The other day on Jeopardy, one of the questions took note of automaker Peugeot switching back to older analog technology on speedometers for some models because of the shortage of microchips.
Supply-chain disruptions related to COVID have caused havoc in many industries.
I have heard of people waiting for new trucks they have ordered that have already been built but are missing essential computer chips. Anecdotally, I was also told of huge numbers of pickup trucks sitting idly in fields, with companies switching a micro-chip from truck to truck in order to move them.
Apparently, when it comes to wine, we will likely find gaps on our shelves particularly for products entering on the west coast, with thousands of cargo ships stretching from Vancouver to Panama waiting to be unloaded. If things weren’t dire already, it is going to be even worse with the catastrophic flooding in B.C. wiping out roads and rail lines. Given the backlog, there isn’t even warehouse space to house unloaded goods.
The LCBO, as the biggest single wine buyer in the world, will have a fairly good stock for the time being, but sooner or later, we might feel the pinch in certain areas.
Having said all that, we can breathe easy this holiday as the Grinch hasn’t caught up to us yet.
There are fine wines at every price-point from all over the world on the shelves and ready for release. On the 27th, we find in Vintages a selection of wines that can either get us into the Christmas Spirit or be fine gifts for those who will appreciate them.
There will be one more release before Christmas, Dec. 11, and so I will have one more column thereafter to carry us through to New Year’s Eve. If things in Vintages unfold as they normally do, we will then find an emphasis on great-value wines as we recover from our enthusiasms as we enter 2022.
If you want to pace yourselves over the next few weeks, I can recommend a number of very good values which I was able to try recently, all on the general list.
Though currently there are only four bottles of the Spinelli Unoaked Chardonnay, $8.75, on our shelves at the Korah Road store, this terrific everyday white from Italy’s Abruzzi is clean and light, tasty and satisfying. It carries decent flavours of apple and peach with a bit of lemon at the end. The Toronto Star featured it as a Best White wine under $10.
Sauvignon Blanc enthusiasts would be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the Te Henga 2020, $13.95, from New Zealand’s Marlborough region – ground zero for this type of wine. People who have sent in reviews to the LCBO suggest that it can give wines in the $20 range a run for their money. I noted an initial blast of grapefruit on first sip, but in all the wine is balanced with an additional impression of sweeter Kiwi –or even pineapple – at play. On the finish, there’s a touch of grapefruit pith tightening things up.
The Spinelli Cabernet Sauvignon, also $8.75, is also available at Korah road as well as the Station Mall. This is a much lighter wine that one might initially expect, and when first opened seems a bit simple; however, when it has had a chance to breathe, it develops some complexity, and dark fruit flavours evolve, prior to gentle tannins announcing their presence. This is a wine for those who appreciate a lighter red such as a Pinot Noir.
At just $8.45, Puglia’s San Marzano Primitivo 2020 is impressive. Mid-weight, with good dark fruit reminiscent of plum and dark cherry, with some spice and coffee notes, it is everything you could hope for, and much more. Quite simply, it’s a steal. Compare it with The Wanted Zinfandel 2019, also from Puglia - $14.95 a 750 ml. bottle, and $24.95 for the 1500 ml. size. Both have more than 13 grams of sugar per litre, enough to make them quite flavourful, but still balancing on the dry side of the spectrum.
Both are made from Primitivo, which, in the States goes by the name Zinfandel. The Wanted is juicy, with loads of sweet dark fruit making an instant impact, one that is reined in with a satisfying sour cherry under-note. A soft tannic buzz makes the gentlest of impressions on the finish. I find the San Marzano a little drier. As to which you would prefer, it’s a matter of taste. Both are emphatically delicious.
Chile’s Farpoint Cabernet Sauvignon Bourbon Barrel Aged 2020, $14.95, will appeal to those who have discovered this style of whisky-barrel aged wines. It carries 10 grams of sugar per litre, which amps up the sweetness of the deep, dark mouth-filling flavours. On the finish there is a slight charcoal impression, no doubt an effect of the whisky barrel - the LCBO suggests “torched cherry”.
While the Farpoint, like other wines in this style, takes Cabernet in a new direction, Tuscany’s Leonardo Chianti Classico Riserva 2017, $16.95, is solidly in the tradition of excellent Sangiovese Grosso wines of this type. Made by a co-operative in Vinci established in 1961, just 5 kilometres from Leonardo’s birthplace, it is available at the Station Mall store. Quite dry with just 2 grams of sugar per litre, it is lush, long, smooth and impressive. Enrobed in light tannins, the wine carries impressions of cherry, spice (cinnamon?) and leather. Very good value for this calibre of wine.
If you want to make a big splash, for Christmas there’s the 5,000 ml. bottle – that’s about seven regular bottles – for $144.95! The bigger the bottle, the slower the wine evolves, and so you can buy this now and lay it down until we can finally enjoy a big party. How about something to share at a wedding or anniversary celebration?
The Nov. 27 Vintages Release carries gift possibilities for wine lovers at pretty well every price point.
In whites, California’s Matchbook Old Head Chardonnay 2018, $17.95, is “luscious and creamy with mature fruit and notes of vanilla and oak... It's dense and flavorful but tangy and balanced. Score – 90.”(Anthony Dias Blue, tastingpanelmag.com, March 2020)
There are actually eight Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand on the release, priced from $19 to $30, and all with solid reviews. A stand-out is the Villa Maria Southern Clay Single Vineyard 2019, $29.95. “Ripe, rich and flavoursome sauvignon blanc, with a tantalising mix of stone fruit, passionfruit, lime, and red capsicum flavours. An impressive wine that surely must be one of the stars in what appears to have been an excellent Marlborough vintage. Drink date: 2020-2024. Score - 95.” (Bob Campbell, MW, therealreview.com, March 18, 2020)
In Riesling, there’s the Selbach Tradition Feinherb Riesling Kabinett 2018, $24.95. Medium sweet, it is in the classic off-dry style. Spicy and juicy, it offers green-plum flavours with a firm, savory minerality, suggests the wineandspiritismagazine.com – 93.
From Italy’s Piedmont, we have the Fontanafredda Pradalupo Roero Arneis 2019, $18.95. Made from a grape rescued from obscurity over the past 30 years or so, it carries “sliced lemons and minerals with flint on the nose. It's medium-bodied with a tight, rich and flavorful fruit character, yet remains linear and racy. Richer style of Arneis. Drink now. Score – 92.” (jamessuckling.com, Aug. 4, 2020)
Radford Dale Vinum Chenin Blanc 2019, $18.95, from South Africa, is “taut and refreshing with wild yeast aromas and texture, a hint of oak spice and a core of crisp, tangy citrus and green apple fruit.” timatkin.com – 92.
Beringer Luminus Chardonnay 2020, $49.95, kicks things up a notch. “From a relatively cool appellation in the [Napa] valley, this wine does offer freshness in addition to rich layers of tropical fruit and oak. Honeysuckle and Meyer lemon mingle around fresh-cut pineapple and butterscotch crème brûlée, finishing with full-bodied intensity.” wineenthusiastmag.
In reds, the options become nearly endless.
Hollick The Bard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, $16.95, from South Australia has “inviting and complex aromatics led by dark cherries, tobacco, mint, herbs, exotic spices and hints of bell pepper which instantly grab your attention. On the palate this is medium-bodied and incredibly balanced with wonderful combination of fruit and acidity that keeps it fresh through the long, mouthwatering finish.” International winereport.com – 91.
Also $16.95, Spain’s Enrique Mendoza La Tremenda Monastrell 2018 has the blessing of the robertlparker.com people, who tell us it is very much fruit-forward but still has complexity and depth, concluding “it’s approachable, really good for an entry-level and amazing for the price. – 92.
Clos do Los Siete 2018, $24.95, a Malbec blend from Argentina’s Mendoza, is excellent. “Ripe and easy. Inky blackberry and black currant aromas show a waft of campfire creosote, while this feels big and round, with plenty of mouth-blackening fruit. Oak-aided blackberry, cassis and chocolate flavours come with a hint of herbs, while the finish is smooth and mild.” Wine Enthusiast – 92.
Gabriel Meffre Sainte-Catherine Gigondas 2017, $37.95, from the Rhone “offers straightforward ripe flavours of red berries and stone fruit, buttressed by supple tannins and a long, silky finish.” – robertparker.com – 91-93.
Le Clos Jordanne le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2019, $45. From Niagara and crafted by Pinot expert Thomas Bachelder, it is made in the classic style of France’s Burgundy, and rivals some of the best that region produces. The entry is soft, the impact sophisticated, and the flavours lingering and expansive. This wine is all nuance, and it needs to breathe to express itself properly. Gradually, red berry and black currant jam notes with a spicy earthiness develop, all carried above the smoothest and lightest of soft tannins. To enjoy now, decant. Let it rest in the bottle for a year or two, and it will blow you away.
There are many fine Italian wines from $40 through $80, and I recommend speaking with Jeannie Fremlin to find the one you would like. But it’s Christmas, after all, and if you want to get something really, really special, then look to the Guado Al Tasso 2018, $161.95, or the Ornellaia 2018, $249.95, both from the Bolgheri Region of Tuscany. The store will have just 6 bottles of each.
The former is a “Bordeaux blend” of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. The Merlot contributes cherry-based flavours, the Cabs spice and licorice. “Linearity, sharpness, pencil shavings and dark currant or blackberry – this is the direction Guado al Tasso is taking.” – robertparker.com – 96
The Ornellaia has “terrific persistence and impeccable balance”, but it is young and continuing to develop in the bottle. ”Hints of red berry fruit, mocha, spice, licorice and dried flowers emerge with a bit of coaxing. It’s “more about finesse than raw power. This is the first time in which merlot drives the blend.” vinous.com – 97.
Both of these wines will continue to evolve for the next 20 to 25 years. It would be best, I think to wait at least 10 to 15 years before opening them, and until then lay them down to age in a cool dark place. Consider it an investment in future drinking pleasure!
The great thing about wine is it’s consumable, and so we never have to worry whether or not someone already has some.
I will leave the sparkling wines until mid-December, when we will line things up for New Year’s… or some last-minute shopping. Happy Hunting.