Penedès Cabernet Sauvignon

Founded in the 1870’s by the patriarch Jaime Torres Vendrell, five generations at
Bodegas Torres have been a significant driving force in putting Spain’s Penedès
region on the international winemaking map. Numerous obstacles along the
way, including the partial destruction of the winery during the Spanish Civil War
in 1936-39, have inspired an evolution away from bulk wine production to now
thriving as a renowned bottler of vintage offerings in 50 different styles. They’re
a compelling demonstration that large commercial producers can maintain high standards in their regionally distinctive winemaking. In having become one of
Spain’s most recognizable brands, they produce an annual flood of accomplished
wines, which dependably flow out from an impressive cache of 2O, OOO barrels;
stored in stacks along 2 kilometers of underground galleries!

Geographically book-ended between the inland Serra de Miralles mountains and
the balmy Mediterranean coastline south of Barcelona, Penedès is sub-divided
into three regions of progressively higher altitude: Bajo, Medio and Alto Penedès.
Based in the heartland town of Vilafranca del Penedès since its inception as a
company, the Torres family has progressively expanded its holdings to 1,700
hectares of prime vineyards. In a region that’s arguably best known for sparkling
Cava, the Bodega has some also-famous neighbours like Freixenet and Codorniu.

Grapevines have been cultivated along the Mediterranean shores of the Iberian
Peninsula since the Phoenician period, though for this DéClassé recommended
blended red, Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, it was Miguel
Torres who had the vision of introducing Cabernet Sauvignon to Penedès
during the 1960’s and 70’s. Along with promoting the French Emperor of Reds
hybrid as being well suited for cultivation in Catalonia, his other innovation was
the use of the indigenous Tempranillo grape as a blending partner. Owing to its
nature as fast-ripening fruit, the round and black-skinned grape is affectionately
known in Catalan as Ull de Llebre (Eye of the Hare).

A perennial listing in the LCBO’s Vintages Essentials catalogue, this remarkable
value is further sale-priced through to the weekend. The enduring appeal and
charm of this fairly fulsome offering is that it’s not overly deep or complex. It is
well-rounded, well-crafted and fairly priced for a Reserva bottling that’s been four
years in the making and maturing. Heading into a new year is an opportune time
to revisit the median baseline quality of Catalonian table wine. 2 bottles (or more)
of this pleasing 2011 vintage should be an encouraging starting point!

Gran Coronas

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #36483 | 750 mL bottle
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D
Limited Time Offer
Was: $ 19.95
Now: $ 17.95
Until January 3, 2016

Made in: Penedès, Spain
By: Miguel Torres S.A.
Release Date: April 15, 2015

Tasting Note
This medium to full-bodied red has aromas of dark currant and plum with light
smoky notes of oak and clove spice. With flavours of ripe black cherry and vanilla,
it’s perfect for charcuterie, aged cheeses, filet mignon with sautéed mushrooms,
grilled lamb, roast veal or pork sirloin and fresh fig.

Gavi Alert

The 54 hectares of the Fontanafredda estate, with its central cluster of stately
houses, outlying villas, woods and groves of Hazel, began as a charmed gift in a
colourful and episodic love story. The notable wooer was Vittorio Emanuele II, the
King of Sardinia. The object of his affection was Rosa Vercellana; young daughter
of a standard-bearer in the Napoleonic Imperial Guard. In returning the king’s
amorous attentions, she was bestowed with the landholding title: Countess of
Mirafiori and Fontanfredda. To Vittorio’s love-struck eyes and heart, his mistress
would always fondly remain La Bela Rusin. As for the vision of their love child and
son, Emanuele was the family member who imagined the estate’s potential as a winemaking Tenuta. In his accession as the Count of Mirafiore, he diligently set
about the life-long task of planning, planting and cultivating the necessary vines.

In northwestern Italy, a spasso tra i vigneti (‘walking in the vineyards’) can further
translate as wading among undulating green waves of Nebbiolo grapes, mostly
destined to become world-renowned Barolo and Barbaresco red wines. In misty
hills surrounding the town of Gavi, though, there’s a modest white delight vying for
some increased attention. Considered minor due to its very limited planting of
approximately 1,500 hectares, the early ripening Cortese is nonetheless a long
established variety well-suited to the micro-climate in Gavi’s terroir. Consistently
creating flavourful wine from the relatively neutral, plump, yellow-skinned grape
clusters remains challenging for the region’s winemakers. This week’s DéClassé recommended Fontanafredda Gavi Di Gavi 2014 is an accomplished example of
what’s possible in fashioning a modern, mid-weight Italian white. The added body
of this varietal bottling is helped by a deft blending of several fermented batches:
85% in stainless steel and 15% in oak barriques. The technique yields delicate
layers of fruit, aromatics, chalky minerality and bright citrus-tinged acidity.

Long overshadowed by other Italian star whites such as Trebbiano d’Abruzzo,
Soave and Verdicchio, this is a time-limited opportunity to compare your palette
to what Italians are currently drinking while exporting most of their Pinots abroad.
If you have an appreciation for wines that emphasize finesse over power, then
this premium offering will be a seductive addition to festive Christmas events.
It will remain pleasantly-so well into the New Year if you can hang onto some!


VINTAGES – LCBO Product #366948 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Piedmont, Italy
By: Fontanafredda
Release Date: December 12, 2015

Tasting Note
This light straw-yellow wine has delicate flavours and aroma of pear, honeydew,
lime and some subtle nutty notes expected of the grape variety. Gavi will shine
as an apéritif served with salty antipasti, fresh pasta with parmesan and truffle
shavings, shellfish, poached fish with capers or fillet of sole with roasted almond.

Monastrell Alert

Toward the south-east corner of the Iberian Peninsula, about halfway between
the world-renowned orange groves of Valencia and the gothic/baroque facades
of Murcia, lies a tiny sub-region called Yecla, and it’s producing 7 million litres of
wine annually. As striking, is that it’s a rocky near-desert zone in a province that
otherwise enjoys a mild continental climate, fertile soil and the benefits of being
close by to the Mediterranean sea. It’s been blessed with these factors since a
time of Argaric Bronze-age settlement. Its allure attracted the wine-interested
Phoenicians, who passed their agricultural knowledge and secrets onto thirsty
Romans. It was certainly part of the appeal for Moors as they expanded north
from Morocco, establishing Arab Taifas (fiefdoms) in the 9th century. The bounty
kept them around for 700-800 years, all-the-while cultivating grapevine simply
to delight in its fresh fruit. They did so right up until the 15th century when the
fiercely competing kingdoms of Castille and Aragon managed to put aside their
other ambitions long enough to supplant the so-called Moorish occupation. The
celebrating Christians immediately began fermenting wine from grapes again!

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, and fairly common in the wine world
of the age, Yecla was mostly outputting bulk wine with high alcohol content. As
part of a 50-year transformation in New Spain winemaking, Bodegas Castaño is
a regional leader among 11 family estates that comprise the Yecla DO. Here in
the high drier zone of Campo Arriba, traditional practice is being re-energized by
innovation such as cold processing. Mastering a difficult terrain of low organic
content and arid 40° climate presents obvious challenges, but it also reveals an
underlying strength: gnarly old bush vines, whose rootstock was less-affected by
the Phylloxera scourge that wiped out most of Europe’s vines in the late 1800’s.
In being both old and stressed by the growing conditions, the vines produce small
yields of quality grapes, lending regional distinctiveness to very characterful wine.

To craft the 2013 vintage of the specialty Solanera line, Bodega Familia Castaño
blends 70% Monastrell (Mourvèdre) with 15% splashes of both Cab Sauvignon
and Garnacha Tintorera (Grenache). Monastrell is the star here, despite taxing
the grower’s patience with its slow and long arc of development before reaching
full maturity. Typically harvested in mid-October, the prolonged growing period of
the grape pays off by providing a broader profile of flavour and structure for the
base wine; requiring less help from other varieties to round out the balance. As
referenced in the wine name’s byline, Viñas Viejas, these fruit clusters are being
drawn from some of the oldest stock in the vineyard, resulting in an appealingly
rustic wine style that’s purposefully bottled unfiltered.

With this introduction, immediately check the LCBO’s online search (see link in
the margin) for the availability of this limited release, then sprint to the location;
buy as much as you can afford. It’s ready now. Decant for an hour. It will cellar
for another 2-4 years though you’ll find it hard to hold much past New Years!


VINTAGES – LCBO Product #276162 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Yecla, Spain
By: Bodegas Castaño
Release Date: November 28, 2015

Tasting Note
With substantial aroma and flavours of acacia flower, berries and black currant,
try serving this fulsome wine with richer food fare such as braised beef ribs, pork,
hearty gazpacho, seasoned paellas or wild rice and Portabello mushrooms.

Sparkling Rosé Alert

At 1,000 meters, the rock faces of Saronsberg (aka. Saron Peak Mountain)
begin a green cascade of rumpled ridges and water-worn gullies down into the
verdant valley at its base. Since time immemorial, the mountain’s form has been
carved by the buffeting rains and twisting currents of the South-easterlies; the
often fierce south polar winds that blow across the Cape in Spring through early
Summer. In 1488, the intrepid Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias fought his
way about in the churning seas that frame Africa’s southern tip. He depicted
this first harrowing sail by christening it Cabo das Tormentas (‘Cape of Storms’).
The winds have continued blustering over the centuries, but with the benefits of
accumulated maritime experience and sturdier ships, sailors have embraced
the more optimistic: Cabo da Boa Esperanza (‘Cape of Good Hope’). The retitling
is also credited to Bartolemeu, when to his astonishment on a returning voyage,
realized that he’d discovered the fabled and elusive sea route to India. What was
less apparent, was that he was sailing blindly past the rich potential of one of the
world’s best wine regions and some of its most accomplished wine makers!

In the 15th century, the coastal ranges of the Western Cape were occupied by
indigenous herders known as the Khoi. They were decidedly unwelcoming to this
first wave of European intruders, predictably cutting them down as soon as they
stepped ashore. It would take another 200 years of negotiated cajoling before
the displaced French Protestant Huguenot and Dutch immigrants were allowed
to exploit the land’s potential for settlement; starting the cultivation of grapevine.
300 years on from the modest beginnings, development of the fertile winelands
has continued to the present, with new zones being added or expanded in each
succeeding generation. This week’s DéClassé featured Twee Jonge Gezellen
(‘two young companions’) is an estate established in 1710 and a dynamic example
of the agricultural vision that’s been cumulatively inherited. Despite cyclical ups
and downs that are common in the challenging wine business, and with the recent,
critical infusion of new investment, it’s bearing more fruit than ever.

The property lies in the Tulbagh Valley 125 km northeast of Cape Town and is
the next outlying wine region beyond better known Stellenbosch, Frankshoek and
Paarl. With sloped vineyards in the sheltering shadow of Saronsberg mountain,
the so-called ‘rainmaker’ also provides an ample supply of irrigation. Elsewhere,
without appropriate drainage and a counterbalance of heat, the abundant rainfall
levels might be problematic. Here, there’s a balance in the 30-hectare terroir,
which current stewards, the Krone family, recognized in the 1950’s when they
first considered planting the noble varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is the South African term for a bottle-fermented
production method that results in sparkling wines. As the young wine is also left
to rest on its lees (expired yeast), imparting the telltale toasted notes, this style
emulates the basics in the classic French méthode Champenois. What’s more
regionally innovative is the regimen of cool night-harvesting, and a follow-on cold
temperature fermentation; both are key adaptations to the hot growing climate
that can otherwise, dull the brightness and acidity in white wine grapes. In this
well-crafted sparkler, Krone Vintage Rosé Cuvée Brut Sparkling 2014, it’s the
60% Pinot Noir that’s left in contact with the skins during first fermentation,
imbuing the light pink hue into the final blending with 40% Chardonnay.

Remarkably, this modest $18.95 bottling carries its vintage year, which is fairly
unusual across all price-points for premium sparkling wine. More typically, the
vintner will hold batches of previously finished wine, to be judiciously added to the
current vintage; maintaining year-to-year consistency. Here, as in so many facets
of modern SA winemaking wisdom, the vintner elects to let each harvest reveal
its unique character, with less intervention. Evidently, 2014 was a splendid year.
Buy two; serve well chilled to add a touch of pink delight to Christmas morning!


VINTAGES – LCBO Product #130047 | 750 mL bottle
Price $18.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Tulbagh, South Africa
By: Twee Jonge Gezellen
Release Date: November 28, 2015

Tasting Note
This refreshing sparkler with a refined mousse offers flavours and aromas of
pomegranate, red apple and citrus. As expected from the fermentation method,
it also finishes with some subtle baking notes. Try serving as apéritif with herbed
cheese crostini, a roasted Goose stuffed with apple or baked smoked ham.