Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Part Two – Jan 21st, 2017

Inexpensive Doesn’t Always Mean Good Value
by David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

Inexpensive wines remain the subtext of this second January release, which is probably a good strategic move by the province in the wake of recent hikes in our hydro bills and the new carbon tax introduced January 1st. There are 18 wines being offered that are $14.95 or less!

Indeed, all six of the offerings in the Portuguese mini-feature are under $15. Yes, Portugal is one of those countries that in general makes less expensive wines. Which puts it in a great position as a “value destination” if the wine in question is actually good quality. But what I have found in tasting Portuguese wines over the years, is that the least expensive wines can often be very coarse, and occasionally volatile. Only two of the six Portuguese wines on this release reach 88 points of better. I actually get much more excited with the great value found in better quality Portuguese wines priced between $15 and $25, some of which can be found at the LCBOs Portugal destination store neat St. Clair West and Keele in Toronto’s west end.

Elsewhere on this release, there were only a handful of other under $15 wines that scored as true values. Two of those are from neighbouring Spain, one is from Corbieres in the south of France, and there is one fine white from Austria – all among my picks below. And Michael has eyed one from Greece. But our team has also unearthed some good values and fine efforts over $14.95 as well. (Last week Sara penned a great primer based on the Argentine feature and, and we identified the best buys therein).

Highlights from the January 21st VINTAGES Release:


Rabl 2015 Langenlois Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite delicious, fruity young gruner that captures ripe almost tropical melon, banana fruit, acacia and gruner’s vague white pepper spiciness. Nicely bright and polished with good fruit sweetness. Fine all-purpose aperitif.

Guicciardini Strozzi 2015 Villa Cusona Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – A top value in this release offering the bluesy swagger, earthy aromatics and herbal character that is so typical of the grape variety. There is a great deal of character and appeal in this light and stylish offering. Stock up and enjoy as an aperitif or pair with pan-seared fish.

Rabl 2015 Langenlois Grüner VeltlinerGuicciardini Strozzi Villa Cusona Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2015Marchand Tawse Bourgogne Chardonnay 2014

Marchand Tawse 2014 Bourgogne Chardonnay, Burgundy, France ($28.95)
Sara d’Amato – This collaborative project by Quebec ex-pat Pascal Marchand and Niagara wine mogul Moray Tawse offers a range of appellation specific Burgundian wines as well as this generic Bourgogne that is impressively complex. Although the price is a step up from the average, the wine offers a great deal of refinement, structure and length.

Euro Reds

Beyra Vinhos de Altitude 2014 Red, Beiras, Portugal ($12.95)
David Lawrason – Beira is a small, higher altitude inland region next to the Douro Valley. This is 90% tempranillo (tinto roriz). The nose is quite lifted with some youthful grapy/red plum character, fresh herbs and a touch of meatiness. It’s quite firm and juicy on the palate. Fine for mid-winter casual meals.
Michael Godel – This rare sighting of Beyra (Beira) comes from altitude (700m) and mashes together tinta roriz and jean. It carries a perfume unique to place and unlike any other Portuguese region. It’s both pretty in redolent vegetation and syrah-schisty with thanks to granite soils. The palate is so very juicy, full of raspberry fruit and more salty-mineral play. This is exceptional wine for the money.

Lagar de Darei 2012 Red, Dão, Portugal, ($13.95)
David Lawrason – I rather like the nifty-look and feel of this new stout bottle, that still holds regulation 75omls. The nose shows quite lifted blackcurrant, meaty, iodine and evergreen notes that are classic Dao. It’s medium-full bodied, firm, a touch sinewy and tannic but it scores on flavour intensity. I might cellar this a year or three.

Beyra Vinhos de Altitude Red 2014Lagar de Darei Red 2012Château Des Aladères Sélection Vieilles Vignes 2013

Château des Aladères 2013 Sélection Vieilles Vignes, Corbières, France ($14.95)
David Lawrason – This mid-weight, ruby shaded young Corbières (carignan, grenache, syrah) has a classic nose of blackcurrant/pomegranate with meaty notes, fresh herbs and peppery spice. Nicely rustic. It’s mid-weight, firm, tart-edged yet balanced with fine tannin. Roasts.

Pop Art Red 2014, Pgi Evia, Greece ($12.95)
Michael Godel – Rauschenberg, Bowie (and Spiderman’s illustrator Steve Ditko) would be proud of the label mimicry in this Evia red, a pop art portrait of a women in distress on the telephone. The Pop Art red is from Malakontas, which lies in Evia in the central part of Greece. The endemic vradiano (70 per cent) is joined by soft blending expat extraordinaire merlot for a rustic but juicy red, foxy as it needs to be and full of indigenous moxy. Neat little hunky dory, Warhol of a Greek red. Talks to you like the artist that it is.

Honoro Vera 2015 Monastrell, Jumilla, Spain ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a bargain house sipping red. It is a bright, pure, fruity and floral monastrell that avoids the strong tannin and heat often delivered in this region of eastern, Mediterranean Spain. It’s medium weight, fresh and lively.

Pop Art Red 2014Honoro Vera Monastrell 2015Borsao Crianza 2013

Borsao 2013 Crianza, Campo de Borja, Spain ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – Affable, fruit forward and ready to drink, this upbeat Crianza is well worth stocking up on for pizza nights and solo sipping. Garnacha is blended with cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo resulting in a mid-weight wine with a hint of tannic grip, sweet aromas and an abundance of fruit. Great value.

Espelt Viticultors 2015 Old Vines Garnacha, Empordà, Spain ($14.95)
David Lawrason – From a tiny appellation in the north easternmost corner of Spain, on the French border, comes a full bodied, soft, warm and almost jammy red with generous almost confected, floral aromas of lilac, plummy fruit and vague peppery spice. For New World fans.

Planeta Noto 2012 Nero d’Avola, Sicily, Italy ($26.95) (477190)
Sara d’Amato – The limestone soil on the rolling hills of the aptly named district of Buonivini is home to this salty and perky nero d’avola from Planeta. A region known equally for its food and its wine, there is a polyculture attitude here.  Alongside the vines grow almonds, carob and olives which help to contribute savory flavours and Mediterranean character to the wine.

Espelt Viticultors Old Vines Garnacha 2015Planeta Noto Nero d'Avola 2012J. L. Chave Sélection Offerus Saint Joseph 2013

L. Chave 2013 Sélection Offerus Saint Joseph, Rhône, France ($36.95)
Sara d’Amato – Sélection Offerus is the negociant range of this highly respected producer. The wine is elegantly assembled and is a very representative example of the spicy, aromatic and sensual wines of this appellation whose reds are solely made from the syrah grape variety. It is stylish and notably complex but the tannins are firm at present so give his another year or two in bottle or decant well.

New World Reds

Château Des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir Droit 2015, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara On The Lake ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Not that previous vintages were disappointments by any stretch of the gamay imagination but 2015 seems destined to be one of the greats. Making a spokesperson of the benchmark, a.k.a. Château des Charmes Droit is essential for backing up such a blanket statement. The dusty, currant to black cherry fruit compendium might usually be reserved for cabernet sauvignion, franc and merlot but when gamay is great it not only assumes these responsibilities, it relishes the opportunity.

Château Des Charmes St. David's Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir Droit 2015Mojo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro 2014

Mojo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Coonawarra ($17.95)
Michael Godel – The magic power of this Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon is quickly evident and what it really offers up terrific value on this VINTAGES release. Mojo is classic and I must stress the word, classic varietal Coonawarra and yet another example of how that tiny little outpost is one of the most important cabernet locales on the planet. This wine breathes from the inside out with freshness, depth, character and structure.

Penfolds 2014 Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro, South Australia ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Great value under $25!. It is a deeply coloured red with lifted, classic aromas of blueberry, blackcurrant, fresh mint and chocolate. It’s full bodied, firm yet creamy, warm and spicy. Great presence and richness but not at all heavy.

And that’s a wrap for this week. The WineAlign team is spreading out around the globe in the days ahead but as always we will do our best to bring reviews from the VINTAGES releases. The February 4 release features wines of the Mediterranean and South Africa. On February 18 we will be looking at Australia.

Cheers, David
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
All January 21st Reviews

New Release and VINTAGES Preview


Sterling Vineyards 2013 Napa Chardonnay