Archive for February, 2018

February 27, 2018

Rioja Conde Valdemar, Finca Alto Cantabria 2015

Unique, unusual and yet delectable.  Not sure there is any other way to put it.  Viura, mainly, and some Verdejo.

 

A golden nectar, not as weighty as it appears, flinty on the nose but tropical on the tongue, a strong punch of coconut (think Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil) with other herbaceous flavours, light but identifiable oak, and a palate cleansing finish.

 

Ludicrously food friendly.  Wash down shellfish, drink alongside mixed tapas, sip with snacks, it can even battle pasta in a tomato sauce.

 

Despite the 91 point WS seal on the label you can see online it is not without many detractors.  Many detractors.  Is that because it’s different than you might anticipate, unlike common varietals, heavy when it should be light and light when it should be heavy?  Or is it because white Rioja is such a hard sell? It’s like the pit-bull of varietals, much maligned and misunderstood.  There is definitely an oxymoronic quality to this bottle, but I would say charismatic in its complexity, and appealing because of that.  If you can bravely face the Saturday NYT crossword, then this white is for you.  If you are still stuck in the black hole of innocuous Pinot Grigio, stay clear.

 

Price: $32 at Kits Wine Cellar.

 

Market Liquidity: Like Escher’s impossible staircase, a little hard to define.

February 24, 2018

Basilisco Teodosio Aglianico, 2012

There is it: 92 points on the collar.  I think across the province residents will flock to buy (the very limited stores selling this) Italian red.

 

There it is: 92 points from Robert Parker.  Must be really good.  Better than a 91 point wine.  Better than a 90 point wine.  And way, way, way better than an 89 point wine.

 

There it is: 92 points from Robert Parker.  It’s a guarantee.  You cannot be disappointed.

 

Or you cannot not be surprised that RP gave it 92?  The latter of course.  (And of course Gismondi got on the bandwagon too.)

 

Having given the pros their due all I can say is this is to red wine what Monty Python’s 16 ton weight was to comedy: A crashing end to a sketch without necessarily any punch line.  This simply does not deliver the smooth, drinkable, approachable red the collar promo promotes.

 

If you like overbearing, overripe, strong, assertive, knock your socks off red, which will open up after an hour or longer decanted, but even then reveals less on the palate than a Grammy wardrobe malfunction was a nod to indecency, this is the blend you’ve been waiting for.  Hurry, limited stock.

 

Price: $19.99 at BC Liquor, so let’s give this its due: Remarkably affordable.

 

Market Liquidity: It’s the bad part of a maraschino cherry, it’s the bad part of standing in an old barn, it’s the bad part of rotting fruit in an orchard, and it’s the worst part of the wine reviews that determine the direction of the global wine industry, to the detriment of consumers.

 

February 22, 2018

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Chardonnay, 2014

 

Au Bon Climat: Here is the ring.  Will you accept?

 

Words fail to express how enjoyable this wine is.  Was.  In a text it’s a yin yang emoji.  In a court it’s the scales of justice.  In a wine review it’s well over 90 points.  All you need to know is it’s the anti-California Chardonnay, all flavour, no pretense, a sleeper at the back of the wine store.  A perfectly balanced Chard, and I mean perfectly, astonishingly balanced, a marriage of appealing acid with butterscotch velvet, not too much oak, nothing cloying, a lilting floral presence on the tongue that is delectable.  The levels and depth of flavour are simply remarkable.  This is the type of bottle that gets you excited about Chardonnay all over again.

 

Price: $30 USD in Narita duty free.

 

Market Liquidity: Subtlety personified.

February 21, 2018

Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, 2014

Drinking wine in Australia, the last post: The best Australian Chardonnay I’ve ever had the privilege to drink.  Much lauded; all the major wine mags/bloggers love this white.  But at the same time a long ways away from what else could be bought in this price category; mid range Burgundy and medium level California Chards and top of the line BC whites; line them all up and we’re hard pressed to see the dollar value.  But it was good, mark my words.

 

Very present.  By which I mean unmistakably Chardonnay, assertive, determined.  It’s like a movie script that had twelve rewrites, each to hone the previous version, but sometimes to the detriment of the end product.

 

It is dry, like mixed nuts in its nuttiness, oak laden with some Bosc pear skin on the palate, rough hewn if you know what I mean.  Rich.  Foie gras rich.  You will not accidentally mistake it for a thin Italian Pinot Grigio.  The majority is Tassie, but a minority South Yarra is blended in (I mean Hardy’s has a lot of grapes, why not?).  But it also speaks to the cool climate conditions of Tasmania and some of the genius bottles emerging from the state which, relatively speaking, is a wine region on the nascent side.  It shows the enormous opportunity and luscious wines you can score with a trip down south.

 

Price: We saw this in a few high end wine shops for between $70 and $90 AUD.  Pass.  Then I picked up some duty free for $55 AUD.  [Editorial comment: I was on my way to Hong Kong from Australia. I asked how much wine I could bring in.  They told me HKG only monitors alcohol; anything under 20% volume there is no limit.  I repeat that, anything under 20% there is no limit.  I felt like an adult.  A real, honest to god adult, living in an adult world, without a nanny state looking over my shoulder determining my every move.  Imagine.  Then a week later I came back to Canada…]

 

Market Liquidity: Like Olympic judging, sometimes the gold doesn’t go to the best of the lot, even if the marks are highest.

February 8, 2018

Jim Barry Assyrtiko, 2017

Drinking wine in Australia 4: So Jim Barry’s son, one of his sons, Peter, Peter and his wife go to Greece and drink some sensational white wine and then they go home and they decide to plant that varietal at the family vineyard in Australia and they do and a few years later they bottle their first vintage and here it is.  Assyrtiko.  Not sure I’ve ever drunk a bottle.  The tricky part is, however, wine in Santorini can be plonk but the experience so divine you might think you’re drinking Burgundy.  Was their venture just a passing interest?  No.  This is a breakthrough in terms of sipping and eating.

 

As an aside, it was not the most interesting wine we drank across four states and umpteen cities and vineyard treks.  It was the second most interesting wine.  The most interesting wine was from Mount Mary, the Middleton family’s vineyard in the Yarra valley; we had, at Cutler and Company, a few glasses of sensational Fume Blanc from Reflexion, their “down market” brand, which was profound with food.  Moving.  Sometimes wine stewards are pretentious and insensitive and at worst trendsetters but sometimes they understand the harmony of food and wine and score big time and that was our experience with the Mt. Mary.

 

That said, the Assyrtiko was definitely the second most interesting wine we drank.  It marries the acid and citrus of the Mediterranean with floral aromas and hints of honey and peach and is aggressively interesting and unique and a breath of fresh air for white varietals.  Again, not to get TOO repetitive, but the likelihood of finding this in BC, let alone Canada, is remote at best.

 

Price: A pricey $45 Australian, if you can find it, and it was hard to find (and even the clerk said to me “this is the first bottle I’ve sold”!).

 

Market Liquidity: The spirit of adventure rewarded.

 

February 7, 2018

Pirie, Tasmanian Sparkling

Drinking wine in Australia 3: In search of a brilliant sparkling we drank glass after glass of Australian sparklers, but mainly Tasmanian wines because, well, it’s almost impossible to find them outside of the state.  The wine industry in Tassie is young, the volume is low, and only a few generic sparklers make it overseas.  Ditto their Pinot.  Plus, restaurants serve them at a low cost and with some cheer.

 

We made the trek deep up country to Jansz and sampled some sensational vintages and bought their limited and very tasty rose.  We had a beautiful regular old non-vintage from Clover Hill.  We drank glass after glass as an aperitif which was uneven but usually fun.  We drank a poorly reviewed Shingleback and found it enormously food friendly and ordered more.  

 

There is a trend, good or bad, for hip Oz restaurants to have five categories on the wine list: Red, White, Sparkling, Orange and Chilled Red.  I can’t see the words “chilled red” without thinking of Lambrusco, and indeed many of the reds we sampled had that cheap fruit tang of L.  The orange category, say a Sem/Sauv Bl left on the skins or a Cab Sauv not left on the skins, were sometimes refreshing sometimes sour.  But perhaps the best thing going on in Australia is bottle after bottle of brilliant sparkling and restaurants that give you a choice per glass, at about $10 per.

 

Of course you can’t return home and buy House of Arras, Clover Hill, Swift, Frogmore Creek, Sittella, Yarrabank, Bay of Fires, or any of the other myriad sparklers we tried.  BC just doesn’t let the consumer choose; they choose for us.  And shelf space, they tell us, is at a premium…

 

When all was said and done there really was no comparison to the generic non-vintage Pirie which was yeasty and aromatic and effervescent and just all round wonderful (and hard to find, even in Melbourne, but worth the effort) and for which, if Canadians were allowed to be adults and buy wine and bring it home in volume the way other nationals were doing we would have ordered several cases.

 

 Of course you can’t buy it and ship it like the rest of the world.  You can’t even contract an agent to get it.  You just have to live with the fact that the BC government is an omniscient beast who not only knows all but acts in our best interest.  Not.

 

Price: Around $34

 

Market Liquidity: Drinking wine in the socialist state of BC sucks. Tassie rocks.

February 6, 2018

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Riesling, 2016

Drinking wine in Australia 2: Generally, LE churns out a huge swath of drinkable and sometimes especially eloquent wines.  The Art Series is their upper echelon and, if you can find it in Canada, will set you back significantly.  In Australia you can source the various bottles and a dry WA Riesling spoke to us.  But unfortunately only on the shelf at he bottle shop.  As a sipper or with food this just didn’t work for us.  It was highly acidic, and not in a “succulent” way as the label promised; very lime forward, deeply mineral, and only a nuance of floral notes.  To compare it apples to apples, new world to new world, I was thinking of how spectacular the “simple” Riesling from Sea Star on Pender Island was/is, and thinking about the heft and cache of Leeuwin, and that just made us more discouraged.

 

Price: $30 Australian in Australia.

 

Market Liquidity: Sometimes big stars walk through a matinee performance.

February 6, 2018

Two Wonderful Chards: Devil’s Lair Margaret River Chardonnay & Frogmore Creek Chardonnay, 2016

Drinking wine in Australia 1: We bought the Devil’s Lair because Decanter lauded it with a huge amount of points; we wanted to see what the fuss was.  For us, there wasn’t too much fuss. This is a wonderful Chardonnay, crisp and fruity and with muted oak; it has a decent finish but it wasn’t as wow as anticipated.

 

The Frogmore Creek on the other hand was really lovely, what a sipper.  Delectable; smooth, nutty, light oak, bracing acidity, a Sprite finish. 

 

Prices: Low 30s for both, Australian bucks.

 

Market Liquidity: Not all Oz Chardonnay has to taste like Lindeman’s.