This week’s Vintages selection is notable for a high number of high quality, pricy wines that don’t make the grade when it comes to value. As a result, I haven’t been able to find my standard of 5 value wines I can recommend. Let’s go with four this weekend… with a distinct France bias – for me, still the leader in value!
France, Loire – AOC Côteaux du Layon Domaine des Chesnaies 2014
Sadly, those of us who live in Ontario rarely see wines from this special appellation in the Loire. The zone in Anjou where these wines originate has long autumns with cool, foggy mornings followed by warm, sunny afternoons. The daily cycle of wet- followed by dry conditions in the vineyard allows the cinerea botrytis fungus to prosper resulting in the condition known as noble rot. This fungus draws water from the grapes and as they reach an over-ripe state the desiccated grapes are rich with concentrated sugar and the natural elevated acidity found in the white grape of the zone, Chenin Blanc. The result is a sweet wine with distinct character: intense flavours of orange marmalade, honey and spice. The residual sugar is 56 g/L which is balanced by assertive bright acid. The finish is very long. Brilliant! Buy a few bottles to bring out for holiday desserts and cheeses. This wine will keep for years.
Sweet, white wine – $27.95 per bottle
France, Bordeaux – AOC Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois Château Bel Air 2011
I last recommended this wine when it appeared in the February 6, 2016 release at $23.95 per bottle. Even at a higher price, it remains a fine value for lovers of Left-bank Cab-Merlot blends. Befitting its status as a Cru Bourgeois, this wine does not command the elevated prices found for the more-esteemed Classified Growths, which is fine by me. It has expressive fruit – black currant, stewed plum and black cherry – along with earth tones and signs of development, including leather and coffee. The acid is bright and the tannins are fine-grained. The finish is long and slightly tannic. This is a well-structured wine that can age further or be enjoyed now with roasted red meats.
Dry, red wine – $25.95 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Domaine Saint-Andéol L’Excellence 2013
Cairanne is my all-time best value favourite appellation of the Southern Rhône, but prices will edge upwards now that the region has been elevated to Cru status (from Côtes du Rhône Villages) in February 2016 – with effect from the 2015 vintage. This recognition is deserved and recognizes the terroir and generally consistent quality of the winemaking in this relatively small zone in the south. Saint Andéol is one of the best domains in this village and this wine shows why Cairanne is a worthy Cru. The fruit is bright, ripe and fresh with the characteristic Grenache/Syrah red, black and blueberry. Herbs, black pepper spice and earth add to the complexity of the nose and palate. This is a juicy wine with plenty of acid and soft tannins. Enjoy with winter stews and roasted meats.
Extra dry, red wine – $ 21.95 per bottle
South Africa, Stellenbosch – WO Stellenbosch Waterkloof Circumstance Syrah 2012
This is a full-bodied Syrah that should gain attention by virtue of its expressive fruit, intensity and structure. It is fresh and shows the Syrah character in spades: blackberry, black olive, smoked meat and herbs. The acid is high and the tannins have grip. The oak treatment is careful and lends complexity without diminishing the fruit. Another wine for winter roasts…
Extra dry, red wine – $22.95 per bottle
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2016.