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MWG December 14th tasting (3/4): Four Quebec reds

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Besides bubblies, the December tasting always includes a few off-the-beaten-track wines. This year, they came from Quebec.

Pinot Noir 2010, Venice, Vignoble Carone ($36.00, 11345258*†)
The winery is based in the Lanaudière region, about a hour’s drive north-northeast of Montreal. 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Landot Noir. Manually harvested. 12.5% ABV.
Oak, candied cherry, undergrowth, licorice, spice, faint vinyl. Medium-bodied and silky tannined with good acidity. Oak – in the form of sweet vanilla, coffee and smoke flavours – initially dominates the ripe fruit. Seemed better – by which I mean drier, less manipulated, more natural – on the finish than the entry. Not bad but not typical: no one around the table guessed it was a Pinot Noir. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Double Barrel 2009, Vignoble Carone ($55.00, 11506630†)
92% Cabernet Severnyi, 8% Sangiovese. Manually harvested as late as possible. Manually sorted, destemmed, crushed and given a 24-hour cold soak. Fermented in temperature-controlled tanks using Saccharomyces cerevisae yeast. Matured 12 months in new American oak barrels and four months In new French oak barrels. 14.5% ABV.
Tastes like it smells: ripe red and black fruit, some sweet spice and above all oak. Full-bodied, velvet-textured and richly extracted. Round tannins and sufficient acidity. Not heavy but also not refreshing. Showed oakier, sweeter and more monolithic than the bottle tasted in January 2012, possibly due to that bottle’s having been open for several hours and, with repeated pours, being well aerated. (Buy again? While I’d be curious to see what happens to this, arguably Quebec’s first ageable red, in five years or so, no.)

Solinou 2011, Les Pervenches ($15.00, La QV†, NLA)
Blend of Frontenac, Maréchal Foch and Zweigelt farmed biodynamically near Farnham, about an hour’s drive southeast of Montreal. Like many Beaujolais, made using carbonic maceration. 12.5% ABV.
Fresh, bright, juicy, tart and, unfortunately, corked.

Bin 33, Vignoble Carone ($18.50, 11004550*†)
100% Frontenac. Manually harvested. 13% ABV.
Nose of red fruit and, of course, sweet oak along with hints of mineral and turned earth. The flavour profile includes crushed strawberry and not much else. Guessing here but the acid levels seem low and the residual sugar levels, well, not so low. Sweet-tart finish. Little depth or charm. (Buy again? No.)

*Also sold at the Marché des Saveurs (Jean-Talon Market).
Also sold at the winery.

As usual, the wines were served double-blind. Initial guesses as to their place of origin ranged wide and were limited to warm-climate regions: Australia, Greece, California, Mexico, South Africa, etc. Some guessed the first two were Shirazes. As a group, the Carone wines came across as designed to impress, albeit not in ways we found appealing. They also seemed to lack a sense of place (unidentifiable expression of terroir, cool climate, grape variety), to be wines made in the winery more than in the vineyard. The model appears to be New World; that would explain the bin reference, the big fruit, the heavy oak regime and the “I can’t believe it’s not Syrah” Pinot Noir (like some from California’s Santa Rita Hills). Whatever you think of the style, the winery is to be applauded for marching to its own beat, for pushing the envelope: what other Quebec winemaker is producing reds from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese, wines that can be mistaken for Australian Shirazes? That its wines are antithetical to the MWG’s collective palate (as we’ve explained, “our tastes tend to Old World ‘natural’ wines”) and strike many of us as overpriced is irrelevant. Consumers will determine whether there’s a market for blockbuster Quebec reds or whether wines like Les Pervenches’s eminently quaffable Solinou are the way forward. My money’s on the latter.

Written by carswell

January 14, 2013 at 11:15

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