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All wine, most of the time

Collio rodeo II

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Collio 2010, Jakot, Franco Terpin ($45.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Franco Terpin created his eponymous estate in San Floriano del Collio in 1994. Today he farms 12 hectares on both sides of the Italian-Slovenian border. The estate makes three lines of wines; this is from the mid-range Terpin line. 100% Friulano (formerly called Tokaj, which, spelled backwards, is the cuvée’s name) from organically farmed 60-year-old vines rooted in ponka (poor, stony, friable marl and sandstone). Manually harvested. Destemmed. Macerated and spontaneously fermented 10 days in stainless steel. Matured two months in French oak barriques, 18 months in large oak barrels and one year in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Hazy orange, just a tad paler than the Organic Anarchy. Savoury nose of yellow fruit, “eggplant,” old wood and faint honey. Dense but not heavy in the mouth and very dry. Dried stone fruit and orange are layered with spice and cookie flavours. Fluent acidity keeps things lively while ghostly tannins add texture. Blond tobacco joins the persistent fruit on the long, saline finish. Such an appetizing wine! (Buy again? Yes, especially to pair with fish and cheese.)

 

Collio 2011, Ribolla Gialla, La Castellada ($53.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in the mid-1950s, the estate is located in Oslavia in the Gorizia hills close to the Slovenian border. 100% Ribolla Gialla. The organically farmed vines average 35 years old. Spontaneous fermentation with 60 days’ maceration. Spent one year in stainless steel, two years in Slavonian oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Coppery orange with salmon glints: definitely an orange wine. Subdued nose with faint honey overtones and, eventually, stone fruit and minerals. Smooth and elegant on the palate. Subtle layers of flavour (dried apricot, minerals, faint vanilla). Sleek acidity banishes any notion of heaviness. A cheese note surfaces on the long finish. Tasty and satisfying. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 5 of 9

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Written by carswell

November 29, 2017 at 12:16

Orange anarchy

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Based in Šentjur, in eastern Slovenia, about 20 km northwest of Zagreb, Aci Urbajs became interested in wine-making in 1969 when, as a boy, he worked in a vineyard his parents had acquired. In 1987, he received, as a present for graduating from university, a small vineyard on the Rifnik hill, where unearthed Roman artifacts pointed to a long wine-making tradition on the site. A disciple of organic farming from early on, he was soon attracted to biodynamics and joined the Slovenian Demeter association in 1999. In the cellar, his approach is resolutely minimalist: spontaneous fermentation, no racking, no filtering, no fining. Two lines of wines are made: one with a small amount of added sulphur (20 to 30 g/l vs. the allowed 250 g/l), the other a “natural” line with no added sulphur. Chardonnay, Kerner, Pinot Gris, Welschriesling, Blaufränkisch and Pinot Noir are grown. Production is tiny, only a few thousand bottles a year.

Posavje 2012, Organic Anarchy, Aci Urbajs ($59.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Chardonnay, Kerner and Laški Rizling (“Italian Riesling” aka Welschriesling) from vines planted in 1988 and rooted in marble-rich soil. Two weeks’ maceration on the skins. Fermented in open barrels using indigenous yeasts. Matured one year. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. Vegan-friendly. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy orange. Surprising, evolving nose: spicy, “kind of soapy,” “lit cigar,” dried orange peel and a hint of honey, among other things. Medium-bodied. Surprisingly fresh and vibrant for a five-year-old orange wine. The mineral-dusted fruit (stone fruit mainly) is almost sweet and yet so savoury. A hint of botrytis only increases the already complex set of flavours and aromas. Bright tingly acidity and a tannic rasp turn the silky texture a little raw-silky. The long finish is marked by pepper and nut notes. The way the wine evolved in the glass suggests carafing an hour or two beforehand may be a good idea. Very impressive. I look forward to encounters with Urbajs’s other wines. (Buy again? The high price notwithstanding, yes, a bottle to savour at leisure.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 4 of 9

Orange crush

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Located in Šempas in the western Vipava valley, about 20 kilometres east of Gorizia on the Italian border, the family-run Batič estate can trace its roots back to the late 16th century. It is known locally for its organically grown fruits and increasingly for its wines made from local and international varieties.

Primorska 2015, Zaria, Batič ($44.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Pinela (55%), Zelen (20%) Rebula (aka Ribolla Gialla, 5%), Vitovska (3%), Rumeni Mušat (aka Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, 2%) and Chardonnay (1%) from biodynamically farmed vines planted in 1982 and rooted in marl soil of the Zaria vineyard. Manually harvested. Spontaneous co-fermentation on the skins in non-temperature-controlled open vats. Matured in Solvenian oak barrels. Unfiltered, unfined. No added sulphur. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy orange-bronze. A whiff of volatile acidity gives way to white spice, “cake,” yeast, minerals, peach and orange aromas. Lighter-bodied than expected (based on the appearance and nose) yet also very present. Complex and intensely flavoured with fruit, spice and minerals vying for attention. Light tannins and bright acidity give it some bite. The long, saline finish brings a hint of nuttiness and “lingering tortillas.” Characterful, engaging, satisfying, food-friendly and relatively affordable: what’s not to like? (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 3 of 9

Written by carswell

November 27, 2017 at 13:13

Primo Malvasia

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Uroš Klabjan’s eponymous estate is located on the Istrian peninsula in Slovenia just south of the Italian border and three kilometres inland from the Gulf of Trieste. The around 10 hectares of vineyards are devoted mainly to indigenous varieties, primarily Malvasia and Refosco. Most of the vines are several decades old though one plot of ungrafted Malvasia is well past the 100-year mark. The estate is certified organic and the wine-making practices are traditional and non-interventionist. Annual production is typically in the 30,000-bottle range.

Primorska 2013, Malvazija Maceracija, Klabjan ($53.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
As far as I can tell, Klabjan makes two Malvasias: the fresh and easy-going white label and this, the more savoury and complex black label. 100% Malvasia from dry-farmed old vines. Manually harvested. Macerated 10 days on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured 30 months on the lees in oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur (total sulphites: 35 mg/l). Vegan-friendly. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy straw-bronze. Inexhaustibly protean nose of orange, apple, apricot, “rye whisky” and hints of vanilla and smoke that eventually heads into earthy mushroom territory. Smooth textured and possessed of a certain weight, layered and enveloping. The complex set of flavours echoes the nose and adds lees and minerals. Luminous acidity throws it all in relief, a effect sustained through the very long finish. Perfectly accessible now but also capable of ageing for years. Vibrant and engaging, this spellbinding wine was a favourite of just about everyone around the table. Despite the high price, we would have taken a couple of cases had any been available. (Buy again? Gladly. And I’ll make a beeline for any Klabjan wines I run across in the future.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 2 of 9

Written by carswell

November 25, 2017 at 11:49

Collio rodeo

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For its October agency tasting, the Mo’ Wine Group welcomed the personable Vadim Fonta, whose currently nameless wine agency – unofficially Agence sans nom – is usually referred to by his name. A couple of years ago, Vadim gave up a career in finance for one in wine, a field he felt far more passionate about. His primary focus is on a niche not particularly well represented in Quebec: organic, biodynamic and natural wines from Slovenia, the Balkans and eastern Europe as well as Italy, especially the northeast.

Once again the wines weren’t exactly in flights, though I’ve arranged them into such for reporting purposes.

Collio 2015, Bianco, Edi Keber ($40.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The estate, which has 10 hectares of vineyards, is located a short distance from the Slovenian border. The family has been making wines for more than three centuries though Keber’s first bottled vintage was 1957. This, the only wine it makes, is a blend of Friulano (aka Sauvignon Vert, usually around 70%), Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla from organically farmed vines averaging 40 years old and rooted in “ponka” – poor, stony, friable marl – soil. Manually harvested. Direct pressed (no skin contact). Fermentation in stainless steel tanks with selected, non-aromatic yeasts lasts three to four weeks. Matured one year in concrete tanks except for 20% of the Friulano, which spent six months in neutral tonneaux. Clarified by settling and fining with bentonite. Total production: 60,000 bottles. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
A bit reductive on opening, then dried lemon and limestone with some Sauvignon Blanc overtones. Rich and dense – not heavy – in the mouth. So clean and pure. Layers of yellow fruit (apple, peach), minerals, spice (anise), “almond blossom” and more make for an engagingly complex palate. Gleaming acidity keeps things fresh. The finish is long and bitter-edged, with herbal notes chiming in toward the end. (Buy again? Yes.)

Collio 2011, Bianco, La Castellada ($53.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in the mid-1950s, the estate is located in Oslavia in the Gorizia hills close to the Slovenian border. A blend of Pinot Grigio (50%), Chardonnay and Malvasia from organically farmed vines averaging 35 years old rooted in ponka (see above). The Pinot Gris was direct pressed; the Chardonnay and Malvasia were macerated on the skins for four days. Spontaneous fermentation. Matured one year in stainless steel, one year in 200-litre Slavonian oak barrels, one year in neutral oak barrels and one year in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Upfront minerals (including, per another taster, “plaster dust”) along with yellow tropical fruits and a shot of creamy vanilla. Richer and more honeyed than the Keber yet also “very savoury.” Great breadth, depth and length. The complex of fruit and minerals is sweetened by oak, lightly soured by acidity and complicated by a light but pervasive bitterness. Several tasters found this a little too rich and oaky, though nearly all conceded they might feel differently if it were served with a fancy seafood dish. (Buy again? A bottle for experimenting with food pairings.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 1 of 9

Written by carswell

November 21, 2017 at 12:50

Tripel header

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New Lang Syne 2017, Extra Strong Beer, Beau’s (MSRP: $16.00)
A limited-release Belgian-style Tripel, number 59 in the brewery’s Wild Oats series. Ingredients: local spring water, organic barley malts (Pilsner, acidulated, carafoam), organic cane sugar, organic hops (Strisselspalt, perle, magnum), yeast. A portion was brewed during the summer and aged in Pinot Gris barrels for four months. In the fall, the aged ale was blended with freshly brewed batches. Initial fermentation was with Belgian strong ale yeast; champagne yeast was added on bottling to create natural carbonation. 9% ABV. IBUs: 33. Original gravity: 19° P. Final gravity: 3.4° P.

Impressive packaging: a sleek, heavy bottle with bold, multi-coloured lettering, a long neck runner that bears the vintage, a champagne cork and cage and a tag listing, among other things, the batch and bottle number and the bottling date. My sample – no. 3395 from batch no. 6479 – was bottled on August 28, 2017. I tasted the beer with two friends, one of whom is a serious amateur brewer and has done a tour of Belgian breweries for a national magazine.

Hazy amber-bronze in the glass, with ample, long-lasting, rocky white foam (“can’t believe the head,” notes the brewer).

Appealing, complex nose: spicy and malty with notes of apple, butterscotch, “coriander seed” and wheat berries. “You get the esters but they’re spicy, not banana,” though a touch of dried banana does eventually appear.

The first sip prompts an “Oh, that’s nice” and indeed it is. So smooth and creamy (“the texture may be the most remarkable thing about it”) yet also deeply hoppy. There’s great complexity of flavour, an almost fruity (“pineapple juice”) maltiness and an undercurrent of sourish acidity. The hops kick in on mid-palate and make their presence felt, even to the point where one of the other tasters says the “bitterness masks so much.” A woody “barrel character” – a faint smoky overtone – appears on appears on the transition to the finish but there’s no clear line between where the bitterness stops and the tannins start. Finishes long with “prickly bitters, especially on the aftertaste.”

The bottom line: a fine, imposing, gastronomic ale that, while enjoyable now (provided you’re not allergic to hops), will surely benefit from spending a few months to a couple of years in a cool, dark place. (Buy again? “Yes.” “A bottle or two to cellar.” For sure.)

What would you serve with it? Cheese. “Fried chicken and cornbread.” I also like the brewery’s suggestion of blackened salmon. Oddly enough, a piece of dark chocolate studded with toffee malt followed by a swig of the ale didn’t clash and completely tamed the hoppiness, so maybe Beau’s suggested pairing of pineapple upside-down cake isn’t as off the mark as it seems.

Released on November 9, 2017. A number of stores in Montreal and Quebec stock Beau’s products (see map) and some are reportedly carrying the New Lang Syne.

Disclaimer: The brewery provided this sample for review purposes with the understanding that I would be free to critique it however I saw fit.

Update (2017-11-27): After some searching and reaching out to Beau’s, I finally found bottles at Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec (Jean Talon Market) and at Dépanneur Peluso Beaubien (though oddly not at the original Rachel Street Peluso), where it goes for a heafty $19.99 a bottle.

Written by carswell

November 20, 2017 at 10:17

Northern exposure

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Terre Siciliane 2015, Versante Nord, Eduardo Torres Acosta ($35.00, 13387380)
Nerello Mascalese with 20% other varieties, including Nerello Capuccio and possibly Alicante Bouschet and Grenache from vines in two co-planted parcels (Pietramarina and Crasa, totalling 1.5 ha) at 550 to 750 metres in elevation on the north-facing side of Mount Etna, hence the bottling’s name. The vines average 45 to 50 years old, with the oldest being about 80. The manually harvested grapes were transported to Arianna Occhipinti’s winery in Vittoria. Some clusters were destemmed, others left whole. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and macerated on the skins for 15 days in a cement tank with no temperature control. Matured 16 months in 750-litre Slavonian oak botti. Minimally sulphured. The 2015 is the second vintage of the wine. Total production: 6,000 bottles. 13.5% ABV per the label, 12% ABV per the SAQ. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The expected cherry and plum plus cedar, blood and stone. No more than medium-bodied. Structured by silky acidity and gossamer tannins, the fruit seems shot through with minerals. The sustained finish brings a light astringency and a dusty aftertaste. So pure and savoury, so effortlessly complex. A pleasure to drink. (Buy again? Yes.)

Terre Siciliane 2015, Pirrera, Eduardo Torres Acosta ($59.00, 13387371)
The blend is similar to the Versante Nord but with 90% Nerello Mascalese. All grapes come from the high-altitude (850 metres) Pirrera vineyard on the north slope of Mount Etna, which had been abandoned until Acosta began rehabilitating it. The vines average 50 years old and the soil is sandy with volcanic ash and stones. The wine-making was identical to that for the Versante Nord. The 2015 is the second vintage of the wine. Total production: 1,100 bottles. 13.5% ABV per the label, 12% ABV per the SAQ. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Inexhaustible nose of spice, cedar, old wood, forest floor, background dried cherry, floral and balsamic notes and more. Richer than the Versante but still medium-bodied and silky. There’s a pure core of fruit, racy but integrated acidity, an airframe tannic structure, minerals galore, a feathery astringency and a very long, subtly inflected cherry marzipan finish. More serious than its flightmate yet still so fresh. A flawless, complex, engaging, delicious wine. (Buy again? Yes.)

Soon after the wines’ release, a MWG member who was wondering which if any to buy asked a well-regarded SAQ wine advisor for input. The advisor said he was enamoured with the Versante Nord but felt the Pirrera wasn’t worth the extra outlay. The member bought some of the Versante and gave the Pirrera a pass. At the tasting a few days later, our experience was more the opposite: both wines were delightful but the Pirrera was the standout. The member made a beeline to the SAQ and scored a couple of bottles.

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

November 16, 2017 at 13:37