Champagne is the famous sparkling wine from its regional namesake in France. Everyone loves to celebrate with Champagne but it is also super food friendly being dry and high in acidity. Why am I talking about Champagne when this post is about a red table wine? Well, Champagne is also the most well known example of a wine that is often non-vintage, or doesn’t come from a specific year. Champagne producers blend from multiple years and varieties to create something that is consistent from year to year.
Most people won’t hesitate to drink non-vintage Champagne but when it comes to non-vintage table wines most (well, perhaps mostly experienced wine drinkers) will scoff at the thought. Reason is because non-vintage table wines tend to come from value-driven wineries with the goal of creating cheap simple wines. I for one have always been one to look down on non-vintage wines, that is, until I tried this one.
Townshend Cellars had an interesting beginning. Its founder, Don Townshend, started business selling air-conditioners and he frequently worked with a local winery. This business relationship eventually turned into a friendship and he discovered a love for making wine. What started out as a one man operation has now become a rather large business and continues to grow. Don’s attitude has always been to make wine that he enjoys, and if no one bought it, well then he’d have to drink it himself. Rough, I know.
This is not the case though as his wines have become quite popular especially his non-vintage table wines. He combines grapes from different years which helps fill to them out and be consistent from year to year. It is expensive to produce wine in Washington and being non-vintage helps to keep Don’s prices down, meaning they are more likely to be sent out of State, including all the way up here to Alberta.
Look: In the glass this wine is a deep violet red but the rim is thinner and has an garnet orange hue. I find this odd since normally a young wine is purple and an older wine is orange but I suppose this wine could have both because it is a mixture of vintages.
Smell: On the nose this wine is very rich and fruit forward with aromas of blackberry, black cherry, and redcurrant, as well as hints of green pepper, cloves, eucalyptus and a sweet aroma like red licorice. Townshend age their wines longer than most wineries do, up to 30 months for their top products, so this leads to a lot of vanilla, burnt toast, and smoky peppery aromas.
Taste: In the mouth this wine has a very smooth texture, soft tannins, and moderate acidity. The fruit is plentiful with dark berries like black cassis but there is also a strong earthy bitterness, not too overpowering but nicely balanced. The long lingering finish has hints of baking spices and strong oak flavours of tobacco and burnt toast.
Conclusion: I wasn’t sure what to expect from a non-vintage wine but I was surprised at how complex it was, especially in aromas. Blending vintages allows Don to combine many different aromas and flavours to make this consistently good. I give it a 8.5/10 because it is simple, unpretentious, and quite delicous. I’d say this is a step above your average table wine and an excellent choice for a party where you don’t know what people like to drink. If you are in central Alberta then definitely pick up a bottle at Chateau Wine and Spirits. They’re even selling it cheaper than you’ll pay in the bigger centres.
- Red Blend (exact grapes unknown)
- Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
- NV – 13.5% ABV
- Townshend Cellar
- $21.75 at Chateau Wine & Spirits (Lacombe)
- Screw cap