John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – June 10th, 2017

South Africa’s Old Vines; Best Buys for Father’s Day and Top Rosés
By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Old vines make better wine. It’s a truism of which I was persuasively reminded on a recent junket to South Africa, a country with an enviable registry of old vineyards. It’s wine, not words that convince. Yet these often economically unviable vineyards are becoming like an endangered species: on the verge of disappearing. But all is not yet lost. Read my report on an important initiative to safeguard South Africa’s heritage vineyards, called, appropriately enough, The Old Vine Project. I explain why these vines are worth saving and who’s behind it. And more importantly in the here and now, I’ve compiled a list of top old vine wines worth seeking out at all costs, as well as top values from value-rich South Africa, and other top buys by region, over one hundred wines in all.

The VINTAGES June 10th release features a mash-up of themes including France, Australia, Canada Day and Father’s Day, which I’ve distilled down into smart buys for dad, or whomever, really, and some top rosés from the ultra-hot pink category.

John Szabo’s VINTAGES June 10th Buyers’ Guide:

Top Rosés

2016 Rosé de Léoube, AC Provence, France ($25.95) – A particularly fine and fresh, classy vintage for Léoube’s classic rosé, pale salmon-pink in colour and with delicate, discreet, lightly reductive aromatics. The palate is light-mid-weight, gentle but fresh, very lightly lactic (malo is done), with excellent length. Balanced, firm, delicate, saline and infinitely drinkable, all around, and well worth the premium price.

Malivoire 2016 Vivant Rosé, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95) – The sunshine and warmth of the 2016 vintage shines through in this very fine second edition of the Vivant rosé by specialist Malivoire, styled after the southern French, Provençal style. The palate has very good verve and liveliness in a bone dry style, firm and crisp, with delicate red berry fruit and very good length.

Château Léoube Rosé De Léoube 2016Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2016Château Val Joanis Tradition Rosé 2016

Château Val Joanis 2016 Tradition Rosé, AP Luberon, Rhône Valley, france ($15.95) – 2016 is also a fine vintage for this pale and savoury Lubéron rosé, nicely priced. It’s delicate, lightly floral-herbal, with crisp, dry palate, and light-medium body.

Father’s Day Reds

Marqués de Murrieta 2012 Finca Ygay Reserva DOCa Rioja, Spain ($29.95) – The 2012 Finca Ygay Reserva delivers an arch-classic nose of sandalwood and balsam, cedar and melted butter in the typical Rioja idiom, plus the requisite berry fruit, some black but mostly red. I love the palate, the juiciness, the fleshiness, the genuine flavour density and richness, the balance and the sapidity. This is exceptional wine for the price, with excellent length. Best 2017-2030.

Marqués De Murrieta Finca Ygay Reserva 2012M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes De Roussillon 2015

Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila-Haut 2015 Côtes de Roussillon, AC Midi, France ($15.95) – Wild and rustic, fleshy and savoury, firm and grippy, this wine from Chapoutier’s Roussillon outpost offers a lot of intensity and complexity for the money. Flavours are dense and dark, very spicy, almost savage but appealing. Would make a fine BBQ wine. Best 2017-2020.

Lionel Osmin & Cie 2012 Cahors Malbec AP, Southwest France ($16.95) – For fans of firm and upright old world reds, this fine value Cahors has Bordeaux-like structure and complexity at a Southwest France price. Maturing, dried plum, dried flowers and earth notes lead off the top, while the palate is appealingly lean, more svelte than skinny, with a fine acid-tannin balance. I like the fine-boned, but bony nonetheless aspect, and the very good length, also ageworthy. Best 2017-2022.

Lionel Osmin & Cie Malbec 2012Galil Mountain Yiron 2013

Galil Mountain 2013 Yiron, Upper Galilee, Israel ($34.95) – Israel may not leap to mind as a source of fine wine, but this premium red blend from the Upper Galilee area (2/3 cabernet sauvignon with merlot, syrah and petit verdot) makes a solid case for more consideration. It falls stylistically somewhere close to Alexander Valley cabernet from Sonoma County, which is to say ripe but not jammy, proudly herbal, with measured but not exaggerated oak, and plenty of dark and savoury fruit. The palate is fullish and dense, richly concentrated, with a vague impression of sweetness that broadens the appeal. Very good length. Best 2017-2025.

Father’s Day Whites

Creekside 2014 Reserve Viognier Queenston Road Vineyard, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara, Ontario ($29.95) – Consistently the top viognier in Ontario (albeit from a small pool), the 2014 Reserve from Creekside is fully en form. It’s bright and expressive, very floral, lively but also substantial, hitting a fine balance between richness and freshness. Varietal character is spot on without exaggeration, full of violet, peach, apricot and more in the typical spectrum, while oak is not a significant flavour factor. Very good length and depth overall, and delicious.

Creekside Reserve Viognier Queenston Road Vineyard 2014Forrest The Doctors' Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Forrest 2016 The Doctors’ Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($22.95) – John Forrest’s low alcohol version of sauvignon, aptly called “the Doctor’s”, clocks in at just 9.5%, natural I might add, with no artificial alcohol removal, just clever vineyard canopy management and part early harvest. The nose is light, but the palate delivers the necessary guava-passion fruit flavours of riper style sauvignon on a lean and light frame, brisk but not hard. The edges are nicely rounded out. Truly a marvel in low alcohol production, one in which taste is not sacrificed.

Bellingham 2015 Homestead Series The Old Orchards Chenin Blanc, WO Paarl, South Africa ($15.95) – The parade of great value Chenin blanc from South Africa continues, often wines for the chardonnay-lover in you. Bellingham’s fine example is from dry-farmed bush vines an average of a quarter century old, grown on sandstone and shale in Paarl, wild fermented and aged in old barrels with no malolactic fermentation to preserve freshness. It’s a fullish and ripe, fleshy, and yellow fruit-flavoured with considerable depth; some wood flavour is noted but not excessive, alongside a lightly leesy-creamy, caramel-tinged finish. Lots of wine here for the money; drink or hold until the early ‘20s.

Bellingham Homestead Series The Old Orchards Chenin Blanc 2015Hedges H.I.P. Chardonnay 2013

Hedges 2013 H.I.P. Dionysus Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington State ($19.95) – HIP is a project directed by Christophe Hedges, aiming to highlight some of the more compelling Columbia Valley AVA vineyard sites. This unoaked chardonnay is from the Dionysus Vineyard of Sagemoor Farms, just north of the Red Mountain AVA in The Columbia Valley. The 2013 is markedly ripe and unusually aromatic/flavour-intense version of chardonnay, lightly toasty-leesy, though the wine sees no oak, and fruit lies in the grapefruit-citrus spectrum. Flavour builds on the palate and draws you in, as does the appealing saltiness of this wine. Also the fine length. Really very tasty.

That’s all for this report. See you over 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

New Release and VINTAGES Preview


Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014