Thursday, December 28, 2023

Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2023 - which 11 bottles are available in British Columbia?

What Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines can you buy in British Columbia?  There are at least 11 and the Wine Barbarian knows - and tells you! 

Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines available in BC

The Wine Spectator magazine is perhaps the best-known and largest circulation wine publication in the world - so when it announces its annual Top 100 Wines, the world - and especially wine drinkers - take immediate notice!  

And here's the good news: at least 11 of the Top 100 - including at least 6 of the Top 10 - are available in BC!  

Above are 7 bottles I've purchased at multiple locations - public and private stores - so far from the Top 100 - and below are 2 more. 

The Astrolabe 2022 Sauvignon Blanc and Raen
2021 Sonoma Coast Royal St Robert Pinot Noir

A few words of explanation about the Top 100: Wine Spectator isn't just taking the 100 highest scoring wines released and reviewed in 2023 and making that their Top 100 - not at all.

The Top 100 has multiple attributes - and here's the Wine Spectator's own words to say it best:

"Each year since 1988, Wine Spectator has released its Top 100 list, where our editors select the most exciting wines from the thousands we reviewed during the course of the year. These wines are a diverse group—ranging from emerging labels and regions to traditional estates exploring new directions—and all generate the excitement we call the “X-factor.”

In addition, our selection also prioritizes quality (based on score), value (based on price) and availability (based on the number of cases either made or imported into the United States). These criteria are applied to the wines that rated outstanding (90 points or higher on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale) each year to determine our Top 100.

As many wines are made in limited quantities and not available in every market, our Top 100 is not a “shopping list,” but rather a guide to wineries to watch in the future—a reflection of the producers and wines our editors become particularly passionate about in each new year."  

For me, the Top 100 list has become a "holy grail" search for any bottles on it that I can find - and afford, as some are pricey - before they disappear from local shelves!

I'm happy to report that I have already found 9 great bottles of wine in BC at least - and tried a few of them! 

The Number 1 wine is Argiano 2018 Brunello de Montalcino from Italy is rated 95 points and I purchased it in the Victoria BC Liquor Store in Foul Bay.  It is listed at other stores and hopefully more stock will come in soon! It may also be at private stores.  Some also delicious Argiano 2017 may still be found. 

The Number 3 wine is Chateau Lynch-Bages 2020 from France's  Paulliac region of Bordeaux is rated at 96 points - and also available at BC Liquor Stores - pricey at $300 but a classic worth cellaring for a very long time - if you can resist! 

The Number 4 wine is Raen Sonoma Coast Royal St. Robert 2021 Pinot Noir from California - rated 95 points and only available in private stores like Everything Wine - retailing for about $121. 

The Number 7 wine is Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2020 - from Italy and rated at 95 points and available at BC Liquor Stores for $65 - another wine that needs a few cellar years but tempting to crack today!

The Number 8 wine is Chateau Baron Pichon 2020 - also from Paulliac - and rated 97 points.  It clocks in at BC Liquor Stores for a painful $375 a bottle - but a legendary wine! 

And the Number 10 wine which is also available in BC is Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2022 from New Zealand - rated 95 points but only $38 and widely available at BC Liquor Stores - it's simply delicious!

There are several other great Top 100 wines for sale in BC Liquor Stores and private stores, including these I've found so far:

Number 15 - Astrolabe 2022 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand rated at 94 points and even cheaper than the Greywacke at $27 in BC Liquor Stores and Vancouver's Broadway Wines, Everything Wine and others.  I have to say it's equally impressive - some may even prefer it and its $11 cheaper! 

Number 29 also hails from New Zealand and is also a Sauvignon Blanc 2022 - this one is the Invivo X SJP from actress Sarah Jessica Parker and Invivo - and is rated 93 points.  It's available at Everything Wine and possibly other private stores for $32 - but limited quantities.

Number 52 is from Uruguay - yes Uruguay! - and is a delightful Bodega Garzon Albarino Reserva 2022 rated 90 points and retailing for just $32 at Broadway Wines and Everything Wine at least - quantities limited so hurry!  While Spain is the home of albarino wine, Uruguay is doing a fantastic job.

Number 68 is Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2021 - rated 93 points and available at BC Liquor Stores for $80 in limited quantities, possibly in private stores as well. 

Number 74 is from Spain - Clos Berenguer 2020 Clos de Tafall from the Priorat region - rated 92 points and available at Legacy Liquor Store at least recently - possibly others - for $38 - a bargain for a great bottle!

That's what I have found so far - always happy to hear from readers with tips on additional Top 100 Wine Spectator wines that are available in BC - do let me know and I'll pass it on! 

And don't forget to get your tickets to the Vancouver International Wine Festival - on sale now and coming soon - February 24 to March 3, 2024.  

As the Festival website notes: 

  • Advance tickets (International Festival Tastings and Super Pass), and Bacchanalia Gala Dinner + Auction are now on sale
  • Trade Days Passes are also on sale for qualified industry members
  • Winery dinners go on sale Wednesday, January 3 at 9:30 a.m.
  • All remaining public events go on sale Wednesday, January 10 at 9:30 a.m.
  • All Trade Days events go on sale Wednesday, January 17 at 9:30 a.m.

See you there!! 

Friday, April 28, 2023

Kiss - Don't Spit!!" - My advice for the Vancouver International Wine Festival 2023 tastings!


"Kiss Don't Spit!"

It’s not hip to spit in my book!  Especially given Covid-19!

It's not something you often hear from the wine critics and experts.

But it is my contrarian advice to those attending the fabulous Vancouver International Wine Festival 2023 - running now through April 30 - for the International Festival Tastings or wine seminars. And there are still tickets available for Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday nights big International Tastings!

Most wine experts advise you to "spit" the wine after nosing the bouquet in the glass and sipping it into your mouth and swirling it around - then spew it out - but I strongly disagree.

After all, there's a reason I'm called The Wine Barbarian! 

The experts' reasoning makes some sense - you can taste far more wines without getting intoxicated by the alcohol content if it doesn't go down your throat and into your stomach.  

But you - the wine consumer - are not an expert nor are you tasting hundreds of glasses.

First - you simply cannot fully experience a wine without swallowing it, feeling the wonderful elixir float down your throat, discovering the length of the finish - you can literally count the seconds when you can still taste it, and know the satisfaction of having tasted one of the best wines in the world!

Spitting?  Sorry but you just don't get that sensation.

And you are at North America's largest consumer wine festival, with literally dozens of wines priced at $100 to $200 or more per bottle - why the hell would you spit that out?!!!

Plus, you can simply "kiss" a lot of wines without swallowing or spitting!

By kissing I mean you nose the wine in the glass, bring it to your lips and then - unless it's awesomely tasty and probably quite expensive, you simply pour the wine into the conveniently located spit bucket on the table. 

Polite, discreet, saving your sobriety for none but the best and when you do sip and swallow it will be worth it!  

Lastly, proper spitting is hard - don't try to learn it in front of 1,600 people including sommeliers, winemakers, family and friends!  

So enjoy the Vancouver international wine festival and taste lots of the fantastic wines from around the world and BC - and "kiss" lots of them!  I hope to see you there! 


Saturday, April 22, 2023

Hurry hard if you want to attend the Vancouver International Wine Festival - many events already sold out!


The countdown is on to the fabulous 2023 Vancouver International Wine Festival - but you have to hurry hard if you want to attend - many events have unfortunately already sold out and others are nearing full capacity!

To help you out, I've reproduced above - as of Saturday April 22 - the Festival at a Glance with all the VIWF events and ticket status - but you should go to their website  page here and check - then buy tickets here!

Sadly, all the wine dinners are now sold out - but there are still for the four International Festival Tasting events - Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and also Saturday afternoon. 

And there are also a few tickets left for California Wines - Eureka In A Glass on Friday with some of that state's best wines and winemakers - one event I will be at - and La Crema de la Crema - on Saturday with some of South America's best wines and winemakers! 

If you are in the wine, food or hospitality business, there are also still tickets available for some Trade Seminars and events go to VIWF's Trade Days website for more information. 

Also - please stay tuned here at the Wine Barbarian website and follow me on Twitter @BillTieleman for updates on wines you must try and other VIWF information as it happens.

And lastly, for the most comprehensive guide to VIWF, check out Anthony Gismondi and Aleesha Harris' Vancouver Sun article online

Cheers and hope to see you at VIWF this year! 

Monday, April 17, 2023

It's World Malbec Day - April 23, 2023 - time to crack a bottle of Malbec!

Today - Monday April 23, 2023 - is World Malbec Day - an annual occasion to enjoy a great grape that is grown in many places globally but is best known in France and Argentina for their remarkable successes in the bottle! 

Here in British Columbia, you can easily celebrate World Malbec Day - or Malbec World Day - with a quick trip to the liquor store for almost any priced Malbec - from a cheap and cheerful everyday bottle to a collectible wine that will last a decade or more!  And there are even a few rare, delicious BC Malbecs produced here - but a bit harder to find.

If you love or want to explore Malbecs, the Vancouver International Wine Festival running from April 22 to 30, 2023 - is where you will find 27 Argentina wineries participating - and loads of Malbecs, including two noted below - from Catena Zapata and Domaine Bousquet!  But hurry - many events are already sold out - go to the VIWF website to get tickets today!  

Malbec is best known as a grape used in Bordeaux blends but it is also found in 100% concentration in the Cahors region of southwest France and has found a new and exciting home in Argentina, especially the Mendoza district.   
And there are also some fabulous Malbec-based blends, where it stars but shares the stage with other grapes, just as it plays a supporting actor role in Bordeaux wines.

The Wine Barbarian has a few quick picks for you - and don't limit yourself to April 17th only - Malbec is a great year round wine that pairs well with everything from grilled meats on the BBQ to stews and casseroles.

Here are a few personal choices but the options are nearly endless: 

Here are three excellent choices, all available at your BC Government Liquor Stores, from left:  Clos de los Siete 2019 by Michel Rolland from the Mendoza region of Argentina - $25.49 on sale till April 29, regular $29.99; La Lande Cavagnac 2017 from Domaine de Cause in the Cahors region of France - $35.99; and Las Acequias Malbec Oak 2017 from Mendoza, Argentina - $22.99 on sale till April 29, regular $24.99.  All three is very to reasonably available - check the BC LDB website to find a store near you. 

I am a huge fan of the Clos de los Siete - last year's 2018 vintage was picked for the Wine Spectator's famed Top 100 Wines of 2022 and the 2019, like the 2018, is scored at 90 points out of 100!  And Robert Parker scores it at 91+ points.  It's got 50% Malbec, 24% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot in the blend.  Drink now through 2032. 

You can cherry and plum fruit, coffee bean, graphite, fresh tobacco and pepper on the finish!

The La Lande Cavagnac is new to me and comes from Domaine de Cause.  The Wine Enthusiast scores it 92 points and finds it full of ripe berry flavours and good tannins.  Drinkable now. 

The Las Acequias is also an old favourite - it is such a treat to be able to buy and drink a 2017 vintage when many wineries are only offering 2020 and 2021 vintages - most of which are not really ready to open.  But this Malbec certainly is - Vancouver Sun wine critic Anthony Gismondi scores it 91 points, calling it lavish with plenty of black fruit and dense, slippery tannins. 

You really can't go wrong with any of these three Malbecs, but here are a few more picks that are fairly easily found: 

Catena Malbec 2019 - the ever reliable standard bearer for many wine drinkers and restaurant wine lists alike - at $26.99 you can count on quality. And Robert Parker scores it at 92 points, noting red berries, violets and freshness.

The Domaine Bousquet Malbec 2021 is another vintage after vintage reliable value wine - now on sale till April 29 at $16.99, regular price $17.99.  And with a 90 point review from the Wine Spectator, you simply can't go wrong! 

And another longtime favourite is the Vina Cobos Felino Malbec  - now in the 2021 vintage and on sale for $20.99 till April 29, regularly at $24.99. The Wine Spectator rates this 89 points - great value! 

So please buy and drink a lovely Malbec today - and remember this great wine for many other occasions throughout the year! 

Cheers and I hope to see you at VIWF!


Sunday, March 12, 2023

Vancouver International Wine Festival wine dinners and events tickets now on sale - and selling fast - some sold out already!

Wonderful Penfolds wine dinner at the Pan Pacific Hotel's fabulous Five Sails restaurant

The fabulous Vancouver International Wine Festival's always-popular wine dinners tickets are on sale now and going fast - with some already sold out!  And the great wine events and seminars tickets are also available but there's no time to wait if you want to attend - move quickly! 

The VIWF runs from April 22-30 - with a regional focus on South America - and you can also buy tickets for the VIWF International Tastings from Thursday to Saturday - but once again, hurry because you won't see any for sale by the time of the events! Here's a link to the full schedule with sold out events and those going fast marked. 

I can't say enough good things about the wine dinners, where a fantastic winery pairs up with one of Vancouver's excellent restaurants to prepare a meal to remember with wines matching each dish!

Last year I was fortunate to attend the Penfolds wine dinner at the Pan Pacific Hotel's Five Sails restaurant and it was stupendous! 

You get a different wine with each course, selected carefully by the chef and the winery to beautifully match each dish and complement - or is it compliment - it perfectly!  The food - from rabbit rillette to rolled lamb breast to turbot - was excellent and the wines superb - including the Penfolds RWT 2010 and the Bin 149 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 - both very expensive bottles. 

And a wine representative - sometimes the winemaker or owner themselves - presents each wine and course with stories about the winery - it is a unique experience not to be missed.

Also fabulous are the many different events and seminars being held at the VIWF, from talking about terroir to the special joys of South American wines to a California Wine and Taco fest! 

So don't delay - buy today!  And see you there! 


Saturday, February 25, 2023

It's OPEN THAT BOTTLE night - Saturday February 25, 2023 Dig a wine you have saved too long out of your cellar and pop the cork!! And Vancouver International Wine Festival info!

Go straight to your wine cellar, wine cupboard or cardboard box and did out a wine bottle you've been saving too long - because tonight - Saturday February 25, 2023 - it's Open That Bottle Night!

This superb idea was started in 2000 by Wall Street Journal wine writers Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, when they realized that way too many great bottles of wine were languishing in wine cellars - being kept for that "perfect" occasion - that never came!  

So they declared that the last Saturday in February was henceforth "Open That Bottle Night" to clear out the cellar of at least one neglected bottle. 

It's a very understandable problem.  I have far too often looked in my cellar and thought about opening a great French Bordeaux or Chateauneuf-du-Pape or California Cabernet Sauvignon or BC Pinot Noir and then felt that the meal or the event was not grand enough or that the guests attending might not appreciate the exceptional wine or some other reason that caused me to leave it in the cellar.

And - very sadly - I have had many bottles go over the hill or actually become write-offs in my cellar, because I'd left them too long.  There is nothing worse than opening an old and expensive bottle only to find that it has long ago passed its prime drinking age - or more awful still - is completely undrinkable! 

So tonight I encourage you to do what I'll be doing - open a really great bottle of wine from the cellar and not worrying about the meal or anything else - because it's Open That Bottle Night - and you don't need any other reason! 

I've already opened one wine that's been in the cellar awhile - a beautiful Garzon Petit Verdot Single Vineyard 2016 from Uruguay - tastes fabulous! 

And - segue - I bought it at the wonderful Vancouver International Wine Festival - running this year from April 22 to 28 - where you can taste excellent wines to replenish your cellar.  The link above is to my Wine Barbarian post about it with lots of links and information - but hurry - advance discount tickets are selling fast and won't last long! 



Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Vancouver International Wine Festival is back in 2023 from April 22 to 30, with focus on South American wines!

Wine Barbarian Bill Tieleman contemplates another wonderful wine at the 2022 VIWF!  Marjo Wright photo

Great news - the Vancouver International Wine Festival is back in person again this year - running from April 22 to 30, 2023 - with a theme focus on South American wines but celebrating with wine from 151 wineries from 17 countries around the world! 

Discounted advance tickets are now on sale for the International Wine Tastings - the big tasting room events - in limited quantities.  Winery dinners tickets go on sale starting March 1 at 9:30 a.m., other public events on March 8 and trade show tickets on March 15.

Be aware that Saturday night's tasting room tickets always sell out quickly - if that's where you want to be, do it soon! The price is $129 advance and $135 regular.

The Thursday night tasting is always my advice for the most enjoyable - it is more low key and usually fewer attendees than Saturday night - plus the winery staff at the event are on their first evening - not their last - and are usually less exhausted! 

Thursday night, Friday night and the newer Saturday afternoon show tickets are all $109 in advance and $115 regular.  All evening tastings run from 7 to 10 p.m. and the Saturday matinee tasting is from 2:30 to 5 p.m. - yes, 1/2 hour shorter. 

The big advantage of buying advance tickets is not the small $6 per ticket discount but the certainty that you actually have the tickets and won't find it sold out if you try buying them later! 

If you haven't attended a VIWF winery dinner you've missed a phenomenal experience - some of the best wineries in the world work with Vancouver's top restaurants and chefs to provide a fantastic wine and food pairing with bottles you won't likely see at the rest of the Festival - or sometimes anywhere else.

I was fortunate to attend the 2022 Penfolds Unbound wine dinner at the Five Sails Restaurant at the Pan Pacific Hotel and it was stupendous!  The food was phenomenal and the matching wines were exquisite - and very expensive!  

Penfolds Napa Valley representative David Nicholls expertly led us through the multi-course meal, explaining each wine and how it paired with the course.

Wine highlights include Penfolds RWT 2010 - simply one of the best Shiraz wines in the world - and Bin 149 - a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that retails here for $300! 

The food - from rabbit rillette to rolled lamb breast to turbot - was outstanding and well matched to the Penfolds portfolio.

So - don't delay - buy advance Tasting tickets today and get ready for the dinners and wine seminars and special events tickets coming soon! 

And follow me on Twitter during the Festival for more updates and hot tips on some of the best wines in show! 

Bill Tieleman and Luke Wines owner and winemaker Thomas Vogele of Washington State's Wahluke Slope.