mediocre wines from south of the equator (3 march 2018 vintages release)

Our story so far…

Once again the scene of our story is KGBO (a.k.a. the LCBO) headquarters. This is a place where the perpetually orbiting lightning clouds darken the building and set the mood of its inhabitants. Walking the hallways one is often overcome from the smell of Totalitarianism that permeates the air.

“Okay, let’s get down to business…we have a lot of crappy wine to move and we need to fill the coffers of the People’s Republic of Ontario. Let’s recap the plan. In February we will focus on wines from south of the equator. Tony, you get the Vintage buyers focused on securing wine mediocrity from Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand. Annie what’s your focus?”

“I have the pencil-heads increasing our margins. The spreadsheets are being updated this morning. We’ll get the opening price of most wines to $19.95”

“Boss. For the catalog I’m working on pretty marketing pictures and catchy phrases like ‘peak performance’. ”

“Excellent Satish. My task is to make sure that the local wine critics are on board. I think that they should congratulate our team for the “very good quality, and even better value of the wines from south of the equator.”

“Speaking of congratulations, I think that we can congratulate ourselves. In February we’ll move mediocre wines from south of the equator at inflated prices. Comrade Wynne will be happy.”


I was slightly worried about the turnout for the tasting of March 3 Vintages release. Several people commented that the catalog didn’t contain any wine that they wished to try. They acted on their views and spent their Sunday on alternate activities. Yet many others persevered and the result is that we did identify wines that you may wish to consider purchasing.

With one exception, none of our recommendations originate from the wines depicted from the pretty pictures of the bottles from KGBO’s selected theme of “wines south of the equator”. Sadly, I was not surprised.

If you are in need of a good still white wine then you can stop reading now and try to source a wine from one of my previous postings. We simply struck out in the white wine department.

When sourcing wine that interest you always check if the KGBO will allow you to order the item online. You’ll be shocked to learn that I think that their online approach is confusing. The Vintages catalog indicates that certain wines are available online. In reality, many more are wines also available for online ordering. Also, the wines that are flagged in the catalog as available online may also be available in the store. Follow the link in the post or enter the product code into the LCBO search function. The product page will inform you whether the item is available online. If so, you can have the wine delivered to your store for free or have it delivered to your home for a fee. Ordering online is a time saver.

Outstanding wines

The $24 Graham Beck Brut Zero 2011 Sparkling—VINTAGES#: 435453 is an excellent buy. The wine has complexity (although the posted tasting notes go way overboard), it’s refreshing, would work with food and has good length. The folks at Graham Beck know how to make a good sparkling wine. This wine retails for the equivalent of $28 CAD in the Excited States of America so we are getting a great deal here in the People’s Republic of Ontario. The local wine critics believe that this wine’s style will not have wide appeal. That outcome was not what I witnessed.wine_105189_web

The decanter was empty at the end of our tasting. What did it previously contain? It was filled with the $35 Casetta Barbaresco 2008 Nebbiolo—VINTAGES#: 412247. You know that a wine was a hit when there is nothing to take home at the end of the tasting. Yes, you can get a ten year old Barbaresco from our state controlled monopoly for $35. The wine is a classic and decent Barbaresco (cherries, roses, some earth, nice tannins). Decanting is highly recommended as there was something off putting on the nose initially, a negative that went away once the wine had some air time.

If you are committed and willing to acquire a case (or find a group of people willing to share a case) then consider buying the 2010 vintage of this wine from The Beer Guy. It’s the same price as the LCBO offering, you get a better vintage and I’m guessing a better wine.wine_105225_web

The $23 Hacienda el Ternero Selección Crianza 2012 Tempranillo—VINTAGES#: 548016 is the value red wine that we discovered in this release. It has nice balance, structure and would work with food. The posted tasting notes are accurate and I would add this wine has character. If it was a person this wine is someone that you would like to chat with. There’s a lot to like for $23 and the price is not a lot different than what you would pay in most places in Europe.bild_hacienda_el_ternero_rioja_crianza_seleccion_2012_web

Collector’s corner

We had the opportunity to contrast the $30 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes-du-Rhône 2015 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 48884 to the same wine from the 2001 vintage. What a difference time in a bottle makes. The 2001 was singing and it was easy to tell that the 2015 vintage would one day do the same. If you buy the current release it would be a sin to open it before 2025. Store a bottle or two or more, be patient and be rewarded with something special in a few years. Highly recommended.Coudoulet_de_Beaucastel_C_tes-du-Rh_ne_2015_web

Collectors who are fans of Australian Shiraz should consider the $30 Two Hands Fields of Joy Shiraz 2015 Shiraz/Syrah—VINTAGES#: 432963.  Two Hands is a good producer, the posted tasting notes are pretty accurate (I don’t agree that things are harmonious on the finish), and the price is the same as you would pay in Australia. This wine needs cellar time to come together. The wine is bottled with a screw cap and this issue causes me to wonder how long one must age this wine for it to shine. For that reason I will not be buying this wine. If you take the plunge I’d recommend a long decant before consumption as this wine was much better after being open for over a day.wine_105177_web

House wines to consider

If you are in need of a decent house wine this release provides a few options. I will attempt to frame your choices by specifically focusing on price and country of origin.

If you are fond of Spanish wines then try the $15 López de Haro Crianza 2013 Tempranillo—VINTAGES#: 377481. The wine has nice red fruit flavors, some complexity, smoke, decent length, acidity and nice tannins. It’s a decent cheap red wine. You are paying a bit of a premium in Ontario ($10 CAD equivalent in Spain /$12 CAD in the USA). wine_105237_web

Alternately, if price is your major consideration, consider the $13 Marqués de Toro Finca La Moura 2012 Mencia—VINTAGES#: 545939. It’s a decent wine but I found that the finish left a fruit punch taste and would prefer to spend the extra $2 for the López de Haro.

Unfortunately, the price point of the following possible red house wines jumps to the $20 and above. I suspect that the KGBO pricing formula that is dictated by the Ontario government makes it difficult to retail a decent wine in the republic below this amount.

Prefer Italian wines? Looking for something that would work with pizza or tomato sauce pasta? Then consider the $20 Carpineto Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 356048. My guess is that the large production allows this producer to offer a classic Chianti at this price. If you are a Chianti fan this one should work for you and your bank account will be happy as many Chianti Classicos cost significantly more.Carpineto_2015_Chianti_Classico_web

Fans of French wines should consider the $20 Georges Duboeuf Domaine Mont Chavy Morgon 2014 Gamay—VINTAGES#: 276477. The typical bubble gum smell and flavor present in many Beaujolais is tamed. This wine is nothing special. If you need a few bottles of French wine to tide you over until something better comes along then this bottle is an okay choice. wine_99873_web

Not a fan of lighter wines from Burgundy / Beaujolais and would like a house red from France with more weight? Then consider the $20 Louis Bernard Vacqueyras 2015 Grenache/Syrah—VINTAGES#: 546051. The posted tasting notes are pretty accurate and the wine is nicely balanced. It retails in the Excited States for $21CAD so we are getting a good price here.img_297539_Gall_500_web

Prefer wines made in new world style? Then consider $20 The Foundation Stone 2014 Shiraz Blend —VINTAGES#: 444521 from South Africa.  This wine has good fruit, it’s earthy and has complexity (stemming from the over-the-top blending). While this wine retails in South Africa for as little as the equivalent of $9CAD the price in Europe and the USA jumps to more than we pay in Ontario.clone_wine_87044_web

Other wines to consider

Are you a fan of Aglianico? Don’t know but would like to try a wine from the volcanic soils of southern Italy? Then read the posted tasting notes (they are pretty accurate), see if the description tickles your fancy and try the $22 Re Manfredi Taglio del Tralcio 2013 Red Blend—VINTAGES#: 538470. I particularly enjoyed the volcanic stone smells and flavors coming from my glass. It’s a great wine to try to help you decide whether wines from the Aglianico grape interest you.  cq5dam.web.1280.1280__48__web

Wines to avoid

The $20 Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache 2015 Syrah/Grenache—VINTAGES#: 320499 is tannin bomb. The posted tasting notes are just nonsense as is the score of 94 points. Jeb your stock just got lower in my book. There is a lot of this product in the system and I suspect that product consultants will be pushing this wine hard.

I am not a fan of the Moscato grape so it will not be a surprise to hear that I recommend avoiding the $14 Bricco Riella Moscato d’Asti 2016 Moscato d’Asti—VINTAGES#: 378380. This wine is sweet and has flavors of canned peaches. In fairness, if you are a fan of this grape then this wine is textbook and you will be happy with your purchase.

The same comments apply to the $20 Susana Balbo Signature Barrel Fermented Torrontés 2016 Torrontes—VINTAGES#: 384339. If you are a fan of the Torrontes grape or want to experience a wine made from this varietal then the Balbo is not a bad buy. I’m not fond of the floral nature of this grape or the flavor profiles in the wine (no one else at our tasting was a fan either).  This one had a powerful Spearmint nose that I thought was confusing and strange. The posted tasting notes are nonsense but clearly I’m biased.

Fans of Chilean Carmenère may be happy with the $18 Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenère 2015 Carmenère Blend—VINTAGES#: 439166.  This one has an unpleasant bitter finish and that’s what caused me to conclude it is a wine that I would avoid.

Speaking of unpleasant bitterness, that is what we found in the $18 Spier Vintage Selection Chenin Blanc 2015 Chenin Blanc—VINTAGES#: 455618. The nose of this wine was also overly floral. It’s a wine that we just didn’t enjoy.

Price was our main objection to the $20 Paco & Lola Albariño 2016 Alvarinho—VINTAGES#: 350041. This wine is not as complex as the tasting notes imply. It’s a good summer sipper that should be priced at less than $14.







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The Wine Muddler

The Wine Muddler blog is a reflection, criticism, and research of The LCBO Vintages Release. It is composed by Rick Wood from Toronto Ontario. The Wine Muddler is the satirical musings of a man muddling through life in search of good wine

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