Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Oct 1st, 2016
by David Lawrason, with notes from Sarah d’Amato and Michael Godel
Welcome to October, already. At VINTAGES this marks the beginning of the surge of wines with steeper prices – the first tranche that might be considered for holiday gifting. And given the craziness of the buying in late November and December, you might be well advised to shop early, even if you are not quite in the mood.
And of course there is always next weekend’s Thanksgiving dinner, which in itself is worthy of higher quality wines – bottles with the flavour intensity, complexity and length to stand up to Big Bird. This might be the year to branch out and try a Garnacha from Spain, a pinot from South Africa, a white Rhone blend from California, an oily sylvaner from Alsace, or even a great Chianti Classico Gran Selezione.
In case you missed it, last week John presented a great perspective on Spanish wine through the lens of an outspoken and perceptive Telmo Rodriguez. (Rioja is featured in this release, there is a VINTAGES Rioja walkaround October 5). If you were among the lucky who attended the Spanish Wine Fair on Sept 19, you know that the somnolent giant of Iberia is indeed in break-out and discovery mode. But at the fair I was so frustrated by the number of intriguing wines that are actually not easily available. Is anyone else getting really upset by this entrenched situation? Hopefully the arrival of the LCBO’s e-commerce site, with its promised tripling of offerings to 15,000 within a year, will finally begin to alleviate the problem.
But back to the here and now. Sara, Michael and I have assembled an intriguing group of recommendations that are hitting the shelves as we speak. There are some lower priced gems, some very good mid-priced buys and more expensive wines that are still decent value. You can quickly access even more of our favourites by clicking on the quick links to Critics’ picks below. We begin with a very classy Italian white on which we three have aligned.
Our Top Picks from the Oct 1st VINTAGES release:
Whites and a Sparkler
Cordero di Montezemolo 2015 Arneis, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – Arneis is held in high regard in Piedmont due to its ability to retain acidity, its generous aromatic quality and its naturally low-yielding character. It has been brought back from the verge of extinction and thankfully so because it produces great value, complex whites such as this example from Cordero di Montezemolo. Expect citrus and sea salt, camomile and peach with a generous and lively nature.
David Lawrason – We rarely see arneis, and this is a fine example. It shows a nicely fragrant nose with lemon-lime, fennel and exotic almost guava-like fruit. Just a hint of greenness. Lovely piquancy and bitterness.
Michael Godel – Arneis is one of the great unheralded grapes and those who know it, get it. More acclaim for exceptional arneis will always make me smile. Here you get prodigious and revered producer meets resurgent varietal. This one does it all; freshness, herbiage, florals, botanicals and minerals. The whole periodic table in a bottle of white.
Bonny Doon 2013 Le Cigare Blanc, Arroyo Seco, Central Coast, California ($34.95)
Sara d’Amato – A modern take on a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this is assembled from roussanne and grenache blanc along with picpoul blanc. The fruit is sourced from the aptly named Beeswax Vineyard as the resulting wines tend to have a strong note of beeswax and aromatic herbs.
Domaine Loew 2013 Vérité Sylvaner Alsace, France ($25.95)
Michael Godel – Sylvaner from the flats of Alsace can be quite simple and then there is this. Oily doesn’t due this sylvaner justice. You could run heavy machinery on this juice. And it’s flat out delicious. More British aperitif than Italian digestif in the bitters and tonic sense but strictly Alsatian and in requiem for a match made in Foie Gras heaven.
Foncalieu Le Versant 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Vins de Pays d’Oc, France ($14.95)
Michael Godel – There are few Midi SBs that can both thrill and appease with ease like this Pays d’Oc. Crowd pleaser to pour at weddings and other large gatherings.
Avondale 2009 Armilla Blanc de Blanc Méthode Cap Classique, Paarl, South Africa ($29.95)
David Lawrason – Great value in a delicious, full fruited sparkler made in the traditional method of second fermentation in bottle. It’s medium weight, lively yet rich, with creamy mousse and ripe fruit joined by some lemon on the finish.
Castello di Ama 2011 San Lorenzo Gran Selezione Chianti Classico, Italy ($48.95)
David Lawrason – This gorgeous, modern Chianti sports a lovely, rich if not hugely intense nose of well woven vanillin, cedary spice, fennel and vaguely jammy raspberry/currant fruit. The creamy elegance continues on the palate with very fine acidity, tannin and alcohol warmth providing ballast. Bravo!
Piazzano 2011 Colorino, Tuscany, Italy ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Produced entirely from the little known colorino grape which is notably tannic and deeply coloured. Yet this example from Piazzano offers so much more than structure and striking visual appeal. Opulent fruit and a richly textured palate make for a sensually inviting stunner.
Hamilton 2015 Russell Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa ($57.95)
David Lawrason – This is the most famous pinot noir of South Africa, from a pinot-dedicated estate within five kilometres of cooling Walker Bay. I was fortunate to do a vertical at the property in March and this 2015 showed as one of the riper, more opulent years. If you would spend almost $60 on a pinot from Oregon, or Burgundy, you should spend here as well.
Gabriel Meffre Laurus Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Rhone Valley, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – A very typical southern blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre with the emphasis on grenache and syrah. Gabrielle Meffre’s appellation series “Laurus” sources grapes from the three main soil types found in the region: alluvial terraces, stony clay and limestone soils, each terroir imparting a distinct characteristic for a balanced and complimentary blend. Finely crafted, excellent value.
Breca 2013 Breca Old Vines Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain ($22.95)
Michael Godel – As per the modern norm this very floral, 100 per cent garnacha from typically regional (upwards of 100 year) old vines pushes the scales in extraction, weight and alcohol. If any Aragonese garnacha can handle such largesse it is Calatayud because the combination of gnarly vines, rocky soil and low yields gives essential nutrients to fruit for balance.
Renato Ratti 2011 Marcenasco Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($53.95)
David Lawrason – This is an amazingly intense, savoury nebbiolo flirting with acetone/volatility but there is so much other complexity. Very lifted aromas of almost vermouth-like rosemary/juniper, currant/raspberry fruit, light smoke and leather. It’s medium-full bodied, fairly supple and creamy with very firm, slightly green tannin.
Hall 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California ($89.95)
Sara d’Amato – A blend of fruit from select Napa parcels, sustainable and organic sites. A head-turner with generous Valley fruit balanced by freshness. Black pepper and floral notes with liquorice and dried herbs elevate this cabernet to great heights.
Chave Séléction Silène Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France ($28.95)
David Lawrason – What a gorgeous syrah! This has great nose packs with florals, plummy/blueberry fruit with pitch perfect oak vanillin, fresh cracked pepper and gentle smoked meat. So tidy and refined on the palate. Great value here.
And that’s it for this week. Having already begun tasting for the large October 15 release I can tell you there are many more good wines en route. Meanwhile I look forward to seeing some of you Monday night at the sold out Concha Y Toro dinner.
VP of Wine
From VINTAGES October 1st, 2016
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