Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2007

For some reason I find the name of this winery - a play on "connoisseur" - really annoying, but this wine was the surprise hit of the BBQ. Pinot noir is fashionable (particularly since the movie Sideways) but it is notoriously finicky. All too often an inexpensive pinot is thin, insipid and nonedescript. But not this one. This Cono Sur pinot (and it's not even their 'premium' 20 barrels line) has excellent pinot 'typicity' particularly on the nose, which has classic strawberry and cherry fruit with a touch of the earthiness that I enjoy in a pinot. It doesn't have great length or complexity on the finish, but so what. This is a young wine, meant to hit you up front, and it totally delivers on that front. Kathy, who's a big fan of Aus/NZ pinot, loved it - and would have given it a 91. I won't go that high, but maybe that's just because I know the price. But it would be good value at twice the price; for $13 it's fantastic. I've got a few fancy pinots I brought back from a vacation in Oregon, which is famous for its pinot. I'm going to have a tasting and slip this one in as a ringer. I'll be very curious to see how it stacks up. Kathy says: "Buy this one by the case."

Price: $12.79
Score: 89
Value: 5/5
Alcohol: 14%
Tasted: August 2008
ANBL UPC: 7804320753454

Saturday, August 30, 2008

About the Value Ratings

The value ratings give my impression of the quality of the wine relative to its price. 3/5 means "pretty much what I'd expect at that price." You shouldn't be disappointed; you might not rush out to buy another bottle, but you'd buy it again if it suited your mood. 4/5 is good value - the kind of thing you'd want to buy more of at the price. 5/5 is great value - buy it by the case if it fits your budget. 2/5 is a bit disappointing, and 1/5 is to be avoided. Value is relative to the price - a wine that gets 5/5 at $20, might get 3/5 at $40.

Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

This is a fairly typical cabernet in this price range. It has the cabernet power - so it would stand up to a steak - and it tastes like a cab (which is good, given that it is one), but there isn't much fruit or subtlety. For me this wine has a bit of an unpleasant edge, but I happen to be particularly sensitive to a kind of harsh flavour that is present in some cabs, and it is hard for me to tell whether this is a flavour that most people would notice. I had this at a BBQ and the general consensus was that it was fine, but nothing special.

Price: $18.29
Value: 3/5
Score: 85
Alcohol: 14%
Tasted: August 2008
ANBL UPC: 089419007152

Corked Wine

"Cork taint" or "corked" wine is the most common flaw in wine, affecting somewhere around 5% of wine that is bottled with a cork closure. Wine that is closed with a screw top or plastic "cork" will never be affected with cork taint. A chemical associated with the cork gives the wine a musty odour - if your wine smells like your attic or basement, it's corked. It mostly affects the smell of the wine. Once you know what it smells like, you'll be able to tell whether a wine is corked a the first sniff, without tasting it at all. Actually drinking the wine doesn't help identify cork taint at all. The degree of cork taint can vary - some wines are badly corked and other only slightly affected - and different people are more or less sensitive to cork taint. If a wine is mildly corked it's not surprising if one person thinks it's undrinkable while someone else doesn't notice much wrong. But if the taint is strong, just about everyone will notice and object. Cork taint will dissipate somewhat with exposure to air. If the cork taint is mild and you're not very sensitive, you find the wine perfectly drinkable, at least for a BBQ, after it breathes for a while. But if not, don't worry - in my experience NB Liquor has an excellent return policy. If you buy a bottle that turns out to be corked, just take it back and I've always found them to be happy to exchange the bottle or refund your money. Cork taint is unpredictable - one bottle may be corked, but a bottle of the same wine next to it on the shelf may be fine. So if you liked the wine apart from the cork taint, it's worth exchanging it for another bottle. Cork taint is more of a problem if you have an expensive bottle of wine that you've been saving for a few years. I don't really know how ANBL feels about taking back wine that is no longer listed, and in any event, if that special bottle is corked, you won't be able to get another bottle of the same wine. That's why we're starting to see screw tops on expensive wines - though there's still some debate as to how well wine will age with a screw top.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Chardonnay 2006

Dan Aykroyd is a funny guy and this is a funny wine. Well, maybe weird is a better word. The nose is unique; I tried it at a dinner party with a few friends and at the first sniff everyone's first reaction was "what the heck is that!?" Everyone's second reaction was "Blech." We finally decided that the closest description is apple cider that is just starting to go off, maybe with a touch of gasoline. But with some time and air the wine developed. Unfortunately, it didn't get any better. A strong medicinal note became apparent - Vicks VapoRub. More of the same on the palate, then it finishes with a sour note. There's plenty going on here: as one person said "This is way more interesting than tasting good wine." But he's a Scotch drinker. Maybe someone out there would like this wine, but not me.

BUT WAIT: Did I just get a bad bottle (see the comment from Andrew Stodart)? Could well be. I'll have to try another - and in the meantime I'd love to hear from anyone else who has tried this wine. Remember, I'm no expert - the point of this blog is to get the conversation going, not for me to tell you what's good or bad.

UPDATE: I've tried the second bottle, and I'm afraid all I can say "Tasted twice with consistent notes."

Price: $17.29
Score: 65
Value: 1/5
Alcohol: 12.5%
Tasted: August 2008
ANBL UPC: 625713025067

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007

This is a well done example of the style that made New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc famous. Crisp and fresh, with the typical nose of "cat's pee on a gooseberry bush." (That's not how I'd describe it myself, but that the traditional phrase for this style.) If you like NZ Sauvignon Blanc, you will like this wine, and if you haven't tried it, this is a good place to start.

Price: $21.29
Score: 88
Value: 4/5
Tasted: August 2008
ANBL UPC: 9419227006275

Gazela Vinho Verde 2007

Vinho Verde is the traditional wine of northern Portugal, meant to be drunk young and fresh. ("Verde" means green, and is a reference to youth, not the colour. The Gazela is a white, as is most exported vinho verde, although red is also made for the domestic market.) Vihno verde is lightly sparkling, low in alcohol and is meant to be light, acidic, crisp and floral - the ideal drink for a hot summer afternoon. The Gazela doesn't quite live up to these ideals. It is slightly cloying rather than crisp - vihno verde is tradionally very dry, but as in this case it is often made in a sweeter style for the export market - and the nose rather subdued and nondescript. But at the price, you can't complain too much.

Price: $10.29
Value: 3/5
Score: 83
Alcohol: 9%
Tasted: August 2008
ANBL UPC: 5601012045505

About this blog

NB Liquor has come a long way in the past 10 years in terms of wine selection. We can now get a wide variety of wines from all over the world, including famous wines and well known wineries. But there are also plenty of more obscure wines, including some hidden gems and and others that deserve their obscurity. In short, many wines, not enough information. This blog aims to change that. I don't intend this blog to be a forum for me to tell you which wine is good and which is bad. Like the "About me" says, I'm not a wine expert. I expect the comments to be as useful to readers as my posts are. I'd like this to be an exchange of information. If anyone has tried a wine that I haven't blogged about, post it in a comment on some other wine, and I'll start a thread about that wine. But please keep it to NB wines - I'll stretch it to wines from NS and PEI as well - wines that we can get in the region. But I don't see any point in blogging about some great wine that I had that no one can get - that's just showing off, without providing any useful information. Ultimately, I have a selfish goal. I hope my posts will provoke comments that will alert me to good wines - and especially great values - that are lurking on the shelves of NB Liquor.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bodegas Norton Barbera 2007

I hate to buy wine when I go out to dinner, because pretty much nothing is good value at 100% markup - this wine is the rare exception. I chose it at the Blue Door, largely because it was the cheapest (sorry, least expensive) wine on the house wine list. What a very pleasant surprise. Barbera is perhaps not very well known. Its original home is as the second grape of Piedmont (after Nebbiolo), but it appears to have found second home in Argentina. This wine is medium bodied with clean fresh fruit and very good balance. Went very well with the food and at the price you don't have to worry if you feel like gulping it down. Outstandingly good value. Normally you would have to get into the $20+ price range for a wine of this quality.

Price: $13.29
Value: 4/5
Score: 86
Tasted: August 2008
ANBL UPC: 7792319064042

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato 2001

Dark berries, almonds, licorice and violets (yes, really) - layers of complexity, as one flavour hits and then fades and the next emerges, so the wine is never the same from one second to the next. This is easily the best wine I have ever had - and by all accounts it will be years before it reaches its peak! I don't drink much in this price range, but I've had a few and none compared with this. ( I'd buy more fancy wine if they all turned out out to be as good as this one, but disappointment at $100 is a lot harder to take than at $20.) I don't really know how to rate it since I haven't had anything better as a benchmark, but it's worth at least two points more than anything else I've had, so I'll give it a 96. The 2001 Ornato is sold out, but the 2003 is apparently in the warehouse. Wine Spectator liked the 2003 pretty much as well - 95 for the '01 versus 94 for the '03. If anyone tries the '03 please post a comment and tell me if it really is that good!

Price: $85 (2001); $100.42 (2003)
Score: 96
Value: 5/5
Tasted: November 2006
ANBL UPC: 8014629020013

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

d'Arenberg The High Trellis 2005

d'Arenberg is usually a very reliable winery, but this wine just didn't do it for me. Soft and lush but a bit flabby (can you say that about a red?) and while it was recognizably a cab, there wasn't much of interest on the nose or palate. Very easy drinking and nothing wrong with it, but nothing really right with it either. Maybe it's just me: Winorama, one of my favourite wine review sites, really liked it, but with their talk of "strong firm tannins and crisp acidity" I'd hardly know they were trying the same wine if they didn't have a picture of the bottle.

Price: $24.48
Score: 86
Value: 3/5
Tasted: August 2008
ANBL UPC: 9311832327007

About the Scoring System

Robert Parker made the 100 point wine scoring system famous. Actually, it's a 50 point system since the lowest score is 50. You go to his site to see what he says about system. An average wine is supposed to be in the 70-79 range. But since he came up with the system, either wines have gotten better or there has been grade inflation (or both).

I try and follow the Wine Spectator version. 85 is a good solid wine that you can enjoy with any meal, but not a wine that you think about too much, one way or the other. 80-84 is perfectly drinkable BBQ wine that may have minor problems - a little sweet, or a little too sharp - if you think about it, but that you wouldn't much notice with a burger in your hand. 75-79 is a wine that has some kind of noticeable flaw. Lower than that is horrible.

Ratings are very compressed on the high end of the scale. The 86-88 range is a wine that you may not think about if you're eating food or talking with friends, but if you do pause you'll say "Hey, that's really pretty good." 89-91 are wines that are worth savouring. 92-94 are excellent wines that really should be savoured - don't open these to have with chips while watching the game. A wine rated 95-100 should be stupendous - I've personally not yet had a wine that was rated over 95 by Wine Spectator. But wines in the 89-91 range are readily available at ANBL for a reasonable price if you look around.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Perrin & Fils Les Christins 2005

No, I don't love every wine I drink. But since I'm starting this blog, I thought I might as well start with some wines I do like. Vacqueyras is a southern Rhone appellation, just to the north-east of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and this wine is a 75/25 blend of Grenache/Shiraz, two of the classic grapes of the region. It has good fruit (though not an Aussie fruit bomb), good complexity and excellent balance in the mid-note range. An old world wine with some new world character, I'd say. Kelly had this to say: "Reserved red fruit - raspberries, cranberries - evergreen and lavender on nose and palate. Long, ending with firm tannins." WineSpectator gave it a 91, and I'll go with that. Drinking well now.

Price: $25.29
Score: 91 [PS - but see comments. 89 is probably more accurate]
Value: 4/5
Tasted: January 2008
ANBL UPC: 631470000247

Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2000

Madiran? Tannat? The southern France appellation and its signature grape aren't really on the wine radar. That's the only explanation for why this wine is still lurking on the bottom shelves at Prospect Street. Alain Brumont is the most prominent wine maker of the region and the Vieilles Vignes is the first wine of his Bouscassé chateau. This wine is an intriguing blend of power and subtlety. It has firm mouth-coating tannins, but they don't overpower the complexity that falls mostly in what I think of as the "bass notes" - flavours in leather / coffee / dark plum spectrum. A very masculine wine (but my wife likes it too). It was scored 93 by WineSpectator and was #29 in their top 100 wines for 2003. Very different from the standard international style cab/shiraz/merlot - and very delicious. Bouscasse

Price: $49.55
Value: 4/5
Score: 94
Tasted: October 2007
ANBL UPC: 3372220020029