Every once and a while I end up with a backlog of reviews of products I've tried. It just so happens I spent last week exploring the Vinho Verde and Porto regions of Portugal. Being tied up travelling gives me a chance to offload -- er, share -- some of the more interesting wines I've tried, listed from lightest to heaviest, over the past couple of months.
If you like crisp, racy sparkling wine, the Castellblanch NV Cava (Cava, Spain -- around $14, private wine stores) is a good option for the price -- the nose is dominated by mineral, flint, chalky and herbal notes, although there's still enough pleasant lemon-lime notes in there. The chalky notes come through in a big way on the light-bodied palate, with lemon rind and green apple notes ramped up by some juicy acidity. Try as an aperitif or with oysters. 85/100
From Australia comes the cheekily named Woodvale Vintners 2011 "The Dirty Hoe" Riesling (Clare Valley, Australia -- around $20, The Winehouse).
Very pale straw in colour, it offers up-front chalkiness as well as red apple skin, tart peach and lemon on the nose. It's crisp, just a shade off-dry and brimming with ripe red apple and lemon flavours, a hint of peach and some light acidity. Definitely worth buying, in honour of (or despite) its name -- drink with schnitzel, grilled shrimp or sushi. 87/100
Want to go off the beaten track? The Bodego Gordonzello 2011 Peregrino Verdejo (Tierra de Leon, Spain -- $13.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Is an excellent example of the Verdelo grape for the price: Pear, mineral, peach skin and floral notes are most prominent on the nose here. Light-bodied and quite crisp, there's more of a red apple skin note that comes through on the palate with the pear and chalky flavours. A touch of acidity makes this wine incredibly food-friendly -- ham or grilled octopus anyone? 88/100
A little closer to home, the Henry of Pelham 2010 Chardonnay (Niagara Peninsula, Ontario -- $14.95, Liquor Marts and beyond) delivers lovely red apple, honey, light minerality and lemon notes on the nose. This medium-bodied Ontario Chardonnay combines ripe fruit and viscosity with some nice creaminess thanks to sur lie aging -- a process that lets the wine age on yeast lees sediment. There's still a handful of the 2009 vintage in our market -- interestingly, it's labelled "non-oaked" while the 2010 has dropped that moniker. This should work with roast chicken or white fish dishes, but is totally drinkable solo. 87/100
Head west and the Sandhill 2011 King Family Vineyard Pinot Gris (Okanagan Valley, British Columbia -- $16.99, Liquor Marts and beyond) is part of a consistently great line that delivers remarkable value in single-vineyard Canadian wine. Lemon-lime, mango, tangerine, red apple and peach notes are bright and bold on the nose. Medium-bodied and juicy, this Pinot Gris retains the tropical fruit flavours at the forefront, with rich peach and tangerine flavours doing working well with green apple, lemon, and light herbal notes. This line continues to outpace its peers in delivering excellent value. A worthy match for creamier cheeses, milder Thai fare and paella. 90/100
South of the equator, the Torlesse 2010 Pinot Noir (Wairapa, New Zealand -- $21.98 Liquor Marts and beyond) is pale ruby in colour, with loads of cherry and raspberry aromas and some mocha, toffee, cola and spice notes that are textbook New Zealand Pinot Noir. It's light-bodied and juicy, delivering red berry and cherry flavours on the light-bodied palate with intensity and a splash of acidity. A modest herbal note keeps things interesting. Try with mushroom risotto or poached salmon. 88/100
While the packaging looks fairly modern, the aromas on the Logowines 2010 Aya Charming Red (Alentejano, Portugal -- $14.99, Liquor Marts and beyond) are a dead giveaway for "Old World" winemaking style: earth, black cherry, toffee, leather and plum notes bring fruit and more rustic notes together. Medium-plus bodied and juicy, the Aya shows more stewed-ish fruit -- raisin, prune, cooked cherry -- than the nose might suggest, but it's still a delicious red that retains some licorice notes as well as spice and light tannin. It's well-balanced -- try with hearty stews and beef dishes. 87/100
Sticking with the Iberian Peninsula, the Mustiguillo 2008 Mestis (Vino de la tierra El Terrerazo, Spain -- $19.99, Liquor Marts and beyond) is a blend of Bobal, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Plum, spice, wet earth and black licorice aromas are fairly complex here. This full-bodied red shows some oak on the palate as well -- this, plus medium tannin, give the wine some structure to go along with the rich dark fruit. It's a steak wine, to be sure, but also drinks well on its own with some decanting. 89/100
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