John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – May 13, 2017

Wines for the Outdoors
By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report features some tailor-made wines to enjoy outdoors. Whether you’re in the backyard or on the rooftop patio or at the cottage, drinking wine outside is similar to sipping on an airplane. Only in this instance, it’s not you who is de-sensitized (the low humidity in an airplane cabin deadens olfactory receptors and taste buds), but rather the wine, challenged for sensory supremacy by the great outdoors. The solution? One-up nature’s intensity. Read on for a list of ideal outdoor wines for summer enjoyment.

Drinking in the Great Outdoors

When drinking in the great outdoors, consider everything the wine has to contend with. For one, there’s constant air movement. Even a gentle breeze can whisk away delicate aromatic molecules before they reach your nose. There are plenty of competing smells, too. Everything from flowers to fresh cut grass and forest floor, campfire, fragrant sunscreen, hot asphalt or car exhaust can interfere with a wine’s nuanced fragrance.

And then there’s food. If you’re sipping, you’re also probably eating, and BBQing, that great Canadian art form, is often the cooking method of choice. The grill ratchets up flavor intensity, adding smoky-charry flavours, and, in some cases, your food is also smothered in spicy, tangy, sweet-sour-hot BBQ sauce. So what are your best wine options to deal with all of this sensory overload?

The answer is: HIGH wines. That is, High Intensity, Generous, Hugely proportioned wines. That’s right. Save subtlety for the dining room. The outdoors calls for those in-your-face, ripe, full-bodied, full-flavoured and aromatically voluminous wines that can withstand a stiff wind or overpower your neighbor’s coconut-scented Tropicana lotion. Ultra ripe fruit lends an impression of sweetness on the palate, which is a perfect antidote to spicy BBQ sauce, and handily deals with smoke and char flavours.

Below are half a dozen reds from as many countries that fit the bill, all but two under $20, plus a couple of rosés and an intriguingly aromatic, lightly wooded Portuguese white. Don’t forget to have a cooler on hand, or a bucket of ice water to occasionally dunk your bottles, even reds, to keep them cool on a hot summer’s day.

John Szabo’s VINTAGES May 13th Buyer’s Guide:

Backyard Reds

Grand Vin De Glenelly 2010 Red, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa ($19.95) This red blend has its own built in smoky-charry oak flavours, as well as lots of grilled herbs and sweet black cherry – in other words, ample complexity. It’s another fine value from the Cape; it’s selfish I know, but let’s hope that the rand stays in the ditch a wee while longer. Best 2017-2022. 

Galena 2013 Priorat, DOCa Priorat, Spain ($39.95) Priorat is known for its full-throttle reds, born from parched, stony, desperately poor soils on scruffy, remote hillsides inland from Barcelona. This bold blend of garnacha, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cariñena is assuredly ripe and full bodied, generously proportioned with 14.5% alcohol declared, and a thick and dense, fruity palate. Best 2017-2027.

Grand Vin De Glenelly Red 2010Galena Priorat 2013Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuvée Philippine Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2015

Domaine Les Grands Bois 2015 Cuvée Philippine Côtes du Rhône-Villages, France ($18.95) The inky purple colour already sets you up to experience an intense, super-ripe, blackberry liqueur-like red, with a beguiling mix of wild herbs and pot-pourri. The palate is plush, velvety, and mouthfilling, thick enough to cut with a steak knife. In a word, satisfying. Best 2017-2025.

Pask 2013 Gimblett Gravels Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($19.95) Cool New Zealand is hardly a hotbed for plus-sized reds, but if there were a region that could do it, it would be Hawke’s Bay, the warmest, and especially the swath of pure stones within it, the skid mark left behind but a shifting river called the Gimblett Gravels. Regional leader Pask has produced a fine 2013 Bordeaux style blend, with notable herbal-vegetal nuances but dominant fresh black fruit. I like the lively acids, the supple tannins, and the overall generosity. Best 2017-2023.

Tormaresca 2014 Trentangeli, DOC Castel del Monte Puglia, Italy ($19.95) Antinori’s Apulian outpost has become a benchmark for the region. From the Castel del Monte DOC in the hilly north, this organic blend of mostly Aglianico with 30% cabernet sauvignon and 10% syrah is an appealingly earthy, smoky, leathery and dried black fig scented southern Mediterranean red, thick and fruity, with generous alcohol (14% declared), and soft velvety tannins drenched in fruit extract. Best 2017-2024.

Pask Gimblett Road CabernetTormaresca Trentangeli 2014Edmeades Zinfandel 2013

Edmeades 2013 Zinfandel, Mendocino County, California ($23.95) Zin is an American classic BBQ red, and Edmeades’ 2013 edition from Mendocino is a textbook, ultra-ripe, raisined, jammy black fruit flavoured example. Alcohol is a typical 15%, and there’s an impression of sweetness, but the palate retains balance. There’s nothing subtle about this. Best 2017-2021.

Backyard Whites & Rosés

Château d’Aquéria 2016 Tavel AP Rhône Valley, France ($21.95) Tavel is acknowledged as the source of Southern France’s most generously proportioned rosés, most over 14% alcohol, and this regularly featured example from Château d’Aquéria delivers on the reputation. There’s a nice range of aromatics off the top, ranging from rosehip and candied red fruit to dried herbs and red liquorice, while the palate offers some grip and serious depth.

Izadi Larrosa 2016 Premium Rosé DOCa Rioja, Spain ($14.95) Don’t be deceived by the pale colour. This tidy value pink from Rioja clocks in at 13.5% alcohol, and is at once rich and sharp, fat but firm, tangy and generous. I like the way this makes you salivate, inviting additional sips.

Château D'aquéria Tavel Rosé 2016Izadi Larrosa Premium Rosé 2016Quinta Da Rede Grande Reserva Branco 2014

Quinta Da Rede 2014 Grande Reserva Branco DOC Douro, Portugal ($21.95) Here’s something a little different that’s worth a look: a highly aromatic and fruity-floral blend of natives arinto and rabigato, redolent of yellow flowers, tangerine, and lychee. You’d think that someone tossed in some muscat. The palate is mid-weight, succulent and juicy, indeed there’s a lot of wine for the money, complete with a kiss of oak. Best 2017-2022.

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

John Szabo, MS

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Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014