Bordeaux Alert

The designation Bordeaux Supérieur is a qualified, superior grade in comparison
to standard Bordeaux AOP wines. As aspiration, they intend to be more layered
and rich due to 3 primary mandates of the appellation: higher planting density of
vines to promote healthy competition between their root systems for nutrients;
judicious pruning to tailor harvest yields and concentrate grape character, and
finally, the typical .5% increase of alcohol level, reflecting the careful selection of
mature fruit from older vines with sufficiently developed, natural sugar content.

The greatest concentration of Supérieur producers is in the peripheral areas
north of Pomerol and St-Emilion though fully 25% of all vineyards throughout
greater-Bordeaux are dedicated to achieving this target grading. The diverse
patchwork of 38 sub-regions encompassing 60 AOC appellations, also divided
into a lengthy list of individual, legendary plots, is somewhat more decipherable
with the understanding that most are anchored around key, namesake towns
and villages. Moreover, they’re further distinguished by being grouped around
the Gironde Estuary at the region’s Atlantic end, or inland along the converging
Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Lastly, the paths of these 3 waterways, roughly
drawn as a diagonal line through the region, provide demarcation for which of
the vineyards and wines are of so-called Right or Left Bank origin. North of the
Dordogne is Right, south of the Gironde and Garonne is Left. An added anomaly
is the sizeable zone between called Entre-Deux-Mers (between 2 seas). It’s all
delightfully bewildering, this vast collection of 7,375 wine-producing Châteaux!

As for price-point range, the loose designation of petit Château encompasses
thousands of producers who don’t officially qualify as Cru Classés: the 5 top-tier,
Bordeaux classifications. In many cases, their vineyards are located right next
to those of better-recognized brands. In rarer instances, there are microclimate
and soil composition factors that innately result in differing wines being yielded
from plots nearby to each other. However, cost and desirability are generally
determined by the reputation of a particular vintage and how much investment
in production there has been by the estate. Despite a common perception that
the offerings from Bordeaux tend toward premium pricing, a significant majority
of Bordelais vintners sell their red and white wines, fairly, at between $15-25.

Fronsac is among the better-known Right Bank appellations where blended reds
are distinctively built around an early ripening Merlot grape; a robust variety that
has the ability to develop adequately in slightly cooler terroirs. The nature of the
resulting wine is typically more supple and softer than the tannic and intense,
Cabernet Sauvignon, hybrid counterpart – which characterizes Left Bank blends.
Partially hidden among 180 growers in the Les Vignerons du Fronsadais co-op
is Château des Moines Menodin, which has already done the cellaring work for
this week’s DéClassé feature. The secret is out and this will rightfully sell quickly.
If you haven’t enjoyed a remarkably inexpensive 2009 or 2010 Bordeaux lately,
then here’s a great starting point for their rediscovery. Drink now thru 2016.

Chateau Des Moines

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #424259 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Bordeaux, France
By: Catherine Mas, Prop.
Release Date: August 22, 2015

Tasting Note
This garnet coloured, fleshy, fully rounded table wine has loads of red fruit flavours
and aroma, accented with cassis, vanilla and spice. Try it with grilled asparagus,
roasted veal, or a baked Brie served on savoury bread crisps.

Garnacha Tinta Alert

As a signature example of both Spanish modern and old school winemaking
methods, this fresh-fruited red represents the vanguard for well-made table
wines in Spain’s blossoming, quality-revolution. Here in the extremely hot wine
country around Alfaro, it’s a desirable combination, which deftly pairs innovation
with deeply rooted tradition. It is modern, in that the updated production style
of minimal, mechanical handling and filtering helps to preserve the brightness
of the wine, balanced with a softer, integrated presence of Oak. The old school
facets are a higher blending proportion of 50% Garnacha Tinta (Grenache)
into the standard Tempranillo base, as well as, incorporating small batches of
finished wine from the previous vintage (max. 15%). Both are typical in this 3rd
La Rioja sub-region called Baja – home to this week’s DéClassé featured wine
from vintner, Bodegas Palacios Remondo.

Winemaker and visionary figure, Alvaro Palacios, has for some time now been
making news in the wine world with his influential strategies of promoting the
development of quality over quantity. As of this Spring, he is the news, in having
been declared Decanter Man of the Year 2015 by the well-regarded journal.
It’s an apt, crowning juncture for a cutting edge winery that purposefully dared,
in a key transition period, to cut output from 200,000 cases of unremarkable
bulk wine to 50,000 of refined grades – a business risk that’s now paying off.

La Vendimia (‘the harvest’) is a solid version of a Spanish Joven designation;
a decidedly young wine, which has been barrel-aged for less than six months.
Here on the arid, rocky slopes of Monte Yerga, the Bodega draws fruit from
240 hectares of 10-40-year-old vines, grown organically, without irrigation, at
some of Rioja Baja’s highest altitudes (+550m). Along with the varietal bottling
of 100% Tempranillo, famously fashioned in the other two La Rioja sub-regions
of Alta and Alavasa, this is as close to a perfect, informal sipping wine that Spain
currently produces. By design, it’s meant to be enjoyed young and year-on-year,
continues to be offered at a modest price-point. That’s very much, still the case!

La Vendimia

VINTAGES – Product #674564 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
14.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: D

Made in: Rioja, Spain
By: Bodegas Palacios Remondo
Release Date: August 22, 2015

Tasting Note
Consistently well made, this cherry-coloured, fruit-driven wine reveals aromas of
blackberry jam, raspberry and a hint of Garrigue (fragrant, wild Mediterranean
shrubs). Enjoy this on its own or with hearty fare such as Ratatouille, lamb ragout,
or pretty much most BBQ-roasted dishes.

Crémant Alert

Finished using the méthode traditionelle, this is the non-Champagne descriptor
for a fairly involved, in-the-bottle, secondary fermentation process employed to
create premium grades of vins mousseux (sparkling wine); originating in one of
eight approved AOC’s in France for the wine style; according to the negotiated
regulations established in the 1970’s. The best known of these include Crémant
d’Alsace, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Limoux 
and Crémant de Loire.
Moreover, the latter is further distinguished as 3 parcels of unique terroir, whose vineyards sprawl along the valley slopes and banks of a meandering Loire River: Touraine, Anjou and the most prolific of all, Saumur – the fertile source for this
week’s DéClassé featured Bouvet Brut Excellence.

It’s an ebullient assemblage of mainly Chenin Blanc, the region’s flagship grape
that’s also known as Pineau de la Loire and a splash of Chardonnay, a migrated
variety that’s often referred to, generically, as white Burgundy – contributing
added depth and softness to the wine’s body, mouthfeel and range of aromas.
Aged in the winery’s deep limestone cellars, these wines must be left to mature
in-bottle for a minimum period of 12 months. However, as is the common case
with the finishing of non-vintage crémant (or Champagne, for that matter), the
vintner is free to incorporate into the final blend, a dose of stored wine from a
previous harvest – thereby better ensuring the year-to-year consistency of the
brand’s intended character and flavour profile.

As early as the 6th century, the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Maur had begun to
cultivate, refine and gradually proliferate some of the white wine yielding grapes
that now thrive in the valley’s chalky soils or pierres de tuffeau. This underlying,
light-coloured, fine-grained and fossil-laden limestone, with a long history of use
as a quarried building material, has also given the Loire’s photogenic cathedrals,
châteaux, monuments and towns their distinctively luminous personality. This both
above and below ground, as in the case of Maison Bouvet Ladubay’s surprising,
5 mile-long cellar. It’s actually an excavated cave, first begun a millennium ago by another monk order, Saint Florent, who used the stone in the construction 
of their Abbaye La Belle d’Anjou, est.1040AD. Now invested with an artist commissioned installation of 35 architectural clusters, including carved pillars, capitals and arches,
the Underground Cathedral  is an ode 
to 10 centuries of skill and intricate labour
by the Loire’s inspired stonemasons. It’s also a contemporary contribution to the
storied, natural and cultural landscape between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes; deservedly declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

So, as you delight in this expertly made, dimensional and bubbly offering, see if
you can experience some hinting references to the land and the prideful culture
from which it comes. If you can’t, then be satisfied with having picked up several
bottles of an extraordinary value in the state-of-the-art, crémant wine making.


VINTAGES – LCBO Product #303636 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Loire, France
By: Bouvet-Ladubay
Release Date: August 8, 2015

Tasting Note
This is a particularly zesty, pale golden-amber, crisp and dry sparkler with a fruit
and honey bouquet, with some surprising berry flavour notes in among the
expected apple, pear and citrus. Try this as a spritzy apéritif with soft cheeses, charcuterie and hors d’oeuvres or with seafood and freshwater fish.

Sangiovese Alert

The somewhat mysterious Etruscans are an Italianate culture that proceeded
and laid a foundation for the much later Roman age. Though their winemaking
traditions in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio can be dated roughly to 1000BC, the
far less ancient vineyards now overseen by head winemaker Benedetta Contini
Bonacossi has a relatively contemporary history that’s rooted in the Italian
Renaissance. Their 100-hectare Cappezzana estate on the slopes of Monte
Albano north-west of Florence was part of a large land holding of the influential
Medici Grand Dukes. After centuries of twists and turns in ownership, passing
in title through numerous Tuscan nobilities, it was acquired by the Bonacossi
family early in the 1920’s. Historically, the wine output of this small agricultural
area was an undistinguished part of the greater, Chianti designation of origin;
the estate now produces its premium wine lines within the Carmignano DOCG
(Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), established in 1990.

The appellation covers 450 hectares of vineyard around the namesake town of
Carmignano with its evolving history as a vinicultural nursery. In the 18th century,
under guidance from the Grand Duke Cosimo III, the region’s range of grapevine
plantings were expanded, including the adopting of French Cabernet Sauvignon;
now one of the allowable and distinctive components in the region’s basic blend.
Built around the starring grape, Sangiovese, the classic Tuscan recipe also calls
for incorporating splashes of indigenous Canaiolo Nero and Cabernet Franc to
help round out the structure, flavour and aroma.

In the modern age, the Cappezzana winery is also producing more youthful red
wines employing the same varieties, under the umbrella of a parallel appellation:
Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC created in 1994. These are only a lesser
grade in the sense that they’re fashioned from younger vines and aren’t officially
subject to the more stringent, ageing requirements of Carmignano (a minimum
2 years) prior to release. Nonetheless, this week’s DéClassé feature has spent
12 months in tight-grained Allier oak barrels and much more in the bottle. With sufficiently smoothed tannins, this very well-made, layered, fresh and charming
offering is ready to punctuate your well-laid dinner table now.

Barco Reale

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #508531 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Tuscany, Italy
By: Conte Contini Bonacossi
Release Date: August 8, 2015

Tasting Note
As the wine is made with younger fruit, it has a decidedly bright, red-berry flavour
profile, but also offers complimentary hints of Cassis and spice. Try serving with
dishes such as pasta with Bolognese sauce or heartier stews and tapas.

Muscat Alert

Suggestively expressing its dual, Franco-German, cultural-heritage, the dramatic Wolfberger branding logo and graphic also reveal its founding in 1902 – one of numerous, auspicious points in Alsatian history. At the turn of the 20th century, the region had regained a nominal degree of self-governance while under the banner of a still-fledgling, German federation. Flash forward 60 years, past three more territorial swaps – to discover that this resilient winery, having begun with a modest investment in 60 Hungarian oak barrels, has evolved into a prolific co-op of 450 vignerons (vintners), tending to vineyards that are, indisputably, a unique part of a diversified French republic and its northeastern, winemaking terrains.

The Alsace AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) established in the 1960’s, with its fairly stringent requirements, reflects the prideful desire to codify and project Alsatian grape-growing and winemaking expertise. In being the largest of the 3 related appellations, almost ¾ of the region’s vintners work within its guidelines, sharing geography with a small number of estates that are AOC designated as Alsace Grand Crus (select land parcels) or Crémant d’Alsace (sparkling wine). Their production of varietal white wines such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Blanc, Sylvaner, Auxerrois and this week’s DéClassé featured Muscat, tend to be regarded as benchmark examples. With the near-global proliferation of these adaptive varieties, Alsatians are deserving of and prudently cautious in guarding their regional distinction that’s taken centuries to forge. Arguably, they remain in leadership for the cultivation and ongoing development of these cool climate grapes and finishing styles – just ahead of the growing competition.

Sold in a distinctively shaped bottle known as the Flute, the tall and slender form personifies the wine source as being from the greater Rhine region; shared on both sides of the river that marks the modern, French and German border. It’s also suggestive of the content’s often refined and un-doctored nature, a result of the wise, practiced and unobtrusive touch by the winemakers. Their offerings of wines are well-suited to a traditional, gastronomic mix that can range from Choucroute à l’Alsacienne: cabbage with steeped potatoes, various meats and sausage, to Pâté de foie gras: pastry-wrapped, goose liver paté with truffles, or Flàmmeküeche: flatbread with crème fraîche, sliced onion and smoked lardons.

Not to be confused with the often-sweeter Muscats from the south of France, this dry wine, lightly chilled, is also lovely on its own – especially in summer. It’s Muscat time at the LCBO; it comes around far too infrequently. Buy lots!


VINTAGES – LCBO Product #408211| 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
11.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Alsace, France
By: Wolfberger
Release Date: July 25, 2015

Tasting Note One of a very few white wines that noticeably imparts fresh table grape aromas and flavours, this pale yellow version also has subtle and intriguing notes of rose and lychee fruit. Try this as apéritif with Muenster cheese, as an appetizer with asparagus and hollandaise sauce or with mains such as light Thai recipes.