John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – April 15th, 2017

Australian Whites and Mediterranean Reds, and How Trump is Helping Canadians
By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report features a selection of Australian Whites and Mediterranean Reds, the twin themes for the April 15th VINTAGES release, and there are some terrific values in the pipeline. I’ve also thrown in a couple of miscellaneous unmissables for good measure, and reflect briefly on an unexpected benefit for Canadian wine consumers courtesy of the Trump administration and Britain’s de-coupling from Europe. No, not even a simple wine report is immune from the Trump news-generating machine, so apologies for that. Read on for details.

How Trump is Helping Canadian Wine Consumers

“Canada is suddenly very attractive”, a trade commissioner preferring to remain anonymous said to me last week in Toronto. She was referring to the view that many wine producing countries now have of the Canadian market, an impression that has grown over the last couple of months.

Despite the US being the world’s largest wine market, and cities like San Francisco and especially New York being global wine trendsetters, it appears that many countries are increasingly looking elsewhere to invest their wine marketing dollars. The reason? Trump’s protectionist trade and buy-America-first policies, and alarming nationalist rhetoric (among a long list of alarming plans) is the answer. There is genuine concern for the future of wine exports to the US. New trade barriers are not impossible, and Americans are being exhorted to buy local. And Trump doesn’t drink.

Now, add Brexit into the mix, and the uncertainty and chaos it is sowing, along with the growing nationalist sentiment in Europe in general and a shift towards de-globalization, and it’s easy to see why Canada suddenly looks like a very attractive market indeed. “People look at Justin Trudeau, at his openness and willingness to collaborate with other countries, and think of Canada as the place to be”, she continues. And Trudeau drinks wine.

Canada has always been a great wine market, well educated, with a lively restaurant scene and especially an openness to try new things, untethered by traditions. But in an increasingly stormy world, Canada now shines even more brightly as a safe, stable, liberal haven. For more and more wine trade associations worldwide, Canada is considered a “priority market” and they’ll be focusing their export and marketing efforts here.

This means that we should begin to see even more trade association-sponsored events, tastings and winemaker dinners, and thus more opportunities for Canadians to taste wines and meet the people who make them. Greater availability should also trickle out at the retail level, from both the liquor monopolies and private importers as producers invest more in the Canadian market and work harder to get their wines in. It should also mean a warmer welcome at cellar doors for Canadians travelling abroad in wine country.

Ironically, it’s US wine exports to Canada that are likely to suffer most under Trump. His announcement last week of the plan to cut agricultural sector subsidies by 20% would negatively impact the US wine industry’s exports. According to the plan, Market Access Program (MAP) funding would be cut, the pool of money used to promote American wines abroad. This is especially bad news for small wineries that rely on generic regional association promotion to get into new markets such as Canada.

But in any case, as we watch the potential collapse of the world around us, at least we’ll be able to choose from a broader range of wines to sip on.

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES April 15th Release:

Australian Whites

Mitchell 2014 Watervale Riesling, Clare Valley, South Australia ($21.95)

John Szabo – This is a fine and flavourful Clare Valley riesling, from a reliable name in Australia’s sweet spot for the grape. I like the succulent acids and depth on the palate – it has plenty of genuine stuffing and concentration – and should age marvellously well. Drinking now, but surely best after 2020 – it will be a cracker.

Fowles 2014 Wild Bouquet Chardonnay, Victoria, Australia ($19.95)

John Szabo – This is a pleasantly fullish but balanced, gently oaked chardonnay with an intriguing hickory smoke note and fleshy apple, pear and green peach flavours. Acids and alcohol find a nice milieu, and the finish lingers admirably. Nice complexity here for the money. Best 2017-2020.

Mitchell Watervale Riesling 2014Fowles Wild Bouquet Chardonnay 2014Alkoomi 2016 White Label Sémillon Sauvignon Blanc

Alkoomi 2016 White Label Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc, Frankland River, Western Australia ($16.95)

John Szabo – Don’t be deceived by the watery colour and tightly wound nose; this is a wine with a fair bit of power. It’ll need another year or two in the cellar to develop, as already in the glass it begins to grow in stature. For now, it’s crisp and very dry, oak-free, with lime-citrus and green fig flavours. It should also age well, into the mid-twenties. Decant if serving now. Best 2018-2026.

Mediterranean Reds

Jaspi 2013 Negre, Montsant, Spain ($17.95)

John Szabo – Here’s a totally engaging, juicy, plush, full, savoury and fruity, minerally red from Montsant, the appellation surrounding celebrated Priorat (producing less expensive wines in general). This has all you could hope for in a sub-$20 red, including complexity, depth and length, not to mention a come-hither drinkability. Tidy stuff. (45% grenache, 25% carignan, 15% each cabernet and syrah). Best 2017-2025.

Tornatore 2014 Etna Rosso, Sicily, Italy ($21.95)

John Szabo – This is a terrific value Etna Rosso, an appellation that has gone from total obscurity to stardom in less than a decade. Tornatore is the largest vineyard holder on the volcano, which I suppose contributes to the value offered here, but regardless, the wine is superb. I love the florality, the wild strawberry, and yes, the scorched volcanic earth and ash. Tannins are properly firm and grippy – this packs a serious wallop of structure despite the pale colour. A blend of nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio aged in large oak botti. Drink now, but better yet cellar 2-3 years or hold until the mid-twenties.

Jaspi Negre 2013Tornatore Etna Rosso 2014Vinarija Milos Plavac 2012Boutari 2014 Naoussa Xinomavro

Frano Milos 2012 Plavac Peljesac Peninsula, Croatia ($20.95)

John Szabo – A ripe and sultry Mediterranean red made from Croatia’s flagship red grape, rustic but highly distinctive. The palate is a bit hard for now, but offers a great deal of character, honest, unadulterated, original. Warning: this may not please everyone, but it represents the beautiful Peljesac (pel-yah-shatz) Peninsula well. For spit roast lamb. Best 2017-2022.

Boutari 2014 Naoussa Xinomavro, Naoussa, Greece ($13.95)

John Szabo – Although a good part of Greece certainly enjoys a Mediterranean climate, Naoussa in the north in Macedonia is far cooler and more continental, but I’ve added this wine to this list in any case since it’s such an outrageous value. It’s for fans of the leaner, sharper, dustier and more savoury end of the red wine spectrum, along the lines of sangiovese or nebbiolo from Italy, and thus very attractively priced. Best 2017-2024.

Miscellaneous Unmissables

Château La Verrière 2014, Bordeaux Supérieur Bordeaux ($17.95)

John Szabo – An ambitious, nicely proportioned, earthy-smoky-graphite scented Bordeaux in a typical idiom, firmly structured, stately. I like the balance and drinkability, the succulence and structure, the full ripeness and genuine concentration (14% alcohol), and especially the price. I’d suggest revisiting it in 2-4 years – this has plenty to give. Best 2020-2028.

Château La Verrière 2014Porconero Fiano 2015

Porconero 2015 Fiano, Campania, Italy ($16.95)

John Szabo – An unusually lean and lively but also highly flavourful fiano from southern Campania (Salerno), riding on just 11.8% alcohol. This has some of the attractive smoky-fresh hay character of the variety, with an extra dash of saltiness on the palate and lovely, saliva-inducing acids. I’d say another year or so in the bottle will develop considerable complexity, putting this into the top value category. Best 2018-2023.

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

John Szabo, MS
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Squealing Pig Pinot Noir 2014