Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES March 2 Release

Exclusive Interview with Peripatetic Winemaker Paul Hobbs; Celebrate the Best of Ontario at Cuvée in Niagara Falls

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

In this report: March 2 Vintages release highlights, including a Croatian delight with rare quintuple alignment, top Tuscan wines from women winemakers (the theme this week is Italian women in wine), and triple-aligned assyrtiko from Central Greece and white Bordeaux. Read my exclusive interview with celebrated winemaker Paul Hobbs, a wide-ranging conversation covering currency crashes and tense grower-winery relationships in Argentina, conflicts in the Caucasus, and ground-breaking no-till farming in the Finger Lakes, among other obliquely connected topics. And I hope to see you down in Niagara wine country on March 30 for the return of Cuvée, the annual event featuring winemakers’ personal favourites. Read on for details.

And, don’t miss Michael Godel’s most comprehensive coverage of Montalcino to date – Benvenuto Brunello 2023


Cuvée Returns returns to celebrate excellence in Ontario wine

Venture down to Ontario Wine Country this Easter weekend for the return of Ontario’s premiere celebration of VQA wine, Cuvée. I’ll be be sipping and swirling at the signature event on Saturday, March 30, at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Centre in St. Catharines. More than 30 VQA wineries will be showcasing close to 100 wines selected by the winemakers themselves to highlight their personal favorite works, paired with gourmet cuisine prepared by celebrated chefs at 10 cooking stations.

WineAlign members can get 10% off the price of tickets to the Grand Tasting using code “WINEALIGN“.

Cuvée Manager Barb Tatarnic says the last time the Grand Tasting was held in person in 2019, the event drew a record crowd of nearly 900 guests.

“We’re very excited for the return of Cuvée”, she says. “Cuvée is the perfect opportunity for guests to meet Ontario winemakers and to learn what their favourite wines are and why.”

Cuvée is hosted by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), with proceeds going to fund research and provide scholarships to students through the Cuvée Legacy Fund, according to CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis.

The Grand Tasting is followed by the usually raucus Après Cuvée, with live music and a selection of local craft brews, ciders, sparkling wine and Icewine.

And while the Grand Tasting is a highlight, you can make a weekend of it with the Cuvée en Route passport program. Passport holders can taste exclusive wines at participating Niagara wineries all weekend long.

For more information, or to purchase Cuvée Grand Tasting tickets, en Route passports, and access special hotel room rates, visit

I hope to see you there!


Exclusive with Paul Hobbs

Last week I sat down with celebrated American peripatetic winemaker Paul Hobbs for a wide-ranging conversation covering currency crashes and tense grower-winery relationships in Argentina, conflicts in the Caucasus and ground-breaking no-till farming in the Finger Lakes, among other obliquely connected topics. Hobbs is owner or co-owner of seven wineries, including the eponymous Paul Hobbs Winery, plus Crossbarn in Sonoma County, as well as his international partnerships, Viña Cobos in Mendoza, Argentina; Crocus in Cahors, France; Yacoubian-Hobbs in Vayots Dzor, Armenia; Hillick & Hobbs in the Finger Lakes, New York State; and Alvaredos-Hobbs in Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain.

And this list does not even include projects on which he consults.

Yet despite the grueling schedule, he doesn’t exclude the possibility of more partnerships in the future. “I am exploring another couple of possibilities, but whether or not they ignite remains to be seen,” he tells me, adding that the ideas are ignited by passion, not practicality — “unfortunately” — as though he’s unable to resist the temptation to keep exploring the world of wine. “Each one is so demanding in terms of getting it on its feet, the amount of money that you have to feed them, and the time and effort….” After 40 years of double harvests in two hemispheres and nine countries, that he’s still even considering another project speaks volumes about his passion for wine.

There have been some unexpected delays and setbacks on some of the international joint ventures. Who would have thought, for example, that it would take a dozen years to get a new tractor and sprayer into Armenia? Other unanticipated obstacles included the reluctance of officials to allow locals to gain international experience outside of Armenia. “Initially we wanted to train Armenians, take them out of the country, because there was no level of wine education for wine in the early years,” says Hobbs. “But then we’d get shot down because they said, well, if we send them out, they won’t come back. There were serious issues.”

A conflict with Azerbaijan was perhaps more predictable, though not necessarily that a vineyard worker would tragically be killed in one of the border flares ups. The vineyards of Yacoubian-Hobbs, after all, lie a stone’s throw from the border with Azerbaijan, in the Vayots Dzor region in the Armenian highlands. The latest explosion of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict this past September, over the Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh, caused yet more disruption to vineyard operations as workers left to fight or take care of their families. “I’d have to say that few wineries in the world would have built in contingencies for such calamities,” Hobbs says, “as though there aren’t already enough unknowns in the realms of farming and selling agricultural products.”

But more portentously, the Yacoubian-Hobbs vineyards are within sight of the now-famous Areni-1 Cave, site of the oldest known proto-winery in the world dating to 4100 BCE. The cave, incidentally, was discovered by archeologists after the Youcoubian-Hobbs project was established in 2007, so Hobbs can’t even claim to have been banking on the media attention and interest in the region that would follow the discovery. But he does recall wandering around in the area below the cave where a restaurant still stands, and wondering what might lie concealed within that ancient crevice visible above.

It wasn’t the cave but rather the extreme conditions of Vayots Dzor that attracted him. Winters are freezing, to the point where hilling up vines, as one would do in Ontario vineyards, is often necessary. Summers are scorching, and the ground is mercilessly stony. These are also the highest elevation vineyards that Hobbs farms, near 1400 metres elevation, even higher than his vineyards in Mendoza. They’re planted to mostly indgenous varieties like areni and voskehat, the flagship red and white grapes of the country, respectively. But he also planted a smattering a smattering of international grapes like chardonnay and pinot that are more familiar ground for Hobbs, in order “to get a baseline read on the climate and soils.” Pinot was “a disaster,” he reveals, not suited to the extremes. “But chardonnay does quite well.”

And there were other happy surprises. Hobbs recalls how when he first went to visit the property, there was a power line on rickety Soviet-era wooden poles running through it, an eyesore. When the local mayor, who was with him at the time, asked if there were anything he could do to make the property more attractive, Hobbs responded, jokingly, “well, you could move that power line.” When he returned two months later, the power line had been moved. “Imagine trying to do that in Sonoma County!” he says, laughing. “You’d have to bankroll the whole thing and get multiple ordinances.”

Considering the ongoing domestic turmoil in Armenia, Hobbs is fortunate that sales of Yacoubian-Hobbs wines have been largely directed to export markets from the start. But one of those markets, Russia, an historically important one for Armenian products (especially brandy), is obviously problematic in its own right at the moment. Hobbs stills sells a small amount of Yacoubian-Hobbs wine into Russia, but has cut commercial ties for all of his other wines, even if he alludes to other European and American wine companies who have continued to do business in Russia through back door channels, avoiding sanctions.

Yacoubian-Hobbs currently produces three wines, two version of the indigenous red areni variety, one a fruity, stainless steel-aged version, the other, a more premium example called Sarpina, aged in mostly old 500l and 225l oak to preserve the lovely perfume of the variety but enhance the structure and depth. A white blend of indigenous varieties based on voskehat rounds out the range, well worth seeking out (not currently available in Canada, though I tasted the 2018 at Hobbs’ winery in the Finger Lakes last year).

Hillick & Hobbs vineyard, Seneca Lake

Finger Lakes

Hillick and Hobbs on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is much more familiar ground for Hobbs. He grew up in the area, so this project, now in its third commercial vintage, is a sort of homecoming. I visited the vineyard last year, a very steep, very stony, west-facing site about midway down Seneca Lake, in the so-called “banana belt.” No bananas actually grow here, but it is measureably one of the warmest sub-regions in the area, and also one of the driest in an otherwise fairly rainy area. The focus, so far, is exclusively on riesling, a grape that the Finger Lakes in general does exceptionally well. And the wines are excellent, if variable across the three vintages released to date.

One of the main challenges here, not unlike in southern Ontario, is the extreme variability from growing season to growing season. “We’ve had really wet years, we’ve had really dry years. I don’t think we’ve had what could be called a normal vintage.” This poses technical viticultural challenges such as how to manage canopies in a given season, and even more fundamentally, which rootsocks to use in the first place. Hobbs found that he needed to install drip irrigation — an unanticipated expense — in the blocks planted on the very shallow-rooting rootstock called riparia gloire, which suffers under drought conditions.

And the wisdom of high-density plantings with row orientation up and down the slope has also been questioned. Almost everyone in the Finger Lakes plants along the contours of the slopes to limit erosion. Hobbs quickly learned that he would need to truck in dirt yearly to both replace soil lost downslope and to bury the vines in winter. Otherwise, there’s not enough dirt in the narrow, rocky rows to protect vines sufficiently. A solution Hobbs envisioned from the start was a form of permaculture — keeping a permanent cover crop of grasses both between and under row to limit erosion.

On the positive side, frost damage is less severe thanks to those steep slopes and the up-down row orientation, which allow cool air to drain down to the lake. In the spring of 2023, when a severe May frost caused near 100 percent bud damage in some vineyards, Hobbs reported a loss of just 20 percent. And winter kill is likewise mitigated by the depth of Seneca Lake, the deepest of the 11 Finger Lakes and one that rarely ever freezes over in the vicinity of the Hillick & Hobbs property. And what of the negative effects of soil compaction that often occur in permanent row crops farmed without tilling? “In New York, we’re never going to compact that soil. The vines are already growing on rock,” he says, laughing.

From an environemental point of view, at least, the plan appears to be working. Hobbs reports that, according to local authorities, his operation uses about one-third the amount of pesticides on average than any other grower in the region. “Now people are coming up to see what we are doing, whereas before I think they all thought that those guys up there are crazy.”

But financially, it is still questionable. Currently Hobbs gets about 2 to 2.5 tons per acre compared to the regional average closer to eight tons. And even at $35 U.S. per bottle, pretty much the highest price going for a Finger Lakes riesling, and despite brisk sales in more than 20 states, the business is barely breaking even. “It’s still undervalued,” Hobbs concedes, talking about the price of the wine. “But, you know, it’s riesling. It doesn’t command the price of cabernet.” But there’s no doubt the quality is exceptional, as a tasting of all three released vintages, 19-20-21, has shown. The 2020 is currently available at the LCBO, on discount from $57 to $45.

Hillick & Hobbs

Viña Cobos

Over in Mendoza, things are looking rosier at Hobb’s most successful foreign venture, Viña Cobos, established in 1998. “We’re $1.5 million over forecast this year,” Hobbs reveals, “and that was on top of aggressive projections.”

I ask about the effects on the business of the recent currency drop in Argentina — late last year the newly inaugurated administration of populist president Javier Milei devalued the Argentine peso by more than 50 percent — the currency value went from 366.5 pesos to the US dollar, to 800. The move was part of a package of large-scale spending cuts intended to address the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

Hobbs has been able to take advantage of the economic down cycles in Argentina, and has purchsed more estate vineyards, bringing the total to around 100 ha in Los Arboles and Los Chacayes. “I find when you can control the farming, it just changes the game.”

But Hobbs also purchases a considerable amount of fruit from a long list of local growers, and his policy of fairly remunerating them has ruffled some feathers in the region. “We’re the leaders in grower relations,” says Hobbs. “You know, the old technique is to not pay growers well, and to not even let them know how much they’ll get paid until after grapes have been made into wine. That’s the way things have been done since the 1800s. But we pay our growers fairly.” The fair pay has angered some of the bigger companies in Mendoza. “We’ve had the bosses come to our house”, Hobbs says, referring to scare tactics to get him to reduce the wages he’s paying to what other companies are willing to pay. But Hobbs has found other ways of compensating his growers. “All of our employees get a hot meal everyday, and every Friday we do a full-on asado,” he says, the Argentine version of the barbeque. “It’s really really good. Plus they all get a full bag of groceries, fruits and vegetables to take home to their families.”

When I ask Hobbs what’s left to do in Argentina, he speaks of making great cabernet sauvignon and franc, and chardonnay. “Those are the three varieties that have the greatest growth potential,” he says, beyond ubiquitous malbec.

Our conversation finally turns to northern California just as we’re about out of time. But perhaps of all of the wines Hobbs has a hand in, the ones from his premium eponymous Paul Hobbs wines, label and the more mid-market Crossbarn brand, probably need the least introduction. There is excitement surrounding the 2023 vintages, a cooler year in California, one that has been hailed as a return to a more “classic” style, in which ripeness was lower than previous years.

Hobbs dry farms most of his vinyards, turning off irrigation after the fourth or fifth year after the wines are established, unless there is a forecasted heatwave on the horizon. “We’ll give some water to the vines to help them get through heat spikes,” he says, in an effort tyo avoid dehydration, and the high alcohol and raisined flavours that follow.

To illustate the balance that Hobbs is trying to achieve, we taste a 2020 pinot noir from the Russian River Valley and a 2019 cabernet sauvignon from the volcanic soils of the Combsville AVA in the southern end of Napa Valley. Both are archetypes of their genres.

Buyer’s Guide March 2: Italian Women in Wine

Velenosi Bio Rosso Piceno Superiore 2021, Marche, Italy

Velenosi Bio Rosso Piceno Superiore 2021, Marche, Italy
$17.95, Profile Wine Group (Vin Vino)
John Szabo – From Velenosi’s organic line, first produced in 2016 and the inspiration of next generation Marianna Velenosi, this blend of montepulciano and sangiovese presents abundant fresh-ripe, dark fruit on the nose in an inviting and open style. Fine balance and drinkability overall, ready to go, or hold up to 3-4 years. Attractively priced, well-made wine.
Megha Jandhyala – Here is a chance to try a montepulciano, not from Abruzzo but from neighbouring Marche, blended with percent sangiovese. This Rosso Piceno Superiore is certified organic, flavourful, balanced, and multi-dimensional and at under $20, represents very good value.

Bindi Sergardi Tenuta I Colli La Boncia Chianti 2022, Tuscany, Italy

Bindi Sergardi Tenuta I Colli La Boncia Chianti 2022, Tuscany, Italy
$21.95, Cru Wine Merchants
David Lawrason – This is a very pretty, simple and charming young 100 percent sangiovese. There was a short stint barrels but oak is not much present amid  ripe raspberry/currant fruit, red rose and subtle herbs. It is light to medium bodied, fresh with a hint of rounding sweetness and fine-grained drying tannin. Very well made.

Brancaia N°2 Cabernet Sauvignon 2021, Tuscany, Italy
$33.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – Second generation Barbara Widmer, who has lived at Brancaia since the late 1990s, runs the winemaking side of the family business, which includes estates in Radda and Castellina in Chianti Classico, and out on the coast in the Maremma, as well as an osteria and guest houses. Brancaia’s Nº2 cabernet from coastal vineyards is nicely pitched and balanced in a mid-weight expression, ripe at 14.5 precent alcohol declared, yet also showing firm acids and dusty tannic structure in the Tuscan style. Really nicely done, best 2025-2033 or so.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2018, Tuscany, Italy

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2018, Tuscany, Italy
$73.95, Le Sommelier Inc.
John Szabo – Donatella’s Brunello hails from the organic Casato Prime Donne estate on the cooler, northern side of Montalcino, and it’s drinking beautifully now, a sultry, smoldering wine at the twilight of red fruit and more earthy-savoury notes. I’d be tempted to drink this over the near term, while waiting for the more substantial 2019 and 2016 to evolve.
Megha Jandhyala – Each moment spent with this enthralling Brunnello seems to reveal a new facet of this stunning, pale garnet wine. Nuanced, refined, and immaculately balanced, with a long and captivating finish, it is drinking beautifully now, and is worth the hefty price tag.
Michael Godel – It is indeed true that despite this being a Brunello di Montalcino that should rightly need another few years to really open up – well you can have a glass today. Donatella’s 2018 sangiovese is just that generous and forthright so do not be shy and share a bottle this weekend. What could go wrong?

Buyer’s Guide March 2: Whites

Lungarotti Torre De Giano Vigna Il Pino Bianco Di Torgiano 2022, Umbria, Italy

Lungarotti Torre De Giano Vigna Il Pino Bianco Di Torgiano 2022, Umbria, Italy
$17.95, Profile Wine Group (Vin Vino)
Sara d’Amato – With more to offer than your typical weeknight sipper, this highly gulpable blend of vermentino, grechetto, and trebbiano is upbeat, refreshing and uncomplicated. Tangy and salty with peach, mango, lemon, and elderflower livening the palate. Despite three months of barrel, the wine is fruit forward and varietally distinctive.

Domäne Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Grüner Veltliner 2022, Wachau, Austria

Domäne Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Grüner Veltliner 2022, Wachau, Austria
$19.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
Megha Jandhyala – With classic aromas of white pepper, tart citrus and stone fruit, and subtly vegetal notes, this is a lively, zesty, entry-level grüner veltliner. It is fairly priced and would work very well as a “house wine” one could serve as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to salads and light seafood.

Reif Reserve Gewürztraminer 2021, Ontario, Canada
David Lawrason – Occasionally Niagara offers up fine, rich, very Alsatian gewürz, usually from vineyards close to Lake Ontario. This pours deep lemon-gold. The nose is as lifted as it should be with classic lychee, clove, mandarin and honey notes. It is full bodied, just off-dry, balanced by good acidity and alcohol.

Stina Cuvée White 2022, Croatia
John Szabo – Stina is a leading figure in the export renaissance of Croatian wine, based on the island of Brac in Dalmatia and farming some spectacularly steep and stony vineyards (Stina means stone in Croatian). The 2022 ‘Cuvée White’ is a blend of locals posip, 70 percent, and 20 percent vugava, with the remainder in chardonnay to wedge the door open a smidge for foreign consumers. It’s crafted in a clean and fruity, stainless steel style, with the quasi tropical fruit perfume of posip joining the viognier-like florality of vugava on an attractively mid-weight and fresh, lively frame. Really quite a lovely bottle all in all, ready to enjoy or hold short term.
David Lawrason – This is a blend of two local varieties – posip and vugava – with 10 percent chardonnay. There is impressive richness and complexity for the price with almost tropical banana/guava fruit, subtle mint and ginger. It is medium bodied, with good fruit concentration, almost creamy yet still lively.
Megha Jandhyala – Here is an opportunity to try a lovely, flavourful blend of local Croatian varieties posip and vugava (along with a small amount of chardonnay). I like the intensity of fruit, the subtle vein of salinity running through the palate, and the long, refreshingly pithy finish. It is ready to drink and should pair nicely with fish tacos, pan seared white fish, or even seafood pasta.
Sara d’Amato – A memorable and very well priced curio find from Croatia’s picturesque Island of Brac that features 70 percent posip, 20 percent vugava, and 10 percent chardonnay. Quite briny with flavours of peach, white flower, and green apple. Its lively acidity is rounded out by a subtle leesy character. More depth and character than expected at this price and certainly worth the detour.
Michael Godel – Truly satisfying white blend and frankly 2022 is probably a better pairing wine because it can stand up to roasted white meats as well as the obvious sidling to seafood preparations.

Savas Cuvée Eva 2020, Bordeaux, France
$21.95, Trilogy Wine Merchants
David Lawrason – This barrel-aged 100 percent sauvignon blanc shows a certain richness yet poise that reminds me of top white Bordeaux at four times the price. Expect ripe apricot, lemon wax and fresh fig nicely set within moderate oak spice, evergreen and vanillin. There is a glossy yet tender and sophisticated feel, with excellent length.
Megha Jandhyala – This is a surprisingly concentrated and compelling wine, especially at this price! I love the intense flavours of lime zest, kaffir lime leaves, green figs, and juicy lemons, as also the long, herb and citrus-infused finish. I would buy several bottles of this white Bordeaux to serve with bold, flavourful foods, say spicy South Asian seafood-based preparations or even a Laotian curry.
Sara d’Amato – Lots of power and pep in this stylish white Bordeaux from Château Gromel Bel-Air, an estate in Périssac, not far from Pomerol on the right bank. Juicy, a touch reductive and a little tropical with notes of white pepper and toasty lees. No shortage of intrigue in this well-priced find.

Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2021, Ontario, Canada

Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2021, Ontario, Canada
Sara d’Amato – I like the restrained use of oak in this naturally rich and supple chardonnay. Buttery but not soft, with a backbone of nervy freshness and a delicate nuttiness. Comforting but complex with poise and a lengthy finish.

Papagiannakos Assyrtiko 2022, Greece

Papagiannakos Assyrtiko 2022, Greece
$24.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
John Szabo – Fine volume and weight here on the palate from this assyrtiko from Central Greece, distinct in style, fruitier, than the mean compared to examples from the variety’s homeland on Santorini Island. Acids are rich and comfortably, and the wine fills the palate nicely at 13 percent alcohol declared.
Sara d’Amato – A delightfully flinty and salty assyrtiko with flavours of stone fruit, lemon zest, and custard. From just north of the Peloponnese, this rounder style is quite different from the more familiar versions of Santorini. An affable wine right out of the gate with very good concentration.
Michael Godel –  Assyrtiko from a hot and dry Mediterranean climate, cool and savoury, piqued by local garrigue and piquant from start to finish.

Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2019, Ontario, Canada

Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2019, Ontario, Canada
$29.95, Marchands des Ameriques
David Lawrason – Now maturing to peak complexity this is showing classic tertiary notes of hazelnut, honey, toast and nutmeg around very ripe peach-apricot fruit. It is medium bodied, quite glossy and rich with fine texture. Flavours are very well defined and show excellent to outstanding length.
Megha Jandhyala – March is an especially appropriate time to shine the spotlight on women winemakers, although I am in favour of doing this throughout the year! Kelly Mason’s Tradition chardonnay is not only a fantastic example of how well the variety expresses itself in Ontario but also of skillful winemaking. Luxurious and lissome, this wine is at its peak now, its flavours and texture representing a graceful interplay between fruit, lees, and restrained oak-influence.

Lighthall Chardonnay 2020, Ontario, Canada
$34.95, Lighthall Vineyards
Michael Godel – Lighthall delivers one of the more reductive, gun smoke flinty and white peppery chardonnays for 2020 out of a vintage from which ripeness was not hard to find. Has been singing since summertime 2023, in the city and the County.

Chante Cigale Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2022, Rhône, France

Chante Cigale Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2022, Rhône, France
$48.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Megha Jandhyala – This is a stunning white blend, sourced from Palestor, a lieu-dit situated in the north of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. It is concentrated and complex, layered with opulent fleshy fruit flavours and subtle notes of toasted nuts and spice. The palate, voluptuous, sensuous, and supple, is perhaps even more enchanting. I would cellar a few bottles of this wine, trying it at different stages of its evolution over the next 5-6 years.

Buyer’s Guide March 2: Reds

Château Saint Roch Chimères Grenache/Carignan/Syrah 2020, Midi, France
$19.95, Glencairn Wine Merchants
John Szabo – An immensely satisfying and sturdy wine for the money; value is exceptional, as usual, from the Lafage family. Scorched earth, dried wild herbs, smoke and blackberry jam flavours swirl with floral-violet notes. I’d suggest another year in the cellar for more complete integration.
Sara d’Amato – Tucked in between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees on the Spanish border, this premium growing region produces some exceptional values. A typical regional blend, this crunchy, botanical-rich cuvée can be enhanced with a slight chill.

Domaine Gael Martin Beaujolais Villages Les Pains 2022, Beaujolais, France

Domaine Gael Martin Beaujolais Villages Les Pains 2022, Beaujolais, France
$19.95, DB Wine & Spirits
David Lawrason – This is a charming and classy young gamay with all the right floral and almost candied strawberry/cherry fruit notes. There subtle pepper and spice as well. It is light to medium bodied, open-knit, juicy and fresh with good extract and fruit depth.

Lloyd Brothers Estate Blend Gsm 2021, South Australia, Australia

Lloyd Brothers Estate Blend Gsm 2021, South Australia, Australia
$28.95, Michael Andrew Brands
John Szabo – About two-thirds grenache from estate bush vines, with syrah and a splash of mourvèdre all from McLaren Vale, this is an appealing ripe and fruity, also notably spicy and wild herb-inflected GSM blend, a style the region does exceptionally well. Solid, satisfying, even beguiling, this will please widely.
Sara d’Amato – Sourced from estate grown, bush vine grenache, shiraz, and mourvedre and then vinified using a very light-handed touch resulting in a very notable expression of terroir. Deeply concentrated but not heavy, this licorice, lavender, kirsch and cassis dominated blend features a great deal of complexity and joy for the price.
Michael Godel – Just what the blend doctor orders from the classic G-S-M Rhône trilogy that McLaren Vale does as well as any South Australian region. Juicy and firm, unique and to its own.

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Docg Vigna Del Capannino 2019, Tuscany, Italy
$49.95, Touchstone Brands
Sara d’Amato – This nuanced Gran Selezione from Castellina in the southwest of Chianti Classico is made by one of the top estates in the subregion and delivers excellent value. For purists, this is a textural delight – ethereal and nervy, with yielding tannins and a light viscosity. Stylish and thought-provoking.
Michael Godel – Power, grip and firm shake of tannin after an aromatic front that rolls through like a threatening storm. The acids too are in charge so in tandem there is a whole whack of structure in this very mineral expression of Castellina sangiovese. Must be the Alberese.

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.

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

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for the latest WineAlign recommendations, tips and other interesting wine information.