Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Aug 5th

Terraced Vineyards of the Wachau, Austria, and Wachau Buyer’s Guide, Plus Smart Buys at VINTAGES 
By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Austria’s Wachau region offers some of Europe’s most spectacular, UNESCO-protected vineyard scenery, not to mention some of the greatest riesling and grüner veltliner on earth. Here, grapevines cling to narrow terraces above the Danube, carved from frighteningly steep slopes. Farming costs are up to five times greater than in flatter riverside vineyards, but the wines, to be sure, are worth the effort. Read my separate report on this singular region, including 80+ reviews from top producers. In this report are my smartest buys from the VINTAGES August 5th release, with some textbook classics as well as fine discoveries from unusual grapes like Spain’s xarel.lo, and little-known regions like the volcanic slopes of Mount Ararat in Armenia.

John Szabo’s August 5th VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide:

Red Smart Buys

Vigna Di Pallino 2014 Riserva Chianti DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($26.95) From Tenuta Sette Ponti, this single vineyard riserva has a lovely medium red colour, transparent but still saturated, and an engaging nose that brings bright, fresh red cherry fruit into the mix alongside wild fresh resinous herbs and minimal (old) wood influence. The palate is equally engaging, gorgeous in fact, with inviting sapid, succulent acids and beguiling, very fine texture. Great length too. This is really classy and sophisticated Chianti to be sure. Top notch, nice price. …

Fleur Du Palay 2015 Côtes Du Rhône AP Rhône, France ($18.95) A very ripe, rich, well-balanced, succulent and juicy, perfectly pitched CdR, which punches well above its price category. I love the perfectly ripe, black fruit character punctuated by wild resinous herbs; there’s no wood influence evident save for the gently evolved aromatic character and polished palate – the result of gentle oxygen ingress. Very good to excellent length. Tasted July 2017.

Vigna Di Pallino Riserva Chianti 2014Fleur Du Palay Côtes Du Rhône 2015Jovino Pinot Noir 2014

Jovino 2014 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($22.95) An open and pleasantly medicinal pinot, with cherry cough drop and dried resinous herbal notes over more tart red fruit. The palate is attractively plump and juicy, with light, very fine tannins and vivid acids, and plenty of succulent red berry fruit flavour. Very good length. I like the fine-grained, firm but silky texture of this wine. At the price, it’s very tidy indeed.

Rotllan Torra 2011 Priorat Reserva DOQ Priorat, Spain ($24.95) Full, dense, evolved and heading into oxidative/mature territory, this is classic Priorat with lightly raisined fruit character, and dense, full, rich and highly extracted palate. It’s thick, almost to cut with a knife, a wine that will satisfy widely. Got BBQ? This will suit. Nicely value too – a real wine of terroir for a reasonable price.

Karas 2015 Red Armavir Region, Armenia ($19.95) Never tried Armenian wine? This red from the volcanic soils of Mount Ararat will spark your interest. It’s a deep and satisfying blend of syrah, tannat, petit verdot, cabernet franc, montepulciano and the indigenous Khndoghni, very dark and fruity, new world in style, reminiscent of malbec from Mendoza. I like the generous and plump black plum, black berry, dark chocolate, and sweet oak-derived spice, though this is not particularly woody. Tannins are likewise plush and velvety, while acids hold everything together.

Rotllan Torra Priorat Reserva 2011Karas Red 2015Mondeco Red 2011

Mondeco 2011 Red DOC Dão, Portugal ($13.95) The Dão remains a source of terrific values from Portugal, generally lively and friendly at the table. Mondeco’s 2011 is a nicely balanced and relatively complex red, which is still fresh and ageing slowly. Acids are vibrant and tannins light but firm, while the finish lingers admirably – really very characterful wine for just $14. Serve with a light shill.

White & Rosé Smart Buys

Te Mata Estate 2014 Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc Hawke’s Bay, North Island, New Zealand ($30.95) This is a dense, intense, serious example of sauvignon blanc from Te Mata, a Hawke’s Bay regional leader, crafted very much in the Bordeaux Blanc (Graves/Péssac-Léognan) style, which is to say from low yielding vines given barrel fermentation and ageing, with a splash of semillon and sauvignon gris included in the fold. Fruit is very ripe, into the tropical spectrum, but also reined in by marked salinity and balanced-crisp acids. Length and depth are exceptional. This is very good wine indeed. Drink or hold into the early ’20s. Best 2017-2022.

Yalumba 2015 Viognier Eden Valley, South Australia ($24.95) Yalumba pioneered viognier  in Australia in the early eighties, so it’s no surprise they produce the reference. 2015 in particular is a terrific vintage for this premium bottling, full, rich and oily, dripping with ripe peach, apricot, nectarine and wild violet flavours. The palate is well-balanced despite the evident density and concentration, achieving full flavour development at just 13% alcohol declared – there’s savvy grape growing behind this – and retaining sensible freshness. Excellent length; fine wine in the genre, a textbook varietal example.

Te Mata Estate Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2014Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2015Heretat Mont Rubi White Xarel Lo 2015

Heretat Mont-Rubi 2015 White Xarel-Lo DO Penedès, Spain ($19.95) This was a nice discovery from the release, a pure xarel.lo (a grape typically found in sparkling Cava) fermented and aged in steel to yield a clean and fragrant, white flower and citrus-dominated white, very much in a minimalist style (like the wine’s stark white label, with barely readable “White” written on it, also in white font). I like the gently herbal notes, the firm, crunchy, integrated acids, and very good length and depth of flavour overall. There’s genuine concentration and complexity on offer. Enjoy this now.

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release, by top recommendations, or by favourite critic. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys

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La Tremenda Monastrell 2012