The June 8 Vintages release is another one of those bringing us so many attractive and affordable wines that just considering them alone is enough for this column.
Many are about $15 or less. Others may be $5 to $10 more, but still are very tempting. One might ask what justifies higher prices, and the answer lies in many factors.
The more expensive wines usually receive much more attention, and the practices in making the wine will be more costly. The age of the vines, their location, limitation and selection of fruit, the cost of the land or fruit, method of aging, and many other decisions in the process can add to the price.On top of that, the reputation of the winery and the demand for its wines all factor in. Australia’s Penfolds, for example, has their Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cabernet with the LCBO for $19.95: its flagship wine, the Grange Shiraz is slightly more expensive… $750 for the 2009. Even the Vintage can affect the price of a wine. The 2012 Grange is listed at $1955!
All that said, we can easily content ourselves with the selection on offer for June 8. Not all of these wines will necessarily be slated for your community, and so if you see something here that you really want to try, check with your store in the next few days to see if they have it, or can bring it in for you.
Beyra Vinhos de Altitude 2017, $12.95, is a white from north-central Portugal along the Spanish border. This is a dry white for ‘wine explorers’, as it is 50 per cent Fonte Cal, a grape we don’t see anywhere else. At the Decanter World Wine Awards, it was described as showing “zippy, tangy zest of lime, citrus and stone fruits with delicious spicy white pepper and floral notes. Soft and elegant with great length.” – 96.The Beira Region
Don’t let the “Zin” fool you. The Produttori Vini Manduria Zin Fiano 2017, $13.95, from Italy’s Puglia is a white wine made from the Fiano grape, not a red from California.. From vines that are 20 years of age comes a straw yellow wine with green highlights which suggest apple and pear on the nose, with the orchard fruit carrying through on the palate. Vintages suggests that we will notice “underlying herbs, smoky mineral tones and hazelnut-accented finish.”
El Coto Blanco 2018, $14.95 is a Spanish white from Rioja. It is fresh, bright and crisp, with white peach and nectarine fruit leading in, and herbal notes and citrus on the dry finish.
An entry-level wine, the Boya Sauvignon Blanc 2017, $14.95, from Chile has some herbal character and some salty tanginess with lemony accents on the finish. The reviews tend to be in the upper 80’s, and so it should be most acceptable
The Famille Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2017, $14.95 hails from a top producer in southern France. This has satisfying depth and good balance, presenting peach and lemon lime notes. A Wine Spectator 89 is a pretty solid recommendation for a wine at this price.We don’t see very many wines from British Columbia – a pity, because the wines are often excellent. The St. Hubertus Pinot Blanc 2016, $16.95, took gold at the National Wine Awards. Anthony Gismondi writes, “This is a brighter, lighter ‘Riesling’ version of Pinot Blanc. Here, apple/lemon/peachy aromas spill onto a juicy palate where sweet ripe fruit breaks through before the acidity reins it back in at the finish” -88. It is on the cusp between dry and off-dry.
Torrontés is a cross between the Mission and Muscat of Alexandria grape varietals which actually originated in Argentina. It is distinctive, in that its wines have a very aromatic, floral nose, but actually are quite dry on the palate. The Susana Balbo Signature Barrel Fermented Torrontés 2017, $19.95, is exceptionally highly rated, and may be the best Torrontés you can hope to try. Aromatically distinct, on the palate it can remind you of a Sauvignon Blanc, with the suggestion of grapefruit and tangerine. Tim Atkin, who gives this a 95, also says it is “tangy and saline, skilfully oaked.”The Rosés on this release range in price up to $29.95, with a good Pelee Island Lola Cabernet Franc 2017, coming in at the low end of $15.95. winecurrent.com assessed it at a respectable 88, commenting on its strawberry, cranberry and grapefruit character that is supported by spice notes and good acidity. A very good value.
From a French company with a Chilean winery we have the Lapostalle Le Rosé 2018, $19.95, in a blend is typically that of southern France – Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre. Delicacy and elegance are the watch-words here, and so we shouldn’t expect any brass bands and tubas to come blaring out of the bottle. Nevertheless, the reviews, which respect the style, are generally in the 90’s. Strawberries are referenced, as well as peach or nectarine, and the smooth palate has a creamy feel to it, yet still has very good acidity.
Chateau D’Aquèria Tavel 2018, $24.95, is the star Rosé on the release. In May, the Wine Enthusiast placed it at the top of their list for Rosés, saying “this medium-bodied, dry rosé offers intensely fresh, concentrated strawberry, raspberry and watermelon flavors. It’s juicy yet invigorating and mineral. A blend of Grenache, Clairette, Cinsault and Mourvèdre, it’s a structured, penetrating wine that will gain depth and complexity through 2022 and serve well in the colder months with game or poultry.” The score is 93. The suggested retail price of $22 U.S. would put it at about $30 Canadian. Good for us!
The red wines being released on June 8 almost overwhelm us with the choices we have to make.
Spain’s Goru Organic Monastrell 2017, $14.95, is made from vines that on average are 25 years old, and it is aged in oak for 2 months. The result is a full-flavoured red with lots of dark fruit and a full, but soft mouth feel. Some vanilla oak and pepper notes float up on the finish.We are seeing more and more still wines from the Duoro region in Portugal, much more well known for its famous sweet and heady Port. The Lua Cheia Old Vines Red 2017, $14.95, is described by winealign as a spectacular value. “Juicy and very fresh, smooth and deeply fruited from start to finish…Very moreish,” writes Julia Harding at jancisrobinson.com – 16.5 out of 20 (an extremely respectable score in their system)
Mathilde Chapoutier is the 8th generation of her family to enter the family’s famous wine business. After representing France in shooting and winning many national championships, she turned her attention to business studies and having earned degrees both in France and China, she is currently Chief of Strategy and Business Development for the Chapoutier Group.
The wine bearing her name is the Mathilde Chapoutier Sélection 2017, $14.95. A blend of Syrah and Grenache, it is described by Jeb Dunnock as boasting “smoking good notes of black olives, blackberries, peppery herbs, and underbrush. It’s rich, concentrated, supple and beautifully pure on the palate.” – 92.
The Demazet Réserve des Armoiries Tradition Côtes du Rhône 2016, $14.95, blends 5 different grapes associated with the Rhone into a structured wine with enough tannin to merit cellaring for a few years. This will allow the very good and dark fruit to show even more positively.
Carmen Gran Reserva Carignan 2016, $16.95, from Chile, provides “great varietal character at a very affordable price” according to robertparker.com. (90). The tannins are soft, letting the raspberry-like flavours express themselves as they carry to the long, easy finish
Apaltagua Envero Gran Reserva Carmenère 2015, $18.95, is a must-try for those who enjoy this varietal that has become a specialty in Chile. This wine took Platinum and was called the “Best Chilean Red Single-Varietal” at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards in 2017. -95: “rich dark fruit, sweet spice and vanilla flavour with cassis notes and minty touches shooting through the finish.”
Charles Smith is a winemaker in Washington with a huge following. He grew up not far from Napa in California, but his first career involved managing Rock Bands in Europe. In 1999 he was persuaded to make his own wine, and in 2001 released his first vintage.The Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, $24.95, has a touch of Merlot to it, but is otherwise pure Cabernet Sauvignon. It is quite dry, and the aim was to produce a Bordeaux-like red wine. In that, this is very successful. At this stage, there are still tannins evident, but after the wine has had a chance to breathe, they soften up and contribute to the over-all positive impression. Dark fruit and cassis are markers here, and the aftertaste is long and impressive. Let it open up, and you will enjoy it sip, after sip, after sip.
In addition to the wines mentioned, there are many more intriguing possibilities, with some terrific whites for $18.95 from Niagara’s Cave Spring Cellars, perennially popular Shiraz wines from Australia like Pillar Box and The Black Chook for about the same price, and good Italian reds from all over Italy, including the Tormaresca Torcicoda Primitivo from Puglia, the Monte del Fra Bardolino from the Veneto, and the Marziano Abbona I Due Ricu Langhe Rosso from Piedmont. Have fun sorting through the Treasure Chest.If you want to try something quite different, try ordering Arterra’s Special Edition 2016 Pinot Noir or the 2016 Arterra Epoca, which is a Merlot. Each is $34.95. In crafting these wines, winemaker Marco Piccoli first dried a portion of the grapes in the manner used for Amarone – 20% for the Epoca, 25% for the Pinot Noir. The effect is to concentrate the flavours and create a richness that we would likely never associate with these grapes, especially the Pinot Noir.
The intensity is amazing, the flavours vivid, and the impact goes on and on. With the Pinot Noir, Piccoli describes the wine as overflowing with “vanilla bean, cola, dark bramble fruit and baking spice.” The winemaker is 100% correct. It really isn’t what you would expect of Pinot Noir, but it is delicious.
Considering what a really good Amarone can cost, this is a pretty good deal!
The Epoca is as heady as the Pinot Noir, and the expansion of flavor ripples out just as long and deliciously. The profile, however is its own, with soft tannins murmuring on the palate and raspberry and chocolate shimmering in your senses. Piccoli also mentions graphite – or pencil lead – a descriptor often applied to great Bordeaux.
Both wines are amazingly flavourful. If you like Amarones and Ripassos, you absolutely must try these. They are only available at the winery. Order through greatestatesniagara.com. Order now.