Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 11th, 2020

By John Szabo MS, with picks from Sara, David, and Michael

Welcome to the roaring 20s! The new decade brings more potential changes to Ontario’s outdated alcohol laws. If passed, The Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019 will eliminate up to 80 “unnecessary or outdated rules and streamline regulations that need updating,” according to a government news release from last October. Included in the act is a proposal to allow bars and restaurants at airports to serve alcohol 24 hours a day, an expansion from the current hours of 9:00 AM to 2:00 AM, welcome news for weary travellers. And more importantly for Ontarian wine lovers, the government is looking to drop exemption limits on the amount of wine and other beverage alcohol that individuals can bring into Ontario from other provinces for personal consumption. Yes, that means you can bring home as much wine as you like from BC, or Nova Scotia or Québec, which would be great news for the growing Canadian wine industry. What’s next? New private retail shops alongside the LCBO? Much remains to be seen, but my feeling is that 2020 will bring more needed, and long-sought changes to our alcohol distribution regime. We kick off the year with a buyer’s guide to be best values in the January 11th VINTAGES release; most should age into February and beyond, if you’re having a dry January.

Niagara Icewine Festival 

Buyers’ Guide January 11th: Smart White Buys 

Pierre Sparr Sol Calcaire Riesling 2015, AC Alsace, France ($18.95)
John Szabo – A maturing, ready-to-drink, appealing dry riesling, textbook stuff. Drink 2020-2023.

Forrest The Doctors’ Riesling 2018, Marlborough, South Island New Zealand ($19.95)
John Szabo – I admire John Forrest’s range of low alcohol wines, achieved naturally through careful farming and canopy management. This latest riesling is medium-dry, fragrant and floral with substantial flavour at only 9% alcohol declared. Drink 2020-2025.

Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($12.95)
John Szabo – Another sharp little value from South Africa, with substantial flavour intensity for the money. Ready to go.

Domaine De Joÿ Envie 2017, IGP Côtes de Gascogne, France ($14.95)
John Szabo – A wine for fans of vibrant tropical fruit-flavoured sauvignons at a nice price, this is a pleasant little aromatic white from southwest France.

Pierre Sparr Sol Calcaire Riesling 2015   Forrest The Doctors' Riesling 2018  Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2019  Domaine De Joÿ Envie 2017

Buyers’ Guide January 11th: Smart Red Buys

Paxton AAA Shiraz/Grenache 2017, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95)
John Szabo – A highly satisfying mouthful all in all, Paxton’s AAA shiraz offers a nice mix of cold cream, black pepper, ripe cassis fruit, black berry and black cherry, and both sweet and resinous herbs in a textbook representation. Best 2020-2023.
Sara d’Amato – A lovely organically grown shiraz-grenache, peppery with ripe red fruit, a touch crunchy and easy to appreciate. A rather complex blend, lightly cedary and smoky with just a hint of mint. Offering surprisingly well-balanced alcohol despite the grape varieties.
David Lawrason – This is organically produced shiraz from a quiet house.  The nose is wonderfully fragrant and savoury with thyme, mint, cran-raspberry and peppery notes. It is medium weight, just a touch sweet, quite smooth and warming with the same savoury carry through on the palate. Delicious, with that organic authenticity.

Clos De Luz Massal 1945 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Almahue, DO Rapel Valley, Chile ($21.95)
John Szabo – A wine of above average intensity and complexity from vines planted in 1945, this is fleshy and satisfying, nicely balanced red wine with an equal measure of components that lends a harmonious feel all around. Drink 2020-2026.
Sara d’Amato – A compelling cabernet sauvignon from an ungrafted plot planted in 1945 with a firm tannic structure, a full-bodied and fleshy palate that is balanced by natural acidity. A pleasant note of graphite off-sets the meaty black fruit. Offering impressive structure and intensity for the price.

Château De Tréviac Corbières 2017, AP, France ($17.95)
John Szabo – Dark, savoury, swarthy southern French red, with better-than-average structure and depth in the price category. Indeed, it’s more serious than the price would lead you to believe and should continue to improve over the next couple of years or decant and serve with salty protein if enjoying now. Drink 2020-2025.
David Lawrason – I like the delicacy here, and sense of purity, for such a good price.  It’s a 60% syrah, 40% grenache blend with a precise nose of blackberry, violet, pepper and fresh herb. Very pretty. It is mid-weight, balanced, just a touch sweet and spicy.
Michael Godel – Consistently one of the Midi’s great buys. Fulsome red, of near equal parts syrah and grenache. Meaty, roasted and full-bodied. Make use of a few today and also put some away for later occasions.

Camille Cayran Cave De Cairanne Le Chêne Noir 2017, AP Côtes du Rhône-Villages, France ($17.00)
John Szabo – Here’s a widely appealing, fruity, juicy, plump and supple Côtes du Rhône you’ll be hard pressed not to enjoy. It’s all joyful ripe dark fruit, with low tannins, round and creamy texture and above average depth at the price. Well done. Drink 2020-2022.
Sara d’Amato – A very impressive, complex and peppery southern Rhône blend from the new Cru of Cairanne. Offering excellent value with an abundance of fresh red fruit, somewhat musky and with well-integrated oak spice. Very good concentration balances the notable warmth on the finish.

Paxton AAA Shiraz/Grenache 2017 Clos De Luz Massal 1945 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Château De Tréviac Corbières 2017 Camille Cayran Cave De Cairanne Le Chêne Noir 2017

Brella Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley USA ($16.95)
John Szabo – A textbook cool climate pinot, and a fine value as such from the premium Willamette Valley. Drink 2020-2024.

Château De Montfaucon Baron Louis Lirac 2015, Rhône, France ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Such a dense Lirac from the highly esteemed and historic property of Montfaucon. Pure and expressive but tightly knit with a solid tannic structure. A wine built to last but not lacking charm.

Bodegas Barahonda 2016 Barahonda Barrica 2016, Yecla, Spain ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Terrific value here. A very peppery, deliciously drinkable wine from Yecla blended from monastrell and syrah. Lightly grippy but overall clean and aromatic, with persistent and undulating flavours.

Brella Pinot Noir 2014 Château De Montfaucon Baron Louis Lirac 2015  Bodegas Barahonda Barahonda Barrica 2016

Collavini Pucino Refosco Dal Peduncolo Rosso 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a discovery for fans of lighter reds, from a local north-eastern Italian grape. Easy-peasy but with character. Expect a floral nose (lilac) with grapy, plummy notes and a touch of pepper. It is light to medium bodied and quite smooth.

Luciano Arduini Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2017, Veneto, Italy ($20.95)
David Lawrason – Italian wine writer Luca Maroni has identified an excellent wine, but his 98-point score is crazily top heavy. This sports a quite lovely, complex nose of well-integrated dried cranberry, raspberry, rosemary, lavender, gentle toast and vanillin. It is medium weight, tart-edged yet fruity sweet. Tannins are fine.

Piattelli Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2016, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina ($16.95)
David Lawrason – We consumers catch a break when inexpensive South American reds are as well made as this. It offers very good structure, depth and complexity at the price. And it is very much a cabernet with blackcurrant jam, thyme, cedar and anise. Good complexity, authenticity and depth.

Bleasdale Bremerview Shiraz 2017, Langhorne Creek, South Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – A quite fine, gentle and pretty shiraz from one of the original producers of Langhorne Creek, a small maritime region of South Australia. It is medium-full bodied quite soft, smooth and well balanced with very good length. Love the peppery complexity on the finish.

Collavini Pucino Refosco Dal Peduncolo Rosso 2017  Luciano Arduini Classico Superiore Valpolicella Ripasso 2017  Piattelli Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016  Bleasdale Bremerview Shiraz 2017

Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 16 Months Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($15.95)
Michael Godel – The three terroir gathering is by now a barbera institution, from fruit gathered out of Castelnuovo Calcea, Montaldo Scarampi and Agliano Terme. Try to find better value at the price. Really, go ahead and try.

Brancaia Tre 2016, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Sangiovese is the workhorse at 80 per cent with equal parts merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Two-thirds is Chianti Classico fruit, the last coming from Maremma, though each locale offers up a portion of all three grapes. Less wood than the higher ilk of Illatraia and Blu so therefore much, much more comfortable and transparent to enjoy in its youth.

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy ($30.95)
Michael Godel – Pian delle Vigne is quite a perfumed affair in 2016, raspberry to plum fruity and then a courtyard of exotic flowers in early bloom. The fruit is very primary, almost fresh from the tank and so early in its evolution. This will smell and taste so completely different in six months but looking past this should act and play out as an ideal indicator for the fleshiness and grippy nature of the vintage.

Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 16 Months Barbera D'asti 2016  Brancaia Tre 2016  Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Rosso Di Montalcino 2016

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

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.
John’s Top Picks
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Sommeliers Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview