You were expecting a Father's Day column? My apologies. I shot a short online film instead with Globe videographer Tory Zimmerman. You can view it . It's a personal celebration of fatherhood with my 84-year-old dad, Tony, in which we toss back shots of grappa in the garden. Nice grappas, too, from Bottega Club, Jacopo Poli and the great Piedmontese producer Marolo, which makes one called Dedicata al Padre - Dedicated to Father - sadly not yet available on the retail shelves. It was a fine afternoon, what I remember of it.
My topic instead today is bargain wines and spirits from around the globe. Summer seems to be the unofficial season of global harmony. Multicultural music and theatre festivals abound. Young people learn about other cultures while backpacking through Europe and Asia. This summer there's the 2010 World Cup of soccer on TV, of course. And here from my desk at Globe headquarters in Toronto, on the security border of the forthcoming G20 political summit, I'm pondering world peace.
Wine and spirits are apt lubricants for such meditations, I think. It at least inspires a person to marvel at the bounty and beauty of other regions. So, here's a selection of recent releases.
Spain is the source of a great buy just launched in Ontario called Milcampos Tempranillo 2006 ($9.95, product No. 173625). Medium full-bodied, this red from producer Bodega La Milagrosa in the Ribera del Duero region delivers a core of fresh cherry-like fruit enhanced by nuances of earth, iron and wood. Succulent yet very dry, it finishes with a good quantity of fine-grained tannins. Good for steak.
Pascual Toso is a popular name among bargain hunters in Canada. The Argentine brand has just launched Pascual Toso Chardonnay 2009 ($12.95, No. 162636), a fine full-bodied white for the money. Flavours of apple, tropical fruit and toasty butterscotch are rounded out by crisp acidity. It would be nice with grilled or roasted chicken.
Over to Chile now and a value-priced white from one of the country's best producers, Montes. Newly released in Ontario, Montes Classic Series Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($12.95, No. 159954) is crisp and fresh, with plenty of acidity and a boldly grassy flavour. Nice for shellfish and lively salads. I also like its new sister red, Montes Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($12.95, No. 157883), an austere, slightly astringent, Bordeaux-style red with notes of cassis, plum and bitter chocolate. Rare steak is in order.
Minini Valpolicella 2008 ($12.95, No. 161612) is a terrific red from Italy, medium-bodied with notes of cherry, wood and bitter almond. It's a versatile wine, though it would work especially well with red meats and cheeses.
South African producer Juno has a flare for attractive labels, and I also like the contents of Juno Arthouse Shiraz Mourvedre 2007 ($14.95, No. 148593), which was just released in Ontario. Full-bodied, it evokes the reds of the southern Rhone Valley in France with its rich dark-berry character and hints of white pepper and licorice. Good for braised red meats or grilled lamb.
Available only in Quebec is the terrific Sangervasio Toscana Rosso 2006 ($20.80, No. 11201537), a full-bodied Italian red blended from sangiovese, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, with a velvety texture and nuances of berry, plum and earth.
Also currently only in Quebec (with an Ontario launch planned for August) comes Margrain Pinot Noir Home Block 2007 ($31.75, No. 10383261). It's from New Zealand and displays uncommon power for a pinot, not as delicate as most classic pinot noirs from Burgundy but impressive for its concentration. Packed with dark-berry and plum flavours, it also offers nuances of herbs, flowers and a touch of spice. Serve this ripe red with grilled salmon or duck.
And if you're a fan of the mojito cocktail, made with rum, sugar, mint, lime and soda water, I can't think of a much finer base than El Dorado 6 Year Old Silver white rum from Demerara Distillers of Guyana ($34.95, No. 147892). Ontario was chosen as the global launch site for this unusual product. Though it gets its mellowness and complexity from maturation in oak casks, which tends to imparts a golden hue (that's how you get amber rums), the colour here is perfectly clear. It's charcoal filtered to remove the colour, leaving much of the complexity behind. Exceptionally creamy and smooth, the spirit displays subtle sweetness and a notes of toffee and vanilla. It's not grappa, but I have a feeling my dad would enjoy a shot in his coffee on Father's Day.