Notes on the wines in March’s “try before you buy” tasting. All the wines are available at the SAQ (the Quebec liquor board). Prices are in Canadian dollars (C$1.00 = US$0.87 these days) and include sales taxes. The tasting was double-blind for the others, blind for me.
FLIGHT 1: FIVE CAMAPNIAN WHITES
>Fiano di Avellino 2004, Campanaro, Feudi di San Gregorio ($38.00)
100% Fiano. Subtle nose, little fruit but whiffs of smoke, ash and wax. On the palate, the initial Chablisesque mix of minerals and acid gives way to a more viscous texture, delicate layers of white fruit and wax, and a long, savoury finish. Elegant, pure and a pleasure to drink.
>Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio 2005, Mastroberardino ($20.15)
100% Coda di Volpe. Sweaty peach flowers on the nose. Unusual combination of ephemeral and voluptuous on the palate: lean on fruit – all rainwater and minerals – yet a rich, dense mouthfeel. Prickly acid and a bitterish finish. Appealing.
>Fiano di Avellino 2004, Pietracalda, Feudi di San Gregorio ($27.25)
100% Fiano. By far the deepest coloured wine of the flight, more golden than the other wines’ silver-green. Nose of wax, green pear, minerals. Rich and unctuous with plenty of enlivening acidity but not much depth. Candied ginger joins the expected faint bitterness on the finish.
>Fiano di Avellino 2005, Mastroberardino ($22.50)
Barest hints of wax, acacia and minerals on the nose. Flavours echo the nose. Slight spritziness. Pleasant but rather faceless.
>Greco di Tufo 2005, Mastroberardino ($22.30)
100% Greco. Palest wine of the flight: silvery with only a hint of gold. Faintly perfumy nose with tropical fruit notes. Rainwater but little fruit in the mouth. Bright acidity. Bitter edge to the finish. Would make an OK aperitif but could use more personality.
A flight that was more a study in shadings than bright colours. The Campanaro is world-class. As always, the Lacryma Christi is a QPR winner.
FLIGHT 2: SIX LEBANESE REDS
>Château Les Cèdres 2002, Bekaa Valley, Domaine Wardy ($22.25)
Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah aged in new oak barrels. Rich maroon with a dark centre. Candied red berries, chocolate and vanilla, gaining notes of dried herbs and old chlorine (“pool locker” was how one taster put it). Beefy, tannic and acidic with an astringent finish. Tasty enough but no depth.
>Château Musar 1998, Bekaa Valley ($51)
Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with Cinsault and Carignan aged 12-15 months in new oak barrels. In every way, different from the others wines in the flight. Medium brownish maroon. Nose of beet juice, red meat, boiled candy, dried herbs and even a little barbecue sauce. Supple, fruity (berries, especially cranberries), acid bright, balanced and long. Unusual – had me thinking of the Loire, another taster of the Jura – and something of a sphinx, but all the more interesting for it.
>Château Saint Thomas 2002, Bekaa Valley, Clos St-Thomas ($24.40)
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah briefly aged in new oak barrels. Medium maroon. Appealing nose of ink, raspberry, sawed wood and spice. Structured, velvety, soft, spicy and berrylicious.
>Cuvée du Troisième Millénaire 2002, Bekaa Valley, Ksara ($43.50)
Cabernet Sauvignon 60% and Petit Verdot 40% (!). Dark red purple. Smoke, plum, green herbs and a hint of plastic. Round, smooth and velvety with mildly astringent tannins coming out on the finish. Long.
>Comte de M 2000, Bekaa Valley, Château de Kefraya ($49.25)
Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Spends 12 months in new oak barrels. Darkest of all: nearly impenetrable red-purple. Nose of raw meat (not the freshest at that), tea and dark berries but also a green-leafy freshness. Most structured wine of the tasting: tannic, balanced, rich. Dark, minerally undertow. Flavours fade before the structure. Lovely
>Hochar Père et Fils 2000, Bekaa Valley ($23.50)
Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Cinsault and a dollop of Grenache. Medium brownish red. Nose of unsweetened chocolate, cinnamon and volatile acidity (which thankfully blew off), leaving gamey dried herbs and spice. Medium bodied, supple, slightly beet juicy. A bit simple..
An impressive group of wines that seemed stylistically to straddle the New World (ripe fruit) and Old (structure, balance, flavour profiles). None of the tasters came close to guessing the country of origin. The Musar, which stood out as the farthest thing from a run-of-the-mill red, was my favourite, though I don’t think ’98 is one of the great Musar vintages. Several tasters declared the Hochar their favourite, especially after they saw the price. My QPR pick was the St. Thomas.
FLIGHT 3: PIEROPAN’S 2001 PASSITO DELLA ROCCA
>Passito della Rocca 2001, Passito del Veneto, Pieropan ($49.00/500 ml)
60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Riesling Italico, 10% Trebbiano di Soave. Rich gold in the glass. Nose of candied lemon, apricot and honey with an underlay of grass. In the mouth: lemon and honey, understated wood and an unctuous texture but remarkably fresh. Long butterscotch-scented finish. Fine and delicious. Had everyone swooning.