Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

A global quartet of organic Pinot Noirs

leave a comment »

Patagonia 2015, Pinot Noir, Barda, Bodega Chacra ($29.65, 11517515)
Located in the Rio Negro region of northern Patagonia, the estate was founded by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, the grandson of the creator of Sassacaia. All its vines are ungrafted and biodynamically farmed. 100% Pinot Noir from the estate’s youngest vines, planted in 1990. Low-temperature fermentation with indigenous yeasts took place in cement tanks. Matured 10 months in French oak barrels. Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve et Sélection/Trialto.
Classic nose of red berries, spice and a hint of vanilla caramel. Fruit forward but medium-bodied and balanced, with bright acidity, light tannins and a raw youthful astringency on the strong finish. Not what you’d call deep but easy enough to drink and something of a crowd-pleaser. (Buy again? If in the mood for a civilized New World Pinot, sure.)

Niagara Peninsula 2012, Pinot Noir, Réserve du Domaine, Domaine Queylus ($47.25, 12456494)
Managed by Thomas Bachelder, who also serves as head winemaker. 100% organically farmed Pinot Noir from the Twenty Mile Bench and Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellations. The grapes were picked by hand, sorted and destemmed but not crushed. A short cold maceration was followed by fermentation with indigenous yeasts. The fermented wine stayed on its skins for several days, then was pressed. Matured 16 to 20 months in French old barrels, a third of which were new. 5,300 bottles made. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vins Philippe Dandurand.
Smoke and sweat then sandalwood with fruit and oak in the background. The palate is a suave mix of rich fruit, moderate tannins, sleek acidity and a minerally/tarry depth. Unfortunately, the oak becomes obvious on the finish, masking the beautiful fruit and robbing the wine of refreshment. While another year or two in the bottle may rectify that, for now I prefer the 2014 Tradition bottling ($31.00, 13276137), even without taking the Réserve’s somewhat wacky QPR into account. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Willamette Valley 2014, Pinot Noir, Red Cap, Montinore Estate ($29.50, 13186609)
100% biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir from various vineyards. At least some of the manually harvested grapes were given a cold soak. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Spent ten months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, around 20% of which new. Reducing sugar: 3.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Cranberry, black raspberry, spice and sawed wood. Medium-bodied. The texture is more velvety than silky, the fruit pure, the oak in the background. Round tannins frame while sleek acidity nips on the long finish. Not particularly deep but, hey, it’s under $30. Several in the group bought earlier vintages of this when it was a private import; opened last year, a 2011, like this a bit rustic in its youth, had evolved into a silky Pinot Noir with definite Burgundian qualities. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bourgogne 2015, Garance, Domaine Montanet-Thoden ($34.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
The eight-hectare estate was founded in 1990 by Catherine Montanet (of Domaine de la Cadette) and Tom Thoden. The original vineyards were part of Cadette’s holdings that had a higher proportion of clay and thus produced distinctive wines. Cadette’s oenologist and Catherine’s son, Valentin, now makes the wines. 100% Pinot Noir from a organically farmed two-hectare plot of vines between 20 and 25 years old. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster fermentation with indigenous yeasts takes place in temperature-controlled wood vats, initially with punch-downs and later with pump-overs. After about two weeks, the wine is pressed and transferred to large barrels until fermentation is finished. Matured in used 228-litre barriques (80%) and 114-litre feuillettes (20%). Unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Initially shy nose of red fruit and papier d’Arménie. Becomes more expressive with time in the glass, gaining red berry, leafmould, cola and spice notes. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied, fluid and very dry. The tart red fruit is underlain with minerals, balanced by lithe tannins and lifting acidity. A faint, spicy bitterness lingers. Remarkably pure, this wine pushes all the Burgundy lover’s buttons, so it’s not surprising that local restaurateurs quickly snapped up the entire shipment. Accessible now but probably singing in one or two years. (Buy again? If only I could…)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 6 of 6

Asphalt and corn

leave a comment »

Bekaa Valley 2012, Musar Jeune, Château Musar ($25.80, 13210197)
A blend of Cinsault (50%), Syrah (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) from organically farmed vines grown on the western slope of the Beqaa Valley at around 1,000 metres above sea level. The jeune refers to the wine’s early drinking window, not the age of the vines. The varieties are vinified separately. Fermented in temperature-controlled (28°C) concrete vats with indigenous yeasts. After blending, the wine was matured three to four months in concrete vats. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Clove, plum, blackberry evolving into leather and earth. An asphalt note is very present. On the palate, the wine is medium- to full-bodied and fruit forward though fundamentally savoury, not deep but far from superficial. Round tannins and soft acidity give the wine a satiny texture. The fruit tends to mullberry and black cherry. Unfortunately, the asphalt is also present as a flavour and the notes of “nail polish remover” (a marker for ethyl acetate, popularly if inaccurately referred to as volatile acidity) are hard to ignore. A bottle opened the weekend before was far fresher, cleaner and more interesting, leading us to suspect this was an off bottle, a not uncommon occurrence with Musar wines. Still, after more than a decade’s absence, it’s great to have this storied estate back at the SAQ. (Buy again? Yes but keep your receipt in case your bottle is defective.)

Texas 2013, Merlot, Reserve, Becker Vineyards (c. $20.00, importation valise)
100% Merlot from various parcels; the winery is based in the Texas Hill Country AVA but the wine’s broader appellation may mean some of the grapes come from outside the viticultural area. The grapes were harvested over four weeks, cool-soaked for 10 days, fermented with selected yeasts and pressed. The wine was transferred to French and American oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and maturation, with stirring several times a week. 13.8% ABV.
One of the oddest noses I’ve encountered in a red wine: rubber, “bacon,” “pâté chinois” and ash but, above all (and congrats to J. on pegging it), “canned corn.” In the mouth, it’s heading into full-bodied territory. There’s some red and black fruit if you look for it but the corn is unavoidable. Acidity is sufficient and the soft tannins gain some presence on the finish. Yet, even setting the corn aside, this is simple, vague (not identifiably a Merlot) and pretty much devoid of appeal except as a curiosity. (An off bottle? Maybe. Buy again? Nope.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

June 23, 2017 at 13:26

Barrel’s worth

leave a comment »

Located in Mirabel in the lower Laurentians and founded in 1993, Vignoble Négondos is one of Quebec’s more interesting producers of wines made from hybrid grapes. The winery is certified organic and has adopted a non-interventionist approach in the cellar: spontaneous fermentations, gravity feeds, clarification by settling, minimal if any filtration, and so on. The result is honest and enjoyable wines for which few if any excuses need be made. The winery’s most celebrated – and hard to procure – product is Julep, a world-class Seyval Blanc orange wine whose label and name wryly refer to Montreal’s iconic Gibeau Orange Julep drive-in and its signature drink.

Négondos wines can be purchased at the winery. A limited selection can be found in a few local food stores; contact the winery for details. Our bottles came from Loco and Dans la Côte respectively. Note that the prices vary depending on who’s doing the markup.

As usual, the wines were served double-blind to everyone except me. A few hints were provided: the wines were close-to identical blends from the same producer, the main difference being that one was matured in stainless steel tanks and the other in oak barrels.

Québec 2016, Suroît, Vignoble Négondos ($18.00-$20.00)
A blend of organically farmed Maréchal Foch, St. Croix, Frontenac and Marquette. The manually harvested grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts at high temperatures. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. 12% ABV.
On first sniff, the Suroît’s nose prompts one taster to declare the wine “Ontarian.” My note reads: unsubtle gush of plum, almond, red meat, earth and eventually sweet spice. In the mouth, it’s fruity but dry, with an earthy backdrop. Light tannins and bright acidity provide a kind of balance and the finish is clean. That said, relief from the juicy onslaught and most especially nuance are in short supply. Probably best thought of as a food wine. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Québec 2015, Chesnaie, Vignoble Négondos ($20.00-$22.00)
This is the Suroît but with six months’ barrel ageing. 12% ABV.
“Wait. This can’t be Ontarian. Now I’m confused,” says the aforementioned taster. A nose far more complex and subtle: wafting plum with dill, spice, wood and “black tea” notes. In the mouth, it’s deeper, smoother and more fluid. Fine acidity and tannins structure the layered fruit, which takes on a savoury, even minerally edge that lasts through the credible finish. The difference between the two wines is astounding (a glass of the Chesnaie served double-blind a few days earlier had me guessing Austria or northern Italy) though how much of that is due to vintage and how much to barrel-ageing is a subject for future research. (Buy again? Yes indeed.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

June 21, 2017 at 12:14

So similar, so different

leave a comment »

Stellenbosch 2014, Chenin Blanc, Organic, Reyneke ($26.60, 13123608)
100% Chenin Blanc from biodyanmically farmed vines around 45 years old and rooted in granitic loam over clay. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. The must was allowed to settle then fermented with indigenous yeasts in 300-litre second-fill French oak barrels and a 2,500-litre foudre. Matured on its lees for 10 months then racked into a stainless steel tank for another month. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Univins.
Intriguing, even mysterious nose of white spice, chalk, lemon, roasted white meat and “garum.” In the mouth, it’s round from start to finish, honeyed yet dry, packed with ripe fruit and minerals. A stream of acidity adds backbone and life. Faint bitter saline notes mark the nicely sustained finish. One of those wines that seems as Old World as New, this had several fans around the table. While I found it a little two-dimensional, especially in comparison to its flightmate, I’ll readily admit those dimensions are lovely. (Buy again? Sure.)

Jasnières 2015, Sec, Domaine de la Roche Bleue ($27.90, 12856228)
100% Chenin Blanc from organically farmed 10- to 25-year-old vines planted in clayey, flinty topsoil over a limestone base. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. The must was allowed to settle, then fermented (slowly due to the cool cellar temperatures) with indigenous yeasts, 60% in fourth- to sixth-fill barrels (wine from older vines) and 40% in stainless steel tanks (wine from younger vines). Matured four months in sixth-fill barrels. Reducing sugar: 3.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Boires.
Complex, winey nose of linden flowers, “sake,” quince, lime and, eventually honey. Sleek and spicy on the palate, alive with acidity. The tart fruit (citrus and stone mainly) is dusted with chalk and gunflint. Sugar levels notwithstanding, this seems significantly drier – not to mention leaner, more crystalline and better delineated – than the Reyneke. Pure, long and delicious. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

June 20, 2017 at 12:12

Pairing Melon with Burgs

with one comment

Vin de France 2015, Melon, Domaine de la Cadette ($28.80, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Melon de Bourgogne (aka Muscadet) from organically farmed 25- to 30-year-old vines in the Bourgogne-Vézeley appellation (despite its name, the grape isn’t one of Burgundy’s permitted varieties, which explains the VDF designation). Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts, matured six months in stainless steel tanks and bottled unfined with only a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Lemon, chalk and the faintest hint of grass. Wonderfully clean, round and fresh. Fruitier than your average Muscadet. Less crystalline too, though with the grape’s trademark mineral substrate. Soft acidity gives it a glow. Straightforward, long and pure. “I like the lingering sourness,” notes one taster. Me too. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

Bourgogne-Vézelay 2015, La Châtelaine, Domaine de la Cadette ($29.35, 11094621)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed 25-year-old vines rooted in clay and limestone. Manually harvested. Gently pressed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured 14 months on the fine lees. Lightly filtered. Sees only stainless steel until bottlng. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Lemon, oats, quartz, white flowers – typical, wot? Clean and fresh but less overtly fruity than the Melon. More minerally though. The stuffing and bright acidity are well balanced, the finish long and clean. Even at this early point, one of the best vintages of this wine I’ve tasted, with the potential to improve over the short and medium term. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bourgogne-Vézelay 2015, La Piècette, Domaine de la Cadette ($31.25, 11589691)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed 20- to 30-year-old vines in several parcels. The hand-picked whole clusters are gently pressed. The must is transferred to 228-litre barrels (called pièces) for six months’ alcoholic and malolactic fermentation (no added yeasts or bacteria). Matured 11 months on the lees. Lightly filtered. Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Initially reticent nose of butter and faint vanilla, opening to lemon and quartzy chalk. Rich but not happy. There’s bright acidity, entwined minerals and oak, a certain depth and, disconcertingly, a “weird sweetish taste” that lasts through the long finish and makes the wine taste not so much off as unsettled. A taster notes that a recently opened six-year-old bottle was “amazing,” supporting the impression that the 2015 is a wine that will benefit enormously from a few years in the cellar. (Buy again? A bottle or two to lay down.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

June 16, 2017 at 13:25

Hit and miss

leave a comment »

Crémant du Jura, Rosé, Domaine Désiré Petit ($24.00, 12399717)
100% Pinot Noir from vines averaging 20 years old and rooted in calcareous topsoil over red marl. Sparkled using the traditional method. Reducing sugar: 12 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Tannins.
Engaging nose dominated by cherry and almond. Softly effervescent. Dry. Fruity attack, savoury mid-palate. Lots of minerals. Crisp acidity adds cut and freshness. Spice and “pink grapefruit pith” mark the fair finish. Parabolic in that it got better as it breathed but then became a little one-note as it warmed. That said, this would make a fine starter at a backyard barbecue and you could keep going with it if you had some salmon on the grill. (Buy again? Sure.)

Crémant du Jura, Rosé, Domaine André et Mireille Tissot ($30.75, 13236670)
Pinot Noir (50%), Poulsard (25%) and Trousseau (25%) from biodynamically farmed vines around a quarter of a century old and rooted in clay and limestone. Half the grapes were direct pressed, the other half pressed after a short maceration. Fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks. Once malolactic fermentation was completed, the wine was bottled and sparkled using the traditional method. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
Yeasty/briochey nose of red berries, yellow plum and, a bit disconcertingly, “ketchup maison.” Very dry on the palate (I suspect this may be a zero dosage sparkler). Fine effervescence with bubbles one taster describes as “crunchy.” Minerals galore, peekaboo strawberry and soft but sufficient acidity. Sadly, all that takes a backseat to an overwhelming bitterness. Improved slightly with time in the glass, though never enough to win over a single taster. Tissot is one of our favourite Jura producers and this was the first Tissot rosé any of us had tasted, so the letdown was huge. Didn’t smell or taste like an off bottle. Just off the boat so maybe suffering from travel shock? (Buy again? Only to give it a second chance.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 1 of 6

Written by carswell

June 12, 2017 at 13:06

Beach wine

leave a comment »

Swartland 2015, Kedungu, Intellego ($27.82, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Owned and operated by Jurgen Gouws, Intellego Wines sources its grapes from its own vineyards and from growers with whom it works in close collaboration. All the fruit is certified organic and the wine-making is as close as possible to non-interventionist, small amounts of sulphur dioxide being the only additive. The wines are made in a small rented facility in the Paardeberg region. Named after a Bali beach where Gouws enjoyed himself surfing, the easy-drinking Kedungu is a 66-28-6 blend of Syrah (from vines planted in the 1980s) and Cinsault and Mourvèdre (from vines planted between 2000 and 2004). The varieties were separately whole-bunch fermented in closed tanks, with the Syrah spending 14 days on the skins and the other varieties about a week. The lots were then blended and directly pressed together into old French oak barrels for nine months’ maturation. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.

Plum, burnt sugar, “blond tobacco and butterscotch” on the nose. On the fuller side of medium-bodied but fundamentally fluid. Red and black fruit are the dominant flavours, though the wine is more terroir- than fruit-driven. Bright acidity lends a welcome sour edge, while the tannins are just firm enough. The finish is long and savoury. Wines like this and the Leeuwenkuil Cinsault are convincing me that South Africa and more specifically Swartland are worth keeping an eye on. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG April 21st tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

June 5, 2017 at 13:52