Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 10th – Part One
WineAlign: Past, Present and Future, & Smart Euro Wines
By John Szabo MS with notes from Sara d’Amato
“Hope Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering ‘it will be happier’…” said Alfred Tennyson. At WineAlign, we have plenty of reasons to be happy about this past year, but even more to welcome the hopeful smiles of 2015. In 2014, over 1.5 million of you and your unique friends visited WineAlign and put your trust in us for recommendations. December alone saw nearly 3,500 new users join the WineAlign community, and close to 40,000 of you logged in, presumably to find great wines and spirits, which remains the raison d’être for our little slice of the World Wide Web. In 2014, 6.3 million pages flashed in front of users’ eyes, with the average session lasting 3 minutes and 26 seconds, a veritable three-day weekend in Internet time. For all of your trust, time and support, we are deeply grateful.
But we won’t be taking too many long weekends in 2015 to reflect on past success. On the contrary, we have big plans. We’ll be undertaking the massive migration to “responsive web design”, which, according to the masters of web land, means that WineAlign will perform magically on whatever electronic device you own now, or will ever own. It’ll be faster, sleeker, more efficient, shearing off precious time between you and your next memorable glass.
We’re six years old now, as old as the eternal city in the cyber world, so it’s also high time for a little renovation. We’ll be refreshing the site with a more contemporary look; out with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and in with the urban landscape of the future. With the revitalization will come new features, not least of which will be individual pages for all of your favorite critics – you’ll find each of our latest reviews and recommendations, articles, micro posts, videos and photographs in one place, so we can get to know each other even better. We’re also streamlining our data input system to get more reviews onto the site. Soon, all of the additional thousands of wines the WineAlign team reviews on the road each year will find their way efficiently into the database. Many of these wines may not be currently available at your local shop, but we know that you travel, too, and the more the merrier as they say. We aim to be the number one reference resource for all things liquid and tasty not just in Canada but also internationally, and we have the crack team in place to achieve just that. We’d also love to hear any suggestions you have that could make WineAlign even more useful for you. (feedback@WineAlign.com)
So here’s to the past, present and future, on this, the threshold of the New Year 2015. May your cup runneth over with good wine.
VINTAGES 10th Buyers Guide: Smart Euro Wines
Of course, all of this development costs some serious dough, so we’ll be easing off the grand crus and looking for the smartest values for the next little while. That’s what the January 10th release is all about. Part One of the report this week covers the top smart buys from European soil (all under $25, many closer to $16), and next week we’ll look at the rest of the world. David was gathering vinous intel in Argentina in December and missed the media tasting, but he’ll be back next week as usual with all of his reviews from the follow-up tastings.
Domaine Du Bois-Malinge 2013 Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie Ac, Loire, France ($13.95) John Szabo – A crisp and very dry, classically-styled Muscadet designed for the aperitif hour.
Rabl 2013 Kittmansberg Grüner Veltliner DAC Kamptal Austria ($14.95) John Szabo – A fine buy to keep around the house for casual sipping from the ever-reliable Rudi Rabl, crisp, dry and sprightly.
Borgo Magredo 2013 Mosaic Pinot Grigio, Friuli Grave, Italy, ($15.95) (72389) Sara d’Amato – A fresh and unadulterated pinot grigio from the gravelly soils of the aptly named “Grave del Friuli”. This innovative winery prides itself on decades of oenological research and cutting edge vinification tools, which it uses to produce appealing and modern wines while preserving purity of fruit – the essence of the terroir. This undressed example boasts lively acids and notable minerality.
Gunderloch 2013 Fritz’s Riesling, Qualitätswein, Germany, ($13.95) Sara d’Amato – Gunderloch’s unbelievably steep, red slate soils on the banks of the Rhein are almost entirely planted with naturally low-yielding riesling. Fritz Hasselbach, along with his wife Agnes manage the estate and are well-known ambassadors of the unique riesling grown on the “Roter Hang” between Nackenheim and Nierstein. Fritz’s riesling is upbeat and playful but delivers great impact for such a small price.
Château Beauséjour Hostens 2010, AC Haut Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($22.95) John Szabo – A complex, well-structured, succulent and savoury Bordeaux from the excellent 2010 vintage, with concentration and density well above the mean for the price. I like the range of dark fruit flavour, the integrated wood spice, the firm tannins and balanced acids. Solid stuff, and will be even better in 2-5 years.
Lafage Côté Sud 2010, IGP Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon, France ($14.95) John Szabo – Source of excellent value, characterful wines, the Roussillon delivers slightly savage, garrigue and blue fruit-flavoured wines, such as this example from Lafage. Across Jean-Marc Lafage’s sizable 160 hectare estate, average yields run about 20hl/ha, barely more than half the permitted yield in Grand Cru Burgundy, which accounts, in part, for the concentration on offer. Thankfully the pricing remains très Midi. For salty protein and snowfalls.
Ontañón 2010 Crianza Tempranillo/Garnacha DOCa Rioja Spain ($16.95) – John Szabo – Another fine, balanced, savoury and succulent wine from Ontañon, a reliable name in the Rioja constellation of producers. Best 2014-2020.
2010 Boutari Naoussa PDO Naoussa Greece ($13.95) John Szabo – An intriguing find for fans of traditional, old school, European wines at a super price. It’s not for pre-dinner sipping, mind you, but something to pull out with the roasts or braised meats. How refreshing it is to come across a wine that’s so decidedly non-fruity, fully focused savoury, earthy, sundried tomato flavours and much more; Boutari is back on track with this xynomavro classic in 2010. Best 2014-2020.
2012 San Silvestro Cantine Brumo Nebbiolo D’alba Doc, Piedmont, Italy ($15.95) John Szabo – A more than decent entry-level nebbiolo for fans of the grape. Best 2014-2018.
Saint Saturnin De Vergy 2012 Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune, Burgundy, France, ($24.95) Sara d’Amato – Complex, aromatic and structurally sound, this well-priced Burgundy hits all the right marks. I imagine this classic, polished and stylish pinot to be a top seller in this release.
Maison Roche De Bellene 2012 Cuvée Réserve Bourgogne, Burgundy, France ($21.95) Sara d’Amato – Roche de Bellene’s style tends to veer on the side of restrained and elegant with great finesse and this sophisticated buy is a case and point example. Both dinner party and cellar worthy – this class act exudes refinement and boasts deliciously distinctive pinot noir character.
Quercecchio 2012 Rosso Di Montalcino Tuscany, Italy, ($16.95) Sara d’Amato – Good Rosso di Montalcino such as this has characteristics of its big brother, Brunello, and this cheerful and complex example over-delivers. From Quercecchio’s historic estate, this succulent find is certainly a top value in this first release of the New Year.
Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2008, Umbria, Italy, ($16.95) Sara d’Amato – A “super-Umbrian” blend of sangiovese, sagrantino, merlot and cabernet that has been given a great deal of attention. Wonderfully decadent, upfront, highly appealing and complex – a sure-fire hit.
That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.
John Szabo MS
From VINTAGES January 10th, 2015:
Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!