Monday, July 30, 2007

What's in a name?

I'm upset... and I've been getting this way for about a year now... since I found out about additives available to 'enhance' wines. I've become more upset about the wide use of the term 'wine' when it's not really the stuff wine drinkers fondly pour, longedly examine then swirl, sniff, sip and spit often proclaiming in sometimes colourful terms the splendour (or not) of the liquid they are consuming. This happens usually among like-minded sippers... or on a special occasion, at a family event, a retirement banquet. Never at hockey, baseball, a night at the fights or a wrestling match where other beverages fill the bill. I mean at the special roast turkey dinner, a perfectly grilled T-bone, a delicate swordfish steak... where a beer or scotch wouldn't fit. It may be a festive bubbly, an aged cabernet or carefully paired flight of wines in the appropriate glasses. You pour a Coke into an eight ounce tumbler or have it straight from the can.... I don't know anyone that swigs shiraz from the bottle.

But wine has become more deceptive now that it's being doctored to suit and manufactured in high volumes.

There is no line to cross when a wine is wine and when it's not. Let's face it! There's enough mediocre wine available that using up grapes from other countries or adding a pile of synthetics to produce 'wine' isn't helping anyone.... the consumer nor, I submit, the industry. The plethora of doctored wines needs to be called something other than 'wine'.

A wine is representative of the winemaker's craft. It represents the vineyard's terroir.... the vintage and seasonal variations... the skill tending vines... the timeliness of the harvest. If the liquid in the bottle is a factor of a chemist's recipe and a marketer's targeted palate then it's an alcoholic beverage... don't call it WINE. There is no 'winemaker' in the equation.

There's quite a few words on a label that validate its contents: varietal names, the vintner's name, a vintage year possibly, sometimes a reputable Chateau or Bodega. They all infer the same qualities I would expect in a legitimate wine. The words taken individually are accurate. Taken in context of the contents they're deceptive and...
...the industry has become deceptive, if not deceitful, when juices are shipped thousands of kilometres in refrigerated containers to be fermented, medicated with this and that, then bottled and labelled with a local Country name and a local winery's label. To a certain degree in Canada the consumer can fall back on the VQA label. How much consumers can depend on it is a different issue.

Other industries are taking responsibility for what appears on their labels. Why doesn't this subculture of the wine industry do the same. When will we, as wine consumers, have a full disclosure of what's inside the bottle (other than simply 'Cellared in Canada')? If it's got more than the fermented grape juices from the winery it claims, it shouldn't be called WINE!

That's my opinion.
Wino Will

Friday, July 20, 2007

More July Whites(4): Australia Ries, Sauv Blanc; Canada Chard; Chile Sauv Blanc;

GROVE MILL RIESLING 2006, Marlborough, NZ, 12.5% XD, #032771 $15.95 (Tasted July 25, 2007)
A Vintages release on July 7, 2007.  (Paul White, Sydney International Wine Competition, 2007)." Natalie MacLean gives it 87/100.  My notes: I preferred this somewhat off chill... the soft nose was more aromatic of wild floral and honeysuckle with some lime in the background. A light blond colour and light-bodied bringing lip-smacking honey and tropical citrus to the foreground... just off dry that carries through to a long finish with light citrus and a drying texture. A tame riesling without petrol... true to the varietal but no process influence to speak of. Was good with grilled scampi, salmon kebobs, salad and slaw. I expect some minerality and petrol so this style is not for me.

Niagara, Canada, 13.8% D, #040675 $14.95 (Tasted July 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007.  The winery says "Well balanced, the crisp acidity balances the sweetness to give it an off-dry palate. Bosc pear, quince and subtle peach notes which give way to green apple and a spicy clove finish. Full flavoured with a crisp and lasting finish." My notes: A slight nose of honey, melon and faint vanilla from a colour of almost imperceptible clear blond. The flavours build from the first sip of a warm, natural citrus changing to a tart melon seam. Let this go off chill for best sipping. Finishes long, with a well balanced tartness, dry as a crabapple, and a light granny smith ending. A sipper that starts with the question... Does this have flavour? and ends with... Yes, delicate and building enough to companion a grilled chicken dish or grilled halibut or telapia filet. A drink-now and an OK value for an unoaked chard but don't expect butterscotch or lemon grass. Not for cellaring.
WOLF BLASS BILYARA RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC PET 2006, South Australia, 12.0% D, #030809 $13.95 (Tasted July 22, 2007)

A General listing. My notes: There is an acknowledgment of this brand on the website but no tasting notes. A pale blond with aromas an almost discernible floral, perhaps lemon blossom. The flavour attempts to emulate sauvignon blanc with a light lemon, a honeysuckle, and citrus tartness - but no significant traces of gooseberries, nettles or passionfruit. A short finish with a light oil and flat citrus aftertaste. For a sipper serve chilled perhaps with ice and a lemon twist for additional natural flavour. Or pair with anything light: steamed rice and a delicate fish: eg. halibut or cod fillets with a green salad, or a PC hot dog. A drink-now beverage and the plastic bottle doesn't make this a value purchase.

Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.0% XD, #031096 $13.95 (Tasted July 20, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 7, 2007. VH of Winecurrent gives it three and one half (of 5).  My notes: A wonderful nose of gooseberries and nettles - just the right balance for me! And the flavours are the same... nicely balanced with that unctious feel and a mineral and citrus brightness without overplay of fruit to spices. The pronounced finish makes a great sipper and went perfectly with grilled arctic char filets with yams and parsnips in an orange sauce. Sip or cellar... great now on a warm evening or with seafood dishes. I think it would cellar for a few years as well... and you can't say enough about the price: a real value.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More July Reds(10): Australia Blend, Pin Noir, Shiraz(2); Argentina Pin Noir; Canada Shiraz; Chile Blend, Carmen, Syrah; Spain Blend

YELLOW TAIL SHIRAZ 2006, S Eastern Australia, 13.5% D, #624544 $12.25 (Tasted July 30, 2007)
A Casella Wines product and an LCBO General listing described as "Dark ruby purple; blackberry, red liquorice, vanilla bean and plum aromas; dry, full-bodied, softly structured with flavours of plum, ripe berry and a sweet fruit centre; long spicy finish. Serve with BBQ fare and beef dishes." Their website says "Impressive spice, licorice and red berry aromas. This wine is perfectly balanced with silky tannins, accompanied by big, ripe fruit flavours." and "the #1 best selling red wine (750mL) in the US." My notes: Has an attractive deep ruby colour with a red cherry and wet espresso grounds nose. An off-dry with flavours of black cherry and blackberry jam... full in the mouth, a nice balance of tannin and acid but having an indistinct herbal note close to a shiraz pepper but without the zip. A medium finish ending with a film of earthy plum. Comes across as an alcoholic beverage manufactured for North American tastes but for my taste it has too many elements uncharacteristic of an uncluttered varietal. Pair with bbq'd ribs, a rubbed steak, portabello burgers or use as the base for a sangria. A popular red... but not for me.

Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.0% XD, #032763 $12.95 (Tasted July 27, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 21, 3007 described as "Once mistaken for Merlot, Carmenère is now causing a great deal of excitment in Chile. This version from William Cole displays the soft ripe red and dark berry fruit with undertones of fresh herbs typical of the grape. The low tannins make this a great red to pair with light meats, or try it with grilled chicken and pesto sauce." Natalie MacLean gives it 89/100 saying "A fantastic value wine! It is full-bodied with notes of chocolate and black fruit on the nose." VH of Winecurrent says "Smoky and oaky on the nose, this delivers fruit-forward flavors on a round and warm medium-weight frame. Look for loads of sour cherry, spicy cranberry and moderating zest right through to the dry medium-length finish. This would pair well with lasagna, pizza with a tomato sauce or spicy meat loaf." My notes: I couldn't find the winery website so can't say what the winemaker thinks of his/her creation. And how carmenere could be confused with merlot is beyond me. Allow the first pour to air for ten minutes or decant the bottle. Sniffing then gives a softer blend of cranberry and raspberry shifting to a spicy mix of redcurrant and blackberry - lots of it. A deep ruby colour with a dryness prolonged through the first sip but quickly letting the flavours show: red currant (mostly), blackberry and graphite. Finishes long with the dryness and red currant persisting. A sipper if you like unusual... more of a meal red for spicy tomato and rice dishes, italian red pepper pastas with hot or sweet sausage pieces (even chorizo), bbq'd side ribs lightly seasoned with Barberian's Steak rub. Should be able to cellar this for a few years but it's at peak now with its current flavours. Priced right.

Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #034959 $14.95 (Tasted July 26, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 21, 2007 described as "This robust Syrah won a Sillver Medal at the 2006 Indy International Wine Competition. With a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon for added complexity, it displays flavours of blackberry with hints of chocolate and spice, enhanced by vanilla notes. Full-bodied and long-finishing, this Syrah is rich and complex, elegant and well-balanced. For a truly South American experience, serve with a thick steak, grilled rare, sliced and dipped in high quality salt." Gord Stimmell on July 21 gives it 90/100 saying "A hit of cabernet sauvignon adds some backbone to this value-packed syrah, which shows aromas dominated by plum, vanilla, black cherry and cedar. The flavours also show lovely long mocha and chocolate stylings." Natalie MacLean rates it 90 as well calling it the Best Value Red Wine of the Release and saying "Rich, luscious and full-bodied... " My notes: Obviously this bodega exists but I haven't been able to find its website as yet. A Santiago location is shown on the bottle. This syrah has a deep crimson colour and earthy aromas of plums, blackberries and a hint of vanilla. A peppery tartness fills the initial sip with blackberries flowing alongside black cherries. Almost full-bodied and finishing with a nice balance of tannins, acids and pepper plus more than a trace of cherry to reward the palate - didn't get the mocha or chocolate. An OK sipper and should be great with anything barbequed and beefy. Not much to cellar but I'd try two years, priced OK and is in a presentable bottle.

Tasmania, Australia, 13.0% D, #024976 $19.95 (Tasted July 25, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 21, 2007 described as "Located on the north shore of Tasmania, the Ninth Island estate benefits from the area’s long, cool growing season. This Pinot is light and fragrant, with wild strawberries, dark cherries and a hint of dried herbs, with a refreshingly lively finish. It is a perfect wine to pair with charcuterie, barbecued quail, grilled salmon or crab." The website says "Vibrant pinot noir ruby colour with a lifted aroma of dark cherries, red & black currants and strawberries, with a faint background of mocha chocolate with under tones of spice. The palate is concentrated and long, with the characteristic hallmark of good pinot noir: a sensual, velvety mouth-feel. Sweet fruit on the mid-palate and is balanced by satisfyingly integrated tannins and long finish." My notes: If your nose is well into the bowl close to the wine then it's a mix of cherries, black berries and forest floor altho' letting air for twenty minutes introduces strawberry in the mix. The colour is a rich ruby with a pinkish edge and light-bodied. Flavour buds hit the senses from the first sip... 'wild' strawberries or what I'd call 'immature fruit' along with a lime tang that carries with it red cherries and cedar flakes. A bright finish with the same flavour theme leaving a dryng zing to the palate. An interesting sipper but really it's a meal wine. Pair with planked salmon, cajun carp, turkey with loganberry sauce or a plum/apple stuffing. I'd have difficulty recommending or repurchasing this pinot noir.

X&Y SHIRAZ 2004,
Margaret River, Australia, 15.0% D, #041194 $17.95 (Tasted July 24, 2007)
A Vintages release on July 21, 2007. VH of Winecurrent gave it four and one half (of 5) describing it as "This punches well above its price and earned the final half star based on value. Plum and black pepper form the lifted aromas while the warm fleshy (almost creamy) texture and flavours offer spicy red berry fruit. The finish layers on rich and sweet (not jammy) Bing cherry and a dollop of moderating zest. This shows balance and class... get an armful of this." The website says "Nose: Bright red berry fruits with subtle earthy/savoury notes which adds further complexity. Careful oak handling has imparted some well balanced cedar characters. The palate is soft and fleshy with excellent overall balance. Fresh red berry fruits dominate with a firm but well balanced tannin structure... at peak now with a cellaring potential of six years." My notes: I think of 'value' as more of an incentive to purchase than an element of a wine's 'taste' but would have given it the same rating regardless. A blend of shiraz(92%), cabernet sauvignon(4%), merlot(2%) and other(2%) producing a deep ruby colour with an aroma having the edge of blackcurrants and the roundness of raspberries. An initial sharpness with an accompanying flavour of a blueberry/raspberry coulis ending with a touch of black pepper then finishing bright, luscious, and fruity on the palate makes this a very enjoyable sipper. It should be equally suitable with grilled beef, crockpot stews, homeburgers with caramelized onions or grilled portabellos, rack of lamb or roast duck. Has enough character to cellar for quite a few years. And if I could afford it I'd buy a case - no, make that two.

S Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #214270 $13.25 (Tasted July 22, 2007)

A General listing described as "Ruby red colour; raspberry and red currant aroma, with pepper and spice; sweet plum flavour; smooth finish. Serve with grilled meats, prime rib or pepper steak." My notes: This blend is not shown on their website. The colour is a deep ruby with a violet hue. Aromas are of sweet cherries, raspberries and pepper. The flavours blend cherries with raspberries then add an unrelated sweetness that carries through to the finish, a finish which is fairly long with a woody seam and remnants of sweet cherry and firm drying tannins. Almost an off-dry and for me, not enough varietal character to be interesting as a sipper. Pair with hamburgers, italian sausage pieces with a herb dip, lamb kebobs or save for a sangria. A commercial beverage.

DEL FIN DEL MUNDO RESERVA PINOT NOIR 2005, Patagonia, Argentina, 14.0% D, #684548 $14.95 (Tasted July 22, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 21, 2007 described as "This terrific introductory Pinot Noir is from ‘the end of the world’... Patagonia is the cool, rugged region at the southern tip of Argentina. The wines here are usually more subtle than those from Mendoza and other regions. The fragrant aromas, sweet cherry flavours, velvety tannins and good balance of acidity make this a terrific choice for grilled pork medallions or salmon steaks." My notes: A mid ruby colour with a strawberry hued edge and aromas of crushed strawberries, cherries, licorice and white pepper, very different and an aroma I had to sniff awhile to appreciate. Letting air levels off the aromas nicely but actually may not be preferred. The first sip brings a mixed texture of oils and slight acid introducing a equal part blend of strawberry, raspberry, and red cherries finishing with the warmth of the fruit and a light tannic dryness. Successive sips reinforce the fruit and spice lessening the initial impression of 'oils'. I found this to be a lip-smacking but different red sipper - my spouse did not. It should pair nicely with roast chicken, rack of lamb, pork tenderloin, planked atlantic or wild sockeye salmon. Cellaring two to five years could bring out exotic nuances - at the price it'd be worth a try.

JACKSON-TRIGGS PROPRIETORS' SELECTION SHIRAZ NV, Ontario, Canada, 13.0% D, #637728 (1500mL) $18.95 (Tasted July 21, 2007)

A Vincor International product and a LCBO General listing described as "Ruby red; Aromas of red berry fruit, with hints of leather and light smoky notes; Dry, medium-bodied, with soft berry fruit and moderate finish. Serve with light grilled meats." The website claims "Deep garnet in colour, our Shiraz imparts rich aromas of ripe raspberry and blackberry with hints of cracked pepper and a subtle touch of oak. Bold fruit flavours dominate this full bodied wine while firm tannins complete the finish." My notes: The sku numbers shown on the website incorrectly identify this label... and for some reason the 750mL size isn't listed at LCBO. Perhaps I've missed something but I can still taste what this 750mL bottle holds. The colour is a rich ruby possibly with a tuscan hue. Aromas are of slight cedar, a faint plum and black cherry mix - and flavours are red cherry carried along by a satin texture and leads to a silky finish of just-sweet red licorice sprinkled lightly with white pepper. A set-the-settings and turn-the-crank wine to me, ie. not much naturalness and not much heritage in the glass. It's just a beverage when it's nonvintage and nonVQA isn't it? Make mine Coke!

Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #245282 $9.15 (Tasted July 20, 2007)

A General listing described as "Garnet red colour; aromas of cassis and black raspberries; medium-bodied with ripe fruit flavour and light cedar spice on the finish. Serve with roasted or bbq meats; rack of lamb; pork loin." My notes: A rich ruby with a violet hue and aromas of sweet cherry bubble gum, not quite as sweet as the Pelee Island Cabernet tasted July 03. This has a smooth texture with a soft acid level but with the sweet cherry persisting over a bed of synthetic fruit flavours. I couldn't distinguish varieties. The finish is short leaving the sweet cherry behind and carrying the undiscernible fruit. My impression of commercial gimmickry prevents me from calling this a sipper and pairing with a meal would be limited to country fair fare: hot dogs, hamburgers and fries, burritos - where the main effort is getting past the food and hurrying to the games. A value? Guess.

RAIMAT ABADIA CRIANZA 2003, Costers del Segre, Spain, 13.0% XD, #935460 $15.95 (Tasted July 18, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "A ruby-coloured blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo, the Abadia shows smoky spice notes of cedar, oak and tobacco on the nose, with flavours of plum, raspberry, coconut and hints of pepper. This is exceptionally smooth, elegant and long. Enjoyable now but will benefit from ageing (2-4 years)." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This is a lovely wine regardless of cost, but exceptional at this low price. It opens with lifted aromas of smoke, toast and oak then delivers a huge mouthful of juicy flavour-red licorice, sweet black cherry and spiced black currant to the fore. It offers a replay of these on the lengthy finish. There's enough tannin for structure and good zing for balance... " My notes: A lightish ruby red with warm aromas of cherry, cranberry and toasty oak. Wonderful cherry vanilla flavours immediately fill the senses. Well balanced acids, tannins and white peppery spices avoid overpowering the fruits' freshness. A touch of licorice shows up in the long finish. A rewarding sipper and suitable for pairing with a mixed grill of sausage, chicken wings, mushroom caps or whatever else on the grill. On the light side of medium-bodied with a strong resemblance to a pinot noir but without any strawberry influence. Has aged well since 2003 and should for several more years... so at this price, I'll stock up.

Monday, July 02, 2007

July Reds(10): Argentina Cab Sauv; Italy Spumante; Australia Shiraz, Blend; Portugal Blend; USA Syrah: Spain Blend; Canada Blend; France Blends(2)

BODEGA NORTON CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Luyan de Cuyo, Argentina, 13.5% D, #589556 $10.70 (Tasted July 17, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium to deep violet-red colour; fresh black currant, black cherry and anise aromas; medium-full bodied with plump, youthful flavours, fresh acidity and a long finish. Serve with grilled t-bone steak, stuffed veal tenderloin." The winemaker says "Lively ruby red colour. Aromas of ripe fruit, plums, blackberries and strawberries. Very good structure, balanced and round tannins, long lasting finish." My notes: A pretty ruby red colour with light aromas of cherries, blackberries and a slight black pepper. There is a tannic dryness and nice nip on the first sip and throughout the tasting... 60/40 flavours of cherry and blackberry with a long finish that ends with cherry pits leaving a dryness in the mouth. A lightish medium-body sufficient for homeburgers, a spicy T-bone or rack of lamb, polish or italian sausage on a bun. An OK sipper if you're having a crowd in... but otherwise a common table red - nothing great nor objectionable, ie. fits the price. As a 2006 it could be cellared awhile to smooth the tannin.

Veneto, Italy, 12.0% XD, #031567 $21.95 (Tasted July 17, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 9, 2007 described as "Light salmon pink colour with an attractive nose of rose petals, light strawberry, pear and a hint of toast. Dry to slightly off-dry, it is fruity with a good mousse and a refreshing acidity. It has enough weight to work with a veal tenderloin or a variety of pork dishes. (Vintages panel, April 2007)." My notes: Vintages description is right on per my tastes... a light salmon pink, rose petals and strawberry, pear and toast. As it effervesces in the glass the flavours quickly go from a brusk tartness to a smooth cream with a soft strawberry caressing the palate. A long finish with substantial acidity to carry through any seafoods, a chicken palenta, pork or lamb souvlaki buried in a bed of lightly oiled rice. Drinking very well now - for any festive occasion... an anniversary toast (1st or 46th), graduation, or a reunion of friends. Great stuff!

Australia, 13.5% D, #642751 $15.95 (Tasted July 14, 2007)

A General listed wine not described on the LCBO website. Gord Stimmell gives it 90/100 saying "It's becoming a challenge to find a red brimming with complexity under $16. This shiraz dishes up aromas of cola, blackberry, smoky cedar, vanilla and just a hint of bacon bits. The flavours echo this, with deep black cherry and vanilla bean notes lingering long on the palate. There's finesse, plus a hint of power, in this red." The website says "Bright crimson. The nose shows youthful fresh, red-berried fruit aromas, mixed spice and floral notes (lavender). There is a suggestion of vanillin, cedar oak. The palate is invitingly accessible, immediately offering approachable fruit, structure, weight & drinkability. Spices (nutmeg) and florals (violet and lavender) integrate with small, redberried fruits, background oak and rounded tannins. A noticeable vintage quality jump on the 2003 Koonunga hill Shiraz." My notes: A deep crimson colour with a smoky cedar, blackberry aroma and sniffing hard catches a fine spicy drift. A brightness on the first sip, 'minty cola' is a good description, a charred cedar that finishes with polite spices and a faint earthiness. More of a meal wine altho' not objectionable as a sipper, medium-bodied, dry and a good balance of fruit and oak influences. Have with anything steaky, with dark fowl, with bbq'd sweet or hot italian sausage pieces, homeburgers with the works. A drink-now. The 'minty cola' aspect is not my taste preference - given a choice I'd stay with Penfold's Shiraz/Cabernet (#285544 @ $16.15).

PENFOLDS KOONUNGA HILL SHIRAZ/CABERNET 2004, Australia, 13.5% D, #285544 $16.15 (Tasted July 12, 2007)

A General listing described as "Purple/red colour; cassis, eucalyptus, mint and herb aromas; dry, full bodied with smooth, rich, plummy flavours and a long, spicy finish. Serve with grilled lamb, pepper steak or roasted meats." The website tasting notes say "a complex nose with elements of assorted spices, chocolate and cedary oak - with glimpses of red capsicum, tobacco and pepper... A balanced wine with a continuum of flavour throughout. The Cabernet Sauvignon influence is more profound on the palate than the nose with chocolate and mocha flavours clasping raspberry and blackberry fruits. A rich sweet mid-palate and finish are firmed by ripe, prominent tannins." My notes: A deep ruby with a violet hue and a nose of rich black cherries, plums and warm cedar humidor. Has flavours of more plums and black cherry but a lingering oak is added and a balanced nip to a velvet texture. Finishes long and smooth, tar and white pepper influence on remnants of a dark chocolate roundness. I enjoyed this as a sipper and it should pair with many meat dishes complementing rather than competing - with rack of lamb, pepper steak, bbq'd ribs, long ribs, even steak and kidney... whatever your favourite may be. Drinking well now and since it's on the General list should be available rather than cellaring a few. A commercial red that comes across as authentic varietal... a value.

Portugal, 14.0% D, #613919 $13.20* (Tasted July 05, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep garnet colour; aromas and flavours of blueberry, cedar, herb and plum; dry, medium to full bodied with generous tannins on finish. Serve with lamb chops and grilled meats." Gordon Stimmell gives it an 89/100 (June 5, 2007) saying "... inky red... aromas show black plum, vanilla, black pepper and a hint of oregano. The flavours keep up the intensity, with black cherry, cedar and mellow plum stylings. The finish is long and rich, with sustained minty cherry notes. Very mouth-filling." My notes: A beauty of a deep garnet with aromas of rich plum, berry and some white pepper. Smooth from the first sip, velvety with elegant blueberry, plum, fine tannins and well balanced spice. A long velvety finish showing its twelve months in French oak. A medium-bodied sipper that doesn't intrude into flavours... or conversation - no need to say 'isn't this great!'... just sip and your expression will show it. Should be okay with veal, lamb, ham steak, pork chop, ie. light meats. Or if the beef isn't too spicy should be OK too, ie. beef stews or mushroom pastas. Already three years old and I expect it would cellar two to three more years. A bargain at the price.... buy a case for casual sipping over the next while.. (*discounted to $10.60).

California, USA, 14.1% XD, SO39-2646 $22.17 (Retasted July 04, 2007)

My notes: Cellared in April 2004 and tasted in November 2005 with the comment 'perhaps going through a dumb period... still an uninteresting sipper with a sharp edge... etc.' Then in November 2006, '... now has a full pepper nose with interesting highlights of leather and mint... bright flavours of dry red cherry-berry... will likely peak in another year... etc.' Now seven months later... a vanilla edge is showing to the berry and pepper nose, still very light. A shade of black cherry almost opaque in depth. Medium-bodied, flavours are blackberry-ish and cherry-ish with a hint of vanilla showing, fine tannins and a white pepper brightness. Still slightly harsh as a sipper but went very well with texas chili, and likely would with favourful steaks, bbq'd ribs, or even lighter beef pot pies. Needs another two years to see where it goes... a red that needs patience.

SEGURA VIUDAS LAVIT ROSADO BRUT CAVA, Penedes, Spain, 12.0% XD, #673533 $14.95 (Tasted July 04, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 9, 2007 described as "The blend for this rosé fizz is 80% Trepat, 10% Monastrell and 10% Garnacha. Trepat is a crisp red grape that is indigenous to the north-east of Spain and is often found in rosé wines. The Monastrell and Garnacha bring their fruit-forward focus to this fine Spanish bubbly. Enjoy on the patio with veal tenderloin or other roasted red meats." The website gives the blend as 60% Trepat, 20% Garnacha and 20% Monastrell saying "Cava of elegant pale pink colour, with abundant bubbles. Fresh and intense aromas of red fruits (gooseberry, raspberry, blackberry) and exotic ones (pomegranate). Light and fresh on the mouth, with an elegant finish." My notes: A Freixenet Group producer. This has a mid raspberry/cranberry colour with lots of bubbles, large and fine tho' too dry to be mousseux - effervesces than subsides quickly. Has a bright nose with a light yeast, a slight cranberry aroma and a carbonated steeliness on the first sip with a mixed flavour of red cherry, gooseberry (without the aroma), tart berry, all very light. Sip with sausage rolls, crab cakes, tempura shrimp and zuchini strips or possibly spicy mussels. If you enjoy the standard Freixenet bubbly you would this as well - but visually it's different. A drink-now.

Kingsville, Canada, 13.0% XD, Winery $10.45 (Tasted July 03, 2007)

The back label describes it briefly as "... combines the characteristics of dried berry fruit and light cherry notes with fine tannins and vanilla aromas and is a wine to be enjoyed with friends around the dinner table." My notes: The website claims this to be a blend of chambourcin (84%) and cabernet franc (16%) whereas the label says chambourcin and cabernet sauvignon. After tasting I believe the website. Whichever it is tastes of E.D.Smith jams... very nice in a jam. Air for at least twenty minutes for a pronounced, sweet cherry, leather and bubble gum nose and a medium-bodied, sweet cherry and raspberry jam flavour. Well balanced tannins and acids. Finishes long carrying the sweet jamminess on the palate. Difficult to pair with a meal... perhaps a dessert sipper, in lieu of raspberry pie. Could be an acquired taste or for a campfire sing-a-long on the Eco Trail.

Cote de Bergerac. France, 12.5% XD, CP138-1941 $19.17 (Retasted July 02, 2007)

My notes: Cellared in December 2001 and tasted later in December 2005 with the comment '... Medium-bodied and smoothe, the fruit is subdued being integrated with soft tannins and acid. The finish is long and shows a pleasing plum with some light oak remnants... Drinking well now but cellaring isnt likely to spoil this as a dry red sipper.' This bottle was aired for several hours before tasting. Now has very mellow fruit with lots of fine tannins on each sip... a deep plum colour and deep plum, black cherry and blackberry flavours, bright and welcoming. Rich blackberry predominates a long velvety warm finish. This has improved considerably ageing and is a sophisticated sipper. Pairing with rare beef, dark fowl or rack of lamb would be appropriate. Continued cellaring is possible but drinking very well now. A wine such as this could quickly shift my preferences to include 'old world' reds.

CHATEAU THEBOT 1998, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, CP143-2208 $16.42 (Retasted July 02, 2007)

My notes: Purchased in 2002 from the Opimian Wine Society with their recommendation to cellar at least two years.... Last tasted February 2006 with the comment 'A clear ruby red colour with a nose of cherries and soft vanilla, flavours are bright cherry with a tannic edge and evolve in the glass. A cheerful sipper with no 'toughness' - even a little subdued with flavours developing further in the mouth... After several years cellaring this is a drink-now.' Now all of the same with perhaps a fuller vanilla in the nose - still a luscious light cherry and tannin on the palate with a smooth delicate oak finish. An 'old world' sipper but begs an hors d'oeuvre or two. For me, more suitably paired with prime rib, ribeye steaks, or flavourful stews with a rich sauce and vegetables. Appears to have levelled off into a value red.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

July Whites(10): Argentina Chard; France Blend; Italy Muscat; USA PG; Australia Blend, Viog; NZ SB(2); S Africa Sauv Blanc, Blend

MOUNT RILEY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #981670 $18.95 (Tasted July 19, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 7, 2007 described as "The 2006 vintage is the best yet. The bouquet is invitingly fresh and lifted, with ripe fruit aromas. The palate is weighty and well-rounded, yet dry... , with crisp passionfruit/lime flavours, slightly minerally and harmonious, with excellent depth... 4(out of 5) (Michael Cooper, Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wines 2007)." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "Look for the grass, nettles and gooseberry aromas that mark this as a Marlborough SB. The flavours are expressive-lime, pineapple and notes of guava, and it's medium textured and quite smooth and velvety. This has enough guts to pair with strong and salty foods like smoked salmon and capers or goat cheese over mesculan greens in a light vinaigrette. It also drinks extremely well on its own." Natalie MacLean rates it 90/100 noting "A fantastic wine for the money! Vibrant notes of guava, grapefruit, grass and lime." My notes: A faint straw colour very aromatic: gooseberries, nettles, grapefruit making this a delight to anticipate the flavours. Bright, unctious, nicely smooth - close to passionfruit with a few nippy seeds blended in and some dry straw. Good length to the finish. As a full flavoured drink-now SB it's a very good value. Cellaring for a few years should be rewarding... beyond two may have a downside as some of the fruit subsides. Pair with any seafood, a bouillabaisse, crab cakes served hot with a plum sauce, shrimp pieces on greens.

S Africa, 12.0% XD, #933424 $18.95 (Tasted July 18, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 7, 2007 described as "Reliable as always; usual mineral/steely features shot with equally distinctive [green or yellow plums]/gooseberry enticements. Well synchronised weighty fruit, energetic build to mouthwatering finish. Rated four and one half (of 5) (Angela Lloyd, John Platter South African Wines 2007). It will complement a stuffed pork tenderloin." Their website says "Clear, lively green apple hues. A tropical nose packed with guava, ripe and green fig, granadilla, litchi, gooseberry and a hint of green pepper - yet still maintaining a complex character of nettle and freshly cut grass. The mouth-filling ripe fruit is supported by crisp acid." My notes: Referred to in Beppi Crosariol's column (July 18th, G&M) as on Diana Krall's preferred wines list (under $20) I had to try it. An almost clear blond (the wine) with a greenish hue and aromas particular to sauvignon blanc: grass, honeysuckle, grapefruit, gooseberry and citrus. A crispness leads to flavours of citrus, gooseberries and nettles - a somewhat moderate, steely finish. A suitably social sipper, not overly succulent or rich as in a NZ SB. More appropriate with seafoods or lightly seasoned chicken and rice dishes. Not likely to improve with cellaring... meant for drinking now. OK but not a value at this price point.

San Juan, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #032896 $11.95 (Tasted July 15, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "Organically grown, this full, buttery Chardonnay features aromas and flavours of honey, pineapple, and vanilla. It would match well with roast chicken or seafood... " The label recommends opening an hour before serving. The winemaker notes " intense fruity wine with apples and ripe pineapple aromas. Has a trace of honey, butter and vanilla gained from a short maturation period in French oak barrels." My notes: A Silver medal winner in the first Wines of Argentina Awards held in Mendoza and attended by Jancis Robinson whose website published the results (dated February 26, 2007). A light golden colour with a nose suggesting butter, caramel and a hint of pineapple, or is it lemon zest? Btw I neglected opening an hour before. The texture is nicely rounded with a tart edge and an unexpected lusciousness. Flavours are well integrated and pose a puzzle of citrus, light butterscotch, white grapefruit and faint toasty oak. Finishes long and bright almost tart with grapefruit edges lasting 'til the next sip. I enjoyed this as a sipper and expect it would be great with any seafood, chicken breast on herbed rice or pork tenderloin. And it should cellar well up to five years... a bargain for anyone looking for a very lightly oaked chard.

Australia, 12.5% D, #323063 $14.15 (Tasted July 14, 2007)

A General listing described as "Light yellow-green; bright citrus peel, grass, tropical fruit aromas; light-medium-bodied, fairly intense, grassy, citrus infused peach flavours. Serve with lemon chicken with stir-fried bok choy." No 2006 Vintage notes are available on the website however with a commercial wine vintage variances may not be significant. The 2003 blend is described as "... a classic blend of these two varietals. The Semillon provides vibrant tropical flavours of peach, passionfruit and melon. Sauvignon Blanc adds citrus and cut grass flavours to this blend. This wine is fresh, fruity and clean with a subtle hint of spice. It has a long lingering finish with varietal fruit flavours throughout." My notes: Some floating motes were apparent in a light blond colour and there was an unusual nose of musty lemon. The flavours are quite bland and follow the nose with a balanced but light acid. I did not discern any 'fairly intense, grassy, citrus infused peach' or other distinct varietal character. Personally I did not find it sippable and I would pair it with a highly flavoured seafood dish with a strong lemon or tangy sauce. A commercial white I intend to avoid.

Alsace, France, 12.5% XD, #030593 $19.95 (Tasted July 11, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 described as "It may come as a surprise that Chardonnay is planted in Alsace, albeit in limited quantities. It can only be used for one thing, as a component in the Alsatian sparkling wine Crémant d'Alsace. The other grapes allowed are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Riesling. The sparkling wines of Alsace tend to have a fine, pretty mousse, crisp, refreshing acidity and an attractive light to medium body. Enjoy this fizz at the start of a fine meal." Their website says "... the crowning glory of the lively and delicate sparkling Alsace wines, made using the traditional method. Pinot Blanc is the main grape variety but Riesling and Pinot Gris are used in the base wine. The attack, marked by a slight acidity, is then balanced on lovely floral notes... " My notes: A light golden colour with lots of varied sized bubbles trailing into a continuous fine stream. The nose is bright, full of apple, pear, and soft yeast and flavours follow the nose. There is a wonderful balance between acid, leaning to acid, and natural fruit sugar leaving a slight oil on the lips but a cleansed palate and a tart apple flavour. Would be perfect with chilled fresh oysters... or toasting the lucky couple, sharing a birth celebration or just sipping on the deck watching kids splash in a nearby pool - any excuse to sip. A higher alcohol level than the Muscat d'Asti so quaffing isn't recommended. A good value imho.

Piedmont, Italy, 5.0% MS, #030775 $17.95 (Tasted July 10, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "Moscato d'Asti is without question one of the perfect 'Sunday Brunch' wines. It is pleasantly fizzy, low in alcohol, delightfully sweet without ever being cloying and matches an array of dishes from spicy Asian food to grilled salmon to fresh fruit desserts." Natalie MacLean gives it 88/100 saying "'Favourite Sparkling Wine' for the Release and "A lovely, refreshing and sweet wine with aromas of melons... " The website says "Its fragrance is fruity and wide. The flavour is lively and fresh thanks to its fine bubbles. It goes well with desserts and fruit, occasionally also suggested as an unique aperitif." My notes: A nose full of sweetness, candy apple, melons and peaches and a fine mousse to tickle and relax the senses. After a hot day of gardening Ontario clay a bottle doesn't last long... it's very easily quaffed, in a sauvignon blanc glass for me. Is a somewhat sweeter replacement for Petalo il Vino Dell'Amore Moscato Bottega (#588780) as a desert bubbly or an addition to a chilled bowl of melon balls. Sweet and luscious either way. There's no wire and knobby cork but a vee-shaped flat-topped wedgey to close this bubbly

FETZER 'VALLEY OAKS' PINOT GRIGIO 2005, Calif, USA, 13.0% D, #034041 $11.95 (Tasted July 10, 2007)

A General listing described as "Bright pale lemon in colour, the nose shows clean aromas of ripe melon of medium intensity. Medium-bodied, dry and slightly viscous, it possesses flavours of tropical fruit and a lingering citrusy finish. Serve with cured ham appetizers, tapas." The winemaker says "... Our PG is perhaps richer, perhaps fruitier than some styles, but you’ll recognize the high acidity and balanced crispness that make this wine a wonderful summer sipper... Fruit-forward in character, with flavors of citrus, ripe apple and a touch of vanilla, balanced with some minerality and a finish you can’t ignore. There are hints of fresh flowers in the nose, even earthy... " The Frugal Oenophile says "There's a rich cocktail of aromas here: spice, gooseberry, and grapefruit with nuances of apricot and vanilla. The palate is mouth-watering with a citrusy acidity and loads of peach flavour. Very good body and length, with a pleasantly tart close. This juicy fruit-bomb would be terrific at any chill level... " My notes: A pale blond colour with a bright, honeydew melon nose, a round tartness on the first sip and flavours of melon and pear with a lemon edge and ending in a smooth, slightly pear-lemon finish. A pleasant enough sipper without the spiciness or minerality I associate with PG and could finish flabby if not kept chilled. Should be great paired with light seafood dishes, lightly oiled, ie. not creamy pasta dishes. A commercial house white and a good value.

Western Cape, S Africa, 14.0% D, #943167 $12.95 (Tasted July 08, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "Exceptionally drinkable and well-priced. Varying blend, usually chenin[28%], crouchen[20%], clairette[16%] base, with focus on tasty quaffability. [2006] gains from viognier's[17%] floral addition and semillon's[19%] weight. Score Three (of 5). (Christine Rudman, John Platter South African Wines 2007)." Natalie MacLean gives it 86/100 saying "A blend... that smells and tastes like pinot grigio. A refreshing, mouth-watering and non-oaky wine." VH of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying This white blend opens with notes of floral and beeswax then delivers a gorgeously-textured and well-balanced mélange of flavours including lemon-lime, tropical fruit and yellow plum. It's medium- to full-bodied with a very long and spicy finish. There's complexity, balance and weight here... " Gord Stimmell gives it an 88/100 saying "... full of character. The aromas and flavour show glimpses of lime, bubblegum, melon, lemongrass and clover blossoms, with a nice crisp finish that craves food. Solid value." My notes: A skilful blend of diverse whites, light fragrances of honey and wild flowers, flavours of lemon, clover honey with some natural fruit sugars, and leaving a soft dry finish of oils, apple and pear. Close to a flavourful chenin blanc or a pinot grigio but really, it's doing its own thing. A social sipper - it wouldn't offend a teetotaler until the second glass or so. Was great with toasted tomato sandwiches and should be great with mussels, telapia, or light seafood chowders. A drink-now and a value for an off-dry house white.

South Australia, 13.5% XD, #624502 $15.95 (Tasted July 08, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "... has consistently been regarded as a superstar – at its price point. Surprising really, because it is so subtle that it would be easy to miss. This is a delicately perfumed white that is pristine, fresh and youthful, has little overt fruit flavour, except for a hint of ripe apricot, but a marvelous viscous texture and gentle, fine acidity that enables the flavour to build at the finish. Score - Bloody Good. (Peter Forrestal, Quaff 2007)" VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "Wow! Sourced from older vines.., this is a stunning wine, especially at the price. Floral (honeysuckle) and peach on the nose, the palate is treated to a creamily-textured and medium- to full-bodied mouthful of dazzling fruit flavours-citrus and tropical fruit to the fore. The finish is lengthy and spicy (musk and mixed incense)..." The website says "... pale gold in colour with green hues. The aroma is intense white flowers -particularly honeysuckle - and hints of apricot nectar. The palate is rich and long, with citrus and tropical fruit flavours. This wine exhibits the typical Viognier texture - silky, rich and luscious with a lovely fresh finish." My notes: Blond with a green hue and aromas of kiwi melon and faint lemon. A clean, crisp tartness with crushed lemon seed merging with delicate tropical fruit, can't tell what, carried on a grassy seam. A medium-bodied sipper with a long refreshing but almost chalky dry, round, citrus finish. Should be great with most seafoods: scallops broiled or fried, halibut and fries, grilled shrimp skewers - maybe planked salmon but I can't see a delicate swordfish. Cellarable for several years... and a bargain meal white.

New Zealand, 13.5% D, #293043 $15.25 (Tasted July 01, 2007)

This is a General listing for which the description is unchanged from previous vintages: "Pale straw colour; gooseberry, herbs and a hint of tropical fruit on the nose; dry and medium-bodied with a crisp finish. Serve with smoked salmon, asparagus risotto or herbed chicken". My notes: The 2005 vintage was tasted January 2006 and summarized as 'Much the same as the 2004 [tasted June 2005] ... A delightful crisp sipper with tropical fruit aromas filling in grapefruit and gooseberry flavours...'. The colour of the 2006 vintage is almost clear with a greenish hue and has a full nose of gooseberry and nettles, refreshing with a flavour that is also refreshing, of gooseberries mostly, some lime and a round texture making it smooth on the palate. Finishes with a full tartness, crisp and clean which makes it great paired with garlic or buttery seafoods, roasted chicken or planked salmon. Other than the deposit the price hasn't changed that much which, with the full NZ flavour and consistency, continues to make it a value for an everyday SB. A drink-now.