Wednesday, October 31, 2007

LCBO Holiday Gift Guide 2007 – Part 2

This is the second part of my holiday gift guide; the LCBO spread the wealth out over 2 viewings – and while the first batch had some nice stuff that tasted good for the discriminating palate on your list; this second crop is all about the packaging and the “giveaways” than what’s in the bottle.

Let’s Give ‘em Something to Wine About …
We’ll start the SWAG giveaway with Inniskillin’s VQA wine tote gift set (#8623 - $29.95) a neoprene bag with a bottle of ’06 Pinot Noir and ’06 Chardonnay. Not to be outdone Jackson-Triggs goes one better with their faux-leather insulated zip-up bag complete with stopper and embossed with the JT logo (#594002 - $25.15) … the wine inside: ’04 Meritage and ’06 Chardonnay – both, thankfully, VQA.

Out of province, we have the cellared in Canada XOXO Chocolate Fondue Set (#49528 - $24.95) … this one’s all about the fondue set: four skewers, bowl and holder, candle for heat and the Belgian chocolate are all included – pair this with something interesting, like port, and keep the XO wine for marinade.

Thinking of taking your money out of country, like say Australia, you might think about picking up the Banrock Station Christmas Gift pack (#328880 - $23.45) – the real winner in this one is the 2006 Unwooded Chardonnay (probably one of my all-time favourite whites), there is also a bottle of ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon, but the real winner in this pack is the Chard, you’ll be remembered for introducing your giftee to it. Sticking with Australia, there’s the Jacob’s Creek Mixed triple pack (#49718 - $34.95), which any Aussie wine fan on your list would be thrilled to receive. A bottle of 2005 Shiraz / Cabernet, 2004 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2006 Chardonnay; the reds are the stars of this show here. Finally from Oz, the Wyndham Estate Duo Pack (#49692 - $35.95) has the right idea, stick with what Aussies do best: Bin 555 2004 Shiraz and 2003 Shaw Reserve Shiraz.

Just in it for the kitsch? Kittling Ridge delivers. Their white Zinfandel/Vidal blend comes loaded in a cool single bottle tote bag, complete with corkscrew – great for picnics and bike rides (#699173 - $17.95) - the bag is anyway; while their Chardonnay/Vidal is packed up with a wine chiller (#6775 - $19.95). You’re paying for the extras here because these wines certainly aren’t worth that much on their own.

For My Brother, the Beer Drinker …
I bring wine over every time I’m invited over to my brother’s house, and each time my brother looks at the bottle, gives me that “hmm”-face, then goes downstairs and gets a beer – thank goodness his wife has taste, in wine anyway, so these gifts are for him (at least dedicated with him in mind).

The Corona Extra Gift Pack (#579300 - $10.95), a good deal for Corona lovers because the glasses would cost that much just on their own. Stella’s home pouring kit (#50260 - $24.95) gives you two Stella Artois’, two glasses, coasters, opener and other Stella-phanalia in a metal suitcase presentation. Big Rock slips you a holiday gift pack (#676502 - $14.95) giving you two thin beer glasses and 4 beer: two Grasshopper wheats and two English brown ales. Sweet.

Those looking to ring in the new year with a beer might want to haul out the Heineken decorative Magnum (#685636 - $14.95) – now that’s festive.

Other Gimmicks and Gimmes …
John Daniel’s (who-ah), you know him as Jack, gives you dice and recipe/playing cards along with his traditional no.7 in a 375ml bottle (#502070 - $19.95).

Bacardi wants you to decant your 8-year-old rum (750ml) in their stylish decanter (#2741 - $39.95).

I once had a friend who would swear Tequila Rose was the best drink on the planet … here they offer their Strawberry Cream with two nifty shot-glasses with black-spotted based (#3236 - $29.95).

Bailey’s lovers will like the new flavours: Caramel and Mint in their very own Bailey’s glass ($33.95 – caramel #49437 / mint #49445).

Feeling lazy about spiking the eggnog this year, then pick up the tasty egg noggy cinnamony libation: Phillips Original Holiday Nog (#49239 - $17.95).

Finally, Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur gift pack (#49502 - $32.95) comes with an enormous mug and recipe book … lovers of chai flavouring should be all over this one.

The Real Gift …
I go back to my first gift release to give another plug for the Polish Cherry Port-style wine (Nalewka Babuni #589333 – now $15.55 – up from $13.60 … too much good press) still a steal at that price; you should be stocking up for yourself, as well as for others … and if you run out of ideas or time, give them a bottle of that cherry stuff you’re hoarding … they’ll love you for it, and it give you a reason to go over for a visit.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

LCBO Holiday Gift Guide 2007 – Part 1

It’s getting near that time of year when you’ll be looking for gifts to give to those who are near-and-dear to your heart, and those that you must get gifts for. The ever-helpful LCBO is gearing up for the holidays with new and wonderful gift ideas from their suppliers. Some are of the hokie and cheesy variety, some I wouldn’t waste my money on and others seem like re-packaged rip-offs of something you could buy year round. But then again there are some unique and interesting gift ideas that truly are worth the coin you’ll plop down. Here is part one of my LCBO holiday gift guide – there are things that I would spend my hard earned dough on to give to my friends, acquaintances, loved ones and those I just plain wanna (or hafta) suck up to.

For the Wine Lover …
Most gifts for wine lovers at this time of year really aren’t about what’s in the bottle as much as the outside packaging and/or the trinkets they come with it. There’s the Gioielli Casa Bottega Rosé Spumante (#49700 - $29.95) that comes with two tapered champagne flutes … the flutes really aren’t much to write home about but the Spumante is a pink bubbly with lots of strawberry, raspberry flavours with a touch of sweetness. This one’s a total party pleaser, but at this time of year it’s what you’re looking for.

For your Italian loving friend (be it wine or the country) check out the Sangiovese Di Toscana (#5520 - $9.95) in the Leaning Tower of Pisa bottle … the bottle actually leans and is in the shape of the famous tower – archways and all. The wine inside is an easy drinking, fruity red that is best chilled … the bottle can either help you convince people they’ve had too much or can be refilled with the liquid of your choice for display year round.

Your Spanish wine loving friends are in for a treat. Osborne Solaz Wooden Gift Box (#621433 - $16.95) contains a 2005 Merlot / Tempranillo and a 2004 Tempranillo / Cabernet Sauvignon in an attractive wooden box … considering that at some wineries the box alone is $20, this is an excellent deal, and the wines inside are a good value too. So you can think of this in one of two ways: either you’ve bought two wines and got a free box, or you bought a box and got free wine – either way you win.

Mom likes wine; dad likes to cook (or vice versa)? The Masi Serego Alighieri and Balsamic vinegar box set (#898460 - $19.95) is the best of both worlds: a bottle of delicious Masi red and a bottle of Masi balsamic vinegar, served up in a corrugated sliding box … Now mom can watch dad cook with a matching wine in her hand - bon appetite.

Riesling fans have three options … though in actuality it’s the same wine just in different packaging. Moselland brings back its Ars Vitis Winter Scene (#589929 - #19.95), a bottle with a clear window-like pane at the front of the bottle looking in on the “painted scene” on the back of the bottle. This time you are looking through the window at a winter scene by a lake. What you’re paying for here is the bottle, which makes a nice showpiece for the holiday mantle. The wine inside is light and fruity, with plenty of peachy flavours – obviously made to be as much a party pleasing white as ever there was one, especially for those holiday parties it will undoubtedly find itself. This is also one of those artsy-fartsy gifts for those that will probably never drink the wine inside. The same wine can be found in the cat-lovers package (Moselland Riesling Coral / Torquoise Cat Bottle #49676/49668 - $9.95) a 500ml bottle that Moselland puts out every year in different colours. This year they’ve added pastel colours to the cat family – for the cat lover or collector on your list.

For the Beer Lover …
I find myself gravitating towards craft beers these days; beers that toss away the homogeneous flavours and instead give you something bold and unique. I think it comes from growing up with lots of Molson products being consumed by friends and then living in a Labatt town for 12 years (London, Ontario). You get tired of the ordinary and want some diversity, even in your beer. There’s a De Koninck Belgian Gift Pack (#612101 - $13.95) with three distinctly different beers: Blond/Triple/Pur Malt and what my university friends would have termed a “Big Ass Beer Glass”. The beers are all tasty, the package is well-priced and I could see myself enjoying one, or all three, of these in an evening.

St. Ambroise Raspberry Ale (#45591 - $3.95) is a beer I’d give my mother, that’s not a shot at the beer or my mother. It’s a tasty full-on raspberry flavoured brew that seems to forget its beer. It comes in a solid gift tube with only one beer inside, no accessories. I figure in a pinch you could use the tube as a makeshift glass.

Not sure whether this was a gift pack or not because it had no extras, but the Royal Extra Stout 6-pack (#24638 - $9.85) is a sweet tasting stout with some coffee and toffee notes that is very enjoyable … and would make for a great gift for those looking for something different, even if it doesn’t come with any holiday extras.

Something Different …
It took a long time for La Cache de Pomme to get into the LCBO – they make the most awesome iced apple wine and were exporting this sweet nectar to many countries before the LCBO finally agreed to put it on their shelves … could their Quebec address be a problem, hmm? But let’s forget the politics and instead check out their offerings for the holiday season. Their Domaine Pinnacle Sparkling Ice Cider (#52365 - $44.75) and the still Ice Cider (#6924 - $39.95), each comes with a set of glasses (triangular with the sparkling, mini-ISO’s with the straight). Great apple flavours in both: one is bubbly, sweet and light in flavour, the other is intense with sticky apple sweetness. Each comes in an attractive gift box.

For the Liquor Lover …
The LCBO is being very good to Scotch and Vodka drinkers over the holidays.

For $99.95 you can pick up the 4 pack of Johnny Walker Family Edition (#630467), 200ml bottles of Johnny’s Red, Black, Blue and Gold. Not to be outdone Glenfiddich has their Tasting Collection (#604686 - $69.95), 3 – 200ml bottles of their 12, 15 and 18 year old scotches.

Vodka lovers will get a chance to try the flavoured world of Absolut with the Five Flavours Gift Pack (#49262 - $14.95), presented in a cute little holiday rack. 5 – 50ml bottles in lemon, peach, pear, raspberry and grapefruit flavours.

Looking for something a little more interesting? There’s the Navan Nomad Gift Pack (#49080 - $52.95). Navan is a delicious vanilla liqueur that is packaged with two attractive glasses in a suitcase like packaging.

For those Chocolate Lovers …
There are two choices for those on your list who love chocolate, both from Mozart. There’s the Mozart White Chocolate with glasses pack (#3905 - $36.95) a deliciously creamy white chocolate liqueur that goes well on it’s own or as a mix for hot chocolate, The other chocolate lovers treat runs the gamut for cacao devotees. Mozart Trio Pack (#624221 - $16.95) – 3-50ml bottles, the creamy milk and white chocolate liqueurs and the more liquidy dark chocolate version … this truly is a chocolate lovers paradise in a glass.

Unique and Wonderful …
You’ve read this far and maybe you’ve checked off a few things, but here’s a definite get, if not for a gift then at least for yourself: Nalewka Babuni Gift Box with Glass (#589333 - $13.60). This gift is incredibly well priced for what you get. Nalewka Babuni is a cherry dessert wine from Poland, fortified to 18%, has deep, rich cherry flavour and port-like thickness, presented in a squat square bottle (750ml) with a large cherry shaped cork. The wide-mouth bottle opening makes it a challenge to pour from, but the liquid inside is delicious. This should be your drink around the fire on Christmas Eve, settin’ up your Hanukah bush, decked out in your Kwanzaa attire or whatever you celebrate … this Babuni will make your holidays even more special, and it’s fun to say when people ask you what it is … Nalewka Babuni.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Saturday October 27, 2007 - Vintages Release

Someone in the tasting room made a comment that it was a “very light tasting this week” … he wasn’t talking about the wine’s flavour profiles here, he was referring to the amount of wines. On the other hand, someone also mentioned that the quality was up, “which means the holidays are coming” … and finally, the theme of this weeks release was vague: entertaining. So what the LCBO wants you to do this holiday season, from what I gather, is entertain lightly with good wine … I guess. So let’s get right down to it.

Sparkling Wines … A party just isn’t a party without some bubbly to pass around; Vintages kicks 6 new ones onto the shelves this week … 2 represent good value, while one is just pricey, because its real, true, authentic Champagne. Taittinger Champagne Brut Reserve ($59.95 - #814723) is a great special occasion fizz … one to pick up for New Year’s Eve with someone special – toasty, tasty and lovely with apple and tropical fruit in the mouth. Hungeford Hill 2002 Dalliance Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir from Australia ($24.95 - #39354) smells of apples and peaches while the mouth follows the nose’s lead with a seemingly sweet taste. But the true bargain in bubbly comes in the form of a Cremant de Bourgogne (France) Louis Bouillot Perle D’Ivoire Blanc de Blanc ($18.95 - #48801). I swear there is some pink colour to this wine made from Chardonnay grapes – there’s also a lemon freshness that’s been squeezed over fresh raspberries and strawberries (that’s the nose); I would have thought with those smells it would be a bit sweeter in the mouth, but instead it finishes slightly dry with raspberries as its finale, and at $18.95 it’s the best bargain in the bubbly bunch.

White Wines … There are also only 3 whites of note to speak of this release: one from Australia, another from South Africa and one from Germany. Australia’s Yalumba Winery brings us a 2005 Wild Ferment Chardonnay ($17.95 - #39271) a lemon, floral and tropical nose is followed by peachy, floral, almond and vanilla tastes. South Africa’s KWV strikes again with it’s 2005 Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay ($14.95 - #328559) the woodsy, buttery, nose would seem it’s been over-oaked; but there’s tropical fruits in the mouth – and a hint of some oak on the palate, but not enough to be off-putting in any way … this is a very pleasant sipper when sufficiently chilled. Finally, Germany comes along with a pretty pricey Riesling, the Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler 2006 Riesling Spatlese ($28.95 - #727370), but of the two being offered, this is the one to get. Petrol, peach and florally nose with apples, pears, lychee and apricots in the mouth … very pleasant with an easy, smooth finish.

California (Red) … From Lodi comes the Van Ruitten 2004 Old Vines Zinfandel ($18.95 - #58685). Zin fans should be happy with this one: cola nut, red fruit and sweet cherry nose – red fruits, raisins and plums in the mouth.

Argentina (Red) … Two from the Argentines, the value priced Catena Alamos 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.95 - #467944) with its chocolate, red fruit, plum nuances that linger all the way through to the finish. There’s also the sleek sophisticated look of Michel Torino 2004 Ciclos Malbec/Merlot ($18.95 - #37895). Sometimes I’m a real sucker for packaging and this one looks good, so maybe that influenced my tastebuds – but I don’t think so, cause my nose was fooled too. Mocha, blackberries, coffee and anise aromas; chocolate, plum, blackberries, sour cherry and black raspberry flavours all mingle with the bit of persistent tannins – and a good value at that price.

Chile (Red) … A drink now 2005 Carmenere from Arboleda ($16.95 - #46284) – rich black fruit, plum and chocolate follow though from the nose right into the mouth. Pleasant and very enjoyable.

Australia (Red) … Three from Australia, including the best value wine of this release: Jim Jim [the Down-Underdog] 2006 Shiraz ($14.95 - #682005) its gotta whole lotta spice (cue the Jimmy Page guitar riff here) – ya, a whole lotta spice (and again); with flavours reminiscent of chocolate and black cherries. Up the price ladder is Wits End The Procrastinator 2005 ($16.95 - #684100) I’d tell you about this 60% Shiraz/30% Cab Sauv/10% Grenache wine … but I’ll wait till later; first I’ll talk about the Yalumba Mawson’s Wrattonbully 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 - #39107) which is all red fruit and yum, with sweet herbs and chocolate. Now, about that Procrastinator … um, just give me a second here …

France (Red) … From the Midi comes Domaine de Triennes St. August 2003 ($24.95 - #726554) – a slightly chillable red full of plums and spice with a touch of cinnamon and chocolate – there are also hints of strawberries and raspberries here. The Rhone produces Rasteau (never sure how these guys keep those dreadlocks clean, but anyway…) – Domaine Grange Blanche Rasteau 2005 ($16.95 - #35436) is great value in a friendly yet age-worthy sipper. Red fruit and cinnamon with a little bite from the tannin. Great flavours that warm the cockles of your heart, soul and stomach.

Did I finish talking about that Wits End wine yet … I’ll get to that in a minute.

Italy (Red) … Batasiolo 2004 Barbaresco ($23.95 - #37051) with its raisin, black fruit and plum nose; raspberry, strawberry with a lengthy finish in the taste department, is enjoyable all on it’s own. Also from Italy Luigi Righetti Valpolicella Campolieti 2005 ($16.95 - #695890) is a beauty of a Ripasso with tons and tons of red fruit, plumy, raisiny goodness – drink now or hold a few years – that’s the beauty of Ripasso.

Spain (Red) … Searching for something with cedar, cinnamon, nutmeg and black fruit throughout that can sit in the cellar for a few years and comes out tasting like a rose (so to speak) Condado De Haza Crianza 2004 ($24.95 - #963348) is just such a creature. 5 years in the cellar should do it some justice, if not more.

As for the Procrastinator … spice, tobacco and black fruit are the smells; cherries, white pepper and a jumble of red fruits … delicious – if you can remember, or find the time, to drink it.

And for Dessert … I always find the dessert wines fascinating. This time out its Perrin & Fils Muscat de Beaume de Venise 2005 ($16.95 - #4713) sweet grape infused ginger ale without the fizz … great for after dinner.

Cheers and Happy Shopping.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Saturday October 13, 2007 - Vintages Release

The first Vintages release of October takes us to Bordeaux and Scotland … now in truth I am not much of a scotch drinker, no matter how much water I cut the stuff with I still can’t get it down the throat, so unfortunately you scotch drinkers are on your own – though I must tell you there are some interesting Cask Strength Arran Malts coming out, ranging in alcohol strength of 46 to 57.8% … enough to set fire to your mouth … if that’s your thing - enjoy.

As for the Bordeauxs being released, there are a few good values on some excellent tasting wines; and although the French are getting their arses kicked by the Aussies worldwide as far as who’s buying what from where … French wine still remains the benchmark by which all others gauge themselves. So, without further ado, I present to you some of the wine, if you dare, by which all others are compared.

Bordeaux … When most people think of Bordeaux they think red wine, but Bordeaux also makes quite a few tasty whites – the Chateau de Cruzeau Blanc 2004 ($22.95 - #966010) is just such a creature. The nose has oaky and vanilla notes, while the flavours are all over the map: vanilla, soft apple, floral and tree fruit, quite satisfying and delicious. Now it’s onto what most people know Bordeaux for … red.

Red wines from Bordeaux come in all price categories. I tried to stay under $40 for this report … I have 2 under $20, 2 under $30 and one for $37.95, that would be the Chateau Colombier-Monpelou 2003 (#43851) with its lush red fruit in the mouth, with good cherry and plum nuances – my notes say “very tasty”, and that should suffice. Dropping down the price-ladder by $10 is the Chateau Pont de Guitres 2003 ($27.95 - #45666). Cherries, chocolate and great red fruit with a tannin backbone – delicious now but definitely something to hold onto for another few years. At $21.95 Chateau Bellevue 2004 (#45708) is a tasty treat that keeps you coming back for more; never mind that funky off-putting nose, once you get it past the lips its delicious. Domaine de Contemerle Grains de Terroir 2003 ($18.95 - #47217) is a wine at a price many of us can afford. Plumy, cassis, black cherry nose; good mouthfeel, rich tannins and black fruit dominate past the gums. Finally, the Chateau Haut-Colombier 2005 ($17.95 - #47217) needs to be opened in advance or decanted, but once it is you’ll find cherries, raspberries, chocolate and coffee rule the roost … there are also some definite oaky flavours but they dissipate with some time open, leaving you with dried black fruits.

Italy (Sparkling) … Italy will kick off the rest of the world for us with this Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut ($18.95 - #687582). A nose of green apple, a little pear and some citrus, culminating in the mouth with toasted apple chips and a dusting of lemon juice.

Germany (White) … Staying in the old world of wine we get this German Riesling from Langwerth Von Simmern 2004 Kabinett ($22.95 - #49890) with its peachy, minerally nose – peach beginning and petrol notes mid-palate; very tasty. If you have your heart set on a Riesling this release, this is the one to get.

Spain (Red) … Spain is known for good wines and good value; this Juan Gil Tinto 2005 ($21.95 - #1677) may be a little pricier than you’re used to from Spain, but then again it really is worth it. In my effort to put descriptors on this wine I found myself lost in the beautiful aromas and luscious flavours. This wine defies description, it truly is one to just sip and enjoy – with or without a slab of meat.

France (Red) … I have this wine listed as my “Holy Crap Selection” – partly due to its price and partly due to its flavours. From Burgundy comes Vigne de L’Enfant Jesus Beaune Premier Cru 2005 (#43257) – a delicious lush Pinot that must be what “they” talk about when “they” talk about a sublime Pinot. The earthiness is suppressed by the plums, strawberries, raspberries and cherries – but it’s there nonetheless; good tannin and excellent length. And all this could be yours if the price of $104.95 is right. Waiter, I’ll have two, and he’s paying.

Australia (White) … From the old world to the new world in one easy step. We’ll kick off our tour of the wines outside Europe with a trip through Australia. D’Arenberg 2006 The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne ($16.95 - #662775) is quite a treat with apples and pears dominating the nose with a little pineapple back-up and a “fizzy” smell. The mouth exhibits lots of tropical fruits and is quite yummy.

Australia (Red) … Long names can either detract from a wine’s appeal or enhance it. Last release Elderton brought out “Friends”; – this time out we get a specific friend: Lorraine. Elderton Barossa Ode to Lorraine Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Merlot 2002 ($39.95 - #976423) – this is one heck of a good friend. Cinnamon, cedar and spice are the most powerful smells on the nose with lots more subtler ones in the background. On the tongue I picked up quite a bit of sweet fruit with a niggling of tannin and a port-like finish … very yummy and very enjoyable; a friend well-worth spending time with.

California (Red) – A few weeks back Cline brought us an Ancient Vines Mouvedre, which I quite enjoyed, in my review I hinted at a 2005 Ancient Vines Zinfandel ($18.95 - #719211) I had tried not too long ago. Well it seems I was ahead of the LCBO a U.S.-based friend of mine knew my love of Zin and brought me a few bottles, so I know this wine intimately. This is a supple and enjoyable Zin right from the get-go. Lots of cherry, rum, cola and sweet fruit on the nose. A sweet mid-palate turns tannic on the finish with a zing; this one’s age-worthy for a few more years easy. This release also brings a re-issue of the Cline 2004 Red Truck ($15.95 - #693903), this is a fruit bomb loaded with cherries and plums in a vanilla wash. And Toasted Head brings back its Shiraz to LCBO shelves ($19.95 – 42937 – Vintage 2004); lovely red fruit and spice – this one also dabbles with vanilla nuances.

Argentina (Red) … More value from Argentina in the form of these wines, which are each $14.95. The Alamos 2006 Malbec (#467951) – plumy, jammy and black fruit nose with smooth, easy-going plum-rich tastes, plus there’s some aging years ahead. Jacques & Francois Lurton bring us their 2005 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (#591735) another easy drinking pick with dark fruit all over it.

Chile (Red) … I have always loved the name “Valdivieso”, it just sounds so foreign yet rolls off the tongue: Val-Di-Vie-So. Said right it sounds like a sentence all it’s own, or a girl named Val from a city called Vieso. Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a Valdivieso wine on the shelves at the Lick-Bo, so wasn’t I happy to see a 2005 Syrah ($17.95 - #45153) just so I could pronounce the name again. But you’re probably wondering how it tastes: rich and delicious with chocolate, eucalyptus, herbs and spice – that’s what little Val’s are made of.

South Africa (Red) … South Africa is one of those country’s where I find the wines lacking … well actually that’s not exactly true, it’s not what they lack that I find off-putting, it’s what they have; a funky road tar, earthy, galvanized rubber smell in many of their reds especially; it’s something I just can’t get passed. So wasn’t I happy to find two in this release that toned the typical down to give us something tasty and pleasant. Coleraine 2005 Fire Engine Red ($16.95 - #663237) a 50/50 Merlot/Shiraz blend that foregoes the heavy-handed road tar aromas for more subtle flavours and smells. Coffee, mocha and sour cherry greet the nose; the road tar shows up only slightly on the tongue, but is masked by sweeter fruit flavours and a big lip smacking “yum”. There’s also Raka’a 2003 Spliced ($17.95 - #37457) a blend of four grapes: cab, merlot, ruby cab and Shiraz, which has some pleasant dark chocolate, integrated into it. There again is the South Africa smell, but the taste is so appealing and the finish so delicious you forgive its shortcomings on the nose.

What’s for Dessert … A sweetie from Cyprus called Keo Commandaria St. John ($11.95 - #101451). Sweet sherry nuances on the nose; raisins and almonds, honey, dried apricots, peaches and chocolate notes all kick around on the palate. A delicious sweetie, that’ll warm you up in front of the fire, for those cold nights to come.

Happy Shopping.