Rivers Run Through It: Vintages’ June 21 Release
The trumped-up theme for Vintages’ June 21 release is Europe’s Wine Rivers: Great Finds From Legendary Riverside Vineyards. South-facing riverside sites can deliver extra quality in northern Europe; they benefit from the increased heat of the better exposure. But winemakers, not riverbank exposure, are responsible for quality. There are some good wines in this selection, but hardly anything legendary. The real theme is Some Decent Wines We Put Together From Europe at About $20 So That We Could Spend Lots of Money on This Glossy Spread in the Catalogue. Here are 10 of the better buys from the Rivers selection, plus other noteworthy wines from elsewhere in the catalogue:
Cloudy Bay 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($34.95, 304469, 92 points)No river here. The legendary label that unleashed New Zealand sauvignon as a fine wine on the world stage has turned in a virtuoso performance. This vintage possesses great focus, poise and complexity; there’s real panache while upholding New Zealand’s signature zestiness. On the nose, this sauvignon presents restrained and well-integrated green pear, dill, celery and minerals. Mid-weight, compact feel with lime and kiwi on the finish. Very classy.
Zilliken 2002 Riesling Kabinett Ockfener Bockstein, Germany ($19.95, 71241, 92 points)The cellar below the home winery of Zilliken is so humid and grotto-esque that stalactites are forming on the ceiling. Zilliken’s dense, perfectly balanced rieslings age long in this environment, so there is no fear that this 2002 is too old. Highly scented, exotic nose with dried apricot, clover honey, spearmint, a touch of jasmine and slate-like minerality. Seamless balance, as smooth as the surface of the Saar River that runs behind the property. Excellent length.
Rabl 2006 Grüner Veltliner Vinum, Austria ($19.95, 78642, 91 points)A modern classic rendition of one of the great whites of Europe, straight from the banks of the Danube. The nose is a bouquet of peach-apricot fruit, white pepper, floral notes, candle wax and lemon-lime. Quite full bodied and creamy, yet lively at the same time, running to excellent length. This is a delicious summer garden white—if it were French, it would be a $50 bottle.
Martín Códax 2007 Albarinõ, Rias Baixas, Spain ($17.95, 984906, 89 points)From an obscure maritime corner of northwest Spain comes an exciting white grape taking the world by storm. This very youthful example shows exuberant, enticingly fresh notes of peach-nectarine fruit with floral and evergreen notes hinting at its forest environment. Quite full bodied, creamy yet vibrant, with a warm, slightly bitter finish. Another summer bomb.
Henry of Pelham 2007 Riesling Reserve, Niagara Peninsula ($15.95, 557165, 89 points)Niagara’s 2007 rieslings are awfully good. Lifted aromas of lemon, orange and white peach, with youthful pepperiness that will recede, and a touch of petrol that won’t. Mid-weight, off-dry, zesty and mouth-filling, this white also has a dry citrus finish. Age it about six months to settle youthful nerves; it could last a decade. When tasted in a Henry of Pelham riesling vertical tasting, it shone above the pack, and the ripe vintages like 2007 were still interesting after 10 years.
Loredona 2006 Riesling, California ($16.95, 59782, 88 points)I haven’t had a good California riesling in a very long time. It’s generally too hot, and frankly most Americans don’t understand or like this grape. Sourced from cooler reaches of Monterey County, this shows appealing honey, apple-peach fruit, petrol, white pepper, and spearmint complexity. It’s medium weight, a touch sweet, lively yet elegant, with very good to excellent length.
Arrocal 2006 Ribera del Duero, Spain ($17.95, 67868, 90 points)One of the best red values of the release comes from the banks of the Duero River, upstream from Portuguese port country on the Douro. Made from the tempranillo grape, this youthful, approachable red catches big, ripe cherry-berry fruit with nuances of tobacco and spice. Quite full bodied and fairly dense—more structure than the price might indicate—yet it has some balance as well. Very good to excellent length. Best 2009 to 2013.
Hollick 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Australia ($26.95, 20131, 90 points)Tired of wimpy, inexpensive cabernets that rarely catch the true grandeur of the variety? This is classic cabernet: rich, complex and deep, with textbook aromas of cassis, tobacco, cedar, olive and even a touch of bordelais-like lead pencil minerality. Full bodied, dense and firm but not austere, with excellent length. Now to 2015.
Quinta de Camarate 2005 Terras do Sado, Portugal ($15.95, 357962, 89 points)A perennial best buy that shows up annually at Vintages, with classy, well-integrated aromas of raspberry, plum, cedar and tobacco. The effect is rendered by blending three Portuguese varieties: the floral touriga nacional, weighty aragonez and spicy castelao. Medium bodied, initially smooth and sweet, then developing quite dry, slightly astringent tannin. The cedary spice and fruit push through to very good length. Best 2010 to 2012. Try with barbecued ribs.
Cono Sur 2007 Visión Merlot, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($15.95, 928291, 86 points)Very impressive young merlot at the start, but falls apart a bit on the finish. Pouring reveals its deep, saturated purple-ruby hue. Blooming yet soft nose of pure blackberry jam, plum, violets and dusty sage, plus a leesy note that will age out. Medium-full bodied, soft yet warm and sourish, with considerable green tannin. Too young to really enjoy now. Best 2010 to 2012.