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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 24th – Part Two

South America & Warming Winter Reds
By David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The most newsworthy story of the January 24 release was told last week as John Szabo and team parsed the fascinating release of Spanish reds, plus sundry global whites. South America is a secondary feature but the selection is too small and unremarkable to warrant an elaborate missive. This is not at all meant to convey that Chile and Argentina are undeserving. John’s great piece on Chile, on the heels of a similar essay by Anthony Gismondi, aired on WineAlign just a couple of weeks ago. And we are prepping something similar re Argentina following a fascinating trip there by Anthony and I in December. Sara d’Amato ventures there next month, along with Treve Ring, our Victoria-based Managing Editor.

Argentina was a revelation, indeed more than that. There is perhaps a winemaking revolution fermenting in Mendoza that could have profound effects on wine styles and attitudes in the New World. We will discuss what these trends are later. But it should come as no surprise when you take some of the most innovative, adventurous, successful and wealthy winemakers from France, Italy, Spain, California, yes Canada, Chile and Argentina itself, and give them a hospitable, viticultural haven like Argentina. Something exciting is bound to happen – and is happening. And it is happening in Chile as well. Now I am not saying that the current, small selection on this release are world beaters, but they are beginning to illuminate some of the trends underway.

South America

Luca 2012 Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza ($32.95)
David Lawrason – Having tasted extensively in Argentina in December (but not this wine oddly enough) I have a new appreciation for efforts – by various means – to sew more elegance into malbec. This is a prime example of the hugely important principle of higher elevation, marrying fruit from very high Gualtallery (1500metres) and fruit from older vines (avg. age 47 years) in moderately high La Consulta (1200metres) – both sub-regions of the Uco Valley. The result is a seamless, smooth, fruit-primed red without excess oak or alcohol. If you have not yet paid $30 for malbec – here’s a place to start.
Sara d’Amato – Although Luca’s appearance is domineering and its bottle weighty, the contents are unexpectedly elegant, pure and authentic. With a great breadth of flavours and generous palate, there is surprising lightness about this wine that comes from great balance. I look forward to visiting the Catena estate in just a few weeks.

Casas Del Bosque 2012 Gran Reserva Syrah, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($22.95)
David Lawrason – With syrah barely a generation old in Chile, it is still finding its footholds. More coastal regions like Casablanca seem to be prime real estate, especially if you like a briny, peppery northern Rhône edge. This one is from a single red clay/granite based site (like northern Rhône) in the westernmost edge of Casablanca closest to the ocean. I recall loving the Matetic syrah from a nearby precinct as well. Anyway, this a whopper but it has density and centre, and it will be awesome with a hearty, heavily sauced mid-winter roast.

Luca Malbec 2012 Casas Del Bosque Gran Reserva Syrah 2012 Falernia Reserva Carmenère 2012 Chakana Maipe Reserve Bonarda 2012

Falernia 2012 Reserva Carmenère, Elqui Valley, Chile ($17.95)
John Szabo – Falernia is a perennial favourite, and the Elquì Valley certainly distinctive. This is made in a quasi Amarone-style with grapes partially dried on the vine before harvest, which explains the lack of herbal-vegetal character typical for the grape, as well as the 15% alcohol declared on the label. If you’re after a heart-warming, plush winter red at a nice price, this fits the bill.
Sara d’Amato – Falernia is an innovative project founded in the late 80’s in Chile’s most northern wine region. This piece of otherworldly dessert, hot and arid, was terraformed into a lush wine growing area. Due to some drying on the vine, the finished product is even more dense and opulent than the norm – no vegetal character here.

Chakana 2012 Maipe Reserve Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – Argentina is far from a one-trick malbec pony. In fact, it is only very recently that malbec surpassed bonarda as the most widely planted grape varietal in Argentina. Formerly used exclusively as a bulk wine production blender grape, there are many fine examples, such as this, of this deeply coloured, floral and succulent varietal wine.

Other New World Reds

Rodney Strong Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Kurtz Family Boundary Row Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2010

Stoller 2012 Pinot NoirStoller Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA ($31.95)
John Szabo
– The Stoller family property dates back to 1943, with vineyards planted half a century later. Tightly spaced pinot grows in the volcanic red Jory soils of the Dundee Hills, farmed with environmental care, resulting in a ripe, balanced, savoury and more red fruit-flavoured example with a fine balance of succulent acids, light, fine-grained tannins and excellent length. I like the silky texture and the umami-laden finish.

Kurtz Family 2010 Boundary Row Grenache Shiraz Mataro, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($29.95)
David Lawrason – There is a Kurtz Family winery in Sonoma as well, but there is no mistaking this exciting red as pure-blooded Aussie – indeed Barossa. When I was in Barossa a year ago winemakers often enthused more about their GSM blends than their shiraz. Just get a load of the aromatics here – the captivating exuberance. Kurtz is one of the wineries in the Light Pass sub-region of Barossa, very near the town of Nuriootpa.

Rodney Strong 2012 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – I rarely recommend this VINTAGES favourite because, despite the characteristically high quality fruit used in this cabernet, it is often disappointingly overdressed. However, the 2012 vintage has a refreshingly transparent treatment, shows restraint, balance and purity of fruit – an excellent value.

Avondale Jonty's Ducks Pekin Red 2011

Nugan Estate Alcira Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Buehler 2012 Cabernet SauvignonBuehler Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California ($41.95)
David Lawrason – I have often chirped about lack of value in Napa cabernet, but here is a nifty exception very much worth $40. It hails from a small, family estate on the eastern slopes of the valley where faults and fissures have engineered three different soil types – sewing in surprising firmness and complexity. Eighteen months in 95% French oak (only 35% new) has added judicious layering.

Nugan Estate 2010 Alcira Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Coonawarra is a very special place for cabernet sauvignon – producing unique wines of great character and complexity. Menthol, iron, licorice and pepper play up the perfectly ripened black fruit in this glorious example.

Avondale 2011 Jonty’s Ducks Pekin Red, Paarl, South Africa ($14.95)
John Szabo
– John and Ginny Grieve, owners of Vital Health Foods, bought the 300 year-old Avondale farm in 1997 and set about converting it to organic/biodynamic culture (actually, they’ve invented their own system called BioLogic). The same balanced approach is taken in the winery. And the results? Well, everything I’ve tasted from Avondale has been worth a look. Jonty’s Ducks is a second label of sorts, a hell of a wine for $15, which blends about 2/3 Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest of the Bordeaux grapes. It’s wholly satisfying and highly drinkable, either on its own for contemplation or with roasted meat preparations.

Euro Reds

Château Fortia 2012 Cuvée Du Baron Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, Rhone Valley, France ($39.95)
David Lawrason – Fortia is something of an institution with former owner Baron Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarié (1890-1967) being a pillar of the French wine industry and co-architect of the French appellation system instituted in 1937. His granddaughter and her husband now run the single 27.5 hectare block of vineyard that is festooned with the mini-boulder galets that make C de Pape, so remarkable. This fine offering is stuffed with flavours yet remarkably elegant and sensual. I have often been underwhelmed by the flagship appellation of the southern Rhône, but not this time.

J.M. Raffault 2011 Les Picasses Chinon, Loire, France ($19.95)
John Szabo
– The Les Picasses parcel sits on a rise overlooking the Vienne River, under which lies classic Loire tuffeau chalky bedrock (there’s an old tuffeau quarry practically underneath the vineyard). The result, in the hands of Raffault, is a fine and gravelly, firm and authentic Loire Valley cabernet franc here, neither green and herbaceous nor overripe – hitting the juste milieu.

Tenuta Rocca 2009 Ornati Langhe, Piedmont, Italy ($21.95)
John Szabo
– From a 15ha estate in the heart of Monforte in the quarter called Ornati, this is a stylish and savoury, earthy and zesty blend of almost equal parts nebbiolo, cabernet and barbera. It’s solid value in a surprisingly traditional style, despite the cabernet.

Château Fortia Cuvée Du Baron Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012 J.M. Raffault Les Picasses Chinon 2011 Tenuta Rocca Ornati Langhe 2009

Before signing off a word on an upcoming piece. There seems to be no let up to new ventures in Ontario, and after having spent five days in Niagara last weekend I have a bushel of news to report – and some stunningly good wines to review. I was there to take in some icewine activities during the Icewine Festival and to unofficially co-host a group of visiting sommeliers from the UK, Hong Kong and Montreal. But my main purpose was to visit newer Niagara wineries after not having done so for a couple of years. My aim is to profile at least six new wineries, and have that published by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy your purchases from the January 24 release, and watch this space next week when John Szabo orchestrates a preview the February 7 release.

Cheers,

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES Jan 24th release:

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 24th – Part One
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

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


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Chile Into The Future

Szabo’s Free RunJanuary 5, 2015

Text and photographs by John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

Does the mention “Chilean wine” conjure up the image of a tweed jacket? In this Free Run report I take a look at how this conservative South American country has leaped from the 19th century directly into the 21st. I offer ten reasons why you should rethink your views on Chile, along with the wines that prove the point. And for intrepid travellers, check out these four suggested travel adventures complete with photomontage, as well as some restaurant recommendations in Santiago.

Red Pants Spotted in Chile

The southern hemisphere is on the move. I’m thinking of Australia and South Africa for example, two ‘old’, new world countries that have both been radically rethinking their regional wine identities over the last decade. Now, you can add Chile to that list.

It has taken some time for the most conservative South American country to embrace change and diversity. As Toronto’s Peter Boyd recently commented via twitter: “Chile needs more outliers. More wild men + women ready to abandon the cookie cutter”.

Well Mr. Boyd, the cutters have been shelved and the revolution is in full swing, driven by the smallest operations to even the largest corporations. The new ‘boutique’ producers have no option but to offer something different, since they can never compete with the big guys on price or marketing might. And the large companies can afford to set up experimental divisions to test out new wines and respond to changing market demands, which is what they’re doing. The net result is radically good: from my first visit to Chile in 2006 to the latest last month, the cravats have come off, the top button loosened, and the occasional pair of red pants spotted. There’s evidently growing confidence that Chile can produce so much more than decent $10 cabernet and chardonnay. As Chile-based Antarctic expedition leader Francesco Contini recently revealed to me, “Chileans look all structured and serious, even boring maybe, but there is a wild side to this culture.”

The New Chile

This doesn’t mean they’re chucking out everything and starting over. In the new Chile, it means intelligent perseverance – keeping what’s working well – while at the same time experimenting with new, and often better-suited grapes. Remember that the so-called ‘new world countries’, including Chile, burst onto the scene at a time in the early 1990s when exports were dominated by wines made with a small handful of mostly French grapes. Back then the markets made planting decisions, not winegrowers.

Colchagua Valley, from Altaïr-6835

Colchagua Valley, from Altaïr

It also means prospecting for new, often cooler regions, and allowing regional conditions to inform wine styles rather than boardroom directives. With experience, Chilean winegrowers have become more confident in their terroirs and their ability to express something different. There’s less pressure to emulate some far away European wine style – a futile endeavor in any case. And since the world is more open to, and demanding of, diversity today than ever before in the history of wine, the opportunities are great.

It also means rediscovering the value of “lost varieties”. Like South Africa’s recent enthusiasm for its old chenin blanc, or Australia’s crush on ancient grenache (both planted because they work well, not because some marketer told them they had to be), Chile, too, has a fine collection of old vines. There are plenty of carignan vines that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda himself may have gazed upon in his prime (d. 1973), and even some país speculated to be older than the Republic of Chile itself (independence from Spain was declared in 1818).

Marco Puyo in his pit, Viña San Pedro-6882

Marco Puyo in his pit, Viña San Pedro

But perhaps most importantly, the new Chile has meant dissolving the walls between growers, makers and marketers. In 2006, winery visits began in a boardroom, with the export manager delivering a corporate power point presentation before the winemaker took over to present wines. Vineyards were never visited and vineyard managers never seen.

In 2014, every visit began in a pit – a soil pit dug in the vineyards, with the winemaker and vineyard manager (and even the occasional export manager) enthusiastically digging away to show the different soil structure of their various sub-parcels, which were then related to experimental wine lots back in the winery. Believe it or not, that’s the kind of stuff that tickles the taste buds of a writer jaded by an ocean of me-too varietal wines. And it speaks volumes of a country ready quite literally to examine the deeper crevices of its navel.

So, if you wrote Chile off long ago as the Tweed jacket of the new world – staid, safe and cookie cutter, here are ten things to know that just might change your mind, along with a few wines that will illustrate the point (the hyperlinked wines are available in Ontario; for a full list of top rated Chilean wines available in your province – simply set your WineAlign search parameters to “Chile”).

Warning: you may end up wanting to visit this beautiful country.

Ten Things to Know About Chile

1. There Really is Diversity

Chile is in the early stages of recognizing its full diversity of soils and climates. But from the limestone of Limarí, to the granites and schists of the coastal range, the volcanic rocks of the Andean foothills, the basalts and ash in Bío-Bío and south, and the gravel terraces of the many rivers that flow from the mountains to the sea, they’ve got plenty to work with. Vineyards have also been pushed off the Central Valley floor into the cooler foothills of the Andes and beyond the Coastal Range sometimes within sight of the icy Pacific – the Chilean equivalent to the far Sonoma Coast, as well as into the deep south in regions like Itata, Bío-Bío, Malleco, and others further south still, yet to be officially named.

View from Luis Felipe Edwards LFE 900 project vineyards-6955

View from Luis Felipe Edwards LFE 900 project vineyards

For those who have been following the industry this is not breaking news – Marcelo Retamal of De Martino for one has been exploring new areas for over a decade. But plenty more are joining in the hunt, and the planting of new areas has accelerated. And it’s not just the fringe (although there are many small producers pioneering new areas). Even the big players are playing. Carmen’s Waves Series, Montes Outer Limits, Undurraga’s Terroir Hunter Rarities, Casa Silva Microterroir, Concha y Toro Terrunyo, Santa Carolina Specialties, and the Luis Felipe Edwards “LFE 900 Project” are just some examples of the innovative series of wines emerging from well-established companies.

Wines: try the Montes 2014 Outer Limits Cinsault, a crunchy, fruity wine made without oak influence, the winemaker’s own expression and a radical departure from the usually plump, oaky house style, or the 2013 Marqués de Casa Concha País-Cinsault from old, dry farmed vines. It’s a huge statement that Concha y Toro bottled such a wine under this ultra-conservative range; ten years ago a pais under the Marqués label would have been unthinkable.

2. Going Organic

There are still too few wineries taking advantage of Chile’s near perfect climate to farm without chemical intervention, but the industry is slowly shifting in that direction. As winemaker Rodrigo Soto of Veramonte points out, it’s now clear that heavy conventional agro-farming is not only bad for workers and the environment, but it also shortens the lifespan of vines. Many vineyards are dying after barely a couple of decades – premature for plants that can often live to a hundred years or more.

This means that the maximum potential of a site expressed by proper old vines can never be realized. Big operations like Cono Sur and Emiliana prove that it can be done profitably on a large scale, while smaller companies like Matetic, Odjfell and Koyle simply understand that it also makes better wine. Oh, and consumer demand for organic wines is rising – would you pay a dollar or two more for better, organic wine?

Julio Bastías, Matetic-7226

Julio Bastías, Matetic

Geese, Matetic-7267

Geese, Matetic

Wines: Julio Bastías of Matetic is making fine biodynamically-certified wines across the board, though his flagship is the excellent syrah from the granite soils of the Coastal Range –the Coralillo Syrah is the lighter, juicier version, while the EQ Syrah is the more serious, concentrated range, though still very much in the cool climate idiom. Emiliana’s Coyam, also biodynamic, is a terrific, field blend of six grapes planted from massale selections and led by syrah. It’s pure, savoury and mouthfilling. Cono Sur’s Single Vineyard Nº 23 Riesling from the Bío-Bío Valley is the finest example I’ve tasted from Chile.

3. Experimentation is in Full Swing

Dry farming, massal selection, early harvest, wild yeast, whole cluster, carbonic maceration, old wood, clay pots, foudres, low sulphites, natural wine – you name it, every buzzword on the lips of sommeliers from Montreal to Tokyo is spoken, not whispered, in Chile. Just about every ancient and new technique has been trialed somewhere by someone, and the best results will eventually stick. The one-size-fits all recipe is disappearing as quickly as the ceviche spoons at a Latino wine party. Let’s hope that winery owners continue to give their winemakers a “chipe libre” – a free pass – to carry on doing what excites them.

Wines: track down De Martino’s deliciously succulent 2014 Viejas Tinajas Cinsault, a version aged in 200+ year-old clay amphoras unearthed, sometimes literally, in the deepest corners of the country, or Santa Carolina’s 2013 Tinto de Montaña, a blend of mostly 80 year-old malbec picked early and intentionally, or at least not regretfully, a little funky (yes there’s brett!).

4. Mediterranean Grapes Are Back

Chilean wine regions by and large enjoy a Mediterranean climate: a hot, dry, sunny growing season. And after all, the country was colonized by Spain. So it’s logical that Mediterranean grapes would have been at the origins of Chilean viticulture. The Spanish planted País 500 years ago, a grape brought via the Canary Islands (where it’s known as Listán Prieto). Cariñena (carignan) and cinsault have also been part of the Chilean table since Chile was called Chile, and even before.

The deviation to French varieties came much later, but that influence is clearly waning, re-opening the door to more sensible Mediterranean varieties. Grenache (garnacha), mourvedre (monastrell) and syrah are appearing in vineyards from Elquí down to Maule. And what’s most exciting is that the majority of the new “Mediterranean blends” started as true terroir wines, instigated by the winemaker’s vision, from the bottom up not top down – it’s the wine they want to make. Prices are very modest and the best will please any southern France, Italian or Spanish wine drinker.

Cristóbal Undurraga, winemaker, Koyle-6933

Cristóbal Undurraga, winemaker, Koyle

Wines: Casa Lapostolle’s 2013 Collection Mourvèdre is the best southern hemisphere example I’ve tried, made without crushing, fining, or filtration, fermented with wild yeasts and aged in old wood, very Bandol-esque. I love how winemaker Andrea León resisted the old siren call of oak and extraction, and had the courage to let freshness and succulent, just-ripe red fruit dominate. Undurraga’s Terroir Hunter Rarities Garnacha-Cariñena-Monastrell is a fine example of the distinctly Chilean twist on classic Mediterranean grapes, with ample, ripe blue fruit and a significant dose of South American-style garrigue led by the fragrant boldo tree (think fresh bay leaf).

5. Vigno

Vigno, from Vignadores de Carignan , is a recently launched association of twelve founding producers, whose aim is to revalorize the rich history of the Maule Valley and especially its wealth of old vine carignan. The group’s intention is to eventually create an official Denominacíon de Origen (D.O.), though the wines bearing the Vigno name already adhere to strict appellation-like criteria. Among other requirements, Vigno must be made from unirrigated bush vines at least 30 years old (often more than sixty), and at least 2/3 carignan.

Like any appellation or producers’ association, Vigno is imperfect and exclusive (there’s only so much old bush vine carignan around, and dammit it’s a Spanish speaking country so call it cariñena), but it’s a positive step for Chile. Vigno is the country’s first wine with a genuine regional, varietal and stylistic identity. Sommelier students beware – Vigno could show up on a blind tasting exam someday soon.

Wines: Miguel Torres’ Cordillera Vigno, a recent release in Canada, is a pure essence of carignan, savoury and even a touch savage yet with some of the Torres polish; biodynamic producer Odjfell makes a dashingly rustic, stainless steel-aged, old vine carignan with genuine depth and complexity, while Gillmore’s Vigno takes a more vertical tack, with riveting acids and firm, dusty texture, aged in old wood.

6. Pipeño

Pipeño is not a grape, not a place, not a D.O. nor even an association, but it spells fun in a bottle like you never thought Chile could write. Pipeño is your chill, crack and crunch wine, an infinitely drinkable, if loosely defined style that is woefully underrepresented in so many countries. In reality there’s no standard definition of pipeño – the name derives simply from the Spanish word for barrel – pipa – the format in which wine from the 1600s-1800s was invariably sold. Ask any old-time Chilean what pipeño is and he’ll tell you it’s the dodgy stuff gauchos and farmers guzzle from a gallon jug. But it’s quickly becoming the stuff cool sommeliers (and writers) want to be guzzling after their long shifts on the floor (or “serious” tastings).

It’s no accident that I was turned on to pipeño by Chile’s most highly regarded wine writer, Patricio Tapia, and its top sommelier, Hectór Riquelme. Here’s the gist of what it is (or should be): a wine made from ancient país grapes (I tried one from supposedly 250+ year-old vines) and occasionally some equally ancient carineña (although other grapes can be used), vinified as naturally as possible (wild yeast, no additions of any kind, minimal sulphur), and bottled young without any wood ageing, preferably in magnum.

In an age when so many producers strive to make only “important” wines (read: expensive), it’s delightful to see a growing number of Chileans focusing on good, wholesome fermented grape juice meant for drinking not worshipping.

Manuel Moraga, Cacique Maravilla-7303

Manuel Moraga, Cacique Maravilla

Wines: Manuel Moraga is a salt of the earth sort of fellow, the kind of vignador you’d expect to see at the natural wine fair in the Loire Valley. In fact, he’s just sent the first shipment of his Cacique Maravilla Pipeño there, probably to a group of curious vignerons. And speaking of France, sort of, David Marcel is an expatriated Basque, former-courtier-in-Chile-turned Pipeño-producer. His Aupa is a little more gentil than Moraga’s but still captures the savage drinkability of the genre. To prove the point he also bottles it in 330ml format – you might call it a chic beer alternative at the party, only it’s definitely bohemian, not chic.

7. Cabernet Sauvignon

Despite all of the excitement around novelties, Chile’s unique way with cabernet can’t be denied. The grape has a proven track record; it’s been planted for almost 150 years. Not all are great, and indeed many at the basic level are manipulated with acids, oak chips, tannin powder, and more. But the best deliver authentic savoury cab flavor at under $15/bottle, a feat that few other countries can match. And at the top end, especially from classic areas like the gravel terraces of the Alto Maipo as well as from new hillside projects, Chilean cabernet handily delivers equal pleasure alongside much more expensive versions from elsewhere around the world.

Andres Caballero, winemaker, Santa Carolina-6800

Andres Caballero, winemaker, Santa Carolina

Wines: so many to choose from, but for value, character and availability it’s hard to top the 2011 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet from Viña San Pedro, made from a plot of old vines in the Isla de Maipo that shows classic regional character for under $20 (Ontario). And for sheer excitement about the future, look forward to the Luis Felipe Edwards LFE 900 Vinificacion Integral Cabernet Sauvignon, an experimental wine made from newish, high elevation vines, nearly 900m off the Colchagua valley floor in schists and granites. It shows the potential to carry a big, ripe frame on superb, natural acid and fine-grained tannins. I’m also awaiting the release of Santa Carolina’s Piedras Pizzaras, winemaker Andres Caballero’s latest crush from a thigh-burningly steep, extremely stony (slate-schist) hillside in Totihue, Colchagua Valley.

8. Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon blanc is the most reliable white grape in Chile, and at times one of the most exciting. I’m not referring to the basic tropical fruit cocktail versions from the central valley, I’m referring to those from the coast where the mighty Chilean sun meets the icy Humboldt Current. Casablanca and San Antonio (and the smaller Leyda Valley within) are the most established zones, but watch out for other coastal areas that are starting to get exploited, like Paredones and Zapallar on the far out coast of the Colchagua and Aconcagua Valleys respectively. The entire south from Itata on down is yet another source of potentially excellent sauvignon soon to come online.

And then there’s value: in a world where there’s often little to tell between a $12 and a $20 sauvignon blanc, Chile consistently delivers delicious examples at $5 to $10 dollars less than the average from around the world.

Wines: There are many fine examples from Casablanca and San Antonio/Leyda, but two of the most exiting sauvignons I recently tasted were southerners: Casa Silva’s Lago Ranco is an almost fruitless, purely mineral expression from the Región Austral in Patagonia and its volcanic ash and pyroclastic stone soils, 904 kilometers south of Santiago, and the equally riveting and mineral Laberinto Cenizas de Barlovento, Rafael Tirado’s recent project with vines planted in volcanic ash at 600m in the foothills of the Andes in the eastern Maule Valley.

9. The Best is Yet to Come

“Wait ten years”, sommelier Hectór Riquelme tells me. “We have it here in Chile”. I believe you Hectór. Chile is in a good place, but I can’t help but think that many of Chile’s most promising sites have yet to be planted, and those that are are in their infancy. Those old vineyards are a valuable heritage, but let’s not forget that they were mostly planted to crank out quantity, not quality wine. Imagine what we’ll taste when today’s plantings of the right grapes in the right place, designed to maximize site expression, reach 50 years of age. That’s exciting.

Terroirist Pedro Parra-5641

Terroirist Pedro Parra

Thankfully the spirit the of exploration and experimentation is alive and well, and if I had to point to one man who’s made the greatest difference in changing the Chilean mind-set, it’s self-declared “terroirist” Pedro Parra. Parra, a rare expert who combines knowledge of rocks and soils along with their relation to both grape growing and wine style (most geologists aren’t trained winetasters), has been instrumental in helping dozens of Chilean (and international) wineries better understand their terroir and how to exploit it, and which new areas are worth planting. All those soil pits? You can thank Parra for them.

“About a decade ago, people started to realize that Chile could be much more interesting than it is”, says Parra. “The reality today is that the best terroirs are far away from Santiago, but the ‘big money’ doesn’t want to go that far from the capital.” True enough, it’s hard to establish a wine region where there’s virtually no infrastructure, but the ones willing to be pioneers may well reap huge rewards. To be continued, and keep digging, Pedro.

Wines: Parra puts his money where his mouth wants to be in his own project, Clos des Fous. Along with friend and winemaker François Massoc and two other partners, this crazy venture seeks out extreme terroirs: high altitude, extreme coast or deep south. The Clos des Fous Tocao Granito Paleozoico is a mesmerizing malbec from a vineyard planted in 1914 in the southern Bío-Bío Valley, with marvelously fresh acids and fine, granitic tannins.

10. It’s a Beautiful Country to Visit

Fairytale climate, increasingly fine food and excellent wine, and breathtaking, varied landscape should be enough to convince you. But why read words when you can see photographs – watch this short compilation of some of my highlights from Santiago, Tierra del Fuego, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Curicó and San Antonio. Just the tip of the iceberg, as they say.

And here’s my mini travel guide of memorable things to do in Chile, and places to eat in Santiago.

Four Memorable Things to do:

1. Stargazing in the Elquí Valley

Enjoy one of the clearest night skies on the planet, guaranteed cloudless, unless you’re the unlucky one who arrives on the one rainy day per decade.

2. Horseback Riding in Colchagua

A great way to visit the vineyards up close; early morning or late afternoons best. Also makes you very thirsty – start with the sauvignon blanc post ride.

Horseback riding at Montgras, Colchagua-7132

Horseback riding at Montgras, Colchagua

IMG_2537

Bill Zacharkiw and I saddle up

 

3. Camping in Torres del Paine National Park

An astonishingly beautiful park, even by Canadian standards. And major bonus: Chilean mosquitos don’t bite.

4. Boat cruising in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia

Glaciers, fjords, Magellenic forests and penguins and other wildlife galore – the trip of a lifetime.

The glacier at Almirantazgo Bay-6369

The glacier at Almirantazgo Bay

Penguins, Magdalena Island-6464

Penguins, Magdalena Island

 

 

Places to Eat and Drink in Santiago:

1. Donde Augusto. Delivering ultra fresh, rustically prepared seafood in the bustling Mercado Central since 1872. That’s right, 1872. An experience not to be missed.

Donde Augusto, Mercado Central-7315

2. D.O. Restorán. Back from 10 years in Spain working with some of that country’s most innovative chefs, Juan Morales’ mission is to highlight the depth and diversity of Chilean products. The acronym stands for “Denominación de Origen”, which, as it also applies to wine, means products with a sense of place – the mantra of the restaurant.

D.O. Restorán-5659

D.O. Restorán

Juan Morales. D.O.-5661

Juan Morales

3. “ChPe” Pisco Republic. A self-declared independent republic housing the best piscos offered in northern Chile (Ch) and southern Peru (Pe), and there are hundreds. The cuisine follows suit; try the outstanding ceviche (both Chilean and Peruvian style). If your partner isn’t into pisco or even sours, next door is Bocanariz, one of Santiago’s best wine bars.

del Pisco

4. Liguria. An atmospheric, boisterous wine bar serving simple but tasty Chilean classics and copious bottles of wine.

Bar Liguria-5592

 

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

For a full list of top rated Chilean wines available in your province – simply set your WineAlign search parameters to “Chile”.

Find Wines from Chile

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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Chile 2.0 The Next Generation

Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

The modern Chilean wine business is closing in on 25 years in Canada. That’s right, Chilean wine spans an entire generation of Canadian wine drinkers and is already working on a new generation of wine consumers. Unfortunately what worked in the 90s or even the 00s is unlikely to be successful over the next decade and how Chile evolves and reshapes its image in foreign markets is going to be crucial to its long-term success.

Long known for its value, the time has come for Chile to ask itself why they would want to continue down that path. There is nothing wrong with offering value, especially at all price points, but countries, and important wine regions, usually build their pedigree from the top down. As they say at Ford, ‘quality is job one’ and it’s quality wine from recognised appellations that will reshape the modern Chilean wine landscape.

Chile need look no farther than Canada’s Niagara Peninsula or the Okanagan Valley to see how much money they are leaving on the table. It’s all in how you position yourself. In my opinion, and for too many years now, Chile’s best wines have been suppressed by wholesale buyers, distributors, monopolies and supermarkets content to sell expensive French, Italian or American wine while convincing the Chileans they need to attack the market from the bottom end up, because, well they were Chilean and well, the wine was from South America.

Value was the password and while the French and Italian were busy selling Grand Crus, First Growths and Riservas, Chile was asked to sell a case of wine at the same price its competitors were getting for a single bottle. That kind of thinking has to end. I have long been interested in Chile’s ultimate development which surely must move beyond the value for money moniker that attaches itself to Chilean wines in the same way an early morning Pacific fog blankets Chile’s coastal vineyards.

The current mantra is to get to the coast or up the mountains, but beyond that it’s more about exploring all of Chile and finally matching each grape with a specific soil. It’s not breaking news; we know the wine will be better, but the point is the Chileans have finally come to see that their future success will be dependent upon their ability to be different from the rest of the wine world and not to be at the beck and call of British supermarkets, giant American distributors and, of course, our own monopolies, all of whom have ridden the pony for a generation demanding nothing but cheap, loss leader wines to get customers to come into the store.

Casa Silva - Largo Ranco Sauvignon Blanc - Wines of Chile

Casa Silva – Largo Ranco Sauvignon Blanc

Arguing against value is not something I’m used to doing but if it means an end to bland, faceless brands that bring nothing to retail wine aisles, I accept the challenge. Chile’s blanket value brand identity has to disappear if it is going to make the jump to prime time.

Last week I spent some time with a number of the WineAlign team in Chile and we found plenty to rave about starting with Winemaker Mario Geisse of Casa Silva, who blew me away with his Lago Rancho 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from the Futrono, Region Austral Patagonia, Chile. The vineyard is eight years old and dry farmed thanks to 70 inches of annual rainfall. Futrono is situated in the Chilean Patagonia, 904 km south of Santiago where the average maximum temperature is 18.5 degrees Celsius from January to May. Extreme? You bet. Electric, you bet. Different than anything you will see in Canada from Chile, you bet.

About 1700 kilometres to the north in the Atacama desert, winemaker Felipe Toso was pouring the Ventisquero Tara Red from Huasaco. The vineyard, now seven years old, is located at 28º 31’ 54,85’’ S  and is planted to ungrafted syrah and merlot over chalky soils. The mix is 66/34 and the fruit was all picked in the first week of April. The two varieties are fermented separately in small, open 500-kilo tanks, ‘pinot style.’ After a week of pump overs it was racked to fifth-use French barrels, where the malolactic fermentation took place. The wine is simply amazing and has nothing to do with the Chile you know.

Ventisquero - Tara Red Wine - Wines of Chile

Ventisquero – Tara Red Wine

Another sure sign of change is a movement among the big wineries to be more responsive to the need for Chile 2.0 wines. Case in point, the Marques de Casa Concha Pais Cinsault 2014 made by winemaker Marcelo Papa. The hundred plus year old país vines are grown at Cauquenes, Maule Valley; the 50-year old cinsault is from Trehuaco in the Itata Valley. The mix is 85 percent país with 15 percent cinsault, a blend no one would have thought possible even a decade ago. Fresh bright red fruit flavours dominate, revealing a minerality and freshness that is the polar opposite of those old icon reds. Make no mistake; Papa is taking a chance by attaching this wine to the famed Marques brand but he wanted people to pay attention to it and at $20 a bottle this wine is making waves.

The question is will it make it to wine lists in New York, or London or San Francisco where traditionally you can check off the likes of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Shiraz, Brunello, Chianti and lately even Mendoza malbec. Yet more often than not, Chilean wines are nowhere to be found. True, you may find some carmenère but like South African pinotage these curiosities do not a country establish.

Chile’s strength is its fabulously natural and isolated wine regions, uncontaminated by most of what goes on in North America. Naturally made wines should be the focus of its future. My notes from numerous trips would suggest sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, carignan, pinot noir, and yes, old vine pais, will likely be the stars of the next decade along with riesling, chardonnay and more innovative and creative red blends. Many could be organic or biodynamically grown. But there is more.

As varietal wine comes to the end of its useful life, this more than anything could provide the springboard Chile needs to recreate its international image. Temperature, altitude, longitude and yes even latitude are all part of a new story that should be told. As discussed in the pinot noir tasting there is no need to be Burgundian but we can all learn from them. Pinot noir and chardonnay cover the vineyards but the story is always about its people and its places. Puligny, Chassagne, Meursault, Corton, Faiveley, Leflaive, Latour, DRC: the French are the masters of terroir-based wines because they learned decades ago that no one can copy your dirt.

No one knows better what the wines of Chile have to offer than the Chileans themselves. It is time Chile decided what is best for its future. Shaking that ‘cheap’ moniker is not going be just about raising prices. There has to be an attitude change; the industry’s youngest and brightest will need to step up and pursue the next 20 years with the same passion Aurelio Montes, Eduardo Chadwick, Agustin Huneeus, Alvaro Espinoza and Ignacio Recabarren have done in the last two decades.

The Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI)

The Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI)

Groups such as The Movement of Independent Vintners (MOVI) and Vignadores de Carignan (VIGNO) are a great start. Young and vigorous, the plan is to explore the limits of Chilean wine while respecting its history. MOVI calls itself an association of small, quality-oriented Chilean wineries who have come together to share a common goal to make wine personally, on a human scale and to promote a passion for the endeavours of growing grapes and crafting fine wine.

But can you be a serious wine producing region if you don’t produce so-called first growth, a grand cru-like wines or in the case of Chile — a super-premium blend? Frankly, I seldom measure a wine region by its greatest wines but rather by its most simple. Using that scale Chile moves well up my world wine chart of quality producers and with 1700 kilometres of potential vineyards to explore the possibilities are limitless.

Winemaker Aurelio Montes has fought the good fight for a long time and he is to be congratulated for pushing The Wines of Chile and its members to think outside of the box as it moves forward. Montes suggested the entire industry needed to “be brave,” moving forward as it reveals the story of the New Chile. Indeed as the song says, “Honestly, we want to see you be brave.”

Oh and be Chile, because no other country can replicate that.

 

Anthony Gismondi

(Photos courtesy of Wines of Chile & MOVI)


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Oct 25th – Part Two

Chile’s Fine Cabernets, Value Reds (and oh yes, Modernizing the LCBO)
by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

A huge release of 154 new products awaits on Oct 25. Last week John Szabo penned an article about the Tuscany feature, and we also suggested some fine whites. This week we move on to the second, smaller feature – Chile, and we offer our thoughts on other good value reds as well. But as this is also an historic week that sets a new compass for the LCBO, I hope you will indulge a brief digression. Or you can skip to our reviews below.

Queen’s Park announced this week it is ready to embark on the “modernization of the LCBO”, based on a panel review headed up by TD Bank CEO Ed Clark. Premier Kathleen Wynne has accepted his report with gusto. The current LCBO retailing model is essentially a one-shop-fits-all system of neighbourhood stores – some larger, some smaller. A modernized LCBO would include Costco-like box stores, specialty boutiques, sales in grocery outlets and expanded private stores for Ontario wine. It all adds up to far more shelf space, so the end game should be vastly larger and on-going selection of both favourites and obscurities. I would set a goal of triple the selection that Ontarians now have – more in line with such radical locales as Alberta and B.C. We could also aspire to be like Chicago or New York but let’s not go crazy.

I am disappointed that Kathleen Wynne won’t really do the right thing for Ontario consumers and taxpayers – take on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), sell off the LCBO completely and let the private enterprise do the modernization. I understand that a large constituency in Ontario still believes Ontario will make more money by owning the ship (rather than by licensing and taxing alcohol to collect as much as it needs). And that others believe alcohol is more safely retailed by government stores. But they are beliefs that ignore the facts. As witness I give you THE WAY IT WORKS IN THE REST OF THE WORLD, including five other Canadian provinces. But hey, if we have to take this baby step of “modernization” I am all for it, and for doing it well. So we need architects of modernization who will think big, far and wide.

Chile’s Unique Cabernets

On October 30 Eduardo Chadwick of Errazuriz will be in Toronto for a sold-out VINTAGES-hosted gala dinner to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Tasting, which pitted top Chilean cabernet sauvignon-based wines against the best cabernets of the world.  Similar tastings then rolled out to major wine capitals around the world – Hong Kong, Dubai, London, Toronto (2006), New York and Beijing to name some. Throughout the ten-year project Chilean wines placed among the top three in 20 of the 22 tastings, achieving a remarkable 90 per cent preference rate by over 1,400 participating key palates from around the world.  All of which would indicate that Chile is perfectly capable of making outstanding expensive wine.

But what about the less expensive $12 wine that we open on Tuesday night or the $25 bottle on Saturday night? I have recently had an opportunity in preparation of the Toronto Life Eating and Drinking Guide to taste a lot of Chilean wine at this level, and whenever I do that I come back to the same conclusion that the quality level is very high at any price point. And another recent experience with just one wine – a five year vertical of Santa Carolina’s Reserva de Familia – proved that Chilean cabernet not only ages well, it shows quite distinct vintage variation. Just like that other region where cabernet thrives – Bordeaux.

There is a sense of purity and freshness and vibrancy to Chilean wine that is quite unique among New World wines, and it’s based on Chile’s intriguing position as a maritime region blessed with almost endless sun during the growing season. It’s cool and bright at the same time, the fruit ripens well but does not lose its acidity. I find this particularly true and important for Chile’s later ripening cabernet sauvignons and cousin carmenere, which are of course the backbone of Chile’s wine industry. Yes, it can also be experienced in the emerging syrahs and the whites, but Chilean cabernet is to me among the very best in the world.  Few other regions in the world capture cab’s aromatic essence so well (I would include Coonawarra and Margaret River in Australia).

So Chilean reds are where we begin our picks this week, and I only wish the selection were larger.

Miguel Torres Cordillera De Los Andes Syrah 2010

Morandé Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Emiliana 2011 CoyamEmiliana Coyam 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($29.95)
John Szabo – I’ve long admired Emiliana; the majority of production is certified organic and biodynamic from vineyards stretching from Casablanca in the north to Bío-Bío 500kms further the south. Coyam is the top-of-the-line, Demeter-certified blend (2/3 Syrah and Carmenere, 1/3 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a drop of Mourvedre and Malbec) that stands out for its complexity, appealing savouriness and firm, age worthy structure. Best 2016-2021.
David Lawrason – Coyam is a biodynamically grown blend from a single property in the heart of Colchagua. It captures that vibrant, juicy blackcurrant essence of Chilean cabernet perfectly; with less of the mentholated greenness found in Maipo versions.
Sara d’Amato – The word “coyam” refers to the oak trees which surround the estate’s hand-harvested vineyards. This approachable and supple blend features lovely notes of violets and pepper a long with a local spice called “boldo” (aromatically, a cross between verbena and oregano).

Morandé 2011 Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile ($17.00)
David Lawrason –
 This is a Maipo classic from a cooler vintage, so expect a strong updraught of almost pine/balsam greenness around the blackcurrant fruit. Morandé’s main site is the Romeral Estate, a 50ha property in Alto Maipo, at higher elevation in the Andean foothills. The vineyards were only planted in the mid-2000s, indeed this modern winery was only founded in 1996.
John Szabo – This is a rare Chilean cabernet aged in large foudres rather than the more usual barriques, and is all the more fruity and savoury for it. This will appeal to drinkers who prefer earthy, resinous (old world style) wines over chocolate-vanilla-tinged examples. Yet it’s still distinctly Chilean with its succulent fruit core.  Best 2014-2019.

Miguel Torres 2010 Cordillera De Los Andes Syrah, Maule Valley, Chile ($19.95)
John Szabo – The reliable house of Torres has been in Chile since 1979, and today owns 400ha of vineyards on six properties. The Cordillera syrah is selected from Maule Valley fruit several hundred kms south of Santiago, and is crafted in a balanced and firm, typically smoky style, more savoury than fruity. Best 2014-2020.
Sara d’Amato – This sensual syrah from Torres’ Cordillera line (small batch production with more careful attention to detail) exhibits cool climate elegance and very mild oak spice. Great finesse here for the price.
David Lawrason – One of the difficulties with Chilean syrah is that some are almost as green on the nose as cabernet or carmenere. This avoids that scenario, perhaps because the vines planted in the lee of the low coastal Cordillera in southern Maule. It shows nicely ripe lifted, grapy/blueberry fruit; good weight, density and acidity. Wanted a bit more length, but it is fair enough at the price.

Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Caliterra Tributo 2011 Single Vineyard CarmenèreCaliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Carmenère 2011, Colchagua Valley ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This took a Judges Choice in the World Wine Awards of Canada offering very good value. One of the great attributes of carmenere is its complexity, and here the quite lovely fresh currant fruit is nicely fitted with spice, chocolate and a touch of fire ember smokiness.

Montes 2013 Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc, Zapallar Vineyard, Aconcagua Valley ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – The Outer Limits attempts to push boundaries in terms of viticulture – planted in a coastal area of Aconcagua, only 7 kilometers from the ocean, this unique site offers an intense freshness and appeal. Compounding that cooler climate is a cooler vintage. The wine feels like a classy Marlborough sauvignon blanc at a very competitive price.

Other Red Highlights

Henry Of Pelham 2012 Estate Cabernet/Merlot, Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($24.95)
John Szabo – One of the best cabernet-merlots from the Speck brothers in some time. The warmth and generosity of the 2012 vintage shines through, yielding an arch-classic, cool(ish) climate wine that hits all the right notes. Best 2014-2022.

Heartland 2012 Shiraz, South Australia ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is drawn from vineyards in Langhorne Creek and Limestone Coast, both cooler areas of South Australia, perhaps lending the very lifted, appealing aromatics of menthol and blackcurrant/blackberry fruit with well integrated pepper and oak. It’s full bodied, dense, linear and vibrant with excellent focus and length, especially for the money.

Alpha Crucis 2010 Titan Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia, ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – Alpha Crucis is the “boutique” label of Chalk Hill winery (no relation to the California winery). There is some impressive depth here for the dollar and despite the wine’s big, unctuous profile, it remains balanced and varietally characteristic.

Henry Of Pelham 2012 Estate Cabernet Merlot Heartland Shiraz 2012 Alpha Crucis Titan Shiraz 2010 Domaine Des Bacchantes Côtes Du Rhône 2012 Famille Perrin Les Christins Vacqueyras 2012

Domaine Des Bacchantes 2012 Côtes Du Rhône, France ($16.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a keenly priced, organically-farmed, satisfying and authentic Côtes du Rhône to buy by the case to enjoy over the winter with comfort food like braised meat dishes and stews. Best 2014-2019.

Famille Perrin 2012 Les Christins Vacqueyras, Rhone Valley, France, ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A highly appealing, romantic southern French red that is sure to sweep you off your feet. Perrin has been hard at work attempting to define the quality appellations of the southern Rhone by making this line of appellation specific wines. Vacqueyras has begun to give its more esteemed neighboring appellation, Gigondas, a run for its money as of late and this is a terrific example of the finesse, restraint as well as the appealing peppery spice and garrigue offered by this fine region.

Château Rigaud 2012 Faugères, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Faugeres is a southern French appellation located just north-east of the city of Beziers and gets unfortunately overlooked in terms of quality appellations. Lucky for us, the prices remain extraordinarily reasonable for these schist grown wines that offer a surprising amount of complexity, depth and often exhibit a charming, meaty character. The 2012 Chateau Rigaud is certainly a find worthy of your attention.

Pelissero 2012 Munfrina Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy  ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is one of the best dolcettos of recent memory –  a fresh, firm and engaging youngster with fairly lifted, complex aromas of blueberry, pickled beet and black pepper, with a touch of smokiness. It’s from a single site (Munfrina) planted in 1980 near the village of Treiso.

Château Rigaud 2012 Pelissero Munfrina Dolcetto D'alba 2012 Quinta De Cabriz Seleccionada Colheita 2011 Andreza Reserva 2011 Viticultors Del Priorat Vega Escal 2008

Quinta De Cabriz 2011 Seleccionada Colheita, Dão, Portugal ($15.95)
John Szabo –
I find touriga nacional-based blends from the Dão to be more floral and fresh than their Douro counterparts, and this example delivers the business at an attractive price. Tinta roriz (tempranillo) contributes its succulent acids and fresh red fruit, while alfrocheiro adds its own savoury dark fruit. Enjoy over the next 1-3 years.

Andreza 2011 Reserva Douro, Portugal ($16.95)
John Szabo –
2011 was a superb vintage in the Douro (a widely declared vintage port year), and this smart value will satisfy fans of big and impactful wines, with more power than finesse. Best 2014-2018.
David Lawrason – Ditto, great value!

Vega Escal 2008 Priorat, Spain ($21.95)
David Lawrason – Top Priorats can weigh in at five times this price; so at $22 I was not expecting the great structure, tension and depth that makes Priorat so intriguing. But this more diminutive example captures the essential elegance of the appellation very nicely, and it has achieved the right state of maturity.

Wines of ChileAnd that’s a wrap for this edition. In November the VINTAGES releases grow even larger, with press tastings divided in two and scheduling becoming more erratic. We will do our best to follow the bouncing ball and review as many as possible. Remember that only by subscribing will you get instant access to our reviews, which is especially critical at this busy time of year when wines move quickly. Hopefully one day soon – if indeed the LCBO does modernize as described above – the supply and demand issues we face will become evened out.

In the meantime, WineAlign Toronto area readers are invited to discover the diversity of Chilean wines with an exclusive offer. The Chilean Wine Festival is returning to the Royal Ontario Museum this coming October 28th. Purchase your tickets using the promotional code WINEALIGN and you will get $10 off the regular admission price of $75.  (details here)

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES October 25th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Oct 25th Part One – Tuscany and Miscellaneous Top Whites

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 to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Discover diversity at this year’s Chilean Wine Festival – Oct 28th

Wines of Chile and the Trade Commission of Chile (ProChile) are pleased to present their annual celebration of wine, food, music and culture – the Chilean Wine Festival in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum this coming October 28th.

Wines of Chile banner

Chilean Wine Festival Exclusive Offer

WineAlign readers are invited to discover the diversity of Chilean wines with an exclusive offer. Purchase your tickets using the promotional code WINEALIGN and you will get $10 off the regular admission price of $75. (details below)

Explore new wines

Approximately 120 wines will be available for tasting from more than 23 wineries travelling from Chile for this exciting event. Many of the wines will be featured in Canada for the first time. Guests will be treated to a truly rare cultural experience as they discover, taste and learn about the world of Chilean wine.

In a casual relaxed setting, guests will enjoy Chilean fusion cuisine prepared by Daniel and Daniel catering and different styles of red and white wines from the many regions of Chile. A collection of Latin American music will be performed live by Farrucas Latin Duo.

Themed tables will feature Trophy Winners from the 11th Annual Wines of Chile Awards, Top Wines for Licensees (Trade Tasting below) and Cool Climate wines.

Chilean Wine Festival Chilean Wine Festival

Participating wineries include: Calcu, Carmen, Cono Sur, Cousiño Macul, Concha y Toro, Emiliana, Errazuriz, Indómita, Leyda, Maquis, Montes, MontGras, Morandé, Pérez Cruz, Reqinqua, San Esteban, San Pedro, Santa Alicia, Santa Carolina, Santa Rita, Tarapacá, Siegel, Undurraga, Ventisquero, VIA, Volcanes de Chile.

Event Details

WineAlign readers are invited to discover the wines of Chile with an exclusive offer. Purchase your tickets using the promotional code WINEALIGN and you will get $10 off the regular admission price of $75.

Date & Time:

Tuesday October 28th, 2014
Walk-About Tasting – 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Venue:

Royal Ontario Museum, Peter F Bronfman Hall, 2nd level
100 Queens Park, Toronto, Ontario

Price: $75 regular, $65 with the promotional code WINEALIGN

Click here to purchase tickets

Wines of Chile - Purchase Tickets


Attention Trade & Media

Qualified members of the food and beverage industry and journalists are invited to register for 2 special events earlier in the day:

Trade & Media Seminar, 11:30 – 1:00 pm. Topic: Cool Climate Wines. Special Guest: Hector Vergara, Master sommelier and president of the sommelier association in Chile

Trade Walk About Tasting, 1:00 – 5:00 pm: 11th AWoCA Trophy and Gold medal winners, Cool Climate Wines & Top Wine Picks for Licensees.

Trade and Media are asked to register online at www.winesofchile.ca or RSVP to Lisa Ulrich at lisa@androscom.com


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Buyers Guide to VINTAGES May 10 – Part One

South America, Germany and Rosé
By John Szabo with notes from Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s Buyers Guide to VINTAGES (note our new name) features wines from South America, Germany and the annual spring fling with rosé. I’m pleased to report that there are plenty of good values, and good wines in the release, and the stars align on a handful. David Lawrason and Sara D’Amato also add their personal recommendations. Read on to see the top picks.

South America

The South American feature is a well-chosen selection that for the most part thankfully avoids the raft of over-made wines that have plagued offers from Chile and especially Argentina in the past. There’s a focus instead on balance and drinkability, and the best selections deliver genuine character and class. It’s also pleasing to see far fewer ludicrously heavy bottles – the kind that weigh a kilo empty – that were once all the rage on the continent.

The Stars Align

Valle Secreto First Edition Carmenère 2011Achaval Ferrer Malbec 20122012 Achaval Ferrer Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($24.95). John Szabo – Since 1999 Achaval Ferrer has been making some of Argentina’s best wines under the guidance of Italian oenologist Roberto Cipresso. If I had to choose one word to describe the estate’s wines it would be purity, though I’d also want to add in elegance and refinement. I find this, their entry-level bottling from three vineyards in Mendoza ranging from 13 to 86 years old, to be one of the most attractive buys in Argentina. One can’t help but be drawn in by the freshness of fruit, the delicate, suave and supple palate and the exceptional concentration and length. Best 2014-2020. Sara d’Amato –  A fresh and elegant malbec that smacks of sophistication for a price that is easy to swallow. A combination of old vines and high elevations makes this a wine to covet for your cellar. Compared to its single vineyard siblings, this entry-level is an undeniable value.

2011 Valle Secreto First Edition Carmenère, Cachapoal Valley, Chile ($18.95). John Szabo –  Carmenère is often a love-it-or-hate-it variety, a late ripener that can be quite burly and green even in Chile’s warm climate. Though this example has its share of wintergreen and fresh bay leaf, it’s nicely balanced and backed by plenty of and black and blue fruit – a solid and satisfying drop. Best 2014-2019. Sara d’Amato – This is a modern carmenère that has fallen into careful hands. It’s beautifully ripened and offers a slowly unveiling palate of rich black fruit, salinity and hint of dried herbs. The unique terroir of the upper Cachapoal has afforded this wine a really delicate balance between alcohol, tannins and fruit that play so effortlessly together on the palate.

John Szabo Recommends

2010 Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95). Another pair of Italians, Alberto Antonini and Attilio Pagli, are responsible for the exceptional wines of Altos Las Hormigas, a winery founded in Luján de Cuyo in 1995. The Malbec Terroir hails from the higher, and cooler, Uco Valley, highlighting the appealing floral side of the grape. Best 2014-2018.

2011 Ojo De Agua Cuvée Spéciale, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95). Dieter Meier is an enterprising Swiss artist and musician, the man behind the electronic music group Yello, as well as a professional poker player and formerly a member of the Swiss national golf team, as I learned from his Wikipedia page. In his spare time, he also runs a restaurant in Zurich, and raises cattle and grows organic grapes and produces wine in Mendoza – now that’s a well-rounded CV. His lovely Cuvée Speciale made from half malbec with cabernet sauvignon and franc, is fine, fresh and honest stuff, best 2014-2018.

2010 Maycas Del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay, Limarí Valley, Chile ($19.95). I’m pleased to see this re-released and back on the shelves of the LCBO, drinking beautifully at the moment. The limestone-rich Limarí Valley in Northern Chile is the finest region in the country for chardonnay in my view, suffusing wines with a distinctively salty minerality, while the cool coastal breezes from the Pacific just a few kilometers away keep grapes fresh and focused.

2009 Tabalí Reserva Especial Limarí Valley, Chile ($22.95). But the Limarí is not just about fine chardonnay, as this blend of 3/4 syrah, with merlot and cabernet from Tabalí clearly shows. I’ve been regularly impressed with the full range from this estate, which I visited several years ago, now celebrating 21 years in business. This is also a re-release from last year, when it was also recommended. The extra year of age has conferred softer tannins and better wood integration, making it even more appealing. Best now-2019.

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Terroir 2010  Ojo De Agua Cuvée Spéciale 2011  Maycas Del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2010  Tabalí Reserva Especial 2009  Maipe Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

More from Sara d’Amato

Maipe Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina ($18.95). At over 3,000 feet above sea level where this delectable cabernet is grown, you can bet that the winds can be felt. The name Maipe means of the “Lord of the Wind” which is still called upon frequently to tame the summer heat. This entry-level cabernet delivers impressive depth and intensity all the while remaining open, honest and expressive.

Lawrason’s Take

Montes Purple Angel 2011Hermanos De Domingo Molina Hermanos Torrontés 2012Hermanos De Domingo Molia 2012 Torrontés Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina ($12.75). Torrontes must be the most obvious wine on the planet, with a peacock’s tail of perfumed aromatics. Some will hate it, others won’t. But whatever your stance, this is a textbook example. And at only $12.75 you can afford to find out where you stand.

Montes 2011 Purple Angel, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($59.95). For several years this has stood as an icon for Chile’s aspirations to make “great, global wine”. And as much as you might balk at spending $60 on Chilean red, I urge you to divert $60 from the purchase of any mainstream Bordeaux or California reds. And take the time to decant and delve into the fine nuances offered within its rich framework.

Germany

Riesling is still king in Germany, made in a style that I’ve yet to find reproduced anywhere else in the world, while pricing remains utterly attractive. Consider that barely a century ago, the top vineyards fetched higher prices than Bordeaux’s classified growths. Personally, I’m delighted with the situation – I’ll happily buy a hundred bottles of great riesling for the cost of one first growth. But the country offers more than just riesling, as David and Sara reveal.

The Stars Align

2011 C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany ($18.25). John Szabo –  Rich, heady and ripe, as is frequently the case for rieslings from this astonishingly steep, perfectly oriented vineyard and its red volcanic soils, this is a real beauty. Have a look at the picture I took of the Würzgarten and marvel at the fact that anyone even bothers to grow grapes on this precipitous slope, and imagine the effort required to produce this wine. Then consider the price – I can say honestly say that $18 wouldn’t begin to cover my danger pay, though the vineyard workers surely have impressive calves. There’s enough dry extract, noble bitterness and lively acids to dry out the finish, making this off-dry wine seem virtually dry. Best 2014- 2023. Sara d’Amato – This prime Mosel house claims an impressive legacy: since 1510, twenty-one generations have worked the estate. Fermented with natural yeasts and afforded all the luxuries that riesling could ever want (and devoid of almost any interference), the result is a wonderfully expressive and highly intriguing wine – a steal!

C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2011  Max Ferd. Richter Riesling Kabinett 2007Heinrich Vollmer Altum Spätburgunder Dry 2008  Königschaffhausener Vulkanfelsen Trocken Pinot Gris 2012  Werner Anselmann Edesheimer Rosengarten Siegerrebe Spätlese 2012

John Szabo Also Recommends

2007 Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany ($19.95). The Sonnenuhr (Sundial) is one of the Mosel’s great vineyards, combining perfect exposure with well-drained, pure slate soils that consistently yield startling fresh and balanced Riesling. This 2007 was first released in August 2009, and amazingly five years on since my first tasting, the fruit has advanced, but not much, and there’s still a delicious sapidity and freshness to the orchard fruit, not to mention a large dose of classic Mosel slatey minerality. Ahh, the magic of Mosel Riesling, truly timeless wines.

More from Sara d’Amato

Looking down to the Mosel River from the Würzgarten

Looking down to the Mosel River from the Würzgarten

2008 Heinrich Vollmer Altum Spätburgunder Dry, Qualitätswein, Pfalz, Germany ($19.95). You say spätburgunder and I say pinot noir – it’s all the same and yet completely different when planted in the almost Mediterranean climate of the Pfalz. Here vines ripen more quickly, benefitting from sunnier days and a drier climate than much of winegrowing Germany. This pinot will surprise you with its complexity and brooding smokiness.

Lawrason’s Take

2012 Königschaffhausen Vulkanfelsen Trocken Pinot Gris, Baden, Germany ($14.95). One of the great revelations from a trip to Baden in southern Germany last summer was the quality, style and depth of their pinot gris and pinot blanc. Not surprising really given these varieties also thrive over the Rhine River border in Alsace; but I think the best examples from Baden – like this great value – bring a certain slender elegance and polish often missing in Alsace.

2012 Anselmann Edesheimer Roséngarten Siegerrebe Spätlese, Pfalz, Germany ($16.95). Not unlike the Argentine torrontes in this release, this has incredible aromatics – very heady stuff.  Indeed that is siegerrebe’s claim to fame. And as with torrontes some may find it over the top, but I guarantee there will be occasions as our weather warms and you are enjoying a citrus or tropical fruit based salad where a chilled bottle of this modestly priced wine will be just perfect.

John on Rosé

Rosé wines are hot in Canada. Consumption has grown by 38 per cent in the last five years, and a recent Vinexpo study forecasts another 45% increase in sales by 2016. Most of these impressive gains are driven by cheap sweet blush to be sure, but I was happy to taste through the range of releases for May 10th, a solid collection of mostly dry, serious, food-friendly wines. Nearly half of the features are recommended by one or more of the WineAlign cru. Southern France remains the region where I do most of my shopping – I love those pale, delicate, dry, aromatic versions – though there are some fine contenders from elsewhere, too.

2013 Château La Tour De l’Évêque Rosé, Provence, France ($18.95). I could cut and paste just about any previous review for this wine without misleading – this is consistently solid, arch-classic Provencal rosé, and 2013 continues in the same lineage, if perhaps a little riper than average with its generous 13.5% alcohol.

2013 Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé, Languedoc, France ($19.95). Bertrand’s entire collection of wines, a considerable portfolio, is invariably worth a look. Part of your money goes no doubt to cover the cost of the attractive bottle with the bottom molded like a rosé flower, but the wine inside is also of premium quality, in the pale, dry, savoury and fruity southern French style. I’m inclined to pay the premium, and think of the designs you can make in the sand on the beach this summer.

2013 Château Val Joanis Tradition Syrah Rosé, Luberon, France ($15.95). This vineyard in the Luberon sits on round pudding stones like much of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, though the higher elevation yields lighter and more finely detailed flavours. This is pale, dry and fruity-savoury in the classic southern French style, gentle and delicate.

2013 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, Coastal Region, South Africa ($12.95). Be thankful that the Swedes, who guzzle countless thousand cases of Mulderbosch’s rosé, saved us a few. This is nicely priced, simple but well-balanced cabernet rosé, with the merest hint of sweetness but lots of juicy acids to keep it firm and focused.

2013 Château La Tour De l'Évêque Rosé  Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2013 Château Val Joanis Tradition Syrah Rosé 2013 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2013  Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Rosé 2013

Lawrason and d’Amato Align

2013 Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Rosé, Costières de Nîmes, Rhône Valley, France ($15.95). David Lawrason – This nicely captures the basic appeal of southern French rosé – and despite the great pink leaps being made the world over the Rhône still owns this style, with classic fruit so deftly accented by fennel, pepper and that general sense of shrubby “garrigue”. Very well-balanced and priced. Sarah d’Amato – Consistently a bargain, this dry, classic, southern Rhône rosé brimming with spice and pepper is sure to bring the sunshine to you. Costières de Nîmes is located where the Rhône and Languedoc meet (and has changed sides of the border once already), and although the wines tend to be similar to those of the Southern Rhône (with that pleasurable garrigue and blasted by sunshine and heat), they do exhibit greater freshness due to the region’s proximity to the sea. No summer street festival of the South could do without.

Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto Rosé 20132013 Famille Perrin Tavel RoséAlso Recommended by Sara d’Amato

2013 Famille Perrin Tavel Rosé, Rhône, France, ($19.95). With Tavel on the shelves summer can’t be far behind (despite the fact that most of us are still waiting for spring). This small appellation surrounding the picturesque cliffside village of Tavel produces exclusively pink wines (and don’t dare call them rosé!), always dry, aromatic and savory. The Famille Perrin’s is super snappy and taught in an exciting and nervy way with Provençal herbs, lavender and perfectly ripened strawberries.

Lawrason’s Take

2013 Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto Rosé, Veneto, Italy ($14.95). This is utterly charming, and if that’s not what you want from rosé perhaps you are being too demanding. Based on the corvina grape, Bardolino is known for its light, fragrant charming reds and this ‘chiaretto’ is simply a lighter shade of pale. Very fresh, balanced and chock full of fruit and freshness.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

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

Editors Note: You can find 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 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Chilean Wine Festival returns to Toronto October 8th


Chilean Wine Festival

Wines of Chile and the Trade Commission of Chile (ProChile) are pleased to present their annual celebration of wine, food, music and culture – the Chilean Wine Festival. Approximately 120 wines will be available for tasting from more than 20 wineries who will be traveling from Chile to Toronto for this exciting event.

Exclusive Offer

WineAlign readers are invited to discover the wines of Chile with an exclusive offer. Purchase your tickets using the promotional code WINEALIGN and you will get $10 off the regular admission price of $75. (details below)

Discover why Chile’s Diversity Lies in its Terroir

Chile’s outstanding diversity of wines stems from the country’s extraordinary geography and unique climate. Regionality is the key to Chile’s stylistic development and winemakers are striving to reflect the different terroirs that the country can offer, especially in the cooler coastal areas and in the Andean foothills.

Avid wine consumers today recognize the names Casablanca, Maipo and Colchagua, but these are just the beginnings of a host of appellations. It is this mosaic of terroirs and wineries that composes Wines of Chile.

Explore New Wines

Many of the wines will be featured in Canada for the first time. Guests will be treated to a truly rare cultural experience as they discover, taste and learn about the world of Chilean wine. In a casual relaxed setting, guests will enjoy Chilean fusion cuisine and meet with representatives from the wineries as they sample from an array of red and white varietals.

Wines of ChileThemed tables will feature Trophy Winners from the 10th Annual Wines of Chile Awards and Natural Choice “Green” wines. Participating winery tables include: Calcu, Carmen, Cousiño Macul, Concha y Toro, Emiliana, Errazuriz, Maquis, MontGras, Morandé, Pérez Cruz, San Esteban, San Pedro, Siegel, Terraustral, Ventisquero, VIA, Villaseñor, Volcanes de Chile, Santa Rita, Santa Carolina.

Catering will be provided by Daniel et Daniel and a collection of Chilean music will be styled by Bellosound.

Event Details

WineAlign readers are invited to discover the wines of Chile with an exclusive offer. Purchase your tickets using the promotional code WINEALIGN and you will get $10 off the regular admission price of $75.

Date & Time:

Tuesday October 8th, 2013
Walk-About Tasting – 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Venue:

Royal Ontario Museum, Peter F Bronfman Hall, 2nd level
100 Queens Park, Toronto, Ontario

Price: $75 regular, $65 with the promotional code WINEALIGN

Click here to purchase tickets

Wines of Chile - Purchase Tickets


Attention Trade & Media

Qualified members of the food and beverage industry and journalists are invited to register for 2 special events earlier in the day:

Trade & Media Tutored Tasting, 12:15 – 1:45 pm: Effects of Green Viticulture on Taste, Cost and Consumer Appeal.

Trade Walk About Tasting, 2:00 – 5:00 pm: Featuring Trophy Winners from the 10th Annual Wines of Chile Awards, Top Wines for Licensees and Natural Choice “Green” wines.

Trade and Media are asked to register online at www.winesofchile.ca or RSVP to Lisa Ulrich at lisa@androscom.com


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Wines of Chile 2013

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John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for October 13th 2012

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Image Makeover: More. Cooler. Australia; Top Ten Smart Buys and a Chilean Trio

In the span of a just few months, Australia’s image in Ontario has received a complete makeover courtesy of the LCBO’s Vintage department. It’s hard to say precisely how and why this occurred. Perhaps it’s owed to strong lobbying from Wine Australia. Or maybe it was a momentary engagement of reason and vision from Head Office. I’d like to think that it was due to the inevitable realization that Ontarian wine drinkers have grown up and want something more than a peanut butter and jam sandwich, at least once in a while. Whatever the reason, the Vintages October 13th release has a handful of absolute gems that will shift your image of Australian wines from PB&Js to haute cuisine.

The Top Ten is back of course, highlighting a quartet of sub-$15, dangerously drinkable bottles, as well as a pair of worthy $35+ wines that deliver high on the typicity scale, and a few more in between. I also recommend a trio of Chilean wines, the mini-feature of the release. Sharpen your corkscrews (or prepare to twist).

More, Cooler, Australia

The makeover started back in the summer, when a large feature covering the wines of Victoria hit the shelves at Vintages. WineAlign covered the release with undisguised enthusiasm, with both David Lawrason and I welcoming the long-awaited introduction of some of the more regionally distinctive and sophisticated wines from this cool state (re-visit my report from July 21st 2012, Australia’s New Cool). Subsequent releases have seen several more fine Australian wines trickle in, with another sizable batch arriving for the August 4th release. And now, the October 13th release features Australia yet again, moving beyond Victoria (although there are some excellent Victorian wines here again) into other regions, notably the Barossa Valley in South Australia, and Margaret River in Western Australia.

This release wasn’t the first time I have come across the wines of Spinifex in the Barossa Valley. That happy moment came courtesy of Wine Australia and educator Mark Davidson, who put on a master class dubbed the “finest shiraz tasting ever assembled outside of Australia” at the Court of Master Sommeliers first annual Conference in Pebble Beach, California in January 2010. The 2006 Spinifex Indigène Shiraz-Mourvèdre was in a line up that included wines from Wendouree, Clonakilla, Giaconda, Craiglee, Mount Langi Ghiran and of course Penfolds’ Grange, among several others, all astoundingly good producers. The point of the tasting was to remind a bunch of jaded master sommeliers that Australia has depth and diversity, not to mention class and elegance and regional diversity, within the repertoire of its flagship grape.

Spinifex PapillonSpinifex Bete NoirSo I was delighted to spot the 2010 Spinifex Bête Noir Shiraz ($49.95) and the 2010 Spinifex Papillon Grenache/Cinsault/Carignan/Shiraz ($29.95), as I walked into the LCBO lab to cover the release back in early September. Spinifex is a decade-old, micro-negociant operation run by husband and wife team Peter Schell and Magali Gely. They source fruit from small growers in the Barossa and Eden Valleys, specializing in Mediterranean varieties (shiraz, mourvèdre, grenache, cinsault, carignan, ugni blanc, grenache gris, marsanne and semillon) – Gely’s family were vignerons in the south of France for generations, and Schell has worked six of the last ten harvests in France, in regions as diverse as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Provence, and the Languedoc. They produce a wide range of varietal and blended wines, all with a guileless purity.

Not surprisingly, there’s a distinctive old world sensibility to Spinifex’s wines, a refinement that comes without sacrificing the generosity and fleshiness that defines Barossa wines. The Bête Noir is an absolutely brilliant Aussie shiraz, with significant depth and grip, smoky-black pepper character, wild herbs and faded violets, along with pure cassis and black berry flavours. The palate offers outstanding poise and balance, tight acids, refined tannins and long finish. The intriguing Papillon blend is very nearly as good, with wonderfully pure and vibrant sweet red berry, strawberry-raspberry fruit, and loads of dusty earth and savoury herb character, not to mention a beguilingly pleasant bitter tinge on the finish. Both are paradigm shifters.

Fraser Gallop in Margaret River, Western Australia, is another decade-old operation whose sights are set at the top level. Site selection with the goal of producing top Bordeaux blends as well as chardonnay commenced in 1998, with the search quickly leading to the upper Wilyabrup district of Margaret River, just 6km from the Indian Ocean. With already established neighbors like Vasse Felix, Moss Wood and Cullen, it seemed clear that this was the ideal spot to realize their goals. In 2006, former Vasse Felix winemaker Clive Otto was brought aboard to lead the winemaking team, and the results are excellent.

Fraser Gallop Cabernet SauvignonAttention to detail is evident in the three Fraser Gallop wines in this release: 2009 Fraser Gallop Cabernet Sauvignon Wilyabrup, ($45.95), 2010 Fraser Gallop Cabernet/Merlot ($29.95) and the 2011 Fraser Gallop Chardonnay ($28.95). But for my money, I’ll save up and pay the extra $15 for the spectacular, arch-Bordeaux-like 2009 Wilyabrup cabernet. Be forewarned that it needs significant air to emerge from its shell – decant for an hour ahead – or cellar for another 2-4 years. But the palate is balanced and composed, succulent and dense without excess weight. All in all, it’s a refined and polished, elegant wine with a terrifically long finish.

Over The Shoulder ChardonnayYabby Lake ChardonnayThere’s also a pair of chardonnays from Victoria well worth drawing your attention to, namely the 2010 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay ($39.95) and the 2011 Oakridge Over the Shoulder Chardonnay ($24.95). I had the opportunity to meet and taste with Yabby Lake founding vineyard manager Keith Harris this past July during the International Cool Climate Celebration in Niagara. Harris is a viticultural pragmatist, leaving nothing to chance, with as deep an understanding of Mornington Peninsula terroir as anyone. Tom Carson, formerly of Yering Station and Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley, was hired in 2006 to transform Harris’ fruit into leading regional wines. The 2010 is a polished, complex, subtle and mineral, distinctly cool climate style chardonnay, with succulent and fleshy yet focused palate and excellent length. It’s worthy of the premium price.

Oakridge was one of the pioneers of the Yarra Valley, opening up shop in 1978. The Over the Shoulder range is the estate’s entry line, aimed at delivering a fresh, vibrant, low alcohol, pure varietal expression. The 2011 Chardonnay does just that; it’s restrained, with no oak detectable, while acids are tight and taught. I love the cut and vibrancy of this, a great ceviche wine.

Highlights from the Top Ten Smart Buys

Fans of superb value, zesty, food-friendly wines should consider adding these four sub-$15 wines to their shopping lists:

2011 Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet, Coteaux de Languedoc, France $12.95

2010 Terredora Falanghina, Campania, Italy $14.95

2010 Henry of Pelham Gamay, Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula $14.95

2008 Quinta de Baixo Tinto, Bairrada, Portugal $14.95

The Beauvignac picpoul has been coming into Ontario for many years now, but this is easily the best to date. It’s delightfully fruity and fresh, with inviting citrus and just-ripe orchard fruit (pear, nectarine, white peach) flavours. Acids are brisk, and the finish remarkably long. Not at all what you’d expect from the deep south of France – a perfect seafood/shellfish wine at an unbeatable price. Terredora’s falanghina is a remarkably rich and concentrated wine for the money, with a real sense of tight minerality, ripe orchard fruit and generous body. Acids swoop in on the finish to cleanse the palate, leaving you salivating and ready for the next bite or sip.

Henry of Pelham’s 2010 gamay is a fresh and juicy, infinitely drinkable version, with tart red berry fruit and mouth-watering acids, the sort of wine you can drink all day (and night) without tiring. Bairrada’s notoriously grippy grape baga is given a softening touch of touriga nacional in Quinta da Baixo’s example, yielding a lively peppery and fruity red with gritty texture and firm, saliva inducing palate. A tidy little value here. Both wines are designed for the table, best enjoyed with a light chill.

Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard ChardonnayA dollar more than these gets you another vintage of the cracking 2009 Falernia Reserva Syrah Elquí Valley ($15.95), a wine with an astonishing amount of flavour packed into a $16 bottle, as well as the 2010 Artemis Karamolegos Santorini, Aegean Islands ($15.95), a typically restrained and stony example of assyrtiko from the volcanic Island of Santorini, one of my favorite paces to go shopping for concentrated, minerally whites.

At the premium end of the value scale, Ontario is well represented by the 2009 Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($38.00).

This should be counted among Canada’s top chardonnays in my view, an intense, evidently concentrated wine from Hidden Bench’s Felseck vineyard. It has the intriguing “rancid” character of fine Meursault, with no shortage of chalky minerality to back the resemblance. While on the palate, it offers terrific flavour intensity, with plenty of nutty, hazelnut, green walnut, tart citrus fruit and green apple flavours, and on and on it goes. I’d put this in the cellar for another 1-3 years to allow it to unwind – it’s still taught and barely penetrable.

See the full top ten here, which also includes three Italian classics.

Chilean Trio

And finally, three wines from the Chile mini-theme stand out for their excellent value/quality/typicity, and are well worth a look:

2011 Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley ($24.95)

2011 Leyda Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Ledya Valley ($16.95)

2008 Tres Palacios Family Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon Fundo Santa Eugenia de Cholqui Vineyard, Maipo Valley ($17.95).

Gourmet Food & Wine Show

Don’t miss the annual Szabo vs Szabo no holds barred jiyu kumite (with wine, not swords) at the Gourmet Food and Wine Show on Friday, November 16th, 7:30-9pm.

Cutting Edge Wines
John Szabo MS & Zoltan Szabo
Renowned Sommeliers

$95 | 7:30 – 9:00 Friday November 16th, 2012

The dynamic duo of master tasters returns for what promises to be another sold-out seminar. John and Zoltan both currently work with the famed Trump Hotel in Toronto while they continue to consult, write, judge and travel. As leading sommeliers for over a decade, they are in tune with the most progressive winemakers, interesting grapes and dynamic new wine regions. Learn from Canada’s foremost wine experts as they present eight cutting-edge wines.  Order Tickets here.

Cheers,

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

From the October 13, 2012 Vintages release:

Top Ten Smart Buys
Top Aussie Wines
All Reviews


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Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay


The Wine Establishment - Le Nez deu Vin

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Chilean Wine Festival returns to Toronto with an Exclusive offer for WineAlign members

Chile Chile Logo

Wines of Chile and the Trade Commission of Chile (ProChile) present their 9th annual grand tasting and celebration of wine and food – the Chilean Wine Festival. An outstanding set of 30 wineries bring 150 wines for this tasting. In a Chilean Wine Festivalcasual yet sophisticated setting, guests can mingle with winemakers while sampling from an array of red and white varietals and a selection of food pairings and gourmet cheeses.

Explore the Regions

Chile’s outstanding diversity of wines stems from the country’s extraordinary geography and A Mosaic of Terroirsunique climate. Regionality is the key to Chile’s stylistic development and winemakers are striving to reflect the different terroirs that the country can offer, especially in the cooler coastal areas and in the Andean foothills.

Avid wine consumers today recognize the names Casablanca, Maipo and Colchagua, but these are just the beginnings of a host of appellations. It is this mosaic of terroirs and wineries that composes Wines of Chile.

Meet the Winemakers

The 2012 Toronto tasting will feature two focus tables: Chile: The Natural Choice and 9th Annual Wines of Chile Awards Winners and the following participating wineries:

Apaltagua, Arboleda, Caliterra, Carmen, Concha Y Toro, Cono Sur, Cousino Macul, De Martino, Dos Andes, Emiliana, Errazuriz, Los Maquis, Discover ChileMaipo, Montes, Mont Gras, Morandé, Pérez Cruz, Requingua, San Esteban, San Pedro, Santa Alicia, Santa Carolina, Santa Ema, Santa Rita, Seña, Siegel, Valdivieso, Ventisquero, VIA Wines and Vistamar.

Exclusive Offer

WineAlign readers are invited to discover the wines of Chile with an exclusive offer. Purchase your tickets using the promotional code WINEALIGN and you will get $10 off the regular admission price of $75.

Date & Time:

Tuesday October 2nd, 2012 Toronto, Ontario
Walk-About Tasting – 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Venue:

Royal Ontario Museum, Peter F Bronfman Hall, 2nd level
100 Queens Park, Toronto

Price: $75 regular, $65 with the promotional code WINEALIGN

Click here to purchase tickets

Wines of Chile - Purchase Tickets

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Margaret Swaine’s Wine Picks: Chile

Vintages most recent release focuses on food-friendly Chilean wines. Find these picks via WineAlign.com/MargaretsPicks.

Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011
$14.95 (88 Points)
From the newer region of Leyda Valley close to the Pacific Ocean, this medium-bodied white is distinctive and expressive with a citrus hit and notes of white asparagus and grapefruit. Refreshing with good intensity of flavour, it lingers pleasantly on the palate. Enjoy this with seafood salads, ceviche or grilled veggies.

Oveja Negra The Lost Barrel 2008
$24.95 (89 Points)
Quite dense, plush on the palate, with spiced dark berry (blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant) aromas and tastes, this ready-to-enjoy red has been aged one year in French oak. A blend of mainly syrah and old vine carignan with some carmenère and a dollop of petit verdot, its hints of tar, smoke and oak make it a good match with grilled meats.

Pérez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
$15.95 (88 Points)
This bargain-priced Vintages Essential from Maipo Valley is a customer favourite. Ripe with spiced red berry flavours, mocha overtones and a touch of herbs, it expresses the typical cabernet character of its region. Rounded on the palate, it has smooth tannins with a good grip in the finish. Have with burgers and kebabs fresh off the barbecue.

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008