Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES April 2 Release

Review of April 2 VINTAGES: Old vs. New World and Winery of the Year

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

This week’s VINTAGES Review covers the April 2 in-store release, one of three this month (followed by April 16 and 30), a physical retail bonanza before the LCBO shifts to a single monthly in-store release for the summer. We’ll endeavour to cover as many of the online exclusives that fill in the retail shelf gaps, while continuing to highlight smart buys from other channels, namely consignment agents and bottle shops. If you missed it, be sure to check out Sara d’Amato’s in-depth article on the proliferation of restaurants-turned-wine-retailers, better known as bottle shops, especially if you live in the GTA. The theme of the April 2 release is “Old World vs. New World.” If you’re wondering what that means, read on for a brief history and some context, and how the wine industry saved this anachronism. There’s also a mini-feature of three wines from Niagara’s Malivoire winery, winner of the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada Winery of the year in 2021. Co-head judge David Lawrason recaps the achievement herein with our medal-winning picks. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks to bring you the best of the California-themed release.

Old World vs. New World

It used to be very common to hear wine experts refer to Old World wines, those essentially from Europe, and New World wines, those from just about everywhere else, as almost two separate categories of wine. It was a form of snobbism to be sure, a sort of wine colonialism, which implied a measure of sophistication and elegance in Old World wines that was simply not found in the fruity, exuberant, boisterous, upstart New World wines. Imagine the common cinematic trope of the “ugly American” travelling through Europe on holiday, and you can start to see the picture of this world divided.

But, it must be said, there was originally some broad stylistic justification for this platitude. After all, every cliché is based on some manifestation of reality. In the case of Old World wine, that je ne sais quoi restraint and subtlety was generally due to a general lack of hygiene in the cellar and, by and large, cooler, rainier climates (in most of the famous appellations in any case). This in turn led to less fruity, earthier, herbal, lower alcohol, higher acid wines. New World wines, on the other hand, emerged from freshly-built wineries, better equipped technologically and cleaner. The weather in the colonies was generally better, too — sunnier and drier. And the wines? Also cleaner, less earthy, with higher alcohol and lower acids, and fruit so ripe it tasted almost jammy and sweet.

That was then, this is now. Of course, times have changed. For one, the emergence of fine wines from countries like Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Greece, and Israel, for example, call into question any preposterous claim of “Old World” in upstart Europe, barely 2000 years into their little winemaking escapade. (“Ancient” or “Historic” World are the current preferred categories for the wines of these countries, in some cases 8000-years deep into winemaking.) And never mind that Chile, Argentina and South Africa have been making wine since Bordeaux was largely a swamp.

But more importantly, the stylistic divide has closed. Globalization has not sparred the wine industry. It’s just as common today for young European winemakers to learn and hone their craft in New World wineries as it is for aspiring New World winemakers to gain experience in the Old. Just about everybody knows how to make wine today in the technical sense, so faults previously attributed to terroir like Brettanomyces (barnyard, band-aid) or volatile acidity (nail varnish, vinegar) have all but disappeared, and wines from everywhere are cleaner and fruitier as a result.

Climate change is, of course, a huge factor. Those once marginal regions like the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, or the Mosel, for example, where grapes would struggle to ripen in several vintages each decade, now achieve consistent levels of ripeness that previous generations only glimpsed a handful of years in a lifetime.

The new world has also pushed away from the easy, warm, low-lying inland valleys and plains originally planted to vines to ever-higher elevations and further out toward the coast, in search of cooler places to grow grapes. Argentina and Chile, especially, come to mind as prime examples of countries looking to exploit their coolest Andean pockets, coastal zones and rainy regions of the deep south. The hunt is on everywhere for cool.

The net result is that Old World and New World categories are as archaic as colonialism itself (Ukraine notwithstanding). They’re also descriptively meaningless and an easy trap to fall into, as every wine student who plays the blind tasting game is well aware.

And yet…..

Still the trade persists in using this anachronism. You’ll still find the question: “Is it Old World or New World?” on sommelier tasting examinations around the world. The Court of Master Sommeliers still includes Old World vs. New World for points in the initial conclusions of blind tasting exams. The LCBO obviously still believes in pitting the Old World vs. the New. And the WineAlign Crü, too, is guilty from time to time of describing wines as classic “Old” or “New” World. Just watch an episode or two of Think You Know Wine, our fun, blind tasting game show.

You see, the wine world moves at a glacial pace and is loath to shed any historic artefacts, lest the world become untethered and overly confusing. So, we’ve found a way of saving the Old World vs. New World distinction with a single word: style. There it is, the word that saves it all! By including the world “style” after Old or New World, as in, “New World style,” we’ve saved the distinction from certain, well-deserved oblivion.

We can surely describe wines in terms of style, and here, any wine that presents a restrained, less fruity, earthier, herbal, lower alcohol, higher acid profile can be described as Old World style, regardless of where it is actually grown. Ditto for those flashy, jammy, fruity, boisterous new world style wines that hail everywhere from Mendoza to Moldova, Sicily to Sonoma.

So, we’ll leave you to taste through our recommendations below and decide which stylistic “world” each wine falls into. And at least you’ll now understand what those world-dropping wine snobs are talking about when they reference the Old or New World in their wine speak.

Malivoire 2021: Winery of the Year

By David Lawrason

The Malivoire Wine Company, nestled among prime, maturing, sustainably farmed vineyards on Niagara’s Beamsville Bench, has been awarded Winery of the Year at the 2021 National Wine Awards of Canada. This is the 20th anniversary of these awards.

Malivoire Tasting Room

It is such a great outcome for a winery long beloved by Ontario wine enthusiasts as a go-to for bright, elegant and energetic wines that capture Niagara’s spirit. And among the winemaking community, few winemakers are as well-liked and respected as winemaker Shiraz Mottiar (and no, Shiraz is not a stage name).

The victory is well earned. The incredible haul of 17 medals at the Nationals spans their repertoire, with platinum medals for Le Coeur Gamay 2020Bisous Rosé Sparkling and a new red blend of cabernet franc and gamay called Analog Demo Series 2020 clinching the victory.

It is the first time in NWAC history that a single winery has won three platinum medals at the Nationals. And I am delighted to emphasize that the medals were won over three different styles of wines. The whole idea of this exercise of ranking wineries is to highlight and reward consistency and inspire consumer confidence.

Martin Malivoire and Shiraz Mottiar

Click for the rest of David’s article on Malivoire and the full list of medal-winning wines.

Malivoire’s Platinum Winning Wines

Malivoire Gamay Le Coeur 2020

Malivoire Gamay Le Coeur 2020

Malivoire Bisous Rosé

Malivoire Bisous Rosé

Malivoire Analog Demo Series 2020

Malivoire Analog Demo Series 2020

Vintages Buyer’s Guide April 2: White & Rosé

Framingham Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand
$24.95, Charton Hobbs Inc.
David Lawrason – A delightful surprise. Framingham has been making Marlborough sauvignon for over 40 years, using techniques like natural yeast fermentation and some oak ageing to build in more complexity. This is very rich complex yet still very lively with excellent length.
Sara d’Amato – Anything but a typical Marlborough sauvignon blanc, this underpriced gem is made with a touch of skin contact and a short time spent in acacia barrels, techniques that have imparted both subtle textural intrigue and enhanced complexity and delicate flavours. Chalky, flinty and toasty with notes of dried herb, passion fruit, lemon and distinct salinity. Stylish and inviting. 
John Szabo – Framingham marches to its own beat in Marlborough, departing from the standard commercial model and crafting a sauvignon of considerable ripeness, further layered with some skin contact and a brief passage in oak and acacia barrels. Neither overripe nor green, this finds a really nice milieu and premium complexity. Drink or hold into the mid-twenties.


Clarence Dillon Clarendelle Blanc 2020

Clarence Dillon Clarendelle Blanc 2020, Bordeaux, France
$24.95, M.C.O. Wines & Spirits
David LawrasonThis captures the essence of white Bordeaux at a much lower price than famous chateau white of Graves and Pessac. It is medium weight, firm, elegant and well balanced with a core of fine acidity and minerality. Aromas are subtle with classic grapefruit, pine, dill and wood spice.

Thierry Delaunay Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Thierry Delaunay Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Loire Valley, France
$16.95, M.C.O. Wines & Spirits
David LawrasonWhat a great value, tidy and fresh sauvignon with fine aromas of grapefruit, green apple, white flowers and fresh cut grass. It is medium bodied, balanced, fleshy yet bright.

Zenato San Benedetto Lugana 2020

Zenato San Benedetto Lugana 2020, Veneto, Italy
$19.95, The Case For Wine
David LawrasonRe-release of a lively, pristine and expressive white from northeast Italy – well into tropical fruit range with pineapple, banana, even a touch of mandarin. But there is a admirable precision.

Nals Margreid Hill Pinot Grigio 2019, Sudritol Alto Adige, Italy
$19.95, Mondo Vino
Sara d’AmatoYes, pinot grigio can be sophisticated. This perky springtime white feels effortlessly crafted from a consistently overachieving producer. Brimming with notes of peach blossom pear along with nervy acidity, a light leesy character and plenty of saltiness. Elegant.

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2021, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada
$19.95, Noble Estates Wine & Spirits
Sara d’AmatoElegant and perfectly pale with an eye-catching luminosity. Rose, cranberry, raspberry, and pink grapefruit with just a hint of menthol are featured on the palate of this assemblage of two pinots: noir and gris. Dry, juicy, and very refreshing – bring on summer!

Vintages Buyer’s Guide April 2: Red

Château Hauchat Fronsac 2019

Château Hauchat Fronsac 2019, Bordeaux, France
$17.95, Connexion Oenophilia
David LawrasonWhat a great value at $17.95, a little gem to consider as a short term cellar stocker. It is authentically Bordeaux with firm structure and a certain ferrous minerality I expect from Fronsac. Yet the fruit is so nicely ripe, pure and generous, with classic merlot blackberry, fine herbs and subtle cedary oak spice.
Sara d’Amato
An impressive value, this chalky, salty Fronsac offers the impression of great freshness and features a wealth of red and black fruit at their peak of ripeness. Quite polished but lively with excellent length.

Ségla 2014 Second wine of Château Rauzan-Ségla, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France
$67.95, Tastevin Selections
John Szabo
This is a fine opportunity to enjoy premium red Bordeaux, evolving beautifully at this stage; the underrated 2014 vintage is indeed full of surprises. I love the perfume here, the nose-filling mix of fresh and dried black and blue fruit, the fine herbs, the truffley forest floor, the spent coffee grounds and more. The palate, too, beguiles with its silky texture, very fine-boned tannins and integrated acids, and excellent length. Really classy, understated perhaps, but a wine of marvelous purity and subtlety. Ready to enjoy, or continue to hold late into the ’20s. No need to cellar decades, however.

Mazzei Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico 2019

Mazzei Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico 2019, Tuscany, Italy
$23.95, Roy + Co. Selections Inc.              
David Lawrason
Very genteel, refined and appealing modern Chianti Classico Riserva. It’s a bit young with some tannic grip but composed in a way that is approachable. The nose shows generous raspberry/redcurrant with fine herbs.

Croix De Bonpas Côtes Du Rhone-Villages 2019

Croix De Bonpas Côtes Du Rhone-Villages 2019, Rhone Valley, France
$17.95, Univins (Ontario)             
David Lawrason
A lighter weight elegant and complete Rhone that delivers more complexity than expected and a certain finesse I associate with Châteauneuf-du-Pape. But not as rich as CDP.  It is smooth, with fine acidity and feathered, drying tannin.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate The Siding Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Coonawarra, South Australia
$23.95, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits 
Sara d’AmatoShowcasing the gifted nature of Coonawarra terroir, this silky cabernet sauvignon should appeal even to those who stay away from wines made of this intense and often showy grape variety. Dried herbs, iodine, graphite, black fruit and tender violet can be found on the plate whose tannins are soft enough for immediate enjoyment.
David Lawrason –
Such a smart, tidy and delicious cabernet – just heading to maturity but maintaining brightness, freshness and poise. Classic Coonawarra cabernet blackcurrant fruit, laced with well-integrated cedar, oregano herbality and some minerality. So even!

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2018

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2018, Clare Valley, South Australia
$22.95, Family Wine Merchants
John SzaboDeeply-coloured, yet fresh and minty, Jim Barry’s 2018 Lodge Hill appears to be ageing slowly, still holding on firmly to plenty of vibrant black and blue fruit and floral-violet and black pepper nuances, attractive and engaging. I appreciate the juiciness and liveliness on offer, a thoroughly contemporary style that should win many fans. Drink or hold short term – this is all about the fruit so don’t tarry, drink your Barry.
David Lawrason –
From a higher altitude site in cooler Clare, this is even-handed, appealing and almost elegant. The low key nose features well integrated, exacting raspberry/mulberry fruit, mint, pepper and vanilla. It is medium-full bodied, nicely layered and firm in the end.

Montes Alpha Special Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Valle De Colchagua, Chile
$24.95, Profile Wine Group (Vin Vino)
John Szabo
This is a lovely vintage for Montes’ cabernet sauvignon, one of the most engaging and enjoyable cabernets I’ve had from this property, showing lovely poise and balance, freshness and ripeness, and integration of flavours, including oak. Drink now or hold into the mid or even late-’20s.

Luna Estate Pinot Noir 2019

Luna Estate Pinot Noir 2019, Martinborough, New Zealand
$26.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits
Sara d’Amato
A stimulating aromatic experience, Luna’s Estate pinot noir blends fruit from both of the estate’s vineyards and made the most out of a topsy turvy vintage. Delicate fruit spice, pepper, juniper, evergreen, and wildflowers make for and compelling first sip. Fine grained tannins, impressive complexity and very good length make for a memorable value in this category.

Tenute Nicosia Vulkà Etna Rosso 2018, Sicily, Italy
$18.95, Wine Lovers Agency Inc.
John Szabo
This is a nice entry point to the wines of Etna and their spiralling prices. It’s not a wine of mesmerizing density or complexity, but representative all the same. The cool climate sour cherry acids and gritty, grainy tannins give it a bit of a rustic texture, though appealing, especially when served alongside some salty, fatty protein like charcuterie, for example. It also really gains with air, so carafe before serving in large, Burgundy-shaped glasses. Should also hold into the mid-’20s.

Folklore Shiraz 2019, Western Australia
$19.95, The Living Vine
John Szabo – This is a lovely, vibrant, floral and fresh cracked black pepper-scented shiraz from Western Australia with highly appealing weight and texture. Thoroughly satisfying and delicious, especially with a light chill – it’s a wine you could drink a sizable amount of without really noticing.
Sara d’Amato – If you seek out peppery reds then here’s one for you that is undeniably spicy (from natural causes, less from barrel). Rotundone rich, this shiraz features enticing flavours of bergamot, pimento and dried black currant. Despite a notable level of alcohol, the wine feels lighter and more refreshing than expected. Dangerously drinkable.

Château La Croix de Queynac 2019

Château La Croix de Queynac 2019, Bordeaux Supérieur, Bordeaux, France
$17.95, The Dochas Company
Sara d’Amato
Nicely structured and well-priced, this Bordeaux Supérieur offers classic structural elements such as firm tannins and an appealing backbone of freshness. The youthful abundance of fruit on the compact and flavourful palate is holding on quite well. Enjoy now with stewed beef or lentils when the evening begins to chill.

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 Selections
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

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