Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES December 3 Release

Super Tuscans, An Affordable Tour de France, Hardy Winter Malbecs

By David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo, MS, Michael Godel and Megha Jandhyala (Sara is on vacation)

It has become a holiday tradition for VINTAGES to release triple-digit priced super Tuscans in-store to give foot shoppers a chance to splurge on a treasured bottle. This week it was Luce 2019 at $120.95 and Tignanello 2019 at $151.95. Even more famous and expensive Sassicaia 2019 ($249.95) and Ornellaia 2019 ($265.95) were released in recent weeks and are all but gone. These world-famous wines are heavily allocated and spread thinly across the large LCBO store network. The flagship Kingsway store at Bloor Street West and Royal York in Toronto received 18 bottles of Luce (89,000 bottles were produced).  As of December 5, there were about 750 bottles of Luce scattered about the province, and 660 Tignanello. So, if you giddy-up you might yet lasso one.

We have reviewed the Luce 2019  and the Luce Brunello Di Montalcino 2017, both with admirable scores if not so glowing star value ratings. Luce became famous as the product of a joint venture between Robert Mondavi of California and Vittorio Frescobaldi of Tuscany back in the 1990s when the New World was cozying up to the Old. Today it is owned by the Frescobaldi family, along with Ornellaia and other Tuscan estates. Luce remains one of the more youthfully accessible super-Tuscans, perhaps because it is merlot based, backed up by juicy sangiovese.

If you are shopping Tuscany and it doesn’t have to be “super,” check out the top-notch Isole E Olena Cepparello 2018 Chianti Classico at $129.95, which John and Michael have reviewed below. Or head to the San Felice Il Grigio Gran Selezione ($50.95), which I have actually rated higher than Luce. Gran Selezione is the newish “top tier” of Chianti Classico based on single-vineyard, estate-grown wines, and the Il Grigio is boffo. Also check out the Castello di Querceto 2018 Chianti Classico Riserva at $32.95.


An Affordable Tour de France

By happenstance, not LCBO thematic engineering, there is a fine selection of whites and reds from various important regions of France on this release, wines upon which one could easily build a beginner’s course to French wines. This offering is made affordable by steering clear of the top appellations and finding examples from excellent, reputable producers.

Burgundy is represented by two minor classics from regions not on the famous Cote d’Or. The white wine of note is Domaine Deux Roches 2020 Pouilly-Fuissé ($41.95), a classy chardonnay from the best-known white wine appellation south of Santenay. The pinot noir of note is the nervy Perraud 2018 Givry ($32.95), from a Chalonnaise village better known for its whites.

White wine fans should note that the Loire Valley is nicely represented by the Jean-Max Roger Cuvée Marne et Caillottes 2020 Sancerre ($33.95), an elegant mineral-driven sauvignon from a very reliable and accomplished family domain. And there is a brisk and satisfying Le Fils Des Gras Moutons Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre-Et-Maine 2021. The same can be said of the Trimbach 2019 Riesling ($24.95) from Alsace, a bone-dry cruncher from a family that makes its white wines to age.

Among reds, right bank merlot-based Bordeaux is nicely represented by the re-release of Château Hauchat 2019 Fronsac ($18.95), a steal at the price from an underrated, mineral driven AOP just downstream from more famous Saint-Emilion. And although I have not tasted this vintage, the Chateau Lafleur de Brouad 2016 Lalande de Pomerol ($58.95) has been a go-to for me for almost 20 years as a Pomerol-ish teaching wine, a modern enterprise owned by Hubert de Boüard de Laforest (also owner 1er Cru Château L’Angelus in Saint-Émilion) and his daughter.

The south of France is represented by the Famille Perrin Gille Gigondas 2020 ($29.95), an elegant grenache-syrah blend from the star AOP of the Côte du Rhône-Villages. Another famous Rhône family winery now operated by Michel Chapoutier delivers Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2018 ($26.95) from the Roussillon (again not tasted this vintage). And over near the mouth of the Rhône River comes the quite delicious grenache-syrah Wine of the Month Chateau de Nages Heritage 2020 Costières du Nîmes ($20.95).

Hardy Winter Malbecs from Argentina

As a long winter yawns ahead of us, it is time to consider comforting, big (but not too sweet) reds for roasts, stews and tourtières. So, call in the malbecs from Argentina — where winter is summer. They seem to be experiencing a quality uptick in recent years, finding better balance, complexity and more interesting definition.

The ubiquitous Catena clan places three wines on this release, led by the outstanding Catena Historic Rows Malbec 2018 ($49.95) harvested from selected old vines in four vineyards owned by the family. Also from Catena, Luca Old Vine Malbec 2019 ($37.95) is very satisfying if in a more approachable style. I was just as impressed by Domaine Bousquet Ameri Single Vineyard Malbec 2019 ($35.95) from an organic site at high altitude in Tupungato. And there are other noteworthy Argentina reds of which our critics have made note.

So here are our critics picks for December 3.

White Wines

Trimbach Riesling 2019

Trimbach Riesling 2019, Alsace, France
$25.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
John Szabo – Here’s a proper and upright, tight, dry, stony Alsatian riesling, clearly above the mean in terms of depth and complexity, and pedigree, equaling many loftier-priced crus. One supposes that after 400 years of experience, getting it right for the Trimbach family comes with a little more ease. Drink or hold 3-6 years.
David Lawrason – This is full bodied, intense, mineral and stony – very much an ageing wine or one to pair with food (herbed roast pork). It is grippy and intense with a pithy, herbal and lemony finish. Excellent length.
Michael Godel – Love the early dry austerity of this classic Trimbach riesling and who knows better than how to do this style at 13 per cent alcohol yet without oxidative tendencies. Trust in Trimbach to push this ferment to bone dry without finishing at austerity or astringency.
Megha Jandhyala – This captivating, perfumed riesling represents excellent value. It is dry, intense, rich, and balanced, ready to be enjoyed now or cellared for a few years.

Deux Roches Vieilles Vignes Pouilly-Fuissé 2020

Deux Roches Vieilles Vignes Pouilly-Fuissé 2020, Burgundy, France
$44.95, Barrique Wine Imports
John Szabo – Generous and fleshy but beautifully balanced, this is quality chardonnay, with remarkable density and depth, not to mention length. Drink or hold 2-5 years to really capture the best window.
David Lawrason– This is a ripe, exotic and complex chardonnay from an excellent producer in a fine limestone-based appellation. The texture is creamy yet tender and firm thanks to the underlying minerality. The nose is all about ripe yellow apple, a touch of butterscotch, cream corn and toasted lees. Very focused with excellent length.

Claude Branger Le Fils Des Gras Moutons Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre-Et-Maine 2021

Claude Branger Le Fils Des Gras Moutons Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre-Et-Maine 2021, Loire, France
$17.95, Connexion Oenophilia
John Szabo – Arch-classic muscadet, properly lean and tight, sharp, with appealingly crunchy acids, tailor-made for oysters.
Michael Godel– Fresh as it gets, a top-notch vintage gift of some actual fruit in a Muscadet fortified and striking in its collection of oyster shell, marine kelp, brine and salt. Almost feels like why drink anything else when you can have a satisfying white wine like this for just $18?

Red Wines

Ontario Reds

Stratus Red 2019

Stratus Red 2019, Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario
$49.20, Stratus Vineyards
John Szabo – Big volume on the nose here from Stratus’s flagship red blend; I love the texture, the silky-firm tannins, the sharp-tart acids, the long, lingering finish. A superb vintage, with scope to age. Best 2024-2034.
Megha Jandhyala– This is a complex, concentrated, alluringly floral, and silky red blend from Niagara-on-the-Lake. It still needs 2-4 years to mellow. I would buy a couple of bottles of this wine and enjoy it at different points in its evolution.

Cave Spring Estate Grown Cabernet Franc 2020

Cave Spring Estate Grown Cabernet Franc 2020, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$19.95, Cave Spring Cellars
Michael Godel – Plenty of work being put in with cabernet franc by the team at Cave Spring and methinks it is a favourite variety of winemaker Gabriel DeMarco. Here’s a crunchy and savoury Estate example. A varietal hymn to the Beamsville Bench is what it is.

French Reds

Château Hauchat 2019,

Château Hauchat 2019, Bordeaux, France
David Lawrason- What a great value at $17.95, a gem to consider as a short-term cellar piece. It is authentically Bordeaux with firm structure and a certain ferrous minerality I expect from Fronsac. The fruit is so nicely ripe, pure and generous.

Château Hauchat 2019

J.C. Perraud Givry 2018, Burgundy, France
$34.45, Tocade
David Lawrason – This firm pinot offers up a classic red fruit nose of cranberry, sour cherry with underlying violet, spicy and a slightly meaty notes. There is a rare roast beef meatiness on the palate, crisp acidity and warmth. The tannins are quite fine. It is tasty beyond its price.

François Villard L'appel Des Sereines Syrah 2019

François Villard L’Appel Des Sereines Syrah 2019, Rhône, France
$21.95, Woodman Wines & Spirits
John Szabo – This is a terrific little northern Rhône syrah from Villard, classically-styled but with more immediate fruit and drinkability than typical, more structured AOPs. Drink or hold 1-2 years.

Famille Perrin La Gille Gigondas 2020

Famille Perrin La Gille Gigondas 2020, Rhone Valley, France
$29.95, Charton Hobbs Inc.
Michael Godel – Perfectly mid-weight, balanced and in control Gigondas here from the Perrin family in a mini Beaucsatel way from a village not so far away. Returns to once upon a time good ole days style yet with a modern allure.
Megha Jandhyala – With notes of black cherries, berry compôte, resinous herbs, and toasted pepper, this is a rich, supple, and sumptuous red blend to enjoy on cold, grey days. It is drinking beautifully now.

Château De Nages Heritage Costières De Nîmes 2020

Château De Nages Heritage Costières De Nîmes 2020, Rhone France
$20.95, du Chasse Wines & Spirits
David Lawrason – This is an organically grown southern Rhone based 75% on grenache with syrah and mourvedre. It shows classic aromas of strawberry/cherry jam, turkish delight, red rose and pepper. Rounded and almost plush with a hint of sweetness and warmth. Some charm!

Italian & Spanish Reds

Isole E Olena Cepparello 2018

Isole E Olena Cepparello 2018, Toscana, Italy
$129.95, Halpern Enterprises
Michael Godel – In the words of Paolo de Marchi. “I like ’18 because I’m not looking for the biggest power in this wine. It’s also a matter of balance in the extraction and I expect this is a vintage that will age very well.” Big, beautiful, charitable, altruistic and in another six to eight years will morph into something glorious.
John Szabo – Here’s a splurge worth the money, one of the top wines made in Tuscany, which, in context, makes it pretty sharp value. Cepparello is the name of the dry creek that runs through the property of Isole e Olena, and this pure sangiovese from Paolo de Marchi is a marvellous wine. I love the finesse and the succulence, but make no mistake, this is built to age. In fact, I’d recommend another 3-4 years in the cellar before revisiting, or hold late into the ’30s without concern, as several 20 + year old bottles of this wine tasted over the years have shown.

San Felice Il Grigio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2017

San Felice Il Grigio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2017, Tuscany, Italy
$50.95, Charton & Hobbs Inc
David Lawrason – This is very impressive, amplified Chianti, but not over-oaked. This sports a vibrant nose of cran-currant-raspberry fruit laden with fresh herbs, resins and spice. It is medium-full bodied, intense, juicy and lively with great flavour intensity.
Megha Jandhyala – Here is a chance to try a maturing gran selezione at a reasonable price. I like the depth, complexity, elegance, and balance on display here. It is ready to be enjoyed now but can also be cellared for a few years.

Rocca Barolo 2016

Rocca Barolo 2016, Piedmont, Italy
$41.95, Barrique Wines & Spirits Imports 
John Szabo– Here’s a well-priced, stylish, classic Barolo from the excellent 2016 vintage, drinking well now, or hold 3-5 years.

Bertani Catullo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2018,

Bertani Catullo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2018, Veneto, Italy  
$24.95, Mark Anthony Group
David Lawrason – Many ripassos are overly ripe and sweet-edged. This feels like a proper, classic and confident Valpolicella with textural embellishment but no jam.  It is medium bodied, smooth and well balanced with drying tannins. The length is excellent.

Bodegas Rectoral De Amandi Matilda Nieves Mencia 2020

Bodegas Rectoral De Amandi Matilda Nieves Mencia 2020, Ribeira Sacra, Spain
$18.95, Heritage Cellars
John Szabo – Here’s a lovely, fresh, floral mencía in the varietal idiom. I love the freshness and finesse on offer – serve with a light chill over the near term to emphasize the lovely fruit.

New World Reds

Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2018

Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2018, Mendoza, Argentina
$49.95, Trialto Wines
John Szabo – This is a classy, composed, stately malbec from Catena’s estate vineyards (five vineyards in all), a case of the sum being greater than the parts. While quite delicious now, I’d suggest another 3-5 in the cellar to really let the class and pedigree of the wine show.
David Lawrason – This presents a glorious nose brimming with violet, mulberry, red plum, fennel, vanilla and tobacco. Great complexity. It is full bodied, dense yet elegant with fine acidity and tannin amid the wash of fruit. The length is excellent to outstanding.
Megha Jandhyala – Elegant, yet intense, this perfumed malbec has a beautifully silky texture and a riveting finish that captures and holds one’s attention. I really like the floral character of the nose and depth of fruit flavours on the palate.

Matias Riccitelli Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Matias Riccitelli Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Mendoza, Argentina
$29.95, Nicholas Pearce
John Szabo – Riccitelli is up to something good, as a string of wines from this disruptive winemaker recently tasted have shown. From the granite soils of Chacayes, this cabernet shows the house flair and flamboyance, with minimal sulfur interference, vibrant, fresh and lively; I like the energy on the palate.
David Lawrason – Riccitelli showed up last release with a great cab franc. This proves it is no one-off. It’s an impressive cabernet with a fetching currant/cassis, mint, violet and fine oak spicing. It is medium-full bodied, juicy, just a touch sweet yet fairly dense with considerable cabernet tannin. There is a lot of flavour here.
Michael Godel – There is great fruit compote sweetness but also high-ranking acidity so truth be told the estate strikes again with another winner. Midas touches turning to gold. Good structure and long finish seal the deal.

Pasha Shiraz 2018

Pasha Shiraz 2018, McLaren Vale, South Australia
$29.95, Intra Vino Inc 
Michael Godel – Glycern, bloody, tight, tart and somehow plush. Finishing spice is unique and exotic. Hard not to be more than curious about this specialized wine. A VINTAGES Wine of the Month so lots of it around.

And that is a wrap for this edition. We are back one more time in 2022 with a round up of the December 17 release. Historically VINTAGES has done only one release in December, but another 154 products are en route for last minute gift buying. I hear there is a lot of inventory to move.


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
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Selections
Megha’s Picks

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