Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 7th – Part Two

Righteous Reds from South of Zero
by David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

It’s Feburrrrr-ary in Ontario, so it doesn’t take too much encouragement to think about warmer climes; which VINTAGES invites us to do by grouping a handful of well-known producers into a South of the Equator mini-feature. And the selections, although few, are very good.

You may have noticed a trend so far in 2015 where John (the Vulcan) Szabo tackles Euro-featured wines (Italy last week), and I lead off with New World/Southern Hemisphere wines. It’s not quite by design, but it suits me fine because I love the energy and advancement of the southern zones. By chance more than design I have crossed the equator six times since January 2012; sixteen times in my career: and I will take two more trips over the line before April this year to South America and New Zealand. So one begins to get a real sense of what’s going on in the Southern Hemisphere. These nations are beyond the days of producing cookie-cutter jammy, hot and oaky red wines. There is exciting stuff afoot; they are on that journey of self-discovery that Europe completed long ago. Witness the Concha Y Toro Carmenère below that earned an aligned opinion from all three of us. But there were some Northern Hemisphere reds that also excited us.

South of the Equator

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo 2011 Peumo Vineyard Block 27 Carmenère, Cachapoal Valley ($29.95)

Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Peumo Vineyard Block 27 Carmenère 2011David Lawrason – I have not rated this 95 like Wine & Spirits Magazine, but this is a textbook carmenère from a fine single vineyard. Chile is drilling down! Not only is it varietally and technically correct, it displays a sense of elegance as well. Really very fine!
John Szabo – Winemaker Ignacio Recabarren blends a splash of old vine cabernet sauvignon from Pirque (Maipo Valley) with this single block of terraced carmenère from Peumo to create this exceptional wine. 2011 was an unusually cool vintage, which for Chile simply means a great, long growing season. It shows in this lovely, crunchy, vibrant yet richly extracted wine, with terrific length and depth. I’d wait 2-3 years at least before drinking for maximum complexity.
Sara d’Amato – For six consistent years on the VINTAGES shelves, the Terrunyo, site-specific, carmenère proves to be one of Chile’s top examples of this highly aromatic varietal. With exceptional balance, of acids, tannin and fruit, here is a class act that can be enjoyed now with decanting or put on hold for another 3-4 years.

Katnook Estate 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia ($29.95)
David Lawrason – Coonawarra, in my view, is one of the great pure cabernet sauvignon regions in the world. Its moderate, almost coastal climate perfectly ripens cab – not too green, not overripe. And the terra rosa soils pack in complexity and structure. Katnook has delivered a soaring cab here with a riot of blackcurrant, mint/menthol, graphite, white pepper and oak. Plus cabernet lead pencil and rubber eraser.

Fabre Montmayou 2011 Gran Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, ($22.95)

Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2011

La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2013

David Lawrason – On recent travels to Argentina I really began to break Mendoza’s malbecs into sub-regional and stylistic chunks. This is a lush, rich and cuddly, wooded style from lower altitude vineyards (whereas the wine featured by John below is from higher altitude Uco). The other learning was that vintages matter in Argentina, and 2011 was one of the coolest on record, with this wine, despite its girth, showing a telltale tinge of greenness on the finish.

La Posta 2013 Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.95)
John Szabo
– Although the wood influence is still strong, beneath the oaky veneer is a wine of pleasant herbal, lavender, cracked black pepper and oregano-type flavours along with fresh dark fruit, characteristics often encountered in the cooler, high elevations of the Uco Valley (these vines are at over 900 meters in Altamira, La Consulta). This over-delivers on intensity and length for the money.
Sara d’Amato – A wine so easy to fall in love with (and perhaps to), due in part to the aromatic garrigue (notes of lavender, sage and dried brush) that are oh-so evocative of the blends of the southern Rhône. I can’t imagine that this appealing red for under $16 wouldn’t be an enormous hit with just about any crowd.

North of the Equator

Faiveley 2012 Mercurey, Burgundy, France ($24.95)

Domaine Beau Mistral Vieilles Vignes Rasteau Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2012 Foris Pinot Noir 2011 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey 2012David Lawrason – This is a cool climate pinot-lovers pinot, a lean, spry example with almost crystalline cran-raspberry fruit nicely etched with oak spice. Mercurey is the lead village for reds in the Côte Chalonnaise. Its pinot may not always have the structure of peers from the Cote d’Or to the north, but watch it carefully for Burgundy value.
John Szabo – Quality at Faiveley’s historic Mercurey base has risen nicely in the last couple of vintages, and this 2012, although not transcendental, is delicious. I love the delicate, lacy tannins and crisp acids, the way classic pinot should always be.

Foris 2011 Pinot Noir Rogue Valley, Oregon, USA ($24.95)
John Szabo – From a vineyard initially established in 1974 (winery in 1986) in the remote Rogue Valley in the southwest corner of Oregon, this is a fine entry-level pinot. It has all of the vibrant berry fruit one hopes for without significant interference from wood, plus an intriguing savoury edge and juicy acids.

Domaine Beau Mistral  2012 Vieilles Vignes Rasteau, Rhône, France ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – Rasteau is an appellation to watch and one of the last villages in the southern Rhône to receive its own AOC status (in 2010). Formerly thought to be too hot to compete with the best south of Montelimar, there has been a recent shift away from the rustic styles of wine previously produced. The wines still have an appealing generosity and density but top examples, such as this, can also show lovely balance, elegant mineral character, notes of wild flower and a distinctive musky, peppery feature.

Finca La Cuesta 2011

Pinyolet Selección 2010

Château La Bienfaisance 2008Finca La Cuesta 2011 Bierzo, Castilla y Léon, Spain ($19.95)
John Szabo
– This is a part of Spain where things generally get interesting for fans of fruit and floral perfume on a balanced frame. This Bierzo, made by the established estate of Luna Berberide from old vines at up to 750 meters, smells like violets and blackberry, carried on the palate by the lively acids of mencía. A tasty value.

Pinyolet 2010 Selección, Montsant, Spain ($26.95)
David Lawrason Pinyolet is the local name for the limestone soils of Montsant, an appellation in the shadow of its more famous neighbour Priorat. Both sit high in the arid hills of southern Catalonia, with Priorat’s best sites having steeper altitude and prominent slate soils that create wines with a tighter grain. I have always enjoyed Montsant’s more open-hearted yet still refined ambiance (thanks limestone), especially with garnacha involved.

Château La Bienfaisance 2008 Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France ($31.95)
Sara d’Amato – Over the past ten years, there has been a concerted effort to craft very fine wines from high-cropped, low yielding vines at this estate. Produced from vines averaging 30 years, the 2008 Chateau La Bienfaisance is maturing slowly and gracefully. Drink now or hold another 4-5 years.

And for Valentine’s Day or Any Day

Rustico Valdobbiadene Prosecco SuperioreRustico Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Veneto, Italy ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – This frothy, sophisticated Prosecco immediately floated my boat upon tasting this past month and I distinctly remember feeling the same way having also tasted it a year ago. A successful pioneer in the introduction of non-Champagne sparkling wines to the international market, Nino Franco made the world take note of Prosecco in the 1980s. Consistently elegant, the wine remains a top example of this affordable bubbly.

There was a nod to Valentine’s Day in this release, with a bouquet of sparklers on the docket, but we defer to a nationally posted article en route next week that will compile the romantic musings of WineAlign correspondents in three provinces, and recommend wines available country-wide. Meanwhile, Steve Thurlow has just posted the February edition of Top 20 under 20 Values at the LCBO.

For those of you in the Toronto area, I hope that I’ll see you at the Wynns’ Gourmet Dinner & Tutored Tasting on Feb 19th where I’ll be co-hosting with winemaker Sue Hodder. Wynns is the Coonawarra region’s pre-eminent wine producer, with the largest holding of the region’s best and longest established vineyard sites. As I mentioned in a review above, Connawarra, in my view, is one of the great pure cabernet sauvignon regions in the world. This will be a great opportunity to try some.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES Feb 7th release:

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Feb 7th – Part One
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

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!

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