LCBO Vintages release – September 17, 2011

It’s mid-September already.  The air is cool and for some of us the furnace has started to come on.  Frost is forecast in some areas north of Toronto and the grape harvest is literally just underway.  Rain seems to be holding off so the vintage in Ontario is looking to be a good one.  Cross your fingers…

This weekend’s Vintages release is notable for the noble wines regions it covers: Bordeaux; Oregon Pinot Noir faces off with Burgundy; and some new wines from New Zealand are introduced.  This is an expensive release with 37 wines out of 107 priced at $30.00 or above. Remember, value wines come at all price points and I recommend a couple that will be good Collector’s Items.

There are also some wines listed in the catalogue for this release which have been previously released but which are not selling well.  The prices have not yet been reduced but it is evident that the summer releases have suffered: they were big and vacations and economic gloom had a negative effect on sales velocity.

Lead times on releases are long and the LCBO sometimes gets caught when economic conditions turn south quickly.  It will be interesting to watch how the holiday season unfolds.

There are many fine wines to choose from in this release with good value at all price points. My recommendations are the following wines:

Austria, Kamptal – DAC Kamptal Rabl Reserve Vinum Optimum Grüner Veltliner 2009

This is an intense and ripe version of the defining white grape of Austria. There is lime, honey, green apple on the nose.  The palate is rich and ripe with a fullish mouth feel.  It shows flavours of lemon and lime, green apple and steely minerals.  The acidity is high making this wine a perfect match for roast rack of pork or grilled garlic shrimps. The finish is long and clean.

Extra dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle

New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough – Dog Point Chardonnay 2008

Yes, Marlborough winemakers can make white wines with grapes other than Sauvignon Blanc.  Here we have a perfect example of the case: a cool-climate Chardonnay with Old World character. This is a concentrated, elegant wine which show complexity and structure to compare with the best Burgundy might offer, at a very good price. It has tons of fruit, modest oak, flinty minerals and juicy acid with a long finish.  This wine is pricy but it should be considered as a special occasion dinner wine – how about turkey at Thanksgiving?

Extra dry, white wine – $39.95 per bottle (New Zealand feature wine)

Portugal – Vinho Regional Alentejano Terra d’Alter Reserva White 2010

If the last wine was for a special dinner, I suggest you consider this wine as the white for your holiday season open house. This is a blend of Viognier and a variety indigenous to Portugal, Arinto. Arinto is a versatile grape which displays high acidity.  It is age-able and takes on additional complexity when carefully aged in wood.  Combined with Viognier, Arinto delivers a blend which is appealing as a sipper: aromatic, light/medium bodied, with reasonable complexity, ripe mouth feel and a crisp finish.  Buy a case.

Dry, white wine – $13.95 per bottle

Chile, Colchagua Valley – Emiliana Winemaker’s Selection Syrah/Mourvèdre 2007

If you like the character and value of wines from the southern Rhône, this is a wine you should try.  It has deep ruby colour, black fruit, soft tannins, herbs and garrigue, bright acid, light toast and black pepper: everything you would expect of a sound Côtes du Rhône. This will be a good match with roast leg of lamb.

Extra dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle (Organic)

Australia, South Australia – Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

James Halliday considers this to be one of the top value Cabs from Australia, made to deliver finesse in the glass. This is another intense wine – this seems to be a theme this release – with dark fruit, cassis, smoke, and chocolate on the nose and palate. It is full-bodied with crisp acidity and grippy tannins that need time to evolve.  This wine will age well for the next 5 -7 years.  Serve with a crusty prime rib of beef.

Extra dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle

The runners’-up this week are both from France.

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Lirac Domaine Grand Veneur Clos de Sixte 2009

We rarely see Lirac in Ontario – a fact that makes it hard to sell, as it has low consumer recognition.  That’s too bad as these wines are great values (Lirac is a cru…) and have great appeal when served with Mediterranean foods.  This wine is made by a fine producer who also is known for quality Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines made in a traditional style. You will find another dense wine with a full body, ripe fruit, juicy acid, lean tannins and an overall balance that is surprising for the price. Serve with a beef stew, loaded with root vegetables.

Extra dry, red  wine – $23.95 per bottle

France, Loire – AOC Pouilly-Fumé Domaine de Congy Cuvée les Galfins 2009

This appellation lies in the shadow of it sister appellation from the Central Vineyard of the Loire Valley, Sancerre.  This is too bad as Pouilly-Fumé has a distinct smoky character that reflects the effects of the calcerous soils of its origin.  This edition is complex with melon, citrus fruit, honey and some herbaceous character on the mid-palate.  The is another wine with concentrated flavours and it should age well for the next 3-5 years.

Extra dry, white wine – $24.95 per bottle

This week I suggest two Collector’s Items, both of which have holiday celebration written all over them and both of which are good values from France.

France, Champagne –AOC Mareuil-sur-Ay 1er Cru Mark Hébrart Brut Blanc de Blancs

This wine is made by one of the growers followed by Terry Thiese, an importer (and writer) who specializes in what he calls “farmer fizz”.  This is an exceptional wine, made with exceptional fruit and sold at an exceptional price. It is a bubbly which should be bought now for the holidays. You will find a full body, bright, green fruit, assertive mousse, plenty of lees and a precise character that is distinct and memorable.  Very special!

Extra dry, sparkling wine – $41.95 per bottle

France, Bordeaux – AOC St.-Ėmilion Grand Cru Château Fombrauge 2008

When we think of the lofty prices now sought for fine Bordeaux wines we forget there are still some very good wines, offered at (premium) prices that most of us can afford when we want a special bottle.  This is a very good example, made at a chateau with roots dating from the late 17th century. The estate has received considerable investment over the past twenty years and is now producing very good wines across a range of Merlot-driven cuvées. Here we have a good example of how important it is to know the history and evolution of chateaux, both on the up-tick and on the down-tick…This is a balanced, well-structured wine with ripe, juicy red fruit, a full body, vanilla, toast and chocolate.  The finish is long.  Cellar for the next 7 – 10 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $45.00 per bottle (Bordeaux feature)

The next release will feature Syrah and Shiraz from around the world, along with wines for Thanksgiving. Watch for it on Saturday October 1.

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.

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Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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