Are these fine wines worth the splurge? Probably yes

Good wine, like the fine arts, can transport you.

A glass of white Burgundy or Beamsville Bench Chardonnay might recall a perfect dollop of creme brulee you tasted at a country inn somewhere. It could evoke the scent of collecting seashells by the ocean, the humidity in the air, the smell of slicing a grapefruit.

Good wine floats hints of lived experience at the edge of your mind, chained together, barely formed, but twinkling with sentiment. It takes you quietly into the deep dimensions of memory. This is the essence of the plot of good wine. If you choose to engage with it, it will take you in, hold you fully but fleetingly, then throw you somewhere else again and again – focusing and zooming out.

The more complex the wine, the more you can get lost in it.

This depth is exciting. Deeply personal. And yet, when experienced with another, it can create a real moment – felt but difficult to express with language.

Some object to trying to describe a good wine with tasting notes because the descriptors may not be as dynamic and ethereal. But what else do we have?

I remember the first time I had the pleasure and privilege of tasting a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from Burgundy, France, widely regarded as the best pinot noir in the world. It was the 2002 Grand Cru La Tâche from this legendary estate – a bottle that would have cost over $7,000 at the time. It was several years ago.

I fell speechless. When my friend looked at me for an opinion, I resorted to hand motions, drawing expressions across the space between us. It was skinny. But the words would have been worse. The liquid was art. And real art is much more than brush strokes on canvas, dance steps on stage, contours in clay.

A sip of Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 1970 champagne, tasted in 2003, also left me speechless. To this day, I remember the moments like it was yesterday.

A good wine can gain in complexity with the time spent in the bottle, well cellared, that is to say lying in a dark, cool and stable place for years. So some people choose to collect it and put it in the cellar, to create a cache of beautiful experiences. But even young, fine wines can deliver powerful and moving moments.

Here’s a list of bottles available now that I’ve tasted recently, loved, and encourage you to try. This time they are recommended with minimal ratings so you can experience them your way. They are not cheap. But they are less than a night out on the town. Is it worth it? You decide.

Louis Roederer Brut Rosé 2015, Champagne, France (Vintage $119.95)

This wine from the great Champagne House Louis Roederer comes from an excellent year. The 2015 vintage produced ripe, clean and concentrated fruit. The result is a shining example of his style. Pure, elegant, complex, for laying down. Rating: 93

2019 Hidden Bench Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay Terroir Series, VQA Beamsville Bench ($52 Winery Only)

An unripened, unfiltered, certified organic expression of the Beamsville Bench terroir from one of the region’s most respected wineries. Rich, complex and exceptional value from our own backyard. Rating: 94

2018 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA (Vintage $69.95)

Sunny, full-bodied and beautifully balanced oaky Chardonnay from one of Napa’s most respected estates. The 2018 vintage was a very good year for California – and it shows in this wine. Rating: 93

2019 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France (Vintages Essential $95.95)

The LCBO has just made this wine a Vintage Essential. So this wine from this iconic southern Rhône producer is now still available here in Ontario. Opulent, layered and long. Punches above its price. Rating: 94

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Delas Haute Pierre 2018, Rhone, France (Vintage $59.95)

Fascinating wine at a reasonable price. Juicy, rich, textured and seductive. Snap it. Rating: 92

Delas Haute Pierre Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2018, Rhone, France (Vintages $59.95), left;  Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France (Vintages Essential $95.95), center;  and 2018 Klein Constantia Vin from Constance Natural Sweet Wine, South Africa (Available online only at Vintagesshoponline.com $120).

2018 Klein Constantia Vin de Constance Natural Sweet Wine, South Africa (Available online only at Vintagesshoponline.com, $120)

This wine is considered one of the best dessert wines in South Africa. For this column, I tasted a throwback vintage, the 2014, and was blown away, as were my four dining companions. I rated this wine 96. I was unable to taste the 2018 vintage of this wine, but it has received accolades from some of the most respected wine critics on the planet, including Tim Atkin MW, who awarded 97 points to this vintage. Well worth your attention.

Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine editor and freelance columnist for the Star. Wineries sometimes sponsor segments on her YouTube series, but they have no role in selecting the wines she chooses to review or in her opinions of those wines. Contact her by email: [email protected]

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