John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for August 17th 2013
Italy off the beaten path (and worth knowing); Top Smart Buys
The cicadas are singing their late summer songs, and there’s no time for meandering prose. Reach for a special bottle and enjoy the dog days before they tail off into crisp autumn afternoons. This week’s report highlights notable wines from the August 17th release, with a focus on some off-the-beaten-path Italian wines as well as more smart buys from around the world.
And for those interested in lower alcohol wines, and sulphur-free wines, read my latest article on the cutting edge research undertaken in Sicily to achieve these goals.
The lesser-known vinous corners of Italy, outside of Tuscany, Piedmont and the Veneto, are swept into the spotlight of the August 17 VINTAGES release. It’s a good opportunity to get to know a few of the vast number of indigenous Italian grapes that can produce memorable wine at forgettable prices.
The south, having undergone a massive transformation in the last couple of decades from bulk wine producer to source of highly characterful, if occasionally rustic wines, has a couple of reds to offer: Taurino’s 2009 Riserva Salice Salentino ($14.95) from the southern part of Puglia known as the Salento Peninsula, is very much in the ultra-traditional style, highly evolved, dominated by savoury-umami, cedary, resinous, earth, and pot pourri character with all fruit in the dried/baked range. The palate is mid-weight and firm, with light dusty tannins and bitter cherry finish. The 2009 has some brettanomyces (leather, horse blanket) that some will consider a defect, but as with previous vintages, there’s a hell of a lot of flavour and complexity for the money.
Ippolito’s 2010 ‘1845 Liber Pater’ Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore ($14.95) is in a similar vein, with fruit having slipped into the dried cherry/red currant spectrum while plenty of resinous herbs and earthy notes have moved in. The palate is firm and dry-astringent, in the style of the gaglioppo variety, reminiscent of a more savoury, less fruity version of sangiovese (if you can believe that). Fun, cocktail party facts: the wines of Cirò were used to toast victors at the ancient Greek Olympiads.
The flavour range of the 2006 Villa Mora Montefalco Sagrantino ($19.95) from Umbria, the “green heart” of central Italy falls into more familiar territory for most. Be sure to decant this at least thirty minutes before serving to allow some of the dust to blow off and for the palate to reveal its surprisingly fleshy and fruity side, with plump plum and black berry fruit that’s more reminiscent of a mature Napa Valley cabernet than a central Italian red. This was a bit of a conundrum admittedly to score, since this is not a classic sagrantino nor even Italian style wine, but at the price I’d say it’s definitely worth a look and should generate some interesting discussion.
Two fine whites are worth pointing out, especially another terrific vintage of the Terredora Loggia Della Serra Greco Di Tufo ($17.95), a consistent 89-90 point wine in my estimation, at a price that hasn’t increased in at least three vintages. The 2011 offers very fine complexity yet again, mixing delicate lees notes with ripe orchard fruit, wild herbs, light sweet and savoury spice and sun-warmed lemons, while the palate is dense and fullish, with substantial flavour intensity and terrific length. This is a wine worth buying in multiple bottle lots, and alongside some mozzarella di buffala and assorted antipasti, you might just find yourself teleported to the Bay of Naples.
From the opposite end of the Italy in the north-eastern region of Friuli, the native friulano variety shines in the 2011 Bastianich Adriatico Friulano ($19.95). It has a pronounced deep golden colour and late harvest-like profile (or rather appassimento/partially dried grapes, though this isn’t specified in the technical specs, only that half of the grapes underwent an eight-hour cold soak before fermenting), and is highly complex for it. The nose mixes a wide range of ripe orchard fruit, peaches in cream, candied rose petal, cherry cobbler and lightly honeyed notes, while the palate delivers a rich and dense expression, certainly not zippy but in a concentrated ripe and creamy style. It’s the sort of substantial white for enjoyment alongside grilled white meat (chicken, veal) and similarly full-flavoured dishes.
All right, for those who can’t get enough of the Italian classics, there’s a pair of Tuscan wines hitting the shelves that deliver serious enjoyment: 2010 Volpaia Chianti Classico ($24.95) and the 2010 Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino ($19.75). Volpaia’s 2010 is one of their best yet, capturing the elegance of this vintage in a perfumed and ultra-classy style with a fine balance of dusty red fruit and polished, integrated old wood spice (large old botti). Caparzo’s Rosso is no less refined, while the palate impresses with its dense structure and juicy black cherry flavours typical of sangiovese grown around Montalcino.
More Smart Buys
There are eight more smart buys this week ranging from $12.95 to $19.95. At the bottom end of the price range but by no means the least impressive wine is the 2008 Boutari Naoussa Pdo Naoussa ($12.95). This will have you thinking of fine nebbiolo at a price unknown for that variety.
Another two excellent 2009 Bordeaux will be released on the 17th: the nicely mature and very pure 2009 Château Croix-Mouton ($19.85) with little excess or shortage of any components, ready to enjoy now or hold mid-term, and the substantially flavoured and structured 2009 Château Prieure Canteloup ($18.85 ), which needs another year or two minimum for the high quality oak and tannins to come together.
Spain provides two excellent drinking experiences for less than $15: the 2006 Bodega Del Abad Dom Bueno Crianza ($14.95) with its amazing depth of character, intensity and old vine concentration, and the 2011 Eidosela Albariño ($13.95) with its well measured palate, fine complexity and solid dose of minerality to seal the deal.
Fans of big, full and rich Aussie shiraz should head straight to the 2011 Paxton MV Shiraz ($17.95). It’s a full-on, ripe, plump, extracted, biodynamically-farmed wine with heaps of blue and black berry flavour and the depth of many similarly styled wines at three times the price. It’s a great late summer BBQ wine.
See the full list of smart buys below.
That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.
John Szabo MS
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From the Aug 17, 2013 Vintages release: