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ON THE NAME
It's that time of year when the cup - or at least wine glass - runneth over. Not only are 108 Vintages products hitting the shelves today, but also another 20 ISDs (in store discoveries) have to be accounted for. Of course, getting the scoop on the latter is challenging because tasting notes are few and far between. The cause? Vintages forbids wine writers from assessing freshly-opened bottles sitting within licking distance in the LCBO lab.
When Vintages‚ director of sales and purchasing, Shari Mogk-Edwards, was asked about this she asserted that ISDs are selling better than ever. The insinuation that lack of exposure sells more wine is another one of those "special" LCBO fabrications that drives customers crazy. Who wants to lay out hard-earned cash for pricey wines without knowing whether they‚re worth drinking?
Take the untasted Austrian ISD Zahel 2005 Gelber Muskateller Classic (23556) at $19.95. One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a $20 Austrian wine made from a little-known grape isn't going to fly off the shelves. In over two months only 5 of 30 cases available have sold. It's a perfect Easter wine, and yet, Vintages made sure that nobody knew anything about this charming, honeyed, fragrant, fresh white with flavours of ripe melon and Muscat.
Or how about an untasted ISD best buy-Pinot Noir from New Zealand being released today? There are 95 cases of 6 of Matua Valley 2005 Marlborough Estate Series Pinot Noir (29223) available at $29.95. I tasted it at a Matua portfolio presentation; I was thrilled with its ripe, surprisingly rich, classy Pinot Noir flavours. This highlight was the best of three Pinot Noirs presented. Again, it is hard to understand why Vintages does not want this wine tasted, thereby leaving readers in the dark.
Today also marks the Vintages appearance of Italy's winery of the year, Ca' del Bosco, with a tasty ISD trilogy. My hosannas were showered on owner Maurizio Zanella's unique wines in the National Post in 2002 (to see my November 23, 2002 feature click here). Finally, five years later, they have finally been listed for the first time. Guess what? Not a single winewriter was allowed to taste the opened bottles. Thanks to the importing agent, I was able to rate and recommend all three.
The one I liked most was Ca' del Bosco 2004 Curtefranca Rosso (33183) at $32.95. This stylish blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Barbera and Nebbiolo has a fairly deep intense purple colour and an attractive, gently juicy, ripe Damson Plum nose with hints of black cherries and sandalwood. On the palate it is dry and harmonious with plummy, gently juicy, lingering, ripe cherry flavours.
Moving on to today's published non-ISD releases. While Vintages Director Tom Wilson is proud of the 2,000-case bargain Burgundy picked up by his team, someone forgot to present it to the LCBO consultants and wine writers. Thanks to wine agent Philip Mirabelli, I was able to assess this new LCBO "Food & Drink Discovery". At $19.95 Francois Labet 2005 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits (692566) is indeed a best buy. Don't look for great structure or complexity; the secret is the wine's charm - spicy, bright, ripe cherry and ruby grapefruit flavours.
Also unexplained is the sudden appearance of three new "faux" releases. It turns out they are previously released wines with high inventory levels. Vintages' policies dictate that wines with excessive inventories are discounted after 90 days, not snuck back into new release catalogues. Capcanes 2002 Vall del Calàs (10298) at $20.15, for instance, was released on September 30, and yet now, six months later, it appears on page 33. Why special treatment for some wines, but not others?
Nobody at Vintages will address these questions. The LCBO urgently needs a truly independent, on-site, full-time, ombudsman with full access to deal with the stream of complaints. At present, there is no accountability, no transparency, no need to justify anything to anyone. Quebec's provincially owned liquor retailer, the SAQ has an ombudsman and we need one here.
National Post readers can use the npreader password to access today's Vintages recommendations posted on my website (too see click here).
Coming Up this Week
The California Wine Fair will be held on Monday, April 16, 2007 from 7:00 to 9:30 pm, this event will be held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Canadian Room. Tickets are $60 per person. Call 905-336-8932 or visit www.calwine.ca for more information and reservations. There will also be a trade only tasting portion, which will be held from 2:30 to 5:00 pm, also take place at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. To see the list of wines being presented, alphabetically sorted by the winery click here, to see the floor plan click here.
Fans of Greek wines are invited to attend the upcoming Green Winemaker Dinner, which will take place on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at the Palace Restaurant - 722 Pape Avenue, starting at 7:00 pm. Two winemakers, Paris Sigalas from Sigalas winery and George Skouras from Skouras winery, will be present at this dinner. Tickets are $65 per person. For reservation contact the Kolonaki Group at 416-630-7392, to see the menu click here.
On Thursday, April 19, 2007 the Greek Wine Trade Tasting will be held at Park Hyatt - 4 Avenue Rd.. This trade only tasting will begin with a seminar (already sold out) from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm, followed by tasting from 12:30 to 4:00 pm. For more information please contact All About Greek Wine at 404-545-2324 or visit www.allaboutgreekwine.com
- 2007 Tasting Note Database
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Copyright Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada