This week’s recommendations come from France and South Africa with a good cross-section of reds, a white and a sparkler making the up the list.
South Africa, Stellenbosch – WO Stellenbosch Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015
In its earliest days the Winesights Vintages Newsletter avoided repeat reviews of a wine – regardless of its merits – after its first appearance in the newsletter. The reasoning went something like “when a wine appears in a later release, readers will recall the wine from its earlier appearance and know of its track record – except for possible vintage variation, why take up precious newsletter space when there are new values to share with readers?” This practice went by the board when I decided some wines deserve recognition when they are offered, regardless of how many times they may have been highlighted. The Forrester Chenin Blanc is one of those wines and ranks as another run, don’t walk beauty. This wine is medium weight with pear, honey, bready lees and lemon citrus aromas and flavours. It is complex and well-balanced with a long, clean finish. Buy a few bottles and drink now or hold for a few years – you will be rewarded well!
Extra dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle
South Africa, Western Cape – WO Western Cape Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV
This is very fine sparkler for your Valentine’s Day celebration, one that will not require a bank loan to pour. It has a light, bright onion skin colour, strawberry and a bit of earth on the nose with berry flavours and creamy mousse on the palate. If you seek brioche notes on the nose this wine will not be for you, alas: simply not enough time on the dead yeast cells to impart the autolytic effect found in more expensive bottles. This said, the weight is medium and there is plenty of crisp acid. This is a dry wine with a clean finish. Pretty fine for the price.
Dry sparkling wine – $19.95 per bottle
France, Bordeaux – AOC Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois Château Bel Air 2011
This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend from the left bank in Bordeaux. It is a very fine value with accessible black fruit and solid structure. It is not a heavyweight on the palate but for the price it punches above its weight. Ch. Bel Air is another wine I have recommended in the past: it is a fine entry-level Bordeaux which will please your guests and accompany roasts and chops with flair.
Extra dry, red wine – $23.95 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Beaumes de Venise Grandes Serres Rocca Luna 2012
Beaumes de Venise is a small appellation from a zone best known for its vin doux naturel, AOC Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. The dry wines were promoted to cru status with the 2004 vintage and yet it is rare we see any of these in Ontario. The vines in this region are generally planted on terraced hillsides, including on the ragged limestone outcropping known as Les Dentelles de Montmarail, sometimes at elevations up to 600 metres. This wine is a blend of Grenache and Syrah and is rich with red and black fruit, garrigue and pepper spice, savoury notes and wet earth – classic for the appellation. The tannins are assertive but fit well with the overall weight and character – serve with stews or grilled meats.
Dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château La Nerthe 2012
At $49.95 per bottle readers may question the value proposition for this selection. Consider Château de Beaucastel, recently offered at $90.00 per bottle and you may see the wisdom in this choice. It should be noted La Nerthe 2012 is a wine is a smooth and approachable version of the often-rustic wines which come from the zone – complex but easy to enjoy now. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault so it brings fine character to the table. There is a modest amount of oak on the nose and palate to add some complexity but red and black fruit dominate, along with black pepper and some wet earth. The acid and tannins are well-balanced and this wine will age if you want to put a bottle or two away in your cellar for special meals in 2021-23.
Dry, red wine – $49.95 per bottle
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