Accompanying Beppi Crosariol's column of May 16, 2012 'LCBO sweetens the wine buying experience' is a chart, provided here for convenience, pulled together by Trish McAlaster of the G&M, that shows the relationship of various sweetness scales: the LCBO's previously used scale of 0 to 15, word descriptors of Extra Dry (XD), Dry (D), ..., Sweet (S),..., etc. and the recently introduced grams/Litre scale. What also is interesting on this chart are a few brand names positioned at their sweetness level.
All is well in Pleasantville some say. However, aren't there a few limitations to overcome? First, it will take time for all bin tags to be replaced with new ones on all shelves in every outlet as well as the wine descriptors on the LCBO website - and it will take longer for customers to understand the new measurement. The Marketing glossy released recently - did you get yours? - is a start at educating the masses. Second, can the bin tags be read by customers as they hurriedly scan labels? It takes a trained eye, good vision and patience. Thirdly, there's the matter of timeliness and accuracy. Will the sugar levels for thousands of wines be maintained vintage to vintage? We know that alcohol levels reported for the online inventory often vary from that shown on the wine bottle. And is it worth it? As the article remarks 'the numbers (g/L) won't have much impact on diabetics'. So who does this change target?
- Side point: So I've been tracking the variance of the new sugar code and, yes, as with alcohol levels there's variances of sugar levels shown by the LCBO from that reported in winery tasting notes. From past experience, when what gets reported is less accurate than the format of what's reported you know the data entry person has no or minimal interest in the subject. I've got to go with the winery on this one.
If XD, D, S, MS and VS, defined and applied consistently, doesn't give sufficient information for dietary needs I'm not confident the introduction of a metric measurement will fare better. In fact retaining both new and old as is planned presents conflicting conclusions. For
|From the VINTAGES website|
If LCBO technicians really insist on g/L a novel but efficient, less costly approach would be to require wineries to declare sugar level (g/L) on the wine label* itself. Regular Lab spot checks verifying compliance could then be part of the LCBO's qualification process. The downside for some wineries but an upside for consumers could be a declaration on labels of all additives used in wines today - changing wine marketing from 'buyer beware' to 'truth in advertising'.
Educating Ontarians to check sugar levels on bin tags will be as effective as checking salt, calories and sat-fats on restaurant menus. As with restaurants, exploiters of additives will continue to match recipes with market preferences adding flavour components and balancing, in this case, acid and sugar for that satisfying succulent fullness.
* In fact Riesling labels have adopted a scale referred to as Riesling Taste Profile.
THE LINEUP - grouped by reds, whites, rosés and other:
- (WOM) Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, 91a-2 -- V, Tuscany, Italy, #993360 $19.95
- Finca La Linda Syrah 2009, 89-2 -- G, Mendoza, Argentina, #223651 $12.95
- Banfi Centine Toscana 2009, 88-1 -- V, Montalcino, Italy, #947440 $16.95
- Dominio del Plata Susana Balbo Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, 87a -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #260919 $19.15
- Graffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec 2010, 86-1 -- G, Mendoza, Argentina, #230474 $12.95
- (WOM) Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, 83 -- V, Columbia Valley, Washington State, #280107 $24.95
- Thirty Bench Riesling 2010 VQA Beamsville Bench, 91-2 -- V, Beamsville, Ontario, #024133 $16.95
- See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Gris 2009 VQA Okanagan Valley, 90-2 -- V, Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards, BC, #263699 $18.95
- 13th Street Winery 'June's Vineyard' Riesling 2010 VQA Creek Shores, 88-1 -- V, St. Catharines, Ontario, #147512 $17.95
- 13th Street Winery 'Old Vines' Riesling 2010 VQA Creek Shores, 88 -- V, St. Catharines, Ontario, #272617 $23.95
- Dominio del Plata Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2011, 86-1 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #001834 $12.95
- Monmousseau Vouvray 2010, 86 -- V, Central Loire Valley, France, #271940 $14.95
- Emiliana Adobe Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Organic 2011, 83 -- G, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #266049 $12.95
- Oatley Tic Tok Chardonnay 2009, 82 -- G, Mudgee, Australia, #187104 $14.95
- Graffigna Centenario Reserva Pinot Grigio 2011, 81 -- G, San Juan, Argentina, #164756 $12.95
- Wente Vineyards 'Morning Fog' Chardonnay 2010, 81 -- G, Livermore Valley, California, #175430 $16.95
- Loron Bourgogne Chardonnay 2010, 80 -- G, Burgundy, France, #167155 $12.95
- Sogrape Gazela Vinho Verde 2011, NR -- G, Gaia, Portugal, #141432 $8.95
- Megalomaniac Pink Slip Pinot Rosé 2011 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 84 -- V, Vineland, Ontario, #085126 $17.95
- Katnook 'Founder's Block' Sparkling Shiraz 2008, nr -- V, Coonawara, Australia, #053330 $24.95
(WOM - Wine of the Month, V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value, a - aerated, NR - Not Rated)
And what do I do if a wine disappoints?
Example 1: The Graffigna Centenario Reserva Pinot Grigio was a disappointing 81 points. For my tastes the nose was a 'light aroma of crushed lemon seeds, a touch grassy' and both 'texture and flavour' depended on quaffing rather than sipping. One alternative was to discard - not a big loss at $12.95. I chose to blend 1/3 bottle of Dominio del Plata Crios de Susana de Balbo Torrontes, also $12.95, having a more intense nose and bite filling in low points. The result was a more interesting sipper and meal white.
Example 2: The Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon rated 83 needed something to become pleasing overall. By blending 1/3 of the lighter, fruitier Sterling Vintner’s Collection Pinot Noir 2010 rated 82 with the full-bodied, earthy Chateau Smith the result was both fruitier and smoother saving a $24.95 red blending with one at $14.95 and is now excellent paired with Lamb Hotpot.
Blending was previously blogged at Blending Part 1 and Blending Part 2.
WINES OF THE MONTH:
WOMs for June 2012 - Both released by Vintages on May 26, 2012
CHATEAU SMITH CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009, Columbia Valley, Washington, 14.2% XD 5g/L, #280107 $24.95 (Tasted June 7, 2012) CS
Rated 91 by Harvey Steiman (December 15, 2011). My notes: A Charles Smith Wines product. A dense ruby colour with an earthy, fragrant, soft plum and blackberry aroma - subtle. A thin film leaves a lacy rim that creeps down the glass leaving tiny islands. The first sip is light on fruit with a smoky red cherry flavour, bright on the palate quickly shifting to an extra dry, woody finish - aerating brings out a slight tobacco. A sipper if you're near a buffet table of stuffed mushrooms, bacon bruschetta or bbq'd rib pieces and better quaffed. Have with anything beefy and grilled. Past cellaring - disappointing. 83
VICCHIOMAGGIO AGOSTINO PETRI CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2008, Tuscany, Italy, 14.0% XD 5g/L, #993360 $19.95 (Tasted June 13, 2012) CS
Rated 90 by Bruce Sanderson (October 15, 2011). My notes: The aroma is apparent as soon as pouring starts, a floral sweet cherry and plum nose. Long tears flow from an unbroken rim and the colour has an earthy tint to darken the ruby. Silky, medium-bodied, rich plums, chocolate, drying tannins with acids to match lasting a long while finally adding earthy granite tones. An old world sipper rich in flavour and textures better suited to rich Italian fare, entrées and appetizers. Likely around peak so a drink now. Aerating mellows the background sting for sipping and is recommended. 91
THIRTY BENCH RIESLING 2010 VQA Beamsville Bench, Beamsville, Ontario, 10.8% D 19.5g/L, #024133 $16.95* (Tasted June 7, 2012) CS
A Vintages release on April 18, 2012 and reduced $2.00 in price until May 27, 2012. My notes: The 2008 and 2007 vintages were tasted in October 2010 and September 2008 with ratings 86 and 88 resp.. The 2005 vintage tasted in January 2007 when compared with typical Niagara Rieslings closely resembled an Alsatian having lots of petrol altho' less floral and fruit. The 2010 is a light lime juice colour with aromas of pear, apple and lime and showing a trace of floral. The film sets a lacy rim to recede slowly down the glass. Luscious with fresh lime flavourings and the acid balancing the sugar then leaving a chalky fruit flavoured lining on the palate. Have with fresh oysters, crab cakes, cod fritters or battered halibut and chips. This should cellar well several years developing some petrol, but if you like tart, drink now. 91
MEGALOMANIAC PINK SLIP PINOT NOIR ROSÉ 2011 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, 11.7% XD 10g/L, #085126 $17.95 (Tasted June 14, 2012) CS
A Vintages release on May 12, 2012. My notes: Cute labelling, a bright Pink Salmon colour - west coast - of a Tavel and an aroma of green peas, watermelon and hint of floral causes interest. The film is thin and falls evenly from a lacy rim. Serve well chilled there's a dry, smooth texture with acid balancing most of the sweetness. Now slightly off chill, flavours of Mexican watermelon and tart apple are interesting and fade evenly. Could be a patio sipper, add a few strawberry slices perhaps, along with bacon chips or salad greens and Greek feta or pair with grilled seafood, finny or shell. A drink now. 84
OATLEY TIC TOK CHARDONNAY 2009, Mudgee, Australia, 13.2% XD 7g/L, #187104 $14.95 (Tasted June 15, 2012) CS
A General listing. My notes: Chardonnay grapes from NSW (Mudgee) and West Australia (Pemberton) showing a green tinged lemon coloured. An even swirl leaves an even film and a lacy rim that drops slowly. When opened the aroma has a distinct pond scum component not that appealing as a sipper - air for thirty minutes. The first sip retains a slight pond scum to the flavour level along with a XD sharp tang. Smooth with a pineapple lemon touch and long finish that has some potential as a sipper - better paired with roasted chicken wings with a syrup sauce or a Swiss Chalet Chicken dinner, a Dad's Day Lobster or a Cheddar Sandwich. Not for cellaring - a drink now if you prefer a strongly accented chardonnay. 82
13TH STREET 'JUNE'S VINEYARD' RIESLING 2010 VQA Creek Shores, St. Catharines, Ontario, 11.5% D 14g/L, #147512 $17.95 (Tasted June 4, 2012) CS
A Vintages release on February 18, 2012 with 350 cases made. Rated 89 by Evan Saviolidis (Tidings, Dec 2011/Jan 2012). My notes: This is a winery that labels the Bench, the specific vineyard, the clone (Riesling 49) used and the number of cases produced - a mark of a winery focusing on their wines. The 2008 vintage tasted in June 2011 rated 89. I poured the 2010 into a champagne flute to bring out the nose, a pear apple combination luscious by itself mindful of an icewine. The colour is a lemon drop yellow leaving a lacy rim on the glass. Definitely sweet and a tad short of acid and light on alcohol giving a slightly bland first sip, nevertheless luscious with silky seconds. A pleasing before or after dinner taster or have with lemon coulis - serve and keep well chilled. 88
DOMINIO DEL PLATA CRIOS DE SUSANA BALBO TORRONTÉS 2011, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% XD na/L, #001834 $12.95 (Tasted June 8, 2012) CS
A Vintages release on April 14, 2012 rated 90 by Jay Miller (December 2011) . My notes: Tasted in January 2011 with the comment 'intriguing sipper with enough brightness for flexible pairing' and rated 93-3. The 2011 has a tangy lemon nose and the colour is a light gold with a tinge of green. The film is thin leaving a lacy edge while sliding down completely clearing the glass. A modest sting in the cheeks cleanses and refreshes with each sip. Slightly grassier, firm lemon flavour continuing through a long smooth finish ending with a dry lemon zest on the lips. A refreshing sipper better with a buffet table close by. Pair with chicken legs, deep fried wings or anything battered or sautéed: a light seafood filet, shrimp or scallop dish. A drink now or keep a year to see if bite lessens. 86
SEE YA LATER RANCH PINOT GRIS 2009 VQA Okanagan Valley, Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards, BC, 13.5% XD na/L, #263699 $18.95 (Tasted June 14, 2012) CS
A Vintages release on February 4, 2012. My notes: One of only a few BC wines on Vintages' shelves. The See Ya Later Ranch Riesling was excellent paired with a Thai buffet at SalaThai on Burrard, Vancouver. This Pinot Gris would have also paired well with Thai and contribute an interesting flavour. The colour is a burnt gold and the film sticks well to the glass then recedes slowly flowing no tears. XD although I suspect in the 10g/L sugar range with sufficient acid to mask most of the sweetness. The nose has a light tangerine melon vanilla aroma to match a soft textured, tangy, subtle tangerine melon vanilla flavour. Medium-bodied with a long finish ending silky and dry. Cellaring for a few years is likely but drinking well now. 90
BANFI CENTINE TOSCANA 2009, Montalcino, Italy, 13.5% XD na/L, #947440 $16.95 (Tasted June 19, 2012) CS
A Vintages release on January 21, 2012 and rated 88 by John Szabo, MS (May 2011). My notes: Ranked 10 of 10 by The Wine Snob in his blog of 'Top 10 Red Under $20, May 15, 2012 Update' - and according to his notes, priced around $10. Tasted both aerated and not, either way this red shines from first sip to its red cherry finish. Soft but persistent tannins balanced by a modest acid make for a polite sipper or companion for lightly spiced tomato sauced Italian entrées. Have with beef or lamb burgers, shashlik pitas or bbq'd short ribs. The colour is an opaque ruby with a lightish film running fast legs and an aroma both floral and fruity declining to a subtle scent through a long finish. Sugar content not provided by the LCBO but drinks extra dry. 88
GRAFFIGNA CENTENARIO RESERVE MALBEC 2010, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% XD 6g/L, #230474 $12.95 (Tasted June 18, 2012) CS
A General listing. My notes: Ranked 8 of 10 by The Wine Snob in his blog of 'Top 10 Red Under $20, May 15, 2012 Update' - according to the notes, priced at $9US. A full-bodied Malbec that runs fast legs from a viscous film and a continuous rim and has the aroma of earthy raspberries, slightly spicy. The ruby colour has a grey cast to tame the raspberry brightness. Finishes dry with mostly earthy plum, some coffee and extra dry to the palate. The underlying fruit is raspberry mellowed by oak treatment for a one dimensional beef red - an old world style meeting new world suitable for sipping as well as pairing. A drink now. 86
WENTE VINEYARDS 'MORNING FOG' CHARDONNAY 2010, Livermore Valley, California, 13.5% D 8g/L, #175430 $16.95 (Tasted June 12, 2012) CS
A General listing. My notes: The 2009 vintage was tasted in March 2011 and rated 89 saying 'the texture, tang and terroir make this an interesting quaffer'. The 2009 was 100% chardonnay - 13% of the grapes were from Arroyo Seco vineyards. The colour of the 2010 is a midgold, like a lemon drop. The film is firm showing a lacy rim that recedes quickly. An aroma of crushed lemon seeds carries the tang of the lemon and precedes a tart taste of lemon and pear. Flavours give way to grassy acid and a slight roundness continuing to a cardboard edged lemon - not that appealing as a sipper but OK with roast chicken, bbq'd wings or slices of pork tenderloin. Did not pair well with wild Atlantic salmon steaks. Not for cellaring - a commercial drink now. 81
MONMOUSSEAU VOUVRAY 2010, Central Loire Valley, France, 12.0% MD 27g/L, #271940 $14.95 (Tasted June 9, 2012) CS
A Vintages release on May 12, 2012. My notes: A clear blond colour with an overriding pond scum, that fades with airing, along with faint apple and pear aroma, not inviting, more of a neutral appeal. The flavour is of nettles, spicy lemon and apple with a refreshing level of tart and a drying aspect of chalk for a lasting finish that ends nicely dry and tart. A medium-sweet seafood white that also went well with boneless chicken thighs roasted with mushroom slices. Not for cellaring, a drink now. 86
DOMINIO del PLATA SUSANA BALBO SIGNATURE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% D 6g/L, #260919 $19.15 (Tasted June 20, 2012) CS
A Vintages release on December 10, 2011. My notes: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot showing a purple hue on a granite cast ruby, dense and brooding. The scent of blue- and blackberries and hint of rhubarb needs time to develop in the glass - a firm film runs slow tears from a smooth rim. The first sip attacks the palate with a sting overriding dark fruit and nutmeg flavours that become more prominent through a long finish adding a red currant brightness. Smooth, full, extra dry and leaves velvet tannins to complement the acid. A rough sipper, not my 'thing'. Have with full flavoured stews, ossobuco or Texas chili. Aerating mellows the initial bite and adds some silk to the texture, also mellows the fruit somewhat throughout a long finish - improved overall. 87a
13TH STREET WINERY 'OLD VINES' RIESLING 2010 VQA Creek Shores, St. Catharines, Ontario, 12.5% MD na/L, #272617 $23.95 (Tasted June 1, 2012) CS
A Vintages release on February 18, 2012. 220 cases produced. My notes: There's a slight green tint to the mid golden colour and the nose has a fruit, some mineral and vegetable aspect that defies a breakdown, an interesting delicate aroma. A swirl brings a lacy rim that fragments quickly leaving nodules on the glass. The first sip, served chilled, has fresh apple pear clove flavours packaged in a dry envelope then changes to a chalk dry luscious finish. A medium-bodied, clean sipper that went well with lightly flavoured rainbow trout. Perhaps would develop some petrol over four years in the cellar but drinking well now without it. 88
LORON BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY 2010, Burgundy, France, 13.0% XD, #167155 $12.95 (Tasted May 19, 2012) CS
A General listing. My notes: A lemon drop yellow with a mineral edged faint scent of lemon and tangy apple. The rim recedes slowly unbroken and slightly lacy. The first sip has a hollow softness with apple and lemon flavours, a light acid, very dry on the lips with a quince aftertaste. I couldn't decide if this had a light chardonnay seam or resulted from a chalky terroir - or perhaps a blending of available white grapes. Not enough of a finish to hold attention as a sipper and did not pair well with a turkey breast Subway sandwich. A scallop and creamy pasta dish could be a better match. A drink now. 80
FINCA LA LINDA SYRAH 2009, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.4% XD 4g/L, #223651 $12.95 (Tasted June 18, 2012) CS
A General listing. My notes: Extra dry with a noticeable liquorice seam and red cherry scent making this a fine sniffer on the spicy side. A swirl leaves a firm film with a lacy rim that sheds slow tears. The colour is a rich burgundy red and has a silky approach carrying spicy raspberry, dark chocolate and terra firma nicely blended for sipping or pairing with grilled or roasted meats. Tang and flavours last forever and have an even warmth. May cellar for a few years - worth starting with a dozen to see if it's going up or down. Hide the label and serve to closest wine critics. Aerating is not recommended as it brings out some roughness and more warmth in finish. 89
GRAFFIGNA CENTENARIO RESERVE PINOT GRIGIO 2011, San Juan, Argentina, 13.0% XD 4g/L, #164756 $12.95 (Tasted June 10, 2012) CS
A General listing. My notes: The first of two from this label and a white. A light blond with a light aroma of crushed lemon seeds, a touch grassy. The film flows lacily with a rim of tears leaving the glass clear. The first sip has some lemon, some white grapefruit, tart and chalky dry. Not a sipper although quaffing increases fullness and flavour - a seafood white. Have with creamy pasta with shrimp or scallop pieces. A commercial drink now. 81
EMILIANA ADOBE RESERVA SAUVIGNON BLANC ORGANIC 2011, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 12.0% XD 4g/L, #266049 $12.95 (Tasted June 2, 2012) CS
A General listing. My notes: The colour is a pale blond and the nose has the aroma of fresh squeezed almost ripe gooseberries, sharp with the fruit fading slowly. A swirl leaves a lacy film that sheds fast tears. The first sip starts with tangy fruit more of tart lime and apple shifting quickly to an extra dryness that coats the tongue and lingers as the prominent finish. Thin-bodied, lacking breadth although would be refreshing as a meal white with stuffed mushrooms or a variety of buffet dips. Have with grilled fish, curried mussels or Asian entrées. A drink now. 83
KATNOOK ‘FOUNDER'S BLOCK’ SPARKLING SHIRAZ 2008, Coonawara, Australia, 12.5% D, #053330 $24.95 (Retasted June 22, 2012) na
My notes: Released by Vintages November 2010 and tasted a few times since. This is the last bottle from our cellar. We fell in love with the 2004 for its full bodied fruit and spicy finish. The carbon dioxide added to the shiraz edge for a refreshing tingle on blackberries that lasted forever. The 2007 aged well - altho' we didn't have patience to keep it longer than two years. The 2008 didn't have the fruit to complement the spice and so came off as being flatter going into a metallic ending when acid, CO2 and less fruit came into play. Giving this unique 'style' and being not available seems to be forgiving somehow and we are enjoying this bottle even more so not to be rated but enjoyed as an interesting sipper. Perhaps the LCBO will be kind enough to bring this bubbly back one day (I hate begging).
SOGRAPE GAZELA VINHO VERDE 2011, Gaia, Portugal, 9.0% D 13g/L, #141432 $8.95 (Tasted June 26, 2010) CS
A General listing. My notes: One of our favourite summer coolers for its light spritz and soft lemon-grapefruit, almost pithy, aroma. Pours with a burst of bubbles that quickly subsides and has a light film that laces and falls quickly. The first sip served at a refreshing 8oC has both a softness, a light lemon and dry chalkiness - the tang and chalk lasting through a long finish. It might serve as a refresher before a seafood meal or as a patio quaffer. For the latter I'd serve with lemon or lime slices and crushed ice. Only available during the summer months and strictly a drink now. An alternative to Perrier. NR