Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Sept 16th, 2017

Best of the Rest
By John Szabo, MS with reviews by Michael Godel & Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

In last week’s report, David and the crü selected the best from the VINTAGES September 16th Ontario feature (my Ontario reviews are now posted on WineAlign, with a great deal of alignment). David also published an excellent cross-country report on Canadian Pinot Noir – is it Canada’s national grape? Weigh in, and learn everything you need to know about it here.

This week we cover the rest of the release, with a wide-ranging collection of sparkling, fortified white, and red wines from eight countries.

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES Sept 16th

Fortified, Bubbly and White

Bodegas Barbadillo Pastora Manzanilla Pasada, DO Manzanilla – Sanlúcar de Barrameda Sherry, Spain ($16.95)
John Szabo – Current and future sherry fans tune in! This is a beautifully fragrant, amazingly complex wine for the money, so fabulously yeasty in the manzanilla style, yet with the lightly nutty-caramelized qualities of the oxidatively aged sherries (manzanilla pasada undergoes both biological and oxidative ageing ). This is an exceptional treat, and the fantastic old label doesn’t hurt, either.…

Duval Leroy 2006 Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Brut Champagne, AC Champagne, France ($59.95)
John Szabo – I felt compelled to include this extremely sharp value in vintage champagne, hitting shelves at less than the cost for many basic non-vintage wines from the big houses, and infinitely more interesting. This is for fans of mature, toasty, brioche-inflected bubbly, with gentle effervescence and real winey concentration. The flavours span a wide and complex range, covering the citrus and white fleshed fruit spectrum, but it’s more about the white chocolate, blanched almonds and viennoiserie. A very classy wine with excellent length, sophisticated, mature, and hard to beat at the price all in all.

Bodegas Barbadillo Pastora Manzanilla PasadaDuval Leroy Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2006Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire 2016Château De Lavernette Vers Châne Pouilly Fuissé 2014

Domaine Lafage 2016 Cuvée Centenaire, AP Côtes du Roussillon, France ($17.95)
John Szabo – The remarkable thing about old vines is their capacity to reach full flavour ripeness at lower alcohol in warm climates like the Roussillon’s, as neatly displayed by this blend of grenache gris and blanc, and roussanne, some vines of which are over a century old. Weighing in at just 13%, this could even be called fresh, founded on vibrant acids, and I love the range of fresh tree and stone fruit flavours, and the streak of sweet and resinous herbs running through the core. A classy wine for the price to be sure, best 2017-2022.
David Lawrason – Great value from very old grenache blanc, grenache gris ,and roussanne vines in the southeastern corner of France next to Catalonia in Spain. It is not intensely aromatic but there is brightness and precision to the fruit, herbs, citrus and minerality. It is fairly soft with lowish acidity, but alcohol provides the buoyancy required. This is a subtle, fine wine.

Château de Lavernette 2014 Vers Châne Pouilly-Fuissé 2014, Burgundy, France ($42.95)
David Lawrason – A cooler vintage in a special mineral-driven appellation has lined up to present a very fine chardonnay. It has a rich, complex,  fetching, well integrated nose of ripe rich nose of butterscotch, hazelnut, gentle wood smoke, honey and peach. It is quite silky and rich and braced by fine lemon and minerality. Pouilly Fuisse excels at this kind of elegant harmony.
Sara d’Amato – An absolutely elegant and superbly complex expression of Pouilly-Fuissé from Lavernette’s lieu-dit of “Vers Châne”. The property has been converting from organic to biodynamic viticulture over the past decade and extends those practices to the cellar. The rich, silky texture of the wine is offset by spirited verve, zest and mineral. The delicate oak treatment binds all of these elements to a harmonious end. Highly memorable.

Thörle 2015 Estate Dry Riesling, Qualitätswein Rheinhessen, Germany ($18.95)
John Szabo – Young Christophe Thörle is making fine wines from the predominantly limestone soils in the northern Rheinhessen, and this estate dry riesling from the excellent 2015 vintage is a prime example of the ambitious heights aimed for. It’s clearly ripe and fullish, not absent riesling’s crackling acidity, but gentler than the mean. Ripe apricot and quince, apple and nectarine fruit dominate over a light but clear dusting of chalk and wet stone flavours.

Mountadam 2015 High Eden Estate Chardonnay, Eden Valley, South Australia ($26.95)
Sara d’Amato – A consistently charming chardonnay offering notable cool climate character. Fruit and mineral notes are more fully expressed that the tightly integrated wood treatment. A wine for those who love the flinty, reductive style that has kept this ambitious wine vibrant and stimulating.
David Lawrason – If you have been avoiding Aussie chardonnays in fear of being overwhelmed with fruit, oak and alcohol, have another look. Mountadam is an experienced chardonnay producer and this interpretation falls into the leaner and more reductive camp now earning big scores around the world. Which is fine if fruit is also delivered, and in this case there is apple and citrus aplenty amid all the toast, smoke and lemon yoghurt nuances.

Thörle Feinherb Riesling 2015Mountadam High Eden Estate Chardonnay 2015Castelo Do Mar Albariño 2015

Castelo do Mar 2015 Albariño, DO Rías Baixas, Spain ($15.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a fine and fresh, fruity-floral, varietally spot-on example of Albariño, complete with lemon and lemon blossom, green apple and lime flavours. Acids are fresh but not shrill, and the finish lingers impressively in the price category. A smart, sharp wine for current enjoyment.
Sara d’Amato – One of the top value whites of this release, Castelo do Mar’s two-year old albariño has developed some bottle aged character that adds intricacy and volume to this otherwise easy-drinking wine. It is a treat to find such pronounced varietal and regional character at under $16.

The Reds

Château Haut Monplaisir 2012 Pur Plaisir Malbec, AC Cahors, France ($51.95)
John Szabo – This is not your average Cahors. The deep colour and dense extract is more reminiscent of malbec from Mendoza, even if the rest of the wine is old world through and through, with excellent depth and concentration, and savoury flavour complexity. I’d tuck it in the cellar for another 3-5 to develop further complexity, or hold into the late ’20s without a stretch. Well deserving of the premium price. Best 2020-2030.

Trapiche 2014 Finca Las Palmas Gran Reserva Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($16.95)
John Szabo – And speaking of Argentine malbec, here’s an unusually light and lifted example, a rare incidence of what could even be called elegant, from Trapiche’s Las Palmas vineyard. Unlike most under the Gran Reserva moniker, it’s neither overly oaked nor excessively extracted, offering instead pure floral-inflected fresh fruit, with balanced tannins and alcohol, and solid finish. Really well done I must say, and at a very attractive price. Best 2017-2022.

Château Haut Monplaisir Pur Plaisir Malbec 2012Trapiche Fincas Las Palmas Gran Reserva Malbec 2014Laurus Saint Joseph 2014Farina Le Pezze Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2013

Laurus 2014 Saint-Joseph, Rhône, France ($33.95)
Sara d’Amato – An In-Store Discovery selection only available in select VINTAGES locations, this 2014 Saint-Joseph is worth seeking out. It offers a fiery, peppery character and impressive concentration on the palate. Not to be missed!

Farina Le Pezze 2013 Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy ($34.95)
David Lawrason – This is a generous, balanced amarone without excessive alcohol heat or over-ripeness. Really quite restrained in that regard but not at all lean or light. Lovely raspberry-black cherry fruit is nicely embedded in cedary spicy, herbs and delicate oak vanillin. The length is excellent.

Tobía 2013 Selección Crianza, DOCa Rioja, Spain ($21.95)
John Szabo – A wine that straddles what might be called the modern and the traditional styles of Rioja, Oscar Tobia’s 2013 Crianza delivers a nose-full of very ripe, dark fruit, with plenty of wood spice, vanilla, clove, nutmeg and more. The palate is impressively thick and extracted, with abundant dark fruit, moving into dried and macerated fruits, like Christmas cake. The length is excellent, too, and in the final analysis, this is exceptional wine for the price, with the weight, density and complexity of wines in far more lofty price categories. Best 2017-2028.

Scacciadiavoli 2012 Montefalco Rosso, DOC Umbria, Italy ($20.95)
John Szabo – From one of the top estates in Montefalco, this 2012 rosso is nicely mature now, savoury, fullish, complex and complete. I love the stoniness and especially the wet rock flavour here (mostly sangiovese and sagrantino), unusually pronounced in a full bodied red wine. Tannins are firm in the Montefalco style, but time has polished them down to a manageable grade. Best 2017-2024.

Tobía Selección Crianza 2013Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso 2012Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2015Woodside Park Pinot Noir 2016

Wakefield 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley, South Australia ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Wakefield more often than not delivers some of the finest value and quality out of the Clare Valley, a compliment not lost on this ripe, cheerful and amply structured cabernet sauvignon. The edges of tart, tangy and pulsating elevate the fruit to sit above the tannin. In a year or two they will tussle for a spell and then roll in the subsequent hay. I’d say relish in the love of this juicy beauty.

Woodside Park 2016 Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($21.95)
Michael Godel – A rush of the juiciest Adelaide Hills pinot noir red fruit plays from the Woodside Park, a wine of breeze and potentially, so many memories. There is an early note of understanding, like a riff that reminds of childhood and in a way how wine knows how it will come to eventually be, even when its still so young. It’s this rustic, old world sensibility, with dried fruit, leathery to cedar forest feelings and a rustic cure.

Rustenberg 2013 John X Merriman, WO Simonsberg Stellenbosch, South Africa ($24.95)
Michael Godel – This is a very ripe vintage for the Stellenbosch icon, a blend in which fruit wins over terroir. So much red and black fruit meshes together; berries and plums mostly plus the idea in memory of liquorice and fennel. The vinyl factor is way down on the South African list because the fruit factor rides so high. The structure is solid and perpetuating so see this as a terrific mid-term agreeable red.
Sara d’Amato – A tribute to a former owner of Rustenberg who helped revitalize the property and agro-tourism at large despite a phylloxera crisis, the 2013 John X Merriman continues to develop grace with age. This Bordeaux blend that has seen 20 months in oak offers a fleshy combo of red and black fruit, a very delicate smokiness and tannins that continue to soften to silky ends.

Radford Dale 2013 Syrah, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($29.95)
David Lawrason – What value. This has a classic, ripe South African nose of tar, wood smoke, liver and onions, capers and vanilla – a potpourri of syrah aromas. Plus stewed black cherries? It is evenly balanced firm and not too tannic. Excellent density, very firm, savoury and meaty. An absolute classic of the genre.

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2013Radford Dale Syrah 2013Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel 2014 Peppertree Calcare Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Peachy Canyon 2014 Westside Zinfandel, Paso Robles, USA ($36.95)
Michael Godel – The character abounds in this Peachy Canyon zin and the secondary development will be fascinating to watch. Look at it as a three bottle purchase; one for a mid-September BBQ, a second for a late decade revisit and the third at the wine’s 10 year birthday. All three will tell you quite a bit about Paso Robles, zinfandel and good winemaking.

Peppertree 2013 Calcare Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia ($39.95)
Michael Godel – Peppertree puts Calcare front and centre and for good reason. Dark fruit is cut with diamond precision by the salty limestone and the single-vineyard focus does just that. A very precise and powerful wine is the result. Like many OZ reds one point five or two times the price, the structure here will carry the Tree deep into the twenties.

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

John Szabo, MS

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