Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

Drama queen

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Drama 2016, Thema, Ktima Pavlidis ($21.10, 10701265)
A 50-50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Assyrtiko. The grapes are harvested in the cool of the night. Destemmed, lightly crushed and cold-macerated on the skins before slow, gentle pressing. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled (18°C) stainless steel tanks. Matured two months on the lees. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.
The nose and palate seem an accurate reflection of the blend, which is pretty seamless by the way; the Sauvignon contributes vibrant fruit (kiwi, grapefruit, maybe a little peach) and a hint of grassiness, the Assyrtiko minerality, acidity and some welcome austerity. The end result? What might be a juicy New World Sauvignon is brought closer to what you sometimes find in the Loire in a very ripe vintage. Richly textured yet fresh. Fruity yet dry. The clean, fairly long finish brings an intriguing touch of bitterness. While the wine tastes more international than Greek, in its genre it’s pretty hard to beat. You don’t get the dazzle or depth of, say, a top Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Graves or Pessac-Léognan but neither do you get the Fresca-like excess of many equivalently priced New World Sauvignon Blancs (looking at you, New Zealand). Food pairings? Mezze, simply prepared seafood, white meat with lime. (Buy again? Sure.)

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Written by carswell

January 10, 2018 at 12:13

Lumpps in our throats

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Givry Premier Cru 2015, A Vigne Rouge, Domaine François Lumpp ($58.75, 13366829)
100% Pinot Noir from a 2.45-hectare vineyard planted in the early 2000s. The soil is mainly limestone and clay. The farming is generally organic though synthetic products are sometimes used if warranted by the weather conditions. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Given five to 10 days’ cold maceration prior to fermentation, which takes place in stainless steel tanks with light punch-downs and lasts around three weeks. Matured in French oak barrels, around 70% of which are new. Racked and filtered before bottling. All wine-making operations are done according to the lunar calendar. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve & Sélection.
Fairly closed nosed of cherry, slate, spicy oak and dried leaves; it’s very true to type though it doesn’t yet pinote (sing like only Pinot can do). Medium-bodied and satin-textured. The pure fruit seems more cranberry- than cherry-like, partly a function of the tart acidity. The fine tannins show not a trace of greenness. An earthy depth provides ballast that lasts well into the bitter cherry-inflected finish. The combination of richness, structure, energy and precision seems more like a Côte de Beaune’s. It’s a bit austere for now but probably won’t be in a couple of years. (Buy again? Yes.)

Givry Premier Cru 2015, Crausot, Domaine François Lumpp ($59.50, 13061857)
100% Pinot Noir from a 0.92-hectare vineyard planted in the early 1990s. The soil tends to limestone interspersed with fine marl. The wine-making is more or less as for the A Vigne Rouge. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve & Sélection.
Even more closed and stemmy: oak, coconut and Christmas spice have the upper hand for now. In the mouth, it’s bigger, denser and even more primary. The beautifully pure fruit (mainly cherry) is overtoned with tea and brightened by acidity. The tannins are impressive but tight and unyielding from start through the long finish. “Dries your mouth right up,” notes one taster. Needs five or 10 years to knit together and open up. The $60 question: will the fruit still be vibrant when the tannins finally resolve? Probably but only time will tell. (Buy again? If in a gambling mood.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

January 9, 2018 at 13:23

Peerless

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Dolcetto d’Alba 2015, Cantina Bartolo Mascarello ($34.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Dolcetto from organically farmed vines. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in non-temperature-controlled concrete tanks with no pump-overs but with the skins and seeds kept submerged in the must. Matured one year in neutral, Slavonian oak botte. Lightly filtered before bottling. 14% ABV. The lovely label features a painting done by Bartolo when he was in his 70s. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Closed nose that, with coaxing, gives up mullbery, coffee, turned earth, “vanilla Coke,”Asian spice and “florals.” So dense, tannic, tight and primal in the mouth and yet so beautiful. The ripe fruit, which includes “black olive,” is carried on an underground river of acidity over a deep mineral substrate. The finish is endless. Balanced, profound, even mysterious, and full of potential: clearly a great wine. Give this monolith five years or longer to open up, then prepare to be wowed. (Buy again? Whenever the opportunity presents itself.)

Dolcetto d’Alba 2015, Giuseppe Rinaldi ($33.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Dolcetto from organically farmed vines. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in large wood vats. Matured in neutral Slavonian oak botte. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Constantly evolving nose of, among other things, bitter cherry, sweet spice, leafmould, slate, incense and cascara. Medium- to full-bodied. Packed with fruit (mainly black cherry) and minerals. Structured by bright, smooth acidity and firm yet pliable tannins that another taster describes as “silty.” The long, silky finish is overtoned with earth and spice. A complete wine. Accessible, especially compared with the Mascarello, though capable of ageing a decade or even longer. (Buy again? Definitely.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

December 23, 2017 at 12:55

Nativi di Lazio

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Based in Cori, founded in 1947 and named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, Cincinnato is a well-run cooperative that makes a wide range of red, white, sparkling and dessert wines from local varieties as well as grappa and olive oil. The 255 members farm 550 hectares, 100 of which are worked organically.

Lazio 2014, Cesanese, Arcatura, Cincinnato ($21.70, 13096689)
100% Cesanese from vines rooted in volcanic-clay soil. The manually harvested grapes are destemmed and soft-pressed. Fermentation on the skins in temperature-controlled (24°C) tanks lasted around 11 days. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Half was matured in French oak barrels (first, second and third fill) for eight months and half in stainless steel tanks for nine months. Filtered before bottling. Aged in the bottle for six months before release. Reducing sugar: 4.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
The first bottle is corked. The backup has an intriguing nose of “buckwheat honey,” cocoa, sweet spices, background plum, “copper, like pennies” and, eventually, leafmould. In the mouth, it’s fluid, medium-bodied and super smooth. The ripe fruit, soft acidity and round tannins. Decent finish. A little overshadowed by its flightmate, though that could be due to its being popped and poured. (Buy again? Sure.)

Lazio 2013, Nero Buono, Ercole, Cincinnato ($23.25, 12557754)
100% Nero Buono, a teinturier (red-fleshed) grape, from 15- to 20-year-old vines rooted in volcanic-clay soil. The manually harvested grapes were destemmed and soft-pressed. Fermentation on the skins in temperature-controlled (23°C) stainless steel tanks lasted around 15 days. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured in French oak barrels (first, second and third fill) on the lees for 12 months and in the bottle for eight months. Filtered before bottling. Reducing sugar: 4.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Not carafed but allowed to breath for a couple of hours before serving. Dark – verging on black – in the glass. Extroverted nose of dark berries, “dried banana,” “old leather,” tobacco, “baking spices” and a hint of orange chocolate. Richer than the Cesanese. The intense core of fruit is overtoned with spice. Smooth acidity and velvety tannins are pretty sotto voce yet present enough to provide buoyancy and tone. The oak is obvious but not obnoxious. Orange chocolate returns on the credible finish. A bit New Worldish and far from deep, complex or subtle but authentic and likeable all the same. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

December 22, 2017 at 15:02

Three Rieslings/countries/price points

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Rheingau 2015, Riesling Trocken, Von Unserm, Weingut Balthasar Ress ($20.65, 12510788)
100% Riesling from vines planted in clayey limestone soil in Hattenheim and Rüdesheim. Manually harvested. Direct pressed. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Clarified by settling. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 4.1 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Balthazard.
Classic Riesling nose of lemon/lime, green apple, white slate and a hint of peach yogurt. A faint spritz is detectable on the palate. Welterweight build. Dry but fruity: apple and lime set on river stones. The acidity stays underground until surfacing on the decent finish. A bit simple but fresh and likeable. (Buy again? Sure.)

Alsace 2014, Riesling, Le Kottabe, Josmeyer & Fils ($31.00, 12713032)
100% Riesling from organically and biodynamically farmed 40-year-old vines rooted in the gravelly, sandy, pebbly soil of Herrenweg. Manually harvested. The whole clusters were pneumatically pressed over five to eight hours. Spontaneous fermentation lasted from one to four months. The resulting wine was matured in a mix of stainless steel tanks and century-old oak foudres. Reducing sugar: 2.4 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Symbiose.
Appealing nose of lemon pound cake, icing sugar and eventually white spice. Medium-bodied and super dry. The pure fruit (“crab apple” with hints of citrus and peach) is brightened by relatively low-Watt acidity. The long, taut, saline finish has a bitter edge. Tasty. (Buy again? Sure, though not without wishing it was $5 cheaper.)

Alto Adige Valle Iscaro 2014, Riesling, Brixner Eisacktaler, Weingut Köfererhof ($49.00, 12958013)
Founded in 1940, the five-hectare estate is located in the South Tyrol at the foot of the Dolomites, near Italy’s border with Austria. 100% Riesling from vines planted in 1998 and rooted in gravely silt and sand at 650-700 metres above sea level. The grapes are manually harvested in two passes; half when fully ripe and the other half two or three weeks later. The two harvests are vinified separately and blended before bottling. The clusters are not systematically destemmed. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled (20°C) stainless steel tanks and matures on the lees for six months. Sulphur is added only at bottling and then in minute quantities. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Maître de Chai.
A whiff of sulphur blows off, leaving a complex nose of chalk, “papaya,” clean sweat and “lemon grape” that’s like walking through a balsam forest after a rain. Time in the glass produces floral and herbal notes. Equally interesting in the mouth: a dry, structured, dimensional wine of great precision and purity. The ripe fruit, deep minerality and lively acidity are in perfect balance from the clean attack through the long finish. Loses none of its qualities after warming to room temperature, always a good sign. Austere but delicious and absolutely world-class. Wow. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

December 20, 2017 at 14:24

Atlantic Brancos

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Vinho Regional Lisboa 2015, Fossil, Vale da Capucha ($21.30, 13286992)
The estate is located about 50 km north of Lisbon and about 8 km east of the Atlantic coast in an area with a relatively cool and wet climate. Fernão Pires (aka Maria Gomez, 45%), Arinto (45%) and Gouveio (10%) from organically farmed vines rooted in marine fossil-rich clay and limestone. (A red Fossil is also made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Syrah.) Manually harvested. The whole clusters are quickly chilled to 4°C and direct pressed. Fermented in temperature-controlled (15-18°C) stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. Matured eight months in stainless steel tanks, including a portion on the fine lees. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Boires.
Reduced, sulphurous nose on opening that evolves into an odd mix of “kimchi,” chalk, white spice and “brown banana.” Medium-bodied, waxy textured and very dry. The stone fruit and citrus come with quite a load of minerals and an “asafoetida” note. While there’s enough acidity to keep things fresh and lively, it’s hard to shake the impression that the wine’s a bit simple and short on follow-through – at least for now: maybe this naturalish, just-off-the-boat bottle is suffering from travel shock? (Buy again? A bottle to lay down for a few months.)

Beira Atlântico 2015, Vinhas Velhas, Luis Pato ($19.50, 13212598)
Bical (34%) grown in chalky-clay soil and Cercial (aka Cerceal Branco, 33%) and Sercialinho (a rare cross of Sercial or maybe Vital with Alvahrinho, 33%) grown in sandy soil. (Pato also makes a red Vinhas Velhas from Baga.) Fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.5 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Pot de Vin.
Attractive nose of “spruce,” “rosemary,” “green apple” and “pineapple water,” becoming fruity and “floral” as it breathes and warms. Clean in the mouth. Built around a core of sweet-tart fruit with a savoury undercurrent. The acidity is smooth but there’s not a lot of it. Fair length. For now an easy drinker, though it might gain structure and depth with a year or two in the bottle. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

December 13, 2017 at 13:17

Clean, crisp and elegant

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Champagne, Brut, 7 Crus, Agrapart & Fils ($69.75, 12632275)
For background on the Avise-based estate, see here. A blend of Chardonnay (90%) and Pinot Noir (10%) from two vintages (40% 2012 and 60% 2013 per the Agrapart website). The grapes came from vineyards in seven villages. After alcoholic fermentation, the still wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Half of the 2012 wine was matured in oak barrels. Bottled unfiltered and unfined in May 2014. Matured in bottle on the lees for three years. Riddled manually. Disgorged on an as-needed basis 60 days before being released to market. Dosage was limited to 7 g/l of sugar and 50 g/l of sulphur dioxide. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Bella Vita.

Not much foam but lots of tiny bubbles. Lovely nose of pear, apple and minerals with background yeast, vanilla, honey, toast, white flowers and a lactic note. In the mouth, it’s as minerally as it is fruity, the minerals tending to chalk, the fruit to lemon and green apple. Fundamentally a lightweight yet the underlying wineyness gives it a depth not often found in champagnes at this price point. The fine, tickling effervescence adds texture and lift, while the long finish brings “des beaux amères” (a beautiful bitterness, quoting another taster). Remarkably clean, crisp and elegant, this is a superb aperitif champagne. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 1 of 6

Written by carswell

December 12, 2017 at 12:12