dans la Loire. Toujours impeccable, le Special Cuvée est un modèle en matière de brut non millésimé. Plus consistant et structuré que la moyenne, une saine acidité rehausse ses arômes de noisette et ses tonalités crayeuses. Persistant, très stylé et doté belle tenue en bouche. (69,25 $)

Barnaut Grand Cru Blanc De Noirs Brut Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne Pol Roger Brut Réserve Champagne Egly Ouriet Tradition Grand Cru Brut Champagne

Entreprise restée familiale, Pol Roger s’est gagné la confiance d’amateurs des cinq continents qui ne jurent que par son style droit et raffiné, l’image même de cette grande marque. Le Brut non-millésimé compte pour 70 % de toute la production de la maison. Une référence, à juste titre. (61,25 $) 

Le Tradition Grand Cru de Egly-Ouriet est issu essentiellement de pinot noir et élaboré par Francis Egly, vigneron récoltant-manipulant. Un mariage exquis d’élégance, de structure et de pureté, des saveurs pénétrantes et complexes. Grand vin! (93,75 $)

Brut Blanc de Blancs 

La maison Henriot est également propriétaire de Bouchard Père & Fils et du domaine William-Fèvre en Bourgogne. Le Brut Blanc de blancs provient essentiellement des terroirs de premier et grands crus de la Côte des Blancs et a profité d’un élevage de cinq années sur lies. Cette année encore, un vin harmonieux, persistant, délicieux. (78,75 $) 

Le vignoble de la famille Doquet est conduit en agriculture biologique. Fruit d’un assemblage des récoltes 2009 et 2010, la Cuvée Horizon est issue à 100 % de chardonnay. Le dosage est perceptible, mais n’ajoute aucune lourdeur et le vin présente un bel équilibre d’ensemble. Toujours parmi les bons achats à moins de 50 $. (47 $)

Sur la vaste propriété qui appartient à leur famille depuis 1750, Olivier et Didier Gimonnet misent sur des dosages limités qui laissent le fruit s’exprimer dans toute sa subtilité. Depuis son entre sur le marché, la Cuvée Cuis Premier Cru Brut se distingue par sa bouche est fraîche et élancée, mettant en valeur les plus beaux atouts du chardonnay. (57,25 $)

Henriot Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne Pascal Doquet Horizon Brut Blanc De Blancs Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Brut Blanc De Blancs Cuis 1er Cru Larmandier Bernier Terre De Vertus Premier Cru 2010 Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc De Blancs

Réputé à juste titre pour la précision de ses vins, Pierre Larmandier cultive son vignoble en biodynamie. Le Terres de Vertus Premier cru 2010 est une autre référence au rayon des Blancs de Blancs. Quelle finesse! Les amateurs du genre seront comblés. (71,75 $) 

Plus abordable, mais très loin d’être un prix de consolation, Les Vignes de Montgueux du domaine Jacques Lassaigne prouve que le département de l’Aube – souvent considéré comme le parent pauvre de la Champagne – peut donner des vins aussi inspirés que ceux de la Marne. Sec, vif et tranchant; parmi les meilleurs champagnes pour accompagner les huîtres. (56 $) 

Le meilleur des rosés 

Les déceptions sont nombreuses au rayon des rosés… Très rarement aussi complet ni aussi distinctif que leur pendant blanc, mais toujours significativement plus cher. Heureusement, certaines maisons font exception.

C’est le cas de la famille Fleury, dont le vignoble est cultivé en biodynamie depuis 1989. Le Rosé De Saignée est l’un des meilleurs champagnes rosés disponibles à la SAQ. Le terme « saignée » indique que la couleur du vin exclusivement relève du contact du moût avec les peaux des raisins de pinot noir, plutôt que d’un assemblage de chardonnay « coloré » par l’ajout de vin rouge, une pratique largement répandue en Champagne. La couleur est donc plus soutenue que la moyenne, et le vin comporte une bonne dose d’extraits secs qui laisse une texture quasi tannique en bouche. À découvrir sans faute, surtout que le prix, pour un rosé, n’est pas du tout excessif. (63,25 $) 

Fleury Rosé de Saignée Brut De Sousa & Fils Champagne Rosé Bruno Paillard Brut Première Cuvée Champagne Rosé Raventos I Blanc de Nit Conca del Riu Anoia 2013

En plus des deux vins commentés plus haut, la famille De Sousa & Fils élabore le Brut rosé, un rosé d’assemblage qui demeure assez fidèle à l’esprit de la maison, avec une facture classique et des saveurs franches et persistantes de fraises des bois. (70,50 $) 

Il y a une trentaine d’années, Bruno Paillard a fondé cette maison et s’est vite taillé une réputation enviable dans cette région où règnent des institutions centenaires. Comme d’habitude, son Brut rosé Première Cuvée est fort agréable par la précision de ses saveurs fruitées et florales. (76,75 $)

Petite excursion hors-Champagne, avec le De Nit 2013 de Raventós i Blanc, un rosé catalan dont la couleur est attribuable à une petite proportion de monastrell (mourvèdre). L’attaque en bouche est franche, agrémentée de saveurs fruitées nettes. Toujours un très bon achat. (24,80 $) 

Secs ou archi-secs? 

Tarlant Zéro Brut Nature Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Nature Starck 2006Si vous aimez le champagne en mode sec, vif, tranchant, il vous faut absolument goûter le Brut Nature 2006 de Roederer, produit en collaboration avec le designer Philippe Starck, qui a participé à l’assemblage et conçu l’étiquette, évidemment. Premier vin sans dosage de la gamme Roederer, ce vin issu de pinot noir et de chardonnay est disponible en exclusivité dans les succursales Signature. Encore très jeune, malgré qu’il soit âgé de neuf ans; à la fois citronné et minéral, il se développe admirablement dans le verre et laisse en finale une sensation vibrante. (104 $) 

Un peu moins complexe, mais vendu pour la moitié du prix, le Zéro Brut Nature de la famille Tarlant ne manque pas d’attraits. Très sec, vif, épuré et digeste, idéal pour l’apéritif. (51,25 $)

Pour quelques dollars de plus, l’Arpège Brut Nature de Pascal Doquet est un pur régal. Un savoureux blanc de blancs, gras, assez substantiel et d’une intensité à faire rougir bien des champagnes de grandes maisons. (55,75 $) 

Agrapart exploite à peine une dizaine d’hectares de vignes, qu’elle soigne scrupuleusement (labour des sols à l’ancienne, emploi de levures indigènes, élevage en fûts). Excellent champagne d’emblée agréable par son attaque en bouche franche, la cuvée Terroirs, Blanc de Blancs, Extra Brut déploie de bons goûts de pomme verte, sur un fond brioché. (69,75 $)

Pascal Doquet Arpège Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature Agrapart Terroirs Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Fleury Extra Brut 2002 Fleury Boléro Champagne 2004

Avant-gardiste et biodynamistes de la première heure, les membres de la famille Fleury donnent leurs lettres de noblesse aux terroirs de la Côte des Bars. Le nez légèrement rancio du Extra Brut 2002 pourrait faire craindre une oxydation prématurée. La bouche présente ces mêmes notes évoluées, entre la pomme blette et la cire d’abeille, mais n’accuse aucune fatigue. Excellent champagne de terroir à boire au cours des deux prochaines années. (73,75 $)  Plus cher, mais un cran plus complet et complexe, le Bolero 2004 déploie toute la sève des meilleurs blancs de noirs. Un champagne d’envergure à apprécier dès maintenant ou à laisser reposer en cave jusqu’en 2019. (94,25 $) 

Après la Champagne, le reste du monde

Le mot « Champagne » sur une étiquette désigne exclusivement un vin produit dans la région du même nom, au nord-est de Paris.

Ailleurs, on ne produit pas du champagne, mais du vin mousseux : cava en Espagne, Franciacorta, Prosecco ou spumante en Italie, sekt en Allemagne, crémant en France, sparkling wine aux États-Unis, en Australie, en Nouvelle-Zélande et au Canada, etc. Des vins très souvent élaborés selon la méthode champenoise, maintenant nommé méthode traditionnelle.

Depuis 2010, la SAQ a ajouté 80 mousseux – hors Champagne – à son répertoire, ce qui porte le nombre de vins en inventaire à plus de 200.

La France d’abord

On produit des vins mousseux dans presque toutes les régions viticoles françaises. Les meilleurs crémants de Bourgogne et du Jura sont sans doute ceux qui se rapprochent le plus des vins de Champagne. Cela s’explique sans doute par l’emprunt des mêmes cépages – chardonnay et pinot noir, essentiellement.

Sur la commune de Le Vernois, les Baud produisent une foule de vins de table, mais aussi deux excellents crémants vendus à la SAQ. Le Brut Blanc de Blanc est d’emblée attrayant avec son nez qui évoque les scones fraîchement sortis du four. À ce prix, on peut l’acheter à la caisse! (19,50 $) 

Domaine Baud Blanc de Blanc Brut Domaine Baud Crémant du Jura Brut Sauvage Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Crémant du Jura Brut Louis Bouillot Perle Rare Brut Crémant de Bourgogne 2011

Un cran plus nourri, le Brut Sauvage repose sur un assemblage de chardonnay (70 %) et de pinot noir, auquel un long élevage de 24 mois sur lattes apporte onctuosité et gras. À moins de 25 $, il est rare de trouver un vin effervescent qui offre autant de plaisir. (23,25 $) 

La famille Tissot est une autre des forces de la viticulture jurassienne. Il y a plusieurs années, André et Mireille ont transmis les rênes à leur fils Stéphane qui s’inscrit parmi les vignerons les plus talentueux de sa génération. Son Crémant du Jura se signale par sa constance exemplaire. Savoureux et assez consistant et couronné d’une saine amertume qui se dessine en finale et met le fruit en relief. (24,60 $) 

Plus complet que par le passé, il me semble, le Crémant de Bourgogne 2011, Perle Rare de Louis Bouillot est moins dosé et laisse une impression de raisins plus mûrs. (22,95 $)  Plus abordable encore, la Cuvée Excellence du Moulin des Verny est composée exclusivement de chardonnay et s’avère assez fin, dans un style classique. Très bon crémant de Bourgogne, fruité et nerveux, avec des goûts de pomme blette. Bon rapport qualité-prix. (19,10 $)  Arrivé à la SAQ il y a quelques semaines, le Belaire, Gold Brut est constitué de chardonnay bourguignon, sans que la bouteille n’en fasse mention. Plus ouvert et fruité que la moyenne des mousseux bourguignons, à défaut de profondeur. 

Moulin Des Verny Cuvée Excellence Brut Belaire Gold Brut Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray Brut 2013 Laurens Clos des Demoiselles Tête de Cuvée 2012, Crémant de Limoux

Dans la région de la Loire, pas de chardonnay ni de pinot noir, mais du chenin blanc, un cépage singulier qui donne des vins nerveux et vigoureux. Le Brut 2013 de Vincent Carême est particulièrement achevé. Pureté cristalline, précision et, comme toujours chez Carême, une vivacité qui appelle la soif et met en appétit. (24,20 $)

Même dans le sud de la France au bord de la Méditerranée, on peut trouver des vins étonnamment rafraîchissants. Laurens et son Clos Des Demoiselles 2012 en font foi chaque année. Toujours un bon achat au rayon des crémants de Limoux. (23,90 $) 

Ensuite, l’Espagne 

En Espagne, au sud de Barcelone, des entreprises colossales se spécialisent dans la production de cava et autres mousseux, dont la qualité est en nette progression. Certaines cuvées haut de gamme font même preuve de beaucoup de race et de profondeur.

Parés Baltà Blanca Cusiné Penedès 2009 Parés Baltà Cava Brut Raventos I Blanc de la Finca 2011Josep Maria Raventós et son fils Manuel ont vendu leurs parts dans Codorniu en 1986 pour constituer ce domaine d’une centaine d’hectares, juste en face des installations ancestrales. La famille Raventós a aussi décidé de quitter l’appellation cava, jugeant la qualité des vins de l’appellation trop hétérogène. Leurs vins sont désormais commercialisés sous la dénomination Conca del Riu Anoia. 

Beaucoup plus substantiel que la moyenne régionale, le De la Finca 2011 se distingue par son ampleur et ses saveurs persistantes. Tout le caractère authentique du cava (même sans le nom), mais avec une touche d’élégance qui le porte dans le peloton de tête. (31,25 $)

Bien que plus simple, le Parès Baltà, Cava Brut offre un rapport qualité-prix remarquable. Issu des cépages parellada, maccabeu et xarel-lo, cultivés de manière biologique; friand et bien mûr, tout en conservant une fraîcheur rassasiante. (17,45 $) Plutôt que les traditionnels cépages blancs catalans, la famille Cusiné a choisi de miser sur le chardonnay et le pinot noir pour son cava haut de gamme, le Blanca Cuisiné 2009. Excellent vin mousseux au caractère rancio, porté par une bulle tendre et persistante. Exclusivité SAQ Signature. (35 $)

Enfin, de ce côté-ci de l’Atlantique… 

Outre-Atlantique, la Californie s’impose par d’excellents vins mousseux très souvent mis au point par des grandes maisons de Champagne venues s’y installées. On trouve aussi sur le marché quelques très bons vins effervescents de Colombie-Britannique, de la Nouvelle-Écosse et du Québec. 

Longtemps vendu exclusivement au domaine, L’Orpailleur Brut est maintenant vendu en succursales. Une belle occasion de constater le potentiel du terroir québécois pour l’élaboration de vins mousseux de qualité. Juste assez dosé pour tempérer la vigueur du seyval et toujours aussi vif et pimpant. (32 $)

Si vous habitez la région des Cantons de l’Est, une petite visite à North Hatley s’impose. Le Domaine Bergeville se consacre exclusivement à l’élaboration de vins effervescents. Ses propriétaires, Ève Rainville et Marc Théberge, croient fermement au potentiel des vins mousseux québecois et élaborent dans les règles de l’art, trois très bons vins, dont le Blanc 2013 Brut, issu de cépages hybrides cultivés selon les principes de la biodynamie. Un deuxième millésime couronné de succès; vendu uniquement à la propriété.

Produit en bordure dy lac Brome, le Courville Brut séduit d’amblée par son nez aux accents de noix de grenoble qui annoncent un vin fort original. Issu exclusivement de seyval, vinifié selon la méthode traditionnelle, sans ajout d’une liqueur de dosage. 27 $, à la propriété.

L'orpailleur Brut Vin Mousseux Domaine Bergeville Blanc Brut 2013 Domaine Les Brome Léon Courville Brut Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling

Dans le sud de la vallée de l’Okanagan, la famille Mavety cultive la vigne depuis plus de 20 ans, au domaine Blue Mountain. Leur Brut s’appuie sur un assemblage de pinot noir, de chardonnay et de pinot gris. 

Et pour terminer en beauté, l’un de mes effervescents préférés hors-Champagne, le Roederer Estate Brut. Sans blague, j’ai bien dû en acheter au moins une caisse par an depuis que j’ai découvert ce vin il y a une dizaine d’années. D’ailleurs, lorsque dégusté à l’aveugle aux côtés de grandes cuvées de Champagne, il n’est pas rare que ce mousseux de la Anderson Valley se taille une place de choix parmi les favoris. On peut acheter les yeux fermés. (36 $) 

Santé! Joyeuses Fêtes!

Nadia Fournier

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Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava

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Bill’s Best Bets – December 2015

Spending a lil’ more for the holiday season
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

We are a few days away from the Christmas break, a time when most of us get to take a week to chill out, have fun, exchange gifts, and get together and eat. Many of us also like to spend a little more on wine.

This is the time I dip into my cellar, crack Champagne instead of a sparkling wine, and when I give a bottle as a gift, I’ll drop the extra $20. While value is a relative term, when you are spending more than $30 on a bottle, it is even more important. After all, if you take a flyer on a $15 bottle, and it doesn’t quite do it for you, then so be it. But when you spend over $30, it stings a bit more.

So in honour of all of you who want to spend a little bit more this holiday season, here are some wines that, in my books, are worth the cash.

Champagnes and finer sparklers

I often do blind tastings where I pour 6-8 sparkling wines from different regions and ask guests to tell me both price and provenance. It’s rare that they aren’t able to pick out the Champagnes, even if they know very little about Champagne itself. There’s something about the depth and finesse of the bubbles of a well made Champagne that is very hard to copy.

And as many people can’t afford to drink Champagne very often, they make exceptional gifts. They also drink well right away, and few drinks start an evening off like fine bubbles. My Champagnes for the coming season, which run between $55-$75, include the exceptionally complex blanc de blanc from Larmandier-Bernier, the super oyster friendly and well priced Vignes de Montgueux from Jacques Lassaigne, the 2002 Extra Brut from Fleury for a tête a tête seafood dinner, and for that one evening when smoked salmon is the entrée, a rosé from Nicolas Feuillatte.

Larmandier Bernier Terre De Vertus Premier Cru 2010 Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes De Montgueux Blanc De Blancs Fleury Extra Brut 2002 Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé Champagne

For fans of white wine, there are so many styles and interesting wines available, that it is hard to choose. I like to take people a little out of their comfort zone, but white wine drinkers tend to appreciate that. For the chardonnay lover, I  won’t give a chardonnay, but rather a wine that is equally rich with a wonderful minerality like the 2014 Roussanne from Pierre Gaillard. If they hate chardonnay, which is usually because they are fearful of the overly oaked, super rich styles of the past, I will obviously give them a chardonnay, but from Chablis. Both the 2014 Montee de Tonnerre from Maligny and the 2013 Vaillons from Daniel Dampt are really good, and of course can be drunk now or held for a few years.

Pierre Gaillard St Joseph 2014 Château De Maligny Chablis Premier Cru Montée De Tonnerre 2014 Daniel Dampt et Fils Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2013 Argyros Santorini Assyrtiko 2014 Sigalas Santorini 2014

Fans of sauvignon blanc get none of that – are you are starting to see the theme here? Instead they are “forced” to drink assyrtiko from Santorini. Both the 2014 from Argyros and 2014 from Sigalas will do the job just fine. If you are serving seafood anytime over the holidays, these are your wines.

And for my riesling fanatics, I will offer up two choices of the real thing. For the cellar, the Ostertag 2013 Heissenberg is a fantastic wine that drinks really well right now, but will gain over the next decade. For my family to warm up to the Christmas festivities, and for my cellar, the Charles Baker 2012 Piccone Vineyard is my choice. How good is Niagara riesling? This good.

Domaine Ostertag Heissenberg Riesling 2013 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 Jean Foilard Morgon Cuvée Corcelette 2013 Jean Paul Brun Terres Dorées Morgon 2013 Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta Sant'emiliano 2012 Ferdinando Principiano Serralunga Barolo 2011

I will be a little less daring for my red wine loving friends. For those who appreciate lighter styled wines, you have to start any conversation about the style in Beaujolais. The 2013 Morgon Corcelette from Foilard is always one of my favourite wines, as is the 2013 from JP Brun. From Italy the 2012 Sant’Emiliano Barbera from Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta is absolutely stunning.

A step up in intensity, I love giving a well made Barolo and the 2011 Serralunga from Principiano Ferdinando is both a great value and a fantastic wine that will hold or drink right way. The 2013 Cotes de Nuits Villages, Au Clou, is one of the better wines I have tasted from Boisset, and a treat for pinot noir fans. And as I love the mid-weight cabernet francs from the Loire, the  2013 La Porte Saint-Jean from Domaine Sylvain Dittière is a great example of drinkability now, with a capacity to age too.

Jean Claude Boisset Côtes De Nuits Village Au Clou 2013Domaine Sylvain Dittière Saumur Champigny La Porte Saint Jean 2013 Treana Red 2012 Palazzo Brunello Di Montalcino 2009 Château Mont Redon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2010 Carpineto St. Ercolano 2004

But for those who want lots of torque, or when a prime rib is on the table, there are a few wines which piqued my tastebuds over the last few months. For the fan of riper styled wines, the 2012 Treanna might be the best red I have tasted from Austin Hope. The 2009 Palazzo Brunello-di-Montelcino is drinking wonderfully right now, and will also gain with some more cellar time. I love great grenache the 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Mont Redon is an exemplary wine.

Giving a wine with some age already is always a good idea, and the 2004 St. Ercolano from Carpineto is absolutely magnificent, and despite being almost 12 years old, is still tasting rather youthful.

Have a great holidays folks! Thanks for reading and see you in 2016.

 

Bill

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

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


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Wolf Blass - Here's to the Chase

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John Szabo’s Annual Fizz Report

A look at the Best Bubbles in Ontario
by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

As the year is winding down and celebrations are ramping up, it’s time for the annual look at the best bubbles available in Ontario. Read on to find the top buys in all categories, from inexpensive everyday, to stroke of midnight extravagance, from LCBO shelves to top agents’ consignment portfolios. Also featured in this report are some thoughts on the expanding universe of grower champagne and a spotlight on several leading producers and available champagnes. And since oyster season is in full delicious swing, I’ve posted a separate article – a special panel review of all-time favourite wine and oysters pairings. To do so, I enlisted a crack squad of oyster-loving experts from various fields to re-test the benchmark matches, and experiment with some improbable outliers, with a classic selection of oysters at Rodney’s oyster paradise in downtown Toronto. Serious oyster lovers will not want to skip this. Happy Holidays.

Special Report: Grower Champagne

Broadening the Appellation’s Horizons

If you’re a champagne lover, chances are you heard about the rise of “grower champagne” over the last decade. These are champagnes made by producers who own their own vineyards and grow all of their own grapes, and can be identified by the tiny letters “RM” on the label, which stand for Récoltant-Manipulant or essentially “harvester-producer”. Such wines are often contrasted with those made by large houses, who purchase most of their grape and/or wine requirements, denoted by the letters “NM”, or Négociant-Manipulant, or “buyer-producer”.

While grape growers and purchasers co-exist in most of the world’s regions, the distinction is especially important in Champagne since, rather uniquely for France, the overwhelming majority of wines from the region are produced by companies who own few, if any vineyards, and purchase all, or at least some, of their grape needs from among the region’s 16,000 or so growers.

The reasons for this are both practical and historical. For one, traditional method sparkling wine production is both capital and knowledge-intensive. To produce top quality champagne requires significant technical expertise – it is, after all, a highly processed type of wine that hinges on many small steps. Equipment is also expensive; the type of press, for example, is central to quality outcome. Time is also a major cost. Even basic champagne must be cellared for at least 15 months before it can be legally sold, while vintage-dated champagne requires 36 months, minimums which all of the best producers regularly exceed. This means that while all of those nouveau producers are rolling in cash mere weeks after harvest, champagne producers are footing a frightening inventory bill, and digging ever-deeper caves to store all of those bottles.

Considering that even today very few Champenois farmers have either the knowledge or the cash flow to fund production, the logical outcome is for a few large houses to buy the grapes, and to produce and distribute the wines. The situation is similar to Burgundy a generation ago, when grape growing was in the hands of farmers with fractured, tiny holdings, and production and distribution were managed by large negociants. The rise of domaine-bottled Burgundy has been the biggest change in that region in the last half century. And now Champagne seems headed in the same direction. This is excellent news for consumers.

Now, this is not an anti-grandes marques manifesto. The success, financial and otherwise, of the region’s growing cadre of RMs is due in no small measure to the centuries of work and investment in the region of the big houses – Champagne Charlie (Heidsieck), the Veuve Clicquot, Louise Pommery and many other great past figures of the Champagne industry are singularly responsible for the region’s technical advancements, its worldwide reputation, its intimate association with prestige and celebration, its luxury prices. Without the grandes marques and their significant investment in the region’s image, champagne would be utterly different.

Nor are large brands necessarily inferior. In an ironic twist, growing competition from small producers has raised the quality bar for everyone, forcing all of the major houses to pull up their socks (much like what has occurred in Burgundy). Many large houses now own at least some vineyards of their own, drawing on these holdings to produce their prestige cuvées, as is the case for Roederer’s exceptional Cristal, for example.

But the reality is that most of the big brands are predicated on consistency, regularity and volume, aspects that are incompatible with the very French notion of the uniqueness of terroir. Buy a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in Paris or Singapore or Toronto, at any time, and it will taste the same. In the world of brands, consistency is king. For many, this is comforting.

But consistency and quantity necessitate a vast blending operation to smooth out unwanted variation: multiple grapes, multiple vintages and hundreds of vineyard parcels are pieced together like a puzzle to create a consistent image, one that matches a house philosophy, not a vineyard expression. Along the way, of course, you obliterate the finer nuances of terroir, aside from the general character of the Champagne region itself.

Indeed it’s striking that there is just one single appellation that covers the entire Champagne region and its 34,000 hectares of vines, especially in such a terroir-obsessed country. To put things in perspective, Burgundy, which has about 6,000 fewer hectares of vines from Chablis to Mâcon, has well over 600 appellations, counting all of the premier crus of the Côte d’Or. In a region as large as Champagne, there are naturally dramatic differences within; no one would reasonably claim that Champagne as a whole shares a similar terroir.

To give just one example, as any wine student will tell you, champagne grows on chalk – a critical piece of the terroir puzzle. But in reality, the entire Aube/Côte des Bar region in southern Champagne, which accounts for a whopping 20% of production, is not on chalk at all but rather Kimmeridgian marl, much more similar to Chablis or Sancerre than the vineyards of Epernay. The articulation of such a marked difference, which in other parts of France would surely have merited an entirely separate appellation, is blended away into voluminous cuvées of pre-determined character.

What grower champagnes are providing, and what makes them of great interest to consumers who value nuanced expression and individuality, is a more detailed and diverse reflection of the region and all of its glorious variations. The aim is most often singular character, not homogeneous blend. Drawing from small, isolated holdings in specific sub-regions within Champagne, such wines are almost necessarily idiosyncratic. In short, grower champagnes are bridging the gap between industrial and artisanal, making the region more closely resemble every other great wine region in the world, giving voice to individual terroirs, enriching the landscape. “It’s an industrialized region which could benefit greatly from real artisanal work,” says Olivier Collin of Champagne Ulysses Collin, a young grower producing compelling, if controversial, wines.

There are some more technical reasons to consider grower champagnes, related to quality. For one, grape growers are motivated to pick early, at higher yields and with risk less, harvesting up to the maximum permitted limit. It’s rarely discussed, but if the maximum limit is set at, say, 14,000 kilos/hectare, you may end up growing 18,000kg to hedge your bets. In the end you can only harvest 14,000 kilos, and leave the rest for the birds. Over production goes unrecorded, which of course defeats the purpose of restricting yields in the first place. Since the grower is only concerned with the price he/she receives per kilo, and needn’t worry about selling the wine produced from the grapes, there’s a big disconnect in the production chain. And few growers make their living exclusively from grapes, and thus vineyards are often tended to like a hobby, if and when possible.

Growers who intend to produce and then sell their wines necessarily approach the vineyard with a completely different philosophy, with an eye on the end, not just the means. As Jean-Hervé Chiquet from Jacquesson points out, “we couldn’t be the largest, nor could we be the cheapest. Our only option was to aim to be the best.” It’s a philosophy that prevails amongst all of the best RMs, or rather a sine qua non in the hyper-competitive champagne market. Lacking the seemingly limitless promotional budgets of the big houses, these wines have to fight on quality. You can be sure that a far greater percentage of the dollars you spend on a bottle of grower champagne goes toward production cost – riper grapes at reduced yields, smaller press fractions, small batch fermentations, etc. Value is one of the RMs’ strongest selling points.

Yet RM on a label is no more a guarantee of quality than any other independent vigneron’s name. There are distinct disadvantages to being an exclusive grower operation in a marginal climate like Champagne’s. Should your vineyards fail to produce quality grapes in a given vintage, there’s no recourse to purchase grapes from elsewhere. Small growers often lack the resources to obtain top equipment, or hold on to reserves of old wines for blending in non-vintage cuvées to add layers of complexity, for example. And if it isn’t obvious by now, good grape growers are not necessarily good winemakers. There are plenty of quirky, idiosyncratic or downright poor bottles of grower champagne on the market.

But the success rate is climbing. “20 years ago, the grandes marques were pretty much the only ones making top wines”, says Chiquet. “But that is changing very quickly.” Chiquet is quick to point out that there aren’t necessarily more growers bottling their own champagne today – some 4,500 growers out of 16,000, or just over a quarter, also produce wine, albeit very often in tiny quantities for family use or local distribution. “But there are many more who are making better wine”, he continues. “20 years ago there were maybe 5 or 6 good growers, now there are at least ten times that.”

The bottom line for consumers is that Champagne’s landscape is now far richer and more varied, with quality and diversity growing apace. There will always be a place for the celebrated prestige cuvées from household names to be sure, for the comfort of a consistent and reliable product. But there is a growing pool of more personal expressions of champagne from which to choose, if you can filter out all the bling and concentrate on the wine. 

Special Buyer’s Guide Feature: Grower Champagne

Gatinois NV Champagne Grand Cru de Aÿ Réserve Brut ($74.52, 6/case)

Jacquesson Cuvée 738 Extra Brut Champagne 2010 Fleury Blanc De Noirs Brut Champagne Gatinois Nv Champagne Grand Cru De Aÿ Réserve BrutGatinois is a small, seven-hectare family operation now into the 12th generation, centered on the grand cru village of Aÿ in the Montagne de Reims. Bottles are still hand-riddled and hand-disgorged. The Reserve Brut (85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay) includes 30% of reserve wines, the oldest in the house, and is given 36 months on the lees, followed by a year in bottle before release. The current bottling, based on the 2010 vintage and the first for the young Louis Cheval, is the best I’ve tasted yet from Gatinois, powerful, balanced, and complex, on the drier side of brut, with superb length. Availability: consignment via Le Sommelier.

Fleury NV Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut ($54.95)

Fleury was established in 1895, and became Champagne’s first fully biodynamic producer in1989. This pure pinot noir cuvée from the estate’s vineyards in the Côte des Bar Champagne (Fleury also purchases a small quantity of biodynamically grown grapes from various partners) is crafted in a powerful, mature style, gently oxidative, fully toasty. Dosage comes in at a modest eight grams, putting this on the drier side of the balance. Excellent length. Availability: consignment via The Living Vine.

Jacquesson NV Cuvée 738 Extra Brut Champagne, France ($88.00)

Jacquesson is technically an “NM”, though since taking over from their father in 1988, Jean-Hervé and his brother Laurent have increased family holdings and eliminated all but the best vineyards under contract, all in their home village of Dizy where they can closely monitor quality. And quality across the range is impeccable. Cuvée 738 is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier based on the 2010 harvest, with about 1/3 reserve wines included in the blend. It’s not a vintage champagne, but the house policy at Jacquesson is to create the best possible wine each year, so there’s considerable difference from year to year, hence the cuvée number to allow consumers to distinguish different bottlings. “Equalizing works both ways, sometimes you have to lower the quality to equalize”, says Chiquet, criticizing he standard NV policy. 2010 was a tough year in champagne, especially for the pinots, hence the high percentage of chardonnay here – just over 60 %. The quality nonetheless is remarkable: pure and driving, finessed and immensely elegant and fresh, virtually bone dry but genuinely ripe. I love the pure white chocolate and hazelnut, and citrus and floral notes. Lees autolysis is subtle but rounds out the texture nicely; dosage is low. Top class champagne. Availability: consignment via Groupe Soleil.

Agrapart NV Champagne Complantée Extra Brut ($98.00)

Ulysse Collin Champagne Blanc De Blancs Les Perrièrs Extra Brut Gimonnet Champagne Special Club Terre De Chardonnay 2006 Agrapart Champagne Complantee Extra Brut4th generation growers Pascal and Fabrice Agrapart are among the leading figures in the realm of grower champagnes, with family production stretching back to the late 19th century. 12 hectares in the Côte des Blancs (in the grand crus villages of Avize, Oger, Cramant, and Oiry) are divided into 50 parcels with an average age of 40 years, some over 65 years old. The complantée is a fascinating wine composed of all seven permitted grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier, pinot blanc, arbane and petite meslier, from 2010 and 2011, grown in a tiny 0.2ha parcel in Avize. The base wine is wild-fermented in 600l cask, given full malolactic and long lees ageing in barrel, followed by 4 year on lees in the bottle. Dosage is kept to 5 grams. This drinks as much like a Blanc de Blancs as any, with superb freshness and delicacy, racy acids and brilliant complexity. A wine of grand finesse and class, which seems to confirm Agrapart’s assumption that terroir trumps variety. Availability: consignment via Groupe Soleil.

Gimonnet 2006 Champagne Special Club Terre de Chardonnay ($100)

Olivier & Didier Gimonnet have an impressive 28 hectares of Chardonnay in the Côte des Blancs, in the premiers crus villages of Cuis et Vertus, and grand crus Cramant, Chouilly and Oger. Of note here is the high average vine age, with some vines planted in 1911 and 1913 still producing; only massale selection is used to replace individual vines. The vintage Special Club is the top offering, a pure chardonnay from mostly the old vines of Cramant, and the 2006 shows archetypal Blanc de Blancs freshness and tension, pitched perfectly between the fresh brioche flavours from lees contact and subtle, succulent lemon curd and, hazelnut and white chocolate complexity. A wine of tremendous length and elegance; drink or hold a decade without concern. Availability: consignment via Trialto.

Ulysse Collin NV Champagne Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Les Perrieres ($95)

Olivier Collin may be a relative newcomer – 2004 was his first vintage after successfully wining back family vineyards under contract to a large house – but in that short period he has catapulted into the top echelon. His wines are certainly memorable, like this single vineyard Les Perrieres of 1.2ha planted to 40+ year-old chardonnay in the little-known Sézanne sub-region southwest of the Côte des Blancs. There are no Grand or 1er Crus in this part of Champagne, a fact which only underscores the imperfections of the village classification system. This bottling is made exclusively from 2009 fruit (not declared as a vintage), harvested at unusually high ripeness, and base wine is fermented and aged in at least one year in old barriques before secondary fermentation. Like respected contemporary Cédric Bouchard, Collin’s aim is to make great still wine first and foremost; the bubbles are incorporated merely for lift and liveliness, and his wines are bottled without fining or filtration at lower pressure than the champagne mean. Les Perrieres tastes like Meursault with bubbles, an utterly individual expression of champagne. Availability: consignment via Groupe Soleil.

R.H. Coutier NV Champagne Rose Brut ($65.00)

Cédric Bouchard Nv Roses De Jeanne Cote De Bechalin (2007) Blanc De Noirs Brut Nature Legras & Haas Champagne Grand Cru Blanc De Blancs 2008 R.H. Coutier Champagne Rose BrutThe Coutier family has been in the village of Ambonnay on the Montagne de Reims since 1619, and, unusually for this pinot country, have 1/3 of vineyards planted to chardonnay –René Coutier’s father was the first vigneron in Ambonnay to plant the variety in 1946 on a prime south-facing site. Also uncommon is that generally only half of the base wines are put through malolactic to maintain a fresh, steely edge. This rosé, is composed of over half pinot noir with the balance from old vine chardonnay, resulting in a rosé that exceeds expectations on both complexity and depth in the oft-overpriced rosé category, and delivers more toasty autolysis character than the mean alongside delicate red berry fruit. At 6 grams dosage, it comes across as crisp and dry. Also exceptional is the Brut Grand Vintages currently on offer, based on the excellent 2008 vintage and drinking beautifully now. Availability: consignment via Groupe Soleil.

Legras et Haas 2008 Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru ($91.95)

The Legras at Haas family owns vineyards in the Aube district, as well as the Côte des Blancs, where this fine Blancs de Blancs originates. It’s sinewy, lithe and extremely elegant, resting on a seam of acids and replete with the arch-classic citrus, brioche hazelnut and white chocolate flavours of chardonnay-based champagne. Availability: consignment via Mellecey Wine Group.

Cédric Bouchard NV Roses de Jeanne Cote de Bechalin Blanc de Noirs ($135.00)

One of the most sought after grower-producers, Cedric Bouchard established his Champagne House, Roses de Jeanne, in 2000 in the Aube district of southern Champagne (aka Côtes des Bars) on predominantly Kimmeridgian marls. In the counter-culture RM spirit, Bouchard bottles only single vineyard, single variety, single vintage champagnes, from parcels farmed according to biodynamic principles. Only first pressings are used (the cuvée), and all is fermented with wild yeasts, and secondary fermentations are uncommonly long, slow and cool resulting in finer bubbles. Wines are bottled without dosage at lower pressure than the mean. This wine is pure pinot noir from the 1.5 hectare lieu-dit of Côte de Bachelin and the 2007 vintage, and spends three years on the lees, the longest aging of all his cuvées, and is bottled unfined, unfiltered. It’s a wine of exceptional density and richness, with the vinosity and complexity of top red Burgundy and superb length. It would fit in happily at the table with game birds or even well aged rib-eye, though I’d like to watch this unravel in meditative fashion all on its own. 150 cases produced. Availability: consignment via Groupe Soleil.

Buyer’s Guide: Sparkling Wine 

Showcase 5 Blanc de Noirs 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($55.00)

The first release of the Trius “Showcase 5” is a pale pink-grey-colour and the nose is highly yeasty-autolytic, as you would expect from a wine left for five years on the lees before disgorging, highly complex to be sure. The palate is full and toasty, with plenty of barley, cracked wheat, dried citrus and red berry fruit flavours, and the finish has excellent length. Not a wine for sipping, mind you, this should be a centerpiece at the table. Very classy, and fine value in the context.

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine ‘Carte Blanche’ Estate Blanc de Blanc 2010, VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario, Canada ($44.95)

Henry of Pelham’s premium bottling of sparkling wine, a pure chardonnay, is a clear step up from the already excellent Cuvée Catherine “regular”, sitting comfortably in the top class of Canadian sparkling and making many champagne producers uneasy. In the 2010 vintage it finds a very elegant expression, building layers of citrus and green apple fruit, delicate brioche and puff pastry-yeasty notes, on a firm acid frame. Concentration is evident, though this is all about finesse, delicacy and refinement. Although infinitely enjoyable now, I’d love to see it in 2-3 years when additional toasty complexity will have developed.

Josef Chromy Pepik Sekt, Tasmania, Australia ($26.95)

A fine, fresh and appley, nicely perfumed and balanced bubbly here from Joseph Chromy, with real class and poise for the category. Citrus-green apple fruit dominates and lingers, with just a touch of toasty-biscuity character to add interest. This would make a fine Sunday morning Brunch wine, not overly complex but refreshing and enlivening.

Showcase 5 Blanc De Noirs 2009 Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine, Carte Blanche Josef Chromy Pepik Sekt Adami Dei Casel Extra Dry Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Superiore Fidora Tenuta Civranetta Juvé Y Camps Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut Cava 2011

Adami Dei Casel Extra Dry Prosecco di Valddobbiadene Superiore, Italy ($24.95)

A superior extra dry (read: off-dry) prosecco here from regional leader Adami in the steep hills of Valddobbiadene, with genuine depth, length and complexity, attributes infrequently associated with prosecco. The acid-sweetness balance is near perfect, and this has real presence on the palate. A classy option when more fresh fruit rather than biscuit flavours is the order of the day.

Fidora Tenuta Civranetta, Prosecco Extra Dry, Veneto, Italy ($18.95)

A very fine and flavourful prosecco from Fidora, a producer with over 40 years of organic production in vineyards in Valddobbiadene. This has all of the hallmark pear and apple aromatics of the variety, with an appealing cinnamon twist, in a just off-dry style. I like the succulent, saliva inducing acids. A superior example. Availability: consignment via The Living Vine.

Juvé Y Camps 2011 Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut Cava, Catalunya, Spain ($18.95)

A pleasantly mature and appley, dried pear and apricot-scented bubbly, on the richer side of the cava scale in terms of weight, with a long, barley sugar finish. A substantial wine for the table, more than aperitif-sipping, of fine length and complexity overall.

Buyer’s Guide: Other Champagne 

Pol Roger 2006 Vintage Extra Cuvée de Reserve Brut Rosé Champagne, France ($105.95)

A fine and biscuity, balanced and highly flavourful rosé from Pol Roger. This 2006 shows very fine depth and complexity, not to mention length. Very classy and refined all around. Fine wine, still youthful and with at least another decade of life ahead.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne, Ac, France ($69.95)

This bottle, disgorged in 2014, follows in the house style of wonderfully mature and toasty, heavily autolytic, with great depth and length. As usual this is a forceful and masculine wine, yet not without balance, and its own measure of finesse. A very consistent champagne, and one of the best NVs on the market.

Pol Roger Vintage Extra Cuvee De Reserve Brut Rosé Champagne 2006 Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne Duval Leroy Reserve Brut Champagne Perrier Jouët Grand Brut Champagne

Duval Leroy Reserve Brut Champagne, Ac, France ($55.95)

Mostly Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, this is classically toasty and biscuity, in a fine stage of evolution while still holding on to significant fruit. The palate pierces the taste buds with laser sharp acids, finessed and elegant, really harmonious and long. Lovely champagne.

Perrier Jouët Grand Brut Champagne, France ($68.95)

Quality here is on par with previous releases of P-J’s Grand Brut, a wine of finesse and balance, elegance and complexity in the classic champagne register. I appreciate the crisp acids buffered by smoky-creamy yeast autolysis flavours (brioche, croissant), and the excellent length. Notable dosage gives this a vague sweet edge, though balance remains intact. (Lot#3091429264)

That’s all for this report. See you over the next (fizzy) bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

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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Wynns Connawara Black Label Cabernet

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Les bons choix de Nadia – décembre 2015

Le vin et les jours qui passent
par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Nous y sommes : dernier Cellier de 2015. Avant-dernière chronique de l’année aussi. Une année haute en couleur, tantôt parsemée de beaux défis, tantôt d’adversité, avec son lot de peines, de joies, de moments de grâce. Pour certains, ce fut la naissance d’un enfant, pour d’autres, le départ d’un proche, le départ de l’ainé en appartement, les soupers romantiques, les repas en famille, les vacances avec les enfants ou en amoureux.

Et pour (presque) toutes les occasions, une bouteille de vin sur la table. Comme une invitée silencieuse qui se glisse dans votre quotidien, dans votre intimité.

De toutes les histoires reliées au vin entendues au hasard des nombreux salons de l’automne, celles qui m’ont le plus marquée s’inscrivent simplement dans la vie de tous les jours. De vous entendre dire que vous vous êtes fiés à mes conseils pour acheter les bulles qui soulignaient la graduation de votre petite dernière ou la bouteille de rouge qui accompagne les spaghettis du mardi soir, ça n’a pas de prix. Ce sont des moments comme ça qui donnent tout son sens à notre travail, mes collègues et moi. C’est notre façon à nous de s’inviter à vos party des Fêtes.🙂

À la vôtre.

Champagne !

Juvé Y Camps Reserva De La Familia 2011Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Rosé 2010Le Brut Rosé de Roederer se distingue bon an mal an des autres rosés sur le marché, tant par son attaque en bouche franche que par son détail aromatique. Le 2010 n’y fait pas exception. (95 $)

Pour faire sauter le bouchon sans se ruiner, on peut se tourner vers l’un des nombreux crémants de la France sur le marché – je vous en parlerai dans la dernière chronique de l’année – ou vers l’Espagne, où Juvé y Camps élabore la très bonne Reserva de la Familia 2011. Un cava de première qualité, mûr et plein de caractère. (21,45 $)

La Bourgogne

Très bon Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune 2012 sur son domaine situé à mi-chemin entre Beaune et Nuits-Saint-Georges. Délicat, mais authentique et harmonieux. À moins de 30 $, on peut acheter les yeux fermés. (27,40 $)

Sur un mode plus concentré, le Bourgogne 2013 de la famille Devillard (Domaine des Perdrix) est plus ferme et substantiel que la moyenne, mais moins boisé que par le passé, il me semble. Un changement de style bienvenu, qui permet de mieux apprécier le naturel fruité du pinot noir. (27,40 $)

Doudet Naudin Pinot Noir Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune 2010Domaine Des Perdrix Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013Domaine Claudie Jobard Rully La Chaume 2013Bouchard Père & Fils Rully 2013

Sauf erreur, c’est une première à la SAQ pour un vin de Claudie Jobard, pépiniériste et vigneronne à Rully et à Pommard. Sans être vraiment complexe, son Rully 2013, La Chaume s’avère assez séduisant dans un style gourmand, dodu, riche en goûts fruités et animé d’un léger reste de gaz. (25,20 $)

Même commune, mais changement de couleur, la maison Bouchard produit un Rully blanc 2013 équilibré et relativement abordable. Un bon chardonnay correctement boisé, sans surprise, mais techniquement au point. (24,95 $)

La Toscane

Produit pour la première fois en 1928, le Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Villa Antinori est le fruit d’un assemblage de sangiovese 90 %, de cabernet sauvignon et de merlot, ces derniers apportant de la structure et de la rondeur à l’ensemble. Un bon chianti de conception moderne, dont le prix me paraît justifié. (29,95 $)

Nettement plus complet que lorsque goûté cet été en préparation du guide du vin, le Tolaini Al Passo 2011 est assez rassasiant dans un style moderne. Une bonne bouteille à boire entre 2016 et 2020. (26,50 $)

Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2011Tolaini Al Passo 2011Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello Di Montalcino 2010

Si le style moderne des vins piémontais de la maison Gaja me laisse parfois perplexe, je dois avouer que le Brunello di Montalcino 2010, Pieve Santa Restituta est tout à fait irréprochable. Excellent dans un style moderne et concentré. À boire idéalement entre 2018 et 2022. (76,75 $)

Et le reste du monde…

Toujours en Italie, mais quelques centaines de kilomètres plus au sud, la famille de Bartoli est la reine du Marsala et d’autres vins originaux de Sicile. Pour la première fois à la SAQ, le Lucido 2014 a beaucoup de caractère et s’avère rassasiant de fraîcheur. À ce prix, on peut acheter à la caisse. (19,05 $)

Marco De Bartoli Lucido 2014Mas La Plana 40e Millésime 2010Culmina Hypothesis 2012

Toujours près de la Méditerranée, mais en Catalogne, où Miguel Torres a introduit le cépage cabernet sauvignon sur les terres de ses ancêtres dès le début des années 60. Le succès du vin qu’il a créé en 1970 ne s’est jamais démenti. Encore aujourd’hui, le Mas la Plana demeure le porte-drapeau de la grande entreprise de Villafranca de Penedès. D’autant plus qu’il est particulièrement achevé en 2010. (59,75 $)

Après plusieurs années à la barre d’Osoyoos Larose, l’œnologue Pascal Madevon a rejoint Don et Elaine Triggs dans leur nouvelle aventure britano-colombienne : Culmina. Produit pour la première fois en 2011, le Hypothesis 2012, Okanagan Valley impressionne déjà par son envergure en bouche et par sa densité. Très rassasiant et résolument ambitieux. (39,75 $)

Santé!

Nadia Fournier

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


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Les bons choix de Marc – décembre 2015

Champagne !
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

J’ai mis un certain temps à aimer les bulles — le mousseux, s’entend. Je suis pourtant très amateur de bière, et donc l’effervescence ne m’a jamais fait peur. Difficile de dire pourquoi…

Peut-être le snobisme associé au produit rebutait-il le rebelle que j’ai longtemps été, alors que je suis aujourd’hui doux comme un agneau – trop, d’ailleurs, il me semble que je devrais sortir les dents plus souvent, que ça devrait décoiffer de temps en temps. Autrement, on connaît la chanson, la vie est un long fleuve tranquille, tout en salamalecs et en tapes dans le dos…

Pardonnez la digression. Ce long préambule pour vous dire, au fond, que je carbure à la mousse vineuse depuis plusieurs années, maintenant. Disons en gros à raison d’une bouteille par semaine. Pas vraiment plus : malgré tout ce qu’on peut entendre, le mousseux demeure un vin d’exception, qui connote sinon la fête ou une promotion, du moins un moment spécial, une occasion. À table, en mangeant, avec le plat principal, ça peut toujours aller, mais c’est une fausse bonne idée. Les bulles se mettent pour ainsi dire sur notre chemin, elles gênent. Mieux vaut alors boire du vin tranquille – blanc, rosé ou rouge, tout dépendant.

LES PENDULES À L’HEURE

Autre idée parfois reçue : les crémants, cavas, franciacortas (mais pas les généralement ennuyants proseccos) seraient aussi bons que les « vrais » champagnes, qui plus est pour une fraction du prix.

Faux ! Le champagne demeure le roi du vin effervescent.

Bien sûr, il peut arriver, si on met par exemple côte à côte un champagne basique très bon marché et un excellent mousseux produit hors de la nébuleuse Reims-Épernay, que ce dernier chauffe les fesses du « grand
vin » et soit même carrément meilleur. Mais cela demeure l’exception.

À preuve, ce grand match comparatif conduit voilà quelques années par notre magazine Cellier. L’exercice mettait aux prises, à l’aveugle, 15 champagnes et 15 mousseux, servis dans le désordre. Comme juges, le gratin des connaisseurs québécois, chroniqueurs et sommeliers confondus. Résultat : le champagne a accaparé 14 des 15 premières places !

Par contre, si on fait entrer dans l’équation la notion de rapport qualité-prix, la donne change, comme de raison.

Et aussi, bien évidemment, un bon mousseux, disons un crémant, vendu deux à trois fois moins cher qu’un champagne de marque n’est pas deux à trois fois moins bon.

QUAND MÊME TRIPPANT, UNE PORSCHE

Mais c’est comme pour les voitures. Vous ne ferez pas la route Montréal-Québec deux fois plus vite en Porsche Panamera qu’en Toyota Corolla ; par contre, le trajet semblera bel et bien deux fois moins long, entouré de luxe et de volupté…

Moralité : buvez du crémant, du cava ou du franciacorta en ne manquant pas de vous réjouir, de trinquer et de festoyer. Il y en a d’excellents. Mais buvez du champagne si, pour quelque raison que ce soit, vous avez envie d’en jeter un peu, de marquer le coup, de plastronner. On a bien le droit de s’amuser, non ?

Ah, et aussi : ça vaut d’autant la peine d’opter pour un champ’ qu’il est pratiquement assuré, comme on le disait, que ce sera meilleur…

À boire, aubergiste !

Encore faut-il avoir les moyens de s’offrir the crème de la crème… Quoique tout est question de priorités ; il y a, en principe, quasi toujours moyen de moyenner.

Mais bon, vous faites comme vous voulez, je ne vais pas m’ériger ici en juge ni en gardien de la moralité.

Voici donc, à divers prix, une sélection de très bons mousseux et de très bons champagnes à acheter à l’avance en prévision des Fêtes, ou pour donner en cadeau.

MOUSSEUX

Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta 2012 (40,75 $) : Assemblage à base de chardonnay (75 %), pinot noir (15 %) et pinot blanc (10 %). Beau nez délicatement brioché et avec de la profondeur. La bouche suit, on a affaire pas tout à fait à un brut, dirait-on, sauf que vérification faite sur saq.com, le vin n’a que 7 g de résiduel. Autrement, l’ensemble est tendu, bien goûteux, savoureux.

Raventos y Blanc de Nit 2013 (24,80 $) : Un mousseux espagnol (un
« cava ») rosé pratiquement sec – moins de 6 g –, et à l’acidité marquée. Un peu austère, dans l’ensemble, mais très bien tourné et équilibré. La finale, notamment, est à la fois nette et tranchante.

Ca'del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Franciacorta 2012Raventos I Blanc De Nit Conca Del Riu Anoia 2013Château De Cartes Vin Mousseux Rosé 2014

Château de Cartes Mousseux rosé 2014 (30,25 $) : Nez de sucre candi et/ou de barbe à papa prononcé, bouche à l’avenant, sucrée mais relativement équilibrée. Mousseux québécois à base de sainte-croix (60 %) et de radisson. Pas donné, mais très bien fait et pas du tout rustique.

Antech Cuvée Expression Crémant de Limoux 2013 (19,90 $) : Encore une fois, sans surprise, l’un des très bons mousseux de France hors Champagne. Chardonnay à 70 % dans l’assemblage, corps moyen, vivacité, pas trop de sucre résiduel (9,6 g), une certaine élégance, même.

Antech Cuvée Expression Brut Crémant De Limoux 2013Laurens Clos Des Demoiselles Tête De Cuvée 2012Parés Baltà Blanca Cusiné Penedès 2009

Laurens Clos des Demoiselles Crémant de Limoux (23,90 $) : Très bon mousseux, concentré et savoureux, légèrement brioché aussi.

Parès Balta Blanca Cusiné Penedès (35 $ ) : Très bon mousseux catalan, issu d’un assemblage de chardonnay, aux deux tiers, complété par du pinot noir. Couleur jaune assez foncé, nez à peine brioché, citronné légèrement. En bouche, c’est ample et rafraîchissant, avec un côté glycériné qui donne à penser que le vin a été dosé alors qu’il s’agit d’un « zéro dosage ». On peut donc affirmer qu’il est bien sec. Prix mérité.

CHAMPAGNES

Paul Goerg Blanc de Blancs (45,75 $) : À part une légère impression de dilution, rien à redire sur ce champagne de cave coopérative d’une constance exemplaire, qui plaira à tout le monde, connaisseurs y compris – et sa savoureuse finale épicée y est pour quelque chose.

Lallier Grande Réserve Brut (48,50 $) : Dans un style racoleur et exubérant, un très bon champagne, à la fois savoureux et bien nerveux.

Canard-Duchêne Cuvée Léonie Brut (47,50 $) : Cinquante pour cent de pinot noir dans ce champagne de très bonne facture, épicé et vif, avec une certaine profondeur qui plus est. L’un des meilleurs rapports qualité-prix à la SAQ en ce moment.

Paul Goerg Blanc De BlancsLallier Grande Réserve BrutCanard Duchêne Cuvée Léonie BrutHenri Abelé BrutAyala Brut Majeur

Henri Abelé Brut (49,50 $) : Très bon champagne, tout en retenue, peu corsé et avec un délicieux caractère épicé. À moins de 50 $, tant mieux !

Ayala Brut Majeur (56,25 $) : Un Brut Majeur réussi, savoureux et nerveux, quoique peut-être pas avec l’éclat auquel nous a habitués la maison. Cela dit, l’ensemble est serré, la concentration est là, on ne reste pas du tout sur notre soif.

Ayala Majeur Rosé (60,50 $) : Très élégant, ce qui est la signature de la maison. Légèrement brioché au nez, un caractère épicé, de la tension tout du long. Excellent.

Pol Roger Brut Réserve (61.25 $) : Égal à lui-même, tout en retenue, plutôt élégant même, un caractère toasté, fumé, de la profondeur par ailleurs. On ne se trompe pas.

Ayala Rosé MajeurPol Roger Brut RéserveBollinger Special CuvéeHenriot Blanc De Blancs BrutRoederer Cristal Brut 2007

Bollinger Special Cuvée (69,25 $) : Un champagne d’entrée de gamme qui n’a rien d’ordinaire ou de « premier niveau ». Fin, nerveux, élancé, légèrement brioché ainsi que rancio, c’est-à-dire légèrement oxydatif, tout à fait dans le style de Bollinger [bo-lin-jé].

Henriot Blanc de Blancs Brut (78,75 $) : Excellent champagne, tendu et épicé, avec de la profondeur également. Finale délicatement briochée, convaincante.

Roederer Cristal Brut 2007 (295 $) : Évidemment, que c’est bon et que c’est savoureux. Cela dit, ce n’est pas très concentré, j’ai même senti – je m’excuse ! – un léger creux en mi-parcours, dans le mid-palate comme disent les Indonésiens, bien que cela demeure à la fois ample et d’une grande fraîcheur. Maintenant, le prix..

À bientôt !

Marc

P.-S. Dans mon prochain texte, je parlerai je pense bien de Jacques Orhon, le décapeur, qui veut nous faire croire, avec son dernier bouquin, que lui au moins n’a pas le vin snob…

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


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