LCBO Vintages release – July 21, 2012

The main feature this weekend is wines from the Australian state of Victoria. Victoria is the smallest state in Australia – approximately the size of England – and it sits on the south east corner of the continent between New South Wales to the north and South Australia to the west. It has been a wine growing region since the 1850’s and until the early 20th century was the major wine producing region in the country. Phylloxera and changing economics saw Victoria slip down the scales of importance so that today it ranks third in acreage planted and thirdin output after South Australia and New South Wales.

While small in size Victoria is considered to be the most diverse wine growing zone in the country – ranging from the high volume zone of Riverland in the north (and spilling into South Australia), to the home of the famous fortified stickies from Rutherglen, to the maritime zone of Mornington Peninsula to the cloudy, cool zone of Yarra Valley, to the hotter zone of Central Victoria, and so on: Victoria has it all. It is also noteworthy that Victoria has the largest number of wineries of all the regions of Australia: some 750 in number in 2012 (compared with 695 wineries in South Australia)

Befitting the wide diversity of topography and climate conditions in Victoria, an array of grape varieties are successfully vinified in a variety of styles ranging from Muscat in Rutherglen to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on Mornington Peninsula, aromatic varieties in Yarra and Rhône-style Shiraz/Syrah in Bendigo and Heathcote.

I spent a week in Victoria in the spring of 2010.  I was on a mission to find wines made from fruit –that was something other than Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon – grown in cool-climate conditions. I was delighted with what I found: delicate, fruit-forward Chardonnays, precise sparkling wines, spicy, structured Syrahs (the label widely-used in Victoria so consumers are not seduced to thinking they will get a Shiraz in their glass…) and elegant aromatics wine made from Pinot Gris and Riesling. I saw first hand the promise of things to come for Australian export markets.

There is a downside:  most producers in Victoria are small and production volumes are low meaning limited availability of many of the best wines – and when they are available these wines often fetch premium prices

We don’t see many wines from Victoria which is something I expect is about to change.  As Australia works to rebrand itself as the source of premium wines which reflect their place of origin I expect we will see more wines from this part of the country and I can hardly wait.

There is also a Loire Valley sub-feature this weekend: some great wines are delivered by the Vintages team, from a grossly-under-appreciated region.

This week I found some great values from the features, three wines in  fact.  The emphasis in my selection seems to be on wines that will do well in the hot, steamy summer we are experiencing so far…

France, Loire – AOC Sancerre Bernard Reverdy et Fils 2010

This is a repeat of a very successful release of this wine late last year. Sancerre is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape and shows subdued herbaceous character when compared with wines made with the same grape in the Marlborough zone of New Zealand.  This wine displays the flinty minerality of its place of origin with ripe grapefruit and lemon notes on the nose and palate. It has a firm, taut and crisp texture with a long, herbal finish. Bright and elegant, this wine is a winner.

Extra dry, white wine – $22.95 per bottle (Loire feature wine)

South Africa, Stellenbosch – WO Stellenbosch Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011

It is fitting to follow a wine from the Loire with a wine made from the other white grape of that region: Chenin Blanc.  This wine comes from one of the leading proponents of Chenin Blanc in South Africa, a country where the grape has been a mainstay since the earliest days of viticulture in the 1650’s.  Made from fruit grown on low-yield old vines this is a concentrated and intense wine with aromas and flavours of citrus fruit, melon and pear. The finish is long and spicy.  Drink now or cellar for a few years for even better results. Serve with roast chicken.

Dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle

France, Midi– AOC Côtes du Roussillon Château Saint-Roch Syrah/Grenache Rosé 2011

Today we see many rosé wines developing more heft and red wine-like character – in colour, firm tannins and weight.  These wines are great but when the weather turns blistering hot these profound rosés are simply over the top. This wine takes us back to the lighter colour/lighter weight rosé wines of Provence… the perfect summer cooler especially if you want some crisp, slightly tannic, berry fruit packaged in a medium-bodied package. This wine has bright acidity, spice and a delicate texture along with ripe red berry fruit and a long, crisp finish.  Delightful!

Dry, rosé wine – $14.95 per bottle

Australia, Victoria – Dominique Portet Fontaine Shiraz/Cabernet/Merlot 2010

Fontaine is the trans-oceanic homage to the historic and adopted homes of Dominique Portet, the owner of the winery in Yarra bearing his name.  Portet is the son of the manager of  Ch. Lafite-Rothschild in Bordeaux.  He was educated at Montpellier in France, and made wine in many appellations in France as well as California and Australia before finding his home in the Yarra. This wine is one of the quirky blends of Australia: 50% Shiraz, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot – it works!  Made from Yarra fruit and grapes sourced in the Pyrenees zone it is balanced and subtle.  The fruit expression is bright and refined with juicy berry and cherry along with some modest oak – enough to add complexity and complement the fruit. This is an harmonious and elegant wine with Old-World class and New World expression. Beautiful!

Dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (Victoria feature wine)

Australia, Victoria – Buller Victoria Tawny

This beauty is the product of a highly-regarded family operation in the Rutherglen that has been in operation since the early 1920’s .  Known for its fortified wines it also makes high-quality old-vine Shiraz. The Tawny is made of a blend of Carina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and Shiraz. It shows deep red colour and displays aromas and flavours of dried fruit, raisin pie, nuts, spice and the classic rancio of Port.  This is an exceptional buy and is a wine you should stock up on for holiday gatherings and cold, snowy winter nights. If you love Late Bottled Vintage Port, this wine is a must-try.

Sweet, fortified wine – $18.95 per bottle (Victoria feature wine)

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2013.

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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