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WINO tasting (6/6)

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Located between Siena and Arezzo, the 60-hectare Fattoria di Caspri estate has nine hectares of grape vines and seven hectares of olive trees. The estate’s founding dates back nearly to the beginning of the Common Era, when Roman general Casperius Aelianus made it his home. The current main building is a relative youngster, having been built in the 18th century.

Farming has been organic and biodynamic since 2006, when the estate was acquired by its current owners. The soil tends to be light and sandy mixed with decomposed gneiss and a little clay. While the focus is on traditional grape varieties (mainly Sangiovese, Canaiolo Cillegiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia), the estate also has experimental plots of Syrah, Grenache and Pinot Noir.

The wine-making is identical for all the reds. The manually harvested grapes are fermented in small, non-temperature-controlled conical vats with indigenous yeasts. Total maceration time is three to four weeks. After pressing, the wine is transferred into old barrels for 18 to 20 months’ maturation. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur is added.

IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Rosso di Caspri, Fattoria di Caspri ($31.21, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from young vines. 12.3% ABV. 650 cases made. Quebec agent: WINO.
Attractive nose of bitter cherry, fresh herbs, slate, turned earth and a little ash. “Kind of meaty” is the first (and accurate) comment about the flavour of this medium-bodied and very dry wine. Red fruit, tingly acidity and fine astringent tannins made for a somewhat austere if appealingly rustic mouthful. Finishes clean. (Buy again? Sure.)

IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Poggio Cuccule, Fattoria di Caspri ($41.15, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from 45-year-old vines. 125 cases made. 13.1% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Gorgeous, floral nose of cherry, fresh almond and old wood. Medium-bodied. A sip is like biting into a morello cherry. Fresh, fleet, intense and pure. The energy is palpable and the wine seems lit from within by glowing acidity. The tannins are fruit-cloaked. Minerals, wood and earth undertones add depth, not darkness. Finishes long and clean. Stunning Sangiovese. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

IGT Toscana Rosso 2014, Casperius, Fattoria di Caspri ($67.31, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Sangiovese and Syrah. 12.7% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Closed nose that with coaxing reveals red fruit, dried herb, violet, leather and mint notes and a whiff of barnyard. In the mouth, it’s fuller-bodied, smoother, rounder and less acidic than its flightmates, though it does share some of the Rosso’s meatiness. Depth, breadth and length it has in spades though it would probably benefit from a year or two to come together. Perhaps a little overshadowed by the Poggio Cuccule, I suspect this would prove wholly satisfactory on its own at dinner. (Buy again? Maybe.)

IGT Toscana 2010, Luna Blu, Fattoria di Caspri ($28.50 in 2013, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
An orange wine made from a 50-50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia. Macerated on the skins for four weeks before pressing. Matured in small wood barrels. No filtering, fining or added sulphur. Under 100 cases made. 13.3% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV at the time, now WINO. The newest vintage is slated to arrive later this spring.

Bronze with a rosé cast. Sultry nose of “elderflower,” sawdust and hints of apricot skin and dried tangerine peel. Rich and smooth in the mouth, bright acidity notwithstanding. Fruity yet dry, the flavours tending to citrus and spice with a mineral undercurrent. Faint tannins add a little grit to the otherwise sleek texture. Long. As mentioned in my October 2013 tasting note, the winemaker has stated that the wine would be at its apogee in 2017. In the event, while it may not be the deepest, most structured or even most involving orange wine, it is definitely a pleasure to drink. Paired beautifully with a selection of cheeses from Yannick, especially a raw-milk L’Étivaz. (Buy again? Moot. But I’m looking forward to the new vintage.)

MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 6 of 6

In a glass darkly

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Valle del Maipo 2004, Gran Reserva Blend, Viña Chocalán (NLA)
Our bottle came from Steve’s cellar; the 2011 is currently available at the SAQ ($30.25, 11447588). A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Malbec (24%), Merlot (15%), Syrah (13%), Petit Verdot (10%) and Cabernet Franc (8%) from vines averaging seven years old and grown in chalky soil. Manually harvested. Destemmed. The whole grapes were cold macerated for five days. The juice was then fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled (28°C) stainless steel tanks. Matured 14 months in French oak barrels. Lightly filtered and fined before bottling. Residual sugar (per the winery): 1.8 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: LCC/Clos des Vignes.
Powerful nose of roasted coffee, resiny dried herbs, “asphalt shingles” (per another taster), leather, plum and a hint of “something decomposing.” Less punishing in the mouth than the nose might lead you to expect. Full-bodied, velvety, very dry and, in its way, balanced: heady but not hot and impressively structured, the mass well shaped by round, firm tannins and surprisingly vibrant acidity. Tertiary flavours are beginning to dominate the dark fruit, which nonetheless persists through the long chocolate- and eucalyptus-inflected finish. Really needs a hunk of grilled red meat. (Buy again? Not my style but if it were, sure.)

MWG March 12th tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

April 12, 2016 at 14:06

New Old World, old New World

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The last flight of the tasting ended up being an impromptu affair as both of the originally planned bottles – the Languedoc 2013, Terrasses du Larzac, Carlan, Mas Julien ($43.75, 12628516) and Côtes du Roussillon 2011, La Foun, Domaine Gauby ($123.00, 12300377) – were corked. Our replacements came from a nearby SAQ outlet and my cellar.

Campo de Borja 2013, Veraton, Bodegas Alto Moncayo ($34.00, 11668241)
100% Garnacha (aka Grenache) from vines between 30 and 50 years old and rooted in red clay and slate. Matured 17 months in French and American oak barrels (60% and 40% new respectively). Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 15.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Marchand de Vin.
Fast-morphing nose. Snapshots along the way: India ink, chocolate, oak, blueberry, oak, caramel, sweet spice, raspberry, oak, faint plum, coffee. Full-bodied and rich but surprisingly well balanced despite the alarming alcohol level. The fruit is dense bordering on bombish, the acidity bright and the tannins firm but unaggressive. Massively oaky at first though turning purer and cleaner with some air. Still, vanilla runs from entry to mid-palate and turns to mocha on the long finish. Thank Bacchus, it’s dry. Impressive in its way and delivering excellent QPR but not at all up my alley. (Buy again? Nope though if big oaky reds are your thing, make a beeline.)

Napa Valley 1990, Petite Sirah, York Creek, Ridge Vineyards (c. US$20 in the early ’90s, importation valise)
A blend of Petite Sirah (aka Durif, 86%) and Zinfandel (14%) from dry-farmed vines in the York Creek vineyard. Given extended fermentation with indigenous yeasts. Clarified by racking. Matured 14 months, during which time the wine was fined twice “to soften the firm tannins.” Bottled in May 1992. 13.9% ABV.
Popped and poured. Complex, evolving nose: slate, clay, red plum, “blue cheese,” leather, menthol, blueberry pie. Full-bodied if austere though built around a core of pure, plummy fruit. Beautifully structured: the tannins, once formidable and still sinewy, have softened some while sleek acidity brightens the dark flavours. Deep slate underlies the mid-palate, spice and wood overtone the long finish. Tasting double-blind, everyone guessed this was an Old World wine and no one suspected it was more than 10 years old. At or maybe just past peak; if you have any bottles of this, drink them soon. (Buy again? If only…)

MWG February 26th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

March 25, 2016 at 16:28

L’autour d’Anne Paillet

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Anne Paillet is married to Greg Leclerc. In 2010, she decided to abandon her corporate career and become a natural winemaker. Wanting to make wines different from Leclerc’s, she has leased 2.5 hectares of biodynamically farmed vines from Languedoc winemaker Christophe Beau (Domaine Beauthorey in the Pic Saint-Loup region). Harvesting is manual and the grapes are vinified naturally, in concrete tanks with no added anything, in the Languedoc. Wanting to make wines different from your everyday Languedocs, she transports the just-fermented juice to Leclerc’s cellars in the Loire for malolactic fermentation, maturation, blending and bottling with no fining, filtering or added sulphur.

Depending on the date on which the wine leaves the Languedoc, it is labelled Coteaux du Languedoc or Vin de France. To avoid red tape and confusion, Paillet is reportedly planning to opt exclusively for the Vin de France designation in future vintages.

Coteaux du Languedoc 2013, C.S.G., Autour de l’Anne ($27.71, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Syrah and Grenache with a little Cinsault thrown in. The 40- to 60-yar-old vines are rooted in limestone and red clay. The grapes are vinified separately in tanks, with alcoholic fermentation typically lasting 12 to 14 days. Maturation in concrete tanks lasts 12 months. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Engaging nose of red and black fruit with hints of spice and faint burnt rubber. Medium-bodied, dry and savoury, with clean fruit and bright acidity. Fundamentally fluid and supple though not lacking tannic grit. The finish is long and minerally. As Loire-ish and it is Languedoc-ish, this is a wonderfully drinkable wine. What’s more, a few bottles remain available. (Buy again? Done!)

Coteaux du Languedoc 2013, Pot d’Anne, Autour de l’Anne ($55.47/1500 ml, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
The cuvée’s name, which translates as “Anne’s pot,” is a homonym of peau d’âne (donkey skin). 100% Cinsault from 20-year-old vines grown on limestone and red clay. Half the grapes are destemmed, the other half left as whole clusters. Semi-carbonic maceration in concrete tanks lasts 12 days. Maturation in concrete tanks lasts 12 months. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Pretty, perfumy nose of red and black fruit, including berries, overtoned with flowers, sawed wood and spice. Barely medium-bodied. The lightly juicy fruit is fresh and fluid, structured by supple tannins. Finishes long and clean. So, so drinkable. (Buy again? Moot but yes.)

At the second tasting, someone asked why the wines were so Loire-like. Could the fact that they were fermented with native yeasts explain it? Probably not, as the wines didn’t leave the Languedoc until alcoholic fermentation was completed. On the other hand, malolactic fermentation took place in the Loire, so indigenous bacteria could be a factor (though wouldn’t the wines also bring some Languedoc microflora with them?). To my mind, Max Campbell’s theory that the difference is due to the cooler temperatures of the Loire cellars seems more realistic.

As mentioned earlier, both tastings were followed by a light meal of salads, charcuterie and cheese. As the tail ends of the Deux Caves bottles were insufficient to slake the collective thirst, a few other wines were uncorked (gratitude to all who supplied them). I stopped taking notes at that point but wanted to mention four in passing.

Damien Coquelet’s Beaujolais-Villages “Fou du Beaujo” has long been a Mo’ Wine Group favourite. At the second tasting, the 2012 ($22.43, private import, La QV/Insolite, NLA) and 2014 ($19.20, 12604080) were served side by side. The 2012 was a thing of beauty: vibrant, fruity, sappy, fluid, lip-smacking. The 2014 seemed a little harder and less smiling, though whether that’s a function of the vintage, the age, this particular bottle or the filtering and/or sulphuring possibly required by the SAQ is anybody’s guess.

The Valle del Maule 2014, Pipeño, Collection Rézin, Louis-Antoine Luyt ($18.15, 12511887) is a lovable, natural Chilean wine made entirely using purchased País grapes from organcially farmed vines about a century and a half old. (Luyt buys the grapes – at fair trade prices – from his pickers, one of whose photograph appears on the label.) Fragrant and fruity, ripe and juicy, light and fresh, with frisky acidity, very soft tannins, a disarming rusticity and a quaffability quotient that’s off the charts. I’ve drunk more of this wine than any other this year and it was interesting to hear others who were just discovering it planning to buy cases the next time it rolls around.

The 2001 Château Coutet is a classic Barsac that’s showing beautifully. Rich but not heavy (good acidity), sweet but not saccharine. The complex flavours and aromatics are dominated by stone fruit and botrytis. The finish lasts for minutes. A deluxe end to a most enjoyable evening.

MWG September 27th tastings: flight 3 of 3

Lastly, here’s a link to another, much less tardy report on the tasting – one from which some of the earlier-cited technical information about Xavier Marchais comes – that was posted on the Quebec-based wine discussion board Fou du vin by a new and welcome addition to the Mo’ Wine Group. Du beau travail, Raisin Breton !

Peaked and peaking

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To celebrate his impending marriage, a MWG member raided his cellar and generously treated the group to two 1990 St-Juliens. Thanks and congratulations, David!

Saint-Julien 1990, Château Lagrange
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (44%), Merlot (44%) and Petit Verdot (12%). Manually harvested. Maceration and fermentation of the various lots takes place in temperature-controlled (28°C) stainless steel vats ranging in size from 66 to 220 hl and lasts two to three weeks. The lots are selected, blended and matured in French oak barrels (60% new) for 21 months. Fined with egg whites and racked by candle light before bottling. 13% ABV.
Young to the eye for a 25-year-old wine: some fading at the rim but virtually no bricking. Effusive nose of cassis, graphite, red meat, “honeycomb,” modelling clay, cigar box and green pepper. Savoury and smooth, rich and elegant. The tannins are mostly resolved though the wine still has plenty of structure. Leather, stones, spice and wood (not oak) overtone the long finish. A complete wine. Classic Médoc, at or near peak.

Saint-Julien 1990, Château Léoville-Barton
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc; haven’t found the exact percentages used in 1990 but it’s usually something like 65%, 25% and 10% respectively. Current-day wine-making practices, which are probably not too dissimilar from those used a quarter of a century ago, are: manual harvesting; destemming, crushing and fermenting on a plot by plot basis in temperature-controlled wood vats; alcoholic fermentation lasting seven to 10 days with twice daily pump-overs; three week’s maceration on the skins; maturation in French oak barrels (50-70% new) for 16 to 18 months and topped up three times a week; fining in the barrels with fresh egg whites. 12.5% ABV.
Even less bricking than the Lagrange. The expected cassis is there but as a backdrop to beef chop suey, “tamarind,” chestnut honey and graphite. Smoothly structured with soft-glow acidity and round, resolving tannins that, as chewing reveals, still have an astringent bite. The fruit remains vibrant and the wine’s depth is not yet fully in evidence. Tobacco and cedar linger long. Darker and more umami-rich than a bottle opened a decade earlier, I think this needs another five or 10 years to peak. That said, I’m sure it’d be a here-now delight with a roasted leg of lamb.

MWG October 8th tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

October 25, 2015 at 15:03

I hate when this happens

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I pull an old bottle from my cellar. Thinking it’s probably over the hill and not something I’d want to chance sharing with friends, I open it one evening when I’m alone. The wine is glorious. And I’m the only person around to appreciate it.

In this case, the bottle is a Sonoma Mountains 1993, Cabernet Sauvignon, Laurel Glen, for which I paid a stiff $49.50 back in the day. The reason why was that it was said to be a sleeper, an underappreciated wine that could hold its own against better-known Cal Cabs costing two or three times as much. And you know what? It does.

Earlier in the day, I’d found a a beautiful veal rib steak sitting in my butcher’s display case. Looking for something I could, weather permitting, grill or, weather not, cook on the stovetop, I grabbed it.

Look in food-and-wine pairing books and you’ll often find that mature Bordeaux, in particular Médoc, is a recommended accompaniment for côtes de veau. And I was sure I had a cru bourgeois or two from the 1990s or early 2000s at home. Except when I looked, I didn’t. After hesitating over a 2002 Chinon, I went with this. And now, since there’s no one to share the experience with,  I regret it. Except the wine is so delicious, I don’t really.

Gorgeous Bordeauxish nose of cassis, cedar and cigar box along with notes of turned earth and slate. A joy in the mouth: the fruit sweet and vibrant, the texture satiny, the tannins resolved into velvet, the acidity bright and streaming. The long finish is remarkable for its  complex of savoury, minerally, tobacco/herby nuances. What’s more, the wine is dry and perfectly digeste, spritely, invigorating, with an alcohol level of 12.5%. Probably as good as it ever will be, though probably not declining for a few years more.

It’s the kind of wine that restores my faith in California. Except does anyone in California make wines like this any more?

Written by carswell

May 16, 2015 at 18:53

MWG November 24th tasting: Bandol bliss-out

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Bandol 2006, Domaine du Gros’Noré ($55.00, 11553938)
A blend of Mourvèdre (75%), Grenache (10%), Cinsaut (10%) and Carignan (5%) from vines averaging 30 years old. Partially destemmed.Traditional vinification with 15 days’ maceration and fermentation (indigenous yeasts). Matured 18 months in old oak foudres. Unfiltered, unfined. 15% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Effusive nose of plum, dark earth, hints of tobacco and herbs. Youthful but resolving. The dark heart of plush, ripe fruit and inky minerals is framed by round tannins and soft acidity. Olives and garrigue perfume the long finish, the alcohol unapparent. Surprisingly elegant for a wine of its size and inherent earthiness. (Buy again? Gladly.)

Bandol 2007, Domaine Tempier (c. $50 as a private import in 2009)
The so-called cuvée classique. Typically 75% Mourvèdre, 14% Grenache, 9% Cinsault and 2% Carignan from vines averaging around 40 years old. Manually harvested. The destemmed grapes are macerated and fermented (with indigenous yeasts) for two to three weeks in stainless steel tanks. The must is pressed and the wine is transferred to oak foudres for malolactic fermentation and 18 to 20 months’ maturation. Unfiltered and unfined. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Initial bottle funk blows off, leaving a rich, evolved nose of plum, spice, graphite, earth, composted leaf, old wood and cigar box. Full-bodied despite the Gros’Noré wines making it seem more like medium. Smooth on the surface, the fruit ripe and satiny, yet resilient tannins provide some grit while acidity brightens and slate darkens. Long. A savoury, earthy, somehow elegant wine that tastes like it’s approaching its plateau of maturity, though the stuffing, structure and balance point to another decade of life. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bandol 2010, Cuvée Antoinette, Domaine du Gros’Noré ($74.00, 12207033)
Only a few hundred bottles of this cuvée named after the winemaker’s mother are made each year. Mourvèdre (95%), Grenache (3%) and Cinsault (2%). Not destemmed. 15% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Better after 30 minutes in the glass. Plum skin, grassy meadow, humus, Asian spice, game.
On the palate, it’s rich, dry, full-bodied, broad and deep – primary and powerful but not forbidding. The sweet core of ripe fruit is wrapped in savouriness and finely if firmly structured by velvety tannins and sustained acidity. The endless, dark, minerally finish has an astringent rasp. Pure and complete. Delicious now, amazing in 2020. (Buy again? Would love to.)

(Flight: 5/5)

Written by carswell

December 23, 2014 at 13:25

MWG September 11th tasting: Natural natural vertical vertical

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Jean-Yves Péron has been making wines since 2004 using fruit from very old vines, some of them pre-phylloxera, on two hectares of terraced, high-altitude vineyards in Chevaline, near Albertville. After studying oenology in Bordeaux, he trained with natural winemakers Thierry Allemand and Jean-Louis Grippat in the Rhône valley and Bruno Schueller in Alsace. Organic farming, indigenous yeasts, non-interventionist winemaking, avoidance of filtering and fining and the use of little or no sulphur make his natural wines of the first rank.

Péron’s top red, Côté Pelée, is a 100% Mondeuse Noire from ancient vines growing in schist and slate soils. One week’s carbonic maceration is followed by ten days’ to three weeks’ fermentation, depending on the vintage, and one year’s barrel aging. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou. When the three wines were last available in Quebec (c. 2012), they retailed for about $45 a bottle.

Vin de pays d’Allobrogie 2006, Côte Pelée, Jean-Yves Péron (private import, NLA)
Engaging bouquet of spice chest, slate, earthy mushroom and dried cherry. In the mouth, it’s a satin-textured welterweight with light tannins, light but tart acidity and a dark, mineral underlay. Long, juicy, pure. At its peak? Hard to say. But also hard to resist at this point in its life. (Buy again? Yes.)

Vin de pays d’Allobrogie 2007, Côte Pelée, Jean-Yves Péron (private import, NLA)
Intense tomato and leather/wood/smoke, then developing an umami-rich aroma not unlike beef chop suey. The fruit – plum mostly – seems a little stewed. Smooth and round. In fact, it’s slightly heavier and considerably less structured and acidic than its older and younger siblings, though plenty of acidity and structure remain. Sustained finish. Delicious but flatter, the least interesting of the three. (Buy again? Not in preference to the other two, especially the 2008.)

Vin de pays d’Allobrogie 2008, Côte Pelée, Jean-Yves Péron (private import, NLA)
Deep, dark, minerally nose with whiffs of leather, almond and cherry. Medium-bodied, closed and tight. A mouthful of rich sweet-and-sour fruit, grounding slate, shining acidity and fine, sleek tannins. The satin-and-velvet texture lasts well into the long finish. A complete wine, a thoroughbred with several glorious years ahead of it. (Buy again? Yes, please.)

(Flight: 6/9)

Written by carswell

October 4, 2014 at 13:19

An evening with Olivier Guyot (3/6)

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The Favières vineyard is located toward the bottom of the Marsannay hillside. The Guyot vines were planted in the 1980s. The estate makes another red Marsannay (dubbed La Montagne) from 90-year-old vines located at the top of the slope.

Marsannay 2010, Les Favières, Domaine Olivier Guyot ($35.75, 11906035)
100% Pinot Noir. 12% ABV. shows small quantities of this as being available. At the date of this posting, those bottles are all 2009s. The 2010s are in the SAQ’s warehouse and will be released in the coming weeks.
Primary: grapey nose only hinting at berries, spice, kirsch and oak. Supple, with airframe tannins and sleek acidity – silk to the 2009’s velours. The clean, ripe fruit is joined by some darker humus and mineral notes that linger into the sustained finish. Seems full of potential but a little out of sorts for now; will probably hit its stride in six months or a year. (Buy again? Yes.)

Marsannay 2009, Les Favières, Domaine Olivier Guyot ($35.75, 11906035)
100% Pinot Noir. 13% ABV. A few bottles remain in the system (showing as the 2010 on
Darker and more reticent, the berries tending to black, the forest floor mixed with savoury herbs and charred oak. On the palate, the fruit is very ripe – not jammy but a little candied. Plush tannins and relatively low acidity give the wine a chewy texture. Broader than the other two but also not as deep. Some smoke appears on the finish. On its own, an amiable wine though more earthbound, less vital than its older and younger siblings. (Buy again? Not in preference to the 2010.)

Marsannay 2008, Les Favières, Domaine Olivier Guyot ($36.25 as a private import in 2012, NLA)
100% Pinot Noir. 12.5% ABV.
Beginning to express itself: red berries, leafmould, spice, kirsch and a touch of cola and vanilla oak. In a phrase, ça pinote. Still tight – maybe firm is a better word – but full, round and well balanced. The ripe fruit is structured by sinewy tannins and shot through with sliver threads of acidity. Sustained finish. The most complete of the three, though that may be partly a function of age. (Buy again? Moot but yes.)

This vertical showed the accuracy of Olivier’s vintage judgements: the unappreciated 2008 turning out classic, structured, long-lived wines; the overhyped 2009 giving birth to fruit-forward wines often short on finesse and best drunk in their youth; and 2010 a winegrower’s vintage capable of producing elegant, balanced expressions of terroir. He suggests drinking the Favières fairly young with grilled beef tenderloin.

Written by carswell

February 15, 2014 at 15:56

MWG December 14th tasting (4/4): Cornas × 4

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The final flight featured three private-import Cornas from a young, up-and-coming producer with a decade-older bottle from another winemaker thrown in for comparison.

Farmed organically since 2001 and biodynamically since 2002, Domaine du Coulet is a 13-hectare estate run by 30-something Matthieu Barret, who says his aim is to make vins 100 % raisin (100% grape-driven wines). His Cornas vineyards are terraced and face southeast. The soil is mainly old, decomposed granite locally called gore. The vines are pruned to produce low yields (no more than 25 hl/ha). The harvested grapes are fed to the fermenting vats by gravity, with a single daily punching down of the cap. After fermentation (with indigenous yeasts), the must is gently pressed to avoid extracting hard tannins. The wines are allowed to clarify naturally, without filtration or fining. Barrels are large (400 or 500 litres) and neutral (having been used for at least eight vintages). Since 2006, a little less than a third of each wine is matured in egg-shaped concrete vats. Sulphur dioxide (a mere 2 g/hl) is added only at bottling and only for bottles that will be shipped.

Alain Voge has been growing grapes on his family’s farm since 1959. In Cornas, the 6.5 hectares of Syrah vines are rooted in decomposed granite. Harvest is manual and on a parcel-by-parcel basis. The grapes are destemmed, then fermented in small stainless steel vats, with daily or twice-daily punching down of the cap. The resulting wine is matured from 14 to 24 months in barrels.

Cornas 2009, Billes Noires, Domaine du Coulet ($108.00, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
Like all Cornas, 100% Syrah. The vines here are, on average, 55 years old and located at the top of the Arlettes slope. The grapes were fully destemmed before fermentation, which lasted two weeks. Clarified by settling, then twice-racked into barrels. Maturation lasted 24 months, 12 of which were in 10-year-old 500-litre barrels and 12 in vats. 5,500 bottles made.
Deep nose of slate, blueberry, char, smoke and a hint of rubber. Rich and chewy in the mouth, the texture poised between velvety and silky. Spellbinding tension between fruit and acidity with sleek tannins in a supporting role. Tangy, slatey finish. Long, balanced and complete if a little austere at this youthful stage. A beautiful bottle. (Buy again? If I were a rich man…)

Cornas 2010, Brise Caillou, Domaine du Coulet ($57.50, La QV, 6 bottles/case)
The estate’s entry-level Cornas, designed to be more immediately accessible than traditional Cornas (should peak at around four years of age, according to the winemaker). A blend of old- and young-vine Syrah from all the estate’s vineyards except the tops of the slopes. Maturated 13 months in 400-litre barrels and egg-shaped concrete vats. 8,000 bottles made.
Bright nose of red and blue berries, spice, animale, polished leather, earth. More understated on the palate. Soft, smooth texture. Fine, faintly astringent tannins and vibrant acidity. Long, graphite-edged finish. (Buy again? Yes.)

Cornas 2009, Les Terrasses du Serre, Domaine du Coulet ($81.00, La QV, 6 bottles/case; a very few bottles of the reportedly graceful and accessible 2007 are available at the SAQ for $78.75)
The Syrah is from vines averaging 45 years of age and grown in the Arlettes, Reynards and Patronne vineyards. Fully destemmed before fermentation, which lasted three weeks. Clarified by settling before transfer into barrels. No racking. Matured 15 months in six- to ten-year-old 400- and 500-litre barrels and 600-litre egg-shaped concrete vats. 10,000 bottles made.
Fruit tending more toward cassis, slate, a hint of marzipan. Singular – the closest thing to an odd man out in this flight. Medium-bodied. Velvety yet supple texture. Pure, intensely flavoured fruit. Crunchy acidity and round tannins. Lingering smoke, slate, blackberry. The driest of the three Coulets. Initially seemed more about the surface but gained depth with an hour in the glass, so it may be passing through a phase. (Buy again? Maybe, though if making the investment, I’d be tempted to throw in another $25 bucks for a Billes Noires.)

Cornas 1999, Cuvée Vieilles Vignes, Alain Voge ($55.00 in 2004; a few bottles of the 2007 are available at the SAQ for $67.50)
Made from manually harvested grapes from various hillside parcels. The vines are at least 30 years old and rooted in old, decomposed granite. Vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats, macerated four to five weeks, with daily punching down and pumping over. Matured 18 to 20 months in barrels, 20% new.
The most evolved and complex bouquet: forest floor, violet, animal, obsidian dust. Still vibrant, the dark fruit is tart and juicy, cloaked in tertiary flavours, pointed by fine acidity, underpinned by resolved tannins. Long, sourish finish. In a good place now. (Buy again? Moot but yes.)

A lovely flight. As a group, the Coulet wines were remarkable for the purity and clarity of their fruit. They’re also elegant, showing none of the chunkiness often associated with the appellation’s wines, especially in youth. At the tasting, it seemed to me their only downside was their relatively high prices. Yet in the days that followed, I found they had a rare length: I could – can – still taste them on my mind’s palate. Like only a very few wines, they’ve stayed with me – thinking about them causes my mouth to water – while in retrospect the Voge Vieilles Vignes seems less characterful and less memorable. So, I’m not so sure the Coulets are overpriced after all. And I’m convinced the estate is one to keep an eye on.

Written by carswell

January 17, 2013 at 13:09