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Posts Tagged ‘food pairings

A toast to Haridimos Hatzidakis

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Originally from Crete, Haridimos Hatzidakis founded his eponymous estate in Pyrgos, on Santorini, in 1996, replanting a vineyard that had been abandoned 40 years earlier after the devastating 1956 earthquake. Today the estate comprises 10 hectares of owned and leased vineyards. Assyrtiko, Aidani and Mavrotragano are grown and the farming is organic, still something of a rarity on the island.

Hatzidakis’s wines, which the Mo’ Wine Group began discovering when some of the 2008s became available through the private import channel, quickly convinced me that Santorini was one of the world’s great wine appellations and that Hatzidakis was one of the world’s great winemakers. My first encounter with the Mylos, again the 2008, had me claiming it was one of the world’s great whites, a claim subsequent encounters and vintages have not called into doubt.

I met Hatzidakis only once, at last year’s Salon des vins d’importation privée. He seemed a humble, somewhat shy, soft-spoken man who needed only a little prompting to reveal his passion for wine-making, organic farming and Santorini. He spoke with pride about his new winery and encouraged me to visit if I made it back to the island. It is something I ardently hope to do but, alas, it won’t be in his company: Haridimos Hatzidakis died last Friday, suddenly and of causes yet unknown.

On Saturday, friends and I opened a bottle of the recently arrived 2016 Mylos, arguably the estate’s flagship wine, and raised a glass in honour of Haridimos’s life and accomplishments and in the hope that his legacy lives on.

Santorini 2016, Assyrtiko de Mylos, Vieilles Vignes, Hatzidakis ($51.75, 12338834)
100% Assyrtiko from dry-farmed old vines – ungrafted like all Santorini vines – that average 150 to 300 years old. The certified organic, late-harvested grapes were picked by hand, destemmed, cooled, crushed and macerated on their skins for 12 hours. Fermentation (at 18°C with indigenous yeasts) and maturation (on the lees) took place in stainless steel tanks and lasted 10 months. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and with minimal sulphur dioxide. About 3,000 bottles made. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Already pale gold in colour. Tightly furled nose that blossoms as the wine breathes: preserved lemon, minerals, hints of petrol and fish oil and eventually Mediterranean herbs. Weighty in the mouth, with an oily texture, Mayer lemon flavours, a mineral structure and an astounding salinity. Assyrtiko’s trademark acidity is here turned stealthy by the dense extract. Dominated by citrus-pith and sharp-edged minerals and developing honeyed overtones, the intense finish lasts for minutes. Made a credible pairing for grilled octopus dressed with wine vinegar, olive oil, red onion and capers and a superb match for bucantini with olive oil, lemon, leek and bottarga, which brought out the wine’s fruit (“though it’s fruity in the sense that olives are fruity,” as another imbiber noted). (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

Earlier vintages of this wine have “aged” quickly, turning a rich gold-bronze, gaining pronounced oxidative and honeyed notes, the acidity smoothing out, the minerality receding slightly. However disconcerting this can be at first, you are soon won over by the wine’s richness, authority and infinitely layered complexity. At that stage, it is excellent with grilled lamb chops (recipe after the jump) and sublime with beef tartare.

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Written by carswell

August 15, 2017 at 13:23

Mountain red

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Achaia 2010, Grand Cave, Domain Mega Spileo/Cavino ($28.85, 13110137)
The estate is named after a nearby monastery that once owned the vineyard. Most of the technical info comes from the back label and kudos to the winery for that. A 60-40 blend of Mavrodaphne and Mavro Kalavrytino (aka Black of Kalavryta) from vines rooted in sandy clay soil in a relatively cool-climate mountain vineyard between 780 and 880 metres above sea level and located near the village of Kalavryta. No chemical insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers are used. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Prefermentation maceration at low temperatures for 24-48 hours. Long and gentle alcoholic fermentation in small temperature-controlled tanks. Malolactic fermentation and maturation on the lees in new oak barrels (80% French, 20% American) for 16 months. Lightly filtered. Not cold stabilized. Bottle-aged 24 months before release. 6,500 bottles made. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Heady nose of plum, prune, leather, burned earth, sweet spice, coffee, hints of blood and chocolate. More medium- than full-bodied and very dry. The ripe but not jammy or forward fruit is complemented by a full set of tertiary flavours (old wood, leather, cigar box, dried herbs and earth) and a swirl of inky minerals, framed by smooth but animating acidity and soft tannins that show their mettle on the long, lightly astringent finish. Sandalwood, terracotta and dried cherry linger. Savoury, balanced and at peak. Fairly priced for a seven-year-old wine of this quality. Fairly cries out for grilled lamb. (Buy again? Yep.)

Written by carswell

August 13, 2017 at 13:12

Two misses and a hit

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Bandol 2016, Blanc, Domaine de l’Olivette ($26.05, 10884559)
Clairette (80%), Rolle (aka Vermentino, 10%) and Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano, 10%). Manually harvested. After destemming, the grapes are cold-macerated on their skins, then pressed. Fermentation in oak vats is at low temperatures for about two weeks. The resulting wine is chilled and allowed to clarify by settling. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vins de Châteaux.
Complex nose: “sweaty” (per another taster) with notes of fired minerals, dried flowers (linden), almond pastry cream, “straw fruit,” “celery salt” and more. Rich and round in the mouth and “a bit reductive.” The combination of highish extract and lowish acidity means the wine comes across as lethargic, a little flabby, “kind of flat” and “gassy.” The appealing nose and minerality aside, not a strong showing. A disappointment then, especially as I and others in the group have enjoyed earlier vintages. (Buy again? Meh.)

Bandol 2015, Blanc, Domaine la Suffrene ($26.45, 11903491)
A 50–50 blend of Clairette and Ugni Blanc from vines averaging 35 to 40 years old. Manually harvested. To increase flavour extraction, the crushed grapes are kept on their skins for 12 hours at 8°C before pressing. After clarification by settling, the juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks for around 15 days at around 19°C, then racked into other tanks for fining and maturation. Filtered before bottling. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Sélections Vin-Coeur.
Lemon and peach blossom, apple and honey. Rich on the palate but more fluid than the Olivette. Quite dry and minerally though turning fruitier on the long finish. Soft-glow acidity and a lingering bitterness complete the picture which, unfortunately, became less interesting as the wine breathed and warmed. Again, a wine that doesn’t seem equal to earlier vintages. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Bandol 2016, Blanc, Domaine du Gros’Noré ($34.00, 12206989)
A 70-30 blend of Ugni Blanc and Clairette from organically (uncertified) farmed vines averaging 30 years old. The must is macerated on the skins for 24 hours, then fermented at low temperatures with indigenous yeasts. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Unfiltered and unfined. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Lovely, wafting nose of white grapefruit, fired quartz, lemon flower and a “kaffir-like herbaceous note.” Clean and fluid with smooth acidity. Very minerally, especially on the finish. Dry, layered, long and savoury. “Apple seed bitterness” linger. Became better as it warmed and breathed. We have a winner. Try this with the winemaker’s recommended pairing: grilled mussels with rosemary (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 2 of 7

Written by carswell

July 28, 2017 at 12:01

Rocca fortis

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Located in Roquefort-la-Bédoule, about 15 km east-southeast of Marseille and at the northwestern edge of the Bandol appellation, Château de Roquefort today comprises 24 hectares of vines located on a northwest-facing mountain slope at about 375 m. The soil is mainly flinty clay-limestone. The vineyard’s orientation and altitude are said to give its wines a rare balance, which is attributed to the grapes’ slow development. The estate has been owned by the De Villeneuve family since the early 1800s and is farmed organically. Most of the wines are blends and in all the blends the grapes are cofermented. Cellar work is gravity fed whenever possible.

In this instance, Roquefort has nothing to do with the celebrated blue cheese from Aveyron and envrions in the French southwest. The Provençal roquefort is derived from the Latin rocca fortis (rocky outcrop), one of which dominates the estate’s vineyards.

IGP des Bouches-du-Rhône 2016, Petit Salé, Château de Roquefort ($25.90, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Mostly Clairette with lesser amounts of Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano) and Vermentino; the Clairette, locally called petit salé, comes from vines planted in the 1950s. The hand-picked grapes were destemmed, crushed and cold-macerated on the skins before being pneumatically pressed. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts took place in temperature-controlled (18-23°C) tanks. Malolactic fermentation was blocked. Matured in concrete tanks and bottled in February and March of 2017. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Lemon, white flowers, mineral dust, faint peach. Light yet intense and very fresh. Bone dry but not austere. A vein of salinity runs throughout. Long, clean finish. Much more akin to a Cassis than a Rhône white, this has seafood – including the raw variety – written all over it. (Buy again? Def.)

Côtes de Provence 2016, Corail, Château de Roquefort ($25.60, private import, 12 bottles/case)
This rosé is always made from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Vermentino and Clairette, though the proportions vary from vintage to vintage; in 2016 they were 30%, 25%, 20%, 10%, 10% and 5% respectively. The manually harvested grapes were partially destemmed. Some of the varieties were cold-macerated from eight to 24 hours. All the grapes were direct pressed, with the juice being combined and fermented in temperature-controlled (18-23°C) tanks with indigenous yeasts. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Subtle nose of peach, lime, sun-baked rocks and garrigue. Clean and fresh in the mouth. There’s a core of sweet fruit (though the wine is very dry), a bit of an acid bite and, again, a current of salinity. Finishes long and savoury. Even rosé skeptics liked this. (Buy again? Def.)

MWG June 8th tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

July 10, 2017 at 15:15

Mercourial

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Letrini 2015, Domaine Mercouri ($21.65, 11885537)
A blend of Refosco (85%) and Mavrodaphne (15%) from estate vines. Fermented with selected yeasts. Matured 12 months in second-, third- and fourth-fill French oak barrels (mainly Allier). 35,000 bottles made. Residual sugar: 1.6 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Blackberry, plum, cinnamon, sawed wood and a faint whiff of kirsch against a slate backdrop. A very full medium-bodied. Fruit (riper and denser than the 2014‘s) cloaks the sleek acidity and lithe tannins, which asset themselves only on the lightly astringent finish. A slim thread of oaky vanilla-caramel runs throughout while spice overtones and lingers. An elegant and satisfying wine with few peers at the price point. The integrity and balance point to a certain ageing potential. Paired beautifully with Greek-style roasted pork chops and potatoes. (Buy again? Yes, including a few bottles to hide away for five to 10 years.)

Written by carswell

July 1, 2017 at 09:58

Hit and miss

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Crémant du Jura, Rosé, Domaine Désiré Petit ($24.00, 12399717)
100% Pinot Noir from vines averaging 20 years old and rooted in calcareous topsoil over red marl. Sparkled using the traditional method. Reducing sugar: 12 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Tannins.
Engaging nose dominated by cherry and almond. Softly effervescent. Dry. Fruity attack, savoury mid-palate. Lots of minerals. Crisp acidity adds cut and freshness. Spice and “pink grapefruit pith” mark the fair finish. Parabolic in that it got better as it breathed but then became a little one-note as it warmed. That said, this would make a fine starter at a backyard barbecue and you could keep going with it if you had some salmon on the grill. (Buy again? Sure.)

Crémant du Jura, Rosé, Domaine André et Mireille Tissot ($30.75, 13236670)
Pinot Noir (50%), Poulsard (25%) and Trousseau (25%) from biodynamically farmed vines around a quarter of a century old and rooted in clay and limestone. Half the grapes were direct pressed, the other half pressed after a short maceration. Fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks. Once malolactic fermentation was completed, the wine was bottled and sparkled using the traditional method. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
Yeasty/briochey nose of red berries, yellow plum and, a bit disconcertingly, “ketchup maison.” Very dry on the palate (I suspect this may be a zero dosage sparkler). Fine effervescence with bubbles one taster describes as “crunchy.” Minerals galore, peekaboo strawberry and soft but sufficient acidity. Sadly, all that takes a backseat to an overwhelming bitterness. Improved slightly with time in the glass, though never enough to win over a single taster. Tissot is one of our favourite Jura producers and this was the first Tissot rosé any of us had tasted, so the letdown was huge. Didn’t smell or taste like an off bottle. Just off the boat so maybe suffering from travel shock? (Buy again? Only to give it a second chance.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 1 of 6

Written by carswell

June 12, 2017 at 13:06

Sea wine

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Santorini 2016, Thalassitis, Gaia Wines ($29.55, 11966695)
The cuvée’s name refers to the ancient practice of mixing wine with sea water (thalassa meaning sea in ancient Greek) to produce a health-promoting beverage called thalassitis oenos or sea-originated wine. 100% Assyrtiko from ungrafted vines about to enter their ninth decade, trained into nests and rooted in the arid, soil (mostly pumice devoid of organic matter) of Episkopi, Akrotiri and Pyrgos. Vinified in stainless steel. Fermented with selected yeasts. Did not undergo malolactic fermentation as the winery claims it contains no malic acid to be converted into lactic acid. Spent five to six months on the lees. Sealed with a synthetic cork that looks a little like the black sand and rocks found on the island. Reducing sugar: 1.6 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Fresh and preserved lemon, tidal pool, pumice, faint honey. Buttery texture. Fruity attack for an Assyrtiko. Still, the fruit soon gives way to the expected minerality. Acidity is, of course, very present, especially from the mid-palate on, but seems a tad smoother and less trenchant than is sometimes the case in Santorini Assyrtikos. Very dry, especially on the long, extremely saline finish. Probably my favourite of Gaia’s three Santorini bottlings. While not as deep, powerful or crystalline as some of its (often more expensive) peers, it would still make a good introduction to the grape and terroir. The winery suggests ageing it two to three years; given Assyrtiko’s propensity to oxidize and syncorks’ propensity to allow oxidation, I wouldn’t chance keeping it much longer than that. A near-perfect pairing for oysters on the half shell, grilled sea bass or porgy drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and just about any octopus dish; with some oxidation, a killer match for beef or venison tartare. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

May 23, 2017 at 13:43