This weekend’s Vintages release is a very good one. It features summery wines from New Zealand with a particular concentration of wines from the South Island region of Marlborough. One of the feature wines makes my list.
The good news about this weekend‘s selections: there are some fabulous values. The bad news: the average price of my picks is north of $35.00 per bottle. With at least three of my recommended wines you have some great medium-ling-term cellar potential, so take courage.
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2012
There are many who still think Ontario is capable of only making fine white wines. Our climate isn’t warm enough for the best black grapes to ripen, so even if we wish to make red wines we should stick to only those varieties that ripen early. This is why Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc have emerged as popular and successfully cultivated varieties. Terroir Caché is one of the red blends that suggest we are too timid in our assessment of Ontario’s potential: this is a blend of several varieties including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec and is arguably one of the best reds made in Niagara and is made only in those years the grapes reach adequate levels of ripeness. This is a complex and intense wine with aromas and flavours of black and blue cherry/berry fruit, spice, herbs, smoke and wet earth. The tannins are dense and need time but the fruit intensity and crisp acid will support several years of cellar time. Wait another 3 -5 years and enjoy for another 5 -7 years after that.
Dry, red wine – $38.20 per bottle
South Africa – WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2012
This wine is made by one of the icons of South Africa and is worth every penny. It is intense with oodles of tropical fruit along with lemon, honey, spice, vanilla and toast. The texture is lush but is balanced with fairly high acidity. The finish is long. This is another age-worthy wine with many years of cellar potential.
Dry, white wine – $34.95 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Gigondas Ortas L’Estellan 2011
Here we have a well-priced Gigondas that delivers all we expect from this appellation; bright berry fruit, solid structure and palate pleasing texture. This wine has brilliant berry fruit, herbes de Provence, smoke and spice. The acid is juicy and the tannins are soft and mid-weight. The finish is long. The alcohol is high at 15.5% but it is in balance. Keep for upcoming winter stews and roasts.
Extra dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle
France, Bordeaux – AOC Haut-Médoc Château Sociando-Mallet 2010
If you have always shied away from high-end red Bordeaux wine this is the time to drop your bias and run-don’t walk to Vintages this weekend. I have more Ch. Sociando-Mallet in my cellar than any other wine and for many years it was my only purchase when the annual Bordeaux Futures offer arrived in my mailbox. The maker, Jean Gautreau, is an iconoclast who doesn’t even seek Cru Bourgeois status for his wines: they are unique and defy classification. Regardless of classification or maker’s view, this is the best value fine red Bordeaux you will find. The downside: these wines are best after many years in the cellar. I opened a 2000 late last year and it was a delight with still many years to go before it hit its stride. The 2010 is still youthful with ripe, concentrated fruit and grippy, assertive tannins. There is plenty of crisp acid and layers of black currant and blackberry fruit. It has seen oak but the wood is a complement to the dense fruit. This wine will evolve and mature into an elegant and deeply complex dowager.
Extra dry, red wine – $63.85 per bottle
New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough – Clos Henri Bell Echo Pinot Noir 2012
I visited the Marlborough region a few years ago in search of anything but Sauvignon Blanc. My most vivid memories are of Old World style Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. The cool climate lent a softness to these wines that allowed the winemakers to display the character of the soils and their winemaking talents. This wine is reminiscent of those Pinots. It shows bright, ripe red cherry fruit along with some spice and modest smoke. The body is medium-full in weight and the structure is sound with juicy acid and soft tannins. The finish is very long. This is a very good value Pinot from a place that will become known more and more for wines made with this grape.
Extra dry, red wine – $22.95 per bottle
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