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Canada Thinks Pink, Drinks Pink

by Treve Ring

Treve Ring at The Nationals

Treve Ring judging at the 2016 Nationals

No matter what shade, it’s pretty obvious that more folks are thinking pink.

And with fresh results from the 2016 National Wine Awards of Canada held in Penticton, BC last month, Canadian winemakers are stepping up with terrific offerings. The full medal results of the Awards will be revealed Tuesday, July 26 – with Winery and Small Winery of the Year being announced July 28. But we thought we would tease you with ten of the top rosés (in alphabetical order) from this year’s competition. So get out there and a grab a few.

Worldwide, rosé sales are skyrocketing as drinkers embrace these fresh, food-friendly and approachable wines. The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and the Provence Wine Council (CIVP) released a detailed study on rosé sales and production worldwide in 2015, showing rosé represents 9.6% of global table wine production.

While the world rosé wine consumption has increased 20% from 2002-2014, Canada was up 120% in consumption during that same period. When we keener Canucks like something, we really like it. The same study shows that Canadian pink drinkers were pretty evenly split between men and women.


Why all the rosé coloured glasses? More about refreshing than refinement, the accessibility and friendliness of rosé, especially dry rosé, has made it an easy choice. Rosés really are the best of both wine worlds, especially when it comes to pairing. Wine industry faves, the versatility of these wines is a huge part of their appeal. You have the freshness, acidity and best food-friendliness of white wines, with the structure, berry fruit, tannins and best food-friendliness of red wines. The majority of rosé wines are priced affordably, even for premium and large format bottles, comparatively speaking. Have you ever rocked up to a party with a magnum of rosé? Trust me – you’ll be the most popular person there.

It’s no surprise that France is the world leader in the production of rosé, with approximately 141 million bottles of AOP Rosé annually. Provence represents 35% of the French production of rosé and 5.6% of the world production of rosé wines. Provence is also the only region in the world that specializes in rosé, with almost 90% of total wine production. Even still, there are pink wines from every corner of the globe at your local liquor store, from Spain and Italy to Chile and Argentina, and California to South Africa – and beyond.

Thankfully Canadian winemakers have paid attention. After a simple, sweet and confected start, producers are embracing dry, finessed and grown up rosés. We tasted 90 still rosés at the Nationals this year; the majority were dry or veering in that direction, with off-dry examples deftly balanced out with a vein of acidity. The wines below, almost all from BC, made it to the final round of deliberation and tasting. While colours ranged from near clear to deep pink, and residual sugar varied from bone dry to double digits, they all carried a steady bead of refreshing acidity and a thirst for food-pairing. And really, isn’t that what wine is for? Think pink, drink pink.

Bench 1775 2015 Glow, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Bench 1775 Winery Glow 2015

CedarCreek 2015 Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

CedarCreek Rosé Pinot Noir 2015

Haywire 2015 Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé 2015

Henry of Pelham 2015 Rosé, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

Henry Of Pelham Rose 2015

Niche 2015 Pinot Noir Blanc, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Niche Wine Company Pinot Noir Blanc 2015

Quails’ Gate 2015 Rosé, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Quails' Gate Rosé 2015

Red Rooster Winery 2015 Reserve Rosé, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Red Rooster Winery Reserve Rosé 2015

Salt Spring Vineyards 2014 Rosé, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada

Salt Spring Vineyards Rosé 2014

Seven Directions Wine 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé Canyonview Vineyard, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Seven Directions Wine Pinot Noir Rosé Canyonview Vineyard 2015

Sperling 2014 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Sperling Vin Gris Of Pinot Noir 2014


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!


Zalto NL

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From Riesling to Rosé – Rhys’ European Wine Adventure

Text and photos by Rhys Pender MW

Rhys Pender_Portrait_2015

Rhys Pender

Learning about the world of wine can be more confusing than enlightening, especially when learning about wine regions. Things are complicated and it is no wonder wine is intimidating. Everything seems clear after diligent studying of textbooks, encyclopedias and sitting through wine classes. But when you start to delve deeper into what makes a wine region tick, and look at the different aspects, altitudes, soils and more, you find that the more you try to generalize about any one place, the less accurate those simplifications become. Not only is it impossible to learn all the nuances that make a region unique but there is also the fact that things are always changing and evolving – wine styles, people and even climate. To understand a region properly, there is no better way than to jump in your car or on a plane and go there and find out for yourself what is really happening. That is really the only way to know what is going on.

Wine writers and educators spend a lot of time travelling, trying to answer those questions that exist only between the lines in our textbooks. We want to give current and accurate information in our articles and lectures, and believe me, keeping up with the world of wine is a full-time job.

A few months ago I took a fascinating journey that I recommend to anyone: a wine adventure from the homelands of riesling in Germany, south through Alsace and Burgundy, into the embrace of Beaujolais’s lovely gamay and to the refreshing jugs of rosé in the south of France. I learned a lot, answered a lot of questions, and created many more.

With daily flights from various parts of Canada to Frankfurt, Germany, this is a wine route that is well suited for Canadians to get a taste of many different styles of European wine. The only difficulty is that at the end you are stuck in the south of France and you need to get back to Frankfurt. Or, maybe, you could just stay there, something I have been tempted by many times before. Here is part 1 of what I found out is happening on my road trip from Riesling to Rosé.


I set off on my trip in March with a visit to ProWein in Germany. ProWein is the annual trade wine show in Düsseldorf where the wine world, literally, comes to Germany. Talking to producers, it seems this show has become number one on the international calendar. I had two and half days to work through 5,800 wineries. As you can imagine, you need to have a plan and having appointments is highly recommended. But if you are in the trade, ProWein is definitely your one stop shop for accessing the world of wine.

I had never been to German wine country before this trip and was completely blown away by the severity of some of the vineyards, particularly in the Mosel and Rheingau. It is inconceivable today that anyone would plant vineyards on sheer, near-vertical cliffs, and even more so that anyone in this modern age would work them. I drove around for hours mesmerized by the staked vines clinging tenuously to the rock. It is not surprising that in some areas these steep vineyards are being abandoned, but the best of them make wine that is too good to ignore. The industrious Germans have found a way to make it work with trolley systems to transport grapes, and equipment strung up between the vines.

Rheingau VineyardRheingau Soil or rocks more like

Germany is one of those countries that seems to always be a step or two ahead of what is written in any textbook. Thankfully, most of us have managed to get over the misconception that Germany is all about cheap, sweet, fruity white wines, and most people now think of good quality, low alcohol, delicate yet intense Riesling that nicely walks the tightrope between residual sugar and vibrant acidity. This is the image of Germany through textbooks, but the reality on the ground is something different again. These sweeter wines are still made but most of it is for the export market. The Germans are drinking dry (trocken), powerful Rieslings that often are closer in style to those of Alsace or Austria than the German stereotype. They have been at it for a long time in Germany and change is inevitable. The kids running around at Peter Jakob Kühn winery were the 13th generation. I wonder how many guises German wine has been through in that time?

The other misconception is that Germany produces almost exclusively white wine. Riesling still, thankfully, has 22.9% of the acreage but Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) is up to 11.5% and Dornfelder up to 7.8%. Red varieties now account for over 35% of production, but we rarely see these in Canada (Canada is Germany’s fifth largest export market by value) because the Germans drink it all themselves. In Germany, you will get to try some pretty tasty Pinot Noir (See David Lawrason’s take on Germany and Pinot Noir here). Thirty years ago, at a time when many north Americans formed their opinions about German wines, red grapes made up only 13%. This is quite a significant change for the world’s tenth largest producer of wine.

VDP_Faehnchen_braun_RGBKünstler Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2013 Künstler Hochheimer Stielweg Old Vines Riesling Trocken 2013There is also a move away from the traditional Prädikat labelling (terms like Kabinett, Spätlese, etc.) to more of a single vineyard focus. The VDP (Verband Deutscher Qualitäts- und Prädikatsweingüter), known by its black eagle logo that appears on member’s bottles, is an association that has always focused on the combination of producer, site and quality. It uses a Burgundian model based on vineyard site, with the top wines known as Erste Lage or Grosse Lage, the Grand Crus of the movement. The dry wines from a Grosse Lage vineyard will be labelled Grosses Gewächs and be labelled Qualitätswein Trocken. Sweeter versions use the Prädikat terms.

A lot of the best wines I tasted are not available in Canada but a few of the producers I visited that do appear from time to time are Auguste Kesseler, Baron Knyphausen, Kloster Eberbach and Künstler. There were also delicious sparkling wines from Schloss Vaux but I haven’t seen these in Canada yet.

After Germany it is a just a few hours drive across a deserted border into France and Alsace.

France – Alsace

Being in Alsace is like being in a fairy tale, at least in some villages. It is a cross between Germany and France, therefore becoming its own unique world. The food is brown, hearty and German. But for wine, Alsace is like no other place on earth. It is not just the stunning terroir of near vertical vineyards but also the attitude of the people. Alsace is a bit of a hub for the natural, the biodynamic, for those who want their wines to express the terroir without the winemaker sticking his bag of tricks in the way. Certainly not all Alsatian wine is of this low-manipulation style but there are enough producers to make it a movement rather than just a novel rarity.

The best quality wines of Alsace, in my opinion, come in two different styles. There are those like Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Domaine Weinbach, Bott-Geyl and Barmès-Buecher who make incredibly interesting wines that vary from vintage to vintage and are never boring. The other style of top Alsatian wine is a little more predictable and is based on purity of flavours and intensity. I would put the wines of Domaine Zinck and Trimbach in this category.

There is a lot of character in the different terroirs of Alsace and these will often show through in the wines. Acidity, power, complexity, body and minerality all vary considerably from site to site and many producers make an impressive number of different wines.

Riesling is king, and to me, makes the best wines, but the Gewurztraminer is also something that can be very special in Alsace. Gewurz better suits the sweetness that the warm, dry, sunny Alsatian climate gives, handling it better than Pinot Gris, which can be overblown in alcohol levels. The Alsatians like to drink their Gewurz with a bit of age, something we don’t really do much in Canada, but a bit of time in the bottle serves to give a nice savoury edge and the wine drinks a little drier than the overt floral, fruity sweetness it often shows in its youth.

It can be hard work tasting in Alsace, not because the wines aren’t delicious, but because the curiosity of the producers means that many of them make dozens of different wines. At Zind-Humbrecht I tasted through 14 wines and it was amazing how different each wine was, showing how much terroir can differ within a region and how much it can influence the wines. Winemaking at Zind-Humbrecht is pretty hands off. It isn’t religiously “natural” winemaking in the extreme sense but the farming is biodynamic and basically the wines are left to do their own thing in big old vats, sometimes taking a year or more to finish fermenting in the cool cellar (the ambient temperature is about 8°C in winter) and often stopping with a smidge of residual sugar. The wines are always intensely flavoured, interesting and most of all have a wonderful texture that is hard to match in Riesling from other parts of the world.

Domaine Weinbach Furstentum Grand Cru Gewurztraminer 2011 Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2012I learned some interesting things about using horses in the vineyard too. Zind-Humbrecht uses two horses as part of their viticulture program, but to do the entire vineyard they would need 10-12 horses. The animals need feeding three hours before working and then can only work for three hours. It is slow going too, taking about one week to plow one hectare of vines. Basically it takes a horse five days to do what a tractor could in half a day. They now match the soil conditions to the choice of tractor or horse. In some cases the tractor can be too powerful and do more damage than good. I found this pretty fascinating stuff. For viticulture geeks there was plenty of ground breaking (no pun intended) stuff at Zind-Humbrecht; the most important thing about organic or biodynamic viticulture is how close the grower observes what is happening in the vineyard and can adapt unique management to the unique situations.

At Domaine Weinbach (a tasting of 13 wines) the wines are of a similar style to Zind-Humbrecht. They make wine from 120 different plots, and all the wines show intensity of flavour, rich textures and complexity. The Riesling and the Gewurztraminer again stood out for me as well as the delicious 2014 Sylvaner Reserve. Two of the Gewurztraminer are now available in BC, the delicious Cuvée Laurence 2012, and the crazy Furstentum Grand Cru 2011.

My next stop was at Bott-Geyl where I notched up a tasting of 19 wines. The single vineyard and Grand Cru Rieslings showed amazing minerality and great richness of texture. These wines are also wild ferments and spend up to a year in old wood before bottling.

Domaine Barmès Buecher Crémant 2012 Domaine Barmes Buecher Riesling Alsace Grand Cru Steingrübler 2011At Barmès-Buecher, the dynamic family team of Geneviève Barmès and her children Sophie and Max are creating some eclectic and often delicious naturally inspired wines from some of the old vineyards that came together when Geneviève Buecher and her late husband François Barmès started the winery in 1985, incorporating vineyards that had been in the families since the 17th century. The family was hit with tragedy in 2011 when François passed away, but his children Max and Sophie came to the rescue to help their mother and I don’t think I have ever met a nicer, more generous and more energetic family in the wine business. I tasted through another 19 wines with the three of them and found more rich, delicious, textured and layered Riesling showing off a number of different terroirs (nine different vineyards including three Grand Cru sites). Quebecers get the best selection including the tasty 2011 Riesling Steingrubler GC. The 2012 Crémant d’Alsace Brut is also a good value bubbly.

My final Alsace visit was at Domaine Zinck, in Eguisheim. I thought that storks’ nests on top of fairy tale-like buildings hundreds of years old was something only of movies and imagination, but in Eguisheim it is alive and well. So is the young family of Phillippe & Pascale Zinck of Domaine Zinck. The winery was started by Phillippe’s father Paul, and now runs 20 hectares of grapes spread over 50 plots ranging in size from the largest at 1.7 ha down to just 0.06 ha. It sounds like a logistical nightmare, but 15 ha is located around the town of Eguisheim. Phillippe was born in Eguisheim and is a strong believer that 80% of the flavour in the wine comes from the grapes. They mostly work with stainless steel but are slowly incorporating larger oak casks into the mix. Phillippe talks of the difficulty in making Pinot Gris, saying there is only a small window to harvest when you get the right balance. They must be pretty good at finding this because their Pinot Gris Portrait 2012 won the International Trophy Best Off-Dry at the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards.

Paul Zinck Cremant d’Alsace Domaine Zinck Portrait Series RieslingThe Portrait Series Riesling 2013 is a good value choice and is available in BC through private stores. There is also a little bit of the Grand Cru Riesling around and both the Pfersigberg 2012, a chalky, mineral, laser wine, and the Eichberg 2012, plusher, richer and more exotic, were delicious. It is worth putting these away for a few years. As Phillippe puts it, “when the Grand Cru wines are young you can’t smell the terroir, it takes about 5 years and then you have both the fruit and the aged complexities.” There is also the delicious Zinck Cremant d’Alsace which is excellent value at just over $20 in BC.

I feel like in Western Canada we are missing a lot of the best of Alsace. The top wines are definitely the Rieslings but the market seems keener on the Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer here. It would be nice to see more people try these intense, mostly dry, mineral driven Rieslings and see what they are missing out on. 

Part 2 will see the adventure continue south into Beaujolais…


Rhys Pender, MW


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Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément…

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Pas toujours facile, la vie d’un amateur de vin. Loin de moi l’idée de vous faire pleurer — nous demeurons, pour la plupart, de grands privilégiés, rien que de pouvoir nous offrir autant de bouteilles pas toujours exactement données. Mais n’empêche : nous nous retrouvons parfois dans des situations sinon compliquées, du moins plutôt délicates…

Exemple : gérer l’abondance.

Sans blague ! Je ne dis pas ça pour écoeurer. S’il y a une chose qui déplaît souverainement à quiconque s’intéresse de près au vin, c’est le gaspillage.

Comme c’est le cas parfois, mea culpa, quand on partage un bon repas avec une tablée d’amateurs…

Chacun a alors tellement le goût de faire découvrir telle ou telle chose aux autres, ou de les surprendre, que pour connaître le total de bouteilles ouvertes au cours de la même soirée, il s’agit de multiplier le nombre de convives par deux, par trois, voire par quatre…

Aïe !

Je ne compte ainsi plus les fois où de très bons vins sont passés à la trappe — ou tombés entre les craques du plancher, comme nous disons ici plus volontiers.

La faute à pas de chance, essentiellement. Parce qu’à trop vouloir embrasser, impossible d’y couper, on mal étreint…

Autrement dit, la surenchère fait en sorte qu’on ouvre des bouteilles à tout va, mais que l’on s’attarde et commente… souvent à peu près pas. Tout ce qui nous importe, tout ce qui nous allume, c’est d’ouvrir la prochaine pour maintenir le niveau d’adrénaline à son maximum.

Normal. L’amateur carbure à ça, les émotions fortes, la nouveauté.


Et on n’a pas parlé encore DU sujet délicat entre tous : dans ces soupers-là, où on s’amuse tous à surenchérir, devrait-on servir les vins à l’aveugle ?

Hmm… c’est tentant !

On est comme des gamins, je vous le disais ; alors goûter à l’aveugle, entouré d’autres dégénérés comme nous, c’est la cerise sur le gâteau.

Mais pas parce que l’aveugle permet de goûter sans préjugé et que sans elle, il n’y a rien de vrai, et blablabla…

L’aveugle dans ce contexte, c’est le pied surtout parce qu’elle donne l’occasion de jouer, de s’amuser. Comme si on participait à un quiz et qu’on s’excitait à peser le plus rapidement possible sur le piton, persuadé d’avoir la bonne réponse.

Et le comble, c’est qu’on en rajoute toujours une couche : à tour de rôle, les amateurs réunis jouent au maître de cérémonie (à chaque fois que c’est le contenu de leur bouteille à eux, cachée, que les autres doivent deviner).

Bref on perd vite le contrôle. C’est le fun, je sais. Sauf qu’il y a du dommage collatéral, dans ces soirées abondamment arrosées. De beaux flacons perdus dans la cohue. Et aussi, parfois, des vins qui ne sont pas si percutants, au fond, mais auxquels on s’évertue à trouver des qualités parce qu’il s’agit, en principe, de grands crus…

Ah ah ! direz-vous. Justement, déguster à l’aveugle permet d’éviter ce genre de situation.

Pas toujours.

Même qu’il est très rare qu’un grand vin paraisse à son avantage servi à l’aveugle, laquelle aiguise et focalise le sens critique du dégustateur. Comme s’il goûtait dans un petit verre Inao, voire une minuscule copita à xérès. En cherchant la petite bête, en décortiquant le vin, en compartimentant à outrance ses impressions. Sans compter qu’il est souvent obnubilé par l’idée  de deviner ce que c’est. Autrement dit, il n’est pas nécessairement dans un grand état de réceptivité.

Déguster à l’aveugle, en ce sens, c’est le contraire de déguster l’esprit ouvert.

Mais là j’arrête car si je continue je tombe dans un guêpier et je me fais lapider…


À boire, aubergiste !

Trêve de métaphysique, voici ma sélection de bonnes bouteilles, pour la plupart récemment arrivées sur notre marché.

Vous les goûtez à bouteille découverte ou à l’aveugle, comme ça vous chante, l’important c’est de se régaler. 

Beaujolais Duboeuf 2015 — Un beaujolais rosé, c’est plutôt rare. Très pâle, à peine coloré, peu aromatique mais assez riche, ainsi que doté d’une bonne fraîcheur. Une belle bouteille ! Prix : 20 $

Domaine du Pégau Rosé 2015 — Un rosé costaud, puissant et un brin tannique, sec par ailleurs. L’étonnant, c’est qu’il ne fasse que 12,5 pour cent d’alcool. Par contre c’est convaincant, et plein d’allant.

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Rosé 2015 Domaine Du Pegau 2015 Ijalba Genoli Viura 2015 La Crema Chardonnay 2014

Ijalba Genoli Viura 2015 —  Un rioja blanc aux accents floraux, avec des notes beurrées également. En bouche, les saveurs sont assez riches, assez corsées, cependant qu’un reste de gaz carbonique avive l’ensemble. Finale sur les agrumes, et pas de sucre résiduel apparent. Bon rapport qualité-prix (15,55 $). À table, un bon compagnon pour les fruits de mer, crevettes, pétoncles, etc.

La Crema Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2014 — On a rarement de vraies mauvaises surprises, avec les La Crema. Les blancs, et aussi les rouges, sont d’ordinaire généreux et assez rafraîchissants. Il y a du bois dans celui-ci, passablement, mais l’équilibre n’est pas vraiment en péril, on aime les notes fumées, c’est relativement digeste même si on aurait souhaité plus de nerf, plus d’acidité. Prix : 30,50 $

Château La Tour De L’évêque Blanc 2014 — Excellent côtes-de-provence blanc bio, issu d’un assemblage de rolle (76 %) et de sémillon. Richesse et fraîcheur, et une élégante texture, très suave. Finesse et autorité – et que du fruit et du terroir, pas de notes boisées. Prix (21 $) tout à fait mérité.

Au Bon Climat La Bauge Au-Dessus Pinot Noir 2011 — Excellent pinot noir de Californie (Santa Maria Valley), aux notes de rhubarbe typiques des pinots du Nouveau Monde mais avec, en prime, une indiscutable élégance, un côté épuré qui lui va comme un gant. Chapeau ! Prix : 50 $

Château La Tour De L'evêque 2014Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir "La Bauge Au Dessus" 2011Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2014Weingut Geyerhof Rosensteig Grüner Veltliner 2014

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2014 — Coloré, concentré, vanillé, au fruité par ailleurs bien mûr, capiteux (15 pour cent d’alcool) mais néanmoins pourvu de fraîcheur. Pour mémoire : 100 pour cent grenache, et pratiquement pas de sucre résiduel. Dans le style costaud et exubérant, très bien fait. Prix : 21,95 $

Geyerhof Grüner Veltliner 2014 — Blanc bio autrichien à base de grüner veltliner, vif et minéral, avec une pointe fumée tant en bouche qu’au nez. Près de 5 g de résiduel mais il n’y paraît presque pas. Finale sur la lime, tout en fraîcheur. Prix : 24,30 $.




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


Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – May 14, 2016

Their Favourites, Our Favourites
By David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The May 14 release features 23 “Customer Favourites”, as selected by VINTAGES without any explanation of the reasoning. One can only assume they have impressive sales history – but this is not explained to us in the magazine. Do you need to know? Maybe not, but there is comfort and sway in buying something others consider favourites. We go our own way to present our picks, and explain why (hint, quality/price relationship is a rather critical element).

John has been travelling in recent days and will return with his top smart buys in next week’s report, which will also focus on New Zealand and include a report by Sara d’Amato on the New Zealand wine fairs being held in Ottawa (May 9) and Toronto (May 11 – sold out).

So right to it with our release highlights, with a reminder that you can click on David Lawrason, Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel to see the complete list of our most recent reviews.

The Whites

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Blanc 2015, Costières De Nîmes, France ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Unctuous floral white blend in which viognier lifts grenache blanc, marssanne and roussanne. Really special vintage from Mr. Marès – the most ethereal yet.
David Lawrason – This is a very fine southern French white blend. Lovely aromas of orange blossom, star fruit, lychee and wood. Quite creamy but not overblown with some fine acidity. A summer patio winner. Great value.

Rodney Strong 2013 Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Sonoma is California’s bastion for refined chardonnay, and for many vintages now Rodney Strong’s Chalk Hill has been a classic motif of the genre. This is a very elegant and complex chardonnay with lovely scents of vanilla, orange Creamsicle, Crème brûlée, spice and tobacco. Priced well for the quality delivered.

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Blanc 2015Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2013 Bischofliche Weingüter Trier Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2013 Gehringer Brothers Classic Riesling 2014

Bischofliche Weingüter Trier Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2013, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany ($23.95)
Michael Godel – This is a ripe to ripping off-dry wow release with a searing tang. Wait and watch it develop for many years.

Gehringer Brothers 2014 Classic Riesling, British Columbia ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – Brothers Gordon and Walter have trained in top institutions in Germany and bring their riesling expertise to Okanagan’s Golden Mile Bench. Their focus for several decades has been on aromatic whites from dry to Icewine. This particular riesling shows a real respect for terroir exhibiting riper characteristics and more of an unctuous quality than your typical Mosel brand but still retains a lively vein of acidity keeping it balanced and focused.


Louis Bernard Tavel Rosé 2015

Rollier De La Martinette Rosé 2015

Fielding Rosé 2015Fielding Rosé 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Quietly Fielding has become one of the leading Niagara wineries for offering expertly made, good value VQA wines. This is a beautifully composed, balanced and fresh rosé with just the right acid-sugar balance. Sip all summer long.
Michael Godel – Some rosé just rubs the wrong way. At first sniff and sip you just know this Fielding ’15 is not one of those. In its fresh and spritely youth this is one of the most pleasurable rosés from Ontario.

Rollier De La Martinette 2015 Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France  ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Whiter Shades of Pink seems to be the new anthem for serious producers of rosé around the world, and they are looking to Provence for inspiration. This very pale Provencal rosé packs more flavour intensity than its appearance suggests. The nose shows subtle, pure sour cherry/currant fruit, rosewater, grapefruit and herbs. It’s mid-weight, firm and dry with a warm, spicy finish. A dinner wine.

Louis Bernard 2015 Tavel Rosé, Rhône, France ($21.95) (450833)
Sara d’Amato – It’s not spring without a great rosé and this classic Tavel fits the bill. To call it bottled Provence is a bit romantic but it certainly exudes typical notes of lavender and wild herbs. The fruit is nicely concentrated and there is a slight tannic edge that makes it suitable for pairing with red meat.


Domaine Courbis St Joseph 2013

Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2013

Viewpointe Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc 2010Viewpointe 2010 Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Lake Erie North Shore is the warmest VQA region in Ontario, well suited to reds made from Bordeaux varieties. We see too few prime examples! This is a quite substantial, complex and deep cab franc that is maturing into prime time but holding some vitality. Expect lifted aromas of red currants, raspberry, wood smoke, capers and spice. Scores on depth and complexity.
Michael Godel – Wine Country Ontario’s Lake Erie North Shore appellation flashes onto the radar here with Viewpointe’s very youthful and soulful 2010 Cabernet Franc. A huge accomplishment and so worth the side trip.

Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Despite a challenging vintage in the Okanagan, this more delicate style of pinot noir is not short on complexity or length. Very expressive with great definition and real purity of fruit – for pinot noir traditionalists.
Michael Godel – A dark berry and mineral pinot noir that will drink well for five years or more though I’m not sure there can be any reason to wait.

Domaine Courbis St Joseph 2013, Rhône, France ($36.95)
Michael Godel – Note the deft touch and dearth structure from this powerful yet elegant northern Rhône syrah. So much berry and tannin, with everything structure requires in between.

Pierre Amadieu 2013 Romane Machotte Gigondas, Rhône, France ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – The wines of Pierre Amadieu are widely recognized as having a “Burgundian” appeal and focus on balance, respect for terroir and purity of fruit rather than boldness, power or muscle. There is no heaviness here in this 2013 incarnation but certainly a great deal of flavour and focus. Pepper and Provençal garrigue add a great deal of charm and typicity to this blend.

Tüzkö 2012 Cabernet Franc, Tolna, Hungary ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Under the management of the Antinori family, Tuzko Estate produces noteworthy whites along really interesting reds such as this unexpected find. Interestingly, the rolling hills of Pannon surrounding Bátaapáti in Tolna are said to resemble those of Tuscany.  The pleasant cool herbal notes compliment the fruit on the palate while the firm tannins give this cabernet franc structure and longevity. Excellent value.

Pierre Amadieu Romane Machotte Gigondas 2013Tuzko Cabernet Franc 2012 Rendola Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2012

Rendola 2009 Rosso Di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – At this price grab a handful for everyday drinking with your favourite Italian dishes, or to sip with mild, firm cheeses. From a ripe, softer vintage, this has evolved to prime, and has developed lovely of sweet cherry/tomato fruit, cedar, dried rosemary and licorice aromas. Smooth, warm and delicious if not deep.

Fabre Montmayou 2012 Gran Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Here is an impressive, beefy and complex malbec that I would cellar for future grilling events. It is approachable now but has the structure to live well into the next decade. It’s full bodied, fairly dense and juicy with considerable alcohol, but dense fruit, licorice and intriguing vermouth-like spices carry the day.

And that’s a wrap for this week. Tune in next time for the up and down, north and south of New Zealand. If you need an excuse to have a glass of wine today, you should know that it’s International Sauvignon Blanc Day. Just use the hashtag #SauvBlanc and you’ll be sharing in good company from around the world.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 14, 2016

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix
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!

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – April 30, 2016

Global Chardonnays, Springtime finds and What it takes to be The World’s Best Sommelier
By Sara d’Amato with notes from David, John and Michael

Click here for more from Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

From Tasmania to Washington to the Côtes de Provence, there are so many gems in this weekend’s release that we each had difficultly narrowing down our top five picks. Thankfully John Szabo covered the two main features of this VINTAGES release, that of the Pacific Northwest and rosés last week. In addition to those spotlights, this release offers a substantial selection of quality wines from both BC and Ontario as well as very fine global chardonnays of which we have several double alignments. An out-of-this-world Chilean sauvignon blanc was also successful in charming more than one of our palates.

Although some interesting rosé finds from the south of France where previously highlighted, we couldn’t resist recommending a few more from this twelve bottle springtime release. Hoping for warm days ahead, you’ll find plenty of fresh, nervy offerings to tantalize your senses as well as some rich, comforting reds in case the beau temps doesn’t arrive.

Buyers’ Guide to Whites & Rosés

Quinta de Couselo 2014 O Rosal, Rías Baixas, Spain ($23.95)
David Lawrason – The albarino-based whites of Spain’s northwest Galician coast can range from dull and weak to overly tropical and blowsy. I like them somewhere between these two extremes, as delivered here. The property once belonged to Cistercian monks but it has been a family winery since 1864, and there is a sense of this pedigree in the bottle. It is a lovely example of Rias Baixas – elegant, a touch floral, complex and well balanced.
John Szabo – A serious version of Rias Baixas, crisp, crunchy, bone dry, genuinely concentrated and richly flavoured. I like the lick of white pepper (“stony, mineral”), and the sharp, well-chiselled acids.

McGuigan 2015 Bin 9000 Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales Australia ($14.95)
John Szabo – Hardly a wine of earth-shattering complexity, but this fits the bill for fans of crisp, bright, saliva-inducing unoaked whites, simple but highly quaffable, ready to enjoy. Think of it as a dry riesling/unoaked chardonnay sort of wine, at a nice price.

Josef Chromy 2014 Pepik Chardonnay, Tasmania, Australia ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – A crisp but leesy chardonnay with a northern Burgundian feel. The vibrant, floral and delicate flavours of cool climate chardonnay are beautifully expressed here.
John Szabo – Chromy makes a fine representation of cool Tasmanian terroir, zesty and lively, unoaked, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to Chablis. It’s all citrus and green apple fruit, enlivened by tight acids and a pinch of CO2 on the palate. An ideal oyster/patio sipping, aperitif wine.

Quinta De Couselo O Rosal 2014McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2015 Josef Chromy Pepik Chardonnay 2014 Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2014

Norman Hardie 2014 Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($39.00)
Sara d’Amato – Norm’s Niagara chardonnay offers more plumpness than its County’s counterpart without sacrificing elegance, verve and focus. Drink now and don’t chill excessively.
Michael Godel – It’s hard not to compare Norman Hardie’s Niagara Chardonnay side by side with his County-grown and produced estate counterpart but this much I know. A Hardie Niagara Chardonnay is meant to be enjoyed in its early youth. This 2014 is so good right now.

Vignerons de Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2013, Burgundy, France ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A real steal, this chardonnay from the white only appellation of Montagny in the Cote Chalonnaise is skillfully produced with terrific intensity and structure. Despite its technical correctness, it still offers an abundance of ready-to-drink pleasure.

Montes 2015 Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc, Zapallar Coast, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($19.95)
Michael Godel – This is an exciting hyperbole of Chile, a Sauvignon Blanc from the coast with wild flavours and singing aromatics. Job well done with this newly directed Montes.
John Szabo – The Zapallar D.O. is a new, cool coastal region in Chile pioneered by Aurelio Montes on the far out Pacific coast at the end of the Aconcagua Valley. And this is very pungent and zesty sauvignon to be sure, like jalapeño purée with lime zest and lemon juice, all good things, offering good density and weight.

Vignerons De Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2013 Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé 2015 Gassier Sables D'azur Rosé 2015 Villa Maria Private Bin Rose 2015

Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé 2015, Rhône, France $18.95 (701318)
Sara d’Amato – Longing for hot, sunny days, this most sophisticated of French rosé appellations is a terrific way to take a mental vacation. A spot on, very distinctive Tavel offering rich colour, a dry palate and some tannic presence giving it the ability to stand up to meat such as pork and lamb.

Gassier 2015 Sables d’Azur Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France ($15.95)
Michael Godel – Consistently and unquestionably pure and classically reasoned Rosé from Gassier. A dictionary entry rendering from Provence.

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé 2015, East Coast, New Zealand ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Villa Maria produces one New Zealand’s most consistent portfolios across a wide range of whites and reds. It is no surprise to see the same high quality with this lively Rosé. It possesses palpable aridity and true red fruit aromas.

Buyers’ Guide to Reds

Featherstone 2013 Red Tail Merlot, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A red blend that is ageing remarkably still with an abundance of fresh fruit and a plump, fleshy palate. Offers everything an affable textbook merlot should including flavours of Christmas cake, chocolate and deep plummy fruit.

Le Gravillas 2014 Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Known for fairly average wines, Plan de Dieu can surprise every once and awhile. Due to lack of wide recognition, this southern Rhône region offers approachable pricing. Lavender, tapenade, black pepper and sundried tomatoes evoke Provence and its sunny warmth.

Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2013 Le Gravillas Plan De Dieu Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2014 Lamadrid Single Vineyard Reserva Malbec 2012 Pata Negra Reserva 2010 Tenuta di Capraia Chianti Classico 2013

Lamadrid 2012 Single Vineyard Reserva Malbec, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina ($17.00)
David Lawrason – One of my main beefs about Argentine malbecs is that many are released too soon, and come across as too blunt and coarse. This is still youthfully tannic but it is also fresh and juicy with lifted mulberry, herbs and graphite aromas and flavours. But the real attraction was the very good concentration for the money. The length surprised me.  The style immediately suggested a barbecue.

Pata Negra 2010 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($17.00)
David Lawrason – There is a very traditional school of winemaking in Rioja that reveres textural richness and length, even if the flavours are not bright and fruity. Indeed some can be downright farmy.  This maturing example is chock full of cured meat, leather, peppery spice and cedar but so smooth and complex. Very impressive depth of flavour for the money and great balance.

Tenuta Di Capraia 2013 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Red fruit forward, leather and spice. These are the hallmark characteristics of classic, charming Chianti. This is Capraia’s 2013. A six days a week Chianti Classico.

Tabalí Reserva Especial Syrah, Limarí Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From an underrated, emerging Pacific cooled region well north of Santiago, this is a deep, dark syrah with quite lifted aromas of tar, licorice, stewed blackcurrant/cherry fruit. I would like to see a bit more linearity and finesse but it is very impressive in terms of flavour depth, complexity and genuine syrah-ness.

Tabali Reserva Especial Syrah 2012 De Grendel Shiraz 2013 Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2006 Sordo Rocche Di Castiglione Riserva Barolo 2008

De Grendel 2013 Shiraz, Coastal Region, South Africa  ($24.95).
David Lawrason – Syrah/shiraz is the most exciting red from the Cape nowadays. I had several stunning examples on a recent visit.  This is from a vineyard in the Durbanville Hills only 7kms from and 200 metres above the cold Atlantic Ocean. It is a classic with all kinds of complexity, verve and depth. The ferrous minerality and acidity is very mindful of the northern Rhone, and it boasts amazing complexity and depth for the money.

Château Bouscassé 2006 Vieilles Vignes Madiran, France ($38.95)
John Szabo – This is clearly a superior, ambitious wine of class and pedigree, from the sister property of regional leader Château Montus. At this stage it’s pretty much fully mature, with a taste reminiscent of porcini mushroom broth – a big hit of umami. Yet it’s also still very structured, tannic even, with puckering astringency, so serve with assorted salty protein dishes. Terrific length and complexity overall. Best 2016-2026.

Sordo 2008 Rocche di Castiglione Riserva Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($49.95)
John Szabo – A fine and savoury, now nicely mature nebbiolo from the village of Castiglione Falletto, crafted in a rather classic style, complete with leathery and tarry red fruit, liquorice, dried herbs and more. The palate is medium-full bodied, filling and washing over the taste buds, with excellent length, depth and complexity. Best 2016-2025.


The World’s Best Sommelier

He’s Swedish, 31 and loves hip-hop music. The title of World’s Best Sommelier was bestowed upon the unconventional Arvid Rosengren this month in Mendoza, Argentina. Fifty-six countries participated in this “Olympics of Wine” including our Canadian champion, Elyse Lambert of Quebec.

What does it take to achieve this most coveted of titles? Over the course of five days, the competitors are whittled down to 15 and then to 3 finalists. Rigorous theory exams, blind tasting and identification of spirits and wines, locating errors in wine lists, pouring a magnum of Champagne into 15 different shaped glasses, menu pairing and convincing a table of guests to buy expensive wine are among the many tasks. All of this must be diligently and calmly performed in a timed setting in front of thousands of of spectators in a language other than your mother tongue.


The fifteen semi finalists of the Best Sommelier of the World Contest Argentina 2016

It is not unusual for competitors to train five to ten years for this very competition. All candidates are national champions before they are offered a seat on the world stage. This year, three of the top five finalists were women including Elyse Lambert. A substantial Canadian delegation attended the competition made up of members of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, a national organization with chapters in BC, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces. Celebrated winemakers and great supporters of Canadian Sommeliers, Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling (producers of both Sperling Wines and Versado among others) offered their Mendozian home to Canadian delegates over the course of the week.

The results are clear, Canada has a wealth of talent and our sommeliers rank among the world’s best. This international recognition of our Canada’s wine savvy community is the reason it has been chosen as the location for the Pan American Best Sommelier Challenge in 2018 which will take place in Montreal. Raise a glass to those who make a living serving others, and in particular, making sure that we are only served the best of wine!


Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES April 30, 2016

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s Smart Buys
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!

Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Chardonnay 2012

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Je note !

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Oui, je note — comme dit dans la publicité la petite boulotte.

Je donne un score, un pointage sur 100, aux vins que je déguste notamment ici, pour vous. Depuis longtemps mais pas depuis tout le temps ; à l’époque du journal Voir par exemple, dans les années 1990, je m’en abstenais.

Pourquoi avoir changé d’idée ? Difficile à dire. J’ai commencé à scorer, pour ainsi dire, à mon arrivée à La Barrique. Ça se faisait déjà dans ce magazine, sauf erreur, et je me suis volontiers prêté au jeu, sans rechigner.

Car je ne trouve pas, comme certains, que le vin est quelque chose de trop subjectif et de trop noble pour le réduire à une simple note. On le fait bien pour les films, pour les romans, les voitures, les restaurants.

Enfin oui, c’est vrai, jamais une note ne reflètera vraiment le goût du vin, ses odeurs, sa texture.

Et oui, encore, c’est vrai que l’écrit, le commentaire, en dit souvent beaucoup plus que la simple note – qu’elle soit sur 100, sur 20 ou sur une échelle de 1 à 5 étoiles.

Mais pas toujours.

Il m’arrive ainsi, perso, de tourner autour du pot, de trouver ceci ou cela à une bouteille donnée mais sans trop savoir comment tourner mon commentaire, comment dire les choses. Parfois, cela arrive, je m’en confesse, c’est pour ménager d’éventuelles susceptibilités.

Dans ces cas-là, ne m’écoutez pas, ne vous fiez pas à mes palabres : allez voir le score directement, il voudra tout dire.


La note est d’ailleurs là pour ça. Pour résumer l’impression globale — la seule qui compte, au fond — en moins de deux. Et c’est pour cette raison, également, que cette note doit être dans l’absolu sinon elle rime à très peu de choses.

J’ai donné 85 à un vin, et le prix est de 55 $ ? La messe est dite : il s’agit d’un bon « petit » vin, n’en attendez pas le nirvana et surtout, à ce prix-là, pensez-y au moins cinquante-cinq fois avant d’acheter.

Je note 90 un vin qui s’avère, qui plus est, vendu seulement 20 $ ? Ne perdez pas de temps à me lire, même si j’écris très bien : courez en acheter une caisse !

Pourquoi alors certains refusent-ils de donner une note aux vins dont il parle dans leurs chroniques ?

Bonne question. C’est leur choix — et leur prérogative, c’est certain.

Maintenant, qui, quel consommateur vivant dans le monde pressé d’aujourd’hui, se plaindrait de pouvoir compter, en plus d’un commentaire écrit bien senti, sur ce type d’indication ?


À boire, aubergiste

Bon, cela dit, l’idéal demeure de noter ET de commenter les vins d’un même souffle, pour donner un portrait complet. Ce que font la plupart d’entre nous, notamment ici, sur Chacun son Vin.

En temps normal, seuls les membres Privilège peuvent voir les notes que nous mettons aux vins, sur notre site. Une fois n’est pas coutume : vous les trouverez exceptionnellement ci-dessous, sujet de la présente chronique oblige.

Bodegas Castano Solanera Vina Viejas Yecla 2013 — Un très bon rouge espagnol à base de mourvèdre (70 pour cent), auquel s’ajoutent à parts égales du cabernet sauvignon et du grenache. Puissant fruité et épicé, et à la texture relativement dense et serrée. À servir avec une viande rouge grillée. 20,15 $ — 88 %

Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère Colchagua 2013 — Difficile de se tromper au nez, on est vraiment dans la famille des cabernets, avec des notes herbacées et de cendrier froid — d’âtre refroidi. Fraîcheur en bouche, bon fruit, alcool en bride, pas de sucre apparent. À 15 $, une excellente affaire ! — 88 %

Fontanafredda Barolo 2011 — Étiquette plutôt quelconque, vieillotte, mais contenu ô combien satisfaisant ! Un barolo de facture moderne à la fois typé, relativement astringent entre autres, mais avec aussi un minimum de chair. La cerise, le tabac, de l’amertume en finale. À tout juste moins de 30 $, à ne pas manquer ! — 91 % (pas de niaisage, c’est dire, achetez !)

Castaño Solanera Viñas Viejas 2013 Casa Silva Reserva Carmenère 2013 Fontanafredda Barolo 2011 Don Pascual Reserve Viognier 2015 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Don Pascual Viognier Reserve 2015 — Un bon viognier urugayen, assez aromatique — l’abricot —, corsé en bouche mais aussi rafraîchissant et pratiquement sec. À 15,45 $, un très bon rapport qualité-prix. Accord gourmand : avec les ris de veau, suggère le producteur, ce qui me semble une excellente idée ! — 87 %

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 — C’est rendu que je vois 15 % d’alcool sur une étiquette de vin californien et que je me réjouis : au moins, cela risque moins d’être doucereux, tous les sucres ou presque auront fermenté. Or c’est à peu de choses près le cas, le vin est corsé, généreux, mais bien structuré, avec de bons tannins et une certaine fraîcheur. La belle Californie ! Prix (34,75 $) bien mérité. — 90 %

Saint Clair Marlborough Premium Sauvignon Blanc 2015 — Impeccable ! Et très typé sauvignon de Nouvelle-Zélande, avec ses intenses notes de pamplemousse rose, son acidité marquée, son reste de gaz carbonique aussi. Tout simple, pratiquement sec (3,9 g) et diablement efficace. 21,90 $ — 88 %

Listel Rosé Sable De Camargue 2015 — Couleur orangée pâle – on dirait un « vin orange » -, des notes végétales (pas déplaisantes) au nez, un caractère moyennement corsé, pas de sucre résiduel apparent (pourtant il y en a 4,5 g), une bonne texture relativement grasse, de l’acidité. À 13,10 $, un bon achat ! — 85 %

Saint Clair Marlborough Premium Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Listel Gris Rosé 2015 Famille Perrin Tavel Rosé 2015 Domaine Sébastien Brunet Méthode Traditionnelle Brut 2013 Duval Leroy Brut Rosé Champagne

Tavel Famille Perrin 2015 — Savoureux tavel, plus corsé qu’un côtes-de-provence rosé mais avec autant de fraîcheur et une belle longueur. Bravo aux Perrin !  21,95 $ — 89 %

Domaine Sébastien Brunet Vouvray Méthode Traditionnelle Brut 2013 — Finement miellé (le chenin) au nez et saveurs à l’avenant, amples et rafraîchissantes, passablement élégantes aussi — fines, même. L’un des meilleurs vouvrays mousseux qu’il m’ait été donné de goûter ces dernières années. 24,30 $ — 90 %

Duval-Leroy Brut Rosé — Avec sinon l’été du moins le vrai printemps qui se montre le bout du nez, terminons avec un champagne rosé, très cher, 87 $ mais vraiment très très bon, finement brioché, épicé, nerveux, long en bouche. Miam ! — 92 %



P.S. Une autre fois, on parlera du fait que la notation, par exemple dans l’échelle sur 100, se limite en réalité à donner entre 85 et 90 à la très grande majorité des vins…


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


Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – April 30, 2016

Buyers’ Guides for the Pacific Northwest & Rosé, The State of Pinot Noir (and other varieties), and Prince Edward County
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report is overflowing with recommendations and reviews, a reflection of a busy past couple of weeks of tastings and trade seminars. The VINTAGES April 30th release features a lopsided Pacific Northwest selection with some excellent Oregon pinot noir. California is also heavily featured in this report, following on the heels of the hugely successful annual wine fair, that is, if the number of attendees is correlated to success.

Over 1,000 industry insiders not only showed up, but even lined up, to squeeze their way into to the Canadian Room at the Fairmont Royal York to revel and taste in its carnival-like atmosphere. The Wine Bible (revised edition 2015) author Karen MacNeil, also keynote speaker at the luncheon, launched the day with an excellent overview and memorable tasting of pinot noir representing over 800 kilometers of coastal Californian vineyards from the Anderson Valley to Santa Ynez. Click for this week’s feature article on the State of California pinot and reviews of some of the state’s top bottlings. Although the specific wines reviewed are as widely available as white unicorns, all of the producers on the list and their other cuvees are worth tracking down.

For more immediate gratification, see my full list of 18 recommended California wines – the state does more than just pinot noir, you know. These were whittled down from over 60 samples of currently available or incoming wines sent to the Media Room, where I hid for most of the day to avoid the California trade crush.

Small but mighty Austria likewise held a trade fair last week, with a trade seminar focused on the country’s vastly improved red wines, now serious contenders. The addition of local varieties such as Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent to the worldwide roster of worthwhile reds is like discovering a new exotic spice to add to your culinary repertoire. Also on display were the first releases of fresh whites from the superlative 2015 vintage, destined to become a classic. I’ll be highlighting some of the best in a mini Austrian Wine Buyer’s Guide to be posted at a later date.


County in the City – The calm before the evening storm

The annual County in the City tasting brought the best of Prince Edward County to Toronto on the same day, featuring mostly a mix of the very promising 2015s, and the few drops of the 2014s that survived the yield-crippling (but paradoxically quality-improving) May frost. I was pleased to see that the established names continue to deliver exceptional wines, spurred on in part by increasing competition; a clutch of relative newcomers is knocking at the door. And while chardonnay and pinot noir are still the flagships, pinot gris is clearly another grape to watch in the County. See my mini PEC Buyers’ Guide for some of the best.


And read on for highlights of the VINTAGES April 30th release, which features a lopsided Pacific Northwest selection, with some excellent Oregon pinot noir, and a largely disappointing, commercial range from Washington State. British Columbia was inexplicably officially left out of the thematic (“Though no agreed boundary exists, a common conception [of the PNW] includes the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia”, according to Wikipedia), though there are two BC wines worth your attention, which I’ve added to my recommendations.

Mount Hood from the Dundee Hills-8781

Mount Hood from the Dundee Hills, Oregon

A range of rosés representing all major wine producing continents is timed perfectly for the long-awaited arrival of spring in Ontario. It’s a perfect illustration of why southern France remains the world hotspot for pink, that is, if you’re after premium dry, delicate but flavourful, purpose-made rosés. I’ve listed three excellent examples.

And since that’s more than enough for one report, I’ll throw the rest of my miscellaneous top picks, including a couple from the “Aussie Whites” mini-feature, into next week’s general Buyers’ Guide along with the rest of the WineAlign crü.

Buyers’ Guide to Pacific Northwest: Oregon

Willakenzie Estate Gisèle Pinot Noir 2013 Soléna Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir 2012Pinot Noir has been planted in Oregon’s Willamette Valley since 1966, and has been the focus of the rapidly expanding industry ever since. Being at the edge of viable ripening is where pinot likes to be, and the grape’s propensity to magnify even small variations in micro climate and soil chemistry and structure make it perfectly suited to the Willamette’s cool climate and varied soils. Two fine value variations on the marine sedimentary soils known as “Willakenzie” found in the Yamhill-Carlton sub-AVA are on offer April 30th, both unusually refined for the often firmly tannic, black fruit flavoured wines most typical of these soils.

The Soléna 2012 Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir ($35.95) is a particularly classy wine. Very fragrant, pretty, concentrated, delivering verve, depth and fine-grained structure. Soléna is run by Laurent and Danielle Montalieu, who purchased the 80-acre Domaine Danielle Laurent in May of 2000 as their wedding gift to each other, planting six clones of pinot noir shortly after (also wedding gifts to one-another, offering another dimension to the vow ‘till death do us part’). Best 2016-2022.

Even lighter, more fragrant and delicate is the Willakenzie Estate 2013 Gisèle Pinot Noir ($36.95), also from Yamhill-Carlton, the entry-level blend from various estate parcels designed for early enjoyment. It’s crafted in the pale, oxidative style, filled with tart red fruit and beetroot, earth, and pot pourri flavours, while tannins are very light. You might call it a fragile pinot noir, though not in a negative sense, ready to drink now or hold short term at best. I do appreciate the delicate nature of this wine – not all reds need be dark and burly.

Buyers’ Guide to Pacific Northwest: British Columbia

The Naramata Bench on the east side of Lake Okanagan, north of Penticton, is increasingly recognized as a sweet spot in the valley, improbably capable of delivering everything from fresh whites to serious reds, like the Laughing Stock 2013 Portfolio, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($54.95). Have to say, I love their tag line: “We wake up every day with the constant motivation of not living up to our name”. You surely won’t be laughing while chewing on this intense, ripe, regionally accurate flagship Bordeaux blend (the full portfolio), complete with sage brush and ripe black fruit, measured but noted oak, and a wide range of spicy aromatics. Ambition is evident. Best 2016-2023.

Osoyoos in the southern Okanagan is the source of the Nk’mip 2013 Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($24.95). Pronounced kw-em kw-empt in the Osoyoos First Nation’s language (meaning ‘achieving excellence’), Qwam Qwmt is the top range from Nk’Mip. In this case a ripe, rich, resinous and wood-inflected chardonnay, with lots of polish and concentration in a classic west coast style – the kind that often sells for much more a few hundred miles further south.

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2013 Nk'mip Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay 2013Hogue Genesis Meritage 2012 Joel Gott Riesling 2012

Buyers’ Guide to Pacific Northwest: Washington State

As mentioned in the intro, the selection of Washington wines generally fails to excite, especially considering some of the terrific wines made now by over 800 wineries in the United State’s second largest wine producing state. For an example of the widely appealing, easy-drinking commercial style, try the Hogue 2012 Genesis Meritage, Columbia Valley ($18.95). It’s a modern and ripe, oak-inflected Bordeaux blend, medium-full bodied. It won’t change your life, but nobody will get hurt, either.

Washington does riesling quite well, arguably the state’s most successful white variety. The Joel Gott 2012 Riesling Columbia Valley ($19.95) is a perfectly serviceable example, crunchy and just off-dry, fresh and fragrant in a typical lime zest-inflected varietal idiom. Ready to enjoy.

Buyers’ Guide to Rosé

Côteaux Varois en Provence

Côteaux Varois en Provence – credit to: CIVP F.Millo

Rosé is a challenging category to understand. Different varieties, wildly varying climates and especially winemaking techniques conspire to broaden the stylistic field. You’ll find everything from deeply coloured, sweetened versions to pale and bone dry, all labeled simply as rosé. How are you to know what you’ll get without tasting? Sadly, you can’t. That is, unless you’re seeking the bone dry, serious, pale versions, which I admittedly do. By legal definition, the rosés of Provence (and its various appellations, mainly Côtes de Provence, Côteaux d’Aix en Provence Côteaux Varois) are pale and dry, and as reliable as they come.

Gabriel Meffre Saint Ferréol Tavel Rosé 2015 Château la Tour de L'évêque Rosé 2015 Saint Aix Rosé 2015There are two fine examples arriving on shelves on April 30th: Saint Aix 2015 Rosé, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, France ($22.95) is the finest. A serious, fragrant, flavourful, balanced and bone dry, fresh rosé here that’s dangerously drinkable but also offers a more sophisticated flare, and great length, too. Also excellent is the ever-reliable Château la Tour de l’Évêque 2015 Rosé, Côtes de Provence France ($19.95), a regular fixture on LCBO shelves. The 2015 is another classic Provençal example, though a touch riper and softer than the previous vintage, more advanced and ready to go with heaps of red fruit and herbs. Alcohol is a heady 13.5%, so while it’s infinitely drinkable, it’s no light, afternoon sipper to be sure.

A little further north, the southern Rhône appellation of Tavel is unique in being the only AOC in the Rhône Valley dedicated purely to rosé, also invariably dry. Tavel is famous for it’s powerful style, as evinced in the Gabriel Meffre 2015 Saint Ferréol Tavel Rosé, Rhône Valley ($19.95), replete with inviting liquorice-fennel seed and white pepper to spice up succulent red fruit.

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


John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES April 30, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All April 30th 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!

Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Chardonnay 2012

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Le sacre du printemps

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Je sais, calmons-nous, on n’est que le 18 mars, mais c’est tout de même ce dimanche matin, dans moins de 48 heures, que surviendra l’équinoxe du printemps 2016.

Si ça se trouve, alors qu’il fait doux au moment où j’écris ces lignes, le ciel s’apprête peut-être à nous tomber sur la tête. D’où le fameux sacre…

Mais bon, la machine n’en demeure pas moins en branle, et bientôt on ne se pourra plus, assoiffés de chaleur, de trilles d’oiseau et d’entrée de garage nettoyée à grande eau, en bozo.

Cette année, en cette fin mars, il y a aussi Pâques qui nous pend au bout du nez.

Mais ne comptez pas sur moi pour vous dire quoi boire avec le jambon, la quiche à Lorraine ou les repas de cabane à sucre. Enfin si, ou plutôt non, je ne vais pas vous laisser tomber ; en énonçant, attendez que je mette mon chapeau de sommelier, cette règle cardinale des accords vins-mets:  toutes les fois où vous êtes embêtés, chaque fois où l’accord ne coule pas de source, optez pour un rosé. Banal, je sais, réducteur, you bet. Sauf que neuf fois sur dix ça marche. Sans compter que ça connote l’été. Or vu qu’on est encore pris avec mars, avril et peut-être même mai…

Bonne nouvelle, j’en ai quelques-uns à vous recommander, de ces rosés.

Le Pive Gris Vin Rosé 2015 Rendez Vous La Côte Rêvée 2015 Château La Tour De L'evêque Pétale De Rose Rosé 2015D’abord, de Provence, le très connu Pétale de Rose de Régine Sumeire, qui vient d’arriver dans sa version 2015. Discret, comme à l’accoutumée – peu coloré, peu aromatique aussi. Cela n’empêche pas ce rosé de plaire, avec sa texture assez grasse, ses notes épicées et sinon sa minéralité, du moins son caractère agréablement (bien que légèrement) tannique et astringent. À table, une valeur sûre, sur à peu près tout sauf peut-être des viandes rouges, quoique, c’est encore drôle, comme on dit.

Du Languedoc maintenant, avec un nom et une étiquette plutôt cucul, qui ne font pas vraiment rêver, le Rendez-Vous La Côte rêvée 2015. Un rosé sec et léger, sans vice et avec tout de même quelques bonnes vertus, du fruit et de la fraîcheur c’est dire, ainsi qu’une certaine profondeur, une certaine « épaisseur ».

Toujours du sud de la France, ce formidable bassin à vin rosé, j’ai bien aimé le Pive Gris 2015, qui est bio par surcroît. La couleur, pelure d’oignon, est proche de celle de bien des rosés de Provence. Au nez, ça sent la banane et la fraise, tandis qu’en bouche, l’ensemble est relativement corsé. Très ok !

À boire, aubergiste !

Il y en a, cela dit, pour qui le rosé n’est pas vraiment un vin. Pour qui c’est un entre-deux-chaises, une sorte d’hybride, ni tout à fait blanc ni tout à fait rouge.

Vrai : de grands vins qui soient aussi rosés, inutile de tergiverser, ça n’existe pratiquement pas. De leurs raisins rouges, ceux avec lesquels ils font le rosé, les vignerons gardent généralement les meilleurs fruits pour… leurs vins rouges.

Cela n’enlève rien au mérite de la catégorie. Comme je le disais, à table, le rosé est le vin polyvalent par excellence. Et s’il n’est pas trop appuyé, pas trop maquillé, s’il vient par exemple du sud de la France, il peut aussi faire un très bon apéro, après les bulles et en route vers le blanc corsé puis le rouge.

Tout ça pour suggérer maintenant quelques vins de ces deux dernières catégories que j’ai bien aimés, récemment.

Faux : mon premier vin est blanc, oui, mais pas corsé, même léger. Qu’importe, ce Charles Smith Riesling Kung Fu Girl 2014, de l’État de Washington, n’a pas qu’un nom bizarroïde, il est aussi très bon, frais, et avec un soupçon de gaz carbonique qui avive les saveurs.

Puis d’Italie même si on pouvait presque dire d’Autriche, vu qu’on est tout à fait au nord-est de la botte, le Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio Porer 2014 et le Alois Lageder Gewurztraminer 2014.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2014Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2014 Alois Lageder Gewurztraminer 2014 Paul Jaboulet Les Traverses 2014 Meia Encosta Reserva 2011

Deux costauds, relativement corsés c’est dire, mais dotés d’une pureté de fruit et d’une élégance de haute volée. À plus ou moins 25 $ chacun, une superbe occasion de découvrir qu’il y a autre chose notamment que la Toscane et la Sicile, dans ce pays.

Finalement, du côté des rouges, à prix doux (16,55 $), le Les Traverses Ventoux Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2014 est souple et fruité tout en ayant de la profondeur – en se révélant un peu plus à chaque gorgée, c’est dire. Exemplaire !

Dernier et bel et bien le moindre (parmi mes bons choix d’aujourd’hui, s’entend), le rouge portugais Daõ Meia Encosta Reserva 2011. Celui-ci a par contre l’avantage d’être bon marché (15 $) en plus d’être robuste et corsé, d’une agréable rusticité. À table, il accommoderait très bien une casserole de porc à la portugaise, voire un couscous royal pas trop relevé.

Bon app’ !



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Castello Di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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Bill’s Best Bets – March 2016

The March Cellier release
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring is coming folks!


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

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Castello di Gabbiano Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

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A Wine for All Seasons: Rosé de Provence

Szabo’s Free Run – The Provençal AdvantageDecember 17, 2015

Text and photographs by John Szabo, MS with Bill Zacharkiw

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

Even in November, tender sunlight casts a warm, honeyed-pastel glow on the limestone-hewn houses liberally sprinkled on the craggy hills that tumble from Haute Provence down to the Côte d’Azur. The magic hour for painters and photographers stretches well past sunrise and sunset; the clarity and angle of light is nearly always perfect. Temperatures hover in the comforting early 20s, while soft breezes dance down from Alpine highlands or waft inland from the Mediterranean, floating scents of wild mint, lavender, pine needles and mimosas. It’s not hard to imagine what has attracted everyone from early Greeks and Romans to Renoir, Monet, Matisse, Brigitte Bardot and Brangelina. Only sporadic torrential downpours dampen Provence’s perfect year-round climate, channeled by the region’s success – measured in concrete and asphalt – into occasionally deadly flows.

From the beginning of recorded history, the southeast corner of France nestled between the Alps, the Mediterranean and the Rhône River, know to the Romans as Provincia Romana, has produced wine, which is among the only crops, along with olives and aromatic plants for perfumes, which thrive in these arid, rocky soils. And rosé wine in particular, it is argued, was a staple from the beginning, although the same is likely true of most of the ancient world’s wines, made from field blends of grapes of all hues. But that Provence today has staked its reputation on pale, shimmering, ethereal pink wine is beyond question; nearly 90% of regional output, and 95% of exports, is labeled rosé. There is no other region in the world so devoted to it.

View from Bormes-les-Mimosas

View from Bormes-les-Mimosas

The modern Provençal obsession with rosé is traced, perhaps apocryphally, to film star Brigitte Bardot, who put Saint Tropez on the map in the 1960s. The Hollywood bombshell and party girl apparently had a distaste for astringent wines, and local vignerons vying for her attention made every effort to craft the lightest, most delicate wines possible. White wine would have been most logical, but considering there was only a tiny percentage of white grapes planted in the region (and still today less than 10%), the only option was to use red grapes. They had to be treated very gently, without maceration (which extracts both colour and tannins that lead to astringency). And voilà, light-bodied, very pale rosé was born. Bardot was pleased; her glamorous star power made success immediate.

Domaine du Deffends

Domaine du Deffends

From the 1960s on, the production of rosé de Provence steadily increased. Bardot’s personal preferences aside, it makes sense to be sipping light, dry, chilled rosé in a warm climate with classic dishes from the Mediterranean repertoire, heavily axed on seafood and fresh vegetables. Tourism also increased exponentially – just try to find a parking spot on the banks of the vast river of cars and people streaming into Saint Tropez on a July or August day – and the majority of wineries enjoyed a near-inexhaustible local market. There was little incentive to push the boundaries of quality or seek export markets. Rosé de Provence soon became synonymous with seaside summer holidays, frivolous and easy-drinking, more fun than serious, released for Valentine’s Day and best drunk before the autumn equinox.

The message couldn’t have been more simple, and more effective – there was nothing to “get” with rosé, no reason to apologize for not understanding nuances of terroir or technique.

It was just a wine to drink and enjoy, and a great deal of profit was made from this image. There is nearly twice as much rosé consumed in France today as white wine, 30% vs. 17% of total wine consumption.

But advantages can quickly turn into challenges, and the easy marketing dream of Provençal rosé would eventually also clip its wings, limiting its potential to be taken seriously. Prejudices in the wine world die hard.

And at the same time it wouldn’t take long for other regions, within France and beyond, to muscle in on Provence’s success, offering less expensive alternatives to consumers hoping to relive those seaside memories in the south of France.

According to the latest statistics provided by the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Provence (CIVP), worldwide consumption of rosé is up 11% in the last 8 years. Only 5.6% of world rosé production comes from Provence, which is still significant, but competition is increasing. More than half of worldwide rosé production is now modeled after the Provençal style: pale and dry (technically with less than 4 grams of residual sugar). It’s a direct attack.

Natalie Pouzalgues, Centre du Rosé

Natalie Pouzalgues

So with the specter of declining overall consumption in France, and ever-more competitive export markets, action was required. It was time to start making more serious rosé. And to the region’s credit, they’ve done just that. “Quality has risen significantly in the last decade”, Chef de Projet Natalie Pouzalgues of the Centre du Rosé tells me. And the technical improvements have much to do with Pouzalgues and the Centre du Rosé, a research institute created in 1999, conceived and supported by the CIVP, as well as the Chamber of Agriculture and L’Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV), with the express goal of improving the general quality and typicity of Provence’s rosés.

Ongoing research has been aimed at providing winegrowers with the means to produce top quality, age-worthy rosé, which can comfortably sit at the table at any time of year and accompany a broad range of cuisines. The impact has been seen at all levels, with most of the bottom end now at the very least respectable, and the top end highly admirable.

But ironically, one of the biggest obstacles to quality production remains the market perception of rosé, especially that it must be drunk as young as possible. On this recent visit, many wineries related their woes regarding their importers, who want the wines to arrive by February after harvest. That means bottling in early January at the very latest, more often in December. “It’s impossible to make stable wine that quickly”, Laurence Berlemont, a top consultant for several wineries with the Cabinet d’Agromnomie Provençal, tells me, “without stripping the heart out of it”. Heavy fining, cold stabilization and sterile filtration are regular practices to drive wine into bottle before its due time. All quality wine, rosé included, requires patience to naturally stabilize and develop.

Most winegrowers in the quality game insist that their wines don’t begin to reach peak until at least June or July, or later. An illuminating vertical rosé tasting at Saint André de Figuière, reaching back to 2003 (out of magnum, to be fair), revealed that carefully made rosé can not only survive, but even improve after several years of bottle age.

But it will take a massive cultural shift to convince consumers that drinking a 2014 rosé on Valentine’s Day 2016 is the smarter thing to do.

Do I believe that all rosé producers should concentrate on making only expensive, age-worthy wines? Of course not. There’s something infinitely attractive about a breezy glass of rosé on a summer terrace. But just as there are both frivolous and serious whites and reds, rosé shouldn’t be relegated exclusively to the frivolous category. And I’d be very wary about any wine that reaches the market before it is six months old.

The Provençal Advantage

When it comes to quality rosé production, Provence retains one significant advantage over the rest of the world.

Bill at work at Les Valentines

Bill at work at Les Valentines

The entire region, and all its tangle of appellation regulations in the bureaucratic Gallic style, has one principal focus: making rosé. Very good red and white are of course produced, but the vast majority of vineyards are conceived, planted and managed, harvest dates are timed, and production methods are tuned exclusively to making a singular style of rosé. This stands in sharp contrast to the vast majority of rosés produced elsewhere, which are, by and large, an afterthought of red wine production, made using a method called saignée.

Saignée-style rosé is made from grapes grown and harvested with the aim of making red wine. Grapes are crushed and put into tanks, and a short while later, a small percentage of the juice is siphoned off (or bled off, hence saignée, meaning “bleeding”). Short skin contact gives this juice a light red or rosé colour, and fermentation continues on as for white wine. The rest of the tank continues on the red wine production track, with the added advantage that the increased skin-to-juice ratio results in greater concentration and structure. The downside is that the bled off rosé is often out of balance, soupy, overripe, alcoholic (or sweet). The ideal ripeness for reds and rosés is never the same, especially if your aim is to make a delicate, elegant pink. To make great rosé is technically demanding. As one winegrower put it, “making good rosé is like watching a Chinese acrobat: it looks very easy to do, but in reality it’s very tough.”

The Classic Style

Provence rosés are blends, based for the most part on grenache for body and fruit, and cinsault for freshness, delicacy and low alcohol, which together usually represent at least half the mix. Syrah (perfume, colour), and carignan, mourvèdre and cabernet sauvignon (acid, structure) complement in varying proportions, depending on vineyard location and house style, and up to 20% of white rolle (aka vermentino) can be co-fermented.

Bill strolling at La Courtade, Porquerolles

Bill strolling at La Courtade, Porquerolles

By definition, under the AOPs Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence and Coteaux Varois, wines are dry (any rosés with more than 4 grams of sugar fall under generic regional designations), and are invariably pale, delicate and perfumed, with fresh but gentle acids. Alcohol rarely exceeds 13%. And while technical advancements may have been adopted too enthusiastically in the early days (carbon filtering to strip colour, obsessive exclusion of oxygen and use of aromatic yeasts to produce candied bonbon Anglais or grapefruity, sauvignon-like aromas), the best Provençal rosés are transparent expressions of place and grapes, produced carefully, but without artifice.

The Regional Nuances

Montagne Sainte Victoire

Montagne Sainte Victoire

With their distinctive regional character, rosés from all over Provence stand out from those made outside the region. But investigate a little more deeply within the AOPs of Provence itself, and nuanced differences between them begin to emerge. Vineyards in Haute Provence, for example, experience much sharper temperature swings compared to those near the coast, effectively cut off from the moderating effects of the sea by a series of mountain ridges like the Montagne Sainte-Victoire and the Massif des Maures. The climate is far more continental and harvest begins up to three weeks later. Mourvèdre struggles to ripen inland, while syrah bakes on the coast.

Provence also straddles Europe and Africa, tectonically speaking, with a clear fault line separating limestone-based France, on the Eurasian tectonic plate, from the metamorphic-igneous-volcanic geologies of the African plate. Mimosas and cork oaks proliferate in the coastal area based on schist and volcanic soils, but do not grow at all in the calcareous interior. The Centre du Rosé has undertaken to understand the real impact of such dramatic terroir differences on wine style, with much more to do. The point is that even within the seemingly homogenous family of rosé de Provence, there are measurable differences, whose nuances a growing number of sub-appellations attempt to reflect. Will wine writers and sommeliers one day be enthusiastically speaking about rosés de terroir, the way they dissect Burgundy and Bordeaux?



Purpose-grown rosé from a great site, rendered authentically, is great wine. It’s amazingly versatile at the table (try it with your roasted turkey), can be enjoyed relatively young and can develop intriguing character with a few years in the cellar. It should be taken seriously. And if it happens to conjure up happy holiday memories, images of azur seas and honey-coloured houses in the fading light of a summer’s eve, then so much the better.

Buyers’ Guide: Rosé de Provence

Château La Lieue 2014 Rosé Tradition, Coteaux Varois en Provence

La Lieue is a reliable, fine value name in the region, with Julien, the 5th generation in place at the chateau. Vineyards are in one of the coolest areas in the Var départment, where harvest can stretch into November. The top parcels are extraordinarily stony, pure limestone. The Tradition rosé, composed of cinsault and grenache, is relatively pale in colour, gentle, and brightly fruity, ready for drinking on release.

Château Léoube 2014 Rosé, Côtes de Provence

Château Léoube is one of the most spectacular properties in Provence, with 65 certified organic hectares of vines set on 560 hectares of protected Mediterranean scrubland and olive groves virtually right on the coast, in the La Londe sub-appellation. Wines are made by Romain Ott, originally of the widely admired Domaine Ott, before it was bought from his family. This is the mid-tier rosé of the winery made with grenache and cinsault with a complement of syrah and mourvèdre. Uniquely, this is not designed for maximum aromatics: it’s fermented at “normal” temperatures (not ultra cold like many), with some oxygen contact, and put through full malolactic. The result is a rosé with uncommon succulence and depth, fully dry but focused on abundant and pure fruit. It’s the sort of wine that invites sip after sip with its saline edge and crisp acids – a genuine hit of umami. Available in Ontario from The Living Vine.

Château Léoube Vineyards

Château Léoube Vineyards

Domaine du Deffends Rosé d’une Nuit 2014, Coteaux Varois en Provence

A fine property first planted in 1967, originally a hunting reserve, with slightly warmer climate than is typical in the Coteaux Varois in an area referred to locally as “Le petit Nice”. 15 hectares of vines are certified organic. This equal parts grenache and cinsault rosé is fine and succulent, firm and fresh, notably salty, stylish and pure.

Château La Tour de l’Evêque Pétale de Rose 2014, Côtes de Provence

Régine Soumeire is one of Provence’s Grandes Dames, from the 3rd generation to run this property acquired in the 1930s (she also owns the excellent Château Barbeyrolles). 64 hectares are farmed organically in the Pierrefeu sub-appellation in haute Provence, with an average vine age of 25 years. Pétale de rosé is the top cuvée of the estate, from schist and clay-limestone soils, hand harvested, and whole bunch pressed in a champagne press. It’s composed of eight grapes, driven by grenache and cinsault, and crafted in the typical very pale Provençal style, but with uncommon depth and intensity, as well as length, with great palate presence. A classic, classy rosé, with very good to excellent length.

Château La Lieue Coteaux Varois En Provence 2014Château Léoube Rosé De Léoube 2014Domaine du Deffends Rosé d'une Nuit 2014Château La Tour de l'Evêque Pétale De Rose Rosé 2014

Other Highly Recommended Producers:

Château Revelette

Owner-winemaker Peter Fischer is one of Provence’s great, iconoclastic winemakers, farming 24 hectares in the upper Coteaux d’Aix en Provence organically (and with biodynamic principles) since 1990. The climate is as extreme as the approach, and yields are very low. An exceptional range in white, pink and red includes unsulphured, natural “PUR” (Produit Uniquement de Raisins – “made exclusively from grapes”, that is, with no additions) grenache and carignan; whites are fermented in concrete egg. Le Grand Rouge is one of the region’s finest reds.

Domaine les Béates

40 hectares of organic, isolated vineyards in the Coteaux d’Aix appellation yield a tidy range of white, red and rosé. Entry-level Les Béatines rosé fits the Provençal model, while the estate rosé, an unusual pure syrah, is deeper, almost like a pale red, well-structured, designed for enjoying after a year or two in bottle at least.

Château les Valentines

Very fine and elegant wines from the La Londe sub-appellation, certified organic. Estate rosé is arch-classic; Cuvée #8 rosé offers an additional dimension and terrific complexity. Reds are also a house specialty, based on finesse and freshness, including excellent Bagnard cuvée, equal measures of syrah, cabernet and mourvèdre.

Les Valentines

Les Valentines

Domaine Saint André de Figuière

A family estate led by Francois Combard, whose father worked with Michel Laroche in Chablis until 1992 when he purchased this property in La Londe, already certified organic since 1978. The terroir is very poor, almost pure high acid schists, and the house style is unsurprisingly very Chablisienne, which is to say focused on freshness in a reductive style, with impressively ageworthy rosé, well-structured and dense.

Domaines Ott (Château de Selle and Clos Mireille)

Domaines Ott consists of three separate and exceptional estates, Château de Selle for reds and rosés in Haute Provence, Clos Mireille for whites in La Londe, and Château Romassan for reds and rosés in Bandol, now owned by Champagne Roederer. Rosés are in the very top echelon of quality.

Domaine du Clos de La Procure (Négociant Dupéré-Barrera)

A quality-focused micro-négociant operation with a small property in Côtes de Provence, the Clos de La Procure. The large range is highly competent across the board, made in a minimalist style, with low sulphur, vibrant acids and fresh fruit flavours, more textural than aromatic. Intriguing “Nowat” cuvée is produced without the use of electricity.

Château d’Esclans

Esclans is Bordelais Sasha Lichine’s extreme property in the Fréjus sub-appellation of Côtes de Provence, employing the most impressive technology in southern France including optical sorting machine and individual temperature control for every barrel. Barrel-fermented Garrus is Provence’s most expensive rosé, concentrated, very ripe (14% alcohol is normal), with a high percentage of rolle blended with grenache, designed to impress. Whispering Angel is the highly successful “entry-level” rosé.



Domaine de Rimauresq

A 60 hectare domaine near Pignans in the Var, making dynamic wines of great vibrancy in the tight and reductive style.

Domaine du Jas d’Esclans

Wines from an exceptional terroir in the Esclans Valley and its volcanic soils, near Fréjus. Certified organic.

Château de Brégançon

An elegant château by the sea in Bormes-Les-Mimosas, in the La Londe sub-appellation, with wines to match.

Château Sainte Marguerite

Fine wines from La Londe with the extra dimension of the top level.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

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

Montresor Amarone Della Valpolicella

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