WineAlign

Find the right wine at the right price, right now.

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Feb 6, 2016

In the Name of Love
By Sara d’Amato with wine notes from David Lawrason and John Szabo MS

Sara's New Pic Med

Sara d’Amato

‘Tis the month of love, loving, perhaps love-ins, whatever your brand of romance, we have a wine for you. From the city of love, Verona, to the escapist power of Hungarian Tokaji to the aromas of the wind-blown, sunny slopes of Provence – we have all of your romantic destinations covered. So save yourself the airfare and instead spend your precious Canadian dollars at home savoring faraway lands.

If daydreaming of lands afar doesn’t satisfy your cravings, be sure to take in our homegrown selections from Ontario and BC where plush, enveloping merlot and fleshy gewürztraminer are sure to tempt. More babies are born in the early fall than any other season reports Stats Canada, surely caused by our local selection of fragrant, fireside reds and spine-tingling whites best for blistering nights.

In the words of Latin America’s outspoken writer and activist Eduardo Galeano: “We are all mortal till the first kiss and the second glass of wine.” So transcend this mortal coil by indulging with those that matter most this Valentine’s week. We at WineAlign will be doing the same with our top picks from this most important release.

Buyer’s Guide to February 6th: Sparkling, White & Sweet

Taittinger Brut Champagne 2008

Lallier Grand Cru Rosé ChampagneLallier Grand Cru Rosé Champagne, Champagne, France ($58.95)
David Lawrason – This would be my pick to express the depth of your affection on Valentine’s Day. It is very classy, generous pink bubbly with all kinds of freshness, fine fruit, taut minerality and excellent length. It is sourced largely from estate-grown fruit in Grand Cru sites in the Champagne region. This small house was founded in 1903, but purchased by Francis Tribaut in 1984.

Taittinger 2008 Brut Champagne, Champagne, France ($97.95)
Sara d’Amato – Impressive wine has emerged from the rocky 2008 vintage in Champagne and this elegant, lightly matured example sets a high bar. This elegant and savory sparkler with a touch of creamy lees on the palate and a great deal of freshness would make for a cherished Valentine’s gift.

Domaine de Bellene 2013 Les Charmes Dessus Santenay, Burgundy, France ($35.95)
John Szabo – This is a lovely Santenay blanc from Nicolas Potel’s estate vineyards in the Les Charmes Dessus lieu-dit, crafted in the classic style. It’s flavourful but lean, very gently wood-inflected, spicy, savoury, and with a strong hit of umami, and tight enough to need another year or two in the cellar to fully express itself. Depth and complexity in the Burgundy category are exceptional for the price. Best 2017-2023.

Tinhorn Creek 2014 Gewürztraminer, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – It is tough to produce a gewürztraminer with such fine balance and upbeat manner despite the characteristic fatness of the varietal. Compelling aromas of lime, ginger and tender blossom are followed by a lightly sweet, ethereal palate. Don’t underestimate the seductive power of a voluptuous gewürztraminer.
David Lawrason – The Okanagan Valley is rounding into shape as one of the world’s best gewurz regions – not unlike Alsace in aspect with a northerly latitude to preserve acidity, and vineyards that sit in a rain shadow creating plenty of warmth in the growing season. This National Wine Awards gold medalist is very intense and complex with all kinds of spice, lychee, lavender and spearmint. It’s medium-full bodied, off-dry yet very well balanced with great flavour focus. Chill fairly well.

Tiago Cabaço 2014 Premium White, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal ($14.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a tidy little value from southern Portugal, a fruity-floral, engagingly aromatic white blend free from oak, with light-weight palate and crunchy, saliva-inducing acids. This is all about the citrus and nectarine flavours, fresh sweet herbs and yellow flowers. Nicely crafted.

Domaine de Bellene Les Charmes Dessus Santenay 2013 Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2014 Tiago Cabaço Premium White 2014 Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015 Gróf Degenfeld Tokaji Szamorodni Sweet 2010

Ken Forrester 2015 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a bargain white – a well balanced, fairly smooth chenin that seems poised to age well. I have had vertical tastings of this wine going back over ten vintages and it becomes very complex. But that’s not to suggest you shouldn’t drink it now. It nicely expresses chenin pear/quince, honey, spicy and waxy aromas and flavours.

Gróf Degenfeld 2010 Tokaji Szamorodni Sweet, Hungary ($18.95)
John Szabo – A sweet but balanced and lively, unusually fresh szamorodni (most are purposely heavily oxidative in style), that would make a great restaurant by-the-glass pour (bottles last several weeks after opening). I enjoyed the pleasant quince, dried apple and pear fruit flavours, and the lingering finish, a fine value all in all. Best 2016-2022.

Buyer’s Guide to February 6th: Reds

Grandes Serres 2012 Rocca Luna, Beaumes de Venise, Rhône, France ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – One whiff of this utterly enchanting Beaumes de Venise from Grandes Serres will transport you to the fragrant, arid, sunny and rocky landscape of the southern Rhône.  Although the appellation of Beaumes de Venise is better known for its sweet muscat, it also produces some top notch reds of good value such as this typical blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre.

Monte del Frá Lena di Mezzo 2013 Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore, Veneto, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo – I find the entire ripasso category challenging, highly varied in style and quality, but Monte del Frà finds the right approach in my view, in this case a balanced and well crafted expression, without excesses of raisined or volatile fruit character, or obtrusive wood, and genuinely dry. It’s an attractively crisp and crunchy red, just with a little more bottom and back end than the (also very good) straight up Valpolicella from the same producer in this release. Best 2016-2023.

Grandes Serres Rocca Luna Beaumes De Venise 2012 Monte del Frá Lena di Mezzo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2013 Cenyth Red Blend 2010 Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2013

Cenyth 2010 Red Blend, Sonoma County, California, USA ($68.95)
Sara d’Amato – Of the Jackson Family of Wines portfolio, Cenyth is the first commercial winemaking project of Hélène Seillan, the daughter of revered Bordelaise winemaker Pierre Seillan. Having studied in France and raised in Bordeaux and Sonoma, her wine feels both traditional and edgy.  There is serious structure here, depth and an abundance of flavours yet to be unveiled. A collector’s find.

Boutari Naoussa 2013 Xinomavro, Naoussa, Greece ($13.95)
John Szabo – Still performing at the top end of the value ladder, I think I’ve recommended virtually every vintage of this reliable bottling from Boutari since I’ve been reporting on wine. The 2013 is another classic, full of dusty, savoury, herbal character, firm but not unyielding texture, and long, dried strawberry-tinged finish. This vintage is reminiscent of good Chianti Classic, for example, and hard to top for value in a flamboyantly old world style red. Best 2016-2023.

Viña Chocalán 2014 Reserva Syrah, Maipo Valley, Chile ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is the bargain New World red of the release pours very deep black purple syrah colour. Expect lifted, surprising complex syrah pepper, boysenberry, licorice, plus thyme and coffee grounds. It’s full bodied, dense, edgy and concentrated.

Viña Chocalán Reserva Syrah 2014 Quadrus Red 2010 Creekside Merlot 2013 Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Quadrus 2010 Red, Douro Valley, Portugal ($21.95)
David Lawrason – So many Douro reds show great value in their classic Euro way. This has a nicely lifted, intense nose of pomegranate-blueberry fruit with peppery, spicy and stony complexity. It’s medium-full bodied with classic Douro tension and granitic minerality. Excellent length. Just starting to mature – should live easily beyond 2020.

Creekside 2013 Merlot, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario, Canada ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – The 2013 vintage in Niagara saw growers scrambling to keep up with wild weather patterns and is generally considered a better year for cooler climate varietals such as riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir. However, winemaker Rob Power shows his experience by assembling a perfectly ripe merlot with great finesse.

Paul Hobbs 2012 Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California  ($49.95)
David Lawrason – This collectible/cellarable cabernet has more complexity and precision than I expected – in fact it has excellent structure within the New World genre, and it should age very well. Expect a lifted, quite fragrant floral nose with finely tuned cassis, mocha, meaty notes and a touch of mint. Within the rarefied air of premium California cabernets this one stands out for value.

For those looking to treat themselves to additional selections from the February 6th release, see Michael Godel’s recent piece regarding the changing face of South African wine where you’ll find an abundance of hedonistic options.

Santé,

Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES February 6, 2016

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

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


Advertisement
Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Feb 6, 2016

To Taste or Not To Taste; Beautiful Southern France
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Controversy is currently swirling around Ontario’s own appellation system, regulated by the Vintners Quality Alliance, or the VQA to you and me. A growing number within the industry believe that it’s time to do away with, or at least modify, the sensory – i.e. tasting – evaluation, which all VQA-aspiring wines must pass to earn the VQA designation. Does the VQA’s current definition of “free of faults and defects”, and “character and typicity of the stated wine category or grape variety”, match the reality of the ever-evolving wine world? Is the acceptable style range too narrow, stifling innovation, creativity, and, paradoxically, suppressing the potential quality of locally grown wines? I share some thoughts on the matter, and would love to hear yours.

If you’re more interested in the excellent and surprising wines from Southern France featured in the February 6th VINTAGES release, skip directly to the top smart buys. Next week, the Buyers’ Guide will highlight all of the WineAlign crü’s top picks from February 6th, while Michael Godel will publish a lyrical piece on developments in South Africa (the mini-theme from the release), along with currently available smart buys from this excellent source of value wines.

Op Ed: To Taste, or Not to Taste?

Last month I sat down with Vintners Quality Alliance executive director Laurie MacDonald, winemakers Norman Hardie and Jonas Newman, and wine industry veterans Will Predhomme and Peter Boyd, to discuss the state of the Ontario wine industry, and specifically the role of the Vintners Quality Alliance tasting panel. The VQA is Ontario’s appellation authority, which guarantees provenance, and regulates production, authorized grapes, and labeling. Additionally, all wines hoping for the VQA seal are put through a rigorous blind tasting to evaluate quality and varietal character before earning a pass.

Hardie had called the meeting to raise some concerns about the future of the industry, leveraging recent comments by respected British critic Jancis Robinson, who wrote after a tasting last May in London that, although there were some notable highlights, “several Chardonnays had that slightly formulaic pineapple-chunk quality that I more readily associate with the 1980s and early 1990s than with this century…”

Although Hardie agrees that the tasting panel has played an important role in raising the overall quality of Ontario wines during the past quarter century, protecting their fragile reputation in the beginning, he, along with a growing number of winemakers, contend that the tasting panel is forcing uniformity and standardization on Ontario wines, but not in the positive sense, and preventing innovation and evolution. Although the lows are screened out, so are the highs, which lie outside of the mainstream, a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Hardie’s own 2008 County Chardonnay failed the VQA tasting panel after multiple submissions for a technical fault – excessive sulphides (aka reduction, or flintiness) – despite strong demand from Ontario restaurants, and critical claim at home and abroad. (It was eventually narrowly passed by an appeals panel). Other high-profile failures in the past include Pearl-Morissette’s ‘Black Ball’ Riesling, deemed atypical and oxidized, though it, too, has garnered somewhat of a cultish following in Toronto sommelier circles.

The Benefits of VQA Designation

VQA Logo Leaf B_G BorderNone of this would matter much if obtaining VQA designation weren’t so critical to the financial success of a business. Wines without VQA status (but still 100% grown and produced in Ontario) are forcibly sold at far slimmer margins, under government laws, while VQA-approved wines enjoy significantly enhanced profit margins.

For example, according to a pricing calculator provided by Duncan Gibson, Director of Finance for the Wine Council of Ontario, from a $19.95 bottle of VQA wine sold directly to a restaurant, the winery retains $14.38. The same bottle of wine without VQA designation, sold to the same restaurant at the same price, earns the winery just $9.64, a 33% reduction in profits. Furthermore, non-VQA wines are effectively excluded from the LCBO’s retail distribution network, which leaves only cellar door or licensee-direct sales opportunities. The difference, especially for small wineries, is quite literally the life or death of the business.

As Norm Hardie puts it: “The economic pressure to pass [the VQA tasting panel] is enormous. Winemakers are encouraged to aim inside the box and not to shoot for potential greatness outside of the box, for fear of failure. Without the VQA sticker it is practically impossible for a winery to stay to economically viable.”

Eliminate the margin double standard and the problem is resolved – the panel could carry on maintaining the same standards for VQA wines, while other wineries would be free to pursue their own quality vision for Ontario wines without risking profitability, under some generic appellation designation. The aim of the financial incentive was, logically, to support the nascent Ontario industry, and encourage production of wines that met with VQA approval. But now, it has become a hindrance to further development. As I understand from MacDonald, however, quashing it would require a major government mobilization and take years to push through.

The Panel Process

The VQA hires the LCBO to facilitate the tasting panel process: trained LCBO product consultants taste groups of submitted wines blind at the LCBO laboratory, applying a set of rigid quality standards, established by the VQA. Arbitrary standards are set for acceptable levels, of, for example, volatile acidity, oxidation, sulphides, lack of fruit, and unclean aromas and flavours. And it’s a very tightly run ship. Guidelines, and the results and approval rates, are consistent. That’s not the issue. The real issue is the guidelines themselves.

So the question remains: is the VQA tasting panel’s definition of wine too restrictive? Does upholding minimum quality and style standards come at the expense of stifling experimentation and industry development?

Many, including winemakers and wine buyers, feel that rather than ensure quality, the restrictive mandate of the panel instead now shackles the industry within a very narrow band of acceptable wine styles. Is it time then to eliminate the panel, or at least broaden its definition of acceptable, and allow companies the scope and latitude to follow their own vision of quality?

Such a move would simply recognize the reality that the world wine industry has changed radically in the last decade, and that the thresholds of acceptance of certain aspects of wine, such as volatile acidity, turbidity, oxidation, and brettanomyces, to name just a few, are in constant flux, and change from region to region, country to country, sommelier to sommelier, wine writer to wine writer.

Never has this been more clear than in the last half-dozen years, which have witnessed the rise of ‘counter-culture’ or ‘natural’ wines. A growing cadre of winemakers around the world have begun to reject the limiting definition of ‘quality wine’ that was spawned by numerous wine making schools around the world, obsessed with uniform, standard, technical perfection. They’ve embarked on new trails of experimentation, which in many instances have been the re-discovery of old, pre-industrial trails. And sommeliers, critics and consumers are demanding such wines, viewed as unique and artisanal, reflective of their origins, not a recipe. Who’s to say what’s truly good or bad, authentic or contrived? Everyone has an opinion, but no one has an answer. That’s because there is no single answer.

Skin macerated white wines are a good case in point. Although “orange” wines have become exceedingly popular in bellwether markets like London, New York, Tokyo and San Francisco, such wines currently fall outside of VQA tasting norms and would not be approved. A dossier is currently being drawn up to define skin-macerated white wines in VQA-acceptable terms – I was part of a recent tasting with Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble and a large gathering of professionals to attempt to assess just what the taste/style parameters should be for skin contact whites. But the discussion struck me as doomed from the beginning. Any effort to define necessarily excludes, and I wouldn’t want to be shouldered with the responsibility of defining an entire wine category. Yet that is exactly what the VQA, and the tasting panel it oversees, is expected to do: grapple with the slippery notion of typicity, and box in the notoriously flexible edges of faults and defects.

Ontario would not be alone in implementing change. Australia has eliminated the tasting panel requirement for export approval, faced with the embarrassing reality that certain wines, for which importers were clamoring around the world, had been denied an export certificate based on an arbitrary definition of what’s good. South Africa, too, has overhauled its tastings, adding categories that wholly embrace natural wines. Other countries like the United States never established tasting panels in the first place, opting instead to control origin and labeling only, and let the market decide what is good, as should be the case in any free market economy.

(It’s worth noting, as a side bar, that there is a growing number of imported wines that fail the LCBO or SAQ laboratory tests due to high levels of Volatile Acidity, for example, as determined by arbitrary limits. With enough insistence, however, agents have been able to secure the release of these wines, pre-sold in many cases to an eagerly awaiting market, with the caveat that returns will not be accepted. The point is that there is a market for ‘alternative’ wines. Ontario wineries have no recourse for such a release, if they want the VQA seal of approval and financial benefits.)

The role of the VQA should be first and foremost, like all appellation bodies, to regulate origin and to ensure that wines are safe for public consumption – a mandatory chemical analysis is already provided by the excellent LCBO laboratory for all wines sold in Ontario. Beyond that, in a young region, growing dozens of permitted grape varieties, and with no traditional, established winemaking techniques, how is it possible to determine varietal typicity and intrinsic quality?

Even in Europe, with its long-established history of wine production and traditional wine styles, the regional appellation model is cracking at the seams – many of the rules that were put in place originally often enshrined substandard practices, and top producers are struggling to get out.

It’s true that abolishing the tasting panel would open the door for ‘poor quality’ wines to reach the market under the VQA seal. But the reality is that this is already happening. The rejection rate is extremely low – (on average around 3% of submissions, according to the VQA; the panelists are aware of the economic impact of a rejection). The question is, how many more great wines would be made, how many more ground-breaking wines, how many more successful experimental wines would emerge if winemakers weren’t burdened with the knowledge that a wine must fit into a tidy little box in order to gain VQA approval. I think the risks are worth it. As Hardie states: “An ocean of one-dimensional wines is more damaging than one filled with exciting wines of character, mixed with a few oddball wines on the sidelines.”

And in the end, determining good from bad should be entirely up to you, the consumer. I’d love to hear your comments on the matter – please drop us a line in the comments section below.

Smart Buys from Southern France 

VINTAGES surprises with the February 6th feature on southern France, listing a range of decidedly edgy, out of the box, and notably premium-priced selections. This is anything but a ‘safe’ selection of predictable but dull, widely appealing, commercial wines. Rather, the lineup includes a number of bold and intense, characterful wines, the kind that may polarize the room, but at least force you to take notice. It was refreshing to taste through the releases.

My top value for money is the Cave de Roquebrun 2013 La Grange Des Combes, Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun ($18.95). What a distinctive blend of 50% syrah, with grenache and mourvèdre! It’s rare to find sub-$20 wines with this much character, class and complexity, balance and concentration, grown on the poor schist soils of Roquebrun in northern St. Chinian (Langedoc). This is all cold cream, black pepper, smoke and tar, dried garrigue and much more, over dense dark fruit, aged in stainless steel. Chapeau bas, I’d say, best 2016-2025.

Cave De Roquebrun La Grange Des Combes 2013 Château Pech Redon L'épervier La Clape 2012 Domaine Houchart 2013

Slightly more edgy and bold is the Château Pech-Redon 2012 L’épervier La Clape, Coteaux du Languedoc ($24.95), a stylish, modern, very ripe and wood-inflected red blend (syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and carignan), flirting with volatility (acetic and acetone), and with dense and firm tannic structure. This has impressive depth of flavour and complexity, not to mention length. Palate-warming alcohol (14.5% declared) drives the finish home on wintry nights. Best 2016-2022.

Although Provençal wine production, and exports, are overwhelmingly pink, the region is home to supremely savoury red wines, like the fine value Domaine Houchart 2013 Red, Côtes de Provence ($16.95). This is a typical blend of grenache, cabernet sauvignon, carignan and syrah from near Aix-en-Provence, but somewhere between Bordeaux and the southern Rhône in style. Garrigue and fresh black fruit flavours mingle comfortably, offering above-average complexity, and lively, food-friendly acids. I’d serve this with a chill alongside pâtés, charcuterie and tomato-based sauces. Best 2016-2021.

But if rosé it must be (and it should be enjoyed outside the summer months), pick up former rugby star Gérard Bertand’s 2014 Côte des Roses Rosé, Languedoc ($18.95). It’s a lovely, classic southern French rosé blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah crafted in the Provençal style, which is to say, pale, delicate, fruity and bone dry, a sheer pleasure to sip and showing beautifully right now. The stylish package will make an impression on Valentine’s Day, too.

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012 Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet 2014

Although not technically part of the thematic but grown in southern France just the same, the top red in the genre is hands-down the exceptional Château La Nerthe 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($49.95). 2012 provided for a rich and heady, ripe but balanced vintage, made from nearly equal parts Grenache and Syrah, with 14% Mourvèdre and 5% Cinsault, aged two-thirds in barrel and one-third in foudre. It hits a pitch-perfect marriage of fruit, earth, and spice, as well as acid, tannin and alcohol, meaning that this should age exceedingly well, even if it’s already a joy to drink right now. Consider this an archetype from the modern end of the spectrum, best 2018-2028.

And finally, if you want to run the southern French theme all evening, start off with the fresh and engaging Beauvignac 2014 Picpoul de Pinet AP ($14.95). Picpoul from around the seaside town Pinet is considered the Muscadet of the Languedoc, and this is indeed a fruity and crunchy, aperitif-style white, or perfect accompaniment with the fish/seafood course.

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

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES February 6, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys: Southern France
All February 6th 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!


Advertisement
Pepperjack Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

Italy – a special place for both wine and food

Gismondi’s Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

There’s already a buzz in Vancouver about the massive contingent of Italian wine producers headed for the west coast in late February to headline the 38th Vancouver International Wine Festival. The city will host some 60 producers that make wine in just about every important region of the vine land they call Enotria. But are we ready?

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be in Italy I take my watch off. It’s not so much that time stands still, but rather that it moves at its own pace and that rarely includes 60 beats per minute. Italians can be gregarious talkers and use a whirlwind of gestures when doing so, but when it comes to food and wine there is a calmness and a sense of purpose in their choices that few other cultures can match.

It’s not that they spend a lot of time thinking about pairing wine and food as much as they serve what comes naturally, or might I say historically, in the region where they live. What we can say is there is a simplicity and a clarity of flavours on the plate that make Italy a special place for both wine and food. Often only one or two flavours are present in any dish and rarely more than three and it is this reliance on simplicity and uncluttered flavours that gives Italian cuisine its wide appeal.

When you think about it, the Italian way is probably a good road map for where we need to go in Canada. Certainly there could be some relevance between modern-day high end Canadian wine and the mostly lean, fresh style of Italian white and red wines. Freshness and minerality are the hallmarks of many Italian whites and when paired with equally fresh seafood dishes they can move to another level, revealing finesse and character from the front of the glass to the back.

Pasta and Italian wine is an easy match and if you think like an Italian and add perhaps only one or two ingredients the results can be stunning. In the case of verdicchio, a crisp white with plenty of minerality and acid, it is a quick match for tossed fresh pasta, available at most specialty markets, with a variety of pesto. In Canada, pasta, some fresh clams in a butter sauce, and a steely chardonnay could result in a perfect match.

Map of Italy - Vancouver International Wine Festival

Pinot grigio is probably the best know Italian white wine but often the light-bodied, dry, crisp wine is overwhelmed by the food we serve with it in North America. A case in point is squid. It is almost always breaded, spiced and served as an appetizer when in Italy, pan-seared squid with a little olive oil, salt and pepper is the perfect match for a refreshing pinot grigio.

Red wines with vital acidity, like barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese, are incredibly versatile food wines working with mushrooms, tomatoes, wild boar, raw beef and more. I can think of many local Canadian gamay, cabernet franc, grenache and pinot noir that fit that bill.

Enter Italy. There is something about Italian cuisine that simply does not intimidate the average food and wine aficionado in the way French food and wine traditions do. Perhaps it’s the Italian propensity for showing up late and staying late that sets a tone for informality. This month as the Canadian dollar heads south faster than a snowbird, I suggest you consider organizing an in-house dinner party and end a hectic day, Italian-style, at home, with friends.

It’s easy enough to pull together a no fuss menu and share it before hand with your guests and then suggest they bring along some of their favourite Italian labels to accompany one of the courses. With no restaurant mark-ups to double the price consider spending a bit more at retail and bring along a great bottle of wine for the night.

Friulano Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli 2013 Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco SuperioreTo get the party underway think about serving a selection of antipasti and your favourite Prosecco. The best Prosecco, the DOCG, are made from the glera grape and grown in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene regions of Veneto, just north of Treviso. It’s a softer style bubble, with ripe fruit and a brisk finish, well-suited to all types of antipastos and pre-dinner bites. Think marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, a selection of olives, and some thinly sliced sopressata, capicola and Genoa salumis. I recommend the Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.

Make pasta your secondi or second course and keep it simple. You can pick up a variety of fresh pastas at most specialty markets. Simply decide on the saucing and you are ready-to go. Linguine with pesto is both satisfying and easy to prepare and it’s relatively wine friendly. All you have to do is boil some water, cook the pasta al dente and then toss with the pesto.

To accompany the pasta, think about the cooler, fresher style Italian whites from the north or those grown near the sea, or at altitude. A current favourite is Tenuta di Angoris Villa Locatelli Friulano 2014 from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Fragrant wildflowers, honeysuckle, nectarine and fennel set the stage for a white wine that will cut through the pasta.

The main course sounds impossibly challenging but grilled Florentine steak or Bistecca alla Fiorentina could not be simpler to prepare. Rub the steak with a good olive oil and generously season it with salt and pepper. Then simply toss it on a pre-heated grill and prepare it to order for your guest. Grill some vegetables ahead of time – they taste sensational as the dry heat concentrates natural sugars and gives them a bold and rustic look. Now you have a main course built for big reds.

Tuscan sangiovese or Super-Tuscan reds are perfect match or you could look to the south of Italy for slightly more rustic reds that are big on value. Begin with Rocca della Macie Roccato 2009, a super Tuscan bled made by Sergio Zingarelli. Roccato is a 50/50 mix of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon all picked by hand and vinified separately aged in French oak barriques. It easily has the heft to handle any grilled meats.

Similarly, fans of big reds will enjoy the Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010.  Colledilà has been a part of the Brolio estate for centuries, and is the cru that stands above all others. Expect a rich, round, smooth, juicy palate with a long but warm, meaty finish.

Rocca Delle Macìe Roccato 2009 Barone Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010 Il Passo Nerello Mascalese E Nero D'avola Vigneti Zabu 2013 Batasiolo Bosc Dla Rei Moscato D'asti 2014

The ultra bargain steak wine comes from Sicily: Il Passo Nerello Mascalese e Nero d’Avola Vigneti Zabu 2013, Sicily. An 85/15 mix of nerello mascalese and néro d’avola whose canes are cut allowing the grapes to naturally dry out on the vines. The nose and palate is a savoury mix of baked fruit including plums, figs and black currants flecked with a peppery, cherry, chocolate finish.

If you have paced yourself through this multi-course marathon you can easily cap off the evening with an array of chocolate truffles from your favourite local purveyor and a lightly frizzante fruity ending based on the aromatic moscato grape. The fruity, orange ginger notes of the lightly sparkling moscato will all but set off the chocolate and send your guests home smiling.

The Batasiolo Bosc Dla Rei Moscato d’Asti 2014, as reviewed by Sara d’Amato, will suit.

Now all you need do is add music (Italian of course), and lively guests (Italians not a prerequisite) and you’ve yourself una serata perfetta – a perfect evening.

Salute!


Advertisement
Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

 

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Jan 23, 2016

From Macedonia to the Snake River in Idaho
By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Last week I covered the two main features of the January 23rd release, Portugal and South America, with some thoughts on where you’ll likely find the best wine values in 2016. This week, the whole WineAlign crü weighs in with their top smart buys from all regions, covering a wide swath of the world from Macedonia to the Snake River in Idaho, with a little California sunshine thrown in for good measure.

Buyer’s Guide to January 23rd Whites: 

Porcupine Ridge 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95)
John Szabo – A subtle and smoky, fairly rich and concentrated sauvignon blanc, especially in this price category. This has ample complexity and depth to satisfy, not to mention fine length.

Domaine de la Janasse 2014 Côtes du Rhône Blanc, Rhône, France ($21.95)
John Szabo – Every time I taste great Rhône whites like this, I wonder why I don’t drink them more often, especially in these cooler months. This is a really lovely, rich, salty, fruity, and complex white, balanced and flavourful, with genuine flavour concentration. I love the white flowers, marzipan and cherry blossom flavours added to the symphony of white fleshed orchard fruit. Best 2016-2022.
Sara d’Amato – A brother and sister duo leads the winemaking team at the innovative Domaine of La Janasse in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Proficient winemakers are exactly what were required in the cool and rainy year of 2014 to manage and compensate for this unusual vintage. This refreshingly zesty blend dominated by grenache blanc is packed with peachy, citrus flavour and a mouthfilling texture. Highly memorable.

Marchand-Tawse 2011 Saint Romain, Burgundy, France ($31.95)
John Szabo – This is fine, old school white Burgundy with great complexity and plenty of chalky texture and flavour from Pascal Marchand and partner Moray Tawse (owner of Tawse and Redstone wineries in Niagara). It’s bright and sharp, still lightly reductive, flinty, with inviting lemon custard and green nut flavours. Drink or hold this into the twenties without concern – the acids will hold this together for some time yet. Best 2016-2021.
Sara d’Amato – A Burgundian-Canadian collaborative negociant project that has proved immensely successful, consistently delivering top examples of a range of appellations throughout Burgundy. Saint-Romain’s characteristic notes of white flower, dried herbs and mineral are nicely expressed on the palate of this fresh and focused chardonnay.

Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Domaine de La Janasse Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2014 Marchand Tawse Saint Romain 2011 Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2014Domaine Chevallier Chablis 2014Martin Ray Chardonnay 2013

Blue Mountain 2014 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, BC  ($24.95)
David Lawrason – The Mavety family purchased their stunning property in 1971 and have created Canada’s finest 100% estate winery, farmed organically from the beginning. The result – up and down their portfolio – are wines of real structure and depth. This subtle barely oaked chardonnay shows a lovely, generous aromas of ripe apple nicely framed by vanillin, subtle herbs/fennel and spice. It’s medium-full bodied, fairly intense with great grip. I would age it a year or two.

Domaine Chevallier 2014 Chablis, Burgunday, France ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – A dependable favourite of VINTAGES, this new vintage is a superb value delivering an authentic, traditional  Chablis at an impressive depth. A terrific match for moules marinières.

Martin Ray 2013 Chardonnay Russian River Valley, Sonoma County ($28.95)
David Lawrason – Martin Ray was a pioneer of boutique California winemaking. He was based in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The winery that now bears his name is centred in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. This suave, rich chardonnay has fine bones, showing welcome restraint for California chardonnay with lovely subtle aromas of yellow/Japanese pear, gentle wood spice, dried herbs. Very focused, poised and complete with excellent length.

Russian River Valley Vineyards ©John Szabo, MS

Russian River Valley Vineyards ©John Szabo, MS

Buyer’s Guide to January 23rd Reds: 

Tormaresca 2012 Trentangeli, Castel del Monte, Puglia, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo – Antinori’s establishment of the 100 hectare Boca di Lupo estate, certified organic and within view of the Vulture volcano next door in Basilicata, was a real shot in the arm for Puglia, historically a bulk wine producing region. Fans of plush and dense reds will love this blend of aglianico with cabernet and syrah, delivering massive fruit extract – the sort of modern style southern Italian red wine that turns heads in North America. Best 2016-2022.

Vincent Girardin 2013 Vieilles Vignes Santenay, Burgundy, France ($37.95)
John Szabo – Genuine values in Burgundy are few and far between, so it’s tempting to snap them up when they appear. Vincent Girardin has been a reliable name in the negociant world of Burgundy for as long as I remember, and this is a particularly compelling red from the southernmost commune in the Côte d’Or, best left for another 2-4 years in the cellar. It’s more structured and vibrant than the mean; I like the juiciness and vibrancy, and the tanginess on offer. Best 2018-2025.

Popov Versnik 2011 Merlot Tikves, Republic of Macedonia ($13.95)
John Szabo – Go on, get out of your comfort zone and try this exceptional fine value from Macedonia. You’ll be surprised, as I was, by the complexity delivered here, as well as firm structure and spicy fruit flavours. This would not be out of place in a tasting of premium Right Bank Bordeaux.

Tormaresca Trentangeli 2012 Vincent Girardin Vieilles Vignes Santenay 2013 Popov Versnik Merlot 2011Château des Demoiselles 2010

Château Des Demoiselles 2010 Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux, France ($17.95)
David Lawrason – There is a fine little tranche of 2010 Bordeaux on this release, and this is a great value example – a delish yet structured merlot from the region neighbouring St. Emilion up-river.  It nicely combines ripe berry fruit, cream, oak spice and some gentle earthiness. There is some green tannin and heat, and it has very good fruit and depth at the price.

Carpineto 2010 Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy  ($29.95)
David Lawrason – From a leading Tuscan family, here’s an estate Chianti Classico from an excellent vintage. It is showing great lift, presence and maturing complexity. The nose is nicely spiked with meaty and herbal bits, but also with classic sangiovese currants, vanillin and smoke. It’s mid-weight, firm and tart edged, and the length is excellent. Still could use a year or two.

Terrazas de los Andes 2013 Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($18.95)
David Lawrason – The challenge with inexpensive, young malbec is how to balance such a big-boned, flavourful and often tannic wine – without resorting to sweetness and trickery.  Not sure of the secret here but it is a very complete, natural and detailed malbec with ripe blackberry, subtle herbs, licorice and oak. So well stitched and effortless. One of my favourite Argentine producers year after year.

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 Terrazas de Los Andes Reserva Malbec 2013 Ste. Chapelle Gem State Red 2012 Mocali Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Ste. Chapelle 2012 Gem State Red, Snake River Valley, Idaho, USA ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Idaho is known as the “Gem State” due to its abundance of natural resources and its substantial rare mineral deposits. Although this is not the first release in VINTAGES of a wine from Idaho, such an offering easily qualifies as a seldom seen, curio selection. The Snake River valley is a shared appellation that also runs into the state of Oregon and produces fresh and elegant reds nicely portrayed in this value-priced example from Ste. Chapelle.

Mocali 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosso Toscano, Tuscany, Italy ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – In a “Super Tuscan” style, this inexpensive IGT delivers impressive power and structure for the price.  It’s bold and satisfying, and may just cure the chills, though a touch tannic, so be sure to decant and pair with a salty protein.

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

From VINTAGES January 23rd, 2016

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

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


Advertisement
Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Jan 23, 2016

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portugal and South America – Playing the Markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

South America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES January 23, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys: Portugal and South America
All Reviews

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


Advertisement
Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , , ,

Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (January 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There are seventeen new wines on the Top 50 list this month. This is not surprising since so much wine is sold in the last six weeks of every year that many new vintages always arrive about now. Some of the new vintages I tasted were better and some not so good, so wines join the list and others fall off. Anyway I am delighted to have found so many new great values at the LCBO this month.

Additionally three wines already on my Top 50 Best Values list are discounted and a some have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive and affordable for the next four weeks or so.

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. This month I selected all 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 January 31st. 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 di Romagna 2013, Emilia Romagna, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – This is excellent value for a very drinkable Italian red for pizza and meaty pasta dishes. It is soft and fruity with enough tannin and acidity for balance and good length. Chill a little and try with tomato pasta sauces. Not recommended for quaffing since the finish is quite austere.

Beso de Vino Seleccion Red 2011 Carinena, Spain ($7.95 was $9.95) New to Top 50 – This ripe structured red has a nice lemony tone to the nose and palate to give it freshness. It is full-bodied with good length. Try with sweet juicy ribs.

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2014 Abruzzo Italy ($7.95) New to Top 50 – This red is a little rustic with a savoury herbal nose. Try with mildly flavoured red meat dishes or a mild hard cheese like cheddar.

Tini Sangiovese di Romagna 2013 Beso de Vino Seleccion Red 2011 Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014 Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2014

Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2014 Calabria Italy ($8.55) New to Top 50 – 2014 is another good vintage for this juicy, well balanced red from Calabria. It is easy drinking, vibrant and pure with not much complexity or depth, but it is very drinkable. Good length. Enjoy with pizza and meaty pasta sauces.

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Castilla León, Spain ($9.45 was $11.45) Top 50 January – 2014 is the best vintage yet of this juicy, vibrant, clean red with very good length. Chill lightly and enjoy with grilled meats.

La Casona De Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2013, Yecla, SE Spain ($9.65) New to Top 50 – Mourvèdre is the French name for this grape that is grown widely in SE Spain. It is deep purple and very aromatic with a midweight palate and very good length. Try with spaghetti and meatballs in a tomato sauce.

Santa Carolina Merlot Reserva 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($10.95 was $12.95) New to Top 50 – This is a lively, clean, very fruity merlot with just enough soft tannin for balance. Enjoy on its own or with hard mature cheese.

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 La Casona de Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2013 Santa Carolina Merlot Reserva 2014 Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2014 Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2014, Cachapoal Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $12.95) Top 50 January – This is a dense, powerful wine with a complex perfumed nose. Full bodied but still very juicy with dense ripe fruit and fine tannin.

Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Stellenbosch South Africa ($11.95) New to Top 50 – Excellent value for a juicy, full bodied red with spicy berry aromas and ample fruit. It is balanced by soft tannin and soft acidity. Good focus and very good length. Try with lamb kabobs.

Ogier Cotes du Ventoux Red 2013 Rhone Valley, France ($11.95) New to Top 50 – 2013 is a good vintage for this soft, white pepper spiced, southern Rhone red. The fruit is well balanced with crisp, juicy acidity, blueberry and pepper notes and plenty of zip and zing.

Vila Regia Reserva 2013, Douro Valley, Portugal ($11.95) New to Top 50 – Excellent value for a fragrant, elegant red. Opaque purple, a soft nose of berry fruit and a mid weight palate, this has very good length. Try with roast beef or creamy soft cheese.

Ogier Cotes du Ventoux Red 2013 Vila Regia Reserva 2013 Goats do Roam Red 2014 Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2014

Goats do Roam Red 2014 Western Cape, South Africa ($11.95 was $12.95) Top 50 January – The 2014 vintage continues a long line of consistently great value reds that are close stylistically to a French Côtes du Rhône. Try with burgers.

Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($13.95 + 8 BAMs) New to Top 50 – One of the best value pinots at the LCBO. It is quite Burgundian in style with ripe fruit aromas and flavours balanced by herbal and earthy tones. The palate has nice structural tannin and some vibrant acidity, keeping it lively.

Whites

Cono Sur Sparkling Brut, Bio Bio, Chile ($7.95 was $13.95) New to Top 50, Delisted – I am sorry to see that this elegant bubbly has been discontinued. Over 800 bottles remain so jump in quickly before it is all gone. It is quite flavourful and very smooth with a honeyed hazelnut apple nose and very persistent bubbles.

KWV Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2015, Western Cape, South Africa ($7.95 was $9.45) New to Top 50 – South Africa can make good inexpensive chenin like this with a good depth of flavour, well structured, and for a great price. The palate is midweight with ripe fruit balanced by lemony acidity. Very good length and just a little bitter on the finish. Try with seafood or white meats.

Cono Sur Sparkling Brut K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2015 Are You Game Chardonnay 2012

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012 Victoria Australia ($8.75 was $14.95) New to Top 50, Delisted – A soft, elegant, cool climate chardonnay with only a hint of oak. It’s midweight and finely balanced. Try with sautéed seafood. Over 1300 bottles remain.

Hardys Stamp Series Riesling Gewurztraminer 2014, Southeastern Australia ($8.95 was $9.95) New to Top 50 – This white has been a constant at the LCBO for years and always offers great value.  It is mouthwatering with peach, spice and candied lemon aromas and flavours, a smooth texture and very good length.

Brumont Gros Manseng Sauvignon 2014, Cote De Gascogne, SW France ($10.75 was $12.95) New to Top 50, Delisted – Gros manseng is a white grape native to southwest France. Here it is blended with sauvignon blanc to make a creamy white wine with herbal melon aromas and flavours. Very good length. Try with roast chicken.

Hardys Stamp Series Riesling Gewurztraminer 2014 Brumont Gros Manseng Sauvignon 2014 Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2014

Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015, Leyda Valley, San Antonio, Chile ($11.95) New to Top 50 – Leyda Valley is now recognized as one of the best places for this variety in Chile. This is a complex, ripe sauvignon with beautiful aromas and a rich creamy palate.

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2014, Coastal Region, South Africa ($14.80) New to Top 50 – A rich, full bodied, creamy chardonnay with the oak well integrated and adding complexity. It is full bodied and creamy smooth with lots of flavour balanced by ample acidity. Excellent length. Try with rich poultry dishes or creamy veal escallops.

How does a wine get selected for the Top 20 under $20.

Top 20 Under 20

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 Top50 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

In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 3o 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 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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!


Advertisements

Catena Malbec

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Jan 9, 2016

Finding Value in the VINTAGES section
By John Szabo MS with wine notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Dear WineAligners,

Top of the New Year to you! December was a record-breaking month for us. Nearly 250,000 of you read close to million pages of wine reviews and news. We’re thrilled that you came to us for advice and suggestions, and we sincerely hope you found what you were looking for. 2016 looks to be even bigger and better. We’ll be rolling out our newly redesigned, mobile-friendly website in the first quarter, with additional features, new columnists, more comprehensive coverage, and more reviews than ever. If you’re passionate about drink and food, WineAlign will be your top bookmarked page in 2016.

In this report we cover the January 9th VINTAGES release, with the annual focus on value. I’ve covered the top European value releases, while David covers the new world, and Sara spots her top picks from all worlds. If your cellar was depleted, like mine was over the holidays, it’s time to restock. Wines from seven countries make the list this week, all under $25.

Buyers Guide For January 9th: Best Buys under $25

White and Sparkling

Pupillo 2010 Cyane Moscato, Sicilia, Italy ($18.95)
John Szabo – It’s curious to see this released now – a dry, five year-old muscat from Sicily. But it’s far from past prime; it offers an arrestingly complex mix of dried, yellow-fleshed orchard fruit, mango and melon, bees-wax, honey, and baking spice, while the palate delivers genuine depth and concentration, and a lovely creamy texture. It’s idiosyncratic to be sure, but well worth discovering; try it at the table with herbed pork roast or veal scaloppini.
Sara d’Amato – Pupillo devotes most of their energy to the production of wines of the moscato variety and they are passionately devoted to the cause of reviving Sicily’s most ancient DOC, that of Moscato di Siracusa. This curious, dry, going on six-year old IGT moscato is wildly complex and thought-provoking. A touch oxidative but drinking beautifully now and offers an impressive range of flavours.

Donnachiara 2013 Irpinia Coda di Volpe, Campania, Italy ($16.95)
John Szabo – There’s lots of character for the money in this native Campania white made by the charismatic Ilaria Pettito, aromatically subdued, but intriguingly earthy and herbal. The palate is mid-weight with fine drive and length; I like the cooked lemon and wet clay-like character. Ready to enjoy.

Pupillo Cyane Moscato 2010 Donnachiara Irpinia Coda di Volpe 2013 Fred Loimer Lois Grüner Veltliner 2013

Fred Loimer 2013 Lois Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria ($17.95)
John Szabo – Although this is Fred Loimer’s entry-level Grüner, and not certified biodynamic like the rest of the range, the Lois 2013 is drinking marvellously at the moment and is well worth the money. It functions in both the aperitif slot, as well as with substantial dishes: fish, white meat, for example.
Sara d’Amato – A textbook grüner with spine-tingling vibrancy, focus and great purity. Tangy lime, bitter almond and cool stone dominate the mid-weight palate. Pair with raw oysters or sashimi.

Mulderbosch 2015 Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is very good buy in SA chenin – one of the leading value white wine categories in the world right now. It has complexity well beyond its price, offering mid-winter warmth, almost non-oaked tropical fruit richness. Roast pork or ham could work very nicely.

Alamos 2015 Torrontés, Salta, Argentina ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Sourced from the higher elevation Salta region where torrontes thrives; this is very bright – ringing with classic, lavender/Easter lily florality, lemongrass and lime. Very nicely balanced, with just right acid-sugar level and dryness. Great with Asian meals, but save a few bottles for spring sipping.

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2015 Alamos Torrontés 2015 Château d'Argadens Blanc 2014 Familia Zuccardi Cuvée Especial Blanc de Blancs

Château d’Argadens 2014 Blanc, Bordeaux, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – In the shadow of glorious reds, dry white Bordeaux often gets overlooked on this side of the pond. Styles of this sauvignon blanc/semillon blend can vary between smoky-oaky to more floral, fruit-forward, aromatic examples such as this compelling offering. Try with soft, ripe cheeses or fish and chips.

Familia Zuccardi Cuvée Especial Blanc de Blancs, Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Mendoza’s high elevation sites make for some pretty special sparkling wine, often produced in a Traditional Method style. Immensely popular in South America, these well-priced bubbles rarely make it to Ontario. This non-vintage chardonnay cuvée balances mineral and razor-sharp freshness with comforting notes of warm bread on its ample palate.

Red

Domaine Dupré 2012 Vignes de 1935 Morgon, Beaujolais, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – As the cuvée name implies, this wine hails from a small parcel planted in 1935 called Les Cras, on the hill of Morgon, origin of most of Beaujolais’s sturdiest crus. The nose is textbook – all stone-tinged tart red berry fruit – while the palate offers lively acids, light tannins but with a firm grip, and lingering, juicy finish. Delicious wine, best 2016-2020.

Thunevin-Calvet 2012 Cuvée Constance, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, France ($18.95)
John Szabo – Those looking for a satisfying winter wine under $20 will find comfort and shelter here in this deeply coloured, deeply fruity, plush, dark and immediately appealing red from Bordeaux bad boy Jean-Luc Thunevin (of Chateau Valandraud in Saint Emilion) and his southern partner Jean-Roger Calvet. Evolving from a garagiste operation to a modern domaine with 60 hectares, I’d guess this was made with all of the technological advancements currently available; it’s designed to impress upon release, which it does. 15% alcohol declared gives this a warm and mouth filling impression, but it’s backed by a whack of ripe and concentrated fruit and an impression of sweetness. Best 2016-2020.

Domaine Dupré Vignes de 1935 Morgon 2012 Thunevin Calvet Cuvée Constance 2012 Aydie l'Origine Madiran 2012

Aydie 2012 l’Origine Madiran, Southwest, France ($14.95)
John Szabo – Fans of classic old world reds will appreciate this structured, earthy-spicy blend (70% tannat with 30% cabernets – sauvignon and franc), firm but not hard or unyielding.  This would even benefit from another year or three in the cellar – an attractive value for the money. Best 2016-2022.

Honoro Vera 2013 Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain ($15.95)
John Szabo – This is a fine, generous and juicy, savoury and fruity old vine garnacha from northern Spain, at a very attractive price. Tannins are soft but the palate maintains some tension and freshness, while wet concrete and resinous herb flavours add complexity. Serve with a light chill. Best 2016-2019.

Indomita 2013 Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Indomita has splashy modern winery in Casablanca but goes to its Alto Maipo estate for cabernet. No profound depth here, but it is well structured, dry and classic without resorting to undue sweetness and oak influence. A cab lover’s cab with a hint of greenness but also classic currant fruit, and a touch of graphite.
Sara d’Amato – A generous cabernet sauvignon with an old world feel from Chile’s most historically steeped wine region. There is a seductive darkness and density to this aromatic red with very fine oak. Tastes twice the price.

Honoro Vera Garnacha 2013 Indomita Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor 2012 Montes Limited Selection Carménere 2012

Nieto Senetiner 2012 Don Nicanor Cabernet/Malbec/Merlot, Mendoza, Argentina ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This traditional house has more Euro, textural approach to winemaking that nicely buffs the edges of often brash young Argentine reds. Sourcing from 40 year old vines helps. This is quite classy, and the one South American red on this release that I would pick off the shelf for a classic mid-winter prime rib, with mashed potatoes and gravy all in.

Montes Limited 2012 Selection Carmenère, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Montes has always been a go-to Chilean producer but of late I am sensing an extra degree of purity (varietal acuity) and depth in its less expensive wines. So if you like your carmenere with lifted currants, greenness and cedar this one is textbook and ultra-Chilean. Roast lamb.

Sister’s Run 2012 Bethlehem Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very stylish, great value 100% Barossa-grown, 100% cabernet by winemaker Elena Brooks, one of the said sisters. This has an intense, very ripe, chocolate mint, blackcurrant and graphite nose. I really like the energy and mid-palate balance (reminded me of Coonawarra).

Sister's Run Bethlehem Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Château des Aladères Sélection Vieilles Vignes 2012 Michel Gassier Nostre Païs 2012

Château des Aladères 2012 Sélection Vieilles Vignes, Corbières, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Corbières produces an abundance of lavish, spicy reds of excellent value and here is a fine example. A blend of syrah, carignan and grenache made entirely in stainless steel vats allowing the fruit to expresses itself fully and generously. A punchy and powerful red with wide appeal.

Michel Gassier 2012 Nostre Païs, Costières de Nîmes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – Soft, supple and enveloping, this low-yielding, hand-picked, organically farmed red blends local varieties: grenache, syrah, carignan and mourvèdre. Balanced, inviting and comforting in a full-flavoured, unfiltered style.

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

From VINTAGES January 9th, 2016

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

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


Advertisement
Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , , ,

16 Value Wines for The 12 Days of Christmas

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The Twelve Days of Christmas, with a gift for each day like a partridge in a pear tree (among other bizarre gifts), is supposed to start on Christmas Day; my Twelve Days starts on Christmas Eve.

Moreover, since I am not good at choosing gifts for the twelve days, I thought instead I would select wines for you for these days of feasting with family and friends. After checking my current Top 50 Best Value wines at LCBO I have chosen 16 wines to get you through the holidays. So here we go.

On Christmas Eve I imagine many will be giving or attending parties with nibbles, hors d’oeuvres, cheese plates, sausage rolls and the like. This calls for easy drinking, lively fresh wines like Santa Carolina 2015 Chardonnay Reserva ($11.95) which is a creamy, fresh and very juicy white with just a touch of oak for added complexity. For a red selection, let me recommend Goats do Roam 2014 Red ($12.95) from South Africa. It is a consistently great value midweight red with vibrant acidity and juicy red berry fruit and soft tannin.

Roast turkey will be on the menu for Christmas Day Dinner in many homes. It is often a rich meal with the turkey and stuffing served with a rich, thick gravy. It is tough to find a white wine for this, however dry aged fortified whites from Jerez in Spain are usually up to the task. Try Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos ($15.35). It is a very complex powerful wine with a rich intensely flavoured palate that lingers forever. It comes with 18.5% alcohol yet it’s finely balanced and is fantastic value. You will find it in the fortified wine section near the ports. Errazuriz Estate 2013 Pinot Noir ($13.95) from Chile would be another good choice for this occasion. It’s midweight and very fruity with mild tannin and some nice spicy complexity.

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2015 Goats Do Roam Red 2014 Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2013

On Boxing Day we traditionally organize a beef dish for the main meal. So it’s time for some full-bodied reds. Wynns Coonawarra Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (now $24.95 for a limited time, was $27.95) is an elegant, pure, very smooth, complex cabernet. It is not a big red, so look elsewhere for power but treasure the creamy texture and pure fruit. There are about 30 very positive reviews for this superb Aussie cabernet on WineAlign so please give it a try – plus it’s $3 off at present. Another choice could be Santa Carolina Reserva da Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($18.95). You will be enthralled by this opaque purple wine with its perfumed aromas of berry fruit, mint, herbal and dark chocolate complexity.

Sunday is often the day for leftovers from the turkey dinner. I often conjure up a risotto with turkey meat and some of the vegetables, stuffing and sauces that are in the fridge. The Frisky Beaver 2013 White from Niagara ($13.95) is an aromatic blend of five white grapes, quite rich with fruit sweetness that’s well balanced by acidity. Firestone Vineyard 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from California ($19.90) is an elegant well priced cabernet from the cooler Santa Ynez Valley just north of Santa Barbara. It has a fragrant nose, vibrant palate and excellent palate length.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Santa Carolina Reserva De Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Frisky Beaver White 2013 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Monday comes and it’s back to work for three days, and a break from feasting for many, but the festivities will recommence on Thursday, New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve is the day when many will be toasting the start of a new year with sparkling wine. It does not need to be an expensive affair. For example, why not choose Veuve Ambal Cremant De Bourgogne Grande Cuvee Brut ($17.95) a fresh creamy bubbly from Burgundy in France. It is a nice sipping wine that goes well with pastry nibbles. If you are looking for a nice sipping red for party food then Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013 ($12.95) from Chile would be a good choice. It’s a polished organic merlot with clean, lively, bright aromas and flavours.

New Year’s Day is often another occasion for a long lingering lunch with roast or grilled meats. This year we will be having a hearty beef casserole with a thick meaty dark brown sauce and root vegetables. A good choice for wine would be the superb Pascual Toso Limited Edition 2012 Malbec ($16.05) from Argentina. It is full bodied with powerful aromas and flavours, a very even palate and excellent length. As an alternative, a midweight selection could be Lavau 2011 Cotes du Rhone Villages ($13.50) from France. The red berry fruit with sweet oak spices is well balanced by some fine tannin that will stand up well to the rich stew.

Veuve Ambal Grande Cuvée Brut Crémant De Bourgogne Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013 Pascual Toso Malbec Limited Edition 2012 Lavau Cote Du Rhone Villages 2011

Once Saturday rolls around it will be time for a change of pace and a rest from kitchen chores. Chinese delivered to the door gets my vote. Lots of variety here and many dishes to choose from but I have two wines in mind for two of my frequent selections. The Wolftrap 2014 Syrah Mouvedre Viognier ($13.95) is great with Chinese beef and broccoli. This deeply coloured Rhone-style blend is midweight and quite savoury with soft ripe fruit supported by fine tannin. For Chinese shrimp with cashew nuts I love the Wolf Blass 2014 Yellow Label Chardonnay ($14.95). It is a modern, fresh, minerally chardonnay with just a touch of oak and a long, fruity finish.

Sunday brunch, with some seafood on offer, could be accompanied by Monkey Bay 2014 Pinot Grigio ($13.95). It comes from the warmer Hawke’s Bay region in New Zealand. It’s fresh, pure and fragrant with pear and melon fruit toned by minerality with hints of lemongrass. A good choice for a lively fresh red for brunch would be Chateau des Charmes 2013 Gamay Noir ($13.95 ) from Niagara. It’s light to mid-weight, juicy and fresh with good acidity and very good length. Great value.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014 Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2013

After all that the holidays will be over. In case I did not select a wine for your occasion, remember that there are another 34 other wines on my Top 50; many less than $10. So check out more wine values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. In the New Year, I will be back with a look at the updated list in our Top 20 Under $20 January report.

Best wishes to all for Happy Holidays with family and friends and I hope the New Year will bring you every desire.

 

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20 for December
Top 50 Value Wines

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!


Advertisements
Wynns Connawara Black Label Cabernet

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Dec 12, Part Two

Holiday Value Selections
by John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason & Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

After last week’s preview of the best buys over $25, this week we look at the best selections under $25 included in the December 12th release. Also stay tuned for my annual fizz report coming out on the 18th just in time for the holidays, which will be full of premium sparkling wines available both at the LCBO and in consignment, for gifting, celebrating and collecting, a special feature on grower champagnes, as well as a revised look at an old favourite pastime, matching oysters and wine.

White And Sparkling Wines

Zenato 2014 San Benedetto Lugana, Veneto, Italy ($16.95)

Sara d’Amato – A great holiday white for a low price especially if you enjoy fresher, unoaked whites. Lugana is made primarily from verdicchio and this example shows well the variety’s generous fruity character and nervy nature.
David Lawrason – This is one of Italy’s great underrated whites based on the trebbiano grape grown in northern Italy. It sports a very generous nose of lemon, apple custard, vague almond and subtropical star fruit. It’s medium weight fleshy, very bright and fresh. For fans of viognier and the exotic.

Wynns Coonawarra 2014 Estate Chardonnay, Coonawarra, South Australia ($17.95)

John Szabo – A lovely, brisk, fresh, minimally-oaked chardonnay from the ever-reliable Wynns of Coonawarra, and terrific value at that.

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Bottled Chardonnay, Cave Spring Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)

David Lawrason – Ontario winemakers and pundits are pegging 2013 as a great white wine vintage in Ontario (and please abide my opinion that great white wine vintages are more important than great red wine vintages here in the homeland). This is a tender yet ripe and quite elegant chardonnay. Lighter and fresher than many but has some textural weight and creaminess at the same time.

Zenato San Benedetto Lugana 2014Wynns Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay 2014Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2013Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Sparkling Riesling 2013Mountadam Estate Chardonnay 2013

Tawse 2013 Spark Limestone Ridge Sparkling Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)

David Lawrason – Tawse’s cleverly named and varied Spark sparklers have been hit and miss in my view, but this is solid and great value – a quite fine, complex, tightly woven riesling with a compact and complex nose of dried green pear, petrol and chalky stoniness. And it’s priced for generous pours over the holidays.

Mountadam Estate 2013 Chardonnay High Eden, Eden Valley, South Australia ($23.95)

John Szabo – The cool Eden Valley above the Barossa in South Australia is the origin of this pleasant, fragrant and lifted chardonnay with plentiful white-fleshed ripe orchard fruit. Concentration aligns with balance, and length and depth are also exceptional for the category. Best 2015-2021.
Sara d’Amato – Anything but a rich oaky chardonnay, this high elevation Aussie version is perfumed and elegant with impressive harmony and refinement. A classy addition to your holiday table that makes an easy match for a wide array of cuisine.

Red Wines

Pinacle De Fakra 2010, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon ($14.95)

John Szabo – And now for something different … this cabernet-syrah-cinsault blend from Lebanon delivers a mouthful of savoury, dusty, succulent red fruit, full of wild herbs. Tannins are light and fine grained, acids are balanced and the overall length and depth are terrific for the price. A charmingly rustic, old world style wine, best 2015-2020.
Sara d’Amato – A curio selection with wide appeal, this blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and cinsault from the heavily French-influenced, super high elevation Bekaa Valley, offers softened tannins and a ready-to-drink nature. Mid-weight and loaded with fruit, it is one of the better values in this release.

Emiliana 2013 Novas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Maipo Valley, Chile ($15.95)

David Lawrason – Wow, let Chile’s leading organic producer take a bow. This is an even-handed, quite delicious cab-merlot blend with complex notes of cassis, chocolate, graphite and mint. Well proportioned, even, fairly extracted but slender. May not have the density and depth of most wines that score 90, but impeccable balance trumps depth.

Pierre Laplace 2012 Madiran, Southwest France ($16.95)

David Lawrason – Here’s a textbook example of one of the world’s toughest-to-love reds. Madiran is a tannat-based red from the southwest of France, its name derived from the ferocity of its tannins. This example brings order to the house. The nose is a bit shy but appealing with blackberry, a touch of evergreen and vaguely iron-like minerality. It is medium-full bodied, quite firm and taut, but not overly aggressive.

Pinacle De Fakra 2010Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013Pierre Laplace Madiran 2012Cabriz Reserva 2012

Cabriz 2012 Reserva, Dão, Portugal ($17.95)

David Lawrason – Great value here! The landlocked, moderate climate, complex-soiled hill Dão region in central Portugal has huge potential, but is currently constricted by its mid-price range. Lovely lifted floral, plummy, blackberry and violet aromatics on display. It’s medium-full bodied, surprisingly gentle, soft and fruity with just enough drying tannin.

Salentein 2013 Reserve Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($17.95)

Sara d’Amato – Rich and inviting with notes of cocoa and black currant, this comforting red is best for curling up by the fireplace. It’s not all guilty pleasure though offering surprising dimension for the price. Peppered with notes of anise and juniper that linger on the marathon of a finish.

Poderi Angelini 2010 Primitivo Di Manduria, Puglia, Italy ($18.95)

John Szabo – Lovers of full-bodied, big, intensely flavoured wines in the style of Amarone will appreciate this similarly styled primitivo from Puglia. But it’s more than just raisined fruit; Poderi Angelini provides an example with excellent complexity, mature and earthy, pleasantly rustic and decidedly old school. This radically over-delivers on the price – I’d put this up against $40+ Amarone any day. Best 2015-2025.

Salentein Reserve Malbec 2013Poderi Angelini Primitivo Di Manduria 2010Ernie Els Big Easy 2013Murua Reserva 2007

Ernie Els 2013 Big Easy, Western Cape, South Africa ($19.95)

John Szabo – This entry-level wine from Els shows the high level at which the estate is currently performing. Mainly shiraz-cabernet, with some grenache, mourvèdre, cinsault and viognier, this is superb value, appealingly complex, savoury-earthy and herbal, well-structured, dense and polished. Lots of joy and pleasure here, best 2015-2021.

Murua 2007 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($21.95)

Sara d’Amato – A solid, old school Rioja at the peak of maturity. Pairs well with everything from nuts and hard cheeses to roast bird and beef tenderloin.

Château Pierre De Montignac 2009, Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($23.95)

Sara d’Amato – With equal parts cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this juicy Médoc is fresh, friendly and easy to appreciate. From the highly lauded, riper 2009 vintage, this is a safe bet for holiday offering.

Château Pierre De Montignac 2009Mazzei Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico 2011Wakefield Jaraman Shiraz 2013Domaine Karydas Naoussa 2010

Mazzei 2011 Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($23.95)

John Szabo – Tuscan stalwart Mazzei, family owners of the Castello di Fonterutoli in Chianti Classico since 1435, deliver an open, very pretty, silky and perfumed wine in the 2011 vintage, with sangiovese softened by a splash of merlot. Although tempting now, this should continue to improve over the next 2-4 years, developing appealing savoury character along the way. Best 2017-2023.

Wakefield 2013 Jaraman Shiraz, Clare Valley/McLaren Vale, South Australia ($24.95)

David Lawrason – The Clare Valley is admired in Oz, but overlooked here as just another Aussie region. Its wines can offer impressive structure and depth – to wit this elegant red packed with generous currants, herbs, pepper, vanilla bean and cedar shaving. It’s full bodied, fairly dense and warm yet mineral.

Domaine Karydas 2010 Xinomavro, Naoussa, Greece ($25.95)

John Szabo – Ok, this is marginally above $25, but I believe it’s worth including, especially for lovers of light, dusty reds in the style of pinot noir, nebbiolo or sangiovese. Xynomavro is the Greek variation on this theme, a native variety to Macedonia and specifically the Naoussa region. Expect dried and candied red berry fruit, Turkish delight and leather, and firm but not aggressive tannins and acids. Decant for maximum enjoyment or hold through to the mid-’20s.

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

From VINTAGES December 12th, 2015

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Dec 12, Part One – Holiday Gifting and Gathering

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!


Advertisement
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (December 2015)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

We are now well into the busiest season of the year for wine sales, so there are lots of wines with big discounts and even more with Bonus Air Miles on my Top 50 to tell you about. While already great values, these incentives make my picks even more attractive this month.

Plus I am delighted to have found many new great values at the LCBO. This month, I have found eight wines to join the Top 50. All this should make your holiday season drinking more affordable.

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection. I select most from wines on Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The current discount period runs until January 2nd 2016. 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

Trapiche Astica Merlot Malbec 2014, Cuyo, Argentina ($7.95 + 5 BAMs or $12.25 for 1.5L) Top 50 December – An inexpensive wine that offers a lot. Could be good for holiday entertaining of big crowds at say a cheese and wine reception.

Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2014, Abruzzo, Italy ($8.25 + 4 BAMs) Top 50 December – An honest good value red with a fragrant herbal raspberry nose. It is mid-weight and well balanced with just enough acidity and soft tannin to give it the structure for food. Great with pizza or grilled sausage.

Tatty Rd Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, South Australia ($8.50 was $14.80) Delisted. New to Top 50 December – Not your typical Aussie cabernet with a structure and acidity that might make one think it was European. Great sale price. Over 1100 bottles remain.

João Portugal Ramos Loios Red 2013, Alentejo, Portugal ($9.30) New to Top 50 December – This is a ripe, fleshy, clean, easy-drinking wine with soft tannins and fresh red berry fruit flavours. For a wine at this price there is more complexity than you might expect with herbal and spicy notes to the aromas and flavours. Try with roast lamb.

Trapiche Astica Merlot Malbec 2014Citra Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2014Tatty Rd Cabernet Sauvignon 2012João Portugal Ramos Loios Red 2013Fuzion Alta Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Fuzion Alta Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Mendoza, Argentina ($9.95 + 5 BAMs) Top 50 December – This is a soft flavourful yet well structured cabernet for a good price. It is mid-weight and juicy with the fruit well balanced by fine tannin and soft acidity. Very good length. Try with grilled meats.

Trapiche Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.45 + 6 BAMs) – There is a degree of pureness and elegance here not often found in such inexpensive wines. Good depth of flavour and palate length make it a great buy for pasta, pizza or burgers.

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Castilla León, Spain ($11.45) New to Top 50 December – 2014 is the best vintage yet of this juicy vibrant clean red with fresh raspberry and red cherry aromas plus spicy and jammy tones. Chill lightly and enjoy with grilled meats.

Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($11.45) New to Top 50 December – This aromatic red with fresh black cherry and plum fruit aromas is well balanced and juicy with good to very good length. Full bodied but feels lighter. Try with grilled meats.

Trapiche Malbec 2014Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013Cusumano Syrah 2013Argento Reserva Malbec 2013

Cusumano Syrah 2013, Sicily, Italy ($11.95 + 5 BAMs) Top 50 December – This is stunning value for a cool climate syrah. It is fresh with aromas of red grapefruit, blueberry and prune with a smooth palate. It’s well balanced and lively with soft tannin and very good length. Try with rack of lamb.

Argento Reserva Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina ($12.95 +6 BAMs) – A rich pure smooth malbec with all the essentials of a good malbec especially the black berry fruit aromas and mild oak treatment. Very good length. Try with grilled meats.

Montes Twins Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($12.95 + 6 BAMs) – A classy very approachable red with ripe berry fruit aromas and flavours. Even though full bodied it feels lighter. Try with grilled meats.

Goats Do Roam Red 2014, Western Cape, South Africa ($12.95 + 5 BAMs) Top 50 December – The 2014 vintage continues a long line of consistently great value reds that are close stylistically to a French Côtes du Rhône. Try with burgers.

Montes Twins Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Goats Do Roam Red 2014Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2013Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2013, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario ($13.95 + 5 BAMs) Top 50 December – There is a distinctly European feel to this wine with its somewhat rustic nose of berry fruit, beetroot and mushroom. Well focussed with very good length.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($13.95 was $16.95) ) New to Top 50 December – The 2013 vintage of this very popular Aussie cab has more depth and is better structured than recent vintages. It is a balanced cabernet with the same ease of drinking as always, ripe fruit and tannin and a touch of oak on the finish.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia ($24.95 was $27.95) Top 50 December – It was already stunning value; now at $3 off its time to pick up a case. Checkout the reviews at Wine Align there are over 20 of us that love this excellent very drinkable very classy cabernet. It’s Christmas; spend more than $20 and see what you can get.

Whites

Emu Oloroso Cream Sherry, Australia ($7.50) ) New to Top 50 December – Ample aromas of orange marmalade and floral apricot mingle with fine herbs on the nose. The palate is rich and sweet yet light due to soft lemony acidity. It finishes sweet but not cloying with very good length. Try with fruitcake or mincemeat pie, or simply enjoy on its own lightly chilled with a quarter of an orange.

14 Hands Hot To Trot White Blend 2011, Washington State, USA ($8.75 was $14.95) Delisted. New to Top 50 December – It is a nice vibrant fresh white blend with fine aromas and bright lively fruit. It is well balanced and mid-weight with a nice juicy finish. Try on its own as an aperitif or with sautéed seafood or creamy brie. Great sale price; around 2000 bottles remain.

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2014, Sicily, Italy ($9.45 + 4 BAMs) Top 50 December – This offers surprising – amazing – character for the price with lots of aroma and flavour and more complexity than one would expect from such an inexpensive wine. Give it a try; it is a big improvement over recent vintages.

Emu Oloroso Cream Sherry14 Hands Hot To Trot White Blend 2011Montalto Pinot Grigio 2014Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014Mascota Vineyards OPI Chardonnay 2014

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($10.95 was $12.05) New to Top 50 December – A lively fresh sauvignon with aromas and flavours of tropical gooseberry and passion fruit with lemon and freshly cut grass notes. Very smooth. Try with a creamy goat’s cheese salad.

Mascota Vineyards OPI Chardonnay 2014, Argentina ($12.95 + 6 BAMs) – A juicy fruity lightly oaked chardonnay with lovely creamy acidity, lots of flavour and very good length. Try with creamy pasta sauces.

How does a wine get selected for the Top 20 under $20.

Top 20 Under 20There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either in the LCBO Wines section 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 (Top 50,) 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

In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 34 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 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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!


Advertisements

Canto Apalta WineAlign ad Dec 2015

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

@WineAlign

WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008