Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Dec 12, Part Two

Holiday Value Selections
by John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason & Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

After last week’s preview of the best buys over $25, this week we look at the best selections under $25 included in the December 12th release. Also stay tuned for my annual fizz report coming out on the 18th just in time for the holidays, which will be full of premium sparkling wines available both at the LCBO and in consignment, for gifting, celebrating and collecting, a special feature on grower champagnes, as well as a revised look at an old favourite pastime, matching oysters and wine.

White And Sparkling Wines

Zenato 2014 San Benedetto Lugana, Veneto, Italy ($16.95)

Sara d’Amato – A great holiday white for a low price especially if you enjoy fresher, unoaked whites. Lugana is made primarily from verdicchio and this example shows well the variety’s generous fruity character and nervy nature.
David Lawrason – This is one of Italy’s great underrated whites based on the trebbiano grape grown in northern Italy. It sports a very generous nose of lemon, apple custard, vague almond and subtropical star fruit. It’s medium weight fleshy, very bright and fresh. For fans of viognier and the exotic.

Wynns Coonawarra 2014 Estate Chardonnay, Coonawarra, South Australia ($17.95)

John Szabo – A lovely, brisk, fresh, minimally-oaked chardonnay from the ever-reliable Wynns of Coonawarra, and terrific value at that.

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Bottled Chardonnay, Cave Spring Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)

David Lawrason – Ontario winemakers and pundits are pegging 2013 as a great white wine vintage in Ontario (and please abide my opinion that great white wine vintages are more important than great red wine vintages here in the homeland). This is a tender yet ripe and quite elegant chardonnay. Lighter and fresher than many but has some textural weight and creaminess at the same time.

Zenato San Benedetto Lugana 2014Wynns Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay 2014Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2013Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Sparkling Riesling 2013Mountadam Estate Chardonnay 2013

Tawse 2013 Spark Limestone Ridge Sparkling Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)

David Lawrason – Tawse’s cleverly named and varied Spark sparklers have been hit and miss in my view, but this is solid and great value – a quite fine, complex, tightly woven riesling with a compact and complex nose of dried green pear, petrol and chalky stoniness. And it’s priced for generous pours over the holidays.

Mountadam Estate 2013 Chardonnay High Eden, Eden Valley, South Australia ($23.95)

John Szabo – The cool Eden Valley above the Barossa in South Australia is the origin of this pleasant, fragrant and lifted chardonnay with plentiful white-fleshed ripe orchard fruit. Concentration aligns with balance, and length and depth are also exceptional for the category. Best 2015-2021.
Sara d’Amato – Anything but a rich oaky chardonnay, this high elevation Aussie version is perfumed and elegant with impressive harmony and refinement. A classy addition to your holiday table that makes an easy match for a wide array of cuisine.

Red Wines

Pinacle De Fakra 2010, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon ($14.95)

John Szabo – And now for something different … this cabernet-syrah-cinsault blend from Lebanon delivers a mouthful of savoury, dusty, succulent red fruit, full of wild herbs. Tannins are light and fine grained, acids are balanced and the overall length and depth are terrific for the price. A charmingly rustic, old world style wine, best 2015-2020.
Sara d’Amato – A curio selection with wide appeal, this blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and cinsault from the heavily French-influenced, super high elevation Bekaa Valley, offers softened tannins and a ready-to-drink nature. Mid-weight and loaded with fruit, it is one of the better values in this release.

Emiliana 2013 Novas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Maipo Valley, Chile ($15.95)

David Lawrason – Wow, let Chile’s leading organic producer take a bow. This is an even-handed, quite delicious cab-merlot blend with complex notes of cassis, chocolate, graphite and mint. Well proportioned, even, fairly extracted but slender. May not have the density and depth of most wines that score 90, but impeccable balance trumps depth.

Pierre Laplace 2012 Madiran, Southwest France ($16.95)

David Lawrason – Here’s a textbook example of one of the world’s toughest-to-love reds. Madiran is a tannat-based red from the southwest of France, its name derived from the ferocity of its tannins. This example brings order to the house. The nose is a bit shy but appealing with blackberry, a touch of evergreen and vaguely iron-like minerality. It is medium-full bodied, quite firm and taut, but not overly aggressive.

Pinacle De Fakra 2010Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013Pierre Laplace Madiran 2012Cabriz Reserva 2012

Cabriz 2012 Reserva, Dão, Portugal ($17.95)

David Lawrason – Great value here! The landlocked, moderate climate, complex-soiled hill Dão region in central Portugal has huge potential, but is currently constricted by its mid-price range. Lovely lifted floral, plummy, blackberry and violet aromatics on display. It’s medium-full bodied, surprisingly gentle, soft and fruity with just enough drying tannin.

Salentein 2013 Reserve Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($17.95)

Sara d’Amato – Rich and inviting with notes of cocoa and black currant, this comforting red is best for curling up by the fireplace. It’s not all guilty pleasure though offering surprising dimension for the price. Peppered with notes of anise and juniper that linger on the marathon of a finish.

Poderi Angelini 2010 Primitivo Di Manduria, Puglia, Italy ($18.95)

John Szabo – Lovers of full-bodied, big, intensely flavoured wines in the style of Amarone will appreciate this similarly styled primitivo from Puglia. But it’s more than just raisined fruit; Poderi Angelini provides an example with excellent complexity, mature and earthy, pleasantly rustic and decidedly old school. This radically over-delivers on the price – I’d put this up against $40+ Amarone any day. Best 2015-2025.

Salentein Reserve Malbec 2013Poderi Angelini Primitivo Di Manduria 2010Ernie Els Big Easy 2013Murua Reserva 2007

Ernie Els 2013 Big Easy, Western Cape, South Africa ($19.95)

John Szabo – This entry-level wine from Els shows the high level at which the estate is currently performing. Mainly shiraz-cabernet, with some grenache, mourvèdre, cinsault and viognier, this is superb value, appealingly complex, savoury-earthy and herbal, well-structured, dense and polished. Lots of joy and pleasure here, best 2015-2021.

Murua 2007 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($21.95)

Sara d’Amato – A solid, old school Rioja at the peak of maturity. Pairs well with everything from nuts and hard cheeses to roast bird and beef tenderloin.

Château Pierre De Montignac 2009, Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($23.95)

Sara d’Amato – With equal parts cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this juicy Médoc is fresh, friendly and easy to appreciate. From the highly lauded, riper 2009 vintage, this is a safe bet for holiday offering.

Château Pierre De Montignac 2009Mazzei Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico 2011Wakefield Jaraman Shiraz 2013Domaine Karydas Naoussa 2010

Mazzei 2011 Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($23.95)

John Szabo – Tuscan stalwart Mazzei, family owners of the Castello di Fonterutoli in Chianti Classico since 1435, deliver an open, very pretty, silky and perfumed wine in the 2011 vintage, with sangiovese softened by a splash of merlot. Although tempting now, this should continue to improve over the next 2-4 years, developing appealing savoury character along the way. Best 2017-2023.

Wakefield 2013 Jaraman Shiraz, Clare Valley/McLaren Vale, South Australia ($24.95)

David Lawrason – The Clare Valley is admired in Oz, but overlooked here as just another Aussie region. Its wines can offer impressive structure and depth – to wit this elegant red packed with generous currants, herbs, pepper, vanilla bean and cedar shaving. It’s full bodied, fairly dense and warm yet mineral.

Domaine Karydas 2010 Xinomavro, Naoussa, Greece ($25.95)

John Szabo – Ok, this is marginally above $25, but I believe it’s worth including, especially for lovers of light, dusty reds in the style of pinot noir, nebbiolo or sangiovese. Xynomavro is the Greek variation on this theme, a native variety to Macedonia and specifically the Naoussa region. Expect dried and candied red berry fruit, Turkish delight and leather, and firm but not aggressive tannins and acids. Decant for maximum enjoyment or hold through to the mid-’20s.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

From VINTAGES December 12th, 2015

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Dec 12, Part One – Holiday Gifting and Gathering

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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Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012


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