Each week I review two wines with my “Sip It!”-or-“Skip It!” recommendation. All Vintages and product numbers refer to the LCBO.
François Lurton Domaine Les Salices – Limited Edition, 2011 (Pays d’Oc, France)
LCBO #: 319764 | 750 mL bottle | $11.45
Wine Type: White
Get it while it lasts – this Sauvignon Blanc has been discontinued, and what a shame, too, as it’s quite a find at a fantastic price point. Water white, with a pale-staw tint, the bouquet is aromatic, with strong vegetal aromas of green pepper, asparagus and lemongrass, balanced by sweet floral notes. On the palate, the wine is light-bodied, brightly acidic, with a nice, clean minerality. Strong flavours of citrus peel are balanced by a sweet finish.
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir, La Clape, 2011 (Languedoc, France)
Vintages #: 370262 | 750 mL bottle | $18.95 (but purchased for $2.00 off)
Wine Type: Red
Wine Spectator gave this 91 points – definitely warranted. This blend of Carignan and Mourvèdre yields a deep ruby wine, clear around the meniscus, with warm baking spice notes of clove and allspice on the nose, enhanced by aromas of vanilla, fig and candied cherries. The taste is deliciously complex, with pronounced red licorice, red fruit, anise and subtle oakiness. Although it’s missing a bit of acidic balance for me, the tannins are gentle. I served this to a bunch of red-wine haters, who claimed that the wine was not “offensive” to their palate.
Too hip for French wine? Try this other favourite of mine from the past year…
RED: La Posta Tinto Malbec Blend (Mendoza, Argentina)
LCBO #: 269860 | 750 mL bottle | $12.85
A fair budget wine with enough body and complexity to please the fussiest wine snob, I called this wine “cheery.” ‘Tis the season for under-$20 finds, and this “tastes” way above its price point!
Dispatches from the world of wine – a roundup of blog and news articles of the week.
- Too bad Vancouverites may have to wait longer to pick up a bottle of wine with their milk and eggs. Their City Council recently struck down a one-year pilot proposal to allow select grocery stores to sell B.C. vino…
- …but could this be just around the corner for Ontarians? Now that beer is available at some supermarkets, thirsty consumers wonder if wine could be next.
- It’s not exactly news, but who doesn’t brim with pride when Ontario’s Niagara wine region makes its way into the (online) pages of the New York Times?
- PepsiCo director Alberto Weisser recently purchased Portugal’s Herdade dos Coelheiros winery, which makes several single-varietal wines, including Chardonnay and Petit Verdot.
- Australian wine-maker Penfolds is struggling to find grade-A Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for several of its signature bin-number wines.
- The Israeli Wine Guide, which includes reviews of more than 90 wines produced by 40 different Israeli wineries, has refused to include wines produced in the West Bank.
Wine world miscellanea – from varieties to regions, and from vine to bottle.
THIS WEEK: WINE REGION
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Getting a jump on my New Year’s resolution to blog way less about Franch wines and wine regions, it seemed apropos to get as far away from the Old World and Northern Hemisphere as possible. Hence our trip to South Africa this week, and our brief overview of one of the country’s most famous wine-producing areas.
Located in South Africa’s Western Cape coastal region, the area is known for its rolling hills, scenic landscape and Bordeaux-style blends. The ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot make single-varietal or blended wines, under such labels as Rudera and Rustenberg. Pinotage, the grape almost synonymous with South Africa itself, also features prominently in Stellenbosch, alongside Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. Look for Ken Forrester, Oldenburg and Lanzerac when next at the LCBO.
A combination of arid climate and ideal soils–namely, clay and dark alluvium–help make Stellenbosch an optimal area for agriculture and viticulture. Settlement in the area dates back to the 17th century, but it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that seminaries, formal schools and universities began opening. The area now boasts South Africa’s oldest wine route, established in 1971, and based on the French Route du Vin and German wine routes.
Like all wines, the vino coming out of Stellenbosch needs to be navigated carefully. With over 60 regional producers, the market is saturated with options at a range of price points (read: “as much plonk as good stuff”). Though not always a guarantee, according to The Oxford Companion to Wine, the sub-regions of Banghoek, Bottelary, the Devon Valley, the Jonkershoek Valley, Papegaaiberg, the Polkadraai Hills and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch “all yield wines capable of displaying distinctive differences. Vineyards on the Helderberg (which runs from Stellenbosch to False Bay at Somerset West) enjoy a considerable reputation” (Jancis Robinson, et al, The Oxford Companion to Wine, Oxford University Press, 2015: 704). I know this doesn’t help narrow the options down, but based on the LCBO’s stock, Oldenburg from Banghoek and Ken Forrester from the Helderberg Mountains could be a good place to start.
THE ONE-MINUTE WINE TUTOR: HOLIDAY EDITION
This month we trade in our usual wine education-focus with tips for flawless holiday party hosting.
Decanting? Aerating? What’s the Deal?
Faithful Readers, if you also follow me on Twitter, you will have no doubt seen me boast about my recent acquisition: a wine aeration system for 90 per cent off. At the steep price tag of $12 (reduced from $124), I gleefully tweeted photographs of the happy shopping expedition.
A wine aerator, many of you must be asking. Do you really need that gadget? Although it claims to reduce sulfites by up to 56 per cent–a bonus for those of us who have allergic reactions to their presence in wine–I bought it more for the promise of expeditiously introducing air to those overly tannic young wines that, with a little oxygen, soften: your precocious Syrahs and upstart Chianti Classicos, for instance. (I know – there are arguments that any interaction with air outside the bottle does absolutely nothing to the tannic profile. Whatever. I find aeration helps!)
But when do you want to aerate versus decant your wine, and is it even necessary? In short, decanting can help older wines breathe, like that 1947 Petrus you’ve tucked behind your furnace (kidding!). The slow process of trickling wine into a vessel with considerable surface area aids the wine in slowly releasing flavour molecules that have been jam-packed into a constricting bottle for decades. Often, you might see someone hold a candle (or cell phone light in today’s day and age) under the shoulder of the bottle; this helps the pourer determine when to stop, since, in theory, the resulting sediment from the wine’s ageing should accumulate here. If you’re planning to decant, take that properly cellared wine that’s been resting on its side, and turn it upright for a few days to allow for the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle before you pour it into a decanter. As for how long you should let wines decant – it all depends. Some wines can take as little as 10 or 20 minutes, others “bloom” after 90 or more. Just promise me not to aerate your expensive Bordeaux or Burgundy; these are wines that fare better from a less aggressive form of “oxygen introduction.”
Another (possibly?) popular method I’ve seen is referenced on the InterWeb is called “hyperdecanting.” I don’t think I’ve come across it on any sommelier or wine-expert blogs, but that doesn’t mean it might not work – I just probably wouldn’t try it. According to former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold who is credited with coining this term and approach, frappé the wine for 30 to 60 seconds in the blender, then “allow the froth to subside (which happens quickly) before serving.” Myhrvold maintains that this approach, much like decanting, improves the flavours of both young and mature wines–even that 1982 Château Margaux!
Before you dismiss this entirely, McLaren Vale wine label Mollydooker recommends a slightly unorthodox approach to preparing their wines for drinking. In order to reduce the amount of sulphites in their wines, Mollydooker’s wine-makers use nitrogen, wherever possible, which, they say, “compresses the flavour.” In order to restore the bright fruity flavours their wines are known for, they recommend shaking the wine, and, in fact state that aerating or decanting the wine does not have the same effect.
With so much information out there, I’d still be inclined to stick with more traditional approaches: aerating young reds in a pinch, decanting older ones, and just generally treating wine delicately. I’d have serious problems with sticking a $200 bottle in a NutriBullet and giving it a whiz.