VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide – June 22th, 2019

Loire Variety Comparisons, New Wave Aussies, and Smart Buys

By John Szabo MS, with notes from Michael Godel

The entire WineAlign crü is still reeling from the National Wine Awards of Canada, an extraordinary five days of tasting last week in beautiful Prince Edward County. 21 deeply experienced judges from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia sipped, weighed and appraised the merits of 1,831 wines and ciders from almost every province in the land, in what is surely the most well-organized, professional and fair wine competition I’ve seen anywhere in the world. The annual NWAC Award winners, including the top wineries of the year, will be revealed in mid-July, so lovers, and future lovers of Canadian wines stand by for the definitive guide.

In the meantime, the June 22nd VINTAGES release features “Loire + New World Sisters”, a collection of benchmark chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc from France’s Loire Valley, and their varietal equivalents from the rest of the new world. Students of wine, this is your opportunity for some compare and contrast of old and new world paradigms. I’ve lined up three interesting pairs for you to consider. Australia is the mini feature, and Michael and I have picked out a trio smart buys representing the current wave of surprisingly fresh and balanced wines emerging from Down Under. And to round it out, we’ve also found you some other miscellaneous smart buys worth mentioning from France, Spain and Hungary.

Frei Brothers Sonoma Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 

Vintage’s Buyer’s Guide June 22nd: Compare & Contrast White Loire Varieties

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa ($17.95)
John Szabo – Outside of the Loire, South Africa is the place to seek out excellent chenin blanc, and Ken Forrester is an acknowledged master of the grape, also a founding member of the Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa, which now counts over 130 members. This old vine reserve is a little fleshier and riper than Loire examples, also showing the delicate touch of wood (old casks), a wine of tremendous character and depth for the money – a value that’s near impossible to beat.

La Vigne Des Sablons Vouvray 2017, AC Loire, France ($18.95)
John Szabo – A representative, off-dry Vouvray, balanced and fresh, with telltale sharp acids and solid flavour intensity.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 20 Cash Block Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Single vineyard, Dillons Point, Marlborough, New Zealand ($28.95)
John Szabo – NZ sauvignon needs no introduction -it’s the country’s calling card – but this wine is noteworthy for its more aromatically subdued and less obvious character than the average example, not so easy to spot in a blind tasting (and thus more fun to compare blind with a Loire sauvignon). A fine wine in any case.

Jean Max Roger Sancerre Cuvée Les Caillottes 2017, Sancerre AC, Loire France ($30.95)
John Szabo – Roger’s wines have appeared many times in these pages before, a producer as reliable as they come. This will make a fun comparison with the above from New Zealand as it’s a little softer and more approachable than the mean, thanks to lower than average yields and a particularly warm (hot) end of season stretch. Yet Roger’s ’17 Caillottes has nonetheless maintained fine freshness and refined texture in a classy expression.

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017   La Vigne Des Sablons Vouvray 2017  Saint Clair Pioneer Block 20 Cash Block Sauvignon Blanc 2017  Jean Max Roger Sancerre Cuvée Les Caillottes 2017

Vintage’s Buyer’s Guide June 22nd: Compare & Contrast Red Loire Varieties

Domaine Langlois Château Saumur Champigny 2016, AP Loire, France ($21.95)
John Szabo – Classic Loire cabernet franc here, a textbook rendition of the regional herbal signature, the green pepper, the little red and blue fruits, gravelly tannins, and lingering, violet-perfumed finish. You’ll thank the blind tasting gods if this is poured for your sommelier exam.

McMichael Collection Tom Thomson Cabernet Franc 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($24.95)
John Szabo – Cabernet franc is arguably Ontario’s most reliable red grape (with apologies to pinot and gamay), and here’s a solid example, made by Lakeview Wines in celebration of the McMichael Art Collection’s 50th anniversary. It doesn’t rely exclusively on the gorgeous Tom Thompson painting on the label, and delivers far more than one would expect on the inside from such a range of wines.  It’s well-structured, quite ripe, and medium-full-bodied, burlier than many Loire examples, so decant before serving.

Domaine Langlois Château Saumur Champigny 2016   Mcmichael Collection Tom Thomson Cabernet Franc 2016

Vintage’s Buyer’s Guide June 22nd: Aussie White & Red

Oakridge Vineyard Series Henk Chardonnay 2017, Henk Vineyard, Yarra Valley, Victoria Australia ($29.95)
John Szabo – Nicely smoky and flinty off the top, with intriguing resinous, old wood-derived notes, this is fine chardonnay from the red volcanic soils of the upper Yarra Valley.

Rymill Coonawarra Mc2 2015, Coonawarra, South Australia ($18.95)
John Szabo – Coonawarra’s cool climate really comes through here in the roasted pepper, cucumber, mint and green olive character of this cabernet sauvignon-led blend (with merlot and cabernet franc), as well as the lively-fresh palate, with no obvious wood influence. Chill lightly and enjoy while dining al fresco around the BBQ.

Bibliotheque Travel Writing Shiraz 2015, Mclaren Vale, South Australia ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Like travelling back in time with shiraz that could very well be made in 1995 and I mean that in the most sincerely complimentary way. This represents just the way you want shiraz to come your way.

Oakridge Vineyard Series Henk Chardonnay 2017  Rymill Coonawarra Mc2 2015  Bibliotheque Travel Writing Shiraz 2015

Vintage’s Buyer’s Guide June 22nd: Miscellaneous Good Whites

Domaine Passy Le Clou Chablis 2017, AP France ($28.95)
John Szabo – More good value Chablis here in a very appealing, discreetly floral and elegant guise, textbook stuff, complete with lemon-crème fraîche flavours and plenty of wet stones.

Pagos Del Galir Godello 2017, DOC Valdeorras, Spain ($17.95)
Michael Godel – A typically ideal godello led to optimum ripeness, and awash in fruit surrounded by a mineral-metal shell. Here’s the entry into the great Spanish Valdeorras oeuvre and not to be missed, replete with a head full of great, greater and greatest examples still to come.
John Szabo – Unsurprising alignment between Michael and I on this tasty white, reminiscent of for me pinot gris with its light ‘gris’ tinged colour and orange and lemon essential oil, red apple and apple blossom flavours. There is indeed much to discover in this cool, northwesterly sliver of Spain.

Garamvári Balatonlellei Muscat 2017, PDO Balatonboglar, Hungary ($11.95)
Michael Godel – From the south shore of Lake Balaton. A lovely little floral, mildly spritzed, lightly sweet and juicy Hungarian muscat for $12. Refreshment for a hot summer day.

Domaine De L’idylle Jacquère Savoie 2017, AC Savoie, France ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Here’s a real Bourgogne ringer in Savoie clothing intimating Maconnais with true spirit, intensity, tension and just plain life. Very lemon oriented with acidity running the juggernaut. Great value.

Domaine Passy Le Clou Chablis 2017  Pagos Del Galir Godello 2017  Garamvári Balatonlellei Muscat 2017  Domaine De L'idylle Jacquère Savoie 2017

Vintage’s Buyer’s Guide June 22nd: Miscellaneous Good Red & Rosé

Roquefeuille Léa Rocks Rosé 2018, IGP Var, France ($15.95)
Michael Godel – The appellation is Var, a Mediterranean outpost with very southern French indicators but here, laid-back and simplified. Liking the tart fruit sweetness in a very honest take for Rosé and the sense of it coming from a specific place.

Viñedos Y Bodegas Pablo Algairen 2015, Do Cariñena, Spain ($13.95)
Michael Godel – Very important is the Mediterranean influence in Cariñena, that and some striking, ancient Garnacha bush vines. Rustically charming and worth a try just to get an entry-level sense of the Aragonse character.

Roquefeuille Léa Rocks Rosé 2018  Viñedos Y Bodegas Pablo Algairen 2015

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

John Szabo, MS

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Frei Brothers Sonoma Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015