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Ward & associés tasting (1/9)

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In early February, David Ward paid the Mo’ Wine Group a visit to present some of his eponymous agency’s new arrivals. “Drinkability first” is the agency’s credo and all the wines poured emphatically met that criterion. The tasting also featured winemakers, grapes and even regions that most of us had little if any experience with. No surprise then that a large order followed. Note that while some of the wines are still available, others are in very short supply.

We began with one of the less unconventional wines in the lineup.

Bourgogne Aligoté 2015, Sarnin-Berrux ($32.89, private import, 12 bottles/case)
With the exception of one cuvée, all Sarnin-Berrux wines are made from purchased grapes. The firm works closely with the growers, insisting on organic methods and often picking the grapes themselves. The wine-making is non-interventionist and based on the lunar calendar. The grapes for this 100% Aligoté are manually harvested. After slow pneumatic pressing, the must is clarified by settling. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts lasts four to six months. Unfiltered and unfined. No additives other than a tiny shot of sulphur. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

sarnin-berrux-aligote-a

Somewhat muted nose: faint lemon/citronella, quartz and “pear flower.” Quite dry and buttery textured with lively but not trenchant acidity. Russet apples and honey up front, minerals (flint and chalk) on the finish. A white pepper note – as much a sensation as a flavour – lingers. Subtly complex and very civilized. If only it were a few dollars less. Then again, Ente’s 2014 Bourgonge Aligoté currently lists for $33 at the SAQ while De Villaine’s 2014 Bouzeron Aligoté runs a buck shy of $40, so maybe it’s not so pricey after all. (Buy again? Hmm…)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 1 of 9

Written by carswell

February 10, 2017 at 13:13

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

Two white Burgs from Jean-Jacques Girard

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Founded in 1529, Domaine Jean-Jacques Girard is one of the oldest estates in Savigny. It has 18 hectares of vines in the communes of Savigny-lès-Beaune, Pernand-Vergelesses, Aloxe-Corton, Volnay, Pommard and Beaune.

Bourgogne Aligoté 2014, Jean-Jacques Girard ($26.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Aligoté from three parcels in the Hautes-Côtes. Mechanically harvested. Fermented and matured (for around 10 months) in foudres. Residual sugar: <0.5 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Appealing nose of white fruit, herbs and minerals. Smooth and not particularly fruity in the mouth, with sleek acidity, a strong mineral component and a sourish finish. A penetrating Aligoté that doesn’t give itself airs – just the way I like ‘em. (Buy again? Gladly.)

Pernand-Vergelesses 2012, Les Belles Filles, Jean-Jacques Girard ($46.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from the Les Belles Filles lieu-dit; the site is quite steep and the soil is very chalky clay. Manually and mechanically harvested. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in 50-hectolitre vats, after which the wine spends 10 months in 228-litre oak barrels (15% new) for malolactic fermentation and maturation, with weekly stirring of the lees until March of the year following harvest. The wine is lightly sulphured and bottled in July and August. Residual sugar: <0.5%. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Outgoing nose of tropical fruit and peach against a mineral background. The rich, faintly buttery texture is counterbalanced by great acidity, while the clean fruit sits on a chalky substrate and slow-fades through a surprisingly savoury finish. Beautiful though light years removed from, say, a flinty Chablis. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG November 10, 2016, tasting: flight 7 of 9

Written by carswell

January 16, 2017 at 14:26

Chitry and Chablis

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Mon Caviste (aka Mon Caviste, Côté Vignes) is a Montreal-based wine agency with a lower profile than some. A few notable exceptions aside (Le Vieux Donjon, for example), it focuses on the private import channel. What’s more, few of the producers it represents are big names. And yet its wines are invariably interesting and delicious, as evidenced by their inclusion on the lists of many of the city’s top restaurants and the large orders that have followed each of the agency’s visits to the Mo’ Wine Group.

In November, Mon Caviste’s head, Roberto De Lisi, led a MWG tasting of wines – mostly sparklers – from the agency’s portfolio. We began with two still white Burgundies from the new-to-us Domaine de la Tour.

Founded in 1992 and located in Lignorelles, near Chablis, Domaine de la Tour has around 13 hectares of vines in production, including 3.72 hectares in Chablis 1er cru and 5.6 hectares in Chablis. Annual production is 30,000 bottles. While not organic, the estate has not used synthetic herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers since 2003.

Bourgogne Chitry 2015, Domaine de la Tour ($26.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from vines rooted in marly limestone. Vinified and matured entirely in tanks. Fermented with selected yeasts. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Cold-stabilized before bottling to precipitate out tartrates. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Lovely nose: lemon, apple, chalk, “a little candied,” “white flowers” and “a hint of truffle” and of ash. More substantial than expected in the mouth. Understated fruit, tons of minerals and very dry. Bracing acidity adds a nice bite to the long finish. Fair complexity and good balance. This near-Chablis is a QPR winner. A second bottle opened in late December was, if anything, even more satisfying. (Buy again? Done!)

Chablis 1er cru 2014, Mont Mains, Domaine de la Tour ($40.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from vines rooted in the Kimmeridgian marly limestone soil of the Montmains vineyard, of which the estate has 2.51 hectares in production. Vinified in vats and French oak barrels. Fermented with selected yeasts. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Matured in tanks and barrels. Cold-stabilized before bottling to precipitate out tartrates. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Classic if somewhat closed nose of apple, lemon, minerals and truffle. Similarly closed on the palate yet clearly complete and elegant. More structured, more layered, tenser and deeper than the Chitry, the fruit ripe, the minerals dancing, the acidity positively electric. A brown butter note overtones the finish. Appetizing, dry, long and clean. Again, the QPR is high. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG November 10, 2016, tasting: flight 1 of 9

Written by carswell

January 3, 2017 at 14:05

Serious whites

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Bourgogne 2013, Les Bigotes, Domaine de Chassorney/Frédéric Cossard ($58.15, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed vines. The manually harvested whole clusters are sorted and placed directly in a pneumatic press, then slowly and gently pressed. The free-run and pressed juice is transferred to the same vat, then racked into large barrels. Low-temperature (c. 12°C) fermentation with indigenous yeasts lasts three to six months; in some years, malolactic fermentation finishes before alcoholic fermentation does. The wine remains on its lees, with no stirring or racking, until the contents of all barrels are racked into a single vat, allowed to rest one month and then gravity-bottled without filtering or fining. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Surprisingly fresh nose of ripe yellow fruit (“mango skins” per one taster), golden raisins and light brown sugar. Smooth, rich and round in the mouth but in no way heavy, with complex flavours, a mineral matrix and just enough acidity. Good depth and length complete the picture. In short, a textbook white Burgundy whose only downside is its price (Cossard blames it on the cost of grapes and the high overhead associated with his version of natural winemaking), though that’s true for many wines from the region these days. (Buy again? If feeling flush, yes.)

Anjou 2014, Domaine Thibaud Boudignon ($46.64, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Bordeaux native Thibaud Boudignon is head of operations at Château Soucherie. On the side, he makes wine under his own name from two hectares of vineyards in Anjou and Savennières. This 100% organically farmed Chenin Blanc comes from vines averaging a third of a century old and grown in shallow soils on grey schist, ryholite and sand. The grapes are manually harvested and gently pressed. The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts in French and Austrian oak barrels of various volumes. Does not undergo malolactic fermentation. Matured eight to 12 months in second- and third-fill 225-litre barrels and new 500-litre barrels. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Ashy oak, quince, quartz, chalk dust. Remarkably pure fruit, sleek acidity and crystalline minerality fill the mouth. A saline tang colours the extremely long finish. Quintessential Chenin. A little less dazzling than the 2012, at least for now, but oh, so beautiful and full of potential. (Buy again? Done!)

MWG July 15th tasting: flight 7 of 8

Written by carswell

August 30, 2016 at 14:23

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

Oak and ashes

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Touraine 2013, Cuvée Cendrillon, Domaine de la Garrelière ($23.45, 10211397)
A blend of Sauvignon Blanc (80%) and Chardonnay (20%) from biodynamically farmed vines averaging 25 years old. The grape varieties are vinified separately. After gentle pressing, the must is allowed to clarify by settling. Fermentation – full alcoholic with indigenous yeasts and partial malolactic – takes place in stainless steel tanks and lasts two months. A third of the wine by volume is aged in old 500-litre oak barrels. Blending is done one month before bottling. Fined with bentonite and filtered through a 0.65 membrane. The cuvée’s name, French for Cinderella, refers to the winegrower’s practice of spraying the vines with a preparation of crystallized ashes made from burned vine clippings. Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Ashy minerals, peach, honeysuckle, “fennel” and faint, dusty potpourri. Fresh and briny on the palate with subtle citrus flavours. The combo of Chardonnay and relatively mild acidity give the wine a round and satiny texture. A touch of bitterness colours the minerally finish. “Clean and precise,” as another taster pointed out. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bourgogne 2013, Chardonnay, Caves Ropiteau Frères ($22.40, 11293953)
100% Chardonnay from vineyards across Burgundy (purchased grapes?). Fermented in stainless steel (with industrial yeasts?). Matured in barrels for six months. (Filtered? Fined?) Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Apple and pear, hints of oats and white flowers and an unmissable shot of oak. Medium-bodied. The fruit is rich but not tropical and there’s enough acidity to keep it from being flabby. A hint of sweetness marks the smooth attack but the wine finishes dry. Faint minerals and not-so-faint caramel are noticeable from the mid-palate on. Fair length. To my oak-sensitive palate, a bit cloying. Give it a year in the cellar to digest the wood? (Buy again? If you aren’t allergic to oak, sure.)

MWG February 26th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

March 19, 2016 at 09:05