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Weekend wine Comparisons

Saturday, May 23, 2015   by: Vin Greco

With wine, finding a couple worth comparing is as easy as falling off a log…as long as you don’t spill, I guess. 

With the May 16 and 30 Vintages releases there are many interesting possibilities that invite our exploration.

What got me started down this road was noting that on the 30th release, there is a focus on France’s southern Rhone region, while on the 16th, the accent was on Australia, where many of the wines utilize the very same grapes which originated in the Rhone.

We are slated to receive two dozen bottles of La Ferme Du Mont Première Côtes du Rhône 2012, $14.95, a great price for a wine described by the Parker team as “medium-bodied, supple, and beautifully concentrated”.

This wine, along with the Yalumba “The Strapper” GSM 2012, $19.95 combines Grenache, Shiraz (or, in France, ‘Syrah’) and Mourvedre, and both, as the ‘GSM’ order tells us, have the greatest proportion in Grenache, the least in Mourvedre. The Wine Spectator gives the Strapper a 91, calling it “ripe and rich with great balance and energy”. 

Wine Align’s John Szabo wrote of the character provided by each grape by pinpointing the strawberry pie flavours of Grenache, the black pepper and violets of Syrah, and the earthy, meaty texture of Mourvedre.

This is a good chance to take note of the differences that will surely be evident in wines that are half a world and two hemispheres apart, with quite different growing conditions. Each is very well made, and each will reveal in turn the character of “place”.

For a straight comparison of Australian Shiraz, try Wakefield Shiraz 2013, $17.95, a relatively inexpensive example with coffee/cola, cherry and savoury notes, and the slightly more expensive but impressive Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Shiraz 2012, $22.95, with its dark cherry and black currant fruit, licorice notes, and beautiful balance between fruit and acidity with a perfect handling of oak.

A couple of columns ago I wrote about Nebbiolo, the great red grape of Italy’s Piedmont, and while we rarely see it outside that area, Mexico’s L.A. Cetto offers us their Private Reserve Nebbiolo 2010 for $19.95, and we can compare it to the Travaglini Gattinara 2009, $29.95. 

The Gattinara should be classic, with leather and earth and floral notes, and begging that you decant it a couple of hours before drinking, while the Mexican version stands to be more easy-going – same grape, different results. 

The Gattinara will be here for the 30th, while the L.A. Cetto is on the shelves at the Great Northern Road store.

Another fairly obvious red comparison would be to try the Coppi Peucetico Primitivo 2008, $13.95, from Italy’s southern Puglia province alongside a California Zinfandel. 

Zin and Primitivo are virtually the same grape, but the difference will be about as significant as those between, let’s say the Italian south and the American west coast. (Duh.) 

Sara d’Amato of Wine Align finds the Coppi to be “mid-weight,…vibrant and peppery”  and calls it “savory, fun, and summery” (May 16 release).  Zins can be all over the map, but Carol Shelton’s Wild Thing Old Vine Zinfandel 2012, $26.95, should be a great contrast, considered “well balanced, velvet textured and multilayered” by the Wine Enthusiastwhich also identified its mouthfilling “brambly, bright raspberry and blackberry flavors” in awarding it a 92. (May 30 release)

If we want to know what difference $10 makes with Argentine Malbec, we can compare two striking examples reviewed by the Wine Enthusiast.  

El Enemigo Malbec 2011, $24.95 was proclaimed ‘Editor’s Choice’ and scored 93 for being an “in-your-face Malbec that pulls no punches”, while Don David Reserve Malbec 2012,$14.95, is “one exotic number” whose “lush, layered palate is intense but doesn’t hit too hard”; yet, it still has a finish that is “stout and structured”  The score? 91!

Moving on, I am praying that our weather will warm up and stay that way; then we might well be able to enjoy some whites and rosés.

Sara d’Amato considers Portugal’s Somontes Rosado 2014, $12.95, the best deal in the rosé category for May 16, capturing the sensuality, spice and elegance for which the Dao region is noted – but coming in on the 30th there’s South Africa’s Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2014, also just $12.95

I’ve enjoyed it in the past, and expect more of the same now - good weight for a rosé, red fruit flavours, and a pleasing zestiness.  Try them: you’ll like them.

Pinot Gris is the far richer tasting version, usually, of Pinot Grigio, especially as it manifests itself in France’s Alsace.

Pierre Sparr Réserve Pinot Gris 2013, $16.95 is, according to one of Canada’s most respected wine writers, Tony Aspler, “beautifully balanced, spicy and dry.”  He scored it 90.  Dry, yes, but so rich it suggests some sweetness.

For the same price, and an equal 90, this time from Sara d’Amato, we have a Niagara challenger, Calamus Pinot Gris 2013.  Sara finds a touch of that Alsatian sweetness, and describes it as “creamy with notes of peach [and] great balance.  Pretty, lingering, and honest.” 

Compare them to see how well Ontario has fared against the Alsatian standard.

If you prefer a drier-tasting wine, head over to the Winerack stores and pick up a bottle of the Inniskillin Discovery Series P3, $19.95, a blend of pinot gris, pinot noir, and pinot blanc. 

The pinot noir, a red grape, but one often used in champagnes, deepens the golden hue that pinot gris wines often sport, and the blend has a great mouth-feel with just a touch of “zinginess” that suggests an underlying sparkle. It is balanced and very satisfying.

The potential for comparson is almost endless, of course, but trying some of the ones mentioned above should be educational.  It might be hard work, but somebody’s got to do it!


There are still places available for the 2015 edition of ‘Saultlicious’, a gastronomic odyssey featuring fine Sault Ste. Marie eateries and some of Ontario’s top wineries. 

On June 13, guests, divided into groups of 30 to 40, will travel by bus from venue to venue, and at each stop will enjoy appetizers prepared by the host location along with wines from one particular winery at each site.

After visiting the five venues, everyone will then congregate at the newly refurbished Machine Shop at Mill Square, where, in addition to fine food prepared by Franzisi’s, there will be entertainment, music, more wine, a bazaar featuring many local artisans and craftsmen, a special opportunity tor a scotch tasting, and even an opportunity to smoke a fine cigar.

The beneficiaries of the evening will be the Algoma Conservatory of Music, newly housed in the fabulous sandstone building that originally was built as headquarters for Francis H.Clergue’s industrial empire, and ARCH, the Algoma Residential Community Hospice which has become an essential and dignified treasure for us and those we love, giving the best support possible in one’s final days.

You don’t want to miss being part of this great, celebratory evening. Tickets are available at Mill Market on Saturday andSunday, at the Station Mall this Saturday, and also at Stone’s Office Supply. 

As well, you can contact Mary Ledlow of Vinaissance by phoning 705-946-2503.

Tickets are $150 per person, which includes a donation to the Conservatory and Arch which will generate $50 in charitable receipts.  Believe me, it will be money well spent.

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