The LCBO is putting an emphasis on Bordeaux with its May 12 release. Bordeaux, along the Gironde estuary on France’s west coast, has been considered the greatest wine region in the world for quite some time, though in the past couple of decades, interest has drifted away to emerging regions.
Today, however, the focus on Bordeaux is enjoying a come-back. One reason is the number of very good vintages that have populated the last 10 years. In addition, there are the many lesser-known houses producing very good and affordable wines.One complication with Bordeaux is the sheer number of regions from the Médoc to St. Émilion along with a swath of satellites in a relatively small area. There is also the potential for considerable variability depending on which side of the Gironde Estuary a property is found, and how far in it might be situated along the forks of the Gironde and Garonne.
In buying Bordeaux, you have to depend on the reviews as much as your understanding of the kinds of wines you can expect from the various regions.
Basically, though, the last three vintages that have come to the markets, the 2014, 2015, and 2016 specifically, as well as 2009, 2010, and 2012, have produced many highly rated wines.
The top growths will command several hundreds of dollars per bottle –Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2010 is available now at vintages.com for $365, with a drinking window projecting as far as 2048.
Most of us have to content ourselves with more ordinary stuff. With a vintage rating of 97, Chateau Busquet 2015, $26.95, from the Lussac-Saint-Émillion area is 60 per cent Merlot, and is medium bodied with fine tannins according to robertparker.com which awarded it a 90 and suggests that it rest a couple of years before drinking.
Chateau La Brande 2015, $19.95, from the Côtes de Bordeaux-Castillon displays bright red currant and is tight with tannins, but will show very well in time – critic ratings go from 88 to 91.
Chateau Fleur Haut Gaussens 2010, $18.95, is an 80 per cent Merlot Bordeaux Superieur that has earned praise in many quarters. Blackberry, licorice, and spice may be detected on the nose, with warm plummy fruit coming through on the velvety palate. Significantly good.Chateau Godard Bellevue 2010, $15.95, is one you might have to order in, but is really up there in value. A Côtes de Bordeaux, it displays dark red berry fruit and a touch of the classic cedar-like “cigar box” on the nose and provides a warm finish.
There are other good Bordeaux wines already on the shelves or available for purchase on-line.
Château de Ribebon 2015, $17, “is rich and full of great fruit. With ripe tannins and blackberry generosity over the wood aging, this is still structured yet ready to drink.” - 91. Wine Enthusiast
Chateau Griviere 2011, $24.95, a 60/40 Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon Cru Bourgeois from the Médoc. The Wine Enthusiast wrote “Complex and solid, it holds rich berry fruits, a darkly tannic structure, dense texture and a juicy acidity.” – 90
Check with your consultants to see what is coming in or currently available. They may also have recommendations for wines still available on-line. This is a good time to visit – or re-visit – Bordeaux. You will find out why the region is still very worthy of our attention.
And now, Pinot Grigio
Over the past few years, Pinot Grigio has become very popular. This generally inexpensive white is refreshing. “Grigio”, Italian for “grey” refers to the light rose colour of this particular clone of Pinot Noir. Sometimes the wine will be very pale, but at other times it can take on a rosy hue because of the pigments in the skins.
While northern Italy is considered the home of Pinot Grigio, it is now grown all over the world, and the style can vary significantly. Here are four that I tried recently that can demonstrate the range.
Two Oceans Pinot Grigio 2017, $10.35, from South Africa, is a delicate white with muted pear/peach fruit and reined-in acidity. It is uncomplicated and enjoyable, an easy sipper for a lazy summer afternoon.
Nugan Estate Annelise Pinot Grigio 2017, $15.25, hails from Australia. It provides a significant contrast to the Two Oceans, as it has a very full and silky mouth feel and flavours reminiscent of melon and peach. The acidity comes through on the finish, carrying flint-like overtones with it. This would be a good wine to serve with roasted chicken or other dishes with cream sauces.Blu Giovello Pinot Grigio, $13.25, brings us back to the PG heartland in Friuli in northern Italy. As such, it seems to epitomize the experience, with acidity significantly more at play, along with pear fruit and a bitter almond nuttiness. It is balanced,with the citrus-like acidity lingering on the finish. When the weather swelters, this is the wine to drink.
Zenato Pinot Grigio 2016, $16.95 in Vintages, keeps us in Italy, though we have moved south-east to the Veneto. What is striking here is the texture. While we experience the typical lemon-lime acidity we anticipate, there is also a lush and silky element and a slight peach sensation. There is a perception of depth that contributes to the pleasure this wine provides.
Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2016, $19.95, from Italy’s alto Adige/Trentino region is on the May 12 release. It has a Wine Enthusiast 91. “Crisp acidity brightens creamy apple, pear and tangerine zest.”
It would be a mistake to think that all Pinot Grigios are alike, as these four clearly demonstrate. The months ahead are the perfect time to experiment and to find the example that really hits all the notes for you.
May 12 Vintages Release
Some more unusual whites may be found on this release, but you must check with your Product Consultants to determine if you are going to have to order them on-line, especially in northern Ontario. I think they would be worth the effort.
Paul Mas Vinus 2015, $15.95, is from France’s Languedoc. It is 100 per cent Clairette, a grape we rarely encounter, certainly not on its own. Rhone-wines.com tells us that wines made from this grape are characterised by flavours of fennel, apple, lime, apricot and peach. Decanter World Wine Awards 2016, suggests “lots of vigour and character on the palate with grapefruit and herby elements.” – 96
Papagiannakos Vieilles Vignes Savatiano 2016, $16.95, from Greece, is much appreciated by the writers at winealign .com who remark on its texture, lively acidity and citrus/melon flavours. Savatiano is the most widely planted vine in Greece, and its wines are often thin and overly acidic. Here, though, the vines and the fruit have been given a chance to shine. The Robert Parker site gives it a 90.
Allimant-Laugner Sylvaner 2015, $17.95, from Alsace features a grape that has often just been used for blending. Here, though, it has captured the Wine Enthusiast’s admiration: “The wonderfully slender, almost playful palate is translucent in its freshness and shimmering citrus and herb character. What a lovely subtle wine.” - 90
Villa Puccini 2012, $14.95, is a Toscana IGT, and that usually indicates a blend which features some grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Here the Italian Sangiovese dominates, but there is 10 per cent Merlot. James Suckling references “plenty of dried fruit and chocolate aromas and flavour. Medium body, lovely ripe tannins and a long and flavorful finish.” -92.Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère 2015, $17.95, from Chile’s Maipo Valley, has wide-spread approval. Decanter mentions “a full and hedonistic style, with youthful, dark fruit aromas unfurling onto a powerful, structured yet polished palate, while overall it retains decent acidity to sustain the long finish.” - 91
Tom Gore Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, $19.95, sources wines from Central Coast and North Coast California Vineyards. This is a balanced wine with a quiet entry opening to reveal cherry and blackberry flavours, with soft, quiet tannins apparent at the end. The wine demonstrates some complexity when it has had a chance to breathe and open up.