John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Oct 27th, 2018

Premium Parade and Bonus Bull’s Blood
By John Szabo, MS, with notes from Michael Godel and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Italy is the VINTAGES October 27th release theme, and there are a couple of superb red wines from Tuscany and Campania to report. But there is so much more worth recommending. This week I also highlight wines from Ontario, New Zealand, Australia, France, Spain, South Africa, California, and, wait for it, Armenia! (Stay tuned for a full report later on the wines from this fascinating country – just getting back into the wine game after about 6,100 years).

I’ve also just been back to Budapest, where I sat in on a comprehensive blind tasting of Bikavér – Hungary’s infamous Bull’s Blood – put on by VinCe Magazine. Click through for my brief report on the history of Bikavér, the where and how, as well a dozen recommended wines. Learn how, like Budapest, Bikavér has received a significant makeover, and why bottles are no longer most useful as candle holders.

Alvear Medium Dry

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES Oct 27th

White & Rosé

Cave Spring 2016 CSV Riesling, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($29.95)
John Szabo – 2016 is another brilliant vintage for the CSV Riesling, delivering significant depth and intensity, and complexity. The palate is rich and extracted, with genuine concentration, low-yielding fruit, marked salinity and stony character, and excellent length. Classy and stately, and surely age worthy as well – in my experience, the CSV riesling in warm vintages like 2016 really ages brilliantly, and this is one of the best yet. 
Michael Godel – The CSV from a warm 2016 really expresses the vintage on the nose with a heavy dose of wet stone and every part of a ripe peach. This CSV is built with great Escarpment architecture and should easily carry its construct through to the next decade. That consequently, is when it will really be ready to rock and roll for a full decade more.

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2016Craggy Range Te Muna Road Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Craggy Range 2017 Te Muna Road Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, North Island, New Zealand ($26.95)
John Szabo – Quality wine off the top here, with a complex weave of citrus, green herb and passion fruit on the nose, leading into to an intensely flavoured, broad and satisfying palate. Acid balance is excellent, fresh yet still creamy, and length is very good to excellent. Top notch stuff.

John Duval 2016 Plexus White, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($36.95)
John Szabo – A marsanne-roussanne-viognier blend from the Barossa, Duval’s white features significant floral and ripe, white orchard fruit character, lifted and fresh although clearly ripe, with the right measure of reductive-flinty character and no obvious oak. The palate is fullish and savoury, lightly salty, inviting and engaging and saliva-inducing. I like the weight and depth allied to freshness and the considerable length. Premium wine.
Michael Godel – Duval’s Barossa blend is both richly aromatic and textured but never leaves the flinty scene. That reductive toasty note might lead you to think it will be a lean Plexus but it’s far from being that way. There’s real mouth filling fruit set and Barossa delight.

John Duval Plexus White 2016Hervé Azo Chablis 2016

Hervé Azo 2016 Chablis, AC Burgundy, France ($27.95)
John Szabo – Classic lemon-yoghurt aromatics off the top put this into a textbook regional style category, as does the flint and wet limestone character. The palate is dry and sharp, with excellent length and intensely chalky character. Very nice, and a fine value.
Michael Godel – West bank, east facing 30 year-old vines right at the centre of town are the Kimmerridgian source for this able-bodied and lees-fleshy Chablis. It’s more apple orchard than citrus fruit and yet still doused by crème-frâiche, tonic and lime. This is Chablis for the here and now. A very solid chardonnay.
Sara d’Amato – While improvements such as organic farming have resulted from Jean-Marc Brocard’s guardianship of Hervé Azo’s property, the drive to create pure and expressive wine with proper know-how has not changed. This succulent, flavourful and textbook Chablis showcases some roundness from what one can assume is yeasty/lees influence, likely in tank. Lightly lactic with notes of sour lemon, green apple and a scintillating mineral component. The volume here is impressive but it is cut by a fine edged acidity. Uncompromising winemaking and very high-quality fruit have resulted in a wine that memorable, highly drinkable and certainly priced below its level of quality.


Nativ 2013 Bicento, DOC Campi Taurasini, Campania, Italy ($41.95)
John Szabo – From vines claimed to be over two hundred years old, which isn’t as much a stretch of reality in this part of the world where I have personally seen many bi and tri-century-old vines, this is an excellent essence of aglianico. It offers the typical leathery-herbal and especially floral side of the variety, verging on candied cherry and fig, while the palate is thick, dripping with extract and firmly cosseted by abundant, mouth puckering tannins. To drink this now would require a serious piece of protein, but my suggestion would be to forget it in the cellar for another 4-5 years to let the tannins loosen up and the fully savoury character to take the fore. This is intense and concentrated wine, yet not ponderous or heavy, really quite magical.
Sara d’Amato – If you’re asking yourself, “should I splurge?” then, let me make it easy for you. Appealing to your logic: sourced from bicentennial fruit, grown in volcanic soil at high altitude, textbook example of the variety & region and produced by internationally acclaimed oenologist Dr. Mario Ercolino and Dr. Roberta Pirone. Appealing to your hedonism: the result is a rich, generous and exceptionally concentrated. Fleshy, showcasing Mediterranean flavours with a sweetness that contrasts the overall broodiness in a most enticing way.
Michael Godel – Nativ Bicento was born in the heart of Irpinia, in Paternopoli, “by the will of Dr. Mario Ercolino, internationally renowned oenologist,” and food science specialist Dr. Roberta Pirone. That the fruit could come from some vines of the double century mark is an amazing thing to think on but regardless this aglianico has the fruit and the stuffing to prove itself over and over again. Thick and rich and caky intense but structured to withstand wars, pestilence and natural disasters. Tuck this away for a couple of decades and see what happens.

Nativ Bicento 2013Torres Cos Perpetual 2015Reyneke Organic Red 2017

Torres 2015 Cos Perpetual, DOCa Priorat, Spain ($49.95)
John Szabo – A product of struggling, low-yielding vines, Torres’ Priorat is a perennial smart buy from this premium, rather extreme, region. Ultra-ripe fruit, red but mostly black, and fruit liqueur, mingles with resinous herbs and scorched earth in an intense and complex expression. The palate is saturated with fruit extract, abundant but ripe tannins, and adequate acids. The finish lingers admirably. This is a very good value in the premium, big red category.
Michael Godel – This hommage to Priorat vin de garde meshes hedonism with high spirit and comes out the other side in quite the satisfying level of balance. The aromatic gregariousness of American oak and the vanilla sweetness of French gather alternatively together for layers upon layers of glycerin, clafoutis and spice. There is a real grape resin intensity and full throttle flavouring through and through.

Reyneke 2017 Organic Red, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($19.95)
John Szabo – Open and savoury, peppery and zesty, this is fine wine from Reyneke in the Stellenbosch area. Some oxidative beeswax, black tea, and dried fruit character put this in the natural camp, with lots of appeal on offer. Tannins are fine and light and acids balanced-fresh, while length exceeds expectations in the price category. A very fine value all in all. 89% shiraz, 11% cabernet.

Karas 2016 Red, Armavir Region, Armenia ($21.95)
John Szabo – Syrah, malbec, cabernet franc and tannat. Charred and slightly reductive, fullish, soft, plush, polished, widely appealing wine, dark, fruity and savoury, with good length. Cabernet franc leads the aroma and flavour profile, with some malbec leafy notes. Tannins are soft, but the palate is ripe and broad, satisfying, with soft tannins. This is a good introductory wine to the possibilities of Armenian wine, here rendered with an international palate, and very well done at that.

Karas Winery Harvest 2018

Karas Winery Harvest 2018

Seghesio 2016 Sonoma Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California ($29.95)
John Szabo – Another classy zinfandel from Seghesio, a leading name in the category to be sure. Expect the usual plush and very ripe black and also red raspberry fruit of the variety, but also an unusual degree of finesse and composure. Length and depth are good to very good, too. Classy stuff.
Michael Godel – The most consistent zinfandel in my opinion is this from Seghesio. This is just great red zinfandel fruit, with a hint of dried leather and drying tannin. The triangle of balance between fruit, acidity and structure is ideal.

Karas Red 2016Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2016Volpaia Chianti Classico 2015

Volpaia 2015 Chianti Classico, DOCG Tuscany, Italy ($28.95)
John Szabo – Maturing nicely at this stage and evolving into the savoury, porcini-inflected end of the spectrum, Volpaia’s ’15 has shed its reductive youth, noted when first tasted about a year ago, and shifted into prime drinking. The palate is nicely mid-weight, zesty and firm, dusty in the regional idiom, with salty acids and lingering finish. Fine wine, drinking now or hold into the mid-twenties for a fully evolved experience. Sangiovese with 10% merlot, one year in 30hl cask.
Michael Godel – Volpaia’s 2015 strikes me as a Chianti Classico with ancient wisdom and perfect vintage fruit quality in its calculated, curative concentration. This is a rich and earthy red, of frutti di bosco, and generating power in its wonderful restraint. Take in and regard the gentile, non facile, wondrous mystery of Radda in Chianti Classico.

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

John Szabo, MS

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Austrian Masterclass