John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – April 14th, 2018

Best of the Rest of the Release, and special Peter Jakob Kühn Report
By John Szabo, MS, with notes by David Lawrason, Sara d’Amato, and Michael Godel

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report features the best of the rest from the April 14th VINTAGES release. David and crew nicely captured the main theme last week – light reds – and their growing importance/prominence, while I was off spreading the love of volcanic wines in Budapest. But there are still plenty of additional wines to recommend, including classics from Burgundy and Tuscany, and discoveries from Croatia, Chile, Puglia and Ontario, among others.

In other news, fans of German riesling (and who isn’t?) may be interested in my brief 2016 vintage report and tasting of the exceptional biodynamic range from Peter Jakob Kühn in the Rheingau, fruit of a recent post-Prowein visit to this exceptional estate.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES April 14th:


Tenuta Lageder 2016 Porer Pinot Grigio, DOC Alto Adige Südtirol ($29.95)
John Szabo – If you’ve written off Italian Pinot Grigio as terminally boring (and I get it), spend a little more and see what careful farming and winemaking can yield. This is a wine of significant perfume and depth of flavour from biodynamic producer Lageder, offering a lovely collection of fresh, sweet green herbs, lemon oil and blossom, fresh green apple and untoasted almonds aromatics, full of springtime vibrancy. The palate delivers the depth, flavour intensity, opulent texture and genuine concentration that only comes from attention to detail. Best 2018-2024.

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Domaine du Petit Métris 2015 Clos de La Marche Savennières, AC Loire ($24.95)
John Szabo – A rich and ripe chenin blanc from Savennières, with an almost late harvest-like profile, grilled peach and nectarine, honey and wet stones, dried lemon and more. The palate is powerful but balanced with high extract and big structure, while acids are ripe and creamy and length and depth are excellent. There’s a lot of wine here for the money. Best 2018-2028.
Michael Godel – Almost nothing in the world acts like a Savennières and so one of the world’s greatest white wine secrets can be unlocked in its striking, flinty and beautifully bitter to pithy chenin blanc goodness. Delivers notes of lemon curd, struck stone and stone fruit.

Tenuta Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2016Domaine Du Petit Métris Clos De La Marche Savennières 2015Matthias Et Émile Roblin Origine Sancerre 2016

Matthias et Émile Roblin 2016 Origine Sancerre, Loire, France ($33.95) (556548)
Sara d’Amato – Brothers Matthias and Émile’s project based on northern hillsides of Maimbray and Sury-en-Vaux in the Kimmeridgian Marls has been the focus of much acclaim since its inception in 2000 yet remains a small, quality minded collaboration. The “Origine” is the winery’s flagship Sancerre offering a highly satisfying bite and a generous dose of fruit. Aged close to 4 months on its lees, this sauvignon blanc is both substantial and yet deliciously nervy.

Kutjevo 2016 Grasevina Danube-Kutjevo Vineyard, Slavonia, Croatia ($15.95)
John Szabo – Welschriesling (aka grasevina, olaszrizling) is one of central Europe’s most planted white grapes, historically used for volume rather than quality. But there’s been a quiet revolution underway in the region, with a growing number of producers treating the variety with care and revealing that it can make fine wine in the right hands and vineyards. This is an attractively priced introduction to the grape from one of the largest wineries in Croatia. Fresh, clean, with an intriguing resinous herbal twang and fresh grapefruit, lime peel and lemon curd flavours, and absent wood influence. Chill and crack on the patio with salads, grilled fish, fresh cheese and vegetable-based antipasti.

Kutjevo Grasevina 2016Domaine Billaud Simon Mont De Milieu Chablis 1er Cru 2014Domdechant Werner Hochheimer Riesling Kabinett 2015

Domaine Billaud-Simon 2014 Mont de Milieu Chablis 1er Cru, AC Burgundy ($54.95)
John Szabo – It’s apparently still not too late to snatch up more outstanding 2014s from Chablis, and Billaud Simon delivers a beauty here. Classic white flowers, firm green fruit, creamy lemon curd flavours fall in the typical register, while the palate is properly lean and tight but not mean, with terrifically vibrant acids and deceptively long finish. Arch classic, cool vintage Chablis 1er Cru here, best 2020-2026.

Domdechant Werner 2015 Hochheimer Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Hochheim rieslings are among the most fine and tender in Germany, and this is the marquee estate. It is gentle yet lively with fine lacy acidity balancing the touch of sweetness. Nicely lifted aromas of peach/pineapple, lemon, wet stone and honey stay nicely focused and run to excellent length.

Weingut Neiss 2016 That’s Neiss White, Pfalz, Germany ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A wildly aromatic blend of chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot blanc from a cool pocket in the relatively warm growing region of the Pfalz. Spicy and brimming with honeysuckle and rose along with a mouthfilling richness of fruit, it is highly enjoyable on its own or try with Moroccan spiced chicken.

Weingut Neiss That's Neiss White 2016Stratus Wildass Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Wildass 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)
David Lawrason – I would never on the surface associate this frankly boring and dated Wildass (Stratus) label with the intrigue and complexity of this wine. It shows very agreeable, complex aromas of grapefruit, pine, dill, cape gooseberry/ passion fruit and a hint of oak spice. A Niagara-on-the-Lake style of sauvignon is emerging. It is basically dry but drinks with fruit charm and a hint of sweetness.

Matetic 2015 Corralillo Chardonnay, San Antonio Valley, Chile ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Huge value in a biodynamically grown chardonnay from a large, ambitious estate tucked in the coastal hills between San Antonio and Casablanca. It is well-structured, firm, midweight and complex, with very well handled oak spice around citrus, pineapple fruit and a sense of minerality. It has energy, structure and depth.

Ken Forrester 2016 Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Fleshy and full of life, this terrific bargain is back on the shelves of VINTAGES again after its spring release last year. A consumer and critic favourite, this dangerously drinkable chenin blanc is impressively complex, boasting tongue-tingling flavours of lemon curd and passion fruit along with blossom and white pepper.

Matetic Corralillo Chardonnay 2015Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016Margan Family Hunter Valley Sémillon 2017

Margan Family 2017 Hunter Valley Semillon, New South Wales, Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – We don’t get many chances in Ontario to experience iconic if unusual Hunter Valley Semillon, so at this price I would encourage you to dabble. It is quite fine, energetic and intriguing, with an ebullient tropical nose of pineapple, guava, avocado and fresh herbs. It is medium weight, intense and quite juicy with taut piano-wire acidity.
Michael Godel – Youth and vintage get together for what is the fleshiest and most forthright Margan sémillon the house has produced in some time, and if memory serves correct, perhaps ever. Here the grape takes on the sun and the hang time but somehow magically remains in retention of all the smoke, flint, stone and tension. Pear, lemon and the acidity of a great curd or gelée turn this from good to better, with a five year plan towards culminating at best.


Roux Père & Fils 2015 Beaurepaire Santenay 1er Cru, AC Côte de Beaune, Burgundy ($54.95)
John Szabo – From the ever-reliable Roux family, this is one of the few bottles of Burgundy that could rightly be called good value these days; fans of the region shouldn’t miss it. I was drawn in by the lovely perfume, and the delicate, ripe, fleshy, complex, silky and succulent texture, toute en finesse, typical of top Santenay. Although drinking beautifully now, it will continue to develop over the next 5-7 years no doubt. Best 2018-2025.

Rex Hill 2014 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon ($44.95)
John Szabo –  Quality at Rex Hill has been steadily on the rise, and this valley-wide blend, with fruit from all six sub-AVAs, is a fine introduction to the Willamette. 2014 was a warm vintage delivering powerful wines, and this still needs some time to come around, but is poised to hit a lovely drinking window in the next year or two. It’s already supple and full, ripe and fleshy, with a fine grain of silky tannins and more than adequate acids to hold things together. Length and depth are very good to excellent. Best 2019-2024.

Roux Père & Fils Beaurepaire Santenay 1er Cru 2015Rex Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2014Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2015

Tawse 2015 Growers Blend Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($25.95)
John Szabo – If Burgundy and Oregon are out of your price bracket, look to this fine Niagara example for your cool climate pinot fix. It’s arguably the best Growers Blend yet from Tawse, and has improved significantly since I last tasted it in November. It’s drinking nicely now. It’s properly lean and chiseled, mid-weight, with ripe-tart red fruit, and well-managed wood that has integrated into the ensemble. I love the succulent acids and the solid length, and the price. Best 2018-2022.

Tormaresca 2015 Torcicoda Primitivo, IGT Salento, Puglia ($19.95)
John Szabo –  This is surely one of the top values in the release, a deep, dark, savoury, full bodied, satisfying red from Antinori’s Apulian outpost that will please both casual sippers and punters. The price has barely moved in a decade since I first discovered (and subsequently visited) the estate. Pick some up for BBQ season. Best 2018-2023.

Novaia Corte Vaona Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012, Veneto, Italy ($49.95)
Michael Godel – Bless Marcello Vaona, his exceptional terroir, impressive vines and deft touch within the oft-oppressive realm of making Amarone della Valpolicella. Great fruit abounds, almost as if there was little to no drying involved and the potential for age is exciting in the scheme of possibility. I could drink this and its sweet tannins any day of the week.

Tormaresca Torcicoda Primitivo 2015Novaia Corte Vaona Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico 2014

Lamole di Lamole 2014 Chianti Classico, DOCG, Tuscany ($23.95)
John Szabo – Impressive attention to detail at all stages of production, including innovative organic farming techniques (algae and propolis sprays to combat mildews, even sound waves that kill the funghi at certain frequencies) and hyper-strict berry selection, is the secret behind the success of this 2014 Chianti Classico, not to mention the superb terroir, some of the highest vineyards in the region. It offers plenty of succulence and finesse, savoury herbal and tart red fruit flavours, alongside lovely, fine-grained tannins. A nice value for those seeking finessed, elegant reds. Best 2018-2022.

Prunotto Barolo 2013, Piedmont, Italy ($41.95)
Michael Godel – First tasted in Alba with oenologist (since 1999) Gianluca Torrengo this Prunotto classica is banded together by 70 per cent Monforte and 30 per cent Serralunga. Deals in accords of balance between firm and elegant. I’d suggest to avoid anything less expensive and not nearly as authentic. At this price you will be more than hard-pressed to spend $41 more wisely for nebbiolo in any category, least not the highly specialized one that is Barolo in Ontario.

Michel Gassier 2015 Les Piliers Syrah, Costières de Nîmes, Rhone Valley, France ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Michel Gassier is owning and defining this appellation. This is a lovely mid-weight, savoury, peppery, sneezy syrah with some charm. Not great depth or structure, but I really like the honest syrah fruit, savoury and slightly mineral character. Very good value.

Prunotto Barolo 2013Michel Gassier Les Piliers Syrah 2015Maison Ventenac Les Hauts De Ventenac Cuvée Jules 2014

Maison Ventenac 2014 Les Hauts de Ventenac Cuvée Jules, Cabardès, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – On the foothills of the Montagne Noire on the southwestern edge of the Massif Central, the amphitheater shaped region of Cabardès envelops the landscape of the medieval city Carcassonne. Despite its dramatic origins, this elegantly unfolding gem from Maison Ventenac is poised and even challenging, offering a wealth of complex subtleties.

Domain Mega Spileo Red 2011, Achaia, Greece ($29.95)
Michael Godel – From one of the great vineyards in the Peloponnese, or all of Europe for that matter, Mega Spileo (Grand Cave) is set within a dramatically oriented steppe of an amphitheatre, in a bowl beneath the shadow of a 940m rock that houses the great Greek Orthodox monastery of Mega Spileo. The double mavro  (daphe and kalavryta) blend is always one of the most intriguing reds not only from Achaia in the Peloponnese but anywhere in Greece. It feels as though winemaker Stelios Tsiris dialled the wood back a notch in 2011, if just to keep things real and honest.

Domain Mega Spileo Red 2011São Miguel Escolha Dos Enologos 2015Urbina Reserva Especial 2001

São Miguel 2015 Escolha dos Enologos, Alentejano, Portugal ($22.95)
David Lawrason – The deep south of Portugal is rendering some very good stuff in a hot climate, California-like idiom. This is a deeply coloured, fragrant blend of three indigenous varieties with lovely brambly/black raspberry, violet and vaguely herbal nose. It is full bodied, dense and well balanced, with quite firm tannin.
Sara d’Amato – Winemakers Nuno Franco and Alexandre Revlas have each chosen their favourite vat of 2015 to blend together for this limited edition bottling. After a substantial maceration period, the wine saw nine months in French and American oak before release. Although generous and approachable, any oak flavour has been absorbed by the opulence of fruit and overtaken by the complex aromatics.  This balanced blend is almost equal parts alicante bouschet, touriga franca and touriga nacional and requires no wait.

Urbina 2001 Reserva Especial, Rioja, Spain ($39.95)
David Lawrason – There is a traditional style of Euro winemaking that includes volatility (sourness) in quest of complexity, depth and energy. This aged Rioja is a very successful example. It has a very lifted sour cherry/cranberry fruit, rosemary/mint like herbal quality, well-sewn oak and leather. It is a medium weight, edgy, intense old Rioja with tannins fully integrated, yet all kinds of structure remaining.

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

John Szabo, MS

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