In the order tasted. All prices are in Canadian dollars (C$1.00 = US$0.88 these days) and include sales taxes.
FLIGHT 1: 2004 SOAVES
Based on this sampling, 2004 appears to be an excellent vintage in Soave – a welcome change after 2003. All the wines were winners, though the Anselmi’s relative lack of personality was surprising. That quality probably makes it the best candidate for sipping on its own; the other wines almost demand to be consumed with food.
>Calvarino 2004, Soave Classico Superiore, Pieropan ($25.55)
70% garganega, 30% trebbiano. Waxy pear with a hint of vinyl. Rich but a welterweight, packing fruit and minerals and a refreshing acid bite. Long, creamy finish. Delicious.
>La Rocca 2004, Soave Classico Superiore, Pieropan ($36.00)
100% garganega, late harvested, aged one year in oak barrels. Heavier, headier, perfumier than the others: spice, minerals, pear and even some peach. Palate follows suit, showing less bright and richer, with honey-roasted white fruit and a savoury finish. Impressive.
>Vigneti Foscarino 2004, Soave Classico Superiore, Inama ($25.00)
100% garganega. Initial volatility gives way to honey, pear and straw aromas. Rich, honeyed but not heavy. Bitterish finish. Cries out for a piece of fish.
>Capitel Croce 2004, Veneto IGT, Anselmi ($24.50)
100% garganega. Dusty straw segueing to roasted pear. Simpler and more anonymous than the others but refreshing, the fruit more citrusy. Barrique-aged though no one at the tasting picked up any wood.
FLIGHT 2: 2005 CRU BEAUJOLAIS
Some of the first 2005 cru Beaujolais to show up on the SAQ’s shelves indicate that the vintage may actually live up to the hype. The organically farmed Boccards was my favourite, a slurper if ever there were one. Oddly, the estate is virtually unknown, whereas the Lassagne and Viornery, both darlings of the French wine media, were less enjoyable, at least at this stage in their lives.
>Chénas 2005, Château des Boccards ($19.20)
Juicy, sappy, very berry nose. Soft and caressing, structured as much by acid as tannins though there’s a tannic edge to the long, black raspberry-scented finish. Textbook cru Beaujolais.
>Côte-de-Brouilly 2005 Georges Viornery ($19.95)
Closed, grapy nose. Lacy tannins, velvety texture, intensely pure fruit but very dry. Long, red-fruity finish.
>Brouilly 2005, Château des Tours ($20.00)
Odd-man-out nose: sweaty, smoky, cheesy. Sappy, coarser than the other wines, not much depth but pure and delicious.
>St-Amour 2005, Vieilles vignes, Domaine Lassagne ($20.30)
An introvert. Little besides smooth black raspberry on the nose. Shy on the palate, too, with fine tannins and acidity but not much else. Lacks depth. Passing through a phase?
FLIGHT 3: 2003 DOUROS
Everyone at the tasting liked all these wines, though the Vale da Raposa was a disappointment given its price and reputation. While the Infantado is a crowd-pleaser, the Côtto strikes me as more authentic -- or at least more along the lines of what I'm looking for in a Douro. The high acidity levels were as surprising as they were welcome; apparently Douro suffered less than many appellations in that infernal vintage (or maybe the winemakers know a thing or two about handling hot weather?).
>Douro 2003, Grande Escolha, Quinta do Vale da Raposa ($26.85)
A field blend that spends six months in French oak. Spice, plum, wood and dried herbs. Surprisingly high acid and shallow fruit. Pleasant but simple.
>Douro 2003, Quinta de la Rosa ($19.40)
40% touriga nacional, 10% tinta roriz and 10% tinta cão. Engaging nose of spice, iodine and roasted plum. Flavours echo the bouquet. Bright acidity and soft tannins provide welcome structure.
>Douro 2003, Quinta do Infantado ($18.80)
30% touriga nacional, 30% tinta franca, 30% tinta roriz and 10% other varieties. Shoebox (leather and polish) and dark plum on the nose. Smooth, rich and deep on the palate, with velvety tannins and a dollop of oak. Low acidity not a problem now but probably means this isn’t a keeper. Long finish gets drier as it goes along.
>Douro 2003, Quinta do Côtto ($18.05)
A blend including tinta roriz, touriga nacional and francesca. Dried herbs, plum skin, earth and vanilla. Smooth and winey, with good acid, structure and length.
FLIGHT 4: PORT FROM QUINTA DO INFANTADO
The Ruby is an amazing bargain (the wines were served blind and I pegged it as the LBV). The Vintage is also a good buy, if one can say that about a $75 wine. Am mystified by the LBV, which in other vintages has been excellent. It was interesting to compare the ports side by side with Infantado's 2003 Douro; the similarity of flavours was immediately apparent.
>Late-Bottled Vintage Port 2000, Quinta do Infantado ($29.65)
Prune, ash and alcohol on the nose, spice and sweet plum on the palate. Rather faceless.
>Ruby Port, Quinta do Infantado ($15.85)
Maple-roasted plums. Smooth and velvety, more off-dry than sweet, not particularly deep but tasty.
>Vintage Port 2000, Quinta do Infantado ($76.00)
Fresh and complex nose: blackberry, sweet spice, grass, alcohol and eventually perfumy rose. In the mouth, a rich tapestry of fruit stretched over a delicate but solid frame of tannins and acid. Sweet but not cloying. Enduring finish. Overall balance augurs a long life.