I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou

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No country for old #vinhao or as @sommelierfou would say, “Apocalypse Vinhão.”

I recently returned home following an arduous, wild and exciting five days in Verona and Valpolicella. That night I fell into a coma even before my head had sunk into my memory foam pillow. I slept without a care to the world. When I awoke early Saturday morning my phone looked at me as if to say, “I’m sorry, but I have some bad news.”

DavidPpelletier, 'Le Sommelier Fou' and friends in Vinho Verde

David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde

I first met David Pelletier six months ago at the airport in Oporto, Portugal on Tuesday, March 29th, 2016. Before that time he was to me simply Le Sommelier Fou, an online presence for the intelligent, thorough and exacting French Canadian musings of a wine writer with a sensitive voice. Two things struck me straight away about Mr. Pelletier. His sweet and caring eyes and his uncanny and impossible ability to travel back and forth between the French and English languages as if he had been born with two tongues.

David Pelletier and group aboard the Vinho Verde bus

David Pelletier and group aboard the Vinho Verde bus, photo (c) Christopher Wilton

Sadly, while travelling in California a few weeks ago, David Pelletier passed away. It was a terrible shock. His family and friends have lost the man who smiled with his eyes. They have lost a brother, son, confidant, mentor, teacher and companion. My friends and colleagues in Quebec share a collective hole in their hearts. I can’t begin to understand their pain. My time with David Pelletier can only be measured in commatic and cosmetic terms. It was not enough.

As the week in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region progressed, I got to know some things about David, about his life at the Trafalgar School, about his desire to devote his professional life entirely to wine. I sympathized with him having recently converted my personal commitment to the same dream. We stayed in contact after Portugal. On September 6th he sent me this message. “Hi Michael, could I get an email address from you? yours, ideally. It’s to illegally apply for a credit card. Kidding of course. But your email address would be cool. Thanks.” I never got that e-mail from him and will never know what it might have been about.

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The photobombing Le Sommelier Fou, photo (c) Christopher Wilton

With David’s passing I’ve decided that it is time to finally share some thoughts on that trip to Vinho Verde. With no disrespect intended towards the producers, winemakers, the administrative and marketing staff of the region, their wines and the places must share this stage with Mr. Pelletier. His memory will always be inextricably linked to my time spent there. I think my travel companions will agree. Evan Saviolidis, Michael Pinkus, Drew Innes, Christopher Wilton and Anton Potvin from Ontario. Marie-Michèle Grenier, Fred Fortin, Marie-Hélène Boisvert and Émilie Courtois of Quebec. To you all and to David I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde in memory of Le Sommelier Fou.

Vinho Verde: Green And Light

History shows that Vinho Verde was mentioned by Seneca and Pliny between 96-51 BC. The name comes from the green colour that carpets the landscape and to the youth of the wine, historically held by believers as said to be best consumed within the first year. As you will soon find out, thing have changed.

The Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes was created in 1926 and the demarcated Vinho Verde Region originally defined on September 18, 1908. Vinho Verde extends across the northwest of Portugal, in the area traditionally known as Entre-Douro-e-Minho. The Minho River is its northern frontier, forming part of the border with Spain. Its southern border is formed by the Douro River and the Freita, Arada and Montemuro mountains, to the east it’s bordered by the mountains of Peneda, Gerês, Cabreira and Marão, and the western border is the Atlantic Ocean. In Portugal its 21,000 hectares, 119,000 parcels, 19,000 grape growers, 600 bottlers and 2000 brands make up one tenth of total vineyards. In terms of geographical area, it is the largest Portuguese demarcated region and one of the largest in Europe.

There are four steps to certification; registration, labelling, yields and guarantee of quality. White Vinho Verde (84 per cent) is most often composed from a combination of these varieties; alvarinho, arinto, avesso, azal, loureiro and trajadura. More and more we find it flying solo as a varietal wine and increasingly from single-vineyards as well. Rosé (6 per cent) comes by way of espadeiro and padeiro and vinhão is the lone source for Red (10 per cent) Vinho Verde. The past 11 years have seen to growth for exports between two and four per cent and here in Canada we are the number four purchaser behind the US, Germany and France.

Meteorological and geographical connections begin with high rainfall (1200mm per year, concentrated between October and April) and a severe maritime influence, along with the thread running through that are Vinho Verde’s rivers. Subregions are demarcated by the rivers and thus the micro climates are created. Monção and Melgaço, Lima, Cávado, Ave, Basto, Sousa, Baião, Paiva and Amarante. Soils are mainly granite, of low depth, sandy or Franco-sandy, leaning towards moderate to high acidity, poorly phosphorous and of low fertility. Vinho Verde’s salinity and minerality is derived from the granitic soil.

Most consumers think of Vinho Verde as a slightly effervescent, simple white wine. Fizz is no longer created by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Now just a bit of Co2 is left behind to appease consumer demand. “We want to maintain Vinho Verde as it is known, as a light, low alcohol, aromatic wine.” So limiting the alcohol and designating the acidity (at 4.5 TA) is employed. “O Verde E Leve.” Green And Light.

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Into the landscape Monverde Wine Experience Hotel @quintadalixa #vinhoverde #oporto #amarante #portugal

An introduction to Vinho Verde

I have been fortunate to taste examples of Vinho Verde on a regular basis in Toronto so my idea of style and diversity has expanded generously over the past five years. For most Ontario consumers Vinho Verde means, cheap, effervescent, gulpable white wine that you find in droves on LCBO shelves at the Dufferin and Dupont Galleria Mall. Many folks think of Vinho Verde as a grape variety and that all of the wines are exactly the same. To alter consciousness, the quest begins with a great effort. The demarcation point of initiative in requiem of supposition to lay bare and recalibrate the region’s unjustly exposed and indefensible position. The journey to Vinho Verde diversity begins at the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel.

At the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel Tomás Gonçalves of the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes pours 18 examples, including 12 single-varietal whites, two Rosé, a sparkling, a Vinhão and only two Vinho Verde blends. Fifteeen producers and nine sub-regions are represented. The decision to introduce a five-day intensive program with a heavy focus on varietal Vinho Verde is a brilliant first strike. Then follows a portfolio tasting of Monverde host winery Quinta da Lixa’s wines. The family owned company (two brothers and a cousin) ripped out and re-planted their vines in 1999. The $10-12 (Canadian projected) wines fall into the category of stupid, crazy value. It is here that the introduction to Vinho Verde is clearly compassed in varietal trajadura, loureiro and especially alvarinho. Ten Canadian journalists and sommeliers are hooked, their collective attention secured and kept curious into the first warm days of April. Well played Vinho Verde. Some notes from the Monverde Experience.

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Architectural wonder of Monverde Wine Experience Hotel @vinhoverdeCA #visitvihnoverderegion

Casa de Vilacentinho Vinho Verde Grande Escolha 2014, Vinho Verde, Portugal

The lost art and singular reason for blending endemic is found here in three A’s and one L. Here with avesso, arinto, azal and loureiro all aboard the mineral train with variegated tannin and salinity in tow. Pear skin, a touch of botrytis in the guise of banana bring warmth and sumptuousness to the palate though in the end all is qualified by terrific acidity. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Casal De Ventozela Loureiro Vinho Verde 2014, Vinho Verde, Portugal (445098, $14.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro from Villa Verde, grippy and mineral as it should be, marked by citrus, herbs and the slightest spark of CO2. This must have been prime, perfect in fact, in the wheelhouse even…six months ago. Still refreshing and yet savoury, nearly, though one step away from complex for the grape and a sense of place, from point A to B. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016

Richer by nature of its glycerin texture, weightier and lifted by alcohol expression, a slight spritz and visions of petrol two to three years away. Mineral tang unlike the compatriots in side by five VV tasting flight. Green olive emerges with five minutes of air like brine from the Manzanilla jar and then acidity sets in. Loueiro all the way.  Tasted March 2016  @LeSommelierWine

Modestu’s Vinho Verde 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

From the sub region Região de Basto this 100 per cent arinto carries an aromatic mustiness matched and foiled by a lively palate, in what is ostensibly a seconded VV with serious mineral tang. Such great presence is catchy and gaining on you with an underlying savoury pinning. Reminds me of tea leaf chenin blanc, with intruding notes of anise and Chá. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Quinta da Levada Azal 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Azal steps up and claims worthy status from the word go with energy, open aromatics and a pressing matter of density. The tumult of mineral will speak but first brightness full of glade under dappled sun. Stone fruit flavours and their pith with mineral wrap around takes the palate to fully juiced and spirited territory. The most expression and balance is ascertained thus far, halfway through an 18 strong Vinho Verde tasting. The  length is exceptional. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

With the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes at the Monverde World Experience Hotel

With the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes at the Monverde World Experience Hotel

Quinta De Linhares Azal Vinho Verde 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (218222, $14.95, WineAlign)

Here boasts another terrific azal expression but with more litheness within the context of freshness. The level of spritz is charmingly old school and together with that lighter density not as full and therefore in any evolving hurry. Pricks early and dissipates to calm at the finish. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

Quinta do Rugueiro Alvarinho Monção and Melgaço Reserva 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Seductively saline and ever so venerable, nascent briny, fresh borne alighting Alvarinho, spritely, sharp and fresh. The hyperbole of inchoate viridity and sparkle should alarm in effervescence but the green and the vegetal make for real life twice what other similarly styled alvarinho are wont to express. A run on sentence of Vinho Verde if ever there was. A regional voice and a score for the alvarinho out of Monção and Melgaço conjunction. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Quinta da Lixa Escolha Trajadura Colheita 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Though trajadura is not the most usual of single-varietal bottlers, this exceptionally fruity example comes from the best harvest in the last 50 years. “A winemaker’s harvest,” observes oenologist Carlos Teixeira, sunny at pick, but low in nitrogen, with a natural fermentation in need of a bit of a boost with some selected yeasts. S’got that chenin blanc faux sugar thing going on, much mineral and a leesy nose. Lees work is maximized in a very short period as the wines are bottled before the new year. Pear, green apple and white plum, fruity florals, very clean and then even more into the mineral. Mono-varietal purity in the cleanest fashion of low malic acidity but magic in acidity nevertheless, like it just doesn’t need any reason to rage. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Quinta da Lixa Alvarinho Pouco Comum 2015, Minho, Portugal

The “uncommon” alvarinho is the winery’s celebration of Portugal’s most noble white variety. Has the platinum and inside pipe tang. Very mineral. Made from four different single-varietal wines and blended together. Selected yeasts are chosen to bring out the different characters of alvarinho; fruity, floral and mineral. This really, really reminds me of pinot grigio made in a slightly advanced, reaching for complexity out of simplicity way. Complicit Vinho Verde with nary a moment of residual spritz. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016  @QuintadaLixa

At the Tempus Hotel and Spa we tasted through the ViniVerde, Estreia portfolio. Promoção e Comércio de Vinhos Verdes, SA is a holding company whose shareholders are several companies in the Vinho Verde Region and was incorporated with the objective to produce, promote and market the wines and derived more popular from its shareholders and also their own brands. We tasted through Espumante de Vinho Verde Branco, Rosé, Ponte de Barca vinhão and varietal loureiro and alvarinho. The straightforward Branco was first and stole the show.

Estreia Vinho Verde Branco 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The name translates to “début,” from the outfit laying claim to launching first to market. There is certainly something to be said for extreme youthfulness, unbridled energy and quivering character. Such a millenial Vinho Verde with the shortest of attention spans and pure, unadulterated flavour. Simple, slight and with a mere hint of effervescence. Should work out to $9.95 in Ontario. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

In Ponte de Lima we dined at lunch with winemaker Rita da Silva Araújo, resident oenologist at the Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima. Founded in 1959 the cooperative produces the most traditional of Vinho Verde wines with a focus on loureiro because of its affinity with the Lima River Valley.

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Leite Creme at Petiscas Restaurante #pontelima through the lens of @MHeleneB #portugal

Adega Ponte de Lima Vinho Verde 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Made from 100 per cent loureiro and the first winery to go this varietal route. A wine that “maintains the image of our town and region,” notes Rita da Silva Araújo, resident oenologist at the Adega. Very citrus oriented, in mineral speak and blessed with briny-saline aridity. A good dose of CO2 spritz and dogged persistence mark the finish. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted April 2016  @MuniLima

Adega Ponte de Lima Loueiro 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

This 100 per cent loueiro may sit on a poor man’s throne of typically lithe alcohol (11 per cent) and restrained residual sugar but it carries a secondary depth of grape tannin, Lima soil tang and warm viscosity. From a selected harvest over two days of only the best grapes and subjected to four or five hours of skin contact. Time on the lees with batonnage brings the mouthfeel and the sweet caress. Here we climb to another level and through tertiary layers of pierce, salinity, aridity and finely tuned stone fruit. Very nice. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Colours of Quinta da Raza and Monte da Sr.ª da Graça #vinhoverde

Colours of Quinta da Raza and Monte da Sr.ª da Graça #vinhoverde

Transitions

The transition from the straightforward towards ascending the steps into the arena of the complex begins with a visit to Quinta de Raza, located in Peneireiros, Celorico de Basto, adjacent to the Douro Region. It is here the Teixeira Coelho family has been committed to wine production since the XVII century. Today the estate is run by José Diogo Teixeira Coelho. Soils of granite origins are mixed with areas of schist and clay, atypical and unusual in the Vinho Verde Region. The microclimate is created by the mountains in the west and the valley of the Tamega river which, unlike the other rivers of the region does not run from East to West, but from Northeast to Southwest, which together prevent the influence of the Atlantic winds. Less rain and greater temperature range equates to increased sun exposure, more than many vineyards in the Vinho Verde Region. Couple this with an average altitude of 250 meters and things begin to get interesting.
Quinta da Raza hosts and their exceptional value @vinhoverdewines

Quinta da Raza hosts and their exceptional value @vinhoverdewines

Dom Diogo Azal-Arinto-Trajadura 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The blend breaks down to 35/50/15 and like three layers of conditioned lemon, juicy, curdish and gelid, this is very vibrant from out of the auspices of a typical blend. The winery sells this at two euros ex-cellar price which is so ridiculous. This means the top end Canadian price would be $9.95. So fresh (azal) balanced in the clay of trajadura, not necessarily so long but really, who cares? Carries a granite toughness, this simply perfect warm weather blend, with a little bit of secured happiness provided by 7 g/L of residual sugar. Appellative excellence.  Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

Dom Diogo Azal 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The surprise varietal, venerated by a whopping price increase to three euros (which would translate to $12.95 CAN), firm and with more righteous bitters. Here the agar, the orange citrus and a wealthy (8 g/L RS) weight for white wine personality. More length and grip with character increasing via a stick of Vinho Verde dynamite. Just delicious.  Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Hello world. Meet the new #vinhoverde #quintadaraza #avesso #alvarinho

Hello world. Meet the new #vinhoverde #quintadaraza #avesso #alvarinho

Quinta da Raza Avesso-Alvarinho 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The blend’s split is 60/40 and the ex-cellar price up to five euros but this is the finest and most refined VV of the lot. The two A’s are combined and purposed with the best intent for aging, or at least the most potential. Quinta de Raza is the only vintner to tempt fortune and compete with such a complex symbiosis from the region. The new ideal is here in this inaugural release because Diogo has a soft spot for avesso. The augmentation is by 10 per cent new French barrel to induce and encourage avesso and allow for higher alcohol (13.5) and acidity. The great stirred contact bleeds to warmth and this is ostensibly top end alcohol for the region. You can sense the malolactic and the tannin. The balance will require 12-18 months to integrate, bringing the nose and the palate together, though not too much longer for fear of losing fruit. That said it’s (1.5 g/L) bone dry. Plus the avesso is culled off of young vines so vintages down the road should see more potential. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2016

Also northeast out of Porto and close by is Quinta das Arcas, a family company founded in 1985 by António Esteves Monteiro. The production is mainly obtained from 120 hectares spread across three estates located in the Valongo and Penafiel area. The Quinta das Arcas estate covers 55 hectares  of 20 year old-plus vineyards planted to loureiro, trajadura and arinto. The winemaking team lead by engineer Fernando Machado. Vinification is classically performed, with quick destemming, pressing and low temperature fermentation in stainless steel with an experiment or two in barrel. The company’s Vinho Verde is bottled under the labels Arca Nova and Conde Villar.

Arca Nova Vinho Verde Branco 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The blend is loureiro (50 per cent), arinto (40 per) and trajadura (10), in a classic, central to the estate’s oeuvre Vinho Verde. From a warm, dry year so more structure; this has the tannin, ripe fruit and tingle. The hue is somewhat developed, like grigio to gris and it is a real step up from the average and the norm. Both sugar and acidity (6 g/L) are paired with equal and opposing formality. The traditional yet modern full-on stone fruit flavours with a nick of citrus pit. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @quintadasarcas

Conde Villar Alvarinho and Trajadura 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Close to an even split with alvarinho edging out the trajadura and the fruit is all estate (others include some purchased grapes).  This separate line is intended to offer a different expression from the Quinta and you can feel the density, assess the effect of ripeness and sugar. The nose is so very preserved lemon, the extract terrific and here there is a weight feigning effected by lees in surround of that ripe fruit. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Quinta da Arcas Vinhão 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Only made in special years and so important to call out for how it abandons centuries of astringency. Spent six months in new French oak (and a small percentage of American) to establish a whole new concept for red Vinho Verde, round and in surround for vinhão. The astringency falls away and lets the fruit shine in spite of the wood. Reminds of petite sirah on the elegant side and with a sapidity stung back bite. Lots of cocoa, espresso, and dusty tannin. Solid, non-traditional vinhão. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016

affectus

The granite soils of Quinta de Curvos are located in a valley with influences from the Neiva River and the Atlantic Ocean within the demarcated region of Vinho Verde (Entre-Douro e-Minho).  The 27 hectares of vineyards are distributed among four properties located in Forjães, Ponte de Lima and Barcelos. The vineyards underwent a major process of restructuring and in 2014, the production of wine rose to a volume of 275,000 litres. Sustainability in the biodiversity of the vineyard’s ecosystem and the reduction of environmental impact are major priorities and so tractors and herbicides have been replaced by sheep.

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Quinta de Curvos Superior 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Most expected blend composed of loueiro, trajadura and arinto in the words of Miguel Fonseca “most traditional wine, very dry and very gastronomic.” The entry-level honesty, basic instruction and 101 effectualization is spot on. What more in needed in under $10? Carries all the hallmark points and notes of Escolha Vinho Verde. Bay laurel, citrus and an edge of stone, by granite and into fruit. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @quintadecurvos

curvos-alvarinho

Quinta de Curvos Alvarinho 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (471276, $17.95, WineAlign)

A regional varietal wine not permitted to be labled Vinho Verde so Vino Regional Minho it must be. This 100 per cent alvarinho is labled as such in Portugal and Afectus for the Ontario market, Latin for “emotions.” Quite consistently fashioned like the avesso and the loueiro varietal Vinho Verde, of low tones, fresh, sprite, fully lemon and all around good guy acidity. Not so much a matter of varietal distinction so much as an adherence to a stylistic thread. So by extension I suppose the Curvos wines are about terroir. Afectus for the rest of us. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

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Quinta de Curvos Avesso 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Just seems to breathe a calm, natural, simple, easy, clean and proper ideal with broad appeal. Lemon is all over this avesso, again like the varietal loureiro and alvarinho, this pushes the company line. With sea bream and dorado the pairing receives an emphatic two thumbs up. Another vital and pure Vinho Verde from Quinta de Curvos. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

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Not members of Blasted Mechanism. With @MagnusPim and Vasco Croft #AphrosWines #vinhoverde

The diurnal motion of Vinho Verde

A visit to Aphros with winemaker Vasco Croft levigates and recalibrates thoughts, perception and meaning. It is here that the cosmology of Vinho Verde does not so much begin to take shape but pops like a genie from the bottle. The name Aphros (Greek, “sea-foam”) is drawn from ichthyocentaurs (sea-god centaurs) of late poetical Greek mythology. The aquatic centaur has been endowed with the ability to swim with great speed, breathe and communicate underwater. Aphros was thought of as the first king of the sea-going Aphroi (Carthaginians).

“Quality of life is dependent on the quality of water,” insists Vasco Croft. To Croft it all begins with “water’s plasticity and its relationship with the cosmic influences on earthly forces.” Biodynamics. Water dynamization. Double infinity vortex design. Life forces. Amphora. “You must line the amphorae with beeswax and though it is not so economical it acts as a natural preservative and it has the memory of the hive.” A master amphora craftsman in Alentejo does the work. He is one of the last in Portugal to keep the tradition alive.

Vasco Croft’s are risky, primogenitor reviving, genus defining, impossible wines. His is the sole ardent and wavering organic and biodynamic approach in Vinho Verde with complete attention diverted towards spiritual demure and anodyne morphology. I speak for the group when I say that the extramundane was breached at the Aphros tasting. Upon further retrospective consideration it was not so much a matter of wine tasting as it was a disquitionary quest to apprehend the meaning of Vinho Verde’s platonic and sacrosanct future. Croft’s wines are self-professed radical artisanal and produced impractically with no electricity. He investigates the powers of loureiro and vinhão, skin contact, concrete eggs and Pet-Nat. My understanding is gleaned through Vasco’s work and by a momentary hypnotization from a dynamic machine.

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Today’s cosmogonal #vinhoverde line-up #AphrosWines with Vasco Croft @LeSommelierWine

Aphros Phanus Pet-Nat 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loueiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016    @LeSommelierWine

Aphros Loureiro 2014, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $20.95, WineAlign)

Immediately emits or rather feigns a sense of barrel though it’s fully completely an Inox stainless steel wine. From what Vasco Croft describes as a “classic” early harvest, this delimited, restrained and flirty fresh loureiro sits at a lithe 10 per cent alcohol with some minor residual sugar to balance out the brisk acidity. Texture and sumptuousness is prescribed by four months lees with stirring. The freshness is lit by candle wax and a delicious little smoulder. The bees lees. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Aphros Loureiro Daphne 2011, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

With fruit from southern exposures off of granitic and sandy soils this is 100 per cent loureiro that saw 12 hours of skin maceration and 30 per cent fermentation in barriques (1/2 new) for six months. A wine now coming into a Frick-esque zone, waxy, whiffing bay laurel and frankly would be so hard to pick out in a blind tasting. The mind might veer to barrel-aged semillon or older riesling. Though a bit oleaginous the wine is balanced by a smoulder and a sharp, petrol-invoking, mineral tang. It is here that the wisdom of loureiro is coronated for having settled in the Lima Valley. Imagine the past and future blossoms, hives and honey. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

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#amphora #loureiro Phaunus 2015. Nothing I have tasted before could have prepped me to expect this heteróclito #quixotic

Aphros Phaunus Loureiro 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Nothing I have tasted before could have prepped me to expect this heteróclito, a quixotic and deferential loureiro that re-writes the varietal script. Spent two and a half months of skin maceration time in beeswax-lined amphora and in the end we are graced with something completely other. Lemon meets mineral funky pottery, clunch depression and then slow-roasted vegetal gastronomy. A tagine or maraq scented by cumin, coriander and a slow-roasted carrot without any caramelization. Leaves a salve in the mouth and doesn’t go away. Clarifed, loureiro broth. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

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#amphora #2 Phaunus Palhete 2015, 80/20 #loureiro / #vinhao, again no reference point #chimerical #monkwine

Aphros Phaunus Palhete 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

No, this beeswax-lined, amphora-raised 80 per cent white (loueiro) and 20 per cent red (vinhão) is not a theatrical performance by a Portuguese electro-rock band with alien-themed costumes. This blasted mechanism is a chimerical ode to the wines and their medieval proportions used by Port monks. It’s a battle of tribes with no reference point that will blast your mind. Its rosé, day-glo pink hue of earthy demure and it is hard to figure which funk reigns, tart fruit or adobe-argil-earth. Moreover it is the herbal, balmy, savoury, sapid variegation that garners the most attention. “Simple things, giant wonders, emotions, I blast your mind today.” Great length. I can’t say anything previous to right now has prepared me for tasting this but my mind and my palate are micronized wide open. “Break free from your own anxiety. Break free from your own desire.” Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016  @blastedmind

Aphros Sparkling Loureiro Reserve 2012, Sub Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

Also known as the Loureiro Reserva Bruto, a traditional method, 18 months on lees sparkler with its own set of antithetical parameters and rules. So different from the pet-nat, here surprisingly more artisanal, the most risk-taking of the Aphros sparklers, in deep concentration, at once delicate and then submerging into preserved citrus. Like salient, jagged stones projecting from a karst cave. The lees time is mid-range but the Lima loving loureiro and the Aphros gamble combine for extreme length. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016

Aphros Pan 2012, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

The simplest of the Aphros sparkling wines which is anything but simple in the pansophy of the “other red” ideal. From 100 per cent vinhão free run juice and a short period of second fermentation, this is traditional method (nine months) reach for the stars as only the cosmic-minded Vasco Croft can do. Another baby maker here though it’s deferential and antithetical to the ancestrale, pet-nat approach. Not so much strawberry as cherry, with herbiage, litheness (no maceration). “A young fawn of the forest.” Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted March 2016

Aphros Silenus 2010, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Vinhão in part stainless steel and part barriques, for aging and to calm it down. The relationship allows it to settle upon itself and at five and a half years on it has barely budged, still entangled in a web of acidity and tannin. Not that I, my travel companions or most mere mortals have any great history or experience with vinhão but the intensity is expertly corralled and such length is clearly a trademark of the house. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016

Aphros Vinhão 2014, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Vinhão is simply and astringently a teinturière (dyer) variety which happens to be the most planted red grape in Vinho Verde and to a western palate, unpalatable. It is known as Sousão in the Douro, where it is employed in Port assemblage. The raising of this still table red is done in granite tanks and with foot treading. In the hands of Vasco Croft it emits pretty aromatics in contrast to the demands of such an inky wine, from violets but then handed over to that natural cure of porcine élevage. The one and only vinhão of immediate wisdom and confident conditioning, the kind that will linger for 10 years without changing. Still there is this firm acidity and tannin, but restrained. Sharp citrus and as with all of the Aphros line, great length. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2016

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Enlightened red Sparkling from #AphrosWines 2006 #vinhao @LeSommelierWine @VinhoVerdeCA #yakkos #vinhoverde

Aphros Yakkos Grande Reserva 2006, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

A Sparkling vinhão, Vinho Espumante Tinto, aged 48 months on the lees and again, with no real reference point to launch from so it’s like starting over. Where fun and intentional meet, as do tart and bitter. A sparkler that dries out with beauty because of impressive tannins backing up blackberry fruit. How can this not be lauded for sheer and utter imagination, speciality and ultimately, success. It does not get much more interesting than this. With the aridity dial set to 3 g/L RS this would sidle up to and celebrate blueberry pancakes, duck confit and crème fraîche. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted March 2016

with-anselmo-mendes

With Anselmo Mendes

The multiplicity of Vinho Verde

At the most northern tip of Vinho Verde lies Monção and Melgaço in the Minho Valley and this is where Anselmo Mendes grows and produces his alvarinho. With variances created by way of barrel aging, skin and lees contacts, Mendes imagines, creates and realizes a muliplicity of Vinho Verde that both alters and raises the bar for the entire region’s white wines.

Mendes is the former winemaker at Quinta Melgaço and began producing his own alvarinho in 1998 but his perspicacity, the elaboration of his vineyards and the pansophy of these young wines would make you think their history went back much further. The affinity shared by his alvarinho with Spanish albariño is one of proximity only, separated by the Minho River but consummated of an entirely different truth. Under the umbrella of his 70 farmed acres Mendes also produces loureiro in the Lima Valley and avesso in the Douro Valley. His passion is directed to alvarinho. Anselmo is a winemaker with a favourite child. The blends and entry-level varietal wines are labeled under the brand Muros Antigos. The skin contact, extended lees and barrel aged alvarinho each carry a moniker of their own within the Anselmo Mendes line. Constantino Ramos is Assistant Winemaker while Vasco Magalhães is in charge of sales.

“Our philosophy is the natural expression of the land, with principal characteristic that is mineral, not to make up something new, but we want to experience technology, important to know but just to see what we cannot do. The rest is business. We need to re-educate people, not that they’re wrong, but to know that there is another style for Vinho Verde. The next project is more experience.”

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Formal originality of #anselmomendes @terroirimports @winesportugalCA #alvarinho #vinhoverde #melgaco

Muros Antigos Escolha 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (112275, $11.45, WineAlign)

The blend is loureiro (40 per cent), avesso (40) and alvarinho (20), the spokeswines for the ““raditional” range, all from vineyards near the Lima River, but 150 kg’s apart. “Literally a blend of the region,” notes Mendes, four months on lees with batonnage, of aromatic freshness and exuberance with feelings and sapidity from the Atlantic Ocean. Unique marine minerality, mixed with accents of continental climate. Avesso metal and alvarinho body. Terrific entry-level, top quality, cleaner and more direct than almost any and all others. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016  @AnselmoVinhos  @VascoMaga  @terroirtoronto

Muros Antigos Loureiro 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (166710, $9.90, WineAlign)

According to Anselmo Mendes the best loureiro terroir is along the Lima River and it is his varietal ’15 where the warmth and the alcohol are more apparent (as compared to the more northerly alvarinho). Spent the traditional Mendes entry-level four months on the lees with batonnage. The mineral emits less so, the floral and petrol more so. The stone works in close relationship with the palate, of a tang specific to near-northerly vineyards, the back side more into the chalky tannin. Not so much lengthy as much as intense, of an imploding persistence. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Loureiro 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (166710, $9.90, WineAlign)

From a vintage that saw very little sun throughout the growing season. Cool temperatures and unrequited elongation coupled with some unexpected age means an entrance into new territory for loureiro, in verbalization of a new tang vernacular, a way for Loureiro to speak in a way you could not know it could. The notes are citrus essential oil and extract, with a hint of saffron and a splash of Amaro. Very cool but no honey and a bit lactic. The 2012 wines are evolving and developing all over the map. Experience gathered from tasting and trying to figure them out will go a long way for the winemakers and the taster towards assessing the current ’15’s. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Avesso 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $21.50, WineAlign)

From the vintage in which phenolics had difficulty keeping up with developed alcohol. Adjustments were made to every wine but the range of expression and subsequent expectation is neither consistent nor predictable. The mineral is patina-laced, verdigris, gemstone emerald and there is a whiff of snappy green apple. This reminds me of chardonnay grown on Niagara’s Vinemount Ridge. It’s striking avesso, like popping, cool-climate chardonnay, green and nutty. So much potential. As always, it was treated to four months on the lees with batonnage. As only the second vintage it really is not to be believed. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (SAQ 11612555, $21.70, WineAlign)

From granite soils on mountain vineyards quite similar to those on the Melgaço estate. The varietal alravinho was introduced to four months lees and batonnage. In here the most fruit emerges as compared with the entry-level (Douro) avesso and (Ponte Lima) loureiro, along with the most body. There bounds and rebounds an elasticity on the palate where the tannin and mineral emerge. Such preserve is built upon a foundation of citrus and density, exuberant and elevated by the heat of the vintage. Stands erect on guard and in protection of itself with direct, purposed length. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2022

Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (SAQ 11612555, $21.70, WineAlign)

The vintage was a difficult one for all Vinho Verde varietal wines and so blending was not just prominent but essential. Unless you were Alselmo Mendes. This one from mountain granite soils in kinship with the Melgaço estate. Four months of lees contact, batonnage and four years onwards into notes of a beneficial bitter pill dissolving in petrol waters, this has really entered nirvana for what surely was an anticipated secondary expression. Citrus is also bitter (orange and lemon) and their combined twangs of tang like crazy. Four years to pay dirt guaranteed in the Mendes varietal play though the vintage decreases the chance of longer term aging. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

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Redraft the #alvarinho manifesto #anselmomendes @terroirimports #2001 #murosantigos #vinhoverde

Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2001, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (SAQ 11612555, $21.70, WineAlign)

Still sharply aromatic and spiked, with gelid marmalade and onion skin, its honeyed hue not nearly as advanced as expectation would demand. A fromage like chenin blanc note in there from a washed rind, with apricot and peach blossom. This alvarinho from a dry ferment, but there is nothing to really, truly compare it too. Acidity still trenchant. the bitters remain but on its exit in dissipation. Ultimately just wow, amazing, who knew. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Contacto 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (393058, $19.95, WineAlign)

As the name suggests here varietal alvarinho spends its most early formative moments in 12 hours skin contact submerge. Initially there is some reservation on the nose and that skin contact feigns the antithetic idea of mineral up front in aromatic gregariousness. It’s as if all that welled up grape tannin is over-anxious and straining to be noticed. The omni-executed four months lees plus batonnage both adds up front and then subtracts so that the palate will settle you in with creamy, just shy of caramelizing and nutty notes. This is done with remarkable restraint. Comes from the sandy soil banks of the Minho River. Requires an earlier or equal consumption zone to its lesser kissing cousin. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Contacto 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (393058, $19.95, WineAlign)

Exhibits a very similar profile to the ’15, that perception of high-octane alvarinho of prescient mineral through ripe phenolics, electric and eclectic grape tannin. The citrus is more pronounced at this stage, as is the weight. Finishes with more bitters than the ’15, clearly conditioned and thinking on it now it is understood as to why 12 hours is plenty of skin contact time for the thick-skinned, small berries. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016.

Muros de Melgaço Alvarinho 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Alvarinho as you’ve never encountered before, habituated for six months in used French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. The first vintage of this unorthodox and recherché alvarinho was 1998. The prophetic Anselmo Mendes is well into a third decade with this amazing alvarinho of Boxler-esque Alsace conceptualization, with density and malo laminate in mouthful with no paste, no chalk, no scotch guard but acidity brilliantly written in blanc stone. Agility and ageability is clearly on time’s side, from here for eight to 10 years for sure. This is the bomb. Yes the wood is a bit up front but will the fruit survive? Yes. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2016

Muros de Melgaço Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Four years has ushered in some unexpected advanced evolution and a Vouvray-like fromage. Though the eight to 10 years afforded the 2014 may be ambitious, the 2012 vintage was anything but helpful and confidence is what you glean from wines like these. Incredible depth of a granite soil’s mineral tang especially as the palate absorbs the nutrients, the old French wood and the subsequent piquancy. The wine seems to prickle at this stage. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

Anselmo Mendes Expressões Alvarinho Branco 2014, Vinho Verde Doc, Portugal (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Treated with the same respect and élevage as the Muros de Melgaço, for six months in used French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. Here not announcing its varietal because the secret is in Melgaço, not in alvarinho, though it is the most experienced expression of the grape in the region. An amalgamated incline. The oak is of very light toast and here not as apparent as it is in the Melgaço. More clarity and purity, cooler, though the coppery hue might suggest otherwise. This is a dart, sharp and pointed…and then, calm. Such precise treatment from alvarinho expressing the terroir. A slight tinge of tonic in compressed into the citrus finish. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted March 2016

Anselmo Mendes Curtimenta Alvarinho 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

L’élevage is heightened to nine months in used French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. The name translates to “bronzage,” or literally, “to extract” on the skins for 12 hours and “to party” with mineral jam. More fruit works with the extra oak plus one year in bottle before release.  Now we have left the building and entered into a futuristic alvarinho from which the length is outstanding. Causes a Fortin shiver, lingers and caresses. Like a Fitzgerald novel it seems richer, more complete and more justifiable when viewed against the biographical backdrop of Anselmo Mendes and Vinho Verde. “Between a life that we expected and the way it’s always been,” tender is the night. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2016

Anselmo Mendes Curtimenta Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

From the challenging vintage here the artist known as “the bronzage” is an example of a wine made by a winemaker unfased by such inconsequential roadblocks. Anselmo Mendes the earliest of Vinho Verde visionaries, treading archaically and swimming in futuristic waters. Making an alvarinho connection through the usage of French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. This 2012 tactile and layered. Does what no other alvarinho has or currently does and will age with slow movement more than the others. If only today though I wager it’s not, his 2012 settles with the most balance of the portfolio. IMO. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016

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Estate Vineyard at Anselmo Mendes

Anselmo Mendes Parcela Única Alvarinho 2013, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

The treatment here is similar to the Curtimenta, nine months, though in new (400L) French barriques on lees with batonnage. Just above the tasting room is a premium Monção and Melgaço block on the Mendes estate, a single-parcel, in the monk’s area, “a vineyard that always gives an exceptional and elegant alvarinho.” As sheath to this singular, pellucid and top-drawer fruit the new oak is very obvious though necessary for what this wants to be. And so it puts in a patient request for time with the promise of penitence, charity and deliverance. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March 2016

Anselmo Mendes Parcela Única Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

One year makes all the difference. The new wood (400L, nine months) has melted, tempered and now oozes in flavour. The texture is butyraceous, bled, like a creamy foam that begins to lose its air. This is the hedonism that rises above the rest. It is the most internationally-styled, Burgundy to Napa simulacrum. Flirty alvarinho from Monção and Melgaço. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2016

oporto-verde

Oporto Verde

Über beauty, From Porto to the River Minho

The Vinho Verde focus was certainly geared towards the wines but the powers that be who plan the journalist-sommelier junkets know full well that the allure of landscape, architecture, culture, history and gastronomy is such an integral part of the experience. The Monverde Experience Hotel set the stage and though it seemed like nothing that followed would have any chance to thrill and excite, the hits just kept on coming.

canadians-in-melgaco

Canadians in Melgaço

On the last day of March we drove north to Melgaço in the Viana do Castelo District. From the fortress contracted by the then first king of Portugal D. Alfonso Henriques we took in the view a stone’s throw across the River Minho looking out towards Galicia in Spain. Late in the afternoon we crossed the River Lima into Viana do Castelo and arrived at the Pousada Hotel. As if in a dream, or a movie, we marvelled at the views.

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Viana do Castello

Set on the hill of Sta. Luzia the Pousada was built in 1918 by a wealthy Brazilian as a gift to the city. Down the slope lies the shrine of Sta. Luzia, built in an unusual Neo-Byzantine style and then further down the slope is the city centre of Viano do Castelo and the estuary of the River Lima.

%22are-you-m-gustave-of-the-grandbudapesthotel-in-nebelsbad%22-pestanahotels-pousadas-pousadavianadocastelo-portoenorte-uhhuh

“Are you M. Gustave of the #grandbudapesthotel in Nebelsbad?” @PestanaHotels @Pousadas #pousadavianadocastelo #portoenorte #uhhuh

The night belonged to the waterfront and the Tasquinha Linda.

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Tasquinha da Linda

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Fish nirvana #tasquinhadalinda #vianadocastelo

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Octopus at Tasquinha da Linda #vianadocastelo

In the morning, a walk through the city centre of Viana do Castelo.

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Right on time #vianadocastelo

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You think they ever called him Godello? #vianadocastelo

Further inland along the River Lima we stopped for lunch in Ponte Lima with Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima.

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Ponte Lima fish stew #caldeiradadepeixe #petiscasrestaurante #portugal

And then, Oport0.

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Heart attack and wine #francesinha #oporto #capanegra

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when in #oporto and in need of a good book of spells #livrarialello

Até logo from Oporto.

Foux du fafa, foux du fafa, fafa…see ya David.

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Eleven on five in sixteen

Barque Butcher Bar Fried Chicken, 'Bama Baby Back Ribs and 12-Hour Beef Brisket

Barque Butcher Bar Fried Chicken, ‘Bama Baby Back Ribs and 12-Hour Beef Brisket

The VINTAGES release program certainly lends structure and a targeted faculty of morphology to the selling and buying of courtly wine in Ontario. It’s a part of the LCBO juggernaut that deserves to be celebrated, particularly when it offers glimpses of hope and excitement. Optimism does exist and persist within the confines of an otherwise habitually oppressive system. A system that tends to function with coordinate construction, of paratactic verse that heavily promotes wines of narrative brunt.

On the other hand, VINTAGES is a mimetic project, which is a few projects too many. We wine trackers and writers are akin to Cricetinae, perpetually running in a wheel or like Sisyphus, forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. We read the bi-weekly catalogue, pre-taste the newest offerings, make our lists and check them twice. In every batch there are 10-15 wines that stand out, as much about bell curve positioning as absence of singularity.

We don’t want to waste time drinking shite. There can be no good reason to swill sugar, contrived acidity or fast drink laboratory concoctions. Bring us wine of humility and humanity. Pour us truth and honesty. Separate the wheat from the chaff and don’t waste our time or insult our character. Give us wine from people, with roots and a sense of place. VINTAGES abides with a class of red shirt freshmen each and every release. That much I can concede.

Related – California stars in VINTAGES March 5th

From what I have tasted in advance of the VINTAGES March 5th release, what has excited me most is perhaps more a reaction to the unseasonably warm weather or maybe it’s just that I am presently satiated by tannic and acidity-molifiying white wines during winter. Last week I reported on the California stars as a follow-up to my recent Napa/Sonoma trip and in advance of April’s California wine fair. Brunello di Montalcino is in the spotlight what with Benvenuto Brunello coming next week. The Sangiovese Grosso line-up for March 5th is solid if underwhelming. My consensus pick of one is potentially polarizing. It will seem tired to some palates and precociously wise and cultured to others. The difference of critical opinion keeps the VINTAGES wheel turning and I am of sound mind to believe that’s a good thing.

Wine Country Ontario comes to the Royal Ontario Museum today for Taste Ontario in Toronto, the annual gathering of winemakers from The Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore. On Saturday four peninsula whites will be released, three of which are typicity poster children for VQA good sportsmanship awards. Felicitous and regionally befitting Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer that succeed as they should even while they bypass the idea that creative voices should be heard. Are we witnessing the dearth crumbling of stylistic freedom or is change coming, necessary and inevitable? The fourth white on offer is a shining example of the Ontario appellative blend, a category ever elusive, uncapitalized upon and necessary to the industry’s future success.

Superior South Africa, Vinho Verde Portugal not allowed to be labeled as such and Spanish Garnacha, white and red, grace this list. I also recommend an Ann Sperling Okanagan from the B.C. homestead and one freaking, awesome Sancerre. Here are 11 picks on March 5th in the year 2016. Enjoy.

March 5 #2

Excelsior Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Wo Robertson, South Africa (382085, $13.95, WineAlign)

Warm climate conditions, a thunderstorm-inflicted harvest and prudent, hasty picking are what winemaker Johan Stemmet had to contend with in 2014. Kudos as a little something for the effort. Quiet and subdued aromatics are levied and bolstered by extreme fruit sensations exhibited on the palate. Crunchy green apple and green mango spritzed by lime forge a tight, angular and nearly tense relationship with linear and direct acidity. Sauvignon Blanc of meaning, unencumbered by the tenets of global style. A certain kind to be sure. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted February 2016  @Excelsior_Wines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Casa Do Arrabalde Avesso/Alvarinho/Arinto 2014, Vinho Regional Minho, Portugal (429324, $14.95, WineAlign)

Here $15 of pure Minho beauty, ripe and rich, regionally representative, if generalized in name because Alvarinho alights in the varietal mix. Smells and tastes just like a tart Mutsu apple picked post fully completed phenolics. The minor spritz on the tongue screams Vinho Verde, as does the stony eligibility. Well-chilled, warm day, grilled fish. Yes, please. Drink 2016-20218.  Tasted February 2016

Flat Rock Riesling 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (43281, $16.95, WineAlign)

Talk about bottled up compression. Twist the screwcap and thwop! The cap nearly popped like a Champagne cork. This baby has energy and drive. The vintage is compressed and pile-driven as nosed by the density opposed by reticulated 9.5 per cent alcohol. This has Mosel tattooed on its being, from neck to bottom. A dead ringer for fine Kabinett, the tropical fruit in apricot and dragon reaching back to join Ontario, in apple and pear. A good flinty stone and raging acidity combine forces to exaggerate a Riesling reticulum in what is not the missive’s greatest ever vintage. Will live five to seven easy and just go for soda. Go ahead and quaff the hell out of this one, from 2015-2020, from bottles one through twelve.  Tasted March 2015 and February 2016  @Winemakersboots  @brightlighter1  @UnfilteredEd

Henry Of Pelham Family Tree White 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (251116, $17.95, WineAlign)

Very accessible and balanced white rabbet with tree fruit aromas and flavours, from yellow plum to white peach and back again. Straight up juicy circulation with a limestone tang amidst the weight of clay. Good value from the Peninsula to drink in the short term. An appellative blend to feed the category concept and perfect for sipping high in the skies. Pour this on your airplanes Air Canada. “Feed your head, feed your head.” Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted February 2016  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Fielding Gewürztraminer 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (146753, $18.95, WineAlign)

Residing on the correct side of off-dry with a waxy, lemon-honey drop secession from smell to taste. Brings proverbial lychee and rosewater into play, stirring the lees and pressing upon the palate in a faint, yeasty way. Ostensibly Fielding in conception to work with Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai. Food that is. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted February 2016  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

Kew Vineyard Old Vines Chardonnay 2012, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (438374, $18.95, WineAlign)

Time has befriended Philip Dowell’s organic and creamery fresh-churned Chardonnay. The Kew is Bench defined and not shy in embrace of its wood. Abiding Chardonnay denuded in a healthy symbiotic relationship with ripe and recessive fruit. More mineral than before from Beamsville soil lands this somewhere along the pantheistic line featuring such stalwarts as Fielding and Hidden Bench. Will follow a casual down-to-earth grounding over the next five years. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted February 2016  @kewvineyards

Jaspi Blanc 2014, Do Terra Alta, Spain (439570, $23.95, WineAlign)

Such a culturally gregarious, aromatically generous and varietally gracious white blend from Terra Alta should be received with the most open of arms. This rare sighting in Ontario is mostly Garnatxa Blanca, with a minor (kept alive) amount of Macabeo, a grape of sweet realization and rainbow veraison. This is a classic indication of the subtlety that is derived from the soft, cuddly and rock-free panal soils in Terra Alta. A terraced white wine, cascading like lemon and bubbles, as if it were an ethereal, tart, savoury sabayon. Will be a pleasure to drink for the the next two to three years. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted February 2016  @cocaifito  @doterraalta

Jardín De Lúculo 2012, Do Navarra, Spain (438655, $23.95, WineAlign)

Lovely, tidy Navarra with perfectly ripe cherries and an underlay of tension to give it real vitality. Oak (if any) bothers with nary an intrusive beat. Though there is a dried herb and drying savoury-minty ending it lingers, long after the paint has dried. Really necessary Navarra, a region portrayed in such a wine on the qui vive for exotic adventure. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2016  @louisgeirnaerdt  @vinosnavarra  @navarrawines  @navarrawine  @hobbsandco  @AMH_hobbsandco

Sperling Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (382283, $27.95, WineAlign)

Here a vintage cementing a Sperling Pinot Noir into altruistic west coast territory occupied by the ripe and famous. Were I able to recall so much warmth, elevated tones and ripping aromatics while the wheels are spinning, still the memories remain in neutral. The gravelly grit and fine lined elucidation is in, but here things turn tropical, with far eastern spice and melted, oozing liquorice. Flavour coaxing is at an all time high but the question begs. Can you handle this hyperbole of efficiently convenient Okanagan truth? Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted February 2016  @SperlingVyds  @AnnSperling  @CRUOntario  @StratusWines

Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2014, Ac Loire, France (65573, $27.95, WineAlign)

Were all Sancerre this floral we might be forced to re-learn the typicity and the vernacular. Les Caillottes stands alone, if only for a few whiffs, before retreating back to the Sauvignon Blanc norm of mineral and white berry. Here Sancerre seems to take chances, steps out of the box and ventures into wild sage and thyme territory. Ends with lemon and lime, echoing the florally of tiny flowers on the tips of that thyme. I can imagine honey flowing in five years time, still gaining on the oxidative effects of time. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted February 2016  @oenophilia1  @LoireValleyWine

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Tuscany, Italy (1065, $72.95, WineAlign)

More than a classic vintage for this seminal bottle of Sangiovese. The liqueur is so comfortably and rigorously distilled, the floral aspects fresh in their potpourri disguise. The aromatics, like eclipses, arrive early, but tend to exact themselves profoundly. Balance is everything with wine and transparently so for Brunello because if the tannins are overdone than pleasure can’t ever be truly discerned. Here they are like rhythmic, venting spasms at the end of a sentence. This offers early accessibility in spite of its ferocity. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2016  @TrialtoON  @ConsBrunello

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Catch 22 wines

Godello's garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Godello’s garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Twenty two wines I tasted from the August 22nd release. Some are really good. So what’s the catch? Some not so much. As always, take a grain of salt and judge for yourself. Godello is not traditionally a site to explore the good, the bad and the ugly. The good news is that the worst of these 22 are actually quite well-made. The bad news is that each will only satisfy a certain kind of palate and a specific sort of temperament.

Something for everyone. LCBO 101. I hope you find something you like.

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

Koncho & Co. Tsinandali 2012, Kakheti, Georgia (412981, $12.95, WineAlign)

Boxy, foxy, contained, constrained, aromatics waiting to burst, in big timbre and quite spicy. A bit reductive and very juicy. Boisterous, wild-eyed expression. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @GeorgianWineSoc

Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Wo Coastal Region, South Africa (126847, $13.95, WineAlign)

Good texture and mouthfeel in this Chenin, dry but unctuous, direct and filling. Works coastal wonders in many ways. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @WOSACanada

Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (341586, $14.95, WineAlign)

Though Riesling dominant this is a shared experience, with cool climate Chardonnay and richly aromatic Gewurztraminer lifting spirits and exhaling breaths. The Sauvignon Blanc seems to add ripeness and juicy palate flow. A mouthful of ripe fruit to be certain and amenable beyond its pragmatic ways. One of the better value white blends and one to look at for Niagara Peninsula propensity within the context of designing an appellative blend. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Yakima Valley, Washington (420737, $14.95, WineAlign)

Simple, straightforward, slightly spritzy Riesling with a full-blown lemon lime palate and a finishing set of bitter piths. Good length gives it life. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Igp Vins De Pays Du Val De Loire, France (672345, $15.95, WineAlign)

A lithe and petite Sauvignon Blanc, balmy, touched by spice accents and a whisper of lemon/lime. Tart but not really striking or biting. Soft Sauvignon Blanc, quick and effortless. Drink 2015-2016. Tasted August 2015  @ChartonHobbs

Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Ac Côtes Du Rhone, France (719062, $15.95, WineAlign)

Pretty Rosé, arid enough though really juicy and presentable to a wide army of followers. Some tonic and even more brine. A late feeling of pickles and preserves. Better than many. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @Beaucastel  @ChartonHobbs  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE

Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (551168, $16.95, WineAlign)

Spicy vintage for the Escarpment, concentrated in many ways, for juicy fruit, capsicum and savoury herbs. A touch effervescent which does not detract, but rather adds a buoyant lifeline because the tart acidity is really something else. Fun with Sauvignon Blanc from up on the shelf. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted August 2015  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy

The Crusher Viognier 2013, Wilson Vineyard, Clarksburg, California (361964, $16.95, WineAlign)

Reductive Viognier, nice and fresh for a change, cool Clarksburg fruit thankfully kept shy and in absence of high alcohol, overly heated sunshine gluck. A bit of a mouth breather, tropical in a longan way and of enough though not striking acidity. Finishes overly bitter, in lime pith and a kind of nettle. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @SebastianiWines  @Select_Wines

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014, Doc Lombardy, Italy (200097, $17.95, WineAlign)

Tanky and metallic, coastal and postal for Trebbiano di Lugana. Quite herbal, reminiscent of Sancerre, with spice, nettle and linear length. Layered and structured white with a seriousness in its expression. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015

Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011, Alentejo, Portugal (423574, $17.95, WineAlign)

A regional blend of Antao Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro. Very cimmerian, rich and dense Alentejano, wildly berry delicious and yet fierce. Lots of oak, lots of optimism and plenty of swagger. Very spicy and toasty finish. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015  @winesportugalCA

Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Do Rías Baixas, Spain (350041, $18.95, WineAlign)

Concrete and tank Albarino, steely and mineral, cool and bristling. Turns to stone fruit on the palate, gets down to juicy and then ricochets off the walls, drawing salinity and pulverized limestone into the very linear finish. Such a calcareous, wound white wine, on a spindle, in a vacuous void of aggregate and steel. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @pacolola  @azureau

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Ap Languedoc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (373985, $18.95, WineAlign)

Dry, floral, medicinal, quite tight and angled, not angular Rosé. The sea salinity and briny strawberry confluence is quite striking. Doesn’t really linger so in the end it’s a bit of a simple quaffing Rosé but what of it? That’s right. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015  @GBvins  @LanguedocWines  @FwmWine

Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Loire, France (971887, $19.95, WineAlign)

A neat feat to stretch Sauvignon Blanc like this, in phyllo layers and like bitter greens braised to sweet tenderness. Savoury though the herbs are not the most recognizably cultivated, used or considered. Like winter savoury, or Spruce tip, edible seaweed even. All tossed lightly, gingerly in a citrus vinaigrette. Playful SB, at times tight and bracing and then generous, giving, forthcoming. Previous vintages have had more shine. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @HalpernWine  @LoireValleyWine

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (588731, $19.95, WineAlign)

Heavy handed, much wood and chalky, full on bloody Malbec. Has Oz strength and gumption. Good lengthy finish. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of August 2014:

This Golden Reserve Malbec by Trivento is a juicy, dusty, fruit tree addition to the #WWAC14 flight and arrives just in the nick of time. Despite the dark fruit, it has no Drake spoken word conceit. It sings in classic Drake lullaby, with beefy meet pine forest aromas and so “you find that darkness can give the brightest light.” Tender refrains soften chalky, stalky wood and corresponding bitter chocolate. Big tannins on this balladeer. Has impressive stuffing.  @TriventoArg  @Select_Wines  @winesofarg

Last tasted August 2015

Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (321612, $20.95, WineAlign)

Into another cool climate Pinot Blanc poster from Gray Monk, the standard bearer for the variety, in this price and stylistic niche, for anyone who cares or dares to join the bandwagon. Juicy stone fruit of a peach, yellow plum and nectarine fold, circular bites of acidity and mineral bleed and just a touch of tonic to tie it all together. Always great stuff. Length even better than in 2012. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted August 2015  @GrayMonkWinery

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Ac Bourgogne, Burgundy, France (424275, $22.95, WineAlign)

Such a pretty red cherry, fine earth and cinnamon heart confluence on the aromatic front, with no palate or late tannin affront. The acidity seems particularly natural and fitting, the finish quick and efficient. Very good old world look at the world of Bourgogne. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @BourgogneWines

Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Carneros, Sonoma County, California (67405, $23.95, WineAlign)

Cream in your coffee, sui generis housed and reductive Chardonnay with a chip on its shoulder. Aromatic rhythms are modulated by the barrel’s influence while flavours are pleasant though not wholly distinctive or full of character. Very directed Chardonnay and an exemplary regional example for the price. Will show better a year on. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted August 2015  @BuenaVistaWines  @TandemSelection

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (256289, $24.95, WineAlign)

Down $1 in price from this time last year.

From a bumper crop, there came to market 11,000 cases of this Nova Scotian feel good, faux-sparkling story. Winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers’ Nova 7 dissimulation in bubbles is a true trick of the trade and though this white wine strikes as if it were a child of a warm vintage, there is a classic lightness of Rosé fizz being in its ever so slight effervescence. A singular wine in many hybrid incarnations, in Muscat ways, of pink Perle de Csaba, segmented and pressed for a sweet burst of grapefruit. It’s low (7 per cent) in alcohol, excellent in acidity, sweet and sour, citrus zesty, juicy and dry at the same time. Batch delineated and loyal to continence, though if the quantity creeps much higher that may come in to question. Grown up pink lemonade and so easy to consume.  Tasted June and July 2014, July 2015  @Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers

Featherstone Onyx 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (372433, $29.95, WineAlign)

Strikes as Cabernet Franc dominant and quite savoury so, slightly cured and richly layered. Merlot appeals and appears with its own distinct clarity, gift-wrapped with tidy flavours in refrain of Franc that acts like fruity Cabernet Sauvignon. The vintage is very in and though it’s warmer and coated with more wood than would best service its needs, this has settled into a really nice glass of red berry and plum red wine. Kudos to the blender and the patience afforded the result. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon (984005, $34.95, WineAlign)

High quotient of ripeness, astringency below, earth above sprinkled and saturating. Quite an effusive design and rambunctious effort. All over the map. Big, bouncy and biting. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @KingEstate

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.00, WineAlign)

This ripe Picone in 2012, not a surprise and ripping at the same time. The orchard stands out, the texture overlaid and the length outstanding. Picone in ’12 has presence of more immediate notice, standing firm and tall to be counted early and then, for years to come, often. Like juice bled from escarpment cragges, a speciality that is singularly Picone. Drink 2016-2022.

From my earlier note of June 2014:

A vintage that begged to be protected in the vineyard, meaning no leaf plucking and no thinning. A most excellent goal of (0.691895068 kg / m2), or 2.8 tons an acre was realized, as opposed to one in 2010. Heavy vigor slowed down the ripening (leaving that kind of tonnage on the vine), to an elongated balance. Comes from terroir Baker nods to as “a barren tundra,” which you don’t get down the hill. In 2012 there was no waste, no rot, no problems. Its residual climbs to 15 g/L but you’d never know it. There is a confit of citrus, a mellifluous sensation of preserved lemon. Total count is 600 cases.

From my earlier note of March 2014:

“Baker’s iconic child yet breathes in unsettled, spumous emission from out of a warm vintage. So primary and such a hard act to follow. Vanguard Vinemount Ridge, arid as the desert and citrus, carbonic tight. Treated with cool, cooler and colder methods to seek result and strike balance in an opulent, lees-appertained, tangy finish. A Picone that says I don’t live today, so it is told and canvassed, “uh, get experienced, are you experienced?”  Last tasted June 2014  @cbriesling

Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (922880, $37.95, WineAlign)

Nebbiolo of intonation, modulation and stress, with a noticeable mid-life moment in volatility, in contrast to an enamoured aromatic loveliness in rose petal and candied flower. Dusty swirls and tight red fruit meets stark acidity. A Barbaresco such as this has historical advantage on its side but scares a bit in the present. A very fair price for a wine that has to be stashed away for at least three years for the angst to subside. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @piemonte_italia

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WineAlign guide to VINTAGES April 4th and Easter recipes

Lamb Ribs by Barque Smokehouse

Lamb Ribs by Barque Smokehouse

On January 18, 2013 I began adding wine reviews to WineAlign. Review ground zero was Mallory & Benjamin Talmard Mâcon Uchizy 2010, an inauspicious little Burgundy described in “the coat of white.” A Genesis of great #ffffff value.” Beginnings, Genesis, ground zero. The Godello thing.

Two plus years and 2,023 reviews later much has changed. The wisest of wine scribes David Lawrason and WineAlign head wineaux Bryan McCaw asked if I would like to become a part of the April 4th, VINTAGES release newsletter and buyer’s guide. With renaissance banzai and Master Sommelier John Szabo leading the charge, along with most generous guidance and help from cake baker and palate extraordinaire Sara d’Amato, I have joined the fray.

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES April 4th – Part One

This week’s guide leads WineAlign subscribers to Easter Lamb and red wine, plus pre-dinner whites and a glass for dessert. The three recipes cover everything  you could possibly want at your table on the resurrection weekend. The recipes are for Traditional Easter lamb by John, Moroccan lamb loin chops by Chef Michael Pataran and Barque‘s smoked lamb ribs.

Here is what John wrote in his introduction of me. “If at first you don’t understand Michael’s reviews, just drop a couple of hits of acid, smoke a joint or put on some classic 70s tunes and they’ll all make more sense. Maybe.” The irony is that amongst the seven wines I contributed to the newsletter I made only one musical reference. Oh, and one to the Grand Budapest. So, maybe you will understand them. Maybe.

From left to right: Cdv Brazão Colheita Seleccionada Arinto 2013, Stéphane Aviron Domaine de la Madrière Vieilles Vignes Fleurie 2011, Mayschoss 140 Jahre Jubiläumswein Trocken Pinot Noir 2013, Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Fielding Estate Viognier 2013, Château Haut Selve Réserve 2010 and Mendel Malbec 2011

From left to right: Cdv Brazão Colheita Seleccionada Arinto 2013, Stéphane Aviron Domaine de la Madrière Vieilles Vignes Fleurie 2011, Mayschoss 140 Jahre Jubiläumswein Trocken Pinot Noir 2013, Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Fielding Estate Viognier 2013, Château Haut Selve Réserve 2010 and Mendel Malbec 2011

Cdv Brazão Colheita Seleccionada Arinto 2013, DOC Vinho Verde, Portugal (405217, $16.95, WineAlign)

A highly unique Vinho Verde that works as a sipper and as a solid, pair me with just about anything table wine. Savoury and blessed with a Bica de Queijo cheese aroma, you’ll be glad you gave it a swirl and a whiff. There is nothing shinking or violaceous about this. It’s medicinal like Moscato, toasty like Pouilly-Fumé and gangly like Garganega. Citrus juice and flesh add body and beautify its inherent male pattern baldness. Perhaps a bit of a river fish of a Vinho Verde but very fresh and a great catch. This Arinto will tie appetizers together and buy time until the bird, hock or shank is on the table with the feast’s big reds. Drink from 2015-2017.  Tasted March 2015  @vinhosverdes  @exCellarsWines

Stéphane Aviron Domaine de la Madrière Vieilles Vignes Fleurie 2011, AC Beaujolais, Burgundy, France (405779, $21.95, WineAlign)

Old vines and Fleurie scream holiday dinner wine in my books. Here struts out where it’s at Gamay from a terrific Cru, of maturity, chutzpah and depth. Bang on 13 per cent alcohol, most mature and munificent, so very forward and yet of a depth, richness and layering in fruit meeting acids. Black cherry with an accent of mint, sour citrus drop and blueberry. A minor chalky grain, just enough to evoke oak tenderness, but not enough to be cut by splinters. Very Burgundian, where it’s at and even better length. Talk about a red wine that could equally double down for the Easter and Passover table. Gamay that swings both ways, AC/DC, “it’s got two turntables and a microphone.” Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted March 2015  @DiscoverBojo  @warren_walden

Mayschoss 140 Jahre Jubiläumswein Trocken Pinot Noir 2013, Ahr, Germany (409649, $21.95, WineAlign)

Ahr Pinot Noir (as opposed to those from Germany’s Baden region) are just that much more accessible and wider table friendly. That’s because of volcanic soil and older vines like you find in this Qualitätswein. The fruit is richer, the cure more refined, the flavours full and the wine structurally sound. Give this some air and the roast swine will make an entry, with intoxicating aromas, balanced by earthy notes, ripe plums and berries. Structurally sound, the ripeness continues into a fleshy cure of wurst with good bite. The citrus tang is round and barkless. No matter the colour of your braise or roast, this Pinot Noir will compliment the hue. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted March 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @WinesofGermany

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (677450, $24.95, WineAlign)

So orderly and aligned, from ripe picked fruit with fervent acidity and all proportions in perfect working order. Four months in bottle has settled only worked to reinforce positive opinions. Grassless and flinty but no discernible elemental vagary, certainly no sulphur. This Sauvignon Blanc may just be the most consistent in every vintage, not only stylistically but also for the hedging of probability bets for guaranteed Marlborough quality. This is a superb vintage for the pied-à-terre phraseology. Like school in fall, winter and spring, the Dog Point is all class. Drink from 2015-2024.

From my earlier note of November 2014:

The prototypical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc hitting all the classic numbers is right here in the Dog Point 2014. Low pH, high acidity, minuscule residual sugar and elevated aromatics. It’s ripe but ripped by citrus juice and zest. Like cubes of honeydew, bitter winter melon and dried lemongrass soaking in and flavouring a dish of briny scallop carpaccio with coarse sea salt and capers. The sapidity is palpable, the excesses vivid. I would avoid too much variegated gastronomy when sipping this wine. Opt for simpler fare because its talents would otherwise be mimicked and suppressed.

Last tasted March 2015  @DogPointWines  @TrialtoON  @nzwine

Barque Smokehouse Lamb Ribs - Spring 2014

Barque Smokehouse Lamb Ribs – Spring 2014

Fielding Estate Viognier 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (142323, $25.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Richie Roberts has worked tirelessly with Viognier to find out where it fits into the lexicon and ambience of Niagara Peninsula white grape varieties. The 2013 vintage marks a turning point in his and by extension, all of our understanding. The tropical fruit is now reigned in and the tension on the back bite a perfect foil to that well-judged, rich fruit. Trumps the layered ’12 with a new, aerified floraility that gives it more prototypal Viognier style. Short of leaving fruit to hang into late harvest (not recommended for the variety) this is like being wrapped in banana leaf along side young bamboo. Sip it joyously on its own or bring on the Easter Rijsttafel and a strolling procession down the cuisine of Kho San Road.  Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted March 2015  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  @Heidi_Fielding

Château Haut Selve Réserve 2010, Ac Graves, Bordeaux, France (235424, $27.95, WineAlign)

Who wouldn’t want to find a well-priced and expertly made Bordeaux to accompany an Easter feast? The abstraction is not as easy as it may have once been but once in a Paschal full moon a wine comes along and affords the opportunity. Stately structured, mid-range Graves that is so very much a combination of Cabernets. It reeks of currants, cool mint, Cassis, caramel and chocolatey oak. Kept shy in alcohol (13 per cent) and heat, the tannins are mildly grainy and though just a touch oxidative, it is a a most serviceable, generous and honest Bordeaux. From a workingman’s vintage of the century. This Graves will seal the Easter deal with its cool savour and chocolate hops. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted March 2015  @BordeauxWines  @ProfileWineGrp

Mendel Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (108225, $27.95, WineAlign)

On the rare occasion when a Mendoza Malbec exhibits restraint, balance and all around congenial behaviour, it is imperative to sit up and take notice. This is finely fashioned juice, albeit rich, smokey red fruit swathed in good quality chocolate and a late kick of spice. Suppose there’s nothing really wrong with that. The Mendel will seduce, hypnotize and cause general swooning. Like a Grand Budapest Hotel box of treats, it will sooth even the savage beast. Ripe tannins will make this drinkable now to 2020. Tasted March 2015  @MendelWines  @TrialtoON  @winesofarg

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Recently tasted here, there and everywhere

Wihr au Val, Alsace (c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Wihr au Val, Alsace
(c) Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

During my week-long visit to Alsace in June I tasted more than 300 different wines. Over the course of the four months that followed that most amazing journey to the heart of a great wine region, I published more than 50 tasting notes. I also told stories about the winemakers, the Grand Crus and lieu-dits. I will continue to write and publish equal or more amounts about Alsace.

Related – Giving Grand Cru Pinot Noir d’Alsace its due

The British wine writer Jamie Goode recently published two articles on the subject of wine criticism versus wine journalism. His first, Whatever happened to wine journalism, appeared on the website run by Tim Atkin MW. The second, Wine critics and wine writers on his own blog, Wine Anorak. Goode is a man on the pulse of what it real and what needs to be said. He is correct in telling us that the most engaging wine writing comes from scribes who visit vineyards and tell their stories. There can be no disputing this to be true.

Jamie hopes that the future of wine writing is not fraught with short reviews and inflated scores. He sees the Utopian model in experiential travel, in meeting hard-working people, wandering over variegated soils and terroir, tasting at the source. Jamie fears that his wine writer self will go the way of the wine critic, tapping away on a computer while tasting wine in an air-conditioned office. His version of wine hell. Riesling specialist Stuart Martin Piggot agrees.

But Jamie is not entirely right either. At least in the context of the Ontario model (and those of other Canadian provinces), along with I would imagine, many wine markets in other countries. Much of what wine writers taste on globetrotting journeys is not to be found on shelves back home. While that may be pathetic and certainly a pity worthy of some kind of wine crime, it is the brass tacks of the global wine industry. I agree with Goode that we should do everything in our power to change it and we should publish stories, not just tasting notes and scores.

The problem for the reader is that most, if not 95-plus percent of the wines that are reviewed from a region like Alsace are not available for purchase in Ontario. While that is just a crying shame, it is a reality. If you purchase wine in Ontario and look for critical voices to help you separate the wheat from the chaff, you require notes on available wines. That is why writers must spend so much time tasting samples in the sterile LCBO laboratory, at our dining room tables, in restaurants and with the hard-working for not enough reward Ontario wine agents. And we must write-up the tasting notes and publish them on websites like WineAlign. This is the fact of Ontario wine importing, purchasing and consumer life. Would it be any different if there was no provincial monopoly? Yes, but it wouldn’t help in the telling of better vineyard stories.

I taste wines here, there and everywhere. Here are 16 recent samples that gave me cause to raise an eyebrow, pause, ruminate and formulate a response to the spoken sentiments of the ferment. All 16 are available for purchase in Ontario.

From left to right: Domaine Chiroulet Les Terres Blanches 2013, Toro Albalá Fino Del Lagar Electrico, Château des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Ogier Héritages Côtes Du Rhône 2012, Bodegas Mengoba Brezo Grégory Pérez 2012

From left to right: Domaine Chiroulet Les Terres Blanches 2013, Toro Albalá Fino Del Lagar Electrico, Château des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Ogier Héritages Côtes Du Rhône 2012, Bodegas Mengoba Brezo Grégory Pérez 2012

Domaine Chiroulet Les Terres Blanches 2013, Vins De Pays Côtes De Gascogne, France (Agent 223222, $13.95, WineAlign)

This is a Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc that whistles boldly like a howling wind. While the nose is high-toned and full of herbal complexities, it’s also indiscreetly alarming. The aromas are quite massive; pine needles decomposing on a wet forest floor. Kefir, cloudy and enzymatic, curdling and churning into itself. Petrol spills on asphalt, baking in the midday sun. To taste it is tangy and juicy, but also very mineral, intensified by the outcroppings of retzine in the vineyard’s limestone. The overall composition punches way above its weight but the heightened sense of reality is also a bit hard to take. Terrific effort but comes with a warning sign.  Tasted November 2014  @CotesdeGascogne  @TrialtoON

Toro Albalá Fino Del Lagar Electrico, Do Montilla Moriles, Spain (Agent, $14.95, 500ml, WineAlign)

The winery was founded in 1844 and in 1970 Toro Albalá became the first commercial Montilla producer in the classic Solera method, from (estate-grown) Pedro Ximénez vines. This is unfortified Fino, at a naturally achieved alcohol of 15 per cent, from an average age of 10 years. It’s so dry, like a desert you could walk for astral weeks, as if it should be measured in negative residual sugar. Like pure almond extract paste, bones in the sand and the essence of pulverized, powdered nuts, void of moisture. The chalky-white Albariza soils of the Moriles Alto subzone are hardwired into its Akashic, astral Electrico plane. This Fino ventures in the slipstream, between viaducts of dreams, “where immobile steel rims crack.” Impossibly long finish.  Tasted November 2014  @toroalbala  @MontillaMoriles  @LeSommelierWine

Château des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2013, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (391300, $14.95, WineAlign)

Sets a (St. David’s) benchmark for how to reign in and then release the charmes of Sauvignon Blanc from the Niagara Peninsula. Done in a decidedly fresh and lively style, this gathers up a bunches and conservative yield-managed vineyard’s warmest, ripe fruit for the purpose of bonhomie potation. Smells of vitality, of fresh herbs and citrus just cut, of a salt spring, of things zoetic. Cream elevates the texture, albeit pellucid and unobtrusive. The triad coming together of Sauvignon Blanc, St. David’s Bench and 2013 is the new CdC yardstick. The price only cements the offer.  Tasted November 2014  @MBosc

Ogier Héritages Côtes Du Rhône 2012, Rhône, France (535849, $15.95, WineAlign)

The Ogier self-professed traits of patience, savoir-faire, observation and intuition are on tidy display in this piquant, spiced-note, olive branch and indigo traditional Rhône blend. So very Mediterranean, warm and herbal by day, cool and minty by night. One stage short of lush, one notch comfortably above thin, this slots into all right moves; pleasant, value-driven and so effective for so many purposes. Stand alone or with classically prepared fare, this is all you need. Bring on the roast chicken.  Tasted November 2014  @MaisonOgier  @Select_Wines

Bodegas Mengoba Brezo Grégory Pérez 2012, Bierzo, Spain (Agent, $16.95)

Mencia as it once must have demanded of itself, iron clad, funky and gamey. This Bierzo is no antiseptic perfumed bottle of modern, manufactured violet Febreeze, though it’s so very vanilla and rich as a Porchetta sandwich with the porcine cure and fat driven right in to every nook and cranny. Or a taste sensation like bacon wrapped cherries. High toned with formidable tannins. A chew of sinew both in faux-wood and as the conceptual result of a roasted animal’s tension. Value gained vicariously through complexity.  Tasted April 2014  @TheLivingVine

Fita Preta 2013

Fita Preta 2013

Fita Preta White Reserve Alentejano 2013, Alentejo, Portugal (Agent, $16.95)

An endemic blend of Antão Vaz (40 per cent), Roupeiro (40) and Arinto (20) from infertile rocky schist soils in southern Portugal’s Alentejo region. Ostensibly a field blend, like the Alsace cépage a terroir of Marcel Deiss, the Fita Preta or “black tape” comes from an extreme and arid land. Portuguese winemaker António Maçanita and resident English viticulturist consultant David Booth usher out flint and mineral to capture a host of synapses from a wine region that had failed to fire in years. The landscape described  as “Portugal’s Australia” gives a white like a cross between simple, flinty Chablis and aged Hunter Valley Sémillon. The acidity is in abject anti-congruence to the region’s usual heavy-leaded output, mimicking cool-climate Chardonnay in tight and bracing stonker fashion.  Tasted November 2014  @fitapretavinhos    @LeSommelierWine

From left to right: E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône 2011, Giacomo Mori Chianti 2011, Red Tractor Cabernet Franc 2012, Nigl Gartling Grüner Veltliner 2013, Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014

From left to right: E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône 2011, Giacomo Mori Chianti 2011, Red Tractor Cabernet Franc 2012, Nigl Gartling Grüner Veltliner 2013, Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014

E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône 2011, Southern Rhône, France 2011 (259721, $18.95, WineAlign)

In a world where anything is possible, the Guigal Côtes Du Rhône effect is predictable, trenchant and essential. The vintage specific focus in alacrity drives the savoury, rich black fruit to domesticated compliance, easy on the eyes, nose and palate. This just smells like a good meal; as if a game bird were roasting in the oven, surrounded by a rough and large kerf of mirepoix, of caramelizing root vegetables baptized by dried herbs and spices. Do not be fooled. This is a warm CdR with generous alcohol (14 per cent disclosed) and an even warmer, though not uncomfortably tannic or acidity riddled finish. It is a whack of Rhône grapes within grasp of a mere mortal’s budget. Drink now and for two years forward.  Tasted November 2014  @DOMAINEGUIGAL  @VinexxWine

Giacomo Mori Chianti 2011, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (68858, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES November 8, 2014 release

A modern take on Sangiovese to be certain with a penchant for the authenticity extracted from the best parts of history. Siena red dirt dredged, cherry macerated, fined, filtered and spiked with a crush of Brandy soaked Amaretti cookies. Clean and with Spring plum blossom in the air. Il Palio dirt for appetizer, Fiore di Zucca pie for dinner and sweet, nutty Panforte for dessert. So modern but so proper. Makes no bones about its made-up face but has plenty of solid ossein in its body. Good piquancy and a rush of verve on the back palate. Oaky but not creamy, bitter yes, but not woody.  Tasted November 2014  @oenophilia1

Red Tractor Cabernet Franc 2012, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (Winery, $19.99, WineAlign)

The savoury aspect of this Cabernet Franc steals the show out of what is just an ideal vintage. The fruit was sourced from the Dim Vineyard in the Creek Shores appellation, a piece of the Peninsula ideally suited to the sharp and earthy aspects of Cabernet Franc. Despite 20 months of seasoning in barrel, the Tractor has maintained its red fruit character, accented by currants, spice and a deep-rooted sense of licorice. There is enough grain in its texture to carry it for three or four more years but it will never be bigger than it is now, nor will its length grow any longer.  Tasted November 2014  @SideroadTwenty

Nigl Gartling Grüner Veltliner 2013, Kremstal, Austria (453281, $21.95, WineAlign)

The ever-present, front loaded, laser sharp attack may feign spritz amid hushed whispers of CO2, but not from any chemical alteration. It’s actually a post fermentation, double negative breath of residual covalent bonding. The fast action bottling captures pressure to act as catalyst for freshness, especially in such a lean, high acidity vintage. A sway of tall grasses and that gas smothers whatever residual sugar might try to weigh down this low (11.5 per cent) alcohol stunner. Very much alive though the depth is challenged by all that forward thinking expression. Still a very good showing for this classic Grüner.  Tasted November 2014  @AustrianWine  @LeSommelierWine

Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (677450, $21.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES October 25, 2014 release

The prototypical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc hitting all the classic numbers is right here in the Dog Point 2014. Low pH, high acidity, minuscule residual sugar and elevated aromatics. It’s ripe but ripped by citrus juice and zest. Like cubes of honeydew, bitter winter melon and dried lemongrass soaking in and flavouring a dish of briny scallop carpaccio with coarse sea salt and capers. The sapidity is palpable, the excesses vivid. I would avoid too much variegated gastronomy when sipping this wine. Opt for simpler fare because its talents would otherwise be mimicked and suppressed.  Tasted November 2014  @DogPointWines  @TrialtoON

From left to right: Rupert & Rothschild Classique 2011, Domaine De Bila Haut Occultum Lapidem 2012, Marcel Deiss Pinot d'Alsace 2012, Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2012, Closson Chase S. Kocsis Vineyard Chardonnay 2011

From left to right: Rupert & Rothschild Classique 2011, Domaine De Bila Haut Occultum Lapidem 2012, Marcel Deiss Pinot d’Alsace 2012, Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2012, Closson Chase S. Kocsis Vineyard Chardonnay 2011

Rupert & Rothschild Classique 2011, Wo Coastal Region, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

Iconic Bordeaux partners with South Africa for a red that is a surprising saunter into fair Cabernet-Merlot territory. Ripeness, extraction and alcohol are all exercised with restraint. The South African gauze is wound but of a thin wrapping, thanks to the allowance for fruit to shine in bright, red cherry tones. Western Cape is a terrific place to express Bordeaux-styled reds, especially when done with such hands off ability. A bit sapid and even sour edged, this would be a fine example to share when partaking in a little R & R. Wait a year and drink up to 2018.  Tasted November 2014  @Dandurandwines  @WOSACanada

Domaine De Bila Haut Occultum Lapidem 2012, Ac Côtes De Roussillon Villages Latour De France (643239, $24.95, WineAlign)

From vineyards composed of Devonian Period gneiss and schist soils and Kimmeridgian period limestone. A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. The heft of this craggy, cultured terroir in a Côtes De Roussillon’s bottle is never in question, nor is the puritanical excellence of its harvested fruit. Some years just heat up to a point of no return, like this 2012. Chapoutier is fully cognizant of the warmth and savagery from the soils and the climate. Finding even temperament and balance is the challenge. This vintage comes across as over the scabrous edge, cooked by the sun and dredged in the particulate. Classic Mediterranean notes of brine, brush and lavender keep it grounded, not to mention graphite and grilled meat, but for the sappy and life-sapping heat, this would be a candidate for 10 years in the cellar. As it is, drink this with quality warm-blooded protein over the next year or two.  Tasted November 2014  @M_Chapoutier  @Dandurandwines

Marcel Deiss Pinot d’Alsace 2012, Alsace, France (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

This Pinot d’Alsace is what Jean-Michel Deiss refers to as “du cépage a terroir” or “tous les cépages.” Though there can be as many as 13 grape varieties in the field blend, most of the content comes from the Pinot family. Though likely in Blanc, Gris and Auxerrois predominance, this is a co-planted field blend so if Jean-Michel were to change his tune from talking terroir to varietal percentages, even he would not know the true make-up. Regardless, this is a (vintage) rich and balanced white blend, an avatar for the Alsace idiom. A wanderer in angles, an adventurer into corners and a wearer of many aromatic costumes; sweet, sour, citrus, flint and spice. Indicates orange, lemon and grapefruit but it’s never that straightforward. More like Jincheng, Lemongrass and Pomello. An exemplary introduction to Deiss, Alsace and the dry summation of many white parts. Tasted twice, June and November 2014  @marceldeiss  @AlsaceWines

Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00)

Carries and buffets an unmistakable aromatic conveyance that comes from a grouping to include Le Clos Jordanne, Bachelder, Queylus and The Farm. Where the cherry tree digs its roots into the earth, where the fruit rolls in the clay dust, where the tension in fruit meets tannin, intersecting at acidity. Just a touch of funk in a non-reductive, vineyard sense and the fruit does flirt with right of centre cherry, inching towards the black side. Chalk and tangy dust, and finally, tannin that holds court. This is quite big for Niagara Pinot Noir and it will age righteously for three to five years. Though it is not yet ready to lay claim to greatness, Westcott is a vineyard to keep a wide and watchful eye.  Tasted October 2014  @WestcottWines

Closson Chase S. Kocsis Vineyard Chardonnay 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

The real deal in Bench gain from out of the most enigmatic and occult vintage, the primitive vineyard giving life and lesson to Chardonnay. Austerity in second and third fill barrels sends butter in search of toast, imagined through pendular churning. A reckoning follows, connecting round fruit to linear acidity in character, oomph and excellence. Aromas indicate spirited confiture choices at the breakfast table to garnish flaky pastry. Biting and demanding yet sweet as a cool summer’s night.  Tasted October 2014  @ClossonChase

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Top 10 under-$15 wines for 2012

as seen on canada.com

The past 12 months have been good to wine consumers in Ontario. I would be hard pressed to remember a time in recent memory when so many good value wines were available on such a consistent basis.

The under $15 niche success can be attributed to many things. A sweeping renaissance in wine making has taken hold across the globe, from the vineyard to the stopped bottle. Manifested in the Old World, we are seeing an unprecedented ability to offer wines at this price. New World locales like Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand can match the quality, but as a general rule, the $15-20 range is their sweet spot.

What I am most pleased to note is the increased quality in Canadian wine, especially from Niagara, in the under $15 zone. Lead by the likes of Fielding EstateVineland Estates13th Street and Mike Weir Wines, finding quality releases that won’t break the bank gets easier with every passing vintage.

More than anything, the ability to taste 1000’s of wines by the generous efforts of Ontario agents, trade commissions and through local events has allowed us to uncover the gems. A year-end set of props has to go out to David Churchill and team for setting the table every week for to sample 1000’s more wines from the bi-weekly and on-line VINTAGES releases.

Here are my top 10, under-$15 VINTAGES released picks for 2012.

1. The grapes: Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Pinheiro and Jaen

Where: Portugal, Dão

Encostas De Penalva 2009 (293423, $14.95) is downright Joycean in unusual intelligence, sensitivity and character for a blend from a Portuguese cooperative. Soft perhaps, but nary a bitter deterrent mars this cup of crushed raspberries. A young artist’s deep portrait of Dão colour, forged of surreal fleshy extraction, verbose and flamboyant.  90

2. The grape: Nero D’avola

Where: Sicily, Italy

Morgante Nero D’avola 2010 (40816, $14.95) burnishes purple to black in sheen, perfume and vim. Like incandescent charcoal.  Welling hematoma of Aussie licorice, baking spices and lingonberry. Maxes out Nero D’avola’s ability to defend itself against all food comers. Even pancakes and pigs in a blanket.  It should be noted that a second sample was corked.  90

3. The grape: Albariño

Where: Rias Baixas, Spain

Pazo Pondal Leira Albariño 2011 (115816, $15.95) may sport the hue of Cava and indicate bubbles spinning around like a frotteur but its “gotta have no illusions” about itself. A hint of seltzer in a sparkling, platinum hue swirls to honey and paraffin. Acts and looks sharp yet remains in balance.  90

4. The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Where: Loire, France

Domaine De La Colline Sauvignon Touraine 2010 (169656, $12.95) is the workday done sun-downer few Sauvignon Blancs can match for IVR* assurance. Eglantine and apple tisane. Bony and blanched shallot driven by the Loire’s rocky truffeau, with a smokey persimmon fini glacé. 88

5. The grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault

Where: Rhône, France

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2011 (224964, $12.95) offers up strawberry, rhubarb and cream with a savoury accent. Subtle pale, pink, see-through hue and warming humidity. Great value here. Rosie you’re all right. “Looks like it’s me and you again tonight.”  88

6. The grapes: Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Perta 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

7. The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Where: Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Mike Weir Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (686972, $14.95) swings from the left side like its brethren on that side of the Gironde. A game built on concentrated gooseberry juice, tangy green fruit and a streak of chippy acidity. Sneaky long and straight down the fairway.  88

8. The grape: Pinot Blanc

Where: Alsace, France

André Blanck et Ses Fils Rosenburg Pinot Blanc 2011 (626606, $13.95) is your weekend summer refresher, your sundowner, your all-purpose white. Oily, mineral-driven, long, acidity at its PB best, full finish. For appetizers, salads and mains. Versatility be thy name.  88

9. The grape: Garnacha

Where: Catalayud, Spain

Filón Garnacha 2010 (280602, $14.95) is actually a bit of a misprision because of its black fruit character. Re-enacts Tuscan IGT and the most modern of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Tar, asphalt, bitter chocolate and sanguine Kirsch and very, very ripe fruit. Grand oak and tons of wine at $15.  88

10. The grape: Melon De Bourgogne

Where: Loire, France

Michel Delhommeau Cuvée Harmonie Muscadet De Sèvre-Et-Maine 2010 (164624, $12.95) scatters nether and beyond the stereotypical need for oysters pairing. Light as the sky, “a free man in Paris…unfettered and alive.” Like I said before, it offers up more complexity, flesh and sea bone than its brethren. Courts shrimp, sparks smoked chicken and even ventures into baby back rib territory. On the card at Barque.  88

Honourable Mention

The grapes: Alvarinho, Arinto and Loureiro

Where: Vinho Verde, Portugal

Casa Do Valle Grande Escolha 2011 (276220, $14.95) while unmistakably Portuguese Vinho Verde, this could be a ringer for Greco di Tufo or Viognier. The long visit to the haberdashery at once wears baking spice, Mezzogiorno mangia cake at Christmas and then white rose, honeysuckle Hermitage. Lofty comparisons for sure but this exceptional IVR* treacle is a chef mastered sweetbread of a double “V.”  89

Good to go!