Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES November 23rd

Ultra-Premium & Nouveau

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

This week’s report is literally crammed with great wines. The sheer number of picks from the WineAlign crü – 31 collectively – is testament to the quality of the November 23rd release, featuring “coveted, iconic wines from the world’s top regions”. If you’ve been saving up for some fine bottles, this is the weekend to liquidate (liquify?) your accounts. But top dollar is not essential, as we’ve also found ample sub $30 and $20 options to consider. To simplify your shopping, I’ve broken the recommendations into swallow-able sips. Fans of embryonic, grapey, barely-wines should read Sara’s brief history of the Beaujolais Nouveau craze and our buyer’s guide to the best of the release.  Risk-averse shoppers should head straight to the Double Alignment section featuring wines recommended by at least two WineAlign critics. Or, if you already feel comfortable with your most trusted WineAlign critic, align yourself directly with the picks of David Lawrason, Michael Godel, Sara d’Amato, or John Szabo.

Spanish Masterclass-in-a-Box 

Le nouveau est arrivé! – by Sara d’Amato

The third Thursday of November is upon us, requiring merchants worldwide to make way for the arrival of the 2019 Beaujolais Nouveaux. The success of “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” has become a trade bandwagon for other regions to market their freshly fermented wines. By definition, “Nouveau” is a young wine that is bottled 6 to 8 weeks after harvest. A process of semi-carbonic maceration is used to create this style of Beaujolais which begins with uncrushed grapes placed in a sealed tank filled with carbon dioxide to create an anaerobic environment. The individual berries begin to spontaneously ferment from within creating a uniquely aromatic and fruity wine that is low in tannins.

Historically, the wine was bottled as a means to celebrate the harvest. The intention was to revel in the wake of the arduous harvest season with some of the fruits of labour. Nouveau was a simple, swig-worthy sipper that locals would pair with seasonal street food like boudin blanc, sausages and roasted chestnuts. However uncomplicated the wine may be, it is big business in Beaujolais, making up half of the region’s production — about 65 million bottles.

Beginning in 1951, it became legislated that November 15th was to be the day of the release of Beaujolais Nouveau. This launched a competition among producers of who could deliver most quickly their bottles to the bistros of Paris. In the 1970s, the celebrated winemaker and entrepreneur, Georges Duboeuf, launched a publicity campaign to heighten the excitement surrounding the wine. Soon, the slogan “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé” was being trumpeted around the world. The clever marketing skyrocketed this simple wine to fame and had mixed consequences for this southern Burgundian region. It was in 1985 that Beaujolais established that the 3rd Thursday of November would be the date of release, a jumpstart to a weekend of festivities. Given that American Thanksgiving tends to coincide with the date, it has also become a staple on holiday tables making an ideal match for turkey.

The Nouveau party begins at 12:01 on Thursday, November 21st and will continue throughout the weekend. Whether you hope to attend one yourself or throw one of your own, remember to be spirited, not stodgy! Our top picks to help you celebrate at home:

Buyer’s Guide to 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau’s

Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau 2019, Vin de Pays de L’Ardèche, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – A leading force in the Beaujolais Nouveau movement, Duboeuf has here branched out to the neighbouring Archèche region with a fun-loving, peppery, young gamay. Dry with red flower and juniper on the nose and an almost soft, syrah-like character. Super crushable, uncomplicated and a widely appealing.
Michael Godel – Perfectly juicy and lightly peppery young gamay with a minor amount of chalky structure to take this deep, six to 10 months easy. Lovely and useful 2019.

Bouchard Ainé Beaujolais Nouveau 2019, Burgundy, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Despite not aspiring to the more inventive and playful labelling usually found on bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau, the négociant Bouchard Ainé seems to have captured the spirited nature of the Nouveau style aptly. This freshly fermented find has a delightfully peppery, spicy edge along with a wealth of hibiscus and black cherry fruit.

Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2019, Burgundy, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – A more serous incarnation of this spirited style offering fruity flavours of cassis jam on the fleshy, lush palate. A surprisingly opulent but also pure expression of gamay, unadulterated and pleasurably youthful.
Michael Godel –  What you want and need in the youngest of the Beaujolais with tart and even grippy fruit in the strawberry-currant realm and true blue nouveau acidity. More intensity than most and a better food wine than any other in the genre. That counts for everything.

Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2019, France ($16.95)
John Szabo – Of the crop of 2019 nouveaux wines arriving in Ontario this year, Duboeuf’s original Beaujolais Villages Nouveau classic stands a little above the rest. Granted, that’s not high praise (and it’s the second most expensive offering), but here at least the fruit is a measure deeper, darker, and riper, reaching black cherry and raspberry flavours, Chill, serve, celebrate the new vintage, then move on.

Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau 2019  Bouchard Ainé Beaujolais Nouveau 2019  Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2019  Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2019

Mezzacorona Vino Novello Teroldego 2018, Trentino, Italy $10.95
Sara d’Amato – The great thing about Nouveau styles is that you are able to appreciate an unadulterated, pure expression of the variety. Rarely imported into Ontario, the deeply coloured teroldego planted in the northern Italian region of Trentino has the soft, fruity character that is ideal for a “novella” style. Soft and inviting, plush in texture but not heavy, this blue fruit and violet laden expression leaves one with a light and velvety mouthfeel.

Mezzacorona Vino Novello 2018

VINTAGES Buyer’s Guide November 23rd: WineAlign Double Alignment (recommended by at least two of the winealign critics)

Moët & Chandon 2012 Grand Vintage Extra Brut Champagne, France ($93.95)
Sara d’Amato – A low-yielding vintage of top-quality, this bold and layered incarnation of Moët’s Grand Vintage cuvée goes beyond satisfying expectations. Full-bodied with toasty brioche character and a creamy texture. Delightful in this youthful condition but fans of aged Champagne will want to hold on for a half decade or more.
John Szabo – Classic vintage, classic Champagne, which delivers, believe it or not, exceptional value in the ultra-luxe world of champers. A celebration-worthy bottle to be sure.

Nals Margreid Punggl Pinot Grigio 2016, DOC Südtirol Alto Adige, Italy ($29.95 )
Michael Godel – There are times when a pinot grigio comes along to talk of things most varietal northern Italian wines of such ilk are incapable of doing. Punggl is next level stuff; fruit, acidity and nut-based bitters. Leaves a long lasting impression that sweetens as it fades away.
John Szabo – This is pinot grigio far, far above the mean, nothing like the oceans of innocuous stuff that sells for half the price. I love the waves of white orchard fruit flavours mingling with citrus essential oils and almond blossom. Perfect ripeness, neither over nor under. Length is also impressive, abetted by notable alcoholic warmth on the back end (14.5% declared). Best 2019-2023.

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Marlborough, New Zealand ($26.95)
David Lawrason – Not re-tasted since June but this can hardly have changed. It has a shrill, intense nose crammed with wild herbs and grasses, green tomato, grapefruit and the flinty/oniony reduction that has become a Dog Point signature. It is mid-weight, bright, brisk and mouth-watering.
John Szabo – Not your average Marlborough sauvignon, this is another fine edition of Dog Point’s highly idiosyncratic version, complete with the customary, heavily flinty-smoky, sulphide-driven profile. But beyond that, you’ll find a substantial palate with genuine flavour density and intensity, ripeness and depth, evidence of careful farming and low yields. Best 2020-2028.

Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Extra Brut Champagne 2012  Nals Margreid Punggl Pinot Grigio 2016  Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2016, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($44.95)
David Lawrason – This fine blend of merlot, malbec and cabernet franc is not ready for prime time, but is very well made, refined, subtle and complex – from one of Niagara’s best red wine vintages this decade.  It has lifted floral, herbal, peppery notes with bright mulberry/raspberry fruit due to the malbec component. Best 2023 to 2030.
John Szabo – A top-notch, bold, ripe expression from an excellent Niagara red wine vintage, several years away from prime. Impress your disbelieving friends with this. Best after 2022

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2018, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley, South Africa ($59.95)
Michael Godel – Welcome to a noirmance. The warm day/cool night, diurnal temperature fix is in, locking in freshness and sweet tension like no recent memory can recall. Makes for a most grippy yet excitable pinot noir of concentration, presence and promise. Benchmark in every respect.
John Szabo – A classy, luminous, refined, elegant pinot, from one of the top producers of the variety in South Africa. Best 2020-2026.

Jean Luc Colombo Le Pavillon Des Courtisanes Cairanne 2016, AC Rhône Valley, France ($21.95)
Michael Godel – So reminds of northern Rhône syrah and for Cairanne is a true epiphany, even more so when you consider the price. It begs to be sipped now but will surely reward cellaring. Best of both worlds in that regard.
Sara d’Amato – The inaugural vintage for the “cru” of Cairanne. Innovator Jean-Luc Colombo’s 2016 Les Pavillon des Courtisanes is spicy and warming and offering both a great deal of fresh, plummy fruit and elegant bottle-aged character. Complex with a refined oak treatment. Very good value.

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2016   Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2018  Jean Luc Colombo Le Pavillon Des Courtisanes Cairanne 2016

John Szabo’s Buyer’s Guide November 23rd

Grgich Hills Estate Grown Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley, USA ($67.95)
John Szabo – Still tightly wound and flinty (reductive) five years in, this fine chardonnay from Grgich is evolving at a snail’s pace. Give it another 2-3 years in the cellar, or hold into the late ’20s. All class.

Aurelio Settimo Rocche Dell’annunziata Barolo 2014, DOCG, Piedmont, Italy ($54.95)
John Szabo – Another classic, old school Barolo from the great traditionalist house of Aurelio Settimo, and this is a fine price for the Rocche dell’Annunziata bottling. Length, depth, and complexity are exemplary, and while this is highly enjoyable now. there’s surely no rush to drink either – cellar comfortably into the late ’20s.

Caparzo La Casa Brunello Di Montalcino 2013, DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($79.95)
John Szabo – A Brunello of very high class indeed, exclusively from the Montosoli hill on the north side of Montalcino, and mostly vines planted in 1986. This is refined, fine, elegant, sapid and succulent Brunello, clearly a fine and superior terroir. Enjoyable now or hold into the late ’20s.

Stratus Red 2016, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario ($49.20)
John Szabo – The latest release of Stratus’ flagship red blend is a marvelously complex, spicy, old world style wine, one of the best yet. I can see this drinking well in the late ’20s and beyond, yet it’s also highly appealing and satisfying now.

Grgich Hills Estate Grown Chardonnay 2014  Aurelio Settimo Rocche Dell'annunziata Barolo 2014  Caparzo La Casa Brunello Di Montalcino 2013   Stratus Red 2016

Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2016, Mendoza, Argentina ($49.95)
John Szabo – This is flat-out lovely floral, high elevation malbec from the reliable house of Catena. I’d recommend cellaring into the mid-twenties for greater evolution and complexity. Best 2024-2032.

Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper Shiraz 2016, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($99.95)
John Szabo – One of the more impressive E&Es in some time, evidently serious wine from the first sniff. The palate is substantial and solid, densely packed with fruit extract and abundant, supple tannins, with a seam of acid to contain the billowing ensemble. Drink or hold into the ’30s.

Emiliana Coyam 2016, Los Robles Estate, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($29.95)
John Szabo – Always a reliably impressive wine, the 2016 edition of Coyam from a cooler “El Niño” year, a blend of mostly syrah, carmenere and cabernet sauvignon with splashes of mourvèdre, malbec, garnacha and tempranillo, is particularly excellent. Wonderfully spicy, garrigue, pot pourri flavours move effortlessly across the palate. Drink or hold until the end of the ’20s.

Domaine Charles Audoin Au Champ Salomon Marsannay 2015, AC, Burgundy, France ($60.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a red Burgundy that’s drinking beautifully for the holidays, so pretty, capturing a range of flavours from very ripe red and black cherry fruit through licorice, dried leaves, freshly snapped twigs, dried violets and more, in other words, textbook stuff. Though there’s no rush either; you can hold into the mid-twenties without concern.

Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2016   Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper Shiraz 2016  Emiliana Coyam 2016  Domaine Charles Audoin Au Champ Salomon Marsannay 2015

David Lawrason’s Buyer’s Guide November 23rd

Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2017, Costières de Nîmes, Rhone Valley, France ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Great value from Rhone white, with a lovely nose of tropical yellow fruit, subtle licorice and bready notes.  Medium weight, nicely elegant and a touch sweet with good acid and alcohol ballast.

Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2018, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($24.95)
David Lawrason – One of the first premium 2018 rieslings shows the leanness of the year, and I like it in this instance, dialing back some of the opulence Flat Rock’s riesling can show. This has a keen, direct nose of mineral, grapefruit, unripe peach and herbs. It is light to mid-weight, with tart grapefruit acidity and a lively almost spritzed palate.

Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Costières De Nîmes 2016, Rhone Valley ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Based 70% on old vine grenache this captures bright, classic strawberry/cherry jam fruit, florals and a dusting of pepper and dried herbs. It is medium-full bodied and soft with considerable alcohol heat and ignition, plus fine, ripe, drying tannin and fruit sweetness.

The Chocolate Block 2017, Swartland, South Africa ($39.95)
David Lawrason – The name has a ring of commerciality and it’s not cheap, but there is something so damn satisfying about this hugely popular syrah-grenache base blend, and it is not based on sweetness despite the chocolate in the name. Very engaging spicy, peppery nose with generous raspberry/plummy fruit, wood smoke and vague meaty notes. It is medium-full bodied with firm acidity and tannin.

Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2017  Flat Rock Nadja's Vineyard Riesling 2018  Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Costières De Nîmes 2016  The Chocolate Block 2017

Michael Godel’s Buyer’s Guide November 23rd

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Perano is the Gaiole estate purchased by Frescobaldi in 2009. The angles, slopes and aspects of Perano’s steepness are echoed in the way this sangiovese ambles across the palate, expanding and contracting as sangiovese likes to and will often do. Great intrigue here and with no surprise why Frescobaldi coveted this impressive property.

Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($31.95)
Michael Godel – Two vineyards, La Colline and Mountainview are co-conspiratorial tracts for a pinot noir of power and elegance. A vintage (2016), a winemaker (Kelly Mason) and two plots of vines that fell into grippy comfort together. You need to taste this.

Orma 2017, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy ($92.95)
Michael Godel – Orma is Bolgherese IGT of power and a streak of freshness that belies the framing of warmth and alcohol. There’s an absolute confidence here that speaks to many years of age ability. Really impressive wine for the long haul.

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico 2015  Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2016  Orma 2017

Sara d’Amato’s Buyer’s Guide November 23rd

Gérard Bertrand 2018 Réserve Spéciale Viognier, Languedoc, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – An undeniable value, this juicy, lush and peachy viognier is enhanced by a rip of minerality. Offering authentic viognier character and opulence on a very drinkable, mid-weight frame.

Ardal Selección 2006 Especial Reserva, Ribera Del Duero, Spain ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – Delivering exceptional concentration, depth and power-packed fruit yet shy on winemaking and sweetness. Aged 24 months in French and American oak, this tempranillo-based blend showcases 20% cabernet sauvignon that is seamlessly integrated adding a tannic edge and a great deal of freshness to the palate. Drink now or hold another 2-3 years.

Quinta do Sagrado 2016 Reserva, Douro, Portugal ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Quinta do Sagrado owns 14 hectares of price, organically grown, high altitude, terraced real estate in the Douro. This foot-trodden old vine fruit has been transformed into a wine that pours a notably dark, inky hue and offers ripe but expressive black fruit on the fleshy palate. Warm but harmonious and although drinking well know, could stand another 2-3 years in cellar.

Trasqua 2013 Fanatico Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A dry savory, salty Chianti Classico, that despite its age, is austere and nervy. An impressive value that requires another 2-4 years to fully unveil.

Gérard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale Viognier 2018  Ardal Selección Especial Reserva 2006  Quinta Do Sagrado Reserva 2016  Trasqua Fanatico Riserva Chianti Classico 2013

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

John Szabo, MS

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