August 5, 2016 § Leave a comment
In the late 90’s I worked for a wine importer the owner of which had a penchant for European wines. We had a great portfolio and it featured some brilliant Alsatian (France) white wines. I fell in love with Pinot Gris from Alsace. To me it seemed that the Alsatian expression of Pinot Gris was incredibly pure, refined and elegant.
At about the same time Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio was starting its incredible rise in popularity. Today the shelves are filled with hundreds of Pinot Gris/Grigio’s, the most of which I consider tosser wines.
Tosser wines are wines conceived of not in the vineyard or cellar, but around the marketing table in the presence of PowerPoint presentations and demographic studies. I found so many expressions of PG to be tossers that I stopped buying it altogether. So when a bottle of the Blue Grouse 2015 Pinot Gris showed up on my desk, I cracked it open expecting the worst.
Price ~ $18-$22
Score ~ 8.4/10 (Over Delivers
The nose showed focused and vibrant pear and melon. The palate is incredibly refined and elegant with piercing and pure pear flavours. Bright acidity on the finish makes this wine refreshing and incredibly well balanced. I liken it to a perfect set of pearls. Refined, elegant, pure and empirically pleasing.
As for food, this will be a great pairing with roasted/grilled pork, white fish, and fresh salads with a light vinaigrette or quality olive oil.
Grapes ~ 100% Pinot Gris
Store Section ~ BC/VQA
Availability ~ Private stores only (take a look at the Blue Grouse website for a complete list here).
July 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
Rock the Shores happens again this weekend and my long term colleague Glen Barlow has put together some great bevvie choices.
Among them is one of my favourite Rosés on the market right now, the 2015 Quill Rosé from Blue Grouse. Think of how beautiful it would be to listen to so awesome music while being warmed by the sun all with a glass of Rosé in hand- heaven and a little touch of what life is like in many other parts of the world.
Outside of the Quill Rosé, here is the list of beverage options this weekend.
Blue Grouse Quill White
Blue Grouse Quill Red
Blue Grouse Quill Rosé
Merridale House Apple
Merridale House Dry
Phillips Brewing Blue Buck
Phillips Brewing Analogue Kolsch
Phillips Brewing Pilsner
Phillips Brewing Bottle Rocket ISA
Phillips Brewing Shortwave
Phillips Brewing Raspberry Wheat
Phillips Brewing Electric Unicorn
Ready To Drink
Palm Bay Red Ruby Grapefruit
Jim Beam Bourbon & Lemonade
Jim Beam Green Apple & Soda
July 16, 2016 § Leave a comment
This week saw a first from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch; an apology letter.
A letter was send to every wholesale customer of the LDB. Given that they have a monopoly on all imported product and spirits, this mean close to 12,000 businesses was saw this letter.
The letter starts with an apology for all the shorted orders and out of stocks that have recently plagued the LDB Wholesale Centre. Over the last 3 years fulfillment rates have dropped to 91% yet overall revenues have grown to over $3B. What this means is that $300M in demand has gone unfulfilled and lost to the province’s general revenue.
The letter goes on to name a few causes. Technical, which I totally understand given that they are using databases that were old in 2009 to run $2B worth of orders through, and capacity. The first of these is easily solved and they are in the process of doing so, however the second is a little harder to solve politically although dead easy operationally.
Operationally you would simply lease more warehouse space or trucks, so why is this not happening now? Who doesn’t want an extra $300M in the coffers each year?
The answer is that the government would have to take legislative action to allow non-LDB distributors to deliver directly. All of a sudden this isn’t a revenue issue, it is a political issue, specifically political capital issue, and that is why it hasn’t been solved.
It is sad and you can’t blame the people working at the Wholesale Centre, they are doing what they can. The blame rests on the shoulders of politicians who can’t seem to see the forest through the trees, no matter what side of the political fence they sit.
Solving this issue will take bi-partisan leadership which is something that BC has lived without for decades.
This is just my opinion so if you have other solutions then by all means post them here.
July 11, 2016 § Leave a comment
Heading out of town? Going camping or to the cottage? One of the smartest ways to take wine with you is to take a box of wine; yes a box of wine.
I know the impression is that box wine is total plonk, but here in BC, that is because we have always only known plonk to be in box. The fact is there are a number of great options that provide outstanding value.
For those that don’t know the bag in the box (BIB) format, it is the best way to keep wine fresh over time, it is much lighter to transport than the equivalent number of bottles, and you are typically receiving a volume discount.
When it comes to camping, I like to find wines that will pair well, perhaps not perfectly, but well with classic camping meals. For example we always have hot dogs and beans on the first night, followed by evening meals of chicken, steak, fish and sausage. So we need something that is incredibly versatile in order to make the purchase worthwhile.
To that end here are some of the best values on the market that are versatile, cost effective and damn good.
Vina Borgia Garnacha 3L ~ $35+
This Spanish Garnacha is made by the same people that bring you Borsao Garnacha which gets 90+ point ratings every year and is truly delicious.
3L equals 4 x 750ml bottles thus your average price/bottle is $8.74. Compare that to $13.99 for the equivalent bottle!
Available only in private stores.
Radio Boka Garnacha 3L ~ $35
Again, Spanish Garnacha and really juicy! Ripe raspberry, blueberry and plum. You really can’t go wrong here. Pairs beautifully with grilled chicken, pork, beef, and of course hot dogs and beans.
The bottle equivalent cost is also $8.74.
Available in both private and public stores.
Carawine Rosso 3L ~ $33
This southern Italian blend includes Negroamaro, Primitivo and Merlot and is black in the glass. A little less boozy than the two above, but equally as versatile. Flavours of black cherry, plum, blackberry and pastry. It’s also pretty cool packaging that will get the people in the next campsite asking questions.
The bottle equivalent cost is $8.25
Available in public stores only.
Carawine Bianco 3L ~ $33
This is a fruit driven white blend is really lively and bright. A blend of Chardonnay, Tebbiano and Pinot Grigio, this is a very versatile white. It’s a great pairing for everything but steak, but if you can’t drink red this is pretty damn good.
Bottle equivalent cost is $8.25
Available in public stores only.
Have a great time camping or at the cottage and please drink responsibly!
July 1, 2016 § Leave a comment
If you don’t have time to read this post, then simply drop everything and run out and buy as much of this win as you can!
It is the end of the school year and we always give our kids teachers the gift of a bottle of wine. As it happens we needed to stop at the grocery store on the way home, so I decided to pop into the store 2 doors down from the grocery store. Truth is that the store is not my normal haunt so I was curious to see what I was going to find.
I came across a number of ‘Blow Out’ wines, so I checked the vintages, looked to see who the importer was/is (often found on the back label), and any other information like blend, or viticultural info; anything that could tell me if this wine was a blow-out due to quality or overstocking.
I focussed on the Red Boot Italian Red. The importer was Freehouse Wine & Spirits, a very well respected importer known for finding exceptional quality, that has since merged with Icon Wine & Spirits. When importers merge there are often products that get blown out for a variety of reasons, quality issues are rarely one of them. So I decided to pick up a bottle.
Price ~ $9.99
Score ~ 9.2/10 Best Buy
The colour is a dark inky red and the nose show ripe cherry, currant and black plum. The palate is dense yet fresh (wine is at its peak right now) and wonderfully silky. The finish is medium length with lots of ripe fruit and hints of savoury spices. Seriously this wine has the quality of $18-$22 Toscana wines. I truly loved it!
I loved it so much I started asking around to stores to see who actually carried it as I know that the Freehouse/Icon merger was at least 6 months back. So far I could only find it at the 4 Mile Liquor Stores. I understand they have about 16 cases in total, 10 at their Admirals Store and 6 in Colwood.
As for food pairing this would would be a treat if you are grilling just about anything. Burgers, Chicken, Ribs, Lamb, etc. It would also go with some fine Parmesano or Gruyere.
As I said at the top of the post, get on your horse and buy as much of this as you can, you won’t be sorry and these are the last cases available.
Grapes ~ Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot
Store Section ~ Italy & on display
Availability ~ very limited, so far I could only find this at the 4 Mile Liquor Store in Colwood & on Admirals.
June 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
Have you ever watched the move My Summer In Provence? Every scene that involves a meal has a bottle of Rosé. It makes perfect sense because Rosé can be incredibly refreshing and wonderfully versatile. In fact Rosé goes with a broader spectrum of foods than does white (I know I know I am generalizing). So when the temperature rises to above 20C and the grass starts to bleach out, I get a craving for rosé.
As I strolled through my local wine shop I saw a signficant increase in the number of rosés from Provence, which is classic. Prices ranged from $15-$25 which is what I expected, but then I say a lonely wine from Gascogne. Not your typical rosé hotbed and you know how I love to find great values where they are unexpected, so I grabbed a bottle of the Domaine de Pellehaut 2015 Rosé.
Price ~ $18.99
Score ~ 8.1 Over Delivers
If you follow me on Instagram (rod_phillips) you no doubt saw the photo I took of the wine. The colour is a deep rose, and the nose shows bright fruit of strawberry, raspberry. and currants, while the palate is fresh, alive and bursting with finesse and elegance. The finish shows all the fruit and is dry. It is not possible to not want more of this wine, as evidenced by my instagram photo. This is a highly shareable wine and my recommendation would be to have 6-10 bottles kicking around for when friends drop by as one will not be enough.
Grapes ~ I had to do some research for this one as the label doesn’t really tell you anything. Tannat, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Malbec
Store Section ~ France
Availability ~ Private Stores only
June 26, 2016 § Leave a comment
You know that part of the store that you walk past each time. Typically it is the dark corner where the dust bunnies hold their daily get togethers. This is where retailers categories that have the lowest sales, but have enough sales to justify being in the store.
I often have walked right by the section but the other day I stopped. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was feeling what it was feeling- I just need some love. Maybe the dusty bunny chatter was getting loud and it caught my attention. Anyway I stopped, looked and found the next wine that I had to buy.
When you think of Italian, French or Spanish wines you likely conjure up visions of rich colours, sensous landscapes and, of course, a couple of little old wizened folk that make the vision complete.
But what of Bulgaria? If you are like me you are likely thinking of row upon row of drab gray concrete Soviet era buildings, with downtrodden colourless people strolling the pock marked, beaten up streets. Hardly inspires confidence or enthusiasm for the wine, but this is exactly where you find great buys; where they are unexpected.
I reached out and firmly grasped the Lovico Gamza by the neck, wiped off the dust, and proudly presented it to the cashier who immediately tried to sell on an Aussie wine. Nope! I’m going Gamza!
Price ~ $9.99
Score ~ 7.8 Over Delivers
I have to say I really got into this wine. I pulled the cork and did my first taste and I thought “funky”, so I let it breathe for 20-30 minutes. Yes a $10 wine that needs to breathe.
When I can back to it the aromas had blossomed and were so intriguing. One would be forgiven if you thought Cabernet Franc. No wait, it must be Pinot. No, no there is too much spice, maybe Gamay Noir. Wow what is Gamza!
Gamza, it turns out, is related to that other household name, Kadarka. When I taste it I can’t believe that its not the distant cousin of Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir and Cabernet Franc.
Aromas of crushed red berries, cherry and grapes, with spice and pomegranate. The palate is light to medium bodied, hence I wouldn’t suggest those that buy $10 Malbecs run out and get this. Yet there are some many interesting things going on in this wine.
I gotta say that for under $10 the Lovico Gaza was a great find and one that I will definitely seek out again.
Grapes ~ Gamza
Store Section ~ Eastern Europe
Availability ~ most private and public stores.
June 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
Wow! I don’t know about you but I was surprised and quite disappointed that the UK has voted last night to leave the European Union. There are lots of arguments on both sides but my disappointment lies in the inevitable increases in the prices of wine, beer, spirits and ciders; and yes I include locally produced products as well.
To put you at ease I don’t suspect that price increases will be see until the fall, but you can expect anywhere from a 5% to 10% increase on the shelf. It is not that the cost brewing or making wine has gone up, it is because the Canadian Dollar has dropped in value in relation to the Euro and the US Dollar meaning that our money doesn’t go as far.
It wasn’t that long ago that prices took a big increase when the price of a barrel of oil dropped, now Brexit will add to that pain.
Not only will that great buy at $10 become $11, but the selection with drop. Once a bottle of wine goes over $20 there is a 40% drop in its volume and that usually means an eventual #vinexit or #vexit from the market.
My advice is to find your favourite bottle and start buying up.
June 17, 2016 § Leave a comment
One of the things about the wine business is that it is a business of passion. I can tell you there isn’t a lot of money in it, and if you were to ask anyone involved they are not in it for the money, they are in it because they love it. So it is sad when you hear that a talented, passionate importer has decided to pack up and move to a different industry because he can’t make ends meet. The silver lining however is that he has reduced the prices on a number of products in his portfolio. Including the Alba de los Infantes 2009 Gran Reserva.
For those that don’t know for a Spanish wine to be called Gran Reserva is must be aged 2 years in barrel and further 3 years in bottle. What this means is that the wine grower and the wine maker saw something in the quality of the grapes and resulting wine that was special. So special that they decided to assume the added cost of a min. 5 years of ageing.
Typically the price for a Gran Reserva wine from Spain starts at the $22 mark and goes up, way up from there. So when the importer told me what the ‘clearance’ price was I started to salivate. It took a while for me to find some bottles in stores, but when I did I was over the moon.
It is not too often that a wine gets a Best Buy rating from me, as it truly needs to punch well above its weight to do so, but this is one.
Price ~ $12.99
Score ~ 9.3/10 Best Buy
It may only be $13 but please let it breathe for at least 30 minutes. If you do you will be rewarded.
The colour is a dark red/purple and the nose shows bright red and blue berries, with some spice and leather.
The palate shows a ton of fresh fruit, while the texture is supple and richly textured. The finish shows generous berry and black tree fruits along with some sensuous savoury spices.
I know that I will be buying this by the case.
This weekend all the dad’s in the family will be enjoying a barbeque, and that is exactly what I would recommend for this wine. Slow roasted ribs, grilled meats, chicken. This would also be a delight with some medium aged cheeses right up to some top quality manchego.
Grapes ~ Tempranillo, Garancha
Store Location ~ Spain
Availability ~ Limited to private stores. I got mine from Spinnaker’s James Bay.
June 3, 2016 § Leave a comment
As you know the purpose of this blog is to provide useful reviews of wines under $20. The goal is to weed through the plethora of inexpensive wine to find the true values. This wine perfectly encapsulates this.
This wine didn’t have a sale tag but, for those in the know, it is significantly under priced for it’s appellation. Cotes du Rhone-Villages is one cut above Cotes du Rhone, yet most Cotes du Rhone’s on the market are in the $20 range. With that in mind, this wine had all the potential of being a truly magical find.
Price ~ $14.99
Score ~ 6.8 Good Drop
It is a good wine, but it didn’t wow me like I was hoping. For the cork dork looking for elegance and finesse as expressed by bright acidity and relatively delicate palate, this is a great wine. However for those looking for the boldness one comes to expect from Rhone wines, you will not find it here.
I loved exploring this wine as it unfolded on my palate. Cerebraly it kept my attention glass after glass, but it left friends over for a barbeque, wonting.
The nose shows savoury spices, raspberry and dark plum. The palate is medium bodied and filled with complexity if you choose to let it show.
For food pairings, this is great for chicken and pork on the grill and certainly cheeses like mild Gouda.
Grapes ~ Grenache, Syrah, Carignan
Store Section ~ France
Availability ~ Both private and public stores.