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Odd couple

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As is the Mo’ Wine Group’s longstanding tradition, our first tasting after the holidays focused on inexpensive and affordable bottles.

Vino da Tavola 2014, Il Brut and the Beast, Valli Unite ($25.35, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Based in Costa Vescovato in southern Piedmont, Valli Unite is a 35-year-old organic cooperative whose members grow local grape varieties as well as grains, fruits, vegetables and livestock. Accurate information on this wine is hard to find. It’s not listed on the coop’s website and online reviewers tend to be all over place about its constituent grape varieties, production method (some say it’s a filtered Charmat-method sparkler) and stopper (some say it’s a cork). For all I know, there may be more than one bottling. This much seems clear: the wine we tasted was made from Cortese and may also contain some Favorita. The biodynamically farmed grapes were manually harvested. The wine was fermented with indigenous yeasts and bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur was added during the wine-making process. The fizz is the result of natural, in-bottle fermentation. Vegan-compatible. Crown cap. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Pale straw. Hazy in all the glasses though the last glass or two also contained a lot of brown-coloured lees. Interesting, leesy nose of lemon, sour apple, chalk and “bonbon de banane.” Soft but ticklish effervescence. There’s some fruit on the attack (one taster described it as “fruité austère”), lots of chalky minerals and fair acidity. A lactic note sounds on the long finish. Somehow the elements don’t coalesce into a whole and, as the wine breathes, the alcohol becomes noticeable and the wine seems “oxidized” and a bit “flat.” Not the hit that the 2011 was. I suspect our just-off-the-boat bottle was travel-shocked or otherwise upset. (Buy again? To give it another chance in a few months, yes.)

Crémant d’Alsace, Extra Brut, Paul-Édouard, Domaine Bott-Geyl ($26.00, 13032845)
A blend of Pinot Blanc (50%), Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Noir (20%). The hand-picked grapes are purchased from growers, all of whom are converting to organic practices. This traditional-method sparkler was matured in the bottle for 24 months before disgoring. Reducing sugar: 5.1 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
Straw heading toward bronze with a fine bead and next to no foam. Outgoing nose eliciting descriptors like white strawberry, honey, acacia, stone fruit and, surprisingly but accurately, jalapeño. Round and rich in the mouth. The bubbles are low-key, the ripe fruit has a slightly honeyed quality, the minerals are dusty. Soft acidity and hints of lemon provide some welcome freshness. A whiff of yeasty brioche colours the long finish. Impeccable though not what you’d call lively. (Buy again? Personally, I’d go for something tenser but several tasters were quite taken with this.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 1 of 7

Written by carswell

January 26, 2017 at 12:51

Three lighter reds

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Württemburg 2014, Trollinger, Without All, Weingut Knauss ($28.00, private import, NLA)
100% Trollinger from organically farmed though uncertified vines. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. No added anything, whence the “without all.” Unfiltered and unfined. 9.5% ABV. Screwcapped. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
A bit spritzy and reduced at first, then sour berries, slate and developing clay and animale notes. Light and fluid on the palate. Airframe tannins and bright acidity provide some structure and faint minerals some depth but this is mainly about the pure fruit. Lip-smacking, sweet and sour finish. Light-bodied almost to the point of lacking substance and yet refreshing and ultra-drinkable, this ethereal wine was a hit with several around the table, despite its high price. (Buy again? Gladly.)

Côtes du Forez 2014, La Volcanique, Cave Verdier-Logel ($21.80, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Based in Marcilly-le-Châtel, the certified organic 17-hectare estate grows Gamay and a little Pinot Gris and Viognier. This cuvée is 100% Gamay from old vines rooted in basalt soil. Manually harvested. Macerated 21 days at around 20°C. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Lightly filtered (earth filters) before bottling. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Sappy in the way of a good Beaujolais, though the red berries are a little candied and shot through with some greenness. Supple and tasty. Juicy fruit and sustained acidity play against a schisty backdrop while the tannins turn a little bitey on the sustained finish. Finely balanced yet appealingly rustic. To my surprise, this didn’t create the same sensation that the 2013 did (different contexts?). (Buy again? Yes.)

Quebec 2012, Pinot Noir Réserve, Domaine les Brome ($26.00, 12685879)
100% Pinot Noir according to the winery’s website ( says the wine contains 7% Maréchal Foch). Macerated and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Matured 12 months in oak barrels. Reducing sugar: 1.9%. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Univins.
A nose that tasters described as “electrical fire,” “cordite” and simply “weird.” Reactions to the taste were similar, “copper penny” being the one I noted. The not very pinot-ish fruit is brightened by good acidity but deflated by saggy tannins and muddied by extraneous flavours. Odd-tasting finish. I’m hoping ours was an off bottle. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

This flight was built around the Trollinger and the other two wines were chosen in the hope that they might be close to its light body. Neither was. In fact, I’ve encountered only one wine recently that is: Domaine de la Pinte’s 2012 Arbois “Poulsard de l’ami Karl,” which we tasted back in October.

MWG November 12th tasting: flight 4 of 6

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 !

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

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…to bring you the following public service announcement.

Normally I’d wait until all the notes from the MWG’s February tasting were up before posting this one. Why the rush? Because Domaine des Huard’s owner-winemaker, Michel Gendrier, is in town and will be pouring this and other wines at the excellent Le Comptoir charcuteries et vins tomorrow evening (Monday, March 9). And if that weren’t inducement enough, he’ll be joined by fellow Loire winemakers Étienne Courtois and Nicolas Grosbois. For details about this Romo love-in, see here.

Cour-Cheverny 2008, François 1er, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine des Huards ($24.45, 12476452)
Huard’s top-of-the-line dry Cour-Cheverny. 100% Romorantin from organically and biodynamically farmed vines averaging 75 years old. Manually harvested. Two-thirds of the grapes are immediately pressed, one-third are macerated on the skins for 15 hours before pressing. Fermented with indigenous yeasts at between 18 and 20°C. Matured on the lees for five months. Cold-stabilized before bottling in the September following the harvest. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Honey, straw, chalk, dried lemon, browning apple, faint white spices and an even fainter whiff of kerosene. Medium-bodied but with a dense, bordering-on-unctuous texture. Ripe-sweet on entry, the fruit is nicely soured by a surging undercurrent of acidity before slow-fading into the long finish, revealing the mineral substrate and leaving behind a very dry, light astringency and a hint of nuttiness and coriander seed. A lovely, layered, elegant wine deserving of a dry goat cheese or a fine piece of fish (you’ll find a couple of recipe ideas after the jump). Available as a private import, the 2007 was a Loire lover’s must-buy at $32. At under $25, this 2008 is a certifiable bargain. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

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Written by carswell

March 8, 2015 at 14:14

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 November 11th tasting: Mistelle nouvelle

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Well, nouvelle to me in any case. This has been part of Janisson-Baradon’s lineup for at least a decade. Until 2005, only one small cask – around 300 bottles – was made per vintage (the “single cask” designation was originally something of a joke). Production has reportedly since tripled.

Ratafia de Champagne 2010, Single Cask, Janisson-Baradon ($55.25/700 ml, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A vin de liqueur or mistelle — a mixture of alcohol (often marc) and fresh grape juice — similar to Jura’s Macvin or Gascogne’s Floc. In this case, the juicy grapes are Pinot Noir harvested in 2010 (the juice comes from the third and final pressing) and the alcohol is neutral spirits so as not to interfere with the other flavours. Matured two years in 225-litre, third-fill oak casks. Lightly filitered before bottling. At least 140 grams sugar per litre. 18% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Nothing like the insipid industrial vins de liqueur, this looks, smells and tastes like an artisanal product. The impressively complex nose features fig, spice, brown sugar and a hint of milk chocolate. On the palate, it’s rich and sweet but not heavy or cloying, thanks in large part to the lively acidity. Echoing the nose, the flavours are sustained through the long, layered finish. Contemplation-worthy. (Buy again? Yes.)

Like Pineau des Charentes, ratafias are often drunk as an aperitif. This, however, is more appropriate for the end of the meal – on its own as a digestif, with blue cheese or accompanying a rich, spicy, not overly sweet dessert like a cinnamon-scented, nut-rich persimmon pudding. The producer also recommends it as a pairing for foie gras. Why not? Whatever you serve it with, make sure it’s well chilled.

(Flight: 9/9)

Written by carswell

December 4, 2014 at 16:43

MWG November 13th tasting: Confounding expectations

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I’d normally serve a Côtes du Rhône before a Châteauneuf but Cyril suggested otherwise. He was right to do so.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011, Les Vieilles Vignes, Domaine de Villeneuve ($59.00, 11884913)
A blend of Grenache (70%), Mourvèdre (16%), Syrah (8%), Cinsault (4%) and Clairette (2%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines up to 90 years old. The varieties are vinified separately. The grapes are manually harvested and gravity fed into the underground winery, where they are left whole, crushed and/or destemmed as the winemaker sees fit and transferred to ceramic-lined concrete vats (80 hl for fermentation, 60 hl for maturation). Maceration and fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) last 20 to 40 days depending on the variety. The cap is punched down and rack-and-return and pump-overs are used when deemed necessary. The must is then pressed with a pneumatic press; the press juice is separately matured and may be added to the free run juice at a later stage. Maturation on the lees lasts 18 to 20 months, with no more than 20% of the wine being matured in a mix of new to third-fill oak barrels. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Scents of raspberry, plum, Asian spice, cedar and graphite waft from the glass. In the mouth, it’s a middleweight with an almost Burgundian texture and fluidity though the savoury flavours – garrigue, black olives, sun-radiated fruit – are clearly Provençal. Bright acidity and lacy tannins add structure and lingering well into the long, perfumed finish. The alcohol is remarkably unapparent. The estate’s website says their goal is to make fine, delicate wines. Well, mission accomplished. This is one of the most civilized Châteauneufs I’ve tasted. Surprisingly accessible now, balanced enough to age for a decade, I’d guess. (Buy again? For a special meal, sure.)

Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Visan 2011, Grains sauvages, Domaine La Fourmente ($38.08, private import, 6 bottles/case)
In 2014, the estate changed its name and is now known as Domaine Dieulefit. This 100% Grenache comes from low-yielding, organically farmed vines between 45 and 70 years old. The grapes are manually harvested, given a long maceration, fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured on the lees, all in lined concrete tanks. No added sulphur. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Reductive nose (Brussels sprouts?!) gives way to dried plum and tamari with earthy dried herb and spice notes. Mouth-filling, dense and velvety. The rich, ripe fruit (red berries, pomegranate) has a peppery kick. Etching acidity and fine tannins provide sufficient structure, while dark minerals emerge on the bitter-edged, faintly flaring finish. A wine with lots of there there. (Buy again? Sure, though not without wishing it were $5 cheaper.)

(Flight: 8/9)

Written by carswell

December 3, 2014 at 10:56