John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – May 12th, 2018

Bordeaux, Ontario Cabernet Franc, Alternative Bottles
By John Szabo, MS, with notes by David Lawrason, Michael Godel and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Following David’s thorough coverage last week of the May 12th New Zealand feature (and beyond), this week I focus on the surprisingly good Bordeaux feature also arriving this weekend. With a dozen-odd wines spanning vintages from 2015 back to 2000, and famous to obscure appellations, all under $80, the release provides an excellent opportunity to re-acquaint yourself with the region. I can’t think of too many others that could provide such a compelling and comprehensive range today at these prices (Bourgogne? Forgehddaboutit). And speaking of Bordeaux, Ontario is emerging as a highly competitive international source of cabernet franc. Often unjustly in the shadow of cabernet sauvignon, savvy drinkers know the delicate beauty and perfumed finesse of which franc is capable, and Ontario’s cool climate is ideal to capitalize on those assets. Click for a brief report and selection of some of the province’s best. We round out the report with more top red, white and rosé picks from May 12th, including some weird and wonderful bottles (orange wine, savatiano, saperavi, etc.) that value-seekers shouldn’t ignore.

Bordeaux: Ripe for Rediscovery

Considering all the press coverage dedicated to Bordeaux’s one percent, especially at this time of year with the avalanche of en primeur reports being published, it’s easy to lose sight of the genuine good value and down-to-earth charm that Bordeaux has to offer. It’s the largest single appellation in the world with over 120,000 hectares of vineyards entitled to the name, producing some 700,000 million bottles of wine annually, more than most countries. There’s no shortage of supply.

And while the celebrated crus classés and cult classics of the right bank represent a tiny sliver of this production, the vast majority consists of decent, serviceable wines at everyday prices. In fact, many château toiling away in obscurity are forced to over-deliver quality in such a competitive category, making Bordeaux fertile hunting ground for bargain-seekers unafraid to wander off the beaten paths that lead to famous châteaux.


Alamos Selección Malbec 2014

VINTAGES has assembled an admirable collection of mostly low-profile châteaux offering very good to excellent value. Perhaps even more impressively, the range also includes mature wines, perfect if your cellar consists of a cardboard box tucked under the stairs or if you simply don’t want to wait a decade or more to enjoy the haunting flavours of old wines. Indeed, students of wine could use this collection to brush up on their knowledge of vintages, from the ripe, powerful 2000s, through the cool and elegant 2004s and 2008s, to the blockbuster 2010s and 2015s, the latter two both highly ageworthy. There are both right bank, merlot-dominated, and left bank, cabernet-heavy reds (and one terrific white from Péssac-Léognan) to choose from. See our top picks below.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES May 12th:


Château La Louvière 2012 Blanc, AC Pessac-Léognan, France($47.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a lovely white Bordeaux, richly flavoured and concentrated, with a generous amount of high quality oak involved in the process, lending its smoky, clove, baked vanilla character alongside ripe fig, creamy lemon curd, sweet green herbs and much more. It’s still some years away from prime enjoyment; best 2020-2030.
Michael Godel – The flinty, smoky and ethereal demure from Bordeaux Blanc such as this makes for a special gathering of moments and blessed are you who get the opportunity. It’s actually still relatively early in life because the barrel notes are still very much a part of the fantasy but so many meals and exchanges will benefit from a glass of La Louvière. If the chance presents itself seize it and the moment.
Sara d’Amato – Château La Louvière is run under the auspices of the André Lurton who had a significant impact in the creation of the Pessac-Léognan appellation in 1987. This sauvignon blanc dominated blend shows exceptional integrity in the face of 6 years of ageing. Made just one year prior to Michel Rolland coming onboard as consultant winemaker. One cannot help but appreciate the youthful vibrancy and classic regional character of this wine.

Château La Louvière Blanc 2012Charles De Sarpe 2000Château Yon Figeac 2015

Charles de Sarpe 2000, AC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, France($78.95)
John Szabo – Although this is the second wine of Clos de Sarpe, this staunchly traditional, family-run estate is well-known for making wines of great ageing potential using a minimal intervention philosophy (no chemicals or additives in the vineyards or wines, no fining or filtration), and even it ages extremely well, especially in a great year like 2000. It’s a classic, mature Bordeaux, silky, flavourful, very complex. I love the cigar box and black truffle, ripe black berry fruit, the supple, very fine tannins, the firm, ripe acids. Length, depth and complexity are all excellent, and there’s still scope to mature further. Best 2018-2030.
Michael Godel – Clearly from a good vintage to act this fruitful and spicy way at the ripe old age of 18 but also earmarked for a destiny that will continue to please on down the road. This has not finished its aging and should get more interesting with another two or three year’s time. The fruit’s sustainability after that is anyone’s guess. Right now it’s cool, lifted and balanced.

Château Yon-Figeac 2015, AC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, France ($64.95)
John Szabo – Another big vintage, this is a bold, full, concentrated St. Emilion from Yon-Figeac, weighing in at 14.5% alcohol and showing some heat on the finish. It’s built to impress, and last, and shouldn’t be touched for another half decade at least. Length and depth are exceptional to be sure, and wood influence is generous and toasty, but will integrate in time with this degree of fruit extract. Best 2023-2030.

Château Godard Bellevue 2010, Côtes de Bordeaux – Francs ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a fine little right bank, merlot-dominated Bordeaux at a steal of a price and ready to drink. It is from a great vintage and now matured to prime with a fairly complex nose of leather, dried berry fruit, herbs and tobacco. It is medium weight, well structured with decent length for the money.

Château Godard Bellevue 2010Château La Brande 2015Château Pierre De Montignac 2010

Château La Brande 2015, AC Côtes de Bordeaux – Castillon, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – From several contiguous parcels in a lesser-known Right Bank appellation, farmed sustainably and sensibly without chemicals, this is a nicely pitched, elegant, stately Bordeaux (70% merlot, 22% cabernet franc and 8% cab sauvignon) with a nice mix of fruit and herbs, subtle oak influence. The palate is well balanced between fine-firm dusty tannins and bright acids and the back end extends beyond the humble price category. A sharp value, best after 2020-2030.

Château Pierre de Montignac 2010, Cru Bourgeois, AC Médoc, France ($24.95)
John Szabo – 2010 is another celebrated vintage that yielded wines of excellent ageing potential and this modestly-priced Médoc is a fine example. It’s ripe and powerful (14% alcohol declared), with excellent depth and breadth, and length. There’s a touch of roasted red pepper that recalls the cabernet side of the family, while tannins are quite big and chewy – not fully resolved. Tuck this in the cellar for another 2-3 years for a more complete experience, or hold into the late ’20s.

Château Maurac 2004, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Located in the favoured, shallow, gravelly ridges of St-Yzans-de-Médoc gives this assemblage elevated class and complexity. Its graceful maturity in bottle has yielded a finely integrated wine with harmony and lush fruit that has been spared from the weakening effects of time. Perfectly aged and ready to enjoy.

Château Maurac 2004Château La Tour De Mons 2008

Château La Tour de Mons 2008, Margaux, Bordeaux, France ($52.95)
Sara d’Amato – From a cooler vintage affording a long ripening time, this well-preserved Margaux will happily hold in bottle for another half decade or more. Exquisitely defined with a sublime texture due to rapidly resolving tannins and no lack of fruit.

Other Whites, Reds & Rosés

Maturana 2016 Naranjo Orange Wine, Torontel DO Maule Valley, Chile ($24.95)
John Szabo – Fans of skin fermented whites will love this example, and considering the oft-inflated prices of the genre, it’s a highly attractive value.  Expect intense aromatics, fully herbal-savoury, like orange peel and crushed bay leaf, bergamot and Earl Grey tea, and more – flavours that will be comforting to orange wine fanatics, but unsettling perhaps to first timers. The palate is well balanced in any case, with a large dollop of beeswax and honey flavour, and much more, highly concentrated. Best 2018-2026.

Maturana Naranjo Orange Wine Torontel 2016Domaine Des Tilleuls Les Vénérables Vieilles Vignes Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine 2016Papagiannakos Vieilles Vignes Savatiano 2016

Domaine Des Tilleuls 2016 Les Vénérables Vieilles Vignes, Muscadet Sèvre Et Maine Sur Lie, France ($17.95)
John Szabo – Muscadet from up to 80 year old vines, with extended lees ageing, and well above-average depth and complexity, for $18? A terrific value to be sure. I love the lightly floral character allied to crystalline lemon-lime juice, green apple and wet limestone. A really classy wine all in all, best 2018-2026.
Michael Godel – Here is a bottle filled with pure melon de bourgogne fantasy, oyster briny, rich and full of a plant’s ability to deal in reserve juice. The vines are in fact nearly ancient for this rich, viscous and limey juice, some as old as eighty and the quotient is just memorable. One of the finest Muscadet to pass through these channels and not to be missed.

Papagiannakos 2016 Old Vines Savatiano, PGI Markopoulo, Greece ($16.95)
John Szabo – Regularly one of the best savatianos from Greece (and thus the world!), this example from half-century old vines, dry farmed and fermented in steel, is nicely oily and rich with a marked streak of acid and smoky, stony minerality that searches across the palate. Flavour intensity and density is unusually high in this price category, and while it’s not an easy-sipping, fruity wine by any stretch, it will satisfy seekers of unusual, savoury, characterful whites with weight and body.

Arboleda 2016 Single Vineyard Chardonnay, Aconcagua Costa, Chile  ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This good value chardonnay hails from the cooler vineyards where the Aconcagua Valley broadens toward the Pacific Ocean north of Santiago. It is quite crisp and vibrant with fairly complex aromas of lemongrass, green pineapple, toast and spice. It is mid-weight, toasty, spicy and warm with good depth for the money.

Arboleda Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2016Domaine de Bila Haut l'Esquerda 2016Michel Gassier Nostre Païs 2015

Domaine de Bila-Haut 2016 l’Esquerda, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde, France ($25.95)
David Lawrason – This big, rich, silky Chapoutier red wants to be port, but keeps its feet dry. It is a blend of syrah, grenache and carignan with lovely ripe plum, sweet tulip florality, as well as vaguely peppery aromas and flavours. The tannins are quite fine, the fruit is nicely focused, and the length is excellent.

Michel Gassier 2015 Nostre Païs, Costières-de-Nîmes, Rhone Valley ($22.95)
David Lawrason – This is a five-grape blend with grenache in the lead at 45%, which accounts for the very pretty, complex strawberry jam and stridently peppery aromas, along with cedar, lilac and damp red earth. Surprisingly complex. It is medium-full, fairly soft a bit jammy and warm. Lots here for the money.

Marani 2016 Saperavi Kakheti, Georgia ($13.95)
John Szabo – Here’s an ultra-low risk opportunity to discover a new friend – saperavi from Georgia. It’s the country’s most planted red grape (out of some 500+ varieties) and is capable of producing serious wines. For $14 you should check out this smoky, dark, ripe berry-flavoured dry red with plush texture and spicy-peppery finish. A perfect, backyard BBQ type of wine at an unbeatable price.

Marani Saperavi 2016Stratus Gamay 2014Barba I Vasari Old Vines Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2013

Stratus 2014 Gamay, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada ($29.20)
Sara d’Amato – Unlike any Beaujolais I have tasted, this riper version of gamay has weathered age in bottle remarkably well. Still with ample body and richly layered flavours, it also offers a very pleasant black peppery crunchiness an impressive length. Not to be overlooked because of vintage or price.

Fratelli Barba 2013 I Vasari Old Vines Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – Fresh and ethereal yet not insubstantial, this highly aromatic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is an ideal summer red. This is not your traditionally rustic Abruzzese example but rather a more refined, elegant wine and with a lighter step.

Château Clamens 2017 Julie Rosé, Fronton, Southwest France ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – This blend of the local négrette grape variety and syrah in equal portions is fresh and expressive with an intriguing botanical character. Highly refreshing with surprising complexity at under $20.

Château Clamens Julie Rosé 2017Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2017

Malivoire 2017 Vivant Rosé, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment Canada ($19.95)
John Szabo – The 2017 Vivant is the finest of the three vintages of this wine produced thus far. It’s the mid-tier rosé from Malivoire, made from pure pinot noir grown on the Beamsville Bench, and the ripeness and balance have been nailed perfectly. Like the previous editions it’s crafted in a pale, bone-dry style, with fruit firmly in the tart red berry, citrus-lemon, green apple and white grapefruit spectrum, while acids are terrifically bright and lively on a mid-weight, crunchy frame, with nicely lingering finish. A model to follow.
David Lawrason – Among a large springtime grouping of international rosés, this stands out for its balance and tension in a leaner style. Sour cherry/berry fruit is very subtle with some flint. It is light, dry crisp and lively, with a crisp, grapefruity finish and length that belies its colour and mild aroma.
Michael Godel –  C’est bon this Maliviore. Salt, brine, stone fruit, citrus and sonic, tonic injections had never gathered so collectively in synch at this price, from this place. This is brilliant Ontario blush, le Vivant.

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
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Sommelier Selection

New Release and VINTAGES Preview