Perhaps it’s the smell of smoke and the unmistakable aroma of grilling meat that hovers over the neighbourhood each evening as dinner approaches, but I’ve been focusing my tastings on looking for good recommendations for barbecue season.
I’m a strong believer that if you like a specific wine and enjoy certain dishes, chances are those will pair nicely together, but I also know that people wish to have different experiences and try different styles of wine.
As a starting point, this is a timely reminder of the serious value available from Spanish wineries. The Rioja region attracts much of the attention with its flavourful and stylish red wines that are typically released after extended aging to ensure they’re ready to drink upon release. At a time when most wines in Canada are consumed within hours of purchase, the ability to market wines from 2014 or 2016, with developing flavours and serious complexity, is a real value add. Grill lovers should also consider other parts of Spain, including Ribera del Duero, Penedes and Yecla.
One of this week’s recommendations is a great case in point: Castillo de Almansa Old Vines Seleccion 2017 offers remarkable concentration and complexity for its price. Wine lovers in other parts of the country should watch for other labels from the same producer, especially Laya and Almansa Reserva, which deliver similarly styled reds that would be tasty company for that piece of steak, chicken or whatever is sizzling away on the grill.
A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir 2021 (United States), $29.95
Established in 2002, A to Z Wineworks focuses on well-made and well-priced wines made in Oregon. The Pinot Noir 2021 offers a persistent fruity character with nicely layered sweet and ripe blackberry and black cherry flavours complemented by juicy acidity and spicy complexity. Made in a harmonious and appealing style, this is a great introduction to what makes pinot noir one of Oregon’s best varieties. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario.
Calvet Réserve des Remparts Saint-Emilion 2021 (France), $26.95
Founded in 1818, Calvet controls 900 hectares of vineyards in Bordeaux, which is used to produce an array of estate and appellation wines. This merlot and cabernet franc blend shows the fresh fruit (plum and cherry) and herbal fragrance of inexpensive red wines from Bordeaux. Made in a simple and approachable style, this Saint-Emilion reserve features a plush texture, bright acidity and only a slight tug of tannin on the finish. Drink now to 2024. Available at the above price in Ontario ($24.95 until June 18).
Castelli del Grevepesa Clemente VII Chianti Classico 2019 (Italy), $22.95
An enjoyable expression of sangiovese from Chianti Classico, Clemente VII presents red plum and cherry flavours in a savoury and elegant red wine with supple texture and fresh acidity. The style is medium-bodied and approachable with nice balance and structure. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
Castillo de Almansa Old Vines Seleccion 2017 (Spain), $19.95
Almansa is a small winemaking region in Castilla-La Mancha where Bodegas Piqueras, the winery which produces the Castillo de Almansa range, is responsible for 70 per cent of the region’s wines. This rich and robust red is a blend of monastrell, alicante bouschet (garnacha tintorera) and tempranillo grown on bush vines that range from 70 to 95 years of age along with syrah from younger vines. The style is complex and concentrated, with a mix of spice and fresh and dried fruit flavours that make this a solid match for barbecued or braised meat dishes. Drink now to 2027. Available at the above price in Ontario, $19.45 in Quebec.
Gérard Bertrand Perles de Grenache Rosé 2022 (France), $19.95
Fashion designer Chantal Thomass created the playful bottle design for this 100-per-cent Grenache rosé from the Languedoc region. This dry rosé captures the fruity personality of Grenache with red berry and watermelon flavours as part of an expressive pink wine with elegant balance and a crisp, refreshing finish. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva 2014 (Spain), $29.95
Based in the village of Cenicero in the Rioja Alta subregion of Rioja, Marques de Caceres released its first wines in 1975. This Gran Reserva from 2014 shows remarkable complexity in the form of leather, spice and coffee notes alongside a concentrated core of red berry fruit flavours. A developing wine with potential to age, this has a refreshing character that’s lively and bright. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $42.95 in Manitoba, $31.50 in Quebec.
Santa Rita 120 Reserva Especial Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (Chile), $12.95
Produced with grapes grown in vineyards spread across Chile’s Central Valley, this is a richer style of sauvignon blanc with peach and citrus flavours with a subtle herbal accent. The style is juicy and fresh, with an easy to appreciate character. Available in Ontario at the above price, $12.99 in British Columbia and Manitoba, various prices in Alberta, $14.99 in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, $14.69 in Nova Scotia.
Trinity Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (United States), $17.95
Produced by Trinchero Family Estates, Trinity Oaks is a crowd-pleasing style of California cabernet sauvignon with ripe and juicy dark fruit flavours mixed with cocoa and spice notes. The smooth texture plays into its approachable and full-bodied style. Drink now. Available in Ontario.
Vina Real Reserva 2016 (Spain), $26.95
Part of the CUNE, Vina Real focuses its production on grapes grown in vineyards in Rioja Alavesa, near the towns of Laguardia and Elciego in north central Spain. The Reserva 2016 is a blend of mostly tempranillo (90 per cent) with small additions of garnacha, mazuelo and Graciano that was aged in French and American oak barrels for 22 months and in bottle for a minimum of one and a half years prior to release. The result is a fruity and complex red, with red berry and peppery spice notes accented by cedar that’s ready to drink upon release. Drink now to 2029. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.