Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Aug 19th

Styria, Languedoc and Assorted Whites
By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

In my last report, I covered the extraordinary grüner veltliners and rieslings of the terraced vineyards in the Wachau. But did you know that Austria also produces superb sauvignon blanc? In part two this week I take a deep look at Südsteiermark, or Styria. Here, a Mediterranean-meets-Alpine climate, limestone and schists, and Austria’s highest and steepest vineyards conspire to produce middle Europe’s best sauvignon (among others). The report includes top producers and 70 reviews. Continue reading about Styria…

The VINTAGES August 19th release features a duel between two sources of excellent value: France’s Languedoc-Roussillon, and the Cape Winelands of South Africa. This week we pick our favorites from the former, a region I frequent for maximum pleasure-price ratio, along with a collection of assorted smart buy whites. Sara d’Amato air mails comments directly from the South of France, with a mini report on Provence and Rhône. Next week David leads on South Africa, well represented in the release, along with assorted reds.

Genuine Values from the Languedoc-Roussillon

I first discovered wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon in the late 1990s while working and studying in Paris, and later in the region itself. Back then there was a great deal of excitement surrounding the region, with much talk of the immense potential, the breadth and diversity of the offerings, and the very keen pricing. I discovered dozens of memorable wines.

Well, the wine world moves slowly. Not much has changed really, aside from the growing list of quality-oriented producers. There’s still terrific breadth and diversity of wine styles, excellent quality and keen prices. Despite the efforts of a handful of ambitious, ultra-premium wines with prices to match, the pricing of Languedoc-Roussillon wines remains hemmed in by a glass ceiling.

Of course it’s purely perception, not directly linked to quality. You’d probably shell out $50 for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape without too much hesitation. But $50 for a Corbières, or a Minervois, or a Côtes du Roussillon? Much less likely I’m guessing. Yet lined up side-by-side, L-R wines can easily hold their own. They’re wild, savage, and concentrated, often from old vines, wines that ooze with character and personality. But the bulk wine image of the past still dogs the region, better for consumers, worse for producers.

A more twisted and ironic side benefit of the glass ceiling is that L-R wine producers have had fewer earnings to re-invest in their operations than their marquee region counterparts. That means less money for new barrels and fancy winemaking gear, or to replant old vineyards with younger, more productive vines. They’re less tempted to over ripen, over extract, or over oak their wines, and polish them up for wide international appeal since the financial rewards are not there. Yet these are the very same things that give the wines their charm, their appealing rusticity, their pure and wild, unadulterated flavours, their drinkability without excess nor shortage of anything.

You needn’t look upon the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon as poor country cousins; they’re genuine wines of place. Give the following examples a swirl in your glass to experience why.

August 19th VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide:

Languedoc

Château de Sérame 2010 Minervois, AC South of France ($16.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a mature, stylish, polished, widely appealing Minervois (mourvèdre, grenache, syrah and carignan) from a magnificent Languedoc property, with nicely rounded tannins and balanced alcohol/acid. I like the savoury dark fruit character and the wild Mediterranean herbs. Solid length, too. Best 2017-2022.…


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

John Szabo, MS

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release, by top recommendations, or by favourite critic. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

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