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Busch babies

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Based in Pünderich on the banks of the Mosel River, Clemens Busch took over his family winery in 1984. Starting with the original two hectares, he has expanded the estate’s holdings to 25 hectares, mostly in the 1980s by buying vertiginously steep, hard-to-work vineyards from neighbours who abandoned them to plant faddish Pinot Noir on the much flatter plains. Sixteen of the hectares are in the Pünderich Marienburg vineyard, south-facing and considered one of the top Mosel sites. Though a 1971 law consolidated all the hillside’s parcels under the Marienburg name, Busch vinifies them on a parcel by parcel basis and bottles his top cuvées under the original names.

The farming is organic (since 1986) and biodynamic (since 2004). The wine-making is non-interventionist, with no fining and nothing added except a small squirt of sulphur dioxide at bottling for most cuvées. Most of the wines are dry, though small quantities of sweet and botrytized wines are also made.

The estate’s website features some impressive, full-screen photographs of the vineyards and winery.

Mosel 2015, Riesling, (alter)native, Clemens Busch ($32.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
This is an unfiltered, low-sulphur bottling. Nearly the entire production goes to Quebec, though a little also makes its way to New York and Japan. 100% organically and biodynamically farmed Riesling from the Marienburg vineyard. Manually harvested. Macerated 12 to 24 hours on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation lasted until the end of December. Matured 15 months on the lees with no stirring in large (1,000-litre), old (50 years) wooden barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur was added on bottling. Residual sugar: less than 4 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Hazy to the eye. The nose elicits descriptors like “pear cider,” “blanche-ish,” bread dough and lemon apples. Mouth-filling, bone dry and clean, with a slightly chewy texture and acidity that’s more puckery than crisp. Apple and mineral flavours last through the long finish. Fuzzier than – not as precise or delineated as – its flightmate and not a traditional Mosel Riesling by any means, but on its own terms it absolutely works. (Buy again? Yes.)

Ordered at Marconi a couple of nights after the tasting, a glass of the Mosel 2015, Riesling Trocken, LS, Clemens Busch (ca. $32.00, private import, 6 bottles/case) – the LS stands for “low sulphur” and the wine contains only about a third of the already low amount of sulphur used in the regular bottlings – was in many ways similar to the (alter)native but clearer and a little more focused if also slightly more conventional. It elicited an “Oh, wow” from my Riesling-loving dining companions, whose first Busch wine it was.

Mosel 2015, Riesling, Marienburg GG, Clemens Busch ($61.34, private import, 3 bottles/case)
100% organically and biodynamically farmed Riesling from 25- to 60-year-old vines rooted in the grey slate section of the original Marienburg vineyard. Manually harvested in late October and early November. Macerated 12 to 24 hours on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation. Matured 12 months on the lees with no stirring in large (1,000-litre), old (50 years) wooden barrels. The barrels are not topped-up for the first month to encourage a little oxidative complexity. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur was added on bottling. Residual sugar: less than 6 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Classic Mosel nose of green apple, lime, slate and a touch of petrol. In the mouth, it’s astoundingly pure, balanced, focused and complex. Bone dry but with compensating fruit and layered minerals that, in combination with the lithe acidity, give the wine a strong though not rigid backbone. Very long. Didn’t stop evolving in the glass, pointing to a long ageing potential (five to 20 years per Ward’s Alex Boily). A complete and beautiful wine. (Oh, yes.)

The GG stands for Großes Gewächs (“great growth”), an unofficial designation for top-level dry wines from selected sites that is increasingly used in the Mosel by the members of the Bernkasteler Ring and elsewhere (except the Rheingau) by the members of the VDP growers’ association. Busch makes four GG cuvées: the Marienburg, Marienburg Rothenpfad, Marienburg Fahrlay and Marienburg Falkenlay.

MWG April 6th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

April 24, 2017 at 14:15

WINO tasting (4/6)

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Based in Curtil-Vergy, between Nuits-Saint-Georges and Vosne-Romanée, Bertrand Machard de Gramont founded his eponymous estate in 1983. In 2004, he was joined by his daughter Axelle, who has since taken the reins and converted the estate to organic farming. A replanting of the long-abandoned Vallerots terraces in 2001 raised the total surface area to six hectares. Besides the five wines we tasted, the estate makes an Aligoté, a Vosne-Romanée and occasional other bottlings.

The wine-making is the same for all the red cuvées. The manually harvested grapes are destemmed and crushed. Two weeks’ fermentation with indigenous yeasts is followed by 18 to 20 months’ maturation in 228-litre used oak barrels. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. Sulphur use is kept to a minimum.

Bourgogne 2014, Les Grands Chaillots, Bertrand Machard de Gramont (c. $40.00, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
100% Pinot Noir from 27-year-old vines. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Attractive nose of crushed red berries, earth, slate and gentian. Light- to medium-bodied and silky textured. Ça pinote, though with a lactic edge. The tannins are lacy and the acidity comes with a bit of a bite. The long drying finish shows some spice. Pure and elegant if less dimensional than its flightmates. (Buy again? Sure.)

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2013, Les Terrasses des Vallerots, Bertrand Machard de Gramont 2013 ($70.58, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from a two-hectare parcel of 12-year-old vines rooted in clay and limestone. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Complex, savoury nose of spice, candied berries, sweat, “orange papaya,” drying leaves and more. Pure and delicate, beautifully balanced between ripe fruit, sourish acidity and supple tannins. Finishes long and clean. Not remarkably deep but the clarity is impressive. Very approachable. (Buy again? Sure.)

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2013, Les Vallerots, Bertrand Machard de Gramont ($81.74, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from 39-year-old vines in a half-hectare parcel located above the terrasses. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
As above though somewhat closed and showing hints of dried mint and “orange oil.” Richer and deeper than the Terrasses. Given a tart edge by sleek acidity, the gorgeous fruit glows against a mineral/earth backdrop. Pliant tannins provide just enough structure. A spice note chimes on the persistent finish. Lovely. (Buy again? Yes.)

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2013, Aux Allots, Bertrand Machard de Gramont ($85.57, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from 80-year-old vines rooted in deep clay and limestone at the bottom of the slope near Vosne-Romanée. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Slightly candied red berries, spice, slate, oak smoke and a floral note make for a classic Burgundian nose. In the piehole it’s verging on voluptuous: a medium-bodied, fluid mouthful of spicy fruit, airframe tannins and silky acidity. Darker and deeper currents lurk below the sleek surface. An elegant wine whose energy and presence last through the long, clean finish. Of the five BMdG wines, this was the favourite of nearly everyone around the table, including Martin. (Buy again? Would love to.)

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2013, Les Hauts Prûliers, Bertrand Machard de Gramont ($89.14, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from 48-year-old vines planted in thin soil in a 1.5-hecatre plot on a steep slope above the Prûliers premier cru. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Complex, savoury, earthy nose dominated by leafmould, cherry, spice and a “peat thing, like Scotch peat.” Medium-bodied and fluid. Cherry, slate and old wood – the dominant flavours – are carried on a stream of acidity while firm tannins provide texture as well as a structural framework. Finishes as impressively as it starts. A beautifully structured wine of great precision and depth and the one most in line with a conventional NSG (or, as Martin put it, a wine with “une austerité que je retrouve chez Gouges.”). Though far from rebarbative at this stage, it will benefit from five to 10 years in the cellar. (Buy again? If I had the bucks and patience, yes.)

MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

April 3, 2017 at 12:08

Ward & associés tasting (9/9)

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Champagne grand cru 2013, Rosé, Shaman, Marguet ($68.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Chardonnay (71%) and Pinot Noir (29%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines. The soil is worked with horses and the winery is gravity fed. The wine’s pink colour comes from the addition of five to eight percent still red wine. Bottled in July 2014. Disgorged in March 2016. Dosage: 2.4 g/l. No added sulphur. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

marguet-shaman-rose-13

Dusty rose with salmon-pink glints, little bead or foam. Engaging nose of cherry, red berries and brioche. So fruity and dry, so elegant. The fine effervescence dances on the palate. The pure fruit – wild strawberries? – fades to chalky minerals. The wine’s depth and complexity are appreciable. Finishes clean and long. Great immediate appeal but by no means a floozy. A joy to drink. (Buy again? Yes.)

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

Written by carswell

February 24, 2017 at 10:12

A trio from Dehours & Fils

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Based in Mareuil-le-Port, Dehours & Fils was founded in 1930 by Ludovic Dehours, who eventually handed the reins to his son Robert. Financial partners took over following Robert’s early death. The estate returned to family control in 1996 and is now run by Robert’s son, Jérôme. Around 14 hectares of vines produce some 80,000 bottles in an average year. Pinot Meunier features prominently in many of the wines.

Champagne, Brut, Grande Réserve, Dehours & Fils ($57.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The house’s flagship bottling. 100% Pinot Meunier in this batch though the wine usually has some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blended in. Made with the addition of reserve wine from a solera dating back to 1998, which constitutes about 10% of the final blend. Residual sugar: 6 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Fine persistent bead. Complex nose with scents of “green,” “lit match,” “herbes de Provence” and dried apple. Clean, fresh, minerally and not fruit forward. Brilliant, incisive acidity. Considerable depth and length for a wine at this price point. An aperitif champagne par excellence. (Buy again? Gladly.)

Champagne 2009, Rosé, Brut, Cuvée Œil de Perdrix, Dehours & Fils ($74.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Mostly Pinot Meunier with a dollop of old-vine Chardonnay that was fermented in barriques. Matured four years. 12% ABV. 1,825 bottles made. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Faint beigey pink with salmon glints. Fine bead but not much foam. Umami-ish nose of Dutch rusk and red berries. Sleek, elegant, savoury, balanced and dry, with a long minerally finish. “The un-rosé rosé” noted one taster. Pretty fabulous. (Buy again? Def.)

Champagne 2007, Extra Brut, Maisoncelle, Dehours & Fils ($91.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from the Maisoncelle lieu-dit; the vines were planted in the early 1970s. Fermented and matured in barrels. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Pale gold with darker gold glints. Complex and savoury: pork ramen, apple, peach, gooseberry… Finely balanced between ripe fruit, complex minerality and sleek acidity. Rich, deep and perfectly proportioned. Long and delicious. Du grand as they say around here. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG November 10, 2016, tasting: flight 5 of 9

A vintage blanc de blancs from Diebolt-Vallois

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Champagne 2007, Blanc de Blancs, Diebolt-Vallois ($78.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from older vines in Cuis (60%), Chouilly and Épernay and young vines in Cramant, where the house is based. The grapes from each parcel were vinified separately and only the first-pressed juice was used. Fermented in temperature-controlled tanks. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Dosage: 6 to 8 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Straw-coloured with gold glints, a fine bead and not much foam. Intriguing, savoury nose of candied apple, sage-like herbs, brioche and a floral note. So elegant and balanced on the palate, the ripe fruit (pear, apple, lemon and maybe lime) nicely restrained and mineral-laced, the acidity soft yet sustained. The long finish is marked by a faint pithy bitterness, a touch of honey and an elusive quality that another taster likened to “mineral water.” My first encounter this house; I look forward to the next. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG November 10, 2016, tasting: flight 4 of 9

Written by carswell

January 10, 2017 at 12:44

Two black and white blends from Legouge-Copin

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Champagne, Brut, Réserve, Legouge-Copin ($59.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Chardonnay (usually from more than one vintage) and Pinot Noir (usually from more than one vintage). 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Pale gold with sunshine yellow glints, little foam and a fine bead. Faintly oxidized nose of lanolin, oatmeal, lemon, chalk and bread. In the mouth, it’s rich yet dry, with tiny bubbles, racy acidity and good minerality. Finishes clean and long. In short, a fleet and appetizing wine. The bottle opened on New Year’s eve was even more singular and impressive and made a fine accompaniment to New Brunswick sturgeon caviar and crème fraîche-smeared blinis. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Champagne 2006, Brut, Blancs et Noirs, Legouge-Copin ($61.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Mon Caviste.
Pale straw with light gold glints. Lots of foam. The umami-rich nose brings candied apple, nougat and brioche to mind. Rich, round, smooth, fluid and elegant on the palate, notable for its lifting effervescence, soft-glow acidity and “seaweed” overtone. The long finish brings a faint bitter note. The bottle opened on New Year’s eve seemed classic if a little more conventional than the Brut Réserve. (Buy again? Yes, though the Brut Réserve is more my style.)

MWG November 10, 2016, tasting: flight 3 of 9

Written by carswell

January 9, 2017 at 12:55

Tasting champagnes with Pascal Doquet (4/4)

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Champagne 2005, Premier Cru, Vertus, Pascal Doquet ($82.25, 13142551)
A new addition to the SAQ’s Doquet lineup. 100% Chardonnay from organically farmed vines from vineyards in Vertus (rich, deep clay over chalk). Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Bottled unfiltered in April 2006. Aged 125 months on lattes. Dosage (with rectified grape must): 4.5 g/l. Disgorged in September 2016. Reducing sugar: 5.5 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Straw coloured with electrum and bronze glints, tiny bubbles and persistent foam. Complex nose of fresh and fallen apples, miso ramen, lees, lemon and a corporal note. So elegant in the mouth. Acid bright on entry and quite substantial. There’s real depth and great poise. Long on flavour (minerals, apple tart, lemon) and feel. Drinking beautifully though still quite young. (Buy again? Gladly.)

Champagne 2005, Grand Cru, Extra Brut, Le Mesnil sur Oger, Pascal Doquet ($98.00, 11787291)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed old vines from vineyards in Le Mesnil sur Oger (poor clay over chalk). Fermented with indigenous yeasts, 45% in oak fûts and 55% in stainless steel tanks. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Bottled unfiltered in April 2006. Aged 96 months on lattes. Dosage (with rectified grape must): 4.5 g/l. Disgorged in April 2015. Reducing sugar: 5.3 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The colour of drying hay with white gold glints. Layered, savoury nose of oyster crackers, shrimp shells, lemon, apple, lees, flint and chalk. Rich yet very dry and not exuberantly fruity. Softer effervescence and chalkier minerals than the Vertus. Chewing reveals layers of flavour, depth and complexity. As elegant as it is delicious, this soft-spoken, finely balanced wine has class in spades. If you’re going to drop a C-note on a sparkler, it’s a definite contender. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

December 30, 2016 at 20:00