Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rating Systems - updated

Robert Parker Jr. devised the 100 point Wine Rating system, a.k.a. the Wine Advocate Rating System (WARS), used by many wine reviewers to communicate the relative merit of wines they taste. How faithfully this system is adopted is open to the vagaries of individual tastes and imposed tasting situations. I'm a skeptic at heart and have given up relying on any 'number' provided in wine reviews. Confidence in a published rating gets down to a confidence in a reviewer's knowledge of, adherence to a consistent system - not necessarily the Parker system - and unwavering independence from business influences. Perhaps it's not too surprising to note the number of reviewers providing textural descriptions only. If you're one to look at 'numbers', with some planning, you can avoid being entirely dependent by doing your own ratings. You will increasingly develop a comfort level in what to look for and how to describe what you find and be able to crosscheck any number that crosses your path – and it’s not that difficult if you adhere to Parker’s conventions.

For reference I've included the Parker ranges below. Generally, as their website states: "Wines rated 85 and above are very good to excellent and any wine rated 90 or above will be outstanding... " This puts everything below 84 to 'average or barely average' and for 70 points, wines 'with little distinction', then below 70, 'flawed to undrinkable'.
  • 96 - 100 An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this calibre are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.
  • 90 - 95 An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.
  • 80 - 89 A barely above average to very good wine displaying various degrees of finesse and flavour as well as character with no noticeable flaws.
  • 70 - 79 An average wine with little distinction except that it is a soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous wine.
  • 60 - 69 A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies, such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavour, or possibly dirty aromas or flavours.
  • 50 - 59 A wine deemed to be unacceptable.
From a base(B) of 50 WARS allocates 5 points for colour(C), nose(N) gets 15 and flavour and finish(F&F) receive 20. The wine's potential(P) for improvement over time gets the remaining 10 for a total of 100. Because cellaring is not a big thing for me I reduce the 10 for 'potential' to 5 and add focus on trueness to the varietal or blends and a wine's balance, ie. Typicity. Another reason for emphasizing Typicity is the more prevalent use of 'additives' since WARS was devised. Even today in Parker's realm 'additives' aren't likely an issue but they are in yours and mine. Typicity allows recognition of these recent influences. In brief: the Rating components and their weightings are: B50, C5, N15, F&F20, P5, T5 to total 100. A Rating system isn't too useful without a guide to the traits in each rated component and to the characteristics to look for in the many varieties of grapes used for wine. I use a small fanout called Essential Wine Tasting Guide available at most wine outets. Another which I haven't used is the Wine Wheel available in various renditions from various websites, see Wine Wheel1, Wine Wheel 2.

Variations of WARS or completely new systems are often used. For instance, the Wine Access tasting panel uses a slightly changed 100 point system putting a flawed wine below 80. This tends to push average wines, in the 70 to 79 WARS range, into the 'above 80' range. Consequently it's not surprising to see more 70+ wines given 80+ in their reviews.

Wine Access uses:
  • 95 - 100 Outstanding qualities and exciting to drink. Defines grape and origin with exquisite harmony, fascinating, complexity and great depth.
  • 90 - 94 Excellent quality, providing great pleasure to drink. Exemplary expression of grape and origin, and offers very fine balance, complexity and depth.
  • 85 - 89 Very good quality and enjoyable to drink. Expresses its grape and origin well, and provides good complexity, balance and depth.
  • 80 - 84 Good quality and drinkable. Recognizable grape and origin, perhaps masked by minor flaws. Balanced and basically correct, but simple.
  • Below 80 Has flaws that compromise character.
For 5 Star systems-

VINES magazine uses:
  • 5 Stars Exceptional quality. Simply superlative.
  • 4 Stars Very good example with solid style and character.
  • 3 Stars Good wine, well worth trying.
  • 2 Stars Drinkable wine, with sound commercial qualities
  • 1 Star Poor or substandard wine, best avoided.
Winecurrent uses:
  • 5 Stars Wines achieving nirvana
  • 4 Stars Wines of excellence
  • 3 Stars Wines well worth trying
  • 2 Stars Wines below average, but drinkable
  • 1 Star Wines better avoided, unless desperate
Winepointer uses:
  • 5 Stars It’s hard to imagine better quality (94-100 points)
  • 4.5 Stars Excellent quality (90 – 93 points)
  • 4 Stars Very good quality (87-89 points)
  • 3.5 Stars Good quality (85-86 points)
  • 3 Stars Well-made but without distinction (82-84 points)
  • 2 Stars Not used
  • 1 Star Not used
The rhetorical question is 'Does the 5 Star system water down the ratings?' The answer is ‘It depends’. Winepointer gives a conversion to WARS so we know, if we wish to convert, that a 3 Star rated wine is ‘Well-made but without distinction’. This corresponds to 82 – 84 or ‘A barely average wine to… no noticeable flaws’. To me, the correspondence is within the ballpark. In Winecurrent’s 5 Star system an acceptable wine is 2 Stars and up or, 70 – 100 WARS points. The range from 70 to 100 is then divided among four Stars and, assuming linearity, the equivalent ranges for Winecurrent’s 2 to 5 Stars become 70 - 77, 77 - 85, 85- 93 and 93 – 100, that is, 4 Stars would be in the WARS range 85 - 93. In words, 'very good to outstanding' becomes 'wines of excellence' and then half stars are used for further refinement. To me, there’s less correlation in this latter Star system but I’m likely being far too analytical for what was originally intended. Some reviewers use fewer ‘Stars’ further limiting meaningful merit indicators and some provide just tasting notes.

Two quite different and interesting systems are the Wine Spider (shown) and The Three Stooges.

Things to exclude when rating a wine:
  • Price is not involved.
  • Style is not involved. E.g. don't rate a riesling differently because it's a kabinett.
  • Grape is not involved. If you don't like a grape don't rate it. For instance, Foch and Pinotage are not big on my flavour parade. Rather than rate these I skip them.
  • Incidentals don't count. E.g. It doesn't matter if a 'flying consultant' has blessed the grapes or if the vines are a century old, etc.
  • There is nothing about how the wine is presented: artistic rendering of the label or the foiling or cork detail. I don't choose a wine for its packaging but for its appropriateness to an event or meal. Maybe this condition gets warped if there's a wedding or other nuptial where the overall presentation could be a higher priority.
I should quickly add, if you have found a reviewer that consistently reflects your tastes in wine his basis for rating wines doesn't matter... don't change. On the other hand, if you continually find you are being surprised or disappointed by a wine that’s highly rated you're a candidate for implementing the Parker system - whether you use the changes I've introduced or not. What I can assure you... your ratings will become more meaningful. You will know which traits contribute to your rating and why. You will hone your tasting skills by looking for the elements important to your personal tastes. You will be able to dialogue with your fellow imbibers more effectively in verbal descriptions of wines without a gullible acceptance of 'numbers'. Whatever... you'll have ownership of your ratings.

In the following I've summarized the WARS components as a series of questions. The system is the same as above except for the changes to Potential and an emphasis on Typicity or trueness. Whether red or white, bubbly or still, they equally apply. Each trait is stated in a general context not influenced by an actual instance of the trait.

  • Base : 50
  • Colour: 5 Are natural tints reflected cleanly? Does it glisten with clarity?
  • Nose: 15 Do the aromas correspond to the fruit and terroir claimed for its origin?
  • Flavour & Finish: 20 Is the wine a simple presentation or are there extra nuances expressing the varietal or blend? On the first sip, does the texture and body reflect the labelled process and/or blending? How does the wine leave your senses? Whether fading slowly or quickly, with marked change in any of the traits you've sensed, or are new facets of the varietal or process introduced? Do the changes detract or add to your enjoyment?
  • Potential: 5 Will the wine improve in character and value with long term (5 - 10 years) cellaring?
  • Typicity: 5 How closely does the wine represent the varietal or blend it represents? Tartness, tannin, sweetness, process influences all contribute to a balanced sensation on the palate. Each contributes its own distinct sensation not interfering with the contribution of others but complementing them. How balance affects overall enjoyment can be the most difficult to assess, and easiest to overlook, but often makes the difference between 'average', 'good' and 'excellent'. Is the wine balanced or is it missing some varietal texture - ie. is it lopsided?
Early on you should consciously decide what your preferences are. For instance, I want a wine that is pleasing to look at, to sniff and hits my palate on the first sip in a pleasing, maybe surprising, maybe elegant manner, with flavours, textures representing the natural grape and then finishing in character. If a vintner's process is somehow indicated, usually on the label, it should be apparent and complement these traits. Complexities introduced by ageing should be noted. I consider Flavour & Finish and Typicity of paramount importance.

Next time you are tasting a recommended wine tabulate your own evaluation. How closely does your rating come to that of the reviewer? And don't forget... your ratings are the correct ones for you.

Ww (updated July 9, 2008)

Monday, October 01, 2007

October Reds (19): Australia Blend(2), Shir, CS; Argentina Carm, CS, Malb(2); Canada Merl; Chile Carm, Shir, Syr; Italy Blend(5), Sang; S Africa Blend

BODEGAS CATENA ALAMOS MALBEC 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #467951 $14.95 (Tasted October 25, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "Opulent aroma of ripe damson, vanilla. A crowd-pleasing wine with plenty of ripe fruit, quite long. Drink 2008-09. (3 out of 5," Natalie MacLean rates this 92/100 saying "A terrific value wine. Full-bodied, smooth and supple. Pair with: stew." and calls it the Best Value Red of the Release. The website says of the 2006 vintage "... a deep, opaque violet color with purple hues. The nose is intense and complex, with ripe black fruits, sweet spice and a touch of violets. The mouthfeel is sweet and supple, with black cherry and cassis flavors mingled with spicy black pepper and a touch of leather. The finish is long and persistent with soft, sweet tannins." My notes: Has a deep ruby colour with a violet hue... sits pretty in the glass. The nose smacks of oak barrels soaked through several fermentations combined with ripe cherries and a fine spice - letting air briefly lessens the barrel effect. A soft then very bright sipper with plums and wild cherries in a thin minty wrap, very appealing for its distinctiveness. A refreshing medium-bodied red finishing slightly tart and dry, as in an almost ripe plum, on the palate. Cellaring a few years will smooth some of the rough edges on this otherwise great value malbec. Serve with anything beefy with rich gravies or spicy rubs/sauces. Ww90

Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #045161 $14.95 (Tasted October 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "A Gold-Medal winner at the 2007 Vinalies Internationales. The 2005 Carmenere Reserva's aromatics are slightly more flamboyant and it offers greater depth of flavor than the Secreto. The finish is exceptionally long for a wine in this price category. It is a fantastic value. 90/100 (Jay Miller, June 2007)" Natalie MacLean rates this 90/100 saying "Fantastic value here. Full-bodied with rich aromas of chocolate and dark red fruit. Long finish. Pair with: hearty meat dishes." RP of Winecurrent gives it 4 and one half (of 5) saying "Look for a lot of complexity in this very well-made Carmenère. Along with the rich, dark plum flavours, you'll find notes of coffee, chocolate, herbs and spices. They add up to a delicious mouthful of wine that has a full, smooth texture enhanced by a nice line of acidity... " My notes: A beautiful deep ruby with a slim violet edge, long legs and a faint nose of plums and smoky berries. A silky smooth sip with a soft berry centre and edges of tart red cherry, an enthralling sipper. The finish is fairly long, rich at first then fading to a tart red cherry and plum blend until the next sip. Should go well with any beef or red pasta, T-bone, ribs, or stews. Cellaring for several years should mellow minor rough edges but drinking well now. Serve to anyone looking for an assertive red. A super value. Ww90

Colchagua Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #034272 $11.95 (Tasted October 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 4, 2007 described as "The skins were cold soaked on the juice for about 24 hours. The resulting wine is pretty in pink with quite rich and intense aromas and flavours of morello cherry, wild strawberry and a hint of spring flowers. It is barely off-dry with a round, fruity finish. A great sipping wine, or enjoy with pan-fried freshwater fish." Rod Phillips on his webpage says "... dry, quite concentrated and less crisp than many, will be on the shelves only as long as stocks last." My notes: A raspberry soda colour with an initial watermelon and strawberry jam nose. Sweet on the tongue with a stinging mineral quality, medium-bodied and flavour of thin red cherry juice. The finish is warm, tart and dry leaving a herby, oily coating on the palate. I can forgive the sparse flavour but unless there are nibbles to offset the finish this is an unpleasant sipper. Tried to pair with a lamb shashlik and salad but didn't work. Not cellarable, not a drink now. I don't know what 'will be on the shelves only as long as stocks last' means but I do know it won't be on my shelves again. Ww70

Western Cape, South Africa, 15.0% D, #037341 $17.95 (Tasted October 21, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "... Full-bodied with rich, red berry and smoke flavours, this smooth and warming red wine is delicious with or without food." Gord Stimmell, Sept 29, 2007, gives it 91/100 saying "... the best South African red to hit shelves in months. Aromas of coconut, rich black cherry and mint spill into the long black cherry, violets, cedar and minty cassis flavours. ... not a hint of weediness in this one." My notes: Not described on their website - may be a blend for export. A mid ruby colour with warm aromas of cherries, a slight spice and wood highlight. A straight forward blend, very smooth with a tart brilliance from the first sip with full flavours of cherries, distant berries and smoke. The long finish is full of fruit building with each sip, crisp and dry to the palate. Sips well with more fruit than anticipated - better when paired with bbq'd ribs or any red beef entree, stews, chilli, etc. Not for cellaring - likely at peak. Ww88

Uco Valley, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #591735 $14.95 (Tasted October 21, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "Here's a Cabernet Sauvignon that combines drinkability with power, all for under $15! It's rich and round with pure berry and cherry flavours and a long finish. There's a whole lot of quality per cubic millilitre here. Perfect with braised short ribs, gourmet pizza or pasta with a meat sauce." Natalie MacLean rates this 88/100 saying "A delicious, robust wine with lip-smacking aromas of black fruit. Pair with: braised short ribs, gourmet pizza, pasta with meat sauce." VH of Winecurrent gives it 3 and one half (of 5) saying "Smoky and oaky aromatics drift off the glass of this Cab that's in need of a couple of more years in your cellar. It opens with subdued, but enticing aromas of spice, mint and black ripe berry fruit. You'll notice grippy and grainy tannins on the palate that are complemented by black cherry and cassis flavours. These carry through to the medium-length finish. Drink 2010 to 2015 with steak, grilled rare to medium-rare." My notes: A deep ruby with a pleasing violet tinge at the edge, a warm earthy mixture of cherries and berries showing a nicely integrated oak influence, minty sharp with the first sip and warm blends of cherries, vanilla and berries. It is 'rich and round' although medium-bodied, with a long finish settling down to a firm cherry film with dry tannins. A delightful sipper, bold but polite. Pair with anything beefy: prime rib to bbq'd ribs, which I can say first hand companioned very well. Should be able to cellar this several years although drinking well now - may lose some brightness but gain some velvet complexities. At the price it's a real value. Ww90

Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #910430 $20.95 (Tasted October 19, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 01, 2007 described as "Tommasi's 'Ripasso' is the unique result of refermenting its Valpolicella Classico Superiore wines on the warm skins of dried grape skins from which their Amarone is pressed. This process imparts a heightened richness of character and intensity of flavour to the finished product. Expect rich plum fruit surrounded by sweet herbs and a hint of dark chocolate. This flavourful wine is an excellent match for braised ox tails, rich stews or pasta with meat sauce." My notes: A deep ruby with a slight violet hue and a soft herby aroma with red cherries in the background. A tart introduction to flavours of cherry and fine tannins finishing almost velvety with a mint and cherry, including the pits, brightness ending with dryness. A sipper with an even temperment, not aggressive, more process driven than fruit. Past cellaring. Pair with beef entrees or red pastas. Priced like an italian restaurante... on attitude. Ww82

Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% XD, #606541 $19.95 (Tasted October 17, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "Light ruby in colour, this refreshing Chianti has a lovely strawberry-dominated nose, good structure and balance with red currant, strawberry and fresh cherry flavours. Silky smooth tannins make this red extremely quaffable. Try with a selection of Italian cured meats and nothing goes better alongside pasta in a red tomato sauce." The website says "Intense red fruit aromas, especially redcurrants and raspberries, are amplified by light hints of vanilla and coffee sensations. This full-bodied wine is pleasantly lingering with soft, sweet tannins. It should be drunk while still young for full expression of the fruit." My notes: A deep ruby with warm aromas of blackberry and plum modified by sombre tones of oak, earthy with a slight vanilla. Medium-bodied with red berry and mint flavours rimmed with a dry tannin and a mild spice. Finishes very dry with subdued earthy berry remnants. If you prefer aged reds dominated by the winemaker's process with some fruit along the way, then this is a sipper but priced high for this vintage. Otherwise, it's more suitably companioned to grilled beef entrees, red meat pastas, prime rib au jus, or a pepperoni, ham and bacon thin crust pizza. It's a little coarse now - ageing two to four years could lose some fruit but with the introduction of preferable complexities. Ww86

Clare Valley, Australia, 14.5% D, #943787 $17.95 (Tasted October 15, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "Adam Eggins, chief winemaker at Wakefield, was declared 2006 Australian Winemaker of the Year by Winestate magazine. This full-bodied Shiraz displays intense varietal aromas of plum, blackberry, licorice and violets. Oak influences create aromas of tobacco and chocolate which combine well with the primary fruit characters to create a complex flavour profile. Terrific with roast beef or steak." Natalie MacLean rates this 90/100 saying "A wine with round, well-developed flavors. Full-bodied with aromatic notes of plums and chocolate. Pair with: roast beef, steak." VH of Winecurrent gives it 4 (of 5) saying "There are plenty of fruit flavours here and they're balanced quite nicely with good acidity... Look for a lifted nose of black licorice and red field berry aromas that morph into a fruit forward attack on the palate of red cherry and ripe juicy black plum flavours. It shows good weight and texture, is beautifully balanced and sports a warm... finish." My notes: A deep ruby with a garnet cast with aromas of vanilla, red cherries and leather. Flavours are a smooth combination of cherries and black berries with drying tannins, an even tartness, a sprinkle of pepper and a natural sweetness in the background. Finishes dry, bright and full of vanilla and cherries, very appealing. Should be great paired with any beef, lamb or shepherds pie, liver and onions, or steak and kidney with the appropriate filo topping. Cellaring for a short while should be OK but likely not improve. An OK value as a drink-now or table red. Ww88

VALDIVIESO RESERVA SYRAH 2005, Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #045153 $17.95 (Tasted October 15, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "Decanter awarded the previous vintage of this wine its highest rating of 5 stars and we expect more critical acclaim for this newcomer. Aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, this rich, intense, full-bodied Syrah exhibits aromas and flavours of spicy, dark berry fruit and toasty oak. Delicious with flank steak prepared with garlic and ginger." Natalie MacLean rates this 90/100 saying "Amazing wine for the money. Full-bodied, smooth and rich. Buy a case for holiday entertaining." RP of Winecurrent gives it five stars (of 5) saying "This is an absolutely delicious Syrah that over-delivers on price in every respect. The fruit is plush, rich and concentrated, with black cherry and berries nicely accented with spice, black pepper and a hint of toasty oak. There's complexity and a great seam of acidity that lends a tangy texture and makes it a great partner to well-seasoned grilled red meats. Drink it now and over the next year or two." My notes: A deep ruby colour with a plush warm nose of plums, berries and toasted oak, an equal balance between process and fruit. Soft from the first 'til last sip, full-bodied, a blend of rich berries, fine drying tannin and subtle acid that coats the palate with warmth. Ripe fruit builds a lengthy finish with each sip. An elegant but bold sipper full of character. Warrants a full flavoured beef entree: pepper steak, grilled sirloin, bbq'd ribs... or portabello mushrooms and caramellized onions in a bordeaux sauce. Cellaring for several years should produce a complex syrah full of spicy innuendos. A bargain at the price. Ww90

GOUNDREY HOMESTEAD SHIRAZ 2003,West Australia, 13.5% D, #574079 $13.20 (Tasted October 14, 2007)

A General listing described as "Purple red ruby colour; aromas of spice, mint, cassis, cranberry and black currant, plummy fruit; dry, medium to full bodied, with berry fruit flavours and notes of peppercorn spice and woodsmoke. Serve with barbequed steak, spicy fare or gourmet pizza." My notes: My notes: A deep ruby with a sombre cast and sweet blend of cherries and purple plum on the nose. Well balanced tartness, fine tannins and fruit most of which is of black cherry edged in lime. A twist of licorice starts the finish and leads to remnants of black cherry skins with a slight earthy note. Less fruity as a sipper than apparent from the nose but still interesting. The dry component of the finish makes it better paired with nibbles or light beef dishes, prime rib, stews and red pastas. Likely would not improve significantly with cellaring - a table red. Ww82

NO. 99
WAYNE GRETZKY ESTATE MERLOT 2006 VQA, Jordan, Niagara, 13.0% D, #063966 $15.95 (Tasted October 11, 2007)

A General listing. The website describes this merlot as "A great example of Niagara Merlot, showcasing cool-climate fruit character on an elegant frame. Intense sweet cherry perfume on the nose, complemented by dark chocolate, clove, and wood spice. Palate flavours echo the cherry fruit, accompanied by black plum, currant, and herbal complexity. Overall, a powerful red wine with sufficient ripe tannin and brilliant fruit intensity to enjoy now or hold for 6-8 years." My notes: Not yet built the Gretsky Estate wines are made at the Creekside winery (same as Mike Weir's) by winemaker Rob Power. A distinct clear see thru' ruby colour with faint aromas of oak and soft cherries. Very clean first sip with almost a neutral flavour profile, a slight oak tone on a sweet cherry core, lightish medium-bodied. The finish is short, neutral with fine tannins and a light acid. An uninteresting sipper and equally without interest as a meal red. Pair with prime rib, pork cutlet, ham steak. Well made just nothing there to carry the occasion and, unfortunately, may be 'a great example of Niagara Merlot'. A drink-now and overpriced imho. Ww78

Maipu, Argentina, 13.4% D, #035170 $12.95 (Tasted October 08, 2007)

A General listing described as "Colour; purple, ruby. Aromas; complex, earthy, hints of mushroom, barnyard, red berry. Palate; Old world in style, light to medium-bodied with soft tannins and a good mouthfeel. Serve with Smoked meat sandwich, aged Cheddar." Wine Access (Oct/Nov 2007) rated this 90/100 and 2nd in their Top 50 $15 or Under and 9th $25 or Under Red or White. My notes: This is more of a violet colour with a ruby tint making a lovely intro to aromas of blackberry and cherry. A mellow softness with flavours of mint, mulberry, peach with fine tannins and mild tartness. The finish is quite long mostly of peach fuzz and bright mulberry. A well balanced sipper, full-bodied but not assertive. Cellaring for a few years should be OK... longer is questionable. A value go-anywhere fruit driven red - 'Old world'? don't think so!. 'Barnyard'? not this bottle. Pair with turkey with fixings, roast chicken, veal schnitzel and spaztle, mushroom and beef pastas, prime rib or beef Wellington. Ww90

South Australia, 14.5% D, #625343 $15.85 (Tasted October 08, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep red with violet colour; aromas of ripe currant, black cherry, plum and spice with toasty oak, tobacco notes; dry, full bodied, well balanced acidity, rounded palate with flavours of jammy berry, vanilla and chocolate. Serve with meat pizza or pasta and grilled beef dishes." Wine Access (Oct/Nov 2007) rated this 88/100 and Best Cab Sauv/Shiraz Blend of wines under $25. My notes: A ruby with a hint of violet and long legs on the glass makes this inviting. Aromas of warm figs and plums come with each sip and a soft well balanced plum and cherry blend, not overdone or complex, with fine tannin and slight spice makes this a pleasing sipper. The moderately long finish is smooth as chocolate with a slight sweetness and some tar as it fades. This went well with turkey with stuffing and loganberries, mashed carrot and turnip, fingerling potatoes - and it should be very flexible paired with many entrees: beef or lamb stews, prime rib, filet mignon or rib-eye. Serve this anywhere as a sipping wine with buffet or with the main course. Ww88

Marche, Italy, 12.5% D, #034017 $10.15 (Tasted October 07, 20

A General listing described as "Medium to dark garnet with aromas of plum puree, tomato skin and floral. Medium-bodied, smooth, the finish is balanced by fresh acidity. Serve with pasta with tomato and meat sauce." My notes: Not shown on their website this may be an entry level wine for the export market. Has long legs, a deep ruby colour and mild aroma of sweet black cherries and, perhaps, some time fermenting on skins. Silky sipping and medium-bodied, some licorice among the cherries and a slight bramble. A long finish with the cherries leading the way until the light licorice takes over subtly at first then predominantly. I liked this as a sipper, not as coarse as Farnese Farneto Valley (#621912). Should go well with flavourful to spicy pastas, pizzas, or bbq'd ribs and steaks. A drink-now and should be just right for the turkey dinner. Ww84

WAKEFIELD PROMISED LAND CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Clare Valley, Australia, 14.5% D, #598771 $15.85 (Tasted October 06, 2007)

A General listing described as "Dense ruby colour; complex ripe cherry, blackberry, blueberry, cassis, plum, smoke, leather and spicy cedar aromas; dry, full-bodied, with forward fruit, well balanced fruit flavours; well balanced, long finish. Serve with roast beef, lamb, ribs, stew." My notes: Ruby coloured with delicate aromas of plums, cherries and spice. Has a soft approach to the palate with a black cherry flavour tempered by fine tannins and light pepper. Medium-bodied with a shallow finish of flavour and texture - not a bold cab sauv. A sociable sipper but overpriced imho. Pair with light beef, chicken or pork shashlik or souvlaki, and pork cutlets with saffron rice... roast turkey as well. A drink-now. Ww80

FARNESE FARNETO VALLEY MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2005, Abruzzo, Italy, 13.0% D, #621912 $7.45 (Tasted October 06, 2007)

A General listing described as "Blackberry, cedar and mild spice aromas; ripe, mouthfilling black cherry/berry fruit. Serve with hearty stews, crown roast, spicy pasta.Pizza or BBQ fare." The WineLoversPage says "Black plums and pepper flirt with a distinct leafy, sappy green edge in the aroma; on the palate it's light and quite tart, simple black fruit with an acidic edge that brings it up to meet food. On the simple side, some might call it "coarse," but it's the kind of fun and food-friendly cheap Italian red... " My notes: Barely a nose and a granite toned ruby, thin flavours include cherries and a wisp of grape stems with soft tannin and a slight tart edge. The finish is somewhat delicate cherry well balanced and, although polite, lasts awhile. A quaffable sipper for a crowd intent on something other than wine. Should be OK with meat pizzas, red pastas, mild italian sausage, or a wild mushroom quiche. What can you say for $7 - it's OK in a pinch. Ww80

Abruzzo, Italy, 13.5% D, #612788 $12.45 (Tasted October 06, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby colour; earth, spice, cherry, olive and berry aromas; dry medium to full bodied, with ripe plum, spice and fruity flavours, firm tannin, good length. Serve with Canneloni, tapanade." The Sunday Times Wine Club says "There's a seemingly endless depth of flavour here - a perfect harmony of wild berry fruit and smoky oak (having spent some time ageing in wood). It's hard to resist such seductive flavours that have won Gold for six consecutive years." My notes: A deep almost opaque ruby with earthy aromas of warm clay and ripe black cherries. Full-bodied and well balanced acid, tannin and fruit on the first sip... finishing with an earthy plum highlighted by a spicy brightness. A reasonable sipper perhaps flattening in texture and flavours more quickly than anticipated from the first swallow but still lasting awhile. Pair with meat dishes, red pastas, stews, meat and cheesy pizzas. A drink-now - would make a value house red for everyday occasions. Ww85

NEPENTHE 'THE ROGUE' CABERNET/MERLOT/SHIRAZ 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #998542 $17.95 (Retasted October 03, 2007)

My notes: The 2004 was released in May this year and, as with most Oz wines, it's $2 more - not yet tasted. The 2003 vintage released on December 10, 2005 was rated 90 by Gord Stimmell saying "rich, smooth, minty chocolate notes, a crowd pleaser... " I noted at the time "the fruit flavours are evenly matched and well integrated with tannins and acid... " then in December 2006, "... bright cherries, discrete blackcurrant and subtle nutmeg... ". Still a deep ruby colour with warm but light tones of nutmeg, cherries and blackcurrant. Silky with a nip from the first sip then blackcurrant, mint, dark chocolate carrying through to a long finish of the same having the weighted flavourings cab sauv, merlot and shiraz as in the blend (59%, 22%, 19% resp.) with shiraz showing more in the finish with its pepper and spice. Not much of a change since cellaring perhaps more sombre still with a clean edge of tannin. Pair with any grilled beef - too strong for pork tenderloin but beef ribs, steaks, full flavoured stews, prime rib, even a herbed rack of lamb. My last bottle of this vintage. Ww90

Piedmont Italy, 13.0% D, #984997 $16.95 (Tasted October 01, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "To intensify the flavour profile of this wine, the grapes are picked fully ripe then allowed to dry on mats for about one month prior to pressing. The resulting wine is smooth and silky with ripe berry fruit, light spice and earth aromas and flavours. A well-priced, classic Italian table wine that will benefit a hearty pasta or any tomato-based dish." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars saying"... What a bargain this is—you get an Amorone-like wine for one third the price. It's rich, rustic and robust. Look for aromas and flavours that are expressive, even a touch feral—spicy cherry, incense-infused plum, aromatic bitters, portobello mushroom—and absolutely scrumptious. The dry, lengthy finish puts icing on the cake with more ripe berry fruit flavours. Stock up." My notes: The colour of ripe black cherry skins and aromas of sweet cherries, blackberries and a touch of humidor. Full and bright with raspberry-cherry, mint, and light chocolate on the first sip and having a long finish evenly balanced between fruit, savoury tannins and slight tobacco. Very appealing as a sipper having a silky lining to almost a fresh fruit smoothness. Cellaring a few more years should be OK but drinking well now. Have with red pastas, meat pizzas, roasts, steaks, ribs or stew - has some zip but likely not enough for spicy foods. A good value for a very quaffable valpolicella. Ww90

VIÑA MAIPO CARMÉNÈRE RESERVA 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #663047 $13.95 (Tasted October 02, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "... The Rapel Valley presents exceptional terroir for the grape with loam, clay and sandy soils. Expect a rich, medium full-bodied red with leather, black fruit, mint and earth notes. Enjoy this wine with rare steak or pasta in a meat sauce." Natalie MacLean gives it 88/100 calling it the Best Value Red Wine of the Release saying, "Fantastic value in this full-bodied wine. Delicious layers of luscious dark fruit on the nose... " VH of Winecurrent gives four and one half stars saying: "One of the better Carménères tasted recently, this earned its final half star on the excellent value it provides. There are alluring aromas present—chocolate, and black licorice—and the flavours are equally as appealing—rich black cherry and cassis to the fore. It's very plush on the palate, while the finish is gorgeous with its replay of full fruit flavours plus dry, earthy nuances... " Beppi Crosariol describes it as "... Full, rich and brimming with black-skinned fruits, it's low in acid for a carmenere and has an attractively earthy nuance running through it." My notes: A deep ruby with a violet tinge, long legs and earthy aromas of spicy cherry. Silky and round with flavours of slight bramble, black cherry, blueberry and mint. Finishes nippy bright with fresh berries, touch of wild mushroom and fine tannins. A welcomed sipper or better paired with pepperoni pizza, ribs, steaks, rack of lamb, homeburgers or italian sausage on a bun... just about anything. Likely could cellar five to eight years... I wouldn't expect too much change tho'. I'd try two at a time to see where it's going. A drink-now value for sure. Ww90

October Whites(16): Australia Ries; Canada Blend(6), Chard(2), PGris; Chile Chard(2); Germany Sylv; Italy PGrig; Portugal Alvarh; NZ Muscat

CROWN BENCH ESTATES AMBROSIA, Beamsville Bench, Canada, 14.5% S, #Winery $39.95 375mL (Tasted October 27, 2007)

The website describes this as "A chocolate infused Icewine, balancing chocolate and fruit into an unparalleled sinful dessert. A Crown Bench innovation available only at our winery. Double Gold Selection Mondaile des Vins 2004. International Gold Medal. (Reviewed and recommended by Toronto Life Magazine; International Silver Medal, American Wine Society Silver)." My notes: Wouldn't it be great if all wineries were so ethical to tell us what's been added to their wine? John Szabo's article, Vines Nov/Dec 2007, alludes that some vintners are even proud of the deceitful practice of openly stating which flavourings and enhancers can be used to foist their poorer ferments but withholding this information from consumers. Perhaps Niagara wineries will take a lead in cleaning up and out these charlatans. I'm apprehensive of the day when 'Energy Wines' hit the LCBO shelves, fortified with caffeine and vitamins xyz for 'the ultimate wine experience'. Labelling would allow consumers to discriminate as we are now able to do for other food products. Anthony Gismondi, Wine Access June/July 2007, comments '... the prospect of cheating has never been more worthwhile. We need checks and balances...". I'll drink to that!! Enough of soapboxing... Ambrosia's colour is an intense copper salmon pink with an aroma that smacks of fresh Belgium milk chocolate with a slight spice edge, delectable. Sweet, yes, but the chocolate and tartness balance nicely so the palate's emphasis is on integrated flavours. Similarly a smooth round finish lasts long enough allowing the flavours to fade slowly. Went well combined with pumpkin pie and a dollop of whipped cream - not together but in sequence each with their flavour contribution. Crown Bench has a number of flavoured ice wines available only from the Winery. It's worth a visit. Too unique to be rated.

Moncao, Portugal, 12.5% XD, #059048 $15.95 (Tasted October 24, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "... The Alvarinho grape is considered the best grape with which to make Vinho Verde... Serve as a pre-prandial palate refresher or with simply prepared white fish or chicken dishes." Natalie MacLean rates this 87/100 saying "Enticing aromas of grapefruit and citrus... " and the Best Value White of the Release. VH of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "This may not be the absolute perfect time of year to be releasing this... but it's so good. The nose is quite lifted, offering grape-like, spicy and rosewater aromas. The mouth feel is gorgeous, almost creamy, while the flavours are all about citrus, pear and tanginess. It's nicely balanced, very good value... " Michael Vaughan of the National Post says "... Perhaps the most interesting [white of the Release] comes from the venerable Portuguese house of Aveleda... This 100% Alvarinho has an elegant fruit focus without a trace of oak... the dry, gently juicy, melon and ripe lemon flavours would be a winner with seafood. My notes: A light golden colour with a delicate honeyed floral nose and flavours of pear and apple with enough tang and sweetness to balance each other. Medium-bodied finishing with a soft smoothness yet crisp and a very slight oil on the lips. A very pleasant sipper or aperitif. Have with fresh oysters, crab cakes, shrimp ring with tartar sauce even. Will match any seafood entree from grilled halibut to planked salmon. Cellar up to a year but I'd drink now for its freshness. Serve at any time to any crowd... super value for a clean, crisp white. Ww90

SOLJANS FUSION SPARKLING MUSCAT NV, Auckland, New Zealand, 7.5% M, #032797 $18.75 (Tasted October 20, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 7, 2007 described as "Fizz Fusion. The perfect refresher on a hot summer day, this light and fresh, gently sweet sparkling wine is bursting with grapey Muscat, apple and floral aromas... Enjoy with fresh strawberries." The website says "Made from Muscat grapes grown in Gisborne This wine is fragrantly perfumed and lively, with a delicate alcohol, a refreshing sugar/acid balance and plenty of floral concentrated sweet flavours.... An ideal match for fresh fruit salad." Michael Cooper of the New Zealand Sunday Star Times says " ...modelled on the seductively scented, low alcohol, smooth Asti Spumantes of Italy. Offering the rich, sweet flavours of ripe Muscat grapes, grown in Gisborne, it's a delightfully perfumed wine, great for summer sipping." My notes: Winner of many Silver medals in NZ competitions. Has a light blond colour and a burst of large bubbles pours into a flute glass quickly subsiding to a cascade of bubbles - no frothy rim. Medium-bodied, pear with very slight birthday cake aromas blend nicely with a mild tartness and soft, full, sweet flavouring. A long spritzy finish of sugary pear. I'd save this to accompany a mixed fruit dessert: strawberries, raspberries, pineapple and honey dew - with a scoop of ice cream, sorbet or whipped cream (the real stuff)... nothing too citrussy. A higher tartness to balanced the sugars would have been my preference - comes across as a little shallow. Very quaffable and I wouldn't refuse this on a warm summer day. Ww86

Niagara, Canada, 10.6% MD, #467662 $11.95 (Tasted October 19, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium gold colour; forward floral aromatics with some peachy/mineral notes; crisp finish. Serve with smoked salmon; sushi; poached salmon; aperitif." My notes: A crisply clear light golden colour with a leesy and slight lemon nose, some floral when offchill. A nicely balanced combination of citrus, peach stone and apple with a delicate and long green apple finish, a light oil on the lips remains between sips. More riesling than gewurz but neither offering substantial aroma or flavour. The tartness tries to carry it as a sipper but comes across as uninteresting without stronger varietal components. Pair with Asian or light seafoods not too spicy nor strongly flavoured. A drink-now. Ww80

Niagara, Canada, 12.0% MD, #349126 $12.95 (Tasted October 18, 2007)

A General listing described as "Wine, Still Table Wine, White Still Table Wine." and that's all. The website notes (2004 Vintage) "This blend, pioneered in Canada by Pillitteri, always proves to exhibit lovely complexity due to the complimenting varietal characters of the two grapes blended together... The palate is fresh with the sweetness nicely balancing the wine. The aromatics transcend into the wine’s palate with intricate mandarin oranges, mango and white peach notes accompanied by lychee, floral and spice tones. The wine has great weight yet is light providing for an extensive finish that is enchanting. It is an excellent match with any spicy, oily or full-flavoured foods, especially Oriental and Thai cuisine. It is particularly wonderful on its own as well." My notes: A solid varietal bouquet with honeyed spice and floral notes. The colour is a very pale blond and the dry first sip leads to a lightish medium-bodied medley of apple and mandarin orange with lychee overtones. The sweetness is well balanced with a green fruit freshness that carries well into the finish - dry on the tip of the tongue with a slight honeyed fruit overall. Would be great with fresh oysters or with a range of seafood dishes: crabclaws to scallop skewers on basmati rice, lemon battered halibut to mussels in a spicy sauce. A touch dry as a sipper but I enjoyed it. Cellaring a year should let you know where its going. A bargain blend. Ww89

South Eastern Australia, 11.5% MD, #448548 $10.00 (Tasted October 17, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; rose petal and lychee with a touch of spice in aroma & flavour; sweetness balanced by lime citrus finish. Serve chilled with spicy Asian dishes." The website says "The Stamp of Australia Riesling Gewurztraminer is pale straw in colour and displays fresh zesty citrus, spice and floral aromas. On the palate sweet tropical and citrus fruit flavours are backed with spice and zesty acid finish. This wine has been crafted to enjoy as a young wine." My notes: A straw, slight pineapple and distant apple blossom aromas from a distinct blond colour wine. Very round from the first sip with a honeyed green apple, pear flavour. The finish lingers with a sweet/sour apple. An appealing sipper for it's off dry nature or to have with light cheeses, apple and pear wedges. Can be served with asian/japanese fare or as an after dinner refresher. Has a touch of gewurz spice and some riesling dry mineral and green apple but the sugar balance seems inflated, dare I say, artificially so. Would make a great a summer quaffer - have with a touch of soda, cubes, a slice of lemon or lime and a maraschino. Ww82

Niagara, Canada, 12.0% MD, #572156 $10.85 (Tasted October 16, 2007)

A General listed wine. The website says of the 2005 vintage "Cellared in Canada from imported & domestic wines. Canadian Wine Awards, Gold Medal 2005. Our Gewurztraminer Riesling has become our signature wine at Birchwood! This fruit driven wine has a delightful hue of pale yellow with wonderful aromas of apple, honey and lychee fruit on the nose. The medium body is soft, yet balanced with a fine acidity on the finish. A lovely companion to Asian cuisine. Great with curry dishes, pork, and herb-crusted chicken." My notes: Don't know which is correct, either the 2006 uses 100% Canadian grapes as the labelling claims (VQA) or it could be 'Cellared in Canada' (some imported grapes) as the 2005. Its a clear blond colour with a lavender nose, unusual without a sense of fruit. There's a slight sweetness on the first sip and it's moderately full in the mouth with delicate flavours of persistent lavender (lychee) and apple balanced with a touch of tartness. Finishes slightly sweet with a citrus edge making this an OK social sipper. Pair with asian foods, sushi or bento box of tempura shrimp and veggies or a dim sum assortment. It's OK for a different white - I didn't associate it with either riesling or gewurz tho' - more of a commercial beverage and not for me. Ww77

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 13.0% D, #Winery $18.20 (Tasted October 15, 2007)

The label describes this wine as "Racy nose with spice and mineral components. Luscious white peach and grapefruit flavours, with a full-bodied mouthfeel and fresh acidity. ... made from the first crop from our young vines... " My notes: An aroma so faint it defies description although has an appealing sharpness and mineral aspect. The colour is a light golden and flavours at first sip are of bright lime peal, peach and butter with a subtle sweetness. The finish is light, long, crisp, nicely rounded and mostly a combination of grapefruit and green apple. An OK aperitif - an OK sipper - and good with breaded telapia filets with roast potatos and greens. A drink-now and not a value. Ww82.

'NCT' TRAMINER-RIESLING 2006 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D, #Winery $12.95 (Tasted October 14, 2007)

The 2004 vintage was tasted in April, 2006. For the 2006 the College notes "Straw in colour. On the nose citrus, lemon and lime. On the palette well balanced with a nice acidity lots of citrus and lemon on the finish. Pairs well with Asian and Thai food." My notes: The 2006 vintage sports a colourful dynamic label depicting College events. A very light blond colour and when off chill has a subtle fragrance of wildflowers and clover honey - there but sniff hard or it can be missed. The first sip has a round mouthfeel and shows delicate flavours of lemon and ripe honeydew melon, light-bodied and balanced. Some roundness in the short finish and consistently flavourful. A quaffable white for any occasion - offer to anyone without concern. Pairing with food is somewhat difficult because of the delicate textures and flavours - but the tartness endures sufficiently for whitefish entrees and light pasta side dishes. A drink-now. Priced appropriately and, as the funds go to the College, a worthwhile purchase. Ww84

Australia, 13.0% XD, #597054 $12.85 (Tasted October 14, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 3, 2007 described as "Well made Riesling from Australia's Clare Valley is one of the world's most versatile, food-friendly wines, and this is certainly a well made rendition. Based on vivid fruit with green apple and lime notes, it is dry but very expressive in aroma and flavor. Zesty acidity lifts and freshens the fruit and greatly prolongs the finish, making this a great warm weather sipper but also a promising partner for a very wide range of foods. (88/100, Michael Franz, 2006)" My notes: A clear pale blond with a whiff of petrol among aromas of green apple, peach stone and faint wildflower. A bright approach to the palate with a smooth honey edge to mostly citrus and light spice. The finish is moderate leaving spice and mineral with a crisp mouthfeel. An aperitif for fresh oysters, crab cakes or lobster pieces. Pair with whitefish entrees to creamy seafood casseroles or a mediterranean pizza (artichokes, sun-dried tomatos, olives). A bargain now and cellaring for several years should be rewarding. Ww89

Limari Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #030940 $15.95 (Tasted October 12, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 12, 2007 described as "This vibrant Chardonnay is a terrific value. Complex and elegant, it is bursting with citrus and tropical fruit flavours balanced by racy acidity. It's full-bodied and round with a lengthy finish. Enjoy with seafood or grilled chicken breasts." Tony Aspler gives it four stars saying "Straw colour with a spicy pineapple nose; sweet spicy fruit, full-bodied with well integrated toasty oak supported by a lively acidic spine." My notes: A light fragrance of honey, lemon and apples and a light blond colour. Full from the first sip with flavours of apple, lemon, kiwi and some natural sweetness. Finishes with a touch of honey on the lips cleansed by a crisp citrus, both dry and refreshing, unctious. A good aperitif by itself or with fresh oysters or a plate of italian meats and bread squares. It was great paired with Swiss Chalet chicken, greens and baked potato and would be with any seafood dish or creamy mushroom pasta. Drinking well now but could cellar several years to advantage. A value chardonnay gently oaked for a balanced combination of fruit and process. Ww89

NO. 99
WAYNE GRETZKY ESTATE UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2006 VQA, Jordan Niagara, 12.5% D, #063826 $13.95 (Tasted October 11, 2007)

A General listing. The website describes this as "The flagship white wine of the Gretzky portfolio is vinified in an unoaked style that allows classic cool-climate Niagara Chardonnay character to come to the forefront. On the nose, the wine shows tree fruit aromas of white peach and pear, fresh melon, and floral notes of apple blossom. In the mouth, flavours of stone fruit, pear, and dried apricot, with mineral undertones carried on a soft, rounded texture. Lingering citrus acidity extends the finish. Overall, the wine is fresh, focused, and zesty; refreshing as an aperitif, but with ample extract and structure to pair well with full-flavoured foods. Drinking well upon release, will improve and gain complexity for 3-4 years." Gord Stimmell gives it an 89 saying "This latest celebrity wine debuts on shelves this week, If you can't find it, more is coming. The nose is nutty, with roast apple and lime. The flavours lead into long spicy apple and lime peel. This is quite light for a chardonnay. The nutty notes will go well with stuffing made with pecans, and will buffer buttery mashed potatoes." My notes: Not yet built the Gretsky Estate wines are made at the Creekside winery (same as Mike Weir's) by winemaker Rob Power. A pale blond colour with a faint peach stone, pear and apple nose. The flavours have a slight sweet softness with mostly a tart apple and lime tone, light-bodied and a well balanced acid level. The finish is crisp but leans toward stone fruit and overripe apple - to me, not appealing as a sipper. Has a shallow presence that makes it difficult to pair with entrees... whitefish or scallops in a creamy pasta dish are possibilities - was lost with bbq'd chicken breast and greens. I don't see this improving with cellaring - more of a drink-now and not recommended. Ww76.

Beamsville Bench, Niagara, 13.5% MD, #Winery $26.15 (Tasted October 09, 2007)

Beppi Crosariol (G&M, Aug 11) says of this "... impressive and worth the money. Full-bodied and rich with flavours of butterscotch and pineapple, ... pronounced toastiness and a rich crème brûlée quality. Give the wine a moment on your palate and you begin to appreciate the balancing richness of its fruit and the freshness coming from its formidable acidity. Unlike a lot of flabbier, well-oaked chardonnays, this one can tango with food. It actually goes better with food than on its own." My notes: Each of winemaker Steve Kocsis' wines are uniquely different, this was made from grapes grown at his Mountain Road vineyards and received barrel fermentation and was purchased for its rich flavourings along with a smooth buttery texture. A full lemon butterscotch aroma with a touch of almond and a mid golden colour to match. Has a dry, tart edge with lemon butter, toast, pineapple and some granny smith apple flavourings. Gently oaked while retaining the fullness of the grape in a long finish. A straw toned sipper better paired with seafoods from a mild swordfish to planked salmon. Except for its uniqueness not a bargain as a drink-now, rather it's priced at market. Cellaring for several years may develop more textures and innuendos improving its value. Ww92

Fruili, Italy, 13.0% XD, #710012 $14.95 (Tasted October 02, 2007)

A Vintages release September 29, 2007 described as "Friuli, in the northwest of Italy near the Slovenian border, is home to many of the country's best white wines. Cool breezes and well-drained slopes ensure that the grapes ripen slowly, retaining their freshness and acidity while developing bright fruit flavours. This Pinot Grigio exemplifies the local style, with fruity notes of melon, peach, and lemon with floral touches, a dash of minerality and racy acidity acting as counterpoint." The website describes it as "Bouquet is very pleasant with a good array of varietal aromas such as pear Williams, banana, apricot and Acacia flowers. Taste is reminiscent of pear syrup and quince peel. Good acid balance good body and long finish. Mature wines have a bouquet of toasted almonds and straw." My notes: A light blond colour with subtle wildflower and honey aromas - offchill increases the nose slightly. A sip has a light fullness and flavours of dried apricots and green apples then finishes clean, dry, bright and apple-y. Have with hors d'oeuvres: stuffed mushroom caps, cold shrimp or oysters, shaved italian meats, mild cheese, artichoke hearts and olives or pair with light seafoods and creamy pastas. A meal white... not likely to cellar well replacing scarce fruit with straw and adding no complexity. An OK drink-now value that can be served anywhere. Ww84

Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #730044 $14.95 (Tasted October 02, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "Many Chilean wineries have difficulty with Chardonnay due to problems integrating oak and fruit components. Cousiño-Macul seems to have mastered the production of value-priced Chardonnay. The outstanding 2006 Chardonnay Antiguas Reservas has no such problem. Featuring toasty pear, apple, and tropical fruit aromas and flavors, it has excellent depth and concentration, superior balance, and a lengthy, pure finish. It is a great value in well-made Chardonnay competing with wines twice the price. Kudos to Cousiño-Macul for this significant upgrade to their portfolio. 90/100. (Jay Miller, June 2007)." VH of Winecurrent gives it four stars saying "This is a lovely wine at an attractive price. Toast, vanilla and green apple aromas drift off the nose while the expressive flavours—spice, peach and nectarine—are balanced off nicely with citrussy undertones. It's medium bodied with a plush mouth feel that's very appealing, and has a refreshing clean finish... " My notes: A mid blond colour with clean full aromas of light pineapple, apple and straw. Full-bodied on the palate and flavours that have a nippy edge to a blend of pineapple, pear and apple. The lengthy finish has a buttery aftertaste added to the mix. A moderately oaked chard to pair with chicken, mushroom pastas, creamy salads with shredded ham or pork. Althoug very sippable, I found this to have a raw edge that cellaring a few years years should mellow, integrating flavours and textures for a value packed meal white or sipper. Ww90

Wurzburg, Germany, 12.5% D, #944504 $19.95 (Tasted October 01, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "The Franken region wines are unique for two reasons. First, their principal grape is Silvaner; and second, they use an unusual bottle known as the bocksbeutel (similar in shape to the Mateus Rosé vessel). In Franken, Silvaner achieves its finest expression. The aromas are full of floral, pear, apple and mineral notes. Medium to full-bodied, its racy acidity gives it tremendous verve. Pair with freshwater fish." My notes: A light gold with almost a spritz forming on the glass bowl, light aromas of pear, apple, straw with a metallic hint. Silky with pear and apple flavours laying on a neat mineral thread finishing very clean, crisp then building in fullness. A delicately fruity, dry sipper... pair with a tray of cheeses, red, green grapes and apple pieces or rainbow trout, arctic char, grilled halibut with frites, smoked salmon with capers on greens, egg souffles. Should be able to cellar this several years. Ww88