Photo credit: giselaatje (souce: Pixabay)
December is upon us and, here in Québec, the mood is a little bleak. Covid cases are soaring. The government has reversed their decision to allow a confinement break over Christmas and all the usual seasonal events are cancelled. In light of this, week-end wine recommendations are definitely in order.
Even if the holiday spirit seems to have left the building, the smell of a good meal simmering on the stove and the sound of a cork popping can usually lift even the darkest fog. We may be toasting virtually this year, but let’s at least make sure the wine is good.
Drinking less, but better is definitely my mantra these days. As the grey hairs have started to appear (with alarming frequency), I find that I don’t have the tolerance I once had. And there is nothing worse than being confined to your house with two small children and a raging head-ache.
Though I still cringe a little inwardly at words like “mindfulness”, I do find it a useful ideal for wine tasting. You would be amazed at how much more enjoyment you can get from your glass of wine if you take a minute to concentrate fully on its aromas, its flavours, and how it feels on your palate.
Perhaps the lack of chatter from boisterous guests, or rushing around preparing elaborate meals, will allow us the time to really savour our wine, properly listen to a great piece of music, or immerse ourselves in a great book? Or maybe this is just cold comfort…
Either way, a nice glass of wine can’t hurt! So, with that in mind: week-end wine recommendations a plenty. There seems to be a decidedly Western European theme to the samples I have been receiving lately, so the below list is all France, Italy, and Spain.
(What do VW, PW and LW mean? Click on my wine scoring system to decode the scores for these week-end wine recommendations):
Best to Sip while Cooking
Alain Jaume Grand Veneur Côtes du Rhône white 2019 (Rhône Valley, France) – 87pts. VW
The 50% Viognier in this white Rhône blend is evident on the fragrant, floral nose, with underlying apricot aromas. The palate is juicy and smooth, with notes of red apple and spice. Finishes soft and marginally warming but overall a pleasant, easy-drinking wine.
Where to Buy: SAQ ($18.85)
Best for Soft Cheeses
Albert Mann Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes 2018 (Alsace, France) – 89 pts. PW
Auxerrois (aka Pinot d’Auxerrois) is grown widely in Alsace yet might not be as familiar to wine lovers, as it is often used in the region’s still and sparkling wine blends. Initially quite discreet on the nose, with hints of yellow apple, pear, honey developing after a little time in the glass. This shy white wine comes alive on the palate, where its fresh, textural, plump character reveals earthy nuances and tangy yellow fruit flavours. Finishes with a well balanced touch of sweetness.
Its soft, unassuming flavour profile and subtle sweetness should marry well with brie or other similar such neutral, creamy cheeses.
Where to Buy: SAQ ($26.60)
Best for Mild, Savoury Dishes
Chateau Fourcas Hosten “La Grande Demoiselle d’Hosten” Listrac-Médoc 2010 (Bordeaux, France) – 89pts. PW
It is rare to find mature, older vintages – like this 2010 Listrac – at the SAQ, so this definitely caught my attention. I would have expected more concentration from such a powerful vintage. However, what “La Grande Demoiselle d’Hosten” lacks in body, is made up for with its restrained, yet appealing cassis, dried red berries, and earthy flavours, silky texture, and soft, powdery tannins. Serve with mild, earthy flavours so as not to overwhelm this delicate lady.
Where to Buy: SAQ ($30.75)
Château Raz Caman Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux 2016 (Bordeaux, France) – 90pts. PW
This is a great example of how approachable (and affordable) Bordeaux wines can be from a good producer and vintage. Attractive aromas of black plum, raspberry, earth, and hints of cedar on the nose. The palate is medium in body, with a smooth, polished texture, and modest concentration of dark fruit. Finishes bright and fresh, with subtle spiced hints. Drinking well now.
Where to Buy: SAQ ($20.50)
Best for Braised Short Ribs
Bodegas Piqueras “VS” Almansa 2015 (Castilla-la-Mancha, Spain) – 88pts. PW
If you like bold reds with rich, fruity flavours, this one is for you! Deep ruby in colour, with potent blueberry jam, violet, and toasty spiced aromas. The palate is full-bodied and velvety smooth. Intense red and black berry fruit flavours, mingle with hints of tobacco leaf and dark chocolate on the finish.
Where to Buy: SAQ ($25.95)
Best for Hedonists Looking to Splurge
Arcanum “Valadorna” Toscana 2013 (Tuscany, Italy) – 93pts. LW
Deep garnet in colour, with a complex nose of ultra-ripe dark plum, black cherry, and fig aromas underscored by hints of smoke, dried herbs, and mint. The palate is dense and powerfully structured yet pleasantly fresh, with firm, chalky tannins. Finishes dry, with persistent sweet and savoury flavours. Would benefit from 3 – 4 years’ additional cellaring for the cedar/spice oak flavours to fully integrate and the tannins to soften further. Otherwise, decant a full hour before serving. A wine in keeping with the excellent Tuscan 2013 vintage.
Where to Buy: SAQ ($94.75)