April showers bring May flowers is what we say to brighten our spirits on soggy spring days. It’s a hopeful cliché while we wait for temperatures to climb and flowers and plants to start blooming (in most parts of the country). In any case, it’s a win when precipitation falls as rain instead of snow or ice.
My mood for eating and drinking is stuck between stations. There’s an abundance of newly released whites and rosés from Canadian wineries coming in for review, but the wines I find myself bringing to the dinner table are heartier sorts. That robust and peppery small-batch syrah from Quails’ Gate in Kelowna, B.C., a full-bodied and flavourful ripasso from Tedeschi in Veneto, Italy, or the exciting and expressive cabernet-malbec from Australia’s Clare Valley. Each is compelling, with freshness and inviting characters to savour.
There are also some more fruity, medium-bodied red wines that make sense at this moment. Some popular malbecs from Argentina have rolled into a new vintage and two crowd-pleasing reds from Portugal and Italy, notably the Periquita Reserva and Terra d’Aligi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, that are ideal pizza, pasta or burger wines.
Meanwhile, the beautifully balanced and harmonious El Coto de Imaz Gran Reserva would be a delight at the dinner table pretty much any time, not just on chilly evenings in April.
El Coto de Imaz Gran Reserva 2015 (Spain), $34.95
This is the top wine produced by El Coto, which was founded in 1970 in the Rioja. Nicely developing character, with good freshness and balance. The core of berry and coconut flavours gains interest from gamey and spicy accents, but the real attraction is the texture and harmony from start to finish. Drink now to 2030. Available at the above price in Ontario, various prices in Alberta, $34 in Quebec, $43 in Nova Scotia (2016 vintage, Bishop’s Cellar).
El Esteco Don David Reserve Malbec 2021 (Argentina), $19.95
Located in northern Argentina, El Esteco farms grapes in the Calchaqui Valley to produce this rich and flavourful style of malbec. This is a serious red wine with a complex fragrance and focused dark fruit flavours rounded out by spicy and earthy notes. Drink now to 2027. Available at the above price in Ontario, $18.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $16.99 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, $17.99 in New Brunswick, $19.99 in Nova Scotia, $19.39 in Newfoundland
Finca Las Moras Malbec 2022 (Argentina), $11.95
Based in San Juan, Las Moras produces a range of wines including this pleasurable and affordable malbec. It a dry and crowd-pleasing red wine, with a soft and round character that’s marked by sweet berry and smoky flavours. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, various prices in British Columbia and Alberta, $11.49 in Saskatchewan, $14.89 in Nova Scotia (harvestwines.ca), $14.22 in Newfoundland,
Graffigna Pinot Grigio 2021 (Argentina), $14.95
Produced from pinot grigio grapes grown in San Juan, this simple and fruity white wine features refreshing citrus and ripe peach and melon flavours. It’s a dry and easygoing expression that’s nicely balanced. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, $16.49 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $16.99 in Saskatchewan, $11.49 in Manitoba, $24.99/1.5 litre in New Brunswick, $16.29 in Nova Scotia, $16.50 in Prince Edward Island.
Knappstein Cabernet Malbec 2020 (Australia), $22.95
This Australian red wine is an atypical blend of cabernet sauvignon and malbec, which represents less than 600 hectares of that country’s vineyard space compared with more than 20,000 of cabernet sauvignon or 40,000 shiraz vines. The wineries that embrace malbec, however, use it for some of their top blends, such as Vasse Felix Tom Cullity or Wolf Blass Black Label. This flavourful and well-integrated expression from Knappstein features pleasurably rich fruit flavours with some firm and peppery character. It’s a wine for the cellar or suitable for decanting prior to enjoying now. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario.
Tedeschi Capitel San Rocco Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2019 (Italy), $26.95
The Tedeschi family traces its roots in Valpolicella back to 1630 and produces a consistently enjoyable line-up of wines with corvina, rondinella and other regional grape varieties. The Capitel San Rocco Ripasso offers rich and complex flavours suggesting dark fruit such as cherry and plum mixed with tobacco, spice and licorice notes. This is a full-bodied wine with mouth-watering acidity and polished tannins to provide balance and structure. Vegan-friendly. Drink now to 2026. Available at the above price in Ontario, $22.45 in Quebec.
Terra d’Aligi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018 (Italy), $16.95
Not to be confused with the bold brunellos made with the sangiovese grape in the Tuscan village of Montepulciano, this juicy and vibrant medium-bodied red wine is made from montepulciano grapes grown in Abruzzo. It offers appealing red fruit flavours with a hint of bitterness on the finish that makes this an enjoyable bistro wine. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
Periquita Reserva 2020 (Portugal), $18.95
A blend of native grapes, castelao, touriga nacional and touriga francesa from the Setubal Peninsula, Periquita’s reserve red wine offers more concentration and character than the popular red with the white label. Aging in French and American oak barrels and some apparent sweetness (10 g/L residual sugar) adds to the crowd-pleasing appeal. Drink now to 2026. Available at the above price in Ontario, $36.97/3L in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $17.99 in Manitoba, $19.99 in New Brunswick, $20.99 in Nova Scotia.
Quails’ Gate Boswell Syrah 2020 (Canada), $80
Syrah has proven itself as one of the Okanagan’s best grapes, especially coming from warmer vineyard sites in the southern part of the valley between Oliver and Osoyoos. This silky and appetizing red wine comes from grapes grown at Quails’ Gate’s cooler estate vineyard in West Kelowna. It offers a more peppery and polished style as a result, with richly concentrated flavours and an attractive floral and peppercorn mixed with blueberry aroma. Drink now to 2030. Available at the above price direct, quailsgate.com.