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MWG September 11th tasting: Barolo di culto

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Barolo 2010, Paiagallo, Giovanni Canonica ($71.00, private import, NLA*)
100% organically farmed Nebbiolo from a 1.5-hectare plot in the Paiagallo vineyard, located on the hillside above the town of Barolo. Other producers use grapes from the vineyard in their blends but Canonica is the only one who makes them into a single-vineyard bottling. The grapes are manually harvested, destemmed, macerated and fermented (with indigenous yeasts and without temperature control) for 30 to 40 days in fibreglass tanks, then pressed in a vertical hand press. The resulting wine is transferred into large Slavonian oak botti for maturation. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur is added during the winemaking and a tiny amount at bottling. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Restrained yet complex nose: red berries, gingerbread and granite dust with some rose and tar in the background. Medium-bodied but mouth-filling. Impressively pure fruit (cherry), bright acidity, firm but fine tannins. Long, intense finish with not a hint of heat. Young and primary but already dimensional and clearly full of potential. This beautiful, earthy yet suave wine has become a cult object among NYC and Boston geeks and it’s easy to see why. For a Barolo of such quality, the price is more than reasonable. (Buy again? A case if I could.)

*In Quebec, there’s a waiting list to get on the allocation list.

(Flight: 9/9)

Written by carswell

October 7, 2014 at 20:54

MWG September 11th tasting: Primitivo sofisticato

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IGT Puglia 2011, Amphora, Cristiano Guttarolo ($41.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Guttarolo is based in Gioia del Colle in Bari province in Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot. 100% Primitivo from 0.6-hectare plot of organically farmed vines in the third decade of their existence. After partial destemming, the hand-picked grapes are placed in 500-litre terracotta amphorae for six months’ fermentation – both alcoholic (with indigenous yeasts) and malolactic – and maceration on the skins. The wine is then transferred to stainless steel tanks for an additional eight months’ maturation and then to bottles for a further 12 month’s refining. No added sulphur. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Surprisingly, almost shockingly pale – the lightest looking red of the evening. Deep and engaging bouquet: sweet-and-sour plum, dried earth, spice and meat. A faint carbon dioxide tickle accompanies the first sip. The fruit is remarkably pure and light, glowing with acidity, sweet at its core yet somehow also earthy. Round, lightly drying tannins, a mineral vein and a long caressing finish complete the picture. An elegant Primitivo? Yep. Just beautiful. (Buy again? Done!)

(Flight: 8/9)

Written by carswell

October 6, 2014 at 12:45

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

MWG September 11th tasting: Grounded, alive, drinkable

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Drawing inspiration from natural winemakers such as Yvon Métras and Dominique Derain and mentored by the likes of Eric Pfifferling and Olivier Cousin, young Benoit Courault worked at Domaine des Sablonettes before setting up shop in Faye d’Anjou about eight years ago. His vineyards, which total about 5 hectares, are planted to Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Grolleau and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. He farms organically, works the soil with a horse, adopts a non-interventionist approach in the cellar and minimizes the use of sulphur. For an extended profile with lots of photographs, see this post on the Wine Terroirs blog.

Vin de France 2012, Les Tabeneaux, Benoit Courault ($28.70, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A middle-Loire blend of organically farmed Cabernet Franc and Grolleau (about 2/3 and 1/3 respectively) from five parcels. Destemmed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured in concrete tanks. Minimal or no added sulphur. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Fresh but not herbaceous nose: plum, black raspberry, a floral note, a hint of ash. Smooth and round in the mouth, with soft tannins, an acidic hum, pure, ripe fruit, a slatey substrate and a long, clean, tartish finish. So grounded, so alive, so drinkable. Proved the perfect charcuterie wine, unfazed even by pickled pork tongue. (Buy again? Yes.)

(Flight: 5/9)

Written by carswell

September 22, 2014 at 12:46

MWG September 11th tasting: The perfect excuse to guzzle

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Nicolas Vauthier entered the wine scene as the owner of Aux crieurs de vins, one of the first bars to specialize in natural wines. In 2008, he founded a négociant firm, Vini Viti Vinci, based in Avallon, near Auxerre, in northern Burgundy and dedicated to making unmanipulated, terroir-driven wines with no added sulphur. He learned the basics by working with Philippe Pacalet in Beaune, who continues to advise him. While Vauthier doesn’t see himself as a winegrower – he says he’ll never own any vineyards – he does have a talent for sniffing out parcels with great potential. And while he’s happy when the winegrowers he contracts with farm organically, he doesn’t insist they do: the quality of the grapes and their expression of terroir are what matter most.

He buys the grapes à pied, on the vine, harvests them with his own pickers and transports them to his winemaking facilities. Fermentation, with native yeasts, is in old wooden foudres. Some of the reds undergo semi-carbonic maceration to bring out their fruitiness.

Though his first two vintages included AOC wines, Vauthier has decided to buck the appellation system and now labels his wines as vins de France. And speaking of the labels, their whimsical line drawings of men and women in various states of undress so alarmed the SAQ that it refused to accept responsibility for the bottles in case scandalized buyers returned them. [Insert eye-roll emoticon here.]

Vin de France 2012, L’Adroit, Vini Viti Vinci ($30.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from northern Burgundy. And look at that: 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Exuberantly Pinot nose (ça pinote, as the French say): wild strawberry, cedar and dried leaves, some of which a distant neighbour is burning. Medium-bodied and fluid yet richly flavoured. The silky ripe fruit is carried on a stream of lively acidity, light but raspy tannins and coloured with spice overtones and shaded with a slatey ground base. Pure, clean, fresh, long and so very drinkable. Generated a real buzz around the table. A downside: Glou says the wine flatlines about four hours after opening. The upside? You now have the perfect excuse to guzzle. (Buy again? In multiples.)

(Flight: 4/9)

Written by carswell

September 21, 2014 at 15:20

MWG September 11th tasting: Brave Roussanne

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After working for several years with the Cave coopérative d’Estézargues, Édouard Laffitte, who had no background in farming, decided to set out on his own. Invited by Loïc Roure, newly settled in the Roussillon, to share the winemaking facilities he had just acquired for his Domaine du Possible, Laffitte began searching for vines, specifically ones growing in north-facing, high-altitude vineyards, the better to make wines that were fresh and not excessively alcoholic. He eventually pieced together 6.7 hectares of parcels in three communes near Lansac to make the Domaine Le Bout du Monde, so named because visitors told him that getting there was like travelling to the end of the earth.

The vineyards are farmed organically and worked manually. The wines are vinified by soil type (shale, gneiss and granite). The estate currently makes five reds (Grenache, Carignan and Syrah alone and in blends) and one white. We tasted the latter.

Vin de France 2012, Brave Margot, Domaine Le Bout du Monde ($32.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Roussanne from organically farmed old vines grown in granitic soils. Manually harvested. Macerated one week (1/3 destemmed, 2/3 whole clusters) then pressed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured in old barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Another cloudy white: pale bronze-gold. Lovely nose of honey, spice, “floral pear” and a hint of ash. The grape’s verging-on-oily texture is cut by laser-like acidity while complex fruit and dazzling minerals dance across the palate. The long sweet-sour-bitter finish brings Meyer lemon peel to mind. Far and away the liveliest and mineralliest Roussanne it’s been my pleasure to encounter. (Buy again? For sure.)

(Flight: 3/9)

Written by carswell

September 20, 2014 at 12:07

MWG September 11th tasting: Unmuscadets

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Located in Saint-Julien-de-Concelles, a few kilometres east of the Loire estuary, Marc Pesnot’s 13-hectare Domaine de Sénéchalière has schistous soils and is planted mainly to Melon de Bourgogne (aka Muscadet) along with Folle Blanche and Abouriou. He farms organically, works the soil manually and favours a non-interventionalist approach to winemaking. Despite being in the heart of the Muscadet AOC, Pesnot is insistent that he doesn’t make Muscadet.

Vin de France 2013, Miss Terre, Domaine de la Sénéchalière ($29.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Melon de Bourgogne from vines between 50 and 80 years old. Manually harvested and destemmed. Alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts lasts around four months. Unlike Muscadets, this also undergoes malolactic fermentation. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur (20 mg/l) is added at bottling. 12% ABV. The cuvée’s name refers to the soil (terre) the grapes are grown in and to the mystery of malolactic fermentation. Quebec agent: Glou.
Lovely nose of elderflower, lemon and minerals. Light- to medium-bodied and quite dry, with a silky texture and a soft tartness. Squeaky clean fruit, a touch of bitter lemon, lots of minerals and a long, saline finish add up to a satisfying, food-friendly sipper. (Buy again? Yes.)

Vin de France 2013, Chapeau Melon, Domaine de la Sénéchalière ($31.50, private import, 12 bottles/case)
The cuvée’s name is a triple pun since it is French for bowler (there’s one on the label), French for “hats off to the Melon grape” and the name of a restaurant where the wine has been served since it opened. 100% Melon de Bourgogne. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts lasts about a year, maturation on the lees about six months. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. No added sulphur. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Compared with the Miss Terre, far more along the lines of how one imagines a natural wine. Cloudy in the glass. Unusual nose: yeasty with oxidized and pickle notes, white fruit, some mastic, sea spray, spice. Despite the spritzy tingle, the wine’s texture borders on creamy. While it’s fruity (sour apples verging on cider), it’s also quite dry. The layers of complexity include veins of minerals. The finish is long. Evolved and improved over the course of the evening. I didn’t know quite what to make of this at first but ended up convinced. (Buy again? Yes.)

(Flight: 2/9)

Written by carswell

September 17, 2014 at 19:02