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Brut, Without the Brutal Price Tag

Thursday, December 31, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Alright, all of you last-minute purchasers of New Year’s bubbly, here are my picks for affordable sparking wines:

1) Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, about $12 US, $14 Cdn. This Spanish Cava was on my list last year and it’s back again as the best choice to stand in for a true Champagne. I’ve been buying it ever since Wine Spectator scored it a 90 back in the ‘90s, and the price has barely edged up since that first rave review. The wine has fine bubbles and a creamy texture, with notes of yeast, herbs and lemon zest. Quaffability Rating: 89

2) Château de Montguéret 'Crémant de la Loire' Brut Non-Vintage, about $15 US, $19 Cdn. As the name indicates, this wine is from France’s Loire region and is made from a blend of Chenin Blanc, Cabernet and Chardonnay grapes. It’s a winner for under $20, with tart flavours of lime rounded out by smooth stone fruit notes. Quaffability Rating: 90

3) Nino Franco Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut NV, about $15 US, $19 Cdn . Surging sales of Prosecco, the Italian version of Champagne as taking a big bite (or gulp?) out of the Champagne market and if you taste this Nino Franco, you’ll know why. For under $20, you get palette-pleasing small bubbles, racing acidity, green apple and unripe pear flavours and a long finish. Quaffability Rating 90

I’ll be drinking a traditional Champagne this year, since I received one as a gift: the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut. We’ll see how it stacks up against my value list. Happy New Year.


Holiday Wine Guide 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Here are some of the standouts from the year of quaffing. Buy them as gifts, enjoy them yourself while you cook or with family and friends.

At $15, the Château Pesquie Les Terrasses 2006 is a major steal. For starters, this wine has an appealing color, a rich, royal purple. Quaffability Rating: 90

The 3 Rings Shiraz 2006 ($25) really surprised me. At 15% alcohol, you’d expect a bit of fire on the tongue, but no, after taking in aromas of fresh-picked wild blueberry, blackberry, cut grass and cedar, I took a sip and found the wine’s tannins rolled over my palette like silk. It’s unexpectedly soft and supple, while maintaining an enticing complexity. Quaffability Rating: 92

The Mark West Pinot Noir 2006 ($24) blew me away for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, the wine is delicious, a true-tasting California Pinot Noir with aromas of juicy plum, dark cherry and damp soil. On the palate, the earthiness continues, along with brighter cherry flavors and oak. Quaffability Rating: 91

The Felino Vina Cobos Malbec 2007 ($20) from Mendoza, Argentina, has a really nice, crimson color, with aromas of cherries and blackberries and a hint of liquorice. It’s a meaty wine on the palette, bursting with intermingling flavors, each dancing alone briefly before merging with the whole. Quaffability Rating: 90.

If you can find it, splurge on the Joseph Phelps Le Mistral 2005 ($66), a stunningly complex Napa Valley Syrah. Quaffability Rating: 93.

The Morandé Gran Reserva Chardonnay ($22), has an intense golden hue. It almost looks like a dessert wine, which begins to make sense when you consider that about a quarter of the grapes used to make the wine were cryogenically frozen – simulating the icewine-making process. On the nose, aromas of tropical fruit mingle with honey and vanilla, and despite its rich, golden color, there is only a touch of sweetness on the palette, easily balanced out by a flinty acidity and citrus notes. Quaffability Rating: 89

The Hedonist Shiraz 2005 McLaren Vale ($20) With a name like The Hedonist, you’d expect this Aussie Shiraz to blow your socks off with tannic power, but instead the wine comes off as sophisticated and well balanced. This is not say there’s nothing hedonistic about it --- its aromas are intoxicating and every sip (or gulp) is pure pleasure. Quaffability Rating: 91

The Pasiteo Fassati Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2005 ($25) has an exotic nose of violets, cocoa, leather and concentrated cherries. The palette is equally enticing and complex, showing rosemary, plum, campfire smoke and tart cherries. The flavors linger forever. Quaffability Rating: 90

Chateau Côte Montpezat Côtes de Castillon 2003 ($20) The nose of plum, dates and rosemary leads to palette-pleasing array of interesting flavors, including smoky oak and more plums, and vanilla. Quaffability Rating: 88.

And for sparking wine:

For a mere $15 or so, the Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Blanc Moingeon tastes like a much more expensive Champagne. It’s made in the same style as its pricier cousin, using the “Méthode Traditionnelle,” but sells for considerably less than a decent bottle of official Champagne. Quaffability Rating: 90.

Cheers and happy holiday quaffing!


Wine Review: Goatfather 2008

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Goatfather 2008 ($15 Cdn, $12 US)

From the Goats Do Roam Wine Company of South Africa comes a rough-and-tumble Tuscan-style red produced a continent away from its homeland. The Sangiovese, Barbera and Cabernet Sauvignon blend has a good kick that’ll pair well pasta and meat sauce. The label bearing a grinning Don Corleone-esque goat, is almost worth the price of the bottle, but the wine is not very good compared to the winery’s signature label, Goats Do Roam and the even more impressive Goats Do Roam in Villages. It’s nevertheless a playful effort that will entertain party guests or Kris Kringle recipients. Sweet raisiny tastes and burnt tobacco flavors predominate.

Quaffability Rating: 85
Holiday Gift Rating: 89

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Wine and Cheese Pairing: Pre-Holiday Cheer

Thursday, December 10, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

The Wine: Zolo Malbec Reserve 2006 (about $16 Cdn, $14 US)
The Cheese: Majorero goat’s milk cheese from Canary Islands

OK, I admit, there’s nothing holiday-related about this wine and cheese combination – it’s just good. The Zolo Malbec Reserve 2006 (about $16 Cdn, $14 US) has flavors of smoke, vanilla and oak. Black currant and dark chocolate and coffee beans lead to a very long, silky finish. You can almost breathe fire after drinking this wine, but it’s a well-balanced flame. A beautiful expression of the robust Malbec from Argentina.

Quaffability Rating: 90 (my third 90 in a row – what’s going on here?)

The Majorero goat’s milk cheese from Spanish island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands is firm, but a but will crumble upon demand. It has a nutty aroma and rich but acidic flavor. This one from Alex Farm Products in Toronto came with a paprika coating that gave it an extra zing to match the concentrated Malbec wine. The light colored and textured cheese looked like it would be crushed by such a big wine, but it’s not the case. The Zolo and Majorero match up just fine. In fact, I could drink and eat both all night.

Next week, a holiday wine-buying guide.

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Finding the Right Wine

by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Wine Marketing

Have you ever wandered through a wine shop, looked at row upon row of bottles and wondered what’s what? Unless you’re part of an elite group of wine connoisseurs, I’m sure this is all too common. Well, this story on the Adelaide Now site explains that the Australian wine industry has a new tool to try to tap into the U.S. market – and one of the major recommendations is better labeling with tags that describe the basic flavors. I’m sure this would go a long way to helping people pick the wines they want, without asking them to become sommeliers.

Wine Review

Speaking of flavors, today’s featured wine is packed with them. The Domaine Grand Veneur La Champauvins Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2007 ($20 Cdn, $16 US) is one of those French wines with a name that takes about as long to say as it does to drink, but it’s worth memorizing, or writing down, and seeking out. Kir, dark plums, tomatoes, black pepper and sweet and sour notes act in harmony to produce a meaty, spicy Rhône from the excellent 2007 vintage.

Quaffability Rating: 90

Coming Up...

Stay tuned for some holiday wine gift recommendations.

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Name-the-Wine Contest by [yellow tail]

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Ever wonder who comes up with those crazy names you see on wine labels these days? Well, now it could be you. The playful Australian wine brand, [yellow tail], is hosting a contest asking fans to name their upcoming unoaked Chardonnay, which will be available in stores in the summer of 2010. Visit http://www.discoveryellowtail.com/ or the [yellow tail] Facebook page and submit your name idea for the wine, and the best suggestion will become the official name of the new wine. The winner will receive worldwide name acclaim, plus a free case of the wine ahead of its release. The contest closes tomorrow (December 9, 2009).


Wine and Cheese Pairing: Crasto and Piave

Friday, December 4, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

The Wine: Quinta do Crasto, Crasto Douro 2007 (about $14 US, $16 Cdn)
The Cheese: Piave

I’ve reviewed a few other reds from Portugal’s port-producing region of Douro, but the Quinta do Crasto, Crasto Douro 2007 tops the lot. A rich, majestic wine, the Crasto is made from a blend of Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Frano and Touriga Nacional grapes. Chewy tannins and well-balanced acidity round out deep, dark fruit flavours and woodsy, spicy undertones. Wine expert Jancis Robinson pegged this one as a great value as well, so you don’t have to just take my word for it.

Quaffability Rating: 90

The Crasto paired decently with a Piave artisanal cow’s milk cheese from Italy that has plenty of citrus fruitiness while maintaining – like the wine – a rich texture. The wine was a bit much for this cheese, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The Piave’s sweetness meshes with the Douro\s Port-like fruit flavours. The cheese comes from the northern region of the province of Veneto and is named after the Piave River in that area. It does demand a rich wine, be it red or white, because the aging process produces a firmness similar to that of Parmigiano. While not necessarily the perfect combo, both the wine and the cheese were delicious enough to make it work.

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Wine May Clean Teeth

Thursday, December 3, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Here’s a study with some teeth: Researchers at Pavia University in Italy say drinking red wine in moderate amounts helps cleanse teeth of cavity-causing bacteria during and after meals. The study, which was done using non-alcoholic red wine from Veneto (too bad for the subjects), showed the wine effectively rinsed off the Streptococcus mutans bacteria from the subjects’ teeth. That common bacteria strain feeds on sugars in food and hastens enamel demineralization. Another Canadian study out of Lavel University in Quebec suggests that polyphenols found in red wine may prevent inflammatory gum disease.

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In other “wine may be good for you” news, a controversial study done in Spain showed that small amounts of alcohol – the equivalent of a quarter of the glass of wine a day – can help prevent heart disease, but – and here’s the controversial part --- high levels of alcohol, up to a bottle of wine a day, had the same protective effect. Before you go out and start chugging a bottle of wine every night, the study doesn’t actually say there is no harm in this, as the only factor measured was the heart-protecting effect, which was shown not to diminish with high alcohol consumption. It’s nevertheless encouraging news for moderate wine drinking.

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Michal Kapral has been enjoying wine at home since way before he was of legal age. The editor-in-chief of Canadian Running magazine runs marathons to burn off all the calories he consumes on wine and cheese. Kapral spent some time living in Italy as a teenager, solidifying his appreciation for all things wine-related. In his days as a journalism student, he was likely one of the youngest – and poorest – subscribers to Wine Spectator magazine. In 1999, Kapral turned down a job at a winery to work at Captivate, where he spent 11 years as a news editor.


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The Quaffer

Highlighting the best new wines from around the world, in the price range of $10-40, Michal "The Quaffer" Kapral reminds viewers some of the finer things in life are most definitely within their reach. This feature focuses on North American wines and includes reviews, food pairings and news from the world of wine.