Happy new year to all readers!
I hope 2012 is a fulfilling and happy one for you and you and your family.
The Vintages team at the LCBO has attempted to bring us all some early new year cheer with the first release of 2012. The theme is Smart Buys: the annual roundup of the world’s best wine buys for budgets big and small. We should applaud this noble gesture, especially now that many wine lovers face depleted treasuries following the onslaught of a series of over-the-top October, November and December Vintages releases.
Unfortunately the noble gesture has fallen slightly flat. There are some inexpensive wines in this release and there are also some modestly-priced crus. In both instances, the wines do not deliver value and should be avoided, despite the appeal of low prices or esteemed appellations. This week, stick to my list – albeit short – and you will avoid disappointment.
There are two sub-features this weekend: Great Scot (Scotch whiskies for Burns day) and Euro conversion (wines from the Euro zone, made with lesser know grape varieties). No comment on either.
The wines I recommend this week are dominated by French values, with an emphasis on the southern Rhône. No surprise, considering the well-earned reputation for consistent quality and value this region has built over the decades. But first, we stop in Niagara…
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Escarpment Rosewood Estates Merlot 2009
Rosewood is building a solid reputation for correct wines that sell at value prices. This Merlot is a fine, forward wine with bright acidity, finely-grained tannins and a long finish. There is plenty of spice, ripe plum and black cherry fruit on the nose and palate. The mouth-feel is round and medium in weight. Overall this is a refined, understated wine with balance and structure: well-done! Serve with grilled red meats.
Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle
France, Burgundy– AOC Chablis Domaine du Chardonnay 2009
This is an exceptional value Chablis. The mouth feel is very lean with the characteristic bright, juicy citrus fruit we expect of cool-climate Chardonnay. There are green vegetal notes on the nose followed by reductive minerally ripe apple, lemon, spice and hazelnut flavours on the palate. The finish is long and clean. This wine has not seen a splinter of oak…very bright and crisp!
Extra dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle (Smart Buy feature wine)
New Zealand, Marlborough, South Island – Hunter’s Pinot Noir 2009
I believe in ten-years’ time we will associate the Marlborough region with Burgundy style whites and reds –Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – not Sauvignon Blanc. Here we have a good-value reason why I make this fearless forecast. This is a bright wine with spice, red cherry, plum and wet earth character. The tannins are firm but nicely-integrated. The acid is lean and juicy. The finish is long and bright. This is a wine for smoked breast of turkey or grilled veal chops.
Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Vacqueyras Domaine du Grand Montmirail 2009
This is the winning wine of this week’s release. It is a blend of Grenache and Syrah and shows everything I look for in a traditional Vacqueyras: provençal spices, concentrated black and red fruit, smoke, earth and black pepper. You can really parse the Grenache and Syrah elements in this well-made wine. The tannins are round and nicely-textured. The acidity is medium in weight. Classic Vacqueyras, this. Serve with venison or roast leg of lamb.
Dry, red wine – $2495 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Domaine Saint-Andéol Séduction 2007
To this day – despite being routinely passed over by the authorities in Paris – I believe Cairanne should be a cru, with its own appellation. I suspect the down-to-earth winegrowers in this rustic village have no interest in submitting to the strictures of being a cru, so they don’t lobby very hard, if at all, for their case. In which case, we the consumers win: the wines of this village are among the best values anywhere in the world of wine. This wine is from the esteemed 2007 vintage and shows very good structure, complexity and overall depth. Some of the complexity comes from the blend: Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. This blend delivers lots of herbs, spice, licorice, black and red fruit. If you want to taste a natural wine, try this one.
Dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle
This week’s Collectors Item is another winner from the southern Rhône, a wine recently awarded 4 stars by a stellar panel at Decanter magazine.
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine de l’Arnesque Cuvée Capelane 2009
From a vintage with a spotty track record to date, this wine shows fine character and ageing potential – once again demonstrating that good winemaking can trump even tough growing conditions. It has dense, ripe fruit with black pepper spice, round tannins and modest, bright acidity. This is a structured wine that is still showing youthful awkwardness. Give it another three years in the cellar and enjoy for the next 10+ years, to 2025.
Extra dry, red wine – $39.95 per bottle (Smart Buy feature wine)
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2012.