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(Re-)Discovering Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene

Text and photos by John Szabo MS
with additional notes by Treve Ring

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

Prosecco may very well be the most successful wine story in all of Italy, and surely one of the most successful sparkling wine stories in the world. What’s the secret? For one, at its most basic, prosecco is inexpensive, easy to understand, and even easier to drink. It’s light-bodied (c. 11%-11.5% alcohol on average), engagingly fragrant (fresh pear and green apple are signature aromatics), more gently effervescent than traditional method sparkling wines, and just sweet enough to appeal widely, without tripping over into genuine sweetness.

The name is easy to say, and at once brings a grape, place and wine style to mind without unnecessary complications. And at under $20 / bottle in general, and with many cuvees under $15, it fills an important niche in both the on and off-trade: everybody needs an affordable bubbly to pour by the glass, or to sip with friends or serve at parties when champagne is not in the budget. It would be unthinkable to spend a day in Venice without stopping in for a glass of prosecco as you wander along the canals.

So it’s no wonder that sales have increased year on year for as long as I can remember, nearly tripling in just the last half-decade. In 2010, about 130m bottles were sold, by 2015, sales had jumped to c. 306m bottles and the retail value was 515 million Euros. 44 percent of that was for the export market, led by Germany, Switzerland, UK, USA, Austria and Canada.

The Region: Starts with the Soils

The surface simplicity of the prosecco world belies a much more complex and intriguing reality. For many, basic Prosecco DOC, produced in industrial quantities from the flat lands north of Venice, will remain the daily bread and butter. But for those ready to take the next step into the more artisanal world of prosecco, one that’s rapidly expanding thanks to a growing cadre of ambitious producers bankrolled by the region’s sales juggernaut, there’s plenty to explore.

Giuseppe - Welcome to Prosecco

Giuseppe – Welcome to Prosecco

You’ll want to start in the historic heart of the production zone, a hilly area nestled between the towns of Conegliano in the east and Valdobbiadene in the west, a little more than an hour due north of Venice. The the two towns are approximately 40km away from each other, the terroir is markedly different. Conegliano in the east is a mix of clay-rich glacial, alluvial and morainic soils, yielding richer, fruity and structured wines. In the west, in Valdobbiadene, the soils are ancient seabeds veined with moraine and sandstone, resulting in finessed, finer, floral-scented wines. The landscape gets progressively more hilly and steep heading east to west in the zone, and by the time you’ve reached Valdobbiadene, slopes can be downright precipitous. Vineyard work hours also rise precipitously, from some 120 hours/hectare/year in the plains to over 800 hours in the steepest parcels.

This is where the finest wines have always originated, and in fact where prosecco the sparkling wine was born, thanks to Antonio Carpenè Malvolti over a century ago. Malvolti also founded Italy’s first school of oenology in the town of Conegliano in 1876, which contributed in no small measure to the rise in wine quality in the region, and throughout the peninsula.

Antonio Carpenè Malvolti, Oenology school, Conegliano

Antonio Carpenè Malvolti, Oenology school, Conegliano

The Prosecco Pyramid : Climbing Higher in Quality

There are five quality levels of Prosecco. Prosecco DOC and Prosecco DOC Treviso (556 and 95 municipalities, respectively) make up the largest group, at the base of the pyramid. Atop of that rests the Colli Asolani DOCG Prosecco Superiore, a thin layer with 17 municipalities from the hilly area of northern central Veneto. From there, you move into the heartland of production, which in other parts of Italy would have been called the “Classico” zone, but in prosecco’s case could not be because of the possible confusion with metodo classico, or traditional method sparkling wines, which prosecco is mostly not. Officially recognized in 2009 as the Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, this covers about 6800 hectares across 15 municipalities. Here, free-draining hillsides and cooler temperatures result in higher natural acids and greater aromatic development, compared to grapes grown on the plains. But there’s more to it than that; vine age is also older on average, and there’s much greater genetic diversity – more variations on glera, the principal grape (re-baptized in 2009 from prosecco) – from centuries of massale selection, and about 10% of vineyards are planted to other local authorized grapes, like verdiso, bianchetta, perera and glera lunga, which each add their unique twist to blends. Plantings on the plains are generally much more recent and composed of a small handful of glera clones, so the same degree of complexity and balance is nearly impossible to achieve.

Entering Valdobbiadene-3763

Entering Valdobbiadene

Digging a little deeper, and climbing higher in the quality pyramid, are an additional 43 single vineyards or crus. These single vineyard Rive (the Venetian dialect for “steep slopes”), have been identified within the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore zone, and often found on the choicest part of the best hillsides. Rive proseccos, by law, are made from lower yields and hand harvested grapes, and must be vintage dated. Some are shared between producers, others are monopoles.

At the top of the pyramid, one large, south-facing hillside area, historically recognized as producing the very top proseccos, has its own appellation: Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG. Prosecco from the 107 ha Cartizze hill is the most expensive in the appellation, often three or four times more than a producer’s regular cuvée. Producers can label their wines Superiore di Cartizze, without the word “prosecco”, to futher emphasize the special site. In addition, Cartizze must only be vinified within the Valdobbiadene municipality.

Sunset over Cartizze Hill-3783

Sunset over Cartizze Hill

The most vexing thing about Cartizze, however, is that the cru has been historically made in a ‘dry’ version, which is of course to say quite sweet, with up to 32 grams of residual sugar, a tradition that most producers still seem content to follow. In the past, Cartizze was surely the one zone where grapes would ripen sufficiently and consistently enough to produce a rich, off-dry style wine, a distinctive trait. But today, with sugar ubiquitous, anyone can make sweet prosecco. And adding sugar has the effect of homogenizing, if not fully eliminating, any nuance that comes from place. Admittedly I have found few Cartizzes I’d been willing to pay for – if you want sweet, you may as well by a straight Prosecco DOC ‘Dry’ for a fraction of the price. The sweeter the wine, the less regionally distinctive it tends to be.

The Future : Dryer, Site-Specific Wines

Compared to the gloried Cartizze, Rive proseccos, on the other hand, come much more frequently in brut versions (maximum 12 grams of sugar). For me, this category represents the future for Prosecco, especially if the goal is to trade consumers up to more distinctive wines at higher prices. That’s not to say that cru proseccos are uniformly better, however. There’s much to be said about the advantage of blending from multiple vineyards to create a better-balanced, complete wine. But the Rive category at least moves prosecco out of the simple commodity market and into a space where meaningful discussion about regional variations in terroir can take place.

One heartening trend overall is the move towards more truly dry styles. Over the last 20 years the Brut category has grown dramatically, representing about 40% of total production; dry versions now represent less than 10%, while the in-between Extra-dry category (with 12-17 grams of sugar) accounts for about half of all production.

Vineyards, Valddobbiadene-3759

Vineyards, Valdobbiadene

Col Fondo prosecco is another ancient style that is regaining popularity. “Col Fondo is the oldest version of prosecco”, Maurizio Favrel of Malibràn tells me. “It’s the type that existed before the charmat method became popular, born surely from a mistake”. Favrel claims to be the first producer to revive the style commercially, which was essentially an ancestral method sparkling wine made by bottling still-fermenting must. “It was the wine we had at home. It would be a pity to lose this tradition”, Favrel continues.

Today the process is not left to chance. Favrel makes his from a dry, still base wine, bottled with sugar and yeast as for traditional method sparkling, but the wine is not disgorged or filtered so remains cloudy, like bottled-fermented ale. Malibràn’s is bone dry and with under three bars or pressure, less than classic prosecco, and only about half the effervescence of traditional method bubbly. About half a dozen producers are making Col Fondo style prosecco today, though the category is sure to grow.

So, if you’ve relegated prosecco exclusively to the fun and frivolous category until now, it’s time to explore what the historic region has to offer. Quality, availability, and stylistic diversity have never been better. Start your exploration by tracking down some of the bottles below.

Strada del Prosecco-3747

Strada del Prosecco

Buyers’ Guide to Prosecco

These wines may not currently be available in your province, but if you have a chance to taste them, we recommend you do.

2013 Ruggeri Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut Vecchie Viti

Ruggeri’s superb Vecchie Viti (“Old Vines”) is harvested from individual old vines (mixed in with younger plantings), selected from 12 growers in 12 different parcels, some 2500 individual vines in all. This may sound like excessive labour, but the results are clearly worth it – this wine ranks in the very top echelon in the region year after year. The 2013 offers terrific aromatics, really just starting to emerge, while the palate is dry but rich, full, substantial. I love the mouth filling density and the range of white-fleshed fruit flavours, ginger spice, fresh green herbs. Excellent length. Lovely wine all in all. 5000 bottles made annually. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 94

Villa Sandi Cartizze Brut Vigna la Rivetta Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Brut

Although aromatic intensity is relatively modest, Villa Sandi’s Cartizze, a rare brut from this celebrated hillside (most are made in a dry style, which is to say, sweeter), is all about texture and mouthfeel. It’s a clearly ripe and generous wine, barely off-dry, at the upper end of brut, very vinous and complex, and with very good length. I’d put this clearly in a superior quality category, less for titillating aromatics, but rather for its genuine complexity and depth. I’d love to see more Cartizze wines take this drier, more site-driven approach. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 93

2009 Bisol Relio Metodo Classico Extra Brut VSQ

This is a fairly rare traditional method glera, aged three years on lees, yet shockingly fresh, with little obvious autolysis. The palate is delicate, silky, seamless, very surprising – this is amazingly complete and lively. The florality of glera has been only partially sacrificed, while white-fleshed fruit still dominates. Very good length. I love the salty-sapidity – the most mineral glera I’ve come across. 12% alcohol, 4 grams dosage. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 93

2013 La Farra Brut millesimato Rive di Farra di Soligo Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

Crafted in a gently oxidative-floral, style, this is a big, more concentrated, powerful version of prosecco overall, firm and well balanced, very dry, with terrific intensity and length. A top example. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 92

Vineyards, morning, Conegliano-3742

Vineyards, morning, Conegliano

2014 Adami Vigneto Giardino Rive di Colbertaldo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

From the Rive di Colbertaldo, a south east facing, hilly site 220-300m in altitude comes this generous, dry (20 g/l RS) fizz. The sweetness is deftly handled by a racy backbone of acidity, bringing a nimble briskness to the palate. Generous cushion of asian pear, light yellow apple, macedonia (fruit salad) finishes entirely asciutto – grippy, drying and fresh. A beauty. Treve Ring – 92

2014 Ruggeri Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut Giustino B. Extra Dry

The Giustino B. bottling is assembled in March following the vintage, a selection of the top vineyard lots, including some old vine lots. The 2014 is still tightly wound on the nose, but the palate is rich, off-dry as advertised, peachy and pear-flavoured, with very good length, an excellent wine all in all, which, along with Ruggeri’s Vecchie Viti, can be counted among the region’s best. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 92

2014 Valdo Brut Cuvèe del Fondatore millesimato Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

This fairly deeply coloured prosecco offers intriguing riesling-like florality, with peach-apricot, pear, and pineapple aromatics, while the palate is vinous and fleshy, with higher intensity and density than the mean, with more generous alcohol. This is clearly a more concentrated and serious example, though oxidation is starting to creep in, so enjoy now or over the near-term. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 91

Col Vetoraz Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry

Here’s a textbook example of Cartizze made in the traditional ‘dry’ style (which means of course that it’s off-dry), though with better balance than the mean, built more on acids than sweetness alone. It shows as a lovely, particularly elegant wine, with beguiling aromatics, all fresh white-fleshed fruit and white blossom florality. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 91

Panaroma from Cartizze Hill-3789

Panaroma from Cartizze Hill

2013 Malibràn Cinque Grammi Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut

Malibràn’s Cinque Grammi (“Five Grams”, referring to the low sugar, virtually dry style), is crafted in a powerful, ripe, full bodied style within the prosecco category, focused less on aromatics, and more on fruit ripeness and concentration, and palate richness and extraction. It comes across as a slightly more rustic wine than the mean from Valdobbiadene, but highly characterful, a strong personality, and one that certainly appreciate. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 91

Adami Col Credas Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive Farra di Soligo

Serious Prosecco. Think single vineyard, steep sloped, ‘cru’ Prosecco, sustainably farmed old vines from 300-350 metres rooted in poor, dry clay soils. The Adami family have been farming these soils for three generations, more than 90 years of experience in the terroir of Valdobbiadene {say it with me: val-dough-bee-add-den-nay}. The dedication shows in dry, characterful wines like this one. Brut (only 4 g/l residual sugar, with tight green apple, light almond, faint white acacia, bitter citrus pith and stone. The nimble palate rips along with driving acidity, leaving just a bit of textured mineral stoniness in its fresh wake. Tasted December 2015 – Treve Ring – 91

2014 Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry

Bisol’s bottling of Cartizze is on the drier side of ‘Dry’  (23 grams of sugar), lighter on the aromatics, but well-endowed with flavour intensity on the palate. Acids are quite high, balancing the sugar, and brought further into equilibrium by the relatively rich and full body. Good to very good length. A fine prosecco all in all, though at a considerable premium price. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 90

Sorelle Bronca Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut

A flagrantly aromatic, very floral, almost muscat-like expression of prosecco here from the Bronca sisters, full of orange peel and orange blossom aromatics, alongside more classic fresh, white fleshed fruit, pear and apple. The palate offers a vaguely sweet impression thanks mostly to ripe, concentrated fruit, in a widely appealing style. All in all this is lovely and fullish prosecco with genuine character and style, and very good length. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 90

2014 Malibràn Sottoriva Col Fondo Per Tradizione Vino Frizzante Colli Trevigiani IGT

Col Fondo is the prosecco designation for what’s essentially an ancestral method sparkling wine, bottled before the primary fermentation has finished. Spent yeast cells remain in the bottle, and the pressure is slightly lower than standard charmat method prosecco. Malibràn produces their version from pure glera grown in their vineyards all within the DOCG zone, though because it’s bottle under crown cap, it looses appellation status. The 2014 is very lightly cloudy, crisp, dry, appley, bone dry in fact, very pure and pleasant to drink. Although the complexity is ultimately modest, I love the purity on offer – this is delicious stuff. It’s a wine for the table, served alongside something like boudin blanc or fatty sausage.  Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 90

2014 Masottina Extra Dry Rive di Ogliano millesimato Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

The touch of sugar here in Masottina’s Extra-Dry single vineyard prosecco really lifts the aromatics; this is highly fragrant, reminiscent of off-dry riesling, one of the most fragrant in its class. Although it’s not terribly complex overall, it appeals above the average with its gentle and easy drinking manner. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

Vineyards, Conegliano-3743

Vineyards, Conegliano

Sommariva Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut

Sommariva could be called a” grower prosecco”, with sufficient estate vineyards around the town of Conegliano to supply all of their grape needs. This a classic Brut Superiore, bottled one month ago, composed of mostly 2014 vintage, with a touch of 2015 blended in to refresh. Grapes from a mix of old and young vines are given a short maceration before fermentation with selected yeast, and the wine is bottled with 10 grams residual sugar. The result is a rather dry, fleshy, flavourful, classically pear flavoured bubbly. Concentration and density are above the mean, as is the length. Textbook prosecco. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

2014 Astoria Brut Casa Vittorino Rive di Refrontolo millesimato Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

Astoria’s single vineyard bottling is done in a lightly oxidative and floral style, with gentle spring blossoms and pear/apple fruit mixing with more exotic tangerine-mandarin notes. The palate fullish and balanced-fresh, indeed nicely crisp and essentially dry. Gently effervescent drives the finish, of very good length. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

Tenuta degli Ultimi Brut Biancariva Rive di Collalto Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

Ultimi’s Biancariva offers relatively subtle aromatics on a dry, attractively svelte and tight frame. I like the tighter and more upright style, firm and coiled, with lots of tension but also elegance. Authentic. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

Vettori Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut

A classically light, oxidative-floral-lemon peel scented prosecco, like a refreshing gin & tonic, while the palate is dry, pleasantly lean and tight, balanced, crisp and lively. Solid substance and length. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

Costadilá Prosecco Col Fundo

This will change your perception of Prosecco. “Col fundo” signifies ancestral method, and is a style that a number of independent, adventuresome producers are exploring in Prosecco. Costadilá has made this wine naturally – no added sulphites or sugar, and with one fermentation in bottle (as it was in past times). Dry, crisp and exacting, with ample oxidative notes, apple cider, delicate stone, dried grasses, white peach blossom and delicate shortbread notes. Very light frizzante bubbles (3.5 bars of pressure) to gently lift the 11 percent alcohol. The bottle is not disgorged and has fine sediment in the bottom of the bottle. The winemaker recommends decanting, but I prefer to gently tilt the bottle back and forth to mix the sedimentary lees throughout. The result is a cloudy pour, but one with texture and interest. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88

Desiderio Bisol-3768

Desiderio Bisol

Bisol Desiderio Jeio Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

The Bisol family has been farming the famed hill of Cartizze since the 16th century. This, their lower entry tier of wines, is named for Desiderio Bisol, the current winemaker. Glera makes up the majority of this cuvée, accompanied by verdiso, pinot bianco and chardonnay. Crisp and bright, with the 9 g/l RS gobbled up by crunchy acidity. An appealingly dry riff of peach fuzz lingers on the finish. Treve Ring – 88

2014 Canella Prosecco Superiore di Conegliano Valdobiadene

Crisp apple, light stone and apple open this fresh prosecco, and carry on to the bright palate along with tight lemon blossoms, peach and pear. Subtle hint of bitter melon before a kiss of sweetness on the finish. Lovely for brunch or with prosciutto wrapped melon. Treve Ring – 88

Nino Franco Rustico Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

Nino Franco was founded in 1919 and is one of the oldest wineries in Valdobbiadene, and the winery is now overseen by the forth Franco generation. Fresh and juicy, with golden apple, white peach, tight pear and subtle hay. Lime pith acidity cuts the residual sugar handily, leaving the finish crisp and dry. Treve Ring – 88

Ruggeri Santa Stefano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Dry DOCG
Fresh peach, pear and pink grapefruit blossoms fill the mouth of this ‘Dry’ prosecco from the high-altitude sub-zone of Santo Stefano. The bracing acidity handles it very well, leaving an impression of mandarin orange. From one of the steeper and higher sub-zones in Valdobbiadene, most of the Santo Stefano fruit goes to the Ruggeri. The residual sugar in this prosecco ranges from 17 to 32g/l making it more of a patio sipper preferably with panettone or even fruit but you could pair it up with some spicy Asian rolls. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88

2013 Ruggeri Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Giustino B

Ringed with crisp, pithy pink grapefruit acidity and tight minerality, this extra dry prosecco is sourced from the hilltop ridges bordering the Dolomites. Refined and bright, with green apple and orchard pear, this carries the 16 g/l RS very well, leaving only pithy citrus in its wake. Pair with salads or sashimi. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88

Giusti Asolo Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry

Sourced from vineyards in the hills of Asolo, this pretty prosecco is extra dry, though it’s not overtly noticeable though the pithy pink grapefruit acids. Peach fuzz, red apple, pear blossom and gentle acacia fill the palate, one cushioned by the sugars and streamed by the high acidity, especially when kept nice and chilled. Melon and prosciutto, here you are. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88

2014 Foss Marai Prosecco Superiore Guia Millesimato Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

The steep hilled vineyard was first planted in the early 1900s by winemaker Carlo Biasiotto’s grandfather. A garden of white flowers and fine, green apple in this finessed Brut. Brisk pithy pink grapefruit acidity snaps on the finish. A delicate, feminine style. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88 

Bisol-3772

Bisol – Valdobbiadene

Bisol Jeio Prosecco Colmei Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Extra Dry

Jeio is the nickname for Desiderio, the founder of Bisol and the grandfather of the current generation, also Desiderio, to run the family company. This cuvée was first made in 1999. This bottling is all from the 2014 vintage (though labelled as NV), from grapes grown across the DOCG in both Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Stylistically it’s on the more fragrant and floral side of the spectrum, offering light spice, ginger and fresh herbs, while the palate is noticeably off-dry (with 16 grams of residual sugar), which broadens the appeal, but in a more commercial sense. Perfectly serviceable and fairly priced in any case, even if I’d love to see a brut version of it. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 87

Valdo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Marco Oro

This consistent extra dry Prosecco comes from the heartland of the region, Valdobbiadene DOCG. Candied grapefruit acidity gobbles up the sugar fairly well in this extra dry style (from 12-17 g/l RS), leaving an impression of sugared pear, candy apple, juicy peach, white flowers and candy necklace. Treve Ring – 87

Sorelle Bronca Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Particella

The 68 on the label refers to the official land registry plot number for the exact part of the hill in Colbertaldo where these grapes are grown, 250-320m high. Glera is splashed with Bianchetta and Perera, here creating a near-dry fizz with light white flowers, lemon peel, tight pear and yellow apple. Some powdered stone texture and bitter pear skin closes out the light palate. Treve Ring – 87

Bottega Gold Prosecco

Even though the distinctively blinged out Bottega Gold doesn’t carry DOCG on the label, it is entirely DOCG quality fruit. A quirk in the appellation laws dictate that the bottle has to be made of clear glass in a limited range of shades. Blingy, to be sure, but it’s what inside that counts. Very concentrated nose, with yellow apple, ripe pear and light toast throughout the creamy, gently frothy palate, and a perfumed floral note that floats the finish. Presents on the upper sweetness level for Brut. Unlike most charmat-produced Prosecco, Bottega Gold Bottega Gold is obtained from Glera grapes, but unlike other standard Proseccos, it is produced to order via just one fermentation in the winery’s specialized pressurized cuve close tanks for forty days. Treve Ring – 87

Terra Serena DOC Prosecco Treviso Frizzante

Ripe pear, pink florals and a fine pink grapefruit pith carry this simple, light (10.5 percent) Prosecco. Hints of almond tuck in on the bright palate, finishing with a brisk peach fuzz bitterness. Chill, use in cocktails or enjoy solo at breakfast/brunch. Tasted August 2016 – Treve Ring – 86

Follador Extra Dry Prosecco

Very perfumed florals, apple blossoms and pear throughout this sweeter prosecco (18 g/l RS). Tight citrus and crunchy pear acidity, finishes bright but with a twist of bitter fruit. Simple, chilled, for breakfast or tea time. Tasted June 2016 – Treve Ring – 86

 


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Top Values at the LCBO (August 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

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

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

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

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

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

Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

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

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


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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – August 20, 2016

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Top Picks from the August 20th VINTAGES release:

Big Thing Sparkling & Whites

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

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

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

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

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

Big Thing Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES August 20th, 2016

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August Whites

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


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

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

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


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Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Top Values at the LCBO (July 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

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

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


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Top Values at the LCBO (June 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

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

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


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

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

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

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


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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – April 2, 2016

2012 Anteprima Amarone and 2014 Valpolicella, and Top Smart Buys at VINTAGES
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report offers the fourth and final look at new releases from Italy, the 2016 edition of Anteprima Amarone focusing on the excellent 2012 vintage, which produced wines of great power, balance and longevity. I sifted through close to 80 wines to find a top dozen worth tracking down. I’m also hugely enthusiastic about straight-up Valpolicella, which is for me (and many producers) the most authentic expression of wine from the slender hills north of Verona (heresy!). I list my top picks from the 2014 vintage, which put terroir and production skills under a magnifying glass. (We’ve posted the Italy feature on its own page for easier reference)

David and I also collaborate on the April 2nd VINTAGES release, picking our top smart buys, following on last week’s Buyers’ Guide compiled by Sara and Michael. We’ve aligned on a terrific Left Bank Bordeaux and an excellent Niagara Riesling, before going down our own wine paths, as you are encouraged to do.

Buyers’ Guide: Smart Buys in White

Duquesa de Valladolid 2014 Verdejo, Rueda, Spain ($13.95)
John Szabo – Consider this your perfect summer house wine, unoaked, versatile, widely appealing, and attractively priced. Fresh tropical fruit flavours lead the way in sauvignon-esque style; enjoy nicely chilled.

Henry Of Pelham 2012 Estate Riesling, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($17.95)
John Szabo – Even in so-called warm vintages like 2012, riesling shines in Ontario (perhaps, counter-intuitively, even better than classic ‘cool’ vintages). Henry of Pelham’s estate riesling has hit a lovely drinking window, developing some fine, limey and petrol-like notes. The palate is just off-dry but balanced by bright acids, and the finish lingers impressively.
David Lawrason – We have been oft told that riesling is a great grape in Niagara, but as vines mature it is becoming more than just hear-say, as more very fine rieslings are emerging. This is bold, complex and structured with classic petrol, pear, and citrus aromas that stay nicely focused. And huge value!

Duquesa De Valladolid Verdejo 2014 Henry Of Pelham Estate Riesling 2012 Dr. Hermann From The Slate Riesling 2013 D'arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2014

Dr. Hermann 2013 From The Slate Riesling, Mosel, Germany ($17.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a wine to have on hand for all types of summer gatherings, for morning, afternoon or late night sipping. It’s clean, bright, sharp, fragrant and just off-dry, the sort of riesling you never tire of, lifted by a light CO2 prickle.

d’Arenberg 2014 The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($17.95)
John Szabo – An aromatically intense white blend, ideal for outdoor enjoyment. Oak-free ageing allows the attractively fragrant, floral-fruity character, full of violets, ripe nectarine and peach fruit, to take the fore, while hay and herbal notes add interest.

Loimer 2014 Langenlois Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria ($21.95)
John Szabo – Bright, clean, open and complex, this is a fine and energetic grüner from biodynamic producer Fred Loimer. I love the mid-palate richness framed by sharp acids, and the layers of citrus, white-fleshed orchard fruit and honeyed-waxy, earthy flavours. Best 2016-2020.

Momo 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95)
John Szabo – The immediately recognizable (and memorable) house style of Seresin is present in spades in the 2014 Momo, the estate’s ‘second’ wine, full of attractively flinty-reductive character, sharp but ripe acids, and palpably salty palate. This causes salivation in the most positive way. Fine length, too.

Loimer Grüner Veltliner 2014 Momo Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Roland Tissier & Fils Sancerre 2014 Clos Du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay 2013

Roland Tissier & Fils 2014 Sancerre, Loire Valley, France ($27.95)
David Lawrason – After sifting through several sauvignons on this release, out popped the winner, with all its fragrant finery and spry, compact palate. Unless you are regular buyer of Sancerre you might feel that it’s too expensive for sauvignon, but this style is an easy transition from New Zealand and worth every penny. It’s light bodied, super fresh and delicious with firm, mouth-watering acidity.

Clos du Bois 2013 Calcaire Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County ($29.95)
David Lawrason – It’s fashionable to dismiss opulently fruity California chardonnays in favour of leaner mineral driven Burgundy inspired models, but this quintessential Sonoma chardonnay should not be missed. It has plush vanilla cream, brulee, peach pie, hazelnut aromas and flavours. I expected it to be richer and heavier, but it actually sits on the palate with considerable poise and tenderness.

Buyers’ Guide: Smart Buys in Red

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2013

Château Beau-Site 2009Château Beau Site 2009, Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux ($47.95)
David Lawrason – Well here’s a grand surprise! From a hot vintage in Bordeaux this packs in all kinds of fruit and class! It has very lifted cedary, roasted, savoury and meaty nose with underlying currants and herbs. This is a significant wine, rich, dense, balanced and showing excellent length. Dare I say even excellent value at almost $50. Collectors alert!
John Szabo – Ditto what David said: this is a classic, albeit very ripe, left Bank Bordeaux showing really well at the moment, fullish, firm, succulent, savoury, really well balanced and slightly forward, given the nature of the vintage. Although it’s drinking well now, it will easily hold into the mid-twenties and beyond. Best 2016-2029.

Jim Barry 2013 The Lodge Hill Shiraz, Clare Valley, South Australia ($24.95)
John Szabo – Barry has crafted a fine 2013 Lodge Hill Shiraz, pleasantly high-toned, floral and fruity, blue and black fruit scented without excessive oak influence. Acids are a bit hard for the moment, but another 2-3 years should see this through to attractive balance. Best 2017-2023.

Château Lamartine 2011 Cuvée Particulière, Cahors, France ($26.95)
John Szabo – Made from over 50 year old vines, aged in 2nd and 3rd fill barrels, I’ve been a fan of this wine for many years. It’s a malbec of class and character, depth and substance, that manages to seamlessly blend the old world rusticity of Cahors with the new world fruitiness of Argentinian versions for a compelling and complex expression overall. Tannins are abundant but polished, but it’s the extra dimension of the palate that sets this apart. Many Bordeaux would kill for the depth and complexity at the price. Best 2016-2026.

The Chocolate Block 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($39.95)
David Lawrason – Created by Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, this is a hugely successful ‘modern’ South African red. Despite the name, the syrah-based Chocolate Block is not sweet. It is heavily toasted and smoky yes, with all kinds of cedar/pine, coffee, cured meats and peppery/clove spice. It is lush, rich and dense, with considerable power.

Château Lamartine Cuvée Particulière 2011 The Chocolate Block 2013 Dauvergne Ranvier Grand Vin Cotes Du Rhône Villages 2013 Torres Salmos 2012

Dauvergne Ranvier 2013 Grand Vin Cotes du Rhône-Villages, France ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is a nicely ripe, balanced and juicy young Rhone with typical plummy fruit, licorice, meaty and peppery character. The kind of red you will enjoy immensely with casual mid-week meals, or with a charcuterie board.

Torres 2012 Salmos, Priorat, Spain ($30.95)
David Lawrason – Within the realm of powerful Priorats, Torres Salmos is among the prettiest and lightest examples. I love the nose – very lifted with new oak, vanilla finery, ripe blackcurrant/blackberry fruit, and some sense of Priorat tar and stoniness. It has firm acidity, energy and minerality, but nothing too intense or brawny or hot. A good intro to the genre, and affordable.

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

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES April 2, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
All April 2nd Reviews

Italy Report: 2012 Anteprima Amarone & 2014 Valpolicella

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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Bill’s Best Bets – March 2016

The March Cellier release
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Spring is around the corner and while we still have at least another month of winter before us, the SAQ seems to already be there. Over the past month I have been tasting a number of lighter reds, many whites and even a few rosés.

And that’s fine with me. While many folks prefer this style of wines in the summer, these are the wines I drink year round. So what’s new? Here are a number of suggestions from the recent Cellier New Arrivals, which put the accent on Italian wines.

Let’s start with the exceptional. Two wines from the opposite ends of Italy caught my attention, both made with grapes I’m sure few have heard about. From Sicily, grown in the volcanic soils of Etna, is Tenuta della Terre’s 2014 Etna Rosso. Nerello mascalese is the grape and fans of nebbiolo-styled elegance will rejoice. From the northern region of Trentino Alto Adige, Foradori’s 2013 Teroldego Rotaliano is one again, and the wine is a marvel of complexity. So mineral, and so drinkable at 12% alcohol.

Tenuta Della Terre Nere Etna 2014 Azienda Agricola Foradori Teroldego 2013 Mascarello Giuseppe E Figlio Toetto 2007 Albino Piona Bardolino 2012

Staying in the north, for those of you who love lighter styled reds, try the 2007 Mascarello Toetta. Made with the freisa grape, this shows a profile similar to nebbiolo – great acid and florals though less tannin. While most Valpolicella Superiore can be a bit bland, in the neighbouring appellation of Bardolino, Albino Pinoa raises the bar of what corvina and rondinella can achieve. Beautiful fruit without resorting to drying the grapes in a ripasso style.

If you want a ripasso, then look no further than Pra’s 2013 Ripsasso. Incredible elegance and finesse and a wine that will keep and age beautifully over the next 10 years. In many ways it shows as much depth and complexity as an Amarone. In a similar vein, the Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2013 Telos il Rosso will please Ripasso fans with a mid-weight wine that shows beautiful fruit.

Pra Valpolicella Superiore 2013 Tenuta S Antonio Telos Il Rosso 2013 Lungarotti L'U 2012 Tua Rita Palazzetto 2013 Borgo Scopeto E Carpazo Borgonero 2011

While Ripasso styled wines are more a modern version of Italian winemaking, Veneto is not the only place where one finds a hint of modernity. Under $20, both Lungarotti’s 2012 L’U and Tua Rita’s 2013 Palazzetto show how cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese can produce a wine that despite its international leanings, can still “drink” very  Italian. Equally interesting is the 2011 Borgonero from Borgo Scopeto E Carpazo. A blend of sangiovese, cab and syrah.

But nothing replaces the classics and two of my favourite wines were Cantina Zaccagnini 2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Fontodi 2012 Chianti Classico. Just enough fruit and brilliant acidities. These two have power and will sing best at the table.

Zaccagnini dal Tralcetto Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2013 Fontodi Chianti Classico 2012 Marco De Bartoli Vignaverde 2014 Domaine Cazes Le Canon Du Maréchal 2015 Alternatus Fiano 2015

If you are a fan of white wines, then one of the most unique whites I have tasted in a while comes from Marco de Bartoli. His 2014 Vignaverde is made 100% with the grape grillo and shows melony fruit with a solid mineral streak. Well worth the $26 price tag.

Looking for a great aperitif wine that will work well with lighter seafood. Then look no further than the 2015 Canon de Marechal from Domaine Cazes. Hard to find wine this much fun to drink at $17. One white that blew me away was Angove’s 2015 Fiano. Taken from its native growing zone in southern Italy, in Australia’s McLaren Vale it seems equally at home. Great texture and minerality, that’s what fiano brings and more Australian wineries should be growing it.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris De Cigare Rosé 2015 Château La Tour De L'evêque Pétale De Rose Rosé 2015 Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2015And as we are getting some warmer days, I have already started drinking rosé on my porch in the sun. There are three SAQ classics that in 2015 are showing why they are consistently, year after year, part of my drinking repertory. The Pive Gris, Petale de Rose and Vin Gris De Cigare are all up to the high standards they have set for themselves. So no need to wait until May to start drinking great pink wine, they are already here.

Spring is coming folks!

Bill

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

CELLIER Premium Feature

For Chacun son Vin Premium members, we have something to make your CELLIER shopping even easier. If you look under the Wine tab in the menu bar, you will see an option for <<CELLIER New Arrivals>>. By clicking here, you will be brought to a new page where we have grouped all of the new release wines and reviews together by date.

You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to Chacun son vin 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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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Mar 19, 2016

Highlights from March 19th, Taste Ontario and Cuvée
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report shines a spotlight on local wines in the wake of two big Ontario wine tastings last week. There was palpable energy at the ROM for Taste Ontario, where an impressively large contingent of sommeliers, media and wine buyers had gathered to take the pulse on the latest Ontario vintages releases. I share some of my top new picks here. The 28th edition of Cuvée also rolled out in Niagara Falls last weekend, and Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel each select three of their most memorable wines from the gala tasting.

The March 19th VINTAGES release features yet more Italian wines. And at the risk of over saturating you with vino, I’ve picked out two irresistible bargains, a red and a white both under $20. Also included is a trilogy of smart buys from South Africa that has your dinner covered from bubbles to main course, and a pair of outrageous $13.95 values from the Iberian peninsula.

Taste Ontario Highlights: 2013s and 2014s 

This year’s Taste Ontario event featured mostly wines from the 2014 and 2013 vintages, with the rare early release 2015 thrown in. After the warm 2012 vintage, 2013 saw a return to more ‘normal’ temperatures on average, although with highly variable weather, with occasional disruptions caused by inopportune rains especially towards the end of the growing season.

Earlier ripening varieties fared best, and it has turned out to be an excellent year for the grapes Ontario does well most consistently, namely riesling and chardonnay, as well as other aromatic white varieties. For reds the top pinots are spectacular, refined and fragrant wines, while cabernet franc returned to its appropriate cool climate style, certainly a local strength. The harvest was the largest on record, so there will be plenty of wine to go around.

Many of you will recall the brutal polar vortexes of winter in 2014 – I recall some 20 days in February with temperatures below -10ºC, and many days well below -20ºC. It seemed like the winter that would never end (how much nicer has this winter been?) Grapes, of course, suffered, and it was a stark reminder to growers that Ontario’s climate is not suitable to the ludicrously wide variety of grapes grown here. Tender grapes like syrah, semillon, sauvignon blanc and merlot were reduced to next to zero crop in many vineyards, if not killed outright by the repeated pummelling of glacial polar air masses. Quantities, needless to say, were down sharply. The positive side is that there’s now a better appreciation of matching site to variety. Vineyards that required re-planting will presumably feature varieties more suitable to the site.

Bizarre, challenging, cool weather continued through the summer and harvest was later than normal, again favouring early ripening grapes – Bordeaux varieties, with perhaps the exception of cabernet franc, were tough to get fully ripe. Yet despite all the cruel inclemency of Mother Nature, many winegrowers managed to pull out some exceptional wines, especially whites (most of the ‘reserve’ reds have yet to be released), and to them, chapeau bas.

One thing was clear from Taste Ontario: the number of wineries producing excellent wines is clearly on the rise. Each time I turn around there’s another player with a great new addition to the Ontario wine scene, while established producers continue to maintain high quality standards.

Below are some 2013-2014 highlights:

Thomas Bachelder/Queylus

Domaine Queylus Cabernet Franc Tradition 2013 Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013Thomas Bachelder seems to have gotten it all right in 2013, crafting some of his best wines yet under his own label, as well as Domaine Queylus, the up-and-coming project for which he is régisseur – head winemaker and estate manager. His 2013 Bachelder Lowrey Pinot Noir, St. David’s Bench ($44.95) from a choice parcel of the well-tended and sought-after Lowrey vineyard is a gorgeous wine. After the more burly and structured 2012, 2013 conspired to yield wines of paler colour, silkier texture and more haunting perfume – this is just how I imagine Bachelder would like his pinot noir to be (or at least how I’d like them to be). This is toute en finesse, filigree and lacy, with unexpected but genuine depth and length, for fans of finessed pinot. Bravo. Best 2016-2023.

Over at Domaine Queylus, Bachelder’s Signature Pinot Noir ($29.95) is a similar though slightly more saturated garnet red, with appealing, candied red fruit flavours leading. There’s no wood influence outside of Bachelder’s trademark oxidative styling, and light tannins and moderate acids make this a wine for short to mid term ageing, best 2016-2020. The 2013 Domaine Queylus Cabernet Franc ‘Tradition’ ($24.95) is likewise the best yet under this label, a lovely, floral, fragrant, lightly herbal expression well within the classic varietal idiom, attractively priced. Serve this with a light chill. Best 2016-2023.

Rosewood

Still in the pinotsphere, the 2013 Rosewood Estates Winery Select Series Pinot Noir Niagara Escarpment ($21.95) is a rare sub-$25 value in this rarefied category. Varietally authentic pinot at this price is hard to come by, so don’t hesitate to buy several bottles of this high-toned, floral, pot-pourri-inflected example, crafted in an appealing, gently oxidative style for immediate enjoyment. Drink with a light chill over the next 2-3 years.

Rosewood Select Series Pinot Noir 2013 Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2013 Cave Spring Estate Cabernet Franc 2013

Cave Spring

Venerable Cave Spring Cellars quietly continues to make some of Niagara’s most reliable wines, and have been particularly en form in the last few vintages. Long time fans will not be surprised to see the 2014 Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV Beamsville Bench ($29.95) recommended here, the latest release of one of Canada’s most consistent and best, made from the estate’s oldest vines, the oldest of which have already celebrated their 40th birthday. It’s tightly wound and still a long way from prime drinking, but this shows classic styling, more stony than fruity, mid-weight but authoritative and palate gripping, with palpable chalky texture and great length. Revisit in 2-3 years, or leave in the cellar for a decade or more.

Also impressive from Cave Springs is the 2013 Cabernet Franc Estate ($29.95), a fine and floral, ripe and lightly cacao-inflected expression with delicate structure, lively but balanced acids and very pretty styling all around. In 1-2 years this will have fully digested its oak component, leaving a perfumed and silky wine in its place. Best 2017-2023.

2027 Cellars

2013 Wismer Vineyard - Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2027 Cellars Aberdeen Road Vineyard 2013Winemaker Kevin Panagapka has slowly been expanding the range of wines under his virtual 2027 Cellars label (made at Featherstone Winery). Single vineyard chardonnay and riesling are his strongest suits in my view, and 2013 in particular seems to have lent itself to his typically tightly wound, ageworthy style. The first edition that I’ve tasted of the Aberdeen Road Vineyard Chardonnay Beamsville Bench ($30.00), is just such a wine, aromatically reticent despite 18 months in wood, with loads of palpable extract and sheer density evident – a genuine, solid mouthful of wine. It has power and depth in spades, and needs another 2-3 years at least to unfurl. Best 2018-2023. For more instant gratification, track down Panagapka’s 2013 Wismer Vineyard – Fox Croft Block Chardonnay Niagara Escarpment ($22.95), a more open and notably toasty Niagara chardonnay with verve and energy. It’s a terrific value for cool climate, oak-aged chardonnay fans.

Malivoire

I don’t generally consider pinot gris to be a great white hope for Ontario, but the Malivoire Wine Company makes a convincing argument with the barely bottled 2015 Pinot Gris Niagara Escarpment ($19.95). It’s still a touch sulphury at this early stage, but shows excellent promise for near-term development. The palate is lively, vibrant, succulent and appealingly saline, with great acids and excellent drive through the long finish. Let it sit for another few months and crack for mid-end summer enjoyment, or into autumn.

Rosehall Run

Rosehall Run Ceremony Blanc De Blanc Brut Malivoire Pinot Gris 2015And finally, over in Prince Edward County, Rosehall Run enters the increasingly crowded local sparkling wine market with a strong release, CEREMONY Blanc de Blanc Brut ($34.95), made from pure County fruit. It’s a well-balanced, rich and flavourful sparkling chardonnay, made from evidently fully ripe grapes with high flavour intensity, yet vibrant acids and fine tension and energy. Length and depth are superb, and dosage is well measured.

Cuvée Highlights

The 28th edition of Cuvée rolled out in Niagara Falls last weekend, organized by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI). For the past few editions, the Cuvée gala tasting has featured a ‘winemakers choice’ – a wine from the portfolio of each of 48 participating VQA wineries, deemed special by the winemaker him/herself. Wines were paired with signature dishes from 12 celebrated local chefs at live cooking stations.

It’s more than just a drinking-and-grazing industry party, however. Proceeds from the event go to the Cuvée Legacy Fund, which awards academic scholarships and contributes towards industry-driven research projects. “Not only does Cuvée showcase the finest VQA wines to consumers, it helps the industry continue to grow by funding valuable research and scholarships,” says CCOVI director Debbie Inglis. That’s a reasonably good cause to wine and dine, a sort of virtuous circle of investment.

Beautiful Niagara Falls

Beautiful Niagara Falls

Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel select three of their most memorable wines below.

Cattail Creek 2014 Small Lot Series Old Vines Riesling, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Cattail Creek’s 1976 planted riesling is one of Ontario’s oldest blocks. In 2014 Roselyn Dyck and consulting winemaker Steve Byfield let the vintage and the old vines speak for themselves. The result is nothing short of impossible, or remarkable.
Sara d’Amato – Produced from some of the oldest, if not the oldest riesling vines in Niagara planted in 1975 and ’76. With a steely, mineral character and a subtle and slow build of flavour on the palate, the wine offers exceptional elegance at a steal of a price. Bone dry, tart but not austere, this is classic Niagara riesling.

Fielding Viognier 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($25.95)
Michael Godel – In a Niagara Peninsula discussion of what grape varieties to plant and where, winemaker Richie Roberts has more than a vested interest in viognier. If the 2013 from Fielding Estate helped decipher the code of the how, where and why, this follow up 2014 speaks at the symposium.

Cattail Creek Small Lot Series Old Vines Riesling 2014 Fielding Viognier 2014 Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Réserve 2013 Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2013 Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 12 140 Syrah 2012

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Réserve 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($44.95)
Michael Godel – It’s a tale of two vineyards, the Grand Cru of Neudorf and the upstart Queylus. Two inexorable blocks, running west to east, spoken through the lens of Pinot Noir. The middle sibling in the three that are made at Queylus is blessed with wisdom and a tale of future memories created in the here and now. So very young, it is the strongest reminder that reconciliation takes time.

Thirty Bench 2013 Small Lot Pinot Noir, Beamsville Bench $35.00 (Winery Only)
Sara d’Amato – Grapes for the Small Lot Pinot Noir were planted in 2000 and have started to produce outstanding wines. Modern, peppery and floral, this is a pinot with a great deal of charm and character. Emma Garner really shows her prowess in this impressive vintage.

Rockway Vineyards 2012 Small Lot Syrah Block 12-140, Twenty Mile Bench, $29.95 (Winery Only)
Sara d’Amato – Of the many skillfully produced syrahs that were showcased at Cuvée, Rockway’s Small Lot Block 12-140 had the perfect blend of cool climate expression and modern, fruity appeal. Sophisticated and beautifully balanced with a punch of acidity brightening the rich, spicy palate.

Buyers’ Guide to March 19th: More Italian Wine and other Smart Buys 

Jerzu Chuèrra Riserva Cannonau Di Sardegna 2011 Terredora Di Paolo Loggia Della Serra Greco Di Tufo 2014Fans of distinctive wines should make a b-line to the ‘Other Italy’ section of VINTAGES and grab a bottle or two of the Terredora di Paolo 2014 Loggia Della Serra Greco di Tufo DOCG, Campania, Italy ($19.95). It’s an intense and characterful white, one of the best in the Terredora portfolio, and consistently one of Campania’s most impressive whites. This is all lemon oil and fresh and dried herbs, wet volcanic rock and fresh earth – distinctive to be sure, perhaps too much so to be truly widely appealing, a wine lover’s wine to be sure.

Sardinia’s version of garnacha finds a fantastic expression in the Antichi Poderi Jerzu 2011 Chuèrra Riserva Cannonau di Sardegna DOC, Sardinia, Italy ($17.95), one of the most characterful reds in the March 19th release. Revel in the spicy-earthy complexity with a whack of ripe, dark berry fruit, laced with Mediterranean scrub. A very tasty wine for the money, over-delivering in the category.

South Africa comes up big in the quality/value category, starting with the refined and toasty traditional method Graham Beck 2010 Premier Cuvée Brut Blanc De Blancs, WO Robertson, South Africa ($23.95), from one of South Africa’s sparkling specialists. It’s on the richer side of the scale, nicely mature now, with excellent length.

With the next course pull out the Vinum Africa 2013 Chenin Blanc, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa ($15.95), a wine made with care but following a more natural, non-interventionalist approach. Wild yeast, and no temperature control during fermentation shift this out of the simple and fruity category (and there’s a touch of acetic acid, but well within bounds) into a wine focused on texture, depth and extract. I’d decant this and serve at cellar temperature in large glasses alongside poultry/veal or pork – something substantial in any case.

Shifting to red, the Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof 2011 Syrah, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa ($24.95) is a classy and quite elegant, mid-weight, succulent and juicy syrah from arch-classicist Rustenberg. Tannins are firm and fine, acids lively, and the overall length and depth, and especially complexity, in the price category are impressive. It’s drinking well now, but will surely be better in 2-3 years.

Graham Beck Premier Cuvée Brut Blanc De Blancs 2010 Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2013 Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah 2011 Mondeco Red 2010 Olivares Altos De La Hoya Monastrell 2013

And over to the Iberian Peninsula for two outrageous values from opposite ends of the style spectrum. Fans of lighter and zestier reds need look no further that the 2010 Mondeco Red, DO Dão Portugal ($13.95). This is high-pitched and floral, elegantly-styled Dão, with light tannins, designed to be enjoyed now with a light chill. But if you’re searching for a more substantial red, than the Olivares Altos De La Hoya 2013 Monastrell, DO Jumilla Spain ($13.95) is for you. This has all of the masses of bold and dark, jammy fruit and abundant oak spice that are normally found in wines at considerably higher prices. Best 2016-2021.

Attention Trade – Taste Ontario! is coming to Ottawa

For members of the trade in the Ottawa area, you will have your opportunity to explore the latest Ontario vintages releases on Wednesday, March 30th at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. Please note that this event is reserved for hospitality trade and media and is not open to the general public. Register or find out more here: www.eventbrite.ca/e/taste-ontario-ottawa-trade-and-media-wine-tasting

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

 

From VINTAGES March 19, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All March 19th 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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Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

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20 Under $20 in BC : March 2016

Spring is Springing 

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

~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rhys Pender MW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DJ Kearney

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treve Ring 

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

WineAlign in BC

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

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


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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008