Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – January 7, 2017

Best Buys Under $20, and a Resolution
by David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

We kick of 2017 like many years past, with a selection of well priced best buys from the January 7 release – indeed most picks are under $20. But before we get there, I present the New Year’s resolution I am most likely to keep.

Be it resolved that I will not waste time, effort and words on wines that I don’t recommend.

I have always believed that it is part of a critic’s job to warn readers away from poor quality and poor value wines. This is especially important in Ontario where the government is the monopoly retail buyer and seller of wine (imports at least), and government always needs an opposition to hold them to account. But this can be done with one simple phrase – Not Recommended. Writing a negative review is much more difficult than writing a good one – usually because one doesn’t want to offend – but in the end it pleases almost no one anyway.

The only real loss might be helping you better understand flawed or imbalanced or dilute wines, but how many will really go and buy that wine in the name of experience and education? Winemakers and LCBO buyers might also benefit from a critical review if it helps them correct a problem. In this case I am happy to answer their inquiries privately, and perhaps more fully. I will still be keeping notes on those Not Recommended wines.

So where am I going to the draw that Not Recommended line?

Here are the four categories of reviews you will see in my WineAlign space in 2017. (Note: Some of these will not start right away, as we may need to make some system adjustments)

Not Tasted: When I have not tasted a wine that you might have expected me to taste (at VINTAGES or the LCBO) NR will appear in the rating area (below the grape cluster) and Not Tasted will appear in the review space. Likewise, if a wine is faulted and I cannot confirm the fault in a second bottle NR will appear and I will say Re-Taste Required in the review area, until I get to re-taste.

Not Recommended: If a wine is not seriously flawed but has shortcomings in terms of balance, complexity and length that would drop it below 85 points, you will again see NR in the ratings area and Not Recommended in the review space.

Not Recommended On Value: If a wine is not recommended based on poor quality/price ratio you will still see a rating between 85 and 89 in the rating box, but Not Recommended in the review space. Further comment on value and style may or may not be included.

Not Recommended On Value will be as follows.
A wine under $10 that scores below 85
A wine $10 to $14.95 that score below 86
A wine $15 to $19.95 that scores below 87
A wine $20 to $24.95 that scores below 88
A wine $25.00 to $29.95 that scores below 89

Recommended: This is what you have been used to. A score will appear in the ratings box, and a full review will appear in the review space, if the wine meets the standards above. Any wine rating 90 or better will be reviewed at any price, but where value is still not met I will comment in the review.

Adopting this system is a personal choice, and it may not be used by other WineAlign critics. We are each to our own – chacun son vin – which is actually one of the great strengths of this enterprise, giving you a collection of different perspectives.

Personally I would like to dump the entire 100 point scale and see ratings go to a simple five-star system, but as long as we are stuck with it, and having to deal with all the subtle nuances around the differences of “one-point”, then I feel I should be trying to be more diligent and open about applying the system. This allows me to do so without building value into the actual rating.

So here we go with some picks from the January 7th release. Mine are all Best Buys Under $20. Hint: none scored 90, but they are all wines I would buy. Sara and Michael followed the under $20 theme and then added a few extras.

Top Picks from January 7th Release:

Our latest Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES recommendations are currently only available to Premium WineAlign members. This complete article will be visible to all members 30 days after publication. We invite you to subscribe today to unlock our top picks and other Premium benefits.

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Please take a moment to understand why we are making these changes.

“For the cost of a good bottle of wine we’ll help you discover hundreds of great ones.”


Happy New Year!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release.

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All January 7th Reviews

New Release and VINTAGES Preview


Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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