Wine of the Week for March 26, 2007

Alianca Bairrada Reserva DOC 2003 - $8.25
Style: R3

I’m continuing my focus on Portuguese wines with this rich, deep ruby coloured example. Heady aromas include earth, garrigue, cherry, cedar, leather, red licorice and a whiff of perfume. The palate is soft with firm tannins, understated fruit and a fine acidic core. Weight and length are both medium. This could go another year or two in the cellar, or serve with chilli or spaghetti. (LCBO 158741)

Lehmann Weighbridge Chardonnay 2005 - $10.90
Style: W1

This, sadly, has been delisted by the LCBO, but you might be able to find bottles still on the shelves. (I hope it has a more prominent status outside of Ontario.) Light aromas here include spice, apple and quince with a suggestion of honey. The palate is quite tasty, showing apple and lemon flavours, with a crisp acidity. Good body and length, and a crisp lemony close. A bit shy, but very good value. (LCBO 622217)

Drink Wine and Do Good Works!

Starting in April, South Africa’s Obikwa Wines is launching their 3rd Annual Campaign to Support Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund (Canada) to help children in need. Part of the proceeds from each bottle of Obikwa sold in Canada will be contributed to the charity.

Although I can’t direct you to any specific wine (not in my notes at this point), you might consider trying their Sauvignon Blanc (LCBO 527465; $8.75), Shiraz (LCBO 527499; $9.25), or Cabernet Sauvignon (LCBO 665323; $9.25) and then report back to me.

Over the past two years Obikwa has donated $25,000 to the Fund. The 2007 donation will increase by $20,000 bringing the total to $45,000.

Wine(s) of the Week for March 19, 2007

Lowered Expectations

A stint of tasting LCBO General List wines is not one of my favourite pass-times. But it's where I find those occasional cost-effective gems that become my Wine of the Week. This past Friday, the General List tasting was made up entirely of Tetrapak and alternatively packaged wines (thanks to Dean Tudor for championing this issue), and I must say I have never encountered a more dismal collection of wines -- 78 in total, 78 shelf spots that could have been stocked with decent wine!

I would like to reiterate my feelings about Tetrapaks. For the most part, they remain a clear visual indicator of what is low-end jug wine and what is not. In this case, I found a shocking number of bad, faulty and even insulting wines. But all is not lost. Given that the majority of Tetrapaks give you an extra 250 ml, one might argue that these are $9 - $10 wines and therefore could, in theory, deliver some real value. I'm not going along with that, though. An extra helping of oxidized wine is not a bargain.

I have, in the past, recommended one Tetrapak "Prisma" wine, the Saluna Pinot Grigio (LCBO 614412). While I don’t feel I can unreservedly recommend the following, I don’t mind passing on these suggestions for those times when quantity and price are the primary criteria, and wine quality is a very low priority. - TFO

Black Tower Riesling 2005 - $13.15
Actually a pretty good entry-level Riesling showing nice vegetal, herb, paraffin and lime-pulp aromas. Soft, just off-dry, with a musty note and traces of peach and citrus on the palate. Light and somewhat short. (LCBO 614321)

Kumala Sauvignon Blanc 2003 - $12.15
Kumala is an African wine from Canada's Vincor, which is now owned by Constellation in the US. Multi cultural? I think not, but it's an OK wine. The nose shows good vegetal, green pepper and grass aromas, with hints of passionfruit and vanilla. Actually quite thin with nuances of grapefruit on the palate. Probably best at poolside. (LCBO 16147)

Wolf Blass Bilyara Reserve Chardonnay 2005 -$13.95
Nothing exceptional here, just reliable -- but overpriced -- Blass in a PET plastic bottle. For fans. (LCBO 8128, 750 ml)

Soluna Merlot Delle Venezia IGT - 2004 $13.15
The nose here is on the rustic side, with black licorice, dried cherry, blackcurrant and a touch of raspberry. Another thin one, though with sturdy tannins, a bit of cherry flavour and a dusty finish. Might go well with burgers. (LCBO 614420)

Concha y Toro ‘Likan’ Merlot 2005 - $12.15
This one shows a decent, almost cab-like nose with vanilla, chocolate, bell pepper and spice. Thinnish, with soft tannins and cherry flavours, quite light and a bit short, but palatable enough. (LCBO 665331)

Wolf Blass Bilyara Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - $15.95
Same as for the Chardonnay, with an even more skewed price/quality ratio. Note that these plastic bottles have a shelf life of less than a year, so check the bottling date. (LCBO 8136, 750 ml)

Kumala Shiraz 2005 - $12.15
Look for spice up front, followed by cedar, blackcurrant, raisin and a trace of vanilla. The palate is smooth and silky with a chocolate/vanilla impression, firm tannins and a solid acid spine. Just shy of medium body and length. A bit on the sweet side but basically well balanced with decent flavour. (LCBO 16154)

Baldivis Shiraz ‘Cheer Pack’ 2003 - $ 13.95
The packaging looks like an intravenous bag, and it's 750 ml, not a full litre. The nose shows intriguing aromas of spice, fruit leather, vanilla, cinnamon, and dark chocolate. Rather sweet, with soft tannins, firm acidity, and sweet berry flavours. OK body and length. It's actually rather tasty and has quite a good nose, but this price is way off base. (LCBO 669077, 750 ml)

Botter ‘Luca’ Nero d'Avola IGT 2005 - $13.15
Currently my favourite grape, I was hoping for more from this. The nose shows funky animale aromas alongside cedar, vanilla, and subtle red berries. The palate is a bit thin, but showing some nice raspberry flavour, light tannins and a cool acidity. Might be a good candidate for pork ribs off the grill. (LCBO 613604)

Wine of the Week for March 12, 2007

Vista Touriga Nacional Berias Red 2004 - $13.20
Style: R3

Made entirely of the Touriga Nacional grape (the fundamental grape found in "real" port), this delightful wine shows blueberry, leather, earthy and vegetal aromas. The palate is soft and smooth with dusty tannins, dark berry flavours and a very dry finish. Good body and length. Ideal as a BBQ wine or with simple roasts. (LCBO 613919)

Wine of the Week for March 5, 2007

Danante Pinot Grigio 2005 - $13.95
Style: W3

There is a terrific nose here, showing melon, lime, green apple and a touch of celery. Lightish on the palate yet smooth with a soft acidity and ripe apple flavour. Lighter bodied and with good length. Pair with light fish, smoked salmon or simple white meats so you can revel in the nose. (LCBO 26906)