So, while living in France, surrounded by stunning vineyards and oceans of incredible wine, is fantastic…. The downside is the lack of diversity. Not only can you not find Italian or Spanish wines, it is hard to get wines from other regions of France. My mission since arriving back in Canada has been to taste widely, at all different prices…because I can! Here is a mishmash of what I’ve been drinking this week (don’t worry, I have friends. I didn’t finish all these wines myself).
We start our tour in Australia. D’Arenberg is an excellent winery in the McLaren Vale region of South Australia. They are probably best known for their deliciously juicy Shiraz and Grenache offerings. I was intrigued by this interesting white blend: Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, both known for their light body, bracing acidity and purity of fruit aromas, blended with Marsanne and Roussanne, Rhône varieties that offer elegance and rich, nutty flavour (Marsanne), body and structure (Roussanne).
Over to New Zealand for some….you guessed it…Sauvignon Blanc! No trip to the liquor store in the summer seems complete without coming face to face with a display of Kim Crawford, so I figured I should give it a swirl and see what all the fuss is about. Marlborough is New Zealand largest and best known wine region. The combination of cool nights, hot days, low rainfall and free-draining, moderately fertile soil makes for racy, intense Sauvignon Blanc with exuberant tropical fruit, citrus and grassy profiles.
On to Chile, to taste Cono Sur Viognier. Renowned for their excellent value wines, Cono Sur is also a leading name in sustainability. The Viognier grape becomes notoriously flabby and oily when grown in overly hot climates where acidity levels aren’t high enough to balance the fruit and alcohol. If handled correctly however, Viognier is the poster child for lush, hedonistic whites. At a mere 10$ a bottle, I was curious to see what this wine would offer.
Next up, the Loire Valley in France, with the classic summer seafood wine: Muscadet. La Cave du Coudray “Réserve du Chiron” is a « Sur Lie » style, meaning that the wine has spent time in contact with the dead yeast cells, a process which imparts a rich, creaminess to the wine. Classic Muscadet is lean and dry, with refreshing acidity, lots of minerality and a creamy mid palate.
Italy has become known for their Pinot Grigio whites in recent years. Unfortunately, the popularity of this grape has led to mass production and some fairly neutral, boring wines. Masi, a highly respected Veneto producer, offers an interesting twist with their “Masianco” white by blending in Verduzzo. This little known grape, native to North-Eastern Italy, is fresh, with herbal and honeyed notes. I wanted to see what the Verduzzo would bring to this Pinot Grigio.
Last stop Spain. While Rioja is well-known for its savoury, full bodied reds, the whites generally go unnoticed. And this, despite the fact that until 1975, more white than red was purportedly planted in the region. The El Meson Rioja Blanco is 100% Viura (aka Macabeu in southern France, or Macabeo in the rest of Spain). This grape is often associated with neutral, mass produced wines. However, when not overcropped, and picked early, it can offer crisp, lively wines with great minerality and a pleasing honeyed note.
What do VW, PW & LW mean? Click on my scoring system for the answer.
D’Arenberg “The Stump Jump” White 2014 – 85pts. VW
Medium, yellow gold. Intense nose of green apples and citrus with floral and exotic fruit undertones. Fresh and vibrant; just shy of medium bodied with moderate alcohol, a touch of residual sugar and a zesty finish. Easy drinking, yet fails to highlight the individual character of the grapes in the blend.
Grapes: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne
Where to buy: LCBO (14.95$), SAQ (17.35$)
Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – 88pts. PW
Pale, straw yellow. Lively and refreshing, with aromas of lime, gooseberry, passionfruit and underlying herbal notes. Dry, light bodied and crisp, with moderate alcohol and a smooth, citrus dominant finish. Very pleasant, but for the price it lacks individuality and complexity.
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc
Where to buy: LCBO (19.95$), SAQ (21.00$)
Cono Sur “Bicicleta” Viognier 2014 – 90pts. VW
Pale, white gold. Heady aromas of candied peach, tropical fruits and floral notes. Lush, medium bodied with moderate acidity, and juicy fruitiness throughout. A touch of bitterness and heat on the finish but, at this price, still represents killer value.
Where to buy: LCBO (9.95$)
La Cave du Coudray “Réserve du Chiron” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2013 – 88pts. VW
Pale, yellow gold. Delicate aromas of citrus and melon with subtle minerality. Dry and balanced, with fresh acidity, a subtle, creamy lees note on the mid-palate and moderate alcohol. Citrus and mineral notes on the finish. Lacking some depth and richness for a Sur Lie offering, but overall worth picking up at bottle at this price.
Grapes: Melon de Bourgogne
Where to buy: LCBO (13.95$)
Masi “Masianco” 2014 – 87pts. VW
Pale, white gold. Delicate floral aromas with undertones of pear and honeydew melon. Crisp, light to medium bodied with a smooth, rounded texture and hint of juicy sweetness on the finish. A versatile wine; easy to pair with light summer fare. Fair value.
Grapes: Pinot Grigio, Verduzzo
Where to buy: LCBO (15.00$), SAQ (16.95$)
El Meson Rioja Blanco 2014 – 90pts. VW
Pale yellow gold. Restrained nose with hints of honeysuckle, lemongrass, peach and grassy notes. Dry, zesty and lean, with lots of juicy peach and citrus, good balance and a lifted, lightly mineral finish. A perfect, aperitif wine for hot summer days. Highly drinkable.
Where to buy: www.wineonline.ca (12.95$)