This week I wrap up my review of the wines selected for the WVN 2012 General List mixed case. In the last Newsletter I reported on the first six wines and was pleasantly surprised by the overall appeal of those wines. There was not a dog in the pack and each was a wine that would be acceptable to serve guests on a casual occasion or at a sit-down family dinner. The wines displayed varietal typicity and what they lacked in depth or complexity they delivered in freshness and pleasure.
After a great start in the first half of the case, here we go with the second half…
Portugal, Douro –DOC Vinho Verde Quinta da Aveleda 2011
Vinho Verde is the famous green wine made in the wet northerly reaches of Portugal. Vinho Verde can be made with a number of indigenous grape varieties depending on the zone of origin but in all cases the wines will be precise. They are always dry and are full of zesty acid, spice, citrus aromas and flavours and display a light spritz in the glass and on the tongue. These are wines to be consumed young, with or without food – serve on the patio as an aperitif or match with grilled shrimp. A blend of Loureiro, Trajadura and Alvarinho grapes, this wine is true to the Vinho Verde personality with intense green apple, lime and lemon on the nose and palate with some added complexity from an herbal grassiness. The texture is firm with a flinty mineral character and the body is medium in weight. It is made by Quinta da Aveleda, an old family winery that is considered one of the leading wineries in the world. The headline for this wine? Bright, spicy, crisp and clean! Oh, and did I mention it costs $9.95?
Extra dry, white wine – $9.95 per bottle (product number 89995)
Canada, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Trius Cabernet Franc 2010
Cabernet Franc is a grape which ripens early and thus lends itself to cool climate zones such as Ontario and the Loire Valley in France. It is the parent of its more famous offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon and is used in blends in Bordeaux to soften the often harsh effects of barely ripe Cabernet Sauvignon. Trius is a line established in the early 1990’s by what was then an emerging maker of quality Ontario VQA wines: Hillebrand Estates. The early Trius wines were small-volume premium category wines made from Chardonnay and Merlot grapes and were available only from the winery in Niagara on the Lake or in company stores in selected markets. Hillebrand is no longer independent as it was purchased many years ago by Peller Estates. The capital infusion provided by its new parent allowed Hillebrand to increase both volume and varieties of Trius wines so they are now widely available, including this beauty on the General List. This wine is an exemplar of how Cabernet Franc can perform in Ontario – a variety that I call an Ontario Champion. The colour is deep ruby and the tears on the glass are thick and slow-moving. The nose is youthful and has plenty of intense stewed plum and ripe raspberry aromas, along with smoke and spice. The palate is dry and bright with ripe berry, plum and spice. The texture is firm the acid is medium in weight and the tannins are sleek. This is a finely-balanced wine which is more interesting and complex than you would expect at the price.
Extra dry, red wine – $14.95 per bottle (product number 587964)
Australia, South Australia – Jacob’s Creek Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008
As a general rule I shy away from inexpensive wines made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Nonetheless I selected this wine to see if the Coonawarra reputation as home of the best Cabs from Australia would hold in the mid-priced segment. Cab wines in this price range are often stemmy and green on the nose and the palate because they are often made with lesser-quality fruit, picked when it is not fully ripe. The resulting wines are unpleasant and uninteresting. I expected this experience when I selected this bottle for my mixed case and when first opened the wine under-delivered as anticipated. It was subdued on the nose, it showed a dusty mouth feel with green, unripe fruit, grainy tannins and it wrapped up with a short, dusty finish. After this disappointing start I was distracted from tasting for a couple of hours. I came back to the bottle to see what was going on and I confess I was blown away by what I found. What had earlier been a green, tight, all-too-uninteresting wine had evolved to a ripe, bright, expressive wine with some surprising complexity throughout the nose, palate and finish. It had assertive aromas of cassis, cigar-box and smoke on the nose. The palate was ripe, bright and juicy with round tannins and flavours of cassis, mint and subtle leather. The finish was long and juicy. I recommend you decant this wine at least 90 minutes before you serve with grilled red meat.
Extra dry, red wine – $16.95 per bottle (product number 91751)
Austria – Weingut Meinhard Forstreiter Zweigelt ZVY-GELT 2009
If you don’t know the Zweigelt grape this is a great place to start your studies. This grape is the most widely-planted black grape in Austria, a country better known for its tangy whites. Zweigelt is a genetic cross of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent, grapes with zest and body, respectively. This wine is a delight and don’t be put off by the pop-wine label. The nose is smoky and savoury with aromas of ripe black cherry, strawberry, spice and wet earth. The palate is dry and mid-weight with concentrated flavours of ripe berry fruit, spice and smoke. The mouth feel is supple with an edge: zesty acid along with the spice and sleek tannins make for a balanced and appealing texture. This is a wine that punches well above its weight. It is intense, balanced and zesty and will be a pleasing alternative to mid-priced Pinot Noir.
Dry, red wine – $12.55 per bottle (product number 232348)
New Zealand, Central Otago – The People’s Wine Pinot Noir 2010
This sounds like a wine from the Karl Marx winery. It is packaged in a whimsically-labeled bottle with a drawing of a tank truck somewhere in the middle of the comic book fonts: this is a worrying sign. Is this the tanker that delivered the bulk wine to the bottling plant? The wine is a pleasant departure from what I might have expected. It is bright and expressive on the nose with a pungent, youthful character. There is a lot going on with youthful dusty pungent aromas of red cherry, beetroot and wet earth. The attack is juicy with flavours of strawberry, ripe red cherry, smoke, herbs and spice. The light-weight texture is velvety and supple and the smooth tannins are also light in weight. The finish is medium-long with ripe berry flavours. This is the type of wine I associate with mid-priced Pinot Noirs from Central Otago – correct, approachable, tasty, but not challenging. Try this wine alongside the Zweigelt…
Dry, red wine – $16.95 per bottle (product number 234526)
Argentina, Mendoza – Bodegas Esmeralda Tilia Malbec
If there were ever a grape that defined a region for consumers it would be Malbec from Mendoza. Argentina has become a New World export powerhouse on the back of this grape during a period when domestic consumption of wine in Argentina has continued to drop like a stone. Malbec can make wines of immense power and exceptional structure but unfortunately this wine falls short of the potential of this grape. For a wine that costs $12.95 this one delivers the goods on powerful, ripe berry fruit. It falls short on structure with low acid and round, light tannins. This will be a perfect wine for guests who want to sip a full-bodied Malbec but for those who look for balance in their glass, I would give this wine a pass.
Extra dry, red wine – $12.95 per bottle (product number 160945)
Italy, Tuscany – DOCG Chianti Gabbiano 2011
This is plain Jane, everyday Chianti, the wine that came in a fiasco bottle when I was much younger. To be clear, I think this plain Jane is a beauty, not a wall flower. Give me the youthful cherry fruit, the dusty tannins and crisp acid of a young Chianti and I will be forever thankful. This is a finely structured value that will match with pasta in tomato sauce, pizza or veal chop.
Extra dry, red wine – $13.95 per bottle (product number 78006)
This mixed-case has been a surprising run (12 winners out of 13 wines tasted) and once again, reminds me that we shouldn’t pass over the General List without gathering some data.
From this tasting it is evident there are plenty of fine wines that sell at value prices in the GL. This said, don’t look to the GL for complex and profound wines for your cellar. Don’t look for craft wines made by family artisans. Most of the wines on the GL are wines made by large commercial makers for early consumption. Look for wines which show varietal correctness that will give immediate gratification, and will be well-received by your guests.
While the wines I selected for this year’s case are reasonably versatile I think the best use of these wines is as Tuesday night wines. These are the wines you open the night after you finished that great bottle you opened – but didn’t quite finish – for Sunday night dinner. Of course, Tuesday night-style wines serve well for the next two nights of the week, until you open another cracker-jack wine on Friday night to celebrate the start of the weekend.
There you have it. Sounds like day-of-the-week underwear, don’t you think?
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2013.