Pelee Island Pinot Noir Reserve ($18.09)
Ask any serious wino what is the best bottle they’ve ever tasted and the answer is invariably a red wine from Burgundy. The rest of their top ten will be from all over, mostly from France and Italy, but number one is always a Burgundy.
Red wines from Burgundy have a capacity to be simultaneously powerful and elegant, expressive of fruit and slaking, like fresh berries but not jam made from them. On its home turf, the pinot noir grape from which these wines come has a magical capacity to express geology and climate, the essence of the place they grow. “Terroir” they call it.
These wines go well with all kinds of grub. They make a simple roast chicken a feast. Regrettably they are not made in great quantities and are mostly ludicrously expensive. The greatest wines of Burgundy have become luxury obscenities. No wonder people have tried to ape them elsewhere, usually with little success.
We are lucky that cooler climate Canada is shaping up to be one of pinot noir’s happier homes away from home. The NLC has several Canadian pinots on offer, one an extraordinary deal, The Pelee Island Pinot Noir Reserve at $18.09.
The Pelee Island is a bit murkier than you want, without the polish of top Burgundy, but it is a credible emulation of the style. It blasts raspberry perfume, has pronounced red berry flavours, and a sting of stronger herbs, like fresh oregano.
Not particularly refined, long in the mouth, or complex, but not confected or factory-tasting either. It’s a steal. Serve it a little cool with a meat and root vegetable stew and you are living well.
Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay ($18.27)
Burgundy also makes the world’s best white wines (what a place!) from Chardonnay, the grape used to make seas of horrible butterscotch flavoured swill the world over.
Dull palates and minds for years mimicked not the “terroir” of white Burgundy wines, but the flavour of the oak barrels in which they were stored and sometimes fermented. Proper chardonnay-based wines want grease cutting acidity and should taste of minerals, not wood.
And like reds from the neighbourhood, the whites of Burgundy have become pricy. Louis Latour makes good and great whites in Burgundy but also in the Coteaux d’Ardeche, to the south. The Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay is an inoffensive approximation of those Burgundy whites that see little or no fresh wood.
It’s got a little zip but it’s not really steely. It’s got notes of pear and, faintly, butter. It doesn’t aim to be Meursault or Montrachet but it sort of does aim to be Macon and it doesn’t quite get there. Nothing wrong with it for the price. Not good enough for that day’s food fishery bounty, but with a piece of farmed salmon, perfectly acceptable. The search for a great white wine deal continues.