Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – Jan 6th, 2018

Solid scores for honest whites, reds and sangiovese snowflakes
By Michael Godel, with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

Michael Godel

Michael Godel

The winter holiday break is behind us so, among other things, it means the time is now to get down to the business of searching for new bottles of honest wine. Wines that satisfy at some necessary level, inter alia, to avoid oaky embarrassment and hopefully fulfill basic sipping and food pairing needs. What we seek are bottles of quality and value from the first VINTAGES release of 2018, of those that avoid being lost in aught or cast into a dull, scattered void.

Two years ago Dr. Michael Apstein penned an article for Decanter titled “Is dry January beneficial?” It’s a terrific scientific read from the Boston-based gastroenterologist/wine writer on how the body absorbs alcohol. Apstein basically tells us that drinking wine with food at a moderate pace is not a terrible thing. In point of fact he says there’s no science to support the practice of “giving your liver a rest, nor does it make sense physiologically. The liver can metabolize a small and steady amount of alcohol without difficulty.” I travelled with Dr. Apstein in Piemonte last July and in Tuscany back in February. We’re all different and his message is quite straightforward. Wine consumed on a regular basis, in moderation and with food is your friend. Know your own body.

That said, tell me you’re not looking for a January cure. A cure for what ails, a respite from depressing news, a way to get through winter’s second and third trimesters. I know some of you are sad at losing loved ones, perhaps some of your favourite rocks stars or wholly annoyed with those who are. Many are stupefied, depressed and angry at the news, inane tweets and the lack of response by governments on so many issues that matter. Regardless of which camp you’re in, look me in the eye and tell me a good, honest, proper and satisfying bottle of wine won’t help.

The simplicity of honest wine is a beautiful thing. A vine grows and produces grapes. That fruit is picked and ferments itself with help from yeast it just happens to carry in its luggage. Time passes and wine is made. No one had to invent it. The most basic example of shit happens. With a little help from a farmer and a winemaker wine can become something very special. Choosing which examples will pass your test is less than automatic and takes many years of trial and error, but eventually the equation reaches a tipping point. This is where putting your trust in palates you align with raises the probability factor for success.

Drinking great wine in January is a contiguous must for any self-respecting wine lover but after the bank-rolling of the holiday season who can afford Champagne, classified Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Barolo, Brunello or Chianti Classico Gran Selezione? Fear not for alternative whites and reds are coming your way. John, Sara and I have unearthed some tidy values for chenin blanc, godello, fiano, vidal and riesling. We’ve also tasted, assessed and dropped solid scores for grenache and tannat blends, malbec, sangiovese, pinot noir and carignan.

The alberese of Bindi Sergardi

The alberese of Bindi Sergardi

Speaking of sangiovese, John and I spent a solid week this past September tasting through a great number of sangiovese in the esteemed region of Chianti Classico. I have reviewed many of those wines and if you’d like to gain an idea of where the region’s wines are at I encourage you to read some of those reviews. Some examples are from Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2015, Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2015, Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014, Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 2014, Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2015, Fattoria Di Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rància 2013, Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2014, Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2015, Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva Ser Lapo 2014, Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico 2015, Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Il Palei 2013 and Volpaia Chianti Classico 2015.

We’ll be heading back to Tuscany in a month’s time to taste as many sangiovese as is humanly possible over the course of a week’s foray into all things Anteprime 2018. This will include the wine regions of Chianti, Montecucco, Morellino di Scanzano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico. The uninitiated will wonder and ask how this is accomplished. How do you taste so many wines of the same ilk and differentiate from one to the next? The answer is really quite simple and straightforward. The sangiovese of these regions and especially Chianti Classico are like children. They are all different. They are snowflakes.

Three of these snowflakes are available on the January 6th release. Two are from Chianti Classico and one beauty is from Morellino di Scanzano. We’ve also got white recommendations for the Western Cape in South Africa, Bierzo in Spain, Italy’s Campania and the Niagara Peninsula right here in Ontario. The southern Rhône Valley, Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc-Roussillon and Southwest France are noted, as are reds from Mendoza, Argentina and Marlborough in New Zealand.

Don’t forget, January also means it’s time once again for Niagara Icewine Festival. This year the festivities will take place between January 12 and 28. Please click here for more information. Your Discovery Pass is your key to three weekends of wine and culinary adventures at wineries across Niagara. Or, gain full access with the Everything Icewine Experience.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES January 6th:

White wines

Tussock Jumper 2017 Chenin Blanc, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($12.95)

John Szabo – Tough to go wrong with this solid generic chenin blanc from SA. If you’re seeking a simple, fruity, mid-weight, unoaked white wine without artificial or extrusive flavours, this is as good as any in the price range. Pineapple-white peach-green apple fruit dominates.…

There are nine more VINTAGES Release recommendations this week that are currently only available to our premium members. This complete article will be visible to all members 30 days after publication. We invite you to subscribe today to unlock our top picks and other Premium benefits.

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Here’s to wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2018 and of course, one filled with great wine.

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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.

Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview


Pérez Cruz Pircas De Liguai Cabernet Sauvignon 2013