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MWG sixth anniversary tasting: report

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December 8, 2011, was the Mo’ Wine Group’s sixth anniversary. We celebrated on the following day because it was a Friday and the evening risked being a long one. Hewing to tradition, the tasting featured several bubblies and some silliness.

A QUEBEC SPARKLER

Bubulle 2009, Méthode traditionnelle, Les Pervenches ($30.00, La QV)
Consistent with the bottle sampled earlier in the day. This was served double-blind to the group, with no information provided about origin, composition or cost. Everyone liked it. No one guessed it was made in Quebec and most pegged its price as being in the $30 to $40 range. (Buy again? Definitely.)

FOUR POL ROGERS

Champagne, Brut, Pure, Extra Cuvée de Réserve, Pol Roger ($67.00, 11043487)
1/3 each Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Undosed. Clean, pure, elegant: brioche, minerals, hint of lemon. Fine bead. Bone dry. Crisp fruit fades fast though a pleasing sourness and minerals linger. Enjoyable on its own but simple-seeming in retrospect. (Buy again? Probably not when it’s pushing $70.)

Champagne 2000, Brut, Extra Cuvée de Réserve, Pol Roger ($88.50, 10663123)
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. Initial funkiness blew off leaving a classic champagne nose of browning apple, minerals, white meat, toast and eventually sesame. Pure fruit with a honeyed, oxidized note. Relatively high residual sugar, though far from sweet or even off-dry. Long, bready finish with a lingering sourness. Though I found myself longing for a little more complexity and depth, this generous and delicious wine was popular with many around the table. If I ever open another bottle, it’ll be to serve with something rich, like foie gras au torchon or sweetbreads in cream. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Champagne 2000, Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Extra Cuvée de Réserve, Pol Roger ($94.75, 10663166)
100% Chardonnay, of course. A hint of rubber recedes leaving a refined nose of brioche, lemon and sour apple. Pure and clean, light and buoyant, multifaceted: a crystalline complexity. White-fruity on the attack, dry and minerally on the long finish. Elegance in a glass. In my mind’s palate, I kept “tasting” this for days after the event. (Buy again? If I’m feeling flush, yes.)

Champagne 1999, Brut, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, Pol Roger ($208.25, 00892166)
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Impossibly layered and complex nose: apple, lemon, brioche, minerals and so much more. Soft yet persistent effervescence. Smooth and rich from start to finish. Pure fruit. Just enough sweetness to round the acidity. Breadth, depth, length and any other dimension you might name. Nothing exaggerated, everything in place. A beautiful and complete wine. (Buy again? I should be so lucky.)

This was the first time the MWG tasted a flight of champagnes from a single producer. The wines were served double-blind and at least a couple of tasters detected a family resemblance between the two 2000s (I was impressed because I don’t think I would have). The resident champagne freak later declared it the most intellectual flight in the group’s history.

RED BURGS: TWO BY TWO, OLD AND NEW

Aloxe-Corton 1er cru 1996, Les Vercots, Tollot-Beaut & Fils ($48 in 1999)
Textbook red Burgundy nose: red berries, forest floor and beet along with a hint of alcohol. Silky texture. Fine balance between fruit and acid. Initially tight tannins quickly relaxed and smoothed out. Pure and lovely. Drink now. (Buy again? Moot now but I’m glad I did.)

Gevrey-Chambertin 2009, Sérafin Père & Fils ($65.25, 11472484)
Persimmon and cinnamon with hints of cola and red berries. Smooth on entry but falls flat: a little heavy on the fruit, a little light on the acidity. Plump tannins. Totally dry. Lingering oak flavours. Am not convinced it’s passing through a phase. (Buy again? No.)

Aloxe-Corton 1er cru 2009, Les Vercots, Tollot-Beaut & Fils ($61.50, 11473575)
Red berries, ground beef, milk chocolate, minerals. Tight tannins notwithstanding, the fruit is dominating structure for now. Still, it comes across as better balanced, more complete than the 2009 Sérafin. Good finish. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Gevrey-Chambertin 1996, Sérafin Père & Fils ($48.75 in 1999)
Initial stink giving way to a dark-fruited nose with ferny notes. Rich fruit, tight acid. Tertiary flavours (leather, old wood, leaf mould). Fair length. Pleasant but could be deeper. Drink now. (Buy again? Moot but it wasn’t up to my expectations.)

At a tasting earlier this year, Oliver Guyot told us he considered the somewhat snubbed 2008 a classic red Burgundy vintage and the much touted 2009 vintage over-hyped and full of atypical, fruit-forward wines not built for the long haul. Can’t say the 2008s and 2009s I’ve tasted to date have me thinking he’s wrong.

FOUR COUNTRIES, FOUR BIG REDS

Marilyn Merlot 2006, Napa Valley, Marilyn Wines ($26.80, 11341767)
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.9% abv. Closed nose. Hints of graphite, red fruit. Medium- to full-bodied but fluid and balanced with ripe tannins and an acid bite. Fruity but not heavy. Short on follow-through. Began cracking up after an hour or so in the glass. (Buy again? Only as a gag gift, albeit a drinkable one.) ***Flipper alert: this wine is retailing for US$75 on the Marilyn Wines website.***

VDP des Bouches-du-Rhône 2007, Domaine de Trévallon ($66.25, 00728162)
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Syrah. 13% abv (hard to believe) [Edit: That’s the percentage according to SAQ.com but it’s probably for the 2006; I checked the label at a store today and it says 14%.]. Assault-by-strawberry-jam nose with a little dusty wood thrown in. Primary and monolithic. Palate so dominated by sweet fruit that it’s easy to miss the underlying structure. Long but not very appealing. Hardly budged during the two hours it was in my glass. The tail-end of the bottle showed a little better the next day: the strawberry no longer centre stage, some garrigue, cassis, ink and tobacco beginning to emerge, the acid and tannins more present. But still. (Buy again? No.)

Brunello di Montalcino 2005, Etichetta Bianca (“White Label”), Casanova di Neri ($55.75, 10961323)
100% Brunello (aka Sangiovese Grosso). 14.5% abv (not hard to believe). In 2005, this low-end bottling contains the fruit that would have gone into the high-end Cerretalto bottling, had one been made. (The 2004 Cerretalto retails for $229 at the SAQ.) Terra cotta, cherry, foliage, oak and a hint of minerals. Dense, sweet fruit. Enough acidity and tannins to save it from galumphingness but not enough to endow it with the brightness and drying finish that are the hallmarks of the best Sangioveses. Indeed, it doesn’t taste particularly Italian. Lingers long but ultimately cloys. May improve with age but, for now, it’s as unappetizing as a fruit-bomb Shiraz, a wine you wouldn’t want to serve with anything but a grilled steak, and even then… (Buy again? Nope.)

Rioja Gran Reserva 2004, Prado Enea, Bodegas Muga ($50.25, 11169670)
80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano. 14% abv. Closed nose. Next day: plum, black cherry, hints of leather, dried herbs and quartz, a bit vaporous. Balanced if a bit fruit-forward (cherry/black cherry). Glycerine-like texture. Not bone dry. Tannic astringency surges on the finish. Not particularly deep, at least at this stage. Needs time to transform into, let’s hope, a medium-bodied perfumy charmer. (Buy again? Maybe.)

A surprising and disappointing flight, as I had high expectations for the three European wines, all icons of one sort or another, and thought the Californian Merlot might have people gagging. Instead, the Merlot was far and away the most popular wine, a perfectly drinkable if anonymous red. Shockingly, anonymity was a characteristic of all these wines. The three Europeans didn’t offer up much in the way of varietal specifics and (the Muga excepted to some extent) tasted heavy, sweet, short on acid, high in alcohol, internationalized, geared to a Maryland-based wine reviewer’s palate. The Trévallon, a wine I’ve long been a fan of, was especially unfortunate: smelling and tasting of little but overripe fruit, sugar and alcohol. I was sure it had to be the Californian. Maybe all it needs is ten or 20 years in the bottle, but neither I nor anybody else at the tasting would be willing to take a chance.

The tasting done, the table was piled with an assortment of edibles, highlights of which were an outstanding venison and foie gras pâté en croûte from Boucherie de Paris and the Colli Trevigiani IGT 2007, Verduzzo, Villa di Maser ($23.50, Sublime vins & spiritueux), a powerful yet food-friendly white (bordering on bronze) that went especially well with the various cheeses.

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Written by carswell

December 18, 2011 at 10:13

3 Responses

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  1. […] current line (or most of it). As a group, these wines seemed less diverse than the Pol Roger line tasted through in December of 2011. The overall level was high and everybody enjoyed all the wines. That said, several tasters – […]

  2. […] asked about recent vintages, Guyot (whose contrarian take on 2008 and 2009 has proved spot on) said 2010 produced classic if not marathon wines, 2011 was […]

  3. […] 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 […]


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