As usual, my Vintages selections are eclectic, with the only theme being their excellent quality. Three vintage-dated sparkling wines are followed by eight reds: two from Australia, one from Priorat, four from Italy, and one from the Northern Rhône.
Champagne is always welcome, and for a special treat I present a 2006 vintage Champagne from Baron-Fuenté.
BARON-FUENTÉ GRAND MILLÉSIME BRUT CHAMPAGNE AC 2006
Vintages #155119 • $56.95 • 750ml. • 91/100As you'd expect from a vintage Champagne ten years into its life, the wine has lots of autolytic character, as aromas of toast, brioche, blanched almonds, and white chocolate lead the way. But clear lemon, green apple and pear notes, with an herbal-minty tone, provide a surprising and balancing freshness. The wine is dry, with very fresh acidity and a rich creamy texture. On the palate the freshness remains, although the fruit shows the beginning of some pleasing oxidative bruising, and the lemon takes on a dried note. The finish is complex and satisfying, and a lingering minerality ties a bow on this lovely package.
Tasted March 18, 2016 • AMETHYST WINE AGENCY INC. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
In a much lower price bracket, either the very good 2010 Marques de Gelida Brut Gran Reserva Cava or the fine 2012 Cave de Lugny Cuvée Millésime may fit the bill.
MARQUES DE GELIDA EXLUSIVE BRUT GRAN RESERVA CAVA DO 2010
Vintages #441956 • $19.95 • 750ml. • 89/100Ignore the garish packaging — this is a very good Cava at a reasonable price. The wine is light yellow with golden highlights. The pretty and complex nose presents aromas suggesting white flowers, lemon, green apple and dry herbs, in a lightly oxidative style that also features butterscotch and white chocolate notes. The wine is fully dry, with brisk acidity, very modest alcohol, and a pleasant creamy texture that has real brightness on the palate. Well-defined, dry, and satisfying.
Tasted March 18, 2016 • CHRISTOPHER STEWART WINE & SPIRITS (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
CAVE DE LUGNY CUVÉE MILLÉSIME BRUT CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE 2012, Méthode Traditionnelle, AC
Vintages #183764 • $24.95 • 750ml. • 88.5/100This is a good example of Crémant that shows the delicate side of traditional method sparkling. The nose focuses on white flowers, crunchy apples and lemon, with a hint of fresh bread and light toast. While there is a modicum of residual sugar, the brisk acidity masks it so that the wine reads as dry. The creamy mousse adds a richness that balances the acidity and softens the crisp fruit, while the toasty note re-emerges on the lightly mineral finish. Fine value.
Tasted March 18, 2016 • TRILOGY WINE MERCHANTS (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
The first two red wines are from Australia: Jim Barry’s 2013 The Lodge Hill Shiraz, and the 2012 Xanadu DJL Cabernet Sauvignon.
JIM BARRY THE LODGE HILL SHIRAZ 2013, Clare Valley, South Australia
Vintages #998476 • $24.95 • 750ml. • 90/100The wine is a deep purple, with violet showing on the rim. The nose is rich and bright, suggesting ripe blueberry and black currant fruit, mint, vanilla and chocolate. Elevated acidity balances the round, smooth tannins, and successfully carries the slightly elevated alcohol. On the palate add some plum, spice, licorice and dry earth to the juicy berry fruit, as the mint takes on a eucalyptus character. This is a lively, fruit-forward Aussie Shiraz from a very fine producer. Highly recommended.
Tasted March 29, 2016 • FAMILY WINE MERCHANTS INC. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
XANADU DJL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012, Margaret River, Western Australia
Vintages #444802 • $22.95 • 750ml. • 89/100This is a very good Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River, that includes small amounts of Malbec (4%), Petit Verdot (4%) and Cabernet Franc (2%). The wine is rather deep ruby-red, with exuberant aromas of mint, chocolate, black currant and spicy plum fruit and a suggestion of dry herbs. Tannins are softening and round, balanced by brisk acidity and slightly elevated (though constrained) alcohol. Mint and menthol notes emerge more strongly on the mid-palate, surrounded by the plush fruit. Very good and well-priced.
Tasted March 18, 2016 • HOBBS & CO. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
Next is Miguel Torres’ very fine 2012 Salmos from Priorat. Torres was one of the pioneers of Priorat, and I think that this wine combines both top quality and great accessibility.
TORRES SALMOS 2012, DOCa Priorat
Vintages #450734 • $30.95 • 750ml. • 91/100Salmos is Miguel Torres' blend of Cariñena (Carrignan), Syrah and Garnacha from the slatey Licorella soils of Priorat. The wine is a rather deep purple colour. A core of vibrant blueberry and blackberry fruit is surrounded by a savoury envelope of black olives, cedar and dry earth, with some vanilla and baking spice. Certainly alcohol is elevated, but heat is constrained, balanced by the fine, persistent tannins, noticeable acidity and the full, dense body. The slightly resinous underpinning should completely integrate with another year or two in bottle. This is a lovely wine that has a long life ahead of it. Fine value.
Tasted March 22, 2016 • FAMILY WINE MERCHANTS INC. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
My four picks from Italy include a very dynamic Pallegrello Nero from Masimo Alois in Campania, the 2012 Modus, which is Ruffino’s Sangiovese-based super Tuscan, a 2014 Barbera from Paolo Conterno, and the 2011 Riserva Chianti Classico from Rocca di Castagnoli.
ALOIS CUNTO PALLAGRELLO NERO 2011, IGP Terre del Volturno
Vintages #440743 • $24.95 • 750ml. • 90/100Pallagrello Nero is a native Campanian grape variety that was historically very important in the region prior to the devastation of phylloxera. However, by the late 20th century it was believed to be extinct, until a single vine was discovered and propagated in the 1990s by Peppe Mancini of Terre del Principe. Massimo Alois and his father Michele have also supported its resurrection, and produce this excellent example. The wine is deep, dense, ruby-red. On this occasion the nose was a little shy, showing blackberry, black currant and plum aromas, lightly floral, with notes of dry herbs and dry leaves. This is a big, brawny wine, with grippy, persistent tannins, moderate alcohol and brisk acidity. Add a suggestion of black pepper to the nicely presented fruit and herb flavours, that carry into the lengthy finish. There is lots of stuffing here, and the wine will benefit from a few years in bottle. Decant for early drinking. Highly recommended.
Tasted March 18, 2016 • BRAND NEW DAY WINES & SPIRITS (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
RUFFINO MODUS 2012, IGT Toscana
Vintages #912956 • $29.95 • 750ml. • 90/100Modus is the "super Tuscan" label of Ruffino, sourced from the Poggio Casciano estate near the village of Grassina, south of Florence. It is 50% Sangiovese, with equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Rather intense blackberry, black currant and plum fruit aromas are complemented by baking spice and roasted coffee notes. Grippy tannins and elevated acidity frame the palate, with dry earth and a suggestion of eucalyptus rounding out the vibrant flavours of fruit, spice and coffee. This is a very good example of the super Tuscan genre, and very well-priced indeed.
Tasted March 29, 2016 • CONSTELLATION BRANDS INC. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
PAOLO CONTERNO BRICCO BARBERA D'ALBA DOC 2014
Vintages #744714 • $19.95 • 750ml. • 89/100This is a pretty, youthful Barbera that scores high on the drinkability and deliciousness scale. It's all about the bright raspberry, blueberry and blackberry fruit, fresh and ripe, but also with some candied red licorice notes, all backed by a hint of baking spices. The soft, diminished tannins are characteristic of the grape, as is the brisk acidity — a lively frame that carries the pleasant fruit into the finish, where underlying notes of wet clay and stony minerality add some firmness. Very nice effort, well-priced, and ideal for casual dining.
Tasted March 29, 2016 • PREVEDELLO AND MATHEWS (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
ROCCA DI CASTAGNOLI POGGIO A'FRATI RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO DOCG 2011
Vintages #23358 • $32.95 • 750ml. • 89/100This is a well-proportioned Chianti Classico Riserva. Right at first glance, I like the fact that it is not overly extracted in the glass — it is a rather translucent, medium ruby-red, showing some garnet on the rim. The pleasant nose suggests cherry and blackberry fruit, with a light floral-violet note, buttressed by an earthy and leafy undertone. Elevated acidity and tannins (fine with some grip), easily support the alcohol that carries a little heat on the mid-palate. Add mushrooms and leather to the pretty fruit and earthy notes on the palate, and you have a lively Chianti that is just beginning its evolution towards maturity. This drinks well in the short term, but will also reward some patience in the cellar.
Tasted March 29, 2016 • BARRIQUE WINES & SPIRITS IMPORTS (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
My final wine is a very good 2014 Crozes-Hermitage from Brunel de la Gardine.
BRUNEL DE LA GARDINE CROZES-HERMITAGE AC 2014
Vintages #339861 • $23.95 • 750ml. • 89/100The Brunel de la Gardine label represents the négociant line of the Brunel family, who also own Château de la Gardine, their estate in Châteauneuf du Pape. As négociants, they produce wines from various Rhône appellations, including this youthful Syrah from Crozes-Hermitage. The wine shows dark ruby, with light violet on the rim. The nose features pretty aromas of blueberry, blackberry and cherry fruit, with a nuance of violets, dry herbs and dry earth. The wine spent a year aging in large tronconic oak vats, and so there is breadth of flavour that suggests some barrel exposure without obtrusive wood notes. I like the freshness, which (with the brisk acidity, modest alcohol and fine but drying tannins) allows the fruit to shine on the palate. The fruit, spice, herbal and earth tones play into a long finish. This is a very good value.
Tasted March 29, 2016 • DIONYSUS WINES & SPIRITS LTD. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation