Food & Drink

Concha y Toro Rarely Misses

Wine of the WeekConcha Y Toro 2006 Trio Sauvignon Blanc **** ($14.15, LCBO #678656) Casablanca Valley, Chile

The Trio line joins the LCBO general list en masse—or at least in triplicate—with this new sauvignon, plus two reds (see below). This bright, genteel screw-capped sauvignon hails from three vineyards in the maritime Casablanca Valley, although the closest to the ocean called Lo Ovalle is coolest and contributes most to this blend. Lovely proportion and integration among the citrus (lime-grapefruit), tree fruit (pear, passion fruit) and herbal elements (lemongrass, fresh dill). It’s mid-weight, fresh, bright and rounded for easy drinking, with very good length. Delicious, and a great way to move summer ahead on your calendar.

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Before going into further depth on Concha y Toro, a reminder that, from today forward, you can return wine and liquor bottles to The Beer Store for a 20 cent refund. As well, that same 20 cents has been added to the shelf price of all products sold in Ontario as of Feb. 5. There are many quirks in the system Ontario has adopted, which will be an inconvenience to all involved. LCBO employees are huffy about having to change and explain price stickers, and about losing some beer sales as customers spend their refunds at that other place. Beer Store employees are grumbly over the expected heavy workload. And for those who don’t normally go to the Beer Store, it’s just one more errand to run, burning more fossil fuels, etc. On the upside, however, it may create something of a new industry for collecting bottles among those less fortunate. I’ve heard of restaurants organizing communal bottle collection schemes with proceeds going to charity, and yes—the big one—it will reduce the amount glass going into landfills, and increase the amount of recycled glass. (Bottles will not be re-filled and re-used).

And now back to what’s in the bottles. I’ve never been one to devote entire articles or columns to one winery, preferring a wider net to cover a region or grape variety or wine style. But Chile’s Concha y Toro is so consistently good—and good value—across its range of seven different price/quality tiers that it deserves to be singled out and recommended highly. If I had to do a top 10 list of wineries in the world that are most reliable and quality focused Chile’s largest producer would easily make the list. What’s more, they take the Canadian market, and especially Toronto, seriously. In the past year, their sales have increased 20% in Canada, whereas Chile sales overall showed only a 7% increase. Part of the reason is simple availability with all seven lines here at one point or another. From least to most expensive, they are: Likan tetrapaks (the merlot is decent), Frontera, Casillero del Diablo, Trio, Marques de Casa Concha, Terrunyo and at the pinnacle Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon. Now is the time to explore because the LCBO general list has just added the entire Trio range to the general list, and the complete high end Terrunyo range is currently on shelf at Vintages stores.

The three Trio wines sit at the $13 to $15 range. Everything comes in threes. The sauvignon blanc mentioned above is from three different vineyard sites. The two reds are each comprised of three grape varieties. Trio 2004 Merlot-Carmenere-Cabernet Sauvignon **** ($15.25, LCBO #433920) is another winner that you should buy when you pick up some of the Sauvignon Blanc. Much of the merlot and carmenere content comes from a vineyard called Peumo in the Rapel Valley, a location emerging as one of the best in the country for these varieties. The wine is smooth, elegant and balanced with lifted cassis, chocolate and a touch of greenness, from the 20% carmenere and 15% cab sauvignon, both later ripening varieties. Trio 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz ***1/2 ($15.25, LCBO #433912) is very concentrated, more tannic and earthy (for cellaring), less charming at the moment but quite complex and concentrated due to the 70% cabernet sauvignon.

The entire Terrunyo line-up of three different varietals is currently at Vintages, recommended primarily as cellaring wines (two to eight years) and will not remain at these prices for very long in the years ahead. They’re for those interested in site-specific reds as they are sourced year-after-year from the same vineyards, a concept less practiced historically in Chile, but gaining momentum and pushing certain locales forward into public consciousness. The Peumo Vineyard mentioned above is one of those—located on a hillside within the coastal range on the edge of the Rapel Valley, straddling cooler martime and warmer Central Valle influences. Released last Saturday, Terrunyo 2004 Carmenere ****1/2 ($29.95, Vintages #562892) from Puemo, is an essential wine for understanding this all-but-indigenous grape variety, with its deep black-ruby colour, focused blackcurrant fruit, green and spicy notes and its dense, firm, yet elegant texture (which really sets it apart in Chile). Terrunyo 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ****1/2 ($30.15, Vintages #562918) is even slightly better, with outstanding depth, concentrated cassis, eucalyptus and tobacco flavours and typically sinewy, dense cabernet structure. It hails from a vineyard called Descorchados in the higher altitude Pirque sub-appellation of the Maipo Valley—the new heartland for Chilean cabernet. And finally, Terrunyo 2004 Syrah ****1/2 ($30.15, Vintages #18523) is a thick, black syrah loaded with chocolate, wood smoke, licorice and extracted black cherry-fig fruit. From the Rucahue Vineyard in the Cachapoal Valley, less than 1,000 cases are produced, of which a view were released in Ontario last month unheralded as “In-Store Discoveries.” As of Saturday showed deepest stocks in Toronto at Bayview Village, Avenue Rd./Lawrence and Bloor/Royal York, with all other stores showing less than 10 bottles.


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