Thu. Jan 17th, 2019

Magnotta Wines Venture Series: The Reds

I recently returned from the Dão region in Portugal where some very interesting wines are being produced but scantily available in Canada. It would appear that LCBO buyers are favouring the Douro region in Portugal.

The Douro region produces some excellent wines but why are they favoured over the Dão or Alentejo or even Lisboa wines? I think LCBO buyers are favouring a safe cash cow. A friend of mine in New York who is well known in the wine world told me the LCBO is seen as an ATM for European wine producers.

I just had to pay a visit to Magnotta after visiting UDACA winery just outside of Viseu the capital city of the Dão wine region. UDACA made no secret it focuses on the “international” market for fruit forward and immediately accessible wines and the European market for more complex and nuanced wines. I am not entirely certain what market Magnotta is focusing on but like UDACA they have loads of cheap and cheerful and boxed wines. But like UDACA they have some higher priced wines. But the feeling at the UDACA and Magnotta retail outlet was striking. Holiday specials! Special Christmas packaging.

Magnotta has 13 outlets in Ontario.

My opinion about Magnotta has never been terribly positive. The wines have generally been low quality with instances of Ontario wines being blended with bulk imported wine. Sort of cheap but not really cheerful.

However, one can’t always be bound by past experience and thanks to UDACA I stopped in at Magnotta and purchased a case of different wines in their new VENTURE series of wines.

The Magnotta Venture Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 is a VQA Niagara Peninsula. A bit early to release a Cabernet Sauvignon!  Black cherry in colour. Blueberry, black cherry and mocha on the nose. On the palate one might say a bit thin and discrete like a reclusive Greek monk on Mount Athos. A true Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon. Don’t expect a fulsome California Cabernet Sauvignon here but one that is true to Niagara terroir. Not bad if you accept the proposition Cabernet Sauvignon should be grown in Ontario.

It has a short finish and there is a lack of depth. Cabernet Sauvignon has more of a chance in the warmer Lake Erie North Shore VQA in Ontario.

Drink now and with simple “Friday night” fare….burgers, pizza and simple pasta.

(Magnotta Cabernet Sauvignon, Venture Series, 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, $14.75, 13.1%, 750 mL, Set The Bar Rating 86/100).

The Magnotta 50/50 2016 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has a ruby colour. On the nose rich black cherry and raspberry with hints of cigar.

On the palate it has some raspberry and smoke on it. The tannins are mild and it slides down the throat quite easily. Not a complicated wine and not much of a finish as length goes but friendly and approachable. Sort of a middle of the road please all party wine. Juicy and pleasing.

It would suit a whole host of nibbles. Might go well with a medium rare burger and homemade fries

(Magnotta Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot 2016 (50% of each grape), Magnotta Winery, VQA Niagara Peninsula. $14.75,13.5%, Set the Bar Rating 89/100).

Pinot Noir is a tricky grape. Thin skinned it’s an easy victim to frost. In Ontario it does fairly well. So we continue with a Magnotta 2016 Pinot Noir from the Niagara Peninsula. In colour classic Pinot Noir transparent raspberry colour.

A slightly smoky and seductive aroma of toasted black cherry, bark, bacon and smoked meat. On the palate very smooth with red plum, smoked meat, cigar and red cherry on the palate. A bit of tannins to indicate a few years of ageing might be required. Perhaps with a few more years in the bottle this somewhat lean Pinot Noir must just be more seductive. I suppose what I am saying is that this inexpensive Pinot Noir is far above the $30 French Pinot Noir class. It has a French element of leanness and elegance to it.

The Great Niagara Hope? You’ll need another 3-5 years to make that determination but a case purchase is not unwarranted. If we come out on the winning side of this after a few years we deserve a great pat on the back.

(Magnotta Pinot Noir 2016, Venture Series, VQA Niagara Peninsula, $14.95,13.2%, Set The Bar Rating 91/100).

Now to end with the Venture series Magnotta reds we fly to a Cabernet Franc 2016 from the Niagara Peninsula. My thought as an Ontario based wine writer if you can’t make a good Cabernet Franc you might as well pack up and go home. Can Magnotta deliver?

Black cherry in colour. Tried and true Ontario Cab Franc aromas of black cherry, cocoa powder and tobacco. Solid punch of black cherry on the palate with rhubarb and red plum. I think with the tannins as they are this fellow will improve up to 2024.

As for food steak, prime rib, rich meat casseroles and even lasagna would be a good match. A good solid wine at a very attractive price.

(Magnotta Cabernet Franc 2016, Venture Series, VQA Niagara Peninsula, $14.75, 13%, Set The Bar Rating 92/100).

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