Iconic wines, affordable prices

PHOTO: MINERVA STUDIO/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Famous wines fill cellars everywhere, made by houses of pedigree and produced from the most recognizable grapes. There is Piedmont’s Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay out of Burgundy and Champagne, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Napa Valley and Bordeaux. Unless you began collecting some 25 years ago, chances are your stock piles are low when it comes to varietal inamorata. While there exists a minority that sees the trophies as simulacrum, the majority continue to run down dreams. Icons for less than $50? No more. A once unthinkable, magical $100 mark is a fiscal cliff in the rear-view mirror. The question begs. Has the peak been reached?

Related – More from the VINTAGES January 5th, 2013 Release

McCannian “collision of curse and whisper” finds the state of the union bound by a new world order where social media driven wine purchasing decisions fluctuate with every fleeting tweet. Expansion and saturation are in. First Growth and Grand Cru need’ms are waning in popularity, having priced themselves beyond the reach of mere mortal geeks. Andrew Jefford certainly disagrees, noting, “…it’s no surprise that wine has become just another vacuous totem of wealth.” But the Decanter scribe is not writing about a state of Ontario affairs. There are substitutes around every turn and where there is effort, there is a wine-altering way. Diamonds can be unearthed out of the proverbial rough, certainly not at will, but with patience and poise. Champion producers lay in wait within the lesser, unheralded corners of the world’s most famous wine appellations. They can also be found in nooks not yet trusted. More often than not they are the by-products of familial labours of love, small parcel productions, fruits of wine vernacular passed down through the generations.

Here are four unreal wines from iconic grapes, ready for the taking and affordable to all.

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Bordeaux’s Left Bank star finds richesse and success in South Australia

The lowdown: Located in the sub-region of Marananga in Barossa Valley and farmed by 6th Generation family member, Damien Tscharke. Shiraz may have put Barossa on the map but my red Oz consciousness leans Cabernet Sauvignon

The food match: Braised and Pulled Beef Inside Round, barossa brie, toasted ciabatta

Tscharke Barossa Gold Marananga Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (289884, $15.95) is really good stuff. Tight attack, bold and tannic, brimming with figgy black fruit, dark chocolate, spirit cake and white pepper. The oldest Barossa Neoproterozoic Schist and Siltstone rocks impart piercing minerality as if the Marananga were blasted out of a cannon.  Tests any Napa Cab under $50.  89  @tscharkewines

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Family domain in the Mâconnais, lead by Jean-Paul Paquet, along with wife Monique and son Yannick

The lowdown: Old vines (parcels of 50+ years) and barrel ageing combine for layered results

The food match: Sage Roast Chicken, schmaltz confit yukon gold potatoes, parsley

Domaine De Fussiacus Vieilles Vignes Pouilly-Fuissé 2010 (276444, $23.95) gratifies in an instant and holds on seemingly forever with remarkable depth of fruit. The tang and tin-effect of Bresse Bleu is merely a hint, smothered over by almond and vanilla extract, green olive pit and the taste of creamy, balmy, citrons doux, bergamot marmalade. A fatty, poularde glycerin texture really ties the dude, er wine, together. Plenitude for a song.  “Sometimes, there’s a man,” I’m talking about Jean Paquet here, and I can just imagine him thinking, “we can be heroes,” working a land that finds him surrounded by stupid expensive Chardonnay.  90

The grape: Nebbiolo

The history: Makes for Italy’s most regal wines, Barolo and Barbaresco

The lowdown: The Marziano Abbonna stable trots out this entry-level Barolo with expert success vintage after vintage

The food match: Murray Farm Heritage Roast Turkey, roasted chestnut stuffing, cranberry-lemon sauce

La Pieve Barolo 2008 (213132, $28.95) does what few other sub-$30 Baroli can do; offer a taste of the real thing. Though initially a touch reductive, it hits a chord of correct notes, including chestnut tisane, tar and rose petals. Firm Nebbiolo, frank and aggressively forward, wanting to share more drupe but it’s not quite there. Time will help flesh out the hidden stone fruit and sweet red pepper flavours.  89  @CAbbona

The Splurge

The grape: Aglianico

The history: From Campania, Taurasi is believed to be derived from the pre-Roman (probably Etruscan) taur[o] meaning mountain.

The lowdown: Taurasi must be aged for at least three years before it is released, with at least one year in wood. No one can dissertate more eloquently or knowledgeably on the subject better than Feudi’s Export Manager Maurizio de Rosa

The food match: Braised Beef Short Ribs, caramelized onion, carrot, aglianico jus

Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi 2007 (956011, $39.95) is lush and gorgeous. The most immediately gratifying young Aglianico yet such an infant. Earthbound red berries, perfectly ripe plums, biting tannin and off the charts acidity. Epochal verve of Middle Pleistocene volcanic rocksSouthern Italian equivalent to Southern Rhône reds, offering tremendous value under $50 where Bordeaux and Tuscany pedantically fall short. Should join the ranks of recent great vintages, ’01 and ’04.  93  @FeudiDSGregorio

Good to go!

Canada, let me pour your Thanksgiving wines

Michael Godel (photographs courtesy of Marc Rochette, marcrochette.com)

as seen on canada.com

Who do we owe a debt of gratitude for this long weekend respite? Frobisher, Lincoln, Parliament, Congress? Who can really lay claim to be called founder of Thanksgiving?

In 1879, Canada’s Parliament declared November 6th a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday but had to do so each year by proclamation. On January 31st, 1957, a proclamation was issued fixing permanently Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October, thus eliminating the necessity of an annual proclamation. “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed… to be observed on the second Monday in October.”

Back in the 1750’s, this joyous celebration was brought to Nova Scotia by American settlers from the south.”Thanksgiving in Canada is the second Monday in October, because by the time the last Thursday of November comes around Canada is frozen solid and a turkey won’t thaw,” writes Tom Johnson of the Louisville Juice. Guess Tom never made it up to Canada for the winter of 2011/2012.

It’s worth planning a Thanksgiving meal without any reason but to be hungry. Conversely, pouring a glass of wine alongside the harvest feast is simple necessity in my world, borne of my constant economy and curiosity.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all go out and fill a curved goat’s horn with fruit, grain and Pinot Noir. There are better ways to get your cornucopia or horn of plenty on. No, not those ways. Invite the family over, cook like a wild person and pour any one of the following wines.

The grape: Monastrell

The history: A thick-skinned varietal from Jumilla, in the northeast region of Murcia of southeastern Spain

The lowdown:  Customarily a hard nut to crack. This soft number is a red wine drinker’s sundowner

The food match: Goat Cheese on Crostini rubbed with olive oil and garlic

Casa Castillo Monastrell 2010 (165621, $13.95) to sniff is a bit oxy and to look is more than a bit purple. Enters territory of unfamiliar conjugations and be warned to watch out for the splinters but hey, it’s $14!  Built for a Raynolds/Miller North American palate, assays more like reposing Garnacha than trundling Monastrell, but there is beauty in the house.  87

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Macon-Fuissé is found in southern Burgundy and the Roman Emperor Fussiacus is thought to be the founder of the village of Fuissé

The lowdown: Ostensibly organic farming, this Chard is achieved through manual harvesting and fermentation in stainless steel. Chablis like and better value

The food match: Crispy-Skin Roast Turkey, cranberry, sage stuffing and turkey gravy

Domaine De Fussiacus Macon-Fuissé 2009 (279000, $16.95) takes more than a lutte raisonée approach and blows my Fuisséing mind. Sits in a museum of scents, like Pomace Brandy by way of French Marc. Like toasted pine nuts in basil pesto. Verve, gusto, spine.  88

The grapes: Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: All French grapes but only in Argentina do they meet up like this

The lowdown: No longer atypical colección from Mendoza

The food match: Slow-Roasted Rump Roast, duck fat potatoes

Finca Flichman Paisaje De Barrancas 2009 (17129, $17.95) joins together as perfect a circle as could be dreamed from an Argentinian SML assemblage. A berry collective, refined and showing chocolate restraint. Seductive scents, velvet mouth feel, good length and balance. Simple and structured.   89

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Pinot grown in a bowl surrounded by mountains at the world’s southernmost wine region

The lowdown: Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand is the most exciting emerging Pinot locale on the planet

The food match: Pork Shoulder, Bacon and Lingots Cassoulet

Thatched Hut Pinot Noir 2011 (242933, $19.95) is so bright I’ve gotta wear shades. When a $20 wine is able to pull off the status quo from a region where that quo is $40 and up, you know the future alights for Central Otago. Vanilla, capsicum and tangy cranberry sauce meet a zinging swish of fresh texture and pop in the mouth. “Heavenly blessed and worldly wise,” the Hut will sing at the harvest table.  88

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Yet refuted cousin to Italian Primitivo

The lowdown: Bumble berry bramble typifies Mendocino Zin. Savoury note gives this guy balance

The food match: Smoked Turkey, fresh and tart cranberry sauce

Artezin Zinfandel 2010 (302943, $21.95) initially heads out on the Zin train with dangerous extraction but stops for the night over a campfire of herbs, anise and pine brush. Plums and sourish cherries simmer in the pot. The style is a full on uprising and welcoming to those who “get on board.”  89

The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah

The history: Consummate blend for Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages

The lowdown: This really is as good as it gets for CDRV. A few more dollars but this one rivals many Vacqueyras, Gigondas and even Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The food match: Willowgrove Farms Hormone-Free Smoked and Pulled Pork

Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuveé Maximilien Cairanne 2010 (286336, $21.95) is extraordinary for the appellation. Pitch purple, world-class milk and dark chocolate swirl, creamy silk. The stuff of recent phenomenon, where rocks, dreams and raspberries are crushed and scattered like cake bits over the loam.   91

The grape: Shiraz

The history: The jam from down under

The lowdown: Once a quarter there pours an OZ Shiraz that stands above the crowd

The food match: Braised Short Rib, creamy polenta, green peppercorn jus

Blackjack Major’s Line Shiraz 2008 (280941, $24.95) deserves a 21-card salute for its Victorian, cool, calm and collected demeanor. Blueberry, tar, spice box and wood smoke baked in a pie. Chocolate and vanilla hardly play a part. You may “swear and kick and beg us that you’re not a gamblin’ man,” but I dare you to try this Bendigo. You’ll want to do it again90

The Splurge

The grape: Riesling

The history: Niagara’s signature grape goes ethereal in the hands of winemaker Dianne Smith

The lowdown: Along with Charles Baker’s Picone Vineyard bottling, this Old Vines effort is as good as I’ve tasted in 2012

The food match: BBQ Chicken, goat cheese croquettes

Green Lane Old Vines Riesling 2010 (283432, $29.95) from the oldest block down on the Lincoln Lakeshore is a flat-out mouth-watering, comestible ferment of grapes. Pale lemon/lime soda but a radiant rider. Mosel in trocken mode, bursting with azoic water, pear and persimmon aromas. Rousing acidity jumps to and fro. Wow!!  91

Good to go!