Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES December 3 Release

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

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

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

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

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


An Affordable Tour de France

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

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

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

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

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

Hardy Winter Malbecs from Argentina

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

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

So here are our critics picks for December 3.

White Wines

Trimbach Riesling 2019

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

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


David Lawrason

VP of Wine

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

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

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