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Cider house jewels

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The most recent edition of the Salon des Quilles, the trade-focused wine expo held alongside the late October/early November Salon des vins d’importation privée, was filled with delights familiar and un-. In the latter category, the two stand-outs for me were unexpected: Switzerland’s Cidrerie du Vulcain and Vermont’s La Garagista. Fortunately, the Mo’ Wine Group was able to secure bottles from each estate for inclusion in a new arrivals tasting.

Run by 40-something Jacques Perritaz, Cidrerie du Vulcain (vulcain is the French name for the red admiral butterfly, which feeds on the juice of fallen apples) is located in Le Mouret, in the canton of Fribourg, Switzerland. While working as a freelance biologist specializing in the management and preservation of natural habitats and rare native plants, Perritaz decided to try his hand at cider-making, initially as a hobby. In his work, he had noticed old apple and pear trees in the fields of many dairy farmers. The trees, remnants of the once-thriving local cider industry, were trimmed à haute tige, with the lower branches removed, the better to protect the cows from the elements and prevent the beasts from eating the unfallen fruit. When asked, the farmers said they did nothing with the fruit and Perritaz was free to harvest it. He bought a small press and, in 2000, began making cider, his annual production eventually increasing to about 250 cases.

In 2006, while vacationing in Normandy, he encountered cider-maker extraordinaire Éric Bordelet, who took him under his wing. Perritaz soon invested in a larger facility and bottling line and went commercial. The fruit he uses come from around 200 trees, some of them leased. When I inquired whether he was planning to buy any trees, Perritaz said he would like to but land prices in Switzerland made that impossible, though he was open to acquiring land elsewhere, including in France or possibly even Quebec.

Most of the old Swiss varieties Perritaz uses are low in tannin, which makes natural clarification difficult. As a result, he is more interventionist in the cellar than he might otherwise be, adding an enzyme derived from natural mushroom extract (approved for organic uses) to encourage precipitation. All fermentations are with indigenous yeasts. However, as initial fermentation are over-vigorous, at the two-week point he lightly filters the fermenting juice through diatomaceous earth to “tire” and slow the yeast, thereby ensuring enough sugar remains for the second, in-bottle fermentation. The only other intervention is the addition of a small amount of sulphur dioxide at bottling.

The MWG’s late November new arrivals tasting began with three ciders, two from Cidrerie du Vulcain and one from La Garagista, which estate I’ll profile in the third instalment of this report.

Cidre demi-sec 2016, Transparente, Cidrerie du Vulcain ($19.66, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Made from a blend of Transparente de Croncels, Reinette de Champagne, Pomme Raisin and Rose de Berne apples. Usually demi-sec but can be sec, depending on the vintage. Added sulphur is limited to about 20 mg/l. 4.2% ABV. Quebec agent: Planvin.
Engaging nose of apple blossom and skins, “kind of like bottle caps candy” (quoting another taster). Off-dry and softly effervescent. The “juicy” yet ethereal – transparent? – fruit has a slightly bruised and browning quality. There’s just enough acidity is to brighten and freshen. A trickle of salt and white spice surfaces on the long finish. “Like being in an orchard.” Delightful now but I’m saving my other bottles for refreshment on hot summer days. (Buy again? Yes.)

Cidre 2016, Trois Pépins, Cidrerie du Vulcain ($24.81, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of apple, pear and quince in equal proportions. 5% ABV. Quebec agent: Planvin.
A nose more subdued, complex and savoury with a mastic note. “Ça me fait penser au boudin noir” notes one taster. In the mouth, it’s dry, minerally and not particularly fruity. Soft round bubbles and smooth acidity provide lift, a salty mineral underlay some depth. Ghostly tannins appear on the bitter-edged finished. Opens up with time in the glass. Layered and faceted enough to be absorbing on its own but also excellent with pre-meal nibbles and substantial and savoury enough to accompany raw or cooked white fish and shell fish and mild cheeses. Wow. (Buy again? A case or two at least.)

Cidre Mousseux Vintage No. 1, Bouleverser, La Garagista ($29.89, private import, 6 bottles/case)
This is a blend of 17 varieties of biodynamically farmed apples, mostly American heirloom varieties, grown on the estate, which is located in Bethel, Vermont. Most of the juice is from 2015 fruit, though some is from earlier vintages going back to 2010, in a kind of solera system. Both fermentations use indigenous yeasts. The sugar for the second, in-bottle fermentation was provided by the addition of 2015 juice. 7% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.
An initial odd note of vinyl and “new shoes” blows off, leaving a nose dominated by apples, though not to the exclusion of a whole set of savoury aromas including straw and fresh mushrooms. Dry and saline on the palate, electric with bubbles and acidity, complicated by a faint sourness and showing real depth of flavour. Finishes long and clean with a tang that virtually demands you take another sip. Less airy and alpine than the Vulcains, somehow closer to an ale or wine, this is stupendous. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Mo’ Wine Group November 23rd tasting: flight 1 of 6

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Sausage love, 2018 edition

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Forget those overpriced Valentine meals prepared by bored chefs and served by jaded waiters in stuffy restaurants. On February 14, sausage lovers, wine lovers and just plain lovers will be heading to Nouveau Palais for a hit of Pork Futures goodness (sausage sandwiches with french fries and “piccante” hot sauce on the side) and glass after delicious glass of wine poured by oenopole.

The Eighth Annual Valentine’s Sausage Party
“For the love of sausage”
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
17:30 to 23:30 (or until they run out)
Nouveau Palais
281 Bernard St. West, Montreal

RSVP: info@nouveaupalais.com or 514 273-1180

Written by carswell

February 9, 2018 at 09:00

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Piedmontissimo

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Located in Monforte d’Alba, the approximately seven-hectare Cascina Disa estate has been in the Sandri family since 1965, the year of current owner/winemaker Elio Sandri’s birth. Elio has been in charge since 2000 and his is the only name now shown on the wines’ front labels. Only six wines – all red and resolutely traditional in style – are made: Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo, Marapika (a Langhe blend of the three varieties), Barolo and Barolo Riserva. The farming is organic but uncertified. Pruning is about the only intervention in the vineyard. The wine-making is similarly non-interventionist: spontaneous fermentation, minimal manipulation, extended maturation in neutral botti and no filtering or fining. The only addition is tiny amounts of sulphur dioxide at bottling. Sandri is sometimes ranked alongside Bartolo Mascarello and Rinaldi; to go by our tasting, it’s easy to see why.

Langhe Rosso 2013, Marapika, Elio Sandri ($25.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of Barbera and Dolcetto, in equal proportion, with a small dollop of Nebbiolo from younger vines planted on north- and east-facing slopes. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Labelle Bouteille/oenopole.
Bitter cherry, including the pits, along with minerals and a bit of spice. A medium-bodied mouthful of ripe-sweet fruit, silky smooth acidity and fine tannins that become more assertive with chewing. Dark minerals provide some depth. Finishes longish, clean and bitter-tinged. Definitely gluggable. (Buy again? Yes.)

Dolcetto d’Alba 2015, Elio Sandri ($25.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Dolcetto from vines planted in 1977. Vinified in cement tanks. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Labelle Bouteille/oenopole.
Textbook nose of mulberry, bitter cherry and leafmould. Quite elegant in the mouth with its core of vibrant fruit, lively acidity, fine bitey tannins and long minerally finish. A touch of astringency lingers. Gorgeous. (Buy again? Def.)

Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2015, Elio Sandri ($38.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Barbera from vines rooted in ferrous sandstone and planted in 1945 and 1976. Manually harvested. Partially destemmed. Matured eight months in very old Slovenian oak botti, six months in the bottle. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Labelle Bouteille/oenopole.
Deep nose of ripe blackberry, slate and graphite with clove overtones. Medium-bodied and supremely fluent. Very dry though ripe-sweet on the attack. Built around an intense core of dark fruit wrapped in wiry tannins, aglow with fine acidity and shot through with minerals. Long, complete and elegant. Accessible now but ageable, too. Pricey Barberas from other producers are often New Worldishly fruit- and oak-driven. This takes another, more authentic and much more enjoyable path. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

Barolo 2010, Perno, Elio Sandri ($71.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Nebbiolo from vines planted in 1937. Macerated, with a submerged cap, for 28 days. Matured six years in neutral Slavonian oak botti. Total production: 3,500 bottles. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Labelle Bouteille/oenopole.
Subtle, perhaps somewhat closed nose of red and black fruit and turned earth with telltale hints of tar and violet. Medium- to full-bodied. The fruit is remarkably pure, the structure what you’d expect from a traditionally styled Barolo: robust attack, sleek acidity, firm yet pliable tannins, a deep mineral foundation and an impressively sustained, somewhat astringent finish. A flawless wine with great energy, focus and balance, every dimension and soul. Young and promising but also surprisingly accessible. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG November 10th tasting: flight 5 of 5

Written by carswell

February 8, 2018 at 12:53

Could-be Chiantis

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The daughter of an oenologist, Giovanna Morganti studied oenology and then began working for San Felice, where she focused on preserving some 300 old Tuscan grape varieties. When her father gave her the three-hectare Podere le Boncie, an olive-growing estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Giovanna created a vineyard, populating it with Sangiovese and her favourite old varieties – Ciligiolo, Foglia Tonda, Mammolo and Prugnolo – planted very densely (7,000 vines per hectare). She has since acquired another 1.3 hectares nearby. The farming is mostly biodynamic. Fermentation, with indigenous yeasts, takes place in traditional open-topped wood tanks. Two wines are produced: the flagship Le Trame and a “second” wine, Il Cinque, a young-vines cuvée that was originally sold only at the winery.

Located in Carmignano, Italy’s smallest wine appellation and one of its oldest (granted special protections as far back as 1716), Fattoria di Baccherto has been in the hands of the Tesi family since 1920. Currently run by Rossela Bencini Tesi, the estate is centred around a former Medici hunting lodge. In 2001, unhappy with the quality of her wines and the condition of her soil, Rossela switched to natural wine-making: organic and eventually biodynamic farming, no additions in the cellar other than a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide at bottling, spontaneous fermentations, no temperature control, no filtering and no fining. Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon (long present in the appellation and possibly introduced in the 16th century by Catherine de’ Medici), Canaiolo, Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia del Chinati are the main grape varieties. Annual production is around 10,000 bottles of red wine, 2,000 bottles of white wine and 1,000 bottles of vin santo as well as olive oil, honey and figs.

IGT Toscana 2015, Cinque, Podere le Boncie ($33.50, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Sangiovese (70%) with Mammolo, Colorino, Foglia Tonda and Ciliegolo making up the balance. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Matured 12 months in barrels and six months in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Wafting nose of ripe plum, sawed wood, spice, moldering leaves, ink and tobacco. Medium-bodied, silky textured and oh, so flavourful. The ripe, almost juicy fruit is grounded in a earthy mineral substrate. Bright acidity and wiry tannins provide a light but tensile structure. Finishes long and clean. Accessible now and best drunk over the next two or three years, methinks. (Buy again? Done!)

Carmignano 2014, Terre a Mano, Fattoria di Bacchereto ($50.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
75% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo Nero, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from vines planted in 1979, 1994 and 2004. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in glass-lined concrete tanks and lasts 15 days. The wine is then transferred to used 350-litre Allier oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and maturation, typically lasting 18 to 24 months. Unfiltered and unfined. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Pure cherry faceted with plum, dried herbs, sun-baked earth and a hint of leather. Medium- to full-bodied. Ideal balance between ripe, savoury, satiny fruit and a lovely airframe structure comprising robust tannins, bright acidity and real mineral depth. A floral note creeps in on the long finish. The touch of rusticity in no way detracts from the wine’s overall elegance. (Buy again? Yes.)

IGT Toscana 2014, Le Trame, Podere le Boncie ($54.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Sangiovese (90%), Foglia Tonda, Colorino and Mammolo (10% combined) from vines averaging 20 years old. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermented 20 days in small wood vats with indigenous yeasts and twice-daily punch-downs. Matured 26 months in large barrels and six months in the bottle. Annual production: around 6,000 bottles. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Echt-Sangiovese nose of cherry, sawdust, terracotta and sandalwood with earthy overtones of mushroom and humus. Rich, the fleshiest of the three but in no way heavy. Glowing acidity enlightens the sweet-ripe, somewhat dusky fruity. Round tannins add a light, drying rasp. Dark minerals abound, including a ferrous rumble that lasts well into the long finish. Red fruit, terracotta, spice and a hint of mint linger. Already showing considerable complexity, not to mention superb depth and balance, this will age beautifully for another five or 10 years. (Buy again? Done!)

MWG November 10th tasting: flight 4 of 5

Written by carswell

February 4, 2018 at 13:05

Dufaitre trio

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Based in Saint-Étienne-des-Oullières, Laurence and Rémi Dufaitre began working their first hectare of vines in 2001, initially selling the fruit to the local co-op. They started making wine and bottling it under their own label in 2010. Today their holdings, which include the former Domaine de Botheland, total around 12 hectares, one of which is planted to Chardonnay. Inspired by Jules Chauvet and his disciples, especially Jean Foillard, the Dufaitres use organically farmed grapes that undergo carbonic maceration and are given long, naturally low-temperature fermentations with indigenous yeasts. Chaptalization, filtering and fining are strictly avoided. When used, sulphur dioxide is kept to a minimum.

Beaujolais Villages 2016, Prémices, Laurence et Rémi Dufaitre ($28.40, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from 35-year-old vines grown in the granite, sand and gravel soil of a plot named Prémices. Carbonic maceration lasted 16 days. Fermented and matured in concrete tanks. No added sulphur. Bottled in February 2017. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Cherry, red berries and vine sap with background slate and ink. Fresh and light on the palate, with lovely ripe fruit, bright acidity and light, caressing tannins. Ripe-sweet upfront, drying on the long, savoury, spicy finish with its lingering hint of stem. Straightforward but far from simple, a wine of great purity and finesse. A second encounter, a bottle drunk on its own at dinner, impressed me even more; tasting double-blind and fooled by its raspberry-leaning fruit and peppery spice, I guessed it was carbonic-macerated Grenache. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Brouilly 2016, Laurence et Rémi Dufaitre ($34.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from 60- to 65-year-old vines rooted in granite and volcanic soil. Carbonic maceration lasted 18 days. Fermented in concrete tanks. Matured in old 200-litre oak barrels. Bottled in March 2017. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Earthy nose, the fruit overtoned with old wood, spice and a hint of barnyard. In the mouth, the wine is a bit more intense – a bit less vin plaisir – than the Prémices though still on the lighter side of medium-bodied. Veils of fruit, great minerality, buoyant acidity and light tannins hold the attention. As Theo notes, there’s a lovely “clarity [that] comes in the middle of the mouth.” The longest of the three. (Buy again? Yes, though not necessarily in preference to the Côte de Brouilly.)

Côte de Brouilly 2016, Laurence et Rémi Dufaitre ($36.50, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from 50- to 70-year-old vines rooted in granite and volcanic soil. Carbonic maceration lasted 18 days. Fermented in concrete tanks. Matured in used Burgundy barrels. Bottled in March 2017, a month earlier than usual. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
A nose similar to the Brouilly’s but deeper, more complex and savoury, with mushroom creeping in and the spice taking on Asian overtones. A medium-bodied mouthful of rich yet crunchy fruit and slate. Finely structured by sleek acidity and supple yet resilient tannins. So pure and elegant, this complete and balanced wine is delicious now but has the wherewithal to age for several years. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG November 10th tasting: flight 3 of 5

Written by carswell

January 31, 2018 at 12:31

Southern Overnoys

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A surprising number of Jura winemakers share family names. The list includes the Benoits (Denis and Paul et fils), the Boilleys (Joël and Luc), the Bulabois (Claude, Georges, Philippe and Régis), the Clavelins (Charles and Hubert et fils), the Puffeneys (Frédéric and Jacques), the Rolets (the eponymous estate and Gérard) and the Tissots (Jean-Louis, Jacques and André et Mireille).

The Overnoys also belong on this list. The wines made by Pupilin-based Pierre Overnoy (and now his former assistant, Emmanuel Houillon) have long been favourites bordering of fetish objects of natural wine geeks. Also based in Pupillin, Domaine Overnoy-Crinquand has a somewhat lower profile but is something of a rising star. Until this fall, however, I didn’t know there was a third Overnoy estate: Domaine Overnoy, which is located further south, in the commune of Orbagna, and is currently run by 20-something Guillaume Overnoy, Pierre’s great nephew.

Actually, Domaine Overnoy is a neighbour of Domaine Labet (both estates are in the Sud-Revermont region) and Julien Labet has been active in introducing the estate to agents he deals with, including oenopole, which is how the wines have made their way to Quebec.

Guillaume took over the 5.5-hectare family estate from his father, Jean-Louis, in 2013. The following year, he began converting it to organic farming, obtaining certification in 2016. While Trousseau is the flagship, wines are made from all five official Jura varieties (the estate has 3 ha of Chardonnay, 1 ha of Savagnin and around 1 ha of red varieties, of which Trousseau comprises 55 ares, the rest being Poulsard and Pinot Noir). The soil tends to grey marl. Harvesting is manual. Wine-making is non-interventionist. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentations are spontaneous. In the cellar, sulphur use is minimal.

All three wines we tasted were from the 2015 vintage. The last few vintages have been difficult in the Jura and 2015 was no exception, the main problems being excessive heat and drought.

Côtes du Jura 2015, Chardonnay, Perce Neige, Domaine Overnoy ($32.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from vines in an historic parcel. May be fermented in tanks and may be prevented from undergoing malolactic fermentation. In any case, the winemaker’s aim is for a fresh wine to be drunk young and not necessarily with food. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Engaging nose of yellow apple and straw with hints of pineapple and white flowers. Medium-bodied. Sweet-seeming on entry but actually quite dry. Ripe but hot heavy, in no small part due to the crisp acidity. The rich mid-palate is underlain with chalky minerals that last well into the long, drying finish. A clean, precise, refreshing wine with “lots of energy.” (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes du Jura 2015, Chardonnay, Charmille, Domaine Overnoy ($37.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from the Charmille lieu-dit. Slow alcoholic fermentation (more than 10 months). Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured in fifth- to sixth-fill fûts. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
More minerally, complex and serious than the Perce Neige, with notes of “curry,” “cumin seeds,” browning apple and crushed fresh herbs, especially chamomile. Rich and serious in the mouth (“like a Labet,” notes one taster). Clean and structured, fleet yet complex. There’s a load of minerals and great energy. Keeps its cool despite the alcohol. Savoury and dry, especially on the long finish. My favourite of the three. (Buy again? Def.)

Côtes du Jura 2015, Trousseau, Domaine Overnoy ($38.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Trousseau. Probably destemmed. Matured in neutral barrels. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Red berries, boudoir, old wood, spice and eventually floral and earth notes. In the mouth, it’s “fruit-forward” and full of “ripe strawberry.” The acidity is pronounced but smooth. Round tannins and dark minerals stay in the background until the finish. While a bit atypical (richer, more fruit-driven and less structured than your average Trousseau, probably due to the vintage), it definitely works as a “vin plaisir.” Not sure it’s a long keeper, though. (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG November 10th tasting: flight 2 of 5

Written by carswell

January 29, 2018 at 14:37

Thirst-quencher

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The November agency tasting was led by our good friend, oenopole’s Theo Diamantis. We wet our whistles with a new addition to the agency’s portfolio, its first commissioned product, a made-to-spec beer that had been available only through the private import channel since its launch last spring but can now be purchased at the brewery’s boutique and is about to make the jump to the SAQ.

Bière de soif, Grisette de Dunham, Brasserie Dunham ($10.15, 13593360)
A Belgian-inspired blond ale, specifically a “grisette saison brewed with Barbe Rouge and Cashmere hops and fermented with our saison blend.” Refermented in the bottle. Crown cap. 5.2% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Hazy yellow-gold with fine bubbles and a compact, long-lasting, lacy white head. The nose is marked by fruity esters with clear citrus, spice, floral and yeast notes. In the mouth, it’s on the lighter side of medium-bodied, dry, smooth and fruity (citrus, stone fruit, faint banana). Mild malt, light hops, crisp but not aggressive acidity and ticklish carbonation mean it’s super refreshing. A fine bitterness colours the clean finish. Very easy drinking, as befits a bière de soif. (Buy again? Def.)

MWG November 10th tasting: flight 1 of 5

Written by carswell

January 26, 2018 at 12:40