Wine is the new coffee

Photographs by peshkova (left) and Igor Klimov,

Photographs by peshkova (left) and Igor Klimov,

as seen on

Coffee, the object of reverential and religious affection. Prayed to by the addict, the aficionado, the connoisseur. They sniff, they swirl and they savour their brews like First Growth Bordeaux or 50-year old Auslese.

If  Starbucks acted as harbinger to the North American phenomenon and found itself relegated to chain status then the torch has been passed. Proof lies in the extreme world that is the specialty coffee industry. Ezra Braves, owner of two Toronto boutique coffee destinations called Ezra’s Pound, recently commented , “we’re not re-inventing the wheel, but we just really embrace the cafe culture here.” Today your cup of Joe will likely be organic, fair-trade, responsibly grown, bio dynamic, Eco-friendly, a bag of ethical beans, bird-friendly, shade-grown and even triple-certified. It’s no wonder your red wine smells and tastes like coffee. It’s hip, it’s trending and it sells.

Wine geeks and critics have spent the last 10-15 years coming to terms with so much of their wine smelling and tasting of coffee, or variations thereof. The consumer can’t get enough of the stuff, even if they’re not sure why. The question is increasingly becoming one of secret consternation for the masses. Are wine makers infusing red wines with essence of, or actual brewed coffee?

The answer is no but more red wines than not these days will whiff or indicate a flavour profile that might include black coffee, espresso, cappuccino or mocha java. The use of new French oak and sometimes barrels that have been deliberately charred will impart coffee characteristics into red wine.

Bio dynamics and sustainable practices are now mainstream in the world of wine but in contrast to the coffee universe, many vineyards don’t necessarily feel the need to shout it out. The subliminal or vainglorious addition of coffee notes is far more effective for a ka-ching effect at the cash register. Modern vintners have so many progressive and manipulative techniques at their disposal so making “coffee wine” has become commonplace.

Iconic red wines from Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, Napa Valley and Burgundy are heavily influenced by the barrels that house megalitres of famous juice, but for the most part, the premier or grand cru grape ferment is up to the splintered task. Value wine faces a much greater challenge.  Still, there are terrific examples out there that find the correct balance of fruit, oak and acidity. Here are five arriving VINTAGES releases that gracefully walk that fine line.

VINTAGES November 10th, 2012 Release

The grape: Malbec

The history: Blender of Bordeaux and ‘black” knight of Cahors in southern France

The lowdown: Mom and pop Mendoza outfit sells to big corporation but maintains parochial integrity

The food match: Pot Roast, roasted root vegetables

La Posta Angel Paulucci Vineyard Malbec 2010 (75515, $15.95) faintly hits at a mocha milkshake mentality. Smoking cedar boughs inside and blossoming purple Jacaranda outside. Volcanic and pitchy like Cahors or Etna. Mocha flavour finish brings it all full circle.  88

The grape: Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

The history: Not to be confused with Tuscany’s Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, this one comes from Abruzzo

The lowdown: MD’A’s are making use of new oak like never before. Crowds of new wine lovers are embracing the sweet and concentrated elixirs as go to value drinkers

The food match: Spaghetti with Veal Ragu, reggiano parmesan

Talamonti Tre Saggi Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2008  (204016, $15.95) is representative of the new age in Italian wine. A crooning Tommy that resides “here in my deep purple dreams.” Rich, lush, deep violet berry, oak-inspired MD’A. So much wine for $16 if a bit scary to a fruit dinosaur.  88

The grapes: Grenache and Syrah

The history: Typical southern Rhône blend, 80% G and 20% S

The lowdown: The Amadieu family has a storied history in the region dating back to the 1920’s, and are the owners of this incredible Cru vineyard

The food match: Hand Made Ravioli, mushroom filling, white truffles

Pierre Amadieu La Grangelière Vacqueyras 2010 (76398, $19.95) first seeps as a black and red fruit Texas tisane but before long the toasted oak turns the tea to coffee with a hint of balsamic wood. Complex from AA to ZZ but not over the top. Some astringent, chalky tannin and talcy acidity is conquerable because the fruit is so lush. “Have mercy, a haw, haw, haw, haw, a haw.”  89

The grape: Barbera

The history: One of Barolo’s historic houses, this Barbera represents an avante-garde shift for the house style

The lowdown: Modern but nothing revolutionary about it. Nothing but a little bit of oak

The food match: Osso Bucco, gremolata, polenta

Giacomo Borgogno Barbera D’Alba Superiore 2010 (285486, $19.95, SAQ 10388088, $19.40) screams simply wow, this is not what I expected from the ancient winery. When I think of Borgogno I envision Barolo circa 1985, red rose rusty and opaque like weak tea. This one is purple pretty, black cherry pie yet retains a dry Piemontese attitude in search of braised shanks. Best Barbera.  90

The Splurge

The grape: Tempranillo

The history: Alejandro Fernandez has convinced the world that entry-level can mean $27

The lowdown: This could be Ribera Del Duero’s finest Crianza

The food match: Braised Lamb Shank, shiitake mushrooms

Alejandro Fernandez Tinto Pesquera Crianza 2009 (341461, $26.95, SAQ 10273109, $26.35) is the shocking blue Venus of Ribera Del Duero, round, voluptuous, smooth and let me tell you, “she’s got it.” Licorice liqueur, blue plum, citrus and laser acidity for a red wine. Always spot on.  90

Good to go!

The hunt for red October wine

Photo courtesy Kiowaman

as seen on

With the ides of October nearly upon us and cold winds blowing stronger out of the great white north, wine thoughts turn simply red. I’ve no plans to re-create the ancient Roman practice of the October Horse but I do intend to sacrifice a few slumbering bottles from the cellar. After all, there’s no point holding back the years.

Caution horses be weary you don’t crack open too many, not quite ready, aging wines. In order to defend that cellar, now is the time to get on the horse and pursue current release, bold bottles to fortify against the chill of impending inclement weather. Here are five rich reds to look for this coming weekend.

Related – VINTAGES October 13th, 2012 Release

redoctwines1 The hunt for red October wine

The grape: Petit Verdot

The history: Used in smallish quantities to round out Bordeaux blends. Has for more than a decade appeared as a single varietal species in Australia and now more recently, here in Chile

The lowdown: Something other varietal by way of Lontué Valley, a wine-producing sub-region of the Curico Valley, in the center of Chile

The food match: Chicken Liver Paté, french baguette, maldon salt

Korta Barrel Selection Reserve Petit Verdot 2010 (296608, $14.95,) like Carmenère pours a glass of tar and toast but here sidesteps green bell pepper and herb stem. In fact, this PV is  so polished the grape needs no blending as it is both the wine’s anchor and sail. Achieves a ripe fruit/briny olive dichotomy, where la figue meets les Lucques and la mûre connects with les Picholines88

The grapes: Carinena, Garnacha and Syrah

The history: Montsant lies in the province of Tarragona, forming a horseshoe around it’s more famous neighbour Priorat

The lowdown: Produced By The Can Blau Estate out of Catalunya, don’t expect a re-working of the wheel, but for the price at the gate, go to the show

The food match: Grilled Lamb Chops, mint, rosemary, garlic, olive oil

Bula 2009 (292094, $17.95, SAQ 11666852, $19.00) trots out of the stable of new wave Montsant blends at a lope. Poised, purposed and purple pretty. Ligneous influence to anodyne effect in coffee liqueur. Smooth and blended until everything has agreed to become red wine. Waves of flavour and makes evident that textural reconsideration can be your best friend.  89

Photo courtesy Kiowaman

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Tuscany defined, Sangiovese is Chianti to the core

The lowdown: Make no mistake. Castello di Fonterutoli is going full throttle, international styling here and it’s just so damn irresistible

The food match: Braised Beef Short Rib Croquette, sangiovese jus

Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 (288530, $24.95) may cause intellectual and physical moiety due to a bold, morning mug of mocha driven, piazza juice but I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating biscotti. Say what you will but the Lapo displays a striking, Italianate, strada strut. A wine expansive and adorned as if she were the duchessa of an embellished palazzo90

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Burgundy’s heartbreak grape found true love in the Willamette Valley but Umpqua Valley is something other

The lowdown: Not fully tested southern climate for Pinot in Oregon increases the subtlety and  intrigue factors

The food match: Smoked Duck Confit, bliny, fig jam

Brandborg Bench Lands Pinot Noir 2008 (295238, $28.95) is bred from a locale not known for its speed out of the gate but when she spooks, she can pass any horse in the ring. Base and natural like bare hands and feet grazing the pasture. Cinnamon heart candy red and spice meets herbal, licorice twizzler. Perfect libation for the bright lights, social hour. “A festival every week, if this is what you seek.”  90

The hunt for red October wine. Photo courtesy Kiowaman

The Splurge

The grape: Tempranillo

The history: The greatest expression of the grape has to be in Spain’s Ribera Del Duero, bar none

The lowdown: Alejandro Fernández may be the wine world’s greatest unsung hero. His “basic” Crianza wines can age beautifully for 10-15 years. The Reservas? Forget about it

The food match: Braised Beef Brisket, caramelized onion, tempranillo gravy

Tinto Pesquera Reserva 2008 (323345, $39.95) ramps up the garriga tierra quotient. Savoury and spicy, flanked by chalky, grainy tannin and a pulchritudinous, primordial tobacco aroma that tendrils around, as tobacco smell will. Sickle hocked, over at the knee, toes in. Inviolable Tempranillo.  92

Good to go!

Family Day, Snow Forts and Sangiovese

It appears frozen but the lake likewise tempts as a precarious proposition. Look out and note just one (who is that guy?) ice hut, a solitary walking man and (thankfully) no snowmobiles.  Chewing repeatedly on the cud of weary winter thoughts has become this coming vintage’s obsession. Yet for one glorious weekend a foot of snow falls, the temperature hovers around a degree of perfection and the sun cozily kisses rosy-cheeked faces.  The family fortifies the wood garrison with brandy spirits. Pardon me, that was the Port. The fort is buttressed with more fallen branches. Best of all, packing snow is available so we fashion a brick house. “Mighty mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out.”

CASTELLARE DI CASTELLINA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 (508507, $26.95) was released through VINTAGES back on June 12, 2010. A CC Riserva that resides in my wheelhouse and rings my bottiglia bell. This unassuming yet infamous winery first entered my Sangiovese psyche when I tasted the ’90 Riservas (including the wonderful SV Il Poggiale) with the proprietors’ daughter in their tasting room back in the summer of ’95. The price here is perfect; it’s over $30 US in Europe and very little is shipped to the States. Now fully resolved, suspended in mellow sanguis Jovis animation, plums floating in a cloud of vanilla hinted cream foam. The afternoon sun lighting up the face of an exhausted and content child laying down in the snow after a day of  igloo construction.  90

BODEGAS ALEJANDRO FERNANDEZ TINTO PESQUERA CRIANZA 2007 (341461, $27.95) sold through at VINTAGES beginning on November 13, 2010. Fernandez does Tempranillo in the Ribera del Duero like no one else. While Parker’s Pesquera moniker from 1985 “the Petrus of Spain” may have been hyperbole, the lively and silky quality of this campesino Crianza never disappoints. My vertical goes back to 2001 and I find myself pining for a Pesquera on every visit to the cellar. Baking spices are a common aroma denominator and like Ridge‘s noticeable Draper “perfume” there is always a distinct Pesquera “bouquet.”  The wine is now showing Crimson and Clover, “over and over.” It is beginning to change colour, like maples in October. Also sugaring, as after a few hours in the kettle in March.   91

PETRA ZINGARI TOSCANA IGT 2008 (224228, $13.95) from the VINTAGES August 6, 2011 release deals value in quarto from varietals Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot. An unusual blend from the Maremma coast for sure but throw me down in the snow if it isn’t unmistakably Tuscan. Iron, leather, pure snappy, fennel fruit and tannic tang are all there. Primary yes, but what more can you ask from $14? Held up 24 hours later for a second go round.  88



Good to go!