A few weeks ago I promised an update to my General List mixed case. So, in advance of heading to the cottage for an extended weekend I visited my local LCBO to troll that part of the store I rarely attend and came out with a winemaker’s case (aka 13 bottles) of General List wines for closer examination.
The General List is that part of the typical LCBO store that dominates floor space, that contributes to the bulk of total sales and where most wine shoppers spend their time. This is the section where agents make the money that allows them to conduct a solid business and which facilitates the rest of their business where they carry low-volume wines made by obscure producers who rarely get scores from the big-name wine writers.
This is the LCBO where the brand names reside, that is, the wine labels you see advertised in magazines and on billboards. These are the wines with labels wine snobs look down their noses to read. General List wines are the wines that generally cost well below $20.00 per bottle and wines that rarely attract wine critic attention.
One notable aspect of the General List is the constant change it undergoes. Wines must perform to remain on the list. If they don’t meet pre-determined sales and velocity targets incumbent wines will be de-listed to make room for new wines. Agent must sign up for promotional campaigns to get GL listings and the LCBO buyers watch sales data and impose pressure when volumes lag behind target levels of expected performance. This dimension of steady change means the General List can be a constant source of discoveries and why I believe the GL should not be ignored by the value shopper.
My comments below, and in the next issue of WVN, suggest it may be time for the Vintages-only LCBO customer to rethink his/her attitude to the General List. The wines I picked showed very well and were priced at average of less than $14.00 per bottle. These wines will not win awards for complexity and ageing potential but for pure, undemanding pleasure they will be hard to beat.
In assembling the mixed case I selected a wine from most of the popular/major wine-producing regions in the world. The selections were made on a semi-random basis meaning I looked for wines made from grapes that performed well in the region of origin. Otherwise, I tried to behave as an average consumer would in a similar situation: is the price within my budget and does the label look interesting…? I did show a slight bias in my selections in that three of the wines were made in the Niagara region of Ontario and two wines were made in Portugal.
So, fasten your seat belts dear readers, we are going on a journey…
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Cave Spring Riesling 2010
As I have noted in the past I consider Cave Spring to be one of the best proponents in Canada of wines made from the Riesling grape. The colour is a pale lemon and the nose is crisp with aromas of lime, grapefruit and green apple. The attack shows a slight spritz with dry, bright lime notes. The mid-palate is loaded with juicy acid and concentrated flavours of lime and green apple. There is a firm mineral backbone and a supple, mouth-filling texture. The finish is round and juicy. This wine is an exceptional value and shows fine Riesling character. It is a straightforward wine which will perform admirably as an aperitif or patio sipper but which will also be a match with grilled chicken or pork loin. Buy a case.
Dry, white wine – $14.95 per bottle (product number 233635)
California, Sonoma County – Chateau St-Jean Chardonnay 2010
Chateau St [Jeen] is named for the wife of the one of the founders of this winery, and is considered a solid performer in the varied region that is Sonoma County. This is the most expensive wine – and the most commercially constructed – in the mixed case selection but delivers good value nonetheless. It shows a tropical fruit character of medium intensity on the nose – banana, papaya and melon – with some slight leesy notes. The palate is ripe with a rich texture and the same tropical fruit elements displayed on the nose along with flinty minerals and spicy notes. There is some vanilla on the nose and palate but this comes from a partial barrel fermentation, not from oak ageing. The flinty, tropical fruit continues through the reasonably long, ripe finish. This is a fine, fruit-forward wine which should be served with only a light chill – don’t serve too cold.
Extra dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle (product number 269738)
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Ventoux Ogier Rosé 2011
Ogier is a negoçiant best known for its Côtes du Rhône reds and Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines, wines that sit in the middle of their categories for quality and value. It is evident from this wine that they have a niche at the low end of the price spectrum. The appearance is bright, strawberry/pink in the glass. The nose is full of assertive berry aromas with a youthful, fresh character. The palate is rich with intense red berry flavours, firm, grippy tannins that are well-integrated and stony minerals. The finish is crisp and clean with lingering berry flavours. Serve on its own or with a spinach salad starter or with grilled salmon. This is a run don’t walk wine that punches well above its weight (my wife tasted this wine blind and thought it was a super-premium rosé from our favourite Ontario maker).
Extra dry, rosé wine – $10.95 per bottle (product number 134916)
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry Red 2010
Don’t take this comment the wrong way, but this wine reminds me of the good old days –aka the 1970’s – when SAQ old wine by the gallon jug. I had many friends in Quebec when I was starting out as an adult and we would spend weekends eating fondue, pizza and barbecue with wines to match – all for less than $10.00 per jug. Those wines of yore were wonderful: bulk wines imported from the Old World, bottled in Quebec. They showed great fruit, enough tannins for structure and a bottomless bottle. Enter, the brothers Speck of Henry of Pelham and their family of Sibling Rivalry wines will take us back a generation to those quaffable wines of the Saturday Night Fever era…This is a blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon and is a ripe, youthful wine that will be perfect for family gatherings in the backyard, open houses at Christmas – and every event in between – where you want your guests to feel happy and at home. The nose is ripe and youthful with aromas of stewed plum, herbs and wet earth. The palate has plenty of ripe berry fruit with herbs and spice, grainy tannins and enough juicy acid to make for a reasonable structure. The finish is medium long with firm spice and ripe fruit. Serve with anything… or nothing. This wine puts all the made-in-Ontario International Blends to shame. Buy lots for your next wedding/barbecue/reception/open house/…your guests will want to know more about the wine (also available in white and rosé).
Dry, red wine – $13.95 per bottle (product number 126151)
Spain, Rioja – DOCa Rioja Beronia 2009
This is a very fine value wine with the classic fresh vibrancy and soft texture of the Tempranillo grape –think oodles of red berry and black cherry fruit – with only the slightest amount of oak for complexity. This is an entry-level Rioja meaning it has had only a modest amount of time in wood and bottle before release, thus showing wonderful fruit expression. The nose is youthful with black cherry fruit, loam, smoke and mocha aromas. The palate is bright on the attack with sleek, grainy tannins on the mid palate, along with cherry, mocha, green spice and chocolate flavours. The finish is clean with juicy cherry flavours that linger. This is a beautiful wine that will go well with light fare- quinoa salads, grilled shrimp, pizza marhgerita.
Extra dry, red wine – $11.70 per bottle (product number 243055)
Portugal, Alentejano – Vinho Regional Alentejano Tinto da Anfora 2009
This is a perfect example of why Portuguese wines deserve more attention than they receive – from critics and consumers alike. It is full of ripe black cherry aromas and flavours, has juicy acid on the mid-palate and finish and shows sleek tannins which give structure. The overall impression is of a wonderfully balanced wine that will delight the novice and critic, both. There is good complexity with smoke and green-leaf tobacco aromas followed by a fruit-driven palate with spice and more green herbal and leaf elements. This is a blend of indigenous Portuguese grapes – Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira – along with a small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon. Serve with grilled spicy Mediterranean sausage and grilled vegetables. Exquisite!
Dry, red wine – $11.95 per bottle (product number 227256)
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2013.