John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Jan 5, 2019

John Szabo’s Vintage’s Preview January 5th: Smart Buys under $17

By John Szabo, MS, with notes from Michael Godel and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The first release of the year brings around the traditional “smart buys” theme at Vintages, which is our specialty at WineAlign. We’ve picked a top twelve list for you this week from the January 5th release, all $16.95 or less, with lots of alignment. It’s an unusually broad range of wines, covering nine countries and wildly varying styles from bold and ripe new world reds to lean and stony old world whites – truly a colourful palate. And if you still haven’t stocked up on bubbles for New Year’s Eve, you still have the weekend to track down some bottles from my annual Fizz Report. From Cava to Crémant, Prosecco to Pet Nat, and of course champagne and other traditional method wines of multiple nationalities, we’ve got you covered.

January 5th Buyer’s Guide: White

Rabl Langenlois Grüner Veltliner 2017, DAC Kamptal, Austria ($16.95)
John Szabo – A clean and varietally accurate grüner, mixing white pepper, citrus fruit and celery root flavours in the classic unoaked style. Sharp-crunchy acids and a fine green apple-tinged finish ride on a light-medium bodied frame. A fresh, easy-drinking wine for current enjoyment all in all.
Sara d’Amato – An absolutely textbook grüner veltliner with more complexity than the norm. Chock-full of white pepper and slivered almond with more delicate notes of orange rind, elderflower and a powdery minerality. There is a pleasant angularity as well, yet it still offers ease of enjoyment.

Castillo De La Mota 2017, DO Rueda, Spain ($12.95)
John Szabo – A crunchy, fresh, well-priced white wine here, clean, mildly aromatic, fruity, with some light tropical notes, firm acids and more tart citrus fruit on the palate.
Michael Godel – A warm vintage expands the verdejo horizons for a Rueda of flesh, ripe fruit and fully realized sunshine. The maintenance of acidity and some fine bitters makes for a nice little package fit for grilled calamari, or small fishes if you like. Good value here at $13.
Sara d’Amato – Low-yielding, surprisingly old verdejo vines produce this spontaneously fermented white of great quality to price ratio. Vibrant and mid-weight with an abundance of citrus with passion fruit in the mix as well as a grassy nuance. A flavoursome weeknight sipper is with an engaging nature and little winemaking interference.

De Angelis Offida Pecorino 2016, Marche, Italy ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato –A delightful pecorino from the Marche that is fresh and salty but grounded by a touch of lactic creaminess. Flavours of white fleshed peach, green apple, and vanilla bean infused cream pop on the palate. Try with a locally inspired dish such as olive Ascolane which is battered, deep-fried olives stuffed with pork or poultry for a truly authentic experience.

Rabl Langenlois Grüner Veltliner 2017 Castillo De La Mota 2017 De Angelis Offida Pecorino 2016

January 5th Buyer’s Guide: Red

Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 16 Months Barbera D’asti 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($15.95)
John Szabo – This is a very deeply coloured wine in the category, ripe and fruity, zesty, and concentrated, quite savoury and fruity, one of the best from Chiarlo I’ve tasted. This punches far above its price point.
Michael Godel – The three terroir gathering is by now a barbera institution, from fruit gathered out of Castelnuovo Calcea, Montaldo Scarampi and Agliano Terme. As expected it is 2016 that becomes the perfect playground for an archetypal barbera made by Michelle and Stefano Chiarlo. The acids are spot on in this ubiquitous bd’a, with fruit at the sparked cherry forefront as well as any in the category. Try to find better value at the price. Really, go ahead and try.

Caliterra Tributo Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, DO Colchagua Valley Chile ($13.95)
John Szabo – Ripe, dark fruit inflected with characteristic Chilean mint and bay leaf/herbal spice, this has solid presence on the palate, especially at the price, while length is also above average for the category. A solid value in sturdy, full-bodied cabernet.

Vaucher Père & Fils Fleurie 2015, Beaujolais, France ($16.95)
John Szabo – For fans of firm, traditionally-styled Beaujolais with no obvious signs of carbonic maceration; wood flavours are noted but not obtrusive. Tannic structure reflects the high degree of ripeness and concentration of the vintage, and length and depth are more than adequate in the price category.

Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 16 Months Barbera D'asti 2016 Caliterra Tributo Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Vaucher Père & Fils Fleurie 2015

Norfolk Rise Vineyard Shiraz 2017, Mount Benson, Limestone Coast, Australia ($14.95)
John Szabo – Intensely black pepper, frankincense and myrrh-inflected, this smells like the interior of a Greek orthodox church. The palate is mid-weight, fleshy and with enough fruit extract to soften mid-level tannins, while the finish lingers on appealing saline, peppery notes. For the money, this is well worth a look.

Domaine Autrand Côtes Du Rhône 2016, AC France ($14.95)
John Szabo – A sharp value here in a juicy-fruity, spicy, red and black cherry scented Rhône, with lively acids and high drinkability overall. Chill and crack. Nice price.
Michael Godel – Here’s a fine, simple, juicy and eminently drinkable red Rhône from a predominance of grenache the way you’d hope it would be. No frills and all the fruit with nothing to distract from the base and the highly effective way.

Susana Balbo Crios Malbec 2017, Mendoza Argentina ($15.95)
John Szabo – Balbo is back on the quality track with this deep inky-purple, cold cream and violet scented malbec, with some peppery spice to add interest. The palate is fullish, soft, plush, with modest tannins, firm acids, and decent length. A highly drinkable example all in all; bring out the mid-winter stews and roasts.
Michael Godel – Grind your own burger wine alert. Malbec with juiciness, high acidity and some grip will do wonders alongside fresh chuck, simple seasoning and smoky cheddar. Put on the snow boots, fire up the grill and pour a glass. Post holiday heaven, spicy finish.

Norfolk Rise Vineyard Shiraz 2017 Domaine Autrand Côtes Du Rhône 2016 Susana Balbo Crios Malbec 2017

Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage 2017, WO Stellenbosch South Africa ($12.95)
John Szabo – A totally decent, zesty, juicy, easy-drinking pinotage here but with character; with a vague impression of sweetness to broaden the appeal. Chill and drink. 

Barco Negro Douro 2015, Douro, Portugal ($13.95)
Michael Godel – From Francois Lurton and named for the boats that used to transport wine from the Douro vineyards to the cellars in Oporto. Straightforward, juicy, unencumbered and highly consumable Douro red. As simple as that and representative of fine value.

M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2017, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato –From the Roussillon portion of the appellation, Chapoutier’s largely négociant operation of Bila-Haut is based in the Latour de France sub-region that showcases much of the dominant terroir of the area: black and brown schist (for roundness and richness), gneiss (offering minerality and freshness), limestone and chalk (for fortitude and balance). To complicate it further, this is a blend is of syrah, grenache and carignan offering surprising transparency of the place and soil. Consistently a high-value offering and this 2017 incarnation is no exception.

Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage 2017 Barco Negro Douro 2015 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2017

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

John Szabo, MS

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.

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

New Release and VINTAGES Preview