John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for July 7, 2012
The Tour de France, Hardcore Cosmoculture and Sara’s Off the Beaten Path Whites
The 99th Tour de France runs from Saturday June 30th to Sunday July 22nd. Over the course of twenty stages and one prologue, riders (including Canadian Ryder Hesjedal) will cover a total distance of 3,497 kilometres. Vintages is likewise proposing the Tour de France as the theme of the July 7th release. You too, can do the Tour, covering only the distance between your house and the nearest Vintages store. Read on for 7 recommended stops along the way. And if you’ve still got some France left in you, then I’ll invite you on one more trip. But this time, it’s into the cosmos where you can find out how you, too, can get an energy boost from wine. From France, we move off the beaten path with some summer white selections from my WineAlign colleague Sara d’Amato.
Your Tour de France
1. Rhône Valley – E. Guigal Gigondas 2009 $29.95
This is one of the better Gigondas’ from Guigal in some time in my estimation. It’s quite a pretty and perfumed example of southern Rhône grenache, with plenty of typical kirsch, freshly turned earth, saddle leather and ripe red plum. The palate is full, plush, quite firmly structured, with above average complexity and depth. Terrific length; this should continue to evolve and improve over the next 2-4 years and hold at least until the end of the decade.
2. Alsace – Pfaffenheim Cuvée Bacchus Gewurztraminer 2010 $19.95
Textbook gewürztraminer nose here, filled with exotic jasmine flowers, freshly shelled lychee, ripe red apple and yellow orchard fruit – above average complexity. The palate is thick and unctuous, certainly off-dry, yet still balanced by a backbone of cutting acidity. Terrific length. Lovely wine for fans of the traditional expression.
3. Languedoc – Château du Donjon Grande Tradition Minervois 2009 $12.95
Extreme value wine from the Midi here, with superb fruit definition, dense, dark, rich and plush, inflected with wild violet perfume and an intriguing touch of garrigue. The palate is full and generous, though carries 14.5% alcohol with ease, while ripe tannins hold the fruit definition together. Exceptional length for the price category; top value.
4. Burgundy-Mâconnais – Jean-Pierre et Michel Auvigue Solutré Pouilly-Fuissé 2010 $23.95
This is a classically styled and proportioned chardonnay from the Mâconnais, dominated by sweet floral tree fruit blossoms, ripe citrus and apple, with noted but integrated wood influence. The palate is gentle but well cut, delivering more minerality than expected. Above average length.
5. Alps-Savoie – Jean Perrier & Fils Cuvée Prestige Mondeuse Vin de Savoie 2010 $14.95
Mondeuse, a Savoie specialty, is highly reminiscent of Northern Italian style wines, especially dolcetto in this case. Could have something to do with the long political dominance of the House of Savoy over Italy. In any case, this wine has pale purple colour that leads into a pleasant, fragrant nose, with aromas running in the spectrum of bright, fresh, sour red fruit, cherry blossom and blanched almond. On the palate the wine is vibrant and juicy, light and fresh, perfect for a light chill, a patio and a plate of charcuterie.
6. Alps-Savoie – Domaine Edmond Jacquin Altesse Roussette de Savoie 2010 $17.95
Another uniquely Savoyard specialty altesse (the grape variety used in the AOC Roussette de Savoie, though “Roussette” is sometimes used as a synonym for Altesse) delivers a clean and fresh mountain white, which smells like a flowery meadow and peach-apple orchard, free from oak influence. The palate is essentially dry, though there’s a mild impression of sweetness from the peachy fruit component, balanced by a pleasant touch of bitterness on the finish. Gentle texture and easy sipping, perfect for a sandwich jambon-beurre and a hike in the Alps.
7. Provence – Château Val Joanis Tradition Syrah Rosé 2011 $14.95
Here’s a light, delicate, fragrant, dry rosé from the Lubéron Valley made from syrah, full of cherry blossom and apple flavours. Length and depth are better than average for the price category. This is the kind of wine you can sip all afternoon with all manner of foods, or on the dock watching the sun set.
Into the Cosmos
If you’ve still got some France left in you, then I’ll invite you on one more trip. But this time, it’s into the cosmos. Earlier this month I came across some of the most astounding wines I’ve tasted in some time. They’re produced in the Southern Rhône Valley by Domaine Viret, following a method of winegrowing known by its high priests and originators, Alain and Philippe Viret, as “Cosmoculture®”. Cosmoculture is hard core organic, biodynamic and natural winemaking rolled into one philosophically and metaphysically sound, yet scientifically questionable, package. Telluric and magnetic energy currents, and the memory capacity of water are harnessed to strengthen the life force energy of vines to produce healthy, vital grapes. The Viret’s have been able to reduce their sulfur additions to near zero; clay vessels and concrete are favoured over wood and stainless steel. But the ontological proof is in the wines: you have to taste to believe. For all the details on comosculture, read my Toronto Standard article. For specific reviews, search WineAlign for “Viret” (or click here). Wines are available by private order through Tannin Fine Wines, Nicholas Pearce (firstname.lastname@example.org). The next shipment is leaving shortly, so don’t miss, the, err, shuttle.
Off the Beaten Path Whites – by Sara d’Amato
This summer I am looking for less traditional whites to dazzle my guests. By less traditional, I don’t mean stylistically or regionally untraditional, but rather less commonplace on our Canadian tables. Wine’s role can be much more than a boost for our dishes and a sensual treat for our palates; it should also be a conversation starter. Here are my top ice breaking picks from this week’s release:
Bastianich Adriactico Friulano 2010, Doc Colli Orientali Del Friuli, Italy $18.95
Highly accomplished couple Lidia and Joseph Bastianich were successful chefs, authors, restaurateurs and TV personalities before embarking on this exceptional Fruili wine venture that now boasts some of the oldest vines in the region. Full-bodied and floral, fruilano (formerly tocai fruilano) is an intriguing and aromatically generous varietal. This version is so incredibly sultry and flavour-packed that you’d be wise to have more than one bottle on hand.
The Royal Tokaji Wine Company Furmint 2009, Tokaji, Hungary, $13.95
The wine responsible for taking the ‘tocai’ out of fruilano is Hungary’s iconic Tokaji wine made principally from the noble furmint varietal. In 1995 European courts ruled that the term Tocai/Tokaji was proprietary to Hungary and 2007 saw the word ‘tocai’ dropped from Italian labels. This furmint, made in the region of Tokaji, is a dry table wine with only a hint of sweetness. Luscious and spicy with flavours of peach and honeydew melon, this bottle, when well-chilled, is enough to send shivers down your spine.
Mt. Boucherie Estate Collection Semillon 2008, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $19.95
This Mt. Boucherie Semillon knocked my socks off at this week’s Vintages release tasting. With powerful and complex flavours ranging from honey to sea salt and white pepper to lemon zest, this unctuous semillon shows little signs of maturity. Mt. Boucherie is one of the founding members of the Okanagan wine industry and boasts some of the oldest vineyards in the valley. This substantial, oak-free white has the body to pair with meats that you might traditionally pair with red wine.
From the July 7, 2012 Vintages release:
John Szabo, Master Sommelier