Vino de Chile 2014, Huasa Pilen Alto, Louis-Antoine Luyt ($31.86, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Luyt owns no vineyards but has a long-term relationship with more than a dozen small growers. This 100% Pais (aka Mission, Listan Prieto) cuvée is made from organically farmed 220-year-old vines (that’s not a typo) rooted in shallow clay-loam over a granitic basement (that’s not a typo) in the Maule region at an elevation of 580 metres (1,900 feet). The grapes are manually harvested and given two weeks’ carbonic maceration. Alcoholic fermentation is at low temperatures and with indigenous yeasts. After gentle pressing, the wine is transferred to third- and fourth-fill French oak barrels for six months’ maturation. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
The reductive nose of band-aid seguing to cedar, “peat,” “dehydrated strawberry,” “plum vinegar” and “a summer roofing quality” (quoting other tasters) comes around after a while. In the mouth, the wine is fluid, supple and elusive, hard to pin down. Broader, deeper and darker than the 2014 Pipeño but, like it, full of juicy fruit, minerals, soft tannins and bright acidity. So rustic yet so drinkable. Returning to my glass at the end of the tasting (an hour or two after it had been poured), the wine was transformed, smelling cleaner and red fruitier with overtones of new leather and tasting remarkably pure, bright and fresh. (Buy again? Yep.)
If the description of the wine’s nose seems familiar, it’s because, due to a transcription error, it was mistakenly attached to the earlier note for the 2014 Refugio. Apologies for any confusion.
MWG July 15th tasting: flight 6 of 8
Vouvray 2013, Brut, Domaine Vincent Carême ($26.05, 11633591)
100% Chenin Blanc from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Alcoholic fermentation took place in temperature-controlled fibre vats and was stopped when 28 g/l of sugar remained; in-bottle fermentation of that residual sugar created the effervescence. Reducing sugar: 4.7 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Dusty minerals, pear, a little peach and an earthy, maybe even cheesy note. Fine effervescence. In the mouth, it’s dry, round, quite complex and delightfully fresh. The fruit – here tending to apple and lemon – and minerals intertwine with a thread of bitterness and are lit up by crisp-verging-on-trenchant acidity. Long, clean finish. Impeccable. (Buy again? Definitely.)
MWG July 15th tasting: flight 5 of 8
Alsace 2014, Pinot Noir, Vignoble d’E, Domaine Ostertag* (ca. $32, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A preview bottle of a wine that will be available this fall. Part of Ostertag’s Vins de Fruit line, this 100% Pinot Noir is made from grapes from two-decade-old organically and biodynamically farmed vines rooted in gravelly clay near the village of Epfig. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Macerated at 26°C for around 10 days. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and daily pumpovers but without chaptalization. Matured in stainless steel tanks until the end of the spring following the harvest. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Complex, savoury nose: red berries, bitter almond, fresh and dried herbs, prosciutto. Light- to medium-bodied, fluid and silky. The lean fruit is shaded by dark minerals and structured by bright acidity and supple tannins that turn a little gritty on the sustained finish. Definitely not a Burgundy but definitely a Pinot Noir, and a tasty and pure one at that. An intriguing pairing with a salad of raw rhubarb, fresh raspberries and greens. (Buy again? Yes, though not without wishing it were a few bucks cheaper.)
*I’ve not linked to Ostertag’s website as my Internet security software indicates it has been hacked and launches an Exploit Kit Redirect 5 Web attack. If your device is protected and you’re feeling adventurous, you can visit the site here.
Casablanca 2015, Pinot Noir, Refugio, Montsecano y Copains ($26.05, 12184839)
The estate is a joint venture involving three Chileans and André Ostertag. Two wines, both 100% Pinot Noir from organically and biodyanmically farmed vines, are made. This is the second wine. Manually harvested. Macerated and fermented with indigenous yeasts for 12 to 18 days. One-quarter is matured in 16-hectolitre concrete eggs for 12 to 18 months, three-quarters in stainless steel tanks. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of volcanic sulphur is added at bottling. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
An initially reductive nose soon gives way to spice, red currant and strawberry-rhubarb.In the mouth, the wine is denser and more fruit-forward than its flightmates though still fluid and supple. Bright acidity and light if rustic tannins add welcome texture. Long, earthy finish. At this stage, benefits from a hour or two’s carafing. (Buy again? Sure.)
Bourgogne 2013, Bedeau, Domaine de Chassorney/Frederic Cossard ($58.42, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from organically farmed vines. The manually harvested whole clusters are sorted and placed in tronconic wood vats, with carbon dioxide being added along the way to prevent oxidation. Once filled, the vats are loosely covered with plastic and left for 40 day’s maceration and fermentation with occasional pumpovers and/or punchdowns (by foot). The grapes are manually shovelled into to a pneumatic press and the press and free-run juice are pumped into a large vat for malolactic fermentation, then racked into oak barrels (30% new) for 12 to 15 months’ maturation. The finished wine is racked into a vat, allowed to rest one month and bottled by gravity. Unfiltered and unfined. Sulphur is used in the vineyard but not in the winery (Cossard even cleans his barrels with ozone), except for a tiny amount of sulphur dioxide added at bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Strawberry, gunflint, background green herbs and leather, then classic Burgundy notes of red berries, spice and cedar. Medium-bodied, svelte and silky. Airframe tannins and bright-but-sleek acidity structure the remarkably pure fruit, while a mineral vein runs well into the long, clean finish. A savoury red Burg with great energy. (Buy again? If feeling flush, yes.)
MWG July 15th tasting: flight 4 of 8
Quebec 2015, Pinot Noir, Les Pervenches
100% Pinot Noir from biodynamically farmed, estate-grown wines. The grapes were destemmed, crushed, macerated several days and fermented with indigenous yeasts. The wine was transferred to plastic vats for eight or nine months’ maturation, then siphoned into bottles without filtering, fining or adding sulphur. Ours was one of only 12 bottles made. The rest of the wine was used in the estate’s ultra-chuggable Zweigelt-Pinot Noir blend. 11.5% ABV.
Complex if not effusively Pinot Noirish nose: “cinq épices” (quoting another taster), lees, “raspberry vinegar,” thread of green, “dried mushroom,” cedar. Fluid and energetic, a light-bodied mouthful of ethereal raspberry and rhubarb fruit, delicate but raspy tannins, electric acidity and a mineral backbone that last well into the nicely sustained finish. Pure, refreshing and tonic. Once again, Les Prevenches proves that authentic and delicious vinifera wines can be made in Quebec. (Buy again? If only…)
Cheverny 2015, Domaine du Moulin/Hervé Villemade ($26.46, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Pinot Noir (60%) and Gamay (40%) from organically farmed vines averaging between eight and 37 years old and rooted in sandy clay with flint. Manually harvested. Macerated on the skins for 15 days. Whole-cluster fermentation is with indigenous yeasts and no chaptalization. Matured in wood vats. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Cherry and raspberry upfront, ink and slate in the background with cedar and spice overtones. In the mouth, it’s on the lighter side of medium-bodied. Juicy and tart, it flows like a stream over smooth stones. A faint astringency textures the clean finish. Another dangerously drinkable wine and a delight with Boucherie Lawrence’s headcheese terrine. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)
MWG July 15th tasting: flight 3 of 8
Cheverny 2014, La Bodice, Domaine du Moulin/Hervé Villemade ($35.34, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Sauvignon Blanc (70%) and Chardonnay (30%) from organically farmed, 34-year-old vines. Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and no chaptalization. Matured on the lees in 550- and 228-litre barrels. Unfiltered. Minimal sulphur. Residual sugar: < 2 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Rice Krispies, pear, under-ripe lemon, hints of white cardamom, arak, powdered ginger and oxidation and, eventually, white pepper and kalonji. Medium-bodied and round, dry and satin-textured. Great balance between the sleek acidity and the dense fruit and minerals. Clean, precise and long, a pleasure to drink. (Buy again? Yes, despite wishing it were under $30.)
Touraine 2014, La Tesnière, Puzelat-Bonhomme ($33.33, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Among Thierry Puzelat’s négociant wines was a line made with a friend and former apprentice at Clos du Tue-Bœuf, Pierre Olivier Bonhomme. As Pierre Olivier has bought all of Thierry’s shares in the business, future vintages will be labelled with only Bonhomme’s name. This Touraine is made from purchased, organically farmed Menu Pineau (aka Arbois, 75%) and Chenin Blanc (25%) grown in flinty clay over hard limestone near the hamlet of La Tesnière. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in 228- and 500-litre vats. Matured 12 months in barrel. Sulphur use is kept to a minimum. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Powdered ginger again, “packing tape,” apple, pear and a whiff of something funky/cidery likened by some to “citronella” and “turpentine.” Great presence in the mouth: round, minerally and smoothly acidic from the attack through the long finish, with its lingering notes of honey, white spice and a faintly medicinal/floral aroma reminiscent of crushed marigold. A bite of smoked salmon on rye brings out the fruit, which tends to apple and lemon. Complex and engaging. If only it cost a few dollars less. (Buy again? Yes.)
MWG July 15th tasting: flight 2 of 8
In mid-July the Mo’ Wine Group again welcomed the irrepressible Steve Beauséjour to lead a tasting of recent and impending arrivals – mostly private imports – from Rézin, often in combination with food pairings as brilliant as they were surprising. We started with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire.
Vin de France 2015, P’tit blanc du Tue Bœuf, Clos du Tue Bœuf ($24.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Clos du Tue Bœuf is owned and operated by the Puzelat brothers, with Thierry in charge of production. Besides making Touraine and Cheverny AOC wines from their own grapes, they produce a set of négociant wines, labelled Vin de France, using grapes purchased from growers who share Thierry’s philosophy. The P’tit Blanc is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from organically farmed vines between four and 20 years old in vineyards in the Cher valley. The grapes are pressed and the must is chilled and allowed to clarify by settling. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured four to six months in stainless steel tanks. Very lightly filtered. A tiny amount of sulphur is added at bottling. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Striking nose of grapefruit and cheesy feet segueing to chalk, faint apricot, melon and pink peppercorn. The expected Sauvignon Blanc aromas of boxwood and cat pee are absent at first but dominant about an hour after the wine is opened. One of the most saline wines I’ve tasted, especially on the attack. Very dry, extracted and unctuous, with glowing acidity, melon and apple flavours and good length. “Gras yet refreshing,” remarked one taster. “Dangerously drinkable,” declared another. An astoundingly synergistic match for an umami-rich quartet of seaweeds drizzled with ponzu-soy sauce dressing. (Buy again? Def.)
The wine is expected to arrive – and show up on Rézin’s website – in late August or September.
MWG July 15th tasting: flight 1 of 8
Passerina del Frusinate 2014, Alagna, Marcella Giuliani (c. $25.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Passerina from sustainably farmed vines in a two-hectare vineyard located near Anagni (whose ancient name, mentioned in Dante’s Purgatorio, was Alagna), about 60 km due east of Rome. Manually harvested. The grapes are chilled to 5-6°C and macerated on the skins for seven to eight hours. Alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks is at a cool 12-13°C and can last up to a month. (The idea behind the extended maceration and slow fermentation is to draw flavour and aroma compounds from what can be a fairly neutral grape.) Does not undergo malolactic fermentation. Matured in the bottle before release. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste, Côté Vignes.
Light gold with a bronzish core and yellow glints. A nose initially somewhat closed but opening as the wine breathes: “pumpkin,” “apples” and a “herby note” (quoting other tasters), a hint of lemon too, then freshly mown flowery meadow, then spicy honey and beeswax. In the mouth, it’s extracted and fruity, though dry. A soft spritzy tingle lasts maybe five minutes after opening. The unctuous texture is enlivened by soft, sustained acidity. Minerals abound, especially on the crescendoing, bitter-edged finish. Evolves wonderfully in the glass, gaining straw and anise notes. Long, savoury, unique, delicious. A winner. (Buy again? If there’s any left, yes.)
One of the standouts at the MWG’s Mon Caviste tasting in May (notes to come) was a Cesanese from the same producer. Agent Roberto De Lisi was so sure we’d enjoy the estate’s white, he comped this bottle with our subsequent order. He was right.