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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Sept 3, 2016

Chile Expands its Reach and the Best of the New World
by Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and Michael Godel

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Chile is a land of varied extremes and has not been shy to showcase those regional differences in their export wines. It is the idea of value, Chile’s hallmark for decades, which has blocked us from appreciating their complete cachet. Premium quality wines from Chile thus suffer due to an export reputation largely focused on the under $15 price range that has gradually increased to under $20. Thankfully, more and more of those premium finds are trickling into international markets although this week’s VINTAGES Release is extremely shy in this regard. The upswing is that smartly marketed diversity within Chile has helped keep their wine reputation innovative and with a high potential to surprise.

One of the most important strategies of Chile, intentional or not, was to focus on various grape varieties expressive of diverse regions as opposed to one star. They have thus avoided the Argentinian malbec albatross; a one-hit-wonder misconception that continues to plague Chile’s neighbour. Although carménère has reluctantly become Chile’s signature grape, it has not overshadowed the bounty of assorted sidekicks that fit easily into leading roles such as cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. Even the underrated Pais, formerly used almost exclusively to produce bulk wine in Maule and Bio-Bio, has been given the chance to shine again. At no point in my visits to Chile did producers come close to a unanimous consensus on investing the majority of marketing on one key varietal. That decision has been instrumental in keeping Chile fresh and exciting.

Chile’s grape growing regions take up an immense portion of the latitudinal length of the globally accepted grape-growing viability zone. This “Goldilocks” band of latitude for wine production is situated between 30 and 50 degrees both in the northern and southern hemispheres. It is here that grape growing is possible as beyond these borders of extremes, climates are too harsh for the growth of vinifera. This fact, in itself, gives you an idea of how well situated Chile is for the growth of premium wine. Its regional span of quality wine production is among the greatest in the world.

However, what makes Chile extra special is its geographical diversity from east to west. Although a very narrow country, less than 180 km wide, the range of altitudes, penetrating valleys and coastal influences are responsible for a tremendous array of climates within the country. This is a wine grower’s paradise. Despite all of this wealth of land, Chile continues to push further into regions thought impossible to grow. Why? Because Chilean wine producers have an intrepid spirit and an enterprising nature that are crucial to perpetual evolution. As encounters with folk across the extremes of Chile’s geography shaped the revolutionary disposition of Che Guevera, so has the land inspired winegrowers to explore, express and reinvent.

Errazuriz Vineyards

Errazuriz Vineyards

An example of this limit pushing in Chile is the Elqui Valley, the country’s northernmost wine producing region. The Elqui Valley has quickly become Chile’s most talked about quality wine region and is certainly pushing the limits of viability on the extreme edge of the “Goldilocks zone”. High altitude, great diurnal shift, strong maritime influences and almost unparalleled sunlight intensity (similar only to that of the northern region of Salta across the Andes) makes this Chile’s hottest emerging quality wine region. Wineries such as Viña San Pedro have become solidly entrenched in this extreme region, a phenomenon only conceivable over the past decade. Due to the valley’s proximity to the Pacific, it thus benefits from cool, coastal breezes so that even cool climate grapes such as pinot noir and chardonnay can thrive here. Its clear skies and virtually no rainfall make this region perfectly suited to stellar observation and some of the most coveted telescopes are located here. Unfortunately, nothing from the Elqui seems to have made it to this week’s lineup but don’t stop looking as some will surely appear before the end of the year.

Even a desert as harsh as the Atacama is no limit for the adventurous Chilean wine industry. Beyond Elqui, which is already located at the edge of the grape viability growing zone, certain wineries are now pushing into the Atacama desert itself – one of the driest places on earth. The pioneering producer Viña Ventisquero has had success with their hand harvested Tara line, an extreme Atacama viticulture product. Despite the cost of production and challenges of high soil salinity and virtually no water, the project goes forth because the results are outstanding. Unfortunately, you’ll be hard pressed to get your hands on one of these costly, extreme and highly thirsted-for bottles.

Hand destemming at Casa Lapostolle

Hand destemming at Casa Lapostolle

You likely don’t realize that you, as a Canadian consumer, have a big impact on Chilean wine success. Canada is one of Chile’s top importers of wine and is the 5th largest wine importer in the world. Our purchasing decisions have a direct and measurable impact on Chile’s wine economy and future production strategies. It is time that we no longer shy away from spending a few dollars more on these dramatic and dynamic wines from a country whose track record is proven, a country inspiring the world’s best winemakers to produce a second annual harvest in the southern hemisphere.

There is a great deal to learn and more variety than ever before available. Chile is now the 5th largest exporter of wine and is virtually phylloxera free. This means that most of its vines are planted on their own rootstocks unlike the vast majority of classical wine regions – most definitely adding cachet. In this VINTAGES Release, Chile hits hard with classic grape varietals, solidly built and regionally expressive wines. Regardless of missing out on many hot, emerging regions, the selection is solid and evidence not only of the value which exists in Chile but of its quality and variety.

You’ll find below our top picks of this Chilean feature but also the best of the new world. John Szabo will be returning next week to take a closer look at the best from Burgundy and what inspired us from the old world.

Our Top Picks from the September 3rd VINTAGES release:

Buyers’ Guide to Chile

Errazuriz 2015 Aconcagua Costa Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Aconcagua Valley ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A cool and breezy coastal climate gives this sauvignon blanc brightness and the kick comes from its volcanic soils. A striking mineral profile, impressive depth and torrid vibrancy made this the most interesting sauvignon blanc I have tasted, globally, in quite some time. Especially if sauvignon blanc doesn’t float your boat, give this one a go.
Michael Godel – Errazuriz is arguably Chile’s most successful multi-varietal, multi-faceted winery but their accomplishments with several tiers of sauvignon blanc is just amazing. The Estate and Max Reserva Series available at $13 and $16 respectively are terrific and this single vineyard wine elevates the game, as it should, with more tropical fruit and even more acidity. The crisp and strikingly pungent hyperbole of Chilean sauvignon blanc is loyal to the house style with the ratcheted notes of coastal vineyards and schist soils.

Maycas Del Limarí 2014 Sumaq Reserva Chardonnay, Limarí Valley ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Great value here and interesting to compare to quite similar white Burgundies on this release. It’s fits in well. It’s a quiet, confident, subtle and well integrated chardonnay that hails from limestone-influenced soils in Pacific cooled appellation of Limari in Chile’s northern winegrowing zone.

Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015Maycas Del Limarì Sumaq Chardonnay 2014 Junta Momentos Reserve Syrah De Martino Legado Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Junta Momentos 2014 Reserve Syrah/Carménère, Curicó Valley ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This is a creative and effective blend of syrah (65%), carmenere (35%) and cabernet sauvignon (10%), and I like the resulting energy and complexity. Syrah pepper, meatiness and roasted coffee notes dominate the nose, with carmenere currants and tension kicking in on the palate.  Very good value.

De Martino 2013 Legado Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley ($18.95)
David Lawrason – De Martino is one of my favourite Chilean producers, finding complexity and cohesiveness and satisfying texture in an unforced way. It leans organic, or is at least grown sustainable and fermented on natural yeasts.  Complex, interesting cabernet, read to enjoy now.

Escudo Rojo 2013, Maipo Valley ($18.95)
Michael Godel – The amenability factor runs on high and wide in breadth from this very blackberry red out of Maipo. While there have been good vintages of this recognizable blend in the past, I can’t recall one with such balance and structure. You can serve this to anyone, anywhere, anytime. It will solicit nods of approval every time. I know because I’ve done so recently to a crowd. Nods all around.
Sara d’Amato – A blend of Maipo and Rapel Valley cabernet, syrah and carménère from the Baron Phillippe de Rothschild family of wines. A real stand-out in this release offering elegance, harmony and refinement. I would have guessed the cost to be significantly higher if tasted blind. More polished than powerful but offering excellent concentration of fruit and solid structural components.

Escudo Rojo 2013 Arboleda Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Andes Pirque Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Casa Silva Cool Coast Pinot Noir 2013

Arboleda 2013 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Las Vertientes Vineyard, Aconcagua Valley ($19.95)
Michael Godel – There is just so much to like about this Chilean cabernet sauvignon. It’s fresh and simultaneously savoury and it has that single-locale sense of place in its step. Wood is certainly in charge but freshness, dusty fruit, crisp bites and beneficial bitters keep everything humming along nicely. Big wine for the money.

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Andes Pirque Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Las Terrazas Block, Pirque Vineyard, Maipo Valley ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Sitting within the premium growing region of Maipo, Pirque is a cooler climate oasis in Chile’s central valley. Its elevation and situation are thus that temperature differences between day and night are often upwards of a 30 degrees Celsius difference! This incarnation from Concha Y Toro’s Terrunyo is typically firmly structured and ageworthy with enticing, spicy aromatics and impressive depth of flavour. Worthy of the premium price.

Casa Silva Cool Coast Pinot Noir 2013, Colchagua Valley, Colchagua Valley ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Many of Chile’s iconic wines come from the Colchagua Valley which offers both heat and sunshine along with cool coastal breezes as the name of this pinot noir suggests. Here is a complex pinot noir of terrific value.  Not too modern but also very clean and offering wide appeal. A great weeknight go-to red when something lighter and more fragrant is what you crave.

Oh, Canada and other New World

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer, Cave Spring Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Love at first sip, the evolving style of gewürztraminer from Cave Spring has really hit its stride in this 2013 incarnation. Its slow maturity has unveiled new complexities and the length is outstanding. Be sure to pick up a bottle for now and three more for the cellar. One of many in a lineup of strong Canadian showings in this week’s Vintages release.

Burrowing Owl 2014 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($34.95)
Michael Godel – The Owl’s chardonnay shows some yet seen elegance in 2014, cooler in temperament and slower on the swelter and the smoulder. I really like the balance struck and the length is better than many, including versions of itself. To me this 2014 Burrowing Owl is an exemplary poster child for cool-climate meets rich and creamy Okanagan chardonnay.

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer 2013 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2014 Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2013 Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Château Des Charmes St. David's Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir Droit 2014

Fielding Estate 2013 Cabernet Franc, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Fielding’s consistent take on Cabernet Franc might be labeled as boring in proportion to its lack of ego but it is getting better with each passing vintage. Winemaker Richie Roberts’ end game is temperance, modesty and goodness. Fielding’s Cabernet Franc is not one of Ontario fiction in requiem of drama, egotism, vanity and venality. It’s the real deal.

Inniskillin 2013 Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir, Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Still holding on strong due to finesse, concentration and structure, the 2013 Montague Pinot Noir received a noteworthy silver medal at the most recent National Wine Awards of Canada. A compelling, old world inspired pinot at the top end of Niagara’s premium pinot pyramid.

Château Des Charmes 2104 St. David’s Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir Droit, St. David’s Bench, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($17.95)
David Lawrason – The critics are getting excited about Ontario gamay. This was a gold medalists at the 2016 National Wine Awards and the Ontario Wine Awards. From a gamay clone developed at Chateau des Charmes, this is a quite substantial gamay, with impressive, creamy texture and intriguing red fruit and peppery complexity.

Auntsfield 2013 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, Southern Valleys, Marlbrough, New Zealand, $31.95
David Lawrason – Something good is happening at Aunstsfield in Marlborugh. This is their second wine this year I have rated above 90 points. What a lovely, pure and generous pinot!  It is certainly in NZ’s somewhat riper style but not at all blowsy or overdone.  Sara d’Amato – Auntsfield has proven its consistency and has now become a coveted find at Vintages among new world pinot lovers. Modern in style with impressive structural components and exciting verve on the finish. Keep an eye out for this sophisticated find.

Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 L'Avenir Pinotage 2014 Rodney Strong Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013

L’avenir 2014 Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a pinotage that has not succumbed to commercial ‘mocha-fication’. Which leaves you able to actually make an informed decision as to whether you actually like or don’t like South Africa’s signature variety. It’s a mid-weight, sour-edged but quite smooth example  good energy and length at the price.

Rodney Strong 2013 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, Sonoma County, California ($35.95)
Michael Godel – I have always considered Sonoma’s Knight’s Valley appellation to share equal or congruous footing with many parts of Napa Valley. Cabernet can ripen consistently and also develop complexity some other Sonoma valleys don’t always succeed at doing. This 2013 from a great vintage is rich and dark as per the Knight’s Valley give. Rodney Strong moves to accentuate and celebrate the darkest of the valley’s fruit qualities. Very complex Sonoma County cabernet with three times the value as compared to the three times more expensive Rockaway kin.

Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013, La Consulta and Vista Flores Vineyards, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A blend of two premium malbec growing sub-regions from one of Argentina’s most influential and innovative wine families. Zuccardi has invested significantly in pushing altitude boundaries in order to produce extreme and chillingly haunting reds. This thoughtfully crafted assemblage is both youthful and poised with a pulsating and full-flavoured palate.


Sara d’Amato

For Premium Members, use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release.

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All September 3rd Reviews

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Top Values at the LCBO (August 2016)

Your Guide to Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Since I last wrote to you, I have tasted close to 200 new wines, mostly new vintages of existing listings, but also about 50 brand new wines to the LCBO General List. So this makes for another exciting month for my Top 50 Best Values.

Among the seventeen wines in today’s report there are:

• Three wines that are brand new listings. Congrats to the smart buyers at the LCBO
• Two new vintages that scored 90 points
• Four wines for less than $10
• Two 89 point wines with big discounts (LTOs) this month, and
• Three 89 point wines with loads of bonus Air Miles (BAMs)

The current promotional period runs until September 11th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015, Central Valley, Chile ($9.10 was $11.10) – This is an excellent unpretentious pinot with a harmonious nose and a pure well structured palate which is mid-weight with the fruit well balanced by acidity and mild tannin. It is fresh, pure, fruity and very drinkable.

Luccarelli Primitivo 2015, Puglia, Italy ($9.45 was $10.95) – At $1.50 off this is a great buy for a well balanced red made from primitivo (aka zinfandel).  It is midweight with ripe fruit well balanced by acidity and soft tannin. The finish is lively with fruit persisting well; maybe a little tart for some so try with a tomato based meat sauces.

K W V Roodeberg 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($10.60 was $12.60) – This is medium bodied Cape classic has been in our stores for years and at $2 off it offers good value for a well balanced and fairly complex red. Try with juicy lamb cutlets.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015Luccarelli Primitivo 2015 K W V Roodeberg 2013 Spier Signature Merlot 2014

Spier Signature Merlot 2014 Western Cape, South Africa ($10.95 was $12.95) New to the LCBO – This seems to be an unoaked merlot. In fact it spent some time in old barrels which has made it very smooth on the palate with lively lemony red berry fruit and fine grippy tannin. It is midweight dry and well structured with very good length. Try a little chilled with bbq meats.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa ($11.15 was $13.15) – This delightful blend of shiraz and 5 other grapes comes from high mountain vineyards above Stellenbosch.  It is very smooth and quite dense with a degree of elegance. Try with pizza or burgers.

Les Jamelles Merlot 2014, Vin De Pays d’Oc, France ($11.95 was $13.95) – This is a lovely juicy fruity merlot with ripe but not overripe fruit well balanced by vibrant acidity and soft supportive tannins. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled or with mildly spicy gourmet sausages.

Las Mulas Reserva Merlot 2015 Central Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $12.95) New to the LCBO – This fresh bright fullbodied merlot is an excellent addition to the LCBO list.  The palate shows ripe berry fruit with lively acidity and nice grippy tannin. Very good length. Try with BBQ meats.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012 Les Jamelles Merlot 2014 Las Mulas Reserva Merlot 2015 Trapiche Reserve Merlot 2015

Trapiche Reserve Merlot 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($11.95) New to the LCBO – This is an elegant well priced merlot with a beautiful creamy rich smooth palate with lots of flavour and very good to excellent length.  It is midweight and nicely structured with a firm finish.  Try with a steak.

Trapiche Pure Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.95 was $15.95) – A pure malbec made without oak maturation, so there are no sweet mocha, dark chocolate and vanilla aromas and flavours overwhelming the fruit. Quite complex with good focus and lovely vibrant acidity. Try with a juicy duck breast.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2015, Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95) – The 2015 is just as good as the 2014. This is deeply coloured red blend that is medium to full bodied with firm tannin which gives a nice edge to the finish. Very good to excellent length. Try with grilled red meats.

Trapiche Pure Malbec 2015 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2015 Castillo de Monseran Reserva Garnacha 2011 Jacob's Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2014

Castillo De Monseran Reserva Garnacha 2011, Cariñena, Aragon, Spain ($14.10) – An old-world styled mature red with herbal tones to the fruit. Very classy and superb value. Very good length. Try with a steak.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2014, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($16.95) – For under $17 this is great value for a shiraz with structure and elegance. It is full bodied with the ripe fruit nicely supported by well integrated oak, juicy acidity and firm tannin. Try with a steak.


Mezzomondo Pinot Grigio Chardonnay 2014 Sicily, Italy ($8.95 was $9.95) – Great value for an easy drinking pure clean white with loads of flavour and a soft nutty fruity nose. Its crisp yet quite rich with good to very good length. Great by the glass as aperitif or with seafood starters.

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015, Western Cape, South Africa ($9.50 was $11.00) – A fresh and very flavourful dry white. It is rich with the ample fruit well balanced by racy acidity. Try with creamy pasta sauces, grilled chicken or sautéed seafood.

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2015, Coastal Region, South Africa ($13.10 was $15.10) – Just enough oak for added complexity and structure makes this a very classy, rich, smooth chardonnay with a lot of appeal to nose and palate. Try with rich poultry dishes or creamy veal.

Mezzomondo Pinot Grigio Chardonnay 2014 Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015 Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2015Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2015Alvear Medium Dry

Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand ($17.15 ) – This juicy fruity sauvignon has a complex very appealing nose with the fruit on the palate nicely balanced with fresh lemony acidity. It is creamy and rich with very good length.

Alvear Medium Dry, Montilla Morilles, Spain ($12.75 + 4 BAMs) – This wine is a beautiful golden brown with orange highlights. It is just off-dry with the sweetness very well counter-balanced by the acidity. Try with seared foie gras or sip it with mixed dried fruit and nuts. It is especially good with blue cheese when the sweetness nicely balances the bitterness from the blue parts.

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

Steve's Top Value WinesToday’s report pulls best buys from Steve’s Top 50 which is a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio of the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. 

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection. (You can access these lists under the Wine tab on WineAlign.)

• On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

• Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping.

I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.


Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Luis Felipe Edwards Reserva Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon

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If I could buy only one – Aug 20th, 2016 VINTAGES Release

As part of our VINTAGES recap for August 20th, we asked our critics:

If you could buy only one wine from this release – which one would it be and why?

Here’s what they had to say about the release. You can find their complete reviews, scores and store inventory by clicking the highlighted wine name or bottle image below.

John Szabo – Great value whites are always in demand, at the tail end of summer, and always. And Soave is fertile hunting ground, where quality has risen astonishingly since the turn of the millennium, with prices yet to follow suit. La Cappuccina 2014 Soave is a fine example of the value to be found, a gentle but fresh and nectarine-flavoured wine with appreciable character and evident depth and concentration, not to mention an extra dimension of stony-minerality on the long finish.

La Cappuccina Soave 2014

David Lawrason – I have known Norman Hardie’s pinots from the beginning, watched his evolution in the County over the years, and tasted every vintage multiple times. So call me a homer if you want, but there is an aromatic thrill in this pinot that I don’t get anywhere else. And I will never tire of it.  As in my review – gorgeous, impeccable pinot nose with vibrant cherry/strawberry, light spice, lazy woodsy smokiness and wet stone.  You can judge its weight or lack thereof as you will, but great wine captivates on the nose. And this is great value in the pinot firmament, even at its new $45 price.

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014

Michael Godel – The label on this four endemic varietal red blend from the Douro tells us it’s “unoaked.” This seemingly insignificant bit of marketing is simply brilliant. Such knowledge is power and usually reserved for whites, especially chardonnay. Why not tell us your red wine spent no time in barrel? This is nothing short of awesome for the consumer. And so we have pure fruit and a simple, unadulterated experience. Quinta Nova de Nossa 2011 Senhora do Carmo is a terrific summer red (especially with grilled chicken on the BBQ) when procured with a chill that will serve and protect your palate and your will. At five years of age it has held up beautifully, a testament to hands off and trustworthy winemaking.

Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo Colheita Tinto 2011

Articles covering the VINTAGES August 20th release:

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES

For Premium Members, use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release including John Szabo’s First-In-Line.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 20th Reviews

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Editors Note: You can access critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews and scores immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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South Africa: Best Value Wines in the World

…and Worth the Drive to Pickering
by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Earlier this year I spent virtually the entire month of March in South Africa, on dual assignments. The same happened in 2014. So after spending almost 60 days in this fascinating land, I am getting nicely familiar, more so than with almost any wine producing country beyond Canada, and perhaps New Zealand.

I have even fantasized about taking advantage of the weakness of the South African rand to spend several weeks there each winter – running a sort of WineAlign field office as it were. Some Canadians are doing just that. Once you have ponied up the airfare you can live very well for very little – in a wine paradise.

The Cape winelands are alive with innovation, diversity, regionalism/terroir – and huge value. I often tell anyone who is interested that South African wines are the best value wines in the world at this point in history. Which should be joyous news to all who care.

But the issue of price – SA’s low price – is also creating difficulties for South African wine in Canada, and elsewhere. We all like a bargain, but when the overall price of a country’s wines is too low, low-grade expectations follow. And this creates an inability to have more expensive and even higher quality wines taken seriously.

Very few South African wines on the LCBOs General List are priced over $13.95, and several are under $10. And the thirty-odd South African wines that come through VINTAGES each year seldom break $19.95. The LCBO buyers will tell you it’s because no one will buy more expensive South African wines. (But they aren’t offered either). So dog dizzily chases tail.

While in South Africa I suggested the entire wine industry should unilaterally increase prices by 10% or even more. Just to equalize with the price/quality ratio with the rest of the world. Eyebrows arched! They could take that 10% windfall and put it into programs that help the winery and vineyard workers better cope. Their wages are dismal – by Canadian standards – which is a major reason that the wines are cheap in the first place.

In this article I don’t want to rehash the climate, geography, sociology and history of South African wines. Several WineAlign critics have travelled there recently and done a great job of this – as well as writing about the youth movement in the wineries and the “Swartland Revolution”. So I link you to the thorough pieces by Treve Ring: Cape Wine Discoveries and Michael Godel’s: South Africa’s Capelands. I also published a too-long treatise on pinotage – South Africa’s heritage variety – last year.

Worth the Drive to Pickering

I do want to make you aware that a new LCBO South African destination store is opening at 1899 Brock Road in Pickering east of Toronto on September 16. It will feature all the LCBO general list wines, any VINTAGES wines in the system, plus wines only otherwise available directly from importers. More importantly, these will also be available at the new website and available for home delivery. So you don’t have to drive to Pickering, although for instant gratification it might well be worth it.

This newest “Products of the World” store is a foot in the door for higher priced Southern African wines.  And I just hope Ontario’s importers seize the opportunity. Indeed, they should be stampeding to do so.  The value that can be found in all price ranges from $10 to $50 is terrific. And believe me when I say that I tasted dozens upon dozens of 90-point plus wines in South Africa in March, wines that deserve to be on your table and in your cellar.

Barrels in Klein Constantia wine Cellar; Credit : Klein Constantia

Barrels in Klein Constantia wine Cellar

Here are many of the fine producers I encountered this year, most that you are not encountering- but we might hope to see some day: Leeuwenkuil, De Trafford/Sijnn, Constantia Glen, Klein Constantia, David and Nadia, Fram, Stranveld, Black Oyster Catcher, Crystallum, Thorne and Daughters, Chris Alheit, Creation, Newton Johnson, Reyneke, Tamboerskloof, Keinrood, Keermont, Glenelly, Drift Farm, Journey’s End, Raats, Paul Cluver, Radford Dale, Cederberg and Boekenhoutskloof.

Even some of the larger wineries that are represented here from time to time – KWV, Fairview, Glen Carlou, Mulderbosch, Bellingham, Ken Forrester, Jardin (Jordan) and Hamilton Russell – have much larger, more diverse and high qualities portfolio to which we are not exposed.

Should wines from this bunch ever show up in the LCBO South Africa destination store, or at, I will let you know.  Meanwhile, here is my hit list of a dozen great value South African wines available right now. Some are being promoted and discounted in Ontario until September 11. Yes, they are cheap, but the best are also great value. So why not capitalize?


Bellingham 2014 The Bernard Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region ($23.95)
Coming to the Pickering LCBO store, “The Bernard” is locally famous as being one of the finest chenin blancs of South Africa. Picked from old vines, fermented with natural yeast and barrel aged, it is indeed big (14%), but it carries itself well with confidence, even some elan. Expect lifted aromas of poached pear/peach fruit, lemon blossom, oak spice, cedar and honey.

The Wolftrap 2014 White, Western Cape ($13.95)
Blending Mediterranean varieties like viognier, grenache blanc and South Africa’s chenin blanc, this an exotic white with a generous nose of tropical green melon, pineapple fruit, a floral note (lily) and vaguely herbal complexity. It’s medium weight, fairly soft and warm but maintains a nice sense of freshness.  Marked down to $11.95 until Sept 11

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2015The Wolftrap White 2014Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015 Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc The Winemaster's Reserve 2015 Bellingham Homestead Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Boschendal 2015 The Pavillion Chenin Blanc ($11.00)
Yours for $9.50 until Sept 11th, this certainly offers piles of flavour for the money. There is trace sweetness start to finish despite its dry designation. Look for generous aromas and flavours of banana, elderflower, lemon and gentle nutmeg-like spice. It’s quite full bodied, soft yet has just enough acidity and alcohol to balance.

Nederburg 2015 Winemakers Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal Region ($12.95)
This is mid-weight, fresh and lively sauvignon with pleasant cool climate aromas of fresh dill, snow pea, diced green pepper and a touch of guava. It does have refreshing acidity but alcohol heat rises on the finish.

Bellingham 2015 Homestead Sauvignon Blanc, Tygerberg ($16.95)
Sauvignon Blanc is a strong suit in coastal regions. Coming to the Pickering store, this grassy, peppery sauvignon hails from small appellation near Cape Town. The nose is loaded with fresh dill, some green melon/guava and mustard flower. It’s medium weight, fleshy yet enlivened with just enough acidity.


Porcupine Ridge 2015 Syrah, Swartland ($14.95)
In the 2015 vintage this great value VINTAGES EssentialS becomes a Swartland DO wine, sourced from the warmer inland region that produces such great old vine syrah. This is terrific for $15 – a dark, smoky, very peppery, smoked meat syrah with background violets and dark spiced cherry jam fruit. Fine depth and class for the money.

Spier 2014 Signature Merlot, Western Cape ($12.95)
From an historic Stellenbosch winery just arriving in Ontario, this is very good value, especially while discounted to $10.95 until September 11. It’s a quite fine, complex merlot that crosses Euro and New World lines and delivers some elegance. There is certainly ripe fruit with baked plum, chocolate, leather and herbs on the nose.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2015 Spier Signature Merlot 2014Man Family Wines Bosstok Pinotage 2014

MAN Family 2013 Bosstock Pinotage, Coastal Region ($13.95)
This is a modern Stellenbosch winery making nicely pure, gentle and juicy wines. This very well priced pinotage catches the essential strawberry, earthy and slightly meaty character of South Africa’s heritage grape. Not highly structured but it offers good intensity and amiable drinkability. At Vintages while it lasts.

Kloof Street 2014 Red, Western Cape ($19.95)
From leading new wave winery called Mullineux, this syrah-led Rhonish blend is not showy but it is nicely balanced with well integrated but not very intense plum, earth, pepper aromas and flavours, with some licorice and vague Cape tar. I like the palate tension. At Vintages until stocks deplete.

The Wolftrap 2015 Syrah Mouvedre Viognier, Western Cape ($13.95)
One of the great values in modern South African winemaking, Wolftrap is a bargain brand from the Boekenhoutskloof winery that has specialized in and elevated Rhone wines in South Africa. This rings with great syrah authenticity for under $15 – steeped in smoky oak, cured meat, olive brine, dark cherry and almost soya sauce like notes.

Kloof Street Red 2014The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2015 Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 K W V Roodeberg 2014

Boschendal 2014 The Pavillon Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Cape ($12.05)
From one of the largest and best estates of the Cape, this is very good value in a shiraz cabernet blend that nicely positions both varieties. Not hugely aromatic but the shiraz pepper and subtle meatiness works nicely with cabernet’s currants, plus a well placed touch of oak spice.

KWV 2014 Roodeberg, Western Cape ($12.95)
The first vintage of Roodeberg – one of South Africa’s most well known reds – was made in 1969. Today it is a cabernet based (43%) blend of seven varieties, that spends 12 months in French and American oak. It is a fairly complex, quite meaty, spicy, peppery red. It is full bodied, a bit hard and hot with some cab greenness on the finish. But there is bang for the buck, especially at $10.60 until Sept 11.

Good luck and keep searching.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – August 20, 2016

The Next Big Thing, Again? Let’s Focus Instead on Real Big Things.
by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The main theme for the August 20th release is ‘the next big thing’. It’s a common vinous leitmotif that I’m sure must drive winemakers and winery owners wild. Countless articles are dedicated to reporting on the hottest, latest, trendiest things in the world of wine: new grapes, emerging regions, cutting edge or re-discovered ancient techniques, and anything else that might be deemed the next big thing. Journalists by nature, and necessity, are desperate for news, which consumers are eager to lap up to stay ‘in the know’. Many sommeliers have built careers and reputations by listing only new, fashionable, invariably obscure wines. I am guilty on several counts. But, for a change this week, let’s focus instead on genuine big things. Here’s why.

The trouble with chasing the next big thing in the world of wine is that making the stuff – and here I mean the kind of wine that causes pause for intellectual or artistic reflection – is a pursuit of incredible patience and unswerving dedication to an ideal, not a trend. The reality is that, cosmetic changes aside, the wine industry is as nimble as an aircraft carrier. It’s impossible to re-tool your operation overnight to produce the latest shiny object for people to chase. It takes at least 4-5 years to establish a vineyard, and another decade or so before its full potential begins to reveal itself. Establishing the sort of cultural framework that gives rise to a distinctive and identifiable regional style – the old world appellation model – takes much longer still, generations in fact of doing the same thing over and over. Overnight success, as they say, is a lifetime in the making.

Sure, you can graft new varieties onto the roots of existing vineyards and change your production from one year to the next. It’s frequently done. But that’s the game of corporate wine factories, chasing trends like a dog chases its tail, seeking quarterly profits, not meaningful cultural patrimony. Step one: plant the darling grape of the day, say, chardonnay. When consumer preferences shift to red, graft the vineyard over to cabernet. Then a movie comes out and everyone wants pinot noir. Then pinot grigio is all the rage. Or is it moscato, or fiano, or trousseau? Vineyard managers and nurserymen are ever grateful for the next big thing. They’ll never be out of work. But the results of flip-flopping your vineyard or planting what’s trendy, not necessarily suitable, are predictably poor – basic commercial wine at the lowest level.

On the contrary, memorable, distinctive wine is by definition the antithesis of trendy, born of a long, well-crafted story arc, not a loose reality TV script. It takes years to create, fine-tune, and perfect. And when you start, predicting trends at least 15 years into the future is both impossible and foolish, doomed to fail. You’re far better off focusing on what your patch of dirt will likely do best, and dedicating all efforts to maximize that potential, not guessing at what hipsters will be drinking in 2030. There’s always a market for quality, timeless fashion.

That’s why slavish devotion in the media and sales to celebrating the newest and shiniest, at the expense of the established and reliable, must really cause winemakers deep exasperation. It can jeopardize a decade’s, or several generations, worth of effort, as consumers are encouraged to forget the old and embrace the new, until something newer comes along.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t experiment, explore and discover. That’s what keeps us – writers and sommeliers, passionate wine drinkers and yes, even winemakers – permanently engaged, and keeps the industry evolving positively. But it shouldn’t be your exclusive MO. Save some liver function for those old-time, non-trendy classics. They deserve the lion’s share of the spotlight. So let’s forget the ‘next big thing’ this week, and focus instead on the wines that have earned the right to call themselves a genuinely big thing.

Our Top Picks from the August 20th VINTAGES release:

Big Thing Sparkling & Whites

The region of Champagne has been producing wine since Paris was a swampy village, even if champagne as we know it today, sparkling, is only about three centuries old. But hell, let’s call it established anyway. I was floored by the Guy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne, France ($61.95), an archetype in every way from a family-grower operation founded in 1892. From all grand cru-rated chardonnay vineyards in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, next door to Champagne Salon’s vineyards, it offers classic blanc de blancs finesse and precision, balanced on razor-sharp acids, and blends a just measure of white chocolate/blanched almond-brioche character from reserve wines and sur lie ageing, with zesty-bright green apple and citrus fruit showing no signs of tiring yet. It’s for fans of refined and sophisticated champagne with no small measure of depth and power in reserve.

Chablis has rightfully established itself as one of the most original places on earth to grow chardonnay. It was trendy perhaps half a century ago, now a genuine and lasting big thing. Why would anyone want to make anything other than classic Chablis in Chablis? Tinkering with it would be like trying to perfect the wheel. For example, try the Jean Collet & Fils 2014 Montée de Tonnerre Chablis 1er Cru, France ($37.95). It’s a lovely, balanced, convincingly concentrated Montée de Tonnerre with exceptional length, while flavours are absolutely textbook, all quivering stones, fresh cream and lively green apple and citrus – a superb value in the realm of fine white wine. It’ll be better in 2-3 years, or hold into the mid-’20s.

Guy Charlemagne Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne Jean Collet & Fils Montée De Tonnerre Chablis 1er Cru 2014 Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo 2014 La Cappuccina Soave 2014

At the risk of appearing trendy, I’m including Mastroberardino’s 2014 Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy ($19.95) in this list. But while greco may not be a household name, the grape has been planted in Campania for at least two thousand years, and Mastroberardino is the grand old company that brought it back to prominence starting in the early 20th century. The current generation, Don Piero Mastroberardino, is most decidedly not chasing trends. This latest release is sharp and phenolically rich, putting the variety’s almost extreme minerality on display. A lively streak of acids pins down the ensemble – a crackling backbone of energy, while fruit is very much a secondary feature. There’s plenty of wine here for the money, but it needs at least another 2-3 years to really start showing its best.

Once ultra-trendy Soave is thankfully past that awkward era in the ‘70s when practically anything wet and white would sell under the regional name. Now it’s so untrendy in fact that winemakers can (have to) again focus on quality, which has risen astonishingly since the turn of the millennium, with prices yet to follow suit. La Cappuccina 2014 Soave, Veneto, Italy ($15.95) is a fine example of the value to be found, a gentle but fresh and nectarine-flavoured wine with appreciable character and evident depth and concentration, not to mention an extra dimension of stony-minerality on the long finish.

Big Thing Reds

Montalcino came perilously close to collapsing under the sinister pressure of international trends last decade when the excessive use of new barriques and illegal grapes conspired to thicken, darken and denature the gorgeous perfume and delicacy of many of the region’s Brunelli in an effort to make everything taste like then-fashionable cabernet. Many wineries were accused, and some convicted, of blending grapes other than sangiovese in the ‘Brunellogate’ scandal, since Brunello must be 100% sangiovese by law. The region subsequently voted narrowly in favour of keeping the appellation pure, a clear victory for the anti-trend faction.

For a taste of what Brunello should be, cursed trends aside, try the Caparzo 2010 La Casa Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($73.95). This is Caparzo’s single vineyard expression from the premium north side of Montalcino in an excellent vintage, a wine of exceptional structure, depth and character. Don’t expect it to bowl you over with masses of fruit; it’s a toned and firm expression, lithe and sinewy, energetic and tightly wound the way we like it, still a couple of years away from prime drinking. Length is terrific and complexity will only continue to build from an excellent, savoury, umami-laden base in classic sangiovese style. Best 2018-2028.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has arguably done a better job than any other new world region in forging an identity within a single generation based on regional vocation, not pie-in-the-sky trend chasing (only Marlborough Sauvignon comes close). Pinot noir was among the first grapes planted in 1966 and today still accounts for the overwhelming majority of production. And remember, that pre-dates the big trend for pinot by over three decades – no one succumbed to the temptation to plant cabernet in the interim (which would never have ripened anyhow).

Caparzo La Casa Brunello di Montalcino 2010 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2013 Viña Olabarri Crianza 2011

Domaine Drouhin’s excellent 2013 Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills sub-AVA ($52.95) is a classic of the genre: light, fresh, balanced, firm but not hard, with a scratchy bit of minerality on the palate, generous tart red berry flavours and impressively long finish. It’s fitting, too, that Drouhin was the first major foreign investor in the valley in 1987, and from Burgundy no less. Was Véronique Drouhin chasing a lucrative trend? Hardly. Most Americans at the time didn’t know pinot from peanuts. She simply understood that the Dundee Hills would make an excellent place to grow pinot, now robustly proved.

Rioja, and indeed all of Spain, is living on the edge of a dangerously trendy abyss, emerging as the nation is from its 20th century isolated slumber. So many wineries/regions/wines are seeking a foothold in the 21st century, tempted by various fashionable styles. Viña Olabarri’s 2011 Rioja Crianza ($14.95), however, stands steadfast in traditional garb. It delivers the classic resinous/balsam/sandalwood flavours of abundant American oak, in use since the 16th century, (albeit in rustic form), with a nice dose of tart red and black berry fruit. Tannins are a little rough-and-tumble, but nothing that some grilled, salty, fatty protein couldn’t soften at the table. It’s a decent little value for fans of traditional style Rioja.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next unfashionable bottle.


John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES August 20th, 2016

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August Whites

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Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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It’s cucumber time and the living is silly

The Final Blend
by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi Portrait Colour_Cropped

Anthony Gismondi

While I’m recovering from the National Wine Awards and enjoying some of the sunshine, there are a few loose ends, or better yet, bin ends, running through my mind. It’s mid-summer in Canada and for a change this year we have the weather to prove it. In fact, the drought has been so intense in southern Ontario wine country, Vineland grower/winemaker Brian Schmidt made the ultimate sacrifice and removed the fruit from his four-year-old Legacy cabernet franc vineyard to prevent the young vines from expiring, trying to ripen fruit in a bone dry environment.

In the Okanagan Valley, another warm spring and an early bud break pointed to a record early harvest in the West but a change in weather and a fair bit of rain has cooled expectations literally and figuratively. That said, veraison is well underway, suggesting another year where the harvest window is going to peak earlier than normal.

In Vancouver, Burgundy winemaker Philippe Pacalet, who makes natural wines, was explaining to a youthful room of sommeliers how he used to harvest his pinot noir in mid-October. These past years he has been forced to pick his fruit at the height of the warm summer season in August. Those dates would have been something unimaginable to Burgundy producers only a quarter century ago.

It would seem the ancient clones and vineyard selections of Pacalet’s forefathers may have to change to survive and be productive in a warmer environment. Burgundy crop levels are falling due to warmer winters, and the vines that never really go dormant are subject to additional risks that a cold winter would eliminate. In what sounds like heresy, Pacalet may need new pinot noir clones better suited to the changing conditions. If Burgundy is to adapt to the new climate they will need local researchers to develop more clones suited to a warmer future.

Yet after all the talk of change, Pacalet warns that a traditional Burgundy vintage, “Is the way the wine is dressed; it’s not the point.” I love the way the Burgundians see the soul of wine although some days I’m not so sure they see the massive amount of energy and effort the competition is expending to catch up. No one can stand still, not even in the midst of summer holidays.

They say that summer is the silly season, and it would appear some of Canada’s provincial Premiers decided to pile-on regarding the free trade of wine across Canada by suggesting that they would make Canadian wine, from outside “their” provinces, available online, through some newly minted portal on their monopoly websites.

FreeMyGrapesI think we can say free trade in Canadian wine, or any wine for that matter, across Canada is officially dead. I’ve come to the conclusion that wine isn’t that important to Canadians or they wouldn’t put up with a suffocating monopoly system that appears to exist to extract gobs of money out of every bottle of wine. After stalling for four years, literally ignoring a federal ruling to allow Canadian wine be traded freely across the country, some provincial monopolies want to run Canadian wine from outside their fiefdoms through the monopoly gauntlet and generate another level of income. I’m guessing the “Free My Grapes” folks were not counting on another layer of taxes and handling when they lobbied for the free movement of Canadian wine. I’m sure David Lawrason will have much more on this topic and be keeping a close eye on proceedings in his monthly Canadian Wine Report.

Conversely, there does appear to be a light at the end of the monopoly tunnel with the announcement that the LCBO will start selling wine on-line and have it shipped to your local store, or right to you home using Canada Post. To re-jig a Home Hardware jingle, it’s government workers helping government workers.

Jingles aside, it’s a good idea for so many reasons and better late than never. Monopolies can access just about any wine in the world if they want to and with a little practice and work they should be able to satisfy the ten percent of the market that causes them 80 percent of all complaints. If you can order wine, especially wines not available at the LCBO and have them shipped to your home or a nearby store, that would end most of the issues wine lovers have with the monopoly. The same goes for restaurants. If there is a reasonable timeline here, it is going to be a home run.

Price will always be an issue, but often price is less important than availability and access at the higher end of the market. In any event, the over-sugared, junk blends that pass as wine and that currently dominate store shelves will still be sold in monopoly stores, so everybody wins. One of the advantages of being a government monopoly is you get to make the rules, so we do not foresee any regulatory problems relating to online sales that are currently faced by any other retailers.

As for Canadian wine sales, always a big issue with monopolies, there is no reason not to make every provincial wine available online. That should satisfy local producers by giving them access to the entire market as long as they can come up with a price that works for everyone. By the way, as a Canadian citizen and a lover of all wines, I would have no objection to being able to order any wine online in Ontario, Quebec or Alberta or anywhere in Canada for that matter and having it shipped to my home via Canada Post. But then that is probably just wishful thinking.

It may be just a coincidence, but the shift to online sales perfectly aligns with a recent Wine Intelligence report about Online Retail & Communication in the Chinese Market 2016, where the WI reports “49% of Chinese urban upper-middle class wine drinkers now shop for wine on the internet, making the country the world’s largest and fastest-growing e-commerce market for wine with approximately 21 million online wine buyers.”

GinTonicCucumberFinally, while Canadian monopolies continue to search for new sources of revenue they may get some help from a new industry they could never imagine may inject $100 billion into the worldwide liquor business. It’s been suggested that in the not too distant future the rise of driverless cars and car-sharing will make a large impact on liquor sales in restaurants, bars and clubs.

In a Business Insider report, Morgan Stanley was suggesting “Shared and autonomous vehicle technology [could] help address the mutual exclusivity of drinking and driving in a way that can significantly enhance the growth rate of the alcohol market and on-trade sales at restaurants. After calculating current global alcohol consumption and its monetary value, and compared with estimated figures under the impact of car-sharing and driverless cars the analysts found that the booze market could get an extra $98 billion.

We did say it’s the silly season, or as they say in many countries, cucumber time. I’ll take my cucumber in a cocktail on the patio please. Back to more serious, maybe even complicated, wine thoughts next edition.



Beringer Founders' Estate

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August 20, 2016

Hot August Whites from Germany and Beyond
by David Lawrason, with notes from Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

If there was ever a time and place to drink German riesling, with its crisp acidity, lithe body and blooming aromatics, it would be during steamy August evenings in Ontario. So a German wine feature in the August 20th release makes all kinds of sense.

However, it’s obvious from the petty selection of only five German wines that the LCBO figures we are not really into German wines (and perhaps more into Niagara, which is perhaps a good assumption). However, this German release should have been so much bigger and better. Only one is a must-buy. Another is pretty good for the money. The others are commercially driven and forgettable with frankly dumb, populist labels as the only reason they might be purchased.

Germany has tried for decades to colour its wine populist (Blue Nuns, Green Labels and Black Towers) but it is hopeless. No lowest-common-denominator wine from Germany can really capture what is so narrowly superb about great German wine.

So it’s time Germany stopped trying so hard to be mass market. It must pick its moments and bring Audi-like precision and confidence to its delivery. And the LCBO needs to recognize such wines when they are offered. This would be a good moment in history to strive for this. The devalued pricing of German wine currently favours those that can bring great value, like the very fine Schloss Schoenborn Qba Riesling recommended below.

To be balanced, there are some good German wines on the shelf from previous VINTAGES releases, if you want to use WineAlign’s Find Wine function. And the selection of German wines should improve a lot when the LCBO opens a “German destination store” in Waterloo this October. It will include all German wines on the General List and VINTAGES plus consignment offerings that will also show up at for home delivery.

Elsewhere on this release, I choose a variety of recommended wines focused on other aromatic, summery whites, plus some fine reds. John and Sara are deep into summer vacations, so Michael and I stand in.

Schloss Schönborn 2011 Riesling Qualitätswein, Rheingau, Germany ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Hailing from a venerable estate in the Rheingau this is great value –  a lovely, brisk, lively riesling with classic aromas of apricot, stone and a touch of honey and minty freshness. It’s light to medium bodied, with fine, mouth-watering acidity – but not at all austere. Stock up.
Michael Godel – Schloss Schönborn’s basic, entry-level, come and get it Qualitätswein is seemingly riesling from out of a designate void and no strings attached. It’s actually highly specified riesling but without label verbiage and from a most excellent vintage. There is a balanced, posit tug between acidity and sweetness, over the line and back again. The cumulative flavours recall long lasting pastilles, of gin, tonic and agave.

Thörle 2015 Feinherb Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Feinherb is a new term replacing the halbtrocken or “half dry” designation. The Germans love to tinker with their labels (and who can keep up?). This is a nicely generous, fairly soft but lively Rheinhessen riesling with lifted aromas of grapefruit, green apple and white flowers. It’s medium weight, with notable sweetness and a strong sour edge through the finish.

Schloss Schönborn Riesling 2011 Thörle Feinherb Riesling 2015 Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2014

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara 2014 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($18.20)
David Lawrason – This gold medalist at the 2016 National Wine Awards is wonderfully fresh, brisk and generous, with floral, honey, peachy aromas. It’s off-dry but brings scintillating acidity to the game. Towers above many German rieslings at this price.

Contini Pariglia 2014 Vermentino di Sardegna, Italy ($18.95)
Michael Godel – You might imagine riesling from calcareous soils or semillon off of dry, arid plains, but this vermentino is striking on its own accord and illuminates as a developing experiment. The next big thing perhaps for geeks and mineral freaks in search of a profound, axiomatic, aromatic experience?

La Cappuccina 2014 Soave, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This is an organically produced Soave. It’s a classic – not hugely expressive but classy with a subtle, detailed aromas of yellow plum, licorice and wildflowers. It’s mid-weight with only medium acidity but the balance is very good. Will grace an elegant patio seafood, poultry or pork meal that’s not all about grills and sauces.

Contini Pariglia Vermentino di Sardegna 2014 La Cappuccina Soave 2014 Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2014André Goichot Les Guignottes Montagny 2014

Cave Spring 2014 Chardonnay Musque, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($16.95)
David Lawrason – From a particular chardonnay clone with muscat florality, this is a unique wine that Cave Spring has mastered. It is solid and interesting year after year, involving some aromatic razzle dazzle with solid pear fruit, waxy, pepper and lime. It’s medium weight, firm and dry with some mid-palate generosity.

André Goichot 2014 Les Guignottes Montagny, Burgundy, France ($26.95)
Michael Godel – As in the case of Chablis, 2014 is a stellar vintage from the ever-increasingly excellent Côte Chalonnaise subregion from which chardonnay fervently shines. André Goichot’s fruit is rich, ripe and beautifully pressed, expressed and plays with the determination of the mineral obsessed. Simply wow Montagny.

Lighthall Progression Sparkling 2014

Guy Charlemagne Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut ChampagneGuy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne, Champagne, France ($61.95)
David Lawrason – This will slice and dice beautifully during a classy reception or light dinner on a tepid, hot August night. It is a nicely firm, balanced and elegant Champagne with very generous, complex toasty, dried fruit, hazelnut and vaguely earthy aromas. It’s all here. Really like the firm, stony mouth-watering feel.

Lighthall 2014 Progression Sparkling Wine, VQA Ontario ($20.00)
Michael Godel – Progression is 100 per cent sparkling vidal by Glenn Symons, a.k.a. “Ward 5 Brut,” made in the Charmat method, that is, by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Vidal has never played a tune like this before. Charmat or otherwise, grapes grown on Lighthall’s beautifully stark, wind-swept and electrifying property destined for sparkling wine does so with profound meaning. It’s simply meant to be.

Norman Hardie 2014 County Unfiltered Pinot Noir, VQA Prince Edward County ($45.20)
Michael Godel – A second taste four months later confirms the impossibility from Hardie in 2014, a vintage that just begs for Norm’s magic handling, from exemplary, slow-developed, quixotically sweet Pinot Noir fruit off of a vintage’s hyperbole of low-yielding vines. Humility only exceeded by impossibility.

Quinta Nova de Nossa 2011 Senhora do Carmo Colheita Tinto, Douro, Portugal ($19.95)
Michael Godel – The label tells us it’s “unoaked.” Brilliant. Such knowledge is power and usually an exclusive bit reserved for whites, especially chardonnay. Why not tell us your red wine spent no time in barrel? This is nothing short of awesome for the consumer. This Tinto is a terrific summer red when served with a chill that will serve and protect your palate and your will.

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014 Quinta Nova De Nossa Senhora Do Carmo Colheita Tinto 2011 Castello Collemassari Rigoleto Montecucco Rosso 2013 Celler De Capçanes Mas Donís Barrica Old Vines 2014

Castello Collemassari 2013 Rigoleto, Montecucco Rosso, Tuscany, Italy ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From a little known zone south of Montalcino in Tuscany, comes a lighter bodied, nicely energetic and juicy red that is organically grown. Expect quite generous, complex, redcurrant and cherries, herbs, leather and meaty notes and a touch of oak. Very generous, if not highly structured or age worthy, but it is balanced and delivers nicely for the price.

Celler de Capçanes 2014 Mas Donís Barrica Old Vines, Montsant, Spain ($17.95)
David Lawrason – A delicious if slightly rustic blend of old vine grenache and syrah from the region that encircles Priorat southwest of Barcelona. It has a lifted gamey, smoky/flinty nose with sour red fruit and oak vanillin. It’s medium-full bodied, open knit, sour edged and a touch volatile, but it works overall. Imagined savoury, grilled lamb kebobs as I tasted this.

Tune in next week when John returns from unknown vacation whereabouts to present his preview of this release. Sara is still drinking Tavel on riverbanks in the south of France.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine


Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

For Premium Members, use these quick links for easy access to all the top picks in our New Releases:

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 20th Reviews 

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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If I could buy only one – Aug 6th, 2016 VINTAGES Release

As part of our VINTAGES recap, we asked our critics this question:

If you could buy only one wine from this release – which one would it be and why?

Here’s what they had to say. You can find their complete reviews, scores and store inventory by clicking the highlighted wine name or bottle image below.

John Szabo – This is for all of you who believe that a wine’s first duty is to be red. For many reasons, some of which I don’t understand, white wine has developed a reputation of being lighter, simpler and more easy-drinking than red wine, a more “serious” expression of fermented grapes. Here’s a wine that belies that nonsense. Fiano has been prized since at least the first century (it was widely planted in Pompeii, for example), and this example from Romano Clelia, one of the finest vignerons in the region, is extraordinary. It’s from the small village of Lapio in Avellino where the grape is believed to originate and where the best and most ageworthy wines from volcanic ash-sprinkled soils are produced. It’s very ripe and smoky, dense and concentrated, lightly salty. I’d buy a few bottles to watch it evolve over the next decade; I suspect this will be at it’s finest sometime around 2020, with lots of pleasure on either side. In any case, it has every bit the depth and complexity of any fine, serious red wine. I’d even serve this with steak.

Colli Di Lapio Fiano Di Avellino 2014

David Lawrason – They say that wine is like music, with one sip able to transport you to a time and place. This very good cabernet franc did just that. It beamed me right back into the vineyards of Bourgueil in 1984, on a cloudy September day, when the ripe grapes were heavy on the wine. There was a heady earthy scent in the air. It was the first time I had set foot in a French vineyard. I tasted the ripe grapes. And this wine tastes exactly as I remember. It has a very lifted, woodsy/leafy nose with juicy blackcurrant, red peppers and evergreen notes. Very countryside fresh. It’s quite tart-edged and dry but that same juicy generosity floods onto the palate. The Vignoble des Robinières l’Alouette Bourgueil is charming and authentic, and under $20 I may buy more than one, just for memory’s sake.

Vignoble Des Robinières L'alouette Bourgueil 2014

Michael Godel – Whilst we find ourselves suspended in the throes of a scorching Ontario summer there can never be such a thing as too many thirst quenching white wines. Greece is the word and in terms of go to Greek whites moschofilero may play second violi to assyrtiko but Mantinia is a special place for the aromatic Peloponnese variety. This ripping example from Troupis should not be missed. At this price ($17) the value quotient is simply crazy good, bordering on ridiculous. Assyrtiko by the sea? Sure. Moschofilero by the lake or the pool? Bring it on.

Troupis Mantinia Moschofilero 2015


From VINTAGES August 6th, 2016

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

For Premium Members, use these quick links for easy access to all the top picks in our New Releases:

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 6th Reviews


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August 6, 2016

While We Summer Snooze Ontario’s Wine World is A-Changing
by David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

It’s August. The wine industry in the Northern Hemisphere goes into summer slumber, awaiting the harvest in September. (Maybe even before Labour Day in Niagara if this heat keeps up). But this is the most active, change-filled summer I can remember, especially right here in Ontario. And it’s all being generated by the LCBO, or at least within the LCBO as it pushes forward to expand selection and shopping convenience – en route to the arrival of wine in the first 70 supermarkets by the end of October.

I will get to our dozen picks from the August 6 release in just a moment, but first an update for those of you who might have missed current events while jumping off of docks or paddling in Algonquin Park.

For starters, the LCBO has soft launched a game-changing on-line ordering and direct delivery e-commerce site at You can now go on line and punch up an order ($50 minimum) to be delivered via Canada Post to your address ($12 fee), or to the LCBO store of your choosing (no fee). Delivery times vary depending on what you order and where you direct it to be shipped (within Ontario only).

There are 5,000 brands listed now, including most on-shelf general list and VINTAGES items, plus several hundred not in stores that can unfortunately only be purchased by the case (with much longer delivery times). Into 2017 the LCBO is promising, projecting and/or presuming 16,000 brands, which is more like the selection in any major private market in the world.

This will include an open selection of BC, Quebec and Ontario wines, thanks to an agreement signed by Ontario, BC and Quebec in Yellowknife in July, to allow shipping of each others wines between the provinces. Details are scarce, and those BC wines are not yet listed on the site.

I also draw your attention to the fact that the LCBO continues its vastly under-promoted program of creating ‘destination stores’ for wines of various countries. These locations carry all General List and VINTAGES listings from the ‘destination’ country, plus selections from the Consignment Warehouse, from which importing agents supply restaurants. These extra wines now also appear on

Last weekend the Australian store opened in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto (Laird and Eglinton East). To recap other openings: Greece on the Danforth, Spain at Bloor and Royal York, Portugal at Keele and St. Clair, New Zealand on Avenue Rd north of Lawrence, Argentina in Aurora and Chile on Erin Mills Parkway in Mississauga. And South Africa comes to Pickering in September.

This is a great idea – fostered by the LCBOs George Soleas before he became CEO – that moves us ever closer to a private model, where specialization is key. The lack of promotional enthusiasm from the LCBO and countries involved so far is mind-boggling. It’s like no one knows what to do with it, somehow paralyzed by lack of precedent.

Anyway, here are some picks from John, Michael and I from the August 6th release. John also picked some of his favourites in a preview last week.


Colli di Lapio 2014 Fiano di Avellino, Campania, Italy ($30.95)
John Szabo – Here’s an exceptional example of Fiano from the small village in Avellino – Lapio – where the grape is believed to originate, and in any case the origin of some of the appellation’s best and most age worthy wines, from volcanic ash-sprinkled soils. I’d rate Romano Clelia as one of the finest vignerons in the region, and this is clearly made with care and ambition, very ripe and smoky, dense and concentrated, with a fine amalgam of orchard and tropical fruit, lightly salty. Length and depth are exceptional. Drink, or better yet hold another 2-3 years to experience the full development of minerality.
Michael Godel – Pitch near-perfect seafood companion from Campania, briny, stony, rock crag-crunchy and oyster shell myopic. Fiano that gets to the crux of its own austerity is a beautiful thing as witnessed in the pure open vitality of this Colli di Lapio.

Thorn Clarke 2015 Eden Trail Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Represents arid riesling from Eden for all the right reasons and succeeds without compromise. Tremendous entry-level value offering a similar level of quality as do the single-vineyard and special selection courtesan kind from the Eden Valley.

Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino 2014 Thorn Clarke Eden Trail Riesling 2015 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Domaine Lafage Cadireta Blanc 2014

Wither Hills 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Consistently one of my favourite NZSB styles – this slender, crisp but intensely flavoured sauvignon does a nice job of balancing passion fruit ripeness with flecks of fresh dill, asparagus tip and green pepper. It has a leaner, more compact feel than many. Great summer quencher.

Domaine Lafage 2014 Cadireta Blanc, Côtes Catalanes, France ($16.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a tidy little value from this perennial good value operation in southern France. Predominantly chardonnay, it’s is a lovely, floral, sweet lemon-citrus scented white blend, remarkably fresh and refined, with no wood influence.

La Cadierenne Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé 2015 Château Gassier Le Pas Du Moine Rosé 2015Rosé

Château Gassier 2015 Le Pas Du Moine Rosé, Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, France ($21.95)
David Lawrason – One of the finest roses of the summer in my books.  It is a very pale silver-pink, dry Provencal style with a subtle, lovely nose of saffron, pink grapefruit, crab-apple jam and faded roses. It has more weight and viscosity than the colour suggests. Classy stuff.

La Cadierenne 2015 Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé, Provence, France ($20.95)
Michael Godel – Boozy (listed at 14 per cent) and beautifully balanced Bandol with terrific mouthfeel and elongation. Built on a slow developed variegation of flavour in a pink tonic that is perfect for your summer health.


Moraine 2014 Cliffhanger Red, Okanagan Valley. B.C. ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This silver medalist from the National Wine Awards of Canada is a malbec/merlot blend from a single vineyard on the Naramata Bench. I have tasted several Moraine wines this summer and like their energy. It has quite lifted floral, almost geranium like nose thanks to the malbec with lilac/violet, some oak spice, chocolate and herbs. Quite delicious and not heavy.

Mullineux Wines 2014 Kloof Street Red, South Africa ($19.95)
Michael Godel – A six varietal blend  led by shiraz, with bits of grenache, mourvedre, tinto barocca and cinsault. Chris and Andrea Mullineux are here represented at modern South Africa, Swartland Revolution, ground level with pure, unadulterated red wine joy. Everyone must spend $20 over and over to enjoy what this will offer.

Moraine Estate Winery Cliffhanger Red 2014 Kloof Street Red 2014 Vignoble Des Robinières l'Alouette Bourgueil 2014 Monte Del Frá Lena Di Mezzo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2013

Vignoble Des Robinières 2012 l’Alouette Bourgueil, Loire Valley ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This mid-weight cabernet franc has a very lifted, woodsy/leafy nose with juicy blackcurrant, red peppers and evergreen notes. Very countryside fresh and authentic. It’s quite tart-edged and dry but juicy generosity floods the palate.

Monte Del Frá 2013 Lena di Mezzo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore, Veneto, Italy ($20.95)
John Szabo
– Monte del Frà makes an exemplary version of ripasso, not exaggeratedly raisined, but rather focused on the vibrant fruit that Valpolicella does as well as any in Italy. This is bright, spicy, balanced and still very fresh, and silky smooth – a really pleasant, succulent wine.

Damilano 2011 Le Cinque Vigne, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($46.95)
David Lawrason – This a compelling, engaging Barolo combining elegance, charm (not often said of Barolo) and structure. It’s mid-weight, even and quite fine, with excellent length. It should live a decade with ease, and you don’t have to wait all that long to enjoy it. Start in 2018.

Damilano Lecinquevigne Barolo 2011 Ardal Reserva 2006 Torres Perpetual 2013

Bodegas Balbas 2006 Ardal Reserva,  Ribera del Duero, Spain ($21.95)
David Lawrason – This mature blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon shows a quite fragrant rich nose of black cherry nicely fitted with damp wood, coconut, vanillin, licorice and herbs. There is life and energy here, especially for its age and price. Ready to roll.

Torres 2013 Cos Perpetual, Priorat, Spain ($49.95)
John Szabo
– I think the (regular) Torres Salmos Priorat is exceptional, but this recent flagship bottling, made “in homage to the old ‘vinos de guarda’, wines capable of defeating time” is in another league. A blend of old vines cariñena and garnacha from both terraced vineyards on slate soils and more coastal-influenced sites, it’s exceptionally dense, rich and ripe in the regional idiom. Yet it retains a sense of balance and even elegance, if such a thing can be said of such a powerful wine, and 15%+ alcohol is worn surprisingly well, buoyed by genuine acids and firm, honest and grippy tannins. Hold for another 2-4 years at least for a more mature expression, or leave in the cellar until the late-twenties, as was the intention.

And on that uplifting note we leave you for another week. I will be authoring the first report on the August 23 release next Friday. Enjoy the dead of summer.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES August 6th, 2016

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

For Premium Members, use these quick links for easy access to all the top picks in our New Releases:

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 6th Reviews 

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – August 6, 2016

Value in the Southern Hemisphere
by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week I’ve highlighted some especially good southern hemisphere wines from the August 6th VINTAGES release. Australia is the main thematic, but I was so enthused by wines from New Zealand and especially South Africa that I had to include them in this report. The wines of the Cape are particularly attractive these days with the free fall of the South African Rand vis-à-vis international currencies, Canadian dollar included, over the last few years. The top bottles from the Cape’s winelands are ferociously competitive against their strong Euro and USD equivalents in particular. It’s a great time to explore.

Fans of Australian wine in Ontario are also rejoicing this week, thanks to the launch last Friday of the LCBO’s newest “Products of the World” specialty boutique featuring Australia. “The destination store at 65 Wicksteed Avenue in Leaside [Toronto] will offer around 200 Australian wines, which is believed to be the best single-store assortment available outside of Australia”, says LCBO media relations coordinator Christina Bujold.

About 40 of the listings are from LCBO’s Consignment Program, now available to customers by the single bottle, rather than full case lots, for the first time outside of bars and restaurants. Theoretically, customers should be able to order any of these selections for no-charge delivery to their local store, anywhere in Ontario.

And to get you in the mood, grab a glass and read the recent WineAlign three-part series covering the Australian wine scene’s history, evolution, and revolution.

Destination Australia: LCBO opens new “Products of the World” store

And finally, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m happy to report that the first release from a small vineyard project in Hungary I’ve been involved in since 2003 is hitting shelves on August 6th. J&J Eger is a joint venture with my parter János Stumpf, and the wine, the Eged-Hegy Vineyard Kékfrankos, reflects the old-vine spiciness of this central European variety, the hillside’s limestone, and the region’s cool climate, no more, no less. For obvious reasons, I have not written a full review, but I do hope you’ll check it out!

Next week the WineAlign crü will be back with all of the top picks from the August 6th release.

Buyers’ Guide: Southern Hemisphere Whites

I must doff my cap to the KWV, formally the Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Suid-Afrika in Afrikaans (or “Co-operative Winemakers’ Society of South Africa”) the former government-supported, nationwide cooperative that for years churned out forgettable plonk. Since evolving into a private corporate structure in 1997, quality has risen substantially, especially in the premium (but still inexpensive) range. For a sample, try the Cathedral Cellar 2010 Blanc De Blanc Brut, Méthode Cap Classique, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($16.95). You’d be hard pressed to find a better traditional method sparkling wine at the price, attractively open and fragrant, mixing lively citrus with fresh brioche on a mid-weight frame, framed by sharp acids.

I was prompted to double check the price on the Thelema Mountain Vineyards 2012 Sutherland Chardonnay, WO Elgin, South Africa ($15.95), convinced there was a pricing error. Sutherland is Stellenbosch-based Thelema Mountain Vineyards’ cool Elgin property in the southern Cape, and this chardonnay is stunning value. It’s crafted in the smoky, flinty/sulphide-driven style, that’s so very post-modern and popular in sommelier circles. There’s a lot going on here for the money, to say the least, and it easily competes with similar style wines at significantly higher prices.

Cathedral Cellar Blanc De Blanc Brut 2010Thelema Sutherland Chardonnay 2012 Hill Smith Estate Chardonnay 2014

For a fine example of the balance and finesse achievable in the cool Eden Valley of South Australia, try the Hill-Smith Estate 2014 Chardonnay ($19.95). It’s a very classy, nicely measured, silky-smooth textured chardonnay, with gentle wood toast and spice, and terrific length in the price category. Drink or hold short term.

Buyers’ Guide: Southern Hemisphere Reds

South Africa is also the origin of two excellent reds in this release, albeit in two radically different styles. Drinkers of bold and spicy wines will enjoy the Fairview 2014 Shiraz, WO Coastal Region, South Africa ($17.95), a dark and dense, plush, wood-inflected shiraz with juicy acids and appealing medicinal complexity. It’s an ideal smoky BBQ wine, best 2016-2020.

Fans of contemporary, lighter style reds should opt instead for the Kloof Street 2014 Red, WO Swartland, South Africa ($19.95), the second tier range from the talented duo of Chris and Andrea Mullineux. It too is a shiraz-led blend (86%, with splashes of grenache, carignan, mourvèdre, tinta barocca and cinsault), from the very hip Swartland region and its wealth of old, often abandoned vineyards, now being rediscovered. This beauty is dressed in an attractively smoky-savoury guise, very floral and pot pourri-scented, with a light volatile lift. The palate is well structured with lively, vibrant acids, very food friendly and balanced, with great complexity for the money. Best with a light chill, 2016-2020.

Fairview Shiraz 2014 Kloof Street Red 2014 Kilikanoon Killerman's Run Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2013 Momo Pinot Noir 2013

There were three Rhône-style blends from Australia in the release, a growing category, of which my preferred was the Kilikanoon 2013 Killerman’s Run Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro from the Clare Valley, South Australia ($19.95). It has the edge in balance and drinkability, offering vibrant, nicely pitched fresh dark fruit flavours and just the right amount of peppery spice, without sacrificing the generosity one hopes for in Australian reds. Best 2016-2019.

And representing New Zealand is a fine value pinot for fans of the classy, cool climate, old school style from biodynamic producer Seresin. The Momo 2013 Pinot Noir from Marlborough under the estate’s second label is a lovely, light, leafy, dusty, tart red berry-flavoured example, open and honest. I like the gently high-toned floral notes, the fine-grained, dusty-light tannins, and the pleasant, lingering finish. Best 2016-2020.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.


John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES August 6th, 2016

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

For Premium Members, use these quick links for easy access to all the top picks:

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 6th Reviews 

Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008