The LCBO Vintages new year is ushered in with an interesting release of value wines, or Smart Buys as they are described in this week’s catalogue. This release is a dramatic departure from the last two releases of 2010 which each featured enormous numbers of iconic wines at truly iconic prices. These prices aside, several GTA-area LCBO stores reported that 2010 was the busiest Christmas week in many years – witness the near-empty shelves I observed in some LCBO stores on December 29.
There is an excellent selection of value wines in this release with some 89 wines priced at less than $20.00 per bottle (only 12 wines in the release are priced over $20.00). This release is a perfect demonstration of the state of the wine world in 2011: every wine producing region is making very high quality wines and most of these wines are attractively priced. The converse of this statement is there are not many wines made today that are not good. There are exceptions to this rule but it is now a table-stakes matter that a winery must be capable of producing good wine if it is to be in the game.
Three very nifty white wines dominate this week’s selections.
Argentina, Cafayate, Calchaquies Valley – Dominio del Plata Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés 2009
Torrontés is the white grape best known in its Argentinean expression: floral, slightly spicy, eminently drinkable when young – sometimes confused for Gewürztraminer when tasted blind. This version is quite expressive on the nose: perfume, honey, lichee and apple. The palate is crisp and fresh with spice, honey, citrus, lichee and apple – like a young Muscat. The finish is long, clean and crisp. This is the best Torrontés we have seen at the LCBO in a long while. Try a bottle. You may go back for a case for your summer patio entertaining later this year.
Dry, white wine – $11.95 per bottle
Germany, Mosel – QmP Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett 2007
Here we have a sublime beauty showing the character of Mosel Riesling at a great price. The nose is soft, delicate and complex with aromas of citrus, white flowers and light honey. The palate is light-bodied and zesty with citrus, apple, spice and just the slightest amount of residual sugar. The finish is long. This wine is a sipper or one that will be suited for a green salad with cold white fish.
Medium-dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle
Portugal, Vinho Verde – DOC Vinho Verde Anselmo Mendes Passros 2009
This is another wine that will be best saved for late spring and summer patio gatherings. It is aromatic and intense on the nose with spice and citrus aromas dominating. The palate displays the crisp and dry character that is Vinho Verde. Flavours of spice, lemon and green apple sit on a light-bodied frame. The finish is long and juicy. Serve with shrimp salad or grilled calamari.
Extra dry, white wine- $12.95 per bottle
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Alvento Sondra 2006
While this wine is one of the handful priced at over $20.00 per bottle in this release it stands out in two ways: first it is a well-made blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and secondly, it is the first Vintages listing from this very small producer in Vineland, Ontario. The colour is starting to show some age-related garnet in the glass. The nose is intense with aromas of stewed plum, wet earth and herbs. The palate is also intense and complex. Flavours include plum, and roasted coffee. The tannins are firm and there is zesty acid on the mid-plate and finish. Drink now or age for another 2 -3 years.
Extra dry, red wine – $23.95 per bottle
Italy, Piedmont – DOCG Barbaresco Produttori di Govone 2006
Yes, this is a Barbaresco for less than $20.00! Made by a local cooperative this is a very good wine that has all the elements of a fine Nebbiolo: light, garnet colour, savoury aromas and flavours of mushroom, earth and spice, medium-body, juicy acid and grippy tannins. Serve with roasted red meats and root vegetables. Don’t confuse this wine with another Barbaresco in the release: Dante DOCG Barbaresco Riserva Rivetti Bricco 2004 ($46.95 per bottle).
Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle
Once again this week I have a short list of runners’- up which deliver almost the quality and value of the top-five wines listed above:
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Henry of Pelham Merlot 2007
This wine still needs another two years in the cellar but is a great example of the quality and structure we can achieve in Ontario with a grape such as Merlot. There’s lots of dark fruit, earth, tannic structure and overall complexity in this outstanding value. Extra dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle
France, Bordeaux – AOC Médoc Cru Bourgeois Château Le Pey 2008
This is an exceptional example of the value lurking in the Cru Bourgeois classification: intense, complex, and ready to drink now – but also age-able for another 3 -5 years should you choose. Perfect as an accompaniment to roasted and grilled meats. Extra dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle.
Australia, Barossa Valley – Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz 2008
Barossa Shiraz is usually too sweet and flabby for my palate but this wine shows great structure and wonderful acidity so it gets my nod. Miamba Shiraz will fly off the shelves so if you are a Barossa Shiraz fan you should get to the store early this weekend. Extra dry, red wine – $20.95 per bottle.
Portugal, Douro – DOC Douro Real Companhia Velha Evel Tinto 2007
Spice, generous fruit, dry tannins, nicely balanced wood – this wine is a surprisingly structured wine for the price. Buy a case for use as your winter season house wine. Dry, red wine – $ 14.95 per bottle.
This release is a great start to 2011. May we see many more!
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.