John Szabo’s VINTAGES Prview – Jan 6th, 2018

By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This first report of 2018 comes with an appropriate theme: “New at VINTAGES”. Sara, Michael and I have selected the best wines from the January 6th release that are making their debut at the LCBO.

If part of your new year’s resolution is to take the glass less poured and discover new favourite regions, grapes, styles or producers (as we hope it is), read on.

From all of us at the WineAlign team, here’s to a year of new encounters and great wine!

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES January 6th:

White wines

Dr. Siemens 2008 Serriger Würzburg Riesling Kabinett Feinherb, Mosel, Germany ($17.95)

John Szabo – It’s nice to see a mature, 2008 Saar riesling on offer here at such a great price, from the winery now known as Weingut Würzberg after the steep, grosse lage monopole vineyard of the same name. the origins of this wine. I love the developed, hot buttered toast flavours, like old Hunter Valley semillon, and the lovely balance on the palate in a barely off-dry style. I must say there’s a lot going on here for the money. Mature riesling fans can’t go wrong with this.…

Michael Godel – A little bit of age goes a long way in riesling at the Kabinett level and this Mosel Feinherb has really hit its stride. It’s light and more than vaguely stony with lemon curd, pineapple and tart peach notes that work together in the face of its sweetness and creamy disposition. Stay with this and note how it leaves lean behind and fleshes to a textural crescendo.

Dr. Siemens Serriger Würzburg Riesling Kabinett Feinherb 2008Domaine Des Quints Saumur 2016

Domaine des Quints 2016 Saumur, Loire, France ($16.95)

Sara d’Amato – The central region of Saumur in the Loire is better known for its sparkling wine sourced from tuffeau soils – free-draining yellowish, sandy limestone. The white Saumur appellation (here designated) is not typically known for quality production although it is made entirely from the noble chenin blanc grape. Most of these wines come from high yielding vines that don’t make the cut of finer sparkling wine production. That being said, better quality is more recently available of good value that is respectful to varietal typicity. This dry version, although not a revelation, is a highly pleasurable weeknight sipper with above average personality and length.

Michael Godel – From the commune of Montreuil Bellay this is chenin that travels from stone to the tropics and back, in notes of the heart, nose and mind, from lime to pineapple and with a bite from a crisp green apple. This is quite tart, sour-edged and white rock fine. Would make a great foil to fish or pasta with a lactic sauce, a big dab of butter and herbs chopped fine.

St. Hubertus 2014 Riesling, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($17.95)

John Szabo – From the north end of the Okanagan Valley comes this tasty, lean and stony, sweet-sour, lime and green apple flavoured riesling of above average substance and decent length. I like the savoury edge, the sagebrush-tinged fruit, the flinty-stony character.

St Hubertus Riesling 2015Terres Secrètes La Roche Vineuse Mâcon 2015

Terres Secrètes 2015 La Roche Vineuse Mâcon AC, Burgundy, France ($17.95)

John Szabo – This is a perfectly pleasing Mâcon from the Terres Secrètes cooperative, Mâcon specialists with a base in near Pouilly. It’s ripe (14% alcohol declared) plump but balanced, with no discernible wood influence, focused more on white-fleshed fruit. I like the forthrightness and purity. Tidy value.

Red wines

Ca’tullio Tenace 2015 Lo Schioppettino, DOC Friuli Aquileia, Italy ($21.95)

John Szabo – The local schioppettino variety’s name ultimately derives from the Italian for “buckshot”, and it can seem at times with some examples as though you’re chewing on a handful of shotgun pellets, but this version is surprisingly soft and amenable. I like the earthy, savoury, incense and dried violet aromatics, and acids are also in check, leaving behind an appealingly savoury, succulent wine. I’d happily drink this alongside some rustic grilled protein – it’s a treasure for hunters of antique, unusual grapes. Best 2018-2022.

Leeuwenkuil 2016 Shiraz, WO Swartland, South Africa ($14.95)

John Szabo – South Africa in general, and the Swartland in particular is an excellent source for value, and this is a charm for the price. It’s solid, fleshy, fruity and concentrated with genuine peppery character, dark fruit, and leafy spice, and would make for a fine Tuesday night wine with the second serving of the weekend’s braise or stew, adding some class and fantasy to the mid-week. Best 2018-2022.

Michael Godel – For less than the price is right this Swartland shiraz brings regional beauty to light with this striking example. It’s really quite floral, noting violets, bushy garrigue and open ended spice. Though tart and even a bit acetic these tones are well-balanced with fruit, drying tannin, savour, sapidity and just plain fun. Great little piece of the Swartland right here.

Ca'tullio Tenace Lo Schioppettino 2015Leeuwenkuil Shiraz 2016Casanova Di Neri Irrosso 2015

Casanova di Neri 2015 Irrosso, IGT Toscana Tuscany $28.95)

Michael Godel – Sangiovese gets a bit of a face lift in the Irrosso, still beating with a volatile and frenetic pulse but in the darkest and most modern Montalcino way. This from Casanova di Neri and grapes taken from one of their oldest “Le Cetine” vineyard to the south of Montalcino, home to Brunello Tenuta Nuova and Rosso di Montalcino. It’s quite charred, tarry and ferric, with dark berries mixed into clay and acidity through the roof.

John Szabo – Casanova di Neri is not new in Ontario; their Brunelli are certainly well known and widely admired. But this new release, a fleshy, fresh, ripe and woolly-textured blend of mostly sangiovese with colorino, is worth discovering at the price. Both varieties hail from the Cetine vineyard in southern Montalcino, which was replanted with vine material from the estate’s oldest plantings, and it’s crafted in a fleshy, fruit forward style in the typical house idiom. I like the genuine flavour density (red and black cherry) and the honest, grippy tannins, like chewing on ripe grape skins, without artifice. Length and depth are also very solid, and the back end is lifted in pleasant fashion by a touch of volatile (acetic) acid. Best 2018-2022.

Sara d’Amato – Casanova di Neri has a keen interest in the preservation of obscure, indigenous varieties such as the deeply coloured colorino grape (25%) that is blended with sangiovese in this intensely flavoured assemblage. Fermented with wild yeast and aged an impressive 42 months in oak, the wood derived spice is well integrated here and allows the rich fruit center stage. It can be enjoyed now with the right salty protein but I would wait another 2-3 years for even better expression.

Albert Bichot 2015 Roche Granit Julienas, Beaujolais, France ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – Although Juliénas is fawned over a little less than other Beaujolais Crus, there is good value to be had here. This organically farmed example from reputable négociant Albert Bichot exhibits a little less fortitude than most from the region but also a good deal more finesse, freshness and elegance. A trivia tidbit – Juliénas gets its name from Julius Cesar as the first plantings in the region date back two millennia to the time of the Gallo-Roman Empire.

Michael Godel – Bichot the Bourgogne and Chablis specialist does Julienas with richness, extraction and sheer modernity. While firm of tart edging and texture this is mostly about dark berries and yet there is also this note of cool, minty savour. In the end it’s really quite simple. Gamay fermented and put to the people.

Albert Bichot Roche Granit Julienas 2015Seaglass Pinot Noir 2015Vina Robles Petite Sirah Paso Robles 2013

Seaglass 2015 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California, USA ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – At under $20, this newbie pinot noir from Santa Barbara offers a wealth of flavour and distinctive, coastal peppery aromas that are sure to charm. In a modern vein, this mid-weight, fresh pinot is reasonably elegant and quite dry. An extended cold-soak contributes to the wine’s almost opaque colour but the generous aromas are preserved and tannins are fine and balanced. The grapes originate from the winery’s sandy, estate Los Almos vineyard, a mere 20 miles from the Pacific and influenced by cool wind and fog.

Vina Robles Petite Sirah Paso Robles 2013, Paso Robles, California ($20.95)

Michael Godel – So big for so little, in a way, though in another, not exactly so. This is really tart, chalky, soupy and oozing lime-chocolate petit sirah with warmth in alcohol and plenty of personality. I will admit to being extremely intrigued by this grape at this price and would highly recommend all trying it at least once. Despite the splitting hairs of imbalance it’s charming, exciting and spirited petit sirah.

Happy New Year! That’s all for this report. See you next year, around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

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

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview


Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc De Blanc 2012