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All wine, most of the time

Neo Naoussa

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Naoussa 2014, Domaine Thymiopoulos ($23.85, 13288218)
A new cuvée that, in price and sophistication, sits between the Jeunes vignes and the Terre et Ciel (the Xinomavro Nature, available through the private import channel, stands apart in more ways than one). 100% Xinomavro from organically farmed, 30-year-old vines rooted in volcanic and limestone soil and located between 180 and 500 metres above sea level. Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. After alcoholic and malolatic fermentation, the wine was transferred into 500-litre oak barrels for 12 months’ maturation. Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.4 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Protean nose of, among other things, black cherry, wild strawberry, black olive, balsamic vinegar, old leather, earth and violet. Medium-bodied and, despite the fine, firm tannins, supple. Fruity but dry, with freshening acidity, flavours that echo the nose and a slatey underlay. Any oak is very sotto voce. The finish is savoury, while earth and sweet-spicy notes linger. Clean, pure and eminently drinkable. Food-friendly too. May be the most elegant Xinomavro I’ve tasted. Unsurprisingly, the limited quantities are disappearing fast. (Buy again? Of course.)

Written by carswell

August 17, 2017 at 12:51

Eaten Back to Life launch

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Mo’ Wine Group stalwart, Weinplatz commander, occasional blogger and débauché hors pair, Jonah Campbell has just published his second collection of essays, Eaten Back to Life.

Though food is the titular topic, drink almost could be. Indeed, the essays “On Natural Wine, Punk Rock and Too-Easy Analogies” and “On Bad Melons, Bullshit, and the Emergent Qualities of Wine” are among the highlights of – and longest pieces in – the book.

The launch is tomorrow, August 17, at Drawn & Quarterly bookstore, between 7 and 9 p.m., with an after-party to be held at Alexandraplatz. Charcuterie from Boucherie Lawrence and wines from oenopole and Ward & associés will be served at the former; the Weinplatz cellar will be raided at the latter.

(And, yep, that Schueller 2007 Alsace Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg was something else.)

Written by carswell

August 16, 2017 at 11:02

A toast to Haridimos Hatzidakis

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Originally from Crete, Haridimos Hatzidakis founded his eponymous estate in Pyrgos, on Santorini, in 1996, replanting a vineyard that had been abandoned 40 years earlier after the devastating 1956 earthquake. Today the estate comprises 10 hectares of owned and leased vineyards. Assyrtiko, Aidani and Mavrotragano are grown and the farming is organic, still something of a rarity on the island.

Hatzidakis’s wines, which the Mo’ Wine Group began discovering when some of the 2008s became available through the private import channel, quickly convinced me that Santorini was one of the world’s great wine appellations and that Hatzidakis was one of the world’s great winemakers. My first encounter with the Mylos, again the 2008, had me claiming it was one of the world’s great whites, a claim subsequent encounters and vintages have not called into doubt.

I met Hatzidakis only once, at last year’s Salon des vins d’importation privée. He seemed a humble, somewhat shy, soft-spoken man who needed only a little prompting to reveal his passion for wine-making, organic farming and Santorini. He spoke with pride about his new winery and encouraged me to visit if I made it back to the island. It is something I ardently hope to do but, alas, it won’t be in his company: Haridimos Hatzidakis died last Friday, suddenly and of causes yet unknown.

On Saturday, friends and I opened a bottle of the recently arrived 2016 Mylos, arguably the estate’s flagship wine, and raised a glass in honour of Haridimos’s life and accomplishments and in the hope that his legacy lives on.

Santorini 2016, Assyrtiko de Mylos, Vieilles Vignes, Hatzidakis ($51.75, 12338834)
100% Assyrtiko from dry-farmed old vines – ungrafted like all Santorini vines – that average 150 to 300 years old. The certified organic, late-harvested grapes were picked by hand, destemmed, cooled, crushed and macerated on their skins for 12 hours. Fermentation (at 18°C with indigenous yeasts) and maturation (on the lees) took place in stainless steel tanks and lasted 10 months. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and with minimal sulphur dioxide. About 3,000 bottles made. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Already pale gold in colour. Tightly furled nose that blossoms as the wine breathes: preserved lemon, minerals, hints of petrol and fish oil and eventually Mediterranean herbs. Weighty in the mouth, with an oily texture, Mayer lemon flavours, a mineral structure and an astounding salinity. Assyrtiko’s trademark acidity is here turned stealthy by the dense extract. Dominated by citrus-pith and sharp-edged minerals and developing honeyed overtones, the intense finish lasts for minutes. Made a credible pairing for grilled octopus dressed with wine vinegar, olive oil, red onion and capers and a superb match for bucantini with olive oil, lemon, leek and bottarga, which brought out the wine’s fruit (“though it’s fruity in the sense that olives are fruity,” as another imbiber noted). (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

Earlier vintages of this wine have “aged” quickly, turning a rich gold-bronze, gaining pronounced oxidative and honeyed notes, the acidity smoothing out, the minerality receding slightly. However disconcerting this can be at first, you are soon won over by the wine’s richness, authority and infinitely layered complexity. At that stage, it is excellent with grilled lamb chops (recipe after the jump) and sublime with beef tartare.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by carswell

August 15, 2017 at 13:23

Mountain red

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Achaia 2010, Grand Cave, Domain Mega Spileo/Cavino ($28.85, 13110137)
The estate is named after a nearby monastery that once owned the vineyard. Most of the technical info comes from the back label and kudos to the winery for that. A 60-40 blend of Mavrodaphne and Mavro Kalavrytino (aka Black of Kalavryta) from vines rooted in sandy clay soil in a relatively cool-climate mountain vineyard between 780 and 880 metres above sea level and located near the village of Kalavryta. No chemical insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers are used. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Prefermentation maceration at low temperatures for 24-48 hours. Long and gentle alcoholic fermentation in small temperature-controlled tanks. Malolactic fermentation and maturation on the lees in new oak barrels (80% French, 20% American) for 16 months. Lightly filtered. Not cold stabilized. Bottle-aged 24 months before release. 6,500 bottles made. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Heady nose of plum, prune, leather, burned earth, sweet spice, coffee, hints of blood and chocolate. More medium- than full-bodied and very dry. The ripe but not jammy or forward fruit is complemented by a full set of tertiary flavours (old wood, leather, cigar box, dried herbs and earth) and a swirl of inky minerals, framed by smooth but animating acidity and soft tannins that show their mettle on the long, lightly astringent finish. Sandalwood, terracotta and dried cherry linger. Savoury, balanced and at peak. Fairly priced for a seven-year-old wine of this quality. Fairly cries out for grilled lamb. (Buy again? Yep.)

Written by carswell

August 13, 2017 at 13:12

Rosé de beauté

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Corse Calvi 2016, Rosé, Pumonte, Domaine d’Alzipratu ($31.75, 12829182)
100% Sciacarello from vines planted on the high granitic slopes of the Pumonte lieu-dit on the Île de Beauté. No pesticides or herbicides are used. Manually harvested. Half the wine is made using the saignée method and the other half is direct-pressed. Fermented with selected indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Lightly filtered before bottling. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Pink grapefruit, sun-baked rock, faint dried herbs and a whiff of vodka-marinated cherries, becoming more effusive as its breathes, gaining floral and spice notes. Slightly oily – or maybe honeyed – in the mouth. The subtle, elegant fruit (strawberry, peach, grapefruit) is set against a backdrop of quartzy minerals. Dry but not bone-dry, with acidity that keeps things fresh but doesn’t draw attention to itself. Turns aromatic at the back of the palate. A stream of bitterness and astringency surfaces on the long finish, while umami, cherry and seashells linger. Impressive. Not an aperitif wine: a rosé gastronomique if ever there were one. Revisited the next day, the tail end of the bottle tasted flat and alcoholic, so maybe not a keeper. (Buy again? Yes, especially as I missed out on the Fiumeseccu.)

Written by carswell

August 11, 2017 at 11:42

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Alois and Eloi

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The only connection between the wines in the last flight was that both were bigger reds that had caught my attention, the Trebulanum because it is made from a grape I’d never heard of, let alone tasted, the Trévallon because it was reportedly excellent and I’d been giving the wine a pass since an unhappy encounter with the 2007. The wines were double-carafed about four hours before we tasted them.

Terre del Volturno 2011, Trebulanum, Casavecchia, Alois ($44.00, 12628604)
Contrary to what SAQ.com claims, this is not made by the Piedmontese Azienda Agricola Casavecchia but by the Campanian estate Vini Alois, which is based in Pontelatone. 100% Cassavecchia from organically farmed wines averaging 20 to 25 years old and rooted in the mineral-rich volcanic soil of the 1.5 ha Cesone vineyard. Manually harvested. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration on the skins with regular pump-overs took place in stainless steel tanks and last 20 days. Transferred to large botti for 18 months, during which time it underwent complete malolactic fermentation. Racked into large botti for 12 months’ further maturation. Aged in bottles for six months. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Diamond Estates.
Wafting nose of ink, old leather, Chambord, “peat” and “smoke.” Dark and dense on the plate, rich in black raspberry fruity and slatey minerals. Tannins confer a velvet astringency, acidity a certain freshness. Finishes long. Spice and leather linger. Powerful, earthy and “too young” but not hot or harsh. Speaks of its place and, despite the modern wine-making, of an older time. (Buy again? Yes, and not just for curiosity’s sake.)

Alpilles 2013, Domaine de Trévallon ($85.25, 13269359)
Now in his mid-60s, Eloi Dürrbach began making wine in 1973, when he gave up architecture to manage a vacation property and a few vines his parents had bought. This, then, is his 40th vintage. A 50-50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from organically farmed vines rooted in limestone and clay. The whole clusters were fermented with indigenous yeasts with regular punch-downs and pump-overs. Matured 24 months on the lees in foudres (95%) and barrels (5%). Fined with egg whites. Unfiltered. No added sulphur. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
An initially disconcerting nose of peas, “ketchup maison,” “beets” and beef bouillon gives way to plum, cassis, blackberry and garrigue. Rich and satiny in the mouth. The balance between the layered fruit, fleshy tannins and racy acidity is something to behold. Overtoned with black olive and leather, the minerally, bitter-edged finish seems to go on forever. Accessible yet capable of long ageing. One of the great wines of Provence. (Buy again? If I can scrape together the bucks…)

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

August 10, 2017 at 13:10

Francs et graves

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Côtes de Bordeaux Francs 2014, Emilien, Château le Puy ($28.15, 00709469)
A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère (typically 85%, 14% and 1% respectively) from biodynamically and organically farmed 50-year-old vines. The grapes are fully destemmed. Fermentation in open, temperature-controlled vats with indigenous yeasts and no chaptalization lasts two to four weeks. Matured 14 months in large foudres and 11 months in third- to fifth-fill oak casks. Bottled unfiltered with only a small dose of sulphur. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 12.5% ABV. A few 500 ml bottles of the 2012 can also be found ($20.75, 00896399). Quebec agent: A.O.C.
Intriguing nose that gets the aroma-namers going: plum, “edamame,” “nigella,” “pickled turnip juice.” Medium-bodied. The pure fruit and graphite underlay are nicely structured by fine, firm tannins and bright acidity. Finishes long and clean with faint notes of tobacco and spice. This perennial favourite is true to form in 2014: a savoury, refreshing, eminently drinkable wine that everybody always enjoys. The QPR is high on this one. (Buy again? Yep.)

Graves 2015, Clos 19 Bis/Vincent Quirac ($31.05, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in the late 2000s, the tiny (1.5 hectare) estate makes a Sauternes and a red Graves. The latter is a blend of Merlot (around 50%), Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from organically farmed vines averaging 40 years old and rooted in gravelly soil over a clayey-calcareous base. Manually harvested. The varieties are vinified separately. The Merlot is cold-macerated before fermentation for a week, the Cabernets are directly fermented. Fermentation at low temperatures with indigenous yeasts, punch-downs and pour-overs (using buckets, not pumps) lasts 10 days. The wine is then left on it skins for another eight to 10 days. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vini-Vins.
Cherry, cassis, “cocoa powder and ashes” and a strong whiff of volatile acidity. Quite disjointed in the mouth, with a harsh verging on acrid note, a problem that airing and swirling didn’t resolve. Bears little resemblance to the fresh, clean, juicy-fruited, mineral-laden, roundly structured, medium-bodied wine enjoyed a few days earlier. Clearly defective and, as such, a disappointment. (Buy again? Based on the earlier bottle, yes.)

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

August 9, 2017 at 15:22