Three Great Reds from France; Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – June 2012

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Thirty years or more ago, if you wanted great wine, then it was to the shelves of French wine that you went. France was pre-eminent in the world of wine, so it was the native French grapes, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, etc. that were selected by New World wineries for their new vineyards. Since then we have witnessed the steady decline of a French wine industry, that has been slow to respond to new competition from every other wine making region. However it seems that they have woken up and are now rising to the challenge. Three French reds caught my eye this month for offering value with modern styling added to old world class. They are all at the LCBO and all are great value, as is every wine on my Top 50 Value Wines list.

There are nine wines that are new to the list since last month. Read past the next three reds to find more bargains and then continue to hear about the renaissance of French wine and to discover how the Top 50 is systematically selected.

Curious Fruit Carignan Grenache 2009Rigal Les Terrasses MalbecVidal Fleury 2009, Cotes Du RhoneThree Great Value French Reds

Vidal Fleury 2009, Cotes Du Rhone, France $14.60

An elegant soft fresh Cotes du Rhone with a very appealing nose of blackberry fruit with tobacco, fig and floral complexity. It is mid-weight and very smooth with some finely divided tannin giving nice mouth-feel. Well balanced with very good length. It will develop more complexity with a year or two in the cellar. Best 2013 to 2016. Try with roast meats or brie cheese.

Rigal Les Terrasses Malbec 2009, Cahors, France $12.95

A modern styled malbec from its ancestral home in Cahors. Expect aromas of blackberry, with cassis jam and floral notes with a hint of oak spice. It is medium bodied well-structured with lovely mouth-watering fresh acidity and soft tannin. There is a degree of elegance and it is very well balanced with the fruit persisting well on the finish. Very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2011 to 2014.

Curious Fruit Carignan Grenache 2009, Vin De France $9.95

A nice well balanced red for a great price. Expect mild aromas of blackcurrant jello with some oak spice tones. It is mid-weight with good depth of flavour. Well balanced with fine tannin and nice vibrant acidity. Very good length. Try with grilled lamb cutlets. Best 2012 to 2016.

June Top 50 Values List

There are about 1,500 wines listed at the LCBO that are always available, plus another 100 or so Vintages’ Essentials. At WineAlign I maintain a list of the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines selected by price and value – in other words, the best least expensive wines. The selection process is explained in more detail below, but I review the list every month to include newly listed wines and monitor the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

New to the Top 50

Less than $17

Montecillo Reserva 2006, Rioja, Spain $16.45 (was $18.45)

The 2006 is a classic vintage for Rioja reserva from Montecillo with its sexy blue label. It shows fine lifted aromas of raspberry and cherry fruit with sandalwood spice, and hints of mocha and prune. The palate is mid-weight finely balanced with very good length. Try with roast lamb. Best 2012 to 2016. On sale until June 24th.

Montecillo Reserva 2006

Pierre Andre Bourgogne Pinot Noir Reserve Vielles Vignes 2009Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2010Less than $14

Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2010, Mendoza, Argentina $13.95

A malbec from Argentina with Italian styling from the Verona house of Masi. Its vibrant acidity and structure are not typical of Argentine malbec at this price; so don’t expect gobs of soft jammy fruit. It is mid-weight with velvety fruit and mild tannin. Still very youthful, the nose is quite tight so give it plenty of air in the glass, better still decant for an hour to give it a chance to open up. Expect aromas of blackberry and prune fruit with cedar, smoke, grapefruit and mushroom notes. It is juicy with a solid structure from firm yet smooth tannin. Good to very good length. Best 2012 to 2015. Try with roast beef.

Pierre Andre Bourgogne Pinot Noir Reserve Vielles Vignes 2009, Burgundy, France $13.05

A well priced fresh clean red Burgundy with all the classic lines one should expect and for which you usually have to pay a lot more. Expect aromas of raspberry, plum and red cherry fruit with some forest floor accents and a hint of pine. The palate is mid-weight and juicy with soft tannin and vibrant acidity. Very good length. Try with roast lamb.

Nederburg Shiraz 2010Xanadu Next Of Kin Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009Nederburg Shiraz 2010, Western Cape, South Africa $11.45

This is such excellent value for a structured and very drinkable shiraz. Expect intense aromas of black cherry fruit with black pepper, mild oak spice and plum jam. It is full bodied yet feels fresh and light on the palate due to the minerality and a seam of lemony acidity. Very good length. Try with a steak. Best 2012 to 2015.

Xanadu Next Of Kin Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009, Margaret River, Australia $11.95 (was $14.95)

A delicate soft white with great varietal characteristics. Expect aromas of hay, lemon, and gooseberry fruit with a touch of sweet herbs and mild spice. It is very creamy with a long fresh finish. Try with sautéed seafood. It has unfortunately been discontinued by LCBO; hence the sale price. Almost 1200 bottles remain in stores, so grab a few before it is all gone.

Less than $9

Emu Amontillado Medium Dry Sherry, Australia $8.95

A delightful light slightly sweet sherry with aromas of candied orange peel, honeysuckle and baked apricot. It is lightweight with good acidity and finishes dry so would work well with cold creamy sweet red pepper and tomato soup, or enjoy well chilled on its own or with biscotti while watching TV. I tried it with Chinese sweet and sour pork and it was just perfect. Very good length.

Emu Amontillado Medium Dry Sherry

K W V Chenin Blanc Chardonnay 2011, Western Cape, South Africa $6.75

A lot of wine here for the money with lifted apple citrus aromas and a very flavourful palate. Expect a mid-weight vibrant palate with a nose of lemon melon and fresh cur grass. Good length. Try with mildly flavoured chicken or veal.

Cono Sur Tocornal Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2011, Chile (1500ml) $14.45

The 2011 is another good vintage for this great value red blend. The harmonious nose shows ripe black cherry and plum fruit with tobacco, raspberry jam and smoky complexity. It is mid-weight very juicy with the fruit nicely balanced. Good length and focus. Try with roast meats or mature cheese. Best 2012 to 2015.

Farnese Daunia Sangiovese 2010, Abruzzo, Italy $7.50

This is a fruity clean and a great buy to enjoy with everyday meals. The nose shows mild black and red berry fruit with a spicy note and some earthy complexity. It is medium to full bodied fairly simple on the palate with the balanced ripe fruit flowing though to the finish. Very good length with a dry finish. Best 2011 to 2013.

K W V Chenin Blanc Chardonnay 2011Cono Sur Tocornal Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2011Farnese Daunia Sangiovese 2010

Renaissance in French wine?

There are four wines from France in the Top50 this month; which is four more than were on that list a year ago. In the Top 50, as elsewhere there is a gradual resurgence of wines from France. French wines went out of fashion because we found we could buy the same grape varieties from elsewhere for less money and moreover the replacements were cleaner and fresher. Today’s wine drinkers don’t appreciate unclean, dull, lifeless wines with hidden fruit, no matter how great a reputation the appellation claims. We have become used to fruit forward clean wines. After many years, seemingly with their heads buried in the sand, French winemakers have started to respond by making better wines for less money.

Those 1.5L big bottles of non-vintage soulless blends are gradually being replaced by varietally labelled, vintage dated pure, fresh, clean, lively wines that are easy to drink. Moreover wines from the traditional French appellations are getting better without losing the class than comes from great vineyard sites and centuries of tradition. We are at the early stages of this renaissance so let’s hope this new fashion for better wine continues while the weak Euro helps keep prices down.

How I Choose the Top 50

I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep the Top 50 list up to date. To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. I use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from all of the wines in the WineAlign database.  Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value.

The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.


Steve Thurlow

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