Bonarda Alert

By now, most wine consumers are aware of the success in the transplantation
of Malbec from its roots in the French Cahors region, to thriving in the relative
new world surroundings of Argentina. Less well-known is the intriguing story of
the Bonarda grape: the region’s second-most planted variety. Currently, debate
and uncertainty continues to swirl about its origin with some expert speculation
suggesting that its parent vine stock is Bonarda Piemontese or Novarese from
Italy. Others propose that it’s the French grape Corbeau in disguise, which is now
nearly commercially extinct in its native, sub-alpine region of Savoie. What does
seem somewhat more certain, in a cross-cultural farming legacy with so many
twists and turns, is that it was imported to South America by Italian immigrants
who are credited with the further development of the vineyards first established
by Spanish missionary priests, then improved on by French botanists – and now
being very innovatively overseen by visionary, homegrown talent!

Launched in 2000, the ‘VinEcol’ winery project set out to join the leading-edge of
the organic wine-making scene that has quickly developed both in Chile and here
in Argentina’s famed Mendoza region. Arguably, these wine-making regions enjoy
unique geographic and climatic attributes such as high altitude and low humidity
which guard against many of the scourges and susceptibilities suffered by grape
vines elsewhere such mold, fungus and insects. This reality has made transition
to organic practices much less complicated, though no-less admirable a pursuit.

Desirably situated at the edge of the Ñacuñan Biosphere Reserve in the district
of La Paz, the bodega’s 80 hectares of trellised vineyard excel in an unspoiled
and almost pollution-free environment. Some challenges exist though, in what is
essentially a near-desert environment created and perpetuated by being in the
‘rain-shadow’ of the Andes range. The upside to this is the relative abundance of
melt water from the mountains, which feeds the Mendoza River and then in turn,
gets distributed throughout the dusty plain – offering growers the option of drip
and/or surface (flood) irrigation.

As the ‘organic’ farming movement is still in its early years, there are numerous
outstanding questions regarding the impact of these regimes and philosophy on
quality and flavor. In the case of this week’s DéClassé recommended bottling of
VinEcol Bonarda, the questions are moot; this is simply great wine being offered
at a remarkably modest price-point. Dare to try it ever-so-slightly chilled as your
new, go-to summer red. Better buy a bunch before it’s gone until next year!

Vinecol Bonarda

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #375493 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
14.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Mendoza, Argentina
By: Winery Vinecol Sa
Release Date: Jun 21, 2014

Tasting Note
This rich, ink-coloured and pleasingly rustic wine has loads of dark berry fruit,
chocolate and a touch of spice. Try serving with grilled meats, roasted veggies,
or as an apéritif with slightly more assertive cheese such as Pecorino.

Pinot Blanc Alert

Founded in 1958, La Cave du Vieil Armand is a co-op of 100 growers that tend
to vineyard plots distributed throughout the southern regions of Alsace. By local
standards, this is a small group, though one which favours delivery of premium
offerings over production volume. One demonstrative indicator is the willingness
to cellar their wines indefinitely – until they’re deemed to be fully mature. This is
certainly the case here, with a Pinot Blanc release that’s from a 2009 vintage!

With a history traceable to 1230, one of their sub-brands: Chateau Ollwiller is
considered to be one of only 2 properties to have birthed Alsacian wine-making
traditions in the Middle Ages. Originally overseen by the wine fief: the Count of
Ferrette, the Château’s vineyards cover 25 hectares on the elevated slopes of
the Le Vieil Armand (‘Old Armand’), a rocky spur in the Vosges mountains. Soil
composition is largely made up of marl and sandstone on a limestone base that
lends an aromatic complexity and minerality to the vine stock grown here.

Within this intriguing property is the so-called ‘Clos de la Tourelle’, a dedicated
sub-plot planted with only Pinot Blanc grapes. Punctuated by an ancient stone
watch tower, the single-vineyard nature of this bottling is iconoclastic both in its
geographical setting, vinicultural character, as well as, its classic, ‘flûte’ shaped
bottle. The variety is often referred to as the workhorse grape of Alsace and has
an undeserved reputation as being sometimes wanting in terms of a distinctive
flavor profile. This is perhaps missing the point as far as appreciating the subtler
charms that this very well-made varietal bottling has to offer. Produced with cold
and slow fermentation in stainless steel tanks with no oak in the aging, this very
typical Alsatian style yields a natural spiciness to compliment the bright, natural
blonde and crisp acidity – making them perfect wines to pair with lighter foods.

Grand Gold winner at 2013 Concours International de Lyon – buy at least 2!

Clos de la Tourelle

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #377788 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Alsace, France
By: Cave du Vieil Armand
Release Date: Jun 21, 2014

Tasting Note
This wine has an intriguing tartness and a firm acidity with apple, pineapple and
sweet lemon flavours in the foreground. Try serving as a well chilled apéritif with
soft cheeses, summer salads, poultry and fish dishes.

Vinho Tinto Alert

Majestically winding its way for over 900km down through the Iberian Peninsula,
the Douro River acts as a border with Spanish neighbours, while also providing
the region on the Portuguese side with its iconic namesake. The wine-producing
zone lies framed between the towns of Barca d’Alva and Régua where the river
valleys point westward for a time, creating ideal growing conditions that are
equally conducive to regionally distinctive White, Red and Port grape varieties.

Blended from local stars Touriga Franca (50%), Tinta Roriz (30%) and some
Touriga Nacional (20%), this week’s DéClassé recommended wine could have
ended up being processed into a Port style; had it been mixed with a form of
unrefined Brandy. This alternate finishing recipe would have eliminated any of
the remaining yeasts, so as to maintain a higher degree of sweetness. Rather,
the yeasts were allowed to complete the wines transition from having residual
sugar – to having all these converted to alcohol, thereby becoming a ‘dry’ wine.

As in the case here, most of Douro’s red wines are vinified in so-called ‘lagares’.
These are fairly large, open stone containers made of Granite and Schist that
the sorted and destemmed grapes are poured into – to then be methodically
crushed under foot in this age-old, wine making tradition. Fermentation naturally
begins when the wild yeasts that coat the grape skin comes into contact with
the sugar from the released juice. Surprisingly, it frequently requires only 24hrs.
to complete this step, after which the young wine is strained into stainless steel
holding tanks to undergo a second, bacteria-induced ‘malolactic’ fermentation.
This healthy form of bacterial intervention helps to convert the tart Malic acid in
the fruit into Lactic acid, which markedly softens the mouthfeel of the wine.

Maria Manuela Matos Mendes oversees 23 hectares of reclaimed family farm
including both vineyard and Olive grove and is a leading part of a reinvigorated
generation of Portuguese vintners that are both fiercely proud of long-standing
wine-making methods, but are also embracing modern, international standards.
Their output, arguably, remains under-priced relative to the high quality of their
offerings, which means that now is still a great time to stock up before everyone
catches on to these astonishing values. Decant for several hours, or put your 6
bottles away for a couple of years and be amazed at how good it will become!

Quinta Do Roncao

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #147942 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
14.1% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Douro, Portugal
By: Maria Manuela
Release Date: Jun 7, 2014

Tasting Note
Pick a juicy red and black fruit that comes to mind and you’ll likely be able to tag
it in the aromas and flavours in this bottling. This will nicely compliment all of the
more-premium food-fare coming off your grill this summer.

Côtes du Rhône Alert

Providing Domaine de la Valériane with its namesake, Valérie Collomb
is building an enviable reputation for the 40 hectare family farm. Located in the
small village of Domazan just outside the city of Avignon, the current property
was consolidated by her parents from several existing vineyard plots in the early
1980’s. Geographically, this is at the lower end of the crescent-shaped areas in
the Southern Rhône Valley – renowned for the prolific output of so-called ‘GSM’
blends (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) among numerous other variations.

As far as familiar French wine regions go, these demarcated areas represent a
relatively newer set of AOC’s (Appellation d’Origin Contrôlée), most of which were
only created in the late 1930’s, with another 10 areas added in 2004. Primary
groupings for wines produced fall into 3 categories: Côtes du Rhône – the least
stringent, Côtes du Rhône–Villages is more noteworthy, particularly those with
the actual village name added and finally so-called Cru, representing the highest
quality available. All in all, with very healthy and sustainable production levels of
around 350 million bottles a year, CDR wines will continue to be offered at highly
competitive pricing well into the foreseeable future.

This week’s DéClassé recommended bottling is an unusually limited blend that
uses only 2 equal parts drawn from 23 allowable grape varieties: 50% Syrah
and Grenache. Notably though, this offering is being produced from the fruit of
30 to 40-year-old vines, which thrive here in the clay-limestone soils covered with
large stone pebbles – thus justifying the moniker of ‘vielles vignes’ (old vines). As
well, fermentation and aging of the harvest only takes place in concrete vats, so
this particular blend never sees the influence of wood – thereby displaying much
softer tannins and more natural character than a wine that has been Oak-aged.

This is ready to go now, though will hold up for another year or so. As the vintner
is unsure of which Gold Medal stickers to place on the bottle: either the equally
prestigious Concours de Mâcon or the Concours Général de Paris 2013, this
wine is selling quickly –buy at least 2 if not half a case to cover your summer!


VINTAGES – LCBO Product #374280 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Rhône, France
By: Valérie Collomb, Prop.-récolt
Release Date: May 24, 2014

Tasting Note
This is a medium-bodied, fruit-driven wine that will develop some spiciness when
paired with a broad variety of food fare from the oven or the grill. These might
include ratatouille, Porcini-crusted roast lamb, chicken Tikka Masala and Chevre,
Brie and Camembert cheeses.