Dogliani 2014, Valdibà, San Fereolo ($24.10, 12647709)
100% Dolcetto from organically and biodynamically farmed vines averaging 15 to 35 years old. The grapes are picked by hand, destemmed and crushed. Maceration and alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts last around eight days and are not temperature-controlled beyond preventing the must from exceeding 29°C. The wine is then racked into clean tanks for malolactic fermentation, followed by four months’ maturation on the fine lees. Lastly, the wine is “clarified,” bottled and aged another six to 12 months before release. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Outgoing nose of mulberry, smoke, mineral, “ashtray” and dried rose. In the mouth, it’s supple, pure and caressing, with soft tannins, bright acidity, sweet-tart fruit and an underlay of earthy slate. A floral note overtones the long finish. An admirable effort from a difficult (read cool and wet) vintage. Probably not a keeper but a winner here and now. (Buy again? Yes.)
Dogliani 2015, Briccolero, Chionetti Quinto ($25.55, 12131112)
For background on the estate, which is converting to organic farming, see here. 100% Dolcetto from vines averaging around 45 years old. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Soft-pressed. Maceration on the skins and fermentation with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks (29-30°C) last around two weeks. Matured around 11 months in stainless steel tanks. Cold-stabilized but not filtered before bottling. Reducing sugar: 2.5 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Powerful, youthful nose of mulberry, blackberry, plum and not much else (complexity will come with time). A sip reveals an extracted wine that remains fluid despite its richness. Dark fruit and slatey minerals cloak firm, raspy tannins. Sleek acidity adds welcome brightness, the long drying finish an appetizing bitterness. Achieves a fine balance between fruit and structure, finesse and power. Enjoyable now but will benefit from time in the bottle. (Buy again? Yes, especially to cellar for a decade or more.)
Langhe Nebbiolo 2011, Il Provinciale, San Fereolo ($40.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Nebbiolo from organically and biodynamically farmed vines planted in the commune of Dogliani. The grapes are picked by hand, destemmed and crushed. Maceration and alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts last around three weeks and take place in wooden vats. The fermentation temperature is not controlled. The wine is racked into large Slavonian oak barrels, where it matures on its lees with regular stirrings and undergoes spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Unfiltered and unfined. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Spice, thyme and “baloney” segue into red berries, floral aromatics and a hint of tar. On the fuller side of medium-bodied, the texture somewhere between silk and satin. Notable for its beautiful surface (such pure fruit), considerable depth (flavours, minerals and wood) and elegant structure (firm yet flexible tannins, bright yet integrated acidity). One taster declares it a little too heady but I don’t find the alcohol intrusive. Indeed, this seems like a model for what Nebbiolo can achieve outside of Barolo and Barbaresco. (Buy again? Def.)
Crossed wires meant the 2009 San Fereolo Dogliani I thought I’d ordered ended up being the 2011 Provinciale. Not a problem. For most tasters, it was the wine of the flight if not the night. Actually, a small riot nearly ensued when it was learned that the wine was sold out and that four bottles from our case were all that was available for purchase.
MWG April 6th tasting: flight 4 of 7
Based in Pünderich on the banks of the Mosel River, Clemens Busch took over his family winery in 1984. Starting with the original two hectares, he has expanded the estate’s holdings to 25 hectares, mostly in the 1980s by buying vertiginously steep, hard-to-work vineyards from neighbours who abandoned them to plant faddish Pinot Noir on the much flatter plains above the slopes. Sixteen of the hectares are in the Pünderich Marienburg vineyard, south-facing and considered one of the top Mosel sites. Though a 1971 law consolidated all the hillside’s parcels under the Marienburg name, Busch vinifies them on a parcel by parcel basis and bottles his top cuvées under the original names.
The farming is organic (since 1986) and biodynamic (since 2004). The wine-making is non-interventionist, with no fining and nothing added except a small squirt of sulphur dioxide at bottling for most cuvées. Most of the wines are dry, though small quantities of sweet and botrytized wines are also made.
The estate’s website features some impressive, full-screen photographs of the vineyards and winery.
Mosel 2015, Riesling, (alter)native, Clemens Busch ($32.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
This is an unfiltered, low-sulphur bottling. Nearly the entire production goes to Quebec, though a little also makes its way to New York and Japan. 100% organically and biodynamically farmed Riesling from the Marienburg vineyard. Manually harvested. Macerated 12 to 24 hours on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation lasted until the end of December. Matured 15 months on the lees with no stirring in large (1,000-litre), old (50 years) wooden barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur was added at bottling. Residual sugar: under 4 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Hazy to the eye. The nose elicits descriptors like “pear cider,” “blanche-ish,” bread dough and lemon apples. Mouth-filling, bone dry and clean, with a slightly chewy texture and acidity that’s more puckery than crisp. Apple and mineral flavours last through the long finish. Fuzzier than – not as precise or delineated as – its flightmate and not a traditional Mosel Riesling by any means, but on its own terms it absolutely works. (Buy again? Yes.)
Ordered at Marconi a couple of nights after the tasting, a glass of the Mosel 2015, Riesling Trocken, LS, Clemens Busch (ca. $32.00, private import, 6 bottles/case) – the LS stands for “low sulphur” and the wine contains only about a third of the already low amount of sulphur used in the regular bottlings – was in many ways similar to the (alter)native but clearer and a little more focused if also slightly more conventional. It elicited an “Oh, wow” from my Riesling-loving dining companions, whose first Busch wine it was.
Mosel 2015, Riesling, Marienburg GG, Clemens Busch ($61.34, private import, 3 bottles/case)
100% organically and biodynamically farmed Riesling from 25- to 60-year-old vines rooted in the grey slate section of the original Marienburg vineyard. Manually harvested in late October and early November. Macerated 12 to 24 hours on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation. Matured 12 months on the lees with no stirring in large (1,000-litre), old (50 years) wooden barrels. The barrels are not topped-up for the first month to encourage a little oxidative complexity. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur was added on bottling. Residual sugar: under 6 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Classic Mosel nose of green apple, lime, slate and a touch of petrol. In the mouth, it’s astoundingly pure, balanced, focused and complex. Bone dry but with compensating fruit and layered minerals that, in combination with the lithe acidity, gives the wine a strong though not rigid backbone. Very long. Doesn’t stop evolving in the glass, pointing to a long ageing potential (five to 20 years per Ward’s Alex Boily). A complete and beautiful wine. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)
The GG stands for Großes Gewächs (“great growth”), an unofficial designation for top-level dry wines from selected sites that is increasingly used in the Mosel by the members of the Bernkasteler Ring and elsewhere (except the Rheingau) by the members of the VDP growers’ association. Busch makes four GG cuvées: the Marienburg, Marienburg Rothenpfad, Marienburg Fahrlay and Marienburg Falkenlay.
MWG April 6th tasting: flight 3 of 7
Sancerre 2015, Domaine Vacheron ($36.25, 10523892)
100% Sauvignon Blanc from organically farmed massal selection vines. The grapes are manually harvested and gently pressed. The must is chilled and clarified by settling. Low-temperature (<20°C) fermentation and maturation on the lees take place in stainless steel tanks. Filtered before bottling. Reducing sugar: 3.0 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Maître de Chai.
Textbook Loire Sauvignon Blanc nose: gooseberry, citrus, grass, chalk and flint. Rich bordering on lush, sleek and impressively pure. Fruity upfront with a mineral substrate emerging as the wine moves through the mouth. The considerable extract rounds the bright acidity. Long, lively, saline finish. Initially engaging, the wine’s youthful exuberance came across as a little caricatural and fatiguing by the end of the glass, a bit like a bouncy puppy or some New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs for that matter. Will be interesting to see what transpires in two or three years. (Buy again? Maybe.)
Sancerre 2013, Constellation du Scorpion, Vincent Gaudry ($41.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
This is a new name for a bottling formerly called L’Esprit de Rudolph in honour of the founder of biodynamism, Rudolph Steiner. Gaudry is reportedly secretive about his methods and not much technical information about this wine is to be found. 100% Sauvignon Blanc from biodynamically farmed vines rooted in flinty soil. Partially matured in oak barrels. Unfiltered. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Wafting nose of grapefruit, chalk and quartz dust, “pink flowers” and “thyme.” Rainwatery yet also very present. The rich texture is lightened by “lime acidity,” deepened by a chalky underlay. A hint of caramel appears on the long finish. “A Sancerre that wants to be a Chardonnay,” concludes one taster. Subtle and subdued yet complex and delicious says me. (Buy again? Yes.)
MWG April 6th tasting: flight 2 of 7
Crémant d’Alsace 2013, Bernhard & Reibel ($25.75, 13133224)
Not listed on the producer’s website, this appears to be a Quebec-only bottling. A blend of organically farmed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (50-50 per the SAQ, 80-20 per the agency whose technical info for the wine is identical to the producer’s info for the non-vintage crémant with a different label). Manually harvested. Slow pneumatic pressing. The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Sparkled using the traditional method. Matured at least one year in the bottle on lattes. Lightly filtered. Reducing sugar: 6.9 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Boires.
First bottle: Pale gold with fine bubbles. The nose is described variously as “more apple than pear,” “caramel apple,” apple seeds, “sweat or maybe volatile acidity,” chalk, “rancio” and “wet laundry.” In the mouth, the wine is fruity and dry, with good acidity and a fine effervescence. Yet there’s a fuzziness about it, a touch of oxidation and a lingering impression of something a little off. No one is enamoured and one or two perceptive tasters suggest our bottle is defective. Plates of Scottish-Asian gravlax having been set out (thanks, Mike!), we decide to open the backup.
Second bottle: Less gold in colour, the bubbles equally fine. The nose is fresher and fruitier, full of apple, citrus and mineral aromas and a whiff of brioche. On the palate, it’s crisper, cleaner, brighter, more textured and even drier. The racy acidity and mineral substrate last well into the creamy finish. We have a winner. (Buy again? Sure.)
MWG April 6th tasting: flight 1 of 7
Crete 2014, Kotsifali, Lyrarakis ($13.75, 10703818)
100% Kotsifali from unirrigated vines rooted in loamy sandy soil in the Alagni region of central Crete. Manually harvested. Fermentation with selected yeasts and on the skins in temperature-controlled (24-27°C) tanks lasted 10 days. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.
Day one: Popped (well, twisted) and poured, the wine was dull, hard and one-dimensional, seemingly incapable of providing pleasure. After a couple of glasses, the remainder was transferred to a half-bottle, sealed and stuck in the fridge.
Day two: The wine is transformed. Engaging, surprisingly complex, not exuberantly fruity nose of plum, blackberry, spice and ashy earth with dried herb, raw meat and floral notes. In the mouth, it’s savoury, dry and medium- to full-bodied. The ripe but not sweet fruit and dark minerals are structured by soft tannins and smooth acidity. The fair finish brings a wood note, a whiff of alcohol and a lingering taste of sour bitter plum. Honest and enjoyable. Not only is it off the beaten path, it’s one of the better wines in its price range. (Buy again? Yes, though there’s not much left in the system.)
Based in Calce in the Roussillon, not far from Perpignan, Jean-Philippe Padié farms 15 hectares of vines divided among some 40 parcels. Before creating his eponymous estate in 2003, he worked as vineyard manager at Mas Amiel and Domaine Gauby. The farming is organic leaning biodynamic (though Padié doesn’t bother with certifications) and yields are kept very low. The wine-making is non-interventionist. Am pertty sure this is his first wine to be sold at the SAQ.
Vin de France 2015, Petit Taureau, Domaine Padié ($28.15, 13113215)
A 50-50 blend of Carignan and Syrah from organically farmed vines respectively rooted in limestone and schist. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Four-fifths of the wine is matured in concrete tanks, one-fifth in barrels. No additives other than a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide at bottling. Reducing sugar: 1.5 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Labelle Bouteille.
Entrancing nose of red and black fruit, hard candy, sweet spice and flowers against a backdrop of slate, turned earth and leather. Dense with flavour yet medium-bodied and oh, so fluid. Very dry yet full of ripe but not heavy fruit. The sleek acidity and soft tannins come out on the finish, adding a pleasing terminal bite. Black raspberry and peppery spice linger. Fresh + supple + fruity + savoury + low alcohol (12.5% in 2015) = dangerously drinkable. The only possible complaint is the price – relatively high for an easy drinker – but that’s a recurring theme these days (blame the exchange rate, among other things). (Buy again? Def.)
Located between Siena and Arezzo, the 60-hectare Fattoria di Caspri estate has nine hectares of grape vines and seven hectares of olive trees. The estate’s founding dates back nearly to the beginning of the Common Era, when Roman general Casperius Aelianus made it his home. The current main building is a relative youngster, having been built in the 18th century.
Farming has been organic and biodynamic since 2006, when the estate was acquired by its current owners. The soil tends to be light and sandy mixed with decomposed gneiss and a little clay. While the focus is on traditional grape varieties (mainly Sangiovese, Canaiolo Cillegiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia), the estate also has experimental plots of Syrah, Grenache and Pinot Noir.
The wine-making is identical for all the reds. The manually harvested grapes are fermented in small, non-temperature-controlled conical vats with indigenous yeasts. Total maceration time is three to four weeks. After pressing, the wine is transferred into old barrels for 18 to 20 months’ maturation. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur is added.
IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Rosso di Caspri, Fattoria di Caspri ($31.21, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from young vines. 12.3% ABV. 650 cases made. Quebec agent: WINO.
Attractive nose of bitter cherry, fresh herbs, slate, turned earth and a little ash. “Kind of meaty” is the first (and accurate) comment about the flavour of this medium-bodied and very dry wine. Red fruit, tingly acidity and fine astringent tannins made for a somewhat austere if appealingly rustic mouthful. Finishes clean. (Buy again? Sure.)
IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Poggio Cuccule, Fattoria di Caspri ($41.15, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from 45-year-old vines. 125 cases made. 13.1% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Gorgeous, floral nose of cherry, fresh almond and old wood. Medium-bodied. A sip is like biting into a morello cherry. Fresh, fleet, intense and pure. The energy is palpable and the wine seems lit from within by glowing acidity. The tannins are fruit-cloaked. Minerals, wood and earth undertones add depth, not darkness. Finishes long and clean. Stunning Sangiovese. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)
IGT Toscana Rosso 2014, Casperius, Fattoria di Caspri ($67.31, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Sangiovese and Syrah. 12.7% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Closed nose that with coaxing reveals red fruit, dried herb, violet, leather and mint notes and a whiff of barnyard. In the mouth, it’s fuller-bodied, smoother, rounder and less acidic than its flightmates, though it does share some of the Rosso’s meatiness. Depth, breadth and length it has in spades though it would probably benefit from a year or two to come together. Perhaps a little overshadowed by the Poggio Cuccule, I suspect this would prove wholly satisfactory on its own at dinner. (Buy again? Maybe.)
IGT Toscana 2010, Luna Blu, Fattoria di Caspri ($28.50 in 2013, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
An orange wine made from a 50-50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia. Macerated on the skins for four weeks before pressing. Matured in small wood barrels. No filtering, fining or added sulphur. Under 100 cases made. 13.3% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV at the time, now WINO. The newest vintage is slated to arrive later this spring.
Bronze with a rosé cast. Sultry nose of “elderflower,” sawdust and hints of apricot skin and dried tangerine peel. Rich and smooth in the mouth, bright acidity notwithstanding. Fruity yet dry, the flavours tending to citrus and spice with a mineral undercurrent. Faint tannins add a little grit to the otherwise sleek texture. Long. As mentioned in my October 2013 tasting note, the winemaker has stated that the wine would be at its apogee in 2017. In the event, while it may not be the deepest, most structured or even most involving orange wine, it is definitely a pleasure to drink. Paired beautifully with a selection of cheeses from Yannick, especially a raw-milk L’Étivaz. (Buy again? Moot. But I’m looking forward to the new vintage.)
MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 6 of 6