Our Story So Far
The year is 2016. Premier Kathleen Wynne of The People’s Republic of Ontario has been in power for a couple of years. Her predecessor Dalton “The Weasel” McGuinty now is imparting his vast wisdom on Harvard’s next generation of comrades. Students are waiting a year to take his marquee course “how to construct gas plant contracts for fun and votes”. Meanwhile, the People’s Republic lay in near financial ruin. Debt has soared. Citizens are taxed out. Oakville citizens can only afford to preheat one of the family’s Lexuses. The People’s Republic needs more funds but to raise taxes is risking a revolt. What to do…what to do…what to do?
Premier Wynne: I need juice man. I need juice bad. When do I get some juice?
Charles Sousa (Finance Minister & Minister responsible for the LCBO): Kathleen is talking about taxes. We need to extract more money from the citizens of the Republic.
Eric Hoskins (Health Minister): Then let’s raise taxes…the HST…income taxes…we have options.
Sousa: Are you kidding me? We need to get re-elected in 2018. We need a change that people will quickly forget. Something hidden. Something that they will be embarrassed to complain about.
Wynne: I need juice!
Hoskins: How about hospital user fees?
Sousa: I can’t figure out whether you are slow or inexperienced. Really? User fees? Really? User fees are not hidden. You’ll piss people off each time they cut their finger or get a STD. We need to cast our eyes towards “sin” and that means the LCBO. We control billions there. I say we make the LCBO collect more taxes. We can hide it and people will not dare to complain. Making them pay more for mediocre wine is for their own good.
Hoskins: So we have a one time increase at the LCBO and things will be okay?
Sousa: It’s now clear to me that you’re slow. One time? You’re kidding right? You don’t think that we will need more money next year, the year after, the year after that? What you need to understand is that we need a long-term “juice” plan. So, in June 2016 we force the LCBO to increase their margins by 2%, then another 2% in April 2017 and so on.
Wynne: I NEED JUICE NOW!
Sousa: Right, more juice…so what we will also do is increase the basic tax on non-Ontario wine by 1% and will repeat that increase every year until 2019. We’ll need to increase taxes at the crappy wine sold in grocery stores too…a convenience tax for the privilege of buying shitty wine where you buy stale bread and toothpaste.
Wynne: Ja Ja Ja Ja JUICE!
Hoskins: Calm down Kathleen. Thanks to Charles, you’ll get your juice.
It’s a story but I prefer to think of the above as historical fiction. I doubt that Kathleen Wynne is a drug addict. But, the described increases forced on the LCBO were a real part of the 2016 budget. You may have noticed that you are paying more. You’ll soon forget that and then next year, to quote Yogi Berra: “It’s like déjà vu all over again”, and you’ll have forgotten the prices increased in 2017 and wonder whether there was another increase in 2018. The 2016 LCBO pricing formula means that if the LCBO pays $5.12 for a bottle of wine then you will pay $11.95 at the cash register. The math works out to about a 133.5% markup and that percentage goes up this April and next and…well you get.
The first impression of the April release created some excitement. It looked as those there were many value buys. When the group gathered at the MuddleBunker last Sunday we bought about 20 wines to taste and we thought that we were in for some good hunting for value.
Sadly, most of the wines turned out to be “okay” mediocre examples. I guess that I’m slow. I get my hopes up when I read the critics’ words about a wine and later, when the wine just don’t follow through, disappointment descends. Topic for a future story?
The white wines in the release that are worth your money? None “sang” but consider these three.
The value winner is the $14 Château Saint Nabor Côtes du Rhone White 2015 (485532).
The first bottle I opened was corked and it was with some trepidation that I returned to my KGBO to try another bottle. The second was fine and the wine has nice tropical fruit flavors and aromas. A pleasant-somewhat-simple wine for the price.
For Chardonnay fans consider the $28 Louis Moreau Domaine de Biéville Chablis 2015 (106161).
or the $25 Airfield Yakima Valley Chardonnay 2014 (479295).
The Chablis shows no trace of oak, some minerality and nice fruit. The Airfield has slight oak treatment and has flavors of apple and tropical fruit. This wine showed better after being open for a day so you should decant it for a hour or more before serving. These wines will not rock your world but both wines are fine.
The $20 Le Puig Carignane de la Perpignane 2013 (480988) is the value red that we tasted.
There is some earth and nice fruit. It’s a bit high in alcohol so make sure that you chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The wine improves with air so decanting is recommended.
Want to try another value red then buy a bottle of the $14 Senorio de la Antigua Mencía 2012 (481549).
It’s a somewhat fruit forward “house” wine that has enough body to stand up to hearty food. Make sure that you chill it in your refrigerator for 30 minutes. Decanting also improves this wine.
If you are a Pinot Noir fan you may want to try the $25 Invivo Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 (466029).
This wine has great cherry flavors. The alcohol level is high and the burn will get in the way of your enjoyment of this wine. We gave it a good chill (for example, 45 minutes in the refrigerator) and the wine came together. It went wonderfully with salmon.
The $22 Ardal Reserva 2006 (167700) is a solid house wine and a wine that is often available at the KGBO near you.
Want a decent wine for pairing with charred meat? Then you may want to try the $20 Turkey Flat Butchers Block Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvèdre 2014 (90241). Too juicy for me to drink on its own but it offers a decent value wine to go with some food.
Time for the airing of the grievances and let’s start with the whites.
Simple and mediocre whites include the $28 Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016 (231282), the $22 Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris 2014 (21253), and the $22 Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2015 (177428). No flaws but I can’t think of a compelling reasons to buy these wines.
White wines in the release to avoid include the $30 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014 (962886) unless you really like heavily oaked Chardonnay. For me it was like I was licking a board. For others the wood may come across as heavily buttered popcorn. This is not a wine for me. Another wine I consider to be flawed is the $20 Château Grand Mouëys 2015 (489807). The local critics love this wine but to me the nose was just nasty sulphur and my bottle is going back for a refund. Finally, for the whites, I suggest that you avoid the $30 Castello di Ama Al Poggio 2013 (747394). Castello di Ama is one of favorite producers anywhere so it breaks my heart to suggest that you avoid this wine. However, the bottle we opened was corked and there are stories circulating that many other bottles of this wine were also corked. I fear that there may be a problem with the corks used on this wine and don’t have the confidence that a purchase is absent undue risk.
Mediocre red wines include the $29 Valserrano Reserva 2010 (314963), the $17 In Situ Reserva Carmenère 2015 (37952), the $19 Brumont Tour Bouscassé 2011 (414615), and the $23 Castello d’Alba Vinhas Velhas Grande Reserva 2013 (427880). There’s nothing wrong with these wines but there is also nothing compelling about buying one either.