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Eaten Back to Life launch

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Mo’ Wine Group stalwart, Weinplatz commander, occasional blogger and débauché hors pair, Jonah Campbell has just published his second collection of essays, Eaten Back to Life.

Though food is the titular topic, drink almost could be. Indeed, the essays “On Natural Wine, Punk Rock and Too-Easy Analogies” and “On Bad Melons, Bullshit, and the Emergent Qualities of Wine” are among the highlights of – and longest pieces in – the book.

The launch is tomorrow, August 17, at Drawn & Quarterly bookstore, between 7 and 9 p.m., with an after-party to be held at Alexandraplatz. Charcuterie from Boucherie Lawrence and wines from oenopole and Ward & associés will be served at the former; the Weinplatz cellar will be raided at the latter.

(And, yep, that Schueller 2007 Alsace Riesling Grand Cru Pfersigberg was something else.)

Written by carswell

August 16, 2017 at 11:02

It’s a white! It’s a red! It’s Brutal!!!

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Brutal!!! 2015, Partida Creus (ca. €10-15/$15-20 in Barcelona, importation valise)
Apparently, the wine is sin denominación, demoninationless. In any case, it’s a blend of several Catalonian grape varieties (probably Vinyater, Subirat Parent, Xarel·lo, Cartoixa Vermell and Blanc de Sumoll) from biodynamically farmed vines planted in clayey-calareous soil. Manually harvested. The varieties are vinified separately and blended before bottling. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured seven months in stainless steel tanks. Unfiltered, unfined. No added sulphur. 11% ABV.

Cloudy pink to the eye. Spicy/funky nose of dough, distant sweet berries, “pink peppercorns” and an evanescing whiff of volatile acidity that one taster describes as “latex gloves.” A bit spritzy in the mouth. Lightly fruity and quite dry but tangy like “kambucha” and “hibiscus.” The tannins are light while the acidity is electric. So refreshing and drinkable and such energy! Like nothing else I’ve tasted yet also like an instant old friend. Wow. (Buy again? By the case.)

On the Raw Wine website, Partida Creus describes themselves thus: “We are winegrowers and winemakers in the Massis de Bonastre terroir of Catalunya, working with our own production of grapes and with rescued ancient vineyards with interesting native variety of grape. All the vines are organic farming, our organic and natural wines express the terroir with its variety typicity. We try to put in the bottles our deep respect and love for wild and Mediterranean landscape, nothing else. A tribute to nature and biodiversity, our work is a way of life making wine. Certified organic by CCPAE Consell catalá de la Producció Agraria Ecologica.”

Partida Creus is represented in Quebec by Vinealis. A Brutal inquiry to the agency’s prime mover, André Papineau, elicited the following reply: “Oui je bosse avec Partida Creus depuis presque 4 ans maintenant. Quantités confidentielles au départ et de bons volumes maintenant. Par contre le Brutal a longtemps été seulement disponible pour le Bar Brutal; il est un peu cher, se vendrait @ ± 36 $ la bouteille le carton de 6, alors j’hésite un peu. Par contre j’aurai beaucoup de différents vins en août : VN blanco et tinto, BN blanco, TN Tinto, et les grandes cuvées de Vinyater, Cartoixa Vermell, Xarel-lo. Toutes les bulles sont réservées pour le groupe Joe Beef…” [Yes, I’ve been working with Partida Creus for nearly four years. Tiny quantities at the start and good volumes now. However, the Brutal!!! was available only at the Bar Brutal [in Barcelona] for the longest time. It’s kind of expensive, going for around $36 a bottle, case of six, so I’m hesitant. On the other hand, I’ll have a bunch of other Partida Creus wines in August: VN blanco and rojo, BN (white), TN (red) and the top wines, made from Vinyater, Cartoixa Vermell and Xarel-lo. All the sparklers are reserved for the Joe Beef group…”]

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 4 of 7

Dâo wow

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Dâo 2014, Quinta da Ponte Pedrinha ($18.25, 11895321)
Everyone seems to agree this contains Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) and Jaen (aka Mencia); some add Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro to the mix. The vines, which are reportedly around 30 years old, are rooted in granitic soil. The manually harvested grapes are given extended maceration. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.4 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bergeron-les-vins.
Fresh nose of red and black fruit, spice, faint red and black licorice, distant tar and a whiff of barnyard. Medium-bodied and very dry. The flavourful, ripe-sweet fruit is nicely soured by bright acidity (the hallmark of a good Dâo) and framed by light but firm tannins that assert themselves on the finish. A complex of leather, dark minerals, tobacco, undergrowth and old wood flavours adds savour and lingers long. Classic, refreshing, straightforward and even elegant, this food-friendly wine illustrates why Dâo is my favourite Portuguese region for dry reds. The estate recommends chilling the wine to 16-18°C and I couldn’t agree more. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Written by carswell

July 18, 2017 at 12:21

Greek winery tour: Mercouri (Elis)

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[Hover over pics to display captions and credits; click to embiggen.]

In so many ways – historically, climatically, viticulturally, architecturally, culturally, even scenically – the Mercouri Estate stands apart from the other wineries we visited and quite possibly from all wineries in Greece.

Created in 1864 by merchant Theodoros Mercouri, the estate is one of the oldest in the country. Wine-growing began in 1870, when Refosco vines imported from northeast Italy, where Mercouri had trade ties, were planted. The resulting wine soon gained a reputation and was not only consumed locally but also exported on ships that docked at the estate. Such was its renown that the Refosco grape came to be called Mercoureiko in Elis (aka Ilia). New wine-making facilities were built in 1930. Production more or less ceased between World War II and 1985, when Vasilis and Christos Kanellakopoulos, the fourth generation of the family, began revitalizing the estate and its wines. These days, Vasilis’s two sons are taking the helm, Dimitris as the oenologist and Labis looking after the business and marketing side of things. To all appearances, the estate’s future is in good hands.

Set like an emerald on a small bay to the west of Korakochori, the estate enjoys a unique micro-climate. The Ionian Sea has a tempering effect and, as rain clouds in Greece tend to travel from west to east, the average annual precipitation and relative humidity are higher than in the rest of the Peloponnese, though paradoxically the summer and fall are drier than areas further east, a boon for grape health and harvest. The danger of frost is very low.

The mix of grape varieties grown in the 40 hectares of vineyards is as unparalleled as it is cosmopolitan, and includes the Greek Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko, Avgoustiatis, Korinthiaki, Malvasia, Mavrodaphne, Rhoditis and Robola as well as the extra-Hellenic Mourvèdre, Negroamaro, Ribolla Gialla, Syrah and Viognier. The winery also reportedly has or has had experimental plots of Albariño, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc.

Several of the buildings, including ones still in use, are little changed from when they were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many are built from local stone. Several have steeply pitched tiled roofs. Parts of the winery have been preserved as if in amber, with the original furnishings, paintings and equipment intact. Walking through the front door is like stepping back in time, a feeling only increased by a visit to the estate’s small museum with its collection of old presses, tools and photographs, among other things.

While Greece is rightly seen as a meeting place between the western and eastern Mediterranean cultures, the estate feels closer to the west than the east, seems to have one foot in Greece and the other foot in Italy. Take the grape varieties, for example. Take the now abandoned owner’s mansion, which is depicted on the label of the estate’s flagship reds and wouldn’t be out of place in Brindisi or Bari. The Italian feel even extends to the park-like grounds. With its lush foliage, huge trees, expanses of lawn, gentle inclines and pristine shore, the landscape is uniquely pastoral and bucolic.

However present the past may be at Mercouri, the wine-making is resolutely modern, which is not surprising for an estate that has been crafting wines from local and foreign varieties for close to a century and a half. Even the wine labels seem to express this embrace of new and old; the flagship dry whites, Lampadias rosé and Antares red feature reproductions of colourful stylized or abstract paintings; the flagship reds’ labels are far more traditional; the newer reds’ labels live in both eras, with modern typography and an old photograph of young members of the family.  The kicker is that all the bottlings, whether old or new and especially the reds, are among the most elegant Greek wines I’ve tasted.

You’ll find my notes on all the Mercouri wines after the jump. For details about where we stayed and ate and what we ate and saw, see the Day Three report on carswelliana.

INTRODUCTION
PAPAGIANNAKOS (ATTICA)
TSELEPOS (ARCADIA)
♦ MERCOURI (ELIS)
TETRAMYTHOS (ACHAEA)
THYMIOPOULOS (MACEDONIA)
ARGYROS (SANTORINI)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by carswell

June 29, 2017 at 15:01

Barrel’s worth

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Located in Mirabel in the lower Laurentians and founded in 1993, Vignoble Négondos is one of Quebec’s more interesting producers of wines made from hybrid grapes. The winery is certified organic and has adopted a non-interventionist approach in the cellar: spontaneous fermentations, gravity feeds, clarification by settling, minimal if any filtration, and so on. The result is honest and enjoyable wines for which few if any excuses need be made. The winery’s most celebrated – and hard to procure – product is Julep, a world-class Seyval Blanc orange wine whose label and name wryly refer to Montreal’s iconic Gibeau Orange Julep drive-in and its signature drink.

Négondos wines can be purchased at the winery. A limited selection can be found in a few local food stores; contact the winery for details. Our bottles came from Loco and Dans la Côte respectively. Note that the prices vary depending on who’s doing the markup.

As usual, the wines were served double-blind to everyone except me. A few hints were provided: the wines were close-to identical blends from the same producer, the main difference being that one was matured in stainless steel tanks and the other in oak barrels.

Québec 2016, Suroît, Vignoble Négondos ($18.00-$20.00)
A blend of organically farmed Maréchal Foch, St. Croix, Frontenac and Marquette. The manually harvested grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts at high temperatures. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. 12% ABV.
On first sniff, the Suroît’s nose prompts one taster to declare the wine “Ontarian.” My note reads: unsubtle gush of plum, almond, red meat, earth and eventually sweet spice. In the mouth, it’s fruity but dry, with an earthy backdrop. Light tannins and bright acidity provide a kind of balance and the finish is clean. That said, relief from the juicy onslaught and most especially nuance are in short supply. Probably best thought of as a food wine. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Québec 2015, Chesnaie, Vignoble Négondos ($20.00-$22.00)
This is the Suroît but with six months’ barrel ageing. 12% ABV.
“Wait. This can’t be Ontarian. Now I’m confused,” says the aforementioned taster. A nose far more complex and subtle: wafting plum with dill, spice, wood and “black tea” notes. In the mouth, it’s deeper, smoother and more fluid. Fine acidity and tannins structure the layered fruit, which takes on a savoury, even minerally edge that lasts through the credible finish. The difference between the two wines is astounding (a glass of the Chesnaie served double-blind a few days earlier had me guessing Austria or northern Italy) though how much of that is due to vintage and how much to barrel-ageing is a subject for future research. (Buy again? Yes indeed.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

June 21, 2017 at 12:14

Dãoist

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Dão 2011, Quinta da Falorca ($19.45, 11895381)
Contrary to what SAQ.com and the Quebec agent claim, this is the estate’s basic Dão and not the Touriga Nacional bottling. A blend of Touriga Nacional (60%), Alfrocheiro (15%), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo, 10%), Jaen (aka Mencia, 10%) and Rufete (5%) from estate-owned vines on the granite banks of the Dão River. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Gently pressed. Fermented in temperature-controlled (26-28°C) tanks. Matured in French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Balthazard.
Winey, peppery, stemmy, earthy nose dominated by plum and cassis aromas. In the mouth, it’s full-bodied but not weighty, possessed of a fundamentally fluid texture. Most apparent up front, the ripe fruit soon gives way to more savoury flavours (old oak, dark minerals, leather, dried mushroom, dusting of black pepper) and is elegantly structured, the acidity bright and sleek, the tannins slender yet firm, the alcohol heady, not hot. The long finish brings a woody/stemmy aftertaste and a faint numbing quality. Quite fresh for a six-year-old wine, this has several years of life ahead of it. It smoothed and opened with a half hour’s exposure to air, so carafing is advised. (Buy again? Yes, including a couple of bottles to lay down for four to five years.)

Written by carswell

May 24, 2017 at 12:52

Voilà Vóila

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Crete 2016, Assyrtiko, Vóila, Lyrarakis ($18.15, 11996333)
A new label and name in 2016, neither of which are shown on SAQ.com (the UPC codes are the same, however). 100% Assyrtiko from unirrigated vines planted in the 1970s in the loamy soil of the Vóila vineyard at 580 m in Sitia, eastern Crete. (These may be the first Assytiko vines planted outside Santorini.) Manually harvested. Given 10 hours’ skin contact at 12ºC. Fermentation in stainless steel lasted around three weeks. Reducing sugar: 6.6 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.
Briny, minerally nose with hints of peach, lemon and honey. In the mouth, it’s satin-textured and weightier than you might expect, quite extracted but not very fruity (what fruit there is tends to apple, citrus and stone fruit). On the other hand, quartz and chalk abound and powdered ginger spices the credible finish. The trademark Assyrtiko acidity is there but is softened by the extract and residual sugar – the residual sugar, which (and this is my only complaint) is a notch or two too high. It doesn’t make the wine sweet or even off-dry but it does verge on cloying after a glass or two. That effect is less apparent with food, meaning this is probably not an ideal choice as an aperitif wine. Softer, a bit fruitier and less trenchant, grippy and profound than top Santorini Assyrtikos or, more locally, Economou’s but appealing in its own right. Far less expensive, too. Something of a sleeper, actually. There aren’t many $18 whites from Greece or elsewhere that offer its combination of terroir, balance and savour. All that and a screwcap too. Earlier vintages have been drier, so let’s mark the 2016 down as an anomaly (Buy again? The 2016 maybe. Drier future vintages for sure.)

 

Written by carswell

May 15, 2017 at 10:34

Posted in Tasting notes

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