Mencia Alert

El Bierzo DO is a wine region tucked away in the province of León – among the
most exciting Spanish frontiers and source of some of its most qualitative wine.
The fertile plain and forests of this lush valley situated between the Montes de
Leon and Cordillera Cantábrica mountain ranges is referred to as the ‘gateway
to Galicia’ as its geography is a funnel into this verdant corner of northwestern
Iberia. Though it’s a relatively small wine growing area, it benefits from a special
microclimate that is equally conducive to cultivation of red and white vine stock.
Despite being a lesser-known region in terms of international markets, the 55
prolific Bodegas here are outputting an impressive11million liters annually and
still sustainably expanding.

Under the watchful guidance of master wine maker, José Luis Vázquez Santín,
Bodega del Abad (the ‘Abbot’s Cellar’) has only been active as an independent
producer since 2003, but already boasts a loyal following that was reinforced
by a surprising release several years ago of a 2001 Crianza-grade cache that
had been hiding somewhere in the back corners of their cellars. This week’s
DéClassé offering of a 2006 bottling is also surprising. In both cases, the wine
is well beyond the mandated 2 years of combined ageing to qualify for a Crianza
designation. The vintner has exercised significant patience in assuring that the
vintage has the balance of being fully rounded and mature, while still possessing
some soft fruitful vigor wrapped in chocolate flavours.

These attributes are a winemaking accomplishment due in part to the modern
production techniques being applied, but also a result of the innate potential of
Mencia. Indigenous to Bierzo, the variety is now considered to be one of the four
most important Spanish red wine grapes. Producing small, compact clusters of
medium-sized, violet-blue berries, its renaissance of popularity is founded on an
ability to yield age-worthy wine at a relatively modest price point. 35 hectares of
Bodega del Abad’s vineyards are located up on steep terrain made up of slate
and quartzite-laden soils. The properties mix of old vines, with some approaching
70 years-of-age, are yielding meticulously handpicked and sorted fruit; creating
wines with a characteristic, velvety palate.

This is both ready to go now and will hold up for nicely for several more years. It
will likely fly off the shelves quickly as word of this formerly hidden gem spreads.
So buy enough to get you through an upcoming Summer and Fall – while you can!

Abad Dom Bueno Crianza

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #244699 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
Alcohol/Vol. 13.5%
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Bierzo, Spain
By: Bodega Del Abad
Release Date: April 18, 2015

Tasting Note
Having aged gracefully, this offers juicy red cherry and currant flavours. A core
of gentle tannins and some refreshing acidity enhances the soft notes of black
pepper and tea leaf flavours. Serve with rich poultry dishes, roast leg of lamb,
marinated steak or spicy beef empanadas.

Roussillon Alert

The Maison M. Chapoutier, originally founded in 1808 and having established
a portfolio of mature vineyards next door in the southern Rhône, continues to
forge ahead with the development of new properties while also applying organic
wine growing methods. This week’s DéClassé recommended bottling draws on
fruit from more recently developed vineyards in the Côtes-du-Roussillon Villages
designated region. This appellation is part of the hillier, northern Roussillon and
is among the sunniest areas of France. Cool winters, hot summers, moderate
levels of rainfall and the drying breezes of the ‘Mistral’ winds combine to create
ideal conditions for the dark-skinned grapes varieties which thrive here.

Vineyards for Vignes de Bila-Haut are located mainly on the terraced slopes of
the high Agly Valley in Roussillon. Described by the vintner as ‘an old plot of land,
rough, almost hostile’, this is a geologically ancient territory of crushed Gneiss
and Schist: a mineral-rich rock laden with limestone and chalk deposits. In terms
of cultural history, Roussillon in south-west France, has as much in common with
Catalonia in Spain as it does with its neighbours in French Languedoc.

Boasting of using only hand-harvested grapes, this blend incorporates Syrah,
providing spice and aromas imparted from the local Garrigue (wild, fragrant,
flowering shrubs), Grenache, to add the firmness and body that results from
being sourced off mature vines and the region’s signature grape Carignan,
offering some crisp, tannic notes. Aiming to create a refreshing style of red,
this recipe never sees the influence of wood barrels, rather it’s aged in large
vats, yielding wine that’s intended to be enjoyed young over the next 2 years.

Building on a wealth of rich traditions, local vintners are working diligently to
develop wine making reputations which extend beyond regional popularity by
elevating quality while remaining price-competitive. Buying half a case would be
a prudent investment in a highly appealing, medium-bodied red to round out the
outdoor patio dinner fare in the warmer months to come

Bila Haut

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #168716 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
13.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Midi, France
By: Maison M. Chapoutier
Release Date: Apr. 18, 2015

Tasting Note
Deep garnet red with dark berry flavours, hint of chocolate and coffee notes,
this is a pleasingly uncomplicated, rustic wine that could stand to be chilled
slightly when served during summer months. Try with lamb chops, ratatouille,
stews or lentils with sausage.

Grüner Veltliner Alert

Grown primarily in Austria but also widely in the neighbouring Czech Republic,
Grüner Veltliner is a white grape variety that hasn’t yet taken hold anywhere
else. A fairly hardy vine, its current success is tied to the rocky soils found on
the slopes of the ancient volcanic calderas in these regions. Mostly intended to
be consumed young (a staple in the so-called “Heuriger” wine bars of Vienna),
it’s also known as being particularly food-friendly – suitable to serve both as an
apéritif and as a compliment to main courses.

In the mid-18th century, 20 hectares of land associated with Weingut Rudolph
Rabl began as a traditional farm with mixed crops and livestock. Then, having
added grape vines, the business was confined to providing bulk wine in barrels
to the local innkeepers up until the early 20th century. In 1986 Rudolf Rabl junior
(Rudi) joined his father Rudolf senior, which allowed the winery to expand to 80
hectares, becoming one of the largest estates in the Kamptal (the Kamp River
Valley) with 35% of the vineyards dedicated to the Grüner Veltliner variety.

The fruit derived from terraced vineyards near the town of Langenlois in lower
Austria, benefit from the desirable combination of rich löss (wind-blown soil) on
top of an underlying crushed stone bed; providing the necessary drainage for
healthy, mildew-free grape cultivation. The distinctive green raven icon depicted
on Rabl (little Raven) labels represents their line of very well made, entry-level,
single vineyard wines.

All in all, it’s taken some time for North American markets to catch on to white
wine styles other than the classic, enduring stars such as Chardonnay, Soave,
Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. So, in the spirit of exploring the horizon at the
outset of spring – add this wine style to your DéClassé-recommended listing of
characterful dry whites: Sylvaner, Sèvre et Maine, Picpoul de Pinet, Vinho Verde,
Tsinandali, Pecorino and Gavi.

Rabl Gruner Veltliner

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #295709 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Kamptal, Austria
By: Weingut Rudolph Rabl
Release Date: Mar. 4, 2015

Tasting Note
This is a bright, fresh and fruity wine with loads of ripe acidity and intriguing
mineral notes on the finish. Try serving with smoked fish, Wiener schnitzel,
roasted vegetable minestrone or Prosciutto and crostini.