With All Hallow’s Eve upon us, we’re feeling a bit festive. And for us, festivities come with a big glass of wine – ahem – make that several big glasses of wine
It may be tempting to reach for one of the novelty Halloween wines lining the shelves right now; but let’s face it: while occasionally you may find a diamond in the rough, for the most part these reds are, in our minds, mostly sweet, confected, uninspired plonk. And the truly scary thing is that they often ring up at a frightening price point north of $15.
If you’re looking for themed libations, we would stick with cocktails – there’s a ton more flexibility and a ton more flavour. For wines, we would rather go with some toothsome reds that really have guts. Exactly what Dr. Frankenstein called for.
Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, ON 2010
$24.95 Vintages 268391
2010 was a very warm vintage in Ontario, creating juicy and powerful reds with substance. What’s appealing in this Pinot is the balance it strikes between elegance and ripeness. A mix of earthy, spicy notes mingle with plump red cherry, while the palate is smooth and velvety with fine grained tannins and vibrant acidity. 89 points.
Featherstone Red Tail Merlot, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, ON 2013
$19.95 Vintages 131540
Featherstone is a great go-to winery for consistently reliable wines at decent prices. Cherry jam, fresh raspberry, crushed peppercorn and subtle bell pepper notes fill the nose. Medium bodied with notes of smoke, red cherry and fresh herbs. Balanced and easy drinking. 87 points.
Chateau Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac Grand Cru, St Emilion, Bordeaux, France 2008
$39.95 Vintages 425546
A Merlot dominated red blend that has plenty to offer with notes of black cherry and plum, plus earthy forest floor and underlying wild herb. Fine firm tannin and bright acidity, this can easily still go another 8 years, but it’s drinking beautifully with braised meats and hearty ragus. 90 points.
Alkoomi “Black Label” Shiraz/Viognier, Frankland River, Western Australia 2012
$21.95 Vintages 203166
Bold, plush and rich there’s lots of crowd appeal here. The opulence is tamed by a pleasing, fresh herbal uplift in the form of eucalyptus mixing with blackberry and vanilla. Some heat on the long, black fruit finish. 88 points.
Lenton Brae Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Australia 2011
$65.95 Vintages 428268
High-toned notes of mincemeat and resinous herb mix with rich cassis and dark fruit aromas. The palate is full and dense with plum, black cherry, spice and Christmas cake flavours. Quite nice and showing good balance between fruit and spice notes. 89 points.
Paul Jaboulet Aine Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone, France 2011
$43.95 Vintages 720466
There’s intriguing power in this 100% Syrah that’s filled with red and black cherry, vague spice, and smokey notes. Fine-firm tannin on the palate with bright acid and warmth. Quite good. 89 points.
Fontannafredda Ebbio Nebbiolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy 2010
$19.95 Vintages 397448
Nebbiolo is the grape that makes famed Barolo and Barbaresco, and great deals can often be found in the neighbouring region on Langhe. This has a fresh nose of ripe, juicy, red berries and rose petals. Initially sweet on the palate, quickly followed by tart cherry. Fine firm tannins and tangy acidity, this is quite juicy and highly enjoyable. 88 points.
Ruffino “Modus,” Tuscany, Italy 2011
$29.95 Vintages 912956
Big and juicy, this offers loads of ripe blackberry, dark cherry and plum flavours alongside black licorice and some vague forest notes. Fat tannins and vibrant acid suggest this could easily ride out the decade or open it up tonight and pair with meat lovers’ pizza, charcuterie plates or steak frites. 88 points.