December 7, 2016 Newsletter

We all send best wishes to you, your family, friends and loved ones for a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season. We also extend fervent hope and prayers for everyone to enjoy a healthy, prosperous 2017 in a world at peace.
Lisa Isabelle, Dave Isaacs, Susan Desjardins, Vic Harradine

Newsletter highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine Exceptional Value! – three of 51 wines meet the strict quality-price guidelines. They’re easily found via the exceptional-value checkmark above—priced from $15.95 to $34.95. Which strict quality-price guidelines? Click here
  • 5-star Wine – only three rang the 5-star bell. Louis Brochet ‘Cuvée HBH - 1er Cru’ Champagne 1996 @ $68.95 found under Champagne; Featherstone ‘Joy - Premium Cuvée’ Sparkling Wine 2012 @ $34.95 found under Sparkling Wine; Featherstone ‘Black Sheep’ Riesling 2015 @ $16.95 found under Ontario: White Wine.
  • Dave’s Delights – Tawse ‘Limestone Ridge - North Estate Bottled’ Riesling 2014 earned 4 ½ stars @ $23.95 under Ontario: White Wine; Dandelion Vineyards ‘Lionheart of the Barossa’ Shiraz 2014 earned 4 ½ stars @ $21.95 under Australia: Red Wine; Château Bertin 2014 earned 4 ½ stars @ $19.95 under France: Red Wine.
  • Vic Picks – Featherstone ‘Joy - Premium Cuvée’ Sparkling Wine 2012 earned 5 stars @ $34.95 found under Sparkling Wine; Ravenswood ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel 2014 earned 4 ½ stars @ $19.95 found under California: Red Wine and Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 earned 4 stars @ $22.95 found under California: Red Wine.

Access the LCBO store nearest you with stock of any wine with an LCBO product number by clicking on the number shown in brackets in wine reviews then clicking on ‘Select Stores’ and entering your postal code—the number of bottles available stock in stores near you is displayed—or by clicking ‘Check all stores’ where you’ll see stock available in all LCBO stores. For Vintages Release wines, stock should be displayed the Friday before a Saturday release, updated every 24 hours, some stores post earlier. LCBO Portfolio wines (not Vintages) should always closely reflect stock in stores, updated every 24 hours. However, it’s always best to phone stores showing stock before you go.

• Dave Isaacs, sommelier and webmaster for winecurrent, attended the latest Vintages tasting contributing a number of reviews for the December 10 Vintages Release below.

Vintages Release; December 10, 2016

The Main Release


***** drink or cellar
Louis Brochet ‘Cuvée HBH - 1er Cru’ Champagne 1996
AOC Champagne $68.95 (385815) 12.0% alcohol
This Champagne delights on many levels. Its 20 years of age pleases the eye showcasing a deep golden hue. It greets the nose with alluring aromas of toasted bread, apple, and peach. There’s creamy texture with notes of apple flavour and just a hint of sweetness that beautifully balances its natural acidity. This is the perfect Champagne to gift to that special someone. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink now
Georges Gardet ‘Cuvée Saint Flavy’ Brut Non-Vintage

AOC Champagne $48.95 (924654) 12.0% alcohol

This has an attractive nose of minerality, floral and heady citrus notes. There’s a lovely attack on the palate with a rush of white grapefruit and green apple flavours infused with spice and mineral nuances. It’s medium in weight and texture and offers a lingering finish that’s zesty and clean. There’s enough oomph for it to be paired with light appetizers and the fair price, as Champagne goes, allow it to be served as the welcoming wine at any upscale gathering—including a special evening for two. (Vic Harradine)

• The owner/winemaker of the following Champagne, Jean-Paul Hébrart, assumed control of this Champagne house from his father at the tender age of 19. They previously sold all fruit to other Champagne houses before deciding to also make their own. The excellent Blanc to Blancs below sources Chardonnay fruit from Oiry, Chouilly (both Grand Cru villages) and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. He’s knowledgeable regarding the different subtleties and flavour nuances present in the different villages and vineyards. That knowledge is exemplified in the balance and elegance of his wines.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Marc Hébrart ‘Blanc de Blancs’ Brut Champagne Non-Vintage

AOC Champagne, 1er Cru à Mareuil-sur-Aÿ $48.95 (231217) 12.0% alcohol 

Blanc de Blancs on a Champagne label indicates 100% Chardonnay. This is clean and crisp with aromas of lemon zest and slate/mineral mingling with floral notes on the nose. It races over the palate with a laser-like streak of lemon curd and Key lime garnished by white grapefruit and a bite of piquant spice. It broadens out a bit on the refreshing finish with green apple and nutty notes joining in. Pour with freshly shucked oysters under a squeeze of fresh lemon and a dash of hot sauce. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

***** drink now Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Featherstone ‘Joy - Premium Cuvée’ Sparkling Wine 2012

VQA Twenty Mile Bench $34.95 (310334) 12.6% alcohol

This is a stunning example of what meticulous vinification technique does to showcase excellent fruit from a top year. This would score well in a flight of world-class sparkling wine. Persistent fine-bead bubbles form an admirable mousse infused with lively aromas of citrus and mineral notes along with hints of baking bread and orange blossom. A refreshing attack of lime and zesty lemon interweaves with ripe pit fruit on the palate persisting through the lengthy aftertaste—clean and refreshing, balanced and beautiful. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Tawse ‘Spark –Limestone Vineyard’ Riesling Sparkling Wine 2014

VQA Twenty Mile Bench $19.95 (370361) 11.5% alcohol

This punches well above the price—it’s newly certified organic/biodynamic, single-vineyard sourced, made in the traditional method of Champagne, vintage dated, simply delicious. Lighter styled and lip-smacking good, it’s the perfect welcoming wine or aperitif. Aromas and flavours of crisp green apple and racy lemon abound. It starts and finishes clean, crisp and refreshing. Pick up a few to have on hand. Versatile, serve on its own or with freshly shucked oysters, ceviche or sushi. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Benjamin Bridge ‘Nova 7’ Sparkling 2014
Nova Scotia $24.95 (256289) 8.0% alcohol
This refreshing, low alcohol sparkler comes from vineyards located near the south-eastern shores of the Bay of Fundy. It's pale peach in colour, with a nose of orange, grapefruit, and citrus peel. It’s off-dry with flavours of peach and apple. A solid foundation of acidity lingers pleasantly in the finish. This is a great party sipper. (Dave Isaacs)

• The following DOCG Franciacorta sparkling wine is unofficially referred to as ‘Italian Champagne’. The regulations are as strict as those in Champagne with the resulting wine slightly different, but not necessarily inferior. Only three grapes allowed here, all three are in the following wine. Designation for dosage mimics that of Champagne. You may find this has similarities to Cava and Champagne, fine-bead mousse, great tension and nerve. You may also find this has enhanced depth, complexity and softer texture. Ca'del Bosco was 2003 Italian Winery of the Year and has earned 22 ‘Tre Bicchieri’—translates to ‘Three Glasses’—from Italy's esteemed wine publication, Gambero Rosso.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Ca’del Bosco ‘Cuvée Prestige’ Franciacorta Brut Multi-vintage

DOCG Franciacorta $39.95 (105353) 12.5% alcohol

Hand-harvested 75% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Blanc, 15% Pinot Noir fruit was vinified ‘Metodo Classico’ with soft handling of grapes and blending with high-quality reserve wines before a secondary fermentation in the bottle you buy. This spent an average of 25 months on its lees gaining depth and complexity. It offers lifted aromas of lemon zest, white peach and biscuit concentrating into mouth-filling flavours of pink grapefruit, red apple, toasted brioche on the palate. It’s well balanced with fine, persistent effervescence and crisp, long finish. (Lisa Isabelle)

Ontario: White Wine

***** drink or cellar Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Featherstone ‘Black Sheep’ Riesling 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula $16.95 (80234) 9.5% alcohol

Always very good, this vintage reaches new plateaus—delicious, incredible value, difficult to spit. Floral, mineral and citrus aromas on the nose, it releases a surge of sweet and tang flavour with lime cordial, lemon curd, crisp apple and ripe white peach coating the palate. There’s persistent purity of fruit, deft balance and bracing acidity in this lip-smacking gem. The finish is monumentally long and refreshing. Give it a go with lightly spiced Asian dishes or pan-seared breaded, calamari rings. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Tawse ‘Limestone Ridge - North Estate Bottled’ Riesling 2014
VQA Twenty-Mile Bench $23.95 (431593) 10.0% alcohol
A wonderful expression of off-dry Riesling, it greets the nose with notes of citrus, sweet apple, and beeswax. Full bodied with lively acidity, there are flavours of apple and orange on the palate and finish. Baked apples and spice lingers nicely on the aftertaste. Enjoy with spicy sautéed shrimp. (Dave Isaacs)

***1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Vineland Estates ‘Elevation - St. Urban Vineyard’ Riesling 2015
VQA Niagara Escarpment $19.95 (38117) 10.0% alcohol
Pale gold in colour with a slight green tinge, this off-dry white wine has a sweet apple nose supported by a mineral base. Full bodied and delicately sweet to taste, there are notes of lemon that carry through to the finish. A very nice wine to accompany a spicy Thai dinner. (Dave Isaacs)

Ontario: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes ‘Estate Bottled’ Cabernet-Merlot 2012

VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $21.95 (222372) 13.0% alcohol 

The price-quality ratio in this balanced, structured, delectable gem skews well in your favour. Dark berry fruit, cedar and mocha aromas portend a gorgeous river of cassis, juicy black cherry and bittersweet chocolate cascading over the palate with firm weight and creamy-smooth texture. It finishes dry, fruity and lip-smacking good—it took willpower to spit. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Estate’ Cabernet/Merlot 2012

VQA Short Hills Bench $24.95 (395855) 14.0% alcohol

The intensely concentrated fruit character of this blend of the Cabs and Merlot showcases fruit from Henry of Pelham’s older vines—with fruit concentration reflected in the lovely, ripe, lifted aromas of forest berries entwined with notes of vanilla, spiced rose and dried herbs. Dry, medium-full bodied, this offers a defined structure and deft balance of firm ripe tannin, clean acidity and well-integrated oak. There’s a rush of flavour across the palate—ripe berry, cherry and plum accented by vanilla notes and spice. The flavourful dry finish is lingering and balanced. It’s a great choice for prime rib and excellent value. (Susan Desjardins)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Tawse Winery ‘Growers Blend’ Pinot Noir 2011 

VQA Niagara Peninsula $25.95 (130989) 13.0% alcohol

Winemaker Paul Pender took the heartbreak grape from a heartbreak vintage and fashioned a top-drawer red—a tip of the hat to Paul. Roasted herbs, cola and black plum aromas announce a nicely balanced, light-medium weight and well-textured river of passion fruit, blueberry and savoury herbs with wisps of strawberry jam. The pristine purity of fruit persists through the savoury-infused, lengthy finish and aftertaste—a thing of beauty. (Vic Harradine)

British Columbia: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Burrowing Owl Meritage 2013
VQA Okanagan Valley $58.95 (343038) 14.0% alcohol
A blend of all five of the major Bordeaux red varieties: 39% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec. Look for aromas of chocolate, moss, dried fruit, and jam. The tannins are well integrated and provide a silky backdrop to flavours of red berries and some toasty oak. The acid carries through to a bright, dry finish. A good accompaniment to roast beef on a cold winter's night. (Dave Isaacs)

California: White Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Cannonball Chardonnay 2014

Sonoma County $23.95 (311563) 13.7% alcohol

Aromas of floral notes, apple and pear abound on this medium-full bodied, fully textured gem. It’s rich, ripe and luscious unleashing a river of full-fruited ambrosia with ripe juicy yellow peach, pear and yellow plum to the fore. The lingering finish dishes up more of the same decorated with tangy citrus and wisps of sweet vanilla. Delicious on its own, it pours well with chicken, pork or veal. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
J. Lohr ‘October Night’ Chardonnay 2014

Arroyo Seco, Monterrey $34.95 (225375) 14.9% alcohol

There’s complexity and freshness to this lovely barrel-fermented, barrel-aged Chardonnay. On the nose you’ll find layered aromas of grilled pineapple, honeysuckle, ripe pear and baked apple, sweet spice and caramel corn. Medium-full bodied and dry, the defined backbone of acidity delivers remarkably fresh texture, balancing the alcohol extending the lengthy rich finish. The wine maintains its nuanced character on the palate, tropical and orchard fruit flavours replaying, entwined with notes of caramel apple, spice and vanilla. Try with butternut squash risotto. (Susan Desjardins)

****1/2 drink or cellar
La Crema Chardonnay 2014
Sonoma Coast $29.95 (962866) 13.5% alcohol
There’s lots going on here with aromas of honeycomb, butterscotch, and apple. This is creamy textured with a strong apple flavour and a good base of acidity that slowly fades into a long, lingering, lemony finish. A great wine to share around the table for your Christmas turkey dinner. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink now
McManis Chardonnay 2015
River Junction $19.95 (265983) 13.5% alcohol
This was cold fermented in stainless steel before being aged in old and new oak barrel. This gives the nose an interesting mineral base that supports notes of oak, apple, and lime. Smooth and full-bodied, the apple and minerality carries through to the taste. The wine then snaps to a lemony finish. Drink this with roasted pork tenderloin and baked apple. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar
Robert Mondavi ‘Fumé Blanc’ 2014
Napa Valley $22.95 (221887) 13.5% alcohol
Predominantly Sauvignon Blanc with a dash of Semillon, the nose is dominated by grassy herbaceous aromas reminiscent of a summertime meadow. It’s medium bodied with flavours of apple and mineral and a finish that’s crisp and refreshing. This is an inspired pairing with pasta in alfredo sauce. (Dave Isaacs)

California: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Francis Ford Coppola ‘Director's Cut’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Alexander Valley $44.95 (61002) 14.5% alcohol
This annual blockbuster has a red berry nose with notes of dry earth and leaves. There’s lots of action on the palate with chewy tannins and flavours of cherry and fruity jam. It's all nicely balanced with tart acidity. Put this one in the cellar until 2020. Or enjoy it today—decanted for three hours—with a thick steak, juicy rare. (Dave Isaacs)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Joel Gott ‘815’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

California $24.95 (444059) 13.9% alcohol

The price-quality ratio here skews in your favour. Premium fruit was sourced from various appellations—Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Lodi, Lake County, Paso Robles and Monterey County. Aromas of roasted herbs, pencil shavings, dark berry fruit and spice introduce a concentrated flow of ripe, dark, briary berry and sweet, black cherry interlaced with espresso roast. It’s full-bodied with good texture and a lingering, balanced and fruit-filled finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Ravenswood ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel 2014

Lodi $19.95 (942599) 14.5% alcohol

Sage and thyme aromas meld with dark berry fruit on the nose of this gorgeous, fruit- and spice-laden Zin. A fully textured wash of crowd-friendly, luscious dark fruit—bramble berry, plum and cherry—garnished with baking and peppery spice coat the palate infusing the balanced, juicy aftertaste. There’s a fine-grained tannin underpinning that’s easily ameliorated with a three-hour aeration/decant. Pour alongside barbecued back ribs mopped with spicy red sauce. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Sonoma County $22.95 (226944) 13.5% alcohol

This opens with a funky nose of earthy notes, tapenade and grilled herb aromas. It spills over the palate with a racy, mouth-watering wash of sour cherry and red currant garnished with spice, vanilla and savory bits. It’s medium bodied with good texture and a substantial finish garnished with good acidity and a lick of tannin—the tannin’s easily ameliorated with a three-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Sonoma County $29.95 (671164) 14.8% alcohol

This is a gorgeous California Cab—full-bodied, full fruited and full of delicious flavour—at a reasonable, even attractive price. An alluring nose of dark black cherry, black plum and exotic spice herald a rich, luscious and concentrated wave of kirsch liqueur, ripe bramble berry and wisps of sweet vanilla. There’s persistent purity of fruit with deft balance and dry, lip-smacking finish. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Z. Alexander Brown ‘Uncaged’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
North Coast $21.95 (478628) 13.5% alcohol
Plummy purple in colour, this medium-weight, California Cab boasts aromas of dried fruit with a musty earthiness. It dishes up smooth, soft tannins and flavours of white chocolate and raspberry on the palate. It’s great as a fireside sipper or with spaghetti and meat sauce. (Dave Isaacs)

Washington: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Columbia Valley $29.95 (280107) 13.5% alcohol
This is dark red in colour with just touch of orange along the edge. There are aromas of plum, strawberry jam, and moist soil. This is full-bodied with plenty of tannin and flavours of plum and dried prunes. The finish is long and fruity. In all, an excellent wine! Ready to drink today with beef and mushroom stew, but a few more years in the cellar will do no harm. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar
Chateau Ste. Michelle 'Columbia Valley' Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 

Columbia Valley $20.95 (269357) 13.5% alcohol

Opaque ruby, this sings of cassis and black raspberry, offering earthy notes, dried herbs and sweet vanilla. Dry, full bodied, the concentrated ripe fruit is underpinned with firm yet fine-grained tannins, while the earthy quality replays, notes of chocolate presenting through the lasting, dry finish. An approachable Cabernet, this offers good value and is a fine match for grilled ribeye steak. (Susan Desjardins)

Argentina: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Terrazas de los Andes ‘Reserva’ Malbec 2013

Mendoza $19.95 (29280) 14.5% alcohol

Purple with flecks of violet, this opaque, full-bodied Malbec has enticing spice floral notes spilling from the glass, exotic spice, dark fruit and a subtle earthy quality. Subtly framed, velvety and potent, there’s a core of plush black fruit and spicy replays along with hints of licorice, pepper and toasted oak. Full bodied, long and dry on the finish, it’s a great match now for grilled meats, but has potential for aging—this offers very good value. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink or cellar
Zuccardi ‘Serie A’ Malbec 2014

Uco Valley, Mendoza $16.95 (167619) 14.0% alcohol

Smoke, toast and savory herb aromas on the nose set the table for a wide swath of ripe fruit flavour with black cherry, dark plum and briary berry to the fore. It’s good value, medium-full bodied with decent texture, a mid-length finish and aftertaste with enough acidity to allow the each sip to be as enjoyable as the previous. (Vic Harradine)

Chile: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Emiliana ‘Coyam’ 2012

Colchagua Valley $29.95 (63891) 14.5% alcohol

Sandalwood, earthy notes and dark berry fruit on the nose, this dishes up a medium-plus bodied, delicious river of boysenberry and black cherry mingling with red currant on the palate. It showcases perfect balance, generous mouth feel, persistent purity of fruit and a supple tannin underpinning. The dry, lengthy finish and aftertaste layer on vanilla, espresso roast and mouth-watering tang. Stunningly good now, it’ll improve with another six months in bottle. Can’t wait? Aerate/decant a couple of hours before serving. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: White Wine

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Wakefield Chardonnay 2015
Clare Valley $15.95 (711556) 13.6% alcohol
This is a great match for holiday turkey and the price-quality balance is outstanding at any time. It’s fresh and lively in the mouth with medium body and excellent texture. This is light-yellow in colour with a slight green tinge followed by deftly balanced aromas of oak, vanilla, butter, and tropical fruit. Clean, crisp apple flavours shine through a persistent foundation of acidity. (Dave Isaacs)

Australia: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Dandelion Vineyards ‘Lionheart of the Barossa’ Shiraz 2014
Barossa Valley $21.95 (167189) 14.0% alcohol
A beautiful, big Australian Shiraz, this wine bursts with aromas of eucalyptus, spice, and oak. The tannins are well integrated and showcase smooth mouthfeel with flavours of vanilla and blueberry. It lingers with a delightful strawberry/vanilla finish. (Dave Isaacs)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Mollydooker ‘The Boxer’ Shiraz 2015
McLaren Vale/Langhorne Creek $33.95 (246595) 16.5% alcohol
This big, high-alcohol Shiraz smells of baking spice, herbs and tobacco. It’s full bodied with smooth well-integrated tannins and tastes of red berry jam. The fruity flavours linger through the finish, making this a tasty, pedal-to-the-metal red from twist top to last drop. (Dave Isaacs)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Clare Valley $18.95 (744235) 13.9% alcohol
This is a rich, almost opaque, dark-red coloured Cab with aromas of earthiness, dry leaves, smoky oak and eucalyptus. It’s full bodied with medium tannins and flavours of jam and mint. There’s also a base of red cherry flavour lingering in the finish. It's drinking well now—as the perfect red for your holiday dinner after a three-hour decant—but a couple more years in the cellar won't hurt. This is excellent value. (Dave Isaacs)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Zonte's ‘Footstep Baron von Nemesis’ Shiraz 2015
Barossa Valley $19.95 (212936) 14.5% alcohol
Deep red, almost opaque, this is great just to look at. Aromas of dried fruit, pepper, plum, and vanilla come wafting out of the glass. There are firm tannins, but they’re ripe and smooth and do not get in the way of the cherry flavours and tart acidity. There’s really good value here. Enjoy with grilled hot Italian sausage. (Dave Isaacs)

New Zealand: White Wine

****1/2 drink now
Kim Crawford ‘Small Parcels - Favourite Homestead’ Pinot Gris 2014
Awatere Valley, Marlborough, South Island $24.95 (415463) 13.5% alcohol
Medium-gold in colour, the nose is a mix of peach and pear with floral highlights. It’s medium-bodied with flavours of peach and gala apple. There’s refreshing crisp acidity that slowly fades to a citrus finish. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink now
Villa Maria ‘Cellar Selection’ Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Marlborough $19.95 (974527) 13.0% alcohol

The aromas of this Marlborough classic simply hurtle from the glass—pungent grapefruit and lime, fresh herbs and a whiff of melon. Passion fruit, gooseberry and grapefruit pith liven the palate mingling with herbal notes through the clean, vibrant finish. Enjoy this well-made dry, medium-bodied, Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese, artichoke and prosciutto pizza or with halibut garnished with lemon caper sauce. (Susan Desjardins)

New Zealand: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2014
Marlborough $45.95 (598813) 13.5% alcohol
This beautiful Pinot Noir sports a complex nose of vanilla, red berries, earth, and spice. It’s medium-bodied with flavours of vanilla and cherry. There are perceptible/acceptable tannin giving depth and interest to the textured mouthfeel and fruit-filled finish. Will keep until 2024, but you can also enjoy it today with skillet-cooked strips of beef with tomato salsa. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar
Momo Pinot Noir 2014
Marlborough $19.95 (163972) 13.0% alcohol
This organic, biodynamic and vegan friendly red is textbook New Zealand Pinot Noir. There are aromas of damp moss, green leaf, and jammy fruit. The tannins are well integrated, mixing with flavours of sour cherry and raspberry. A wine to enjoy with baked salmon fillet drizzled with balsamic vinegar. (Dave Isaacs)

France: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Château Bertin 2014
AOC Lussac St-Émilion $19.95 (244046) 13% alcohol
This is an elegant, good-value and approachable Bordeaux with a nose of cherry and vanilla that’s replayed in the flavour on the palate and through the finish. This is full bodied and structured with wisps of tannin and an acidic base resulting in a wonderfully balanced feeling on your palate. An excellent wine to sip with extra-old, cheddar cheese. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar
Château Devise d’Ardilley 2012
AOC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux $30.95 (642512) 13.0% alcohol
Aromas of forest floor, cherry/berry fruit and charred toast billow from this medium-bodied, well-textured cellar-dweller. It’s an almost even 50/50 split between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a splash of Petit Verdot. A fruit forward flow of black currant, sour cherry and dark chocolate envelop the palate underpinned by still-evolving tannin. It finishes with a lengthy drying finish. Reap the reward of patience popping corks 2018-2022, if impatient, aerate/decant three hours pouring with well-seasoned grilled striploin. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
E. Guigal Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010
AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape $63.95 (727503) 14.5% alcohol
Deep red, with a slight orange tinge, this has aromas of dried fruit, damp earth and smoke. It’s lively with flavours of smoked meat and cherry that slowly fade to a pleasantly fruity finish. There are plenty of silky tannins that suggest this wine can cellar for another decade. You also wouldn't go wrong uncorking it sooner by serving along with well-seasoned, roast lamb. (Dave Isaacs)

France: Rosé Wine

• The following is one of the traditionally more-popular Rosés each vintage and this doesn’t disappoint. It’s sourced from quite an array of hand-harvested, white and red, organically grown fruit—38% Grenache, 32% Cinsault, 17% Syrah, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Mourvèdre, 3% Sémillon, 2% Rolle, 2% Ugni-blanc and 1% Kitchensink… okay, just kidding about the sink. Both Rolle and Sémillon are white grapes. They gently crush all fruit without de-stemming then ferment in stainless steel tank followed by full malolactic conversion. They also encorporate some biodynamic practices in their viticulture and viniculture management. 
**** drink now
Château la Tour de l’Évêque Rosé 2015

AOC Côtes de Provence $19.95 (319392) 13.5% alcohol

Exotic incense, floral notes and cherry/berry fruit aromas set the table for a fruit bowl of flavour—red currant, ripe watermelon and bright red cherry mingle with piquant spice and red grapefruit. It’s medium weight and beautifully textured with notions of grapefruit pith on the crisp, racy finish. Pour with prawn ceviche, a mixed deli platter or charcuterie. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: White Wine

**** drink now
Santa Margherita ‘Impronta del Fondatore’ Pinot Grigio 2015
DOC Alto Adige $21.95 (231258) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of apple and honeysuckle form the nose of this lively and refreshing Pinot Grigio. It feels full-bodied and although ultimately dry and crisp it fools the taste buds with sweet flavours of peach. Great to serve with an appetizer of balsamic-drizzled bruschetta before digging into a main. (Dave Isaacs)

Italy: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2011
DOCG Brunello di Montalcino $46.95 (579094) 14% alcohol
Although known for its ability to cellar for many years, this 100% Sangiovese wine is drinking beautifully today. There are aromas of orange peel, pepper, and ash along with flavours of strawberry and nutmeg. It’s full bodied and with silky tannins that come across as exceptionally smooth. Enjoy with rotisserie-grilled beef. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar
Castellani Filicheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2012
DOCG Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano $18.95 (184937) 13.5% alcohol
This red blend—made from 90% Prugnolo Gentile and 10% Canaiolo—is dark reddish-orange with aromas of dry leaf and smoke. It’s medium-bodied with flavours of strawberry and hints of smoky oak that linger in the finish. Drink it with roast red meat and sharp cheese. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar
La Vita ‘Lucente’ 2014
IGT Toscana $34.95 (747030) 13.5% alcohol
This Merlot/Sangiovese blend is dark purple, almost opaque, with an interesting nose of blackberry, lavender, and tobacco. It’s medium bodied with firm tannins and blueberry flavours. It has good aging potential and is well matched with roast game. (Dave Isaacs)

***1/2 drink now
Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2012
DOCG Chianti Classico $19.95 (91694) 13.5% alcohol
This is a lively and approachable Chianti with a mineral nose that’s filled in around the edges with red berries and leather. Light-bodied with just perceptible tannin, it’s tart and juicy to taste. Pour with red pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms. (Dave Isaacs)

****1/2 drink or cellar
I Castei ‘Campo Casalin’ Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012
DOCG Amarone della Valpolicella Classico $51.95 (946558) 15.5% alcohol
Amarone is made from grapes that have been dried for three to four months before being pressed. This results in a big full-bodied wine with complex aromas and flavours and this beauty is no exception. Opaque red-brown in colour, there are aromas of dried fruit, raisin, and spice. It’s full-bodied with lots of chewy tannin while flavours of nutmeg and cherry jam on the palate fade to a long spicy finish. Enjoy with a rack of grilled beef ribs. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink now
Sartori di Verona ‘Corte Brá – Classico’ Amarone 2009
DOC Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy $49.95 (225540) 15.5% alcohol
Raisin, fig, blueberry and black plum compote aromas roll off the nose of this full-bodied, creamy smooth Amarone. It blankets the palate with an über-sweet array of spice cake, cooked bramble berry and black cherry finishing with dark bittersweet chocolate intertwined with notions of dark coffee. The aftertaste lingers with excellent tang, acidity and peppery spice. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Sartori di Verona ‘Montegradella – Superiore 2012
DOC Valpolicella Classico, Italy $17.95 (473157) 13.0% alcohol
Here’s a delightful single-vineyard, red blend—45% Corvina Veronese/30% Corvinone/20% Rondinella/5% Croatina—that leaps from the glass with an aromatic nose of piquant spice and cherry pastille. It has good structure, persistent fruit flavour and deft balance with a lengthy tang-infused finish and aftertaste. This rolls over the palate with a medium-full bodied, nicely textured mouthful of peppery spice and dark toast interlaced with tangy pie cherry and red currant. (Vic Harradine)

Spain: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Alto Mincayo ‘Veraton’ Garnacha 2013
DO Campo de Borja $34.95 (173211) 15.5% alcohol
Made 100% from Garnacha vines ranging 30 to 50 years in age, this wine is dark purple tipped slightly towards orange in the colour spectrum. Aromas of liquorice, burned oak, cherry, and toast fill your glass. It’s full bodied with firm tannins and decorated with flavours of tart raspberry jam and a fruit-laden aftertaste. It should keep for another 8 to 10 years. (Dave Isaacs)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Ardal Crianza 2010
DO Ribera del Duero $19.95 (167601) 14.0% alcohol
This excellent blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon shows dark red colour with pink tinges that belie its age. The nose has mineral notes with aromas of dry leaves and smoke. It’s full-bodied with well integrated tannins and flavours of vanilla and cocoa on the palate. It goes very well with thick juicy beef burgers. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar
Burgo Viejo Crianza 2012
DOC Rioja $15.95 (168815) 13.5% alcohol
There is really good value in this blend of Tempranillo and Graciano. It's dark red, tinged slightly toward brown with floral aromas mixed with notes of mineral and pencil lead. The tannin and acidity is in good balance and showcase delightful flavours of mint and sour cherry. Enjoy with aged, hard cheese. (Dave Isaacs)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Faustino I Gran Reserva 2004
DOCa Rioja $34.95 (976662) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of green leaf, mineral, and raspberry dominate the nose. This Gran Reserva shows its age with the red colour fading slightly towards orange. It’s medium bodied with tannins that reveal themselves early, but then gently withdraw letting flavours of red berry show through a lingering, dry, fruit-laden finish. (Dave Isaacs)

Cheers, Vic and Dave