Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES December 2 Release

Review of Vintages Dec 2 Release
The End of the Old & New Worlds, and Wines for All Holiday Gatherings

By John Szabo MS, with notes from Sara d’Amato, Megha Jandhyala, David Lawrason

Holiday gathering is the appropriate theme of the December 2 VINTAGES release, so the WineAlign Crü this week, minus a traveling Michael Godel, has based recommendations on types of occasions to help you find what you need for any situation. Whether it’s a big holiday bash, afternoon drop-in, or intimate multi-course dinner, we have some excellent suggestions for you — and we have aligned on many recommendations. As for sparkling wines, you’ll have my popular annual Fizz Guide in your inbox this Friday, December 8. It contains a wealth of options at all prices and styles, from all of us — truly something for everyone. Stay tuned.

In other breaking wine world news, especially relevant for you students, the Court of Master Sommeliers-Americas (CMS-A), the world-leading examining and credentialing body for the hospitality industry, has just announced an end to the old-world-slash-new-world divide to describe wines. As I have written about several times, (in 2023 and 2022) in intros to the LCBO’s annual early April VINTAGES release theme of old vs. new world, the terminology was badly outdated. “Old world and new world categories are as archaic as colonialism itself,” I wrote. “They’re also descriptively meaningless… as every wine student who plays the blind tasting game is well aware.” The CMS-A has caught up with the times. Read on for the reasoning and to see the updated deductive tasting format. And lastly, should you wish to support diversity and inclusion in the hospitality industry, consider a (tax-deductible) donation to the Vinequity Scholarship Fund. Details herein.


A Wine for Every Occasion

Planning a holiday gathering in the coming weeks, or attending one? The WineAlign Crü combed through the VINTAGES December 2 release to pick out suitable bottles for all occasions.

House Wines

Megha and I both like the Famille Perrin Côtes Du Rhône ‘Nature’ 2021 ($18.95) for occasions when budget is a primary consideration. “At under $20, I would pour this widely appealing, certified organic Côtes du Rhône at large holiday parties,” says Megha. I like it as a house red this season for its foolproof combination of smooth easy-drinking style, also matched to a well-known and respected region, and producer, the Perrin Family of Château de Beaucastel fame. Who will argue with your choice?

My equivalent house white would be the Viña Mayor 2021 Verdejo from Rueda in Spain ($18.95), a region with an outsized capacity to deliver value. It’s exotic enough to intrigue the punters, simply delicious to everyone else.

Casual Leftover Lunches

If a more casual lunch is on the horizon, featuring perhaps leftover turkey, David recommends a delicious cru Beaujolais: Nicolas Potel’s 2022 Fleurie ($23.95). “I once served a Fleurie during a serious dinner in Beaune,” David recalls, which apparently mortified the sommelier. “But monsieur, this is a lunch wine!” the sommelier exclaimed. So, there you have it, authoritative permission to chill and crack a couple of bottles of this succulent gamay midday.


According to most weather services, Southern Ontario is predicted to have a warmer-than-average winter. It’s thanks to El Niño, an atmospheric phenomenon that results in warmer waters off the coast of western South America, which somehow, in turn, like the distant flapping of a butterfly’s wings, results in the warming of northern North America (and more precipitation). If the weather holds, and a BBQ is viable, Megha recommends thanking Chile by serving the Montes Alpha Special Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 from the Colchagua Valley ($22.95). It’s a solid choice “for a protein-heavy meal that includes barbecued foods,” she says.


True wine lovers love a good discovery, so if you’ve got one coming over this holiday, someone who thinks they’ve seen it all, pull out a bottle of the Tierras de Armenia Karas Red Blend 2020 from Armenia ($22.95). I’m willing to bet it will raise an eyebrow, and ultimately impress. You can mention that this little-known wine producing nation boasts the oldest “winery” in the world — the Areni-1 cave dating back 6200 years — even if the modern wine industry is just getting started. Karas is a well-funded project with Argentine-Armenian roots (the same family owns Bodegas Fin del Mundo in Patagonia), farming a wide variety of international and indigenous varieties in their Ararat Valley vineyards at more than 1000 metres elevation in rocky volcanic soils. It’s a viticulture of extremes. As Sara rightly points out: “I’m not the only critic who took note of this Armenian assemblage of syrah, malbec and cabernet… Not to be missed.”

Opening Gambits

As mentioned in the intro, the robust fizz guide is coming shortly. But there are other aperitif options to consider. Triple alignment landed on the Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2022 from Marlborough ($26.95), which David intends to make the opening gambit for an elegant holiday soirée. He describes it as a “very pristine, precise and chiselled sauvignon blanc” that “will set a lively tone.” Megha suggests adding hors d’oeuvres, anything from gougères to spring rolls to samosas, while Sara educates us on its geology. “Named after Marlborough’s most abundant bedrock,” she points out. Now you know.

Seafood & White Meats ++

Should you wish to elevate a holiday table featuring creamy seafood and poultry dishes, David stops the press at Les Cassagnes De La Nerthe 2022 Côtes Du Rhône-Villages ($26.95). What a sensational value from a revered Châteauneuf-du-Pape house!” he enthuses. Megha and I also align, me along similar lines: “An excellent option when you want to step it up a bit, especially at the table when serving richer seafood dishes, white meats or creamy cheeses.” Megha is a little more flexible with her drinking window, suggesting it might also make “an appropriate accompaniment to a late winter afternoon, perhaps whilst one is prepping for a holiday gathering.”

Formal Dining

Hopefully we’ll all have an opportunity to sit down with an intimate group of friends and family this holiday and give thanks for being in Canada. If a splurge is in the cards, consider also giving back to our wine industry with something local, without compromising an iota of pleasure. I’d suggest On Seven’s “The Pursuit” Chardonnay 2019 from Niagara-on-the-Lake ($48). Make no mistake, this is premium Niagara chardonnay from a relatively new, highly ambitious project that will make an impression on your most discerning guests. I’m thinking boiled or roasted lobster and butter with this texturally rich wine.

Meanwhile, David’s white centrepiece is the similarly priced Vincent De La Remondière 2020 Chablis 1er Cru Les Fourchaume ($51.95). “Fourchaume, in my view, is the best of the 1er cru vineyards of Chablis, producing unoaked chardonnays of real class and elegance,” he says.

Apparently both David and I were thinking about roast lamb when considering what to recommend for classy red wine options, and we both aligned on the Glenelly 2017 Lady May from Stellenbosch, South Africa ($58.95). Bordeaux-inspired and influenced, Glenelly has always crafted wine in a reserved style, with notable finesse and sophistication. Lady May is the flagship estate wine, named for proprietor May-Éliane de Lencquesaing, Bordeaux-born, former owner of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, who purchased Glenelly in 2003. The wine at $57 is, of course, not inexpensive, but in context is surely sharp value. “South African bargains just keep coming,” David writes. “It sports generous red and blackcurrant, tobacco, cedar and fresh herbs, which has me thinking roast lamb.” But don’t limit yourself to just lamb — any holiday classics will do, from brisket to Turkey, or maybe flash your culinary breadth with something like a Moroccan-Spiced eggplant and tomato stew.


I know sweet wine consumption is down pretty much worldwide, but if ever there’s an appropriate time to indulge, it’s during the holidays, gathered with friends and family for a sweet treat. Both Sara and Megha were taken by the Arnaud De Villeneuve 10-Year-Old Grande Réserve Ambré Rivesaltes, ($31.95), a rare sighting of this vin doux naturelle from the Roussillon in Ontario. Megha says it’s

“a lovely wine to indulge in during the holiday season, warm and luscious, yet balanced, with delectable flavours of toffee, burnt caramel, spice, and dried fruit.” A fortified wine at 16 percent alcohol, Sara describes it as having the richness of an icewine, “but is less acidic, creating considerable volume and oiliness.” Both suggest serving it with cheese (and paté) or sipping it by itself, lightly chilled, late into the night.

And if you’re trying to reduce your alcohol consumption, you needn’t sip only tea at the end of the meal. A much lighter sweet alternative to the above is Selbach Oster’s Noble R Riesling Beerenauslese 2018 from the Mosel in Germany ($49.95). It’s a marvellous reminder of just how beautiful late harvest riesling from the Mosel can be, from an arch-classic producer. And at just 8.5 percent alcohol, the physical imposition is not too much; it will refresh the palate and mind after a long, sumptuous dinner. I’d also find it ideal for afternoon sipping with biscuits when friends pop around for some holiday cheer.

These are just some of our suggestions for you holiday gatherings. See the buyers’ guide below for the full list.

Updating Wine Tasting Terminology: Old World/New World  
Starting in 2024, the CMS-A [Court of Master Sommeliers-America] the organization that “sets the global standard of excellence for beverage service within the hospitality industry” and “advances the beverage profession through education, mentorship, and credentialing, elevating the beverage and hospitality experience for all” will no longer use the terms “Old World” and “New World” in their published educational courses and examination grids. 

It used to be very common to hear wine experts refer to old world wines — those essentially from Europe — and new world wines — those from just about everywhere else — as almost two separate categories of wine altogether. The perceived stylistic differences were thought to be obvious enough to merit general separation. But now, according to CMS-A, the decision to drop the distinction decision “is driven by the commitment to uphold historical accuracy, eliminate cultural bias, and acknowledge the growing challenge of distinguishing between “Old World” and “New World” wines,” as a recent letter to the student community states. “Our goal is to align our tasting process with the dynamic wine landscape and evolving styles.” 

“The Deductive Tasting Method’s initial conclusions,” continues the letter, which formerly included guessing whether a wine originated in Europe or somewhere else, “will now emphasize a data-driven approach, incorporating theory, typicity knowledge, and cause-and-effect analysis.” But for those of you still caught up in the world divide, fear not. Points during blind tasting examinations will not be deducted should you mention a world, but neither will it earn points any longer. My advice: Describe the wine as it presents in the glass as accurately as possible, and with enough practice and experience, a logical conclusion will follow. Click below for the updated tasting grid.


Vinequity Scholarships

Vinequity is a federally incorporated not-for-profit organization founded by seven female wine professionals of colour. The organization has three main stated objectives: 1) to host a public online directory of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in the Canadian wine industry; 2) to raise funds and award scholarships to BIPOC applicants wishing to further their wine industry careers in Canada; 3) to provide advocacy, resources and support to marginalized people who have experienced barriers to advancing within Canada’s wine community.

I have been involved in the Vinequity mentorship program since its inception in 2020 and have found it very rewarding on many levels. Many of Canada’s top wine professionals have also participated. To date, 60 mentees have gone through the program.

You can support this program and contribute to building a diverse community in the Canadian beverage industry through a donation to the Vinequity Scholarship fund. The organization has recently partnered with Veritas Charity Services to manage donations and provide charitable tax receipts (for U.S. donors too). Eighty-nine percent of donations goes directly to recipients. Read more about the program in this press release. Donate to the scholarship fund on the Veritas website using “Vinequity” as the account name.

Buyer’s Guide December 2: Whites

Viña Mayor Verdejo 2021, Rueda, Spain
$18.95, Hanna Neal Wine Merchants Inc.
John Szabo – Here’s your house white for holiday parties, a fruity and flavourful, immediately attractive example of Rueda, a region with an outsized capacity to deliver value and certainly the case here. It’s exotic enough to intrigue the punters, simply delicious to everyone else.

There are 21 other VINTAGES Release recommendations this week that are currently only available to our premium members. This complete article will be free and 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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From all of us at WineAlign, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season with gatherings galore.

John Szabo, MS

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Selections
Megha’s Picks

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