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What’s happening in the World of Wine

This week in Wine All the Time, Vin discusses empty shelf space at the LCBO
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Bare Shelves?

Noticing the recent gaps on the LCBO shelves had me wondering what is going on. Despite the fact that each month certain products are advertised as “Limited Time Offers”, many are conspicuous by their absence currently.

It isn’t that we don’t have several alternatives as consumers, but it is just curious that at a time when these products should be in prominent view, they aren’t anywhere to be found. Such was the case recently with the Canadian Club 100% Rye Whiskey in the 750 ml. format. It was singled out as one of the top 100 spirits in on American publication last year.
This absence may be a slight problem for consumers, but it is a greater one for producers who were anticipating greater sales and exposure through the programme.

When an agent has an item as an LTO, whatever the discount is –say, $1- the supplier pays back the LCBO that amount for each bottle sold. On top of that, the supplier also pays a fee of $1500 to cover the printing of the LTO display cards.

If they want a shelf-extender or end-aisle display for the LTO period, that can cost upwards of $30,000. There are big bucks at stake.

As to the cause of the current disruptions, it appears that the LCBO is instituting a new warehouse/distribution computerized system, and there are bugs.

Many stores are not receiving the trucks that they normally expect. How long this will take to figure out remains to be seen, but the scuttlebutt is that it took over a year to sort out similar warehouse distribution matters with a big food-store company.

Given the warehouse issues, the umbrella group, Drinks Ontario, is asking the LCBO for a credit for brands on promotion impacted by the inventory disruptions.
I believe that the same Programming company responsible for the federal payroll is involved here, and we are likely all familiar with the headaches and hardships associated with that roll-out.

We can only hope for better this time around.

Here Come da Judge!

In France, two prominent leaders in Bordeaux, Hervé and Régis Grandeau of Chateau Lauduc, were recently convicted in a questionable court case. The verdict is being appealed. The Bordeaux community, frustrated and angry with the conviction, basically thumbed its collective nose at the Court by re-electing Hervé Grandeau as President of the Federation des Grands

Vins de Bordeaux.

The very interesting factor in this case is that, according to the Wine Spectator, “in the eyes of the French administration and justice system, Hervé and Régis cheated the government out of wine pre-destined for industrial distillation, selling it instead as table wine. Under France's strict regulations, if growers produce yields in excess of the quantity allowed in an appellation, they must give the surplus wine to the government for distillation. If the grower does not send the surplus for distillation, then it is illegal to sell any of the wine as Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wine.”

That producers must give production that exceeds their allocation to the government is eye-catching in itself.
Whether the conviction is fair or will be over-turned remains to be seen. In their defence, the brothers explained that this all happened a number of years ago when the rules were just being introduced, and were unclear in how they would be applied. Now they know.

Aerating and Decanting

When we pour a glass of wine, we want to maximize the flavour. A key element is “oxygen-ating” the wine. Getting air into it can really open things up, making them harmonious and tasty. (Too much air, of course is a negative, and the wine begins to oxidize. Not nice.)
A recent article on-line from the Wine Enthusiast provides good insight into how aeration and decanting work.
Aerators are devices through which a wine is poured –they may be inserted into the bottle or held in hand for the wine to pour through them. As the wine travels through the aerator, it is exposed to more air.

The writer, Marshall Tilden III, explains: “these low-profile aerators are ideal for young, opulent and tannic reds that may be a bit muted (closed) immediately upon opening a bottle, or whose tannins can overpower the balance of the wine. One of the main functions of aeration is to soften tannins, which allows the fruit and acid to shine through. Just about every wine will benefit from a bit of aeration.”

Older reds, particularly ones which may have developed a sediment, are better handled through decanting. Here, a wine is poured into a vessel which offers a far greater surface area open to air. The wine is poured carefully so that, as the sediment approaches the neck of the bottle, pouring is stopped and the wine remains clear.
Using an aerator with a wine likely to throw a sediment is not recommended, as the sediment might clog the aerator.
Wine stewards will even place a light – a candle or a flashlight - below the neck of the bottle so that they can detect more easily the arrival of the sediment.

Tilden suggests that, if you want to maximize the oxygenation, you can pour your young, brawny red through the aerator right into a decanter.

Importing Woes

In an article on the SevenFifty Daily website, A Seattle restaurateur was bemoaning the hurdles in trying to import B.C. wines for his restaurant. He said it was easier to get wine from India than from the Okanagan. He would love to have the wines, as he believes “that the best wines in British Columbia did what many other wine regions promise but don’t always deliver—they balanced a New World sense of ripeness and generosity with the acidity, structure, and savory notes of the Old World.”

One of the biggest hurdles apparently is the reluctance of wineries to offer the wines for export at a wholesale price.  Tom Pennachetti of Niagara’s Cave Spring Cellars explained to me that B.C. producers “receive significant subsidies from the provincial government that guarantees them very large margin on their British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch and private wine shop sales. Given high demand in their own market, it is not uncommon for producers to have unrealistic wholesale pricing for export markets as they expect the same wholesale they get in BC for export markets.”

By extension, I have to speculate that this could be a hurdle, too, for B.C. wines finding their way to Ontario. Given the premise that the subsidies are already raising the prices, unless there were a wholesale discount to our province, the wines become a bit rich in price when Ontario adds its taxes to the mix. 
Enough said.

By the Way

For those of you who have come to appreciate the value of the Toro Bravo Red, the new Vintage is now hitting our shelves, and there are sufficient quantities for stores to “order at will.” In addition, joining the Tempranillo/Merlot red blend is the new Toro Bravo White, a refreshing combination of Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc. 

Verdejo is widely planted in Spain. The Wine Folly website explains “Verdejo makes subtle-yet-stunning white wines with flavors of lime, Meyer lemon, grapefruit, grass, fennel, and citrus blossom. It’s often likened to Sauvignon Blanc but really, it deserves its own category. Unlike most whites, Verdejo continues to improve over several years of bottle-aging, where it gains a rich texture and flavors of toasted Marcona almonds, supported by sparkly acidity. The bitter flavors of grass and fennel come in on the finish and almost make the wine taste crunchy.”
The Toro Bravo White, $7.95, is very flavourful and refreshing. Uncomplicated, round and balanced, it has a pleasant pear-like aroma for starters, and a nuanced peach-like note on the palate, all brought to a thirst-quenching finish. It is quite dry, and would pair well with summer salads, charcuterie, and seafood dishes. This is easy to like, easy to drink, and a tremendous bargain, all said and done.

The 2018 Toro Bravo Red, $7.95, may be slightly lighter in body than the original vintage, but it remains flavourful with good fruit carrying the day. There are tannins here, and so this would be a perfect wine for aeration and/or decanting. It actually is a good red for the warm weather we have been experiencing.
July 20 Vintages Release


Featherstone Rosé 2018, $15.95, is a great choice from Niagara. it is predominantly a Cabernet Franc/Gamay blend – varietals at which the region excels - with a good portion of Merlot in the mix for a softening effect ,and 8% Pinot Noir. Vic Harradine of refers to a tangy river of tart red currant and cranberry robed in sharp spice,” – 90.

Famille Perrin Réserve Rosé 2018, $15.95 – The Perrin family produces outstanding wines in the Rhone, including the Beaucastel Chateauneuf–du-Pape. More to the point, they are also responsible for the popular Jolie/Pitt Miraval Rosé, retailing at $24.95. In comparison, this Réserve is a great deal. Expect tart cherry, peach and plum along with the herbal garrigue which adds a distinctive south-of-France note to the experience.

Simi Sonoma County Dry Rosé 2018, $19.95, from California, is as dry as any great French example, yet still shines with good tart fruit in harmony with balancing citrus – a suggestion, too of strawberry, and what I think of as a delicate “copper penny” note at the end. Very satisfying. 


Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2018, $14.95, represents the most popular white varietal in South Africa from what is arguably the country’s best wine region. Vintages says that the palate is clean and crisp, evoking “ripe tree fruit, sweet spices and chalky minerality. Try it.

Wakefield Clare Valley Estate Chardonnay 2017, $16.95, is a Gold Medal, Best of Show wine (Mundus Vini Spring Tasting 2018) from South Australia. A very good value, it has a creamy palate with peach and tropical fruit character, along with a nutty element provided by judicious use of oak.

Citra Ferzo Abruzzo Pecorino Superiore 2017, $17.95, is the only one of the several fine Italian whites on this release that is destined for Sault Ste. Marie. It earned a 90 at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2018, and is described as having intense flavours of melon, banana and green apple with a quenching stony note on the finish. 


La Posta Estela Armando Bonarda 2017, $14.95, really impressed me when I tried it a month ago. Bonarda can be a “workhorse” grape, but this inexpensive version is bright and balanced with ample raspberry/plum fruit and a tinge of chocolate. Drinking wonderfully. 

Cimal Garnacha 2015, $15.95, is another new wine for Ontario, this one hailing from La Mancha in Spain. James Suckling references concentrated fruit –dark plum, black cherry –along with dark chocolate. He writes, “The depth is impressive. A swashbuckling finish.” – 92.

Thomas Goss Shiraz 2016, $16.95, is new to Vintages from Australia’s McLaren Vale. This is a 4-star value, with the saying it “shows good density to the bittersweet chocolate, hazelnut and blackberry pie flavors with sink-your-teeth-into-them tannins that add richness to the complex blend of flavors.” -92.

Bieler Born To Run Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, $21.95, is another new wine in the listings. Unusual in that it is a 50/50 blend of fruit from California and Washington, this wine is forward with jammy California fruit married to brooding Cabernet grapes from Washington State. Vintages tells us that “it’s brimming with cassis, vanilla and tasty oak and is balanced and structured like a boss.” The Bielers previously owned Chateau Routas in Provence, and for the past 10 years have been creating wines in California and Washington.