John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Oct 13, 2018

Great, Splurge-Worthy ‘Values’
By John Szabo, MS, with notes from Michael Godel, Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Following on David’s lead from last week, this week we add to the list of smart buys, in mostly the premium, $30+ category. There was much to choose from in the October 13th release, and we’ve focused on the wines that genuinely deliver at the price. The new world came up big in the reds, with exceptional bottles from South Australia, Chile, Napa Valley and Mendoza leading the way, plus a fine $20 Greek red and a superb bargain Italian at $14 thrown in for good measure. Whites were split across worlds, with highlights from classic France, Italy, New Zealand and Ontario, among others. There’s plenty to fill your cellar, and glasses, this season.

And in case you missed it, the WineAlign Exchange is über-thrilled to offer a trip to Austria in a box: six archetypal wines, selected by unanimous assent of the WineAlign team of critics out of literally hundreds of samples tasted in Austria and at our offices. It was no hardship – quality has never been better across the entire range of styles and colours produced in this multifaceted country, and tasting was a genuine pleasure. The greatest difficulty was limiting our picks to just six. Find out more here, or click the ad below.

Austrian Masterclass

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES Oct 13th

White & Rosé

Jean-Max Roger 2016 Cuvée Marnes et Caillottes Sancerre, AC Loire, France ($30.95)
John Szabo – Clean, fragrant, lime-citrus, wet stone and cherry blossom-scented, this is a particularly aromatic expression of Sancerre, open and ripe but also crunchy and fresh. The palate shows distinctive salinity, salty-tangy acids, saliva-inducing, and firm structure, with excellent length and depth. A high-level, textbook example.
Sara d’Amato – A surprisingly complex, young Sancerre offering the benefit of flavours commonly associated with bottle age such as beeswax and honey alongside fresh, invigorating acidity and white pepper spice. Very compelling with an impressive depth of flavour and persistence.

Le G De Château Guiraud 2016, AC Bordeaux, France ($31.95)
John Szabo – The dry white version of sauvignon-semillon (50-50) from Sauternes producer Château Guiraud, Le G is quality wine off the top. Aromatics are still tightly wound – it’s a few years away from prime drinking I’d say – but there’s serious depth and concentration underlying. The palate is well balanced, rich and creamy but sharply delineated by ripe acids. I love the mix of citrus and tropical fruit, shifting from tangerine to custard pear and passion fruit. Very good to excellent length and depth. Lots of character and class on offer. Best after 2020.

Jean Max Roger Cuvée Marnes Et Caillottes Sancerre 2016Le G De Château Guiraud 2016Château Vessière Costières De Nîmes 2016

Château Vessière 2016 Costières de Nîmes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – Sourced from the Costières de Nîmes in a typical vineyard of large stony soils atop red clay. This southernmost Rhône appellation benefits from more rainfall than the rest of the south and, surprisingly, overall cooler temperatures. Organically produced, this blend of 70% roussane and 30% grenache blanc offers plentiful aromas of topical flowers and citrus zest. Refreshing with a marked mineral character and a distinct saltiness pleasurably balanced by ripe fruit and a mere hint of oak.

David Lawrason – This is a pretty viognier-based with lifted, classic aromas of orange blossom, lemon zest, white pepper, star fruit and anise. It’s a mid-weight, notably dry and lean with fresh herbs joining the fray on the palate. Very intense, tart edged and rather warm as well. The length is excellent.

Terredora di Paolo 2016 Loggia Della Serra Greco Di Tufo, DOCG Campania, Italy ($23.95)
John Szabo – Subtle but ripe, smoky, yellow fruit-scented, fullish, densely packed with flavour and fine acids, this is solid greco. I like the flavour intensity on offer and the range, a lightly salty, sulphur-tinged expression that shows best at the table – think mozzarella di buffala or grilled octopus, for example.

Terredora Di Paolo Loggia Della Serra Greco Di Tufo 2016Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Kevin Judd’s sauvignon blanc is always blessed with a texture that sets it apart, not just from the masses but also other Marlboroughs that aim for such poise. This vintage brings the same layering and mouthfeel but also more lemon-lime citrus punch. It really is amazing how this label delivers something extra, always, in every vintage.

Davis Bynum Chardonnay 2015, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California ($29.95)
Michael Godel – Greg Morthole’s multi-picked, multi-clonal, River West and Westside Road chardonnay is a slice of Russian River Valley pie, expertly gathered, amalgamated and rendered. That the fruit came in between the 13th and 27th of August tells you where we are in history and also what a winemaker needs to do to make chardonnay taste sharp, lively and proper this way. Start the 101 right here.

Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2017, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)
Michael Godel – The year 2017 will be remembered for great riesling variance which is just what we should want from the great chameleon. This is lovely in its sweet herbal fragrance and lime-powered flavour. The great Short Hills Bench length tells us to seek out more and continue to learn.

David Lawrason – Such a classic Niagara riesling nose of lemon, apricot, petrol and spice – all nicely lifted and bright. It is mid-weight, barely off-dry with firm, tart acidity, moderate alcohol (11.5%), very good flavour intensity and excellent length.

Davis Bynum Chardonnay 2015Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2017Domaine Montrose Prestige Rosé 2017

Domaine Montrose Prestige Rosé 2017, Igp Côtes De Thongue, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($20.95)
Michael Godel – A perfectly lithe, dry and salty in minutia Languedoc Rosé, expressive of currants and faint raspberry in the tart way it should and just has to be. Lingers like it was meant to, as a way of telling you how to enjoy such a moment in life. Rosé season is not over with this fine example still in play.


Henschke 2015 Henry’s Seven, Barossa, South Australia ($49.95)
John Szabo – The smell of good wine is often immediately recognizable, before cognition can catch up and make sense of it all. This wine is such a case. It smells good, and then one sets about unravelling the why and how. At first it’s pure, neither encumbered by wood or clumsy, overripe fruit. The perfume fills the nostrils and titillates the olfactory bulb at many points, equally dispersed and spread about. The palate shows that elegance and finesse, that fine-grained tannic structure, that savory-saltiness that only comes from careful cultivation in a great terroir. Length and depth, and complexity, are exceptional. This is wine (and value) of the highest order, a blend of grenache-shiraz-mataro and viognier. Best 2018-2025.

Montes 2015 Purple Angel, DO Colchagua Valley, Chile ($62.95)
John Szabo – Evidently ripe and concentrated, mixing the jammy purple fruit flavours of super ripe carmenere with the other side of the varietal coin, herbal-green-vegetable character, the two intertwined in generous oak influence, smoky-toasty-caramelized wood. The texture is plush and rich, with such supple tannins and modest acids that the wine fills every crevice, while 15% alcohol seems generous but integrated into the whole. A really exceptional vintage for Purple Angel I must say, and while drinkable now, it will be so much more rewarding in 3-5 years. 92% carmenere, 8% petit verdot. Best 2020-2030.

Henschke Henry's Seven 2015Montes Purple Angel 2015Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Cliff Lede 2015 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California ($119.95)
John Szabo – A full and firm, generous but structured, serious but also widely engaging cabernet from Canadian Cliff Lede and his spare-no-expense approach to winemaking from the volcanic Stag’s Leap District. The palate is bold and tightly encased in a frame of tannins, ripe but assertive, with uncompromising architecture and ageability. This is a Napa cab that should appeal to drinkers on both sides of the pond; give it time, however – another 3-5 at least to reach full apogee. Great stuff. Best 2021-2030.

Wirra Wirra 2016 Catapult Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95)
John Szabo – Nicely lifted and floral shiraz, complete with peppery violets and black berry/cherry character, and moderate wood. I like the juicy-succulent acids and the fine-grained-dusty tannins. There’s a real salinity here that draws additional sips, and the finish lingers nicely. I must say, for the money, this is really exceptional wine. Best 2018-2024.
Sara d’Amato – Minty menthol dons the nose and infiltrates the palate of this generous shiraz. Pure, devoid of smokiness or overt oak influence giving the drinker a sense of clairvoyance with respect to  place and vintage. The freshness and balance is striking.
Michael Godel – The great firm grip of shiraz allowed to speak its McLaren Vale mind is the impetus for setting this wine up for success. It’s amazing what can happen when shiraz is not made to hide behind a veil nor pushed to limits of unfulfilled promises. This by Wirra Wirra is bright, ripe and liberating shiraz.

Wirra Wirra Catapult Shiraz 2016Zuccardi Polígonos 2015

Zuccardi 2015 Polígonos San Pablo, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($29.95)
John Szabo – An intriguing and inviting Uco Valley malbec here from Zuccardi, blended from multiple small parcels throughout the valley. The colour is inky black and the nose is still tight and reductive (smoky), but the palate unleashes a torrent of strawberry and black cherry jam, with minimal wood impact and supple texture. This is good wine, exploring the potential, and frontiers, of Argentinian malbec. Best 2018-2025.

Château Fontenelles 2015 Cuvée Renaissance, Corbières, France ($20.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very showy red based on 55% syrah with other usual suspects from the south of France in the blend. It has lifted herbal smoked rosemary, blackcurrant, peppery and lightly meaty notes. It is mid-weight, a bit sinewy yet juicy with very good fruit concentration. Some heat and greenness, but this punches above its weight (if you like the strongly herbal flavours).

Ricasoli 2015 Brolio Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy  ($23.95)
David Lawrason – This is nicely fragrant, poised, mid-weight manicured Chianti from an excellent year. It shows classic currant/berry fruit nestled amid well metered herbs, spice and toast. I really like the balance and nuance here, with nicely firm tannin. The length is very good to excellent.

Château Fontenelles Cuvée Renaissance Corbières 2015Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2015Clos De Los Siete 2014

Clos De Los Siete 2014, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina  ($23.95)
David Lawrason – This is a classy malbec-based blend from the surreal Clos de los Siete compound in the remote Andean foothills, that houses wineries from five French-owned companies. It has a quite lifted, floral aromas with resinous, nutty and cedary oak. It is full bodied, fairly dense and quite elegant, with fine firm acidity and tannin. The length is excellent with some dusty graphite character on the finish.

Lantides 2015 Neméa Agiorgitiko, PDO Neméa Peloponnese, Greece ($19.95)
John Szabo – Here’s fine and juicy, strawberry-flavoured agiorgitiko from Nemea, with minimal wood influence and juicy acids. Tannins are fine-grained and length is better than the mean for the price category. A sharp value in the grand scheme, and widely appealing. Best 2018-2022.

Lantides Estates Agiorgitiko 2015Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha 2015Teroldego Vigneti Delle Dolomiti 2016

Alto Moncayo 2015 Veraton Garnacha, Campo De Borja, Spain ($36.95) (173211)
Sara d’Amato – Vines grown on the foothills of the Moncayo massif in Aragon, Spain are often close to centenarian and offer an impressive degree of concentration which is why this region is known as the “Empire of Garnacha”. In addition to such density of flavour, this incarnation delivers the pleasurable sweetness of red fruit common to the variety along with a light tannic grip. If you would like to know garnacha better, this is a must try regardless of its price.

Teroldego Vigneti Delle Dolomiti 2016, Igt Alto Adige, Italy ($13.95)
Michael Godel – Just the word Dolomiti gets me focused on what’s in the glass and for $14 this varietal teroldego is more than just a passing interest. A light alcohol frame for very ripe fruit with the coolest stony, herbal and intense streak really hits the mark. It’s also a bit tannic with quite a peppery bite. Think cool-climate syrah with a chalkier, albeit liquid floral feel. Great interest and value here. Gonna be some teroldego nights this coming winter.

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

John Szabo, MS

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