New Zealand – Spring has sprung and it’s clean, green New Zealand’s annual turn in the spotlight, with a feature release at Vintages on Saturday, May 1st. By the way, three new excellent Vintages Shop on Line releases are also reviewed here at WineAlign – Auntsfield Pinot Noir, Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc, and Mt Difficulty Chardonnay (search by name). I have tasted a whack of NZ wines in the past six weeks, and I remain a big fan. Sometimes the wines seem too bright and cheery (missing some of that reserved and brooding character of Europe), but they are generous and fun to drink. Vintages rather small May 1st selection strays from the well known, larger producers to smaller, less well known ones, with resulting variation. There are some very good wines – like luscious, poised Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Te Kahu 2007 and the rich, layered Millton 2007 Opou Chardonnay, from the southern hemisphere’s oldest biodynamic winery, established in 1984. Now that’s authentic.
Zinfandel – The larger feature on May 1st is centred on California Zinfandel and Italian Primitivo. It’s time we stopped linking these two wines, even though they may have a common ampelographic (study of vine species) root in Croatia. Like human families that have emigrated and evolved into different entities on opposite sides of the world, these wines have nothing in common in the glass. California’s zins are sweet, plump and fruity – the best like Edmeades 2007 Zinfandel from Mendocino County best wafting that wonderful floral brambleberry fragrance that makes zin so distinctive. Most others are in the release are muffled by oak or half-hearted winemaking, although Seghesio 2008 Sonoma Zinfandel impresses with its complex structure, and Sebastiani for its charm and balance. Italy’s primitivos are in a different flavour universe, so much more leathery, ripe, figgy and well – Italian. By the way, it crossed my mind that good, floral California zin shares more commonality with Argentine Malbec than Puglian primitivo.
Roussillon, France. It’s break out time for Cotes du Roussillon. Time to stop lumping it within the huge vinous Mediterranean amphitheatre that is southern France. This small, hot, sea-hugging corner up against Spain’s Catalan frontier is turning out wonderfully luscious, silky, baritone reds at great prices, and it deserves solo recognition. If you haven’t been following try the nifty number called Domaine Puig-Parahy 2007 Georges, for a remarkable $13.95.
Prince Edward County, Ontario – My backyard wine region gets an airing at Vintages on May 1 with four selections. Three are made 100% from County fruit, which signals advancement of the County into the mass market. To be viable in the LCBO and Vintages, wineries must be able to offer significant volume. Until recently most PEC wineriescould not offer volume from 100% County fruit, so they were importing Niagara juice and having to label the wines Ontario (under VQA regulation), as in Rosehall Run’s tidy 2006 Chardonnay. Many of the new, tiny operations that have opened in the past 12 months (15 by my count) are still too small to dream of Vintages or LCBO listings. The wines offered this month provide a true portrait of the County, and I like the Closson Chase 2007 CC Vineyard Chardonnay Unfiltered in particular. The always controversial Deborah Paskus crafts her chardonnays deep within the pores of the barrel, so non-oak fans may have a hard time. But this chardonnay has distinctive character, County elegance and quite incredible depth.
Clare Valley, Australia. Two wines on this release confirm my sense (perhaps my bias) that South Australia’s Clare Valley is among the great appellations of the Southern Hemisphere. It’s complex granitic and limestone terra rosa soils seem to deliver an elegance and verve quite different from Barossa or even McLaren Vale. Aromatics soar and textures glide. See for yourself with and Pikes 2006 Eastside Shiraz, and Knappstein Enterprise 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are great value.
2007 Ports, Portugal. I admit losing some interest in vintage port. Not because it’s less good, but increasingly less relevant to the wider swath of readers. Two classics from the 2007 vintage are offered to collectors on this release, and who else but collectors would buy them at these prices, and age them as required. But if you are among the willing, don’t hesitate. They are stellar wines, totally in keeping with their house styles. Warre’s 2007 Vintage Port is massive, dark, sweet and rich with gobs of fruit. Meanwhile Dow’s 2007 Vintage Port holds true with equal weight and richness but a leaner, more tannic finish typical of Dow’s style.
That’s it for now, I have reviewed 96 wines in this release. Check them out at WineAlign under New Releases.
– David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign