New Year’s bargain hunting

New Year’s bargain hunting

The flood of wine through Vintages stores doesn’t stop for an event as paltry as a New Year’s. With Monday’s Champagne fizz barely flat, the new release (out January 5) contains 85 new wines, many bundled for marketing purposes under a “What’s New” banner. There are entries from obscure regions like the Fronton near Toulouse in Southwest France, from Catalayud in Spain, and a fine sangiovese from Emilia-Romagna in Italy. More importantly for flattened wallets the vast majority are under $20, the silver lining of being unknown. Here are ten of the best buys from the January 5 release.

Under $15

Château Laurou 2005 Tradition, Fronton, Southwest France($13.85, 88 points, 061531)A great find from a new appellation formerly under the VDQS Côtes de Frontonnais designation. A local, dark, perfumed variety called négrette is jazzed up with syrah and cabernet to create a chunky, tasty red with surprisingly complex floral, tarry, chocolate aromas. Youthfully dry and tannic; good length for the money.

Domaine de L’Aumonier 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine, Loire Valley, France ($13.85, 88 points, 062307)Great value from a winery founded in 1996 by Sophie and Thierry Chardon who have expanded Sophie’s grandmother’s property on the Cher, a tributary of the Loire. This is a very intense, fresh, smooth and lively wine, with classic Touraine green apple, gooseberry and lemongrass flavours. New Zealand intensity and polish; classic Touraine flavours.

Königschaffhauser 2006 Vulkanfelsen Pinot Gris, Baden, Germany($13.85, 88 points, 597500)Central Europe—Alsace, southern Germany, Austria, northern Italy—is the wheelhouse of this grape, and this is a classic, classy example: fruity yet dry, with almost salty minerality, lively peach fruit, waxy and herbal notes. Has the delicacy of German whites; with a dry finish. Very good length.

Domaine Perrier Père et Fils 2006 Chignin, Savoie, France($14.85, 88 points, 062034)From the alpine, ski resort region of eastern France, and a local late-ripening grape called jacquère, comes a delicious, fresh white with fragrance of fresh clover and wildflowers. It’s fleshy and crisp, like biting into a perfectly ripened pear. Very good length. Try it with raclette cheese fondue.

$15 to $25

Zolo 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Mendoza, Argentina($16.85, 90 points, 054098)From a winery called Fincas Patagónicas designed by California’s Kendall-Jackson this is a solid and flashy cabernet with deep blackcurrant/cherry fruit, mint and mocha. Full bodied, dense and quite tannic but so richly fruity and well proportioned that it’s approachable now. Well built. Cabernet is rarely a joy; this one comes close.

Tenuta La Palazza 2005 Notturno Sangiovese, Emilia-Romagna, Italy($17.80, 90 points, 039958)The Drei Dona family owns 18 hectares of south-facing vineyards in Romagna, where they claim the “scents of woods, fields, cherry trees and almond trees” affect the wines. I get the fresh cherry in this lovely, lively, juicy sangiovese. There is vibrant freshness and fragrance here. Some tannin structure as well; excellent length.

Bodega San Gregorio 2005 Papa Luna, Calatayud, Spain($16.85, 89 points, 039883)From a remote, arid, high-altitude region of northeast Spain comes an Aussie-inspired grenache/syrah/mourvèdre (GSM) blend created by Scottish-born Master of Wine Norrel Robertson. Very ripe, full, sweet plummy and peppery red with fragrant camphor and pepper spice. Not very Spanish (in a traditional sense), but very good.

Concannon 2004 Limited Release Petite Sirah, California($16.85, 89 points, 048629)Based near Livermore this winery has been producing Petite Sirah for 40 years, and they have mastered it. I was first impressed when I visited in 1984. Very aromatic blueberry-plum-scented red with cedar, clove and cigar. Full bodied, smooth and even elegant to a point; but Petit Sirah’s shortcoming is overly sturdy, dry tannin and lack of length. Otherwise this would be rating closer to 93 points.

Château Morin 2005 St. Estèphe, Bordeaux, France($18.80, 90 points, 062422)This Vintages Wine of the Month (which means stocks should be good) is surprisingly under-priced for this famous appellation on the northern Médoc peninsula. Normally the wines are more rugged than this one; perhaps the dominance of merlot (about 50 per cent) accounts for its charm, as may the generally high quality of the 2005 vintage in France. Very pretty aromatics of blackberry, cedar and anise. Medium-weight, fine—indeed light for St. Estèphe—with youthfully gritty tannin. Best 2010 to 2015.

St. Hallett 2005 Faith Shiraz, Barossa, South Australia($19.80, 90 points, 980631)What a treat to find an Aussie shiraz this ripe, sweet and succulent yet focused and cool. It’s over 14 per cent alcohol, with no afterburn, which is a good thing. Blackberry, mint, mocha and spice abound, all in harmony. A very pretty yet serious wine with very good, if not excellent, length. Enjoy it now or lay it away for five years.

Over $25

Teusner 2005 The Riebke Ebenezer Road Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia($25.75, 91 points, 048470)Young Kym Teusner founded this winery way back in 2001, sourcing purchased fruit from grumpy growers like the Riebeke’s of Ebenezer in northern Barossa who were not being paid well by the large wineries. This is delicious, creamy, rich shiraz with super-ripe but not over-ripe blueberry fruit, mint and tobacco. Excellent length. Fills the senses.