John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – June 9th, 2018

Landmark Wines and Portugal
By John Szabo, MS, with notes by Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s report features a broad range of smart buys from around the world arriving on LCBO shelves June 9th, including an exceptional local white, a pair of superb chenins, cabernets for the cellar and more.

I’ve also posted my top twenty table wines tasted blind during the latest edition of the Wines of Portugal Challenge, the annual national wine competition, that took place in Lisbon in mid-May. These wines all earned “Great Gold” status in my view, the very best of the nearly 1300 wines entered in the competition. You can also see the full, official results here, based on the average scores of the six Grand Jury members, which differ slightly from my personal top picks.


Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé Champagne

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES June 9th:


Hidden Bench 2016 Fumé Blanc Rosomel Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment Ontario ($29.95)
John Szabo – A perennial favourite since the inaugural vintage, the 2016 edition of Hidden Bench’s barrel-aged sauvignon is particularly compelling. It’s quite deeply coloured but still tight on the nose, delivers impressive complexity and depth in the warm 2016 vintage. This is excellent wine to be sure, explosive and complex, with the merest influence from (high quality, mostly old) wood. Length is exceptional. Sumptuous and deep; drink now or hold into the early-mid-twenties without a stretch. Best 2018-2026.

Hervé Azo 2015 Vau de Vey Chablis 1er Cru, Burgundy, France ($42.95)
Sara d’Amato – The steep slopes of the narrow valley of Vau de Vey offer distinctly floral wines with a notable chalkiness and bright citrus flavours. Despite the warmer 2015 vintage, Hervé Azo managed to retain freshness and poise in this Chablis. A touch of yeast on the palate as well as ripe pear and mineral compliment the drawn-out acidity. Classic.

Hidden Bench Rosomel Vineyard Fumé Blanc 2016Hervé Azo Vau De Vey Chablis 1er Cru 2015Grgich Hills Estate Grown Chardonnay 2014

Grgich Hills 2014 Estate Grown Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($67.95)
Michael Godel – The combination of American Canyon and coolest southern Napa Valley Carneros vineyards always make this Grgich Hills chardonnay not merely one to watch but arguably the one to set as both benchmark and leader. The fruit, wood, acidity and texture gathering is not merely balanced and fortuitous it’s downright stylish. I considered 2013 to be a go to but 2014 goes further, with greater respect, humility and excellence.

Bellingham 2016 The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc, WO Coastal Region, South Africa ($29.95)
John Szabo – Sourced from several north-western coastal vineyards, all 45 year-old vines or older, wild fermented in individually temperature-controlled barrels. The nose offers plenty of ripe fruit, grilled pineapple and a touch of (old) wood spice, cinnamon and the like, while the ripe and fleshy palate is saturated with old vine flavour intensity and concentration, fine density and weight, and plenty of white fruit, apple (green and yellow), and pear. Excellent length on fresh dough and marzipan (lees) flavour. Satisfying and full, for richer dishes like lobster in drawn butter. Best 2018-2026.
Sara d’Amato – A top value in this release, Bellingham’s carefully crafted Old Vine chenin blanc boasts a rich texture with a myriad of finely meshed, complex flavours. The lightly reductive nature of the wine lends a peppery prickle to the nose and emphasizes the classy oak treatment. A highly memorable find.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016Bourillon Dorléans La Coulée D'argent Sec Vouvray 2015Tahbilk Marsanne 2017

Bourillon Dorléans 2015 La Coulée d’Argent Sec Vouvray, AC Loire, France ($30.95)
John Szabo – And while in the mood for Chenin pick up a bottle of this for a classic old world-new world showdown. This Vouvray is open and honeyed in the oxidative style, with dried mint and candied lemon peel, in other words, classic Loire chenin blanc. The palate is fully dry, with sharp acids and incisive flavours, leading to a long finish. Solid, textbook. Best 2018-2025.
Michael Godel – It is here where dry Loire Valley chenin blanc is money, as in what it costs, what you get for what you pay and how you are rewarded. This is flinty, schisty, struck stone and dramatic lightning Vouvray. While fruit is vintage elevated so that the likes of apples and pears, their flesh and skin are welcome, there too is this minerality that it true, honest and real. The end game is 10 years from now, where honey, paraffin, gods and bees will gather at the oracle of chenin blanc. Can you wait for it?

Tahbilk 2017 Marsanne, Nagambie Lakes, Central Victoria ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – This sleeper marsanne is deliciously austere at present offering restrained notes of wet stone and blossom with intensely zesty citrus flavours on the palate. Layers are sure to build as the wine hibernates in bottle with exotic notes to flourish as well as honeyed nuttiness, and dried lemon. A sensual wine worth the wait.
Michael Godel – How this continues to fly inconspicuously beneath the radar is beyond my comprehension. Tahbilk’s marsanne is a wine that can age for a decade or more, with exotic aromatics. I’m not sure this can be understood from just a sip of a young and taut 2017 but age ability is all about trust and track record.

Rose and Reds

Chivite 2017 Las Fincas Vino de La Tierra Rosado, Vino de La Tierra 3 Riberas, Navarra, Spain ($22.95)
It is quite evident that folks are willing to pay a premium for good quality, dry rosé in our market and thus the average price has skyrocketed. While Provençal rosé prices continue to the lead the charge in this escalation, more modest pricing among Spanish rosés, especially those of Navarra seem quite attractive. This blend of garnacha and tempranillo from the family owned property of Finca de Legardeta is pale, dry and sophisticated. Red fruit with an emphasis on cranberry and pomegranate tempt on the palate. Very good value.

Château Cantemerle 2011, AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux ($74.95)
John Szabo – Here’s one for the cellar, a classy left bank Bordeaux delivering a wide range of attractively herbal, smoky, fresh tobacco leaf, forest floor, and dark fruit (black cherry, blackberry, cassis) flavours. The palate is exceptionally well balanced and lively, firm but not hard, juicy and fresh but also ripe, and with excellent length. Very classy wine all in all, best 2020-2031.

Chivite Las Fincas Vino De La Tierra Rosado 2017Château Cantemerle 2011Matahiwi Estate Pinot Noir 2016

Matahiwi Estate 2016 Pinot Noir, Wairarapa, New Zealand ($24.95)
Michael Godel – The high level of presence, energy and focus on Matahiwi’s Wairarapa pinot noir is both striking and impressive. It’s really high-toned in the way sangiovese and limestone are but here pinot noir does the same in the southeastern corner of the North Island, with ripe fruit and a vital pulse.

Pelissero 2015 Munfrina Dolcetto d’Alba, DOC Piedmont ($20.95)
John Szabo – Ripe, fleshy, fullish yet firm Dolcetto here, satisfying and chewy, deep and fruity. Wood is not a factor, and fresh blackberry fruit leads on the palate. Acids are lively despite the evident ripeness (14% alcohol). Well done. Best 2018-2025.

Pelissero Munfrina Dolcetto d'Alba 2015Les Grandes Serres Les Portes Du Castelas 2015

Les Grandes Serres 2015 Les Portes du Castelas, AP Côtes du Rhône, France ($15.95)
Michael Godel – This ripe, rich and high-balanced Rhône is pretty much the bomb for its price tier. You get what you pay for and what you want in red berry fruit, fine food acidity and just a quick kick of wood-stuck spice.

Natacha Chave 2015 Aléofane Crozes-Hermitage, AP Rhône, France ($36.95)
John Szabo – A classic herbal, smoky-peppery, meaty and cassis-flavoured northern Rhône syrah here from Natacha Chave, with lovely, integrated acids and fine-grained tannins, and authentic styling all around. Fans of the genre will find comfort and happiness here. Best 2018-2025.

Aléofane Natacha Chave Crozes Hermitage 2015Parfum de Schistes Faugères 2016Ringbolt 21 Barriques Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Parfum de Schistes 2016 Faugères, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – The Languedoc grows more syrah than any other grape variety and for good reason – it does exceptionally well, especially on the slopes of the cru sites that offer unique soil types. Here, the schist soil of the south-facing slopes of Cévennes offer hot days and frigid nights. This blend of largely syrah with secondary varieties of grenache and carignan is impressively peppery, authentic and enticing. The carbonic maceration of the syrah component helps enhance the blue fruit, licorice and garrigue element on the palate.

Ringbolt 2012 21 Barriques Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Australia ($44.95)
John Szabo – Classically minty-fresh Margaret River cabernet here, showing few signs of age six years in. Ripe cassis and peppermint flavours dominate on a fleshy, full, lush frame with adequate acids and nicely polished tannins. Excellent length. This is very good wine, concentrated, full bodied and balanced. Best 2018-2027.

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

John Szabo, MS

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