Archive for ‘Spain’

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.

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January 6, 2018

Torres Celeste Crianza, 2013

Corked.  I can’t tell you how common this is in BC.  Oh wait, I can, I kept a record in 2017.  Twice from bottles purchased at private stores and six times from bottles purchased at BC Liquor.  Not including this.  Seven times from BC Liquor.  What a year 2017 was.

 

In BC, when you have a corked bottle you can return it and complain.  You must have your receipt.  You must take the bottle back.  It’s an enormous hassle because I rarely keep the receipt (I mean really? Who does nowadays?) and often the bottle is opened up somewhere not at home, this most recent bottle on the Gulf Islands, it’s exacerbated by the lie down factor—you want to lie something down, then really it becomes your responsibility not the seller if you open it in six months or more.  There was no way I could re-cork this bottle and get it back to Vancouver. It graced the septic.

 

Gismondi recommended the 14 as a cellar pick but the 13 was languishing on the shelves and I picked this up in error.  So in theory many buyers are lying down what could be corked wine.

 

I have complained in the past but it’s tiresome and if you complain you are often belittled, you are led to believe it’s the consumer’s problem.  In my experience, BC Liquor takes no responsibility (just our after tax money, in spades).  They claim all their wine is transported in temperature controlled transport and stored in a temperature controlled environment.  Private wine store staff have told me there are some vagaries to this routine including containers that aren’t ventilated but I’m not part of the industry and have no way to know unequivocally.  Is there a PETA-esque wine group that could get footage of the storage?

 

But regardless of how wine is transported, how it’s displayed is testament to an overt attitude of laissez-faire. If you visit a local BC Liquor store you might be surprised at what you’ll see.  Many have direct sunlight poring in onto the wine shelves.  Indiscriminately.  There’s Wolf Blass; hope he’s wearing SPF 30.  Most bottles are upright and a shocking amount are covered in dust; those with corks are just drying out.  And the in store temperature, my God, not a shred of humidity in most stores, some are like saunas in the colder months and in BC most months are the colder months.

 

We’ve never posted on corked wine.  I feel it comes with the territory.  Suck it up.  However, the problem seems to be getting worse not better.  It’s disappointing, a hassle, costly, and I believe largely preventable.  There is no passenger bill of rights for wine buyers.  Pity.

 

Price: What?  Before or after it went down the drain?

 

Market Liquidity: Heaven’s Gate and Ishtar rolled up into one.

December 20, 2017

Juan Gil Silver Label Monastrell, 2014

The “lesser” yellow label is widely available in Ontario and works wonders with food in a restaurant.  The silver, a pure 100% Monastrell is I guess not to everyone’s taste but it’s spectacular value, deep and delicious, dark cherry, charcoal, smooth as silk; it must be sipped though, the heady 15% alcohol will creep up on you fortified wine style.  The independent shops sell it at close to $30 (but you can usually score a discount on mixed cases bringing it closer to the  BC Liquor price at $25).  For a Christmas treat, it’s $19.95 before taxes at BCL and widely available.  I don’t think I’ve ever purposely gone into a wine store looking for Monastrell but I don’t know how many times the Juan Gil has ended up in my cart.  It is like an old reliable.  Nice to have  a year end post in line with our budget.

 

Price: $25-30, depending.

 

Market Liquidity: A lot of Christmas cheer for the price.

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November 6, 2017

Vina Eguia Rioja Reserva, 2011

Yeah.  So.  Not Rioja’s finest hour.  It’s a close but no cigar vintage.  We did not find it elegant or balanced or rounded, as promised.  We found it a bit uneven, with a vanilla that’s at the fore (and not in a good way) and a softness to the fruit that was decent and palatable but not memorable.

 

You can find this in the US for $12 a bottle.  A steal.  You can buy this in Saskatchewan for $18.  Very good value.  But at nearly $30 in BC with tax it’s like fruit past its prime.

 

Price: $26 plus at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

 

Market Liquidity: Polka dots and plaid.

October 13, 2017

Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat, 2016

2016. Really. Really?  Really.  2016.  I mean how is it that a 2016 can be this good?

 

A Grenache heavy blend that begs to be shared and savoured amongst friends.  Close friends mind you; don’t waste it on the B-52/Cosmo/Mojito crowd.

 

Ooh la la.  Onyx cherry.  Overtly maraschino.  An alcoholic splendour.  Velveeta smooth. It sipped like manna from heaven although the 14.5% alcohol didn’t shine with dinner, as was a bit too young.  Impossible to say whether this had ten years left to improve and mellow or whether I should get a case and just burn through it all by Christmas?

 

Price: A rather hefty but deservedly $43, give or take, at Marquis.

 

Market Liquidity: Ridiculously sublime. Think Charlie Chaplin climbing the curtains in The Great Dictator.

October 12, 2017

Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva, 2012

The reds we like, the reds that really shine without breaking the bank, have slowly moved into a break the bank category: More and more we’re shelling out $28-42 for a bottle to really bow down to.  And of course enjoy on a Tuesday night.

 

Having said that, it’s important to remember that drinkable (if somewhat forgettable) and totally decent everyday reds at or just under the $20 mark are still out there.  Hard to find in BC (and in my view it’s like playing the slots, you spend $100 on five bottles to find one keeper, whereas you could have 2.5 totally extremely gratifying at that price, no loss…)  The Campo Viejo comes in a totally palatable Tempranillo and a food friendly reserva, both under $20 before tax.  Do I hear “open bar” anyone?  How about, even, a palatable house wine under $40?

 

If you like the classic plummy peppery vanilla oak that Robert Parker does, you can’t go wrong with the reserva.  It’s like a lesser version of those monumental Napa reds he scores in the 94 point range, without the lingering depth or interest, but certainly with the same flavour profile.

 

Price: $18.50 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: Like a mediocre SNL impersonation it hits the mark, but barely.

August 10, 2017

NV Poema Cava Brut

So this is the sort of wine we don’t bother blogging about, which is why the blog goes dead a lot of the time; we’re non-plussed or looting the cellar for gems already posted.  The Poema is in fact the proverbial 86 pointer for the pointsters.  The fizz is moderate, the dry is sere, the depth pretty much nonexistent.  But here’s something the 86 point reviews don’t mention: It’s a perfect backdrop for something else.

 

We are always looking for a neutral fizz to fix champagne cocktails with; nothing too sweet or yeasty.  This fits the bill to a tee; add cassis, Campari, OJ, do something fancier.  I mean it’s criminal to doctor Champagne.  Cava though?  Bring it on.  The Poema, solitary, neat if you will, it’s sort of a letdown.  But for a social occasion as a fancy aperitif, it works a charm.

 

Price: Less than $20 at private wine stores.  Yes, that’s correct, less than $20.

 

Market Liquidity: Sometimes you need the function, not the form.

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July 24, 2017

CVNE Rioja Reserva, 2012 & CVNE Rioja Crianza, 2012

The best tasting, best drinking red wine in its class, the best red wine under $40 in BC, period.  And, I might add, much better than many BC reds up to half the price more.  We have held off posting until assured there was no more to be found in the Lower Mainland.  Joking.  Half joking.

 

Marquis had a superb pre-offer at, with tax, $25 for the Crianza and $36 for the reserve.  We bought a lot.  We went back for more.  Marquis was sold out.  We sourced it at Everything Wine.  We bought a lot.  We went back for more.  EW was sold out.  We sourced it at Kits Wine Cellar.  We bought a lot.  We went back for more.  KWC was sold out.

 

On the plus side, maybe we were the only ones smart enough to buy up this wine?  I don’t think I’ve drunk, and stashed away, so much of one bottle as I have of this year’s CVNE release.  (The Monopole was similarly outstanding if slightly less impressive.)

 

These reds are the most comforting, smooth, rich and concentrated blends you can get at such a reasonable price point.  But price be damned, they are just really good tempranillos.  The Wine Spectator said the Reserva has depth and intensity and gave it 93 points.  (Can you imagine a BC red getting 93 points and going on sale for less than $40?).  That’s a fair summation.  But it’s also just plain likable in the most approachable and delectable way.  As you can see from the group picture, we simply can’t get enough.

 

The Crianza is, yes, lesser, but only by a margin so slim it could be a BC election; and what a wonderful sipper still, and just gorgeous to share at dinner without breaking the bank.  The WS gave it 91 points.  And in Ontario you can buy it with change from a $20.  In BC we have to cough up more and it sells out quicker but let’s give a shout out to Rioja.

 

Price: See above.

 

Market Liquidity: These Riojas remind me of that Hugh Johnson quote that wine is a marriage of nature and aesthetics.  To which I think he meant what is real and beautiful.  Because these babies are real beautiful.

April 11, 2017

CVNE Monopole Rioja Blanco, 2015

Nothing about this wine, drinking it, no words sound good: Assertive.  Astringent. Metallic.  And yet it is nothing but pure pleasure; nutty and lemony and complex.  It is bottled sunshine.  There is nothing so striking as a bold, balanced, boisterous Rioja Blanco.  There is something so sensationally Spanish about it, somewhere between Sauvignon Blanc and Sherry.  Of course it bears the “golden ticket” of 90 points on its collar, which is a bugbear, but nevertheless…

 

Price: $22 at Marquis, and worth every cent.

 

Market Liquidity: When pointster and anti-pointster see eye to eye.

March 14, 2017

Bodegas Sommos Glárima Blanco Roble, 2014

Extremely aromatic: soft, floral notes, cinnamon and clove, vanilla, guava, pineapple and a menacing minerality.

 

Although we had no expectations we were hoping for slightly less “fruit affrontry,” a little more acid, and a refreshing zesty finish, not a Jolly Rancher-esque palate blaster.

 

The Portuguese can pull off pork and clams, the Greek can marry feta on fish, but the Spanish have a long way to go to balance Chardonnay with Gewürztraminer, at least if the Glarima is anything to go by.

 

Price: A reasonable $20 at Everything Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: Stale potpourri.