It’s all been red before

Flat Iron steak, blood orange, scallion and chile

Flat Iron steak, blood orange, scallion and chile

At a major Burgundy tasting yesterday I tasted 18 whites and just three reds. Gasp! With the weather and the heaviness of winter still stuck to the bones it just can’t be helped. White wine is working right now.

Related – Whites of passage

So today reds it is and reds it will be, as it has been before. Tomorrow I’ll likely return to white once again. That’s all I have to say about that. Just reviews today folks. Mostly from the VINTAGES April 18th release coming this Saturday.

From left to right: M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2013, Le Cirque Carignan/Mourvèdre/Syrah 2013, Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010, Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2012, Alpha Crucis Titan Shiraz 2012 and Quail's Gate Pinot Noir 2013

From left to right: M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2013, Le Cirque Carignan/Mourvèdre/Syrah 2013, Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010, Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2012, Alpha Crucis Titan Shiraz 2012 and Quail’s Gate Pinot Noir 2013

M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2013, Ac Languedoc-Roussillon, France (168716, $15.95, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

Perennial stalwart, especially considering the big box price. There is just so much going on in this veritable melting pot of character and boundless potential, right from the word sniff. Certainly modern and ripe but also layered with brush, scrub, duff, roots and rocks. A touch of briny salinity merges to liquorice and then there are the tannins woven with acidity. The length is a given. Lots of earth, plenty of smoulder and priced to case joint after LCBO joint. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015  @M_Chapoutier  @Dandurandwines  @LaRegionLR

Le Cirque Carignan/Mourvèdre/Syrah 2013, Vin De Pays Des Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (277079, $16.95, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

A depth into earth crusts the dark fruit from wise old vines. Fresh and spring run sappy, from heat to be sure but in classic waves and stretches emanating from a floral, aromatic beginning. The bumble berry traffic jam in the middle is not enough to render it done at that point, despite its inability to avoid working up a sweat towards a woven textured finish. The citrus accent adds enough grain to see it through four more good years. Easy to love, hard to miss and smart to give it a try. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @GBvins  @LaRegionLR

Falernia Reserva Syrah 2010, Elquí Valley, Chile (208371, $16.95, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

Meaty, smoked, cured, reduced, reactionary, reductive, brambly, sappy, syrupy and still warm after the kill. All of these elucidations and more. Coconut and flowers meld in creamy waves within the muscular girth, sinewy grit and confident gumption of this high altitude, cool-climate Syrah. A huge varietal expression, like Barossa in a sausage factory, masculine, testosterone-driven, with layers upon layers of fruit, earth, game, pork belly, pepper and tannin. Not to mention raging acidity. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2015  @FalerniaWine  @ProfileWineGrp @DrinkChile

Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2012, Lodi, California (942599, $20.95, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

Nearly a quarter of Petite Sirah blends into this (mostly) Lodi wizened vines fruit sourced out of San Joaquin County. Old vines are Zinfandel’s caché thing. The gnarly, petrified plants reach deeper underground and when the interstices of terroir and climate are in accord, the texture imparted by tannin is key. The ’12 Old Vines is a product of a maker (Joel Peterson), plot (Lodi) and conditions (cool and exceptional for the variety). Here a bottle to help define and divine Lodi. Elegance in as much as is possible, juicy in fruit in as much as can be found through texture and balance in so far as can be sheltered. Fresh is ascertained further along (as opposed to dry) on the spectrum, chewy of flesh, but not bone, silky and seductive. High quality Zinfandel in every respect. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted March 2015  @RavenswoodWine  @CBrandsCareers  @TheZinfandelOrg

Alpha Crucis Titan Shiraz 2012, Mclaren Vale, South Australia (377069, $24.95, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

Nothing about the source, treatment or specs on this Shiraz scream elegance or restraint but it’s “cool and slow with plenty of precision, with a back beat narrow and hard to master.” Four premium vineyards of mature vines between 20-40 years of age have laid a deeply drawn foundation. McLaren Vale sunshine has given it warmth (14.5 per cent alcohol). Individual lots spending 15 months in small French Oak barrels before being blended together has imparted creamy texture. Added up this might have forced the Titan through the doors to heavy burden. Not so. Dusty, rich, dried fruits and herbage merge seamlessly together. Smoke lodge and graphite, berries, back bite and beat fall into great structure. Big time McLaren Vale that does not sting like a wasp, nor is it a bully. Say what you will but “call it heavenly in it’s brilliance…soft drivin’, slow and mad, like some new language.” Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2015    @southaustralia

Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (585760, $26.95, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

In 2013 there is warmth all around; in vintage, fruit, alcohol, tannin and overall character. Much in the way of cherries, black liquorice, pepper and spice. Tilled earth but in no way bespattered or hazy. Fleshy and ripe, of a depth with bitter fathered tones that bite yet fall back in line with misty fun fruit times in Babylon. The upholstering is rewarding though it finishes with some brute stuffing. A warm reclining Pinot Noir for sure. The kind that makes me want to “smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved.” Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2015  @Quails_Gate  @hobbsandco  @AMH_hobbsandco  @winebcdotcom

From left to right: Domaine Des Roches Neuves 2013, Red Rooster Reserve Merlot 2012, Illahe Pinot Noir 2013, Greywacke Pinot Noir 2011, Louis Jadot Beaune Boucherottes 1er Cru 2009 and Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

From left to right: Domaine Des Roches Neuves 2013, Red Rooster Reserve Merlot 2012, Illahe Pinot Noir 2013, Greywacke Pinot Noir 2011, Louis Jadot Beaune Boucherottes 1er Cru 2009 and Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Domaine Des Roches Neuves 2013, Loire, France (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

There is Cabernet Franc, there is Samur and then there is Thierry Germain. Though a more intense single-vineyard bottle might render this one pedestrian, does it matter when the discussion involves biodynamic, 108 year-old, un-grafted, pre-phylloxera vines? The wow aromas and dense, dripping, liquid chalky, if intimidating texture is managed by wild sage, ancillary and marbled currants and acidity through the gambrel. The 2013 yield must have come in wild-eyed because while seemingly circular, in finished form it is a linear composition in diagrams intertwined. Not out of focus and will admittedly confuse a consumer or ten but if you can keep up with the changing gears the experience will be rewarding. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted October 2014 and March 2015  @rochesneuves  @GroupeSoleilTO  @LoireValleyWine

Domaines Des Roches Neuves 2013

Domaine Des Roches Neuves 2013

Red Rooster Reserve Merlot 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (408963, $29.95, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

Remarkably ripe and to the point of extract distraction in Merlot. A vintage-driven, heat days harnessed expression, all about fruit, with kisses from extended maceration and oak. Chewy, dense, rib-sticking red that cries for same in gastronomy. An air dominating smoulder and plenty of basting are sticky upon the mid-palate, a comfort to hold onto in median possession. This density lingers and delays before submitting to the salty lick of bitter denouement. One shouldn’t miss this near-decadent beauty even if the style agitates or aggravates fears of thick brushstroke style. This has five extended years ahead, at the least. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2015  @PellerVQA  @winebcdotcom

Illahe Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, Oregon (403154, $31.95, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

Chinook speak for “land, earth or soil,” that agglomeration is both calling card and impression left after a taste. When Pinot Noir from Oregon has that pointedly Willamette combination of super terram flora and subterranean salinity it speaks with clarity, however light and un-muscular it may be. One senses a drawn sapid tang from ancient burrowed riverbeds that crawl feel below the surface. Strawberry is the key fruit note but Burgundy is the desire. This reminds of yesterday’s Ponzi and Lemelson, but also today’s Johnson Vineyard, albeit on a frame less taut. The complexity may not equate but the subtlety exceeds those comparisons. It hits just the right piercing notes because it’s shrill is just so pretty. The grain running through is arid, zestful and saline. This has terrific citrus interwoven through texture and the 12.5 per cent alcohol is something to embrace. Were Lewis, Clark and Curtis in search of fine Pinot at the end of an expedition day, this would have been the one. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @illahevineyards  @wvwine

Greywacke Pinot Noir 2011

Greywacke Pinot Noir 2011

Greywacke Pinot Noir 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand (402651, $49.00, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

Wow does this exuberant Kevin Judd Pinot Noir ever excite. The intensity of juicy calibrations and echoes, like breathtaking mountain peaks mirrored in the reflections of ancient lakes. Glassy and refractive, replaying upon itself, like a whirlpool of ocean tide. Silky like bean thread, transparent and glossy. A tug posits between cherry and anti-cherry. Layers of dried flowers and savoury accents. Accessible and worthy of a place in the deep cellar. Long and entirely special. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted March 2015  @Greywacke   @greywacker  @oenophilia1  @nzwine

Louis Jadot Beaune Boucherottes 1er Cru 2009, Ac Burgundy, France (121319, $52.95, WineAlign)

From the VINTAGES April 18th release

Interesting to see this 2009 released after the ’10, a vintage that had many swooning. This ’09 is charming and unbelievably accessible. It may strike some as bygone-evolved, ancient history even, but ripe fruit matched by silky tannins will dupe even the most experienced palate. Here the Beaune’s beauty is upfront, outgoing, warm, inviting and flirtatious. What a gorgeous layering of fresh berries and creamy, sweet redolence. Very feminine, fleshy and gregarious. The back end shows a little bit of tension, further proof that this Boucherottes has spine and time left in the till. Distinguished and wondrous as Jadot gets, ready to please and stuffed to last. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted March 2015  @ljadot  @HalpernWine  @BourgogneWines

Concha Y Toro

Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Maipo Valley, Chile (403980, $70.00, WineAlign)

VINTAGES Online Exclusive

The 2010 Don Melchor harkens backwards, to years like 2001 and 2003, rephrasing and rewriting the paradigmatic book. From seven contiguous, sub-divided blocks of Cabernet, the ’10 speaks most highly of Lot Two, emphasized by chocolate, menthol and mineral, in cohorts with Lot Four, in elegance and depth. Extended glom and time-lapse picking between April 22 and May 27 was the casualty turned blessing of a cooler growing season in the semi-arid Mediterranean-like scrub desert of Puente Alto. The alluvial motion hauteur of slow-ripened fruit can’t be overestimated. The frame by frame capture has resulted in aromatics wafting off the charts; violet, anise, roasting cocoa bean, garrigue, ferric filings, mortar on wet stone, Cassis and eucalyptus. There is no heat, rendering the 14.6 declared alcoholic irrelevant. Best of all, it smells like Chile as much as it does Cabernet. There is no need to discuss the (97 per cent) CS in terms of Bordeaux, that is until you taste. Then the tobacco angst and silky texture elicit Margaux. Black currants and fine chocolate melt on the finish, still with a mouthful of stones. For winemaker Enrique Tirado, this may be his “El opus.” It will age effortlessly for 12-15 years. For anyone who purchased this wine more than 10 vintages ago, comparing current cost can be a byproduct in natural preoccupation. Who would not want a return to the sub-$50 Don Melchor going back a decade or more? Yet while tasting the present decimus, $100 crosses the fiscal mind and seems completely apropos. At $70 the clarity and sonority of its value is the blazon of an epistle. Few Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wines from Bordeaux or Napa Valley can compare. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted April 2015  @conchaytoro  @MikeAikins1  @DrinkChile

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Path straying wines

Risotto

Risotto

The idea that something veers away from or afield of the norm is almost always intriguing. Fascinations with antidisestablishmentarianism, marching to the beats of different drummers and walking lonely roads is as essential as breathing. For the curious, the hungry and the alive.

Though the concept is a sound one, it need not always be about searching for wisdom and enterprise off the beaten path. There are times when the abstruse may be lying directly underfoot. Wine is a commensurate animal, altricial such as it is, acaudal, acersous, agnostic, aculeate and allocryptic such as it is not. Wine that is not so much off the beaten path as actually growing on one.

Two of the six wines recommended here jive with the idea, a Sicilian varietal wine made from the local Nerollo Mascalese and a Venetian dessert beauty crafted from who knows which and exactly how many chthonic varieties. No wine-producing nation knows about the concept of varietal celebration and keeping a historical watch on the relationship between path and vine more than Italy. No other agglomeration crafts from indigenous or endemic varieties with as much diversity.

This summed it up. “Finally, I find the irony in the idea that for a winemaker or vine grower to step off the quotidian they need to plant, cultivate and make wine from grapes once considered the norm and the go to in their region. You can’t help but notice that modern winemakers with a wistful eye are casting reflexively into the past with a hunger for vinous resurrection. By grafting their pre-Phylloxera ancient vines onto healthy root-stock they have turned the varietal compass on its head. As they have moved through their days with an open-mind to the panoply of grape interactions, they have beget the endemic revival.”

Related – Off the beaten Italian path

You see, winemakers don’t always have to champion the obscure, the endangered and the forgotten. There are times when place and plot are good enough to create an aura of obscurity and adventure. The wines in this column’s conspiracy are in cahoots to drive the point.

Related – Why hate wine?

A white Port; who drinks white Port? Sometimes you just need to walk along roads you never seem to take, take in the backstreets or sip along with something that’s always there but you just never bother. Port can be nondescript and it can also be like the Cálem Lágrima.

How about a Barossan, a Shiraz no less, but here because it is a wine from Neolithic soils, consumed and procreated on and upon itself. Then there is a South African white blend of such natural indeterminate plodding it has caused a break in critical ranks; is it sound or at fault to the point of no return? Last but certainly not musical least, a Napa Valley vintner with an infatuation for pairing wine to song. Sound familiar?

Related – WineAlign guide to VINTAGES April 4th and Easter recipes

In anticipation of the first April list to hit Ontario shelves, Sara d’Amato and I have compiled what you need to know and why. Click on this link to WineAlign to see the full report.

Off the Beaten Path, from East to West and a Battle of the Corkscrews

Here are my six path straying wines from the VINTAGES April 4th release.

From left to right: Cálem Lágrima White Port, Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart Of The Barossa Shiraz 2012, Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2011, Calcagno Feudo Di Mezzo Nerello Mascalese 2011, Monte Faustino Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 and World's End If Six Was Nine Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

From left to right: Cálem Lágrima White Port, Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart Of The Barossa Shiraz 2012, Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2011, Calcagno Feudo Di Mezzo Nerello Mascalese 2011, Monte Faustino Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 and World’s End If Six Was Nine Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Cálem Lágrima White Port, Dop Douro, Portugal (912568, $15.95, WineAlign)

Viscous and semlessly crafted White Port. There is very frank aridity in nuts and peels on the nose, along with tempering agave and citrus. The positable tug between sweet, sour and salty harks to older times and the munificent wafts of the warm nut cart. The agave drips thick on the palate, the spiced nuts are expertly roasted. Cool mint and eucalyptus fill the middle and fine acidity comes ’round the back. Terrific value. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted March 2015  @PortoClem  @WoodmanWS

Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart Of The Barossa Shiraz 2012, Barossa Valley, South Australia  (167189, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tasted from the 750 mL, this old vine Barossa vineyard bottle is reminiscent of the wise and precocious 2009. Nothing can be taken for granted here, this Shiraz from ancient, gnarled vines, many over a hundred years of age. A wine from neolithic soils, consumed and procreated on and upon itself. This is brash and once opened, the aromas are “orbiting your living room.” Makes me think of fig jam on venison wurst and a sauce made from licorice, clementine and dates as big as sausage flies. Tart, tight, racy and religious. Has a fisting Reggae beat, like The Clash doing Tosh and Dub. It may not transmit the only Barossan pirate radio Shiraz but it may just be one of the better values. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted March 2015  @DandelionWines  @Wine_Australia

Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2011, Wo Swartland, South Africa (225458, $21.95, WineAlign)

Talk about the passion. Fruit and reduction. Fruit and oxidation. Contradictions and oxymorons. This reeks of upside down passion fruit, apricot, honey and almond cake. Dripping syrup, parrafin and citrus. Waxy, like Sémillon and that’s where the advance comes in. The Roulette Blanc is meant to flesh, not wane in texture. The question is “combien, combine, combien de temps” does it take for a wine such as this to travel from wild and fresh to used and confused? The 2011 exhibits all the signs of great, complex fruit and corresponding accents. It has it all going on but a current stale, R.E.M. sleepy state clouds its future. “Not everyone can carry the weight of the world.” A really interesting wine with a long, bitter and tangy finish. How much longer will it age? Long enough. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted March 2015  @Lammershoek  @WOSACanada

Calcagno Feudo Di Mezzo Nerello Mascalese 2011, Igt Siciliy, Italy (408187, $34.95, WineAlign)

The Sicilian was treated to extended maceration under strict temperature control and the bleed is evident, modern, pitchy and black as a cloudless night. Then 12 months later “an improvement” is fashioned by the classic French oak “barriques” addition, followed by a minimum further four months in bottle. The result is a warm, alcohol elevated (14.5 per cent) state of the art Nerello Mascalese with a wonderful earthy grounding. Tenderly volcanic, the fruit comes from Passopisciaro between the Etna park and the Alcantara river park. Ancient lava flows leave an indelible mark on a wine without creases. Yet this is a direct, in your face expression that shares thoughts and feelings with deep clay and stray island sand. An extremely well-made wine even if it wanders away from the wonders of time. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2015  @oenophilia1  @VisitSicilyOP

Monte Faustino Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico 2008, Docg, Veneto, Italy (403857, 500ml, $45.95, WineAlign)

Once in a while there comes a Recioto in reserve of its own preciousness. A Recioto comfortable in its own skin, does not have to try too hard, posits only what it is safely made of. This elegant example whiffs dried fruit, strawberry, rhubarb and lovely aromatic, natural fruit tea. Licorice and fresh fennochio. A citrus poke. Good underscored, understated and under the radar personality. Great length. A real success. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March 2015

World’s End Cabernet Sauvignon If Six Was Nine 2010, Napa Valley, California (396127, $72.95, WineAlign)

What if “six turned out to be nine?” What if 14.9 per cent alcohol was just 14.6 instead of what really must be 15.9? What if the song in your head was sung by the tender emotional voice of Todd Rungren instead of the fuzz in Jimi’s clouded world? This Cabernet Sauvignon is so much more Hendrix, a full-throttle, heavy-layered, all-in barrel and total extract package. The fruit is hulking and the tannin equally so. Look ahead eight to ten years then fire up the black top. Heave on some marbled elephantine chops and all will be fine in the centre of the dizzying universe. “Wave on, wave on. Fall mountains, just don’t fall on me.” Maybe listen to a verse or two of Todd as well. “Hello, it’s me.” Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2015  @ProfileWineGrp  @NapaVintners

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Take a bottle, leave a bottle

Wines of the week

Wines of the week

Lately I’ve noticed a whole bunch of take a book, leave a book mini libraries popping up on front lawns in many Toronto neighbourhoods. The concept is right on so many levels and it occurs to me that the same could be done with wine. Open a few bottles and have a taste of each then exchange them with a friend or colleague so that each of you can sample new wines the following night without having to open anything new.

Last week the practice was put to good use and it allowed me to taste upwards of 40 wines without the benefit of a trade or media tasting. I traded wines with friends and colleagues over the course of three days and two nights. Yes, you can trust your friends to keep the provenance of a bottle so that your experience is just as fulfilling as theirs. Yesterday’s post covered the notes on 12 wines from the boot.

Related – Italian wines of the week

Here are nine more tasting notes from a wider global range, with a focus on Victoria, McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek in Australia along with samples from the Mosel, Penedès, the Columbia Valley and the southern Rhône.

 

Urban Riesling 2014

Urban Riesling 2014, Mosel, Germany (Agent, $15.95, WineAlign)

Grapes from neighbouring vineyards in the Mosel are brought to St. Urbans Hof Winery and vinified in the Nik Weis way. This stresses the Weis notion where “cool climate vines develop flavours, not simply sugars.” Though straightforward and quite traditional, the Urban is clean and shy on flint but there is a slate’s medicinal bleed and piercing acidity. Lime and more lime. Quite dry and in moderate (9.5 per cent) alcohol. This represents quintessential entry-level Qualitätswein.  Tasted March 2015  @TheVine_RobGroh  @WinesofGermany

Taltarni 't' Series Shiraz 2013
Taltarni ‘T’ Series Shiraz 2013
, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia (Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

A warm, highly perfumed entry with a hot stone streak runs forward and uphill through waves of lush berries. A wrinkle of vim is but a moment of abstruse behaviour. The macerated fruit careens in sweetness above the subtleties of savour but the spice directed oak takes over, along with a scaleable wall of tannin. This woven textile of a Shiraz needs a few years to soften. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted March 2015  @Taltarni  @TheVine_RobGroh

Heartland Spice Trader Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Heartland Spice Trader Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Langhorne Creek, Australia (Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

Langhorne Creek is the source for winemaker Ben Glaetzer’s blend, an Australian curated combination that has secured its rightful ownership within the assemblage vernacular. The star anise on the label is apropos considering the red braised pork belly and Phở tái aromatic suggestiveness. That and red plums, poached and in a sweet bun’s paste. Add to them the steam from hot rocks and warm raspberry compote. Certainly on the syrupy side of texture but the palate is equally savoury as it is sweet. Lots of character here and a finish with extension.  Tasted March 2015  @heartlandwines  @langhornecreek  @TheVine_RobGroh

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Domaine du Séminaire Côtes du Rhône 2013, Rhône Valley, France (Agent, $14.95)

A rustic must is the truth serum here, the corollary of proper old school CdR winemaking. An affinity is sensed to both an Albert Mann Pinot Noir and a Baden Spätburgunder with porcine aromatics and an antediluvian aridity. Very cherry, dusty and plainspoken like a trending linear regression. Such a welcome step up from so many over the top sunshine dramatized Rhônes of excessive residual and alcohol. Though this clocks in at 14 per cent you would never know to read it on the spirit hydrometer. Direct energy and pulse would make this a very keg worthy red.  Tasted March 2015  @VINSRHONE  @RhoneWine  @HospiceduRhone  @TheLivingVine

Tapestry Bg & V Shiraz 2012

Tapestry Bg & V Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia (247155, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 7, 2015 release

A regional vigneron’s blend from two vineyards, BG and V: The Baker’s Gully (old Lloyd Light Vineyards) at the base of the Southern Mt. Lofty Ranges and Oliver’s Road (the continuation of Field Street) near to the Vale Township. Really elegant and refined in spite of a big, bold and juicy character. Ripe, sunny and warmer categorical climate expression. Quite tightly wound with a metallic iron post or fist in your face, layered and initializing the baking effect. Needs three or four years to fully integrate at which time the pie will be ready.  Tasted March 2015  @mclaren_vale

L'école No 41 Semillon 2013

L’école No 41 Semillon 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington (SAQ 10707077, $22.25, WineAlign)

Sauvignon Blanc (13 per cent) adds buoyancy to the main attraction in this vanguard and reputable Columbia Valley pioneer. Quite toasty and marked by early nose-hair splitting and splintering barrel notes. Dare say reductive but not in a rubber sap run way. More like Sémillon-dominated Bordeaux, of big bones, cut through soluble rock, created a sinkhole that swallows up flavours, only to release them in geyser like fashion in later years. So with patience and age-time in mind, this Sem will have better years ahead, when the heavy (14.5 per cent) alcohol integrates and the lemon drop-butterscotch flavours mellow. Generous pH (3.2) and high Brix (24.2) were the product of a very warm vintage. Rounded by concentric circles of acidity and bitter pith tannin, this is very tropical, like Gewürztraminer, but more in mango than lychee. Needs five years minimum because the oak is overdone. Tasted March 2015  @lecole41  @WINESofWA

La Vida Al Camp Cava Brut Rose

La Vida Al Camp Cava Brut Rosé, Penedès, Spain (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

Blush Cava blend of Macabeu, Xarel-Lo and Trepat. Aromas scale the neck of the bottle with immediate desperation even before the cork has fully disengaged. The wine just looks savoury with its bronzing salmon patina. Possessive of an ultra-fine mousse, aridity in immediate initialization and very much the sum total of base elements. Sweeter than expected to taste, seemingly oxymoronic to the nose and in conjunction with a low to moderate 11.5 per cent alcohol. The overall package is one of those beautifully impossible pH/rS/aBV agglomerations. Flavours lean to strawberry and ginger. The Trepat gives it a Costers del Segre angle of anxiety. This has moments of Pinot Noir-esque kinship with some finer Crémant d’Alsace Rosé (like Louis Sipp) in such a refined way.   Tasted March 2015  @lavidaalcamp  @TheVine_RobGroh

Taltarni Pyrenees Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Taltarni Pyrenees Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

Bottled in 2012, this Taltarni is showing some age, in a positive way, in dried fruit and Cassis less sweet. Baking fruit and warm spice are grounded by earth and a chalky, citrus, lactic underlay. Has fully integrated components that some time ago included a grit of acidity and tannin, at this juncture no longer in control, but fully primed for peak time. In fact this Victorian has reached the secondary stage of its life. The raisining of fruit means drink it now and for another year.  Tasted March 2015  @Taltarni  @TheVine_RobGroh

Jamsheed Harem La Syrah 2013

Jamsheed Harem La Syrah 2013, Yarra Valley and Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia (Agent,$29.95)

Only 900 cases were made of this blend of Upper Goulurn (80 per cent) and Yarra Valley (20) fruit. Indigenous yeasts were used and 80 per cent was fermented as whole bunches then aged in new and older 500L puncheons. So very fresh, the Harem (Harum…) was bottled with out fining or filtering eight months after picking. “Amidst a sea of wheat,” in a world of jammy Shiraz, say hello to this 13.2 per cent alcohol Victorian Syrah. This is fully exposed and in exposition of its naked beauty. Were more of Victoria produced in this progressive rock, singer/songwriter style, the throngs would applaud. Pure, smokey, opaque and sultry, not exceedingly complex but built on whole bunch bravery. Lyrical, harmonious and eminently listenable. Quite rightly so, shines on brightly, a good album side.  Tasted March 2015

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Why drink that?

Eat this, drink that

Eat this, drink that

We’re really just like moths, we seekers of wine, slaves to a fiery obsession, stopping occasionally to smell the adjectives, taking unnecessary financial risks and with any luck, happening into and finding enchantment. To remember generations. Is this why we drink wine?

We are looking for heroic entablature and architectural wonder in bottles of wine. We see them as DNA and in their liquids we can read their entire future. We sip them again and again until we taste them for the first time. We derive textures and flavours so solid, so tangible, it seems we can reach into the glass and grab handfuls of it. The glass itself has become the varietal, the engineering having expanded the notes and completed them, amplified and contained them. Is this why we drink that?

Not really. Sure we are looking for relevant encounters but what we really want is pleasure. Pleasure and escape. What we seek is value for our money. When we hit the stores and open or wallets we want honest juice at the lowest price. Bullshit aside, here are seven great values, in stores, by agents and down the road in our Niagara backyard.

From left to right: Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011, Maipe Malbec 2013, Henry Of Pelham Family Tree Red 2012, Costa Mediana Valpolicella Ripasso 2011, Nai E Senora Albariño 2013, CedarCreek Merlot 2012, Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling 2013

From left to right: Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011, Maipe Malbec 2013, Henry Of Pelham Family Tree Red 2012, Costa Mediana Valpolicella Ripasso 2011, Nai E Senora Albariño 2013, CedarCreek Merlot 2012, Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling 2013

Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (156125, $13.95, WineAlign)

Classic Niagara Peninsula aromas, of tart berries, pomegranate, cherries and wet clay exude and display. Stoney Ridge is simply giving this Pinot Noir away. Vinified bone dry (1.9 g/L residual sugar), pricked with acidity (7.2 g/L) and kissed by (eight months) of oak, this acuminates, as opposed to dials, in. The honing is crystalline, in bright and vibrant tones. There is a refined sugar aspect to its ratio but it’s really quite clean and nervy. The length impresses and sweeps to seal the $14 deal.  Tasted February 2015  @stoneyridgewine

Maipe Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina (93823, $14.95, WineAlign)

Quite intense, juicy and peppery for a $15 Malbec. A mix of red and black berries is accented by liquorice. Some chalky overlay, which goes short on integration, would do well to play nicer were it an underlay. A bit musky with cool savoury reserve and a very effective use of high (3000m) altitude fruit.  Tasted February 2015  @chakanawines  @oenophilia1  @Chakana and Maipe: wines with an andean spirit​

Henry Of Pelham Family Tree Red 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (247882, $15.75, WineAlign)

Only 945 cases were made of this Shiraz (48 per cent), Cabernet Franc (23), Cabernet Sauvignon (20) and Merlot (9) blend. And that’s a shame. Some further bottle time has brought out the best in show. There is as much clear class and enjoyable drinking as a Niagara red blend is likely to earn by wing. The concept is quite OZ, the coalescence very Niagara and the sensibility so sly, Speck family. The brightness, oak influence and acidity linger as one to stretch and bound about in elastic joyeuse. Crosses Charlemagne-like stone swords of accessibility and put me aside confidence with vintage gain and restraint. Keen winemaking decisions by outgoing winemaker Ron Giesbrecht have produced great results. Made for everyday people, were the Family Tree Red pouring from keg it would fill my glass on a daily basis.”And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo.”  Tasted February 2015  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Costa Mediana Valpolicella Ripasso 2011, Veneto, Italy (377648, $16.95, WineAlign)

Re-taste. Beautiful red fruit, in density. clarity and showy Valpolicella dress. Thinks good clean fun and thoughts, open-knit and its tannins mingle with multiplying acidity. Would benefit from two to three years more time in bottle. It will then drink as it was intended and as it should. From my earlier, September 2014 note: “Solid if newfangled Veneto that swivels from sulphur to sweetness. Has a Niagara Peninsula varnished quality, not so typical for the homeland. Also presses from both vineyard earthy and barrel stinky notes. Somewhat this and insipid but the late influx of fresh cherry brings it back and stretches its length.”  Last tasted February 2015  @Select_Wines  @C_Valpolicella  @MGMMondodelVino​

Nai E Senora Albariño 2013, Rias Baixas, Spain (Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

A very mineral driven Albariño with little fruit expression to ascertain. Though the grapes give way to fine-grained chalky salinity, is that not coequality from and for the quarry? Soil and stone lead a path to cool and collected acidity, not one so linear but more extrapolated, as if from lime in pith, not zest. A very composed Rias Baixas but not overly accessible. Rich broth with small bits of fresh fish would pair delectably and foil perfectly; keep it from doing the “rise up, rise up,” into aerified, out of this world, parachute club territory. A nip of this and “spirits time has come.”  Tasted February 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @RiasBaixasWines

CedarCreek Merlot 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (BCLDB and BCVQA 408666 $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite the glass of liqueur, with fully ripe, rich and dense fruit. Admittedly on the twiggy and good green side of the varietal, in the right ways, with Merlot bells of chalk, grain and tannin in whistling interplay. A correct correlation and in certain kinship with St. Emilion but with Okanagan footprints. Handles its 14.5 per cent alcohol quite easily and transfers its weight through a cool centre and into an even cooler finish. Along that route are notes of mint, eucalyptus and graphite, not unlike Coonawarra or Stellenbosch. Fun Merlot at an attractive price. Another gem from CedarCreek.  Tasted February 2015

Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling 2013, Mosel Valley, Germany (Agent, Approx. $25.00, WineAlign)

Architecturally precise, of cleanly drawn lines, like the Mosel Vinothek acquired and restored by Molitor in 1984 and winner of the “Architekturpreis Wein 2013.” The Riesling mimics the juxtaposition of historical and modern, seemingly steeped in the past and transposed to the present by state-of-the-art winemaking. This has slate, steep steppes rising from subterreanean acquired salinity and ingrained aridity. There is no way to hide from the scree of the past, avoid the incline towards the future, nor can it exist without the run-off of mineral left behind. Brilliant hue, matched density, matchstick wisp and wild tang. Honeyed and suckling porcine in an early roasting stage, with terrific texture. The beautiful arid length is purposed and linear, with much oomph in its gait. Will linger for five to 10 years easy.  Tasted February 2015  @TrialtoON

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Have wine forget winter

Plantain, strawberry and blueberry

Plantain, strawberry and blueberry

Now for a few argumentative words on logomachy, interpretive synergies and general rambling. Lets talk about wine and how it can make us forget about being chilled to the bone. Lets discuss the ways in which wine can bring forth a future being remembered with each passing sip.

Like stones as heavy, some winters are so stinging only silence helps you portage them, or soldier on through them. That and wine. When winter pisses and moans with a cold, cold heart, the purity and silence of wine can ease the pain. Fruit of the vine that remembers the eskers of the earth, minerals that have not forgotten magma, wine that gives an ancient, suspenseful feeling. Cold forgotten.

In July of 2012 the suggestion was to chill red wines for another hot weekend to ease the suffering in the throes of a sweltering, Ontario summer. A year on the thematic was pursued once again.

Related – A midsummer night’s chill red wine

“Just a slight frost mind you, like clipped diction, for warm, not hot weather.” Here we find ourselves in the opposite chasm, the anti-Hades, a seemingly endless void of polar hell. Perpetually stuck inside a frozen hadron collider. So history is the gradual intent. What to do? Drink wine.

February can be displaced with wine because the ferment has no beginning and no end. No sense of horizontal progression of time. Wine is set in a fractal globe, in which no facet of its character has a life of its own. Scale succumbs to intention.

Related – Feb. 21 wine and song salute

Tomorrow brings another VINTAGES release, a February 21st agglomeration with wines I suggest have discovered a remarkable balance achieved. Open them in a room and their blood will posit a similar temperature, one of warmth, so that soon, you will neither notice the alcohol or the heat, nor the deep freeze of winter. Here are eight more values to kick winter upside its proverbial ass.

From left to right: Gayda Viognier 2013, Esser Chardonnay 2012, Fowles Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2012, Domaine Des Huards Romo Cour Cheverny 2010, Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2012, Leasingham Winemakers Selection Bin 61 Shiraz 2012, Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards Red 2011 and Domaine Du Grapillon D'or Gigondas 2012

From left to right: Gayda Viognier 2013, Esser Chardonnay 2012, Fowles Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2012, Domaine Des Huards Romo Cour Cheverny 2010, Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2012, Leasingham Winemakers Selection Bin 61 Shiraz 2012, Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards Red 2011 and Domaine Du Grapillon D’or Gigondas 2012

Gayda Viognier 2013, Igp Pays D’oc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (395129, $13.95, WineAlign)

Simple, proper, sturdy and in certain respects, essential Viognier. Three sites each purpose a layer; chalk from limestone La Livinière, grain by clay-limestone Côteaux du Languedoc and metal tang through slate Roussillon. Florals are southern French Viognier obvious and spice adds a global touch. Quite versatile, well-made and complex beyond its simple roots. A nutty note rounds out the lean with a touch of fat. Good length takes it beneath the surface.  Tasted February 2015  @DomaineGayda  @TandemSelection

Esser Chardonnay 2012, Monterey County, California (675017, $18.95, WineAlign)

The musky and musty aromas in this off-chance gem from cooler Monterey draws fruit from the Riverview and Viento Vineyards in the north of Salinas Valley. The bottled up compression is relieved shortly after the cap is unscrewed, melting into a creamy textured Chardonnay and into the wind gaps of tall redwoods and pines. Round, sweet unctuous, easy to consume sips are both tropical and anything but buttery, heavy mouthfuls. Quite cool-classic actually, persistent, whiffing Monterey cone and framed by mineral adjunct meaning. More than impressive for the cost involved.  Tasted February 2015  @EsserVineyards  @DionysusWines

Fowles Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2012, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria, Australia (265967, $19.95, WineAlign)

In Victoria’s Strathbogie Ranges cooler temperatures and heads prevail in this savoury, meaty, cured, grounded and earthy Shiraz. Dried flowers, caper berry and a bitterish angst are the Mediterranean accents from a low-yielding vine proviso. Though the wine is quite concentrated as a result of the peanut produce, the fruit is anything but baked. It may be a dweller on the threshold but it has lift, a natural acidity that emphasizes the freshness. The stone turned, this has “the music of the spheres,” a gaining in gathering momentum, beautiful vision and a background of accompanying voices.  Tasted February 2015  @FowlesWine  @vonterrabev

Domaine Des Huards Romo Cour Cheverny 2010, Ac, Loire, France (401257, $21.95, WineAlign)

A wildly original, not quite Loire white made from 100 per cent Romorantin, of a brilliant golden yellow colour and great metallic expression. Like sweating rocks, all sorts of soft and precious metals, a cool medallion around the neck. A tang that gets beneath the surface, though oxidative, remains fixed, in suspended animation. The length cements the fixation, with white flowers, their petals strewn about. A most uncomfortable pungency might frighten some olfaction, though the reek is just a by-product of calcareous clay with a lime reaction, not necessarily chalky but more like a lick of Blaisois loam on metal. Nutty, drying out on the finish but with acids stringing along in ability and pride.  Tasted February 2015  @MarkCuff    @TheLivingVine

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2012, Clare Valley, South Australia, Australia (262469, $25.95, WineAlign)

Clare Valley Riesling is one of those caché varietal in locale entities revered by so many. Fact is not all CVRs are sensational but when one is made like the 2012 Lodge Hill, the grape in place is nothing short of spectacular. A rather flinty meets petrol continuum vintage is massively forward and upward, getting right down to back of the skull business. Herbal yet stony, so arid, so much citrus and a tang of salinity bled from metal. Highly complex and blessedly dangerous length. But flack is cut because despite the anxiety the Lodge Hill “sang as if he knew me…singing clear and strong.” Riesling that soothes and delights, killing me softly with Riesling kindness and his song.  Tasted February 2015  @Jimbarrywines  @MikeAikins1  @ChartonHobbs  @Wine_Australia

Leasingham Winemakers Selection Bin 61 Shiraz 2012, Clare Valley, South Australia, Australia (448241, $25.95, WineAlign)

The history of the Bin 61 is a long, storied and reliable one to hang a perennial Shiraz hat on. In the late nineties and early 2000’s the fruit was darker, more extracted, the wines tannic and needing a dozen years to reach nirvana. Times have gradually shifted the fruit paradigm to red, fresh and vibrant. In 2012, immediate gratification increases, though the tempering vintage has not advanced the progression like in the most recent years. Here the stretched, busy and cake Leasingham persists, so five to seven years of justified evolution should be expected. Tightness grips with further sips so despite the current requiem for red fruit and acidity, this will need a brief taming. Not a Bin 61 for the ages but another winner to be sure.  Tasted February 2015  #Clarevalley

Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards Red 2011, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington (1594, $32.95, WineAlign)

A year later this Yakima Valley red has concentrated further, like sweet cherry tree gum resin and sap. Desert climate and high pH loess in coarse flood debris, once entirely gritty in the blend, are now beginning to integrate. Acidity remains on high amid diplomatic balance. From my earlier, February 2014 note: “A most interesting Washington blend out of a vintage worth seeking out. Abstruse fruit package in five varieties, conjoined like a semi-sweet chocolate dessert of flourless proportions and marked by a grain and an exceptional, altitudinous presence that can’t be denied. Berries of all colours and levels of sweet/tart, evergreen verdigris, velvety texture, richesse, luxury magic mountain air. “Walk in the sun, up on Magic Mountain, Red mountain wine, everybody laughs.” This Hedges has that effect. A more than sensible price for all that’s going on and anything but a burden.  Last tasted February 2015  @hedgeswine

Domaine Du Grapillon D’or Gigondas 2012, Southern Rhône, France (981787, $32.95, WineAlign)

Grenache dominant Rhône such as this from the Chauvet family goes deep into the ripest territory, with gorgeous aromatics that burst of red fruit incarnate. The large ancient barrels bring a subtle oak spice and a funk du cave unique and necessary to the Gigondas application. Alcohol is checked at the mid-palate, stepping aside for the vermillion fruit layering while so many spice accents, so Rhône, old and new, spike the zesty orange skin. The leathery hide will see to a decade of age, at the very least.  Tasted February 2015  @grapillondor

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Snow whites and the seven reds

The seven reds from left to right: Resta Salice Salentino 2011, Mocali Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Rustenberg Shiraz 2011, Coyote's Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Beni Di Batasiolo Riserva Barolo 2006, Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino 2009

The seven reds from left to right: Resta Salice Salentino 2011, Mocali Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Rustenberg Shiraz 2011, Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Beni Di Batasiolo Riserva Barolo 2006, Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino 2009

Just as a child will willfully accept the naive and basic truth in a fairy tale, most of us will search for wines deeply buried within their simplicity. Then we have a sip. When we begin to think about that sip we delve deeper into the story and the mythology of the wine. This is where things begin to get complicated.

Maybe we invent comparative mythologies from tales and into wine just to play with the unconscious expressions of ourselves, or perhaps we just need to have some fun. Wine is not our yesteryear’s religion, nor is it something, once consumed, that can be held onto. It is fleeting and ever-changing. It is conceivable to think that wine drinkers of past eras were more childlike and held wine in more fairy-tale like hands. Today we act as though modern wines speak religiously, as if they each belong to one sect or another. Strange, but true.

On Saturday VINTAGES will roll out another lengthy tale of new releases, with a major focus on Italian reds. Like the analysis of the most famous of fairy tales, meaning is derived, not unlike an assessment of Italians and their wines, imagined as a desperate need to rule their own kingdom. The ferric, mineral and tannic nature of the group require that their rage be danced away with time, to re-gain control of their beauty and their lives.

For more recommendations from the VINTAGES February 7th, 2015 release:

Related – Is writing making a mess of wine

Here are the winter snow whites and seven Italian reds to look for, in stores now.

The snow whites from left to right: Poulet Et Fils Brut Crémant De Die, Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne Chenin Blanc 2012, Domaine De Saint Pierre Sancerre 2013, Girard Chardonnay 2012, Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2012, Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé Champagne

The snow whites from left to right: Poulet Et Fils Brut Crémant De Die, Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne Chenin Blanc 2012, Domaine De Saint Pierre Sancerre 2013, Girard Chardonnay 2012, Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2012, Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé Champagne

Resta Salice Salentino 2011, Doc Puglia, Italy (324731, $15.95, WineAlign)

Negroamaro (80 per cent) and Malvasia Nero combine for a mess of tar, composted earth, density in chewy dates, figs and ground funk drawn from dark, dank places. A Salice suspended, after the bruise of fermentation, like a charcoal tracing, like shadow with just an osculant of faint light. A cheesy note hangs, of a salinity out of cultures and wet vats. This may not be everyman’s cup of spume, peat and sedge, with its rough tannin too, but its value lies in complexity and value under $16.  Tasted January 2015  @winesofpuglia  @puglia

Mocali Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (317115, $16.95, WineAlign)

Morellino that is briery, earthy and with a soaked, cedar chip overlay on dark fruit. Brambly, purple pitchy and almost but not quite flamboyant. Slow as geology seeping, tile weeping, liqueur steeping then turning gritty with drying tannins. Good persistence and a bitter finish. Good value.  Tasted January 2015  @InfoMorellino  @liffordwine

Poulet Et Fils Brut Crémant De Die, Rhône, France (392555, $17.95, WineAlign)

The unique sparklers from the Die, made from (mostly) Clairette are somewhat of a rarity in Ontario waters. The bitter pith nose, ranging tangy palate and slightly oxidative style is a bit touchy but the length is nearly exceptional for the Euro. In the realm of Crémants, this Rhône dips pear slices past cracker nasturtium pods bobbing in a bowl of beneficial bitters. With a Mediterranean climate and altitude-influenced elemental aroma as if burnished pewter, the bird is anything but fowl. The case is made for these bubbles.  Tasted January 2015  @VINSRHONE  @WineandFood_RA  @TheCaseForWine

Rustenberg Shiraz 2011, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (399246, $19.95, WineAlign)

As per the Stellenbosch Shiraz stratagem, this may lean to sweetness but it’s all about rich, ripe fruit running wild and free. Savoury support comes from green tea, smoking branches and fulminating esters. Neither heavy nor burning, the ’11 is warm, clean and highly accessible. Impressive density and at 14.5 degrees alcohol, really quite soft, unwavering in its ability to suppress the demands of the octane push. Drink in the near term.  Tasted January 2015  @RustenbergWines  @StellWineRoute

Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (79228, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is an intense and vexing vintage for the Red Paw, a Pinot Noir of delicacy in constant search for the right dancing partner. In 2012 the soil seems to have been magnetized with a gravity of ferric density, causing juicy and spontaneous fits of revelry and a painting of the Paw red. Cherries, stones and figs are in, along with ether, earth and peat. The longevity quotient comes into question as the tenure already seems quite evolved but in its current state it is quite fun to drink.  Tasted January 2015  @coyotesrun

Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne Chenin Blanc 2012, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (282772, $25.95, WineAlign)

This barrel-aged Chenin Blanc is toasty, reductive and stratified, scaling heights few whites reach for, to seek other worldly atmospheres. I don’t find anything remotely tropical about it, on the contrary, it’s way out of the equatorial zone and into the upper reaches of the ozone. This has the Loire imprint of longing and distance. It will need time to come back down to earth, what with its hyper fruit meet mineral nuances. When it does it will walk through rain forests and dry flood plains with those extreme noisome notes in tow, to settle amongst the stones by the river. For some, this will be a rare find.  Tasted January 2015  @Simonsig_Estate  @WOSACanada  @WoSA_USA  @StellWineRoute

Domaine De Saint Pierre Sancerre 2013, Loire Valley, France (170258, $26.95, WineAlign)

A most promising and textured Sauvignon Blanc, full of chalky fruit and a lamina of minerality, like a strudel of stone fruit spread between layers of Phyllo pastry greased by pulverulant butter. Though this Sancerre does not and will not travel the longest route for the Loire, it is a seamless wine and one that is well-designed. Has a modernity about it while yet keeping a finger on and an ear to the radiocarbon chronometer.  Tasted January 2015  @LoireValleyWine

Girard Chardonnay 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (338434, $26.95, WineAlign)

Quite a different sort of California Chardonnay, cooler and in avoidance of the sub-equatorial fruit of the tropics. With a wisp of woodsmoke and a toothpick poke or two of smokey spice, this RRV bottling puts foggy Sonoma first in line, ahead of warm Cali sunshine. The one warm aspect is a vanilla overlay on creamy mango, a texture that is present but not over the top. The ripeness gathers moss and little stones, gets going, gains steam and fleshes out across a length that steers forward towards a future of nice value.  Tasted January 2015  @GirardWinery  @imbibersrepotr  @sonomavintners

Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (685180, $29.95, WineAlign)

Here a most modern Vino Nobile from Salcheto, through its forward and public fruit to its fine designed label. Retains a sensible and loyal texture, wearing its coat of arms in reverence of its past. Argumentative tannin and acidity speak loud, over the voices of tar, ferrous vernacular, black and blue bruises and rolling stones. Like rusty blood seeping into the cracked earth of a water-starved forest, this Sangiovese gets inside and under the skin. “Come si chiama, what’s your game?” She will answer, Vino Nobile, that’s my name.  Tasted January 2015  @SalchetoWinery  @AMH_hobbsandco

Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2012, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (276675, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vintage does not strike so much a new direction for the Poplar Grove Chardonnay as much as a blip on the cool climate radar. Before extrapolating on that comment it must be said that this is a well-made wine. It’s riper, with more gregarious character, an increase in topicality and into a nearly candied buttercup feel. Rich in glück and circumstance. Where in ’11 there were many notes in ripe coconut and green tones, they are a merely a suggestion in ’12, not a composition. A brûlée of lemon and ginger with a sprinkle of cinnamon finds the palate in think mode moving forwards in slurry strides towards a cemented and fixed positional finish. This is for the here and now.  Tasted January 2015  @poplargrovewine

Beni Di Batasiolo Riserva Barolo 2006, Doc Piedmont, Italy (330704, $39.95, WineAlign)

Time yet remains on the diminishing side of this Barolo of necessity, regaling and expressive of tea, tannin and flowers, dried and crumbled over fine earth. A modern and high-toned La Morra that is representative of very good value. The tannins persist in clenched chops and will need up to five years to resolve. The BdB Riserva ’06 may not be the Nebbiolo to mortgage the cellar on, but it does have the ability to be a wine to arouse the longing of one who waits.  Tasted January 2015  @ChartonHobbs  @MikeAikins1

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany, Italy (33498, $39.95, WineAlign)

The porcine cure of a Fattoi Brunello is a thing of mesmerism, here alongside a gamey note of soft, braised heart of beef. In ’09 the aromatics are a bit closed at present, atypical for the vintage but likely more a product of the curated, house style. Leather and some judicious oak spice offer up characteristic Grosso sentiments, dug into sweet earth and a feign of candied fruits and flowers. Sumptuous and terrific stuff. Here Brunello that effects the blinding potency of vines screaming of their fruit.  Tasted January 2015  @BrunelloImports  @ConsBrunello

Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé Champagne, Ac Champagne, France (993113, $67.95, WineAlign)

A sweeping scopic range of bitters, soft tonics and savoury Polygonaceae circulate in the vacuum of this point beleaguering Champagne. She plies a rough trade, with a flinty, smouldering gun effect that simulates a toasted barrel blowing smoke upwards a riotous Rosé’s crystal glass. With citrus acidity off the charts, a pampered and churned pamplemousse ever expanding, the Taittinger excites and jointly strikes the heart with elegance and beauty. Her style is both chic and confidential, “she’s a combination Anita Eckberg, Mamie van Doren.” A Champagne that avoids freud and “drives a candy pink Cadillac,” that will “make you want to give up high school.”  For immediate pleasure and years of future memories.  Tasted January 2015  @Taittinger_News  @TaittingerUSA

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If it’s value you want, it’s South Africa you need

From left to right: Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013, Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013, Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014, Thelema Mountain Red 2012

From left to right: Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013, Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013, Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014, Thelema Mountain Red 2012

I sat down a few weeks back to taste 20 South African wines, all value-based, consumer-friendly and market-driven. With WineAlign colleagues David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Margaret Swaine, Steve Thurlow and Sara d’Amato on hand, the general consensus at the tasting was positive and only worked to re-enforce how competitive South African wines can be in the sub-$15 market.

While certainly not immune to flaws, some South African reds and whites can sometimes get right in your face and yet others show remarkable elegance and complexity at entry-level prices. When I taste wines such as these I imagine the catastrophe of grace. They are wines that move through history with the fluency of a spirit. Some make a house cleaning of belief, others are solid senders. The South African tasting was more than just a group of cheap wines with something to say, more than a pleasant surprise, it was in fact, a pleasure.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013, Swartland, South Africa (595280, $14.95, WineAlign)

Deep dish Syrah, with meaty and cured toppings and the mordant pitch of Swartland. Tarry, olivine rampant and filled with the late summer, sorrowful berries; blackberry and black raspberry. Naturally sweet, viscous, grainy and tannic mess of texture overlaying fruit. Tons of wine for the buck and a very promising vintage to lay down. Aridity takes over on the briery finish. Wow.  Tasted January 2015  @PorcupineWines

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (367698, $14.85, WineAlign)

Here is a buttery and toasty Western Cape Chardonnay, slightly dirty and reductive. Confused, seemingly high residual avoirdupois restricts the opening notes, though they surely begin to play. The aromatics are heavy with the soaking skins of pear, apple and quince in crumbled amaretto cookie and flaky pastry boozy waters. Give this three plus years to shed its nerdy phase and integrate its tangy persistence.  Tasted January 2015  @BoschendalWines  @liffordwine

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (292557, $13.95, WineAlign)

Referring to Marc Kent’s blend as traditionally Rhône may seem at odds in consideration of the north-south, modish chaos, the price and the locale, but folky it is. The blend is unvarying Boekenhoutskloof, grounded by Syrah with support from Mourvèdre and Viognier. The latter, aromatic white grape variety lifts and brightens the brooding load. This is quite sweet and sour, of high-toned red and black fruits meeting a reduction of Champagne vinegar. A tannic and mineral streak divides, circles and conquers all. This will drink better in a year and for a few more after that.  Tasted January 2015  

Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (292466, $12.95, WineAlign)

From the KWV stable, the triad of outwardly and rhetorically spoken culture is right there on the label, in all its java glory. Café, Coffee, Mocha. The charm here is that perhaps in 2014 it has actually been scaled back a touch, the wood suffusion, to add least reveal a modicum of red fruits. Nonetheless it is the notes of smoke, tar, rubber and of course coffee that dominate. “Cause it’s the new Mother Nature takin’ over.” There are also at least two spoonfuls too many of sugar. Like the annoying Guess Who song, this can only be taken in very small doses. “Find a corner where I can hide.”  Tasted January 2015  @TheCafeCult  @Diageo_News

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa (222570, $12.95, WineAlign)

From fruit up on the slopes of the Simonsig Mountains, this has real, natural cherry brightness, not to mention a kitchen sink of varietal interplay. Shiraz (37 per cent), Petit Verdot (25), Cabernet Sauvignon (23), Merlot (10), Grenache (4) and Cabernet Franc (1) are coalesced by a lighter hand and the effect is less frightening than might be expected. Like similar California action (save for Zinfandel and/or Petite Sirah), this comes together nicely, even coherently, with just a few wrinkles. Represents very good value for a multitude of purposes; BBQ and barbecue being two of them.  Tasted January 2015  @ThelemaWines  @EpicW_S

From left to right: Cape Heritage Inception Deep Layered Red 2012, Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2014, Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2013, Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014

From left to right: Cape Heritage Inception Deep Layered Red 2012, Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2014, Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2013, Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014

Cape Heritage Inception Deep Layered Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa (369967, $12.95, WineAlign)

If 2011 was sweet, this next vintage is like Carabao mango, Luohan duo and Deglet noor dates all cooked down together into a mawkish, sappy jam. Or maybe it’s much simpler than that; just deeply layered refined sugar and red dye number 40. There is almost no aromatic discernment beyond the crystalline layers. No fruit, no soil, no acidity, no tannin. Just sweetness.  Tasted January 2015

Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (129874, $11.30, WineAlign)

The simple drawn label indicates honest design and intent. The alcohol (14.5 per cent) seems spot on and in sweetness, honestly declared. Stones of fruit, full on Cassis, vanilla and wood spice are in the glass and obviously so. Scales greater heights than most generic California counterparts and comes across as Cabernet Sauvignon, with savoury Western Cape scents closer to Sonoma than say, Central Coast. Some coal and tar come in play with a good, persistent finish.  Tasted January 2015  @liffordretail

Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (27128, $11.25, WineAlign)

With the simple aroma of vanilla drops on cut pears and refined sugar, this is clean, crystalline and simple Pinot Grigio. Inoffensive, for a large gathering it will not hurt any feelings. The production is mindlessly prepared and contrived, until a warm cookie dough nuance takes it to another level. Nothing shocking here.  Tasted January 2015  @FlatRoofManor

Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2013, Stellenbosch, South Africa (27128, $11.25, WineAlign)

A taut and toned Merlot, varietally correct and though the label reads 13.5 per cent alcohol, shows considerable heat. Very Merlot, dusty, mulberry scented, syrupy and familiar as a Cape red. Fully garnished, varnished and a rubber stamp this side of tarnished, the thick smoke does distort the clarity. Somewhat seamless in its heavy charms and structured, if quick to finish. Tasted January 2015  @FlatRoofManor

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (365353, $10.95, WineAlign)

Though the label has forsaken the partnership with (15 per cent) Viognier, the aromatic floral lilt persists, lifts and buoys the stoic and stark Chenin to impossible heights in a sub-$11 wine. The Chenin’s sharp reserve is inwardly atomic and the relationship with the 15 percenter strictly platonic. Together they create honeyed matter, walk hand in hand and handsomely forward. The residual sugar drip may be a touch heavy-handed but laying a bottle or two down for a few years is entirely possible and save for the price, even longer than that. The acidity circulates to the end, framed by a fine tannic texture.  Tasted January 2015  @BoschendalWines  @liffordwine

From left to right: Goats Do Roam White 2013, Flagstone Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc Extra Dry Sparkling Wine 2013, Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013

From left to right: Goats Do Roam White 2013, Flagstone Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc Extra Dry Sparkling Wine 2013, Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013

Goats Do Roam White 2013, Coastal Region, South Africa (237313, $10.95, WineAlign)

The popular and successful Rhône-ish north-south blend in 2013 is Viognier (67 per cent), Roussane (19) and Grenache Blanc (14). In memory, mimic and polar fellowship of the mother land, the GdR is spic and span clean if slightly saccharine and sentimental. I find this to be a typically commercial and derivative South African white wine, with an aromatic and palate profile of sugary, viscous appliqué and rubber tree sap. Has that awkward, gummy resin sensation, along with tropical notes. It’s the pineapple expression that saves the day and makes it more fun to drink.  Tasted January 2015  @DonGoatti  @FairviewWine

Flagstone Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Western Cape, South Africa (358754, $10.95, WineAlign)

Like flavoured, warmed to dripping chocolate, with splinters. Like overripe blackberries seeping in warm rainwater. There is some formidable tannin and acidity which could use some air time to resolve. Quite unique and fun for an inexpensive South African red with only a minute level of rubbery, volatile acidity. Some earth and plenty of spice, much of it from wood. Quite bright actually and well made.  Tasted January 2015  @flagstonewines  @CBrandsCareers

Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Durbanville, South Africa (22251, $10.95, WineAlign)

Extreme savour and notes for green vegetables are sprinkled with capsicum and dried caper dust in this piquant Sauvignon Blanc. Windswept tops of or cliff edges can be conjured at a sip, along with he dust of desert brush and spots of European gorse. Ocean mists join the notes of Ulex, contributing further green aromas and salty-based flavours. Acidity brings it all in focus. There is complexity in this SB’s drive.  Tasted January 2015  @dhillswine

Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc Extra Dry Sparkling Wine 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (281311, $10.95, WineAlign)

Quite oxidized and based on the saccharine sugar aspect, “Extra-Dry” must be a translation from the local winemaker’s dialect. While it has some fining aridity on the back end, the early palate is coated with not so unpleasant sweetness. The capsicum captures the effectualness of the varietal, as do green vegetables and grasses. Intensity comes through in lemon curd and the finish is quite bitter.  Tasted January 2015

Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (350595, $10.80, WineAlign)

A Shiraz-Cabernet blend that’s all about the tree, the barrel and a winemaker’s loud and clear pronouncement of the way jammy Western Cape fruit should be treated. Tire tread and sappy tensor bandage smother along with all kinds of chocolate. Plenty of red fruit, grainy tannin and condensed acidity, straight out of the can. Big wine for so little.  Tasted January 2015  @DionysusWines

From left to right: Frisky Zebras From left to right: Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Shiraz 2013, Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Frisky Zebras Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc Sauvignon Blanc

From left to right: Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2013, Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Frisky Zebras Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc

Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (527457, $9.95, WineAlign)

Have always had a soft spot for this hard-nosed, high-alcohol (pushing the 15 per cent limit, despite the declared 14.5 on the bottle) heavy lead and plush red berry Shiraz. Especially at under $10. Graphite and mephitic barks, ferrous bits and cool bites keep it dancing under ground. It’s sweet and sour, with soy and balsamic swirls. Covers a wide ranging set of Western Cape parameters. Runs the flavour gamut and represents more than solid value. It’s the style, love it or not.  Tasted January 2015  @Nederburg  @ImportWineMAFWM

Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (367821, $9.80, WineAlign)

Mr. Green Jr. has fashioned the goods, following in the footsteps of his father. This is a cheeky little Sauvignon Blanc. Slightly oxidized, certainly pumped up by a touch of effervescent CO2 and tempered by Western Cape sentiments. Has hallmark South African flaw-ish white wine tendencies but also plenty of back-end bite meets verve. Like Scatterlings in a bottle, “in their hearts a burning hunger, beneath the copper sun,” this SB has tons of tropical flavour. Also possesses a green apple crunch and a Cleggy, cool, minty middle. Most excellent and affordable juice.  Tasted January 2015  @DionysusWines

K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (18689, $9.45, WineAlign)

Despite the obvious base, elemental and flinty suggestions, it would take some yoga like stretching to pull a Chenin Blanc muscle out of the overall aromatics in a blind tasting. Yet somehow it screams Western Cape and South Africa. Reeks of gauze, sacchariferous density and homeopathic remedy. Saps moisture with anti-vivid aridity. Must overs are in vegetative tones. And, it’s all in.  Tasted January 2015  @KWVwines  @DiamondEstates

Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (527465, $9.45, WineAlign)

Struts slowly out, the aromatic neck in craning position, the rotund body slightly awkward and stuck in one dimension. The sweet perfume is animal musky, in a medicinal way. The big bird is a perfectly planar white that is just and only that, hardly recognizable as Sauvignon Blanc, with no ties to any defined terroir. The ostrich abides for simple and ordinary quaffing.  Tasted January 2015  @ObikwaWines  @ImportWineMAFWM

Frisky Zebras Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc NV, Western Cape, South Africa (237685, $8.95, WineAlign)

From purchased fair-trade fruit, this non-vintage white wine is nondescript. Here brews honeydew in a bottle. Tinny, oxidized and briny, bronzing smells are also sunburnt. The mouth is the recipient of a greasy, reductive, effervescent and prickling salve. Non-Maleficence in Sauvignon Blanc.  Tasted January 2015

Good to go!

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