The LCBO Vintages Release February 20 2021 is dominated by red wines with France, Ontario and Spain of particular interest. Terrific opportunity for a Pinot Noir tasting in this release, some French classics from lesser known regions and you will want to know about the Spanish Tempranillo that was awarded Best in Show at Decanter World Wine Awards of 2019.
Quinta do Crasto Finest Reserve Port VINTAGES#: 18284 $17.95 Douro, Portugal I think port is one of the best bangs for your buck. This one is offering plum cake and blueberry and chocolate. James Molesworth of winespectator.com gives it an 89 but there is still a lot going on in a glass here for the price.
Bernard-Massard Cuvée de L’Écusson Brut Sparkling VINTAGES#: 970970 $20.95 Luxembourg Decanter World Wine Awards gave the 2017 release of this a 95 and Best in Show for Best Value Sparkling. Because sparkling wines are designed to be consistent from year to year to maintain the House brand, chances are good this will also display the ‘excellent purity and freshness’ with citrus, tropical fruit and creaminess that the 2017 excelled at.
Wolfberger Brut Crémant d’Alsace VINTAGES#: 460832 $19.95 Alsace, France tastings.com gave this a 94 calling it bright and fruity, refreshing and tangy. Alsace excels at balanced acidity and minerality so I would expect this to be a well crafted sparkling with a green apple, citrus profile.
All three Flat Rock Cellars wines in this release are noted as good value by Vic Harradine of winecurrent.com. Flat Rock Twisted White VINTAGES#: 1578 $17.95 Ontario, Canada. He gives this off dry Gewruztraminer, Riesling and Chardonnay blend a 91 and cites ‘medium bodied and generously textured with flavours galore—lime cordial, ripe pineapple, apple and scads of tangy pizzazz.’ Flat Rock Chardonnay VINTAGES#: 286278 $19.95 Ontario, Canada gets a 90 and lots of praise for Ontario typicity – buttery, vibrant with apple, pear minerality and ‘well-integrated toast’. Same goes for Flat Rock Riesling VINTAGES#: 43281 $17.95 Ontario, Canada -90 points, citing ‘super vibrancy, intense, complex and amazing value’ with mineral, peach, apple, lime and citrus.
South Africa’s Gold Wine Awards is a competition open only to wines available in South Africa costing less than 180 Rand, or about $16 Canadian. Double Gold, which means judges unanimously gave it a gold , was awarded to Alvi’s Drift Signature Viognier 2019 VINTAGES#: 18687 $13.95 Western Cape, South Africa. Notes indicate dry, vibrant peach and floral notes.
If you are fan of Alsace Gewurztraminer you won’t want to miss Pierre Sparr Grande Réserve Gewurztraminer 2018 VINTAGES#: 747600 $19.95 Alsace, France that Natalie Maclean gives a 91 citing the hallmarks of an Alsace Gewurzt-‘rosewater, lychee, pink grapefruit, citrus pith bite and smattering of sweet spice’. Note the ‘Grande Réserve’ under $20!
You don’t often see Saint-Véran offerings. Next door to the prestigious Puilly-Fuissé, it is as offering value pricing for wines with many similarities. Terres Secrètes Les Préludes Saint-Véran 2018 VINTAGES#: 16725 $21.95 Burgundy, France gets a gold from Guide Gilbert & Gaillard. Expect citrus, stone fruit and fine minerality.
New World Pinot Noirs are featured this release and all three Ontario Pinot Noirs offered are scoring 90 or more and showing well.
Flat Rock Pinot Noir VINTAGES#: 1545 $22.95 Ontario, Canada (90 score from Vic Harradine of winecurrent.com) This release is featuring New World Pinot Noirs. Ontario makes good Pinot Noirs and Flat Rock specializes in them. Expect raspberry, beetroot, smoked meat and spice according to the Vintage notes.
Have some fun and compare that to Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2019 VINTAGES#: 268391 $24.95 Ontario, Canada also with bright raspberry, cherry and clove spice. Or Pelee Island Vinedressers Reserve Pinot Noir 2017 VINTAGES#: 325282 $19.95 Ontario, Canada. (Both get a 92 from Vic Harradine of winecurrent.com
Oregon’s Pinot Noir offering is Cloudline Pinot Noir 2018 VINTAGES#: 159970 $26.95 Oregon, USA. Jennifer Havers review on nataliemaclean.com cites ‘Fruit on the palate is bright and ripe with a hint of tart cherry and some oak, leather and spice on the finish.’
No New World Pinot Noir feature would be complete without a New Zealand offering.
Matahiwi Estate ME Pinot Noir 2018 VINTAGES#: 12606 $19.95 Wairarapa, New Zealand gets a 91 from Sam Kim of wineorbit.co.nz who describes raspberry and plum and spices on the nose along with a juicy fruit intensity on the palate.
And finally – if you want to have fun with a Pinot Noir tasting compare them to the benchmark of Burgundy by way of Blason de Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune Rouge 2018 VINTAGES#: 648444 $23.95 Burgundy, France promising sour cherry, spice and earth. (Awarded Gold from Gide Gilbert & Gaillard, 2019.)
Sidewood pretty much hits it out of the park no matter what they release. Sidewood Shiraz 2017 VINTAGES#: 446146 $19.95 South Australia, Australia gets a 97 from James Halliday of winecompanion.com. He calls it ‘Seriously satisfying…with ripe black fruits’. Special value with a drinking window to 2045 (!!) So … you may want to stock up at this price.
France is making an excellent showing this release with all the reds on offer being reliable good bets. A couple of standouts:
I have a soft spots for the wines of Fitou (Midi) and you don’t see them very often on offer. Château de Ségure Vieilles Vignes Fitou 2018 VINTAGES#: 370254 $17.95 Midi, France promises bright red fruit, dark fruit along with pepper, spice and sturdy tannins. Pair with braised meats or the famous cassoulet casserole of Southern France.
There is a cru Beaujolais on offer in the form of Domaine de la Plaigne Régnié 2017 VINTAGES#: 18173 $17.95 Beaujolais, France. James Suckling (91 score) describes vanilla berry and pastry on the nose and a ‘briary edge tot he palate’ along with a succulent finish.
Gilbert & Gaillard International Challenge 2020 awarded Gold to Château La Croix de Queynac 2018 VINTAGES#: 17949 $16.95 Bordeaux, France. A Merlot dominant blend with dark cherry, currant and chocolate.
Offerings from the Rhône cover the full spectrum with a Châteauneuf-du-Pape at $58, a Gigonda at $33 and a Cairanne at $26 to a Rhone-Village at $20. The Cairanne is not bad value since it is a C-d-P wanna-be at less than half the price. But the Best Buy designation goes to Domaine Clavel Syrius Saint-Gervais Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2017 VINTAGES#: 18144 $19.95 Rhône, France that gets a 91 from Anna Lee Iijima of Wine Enthusiast calling it an ‘opulent yet pristinely fruity red’ with red cherry, plum, balanced acidity and a ‘crisp mineral finish’.
The Portugal offering was ranked #20 in Wine Enthusiasts Top 100 Best Buys of 2020. Casa de Cambres Reserva Red 2016 VINTAGES#: 470377 $14.95 Douro, Portugal gets a 90 from Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast who describes textured tannins, ripe black fruit and generous juiciness. At this price do I hear ‘House wine’?
Spain is noteworthy at both ends of the spectrum. La Mancha , Spain’s largest DO, has benefited recently from large investments in technology and expertise and is now recognized as a great source of inexpensive well-made wines for export. Alceo Tempranillo 2017 VINTAGES#: 18768 $12.95 La Mancha, Spain gets a 92 from James Suckling who describes ‘super dark, ripe blackcurrants and a sleek, dense palate’ If that holds true we can look forward to more La Mancha offerings.
Another 100% Tempranillo was awarded Best in Show by Decanter World Wine Awards 2019. What does that mean?
Over the course of two weeks, 280 of the world’s top wine experts blind tasted close to 17,000 wines. This culminated in 50 Best in Show medals, 148 Platinum, 480 Gold, 4,164 Silver and 7,376 Bronze medals being given out.
So I am thinking that a) accessing this wine in Ontario and b) being able to conceivably afford it is a stroke of great fortune! Check out Valduero Finca Azaya 2017 VINTAGES#: 18676 $31.95 Castilla y León, Spain gets a 97 from Decanter.
everyone loved its alluring liveliness, its grace, its shapeliness and its charm. It’s dark black in colour with ripe berry scents backed by bay-leaf and oak-copse complexities. The palate is mouth-filling yet softly textured, with more red berry fruits in a settled and balanced style. A mist of fine tannins adds textural interest, but it’s the intrinsic quality of the fruit itself which its creators have wisely decided to put centre stage. This is a hugely amenable red capable of partnering a wide range of dishes with panache -Decanter World Wine Awards 2019
Château de Marsan 2016 VINTAGES#: 446245 $17.95 Bordeaux, France gets a 91 from Rgoer Voss of Wine Enthusiast who describes blackberry, plum concentration but suggest drinking from 22 to allow the tannins to settle down.