One of the themes in the release of red wines was Australia, with seventeen wines hitting the shelves on February 20th, following a string of very good releases over the past few months. In this case I found three Cabernet Sauvignons, a Cabernet/Shiraz blend, and a Grenache/Mourvèdre blend that I’d like to present. But for the rest, I’d say I was just a little disappointed after tasting all of them, and in a few cases I was very unhappy.
You see, there has been a lot of exciting transformation in Australia in the past five to ten years, with an emphasis on better matching of grape variety with site, exploiting cooler and higher-altitude vineyards, and generally stepping back from the over-ripe, high alcohol and overly oaked offerings that (along with uninspired mass market wines) had damaged Australia’s reputation. In other words, Australia is back in a big way, and this new Australia is very much in line with the older Australia that established the fine reputation of its wines (see my article on the Langton’s Classification). But I’m not sure that our buyers at the LCBO/Vintages have completely bought into that program. I found too many wines with high alcohol (yes, 15% to over 16%), over-ripe fruit and lacking verve and interest. But don’t despair — there are great wines coming out of Australia, and some are finding their way here, with more to come.
Backing the Australians, I have two red Burgundies and a good New Zealand Pinot: the 2013 Aux Gravains Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru from Domaine Pavelot, a 2013 Bourgogne from Roche de Bellene, and the 2013 Jules Taylor OTQ Series Pinot Noir. I conclude with two South American wines — the 2008 Cicchitti Gran Reserva Malbec from Mendoza and the 2013 Caliterra Tributo Cabernet Sauvignon from the Colchagua Valley — and an interesting Mencia blend from Spain, the 2012 Beyra Vinhos De Altitude Reserva from DOC Beira Interior.
2012 KATNOOK CABERNET SAUVIGNON, Coonawarra, South Australia
Vintages #590471 • $29.95 • 750ml. • 90/100Here is a very good Coonawarra Cabernet from the dependable Katnook. The wine is a deep ruby-red, with a narrow red rim, with classic Coonawarra aromas of slightly lifted violets, ripe blackberry and black currant, mint, dried herbs and a lightly roasted character, cedar and dry earth. Brisk acidity balances the lingering, fine-grained tannins, with a little heat building towards the finish. A very pleasing expression with some good complexity.
Tasted Feb 05,2016 • CHURCHILL CELLARS LTD. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2012 TAHBILK CABERNET SAUVIGNON, Nagambie Lakes, Central Victoria
Vintages #138818 • $22.95 • 750ml. • 89/100Tahbilk is one of Australia's oldest wineries, with its first vintage in 1861, and this Cabernet Sauvignon nicely represents its rather classical heritage. A pleasant mix of ripe blackberry and black currant fruit aromas meld with gentle mint and chocolate notes and a suggestion of dry underbrush and earth. Ripe and fairly fine tannins are carried on moderate alcohol, with enough acidity to give some supple elegance, while still showing off its full-bore Aussie fruit. This is a very good wine, and a fine value.
Tasted Feb 9, 2016 • GRAPE EXPECTATIONS WINE AGENCY (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2012 XANADU CABERNET SAUVIGNON, Margaret River, Western Australia
Vintages #433045 • $29.95 • 750ml. • 89/100This fine Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River is supplemented with 6% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. The wine is rather deep ruby-purple, showing some red on the rim. Bright aromas of ripe blackberries, plums and black currants are supported by notes of earthy dry leaves, twigs and vanilla. The wine is well-structured, with elevated tannins and alcohol supporting the big, bold, and juicy fruit on the palate, and carrying into a lengthy finish that picks up on some spice and cedar notes. Very good.
Tasted Feb 05,2016 • HOBBS & CO. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2012 SALOMON NORWOOD SHIRAZ/CABERNET, South Australia
Vintages #438234 • $20.95 • 750ml. • 88/100This Shiraz-Cabernet is deep purple-red in colour, with an intense nose filled with blackberry, black currant and plum fruit aromas, with cedar, earth and vanilla. There is some heat here that builds, balanced by firm acidity and elevated but ripe and rounded tannins. The fruit is dense on the palate, and carries through to a reasonably long finish. Full bore Aussie for sure, appealing to those who like full-bodied and higher alcohol wines.
Tasted Feb 05,2016 • LAMPRECHT INTERNATIONAL (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2012 TWELFTREE GREENOCK EBENEZER GRENACHE/MATARO, Barossa Valley, South Australia
Vintages #438226 • $23.95 • 750ml. • 88/100This is a blend of Grenache and Mataro (Mourvèdre) that shows its Australian character. The nose fills with ripe and slightly jammy blueberry, blackberry and black currant, with some roasted coffee and chocolate character, and a light menthol note. The wine is dry, with just enough acidity and tannic structure to balance the elevated alcohol. Dry leaves and earthy tones supplement the rich and juicy fruit on the palate, while the drying tannins nicely clean up the finish. A real crowd-pleaser.
Tasted Feb 9, 2016 • B AND W WINES (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2013 DOMAINE PAVELOT AUX GRAVAINS SAVIGNY-LES-BEAUNE 1ER CRU AC
Vintages #206136 • $59.95 • 750ml. • 92/100It's such a pleasure to taste a good Burgundy, and by all accounts this is an excellent example of the 2013 vintage. Bright, fresh raspberry, cherry and red currant fruit aromas, both tart and ripe, are layered over earthy beet root and dry leaf undertones. The wine is bone dry, with very brisk acidity, modest alcohol and silky tannins, saved from austerity by the concentration of fruit. The earthy notes, fruit and a nuance of baking spice carry into a lengthy finish that is supported by a lightly tannic edge. This has a premium price for sure, but it is a real pleasure. Drink now if you enjoy the fairly dominant acidity, or cellar for a few years, although I suspect the high acidity will always dominate the structure — ok by me!
Tasted Feb 05,2016 • VINIFERA WINE SERVICES (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2013 ROCHE DE BELLENE CUVÉE RÉSERVE PINOT NOIR BOURGOGNE AC
Vintages #299859 • $19.95 • 750ml. • 88.5/100Here is a very good Bourgogne from Roche de Bellene. Pretty raspberry, cherry, and blackberry fruit aromas are backed by earth and mushroom notes. Fresh acidity with modest alcohol and tannins frame the pleasant cherry and berry fruit on the palate, while a light peppery and dry herb component adds complexity on the palate. Very pleasant, lightly earthy, with lots of vibrant tart and ripe fruit. An excellent value.
Tasted Feb 05,2016 • TANNIN FINE WINES LTD. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2013 JULES TAYLOR OTQ SERIES PINOT NOIR, Malborough, South Island
Vintages #438432 • $32.95 • 750ml. • 90/100The wine is bright ruby-red, with vibrant aromas of rhubarb, cherry and blackberry fruit, with dry leaves, vanilla and cedar notes. Brisk acidity, moderate alcohol, and soft, silky tannins frame the palate, where the fruit takes on a dense, concentrated flavour — ripe but not jammy — and the underlying cedary-earthy notes add to the depth and complexity. This is a very modern, pleasant expression of Marlborough.
Tasted Feb 05,2016 • VINEXX (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2008 CICCHITTI GRAN RESERVA MALBEC, Mendoza
Vintages #155713 • $26.95 • 750ml. • 89/100Here is a chance to try a slightly older wine. It is still a youthful deep purple, with intense and complex aromas suggesting violets, ripe and rich blueberry, blackberry and black currant fruit, with earth, dry leaves and a hint of chocolate. The wine is dry with some residual sugar, full-bodied, with elevated and slightly grainy tannins, and some heat that builds on the mid-palate. The ripe blackberry and black currant fruit are enhanced by a menthol lift, that carries into the long finish. Ready to drink now, and very appealing indeed.
Tasted Feb 9, 2016 • TRADESA CORP. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2013 CALITERRA TRIBUTO CABERNET SAUVIGNON, Single vineyard, Colchagua Valley
Vintages #205567 • $16.95 • 750ml. • 88/100This Cabernet Sauvignon — with miniscule additions of Cabernet Franc (2%) and Petit Verdot (1%) — is an interesting expression of the grape. Layers of savoury, green herbs, and cedar mingle with the mixture of both tart and ripe blackberry and black currant fruit. Softening but persistent tannins frame the pleasant fruit and savoury character, and a light menthol note appears on the finish. A very well-priced wine with good Cabernet character.
Tasted Feb 9, 2016 • CHURCHILL CELLARS LTD. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
2012 BEYRA VINHOS DE ALTITUDE RESERVA, DOC Beira Interior
Vintages #429043 • $15.95 • 750ml. • 88/100This is a pretty, enticing blend of Mencia and Touriga Nacional from the interior of Portugal towards the Spanish border. Aromas of blackberry, black currant and blueberry fruit that is ripe and almost candied, are complemented by spice and milk chocolate. The wine is fairly dry, although a hint of sweetness is balanced by brisk acidity. Alcohol is moderate, and tannins are persistent and surprisingly chalky. The candied notes largely disappear on the palate, where the blackberry and black currant fruit are supplemented by a lightly roasted note. Very pleasing and well-priced.
Tasted Feb 16, 2016 • VINYA (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation