Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August 20, 2016
Hot August Whites from Germany and Beyond
by David Lawrason, with notes from Michael Godel
If there was ever a time and place to drink German riesling, with its crisp acidity, lithe body and blooming aromatics, it would be during steamy August evenings in Ontario. So a German wine feature in the August 20th release makes all kinds of sense.
However, it’s obvious from the petty selection of only five German wines that the LCBO figures we are not really into German wines (and perhaps more into Niagara, which is perhaps a good assumption). However, this German release should have been so much bigger and better. Only one is a must-buy. Another is pretty good for the money. The others are commercially driven and forgettable with frankly dumb, populist labels as the only reason they might be purchased.
Germany has tried for decades to colour its wine populist (Blue Nuns, Green Labels and Black Towers) but it is hopeless. No lowest-common-denominator wine from Germany can really capture what is so narrowly superb about great German wine.
So it’s time Germany stopped trying so hard to be mass market. It must pick its moments and bring Audi-like precision and confidence to its delivery. And the LCBO needs to recognize such wines when they are offered. This would be a good moment in history to strive for this. The devalued pricing of German wine currently favours those that can bring great value, like the very fine Schloss Schoenborn Qba Riesling recommended below.
To be balanced, there are some good German wines on the shelf from previous VINTAGES releases, if you want to use WineAlign’s Find Wine function. And the selection of German wines should improve a lot when the LCBO opens a “German destination store” in Waterloo this October. It will include all German wines on the General List and VINTAGES plus consignment offerings that will also show up at LCBO.com for home delivery.
Elsewhere on this release, I choose a variety of recommended wines focused on other aromatic, summery whites, plus some fine reds. John and Sara are deep into summer vacations, so Michael and I stand in.
Schloss Schönborn 2011 Riesling Qualitätswein, Rheingau, Germany ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Hailing from a venerable estate in the Rheingau this is great value – a lovely, brisk, lively riesling with classic aromas of apricot, stone and a touch of honey and minty freshness. It’s light to medium bodied, with fine, mouth-watering acidity – but not at all austere. Stock up.
Michael Godel – Schloss Schönborn’s basic, entry-level, come and get it Qualitätswein is seemingly riesling from out of a designate void and no strings attached. It’s actually highly specified riesling but without label verbiage and from a most excellent vintage. There is a balanced, posit tug between acidity and sweetness, over the line and back again. The cumulative flavours recall long lasting pastilles, of gin, tonic and agave.
Thörle 2015 Feinherb Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Feinherb is a new term replacing the halbtrocken or “half dry” designation. The Germans love to tinker with their labels (and who can keep up?). This is a nicely generous, fairly soft but lively Rheinhessen riesling with lifted aromas of grapefruit, green apple and white flowers. It’s medium weight, with notable sweetness and a strong sour edge through the finish.
Tawse Sketches Of Niagara 2014 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($18.20)
David Lawrason – This gold medalist at the 2016 National Wine Awards is wonderfully fresh, brisk and generous, with floral, honey, peachy aromas. It’s off-dry but brings scintillating acidity to the game. Towers above many German rieslings at this price.
Contini Pariglia 2014 Vermentino di Sardegna, Italy ($18.95)
Michael Godel – You might imagine riesling from calcareous soils or semillon off of dry, arid plains, but this vermentino is striking on its own accord and illuminates as a developing experiment. The next big thing perhaps for geeks and mineral freaks in search of a profound, axiomatic, aromatic experience?
La Cappuccina 2014 Soave, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This is an organically produced Soave. It’s a classic – not hugely expressive but classy with a subtle, detailed aromas of yellow plum, licorice and wildflowers. It’s mid-weight with only medium acidity but the balance is very good. Will grace an elegant patio seafood, poultry or pork meal that’s not all about grills and sauces.
Cave Spring 2014 Chardonnay Musque, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($16.95)
David Lawrason – From a particular chardonnay clone with muscat florality, this is a unique wine that Cave Spring has mastered. It is solid and interesting year after year, involving some aromatic razzle dazzle with solid pear fruit, waxy, pepper and lime. It’s medium weight, firm and dry with some mid-palate generosity.
André Goichot 2014 Les Guignottes Montagny, Burgundy, France ($26.95)
Michael Godel – As in the case of Chablis, 2014 is a stellar vintage from the ever-increasingly excellent Côte Chalonnaise subregion from which chardonnay fervently shines. André Goichot’s fruit is rich, ripe and beautifully pressed, expressed and plays with the determination of the mineral obsessed. Simply wow Montagny.
Guy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne, Champagne, France ($61.95)
David Lawrason – This will slice and dice beautifully during a classy reception or light dinner on a tepid, hot August night. It is a nicely firm, balanced and elegant Champagne with very generous, complex toasty, dried fruit, hazelnut and vaguely earthy aromas. It’s all here. Really like the firm, stony mouth-watering feel.
Lighthall 2014 Progression Sparkling Wine, VQA Ontario ($20.00)
Michael Godel – Progression is 100 per cent sparkling vidal by Glenn Symons, a.k.a. “Ward 5 Brut,” made in the Charmat method, that is, by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Vidal has never played a tune like this before. Charmat or otherwise, grapes grown on Lighthall’s beautifully stark, wind-swept and electrifying property destined for sparkling wine does so with profound meaning. It’s simply meant to be.
Norman Hardie 2014 County Unfiltered Pinot Noir, VQA Prince Edward County ($45.20)
Michael Godel – A second taste four months later confirms the impossibility from Hardie in 2014, a vintage that just begs for Norm’s magic handling, from exemplary, slow-developed, quixotically sweet Pinot Noir fruit off of a vintage’s hyperbole of low-yielding vines. Humility only exceeded by impossibility.
Quinta Nova de Nossa 2011 Senhora do Carmo Colheita Tinto, Douro, Portugal ($19.95)
Michael Godel – The label tells us it’s “unoaked.” Brilliant. Such knowledge is power and usually an exclusive bit reserved for whites, especially chardonnay. Why not tell us your red wine spent no time in barrel? This is nothing short of awesome for the consumer. This Tinto is a terrific summer red when served with a chill that will serve and protect your palate and your will.
Castello Collemassari 2013 Rigoleto, Montecucco Rosso, Tuscany, Italy ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From a little known zone south of Montalcino in Tuscany, comes a lighter bodied, nicely energetic and juicy red that is organically grown. Expect quite generous, complex, redcurrant and cherries, herbs, leather and meaty notes and a touch of oak. Very generous, if not highly structured or age worthy, but it is balanced and delivers nicely for the price.
Celler de Capçanes 2014 Mas Donís Barrica Old Vines, Montsant, Spain ($17.95)
David Lawrason – A delicious if slightly rustic blend of old vine grenache and syrah from the region that encircles Priorat southwest of Barcelona. It has a lifted gamey, smoky/flinty nose with sour red fruit and oak vanillin. It’s medium-full bodied, open knit, sour edged and a touch volatile, but it works overall. Imagined savoury, grilled lamb kebobs as I tasted this.
Tune in next week when John returns from unknown vacation whereabouts to present his preview of this release. Sara is still drinking Tavel on riverbanks in the south of France.
VP of Wine
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