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Pais keeper

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Vino de Chile 2014, Huasa Pilen Alto, Louis-Antoine Luyt ($31.86, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Luyt owns no vineyards but has a long-term relationship with more than a dozen small growers. This 100% Pais (aka Mission, Listan Prieto) cuvée is made from organically farmed 220-year-old vines (that’s not a typo) rooted in shallow clay-loam over a granitic basement (that’s not a typo) in the Maule region at an elevation of 580 metres (1,900 feet). The grapes are manually harvested and given two weeks’ carbonic maceration. Alcoholic fermentation is at low temperatures and with indigenous yeasts. After gentle pressing, the wine is transferred to third- and fourth-fill French oak barrels for six months’ maturation. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
The reductive nose of band-aid seguing to cedar, “peat,” “dehydrated strawberry,” “plum vinegar” and “a summer roofing quality” (quoting other tasters) comes around after a while. In the mouth, the wine is fluid, supple and elusive, hard to pin down. Broader, deeper and darker than the 2014 Pipeño but, like it, full of juicy fruit, minerals, soft tannins and bright acidity. So rustic yet so drinkable. Returning to my glass at the end of the tasting (an hour or two after it had been poured), the wine was transformed, smelling cleaner and red fruitier with overtones of new leather and tasting remarkably pure, bright and fresh. (Buy again? Yep.)

If the description of the wine’s nose seems familiar, it’s because, due to a transcription error, it was mistakenly attached to the earlier note for the 2014 Refugio. Apologies for any confusion.

MWG July 15th tasting: flight 6 of 8

Written by carswell

August 29, 2016 at 11:33

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

Odds and ends

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The tasting technically ended with the preceding flight. But, as noted earlier, Steve is irrepressible. So when the Chocalán prompted someone to inquire about the reds from a Chilean producer in Rézin’s portfolio, Steve excused himself and reappeared a few minutes later with a bottle of one of those reds as well as a couple of newly arrived private imports.

Named after one of Montreal’s more dynamic young chefs, the Valle del Maule 2013, Cuvée Charles-Antoine, Louis-Antoine Luyt ($73.15/1500 ml, private import, 6 bottles/case) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) and Carignan (45%) from 70-year-old vines growing in the commune of Cauquenes. The grape varieties were vinified separately and matured five months in stainless steel tanks. 15% ABV. The complex nose of cassis, plum and savoury herbs comes with a musky/horsey note. In the mouth, the wine is rich and glyceriny yet fluid, heady but not hot. Finely structured by firm but far from rigid tannins and bright acidity, the ripe-sweet fruit is overtoned with red pepper and spice while the finish is long, clean and minerally. (Buy again? Sure.)

The Bordeaux 2014, Château de Bellevue ($28.72, private import, 6 bottles/case) is 100% Sauvignon Gris from a 1.5 ha plot of organically farmed vines averaging 35 years old and grown in the Lussac Saint-Émilion appellation. The manually harvested grapes were directly pressed. The must was fermented with indigenous yeasts and occasionally stirred during maturation on the lees. The unfiltered wine was bottled in early March 2015. 13% ABV. Classy nose of ripe white fruit with honey and anise notes. Lively and refreshing in the mouth, the fruit remarkably clean and pure. Minerals and citrus mark the long finish. A delight. (Buy again? Yes.)

And lastly, a red from the maker of the Montlouis we enjoyed earlier in the tasting: Chinon 2014, Le Dolmen, Jaulin Plaisantin ($21.30, private import, 12 bottles/case). The fruit for this 100% Cabernet Franc comes from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Gently pressed, macerated, fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and matured on the fine lees for six months in concrete tanks. The only additive is a tiny squirt of sulphur (20 mg/l) at bottling. 12.5% ABV. Lovely nose of red and black berries, spice, earth and a faint herbaceousness. A sip tells you this is Chinon done in a highly drinkable style: forward fruit, bright acidity, lightly astringent tannins and a clean, minerally finish. Seems a bit hollow on the mid-palate though both Steve and I think that’s a passing phase. Lightly chilled, this will be a great summer sipper. (Buy again? A refreshing, organic, private import Chinon for a shade over $21? Yes!)

Rézin is the Quebec agent for all three wines.

MWG March 12th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

April 19, 2016 at 14:43

In a glass darkly

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Valle del Maipo 2004, Gran Reserva Blend, Viña Chocalán (NLA)
Our bottle came from Steve’s cellar; the 2011 is currently available at the SAQ ($30.25, 11447588). A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Malbec (24%), Merlot (15%), Syrah (13%), Petit Verdot (10%) and Cabernet Franc (8%) from vines averaging seven years old and grown in chalky soil. Manually harvested. Destemmed. The whole grapes were cold macerated for five days. The juice was then fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled (28°C) stainless steel tanks. Matured 14 months in French oak barrels. Lightly filtered and fined before bottling. Residual sugar (per the winery): 1.8 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: LCC/Clos des Vignes.
Powerful nose of roasted coffee, resiny dried herbs, “asphalt shingles” (per another taster), leather, plum and a hint of “something decomposing.” Less punishing in the mouth than the nose might lead you to expect. Full-bodied, velvety, very dry and, in its way, balanced: heady but not hot and impressively structured, the mass well shaped by round, firm tannins and surprisingly vibrant acidity. Tertiary flavours are beginning to dominate the dark fruit, which nonetheless persists through the long chocolate- and eucalyptus-inflected finish. Really needs a hunk of grilled red meat. (Buy again? Not my style but if it were, sure.)

MWG March 12th tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

April 12, 2016 at 14:06

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 !

MWG January 8th tasting: A pair of Chilean Pinot Noirs with a French connection

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Casablanca 2012, Pinot Noir, Refugio, Montsecano y Copains ($25.05, 12184839)
The estate is a joint project involving three Chileans and Alsatian 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. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
After the faint screwcap reducto-fartiness blows off, a nose more mulberry than red berry with whiffs of undergrowth, minerals and spice (had I been drinking double-blind, I would have guessed it was a young-vine, cool-climate Syrah). Supple and juicy, full of sun-drenched fruit, grounded in minerals, structured by light tannins and bright acidity, faintly streaked with a stemmy greenness. Kirsch and a hint of smoke scent the credible finish. Far from profound but certainly drinkable. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Valle del Aconcagua 2012, Pinot Noir, Subsollum, Clos des Fous ($24.05, 12304335)
“Clos des Fous is about four friends who decided to grow vine in gloomy, cold and unpredictable places in the southern regions of Chile.” The estate’s first commercial vintage was 2010; the 2012 is the first vintage of the Subsollum. The grapes for this 100% Pinot Noir come from organically and semi-biodynamically farmed young vines in Malleco and coastal Aconcagua. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in lined concrete vats. A small proportion is matured in barrels. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve & Sélection.
Not what you’d call a Burgundian nose: red berries and plum intermixed with “cinnamon candy,” “Worcestershire sauce,” “green ketchup” and “a leather jacket with mothballs” (to quote four tasters). A medium-bodied mouthful of solarized but not very sweet fruit, raspy tannins and trickling acidity, all shadowed by earthy mineral and spice flavours/aromas and a faint underlying bitterness. Long. On the plus side, the wine’s got character in spades. Unfortunately, it’s also somewhat coarse and unfocused. Maybe it needed more time in the bottle or carafe or maybe it’s the young vines. In any case, it leaves me curious about future vintages. (Buy again? In years to come, quite possibly.)

Both wines were a hit with the New World aficionados, a bit less so with the Old World fans. But even the latter had to admit they had a certain appeal and were true to their origin, not slavish imitations of Pinots made elsewhere, including Burgundy. In an article on Chilean wines published last fall, the Gazette’s Bill Zacharkiw advanced that “once they [Chilean winemakers] stop trying to please export markets and simply make the wine that is the best expression of what they have, those markets will come to them.” Wines like these and Clos Ouvert’s various offerings are a definite step in that direction.

(Flight: 4/8)

Written by carswell

January 26, 2015 at 11:18

Clos Ouvert and Hôtel Herman

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As the tasting of Péron wines at Hôtel Herman wound down, business at the restaurant began picking up and, like several other tasters, I decided to stick around and have a bite, a decision made easier by the convivial setup, small plate approach and appealing by-the-glass selection of wines. That other friends and acquaintances – a MWG member, an SAQ wine advisor, a reporter from La Presse, staff from nearby restaurants, a cohort from Rézin – began trickling in only sealed the deal.

Installed on the other side of the room, the Rézin gang appeared to be focused on a half dozen bottles they had brought with them and a 20-something guy wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word Morgon. Glasses were being poured for some of the staff and several patrons. Eventually, Rézin rep Steve came to our end of the bar and explained that the t-shirt wearer was a visiting winemaker who was friends with Mathieu Lapierre and we shouldn’t miss his formidable old-vine cuvée – old here meaning from stock first planted 350 years ago – made from a forgotten grape variety.

Glass in hand, I introduced myself to the winemaker. His name? Louis-Antoine Luyt. He reached for the bottle of the formidable wine and poured me a taste, explaining that it was made from Païs grapes. That brought to mind another wine made from an obscure grape, the 100% Fer Servadou MarcillacLo Sang del Païs.” While Luyt’s Païs smelled and tasted nothing like a Gamay (or a Marcillac, for that matter), the similarities with a Beaujolais cru were obvious. “This is the first I’ve ever heard of a Païs grape in the Beaujolais,” I mentioned. “What’s the back story?”

“Beaujolais?! My wines are from Chile. Pais was brought to the Americas by Spaniards in the 16th century and planted to make sacramental wine. It’s probably the same as California’s Mission grape.”

“But, but the Morgon t-shirt, Mathieu Lapierre…”

“Well, I’m from France, I love Beaujolais and I went to school with Mathieu. When I decided to make my own wine, I set out looking for a challenge and ended up in Chile.”

He went on to explain that he and partners eventually found a vineyard to lease in the Maule valley. Located about 35 km from the coast at an altitude of between 300 and 700 m, the vineyard was already planted to several varieties, all ungrafted. The parcels are dry farmed and manually worked in compliance with organic principles. The wine-making is natural, the sulphur regime minimal. The domaine is called Clos Ouvert, a name nearly as sweet as Domaine du Possible‘s.

I wasn’t taking notes but, assuming I’m remembering this correctly, Luyt offered tastes of two vintages of the Pais de Quenehuao (the 2010 for sure and maybe the 2011). Both were riper than a Bojo and had a completely different flavour profile, yet the weight, acidity, structure and sappiness were very Bojo-like, due surely in part to a similar wine-making approach that includes carbonic maceration. Also poured were samples of: the 2010 Cinsault “Quella”, which can stand comparison with Languedoc Cinsaults; the 2010 Primavera, an easy-drinking, Carignan-dominated blend; and the 2011 Carménère “Cauquenes”, the first and only wine made from that grape that I’d ask for a second glass of. There may also have been a Cabernet Franc. None of the wines were fruit bombs. All were balanced, more savoury than sweet and possessed of a minerally streak that was unlike any I’ve encountered in Andean wines and that had me thinking terroir, especially since the wines weren’t slavish imitations of their French homologues. Most of all, they were food-friendly and drinkable – what the French call digeste.

“Don’t take this wrong,” I said, “but I’m not normally a fan of Chilean wines. They often taste like tomato – the plant, not the fruit – and seem devoid of finesse. So, I mean it as a compliment when I say I’d never guess these wines were from Chile.”

“I don’t like a lot of Chilean wines either. That was a big part of the challenge I mentioned earlier.”

Rézin is bringing in the wines, which will begin arriving in November when the 2010 Pais hits our shores. All will be available only in cases of 12 bottles and through the private import channel. Prices have yet to be determined but should run under $25 a bottle for individuals and even less for restaurants. I look forward to spending some quality time with them and you should too.

My mini review of Hôtel Herman is after the jump.

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Written by carswell

September 24, 2012 at 21:19