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Austro-Hungarian

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Somló 2015, Somlowhite, Meinklang ($24.55, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of Hárslevelü (50%), Juhfark (20%), Olaszrizling (20%) and Furmint (10%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines grown at the base of the Somló (pronounced shom-low) volcano in southwest Hungary, not far from the Austrian border. The region’s basalt is weathered and topped with loess and light sand deposits, producing a fertile soil. The winemaking – which takes place at the estate’s Burgenland winery on the Austrian side of the border – is non-interventionist, with no additions except, possibly, a tiny squirt of sulphur at bottling. Screwcapped. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Complex nose: chalky minerals, white peach, lemon/lime zest, quince, gooseberry, straw. A sip reveals a wine with a slightly oily texture, spiced quince, apple and pear flavours, a soft buzz of acidity, threads of minerals and herbs and a white peppery sensation of spicy heat. It’s quite dry, especially on the long finish with its intriguing sour/bitter edge. The bottle opened at home seemed a tad less fiery – though no less enjoyable – than the sample tasted at the Salon des vins d’importation privée. Great with cabbage rolls made from fermented cabbage and Hungarian sausage. (Buy again? Gladly.)

Meinklang makes affordably priced natural wines that are always stable, always clean and always loveable. The estate is one of the most ecological and sustainable in the world. Its packaging is fun. Why, then, are this and the other wines in the line (Grüner Veltliner, Blaufränkisch, Blauburgunder, Zweigelt, Saint Laurent, etc.) not available at the SAQ?

By the way, also poured at the Salon VIP were two Meinklang wines aged in 900-litre concrete eggs: Konkret white (Traminer, I think) and red (Sankt Laurent). Amazing, especially the red. The good news is that La QV say they’re going to start bringing in some of the higher-end Meinklang bottlings, including the Konkret cuvées, some of the stunning monovarietal Hungarian whites and oddities like the Graupert (“unkempt”) Pinot Gris and Zweigelt, which are made from grapes from unpruned, untrained vines.

Written by carswell

December 23, 2016 at 13:13

Slow mo’ Somló

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Located on the east shore of the Neusiedler See in eastern Austria (Burgenland), not far from the Hungarian border, the 55-hectare Meinklang estate is run by Werner and Angela Michlits. (The estate’s name is the German noun Einklang – unison, harmony – prefixed with the first letter of the owners’ family name.) The estate also has a vineyard in Somló on the Hungarian side of the border (you can see pictures of the area, the vineyard and the owner-manager in this short video in German and English with Hungarian subtitles).

The Michlits could be poster kids for the slow food/wine movement. Not only is the estate organic and biodynamic, it is largely self-sufficient, growing the grain for its beer, bread and animal feed, the hops for its beer, the apples and other fruit for its ciders and juices, the beef for weed control, fertilizer, sausages and horns so important in biodynamic farming, and so on. The wine- and beer-making is non-interventionist and uses indigenous yeasts.

Meinklang’s wines have been favourites of the Mo’ Wine Group since our first encounters with them. In fact, Meinklang is among the small group of producers whose wines we buy automatically, even without tasting them first. That was the case last fall with the new-to-us entry-level Somló white. And, true to form, it didn’t disappoint.

Somló 2013, Meinklang ($24.65, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of organically and biodynamically farmed Hárslevelü (50%), Juhfark (20%), Olaszrizling (25%) and Furmint (5%) grown at the base of the Somlo volcano in southwest Hungary, not far from the Austrian border. The region’s balsat is weathered and topped with loess and light sand deposits, producing a fertile soil. Screwcapped. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Peach, pineapple, grass and straw, basalt dust and hints of honey and white flowers. Intense even a little fiery in the mouth. The unctuous texture is shredded to ribbons by razor-sharp acidity. The ripe stone fruit barely holds it own against the crushing minerality. The peppery (white and paprika), savoury (sour and bitter) finish goes on and on. Such presence and character! Lovely as an aperitif but has the wherewithal to stand up to Hungary’s robust cuisine. Why is this not on the SAQ’s shelves? (Buy again? Moot – the 2013 is NLA – but multiples of the 2014 for sure.)

Written by carswell

February 14, 2015 at 10:50

MWG January 8th tasting: A marriage made in heaven

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The tasting ended with a dessert wine, a Tokaji Aszú from Béres, the producer of the dry whites that so impressed us in the third flight.

As the aszú designation indicates, some of the grapes had been shrivelled and concentrated by Botrytis cinerea (aka noble rot). Assuming the Béres is made according to standard practice, the botrytized grapes are destemmed, stored for about a week and “then kneaded to a pulp which is added to a base Tokaji wine, or to must, by the puttony (a hod of twenty to twenty-five kilos). The eventual sweetness depends on the number of puttonyos added to the 136-140-litre barrels (called gönchi) of one-year-old base wine – usually 3, 4 and 5 puttonyos; 6 is exceptional,” quoting Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion.

Tokaji Aszú 2007, 5 puttonyos, Béres ($53.45/500 ml, 12387791)
A blend of Hárslevelü and Furmint from vines between six and 32 years old. Manually harvested. Fermented with selected yeasts in Hungarian oak barrels for four weeks. Did not undergo malolactic fermentation. Matured off the lees in 220-litre Hungarian oak barrels for 24 months. Lightly filtered, then bottled and aged another 12 months before release. 9.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Rich nose of apricot, honeycomb, orange marmalade and acacia blossom. On the texture spectrum, somewhere between satin and cream. It’s also very sweet. In fact, were it not for the racy acidity, the wine would be unctuous and cloying. Layered and complex but also clean and pure. Yellow apple and pear compote, peach and toffee are the dominant flavours; minerals are there if you dig for them. The finish lasts for minutes. Delicious now but still a baby (the producer claims this can age up to 50 years). (Buy again? Gladly.)

Like many Tokaji Aszús, this would make an exquisite pairing for foie gras. At the tasting, it was served with the clementine and almond syrup cake (sans chocolate icing) from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s excellent Jerusalem cookbook. While I’d figured the pairing would work, it proved to do far more than that: not only did the wine and the cake make each other taste better, the effect was quite different depending on which you tasted first.

(Flight: 8/8)

Written by carswell

February 10, 2015 at 17:19

MWG January 8th tasting: A pair of dry Tokajs

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Manufacturer of a vitamin supplement popular in Hungary, the Béres family acquired a 45-hectare estate near the village of Erdőbénye, in the heart of the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region, in 2002.

Tokaji 2009, Naparany Cuvée, Béres ($20.60, 12178922)
A 50-50 blend of Furmint and Hárslevelü from nearly decade old vines. Naparany (“sungold”) refers to the latter’s colour. Manually harvested. Alcoholic fermentation with Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast takes place in stainless steel tanks lasts three weeks. Prevented from undergoing malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees three months in third- and fourth-fill Hungarian oak casks. Filtered before bottling. Aged six months in bottle before release. 6.3 g/l acidity, 2.3 g/l residual sugar, 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Intriguing nose of peach, dried leaves, parsnip, hints of orange peel and caramel. Dry, medium-bodied and intense yet buoyant and fluent, the ripe fruit carried on a gurgling stream of acidity. Turns a little fiery – not hot – on a long finish that’s full of salty butterscotch notes. Exotic, saucy and impressive. The winemaker suggests smoked goose breast with kidney beans, cream of spinach soup with dry ham, and potato, egg and smoked pork hash with garlic sour cream as pairings. (Buy again? For sure.)

Tokaj-Hegyalja 2009, Löcse Furmint, Béres ($23.90, 11766335)
The estate’s flagship wine. 100% Furmint from 30-year-old vines growing in the Löcse vineyard. Alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts in Hungarian oak casks lasts one month. Prevented from undergoing malolactic fermentation. Maturation on the lees in 30% new Hungarian oak barrels lasts eight months. Filtered before bottling. Aged three months in bottle before release. 6.1 g/l acidity, 1.7 g/l residual sugar, 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Complex, umami-rich nose of quince, mushroom, faint nuts, hints of dried herbs. Rich, broad, deep and super long. Powerful and weighty yet balanced, even elegant. Bone-dry fruit, a mother lode of minerals and incandescent acidity dominate the mid-palate and last well into the super-long finish, where they’re joined by subtle oak and that palate-slapping fieriness. Wow-worthy and even better than the impressive 2008. As pairings the winemaker suggests “woodcutter’s roast” (sliced pork loin braised with onion, mushroom, bacon and, optionally, tomatoes and green pepper, and served with fried potato bread) or potato soup with smoked sausage, paprika and sour cream but I couldn’t stop thinking of chicken or tripe paprikash. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

For many of the assembled tasters, this was the flight of the night. The QPR for both wines is off the charts.

(Flight: 3/8)

Written by carswell

January 23, 2015 at 15:55

MWG June 21st tasting: report (2/4)

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Located on the east shore of the Neusiedler See in eastern Austria (Burgenland), not far from the Hungarian border, the 55-hectare Meinklang estate is run by Werner and Angela Michlits. (The estate’s name is the German word Einklang – unison, harmony – prefixed with the first letter of the owners’ family name.) Not only is the operation organic and biodynamic, it is largely self-sufficient, growing its own grain for its beer and bread, hops for its beer, apples and other fruit for its ciders and juices, beef for weed control, fertilizer, sausages and the horns so important in biodynamic farming, and so on. This is another estate where the wines – all of which are vegan-compatible – are made in the vineyard, not the cellar.

Having tasted several Meinklang wines in earlier vintages, I was sure their purity and personality, their droiture and drinkability would be right up the MWG’s alley. However, I wasn’t expecting the unprecedented reaction that the four wines in the tasting elicited from the members in attendance – discussion during and after the event, tweets and a small flurry of emails and phone calls raving about them. If nothing else, it confirmed my impression that these are exceptionally enjoyable wines very much geared to the natural wine lover’s palate.

Grüner Veltliner 2011, Burgenland, Meinklang ($21.00, 12 bottles/case, La QV)
100% Grüner Veltliner. 11.5% ABV. Screwcapped. The 2010 vintage is currently available at the LCBO for $15.95.
Green pear and apple, grass, white pepper and eventually rosemary. Soft and minerally with underlying lime and acidity galore. Pure fruit. Clean and long. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Hárslevelü 2010, H9, Meinklang ($33.00, 6 bottles/case, La QV, available in September)
100% Hárslevelü from the estate’s Hungarian vineyards. 12.5% ABV if I recall correctly.
Fresh nose with hints of peach, honey and hay. Yellow apple on the palate. The rich texture and touch of residual sugar are cut by brightening acidity. Dancing mineral finish. Less tense and Riesling-like than the 2009 but every bit as delicious. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Grauburgunder 2010, Trocken, “Graupert”, Burgenland, Meinklang ($42.00, 6 bottles/case, La QV, available in September)
100% Grauburgunder (aka Pinot Gris) from vines that, as an experiment, have been left unpruned for several years (in the local dialect, graupert means wild and unkempt), drastically reducing yields. 13% ABV.
Intriguing and complex nose whose aromas included lychee, sweat and “dill pickle chips.” Rich and honeyed but also very dry and bracingly acidic. Turns savoury on the finish. Impressive breadth and depth, not to mention great length. After finishing the tail end he took home with him, one member (a Burgundy native at that) reported, “I’m sold!” (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

June 28, 2012 at 23:00

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

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…to bring you the following public service announcement.

The dry Tokajis available at the SAQ come in two styles: fresh and bright if somewhat internationalized (see Château Pajzos) or substantial and savoury, wines to contend with (see Oremus). This new arrival falls squarely in the second group. At things stand now, there’s not much in the system; if you’re interested, don’t dawdle.

Tokaj-Hegyalja 2008, Furmint, Löcse, Béres Vineyards and Winery ($23.05, 11607490)
100% Furmint from 30-year-old vines in the Löcse vineyard. Fermented using native yeasts. Aged eight months in 30% new Hungarian oak casks. Did not undergo malolactic fermentation. Filtered before bottling.

Pale gold with a faint green cast. Subtle, complex, elusive nose: peach, ash, fern fronds, quartz. Plump and sweet-seeming at first though actually quite acidic and dry. Fruit fades to a honeyed, minerally finish with an intriguing sourness, a faint but persistent bitter almond note and a WTF?! warming/burning sensation like you get after eating a fiery goulash or chewing a peppercorn. Unique, formidable and pretty fantastic.

Paired nicely with a chicken roasted with cumin and Seville oranges. Can also see it working with pork, veal and white fish.

Written by carswell

February 28, 2012 at 12:49

Posted in Tasting notes

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