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Top Values at the LCBO (July 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

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

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


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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – July 23, 2016

Spanish Cante Jondo, and the non-linear price-quality relationship of sauvignon blanc
by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

In flamenco music there’s a style known as cante jondo (aspirate that ‘j’), which means literally “deep song”. It’s said to be the purest form of flamenco, unchanged over centuries (watch this short clip). On a parallel plane, this week’s report takes us deep into Spanish wine, exploring the country’s wealth of ancient vines, handed down to us by generations of growers, and less well-travelled regions, seemingly untouched for centuries. This is Spanish wine in its purest form. I’ve highlighted my top picks from the Spanish-themed VINTAGES July 23rd release, as well as some excellent wines from a new Spanish specialist in Ontario, Cosecha Imports. These are some of the most exciting Spanish wines to reach our market in the last decade, available by private order, but well worth the effort.

I also have a look at the curious price-quality relationship of sauvignon blanc. It’s a wine that appears to be priced based entirely on origin rather than quality, which means that some inside information is needed to find the best values in this minefield. I pick a quartet of smart buys to illustrate the point. Read on for the details.

Buyer’s Guide: Spanish Cante Jondo

Alejandro Fernandez, the founder of the Grupo Pesquera, is the man largely credited with putting Ribera del Duero on the map, starting in 1972. Tinto Pesquera is still one of the appellation’s top wines. Fernandez added three other bodegas over the years – Condado de Haza (Ribera del Duero), El Vínculo (La Mancha), and Dehesa la Granja (Castilla y Léon) – and it was wine from this last estate that caught my attention in this release, the 2008 Dehesa La Granja, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León ($22.95). The vineyards around Zamora deep in old Castille are not particularly well known for top quality wine, but this is exceptional tempranillo, unabashedly spicy and wood-inflected, exotic and complex, full of cedar and sandalwood scents in the traditional Spanish style. It’s the best Dehesa I can remember tasting, and superb value at that. Beware the heavy sediment; you’ll want to stand this up for a day and decant. Best 2016-2028.

The roots of the Merayo family run deep in the region of Bierzo (northwest Spain), and they have always owned vineyards, and occasionally made wine. But in 2010, a definitive step was taken to establish a commercial winery. On July 23rd you’ll see the 2014 Merayo Las Tres Filas Mencia, DO Bierzo, Spain ($19.95) reach LCBO shelves, a bright, ripe, red and black cherry flavoured red drawing on the wealth of 80+ year-old mencía vines in the family holdings. I like the rustic, deeply honest country styling; tannins are a little rough and tumble, but in time – 2-3 years – this should soften up nicely. Acids provide necessary energy and tension, and the length is excellent. Best 2018-2024.

Alejandro Fernández Dehesa La Granja 2008Merayo Las Tres Filas Mencia 2014 Almansa Laya 2014

Almansa is hardly a region that flows off the tongue in general wine conversations, even amongst professionals. But this backwater in the country’s deep southeast corner (province of Albacete, Castilla-La Mancha) has plenty to offer, including high elevations to temper heat, ranging from 700m up to 1000m above sea level, and just enough water-conserving limestone in the soils to keep vines alive. The ambitious Gil family, who also bring us excellent values from Jumilla D.O. under Bodegas Juan Gil, are behind Bodegas Atalaya, and the 2014 Laya, DOP Almansa, Spain ($15.95) is another terrific bargain for fans of bold, ripe, oak-influenced wines. A blend of garnacha tintorera and monastrell gives rise to this modern style, full-bodied red, generously endowed with spicy, vanilla-tinged oak flavour, smoky, like well-peated Scotch, and wild resinous herb notes to round out complexity. Best 2016-2022.

Cosecha Imports – Some Producers to Track Down

In May I sat down with Philip George of Cosecha Imports, a new player in the field focusing exclusively on Spanish wines. The company has managed to scoop a handful of “New Spain’s” most exciting producers, exploiting little-known, ancient regions and old vines, and applying post-modern techniques – earlier harvests, old wood, whole bunch indigenous fermentations and a host of other hip practices – that yield, when done correctly, beautifully perfumed and balanced wines, and above all, infinitely drinkable. This is vino jondo.

Rafael PalaciosRafael Palacios is among the portfolio headliners. A scion of the famous Rioja winemaking family, he struck out on his own in 2004, settling on the northern region of Valdeorras in Galicia to make his mark. He works exclusively with the native white godello, making some of Spain’s most exciting white wines today. Bolo (c. $20) is the excellent, stainless steel fermented entry level version; vine age, complexity and ageability are ratcheted up in Louro, which includes a splash of native treixadura and is fermented in old 3000l cask, in my view the best value in the lineup, while the top in the portfolio, As Sortes ($70), made from vines approaching a century old and fermented in demi-muid, is a wine of astonishing depth. These are all worth seeking out.

Commando GCommando G is another cultish producer turning heads around the world. It’s the project of Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia, who selected the remote Sierra de Gredos area about an hour’s drive outside of Madrid as their regional canvas, already painted with garnacha reaching up to 80 years old. Farming is organic/biodynamic in these small parcels, necessarily without machinery, which rise up over 1200m above sea level. If you think garnacha is heavy and alcoholic, you must try these wines, suffused with elegance, freshness and finesse. The prices of the ultra-limited cuvees rise steeply, but I loved the entry point 2014 Bruja de Rozas (c. $30), a vino de pueblo (village blend) of wonderfully silky and spicy garnacha, fresh and mid-weight, very Burgundian in feel.

Other excellent producers to look for in the Cosecha portfolio include Joan D’Anguera in Montsant D.O. and Pardas in the Penedès. It’s so great to see the Spanish wine offering expanding in the province.

On the Curious Relationship between Sauvignon Blanc and Price

The price of sauvignon blanc in LCBO VINTAGES is curiously predictable. It seems to be based on origins, rather than any notion of quality, however slippery that is to define. Chilean and South African sauvignon is invariably in the mid-teens. So too is basic Touraine or Bordeaux, while Aussie sauv seems able to fetch a dollar or two more. New Zealand hovers around $18, occasionally just over $20, alongside Friulian sauvignon, while Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé will set you back somewhere in the mid-twenties. Napa is in a neighbourhood of its own, in which $40 seems to be the standard point of entry.

Are these prices tied to how delicious the wines are? Hardly. It would be an eye-opening exercise to buy a range of sauvignons from $12 to $40 and taste them together, blind, with origins concealed. The results will surprise you. You’ll find that the cost appears much more directly linked to the wine’s home address than any other aspect of enjoyment. You might then buy 3 or 4 wines from the same region at the same price and repeat the exercise, observing how quality diverges at identical cost.

Now, wine pricing is a complex calculation to be sure. It’s based in part on hard production costs, including real estate and labour, currency exchange, and no small measure of regional and winery brand recognition, with a dash of speculation thrown in. Most regions are constrained to offer their wines in a more or less fixed range of prices, as the cost structure, and market tolerance, is similar for all (minus the individual brand recognition and speculation factor). But for sauvignon blanc, the price range is amazingly consistent, and narrow, from region to region, more so than for any other variety. It’s as though the producers get together to set a standard price for all. Even pinot grigio comes in greater price variation, based to some degree on quality. Why is that? Is it because sauvignon blanc is more a commodity than it is wine? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In any case, as a buyer, it’s frustrating knowing that a wine fetches a price based on birthright, not merit. But then again, as a smart buyer, I know that when looking for a typical sauvignon blanc experience, I needn’t overpay, either, just for the smart neighbourhood (unless I’m drinking the label). I can get a similar experience in an underprivileged neighbourhood for far less. It’s something to be aware of.

Below is a quartet of sauvignons that can be considered the nicest houses on their respective blocks. You only need choose what neighbourhood you want to live in.

Buyers’ Guide: Sauvignon Blanc

Roger & Didier Raimbault 2014 Sancerre AC, Loire Valley, France ($26.95) A Sancerre archetype: more stony than fruity, more citrus than tropical, more herbal than vegetal. The length, too, is excellent. Textbook. Best 2016-2024.

Domaine de la Commanderie 2014 Quincy AC, Loire Valley, France ($19.95) The so-called Sancerre satellite appellations (i.e. Reuilly, Quincy, Menetou Salon) are usually about 20 percent cheaper than Sancerre, but can offer a similar, lean and brisk profile in the classic Loire style. This is a fine example, a nicely tart, lemony and lightly stony sauvignon, brimming with green herbs and citrus. It’s perfectly satisfying; a classic oyster wine.

Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre 2014 Domaine De La Commanderie Quincy 2014 Boya Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Boya 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Leyda Valley, Chile ($15.95) Chile just may offer the best value sauvignon on the planet, especially if you prefer the pungent and smoky, vegetal/green pepper/pyrazine-driven style. Cool coastal regions like the Leyda do it best, and the Garcés Silva family (of Amayna) do it as well as anyone. Boya is the fine ‘entry range’, and this youthful 2015 offers great acids and a nicely acidulated, citrus fruit finish. There’s a lot of energy and life in this bottle for the price.

Sutherland 2014 Sauvignon Blanc WO Elgin, South Africa ($14.95) South Africa also vies for a spot at the top of the southern hemisphere sauvignon heap of value, again drawing from cooler areas, like southerly Elgin, to produce pungent gently smoky and green pepper-inflected wines. Sutherland is well-established Thelema Mountain Vineyards’ newish project in Elgin, and this 2014 is a compelling, if slightly unusual sauvignon. Fruit shifts into the orchard spectrum, like nectarine and green peach, while the palate is quite broad and deeply flavoured, with earthy-medicinal character alongside the ripe-tart fruit and smoky-leesy character. It’s a wine of strong personality. 

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES July 9th, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All July 9th Reviews

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


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Top Values at the LCBO (June 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

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

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


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Top Values at the LCBO (May 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There is a lot to tell you about this month with 12 wines new to my Top 50 Best Values list. Sadly four of those are de-listed favourites with big discounts to quickly clear the shelves. So don’t hesitate on those or you will miss out. There are good stocks for now; but they may be all gone in the next week or so.

Four new vintages of current listings, that I have tasted since I last wrote, were better than the last vintage and so they also joined the list as did four wines that jumped onto the list because they are on discount for the next four weeks. These are the usual reasons for wines joining the Top 50 Best Values list. There are also another eight wines that all have lots of Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) for the next 4 weeks if you are a collector of miles.

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

The current discount period runs until June 19th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

La Posta Cocina Tinto Red Blend 2014 Mendoza, Argentina ($7.45 was $12.95) DELISTED – An opaque red blend of malbec with syrah and bonarda that is full bodied and flavourful with some firm tannin giving grip and acidity for vibrancy. Good to very good length just a little hot from alcohol on the finish. Try it with steak.

Beso De Vino Seleccion Red 2011 Carinena, Spain ($8.95 was $9.95) – This is a ripe structured red with a nice lemony tone to nose and palate. The palate is full bodied with some tannin and lemony acidity for balance. Try with sweet ribs.

La Posta Cocina Tinto Red Blend 2014Beso De Vino Seleccion Red 2011Frisky Zebras Seductive Shiraz K W V Roodeberg 2013

Frisky Zebras Seductive Shiraz, Western Cape, South Africa ($8.95) – This batch of this non-vintage red from the Cape is better than last time it came my way. It is a dry soft shiraz with black cherry fruit with a hint of tobacco. The palate has soft acidity to keep it lively and mild tannin. Good length. Try with grilled red meats.

K W V Roodeberg 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($9.95 was $12.45) – This is medium bodied Cape classic had been in our stores for years because it offers good value for a well balanced and fairly complex red. Impressive depth for a wine that’s less than $10 for the next few weeks.

Tons de Duorum Red 2014, Douro Valley, Portugal ($10.35 was $12.55) – DELISTED – This is an elegant fruity red that is midweight to full bodied and juicy with the fruit well balanced by lemony acidity and mild tannin. Very good length. Chill a little and try with bbq meats.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015, Central Valley, Chile ($10.95 + 5 BAMs) – The 2015 vintage is one of the best I can recall of this excellent unpretentious pinot with a harmonious nose and a pure well structured palate. It is fresh, pure, fruity and very drinkable.

Tons De Duorum Red 2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015 Tribunal Red 2012 Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013 Fielding Fireside Red Cabernet 2012

Tribunal Red 2012, North Coast, California, USA ($11.45 was $18.95) – DELISTED – This slightly peppery red is brimming with berry fruit. Its youthful exuberance is very appealing. Enjoy on its own or with bbq meats.

Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.95 was $16.95) – A structured juicy fruity pinot that is midweight with decent length and a fine balancing vibrant acidity. Quite elegant with new world styling but dry and tightly knit.

Fielding Fireside Red Cabernet 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($13.95 was $14.95) – This blend of cabernet franc with cabernet sauvignon is very appealing. It is well structured for food with red cherry and plum aromas and flavours. Try with a steak.

Whites

Jaszbery Etyek Budai Riesling 2014, Hungary ($7.55) – The 2014 vintage is a fine dry riesling with aromas of melon, lemon and pear fruit with a floral tone. It is lightweight well balanced with just enough sweetness to cover the acidity. Very drinkable at a good price.

Brazos de Los Andes White 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($7.95 was $13.90) – DELISTED – This is blend of chardonnay and torrontes with a splash of pinot grigio. It is midweight and creamy smooth with a good depth of fruit flavour a little sweetness but if finishes dry. Very good length. Try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.

Alvear Medium Dry, Montilla Morilles, Spain ($12.60) – This smells and tastes like toffee with floral orange and nutty tones, but with only a little sweetness. It is a great price for such a complex, zesty rich wine. Try with blue cheese. The delicate sweetness nicely balances the bitterness from the blue parts.

Jaszbery Etyek Budai Riesling 2014 Brazos De Los Andes White 2015 Alvear Medium Dry

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

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

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


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

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

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

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


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Top Values at the LCBO (March 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There are ten new wines on my Top 50 Best Values this month, which in itself is amazing news, however I also found that another three, already on my Top 50, are discounted making them an even better deal. Plus another four on the list have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive for the next four weeks or so.

It is an exciting time for me since so many new vintages arrive this time of the year. Some of the new vintages I tasted were better and some not so good, so wines join the list and others fall off. As those of you who follow me know I really enjoy discovering inexpensive gems, so I am delighted to have found so many new great values at the LCBO this month.

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

The current discount period runs until March 27th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Castilla León, Spain ($9.45 was $11.45) – A juicy vibrant red with red berry fruit and just enough tannin for balance. Try with grilled meats or mature hard cheese.

La Casona De Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2014, Yecla, Alicante, Spain ($9.65) New to Top 50 – This is a bright ruby red with appealing berry aromas. It is a medium-bodied, full-flavoured wine with juicy ripe fruit, well balanced, with the fruit persisting well onto the finish. Try with meaty pasta sauces or pizza.

Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014 Colchagua Valley, Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – A typical Chilean cabernet at a great price. Juicy full bodied and well balanced. More complexity than you would expect for such an inexpensive wine. Try with a steak.

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 La Casona De Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2014 Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014 Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Maipo Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $13.95) New to Top 50 – A juicy rich well balanced cabernet with good varietal character. Its full bodied and nicely structured with very good length. Try with grilled meats or a creamy cheese like Brie.

Santa Julia Reserva Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.95 was $12.95) New to Top 50 – This is a rich malbec with a creamy texture and enticing aromatics. Flavourful with a long lingering very dry finish. Try with a rack of juicy ribs.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa ($11.00 was $13.00) New to Top 50 – This delightful blend of shiraz and 5 other grapes has a lifted nose that shows ripe blackberry and blueberry fruit. It is very smooth and quite dense with a degree of elegance. Try with pizza or burgers.

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Mendoza, Argentina ($12.95 was $14.95) – A consistently solid buy and at $2 off a fantastic deal. A rich, full flavoured malbec with aromas of chocolate, spices and berry fruits. Buy an armful while the deal lasts.

Santa Julia Reserva Malbec 2014 Thelema Mountain Red 2012 Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Château De Vaugelas Le Prieuré Corbières 2013 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Château De Vaugelas Le Prieuré Corbières 2013 Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($13.95) – The 2013 is a big improvement for this syrah grenache blend. Well balanced nicely structured with very good length. Quite classy for such an inexpensive wine. Try with a steak.

Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA ($19.90) – Lots of depth, flavour and complexity for a wine at this price, the 2013 is just as good as the superb 2012. Elegant and well balanced. Try with roast beef.

Whites

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Colchagua Valley Chile ($8.95 was $9.95) – At $9.95 it was already the best value white, so at $1off its time to stock up on this aromatic flavourful white. Enjoy on its own or with mildly spicy white meat dishes or rich poultry or with Swiss Gruyere cheese.

Dunavár Pinot Grigio 2014 Hungary ($8.95) New to Top 50 – This is a simple, fresh and lively pinot grigio, that is quite flavourful and very easy to drink.  It is midweight with a slight spritz adding to its freshness. At this price it provides plenty of basic refreshment.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Dunavár Pinot Grigio 2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2015 Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2015 Central Valley Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – The 2015 vintage is just as good as the excellent 2014. Aromatic and flavourful it is probably the best value grigio at LCBO. Chill well and enjoy with grilled calamari, cheesy pasta sauces or sauteed seafood. Why pay more when you have all you need here?

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015 Casablanca Valley, Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – Consistently one of the best white wine values at LCBO. Good varietal character with lots of flavour. Try with cheesy pasta sauces or roast chicken.

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

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

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


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Oct 3, Part Two

Spain and Thanksgiving
by John Szabo MS, with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week, the WineAlign Crü takes a look at VINTAGES’ first serious crack at raising the profile, and average price, of Spanish wines in Ontario, with a handful of top buys and multiple “triple alignments” between us. And since Thanksgiving is around the corner, we’ve also assembled our favorites from the October 3rd release, laid out in handy menu format; just plug and play.

Welcome Back, Spain

Consider for a moment some of Spain’s contributions to world culture. The country is a mecca for students of architecture, offering an encyclopaedic range from Frank Gehry’s landmark Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, to Antonio Gaudi’s magnificent designs in Barcelona, the spellbinding high Renaissance masterpiece El Escorial near Madrid by Juan Bautista de Toledo, the serene beauty of the Moorish magnum opus Alhambra Palace in Granada, the radical juxtaposition of Islam and gothic Catholicism in Córdoba’s Mezquita, countless medieval churches and monasteries, and even one of the old world’s best-preserved Roman aqueducts in Segovia.

The world’s first novel was penned here – Cervantes’ El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, while the international molecular gastronomy movement had its genesis in a small restaurant called elBulli in the hamlet of Roses overlooking the Costa Brava in Catalonia, inspiring a wave of culinary exploration both domestically and internationally. And where would we be with jamón Ibérico, hands-down the world’s best, or those tasty little charred padrón peppers that seem to be popping up on restaurant menus across Ontario, or Marcona almonds or hard Spanish sheep’s cheese in all of it’s kaleidoscopic variety? I haven’t even touched the legions of painters, dancers, filmmakers, musicians….

But what of Spanish wine? Spain of course produces wine, quite a lot of it in fact. The country has more acreage under vine than any other on the planet, and its production history stretches back to the earliest days of trade in the Mediterranean. So why is it you know so much about Spain, but so little about Spanish wine?

For one, Spain was a very latecomer on the international wine scene, having slept through a good part of the 20th century for various, mostly political reasons. It wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that Spanish wine awoke from its 19th century slumber. Alejandro Fernandez and his Tinto Pesquera from Ribera del Duero started to turn heads in the mid-1980s. René Barbier, Álvaro Palacios and their band of radical friends wagered on the immense potential of remote Priorat in the early 1990s, where Carthusian monks had been drawing precious drops from withered old vines clinging to bare rock for centuries in quasi secrecy. Their long odds came in, and they won large.

Soon after, bagpipe-playing vignadores in northern “Green” Spain, more familiar looking to Gaels then Andalucíans, realized that they had a treasure in their aromatic albariño grown in the misty maritime hillsides of Rias Baixas. Their neighbours in Bierzo likewise awoke at the turn of the millennium to find that nobody had replanted a vine for the last century, leaving vast tracks of ancient bush vine mencía for the current generation to exploit, capable of producing Spain’s most elegant reds.

The alarm reverberated throughout the country like the peeling of church bells on Sunday morning. The ripples eventually reached even the sleepiest regions like Calatayud, Campo de Borja and Cariñena, where there, too, they found acre upon acre of ancient hills covered in bonsai-like old garnacha vines, inexpensive to transform into a rich and heady style of wine that the world wants more and more of. The old classics like Rioja and Sherry were compelled to dust off their images and start producing better wines. Viticulture has never been sharper, and terroirs better understood in Rioja then they are today, and their brief, rebound fling with thick and soupy internationalized wines has more or less ended, sagely returning to the marvellously mid-weight, vibrant and savoury, eminently age-worthy reds for which the region is so well suited. And sherry gains new converts every day, at least among smart drinkers who know where to lay down their money to get the most singular and complex drinking experience for the least outlay.

All of these developments, and many more, have been simmering away in Spain for a couple of decades now, but admittedly, you would have been hard-pressed to know it living in Ontario. Few of the exciting wines were imported, and little promotion was done. But, it seems the pot has finally come to a boil.

Last night, Wines from Spain and LCBO-Vintages held the first significant tasting of Spanish wines in Toronto in longer than I can remember. A pre-tasting seminar sold out in short order, and some 350 people crowded into the Roundhouse to sample the wares of nearly three-dozen producers covering a fine cross-section of the industry. Just the week before, the LCBO launched a Spanish Specialty Store, the third in the laudable “Products of the World” initiative (read David’s report about it, and we’re planning a full review of the Spanish selection, triple the previous number of products available). And to line up everything neatly, the October 3rd VINTAGES release features a collection of Spanish wines.

What’s different from previous Spanish releases is the evident effort to shift consumers up-market; the average price of the featured wines is about $30. And while Spain has plenty of excellent wines in the sub-$20 range, those few extra dollars allow you tap into some of the more regionally distinctive and representative wines – the stuff that makes a country unique – as you’ll see in the category-leading Terras Gauda Rias Baixas or the comfortingly classic Viña Real Rioja Gran Reserva. It also permits exploration of some innovative curiosities that aren’t just weird but also wonderful, like the pure Rufete from Bodegas Bhilar, one of the most memorable discoveries at last night’s event.

Let’s hope this is the beginning of a more regular and representative selection of what Spain has to offer, so Ontarians can add wine to the list of Spain’s world culture contribution.

Speaking of Sherry

Love sherry? Or think you might? Check out the Canadian premier screening of Sherry and The Mystery of Palo Cortado, this Sunday October 4th, part of the Eatable Film Festival in Toronto (drinking sherry and eating pintxos is part of the deal). Go all in and have dinner at Bar Isabel after the screening with a crazy collection of sherries presented by winery principals.

Buyers Guide for October 3rd 2015: Spain 

Terras Gauda 2013 O Rosal Blanco, Rías Baixas, Spain ($24.95)
David Lawrason – When I first visited this region I remember being so impressed by examples that combined dancing, exotic fragrance and freshness with grounded structured and great depth. This is one of those wines, the best albarino of the year, giving full expression to the grape and the maritime terroir of Galicia.
Sara d’Amato – The O Rosal Blanco is blended from native varieties of albariño, loureira, and caiño blanco and fermented with wild yeast. This complex and highly pleasurable white is perfect for pairing with Thanksgiving fare although I plan to enjoy it all on its own.
John Szabo – Terras Gauda has been a Rias Baixas reference for me for many years now, and this O Rosal (sub-regional designation) may just be the finest yet. A splash of Loureiro adds additional aromatics to albariño’s impressive floral-fruity range, while caiño blanco chisels and tightens the palate with its stony wash. I love the salty taste, too, like the Atlantic mist-infused air of Galicia.

Viña Real 2008 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($36.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a lovely, succulent, deliciously savoury Rioja, salty and infinitely drinkable. Unlike most in the traditional camp (in which this wine can be included as well), this is not dripping in spicy American oak flavour, but finds a balance between fruit, wood, and developed spicy-earthy character. Length is excellent, too. Drink or hold a dozen years without concern.
David Lawrason – Grand indeed! This traditional Rioja is so elegant, tidy, refined and surprisingly youthful – with subtle floral notes among cherry fruit and fine oak vanillin. Great weave and finesse, and still able to age. Predict peak about 2020.
Sara d’Amato – Opulent and modern with velvety tannins, this Gran Reserva is a standout from other Riojas in this release. Offering the characteristic concentration and ageability of a wine at this level with only a hint of maturity. A cooler weather wine best enjoyed with hearty stews or braised red meats.

Marqués De Cáceres 2009 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($24.95)
John Szabo – Firm, succulent, juicy, genuinely savoury and saline Rioja from the ever-reliable Marqués de Cáceres, this has firmness and cut, mouth-salivating acids and marked minerality. I’d tuck this away for another 3+ years for maximum enjoyment, or hold another decade.

Terras Gauda O Rosal Blanco 2013 Vina Real Gran Reserva 2008 Marqués De Cáceres Reserva 2009 Phinca Encanto Rufete 2011 Baron De Ley Gran Reserva 2008

Bodegas Bhilar 2011 Phinca Encanto Rufete, Sierra de Francia, Spain ($32.95)
David Lawrason – This is incorrectly indicated as a Rioja in Vintages catalogue (the winery is based in Rioja but the fruit is from a less well known region in central-northwest Spain).  It is a delicious and fascinating wine. Winemaker David Sampedro Gil (“DSG” is its brand) is a young gun from a 5th generation of vintners who is on mission is recover indigenous varieties.  Rufete is an early-ripening, well-under-the-radar red grape centred in the Duero/Douro region of Spain/Portugal. It is all tangy cranberry (making it a great Thanksgiving turkey pick as well).
Sara d’Amato – A rather unusual find, this 100% Rufete (also known as tinta pinheira in Portugal) is a real stunner. Although my reference for this a wine such as this is quite low, the grape is known for producing wine with high acids and tannins and thus with great ageing potential. This example is immensely compelling offering verve and intensity with a complex array of flavours from clove and plum to kirsch and violets.
John Szabo – Damned if this isn’t both intriguing, and high quality. I can’t say classic rufete (can anyone?) nor even classic Spanish style, but fans of sharper, mid-weight reds – think nebbiolo, or cool climate syrah or pinot noir – will get into this. Tannins are still a bit burly, but there’s enough weight and density to envision future harmony, after 2017 or so I’d speculate. An exciting find.

Baron de Ley 2008 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Because a Gran Reserva must be held back for at least five years, older releases such as this 2008 are not uncommon. This traditional version from a reliable producer delivers great intensity and power for the price. Still quite youthfully rugged, the wine deserves time in a decanter or another 2-3 years tucked away before it can be optimally enjoyed.

Buyers’ Guide For October 3rd 2015: Thanksgiving dinner 

Bubbles to start 

Jansz Premium Cuvée TasmaniaJansz Premium Cuvée, Australia ($26.95)
John Szabo – Along with Ontario, and Crémant de Bourgogne, Tasmania should be on your list of sources for fine value, traditional method sparkling. Jansz is among the most reliable (and regularly available) names in Ontario, a bright, lively and fresh version. I like the vibrant citrus-orange zest and freshly baked white bread aromatics, and the well-measured crisp-dry-balanced palate. Fine length, too. 

White & Rosé

2013 Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Grüner Veltliner Dac Kamptal, Austria ($24.95)
John Szabo – A terrific, arch-classic grüner from Bründlemayer, at once fleshy and lean, richly flavoured but sharply defined and stony. This hits the mark, with expansive finish and broad flavour range, a perfect segue from aperitif into first course.

2014 Coffin Ridge Bone Dry Riesling VQA Ontario Canada ($17.00)
John Szabo – The best yet from young Coffin Ridge Crisp, this is bone dry (as advertised), lime-flavoured Riesling, uncompromising, reminiscent of the Clare Valley in Australia (a good reference). Ready to crack open your taste buds.

Angels Gate 2010 Mountainview Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Ontario, Canada ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – I was pleasantly surprised by the outstanding value this Beamsville Bench chardonnay delivers with appealing viscosity, great concentration of fruit and very good length of finish. The oak is a tad showy but also seductive and integrated. A rich offering that will prove a decadent addition to a Thanksgiving feast.

Seresin 2012 Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This profound, complex chardonnay has the stuffing to match the big bird and all its stuffing.  In fact flavour-wise it is not dissimilar, with buttered asparagus, corn, tobacco, nutmeg and barley sugar. It is biodynamically farmed, giving it great energy and depth.

Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Grüner Veltliner 2013 Coffin Ridge Bone Dry Riesling 2014 Angels Gate Mountainview Chardonnay 2010 Seresin Chardonnay 2012 Gassier Sables d'Azur Rosé 2014

Gassier 2014 Sables d’Azur Rosé, Côtes De Provence, Provence, France ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – We don’t often see a rosé featured this late in the year but it is a welcome addition to this week’s release. Just in time for Thanksgiving, this style of wine makes a versatile pairing for fish, poultry, pork or as a pre-dinner sipper. Well-priced, from a reliable house and offering a dry, crisp palate with a pleasant salinity and notes of lavender and savory herbes de Provence.

Lighter Reds

Herdade do Sobroso 2013 Sobro Red, Alentejano, Portugal  ($14.95)
David Lawrason – I was just about finished a large tasting when along came this lively, smooth and juicy wine packed with sour red fruit, herbs and spices. It was invigorating and pleasant, and just the right weight for a turkey dinner.  Then I looked at the price.  If your table will be including extended family and friends this year, you can afford three or four bottles of this one.

Stephane Aviron 2012 Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte du Py, Beaujolais, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a terrific cru Beaujolais, firm, meaty, substantially flavoured with an authentic and natural twist. Oenologists may dither about the touch of volatile acidity, but for me, it lifts the earth into the floral sphere and extends the back end. This is no carbonic fruity style, but traditional, old school, worldly gamay with legs to run another half dozen years or more. It’s the cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving turkey.

Herdade do Sobroso Sobro Red 2013 Stephane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte du Py 2012 Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013 Castello di Volpaia Riserva Chianti Classico 2012

Cave Spring 2013 Cabernet Franc, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)
David Lawrason – I hunted through this large release for a great Thanksgiving turkey pinot noir, but couldn’t find one rating highly that was ready to drink.  But this charming, lighter weight, pure and well-balanced cab franc will do the trick. Cave Spring is known for riesling but its reds are impressing of late.

Castello Di Volpaia 2012 Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($41.95)
John Szabo – This is great vintage for Volpaia – maturing beautifully now – high-toned, floral, savoury and herbal, arch-classic Chianti Classico with elegance, depth and staying power on the palate. Drinking now, or with any Thanksgiving dinner up until the early ‘20s.

Domaine La Tour Vieille Reserva Banyuls Tenuta San Vincenti Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2011 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013Medium-Full Reds

Le Vieux Donjon 2013 Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, Rhône, France ($58.95)
John Szabo – If you’re going big, you might as well go really big with this dense and rich, full, fat, sweet and savoury, generously proportioned yet finely tuned CdC  – it has the full package. A top vintage for Vieux Donjon. Decant an hour ahead of dinner at least.

Tenuta San Vincenti 2011 Gran Selezione Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($54.95)
Sara d’Amato – The “Gran Selezione” is a relatively new qualitative rank representing the peak of the pyramid and about 10% of the Chianti Classico produced. This mid-weight red is no lightweight when it comes to flavour and impact. It is wildly complex and its tannins are supple enough for immediate drinking pleasure.

Dessert 

Domaine La Tour Vieille Reserva Banyuls, Roussillon, France ($29.95)
David Lawrason – We see so little Banyuls that it’s almost a must for the curious. It’s a deep amber-brown, fortified ‘vin doux naturel’ with a lifted nose of prunes, walnuts, molasses, and a touch of earthy oxidation. It’s medium-full bodied, sweet, well balanced yet nicely dry and dusty. A wine for meditation after dinner, or with nut and dried fruit based desserts.  

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Oct 3rd, 2015

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

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


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Stags' Leap 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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LCBO Opens Spanish Specialty Location

by David Lawrason

Long-time readers know my enduring criticism of the LCBO has been lack of selection depth compared to any other major wine consuming market in the world, where private retailing rules. Well I am not about to change my tune and say the LCBO actually should exist, but I will give credit where due and happily say they are doing something about deepening their selection by creating regional specialty selections.

A Greek specialty location opened in Toronto’s Greektown at 200 Danforth Ave in June, followed by a Portuguese specialty store at 2151 St. Clair west (Stockyards) in July. Last week a Spanish location opened at the newly expanded location at 2946 Bloor St West at Royal York (Kingsway) in Etobicoke.

Spanish selection at LCBO Royal York Store

All three “Products of the World” locations are stocking all ‘General List’ and VINTAGES selections, as well as products purchased from agents who have wines in the Consignment program. The huge pool of consignment wines until now has been earmarked for direct sales by the case to restaurants and consumers. But at the new LCBO specialty locations you can buy single bottles off the shelf.

The Spanish “boutique” on Bloor West boasts over 150 selections, although the start-up, opening day inventory was not quite up there. I counted about 120. The new “Kingsway exclusive” selection is not some rarefied portfolio of expensive wines. They range from $11 to over $50. And some are available for sampling in-store at the recently installed tasting bar. I managed to taste most of the “Kingsway exclusives”. Links to some of the best buys and featured wines are below. They may not all show up in the LCBOs on-line inventory, so you may have to visit the store now and then and have a look.

Kingsway Exclusives

Tandem Ars In Vitro 2011, Navarra ($11.45)

Tandem Ars in Vitro

Bodegas Costers Del Sio Celistia Tierra 2013, Costers Del Segre ($13.80)

Bodegas Costers Del Sio Celistia Tierra 2013 side

Legón Reserva 2010, Ribera Del Duero ($22.85)

Legón Reserva 2010 side

From the VINTAGES Oct 3rd Spanish Release

(Read more on Spain in John’s Oct 3rd VINTAGES Article)

Terras Gauda 2013 O Rosal Blanco, Rías Baixas, Spain ($24.95)

Terras Gauda O Rosal Blanco 2013 side

Viña Real 2008 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($36.95)

Vina Real Gran Reserva 2008 side

Bodegas Bhilar 2011 Phinca Encanto Rufete, Sierra de Francia, Spain ($32.95)

Phinca Encanto Rufete 2011 side

LCBO General Lists Values

Bordón Gran Reserva 2005

Faustino V I I Blanco 2014, Rioja ($12.95)

Faustino V I I Blanco 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!

Store photo courtesy of LCBO

 


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 24th – Part One

Learning Spanish and Winter Whites
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

¿Hablas español? Either way, you’ll probably learn a few new words in this report, which covers the Spanish feature of the January 24th VINTAGES release. Although Spain may not be able to claim as many indigenous grapes as, say, neighboring Portugal or Italy, there’s a lot more to the country than just tempranillo and garnacha (as good as they can be). There’s a fine collection of oddities and uncommon varieties alongside the classics in the release, one of the most interesting Spanish features I can recall. So if you’re not sure what a graciano is, or if prieto picudo has yet to pass your lips, or if verdejo sounds just kinky enough to give it a go, read on. We’ve assembled ten Spanish wines for your consideration, with some alignment from the winealign crü as well as some solo recos where the love was not universal. So polish up your glass and your Spanish vocabulary and join us for a little fiesta a la española.

This week we’ve also included our top white picks from the release – I’ve called them “Winter Whites”, a marvelously vague theme that allowed us to include pretty much everything we enjoyed. Next week David will follow up with the top kit from South America and the rest of the best reds.

La Cruz Blanca, Jerez-1582

Buyers’ Guide to Spain

Duquesa De Valladolid 2013 Verdejo, Rueda, Spain ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Great value in a spiffy, polished white from a grape variety now fully risen to stardom in this appellation near the River Duero where calcareous soils paint the arid landscape a greyish tone. Is verdejo Spain’s best white grape? That’s a tussle with albariño, but I find verdejo more consistently hitting excitement.

Baron De Ley 2010 Varietales Graciano, DOCa Rioja, Spain ($21.95)
John Szabo – Graciano is a low-yielding, colour and aroma-packed variety happily making a comeback in Spain, mainly in Rioja and neighbouring Navarra. This example is crafted in the traditional style by traditionalist Baron de Ley, with a significant dose of American-oak/toasted coconut and damp cedar flavour alongside zesty-fresh red berry fruit. I bet once you’ve had a sip, you’ll want more.

Duquesa De Valladolid Verdejo 2013 Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2010 Finca Los Alijares Graciano 2009 Abelis Carthago William Selection Crianza 2011

Finca Los Alijares 2009 Graciano, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain ($17.95)
John Szabo – This version of graciano is a little further out there, with a wonderfully evolved, spicy, wild range of aromatics. Pure resinous bay leaf/ laurel tree, wet balsa wood, fresh earth and leather lead off, while the palate is pleasantly tart-astringent with a decidedly Old World texture that would be best served with some salt, fat and protein to soften. At the price it’s well worth the detour for some horizon expanding.
David Lawrason – Considered too beefy and rustic to go solo graciano is primarily a blender in Rioja. This departure certainly has heft, with solid acidity and buzz-saw tannin – I like the energy. Somewhat Priorat-like in the structure.

Abelis 2011 Carthago William Selection Crianza, DO Toro, Spain ($23.95)
John Szabo – Toro is downriver from Ribera Del Duero and thus warmer, where tempranillo takes on a riper profile. This is a particularly ambitious version from 45 year-old vines tipping in at 15.5% alcohol with an abundance of oak flavour, which will impress fans of big and bold at the price. Think higher-end Napa cabernet, for example.
David Lawrason – I spent 48 fascinating hours in Toro a few years ago, and was moved by the arid, powerful and picturesque landscape, and the way that power and ruggedness translated to its tempranillo-based reds. The biggest red of the Spanish feature, but proportioned at the same time.

Casa Castillo El Molar 2011

Bikandi Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva 2001

Dominio Dos Tares 2011 Estay Prieto PicudoDominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2011, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León, Spain ($15.95)
John Szabo – Prieto Picudo is another rare red variety of central north-western Spain, somewhere, say, between mencía and tempranillo in style, which is to say naturally high in acid with relatively light tannins. This is a fine and savoury-juicy example, well balanced fleshy and fully satisfying for the money with broad appeal and terrific length, too.
David Lawrason – Another day, another new grape variety. Prieto picudo is a dark skinned grape localized near Leon in northwest Spain. This is a substantial red for the money; wearing a bit too much oak for some perhaps, but offering very good sense of richness and density, especially at $15.95.

Bikandi 2001 Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva, DOCa Rioja Spain ($26.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a fine value for those into mature wines but who don’t want to cellar them for a dozen years. Bikandi has done that for you in this mature, savoury, zesty, old school style Rioja, complete with cinnamon and cedar-tinged oak notes. I like the succulence and juiciness here – this is fine Rioja for current enjoyment, though no rush to dink it, either.
Sara d’Amato – Bright, vibrant and distinctive with still grippy tannins, this surprisingly youthful Rioja delivers an abundance of pleasure with many years ahead. Aged for a whopping 54 months in oak – first in new American barrels for optimum softening followed by a long period in French oak for developing harmony of flavours.

Casa Castillo 2011 El Molar, DO Jumilla Spain ($17.95)
John Szabo – A heart-warming, heady, 100% grenache from southern Spain, with a generous 15% alcohol, for those cold winter nights.

Macho Man 2012 Monastrell, DO Jumilla Spain ($18.95)
John Szabo – I honestly never thought I would ever recommend a wine called “Macho Man”. But I feel ok about it, since it’s not entirely true to its name. It’s rather more of a light-mid-weight man, freshly shaved, sprightly, with even a slightly tender side. In fact, it’s really not very macho at all. If the silly name and label still make you uncomfortable, ask that guy loitering outside the LCBO to buy it for you and just put a bag over it, or decant and quickly discard the bottle in your neighbour’s recycling bin.

Señorío De Sarría 2009 Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza, Navarra, Spain ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From a grand agricultural estate in the Pyrenees foothills comes a  mazuelo (alias carignan) with a firm, rustic, almost hard-ass ambiance. Some true grit here; I would like to see it age even further. I like its drive.

Macho Man Monastrell 2012 Señorío De Sarría Viñedo No.8 Mazuelo Crianza 2009 Sueño Tempranillo 2011 Vinessens Sein 2011

Sueño 2011 Tempranillo, Ribera Del Júcar, Spain, ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – Low cropped, 50-year old vines are used to produce this absolutely sensual tempranillo. Ribera del Jucar is one of Spain’s youngest DOs and tends to produce tempranillo with a remarkable degree of refinement and perfumed aromatics such as this great value.

Vinessens 2011 Sein, Alicante, Spain, ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – This southeastern coastal region is home to some great value monastrell (aka mourvèdre) grown on its loose, sandy soils. This monastrell/syrah blend shows considerable purity of fruit, freshness and an enticing peppery quality.

Buyers’ Guide to Winter Whites

Bachelder 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay, AC Burgundy, France ($35.95)
John Szabo – A wine crafted in the typical Bachelder style, with evolved flavours from long elevage, yet retaining a good dose of fruit. Honeyed-wet stone flavours lead the profile, ample and mouth filing, with really quite exceptional length and depth overall. This is one of the more concentrated Bourgogne Blancs I’ve tasted from the typically light 2012 vintage.

Vignerons De Buxy 2010 Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru, AC Burgundy, France ($25.95)
John Szabo– A fine value from the Côte Châlonnaise from the reliable co-op of Buxy, savoury and succulent. The quality of the 2010 vintage shines here in spades, a year of balanced, minerally wines with genuine power and depth. A great entry point for classic Bourgogne fans.

Domaine Chatelaine 2013 Les Vignes De Saint-Laurent-l’Abbaye, AC Pouilly Fumé, France ($21.95)
John Szabo – The 12th generation now runs the family domaine, and this wine hails from an old Abbey vineyard planted since the 12th century. It’s a crisp, elegant, mineral and highly representative bottle of Pouilly-Fumé.

Bachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012 Vignerons De Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2010 Domaine Chatelain Les Vignes De Saint Laurent L'abbaye 2013 Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Rosehall Run Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2013

Porcupine Ridge 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95)
John Szabo – A tidy value here from Marc Kent (of Boekenhootskloof in Franshhoek) unmistakably South African with its wet hay and iodine flavours, and with depth, weight and complexity easily beyond the asking price.

Rosehall Run 2013 Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay, Prince Edward County, Ontario ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Hungry Point is the new name for the Cuvee County tier of estate grown wines at Rosehall Run. The entire area that juts into Lake Ontario was once called Hungry Point because its windswept stony soils were so poor for growing traditional food crops. Vines, on the other hand, thrive. The cooler vintage and absence of muffling oak have ignited the fruit here – all kinds of County energy and surprising depth of flavour.

Anselmann 2012 Edesheimer Ordensgut Weissburgunder Kabinett Trocken, Pfalz, Germany ($13.95)
David Lawrason – When travelling Germany two years ago I was most surprised and taken not by riesling, or pinot noir, but by weissburgunder, alias pinot blanc. It inspired me to focus much more attention on this grape from various parts of the world, and I continue to be impressed. This is a slim but intense example bursting with flavour, and excellent length. $13.95, are you kidding me?

Anselmann Edesheimer Ordensgut Weissburgunder Kabinett Trocken 2012 Château De Jurque Fantaisie Jurançon Sec 2012 Kellerei St. Magdalena Pinot Grigio 2013 Imako Vino Majestic Temjanika 2013

Château De Jurque 2012 Fantaisie Jurançon Sec, Southwest France, ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Produced on steep slopes of the foothills of the Pyrenees, this dry Jurancon is a typical blend of gros and petit manseng. Jurançon wines are reputed to have powers of virility, in fact, advertisers have long used the motto: “Manseng means Jurançon means Sex” – best to tuck this vibrant, earthy treat away for Valentine’s Day.

Kellerei St. Magdalena 2013 Pinot Grigio, Südtirol Alto Adige, Italy, ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – This ethereal beauty is not your typical, indistinct pinot grigio but one which offers a lofty texture, crunchy salinity, lush peach and floral notes and punctuated by a hint of delicate bergamot. Pretty, compelling and head-turning.

Imako 2013 Vino Majestic Temjanika, Republic Of Macedonia ($13.95)
Sara d’Amato – In the weird and wonderful category, this inexpensive delight is worth a try for the adventurous. The temjanika grape is a local clone of muscat blanc a petit grains common in the south of France. This very floral example is slightly off-dry with notes of tangerine, licorice and meringue – it should prove a delight with soft, creamy cheeses.

~

Touring Tuscany & Piedmont

Consider joining me next October in Tuscany and Piedmont for an insider’s deluxe gastronomy tour via Indus Travel. Only fluffy, unlumpy pillows and high thread count sheets, plus daily diet of white truffles, cooking classes, 5-star relaxation and of course, plenty of wine tastings. It will be memorable. Details: http://www.indus.travel/tour/tuscany-and-barolo-with-john-szabo

Tuscan Hilltop town- Orvieto-7861
That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES January 24th, 2015:

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

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


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Pepperjack Barossa Red 2012


Niagara Chilled

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Mon petit sherry !

Hors des sentiers battus
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

On a beau chanter ses louanges sur tous les tons depuis, disons, la nuit des temps, rien à faire : le xérès — ou le sherry, c’est selon — ça ne se vend pas.

Enfin si, la Société des alcools en écoule tout de même une certaine quantité. Sauf que les statistiques ne sont pas reluisantes. Une baisse de 6,3 % pour l’ensemble de la catégorie au cours de la dernière année.

Les seuls à connaître encore du succès au sein de la famille, avec une modeste hausse de 0,5 % des ventes (toujours en dollars), ce sont les finos et les manzanillas – des xérès secs, et même archisecs. Quoique, succès, c’est vite dit, puisqu’il s’en vend tout de même dix fois moins que les autres types de xérès, dont les sucrés : seulement 612 caisses standard de 9 litres l’an passé, alors qu’on parle d’un produit qui coûte en règle générale moins de 20 $ !

La question qui tue, maintenant : pourquoi en parler, de ces vins espagnols si particuliers, si à peu près personne n’en achète ?

Bon point.

La grande raison, je dirais, c’est que le xérès est peut-être, de tous les vins, celui à propos duquel le public et les spécialistes divergent le plus d’opinion. Autrement dit, il s’en vend très peu, mais je n’ai encore jamais rencontré un critique, un sommelier ou un journaliste qui n’aimait pas d’un amour sincère et profond le xérès, nommément le fino et la manzanilla.

la maison Lustau

Image tirée du site Internet de la maison Lustau, et où l’on voit les caves – les fameuses « cathédrales » – où repose le xérès.

Et je ne compte pas, non plus, le nombre de papiers consacrés à ce sujet qui commencent en disant quelque chose comme : « J’adore le xérès, c’est l’un des plus grands vins de la planète et pourtant, il demeure encore aujourd’hui sous-estimé. Permettez donc que je consacre ma chronique de cette semaine à vous convaincre de vous adonner, vous aussi, aux incroyables plaisirs que recèle cette perle de l’Andalousie… »

Bla bla bla.

Je ne me moque pas. C’est juste que je ne sais plus, moi non plus, par quel bout prendre mon consommateur pour l’intéresser à ce grand vin.

Un goût très particulier

Qu’est-ce que ça goûte, pour commencer ? Qu’a-t-il de si spécial pour que personne ne veuille s’en enticher ?

Parlons du xérès sec, de ce fino et de cette manzanilla. La couleur, d’abord : très pâle, au point où on dirait de l’eau. Le nez : ça sent surtout la levure, la poussière et la vieille cave, bourrée de champignons. Enfin en bouche, c’est comme je disais sec et même archisec. Au point où nombreux sont ceux qui font la grimace, quand ils y goûtent pour la première fois. Ouch !

Les Anglais ont une belle expression, pour cela : ils disent que le sherry, it’s an acquired taste.

En d’autres termes, il faut en apprivoiser le goût, les odeurs aussi. Spontanément, vite comme ça, it’s not love at first sight

Par contre, quand on tombe sur une belle bouteille, tous ces attributs en apparence rébarbatifs se conjuguent pour donner un vin fortifié (mais à peine, il ne fait en fin de compte que 15 % d’alcool environ) d’une incroyable pureté de saveurs et doté d’un profil à la fois austère et envoûtant, unique au monde.

Flor, solera, et cetera

Ce caractère distinctif du xérès est en grande partie lié à son procédé de fabrication. Que je ne vais pas vous expliquer ici, vous envoyant plutôt où vous apprendrez l’essentiel à propos de la flor et de la solera, notamment.

Tout de même, cette remarque. On entend souvent dire, un peu partout dans le monde, qu’un grand vin commence dans le vignoble. C’en est même rendu une sorte de cliché. Or, dans le sud de l’Espagne, autour de la ville de Jerez de la Frontera même ou près de Sanlucar de Barrameda (patrie de la manzanilla), les vignobles ont longtemps été délaissés, beaucoup de producteurs — sauf les meilleurs, comme de raison — s’approvisionnant en vin auprès de coopératives, au prétexte que de toute façon, c’est la fortification et surtout la solera qui font le xérès.

Comme quoi même sur ce plan, le fameux vin andalou fait bande à part.

De bons xérès à la SAQ

Il vient d’arriver quelques xérès de la maison Lustau, dans les magasins du monopole. Ça tombe bien, parce que les finos et les manzanillas gagnent à être bus le plus tôt possible. L’idéal serait même de les boire sur place, dans un bar à tapas, tirés directement du fût. Mais bon, contentons-nous de se rendre dans une SAQ près de chez nous…

Pour s’initier au xérès (ou pour prendre ses jambes à son cou — je blague), rien de tel que la manzanilla Papirusa de la maison Lustau, fine et délicate, et avec une odeur évoquant la craie. Plus puissant, et qui sent la noisette ainsi que l’olive verte, le Fino Solera Lustau est à sa façon tout aussi bon.

Emilio Lustau Papirusa Solera Reserva Very Dry Manzanilla Lustau Puerto Fino Solera Reserva Osborne Fino Quinta Sherry (375ml)

Le classique d’entre les classiques, c’est cependant le Tio Pepe, plus corsé encore tout en demeurant bien sec. Bravo, en passant, à la maison Gonzalez-Byass pour avoir inscrit la date d’embouteillage sur la contre-étiquette. Autre bon choix, le Fino Quinta Osborne, épicé et bien vif, et en plus bouché à l’aide d’une capsule dévissable, pour plus de fraîcheur.

Un dernier fino sec, mais pas un xérès à proprement parler puisqu’il provient de la région de Montilla-Moriles, plus au nord : le Fino Capataz Alvear est plus délicatement marqué par la flor et il a une touche sucrée, qui évoque le chocolat blanc.

Enfin, une incursion du côté des xérès doux et aussi un poil plus alcoolisés, à 18 % en moyenne. Par contre, ceux-là sont plus faciles à aimer d’emblée, riches, veloutés et sucrés comme ils le sont.

Alvear Capataz Fino Montilla Moriles Alvear Amontillado Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Oloroso Dulce Gonzalez Byass Noe Pedro Ximenez Aged 30 Years

Le Medium Dry Alvear (un montilla-moriles et donc un quasi-xérès lui aussi) est sucré et noisetté, ni tout à fait sec ni tout à fait doux.

Le Solera Cream 1847 de Gonzalez-Byass est une sorte de vieux tawny portugais, pas trop liquoreux, délicieux à siroter.

Enfin le Noe Pedro Ximenez 30 ans est quasi brun, très très sirupeux et très très particulier, mais sans pour autant être dénué de complexité.

Santé !

Marc

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