Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – July 9th, 2016
Cool French Finds and a Hotbed of Value in Southern Europe
by Sara d’Amato with notes from Michael Godel and John Szabo, MS
This week’s VINTAGES release offers a strong selection of Italian whites, coastal South African finds, reasonably priced Californian reds and a serious, albeit small showing from Portugal and Spain. Note that the vast majority of our selections this week are value-focused at under $20.
It is no secret that the best values in Europe are often found in southern regions where the consistently warm climate allows for higher yields at greater levels of ripeness. Conversely, cooler, fringe climates with greater vintage variation can seldom produce inexpensive, consistent wines at low price points. There are other factors however, that significantly affect value and in Europe one of great importance is prestige of region. Certain appellations, take for example Champagne or Bordeaux, have become akin to brands themselves with names that carry weight and cachet that garner elevated prices.
A combination of these factors is at play in many southern European regions throughout Portugal, Spain, Greece and southern Italy. See below for great values discovered in Rioja in this release. Although Rioja is Spain’s iconic, best-known wine region, it does not yet have the status of Burgundy, for example, and thus cannot yet command a similar average price point. This will not be the case forever especially with a savvy new generation of producers focusing on ever more specific regions and sites for the production of indigenous grapes varieties. In addition, John has highlighted below a stunning aglianico from southern Italy’s Basilicata, a known hotbed for value.
Similarly, southern France’s Languedoc and Côtes de Provence afford hot values and there are some notable finds in this release. We also look further north to the Loire Valley, capable of producing some head-turning pinot noir even outside of distinguished appellations. Such a pinot from a unique parcel of land in the IGP Val du Loire has caught our attention this week. A sauvignon blanc discovery in the relatively humble appellation of Touraine is also the source of a top value pick this week. In both cases, their origins, over their quality, dictate their price.
More summer picks are coming to you next week care of John Szabo and David Lawrason. After briefly assembling last week for the National WineAlign awards, the team is off again travelling to unique wine regions across the globe. Both John Szabo and David Lawrason are back in BC, while Michael Godel is entrenched in Chablis. Shortly I will be off to the southern Rhône for an extended stay. Expect new perspectives on emerging and established wine regions to follow.
Stay cool. Santé,
Buyers’ Guide to July 9th release:
You can find complete critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below
Waterkloof 2012 Circle of Life, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A Stellenbosch super blend of sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and chardonnay that had me at first sniff. Very careful, very slow wild yeast fermentation of grapes that have been farmed using biodynamic practices has resulted in a very natural feeling wine with almost imperceptible oak and glorious fruit expression.
John Szabo – Paul Boutinot, of French extraction but raised in England, set about searching for his ideal terroir. Ten years later, in 1993, he found it in Stellenbosch, on the south-facing slopes of the Schapenberg, overlooking False Bay in the Cape. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tasted from this beautiful property, including this intensely flavoured, medium-full-bodied blend of sauvignon, chenin, and chardonnay. It delivers significant density and weight, not to mention complexity at the price, with a range of citrus, orchard and tropical fruit. It’s not a summer sipper; there’s too much edginess (light acetic volatility), but that only adds to the character. Reserve for grilled chicken or high intensity fish dishes.
Domaine de la Chaise 2014 Touraine Sauvignon, Loire Valley, France ($14.95)
John Szabo – From the Sologne in the eastern Loire, almost equidistant from Tours and Dijon, this is a terrific bargain for serious sauvignon fans. It’s ripe, composed and complex, blending wet stone with creamy-ripe citrus and orchard fruit, and just a hint of green. Length is very good to excellent in the category.
Abbazia di Novacella 2014 Müller Thurgau, Valle Isarco Alto Adige, Italy ($19.95)
John Szabo – With nearly a thousand years of winemaking history, the Abby of Novacella in the upper Adige Valley consistently produces one of the top müller-thurgau’s in Italy (and therefore the world!). The 2014 is a varietally accurate, floral-fruity example, bursting with fresh apple/cherry blossoms, alongside fleshy white orchard fruit, pears, apples and the like, lingering impressively on the palate. It’s a lovely sipping/summer patio wine, great with, say, shaved fennel and orange salad.
Sara d’Amato – A smart, elegant summer sipper from high altitude sites on the slopes of the southern Alps. Lightly tropical with distinctive floral aromas and mineral character, both food friendly and widely appealing.
Tablas Creek 2013 Côtes de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles, California, USA $33.95 (36616)
Sara d’Amato – Available in select VINTAGES stores, this In Store Discovery (ISD) is well worth seeking out. This collaborative project between the Perrin Family of the southern Rhône and Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands quickly achieved cult wine status shortly after its inception. The wines are modeled after the blends of Beaucastel and are organically dry-farmed in limestone-based soils very similar to those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Côtes de Tablas tier falls just below that of the Esprit series and is approachably lush. A blend based on viognier, it is rich and mouthfilling with the wild floral character, peach and honey very typical of this seductive grape varietal.
Michael Godel – Paso Robles esprit of high command designates this ranging Rhone blend into a category singularly held. The white Chateauneuf-du-Pape oeuvre may be the muse but cooler California is the reality and the ideal. Grip, structure and the anti-boozy blend are hallmarks of great Rhone meets Paso Robles whites.
Flat Rock 2013 The Rusty Shed Chardonnay, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Jay Johnston’s handling of the exceptional Twenty Mile Bench fruit in 2013 is a best of effort. He is the benefactor and we will all be benefactors of such a balanced chardonnay. A wine to impress critics and consumers alike. Bravo.
Henri Gaillard 2015 Rosé, Côtes De Provence, France ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – A light and elegant Côtes de Provence with gentle floral aromatics, dry and utterly refreshing. Named after the well-respected negociant Henri Gaillard who was instrumental in the international prominence of the Côtes de Provence appellation.
Cune 2012 Rioja Crianza, Rioja, Spain ($16.95)
John Szabo – Ever-reliable CVNE (Compañia Viñícola del Norte de España) crafts another vibrant, savoury, well-balanced wine here, with exceptional length and depth in the price category. What a delightful wine for the money – all vibrant, tart red berry fruit and spice. Serve lightly chilled. Best 2016-2022.
Olarra Laztana 2010 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – From Bodegas Olarra, the Laztana Reserva exhibits impressive complexity for the price and is produced infrequently in small lots. Showing some graceful maturation in flavour profile although the structure is still solid and the fleshy mouthfeel is highly pleasurable.
Tessellae 2014 Vieilles Vignes Carignan, Côtes Catalanes, France ($17.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a real tour de force for the price, which shows the possible heights of old vines carignan. It offers a lovely meadow of wild mountain herbs and flowers, with smoky-rocky black fruit, generous, dense and full palate, with high but integrated alcohol. At the price, fans of southern Rhône-style wines should leap at this. Best 2016-2024.
Michael Godel – I can’t say this will please every palate but it if you like fresh, affordable and crushable you should raise your hand and be counted. It has patio, dock and lazing in the grass written deeply with intrinsic vernacular. Cheat on your cellar and defend them all right here.
Señorío De Los Baldíos 2009, Ribera del Duero, Spain ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A lush and modern tempranillo with bold fruit unencumbered by heavy oak. Wholly satisfying and drinking at peak maturity.
Chapoutier 2014 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – A re-released favourite, this summery, lighter bodied red with the freshness of grenache and the pep of syrah is offers authentic, regional typicity at a steal of a price.
Hubert Brochard 2014 Les Carisannes Pinot Noir, Val de Loire, France (17.95)
John Szabo – From a small, 5-hectares family estate just outside the Sancerre appellation yet still on prized-flinty-limestone soils, this is an absolutely delicious Loire pinot. It has lovely, light, high-toned aromatics, all fresh-tart red berries, strawberry-raspberry, with some attractive leafy flavours. While concentration is fairly modest, it remains an infinitely drinkable, fresh, wine. If I had a restaurant I’d be pouring this by the glass (and drinking it after my shift). Serve lightly chilled.
D’Angelo 2012 Aglianico del Vulture, Basilicata, Italy ($17.95)
John Szabo – Traditionalist D’Angelo delivers a wildly savoury-earthy, pot pourri-inflected aglianico from the slopes of Vulture volcano, full of wild cherry, beef jerky, leather and more. If you’re seeking a fruity wine, this is not it. But fans of rustic, old country wines will revel in this. Best 2016-2022.
Cigliano 2013 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Some slopes is the San Casciano Val di Pesa (like those occupied by Luiano) have the mineral composition to impose upon and gift dramatic foreshadowing to sangiovese. Here for $20 is such a case.
From VINTAGES July 9th, 2016
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!