General List Mixed case reviews – late summer 2016

In the past I written tasting notes in the early summer to celebrate the General List wines readers will find in their local LCBO stores in cottage country. It’s been a while since I have conducted such a review of these wines, wines we would otherwise ignore in the city.

This lapse is unfortunate as these reviews have been a popular item for readers in the past.  It is more unfortunate as I haven’t spent much time up north for the past summer and a half and my visits this summer have been few and very recent.

I was at our cottage in early August for the first time since last fall.  It was a short visit so I bought three bottles at random, with the assistance of a CSR in one of the smallest footprints in the LCBO network. I have since re-visted a couple of times.

I commend the manager in our local store as a man who will go places in the LCBO: he has the smallest Vintages corner in Ontario, but for a D-store it is truly a corner and it has 16 wines on display throughout the summer. While these wines may be the leftovers from the under-achieving A, B and C stores the wines rotate and he moves these wines like hotcakes.  Good on him! He seeks the interests of his local customers.  As an aside I suggest we city folks we should all stock our wines locally – it helps the local economy with jobs, albeit occasionals.

In any case, as we face the last long weekend of summer 2016 many of us will travel over the next day or so to spend a few last hot days of summer in the sun with friends and family.  Herewith, a list of wines to seek (or, in a case of one or two, to avoid).

Canada, Ontario – VQA Ontario Sandbanks Shoreline White Pinot Grigio 2013

Despite its Prince Edward County domicile Sandbanks has made this blend of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay with grapes sourced from unspecified sites in Ontario. It has an assertive, youthful, fruit-forward nose of ripe apple and pear. The palate is ripe and round with ripe pear, peach and yellow apple and light acid.  A firm mineral backbone adds some structure and the finish is clean and medium long.  This is a simple white that will go well with summer conversation on the dock.

Dry, white wine – $14.95 per bottle

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Sibling Rivalry Pink 2015

This bright Rosé is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Gamay and displays a deep strawberry red colour in the glass. The nose is full of appealing, assertive ripe strawberry and raspberry fruit aromas.  The palate is off-dry, fullish and fleshy in texture and there is plenty of berry fruit and a light mineral backbone. The alcohol is light at 11.5% by volume and this makes for a fine candidate for afternoon sipping. This is a simple wine with enough heft and character to be a perfect match for grilled pork chops, chicken or shrimps.

Dry, rosé wine – $13.95 per bottle

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Ventoux La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2015

La Vieille Ferme is the entry-level range of wines made by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel fame.  These wines are generally simple, well-made and value-priced, a perfect combination for summer cottage purposes. This wine is a bright salmon/orange colour.  It has a youthful, assertive nose of ripe peach, pear and red berries. The palate is ripe and somewhat fleshy with stone fruit and red berry flavours accompanied by flinty minerals and modest juicy acid. The finish is long with lingering spicy stone fruit.  This is a fine sipper but will also go well with grilled salmon or a cold squash salad. Serve well-chilled.

Extra dry, rosé wine – $11.10 per bottle

France, Bordeaux – AOC Bordeaux Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mouton Cadet 2014

In 2015, at 0.2% market share, Mouton Cadet was the second-leading French wine brand in Canada, sandwiched between the leader, French Rabbit, and  le numéro trois, Fat Bastard.  It’s easy to see why. This is a Bordeaux wine made by the same family which owns one of the five First Growth chateaux, Mouton Rothschild. Put simply, this wine has a Bordeaux pedigree which stands above its otherwise generic character. The colour in the glass is deep ruby and the nose is ripe and intense with cassis, savoury elements and a slight green-leaf tinge. The attack is bright with black currant, brown apple, crisp acid, light flaky tannins and more green leafy bitterness. The mouthfeel is sleek and the finish is short and clean. It is a typical everyday low-priced Bordeaux red which will best appeal when served chilled with grilled chops, steaks and burgers.

Extra dry, red wine – $15.20 per bottle

Chile, Colchagua Valley – Cono Sur Calchagua Viognier Bicicletta 2015

The nose is a modestly aromatic expression of ripe peach and pear – subtle and clean. The immediate palate effect is one of fleshy texture and crisp acid.  Flavours of ripe peach, pear and spice dominate and the finish is medium length and clean. The character is light and attractive and while the wine is otherwise simple it is exactly what the doctor would order for a hot summer evening. Serve well-chilled as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to grilled salmon steaks. Extraordinary value!

Dry, white wine – $9.95 per bottle

Italy, Veneto – DOC Valpolicella Folonari 2014

I remember Valpolicella from my early days as wine consumer – thin red berry fruit in an envelope of assertive acid: not the sort of wine that would appeal to any uninformed palate.  Fast forward some 40 years and I try the same wine and I think, this is pretty good: fresh, bright and ready for food. Let me elaborate. It has assertive, youthful red cherry on the nose.  The palate has more bright cherry fruit, dusty, firm tannins and crisp mouthwatering acid.  The body is medium weight making for a fresh, if not,  refreshing package. This is a simple wine that craves food: grilled chicken or spinach-lentil salad are two matches to consider.

Extra dry, red wine – $13.95 per bottle

Spain, Almansa – DO Almansa Bodegas Piqueras Castillo de Almansa Reserva 2012

Here we have a classic case of a reasonable wine that fetches a bargain price because it comes from a small place that has little or no cachet, in this case, Alamansa.  I don’t mean to insult the regional zone of Almansa in making my comment.  In fact, this is a place that deserves greater recognition but in the meantime its wines should be appeciated for their amazing quality and value. This wine is a blend of Tempranillo, Monastrell and Garnacha and has matured in oak for some 12 months. Despite its age the nose is still youthful with assertive ripe red berry and cherry fruit and spice, along with light smoke and vanilla. The palate is ripe and full with an abundance of spicy fruit.  The tannins are firm and dusty with sour juicy acid on the mid palate. This is an ideal everyday winter wine but it will also do well with any red meat at your next barbecue.  Great value.

Extra dry, red wine – $13.10 per bottle

Spain, Rioja – DOCA Rioja Beronia Tempranillo

The nose is deep black cherry-berry with some modest signs of smoke.  It is fresh and youthful.  The palate is smooth and supple with more of the brilliant black fruit we found on the nose along with bright, slightly juicy acid and light, firm tannins.  This is wine to enjoy today – don’t put it in the cellar because it is at its best now. Served lightly chilled on its own or with grilled bone-in chops or chicken breast.

Extra dry, red wine – $12.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2016.

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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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