all natural wines have “barnyard” attributes (16 march 2019 vintages release)

Note that I will be away and not be able to comment on the 30 March 2019 release.

This week diversion

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Control-be-gon, my home town, out there on the edge of totalitarianism. This week we started to see signs of Spring. For most people, this means a rising temperature and melting snowbanks but, for Jollie LeBlois, the first sign of Spring is the arrival of fresh artichokes at the Spadina Fruit Market. Jollie buys as many as he can carry. While he prunes away the uneatable leaves to get to the delicious core his thoughts drift to the sunny plains in Italy, Spain, and California where Spring arrived long ago. Whether the indicator is artichokes or snowbanks Spring was in the air in my home town.

It was a hard week for Jollie as he was suspended from participating in the Vintage Tasting Panel. On Monday, the panel gathered to taste natural wines. Jollie misunderstood and thought that they would be tasting wines naturally.  The nude Jollie sniffed and swirled the wines while he wondered why his colleagues were fully clothed. The rest of the panel, being polite and politically correct, said nothing about the disturbing display of nudity. That day, the panel came to the unfortunate false conclusion that all natural wines had attributes frequently described by wine critics as “barnyard.” Jollie spent the remainder of his week back in the store fetching “Classics” orders for the LCBO’s pretentious customers and helping others find their supply of “Girls’ Night Out”, in cans.

Father Suckling, who heard of LeBlois’s latest folly, came to the store to check on Jollie’s state. Father Suckling took it upon himself to engage and comfort the police officer that the LCBO hired to act as their security guard. Father Suckling made the flippant comment that the officer must find the assigned duty to be “a boring gig”, to which the officer replied, “you would not have said that 10 minutes ago when I tackled and wrestled a shoplifter.” Father Suckling rated Jollie’s recovery 96+ points.  The officer rated his conversation with Father Suckling 84- points.

Ah, the important lesson of avoiding making quick and inappropriate assumptions. The next time that I see a wine critic sipping wine in the nude or a police officer looking bored I will cut them some slack and show some them appreciation. They both might have a story to tell.

That’s the news from my home town. Where are the women are strong, all the men good looking, and all the wines are rated 100 + points.

My apologies to Garrison Keillor for poorly imitating the storyline of Lake Wobegon, his hometown.

GTA wine tasting events

If you will be in the greater Toronto area on Wednesday, March 27, you have a terrific opportunity to taste top-quality 2009 white Burgundy wines. The wines are all from Henri Boillot, one of Burgundy’s top producers. This tasting features a comparison of Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet and will include village and 1er Crus wines. Details are available at www.winetasters.ca. A few seats are remaining.

If you be in the greater Toronto area on Tuesday, April 16, you have an exciting opportunity to explore the world of dessert wines. The tasting will take you around the world to explore the different styles of sweet wines and the grapes used to
make them. Details are available at https://www.torontovintners.org/upcoming-events.

The quest for a $10 decent wine

You may have noticed the recent articles in the Ontario media about wines available at the LCBO for less than $10. It started several weeks ago when the wine critic for The Star rated the $8 Toro Bravo a shocking 96 points, a rating that surely was the cause of the LCBO selling thousands of cases of this wine. The wine critic for The Globe also recently got into the act and rated the $10 Castillo de Monseran a much more lack-luster score of 88 points.

I secured a bottle of these wines and served them blind to the group gathered together on Sunday. The people did not know if they were tasting a $10 wine or a $40 wine. They did quickly conclude that the contents of their glasses were not enjoyable. Not one person finished the taste of these wines. We tired of the Toro Bravo very quickly and, for me, the finish dominated by the taste of saccharin was particularly unpleasant. Note that the Toro Bravo has 9 grams of residual sugar, which is about 3 to 4 times what a decent dry red wine contains (like processed food, sugar is often used to try to enhance the consumer’s taste experience). The Monseran has a finish that is dominated by acid. It is a clumsy wine that may work with food but it’s really hard to drink a glass solo. I have no use for the Toro Bravo and the Monseran is a cooking wine at best.

Two points before moving onto the topic of better wines.

First, my opinion is that the real purpose of wine scores is to sell crappy or mediocre wine. It’s that simple as it is that offensive and sad. The consumer falls for it all the time. A score of 96 points published in a widely-read paper moves thousands of cases of crap. I don’t know why critics do such things and I suspect impaired objectivity may be one of the source issues. Wineries, agents, and retailers love high score exposure as it sells what otherwise may not sell.

Second, while I think the search for good wine at a cheap price point is noble, we need to recognize the economic realities that are one of the problems of having an overly taxed substance being controlled by a government-run monopoly. Check out the July 2018 LCBO pricing policies by clicking on this link. In the details described in the document, you will find that the $10 retail price point means that the LCBO paid $3.90 for that bottle of wine. That $3.90 covers shipping, marketing, production, and (hopefully) some profit for the hardworking producer. At the $10 price point, the actual cost of the wine in the bottle is trivial and that is the amount of quality that you should also expect to find in your glass.

Outstanding wines

There are two enjoyable red Bordeaux wines in the release that are offered at a decent price point.

First, is the $28 Château Magnol 2015 Bordeaux Red | VINTAGES#: 384271. This is a classic-styled Bordeaux and the warm 2015 vintage resulted in a wine that is nice and ripe (often one finds a presence of unpleasant vegetal notes in cheaper Bordeaux wines). I would not cellar it for 10 years as suggested by the tasting notes nor do I think that the wine is “extraordinary.” But, we found this wine to be a nice wine at this price point. That said, you can pick this wine up in Rochester for the equivalent of about $20CAD, meaning out there on the edge of totalitarianism, we pay a 40% premium.

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Second, is the $25 Château Teyssier 2015 Bordeaux | VINTAGES#: 226035. Again, it’s likely that the ripeness of this wine comes from the 2015 vintage. This wine has an intriguing nose and it is made in a modern style with a flavor profile and length that many people will find very appealing. In France, this wine retails for the equivalent of $22CAD.

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If you are in need of a house white wine consider the $20 Pieropan Soave Classico 2016
Garganega Blend | VINTAGES#: 946848. Hey, this wine will not win awards but it is crisp, focused, has body, some complexity, and decent acidity. It will work with food and enjoyable on its own. In Italy and Pennsylvania (a state where the people also put up with a government liquor control board), this wine retails for less than $15CAD.

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Wines to consider

If your budget is ultra value wines (say around $15) then consider buying the $14 Castaño Casa Carmela 2015 Monastrell (Mourvèdre)  | VINTAGES#: 639930. In his typical style, wine critic Luis Gutiérrez gives an over-the-top review that retailers such as the KGBO love to publish. It’s a drinkable and much more enjoyable than the Toro Bravo or the Monseran that are discussed above.

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If you are a fan of oak-forward Chardonnay then consider the $30 Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2016 | VINTAGES#: 68817. It’s a little too oaky for me and the price point is too high for the underlying quality of the wine (a real struggle for Ontario producers simply because they have higher input costs). The posted tasting notes are a sappy and embarrassing overstatement.

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The $52 Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo 2013 Nebbiolo  | VINTAGES#: 344721 is made in the modern style and can be consumed now. This is Barolo emergency wine. For example, say you are heading to your friend’s place for dinner, you call him from the LCBO, and your friend “why don’t you bring a Barolo?”.

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Fans of Super Tuscan wines will enjoy the $44 Poggio Verrano Dròmos 2010
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend | VINTAGES#: 107383. This full-bodied wine is ripe, rich, balanced and enjoyable. The posted tasted notes are accurate. From a value perspective, consider the conflicting comments that this wine retails for the equivalent of $60CAD in Europe but our cousins in La Belle Province can pick up this wine at the SAQ for $40.

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The $20 Provolo Campotorbian Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2012 Corvina Blend | VINTAGES#: 974402 is a good-value Italian red wine that we tasted in this release. The posted tasting notes are effusive and overstate the case. If you need a decent Italian table wine, consider buying a few bottles. With 9 grams of residual sugar, the wine is slightly sweet, and that feature is something that most people will appreciate (even if they say that they don’t like any sweetness in their wines). There is enough acidity to balance things out.

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If it is a Spanish table wine that you seek then buy a few bottles of the $25 Balbás Reserva 2006 Tempranillo Blend | VINTAGES#: 85183. Made in a smooth oak forward style this wine will appeal to the tastes of many people. I intend to research this producer. This wine was released at least once previously (I first commented on this wine in a March 2018 post) and there are a lot of bottles in the system. Balbas Ardal must be a massive producer.

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If you are a fan of Italian Syrah, or you wish to try one, then give the $47 Terralsole Solista Syrah 2006 | VINTAGES#: 574053 a try. This wine is elegant, mature, balanced, and quite enjoyable. It’s a good wine to bring to a dinner party.

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Wines that I am avoiding

The $20 Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache 2015 Syrah/Grenache—VINTAGES#: 320499 is a wine that was previously released on March 3, 2018. Yes, the same wine, the same stupid review, and the same price one year later. If first you don’t succeed, try, try again. We did not taste a bottle from this release but in my comments last year I described this wine as:

“…a 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.”

I consider the $36 Abacela Fiesta Tempranillo 2015 | VINTAGES#: 629147 to be an expensive gimmick wine (that is, “hey, let’s try a Tempranillo from Oregon). Stick to Spain, especially at this price point.

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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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