Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 9th, 2021

John Szabo’s VINTAGES Review January 9th: Smart Buys

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

There’s nothing I wish to say about recent world events, at least that would be appropriate here. Rather, let’s escape to a place of simple pleasures, where quality and price line up in a bottle of wine. “Smart Buys” is always the theme of VINTAGES first release of the new year, and that’s what the crü has focused on in this week’s buyer’s guide, with a surprisingly large crop of commendable values from $15 to $40. Another bright spot is the Brunello di Montalcino 2015 vintage, already heavily written about and hailed by some producers as one of the best ever. I finally get around to publishing my yearly report from the Benvenuto Brunello event last February, coinciding with the trickling in of these wines to Canadian markets now. See also Michael Godel’s report from a couple of months back. And join the Wine Thieves (Sara and I), for a new podcast series on the Wines of Austria. The first episode of 2021, “Green Austria” examines the history, evolution and practical aspects of sustainable, organic and biodynamic winegrowing in Austria, featuring an enlightening discussion with Fred Loimer of Weingut Loimer in the Kamptal, a critical figure in the movement.


Vintages Buyer’s Guide January 9th: Whites

Follas Novas 2019 Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain
$17.95   Azureau Wine Agency
David Lawrason – This is a quite fine, rich yet lively albariño with lovely, perfumed nose of yellow plum/apricot, wax, florals and lemon blossom. It is light to mid-weight, crisp and lemony with lovely fruit sweetness as well. Almost a touch of CO2, with a mineral almost salty finish.
Sara d’Amato – A very fresh spicy albariño with complex notes of white pepper and slivered almond. Mildly effervescent with plenty of lime and white peach on the deliciously refreshing palate. Sophisticated yet widely appealing.

Catena 2019 Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
Michael Godel – A wine of great concentration, generous of fruit and equipped with the tightest spiral of complexity and then, unwind. Do not dismiss this as a regular, easy to knock back $20 white wine. The substance and the fanning out of notes and pleasures is just too much to simplify.

Nals Margreid Punggl 2018 Pinot Grigio, DOC Südtirol, Alto Adige, Italy
$31.95, Mondo Vino
Michael Godel – Archetype of an Alto Adige producer lending varietal levity makes for many steps up in the case of this Punggl. Some skin contact, the full weight of dry extract possibility and a metalliferous meets fleshy expressiveness takes hold of the norm and easily passes it by.
Sara d’Amato – Perfumed, fleshy and bright this lightly oily and pinot showcases the alpine freshness Südtirol. Pine needles and white pepper, pear and delicately honeyed. Memorable.
John Szabo – A pinot grigio of genuine concentration and depth, ripe but fresh, dripping with orchard fruit flavours, botanicals, and more. Complex and flavoursome, full-bodied and creamy but not soft, fine wine all in all.

J. De Villebois 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Val de Loire, Loire, France
$16.95, Vinoluna
Sara d’Amato – It would be easy to overlook this simply labeled, varietally designated sauvignon blanc from the generic region of Val de Loire but then you would miss out on a terrific value. More than meets the eye, this crunchy, salt-and pepper-laced white, brimming with delicate fruit makes gently maturing for a crushable weeknight glass. Not aggressively green nor tropical, this sauvignon sits perfectly poised in the middle ground of the ripeness spectrum.

Yalumba 2019 Organic Viognier, South Australia
$16.95, Breakthru Beverage Canada Inc.
John Szabo – Another lovely, classic, ripe and effusive viognier here from Yalumba, pioneers of the variety in the Barossa Valley. Really a lovely wine for the money; I can see myriad, exotically spiced (but not too hot) Southeast Asian dishes with this. Or, a pleasant afternoon sip.

Vignerons De Buxy Buissonnier 2018 Bourgogne Chardonnay, AC France
$17.95, Vinexx
John Szabo – really lovely wine, and value from the co-op at Buxy, one of the most reliable names in the Côte Châlonnaise, and one of the best values in Burgundy overall established in 1931. This is classically styled, subtle, gentle but fresh chardonnay in the cool climate idiom, with a certain refinement and elegance, absent obtrusive oak or lees influence. Honestly, I could drink this all day and night.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide January 9th: Red

Mastroberardino 2018 Aglianico, IGT Campania, Italy
$23.95, Profile Wine Group
Michael Godel – An entry level aglianico from a master of that varietal craft, a varietal wine that speaks the vernacular of place but does so with a deft touch. One of the Italian wines you must purchase in 2021. Let it rest for two years to allow the structure to loosen and the swirl to tighten.
Sara d’Amato – A ready-to-drink aglianico from the generic Campania IGT that delivers a great deal of pleasure for the price. Comforting but not clunky offering flavours of plum, pomegranate, cherry, crunchy sea salt, iron and very delicate spice linger on the still vibrant palate.
John Szabo – Dark, firm, chewy, swarthy aglianico with plenty of tannins and sour cherry acids wrapped around a core of wild red and black fruit and pot pourri, in other words, classic stuff. Drink over the near term, but decant and serve with salty protein.

Trapiche Medalla 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina
$16.95   Philippe Dandurand Wines
David Lawrason – From Argentina’s largest winery, this is very well priced for the quality and pedigree it offers. It is 100% cabernet from the Lujan de Coyo sub-region and it was aged 18 months in French oak. It is medium-full bodied, quite rich and firm with good acidity and classic firm cabernet tannin.

Entre Restanques Et Garrigues 2016 Cairanne, Rhone Valley, France
$19.95   Vinoluna
David Lawrason – Here’s a fully mature, smooth, very ripe southern Rhone with a ripe sweet and complex nose of plum, marzipan, licorice, dried pine needle, leather and pepper. It flows well across the palate with even alcohol, acid and still a bit of tannin; but it is ready to roll.
Sara d’Amato – Grenache takes this lead in this remarkably well-priced southern cru, accompanied by peppery syrah and broody mourvèdre. The name “restanques” refers to the stony retaining walls that hold up the terraced vineyards found in noteworthy places in the southern Rhône. The local scrubland “garrigue” is particularly expressive with aromas of lavender, thyme and anise linger on the finish of very good length.

Zaccagnini Tralcetto 2018 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
$16.95   Andrew Peller Wines
David Lawrason – This is a balanced, generous and cohesive montepulciano – one of the better in recent memory, especially at this price. Not much oak in evidence which is adding to the fine sense of plummy fruit purity. It is medium-full bodied, rounded and with fine sandy tannin

Château Pierre De Montignac 2015 Medoc, Bordeaux, France
$25.95   Charton-Hobbs Inc
David Lawrason – This is a showy, complex and energized Medoc, from one of the best vintages of the decade. It is now steering toward prime time adding complexity. It is medium bodied with fine tension, a sense of richness and elegance, with moderate, balanced tannin. Will age out another five years with ease.
John Szabo – Maturing nicely now, this is perfumed, savoury Bordeaux with fine aromatic volume and complexity that draws you in. Fruit is holding on, but ceding ground to more umami-soy sauce type flavours, so I’d say it’s at, or very close, to being à point if you want to enjoy with fruit remaining. A fine value from a classic vintage.

Adamo Huebel Grapes Estates Grower’s Series 2018 Unoaked Gamay, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$19.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
Michael Godel – Adamo’s is a light, crushable, straight ahead, gamay-centric, unencumbered and glug-glug styled red offering unequivocal pleasure. Fruit, local swagger, swag and savoir-faire.

Colab and Bloom 2018 Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia
$19.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc
Sara d’Amato – Substantial, impactful and sultry, this richly layered shiraz boasts a great deal of complexity for under $20. The oak treatment is gracefully integrated with hints of cedar peeking through the curtain of ample fruit on the palate.

Emiliana Coyam 2018 Los Robles Estate, Colchagua Valley, Chile
$29.95 PMA Canada Ltd.
John Szabo – I have long been an admirer of this top end wine from Emiliana, a certified organic and biodynamically-grown wine, also vegan, a new addition to Vintages Essentials. It’s has been in constant evolution over the last decade under the attentive and intuitive tutelage of winemaker Noelia Orts, edging away from a dominance of the Bordeaux varieties and into Rhône varieties (syrah (42%) and carmenere (39%), with splashes of cabernet sauvignon, garnacha, malbec, carignan, tempranillo and mourvedre), and American oak barrels have also been replaced with foudres and concrete eggs. The 2018 is youthful and lively, notably spicy, with red and black plum, raspberry and blackberry fruit, also lifted and floral, with a faintly green-herbal, fresh tomato and tomato leaf streak underpinning the ensemble. Tension and energy are high; cellar another 2-3 years, or hold comfortably into the early ’30s.

Tenuta San Guido 2018 Le Difese, IGT Toscana, Italy
$37.95 Sylvestre Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – San Guido’s 2018 (the producer of Sassicaia) is a lovely, perfumed, very pretty and refined vintage for Le Difese, a blend of 70% cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese, aged 8 months in barrels previously used for Sassicaia. This is your entry point to high-end Tuscan wines at a very attractive price. Lovely stuff.

Heartland Stickleback 2018 Red Langhorne Creek, South Australia
$14.95 The Vine Agency
John Szabo – No flies on this plump and juicy, easy drinking red blend – don’t ask what varieties – that’s not the point. It’s all about the appealing, ripe, red and black fruit, soft tannins and balanced acids. Chill lightly, crack, and enjoy – great house/party wine.

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

John Szabo, MS

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