Que seras, mi Syrah!!

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My love affair with French Syrah goes back to my early years of wine drinking. The bottle that started my sentimental affair was a Chave Hermitage Rouge 1998. It was seduction at the first sip with its occult raspberry and blackberry undertones but what really felt like lovemaking was the sanguine and animal quality that only Northern Rhone Syrah can give.

Bordeaux and Burgundy are cold to me. Every time that I drink a super Rhone syrah, I always get that feeling that the wine is stripping me slowly. The foremother of my  wine passion, Christine  always use to tell me that eventually all wine roads lead to Syrah. There is something elusive and highly passionate about drinking a St-Joseph, Crozes or Cote Rotie.

In a perfect world, I will drink Hermitage on a daily basis. However, the most famous cru of the Northern Rhone could be like a high maintenance girlfriend. It is nice to have it from time to time but it could burn you if you have it often. Oh yes, passions can kill you.

Here are three lovely examples of Northern Rhone Syrah that you can find in the Quebec market. They are nicely enjoyable and wont kill you like the black spider. Enjoy. Whats the perfect food match of Northern Rhone Syrah?. It is grilled meat. So take out the snow from your BBQ and get grilling.

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Domaine Grangier Reflets de Syrah 2016. SAQ # 13113750, $31.25

Notes of spearmint, licorice with violets and fragrant summer blackberries and a hint of horsesaddle, cocoa as well.  On the mouth, delicious and dangerously fruity. Long and round in the palate, it is a charmer with a rich yet balanced finale.  Very smooth with fine cashmere tannins. Delicate flavours of korean BBQ and anis complement uplift this beautiful St-Joseph.

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Domaine Monier Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah 2016. Private Import ( Les Vins Dame-Jeanne, $30.87, Six bottle case)

A trascendental nose. It goes beyond the usual suspect aromas of dark blue fruits. Taking it to another level, the word complexity for an entry level Northern Rhone Syrah. Aromas of olive tapenade, roasted seaweed with an intense nose of iron verging towards dry blood. Yes, it has an electric charge of electric  blueberry nuances. Structured and opulent on the palate, yet so easy to drink with those seducing tannins. Long and meaty finale.

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Maison les Alexandrins par Nicolas Perrin Crozes-Hermitage 2015. SAQ # 12661826, $29.10

Dark fruits with that sensational dusty minerality of the appellation. With some aeration in the glass a bit of black smoke and blueberry character on the glass as well. On the mouth, dense and finely concentrated with muscular tannins.

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Cheers my dear readers!!!

 

 

Valentine’s day wine pick

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I spent a very pleasant St Valentine’s day evening in the company of my wife and daughter. Being a weekday, we decided to stay home. To please the two femmes of my life, I cooked salmon fillets poached in butter with a spinach, mushroom and bacon saute.

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My wife is not a big wine drinker. She occasionally enjoy a glass of vino once in a while. Her favorites grapes are Pinot Noir and Gamay and she is not into too much into natural or biodynamic wines.

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Stefano at RAW Montreal 2018

I pushed my luck and decided to pair my dish with the rosato of Stefano Amerighi in Tuscany. Stefano has the best Syrah in Tuscany and even in Italy. This rosato is strictly made with Sangiovese and it was just so harmonious with the dish. It was richer and more complex than other rosatos from Tuscany. After some instropection on, it brought to mind a Tavel. It had a dense core of strawberry laced with raspberry, leather and a hint of spice. Structured with enough body to balance the richness of the dish.

My wife really enjoyed and I knew for sure because she had 2 full glasses which is rare. She kept saying it was so good. I was very happy and relieved at the same time. I was concerned whe would dislike the wine because it is biodynamic.

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This rosato is available privately by its importer: Le Vin dans Le Voiles. This agency has really a very interesting Italian wine portfolio. It retails for $29.84 and comes in 12 bottle case. Sadly, it is not available at the moment, so you better reserve with the agency for the next arrival.

Salute!!. What was your Valentine’s vino?

Keeping your sanity with food and wine.

Christmas holidays are usually a hectic and stressful time. I spent most of my December doing 12 to 14 shifts at the bakery where I work. The nativity month took an incredible physical and mental toll on me. This combined with the agonizing commercial spirit of the holidays was a recipe for panic attacks and anxiety.

There was not too much time for writing or drinking fine bottles of wine. After those longs work days, I came home wasted of tiredness and spitting maledictions to almond croissants and baguette croutons.

What prevented me going Normand Bates during December was my passion for food and wine. Solace was found in the bottle of wine with the simple but exquisite food dish to pair with it. Actually a memorable bottle that I drank was a Domaine Vaquer 1988. This was an exquisite bottle showcasing the sexy shades of mature Carignan. I brought the bottle from my latest trip to Rousillon in 2017. Cocoa, wet leaves, tobacco with a blissful elegance and finesse. Out of the blue, I popped the bottle with a butter saffron chicken curry on Christmas Eve.

A bit of a planned affair was the Cabernet Franc from Domaine Breton Bourgueil 2011. Opened a bit too soon showing fragant aromas of rose peppercorns, strawberry and licorice. Fine and elegant with a bit of a drying finale. It was not my first choice. It was either this or the Pierre Gonon Saint Joseph 2015. It was elegant and classy with a steak dinner. Good wine but I am not a Loire wine lover.

The best wine moments are the improvised ones. Too much planning in wine and food pairing kills the romance in wine. It is like making an appointment on when to have sex.

Tomorrow is the last day of the festivities and I have no idea what I will have. As I write these lines, I am watching Soprano episodes and feeling much better already.

The only thing I know is that I want to have a Galette Des Rois. I will take it from there.

Peace

A tasting from Italy ( Part III)-Saffredi, a Supertuscan from the beaten path

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The Italian trade tasting held this past October in Montreal  may be all forgotten to many of my wine colleagues but it stills resonates in my mind.

The first time that I tasted Saffredi was in the New Years Eve 2003 with my Italian family in Loreto Aprutino. In a context of a luxurious supper with many other bottles that included Querciabella, Massetto, Tenuta di Trinoro and a Petrus!!!, Saffredi stood out. Sadly, I cant remember the vintage in question  but I do remember how beautiful it paired with a black truffle risotto

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After Sassicaia, Saffredi is my favorite Supertuscan. This powerful Tuscan blend evoques in my mind a richer version of a Chateau Lafite. What it is that makes so special?. It is the proportion of Petit Verdot that complements the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Petit Verdot is a grape native to the Médoc area, in France, where it is used for the production of Bordeaux, and is also common in California. In Italy, the Petit Verdot manages to express itself in a truly magical way in Tuscany, in the Maremma area of ​​Livorno, in the Grosseto and in the Agro Pontino in Lazio.

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Saffredi is the grand vin of Fattoria Le Pupille, own and managed by Elisabetta Geppetti ( a.k.a the lady of Morellino) near the village of Magliano within the Morellino di Scansano DOC. From its first vintage in 1987, the wine was destined for greatness. Giacomo Tachis consulted on the project followed by Riccardo Cotarella and Christian Le Sommer, ex-technical director of Chateau Latour. However, the driving force of the wine has  always been the tenacious and passionate character of the Signora Gepetti.

Saffredi is crafted  from a tiny  six hectare vineyard planted to mostly Cabernet and Merlot, although the first vintages used Cabernet from vines grafted onto existing Sangiovese rootstocks in one of the family’s original vineyards.

With time, the property gradually expanded, and today has 75 hectares of vineyards across five sites. They lie at elevations between 200 and 280 metres, on mostly stony clay-limestone soils. Sea breezes from the shore, only 10 kilometres away,cold down the baking summer temperatures.

The 2016 vintage in Tuscany is similar to 2015 in terms of outstanding quality. Similar to Bordeaux, the 2016 vintage could well surpass the 2015.  It is often too easy  to compare vintages, yet 2016 is being compared to great vintages such as  2006, 2008 and 2010 – the new wave great classics.

The 2016 Saffredi blew my mind off at the Italian trade tasting. It had a glorious nose reminiscent of cassis, mint, black truffle and dry lavender. On the palate, it was quite opulent making me think of a Lafite with a Ferrari coat. The flavours were exquisite redolent of  savoury notes of tobacco, dark chocolate and coffee beans with sambuca. The finish was incredible long and harmonious much like Mahler Symphony 5

Saffredi is imported in Quebec by Montalvin. It is not very expensive retailing close to $100 per bottle, considering the much higher price of other Supertuscans. For more information on availability please contact the agent directly. I highly recccomend that you buy at least 6 bottles and let this wine unfold with time in the cellar.

Cheers!!

Wine and Panettone pairing

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Christmas is the time of giving and sharing, a time of celebration with the loved ones.
In my childhood days, my family would gather on Christmas day to share a special meal: the Christmas lunch.

Panettone is the cake of festivities, a protagonist of the Italian Christmas tradition. It is usually eaten for breakfast but can also be enjoyed as an afternoon snack or dessert.

This sweet yeast dough, soft and spongy brioche alike requires the matching with a wine high enough of residual sugar yet with a good acidity to cleanse the palate, cutting through the rich aftertaste of butter.

The cake has its origins in Milan, sometime in the 15th century with the tradition of eating a slice of panettone on January 4 to bring good health for the new year. It comes in different varieties: filled  with candied fruit, covered in chocolate or almond icing or cream-filled. You can serve panettone in many ways, but for the best taste,  it is better to do it in the traditional way.

If you are looking forward to enjoy your panettone with non italian wine for a change, here are my recommendations:

Domaine du Tariquet Dernières Grives 2016. SAQ # 13034808, $29.00

Lovely nose reminiscent of sultana raisins, honey and tangerine peel.Sweet yet balanced by a refreshing acidity. Long and persistent in the mouth with complex flavours of earl grey tea.

Renardat-Fâche Bugey Cerdon. SAQ # 12477543, $24.85

Floral with nuances of rose petals, lavender and fresh cranberries. Fresh with a fine bubble  and slight sweet  delightful flavors of strawberry and promegranade. Long finale.

Domaine Marcel Deiss Pinot Gris Beblenheim 2015. SAQ # 11544476 , $27.15

Nuances of honey with peach and roasted apples in syrup. On the palate, spicy with a creamy texture and medium acidity. Long in the palate with a dry prune aftertaste.

 

 

 

 

A Gewürztraminer that you won’t forget

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Gewürztraminer is one of the grapes that I have a bit of difficulty with it. It can be too much aromatic with heady scents of rose water and lychee which poses a bit of a challenge in my kitchen. It can go from dry to sweet depending on the producer and region. It does not go well with Southern Italian or Latin American cuisine but it is wonderful with Asian cuisine, specially Thai. Next time you order takeout or visit a BYOB Thai resto, consider Gewürztraminer

While doing an errand at my local SAQ in Repentigny, I spotted the Gewurztraminer Herrenweg De Turckheim 2012 ( SAQ # 11063904, $38.75) from Domaine Zind-Humbrecht. For many years, I have enjoyed the vibrant, complex and above all mystical wines of this mythical Alsatian producer.

The signature of each Zind-Humbrecht wine is its heightened sense of terroir: the expression of the vineyard is always clear and well defined.

Zind-Humbrecht is one of the founding members of the association La Renaissance des Appellations. This association was created in 2001 with the purpose of bringing together producers who shared the vision of Biodynamics and terroir. A few years back, they came to Montreal and did a wine fair. This was my introduction to Biodynamics. After that event, my approach to wine change completely. At the fair, I bought this little DVD. It gives you an introduction to Biodynamic agriculture

Tasting note:

By virtue, the Herrenweg vineyard in Turckheim should be a Grand Cru. However under the direction of Zind-Humbrecht it manifest like one.

The Herrenweg, or “road of the gentlemen,” Vineyard takes it’s name for the location along the ancient roman way that linked Colmar to the passage through the Vosges Mountains. Its terroir is a composition of fine sand, silt and large pebbles which provide an excellent draining capacity and it is blessed with a warm climate that gives an aromatic intensity to the wines. The age of the vines (averaging 46 years) is crucial as deeper roots are less impqctee by poor weather and they can extract more minerality from the soil.

Powerful and structured reminiscent of nutmeg and cloves followed by streamlined notes of white peaches and vanilla bean. With aeration, aromas of honey and middle eastern desserts emerge. Fresh and creamy in the midpalate with a floral finale. Long aftertaste of heat ( hot peppers) and mineral dust.

What would I pair this wine with it?. Simply a Panang curry dish with chicken, tofu and shrimp.

A Tasting of Wines from Italy ( Part II)-Pigato, the unsung heroe of Liguria

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I continue with the exploration of the hidden gems of the Italian Trade Tasting 2018 recently held in Montreal. If you are tuning for the first time please visit my previous post on Tenuta del Conte

The beauty of Italian wine lies on its diversity and that is something that must be cherished. Of course, there will always be the big icon wines: the Supertuscans, some primadonna Barolos and the occasional pseudo high end Chianti. Bought, drank and collected some of these wines. Basta!!. I don’t despise them and occasionally still capable to enjoy them. When I come to think about, it was my adolescence in Italian wine learning. Again, all part of the diversity but it is important to realize at some time you got to move on.

Can’t blame myself for enjoying artisanal Italian wines. Want to drink Cirò, Friulano, Aglianico from Basilicata and lots of natural wines.My latest discovery at the Italian trade tasting was the grape Pigato and the wines from Durin in Liguria.

The region of Liguria is better known for Cinque Terre and the San Remo music festival rather than its gastronomy and wine. For instance, Ligurians gave the world the gift of pesto, minestrone and focaccia now taken for granted in the Italian pantry. Less known is their confidential wine production based on a Greek descendant wine grape: Pigato.

Pigato is a white grape variety closely related to Vermentino. Its name comes from the Ligurian dialect “picau”, meaning speckled, by the presence of small dots (pigghe) on the grapes. It is native to the western region of Riviera di Ponente especially the regions of Genoa, Imperia and Savona. It is grown in Valle Arroscia and continues to the region of Pieve di Tenco where the provinces of Savona and Imperia converge.

Pigato is one of Liguria’s principal grapes. Its wine is part of the denomination Riviera Ligure di Ponente, a DOP from western Liguria and the region’s biggest.

What does it taste like? The Pigato wines from Durin were more aromatic and broader than a Vermentino with less acidity and a pleasant bitter mineral edge in the finale.

Durin, the savior of Pigato

Azienda Agricola Durin is a family estate going back over a hundred years founded by Giacomo Isidoro Basso. Today the estate is managed by  his grandson Antonio Basso and his wife Laura. The family winery grow Ligurian grapes but they are specialists in Pigato. They have  70 separate vineyards scattered around the village of Ortovero and cornered around the region’s terraced and steep hillsides.

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The Braie Durin was exhuberant with a fantastic nose redolent of chalk and lemon peel. This 100 % old vine Pigato from  the estate’s first vineyards. Hand-harvested. Destemmed; cold macerated for 24/48hours. Pressed then fermented on indigenous yeasts in temperature controlled tanks. Aged in tank for one year. It was juicy and charming with white fruit, dry flowers and mineral nuances. This is the ultimate Vongole pasta wine.

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I enjoyed as well the Geva Pigato with no sulfites added. It was fresher with shiny and bright notes of orchard and citrus fruit. Elegant and very floral. I would have it anytime with a pizza with rocket salad, tomato and garlic

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For the grand finale,  I had the sparkling Basura Obscura. A great experience. Blind tasted, I could be in Franciacorta or Champagne. Terrific notes of almond biscuit, dry fruits and citronella. Medium body with a fine bubble and an elegant finale. 100% Pigato,  it rests in the Toirano caves for 5 years and is aged in 30% second hand barrique. The sparkler stays on its lees minimum 18 months.

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Next post we will travel to Friuli to discuss the wines of Cantina Cormons. Stay tuned!!!

Favorite picks of A Tasting of Wines from Italy ( Part I)

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A tasting of wines from Italy is an annual event that occurs in October in four Canadian cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. The event is organized by the Italian Trade Commission and is reserved for the Canadian wine trade industry ( sommeliers, journalists, restaurateurs and SAQ people).

On its 23rd edition the event is the most anticipated one from the all the wine fairs happening in Montreal during the fall. Quebec wine people love their Italian wine and cant get enough of vino italiano!!.

I try to attend every year. As always, it is a very comprehensive wine salon. For instance, on this edition there were more than 100 producers from 18 regions from Piedmont to Sardegna. It is an endeavor to try to taste everything. On this edition, I was looking for hidden treasures for my wine cultivation and I found them in Calabria and Liguria. In today post, I will talk about about Calabria and the next one on Liguria.

Tenuta del Conte

Tenuta del Conte was the only one producer to represent all Calabria and what an amazing job they did. In a tiny stand, I was greeted warmly by the passionate Mariangela Parrilla who is involved in winemaking for the family estate.

Tenuta del Conte is a natural wine producer…yes you heard it right!!, a beautiful gem in this wine fair full of giants. Tenuta del Conte joins the other favorite producers of mine in the Ciro appellation: A Vita and Cataldo Calabretta

DOC Cirò is the main appellation of Calabria, located in the east of the region around the municipalities of Cirò, Melissa, Crucoli and the seaside resort of Cirò Marina. Created in 1969, it includes white, rosé and red wines with the main grape varieties: greco bianco and gaglioppo.

The winery is situated in the classical zone of the Ciro appellation. Francisco Parrilla founded the winery in the 1960’s with indigenous varieties gaglioppo for the red and greco bianco for the whites. They vinify as natural as possible and rarely employ external chemical treatments.
Gaglioppo heritage is Greek, after that it spread to a vast area of the Adriatic coast that goes from the Marche to Calabria. In Calabria it has many alias such as Bivongi, Cirò, Donnici, Melissa, Isola di Capo Rizzuto, etc . The Cirò Bianco is obtained from the Greco Bianco vine, also brought by the Greeks, and enters the denominations Bivongi, Cirò, Terre di Cosenza, Greeks of Bianco and Melissa.

I tasted and drank three of their wines which I found quite fascinating. The Bianco was crafted from Greco grapes was warm and inviting. Lovely nose reminiscent of white apricots, honeysuckle and Jazmin leaves. Medium body and quite refreshing with a delicate saline note in the finale.

Dallaterra Gaglioppo was warm and inviting. Aromatic bringing to mind tobacco leaf, aromatic herbs and wild berries and a touch of malted barley. Earthy with a beautiful touch of austerity. I could not keep away my enthusiasm tasting this wine. Maria suggested that it would pair perfectly with pasta con sugo alla ‘nduja, a Calabrese specialty.

The Diversamente Greco Bianco spent 24 months in stainless steel something atypical for a white wine. This was my favourite wine with a profound minerality and deep floral flavours. A bit austere, it could further age for a few years.

I really enjoyed tasting this producer and hopefully will come back for next year edition of the tasting. At the moment, they are only represented in Ontario by Golden Valley Estate

Scrambled eggs with bacon and wine…you bet!!!

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I would like to think that some of my best writing ideas come when I am doing non related wine stuff like washing dishes, folding clothes or like today’s activity: throwing old papers.

I still ask myself why I am wasting my time writing this post since I have all this wine work backlog and probably nobody would care. But I do care!!. I find writing to be an activity that eases my anxiety and pushes my creative juices.

We all have days when we don’t feel like cooking or lack inspiration to whip up something yummy. In those occasions, I turn to my fridge and make myself some scrambled eggs. Since I am doing keto, I throw some bacon slices and I have a nice cheap supper. It beats eating out and it is heaven

When you really think about it, for sure a wine and food pairing exists no matter the choice of food. While most wine drinkers steer towards the “elegant” foodstuffs, the simple fact is that, with the right choices, any meal can be made even better with a bottle of wine. And you know that’s life, sometimes things have to be simple.

Bacon and Sparkling wine

It might sound like an odd mix, but when you think about it, it just makes sense. Bacon is the perfect foodstuff for when you have a bit of a salt craving and eggs can be had any time of the day.Champagne, or any other form of sparkling white wine, is the perfect wine to have when you want freshness and require to drink something non complicated.

Medium priced Dolcetto, Montepulciano or fruity Rhone blends

Once you add a meaty element such as bacon next to your eggs you  might feel tempted to drink a red. Fruity but not too much. Imagine the sweet combination of red wild berries with earth and garrique notes with  the dish, you will be pleasantly surprised!!. A Cote du Rhone or a Piedmontese Dolcetto will do the trick. Try as well a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Wine suggestions for scrambled eggs and bacon:

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Klein Constantia Méthode Cap Classique Brut 2013 ( $36.25/private Import, LBV International)

Aromas of pear and fresh thyme with delicate nuances of peach and flaked almond. Medium body with a high acidity yet round and caressing. Crisp lemony finish.

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ICARDI Rousori Dolcetto D’Alba 2017 ( $22.74/private import, Case of 12, pot de vin importation)

Fresh with lovely undertones of cherry and strawberry. On the palate, fine and quite elegant with soft-spoken tannins. Lovely crunchy fruit flavours in the finale. Buy and share with your friends

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De Fermo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Concrete 2015 ( $35-$40/private import, case of 6, agence rézin)

Enticing nose of blood sausage, black plums, iron and licorice. Structured yet very approachable with firm tannins. Very spicy finale. New wave Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

 

Silène Crozes Hermitage 2016

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Slowly but surely the 2016 vintage from the Northern Rhone Valley is making its way to our Canadian shores. Although not as rich as the 2015, the current offering is all about freshness and elegance.

J.L Chave is a name that does not need introductions here. Everybody that knows a thing or two about fine French wine has heard about him. I am certainly familiar with his wines since my introduction to Hermitage was with him. Wine growers in the northern Rhône since 1491, the Chave family (currently represented by Gérard and son Jean-Louis) represents 16 generations of a committed family saga to the production of some of the finest Syrah, Marsanne, and Roussanne wines on this world

What some winelovers may not know is that the family has a negociant wine business on the ise. For a modest price, you can taste the savoir-faire of the family.

“Silène” Crozes-Hermitage is 50% family Syrah and 50% purchased. Like all things Chave, the quality bar is high even at the entry level.

It is often said that Crozes-Hermitage is a meager expression of Hermitage but there is nothing poor about this wine. While the 2015 was richer and decadent with the 2016, Silène returns to the classic character of the appellation.

Bright aromas of anis, dill with violet and lavender character. Classical Northern Rhone Syrah flavours of bacon, cherry and raspberry.Polished with a juicy acidity and a long lingering finale.

I highly recommend to buy this wine. Available at the SAQ (12950281) for $31.50.