Wine of the year (so far): California Girl goes Portuguese

Maybe it was the election of Donald Trump that soured my feelings about California and got me to thinking there must be more to the wine world than its vineyards.

Regular readers here know it has been all about California wines for me in the past two years or so. I love the Barefoots, Grey Fox, Cupcake and so many other red wines produced in that state.

But my interest was piqued slightly when my friend Alan posted a recommendation on Facebook in mid-January about a new wine at the local SAQ stores. Here is how he described it:

I have just discovered the SAQ’s best hidden secret, a bottle of LAB (with a dog on the label), a Portuguese full bodied red, for $10. As good as other wines at three times the price

About a week later — the day after Trump’s inauguration, when I became convinced that we are in for a very surreal period with Trump at the helm — I dropped by a local SAQ intending to pick up a Barefoot when I spied some bottles of LAB 2014 on a shelf featuring new arrivals at the store.

12989611_isWell, Alan was right on with his recommendation. It is full-bodied, indeed, despite what the SAQ writes about it in the tasting info section of their site, where they describe it as “medium-bodied.” In fact, the description by the SAQ makes no sense to me at all, because it features the sort of buzz words used in so many winespeak publications that seem to assume we are all connoisseurs.

We’re not. We just know what we like.

On such a winter’s day, I like rich, full-bodied red wines with distinct flavour and “depth,” to use a popular buzz word. Not too sweet, not too dry, i.e. not too much tannin — which I have learned is what leaves me with a headache if I don’t chase it down with cool, clear water afterward.

The LAB wine is made from four types of grapes — Castelao, Syrah, Tinta roriz and Touriga nacional grapes — with a sugar content of 9.8 grams per litre. It is selling in Quebec for $9.70 for 750 mL.

It goes down well on its own, or with a meal. No headaches for me afterward.


My partner and I tried a couple of other wines in the past two weeks, as well.

10398374_isSomething called Marcus James Tempranillo 2016 from Argentina is a full-bodied red wine that I would describe as smooth, even soft. Those are words you will find on its label, too, even though the SAQ site describes it as medium-bodied and dry. I didn’t find it dry at all. I found it rather “delicate,” another word on its label describing its herbal notes, and felt it would be nice on a hot summer day with a good meal, say grilled/barbecue chicken (as the label suggests) and salad.

It is made with Tempranillo grapes and has 7.7 grams of sugar per litre. It is selling in Quebec for $9.95 for 750 mL.

I’ll buy another bottle in July or August.


And then there is something we tried tonight, a South African wine from the Flagstone winery called Poetry. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, and it proved to be the most disappointing of the three new wines we have tried this year.

12666002_isAt first taste, it seemed so smooth and fruity, with the “great depth” it boasts on its label. But after drinking about 4 ounces, it seemed dry and bitter to me — I’m guessing that is the tannin factor making itself known.

And there is this: of the three wines, this one has the least sugar — 4.9 grams per litre. Might that explain why my partner and I were not all that impressed with it?

I’m thinking this is the sort of wine meant to be drunk in small amounts. Am not sure . . . But I won’t be pouring it down the drain. I’ll store it in the fridge and sample it again.

The SAQ description has it as a medium-bodied wine, but again, I think they have it wrong: it is full-bodied. And, as the bottle’s label suggests, it is complex.

It sells for $11.05 in Quebec.

— Jillian

Top photo: Vineyards in Vinho Verde Demarcated Region in Minho, Portugal. (Source: Wikipedia)

4 thoughts on “Wine of the year (so far): California Girl goes Portuguese

  1. If you want to do Portuguese, some time try Vinho Verde (“green wine”). It’s green in the sense of new/raw, not in color. It’s a “thing” like Nouveau Beaujolais. Try it not b/c it’s good in the conventional sense, but b/c it’s interesting and different, as is Portugal.


  2. Have you explored any of the local offerings? I’m not very well versed in many Quebec wines, but just before Christmas I found a not bad sparkling wine, at the IGA, which was quite lovely with Quebec fois gras and Camembert. Very affordable delicacies, too. I want to see what reds the province produces, now.


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