January 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
I don’t know about you but I have two realitieses in my life. One, a glass of wine with dinner is a simple enjoyment that not only makes the food taste better, but slows the day down and brings a harmony to it that just isn’t there otherwise. Second is that this is the time of year that I lament going to the mailbox. Which bill is arriving today? It is the time of the year where I come to grips with the real cost of the holiday season. To that end I revel in
the beauty of oft forgotten wines that some may call cheap,
but I call inexpensive.
The price of a wine isn’t always a good indication as to its value. Consider the impact of the plummeting Canadian dollar on the price of produce. The price of tomatoes has skyrocketed in recent weeks, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the tomato has increased.
One of the great shelters of world wine value is Portugal. Often over shadowed by Spain, France and Italy, this little country on the Western side of the Iberian peninsula offers some killer wines for under $10. Grao Vasco Dao 2012 is just one of those wines.
Price ~ $8.79
Score ~ 7.6/10 Over Delivers
A blend of classic Portuguese grapes (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, Alfrochiero), this wine is easy going and is simple, but simple in the best way, like how clarity of mind makes things simple. It has good fruit, is well balance and offers decent structure making it ideal for chicken, pasta, even steak or a roast of beef.
My favourite part is the velvety texture combined with dried and fresh fruit flavours while having just a kiss of rustic reality. I know this sounds odd, but it is like leaving the city for the cabin on the lake and how the cabin on the lake has its own rustic beauty.
Store Section: Portugal
Availability: Market Wide
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December 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
When I say the word Shiraz what do you think of? Probably Yellow Tail right? I have a very clear recollection of the Aussie wave that hit our shores in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Every Shiraz coming into the market seemed to fit a very thin taste spectrum. I remember thinking that could be a big mistake. As it turned out, like most things, people tired of the same flavour and body and started to migrate to Malbec thus insuring the rapid decline of Australian wine fortunes in BC.
The fact is that only those Shiraz’s manufactured to taste the same year after year do. 99% of Shiraz made in Australia is not manufactured and actually reflects the region and winery it comes from.
I know that the Grey Label is outside of the $20 but holy crap does it represent a great value. Close your eyes here comes some dorky terms – very well balanced, bright acidity, dense flavours and aromas from start to finish. This is the whole package and thoroughly enjoyable.
Price ~ $29-$33
Score ~ 9.3/10 Best Buy
Unscrew the cap and let this wine breathe for a few minutes (10-15) and you will be well rewarded. Stick your nose right in the glass and take a deep breathe. What you will notice is the scent of blueberry, blackberry, ripe plum, black cherry, black pepper, violets, lavender, and just a hint of cured meat. I know, I know it seems like there couldn’t be all that, but there is.
The palate is bright yet full and ripe and the finish is juicy with just a kiss of spice and sultry smoke.
Grapes ~ 100% Shiraz
Store Section ~ Australia
Availability ~ Both government and private stores.
Food ~ Roasted or grilled lamb, Duck, even Turkey, Aged Cheddar.
Acknowledgements: Stacey Brennan, Pam Sanderson, Ernest Sargent, Brianna Kirby, Jami Wood, Karin Kallio, Angela Phillips, Patti Raffle.
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November 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
One of the things I truly love about my journey through the world of wine, is having my ‘knowledge’ challenged. It seems that as humans, in order to form an opinion we must collect a few seeds of ‘solid’ knowledge on a subject. From these seeds grows our beliefs of what is true. This was my introduction to the grape Graciano. It was early on in my journey and the seeds planted were from the proprietor of Rioja based winery.
Rioja is a region in the north of Spain and is certainly world renowned. The wines are governed by the rules of Denominacion de Origen Califcada (DOC) and at the time to be called Rioja the wine must be a blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano, with Tempranillo making up at least 60% of the blend. Graciano traditionally made up a fraction of the blend. Why? Well as the proprietor told me Graciano on its own “tastes like wet woolly socks at worst and dry wooly socks dipped in plum juice at best.” It has been almost 20 years since then, but I have continued to hold true that Graciano was nothing to get excited about. That was until last week.
I was happily walking through one of my local stores looking for the unusual, the lesser known, because my experience has always told me that this is where you find the best deals. A very nice staff person that I trust to point me in the right direction suggested that I try the Rio Madre 2012 Rioja Graciano.
Price Paid: $14.99
Notes: Pleasure is part of the fabric of being who we are and thus as our lives weave the tapestry that will be our story, different things provide pleasure. I have spent the last couple of years shedding the shackles of the expected and making a living by changing longstanding truths and behaviours. In other words life has been a wild, fully flavoured ride. As good as this sounds, a wild ride doesn’t always meet ones needs or desires.
I pulled open the cork and let the wine breathe for about 15 minutes and poured a generous glass – it had been a wilder day than normal – and I immersed myself in the aromas. There is indeed a wildness to the wine, but also a timeless, natural beauty. Aromas of black fruits, plums and floral tones blend with the untamed spicy essence of drylands.
The body of the wine is rich but balanced. As the wine washes over your tongue you will get the sense of wild fruit like blackberries found in the back woods at the end of a long dry summer, combined with refined layers of plum, spice and a hint of hickory.
I really really enjoyed this wine and highly recommend it to others, especially those feeling a glint of excitement from the wild side of life.
Rating: 8.25/10 ~ Over Delivers
Purchased From: BC Liquor Stores
Section of the Store: Spain
If you happen to try this wine, please let me know what you think, and if you have any questions or want a specific wine researched, drop me a line.
September 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
There are many food pairings for this wine, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this wine is best paired with a specific mood. I recently found myself in a place where I was at once excited about the possibilities of the future but at the same feeling a little apprehensive, pensive and perhaps dark. This wine has a ton of things going on in it and it expresses a number of emotions as a result.
I first gravitated to it because I met the people responsible for this wine in Argentina and we had a lengthy conversation about Corvina and how it could do in Argentina, and what wonderful things could come of a blend with Malbec.
Once you pull the cork you get the sense of a brooding dark wine, but once it washes over your palate you a brightened and refreshed. I think everyone has gone through, or is going through some dark times, and it is a testament to human creativity that most of the time we emerge in a happier place. This is what this wine tastes like.
Fruit flavours of dark plum, leather, red cherry and hints of blueberry. A dark almost dusty mid palate finishes bright and refreshing.
Granted this wine will not be for everyone and that is why I didn’t give it the highest of rankings, however if you are in the mood to see a brighter future, or at least taste it, this might just become your favourite wine.
Purchased At: BC Liquor Stores
Foods: Roasted chicken and lean red meats. Cheeses, hearty breads, also excellent with a simple grilled cheese.
Grapes: Malbec, Corvina
August 27, 2015 § 1 Comment
Bordeaux has always been a mystery of sorts to me. My first experiences with it, unlike those of Chianti Classico, were not impressive at all. I found the wines, that I could afford, to be thin, tannic and not worthy of the heaps of praise and pretty penny the wines of Bordeaux receive. That is until I tried the great wines of Bordeaux and I quickly found out that if you are willing to pay top dollar ($800-$3000/bottle) you will always get a wonderful wine, however it is only in the best of Bordeaux vintages, does the lovely seductive body, perfumes and flavours of classic Bordeaux, transcend to the affordability of the everyday.
I spent a Sunday morning reading what I think is the world’s best wine periodical, Decanter, and it was all about Bordeaux. As my mouth started to water I took the decision to enjoy a bottle of Bordeaux that very evening. Being a relative neophyte I contacted a friend of mine who makes a living at choosing the great from the average in Bordeaux. She counselled me to select the 2012 instead of the 2011 and I am glad that I did.
The 2012 Chateau Pey La Tour is a fine wine and a very enjoyable expression of the ‘Right Bank’ (Merlot focussed) wines of Bordeaux. Lovely aromas, good body, supple long finish, complexity of flavours and structure. Yup enjoyable, however at close to $20 I’m expecting more than what I would get out of a Bordelaise wines like Chateau de Courtleliac ($13) or Chateau La Gorce ($13). I really liked it, was thankful for the experience, but as an everyday wine the value is in the lower priced wines.
Purchased At: BC Liquor Stores
Food: Steak, roasted red meats, hearty casseroles; Foodie Wine
Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon
April 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
Score: 6.7 ~ Good Drop
You have heard the phrase ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’? That is how the wine growers and makers of Veneto region have been approaching wine for over two millennia. This wine is a reflection of that tradition but with a modern twist. This is a blend of Merlot & Corvina which until recently would have been unthinkable… even in the wine world, steeped in all its traditions, has rebels within it.
Tasting Notes: Nice plum, cherry and blueberry aromas and flavours. Touches of savoury herbs and licorice don the finish. The texture is very soft. Pillowy soft you might say. I liked it but like a pillow, it met my expectations and did its job well, but was rather unremarkable.
Value: The value here is for those looking to turn their brains off, and just sink into a quiet glass of wine.
Added Value: This wine would shine best for those looking to delve into the variations of Merlot. Not only will you get a great representation of Merlot grown in the Veneto, but also how Merlot works with Corvina. This is also a great wine for burgers and meats done with BBQ sauce.
Food Pairings: Burgers with all the fixins. Grilled or slow roasted meats. Medium but flavourful cheeses.
Service: Pull thercork and you are ready to go, however the wine does blossom well over time. Run it through the Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator
a few times and you are good to go.
Store Section: Italy
Appellation: Veneto – Veneto is in North Eastern Italy and is home Bardolino, Valpolicella, Amarone and a lot of Prosecco. It is a great place to travel through as it features rolling hills, lakes, mountains and stretches to the sea and the city of Venice.
2013 vintage was fair to good as vintages go but the 2012 is the vintage you will find for most reds right now and it was a pretty damn good vintage. Best vintages in recent years have been 2010 and 2006. There are still some Amarones floating around from these vintages and they are truly outstanding.
Grapes: Corvina, Merlot
Available: Everything Wine
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PS – if you do try this wine, please let me know what you think by submitting a comment.
April 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
Score: 7.8 ~ Over Delivers
If I had to be a French peasant during the 17th & 18th centuries, I would hope I was living in Costieres de Nimes. When I look at the label of this wine I picture a Noble Manor replete in oil paintings of Grand Dukes and Duchesses. Around the side of the castle is the stables where 10 white steeds are groomed and rode each day. The peasants who work the vineyards and make the wine must have been the happiest of their lot. I know I would be if my beverage at lunch and dinner were this wine.
Tasting Notes: The colour is dark crimson/purple and the aromas are very complex for a wine of this price. Violets and rosemary, raspberry, cherry and licorice. The palate is of medium weight and shows layers of flavours that reflect the aromas. The finish is soft, velvety and features dark red berries, lavender and pepper.
Value: I think this wine over delivers for the price, certainly more so than many others in the price point, but its real value will come to those who already enjoy the fruits of the French vine.
Added Value: This wines has added value for Foodies as it is a great pairing for grilled and roasted meats. This is also a great wine for those looking to explore the wines of the Rhone and Languedoc regions of France.
Food Pairings: I would go with pulled pork first and foremost, but classic pairings of grilled and roasted meats are also fantastic
Service: Pull the cork and let breathe for 20 minutes or so. If you have a Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator
, give this wine a run through a few times.
Store Section: France
Appellation: Costieres de Nimes – this region is the southernmost in the Rhone Valley, although it was one of the first to have grapes planted by the Romans. In the 16th and 17th centuries the wines of the Costieres were the wines of choice for the Papal cellars. This is when the wine culture of region really took hold.
Mostly red grapes are planted, however some absolutely opulent and delicious white wines can be found here.
2013 is considered to be one of the best vintages from over the last 5 years.
Grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre
Available: Everything Wine(Exclusive)
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PS – if you do try this wine, please let me know what you think by submitting a comment.
April 3, 2015 § 1 Comment
I can still recall a time not that long ago when red wine sales were a fraction of those of white wine. It was cool to order a glass of “dry white wine”. Then reports hit the media that red wine had restorative properties and a glass or two a day was recommended for healthy living, so the pendulum rapidly swung in the opposite direction. At one point in the early 2000’s red wine represented 90% of all wine sales. The pendulum has again started to swing back and now 6 of every 10 bottles of wine purchased are red. The selection of red wine doubles that of white, with the vast majority being priced between $7 & $20. Finding wines that represent true bang for your buck is a a great challenge and one that I happily have embarked upon.
Here are my Top 5 Red Wines for Easter 2015 that are currently on the shelves.
Truly one of the Best Buys on the market no matter what the price. Although it is showing a little weariness from its peak, it still represents incredible value. Lush, complex, expressive, deep, succulent, silky are all words that could be applied to this wine. Looks for aromas and flavours of ripe and sour cherries, savoury herbs, plum, subtle white and black pepper spice. The palate is silky and complete from start to finish.
Rosso di Montalcino is the little brother of Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello is one of the world’s most sought after, iconic wines in the world and the price reflect that (average $60-90/bottle). Rosso is a younger expression of Brunello and thus is usually about half the price ($30-$45/bottle). When this wine hit the shelf at $16.99 I was more than a little suspect, but was I pleasantly surprised. I think my own enjoyment of this wine could be approaching 36-40 bottles since its release.
The only challenge here is finding it. As far as I can tell there are only a couple of stores that currently have stock and that is dwindling. When you do find it, open it and give it a couple of hours to blossom.
Score – 9.4/10 Best Buy
Available Cascadia Colwood & Uptown.
Link to the original review: Buon Tempo 2010 Rosso di Montalcino
I first bought this wine because it looked like the kid on the playground that always gets picked last. Here is a wine whose packaging is not going to sell it, in fact, in a retail setting, the packaging makes it disappear on the shelf. Am I ever glad that I took the chance. If I didn’t know the price I had paid for it, I would have pegged it at around $16-$18/bottle. For $12.99 this is a steal.
Aromas are both fruit, floral and savoury herbs. While the palate is round, soft and very flavourful. Look for plum and red berry flavours, black pepper, hints of violet and velvety smooth.
Like the Rosso di Montalcino above, this is a hard one to find, but when you do buy it by the case.
Score – 9.3/10 Best Buy
Available at Metro Liquor Tuscany Village, Spinnaker’s James Bay.
Link to original review: Masia F Vino Tinto
I have been enjoying this wine for over 15 years. My first taste of it was in Chile while on a buying trip. It was one of the few wines on the trip that showed ripe fruit, complex flavours, and a round, rich texture. It was indeed available in BC, however the price was around $14.99-$15.99. Now that it is hovering around the $10 mark, and has only improved over the years (more mature vines), it is a steal. In fact if you are planning a wedding or having a whole bunch of people over for Easter dinner, and need multiple bottles of something, go out and get a case.
Aromas of ripe plum and dark berries and black cherry. Under the fruit you will sense savoury spices, hints of clove and perhaps even a touch of bacon. The palate shows similar flavours and is juicy, ripe and round.
Score: 9.1/10 Best Buy
Available in almost all private stores including Cascadia, Metro, Everything Wine, Hillside Liquor Store
Link to original review: Terra Andina Carmenere-Syrah
Good Pinot Noir can be seductive, sultry and very sexy. I have heard some people suggest that great Pinot Noir doesn’t have aromas but pheromones. By no stretch of the imagination does this wine compete with the greats of Burgundy, New Zealand, BC and California, but it does have many of the characteristics of the greats, but at 20% of the price.
There now exist many quality Pinot Noirs on the market under $20, but few have the combination of complexity, flavour and texture that this one has. Look for aromas and flavours of dark cherry, earth, black raspberry, black pepper and a delicate hint of cloves. The texture is silky and seductive, so much so that one should be in a resting position to enjoy this as it is kind of like a nice neck rub or massage.
Score: 9.1/10 Best Buy
Available in Cascadia, Metro Liquor, Hillside Liquor Store, Everything Wine.
Link to the original review: Casa Viva 2012 Pinot Noir
I love the wines of the Rioja (a close second to this one is the Lopez de Haro 2010 Rioja Crianza). The red wines of this region are a wonderful blend of elegance, perfume, ripe fruit, texture and power. For a cork dork like me, I can get lost in a wine like as it takes me on a trip through the hills, valleys and simple cafes of the region.
The Artesa shows lush ripe berry and plum fruit, is wonderfully perfumed, and has the power to stand up to a thick steak, while having the elegance to enhance the nuances of more delicate meats. I would highly recommend this wine if you are having a classic Easter Ham this weekend.
Score: 9.1/10 Over Delivers
Available in Metro Liquor, Cascadia Liquor Stores.
Link to the original review: Artesa 2010 Rioja
I hope that you have enjoyed this list and from me and my family have a wonderful Easter weekend!
March 15, 2015 § Leave a comment
Seductive, tantric, beguiling, these are words I usually use for the wines of the Langhe region (same goes for Barolo and Barbaresco). With visions of sultry seduction I happily purchased this wine made by the Batasiolo winery.
My eyes grew wide as I twisted the corkscrew into the pliant cork. The long cork slowly broke free of its glass bonds. It took every inch of will not to seek immediate pleasure and pour myself a glass. I could hear the wine slosh deliciously as it poured forth… but no, I had to wait if I wanted to taste and enjoy the wine at its climax.
I put the bottle aside and waited for 30min. The wait was made easier by getting the update on the day from my wife and kids, but then moment finally came where dinner was served, and I could put my whole being into the sensory enjoyment of this wine.
I have to say that the wine did not fulfil my expectations. It is a blend of 3 grapes that can make some incredible wines on their own and it seems that together they served to mute their greatness instead of coming together to make something mind-blowing. It was kind of like the anticipation I had for the Canuck season when they had Messier, Mogilny, and Bure and we all know how that worked out.
Don’t get me wrong, the wine is solid and good, but does it deliver more value considering its price? Unfortunately this wine is fairly priced and thus is a Good Drop.
Tasting Notes Sipping: The colour is dark purple with deep crimson edges. The nose is muted and somewhat confused. I was looking for the wonderful perfume of Nebbiolo or the bright juicy fruit aromas of Barbera. There were little bits of each, but they weren’t immediately present. The palate is rich and full and shows layers of complexity right from the start through the finish. Flavours of ripe plum, red berries, dried herbs and savoury spices glide across the palate and lead to medium length finish.
Tasting Notes with Food: I had gone to the store to find a wine that would work well with the Spaghetti Bolognese, what better choice than one from the Langhe region. The wine worked well with the meal as it did not shy from the richness of the sauce. The texture of the wine is what made this pairing work best.
Value: This is a good wine and I would suggest this as good introduction to the wines of the Langhe region. However if you are looking for something to blow your mind for the price… this isn’t it.
Added Value: This wine has added value as an Exploration Wine, BBQ wines, as a Foodie Wine and as a pairing for Comfort Foods.
Service: Let breathe for 30-45 minutes or run it through your Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator
a couple of times.
Grapes: Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo
Store Section: Italy
Available: BC Liquor Stores