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WINE NOTES: the perfect patio sippers and crowd-pleasers

Wine critic, Robert Moyes, gives his April picks
Columnist Robert Moyes photographed at the Artisan Wine Shop on Broughton Street. (Don Denton photography)

Despite being the world’s third-largest wine producer, Spain is often a bit of an afterthought to many wine drinkers. Which is a shame, because the variety, value and quality of Spanish wines are impressive, indeed. Bodegas San Valero’s Plano Alto (“high plain”) hails from northeastern Spain and is a 50/50 blend of Garnacha and Cariñena. Very smooth and balanced, the Alto has fresh dark fruit lifted with hints of spice. Earthy and dry and boasting supple tannins, this is good with food and nicely priced at $21.

Chile, too, produces tanker loads of tasty wine, and one that regularly shows up at my house is the Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier Reserva ($15). Bursting with ripe orchard fruits and a touch of floral charm, this fresh and lively white wine offers a seductive nose, concentrated flavours, and a round mouthfeel. As well as being an ideal patio sipper, this consistently reliable Reserva is perfect with fish, chicken, and lighter pasta dishes.

Australian winemaker John Quarisa worked for big-name wineries for a quarter-century before launching his own brand – and for many years now it’s been very clear he knows what he’s doing. His 2018 Johnny Q Cabernet Sauvignon, nearly purple-black in colour, is a swaggering fruit bomb of a crowd-pleaser. Vivid flavours of cassis, blackberry, and plum are balanced with hints of vanilla, mint, and spice. Smooth and intense, this is a classic Aussie Cab that would be ideal with pepper steak or barbecue. It’s a deal at $17 (and often goes on sale).

A family-owned estate winery located in the Dunnigan Hills a bit northeast of San Francisco, Matchbook specializes in single-site wines such as this classy Cabernet Sauvignon ($28). Nicely oaked, with tasty blackberry, cherry, and plum fruit flavours, alongside hints of chocolate, this is a smooth, well-balanced, and nearly full-bodied Cab. Boasting a silky mouthfeel as well as extra complexity thanks to small amounts of Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah, Matchbook is an elegant wine that finishes less sweet than many California reds. (All prices include tax.)

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