Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another awesome Spanish wine rated 90 points under $17!

Sabor Real 2008 from Toro in Spain - 90 point wine for $16.99 - best buy in British Columbia or Ontario!

I am a big, big fan of Spanish red wine and a really big fan of the Toro region - so when you find a great wine that is rated 90 points by Robert Parker and retails for just $16.99 there is only one thing to say: buy lots of Sabor Real!

Fortunately BC Liquor Stores have almost 1,200 bottles in stock all over the province, produced by Campiña de Toro.

And for my Ontario readers, even better news: readily available all over at LCBO stores and a dollar cheaper!  Full details here.

But don't delay - this is not only a highly rated wine but it has a huge taste the you will love.

Parker says the 2008 vintage has a bouquet of blackberry, spice box, tobacco, lavender and black cherry.  I say it is just an awesome fruit bomb with surprising layers of complexity for such a modestly priced wine.  It comes from mostly 70 to 100 year old tempranillo vines and should easily age for 3-4 years, but it drinking perfectly now.

And it is huge - 14% alcohol and not the medium weight wine some expect from Spain - this is bigger tasting than a lot of cabernet sauvignon and even syrah/shiraz wines!

So - there's the starting gun - I can't think of any other red wine that I'd rather drink for this price. 


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Yet another Wine Spectator Top 100 wine readily available in BC! Check out this great Italian for under $30

It doesn't get much better than this - yet another Wine Spectator Top 100 wine readily available in BC and Ontario for less than $30! 

The beautiful Allegrini 2008 Palazzo Della Torre is drinking wonderfully right now and the BC Liquor Stores have 455 bottles across the province, with 268 of those in Metro Vancouver!

And Ontario's LCBO also has this great wine for just $25,

Rated at 90 points and ranked #60 in the 2011 Wine Spectator's Top 100, this blend of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Sangiovese from the Veneto region has lots of blackberry flavours and a refined finish. 

I enjoyed it recently at La Quercia restaurant - an excellent place if you haven't been - with fried rabbit legs and chanterelles! 

But it would be a welcome dinner guest for almost any Italian meal, or whatever else you might serve with a red wine.  Don't miss out - it won't be there for long!  But don't despair if it is - the 2009 is ranked at an almost as good 89 points.

UPDATE - The always impressive Robert Parker says of the 2008 Palazao Della that it is: "Striking in this vintage. It shows remarkable harmony in a tense, mineral-infused expression of fruit. Hints of licorice, tobacco, mocha and spices develop in the glass, adding further complexity and nuance."  Okay - two great reviews and still under $30 in BC - don't wait! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hard to say Besllum is easy to drink exciting Spanish wine

One of the absolutely greatest things about wine is its constant ability to surprise us with new bottles from new regions of incredible quality.

The2008 Cellar Besslum from the MontSant region of Spain is just one of those "why have I never heard of this?" wines. It is rated 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and retails in BC government liquor stores for just $19.99.

A red blend of Carinena 45%, Garnacha 45%, Syrah 10%, it is dark, with "aromas of blackberry, blueberry, exotic spices, lavender, mineral," say the winemaker's notes.

UPDATE - And despite my telling everyone about this great wine, the BC Liquor Stores still have almost 3,000 bottles left as of December 14, 2013!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

BC Liberals finally deserve a toast for introducing restaurant wine corkage!

Cheers to the BC Liberals for once!

Wine lover Bill Tieleman - the Wine Barbarian - toasts BC Liberals' decision to bring in corkage at BC restaurants! - Shirley Ross photo
Why new wine corkage rules in restaurants could be revolutionary in British Columbia.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday July 24, 2012

By Bill Tieleman

"God made only water, but man made wine."

- Victor Hugo, 1802-1885
Cheers to the B.C. Liberal government!

Shocked? It's not a sentiment seen often in this space but credit should be given when any party does the right thing.
And on new wine corkage rules in B.C. restaurants, the government has -- gulp -- done a good job.

The concept is simple: restaurants with a liquor license can let customers bring their own bottle of wine for a meal and be charged a corkage fee rather than buying wine from the restaurant.
The "bring your own wine" fee can be anything the restaurant decides -- from nothing to perhaps as high as $50 a bottle -- and there is no government bureaucracy involved in setting the fees or administering the process.

Most restaurants will charge a $10 to $25 corkage fee, to discourage customers from packing in the cheapest Somewhat Blanc or Recent Rouge wines. They may also ask patrons not to bring bottles in that are already offered on the restaurant's wine list.
The BYOW idea, while straightforward and practiced for years in other provinces and countries, is potentially revolutionary here.

Corkage could increase restaurant sales while reducing the cost of wine to consumers and allowing them to enjoy a better quality quaff at the same time.
"This is a common sense change that will result in more people going to restaurants," Ian Tostenson, B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association president, said Saturday in an interview.

Hey, easy on that mark up!
But the government cannot guarantee corkage's success. It's up to restaurants to make the most of this opportunity and consumers to take advantage by patronizing those who offer it.

Unfortunately, one downside is that many restaurants are already too greedy with existing wine pricing mark ups and may do the same with corkage.

I recently dined at a B.C. restaurant in a tourist town where a Louis Latour bottle of pinot noir from France retailing for $23 in government liquor stores was offered for $63 -- almost a triple mark up and a $40 profit!

Instead of buying that bottle, my wife and I had a much cheaper cocktail and glass of wine for under $40. So it was a lose-lose. The restaurant lost out on making more money and we didn't have a bottle with dinner, plus we won't go back because of their wine pricing.
Check one of Vancouver's best restaurant's wine listsand you can find painfully high prices, like $50 for a Pfaffenheim pinot gris from France worth $19 in a B.C. liquor store or $62 for a Errazuriz carmenere from Chile retailing at $22 or $120 for a de Toren Fusion V red wine from South Africa that retails for $45.

The standard doubling of retail prices for wine in restaurants is bad enough but more than that is unconscionable. Big mark ups are a major reason many people don't go out as often to restaurants or don't buy wine to go with their food.
And as the price goes up, the mark up should go down accordingly -- but often it doesn't, so patrons buy low-end wine instead.

Why should a restaurant charge $40 for a $20 retail priced wine and $100 for a $50 bottle, making $20 on one and $50 on the other for identical service and the same wine glasses?
So far those restaurants have probably gotten away with it because they think customers are simply stupid and don't know they're being fleeced with every glass.

But my suspicion is that many patrons would spend more on wine and be more likely to return if the establishment offered either a flat rate mark up no matter what the price or at least a much lower mark up on higher end wines.
If restaurants offer a reasonable $10 corkage fee, customers can bring in a $30 retail priced wine and save $20 over what would be charged on a standard 100 per cent mark up if they bought a similarly priced wine off the list. And they can bring in a special bottle saved from their cellar for years or a more expensive one for a special occasion.

Just the beginning
"This whole movement to modernize liquor laws is a consumer rebellion over the high cost of alcoholic beverages in B.C.," says Mike Klassen, who runs the BC Wine Lover blog.

"Drinking wine in moderation over a family dinner is one of life's great pleasures, yet it's prohibitively expensive for us. Fairly priced corkage fees are a step toward affordability," Klassen told me.
I completely agree and think smarter restaurateurs will take other innovative steps with corkage, such as waiving or reducing the BYOW fee on traditionally slower days like the beginning of the week or offering no corkage if you bring in a large party or order a more expensive multicourse meal.

Those are all now possible and fortunately B.C. has avoided some problems Quebec created with its corkage rules. In that province only unlicensed restaurantscan allow customers to "bring your own wine" -- with the result that none of the best eateries offer corkage. In downtown Montreal just six restaurants advertise BYOW.
But expect some B.C. complaints nonetheless. Pub owners who serve food may be crying in their beer -- because the government excluded them from offering BYOW.

As also recently outlined here, B.C. charges some of the highest retail prices in North America, so corkage fees won't change that reality.
And of course, what would a meal in B.C. be without the hated Harmonized Sales Tax being applied? Unfortunately, until the HST disappears in April 2013, corkage fees will be subject to the tax along with your food.

Nonetheless, let's raise a glass. The B.C. Liberal government has earned a toast at last.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

British Columbia wine, beer & spirits among North America's most expensive

Wine, beer & spirits in British Columbia will cost you - Bill Tieleman photo
And that's even before privatization of warehousing that may boost your bill. 

Bill Tieleman’s 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday July 10, 2012

By Bill Tieleman

"Bill has a column, right -- so I'm warning you -- so if you tell Bill he's wrong, the chances are he's going to get a column out of if."
Voice Of B.C. host Vaughn Palmer to Rich Coleman, B.C. liquor minister.
Do you believe the price of beer, wine and spirits in British Columbia is reasonable?
That B.C booze costs are comparable to other provinces and American states?
I don't, so I posed a simple question to Coleman on Shaw Cable's Voice of B.C. on May 31.
"Why do consumers of beer wine, and spirits pay among the highest prices in North America for those products?" I asked.
But Coleman immediately rejected my conclusion when Palmer asked: "Is he right about that?"
"Not really, no. We have a pretty comparable price structure to the rest of Canada," Coleman replied.
Oh yeah? I may only be a columnist and wine blogger, but I think the minister is wrong.
And some quick research on beer, wine and spirits prices indicates we often pay more -- sometimes much more -- than in other jurisdictions.
In B.C. government liquor stores, Labatt Blue beer costs $22.29 for 12 bottles, plus $1.20 bottle deposit, for a total of $23.49.
So how come in Chicago, Illinois, the imported Blue can be found for just $10.98 U.S. a case at Binny's private stores? That's less than half price!
Or why is it $18.50 a case in Ontario and $20.18 in Quebec at an IGA store?
And why does a Catena cabernet sauvignon from Argentina costing $21.09 in B.C. plus deposit retail at Ontario's government liquor stores for $19.95 and only $17.31 at private Calgary store Zyn?
How does Binny's in Chicago sell it for just $16.54 U.S.?
Coleman's corkers
Perhaps such price differences are why Coleman hedged his bets under questioning by Palmer after initially saying I was dead wrong.
Palmer: "He knows his wine, Mr. Tieleman, he's pretty knowledgeable about pricing, I think he might be right."
Coleman: "I don't think he is. I mean, we watch prices, there are some jurisdictions that have different pricing structures. You can go look at some types of liquor, some types of beer, whatever, and see differences between jurisdictions."
Palmer: "Bill has a column, right -- so I'm warning you -- so if you tell Bill he's wrong, the chances are he's going to get a column out of if."
Coleman: "He's not totally wrong because on some of it there is higher prices. A premium Scotch is higher in B.C. than it is in Alberta. But the floor price on some of our spirits is lower than in Alberta.
"So it's really how we tax it and how we take our revenues out of it, and in B.C. we make $900 million that goes into this fiscal plan for government, so that's where our pricing is."
Some B.C. prices are indeed lower than Alberta and other locations.
Let's drink Kentucky bourbon Wild Turkey for $28.95 a bottle in B.C., $28.25 in Ontario, $27.60 in Quebec -- or an easier to swallow $22.93 in Chicago.
That same bottle is $31.87 in privatized Alberta at a Calgary store.
But when one of the biggest selling beers brewed in Canada costs half the B.C. price in Chicago and $5 less in Ontario, I'd say someone's making a lot of windfall cash.
Higher prices for worse wine
Compare B.C., Ontario and Quebec's government liquor store profits.
B.C., as Coleman notes, makes about $900 million from selling liquor, while the Liquor Control Board of Ontario reported a $1.6 billion dividend to government from sales and the Societe Alcool de Quebec just announced a $1 billion net revenue.
But B.C.'s population is 4.6 million, Quebec's is 7.9 million and Ontario's is 13.4 million -- that's a lot more revenue per person from booze sales in B.C.
Yes there are differences between the provinces. Quebec allows corner stores and supermarkets to sell wine and beer; Ontario has the Beer Store run by big breweries as well as its stores while B.C. has a mixed public/private store network.
However none of that contradicts the higher prices in B.C. on some identical products.
Maybe that's fine with some B.C. drinkers -- and non-drinkers -- who prefer high prices that help fund government services while discouraging consumption.
But alternatively, high liquor prices are a regressive tax where lower income earners pay disproportionately more of their budget to enjoy a beverage.
It also means that those who drink are likely to purchase cheaper products because of the higher taxation and mark up rates. We pay more for crappier wine.
And despite Coleman saying his plan to privatize B.C.'s liquor warehouse operations won't mean consumers will pay still higher prices, I'm not convinced.
The new private owners will maintain a monopoly on the distribution and will also retain the unionized workers, plus find ways to make a profit -- all without increasing costs?
Here's one more clear reason I'm very dubious -- the same Catena wine priced at $21.09 at B.C. government stores is $27.99 in private B.C. Liquor Depot outlets -- 33 per cent more!
It all may drive me to drink.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fantastic 93 point Spanish red wine for under $20! Besllum from the Montsant region

Every once in awhile you open up a new wine and go - WOW!  That is a great wine at a reasonable price.

Last night that happily happened when I opened a 2008 Besllum red wine from the Montsant region in Spain, near Priorat and about 1 & 1/2 hours south of Barcelona.

This wine is big and bold, with deep red berry flavours and lots of other interesting notes.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gives it a big 93 point score and I concur.

Best of all - it's $19.99 at BC Liquor Stores and they have over 1,600 bottles. Click here and you can find some.

Here's what the winemaker has to say about it:

"Besllum has a deep dark color with aromas of blackberry, blueberry, exotic spices, lavender, mineral, and pain grille. Concentrated with a full body and flavors reminiscent of sweet fruit. 

There is just enough acidity to carry the flavor through the long, supple finish.

Composition: Carinena 45%, Garnacha 45%, Syrah 10%"

Go get some now - great with BBQ food!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Quick picks for the Playhouse - Vancouver International Wine Festival - Saturday March 4, 2012 - Tables to Taste All

Don't get Bottle Shock - hit these Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival winery tables where you can't go wrong with everything they pour!

You too can be as discerning as Alan Rickman in Bottle Shock!
Greetings wine drinkers - and welcome back to the Wine Barbarian!   Tonight's mission at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is simple - find and taste as much fine wine as you can in 3 hours!

I'm here to help.  Careful research - alright, haphazard combined with pure luck - at Thursday night's tasting has led me to do these quick recommendations.

There are many fine wines here - 791 wines in all from 181 wineries - but you can't taste them all in a week, let alone one night.

So here are some surefire picks where everything poured at the table is a clear winner wine. 

That means rather than drinking three so-so wines to get to one good one, you can park yourself at the table and try them all.

There are no doubt other fab four tables - hope to find more tonight when I return to the tasting room - but these are ones I can vouch for already.

Sacred Hill Wines - New Zealand

One of the best chardonnays in the room - Riflemans Chardonnay 2010 at just $39 - and the fabulous Deerstalkers Syrah 2008 - are joined by Prospectors Pinot Noir 2009 and Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011. 

Paul Hobbs - United States

Another great new world chardonnay - Russian River Chardonnay 2009 - POW! - explodes in your mouth.  Then the great Russian River 2010 Pinot Noir, excellent Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and fabulous Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 at a cool $100 a bottle.

Domaine Laroche -France

I love Chablis and this is great stuff - the entry level $24 Chablis St. Martin 2010 is great value, the $44 Chablis 1er Cru Le Vaillons VV 2007 is killer and the $84 Chablis Gran Cru Les Blanchots will make you weep tears of joy - if you can buy a bottle that is!  Also an entry level $20 Pinot Noir de La Chevaliere 2010.

Domaine de la Solitude - France

The most expensive bottle in the room - the $250 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Reserve Secrete 2001 is stunning - and was almost sold out in the on-site Liquor Store on Thursday night.  Just wow!  A slightly more economical $129 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Barbarini 2001 is also fantastic and was sold out.  But you can't go wrong with the baby brother $100 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tradition Rouge either.  Lastly, a modest $50 for the Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tradition Blanc.  This is one table not to miss!

Perrin et Fils - France

Starting to notice that France is not skimping at this event?  The flagship $92 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2009 is a killer wine - and always one of my favourites.  2009 was a great year in the region.  For a more affordable drink try the baby sister $35 Coudoulet de Beaucastel - lots of the same great fruit but drinking now rather than a cellar selection.  Another personal favourite - the $27 "Les Christins" Vacqueyras 2009 is great value and the $22 Cairanne Peyre Blanche 2009 is also there.

Le Vieux Pin/La Stella - Canada

BC's' Okanagan Valley can make wine every bit as excellent as France - these wines show it!

The flagship $90 La Stella Maestoso Merlot 2008 is amazing!  I hadn't tried it before and I was blown away by it's intensity and power.  The $30 2008 La Stella Fortissimo - a blend of Cabernet/Merlot/Sangiovese blend - is also great at that price.  Also try the Le Vieux Pin Syrah 2009 and $35 Le Vieux Pin Ava white Rhone blend. 

There's way, way more and lots of great wines hiding with more modest fare - especially some fantastic Chilean cabernet sauvignons and carmeneres but if you start with these, you will go home happy!

Cheers and hope to see you there!

Bill Tieleman - the Wine Barbarian


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Playhouse International Wine Festival is on! Attending Thursday night's tasting and will report back!

The Wine Barbarian at work - end of bottle blues!
I will be hard at work tonight on your behalf, tasting great wines at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival and reporting back here afterwards.

Look for me in "the Big Room" tonight and Saturday, where I will have to choose between 181 wineries pouring 791 different wines!

And good news - there are still some tickets available for some remaining events!  Click the link above to find our more.

This year's focus area is Chile - and I look forward to some excellent Carmenere, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and more - plus all the other international and domestic wines.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Do you have a Fetish? BC Liquor Stores have lots! 2010 Top 100 Wine Spectator choice The Watcher 2008 shiraz by Fetish Wines available

2008 The Watcher shiraz by Fetish

BC Liquor Stores have a Fetish - in fact, they have 972 of them!

The Watcher - a 2008 shiraz produced by Fetish Wines was the Wine Spectator's #61 of its Top 100 Wines of 2010 and it is a blockbuster.

But even more impressive is that BC Liquor Stores have somehow managed to get 972 bottles of The Watcher into stores across the province over a full year after it first was released and got the Spectator's highly-coveted seal of approval!  Kudos to the BCLS on that one.

Still better - it retails for $24.99 and this 91 point shiaz from Australia's famed Barossa Valley is worth every penny.

I had a bottle last night and it was huge - full of briary fruit and chewy goodness.  The Spectator says "blackberry, black plum and white pepper flavours" and says drink now to 2018.

This is, like most Aussie shiraz wines, high alcohol - clocking in at 14.5% - but it isn't noticeably "hot" or port-like.  [I just tasted

Lastly, if you haven't seen my earlier post that BC Liquor Stores also have widely available three excellent Top 100 wines of 2011 - the current Wine Spectator list - check that out.  And you can see the full 2011 list for free at the Spectator.

Now go get a Fetish or two!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wine Barbarian returns with news of Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2011 available in British Columbia

Only in British Columbia you say?  Pity!

Quinta do Crasto - 93 points

Vincent Girardin - 92 points

Cloudy Bay - 92 points
First - I apologize.  My best intentions to keep this blog more active have merely paved the road to more wine drinking research and less writing!

However, having not one but two blogs - my political Bill Tieleman website - makes life more complicated, since "news of the day" seems to take priority over "wine of the day", sometimes sadly.

Nonetheless, and without a new years resolution, I will do my best to be more wine current.

And to start - here are three truly excellent wines recognized by the Wine Spectator magazine as members of the Top 100 Wines of 2011 - and still available in BC Liquor Stores, as well as in other locations around the globe.

The Top 100 does not comprise the highest rated wines in the world - that would be prohibitively expensive for all but the 1% who occupy their wine cellars with first growth Bordeaux.

Rather, the Wine Spectator explains their criteria this way:

"More than 5,400 of these wines earned outstanding or classic ratings (90 points or higher on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale). We narrowed the list down based on four criteria: quality (represented by score); value (reflected by release price); availability (measured by cases made or imported); and what we call the “X-factor”–the excitement generated by a rising-star producer, a benchmark wine or a significant milestone for a wine region. 

But no equation determines the final selections: These choices reflect our editors’ judgment and passion about the wines we tasted."

And so, the wines you can find in BC - there were a few others but I suspect more limited quantities quickly disappeared.  I'm happy to say I've tried them all!

First, the 2008 Quinta do Crasto - Douro Reserva, Old Vines - 93 points, ranked #62 - a blockbuster wine from Portugal, one of the most overlooked and underrated wine producing countries in the world.  

Too many still think it only produces Port when in fact there are fabulous red wines made there from grapes we don't know, let alone know how to produce.

Listed at US $46 it's actually cheaper in BC at $42.99 and there are over 1,000 bottles available according to the BC Liquor Stores website, which has location details at the link I'e just posted.

The Spectator says: "A solid core of savory spice and leaf notes provides a supple overlay to the flavors of dried berry and smoke. The deft finish lingers, with touches of cream and vanilla as well as plenty of cocoa powder notes. Very elegant and suave. Drink now through 2017."

I agree but think it will last much longer.  I also found a good blackberry bouquet to it.

Second - 2009 Vincent Girardin - Moulin-à-Vent Domaine de La Tour du Bief Clos de la Tour - 92 points and ranked #54 - a mouthful to say and full of good taste! 

This wine from the Moulin a Vent appellation in the Beaujolais region of France, and yes, named after a windmill in the region.

It retails for $29.99 at BC Liquor Stores but is in short supply - just 74 bottle left, most in Vancouver. US retail is a touch lower.

The Spectator says: "Lush fruit flavors of blackberry and blueberry mix with a core of spice and dried herb notes in this fresh and silky red, which has lightly chewy tannins, followed by lingering hints of dark chocolate and cardamom on the finish. Drink now through 2016."

I agree again with this description - but am inclined to leave it a bit longer to develop rather than drink it all now.  But I admit I had to try 2 bottles before making that difficult decision!

Lastly, an old favourite that is perennially in the Top 100 - 2010 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc - 92 points, ranked #29 - a big pow in your mouth New Zealand SB from the Marlborough region with layers of different tastes.

It retails for $31.50 in BC Liquor Stores and their website indicates a surprising 1131 bottles available.  Slightly cheaper in the US.

The Spectator says: "Tangerine, mango and citrus flavors are pure and focused, smooth, round and wonderfully refreshing, with peach, Key lime pie, mineral and floral elements that really take off on the finish. Drink now." 

Yes, it's a tropical fruit punch!  If you've never had Cloudy Bay SB don't delay - it is simply delicious.  I'm not sure how long it will keep but certainly a year's aging will do no harm, if you can leave it there.

So there you have it - my first but not last post of 2012 and three wines you don't want to miss.

Don't delay - these wines will disappear very, very soon - and all the sooner because I've let you in on the secret!