The Buying Guide: Off the Wall (Absolutely Worth a Shot)

By / Wine + Drinks / September 21st, 2022 / 4

All wines listed are recommended by our experienced panel of tasters. Each wine is rated based on its varietal character, representation of style and/or region, balance and price-quality ratio. Readers should assess these, and all wines, using the same criteria. Browse our experts’ tasting notes to find the wines that may appeal to your taste or pique your interest to try something new. After all, one of the best parts about wine is the discovery. The prices listed are approximate retail prices and will likely vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A large number of these wines can be purchased across Canada and the USA, so check with your local private wine store or liquor board for availability

Excerpt from The Buying Guide originally appearing in the Winter 2021/2022 print issue of Quench Magazine.

Our tasters are Tony Aspler (TA), Gurvinder Bhatia (GB), Michelle Bouffard (MB), Michaela Morris (MM), Tim Pawsey (TP), Christopher Sealy (CS) and Donatella Dicca (DD).

Off the Wall
(Absolutely worth a shot):

Unique, distinct, interesting wines from lesser-known grape varieties or regions that are worth tasting because they are that good. Don’t bypass them because they may be unfamiliar or judge them by the first taste. These are well made wines and your palate deserves to give them a shot even if it takes a a little time to get to know them

Lion Gri Saperavi, 2010, Moldova ($23)

Truly a bit of an oddity but worth a try for the curious. Native to Georgia, Saperavi is found in several former Soviet republics including Moldova. It gives pitch black wines and at over 10 years old this is still saturated in colour. Aromas reveal development with leather, a touch of shoe polish, dried forest berries and sweet herbs. Rather rustic and hearty with eye watering acidity and scratchy tannins, it needs some robust, braised meat fare. Definitely a wine that grew on me as I revisited and happily went back for a second glass. (MM)

Stag’s Hollow Albariño Okanagan Falls VQA, 2020, British Columbia Canada ($24)

This winery has a couple of Spanish varieties in its portfolio. Up front citrus and stone fruit with tropical and honey hints lead to a generous, fruit-driven palate of peach and lemon. It’s nuanced by a touch of grapefruit zest, a hint of spice and a mineral streak, with just a touch of salinity that can define Albariño. Luscious and elegant, the extra weight and mouthfeel come partly from six months on the lees in concrete. But the profile is still bright and vibrant, underpinned by juicy acidity. (TP)

Garzón Tannat Reserva, 2018, Uruguay ($26)

Under-the-radar Tannat grape has made a name for itself in Uruguay – not the first country that comes to mind for wine. One of the leading producers, Garzón allies new world fruit with old world structure. Aromas evoke the forest in the rain with woodland flowers and a touch of coffee. There is richness to the dark berries, but this is matched by dry tannins and assertive acidity with that intriguing undergrowth repeating. (MM)

Niepoort Clos de Crappe Branco Douro DOC, 2019, Douro Valley, Portugal ($30)
Rabigato, Códega do Larinho, Gouveio and Malvasia Fina

This wine is produced from vines with an average age of 80 years old on granitic soils of the Douro. Whole bunch pressing and a co-ferment in barrel produces a wine with a reductive nose, that opens with time or
a decant. It challenges the ‘classic’ wine drinker who might be surprised that this wine with delicate white flower notes and fresh apple and pear aromas is indeed from Portugal. The palate is engaging with more apple, pear laced with a salted mineral-like feel. Light to medium body with good mouthfeel. Some time in the cellar will yield good times. (CS)

Stoneboat Rock Opera Reserve Okanagan Valley VQA, 2015, British Columbia Canada ($31)

From the first, original 1998 Okanagan plantings of Pinotage. Up front dark berry fruit, black cherry and blue plum with a hint of bacon and stony notes. The plush, well-rounded palate is emphasized by blueberry and black cherry and supported by well-integrated tannins. Intensely fruit-driven but focused and balanced with good acidity, before mineral and spice notes follow through the lengthy end. Layered, complex and elegant with alcohol kept in check. An excellent varietal expression from a stellar vintage. Rewards even more with time in the glass. (TP)

GD Vajra Barbera-Freisa Piemonte DOC, 2018, Piedmont Italy ($32)

Said to have been inspired by “one mysterious bottle” found in the cellar and produced by Carlo Vaira in 1970, this blend of 55% Barbera and 45% Freisa brings together the freshness and approachability of Barbera with the slightly wild and intriguing character of Freisa to create a wine that ends up being seamless, interesting, well balanced and absolutely delicious. This could be in my “house-wine” category as well if there wasn’t such a small amount produced and exported. From one of the most generous and genuine families in the wine industry. (GB)

Feudo Montoni Inzolia dei Fornelli Sicilia DOC, 2018, Sicily Italy ($33)

Inzolia is one of the many treasures of Sicily and Feudo Montoni offers a great expression of the grape. Dry crisp acidity with chalky texture, firm structure and notes of Meyer lemon and white flowers. The salty tang and mineral notes linger and make the wine mouth-watering. A great partner with shellfish. (MB)


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