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Thirst-quencher

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The November agency tasting was led by our good friend, oenopole’s Theo Diamantis. We wet our whistles with a new addition to the agency’s portfolio, its first commissioned product, a made-to-spec beer that had been available only through the private import channel since its launch last spring but can now be purchased at the brewery’s boutique and is about to make the jump to the SAQ.

Bière de soif, Grisette de Dunham, Brasserie Dunham ($10.15, 13593360)
A Belgian-inspired blond ale, specifically a “grisette saison brewed with Barbe Rouge and Cashmere hops and fermented with our saison blend.” Refermented in the bottle. Crown cap. 5.2% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Hazy yellow-gold with fine bubbles and a compact, long-lasting, lacy white head. The nose is marked by fruity esters with clear citrus, spice, floral and yeast notes. In the mouth, it’s on the lighter side of medium-bodied, dry, smooth and fruity (citrus, stone fruit, faint banana). Mild malt, light hops, crisp but not aggressive acidity and ticklish carbonation mean it’s super refreshing. A fine bitterness colours the clean finish. Very easy drinking, as befits a bière de soif. (Buy again? Def.)

MWG November 10th tasting: flight 1 of 5

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Written by carswell

January 26, 2018 at 12:40

Gauzy Ozzie

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Blewitt Springs 2016, Chenin Pet nat, Jauma ($43.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded and run by former sommelier James Erskine and based in the Basket Range section of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, Jauma is one of the leaders of Australia’s natural wine movement. An ancestral method sparkler. 100% Chenin Blanc from 60-year-old vines organically farmed by Fiona Wood. Manually harvested. Fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts. Matured in French oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. No added anything, including sulphur. Crown cap. Residual sugar: ca. 10 g/l. 10.5% ABV. Also available in 12-bottle cases at the LCBO ($53.10, 361641). Quebec agent: WINO.

Hazy, pale yellow-beige. Super natural nose of lemon pith and apple, lees, “jasmine” (per another taster) or maybe honeysuckle and “a little hairspray.” Very dry in the mouth, with tiny, tickly bubbles. The zingy acidity and lemony flavours bring lemonade and maybe wheat beer to mind. The complex of minerals includes a saline streak. The long, savoury finish brings a chamomile or “chrysanthemum tea” note. Light, tart, refreshing and so much fun to drink. The Quebec – let alone Ontario – price does give one pause but this is an ideal summer sipper. (Buy again? A splurge bottle, yes.)

MWG July 13th tasting: flight 2 of 9

Written by carswell

August 22, 2017 at 12:48

Odd couple

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As is the Mo’ Wine Group’s longstanding tradition, our first tasting after the holidays focused on inexpensive and affordable bottles.

Vino da Tavola 2014, Il Brut and the Beast, Valli Unite ($25.35, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Based in Costa Vescovato in southern Piedmont, Valli Unite is a 35-year-old organic cooperative whose members grow local grape varieties as well as grains, fruits, vegetables and livestock. Accurate information on this wine is hard to find. It’s not listed on the coop’s website and online reviewers tend to be all over place about its constituent grape varieties, production method (some say it’s a filtered Charmat-method sparkler) and stopper (some say it’s a cork). For all I know, there may be more than one bottling. This much seems clear: the wine we tasted was made from Cortese and may also contain some Favorita. The biodynamically farmed grapes were manually harvested. The wine was fermented with indigenous yeasts and bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur was added during the wine-making process. The fizz is the result of natural, in-bottle fermentation. Vegan-compatible. Crown cap. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Pale straw. Hazy in all the glasses though the last glass or two also contained a lot of brown-coloured lees. Interesting, leesy nose of lemon, sour apple, chalk and “bonbon de banane.” Soft but ticklish effervescence. There’s some fruit on the attack (one taster described it as “fruité austère”), lots of chalky minerals and fair acidity. A lactic note sounds on the long finish. Somehow the elements don’t coalesce into a whole and, as the wine breathes, the alcohol becomes noticeable and the wine seems “oxidized” and a bit “flat.” Not the hit that the 2011 was. I suspect our just-off-the-boat bottle was travel-shocked or otherwise upset. (Buy again? To give it another chance in a few months, yes.)

Crémant d’Alsace, Extra Brut, Paul-Édouard, Domaine Bott-Geyl ($26.00, 13032845)
A blend of Pinot Blanc (50%), Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Noir (20%). The hand-picked grapes are purchased from growers, all of whom are converting to organic practices. This traditional-method sparkler was matured in the bottle for 24 months before disgoring. Reducing sugar: 5.1 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
Straw heading toward bronze with a fine bead and next to no foam. Outgoing nose eliciting descriptors like white strawberry, honey, acacia, stone fruit and, surprisingly but accurately, jalapeño. Round and rich in the mouth. The bubbles are low-key, the ripe fruit has a slightly honeyed quality, the minerals are dusty. Soft acidity and hints of lemon provide some welcome freshness. A whiff of yeasty brioche colours the long finish. Impeccable though not what you’d call lively. (Buy again? Personally, I’d go for something tenser but several tasters were quite taken with this.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 1 of 7

Written by carswell

January 26, 2017 at 12:51

Les elixirs de Xavier Marchais

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In late September, the Mo’ Wine Group initiated what we hope will be a near-monthly series of agency tastings, at which a representative from one of Quebec’s many wine agencies presents a selection of wines, usually private imports, from the agency’s portfolio.

Kicking off the series was one of the newest kids on the block, Deux Caves. (The agency’s name is a play on words, une cave being a cellar in French and un cave being a dumbass, an incompetent, a sucker.) The cave leading the tasting was Max Campbell, who earns an actual living pouring wine, serving tables and shucking oysters at Joe Beef and Vin Papillon; the other cave, Alexander Campbell (no relation to Max) is a Montrealer currently based in Dijon, where he’s studying oenology.

Deux Caves’s portfolio may be small for now but their focus is already clear: ultra-drinkable natural wines. In other words, right up the MWG’s alley, which is part of the reason why demand for seats at the tasting was so high that we ended up holding two sessions back to back (the promise of food, including a dish from Vin Papillon, may also have had something to do with it).

We began with a white and a red from Xavier Marchais, a young winemaker based in the Anjou region. His four hectares of vines (half Chenin, half Cabernet Franc) are farmed biodynamically using a horse and manual labour. Pesticides, herbicides and other synthetic products are systematically avoided. Wine-making is non-interventionist. For the two Elixir cuvées, fermentation (with indigenous yeasts, naturally) and maturation take place in used barriques. Cellar techniques are pretty much limited to crushing and punching down by foot, manual pressing and racking. No sugar or sulphur are added. The unfiltered and unfined wines are bottled by hand and closed with a crown cap (the red’s cap reportedly allows more oxygen exchange than the white’s, which may partially explain the white’s reductive side).

Vin de France 2013, L’Elixir de Jouvence, Xavier Marchais ($28.54, private import, 12 bottles/case, NLA)
100% Chenin Blanc grown on schist. Yields in 2012 were an incredibly low 13 hl/ha (probably similar in 2013). Matured 12 months. Crown-capped. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Reductive aromas on the nose and a faint spritz on the palate; carafing the wine well in advance helped to eliminate both. Engaging nose of wax, quince, lemon, minerals, honey, honeysuckle and straw/hay. Coming across as very close to the juice in the mouth. Dry, though, with zingy acidity, ethereal fruit, lots of minerals and a good, clean, tart finish. Light but vibrant and mouth-filling. The winemaker says this is young and more reduced than in other vintages. He also foresees a long life for it, predicting that the acidity will decease while the wine will become rounder and more aromatically complex. In the meantime, he suggests carafing it “violently.” (Buy again? In multiples.)

Vin de France 2013, L’Elixir de Longue Vie, Xavier Marchais ($26.87, private import, 12 bottles/case, NLA)
100% Cabernet Franc grown on schist and spilite. Yields in 2012 were 27 hl/ha (probably similar in 2013). Crown-capped. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Exuberant nose of red fruit with floral, spice and incense overtones but no green pepper. Less exuberant than expected on the palate. Medium-bodied and satin-textured. Very dry, again with ethereal fruit. The acidity is bright and the tannins soft. A streak of slate runs throughout and is joined by spice on the long finish. The bottle at the second tasting was mushroomier than the first. The group’s resident Cab Franc hater actually enjoyed this enough to buy a couple of bottles. (Buy again? Yes.)

Mo’ Wine Group September 27th tastings: flight 1 of 3

MWG September 11th tasting: Natural gas

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Glou partner Jack Jacob joined the Mo’ Wine Group on September 11 to lead a tasting of several of the agency’s private imports. This being Glou, all the wines were natural (see this earlier post for a working definition) and many of the winemakers involved have shunned the restrictive controlled appellation designation. We began with an impressive sparkler.

Vin de France 2013, Pet’Sec Blanc, Domaine des Capriades ($31.50, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Based in the Loire Valley’s Touraine region, Capriades founder and co-owner, Pascal Potaire, is considered the king of pet nats (short for pétillants naturels, natural sparkling wines produced using the méthode ancestrale). This example is made from organically farmed Chenin Blanc with a dollop of Cabernet Franc (70-30, according to some reports). Spontaneous fermentation without additives. Maturation in old barrels. Bottled unfiltered and unsulphured and closed with a crown cap. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Complex bouquet: apples, lemon, chalk, hint of perfume, eventually pipe tobacco. Fine bubbles, trenchant acidity, clean fruit, veritable strata of minerals and a very long tart and saline finish. Pet nats have a reputation for being summer sippers – off-dry fizzies for uncritical drinking – but this bone-dry and bracing wine is far more serious and accomplished than that: a refreshing and engaging aperitif that’s also substantial enough to accompany oysters on the half shell. (Buy again? Naturally.)

(Flight: 1/9)

Written by carswell

September 16, 2014 at 13:47

Somewhereness 2013: Flat Rock Cellars

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Founded in 1999 and located at the top of Twenty Mile Bench, Flat Rock Cellars owns 80 acres of vines. The three core grape varieties are Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The winery is built on several levels to allow gravity flow. Intervention in the wine-making is largely avoided and indigenous yeasts are used for some wines.

Sparkling Brut Reserve 2007, Twenty Mile Bench VQA, Flat Rock Cellars ($35.00, available only at the winery)
Two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay. Whole-cluster pressed, cold settled, fermented in stainless steel tanks. Racked into neutral barrels for six month’s maturation, then blended, filtered and bottled, with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. Aged on the lees for three years, then disgored and dosed. Crown-capped. 12% ABV.
Citrus, apple, brioche and chalk. Lightly fruity upfront, turning bone dry as it goes along. Laden with minerals and brilliant acidity. Long, toasty, leesy finish. Good complexity and balance. Lovely. (Buy again? Yes.)

Riesling 2011, Nadja’s Vineyard, Twenty Mile Bench VQA, Flat Rock Cellars ($25.00, Langevins, 12 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from a 2.5-acre vineyard atop a bed of limestone. Manually harvested, whole-cluster pressed, cold-settled and then racked off the lees for fermentation. Fermented at cold temperatures with selected yeasts. 13.5 g/l residual sugar. 11.5% ABV.
The nose – peach and white flowers – doesn’t quite prepare you for the lemonade-ish palate with its tension between tart and sweet against a backdrop of flint and white fruit. Long, juicy finish with lingering sour green apple and lime. Intensely refreshing. (Buy again? At the winery’s $20.15, definitely.)

Chardonnay 2009, Twenty Mile Bench VQA, Flat Rock Cellars ($20.20, 11889474)
A blend of two Chardonnay clones from four different sites and soil types. Manually harvested. Some of the grapes were destemmed, others were kept as whole bunches. After pressing and settling, the must was transferred by gravity feed into barrels (60%) and stainless steel tanks (40%) where it was underwent primary fermentation (with selected yeasts) and full malolactic fermentation with regular lees-stirring. After blending, the wine was bottled unfined. Screwcapped. 12.8% ABV.
Oak, lemon, chalk. A bit leesy and lactic with a sour edge. Smooth texture, the charged acidity notwithstanding. Lemon and sour apple with some honey creeping in the decent finish. Tasty. (Buy again? Sure, especially at the LCBO’s $16.95.)

Chardonnay 2011, The Rusty Shed, Twenty Mile Bench VQA, Flat Rock Cellars ($25.00, Langevins, 12 bottles/case)
A challenging vintage meant the fruit was left on the vine until early October. Manually picked, gently pressed, transferred to barrels for fermentation followed by ten months maturation in French oak barrels (a mix of new and old). Screwcapped. 13% ABV.
Oats, lemon, white fruit, lanolin and a hint of sweet oak. Weightier than the 2009, though by no means heavy. Dry and minerally with grippy acidity and faint overtones of stone fruit, butter and caramel. Clean – the oak is an accent – and long. Polished and appealing. (Buy again? Yes.)

Pinot Noir 2011, Twenty Mile Bench VQA, Flat Rock Cellars ($29.20, Langevins, 12 bottles/case)
The so-called estate bottling. 100% Pinot Noir from seven parcels. Manually picked, pressed, then soaked  on the skins with manual punch-downs several times a day to extract color and tannin. Barrel-fermented, mostly with indigenous yeats. Matured in a mix of old and new French oak barrels. Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV.
Pretty nose of cedar, spice and red berries. Ripe fruit, light oak and a slight earthiness. Good acidity and structure. Clean finish with a faint tannic rasp. (Buy again? At the Ontario price of $20, sure.)

Pinot Noir 2011, Gravity, Twenty Mile Bench VQA, Flat Rock Cellars ($34.50, Langevins, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of barrels selected for their deeper, less forward fruit. Aged longer than the estate Pinot Noir; otherwise, the wine-making is identical. Unfined. Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV.
Less primary and more integrated than the regular Pinot. Pure fruit, good acidity, fine tannins, dark minerals and a little more savour and heft. Light oak on the lingering finish. (Buy again? Yes, especially at the winery’s $30.15.)

Written by carswell

November 11, 2013 at 23:08