Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Sept 3rd, 2016
Nature’s Cruel Hand, Burgundy and the Old World
by John Szabo, MS
Get your Burgundy fix on September 3rd. The mini VINTAGES thematic includes an unexpectedly good collection of wines, which could even be called good value by almost every reasonably serious wine drinker’s standards. Believe me, this is rare, especially in light of the region’s recent meteorological misfortunes. I recommend a quartet of wines that I’d love to have in my cellar. The best of the rest from the old world rounds out the report, including a trio of excellent Iberian reds and a Prosecco that might change your idea of Prosecco. My reviews of the Chilean theme, ably covered last week by Sara, are also up on WineAlign, along with the rest of the release. Stop by the website for all of the goods.
Nature, You’re Crushing Our Dreams
Mother nature clearly doesn’t like a good glass of Bourgogne. Or perhaps she’s inexplicably pre-occupied with controlling supply and stiffening prices, or is in cahoots with competing commercial forces. In any case, the hapless Bourguignons have been hammered in the latest string of vintages by nature’s cruel hand: hail, frost, rain and other nefarious, largely uncontrollable forces have conspired to reduce the world’s supply of Bourgogne comprehensively from Chablis to Châlon. This is dire news, putting even more pressure on the balance of supply that had already tipped some time ago in favour of the fabulously wealthy.
This makes coming across tasty, reasonably priced Burgundy even more special, like finding a treasured bottle in the cellar you were sure you had drunk long ago, or finding a $50 dollar bill in the pocket of the pants you haven’t worn for ages. It’s cause for a mini-celebration since it happens so rarely.
But why the fuss over Burgundy? It’s not that the region enjoys exclusivity on the production of complex and nuanced, genuinely cool climate chardonnay and pinot noir, although the region does it exceptionally well. The rights were shared long ago and worldwide competition is stiff. I could also handily suggest wines of objectively better value, too, without even flexing my master sommelier muscles.
But for those for whom drinking in history and tradition is part of the pleasure of enjoying wine, evoking a unique set of emotions and transporting you on an aspirational journey (which is to say just about everybody), substitutes, however delicious and better value, just won’t do. A bottle with Bourgogne on the label is freighted with drinkable reverence, legend and folklore like very few others on earth. That’s why the fuss. Oh, and the wines happen to be delicious as well.
So although Nature has not been on your side of late, wickedly thumbing her nose at your aspirational dreams, here’s your chance to get a fine Bourgogne fix. And you won’t even need to mortgage the farm.
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Our Top Picks from the Sept 3rd VINTAGES release:
Buyers’ Guide: Burgundy
La Chablisienne 2013 Bourgogne Chardonnay ($15.95) The excellent Chablisienne cooperative has crafted a delightful Bourgogne Chardonnay, which I can only speculate is made from grapes grown in or around the Chablis AOC, as this tastes like tidy Petit or even village-level Chablis. Whatever the case, I’d love to have a few bottles of this around the house for everyday drinking. If you love the fresh, vibrant yet complex and minerally style of chardonnay from northern Burgundy, this delivers it all at a price and quality level that most other unoaked chardonnays would kill to be able to deliver.
Domaine 2014 Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru ($32.95) A properly firm and stony, tight and juicy, stone dust-flavoured 1er cru Chablis here in the traditional style, the way we like it. The seventh winegrowing generation is currently at the helm chez Hamelin, and this Beauroy from a parcel planted in 1982 deliver’s all the necessary in the excellent 2014 vintage, designed for medium-long term cellaring, best after 2018.
Olivier Leflaive 2014 Bourgogne Chardonnay ($29.95) Leflaive is one of the revered names in Burgundy, and this négociant cuvée is a classy, lean, bright and sophisticated white, very precise, tightly wound, masterfully pulled together from multiple parcels spanning the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise and the Hautes Côtes. Length and depth are also superior to the modest appellation status – make no mistake, this is high quality wine despite the generic designation, ready to enjoy or hold short term.
André Goichot 2014 Givry Les Servoisines 1er Cru ($33.95) Maison Goichot is a rather sizable Beaune-based negociant that has assembled a fine and flavourful, nicely dense and concentrated (if slightly funky) example of La Servoisine, a prized Givry 1er cru in the value-rich Côte Chalonnaise. Tannins are well integrated, as is barrel influence, and dark cherry and spice lingers admirably. For the money, this is highly attractive red Burgundy, a natural for restaurant wine lists, and to be seriously considered for smart private cellars. Drink or hold mid-term. Best 2016-2022.
Buyers’ Guide: Euro Wines
Tenuta Degli Ultimi 2013 Rive di Collalto Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Veneto, Italy ($21.95) This is a premium, single vineyard (“Rive”) Prosecco with a great deal more character than the mean. The steep parcel lies about halfway between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, and yields a sparkling wine of fine, creamy texture, essentially dry and crisp, with lovely autumnal, fallen apple flavours (but by no means oxidized), and terrific length. If you had relegated Prosecco to the frothy and frivolous category, this bottle may cause you to rethink, showing how classy, stony and complex it can be. See my recent report on Prosecco for some regional background and many more recommendations.
Henri Bourgeois 2015 Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc IGP Vins de Pays du Val de Loire France ($15.95) A fine little sauvignon here from the highly regarded Henri Bourgeois, surprisingly gentle and quite ripe, easy drinking but flavourful. You can thank in part the warm 2015 growing season for the tenderness and ripeness on offer. This should please widely, and would make a great restaurant by the glass pour when Sancerre is out of the budget.
Cune 2009 Gran Reserva, DOCa Rioja, Spain ($39.95) This is an expectedly traditional style gran reserva from CVNE here, balanced, elegant, quite delicate, with generous but measured American oak flavour, lively acids and fine, dusty tannins. There’s also a surprising amount of fruit still present almost 7 years in, and I’d even suggest this needs another few years to hit full maturity and maximum stride, bet somewhere between 2019 and 2029.
Vadio 2012 Tinto, DOC Barraida, Portugal ($19.95) What a great find this is! Fans of old world reds in the style of nebbiolo or more rustic pinot noir will love this, especially at the price. This is a pure baga (that’s the indigenous grape) made by Luís Patrão, a relatively new, tiny family operation dedicated to local varieties and traditional styling (Patrão’s day job is at Esporão). It’s evolving nicely now into an attractive range of savoury, spicy, herbal, and dried flower/pot-pourri type aromatics. The palate is wonderfully firm and raw silk-textured, driven by ripe acids and ultra-refined tannins (especially for the often exceedingly tannic baga). I love the savoury complexity and the length. Best 2016-2022.
Clos Gebrat 2014 CG+, DO Priorat, Spain ($19.95) Seekers of thick, chewy, concentrated reds that really grip the palate will love this. It’s a big, bold, dense and generous blend (1/3 each cariñena, garnacha and cabernet) made by the local Vinicola del Priorat co-op in the typical regional mould (15.5% alcohol declared). It’s kept honest and whole by savoury herbs and a pleasantly bitter edge. Acids are a touch shrill on the back end, but then again, that’s the case for countless overripe wines at 2 and 3 times the price. I’d put it in the excellent value category for the genre, a wine that also carries a sense of place. Best 2016-2022.
That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.
John Szabo MS
From VINTAGES September 3rd, 2016
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