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

By / Wine + Drinks / November 2nd, 2023 / Like

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 Fall/Winter 2022-2023 print issue of Quench Magazine.

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


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.

Malivoire Melon Beamsville Bench VQA, 2021, Ontario Canada ($22)
From Malivoire Estate and Mottiar vineyards – a unique wine in that there is little of the Melon de Bourgogne grape planted in Niagara. It shows lemony citrus, fresh pear and apple, and a faint floral note – though not as mineral as its Loire-raised cousins. The palate shows a vibrant acid-centered edge, and a lovely lees aroma and texture; baker’s dough/brewery-like. Precise and refreshing. (BD)

Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia Vieilles Vignes PGI Epanomi, 2021, Macedonia Greece ($27)
What a beautiful expression of Malagousia! Beautiful, perfumed nose with aromas of fresh pink grapefruit mingling with dried herbs and orange peel. The pleasant bitterness on the finish gives structure and balances the aromatic profile. Shines when served with grilled eggplant or salad of roasted beet, fennel and mandarin. So much character! (MB)

Tetramythos Malagousia Achaia, 2021, Peloponnese Greece ($28)
Textural and racy with citrus blossom and zest, melon, minerally saline and lightly herbal, sleek and expressive with a long, mouthwatering finish. (DD)

Tetramythos Mavro Kalavrytino Natur, 2021, Peloponnese Greece ($28)
A savoury and tart red, full of delicious juicy berry and cherry flavours, sweet spice, supported with firm, yet accessible tannins and a mineral, zesty and fresh finish. (DD)

Tetramythos Retsina Amphore Natur, 2021, Peloponnese Greece ($28)
Excellent balance between traditional flavour and contemporary refinement. Subtle herbal/pine notes with a bright citrus edge, a lively mix of acidity, lemon and lime peel and crushed herbs. Balanced and intriguing. (DD)

Franco Conterno Langhe Nascetta DOC del Comune di Novello, 2020, Piedmont Italy ($30)
While based in the Barolo township of Monforte d’Alba, the Franco Conterno estate owns vineyards in the neighbouring village of Novello, where the local Nascetta grape is on the rise. This sees no oak – just a short passage in stainless steel. The nose is pretty and discreet showing green apple, sage and lemon. The palate brings in tropical fruit flavours of pineapple and guava. Midweight and ripe without being heavy, it offers appropriate substance and chew. Acidity is soft but a saline touch lends refreshment. (MM)

Rizman Pošip, 2021, Dalmatia Croatia ($35)
Pošip is one of the best indigenous white grapes of Croatia, and Damir Štimac, owner of Rizman winery, brings it to its heights. The vines are planted on steep vineyards on limestone soil. Daytime temperatures can easily rise to 40 degrees Celsius, but the decrease in temperature at night and harvest in cool conditions preserve freshness. Vibrant and fresh with rounded texture. Melon, yellow plum and citrus are in harmony with saline notes. Pleasant bitterness on the finish lifts the wine. Great discovery! (MB)

Bodegas Los Bermejos Malvasía Volcánica Seco Lanzarote DO, 2021, Canary Islands Spain ($36)
On the sub-tropical, volcanic island of Lanzarote, Bodegas Los Bermejos has revived a tradition of winemaking by partnering with local grape growers. Together they have preserved the unique growing system of individual vines grown in small craters protected from winds by lava stone walls. The ungrafted Malvasía Volcánica opens discreetly but this ain’t no wall flower. Peach blossom, melon and strawberry papaya meet sun baked stone. Dry and energetic, it packs a core of sweet, concentrated fruit with saline edges, leaving the palate cleansed and ready for another bite of sweet, fresh shellfish. (MM)

Bodegas Los Bermejos Listán Negro Maceración Carbónica Lanzarote DO, 2021, Canary Islands Spain ($36)
A close relative of Chile’s País grape, Listán Negro is rarely seen in Europe but is the most planted red across the Canary Islands. This bottling is made using carbonic maceration which is apparently quite common too. This gives an exuberantly fruity expression. Aromas of ripe blueberry, candied plums, cinnamon and nutmeg repeat on the palate. Medium weight yet mouth filling with soft juicy acidity and light, grapey tannins. The finish is bitter edged but in a fascinating way – very salted black licorice. (MM)

Brash Higgins ZBO Zibibbo Ricca Terra Farms Riverland, 2020, Australia ($45)
Another stunning vintage crafted by Brad Hickey! Made from 70-year-old bush vines, Zibibbo (also known as Muscat of Alexandria) is macerated on the skin in amphorae for 150 days. The result is irresistible! Stunningly aromatic with juicy notes of pink grapefruit, orange peel and fresh grape and a pleasant bitterness on the finish. Saline and thirst quenching. Dangerously easy to drink on its own and a natural with Indian food or roasted root vegetables. (MB)

Ursa Major Más Cerquita de Ti, 2020, British Columbia Canada ($50 – 1.5L)
The gateway wine into the world of skin contact ‘orange’ wine. An expression of aromatics and texture from the combined forces of Riesling, Semillon, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Mango compote, pear and nectarine nectar with pronounced spiced aromatics bring you into a mouthfeel that is zesty, with pith and texture as it brings you into this lovely world of psychedelic flavours. (CS)

Bideona Badiola L4GD4 Rioja Alavesa DO, 2019, Rioja Spain ($55)
The fresh L4GD4 with crunchy red fruits comes from the high elevation vineyard plots around the village of Laguardia, so grapes usually ripen the earliest among the Bideona wines. Elegant and fragrant with present, but velvety tannins, floral and a delicate juiciness of wild strawberries that enhances the wine’s brightness and accessibility. A lovely wine for charcuterie and carpaccio. (DD)

Bideona Badiola V1BN4 Rioja Alavesa DO, 2019, Rioja Spain ($55)
Rounder and riper with slightly darker fruit, V1BN4 has more presence than the L4GD4, but without being heavy on the palate. From the vineyards surrounding the village of Villabuena, the wine shows excellent balance between freshness, elegance and concentration with a purity of berry aromas and flavours, firm, fine-grained tannins and a precise, focussed finish. (DD)

Bideona Badiola S4MGO Rioja Alavesa DO, 2019, Rioja Spain ($55)
The firmly textured S4MG0 is sourced from the village of Samaniego. The pure and defined fruit is leaning towards the darker side with firm, refined tannins and texture, spicy and complex with great depth and length on the finish. An incredibly delicious wine that is complete from start to finish. (DD)

Bideona Badiola L3Z4 Rioja Alavesa DO, 2019, Rioja Spain ($55)
The L3Z4 shows serious structure, but maintains purity and freshness. Fruits is from the vineyards around the village of Leza. Loads of mineral, graphite, black cherry, blackberry and blueberry aromas, with herbal notes, precision of the palate with an abundance of mouth-watering acidity to keep the wine and the long finish fresh and lifted. (DD)


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