Malcolm Jolley finds a bargain food friendly wine from a top Northern Rhône producer…

François Villard L’appel des Sereines Syrah 2018 | $19.95 | LCBO# 12978

Regular readers of GFR know that we are not big fans of our quango monopoly liquor distribution system, but even I will concede there are some things the LCBO does right, even well. One of those things is their shelf labeling system* which lists the number of grams per litre of residual sugar per bottle of wine. Wine is made by fermentation when yeast ‘eats’ the sugar in grape juice, which produces alcohol. One way that producers in warmer climates keep their alcohol by volume percentages down is to stop fermentation, which means their will be more residual sugar in the bottle than if it had been allowed to continue. While health conscious consumers may prefer a wine labeled 13.5% alcohol over one that sits at 15%, they may be less interested if they knew that the first wine had more than three times the sugar than the second. This is why it’s remarkable that the celebrated Northern Rhône winemaker François Villard manages to make the François Villard L’appel des Sereines Syrah 2018 ($19.95) at 12.5% alcohol and just 2 grams per litre** per bottle.

I met and tasted with François Villard in 2018 and he told me and the others at a Toronto lunch that he achieved his low levels of alcohol by picking early, but there’s nothing unripe about this wine. L’appel des Sereines is a very pretty wine, and wants food, as befits one made by a man who started his professional life as a chef. This is an aromatic and playful Syrah that shows red fruit character, like rapsberry and bright cherry, over black, with a touch of Northern Rhône Syrah white pepper. Interestingly, there is no appellation designation to this wine, it’s simply labeled ‘vin rouge’. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t sold out quickly since it was released last Saturday, if consumers aren’t quite sure what they’re looking at. At $20 I think it’s worth a try to taste a Syrah made by one of the masters of Cornas

*Unless, as is maddeningly often the case at my local Vintages, there is no label on the shelf and I have to get out my phone to look up the wine for it’s price, etc.

**By comparison for a Champagne to be labeled Brut, it can have no more than 6%.