New Italian vintages hit Vancouver


Surely this isn’t entirely my imagination—are there more new Italian vintages in town these days than ever before?

Many of them are brought in by Stile Brands. Here’s one that pleased our dinner table a lot during the holidays: Cantina Tollo Colle Secco Rubino Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2008. A spry six-year-old and a true bargain for $16.99, it’s a general listing at that, meaning it’s available in most B.C. LDB stores.

It’s a good accompaniment for “strong first courses” and roasted meats, especially game, and is the quintessential pasta wine. It copped a silver medal at a recent International Wine Competition in London for its easy spiciness and sweet tannins, and my colleague Anthony Gismondi gave it 85 points, while Robert Parker listed it in The Wine Advocate among his world’s greatest wine values. Have to agree there: it’s a good deal and a treat at mealtimes.

If you like your red wines big and beefy and bold, take a leaf or two from the London judges, who praised it for its—among other attributes—“ruby red [colour], with slight garnet and crimson highlights…bouquet of spices, cocoa, black cherries, licorice and cloves…very well balanced with excellent length and finish”. More info at

Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina 2008 ($24.99, specialty listing)
Some weeks ago in this corner, we took a look at your basic Chianti; here’s a slightly classier one. Fresh and bright, it’s a quintessential Chianti. For roast veal, rouladen, pizza, spicy-sauced pasta, and all kinds of cheeses. Very versatile. This is a brand that continues to define Chianti for many B.C. palates.

Il Romano Sangiovese Rubicone 2010 ($14.99)
“I suppose having a spear-wielding Roman warrior instead of a furry animal on the label offers a pleasant marketing departure, but it’s still borderline cheesy.” So says James Nevison in the 2014 edition of one of the best—and most useful—books for the B.C. wine drinker: Had a Glass: Top 100 Wines Under $20. If you’re a quotidian wine drinker on a budget, you need a copy of this book. The wine’s not bad either.

Township 7 Pinot Gris 2012 ($19.99 at the two wineries only, or with the requisite markup at select restaurants; only 140 cases made, so hurry)
There aren’t many B.C. white wines that go so well with soft, creamy cheeses. A lovely after-dinner treat.

It’s not often that you find a full, deep B.C. Cabernet Sauvignon for $26: the same two Township 7 wineries are offering their 2010 for $25.99, made from Black Sage Bench grapes. Here’s what to look for, according to co-proprietor Mike Raffan: “concentrated Bing cherries, dried fruit and bergamot on the nose, and depth of flavour that includes cherry pie, Earl Grey tea, cocoa and hints of tobacco box”. An ideal food pairing would be lamb roasted with fresh herbs. Very limited supply too.

Bend in the River Riesling 2011 ($12.99, specialty listing)
Can’t get enough of that Riesling, especially the German kind. This one is outstanding: ripe, fresh, full, and not so sweet as some—perfect for pasta with fresh vegetable sauce. A great buy for everyday sipping. And a pretty accent for your dinner table, in a tall, clear bottle.

Peter Lehmann Clancy’s Legendary Red ($19.99)
An Australian red blend that’s been popular in B.C. for a long time. Composed of 41 percent Shiraz, 30 percent Merlot, and 29 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s described on the back label as “a very affable drop” and “a companion to robust flavors and spirited conversation”. A big SMC (Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet) with surprising finesse and beautiful depth, great for anything from steaks to burgers.

You may have encountered the newly labelled 5 Vineyards wines by Mission Hill over the holiday feasting season. (I featured the whole line in a column some weeks ago.) All come with convenient screw caps, save one—the Cabernet Merlot. Name 10 people you know who still own a corkscrew. And use it!

There’s Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Merlot, Pinot Noir, and rosé. The wines are well priced, from $14.99 to $18.99 (Pinot Noir). All are delicious and varietally true, and have dramatic new, colourful labels. These represent some of the best buys among B.C. wines on the shelves right now. Did we expect anything less from Mission Hill?

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Why is wine so expensive in BC? Ripoff. Cross the border and buy it. Don't give the BC government your money.
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