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Weekend wine Picking and Choosing

Saturday, February 14, 2015   by: Vin Greco

In preparing to write this column, I began by checking out the catalogue for the next Vintages release, due out onFebruary 21.  Each release has a theme, and for the 21st, the spotlight is on Australia, specifically the 2012 vintage, considered to be the best in 20 years.

And so I began by cross-checking what is in the catalogue against what our local Great Northern Road store is slated to receive; alas, of the roughly 120 items on the release, we are only in line for about 30 of them, including just 6 of the 16 from Australia.

“Alas” may be a bit over the top, and this is not a rant against the evils being done to us by Ontario’s booze masters – here in the Sault, ours is a small market, and we can only sustain a fraction of the cornucopia of the product that Ontario lavishes on its grateful citizens… especially big city citizens; and so our product consultants have to pick and choose, considering what sells here, and what doesn’t.

Avid hobbyists are always going to be keen on anything new, and that certainly applies to wine enthusiasts – so we find ourselves continually seeking out new wines that suit our palate, or wines that for whatever reason we find intriguing.

We can be like the kid in the candy store, not knowing which way to turn, or at times our eyes are too big for our stomach, and we are tempted to buy far more than we can reasonably expect to consume.

When you think about it, there are already so many wines on the shelves that it would take us years to systematically try them all, never mind the dozens more that march into the stores every two weeks.

But we are a fairly affluent society and very fortunate to be able to indulge our interests, and so the pursuit goes on.

While we can live without most of those wines left to languish in southern Ontario, there are a few for which I would be tempted to submit a private order by Monday, February 16 – up until then, if there is still product unassigned, it is available for customer orders: whether you get it or not depends on demand.

Of the 5 American Chardonnays we are not receiving, I am most taken by Monterey County’s Esser Chardonnay 2012, $18.95, ranked #18 in “Best Buys” by Wine Enthusiast magazine, and also garnering a 93 from – it has good tropical fruit and citrus character, and while oaked, the style is racy and crisp.

Chardonnay fans should consider Domaine des Huards Romo Cour-Cheverny 2010, $21.95, from the Romorantin grape found only in a tiny area in the Loire – it has been growing there since the early 16th century, and has the same ancestors as Chardonnay. Wines and Spirits magazine gave it an impressive 94, calling it deep and savory, and remarking on persistent apple and lime flavours – it sounds similar to Chablis to me.

From Romania we have Crama Girboiu Varancha Feteasca Regala Demisec 2012, $13.95 – as the “demi-sec” indicates this is off-dry and fruity, like a late-harvest Riesling, perhaps, though usually this grape variety, which translates “Royal Maiden” is used for crisp and lively whites.

We are regularly seeing fine and inexpensive table wines from Portugal, and the Parcelas 2010 $14.95, another Wine Enthusiast 2014 “Best Buy”, (92)  has “power , structure, and density” – so let it breathe and open up to really enjoy it.

When bullets aren’t whizzing through the vineyards- as they have in the not too distant past – some excellent wines are being produced in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley; Cave Kouroum Petit Noir 2012, $13.95, is a blend of Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and Petit Verdot, showing dark berry and cherry fruit along with some ”herbaceous notes” – it needs time to develop according to the Decanter World Wine Awards (3 stars our of 5.)

If the customer order route is too much of a bother for you, there are still many good choices heading for the shelves.

From Italy, we have three impressive reds – Lento Lamezia Riserva 2010, $19.95, from Calabria, Lirica Primitivo di Manduria 2007, $18.95, from Pugila, and Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico 2010, $18.95, from Tuscany.

The full-bodied and dry Lamezia, a blend of Magliocco, Greco Nero, and Nerello, spends two years in stainless steel, a year in French oak, and 6 months in bottle prior to release. gave a 90 to the Primitivo, the Italian version of Zinfandel, and remarked on the fresh ripe berry fruit that persists right through to the “tarry finish”.

The Wine Spectator also gave a 92 to the Chianti, calling it “vibrant and energetic” with “cherry, currant, rhubarb and tobacco flavors” - it is still evolving and probably needs four years to reach its prime.

Now to Australia.  Aside from the next release, there are a couple of limited time offers worth your attention.  Until March 1, the 19 Crimes Shiraz Durif is $2 off at $16.95 – medium to full-bodied, it has a core of persistent good fruit and a smoky lasting finish.

For the next week only, beginning Monday, the Vintages Essential Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz is $5 off at $19.95 – this is quintessential Shiraz with all the flavours and depth you could hope for.

Try comparing the previous wine with the Cimicky Trumps Shiraz, $19.95, the result of very careful winemaking, and noted by Australian wine guru James Halliday for its array of dark fruit flavours, its medium to full bodied palate, and ample but ripe tannins.

A third Shiraz (they’re all from the Barossa Valley) the 2012 3 Rings, $18.95, is on the February 21 release, and along with a bathtub full of fruit, it sports “hints of green olive and spice” on the lingering finish, according to the Wine Spectator (90).

A tad more expensive at $24.95, is Tait The Ball Buster Red 2012, yet again from Barossa – mostly shiraz, it also contains Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon:  it has an 90 with heady aromas, broad and deep flavours, and “velvety textured goodness.” 

In Australia, “Ball Buster” means exactly the same thing it means here – and the name was chosen to recognize all the obstacles encountered along the wine-making trail that, according to the Tait family, “busted their balls” – incidentally, the winery was established by an Italian barrel maker, Giovanni Tait, who immigrated to Australia in 1957!

The release also features 3 Cabernet Sauvignons from different regions of the country, ranging in price from $17.95 to $22.95.

One in particular, the Mitolo Jester 2012, $22.95, takes a page out of the Veneto’s Ripasso book and uses 20% dried grapes in the production – waxes eloquent on its “oomph” and concentration, noting its “juicy cherry essence, dark chocolate…almost violetty mouth perfume and …thick wad of smooth ripe tannin.” (92)

I’m not sure I know what all that means, but I’m certainly tempted to find out!

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