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For the love of the Irish
A Greek wine for St. Patrick's Day

© Michael Vaughan 2007
National Post Weekly Wine & Spirits Columnist
Saturday, March 17, 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).

Today's Vintages release focus features 22 Merlots, which St. Patrick's Day fans will find extremely hard to dye green. Better stick to green beer - although changing the colour of Guinness must be challenging. While new brews sporadically appear at the LCBO, the decision by Vintages to kick beer off its hallowed shelves a few years ago has made it harder than ever to get customers to look at new brews seriously.

Today's best buy Merlot is a big surprise because it comes from northwestern Greece, a place not known for this variety. The gold medal winning well-structured Kir-Yianni 2003 Merlot (24414) is a great buy at $19.95. Very deep intense purple in colour, it has complex, spicy, plummy, cedar-sandalwood flavours with some pomegranate notes. Forget Greek cuisine, this classy, ready-to-enjoy red deserves the best Irish beef money can buy.

Designated as a Vin de Pays d'Imathia, this Kir-Yianni comes from central Macedonia. Visionary Yiannis Boutari who purchased a 45-hc estate in Yianakahori, the highest point of the Naoussa appellation, in the1960's. His father, owner of Boutari wine group was originally unaware of his son's purchase and was furious. He reportedly said "Boutaris are wine producers; what the hell do they have to do with vine-growing?" In 1997 Yannis took personal control of Kir-Yianni, severing his relationship with the massive Boutari conglomerate. He and his sons now produce some of the most prestigious wines in Greece.

Better and certainly pricier is the excellent 2003 Château Franc-Maillet (24448) at $43.95. This Pomerol blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc has a very deep intense purple colour and attractive, complex, slightly earthy, extracty, plummy, red licorice flavours with a lingering finish. Drinkable today, it will be better in a year or three.

In terms of flavour, it is hard to beat the juicy, mouth filling Gerard Bertrand 2004 Terroir Syrah/Carignan (952804), a bargain at $15.95. This Minervois from the south of France has terrific, bold, ripe plum and juicy red cherry flavours with a lingering, sandalwood finish. It's ready to enjoy, especially with BBQ ribs.

Great reds from the Rhone are usually pricey, but today's release has a real gem: Paul Jaboulet 2004 Saint-Joseph Le Grand Pompée (989277). At $28.95, it rarely gets better than this, as long as you love extarcty, slightly smoky, rich, plum-cherry-licorice flavours that go on and on. It's ready to drink and more exciting than the pricier ($54.95) Chateau La Nerthe 2004 Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, which seems a little light in structure.

Moving on to today's whites, if you have only one white to buy, it should be La Vis Ritratti 2005 Pinot Grigio (20958) at $18.95. From Italy's Trentino, it's dry and very bright with delicious ripe pear flavours and tangy, grapefruit notes on the lingering finish. This absolutely delicious, versatile, crowd pleaser will go with anything.

Also in release today is South Africa's Bellingham Maverick 2005 Chenin Blanc (12724), which has jumped from $19.95 to $20.95 since recommended in January. Deep yellow in colour, it has complex, honeyed, ripe melon-lemon-pineapple flavours with a lingering finish. Great with spicy curry dishes.

For Irish whiskey, all three recent new Cooley releases run counter to the traditional "peat-free" notion. For my taste, the best values are the smoky Connemara Peated Single Malt (27946) at $66.95 (700 ml), which is a bit bigger than the mellow, honeyed Greenore 8-Year-Old Single Grain (27953) at $58.95. If you don't like smoke, there always Jameson Irish Whiskey (10157) at $27.15 with a $2 LTO on the general list. To explore the joys of Irish whiskey click here.

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