David’s VINTAGES Preview – Feb 2nd, 2019

A Change in the Process and Old World Picks

By David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The February 2nd release has 105 new or re-released wines and spirits.  During the media preview tasting on Friday, January 17, I was able to taste and make tasting notes on 58 wines. Michael and Sara also tasted their share, so among us there are reviews of the vast majority of the products. We still believe that it is our job is to review as many wines on the releases as we can – good, bad, or indifferent – in order to provide you advice on what to buy and not to buy.

But something has changed here in 2019. For years the WineAlign critics – and other media – have had a total of 12 hours, over three different occasions, to work through each Vintages release. In January that access was cut in half by the LCBO to six hours on just one occasion. Our long-standing access at Product Consultants tastings from noon to 3pm every Tuesday (after the majority of PCs had finished tasting) has been revoked.

The LCBO Press Office has only said that the Tuesday tastings are now “for internal staff only” and that “the policy is under review”. I explain this to give a heads up to readers as we work with the LCBO to come up with a solution.

One idea under consideration here at WineAlign is to expand coverage on products available elsewhere – LCBO online, in the Consignment Warehouse program, in LCBO Destination stores, and increasingly, in supermarkets. Vintages is not the only game in town, and I suspect wine retailing will only fracture more widely from here. I would be very curious to hear from readers about whether you would like more coverage of non-Vintages wines. Please use Disqus (at the bottom of this article) to air your thoughts.

Meanwhile, we have divided the February 2 release into two parts. I lead this week with Old World selections, based on a mini-spotlight on Portugal. Next week, based on the larger Argentina feature, Sara will lead off with New World picks. John Szabo sends his sincere regrets that he was not able to attend the January 17 tasting due to travel plans made well before the LCBO announced the cut to the Tuesday tastings.

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Portugal White & Reds

Portuguese wine has historically been a place to find great value, but given a whole new set of indigenous, often more tannic grape varieties –which the Portuguese correctly use – the wines are harder to understand, and sometimes come across as more coarse than those of neighbouring Spain or France.  I find them quite fascinating and complex, and especially enjoyable with heartier meals here in the dead of winter.

Vintages had a great opportunity – even within a seven-wine selection – to showcase the great value to be found in Portuguese wines in the $20 to $30 range – still affordable to most Vintages customers. A fine 90 to 92-point $25 Portuguese red would cost double that in France or Italy.

Instead Vintages low-balled, doing a disservice to its customers and to Portuguese wines.  None of the seven are over $20 and four are under $15, with commensurate deflation of quality. Under $15 is LCBO general list territory, so why duplicate that effort at Vintages? Anyway, in the end I only came up with three Portuguese wines worth recommending here, and none have hit 90 points.

Having said that, if you are really into Portuguese wines you should make the effort to visit the LCBOs Destination Collection store at St. Clair Ave West near Keele, in the Stockyards retail complex.

Vila Nova 2016 Loureiro, Vinho Verde, Portugal  ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Loueiro is one of the principal white blending grapes in certain regions of Vinho Verde, and increasingly seen as a single variety. It is a semi-aromatic variety reminding me of sylvaner or kerner from central Europe – vaguely muscat like perhaps. There is some lime, pear and elderflower character. It is medium weight, dry with moderate acidity. Pleasant herbal greenness on the finish. Very good flavour intensity and length.
Michael Godel – Go it alone loureiro is always unique for Vinho Verde and when it’s done up correct, as it is here, it melts a sweet herbal pesto into the citrus. Just like Villa Nova. Just a pinch of sweetness (in the area of 4-6 g/L of residual sugar) adds some mid-palate fleshiness so this becomes a great all around white sipper. Great value here. 

Quinta Da Rede 2013 Reserva, Douro, Portugal ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This elegant, modern red from the Douro Valley sports a fine fragrance and some finesse on the palate as well. Expect lifted aromas of florals, black plum, dried herbs, wood spice and some licorice. It is medium-full bodied, fairly supple but finishing some Douro tannic grip. They have really worked on the finesse here.

Evel 2014 Tinto, Douro, Portugal  ($13.95)
David Lawrason – From one of the largest wine companies of the Douro this inexpensive blend captures a fairly generous sweet nose of blackberry and plum, with some cedar and wet stone character. Slightly meaty as well. It is full bodied, quite firm, sour edged and tannic, with that Douro grit. Good complexity and depth for the money, but needs a mid-winter pot roast.

Vila Nova Loureiro 2016  Quinta Da Rede Reserva 2013  Evel Tinto 2014

Old World Sparkling & Whites

Conde De Haro 2015 Brut Cava, Spain ($19.95)
David Lawrason Very good value here in a balanced, complex and nicely structured cava (made in the traditional method) with fairly generous aromas of sourdough, almond paste, wet gravel and dried apple. Fine, well-integrated acidity here, with fine mousse and very good to excellent length.
Michael Godel – Muga takes you into the Cava idiom with a plenitude of lees and more palate creaminess than so many peers. There’s a cream soda float aroma so very childhood drawing and though it might seem to tempt sweetness there is great acidity for balance. For fun, pleasure and the possibility to develop further complexities with some years of age.
Sara d’Amato – Not to be missed, this sophisticated, value-priced Cava has an appealing weight along with comforting toasty flavours due to a good deal of contact with lees. An appealing vein of freshness gives this cuvée plenty of pep. Dry with subtle notes of lemongrass, white peach and lemon. Weeknight bubbles, why not?

J. Moreau & Fils 2017 Chablis, France  ($25.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a nicely bright, polished, easy, yet complex, Chablis that should have wide appeal. It captures ripe apple jam fruit with some buttered bread, anise and parmesan notes. It is medium weight with fine lemony acidity. Texturally well harmonized. The length is excellent.

Goru El Blanco 2017, Jumilla, Spain ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Behind the very dark, almost creepy label lies a quite bright and lifted blend of chardonnay and muscat, with classic orange blossom, spice, peach and mint. It is medium weight, just off-dry, quite warm and intense on the palate. Very Mediterranean in feel.

Conde De Haro Brut Cava 2015  J. Moreau & Fils Chablis 2017  Goru El Blanco 2017

Old World Rose and Reds

Château Léoube 2017 Love Rosé, Côtes De Provence, France ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – The wines of Château Léoube are assembled by Romaine Ott’s (formerly of Domaine Ott) whose family had a large part to play in modern Provençal wine history. Despite the marketing derived name, this rosé is pale but not excessively so and offers a charming nose of mandarin, rosebud and white pepper spice. The palate is clean, neat and dry but still with complexity, saltiness and freshness. Drink pink and think spring
Michael Godel – Love must be the Valentine’s edition from the Rosé specialist with an approachable blush that shoots arrows and makes one yearn for a glass. The salty-Mediterranean and sweetly herbal character traits are there but the most culpable and lithest ease of drinkability is so in play.  This pale pink drink is simple, straightforward and crushable. It asks the age old question. “Will you be mine?”

Marchand Tawse Côtes De Nuits Villages 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France ($41.95)
Michael Godel – The next step in Pascal Marchand’s Côte de Nuits Villages moves forward from pure and exemplary to enigmatic and mysterious. Marchand throws a bit of a curve by upping three aspects; ripeness, extraction and acidity. The vintage brings even higher phenolic ripeness, the barrel less notable attraction and attention and cumulatively speaking, it is fruit, albeit dark black cherry like, that at the finish, moves from finesse to attack. This brings more to the table, including tension and tenable structure, to help more than justify the price.
Sara d’Amato – Undeniably compelling, this Côtes-de-Nuits is deliciously salty with a broody sanguine character. Dark cherry fruit dominates this mid-weight pinot noir with very fine tannins. Accessible although still concentrated in nature and made from notably high-quality fruit. A good deal yet to come if you can wait another couple of years or spend the time to decant an hour or two.

Viberti Barbera d’Alba La Gemella 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($18.95)
Michael Godel – Viberti’s barbera is high toned and blessed of a perfectly tidy fruit floral mix. The elevated personality is just right for food, especially quick sautéed, transparently pounded salty meats and a sauce occupied by fruits of the earth. Frutta di bosco, fragola and a marine airiness all make this older schooled barbera a real catch.

Aydie 2015 L’Origine Madiran, France ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – This slightly riper Madiran takes the edge off of tannat yet still remains true to the essence of the grape. An addition of 30% cabernet franc and sauvignon lends more fruit and even acidity to the wine. With having time now to soften, this blend has become deliciously drinkable and widely appealing. Although its fresh fruit and vibrant colour still remain intact, its tannic edge and bitterness has mellowed to a friendly, accessible end.

Château Léoube Love Rosé 2017  Marchand Tawse Côtes De Nuits Villages 2015  Viberti Barbera D'alba La Gemella 2016  Aydie L'origine Madiran 2015

Mommessin 2016 Grandes Mises Saint-Amour, Beaujolais, France  ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite lovely St. Amour, the northern-most appellation of Beaujolais where limestone tills into Beaujolais’ granitic ambiance. This shows very generous aromas of strawberry jam, lovely florality and a bit more down to earth pepper and garrigue. It is light to medium weight, nicely smooth, warm and refined.

Château Le Grand Retour 2016 Plan De Dieu, Côtes Du Rhône-Villages, France  ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This is a nicely soft, generous, almost plump young Rhone. Lacks some tension and depth but the plummy/grapy, licorice and vaguely herbal/mossy aromas are totally correct for the southern Rhone. It is medium-full bodied, fairly dense, warm and engaging.

Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Riserva Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012, Veneto, Italy ($79.95)
Michael Godel – The first Monte Olmo was 1964 so here we are in 2012 nearly 50 years into the legacy for one of Amarone’s most seminal wines. Riccardo Tedeschi knows tradition, family values and what needs to be done with this special hand me down. It’s now expressly his and ’12 may just be the first to tie it all together, in his image and in his way. It’s 17 per cent because the vintage insists on the accumulation and yet the balance is spot on. Perfect fruit and expressive acids ensure that everything gets on the same page. This Amarone will live into infamy.

Mommessin Grandes Mises Saint Amour 2016  Château Le Grand Retour 2016 Plan De Dieu  Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Riserva Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012

And that’s a wrap for this week. But before signing off a reminder that there is only one week left to complete the Ontario government’s consumer survey on alcohol retailing options for the province. It closes February 1st:  https://www.ontario.ca/form/alcohol-choice-and-convenience-for-the-people-survey

David Lawrason

VP of Wine

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