The Terroirist: Autumn Wines

A bi-weekly look at new wines available to the Toronto market

You can feel it everywhere you go: the days are quickly getting shorter and there is a distinct chill in the air. It's these times when even the most dedicated of white wine drinkers feel the pull of the more colourful variety of grape drink calling out to them - autumn, in a word then, is a time for red wine; light, full, fruity or earthy, red wines and autumn seem to go hand in hand. In honour of this, all three selections this for this fortnight's column will be red.

The first one, the Casetta Barolo 1999 (Piedmonte, Italy $33.95, 004523) is one of those rare wines that is simultaneously both cheap and pricey. Compared to the wines that are normally features in The Terroirist, it's a hefty chunk costlier than most; compared to your average Barolo (where prices approaching triple digits are not uncommon) it's a steal. Either way, this pale tawny-garnet coloured wine is fantastic value for the money. A deep and complex nose really shows off the seven years of age that this Nebbiolo based wine has endured - full of rose petals, tar, cherry, plum, earth, anise, and mushroom. On the palate, it is rich and supple, with plummy tar flavours as well as notes of tobacco, earth, anise and half-smoked cigars. This well-aged Barolo would beautifully compliment a medium-rare flatiron steak now, or let it age for another few years and serve with lamb. Either way, delicious and perfect to drink as the leaves fall.

The next wine is a bit of an oddity, but was a very pleasant surprise at my tasting last week. Although not often thought of as a significant wine region, Israel, especially up in the Golan Heights, manages to produce some top flight wines, comparable in quality to those of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. The Saslove 'Aviv' Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Upper Galilee, Israel $23.95, 652826) is a fun, full, and tasty wine that really shows what non-traditional (although I suppose it could be seen as very traditional, if forgotten) wine regions can be capable creating. This deep bright ruby coloured Cabernet has a hefty nose replete with cassis, plum, and blackberry aromas, and a dry, firm, palate with rasberry, blackberry, cherry, cassis, vanilla, and spice. All of the fruit forwardness and body that one would expect of a new-world wine, but with the nuance of a Bordeaux-based Cabernet. I'd drink it now, probably with beef stew.

Finally, no look at autumn wines would be complete without som9 turns to one place - Australia. The Mitolo 'Jester' Shiraz 2004 (McLaren Vale, Australia $25.95, 659607) it as chunky of a wine as you're likely to find at this price range - but still with ample complexity and flavour. A pleasing bright cherry in colour, the nose really hits you with its tones of tobacco, smoke, blueberry, leather, and tar. On the palate, it is so thick as to nearly coat your mouth, with extracted qualities of tar, smoke, tobacco, blueberry, and raspberry. It might work with red-meat, but quite frankly, I think that this bottle is more of a meal in itself - drink it with friends and nothing else. Grab it quickly though, I don't imagine it will last long on the shelves.

Don't let the weather get you down, just close your eyes and enjoy the wine.

The Terroirist is published every other Thursday

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