Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES June 26th, 2021

John Szabo’s VINTAGES Review June 26th: Cottage Classics and Chianti Classico

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

The weather is hot, vaccines are rolling out at unprecedented speed and restrictions have been eased. The rest of the summer looks far brighter than it did just a few short weeks ago – a bit of good news we all needed. It means cottage owners and renters can (more safely, and legally) join communities across the province in vacation land and make the most of our short but oh-so-sweet summer break. And that puts the main theme of the June 26th VINTAGES release into sharp context – “Cottage Wines”. What might have been a cruel dangling of a carrot under different circumstances, can now be fully exploited. Of course, there’s no universal definition of a ‘cottage wine’, so the crü has assembled a list of wines we’d be happy to sip at the cottage, or anywhere else for that matter. These are the wines from the release that represent the holy trinity of price, quality and pleasure. Add in refreshment and you’ve got the perfect summer mix, and there are whites, reds and rosés that all fit the bill. As an aside, based on the strength of two excellent Chianti Classicos in the release, I also wanted to turn your attention to a recent development in Italy’s most historic demarcated wine region: the approval, by large majority, to move forward with communal labelling – sub-zones – in Chianti Classico. Read on for the details.


The Chianti Classico Consorzio Announces “Additional Geographic Units”, or UGAs

In a move long-awaited by Gallo Nero insiders, the Chianti Classico Consorzio announced the approval in mid-June of 11 Additional Geographical Units (Ùnita Geografiche Aggiuntive or UGA), within the historic Chianti Classico zone. The areas were identified and delimited based on specific criteria such as “oenological recognisability, historical authenticity, renown, and significance in terms of volumes produced”, according to the press release.

The approved areas are: Castellina, Gaiole, Greve, Radda, and San Casciano, which correspond to the communes of the same names; Lamole, Montefioralle, and Panzano, which are three hamlets (frazioni) withinGreve, San Donato in Poggio, which conversely brings together together the coummunes of Barberino Tavarnelle and Poggibonsi thus encompassing two sides of the same range of hills,and Vagliagli, the western ‘wing” of Butterfly-shaped Castelnuovo Berardenga, splitting the commune into two distinct halves along with Castelnuovo Berardenga itself, again with both logical physical and cultural features taken into account.

Considering the wildly varying terroirs within the c. 7,500 ha currently planted in Chianti Classico DOCG, it’s long been thought by many that subdividing the production zone into smaller and more homogeneous sub-zones would be a useful and necessary development. For producers it allows an important point of differentiation by creating closer links between the product and its area of origin, while for consumers it allows, at least a starting point, to begin to differentiate the styles produced with the Chianti Classico appellation and to connect the dots back to specific origins.

“As I have often said in my three years as President”, says Giovanni Manetti, President of the Chianti Classico Consortium, “wine reflects the territory like a negative photographic image, and this is why it is so important to preserve its environmental context and landscape, and be able to tell the consumer about it, in all its various facets, also through the label.”

Still awaiting the official rubber stamp from authorities in Rome, it’s expected that UGAs will start appearing on labels as early as next year for the 2020 and 2019 vintages, provided that the winery can demonstrate the origin of the wine through the cellar register. Initially the UGAs will be applicable only the top Gran Selezione category of Chianti Classico, though it’s expected that the Riserva and Annata categories will soon be eligible to include sub-zone mentions on the label.

Another measure approved at the same time concerns a change to permitted grapes varieties in the Gran Selezione category. Previously, Chianti Classico wines of all categories allowed 80-100% Sangiovese and up to a maximum of 20% of authorised native and/or international red grapes. With the new specifications, the minimum percentage of Sangiovese for Gran Selezione will rise to 90%, and international grapes will no longer be permitted, i.e. only native black grapes up to a maximum of 10%. This change, however, won’t be fully in vigour until five years from approval by the ministry of agriculture, even if most of the 150+ wineries producing Gran Selezione already comply with the changes. Riserva and Annata varietal specifications remain unchanged.

For a more detailed report, read Michael Godel’s article, Chianti Classico Goes to Eleven.

For now, let’s get on with the patio/terrace/dock/deck/backyard summer enjoyment.

VINTAGES Buyer’s Guide June 26th:

Whites & Rosés

Le Fils Des Gras Moutons Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie 2019, Loire, France
$16.95, Connexion Oenophilia

Le Fils Des Gras Moutons Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie 2019

John Szabo – I never tire of proclaiming the extreme value afforded by good Muscadet, and this latest edition from Claude Branger deserves wider recognition, as it’s one of best vintages of this wine in memory. It delivers the classic spectrum of crunchy citrus fruit, lime and lemon, and plenty of wet stone, while the warm 2019 vintage yielded an uncommonly generous and broad palate, with exceptional concentration and density in the category.
David Lawrason – Great value in a summer quencher! A surprisingly complex and detailed Muscadet, still very much within its lighter bodied, tart edged idiom, but showing excellent verve and length.
Sara d’Amato – More than meets the eye, this rather innocuous looking Muscadet surprises on the palate with richness and complexity above the norm yet remains true to place and style. Salty, dry and dominated by citrus, this briny beauty is everything you’d want from an elegant summer sipper. Serve this up alongside some refreshing ceviche or just on its own to beat the heat.

Rippon Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Central Otago, New Zealand
$31.95, Cru Wine Merchants

Rippon Sauvignon Blanc 2019

John Szabo – Rippon’s beautiful biodynamic property on the shores of Lake Wanaka in Central Otago may be best known for its excellent pinot noir, but everything that comes off of this property is worth a look to be sure. This is a pure and crystalline sauvignon, on a razor’s edge of ripeness, with a sapidity and saline quality here that brings you in again and again. Drink or hold mid-term.
Sara d’Amato – If you’re a seeker of adventure vacation destinations, you’ll get a similar thrill from Wanaka’s Rippon Sauvignon Blanc. This idiosyncratic find from deep in Central Otago features notes of anise, heather, lavender, licorice and lemon zest. Nervy, mineral and textured without oak. A distinctive style unlike anything you’d find in Marlborough.

Koyle Costa Cuarzo Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Colchagua Costa, Chile
$18.95, Trajectory Beverage Partners

Koyle Costa Cuarzo Sauvignon Blanc 2019

John Szabo – Another cool, coastal Chilean sauvignon, part of the industry’s exciting exploration of new and cool areas, and a new edition to Koyle’s biodynamic range from the Paredones vineyard less than 10 km from the coast. It’s a lovely, crunchy wine, with a mix of citric and tart tropical fruit flavours and sweet herbal notes, not overtly green. I love the crystalline flavours, aptly tied to the cuvée name (cuarzo = quartz), also the geology that underlies most of coastal Chile. 

Hidden Bench Locust Lane Rosé 2020, Niagara, Ontario
$24.95, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Hidden Bench Locust Lane Rosé 2020

John Szabo A fragrant pinot noir-based pale rosé, crunchy, very fresh, tart red berry-scented, from Hidden Bench, flavourful and very stony. There’s genuine intensity here, crunchy acids and a lively, stony quality. What’s most impressive is the excellent length, far above the mean in the category. Terrific, salty-stony stuff.
David Lawrason – This is a re-release of an organically grown rosé from vineyards centred on Locust Lane on the Beamsville Bench. It is light to mid-weight, firm, dry and almost delicate with more flavour intensity than the pale colour suggests. Excellent length.

Saint Aix Rosé 2020, Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence, France
$24.95, FWM Canada

Saint Aix Rosé 2020

John Szabo – Classic, pale, dry, herbal, gently fruity Provençal rosé, the only wine made by Saint Aix, so all effort is focused on this one product. The balance is impeccable, the flavours seamless, and the enjoyment, effortless.  
Michael Godel – Provencal Rosé does not get any more focused, precise and consistent than this; tight, perfectly tart and just fleshy enough to express the purpose of ripe southern French grapes in this particular and now so widespread form. Yet this is art, on repeat but creative and pioneering no doubt.

Tenuta Roveglia Vigne Di Catullo Lugana Riserva 2016, Lombardy, Italy
$28.95, Carpe Vinum International

Tenuta Roveglia Vigne Di Catullo Lugana Riserva 2016

Michael Godel – Pure, focused and intense, at the top of the parochial game. I can see Roveglia’s playing heavy influence on future generations of Lugana whites.
Sara d’Amato – Don’t let the slightly off-dry nature of this Lugana put you off, this distinctive wine from the shores of Lake Garda made of the turbiana grape variety has no shortage of personality. Overflowing with flavours of peach, melon, pineapple, almond and white flower and featuring a delectable interplay of bitter and sweet.

Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2016, California
$31.95, Mark Anthony Group

Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2016

Michael Godel Freshness, liveliness and exuberance. The French wood adds a toasty element and richness but always stays in the background. Impressive work, lyrical, thoughtful and affordable.

Meyer Family Vineyards Stevens Block Chardonnay 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
$36.95, Nicolas Pearce Wines Inc.

Meyer Family Vineyards Stevens Block Chardonnay 2019

David LawrasonMeyer Family is one of the top B.C. chardonnay and pinot noir specialists, and I am delighted to see this wine available through VINTAGES at a price very similar to its price in B.C.  It is intense and very complex in a slightly reductive, nutty yet full fruited style. Great B.C. energy and excellent length.

Fess Parker Marcella’s White 2017, Santa Barbara County, California
$21.95, Family Wine Merchants

Fess Parker Marcella's White 2017

David Lawrason This blend of white Mediterranean varieties – led by viognier at 47% – makes absolute sense in Mediterranean California. It has a very pretty, complete and complex tropical, custardy nose. It is full bodied, smooth and almost creamy. The length is impressive.


Matetic Corralillo Syrah 2016, San Antonio Valley, Chile       
$21.95, H.H.D. Imports

Matetic Corralillo Syrah 2016

John Szabo – Drinking beautifully now, Corallilo’s cool coastal expression of syrah shows wonderfully fragrant aromatics, with plenty of high-toned florals, fresh blueberry and blackberry fruit and a twist of black pepper and bay leaf. Tannins are fine-grained and silky, acids lively, and the overall ensemble highly enjoyable. Drink with a light chill over the next 2-3 years.
David Lawrason – Loads here for the money in terms of classic, complex peppery, cured meat northern Rhone directed syrah, but with a Chilean take with some boldo/evergreen garrigue. I love the linearity, precision and depth of this single vineyard, biodynamically farmed wine.
Michael Godel – Meaty and fragrant in a syrah of good temper, balance and terrific length. Not structured for the long term though surely beautiful for the here, now and next couple of years.
Sara d’Amato – A standout syrah with plentiful rotundone (black pepper spice) dominating the nose of this elegant incarnation from San Antonio Valley. Sourced from fruit on the cool slopes of the Rosario vineyard that is only 19 kilometers from the Pacific. An excellent value, stock up while you can.

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2016, Tuscany, Italy
$39.95, Rogers & Company

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2016

John Szabo – From Fontodi’s impeccably-managed vineyards in Panzano’s famed Conca d’Oro – a perfectly positioned amphitheater of vines below the town of the same name – this is a brilliant rendition of the brilliant 2016 vintage. The palate is an essence of sangiovese, so concentrated but light and crunchy, with excellent structure, balanced but ample in all facets, and very good length, exceptional in fact.
Michael Godel – Tasting three times in 2018 with Giovanni Manneti lent much discussion to the anticipation of this vintage even though this had not yet been poured. This is an uncompromising Annata of fruit, acidity and all around structure. Chalky, with the finest tannins and one for the ages.

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico 2017, Tuscany, Italy
$23.95, Profile Wine Group (VinVino)

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico 2017

John SzaboQuerceto’s 2017 has evolved very favorably, and, like many wines from the torrid 2017 vintage, seems to have inexplicably gained in freshness and is ageing better than expected. I love the savoury but taut red fruit, the typical dusty resinous herbs, and especially the dried flowers. Acids are succulent and sapid on the palate, tannins fine and dusty. Drinking well now, but comfortable in the cellar another 2-4 years or so at least. Sangiovese with 8% other native varieties from Greve.

Lavau Rasteau 2017, Rhone Valley, France         
$21.95, Connexion Oenophilia

Lavau Rasteau 2017

David Lawrason This punches above its weight. It is a quite full bodied, dense and rich 50-50 blend of grenache and syrah with generous if not intense classic ripe plummy fruit, licorice, black rose and pepper – all quite detailed and refined. There is still lots of time left for cellaring.
Michael Godel – Meatiness is met by crunchy bites, like a Porchetta with a crisp exterior and soft interior. There is your match right there. Has the stuffing to age a few years. Great buy

Rex Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017, Willamette Valley, Oregon
$43.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.

Rex Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017

John SzaboA ripe and broad, supple and mouthfilling pinot here from Rex Hill made from vineyards throughout the valley (just about every sub-AVA), with lovely juicy acids, succulent and saliva-inducing, and fine sapidity all around. I like the grace and finesse on offer, and the lingering, perfumed finish. Classy stuff, drinking beautifully, or continue to hold 2-4 years.

Château Moulin Borie Listrac Médoc 2015, Bordeaux, France
$29.95, Charton Hobbs Inc.

Château Moulin Borie Listrac Médoc 2015

John Szabo – An ambitious Listrac here from Moulin Borie, with the vestiges of flashy new oak in evidence, and plenty of dark fruit with an appealing herbal twang. The palate delivers a wash of fruit, succulent and deep, still very youthful and compact. Complexity, density and concentration are high – this is impressive indeed, still 2-4 years or so away from prime drinking, but this should have the stuffing to age gracefully into the ’30s. Textbook left bank Bordeaux.

Corvidae Rook Merlot 2018, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA           
$24.95, Von Terra Enterprises Ltd.

Corvidae Rook Merlot 2018

Sara d’AmatoSo much more interesting than most Columbia Valley merlots under $25 that we commonly find in export. This is Owen Roe’s most accessible label featuring fruit from the winery’s sprawling 280-acre Outlook Vineyard. Finessed and carefully crafted, this dry, delicately oak aged red is full-bodied but not heavy due to underlying freshness that elevates the fruit on the palate. Ripe but not jammy, this modern merlot showcases place and variety notably well.

Cave De Tain Héritiers Gambert Nobles Rives Crozes Hermitage 2018, Rhone Valley, France
$28.44, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.

Cave De Tain Héritiers Gambert Nobles Rives Crozes Hermitage 2018

Sara d’Amato – A swarthy syrah, unmistakably salty and earthy, this Crozes-Hermitage from the cooperative of Tain, which has considerable holdings on the hill of Hermitage, screams Northern Rhône syrah. Gentle extraction over two weeks has revealed grippy but unintrusive tannins. As 60% of the wine in the assemblage is unoaked, the fruit dominates with flavours of blackberry, ripe red cherry and licorice. An undeniable value with more dimension than expected.

Tarima Hill Monastrell 2017, Valencia, Spain
$23.95, Christopher Stewart Wine & Spirits

Tarima Hill Monastrell 2017

Sara d’Amato – Low-yielding old vines from the hills of the Sierra de la Sima in Alicante result in an exceptionally dark and concentrated wine brimming with black cherry, cedar, graphite and mineral that languidly make their way across the tongue. Munificent, accessible and authentic.

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
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for the latest WineAlign recommendations, tips and other interesting wine information.

Sponsored Toronto Wine Storage - Fine Wine Reserve

The Fine Wine Reserve provides discerning collectors with the highest standards of fine wine storage in Toronto. Their facilities are purpose-built and specifically engineered to protect your fine wines. With two locations in the GTA, The Fine Wine Reserve offers the widest range of storage options and styles in Canada - allowing them to serve the unique and evolving needs of novice and expert collectors alike.