The head of a chartered accounting firm recently wrote me pleading for assistance. Given his vaunted job title, what kind of help might you guess he was seeking? A trophy-wine suggestion for his vast cellar? The name of a good champagne for his client gift list? The expected maturity window of a $350 Cos d'Estournel from the vaunted 2005 vintage?
Nothing of the sort, it turns out. He wanted me to drum up public support for Bosco Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, a red wine that retails in Ontario for $7.60. "If you can help keep a wonderful Italian wine on the shelf, you would be doing the public a huge favour," he wrote.
I think it's fair to say that big-league accountants generally need not watch their pennies when shopping for wine. Yet I suppose it stands to reason that people who deal in debt/equity ratios and tax-loss carry-forwards probably can appreciate the value of a buck as much as the next guy.
I loved the accountant's question - for its value-conscious spirit as well as its irony. And, as it happens, I love the wine.
As the accountant noted, I had written a paean to Bosco precisely 10 years ago under one of those hyperbolic headlines (not written by me) urging the world to snap up the wine "now." Want to know what Bosco cost a decade ago? Believe it or not, $7.05. It was a bargain back then and, given the general hyper-inflation in the wine market over the past 10 years, it's a steal now.
Why does it need to be saved? Well, it doesn't. Not yet, anyway. The wine's packaging was recently revamped and it's now called Bosco Eclipse, with the words "Montepulciano d'Abruzzo" in much smaller, sans-serif type versus the fuddy-duddy Gothic lettering of old. The redesign has apparently prompted confusion among long-time Bosco fans - or so the accountant was told by an LCBO retail consultant. And this in turn has put a slight dent in sales. When sales of a product at the LCBO drop below a given threshold, the LCBO buyers can threaten to delist it.
The situation isn't yet dire for Bosco. And while I'm not here to campaign for any producer, I am happy to report that the current 2007 vintage is excellent.
Bosco Eclipse Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2007 ($7.60, only in Ontario, product No. 328294). Made from the montepulciano grape in the central Italian region of Abruzzo, this red is remarkably concentrated for the money. Medium-full-bodied and juicy, it offers up a core of cherry jam, with nuances of chocolate and spice and a firm backbone of acidity and tannin.
The instinct here might be to pair the wine with pizza or pasta, but it's uncommonly versatile and would match nicely with a range of other foods, including roast chicken and steak.
Joie Farm Reserve Chardonnay 2008 ($29.90, direct from the B.C. winery through www.joiefarm.com, and at a slightly higher price in select private wine shops in British Columbia). An opulent, silky, broad-shouldered chardonnay from an excellent Okanagan Valley, B.C. producer. Luscious tropical-fruit and apple notes are buttressed by toasty vanilla, honey and crème brûlée nuances, all balanced by crisp acidity. Reminiscent of a ripe Meursault from Burgundy. In Ontario, the wine can be ordered by the case for future delivery from Lifford Wine Agency (www.liffordwine.com) for $45.
Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($17.05 in Ontario No. 358309). New from Chile, this succulent, full-bodied red is packed with sweet cassis and blackberry flavours and subtle eucalyptus, with juicy acidity and soft tannins. Amazing for the money, it tastes better than most $25 cabernets on the Canadian market. Great on its own or with rare beef.
Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenère 2007 ($19.95 in Ontario, No. 169862). A fruit-packed, concentrated carmenère from Chile, hinting at plum, pomegranate, blueberry and dark chocolate, with fine-grained tannins and loads of spice on the dry, faintly leafy finish. Great for grilled red meats.
Foncalieu La Réserve du Crouzau St. Gervais Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2007 ($13.95 in Ontario, No. 142943). Making a return appearance this week in Ontario Vintages stores, and at a dollar cheaper than its limited-inventory January debut, this full-bodied French red is a steal. At a very ripe, 15-per-cent alcohol, it's packed with dark-skinned fruits, coffee, licorice and lavender. Braised meats would make for a good pairing.
Quinta do Noval Maria Mansa 2004 ($19.95 in Ontario, No. 167650). Full-bodied and creamy, this Portuguese red from the Port-producing Douro region is brimming with plum, cherry and mocha flavours, finishing with lively spice and chewy tannins.
Jean-Marc Brocard Côte de Léchet Chablis 1er Cru 2008 ($26.95 in Ontario, No. 181305). A fleshy, oily-textured Chablis showing pronounced lemon and mineral flavours. Nice balance and complexity from this cool-climate chardonnay.
Forman Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($94.95, very limited quantities at select Vintages stores in Ontario, No. 143925). Veteran Napa winemaker Ric Forman produces just 4,000 cases of wine from his perch on famed Howell Mountain, all from low-yield vines and concentrated fruit. Relatively accessible and smooth for a pricey Howell Mountain red, it shows succulent cherry and black currant flavours as well as nuances of mineral and dry earth. Though expensive, it's a bargain compared with much of the better-known cult-cabernet competition from Napa. A great partner for rare beef, it should age well for 15 years.