Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES October 7 Release

Multiple Alignments and Sicily’s Latest and Best

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

The VINTAGES Oct. 7 release picks up again on the “Classic Wine Regions” theme, which is LCBO parlance for European wine regions. Predictable classics like Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne are represented, alongside several lesser-known regions such as the Kremstal in Austria and Achaia in the Peloponnese, and relative newcomer Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast, with winegrowing history barely half a century old. The criteria for what counts as a classic region is up for debate. Is it based on a lengthy history of wine production? High average price? Present day notoriety? Source of investment-grade wines? Status as a recognized model for less established regions to follow? It seems it could be any or all these things, or none of them.

To avoid possibly misclassifying a region as a classic or non-classic, the WineAlign Crü has ignored the theme altogether and assembled instead a list of the wines we simply liked best at the price. And regardless of whether you consider Sicily a classic wine region or not, you’ll want to read through my latest report and buyer’s guide on the island’s terrific and vastly improved wines. Thirty years ago, it seemed that Sicily was content to position itself as the “New World” of Italy and Europe, going head-to-head with Australia, California and Chile. But the buzz now is all around native grapes and unique flavour profiles, led by the meteoric (figurative) rise of the wines of Mt. Etna. I spent a week in Sicily in May this year for the event known as Sicilia en Primeur, with over 800 recently released wines on display from 69 participating wineries. And considering that more than 80 percent of these wineries export to Canada, many will be appearing on our shelves. The report features news from Sicily and a wealth of recommendations, with a focus on Mt. Etna.

Multiple Alignments and Solos

This week Chardonnay makes a strong showing in the buyer’s guide, inspired perhaps by the cooling weather that signals the return of warming wines, with fine examples from Ontario, California, New Zealand and Burgundy. The latter supplied us with one notable “quad” alignment, Chanzy’s 2019 Mercurey 1er Cru Le Bois Cassien ($41.95), variably described as “well-priced,” a “bargain,” and “great value” — sentiments rarely ascribed to any wines from Bourgogne these days. But savvy shoppers know that the Côte Châlonnaise, where the village of Mercurey is located, south of the much more famous Côte d’Or, remains a source of many of the best value pinot noirs and chardonnays in the region. Even the most basic premier cru from the Côte d’Or would run you double the cost without double the pleasure.

The Crü gives props to a local chardonnay with triple alignment on Le Clos Jordanne’s Jordan Village 2020 from the Niagara Peninsula ($29.95). It would also surely give the Mercurey a run for its money, and in fact, Sara suggests that, for an extra bit of fun, “blind taste this chardonnay alongside village level Burgundy such as Savigny-lès-Beaune and Santenay at your holiday table.” Though this Mercurey would fit the bill as well. Comparative blind tastings, by the way, are an excellent way to find new favorites and even new classics regions. It’s always fascinating to take price and notoriety off the table and work with nothing than the wine in your glass to discover beauty where you thought perhaps none existed.

Three recommendations also lined up on Domaine Pinson’s Mont De Milieu Chablis 1er Cru 2021 ($74.95), a wine that Michael, Megha and Sara all think is well worth the premium price. As Michael says, it’s “more than impressive and surely a Chablis to age well into the next decade.”

For red wines, notable triple alignment occurred on Réva’s 2022 Dolcetto d’Alba from Piedmont ($23.95), praised for its “uncluttered flavour profile” and “sheer beauty and pleasure.” Dolcetto is generally considered Piedmont’s third-string grape after nebbiolo and barbera, though from Réva’s organically/regeneratively farmed vineyards and minimal handling in the winery it takes on another level of deliciousness. It’s not a wine to age but rather chill lightly and enjoy this year or next.

Certainly more ageworthy is Catena’s 2020 Historic Rows Malbec from Mendoza ($49.95), a wine that Megha describes as a “clear and radiant an example of high-altitude, premium Argentine malbec as any.” Founded in 1902, Catena Zapata has built an enviable reputation worldwide over the past century, including being voted World’s Best Vineyard in 2023 by a panel of more than 500 travel and wine writers. Admittedly I find the wine quite seductive right now, though the stuffing that comes from these selected rows of old vines will ensure a decade or more of life in the cellar.

Elsewhere, the Crü has highlighted a wide range of wines from all over, many solo recommendations, highlighting the individuality of what might be considered a classic. We wish you happy explorations and discoveries.

Buyer’s Guide October 7: White

Ruppertsberger Pfalz Trocken Riesling 2021

Ruppertsberger Pfalz Trocken Riesling 2021, Pfalz, Germany      
$15.25, Carto Enterprise           
David Lawrason – This is a great buy at $15, offering complexity and range beyond its price. It has a cushy balance and generosity unusual for a German ‘trocken’ or dry wine. The nose shows ripe peach, saffron, honeysuckle and spice. It is fleshy, with firm acidity and some minerality.

Les Vignerons Du Castelas Le Monarque Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2022

Les Vignerons Du Castelas Le Monarque Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2022, Rhône, France
$17.95, Connexion Oenophilia
David Lawrason – This is an understated white with that lazy, smooth ambiance typical of southern Rhone. So it is low impact but captures its blend of 60% viognier, 20% grenache and 20% roussanne very well, and with very good complexity and depth for an $18 wine.  Expect exotic apricot, starfruit, honeysuckle with traces of licorice and pepper.
Megha Jandhyala -For those who are looking for a ripe, fleshy, gently warming white wine as cooler weather approaches, this is an inexpensive and appealing option from the Rhône. It is intensely floral, with notes of stone and tropical fruit, and a hint of spice. As a bonus, it is organically grown.

Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Chardonnay 2020

Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Chardonnay 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$29.95, Arterra Wines Canada
Michael Godel – No rush to make use of the many bottles of this lovely Jordan Village chardonnay you should have long ago purchased. Cracker acids and as much fleshy citrus plus melon fruit as might be wished for in “Villages” level Niagara chardonnay.
Megha Jandhyala – This is a flavourful and well-made Niagara chardonnay, slightly rich and rounded, with balanced, succulent acids. The use of oak here is especially measured and skillful – vanilla and spice are supported by notes of orchard, stone, and subtle tropical fruit flavours.
Sara d’Amato – The 2020 entry tier (“Village”) delivers a considerable degree of textural intrigue for the price. Polished and delicately nutty with a refined degree of oak spice that allows the fruit to filter through its veil with ease. For an extra bit of fun, blind taste this chardonnay alongside Village level Burgundy such as Savigny-lès-Beaune and Santenay at your holiday table.

Giesen Uncharted Chardonnay 2020

Giesen Uncharted Chardonnay 2020, Marlborough, New Zealand
$30.95, Charton Hobbs Inc.
John Szabo – Stylish, post-modern, very well-made chardonnay with plenty of flinty-reductive, citrus-inflected character, ready to enjoy or hold a half-dozen years. New Zealand is a terrific source for sharp value, cool climate chardonnay.

Cambria Katherine's Vineyard Chardonnay 2021

Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2021, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County California
$39.95, Halpern Enterprises
John Szabo – A wine of genuine concentration and depth, and impressive complexity, from the Santa Maria Valley, with integrated oak and fine flavour density overall. Drink or hold 2-4 years – this kind of wine is about the fruit and freshness in my view.

Chanzy Le Bois Cassien Monopole Mercurey 1er Cru 2019

Chanzy Le Bois Cassien Monopole Mercurey 1er Cru 2019, Burgundy, France
$41.95, Tastevin Selections
John Szabo – Great value White Burgundy? It’s an ever-more rare commodity. Chanzy’s Mercurey lieu-dit Le Bois Cassien, a limestone-rich parcel in the Côte Châlonnaise south of the Côte d’Or shows marvellously integrated oak, succulent, zesty acids, and very fine depth and length.
Michael Godel – Super fine and also delicious chardonnay, fruity, stony and impeccably balanced between all its constituent parts. Big love and admiration for this Premier Cru beauty that could only seduce all who are poured a glass.
David Lawrason – The Chalonnaise village of Mercurey remains a bargain region for white and red Burgundy. What an elegant, refined and delicious chardonnay with maturing complexity! It is medium weight, creamy yet delicate with a fine seam of acidity and minerality.
Megha Jandhyala -Here is a finely balanced and elegant yet thoroughly approachable and enjoyable white Burgundy from Mercurey that is also relatively well-priced. It is a gentle but captivating harmony of flavours, delicately nutty, fruity, and stony, with a creamy, rounded but firm palate, and a memorable finish.

Domaine Pinson Frères Mont De Milieu Chablis 1er Cru 2021

Domaine Pinson Frères Mont De Milieu Chablis 1er Cru 2021, Ac Bourgogne, France
$74.95, Connexion Oenophilia
Michael Godel – All the components of this Right Bank terroir and a great to promising vintage are captured with steely and stony goodness. More than impressive and surely a Chablis to age well into the next decade.
Megha Jandhyala – The elegance, focus, and consummate balance of this premier cru Chablis make it well worth the price. I was struck by its taut and firm yet lithe structure, the complexity and integration of its flavours, and its especially long and layered finish.
Sara d’Amato – From one of the oldest families in Chablis, the Pinsons are also one of the first to estate bottle and sell to the public in the region. This premium priced-Chablis from the prestigious 1er Cru of Mont de Milieu made from 60+ year old south-facing vines is a worthy splurge that needs no accompaniment. Frenzied acids are emboldened by wet stone and tempered by a small percentage of new barrel aging. Expressive and engaging.

Buyer’s Guide October 7: Red & Fortified

Domaine de Fabrègues L’Orée 2019

Domaine de Fabrègues L’Orée 2019, Languedoc, France
$15.95, Heritage Cellars
Sara d’Amato – An uncomplicated, juicy red for weeknight sipping from the sizable IGP of Pays d’Oc. The L’Orée cuvée is typically a blend of mourvèdre, cinsault and carignan that results in a convivial, balanced and accessible wine. Oak-free with moderate alcohol and peppery finish.

Volcanes de Chile Reserva Carmenère 2021

Volcanes de Chile Reserva Carmenère 2021, Rapel Valley, Chile
$16.95, Woodman Wines and Spirits
Sara d’Amato – A classic carmenère with plenty of savory dried herbs and fennel complimented by sweet pomegranate, juniper and red cherry fruit. The addition of 15% cabernet contributes intensity but does not take away from the varietal character nor a sense of place. Well-priced and ready to drink.

Collina Serragrilli Serraia Barbera D'Alba 2020

Collina Serragrilli Serraia Barbera d’Alba DOC 2020, Piedmont, Italy
$22.95, PV W&S
Michael Godel – A barbera vineyard set shared with nebbiolo and this more than represents Alba with great varietal distinction. Phenomenal value with a sense of place if not necessarily a barbera to age more than a few years.

Réva Dolcetto D'alba 2022

Réva Dolcetto D’Alba 2022, Piedmont, Italy
$25.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
John Szabo – Sheer pleasure and beauty at the price, Réva’s 2022 Dolcetto is all about purity of fruit, juicy acids, lightly dusty tannins, and high drinkability. Balance is spot on and it delivers all you could want and more at the price.
David Lawrason – Here is a very pretty, classic Dolcetto to take for a spin if you are unfamiliar with the dolcetto grape. It is deceptively deep in colour but quite light bodied and fresh. The nose is notably floral – red rose – with grapy, blackberry fruit and subtle spice. It is medium bodied, quite juicy and fresh.
Megha Jandhyala -This rendition of dolcetto, by well-known, Piemonte-based producer, Réva, is a very good introduction to the variety. I love its authenticity and freshness and its clean, uncluttered flavour profile, marked by supple fruit and delicate florals.

Château Bouscassé Madiran 2017

Château Bouscassé Madiran 2017, Southwest, France
$23.95, Mark Anthony Group
Megha Jandhyala – Here is a chance to discover (or revisit) the tannat-based red blend, Madiran. Not only is this a well-made example from respected producer, Alain Brumont, but the 2017 vintage is surprisingly approachable and especially fresh. Earthy, herbal, and peppery, it has a delicious core of plump, juicy red and dark fruit.

Rocca Di Castagnoli Poggio A'frati Riserva Chianti Classico 2017

Rocca Di Castagnoli Poggio A’frati Riserva Chianti Classico 2017, Tuscany, Italy
$32.95, The Independent Wine Company
Megha Jandhyala – A savoury, earthy, and delicately spicy chianti classico riserva, the Poggio A’frati is evolving gracefully and just beginning to enter its peak drinking window. At this price, I would buy a bottle or two of this complex, flavourful, and integrated wine to enjoy over the second half of this decade.

Hidalgo La Gitana Vermut

Hidalgo La Gitana Vermut, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain
$33.95, Noble Estates Wines and Spirits
Sara d’Amato – Rather than a high proof spirit, I like to pull out a complex sipping Vermouth (neat or on the rocks sometimes with a twist of orange) as a digestive after dinner and here’s one with which I plan to stock up for the holidays. Hildalgo may be better known for its sherries so it’s not surprising that this vermouth is produced using a Solera maturation technique before it is infused with its proprietary blend of botanicals and spices. A memorable fortified wine that features the brightness and bitterness of an Italian amaro with the depth of flavour of an old cask matured Oloroso.

Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2021

Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2021, Southern Valleys, Marlborough, New Zealand
$33.95, Wine & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – A particularly succulent and sapid pinot from the Southern Valleys, source of Marlborough’s best examples of the grape. I love the zesty acids, fruit concentrations, and long finish. Be sure to give this a carafe if serving now, or cellar for another year or two to open up the aromatics.
Sara d’Amato – Poised but powerful, this Southern Valleys-grown pinot noir rides the line between modern and traditional. Clean and youthful with oodles of primary fruit flavour and very delicate spice. Substantial enough for Beef Wellington but should work equally well alongside turkey roasted with chestnut stuffing.

Francois-Xavier Lambert Prestige Des Dentelles Gigondas 2020

Francois-Xavier Lambert Prestige Des Dentelles Gigondas 2020, Rhône, France   
$36.95, DB Wine & Spirits Inc.  
David Lawrason – This is a very fine and detailed expression of Gigondas. A bit reserved but very focused with aromas of strawberry/cherry jam, violets, rosemary and spice – all well integrated. It is medium-full bodied, smooth and warm (14.5%) with a fine acidity.Michael Godel – Profound stuff, vibrant and expressive, sonorous yet moderate (relatively speaking) of alcohol and so very little heat in a stiff and robust example.

Catena Zapata Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2020

Catena Zapata Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2020, Mendoza, Argentina
$49.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – Selected from a few choice rows in Catena’s prime vineyards across Mendoza, the Historic Rows malbec is a complex and sophisticated wine off the top, which is to say refined and compelling, balanced and elegant. Quality terroir, quality winemaking, maximum pleasure. Drink or hold 4-6 years.
Megha Jandhyala – This is as clear and radiant an example of high-altitude, premium Argentine malbec as any. Sourced from historic rows within the Catena family’s Estate vineyards, it is intense and compelling yet possessed of a beguiling sense of poise and finesse. I love its velvety texture, rich harmony of flavours, and impressive length.
Sara d’Amato – It’s starting to feel a lot like fall and this sophisticated, old vine malbec is a chest-warming delight that will help you brave the cooler nights. Lively acids contrast the fleshy texture that is just shy of opulent. A wine for those of you who have decided to “drink less but drink better” this year.

Remelluri Reserva 2015

Remelluri Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain 
$52.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – Telmo Rodriguez’s 2015 Remelluri Rioja offers a seriously complex tableaux of flavours, from plum and Christmas cake to dried fruit and nuts, old wet wood, dried flowers and pot pourri, toasted wheat bread and buckwheat honey, chocolate-covered cherries, and more in a varied and compelling range. It’s broad and plush on palate, offering a wash of the same flavours, with integrated tannins and lowish acids, making for a lush, soft, generous texture. Ready to drink, but comfortable in the cellar another decade no doubt.

Famille Lançon Domaine De La Solitude Châteauneuf-Du-Pape 2021

Famille Lançon Domaine De La Solitude Châteauneuf-Du-Pape 2021, Rhône, France
$54.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – Forget what the press says about 2021. This is a terrific vintage for La Solitude’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape, remarkably even-keeled, balanced and refined. I love the sapidity and succulence, the ripe but still fresh and poised fruit, the marked herbal-Mediterranean wild scrub character, the supple tannins coated in glycerol but not excessive alcohol (14.5% declared). It’s really quite delicious now, though cellarable to 2030 or so.

Tenuta Rocca Comune Di Serralunga D'Alba Barolo 2018

Tenuta Rocca Comune Di Serralunga D’Alba Barolo 2018, Piedmont, Italy          
$56.95, Barrique Wine Imports (Profile)
David Lawrason – This is a quite fine, traditional Barolo. The nose is reserved but detailed and complex with fine kirsch, strawberry jam, cinnamon, fresh herbs, leather and woodsy notes. It is medium weight, warm and tightly knit with still firm tannin. The length is excellent to outstanding.

Château Teynac 2016

Château Teynac 2016, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France
$69.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – Nicely composed, maturing, supple and elegant Saint Julien, very much in the classic appellation spectrum, with a balanced mix of grit and fruit, earth and spice, firmness and refinement, a comfortably premium wine. Tannins have started to relax, even if it’s not yet at prime enjoyment; cellar another 2-3 years or hold until the mid-’30s.
Michael Godel – Neighbours are Ducru-Beaucaillou and Beychevelle to the proximate east. This has mid-range and mid-priced excellence written all over it’s range of complexities for a wine that should drink dutifully for another five years in this state and five more in secondary character after that.

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
Micheal’s Mix
Sara’s Selections
Megha’s Picks

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