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Sweet Greek

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Attiki 2013, Melias, Domaine Papagiannakos
The third vintage of this wine. 100% Malagousia from dry-farmed vines rooted in limestone soil. The north-facing vineyard is located at an elevation of 100 metres in southeast Attica, not far from the Athens International Airport. An amount of must equivalent to 40% of the final wine is boiled down to concentrate it and the sugar it contains. Successive doses of fermenting unboiled must are then added. 13% ABV. Residual sugar is quoted as pushing 120 g/l. The elegant, svelte bottle holds 500 ml.
Golden to the eye. Beguiling nose redolent of green grape, peach/apricot and a touch of light honey. Sweet but not saccharine or cloying. The pineappley fruit tastes pure, fresh, uncooked. Bright acidity balances the sugar and lightens the unctuous texture. Long. A charmer with real presence. (Buy again? If only!)

I’m cheating a little here. It had been a long day and, as the wine tasted identical to the one tasted at the winery in early July, I decided just to sit back and enjoy it and not write a tasting note. Instead, I’m using the note I wrote in Greece, which will soon reappear on this blog as part of a series of reports on the trip. Our bottle was a gift from Vassilis Papagiannakos, and I wasn’t the only person around the table grateful to him for it.

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 8 of 8

Written by carswell

September 23, 2016 at 15:01

Among the great Mediterranean reds

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The technical information for these two wines is identical. The fruit comes from organically farmed, 70- to 90-year-old, dry-farmed, low-yielding, ungrafted vines grown on the Ziros plateau in eastern Crete. The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement vats and matured in old French oak barrels. The wines are bottled unfiltered, unfined and with only a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide.

Since the late 1990s, the Sitia appellation has required reds to be a blend of Liatiko and Mandilaria. As the 2006 is all Liatiko, it had to take the broader Crete appellation. Economou doesn’t release wines until he thinks they are ready; that said, this isn’t the first shipment of the 2006 to arrive in Quebec.

Both wines were carafed two or three hours before serving and both benefited enormously from it.

Crete 2006, Liatiko, Domaine Economou ($56.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Liatiko. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The room fell silent as the wines were poured and people started smelling them. Aside from oohs and ahs, the first utterance was in reference to this: “I could drown in it.” An in-pulling, umami-rich nose of plum and cherry, Mediterranean scrub and the earth its rooted in, sea breeze, obsidian dust, violets and more. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied and possessed of a fluid texture. Ripe but not jammy fruit, smooth but very present acidity and fine but sturdy tannins are all in perfect equilibrium. Dark minerals run like an underground river. Flavours and aromas echoing the nose unfurl from the mid-palate though the long finish. Still vibrant and vigorous at ten years of age. A beauty. (Buy again? Yes.)

Sitia 1999, Domaine Economou ($78.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of 80% Liatiko and 20% Mandilaria. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
More subdued and, if anything, more involving. Evolved, profound nose: mushroom and truffle, leather, dark fruit, cocoa, hints of violets and dried orange peel. Dense and velvety yet medium-bodied. The fruit is a mixture of fresh and dried plums and cherries, the acidity is fluent and sustained, the tannins are resolved but still structuring. Strata of minerals, earth, tar and old wood provide ballast and depth. The finish goes on and on, like the afterglow of a perfect summer day. A magnificent, transporting wine that I suspect is near or at peak, though most definitely not on its last legs. (Buy again? If the opportunity ever presents itself again, yes.)

I repeat what I wrote two years ago: these are among the great Mediterranean reds. While neither wine could come from anywhere but Crete, Economou’s training at top estates in Bordeaux and Barolo is apparent in both.

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 7 of 8

Written by carswell

September 22, 2016 at 14:21

Kung Fu Guy and company

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Prince Edward County 2011, Zweigelt, Pasha’s Elixir, Norman Hardie ($23.00 at the winery)
Not a lot of technical info to be found for this wine. May be a special bottling for Fat Pasha restaurant in Toronto. May also be the last vintage. Possibly 100% Zweigelt. Manually harvested. Vinified with minimal intervention, extended maceration and indigenous yeasts. 10.9% ABV.
Clean nose: inky, spicy blackberry, distant mint and wood. Light- to medium-bodied. Dark fruited, with decent acidity, supple tannins and a mineral vein. The cedary overtones were surprising, the vinegary edge off-putting, though the wine did improve somewhat in the glass. I’d been looking forward to tasting this because, earlier this spring, a half bottle of Zweigelt – in all likelihood the County bottling – given by the winery to a friend for his helping with last fall’s harvest was effin’ delicious. But no one around the table was impressed by this and several were downright dismissive, one dubbing it “Kung Fu Guy: the Kung Fu Girl of red wines.” (Buy again? No.)

Niagara Peninsula 2014, Cabernet Franc, Unfiltered, Norman Hardie ($30.00 at the winery)
100% Cabernet Franc. Manually harvested. Given extended maceration on the skins with daily or more frequent pump-overs. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and regular punch-downs. 12.2% ABV.
Volatile acidity on the nose, along with whiffs of green herbs, dehydrated beef and, quoting other tasters, “roasted red peppers,” “beet like borscht” and “cheap makeup.” Medium-bodied, velvety textured. Decent fruit-acid balance but where are the tannins? Fair length. Meh. (Buy again? Only to check whether ours was an off bottle.)

Prince Edward County 2010, Cabernet Franc, Northfield, Grange of Prince Edward ($35.00 at the winery)
100% Cabernet Franc from 10-year-old estate vines. Manually picked and sorted. Primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks lasted 28 days. Matured 24 months in neutral French oak barrels. Residual sugar: 4 g/l. 13.5% ABV.
Odd nose that eventually settled into plum and beef sukiyaki. Medium-bodied with a lush texture. The core of sweet dark fruit is wrapped in wood and minerals, structured by sustained acidity and light but firm tannins. The fairly long finish brings faint spice and vegetal notes. Not only the best of the trio, it also improved considerably in the glass. (Buy again? Maybe.)

I’ve long felt that Cabernet Franc was the red grape Ontario does best but this flight has me reassessing that position. All three reds, especially the Hardie Cab Franc, were a big disappointment – foul-smelling, disjointed, simple – though the Grange did come around as it breathed. Still, as someone noted, why pay $30 or $35 for OK or worse when the Loire delivers juicy/minerallly deliciousness for $10 or $15 less or depth, complexity and refinement for about the same price.

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 6 of 8

Written by carswell

September 20, 2016 at 12:06

Ganevat caveat

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Vin de France 2014, J’en veux encore !!!, Anne & Jean-François Ganevat ($36.75, 12884190)
The original label, an ink sketch of the backside, from the shoulders to the knees, of a seated young woman wearing only a thong, has been replaced for the Quebec market with a text-only label. An 70-30 blend of Gamay from the Beaujolais and Trousseau from very old Jura vines, hence the vin de France designation. All the grapes are organically farmed, manually harvested and destemmed. Whole grape fermentation (old-fashioned carbonic maceration) is with indigenous yeasts. Matured 10 months in tronconic wood tanks. No fining, filtration or added sulphur. Reducing sugar: < 1.2 g/l. 10.9% ABV per the label, 12% per the SAQ. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Strawberries, dog hair, minerals, eventually spice. A mouthful of sweet-tart red fruit and minerals on the lighter side of medium-bodied. Super-supple tannins (the acidity’s carrying the structure here). Not what you’d call long. Pricey but pure, delicious and so very quaffable. (Buy again? Am not returning our backup bottle, so yes, but only that one.)

Vin de France 2014, Libre-K, Anne & Jean-François Ganevat ($42.00, 12884405)
80% Gamay from Morgon blended with old indigenous varieties from Ganevat’s vineyards in the Jura. Naturally vinified: manally harvested, destemmed grapes; whole-grape fermentation (old-fashioned carbonic maceration) with indigenous yeasts in tronconic vats; 12 month’s maturation in old foudres; no fining, filtration or added sulphur. Reducing sugar: 12.5%. Reducing sugar: 1.2 g/l. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Our first bottle was corked. The backup was clean as a whistle. Savoury/funky nose, the fruit plummier and the minerals slatier than the J’en veux encore. In the mouth, it’s darker, richer and deeper though not particularly fruity. Light but persistent tannins and sleek acidity provide structure. Finishes clean and long. Approachable now but will surely benefit from a few years’ ageing. Not without appeal, but is that enough to justify a $42 price tag (which, as one taster pointed out, is almost exactly the same as for Foillard’s excellent 2014 Morgon “Côte de Py”)? (Buy again? Only if feeling flush.)

While the assembled tasters enjoyed these, no one thought they represented good value. Ten dollars too expensive was the general verdict.

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 5 of 8

Written by carswell

September 19, 2016 at 14:40

A rocky landscape shimmering in a summer haze

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Crete 2014, Rosé de Liatiko, Domaine Economou ($32.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Liatiko from organically farmed, ungrafted old vines. After a short maceration on the skins, the grapes are pressed and the must is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Maturation is in old barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. Minimal added sulphur and then only at bottling. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Wafting, complex nose: pumice, dried herbs, distant red fruit and a touch of animale. In the mouth, it’s both mysterious and present, like a rocky landscape shimmering in a summer haze. Dried strawberry and stony, sun-baked earth are carried on a stream of acidity. The gauzy layers include garrigue, salt and dried flowers. Dry and long. A rosé with the colour and weight of a Poulsard but aromas and flavours that transport you to a Mediterranean mountainside. A profoundly beautiful wine. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 4 of 8

Written by carswell

September 15, 2016 at 13:55

White gold

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The centrepieces of the August 12th tasting were five newly arrived wines from one of the stars in the Greek wine firmament, Domaine Economou. We began with the whites. Reliable technical information for Economou wines is hard to come by. As far as I can ascertain, both wines are made in a similar way: fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks, matured in assorted containers (possibly including old casks, stainless steel tanks, fibreglass vats and underground cement tanks) and bottled unfiltered and unfined with a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide.

Sitia 2013, Vilana/Thrapsathiri, Domaine Economou ($51.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend, typically 70-30, of Vilana and Thrapsathiri from organically farmed, ungrafted, estate-grown vines. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Fascinating, nuanced nose: honey, almond, sea salt, distant apple, pear and maybe even pumpkin, a not unappealing hint of rancid butter. Dry, rich and savoury with a slightly oily texture. Fresher than the 2009 due, I think, to sustained acidity and discreeter oxidative notes, which give the white fruit a yellow facet, as if it were poached with apricot and dried orange peel. The smooth, underlying minerality has me thinking of river stones. Long, layered and profound though not as deep as its flightmate. Unique and involving. (Buy again? Yes.)

Crete 2013, Assyrtiko, Domaine Economou ($51.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Assyrtiko from organically farmed, ungrafted vines. Assyrtiko not being a permitted variety in the Sitia PDO, the wine qualifies only for the broader Crete PGI designation. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
“Round nose, like a Bâtard-Montrachet,” notes one taster. If there’s fruit, it’s poached pear intertwined with threads of pine tar, salt-rimed stone and an scent I peg as oak but the aforementioned taster characterizes as “roasted chestnuts.” In the mouth, the wine is weighty, structured, complex, deep and glowingly acidic. There’s an oxidized edge though not a distracting one, as it allows notes of lemon, honey, white nuts and anise seed to come through. Possessed of a long, uniquely savoury finish with a delectably bitter aftertaste. Different from its high-end Santorini counterparts – rounder, richer and less crystalline – but fully worthy of standing alongside them. (Buy again? Yes.)

In a discussion about the Assyrtiko, agent Theo Diamantis drew an analogy with a grand cru Riesling. He also wondered about food pairings. My ideas: fine white fish in a rich sauce, butter-poached lobster, grilled lamb chops, beef tartare (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it).

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 3 of 8

Written by carswell

September 14, 2016 at 14:04

Fresh, fluent, pure

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Another interloper before getting back to the August 12th notes because, at the time of this posting, there appear to be only six bottles of this wine left in the province.

Coteaux du Loir 2014, La Guinguette, Domaine de la Roche Bleue ($26.50, 12856261)
The vintage is shown on the label but, oddly, not on SAQ.com. A blend of Pinot d’Aunis (80%) and Gamay (20%) from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. The whole grapes undergo semi-carbonic maceration for 10 days and are fermented with indigenous yeasts in third- to sixth-fill oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation then follows. Two-thirds of the wine is transferred to barrels and one-third to tanks for three months’ maturation. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. Total added sulphur dioxide: 50 mg/l. 12.5% ABV. 4,800 bottles made. Quebec agent: Boires.
Cherry preserves, crushed raspberries, sawed wood, leafmould, hints of black pepper and dried rose. Silky-textured and barely medium-bodied. Fruity-sweet on entry but quickly transitioning to a much drier, more peppery mid-palate with sleek acidity, some mineral depth and tannins that, while supple and light, still confer a lingering astringency on the finish. Fresh and fluent and pure, with a quaffability quotient that’s off the charts. Lightly chilled, an ideal accompaniment to herbed sausages, roasted potatoes and sautéed kale with garlic and vinegar. (Buy again? Yep, provided I can find time to schlep out to the Beaubien store again before it sells out.)

The 2015 is reportedly a success. I look forward to tasting it and will keep an eye peeled for Roche Bleue’s old-vine Pinot d’Aunis cuvée, La Belle d’Aunis. Thanks to MWG member Jack for bringing this wine to my attention.

Written by carswell

September 13, 2016 at 12:04