Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Sep 29th, 2018

How do you like your Riesling?, Argentinian Icons and Global Best Buys
By Sara d’Amato with notes from David Lawrason and Michael Godel

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

The number and quality of releases is quickly ramping up at VINTAGES as the holidays approach making this a great time to start stocking up. This week we focus on a small but varied release of rieslings showcasing solid examples of the many styles this grape inspires in cool climate regions. In addition, the impressive showing from Argentina in this release piqued my attention and so it should yours.

Consumer misconception is a leading factor in hindering the sales of riesling globally. To put it bluntly, people don’t drink riesling because they think it is sweet. For those of us who love riesling, not just the wine professionals, we do so because we know otherwise. Availability is partially to blame considering that for decades, Ontario only had access to sweet, inexpensive styles through general list. And although we thought big sellers such as Blue Nun and Black Tower were German rieslings, they are in fact made from rivaner, a.k.a müller-thurgau, an early ripening, high-yielding variety, generally used for undemanding consumption. We must also get over the fact that sweetness is a negative – we are all fooling ourselves if we believe this. People are attracted to sweet, not bitter for underlying biological reasons. Dr. Johannes Soellner of the University of Vienna in the Department of Molecular Genetics summarizes this simply: “Sweetness indicates the availability of monosaccharides such as glucose, easily available energy.” “Sweetness often indicates absence of toxins”. Although an excess of sweetness can seem sickly, an appropriate amount of sweetness in the presence of assertive acidity serves to balance and, in the best of cases, create an exciting dynamic tension.

Rustenberg Stellenbosch

I am certainly not alone in thinking that riesling might just produce the world’s greatest wines. Riesling can be an exhilarating experience both in its youth and with age. For me, it is the white answer to pinot noir. Top moderate to cool climate wine regions across the globe strive to make superlative riesling. The best examples are as pure as a reflecting pool in the sense that they exhibit a marked transparency with respect to the place and the conditions in which they are grown. In essence, they are the perfect story tellers, time-capsules even, given their ageworthy aptitude.

In this VINTAGES feature we are missing some notable regions within Germany and Canada as well as Australia but what follows are classic examples that offer a palpable sense of place.

Riesling, Langenlois, Austria

Riesling, Langenlois, Austria


Domäne Wachau 2017 Terrassen Federspiel Riesling, Niederösterreich, Austria ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – A very fruity riesling with a lovely, bright mineral texture sourced from terraced (terrasen) vineyards. Plenty of brightness and tension but also a juicy element to compensate. Relatively dry with an abundance of peach and apricot flavours along with whiplash worthy freshness from lemon. A very drinkable style but with a plethora of food pairing opportunities. 

Domäne Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Riesling 2017Flat Rock Riesling 2016

Flat Rock 2016 Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($17.95)
Michael Godel – There is the Flat Rock way, slightly further adrift off-dry, weightier and to be honest, less serious and happier. If I’m a consumer expecting sweet riesling but hoping to learn how the other half lives and breathes it would be this Flat Rock that would help educate and ultimately help me grow into the new riesling lover I’d want to be. The sugar (while nothing extraordinary here) is balanced by equal acidity and athletic chic.

Domaine Schlumberger 2015 Kessler Riesling, Alsace Grand Cru, France ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – A racy, dynamic riesling with a full approach. Viscous, inviting and downright seductive. Dry with ripe citrus fruit such as Meyer lemon and light notes of honey along with a distinctive mineral and toasty pumpkin seeds due to its ageing on the lees. Complex and so distinctive.
David Lawrason – This dry, fulsome Grand Cru pours medium lemon. It has generous, soft ripe nose of peach-apricot, vague honey, spice and waxiness. It is full bodied, fleshy and dry given some buoyancy by a touch of acetic and considerable alcohol. Big flavour intensity here with some alcohol warm and excellent length.

Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Riesling 2015Dr. Zenzen Hochgewächs 1636 Riesling 2016

Dr. Zenzen 2016 Hochgewächs 1636 Riesling, Mosel, Germany ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a fine, delicate, off-dry  Mosel riesling beaming with classic honeysuckle, apricot, lemon and stony aromas and flavours. It is lowish in alcohol at 11% with some residual sugar adding weight. The balance is terrific, which to me is the main strength of the Mosel. Flavours haver good intensity and very good length.


In John Szabo’s report last week, he recommended two other Argentinian greats: Catena Alta’s Historic Rows Malbec along with Trapiche’s Medalla Cabernet Sauvignon. I won’t rehash these fine examples other than to contribute my genuine recommendation of them both. I find myself anxious to write about the whole lot of Argentinian wines included in this weekend’s release but I will limit my words to a trio from the world’s highest altitude winery, Colomé, along with a transfixing, old vine malbec from H.J. Fabre.

Cafayate, Salta, Argentina

Cafayate, Salta, Argentina

The vines of Colomé in Calchaqui Valley of Cafayate in northwestern Argentina reach an altitude of 3,000 meters in elevation. The winery was bought in 2001 by Ursula and Donald Hess although it had been producing wine since 1831. Most of the scarcely populated community of the local village is employed by the winery. With remote with unrewarding soils and very little rain, the strained vines of Colomé produce goosebump inducing results.

Colomé Torrontés 2017, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Salta, Argentina ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – Rich and lightly spicy with aromas white pepper, ginger with a discreet floral component. Surprisingly powerful on the palate given the elegance of the nose. Sourced from some of the world’s highest altitude plantings of torrontés. A light-handed touch showcases the struggling desert fruit.

Colomé Torrontés 2017Colomé Lote Especial El Arenal Malbec 2016

Colomé 2016 Lote Especial El Arenal Malbec, El Arenal, Calchaquí Valley, Argentina ($29.95)
Michael Godel – El Arenal is the pinpointed location for Colomé’s deep, dark and delicious malbec, especially for the Calchaquí-Salta locale. A warmth by vintage and richness by extraction has matched the saltiness of the air and the aridity of the place. The lengthy finish is notable and fruit persevering.
Sara d’Amato – A spellbinding, salty, high altitude find with stimulating acidic tension. Generously aromatic offering floral and peppery notes along with sage and an abundance of authentic black fruit. There is a great deal yet to be unravelled in this nervy malbec.

Colomé 2015 Lote Especial Tannat, Calchaqui Valley, Argentina ($28.95)
Sara d’Amato – Tannat’s affinity for the high altitude, hardscrabble terroir of Mendoza is transparently shown here in this rich and concentrated tannat with riper tannins than one would find elsewhere. Bitterness and saltiness contrast the fruit and very mild oak spice does not distract from the purity of the wine. Curio, perhaps but notably authentic with a unique approachability.

Colomé Lote Especial Tannat 2015H.J. Fabre Gran Reserva Malbec 2014

H.J. Fabre 2014 Gran Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – The freshness of this malbec elegantly balances the richness and intensity of this sophisticated malbec sourced from 80-year-old + vines. Still a rather youthful expression with black currant, violet and cardamom at the forefront on the palate. Judiciously oak and gently crafted. The warmth of alcohol is fully absorbed by the fleshy, fruity nature of the palate. Highly satisfying with excellent length.

Global Finds

Citra Ferzo 2016 Abruzzo Superiore Pecorino, Abruzzo, Italy ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Pecorino was almost lost to the world as its relatively low-yielding nature made it target for replanting to varieties like trebbiano in its most prolific home of the Marche. It resurfaced in the early 90s and now enjoys healthy propagations in Abruzzo, Marche as well as further west in Umbria and Tuscany. This lightly toasty example boasts more substance and texture than the norm with generous aromatics. Grapefruit zest, apple blossom and honey dominate the palate of this highly drinkable find.

Citra Ferzo Abruzzo Superiore Pecorino 2016Masi Brolo Campofiorin Oro 2014

Masi 2014 Brolo Campofiorin Oro, Rosso del Veronese, Veneto, Italy ($26.95)
Michael Godel – The archetype is the one to beg the question, why appassimento? “We like what it does to the grapes,” is the simple truth lent in response, in how it delivers a cross between a cherry and a black olive. Bred from consistency, Campofiorin the Super Venetian fills a category gap as a refinement red. Actually quite rich and full of life, gauged with concentration though not out of a generous vintage.

Manciat Poncet 2015 Mâcon Charnay, Burgundy, France ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – The Mâcon region of Burgundy often gets overlooked because of its lack of 1er cru status sites but there is a great deal of value today in this region as exemplified by this higher quality “village” example from the commune of Charnay-les-Mâcon of Manciat Poncet. Offering an appealing dichotomy of texture on the palate – both viscous and racy. Deliciously salty, full-flavoured and widely appealing, all for under $25.

Manciat Poncet Mâcon Charnay 2015Domaine Arnoux Père & Fils Les Pimentiers Savigny Lès Beaune 2014Château De Sérame Minervois 2011

Domaine Arnoux 2014 Les Pimentiers Savigny-Lès-Beaune, Burgundy, France ($43.95)
This reaches into the heart of Burgundy. It sports a nicely lifted, very pretty and bright nose of red roses, wild berry/cherry, wood spice and forest floor. It is light to mid-weight with firm, typical 2014 acidity and considerable, slightly green tannin. Flavour intensity and depth are very good. Needs another two years in the cellar.

Château De Sérame 2011 Minervois, Languedoc, France ($16.95)
Great value here in a showy and juicy syrah-based red with classic aromas of smoked meat, pepper, capers and generous oak spice. It is medium weight, a bit glossy in terms of texture with some heat and meatiness on the finish. Very good flavour depth and complexity for the money.

Malivoire 2016 Courtney Gamay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – This gamay achieved medal status in the most recent National Wine Awards of Canada having significantly affected the judges with its expressive nature, its appealing transparency and generosity of flavour. This solid and substantial incarnation of Malivoire’s single block gamay offers a wildly aromatic profile and impressive length – not to be missed.
Michael Godel – The Courtney Vineyard is Malivoire’s diamond in the varietal rough, a Beamsville Bench site that doles out specificities to accent most excellent fruit. The ’16 season is a gamay guarantee and the vineyard doubles down on the potential for success. I like how winemaker Shiraz Mottiar has dialled back to seek honesty and purity for a wine that can sometimes go deep and obfuscating. It stays fresh and full of energy so for gamay it persists as a perfectly typical teaching wine.

Malivoire 2016 Courtney GamayLeeuwin Art Series Shiraz 2014

Leeuwin Art Series 2014 Shiraz, Margaret River, Western Australia ($43.95)
Michael Godel – While Margaret River is more a red Bordeaux/white Bourgogne region it is this by Leeuwin that offers a shiraz teaching moment. It’s truly a seasoned, savoury, ambient and high-toned example, perfect for those who like to see clear through to the depths of the varietal lake. If any place delivers more St. Joseph-esque cru ability it’s Margaret River and especially in these estate hands. Very fine and beautifully structured wine.

My fellow WineAligners are trekking across the globe this week with Michael Godel somewhere between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea making his way through the Marche, John discovering ancient viticultural lands of Armenia and David Lawrason having just returned from judging the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines. When they return, they will have a great deal to share.



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.

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

New Releases