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Cab Franc three ways

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Though they don’t come from a wine-making family, brothers Fabien and Cyril Boisard founded Domaine du Mortier in 1996 when they both were in their teens. Their holdings comprise around 12 hectares of vineyards in Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and a recently acquired three hectares in Bourgueil. Farming is organic-leaning-biodynamic, harvesting is by hand and none of the wines is chaptalized.

Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil 2015, Les Sables, Domaine du Mortier ($27.23, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Cabernet Franc from seven parcel of mostly young vines in sandy soil. Whole-bunch fermentation takes place in 70 hl concrete vats. Lees from earlier vintages are used to start the fermentation. Pump-overs with minimum oxygen uptake are performed for five or 10 minutes a day. Matured on the lees for about six months. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur (16 mg/l) is added at bottling. 12.27% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Red and black berries, coffee, dried meat, slate, pepper, distant barnyard. Medium-bodied and so very drinkable. A mouthful of tart fruit, dark minerals, lively acidity, super-supple tannins. Dry and wonderfully pure. Nothing deep or complex (a function of soil and vine age), just good, clean fun. The easiest-drinking Cabernet Franc I’ve encountered in a coon’s age. (Buy again? Done!)

Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil 2014, Dionysos, Domaine du Mortier ($32.89, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Cabernet Franc from 30-year-old vines rooted in gravel over tuffeau. Manually harvested. Gently destemmed, gently pressed and given around 25 days’ maceration on the skins. Barrel-fermented using indigenous yeasts. Matured eight months in old oak barrels. 13.35% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Darker nose of red berries and slate with meat and vegetal notes. Full and round in the mouth, packed with remarkably juicy fruit. Firm tannins bestow a velour-like texture, bright acidity a bit of a bite. The bedrock minerality rumbles through the long, spicy finish. The winemakers feel this often needs a couple of years before it hits its stride and drinks well for six to eight years beyond that. (Buy again? Yes.)

Vin de France 2014, 180 jours, Domaine du Mortier ($63.79, private import, 6 bottles/case)
VdF because the brothers feel it wouldn’t be accepted by the AOC authorities and because it leaves them free to supplement Saint-Nicolas grapes with fruit from their holdings in Bourgueil. Cabernet Franc from 60- to 70-year-old vines in tuffeau. Whole-bunch fermented and macerated in old barrels for 180 days, with the barrel being tightly closed, not topped-up and turned once daily during fermentation; after 180 days, the barrel is taken apart so the wine and skins can be transferred to the press. After pressing, the wine is matured in new barrels for another 180 days. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 13.5% ABV. Due to the small quantities made, the wine is normally sold only at the winery, a limit of 12 bottles per customer is imposed and, reportedly, none is exported. Bravo to Martin Landry for scoring a few cases for Quebec. Quebec agent: WINO
Much darker and denser than its flightmates. Complex, funky nose: old wood, dark fruit and minerals, “animale,” “green olives,” “the stuff you scoop out of a squash” and more. Rich and dark yet somehow fresh. So complex and layered, so plush and chewy. Superbly structured with velvety tannins, glowing acidity and mineral depth. Great length. Complete, elegant, accessible. A big wine but so not the overextracted monster I was fearing it would be. Just wow. (Buy again? Just yes.)

MWG July 13th tasting: flight 7 of 9

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Written by carswell

August 31, 2017 at 13:48

Alois and Eloi

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The only connection between the wines in the last flight was that both were bigger reds that had caught my attention, the Trebulanum because it is made from a grape I’d never heard of, let alone tasted, the Trévallon because it was reportedly excellent and I’d been giving the wine a pass since an unhappy encounter with the 2007. The wines were double-carafed about four hours before we tasted them.

Terre del Volturno 2011, Trebulanum, Casavecchia, Alois ($44.00, 12628604)
Contrary to what SAQ.com claims, this is not made by the Piedmontese Azienda Agricola Casavecchia but by the Campanian estate Vini Alois, which is based in Pontelatone. 100% Cassavecchia from organically farmed wines averaging 20 to 25 years old and rooted in the mineral-rich volcanic soil of the 1.5 ha Cesone vineyard. Manually harvested. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration on the skins with regular pump-overs took place in stainless steel tanks and last 20 days. Transferred to large botti for 18 months, during which time it underwent complete malolactic fermentation. Racked into large botti for 12 months’ further maturation. Aged in bottles for six months. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Diamond Estates.
Wafting nose of ink, old leather, Chambord, “peat” and “smoke.” Dark and dense on the plate, rich in black raspberry fruity and slatey minerals. Tannins confer a velvet astringency, acidity a certain freshness. Finishes long. Spice and leather linger. Powerful, earthy and “too young” but not hot or harsh. Speaks of its place and, despite the modern wine-making, of an older time. (Buy again? Yes, and not just for curiosity’s sake.)

Alpilles 2013, Domaine de Trévallon ($85.25, 13269359)
Now in his mid-60s, Eloi Dürrbach began making wine in 1973, when he gave up architecture to manage a vacation property and a few vines his parents had bought. This, then, is his 40th vintage. A 50-50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from organically farmed vines rooted in limestone and clay. The whole clusters were fermented with indigenous yeasts with regular punch-downs and pump-overs. Matured 24 months on the lees in foudres (95%) and barrels (5%). Fined with egg whites. Unfiltered. No added sulphur. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
An initially disconcerting nose of peas, “ketchup maison,” “beets” and beef bouillon gives way to plum, cassis, blackberry and garrigue. Rich and satiny in the mouth. The balance between the layered fruit, fleshy tannins and racy acidity is something to behold. Overtoned with black olive and leather, the minerally, bitter-edged finish seems to go on forever. Accessible yet capable of long ageing. One of the great wines of Provence. (Buy again? If I can scrape together the bucks…)

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

August 10, 2017 at 13:10

Meinklangers

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The Mo’ Wine Group’s latest agency tasting was led by La QV’s head honcho Cyril Kérébel. The wine-up featured a particularly high proportion of whites, all with great minerality and a saline edge, as well as a wowser rosé and a handful of super-drinkable reds. We began with a trio of new-to-most whites from one of our favourite producers.

Burgenland 2015, Burgenlandwhite, Meinklang ($23.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of Grüner Veltliner (50%), Welschriesling (40%) and Muscat Ottonel (10%) from biodynamically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and matured in stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. Residual sugar: 4.9 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Hay, straw, white flowers, chalk, distant “chives” and dried orange peel. Round in the mouth, the acidity smooth, the texture verging on waxy. The upfront fruit and underlying minerals give ways to a long savoury, saline finish with a lingering white pepper note. “Building spiciness underneath rosewater,” proclaims one taster. A perfect summer white is the general consensus. (Buy again? Yep.)

Somló 2015, H15, Meinklang ($37.65, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Hárslevelü from biodynamically farmed vines grown at the base of the extinct Somló (pronounced shom-low) volcano in southwest Hungary, not far from the Austrian border. The must is passed through a coarse filter before fermentation. The wine-making – which takes place at the estate’s Burgenland winery – is non-interventionist, with no additions except, possibly, a tiny squirt of sulphur at bottling. Matured in stainless steel tanks and old oak barrels for 12 months. Residual sugar: 4.2 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Complex, aromatic nose dominated by honey, spice and yellow fruit. Dense and weighty (not heavy) on the palate, the fruit wrapped around a softly glowing core of acidity. The complex of flavours turns impressively savoury/salty/sweaty on the mid-palate. Very long. Less tense and minerally, more stone-fruity and unctuous than some earlier vintages but no less engaging. (Buy again? Yep.)

Burgenland 2014, Konkret Weiss, Meinklang ($65.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A field blend of three Gewürztraminers, specifically Red Traminer, Yellow Traminer and plain old Gewürztraminer. Macerated on the skins for 21 days. Vinified in egg-shaped concrete tanks. No added anything, including sulphur. Residual sugar: 1.6 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
For once, an orange wine that actually has an orange cast. One taster describes the complex nose of gardenia, cedar, spice and a funky whiff as “like the old lady in front of me on the bus, eating a grapefruit.” Dazzlingly complex and layered on the palate. Rich yet fluid. Dry but not austerely so. Structured by bright acidity and light tannins. The endless finish is awash in umami. (Buy again? Yep, wincing only slightly at the price.)

And Cyril shared some good Meinklang news with us: the SAQ will be including their impressive “Graupert” Pinot Gris in its Opération vins oranges release this fall and will also be carrying their fine ancient grains beer.

MWG June 8th tasting: flight 1 of 6

Classico in both senses of the word

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Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009, Vaio Armaron, Serego Alighieri ($89.00, 11766626)
Now owned by Masi, the Serego Alighieri estate was founded in 1353 by Dante’s son Pietro. Wine-making officially began in the 1500s. The Vaio Amaron is its flagship bottling. The 2009 is a blend of Corvina (65%), Rondinella (20%) and Molinara (15%) from vines in the commune of Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella. The soil in the terraced vineyards is red, humus-rich topsoil over limestone. The Corvina was lightly affected by botrytis. The manually harvested grapes were placed on bamboo mats in open-air lofts and allowed to dry for three to four months, during which time they lost more than a third of their weight. This concentrated their flavour and sugar. The partially raisinated grapes were gently pressed, partly destemmed and fermented at low temperatures for 48 days in large Slavonian oak barrels. The wine then underwent malolactic fermentation and was matured in cherry wood casks. Reducing sugar: 7.9 g/l. 15.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Authentic Vins et Spirituex.

Impressively complex nose of plum, prune, black cherry, spice, pepper, sandalwood and more. Rich and velvety in the mouth, powerful yet beautifully balanced, with soft, structuring tannins and a sleek current of acidity. Comes across as dry despite the sugar level and sweet-seeming fruit. Spice overtones the mid-palate and long finish. A complete and involving wine that, while enjoyable now, is still young and a little monolithic. Another decade in the cellar will bring more evident depth and complexity. An excellent match with Parmigiano-Reggiano. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG April 6th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

May 12, 2017 at 13:10

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 above the slopes. 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 at bottling. Residual sugar: under 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 (or <s on at least some labels) stands for “low sulphur” and the wine contains only about a third of the already low amount of sulphur dioxide 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: under 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, focused, complex and balanced. 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. Doesn’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. (Buy again? 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