The dwindling days of August put a special emphasis on recent wine tastings. It’s high time to prioritize some choice bottles to enjoy now at home or via socially distanced entertaining opportunities. Even in the topsy-turvy times of late, summer is special. Which wines can help add more lustre to its waning days and nights?
Looking at new and current releases on offer brought the number of relatively affordable and appealing selections available from the south of France to light. While these wines have year-round appeal, these blends of regional red and white grapes always strike me as crowd-pleasers that are tailor-made for summertime sipping.
Other recommendations for this week come from the Bordeaux region, Washington state, Australia and British Columbia. The featured wines come in a range of styles and expressions, but all are fresh, fruity and fun to sip on or enjoy with a meal.
Château Moine Vieux Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2016 (France)
Here’s a dense and robust red with a nice core of dark fruit that gains interest from savoury spice and herbal notes. The blend is mostly merlot, with small additions of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, that weighs in at a generous 14.5 per cent alcohol. There’s nice concentration on the palate, with chewy tannins that suggest decanting or serving with a choice piece of beef if you’re looking to open soon. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario.
Château Pey La Tour Réserve du Château 2016 (France)
Owned by Bordeaux négociant Dourthe since 1990, Château Pey La Tour has become one of the most consistently reliable Bordeaux Supérieurs on the market. “Supérieur” according to regional winemaking laws means lower grape yields, higher alcohol levels and more concentrated flavours than basic Bordeaux wines, thanks in part to a minimum of 12 months of barrel aging prior to release. Grapes can come from anywhere in the region, which isn’t a problem in a strong vintage like 2016 where grapes ripened reliably. The result is a ripe red wine that offers appealing fruit and chocolate notes, an obvious adornment from aging in French oak barrels. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $21.90 in Quebec.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (United States)
This ripe and ready model of cabernet sauvignon from Washington state makes the most of its crowd-pleasing ripe core of fruit and silky texture. It’s a dry red that’s ready to drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, $23.99 in British Columbia ($21.99 until Sept. 5), various prices in Alberta, $22.99 in Saskatchewan, $19.95 in Quebec, $25.01 in Nova Scotia, $24.99 in Newfoundland.
Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (United States)
Another ripe and pleasing red made for mass appeal, this Washington state cabernet is made in a medium-bodied style with a core of juicy fruit and slight tug of tannins on the finish. The drying nature of the finish helps set your taste buds up for another sip of wine or bite of food. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, $17.99 in British Columbia ($15.99 until Sept. 5), various prices in Alberta, $19.99 in Manitoba, $20.05 in Quebec (2016 vintage).
Gérard Bertrand Terroir Picpoul de Pinet 2019 (France)
One of the oldest grape varieties grown in the Languedoc region of southern France, picpoul de pinet produces zesty, dry white wines with thirst-quenching character. The name of the grape loosely translates to “stings the lip.” This stylish example is marked by grapefruit, melon and floral notes that make it akin to a fruity version of sauvignon blanc. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $19.99 in New Brunswick.
La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux 2018 (France)
A classic bistro red, this blend of grenache, syrah and other regional grape varieties from southeastern France continues to be one of the best bargains on offer. Its refreshingly dry and fruity character make it easy to appreciate any day of the week. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario at the above price, $12.99 in British Columbia ($11.99 until Sept. 5), $13.99 in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, $11.49 in Manitoba, $12.95 in Quebec, $14.99 in New Brunswick, $15.99 in Prince Edward Island, $16.81 in Newfoundland.
M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2017 (France)
There’s a lot to appreciate about this ripe and complex red from Latour-de-France, just north of the town of Perpignan in southern France. A blend of syrah, grenache, and carignan, this is enjoyably smooth, flavourful and rewarding. Nicely layered, with expressive fragrance and a long, lingering finish, this is sophisticated and really tasty. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2018 (France)
This stylish white blend from the Chapoutier family’s operations in Roussillon, near the Spanish border, is always worthy of attention. A refreshing mix of grenache blanc and other local grape varieties, this delivers attractive fruit and floral notes. Drink now to 2021. Available in Ontario at the above price, $17.99 in British Columbia ($15.99 until Sept. 5), various prices in Alberta, $18.99 in Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, $18.98 in Nova Scotia,
Mt. Boucherie Pinot Gris 2019 (Canada)
Located in west Kelowna, Mt. Boucherie operates vineyards in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. This ripe and charming model of pinot gris is an effective blend of grapes grown in both places. A white with weight and concentrated character, this has the stuffing to stand up to barbecued fare. Drink now. Available in British Columbia at the above price ($15.99 until Sept. 5) or direct from the winery through mtboucherie.com.
Penny’s Hill The Specialized Shiraz Cabernet Merlot 2017 (Australia)
Long considered to be the classic Australian blend, shiraz-cabernets represent some of the best wines available from down under. Seeing ones that also add merlot to the mix are somewhat rare, but this ripe and seamless red suggests it can really work well. Made in a bright and juicy style, this easy-to-appreciate red presents a winning mix of berry and dark fruit with some peppery spice notes from the 50-per-cent component of shiraz that leads the charge. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario.
Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2019 (Australia)
One of the world’s foremost caretakers of the viognier grape, Yalumba has dialed in its winemaking efforts to produce classic examples of this exotic variety. Upfront honeysuckle, peach and apricot notes make for a fragrant white that’s flavourful but not over the top. This is true to viognier’s heady mix of fruit and floral notes, but ultimately is built for refreshment. Vegan-friendly. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $16.49 in Saskatchewan, $15 in Quebec, $17.98 in Nova Scotia.
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