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Champagne naturally

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Champagne, Fidèle, Vouette et Sorbée ($87.47, private import, 6 bottles/case)
This is nearly all 2014 except for a dollop (about 5%) of reserve wine from a solera-type system started in 2001. A blanc de noirs: 100% Pinot Noir from 30-year-old biodynamically farmed vines from several parcels but all rooted in Kimmeridgian marl. The manually harvested grapes are gently pressed. The free-run juice is transferred to 400-litre oak casks for fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Indigenous yeasts are used for primary and secondary fermentation. Matured 10 months in used Meursault barrels. The bottled wine is aged on its lees on lattes and riddled on racks for around 15 months. No dosage. Sulphur dioxide is added to the incoming grapes but not at bottling. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
A white wine but with a rosé cast. Intriguing nose of distant strawberry, fired minerals and “garlic brioche.” Fine, non-aggressive bubbles, pure fruit, silky acidity and an unmissable mineral depth. Long flavourful finish with lingering rhubarb crème brûlée. Absolutely not an aperitif wine, rather one to open ahead of time, maybe even carafe, and drink with food. (Buy again? Yes.)

Champagne, Extra Brut, Blanc d’Argile, Vouette et Sorbée ($114.58, private import, 3 bottles/case)
A blanc de blancs: 100% Chardonnay from biodyanmically farmed vines planted in 2000 in a single plot. The vines – massale cuttings from Jacques Sélosse and Vincent Dauvissat – were planted “wild” (directly in the unprepared clay and Kimmeridgian limestone soil). Manually harvested. Fermented and sparkled with indigenous yeasts. The still wine is matured 18 months on the lees in oak casks. Undosed. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Dried apple, yeast, icing sugar and a faint, nougaty oxidative note. Fine, caressing bubbles. Smooth, caressing acidity. Browning apple upfront, apple Danish and salty seashells on finish. Still a baby. Clean, tonic and bracing, this cuvée lives up to its reputation of being a Chablis with bubbles. As a group, champagne is arguably the most overpriced wine in the world; that said, this delivers exceptional if relative QPR. (Buy again? Yes.)

The first time I tasted them, Vouette et Sorbée’s champagnes did not impress. Subsequent encounters, which have mostly involved bottles laid down a few years, have been much more positive and I now rank the house among my favourite producers.

MWG August 11th tasting: flight 9 of 9

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Bairrada and Burgundy

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Bairrada 2015, Maria da Graça, Tiago Teles ($28.04, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Alfrocheiro from 15- to 30-year-old vines rooted in clay-limestone soil in a cool-climate vineyard. The manually harvested grapes are fermented in open concrete vats. Matured six months in stainless steel tanks. Minimal sulphur dioxide at bottling. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Interesting, savoury nose of “smoke,” slate, blackberry, plum, licorice and a hint of rubber. Medium-bodied, dry and savoury but also astoundingly fresh and fluid. The sweet-ripe fruit joined by dried beef, spice and lots of minerals. Lively tannins, smooth tannins and a long finish round out the tasty picture. (Buy again? Yep.)

Saint-Aubin 2014, Le Ban, Domaine Derain (ca. $60, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Pinot Noir (97%) and Aligoté, Chardonnay, Pinot Beurot and Pinot Blanc. The nearly 100-year-old vines are coplanted and have been farmed biodynamically since 1989. Manually harvested. Crushed by foot. Whole-cluster fermentation in traditional wooden vats lasts two to three weeks. Matured in barrels. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Ça pinote ? And how. A perfumy, floral nose of red berries, sweet spice, beet and cola. A sip reveals a wine of great purity. The rich, ripe fruit is beautifully structured by lively acidity and fine, firm tannins and a mineral underlay. Marinated cherry, herbs and a hint of chocolate appear on the expansive mid-palate and linger through the long, bitter-edged finish. Delicious now and probably even better in 10 years. Tastes old-fashioned in the best sense of the phrase. A memorable wine. Fairly priced too. (Buy again? A case if it weren’t sold out.)

MWG August 11th tasting: flight 5 of 9

Written by carswell

October 11, 2017 at 12:15

The Pélican brief

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The germ of the idea for Domaine du Pélican, the Jura offshoot of Burgundy’s renowned Domaine Marquis d’Angerville, was a bottle of Stéphane Tissot’s 2005 Arbois Chardonnay “Les Bruyères” that Guillaume d’Angerville tasted blind at a Paris restaurant in 2007. D’Angerville had asked the sommelier to bring him a bottle of something not from Burgundy. On tasting the wine, he declared the sommelier had not followed his instructions and was dumbstruck when the bottle was unveiled.

So impressed by the wine was he that d’Angerville began searching for vineyards in the Jura. In 2012, he leased the Chateau de Chavanes in Montigny-les-Arsures, gaining access to five hectares of biodynamically farmed vines. The estate’s holdings were later expanded by two acquisitions of organically farmed vines: five hectares from Jean-Marc Brignot and, in 2014, four hectares from the retiring Jacques Puffeney.

The estate, whose name and label are inspired by the Arbois coat of arms, currently makes and sells four wines, all vinified à la bourguignonne, in the Burgundian style, by which d’Angerville means non-oxidized. The estate’s first oxidized wine, a vin jaune, is slated for release in 2022.

Arbois 2015, Savagnin Ouillé, Domaine du Pélican ($49.25, 13265041)
100% organically farmed Savagnin primarily from two parcels (Barbi and Grand Curoulet) of Jurassic marl and terre de gryphées. Manually harvested. Lightly crushed then whole-cluster pressed. Fermented in stainless steel and matured 10 months, mostly in neutral 350-litre barrels. which are regularly topped-up (ouillé) to prevent oxidation. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Séguin et Robillard.
Striking nose of lemon, green apple, quartz and, per other tasters, “terroir smoke” and “deviled eggs.” Fresh and vibrant in the mouth, with an elegant texture, impressively pure fruit, brilliant acidity, great minerality and every dimension. Long, racy and complete. Exactly the kind of commanding unullaged Savagnin that floats my boat. (Yes but…)

Arbois 2015, Chardonnay, Domaine du Pélican ($49.25, 13265032)
100% organically farmed Chardonnay from the Barbi vineyard and three other parcels. Mainly limestone with clay and marl. Wine-making is as for the Savagnin. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Séguin et Robillard.
Subtle nose: faint orchard and stone fruit, hints of oat and “flowers changing to chalk.” In the mouth, it’s more buttery and smoother, less marked by acidity than its flightmates. There’s real complexity, including a vein of minerality that lasts into the long finish. So elegant and still evolving. Excellent but needs five to 10 years. (Sure but…)

Arbois 2015, Poulsard, Domaine du Pélican ($52.25, 13314113)
The first vintage of the wine. 100% Poulsard entirely from the Puffeney vineyards. The wine-making was guided by Puffeney. Manually harvested. Fully destemmed. Fermeneted in vats. Matured 10 months in 228-litre oak barrels. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Séguin et Robillard.
Complex nose of “cranberry,” “earth,” spice, prosciutto fat, undergrowth and slate. Light- to medium-bodied. The ripe if ethereal fruit is structured by gossamer tannins and racy acidity. The layers – veils is perhaps the better term – of flavour give a certain depth. Long, minerally, old-woody finish. Fresh, fleet and wonderfully pure. Poulsard is sometimes done in a rustic style but not here. So engaging. “Effing good.” (Buy again? Yes but…)

Arbois 2015, Trois Cépages, Domaine du Pélican ($49.25, 13265083)
A PPT, i.e. a blend of Pinot Noir (65%), Poulsard (30%) and Trousseau (5%). Wine-making is as for the Poulsard, though without Puffeney’s input. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Séguin et Robillard.
Outgoing nose of “strawberries,” “tart cherries,” “a bit of meat“ and “nutmeg.” Medium-bodied and more structured than the Poulsard. Again, the fruit is remarkably pure but here framed by light, torquey tannins and sleek acidity. Good length and balance. Young but already showing some complexity. Impeccable. (Buy again? Sure but…)

This was my first encounter with Domaine du Pélican’s wines. Going in, I’d wondered whether they would taste more Burgundian than Juraassien. They didn’t. While you’ll have to look elsewhere for the rusticity and funk found and prized in some Jura wines, there’s no denying that these could come from nowhere but the Jura and that the Savagnin and Poulsard are textbook examples of the grapes and style.

Why the buy-again buts then? The price. Nearly everyone around the table said they’d plunk for one or more of the wines if they were in the $30 to $40 range but not at $50. My memories of the Savagnin and Poulsard are so vivid and compelling that I’ve come close to splurging on a bottle of each. And then I remember that the 2013 Puffeney Poulsard cost $31.50 a bottle (and that was through the higher-markup private import channel), making it hard not to conclude that Domaine du Pélican is charging Burgundy prices for Jura wines, that you are, to some degree, paying through the nose for a name. Maybe that’s why, however outstanding they may be, all the wines in this limited release remain available more than two months after the release date.

MWG July 27th tasting: flights 4 and 5 of 7

Written by carswell

September 25, 2017 at 11:21

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

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