Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES January 8th Release

Review of VINTAGES Jan 8th Release: In Praise of Wintry Syrah and Other Big Reds

By David Lawrason, with reviews from John Szabo, MS, and Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

Please note there are some changes to VINTAGES release program now underway. See below for more detail.

The January 8th release provides a selection of heart-warming red wines for these bone chilling days, and some of them are even very good value. There have been many, many times over the years that the January ‘pickins’ were slim, and boring.  This time, I am actually fired up by some very good selections from Australia, South Africa and the South of France, with many made from syrah/shiraz and company.

The most common FAQ of my career has been, “what’s your favourite grape/wine?” Pinot noir is numero uno because it is the most demanding, frustrating and stimulating of the major red wine grapes. (And, there are a couple of beauties below – Bel Echo from New Zealand and Domaine Carneros from California). But pinot is a fairer weather friend. Syrah runs a very tight second. It is also very expressive of place with nuance and complexity, with the bonus that its hearty and generous soul is much appreciated in the wintry days we are now experiencing.

There are a multitude of web places where you can learn all about syrah, if you are starting out, and how it interacts so deftly with equally peppery grenache, brooding mourvedre, combusting carignan and other Mediterranean varieties. To me, syrah has a real climatic sweet spot, delivering best in places with hot days, but cooler nights, or, altitudes, while reacting well to most soil structures from sand to limestone to granite that produce varying textural definitions.

There are many classic syrah pockets in the Rhône Valley and Languedoc in southern France, and of course, coast-to-coast in Australia. But, I would also place syrah, and blends thereof, as the number one red style in South Africa, Washington, the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys in B.C. Also, spot arguments can be made for Catalonia in Spain, Sicily in Italy, Chile, Argentina, California and even the North Island of New Zealand. And, this global swashbuckler is even more appealing because it almost universally priced below Cabernet and Co. Below, you will see several Syrah-based and picks, plus, some recommended reds and whites from other varieties, with a handful of good, cheap Bordeaux included.

The Syrah-Based Reds

Lavau Gigondas 2018

Lavau Gigondas 2018, Gigondas, Rhône, France
$34.95, Connexion Oenophilia
David LawrasonThis is a typical Gigondas. It is medium-full bodied, quite plush and warm, yet with a certain finesse particular to this appellation, which many consider the finest in the southern Rhône after Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The length is excellent. Best now to 2028.
Sara d’Amato –
The Lavau’s have always had an adventurous sensibility that led them from Bordeaux to Tunisia and then back to France in the Rhône Valley, where they have been established since 1965. The lively, juicy, and undeniably endearing Gigondas is brimming with local garrigue in the form of dried lavender, licorice and tarragon. The texture is quite compelling as well – somewhere between velvet and supple leather. A kick of mineral helps liven the palate and compliments the ripe red and black fruit. Ready to drink.

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Changes to Vintages Releases

Modifications to VINTAGES release program are coming into effect here in 2022. We are at the beginning of a transition year to far more Online purchasing. John detailed the whole program in late November, based on internal LCBO documents. Suffice to say for now, some 45 LCBO stores have been cut out of VINTAGES Saturday releases, with regular releases now only maintained at about 250 out of over 660 stores in the province. Some others, however, will have expanded selections of always available 200+, generally middle of the road VINTAGES Essentials. Lower volume, higher price Flagship Store Exclusives are now disappearing as a concept, with those wines moving completely Online. The Online Exclusives will open for purchase on the Thursday before the Saturday In-Store release. First up Jan 20.  Watch our next newsletter for more detail.

And, that’s a wrap for this edition. Stay warm and stay safe. 

David Lawrason,

VP of Wine

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 Selections
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

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