LCBO Vintages release – May 24, 2014

This weekend the LCBO Vintages release showcases some 16 red wines from the Southern Rhône.

The feature covers most of the appellations in the south, or at least those where the producers are big enough to have agents who submit wines to the Vintages product calls.
Some appellations in the Southern Rhone are every small in both area planted and number of producers so it is rare we see wines from these zones. Many of the wines made by these producers are sold locally to travelers who come from the Benelux countries and who drive home with the trunk of their car loaded with cases of wine (lucky them…).

There is one wine that stands out in the feature from one of the smallest appellations in the southern Rhône: Côtes du Rhône-Villages Valréas. This appellation is only 489 acres in size with some 17 producers and a modest-sized cave cooperative. It’s too bad there aren’t more finds like this in the release. See more below.

Several appellations are represented in this release by wines made by the local cave cooperative. This continues to be one of my pet peeves: many of the wines made by these co-ops do not reflect the potential of the appellation as typically the co-ops deliver inexpensive but uninteresting wines.

The pickings are slim in this weekend’s Vintages release. This is disappointing, considering the love I have for the wines of the southern Rhône. This said, there are a handful of true-value wines and I was able to unearth them. I hope readers will indulge me: except for one Run, Don’t Walk Madeira, the rest of the wines are from France, including one Rhône feature wine.

Portugal, Madeira – DOC Madeira Broadbent Medium Dry Rainwater NV

Made by Justino’s, Madeira Wines, this is a bottling done for Broadbent Madeira, a company founded in 1996 by the famous English wine writer, Michael Broadbent. The moniker Rainwater seems to originate in the steep hills where the grapes were originally grown, slopes so steep that irrigation was not feasible, thus the only source of water was rainwater. This wine is made with the Tinta Negra grape which delivers a style similar in sweetness and weight to a Verdelho. The nose and palate are rich with toffee, sweet raison, marmalade and modest sweet smoke. Elevated acidity balances the sweetness to produce a clean mouth feel. The finish is long and clean. Run don’t walk for this beauty, at a very appealing price.

Medium, fortified wine – $20.95 per bottle

France, Burgundy – AOC Pouilly-Loché Les Grands Crus Blancs 2012

This wine comes from a small appellation in the Mâcon zone at the southernmost part of the Burgundy region. It is a sister appellation to the more visible Pouilly Fuisse and shows some similarities: use of oak in maturation and stony minerals on the palate. Made by a cooperative this is a good value wine that should be consumed early – like over the course of the summer and fall. It shows lemon, ripe apple, spice and light vanilla with a mouth filling texture, modest acid and a long, crisp and clean finish.

Extra dry, white wine – $20.95 per bottle

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas Clos Bellane 2010

Valréas is a small appellation in the northern part of the southern Rhône. The zone has a rich history related to its wines dating from the 14th century during the time of the Avignon papacy – but this is another story. The wines of Valréas are made from low-yield viticulture and generally display wonderful fruit expression as the climate is northern-Rhône-like. Clos Bellane is a small maker with a good reputation for natural winemaking. This wine is bright with a medium body, brilliant red and black fruit, pepper spice, earth notes, grainy tannins and a four-square texture. Serve with roasted or grilled red meats.

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (Rhône Feature wine)

France, Midi – AOC Côtes du Roussillon –Villages Latour de France Domaine de Bila –Haut Occultum Lapidem 2011

The prize for the most complicated label in this release goes to this baby. Don’t let these complications get in the way of trying Occultum Lapidem. This is a hefty wine with a full body and structure to match – concentrated fruit, firm tannins and assertive acid. The palate is full of red and black berry/cherry fruit, garrigue, earth and stony minerals. The price may seem high but this wine is not your everyday Roussillon. It is made by Chapoutier and is another example of the fine work being done by this northern-Rhône maker who is flexing his geographic scope in the Midi and Victoria, Australia. This wine will be perfect this coming winter but it will improve its harmony and balance over the next 8 to 10 years. Note, there is a second wine in this release from Domaine Bila-Haut – don’t mistake that wine for this…

Dry, red wine – $25.95 per bottle

France, Midi – IGP Pays d’Oc Domaine les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2011

This wine seems to be a recurrent favourite of the Vintages buyers. It seems also to be a wine I recommend every time it appears. The reason for this pattern is simple: this is an exceptional and correct Syrah, offered at an amazing price. The nose and palate are complex and show the best you can seek when it comes to Syrah: blackberry, black pepper, smoked meat and garrigue. The fruit is concentrated and bright with juicy acid and sleek tannins. The structure is amazing for a wine selling for $15.00. Buy lots.

Extra dry, red wine – $14.95 per bottle

 à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2014.


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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