LCBO Vintages release – February 18, 2017 (WVN 256)

This theme may be monotonous to readers but, as an advocate for the value buyer, I remain a disappointed LCBO customer.

To elaborate: it seems that $20 is the new $15.00 when it comes to Vintages offers.   Many readers report that they balk at paying more than $20 for a bottle of wine, unless the occasion warrants going upwards for a very special bottle.  When we have a release that doesn’t well cater to the value buyer with a budget we underservice a segment of the market that is notably large (sorry, I have nothing but anecdotal data to support this claim).

This weekend’s release features almost 60 wines – more than one-half – priced over $20.00, with another 20 wines priced at $20.00.  I foretold an escalation in prices when the Canadian dollar went south a couple of years ago but I think it would be fitting for the LCBO team to make a concentrated effort to explore more widely the market that still flourishes below $20.00 per bottle.  Three wines in my selection fall in this zone and amply demonstrate the potential that exists in this segment of the market.

France, Midi – AOP Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache 2013

Bertrand is a leading proponent of the Midi, and is a maker of wines across several appellations in this complicated zone of France. His wines are of consistent quality and value and over the years he has become a popular supplier to the Vintages team.  Les Aspres has ripe, intense red and black fruit with some savoury notes, spice and garrigue on the nose and palate. This wine is a full-bodied, very drinkable blend with a rustic personality and the potential to further develop into a finely-balance delight over the next two years.  Serve with stews or grilled red meats.

Dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

France, Champagne – AOC Champagne Laherte Frères Ultradition Brut NV

Laherte is a small grower-maker in the Vallée de La Marne region of Champagne, known for its unique Champagnes, all vinified in oak.  The character of the wines is consistently earthy with a fullish texture.  The very dry blend is dominated by Pinot Meunier with some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir added to complete the blend. It has an intense and persistent mousse, bright and assertive acid, modest brioche and citrus, brown apple and spice with a mineral backbone.  It is complex and fresh.  Great value.

Extra dry, Sparkling wine – $48.95 per bottle

Argentina, Mendoza – Dominio del Plata Benmarco Uco Valley Malbec 2013

This is a full-bodied wine with concentrated fruit and excellent structure.  It is made from fruit grown on high-elevation vines and shows delightful brightness that is pleasing especially given the fullish, fleshy texture of the wine.  This wine is advertised as unfiltered and unfined and this low-intervention treatment, along with the cool zone origin of the fruit, explains the freshness.  There is black and red fruit, spice, herbs, a very slight oaky character.  The tannins are soft and smooth, the acid is lightly tart and the finish is long.  Buy some for the barbecue season.  This wine will develop further over the 3 to 4 years.

Dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

Australia, Victoria – Fowles Stone Dwellers Strathbogie Ranges Shiraz 2013

This is a delightful, fruit-forward cool-climate Shiraz with plenty of zip and style.  It shows the classic elements of Syrah/Shiraz – blackberry fruit, black pepper and slight minty-ness on the palate.  The body is full but not flabby and the overall structure is one of harmony and precision. The finish is long.  If you like Old-World style Syrah, this is the Aussie Shiraz for you.

Dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

Australia, Tasmania – Jansz Premium Cuvée Sparkling Wine NV

Here we have a finely-tuned traditional method sparkler made in a lean style with taut acid, lemon, honey, biscuit, smoke and minerals – all tied into a fine package at a very attractive price. This is a very good substitute for entry-level Champagne.

Dry, sparkling wine – $26.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2017.

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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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