There’s a myth in Ontario that the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is the only place to buy imported wines… while it’s true the LCBO owns the monopoly on single-bottle buying, there are these guys (and gals) in flannel suits called agents who also bring booze into the province – and it’s these intrepid folks who offer some of the more interesting wines coming into Ontario. The problem for some is that you can only buy them by the case – and for some, 12 bottles of one selection cramps their variety-is-the-spice-of-life-style, but sometimes you get lucky and a good wine comes in at a good price and is sold in a more reasonable six-pack. I’m here to tell you about one such deal that just landed on our shores thanks to an agent called Azureau. Now nine times out of 10, I’ll recommend wines readily available at the LCBO, but those one in 10 times, I’ll point you in the direction of something special for the collector or someone just looking to be different at the dinner table – this is one of those times.
Let’s start by telling you a little about where these wines come from. Some might remember the Languedoc-Roussillon region as the bulk wine ghetto of France – and that was true years ago… but as they say: that was then; this is now. These days, the Languedoc-Roussillon is changing its image, producing first-class wines at very reasonable prices – and that truly is the key… the prices of Languedoc wines are, for lack of a better term, “cheap,” compared to the quality in the bottle.
The story of Abbotts & Delaunay is not a typical one. Nerida Abbott, an Australian winemaker, started Abbotts winery in 1996… and in 2005, a fifth-generation Burgundian winemaker and negociant, Laurent Delaunay, was looking at making quality Languedoc wines to raise the bar of wines in the area. He stumbled upon Nerida’s winery and Abbotts & Delaunay was born… anew. But an origin story is just that unless there is something to show for it, and this small-lot producer decided on three lines of wine – the base models that focused on varietal wines, the Réserve – focusing on regional expression of the fruit, and the Nuages et vents (cloud and wind) line “micro-cuvées from old vines grown in Languedoc’s high-altitude vineyards, produced in very limited quantities” (about 300 cases each).
On Monday, February 2, I received an e-mail from Azureau announcing the arrival of one of these wines in Ontario. I thought I’d share this information with you and tell you about some of the other wines from this winery. Three of Abbotts & Delaunay’s wines are now available in the province directly from the agent, while the rest are called “private-order” wines – they take some time to get here, but they’re worth the wait.
Get Now Selections (now available through the agent)…
2010 Chardonnay ($14.95) – pleasant, easy drinking and fruity (*** ½)
2010 Merlot ($14.95) – the whole base-model line that we tried was based on the Bud Light philosophy of “drinkability”; this was easy drinking with blueberry and cherry taking center stage. (****)
2010 Corbières ($19.95) – this was one of two wines I kept coming back to… the typical blend of the Réserve-line starting with the Syrah and Grenache, but this time there’s the addition of Mourvèdre (instead of Grenache), and that’s just the ticket for this wine to wow the palate. Beauty fruit that’s both red and dark in nature, silky tannins along with anise and vanilla coating the palate – sure, the price is worthy of every-weekend drinking, but I’d still hold five-plus years and bring it out on special occasions… people will think you paid more than you did. (**** ½+)
My Hurray-up-and-Wait Selection (Private Order)
2010 Côtes du Roussillon ($18.95) – plum, black cherry and spiced licorice aromas, these follow onto the palate with good weight and balance of tannins. (****)
2010 Minervois ($18.95) – lots of red and dark fruits through the olfactories, along with smoky-vanilla notes… on the palate this one is red fruit-dominated with the smoky-vanilla backing. (****+)
2010 Alto Stratus – Carignan ($27.95) – plum, spice, chocolate on the nose; while the palate doles out great spice and pepper notes among all that fruit, with a touch of mineral on the finish that manages to keep it all fresh. (****+)
2011 Zephyr – Chardonnay ($30.95) – the other wine I kept going back to: pleasant fruit along with rich creamy notes of butter cream and vanilla, but it also delivers hints and hits of spice to keep it from being cloyingly creamy, plus great acidity adds to the freshness. This is one sexy Chardonnay from the unlikeliest of places. (****+)
Wines Now Available:
2010 Merlot ($14.95) – (****) – Very Good
2010 Chardonnay ($14.95) – (*** ½) – Good
2010 Corbières ($19.95) – (**** ½+) – Excellent-plus
Azureau Wine Agency