John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview March 30th

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

It’s been a busy few weeks at the WineAlign office as we’ve ramped up our tastings outside of the LCBO, tapping multiple sources to bring you ever-expanding coverage of the worldwide wine scene – Canadian government store shelves are just a part of the mix. Consignment portfolios, private imports, online shopping, grocery stores and local wineries add massively to your options, and we’re here to guide you to the best. And we know that you’re a gourmet traveller, and want to know which wines and wineries to seek out on your next wine country adventure. Well, we travel, too. A lot in fact. So we can help you plan your next escapade.

Last week we published massive coverage of Tuscany – Chianti Classico and Brunello – from an international perspective, and coming up we’ll have coverage from exciting Austria, as well as from the annual Cuvée Tasting in Niagara Falls happening tomorrow, where Ontario winemakers pick their favourite wines to bring to the table. If you’re free tomorrow night, why don’t you join us? Details here. So keep coming back to WineAlign for everything wine you need to know. And today, see the WineAlign crü’s top picks from the March 30th Vintages release.

George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts - Vegan Wine Pairing 

March 30th Buyer’s Guide: Sparkling

Drappier Brut Nature Pinot Noir Champagne, Zero Dosage, France ($57.95)
John Szabo – Drappier was one of the pioneer Champagne houses to produce a zero dosage cuvée, that is, no sugar added after disgorgement. This latest release is lovely, not at all lean or shrill, but rather beautifully balanced, and even generous. Flavours span a typical spectrum led by toasty-brioche and Viennoiserie, moving into red berry and ripe citrus fruit, grapefruit and lemon peel. Acids are comfortable and length and depth are excellent. A very classy wine, perfect for the pre-dinner slot, and equipped to move into fish and white meat courses.
Sara d’Amato – The nose of this Champagne is immensely de-stressing and lavish. The yeasty, toasty autolytic note is ever present and the wine exhibits more and body and roundness than expected for a zero dosage. Tough to beat at this price.

Cygnus Organic Brut Nature Cava, DO Penedès, Spain ($17.95)
Michael Godel – An oxidative three varietal Cava with plenty of traditional upside gives notes that are old-school champenoise like baking apple, toasted bread and wild ginger. It’s all citrus in flavour with good chewy persistence and fine acidity. If you think about it this is an elegant blanc de blancs like example with nice complexities of character.

Drappier Brut Nature Pinot Noir Champagne, Zero Dosage Cygnus Organic Brut Nature Cava

March 30th Vintages Buyer’s Guide: White

Greystone Sand Dollar Pinot Gris 2016, Waipara Valley, North Canterbury, New Zealand ($27.95)
John Szabo – This is an intriguing pinot gris from Canterbury on New Zealand’s South Island, more stony than fruity, and what fruit is present has an appealingly reductive edge, like the essential oil of grapefruit and lemon rind, though the leading flavour is reminiscent of wet chalk. The palate is dry but round and fleshy, with moderate-low acids adding to the creamy texture, also abetted by a fairly generous 13.5% alcohol. It’s a little soft in the final analysis, but high density and concentration show attention to viticultural detail and low yielding vines. Enjoy now or hold short term.
David Lawrason – I really like pinot gris from this more coastal region north of Christchurch on the South Island. It is almost Alsatian in size and richness, if just a tad sweeter than many. The nose billows ripe peach, honey, yellow flowers and gentle spice. It is full bodied, richly textured yet maintains some sense of delicacy thanks to decent acidity and balanced alcohol. It is a single vineyard wine from the Omihi Hills, which brings a bit more structure than in the wines from the flats in Waipara. Top notch!
Michael Godel – Greystone is a North Cantebury 2004 planting on clay-limestone soils and this is taken from 12 blocks in the 37 hectare Omihi Vineyard. Here is a racy, dry as the proverbial dessert, energy-driving force of pinot gris nature. Though dry there is a slight sense of faux-ish botrytis in the way sauvignon blanc can do, but truth be told it’s simply ripe fruit with a tropical bent, into peach and apricot aromas. The palate is rich and famoso, impressively sanctioned and tripping long. Good stuff.

Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($24.95)
John Szabo – A superb estate riesling here from Hidden Bench, tightly wound, pure and driving, with terrific acids, sharp and tart, and loads of midpalate density. Length is very good to excellent. Dusty- talcy texture with real grip. Best after 2019.
David Lawrason – This has a brilliant, piquant nose of green apple, lemon, herbs, mineral and vague florality. It is mid weight, almost piercingly dry, intense, firm and dry with classic lemon and green apple on the finish. Some tail end bitterness with excellent length. Very impressive.
Michael Godel – Another bang on Estate Riesling comes equipped with lime incarnate from Hidden Bench, to no surprise and to know this wine, though there is something new. What it is I can’t say for sure. “I don’t know what it contains, I don’t know what it represents, I don’t know what it is, but there are traces and shadows of it everywhere.” Of wide-eyed and excited character in its gait and a shift, a shift to desire, to make a new mark. You just feel the juxtaposition of aridity and wet stone, of calm and crisis. Perhaps it’s just an existential one, likely temporary but things always seem to work out. Wait a year for this riesling to chill and get more comfortable in its skin.

E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2016, Ac Rhone, France ($19.95) 
John Szabo – A nicely fleshy, ripe yellow fruit, cherry and cherry blossom flavoured white Rhône, well rounded and balanced. It fits the spot nicely between fresh unoaked whites, and full-on barrel fermented versions, and will be highly versatile at the table. Very good length.

Greystone Sand Dollar Pinot Gris 2016 Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2016 E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2016

Donatien Bahuaud 2017 Les Grands Mortiers Vouvray, Loire Valley, France ($21.95)
David Lawrason This is a quite fine-boned, off-dry chenin blanc showing the calcerous tuffeau soils of Vouvray very nicely. There is lovely underlying delicacy. The nose captures typical pear/quince, linden flower, honeycomb and flinty notes. The firm acidity carries the sweetness nicely; the length is very good. Scores on balance.

Pierre Sparr 2016 Sol Grès Riesling, Alsace, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Bright, lightly toasty, and highly textured. This sandstone grown riesling offers a mineral driven palate with a hint of pleasant lactic character. Floral, with an abundance of peach fruit. The acid is nicely curbed with only a hint of sweetness. A textbook Alsatian style at a fair price.

Donatien Bahuaud Les Grands Mortiers Vouvray 2017 Pierre Sparr Sol Grès Riesling 2016

March 30th Vintages Buyer’s Guide: Rosé

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($19.95) 
John Szabo – Another fine vintage for the Vivant Rosé, a pure pinot noir crafted in a fully dry style. I like the zesty acids and light but taut frame (12% alcohol declared), and lingering finish. There’s also notable salinity on offer, encouraging additional sips to quench that thirst. A benchmark.

Château d’Aquéria 2017, Tavel, Rhone Valley ($24.95)
David Lawrason This perennial offering at Vintages offers the classic weight and polish of modern Tavel, the world’s heftiest rose. It has quite deep colour which sets up expectation of sweetness but it is dry. The nose shows gentle watermelon, cherry fruit with rose/peony florality and gentle peppery complexity. It is full bodied for rose with lowish acidity, warming alcohol and a hint of licorice on the finish. The length is very good to excellent.
Sara d’Amato – Although deeply coloured and deeply flavoured, this Tavel is notably bright and vibrant. Exuberantly fruity with rose petal and cherry blossom, pomegranate and lavender. Such an appealing, mouth-filling texture is offered up along with great purity of flavour and a salty, mineral edge. Spring has sprung!

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2018 Château D'aquéria Tavel 2017

March 30th Vintages Buyer’s Guide: Red

Château Maucoil 2016, AC Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2016 France ($19.95) 
John Szabo – Here’s a typical, leathery, ripe red fruit-scented, resinous herb, pot-pourri-inflected Côtes du Rhône, inviting and attractive. The palate is round, fleshy, mouth-filling, genuinely concentrated and savoury, with very good length. This is quality wine at a nice price. Best 2019-2023.
David Lawrason– Here’s a classic, traditional Cotes-du-Rhone with generous, complex aromas of cooked plum, savoury herbal and peppery notes, licorice and fine, spicy wood. It is medium-full bodied, smooth and almost elegant with fine tannin, and a woodsy, dry finish. The length is excellent. A quite savoury expression of Cotes du Rhone.
Michael Godel – Pebbles in the sand are the soils where this juicy-meets-earthy Côtes du Rhône-Villages gets its ammo and M.O. for a delivery that really hits the red to black fruit spot. Quite the succulence from that fruit splashing up against ripe acids and a thin veil of supple tannin. It’s what you want and need from the appellation on the riper and darker spectrum.
Sara d’Amato – The estate of this organically produced wine based in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and has a traditional focus. A classic gem, this bright and lightly earthy blend is heavy with charm. A judicious use of oak adds a pleasant layer of flavour among the cherry-berry fruit on the palate and compliments the lightly sweetish character of grenache. A rather firm tannic presence would be softened by an hour in decanter. Engaging, sophisticated and showing great length.

Henry Of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2017, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Not so surprising to find a strawberry compote sweetness to this ’17 fruit with gratitude to the strangest pinot noir vintage to come through Niagara in a very long time. Summer cold and rain begat September heat and what it did for pinot noir is nothing short of remarkable. Later hang time brought good phenolic ripeness and a transparency of honest varietal weight. You won’t get it much brighter and less astringent than this, but don’t wait to drink up. The ’17 pinots carry a beautiful sour character that’s as juicy as ever, but structure is not the selling point.

Giacomo Mori Chianti 2015, Tuscany, Italy (22.95) 
John Szabo – Open, ripe, clean and attractive, this is Chianti (non-Classico) well above the quality mean. The palate is ripe, grippy but suave, succulent and juicy, with good to very good length. The ripeness of the 2015 vintage is used to full advantage here, without slipping over into overripeness. Sapid, succulent, savoury; good. Drink now-2022.
David Lawrason– The sparse, traditional Chianti label promises a similar wine, and delivers. It is thankfully not too soft or lush, indeed it has energy and vitality. The nose shows piquant currant/raspberry fruit with well integrated, herbal and woodsy notes. Good depth and very good to excellent length.

Obalo 2017, Rioja, Spain ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – A very drinkable, modern Rioja with a rich and ripe tannic texture and notably good quality fruit. Clean and tightly knit with a voluptuous presence on the palate. Flavours of blackberry, currant and black cherry linger memorably. Will not disappoint.

Château Maucoil 2016 Henry Of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2017 Giacomo Mori Chianti 2015Obalo 2017

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Coonawarra, South Australia ($34.95)
David Lawrason This staple from the cabernet­famous Coonawarra region remains a great value even as the price moves toward $30. It has a gorgeous lifted dark nose of blackcurrant, blueberry, violets, menthol, black licorice, warm dark chocolate oak and spice. It full bodied, dense and quite firm with a salt and pepper ying­yang tension on the palate. Very elegant down the middle with slightly sinewy tannin. Quite mineral driven on the finish. The length is excellent. Best now to 2025.

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($49.95)
John Szabo – Lovely, fragrant, spicy-floral, well managed wood, all large botti. Short maceration, 12 days. Quite fine, elegant, as usual for Caparzo. Delicate tannin, fine acids. Fine stuff. Best after 2019, or hold into the mid 20s.
Michael Godel – The Caparzo Brunello 2013 of Elisabetta Gnudi gathers fruit from several sources, including the northern vineyard where La Casa is born. The earthy funk sifted though black cherry rich and always fresh and elegant fruit assumptions tells us this is part of the vintage package. The low alcohol, easy to access, fresh and fleshy sangiovese carries a feeling, final and calm. Lovely wine.

Winerie Parisienne Grisant Red 2016, Vin de France ($25.95)
David Lawrason -French winemakers are starting to do interesting blends under the open-book Vin de France designation. This blends syrah and merlot grown in Bordeaux, but of course no mention of Bordeaux is anywhere on the labeling. It is a mid-weight, firm well balanced red with well integrated raspberry, plum, fine herbs and subtle oak. It is medium-full bodied, a touch green and astringent, with very good length.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino 2013 Winerie Parisienne Grisant Red 2016

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
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections

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