Sunday, 19 August 2012

Braving the Mistral Winds

The Northern Rhone often manages to steal the limelight from its counterpart to the South.  And, indeed, with prestigious appellations like Hermitage and Cote Rotie, this isn’t much of a surprise.  Other than Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the appellations of the Southern Rhone are often forgotten or forgettable.  But who can afford to drink Hermitage and Cote Rotie every day?  (Actually, I don’t know when I can afford to drink Hermitage and Cote Rotie, period.) That is where the Southern Rhone shines (it is also the hotter of the two), in producing affordable red wines that offer terrific value.  This is highlighted in the latest Vintages release through the LCBO, which features the Rhone Valley (both its high-end and low-end).  One such latter wine is the 2010 Cuvée Les Trois Soeurs by Domaine Les Grands Bois (Cotes du Rhone AOC). 

The Cotes du Rhone AOC is the lowliest AOC designation in the Rhone, and can apply to wines from both the North and South.  However, the vast majority come from the South.  Like many Cotes du Rhone AOC wines, the Cuvé Les Trois Soeurs is predominantly Grenache based: 60% Grenache, 15% syrah, and 20% carignan.  The latter, carignan, is often considered the ‘workhorse’ grape of the Southern Rhone, rarely producing wines of outstanding quality on its own. 

The Cuvée Les Trois is sourced from mature vines, ranging in age from 30-60 years.  The fruit is hand harvested, and is sorted in the vineyard before it comes to the winery.  The fermentation lasted ten days at controlled temperatures. 

This purple coloured wine is full-bodied, with subtle, but firm, tannins.  The weight of the wine is balanced by lively acidity, which gives the wine an overwhelming freshness.  The aromas and flavours are typical of the Southern Rhone: liquorice, first and foremost.  But there are gobs of fresh blackberry and red currant, alongside pencil lead and herbs.  Indeed, a lot of complexity – and even elegance – for the modest price.  Overall, a great introduction to the Southern Rhone for those who have not yet braved the mistral winds.   

Available at the LCBO through Vintages for $16.95. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Joseph Cattin's Crémant d'Alsace

Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV, Joseph Cattin ($16.95)

Produced from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay in the traditional method.  Aged for at least 12 months on the lees; no disgorgement date listed.

Lemon-green, with a fine, persistent bead. A toasty nose indicative of having been aged on its lees, accompanied by candied orange peel and lemon.  The mousse almost floats on the palate, with smooth, gentle bubbles that pleasantly envelop the mouth.    Dry, with plentiful acidity.  Gulpable.  A well-made traditional method sparkler; a real winner at this price.

Monday, 6 August 2012

The LG Wine Awards (Part II)

 Why do we care about wine competitions?  We care because it takes some of the risk out of purchasing a bottle or two of wine.  Rather than having to roll the dice ourselves, we leave the dirty work of sifting through the drabble to the ‘experts’.  And we hope that what settles in the pan is a good – maybe even exceptional – bottle of wine.  Yes, we care about the winners.
So, how do wine competitions decide which wine is a gold medal winner?  To begin with, it depends on which wineries took the initiative to submit their wines.  A wine competition doesn’t go out in search of the best wines.  Rather, it selects the best of what is submitted.
In the case of the 2012 Lieutenant Governor Wine Awards (LGWA, for short), 73 Ontario wineries submitted a total of 258 bottles of wine.  This meant the group of judges had to – in just one day– taste 258 wines.  The wines were split by variety or wine style.  So, Riesling was tasted with Riesling; sparkling wine was tasted with sparkling wine.  The wines were on an even playing field.
The judges (or adjudicators, as they were referred to as by the Lieutenant Governor’s office) were split into three panels.  This meant that each judge would only have to taste 100 or so wines.  The panels would come to a consensus on their favourites from each category, selecting the wines that would make it to round two.  Some flights saw no wines move on, others saw two or three.
By the end of Day 1, 58 wines had been deemed worthy of going forward.  On Day 2, the judges had to select from those wines a maximum of 12 that would be given the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines.  The 11 wines they ended up selecting can now be found on the Lieutenant Governor’s website at   
And, indeed, the judges did select some truly exceptional wines.