Set The Bar
Lifestyle in Style

The Unrated: Testing the Waters with Unrated Wine: Part One

“Unrated” sounds a bit like a Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western. “Hang em High” for a good rating or “The Good, Bad and the Ugly” for less than a stellar rating.

The bimonthly Vintages release catalogue almost always has a rating attached to the wines in the release many by “trusted” and well-known wine writers. The higher you rate a wine the more likely your name will appear in print! Of course, the Vintages publication doesn’t reveal the conflicts of interest many writers have such as “pay for play” whereby a writer or corporate entity employing that writer charges a fee for reviewing the wine or subscribing to that corporation’s or person’s blog.

Why doesn’t the wine have a rating? Perhaps none exist or the writer is not very well known. It could be the ratings are not good. We do receive a paragraph about the wine by the mysterious “Vintages Panel” when no wine writer is mentioned.

At times I just can’t resist purposely reviewing unrated wines. Who knows what gems or duds await you!

Our first unrated lonely is a La Vite Lucente, a red IGT from Tuscany.

It has a black plum colour.

On the nose some intense black cherry and blueberry. Interesting sides of hazelnut wafer cookies. It just is begging for immediate acceptance!

On the palate bursting with black cherry, vanilla and black plum. Some definite tannins on this one. I think this wine can march into 2027 with pride. Case worthy for those with a wine cellar.

Great with grilled flank steak marinated overnight in ginger, sesame seed oil and soy sauce. Even a prime rib would be happy with this wine.

It is a friendly, cuddly and highly approachable wine with heart and soul.

A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

(La Vite Lucente 2017, IGT Toscana, Tenuta Luce, Montalcino, Italy, $34.95, LCBO # 7477030, 750 mL, 14%, Set The Bar Rating 92/100).

I am quickly attracted to a Cali Chardonnay from the rather quiet Russian River Valley away from the hype of Sonoma and Napa. From Lake Sonoma Winery we try a Russian River Valley Chardonnay.

Medium gold in colour.

On the nose big apple, pear and cantaloupe. A bit of banana, clementine and caramel pudding as well. There is some oak involved but it is very gentle.

On the palate apple, pear and Seville Marmalade notes. A short and crisp finish. No over oaked California floozy here. A great sipper and chicken on the roast or a Christmas turkey will do this wine proud. Not worth bashing this one as an over oaked Cali Chard.

I am thinking chicken rubbed with tarragon roasted in the oven with potatoes.

Drink before the New Year bursts upon you. Would do well with a bouillabaisse which after visiting Marseille a few days ago I am charged with trying to re-create on New Year’s Eve!

(Lake Sonoma Winery 2017 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Lake Sonoma Winery, Glen Ellen Winery, Glen Ellen Sonoma County, California, $26.95, LCBO #, 750 mL, 14.2%, Set The Bar Rating 89/100).

We move next to the Pinot Gris from Willy Gisselbrecht in Alsace, France. I am finding it very difficult to find a good Pinot Grigio these days. But how about this version?

Mid golden coloured. On the nose honey, white grapes, marmalade and Spanish clementine’s.

On the palate there is some heft to the wine and some sweetness one does not ordinarily find in a Pinot Grigio. It’s a bit scratchy on the back palate making it a particularly attractive for food. There is some Flemish pear and a slight citrusy finish. Alsatian whites are rarely wimpy. A nice seam of acidity keeps the sweetness in check. Asparagus carbonara, a favourite Umbrian dish, would pair quite well with this wine.

(Willy Gisselbrecht Tradition Pinot Gris 2017, AC Alsace, Willy Gisselbrecht, Dambach-La-Ville, France, $ 19.95, 13%, LCBO # 641597, 750 mL, Set The Bar Rating 89/100).

Almost done we move to a Masi Brolo Campofiorin Oro 2015. Masi is just about a household name in Ontario so why no review?

In colour black cherry.

On the nose black cherry, blueberry, red plum and 85% pure black chocolate.

On the palate rather nambi pambi. It seems to be unable to assert itself despite the presence of Corvina and Rondinella grapes part of the mainstay of cheerful Valpolicella. A lost soul in this wine. OK with delivery pizza or a simple pasta with tomato sauce. Seems something went wrong with this one?

Drink now if want to drink at all. Your best bet is La Vite Lucente 2017 described above. A few dollars more but a far superior wine!

(Masi Brolo Campofiorin Oro,2015, IGT Rosso Verona, $26.95, Masi, Ambrogio Di Valp, Italy, 750 mL, 14%, Set The Bar Rating 85/100).

Well it is fitting we examine a very complicated Greek grape called Xinomavro. It really is a wine that requires at least a decade of ageing to smooth out. Unless it ages it comes across as thin and overly tannic and in general creates a very poor reputation for the wine.

We try a 2013 Grand Reserve Naoussa Boutari hoping for the best!

It has a garnet colour.

On the nose very strong blackberry, blueberry and black cherry notes with a wisp of thyme.

Now on the palate it has some very big tannins indicating a cellar potential of at least a decade. In fact you should not be drinking this wine until 2024.

There are some very rough red fruit notes on the palate. They are overtaken by the tannins. An excellent match for rare beef or wild game. But not to bash Greek Xinomavro producers releasing the wine before its time denigrates the reputation of this grape. I would not even think of releasing this into the market until 2024. Like Barolo from Italy this requires a long sleep time.

I understand why this was not rated. It was released before it was ready. Now if you recognize this it might be a good purchase to cellar away for at least another 15 years. Now how many of you have a cellar to accommodate the quirkiness of this wine?

(Boutari Grande Reserve Xinomavro 2013, PDO Naoussa, J. Boutari and Son Wineries, Naoussa, Greece, $22.95, LCBO # 140111, 750 mL, 12.5%, Set The Bar Rating 85/100).

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