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A chance to compare

This week, Vin shares some tried and true tips to help you branch out and try different wines with less risk of disappointment
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I am always on the look out for new wines and good values, always wondering what “this one tastes like”. Still, when you are laying out good money, many people are most comfortable purchasing wines with which they are already familiar, rarely straying from their “tried and true” favourites. 

With the LCBO’s Limited Time Offers program, it may be a less expensive time to branch out, and it can provide us with an opportunity to do some comparison-tastings.

Take Shiraz, for example. This very popular grape is generally associated with full and rich flavours –black, even roasted fruit, allspice, clove, vanilla and pepper. Some are jammy and high in alcohol. Others may veer from the sweet and bring out savoury flavours instead – olive, herbal notes and even smoke and meaty nuances.

It helps to know what you’re likely to find before you make a purchase, but from there on, the only way to really know is to taste. 

Right now on LTO, there are a few Shiraz wines for a couple of dollars off. One of the factors I always check is the sugar content. 

Shiraz1Food Truck Wines Shiraz 2017 is now $12.95
Food Truck Wines Shiraz 2017 is now $12.95, down from $14.95. Here, there is real “truth in advertising” as one wouldn’t normally expect to find “greatness” at a food truck -but “good” is certainly delivered. The depth is moderate, and there are light tannins on the finish. With 7 grams of sugar per litre, we are far from the sweet end of the spectrum, but the fruit shows best when the wine has had a chance to breathe.

The LCBO suggests this wine – with a screwcap – could age for up to 10 years. That is quite a claim for a wine at this price point.

Vin Vale Shiraz, now $2 off at $14.95, is drier, with just 2 grams of sugar per liter. Dark-berried, with some aging in American and French oak, this is framed for popular appeal, and may convey impressions of chocolate or coffee as well. Again, it is not a heavy hitter, and so it really does invite comparison with the Food Truck example.

McWilliam’s offers us its Bad Henry Shiraz 2016, $2 off at $12.90 with 13 grams per litre of sugar. Here is a wine crafted to hit the sweet notes – their website highlights black spices, maple syrup and plum jam! If you are just getting into reds, you may find this is the one for you.

If we slip over to the Vintages section, we will find Two Hands. We are moving up the ladder in price, but the difference in quality is immediately evident in the glass.

The company actually has several Shiraz wines coming through the Vintages system. Currently, three are available, including Fields of Joy 2015, $22.75. Wow. What a difference from the examples above. Complexity. Nuance. There is a liquor-like maraschino cherry note that makes you want to hold the wine in your mouth for a moment before swallowing. There are subtle tannins, though you really don’t notice them immediately, and there is significant length on the finish. Even if you have to pay $23 to get a wine of this quality, it’s worth it.

twoHandsTwo Hands “Gnarly Dudes” is $3 of at $21.95
The companion Two Hands “Gnarly Dudes” is $3 of at $21.95. Of the 2015, The Wine Spectator writes, “Floral accents of dried violet mingle with ripe, jammy notes of plum and cherry and flavors of date nut bread and black walnut, set on a dense, chewy frame. Impressive for the concentration and great focus.” -91. 

It’s a great chance to compare these two together – or with the less expensive examples. (The Two Hands “Bella’s Garden” 2016 is also available, but at $64.95 it is outside my general comfort range for price. But, oh, I am tempted!)

Until September 16, it is also a good time to compare Ontario Rieslings. A number of top wineries have examples at $1 to $2 off, and in style ranging from dry to medium. 

Riesling is arguably the best white varietal currently suited for Niagara. Consider the Henry of Pelham at $12.95, -$2, (17 g/l sugar) the Cave Spring Estate, $17.95, -$1, (8g/l), the Creekside Marianne Hill, $19.95, -$2 (15 g/l) or the Fielding, $19.95 -$2, (22g/l).

Have fun!

September 1 Vintages Release

What a release! If only I had won the lottery… however, if you won, I would be happy to be your personal taster with this batch of wines!


Check early, as you may have to order in these first three, depending on availability.

Casa da Passarella Dão Branco 2016, $13.95, is a Portuguese white which was considered #19 on the Wine Enthusiast’s “Top 100 Best Buys” for 2017. – smoky… creamy…deliciously full-bodied.” -90.

BellinghamBellingham Homestead Series The Old Orchards Chenin Blanc 2016, $15.95
Bellingham Homestead Series The Old Orchards Chenin Blanc 2016, $15.95, from South Africa has ‘4 stars plus’ from the Platter Guide, which commented on “abundant stone fruit, nut & mineral flair” calling it “inviting and moreish, complete.”

Tornatore Etna Bianco 2016, $22.95, from Sicily was #60 on the WE’s “Top 100” in 2017. Note: ‘Top 100’, not ‘Top 100 Best Buys’ – this one was up against the Big Boys.

They reference “heady stone fruit… vibrant palate…crisp acidity…” and a long finish. – 93.

Ryder Chardonnay 2016, $17.95, hails from California’s Central Coast. With 70% aged in stainless steel and 30% in new French oak, the wine demonstrates crisp acidity along with tropical fruit and just a touch of oak.

Marcel Martin Le Droissy Vouvray 2016, $17.95, is a medium sweet wine from the Loire. With Vouvray, you have to watch the sugar content. This example rings through with 24 grams of sugar per litre, but the good acidity reins in the sweetness. Try it with spicy Asian dishes.


LopezHaroHacienda Lopez de Haro Old vines Rosado 2017, $12.95
Hacienda Lopez de Haro Old vines Rosado 2017, $12.95. A blend of Garnacha and Viura from old vines in Spain’s Rioja region, this rosé is described by Vintages as being “zesty and lively on the palate with more prominent spice notes, bright fruit, grapefruit citrus, a mineral undertone and a long savoury finish.”

Lavau Tavel Rosé 2017, $18.95, comes from a region which produces Rosé exclusively. The Robert Parker people refer to raspberry and “subtle hints of dried spices”, saying it is assertive with “ample weight and concentration.” -90.


Casa Santos Lima Colossal Reserva 2015, $15.95 continues the string of Portuguese “steals” which have been appearing regularly in Vintages. This was #60 in the Wine Spectator’s “Top 100” for 2017: “Plum and boysenberry notes weave together with dried herb and smoky mineral accents in this sleek red.”  - 90.

LeGrandRetourChateau Le Grand Retour Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhônes Villages 2015, $15.95
Chateau Le Grand Retour Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhônes Villages 2015, $15.95. It is a mouthful, and not just in name only. With a 2016 Gold Medal from the 2016 Concours des Vins à Orange, it is, according to Sara d’Amato, “mid-weight with juicy freshness” and “a wealth of flavours on the palate. Sensual pretty and very appealing”– 88

Trapiche Medalla Malbec 2014, $17.00, is a “Wine of the Month” in Vintages.  Decanter described it as “exuberant and youthful with notes of dark fruits and violets.  Excellent structure… and an attractive savoury complexity.” – 95.

Albino Armani Ripasso Valpolicella Calssico Superiore 2015, $18.95, may be the only “Armani” I can afford, but that’s just fine as “the dense palate delivers ripe black cherry, clove and a touch of white pepper alongside smooth tannins,” according to the Wine Enthusiast88.

There are many other intriguing wines on this release, and catalogues should be available in your local stores. Check in with your product consultants.