LCBO Vintages release – April 29, 2017 (WVN 261)

This week we almost had another first – that is, following the first ever two run don’t walks-in-one-release achieved in the last issue, WVN 260. This time we were closing in on the first ever all-France WVN value list, except for a strong closing finish from team Spain.

All round, this is a great value selection. See more below…

France, Alsace – AOC Alsace Domaine Allimant-Laugner Riesling 2014

This wine displays what I associate with the whites of Alsace: texture.  This is an aromatic dry white with assertive citrus, pear and honey aromas and flavours, a fleshy mouth feel with firm minerals on a long finish. This wine will be a good sipper during the summer.

Dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

France, Beaujolais – AOC Fleurie Domaine des Houdières 2015

Fleurie is one of the 10 Crus of the Beaujolais region of Burgundy; this means we have a wine that has structure and character well-above what we find with run-of-the-mill Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages wines. As with all reds from Beaujolais, Houdières is made with the Gamay grape and it has ripe red cherry fruit, bright, crisp acid, lean tannins and a soft, velvety texture. The overall effect is harmonious and fresh.  Serve chilled. This is a great value for a Beaujolais Cru!

Extra dry, red wine – $16.95 per bottle

France, Bordeaux – AOC Médoc Cru Bourgeois Château La Gorce 2011

Don’t be put off by the Cru Bourgeois designation of this wine.  For me, Médoc wines with this moniker are ones to seek for the value-buyer.  These wines are not classified on a permanent basis but rather are designated annually following assessment by a formal tasting panel.  In most instances the wines are made to standards similar to those of the 1855 Classified Growths, dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, with minimal new oak treatment.  This wine is ripe with blackcurrant fruit, spice, earth notes, medium-full body, juicy acid and firm tannins.  Serve with roasted red meats.

Extra dry, red wine $ 22.95 per bottle

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Vidal-Fleury 2013

This wine was a winner at the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards where it was recognized as a Platinum Best Value Wine Under £10. This negoçiant delight delivers what one wants in an everyday Côtes du Rhône red: fresh red fruit, crisp acid, medium body and supple texture.  This is a crowd-pleaser that will benefit from 20 minutes in the fridge before serving.  Buy lots – this is an exceptional value.

Extra dry, red wine – $15.95 per bottle

Spain, Ribera del Duero – DO Ribera del Duero Torres Celeste Crianza 2012

Ribera del Duero is a small zone in the north of Spain.  The elevation is high and the temperatures can be extreme, both winter and summer.  Made with a local variant of Tempranillo, Tinto Fino, this wine is a fine, fruit forward delight with bright fruit, zesty acid, tannins that add structure and with modest oak treatment. There is a red berry-cherry fruit, earth tones, medium body and a long finish.  This is a delightful wine and it will sell quickly.

Extra dry, red wine – $20.95 per bottle

 à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2017.


LCBO Vintages release – April 15, 2017 (WVN 260)

This is Easter weekend. In the long distant past it was the practice – when a Vintages release fell on this weekend – to delay the release to the following weekend so front line staff could deal with the otherwise peak traffic that arrived the day before Easter festivities.

That was then and this now; the Vintages juggernaut has such momentum that the machine can not stop for anything and releases are delivered without fail on the fortnightly cycle until the break that does eventually happen for three weeks in mid-December.

If you haven’t done your shopping for Sunday lunch or dinner you will find some fine wine which will do very well with turkey or ham and one red that could be a stretch-match for lamb – that is, if you don’t have a fine Cabernet Sauvignon on standby. Be patient – the lines will be long.

Happy Easter!

France, Midi – AOP Corbières Château de Tréviac 2014

I consider wines from de Tréviac to be the most consistent values from the very large and widely varied Corbières zone. Wines from this small producer are grown from fruit cultivated at reasonably high altitude and have structure, juicy acid and fruit-forward and herbal aromatics and flavour. This is not a wine to keep, nor is it a wine typical of the big and ripe red wines from the Midi.  Enjoy it now for its brightness, black and red berry fruit and its delightful medium weight.  There are some earth notes, along with spice and garrigue and light flaky tannins.

Extra dry, red wine – $16.95 per bottle

Australia, Victoria – Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda 2014

Chapoutier has established a solid beach head in Victoria after many years making a name for its wines in the northern Rhône. This wine is a Rhône-style blend of Viognier and Marsanne and Chapoutier delivers a fresh, light, aromatic delight for spring and summer dining/sipping on the deck or dock. The texture is fleshy and the nose and palate have oodles of citrus, tropical and peach along with firm minerality on the mid-palate.  The finish is long and clean.

Extra dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle

Australia, Victoria – Fowles Wild Bouquet Chardonnay 2014

This is a lightly-oaked Chardonnay from the cool-zone that is the high-elevation Strathbogie Ranges, located some one hour north of Melbourne. The aromas on opening are slightly reductive (that is, the opposite of slightly oxidized) – wait a few minutes after your first pour and the smell will blow off. You be left with a delightfully fresh and crisp Chardonnay that is complex and refined in the glass. It shows citrus, peach, light spice and herbs on nose and palate.  The finish is long and clean.

Extra dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle

Italy, Campania – IGP Campania Porconero Fiano 2015

Fiano is a delicate grape known for some of the best whites from the south of Italy.  It is a difficult grape to grow profitably as it yields limited fruit and juice but those makers who persist, or who have other varieties to fall back on, make some of the best-value concentrated whites you will find anywhere.  This wine is an amazing value and you should run, don’t walk to stock up on a few bottles for enjoyment over the next three years, or so.  It has pear, peach, tropical notes, flinty minerals, crisp acid, light alcohol and a long finish. The structure will support further development and enhanced complexity. Great!

Extra dry, white wine – $16.95 per bottle

Spain, Montsant – DO Montsant Jaspi Negri 2013

This is Grenache-dominated blend from the northeast part of Spain, in the broader zone dominated by Priorat and Catalonia.  Here we have a light-bodied, fruit-forward, well-structured value that amazes for its complexity and character. There is plenty of red berry fruit, herbs, floral notes and a soft, smooth texture that is easy to appreciate even for those who shy away from Spanish reds. This may be a first time ever but this is the second run, don’t walk wine of this release.

Extra dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2017.

LCBO Vintages release – April 1, 2017 (WVN 259)

This week we have a mixed bag of values from five different places…

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2015

Flat Rock has established a name for high-quality value wines with a distinct fruit-forward character across its portfolio. This is a tasty, bright, fresh and finely-balanced crowd-pleaser.  It has apple, lemon and pear flavours, free from any oak influence – just bright fruit.  The acid is crisp and there is just the right amount to give the wine life and make it a good sipper or a match for light fare.  The alcohol is modest and the finish is clean and long.  Brilliant!

Extra dry, white wine – $16.95 per bottle

France, Bordeaux – AOC Bordeaux Château Grand Mouëys 2015

This is a fine example of the delights of a Sauvignon Blanc blend from old Bordeaux with a small proportion of Semillon and Muscadelle added to complete the assemblage.  The wine is medium in weight with assertive citrus and tropical fruit along with some spice on the nose and palate. The acid level is elevated which will make this a fine match for grilled chicken. The finish is crisp and clean.

Extra dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle

Argentina, Mendoza – Trapiche Perfiles Calcareo Malbec 2015

Trapiche is a huge grower and negociant in Argentina with a diverse portfolio of wines ranging from everyday values to premium single-vineyard cuvées.  This wine is an intense, well-balanced effort with stewed cherry and plum fruit, tangy acid, spice, flinty minerals and a modest amount of oak.  The alcohol is high but does not distort the balance. This is a great wine for grilled red meat.

Extra dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

Australia, South Australia – Heartland Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Langhorne Creek is small region in the Fleurieu zone of south Australia, perhaps most notable for its dry growing conditions.  The area has been under threat due to rising levels of salinity through the ongoing periods of drought in the south but the situation seems to be under control, for now.  Cabernet Sauvignon prospers – and is the most planted variety – in Langhorne Creek. This wine is well-made and has fine balance: intense ripe black currant and blackberry fruit, medium weight, herb and spice notes, juicy acid and modest tannins. This is a fine value Cab from a fine value maker.

Extra dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

Portugal, Alentejo – DOC Alentejo Paulo Laureano Reserve Tinto 2014

The Alentejo region is in the hot southern reaches of Portugal, south of the Tagus River; this is place where fruit ripens easily. This wine is a full of dark ripe fruit and is a delight. The fruit is accompanied by spice and some light savoury notes, tangy acid, light tannins and some signs of early development. The structure is notable for a value-priced wine and the finish is long with some lingering fine-grained tannins.  Buy a few bottles for the upcoming barbecue season.

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2017.

LCBO Vintages release – March 18, 2017 (WVN 258)

This weekend’s release delivers a number of fine values and this nice turn of events has prompted me to add a couple of wines to the traditional WVN roster of five recommended high-value wines. Enjoy!

France. Midi – AOC Minervois Chateau de Sérame Minervois Reserve du Château 2010

The Minervois appellation is one of my favourites in the Languedoc region.  The wines generally have more structure than those from most other zones in this part of France – partly because many vines are planted at elevations high enough for some night-time cooling and – because of an appellation-wide focus on quality in the vineyard and winery, both. Ch. de Sérame is a negociant blend of Mourvèdre (37%) with Grenache, Syrah and Carignan.  This assemblage provides a substantial body and firm texture that give much more interest than often found in the fleshy, ripe, fruit-rich wines from the Midi. The fruit is concentrated with blueberry, plum, and black cherry notes. There is a rustic character with evolving notes of chocolate and savoury elements along with herbal aromas that define the place.  This is an excellent wine.

Extra dry, red wine – $16.95 per bottle

France, Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhone Guigal Blanc 2015

Guigal is an old-reliable maker whose wines run the gamut from northern Rhône super premium estate wines to everyday wines made from bought fruit grown in the south. This white is a delightful demonstration of the entry-level Guigal effort: light, floral aromatics. expressive fruit, fleshy mouth feel, crisp acid and a long finish. This is an elegant wine that would be a fine accompaniment for Easter dinner or patio dining late in spring.

Extra dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château La Nerthe 2013

Château La Nerthe – the château

Château La Nerthe is a true 18th century building reminiscent of the great buildings of Bordeaux wine country. This is unusual in the Rhône, if not throughout most of non-Bordeaux France, but, so too, are the wines of La Nerthe. The winemakers at La Nerthe have been blessed by the benevolence of the Richard family, who purchased the property in the 1980’s, who permit careful vineyard management and attentive, precise wine making; these elements combine to define the elegant and noble wines made at this place. This wine is a beauty and may be the best in many years: it has bright, delicate red and black berry fruit, noble structure with medium weight, crisp acid and velvet tannins and a long finish.  This wine will develop further with time in the bottle – give it 10 years, but drink now it you can’t wait. If you question why this wine makes my list, consider the quality I describe and consider that another great wine of the appellation, Château de Beaucastel (also housed in a true château), sells typically at $90 per bottle.

Extra dry, red wine – $52.95 per bottle

Italy, Veneto – DOC Soave Classico Pieropan 2015

Without checking my notes I don’t think I have recommended a Soave since I began writing these notes in late 2005: “never say never”, they say. Many Soave wines are insipid with little character nor structure.  They are made for immediate consumption with over-cropped grapes and in the process have done damage to the reputation of the zone, damage that is under repair with stricter regulations and a more granular system of classification that distinguishes better sub-zones from the rest. Pieropan is an example of the effects of these positive interventions with oodles of fruit, juicy acid, firm minerals and a light salinity reflecting the limestone substrate in the zone. Citrus, stone fruit and honey dominate the nose and palate.  The finish is crisp and clean.

Extra dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

Italy, Tuscany – DOCG Chianti Classico Borgo Scopeto 2013

This is a classic Classico. It has red cherry fruit, grainy, dry tannins and oodles of crisp acid. For the price you shouldn’t expect complexity but what this wine lacks on that front it makes up in refinement. Match  with pasta in tomato sauce and you have a match made in heaven.

Extra dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

Spain, Conca de Barberà – DO Conca de Barberà Cor Nord Red 2014

Conca de Barberà is a small denominación located inland in Catalonia, long known for quality fruit but not until recently for wines locally made with that fruit. Cor Nord Red amply demonstrates the potential of this region with a combination of expressive, approachable character at an exceptional price. This wine is a blend of Garnacha and Syrah with a small amount of an indigenous variety. The body is full, the fruit is ripe and bright, the texture is soft with ripe grainy tannins and the acid is bright. The structure is notable at the price and the finish is long. If you want to go off-piste for an exploration, this is a safe wine for your travels.

Extra dry, red wine – $ 18.95 per bottle

Portugal, Dão – DOC Dão Adro da Sé Reserva 2012

Here we have a classic northern Portugal red – big fruit, structure that keeps on giving and a modest price. The fruit is intense and shows very deep ruby in the glass. The wine is a blend dominated by Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz and displays flavours of stewed plum, black cherry and blackberry.  The tannins are assertive and the acid is juicy. The wine has received oak treatment and this adds complexity but doesn’t diminish the assertive fruit. This wine will develop harmony with a couple of years in the bottle but can be enjoyed now with roasts and grilled red meats

Extra dry, red wine – $15.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2017.

LCBO Vintages release – March 4, 2017 (WVN 257)

This weekend we have a fairly large Vintages release with many pricy bottles surrounding a handful of great values. My selections this weekend have a bit of a different road traveled character…

France, Champagne – AOC Champagne Delouvin-Bagnost Brut NV

Delouvin is a very small (6 hectares of vines) récoltant-manipulant known for expressive fruit in its wines.  This wine is fruity, for sure, with lots of brown apple and lemon with spice and honey on the palate.  Despite the ample fruit, this wine stands out for its racy acid, firm and persistent minerality and its intense brioche character on the nose and palate. There is a distinct earthiness which adds to the complexity but may be strange for those who are familiar only with the predictably sleek and elegant wines from the big houses.  This is true farmer-fizz and is an exceptional value.

Extra dry, sparkling wine – $44.95 per bottle

South Africa, Western Cape – WO Western Cape Graham Beck Méthode Cap Classique Sparkling Pinot Noir/Chardonnay Brut NV

For those value-seekers who want something sparkling that is more predictable than the Delouvin then you cannot go wrong by bringing home a few bottles of this old-reliable.  Nothing will surprise: the nose is bright with citrus and honey along with modest toasty brioche; the mousse is soft and creamy; the palate is crisp with lean acid, green apple, lemon and toast and the finish is medium-long and clean with lingering flinty minerals. Modestly-complex, this will please your guests as an aperitif.

Extra dry sparkling wine – $18.95 per bottle

South Africa, Stellenbosch – The Winery of Good Hope Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2015

This is a delightful wine with floral, honey, spice and pear notes on the nose and the palate.  It has a fleshy texture and a concentrated set of flavour elements. This wine fills the mouth and yet is not flabby – bright acid abounds from start to the clean finish. This is a wine for a roasted rack of pork or stuffed chicken breast.

Extra dry, white wine – $15.95 per bottle

Spain, Navarra – DO Navarra Proyecto Garnachas de España La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo 2014

This is a juicy, fullish red with modest structure that will please, especially when barbecue season hits its stride.  There is black and red berry fruit, spice, earth notes, enough acid to add juice and firm tannins that sit in the background until they come forward on the finish.  This wine calls for sirloin, leg of lamb or a big cheeseburger on the patio. Run don’t walk for this one.

Dry, red wine – $14.95 per bottle

Spain, Ribera del Duero – DO Ribera del Duero Vizcarra Senda del Oro Roble 2012

Lovers of Tempranillo should line up for Senda del Oro. For a wine from the 2012 vintage this is a surprisingly youthful wine with concentrated cherry fruit, spice and obvious but not-overdone evidence of oak aging.  The structure is sound with juicy acid and lightly grippy tannins. There is enough fruit and structure for this wine to evolve further in your cellar for the next 2 to 3 years but don’t hesitate to try it now.  This is a another wine that wants to be matched with roasted red meat.

Extra dry, red wine – $18.95

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2017.

LCBO Vintages release – February 18, 2017 (WVN 256)

This theme may be monotonous to readers but, as an advocate for the value buyer, I remain a disappointed LCBO customer.

To elaborate: it seems that $20 is the new $15.00 when it comes to Vintages offers.   Many readers report that they balk at paying more than $20 for a bottle of wine, unless the occasion warrants going upwards for a very special bottle.  When we have a release that doesn’t well cater to the value buyer with a budget we underservice a segment of the market that is notably large (sorry, I have nothing but anecdotal data to support this claim).

This weekend’s release features almost 60 wines – more than one-half – priced over $20.00, with another 20 wines priced at $20.00.  I foretold an escalation in prices when the Canadian dollar went south a couple of years ago but I think it would be fitting for the LCBO team to make a concentrated effort to explore more widely the market that still flourishes below $20.00 per bottle.  Three wines in my selection fall in this zone and amply demonstrate the potential that exists in this segment of the market.

France, Midi – AOP Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache 2013

Bertrand is a leading proponent of the Midi, and is a maker of wines across several appellations in this complicated zone of France. His wines are of consistent quality and value and over the years he has become a popular supplier to the Vintages team.  Les Aspres has ripe, intense red and black fruit with some savoury notes, spice and garrigue on the nose and palate. This wine is a full-bodied, very drinkable blend with a rustic personality and the potential to further develop into a finely-balance delight over the next two years.  Serve with stews or grilled red meats.

Dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

France, Champagne – AOC Champagne Laherte Frères Ultradition Brut NV

Laherte is a small grower-maker in the Vallée de La Marne region of Champagne, known for its unique Champagnes, all vinified in oak.  The character of the wines is consistently earthy with a fullish texture.  The very dry blend is dominated by Pinot Meunier with some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir added to complete the blend. It has an intense and persistent mousse, bright and assertive acid, modest brioche and citrus, brown apple and spice with a mineral backbone.  It is complex and fresh.  Great value.

Extra dry, Sparkling wine – $48.95 per bottle

Argentina, Mendoza – Dominio del Plata Benmarco Uco Valley Malbec 2013

This is a full-bodied wine with concentrated fruit and excellent structure.  It is made from fruit grown on high-elevation vines and shows delightful brightness that is pleasing especially given the fullish, fleshy texture of the wine.  This wine is advertised as unfiltered and unfined and this low-intervention treatment, along with the cool zone origin of the fruit, explains the freshness.  There is black and red fruit, spice, herbs, a very slight oaky character.  The tannins are soft and smooth, the acid is lightly tart and the finish is long.  Buy some for the barbecue season.  This wine will develop further over the 3 to 4 years.

Dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

Australia, Victoria – Fowles Stone Dwellers Strathbogie Ranges Shiraz 2013

This is a delightful, fruit-forward cool-climate Shiraz with plenty of zip and style.  It shows the classic elements of Syrah/Shiraz – blackberry fruit, black pepper and slight minty-ness on the palate.  The body is full but not flabby and the overall structure is one of harmony and precision. The finish is long.  If you like Old-World style Syrah, this is the Aussie Shiraz for you.

Dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

Australia, Tasmania – Jansz Premium Cuvée Sparkling Wine NV

Here we have a finely-tuned traditional method sparkler made in a lean style with taut acid, lemon, honey, biscuit, smoke and minerals – all tied into a fine package at a very attractive price. This is a very good substitute for entry-level Champagne.

Dry, sparkling wine – $26.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2017.

LCBO Vintages release – February 4, 2017 (WVN 255)

This weekend’s Vintages release is arguably the overall best-value release we have seen in a long time.  There are plenty of exceptional wines across all price points but the coverage in my sweet spot (under $25 per bottle) is particularly noteworthy. We also have a run don’t walk wine.  The first in a while…

British Columbia, Okanagan Valley – Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling NV

Consider this wine as a great value sparkler for your Valentine’s Day dinner.  It is a made in the traditional method with 24 months of lees ageing in the bottle before disgorgement and shows fine complexity and character for the price. This wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris and it has a refined mouth feel with citrus and apple fruit, firm minerals and crisp acid.

Dry, sparkling wine – $28.95 per bottle

France, Loire Valley – AOP Bourgueil Domaine les Pins Cuvée Les Rochettes 2014

I think the red wines of the Loire Valley are the most under-rated value wines on the face of the planet. The best wines are made with Cabernet Franc, a grape that is usually blended with other varieties and is rarely vinified and bottled on its own, except in one other place where it prospers – Niagara.  These reds are bright and fresh with expressive fruit, brilliant acid, sleek, elegant tannins, modest alcohol and a WOW factor that usually elicits gasps of pleasant surprise. Les Rochettes is a Cabernet Franc classic with the elements we seek, along with a light green herbal character which is often found in wines from this cool zone. Excellent value and a fine match for roast rack of pork.

Dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle

Italy, Piedmont – DOC Monferrato Rosso Prunotto Mompertone 2014

Monferrato is a lesser denominazione in the Piedmont zone which is perfect for the value seeker:  good regional pedigree, not overly-appreciated by the serious collector and appealing character in the glass. This wine is a blend of Barbera and Syrah – curious, but it works. This is a wine to enjoy now and over the next year or two – it has ripe red and black fruit, a slight oaky character and a mouth feel that is round and easy with light, tart acid and soft tannins. The Mompertone is great value and will be a fine wine for late spring outdoor entertaining.

Extra dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

South Africa, Paarl – WO Paarl Avondale Jonty’s Ducks Pekin White 2015

South Africa is home to many wines that stand on their own as single-variety champions.  It is also a place know for blends that you will rarely find anywhere else.  Consider the Pekin White: it is a blend of Chenin Blanc combined with Rousanne, Muscat de Frontignac, Viognier and Semillon.  The wine has been vinified in a combination of stainless steel and oak with extended lees contact in both cases.  The result is a complex wine of surprising character at a price that makes Pekin White the first run don’t walk wine in a while. This is an aromatic delight with immense flavour complexity, fine structure and a fleshy texture that will please.  For the story of Jonty’s ducks check this video:

Dry, white wine – $15.95 per bottle

South Africa, Stellenbosch – WO Stellenbosch Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2014

We had a Rustenberg Merlot in the last release; this time around we have a blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from the same maker. There is black fruit, herbs, mint and spice on the nose and palate along with round tannins and bright, juicy acid.  The finish is long. This is a fruit-forward, full-bodied, intense wine with a structure that will support ageing for the next 5 to 7 years. This wine is made in a style that will appeal to lovers of Old World wines.

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2017.