Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

Related by marriage

leave a comment »

A historian by training, Grégory Leclerc did stints as a journalist and marketer before falling into the world of natural wine-making. He purchased his four-hectare estate – downsized from the original 6.5 hectares, named Chahut et Prodiges and located in Chargé in the hills near Amboise in the Tourraine – in 2007. He farms organically and makes wines from Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Côt and Grolleau. The land is worked using a tractor, though Leclerc says he may switch to horses at some point. Harvesting is manual. Vinification of the reds involves placing the whole clusters in concrete tanks for two to three weeks with no punch-downs or pump-overs – a form of carbonic maceration, what? Pressing is slow and gentle. The wines are unfined and lightly filtered. No sulphur is added to the reds; a tiny amount is added to the whites at bottling.

Anne Paillet, the owner-winemaker of Autour de l’Anne, 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 her husband’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.

Vin de France 2014, La Mule, Domaine Chahut et Prodiges ($28.74, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from 25- to 30-year-old vines grown on clay and limestone. Matured around nine months in fibreglass tanks. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Funky nose whose many facets include somewhat candied red berries, “forest floor” and burned minerals. Medium-bodied and richly textured: a mouthful of ripe fruit, deep minerals, smooth acidity and wiry yet pliable tannins. Spice and a hint of jalapeño linger. So energetic and so easy to drink – the kind of wine that can make Gamay skeptics reconsider their aversion. (Buy again? Def.)

Vin de France 2014, Les Têtes Noires, Domaine Chahut et Prodigues ($28.74, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Côt (aka Malbec). 11% ABV. Matured in neutral barrels. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Plummier nose complicated by aromas of turned earth and crushed foliage. Medium-bodied, smooth, dry, fluid and long, though not particularly deep. The pure fruit, supple tannins and sleek acidity are in perfect balance. Simple but pleasurable. (Buy again? Yes.)

Vin de France 2015, Pot d’Anne, Autour de l’Anne ($30.47, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The cuvée’s name, which translates as “Anne’s pot,” is a homonym of peau d’âne (donkey skin). 100% Cinsault from 22-year-old vines grown on limestone and red clay. Half the grapes are destemmed, the other half left as whole clusters. Semi-carbonic maceration lasts 12 days. Maturation lasts 12 months. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Plum, dark minerals, spice and, yes, a hint of animal hide. Medium-bodied. The faint spritz on opening disappears moments after pouring. Dried herb notes give the ripe fruit a savoury character. Enlightening acidity and fine tannins provide just enough structure. Long. Northern in weight, southern in savour. High quaffability quotient. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 22nd tasting: flight 4 of 5

Advertisements

Burgundy, (not) Burgundy

leave a comment »

Based in Bonnencontre, Domaine Bonardot is sometimes referred to as Domaine Ludovic Bonnardot to avoid confusion with the Domaine Bonnardot based in Villers-la-Faye. Ludovic has been in charge of the estate since 2005, when he took over from his mother, Élisabeth. She founded the business in 1981 after studying oenology and apprenticing with Jules Chauvet. Over the years, she became interested in more natural approaches to farming and wine-making, an interest Ludovic shares, and it is under his watch that the estate has begun converting to organic. The 15-hectare estate has two operations: centred in Santenay, the wine-growing focuses on Côte de Beaune and Hautes-Côtes de Beaune appellations, while blackcurrants, aspaagus and grains are grown in Bonnencontre.

(That charcuterie, which tasted even better than it looks, came from Phillip Viens.)

Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune 2014, En Cheignot, Domaine Bonnardot ($34.21, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from a relatively high-altitude (440 m) parcel of 40-year-old substantially farmed vines near Orches. The soil is clay and limestone with pebbles and occasional rock outcrops. The grapes were manually harvested and the whole clusters direct-pressed. Spontaneously fermented in temperature-controlled conditions. Underwent spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Matured 12 months in 228-litre, fourth- to sixth-fill oak barrels and a further six months in stainless steel tanks. Clarified naturally, then lightly filtered before bottling with a small amount of sulphur dioxide (the only sulphur added during wine-making). 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Faint lemon and apple, minerals and distant cedary spice. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied, lean and minerally, fresh and balanced. “You get rocks and chalk,” as one taster notes, along with nuances of yellow stone fruit and lemon. Clean, long and complete. A QPR winner, as far as I’m concerned. (Buy again? Def.)

Vin de France 2015, Les Grandes Terres, Ludovic et Émilien Bonnardot ($40.24, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from organically and biodynamically farmed vines in the Santenay-Villages appellation (am unsure why it is declassified). The whole-clusters are spontaneously fermented and pressed when fermentation/maceration are complete. The wine is transferred to oak barrels for 12-18 months’ maturation. This is from Bonnardot’s natural line, so no added anything, including sulphur, and no filtering or fining. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Lovely, complex, fruity nose with an appealing rustic edge: red berries, some spice, a hint of beet and a whiff of turned earth. Rich and velvety (“the texture is very thick”) on the palate, though still medium-bodied. The acidity is smooth, the tannins are round and both are well integrated; in short, everything’s in balance. Finishes long and clean with a lingering tang. While there’s lots happening on the surface, most notably a fruity denseness, you wouldn’t call the wine deep, at least at this stage in its development. And yet your interest is engaged and held. A here-now pleasure. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 22nd tasting: flight 3 of 5

All singing, all dreaming

leave a comment »

Based in Savigny-lès-Beaune, the husband and wife team of Guillaume Bott and Tomoko Kuriyama founded Chanterêves in 2010. Both have a background in wine-growing, with Guillaume having worked at Étienne Sauzet before becoming the winemaker at Domaine Bize and Tomoko having studied oenology in Geisenheim before working at Friedrich Altenkirch in the Rheingau. Although they use only purchased grapes, they have their own wine-making facilities and hope to acquire some plots of vines. Their cellar practices tend to the non-interventionist, with an increasing reliance on whole-cluster fermentations. All fermentations are spontaneous; new oak is limited to the top cuvées and never exceeds 33%; fining is avoided; and sulphur use is minimized.

Bourgogne Blanc 2014, Chanterêves ($34.49, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from organically and biodynamically farmed vines in a plot in the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, just behind Saint-Romain. Fermented and matured one year in older oak barrels. Underwent malolactic fermentation. No stirring. Lightly filtered before bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Fresh-cut apple and chalk with faint honey, oak and ash notes. Medium-bodied. The lemon-apple fruit, fresh acidity and mineral backbone are in prefect balance, providing texture, tension, structure and depth. A hint of caramel lingers. “Centred in the middle of the mouth” per one taster. Delicious. (Buy again? Moot but yes.)

Bourgogne Blanc 2015, Chanterêves ($35.07, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay. Vinification as for the 2014. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
More closed: subtle white flowers, minerals and eventually herbs and lemon fruit and pith. In the mouth, it’s a bit heftier, more minerally and, surprisingly, less fruity than the 2014. The acidity seems ramped up a bit too. While the effects of the hot vintage are apparent, the wine remains balanced and precise. “Centered in the front of the mouth” per the same taster, though I expect that may change as the wine ages, not that I’d recommend keeping it much beyond 2020. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bourgogne Rouge 2014, Chanterêves ($34.49, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from sustainably farmed parcels in Puligny-Montrachet and Paris-l’Hôpital (Maranges). This was Chanterêves’ first whole-cluster, nearly sulphurless cuvée. Given four weeks’ maceration in a wooden tank with no pump-overs but six post-fermentation punch-downs. Matured 10 months in older oak barrels. Racked once before bottling. Unfiltered. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Ça pinote: beet, sawed wood and background graphite gaining “blueberry pie filling” and Christmas spice notes. A light medium-bodied. Ripe but bone dry, leading one taster to describe it as “super lean.” Sleek tannins and acidity structure and enliven the ethereal fruit. The purity, balance and length are exceptional for a generic Burgundy. (Buy again? Moot but yes.)

Bourgogne Rouge 2015 Chanterêves ($35.07, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir. Vinification as for the 2014 except slightly more sulphur dioxide was used at bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Seems less effusive than the 2014: the difference a vintage makes? a year of in the bottle makes? Coaxing brings out red berries, spice and turned earth. On the palate, it’s richer and even more structured, with zingy acid, light but firm tannins and mineral depth. In a phrase, a lovely, lush-leaning Pinot Noir that will probably benefit from a couple of years in the cellar. Opinions were evenly divided as to which of the two reds was preferable. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 22nd tasting: flight 2 of 5

Written by carswell

March 27, 2018 at 12:30

Les élixirs de Xavier

leave a comment »

The Mo’ Wine Group’s second February tasting was led by agent Max Campbell and devoted to private imports represented in Quebec by Deux Caves, one of which caves Max is. We began with three wines from an under-the-radar artisanal vintner whose wines had impressed us back in 2015.

In 2010, Xavier Marchais abandoned his career as a computer engineer and moved to Faye-d’Anjou to begin life as a winemaker. His four hectares of vines (half Chenin, half Cabernet Franc) are farmed biodynamically using a horse and manual labour. Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and other synthetic products are systematically avoided. The wine-making is non-interventionist. For the Elixir cuvées, fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation take place in used barriques. Cellar techniques are pretty much limited to crushing and punching down by foot, manual pressing and racking. No sugar or sulphur are added. The unfiltered and unfined wines are bottled by hand and closed with a crown cap (the still red’s cap reportedly allows more oxygen exchange than the still white’s).

Vin de France 2015, L’Élixir de Jouvence, Xavier Marchais ($32.77, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chenin Blanc grown on schist. Matured 12 months. Crown-capped. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Engaging nose of straw, dried stone fruit, citrus peel and wax. Medium-bodied but full of fruity extract, not to mention a ton of minerals. The acidity is very present. While there’s some depth, this is above all a fresh and unpretentious expression of juicy Chenin goodness. Totally lacks the rebarbative reduction found in the 2013, which Marchais reportedly now attributes to not having realized that the wine hadn’t finished malolactic fermentation when he bottled it, meaning fermentation continued in reductive conditions (which would also explain that wine’s faint fizz). (Buy again? Yes.)

Vin de France, L’Élixir de Longue-Vie, Xavier Marchais ($29.32, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Cabernet Franc grown on schist and spilite. Matured 12 months. Crown-capped. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Exuberant, green-free nose of dusty hard red candy (raspberry, cherry, currant), sandalwood, slate and herbs. Gains a floral note. Both fresh and drying in the mouth. No more than medium-bodied. The pure fruit is quite structured, with wiry tannins and fluent acidity found throughout. A minerally and earthy streak comes to the fore (or, as one taster put it, “there’s this long rooty thing in the middle of the palate”) but the finish is long and clean. A classic easy-drinking Cab Franc. (Buy again? Def.)

Vin de France 2015, L’Élixir Onirique, Xavier Marchais ($33.06, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A red pet-nat (ancestral method sparkler) of Grolleau (70%) and Cabernet Franc (30%). Matured 12 months in barrel, six month in bottle. No dosage (the residual sugar remaining in the bottled wine ferments, producing the carbon dioxide that sparkles the wine). 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
“Cherry cough drops” and “dried violets,” to quote two other tasters. Fine bubbles. Fruity, minerally and yeasty. Not particularly deep but more structured than you might expect, with framing tannins and an almost souring acidity. The sweet-tart finish draws you back for another sip. Vin plaisir, anyone? (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG February 22nd tasting: flight 1 of 5

Weeknight RdD

leave a comment »

Ribera del Duero 2014, Embocadero, Bodega San Pedro Regalado ($16.95, 13396286)
Located in the village of La Aguilera, Bodega San Pedro Regalado is a cooperative founded in 1958. This 100% Tempranillo comes from unirrigated, organically farmed vines, many of them more than 100 years old, rooted in clay, limestone and round stones. Manually harvested. Given five days’ cold maceration. Fermented 12 days with indigenous yeasts in concrete tanks for 12 days. Matured in second- and third-fill oak barrels (70% French Allier, 30% American) for 14 months. Reducing sugar: 2.4 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinicolor.
Red and black fruit (especially cherry), spice (especially black pepper), turned earth, roasted coffee beans and a thin veneer of oak. On the fuller side of medium-bodied. The initially ripe-sweet fruit notwithstanding, a very dry wine with bright acidity and wiry tannins that become more apparent on chewing and linger astringently. Mineral and dark chocolate undertones provide a modicum of depth. The earthy, faintly oaky finish segues into blueberry pie, and the expected alcoholic flare is MIA. Better – more integrated, less oaky – an hour or two after opening. Lamb stew with tomatoes, rosemary and garlic brings out the caramelly oak; grilled lamb probably wouldn’t. Not bad for the price. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

March 21, 2018 at 13:19

Lebanese legend

leave a comment »

Bekaa Valley 2009, Château Musar ($54.75, 13393000)
A blend of nearly equal proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan from organically farmed vines averaging 40 years old and planted in gravelly soil over a limestone base. The vintage was unusual in that the harvest was interrupted by an unprecedented two days of heavy rain in early September; the grapes picked after the deluge were said to be juicier and more perfumed. The varieties were vinified separately. Alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts was slow and took place in temperature-controlled (sub-30°C) concrete vats. Six months later, the wine was transferred to French Nevers oak barrels for one year’s maturation. The monovarietal wines were then blended and transferred to concrete tanks for another 12 months. Finally, the wine was bottled and aged four years in the bottle before being released in 2016, seven years after harvest. Unfiltered and unfined. A small amount of sulphur dioxide was added at bottling. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Complex, enveloping bouquet of roasted plum (“pruney” per another taster though not to my nose), spice, graphite and a whole set of aromas heading into tertiary territory, including baked earth, leather, dried herbs, dried leaves and camphor. Medium- to full-bodied and dry. The sun-ripe fruit is inflected with minerals, minty herbs and old wood and structured by vibrant acidity and shaggy tannins. Though you wouldn’t call it deep, the wine has plenty of ballast. What’s most remarkable, however, is the sensuousness, the fluid savour that lasts through the long finish, and that sui generis combo of Bordeaux-Rhône structure and solar fruit. At peak? If so, it’ll stay there for several years. Maybe not a great Musar but definitely an enjoyable one. (Buy again? Yep.)

Bekaa Valley 2006, Château Musar ($52.75, 13391389)
Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), Cinsault (33%), Samsó (possibly a clone of Cinsault, 17%) and Carignan (16%). The summer was one of the coolest on record, reportedly producing grapes with higher than usual acidity. Wine-making was as for the 2009, with the blending taking place in 2009. Musar releases its wines only when it considers them ready to drink, normally seven years after the vintage, but in this case the estate waited until the spring of 2017. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
A redder-smelling and decidedly tertiary bouquet: raspberry liqueur, “tobacco,” herbs, old wood and leather. Smooth, round, velvety and a notch less weighty than the 2009. Here the brambly fruit definitely has a “pruney” edge. The tannins are approaching full resolution and, while the acidity is present, the wattage is low. The long finish brings a faint cabbage aftertaste. Tasty but also about to leave the plateau and enter the downslope of its life span. Of course, that could just be our bottle, consistency not being one of Musar’s strong points. (Buy again? A bottle for one last fling?)

Revisiting the wines after the tasting was over and everyone else had left only confirmed my earlier impressions. After an hour or so in the glass, the 2009 was alive and kicking while the 2006 seemed increasingly loose-knit, even to the point of beginning to fall apart.

MWG February 8th tasting: flight 5 of 5

Written by carswell

March 20, 2018 at 14:30

Bobal and co.

leave a comment »

Founded in 2005 by the then 23-year-old Juan Antonio Ponce, Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce is the star winery in Spain’s Manchuela region, which lies inland from Valencia. The most widely planted grape variety in the area and in the Ponce family plots is Bobal. As I wrote in 2012, “The vineyards of southeast Spain are rife with Bobal – in 2004, 89,000 ha (220,000 acres) were under cultivation, mainly in Valencia, Alicante and Utiel-Requena – though most of the harvest is made into bulk wine (industrially produced, shipped in tankers, sold anonymously in jugs and boxes). Rightly convinced that the grape deserves a less lowly fate, some winemakers have begun producing blended and monovarietal red and rosé Bobal cuvées. … Bobal’s tolerance of climatic extremes and tendency to produce relatively high acid, low alcohol wines are a boon [in a region whose climate] locals describe as nine months of winter and three months of hell.”

Ponce makes all his red wines in fundamentally the same way. The farming is biodynamic. The grapes, which come from vines up to 75 years old, are hand-harvested. The whole clusters are chilled to 8°C, then placed in open-topped tanks, foot-crushed and fermented with indigenous yeasts for several days, after which the must is transferred to barrels to finish alcoholic fermentation, undergo malolactic fermentation and mature. (The process is known as remango in Rioja, where Ponce worked at Remelluri as Telmo Rodriguez’s assistant for five years.) Made in a rented facility using little mechanization, the wines are bottled unfiltered, unfined and with minimal additions of sulphur dioxide.

Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 2016, Depaula, Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce ($19.25, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Monastrell from 45-year-old vines rooted in calcareous soil in the Jumilla region. Spontaneously fermented in stainless steel tanks. Matured seven months in 600-litre neutral oak barrels. 14% ABV. About 800 cases made. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Straightforward nose: ripe but not jammy black cherry and plum and some background slate. Medium- to full-bodied. Fresh acidity, unassertive tannins The flavours echo the nose and the alcohol isn’t apparent. Simpler than the others but still quite gluggable. Best served lightly chilled, methinks. (Buy again? Sure.)

Manchuela 2016, La Xara, Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce ($21.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Garnacha from vines planted in 1995 and rooted in clayey calcareous soil. Spontaneously fermented in open-top wood tanks. Matured 10 months in large neutral French oak barrels. 13.5% ABV. About 180 cases made. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Perfumed and minerally but also, alas, faintly corked. We could still tell this was a perfumed, minerally take on Grenache, medium-bodied and fluid, with pure, raspberry-leaning fruit, wiry tannins, bright acidity and a peppery finish. (Buy again? One corked bottle does not a bad wine make, so yes.)

Manchuela 2016, La Casilla, Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce ($26.55, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Bobal from vines planted in 1935 and tooted in calcareous soil. Spontaneously fermented in open-top wood tanks. Matured 10 months in 600-litre neutral French oak barrels.. 13% ABV. About 920 cases made. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Nose of “cherry,” “tulip,” plum, graphite and a hint of smoke. Rich and velvety yet also fresh. Built around a core of Chambord-like fruit. The tannins are round, the acidity soft. A mineral substrate gives it some depth. Long. Special. (Buy again? Yes.)

Tasted a few weeks later was the entry-level Bobal, the Manchuela 2016, Clos Lojen, Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce ($19.25, oenopole private import, 12 bottles/case, c. 2,250 cases made), whose grapes come from vines planted in 1965. No notes taken but this is a silky textured, medium-bodied easy-drinker with clean fruit, sprightly acid, slender tannins and a long minerally finish.

Given the wines’ integrity, not to mention their high pleasure quotient and low cost, it’s no wonder restaurateurs snapped them all up in a couple of weeks.

MWG February 8th tasting: flight 4 of 5