VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide – June 8th, 2019

Rewarding Excellence & Global Best Buys

By Sara d’Amato with notes from Michael Godel

As you read this report, critics from across the country (as well as our international judge, Dr. Jamie Goode) are en route to Prince Edward County for the National Wine Awards of Canada where over 1,800 Canadian wines have been entered to be evaluated. This annual “snapshot” of the Canadian wine scene gives us all perspective on our nation’s trends and growth in styles and grape varieties. I expect to see continued solid performances of varieties such as chardonnay, riesling, cabernet franc and pinot noir and a growth in less widely planted varieties such as syrah and gamay with more and more craft ciders showcased. By next week we will have a great deal to tell and look forward to reporting on just what Canada does best. Prepare yourself with a recap of what 2018 looked like when the Winery of the Year Award went to B.C.’s Road 13 with the Best Performing Small Winery Awarded to Niagara’s Two Sisters.


Last month I was fortunate to get a picture of what Portugal does best as a judge at the Wines of Portugal Challenge 2019. A sizable international jury, paired up with local experts, evaluated 1,382 wines and awarded 29 Grand Golds and 98 Golds which were testament to Portugal’s widening international appeal. With a more detailed report to come, I’ll entice you with an overview including the winner of Portugal’s best red wine of 2019: Quinta Vale D. Maria 2016 Vinha da Francisca. This relatively recent investment by the well-known Vinho Verde producer of Aveleda in 1996 of the Quinta de Val D. Maria vineyards in the Douro was initially exploited for Port production with increasing interest in dry blends. This meteoric growth from fortified to dry has gone up from 10% in 2004 to 45% now, due wide praise and solid returns. You may just be able to get your hands on a case in Ontario only through private order by Aveleda’s agent, Philippe Dandurand Wines, if you are quick to the draw.

Quinta Vale Dona Maria Vinha Da Francisca 2016, Douro Valley

The top scoring region was, unsurprisingly, the Douro, where unfortified red blends are gaining steam. Portuguese non-fortified wine exports to Canada have seen a sharp increase in the past 5 years of 32% since 2013 although the sales of Port wine are on a slow, steady decrease. Canada is not just importing the mass-produced value brands either as 61% of what we receive is DOC category wine. Along with those many endearing red blends, single varietal wines were also worthy of praise. In particular those few that were issued from alicante bouschet stood out quite strongly.

Our travelling counterparts, David and John, will be sharing their favourites post-release shortly but until then, here are top picks from around the globe via Michael Godel and myself. The wines of the “Chilean Feature” are rather predictable and relatively average in quality so we have only elected to showcase a few of those that struck us for their value and complexity. We look forward to seeing more diversity in the future from this exceptionally dynamic and variegated country.

See John Szabo’s recent “Chilean Wines for All” article which features several recommendations from this release.

Sparkling, White & Fortified

Guy Charlemagne Classic Brut Champagne, Champagne, France ($57.95)
Michael Godel For a mere $10 further afield of the just sub-$50 sparkling wine category in Champagne and anywhere else traditional method sparkling wine is made why not jump head first and long into the complexities of grower Champagne.

Casablanca Nimbus 2017 Single Vineyard Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Nimbus is a reference to the cloud and fog cover that helps keeps the coastal Casablanca region cool throughout the morning and contributes to the retention of acidity in the wines. A true cool climate style chardonnay, this elegant incarnation is only mildly oaked and is deliciously salty. Sourced from evidently top-notch fruit, it is neither lean nor underripe and instead both satisfying and compelling.

Dandelion 2017 Honeypot of The Barossa Roussanne, Barossa, South Australia ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Great roussanne is worth seeking out and only the confluence of particular regions and the right vintages can conceive such a wine. Unlike other eminent examples, this one is digestibly priced and aperitif ready. Zesty with just a soupçon of funk, delectably nervy, and youthful with some potential to age.

Guy Charlemagne Classic Brut Champagne, Ac   Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, Casablanca Valley  Dandelion Honeypot Of The Barossa Roussanne 2017, Barossa, South Australia

Troupis 2017 Fteri Moschofilero, Arcadia, Peloponnese, Greece ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Peloponnese regional diversity ranges from high peaks to breezy coastal settings and generates some fantastical but undervalued whites. Troupis’ Fteri showcases the exuberant florality of this grape variety and at the same time is both crunchy and dry. Light in body but not shy on concentration. Summer ready.
Michael Godel – Troupis makes a perfectly tidy and fruitful moschofilero with spirit, energy and drive. Tart and tangy, fresh and alive.

Villa Matilde 2017 Rocca Dei Leoni Falanghina, Campania, Italy ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Lovely little salty number from falanghina hillsides in Campania, like biting into small segments of lemon, lime and white grapefruit with the great burst of fruit, acid and bitters against the cheeks. Fun stuff here and great for the seafoods of summer.

Leyenda Fino Sherry, Jerez, Spain ($15.95)
Michael Godel –  Briny, salty, nutty, very green olive and also tannic so look for some fried tapas to match. Great little pick me up before the real night crawl begins.

Troupis Fteri Moschofilero 2017, Igp Arcadia   Villa Matilde Rocca Dei Leoni Falanghina 2017, Igt  Leyenda Fino Sherry, Do


Viña Tarapacá 2017 Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – This stunning property often delivers quality goods and this youthful cabernet is no exception. Tangy and rich, lightly savory and elegant. This cabernet tastes twice the price with a nervy vein of acidity, gentle oak ageing and surprising length.

Château De Tréviac 2016 Corbières, Midi, France ($16.95)
Michael Godel – For $17 you get full dark red fruit, little to no funk and fine acidity. What more could you want with and after the BBQ has flickered out while you sip away into the pitchy yet lit night. Right?

Domaine Lafage 2017 Vieilles Vignes Nicolas Grenache Noir, Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Côtes Catalanes is a large, encompassing area in the Roussillon region that is a catch-all for wines that don’t conform to the more restrictive standards of the Côtes du Roussillon appellation. That being said, there are a lot of gems to be found here, often more accessibly priced in a region that prides itself on high-quality from exceptional terroir. Grenache does best here with this example showcasing the juicy, saltiness of old vines with notable authenticity.

Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Maipo Valley  Château De Tréviac Corbières 2016, Ap  Domaine Lafage Vieilles Vignes Nicolas Grenache Noir 2017, Igp Côtes Catalanes

Borgodangelo 2011 Taurasi, Campania, Italy ($25.95)
Sara d’Amato – Issued from aglianico, wines of the premium Taurasi DOCG can cost a pretty penny. This accessibly priced example of wow-worthy complexity and amplitude is a best buy in this VINTAGES release. Offering a palate inundated with black fruit, gently oak aged, and with black pepper at every turn.

Donnafugata 2016 Sedàra Rosso, Sicily, Italy ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – A red with terrific summer appeal Donnafugata’s Sedàra Rosso is largely nero d’avola with a touch of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. The tannins here are silky but the flavours are peppery and brimming with fresh cherry fruit. Chill slightly for best expression.

Altano 2017 Organic, Douro, Portugal ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Generally, I am turned off when organic is featured front and center on the label making it a gimmicky marketing ploy. Nevertheless, this modern Douro find has a great deal more to offer than organic viticulture (to be praised alone). Symington’s widely successful brand, Altano, offers a taste of high-quality Douro fruit produced in a dry, unfortified style. An excellent introduction into this burgeoning style of wine emanating from the slopes of the revered Douro Valley.

Lua Cheia 2017 Old Vines Red, Douro, Portugal ($14.95)
Michael Godel –  Old vines fruit for dark, ripe and rich Douro execution. Good to better acidity props it all up on high. A volumetric red blend in so many ways.

Borgodangelo Taurasi 2011, Docg   Donnafugata Sedàra Rosso 2016, Doc  Altano Organic 2017, Dop Douro   Lua Cheia Old Vines Red 2017, Doc Douro

Vino de Pago Aylés S de Aylés Garnacha 2015, Do Pago Aylés, Spain ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Vino de Pago refers to wine issued from a single vineyard and this old vine garnacha’s wildly expressive nature is worthy of your attention. Juicy cassis, violet jelly and natural fruit spice entice on the palate of this must try.

Alvear Palacio 2016 Quemado La Zarcita, Single Estate Vineyard, Vino de la Tierra de Extremadura, Spain ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – A blend of indigenous varieties from Montilla that include tinta amarela, touriga nacional and alicante bouschet, that make up the widely praised flagship wine of Palacio Quemado founded by Alvear Palacio. No pressed wine makes its way into this blend and the wine is organically farmed with low sulphur. Wildly expressive, pure and authentic. At this price, you can’t abstain.

Muriel 2014 Reserva Vendimia Seleccionada, Rioja, Spain ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Reserva level in Rioja is a great compromise from the more highly oxidative Gran Reserva styles and the simpler and fruitier Crianza. This 2014 from Muriel delivers both a memorable sense of place and style and deliciously fruity pleasure.

Vino De Pago Aylés S De Aylés Garnacha 2015, Do Pago Aylés  Alvear Palacio Quemado La Zarcita 2016, Single Estate Vineyard, Vino De La Tierra De Extremadura  Muriel Reserva Vendimia Seleccionada 2014, Doca Rioja



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
Sara’s Sommelier Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview