Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Nov 24th, 2018

Mining The Old World Selections

(With a bonus commentary on wine retailing in Doug Ford’s Ontario)
By David Lawrason, with notes from Michael Godel and Sara d’Amato.

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

November 24 is a huge release, but not a blockbuster in terms of quality and big names. In fact, there are many, many repeats from earlier this year, which is good for those wineries trying to build a track record at Vintages, but less good for those trying to break in.

Last week John panned for New World nuggets and this week the team mines for value with a focus on Europe.  With an impressive fourteen selections, Tuscany emerges as a prime hunting ground, with several Chianti Classicos, Brunellos and a dandy cabernet-based red from Donne Fittipaldi, a new winery in Bolgheri.

Speaking of Bolgheri, it was a great pleasure to host a WineAlign dinner last week with Priscilla Incisa della Rochetta, the granddaughter of the founder of Tenuta San Guide and creator of Sassicaia. This historic cabernet-based “super-Tuscan” single-handedly created a new region on Tuscany’s coast and elevated top Tuscans to international superstar status. Three vintages – 2015, 2013 and 2011 – were very generously poured during a five course dinner at BlueBlood at Casa Loma, and yes you can still find the superb Sassicaia 2015 at Vintages.

Le Volte Dell'ornellaia 2016

Before or after you peruse our best buys, I hope you will also spend a few minutes with my commentary (below) on the rapidly changing wine retail environment in Ontario.  Extending LCBO hours from 9am to 11pm is just a beginning.


J.J. Vincent 2016 Marie-Antoinette Pouilly-Fuissé, Burgundy, France ($37.95)
David Lawrason – I have always admired the classic Pouilly-Fuisse of JJ Vincent. This complex chardonnay is pretending to be Chablis, with fine tension underpinned by limestone minerality. The aromas and flavours show tightly wound apple, lemon, herbs, almond and some cheesy character. It is mid-weight, firm and nicely balanced with excellent length.

Donatien Bahuaud 2017 Les Grands Mortiers Vouvray, Loire Valley, France ($20.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite fine-boned, off-dry chenin blanc showing off the calcerous tuffeau soils of Vouvray with lovely underlying delicacy. The nose captures typical pear/quince, linden flower, honeycomb and flinty notes. The firm acidity carries the sweetness nicely; the length is very good.

Stadt Krems, 2016, Grüner Veltliner, Kremstal, Austria ($18.95)
Michael Godel – Classic, no, arch classic Kremstal, grüner veltliner and Austrian white. Hits all the correct and pleasure seeking notes; citrus, white pepper, acidity and exuberant length. Provides not merely what is excepted and wished for but exceeds in most generous ways. Cost notwithstanding too.

J.J. Vincent Marie Antoinette Pouilly FuissÉ 2016  Donatien Bahuaud Les Grands Mortiers Vouvray 2017 Stadt Krems GrÜner Veltliner 2016

Maria Papoila Escolha 2017, DOC Vinho Verde, Portugal ($16.95)
Michael Godel – The Maria Papolia crafted by the Lua Cheia company is an ideal gateway to really gain interest and intuition into the varietal blending that shines, defines and refines the category of Vinho Verde. The get together of alvarinho and loureiro is at once lean and then textured. It’s a best of both worlds, dual varietal act of seamlessness.

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2017, Vignetti Delle Dolomiti, Alto Adige, Italy ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Exuberantly perfumed, crunchy and wildly appealing, this pinot grigio from Tiefenbrunner is even more expressive and playful than the norm. There is no shortage of complexity here and the palate offers surprising depth – an impressive degree of personality has been coaxed out of the humble pinot grigio. Stock up for the holidays!

Maria Papoila Escolha 2017  Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2017


Losi Querciavalle 2012 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This lighter, nicely balanced Chianti is now hitting prime, with nicely woven sangiovese red currant/strawberry fruit, herbs and gentle oak spice and vanilla. It is mid-weight at most with firm acidity and nicely drying tannin. Now to 2021.
Michael Godel – The vintage and now six years have seen to some evolution but the tannins remain and persist, firm, grippy and intense. From the family’s south-facing Castelnuovo Berardenga “Leccino” vineyard, this is very traditional Chianti Classico of rational barrel influence.

Castello Di Ama 2014 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, DOCG San Lorenzo ($54.95)
Michael Godel – San Lorenzo is not actually a single-vineyard wine though the fruit source depends highly on this side of the estate. It is in fact a blend of all the best places of the property and from a vintage out of which no La Casuccia or Bellavista were made so all the best fruit (including some merlot) ended up in San Lorenzo. This is the white meets grey meets sandy brown limestone for broad amalgamation of the mineral estate, salty and rich, with depth into a grotto.

Barone Ricasoli 2015 Rocca Guicciarda Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This classic from a great vintage has a lifted nose of red currant, basil and bay leaf, gentle vanillin and spice. It is mid-weight, lively and tart-edged, with pleasant tartness and juiciness that stays south of austerity. Admirable flavour intensity here.

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico 2012 Castello Di Ama San Lorenzo Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2014 Barone Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda Riserva Chianti Classico 2015

Carpineto 2012 Brunello Di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($63.95)
David Lawrason – This nicely rich and almost lush Brunello is from a lighter vintage, so it has evolved very nicely. It has quite a generous rich nose with well integrated ripe, almost dried fig fruit, leather, forest floor aromas. It is quite smooth, fairly soft and warming with still firm but integrated tannin. The length is excellent.

Donne Fittipaldi 2015 Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy ($45.95)
David Lawrason – From a new, aspiring and artsy winery in Bolgheri this cabernet-based blend shows a very lifted, very minty/evergreen/rosemary scented nose with pretty blackcurrant fruit and fine oak. It is medium-full, streamlined fairly dense and generous, with loads of fruit. The length is excellent.

Villa Giada Suri Unfiltered 2015, Barbera D’asti, Piedmont, Italy ($16.95)
Michael Godel – If it matters and it will to many, this Andrea Faccio barbera from Asti lands (in this case Canelli) is unfiltered and unfined and therefore vegan-friendly. It’s both classically ripe and naturally high in acidity so food matchability is an easy given. The tannins are drying but fine for the price. Can’t really go wrong here.

Villa Matilde 2016 Stregamora Piedirosso, Roccamonfina, Campania, Italy ($18.95) (575233)
Sara d’Amato – A real curio find, Stregamora is produced entirely from the piedrosso grape, a variety native to Campania that Villa Matilde has helped emerge from virtual obscurity and extinction over the past 50 years.  Planted in the volcanic soils at the foot of Roccamenfina, this bright, pleasantly spicy wine is dry, with predominantly red fruit flavours and wonderful zest. Red plum and cherry and are enhanced by lightly peppery notes along with rose and violet. Effortlessly drinkable and offering real purity and authenticity.

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino 2012 Donne Fittipaldi 2015 Villa Giada Suri Barbera D'asti 2015 Villa Matilde Stregamora Piedirosso 2016

Château De France 2014 Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France ($49.95)
David Lawrason – This is a surprisingly rich, smooth and ripe Pessac, which seems as though it should have come from the warm 2015 vintage, not the leaner 2014.  But I suspect extended ripening and barrel ageing have packed in considerable stuffing – a style common to consulting oenologist Michel Rolland. Expect ripe blackberry, violet, vanillin and gentle cedar. It is medium-full bodied, elegant and smooth with fine tannin.

Baron De Boutisse 2014, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France ($26.95)
Sara d’Amato – This right bank blend offers a great deal of grip, purity of flavour and firmness. Elegant and verging on sinewy but still with enough flesh for enjoyment into the next decade. Well-built and an excellent example of 2014’s growing season in the appellation which afforded the grapes an extended maturation on the vine.

Chapoutier 2017 Les Vignes de Bila Haut Côtes du Roussillon Village, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – A deliciously rich, full-bodied Côtes-du-Rousillon made of syrah and grenache with 10% carignan grown on the high -altitude slopes of the Agly Valley. A value offering with no oak treatment allowing full expression of the fruit, a lightly organic component and scrub brush garrigue. A consistently great deal at this price.

Château De France 2014 Baron De Boutisse 2014 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2017

Casa Maguila Quizás 2012, DO Toro, Spain ($23.95)
Michael Godel From Quizás and now comfortably resolved at six years of age there is some raisin inflection from this tinto toro (tempranillo) but time has rendered the beast tamed and friendly. It’s a rich and fruity red, of some fresh plum but more so dried with quince, guava and persimmon. It’s like citrus but concentrated and leathery, certainly quite interesting.

Domaine des Tourelles 2014 Red, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Of excellent value, this traditional Lebanese blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and cinsault offers Bordelaise style winemaking and class. The ripeness is apparent and the tannins are fleshy and mouth-filling. With a clean, natural character due to spontaneous fermentation and a choice not to fine or filter.  Drinking beautifully now.

Casa Maguila Quizás 2012 Domaine des Tourelles 2014 Red

Change Looms for Wine Retailing in Ontario

Last week Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced LCBO stores and supermarkets selling wine would be open 9am to 11pm, seven days a week. I am very much in favour, for the sake of anyone who wants to buy within the 16-hour window that now suits their lifestyle. But notably, the change is really to fit the hours within which supermarkets are open. No more chaining off the wine and beer section at 6pm on Sunday. Now if supermarkets would only train all staff on Smart Serve and get rid of the separate beer and wine checkouts.

More importantly, the same quasi-budget document also re-affirmed that wine and beer are destined to be available not only in an expanding number of supermarkets (promised first by Kathleen Wynn’s Liberals) but now in corner stores and big box stores as well. Again, I am all in favour. With cannabis destined to be sold in an unlimited number of private stores next April, I just can’t imagine that wine and beer won’t be granted the same freedom.

But going forward, retailing of wine must not be limited to retail chains. It’s not that I don’t believe in their ability to actually provide good product at a reasonable price, for their respective markets. Rather it’s whether they will have the cognizance to provide interesting wine in smaller quantities. I don’t want all wine selection concentrated within a handful of private wine retailers any more than I want it dictated by the LCBO monopoly buyers, who may be actually more caring in some respects.

So, in the equations being tossed about at Queens Park, the Ford government must include independent wine merchants who can serve customers based on regional, stylistic, neighbourhood and cultural preferences. There must be an outlet to provide specialties to whatever demographic wants them at a commercially doable level. It already exists in every other consumer commodity sold in Ontario – from food to furniture, and soon to be cannabis. And it is the way wine is sold in almost every other jurisdiction in the world.

That’s it for this edition. We will back next week to tackle the last release of the year on December 8.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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.

Michael’s Mix
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys

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