LCBO Vintages release – November 12, 2011

This weekend’s Vintages release is a big one:  big in number of wines, big in the prices of those wines, big in the size of the wine critic scores, big in the number of pages in the catalogue and big in the weight of the bottles.  The theme tells the story: Premium Wines for Perfect Get-Togethers.

The selection this week is a good one. There are many lesser-known icons in this release and this means they are not over-the-top in price.  Make no mistake: this is an expensive release with 46 wines, out of a total of 135 offered, priced over $35.00 per bottle.

In the WSET program we have a classification system which students apply in estimating wine price in blind tastings:  premium wines are those priced over $35.00 per bottle.  By comparison, inexpensive wines cost under$10.00 per bottle; mid-priced wines sell for $10.01 to $20.00 per bottle and high priced wines range in price between $20.01 and $35.00 per bottle. With this in mind it is no wonder we have the price skew in a release which features premium wines.

Despite the premium skew there are some fine values at all price points and I think I have done a reasonable job in balancing my selections from a price point of view.  I hope you agree.

My recommendations this week have a decidedly Chardonnay character.  I don’t look for things like this; it’s simply how I judge the wines for quality and value.  As always this basic framework guides my recommendations.

Austria, Burgenland – Lenz Moser Prestige Trockenbeerenauslese 2008

This wine is from the TBA category of the Austrian Pradikatswein classification, meaning the grapes have been individually harvested, one at a time, and have been affected by the botrytis cinerea fungus, meaning the fruit has rotted on the vine in a slow, progressive fashion, one grape at a time.  Botrytis-affected fruit delivers high sugar levels, over-the-top intense flavours of orange marmalade, honey and apricot and high acidity. This wine is complex and delightfully balanced, a perfect finish to a holiday meal. This is a very good value for a noble wine.

Sweet dessert wine – $19.95 per bottle (375 ml) (Sweet wine feature wine)

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2009

Several premium Ontario Chardonnays are included in this release, from Tawse, Closson Chase, Le Clos Jordanne and Hidden Bench.  While all except the Tawse are in the same general price band, the Hidden Bench stands out. It has balance, concentration, very good varietal expression, Old World character and the things that Hidden Bench has become known for: juicy acid, fine mineral backbone and complexity that won’t stop.  This wine will evolve over the next 5 -7 years but can be enjoyed now.

Extra dry, white wine – $32.00 per bottle (Premium wines feature wine)

New Zealand, Auckland, North Island – Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2008

Kumeu River is a renowned producer in the rapidly growing historic zone of Auckland on the North Island.  Vines have been cultivated in this region since the late 19th century when Croatian immigrants planted grapes so they would have the wines they loved back home, in their new homeland. The Brajkovich family of Kumeu River has been making wine since it first acquired land in 1944.  Michael Brajkovich, MW, son of the founder, Maté Brajkovich, has brought Kumeu River to world prominence over the past 15 years by making rich, concentrated, creamy wines that receive acclaim locally and internationally.  Maté’s Vineyard is the premier cru of the range and is considered a classic by Michael Cooper, the dean of New Zealand wine writers.  While it shows plenty of vanilla toast, this wine is full of ripe tropical flavours and lime citrus fruit, zesty spice and bright acidity. Like the Hidden Bench white above, we have another New World wine with sound Old World character – at a very good price for the quality. This wine will be best over the next 3-4 years.

Extra dry, white wine – $44.95 per bottle (Premium wine feature wine)

France, Burgundy – AOC Volnay Pitures 1er Cru Maison Roche de Bellene 2008

Volnay is a small communal appellation on the Côte de Beaune in Burgundy, located between Meursault and Pommard. Only red wines come from this zone and they are lighter in body and more elegant than the reds from most appellations in Burgundy. This wine is made by Nicholas Potel, a young negociant who uses the facilities at Domaine Bellene to assemble his wines from bought fruit. This wine shows a perfumed and floral nose along with bright red cherry, raspberry and cranberry fruit with acid and tannins to accentuate the brightness.  The wine is lean and juicy with spice on the mid palate and finish. This is a well made wine from a maker to watch.

Extra dry, red wine – $44.95 per bottle (Premium wine feature)

France, Alsace – AOC Alsace Grand Cru Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Riesling  2007

This is a wine for Riesling lovers who will appreciate the mature, racy, spicy, intense lime, mineral, honey nose and palate of older, well-made Rieslings.  Somewhat surprising for the appellation and the grape, this wine is not for keeping.  Its complexity and character get it on the recommended list, nonetheless.

Extra dry, white wine – $25.95 per bottle

The runner’s-up this week is an exceptional value, just not as competitive on the complexity and structure scale as the first five wines I recommend, above..

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Delas Frères Saint Esprit 2009

Delas is an old Rhône firm, now part of the Roederer Group.  This wine is an everyday Rhône red made from a Syrah-dominated blend.  For the price it is a surprising wine.  It shows very fine balance, concentrated red and black fruit, plenty of spice and garrigue, crisp acid and firm, grippy tannins.  The tannins are quite forward and need time to round out.  Give this wine a year or so and serve with a beef stew next winter.

Extra dry, red wine – $14.95 per bottle

This week’s Collector’s Item is a big wine that will profit from some time in bottle to allow further integration of a complex array of fruit, herbs, tannins and acid.  It is a very good value for a keeper.

Italy, Tuscany – IGT Toscana Ruffino Modus 2007

This is a modern variation on the super-Tuscan theme, a blend of aged Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  It is a full-b0died, deeply hued, concentrated and complex.  Clearly this is a wine for the cellar.  It has ripe red and black fruit aromas and flavours, rosemary, toast, black olive, chocolate, coffee and forest floor character and a long toasty finish. All in all this is an amazing wine for the price.

Dry, red wine – $28.95 per bottle

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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