Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES October 31st, 2020

John Szabo’s Vintage’s Preview October 31st: Chianti Classico 2018 & 2017, Brunello 2015, & Values from around the world

By John Szabo MS, with notes from David Lawrason, Sara D’Amato and Michael Godel

As citizens around the world sit on the edge of their seats watching the chaos unfolding down south, we’ll take a lighter tack, with nothing but positive news. This week’s report features the finest values from the Vintages October 31st, in both the “everyday” and premium price categories – value can be found at (almost!) all price points. And there are plenty of wines – 20 recommendations – from the WineAlign crü from $16 to $80, out of the 80-odd wines that we managed to get a hold of from the release. Despite the LCBO shut-down of press tastings, we’re tasting more wines than ever, and finding you the best.

Tuscan Previews

And as the first snowflakes fly and tables fill with the earthy, savoury flavours of autumn, and inclinations turn from crisp whites to more substantial reds, Michael has penned a lengthy and detailed article and buyer’s guide to 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG, which, he says, “raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese”. Reviews of 150 samples of sangiovese tasted at the annual Benvenuto Brunello event in February, along with six questions asked to ten Montalcino producers are in his report.

For my part, I too have reports from Tuscany. This past February also saw the annual Chianti Classico Collection tastings unfold as usual at the train-station-turned-event-space Stazione Leopolda in Florence – little did I know it would be the last tasting of its kind I would attend for, well, who knows how long, and the last time I would be outside of Canada in 2020. But it was a suitably grand farewell event, as always attracting some 200 producers, and this year 740 wines in the three “tipologies” of Chianti Classico: annata, riserva and gran selezione. I offer some thoughts on the 2019, 2018 and 2017 vintages, plus a Buyer’s Guide of the best in each category, all 90+.


Online Charity Auctions

And lastly, in other positive news for Canadian wine lovers, the pandemic has been a catalyst for permanent changes to liquor auctions that will make buying wine that much easier. Aside from the brilliant move to make take-out wine from restaurants a permanent option, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has also announced that virtual charity wine auctions are now legal.

The previous restriction to live, in-person auctions only was certainly a hinderance for a charity’s fundraising potential, limiting buyer demand and raising costs. “I’ve always believed that a virtual auction can substantially increase the amount of revenue that a wine auction can generate for charity and we’re thrilled that the AGCO is finally on board,” says Warren Porter, President, Iron Gate Wine and founder of, who has been lobbying for this change for a decade. “Virtual auctions cost less to execute, provide access to a larger buyer base and offer more bidding flexibility, so we can create more demand compared to traditional events. In short, it’s a game-changer for charity wine auctions.” And for wine lovers looking for fine and rare wines, you can now buy from the comfort of your home, without a paddle in hand.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s (TSO) 30th Annual Fine Wine Auction will be the first to run on Iron Gate’s virtual auction platform. The week-long online event begins on Nov. 17 and will feature 500 wine lots valued at almost $1 million CAD with all proceeds benefitting TSO’s vital music and educational activities in the community. Details on

Vintage’s Buyer’s Guide October 31st: The White Values

Château De Fesles 2017 La Chapelle Vieilles Vignes Chenin Sec AC Anjou, Loire, France
$21.95, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits
John Szabo – A compelling, complex wine for the money, this is bone dry Anjou Blanc aged a year in old cask, with plenty of savoury, apple and pear fruit, both fresh and bruised. I like the sharp, unyielding acids that tighten up an otherwise loose flavour frame, drawing out the finish and leaving a saline-mineral lime-acid wash to linger impressively. A real find for fans of distinctive, original wines from a time and place. Drink or hold a half dozen years or more – this will move slowly.

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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.

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

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

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