John Szabo’s Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 6th, 2021

Petition to allow Canadian wines to be shipped into any province, and VINTAGES Smart Buys

by John Szabo, with notes from David Lawrason, Michael Godel and Sara d’Amato

Love BC reds, Nova Scotia sparkling, or Québec craft brews, but can’t find them here in Ontario? This week’s report contains an important petition to allow interprovincial shipping of Canadian wine, beer and spirits. If you believe that you should be able to have any Canadian product shipped directly from any other province to your front door, we hope you’ll sign the petition and have your voice heard. Direct-to-consumer sales have become the lifeblood of small local wineries in the last year, yet your government liquor monopoly wants to choke off all out of province revenue streams (while at the same time not listing those wines, or charging you the same import duties as if the wine came from a foreign country). BC MP Dan Albas has proposed a clever workaround; read on for more and to sign the petition. As for wines already in the province, the WineAlign Crü has assembled the customary list of smart buys from the Vintages February 6th release. The twin themes are Italian classics, of which we have included a trio of central-northern reds (including a memorable picotener, a grape in the nebbiolo family grown in Piedmont), as well as Ontario Award Winners. For the latter, we direct you instead to our infinitely more comprehensive Guide to Canada’s Best compiled late last fall. At least you can have Ontario wine shipped right to your Ontario address.


Only 6 cases left! – 3 MIXED and 3 ALL RED

Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, proposes to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act to allow interprovincial shipping of Canadian-made alcoholic products.

In what would be a very clever work around and avoid the far more complicated task of amending (or re-interpreting) the Constitution, B.C. conservative MP Dan Albas has tabled instead a private member’s bill to amend the Canada Post Corporation act to allow interprovincial shipping of alcohol. “This enactment amends the Canada Post Corporation Act to provide that the Corporation shall not refuse to provide a postal service for the collection, transmission and delivery, direct to consumers, from one province to another, of beer, wine or spirits,” the bill’s summary reads.

(See here for the current byzantine Canada post regulations for shipping “intoxicating beverages”.)

The bill, which Albas has dubbed “buy, ship and sip”, received a first reading in the House of Commons back in December. If passed, “the bill would effectively bypass provincial liquor monopolies and their outdated rules”, says Albas.

As it stands, only four provinces allow direct-to-consumer alcohol shipments into their jurisdictions: B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. “Some provinces have eliminated personal importation limits on alcohol, some provinces have not, so really there is a patchwork of rules right now across Canada,” says Jasmin Guénette, vice-president of national affairs with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Ontario is among the provinces that have not eliminated personal limits.

Albas has already received a letter of support from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “Like many sectors of the economy since the beginning of the pandemic, many small brewers, vintners, and distillers have had to make considerable efforts to sell more of their products online in order to generate revenues. As a result, being able to access a wider range of customers across the country is now vital to their survival,” the letter stated.

“Allowing small producers to ship across the country would enable Canadians to safely access their products while directly supporting local businesses and jobs.”

The electronic petition needs just 500 signatures so it can be certified and presented by Albas. It will be closed for signatures on February 14th at 2:08pm EDT.

“We, the undersigned, Citizens and Residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to support and pass Bill C-260 entitled ‘An Act to Amend the Canada Post Corporation Act’, introduced by Mr. Albas, the Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan–Similkameen–Nicola, so that Canadians can order the wine, craft beer and spirits they wish from Canadian producers, and be able to have those products shipped directly to them by Canada Post and support this important industry at a time when they need us the most.”

Sign the petition here.

VINTAGES Buyer’s Guide February 6th: Whites

Domäne Wachau 2019 Terrassen Federspiel Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria ($17.95) Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – Good, clean, classic and textbook fun here from the exceptional cooperative Domaine Wachau, representing almost 1/3 of this historic growing region, and at a very high level. Would that every $18 white could taste like this.
Sara d’Amato – Federspiel is a lighter, fresher style of grüner veltliner and this incarnation fits the description to a T. Zesty, unoaked and notably peppery with a slightly chalky texture. A well-priced, distinctive and refreshing mid-week pick-me-up.

Königschaffhauser Vulkanfelsen 2019 Pinot Gris Trocken, Baden, Germany
($16.95) HHD Imports
David Lawrason – From the slopes of the volcanic Kaisersthul in southern Baden comes a lovely, elegant, almost exotic pinot gris. Off-dry sweetness fits like a glove thanks to the fine acid and mineral core. The fruit is ripe peach/green banana, with gentle honey, wildflower and spice.
John Szabo – Solid, fleshy and ripe, yellow fruit-flavoured ‘volcanic’ pinot gris, in the expected flavour range, with darker elements, more orange-inflected on the back end. There’s more than solid depth and complexity for the money, in the Alsatian style rather than northern Italian grigio idiom. Another sharp wine from this well-respected cooperative outfit.

Margan Family 2018 Hunter Valley Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia ($18.95) Connexion Oenophilia
Michael Godel – Margan’s is one of the Hunter Valley’s great entry points into the portal that is a perfect partner with sémillon. More up front fruit yet also salinity and slowly developing intensity. Delivers a solid promise of the entity that is Hunter Valley sémillon.
David Lawrason – Such a good value in Hunter semillon, one of the world’s unique whites. This is calm, cool and collected, not extravagant but classic Hunter with a firm, dry, mineral ambiance and waxy texture. The nose is reserved with classic green fig, lime zest, candle wax and minerality. The finish is almost stony.

Domäne Wachau 2019 Terrassen Federspiel Grüner Veltliner Königschaffhauser Vulkanfelsen 2019 Pinot Gris Trocken Margan Family 2018 Hunter Valley Semillon

Vintages Buyer’s Guide February 6th: Red

Enrico Serafino Picotener 2018 Nebbiolo, DOC Langhe, Piedmont, Italy ($41.95) Majestic Wine Cellars
Michael Godel – Picotener is the rare biotype of the grape and Serafino leads the charge for preserving and exulting this territory. Precision and focus, direct and to the point transparency, clarity and all the stuffing needed to put this in kinship with the other more famous Langhe DOCG wines.
John Szabo – A ‘troublesome’ biotype of nebbiolo, disparaged for years due to its low yields and challenging nature, Picotener is making somewhat of a comeback (not yet mainstream by any means) for the very same reasons. This example from Serafino has lovely perfume in the varietal idiom, very complex and appealing all in all. I also love the palate, the firm but not unyielding tannins, the chalky-talcy texture, the vibrant acids, and the overall complexity and depth. A terrific bottle for nebbiolo fans to discover; drink or hold into the latter half of the decade.
Sara d’Amato – The word picotener before nebbiolo indicates that the variety is fact a sub-variety of the grape of which Serafino calls “forgotten nebbiolo”. Ostensibly nebbiolo in character, this vibrant, elegant and well-structured red is on the verge of accessibility. The fine tannins and perfectly ripened fruit are enhanced by notes of dried rose petal, violet, and delicate spice. A sophisticated find that should remind you that there are better days to come.

Poças Junior 2018 Vale de Cavalos Red, Douro Portugal $17.95 (610303)
Sara d’Amato – Sourced from grapes grown under the unrelenting sunshine of the Douro Valley, this crunchy red blend offers intriguing notes of violet, black cherry, iodine and graphite. An undeniable value, this widely appealing red offers more complexity than the norm and is made for immediate enjoyment.

Enrico Serafino Picotener 2018 NebbioloPoças Junior 2018 Vale de Cavalos Red

Le Pupille 2018 Morellino di Scansano DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($18.95) Profile Wine Group
Michael Godel – Elisabetta Geppetti has been making Morellino di Scansano for twenty-five years. If you have yet to discover this warmer sangiovese zone adjacent to southern Montalcino then here is your chance. One of the great food wines where pasta is the protagonist of the table.
Sara d’Amato – A southerly, coastal Tuscan appellation, Morellino di Scansano is often a bargain in the world of fine sangiovese. Fresh and well-balanced, this elegant, salty version should prove effortlessly drinkable. Juicy with fine tannins, brimming with red fruit and no excessive oak. Sangiovese gets a little kick from the addition of 10% alicante and 5% ciliegiolo adding a further dimension of complexity.

Nuiton-Beaunoy 2018 Le Prieuré, Hautes Côtes de Nuits AC, France ($26.95) Vinexx
John Szabo – This is a good example of the increased quality (and ripeness) emerging from the formerly marginal Hautes Côtes region. I really like the aromatics here, regionally authentic. A well-priced, pleasant bottle all around with good stony-terroir expression.

Le Pupille 2018 Morellino di Scansano DOCG Nuiton-Beaunoy 2018 Le Prieuré

Glenelly 2017 The Glass Collection Syrah, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa ($14.95) H.H.D. Imports
Michael Godel – Impressive concentration, aromatically perfumed and meaty with tons of fruit as a collective spokes-syrah for the Stellenbosch oeuvre. Yet another crazy silly value in syrah from South Africa and just your cup if a little bit of mocha and a whole helluva lot of chocolate ganache texture are your thing.
David Lawrason – Great value at $15 – a full throttle yet almost elegant Cape syrah with classic aromas of ripe black cherry, wood smoke, pepper, sage and dried meat (beef jerky). It is full bodied, smooth and fairly dense yet showing fine, firm tannin and Stellenbosch minerality. South Africa continues to astound in terms of value.
John Szabo – From the packaging right through to the finish on the palate, this wine delivers far more than the modest price tag would suggest. The fruit profile is ripe but still fresh and gritty, with a nice floral edge, and dusty-gritty tannins. You certainly don’t often find wines of this strong character at the price.

Gioulis Sofos 2018 The Wise One, PGI Corinth, Peloponnese, Greece ($15.95) Rare Earth Wines
John Szabo – A blend of equal parts native agiorgitiko and cabernet sauvignon grown in the northern Peloponnese at over 700m, this is pleasantly ripe, gentle, maturing with undertones of earth and smoke, and red and black fruit. Quite a complex and sophisticated wine for the money, all in all, well worth a look. Drink or hold short term.

Viña Tarapacá 2018 Gran Reserva Merlot, Do Maipo Valley, Chile ($18.95) Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.
Michael Godel – The herbal-currant-roasted pepper notes are so in line with Tarapacás style and how Maipo fruit is handled. Deserves style points for the level of authenticity and also shows how so many people once mistook carmenère for merlot.
David Lawrason – Distinctive Chilean blackcurrant fruit here along with well-integrated menthol, tobacco and spicy oak -all together quite pretty aromatics. It is medium-full bodied, smooth and almost creamy yet lively at the same time. Drinks very well and very good value.

Glenelly 2017 The Glass Collection Syrah Gioulis Sofos 2018 The Wise One Viña Tarapacá 2018 Gran Reserva Merlot

Rocca 2015 Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($40.95) Barrique Wine Imports Ltd.
David Lawrason – Quite rare to see Barolo at this price, and even better that offers complexity, depth and drive – at least partially due to the excellent vintage and the onset of maturity. Lifted, classic aromas include meaty/salami notes, leather, dried redcurrant, spice and some wet earth.

Bethany Creek 2017 Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($19.95) Kylix Wines
David Lawrason – From a sixth-generation grape growing family with hillside and even some terraced vineyards above Bethany Creek in the heart of Barossa near Tanunda, comes an authentic salt and pepper shiraz with boysenberry fruit, mossy character and wood spice. It is medium-full bodied, fresh and juicy yet precise.

Zonte’s Footstep 2017 Canto di Lago Sangiovese/Lagrein, Fleurieu, South Australia ($18.95 – Vegan) Cru Wine Merchants
Michael Godel – The artist known as Canto di Lago was once blended with barbera but here in 2017 it is lagrein that sings along with sangiovese. We all know sangiovese’s central Italian origins and with northern Italy’s lagrein as the blending partner things begins to get real. Two personalities, one and then the other. This will always keep one or the other on their toes.
Sara d’Amato – An unexpected blend of Italian grapes sangiovese (Tuscany) and lagrein (Trentino) grown in the coastal Fleurieu zone of southern Australia. Bold and savory with little oak. Crack open over the weekend with osso buco or an equally comforting wintry stew.
John Szabo – A fine, juicy, relatively light and smooth, easy drinking blend of sangiovese and lagrein, two indigenous Italian varieties that tend towards the lighter and juicier side of the spectrum as accurately rendered here. Well worth a look at the price; I’d suggest serving with a light chill.

Rocca 2015 Barolo Bethany Creek 2017 Shiraz Zonte's Footstep 2017 Canto di Lago Sangiovese/Lagrein

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.

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

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