It’s i4C time in Ontario — that’s the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration — which is as good a reason as any to present five Chardonnays from around the world: two from Australia, one from New Zealand, and two from France.
But there is so much exciting and diverse white wine available, that I have highlighted another five wines from five different grape varieties and countries. These include a stellar Riesling from Niagara’s Hidden Bench, a Chenin Blanc from South Africa, a Verdejo from Spain, an Alvarinho from Vinho Verde, and a Gavi from Italy — fantastically varied wines that I hope will whet your palate for some enjoyable WineDiscovery.
I want to begin with the Canadian Riesling because, with all the focus on Chardonnay these days (which I am happy to endorse, by the way), we sometimes push Ontario Riesling too far in the background. But from my point of view that’s also partly the fault of Ontario winegrowers, whom I think have tended to dull the edge of their potentially great Riesling signature. Hidden Bench is one of the winemakers who have stayed true to their long-term mission of making firm, terroir-driven (and hence acidic) Rieslings, while indulging in a little well-judged softness with their entry-level Estate Riesling to make it more accessible for the sightly less adventurous consumer.
HIDDEN BENCH ESTATE RIESLING 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Vintages #183491 • $23.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100Hidden Bench continues on its path of consistent and low-key excellence with the latest edition of its Estate Riesling. Aromas and flavours of crisp, fresh red apple, lime and lemon fruit are backed by a nuance of rubber-petrol. The wine tips over to off-dry, but its high acidity keeps the palate both fresh and elegant, and carries into a lingering lemon, apple and mineral finish. This is one of the very best off-dry-but-crisp Niagara Rieslings that I've tasted recently — pitch-perfect and charming.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • HIDDEN BENCH VINEYARDS (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review
I begin my list of Chardonnays with a truly exceptional (but premium-priced) wine from Tasmania’s Tolpuddle Vineyard, now owned by the excellent Adelaide Hills producer Shaw + Smith.
TOLPUDDLE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2013, Tasmania
Vintages #447045 • $58.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 92/100Tasmania is of growing interest for cooler climate still and sparkling wines, and this is a premium example from a leading producer, now owned by Shaw + Smith of the Adelaide Hills. The wine is light straw with glints of yellow. On pouring, the nose fills with smoky-reductive and flinty notes, with lemon, pear and apple underneath, and notes of vanilla and barrel spice. The palate is taut and crisp, and the reductive notes recede into an underlying core of flint and stone, bathed in lemon and apple fruit, with the integrating vanilla and cedary resin. This is a dynamic and forceful wine, but still pure and elegant — perhaps a little challenging in the short term, but destined to be great for a decade or more. One of the most compelling Australian Chardonnays that I've tasted in recent memory.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • LIFFORD WINE & SPIRITS (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review
The remaining four Chardonnays are very intriguing, and are all available at very attractive prices.
PARKER COONAWARRA ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2014, South Australia
Vintages #447029 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100Of course Coonawarra is best know for its production of fine red wines, particularly Carbernet Sauvignon. But its relatively cool climate is also suitable for the production of white wines as well, and this Chardonnay is an excellent example. The wine is light straw-yellow, with complex aromas of lemon, apple, white flowers, dry herbs and light toasty barrel notes filling the nose. Brisk acidity carries the herb- and fruit-filled palate, with a very light vanilla and toast underpinning. Elegant, well-structured, quite delicious, and an excellent value. Highly recommended.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • SELECT WINE MERCHANTS INC. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review
SIMONNET-FEBVRE CHABLIS AC 2014
Vintages #41780 • $25.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100This is a flinty-smoky-mineral wine, with some lime, lemon and green apple fruit and light floral notes. The structure is classic: bone dry with high acidity and modest alcohol, and with a creamy texture that suggests extended lees contact. Crisp, mineral, and firm — good value.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • MARK ANTHONY BRANDS (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review
DOMAINE ROUX PÈRE & FILS BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY AC 2014
Vintages #446369 • $20.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88.5/100The wine presents crisp lemon, green apple, melon and white peach fruit, lightly floral, with hints of hazelnuts, honey underneath, and a stony minerality. While the frame is bone dry with firm acidity, there is a lightly creamy texture that softens the palate just enough to denote elegance rather than austerity. This is a very well-made basic white Burgundy, that justifies its place at the table, but also provides pleasure on its own. Highly recommended.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • VINEXX (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review
COOPERS CREEK CHARDONNAY 2014, Gisborne, North Island
Vintages #447482 • $18.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88.5/100The wine shows medium straw with glints of yellow. Lemon and green apple aromas are accompanied by smoky-flinty notes and a hint of green corn husks. The wine is nicely structured: dry, with firm acidity, moderate alcohol, and a medium body, and the lemony-apple-stony palate lingers pleasantly on the finish. Very good, and an excellent value.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • NOBLE ESTATES WINES & SPIRITS INC. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review
The final four wines are diverse, interesting and delightful!
JARDIN INSPECTOR PÉRINGUEY CHENIN BLANC 2014, WO Stellenbosch
Vintages #443473 • $15.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100The wine is light yellow. The nose is rather intense, with bright and fresh lemon and apple fruit, complemented by smoky-mineral notes and a suggestion of barrel spice. The structure is typical for dry Chenin, with high acidity, medium alcohol and a medium-full body. The palate combines the fresh and crisp fruit with an herbal lift, and a richer waxy and honied undertone, while the finish focuses down to a persistent lemon tone and stony minerality. Another amazingly well-priced South African wine.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • ABCON INTERNATIONAL (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review
EL GORDO DEL CIRCO VERDEJO 2014, DO Rueda
Vintages #441220 • $17.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100Aromatic Verdejo is the signature grape of Rueda, an almost exclusively white wine region in the heart of red wine country in north-central Spain. The wine pours medium yellow, with rich aromas of peach blossoms, pink grapefruit, peaches, apricots and lemon. Dry, with elevated acidity, medium alcohol, the palate has a slightly creamy texture that adds weight to the body, and richness to the lovely fruit, while the acidity keeps the balance fresh. This is a very good example of Verdejo at a compelling price.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • WINE LOVERS AGENCY INC. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review
MORGADIO DA TORRE ALVARINHO VINHO VERDE 2014, Monção e Melgaço, DOC Vinho Verde
Vintages #960955 • $17.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100The sub-region of Monção e Melgaço is considered to be the prime source of Alvarinho in Vinho Verde, and varietally-labeled wines like this example should not be confused with the fizzy, ultra-youthful, generic "cheap and cheerful" wines that we often identify as Vinho Verde. The wine pours fairly deep yellow. Rich peach, grapefruit, and melon fruit aromas play over a stony-earthy undertone. Crisp acidity and modest alcohol frame the palate, where a creamy richness adds depth and breadth on the mid palate, while the acidity and minerality re-emerge on the finish. It's so good to see a more serious Vinho Verde here in the market! Very good, and an excellent value.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • CHARTON HOBBS INC (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review
BERSANO GAVI DI GAVI DOCG 2014
Vintages #999979 • $16.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100The wine is light straw in colour, with aromas of green apple, lemon and green herbs, and a mineral undertone. Fully dry, with elevated acidity and a lighter body, the wine edges towards austerity, but the fruit has enough generosity that the wine remains balanced and broadly appealing. The drying finish is crisp, fresh and mineral — a good example of Gavi. Fine value.
Tasted June 10, 2016 • BARRIQUE WINES & SPIRITS IMPORTS (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Review