September 27, 2015 Roundup: A Carmenere that’s sure to please, a fine year for Bordeaux, and an introduction to France’s Sud-Ouest…

TASTING NOTES
Each week I review two wines with my “Sip It!”-or-“Skip It!” recommendation, a rating of one to five corks, and an overall summary based on the [Hugh] Johnson System (abbreviated HJ). (All Vintages and product numbers refer to the LCBO.)

Sip It!
Santa Rita Reserva Carmenere (Rapel Valley, Chile, 2013)
LCBO #: 177774 | 750 mL bottle | $13.95
Alcohol: 13.5%
Sweetness: Dry
Wine Type: Red

Three little letters: W-O-W. At the price point, I have to admit I was slightly concerned (see my Merlot experience below), but this was definitely one of those value-for-money purchases. Let the wine sit, let the flavours bloom, and what you have is a tasty, full-bodied wine with prominent dried fruit (prune) and black fruit jammy notes, mainly blackberry and currant. Cloves and slightly herbaceous — faint tobacco plays around the edges. The woodiness adds depth. This wine is well-balanced and well-structured, smooth, and would pair well with red meat or game.
HJ System Scoring: 2 glasses (means I quite liked the wine, or there is nothing else to drink)
Rating:  

Skip It!
Casillero del Diablo Reserva Merlot (Central Valley, Chile, 2013)
LCBO #: 427088 | 750 mL bottle | $13.90
Alcohol: 13.5%
Sweetness: Dry
Wine Type: Red

Disappointing. This wine struck me as overly bitter and acidic and perhaps a little less fuller bodied than I was expecting of a Chilean Merlot. I hoped for the bold and exciting flavours typical of this varietal and region, but got something of a bit more “middling quality” (I enjoy that description in last week’s Vouvray post; I’m appropriating it). On the nose, this wine’s bouquet includes strawberries and tart red cherries, mellowed slightly on taste by hints of vanilla and baking spices. I could see this working well with venison or boar, but I’m not sure I’d give it a second chance.
HJ System Scoring: 1 sip (not even a faint interest!)
Rating:  


WINE LINES
Dispatches from the world of wine – a roundup of blog and news articles of the week.

Canada

U.S.

International


GRAPE POURRI
Wine world miscellanea – from varieties to regions, and from vine to bottle. 

THIS WEEK: WINE REGION

What Would Eleanor of Aquitaine Have Drunk? Or, a Tour of France’s Sud-Ouest Wine Region…

The Montreal Gazette profiled France’s Sud-Ouest this week, the lesser-known and perhaps under-appreciated southern neighbour of the stunning Bordeaux region. With around 16,000 acres under vine, the Sud-Ouest stretches from the upstream areas around the Dordogne and Garonne rivers to the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees, capturing the subregions of Dordogne/Bergerac, Garonne, Gascony (also known for Armagnac), Béarne and the Northern Basque Country. The terroir is as varied as the climate, producing mainstays of the wine world, like Malbec and Tannat, as well as more obscure varieties, including Fer and Negrette (both red varieties), and Colombard, Manseng and Ugni Blanc (all whites). Wines from the region are quite affordable, compared with other areas of the country, but will they stay that way when word gets out?


WSET STUDY BUDDY
As I diligently study for my WSET Level 2, I share some of my favourite web resources on wine — from podcasts to infographics to apps, oh my!

This week is all about videos, especially for those of us who might be more  audio or visual learners (or, if like me, you’re bored of reading about soil and aspect and climate and annual yields from the pages of a book). I think I’ve made it all the way through some LCBO videos that had me hooked for their breadth of topics covered and ease of watching. Hosted by Michael Fagan, the series offers a light smattering of some of the world’s most well-known regions: the wines of Italy (in three parts), France by region (but only a few: Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, Alsace), Chile, Port (sadly, not Portugese wine more broadly), and others. I highly recommend checking out the YouTube channel: “Discover Wine Series with Michael Fagan.”

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September 20, 2015 Roundup: Superb Chenin Blanc, Judgment of B.C., and the perfect wine for a BK Whopper

TASTING NOTES

Each week I review two wines with my “Sip It!”-or-“Skip It!” recommendation, a rating of one to five corks, and an overall summary based on the [Hugh] Johnson System (abbreviated HJ). (All Vintages and product numbers refer to the LCBO.)


Sip It!

Clos de l’Epinay Cuvee Marcus Vouvray 2012 (Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, France)
Vintages #: 408252 | 750 mL bottle | $20.95
Alcohol: 12%
Sweetness: Off-Dry
Wine Type: White

Calling all red-wine drinkers, this is the white for you! Crisp, playful, and delicately sweet, this Chenin Blanc is sure to please. With a mild citrus flavour and a minerality that dances across your tongue, this off-dry, refreshing white is a great match for seafood or a Friday night pyjama party. I’ve seen a few reviewers call this a “Vouvray of middling quality,” but I argue that this wine is accessible, and while not complex, certainly enjoyable.
HJ System Scoring: 1 glass (signals tolerance, even approval)
Rating:  

Skip It!
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand)
Vintages #: 304469 | 750 mL bottle | $31.95
Alcohol: 13.5%
Sweetness: Dry
Wine Type: White

I know I’m going to be an outlier here by encouraging folks to skip New Zealand’s iconic wine, but this textbook Sauv blanc is just too herbaceous for my taste buds. On the nose, I was overwhelmed by green pepper (my least favourite veg) and lemongrass, which seemed to translate to the palate. With its long finish, nipping acidity and fresh summery feel, it’s probably a must-have for the recently departed patio season, but I enjoy something a bit more subtle. This would be a fine pairing with mesclun greens or a light pasta salad.
HJ Scoring System: 1 sniff (worst possible score; considering elevating this to a sip…)
Rating:  


WINE LINES
Dispatches from the world of wine – a roundup of blog and news articles of the week.

Ontario

Canada

U.S.

International


GRAPE POURRI
Wine world miscellanea – from varieties to regions, and from vine to bottle. 

THIS WEEK: Variety

Pedro Ximenez
A.K.A.: PX, Perrum (Portugal), Pedro Jimenez (South America)
Origin: Spain, most likely in Andalusia
Type: White
Growing Regions: Spain, Australia, Chile
Wines Produced: Sherry (Spain), Apera (Australia)
Jancis Robinson calls PX the “unsung hero of Montilla” — that’s the Denominacion de Origin of Montilla-Moriles in Southern Spain where mainly sweet dessert wines are produced. Though it can be crisp and citrusy when vinified, it’s more often sun-dried to make a thick sweetening agent for Sherry.


WSET STUDY BUDDY
As I diligently study for my WSET Level 2, I share some of my favourite web resources on wine — from podcasts to infographics to apps, oh my!

Cram Study App
Worried I’d turn into one of the nuts (er… aspiring master sommeliers) in “Somm,” with thousands of index cards cluttering my home, I stumbled on Cram, an electronic flash card app. You can build your own (which I did for WSET 1) or access thousands from users, like yourself, who have made their cards public. The app tracks the number of correct answers, and helps focus on the content that fails to sink in. My only caution is that any user-generated content be carefully reviewed before you add it to your study card library. (Some answers are wrong!)

Aroma Wheel
While perfecting the art of the pithy tasting note, I’ve relied on the Davis Aroma Wheel more than I’d like to admit. This useful graphic has helped me pinpoint the scents I pick up when sniffing a young Cabnernet Sauvignon or oaked Chardonnay, and, yes, it’s even allowed me to identify cork taint on what should have been a delightful Chianti. I highly recommend printing this puppy off and keeping it nearby as you uncork your next bottle.