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If predictions of an early spring are correct, it may be only a matter of weeks before this column becomes a tip sheet for the most refreshing rosés and mouthwatering rieslings available. Until then, let’s use the cold and grey days to make the most of full-bodied whites and reds with more concentration, character and depth of flavour.
I’m well aware that some wine lovers buy and enjoy the same style of wine all year round. Crisp sauvignon blancs, bold chiantis or silky pinots might deliver pleasure in any season. Other people’s tastes for wine follows their dress code. They add layers to ward off the cold and opt for more rich styles of wine.
I’ve heard sommeliers and experts suggest drinking wines from warmer climates in the winter, ones from cooler locations in the summer. The idea being that vineyards in warm and hot climates typically produce riper and more deeply flavoured wines, regardless of colour. Likewise, cooler spots deliver the raw materials to make more elegant and refreshing wines, usually with lower alcohol contents.
Most of the wines recommended this week are fuller bodied and more flavourful, including some hefty whites that are rich and refreshing. There are some full-bodied reds to consider as well, including sturdy and surprising touriga nacional made in the Okanagan by Moon Curser. It’s a range of styles of wines to warm your senses.
Alvi’s Drift Signature Viognier 2019 (South Africa), $13.95
Alvi’s Drift Signature Viognier is a flavourful and ripe white with telltale juicy peach and apricot notes and a floral edge. There’s a touch of oiliness on the palate, but the flavours are balanced, fresh and enjoyable. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario at the above price, $15.48 in Nova Scotia.
Ascheri Langhe Barbera 2019 (Italy), $14.95
Like gamay, barbera ranks high on my list of year-round, go-to red wines. The mix of ripe dark fruit, savoury and floral flavours are easy to appreciate, while the bright character makes it work with almost anything at the dinner table. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price ($12.95 until Feb. 28).
Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla (Spain), $17.95/500 mL
La Gitana continues to be one of the bestselling Manzanillas with good reason. Served chilled, this lighter-bodied fortified wine is bracingly dry, with salty and tangy flavours that make it a terrific aperitif or partner for seafood, serrano ham or spicy chorizo. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $28.99 in British Columbia, $20.99 in Manitoba, $22.85 in Quebec.
Chateau Clarke 2016 (France), $54.95
Château Clarke’s 55-hectare property continues to be one of the most exemplary estates in the Listrac-Médoc appellation. A winning blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, this is made in an age-worthy style. with dark fruit, licorice and graphite flavours accented by some smoky and savoury notes on the persistent finish. The wine’s core of ripe fruit, structure and intensity impress at this early stage. Drink 2023 to 2034. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $42.10 in Quebec. The 2015 vintage is $54.99 in British Columbia ($51.99 until March 3).
Domaine de la Plaigne Régnié 2017 (France), $17.95
This is a truly enjoyable red wine that’s dry, refreshing and nicely balanced. It captures everything that makes the gamay grape so vibrant and pleasing. It’s firm and fruity, with the aromas and flavours really in sync. Great value. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario.
Fort Berens Estate Winery Reserve Meritage 2018 (Canada), $36.99
This full-bodied and rich red is a blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon grapes grown at Fort Berens’s estate in Lillooet and in the Okanagan Valley. A portion of the cabernet franc grapes were dried before processing to add complexity and character. With plenty of ripe dark fruit flavours, this robust wine makes an ideal winter red and a nice companion for braised or roasted meat entrees. Drink now to 2024. Available in British Columbia at the above price or direct through fortberens.ca.
Le Vieux Pin Ava 2019 (Canada), $30.99
Ava is an exciting white blend from Le Vieux Pin that moves from strength to strength. A mix of Rhône varieties, vineyard sites and cooperage (including different sizes and ages of French oak barrels and stainless-steel tanks) results in a beautifully integrated and age-worthy wine. Its mix of fruit, floral and honey aromas and flavours make an immediate impression, but I’m excited to taste this again in five years when it becomes even more rich and rewarding in style. Drink now to 2027. Available direct through levieuxpin.ca.
Moon Curser Touriga Nacional 2018 (Canada), $42.99
Touriga nacional is one of the new grapes that authorities have recently allowed to be planted in Bordeaux. It’s famous for adding spice and complexity to red wines and ports made in Portugal and has made a ripe and fragrant red wine at Moon Curser, a winery that has made a reputation for auditioning different grape varieties in the Okanagan. This aromatic red is made from single plot of touriga nacional grown in Osoyoos, which happened to be the last grapes picked in 2018. Decant for best enjoyment now, but this sturdy red has considerable structure to develop nicely in the cellar. Drink now to 2025. Vegan-friendly. Available in British Columbia at the above price or direct for $39.99 through mooncurser.com.
Ropiteau Chablis 2018 (France), $25.95
Made in the clean and refreshing style common to chablis, this offers more honeyed richness than anticipated, with some oak-derived notes showing. The ripeness of the vintage shows in the medium body and juicy citrus and yellow apple flavours. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario.
Sacred Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2018, $21.95
Sacred Hill’s reserve label is a nicely concentrated and rewarding version of sauvignon blanc that’s still fresh. This gains more weight and flavour from the 60-per-cent portion of the blend that was fermented in French oak barrels – mostly older ones so to add texture to the finished wine without obvious vanilla or spice flavours. Concentrated sauvignon blanc flavour shines through in the form of baked apricot, citrus oil and grassy notes, with a lingering refreshing finish. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.