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Posts Tagged ‘Argentina

A global quartet of organic Pinot Noirs

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Patagonia 2015, Pinot Noir, Barda, Bodega Chacra ($29.65, 11517515)
Located in the Rio Negro region of northern Patagonia, the estate was founded by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, the grandson of the creator of Sassacaia. All its vines are ungrafted and biodynamically farmed. 100% Pinot Noir from the estate’s youngest vines, planted in 1990. Low-temperature fermentation with indigenous yeasts took place in cement tanks. Matured 10 months in French oak barrels. Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve et Sélection/Trialto.
Classic nose of red berries, spice and a hint of vanilla caramel. Fruit forward but medium-bodied and balanced, with bright acidity, light tannins and a raw youthful astringency on the strong finish. Not what you’d call deep but easy enough to drink and something of a crowd-pleaser. (Buy again? If in the mood for a civilized New World Pinot, sure.)

Niagara Peninsula 2012, Pinot Noir, Réserve du Domaine, Domaine Queylus ($47.25, 12456494)
The estate is owned by a consortium of Quebecers (including Champlain Charest) and managed by Thomas Bachelder, who also serves as head winemaker. 100% organically farmed Pinot Noir from the Twenty Mile Bench and Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellations. The grapes were picked by hand, sorted and destemmed but not crushed. A short cold maceration was followed by fermentation with indigenous yeasts. The fermented wine stayed on its skins for several days, then was pressed. Matured 16 to 20 months in French old barrels, a third of which were new. 5,300 bottles made. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vins Philippe Dandurand.
Smoke and sweat then sandalwood with fruit and oak in the background. The palate is a suave mix of rich fruit, moderate tannins, sleek acidity and a minerally/tarry depth. Unfortunately, the oak becomes obvious on the finish, masking the beautiful fruit and robbing the wine of refreshment. While another year or two in the bottle may rectify that, for now I prefer the 2014 Tradition bottling ($31.00, 13276137), even without taking the Réserve’s somewhat wacky QPR into account. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Willamette Valley 2014, Pinot Noir, Red Cap, Montinore Estate ($29.50, 13186609)
100% biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir from various vineyards. At least some of the manually harvested grapes were given a cold soak. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Spent ten months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, around 20% of which new. Reducing sugar: 3.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Cranberry, black raspberry, spice and sawed wood. Medium-bodied. The texture is more velvety than silky, the fruit pure, the oak in the background. Round tannins frame while sleek acidity nips on the long finish. Not particularly deep but, hey, it’s under $30. Several in the group bought earlier vintages of this when it was a private import; opened last year, a 2011, like this a bit rustic in its youth, had evolved into a silky Pinot Noir with definite Burgundian qualities. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bourgogne 2015, Garance, Domaine Montanet-Thoden ($34.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
The eight-hectare estate was founded in 1990 by Catherine Montanet (of Domaine de la Cadette) and Tom Thoden. The original vineyards were part of Cadette’s holdings that had a higher proportion of clay and thus produced distinctive wines. Cadette’s oenologist and Catherine’s son, Valentin, now makes the wines. 100% Pinot Noir from a organically farmed two-hectare plot of vines between 20 and 25 years old. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster fermentation with indigenous yeasts takes place in temperature-controlled wood vats, initially with punch-downs and later with pump-overs. After about two weeks, the wine is pressed and transferred to large barrels until fermentation is finished. Matured in used 228-litre barriques (80%) and 114-litre feuillettes (20%). Unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Initially shy nose of red fruit and papier d’Arménie. Becomes more expressive with time in the glass, gaining red berry, leafmould, cola and spice notes. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied, fluid and very dry. The tart red fruit is underlain with minerals, balanced by lithe tannins and lifting acidity. A faint, spicy bitterness lingers. Remarkably pure, this wine pushes all the Burgundy lover’s buttons, so it’s not surprising that local restaurateurs quickly snapped up the entire shipment. Accessible now but probably singing in one or two years. (Buy again? If only I could…)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 6 of 6

Saved by the food

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With a few blessed exceptions, South American wines aren’t my cup of tea. But hope springs eternal and every now and then I buy a few bottles for a tasting or my table as a kind of reality check. Which is how I ended up with this new arrival, a popular Argentinean Malbec. One of my issues with these wines is their lack of versatility: what can you serve them with besides a grilled hunk of red meat? Unwilling to dig the barbie out of the snow and brave minus 10 degree temperatures and stuck foraging at the local green grocer, I came up with a stir-fry of beef tenderloin and chorizo that actually did the wine a favour and was fast and tasty enough to make again. You’ll find the recipe after the jump. But first, the vino.

Malbec 2010, Terroir, Valle de Uco, Altos Las Hormigas ($21.25, 12068379)
100% Malbec from several vineyards. Manually harvested. The different lots of grapes are vinified separately. After gentle pressing, the grapes are cold macerated for five days at 10ºC in stainless steel tanks. Alcoholic fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) at 28-30ºC lasts for 12 days with three pump-overs a day and three rack-and-returns. About two-thirds of the wine is matured in French oak barrels. 14.5% ABV.
Strawberry, black raspberry, chocolate, dried herbs, earth and red meat, faint cinnamon and bacon. A sip and the wine shows super ripe and juicy but doesn’t tip over into fruit bomb territory. Why? Well, the initial lollipop fades fast, giving way to earthier, more savoury flavours. Plus it’s not monolithic: the sugar’s held in check, there’s some souring acidity and the tannins, round at first, gain some astringency and grit as the wine wends its way through the mouth. Unfortunately, though the fruit per se isn’t devoid of appeal, the oak starts drawing attention to itself, a sad reality that persists through the flaring, chocolate-kirschy finish. Many, maybe even most, will love this but I found it cloying and inebriating, far from undrinkable but not delivering much pleasure. Something’s not right when you have to rely on the food – and not light food at that – to refresh your palate and rescue the wine. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

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Written by carswell

March 17, 2014 at 08:08

Posted in Recipes, Tasting notes

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MWG May 24th tasting: report (3/4)

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BenMarco 2009, Mendoza, Dominio del Plata ($18.75, 11602701)
Made by Susana Balbo as “a tribute to the ‘traditional’ Argentinian wine style.” 90% Caberbet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. Destemmed before pressing. Temperature-controlled fermentation with pumping over, racking and returning and 20 days’ extended maceration. Matured 11 months, 50%  in new French oak barrels and 50% in second-use American oak barrels. 14.5% ABV.
Cherry Blossom (the candy, not the flower) but fresh with mint and cassis. The one-dimensional, oversweet fruit is almost obliterated by char. Look for ’em and you’ll find some sweet oak and ink. Fairly high acid and quite tannic. Predictable finish. Would probably benefit from a grilled steak, not that I intend to find out. (Buy again? No.)

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Maipe Reserve, Luján de Cuyo, Bodega Chakana ($18.85, 11602883)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from vines averaging 38 years old. Temperature-controlled fermentation. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels. 14% ABV.
Cassis, smoked sausage and menthol eventually gaining some green bell pepper. Fruity, minerally, oaky but flat: flat flavours, flat acid, flat tannins. Long finish – too long. (Buy again? No.)

LFE 900 2008, Valle de Colchagua, Luis Felipe Edwards ($30.75, 11617874)
36% Petite Sirah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Syrah, 7% Carmenère and 3% Malbec from a single vineyard located at 900 metres altitude. Temperature-controlled fermentation followed by ten days’ maceration. Aged 18 months in new French oak barrels. 14.5% ABV.
Not particularly appealing nose: alcohol, leather, slate, ink, cassis and, eventually, Keds. Ripe, rich and mouth-filling but not a bomb. Sweet but not candied fruit, round verging on gummy tannins, peek-a-boo acidity, oak-spicy finish. (Buy again? If I had to choose one of the four, it’d be this, but no.)

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Elegance, Valle del Maipo, Haras de Pirque ($36.00, 11602891)
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah and 3% Cabernet Franc. The grapes were lightly crushed and cold-macerated for seven days before being fermented using indigenous yeasts with pumping over and racking and returning. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels. 14.8% ABV.
Off-putting nose with everything except fruit dialed to maximum: “paving crew” quipped one taster, “llama tail” another. Dense and exaggerated but, in its perverse way, balanced, the overripe fruit holding its own against the monster tannins and trowel-laid oak. Unrelenting finish. Tamed somewhat as it breathed and quite possibly in need of a few years in the cellar. Still, it’s hard to imagine this ever providing refreshment. And if there’s a more incongruously named wine in the world, I’ve not encountered it. (Buy again? Never.)

The high hopes I had for this flight were dashed. Obviously the wines are made in a style that I – and nearly all the tasters in attendance – don’t appreciate. But does that mean they’re bad wines? In their defence, one of the tasters, a confessed New World fan who also views white wines with suspicion, was in seventh heaven, drained all his glasses and was delighted that he got to take home the tail ends. Also, let it be noted that the wine press is far more positive about the bottles; Haras flaunts 90-point ratings from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and various guides. (Let it also be noted that most of the wine press goes on junkets paid for by the producers’ associations in these countries.) And, dog knows, the wines sell. Yet, each time I smelled or tasted the Haras, I shuddered; most of the tasters around the table dumped their glasses after a sip or two; and one taster claimed the flight so obliterated his palate that he was unable to taste anything afterwards. Even the wines’ defenders would, I think, have to admit to their lack of refreshment. And for those of us who hold that a wine’s first duty is to be food-friendly and refreshing, that indeed makes them bad.

Written by carswell

May 30, 2012 at 10:58

MWG May 24th tasting: report (2/4)

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Chablis Premier cru Montmain 2009, Domaine de Bois d’Yver ($31.00, 11635108)
100% organically farmed Chardonnay from 30-year-old vines. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks using native yeasts. Undergoes full malolactic fermentation. Aged in stainless steel.
Discreet nose of lemon and quartz with hints of flowers, butter and oats. Pure and balanced on the palate, the flavours rainwatery/minerally and lightly fruity (lemon with a bit of pith). Bright acid is blunted by the winey texture, an artifact of this hot vintage. Long, faintly astringent finish.  An elegant if, for now, reticent Chablis that will only benefit from another year or two’s aging. Am looking forward to tasting the estate’s wines from the less atypical 2010 vintage. (Buy again? Yes.)

Vouvray sec 2010, Vincent Carême ($24.40, 11633612)
100% organically farmed Chenin Blanc from vines averaging 45 years in age. Fermented in neutral oak barrels using native yeasts. Undergoes partial malolactic fermentation.
Tropical blossoms, red apple and mangosteen give way to honeycomb. On the palate, lemon, clover honey and noticeable residual sugar. Quite rich, though there’s also lots of acid to cut the fat. Very long. Became a bit cloying and honeycomb-dominated as it warmed. Needs time? (Buy again? Maybe.)

Chenin Blanc 2010, Reserve, Stellenbosch, De Morgenzon ($25.25, 11631895)
100% Chenin Blanc from 40-year-old vines. Throughout the growing season, Baroque music is piped into the vineyard around the clock <rolls eyes>. Fermented in French oak barrels using native yeasts. Aged on the lees for eight months before being racked, lightly filtered and bottled.
Closed nose of minerals gaining floral, spice and eventually ash and wax notes. Rich and honeyed on the palate, with lots of minerals and eventually lemon. Dry on the attack though a hint of residual sugar – and oak – emerge on the mid-palate. The strong acidity is somewhat masked by the rich fruit. Good length. One of the better South African Chenins I’ve encountered. (Buy again? Probably not, given the superiority of more affordable Loire Chenins.)

Semillon 2011, Luján de Cuyo, Mendel ($21.70, 11634818)
100% Sémillon from 70-year-old vines. Fermented and aged in French oak barrels.
Smells dry somehow: little fruit but some flowers, quartz and a hint of very ripe cheese. Weighty but not very fruity in the mouth. Lots of minerals, though. Bitterness kicks in on the mid-palate along with some honey and a coconut husk note. Long, dry, puckery finish. Not a wine to love but civilized, balanced and true to the variety all the same. (Buy again? Only if in the market for a Sémillon.)

Written by carswell

May 27, 2012 at 09:47

MWG May 11th tasting: report (4/5)

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Mukuzani 2009, United Stars, Koncho & Co. ($15.10, 10791491)
As far as I know, this and the Teliani Valley – neither of which are from the Cellier release – are the first Georgian wines ever sold at the SAQ. Both are made from Saperavi, a native teinturier (red-fleshed) grape. This Mukuzani is fermented with selected yeasts and matured three years in Caucasian oak.
Cherry, blackberry, slate, hickory smoke. Medium-bodied but round. Ripe, velvety fruit is balanced by firm tannins and good acidity. Fair length with a whiff of tobacco smoke on the finish. Simple but unpretentious and enjoyable, not to mention delivering considerable bang for the buck. (Buy again? Yes.)

Saperavi 2008, Teliani Valley ($15.90, 11607545)
Made from grapes grown in the Kakheti region. Aged one year, three months of which were spent in oak barrels.
Spicy, leather, slate/iron, hint of boiled cabbage. Ripe but not overly sweet fruit (cassis, black cherry) nicely brightened by acidity and structured by tight tannins. Balanced and fairly long. A tad more complex and affable than the United Stars. This is selling out fast; if you want some, don’t dawdle. (Buy again? Yes.)

Malbec 2009, Remolinos Vineyard, Agrelo, Mendoza, Decero ($21.95, 11625743)
100% Malbec. Destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel. Macerated for a little more than two weeks, then basket-pressed. Ninety percent goes into 30% new French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation, the remainder being kept in stainless tanks “to preserve the delicate violet aromatics.”
Sweet plum and spice with an iodine/briny note. Full-bodied but not heavy. Very spicy on the palate. Tight tannins, sweet fruit and no depth. (Buy again? No.)

Malbec 2007, Terroir Selection, Mendoza, Alta Vista ($26.90, 11602621)
100% Malbec from four vineyards. Destemmed and placed in small epoxy-lined concrete vats. Macerated 5-8 days, followed by alcoholic fermentation with frequent pumping over, followed by extended maceration at 28ºC (82ºF). Aged in small French oak barrels for 12 months.
Spice, red and black fruit, char, slate. Velvety texture. All about fruit, the high extraction necessary to hide the high alcohol (15% according to the SAQ, 15.5% according to the winemaker). Pudgy tannins. Enough acidity to keep it from galumphing but not to make it refreshing. (Buy again? No.)

Written by carswell

May 20, 2012 at 15:38

September 30th MWG tasting: report

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Most of the wines in this tasting came from the September 30th Cellier release, though not the first flight (the release was whiteless) and not the Pauillac. Prices are in Canadian dollars and include 13% sales tax.


Grüner Veltliner 2009, Kamptal, Domæne Gobelsburg ($15.30, 10790317)
Chalk, sand and white grapefruit peel with whiffs of white pepper. Clean and bright. Zesty, even tingly attack. Good balance between acidity and substance. Fast-fade finish. (Buy again? Yes.)

Grüner Veltliner 2009, Terrassen, Federspiel, Domäne Wachau ($19.50, 10769420)
Lemon peel (a bit candied), wet quartz and a not unpleasant hint of soap or vinyl. Richer than the Gobelsburg and, initially, a bit flatter. Gained dimension as it breathed. Long, with an acid bite on the finish. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Grüner Veltliner 2009, Kamptaler Terrassen, Bründlmayer ($21.25, 10707069)
Still rounder and smoother. The acidity is there but more like a slow-moving underground river than a gurgling surface stream. Rainwatery at first but becoming white-fruity and layered over the course of an hour. Long. (Buy again? Sure.)

Grüner Veltliner 1999, Schenkenbichl, Jurtschitsch ($38 in 2002)
Richer looking: golden (in contrast to the other wines’ silver) and oilier. Complex nose dominated by honey, quince, mineral and subtle white pepper aromas. Off-dry and unctuous but enlivened by acidity. Initially shallow-seeming – I wondered whether it wasn’t a little over the hill – but gaining presence, amplitude and depth through the end of the tasting (nearly three hours). Very long. While Jancis Robinson notes that, with time in the bottle, GV “can start to taste positively Burgundian,” in this case I’d say the French analogue is more a late-harvest Pinot Gris or a sec-tendre Chenin Blanc. Not everyone was a fan but I found it  gorgeous. (Buy again? Wish I could.)


Morgon 2009, La Voûte Saint-Vincent, Louis-Claude Desvignes ($19.45, 11299415)
Red berries, vine sap, spice and hints of alcohol and, quoting another taster, “night soil.” Noticeable tannins, bright acid, lots of stuffing, somewhat muted fruit. A little introverted and disjointed though improving with time in the glass. (Buy again? Maybe a bottle or two to revisit in a couple of years.)

Moulin-à-Vent 2009, Domaine des Vignes du Tremblay, Paul Janin et Fils ($19.90, 11305141)
Red berries and vine sap, a little footy. Smoother, rounder, suaver than the Morgon but with a similar concentration and richness. Inky finish. Shut down as it breathed. (Buy again? Sure – a bottle or two to revisit in a couple of years.)

Chénas 2009, Vieilles vignes, Hubert Lapierre ($19.90, 11299239)
Appealing nose of red fruit, graphite and dried wood. Rich and balanced, structured with fruit-cloaked tannins. Kirschy finish. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Côte-de-Brouilly 2009, Cuvée Les Griottes, Château Thivin ($21, 11305088)
The least expressive nose of the bunch: cherry, spice and funk. Rich and fruity on the palate. Silkier, brighter and somehow purer than the others but also less tannic and deep. Good length. Probably not an ager. (Buy again? Sure.)


Buzet 2006, La Tuque de Gueyze, Les Vignerons de Buzet ($16.80, 11305563)
Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Dusty cassis, green pepper and a whiff of alcohol. Cedary and plummy on the palate, fluid and balanced but lacking depth – a bit one-dimensional in fact. Still, not bad for a sub-$17 Bordeaux clone. (Buy again? Probably not, when $3-5 more can get you a genuinely appealing Bordeaux blend.)

Don Reca 2007, Valle del Cachapoal, Viña La Rosa ($21.75, 11305619)
Merlot (52%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Syrah (18%) and Carmenère (5%). Screaming green pepper along with green tobacco, earth and ink. Big, tannic, coarse. Green pepper and cassis flavours dominate with rubber droning in the background. Sawdusty finish. Unevolving even after vigorous aeration. How could anyone (looking at you, Wine Advocate) award this clunker 90+ points? (Buy again? Nope.)

Lagone 2007, IGT Toscana, Aia Vecchia ($20.45, 11305635)
Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). Cassis syrup and sandalwood. Suaver than the Don Reca though initially quite tannic and a little disjointed. Smoothed out with exposure to air, showing good balance and length. Well made and true to type but also anonymous, with little sense of place. (Buy again? If looking for a $20 internationalized Bordeaux blend, maybe.)

Finca Libertad 2006, Mendoza, Bodega Benegas ($24.95, 11305934)
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Spent 18 months in new French oak casks. Smokey, peppery, meaty nose: grilled sausage, pimentón, raw beef with hints of cassis and mint. Mouth-filling but not heavy, fruit-forward but not fatiguing. Tannins and oak kept in check. Velvety texture. Long, fragrant finish. Cries out for a charcoal-grilled steak. (Buy again? If charcoal-grilling steaks, maybe.)


Capaia 2007, Philadelphia (Western Cape), Capaia Estate ($33.25, 11307825)
Cabernet Sauvignon (37%), Merlot (26%), Petit Verdot (18%) and Cabernet Franc (19%). Spent 15 months in new French oak barriques. Leather, cassis, ink and menthol. A wine of considerable heft, though nimble and fluid. Structuring tannins and acid are clad in fleshy fruit. Long savoury finish. (Buy again? Maybe, if in the mood for a New World Bordeaux blend.)

Sophia 2007, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, Craggy Range Winery ($58, 11305491)
Merlot (81%), Cabernet Franc (10%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%) and Malbec (2%). Spent 18 months in 50% new French oak casks. Pomegranate juice, vanilla and chocolate with hints of humus and ground coffee. The proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove: a mass of tannins wrapped in a mass of pure fruit. Big but poised and finely balanced. Plush, layered and long. Needs at least a couple more years in the bottle. Internationally styled but with undeniable class: would make a excellent ringer in a flight of new wave St-Émilions and Pomerols. (Buy again? Probably not, but then I’m not a Merlot fan.)

Don Melchor 1995, Valle del Maipo, Concha y Toro ($87.95, 10755941)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 12 months in French oak casks. To the eye, nose and palate, obviously an aged wine. Pale rimmed, muted red-brown. Tertiary aromas and flavours: leather, sweat, dried wood, aged tobacco, old tomato plants, compost, earth (you have to dig to find the core of sweet fruit). Tannins fully resolved, the tightly wound velvet of youth now an unfurling skein of silk. Our bottle was uncorked two hours before the flight and decanted just before serving. As the wine only improved in the glass, decanting earlier might have been advisable. Interesting and impressive in its way, but not a wine that knocked anyone’s socks off. Probably done a disservice by being served after so many vibrant young wines and just before a fine old Bordeaux. Alone in the spotlight, it would likely show better. (Buy again? Not at that price.)

Pauillac 1994, Château Pontet-Canet ($33 in 1996)
Cabernet Sauvignon (63%), Merlot (32%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). Some fading at the rim but very little bricking. Complex only-in-Médoc bouquet that doesn’t need to yell to get your attention: cigar box, graphite, cassis, plum, tar, smoke, a hint of caramel. Austere but graceful and lithe, the tannins mostly resolved. In contrast to the preceding wines, the fruit is lean, dry, less dominating, more a unifying element in a spectrum of savoury flavours. The fruit fades on the long finish as cedar and minerals intertwine over a faint tannic astringency. Not particularly deep yet a wine that doesn’t reveal itself fully with the first sip or even – to judge by how it evolved in the few minutes after opening – the first glass. This is in a good place now and probably won’t get better; drink up in the next two or three years. (Buy again? Sure would if I didn’t already have a few bottles stashed away.)

Written by carswell

October 4, 2010 at 11:16