Back - Looking Ahead
ON THE NAME
It has been a tumultuous year in the wine world. Trying to gage what's hot, what's not is tricky. Early in the decade, consumers jumped on the Yellow Tail bandwagon making Australia the world's hottest wine destination. Soft, sweetish and juicy, these wines were blessed with easy drinkability - perfect for neophytes.
The recent Aussi drought put an end to the surplus causing prices to rise thereby slowing growth. For the adventurous, well-priced Argentine Malbec has become the new hot spot. Despite some shortages and rising prices, quality-value ratios are still terrific. While Chile's bargain basement prices are gone, sales are growing again and challenging some the traditional Australian-California icons. As for the latter, despite our rising loonie, the LCBO has assiduously kept prices inflated thereby reducing potential growth. The new Barefoot Cellars range from Gallo at $9.90 is very hot.
In the old world, France, the traditional king, is making tastier, less complicated, well-priced wines, especially in the huge southern Midi region, which produces 10 bottles for every one from Australia. Huge investments in user-friendly quaffers like Yellow Jersey and French Rabbit have saved French face. Regions like Beaujolais and Bordeaux, however, continue to struggle, especially in the lower "nonentity" price range. Meanwhile, expensive Burgundy and Bordeaux classics continue their upward spiral as new affluent buyers, especially in the orient, insist on the100-point icons.
Closer to home, Canadian wines are better, albeit, more expensive than ever. This especially true in the Okanagan Valley, where the impact of climate warming has resulted in vast improvements. There is an extremely enthusiastic demand for boutique at-the-winery only selections, which has caused prices to rise. As wineries make more money selling directly to visiting customers, there has been a reduction in availability of such VQA wine sin other markets.
In Ontario, it has been a decade was filled with challenges - only the gorgeous 2007 vintage seems blemish free. The ever-rising tide of Canadian made offshore blends has been aided and abetted by the dramatic reduction of cheap imports on LCBO shelves. The latter, along with liquor board minimum floor pricing, enables Canadian producers to set higher-than-ever prices.
Of all old world countries, improvements in Spain have been most dramatic. Surprisingly, many consumers are still not aware of the full diversity of Spain's new cutting edge styles. That's going to change as higher scores start rolling in. The fact that Spain produces something for everyone is another asset.
Some of the Spain's largest, most successful producers specialize in sparkling wine. Clay Daum, export manager of Cordorniu, told me, "Customers take our inexpensive cavas for granted; it's not that we can't produce great bubblies to challenge the French classics, it's just that many are not willing to pay the price. Making matters worse, we are in short supply and sell everything we have."
Of course, Spain's standard-bearer is Torres, whose estate wines have achieved new levels of greatness. Three recent Vintages highlights include the thrifty Miguel Torres 2006 Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc (177444) at $12.85; the phenomenal Mas Borras 2004 Pinot Noir at only $ 25.95 (gone); and the sublime Mas La Plana 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon (formerly discounted at $59.95/magnum and now gone).
One of Spain's most dynamic red producers is Alvaro Palacios and the recommended Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses 2004 (977843) was at Vintages last month at $38.95 (a few bottles remain at $38.65). Organic fans will be able to taste his exceptional 2005 Finca Dofi Priorat, along with two never-seen-in-Ontario-before reds: Descendientes 2005 Palacios Corullon and Descendientes 2005 Las Lamas 2005 from Bierzo, at the upcoming Return To Terroir International Tour (featuring 50 biodynamic/organic wineries) on Saturday, February 9th at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. For event details click here Tickets are priced at $59.95 per person, but FBTI Supporters can register today at $39.95 click here
A tasting highlight last year was the stunning 1987 Vega-Sicilia "Unico" Reserva from Spain's famous Ribera del Duero region. It was purchased in 2003 at the SAQ for $319, and while it isn't available here, you will not go wrong investing in the same winery's Alion Cosecha 2003 (707166) at $69.40, which has wonderful, rich, plums and ripe cherry-cassis fruit.
Of course, the fortified wines of Jerez may well be Spain's greatest bargain - from aperitif to lush dessert wines. The just-released Osborne Pedro Ximinez 1827 Sweet Sherry (47944) at $17.80 is a steal - seductively sweet and fleshy with raisin pie and lingering, caramel flavours.
With over 4,000 exhibitors, Alimentaria
2008 (March 14-18) is the world's largest Spanish food
& wine expo. Taking place every second year in Barcelona, it draws
150,000+ visitors. For information click here
- 2007 Tasting Note Database
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