Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – June 10, 2017

Raw Australia and French Miscellany
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and Michael Godel

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Last summer, the LCBO opened its Destination Australia specialty store in Toronto’s Leaside neighborhood at 65 Wicksteed Avenue claiming that it is likely the world’s most extensive collection of Australian wines outside of Australia. Fortunately, this week’s assemblage of savvy Aussie buys will be available across the province and is full of fresh and unaffected wines. Although we’ve seen many of these producers time and again, these examples show progressive winemaking and evidence of changing wines for changing times. I was particularly pleased to see a solid selection of fresh and sea-breezy western whites and reds. Cooler climate reaches are refreshingly a prominent focus in this feature.

In addition to our top finds from Australia, we have assembled a motley collection of French finds that caught our attention. Double alignments on a formidable Chablis and a southern charmer are most definitely heed-worthy.

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 10th:

Unaffected Aussies

Moss Wood 2014 Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia ($69.00)
Sara d’Amato – Moss Wood is one of the founding wineries of the maritime influenced Margaret River and focuses on premium wine production in the northern Wilyabrup sub-region. This arresting chardonnay was sourced from the estate’s now 40-year old vines. The mild, rainy and lower yielding vintage of 2014 is responsible for this fresh incarnation enhanced by leesy body and an elegant oak treatment.

Mountadam Estate 2015 Chardonnay, High Eden, Eden Valley, South Australia ($26.95)
Sara d’Amato – Sourced from slow-ripening fruit at high elevations of between 500-600 meters above sea level, this cool-climate chardonnay is precise, beautifully textured and nothing like what you might have expected from an Aussie chardonnay.
David Lawrason – This refined, bright chardonnay shows a spicy, vaguely herbal, lactic/creamy nose with light toast and green melon fruit, all nicely woven. It’s medium full bodied, streamlined and fruit driven on the palate with some alcohol heat. Very nicely done, with excellent length.

Moss Wood Chardonnay 2014Mountadam Estate Chardonnay 2015Tahbilk Viognier 2016

Tahbilk 2016 Viognier, Nagambie Lakes, Goulburn Valley, Australia ($18.95)
Michael Godel – The fresh and spritely young solo viognier effort from the Rhône diaspora Nagambie Lakes specialist is a fine example of what the grape can do with warmth and expert picking decisions. This falls on the white pepper injected into juicy orchard stone fruit side of the expression, with more fruit than most and better off for it. The acidity is so very round and complimentary, surrounding the crunchy, fleshy fruit. A must Central Victoria try.

Franklin Tate Estates 2015 Shiraz, Margaret River, Western Australia ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Another Margaret River gem, this cooler climate shiraz is hugely aromatic offering black pepper spice, salty violets and an edgy licorice note. A small percentage of whole bunch fruit was added to the ferment giving the wine a pleasant sweet-and-sour cherry flavour and a boost to the tannic structure. Highly appealing, elegant and effortlessly drinkable.

Sidewood 2014 Shiraz, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This VINTAGES Wine of the Month should be in good supply, so you might just want to grab a few bottles. It’s less ponderous than many Aussie shiraz, but there is no shortage of flavour. From the cooler Adelaide Hills it sports a very lifted, mentholated nose of blackcurrants, black pepper, bay leaf and clove. A real spice box. It’s medium-full bodied, with a fine acid lining, easy tannin and moderate alcohol. The medals festooned on the bottle are deserved.

Franklin Tate Estates Shiraz 2015Sidewood Shiraz 2014Elderton Shiraz 2013

Elderton 2013 Shiraz, Barossa, South Australia ($30.00)
Sara d’Amato – Freshness and elegance are not your typical descriptors of Barossa shiraz. A sophisticate rather than a bombshell, exhibiting tension, a keen use of oak and perfectly ripened fruit. A terrific example of scaled back ripeness and the restrained use of winemaking.

Robert Oatley 2015 GSM Signature Series, Mclaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A flavour packed Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre blend offering the sweet red fruit, an abundance of peppery spice and wild violets as well as a dark and full-bodied feel. Cool herbal notes are nicely balanced by the savory and dry. Overt and offering  hugely impressive complexity for the price.

Sister’s Run 2014 Bethlehem Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($18.95)
Michael Godel – From Barossa and more specifically the Bethlehem Block, the Dandelion folks bring 2450 cases of rich and varietally pure cabernet sauvignon. From a self-professed knees up vintage so just let it roll, ride and have some serious fun. Big fruit, a fine spike of acidity and chalky texture deliver a romp of a three to four year wine. Some firm grip on the finish will pair well with the char and sweet caramelized flesh off the grill.

Robert Oatley GSM Signature Series 2015Sister's Run Bethlehem Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Hugh Hamilton The Scoundrel Tempranillo 2015Shaw & Smith Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2014

Hugh Hamilton 2015 The Scoundrel Tempranillo, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($23.95)
Michael Godel – The Scoundrel is a black sheep but tempranillo is no longer such an animal by Australian standards. McLaren Vale (along with the Clare Valley) are terrific varietal outposts for the grape and here it succeeds with great juice, near syrupy aromatics and flavour bursts to please pacifists and savages alike. Nothing dirty rotten about this scoundrel, only pleasure and spicy fun. All in.

Shaw & Smith 2014 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir, South Australia ($42.00)
Sara d’Amato – A refreshingly leaner style of pinot noir with no shortage of flavour. Stretched leather and bright cherry, slightly lifted and earthy. A fresher Adelaide Hills climate gives this pinot a Burgundian edge. Drink now or late if you prefer your pinot on the meatier, savory side.
David Lawrason – This is delicious pinot from one of cooler enclaves for Australian pinot. It has nicely lifted, lovely, quite herbal nose with juniper, rosemary, strawberry-cherry-cranberry jam, light toast and forest floor nuances. It is medium weight, smooth, sweet and sour, with intense cranberry fruit. Heat is under control. The length is excellent.

Sundry French Finds

Domaine Raoul Gautherin 2014 Chablis, Burgundy, France ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Chablis gets neither more traditional nor less inclined to follow trends than this AOC by Gautherin. Just as the nose will direct a saline path so follows the palate, born from plots right around the epicentre of the appellation. This is it. Pure, taut and classic from the expressly written vernacular vintage.
Sara d’Amato – Brimming with authentic character, this still youthful Chablis is richly textured and substantial with a taught, acidic core and a creamy, lightly lactic flavour profile. Aplomb with allure and distinctiveness.

Domaine Raoul Gautherin Chablis 2014Joseph Cattin Gewürztraminer 2015

Joseph Cattin 2015 Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – The hot 2015 vintage in Alsace gave many wines extra power, thickness and punch. The decadent nature of gewürztraminer was only enhanced in this year and Cattin’s 2015 is opulently representative of that character. A headonistic offering from Mother Nature and a lovely representation of vintage variation.

Domaine Les Bugadelles 2014, Pays d’Oc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($25.95)
David Lawrason – The south of France remains a treasure trove of big grenache/syrah bases reds. This is a surprisingly deep coloured purple/black wine edition, The nose is very ripe with cordite, pepper, plum/prune fruit, licorice, olive brine and some meatiness. Very complex. It is full bodied, fairly dense, warm and a bit rustic, but layered deep with flavour.
Michael Godel – Les Bugadelles (which in Occitan loosely translates to ‘bugado,’ meaning laundry) is a wild-eyed, layered beast of a beautiful Midi red. Don’t be fooled by the inocuous IGP designation, there is some serious syrah and grenache stuffing in here. Excessively modern, hematic and bursting with controlled energy, the kinship idea to dark red fruit IGT from Tuscany could certainly be explored. The finish is seriously long. Big bold BBQ red.
Sara d’Amato – Sourced from the Mediterranean facing slopes of La Clape, organically grown syrah and grenache exhibit wild aromas of garrigue, a salty edge and bold fruit. A high-octane, energetic blend with a charmingly exaggerated expression of terroir.

Domaine Les Bugadelles 2014M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes De Roussillon 2015Pierre Amadieu Le Pas De L'aigle Grande Réserve Gigondas 2013

M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila Haut Côtes de Roussillon 2015 ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Here in this tidiest and yet wildly formidable $16 package is where the most excellent twain of syrah plus grenache and carignan meet. It would be hard to decide which factors in more; the wealth of exceptional vineyards in an embarrassment of terroir riches or simply flawless, larger scale winemaking. I’d wager heavily a combination of the two. Pure blackberries ride on peppery pins and needles. This is a perfect vintage for the Bila Haut, a modern and high diversity-driven red. How so much wine can be provided for so little is beyond me.

Pierre Amadieu 2013 Le Pas de L’Aigle Grande Réserve Gigondas, Rhône, France ($36.95)
Sara d’Amato – The rocky, high altitude terrain is home to Pierre Amadieu’s old vine grenache and syrah planted over 50 years ago. Although Amadieu is known for finesse and restraint, this is one of the more concentrated, intense and enveloping of their blends, enhanced by a long maceration period to extract powerful tannins and potent flavours. Compelling at present, tuck this away another 3 years for optimal expression of this wild and arduous terroir.

Bonus Red and White:

Journey’s End 2012 Shiraz Barrel Selection, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($20.95)
David Lawrason – South African syrah/shiraz is underrated, thus great value. This whopper captures all the meaty/iodine and fynbos/herbal notes of so many Cape reds. But look deeper and you find blueberry, violets and chocolate as well. It is full bodied and dense but built on great minerality and sour-edged acidity, from the vineyard’s position in the Hottentots overlooking False Bay.

Journey's End Shiraz 2012Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 150 183 Riesling 2014

Rockway Vineyards 2013 Small Lot Block 150-183 Riesling, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Here is a profound, maturing riesling that shows Niagara’s penchant for this variety. This is showing generous aromas of honey, white mushroom and petrol notes typical of maturing riesling. Also lovely pineapple and spice. It is medium weight, just off-dry and pinned by brisk, tart, lemony acidity. Almost mineral as well. The length is excellent. A fine effort.


Sara d’Amato

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Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014