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carswell

Sacre bleu! It's the SAQ topic!

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I can see how the Barsao appeals to those that love sangria, wine coolers, and the spiked high school punch of their teenage years.

I've read many posts on this site expressing dislike for food and drink items...and I can only remember one or two that did it with this kind of sneering disdain for others. They really are so rare as to be memorable. Is there a particular reason you're going out of your way to insult people?

Look, we already know you don't like the stuff. So you wasted eleven bucks because some of us do. Get over it. Nobody's saying we can forget everything else now that we have the incomparable Borsao; simply that it's a good buy for $11.45. If you have something better to suggest in the same price range, have at it.


Edited by Mr. Fagioli (log)

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Fagioli, the guy is clearly very passionate about his wine, let him have his opinions! Certainly nothing to love sleep over (from the time of your post - 5:27 AM!) Keep in mind that for an outsider looking in, the SAQ is a very bizarre entity. The only similarity I can think of in the USA is the Pennsylvania Liquor Board, which also draws an enormous amount of criticism, as well as passionate tirades from its detractors.

Carswell raised a very good point. If you have a very Montreal perspective and if you have a broad interest in wine (high-end to low-end), the SAQ can vary from being an annoying fact of life, to The Evil Empire. Anyone trying to bring in wine from abroad for their own use can attest to this fact. However, I assume that if you live outside of the city or in a remote part of Quebec, the SAQ clearly does assure a certain level of quality. I've never actually been to a SAQ outside of Montreal, but the fact that the SAQ will ship anywhere in Quebec proves my point. So the folks in Rimouski can drink as well as we do.

I actually enjoy the LA Cetto Petite Sirah (not a fan of the cab - they also make a chard and a zin that you can't get here) but have yet to try the 2003s. The Borsao is also a pleasant quaffer. I like the idea of using for sangria it would probably do nicely. I'd rather have those two wines appear as house wines on terrases and bistros rather than the rubbish that is usually served.

Little Pengiun is what it is - a large, global monster that tastes the same from London to LA to Sydney to Toronto. It's the Miller Lite of Wine - pleasant but indistinct from any of the other juice but it serves an important role in the global wine market - to be a generic, consumer friendly wine. The Merlot is actually quite nice if nothing special.

I actually like the way that Little Penguin is being marketed here. I think its good to have ads all over the place so that people are more conscious of what they are drinking. It's also cool that it will be served in bars and clubs. Create the awareness and suddenly people know more about wine, they are thinking about it more. This leads to people demanding better wines, and restaurants serving better wines.

On another note, the SAQ web site is acclaiming with great fanfare the wines that they are carrying that are medal winners in something called "Sélections mondiales des vins." Some kind of wine competition I guess but I've never heard of it. There is a fair selection of wine, most under $20, a few under $15, and includes a Syrah from Greece! Taste up and post your notes for us to share.

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On another note, the SAQ web site is acclaiming with great fanfare the wines that they are carrying that are medal winners in something called "Sélections mondiales des vins." Some kind of wine competition I guess but I've never heard of it. There is a fair selection of wine, most under $20, a few under $15, and includes a Syrah from Greece! Taste up and post your notes for us to share.

The Sélections mondiales des vins is an SAQ-run biennial wine competition that was originally part of the Salon des vins but now is an entity unto itself. The next one will be in June of 2006. Among the inducements for winemakers to participate is that the winning products are listed and promoted by the SAQ; if I'm not mistaken, it's how the Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc made it onto the monopoly's shelves and may be why KC's other wines, most of which are on sale at the LCBO, didn't. Generally speaking, the competition is too compartmentalized and low profile to ensure that all the winners are attention-worthy wines, though it does turn up the occasional gem. They have a website: Sélections mondiales des vins de Montéal.

edit: double negative :shock:


Edited by carswell (log)

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The Borsao is also a pleasant quaffer.

Hey, another lollipop lover! Who knew?

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Fagioli, the guy is clearly very passionate about his wine, let him have his opinions! Certainly nothing to love sleep over (from the time of your post - 5:27 AM!)

That's Pacific time; it was actually 8:27 here...a good hour-plus into my day. But, yes, I did lose sleep last night...over work and meowing cats, not Vinfidel's opinion. :wink:

Anyway, I have no problem with Vinfidel or anyone else having their opinions, but I think a line is crossed into rudeness when an opinion of a product is expanded into a bunch of baseless assumptions and borderline slurs about people who don't dislike it. 'Nuff said, I hope.

As for the SAQ, I don't have strong opinions. My tastes are relatively unsophisticated (though not running to coolers, sangria, and punch), so I don't suffer much from selection issues, apart from the obvious artificial limits on possible exploration. Pricing issues are more noticeable to me, but still not a big burden: with my modest wine budget, I'm getting dinged in far bigger ways in other areas, like personal income tax. :shock: Still, I think I understand the frustration felt by true oenophiles, and I hope you folks are able to get some sort of relief. Any word on whether the proposed new $2,000 duty-free limit would apply to booze?

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Was just talking with a linguist friend and the question of how people pronounce SAQ came up. Francophones seem increasingly to be pronouncing it as a word (homonym of sac) while anglos seem stuck on spelling it out (S-A-Q). Which leads to my query: Do you or any local anglos you know pronounce "the SAQ" as "the sack"? I wonder if we'll end up following the French trend.


Edited by carswell (log)

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My unsolicted two cents: I like both LA Cetto Petite Sirah and Borsao, and I'm quite happy that my wine tastes are relatively unsophisticated. Yes, I can tell the difference between depanneur plonk and a $15 bottle of something from the SAQ, but I'm not sure that a $30 dollar bottle is necessarily twice as good as a $15 one.

And I really hate this idea that wine is something primarily to be criticized and poo-pooed because it's never quite good enough. Reminds me of that guy in Sideways who could almost never be happy (in wine or in life).

Screw that. I'd rather appreciate what I have by understanding that this $12 or $15 bottle is not the pinnacle, but it sure tastes nice with this pizza I just made, or this steak I just pulled off the grill.

As such, I too take offence at the wisecracks against other people's tastes. I could understand it if they were trying to pass Borsao off as some kind of sublime experience worthy of the Queen's honeymoon or whatever, but some of us are just saying that it's a decent every-day wine.


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Was just talking with a linguist friend and the question of how people pronounce SAQ came up. Francophones seem increasingly to be pronouncing it as as word (homonym of sac) while anglos seem stuck on spelling it out (S-A-Q). Which leads to my query: Do you or any local anglos you know pronounce "the SAQ" as "the sack"? I wonder if we'll end up following the French trend.

None here, though many of the français I know also spell it out. The only ones I am aware of who say it as a word come from France.

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Carswell raised a very good point. If you have a very Montreal perspective and if you have a broad interest in wine (high-end to low-end), the SAQ can vary from being an annoying fact of life, to The Evil Empire. Anyone trying to bring in wine from abroad for their own use can attest to this fact. However, I assume that if you live outside of the city or in a remote part of Quebec, the SAQ clearly does assure a certain level of quality. I've never actually been to a SAQ outside of Montreal, but the fact that the SAQ will ship anywhere in Quebec proves my point. So the folks in Rimouski can drink as well as we do.

I have been to several outlets outside of the greater Montreal area, and it never fails to amaze me that places like Alma and Beauport have really interesting selections as part of their regular stock. They also have duds, but then again, which liquor store doesn't?

I personally adapted to what the SAQ has to offer, which allows me to focus on interesting/fun items. If there's something of interest that the monopoly doesn't carry (e.g. first-growth Bordeaux because I missed the en primeur, sparkling Shiraz, NZ Pinot, Au Bon Climat's Pinot), well that's what Aeroplan and Calgary are for. The SAQ's really strong on Burgogne and they're starting to bring in a lot of interesting stuff from other regions (the south of France, Spain, Lebanon, SA) so it's been a good mix (for me) across the board.

Carswell's point on the SAQ's purchasing clout can be easily illustrated with the 1998 Stag's Leap "Fay" Cabernet Sauvignon (Product Code: 00557686). Evil Empire price: $159 Cdn. Price for the same bottle at the winery (and in California in general): $175 USD + applicable taxes. The call for privatization is also not necessarily a good thing: Alberta's private system provides a lot of choice (especially at the top end), but there is a significant number of "popular" labels that cost more than they do here.

Anyway, for those interested, the best place to mock wine coolers is at the LCBO's flagship store in Toronto (they have a little sea of bottles). You can stand beside the Baby Duck display while you're doing it.

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Carswell's point on the SAQ's purchasing clout can be easily illustrated with the 1998 Stag's Leap "Fay" Cabernet Sauvignon (Product Code: 00557686). Evil Empire price: $159 Cdn. Price for the same bottle at the winery (and in California in general): $175 USD + applicable taxes. The call for privatization is also not necessarily a good thing: Alberta's private system provides a lot of choice (especially at the top end), but there is a significant number of "popular" labels that cost more than they do here.

Hmm... don't know where you got that price from, the Fay regularly retails for $80 or less USD (with no discounts but plus tax) and the itself winery is selling it for $85 now, $10 more than the release price. I checked both WineZap and WineSearcher and found a few places under $70.

To me the best examples of the SAQ's purchasing clout is with mid-tier Australian wines. Although its sold out now, Grant Burge's Holy Trinity sold here for $30.50. Good luck finding it in the US for under $30 USD before taxes, or even in Australia at that price. Then again, this just could be local promotional agents heavily discounting their wines assuring the ever-encroaching world domination of Australian wines. But who cares - we win in the end.


Edited by ademello (log)

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Hmm... don't know where you got that price from, the Fay regularly retails for $80 or less USD (with no discounts but plus tax) and the itself winery is selling it for $85 now, $10 more than the release price. I checked both WineZap and WineSearcher and found a few places under $70.

The 1998 Fay price came from a 2005 winery tasting room list; later vintages cost less.

Australian world domination… maybe if they stopped going big all the time.

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Hmm... don't know where you got that price from, the Fay regularly retails for $80 or less USD (with no discounts but plus tax) and the itself winery is selling it for $85 now, $10 more than the release price. I checked both WineZap and WineSearcher and found a few places under $70.

The 1998 Fay price came from a 2005 winery tasting room list; later vintages cost less.

Australian world domination… maybe if they stopped going big all the time.

Sorry - made a mistake and accidentally deleted my post. The Stag's Leap Fay '98 is generally available, even on the east coast, for $60-ish. There is no way the winery can sell it for $185 it is selling now from the winery for $85 - a little more than the release cost.

It's common in restaurants as well because of the name value - the 1976 tasting. Maybe you saw the 1985 which is rare and is one of the greatest american cabs. Its hard to find but if you do, grab it... The SAQ price seems reasonable if you include inside the taxes and the fxchange rate, which was FOR SURE higher at the time than today. Check the winery web site and remember that we are talking about STAG'S LEAP not STAGS' LEAP - these are two different wineries! I tried pasting a link before but it got screwed up.

If you are spending that kind of money then grab the Dominus, much better wine for a little more money but twice the volume!

I must apologize since people have taken my words too strongly. Wine is just fermented grape juice so we shouldn't take it too seriously. For me, it is part of my work and my passions so I can get very excited.

Am a little dismayed about all the people who say that they happily drink wines of a certain price because it suits them. If we assume that you have 1 bottle every week of $15, would you never consider abstaining for 3 weeks and then purchasing 1 bottle of $45 just to try it? Or forget the price, what about the types of wine. Simple wines vs more complex wines? Or arrange a tasting with your friends so that the cost of the bottle of wine is shared among many people. THis is how I got into wine, and I still MOST enjoy wines of $15 or less (even better $10!) because they can bring a joy to the drinker that is almost as good as wine 2x or 5x or 10x its price. That is the beauty of wine. However, to have a perspective on wine you need to try a wide variety or types, varietis, etc. THen again, maybe some people just like to drink wine and don't care that much, which i can also understand.


Edited by Vinfidel (log)

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Australian world domination… maybe if they stopped going big all the time.

Their marketing is excellent with Wolf Blass, the evil Little Pengiun, Jacbobs Creek, etc. I read somewhere that Jacob's Creek is the most recognizable brand in the wine world. Also, many of the big Oz wine companies own American ones (SOuthcorp, BeringerBlass) so this gives them huge marketing power. In the end this is best for consumers since it usually means lower prices. We have excllent prices on the lower end of Oz wines incl. Jacobs Creek, which is excellent QPR.

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Was just talking with a linguist friend and the question of how people pronounce SAQ came up. Francophones seem increasingly to be pronouncing it as a word (homonym of sac) while anglos seem stuck on spelling it out (S-A-Q). Which leads to my query: Do you or any local anglos you know pronounce "the SAQ" as "the sack"? I wonder if we'll end up following the French trend.

I swing both ways on this one (as in many matters linguistic), drifting toward saying "sac" most of the time. Never gave it much thought, so I can't tell you whether there's any particular context that's decisive.

BTW, had another one of your recs: the 2001 San Lorenzo, with some pasta. I lack the language to describe the experience, but I did enjoy it -- even sipping the chilled leftovers unaccompanied the next day. (I did let the leftovers warm up in the glass before drinking.)

I must apologize since people have taken my words too strongly. Wine is just fermented grape juice so we shouldn't take it too seriously. For me, it is part of my work and my passions so I can get very excited.

Am a little dismayed about all the people who say that they happily drink wines of a certain price because it suits them. If we assume that you have 1 bottle every week of $15, would you never consider abstaining for 3 weeks and then purchasing 1 bottle of $45 just to try it? Or forget the price, what about the types of wine. Simple wines vs more complex wines? Or arrange a tasting with your friends so that the cost of the bottle of wine is shared among many people. THis is how I got into wine, and I still MOST enjoy wines of $15 or less (even better $10!) because they can bring a joy to the drinker that is almost as good as wine 2x or 5x or 10x its price. That is the beauty of wine. However, to have a perspective on wine you need to try a wide variety or types, varietis, etc. THen again, maybe some people just like to drink wine and don't care that much, which i can also understand.

And I feel I overreacted somewhat; call it even and forget it?

As to your question: yes, coincidentally just last week I was talking with a friend about cutting the volume and increasing the quality of wine at our gatherings. (Partly because the $18.60 bottle of L. Albrecht Muscat, love it or not, had so much more character than the cheap, nondescript whites that we often have -- for only about $5 more.) It's not a good thing to get stuck in a rut, and it does get tiresome to see the same reliable bottles trotted out time and again.

Just the same, there is a psychological barrier, especially since most of us have probably experienced expensive disappointments more than once. If you're going to spend $40-50 and bring one bottle instead of two or three, you want to be as sure as possible that you're not going to find yourselves shrugging and saying "bah, what a rip, it's no better than B_____...and there's not even enough to get drunk."

On the other end of the psychological spectrum, there's a thrill in cracking open something cheap that's clearly better than anything else you've had for the price -- everybody loves a bargain. Add to that the perception, mistaken or not, that wines from the famous regions and especially France are overpriced and adequately substituted with "similar but cheaper" from elsewhere, and you see how we get into our ruts.

So, yes, at least in my circles we do care at least a little...but many of us have lived on tight budgets for a long time, so we tread perhaps too carefully when venturing into more expensive luxuries, and the bargain-hunter tends to win out over the adventurer.


Edited by Mr. Fagioli (log)

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This just in.

A series of high-end Italian wines, mostly Supertuscans from the Antinori stable, are going on sale tomorrow, June 23, at the SAQ Signature store in Montreal. Guado al Tasso ('96, '97, '98, '99, '01), La Vite Lucente ('98), Saxa Calida ('01), Solaia ('94, '95, '96, '97, '98, '01), Tignanello ('94, '95, '96, '97, '98) and Brunello di Montalcino San Felice ('99). Formats range from 750 ml to 3 L, prices from $39 (the 750-ml Vita Lucente) to $1,499 (the 3-L '97 Solaia).

Exceptionally, all sales will be made by phone (514 282-9445, 1 888 454-7007). The lines open at 10 a.m. For several wines, purchases are limited to as few as one bottle per customer.

For details, call the Signature store or PM me your e-mail address and I'll forward you a copy of the flyer.

More later. Gotta get back to work...

edit: Forgot the 1998 Tignanello at $99 (ouch).


Edited by carswell (log)

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I have found the 2004 Crawford in Pierrefonds of all places (4777 St John's); all other outlets I've checked thus far carry the 2003. So, I now have a bottle on hand to do a side-by-side comparison between the two vintages.

Let us know how it turns out :) Too bad pierrefonds is so far away, or i'd be off to get a bottle or two of my own. The beaubien selection is carrying the 2003 only, and haven't even HEARD of a 2004. I picked up two bottles anyway, just to give them a try. I'll keep checking the thread for 2004 notifications.

Opened my first bottle of the 2004 on the weekend. It was a fine, drinkable wine but seemed more dilute than the 2003, which is a zestier, zingier, more typically New Zealandish expression of sauvignon blanc. So now I'm scouring the outlets for a few more bottles of the 2003; if any of you see some within, say, a five km radius of Mount Royal, please give a shout.

Also tried a bottle of my (and the SAQ's) first ever New Zealand rosé: Sacred Hill's 2004 Whitecliff Merlot rosé. A pretty strawberry pink in the glass, this proved a simple, quaffable, crowd-pleaser of a wine, off-dryish on entry but with a dry, faintly bitter finish. Despite costing $3.30 a bottle more, it had none of the complexity or savoury flavours of the Vin gris de cigare, which, alas, has all but disappeared from Montreal Island shelves.


Edited by carswell (log)

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The SAQ Signature is having a huge sale and have slashed prices! Get there quickly before the '89 Yquem is all gone....price has been dropped from $1,095 to a mere $985......or perhaps the 3 litre bottle of '98 Caymus Special Selection would be great for that huge family BBQ...a steal at $990 (down from $1100).

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The SAQ Signature is having a huge sale and have slashed prices! Get there quickly before the '89 Yquem is all gone....price has been dropped from $1,095 to a mere $985......or perhaps the 3 litre bottle of '98 Caymus Special Selection would be great for that huge family BBQ...a steal at $990 (down from $1100).

Why didn't you mention the '98 Le Pin? You're hoarding it all for yourself, aren't you? And who can blame you? Was $3,500/750 ml, now only $3,150!

I loved the announcement's tag line, by the way: Faites-vite et saisissez l'occasion car les produits sont offerts en quantité limitée. Race you for that Yquem!

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They also have mixed cases of magnums of various vintages of Chateau Latour and their second label for $3295 for the more budget- and value-conscious.

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I usually call it "sac" when I pay more than 500$ at the cash. I love those 10-15$ bottles during bbq's. The bottles tend to go fast, and it can be the difference between spending 100$ for a party or 300$.

I once took a bottle from my "special" reserve (about 50$) and then we loved it so much I opened another. Ouch, that kinda hurt.

Wines like Borsao are going to be the new party drink. If there were more acceptable wines like that people would reduce beer consumption and start drinking more wine. The only problem now is that a twofour is as much a bottle (or 2), which most people don't think is value.

Hopefully, the low end gets a little more developed and we'll start seeing more action.

Perhaps we should start a low end wine tasting thread, where we try out a couple of sub 17$ wines and report back. We could get a real resource going.

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Not sure if I should be posting this lest I blow their cover... Olive & Gourmando is now selling wines they privately import RETAIL. This is the first I've heard of this happening in Quebec. To quote their newsletter:

Did you know that we are selling private import wines by the bottle to take home?

Just checked their web site. This week's private import "special" is an unspecified Seghesio for $50 + tax, 92pts from WS.


Edited by ademello (log)

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Not sure if I should be posting this lest I blow their cover... Olive & Gourmando is now selling wines they privately import RETAIL. This is the first I've heard of this happening in Quebec. To quote their newsletter:
Did you know that we are selling private import wines by the bottle to take home?

Just checked their web site. This week's private import "special" is an unspecified Seghesio for $50 + tax, 92pts from WS.

The law was amended a couple of years ago to allow licensed restaurants to deliver beer and wine along with delivered food. I would guess that applies to take-out too. I wonder whether O&G is exploiting this loophole (if so, cool). Do they require that you buy something edible along with the bottle?

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Just noticed that a new 2003 Zinfandel has arrived... Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull, at the princely sum of $15.90 no less. For some reason its only availalbe in the outlying areas, not a single store downtown has any stock...


Edited by ademello (log)

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Not sure if I should be posting this lest I blow their cover... Olive & Gourmando is now selling wines they privately import RETAIL. This is the first I've heard of this happening in Quebec. To quote their newsletter:
Did you know that we are selling private import wines by the bottle to take home?

Just checked their web site. This week's private import "special" is an unspecified Seghesio for $50 + tax, 92pts from WS.

The law was amended a couple of years ago to allow licensed restaurants to deliver beer and wine along with delivered food. I would guess that applies to take-out too. I wonder whether O&G is exploiting this loophole (if so, cool). Do they require that you buy something edible along with the bottle?

Not sure, but I'll drop by next week. Here's a list of what they have for sale right now, plus I guess the $50 Seghesio on the web site:

BLANC

Sancerre, Gérard Boulay, 2003 40$+tx

ROSÉ

Donna Marzia Rosato, Negramaro, Salento, 2004 25$+tx

Couteaux du Languedoc, L'Épervier, Château Pech-Redon, 2004 25$+tx

ROUGE

Nero, Conti Zecca, Roso del Salento, 2004 55$+tx

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Aldiano, 2004 25$+tx

Cabernet Sauvignon, Stonegate, Napa Valley, 2000 40$+tx

Barbera d'Asti Superiore, Valfieri, 2002 40$+tx

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Last Thursday saw the SAQ's latest "new arrivals" release, this one devoted exclusively to 2003 Beaujolais. (The complete list can be found on www.saq.com by clicking the "Nouveaux arrivages" button.) Since the quantities involved are limited, I made a point of tasting three wines I thought might be good bets.

As you may recall from news reports, 2003 was an exceptionally hot and dry summer that presented challenges to winemakers across Europe. In Beaujolais, the harvest began in mid-August, a month earlier than usual. In fact, only two other vintages were as precocious: 1822 and 1555. Some producers and many retailers (including the SAQ) have trumpted the vintage as the best in half a century. Others, mainly lovers of classic Beaujolais, have declared it a disaster. The three wines I tasted have me leaning toward the latter camp.

Jean-Paul Brun may be known for using a minimalist approach to make supple, minerally red Bojos (not to mention delicious chardonnays that represent some of the best QPR in French whitedom) but you'd never suspect it if all you had to go on was the 2003 L'Ancien, Terres Dorées ($17.90). The pleasant red fruit on the nose and attack hardly begins to compensate for the dilute yet harsh mid-palate, non-existent finish and shallow flavour (narry a mineral in sight). Avoid.

While Jadot's 2003 Fleurie from Château de Poncié ($28.05) is darker to the eye and much denser and rounder on the palate, it shares L'Ancien's lack of depth and short finish and shows none of the silky texture or fresh flavour that are the hallmarks of the appellation. Forget minerals; this wine is all about fruit and there's no escaping the impression that some of it's stewed.

Since old vines with their deeper roots are said to have coped better with 2003's heat and drought, I'd asked my SAQ outlet to set aside a bottle of the Brouilly Château de Pierreux Reserve ($28.25), which is made from old-vine (minimum 40 years) grapes. Only when I got home did I notice they'd given me the Château de Pierreux tout court ($25.60). Like the Poncié, this is a heavy, one-dimensional, all-fruit-all-the-time Beaujolais. Here the fruit isn't stewed so much as candied, like the cherries used in fruitcakes.

While the Poncié and Pierreux are drinkable, they also run more than $25 a bottle. Hard to justify forking that over when there are still some excellent 2001 and 2002 Bojos around. And if you're desperate for some good gamay juice from 2003, look to the Loire. For example, Clos de la Briderie's 2003 Touraine Mesland Vieilles vignes can be had for under $18 a bottle: like the Bojos, atypically rich; unlike them, a joy to drink.

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