Ahhh, the joys of a nice red wine.

The Terroirist - Muga Madness

Part One of a continuing series exploring the new wines and spirits coming to Toronto.

Lurking deep within the heart of the abandoned Summerhill train station, I sit and wait. Fortunately, although the passengers have long since left, there are signs of life around me. The station is now home to the flagship branch of the LCBO, and it is here that the media gather to take an advanced look at the fortnightly Vintages releases, when our liquor monopoly decides to put new, often limited quantity, products on the shelf. We spend hours tasting products ranging from the sublime to the godawful.

October 15th sees a focus on Scotch, mostly from the Islay and Islands regions, but also a good selection of whisky from the Highlands, Lowlands, and Speyside; sadly nothing in this release is from Campbell town, but Scotch lovers will find more than enough to satiate their palates as the weather draws colder.

What I intend to do with 'The Terroirist' is not so much to tell you what's going on at the LCBO - they have an advertising and marketing department for that. Rather, in each installment, I'll be picking out a few of my favourites, and some wines that I think are worth looking out for. Unlike other wine writers, I'm not going to assign a rating scale to the wines - there is so much more to wine that can't be expressed in a subjective number - but instead I'll tell you about the wine, so you can decide. As always though, explore and enjoy!

For your convinience products will be listed by name, region, price, and 'LCBO number' which is a six-digit number that would be the fastest way to get a salesperson to find the wine.

Something Red:
Muga Reserva 2001 (Rioja, Spain) $19.95, 177345
This is about as typical as you get for a Rioja wine. A deep purple colour that nearly seems to suck up the light. The aromas are reminicient of pencil lead, tobacco, and leather, with a solid underpinning of bramble fruit. The palate is medium full bodied with velvety tannins; the pencil lead shows through strongly, and the bramble is accompanied by note of cassis, with leather presenting itself as an undertone. A nice rare steak would suit this wine wonderfully.

Something White:
Philippe Delesvaux 'Saint-Aubin' 2002 (Coteaux du Layon, France) $22.95, 658161
A bright golden straw colour, this medium-sweet wine is an excellent refresher. Oodles of citrus zest and minerality confront your nostrils, and the palate doesn't disappoint either. Peach, and pear notes lead the way, with a spicy finish, and a good vein of acidity balances out the sweetness. Had this wine been released two months ago, when the weather was hot and sticky, it would be a must for every fridge. Still, it has enough life left in it to keep improving until the next time we have hot weather, and would doubtlessly go will with Pad Thai or other spicy asian foods.

Something Different:
Lustau Amontillado 'Escuadrilla' (Jerez, Spain) $15.95 (half bottle), 660324
I'll be blunt: I love sherry. It is perhaps one of the most underappreciated (and thus underpriced) wines around these days. With a range from the salty, dry Manzanilla, to the viscous, sweet Pedro Ximenez, there is a Sherry to suit anybody's taste - and they go so well with food too. This dry Amontillado is a typical brownish caramel colour with legs that seem to go on forever. It has a strong, powerful nose, with almonds, earth, and nuts (especially walnut) being the predominate tones. In the mouth it is full bodied and nutty, with touches of citrus and butter. It could match up with any food, but a gazpacho soup, or a mexican omlette would be ideal.

'The Terroirist' is published biweekly on Thursdays.

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