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MWG October 3rd tasting (5/7): A trio of quaffable reds

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Alsace 2011, Pinot Noir, Fronenberg, Domaine Hausherr ($38.00, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
Fronenberg is a lieu-dit. This small (4 ha) estate is based in Eguisheim. Until 2000, they sold their grapes to the cooperative. Today, the man and wife team make around a dozen natural wines by themselves, with outside help only for the harvest. Their wines are certified organic, uncertified biodynamic. They work the vineyards with a horse (to avoid compacting the soil), use a manual press (slow and gentle, with minimal extraction from the stems and pips), skip the common step of débourbage (clarifying the must before fermentation by letting particulate matter settle out). The whites are field blends but this is a 100% Pinot Noir. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Bottled unfined and unfiltered (the whites are lightly filtered). No added sulphur. 13.5% ABV.
Engaging nose of candied raspberry, crushed cedar leaves, spice and old oak. Medium-bodied, exuberantly fruity, tingling with acid, rooted in old wood and slate. Long juicy finish. So drinkable and delicious. A favourite of just about everybody around the table. Several tasters said they planned to buy a bottle despite the high price. No doubt the whimsical label, a cartoon wine-making equation, helped convince them. (Buy again? Yes, despite the high price.)

Chiroubles 2012, Damien Coquelet ($28.75, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
Now in his mid-20s, Coquelet is the stepson of renowned natural Beaujolais producer Georges Descombes. He began working in the family’s vineyards and cellars when he was five and has been making his own wines since 2007. Besides this cuvée, he produces an old-vine Chiroubles, a Morgon, a Beaujolais-Villages and the wildly popular, semi-nouveau Fou du Beaujo. This 100% Gamay is made from organically farmed, manually harvested grapes. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Depending on the vintage, no or minimal sulphur is used. Coquelet typically bottles his cru wines a year before his stepfather, which makes them fruitier and juicier. 12% ABV.
Your classic natural Beaujolais nose: berries and cherry, barnyard, graphite, vine sap. Supple and pure, fruity but not too sweet, with lifting acidity and good length. A shade lighter and less compelling than in recent earlier vintages but still full of that silky Chiroubles charm. (Buy again? Sure.)

IGP Pays d’Urfé 2011, Les Bonichons, Domaine de la Perrière ($27.00, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
Owned by self-styled artisan-viniculteur Philippe Peulet, Domaine de la Perrière is located in the commune of Ambierle, in the upper reaches of the Loire on the northern edge of the Massif Central, about ten kilometres northwest of Roanne. The grapes for this 100% Gamay come from organically farmed vines between 15 and 50 years of age and grown in the Bonichons vineyard, whose deep sand soil is rich in quartz. The grapes are manually harvested and destemmed or not, depending on the vintage. The wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts. 12.5% ABV.
Initial reductive aromas blew off leaving a dark, almost meaty nose of slate, coal, smoke and tamari. Lighter and fruitier than expected in the mouth. Good balance between the juicy fruit, bright acidity, light tannins and general earthiness. Minerallier and grittier than the Chiroubles but with a definite rustic appeal. Cries out for some charcuterie. At $20 this vin de soif would be a no-brainer; at $27, it’s still worth considering, especially as the winemaker says it improves with a little bottle age. (Buy again? Yes, a bottle or two.)

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Written by carswell

October 14, 2013 at 13:40

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