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waters on wine

The Wolf Blass visitor centre in Barossa Valley.Wolf Blass

First released with a wine made in 1966, Wolf Blass’s popular Yellow Label cabernet sauvignon continues to be a fixture in liquor stores across Canada. The bright, sunny-coloured label was originally selected to stand out from the sea of white labels common to wines made in Europe and elsewhere.

Wolf Blass, the man behind the world-famous winery in Australia’s Barossa Valley, had a knack for drawing attention to his wines. He understood newcomers to wine didn’t know anything about grape varieties or wine regions, but they knew what they liked. They would remember the yellow label, even if they didn’t know that the red wine they enjoyed was made with the cabernet sauvignon grape.

He also realized winning wine competitions was an important endorsement of quality, famously telling his winemakers: “No gold medals, no job.”

The popularity of Wolf Blass’s colour-coded cabernet has since evolved into a whole portfolio of Yellow Label wines, all fashioned to be ripe, flavourful and enjoyable styles of the grape variety responsible.

The Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 is a simple yet solid selection, one that continues to convey the classic flavours of the grape variety as part of a pleasant wine. It’s recommended this week with a selection of attractive and serious wines at a variety of prices.

Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne (France), $90.95

Rating:93 /100

Special Cuvée continues to be a highly regarded Champagne, which stays true to Bollinger’s rich and rewarding house style. The flavours are bright with toasty and biscuity notes that carry through to a persistent finish. The wine’s texture and fine bubbles add to the enjoyment. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $94.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $95.99 in Manitoba, $92 in Quebec, $92.99 in New Brunswick, $92.40 in Nova Scotia, $93.59 in Prince Edward Island.

Château La Garde 2015 (France), $52.95

Rating:93 /100

Produced in the Pessac-Léognan appellation of Bordeaux, this is a refined and elegant cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot blend with a savoury, drying finish. It offers classic character, with a mix of dark fruit, clove and tobacco aromas and flavours. The bright acidity and firm tannins suggest more time is needed to let the flavours develop and more complexity emerge. Needs time or decanting to show its best. Drink now to 2034. Available in Ontario at the above price, $55 in British Columbia.

Ferraton Le Parvis Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2020 (France), $59.95

Rating:93 /100

This stylish red wine from Châteauneuf-du-Pape is produced by Ferraton, a winery owned and operated by celebrated winemaker Michel Chapoutier. A traditional blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre makes for an intensely juicy, fruity wine, with a satisfying core of concentrated cherry and berry flavours enhanced by spicy, herbal complexity. Made in a full-bodied, smooth and refreshing style, this is appealing to drink now and has the stuffing to age. Available in Ontario at the above price, $72.98 in Newfoundland.

Paolo Leo Passo del Cardinale Primitivo di Manduria 2020 (Italy), $19.95

Rating:89 /100

This distinctively gutsy red wine is made with 100-per-cent primitivo from the family-owned Cantine Paololeo. It has a powerful – almost port-like – aroma suggesting berry jam, coffee, cherry, licorice and tea leaves. The flavours are equally intense and concentrated, with slightly raisined fruit notes matched by plenty of acidity that keep it from being too heavy. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario.

Oreno 2018 (Italy), $89.95

Rating:94 /100

First produced in 1999, Oreno is the robust and rewarding flagship red wine from Sette Ponti. It takes the name of a stream that crosses this Tuscan estate and is a rich and ripe blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. Bright and complex, this offers a core of cherry, plum and cassis fruit with savoury, spicy and leather accents. It’s rich and ripe (with 15-per-cent alcohol) but nicely balanced and satisfying in nature. Made for the dinner table, with terrific potential for aging. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario at the above price, $109.99 in British Columbia (2019 vintage), various prices in Alberta.

Peter Lehmann The Barossan Shiraz 2020 (Australia), $21.95

Rating:90 /100

As the name suggests, this ripe and flavourful red delivers a quintessentially Barossa style of shiraz. The mix of jammy dark fruit and sweet oak-spice notes make for a welcome introduction on the nose, while the palate offers nice concentrated flavours and a smooth texture balanced by bright acidity. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $23.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $24.29 in Saskatchewan, $22.99 in Manitoba, $21.45 in Quebec, $27.98 in Nova Scotia.

Terroir D’Altitude Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (France), $15.45

Rating:88 /100

Fortant de France has been producing cabernet sauvignon and other varietally labelled wines in the South of France since 1982. The Terroir d’Altitude brand is a recent addition to its portfolio, offering a refreshing, satisfying and well-priced expression of cabernet that’s a classic bistro style of wine to enjoy with a meal or by the glass (if you’re a fan of classically made, dry red wines). Available in Ontario.

Vicente Faria Animus Douro 2019 (Portugal), $13

Rating:88 /100

Animus continues to be one of the best bargains on offer to Canadian wine lovers. A dry red wine with a smooth texture made in the Douro Valley from traditional varieties, tinta roriz (tempranillo), touriga nacional and touriga franca, this offers attractive ripe-fruit flavours with some savoury accents. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $15.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $13.99 in Manitoba, $16.99 in Saskatchewan, $13.25 in Quebec, $15.99 in New Brunswick, $15.48 in Nova Scotia, $15.50 in Prince Edward Island.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (Australia), $17.95

Rating:88 /100

Made in a simple, easy-to-appreciate style, the current vintage of Yellow Label Cabernet offers appealing dark-fruit flavours with some herbal and savoury notes. The style is polished and approachable, making for a wine that’s balanced and enjoyable on its own or with a meal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $18.99 in Saskatchewan, $17.49 in Manitoba, $18.05 in Quebec, $21.99 in New Brunswick, $20.49 in Nova Scotia, $19.99 in Prince Edward Island, $22.84 in Newfoundland.

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