The new President of the People’s Republic of Ontario has yet to provide me with the decent-raw-satirical material to enable the writing of a funny story (at least one with a wine theme). The buck a beer quest is the best I have to work with but I cannot make “a buck a beer” any sillier than it already is. If you want to make beer more affordable then take action on something that you control and reduce the crazy levels of taxation. Fat chance.
The government’s decision to turn to the private sector to distribute recreational cannabis provides an iota of hope for lovers of wine. If you care about this issue, the National Post’s Kelly McParland recently penned an article (link) highlighting the contradiction in the manner the government is treating these two substances. Come October, I have to believe that there will be more regulations and restrictions on wine in this country than there will be on weed. O’Canada, God keep our land, glorious and free.
If you like sparkling rosé, I recommend that you stock up on the $28 Jansz Premium Sparkling Rosé—VINTAGES#: 37499. The posted tasting notes are accurate as is the conclusion that “this is classy, sophisticated bubbly, fully dry and crisp.” With 9 grams of residual sugar, this wine must achieve its lovely balance with an elevated level of acidity. A really enjoyable sparkling wine that would be appreciated on its own or with food. This wine retails for the equivalent of $24CAD in Australia and is about the same price in the Excited States of America. The KGBO’s (a.k.a., the LCBO) is reasonable.
The $23 Brokenwood Semillon 2016 Sémillon Blend—VINTAGES#: 657726 will not wow you but it is a decent Hunter Valley Sémillon. This wine also benefits from exposure to oxygen. Time in the glass or in the decanter will help bring out the wine’s complexity (clover, lemongrass, apple, & citrus). There is good acidity as well so it would work with food. An age-worthy Semillon for $23, the same retail price as our friends in Australia pay. It retails for about 10% more in the USA.
Our blind tasting of the $25 Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah 2015—VINTAGES#: 414151 fooled everyone. This is a serious Syrah for $25, one that would benefit from a few years (or many years) in the cellar. The posted tasting notes are accurate with the wine having ripe dark fruit, fine and intense tannins and a fantastic and long fine. Aging a $25 wine probably does not make sense but if you have space this wine will punch well above its weight in the years to come. People in South Africa enjoy this wine for $8 less per bottle but the folks in Europe pay about $3 more a bottle than the retail price in Ontario.
I can be pretty hard on wine critic James Suckling as I find he often awards big scores to wines of questionable quality. I am starting to learn to seek out wines that receive low scores on his scale, such as the 92-James-Suckling-points $20 Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi 2016 Cortese—VINTAGES#: 541854. The posted tasting notes are accurate and I would add that the complexity of the wine includes orchard and citrus fruit and that the wine’s long and intense finish makes this one particularly enjoyable. A good wine to sip on its own and a good wine with food. We pay a little more than the folks in Italy for this wine and our American friends pay a little more than us. A decent and enjoyable buy.
There are three good Chianti Classico’s in this release. I decided to categorize two of these wines as “outstanding” and one as a “wine to consider”.
The first wine is the $15 Coli Chianti Classico 2016 Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot—VINTAGES#: 573444. This wine will not win awards unless one is given out based on price. It is a basic and enjoyable wine with red fruit flavors, good tannins, and a long enjoyable finish. With the level of taxation and mandated yearly markup increase imposed by the People’s Republic of Ontario on the LCBO, it is rare to now find a decent wine under $20. As my friend Bunker would say “Tuesday night pizza wine”.
If you are willing to pay extra and you are looking for a Chianti with more complexity and character then buy the $24 Lanciola Le Masse di Greve Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 395152. This one punches above its weight with balance and early signs of maturity. The posted tasting notes are accurate. An age-worthy Chianti Classico for a great price. This wine is readily available in the USA at a similar price.
Wines to consider
The $20 Carpineto Chianti Classico 2016 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 356048 is the third Chianti in this release that you should consider. This is a wine that fits between the two Chiantis discussed above on the quality scale. A decent Chianti at a decent price. The 2015 vintage of this wine (no longer available at the KGBO) was outstanding. This wine is available in Europe (about $5CAD cheaper) and also available in the USA (about $2 cheaper).
Fans of Pinot Noir should consider trying the $35 Closson Chase Closson Chase Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016—VINTAGES#: 145888. Be forewarned of the volatile-acetic nose and taste of this wine if you just pop and pour the contents of the bottle. Those elements go away with exposure to oxygen. Decant this wine for an hour before serving to appreciate the wine’s finesse and complexity. This wine was served blind and I was convinced that it stemmed from Sancerre. The price is rich but if you want decent wine from Ontario $35 seems to be the price of entry.
If you are looking for a Pinot Noir with more intensity, something to stand up to hearty meats, for example, consider the $20 De Bortoli G.S. Pinot Noir 2017—VINTAGES#: 15511. For the most part, the posted tasting notes are accurate. Yes, the wine starts out being quite “meaty” (intriguingly so) and, with time in the glass, the red fruit flavors and herbs come through. I would not consider this wine to be (as claimed) elegant and sophisticated. I found the wine to be intense and was so much better with food. Pricing information from other jurisdictions was not available.
The 2015 vintage of the Rustenberg Chardonnay was a top pick from a prior post. This Vintages Release brings us the 2016 vintage of the $20 Rustenberg Chardonnay 2016—VINTAGES#: 598631. This vintage I found to be heavy on the use of oak. “The sound that you make upon first experiencing this wine is the same sound that escapes your mouth when you jump into the swimming pool on a hot day.” The gasping ends when your body gets used to the temperature (or in this case your palate gets used to the oak). The posted tasting notes are accurate including “the judicious toast” but I find this element distracting and not supporting as asserted by the tasting note’s author. This outcome made me sad as the 2015 vintage of this wine was so enjoyable. If you like Chardonnay on the oaky side this wine is a good buy. We pay $2 more per bottle in Ontario than the folks in South Africa but our friends in the good-old USA pay $2 more than the citizens of Ontario.
The LCBO did not post tasting notes for the $41 L’Expression de Margaux 2014 Bordeaux Red—VINTAGES#: 431734. Instead, they did post a nice story that the wine is likely a wine made by the elite second-growth Château Rauzan-Ségla. Fans of Bordeaux will like and enjoy this wine. It is well-made and well-balanced with classic red fruit, a nice amount of oak, earthy notes and, even though it is only four years old, the wine is showing signs of aging nicely. Buy this wine to bring to a dinner that would be complemented by a nice red wine from Bordeaux. If you have a cellar this wine would age nicely for a few years. Pricing information from other jurisdictions was not available.
I also can be pretty hard on wine critic Jeb Dunnuck. His palate tends to like powerful, high-alcohol wines and he awards these wines with high scores. Again, I am starting to learn to seek out wines that receive low scores (low on his scale) such as the 92-Jeb-Bunnuck-points $29 Les Amouriers Signature Vacqueyras 2015 Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre—VINTAGES#: 381038. If you enjoy red wine from the Southern Rhone then you will enjoy this wine. Go with the tasting notes and not with the score. The KGBO is premium pricing this wine as it is readily available in Europe at the equivalent of $21CAD.
Wines to avoid
We did not enjoy the $15 Barón de Ley Rosé 2017 Rosé – Dry—VINTAGES#: 117283. Intense red fruit, simple, with an unpleasant candy finish. I don’t know the wine’s purpose as the wine is not enjoyable solo and I struggle with determining why I would buy this wine to serve with food.
For people that like tannic Barolo in their youth, the $40 Gemma Colarej Barolo 2013 Nebbiolo—VINTAGES#: 232447 is an alternative. The wine is classic and basic Nebbiolo. I struggle with the purpose of buying Barolo at this price point. If you are buying a Barolo to age 10 years to its drinking prime then I think that you are better served by purchasing wine from a better producer at a higher price point. If you are seeking out a Nebbiolo wine to be enjoyed in its youth then I would buy something cheaper such as the $28 Castello Di Neive Barbaresco DOCG Nebbiolo—LCBO#: 160143. Maybe the name “Barolo” on the label would impress people sitting around your dinner table but I doubt that would be the outcome. In researching this note, I noted that the KGBO increased the price of the Castello Di Neive from about $23 to $28. That’s a 21.7% increase in price. Do you still care about “a buck a beer”?