Our story so far
We find TheMuddler working hard to secure appointments at wineries in the Langhe. Muddling is not an option when visiting Italy’s top wine producers; appointments are necessary if you want to visit and to taste their wines. Let’s see what happens as he exchanges emails in an attempt to secure an appointment to visit a prestigious estate in Barolo.
Ciao, we have been coming to Piemonte for
many years, although we have not included your
winery in our past visits and would like to correct
that omission. It sounds like your proposed visit program
is structured for wine tourists. We are serious collectors
and we hope that we could have a visit where we could
taste through all your Barolo crus. Please let me know
if such a visit might be possible.
Dear Mr. Rick, many thanks for your kind request.
We would be very pleased to welcome you on
23rd November at 15:30. The visit consists of a guided tour
of the winery, a beautiful view of our vineyards
from the balcony and a guided wine tasting
of 4 wines (included a Barolo). For our crus Barolos
it is not possible for you to taste them because they
are available only for the importers and journalists.
Please confirm your attendance.
Ciao again, just for your reference, I am a director
of two wine tasting societies in Toronto. I am also a wine journalist,
one that has tens of followers on my website
http://www.thewinemuddler.com. Perhaps these credentials suffice
and our group would be allowed to taste your cru Barolos?
I would like to not be too rude to explain our hospitality.
Just to inform you about some of our appointments at
the winery: on 30th October at 10:30 nine German importers,
at 12:30 a respected wine journalist, on 31 October our
UK importer, on 1st November our importer from Norway,
on 2nd November our USA importer, on 3rd November
collectors from the USA at A Galloni’s request, and in the
afternoon a Michelin-star chef from Poland. Thank you.
But, I am THEEEEE Wine Muddler!
I changed my mind and now I would like to be rude.
What part of “fuck off” don’t you understand?
The story is true except the last bit. Anyone who has spent time in Italy knows that the people there would never say such things. They may think it but they are too nice and polite to ever say it.
Our request for a visit ended with the play of the Michelin-star-chef-trump card. Sigh, the tin-man sang “if I only had a heart” and TheMuddler now sings “if I only had a star” (song lyrics appear at the bottom of this post).
GTA wine events
Before we jump into the details of the Vintages release, if you live near the Greater Toronto Area, there are two upcoming wine tasting events that may interest you.
The November 28 WineTasters event is your opportunity to taste eight 2006 wines from the prestigious region of Cote-Rôtie. Details will soon be available on www.winetasters.ca.
The Toronto Vintners Club (TVC) is holding their annual holiday party on November 20. This event is your opportunity to sample a wide variety of great wines that were leftover from TVC previous events. You can register by clicking on this link.
At both of these events, you will enjoy great wine, meet friendly people and have a terrific evening.
I’m speculating when I state that the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) is ramping up to collect more of your hard-earned money as the holiday season approaches. The local wine press also jumped on the theme of how lucky we are because this release contains so many high-end-high-quality-high-scores-high-price wines. We live in a place where the state-owned monopoly sets the price and supply of the wine that we are allowed to buy. Yeah, that’s one of the many definitions of “lucky” that I stumble across in the dictionary. I’ll send it off to the Oxford and let you know if the entry is accepted.
The KGBO does not give our tasting group wines to try. We spend our own money on the bottles, taste the wines blind, assess their merits, and (after the wines are revealed) judge whether the contents in the glass are worth the asking price. Frankly, viewed through this lens, the wines we selected to taste from the 27 October Vintages were mainly disappointing.
I take pride in the independence of our approach to reviewing wines and wish that the professional wine critics adopted a similar standard.
We decanted the $22 Domaine des Rosiers Moulin-à-Vent 2015 Beaujolais—VINTAGES#: 556480 for about 2 hours prior to serving. Young white and red wines almost always benefit from exposure to oxygen, which is one of the reasons that people decant a wine. While his score of 95 points is silly as a goose, James Suckling does a decent job describing this wine. A lovely wine that you can drink now and one that would benefit from the aging process. The price of this wine in both the USA and Europe is comparable to the amount we pay in Ontario.
Fans of Italian wine and, in particular, wine made from the Nebbiolo grape will enjoy the $24 Damilano Marghe Langhe Nebbiolo 2015—VINTAGES#: 576793. My Barolo collecting friends would call this wine a “cellar defender”. It is the bottle that you grab when you in the mood for a Barolo or Barbaresco wine but not in the mood to open one of your expensive bottles. The posted tasting notes are reasonably accurate. The price in the USA is slightly less and the folks in Europe pay the equivalent of $20 CAD for this wine.
The $29 Le G de Château Guiraud 2016 Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon—VINTAGES#: 519892 was supposed to be part the 14 October 2018 release but due to a “late arrival” it did not make it on the shelves on time. Decent white Bordeaux often starts at the $50 price level. Here you have one that is south of $30. Keep this wine for a few years for things to really come together and shine. If you can’t wait then give this wine a good decanting. This is a highly enjoyable wine with tons of citrus and tropical notes. This is a classy and versatile white wine.
It would be infanticide to taste the $59 d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2015—VINTAGES#: 430512. Instead, thanks to Paul B, we tried the 2004 vintage of this wine, a lovely balanced and interesting wine. It is hard to go wrong buying The Dead Arm and storing it for 10+ years. If you collect wine, this one is kind of a no-brainer. The 2015 vintage in McLaren Vale is considered to be excellent. If you buy a couple of bottles be sure to remember to invite me to dinner in 2025. I’ll bring champagne to share and help you drink your 2015 Dead Arm.
It will make you happy to hear that the LCBO has not raised the price of the $50 Torres Cos Perpetual 2015 Grenache/Carignan—VINTAGES#: 265710 since at least 2010. Torres is a massive producer and they make a lot of low-end wines. But, when they make a high-end wine they typically do it in style and at a reasonable price. Luis Gutiérrez’s description of this wine is pretty much worthless. What I experienced was a wine with lots of mocha flavor, some earth, and lots of red and black fruit. This is a bold, full-bodied wine with nice structure. It needs time in the bottle to shine and I am guessing that you will be rewarded when you open this wine in 2025 or later. A wine that punches above it’s $50 price point. I could not source a vendor for this wine in the USA. The price is the same in both Europe and Quebec as the price charged by the LCBO in Ontario.
Wines to consider
Do you prefer your Chardonnay unoaked? Then consider the $28 Stoller Family Chardonnay 2016—VINTAGES#: 461574. Apples and lemon flavors, and good acidity that suggests this wine would be great with food. The wine has body, and the length does not disappoint. A lot to like. We pay a slight premium to the amount paid by our friends in the Excited States of America (a.k.a., the United States of America).
Continuing on the chardonnay theme, the tasting group really enjoyed the $40 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé 2016 Chardonnay—VINTAGES#: 732917. This is a wine with balance, style, and versatility. Unfortunately, the citizens of the People’s Republic of Ontario are forced to pay a premium to enjoy this wine. My guess is that Jadot targets this wine for our friends in the good old USA as the wine is readily available there for the equivalent of $28 CAD. That means we are paying a 48% premium. If you are in the USA this is a terrific buy.
If you are in need of a versatile white table wine then see if you like the $18 Fontanafredda Pradalupo Roero Arneis 2017—VINTAGES#: 577700. The wine is true to the Arneis grape profile. The nose is not as floral as the posted notes imply and in addition to stone fruit and pear, there are citrus notes. A decent wine to enjoy on its own and it has sufficient acidity to work with food. Fontanafredda is a massive producer and our friends in Europe quaff this wine for the equivalent of $14 CAD. This would be an appropriate price point for this wine and I would not be surprised if, in time, the KGBO discounts this wine to this level.
If you are in need of full-bodied wine to serve with BBQ meats then consider the $24 Papale Linea Oro Primitivo di Manduria 2015 Primitivo—VINTAGES#: 261784. With its assertiveness of dried fruits and the 17 grams of residual sugar, this is a wine that is hard to drink on its own. It needs food to tame and balance it. The price of this wine elsewhere is comparable to that charged by the LCBO.
Fans of “Super Tuscan” wines (typically wines made with grapes native to France: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.) may wish to try the $35 La Vite Lucente 2016 Merlot/Sangiovese—VINTAGES#: 747030. The posted tasted notes are fair but omit the tannic nature of this wine. The wine’s modern style will please many people and the pedigree of the producer will also impress your guests. However, this wine disappointed me as I found it lacked character and, as a result, the tasting experience left me wanting. My guess is that this wine was engineered by the winemaker for broad commercial appeal. We pay price similar to the retail value in Europe. Our brothers in La Belle Province pay about 10% less than the citizens of the People’s Republic of Ontario.
Have you run out of Tuesday night pizza wine again? You are in luck as the $20 San Felice Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese Blend—VINTAGES#: 282996. A fairly simple but highly enjoyable wine for everyday table wine purposes. Available at a comparable price in the good-old USA and as little as $14 in Italy. We are being overcharged on this side of the Atlantic.
And now for something completely different
I am not of fan of overly peaty scotch whisky but that is not the case with the $173 Ardbeg Uigeadail Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky—VINTAGES#: 660860. For me, this is a whisky that balances the smokey peat with the magical effects of Scotch aged in a sherry cask. The posted tasting notes are accurate. It’s expensive, but if you are looking for ideas for a gift for a special person who is a whisky lover then check your credit-card limit and consider this bottle. Do you think that the KGBO is greedy with their high mark up on wine? Well, consider that this bottle sells in the USA for the equivalent of $80 CAD. That’s a 116% premium. Your wallet just took a kick in the groin.
Wines to avoid
If you are a fan of heavily-oaked Chardonnay and wish to support the Ontario wine industry then you might want to try the $30 Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2016—VINTAGES#: 68817. To me, the oak simply overpowers the wine and the wine was not enjoyed by our group. But, this style may be your cup of tea.
The $28 Hervé Azo Chablis 2016 Chardonnay—VINTAGES#: 185736 is loved by the local professional wine critics but was not a hit with our group. It’s a fruit-forward Chablis with an acidic tartness that is not in balance. We were quite disappointed especially after factoring in the wine’s price. By the way, two years ago, the KGBO sold this wine for $24 (a 17% increase). Greed.
The $16 Cuvée Sabrine Côtes du Rhône Villages 2015 Grenache Blend—VINTAGES#: 538496 and the $18 Halos de Jupiter Côtes du Rhône 2016 Grenache/Syrah—VINTAGES#: 276956 are out-of-balance fruit bombs. Apparently, wine critic Jeb Dunnuck likes this style but its not for me. Into the dump bucket went these wines.
I’m a little lost for words to describe the $37 Jermann Pinot Grigio 2017—VINTAGES#: 117093. The LCBO describes this wine as “light and crisp”. It is not. This is a wine with a lot of body, with concentrated stone fruit flavors and a slightly unpleasant bitterness. It was a wine that the tasting group did not enjoy and, once the price tag was revealed, we certainly would not buy. This is a $20 bottle of wine in Italy. My guess is that the wine is priced at a super premium here in an attempt to capitalize on the reputation of the producer.
The acidity and heavy tannins make the $40 Fontanabianca Barbaresco 2014 Nebbiolo—VINTAGES#: 576819 a wine that needs to be served with food. There is nothing wrong with this wine but at $40 and the $28 Damilano Marghe being more enjoyable makes me wonder why anyone would buy this wine. If you are trying to impress and to do so you think that you need to have “Barbaresco” on the label then buy the $28 general-list Castello Di Neive Barbaresco DOCG Nebbiolo—LCBO#: 160143, a wine that pleases me all the time. BTW, the Castello Di Neive was priced $5 less last year. That’s a 22% increase in price, which I am sure matches the pace of growth in your disposable income. Yeah, that’s how I thought that you would react.
The tasting the $29 Quadrus Reserva 2011 Touriga Nacional—VINTAGES#: 534271 is kind of like watching an episode of the Twilight Zone. This is a confusing, moody, unintegrated, oaky and hot wine. Maybe time in the bottle would help but I can’t imagine why someone would want to take the chance. If you are an optimist and want to venture down that path then why not buy the $75 magnum or the $160 double magnum?
I was so disappointed when I learned that the alcohol-forward wine in my glass was the $22 Convento San Francisco 2012 Tempranillo Blend—VINTAGES#: 206409. This producer normally makes a decent wine. We tasted the 2012 vintage next to the 2010 vintage of the same wine. The 2010 vintage is a lovely wine but the unintegrated 15% level of alcohol in the 2012 version is a mess. Sad, and yes I continue to blame Robert Parker for these outcomes.
When a man’s an empty kettle he should be on his mettle,
And yet I’m torn afar
Just because I’m presumin’ that I could be kind-a-human,
If I only had a star
I’d be tender – I’d be gentle and awful sentimental
And maybe a wine czar
I’d be friends with wine producers … and holders of their futures
If I only had a star
My profound apologies to Yip Harburg.