Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES December 17 Release

John Szabo’s Vintage’s Review December 17: France Beats Argentina (in the vineyard, not on the pitch!); Limited time Aeroplan Points Grab

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

Welcome to our last report of the year, featuring a rare second Vintages release in December from the 17th of December. In the past there has always been only one December release. Football fans will still be reeling from what has widely been described as the greatest World Cup final of all time this past Sunday, with a fairytale finish that saw Lionel Messi of Argentina lift the only trophy that had eluded him in his extraordinary career after a thrilling, wildly oscillating 120+ minutes that ended in a 3–3 draw, and which would finally be decided, agonizingly, in penalties. Not even the awe-inspiring heroics of Kylian Mbappe, the French star whose hattrick, the first in a world cup final since 1966, could derail Leo’s destiny.

Dejected French supporters may find solace in the uncontested victory of French over Argentinian wines in this release, with special recognition going to a pair of exceptional red Bordeaux, a fine Sauternes we should be drinking more of, a biodynamic Grand Cru pinot gris from Alsace that will set doubters of minerality straight, and a classic Premier Cru Chablis with plenty of support from the WineAlign Crü. But if you’re still riding high on Argentina, we have a high-altitude malbec from Gualtallary in the Uco Valley to prolong your party.

Italy, a nation that, embarrassingly, didn’t even qualify for the 2022 World Cup, is at least represented here with, among others, a terrific white from the smoking slopes of Mount Etna and a premium Prosecco that will change your mind about the possible heights of which the region is capable. Morocco’s improbable and remarkable fourth-place finish, the highest ever for an African team, has no matching wine in this release, though Croatia’s exceedingly respectable third-place finish can be adequately fêted with a splendid, if idiosyncratic, barrel-aged white from the homegrown native pošip, a star variety to rival Luca Modric’s footballing skill, also at the same stage of career evolution: drink now.


Fans of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose early exit from the tournament with Portugal, surely his last, failed kick at the World Cup, may have finally settled the ongoing G.O.A.T. arguments in Messi’s favour, can find comfort in a massively complex 20-year-old tawny port, with sufficient sweetness to counterbalance the bitterness of defeat. And why not celebrate the excellent values that Portugal supplies the world, arguably not currently reflected in the cost of Ronaldo, rather here a $12.95 red from the Dão that had David, Sara and Michael as eager to get their hands on as a vintage CR7 autograph.

And on that note, it’s worth pointing out that the LCBO is running a special Aeroplan bonus points promotion, recently extended until December 24: buy any 12 Vintages release products and earn 1,000 bonus points. So, you could buy a case of that Dão for $155.40 and pad your Aeroplan account for a winter getaway.

And lastly on Portugal, in the latest episode of the Wine Thieves podcast, Sara and I set out to explore the wealth of indigenous grape varieties and stunning old vineyards found there. Exactly how this sliver of the Iberian Peninsula has been able to safeguard traditions, vineyards and distinctive regional character is what we find out. Our guests are three of the country’s most important producers: Martim Guedes of Aveleda, Luís Almada of Casa Santos Lima, and Pedro da Fonseca of Vicente Leite Faria in the Douro Valley, whose wines are all widely exported around the world. Listen to the Episode.

If you’re still searching for celebratory bubbles, check out our annual Fizz Guide, which features plenty of superb, locally-made sparkling wines that can be ordered directly from the winery.

And from the entire Crü at WineAlign, we wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year filled with good cheer and good grapes. See you all in 2023.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide December 17:  White & Sparkling

Nino Franco Grave Di Stecca Brut Prosecco 2016

Nino Franco Grave Di Stecca Brut Prosecco 2016, Veneto, Italy
$48.95 Carpe Vinum International
Megha Jandhyala – This is a singular Prosecco, vintage-dated, over half a decade old, and sourced from a single vineyard, Grave di Stecca, on the south facing slope of the Mount Cesen in Valdobbiadene. Neither fruity nor simple, this intriguing, mineral, smoky, mature sparkling wine will bely your expectations. There is a whisper of sweetness here that is well-incorporated into the overall flavour profile.

13th Street Premier Cuvée Sparkling 2015

13th Street Premier Cuvée Sparkling 2015, Traditional Method, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$39.95, The Thirteenth Street Wine Corp.
Megha Jandhyala– Here is an opportunity to try a maturing traditional method sparkling wine at a relatively reasonable price. The 2015 13th Street Premier Cuvée is elegant and complex, displaying both vibrancy and nuances of age.

Muré Clos Saint Landelin Vorbourg Pinot Gris 2018

Muré Clos Saint Landelin Vorbourg Pinot Gris 2018, Alsace Grand Cru, France
$49.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc
John Szabo – This lovely wine from Muré is a reminder of just how good pinot gris can be. From the Clos Saint Landelin monopole, a south-facing terraced vineyard on limestone, it delivers scorching underlying minerality framing ripe orchard fruit on a full-bodied, powerful palate. Demeter-certified biodynamic.   Drink now-2032 – this has the stuffing to go far in time.
Michael Godel– A viscous and oily vintage for this off-dry biodynamic example and yet so sturdy in structure it will live on and on. A wine to foil a fatty steak of duck, duck, goose with a sear on the outside but rare juices still running within.

Domaine Yvon & Laurent Vocoret Fourchaume Chablis 1er Cru 2020

Domaine Yvon & Laurent Vocoret Fourchaume Chablis 1er Cru 2020, Burgundy, France
$41.95, Dbino Inc
Sara d’Amato – An exciting incarnation of this nervy, old vine Fourchaume, set upon the clay soils of the right bank of the Serein. Its inherent acidity cuts through the buttery richness on the palate that was amplified by sunshine in this earlier ripening vintage. Features great intensity but also poise and some toasty lees that give the impression of gentle oak aging.
David Lawrason – This has texture, depth and elegance rivalling Chablis Grand Crus. So rich, layered and elegant with terrific focus. It is medium weight, glossy yet so well poised with fine acidity and minerality. Outstanding length. This will age ten years, but why wait. A five-star value to boot.
Michael Godel – Broadest, wide-shouldered Chablis both old-school and über proper of Premier Cru ability and status. What you expect in chardonnay from this place. Advancing but the next three to five years will bring pleasure upon repeat.
Megha Jandhyala – Mineral, with a maritime air and accents of crunchy orchard and ripe citrus fruit, this is a nuanced and concentrated Chablis from a top 1er Cru site. I like the seamless, sleek palate and abiding finish.

Tornatore Etna Bianco 2021

Tornatore Etna Bianco 2021, Sicily, Italyo
$24.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc
Sara d’Amato – Bright salty and vibrant, this tasty volcanic-grown carricante is a notable value in this release.  Buy up as this find is not likely to last long on the shelves.
John Szabo – A pure carricante from the north side of Etna, Tornatore’s 2021 Bianco is a ripe and smoky, salty and briny, green olive flavoured wine, unique and complex to be sure – it’s rare to find such singular wines with so much character for under $25. Though I can’t call it a wine of mass appeal, more of a adventurer’s selection. Drink or hold 4-6 years.
Michael Godel – Hard to unearth better basaltic value than Tornatore’s Etna Bianco which serves as the great carricante pre-cursor to the white Etna oeuvre. Open the dictionary, look for Etna Bianco and Tornatore will be there.
Megha Jandhyala – Made with grapes grown at an elevation of 650m in the volcanic soils of the northern slope of Mount Etna, this is a riveting, well-priced Etna Bianco. Mineral, smoky, savoury, and subtly waxy, with stone and tropical fruit flavours, it is concentrated and layered, with taut acidity and impressive length.

Rizman Nonno Oaked Posip 2019

Rizman Nonno Oaked Posip 2019, Dalmatia, Croatia
$59.95, Croatia Unpacked
John Szabo – Deep straw-gold coloured posip here from Komarna on the Dalmatian Coast opposite the Peljesac Peninsula, aged in oak, which is notable from the intense, toasty, honeyed, oatmeal, died apricot and peach flavours, dense and concentrated. The palate is broad and richly concentrated, with exceptional length and complexity, showing lots of lees influence, a yeasty-toasty, autolysis profile more common in traditional method sparkling. Well worth a look for fans of dense, complex, satisfying winter-style whites. Not for casual sipping!

Matawhero Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Matawhero Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Gisborne, New Zealand
$21.95, The Case for Wine
David Lawrason – This is a dry-farmed, single vineyard sauvignon from Gisborne, a warm region on the North Island not well known for this variety. It is a clinic in NZ sauvignon. Great intensity, purity and complexity – a tropical citrus salad.

Hartford Court Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2020

Hartford Court Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2020, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California
$44.95, Icon Fine Wine and Spirits
Megha Jandhyala –Made with fruit sourced from vineyards across the Russian River Valley, this chardonnay has an ambience of warmth, opulence, and richness, making it an apt choice for cold weather. I like the silky palate, supported by firm acids, and the enduring finish.

Bord Elegance Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages Blanc 2021

Bord Elegance Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages Blanc 2021, Rhône, France
$19.95, Mark Anthony Group
Sara d’Amato- An expressive example of the white wine from the southern Rhône village of Laudun, that should see a considerable bump up in price when it becomes a Cru, as expected, next year. Brotte’s cooler outpost of Bord in Laudun is perfectly suited to varieties such as clairette, grenache blanc and vignior, all typically featured in this blend. Expect notes of ripe pear, grapefruit, jasmine and mineral in this surprisingly tight vintage.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide December 17: Red

Château Yon-Figeac 2016

Château Yon-Figeac 2016, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Bordeaux, France
$56.95, Hektars Agence Inc.
John Szabo – Here’s a wine worth the splurge, one which could even be considered a top-notch value in the premium red wine universe, from the great 2016 vintage that aligned ripeness with freshness. Yon-Figeac lies just northwest of the town of Saint Emilion in a privileged part of the appellation where many of the best wines are born. While drinking nicely now, it can hold late into the decade or into the ’30s.

Michele Castellani I Castei Costamaran Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2018

Michele Castellani I Castei Costamaran Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2018, Veneto, Italy 
$19.95, Ian J Campbell & Assoc.
John Szabo – Classic, maturing, old school, savoury Valpolicella Ripasso here, even-keeled, authentically-styled, highly drinkable all in all, ready to enjoy.

Waterbrook Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Waterbrook Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Columbia Valley, Washington 
$24.95, Glazer’s Of Canada
John Szabo – There’s loads of wine here for the money, one which will appeal widely with its plush texture and full-body. It represents the deep, wind-blown and flood-deposited soils of the Walla Walla Valley accurately with its soft, silky tannins and creamy acids. Drink or hold short term – the fun is all up front in the boisterous dark fruit.

Château Montlandrie 2016

Château Montlandrie 2016, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, France
$49.95, Hektars Agence Inc.
David Lawrason – This is an impressive, deeply coloured, dense and luxurious merlot from a favourite appellation upstream from Saint Emilion. The nose is gentle but profound, with very ripe blackberry, licorice, violet and dried herbs. It is full bodied and creamy with fine grained tannin.
Sara d’Amato – From Denis Durantou who is best known for his involvement with Chateau L’Eglise Clinet in Pomerol, this nearby product of the clay-limestone soils of Castillon is an assemblage that leans heavily on high quality merlot with an important dose of fragrant cabernet franc. Notably typical of the more revealing nature of right bank blend with complexity above the mean. You could hold, but no need as this blend is drinking exceptionally well right now.

Morgado De Silgueiros 2019

Morgado De Silgueiros 2019, Dão, Portugal
$12.95, Vinya
Sara d’Amato – I’m stumped at the price of this fragrant and generous Dão blend. Delicate but also fulsome in the capacity of fruit. Stylishly reductive with regional typicity and no heavy-handed winemaking.
David Lawrason– This young Dao offers amazing value at $13. It is a brash, nervy youngster with brisk acids, youthful grapiness and brisk green tannin, but the fruit core is solid with foresty bits that I love from this region.
Michael Godel – The most inexpensive bottle of red wine honesty you will find between now and the end of 2022. For gatherings of one or more to as many as you need to satisfy with a quality red that could not possibly cost any less.

Laberinto Cenizas Mezcla Tinta 2018

Laberinto Cenizas Mezcla Tinta 2018, Maule Valley, Chile  
$24.95, Rogers & Company
John Szabo- From Rafael Tirado’s volcanic vineyards in Colbún in the Andean foothills of the Maule Valley, this is polished and supple, well-balanced and stylish wine. I like the soft, silky tannins, the bright natural acids, the abundant, fresh dark fruit flavours, the overall composure and refinement, and especially drinkability. Drinking well now or hold another 2-4 years.
David Lawrason– From high altitude volcanic soils on, this is an intriguing blend of merlot, cab franc and a touch of syrah. It has a very complex, well integrated nose of raspberry/mulberry with evergreen/herbals notes, the latter especially on the finish. It has energy yet poise, drinking very nicely at the moment.
Megha Jandhyala – This merlot-based blend is made with fruit from vines planted in volcanic soils in a labyrinthine pattern on cool, south-facing sites. It is mineral, savoury, and dark-fruited, with impressive concentration and complexity for the price.

Schild Estate Ben Schild Reserve Shiraz 2019

Schild Estate Ben Schild Reserve Shiraz 2019, Barossa Valley, Australia
$39.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc
Sara d’Amato- Inviting and invigorating, this toasty shiraz is sourced from Ben Schild’s high and exposed Angus Brae Vineyard in the Barossa. Youthful, salty and brambly, this complex find avoids the trapping of thick-and-sweet due to careful harvesting that has preserved freshness and savoury notes in the glass. Evolving gracefully.
David Lawrason– This is from a single vineyard planted in 1952.  What an intriguing nose with detailed pepper, Barossa mossy garrigue, smoked meat, pepper and blueberry pie fruit. It is full bodied, dense, solid and drying, with excellent concentration. Will age well.
Megha Jandhyala – This is a special, single-vineyard shiraz, dense and rich, yet firm and fresh, embodying both concentration and grace. I really like its multifaceted, captivating flavour profile with nuances of meat, rich dark fruit, spice, and garrigue. Enjoy it now on a cold winter’s eve or cellar it until the close of the decade.

Cadus Gualtallary Malbec 2018

Cadus Gualtallary Malbec 2018, Gualtallary, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
$20.95, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits
John Szabo – A polished, maturing, intensely flavoured wine in the category, delivering impressive complexity and structure for $20. I like the supple, black cherry-blackberry-cassis flavours, the thick but velvety tannins and balanced acids. I’d suggest a light chill (17º-18ºC), and Drinking between now and 2024 or so – it’s pretty much at peak.
Michael Godel – High if dark-toned fruit and really crisp acidity for a uniquely stylish wine. Plenty of chic swagger and ambition for the win, much like La Selección Albicelestes and their World Cup victory.
Sara d’Amato – Sourced from the northern portion of the Uco Valley, high up within the borders of Tupungato, this is a distinctly poised and floral expression of malbec grown at high elevations. Tasted blind, I would be way off on the price of this elegant, black-fruited wine that features a lofty tannins and vibrant acidity.

Emiliana Salvaje Syrah/Roussanne 2021

Emiliana Salvaje Syrah/Roussanne 2021, Casablanca Valley, Chile
$19.95, Origin Wine & Spirits
David Lawrason – This is organically grown, non-sulfited syrah is blended with a small portion of white roussanne. It features big bloom with all kinds of syrah driven stewed black cherry, olive brine, smoked meat, licorice and pepper. It is medium-full bodied, drenched in fruit and flavour with a thick yet still juicy and buoyant structure.

San Claudio II Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2018,

San Claudio II Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2018, Tuscany, Italy
$22.95, Vinoluna 
Sara d’AmatoA tribute to fine winemaking, the extended maceration of this largely sangiovese-based cuvée has yielded a rich and vibrant result. The wine has softened remarkably since tasted last year and is ready to enjoy. An authentic expression of place with crowd-pleasing charm.

Château Peymouton 2018

Château Peymouton 2018, A.P. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France
$33.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Michael Godel – Like 1998 this is very much a Right Bank vintage and Peymouton is basically Saint-Émilion for a pittance in a rugged and grippy merlot-based Bordeaux with some swagger for sure.

Hermanos Hernáiz Finca Emperatriz Gran Vino Tinto 2017

Hermanos Hernáiz Finca Emperatriz Gran Vino Tinto 2017, Doca Rioja, Spain
$58.95, 30 50 Imports
Michael Godel – This single vineyard 2017 marks the first from which the label adheres to Rioja’s recently minted “Viñedo Singulares” designation. I’d say this 2017 will take even longer to resolve and integrate than the generous 2016 and in fact opening these ‘17s should likely be considered as many as five years away.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide December 17: Sweet & Fortified

Calem 20-Year-Old Tawny Port

Calem 20-Year-Old Tawny Port, Portugal
$58.95, Woodman Wines & Spirits
John Szabo – Tis the season for sumptuous, rich, sweet but balanced wines, and this fits the bill nicely. It’s a complex, fully evolved 20-year-old Tawny, with peanut brittle, dried fruit and all manner of nuts and savoury salted caramel flavours, and massive complexity overall.
Megha Jandhyala – Warm, rich, and flavourful, with alluring notes of dried fruit, leather, caramel, nuts, and spice, this is a wonderful addition to your bar during the holidays. Serve it in lieu of dessert or pair it with a wide variety of after-dinner treats, including chocolate cake, cheesecake, crème brûlée, and aged cheese.

L'or De Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes 2015

L’or De Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes 2015, Bordeaux, France
$27.95, Hektars Agence Inc.
John Szabo – This is a style of wine we don’t seem to drink much of these days, but every time I taste examples of this quality/price, I wonder why. Lafaurie-Peyraguey’s vineyard lies on Sauternes’ high gravel terrace, 70 m above sea level, next to Château d’Yquem, classified 1er Grand Cru Classée. L’Or is the third wine of the estate, hence the lower botrytis influence on the flavour profile (and reasonable price), more of a concentrated fruit essence, The palate is balanced, sweet, of course (118 grams of sugar per liter), but not cloying, indeed with refreshing, saline acids and a long through-put of flavours, lingering impressively. Best now-2030.

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Selections
Megha’s Picks

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