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Posts Tagged ‘Alsace

Odd couple

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As is the Mo’ Wine Group’s longstanding tradition, our first tasting after the holidays focused on inexpensive and affordable bottles.

Vino da Tavola 2014, Il Brut and the Beast, Valli Unite ($25.35, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Based in Costa Vescovato in southern Piedmont, Valli Unite is a 35-year-old organic cooperative whose members grow local grape varieties as well as grains, fruits, vegetables and livestock. Accurate information on this wine is hard to find. It’s not listed on the coop’s website and online reviewers tend to be all over place about its constituent grape varieties, production method (some say it’s a filtered Charmat-method sparkler) and stopper (some say it’s a cork). For all I know, there may be more than one bottling. This much seems clear: the wine we tasted was made from Cortese and may also contain some Favorita. The biodynamically farmed grapes were manually harvested. The wine was fermented with indigenous yeasts and bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur was added during the wine-making process. The fizz is the result of natural, in-bottle fermentation. Vegan-compatible. Crown cap. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Pale straw. Hazy in all the glasses though the last glass or two also contained a lot of brown-coloured lees. Interesting, leesy nose of lemon, sour apple, chalk and “bonbon de banane.” Soft but ticklish effervescence. There’s some fruit on the attack (one taster described it as “fruité austère”), lots of chalky minerals and fair acidity. A lactic note sounds on the long finish. Somehow the elements don’t coalesce into a whole and, as the wine breathes, the alcohol becomes noticeable and the wine seems “oxidized” and a bit “flat.” Not the hit that the 2011 was. I suspect our just-off-the-boat bottle was travel-shocked or otherwise upset. (Buy again? To give it another chance in a few months, yes.)

Crémant d’Alsace, Extra Brut, Paul-Édouard, Domaine Bott-Geyl ($26.00, 13032845)
A blend of Pinot Blanc (50%), Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Noir (20%). The hand-picked grapes are purchased from growers, all of whom are converting to organic practices. This traditional-method sparkler was matured in the bottle for 24 months before disgoring. Reducing sugar: 5.1 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
Straw heading toward bronze with a fine bead and next to no foam. Outgoing nose eliciting descriptors like white strawberry, honey, acacia, stone fruit and, surprisingly but accurately, jalapeño. Round and rich in the mouth. The bubbles are low-key, the ripe fruit has a slightly honeyed quality, the minerals are dusty. Soft acidity and hints of lemon provide some welcome freshness. A whiff of yeasty brioche colours the long finish. Impeccable though not what you’d call lively. (Buy again? Personally, I’d go for something tenser but several tasters were quite taken with this.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 1 of 7

Written by carswell

January 26, 2017 at 12:51

Gamay/Poulsard, Gewürz, Gamay

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Cerdon, Méthode Ancestrale, Demi-sec, Gérald Dubreuil ($30.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
An ancestral method sparkler made from Gamay and Poulsard. The estate uses no pesticides, favours green cover over herbicides and turns to fungicides only on an as-needed basis. Immediately after harvest, the grapes are pressed and the must is fermented in tanks with indigenous yeasts. When the alcohol level reaches about 6%, the wine is chilled to near freezing, then filtered and bottled. Fermentation resumes as the wine warms, with the by-product carbon dioxide creating the sparkle. Residual sugar: 55 g/l. 8% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Exuberantly fruity nose of “strawberry and strawberry greens” with a bit of black pepper. In the mouth, it’s smooth and softly effervescent, full of tart fruit, dusty minerals and bright acidity but no tannins to speak of. Not exactly dry but far from sweet. Long. A fun summer sipper that can also work as an aperitif, accompany lightly sweetened fruit-based desserts and pair beautifully with mild- to medium-hot Punjabi dishes. Would love to try the “sec,” which has 20% less residual sugar. (Buy again? Irrespective of price, yes, though maybe not when I can get single bottles of the excellent Renardat-Fâche for $6 less.)

Alsace 2012, Gewürztraminer, Tradition, Domaine Pfister ($39.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Gewürztraminer from two parcels in the Silberberg lieu-dit. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Classic nose and palate, marked by rose, litchi, candied orange peel and white spice. Technically a demi-sec but quite light on its feet and not too sweet. Stone fruit and minerals add complexity to the palate, with soft-glow acidity deftly balancing the residual sugar. The clean, faintly honeyed finish has Gewürztraminer’s telltale bitter edge. Impressive for its purity, balance and pleasurability though the price of admission seems a tad high. (Buy again? Sure.)

Coteaux Bourguignons 2014, Philippe Gavignet ($31.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The Coteaux Bourguignons AOC replaced the Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire AOC in 2011. The estate is based in Côtes-de-Nuits. 100% Gamay from 40-year-old vines; farming is close to organic. The juice is macerated on the skins for four or five days. Fermentation in tanks is followed by 12 months’ maturation. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Served last in the tasting after all the champagnes and a semi-sweet Gewürztraminer, which didn’t make sense until we took a sip and found it woke up the palate like a slap to the face. Red and black berries, minerals and a whiff of sap. Medium-bodied yet fleshy/chewy. Clean and bright fruit with darker mineral shadings. Lively acidity, light but firm tannins (had I not been told otherwise, I would have guessed there was some Pinot Noir in the blend). So focused and energetic. One of the most vibrant Gamays I’ve tasted in ages. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

MWG November 10, 2016, tasting: flight 9 of 9

A Pinot Blanc-Auxerrois blend

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Alsace 2013, Pinot Blanc, Domaine Pfister ($31.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Actually a blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois, probably in near equal proportion, from several small plots of 25-year-old vines on marly Osthoffen hillsides. The estate’s viticultural practices lean organic. The grapes are manually harvested. The juice from the crushed fruit is gravity-fed into stainless steel tanks for fermentation with indigenous yeasts, which can last from three to eight weeks depending on the vintage. Temperature control is limited to avoiding heat spikes. Small doses of sulphur are applied at pressing, post fermentation and at bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Dried white peach, Meyer lemon zest, white flowers. Mouth-filling, even chewy, yet also graceful. Pure-fruited yet also dry and savoury, with mineral underpinnings and crisp but rounded acidity. There’s more depth than one usually associates with this grape and good length too. Delightful if a bit pricey (a while back the wine went for around $23 at the LCBO). The estate appears to be one worth keeping an eye on. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG November 10, 2016, tasting: flight 6 of 9

Written by carswell

January 14, 2017 at 13:13

Sparkling PN rosés from Alsace and Champagne

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Crémant d’Alsace, Brut, Rosé, Domaine Pfister ($39.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir. No technical information is to be found about this traditional method sparkler, which is absent from the producer’s website and little mentioned on the Web. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Pale coppery pink with a very fine bead. Leesy nose of red berries, faint orange peel and “a hint of sweet prosciutto” (per another taster). In the mouth, it’s very dry and glowingly acidic. The subtle fruit allows the mineral underlay to come clearly through. The bitter-edged finish is nicely sustained. Serious without being severe and standing up to comparison with its more prestigious flightmate. Probably excellent with food. (Buy again? Yes.)

Champagne, Brut, Rosé, Prestige, Pierson-Cuvelier ($53.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir. The colour for this traditional method sparkler comes from maceration on the skins; no other technical information is to be found. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Two shades darker than the Pfister with bigger bubbles and lots of foam. Outgoing nose of brioche and raspberry. Rounder, fruitier (red berries, pomegranate) and less dry than the crémant with zingy acidity and a pronounced mineral component. Enjoyable enough but a little overshadowed by the other sparkling rosés in the tasting. (Buy again? Maybe.)

MWG November 10, 2016, tasting: flight 2 of 9

Three takes on Pinot Noir

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Alsace 2014, Pinot Noir, Vignoble d’E, Domaine Ostertag* (ca. $32, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A preview bottle of a wine that will be available this fall. Part of Ostertag’s Vins de Fruit line, this 100% Pinot Noir is made from grapes from two-decade-old organically and biodynamically farmed vines rooted in gravelly clay near the village of Epfig. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Macerated at 26°C for around 10 days. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and daily pumpovers but without chaptalization. Matured in stainless steel tanks until the end of the spring following the harvest. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Complex, savoury nose: red berries, bitter almond, fresh and dried herbs, prosciutto. Light- to medium-bodied, fluid and silky. The lean fruit is shaded by dark minerals and structured by bright acidity and supple tannins that turn a little gritty on the sustained finish. Definitely not a Burgundy but definitely a Pinot Noir, and a tasty and pure one at that. An intriguing pairing with a salad of raw rhubarb, fresh raspberries and greens. (Buy again? Yes, though not without wishing it were a few bucks cheaper.)

*I’ve not linked to Ostertag’s website as my Internet security software indicates it has been hacked and launches an Exploit Kit Redirect 5 Web attack. If your device is protected and you’re feeling adventurous, you can visit the site here.

Casablanca 2015, Pinot Noir, Refugio, Montsecano y Copains ($26.05, 12184839)
The estate is a joint venture involving three Chileans and André Ostertag. Two wines, both 100% Pinot Noir from organically and biodyanmically farmed vines, are made. This is the second wine. Manually harvested. Macerated and fermented with indigenous yeasts for 12 to 18 days. One-quarter is matured in 16-hectolitre concrete eggs for 12 to 18 months, three-quarters in stainless steel tanks. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of volcanic sulphur is added at bottling. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
An initially reductive nose soon gives way to spice, red currant and strawberry-rhubarb.In the mouth, the wine is denser and more fruit-forward than its flightmates though still fluid and supple. Bright acidity and light if rustic tannins add welcome texture. Long, earthy finish. At this stage, benefits from a hour or two’s carafing. (Buy again? Sure.)

Bourgogne 2013, Bedeau, Domaine de Chassorney/Frederic Cossard ($58.42, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from organically farmed vines. The manually harvested whole clusters are sorted and placed in tronconic wood vats, with carbon dioxide being added along the way to prevent oxidation. Once filled, the vats are loosely covered with plastic and left for 40 day’s maceration and fermentation with occasional pumpovers and/or punchdowns (by foot). The grapes are manually shovelled into to a pneumatic press and the press and free-run juice are pumped into a large vat for malolactic fermentation, then racked into oak barrels (30% new) for 12 to 15 months’ maturation. The finished wine is racked into a vat, allowed to rest one month and bottled by gravity. Unfiltered and unfined. Sulphur is used in the vineyard but not in the winery (Cossard even cleans his barrels with ozone), except for a tiny amount of sulphur dioxide added at bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Strawberry, gunflint, background green herbs and leather, then classic Burgundy notes of red berries, spice and cedar. Medium-bodied, svelte and silky. Airframe tannins and bright-but-sleek acidity structure the remarkably pure fruit, while a mineral vein runs well into the long, clean finish. A savoury red Burg with great energy. (Buy again? If feeling flush, yes.)

MWG July 15th tasting: flight 4 of 8

Two Pinot Noirs and an interloper

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The teaser sent to MWG members prior to the tasting described this flight as “Two light-bodied reds. Same country, same grape variety. No other connections.” The third bottle was a last-minute addition, a new arrival (or maybe a restocking) generously donated by one of the group’s members.

Savoie 2014, Pinot Noir, Cuvée Gastronomie, Jean Perrier et Fils ($17.25, 00856997)
100% Pinot Noir. The grapes are manually harvested and pneumatically pressed. After clarification, thee must is transferred to temperature controlled (20°C) stainless steel tanks for three weeks’ alcoholic fermentation, followed by malolactic fermentation. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
Red berries and stems, slate, spice, earth and a hint of blood. One taster detected “endives.” Light-bodied and quite dry, with clean, bright fruit. Lightly astringent more than tannic. What minerals there are come out on the fair finish. A simple, supple, alpine wine that doesn’t scream Pinot Noir but is fresh and tasty enough. Not a keeper and should be drunk lightly chilled. Would have been a good candidate for the Without All flight. (Buy again? Sure.)

Alsace 2012, Rouge, Domaine Marcel Deiss ($26.35, 12185410)
100% Pinot Noir according to SAQ.com and the domaine’s Quebec agency; others claim it is a Pinot Noir-dominated field blend. Whatever the variety, the grapes come from biodynamically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and regular punch-downs. Matured 12 months. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: A.O.C. & Cie.
Now we’re talking. As the French say, ça pinote! Blossoming nose of “cooked strawberries,” earth, leafmould and mushroom. Medium-bodied. Richer than the Perrier. In fact, denser and deeper than most Alsatian Pinot Noirs of my acquaintance. The fruit is juicy, the acidity smooth, the tannins supple. An earthy bass line rumbles nicely along though there aren’t the kind of high notes and overtones you can get with red Burgundies or Schueller’s sui generis Alsace PNs. Still, I’d gladly buy more of this suavely rustic wine. Carafe an hour or two and serve lightly chilled for best results. (Buy again? Yep.)

Langhe Nebbiolo 2009, Aurelio Settimo ($25.60, 12796616)
100% Nebbiolo from young vines growing in the Barolo appellation. Manually harvested. Fermentation on the skins with frequent punch-downs and pump-overs took place in concrete tanks at around 28°C (not temperature controlled) and lasted eight to ten days. Matured 48 months in concrete tanks. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vitis.
A wild mouse of a nose: “molasses banana cake,” kirsch, cut stems, rum-raisin, marzipan, “plasticine.” In the pie-hole, it’s medium-bodied, quite intense and a little alcoholic, a savoury mix of fruit, spice and minerals with lots of tertiary flavours, including an “aftertaste of black tea.” The acidity’s a bit edgy, the airframe tannins are mostly resolved and the finish, with its odd note somewhere between metallic and acrid, is longer than you want it to be. We’ve enjoyed wines from this estate in the past; this one not so much. An off bottle? (Buy again? Based on this bottle, unlikely.)

MWG January 14th tasting: flight 5 of 7

Written by carswell

January 26, 2016 at 17:47

South and north

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Sicilia 2011, Carjcanti, Gulfi ($36.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Carricante (95%) and Albanello (5%) from unirrigated, organically farmed 15-year-old vines rooted in limestone and clay. Manually harvested. Fermented in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. Matured around 12 months in 2500-litre stainless steel tanks and 500-litre French oak barrels. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Striking, complex nose: tamari (!), almond paste, dried apricot, split wood and white spice against a backdrop of minerals. Medium-bodied, fruity but dry, especially on the finish. Lots of minerals and soft but sustained acidity. Long with hints of quince and oxidizing yellow apple. Unique and delicious though probably not a long ager. Understandably a favourite of many around the table. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Alsace 2012, Riesling, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Jean Louis & Fabienne Mann ($35.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from organically farmed old vines grown in several vineyards. Manually harvested. The must from the gently pressed grapes is allowed to clarify by settling, then fermented in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. Maturation on the lees lasts around 10 months. At bottling, the wine is lightly filtered and a small amount of sulphur dioxide is added. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Lemon, white flowers, white minerals and eventually buttery marzipan. Very dry. Rich and hefty. Smooth on the surface but dig a little and you find tense acidity and real mineral depth. Ends long and clean on an intriguing faintly bitter note. Beautiful, classic Alsatian Riesling at a fair price. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 23rd tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

November 18, 2015 at 12:51