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Posts Tagged ‘Beaujolais

Morgon, Morgon, not Morgon

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Morgon 2014, Côte de Py, Jean Foillard ($41.09, private import, 12 b/c)
100% Gamay from organically farmed vines between ten and 90 years old and grown in manganese-rich schist and granite. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster fermentation lasts three to four weeks. Matured six to nine moths in used oak barrels. No additives of any kind during the wine-making. Unfiltered and unfined. A minimal amount of sulphur dioxide may be added at bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Aromatic, very Gamay nose: slate, “dried leaves” (per another taster), floral notes and a whiff of earthy funkiness along with the expected red berries. Medium-bodied and satin-textured. A touch of sweet red chile savouries the lush fruit. The frame of light tannins, the illuminating acidity and a vein of dark minerals run from start through the nicely sustained finish. Accessible if somewhat monolithic at this stage, it showed best at the end of the tasting, four hours after it was opened and double-decanted. A couple of years or more in the cellar will do a world of good. (Buy again? Done!)

Morgon 2014, Cuvée Corcelette, Jean Foillard ($38.75, 12201643)
100% Gamay from organically farmed vines averaging 80 years old and grown in sandstone soil. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster fermentation lasts three to four weeks. Matured six to nine moths in used oak barrels and a single 30-hl foudre. No additives of any kind during the wine-making. Unfiltered and unfined. A minimal amount of sulphur dioxide may be added at bottling. Reducing sugar: less than 1.2 g/l. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Nose of red berries, faint spice, horse/leather: similar to the Côte de Py though a shade less complex, outgoing and airy. So fresh, pure, savoury and delicious. Ripe fruit, good structure and length, with the minerals most prominent on the finish. Perhaps a little less dense, more rustic and more open than its sibling though also sure to benefit from being left unopened for a year or three. Is there a better Beaujolais at the SAQ? (Buy again? Yes.)

After we’d finished with the Foillards, one of tasters generously offered to open a new arrival he had purchased on his way to the tasting room. I wondered whether its coming after two top Morgons might show it to disadvantage but I needn’t have worried.

Vin de France 2015, Le P’tit Poquelin, Maison B. Perraud ($22.70, 12517998)
100% Gamay from biodynamically farmed 40-year-old vines. Manually harvested. The whole clusters undergo carbonic maceration for 12 days. No additives, including sulphur. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 1.3 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Raisonnance.
Appealing nose: floral, slate, berries, sap. A bit of spritz on the palate (carafe the wine for hour an hour if that sort of thing bothers you). On the lighter side of medium-bodied. The sweet fruit has a sour edge and is lightly structured by fine, supple tannins and glowing acidity. Sappy, lip-smacking finish. An easy-drinker with real presence. What it lacks in dimensionality and class compared with the Foillards, it makes up for in immediate appeal. The most successful of the three vintages of this wine that I’ve tasted. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 27, 2016, tasting: flight 5 of 7

Cambon bonbon

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Beaujolais 2014, Château Cambon ($45.00/1500 ml, private import)
100% Gamay from organically farmed old vines in a vineyard located between Morgon and Brouilly. The grapes are manually harvested and the various parcels are vinified separately. Carbonic maceration takes place in enamel-lined tanks. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and with or without pump-overs, as decided by the winemaker. The wine is transferred to very old foudres for maturation on its lees. After settling, the cloudy part of the wine is lightly filtered. Unfined and bottled with little or no added sulphur. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Red currant, strawberry, and vine sap against a mineral backdrop. Classic if hefty for a simple Beaujolais. Deliciously ripe and juicy fruit upfront and a little earth in back. Silky texture and light but solid structure (fresh acidity, supple tannins) with just enough bite. The tangy finish leaves you thirsty for another sip. Compared with other Lapierre wines, Cambon can sometimes seem earthbound; this eminently drinkable 2014 is excellent, however, and – appellation oblige – delivers great QPR. (Buy again? Yes.)

Standard 750 ml bottles the wine can be found at the SAQ: $21.65, 12454991. Magnums are also slated to go on sale at the monopoly in September at $49.50 a shot (blame the lousy exchange rate).

MWG March 12th tasting: flight 5 of 7

Written by carswell

April 8, 2016 at 12:32

Descombes fils vs. Thévenet fils

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Kewin “Kéké” Descombes is the son of renowned winemaker Georges Descombes and half-brother of Damien Coquelet. He made his first wine under his own name in 2013, when he was 21. His approach is similar to his father’s (organic farming, semi-carbonic maceration, indigenous yeasts, minimal or no sulphur). The wines appear to be popular in Japan. The three we tasted are currently sold out in Quebec though a second shipment is expected this spring.

Son of Jean-Paul Thévenet, one of the “Gang of Four” winemakers who spearheaded the natural Beaujolais movement, young Charly Thévenet worked at his father’s and Marcel Lapierre’s wineries before acquiring a parcel of old Gamy vines in Régnié. His first vintage was the 2007.

Beaujolais Villages 2014, Cuvée Kéké, Kewin Descombes ($25.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from organically farmed vines grown in sandy soil in a 1.2-hectare vineyard in the commune of Corcelles. Fermentation lasted 15 days. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux caves.
Textbook Beaujo nose: red berries, vine sap, earth, hints of game and iodine. Clean and quite dry. Light-bodied and not particularly deep – true to type, wot? – but wonderfully pure. The ripe fruit is laced with slate and stems. Fluent acidity keeps things fresh and adds a tang to the finish that calls you back for another sip. (Buy again? Sure.)

Morgon 2014, Jeunes Vignes, Kewin Descombes ($27.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from organically farmed vines. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux caves.
Funky nose (the wine should have been carafed) of barnyard and burnt match but also red berries, peony and umami. Denser and fruitier than the Kéké. Very clean and dry with a stemmy structure, nipping acidity and a long granitic finish. Good now and probably even better in a year or three. For many around the table, the sweet spot in the KD line-up. (Buy again? Yes.)

Morgon 2013, Vieilles Vignes, Kewin Descombes ($36.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from organically farmed vines. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux caves.
Closed and darker nose of red and black berries and slate with violet and kirsch overtones and a hint of caramel. Weighty and somewhat monolithic in the mouth. The components – including firm tannins – are all there but only just beginning to integrate. Struggling to find a descriptor of the flavour, I ended up with sukiyaki – a reference to the wine’s meatiness and umaminess. As broad, deep and long as it is inscrutable, this divided the table, with some calling it over-ambitious and others feeling it needs time. I’m in the latter camp, as I found the wine stylistically similar to the Morgons of Descombes père, which often require five or more years to coalesce and uncoil. (Buy again? A bottle or two for the cellar.)

Régnié 2014, Grain et Granit, Charly Thévenet ($35.00, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
100% Gamay from 80-year-old biodynamically farmed vines grown in a 3 ha vineyard with granite soil. The grapes are manually harvested as late as possible and aggressively sorted, the idea being to have very ripe and impeccably clean fruit. The clusters are fermented whole with indigenous yeasts. The wine is matured on its lees in neutral Burgundy barrels. No filtering or fining. Use of sulphur dioxide is kept to a minimum. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux caves.
Gorgeous wafting nose of wild strawberries, foliage, slate and peony. Medium-bodied. Pure, bright fruit and a little sap, silky tannins, fresh acidity and a fine mineral backbone. Earthy depth and a hint of herbaceousness are there if you force yourself to stop obsessing over the fruit and look for them. Long, balanced and abuzz with energy. (Buy again? Done!)

MWG February 11th tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

March 1, 2016 at 00:46

L’autour d’Anne Paillet

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Anne Paillet is married to Greg Leclerc. In 2010, she decided to abandon her corporate career and become a natural winemaker. Wanting to make wines different from Leclerc’s, she has leased 2.5 hectares of biodynamically farmed vines from Languedoc winemaker Christophe Beau (Domaine Beauthorey in the Pic Saint-Loup region). Harvesting is manual and the grapes are vinified naturally, in concrete tanks with no added anything, in the Languedoc. Wanting to make wines different from your everyday Languedocs, she transports the just-fermented juice to Leclerc’s cellars in the Loire for malolactic fermentation, maturation, blending and bottling with no fining, filtering or added sulphur.

Depending on the date on which the wine leaves the Languedoc, it is labelled Coteaux du Languedoc or Vin de France. To avoid red tape and confusion, Paillet is reportedly planning to opt exclusively for the Vin de France designation in future vintages.

Coteaux du Languedoc 2013, C.S.G., Autour de l’Anne ($27.71, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Syrah and Grenache with a little Cinsault thrown in. The 40- to 60-yar-old vines are rooted in limestone and red clay. The grapes are vinified separately in tanks, with alcoholic fermentation typically lasting 12 to 14 days. Maturation in concrete tanks lasts 12 months. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Engaging nose of red and black fruit with hints of spice and faint burnt rubber. Medium-bodied, dry and savoury, with clean fruit and bright acidity. Fundamentally fluid and supple though not lacking tannic grit. The finish is long and minerally. As Loire-ish and it is Languedoc-ish, this is a wonderfully drinkable wine. What’s more, a few bottles remain available. (Buy again? Done!)

Coteaux du Languedoc 2013, Pot d’Anne, Autour de l’Anne ($55.47/1500 ml, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
The cuvée’s name, which translates as “Anne’s pot,” is a homonym of peau d’âne (donkey skin). 100% Cinsault from 20-year-old vines grown on limestone and red clay. Half the grapes are destemmed, the other half left as whole clusters. Semi-carbonic maceration in concrete tanks lasts 12 days. Maturation in concrete tanks lasts 12 months. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Pretty, perfumy nose of red and black fruit, including berries, overtoned with flowers, sawed wood and spice. Barely medium-bodied. The lightly juicy fruit is fresh and fluid, structured by supple tannins. Finishes long and clean. So, so drinkable. (Buy again? Moot but yes.)

At the second tasting, someone asked why the wines were so Loire-like. Could the fact that they were fermented with native yeasts explain it? Probably not, as the wines didn’t leave the Languedoc until alcoholic fermentation was completed. On the other hand, malolactic fermentation took place in the Loire, so indigenous bacteria could be a factor (though wouldn’t the wines also bring some Languedoc microflora with them?). To my mind, Max Campbell’s theory that the difference is due to the cooler temperatures of the Loire cellars seems more realistic.

As mentioned earlier, both tastings were followed by a light meal of salads, charcuterie and cheese. As the tail ends of the Deux Caves bottles were insufficient to slake the collective thirst, a few other wines were uncorked (gratitude to all who supplied them). I stopped taking notes at that point but wanted to mention four in passing.

Damien Coquelet’s Beaujolais-Villages “Fou du Beaujo” has long been a Mo’ Wine Group favourite. At the second tasting, the 2012 ($22.43, private import, La QV/Insolite, NLA) and 2014 ($19.20, 12604080) were served side by side. The 2012 was a thing of beauty: vibrant, fruity, sappy, fluid, lip-smacking. The 2014 seemed a little harder and less smiling, though whether that’s a function of the vintage, the age, this particular bottle or the filtering and/or sulphuring possibly required by the SAQ is anybody’s guess.

The Valle del Maule 2014, Pipeño, Collection Rézin, Louis-Antoine Luyt ($18.15, 12511887) is a lovable, natural Chilean wine made entirely using purchased País grapes from organcially farmed vines about a century and a half old. (Luyt buys the grapes – at fair trade prices – from his pickers, one of whose photograph appears on the label.) Fragrant and fruity, ripe and juicy, light and fresh, with frisky acidity, very soft tannins, a disarming rusticity and a quaffability quotient that’s off the charts. I’ve drunk more of this wine than any other this year and it was interesting to hear others who were just discovering it planning to buy cases the next time it rolls around.

The 2001 Château Coutet is a classic Barsac that’s showing beautifully. Rich but not heavy (good acidity), sweet but not saccharine. The complex flavours and aromatics are dominated by stone fruit and botrytis. The finish lasts for minutes. A deluxe end to a most enjoyable evening.

MWG September 27th tastings: flight 3 of 3

Lastly, here’s a link to another, much less tardy report on the tasting – one from which some of the earlier-cited technical information about Xavier Marchais comes – that was posted on the Quebec-based wine discussion board Fou du vin by a new and welcome addition to the Mo’ Wine Group. Du beau travail, Raisin Breton !

A quaffability quotient about as high as it gets

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Morgon 2013, Jean Foillard ($27.40, 11964788)
This is the so-called Classique bottling, though the word appears nowhere on the label. 100% organically farmed Gamay. The manually harvested whole clusters undergo carbonic maceration at 4 to 7°C and fermentation with no added sulphur or yeasts for three to four weeks. The wine is matured in tanks for four to five months. Filtering? None or very light. Bottled with a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide for stability’s sake. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Delightfully fragrant nose: strawberry, cranberry, leafmould, spice, slate. Smooth and supple in the mouth. Medium weight, medium intensity. The sweet, silky-textured fruit with its floral overtones couldn’t be more pristine. Smooth acidity and featherweight tannins tannins lightly structure. The long finish ends on a faint astringent note. Such perfect balance. Not as deep or rich as some Morgons, including Foillard’s own Côte du Py, but the quaffability quotient is about as high as it gets. (Buy again? Yes!)

Written by carswell

June 3, 2015 at 12:27

The SAQ does natural wines – part 1

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On April 23, the SAQ came out with its first ever official release of natural wines* (“official” because a few natural wines have made their way onto the monopoly’s shelves in the past, a recent example being the Jean-Michel Stephan Côte-Rôtie that the Mo’ Wine Group swooned over in July). Friends and I had planned to taste through the lineup soon after the release but, for various reasons, the event was postponed until last Friday.

Due to the postponement, most of the wines are – like my free time – now in short supply, so it hardly seems worthwhile to give them the full Brett Happens treatment. Yet the release is a milestone of sorts for the SAQ and for local lovers of natural wines, one that shouldn’t go unremarked. What’s more, the tasting left me with a few thoughts about the operation and the future of such wines at the SAQ. My solution is a set of quick notes followed by a comment or two.

Of the eight wines in the release, two – a Chardonnay and a Syrah made by Gérard Bertrand – were either new vintages or restockings of unmemorable wines that the SAQ started carrying a few months ago. We focused on the other six and on a mystery wine served at the end.

The 100% Gamay, near-Beaujolais Vin de France 2013, Le P’tit Poquelin, Maison B. Perraud ($21.75, 12517998) smells of jujubes and spice with unmistakable meat and soy sauce notes. While the wine is fruity, it’s also very dry, especially on the extremely short, black pepper-scented finish. What structure there is comes from acidity, not tannins. The bottom line? To riff off Gertrude Stein, there’s not much there there. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a red wine with so little presence. Buy again? No.

Another 100% Gamay, this time from 50-year-old vines in the Loire valley, the Touraine 2013, Première Vendange, Henry Marionnet ($24.20, 12517875) has a strikingly lactic nose that, when combined with the fruit, has you thinking of raspberry-strawberry yogurt. In the mouth, it’s richer, deeper, plusher-tannined and more minerally than the P’tit Poquelin, and the juicy finish has a lingering astringency. On its own terms, enjoyable enough – though, when you can get excellent Morgons from Brun for the same price and from Foillard for $3 more, the QPR seems way off. Buy again? No.

If you score a bottle of the 100% Cabernet Franc Chinon 2012, Cuvée Beaumont, Épaulé Jeté, Domaine Breton ($22.70, 12517921), be sure to carafe it before serving because on opening the wine has little to say. After breathing for an hour, it suddenly blossoms. The nose gains notes of red fruit, cured meat, forest floor, green sap, sawed wood and spice. The austere, ungiving palate turns rich and expressive: the texture supple, the fruit bone dry but juicy and pure, the acidity singing, the tannins caressing, the finish long and clean. In short, a beaut. Buy again? Definitely.

_________
*What is a natural wine? According to the Association des vins naturels, the basic principles of natural winemaking are organic or biodynamic farming (not necessarily certified), manual harvesting, fermentation with native yeasts and the avoidance of harsh physical procedures (reverse osmosis, cross-flow filtration, flash pasteurization, thermovinification, etc.) and of additives, including sugar, with an exception being made for small amounts of sulphur dioxide added as a stabilizer at bottling. As a definition, that works for me, though I’d add that many natural winemakers say that their wines are made in the vineyard, not the cellar, that their goal is to add nothing and take nothing away, which leads them to adopt a non-interventionist approach in the cellar and to largely or completely avoid filtering and fining.

The upsides of natural wines include their individuality and a juicy vibrancy that, in the best examples, seems very close to the fruit and terroir. Many also have a rustic appeal – a sense of not taking themselves too seriously – that their more polished and manipulated counterparts lack. Downsides include greater bottle-to-bottle variability, the ever-present possibility of reductive notes on opening, the need to store the bottles at cool temperatures (ideally 14ºC/57ºF or less) and, for some drinkers and some wines, their cloudy appearance and funky bouquets.

SAQ natural wines tasting: post 1 of 3.

Written by carswell

May 25, 2015 at 14:15

MWG November 11th tasting: Gamay or not Gamay

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St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil 2013, L’Hurluberlu, Sébastien David ($24.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% organically and biodynamically farmed Cabernet Franc. Manually harvested, fermented with indigenous yeasts. Vinified Beaujolais style – using carbonic maceration – and given a very short maturation in tanks, with bottling occurring early in the new year following harvest. Unfiltered. No added sulphur. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Ferny, slatey, plummy, red-berried nose that eventually gave up some whiffs of jalapeño. Pure, clean fruit, bright but not harsh acidity and soft tannins that turn a little raspy on the tangy finish. “Surprising depth for such a light wine,” noted one taster. “Like health juice,” said another. Served lightly chilled or even cooler, this is irresistibly drinkable. (Buy again? A bit pricey for such an easy-drinker but yes, in multiples.)

Côtes du Forez 2013, La Volcanique, Cave Verdier-Logel ($21.06, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Based in Marcilly-le-Châtel, the certified organic 17-hectare estate grows Gamay and a little Pinot Gris and Viognier. This cuvée is 100% Gamay from old vines rooted in basalt soil. Manually harvested. Macerated 15 days at around 19°C. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Lightly filtered (earth filters) before bottling. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Lovely nose: cedar, plum, dark minerals and papier d’arménie. Supple, dry and medium-bodied. The combination of rocky minerals, lean fruit, trenchant acidity, light but sinewy tannins and earthy finish give the wine a rustic appeal that its Beaujo counterparts lack. Seems to cry out for some charcuterie (the winemaker also suggests pot au feu and rabbit stew). Understandably a hit with many around the table. (Buy again? For sure.)

The estate first impinged on my consciousness at the Salon des vins d’importation privée, where I tasted the Vin de France 2012, Les FMR, Gamay, Cave Verdier-Logel ($19.00, La QV/Insolte, 12 bottles/case). This one-off 100% Gamay cuvée was made from sustainably farmed Côteaux Lyonnais grapes that neighbouring winegrowers donated to the estate to replace the crop it lost to hail (in French, FMR sounds like éphémère, ephemeral). Though I didn’t taste the wines side by side, this struck me as a slightly lighter version of the Volcanique and, at under $20, definitely worth buying.

Chiroubles 2013, Damien Coquelet ($32.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Now in his mid-20s, Coquelet is the stepson of renowned natural Beaujolais producer Georges Descombes. He began working in the family’s vineyards and cellars when he was five and has been making his own wines since 2007. Besides this cuvée, he produces an old-vine Chiroubles, a Morgon, a Beaujolais-Villages and the wildly popular, semi-nouveau Fou du Beaujo. This 100% Gamay is made from organically farmed, manually harvested grapes. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Depending on the vintage, no or minimal sulphur is used. Coquelet typically bottles his cru wines a year before his stepfather, which makes them fruitier and juicier. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Classic Chiroubles: perfumy, supple, silky and bright but, like the other 2013 Beaujolais I’ve tried, a little on the light side – or so it seemed coming on the heels of the other two wines in this flight. That said, the mix of tart red berries, vine sap, graphite, black pepper and hints of flowers and animale is magnetic. (Buy again? Sure.)

(Flight: 7/9)