The best imported red wines of the year are all over the map
These are the best import reds of the year. At least half of the selections are under $20. As always, they’re all over the map, but there is a preponderance of South American labels.
Finca Los Primos Malbec 2009 ($10.99)
The back label says it’s an “easy-drinking, straight-up Malbec”. It certainly is, and the price is right too. It topped a Malbec tasting in this corner back in April and still holds up to competition easily.
Carmen Merlot Reserva 2009 ($11.99)
There’s no shortage of Merlot, the Chilean favourite, at the LDB, ranging from $9 to $31. This one sits about midway in the pile, in terms of flavour, depth, and fruit. Delicious midweek dinner wine. There’s also a Gran Reserva from the same house for $10 more. Interesting exercise to try both side by side.
The Little Penguin Shiraz 2009 ($11.99)
Yep, a critter wine from Australia, and for the money, very good. It’s sweetish and rich, full and fresh, and far more stylish than many of its compatriots.
Viu Manent Malbec 2008 ($12.99)
The single Chilean Malbec in the system—Argentina seems to have a hammerlock on the variety, offering 50 or so, from $8 to $198 (umm, you go ahead, try that one, and let me know how it is). A consistent standout in Malbec tastings, it outshines many Argentine models with deep, rich flavours of berries and chocolate. For anything grilled or broiled. Yes, including tofu.
Undurraga Sibaris Reserva Especial Carmenere 2008 ($15.99)
Luscious, licorice-y Carméní¨re with grand fruit, very ripe, a little overstuffed (nicely, though), and a mellow finish that’s smooth as molasses. It handles the 14 percent alcohol well, and there’s nothing like a hot Reuben sandwich to go with it.
Bodegas Escorihuela 1884 Reservado Syrah 2006, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Malbec 2009 ($16.99 each)
Yes, the full portfolio, because all three of these varietals are textbook-good Argentine examples of favourite reds. And at the price, together they make an ideal introduction to how Argentina handles reds in the new way. The Cabernet is the best, but only by a smidgen. Try it with chocolate cake! For the others, try rare steak, roast beef, or steak tartare, if you do that sort of thing—meat cooked the way you never get it in Argentina. Great cellar wines for the next year or so. The price has nowhere to go but up.
Pacific Breeze Vin de Garagiste (Cabernet Blend) 2006/2007 ($19.99)
The ’06 is all gone at the New Westminster winery, but there’s still ’07 on hand for the same price. Good blend, mellow and soft, without the edge many Cabernets show, but still hearty and robust. The winery took seven awards, including 2010 Winery of the Year, at last the InterVin competition. It won one medal for each wine it entered, including Best Red Wine in Show for the Killer Cab. A label well worth discovering. Unique in B.C., and perhaps Canada. Renaissance is the local agent.
Cline Zinfandel 2009 ($19.99)
Surely I’ve told you before that Zinfandel is my favourite red-wine grape. It’s so versatile—it goes from bubble to white, light red, dark red, late harvest, and port-style effortlessly. Years ago, I did an all-Zinfandel dinner; might be time to repeat it. This one will be in for sure. A midpriced stunner with beautiful wood and lovely spiciness. Eat something hearty with it.
J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($21.99)
A gold-medal-winning bestseller in B.C. and a splendid example of outstanding California Cab. Lohr has three other Cabernets in stores—an instant tasting party for three or four good friends, followed by a charcuterie-and-cheese dinner.
Chateau de Montfaucon Baron Louis Cotes du Rhone 2007 ($26.99)
Rich, ripe fruit; no edges; no attitude. A lovely, hearty drinking wine. Sure, it’s getting up there in price, but it’s worth the hunt and the outlay. A delicious companion to the Persian pasta dish dushinar (noodles baked with cream, sour cream, eggs, fresh tomatoes, cayenne, and walnuts). Handles all the richness and spice with style.
Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007 ($29.99)
A bright and starry Pinot Noir as good as they come from California’s Sonoma County. Very fresh, full of fruit, and with a welcome, slightly bitter bite at the back of the palate. All-around lovely wine; only the price is a bit tough. Wonder what it costs at home.
Cave de Tain l’Hermitage St. Joseph Esprit de Granit Syrah 2005 ($34.99)
This well-known specialist producer focuses on Syrah; in fact, it has a line called Queen of Syrah, which I don’t recall ever seeing here. Perhaps it isn’t all that well known in B.C. It should be—it’s excellent. This remarkable wine comes from the right bank of the Rhone river, where the vines grow on steep granite terraces (hence the name). It’s 100-percent Syrah, soft and velvety, with beautifully handled oak. The winery says “drink within five years”, so get to it! You could become a ready convert.
Cheval des Andes 2006
This last one is only here in hopes that whoever sent it to me will send some information. I know neither the cost nor the availability of this Paddington that was left on the stoop. I do know it’s very fine wine, a joint venture between France’s legendary Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes of Argentina. There is an elaborate website that doesn’t help, local-info-wise. This Mendoza wine has a beautiful garnet colour, as well as deep floral and spicy aromas, and despite its edginess (which will mellow out in another year or so), it’s already got 96 points from one of those wine-by-numbers guys. Read the back label: the assemblage “is crafted by enveloping the Malbec fruit and soft tannins in a classic structure of Cabernet Sauvignon with a dab of Petit Verdot to enhance complexity, creating a New World cru to be gracefully aged”. Aha, so it’s an Argentine Meritage! Soon as I learn more I’ll bring it back, but until I do, it may have to wait till next year’s Best of the Year lineup.