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  • Date publishedFriday, April 9, 2021

Rémy Ferbras Terre de Mistral Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2017 (France) - Wine Review



On this fine Friday, red wine review is a bright and lovely Côtes du Rhône-Villages that arrived at the LCBO last weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Rémy Ferbras was the first cellar master of Grandes Serres, a winery with deep roots in the Southern Rhône Valley. With the Rémy Ferbras range of wines, Grandes Serres pays tribute to the iconic figure of the winery who was a tireless advocate of the Rhône terroir and of its grape varieties, and always succeeded in expressing the full potential of the Rhône Valley wines. Through his work and tenacity, Rémy Ferbras played a large role towards the development and public recognition of Grandes Serres. The range of Rémy Ferbras wines are the result of strict selections, and precise vinification and ageing, just as Remy Ferbras would have preferred.

Rémy Ferbras produces a diverse array of wines from the Southern Rhône Valley's most popular appellations, and this particular bottling is from Plan de Dieu, one of the named villages of the Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation. Plan de Dieu, which translates to "God's Plain", is located in the Southern Rhône Valley, just west of Gigondas, and covers an area of 1,060 hectares, most of which is planted to vineyards with only a few patches of woodland among the vineyards. The climate in this area is Mediterranean and influenced by the Mistral winds, while the vines are primarily grown on a bed of red clay and smooth-rolled cobbles. The leading grape varieties of Plan de Dieu are Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, all found in this wine, and pick up aromas of the surrounding garrigue scrublands.

Although Plan de Dieu is linked to viticulture going back nearly 700 years, it was only awarded Côtes du Rhône-Villages with geographical name status for red wines in 2005. In order to give the appellation an identity, winegrowers designed a special bottle that is embossed with the village name and the vineyard's coat of arms - a bunch of grapes topped with an halo. Let's see how this latest vintage is tasting tonight...

Rémy Ferbras Terre de Mistral Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2017 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

RÉMY FERBRAS TERRE DE MISTRAL PLAN DE DIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2017 - AP, France (#538009) (XD) - $16.95
This blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre was grown on soils mostly composed of limestone pebbles and brown clay, with each grape vinified separately prior to blending and bottling. The medium-high intensity nose is elegant and composed with red fruited, raspberry, cherry, and spices with underlying savoury tones flecked with stony minerals. It's full-bodied with very good fruit concentration on the spicy palate with more red fruit, cherry, and raspberry flavours balanced with stony and savoury notes. Acids are fresh, while the fine-grained tannins have some structure. Some chalky textured grip on the long, spicy, stony, and savoury finish. Enjoy this great buy over the next 3-5 years. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from Rémy Ferbras can be found at the LCBO (there is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape), while the rest of the portfolio can be ordered through their Agent - DBINO David Beauroy Selections.


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  • Date publishedWednesday, April 7, 2021

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2017 (Roussillon) - Wine Review

wine review is this excellent red blend from the village of Latour-de-France within the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages appellation that returned to the LCBO over the weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

The roots of M. Chapoutier go back to 1808 when Calvet et Compagnie was created in the Rue de l’Hermitage in Tain, northern Rhône. Marius Chapoutier joined the company in 1897 and had complete control of the winery by the 1920's. Chapoutier winery was then passed down through the generations, eventually landing in the hands of world renowned winemaker Michel Chapoutier in 1990. With a passion for the environment and drive for innovation, Michel began applying biodynamic cultivation techniques and expanded the company in the year 2000 to produce wines from Roussillon.

Many wines encompass the fabulous portfolio of M. Chapoutier, with this particular wine coming from Domaine de Bila-Haut in Roussillon. This domain was setup by Michel in the village of Latour de France, in the hilly northern third of Roussillon, near Fitou and Corbieres, in the South of France. The vines of Bila-Haut and Occultum Lapidem were the first expressions of this terroir. Latour de France is situated on a bend in the Agly river - which winds it way to the Mediterranean Sea - and its climate is Mediterranean with long, hot summers, and relatively mild winters, while experiencing more sunshine over the course of a year than any other part of France.

This red wine is a blend of predominantly Syrah and Grenache, plus some Carignan, all of which were grown in a vineyard located on gneiss and schistous soils from the Devonian Period (approx. 400 million ago) and limestone from Kimmeridgian Period (approximately 150 million years ago). The grapes were hand-picked and matured entirely in concrete tanks.

I've had the pleasure of tasting previous vintages of this lovely wine and it has always been excellent. Although the 2017 vintage had reduced yields, the fruit during harvest was very good, thus allowing quality producers such as M. Chapoutier to craft excellent wines such as this.

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2017 (91+ pts)

Tasting Note:

M. CHAPOUTIER BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2017 - AP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Latour-de-France (#643239) (XD) - $26.95
Blend of mainly Syrah and Grenache, plus some Carignan, all aged in concrete tanks. The highly aromatic nose is fresh and complex with lovely garrigue, Provençal herb, black pepper spice, black cherry, dark berry, and schisty mineral notes. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with fresh, succulent acids and savoury, stony, black cherry, and black pepper spice flavours with touches of garrigue and herb. Well-balanced with refined tannins that have a nice, slightly chalky textured grip. Excellent length on the stony finish. Recommended buy! Score: 91+ pts

Other lovely wines from M. Chapoutier can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.


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  • Date publishedMonday, April 5, 2021

Lealtanza Reserva 2015 (Rioja) - Wine Review (Apr. 2021)

For wine review, I look at this lovely, vegan-friendly Rioja from Spain that arrived at the LCBO over the weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release. I last enjoyed the 2015 Lealtanza Reserva back in August when it arrived in VINTAGES earlier that month and am delighted to see it return to shelves across Ontario.

This red wine is crafted by Bodegas Altanza, a wine producer that was founded in 1998 with a name that is a synonym of quality and dedicated to producing top Reserva wines. Bodegas Altanza is located in Fuenmayor, Rioja Alta, and known for combining tradition with modernity to craft the best quality wines at competitive prices. The estate owns 220 hectares of vineyards and represents approximately 60% of their needs, with the rest sourced from winegrowers using a strict selection process.

All of their red wines are crafted using 100% Tempranillo, the "queen" of Rioja autochthonous varieties, and the most popular red varietal in Spain. Altanza's wines are fermented with natural yeasts, and while most wines from Rioja are aged in American oak barrels, Altanza chooses to age all of their wines primarily in French oak barrels, including the use of 22,000 Litre Allier vats.

Back in August, I suggested that this fine red wine could be enjoyed over the next 4-5 years, so let's see how it has evolved since that time.

Lealtanza Reserva 2015 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

LEALTANZA RESERVA 2015 - Vegan, DOCa Rioja, Spain (#208223) (XD) - $22.95
100% Tempranillo that was aged for 18 months in French barrels, followed by 3 months in 22,000 Litre French oak vats. The medium-high intensity nose is pleasantly savoury and mature in profile with sweet spice, sandalwood, and earthy aromas alongside dried berry, cherry, and touches of dried floral. It's medium+ bodied on the savoury palate with more earthy, sandalwood, sweet spice, and some dried cherry and floral flavours. Acids are well-balanced, while the fine-grained tannins have a subtle textured grip. Well-balanced throughout with lovely savoury, sandalwood, and dried cherry notes lingering on the long, slightly chalky finish. Enjoy this fine, maturing Rioja over the next 3-4 years. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from Bodegas Altanza can be ordered through their Agent - Profile Wine Group.


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  • Date publishedSaturday, April 3, 2021

LAVAU Vacqueyras 2017 (Rhône) - Wine Review

Tonight's wine review is the latest vintage of this lovely red wine from the Southern Rhône Valley cru of Vacqueyras that arrived at the LCBO today as part of the April 3, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Maison LAVAU was founded in the Rhône Valley in 1964 by the Lavau family that had been involved in winemaking from Bordeaux to Tunisia for several generations. Seduced by the richness and quality of the Provencal soils, the Lavau family decided to settle in the Rhône Valley. Today, Maison LAVAU continues to be managed by brothers Benoit and Frédéric Lavau, and they own three cellars in the Southern Rhône Valley where they vinify all of their wines. In addition to owning wine estates covering more than 180 hectares of vines across the Rhône Valley, the Lavau family has also formed long-running partnerships with more than 350 growers, thus allowing Maison LAVAU to select the best terroir and grapes in order to craft top quality wines.

I last enjoyed the 2014 LAVAU Vacqueyras back in June 2018 and am surprised that this red wine did not come back to the LCBO for a couple of years. The 2017 vintage in the Southern Rhone can be described as inconsistent with heavy rains in May leading to reduced yields of the ever-sensitive Grenache. However, there was almost no rain from the end of June and it was very hot throughout the rest of the growing season, resulting in a very good quality vintage that produced structured, age-worthy wines. The reduced yields of Grenache apparently had no effect on this wine is it remains a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 10% Mourvédre. The vines have an average age of 35+ years old and were grown on west-facing parcels on the plain of Vacqueyras with good draining alluvial and sandy soils. Let's see how the 2017 is tasting tonight...

LAVAU Vacqueyras 2017 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

LAVAU VACQUEYRAS 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#104927) (XD) - $26.95
A blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 10% Mourvédre that was aged in a combination of stainless steel vats and used barrels. The medium-high intensity nose has a savoury core surrounded by complex aromas of black pepper, dark berry, spice, and plum notes. The full-ish bodied palate has lovely flavours of red cherry, raspberry, spice with savoury undertones and a hint of orange. It has well-balanced acidity and refined, well-knit tannins with a touch of chalky grip. Really well-balanced throughout with more savoury and stony flavours with spice and a tinge of orange on the long finish. Enjoy this lovely Vacqueyras over the next 5+ years. Score: 91 pts

Other lovely wines from Maison Lavau can be ordered through their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.


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  • Date publishedThursday, April 1, 2021

Errázuriz Aconcagua Alto Carmenère 2018 (Chile) - Wine Review

To start off the long weekend, wine review is this lovely Carmenère from Chile that arrives at the LCBO this long weekend as the Wine of the Month from the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Viña Errázuriz was founded in 1870 by businessman and politician Don Maximiano Errázuriz. With a great vision for the future, along with an innovative and pioneering spirit, he planted the first French grape varietals in the Aconcagua Valley, about 65 km north of Santiago. The winery has since passed through generations of the family and today still remains with the descendants of Don Maximiano. Today, Eduardo Chadwick represents the fifth generation of the family to lead Viña Errázuriz, an iconic Chilean winery that has become one of the world's most noteworthy.

I've had the opportunity to taste previous vintages of this wine and it has always been a delight. The 2018 vintage of this Carmenère is sourced from their vineyard site located 600 metres above sea level, on the second ancient alluvial terrace of the Aconcagua River where the deep gravel soil has a clay-loam texture. These unique soil conditions, plus the radiant sun, allows this late-ripening varietal to have great success in the Aconcagua Valley. The grapes for this red wine were hand-picked, double sorted, and then crushed. After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, it was aged in French oak barrels (35% new) for 14 months. Overall, the 2018 vintage in Chile was considered to be brilliant. Let's see how this Carmenère is tasting tonight...

Errázuriz Aconcagua Alto Carmenère 2018 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

ERRÁZURIZ ACONCAGUA ALTO CARMENÈRE 2018 - DO Valle de Aconcagua, Chile (#546424) (XD) - $21.95
Fresh, herbally, tomato leaf, and roasted red pepper aromas surround a core and red and black fruits, and subtle wood spice. The medium-full bodied palate offers juicy, slightly tart red and dark berry fruits, tomato leaf, paprika, and wood spice flavours, with herbally and red pepper notes in the background. Very clean and well-balanced throughout with balanced acidity and textured, slightly chalky tannins. Earthy and savoury on the long, structured finish. Enjoy this fine Carmenère over the next 3-5 years. Score: 90 pts

Other fine wines from Viña Errázuriz can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.


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  • Date publishedThursday, April 1, 2021

April 3, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: California + Food-Friendly Wines

LCBO Wine Picks: April 3, 2021 VINTAGES Release
The main theme of what is a pretty good April 3, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release focuses on wines from California, while the mini-theme looks at food-friendly wines. All of these wines, including those from the rest of Release should be available on shelves across Ontario by this Saturday.

We begin with the theme on wines from California, with varietals the main focus. Of the fourteen wines featured, three are included among my top wine picks. California Cabernet Sauvignon is usually first to come to mind when thinking of California wines, so it's no surprise that there is a top Cali Cab among my recommendations. Merlot is also making a return into the spotlight, and there is one fine example from Napa Valley that consists of 91.5% Merlot, 5.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2.7% Petit Verdot. The last wine from California is a lovely traditional method sparkling wine that consists of 88% Pinot Noir and 12% Chardonnay.

From the feature on food-friendly wines, the is on fresh white wines, lighter reds, and sparkling wines. Each of these styles of wines are suitable for a numbers of types of dishes and is worth a read in the magazine. Although there are some quality wines listed as part of the feature, none are included among my wine recommendations below.

There are many lovely red wines from the rest of the Release. From France, the Roussillon red is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, while the Vacqueyras is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre. Also from France, the Côtes du Rhône-Villages is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre. From Italy, the Chianti Classico is a blend of approximately 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot using grapes from their estate in Radda in Chianti, while the wine from Sicily is made with the rare Frappato varietal. From Spain, the Rioja is made with 100% Tempranillo, while the Australian red is a co-fermented blend of 96% Shiraz and 4% Viognier. Lastly, the wine from Sardinia is made with Grenache, or locally known as Cannonau.

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2017 (91+ pts)Lavau Vacqueyras 2017 (91 pts)

Lealtanza Reserva 2015 (90 pts)Planeta Frappato Vittoria 2018

The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier 2019 (88 pts)Rémy Ferbras Terre de Mistral Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2017 (90 pts)

Among my white wine picks, there are a trio of Sauvignon Blanc wines, as well as a trio of Chardonnays, including one from Burgundy. The wine from Loire is made with the Melon grape from old vines between 40 to 60 years old. For sweet wine lovers, you'll want to check out the Pinot Gris from Alsace, or the Riesling from Mosel.

For dry rosé wine lovers, check out the latest rosé from Niagara that is made with 100% Pinot Noir.

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2020

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this Release! Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • LAURA HARTWIG SINGLE VINEYARD CARMENÈRE 2018 - DO Colchagua Valley, Chile (#213512) (XD) - $15.95  review coming soon...
  • RÉMY FERBRAS TERRE DE MISTRAL PLAN DE DIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2017 - AP, France (#538009) (XD) - $16.95  90 pts  wine review
  • THE BLACK CHOOK SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2019 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#66738) (XD) - $18.95  88 pts  wine review
  • ANTICHI PODERI JERZU CHUÈRRA RISERVA CANNONAU DI SARDEGNA 2017 - DOC, Sardinia, Italy (#270272) (XD) - $19.95
  • SUTHERLAND SYRAH 2016 - WO Elgin, South Africa (#13349) (XD) - $19.95
  • ERRÁZURIZ ACONCAGUA ALTO CARMENÈRE 2018 - DO Valle de Aconcagua, Chile (#546424) (XD) - $21.95  90 pts  wine review
  • LEALTANZA RESERVA 2015 - Vegan, DOCa Rioja, Spain (#208223) (XD) - $22.95  90 pts  wine review
Errázuriz Aconcagua Alto Carmenère 2018 (90 pts)Laura Hartwig Single Vineyard Carmenère 2018

  • PLANETA FRAPPATO VITTORIA 2018 - DOC, Sicily, Italy (#508655) (XD) - $24.95  review coming soon...
  • LAVAU VACQUEYRAS 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#104927) (XD) - $26.95  91 pts  wine review
  • M. CHAPOUTIER BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2017 - AP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Latour-de-France (#643239) (XD) - $26.95  91+ pts  wine review
  • VOLPAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2017 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#953828) (XD) - $32.95
  • FREEMARK ABBEY MERLOT 2017 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#1602) (XD) - $54.95
  • TORRES MAS LA PLANA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015 - DO Penedès, Spain (#129676) (XD) - $69.95  FE  92 pts  wine review
  • CATERWAUL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - Sustainable, Napa Valley, California, USA (#19597) (XD) - $84.95
  • CASTELLO ROMITORIO FILO DI SETA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2015 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#16751) (XD) - $139.95  FE
Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (92 pts)

White Wine:

  • OTU MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#17549) (XD) - $17.95
  • DOMAINE DES TILLEULS LES VÉNÉRABLES VIEILLES VIGNES SUR LIE MUSCADET SÈVRE ET MAINE 2017 - AP, Loire, France (#18546) (XD) - $18.95
  • PIERRE SPARR SOL CALCAIRE PINOT GRIS 2016 - AC Alsace, France (#19482) (M) - $19.95
  • UNDURRAGA TERROIR HUNTER SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 - Limarí Valley, Chile (#17614) (XD) - $22.95  FE
  • SILENI STRAITS GRAND RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Sustainable, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#17550) (XD) - $23.95
  • VASSE FELIX FILIUS CHARDONNAY 2019 - Margaret River, Western Australia (#416511) (XD) - $24.95  FE
  • STUDERT-PRÜM MAXIMINHOF WEHLENER SONNENUHR RIESLING KABINETT 2017 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#970129) (S) - $24.95
  • CHÂTEAU VITALLIS POUILLY-FUISSÉ LES PERRIÈRES 2017 - AC, Burgundy, France (#18470) (XD) - $38.95
  • BACHELDER SAUNDERS-HAUT VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2017 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#324103) (XD) - $44.95  FE

Rosé Wine:

  • MALIVOIRE VIVANT ROSÉ 2020 - Sustainable, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#498535) (XD) - $19.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • GLORIA FERRER SONOMA BRUT SPARKLING - Traditional method, Sonoma County, California, USA (#192898) (D) - $34.95

Fortified:

  • DALVA COLHEITA PORT 1995 - Bottled 2020, DOC, Portugal (#69930) (S) - $51.95  FE  92-93 pts  wine review
Dalva Colheita Port 1995 (92-93 pts)


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  • Date publishedTuesday, March 30, 2021

Catena Appellation Agrelo Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

After enjoying the fabulous 2018 Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc last week, wine review is my third recent review from Catena's Appellation series of wines - the first was the 2018 Catena Lunlunta Old Vines Appellation Malbec that I enjoyed back in February. This Cabernet Sauvignon arrived in LCBO VINTAGES on as part of the feature on Argentina - The Land of Extremes and there aren't many bottles left, so you'll want to pick-up a bottle or two before it's all gone.

Since all three wines come from different parts of Mendoza, click here to view an interesting map that shows where the grapes for each wine come from.

Pioneers in the world of Argentine winemaking, the Catena family have been producing wines in Argentina since 1902. The first major revolution occurred in the 1980's while Nicolás Catena Zapata (father of Dr. Laura Catena) was visiting California and seeing the wine revolution taking place there. In 1990, Nicolás brought back the vinification style which he dubbed the Californian-French style - where wines were crafted with freshness, intense fruit, and new oak hints using only French oak barrels - and crafted his first vintage using this style in 1990. A couple of wines were created, but the special wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon using grapes planted at Catena's Agrelo vineyards. Following the success of this wine, this vinification style was quickly adopted by other wineries in Mendoza.

While Malbec is by far the most widely planted grape in Argentina, Cabernet Sauvignon is the third most widely planted, not far behind Bonarda. As Cabernet Sauvignon is considered the king of reds, it has been researched extensively in Argentina and produces wines of different styles based on where its grown in the country.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is from Catena's historic vineyard in the Agrelo Appellation. This vineyard is located just south of Mendoza city, within the Luján de Cuyo DOC, which itself is part of the larger Uco Valley. The Agrelo Vineyard is planted at an elevation of 950 metres (3,116 feet) above sea level and is of alluvial origin with clay topsoil and rounded rocks on the bottom; it is composed of 30% sand, 30% clay, and 40% silt. The region of Agrelo is well-regarded for its Cabernet Sauvignon as its deep clay soils and moderate climate produce wines with robust tannins and smooth, lengthy finish.

Family vintners for over 100 years, the Catenas are recognized for their pioneering role in high-altitude viticulture in Argentina. This wine is sourced from the family's historic vineyards in the Agrelo Appellation, a region well-regarded for Cabernet Sauvignon in Mendoza. The appellation's deep clay soils and moderate climate produce wines that are revered for their robust tannins and smooth, lengthy finish.

Catena Appellation Agrelo Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (92 pts)

Tasting Note:

CATENA APPELLATION AGRELO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - Agrelo, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#484303) (XD) - $21.95
100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in French oak barrels (35% new) for 12 months. Gorgeous, highly aromatic nose is fresh with lovely, complex notes of red and black fruit, currant, cassis, stony mineral, graphite, and pencil lead, turning smoky with time in the glass. It's full-bodied on the ripe, supple palate with more red and black fruit, currant, and cassis flavours joined by herbally notes. Acids are fresh and well-balanced, while smooth, supple tannins are well-integrated, yet still offer some structure. Excellent finish length on the slightly chalky finish with savoury mineral and herbal flavours. Highly recommended buy to enjoy over at least the next 4-5 years. Score: 92 pts

Other fabulous wines by Catena can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Noble Estates Wines & Spirits.


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