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MWG February 13th tasting (2/5): Hushed awe

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Domaine Comte Abbatucci’s three flagship wines are grouped under the Cuvée Collection banner. All are blends of little known and, in some cases, nearly extinct Corsican grape varieties with less uncommon varieties like Vermetinu. Each is named after one of the family’s ancestors. The estate has also begun making two mid-range monovarietal wines, one white and one red, both from obscure varieties. As none of the wines qualify for AOC status, all bear the vin de table designation, meaning neither the vintage nor the constituent grape varieties can be mentioned on the label (Abbatucci stamps the vintage on the cork, which is how we knew our bottles were 2011s).

Vin de table (2011), BR, Domaine Comte Abbatucci ($51.00, 11930123)
100% biodynamically and organically farmed Barbarossa, a red-skinned grape variety here given the blanc de noirs treatment. The first vines were planted in the 1960s. The grapes are manually harvested and pressed immediately after picking. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and matured in stainless steel tanks. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. 2,000 bottles made. 13% ABV.
Initially reticent but eventually deep. Minerally and floral with hint of lemoncello and a faint herby overtone, like maquis or hops. Round yet very fresh in the mouth, the fruit structured by a crystalline minerality and enlightened by acidity. A faint, pleasing bitterness threads through the long finish. Breathtakingly pure and pristine, not to mention unique. (Buy again? Gladly.)

Vin de table (2011), Il Cavalière Diplomate de l’Empire, Domaine Comte Abbatucci ($64.00, 11930191)
A blend of biodynamically and organically farmed Vermentinu (c. 40%) with lesser amounts of Rossola Bianca (aka Ugni Blanc aka Trebbiano), Biancu Gentile, Genovèse and possibly Brustiano (aka Vermentino?!) from vines averaging 50 years of age. Manually harvested. Slow fermentation with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. The fermented must is transferred to 600-litre used oak barrels for 12 months’ maturation. Unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. 1,500 bottles made. Named after Don Jacques Pascal Abbatucci (1765-1851), a childhood friend of Napoleon who served as an Imperial diplomat in Naples and fought at Waterloo.
Complex, nuanced nose of lemon, baked apple, maquis, fennel and wax, among other things. Slightly less dry than the BR. Dense and full, verging on lush but in no way flabby. On the contrary, there’s an enthralling tension and impeccable balance. Minerally and savoury with sweeter hints of stone fruit and a bitter undertow. Long, multifaceted, complete. The kind of wine that sticks in your memory for days. Arguably deserving of a place alongside France’s best whites. As a food pairing, the estate suggests simply prepared lobster seasoned only with a drizzle of fine olive oil. (Buy again? If the budget permits, yes, because, believe it or not, the wine’s if anything underpriced.)

The sketchiness of my notes is due partly to the wines’ being hard to describe; it’s a challenge to pin down what makes them so special. Also, the hushed awe that fell over the table when the first sniffs and sips were taken was soon broken by a distracting burst of comment and discussion, all of it positive. Several tasters expressed astonishment that wines of such quality and refinement could come from Corsica. Even the group’s resident white wine skeptic acknowledged their appeal and took second pours. Tellingly, both bottles were drained on the spot.

Given the tiny quantities produced, it’s surprising that the wines are even available in Quebec, let alone at the SAQ. They arrived at the Signature stores last fall and, though I wanted to include them in a tasting, the opportunity didn’t present itself and I’d assumed they were all gone. Fast-forward to early February, when Kermit Lynch’s monthly mailer showed up in my inbox with four 2012 Abbatuccis on page one. What struck me was the price: the three Collection wines were going for US$98 a bottle. Wondering whether I’d misremembered the SAQ price, I went to SAQ.com, which now lists products no longer in stock. Not only were the prices for the 2011s up to 40% cheaper in Quebec, there were still bottles of the BR, the CN (more on which anon) and one of the Collection whites available for purchase.

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Written by carswell

February 27, 2014 at 10:02

One Response

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  1. […] in question is Abbatucci’s 2011 BR, which awed the group at a tasting in February 2014. My note at the […]

    Math problem | Brett happens

    September 6, 2015 at 12:12


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