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Descombes fils vs. Thévenet fils

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Kewin “Kéké” Descombes is the son of renowned winemaker Georges Descombes and half-brother of Damien Coquelet. He made his first wine under his own name in 2013, when he was 21. His approach is similar to his father’s (organic farming, semi-carbonic maceration, indigenous yeasts, minimal or no sulphur). The wines appear to be popular in Japan. The three we tasted are currently sold out in Quebec though a second shipment is expected this spring.

Son of Jean-Paul Thévenet, one of the “Gang of Four” winemakers who spearheaded the natural Beaujolais movement, young Charly Thévenet worked at his father’s and Marcel Lapierre’s wineries before acquiring a parcel of old Gamy vines in Régnié. His first vintage was the 2007.

Beaujolais Villages 2014, Cuvée Kéké, Kewin Descombes ($25.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from organically farmed vines grown in sandy soil in a 1.2-hectare vineyard in the commune of Corcelles. Fermentation lasted 15 days. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux caves.
Textbook Beaujo nose: red berries, vine sap, earth, hints of game and iodine. Clean and quite dry. Light-bodied and not particularly deep – true to type, wot? – but wonderfully pure. The ripe fruit is laced with slate and stems. Fluent acidity keeps things fresh and adds a tang to the finish that calls you back for another sip. (Buy again? Sure.)

Morgon 2014, Jeunes Vignes, Kewin Descombes ($27.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from organically farmed vines. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux caves.
Funky nose (the wine should have been carafed) of barnyard and burnt match but also red berries, peony and umami. Denser and fruitier than the Kéké. Very clean and dry with a stemmy structure, nipping acidity and a long granitic finish. Good now and probably even better in a year or three. For many around the table, the sweet spot in the KD line-up. (Buy again? Yes.)

Morgon 2013, Vieilles Vignes, Kewin Descombes ($36.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from organically farmed vines. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux caves.
Closed and darker nose of red and black berries and slate with violet and kirsch overtones and a hint of caramel. Weighty and somewhat monolithic in the mouth. The components – including firm tannins – are all there but only just beginning to integrate. Struggling to find a descriptor of the flavour, I ended up with sukiyaki – a reference to the wine’s meatiness and umaminess. As broad, deep and long as it is inscrutable, this divided the table, with some calling it over-ambitious and others feeling it needs time. I’m in the latter camp, as I found the wine stylistically similar to the Morgons of Descombes père, which often require five or more years to coalesce and uncoil. (Buy again? A bottle or two for the cellar.)

Régnié 2014, Grain et Granit, Charly Thévenet ($35.00, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
100% Gamay from 80-year-old biodynamically farmed vines grown in a 3 ha vineyard with granite soil. The grapes are manually harvested as late as possible and aggressively sorted, the idea being to have very ripe and impeccably clean fruit. The clusters are fermented whole with indigenous yeasts. The wine is matured on its lees in neutral Burgundy barrels. No filtering or fining. Use of sulphur dioxide is kept to a minimum. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux caves.
Gorgeous wafting nose of wild strawberries, foliage, slate and peony. Medium-bodied. Pure, bright fruit and a little sap, silky tannins, fresh acidity and a fine mineral backbone. Earthy depth and a hint of herbaceousness are there if you force yourself to stop obsessing over the fruit and look for them. Long, balanced and abuzz with energy. (Buy again? Done!)

MWG February 11th tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

March 1, 2016 at 00:46

L’autour d’Anne Paillet

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Anne Paillet is married to Greg Leclerc. In 2010, she decided to abandon her corporate career and become a natural winemaker. Wanting to make wines different from Leclerc’s, she has leased 2.5 hectares of biodynamically farmed vines from Languedoc winemaker Christophe Beau (Domaine Beauthorey in the Pic Saint-Loup region). Harvesting is manual and the grapes are vinified naturally, in concrete tanks with no added anything, in the Languedoc. Wanting to make wines different from your everyday Languedocs, she transports the just-fermented juice to Leclerc’s cellars in the Loire for malolactic fermentation, maturation, blending and bottling with no fining, filtering or added sulphur.

Depending on the date on which the wine leaves the Languedoc, it is labelled Coteaux du Languedoc or Vin de France. To avoid red tape and confusion, Paillet is reportedly planning to opt exclusively for the Vin de France designation in future vintages.

Coteaux du Languedoc 2013, C.S.G., Autour de l’Anne ($27.71, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Syrah and Grenache with a little Cinsault thrown in. The 40- to 60-yar-old vines are rooted in limestone and red clay. The grapes are vinified separately in tanks, with alcoholic fermentation typically lasting 12 to 14 days. Maturation in concrete tanks lasts 12 months. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Engaging nose of red and black fruit with hints of spice and faint burnt rubber. Medium-bodied, dry and savoury, with clean fruit and bright acidity. Fundamentally fluid and supple though not lacking tannic grit. The finish is long and minerally. As Loire-ish and it is Languedoc-ish, this is a wonderfully drinkable wine. What’s more, a few bottles remain available. (Buy again? Done!)

Coteaux du Languedoc 2013, Pot d’Anne, Autour de l’Anne ($55.47/1500 ml, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
The cuvée’s name, which translates as “Anne’s pot,” is a homonym of peau d’âne (donkey skin). 100% Cinsault from 20-year-old vines grown on limestone and red clay. Half the grapes are destemmed, the other half left as whole clusters. Semi-carbonic maceration in concrete tanks lasts 12 days. Maturation in concrete tanks lasts 12 months. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Pretty, perfumy nose of red and black fruit, including berries, overtoned with flowers, sawed wood and spice. Barely medium-bodied. The lightly juicy fruit is fresh and fluid, structured by supple tannins. Finishes long and clean. So, so drinkable. (Buy again? Moot but yes.)

At the second tasting, someone asked why the wines were so Loire-like. Could the fact that they were fermented with native yeasts explain it? Probably not, as the wines didn’t leave the Languedoc until alcoholic fermentation was completed. On the other hand, malolactic fermentation took place in the Loire, so indigenous bacteria could be a factor (though wouldn’t the wines also bring some Languedoc microflora with them?). To my mind, Max Campbell’s theory that the difference is due to the cooler temperatures of the Loire cellars seems more realistic.

As mentioned earlier, both tastings were followed by a light meal of salads, charcuterie and cheese. As the tail ends of the Deux Caves bottles were insufficient to slake the collective thirst, a few other wines were uncorked (gratitude to all who supplied them). I stopped taking notes at that point but wanted to mention four in passing.

Damien Coquelet’s Beaujolais-Villages “Fou du Beaujo” has long been a Mo’ Wine Group favourite. At the second tasting, the 2012 ($22.43, private import, La QV/Insolite, NLA) and 2014 ($19.20, 12604080) were served side by side. The 2012 was a thing of beauty: vibrant, fruity, sappy, fluid, lip-smacking. The 2014 seemed a little harder and less smiling, though whether that’s a function of the vintage, the age, this particular bottle or the filtering and/or sulphuring possibly required by the SAQ is anybody’s guess.

The Valle del Maule 2014, Pipeño, Collection Rézin, Louis-Antoine Luyt ($18.15, 12511887) is a lovable, natural Chilean wine made entirely using purchased País grapes from organcially farmed vines about a century and a half old. (Luyt buys the grapes – at fair trade prices – from his pickers, one of whose photograph appears on the label.) Fragrant and fruity, ripe and juicy, light and fresh, with frisky acidity, very soft tannins, a disarming rusticity and a quaffability quotient that’s off the charts. I’ve drunk more of this wine than any other this year and it was interesting to hear others who were just discovering it planning to buy cases the next time it rolls around.

The 2001 Château Coutet is a classic Barsac that’s showing beautifully. Rich but not heavy (good acidity), sweet but not saccharine. The complex flavours and aromatics are dominated by stone fruit and botrytis. The finish lasts for minutes. A deluxe end to a most enjoyable evening.

MWG September 27th tastings: flight 3 of 3

Lastly, here’s a link to another, much less tardy report on the tasting – one from which some of the earlier-cited technical information about Xavier Marchais comes – that was posted on the Quebec-based wine discussion board Fou du vin by a new and welcome addition to the Mo’ Wine Group. Du beau travail, Raisin Breton !

MWG November 11th tasting: Gamay or not Gamay

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St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil 2013, L’Hurluberlu, Sébastien David ($24.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% organically and biodynamically farmed Cabernet Franc. Manually harvested, fermented with indigenous yeasts. Vinified Beaujolais style – using carbonic maceration – and given a very short maturation in tanks, with bottling occurring early in the new year following harvest. Unfiltered. No added sulphur. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Ferny, slatey, plummy, red-berried nose that eventually gave up some whiffs of jalapeño. Pure, clean fruit, bright but not harsh acidity and soft tannins that turn a little raspy on the tangy finish. “Surprising depth for such a light wine,” noted one taster. “Like health juice,” said another. Served lightly chilled or even cooler, this is irresistibly drinkable. (Buy again? A bit pricey for such an easy-drinker but yes, in multiples.)

Côtes du Forez 2013, La Volcanique, Cave Verdier-Logel ($21.06, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Based in Marcilly-le-Châtel, the certified organic 17-hectare estate grows Gamay and a little Pinot Gris and Viognier. This cuvée is 100% Gamay from old vines rooted in basalt soil. Manually harvested. Macerated 15 days at around 19°C. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Lightly filtered (earth filters) before bottling. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Lovely nose: cedar, plum, dark minerals and papier d’arménie. Supple, dry and medium-bodied. The combination of rocky minerals, lean fruit, trenchant acidity, light but sinewy tannins and earthy finish give the wine a rustic appeal that its Beaujo counterparts lack. Seems to cry out for some charcuterie (the winemaker also suggests pot au feu and rabbit stew). Understandably a hit with many around the table. (Buy again? For sure.)

The estate first impinged on my consciousness at the Salon des vins d’importation privée, where I tasted the Vin de France 2012, Les FMR, Gamay, Cave Verdier-Logel ($19.00, La QV/Insolte, 12 bottles/case). This one-off 100% Gamay cuvée was made from sustainably farmed Côteaux Lyonnais grapes that neighbouring winegrowers donated to the estate to replace the crop it lost to hail (in French, FMR sounds like éphémère, ephemeral). Though I didn’t taste the wines side by side, this struck me as a slightly lighter version of the Volcanique and, at under $20, definitely worth buying.

Chiroubles 2013, Damien Coquelet ($32.25, private import, 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. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Classic Chiroubles: perfumy, supple, silky and bright but, like the other 2013 Beaujolais I’ve tried, a little on the light side – or so it seemed coming on the heels of the other two wines in this flight. That said, the mix of tart red berries, vine sap, graphite, black pepper and hints of flowers and animale is magnetic. (Buy again? Sure.)

(Flight: 7/9)

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.)

Written by carswell

October 14, 2013 at 13:40

Fou des Fous

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Damien Coquelet has Beaujolais in his veins. 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, when he was 20. His juicy Morgons, more immediately accessible than his stepfather’s, and silky Chiroubles are well-nigh irresistible and his Beaujolais-Villages can stand comparison with the best.

Three years ago, Coquelet was visiting La QV, the agency that respresents him here in Quebec, when he flipped over some organic charcuterie made by Fou du Cochon in La Pocatière. A summit of artisans ensued and, shepherded by La QV’s head honcho, Cyril Kérébel, the idea for Fou du Beaujo was born: an easy-drinking vin de soif, the kind of wine we all wish Beaujolais nouveau would be, designed expressly to go with saucissons and terrines. After experiencing both Fous together at Foodlab last night, I can confirm it’s a marriage made in heaven.

The first Fou du Beaujo vintage, the 2009, and maybe the second were sold exclusively in Quebec. But good things are hard to keep a lid on and the wine is now also found in Japan, Germany and, reportedly, select bistros in France. Rumours are also circulating of an impending arrival in the U.S.

Beaujolais 2011, Fou du Beaujo, Damien Coquelet ($19.25, La QV, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of organically farmed Gamay from several Coquelet parcels (all in Morgon in 2010). Fermented with native yeasts. Like Beaujolais nouveau, it undergoes semi-carbonic maceration. Unlike Beaujolais nouveau, it is overwintered in concrete vats before being bottled in May or June with no filtering, fining or added sulphur. 12.5% ABV.
The dictionary definition of natural Beaujolais could have this as its illustration. Red and black berries and maybe some violets over an earthy/slatey bass note. A whiff of barnyardy funk quickly blows off (carafe the wine for half an hour if that sort of thing bothers you). Light-bodied and fluid with ripe, tangy fruit, a faint tannic rasp, fat-cutting acidity and a hint of something darker and more minerally in the background. Ends on a tart, vine-sappy note that has you lifting the glass for another mouthful. Serve lightly chilled.

Written by carswell

November 16, 2012 at 15:49