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Posts Tagged ‘Austria

Drunk back to life

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Shrugging off its rumoured demise, the Mo’ Wine Group officially met last week for the first time in nearly a year. Plans are to continue holding tastings, probably monthly.

The relaunch was timed to coincide with the arrival of a new shipment of Georgian wines from Pheasant’s Tears. It also featured other wines from La QV’s portfolio and was led by the agency’s numero uno, Cyril Kérébel, soldiering on despite a recently broken ankle.

As befitted a celebratory occasion, we began with a sparkler, in this case an off-white from one of the group’s favourite producers.

Burgenland 2017, Foam White, Meinklang ($40.40, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A 100% Pinot Gris pét-nat from biodynamically farmed vines planted on the winery’s Austrian – as opposed to Hungarian – estate. Spontaneous fermentation. Part of the wine was made in concrete eggs. To go by the colour and texture, it spent some time on the skins. Not disgorged. Unfiltered and unsulphured. Vegan-compatible. Crown-capped. Residual sugar: 1.2 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Slightly hazy bronze-pink with peach glints. Quickly rising foam quickly disappears. Fruity nose (peach, cherry, blood orange) with sandstone, “apple skin” (to quote another taster) and distant yogurt notes. Super-dry, softly effervescent, clean and minerally. Possessing a certain, well, if not weight then density. A stream of acidity runs throughout and is joined by a faint tannic bitterness that textures the long finish. Lingering “chamomile and tea.” Interesting – satisfying, even – though not particularly charming and more a food wine than an aperitif sparkler. (Buy again? Yes, a bottle to spend more time with the wine, ideally alongside some white fish in a light cream sauce.)

MWG March 20th tasting: flight 1 of 7

Austro-Hungarian fizz

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Somló 2017, Foam, Meinklang ($23.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
An unclarified ancestral method sparkler, meaning the wine is still on its lees and a bit hazy as a result. Blend of Hárslevelü (60%) and Juhfark (40%) from biodynamically farmed 35- to 60-year-old vines grown at Meinklang’s estate at the base of the long-extinct Somló volcano in western Hungary. Spontaneous first fermentation in stainless steel tanks. No temperature control, fining, filtering or added sulphur. Crown-capped. Residual sugar: 4 g/l. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Complex, savoury nose of lemon, wax, lees and hints of brett and sweat. Fine bubbles. Cidery, minerally, tart and longish in the mouth. The flavours are hazier than – not as precise as – the Prosa’s, not that there’s anything wrong with that. This fresh and fun sparkler reminds me of some of the natural Proseccos we’ve tried and seems purpose-built for a summer day. The winery’s suggested food pairings of leek and goat cheese quiche and smoked eel sound right on target. (Buy again? Yep.)

Österreich 2017, Prosa, Meinklang ($23.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Another ancestral method sparkler, but this time 100% Pinot Noir from biodynamically farmed wines grown in Meinklang’s east Austrian estate. Spontaneous first fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Unfined but filtered. Residual sugar: 14 g/l. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Minerally nose of crushed cherries and more than a slight hint of boudoir. Fine bubbles. Clean, fresh and bright in the mouth. There’s a touch of residual sugar (a bit more than in earlier vintages, if memory serves) though it’s in no way cloying and may be attributable to our bottle being a little warm. “Strawberry-rhubarb,” including the rhubarb’s acidic tang and streak of green, dominate the mid-palate. An almond note lingers. If you like Bugey-Cerdon, you’ll probably like this. Works as a summer sipper, an aperitif and as an accompaniment to not-too-sweet strawberry desserts (berries on vanilla ice cream drizzled with basil syrup? hmm.). (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG March 9th tasting: flight 1 of 5

Zingers

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Located on the north shore of the Danube, about 65 kilometres upstream (west) from Vienna, the 11-hectare Alzinger estate has parcels in two of the Wachau’s most prized vineyards: Loibenberg and Steintertal. Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are the primary grape varieties, though a small amount of Chardonnay is also grown. Leo Alzinger took the helm of the family estate in the 1970s. In 1983, he decided to stop selling its grapes to a local cooperative and to start making wine and selling it under the Alzinger label. Today, his son, Leo Jr., handles the wine-making though Leo Sr. still looks after the top vineyards.

The wine-making is similar for all the cuvées. The manually harvested whole clusters are pressed. The juice is given a short maceration on the skins and then allowed to clarify by settling for 24 hours. The Smaragd wines are matured in large neutral wood barrels, the others in stainless steel. Indigenous yeasts and selected yeasts (especially for the Rieslings) are used. Malolactic fermentation is routinely avoided.

Federspiel 2015, Dürnsteiner, Riesling, Alzinger ($29.10, 11581744)
100% Riesling from several small plots near the village of Oberloiben (Dürnsteiner). Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Green apple, lemon-lime, flint and a whiff of smoke. Spritzy on opening though that quickly dissipated. Bright, fresh and lemon-appley in the piehole with sleek acidity and a strong mineral current. Seems a bit watery at first – like it could be deeper and more structured – but gains presence and weight as it breathes. Finishes long and clearn. Not a knockout but definitely gluggable and probably even better in three to five years. (Buy again? Sure.)

Smaragd 2015, Loibenberg, Grüner Veltliner, Alzinger ($48.00, 11864955)
100% Grüner Veltliner from the lower reaches of the south-facing terraces of the Loibenberg vineyard, considered the warmest in the Wachau. The vines are rooted in loess. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Grass, asparagus, white pepper, white meat, flint and eventually a jalapeño note. Medium-bodied. The juicy kiwi fruit is overtoned with green herbs and white spice while the acidity fairly glows. There’s real mineral depth. The finish is long and saline. A beautiful baby. (Buy again? Yes.)

Smaragd 2015, Steinertal, Grüner Veltliner, Alzinger ($57.00, 11581736)
100% Grüner Veltliner from lower down on the terrace, where the soil is richer and deeper. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Textbook Grüner nose. Finer, more savoury and more closed than the Loibenberg but still redolent of lime, melon, green herbs, minerals and distant smoke. A real presence and a little more of everything in the mouth. The brilliant acidity and dense extract are in perfect balance. Fruit and minerality are among the unfathomable layers of flavour arrayed against a honeyed backdrop. Remarkable precision and depth. The finish is endless. (Buy again? Yes.)

Smaragd 2015, Steinertal, Riesling, Alzinger ($57.00, 11581779)
100% Riesling from the barren, steep Steinertal terrace (thin topsoil over gneiss). 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Aromatic and multifaceted: green apple, lemon-lime and white flowers and the telltale Riesling note that here is more eucalyptus than petrol. Dense yet fleet on the palate. The sweet fruit tames the electric acidity. The stony minerality seems inexhaustible as does the finish. So complex, pure and flawless – in a word, stunning. Surprisingly accessible for a wine that probably won’t peak for another 10 to 20 years. (Buy again? As many as I can afford.)

MWG February 8th tasting: flight 3 of 5

Written by carswell

March 16, 2018 at 14:31

Wein wine

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Vinealis was the featured agency at the Mo’ Wine Group’s early September tasting, which was led by the agency’s founder and head honcho, André Papineau. Despite the fact that I’ve known André for longer than about anyone else in the Quebec wine importing business (we first met when he was a sommelier at Montreal’s Laloux restaurant), this was his first visit to the group. I suspect it won’t be his last. We began with a wine from the outskirts of Vienna.

Wein 2016, Riesling, Wieninger ($28.15, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from biodynamically farmed vines rooted in loess and limestone. The grapes are manually harvested and macerated on the skins for five hours. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured on the fine lees. Residual sugar 1.2 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.

Beautiful nose: apple, peach, chalky minerals, white flowers, crushed leaves and, per another taster, “passion fruit.” Pure, dry and grippy (due not to tannins, of course, but rather to the bracing acidity and high mineral content), filled with ripe yet austere fruit. Impressive dimensionality for a wine at this price point, including a long, stony finish. (Buy again? Done!)

WMG September 14th tasting: flight 1 of 9

Written by carswell

October 24, 2017 at 12:27

Blank slate

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Burgenland 2014, Weisser Schiefer, Winebau Uwe Schiefer ($24.35, 13349543)
A former sommelier turned winemaker, Uwe Schiefer, whose last name means slate in German, has earned the reputation of a bad boy of Austrian wine. Located in southern Burgenland, his eponymous estate focuses on Austrian varieties, in particular Blaufränkisch. As of a few years ago, it was said to be organic converting to biodynamic though I’ve not found any recent information about that. The grapes for this “white slate” blend of Welschriesling (90%), Grüner Veltliner (5%) and Pinot Blanc (5%) came from vineyards in the Eisenberg, Hannersdorf and Kohfidisch DACs. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in large wood vats. Malolactic fermentation and maturation on the lees in neutral barrels lasted 11 months. Unfiltered. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Tocade.

A faint reductive note blows off, leaving a distant, elusive nose that has the assembled tasters grasping for descriptors: “yogurty stuff,” “wet fur,” “sour grape,” “quince.” Shows a similar lack of presence in the mouth, the texture watery (“lacks glycerol” notes one taster), the acidity incognito and the flavours bland, a final hint of marzipan being the only exception. Chewing reveals minerals, pith, stone fruit and a little more dimensionality. Tasted the next day, the tail end had lost whatever mojo it once had. Something of a wallflower, then. Passing through a phase? Proof that, on its own, Welschriesling is, as some claim, best suited for sweet, botrytized wines? In any case, only two of us were intrigued enough to say we’d buy another bottle. In the past, the group has been impressed by Schiefer’s reds (April 2016, February 2012) but this didn’t generate anywhere near the same excitement. (Buy again? Maybe. Or maybe wait for the next vintage.)

Written by carswell

September 12, 2017 at 11:28

Meinklangers

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The Mo’ Wine Group’s latest agency tasting was led by La QV’s head honcho Cyril Kérébel. The wine-up featured a particularly high proportion of whites, all with great minerality and a saline edge, as well as a wowser rosé and a handful of super-drinkable reds. We began with a trio of new-to-most whites from one of our favourite producers.

Burgenland 2015, Burgenlandwhite, Meinklang ($23.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of Grüner Veltliner (50%), Welschriesling (40%) and Muscat Ottonel (10%) from biodynamically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and matured in stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. Residual sugar: 4.9 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Hay, straw, white flowers, chalk, distant “chives” and dried orange peel. Round in the mouth, the acidity smooth, the texture verging on waxy. The upfront fruit and underlying minerals give ways to a long savoury, saline finish with a lingering white pepper note. “Building spiciness underneath rosewater,” proclaims one taster. A perfect summer white is the general consensus. (Buy again? Yep.)

Somló 2015, H15, Meinklang ($37.65, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Hárslevelü from biodynamically farmed vines grown at the base of the extinct Somló (pronounced shom-low) volcano in southwest Hungary, not far from the Austrian border. The must is passed through a coarse filter before fermentation. The wine-making – which takes place at the estate’s Burgenland winery – is non-interventionist, with no additions except, possibly, a tiny squirt of sulphur at bottling. Matured in stainless steel tanks and old oak barrels for 12 months. Residual sugar: 4.2 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Complex, aromatic nose dominated by honey, spice and yellow fruit. Dense and weighty (not heavy) on the palate, the fruit wrapped around a softly glowing core of acidity. The complex of flavours turns impressively savoury/salty/sweaty on the mid-palate. Very long. Less tense and minerally, more stone-fruity and unctuous than some earlier vintages but no less engaging. (Buy again? Yep.)

Burgenland 2014, Konkret Weiss, Meinklang ($65.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A field blend of three Gewürztraminers, specifically Red Traminer, Yellow Traminer and plain old Gewürztraminer. Macerated on the skins for 21 days. Vinified in egg-shaped concrete tanks. No added anything, including sulphur. Residual sugar: 1.6 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
For once, an orange wine that actually has an orange cast. One taster describes the complex nose of gardenia, cedar, spice and a funky whiff as “like the old lady in front of me on the bus, eating a grapefruit.” Dazzlingly complex and layered on the palate. Rich yet fluid. Dry but not austerely so. Structured by bright acidity and light tannins. The endless finish is awash in umami. (Buy again? Yep, wincing only slightly at the price.)

And Cyril shared some good Meinklang news with us: the SAQ will be including their impressive “Graupert” Pinot Gris in its Opération vins oranges release this fall and will also be carrying their fine ancient grains beer.

MWG June 8th tasting: flight 1 of 6

Just in time for asparagus season

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Wachau 2014, Grüner Veltliner, Terrassen, Nikolaihof ($21.65, 13166181)
Austria’s oldest estate and one of its most storied. This is the first Nikolaihof wine to be sold at the SAQ. 100% Grüner Veltliner from organically and biodynamically farmed estate vines between 10 and 45 years old planted in the Wachau on the south shore of the Danube. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Alcoholic fermentation and three months’ maturation on the lees took place in very large barrels. Malolactic fermentation was avoided. The wine was later matured in tanks before being lightly filtered (but not fined) and bottled. The only addition was a squirt of sulphur dioxide at bottling. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 3.3 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

Textbook nose: white pepper, stone, lime (fruit and pith), herb salad, turned earth, sea brine and the faintest hint of honey. Texture somewhere between waxy and buttery. Savoury and quite dry. The fruit and greens are swirled with an intense minerality (quartz, saline). The pervasive acidity is softened by the not inconsiderable extract. The long finish brings a white pepper note and a Szechuan pepper numbingness. Not as crystalline, layered, dimensional or commanding as a top GV but punching well above its weight. A natural with river fish and white meats accompanied by cabbage and, like many GVs, unfazed by asparagus. (Buy again? Yes, though unfortunately there’s not much left in the system.)

Written by carswell

May 16, 2017 at 12:58