Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

About

This Montreal-based blog is mainly a place to park notes from Mo’ Wine Group tastings and other events I attend.

Unless otherwise stated, prices are in Canadian dollars and include applicable sales taxes (currently running around 14% in Quebec).

First-time comments go to moderation.

Price range tags

Tasting notes posted since late 2014 are tagged with price range indicators. Here are the tags and what they mean:

Inexpensive: under $20
Affordable: $20 to $29.99
Mid-priced: $30 to $39.99
Upper mid: $40 to $59.99
Expensive: $60 to $100
Luxury: over $100

The ranges are, of course, arbitrary and subjective. Many people would scoff at calling a $19 bottle inexpensive or a $39 bottle mid-priced. On the other hand, some affluent wine lovers consider $60 wines to be affordable, everyday drinking. In settling on these tags, I’ve tried not to be too untethered from reality but also, in view of the inevitability of price hikes, to future-proof the ranges to some degree in order to avoid having constantly to adjust them. I’ve also tried to avoid tag names that could be interpreted as passing judgment on the product; that’s why it’s “inexpensive” and not “cheap,” “expensive” and not “treat” (not all inexpensive wines taste cheap, not all $75 wines are a treat to drink).

Brett happens?

The name of this blog first appeared in a post I contributed to a Chowhound discussion on how to avoid wines that have been contaminated by Brettanomyces (aka brett):

Brett is a wild yeast, not a condition. Its presence is determined by many factors including weather conditions and winery hygiene. It can affect wines one year and not the next. One way winemakers combat it is with sulphur or sulphur compounds. Not surprisingly, wines with no added sulphur often have a higher rate of brett infection, so you should probably be wary of those. As zin1953 points out, a little brett is not always a bad thing, and certain wineries are prized for their brett-affected wines — Beaucastel and Musar are two sterling examples — so you can steer clear of them (though, please, not without trying them first; like legions of wine lovers, you may find there are some bretty wines you love).

Generally speaking, newer wineries and old wineries with new wine-making facilities tend to have better hygiene. The same holds true for larger “industrial” wineries. So one tactic, perversely, would be to avoid artisanally produced wines; unfortunately, doing so would also mean cutting yourself off from some of the most interesting wines made these days.

Read tasting notes. Query retailers. Google the names of wines you’re considering along with key words like brett, funky, barnyard.

But even then it’s something of a crap shoot. Last year I bought two bottles of a 1999 Gigondas from Château Raspail. The first, opened at a tasting, reeked to high heaven (one taster memorably described it as like a donkey defecating into a vat of blue cheese) though it tasted fine. The second bottle, opened a few weeks later, was clean as a whistle. Same wine, same vintage, same case. Brett happens.

The Mo’ Wine Group

In the fall of 2005, I decided it was bordering on criminal not to be using the fully equipped wine-tasting room I had access to. At the time, the most vibrant online local food-and-drink discussion group was eGullet’s now-moribund Eastern Canada board. Using the board’s personal message system, I sent invitations to 20 or so Montreal-based eGulleters, none of whom I’d met but all of whom had a friendly online persona and had expressed an interest in wine. Ten of us gathered for the first time on December 8, 2005. The group has been meeting ever since.

Tastings are held once or twice a month and focus almost exclusively on wines available at the SAQ or LCBO or through the private import channel, with the occasional importation valise or bottle from someone’s cellar thrown in for comparison. Several times a year, we hold theme tastings (e.g. the Jura, Lustau sherries), tastings with winemakers and tastings at which a wine agency rep presents a selection of the agency’s wares. While the lineup of wines covers a wide range of countries, styles and prices, our tastes tend to Old World “natural” wines and our focus is on bottles in the $20–40 bracket.

In June 2010, after losing a cherished member, Mila Oh, to breast cancer, we decided to rename the group in her honour. As Mila posted on Chowhound under the handle moh, the name suggested itself. And so we have become the Mo’ Wine Group.

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Written by carswell

October 2, 2010 at 15:50