Five Fantastic Wines at the LCBO Right Now: January 8th Vintages Release

The most recent LCBO Vintages Release has several well-priced wines that are also perfect for the weather we have been having. There is something for both the realist and the escapist in this release: the Shiraz, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and Sangiovese-based Tuscan red I review below are perfect fireside sippers, while the Sauvignon Blanc and Valpolicella may inspire day dreams about sunnier times. Either way, since we’re mostly stuck indoors, these are great wines to enjoy with a good book, great music, and/or some delicious food.

Tyrell’s Hunter Valley Shiraz 2019

A perfumed nose of trampled violets, ripe blueberries, black cherries, and hemp gives way to similarly vibrant flavours on the palate, with juicy berries in the spotlight. The wine’s texture is reminiscent of soft vintage velvet, with fine-grained but persistent tannins and bright, refreshing acidity.

This is a wonderful Shiraz, surprisingly concentrated and nuanced, given the price point (26.95$ CAD), with a delicate but enduring finish. It is easy to drink, warming, and pleasurable, the kind of wine that can cast a soft, warm glow upon a cold, grey evening. I would drink this now, although it will keep for a few years.

Score: 93/100

Penfolds Max’s Shiraz Cabernet 2019

This blend of Shiraz (69%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (31%) has a complex and expressive nose of pencil shavings and graphite, very ripe black cherries and blackberries, pepper, meat, dried leaves, and lavender. As the wine breathes it reveals notes of spice and incense: a charming and distinctive expression of American oak that is a real treat for those who appreciate it (the wine was matured in 7% new American oak barrels and 60% 1 year old American oak barrels).

Plush black fruit and pepper are dominant on the palate, with noticeable warmth from the alcohol. The wine feels rich without being oppressive, with chalky tannins and juicy acidity. This is a complex and generous wine that will improve with 5-8 years in the cellar, as the flavours integrate further and the texture softens. It is also enjoyable now, however, especially if it is decanted and paired with rich and creamy cheeses.

Score: 92/100

La Vite Lucente 2019

This is an elegant and self-possessed blend of Sangiovese and Merlot from Tuscany, with an attractive nose and especially vibrant, tart fruit flavours on the palate. It is made in a contemporary style, with the wine being partially aged in new oak barrels. It adroitly balances notes of ripe black cherries and oak expressions of wood, nutmeg, and brown sugar, whilst pretty aromas of purple blooms and faint, savoury notes of dried herbs and meat sit in the background. 

The fruit flavours turn reticent midway on the palate, though, while the oak notes persist, if subtly. Tannins are a bit grippy. I recommend a few years (3-5 years) in the cellar, to allow the wine to develop and come into its own. If you wish to open it now, decanting, or at least vigorous swirling of the glass will really help bring out its charm. At 35$ CAD, this second wine of famed producer Tenuta Luce is worth a try. 

Score: 91/100

Villa Maria Wairau Valley Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2019

If what you really want is to escape to somewhere sunny, then this Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a summer spell in a bottle, may be for you. Unscrew the top and aromas of ripe mangos, papayas, and peaches, white flowers, and freshly cut grass seem to fill the room. Fruit flavours dominate on the palate, with lots of lime juice and rind lingering on the finish.

The wine’s bracing acidity makes it very refreshing by itself, especially after a tough yoga session or spin class. It also seems to pair well with many rich North Indian foods like Paneer Butter Masala, Navratan Korma, Rajma Chawal, and Chana Masala. The lushness of the fruit and subtle sweetness of the wine (it has about 5g/L of residual sugar) compliments these slightly sweet tomato-based dishes; the wine’s acidity cuts the heaviness of the sauces; its bold flavours are able to hold their own against the intense spices in the food.

Score: 90/100

Farina Valpolicella 2019

Filled with aromas of fresh, juicy red fruit, with a hint of purple flowers, this wine embodies the beauty of freshness and simplicity. It pairs wonderfully with hearty North Indian foods that are perfect for cold weather. Dal Makhani and buttery Naan, Rajma Chawal, and Chole Bhature are, of course, perfectly delicious by themselves, but when served with a glass of this Valpolicella, they highlight the wine’s ripe, juicy cherry flavours. Conversely, the buttery, creamy notes of the food are beautifully complemented by the wine’s acidity and freshness. At this price point (15.95$ CAD), especially given that Valpolicellas are not that common at at the LCBO, I recommend trying this out the next time you are cooking some Indian food or ordering some take out. 

Find recipes for these foods here: Dal Makhani, Naan, Rajma, Chole, and Bhature.

Score: 89/100