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Chenintastic

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The first in a series of notes from a recent mostly new arrivals tasting that featured several impressive wines purchased abroad and shared by travelling Mo’ Wine Group members.

Saumur 2010, Entre Deux Voyes, Le P’tit Domaine (ca. $30, importation valise)
Based in Varrains and Ecoert certified in 2012, the tiny estate (around two hectares of vines) is owned and operated by Richard Desouche, the manager at Château de Chaintres. It makes three wines: two reds and a white. This 100% Chenin Blanc, the fifth vintage of the wine, comes from organically farmed old vines rooted in clayey-calcareous soil. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Matured in old barrels. 12% ABV.

Intriguingly evolved nose of quartz dust, ham fat, lemon and hazelnut. Medium-bodied and every so faintly spritzy. Ripe, almost sweet-seeming, but actually dry and very saline. The level of extract gives the wine a certain density and a bordering-on-waxy texture, a prefect foil for the trenchant acidity and super minerality. “Like a green apple with salt,” notes one taster. The depth and breath are sustained through the very long, bitter-, lemon- and almond-noted finish. A treat. (Buy again? If only…)

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 1 of 7

Written by carswell

July 20, 2017 at 10:54

Cabgamay Franc

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Santa Ynez Valley 2015, Cabernet Franc, Coquelicot Vineyard, Lo-Fi Wines ($44.95, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Cabernet Franc from organically farmed vines in the Coquelicot vineyard (fluvial sandy loam and gravel) near Solvang. Manually harvested. The whole clusters – neither destemmed nor crushed – were placed in a vat, which was filled with carbon dioxide gas and covered. Once a day for 14 days, the free-run juice was pumped over, then the vat was covered and gassed again. When alcoholic fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) was complete, the wine was pressed into tanks, settled and racked into neutral barrels (85% in 228-litre French oak barriques, 15% in a 600-litre demi-muid) for eight months’ maturation. Underwent full malolactic fermentation. Racked twice prior to bottling. Unfiltered and unfined. A small shot of sulphur dioxide was added at bottling. 12.2% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Earthy, slightly jammy red fruit with hints of sandalwood and black olive. Dark-fruity and Asian-spicy in the piehole, the brighter colours darkened by an earthy substratum. Structured – if that’s the word for such a fuzzy wine – by smooth acidity and stealth tannins that make their presence felt only on the long, leathery/earthy finish. However original and interesting an interpretation of Cabernet Franc this may be, the QPR – as with so many California wines in Quebec – is seriously out of whack. (Buy again? Irrespective of price, sure.)

Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil 2015, Hurluberlu, Sébastien David ($27.30, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% organically and biodynamically farmed Cabernet Franc. Manually harvested, fermented with indigenous yeasts. Vinified Beaujolais style – using carbonic maceration – and given a very short maturation in tanks, with bottling occurring early in the new year following harvest. Unfiltered. No added sulphur. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Red fruity, cedary and a little poopy. From a hot vintage so richer, rounder, more extracted and conventional, less “like health juice” than some earlier versions. Still refreshing due to its bright acidity, supple tannins and pure fruit. Good, ultradrinkable juice, just a little less special than before. The shapely clear glass bottle is a beaut, especially in magnums. (Buy again? Sure.)

Coteaux Bourguignons 2015, Gamay, Domaine Bouillot Salomon ($29.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from biodynamically farmed vines rooted in clayey-calcareous soil. Manually harvested. Non-interventionist wine-making with no added anything, including sulphur. Matured in stainless steel and cement tanks. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Attractive nose of slightly candied red berries, spice, cola and background barnyard. A bit spritzy (carafing would have eliminated the gas). Fleet, fresh, fruity and dry with bright verging on tart acidity and a rumbling mineral bass line. The longish finish brings an appetizing bitter note. Would be interesting to taste this alongside some cru Beaujolais; I suspect the difference in terroirs would be noticeable. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG June 8th tasting: flight 5 of 6

Notes from the edges

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Vin de Sologne 2014, Quartz, Domaine Étienne Courtois ($39.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Located in the Sologne, Étienne and his father Claude make wines exclusively using ancestral methods and sometimes run afoul of authorities. Farming is strictly organic and biodynamic. This 100% Sauvignon Blanc comes from 15-year-old vines. Manually harvested, destemmed and gently pressed. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and matured in oak barrels for 12 to 24 months. 11.7% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Striking, complex nose of turpentine, “eucalyptus,” “wild ginger,” California bay leaf, dried lemon, quartz crystals and parafin. A core of fruit (“candied lemon”) and more (“braised fennel”) wrapped in salt, energized by bright acidity. Good balance and length and real mineral depth. “The best Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever had,” declares one taster. That said, I don’t imagine most people tasting it double-blind would guess it’s a Sauvignon Blanc. Whatever. It’s spellbinding. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

Bourgogne Aligoté 2015, Troma-Onirique, François Écot ($38.15, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Based in Mailly-le-Château in the Yonne department of northeastern Burgundy, François Écot not only runs, with his American wife, a natural wine agency in New York City, he makes wines using grapes from an abandoned one-hectare vineyard that he resurrected. This 100% Aligoté, however, comes from purchased biodynamically and organically farmed (though not certified) grapes. Manually harvested. Vinified and matured eight months in foudres, fûts and amphorae. No added anything, including sulphur. Unfiltered and unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
The nose prompts comments along the lines of chalk quarry, “match stick,” “waxy” and lemon juice. A sip reveals a rich and minerally wine with a mouthfeel as much like a Chardonnay’s as an Aligoté’s. There’s some surprisingly juicy fruit, bright but smooth acidity, impressive purity and depth and a long, minerally finish. It’s still a surprise to see a $40 price tag on an Aligoté, but that’s what the top wines go for these days. And this is definitely a top wine. (Buy again? Yes.)

Coteaux Bourguignons 2015, Pinot Beurot, Domaine Bouillot Salomon ($32.20, private import, 12 bottles/case)
This admirable northern Rhône estate recently acquired 2.7 hectares of vineyards west of Dijon. 100% Pinot Beurot (aka Pinot Gris) from biodynamically farmed vines rooted in clayey-calcareous soil. Manually harvested. Non-interventionist wine-making with no added anything, including sulphur. Matured in stainless steel and cement tanks. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Pear, minerals and more than a hint of reduction, which other tasters describe as “durian” and “cow piss and camomile.” Smooth, round and dry in the mouth. Soft acidity enlivens the verging-on-unctuous texture and brings welcome freshness. There’s a certain minerality and some white spice and butter on the long finish. Not a wine that will have Alsace quaking in its boots but more than just a curiosity. Carafe it at least a couple of hours before serving if drinking now or hide it in the cellar for a two or three years. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG June 8th tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

July 12, 2017 at 13:29

So similar, so different

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Stellenbosch 2014, Chenin Blanc, Organic, Reyneke ($26.60, 13123608)
100% Chenin Blanc from biodyanmically farmed vines around 45 years old and rooted in granitic loam over clay. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. The must was allowed to settle then fermented with indigenous yeasts in 300-litre second-fill French oak barrels and a 2,500-litre foudre. Matured on its lees for 10 months then racked into a stainless steel tank for another month. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Univins.
Intriguing, even mysterious nose of white spice, chalk, lemon, roasted white meat and “garum.” In the mouth, it’s round from start to finish, honeyed yet dry, packed with ripe fruit and minerals. A stream of acidity adds backbone and life. Faint bitter saline notes mark the nicely sustained finish. One of those wines that seems as Old World as New, this had several fans around the table. While I found it a little two-dimensional, especially in comparison to its flightmate, I’ll readily admit those dimensions are lovely. (Buy again? Sure.)

Jasnières 2015, Sec, Domaine de la Roche Bleue ($27.90, 12856228)
100% Chenin Blanc from organically farmed 10- to 25-year-old vines planted in clayey, flinty topsoil over a limestone base. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. The must was allowed to settle, then fermented (slowly due to the cool cellar temperatures) with indigenous yeasts, 60% in fourth- to sixth-fill barrels (wine from older vines) and 40% in stainless steel tanks (wine from younger vines). Matured four months in sixth-fill barrels. Reducing sugar: 3.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Boires.
Complex, winey nose of linden flowers, “sake,” quince, lime and, eventually honey. Sleek and spicy on the palate, alive with acidity. The tart fruit (citrus and stone mainly) is dusted with chalk and gunflint. Sugar levels notwithstanding, this seems significantly drier – not to mention leaner, more crystalline and better delineated – than the Reyneke. Pure, long and delicious. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

June 20, 2017 at 12:12

Red bubble

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Vin de France 2015, La Bulle Rouge, Les Capriades ($35.25, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Based in the Loire Valley’s Touraine region, Les Capriades founder and co-owner, Pascal Potaire, is considered the king of pet nats (short for pétillants naturels, natural sparkling wines produced using the ancestral method). This red example is a blend of juice from three varieties of organically farmed red-fleshed GamayGamay de Bouze, Gamay de Chaudenay and Gamay Fréaux – explaining the cuvée’s former name, BCF. 11% ABV and I’m guessing somewhere around 10 g/l of residual sugar. Quebec agent: Glou.

Medium red with scarlet glints and fast-disappearing shocking pink foam. The nose is a swirl of raspberry vinegar, burnt hair, burnt sugar, lipstick, chocolate, pink blossoms and spice. A sip reveals a soft-sparkled wine that’s fresh, fruity and definitely not dry. Sleek acidity, a mineral underlay and a lingering bitterness counteract the sweetness to some degree. “Raspberry freezee” concludes one taster. A tad richer than but otherwise not dissimilar to a Bugey-Cerdon, which can be had for about $12 less. (Buy again? Maybe.)

MWG April 21st tasting: flight 3 of 6

Archetypical and atypical

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Sancerre 2015, Domaine Vacheron ($36.25, 10523892)
100% Sauvignon Blanc from organically farmed massal selection vines. The grapes are manually harvested and gently pressed. The must is chilled and clarified by settling. Low-temperature (<20°C) fermentation and maturation on the lees take place in stainless steel tanks. Filtered before bottling. Reducing sugar: 3.0 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Maître de Chai.
Textbook Loire Sauvignon Blanc nose: gooseberry, citrus, grass, chalk and flint. Rich bordering on lush, sleek and impressively pure. Fruity upfront with a mineral substrate emerging as the wine moves through the mouth. The considerable extract rounds the bright acidity. Long, lively, saline finish. Initially engaging, the wine’s youthful exuberance comes across as a little caricatural and fatiguing by the end of the glass, a bit like a bouncy puppy or some New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs for that matter. Will be interesting to see what transpires in two or three years. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Sancerre 2013, Constellation du Scorpion, Vincent Gaudry ($41.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
This is a new name for a bottling formerly called L’Esprit de Rudolph in honour of the founder of biodynamism, Rudolph Steiner. Gaudry is reportedly secretive about his methods and not much technical information about this wine is to be found. 100% Sauvignon Blanc from biodynamically farmed vines rooted in flinty soil. Partially matured in oak barrels. Unfiltered. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Wafting nose of grapefruit, chalk and quartz dust, “pink flowers” and “thyme.” Rainwatery yet also very present. The rich texture is lightened by “lime acidity,” deepened by a chalky underlay. A hint of caramel appears on the long finish. “A Sancerre that wants to be a Chardonnay,” concludes one taster. Subtle and subdued yet complex and delicious says me. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG April 6th tasting: flight 2 of 7

Written by carswell

April 21, 2017 at 15:39

WINO tasting (2/6)

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Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu 2013, Les Hautes Noëlles, Domaine Les Hautes Noëlles ($36.46, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in 1930, the estate, which has some 25 hectares of vines, is located in St-Léger-les-Vignes. 100% Melon de Bourgogne from organically farmed vines more than 80 years old and rooted in sand and clay on mica schist. Production is limited to 2,000 bottles a year. The grapes are picked by hand and macerated briefly before pneumatic pressing. The must is clarified by settling. Fermentation (with indigenous yeasts at c. 18°C) and maturation (c. 12 months on the lees with regular stirring) take place in oak barrels, a quarter of which are new. Sulphur use is kept to a minimum. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.

Multi-faceted nose with scents of apple, “strudel dough” (per another taster), faint marzipan, quartz, dried banana, lemon and more. Rich, fluid, complex, layered and dry. The initial fruit makes room for minerals (“chalk grotto” my note arcanely reads), while sleek acidity lends a soft glow. Honey, “ginger” and faint bitter notes colour the impressively sustained finish. A delicious, absorbing wine quite unlike any other Muscadet I’ve tasted. Would make an interesting ringer in a flight of Chenins or Chardonnays with some age on them. (Buy again? Yes.)

Tasted at Moleskine the following evening, the estate’s 2014 “Les Parcelles” bottling ($20.50, WINO, 12 bottles/case) was crisp, clean and appetizing though far more conventional.

MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

March 28, 2017 at 15:08