A couple of weeks ago I published tasting notes on a somewhat random selection of wines available at local LCBO stores located many miles from major urban centres (and many miles from fashionable cottage towns in places like Muskoka and Haliburton).
The wines I chose were selected randomly, with a few caveats: they had to be from a designated origin; in the case of Ontario wines they had to be VQA (simply a further elaboration on the first criterion) and the label had to tell me enough to indicate the quality of the wine would be sound.
This last criterion is very subjective but it does have substance. The Level 2 certificate in the WSET program is aimed at developing an ability to Look Behind the Label. This ability is commonly considered the first step in developing an understanding of wine quality.
I did have one additional factor in making my selections: I displayed, once again, my bias for Old World wines. In my mind these wines are often more subdued in their expression when compared with inexpensive New World wines which often are made with very ripe fruit, have high levels of alcohol and often are balanced with added acid. Old World wines at entry level prices are generally made naturally with little manipulation and very little wood treatment: they are so inexpensive that the winemakers cannot afford to manipulate.
I grant this is a broad generalization and can be debated: as the author of this piece I choose to apply my criteria and there they are!
With this background I went back to the Barry’s Bay LCBO store to stock up on another half-case and here are my notes:
Canada, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Angel’s Gate Merlot 2011
The nose is intense and full of black cherry fruit, coffee grounds and smoke. The palate is ripe and full-bodied. Flavours of sour black cherry, spice, smoke, coffee and black chocolate make for a complex and deep palate. The structure is sound with bright acid surrounded by dense, thick tannins. The finish is long with lingering chocolate and black cherry. Quite fine value!
Dry, red wine – $13.95 per bottle
Chile, Valle Central – Cono Sur Chardonnay NV
This is a cool-climate Chardonnay with a fresh, aromatic nose of peach, pear, light vanilla and apricot. The palate is tangy – juicy, slightly sour acid, balance with a fattish body and an array of tree-fruit flavours: green peach, crunchy red apple, vanilla, all sitting on a backbone of light flinty minerals. The finish is medium length with lingering sour minerals (tastes better than it sounds, trust me). This wine is an amazing beauty for a very good price.
Dry, white wine – $12.95 per bottle (Organic)
Germany, Pfalz – Ernst Loosen Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2011
If you purchased this bottle in Germany it would have been labelled Spätburgunder, the name given locally to Pinot Noir. This is a deep ruby wine with a subdued, dusty, black cherry nose with hints of herb and saw dust. It sounds off but this wine is seriously rustic and appealing. The palate continues the dusty theme with ripe black cherry fruit, firm tannins and slightly sour acid. The finish is firm and fruity with lingering firm tannins. This is a no-nonsense Pinot Noir which will match well with grilled chops or a juicy crown of pork roast. Serve slightly chilled and the rough edges will be nicely smoothed.
Extra dry, red wine – $14.75 per bottle
France, Bordeaux – AOC Bordeaux Château Bel Air 2012
I was skeptical when I chose this item: inexpensive Bordeaux reds have a sameness that is generally unattractive: green, dry tannins, modest unripe fruit expression and thin body. Nonetheless I couldn’t pass up a Bordeaux at this price. I was pleasantly surprised. The nose was bright and complex for the price: black cherry fruit along with developing notes of leather and graphite. The palate was medium in weight with sour cherry, dusty tannins and surprising depth. This wine has seen no wood and has a long finish. Good value and a very good match for a thick piece of grilled red meat.
Extra dry, red wine – $12.75 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Roche Bastide 2012
The best wines from this wide appellation are full of bright, fresh, juicy fruit. They move effortlessly, without complication, along your palate whether they are alone or in the company of comfort food, winter or summer. These are the wines that first caught my attention when I connected with the world of wine in a serious way, some 15 years ago. Well, here we have a wonderful example of the case: bright, simple, and very modestly-priced. You will find raspberry and red cherry on the nose and palate. The texture is smooth and yet the structure is pretty fine for the price: plenty of mouth-watering acid and tannins that are dusty and perfectly in harmony with the light body. Serve with grilled turkey breast and garlic-infused ratatouille.
Extra dry, red wine – $14.80 per bottle (Organic)
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages Gadagne Château Grand Dignitaire 2012
Gadagne is a new, small village appellation and has only a small number of domaines. This wine is made by a cave-cooperative in nearby Avignon and punches above the typical c-c fighting weight. The nose is retiring but shows ripe, dark berry fruit with some pepper spice and light smoke. The palate is fullish in weight with more, ripe berry fruit, juicy acid, sleek, round tannins and still more pepper spice. The finish is medium-long with firm tannins and lingering spice. Pretty fine – serve as a patio sipping red or with barbecued chicken breast.
Extra dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle
Overall the quality of the wines I selected was high for the prices paid and except for the Argentine Rosé in the first part of this case, the wines are all recommended. Don’t look for complexity in this bunch: these wines are selected for the simple pleasure they will bring to a casual summer time environment of your choosing: patio, pool-side, lakeside or campground.
This was a strong selection which reflects the ongoing success the LCBO has achieved when selecting everyday wines and presenting them at attractive prices. Well done!
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2014.