Brett happens

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Posts Tagged ‘food pairings

Stone fruit

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Of the rising stars of the Greek wine world, Apostolo Thymiopoulos is at or near the top. Still quite young (he just turned 40), he hails from Naoussa in Macedonia, about an hour’s drive west of Thessaloniki. From grapes he grows biodynamically there, he makes several wines that have become big hits in Quebec: the exquisite Rosé de Xinomavro, the ultra-popular, ultra-drinkable Jeunes vignes de Xinomavro, the classy Naoussa and his flagship Terre et ciel (aka Earth and Sky in anglophone countries). If that weren’t enough, he’s also been expanding into new areas, including the entry-level ATMA line and two or three (depending on the vintage) high-end Assyrtikos from Santorini made in collaboration with the Chryssou family of grape growers and sold mainly to well-heeled vacationers at Aegean luxury resorts (he got his feet wet on the island several years ago by helping the Hatzidakis family when winemaker Haridimos was indisposed and also assisted with the 2017 vintage following Haridimos’s untimely death). His latest project revolves around a recently acquired old-vine vineyard in Rapsani, in Thessaly, on the slopes of Mount Olympus, 120 km south of his Naoussa base. Only one wine, a red, is made. This 2015 is the first vintage and it’s a beaut.

Rapsani 2015, Terra Petra, Domaine Thymiopoulos ($31.00, 13509199)
A blend of Xinomavro (40%), Krassato (30%) and Stavroto (30%) from organically dry farmed vines between 15 and 50 years old and grown in one of the highest altitude vineyards in the appellation. The vineyard’s schist and granite subsoil is covered with rolled stones while most of the vines are bush-trained, giving the vineyard a very Châteauneuf-du-Pape-like appearance. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks and matured in large, neutral oak tonneaux for 24 months. Unfiltered and unfined. Added sulphur is kept to a minimum. Comes in an elegant if heavy bottle with a soft wax capsule. Reducing sugar: 3.6 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Intensely aromatic nose of sweet red and black fruit, sandalwood and inky minerals. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied and fluid. As befits a warm vintage, the fruit has a solar character but is in no way jammy or bomby, helped no doubt by the enlivening acidity and finely etched tannins. The fleshy mid-palate reveals a unique and beautiful complex of flavours, including plum, red berries, black fig, herbs (oregano? marjoram?), dark minerals, sweet spice, a dusting of black pepper and hints of olive, tomato and leather. There’s good depth for a young wine and the potential for more to develop. A thread of bitterness unspools through the long, dry finish. Such balance and refinement as well as a quality that has me reaching for “purity” or maybe “clarity” as descriptors. While the wine is drinking beautifully now, it will surely integrate and open over the next five or more years (the 2018 cohort of the Greek winery tour returned raving about a 10-year-old bottle of the Rosé de Xinomavro paired with kid stuffed with its entrails and rice and slow-roasted, so chances are good that this wine will hold up for a decade or two). Substantial enough to accompany grilled or stewed lamb, the acidity cutting knife-like through the fat, but also light enough to go with white meats like veal or rabbit braised with tomato. A world-class wine, maybe my favourite of Apostolo’s reds and undoubtedly one of the best Greek reds I’ve drunk. (Buy again? Done!)

This has been in the system only since the very end of August but it’s disappearing fast. If you’re interested and especially if you’re located in Montreal, don’t dawdle. And keep an eye peeled for the 2016: early reports are that the cooler vintage produced a wine that is, if anything, even finer than the 2015.

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Written by carswell

September 17, 2018 at 14:18

See You in Hell, Winter!

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SEE YOU IN HELL, WINTER!

First grill-out of the summer

WEINPLATZ + DEUX CAVES + PLAN VIN + AGENCE SANS NOM + PORK FUTURES

This Sunday, May 20, three of our favourite wine agencies are joining forces with one of our favourite food purveyors to hold an event at one of our favourite venues. Specifically, Deux Caves, Plan Vin and Agence sans nom (aka Vadim Fonta) will be pouring two wines each while the Pork Futures guys will be serving grilled sausage sandwiches (buns by Automne) at Alexandraplatz (6731 de l’Esplanade) between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. Among the imbibables will be a Beaujolais from Kéké Descomes, a skin-contact Riesling from Chanterêves, an orange wine and sparkling red from Vadim’s portfolio and a sparkling Riesling made just outside Champagne by Jacques Beaufort’s son. The agencies involved are waiving their fees, so glasses will probably run around $10. What’s more, the forecast is now for clearing skies and mild temperatures.

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Written by carswell

May 17, 2018 at 12:10

Coup de Fouet

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Vin de France, P.M.G., Pétillant naturel, Domaine Fouet ($21.65, 13497802)
The family-run estate is located in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg in the heart of the Saumur-Champigny region. It began officially converting to organic farming in 2017. The P.M.G. stands for “pour ma gueule” (for my mouth/gullet). A 100% Chenin Blanc ancestral method sparkler fermented with indigenous yeasts. No dosage. The wine’s clarity makes me wonder whether it wasn’t disgorged. Reducing sugar: 2.6 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Benedictus.
Delicious nose of pear and quince, white blossom and whiffs of white spice, limestone and lees. Less remarkable in the mouth. The bubbles are delicate and not profuse. The extract gives the wine a certain roundness that softens the pronounced acidity. The fruit takes on a citrus and maybe malic edge. Follow-through is fair but there and the wine did gain breadth and depth as it breathed, the last glass being better than the undeniably drinkable first. Clean-cut, dry and refreshing though not particularly complex. Probably best thought of as an aperitif, raw bar or maybe even sushi wine. Niggling aside, the price is hard to beat; to get something significantly better at the SAQ, you’ll need to fork over another $6 or $7. And while there are more engaging and entertaining pét-nats around, you won’t find them at the beloved monopoly. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

April 8, 2018 at 14:16

Drama queen

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Drama 2016, Thema, Ktima Pavlidis ($21.10, 10701265)
A 50-50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Assyrtiko. The grapes are harvested in the cool of the night. Destemmed, lightly crushed and cold-macerated on the skins before slow, gentle pressing. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled (18°C) stainless steel tanks. Matured two months on the lees. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.
The nose and palate seem an accurate reflection of the blend, which is pretty seamless by the way; the Sauvignon contributes vibrant fruit (kiwi, grapefruit, maybe a little peach) and a hint of grassiness, the Assyrtiko minerality, acidity and some welcome austerity. The end result? What might be a juicy New World Sauvignon is brought closer to what you sometimes find in the Loire in a very ripe vintage. Richly textured yet fresh. Fruity yet dry. The clean, fairly long finish brings an intriguing touch of bitterness. While the wine tastes more international than Greek, in its genre it’s pretty hard to beat. You don’t get the dazzle or depth of, say, a top Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Graves or Pessac-Léognan but neither do you get the Fresca-like excess of many equivalently priced New World Sauvignon Blancs (looking at you, New Zealand). Food pairings? Mezze, simply prepared seafood, white meat with lime. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

January 10, 2018 at 12:13

Collio rodeo II

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Collio 2010, Jakot, Franco Terpin ($45.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Franco Terpin created his eponymous estate in San Floriano del Collio in 1994. Today he farms 12 hectares on both sides of the Italian-Slovenian border. The estate makes three lines of wines; this is from the mid-range Terpin line. 100% Friulano (formerly called Tokaj, which, spelled backwards, is the cuvée’s name) from organically farmed 60-year-old vines rooted in ponka (poor, stony, friable marl and sandstone). Manually harvested. Destemmed. Macerated and spontaneously fermented 10 days in stainless steel. Matured two months in French oak barriques, 18 months in large oak barrels and one year in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Hazy orange, just a tad paler than the Organic Anarchy. Savoury nose of yellow fruit, “eggplant,” old wood and faint honey. Dense but not heavy in the mouth and very dry. Dried stone fruit and orange are layered with spice and cookie flavours. Fluent acidity keeps things lively while ghostly tannins add texture. Blond tobacco joins the persistent fruit on the long, saline finish. Such an appetizing wine! (Buy again? Yes, especially to pair with fish and cheese.)

 

Collio 2011, Ribolla Gialla, La Castellada ($53.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in the mid-1950s, the estate is located in Oslavia in the Gorizia hills close to the Slovenian border. 100% Ribolla Gialla. The organically farmed vines average 35 years old. Spontaneous fermentation with 60 days’ maceration. Spent one year in stainless steel, two years in Slavonian oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Coppery orange with salmon glints: definitely an orange wine. Subdued nose with faint honey overtones and, eventually, stone fruit and minerals. Smooth and elegant on the palate. Subtle layers of flavour (dried apricot, minerals, faint vanilla). Sleek acidity banishes any notion of heaviness. A cheese note surfaces on the long finish. Tasty and satisfying. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 5 of 9

Written by carswell

November 29, 2017 at 12:16

Tripel header

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New Lang Syne 2017, Extra Strong Beer, Beau’s (MSRP: $16.00)
A limited-release Belgian-style Tripel, number 59 in the brewery’s Wild Oats series. Ingredients: local spring water, organic barley malts (Pilsner, acidulated, carafoam), organic cane sugar, organic hops (Strisselspalt, perle, magnum), yeast. A portion was brewed during the summer and aged in Pinot Gris barrels for four months. In the fall, the aged ale was blended with freshly brewed batches. Initial fermentation was with Belgian strong ale yeast; champagne yeast was added on bottling to create natural carbonation. 9% ABV. IBUs: 33. Original gravity: 19° P. Final gravity: 3.4° P.

Impressive packaging: a sleek, heavy bottle with bold, multi-coloured lettering, a long neck runner that bears the vintage, a champagne cork and cage and a tag listing, among other things, the batch and bottle number and the bottling date. My sample – no. 3395 from batch no. 6479 – was bottled on August 28, 2017. I tasted the beer with two friends, one of whom is a serious amateur brewer and has done a tour of Belgian breweries for a national magazine.

Hazy amber-bronze in the glass, with ample, long-lasting, rocky white foam (“can’t believe the head,” notes the brewer).

Appealing, complex nose: spicy and malty with notes of apple, butterscotch, “coriander seed” and wheat berries. “You get the esters but they’re spicy, not banana,” though a touch of dried banana does eventually appear.

The first sip prompts an “Oh, that’s nice” and indeed it is. So smooth and creamy (“the texture may be the most remarkable thing about it”) yet also deeply hoppy. There’s great complexity of flavour, an almost fruity (“pineapple juice”) maltiness and an undercurrent of sourish acidity. The hops kick in on mid-palate and make their presence felt, even to the point where one of the other tasters says the “bitterness masks so much.” A woody “barrel character” – a faint smoky overtone – appears on appears on the transition to the finish but there’s no clear line between where the bitterness stops and the tannins start. Finishes long with “prickly bitters, especially on the aftertaste.”

The bottom line: a fine, imposing, gastronomic ale that, while enjoyable now (provided you’re not allergic to hops), will surely benefit from spending a few months to a couple of years in a cool, dark place. (Buy again? “Yes.” “A bottle or two to cellar.” For sure.)

What would you serve with it? Cheese. “Fried chicken and cornbread.” I also like the brewery’s suggestion of blackened salmon. Oddly enough, a piece of dark chocolate studded with toffee malt followed by a swig of the ale didn’t clash and completely tamed the hoppiness, so maybe Beau’s suggested pairing of pineapple upside-down cake isn’t as off the mark as it seems.

Released on November 9, 2017. A number of stores in Montreal and Quebec stock Beau’s products (see map) and some are reportedly carrying the New Lang Syne.

Disclaimer: The brewery provided this sample for review purposes with the understanding that I would be free to critique it however I saw fit.

Update (2017-11-27): After some searching and reaching out to Beau’s, I finally found bottles at Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec (Jean Talon Market) and at Dépanneur Peluso Beaubien (though oddly not at the original Rachel Street Peluso), where it goes for a heafty $19.99 a bottle.

Written by carswell

November 20, 2017 at 10:17

Mainlining Assyrtiko

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Santorini 2013, Pure, Volcanic Slopes Vineyards ($45.50, 13109697)
Run as a separate operation, Volcanic Slopes Vineyards is a second label of sorts of Argyros Estate. It is the brainchild of Argyros’ winemaker and commercial director, Stefanos Georgas. The idea is to make as pure an expression of Santorini Assyrtiko as possible using a hands-off approach. This 2013 is the first vintage of what is, so far, its only cuvée. Assyrtiko (100%) from 80- to 150-year-old ungrafted vines in two parcels: one with pumice soil in Episkopi Gonias, the other with basalt soil in Megalochori. Manually harvested. Half of the must is free-run juice, the other half is juice from gently pressed whole clusters. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured 14 months on the lees with frequent stirring in a naturally temperature-controlled underground concrete tank in the old Argyros winery. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oneopole.
Multifaceted nose that prompts descriptors like lemon, quartz dust, “sour fuzzy peach,” “distant honey,” bay leaf and lingering apple. Imposing and enthralling from the first sip: a “decadent” yet austere amalgam of clementine and incredible minerality and salinity. The rich extract and electric acidity are in breathtaking balance. There’s great breadth, depth and length – every dimension, in fact. Pure is no exaggeration, no marketing gimmick. A stunning wine, “like mainlining Assyrtiko.” It will be fascinating to see how this evolves over the next three to five years and maybe beyond. Surely one of the great white wines of Europe and, as such, more than fairly priced. The 2013 is almost sold out. Tasted at the winery in July 2016, two days after it had been bottled, the 2014 seemed every bit its equal. (Buy again? Imperatively – even the group’s white wine skeptic felt compelled to run out and acquire a couple of bottles.)

Santorini 2016, Assyrtiko, Hatzidakis ($28.50, 11901171)
The estate’s entry-level bottling. Sadly, 2016 was Haridimos Hatzidakis’s last vintage. 100% Assyrtiko from organically farmed, ungrafted vines up to a century old in Pyrgos, Megalochori, Akrotiri and Vourvoulos. The manually harvested grapes were direct-pressed. The must was clarified by settling, then fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled (18°C) tanks. Stayed on the lees for 40 days. Matured in stainless steel tanks. Lightly filtered and dosed with sulphur dioxide before bottling. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oneopole.
Lemony, “ferny” nose with notes of “modelling clay,” peach and distant sea shore. In the mouth, the dense extract and unctuous texture are counterpointed by crystalline minerals, vibrant verging on trenchant acidity and a fundamental dryness. Fruitier (lemon and quince) than in some earlier vintages. The saline finish brings some dried herb notes. Not as deep, broad or long as the (older and much more expensive) Pure, though hardly lacking dimension. Almost too rich for an aperitif; probably best thought of as a food wine (to date, it has made a matchless match for spaghetti with leeks, olive oil, lemon juice and zest and bottarga and for oysters on the half shell). (Buy again? Multiples.)

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 4 of 7

Written by carswell

November 11, 2017 at 14:01