Testing the LCBO’s Customer Favourites – Part 2

Hello fellow wine lovers!

As you will recall, a few weeks ago I blogged about an LCBO article listing its 2015 Customer Favourites. I ran out and bought 3 of the 4 most-bought wines to see what all the fuss was about. In the blog post I reviewed the Beronia Tempranillo, and last weekend I brought the 2 remaining customer favourites to dinner at my sister-in-law’s place. All in all, I think Ontario and I have different tastes, but I can see the appeal of both the wines I tried.

Let’s break it down!

Open Smooth White VQA (Ontario)

Open Smooth White

Pale-medium yellow, with a very strong aroma including citrus, floral aspects, a bit of tropical fruit and lot of plastic/vinyl, that telltale characteristic of a riesling (in this case blended with vidal). Nice round, lush body. More peachy notes on the palate, as well as lemon, and still that riesling vinyl taste. I found this wine opened up a lot more as it warmed up a bit (our bottle had been left in the car overnight and so was extremely chilled when we first opened it). An easy-drinking wine on its own or with appetizers like paté and crackers.

I probably wouldn’t buy it again, but it’s $11.95 and an extra dollar off until the end of the month, so if you’re thinking of trying it, go get a bottle soon!


 

Ok, so after trying the Open and the Beronia, I’m starting to think that I may actually be a wine snob since that’s two strikes for me against the good wine-buying people of Ontario. I had heard good things about the next one so my fingers were crossed that I would like it!

The Wanted Zin 2014 (Puglia, Italy)

Wanted Zin

Intense ruby red, lots of dark cherry, dark fruit, raisin and plum on the nose. Smells delicious. On the palate, more of the same: black cherry, clove, sweet spice, vanilla and lots of dried fruit. Medium body, fairly low on tannins. Old World meets New World in this American-style Italian primitivo. Primitivo and zinfandel are genetically the same grape. And with zinfandel gaining popularity, this Italian wine probably wanted to benefit from that, so has been made in a similar style to the California zinfandels, likely specifically for sale on this side of the pond.

This one was ok! Actually, it was perfect for the pulled pork we were eating, and would work with anything smoked or grilled. Out of the 3 customer favourites I tried, this one I might buy again. It’s a pretty good price ($13.95, $1 off until the end of January) and is cheaper than my go-to zinfandel (Ravenswood). So I will keep this one in my back pocket for the next bbq I go to. And although that will likely not be for a while, the days are getting longer, folks, so that in itself is something to raise a glass to!



 

Beronia Rioja Reserva 2010 (Spain)

Beronia Reserva

As I mentioned, last week I tried the Beronia Tempranillo, which was one of the 2015 LCBO Customer Favourites, but not necessarily one of mine. However, I also picked up the above rioja by the same producer. This one is a blend of tempranillo, graciano and mazuelo grapes. The “reserva” indicates that it has been aged in a barrel for at least a year (if you’re a wine nerd like me, you’ll want to check out the diagram below for more info on rioja classifications). According to the bottle, this wine spent 18+ months on oak, then was aged for 20 months in the bottle.

 

rioja-wine-classifications1

Awesome rioja classification diagram by winefolly.com

I much preferred this one to last week’s experimental tempranillo. It was dark ruby red, bordering on opaque. On the nose, aromatic black cherry and other dark fruit, as well as tobacco, cedar and sweet spice. At first sip, holy tannins! Let this one breathe for at least an hour. It is very grippy with equally high acidity, for a simultaneous drying yet mouthwatering sensation (how is that even possible?). This full-bodied red boasts red cherry and berries, clove, herbs, cedar and some minerality on the palate. I quite enjoyed drinking this rioja with (yet another) beef stew, but think it would go very nicely with any grilled red meat. It could also stand to be aged for a few more years, which would help take that tannin-y edge off and bring out more of the fruit.

Unlike the customer favourites, this wine is in the $15+ category, coming in at $19.95, with no special discount (alas). However, I am adding it to my list of wines to drink with steak! Also, you will notice that in the diagram, it says reserva riojas are generally $25+, so this one is a steal!

I am still on the lookout for the fourth LCBO customer favourite, the Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz, but it looks like the last bottles left are in Deep River and Timmins. And I love wine, but you have to draw the line somewhere.


 

Have you tried any of the LCBO Customer Favourites? What did you think? Are your wine tastes in line with the rest of Ontario’s?

Happy wining, friends!

Testing the LCBO’s Customer Favourites – Part 1

Happy New Year fellow wine lovers!

I hope 2016 is treating you well thus far. Have you tasted any good wines lately? I’m always looking for new wines to try, so please share in the comments!

Speaking of new wines, as I was doing some Facebook stalking perusing the other day, I came across an ad for the LCBO’s Customer Favourites of 2015.

Faves captureIntrigued, I clicked on it, hoping that Ontario’s tastes would be in line with my own. According to the LCBO, here are the supposed fan favourites:

I was shocked to see that I had never had any of the chosen wines. Not a single one! Was I missing out? Did the rest of Ontario know something I didn’t?? Obviously, I had to find out. Luckily, my local LCBO had 3 out of 4. I am still on the look-out for the shiraz, which is dwindling rapidly here in Ottawa.

Last night, I opened the Beronia Rioja, and here are my notes:

Beronia

Colour: Deep ruby red

Aromas: Yummy: Black cherry, tobacco, chocolate, strawberry

Palate: Fairly fruit forward: tart cherry, strawberry at the outset, evolving into vanilla, liquorice (Google disapproves of my Canadian spelling, btw) and cedar.

Structure: Medium-bodied, medium tannins and high mouthwatering acidity – the perfect structure for food!

We paired this rioja with a hearty beef stew, and it was a hit! When a red wine has light–medium tannins and high acidity, it often pairs well with most foods, and this wine was no exception.

Conclusion: I think Ontario bought this in such large numbers precisely because it is such a food-friendly wine. On its own, the wine is so-so, but it goes really nicely with a wintery beef roast or stew. Also, is it just me or is there an aura of mystery surrounding Spanish wines? I feel like they tend to be lesser known wines that are often surprising in terms of their price-quality ratio. That said, I’m not sure I would buy this one again. But don’t take my word for it; that is simply a reflection of my personal preferences. Remember: wine tasting is an incredibly subjective venture, so I would encourage you to try this wine for yourself to see if you like it. Plus, it is $2 off until January 31, so at $13.95, now is the time!

Post-conclusion thoughts: I was asking myself why the category for this wine was “Most Surprising Twist”. The description in the article explains “This unusually barrel-fermented Tempranillo from Spain began as an experiment and turned into a commercial hit”. Is that it then? Was the surprising twist that it ended up selling so well? I think they need to hire better category creators.

Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll be reviewing more so-called customer faves soon!

 

P.S. I also bought a bottle of the Beronia Rioja Reserva, which I think is this winemaker’s standard rioja (not the experimental version). I’ll let you know how it is!

White wine recommendations – from California to New Zealand

Hello fellow wine-lovers!

It’s been a while! The three of you who read this blog must be wondering what to drink this week. This week’s post will be focusing on white wines, so if white is your wine of choice, read on! If red is your preferred quaff, read on anyway and try something new this week! I have two excellent wines to recommend, for any budget!

  1. Big House WhiteBig House

A medium-bodied blend that is fairly complex considering it is an under-$10 bottle of wine. It’s rich and bright, all at the same time. At first, apricot and pineapple, which evolves into a refreshing and zippy citrus on the finish (due to a stainless steel fermentation). I always thought it was mainly a chardonnay-based blend, however it’s made of malvoisie, muscat and viognier, all lesser-known grape varieties. I had to look up the first one, since I was unsure what it was. According to wine expert Jancis Robinson:

A wide range of often unrelated varieties are called Malvoisie although most are light-berried and make full-bodied, aromatic white wines. Perhaps it is most commonly encountered, in the Loire, Savoie and Switzerland, as a synonym for Pinot Gris. The Languedoc’s Bourboulenc and Maccabéo, Roussillon’s Tourbat and Corsica’s Vermentino have all been called Malvoisie in their time, however.

Well that’s a bit confusing, though the “full-bodied, aromatic” bit explains why I always thought it was chardonnay.

The best part of this wine is the price. Recently discontinued at the LCBO, it is now available, while quantities last, for only $7.95. I know you’re probably already halfway out the door, but if you are in the National Capital Region, I must warn you that you’re probably out of luck. I already went on a wild goose chase trying to scoop up the last bottles, and only managed to snag three. Those of you in the GTA will have better luck. That said, Ottawans, don’t despair. You’ll be happy to hear that the Big House is available at the SAQ, though the price is double the discontinued LCBO price. Plus, if the 750 mL format is not enough for you, there is a 3L box available. Perhaps something to keep in mind for your next Christmas dinner…

2. Auntsfield Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20.95)


When my husband doesn’t know what to get me for my birthday, he buys me wine. He knows that the way into a wine snob’s heart is through her palate. This bottle was part of my lovely birthday present this year. New Zealand sauvignon blancs are very popular in our household. I’ve already mentioned our love of Kim Crawford (both the unoaked chardonnay and pinot noir), and the sauvignon blanc was probably the wine that started my snobbery in the first place. Both the Kim Crawford and the Auntsfield are from the Marlborough region in New Zealand.

Let’s take a minute to talk about “terroir”. These are the geographical, environmental and climatic elements that allow the same grape grown in two different places to make two completely distinct wines. We’re talking about soil types, hours of sun in a day, amount of precipitation, type of terrain, etc. Marlborough sauvignon blancs tend to be very distinct in relation to their counterparts from other countries. And this Auntsfield serves as an excellent benchmark.

Auntsfield Tasting Note

Nose: Very grassy and fresh, with tropical fruit aromas like passion fruit. Essence of pear, and some minerality. Also, the smell is irresistible. I just wanted to keep smelling it.

Flavour: Similar to the nose, so again, very grassy, with tropical fruit, this time, more pineapple than passion fruit. Lemon. Asparagus flavours or canned peas, pear with a hint of white flower.

Body: Light-bodied. So acidic it almost feels effervescent at first sip.

Finish: Fairly long citrus finish considering the acidity, which would normally eliminate the flavours on the palate fairly quickly.

Food pairing: White fish, seafood, buttery/creamy pasta.

This is all very typical of a Marlbourough sauv blanc. These wines are often identifiable just by their aroma, which is very addictive for me. If the asparagus or grassy flavours sound unappealing, rest assured that the tropical fruit and citrus flavours balance them out nicely. Just trust me on this one and try it. You’ll be hooked at first smell.

[On a side note, the above is an example of my tasting note, in case you are interested. Tasting notes vary from person to person, but these are the main elements to take note of when tasting a wine. The food pairing is a bonus.]
Lastly, as a parting gift for those of you who, like us, have a ton of leftover Halloween candy today, here is a helpful chart from Vivino:

Happy wining!