This week’s Vintages release features wines from the Midi region of France along with a handful of wines from Argentina made from the Malbec grape.
The Midi is the diverse and confusing zone at the south-western corner of France, a n area that hugs the coast of the Mediterranean sea, before heading inland to some of the most inhospitable terrain found in the world of wine.
The region is made up of a vast array of appellations, some very good, some not so very good. The history of this part of France is violent as it was the site of several crusades launched in the early 13th century by the Holy See against the Cathar heretics. The crusader came from the northern part of France and I am convinced this history explains the periodic violence launched by unhappy farmers in the Midi when the government in Paris makes policies against the local interests of this poor economic zone.
This said, the wines of the Midi are known as great value wines, especially from appellations such as Faugères and Corbières. Grape growing and winemaking in the Midi have improved over the past twenty years so the legacy of green, under-ripe wines of the past has now been re-written.
One wine from the Midi feature makes my value list. My selection this week includes some older wines and there whites all of which are great values.
Spain, Rueda– DO Rueda Telmo Rodriguez Basa Blanco 2013
Rueda makes the finest-value whites in all of Spain. This wine is an aromatic delight. Look for herbs, peach, honey, lemon and papaya and guava: that’s a fruit bowl! It is medium weight, has crisp acid, spice and flinty minerals. The finish is long and clean.
Extra dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle
France, Burgundy – AOC Saint Bris La Chablisienne Sauvignon 2013
Saint Bris is the only white appellation in Burgundy where the grape is not Chardonnay. As is the case with other Sauvignon Blancs grown in France the character is more subdued and less herbaceous than S-B wines from New World places such as Marlborough, New Zealand. There is a full-bodied mouth feel on this wine with ripe tree fruit, stony minerals and grapefruit – all fruit and stones, no wood. This is an elegant wine that is incredible good-value.
Extra dry, white wine – $15.95 per bottle
Germany, Mosel – Pradikätswein Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Kaseler Nies’chen Riesling Kabinett 2006
The Vintages team has developed a knack for finding some exceptional value old Rieslings at exceptional prices and for this we need to give the team full credit! This selection is one of those wines and it receives the rarely-granted Run-don’t-walk badge from TWR (formerly WVN). This is a ripe, slightly sweet beauty which has complexity on the nose and the palate and taut acid to offset the sugar to deliver top-notch structure in the process. There is intense lime, honey, apricot, spice and petrol (the aroma of kerosone – the marker of older Riesling) on the nose and palate. The finish is very long with lingering citrus. Buy lots – this wine has years to go.
Medium-dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle
France, Midi – AOP Corbières Château de Lastours Grande Réserve 2008
Lastours is a life-style winery (visit the web-site and you will see what I mean). Normally this type of place would be a flashing yellow light for me, but this time it would be a wrong signal: this is a fine wine that punches well above its weight. It is a blend based on Carignan (50%) with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvrèdre. Look for structure and a potpourri of rich red and black fruit flavours. This is a concentrated wine with great acid and tannins so the character is one of fine breeding. The wine spent extended time in oak but the intense fruit stands up to deliver a very fine balance. This is an elegant wine, from a solid appellation.
Extra dry, red wine – $22.95 per bottle (Midi feature wine)
Spain, Rioja – DOCa Rioja Erudito Reserva Especail 2008
While this may not look like a value at $36.95 per bottle, read on. This wine is already past its youth but it has concentrated fruit, bright acid and firm, grainy tannins; that is, it has a structure that begs for more time in bottle before it hits its potential. The fruit is red and black cherry-berry in character with spice and evolving oak and smoke. The finish is very long. I suggest this wine be placed in your cellar for a couple of years by which time you will have a finely-balanced, harmonious beauty for special dinners of roasted meats. This wine won the International Trophy for best red under £15 at the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards – the top award in the show in this category.
Extra dry, red wine – $36.95 per bottle (Flagship store wine – check LCBO.com for locations)
Copyright © W. John Switzer 2003 – 2014