Our story so far
Grandpa Muddle, one of many crusty amateur wine critics, is tutoring his grandson on wine tasting and professional wine critics. Grandpa Muddle, by many people’s standards, would be considered to be a bad grandpa.
Grandpa, did you read the article in the Spheroid and Snail newspaper on why wine critics never give low scores on wine?
The article about why wine scores are always in the range of 86 to 96 points? Yeah, I read it kid and it’s bullshit.
That’s what I thought you would say but doesn’t it make sense that, because there are hundreds of wine choices, people are not interested in what not to buy…they are only interested in what to buy?
Wine critics are like politicians son. Regardless of their political stripes they know if they keep repeating their nonsense that people will eventually believe it’s true. Canada’s Clown Prince could convince people that the Easter Bunny is real and the Twitter in Chief could sell the sun rise as being fake news. Like politicians, the wine critics are out of touch too.
Out of touch?
Yeah, people don’t read their articles and rush off to the KGBO to buy that wine. If the review is from an international wine critic chances are near certain that you cannot buy the wine in the People’s Republic of Ontario. What’s the chances of the KGBO having it as part of their inventory? Pretty much zero. No, people don’t buy wine that way. Some people will wander around the store, browse the confusing product categories, and will buy a bottle from what is available on the shelf that is within their price range. The bottle they pick will be an act of desperation or maybe the bottle will have an interesting label or, worst of all, they will make the purchase because of a “92 points” sticker. Others will try to do some homework, read the Vintages catalogue and plan their purchases based on the comments and scores that the KGBO publishes. And, what will those comments say?
That every wine in the catalogue is a great one. Right?
You catch on quickly. Professional wine critics owe their living to producers and retailers. The local pros are not much better. Local or international, they are beholden to someone. There is always one of them that will say that the wine is okay and that is the review that the KGBO will use to sell their crap. If you want a critic’s help you have to find one with a palate that aligns with yours. That’s hard to do if you don’t know what that person dislikes as well as what he or she likes. Equally important you need to know the reviewer is on the wine buyer’s side, not in the KGBO’s pocket or giving a winery favorable comments because the critic is getting free goodies. How can someone find a trustworthy source of guidance if the reviewer is never openly critical?
[Grinning mischievously] You mean we need to find reviewers that take a critical stand like the comments written by James Suckling, James Halliday, Jeb Dunnuck and Robert Parker?
Now that’s funny. Keep repeating that kido, do it over and over again, and one day you just might be the Prime Minister of Canada.
Here is a link to the article about wine critics and wine scores if you are interested in its contents. Unfortunately, you will not be able to access the article if you do not subscribe to The Globe and Mail.
Onto the wines released on Saturday, April 14. Remember to save time and energy by using online ordering for the wine that interests you. Delivery to your local LCBO is free.
As you will read below, we purchased and tasted several good wines in this release. After reviewing my notes, I concluded that your needs would be served better by not concluding that any wine we tasted in this release was just plain outstanding. There are specific reasons to consider purchasing wines in this release and I will try to elaborate on those reasons below.
Collectors seeking value Burgundy to enjoy in 5 to 10 years have a couple of choices in this release. For Burgundy wines, value doesn’t mean cheap; it just means it’s cheaper than many other wines from that region.
White Burgundy fans should consider the $55 Domaine Billaud-Simon Mont de Milieu Chablis 1er Cru 2014 Chardonnay—VINTAGES#: 373548. This is a good but (as reflected in the price) not a great Chablis. The posted tasting notes are accurate and I think cellaring the wine for 5 or more years will be rewarding. We had the opportunity to contrast this wine with the $40 William Fèvre Montmains Chablis 1er Cru 2014 (link), a wine that was also very enjoyable. However, the Billaud-Simon is worth the extra $15 and easier to obtain because it is in the LCBO system presently. The price of the Billaud-Simon is about the same as that charged in other countries. Considering the tax and wine markup policies of the People’s Republic of Ontario our price here is a good one.
Red Burgundy fans should considering acquiring the $55 Roux Père & Fils Beaurepaire Santenay 1er Cru 2015 Pinot Noir—VINTAGES#: 527994. The posted tasting notes are pretty accurate and I would add that the nose also contains aromas of blood and the taste has elements of spice and earth. It’s a shame to drink this wine young. Age it in your cellar for 5-10 years to allow the flavors to blend and the tertiary elements to develop. I doubt that the drinking window is all the way to 2035 as suggested by the tasting notes. The suggested food pairing also strikes me as silly. There must be a lot of people out there hunting and eating wild game and mushrooms as this pairing seems to come up a lot in KGBO tasting notes. Based on the limited information available, the price of this wine is about the same as that charged in other countries.
I struggle a little to recommend the next two wines as candidates for cellaring. My internal conflict does not stem from the quality of the wines but from the wines’ low price. You see, it costs money to store wine and when the wine is $22 and $26 a bottle I have to wonder whether it is worth it. But, that decision is yours to make.
If you are looking for cheap wine that will likely reward 5, 10, or more years in the cellar then consider buying the $22 Château Bouscassé 2013 Tannat/Cabernet Franc—VINTAGES#: 743385 and the $26 Château Haut-Monplaisir Prestige Cahors Malbec 2012—VINTAGES#: 462374. Pick the Bouscassé for the rustic nature stemming from the Tannat grape (the winemaker is trying to tame the Tannat by adding Cabernet Franc) and buy the Haut-Monplaisir for the Bordeaux-like intensity that is provided by its Malbec grape.
Wines to consider
The $20 Margan Family Hunter Valley Semillon 2016—VINTAGES#: 493338 is a sipper wine with some complexity. The Vintage catalogue claim that the wine has “notes of freshly peeled corn” struck us as silly. I also found it interesting that the LCBO website cites a different tasting source than that used in the catalogue. Citrus flavors dominate this wine, one that is a bit too fruit forward for my liking. It is, however, quite drinkable and has sufficient acidity to work with food. The wine retails at the winery in Australia for about the same amount of money as we pay here.
The $18 Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016—VINTAGES#: 231282 almost made it to my outstanding wine category. What happened? Well, we retasted this wine side-by-side with the Raimbault Bel-Air Vouvray 2014 that is discussed next. The result was a split in the group’s views.
The Forrester is more fruit forward than the Raimbault. It’s quite yummy, very drinkable, has complexity, good acidity and length. A lot to like here at an agreeable price. A very versatile wine as it would be a crowd pleaser at a reception, has enough acidity and fruit components to serve at a meal and would probably age in a cellar (although I think the screw cap closure would force one to wait many years to see noticeable evolution from the aging process). Again, people in the Excited States (a.k.a, the USA) and Europe pay about the same amount of money for this wine. I think it’s a great buy.
The $22 Raimbault Bel-Air Vouvray 2014 Chenin Blanc—VINTAGES#: 205468 is the second Chenin Blanc to consider trying. This wine has fruit complexity and is full of minerality. It should be in my wheelhouse but it is not. What’s the problem? Well, it seems that I am sensitive to ethyl acetate, a compound that I typically describe as iodine (iodine being a common household substance in my wound-filled youth). The less clumsy and not-so-ancient people among the living would describe this smell as nail polish remover. The seven other people tasting this wine swiftly rejected and scoffed at my observation. They loved this wine. Discarding the outlier is hard when that person is me but I have to be mature and go with the majority view that the Raimbault is a wine that you may want to try. I will be seeking therapy for the emotional blow caused by my tribe’s swift and total rejection. There goes another $150 out the window. The price of this wine in the USA is the same as in Ontario.
The $20 Bertrand Ambroise Lettre d’Éloïse 2015 Pinot Noir—VINTAGES#: 528000 will appeal to fans of Pinot Noir that are seeking a cheap house wine. From Bourgogne, at this price level, I was expecting this wine to be a fruit bomb. Happily this was not the case. This wine, while pretty simple, is very drinkable. The tasting notes are overstated and, while it is common to pair Pinot Noir with turkey, the specificity that the breast of the poor beast be coated with a breading of “mustard and sage” struck me as weird. In Europe, this wine retails for the equivalent of $27CAD.
The $20 Bartali Riserva Chianti 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 541524 is a great wine for the money. The tasting notes are pretty accurate. This is a classic entry level Chianti. You can sip it alone and this is a great wine for tomato sauce based pizza and pasta. Can’t go wrong at this price. I prefer the $20 Carpineto Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 356048 that we reviewed in a previous release but there are not many bottles of the Carpineto left in the system. The Bartali is a good weekday pizza wine.
The $15 Fonte Da Loba Vinho Tinto 2015 Red Blend—VINTAGES#: 532283 is a basic and quite drinkable table wine. It’s a wine to open late in the evening when the volume level of the party is high, you conclude that people’s taste buds are shot and you don’t want to open yet another expensive bottle from your collection. The tasting notes assert that “there is almost a Burgundian quality here.” What crap. Maybe someday there will be some accountability brought to the Vintages panel and the wine retailing process in this province.
Wines to avoid
The $42 Château Plantey 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot—VINTAGES#: 526962 struck me as an wine that has experienced a lot intervention from the winemaker. Some people refers these types of wines as “commercial”; others call them McWines. A technically correct wine is the winemaker’s objective and, like this one, the objective is normally achieved. These wines are safe crowd pleasers and you pay the price for the underlying engineering and the ability to say that you discovered a “good value Pauillac.” I find these wines to be boring as they lack personality. The posted tasting notes are overstated. In France, this wine sells for the equivalent of $23CAD. At $42, to me, this wine is an LCBO ripoff. There is a lot of bottles in the system so expect lots of stickers and product consultants trying to move this wine.
The $15 Roc des Templiers Plan De Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages 2016 Shiraz/Grenache—VINTAGES#: 539916 is a disjointed fruit bomb. In fact, one person in our tasting group described this wine as “the worst Côtes du Rhône that I ever tasted”. With the low price and the glowing review published by the “Vintages panel” my guess is that this wine is flying off the shelves. Pity.
We tasted the $18 Michel Gassier Les Piliers Syrah 2015—VINTAGES#: 678086 immediately after the Roc des Templiers, which prompted the comment “this is not the worst Rhône that I ever tasted.” However, it is another fruit bomb and another overstated and misleading tasting note from the Vintages panel.
The floral nature of the $25 Weingut Neiss That’s Neiss White 2016 White Blend—VINTAGES#: 523936 was a turnoff for me. Others in the tasting group didn’t mind this attribute. Regardless, at this price point, there are better white wines in this release.
A James Suckling score of 90 should be your first clue to put that bottle back on the shelf. Here I thought scores were worthless. Maybe we can use them to know the wines to avoid. Suckling’s description of the $20 Damilano Barbera d’Asti 2015 Barbera—VINTAGES#: 541771 “raspberry and lemon character” is quite accurate. He just leaves out that it a raspberry jam fruit bomb. Food tames this imbalance slightly but save your money and avoid this wine.
My guess is the vines producing the grapes used in the production of $24 Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico 2014 Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot—VINTAGES#: 476317 are young as this wine lacks depth. This is speculation on my part as there is no indication of the age of the vines disclosed on the producer’s website. The winery is owned by the massive Santa Margherita winery. It’s not a bad wine. There is just better value in this release such as the $20 Bartali Riserva Chianti 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 541524 that is discussed above.