The Terroirist: Crazed Collectors

If you want to see the power of the human condition, now's your chance. This Saturday, wake up early and make your way down to one of the bigger LCBOs frequented by the richer folk - Summerhill, Queen's Quay, or Bayview Village are all good examples - just before they open. Observe the queues of smartly dressed people waiting - sometimes patiently, sometimes not - for the doors to open. See them bring any family members of legal drinking age along to avoid any per person limits. They might even be given tickets to save the staff the hassle.

Watch as the doors open. Follow them as they rush to the New Zealand section of Vintages, grabbing for their precious prize. It's that time of the year again; Vintages is releasing the 2005 vintage of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($29.95, #304469), the New Zealand cult wine that all the wine snobs go ga-ga for. There's no denying it's a good wine - bordering on very good - with it's aromas of gooseberry, raspberry and grapefruit, but it's not 30 dollars good, and better New Zealand Sauvignons can be found for ten bucks less, at least.

Still, it's always fun to watch them charge for their prize.

For those looking for better value, this release offers more than a few possibilities, three of which are detailed, of course, below.

Something Red:
Vinhos D. Joana 'Encostas de Estremoz' Touriga Nacional 2003 (Alentejano, Portugal) $17.95, 684936

Not the best wine I tasted for this release, but certainly one of the best values - and one of the more interesting ones to boot. Touriga Nacional is a grape that is really only starting to come into its own, after spending centuries existing mostly as a blending grape for port. It really is a shame it wasn't discovered earlier, though this timing helps to keep prices down. This medium garnet coloured wine shows a rich nose full of blueberry, allspice, cinnamon, raisins and figs. On the palate it is smooth and velvety, with flavours of blueberry, vanilla, dreied fruit, spice, and floral tones. Perfect with raw meats like carpaccio or cured hams.

Something White:
Chateau des Charmes Gewurztraminer 2004 (Niagara Peninsula, Ontario) $19.95, 453472

In a word, beautiful. The dulcet tones of a good Gewurtz are a taste to behold. Complex, spicy, and reasonably hefty, Gewurztraminer is one of those grapes that people taste and wonder why they havn't tried it before. Luckily, Ontario has an ideal climate for this grape, and Chateau des Charmes takes advantage of that admirably. Their 2004 offering is pale straw in colour, with a nose reminiscent of lychee, honey, rose petal, and white raspberries. In the mouth, it is dry and nicely acidic, with spicy flavours of rose, lavandar, and lychee.

Something Different:
Rami Falanghina del Molise 2005 (Molise, Italy) $13.95, 531814

The Italians, more than most other countries have managed to avoid the globalisation of the top half-dozen wine grapes, and with a few exceptions (the Super-Tuscans being the most notable) are still making their wines from the traditional grapes that have been with the country for longer than anybody can remember. The upshot of this is that wine geeks can have endless fun exploring the more obscure grape varieties that Italy offers up. Of these, Falanghina has always (along with Greco) been one of my favourite whites. This Falanghina from Rami is pale yellow gold in colour, and has a very fruity nose of raspberry, strawberry, apricot, and cut grass. Drinking it, it is very dry, with lots of raspberry and apricot, as well as a beautiful smoky finish. This is something that really does need to be tried.

Happy exploring!

The Terroirist is published fortnightly on a Thursday

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