Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Oct 15th, 2016
Piedmont & Other Smart Buys – plus a Valpolicella Primer
by John Szabo, MS
The VINTAGES Preview for the October 15th release covers a trio of wines from Piedmont, a favorite region of master sommeliers, as well a handful of other savvy buys from around the world. This week’s report also features a separate article on where-to-drink while in Verona, a city I’ve had the unexpected pleasure of visiting a half-dozen times in the last year on various missions (You can jump to that article here). I’ve added a brief primer on ever-popular Valpolicella, Italy’s number one region for exports by value, and listed ten producers you’ll want to know. Next week Sara d’Amato features a report on California based on her recent travels there, also the other theme of the October 15th release, while the rest of the WineAlign cru weigh in with their top picks.
Counted among Italy’s and the world’s premier fine wine regions, Piedmont attracts the kind of wine drinkers who revel in deep, hauntingly-perfumed, complex and often challenging wines. Here, individual varieties are rendered in a myriad of nuanced expressions, most famously nebbiolo from the Langhe hills in the DOCGs of Barolo and Barbaresco.
Tellingly, at the recent Master Sommelier symposium in Washington DC where 100 MSs from across the Americas gathered for our annual general meeting, Piedmont, and Barolo, was the most represented Italian region by a wide margin at the much-loved bring-a-bottle tasting on opening night. It’s revealing to see what comes out of the cellar for such an occasion, and it seems we just can’t get enough nebbiolo (along with of course champagne, Burgundy and especially old German riesling). The VINTAGES October 15th release offers a decent assortment, especially the three highlighted in the buyer’s guide below.
Our Top Picks from the Oct 15th VINTAGES release:
Szabo’s Guide to Piedmont
Sottimano 2013 Langhe Nebbiolo DOC Piedmont ($29.95)
Sottimano’s Langhe Nebbiolo has been a regular smart buy for me since I first tried the 2006 vintage with Andrea Sottimano at Vinitaly. The reason? Simple. It’s made entirely from the Basarin cru in Barbaresco, from the younger vines that don’t make it into Sottimano’s higher end wine. Yet those vines are now nearing a quarter century old – not so young – and the wine has the structure of many, more loftily-priced bottlings. 2013 comes across as a particularly elegant and floral vintage, though with genuine tannic force and depth, in need of another 2-4 years minimum in the cellar. Let’s keep this secret between us, ok?
Rocche Dei Manzoni 2010 Bricco Manzoni Langhe Rosso DOC Piedmont ($38.95)
First made in 1976, Manzoni’s innovated blend of 80% nebbiolo and 20% barbera is a stunner in the very fine 2010 vintage. Ahh! What fine aromatics it has: pure, fragrant, floral, full of faded roses, deep, dark cherry and raspberry fruit, exotic spice and more. The palate is no less attractive: concentrated and dense, ripe and fleshy, but framed by abundant, ripe tannins balanced-firm acids and dense fruit extract. Length and depth are exceptional. Best 2016-2024.
Gianni Gagliardo 2011 Barolo DOCG Piedmont ($54.95)
You might call this a more modern-style Barolo, if by modern you mean a softer, less tannic expression, polished and round, with a touch of oak flavour. But that’s also the terroir of La Morra talking, the village where Gagliardo is located, famous for its perfumed and elegant wines. While not a monument of depth and complexity, this will please widely, a gateway to the more structured and challenging examples. Drink or better yet, hold 1-3 years.
Szabo’s International Smart Buys
Château Rauzan-Ségla 2010 Ségla, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France ($64.95)
The second wine of cru classé Rauzan-Ségla is, unsurprisingly, a terrifically classy, elegant, and very refined Margaux from a great vintage. Priced as such I’d say this is superb value; I love the silky texture, the depth, the length, the breadth of flavour. All class and drinking nicely now, but this will surely hold into the late ’20s. Superb.
De Bortoli 2015 Gulf Station Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia ($19.95)
Since its founding in 1928, De Bortoli has grown to a sizable operation that includes four properties. But the 240-hectare Yarra Valley estate is firmly positioned in the premium echelon. Winemaker Steve Webber (and husband of 4th generation winegrower Leanne De Bortoli) favours more slim and minimalist wines, as evinced by this pale, fine, light, and delicate, pinot noir, fine-grained, silky-textured. Bright acids and tart red fruit flavours complete the textbook, cool climate description, done up in a restrained and sensible manner. Yet there’s quite significant length and depth/complexity overall, making this a fine value for fans of old world style pinot. Best 2016-2022.
3c Premium Selection 2013 Cariñena DO Cariñena, Spain ($14.95)
Bodegas Grandes Vinos has a large portfolio of brands from the Cariñena DO in Aragon, which includes many smart values, like this 3C, a pure cariñena (carignan) from the appellation named after the variety. It’s a flavourful, dense and structured, fruity-rustic value for $15. Decant and serve with salty protein.
Hamilton Russell 2015 Chardonnay WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa ($42.95)
Walker Bay pioneers from the mid-1980s, and still regional leaders, Hamilton Russell has made a superb 2015 chardonnay. It’s tension-filled, vibrant, and deeply flavoured, with fine and fresh acids and excellent length. Wood is neatly integrated, and flavours run the gamut from citrus through to stone and orchard fruit, not quite tropical. I’d give it another 2-3 years in the cellar to really shine. Best 2019-2025.
Saint-Roch 2015 Vieilles Vignes Côtes Du Roussillon Blanc, AP Midi, France ($15.95)
Another tidy value from Saint-Roch, an old vines blend of grenache blanc and roussanne, with impressive density, weight and complexity for the money. I’d consider this a classic winter white, comforting and satisfying, full of fleshy, ripe white fruit, floral notes and a refreshing streak of sweet green herbs (tarragon, chervil). I’d even dare say this could benefit from another year in bottle.
That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.
John Szabo MS
From VINTAGES October 15th, 2016
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