LCBO Vintages release – October 1, 2011

This week’s Vintages release features wines made with Syrah/Shiraz, one of my favourite grapes (along with several other varieties…).

My preference is for the wines made in those regions where the grape is called Syrah – typically Old World zones such as France but also New World regions like Chile and New Zealand. The duality of the name allows a certain winemaker license. For example, where the maker wants to communicate something about ripeness of fruit, extensive use of cold maceration and other techniques such as high-toast and new wood for maturation, you will find the use of the name, Shiraz.

I like Syrah for its varietal character.

On its own, it makes a beautiful wine for food and for ageing.  Wines made with the Syrah grape show black fruit, wet soil, black pepper and a smoked meat/savoury character when made in a low-intervention style.

In a blend Syrah provides dark fruit, complexity, tannins and acid to complement the high-alcohol, bright red fruit character from Grenache, and the weight, tannins and rustic personality of Mourvèdre.  In Côte-Rôtie, Syrah is fermented with a small portion of Viognier to deliver wines with softened tannins and heightened flavor.

In hot zones such as the Barossa Valley of South Australia, Shiraz is known for its concentrated black fruit, juicy acid, round tannins and flavours of chocolate, coffee and ripe blueberry.  While these wines are wonderful there is only so much one can drink – the alcohol levels are typically at or above 15% by volume and the intensity of the wines makes them often too powerful for most foods.

This grape has exceptional character and while we all have our likes and dislikes there is a Syrah/Shiraz for the palate of almost every red wine lover. There are a couple of such wines I recommend below.

There are two sub features in the release.  The first is a small selection of cellar-starter wines, made up of a cross-section of age-worthy wines from around the world.  The second feature introduces some wines that will be matches for your Thanksgiving dinner menu. I recommend a handful of these sub-feature wines.

This week we have a cosmopolitan selection of wines on my recommended list.  Enjoy!

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Tawse Sketches of Niagara Chardonnay 2009

Since the winery was launched I have commended few Tawse wines because I find them typically over-oaked and expensive.  This wine seems to be an exception and perhaps a portent of things to come out of this flagship operation.  Less oak/less new oak has been used in maturation and the result is a fruit-forward, balanced wine for less than $20.00 per bottle. Citrus fruit aromas and flavours dominate and are accompanied by honeysuckle flower, green peach and green apple, spice, hazelnut, vanilla and light toast.  The finish is full and long.  This is a wine to serve with your turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

Extra dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle (Thanksgiving feature wine)

France, Bordeaux – AC Bordeaux Le G Château Guiraud 2009

This wine is a distant cousin of the Sauternes from the château of the same name, at an elevated price for an AOC Bordeaux.  Despite its lowly appellation, this wine is anything but generic: it is a blend with 80% Sauvignon Blanc which shows the pungency of the variety but is balanced with the effects of 20% Semillon, ageing on lees and some maturation in old oak. It is complex, richly flavoured and food-friendly.  There is honey, gooseberry, ripe peach, lemon, herbs and orange zest on the nose and palate. The acidity is crisp and the finish is long.  Pair with a roast chicken.

Extra dry, white wine – $23.95 per bottle

France, Midi – Vin de Pays d’Oc Domaine les Yeuses Les Ėpices Syrah 2008

We can always count on the Midi to deliver wines at attractive prices.  The nice thing about the Midi of today is we can also count on those wines also delivering attractive flavor and structure.  This Syrah is a case in point.  It is as classically Old World Syrah as you can expect to find: deep in colour, medium in weight with black fruit, earth, black pepper and smoked meat.  You can’t beat this wine at this price or even $5.00 higher! This is a match for grilled meats.  Drink now and over the next 2-3 years.

Extra dry, white wine – $14.95 per bottle (Syrah feature wine)

Argentina, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza – Luigi Bosca Single Vineyard Malbec 2008

Here we have an age worthy, complex wine made from fruit grown on very old vines.  This is a more interesting Malbec than many of the wines we see from Mendoza and is a perfect wine to serve when you have roasted meats for dinner this winter. It has the red cherry fruit, stewed plum, smoke, herbs and dusty cocoa we associate with wines from Mendoza.  These elements are overlain with grainy tannins and bright acidity that lend structure and balance to the ripe fruit aromas and flavor.  The finish is long and smooth.  Drink now and over the next 3 -5 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $21.95 per bottle (Cellar feature wine)

South Africa, Coastal Region – WO Coastal Region Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2008

Made of a blend of Semillon and Riesling this is a value wine which will make a perfect substitute for Sauternes at your next dinner party – at a bargain price. The fruit was affected by botrytis cinerea and was handpicked just as for a Sauternes.  There is high residual sugar which is balanced by very high acidity so while the wine is sweet, it is clean and crisp on the palate.  It oozes honey, orange marmalade and orange zest, dried fruit and spice.  Complex and intense, this wine is a beauty.  Buy a few bottles to get you through your holiday dinners with family and special friends.

Sweet, dessert wine – $20.95 per bottle (375 ml)

The runners’-up this week are both from the Niagara region of Ontario.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Escarpment Vineland Estates St. Urban Riesling 2009

Riesling is one of the defining varieties for Vineland, exploiting fruit from vines on the St. Urbans plot, vines that are over 30 years old. This wine is delightful with a light-in-body, light-in-alcohol, intensely aromatic and intensely flavoured character. It is off-dry but has zesty acid to provide a balanced accompaniment to grilled shrimps or coquille St. Jacques.  Flavours of lemon, green apple and honey abound with a light minerality in the background. The finish is long and crisp.  This wine will age nicely for the next 7 – 10 years, but can be enjoyed now.

Medium dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle (Cellar feature wine)

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Four Mile Creek Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Gris 2009

I tasted this wine at the winery in August and considered it a highlight of the tasting.  Alsatian in character, it shows rich flavour, a soft mouth feel and a crisp and clean finish.  The nose and palate are reasonably complex and fruit-driven with brown apple, lemon, honey and spice along with a leesy background.  This is a very fine wine that should be consumed over the next year or two.  Serve as an aperitif or with a veal roast.

Extra dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle

This week’s Collector’s Item is age able but can be also be enjoyed now.  Buy a few bottles and open one of them for each of the next three years to see how the wine evolves.

France, Northern Rhône –AOC Crozes -Hermitage E. Guigal 2007s

I would not normally consider a Crozes-Hermitage to be a Collector’s Item; this appellation is a poor person’s Hermitage and ranks, at best, as a serviceable wine that will cellar for a few years but usually not show notable improvement in character.  The Guigal shows more depth, structure and potential than your average C-H, hence getting my nod for your collecting consideration. There is plenty of Old World Syrah personality in this wine: blackberry, savoury elements, smoke, black pepper, wet earth, violet flower and herbs.  The body is mid-weight; it has grainy tannins and bright acid, along with a long, green finish.  This wine is intense, yet balanced.  A fine buy for cellaring for the next 5-6 years.

Extra dry, red wine – $24.95 per bottle (Syrah feature wine)

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.