Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES June 12th, 2021

Chile Strong, Pink Pantheon and Other Great Buys

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

One step forward, one step back.  In May we attempted to move the publication of this review ahead by three days by purchasing VINTAGES samples earlier.  We just got that going when the LCBO said that VINTAGES release shipments to stores were going to be temporarily delayed each release due to a change in shipping logistics. We will certainly let you know if and when we can try again.  Meanwhile, there are many interesting wines and good value wines now on the shelves.


Chile Strong, The Long and Short of It

Did you know that if you could take vertically positioned Chile and lay it out horizontally across Canada it would stretch from Vancouver to Moncton, New Brunswick (4,270Kms). Wine growing is bunched within 1,000 kms in the moderate clime centre of the country in various river valleys that tumble out the Andes Mountains. But that band is widening from the Atacama Desert in the north to the cooler southern valleys like Malleco in the south, and this release spans the entire length. As well, vineyards are climbing higher up the slopes of the foothills and coastal hills into more interesting soiled-based terroirs. Most plantings remain the top international varieties, led by cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc, but Chilean wine is becoming more interesting, diverse and accomplished every year, while prices remain modest. In this release VINTAGES has done a very good job of packing the diversity of ten regions and eight varieties/styles into one neat baker’s dozen case of thirteen wines, many of them at least 90pt quality. If you wanted to conduct your own Chilean masterclass and buy one bottle of each, it would only cost you $244. Or you can read on and use our critics’ picks as a guide. We were all genuinely impressed with the selection. To quote Michael Godel when he sent his picks along – “Chile is really strong”.  We even had a rare four-critic “alignment” on the first wine below.

VINTAGES Buyer’s Guide June 12th:


Emiliana Vigno Vignadores de Carignan 2017, Maule Valley, Chile
$19.95, PMA Canada

Emiliana Vigno Vignadores De Carignan 2017

Sara d’Amato – Dry farmed carignan is a real treat and a specialty of the Maule Valley, whose efforts are being protected by this collaborative project known as VIGNO. This authentic carignan is dry with rather supple but volume-adding tannins and both fresh and dried black fruit. Certified organic, non-GMO and Vegan-friendly.
Michael Godel – VIGNO (Vignadores de Carignan) is a movement launched in 2010 bringing together 12 producers bent on safeguarding old, bush-trained vines. Emiliana’s is one of cool sensibility, lushness and smoothness to bely the dryness of the hot vintage.
John Szabo – A terrific old vines carignan here from Emiliana, bearing a large range of earth-friendly certifications to add feel-good to the deliciousness of the wine. It’s a big and satisfying mouthful for the money; drink or hold 2-4 years.
David Lawrason  – This is an organically produced carignan from dry-farmed vineyards the coastal hills of the Maule region. It is a deeply coloured, full bodied and fairly dense and sturdy wine with generous aromas of blueberry pie, gentle cedary spice and vanilla.

Falernia Gran Reserva Carmenère 2017, Elquí Valley, Chile
$16.95, Du Chasse Wines & Spirits

Falernia Carmenere Reserva 2017

John Szabo – My, what a shockingly intense and characterful carmenere from the extreme Elquí Valley and its sunny, hot, cold, very stony and arid conditions that leaves a strong regional imprint. Strangely enough, this resembles syrah (also grown here by Falernia), with its lightly smoky character. Part of the fruit is left to desiccate slightly on the vines, a sort of in-vineyard appassimento process to heighten concentration.
David Lawrason – From the far-flung northern and magical (believe me I’ve been there) Elqui Valley comes a rich, classy and ripe carmenere with a fine nose of cassis, well integrated, cedar, chocolate and graphite. It is full bodied, structured, fairly dense yet elegant. Such flavour intensity and veracity for $17!

San Pedro Sideral 2018, Cachapoal Valley-Andes, Chilestrell  2017, Alicante, Spain
$29.95, Philippe Dandurand Wines

San Pedro Sideral 2018

David Lawrason – Here’s a powerful, intense, yet elegant, blend that is Chilean to its bootstraps, very sophisticated and so well priced for the charge delivered. Cabernet sauvignon leads the blend at 71% with syrah next at 18% then minor splashes of other Bordeaux varieties. Love the lifted blackcurrant, green cedar, violet and a touch of syrah licoricity. It is full bodied, dense and even excellent to outstanding length.
John Szabo – The 2018 Sideral from San Pedro’s exceptional Cachapoal Andes estate is composed of the lots that don’t make it into the top-shelf Altaïr, a second wine, if you will, but there’s nothing “second” about it. The balance is impeccable; it’s one of the best Sideral’s I’ve tasted. Drink or hold until the late-’20s. 

Casa Silva 1912 Vines Sauvignon Gris 2020, Colchagua Valley, Chile
$19.95, The Case for Wine

Casa Silva 1912 Vines Sauvignon Gris 2020

Sara d’Amato – Chile may be classified as a “new world” country, but it has appropriated several grape varieties from Europe that have become better known in Chile. Sauvignon gris is one of those varieties, a pink-skinned grape mutation of sauvignon blanc that has found a distinctive home in the country. Casa Silva sources these grapes from a 1912 planting from a pre-phylloxera origin. Featuring excellent concentration with a slight viscosity to the palate balanced by a salty brightness. A unique find for under $20
Michael Godel – From one of the oldest (1912 planted) blocks on the original Casa Silva estate vineyard in Angostura. Expect less aromatic pungency but plenty of vitality, clean, crisp and lifted spirit. Drink early, well chilled and fear nothing.

Viña Errazuriz Syrah 2018, Aconcagua Costa, Chile
$21.95, Philippe Dandurand Wines

Viña Errazuriz Syrah 2018

Michael Godel – If there are better examples of cool-climate syrah from a place of stone and sea I’m not sure I know of it. This classy and elegant syrah is crisp, floral, crunchy, fulsome and so very fine.  
David Lawrason – Errazuriz planted the first syrah in Chile in 1993. This is a very fine, stylish and not too heavy rendition from the coast, with lifted blackcurrant/cherry fruit, pepper and the shrubby, green Chilean ‘garrigue’ from an indigenous tree called boldo. It is medium bodied, slim yet jammed with flavour.

Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Apalta, Chile
$27.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits

Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Sara d’Amato – We tend to think of Chile as producing a wealth of “cheap and cheerful” wines, mostly due to the demand for such products in export. Yet, there are many higher-end examples of Bordeaux blends, syrah and chardonnay produced that have been trickling into our market over the last half-decade. This is a good middle-ground price point from Lapostolle that showcases the refinement of Colchagua’s well-respected Apalta region. Made from an 80-year old dry farmed block, this tense and nervy cabernet features graphite and blackberry dominating the tightly wound palate. Built to last.
Michael Godel – No new oak with addendum by 15 per cent cabernet franc plus carmenère creates and sets the scene for a fruit first, forward and step ahead thinking Apalta cabernet sauvignon. Poignant and spot on.

A Pantheon of Pinkies

A pantheon is a group of distinguished individuals. Being mid-June there are, not surprisingly, a large and somewhat distinguished number of rosés in the release – fifteen in fact, of which we sampled ten. I decided to arrange my tasting by shade, starting with the palest and ending with the deepest coloured wines. I was curious to see if there was a correlation between colour and flavour intensity, and whether there was a correlation between colour and sweetness. Turns out it was more expectation than correlation. The palest wines, made in what’s now called the Provencal style, had just as much body and flavour intensity as all but the deepest (a Tavel), while sweetness level was evenly meted out among the colours as well. In fact, the vast majority were not sweet at all, which I think is the real achievement in modern rose winemaking, and propelling the rapid expansion of the rosé market. The drying out of rosé has forced better winemaking, as inferior wine can no longer be easily masked by sweetness. I once dreaded tasting and reviewing rosé, but these days it is much more enjoyable.


Château Minuty Prestige Rosé 2020, Côtes De Provence, France
$38.95 Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Château Minuty Prestige Rosé 2020

John Szabo – Minuty’s “Prestige” bottling is an exceptional rosé, which, along with a small handful of others, shows just how serious rosé can be. This could happily find itself on the most sophisticated tables
Sara d’Amato – If you need your fix of fancy Provencal rosé, look no further. One of the most recognizable brands of Provence, Minuty’s upper end Prestige cuvée fits the often-reproduced style to a T – dry, perfectly pale and delightfully austere. Deceptively complex with aromas of pomegranate, lavender, licorice and dusty underbrush with confit tomato, melon, pink grapefruit and wildflower. A blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah and the local tibouren.

Château Des Ferrages Mon Plaisir Sainte-Victoire Rosé 2020, Côtes de Provence, France
$22.95, Connexion Oenophilia

Château Des Ferrages Mon Plaisir Sainte-Victoire Rosé 2020

David LawrasonVery pale Provence rosé with impressive energy and length. The nose is notably herbal with soft cherry/watermelon fruit, some florality and minerality. It is light to medium bodied with firm acidity Nicely refreshing, with excellent length.

Saint Roch Le Rosé 2020, Côtes Du Roussillon, France
$18.95, Glencairn Wine Merchants

Saint Roch Le Rosé 2020

John Szabo – Lots of pleasure here in the southern French rosé idiom, with impressive depth, length, and gravitas to anchor it. Sharp value.

Soho White Collection Harry Rosé 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand       
$18.95, H.H.D. Imports

Soho White Collection Harry Rosé 2020

Sara d’Amato – Modern and flavourful, this rather complex, dry, pinot-noir based rosé is a real head-turner. Generous and brimming with sour red cherry, raspberry and rose blossom. Refreshing, zesty, sustainably produced and vegan friendly. Great value for those looking for only a slight departure from the Provencal style.
David Lawrason – This is a very pale rendition mimicking the Provencal style. There is a pure, fresh but not very intense aroma of cherry/redcurrant fruit with some fresh herbal and citrus/grapefruit character. It is medium weight, dry and fresh with almost salty tang.

Gemma Sparkling Rosé Traditional Method, Limarí Valley, Chile
$18.95, Heritage Cellars

Gemma Sparkling Rosé Traditional Method

Sara d’Amato – One of Chile’s northernmost wine regions, Limarí has fast developed a reputation for fine cool climate chardonnay. It is no surprise then that good quality sparkling wine is also produced here such as this this dry rosé version made in the Traditional Method with classic Champenoise varieties of pinot noir and chardonnay. An impressively low price for a wine made in this style yet you can expect brisk and refreshing fizz with generous red berries, tangy citrus notes and a welcome hint of toastiness.

Stoney Ridge The Tragically Hip Flamenco Rosé 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$19.95, Epic Wines & Spirits

Stoney Ridge The Tragically Hip Flamenco Rosé 2020

Michael GodelFlamenco is one of Gord Downie and the Hips’ greatest moments in lyric poetry. As Rosé Flamenco is a crisp and crunchy one, floral fragrant and with fruit but of an ironic edge. In this case Stoney Ridge turns Rosé into a certain kind of blush poetry.

Ricasoli Albia Rosé 2020, IGT Toscana, Italy          
$17.95, The Case for Wine

Ricasoli Albia Rosé 2020

David Lawrason This is a sleek, very pale almost alabaster-shaded rosé with subtle, fragrant, classy nose of red currant jam, gentle florals and fresh tarragon-like herbals. It is medium weight, very fresh and lively yet calm, cool and collected.

Gruet Brut Sparkling Rosé Traditional Method, New Mexico, USA
$25.95, Glazer’s Of Canada

Gruet Brut Sparkling Rosé Traditional Method

John SzaboAnother fine, pure pinot noir rosé bubbly in the traditional method, complex and toasty, from the most unexpected of places – New Mexico. Though Laurent Gruet has been at it for 25 years, so he’s evidently on to something.

Other Whites

Cantine di Dolianova Prendas Vermentino di Sardegna 2019, Sardinia, Italy
$21.95, Eurovintage International

Cantine di Dolianova Prendas Vermentino di Sardegna 2019

Sara d’Amato – I’ve rarely met a Sardinian vermentino I didn’t like.  This incarnation is zesty and generously floral featuring a wealth of fruit and salty sea breeze. Complex and highly memorable.
David Lawrason – This is a solid, intriguing dry vermentino, a grape flourishing in the northern Mediterranean coastal areas. The nose is intense and engaging with dried tropical fruit/pineapple, lemongrass and spices. It is full bodied, fleshy but not soft with a sense of warmth and minerality.

Eradus Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand           
$19.95, Kolonaki Group

David LawrasonFrom the cooler Awatere Valley this captures a certain pristine purity, with fine pointed, subtle aromas of fresh dill, snow pea, grapefruit and juniper. Very pretty!  It is medium bodied, lively and almost spritzed with excellent length.

Other Reds

E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2018, Rhone Valley, France
$39.95, Vinexx

E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2018

John Szabo – An essence of syrah straddling the cool-warm climate divide, finding a floral expression in an appealing and complex guise, leaning towards the modern (and the ripe 2018 vintage) style. Lovely wine, best after 2024.
Sara d’Amato – Enveloping a more generous than the norm, this sensual syrah, peppery and mouthfilling features firm tannins and a hint of meatiness on the palate. Showcasing the warmth of the vintage in a balanced and refined fashion

Paxton MV Shiraz 2019, McLaren Vale, Australia
$19.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.

Paxton MV Shiraz 2019

Michael Godel – “MV” as opposed to “SV” meaning multi-vineyard fruit sourcing with a McLaren Vale context. Fruit, balance and length are all exceptional. Terrific value ensues.
David Lawrason – What a lovely, elegant, supple and pleasing shiraz. Very smooth, almost creamy and packed with flavour, thanks in part to biodynamic farming technique.

Finca Río Negro Cogolludo Guadalajara 2015, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain
$19.95, Majestic Wine Cellars

Finca Río Negro Cogolludo Guadalajara 2015

Michael GodelGrowing at 1,000m of elevation anywhere in the world seems absurd (except maybe Argentina’s Salta region) and yet here in Spain it is possible to ripen grapes at these heights. This mix of tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot makes full use of wood (including American), is a bit wild and unhinged, but lots of emotion and fun are to be found.

Luigi Bosca D.O.C. Malbec 2018, Mendoza, Argentina
$29.95, Family Wine Merchants

Luigi Bosca D.O.C. Malbec 2018

Michael GodelThe vintage brings about full concentration, depth of fruit character and in the hands of Bosca so perfectly seasoned, reasoned and explained. Begin your next level journey right here into malbec reaching towards the highest of heights.

Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2016, DOCG, Tuscany, Italy
$49.95, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.

Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Gran Selezione

John SzaboThis is the best Riserva Ducale Oro I’ve had (now designated Gran Selezione), from a vintage that’s by now earned legendary status in Chianti Classico. I’d suggest another 1-3 years in the cellar or hold into the late ’20s-early ’30s without concern.

Marotti Campi Orgiolo Lacrima Di Morro D’alba Superiore 2017, Le Marche, Italy
$24.95, Vinexx

Marotti Campi Orgiolo Lacrima Di Morro D'alba Superiore 2017

John Szabo – I remember the first time I tasted this delightfully fragrant red from Marotti Campi some 15 years ago in Le Marche, and I’m so pleased to see it here in Ontario. Lacrima di Morro D’Alba is a very floral variety with pronounced rose petal and violet perfume, also abundantly fruity, moving from black raspberry and cherry into blueberry, designed to be enjoyed with a light chill. Definitely worth a look.

And that is a wrap for this edition. We are in the glory days of a Canadian summer and the COVID veil is lifting, so grab a sunny spot, or a shady spot, open some fine bottles, and enjoy yourself. We have all earned it.  John will return in two weeks with a review of the June 26th release.


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 Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix

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