The New Guard: the best of the bunch from the LCBO’s fall release
Fashion is fickle, even in wine. There are occasional stampedes toward trendy brands: Argentina’s Fuzion and Australia’s Yellow Tail went the oenological equivalent of viral. And then there are deeper changes in taste over time. Two such seismic shifts have occurred over the last few years. The first is an acceptance of blends. The word is freighted with negativity because the cheapest wines are often thrown-together blends. However, some of Europe’s best wines have always been blends, and vintners elsewhere are starting to craft new fusions. The second change is a taste for lesser-known appellations. Languedoc in France and Sicily in Italy are challenging the market supremacy of overpriced wines from Bordeaux and Tuscany. In the New World, regions like Paso Robles in California and Leyda in Chile are taking on icons like Napa Valley and Maipo—and the newcomers are often more affordable. I’ve sifted through the LCBO’s massive fall infusion for the best of both trends.
$15.35 | Columbia Valley, Washington | 87 points
Washington, the second-largest wine region in the U.S., is still deep in California’s shadow. This merlot is blended with cabernet, syrah and mourvèdre. It’s medium weight with rich cassis, herbs and cocoa. It’s a bit soft but finishes with a dry, green tension typical of the cooler climate. LCBO 226522
$11 | Salta, Argentina | 87 points
Argentina’s aromatic torrontés, which thrives in the high-altitude Cafayate region, is gaining traction. This leading producer anchors torronté’s exuberance with riesling’s firm acidity and minerality. Expect complex citrus, lavender, green herbs and pear flavours in a solid, off-dry and refreshing style. Chill well.
$10 | Mendoza, Argentina | 86 points
Bonarda is a high-volume Italian grape that, when produced at lower yields in Mendoza, makes quality, deeply coloured, blueberry pie–scented reds. This is the first bonarda at the LCBO. It’s a bit coarse and tart (it’s under $10), but it has youthful energy. Chill lightly. LCBO 292458
$13 | Côtes de Gascogne, France | 87 points
Gros manseng, from the Pyrenees, makes intense, perfumed and citric whites. It finds a natural partner with herbaceous sauvignon blanc in this blend, which is light yet full of lime, nettle, pine, fennel and guava flavours, with an almost salty tang on the finish. LCBO 297234
$11.80 | Yecla, Spain | 89 points
The monastrell grape (known as mourvèdre in French) can create fragrant but sinewy and tannic reds. However, hot Yecla, near Spain’s Mediterranean coast, produces softer, richer wines. This award-winning example has a terrific nose of blackberry pie, black tea, lavender, fine oak and vanilla. Best 2014 to 2017.
$16 | Paso Robles, California | 87 points
This is a creative five-grape blend, with spicy, floral viognier being the largest component (46 per cent) and nine per cent coming from a muscat-like table grape called princess. It’s clean and fresh, yet it shows California richness, with vibrant green plum and citrus flavours. Chill well. LCBO 297382
$15 | Loire Valley, France | 88 points
This well-made red is the first estate-bottled Anjou on the LCBO general list. It sports a deep ruby colour, with classic sweet raspberry and tobacco flavours. It’s supple initially with tannin and cab franc greenness on the finish. Best 2013 to 2016. LCBO 293514
$11 | Rueda, Spain | 87 points
The arid plateau around Rueda, northeast of Madrid, is an increasingly exciting source for whites from the verdejo grape, which combines herbs and citrus similar to sauvignon blanc and exotic tropicality like viognier. This new listing is a good example, with pepper and pineapple flavours and a fleshy, warm
$14 | South Africa | 88 points
South Africa produces good blends inspired by those of France’s Rhône Valley. This dark, rich syrah-mourvèdre-viognier combination is juicy and fleshy, with fragrant aromas of blueberry, black pepper, chocolate and a touch of rosemary. It’s loaded with fruit and finishes on a spicy, dusty note. Best 2013 to 2016.
Scores: David Lawrason assigns scores on a 100-point scale. They reflect a wine’s overall quality.
A rating of 95 to 100 is outstanding; 90 to 94 excellent; 85 to 89 very good; 80 to 84 good.