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Grapes in the vineyard of Black Hills Estate winery, in Oliver, B.C.Daniel Hayduk/The Globe and Mail

In most parts of Canada, the first day of spring isn’t a guarantee of anything, winter’s grip can be a hammerlock. There’s no flipping of the switch to change the setting from cold and grey, but it is a symbol of hope for anyone like me who is excitedly marking the days to March 20.

There’s a way to go yet – if there were an Advent Calendar for Spring Equinox, we’d just be peaking behind the first door. In the meantime, we can relish seeing the sun hanging around for minutes longer each day and watching its bright rays start to warm the soil and our spirits. As a result, I’m craving different flavours to prepare, different styles of wine to open and share.

This column has been awash with red wine recommendations of late; a celebration of robust and savoury wines that make sense with the rich and hearty dishes dictated by cooking with the cold-weather season. Soon, we will be seeing a steady stream of vibrant and fresh white wines and other early releases from the most recent grape harvests from vineyards in Canada and elsewhere. Tasting a fresh and zesty sauvignon blanc might not match the mood if there’s an April blizzard swirling outside your door, but as a harbinger of brighter days ahead, it’s hard to beat.

Four white wines factor into this week’s roundup. They offer a range in styles, from a classic expression of pinot grigio to richer and rounder offerings from two exciting Canadian wineries and a venerable Australian estate. The reds offer an equally dynamic variety of styles and flavours, from robust versions from benchmark regions in Spain and Italy to a pair of affordable cabernets that would be appealing sipped around a fireplace or served at your first summer cookout.

Altanza Rioja Gran Reserva 2015 (Spain), $30.95

Rating:91 /100

Made in a rich and refined style, this complex red wine offers ripe plummy fruit notes with meaty and oak spice notes. Produced with tempranillo grapes and afforded extensive aging in French and American oak barrels, the flavours are nicely integrated and balanced with tangy acidity and a creamy texture that carries through to a refreshing finish. Vegan. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario.

Black Hills Estate Winery Alibi 2021 (Canada), $29.95

Rating:91 /100

Alibi is a stylish sauvignon blanc and semillon blend that gains interest from barrel aging. The tropical fruit and citrus flavours show a riper spectrum of sauvignon blanc flavours, while the addition of semillon contributes to the richness and texture of this beautifully balanced white wine. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $27.99 direct from, various prices in Alberta.

Casillero del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (Chile), $15

Rating:88 /100

Made by Concha y Toro, the Casillero del Diablo label is a consistent source for affordable and appealing cabernet sauvignon from Chile’s Central Valley. The dry red’s crowd-pleasing style is built on an enjoyable fruity character and soft, creamy texture. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $15.99 in British Columbia ($13.99 until March 4), various prices in Alberta, $15.49 in Saskatchewan, $15.99 in Manitoba, $17.99 in New Brunswick, $16.99 in Nova Scotia, $15.53 in Newfoundland, $15.99 in Prince Edward Island.

Erath Reserve Collection Pinot Noir 2019 (United States), $48.95

Rating:91 /100

Here is an Oregon pinot noir that’s made in a truly appealing style. The core of ripe fruit is nicely balanced by freshness, polished tannins and a lingering finish. Juicy red fruit flavours dominate with some earthy and spicy accents. This has the balance and structure to mature gracefully. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario.

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2021 (Canada), $19.95

Rating:90 /100

Flat Rock’s Niagara Peninsula chardonnay is a barrel-fermented white wine that shows an attractive mix of rich and fruity notes. Ripe yellow apple and citrus flavours are rounded out by toasty and spicy notes on the finish. Nicely balanced, fresh and easy-going, this is a winning style to enjoy on its own or with a meal. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct,, various prices in Alberta, $21.50 in Quebec (2020 vintage).

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2021 (Italy), $19.95

Rating:90 /100

This expressive and refreshing pinot grigio comes from grapes grown in vineyards nestled into a landscape dominated by the Dolomite Mountains in the Trentino-Alto Adige region in northern Italy. The dry and distinctive white wine shows pinot grigio in its best light, with nicely concentrated citrus, pear and melon fruit flavours enhanced by herbal and nutty notes. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.

Trerose Santa Caterina Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2019 (Italy), $29.95

Rating:90 /100

The Trerose estate in Montepulciano, Tuscany, is 445 acres, of which 136 acres are dedicated to the production of Vino Nobile, with the remainder used for production of Rosso di Montepulciano DOC and other wines. Vino Nobile is produced exclusively from the sangiovese grape, which makes for a fruity and savoury red wine with a bright and complex character. Drink now to 2029. Available in Ontario.

Victoria Park Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (Australia), $14.95

Rating:88 /100

Named after Victoria Park in Adelaide, this South Australian producer has a range of well-made, well-priced wines. This is an enjoyable expression of cabernet sauvignon with ripe dark fruit flavours and balanced structure. It’s a dry red with a juicy character that shows its best if decanted. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.

Wakefield Estate Label Chardonnay 2021 (Australia), $17.95

Rating:89 /100

Although lighter and leaner styles of chardonnay are increasingly in fashion, the family-owned Wakefield winery in Australia’s Clare Valley continues to produce unabashedly flavourful styles. This multiregional blend (combining chardonnay grown in Padthaway and Clare Valley) doesn’t shy away from embracing riper tropical fruit and peach flavours or from a mouth-filling creamy texture, but there’s enough refreshing citrus notes to keep everything in balance. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $19.99 in British Columbia ($16.99 until March 4).

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