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May. 12 - Paradoxical Portugal ~ Old World Grapes with New World Appeal

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Apr. 28 - Toasting Mom with France’s Finest

Apr. 21 - Prime Time for California

Apr. 14 - Victims of Vintages

Apr. 7 - Delicious Ciders that won't break the Easter bank

Mar. 31 - Racy Rieslings ~ Perfect Springtime Sippers

Mar. 24 - Quest for the Best of Portable Potables ~ The Battle of the Boxes

Mar. 17 - For the love of the Irish ~ A Greek wine for St. Patrick's Day

Mar. 10 - VDN to the rescue ~ Sublime sweet bargains from southwestern France

Mar. 3 - Canada's greatest pinot noir? ~ If you can’t find the best, try LCJ’s less expensive bargains

Feb. 24 - Cuvée 2007 ~ Ontario winemakers whoop it up

Feb. 17 - Pinot Noir Madness III ~ New Zealand takes another step forward

Feb. 10 - Burgundy Comes to Town ~ Despite Limited Vintages Buys ~ The Good News is Virtual Buying

Feb. 3 - Great Values South of the Equator ~ Both in Vintages & on the General List

Jan. 27 - Napa a go-go ~ Wine Parties vs. Tastings

Jan. 20 - Winemaker Niel Groenewald ~ Pushing the South African Envelope

Jan. 13 - Montreal Passion Vin ~ Delivering Excellence on Every Level

Jan. 6 - Off-the Beaten-Path Wines ~ Hard to Find in Today's Vintages Release

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VDN to the rescue
Sublime sweet bargains from southwestern France
© Michael Vaughan 2007
National Post Weekly Wine & Spirits Columnist
Saturday, March 10, 2007

To see this article as it appears in the National Post click here 

All listings are automatically linked to the LCBO database
If there is a product that interests you, just click on the name below and you will instantaneously connected with the LCBO database. The product will appear in blue and all you have to do is click on the name again and then the next screen will provide details along with the store search. Just click on store search. The number of bottles in each store is updated nightly. Call the store first to see if stock still remains (each store phone number is listed).

It was a challenging week. First, I got stuck in an ugly Lakeshore traffic jam hoping to avoid any chunks of ice tumbling down from the CN Tower. What took five minutes became an hour. This combined with the icy cold temperature and soaring gas prices, brought me to a new level of grumpiness. Walking in the door, exhausted with still a column to write, I looked for a pick-me-up. I searched through my "to taste box" looking for something to sooth my frayed nerves but nothing seemed to appeal.

And then I remember a splendid sweetie I brought back from Vinoble, the world's definitive sweet wine conference in Jerez, Spain. It was here where I was seduced by some delicious dessert wines from the Roussillon region in southwest France near the Spanish border. To be precise, it was a stunningly delicious, vintage-dated, vin doux naturel (aka VDN) from vineyards adjacent to the town of Rivesaltes. I fell in love the first time my lips touched 1930 Cuvée Salamo-Noell. Produced by the venerable house of Domaine Puig-Parahy, I luckily managed to purchase a half-bottle at 100+ euros wholesale.

Finding the bottle was another matter. While searching, I came across something more practical and thankfully still available: Vignerons Catalan 1974 Rivesaltes Ambré Hors d'Age (23549). This golden red amber coloured elixir has a lovely, sweet, complex, caramel-plum nose and delicious, sweet but balanced, caramel driven, plum-cherry purée flavours. It's amazing to think that you can still buy a dessert wine that was produced 33-years-ago for a mere $22.05 per 500 ml bottle. Anybody born in 1974 should track down as many bottles as possible, because it will keep for many years.

Even more incredible is that as of earlier this week, it was still available in 72 LCBO stores. I am not talking about the shelves in Vintages, but the run-of-the-mill outlets as a general list item. And that's why this end-of-January release is still available. Obviously, it isn't the kind of wine that Yellowtail fans are going to jump on without some prompting. Despite excellent in-store presentation at some stores (where seven new VDN wines are presented together), customers need on-site guidance. The absence of any point-of-sale handouts or Vintages-styled product information has hurt sales.

If you look this wine up on the LCBO Web site you see in bold capital red letters PRODUCT DISCONTINUED. You are then informed: "This product has been discontinued. Limited quantities are available for purchase in select stores only and cannot be transferred to other locations."

In fact, to get attention the LCBO placed a "one-time order" for seven different sweet VDN. Bravo! But why not use the correct description "one time order" on the Web site? The word "discontinued" can scare customers, especially licensees, away. Also why not transfer these wines to downtown Toronto stores where they are needed desperately.

Many are surprised to discover that these sweet wines are made by the addition of alcohol to the fermenting must (a process called mutage), which stops the conversion of sugar into alcohol, thereby leaving residual sweetness. For over 800 years Roussillon has been the world center of VDN wines (400 years before the first Port was produced using the similar techniques).

Anyone with a sweet tooth will also enjoy some of the other wines still available. Don't miss the light yellow coloured Bagatelle 2005 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois (29967) at $17.95 (500 ml), a tasty Springtime sipper with 15% alcohol. Based on the fragrant, premium Muscat de Petits Grains, it has a very fragrant, honeyed, rose petal, Anjou pear nose with sweet but well balanced, gently honeyed, ripe, tangerine-lychee flavours with tropical fruit hints. For a guide to the sweet wines of Roussillon click here.

Other wines to watch out for include Croix-Milhas Rivesaltes Ambré (27581) a best buy at $10.45 (500 ml). Golden amber colour, it has a gently honeyed, slightly spicy, sweet, warm caramel nose with fine, well-structured, sweet caramel and ripe plum purée flavours. Perfect chilled as an aperitif or at room temp as a dessert wine.

Complete List of all VDN wines currently available:

Vignerons Catalan 1974 Rivesaltes Ambré Hors d'Age  (23549 • $22.05)

Bagatelle 2005 Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois  (29967 • $17.95)

Croix-Milhas Rivesaltes Ambré  (27581 • $10.45)

Jean-Paul Henriques Banyuls  (26922 • $14.05)

Croix-Milhas Banyuls 4 ans d’âge  (22814 • $12.55)

Cornet & Cie 2005 Banyuls Rimage  (27599 • $19.55)

Croix-Milhas Maury Muté sur Grains  (22822 • $11.05)


2001 - 2007 Tasting Note Database
Our tasting note database from December 31, 2000 to February 2007, covers every Vintages release product for the past 74 months. There are more than 15,000 notes in the database data. Just enter the name of the product, supplier name or CSPC number. Or you can search by type of wine, country of origin, even wine agent! Nothing could be easier. Also you can get information on the agent by clicking on the agent’s name, as well as current LCBO store inventory by clicking on "Check LCBO Availability", which will automatically tell you the number of bottles at LCBO as of last night.

To use our Tasting Notes Database: click here

** For All Visitors **
Vintages Releases
To see the complete list of upcoming products from the
March 17 release, including In-Store Discovery items,
click here (sorted by date of release).
You can also see it sorted by agent click here

To see the complete list of upcoming products from the
March 31 release, including In-Store Discovery items,
click here (sorted by date of release).
You can also see it sorted by agent click here

To see the complete list of upcoming products from the
April 14 release, including In-Store Discovery items,
click here (sorted by date of release).
You can also see it sorted by agent click here

To see the complete list of upcoming products from the
April 28 release, including In-Store Discovery items,
click here (sorted by date of release).
You can also see it sorted by agent click here

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