Posts tagged ‘Wine Spectator’

February 3, 2021

Champagne Tribaut Brut

We never got to a celebratory bottle of champers at New Year’s.  My recollection is I was asleep before midnight!  The joys of being old.

On the flip side we had champagne in January.  What did Ricky Gervais say in 2012 to the NYT journalist who contacted him at home on a weekday and saw him sipping champagne?  “Happy 6 o’clock-mas.”  (He’s since repeated that a few times, including Twitter, and sometimes modified with the f-bomb…)

Well.  93 points.  Gosh, Wine Spectator.  There was nothing much 90 points in this let alone 93.

The fizz faded; it was flaccid and unexciting on the pour and went downhill from there.  The toastiness and texture of the wine was uninspired.  Sure, on the one hand it was spectacular sparkling wine, and on the other it was forgettable champers.  I know it’s a dedicated family run operation, and I want to jump up and down for their sincerity and dedication, but this bottle lacked the liveliness and pep of its competitors.

Meanwhile, in January, BC Liquor put half bottles of Piper-Heidsieck on sale for $7 off.  That made two half bottles cheaper than a full bottle.  Of course it was virtually out of stock from the get go, I found a few in West Van, bin ends, but basically the Lower Mainland was out of luck.  How very BC Liquor.  As if none of the nearly three million people in and around Vancouver matter, market wise.  Anyway, long way to say how satisfying the PH is, nutty, toasty, an invigorating acidity.  From the spritz in a flute to the splash on your palate, Piper has an undeniable liveliness.  It’s not the best you can by, not by a long shot, but it oozes “Champagne!” if you know what I mean.  I wish we could have said the same of the Tribaut.

Price: The label said $50 all in but Champagne in BC is never $50 all in, even at $14 off for two splits.

Market Liquidity: Fleeting, like a winter sunset.

August 13, 2020

Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz, 2016

Gosh, for a blog that brags about being anti-pointster, we sure do seem on a point-driven jag.  92 it is.

Is it good wine?  Yes.  Is it good Shiraz? Yes; fruity, licorice, earthy, “all the usuals” if you will.  Truly, a typical and satisfying Oz Shiraz.  But: Is it ludicrously over the top alcoholic?  Yes, oh god yes.  14.9% but with the wine version of a humidex it could be Port.  There is something Hummer-ish about it’s headstrong attack and something equally leaden about the finish.  Demonstrative and then some.  Delicious, just a little weighted down.  It’s a one off for us.

Price: An extremely reasonably $27 at BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: Think Great Expectations (as opposed to A Christmas Carol; both “92-point stories,” one just able to be bright and light and satisfying without the slog).

August 13, 2020

Il Margone Chianti Classico, Gran Selezione, 2013

Can you guess how many points the Wine Spectator scored this vintage? 

As part of a minor celebration we splurged on some rather pricey Chianti (not much to get too excited about in 2020…).  Even with seven years under its belt, we felt it had some place to go, still.

Gobs of acidity and light tannins with deeply nuanced fruit.  If you’ve ever had an orchard pie (it’s a dessert of plums, apricots, peaches and cherries, and really only should be made during those magical two weeks in the summer when each of those is ripe at the same time), this wine could be that pie in a bottle, a really bold and assertive pie. 

I will add this though: Just for sheer enjoyment, just for having wine with friends and enjoying food, the Vajra Barbera, which we rarely go a month without downing at least one bottle, trumps this heavyweight.  I mean not over at the Wine Advocate, obviously, but maybe in your living room.

Price: $60 at BC Liquor but, for what it’s worth, over $40 USD south of the border.

Market Liquidity:  Very timpani in a requiem.

January 4, 2020

Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz, 2017

Torbreck Woodcutter's Shiraz, 2017

Another gift from Santa.  I must have been a very good boy in 2019.

 

We are doubly familiar with the less expensive Grenache-Shiraz, easy to source, easy to drink, although have never bothered to post a review.  The Woodcutter’s Shiraz, a top 100 2019 wine over at the Wine Spectator (with the 93 point bottle neck seal to prove it…) is harder to find, more expensive, and like our recent post on vintage Rioja, worth every last penny vis-a-vis the prohibitive cost of BC “flagship” reds.

 

The colour is charcoal, the flavour notes teeter on a broad spectrum, between tar (meaning dark and mysterious, woodsy) and cherry jubilee (meaning fruity and rich, creamy, velvet).  The 15% alcohol is I suppose par for the course, certainly over at the Spectator, but this lovely sipper is not top heavy.  There is a faint whisker of syrup in the richness, however the layered flavour notes never cease to surprise.  Halfway though you may come across a palate tangent of cedar frond.  A most impressive gift wine.

 

Price: Gifted, but around $38 at BC Liquor, here and there.

 

Market Liquidity: Delectable, if a tad decadent for us.

November 1, 2018

Evel Real Companhia Velha, Douro, 2014

Wine Spectator put it in their top 100 in 2016 and, thus, the bottle comes with a neck ribbon.  Somehow it wasn’t 89 points but 90 points and this is where we loathe the pointsters.  Yes, it’s good value, there is as the critics say juicy acidity, it’s warming on the tongue in that way red blends (masterfully crafted) can be, and this (dominated by Touriga Franca) has a lovely although not hugely memorable classic Portuguese style.  I would be hard pressed to remember it in a blind test a week after the fact though.

 

Price: Low 20s at private wine stores.

 

Market Liquidity: Good value but not great value.

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.

January 8, 2018

Domaines Dominique Piron Morgon, La Chanaise, 2015

Plummy with a floral finish.  This is a young Gamay with gobs of acidity but somehow it all just works.  A little slight with red meat but full and delectable with cheesy pasta.  It drinks lighter and livelier than you might expect a Morgon, usually what I feel is the heaviest of Cru Beaujolais.  Put a blind fold on Mr. Parker and maybe he’d mistake it for Fleurie?  Apparently a Top 100 over at the WS.

 

Price: $26 at BC Liquor.  Very good value.

 

Market Liquidity: Jam sponge in a bottle.

August 21, 2017

Raats Original Chenin Blanc, 2014

Depending on whom you rely on for points accountability, this is anywhere between an 88 and 92 pointer, with the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator at opposite ends of the spectrum and Tanzer in between.  Which underscores more about how people think of Chenin Blanc than perhaps the subjective nature of wine scores.

 

It is indeed good, a refreshing and zesty lightly acidic Chenin with a dry forest floor note and some gobs of summer stone fruit.  We got the lime but not the pineapple.  It’s a patio sipper par excellence but a little weak at keeping up with rich foods (and I’m including creamy cheeses).  At the price point we are much more likely to spend less on the Mulderbosch and enjoy it more or spend more on the D’Orrance and wish we’d won the lottery.  It would be hard to weigh in on this as enthusiastically as some pros have.

 

Price: $21.85 in Saskatchewan but, wait for it, $33.50 before taxes at private wine stores in Vancouver.  Seriously.  When the mayor proclaims that Vancouver is on schedule to be the greenest city on the planet all I can think of is the greenback, not the solar panels, bike lanes, and lack of access to natural gas.

 

Market Liquidity: It’s a 92 pointer at $22 and an 88 pointer at $34.

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.

January 18, 2017

Read Decanter Magazine. Just Do It.

d-cover

Decanter is the bomb.  It’s almost impossible to find in Canada (paper, you can always get digital) but what a great, inspiring magazine, a wonderful homage to people who enjoy wine, whether collectors or bottle shop regulars.

 

I can wax poetic on its myriad merits but I will just point out a few.  First, the reviews trump the Wine Spectator 100 times over.  The picture of the bottle (the label) is always uber clear.  They use a general description, then tasting notes from a panel.  This is a bit like the old Siskel Ebert film reviews without the patronizing condescension.  Someone says complex, someone says weighty, another says textural: you get the picture, but you appreciate that wine reviewing is subjective, and they highlight that right on the page.  The price is right there, no mincing about.  And then they organize these reviews by points (so people who don’t necessarily need the 92 point wine can focus on what in the end will be available and not as costly).  And (this being the UK, a different market) they list stockists.  Check, check, check.  So, in short, the reviews are brilliant.

 

The regular columns are written by people who seem to, wait for it, actually like their jobs.  They always include a paragraph on “what I’ve been drinking” which is I think not just relevant but touching.  Reviewers rarely seem to do anything but sips and spits and contemplation but Decanter has columnists who are actually drinking wine.  Shock of shocks.  Here are two arbitrary examples from a recent issue: “A great example of the pleasure to be found in the sub-90 point space is…”  Now how about a phrase like that Wine Spectator!  The article accompanying it actually defended the points practice (which this blog doesn’t really support) but in an eloquent fashion and pointed out that it’s the vintners who dismiss an 89 point review not the drinkers.  Well, not the everyday drinkers.

Transparent and User Friendly Reviews

Transparent and User Friendly Reviews

Keeping in mind that Decanter reaches a mostly UK readership, and that BC wines although not rare are uncommon in the shops, I nearly spat out my Culmina Hypothesis when I read one columnist write about the wine he’d been drinking with this phrase: “I’ve also been enjoying the Sperling Vineyards, Old Vines Riesling 2009, grown in the Okanagan Valley.”  Well pop my Prosecco.  That’s someone who’s looking out for interesting wines from the farthest reaches and how beautiful to see a nod to the brilliant Ann Sperling.  Ever seen the Wine Spectator even acknowledge the north-of-Walla Walla marketplace?  Too esoteric I imagine.

 

Decanter awards retailers.  Retailers!  Decanter goes highbrow, visits the great estates, has notes for collectors, but also has a (hard to believe) “weekday wine” column.  That I really love.  They somehow just perfectly balance their content without ever falling prey to either snooty indifference or ranting hysteria.  [NB: This blog could take a few pointers, I know, I know…]

d-ages

Of especial note was a wonderful essay I read recently on how our lack of storage and “drink it now” culture is losing the ability not just to store and drink aged wine but to even appreciate it.  Listen to this ridiculously beautiful phrase on early approachability versus aging: “It is sad that many wine lovers rarely have the opportunity to appreciate the more complex hues of age.  They miss out on the ethereal scent of a mature Nebbiolo, the oak-leaf earthiness of evolved Pinot Noir, the tobacco savouriness of aged Cabernet; likewise the heady camomile lift of seasoned Riesling, or even the softest mousse and honeyed languor of long-aged Champagne.”  Christ, Aaron Spelling couldn’t have done it better.

 

Well I can go on and on but there really is no comparison.  It’s goodbye WS and hello Decanter.  Check it out.

Weekday selections.  How novel!

Weekday selections. How novel!