I'll keep the preamble brief this week; I want to squeeze in a few more product reviews than usual as we approach the holidays. In any case, there's not much of a unifying theme to the disparate grouping below. It's a holidayentertaining (or gift-giving) smorgasbord – something for everybody.
Well, almost everybody. If you don't find a suitable choice here, check me out on Twitter (@Beppi_Crosariol), where I'll be posting additional micro-reviews regularly between now and the end of the year. Brevity will rule – and no preambles.
Pietranera Brunello di Montalcino 2007 (Italy)
SCORE: 93 PRICE: $37.95
Relatively fresh and vibrant for a six-year-old Brunello, this regal Tuscan sangiovese offers penetrating, liqueur-like plum and cherry fruit mixed with an earthy, forest-floor quality and sweet tobacco. For Brunello it's a bargain, full-bodied but hardly heavy, a red that should cellar well for another decade. Available in Ontario.
Henriot Souverain Brut Champagne (France)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $59.95
Among the prominent old names in Champagne, Henriot is one of the few still in family hands. Founded in 1808, the company also owns Bouchard Père & Fils, one of the oldest and largest producers of table wine in Burgundy. This entry-level non-vintage bubbly delivers more depth than most famous-brand competitors that cost $5 to $10 more. There's honeyed, creamy richness supporting green-apple and yeasty notes. $64.99 in B.C., $69 in Man., $59.99 in N.B.
Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay 2012 (California)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $84.95
A rich California chardonnay that delivers tension and balance, the 2012 Sonoma Mountain, from an estimable chardonnay specialist, is full-bodied, smooth and creamy. A big note of butterscotch leads the proceedings, followed by toasted nuts, tangy lime and a whisper of mineral. Yes, white wine, not just red, can make a distinguished gift, especially when it's this good. Available in Ontario.
Xavier Côtes du Rhône 2010 (France)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $16.95
A beauty for the money. Powerful, succulent, brimming with maraschino cherry, herbs and cracked pepper. Available in Ontario.
Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2011 (British Columbia)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $34.95 in Ont.
It's pricey, even next to many great rieslings from Germany and Alsace. But it's top class. Ann Sperling, director of winemaking at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara, crafts this from her home ranch in the Okanagan Valley. Light and offdry, at just 10.2-per-cent alcohol, it's balanced and complex, with notes of green apple, flowers, petrol and chalk. Canadian wine with a German accent. $32 in B.C. and elsewhere through www.sperlingvineyards.com.
Flat Rock Twisted White 2012 (Ontario)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $16.95
Yes, it's twisted, in the sense that chardonnay is not, according to classic French winemaking convention, supposed to be blended with riesling and gewürztraminer. To heck with convention. The 2012 edition of this Flat Rock signature blend is brilliant. Just slightly off-dry, it is light-medium-bodied and fragrant, silky yet lively, with bright apple, peach and citrus flavours. For availability outside Ontario, visit www.flatrockcellars.com.
Perseus Merlot 2011 (British Columbia)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $21.99
What a beautifully well-rounded, interesting merlot. Full-bodied and succulent, it's a basket of berries dusted with herbs and black pepper and infused with cedar and toasty oak. Available through perseuswinery.com.
Veramonte Primus The Blend 2011 (Chile)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $19.95
"The blend," yes, but not your ordinary assemblage. It's an uncommon mix of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot and carmenere, a union pretty much found only in Chile and usually only in high-end reds. It takes skill to put these strange bedfellows together in a compelling way, and this beauty from producer Veramonte succeeds at an impressive price. Full-bodied, ripe and velvety, it's stuffed with currants, dark chocolate and mint. Available in Ontario.
Union Forté 2007 (Ontario)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $16.95 for 500 ml
They don't use "port" on the label because the term belongs to Portugal and this is Niagara wine. But I'm free to cite it here and it fits. This sweet, fortified, 18-per-cent-alcohol nectar does an impressive imitation of fine Tawny Port, with its delectably nutty quality, fruity depth of berry jam and dried date and impressive spice and acid lift. The balance is superb. "Forté" is a play on "fortified," and port is a passion of Dr. Allan Jackson, cofounder of Jackson-Triggs winery and a partner, with sommelier Andrew von Teichman, in Union. A blend of merlot, cabernet franc and syrah, it hails from Niagara's excellent 2007 harvest. I love the cute little 500-millilitre stubby bottle and minimalist label, too. Available in Ontario.
Cave de Roquebrun Les Fiefs d'Aupenac 2011 (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95
This is a blend of 60-per-cent syrah with equal minority support from grenache and mourvèdre. It comes from the Saint-Chinian-Roquebrun appellation of the southern Languedoc region, where the reds often come with a marvellous note of lavender, as is the case here. Aged in new oak barrels for more than a year, it's full-bodied and soft, with opulent fruit, vanilla and chocolate flavours enlivened by a florallicorice quality. $21.35 in Que.
Château le Conseiller 2009 (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $23.85
A very well-priced Bordeaux from the excellent 2009 harvest, this merlot from the respected Jean-Philippe Janoueix is full, supple and deliciously redolent of plum, currant and mulling spices, with a nuance of graphite. Available in Ontario.
Koyle Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Chile)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $15.95
Smooth and full, this red comes across like a bar of dark chocolate studded with prunes and currants. The tannins are remarkably sticky. Decant it if you can.
The Flavour Principle, a new cookbook and drinks compendium by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol, is in boo kstores everywhere. It's published by Harper Collins.
In his new e-book, Ask A Wine Expert: 101 Things We All Want To Know, Beppi Crosariol answers readers' questions on subjects ranging from sulphites to tipping etiquette. Visit tgam.ca/ebooks to download it.