January values — eleven reds from Italy, France, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina

"... mostly value-driven wines: four from Tuscany, and wines from Madiran, Juliénas, Marlborough, South Australia and Mendoza ..."

available from January 6, 2018 in Ontario

Every January, Vintages seems to focus on less expensive wines, perhaps as an antidote to the big pre-holiday spend in November and December. While “value” isn’t synonymous with lower prices, I have identified twenty wines, presented in two review articles, where I think the value proposition is very positive: drinkable and sometimes quite interesting wines at very reasonable prices. In this first set of reviews of eleven red wines, I would attribute the label “good value” to ten of them — and of the ten value wines, nine also happen to be priced at less than $20.00 in Ontario. The tenth weighs in at $22.95, still providing good value in my books, while the eleventh, a Brunello priced at $61.95, is certainly well into the luxury wine price spectrum, but is probably priced in line with expectations.

The wine list includes six old world wines — four from Tuscany, and wines from Madiran and Juliénas — and five new world wines — a Marlborough Pinot, three wines from South Australia, and a Malbec from Mendoza.

The four from Tuscany include the 2012 La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino, two 2013 Chianti Classicos from Castello di Bossi and Villa Trasqua, and a 2015 Morellino di Scansano from Fattoria le Pupille. The two French wines are the 2014 Aydie l’Origine from Madiran, and a 2015 Juliénas from Albert Bichot.

Five new world wines include the 2015 Momo Pinot Noir from Marlborough, the 2015 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon from Clare Valley, the 2014 D’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz from McLaren Vale, the 2013 Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run GSM blend from Clare Valley, and a youthful Malbec from the Uco Valley, Zuccardi’s 2016 Serie A.



Vintages #642561 • $61.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
This is a compelling Brunello. A core of red cherry and blackberry fruit on the nose is edged by notes of dried flowers, savoury black olives, damp earth and resin. Tannins are very fine and ripe, the fruit is centred and still fresh on the palate, driven by the bright acids that push aside the savoury elements just a little, before they gather again on the finish. This is a joy to drink now, but certainly can age for another eight to ten years in the cellar.
Tasted Jan 2, 2018 • VIN VINO WINE MERCHANTS INC. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #994608 • $22.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This is an interesting Chianti Classico, with a nicely savoury black olive and earthy edge that complements the expected cherry and berry fruit. Tannins are fine and lightly gritty, acids are firm, and the wood influence shows as a light resinous tone. The fruit comes forward on the palate, while the savoury, earthy and resin notes arise towards the finish. This is an elegant wine that is evolving with grace. I really like where it is now, but it will certainly continue to prosper in the cellar for at least three to five years.
Tasted Dec 15, 2017 • CONNEXION OENOPHILIA (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #121160 • $17.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
A Chianti Classico that nicely balances modern fruit with traditional elegance. The lively cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruit on the nose have a pleasant edge of tobacco and cinnamon spice. While there is a touch more alcohol and fruit ripeness on the palate than I expected, acidity remains bright and tannins are softening but remain lightly grippy. Good value here.
Tasted Dec 15, 2017 • FRONTIER WINE MERCHANTS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #455659 • $17.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
Scansano is in the coastal region of Tuscany, and Morellino is the local name for Sangiovese. This blend of 85% Sangiovese, with Alicante and Malvasia Nera, is a very attractive example. Bright black cherry and blackberry fruit on the nose is complemented by hints of damp earth and spice. Oak influence is minimal, the fruit on the palate is pleasant and juicy, and the acidity and fine tannins perfectly balance the lightly elevated alcohol. This is a cheerful and enjoyable wine that will bring some sunshine to winter meals.
Tasted Jan 2, 2018 • BARRIQUE WINE IMPORTS LTD. (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #343566 • $14.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
Quite a mouthful, and quite a value! This Madiran is 70% Tannat — one of the most tannic of grapes — with the balance Cabernet Franc. But the wine has been treated with a modern yet light touch, mostly aged in stainless steel, with just 20% in oak barrels for a year. Although this wasn't mentioned on the website, I'm also guessing that there was significant whole berry or whole cluster fermentation, with berries uncrushed for a portion of the fermentation. That might explain both the bright, vibrant blueberry, blackberry and black currant aromas and flavours, and also the fact that although the tannins are persistent, they are lighter and finer than you might expect from Tannat. This is a treat for me: excellent acidic and tannic structure, bright fruit with a savoury, earthy and herbal edge, and yet an elegant lightness. All-in-all, a fine wine for the money.
Tasted Jan 2, 2018 • ROUGE ET BLANC LTD (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #527010 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
This is a bright, cheerful Julienas. It's deep ruby-purple in colour, with pleasant blueberry, blackberry and black cherry fruit on the nose. Bright acidity and fine pervasive tannins define the palate. The fruit repeats, with a light earthy depth that leads into a juicy, slightly tannic finish. Perhaps a little more extraction than necessary, but a very attractive wine nevertheless — and a good value.
Tasted Dec 15, 2017 • DIONYSUS WINES & SPIRITS LTD. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


MOMO PINOT NOIR 2015, Marlborough, South Island

Vintages #163972 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
There is surprisingly fine Pinot Noir character here. Let's start with the nicely translucent ruby-red core that shows garnet towards the rim. Then the lively cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruit-forward nose is backed by a varietally accurate undertone of damp earth and twigs. The palate is nicely balanced, with crisp acidity and fine, slightly chalky tannins, that carry into a lightly astringent fruit and savoury finish. It would be a real challenge to find more at this price!
Tasted Dec 15, 2017 • DIONYSUS WINES & SPIRITS LTD. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


WAKEFIELD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015, Clare Valley, South Australia

Vintages #744235 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
While this Cabernet Sauvignon from the McLaren Valley is not exactly a cool climate wine, I appreciate the Cabernet character that may be polarizing: unashamed herbal and savoury notes that suggest dried thyme, a hint of fermented straw, a pine needle note, and a cedary undertone, all before you reach the core of ripe black currant and plum fruit. Despite the 14% a.b.v. on the label, the palate has an elegant lightness, with firm acidity, and fine but lightly grippy tannins — a structure that makes it very attractive to drink now, but should have a little staying power. The fruit on the palate is bright and quite fresh, while the finish takes on a cedary and herbal undertone. A fine value for a Cab with character.
Tasted Jan 4, 2018 • VIN VINO WINE MERCHANTS INC. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


D'ARENBERG THE FOOTBOLT SHIRAZ 2014, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Vintages #984021 • $17.00 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
While this wine is a standard offering at Vintages, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. The wine is very dense and extracted-looking in the glass, essentially black with a narrow red rim. Although the nose is restrained, it expresses very ripe fruit that takes on a significant minty note as the wine breathes in the glass. Alcohol is rather high, but the warmth is constrained. The wine is more than medium-bodied, but manages to maintain a surprising lightness, as the tannins are fine and resolving, and the fruit on the palate is fresher than expected. Oak treatment is moderate, the minty note builds a little, and the finish lingers with the fruit and mint over the slightly gritty tannins. Certainly not a product of the new, elegant, cooler climate ethos we are seeing from Australia, but a worthy representative of traditional Aussie Shiraz.
Tasted Jan 4, 2018 • CHURCHILL CELLARS LTD. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #412189 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
This is a fairly big, bold GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend that still shows a certain constraint that suggests the wine has been handled with some care. The wine is deeply coloured, almost black, with a very narrow red rim. Obvious oaky resin aromas have an almost lactic undertone, surrounding the dense blackberry, black currant and plum fruit, with a little roasted character underneath. The wine is dry, although the ripe fruit gives it a sweetish edge. It is full-bodied, with rounded tannins — a big, juicy mouthful all-in-all. This will be the perfect accompaniment for winter stews.
Tasted Jan 4, 2018 • CHARTON HOBBS INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


ZUCCARDI SERIE A MALBEC 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza

Vintages #167619 • $16.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
This is an appealing, youthful Malbec: notice the bright violet that edges the deepish purple core. The nose is so pretty, with violet-tinged florality that graces the dense but lively blueberry and blackberry fruit. The palate is filled with juicy fruit, brightened by lively acidity and firmed by fine, slightly chalky tannins. Wood influence is minimal, with a cedary undertone and just a hint of spice. This is a very attractive, crowd-pleasing wine, perfect for winter gatherings, elegant enough for lighter fare but with enough structure for weightier proteins.
Tasted Jan 2, 2018 • DIONYSUS WINES & SPIRITS LTD. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


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