John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Dec 8, 2018

John Szabo’s Vintage’s Preview December 8th: Best of the Old World

By John Szabo, MS, with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The last Vintages release of the year offers some superb opportunities for collectors, including arguably the best Solaia yet made by Antinori, a terrific Amarone blended from Guerrieri Rizzardi’s top three crus, and a vintage champagne from Moët that’s less than a third the price of their own Dom Pérignon, but every bit as much wine. It’s also sweet and fortified wine season, and we’ve recommended a brilliant port from the now-legendary 2000 Vintage to drink or cellar indefinitely, plus a cracking Sauternes for those foie gras moments. Value seekers shouldn’t miss the sharp $12.95 white from the cool Transylvanian highlands based on local hero Feteasca Regala, while those aspiring to the great Tuscan reds of Tenuta San Guido or the Rhônes of Jean-Louis Chave can get in on excellent entry points into those respective portfolios. Read on for details. The WineAlign crü wishes you a wonderful holiday season filled with memorable bottles and moments!

Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

December 8th Buyer’s Guide: Old World White and Sparkling

Moët & Chandon 2009 Grand Vintage Extra Brut Champagne, France ($91.95)
John Szabo – 2009 is an exceptional year for Moët’s Grand Vintage, and for value, outperforms many prestige cuvées, including Moët’s own Dom Pérignon. It’s an intensely toasty-autolytic champagne in the house style, delivering a nose-full of smoke and wet stone, honey, French onion soup, certainly very savoury and earthy. The palate is full and rich, saturated with flavour and with excellent length, finishing on beef consommé (appealing) flavours. Terrific balance, concentration and complexity.

Ca’ Del Bosco NV Cuvée Prestige Brut Franciacorta Traditional method, DOCG, Lombardy, Italy ($42.95)
John Szabo – Leading Franciacorta producer Ca’ del Bosco delivers a  generous and vigorous, medium-full, effervescent bubbly with impressive concentration and depth with this latest release, a classy wine. I love the flavour concentration, the generous fruit in the orchard spectrum (peach, pear, apricot) and gentle but adequate acids. Very good length, too.

Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, Burgundy, France ($19.95)
David Lawrason – There are some excellent Champagnes on this release, with my favourite being the Ruinart. But for Holiday value don’t overlook this similar traditional method Cremant from farther south in Burgundy. It  is a pale gold, fairly mature edition with a rather sharp nose of brioche, hazelnut and dried pear-apple fruit. It is mid-weight, fairly tart and quite intense and aggressive on the palate with a subtle rounding sweetness and a touch of caramel, nutty bitterness and lemon come to the finish. The length is excellent.

Ruinart R de Ruinart Brut Champagne, Champagne, France, $85.95
Sara d’Amato – A rich and savory cuvée that is undeniably sophisticated. Offering and roundness and great depth of flavour with scintillating acidity and just enough autolytic creaminess. That palate brims with floral notes, brioche, butter, lightly dried lemon, white tea and a touch of honey.

Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Extra Brut Champagne 2009  Ca' Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Brut Franciacorta  Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne  Ruinart R De Ruinart Brut Champagne

Saint-Roch 2017 Vieilles Vignes Côtes Du Roussillon, France  ($16.95)
David Lawrason -This is very good value in a gentle, fresh and mellow sipping white that is based on my two favourite southern French varieties -grenache blanc and roussanne. It expresses ripe melon, peach, banana fruit with some vanillin. It is medium-full bodied, rounded yet carries enough acidity and warmth. The length is very good.

Tezaur Jidvei 2017 Sauvignon Blanc/Feteasca Regala DOC Târnave, Transylvania, Romania ($12.95)
John Szabo – Don’t miss this sharp little value from the Transylvanian highlands in the Carpathian mountains, based on local Feteasca Regala, the region’s most impressive native white grape. It’s open, fruity-floral, oak-free and very appealing on the nose, with gentle acids on the palate, though the wine remains fresh. Concentration is modest, but more than respectable at the price.

Saint Roch Vielles Vignes Grenache Blanc/Marsanne 2017  Tezaur Jidvei Sauvignon Blanc/Feteasca Regala 2017

December 8th Buyer’s Guide: Old World Red

Antinori 2015 Solaia IGT Toscana, Italy ($257.95)
John Szabo – 2015 will surely go down as one of the greatest Solaia’s ever, a wine of world class stature, meticulous in every detail, and very near perfect. It offers marvelous perfume off the top, featuring ripe black fruit, a broad array of spice, fully integrated wood influence, and a generous flavour range overall. The palate is firm and savoury, succulent and saline, with exceptional depth and length, really monumental.  It should approach its ideal drinking window after 2025, or hold until the late ’30s or ’40s or beyond in a proper cellar. Magnificent stuff.

Guerrieri Rizzardi 2012 3E Cru Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Veneto, Italy ($53.95) John Szabo – A blend of three crus including the steep, rocky, terraced vineyard of Calcarole (Rizzardi’s top cru), as well as the gently sloping locations of Rovereti and Pojega in the heart of Negrar, this is intense, aromatic, classically chocolate-and-spice-tinged Amarone, complex to be sure, full, dense and rich, but also well balanced, with a typical touch of volatile acidity to lift the back end. I have to say this is well-made, balanced wine even with its 16% alcohol, with excellent length and depth. A classic, almost enjoyable now, but surely better in 4-6 years, and cellerable into the ’30s no problem.

2016 Tenuta San Guido Le Difese IGT Toscana Tuscany $34.95
John Szabo – This is a fine entry point into Tenuta San Guido’s (Sassicaia’s) stable. It’s appealingly lean and firm, dusty, herbal, fand resh tart fruit-flavoured (red and black) in the 2016 idiom, a stately, elegant, balanced and fresh Bordeaux-blend. Quality/value ratio is high, especially for fans of stately, aristocratic reds, best 2020-2028.

Antinori 2015 Solaia  Guerrieri Rizzardi 3 E Cru Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012  Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2016

J.L. Chave Sélection 2016 Mon Coeur Côtes Du Rhône AC, France ($22.95)
John Szabo – Fans of Jean Louis Chave’s wines, and old school Rhône in general, will be pleased by this spicy, earthy, lightly oxidative and dusty-rusty Côtes-du-Rhône, fruit of his negociant activity. I like the savoriness, the fine, firm acid-tannin structure and especially the salty minerality. Length and depth are also impressive; 14.5% alc. goes relatively unnoticed. Best 2018-2026.
David Lawrason The Chave family dominance of quality Rhone wines goes back 16 generations to 1491. The Selection wines are from the négociant side of the business. This is a dense, bright and juicy young Rhone with great energy. The aromas are of pure crushed blackcurrant/blackerry fruit with a slight meaty note, licorice and pepper. There is good density and structure, with firm tannin. The length is excellent. Delish!

Château Francs 2016 Magnus, Bordeaux Supérieur, France ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Bordeaux’ top 100 get all the attention, but I am far more interested in finding little well-made gems among the other 7,275 “petit chateaux”. This is a fine, little value. It does not have great intensity or depth but there is exactness in terms of the currant/berry fruit, vaguely herbal/leafy and floral character and earth. I suspect a fair bit of cab franc in the blend, with a light touch in terms of oaking. It is even-handed, if just a touch tannic and dusty. But it is young, so give it a year or two

Château De Fauzan 2016 Minervois, Languedoc, France ($15.95)
David Lawrason  If you thought Bordeaux’ 7,275 wineries was plenty, Languedoc has roughly 22,000!  From a winery located with a castle in the village of Fauzan, this 80% syrah, 20% grenache blend has a slightly wild and woodsy green nose of blackcurrant, fresh herbs and a hint of dark flower. It is mid-weight, quite firm, juicy and energetic with some green tannin. But the freshness is important and there is nothing artificial about it.  Good buy!

Confidencial 2014 Reserva, Vinho Regional Lisboa  ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Portugal’s Douro reds get all the heavy press, but time and again I am caught of guard by the quality, charm, complexity and value of reds from the environs of Lisbon.  This is a bright, mid-weight, nicely clean and fresh red. The nose shows raspberry/currant fruit with some floral and herbal complexity. It is medium-full bodied, fairly dense, with some slightly green woodsy tannin. A steal at $13.95!

J.L. Chave Sélection 2016 Mon Coeur Côtes Du Rhône   Château Francs Magnus 2016  Château De Fauzan Minervois 2016 Confidencial Reserva 2014

Château Roubine 2017 La Vie en Rose Rosé, Côtes de Provence, Provence, France ($15.75)
Sara d’Amato – This night harvested rosé offers more fruit and colour than most Côte de Provence rosés on the market. With greater richness, this style makes both a versatile off-season sipper and appropriate to pair with an array of festive dishes. Showcasing grenache in its most affable form with juicy red fruit that give an impression of sweetness while the palate remains dry, floral notes and a salt and pepper finish. Effortlessly drinkable

Balbás 2006 Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain $23.95
Sara d’Amato – Rich and nicely textured, this tempranillo-cabernet sauvignon blend is holding up remarkably well despite its age. The tannins are mellow and provide amplitude to the palate and the oak has meshed completely with the fruit. Voluminous, pleasantly mouth filling and notably representative of good quality Ribera blends.

Château Roubine La Vie En Rose Rosé 2017   Balbás Reserva 2006

December 8th Buyer’s Guide: Sweet and Fortified

Delaforce 2000 Vintage Port DOC Douro, Portugal ($58.95)
John Szabo – Maturing beautifully now, aromatics are beginning to soar on this 2000 Vintage, shifting into soy and maple syrup, dried figs and prunes, dates and raisins – I’m loving the complexity on offer. The palate is thick, full, densely flavoured, umami-rich, with supple, abundant tannins and excellent length. Really an excellent flavour ride, with endless finish. Drink or hold indefinitely, at least late into the century.

Château Filhot 2015 Sauternes AC Graves Bordeaux, France ($24.95)
John Szabo – A Sauternes with lovely, creamy, ripe, orange creamsicle, honey and ginger, quince and apricot purée flavours, beautifully clean and relatively fresh, top notch wine at a friendly price. Wood is very well integrated, adding a gently smoky, whiskey-vanilla tone, and length is fine. Terrific stuff – well worth having a few half bottles on hand for those special occasions, or Tuesday afternoons. Best 2018-2028.

Delaforce Vintage Port 2000  Château Filhot Sauternes 2015

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

John Szabo, MS

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

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