Vintages Pre-Release

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reported by Colleen Hyslop

The Vintages Pre-Release (VPR) tasting for the LCBO release of Saturday, April 27, 2013 was well attended. Twenty-three eager folks crowded into the Vendange Institute on the evening of April 25, 2013. The event was intended to focus on Veneto and Appassimento wines as well as some organic products. But since the consultants had fewer than expected to recommend in these categories, the tasting ranged more widely. The first flight comprised four whites with rather out-of-the-ordinary flavor profiles, the second flight included five reds that the consultants did recommend, and the third flight took in four “big” reds.

The first white of the evening was the Clos de Nouys Demi-Sec Vouvray 2011 (322669, $19.95), a Chenin Blanc from the Loire region of France. It was a crowd pleaser, though unlike a classic Vouvray. Twelve of the 23 tasters liked it. There was a pleasing contrast between the nose with herbaceous notes reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc and the palate which tasted of tropical fruit and had a hint of residual sugar. Most agreed they would buy this wine for the price.

The second white was the Loan Wines Unwooded Special Reserve Semillon 2004 from Australia?s Barossa Valley (301127, $15.95). For a nine-year-old wine it had great acidity, but the fruit was gone. It had a somewhat smoky nose which was interesting since it was “unwooded”. Unfortunately, the nose was too funky for most of the tasters and only one person voted this as their favorite. Others found the whiff of petrol or varnish off-putting. Still, this was an interesting example of an aged Semillon and for the price you might try it out of curiosity.

Next up was the Tommasi Adorato Appassimento Bianco 2011 from the Veneto, Italy (320721, $15.95). This wine is produced with 90% Garganega and 10% Chardonnay grapes, a portion of which are dried in the Appassimento style before pressing. Seven of the 23 tasters chose this as their favorite of the whites. It had good acidity, depth, complexity and a solid fruit core (ripe gooseberry) that would go well with foods such as light meats in cream sauce. Most of the panel said they would buy this wine.

The last white was a blend from South Africa made from Chenin Blanc (about 50%), Chardonnay, Viognier and Clairette Blanche (Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2010, 225458, $21.95). Five of the tasters considered it their favorite of the flight. Although it looked a little cloudy in the glass, it had good acidity (lemon), some weight on the palate and was well-balanced (well integrated oak). It will be food friendly.

The second flight was a selection of reds recommended by LCBO product consultants. The first up was the Michele Chiarlo le Orme Barbera d?Asti Superiore 2010 from Piedmont, Italy (265413, $15.95). Sadly, it was a disappointment to most: two tasters liked it but the majority said they wouldn?t buy it. Although fruity and fresh, it had none of the personality one expects from the reds of this region.

The next red was the Burning Kiln Strip Room Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2011 (327700, $24.95) from an emerging new Ontario wine region on Lake Erie?s north shore. The area was previously devoted to tobacco growing and the wines are made from grapes dried or partially dried in former tobacco-drying kilns. Three tasters liked it, but two others gave it thumbs down. The nose was interesting with notes of green pepper and tea but also a distinct tang of pickling spice. On the palate it had good acidity and some fruit. The panel thought it might be over- priced.

The crowd pleaser of this flight was the Gotham Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from the McLaren Vale in Australia (311464, $18.95). At 14.9% alcohol by volume, you could taste the alcohol on your tongue, along with spices and a hint of eucalyptus. The tannins were light, but the fruit was ripe and there was some structure. The panel dubbed it “enjoyment in a glass”, but agreed that it fell short of expectations for an Australian Cab.

The fourth red was more successful in meeting expectations. The Napa Cellars Zinfandel 2010 from Napa Valley, California (126607, $24.95) had a touch of candy on the nose as well as ripe damson plum, stewed fruit and bourbon. The fruit and structure were good and it should be food friendly. Most of our tasters agreed they would buy it.

The last red of this flight was an IGT blend from Tuscany, Italy: the Fattoria di Basciano il Corto 2009 (134775, $27.95). Reviews were mixed. It was the favourite of three tasters, but it was disliked by three others. The nose had pleasant aromas of leather and ripe fruit. The blend of Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon gave high acidity and very dry tannins, but there was enough fruit to balance it. This wine should be food friendly.

The third flight focused on bigger reds, with prices ranging from $28.95 (500 ml) to $66.95. First up was the Monte del Fra Lena di Mezzo Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2007 from the Veneto, Italy (047506, $48.95). The nose was rich with aromas of clove, cinnamon and allspice. The palate was complex and it had a long finish. At 15.5% alcohol by volume, the panel dubbed it “boozy Christmas cake in a glass”. Eleven tasters voted thumbs up; one disliked it because of the high alcohol and a hint of a waxy, milk chocolate on the tongue. It had less structure than a typical Amarone and probably won?t age well. But if you feel the price is right, buy and enjoy it now.

The next two reds were young Cabs, one a blend. From Spain, we tried the Miguel Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 from Penedes (129676, $54.95). This red is still in its infancy. There was lots of fruit and acid and the tannins were very firm, almost harsh. Three tasters gave it thumbs up and one gave it thumbs down. If you like to cellar wines, this one will age well and become gorgeous and well-integrated over the next 10 to 20 years.

The Donimus Napanook 2009 from the Napa Valley is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc (212357, $66.95). Again, this wine is very young. The robust palate had leather, cedar and earthy tones and will go well with food. It can be expected to develop with cellaring over the next 10 years.

The final offering of the night was the Antolini Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico 2009 from the Veneto, Italy (135533, $28.95 for 500 ml.). Sadly, it was rather a disappointment. Tasters described it as “like drinking a Vintage Port but without the tannin”. It had a lot of fresh fruit and alcohol on the palate but little complexity or structure. It is unlikely to age for more than three to four years.

Flight 1

  • Clos de Nouys Demi-Sec Vouvray, 2011, Loire, Franch, 322669, $19.95
  • Loan Wines Unwooded Special Reserve Semillon, 2004, Barossa Valley, Australia, 301127, $15.95
  • Tommasi Adorato Appassimento Bianco, 2011,Veneto, Italy, 320721, $15.95
  • Lammershoek Roulette Blanc 2010, South Africa, 225458, $21.95

Flight 2

  • Michele Chiarlo Le Orme Barbera d?Asti Superiore 2010 from Piedmont, Italy, 265413, $15.95
  • Burning Kiln Strip Room Merlot/ Cabernet Franc, 2011, Ontario, 327700, $24.95
  • Gotham Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, McLaren Vale, Australia, 311464, $18.95
  • Napa Cellars Zinfandel, 2010, Napa Valley, California, 126607, $24.95

Flight 3

  • Monte del Fra Lena di Mezzo Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, 2007, Veneto, Italy, 047506, $48.95
  • Miguel Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, Penedes, Spain, 129676, $54.95
  • Donimus Napanook, 2009, Napa Valley, 212357, $66.95
  • Antolini Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico, 2009, Veneto, Italy, 135533, $28.95, 500 ml