Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – June 9th, 2018

Milestone moments, Bourgogne, the best of the rest and why no Sicily?
By Michael Godel, with notes by Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

Michael Godel

Michael Godel

In this week’s Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES I’ve got some bones to pick, not to be controversial or to cause a row but more as if to say, “Hey, what’s up?” The June 9th thematic presents a condensed history of landmark moments in wine history but somehow makes no mention of Bourgogne. More on that in a minute. Having recently returned from an eight-day sojourn to Sicily I am currently confounded by the number of VINTAGES release entries from that diverse, poly varietal and multifarious island. Zero.

Last week in his VINTAGES Preview John discussed Landmark Wines by exploring a broad range of smart buys from around the world arriving on LCBO shelves June 9th. John also connected with his assessment from a recent trip to Portugal, including his 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.

Now back to Sicily. My tastings through hundreds of wines across the island were indiscriminate and engaged no less than nine important grape varieties, plus the region’s most celebrated blend and only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria. The opportunities to taste happened during visits to six properties and a three-day intensive gathering in Palermo for Sicilia en Primeur. That opportunity was split into four parts; table side Sommelier service, Masterclasses, walk around producer one-on-ones and a private morning hotel tasting from generously offered bottles collected by the JustSicily and Sopexa staff. The whites were varietal grillo, inzolia, carricante, cattarrato blends. The reds were, nerello mascalese, syrah, frappato, perricone, plus the aforementioned Cerasuolo which brings nero d’avola and frappato together. Most of the island’s table wines fall directly under the all-encompassing and smartly organized denomination of DOC Sicilia, with notable exceptions labeled as IGT Terre Siciliane. Deeper investigations took in the volcanic specialities of DOC Etna Bianco, Rosso and Rosato. Then there were wines from characteristic locations (and communes) such as Sclafani Bagni, Noto, Campbello di Licata, Milazzo, Niscemi, Cammarata, Mozia, Caltanissetta, Menfi, Butera, Acate and Vittoria.

Capo Milazzo, Sicily

The VINTAGES release calendar is not consistently chock filled with Sicilian wines but most editions at least deliver one or two. The June 9th release has none. When you consider the bio, geological, varietal and stylistic diversity of the island’s wines it’s actually quite shocking that in releases featuring somewhere between 120 and 150 wines Sicily could ever be completely passed over. It’s time the VINTAGES buyers take a closer look at the quality, potential and range of possibility from bella Sicilia. To read my report titled Sicily’s varietal concentration, please slide over to that WineAlign page.

Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé Champagne

“Milestone Moments” is ubiquitous phraseology usage coined by the VINTAGES team to graph seminal or epiphytic moments in wine history, with the 16th century acting as the beginning of recorded time. Says the team, “we explore seven wonders that shaped the modern wine world and 14 wines defined by these phenomena.” It begins with “The Birth of Bubbly,” first discovered in Limoux and then in Champagne nearly a century later. Next up “The Advent of Appellations,” citing the Chianti Classico model, first decreed in 1716 by Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Then there are mentions of France’s Appellation Contrôlée system and Ontario’s Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA). Then we are introduced to “The Bordeaux Classification of 1855, “The 1976 Judgement of Paris,” “South Africa goes Global,” “Canada’s Sweet Ascension” and “A new Twist on an Old Favourite.”

My evaluation of the VINTAGES thematic can be scored out of seven. The accidental secondary fermentation discovery was a really big deal. One point scored for that. Appellations are what make the wine world go ’round and aside from wine scores they tell a consumer what to buy and from where. Yet there is no mention of Bourgogne, arguably the most recognizable, perfectly defined and drawn up system on the planet. This is cause for a deduction. Half a point awarded. The 1855 thing in Bordeaux gets a full point. The Paris-Bordeaux-California thing? Way overhyped, not relevant, still not buying in. No points! South Africa? I love, champion and can’t do without South African wines but a milestone moment? No point awarded. Icewine? I get the Ontario connection and it did put the country on the global wine map but calling it one of seven great achievements in wine history is a bit of a stretch. Half point. Screw caps? Absolutely huge. Full point. Final tally: Four out seven. Now let’s talk about Bourgogne.

Vins de Bourgogne

Vins de Bourgogne

There is the inclusion of a photograph showing Gevrey Chambertin but no mention of Bourgogne in the text. Surely the editors wanted to invoke a Bourgogne milestone but couldn’t quite figure out what to use. Let me be of some assistance. There is this really important work called Climat. Discussing milestone moments in wine history without Climat is like curing bacterial infections without Penicillin. Climats were first referenced as far back as the 7th century, including point of fact examples like Clos de Bèze in Gevrey. Bourgogne’s reputation of excellence was driven, protected and incited by the monks of Cîteaux, and then by the Dukes of Bourgogne. Clos Vougeot and Montrachet wore their Climat names on their sleeves to define site, place and the earth beneath their feet. The Vins de Bourgogne BIVB explains that “in 1935, the National Institute for Origins and Quality (INAO), made official the usage of the word Climat and began using it in legal texts applying to all Bourgogne appellations, whatever their level of hierarchy. Then on July 4, 2015 Climats were included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.” You could use 1935 or 2015, whichever you choose, but either way you would be invoking a reality that dates back as far as the 15th century and in some people’s minds, all the way back to the 4th century AD.

Les Climats are Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) defined vineyards or rather the DNA of the vineyards and the official term is specific to wine while the reference lieux-dits is an administrative one. While there are some who consider Climats as also relating to things atmospheric, the pragmatic consensus keeps the discernment ground into dejection depressions, alluvial fans and geological anomalies in an otherwise south by southwest set of exposure slopes for the best of Bourgogne wines. Still others would argue that while dirt makes an impact it is climate that inflicts the most drama on a wine but even more important than climate and soil, it’s the people who give the terroir its cultural identity. The notions of accumulate knowledge that can be transmuted from generation to generation is how each village has managed to produce a specific style of wine from vintage to vintage.

Last Friday the The Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB, or Bureau interprofessionnel des vins de Bourgognes) held a brilliant Villages tasting at Toronto’s George Restaurant led by Sommelière, WineAlign friend and master presenter Véronique Rivest. Remoissenet Père & Fils 2015 Givry gets into fruit depth, dug into earth and a meaty char with this Givry. It’s also notable for a drying rose petal florailty and gathered together all the parts make for a terrific set of complexities. The wood still stands, not surprising considering the 30 per cent new and 14 months élevage. Sharp, a bit sour and again the depth of moving and layered parts. Salty finish so thanks for all the rocks. Bouchard Père & Fils 2015 Savigny Lès Beaune 2015 shows a presence of Savigny limestone and marl savoury-seriousness and a richness of layered fruit are melded, one woven into the other. This so perfectly represents that classic Bourgogne cherry stereotype elevated by tannin and lightning acidity with a notable mention of pressed and compressed intensity. Broods a bit right now but the feel says it will ease up over time. I’ve decided to include these picks from that tasting, followed by some milestone moments, new twists, summer whites and the best of the rest.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES June 9th:

Milestone Moments

Barone Ricasoli 2015 Rocca Guicciarda Riserva Chianti Classico, DOCG Tuscany, Italy ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Not that recent vintages were not appealing for the Rocca Guicciarda Riserva but why would 2015 not be the bomb for this ready to go edition? The fruit is at its selected best, with no shortage of phenolic ripeness and flavour compounds. It’s a multitude of berries that make this drink with such early pleasure so make use of this Gaiole in Chianti sangiovese while the more curious and challenging ’13s and ‘14s take their time in getting where they need to go.

Domaine Poulleau Père & Fils 2013 Les Mondes Rondes, Côtes de Beaune, Burgundy $38.95
David Lawrason – Seldom do I identify a great value Burgundy!  Now evolving with garnet colour, this intense and intriguing pinot shows a very lifted, complex nose of leather, earth amid sour cherry, currants, wood smoke, chorizo and spice. It is mid-weight, firm, tart-edged and still a bit tannic – as are many 2013s – but it packs impressive flavour depth. Excellent length. Best now to 2022.

Barone Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda Riserva Chianti Classico 2015Poulleau Père & Fils Les Mondes Rondes Côte De Beaune 2013Hidden Bench Rosomel Vineyard Fumé Blanc 2016

Hidden Bench 2016 Rosomel Vineyard Fumé Blanc, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($29.95)
Michael Godel – Fumé blanc out of Rosomel gets better, as things often do with age and wisdom. ’Twas a great year for growing grapes on this amphitheatre of a vineyard block up on the Bench and no love lost for sauvignon blanc neither. There is tension, wound intensity and fierce competitiveness in the ’16, perhaps the most Sancerre and least Pouilly-Fumé it has ever been and so the declaration leans to saying it is “a mineral year.” Stellar, as always.

New Twists

Yalumba 2014 The Scribbler Cabernet/Shiraz, Barossa, South Australia ($23.95)
Michael Godel – The Scribbler is ostensibly mini-me to one of Australia’s most archetypal wines, both in blend (cabernet-shiraz) and style. That mode comes through like the Signature big brother, with high acidity wrapped around earthy, plum-pudding rich and markedly confident structure. This Scribbler punches well into the high-quality, focused and precise range, in delivery of grit, power and understated wealth.

Somerston Priest Ranch 2016 Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley, California   $34.95
David Lawrason – Grenache blanc is a Mediterranean variety that can obviously work well in Napa. This is an excellent example, even if $15 more than a good Catalan edition will cost. It is quite full bodied, fleshy and broad on the palate with green melon, unripe banana, vanilla and acacia florality. It is full bodied, fleshy and warm with excellent length.  Something new under the Napan sun.

Yalumba The Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz 2014Somerston Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc 2016Mahi Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Mahi 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand ($20.95)
Michael Godel – The old is new emerging style for sauvignon blanc in New Zealand makes use of wild ferment and plenty of less to bring texture, soliciting a nod of agreement right from the nose. The normal grassy-grapefruit pungency is subdued (as a consequence) so that palate and mouthfeel becomes the centre of attention and focus. Enjoy this while it rests at a near-premium price and watch it develop some secondary character early next decade.

Summer Whites

L’Avenir 2017 Far & Near Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($15.95)
Michael Godel – L’Avenir’s chenin blanc certainly falls under the category of the modern, clean and spirited for South Africa. This is the new, near and far Stellenbosch chenin blanc, ripe, tart, mildly tannic and specifically Western Cape chenin blanc raised fruit. This could come from nowhere else.

Tawse 2016 Sketches of Niagara Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This remains one of the great values in Niagara riesling. It’s very bright with impeccable acid-sugar balance, and so lively. From this warmer vintage expect more petrol than normal, plus ripe apricot and candied pineapple fruit and lemon.  Fine balance here, with a touch of spritz, with excellent length. A great summer sipping style.

L'avenir Far & Near Chenin Blanc 2017Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2016René Muré Riesling Signature 2014

René Muré 2014 Riesling Signature, Alsace, France ($22.95)
Michael Godel – Muré’s is pure, clear and clean mineral riesling with some surprisingly fleshy fruit, indicative of lemon, lime and even a bite into tart peach. If what you want is dry as the desert Alsace that teases Grand Cru exceptionality than Muré is what you need. This signature-themed riesling abides without you needing to exercise years of patience in wait for the secondary to walk its talk.

Best of the Rest

Muga 2017 Rosé, Rioja, Spain ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – This is a big month for rosés at VINTAGES and if this year follows last summer’s trend then the best will be gone in a flash. What’s more, the tendency of rising prices of rosé does not seem to be waning. In a sea of inflated pinks, this sophisticated example from Muga is an excellent value offering a generous degree of fruit while remaining pale and dry.

Gérard Bertrand 2015 Réserve Spéciale Viognier, Pays d’Oc, France ($14.95)
Sara dAmato – This is a big month for rosés at VINTAGES and if this year follows last summer’s trend then the best will be gone in a flash. What’s more, the tendency of rising prices of rosé does not seem to be waning. In a sea of inflated pinks, this sophisticated example from Muga is an excellent value offering a generous degree of fruit while remaining pale and dry.

Muga Rosé 2017Gérard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale Viognier 2015Janare Senete Falanghina Del Sannio 2016

Janare 2016 Senete Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, Italy ($18.95)
Sara dAmato – Janare is the top tier of the wines produced by La Guardiense, one of the largest cooperatives in Italy. Falanghina is a specialty and this is example is of textbook character. Generously floral with notable aromatic intensity and precise acidic definition. Refreshing and vibrant but not without substance and a great deal of character.

Gancedo Xestal 2010 Mencía, Bierzo, Spain $17.95
David Lawrason – Great value here in a sturdy yet balanced red from northwest Spain that shows the lovely raspberry, woodsy, gently spice scent of the underrated mencia grape. There is some oak resin and chocolate as well. It is medium-full bodied, fairly dense, solidly fruity and somewhat tannic. The length is very good to excellent.

Fairview 2015 The Goatfather, Coastal Region, South Africa $15.95
David Lawrason – Made from Italian varieties like sangiovese and barbera grown on the Fairview estate in Paarl, this shows very typical sangiovese-like tomato, cherry, fresh herbs, salami and pepper on the nose. It is medium-full bodied, fairly smooth, warm and spicy on the palate, with a meatiness on the finish that really works.  Serve with charcuterie and stronger hard cheeses.

Gancedo Xestal Mencía 2010The Goatfather 2015Viña Arana Reserva 2009

La Rioja Alta 2009 Viña Arana Reserva,  Rioja, Spain $44.95
David Lawrason – This is a very flavourful, almost explosive Rioja from one of the great traditional houses. All kinds of lift and intensity here with sour cherry/cranberry fruit, fresh herbs, balsamic, mushroom and leather. It is medium weight, sour edged and fairly tannic. Excellent length. All kinds of lift and vitality.

Tawse 2016 Gamay Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Five years deep the Tawse gamay continues down a (Côte de Brouilly) Beaujolais cru road with a consistency of style, making use of one fifth new oak for eight months. There is quite a bit of gastronomy in the ’16 so it should be both food versatile and develop further character for two to three years. I see some liquorice, porchetta and rouladen in its not too distant future.

Quadrus 2013 Red, DOC Douro, Portugal ($22.95)
Michael Godel – Just over half of Quadrus is touriga nacional, just under a third is tinta roriz and the rest, souzão. It’s a brambly blend based on ropey and tangy red fruit in the way of let’s say, Lodi zinfandel with a warmth and a grip that belies the warmth. This has hit its perfect stride and this coming summer’s outdoor fun sessions by the BBQ would do well to include some units of this energetic ’13. Sits in the sweet spot in so many ways, not the least of which are price for the quality and window of opportunity.

Tawse Gamay Noir 2016Quadrus Red 2013Colomé Estate Malbec 2014

Colomé Estate 2014 Malbec, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – At over 3,000 meters in elevation, Colomé’s isolated Calchaqui Valley property is consistently dry and sunny with frigid nights and hot days resulting in wines that are both generously fleshy and notably nervy. The excellent 2014 vintage is exemplified in this incarnation offering acidic tang, a salty crunch, floral aromas and a wealth of black fruit. An absolute steal.

M. Chapoutier 2015 Bila Haut Occultum Lapidem, AC Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France($26.95)
Michael Godel – It looks like Chapoutier really went for the whole Occultum in 2015 because this B-H is shut tight, reductive and grippy beyond its normal pale. The sense of deep Rhône syrah, meaty, charred and powerful is at the fore, taking no prisoners and selling no secrets. I would imagine that you’ll need to wait at least two years for the sweet fruit to emerge and wade at the top of this highly viscous and supple liqueur. This is the first time I have to say wow about this Lapidem.

Castello di Gabbiano 2013 Bellezza Gran Selezione Chianti Classico, DOCG Tuscany, Italy ($39.95)
Michael Godel – “What is Bellezza? This is the best block of the estate” is the answer as told by winemaker Federico Cerelli. Great tannins, simply great tannins. Bright, structured, vibrant, just in a great state, with tons of fruit and yet it will continue to improve, over the next two or three years.

M. Chapoutier Bila Haut Occultum Lapidem 2015Castello di Gabbiano Bellezza Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2013Flowers Chardonnay 2016

Flowers 2016 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California ($59.95)
Michael Godel – The 2016 Flowers is once again a beautifully balanced and stylish chardonnay. Ridges above the Sonoma Coast are the home for some of California’s finest chardonnay fruit, left to become exactly what needs and should, especially out of the hands of winemaker Dave Keatley. The vintage is a wealthy one, bright and effusive, heart-stopping tart and taut, with bitters not even a gleam in young Dave’s eye. The linger and length are simply outstanding.

David, John, Sara and I will be back next week for a preview of what’s coming through VINTAGES on June 23rd. Until then,

Good to go!


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.

Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Sommelier Selection
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys

New Release and VINTAGES Preview