Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES February 19 Release

Review of VINTAGES Feb 19 Release

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

France Takes a Bow

It is challenging to sum up France in one release of 15 wines, but VINTAGES has done a pretty good job of selecting a wine from each major region that tells the story of that region, at an affordable and/or fair price. None are wow wines except perhaps for Château La Nerthe 2018 from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but most are solid 88–91 pointers. And most are from the hotter, generous and ripe 2018 and 2019 vintages — which are delivering wines that are fairly approachable now.

France might be the titled theme, but a group from South America is showing well too, bolstered by a pair of tannat-based reds from Bodegas Garzon in Uruguay and some solid efforts from Chile and Argentina including a third single vineyard bonarda from El Enemigo. And there are some other individual efforts from Italy and Spain that our “cru” of tasters has highlighted below.

Garzón Estate Cabernet Franc/Tannat 2017

Overall however, we were underwhelmed by this release — and a look at the prices begins to explain the reason. Forty three of the 98 wines are under $20, and another 33 are between $20 and $30.  This is clear evidence that Vintages has begun moving its interesting and pricier wines off the shelves and into online channels. There are 20 wines released as Online Exclusives Feb. 17, and we will be reporting on some of them next week in our first Online newsletter. We will also be tapping wines online through importing agents, Canadian wineries and our own WineAlign Exchange and Passport offerings. Because the LCBO is no longer the only game in town.

Back to France for a moment, with a simple question. How would you define French wine in two words?  For that matter, how would you describe Italian wine, Spanish wine, California wine, or Canadian wine in two words? To me, the French, blessed with a fine, temperate climate for winemaking and a long experience of working with well-established soils, grape varieties and combinations thereof, have mastered the art of blending grape varieties, vineyards, tanks and barrels to produce wines of elegance and integration. Those are my two words for French wines. Obviously a generalization, but I think quite apt.

When I buy a French wine I want balance, detail and definitive expression of place. You can get this even in the least expensive French wines when they are well made, and most are. Is that better than the energy and vitality of Italian wine, the softness and power of Spanish, the opulent ripeness and generosity of California, or the brightness and freshness of Canadian wine? That is your call. Here at WineAlign we love and cherish all regions and countries when diligence and care is brought to bear.

Here are our picks from this release.

France Whites and Sparkling

Vignerons de Buxy Silex Bourgogne Aligoté 2019

Vignerons De Buxy Silex Bourgogne Aligoté 2019, Burgundy
$18.95, Vinexx
John SzaboThe warmth of 2019 is on full display, as is the skill of the excellent Buxy cooperative in this simple but tasty, fleshy, yellow-fleshed fruit-flavoured aligoté with ripeness above the mean, soft, creamy acids, and pleasant, leesy finish. Worth a look; drink now.
David Lawrason –
Aligote is a bit of a lighter structured chardonnay understudy that ripens quite nicely in Cotes Chalonnaise. This shows a very lifted ripe nose of peach/apricot, sunflower seed, paraffin and florals. It is medium weight and very generously fruity. Very tasty.

Joseph Mellot La Chatellenie Sancerre 2020

Joseph Mellot La Chatellenie Sancerre 2020, Loire
$28.95, Lifford Wine & Spirits (Select Wine Merchants)
Sara d’Amato
From an historic estate in the Loire that was established in the 16th century whose ancestry can claim it acted as an advisor in matter of wine to Louis XIV. This Sancerre has a great deal of personality, both chalky and traditional but with an abundance of fleshy tree fruit that curbs its inherent austerity.

Cave Du Roi Dagobert Découverte Riesling 2019

Cave Du Roi Dagobert Découverte Riesling 2019, Alsace
$17.95, Philip Mirabelli Fine Wines
David LawrasonVery good value in a nicely, punchy ripe riesling with lifted aromas of mirabel plum, peach, linden flower and lemon. It is open knit, just barely off-dry with classic riesling acidity and a slightly stony finish.

Pierre Sparr Brut Rosé Crémant d'Alsace,

Pierre Sparr Brut Rosé Crémant d’Alsace, Alsace
$19.95, Profile Wine Group (Du Chasse)
Sara d’Amato
A traditional method pinot noir based rosé for under $20 that aims to please. Dry, refreshing and lightly toasty and brimming with fresh strawberries and creme fraiche. A spot-on choice for weeknight apéros.

France Reds

Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2019

Domaine Lafage Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2019, Côtes Catalanes
$18.95, Glencairn Wine Merchants
John SzaboA pure old vine carignan from the Roussillon, this is another fine, and sharp value, example from the Lafage family. Lots of depth and complexity on offer for the money; drink or hold mid-term.
Michael Godel –
It can be said that carignan is the gamay of southern France and when old vines are the source it can feel like a Cru-designate red. This may as well be such an animal from the Côtes Catalanes, what with its carignan-ness. Always impressive and a pleasure indeed from a wine priced below $20.

Château De Landiras 2018

Château De Landiras 2018, Graves, Bordeaux
$25.95, Abcon International Wine Merchants
David Lawrason
Textbook merlot, cabernet sauvignon blend from Graves, at a very fair price. The black fruit aromas are nicely lifted – blackberry and currant – and generously appointed with typical Graves cedar, evergreen and spice. It is medium weight, smooth and warming – ready to drink or hold another five years.

Hubert de Boüard & Bernard Pujol Château Tour De Sarrail 2010

Hubert de Boüard & Bernard Pujol Château Tour De Sarrail 2010, Bordeaux
$19.95, VinoLuna
John Szabo
The dynamic team of Bernard Pujol (ex-director of Château Pape Clément) and Hubert de Bouard (co-proprietor of Angélus) bring us this perfectly mature Bordeaux, a lovely, complex wine for the money. It’s a great way in to mature wine at a great price. Drink or continue to hold another 3-5 years.

Gérard Bertrand An 806 Corbières 2018

Gérard Bertrand An 806 Corbières 2018, Languedoc
$17.95, Family Wine Merchants
Sara d’Amato
A classic expression on this premium appellation in the Languedoc that achieves freshness through elevation. Delectably dark with flavours of liquorice, pepper and violets signalling that the wine doesn’t suffer from overripeness.

Château De Ribebon 2018

Château De Ribebon 2018, Bordeaux Superieur
$16.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
David Lawrason
This gets the nod on value and sheer drinkability. It is a fairly light merlot-based Bordeaux that is drinking very nicely now and offers very good value. Appealing with well-integrated raspberry jam, light cedar and peppery spice and oak vanillin. It is very smooth and fairly hot, with fine tannin.

Presidente Patrick Galant Vieilles Vignes Cairanne 2018

Presidente Patrick Galant Vieilles Vignes Cairanne 2018, Rhône Valley
$18.95, VinoLuna
David Lawrason
This is a very tidy and tasty southern Rhône offering ripeness, a certain richness and yet restraint. It is led by grenache then syrah, with a touch of mourvedre to provide structural tannic containment. Expect ripe, fine-pointed blackberry jam, licorice, fine herbs, dried mushroom and pepper. It is medium-full bodied, generous if not exuberant, with a subtle firmness from moderate, balanced tannin.

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-Du-Pape 2018

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-Du-Pape 2018, Rhône Valley
$55.95, Woodman Wines & Spirits
John Szabo
La Nerthe’s 2018 Châteauneuf rouge is a broad, dense very ripe and stylish wine, billowing with fruit and spice, beautifully proportioned on a large scale. A terrific vintage for a classic wine, best after 2025 or hold into the late-’30s.

Other Reds

San Alejandro Evodia 2019

San Alejandro Evodia 2019, Calatayud, Spain
$14.95, Glencairn Wine Merchants
John SzaboAn impressive mouthful of wine from nearly 100 year-old garnacha vines, plump and delicious. Chill gently to lessen the alcoholic warmth.
Michael Godel
– Few are aware of what Catalayud can do and at $15 the concept is doubly fantastical to doubtless outrageous. Vines 100 years of age at 800-plus metres of elevation produce lowest of the low yields of garnacha. With 10 months to go on the VINTAGES release calendar there may not be a bigger value or steal for the money.
Sara d’Amato
Issued from centenarian vineyards at altitudes upwards of 800 meters in the northeastern region of Aragon in Calatayud known for its unreasonably low-priced garnacha. Spicy,  and vivacious having undergone gentle aging in concrete, neutral oak and concrete eggs. A collaborative project of Eric Solomon (European Cellars), Rousillon’s Jean-Marc Lafage and regional expert, Yolanda Diaz. An excellent example of the high value offerings of the region.

Salentein Reserve Malbec 2019

Salentein Reserve Malbec 2019, Mendoza, Argentina  
$17.95, Azureau Wine Agency         
John Szabo
Clean and fragrant, with cool, upper Andes perfume of fresh black fruit and violets in the varietal idiom, this is just well-made wine from a well-managed vineyard in the right place. Drink or hold 2-3 years – it’s all about the lovely, fresh fruit and silky texture.
David Lawrason
– From one of the best, most modern estates of the Uco region, comes a bright malbec with lifted, polihsed aromas of blackberry, violet, thyme and mint. It is medium-full bodied, smooth and fresh.
Michael Godel
Now here is a malbec that captures your immediate attention, gains your trust and grabs hold of your best senses, A malbec of fruit and spice, texture and structure, finishing right where it started.

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino 2016

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino 2016, Tuscany, Italy 
$49.95, The Case For Wine        
John Szabo
Caparzo’s 2016 Brunello is a marvellously perfumed and elegant expression, in line with the superb vintage, a modern classic sangiovese. I love the evolving perfume, the perfectly mid-weight, seamless and elegant palate, and the excellent length. It’s drinking remarkably well now, though will surely continue to develop over the next 4-8 years.
Michael Godel
– Good to be able to taste Caparzo’s ’16 Brunello from the stellar vintage because there was no Benvenuto Brunello for North American journalists due to Covid restrictions. Caparzo’s is spot on with grace and charm all over the sentiment of this influential confluence of Montalcino north and south.
Sara d’Amato
A wonderfully drinkable Brunello featuring impressive balance and poise yet brimming with an abundance of fleshy red and black fruit. Delicate oak, ripe but firm tannins and memorable length. A notable value, even at this price.

Lan Crianza 2018

Lan Crianza 2018, Rioja, Spain
$16.95, Profile Wine Group (VinVino)
Megha Jandhyala –
Subtly influenced by both American and French oak, this balanced and affordably priced Crianza has vivid flavours of ripe and tart cherries, vanilla, dill, and a hint of spice, along with a pleasing, lingering finish. With vibrant acidity, smooth, supple tannins, and lovely flavour intensity this is an approachable wine that is ready to be enjoyed now, though it can also be cellared for a couple of years.

Garzón Cabernet Franc/Tannat 2018

Garzón Cabernet Franc/Tannat 2018, Uruguay
$19.95, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits    
David Lawrason
From a spectacular new property in eastern Uruguay, with the Atlantic Ocean just visible beyond the rolling hills, this a lively, juicy and fairly dense blend. The franc peps things up with its herbal, tobacco notes while the tannat expresses very ripe blackberry/currant jam. It is quite dense and rich but somehow not heavy or thick.
John Szabo
– Deeply coloured and highly fragrant, this is a lovely cabernet franc-tannat blend from the reliable house of Garzón, showing both the floral side of franc and the meatier, more spicy side of tannat. It’s the sort of wine you can enjoy now with some salty protein to soften while the fruit is still intact (my preference), or cellar another 2-3 years.

Humberto Canale Patagonia Intimo Malbec 2019

Humberto Canale Patagonia Intimo Malbec 2019, Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina
$14.95, Lifford Wine & Spirits (Select Wine Merchants
Sara d’Amato –
A real departure from a typical Argentinian malbec due to its cool, southernly upbringing. Wildflower and dried herb engage on the nose while the palate offers brightness, a distinctive saltiness, and fine tannins. Offering a great deal of refinement at under $15.

Zonte's Footstep Canto Di Lago Sangiovese/Lagrein 2019

Zonte’s Footstep Canto Di Lago Sangiovese/Lagrein 2019, Fleurieu, South Australia
$19.95, Cru Wine Merchants
Megha Jandhyala –
This medium-bodied sangiovese-blend has aromas of ripe black cherries, thyme, dried bay leaves, and the subtlest hint of rose essence, supported by bright acidity and slightly sandy, stalky tannins. The finish is moderately long. Drink 2022-2025.

Ritual Pinot Noir 2018

Ritual Pinot Noir 2018, Casablanca Valley, Chile
$23.95, Family Wine Merchants
David Lawrason
This is an organically grown pinot noir from coastal Casablanca. It has a generous quite sweet nose of candied cherry, lilac, cinnamon and a touch of mint that is very Chilean. It is light to medium bodied, smooth, sweet-edged and warm. Easy, delicious and flavourful.

Marty Mariposa Alegre Gran Reserva Carmenère 2019

Marty Mariposa Alegre Gran Reserva Carmenère 2019, Valle De Cachapoal, Chile
$16.95, Vinexx
Michael Godel – Proper, of expectation captured, in carmenère fresh, modern and full of fruit. Sweet roasted red pepper, herbs and unlit cigar. Hard to find more amenability, at the price, where varietal meets place.

Viña Real Crianza 2018

Viña Real Crianza 2018, Rioja, Spain
$16.95, Vonterra
Megha Jandhyala –
An expressive nose of perfectly ripe cherries is garnished with a dusting of dried dill and spice, and a touch of new leather. The balance between juicy fruit and subtle spice on the palate is especially pleasing, as is the crisp acidity, and powdery tannins. There is decent length and depth here as well. This is an affordably priced, straightforward, and easy introduction to wine from Rioja. Drink 2022-2024.

Bodega Garzon Reserva Tannat 2019

Bodega Garzon Reserva Tannat 2019, Maldonado, Uruguay
$24.95, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits
Sara d’Amato
Tannat is a grape well suited to Uruguay where a softer expression of this often tough variety comes to light. Black fruit is intertwined with captivating botanical notes white supple tannins add to the wine’s approachability. A must try curio find.

Donato D'angelo Calice Aglianico Del Vulture 2018

Donato D’angelo Calice Aglianico Del Vulture 2018, Basilicata, Italy
$21.95, Carpe Vinum International  (OnLine Exclusive)
John SzaboTraditionalists and old school, old world wine lovers won’t want to miss this classically-styled aglianico from the volcanic slopes of Mount Vulture in Basilicata at near 500m. D’Angelo crafts Calice from the younger vines in the communes of Ripacandida and Maschito, aged in large old botti.

And that’s a wrap for this edition. Watch later next week for our first OnLine Buyers Guide, then soon after our review of the March 5 release. And there is still time to register for the next edition of Think You Know Wine on Saturday, February 26.


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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