Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – October 28th, 2017

An Assortment of Top Smart Buys
By John Szabo, MS with notes from Michael Godel

This report comes from the field in Bardolino, Italy, on the shores of Lake Garda in the Veneto region near the charming city of Verona. While the feature of the October 28th release is premium Italy, the wines from the Bardolino area – light, fruity reds, and more importantly pale, delicate, bone dry rosés called Chiaretto (key-are-et-toh) – are all about value. Whereas the price of wines from neighboring Valpolicella have increased in recent years, Bardolino, also made mostly from the fine corvina variety, remain highly accessible; most would land in Ontario at well under $20. More on these wines to come.

In the meantime, Michael Godel and I recommend our top picks from the 28th release, including a wine from one of the world’s first biodynamic estates and a very sharp value table wine from the Douro. David Lawrason will tackle premium Italy next week.

Bardolino- vineyards, olive groves, mountains and Lake Garda-9726

Bardolino- vineyards, olive groves, mountains and Lake Garda


October 28th VINTAGES Buyer’s Guide: 

Assorted Whites

Nikolaihof 2014 Wachau Terrassen Grüner Veltliner, DAC Wachau Austria ($20.95)
John Szabo – From one of the world’s first biodynamic wineries (since 1970), and a leader in the Wachau and Kremstal appellations holding firmly to traditional lines, this is a wine of pure mineral-stony character and minimal fruit (the way we like them), lively and fresh, succulent and sapid. In sum, great complexity for the money. Best 2017-2024. 

Quails’ Gate 2015 Dry Riesling, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($17.95)
John Szabo – The northern Okanagan produces the top rieslings in BC, as evidenced by this fine example from Qualis’ Gate. It’s both ripe and fleshy, and firm and austere, with evident depth and concentration on a light and essentially dry frame. Best 2017-2023.

Nikolaihof Wachau Terrassen Grüner Veltliner 2014Quails' Gate Dry Riesling 2015Corona De Aragón Garnacha Blanca 2016

Corona de Aragón 2016 Garnacha Blanca, DOP Cariñena, Spain ($17.95)
John Szabo – I was surprised at how lively and crisp this white garnacha from northeastern Spain is, a style I wouldn’t associate with either the variety or the region. In any case, it offers plenty of ripe, white-fleshed, citrus and stone fruit character, absent any wood influence, making it an interesting partner at the table.

Pieropan 2016 Classico, DOC Soave, Veneto, Italy ($19.95)
Michael Godel – As juicy and forthright as Pieropan’s garganega has ever been with really purposeful acidity to back up every point it needs to make. If you’ve never gone Soave and find yourself in a glass of Pieropan you may never go back. Fruit, intensity and pure unadulterated joy. It’s what needs and more of it please, in life.

Pieropan Soave Classico 2016Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc De Blancs Champagne 2009

Le Mesnil Grand Cru 2009 Blanc de Blancs Champagne, AC Champagne, France ($62.95)
Michael Godel – Baking biscuits, preserved lemon ginger and this fine leesy salve sits on the palate with welterweight density. Great green apple acidity and bite brings balance and then it finishes with a lovely touch of fine bitters. All you could ask for in well-priced, vintage-dated Champagne.

Assorted Reds

Castello di Querceto 2013 Riserva Chianti Classico, DOCG Tuscany, Italy ($28.95)
John Szabo – A  reliable estate in a great vintage, this is fine and savoury, spicy and floral, pot pourri-scented Chianti Classico. I love the umami-ridden palate, the silky-firm tannic structure, and the excellent length. It’s a very classy bottle of wine for the money, in an elegant and sophisticated style. Best 2017-2025.
Michael Godel – No shrinking violet this is Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva, a sangiovese from Greve in Chianti with guts, firm disposition and an attitude bound for glory. This is the epitome of complexity in sangiovese, beyond multiplicity because it’s a striking and bountiful example of what can happen to fruit that spent high quality time in barriques. Wild CCR from a previous era but so alive and well indeed.

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva 2013R De Romaneira 2014Prunotto Barbera D'alba 2016

R de Romaneira 2014, DOC Douro, Portugal ($15.95)
John Szabo – Romaneira is a beautiful property. This is a very fruity, and especially floral red Douro blend, soft and plush, immediately appealing. I must say, there’s a lot of wine here for the money in a widely appealing, soft, gentle and fruity style, without sacrificing regional character. A great by-the-glass pour to be sure. Best 2017-2020

Quinta da Romaneira, Douro Valley-3248

Prunotto 2016 Barbera d’Alba, DOC Piedmont, Italy ($18.95)
John Szabo – Lovely, floral, tart red and black fruit-flavoured Barbera here, with plenty of appeal. I love the crunchy acids, the vibrancy, the energy in this wine. Infinitely drinkable and widely applicable at the table. Tasted October 2017. 2017 2022

Kilian Hunn Pinot Noir 2014, Qualitätswein Baden, Germany ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Change the pace and the direction with a truly meaty pinot noir from Baden in the best aromatic-gastronomic way. The palate structure is so appealing as this slides side to side, up and down the length of the tongue. Here is your German entry into the oeuvre, if you haven’t already made the plunge and if not, you must. Next generation right here. Bring on the roasted pig’s knuckle.

13th Street Gamay Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Here is what 13th Street does best in bring it with honesty style from their wide ranging stable of wines. The essence of Peninsula gamay is captured and with dusty, arid help from the dehydrated vintage. The fruit is ripe, dark and tangy, amalgamating blueberry, mulberry and black purple currants in just the right amount of sapid ways. This is the clean and clear gamay from 13th Street and winemaker J.P. Colas.

Kilian Hunn Pinot Noir 201413th Street Gamay Noir 2016Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016

Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($45.00)
Michael Godel – Really great fruit lurks behind the closed doors of the 2016 pinot noir. Fruit with pop, singsong tang. Fruit with acidity finer than many other vintages and with the least amount of pinot anxiety and bitterness as I’ve ever noted in Norm’s Niagara lineage. Two to eight years should be the snapshot window of ultimate and optimum discretion.

Gourmet Food & Wine Expo

Coming to the show? Join me on VIP night for a sneak preview tasting on my latest book project (or at least part of it):

New World, Old Vines, Thursday November 16th

6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. $80; buy tickets!

Ancient grapevines are prized for the exceptionally concentrated, complex and naturally balanced wines they produce. These gnarled and twisted witnesses to history have stories to tell: tales of the pioneering families who have farmed them for generations, and the evolution of the regions which they helped establish. Join Master Sommelier and WineAlign critic John Szabo on his latest global adventure to track down the greatest wines from some of world’s most ancient vineyards in Australia, Sonoma County and South Africa. Think these are “New World” regions? These vines, some of which date back to the 1800’s, tell a different story. It’s one not to be missed.

Icons like Henchske’s Mount Edelstone Shiraz and Yalumba’s Tri-Centenary Grenache, and Boekenhootskloof’s century old Semillon are on the docket with some other surprises.

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. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview