British Columbia Critics’ Picks March 2016
Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics – wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution. All are currently available for sale in BC. The Agent or Winery name is provided on the details page, if you need help finding a wine near you.
March may have roared in like a lion, but with cherry blossoms in full bloom on the coast and on the verge of bud burst in Okanagan vineyards, she’s leaving like an Easter lamb (sorry). We’re getting our first look at the new spring releases this month, so watch for those to fill this space in the coming weeks. In the meantime, it seems we’re collectively and actively seeking out exciting frontier regions and interesting grapes from around the globe. Much like spring itself, we’re always growing.
Cheers ~ TR
Yes, it’s spring, but I’m not quite ready to leave the realm of meaty, complex, layered big reds behind – just yet (wait for BC spot prawn season). Especially when they’re as exciting, electric and mineral-laden as Clos des Fous 2011 Grillos Cantores Alto Cachapoal Cabernet Sauvignon. An extreme in viticulture, organic and biodynamic farming and non-interventionist winemaking and it doesn’t get much better. Clos des Fous is the New Chile with old-vine heritage varieties (including malbec, pais, carignan, and cinsault).
Sella & Mosca 2010 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva is a regular favourite on our local market, but it never fails to impress. In the 2010, expect that special Mediterranean warmth and even more plummy/raspberry cherry fruit aromas and flavours. The palate is balanced with a juicy, dry, fruity, savoury, cherry flavour throughout.
And if you want to really go all out with that easter lamb, decant a bottle of the Don Melchor 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Vineyard from the Maipo Valley. Expect a fragrant, stylish cabernet with bits of savoury cassis flavours flecked with pepper and vanilla. The plate is juicy, with fresh, well balanced acidity. If you don’t crack now, this will easily keep a decade in your cellar.
Rhys Pender MW
Kenji Hodgson left his life as a wine writer in Vancouver to head to the Loire Valley to make wine. Along with his wife Mai they are now making beautiful, interesting, slightly funky but absolutely delicious natural wines. Until recently, you were more likely to find their wines in trendy wine bars in Paris, where they have a good following, but now there is a small amount of the 2014 Galarneau (Cabernet Franc) and Faia (Chenin Blanc) available at private stores in BC. The Galarneau is beautifully aromatic, juicy and complex with some gamey and meaty notes along with bright floral and red fruit freshness. Very moreish.
Tignanello is always a wine worth a bit of a splurge for a couple of bottles for the cellar. It is not cheap but the price hasn’t gone off the charts like so many of the worlds other top wines. The 2011 is a great youthful combination of savoury complexity and great fruit intensity that should age well for a decade or two.
Barolo rarely fails to impress if you like wines that combine power with a complex mix of savoury, spice, earth and minerality and that finish firm and grippy, perfectly standing up to roasted meats. It is also a great one for the cellar, giving decades of ageing potential. An example that will not disappoint is the Paolo Conterno 2007 Ginestra Barolo.
Outlier is the common fabric for my wines this month… three wines that share a rich tapestry of individuality and out-there-ness. I truly love wines like these as they stretch one’s notion of what wine is, and send the tastebuds in weird and wonderful directions.
The first is a raw and wild chenin blanc from Kenji and Mai Hodgson who packed up from Vancouver in 2009, only to unpack in a tiny village near Angers and get down to the business of making micro-batches of old vine chenin, cab franc and grolleau as naturally as possible. From Faia 2014’s heraldic label to the bone-dry, tangy and mineral-driven flavours, it’s a genius fusion of grape and ground.
Just as intellectual is Tibor Gal’s 9-grape blend from Eger, an ultra-traditional Hungarian wine region famed for red blends. Egri Csillag 2013 unites indigenous grapes with a few internationals to great effect, and its appeal is very broad as a result. I highly recommend the pinot and red bikaver as well.
I’ve not yet tasted all of the Turkish wines that are nipping to market these days, but I like Suvla Kabatepe 2013 Red blend for its enthusiastic forward fruit and clean lines. There’s obvious skill and ambition behind Suvla Vineyards and I’ve tasted a great rosé and marsanne/roussanne blend in the past. My research revealed that their vineyards are not far from the moving ANZAC Memorial, and the climate is a fusion of Bordeaux, Rhone and Napa. With over 600,000 hectares of grapes in Turkey, and over 60 varieties, the future could be exciting.
Less is more. Twenty-five year old arneis vines go into the Vietti Roero 2013 Arneis, see no MLF and are put into stainless steel. The result is a pure, fresh expression of herbal meadow flowers, wild herbs, potent honeysuckle, apple, bitter almonds and walnuts and mineral salts. Lovely concentration, with a watery wash mid-palate and brisk acidity throughout to the lingering finish. Pairs beautifully with simple dishes with some herbal heft – think brown butter and sage pasta.
The new Bartier Bros 2014 Semillon continues to show how striking and impressive this grape can be in the Okanagan. From Oliver’s Cerquiera Vineyard, laced with granite cobbles coated with calcium carbonate, this sem is fermented with wild yeast and partially in concrete, releasing intense and striking medicinal herb-laced yellow fruit, green fig, apricot fuzz, subtle elderflower, thorny desert bush and mineral salts. Though lean and narrow, with lively, almost prickly acidity, the concentrated, oily white brings a textured generosity to the palate which is highly alluring. Drinking lovely now in youth, but will last 10+ years.
Txakoli is classic in the pintxos bars of San Sebastien and the Basque region, and classically (brilliantly) poured from above (at least 5 inches) into the glass to allow the wine some air, some bubbles and a lot of show. The deliciously authentic Bodegas Gurrutxaga 2013 Txakoli is a light and brisk blend of predominantly hondarrabi zuri, with a touch of hondarrabi beltza, folle blanche, petit corbou, and cabernet franc. Saline and astutely ringing of the sea, making the mouth water for savoury bites – and another cold glass. At a refreshing 11 percent alcohol and this much seriously gulpable fun, why not?
WineAlign in BC
In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential critic.
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