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Posts Tagged ‘Loire

Les élixirs de Xavier

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The Mo’ Wine Group’s second February tasting was led by agent Max Campbell and devoted to private imports represented in Quebec by Deux Caves, one of which caves Max is. We began with three wines from an under-the-radar artisanal vintner whose wines had impressed us back in 2015.

In 2010, Xavier Marchais abandoned his career as a computer engineer and moved to Faye-d’Anjou to begin life as a winemaker. His four hectares of vines (half Chenin, half Cabernet Franc) are farmed biodynamically using a horse and manual labour. Pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and other synthetic products are systematically avoided. The wine-making is non-interventionist. For the Elixir cuvées, fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation take place in used barriques. Cellar techniques are pretty much limited to crushing and punching down by foot, manual pressing and racking. No sugar or sulphur are added. The unfiltered and unfined wines are bottled by hand and closed with a crown cap (the still red’s cap reportedly allows more oxygen exchange than the still white’s).

Vin de France 2015, L’Élixir de Jouvence, Xavier Marchais ($32.77, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chenin Blanc grown on schist. Matured 12 months. Crown-capped. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Engaging nose of straw, dried stone fruit, citrus peel and wax. Medium-bodied but full of fruity extract, not to mention a ton of minerals. The acidity is very present. While there’s some depth, this is above all a fresh and unpretentious expression of juicy Chenin goodness. Totally lacks the rebarbative reduction found in the 2013, which Marchais reportedly now attributes to not having realized that the wine hadn’t finished malolactic fermentation when he bottled it, meaning fermentation continued in reductive conditions (which would also explain that wine’s faint fizz). (Buy again? Yes.)

Vin de France, L’Élixir de Longue-Vie, Xavier Marchais ($29.32, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Cabernet Franc grown on schist and spilite. Matured 12 months. Crown-capped. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Exuberant, green-free nose of dusty hard red candy (raspberry, cherry, currant), sandalwood, slate and herbs. Gains a floral note. Both fresh and drying in the mouth. No more than medium-bodied. The pure fruit is quite structured, with wiry tannins and fluent acidity found throughout. A minerally and earthy streak comes to the fore (or, as one taster put it, “there’s this long rooty thing in the middle of the palate”) but the finish is long and clean. A classic easy-drinking Cab Franc. (Buy again? Def.)

Vin de France 2015, L’Élixir Onirique, Xavier Marchais ($33.06, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A red pet-nat (ancestral method sparkler) of Grolleau (70%) and Cabernet Franc (30%). Matured 12 months in barrel, six month in bottle. No dosage (the residual sugar remaining in the bottled wine ferments, producing the carbon dioxide that sparkles the wine). 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
“Cherry cough drops” and “dried violets,” to quote two other tasters. Fine bubbles. Fruity, minerally and yeasty. Not particularly deep but more structured than you might expect, with framing tannins and an almost souring acidity. The sweet-tart finish draws you back for another sip. Vin plaisir, anyone? (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG February 22nd tasting: flight 1 of 5


A pair of aged Muscadets

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It’s rare to see eight- or ten-year-old Muscadet in stores but both these showed up at the SAQ in February.

Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine 2009, Château Thébaud Clos des Tabardières, Poiron-Dabin ($24.95, 13473915)
100% Melon de Bourgogne from 50-year-old vines rooted in granite and gneiss. Manually harvested. After pressing the must is allowed to cold-settle for 48 hours. Spontaneous fermentation in temperature-controlled (20°C max) tanks lasts three to four weeks. Matured on the lees for 84 months. Reducing sugar: 3.7 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Complex and engaging nose of apple and chalk with hints of honey, petrol, animale and eventually dried herbs. Somewhat weighty in the mouth, the texture falling between unctuous and waxy. Diffuse fruit and minerality and low acidity leave an impression of flabbiness that extends through the bitter-edged finish. Less interesting than the nose promises. The wine has been showered with medals and 98 points from Decanter, leaving me to wonder whether our bottle was defective, not that it tasted off in any way. (Buy again? A bottle to give it a second chance?)

Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu 2007, Origine, Domaine du Haut Bourg ($27.00, 12565210)
100% Melon de Bourgogne from vines planted in 1944 and rooted in red sand, gravel and quartz pebbles over shale and amphibolite. Fermented in temperature-controlled tanks. Matured 10 years on the lees in underground vats with two or three stirrings during the first year. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Sélections Onéo.
Pear and quince, minerals and ash upfront, then schist, dried lemon peel, wax and a hint of alcohol. Lighter and fleeter than its flightmate. Dry, minerally going on crystalline, herby, long, complex. Acidity and extract are in perfect balance. A saline thread runs throughout and a honey note lingers. Surprisingly fresh for a decade-old Muscadet. A beautiful, involving wine at its peak. (Buy again? Done!)

MWG February 8th tasting: flight 2 of 5

Written by carswell

March 13, 2018 at 14:53

Unmissable Muscadet

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Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu 2015, Clos de la Butte, Éric Chevalier ($19.65, 12886831)
After spending a decade sourcing grapes for a négociant in the Tourraine, Éric Chevallier returned to his family estate, Domaine de l’Aujardière, in 2005. His father, a highly regarded grape grower, was set to retire. Éric took the helm somewhat reluctantly but soon found himself challenged and rewarded by the task. He began converting his 28 hectares of vineyards to organic in 2016. This bottling is 100% Melon de Bourgogne from 50-year-old vines planted in serpentinite, eclogite and quartz in the La Butte lieu-dit. The grapes are pneumatically pressed and the must transferred to glass-lined tanks. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured eight to 10 months on the lees with regular stirring. Unracked and unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Subtle, nuanced, complex nose: quartzy granite, sea beach sand, pear, faint lemon, straw and a hint of marzipan. Clean and unassertive on the attack. Super dry. Not a lot of fruit though plenty of extract and tons of minerals, all carried on a stream of fluent acidity. The flavours turn rainwatery on the mid-palate and swell on the finish: pear, wax and tangy salted butter, with a faint bitterness adding intrigue. More than just an outstanding here-now Muscadet, this is one of the best under-$20 whites currently available at the SAQ. Excellent as an aperitif but also with mollusks and white fish. I look forward to trying Chevalier’s Fié Gris and La Noë bottlings, both private imports.  (Buy again? A case.)

Written by carswell

December 7, 2017 at 13:25

Bulles de Germain

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Saumur, Brut, Bulles de Roche, Thierry Germain/Michel Chevré ($33.25, 13059706)
Best known for his Domaine des Roches Neuves bottlings, Thierry Germain also produces wines with his long-time associate and vineyard manager Michel Chevré, who has acquired his own vineyards. The wines are made in the Roches Neuves cellars. This traditional method sparkler is a blend of Chenin Blanc (90%), Cabernet Franc (5%) and Chardonnay (5%) from 60-year-old biodynamically farmed vines rooted in limestone and clay. The still wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts and then matured three months in 228-litre used oak barrels. The bottled wine spends nine months on lattes prior to disgorgement. No dosage. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Balthazard.

Pale gold with tiny bubbles and quickly disappearing foam. Expressive nose of quartz, candied apple, raisin brioche and honey. Medium-bodied, intense and very dry, with a fine, caressing, evanescing effervescence. Shot through with minerals (“lots of salinity”) and vibrant acidity, the ripe fruit (apple and pear mainly) lasts well into the long, bitterish finish. Intense. Some tasters detected a vague “stemmy” or “something vegetal” note but, if there was one, it was very low key. There’s been considerable variation in the four bottles of this I’ve tasted, some coming across as mineral-driven, others as more about the fruit. In all iterations, however, it’s been a wine with real presence and a lot of class. (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 1 of 7

Written by carswell

November 7, 2017 at 11:57


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Côte Roannaise 2015, Gamay Tentation, Vincent Giraudon ($25.20, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay (technically Gamay Saint Romain, a local variant with small oval berries that have a high ratio of skins to juice) from organically farmed vines rooted in granitic soil. Manually harvested. Carbonic maceration and fermentation take place in concrete tanks. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.

Fun nose: candied raspberry, slate, dried peppermint, clay mud, jalapeño. Light- to medium-bodied, with juicy ripe fruit, a mineral underlay, featherweight tannins, luminous acidity and an appealing earthy streak. Good length. Very, very drinkable. Every time I start wondering whether I’ve reached peak Gamay, a wine like this comes along. (Buy again? Um, yes.)

WMG September 14th tasting: flight 6 of 9

Written by carswell

November 2, 2017 at 12:16

Bonhomme seul

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A former apprentice at Clos du Tue-Bœuf, Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme ran a négociant business with his friend, Tue-Bœuf’s Thierry Puzzelat. In 2014, following the retirement of his brother Jean-Marie, Thierry began devoting himself full time to Tue-Bœuf and sold all his shares in the négoce to Pierre-Olivier. The wines are now labelled with only Bonhomme’s name. All the grapes are from vines owned by friends; Pierre-Olivier either purchases the grapes outright or rents the vineyards. The farming is organic but uncertified as such.

Touraine 2015, La Tesnière, Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme (ca. $31, private import, NLA)
Menu Pinot (aka Arbois, 80%) and Chenin Blanc (20%) from co-planted vines grown in flinty clay over hard limestone near the hamlet of La Tesnière. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in 228- and 500-litre vats. Matured 12 months in barrel. Sulphur use is kept to a minimum. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Pear, apple, beeswax and powdered ginger on the effusive nose. Complex and layered in the mouth. The rich fruit and mineral substrate are brilliantly illuminated by fluent acidity. The silky texture lasts well into the long finish with its lingering hints of vanilla caramel. A delicious, complete wine that Steve declares “the best ever.” (Buy again? Yes.)

Touraine 2014, KO, In Côt We Trust, Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme (ca. $27, private import, NLA)
Côt (aka Malbec) and nothing but. Manually harvested. Fermented on the stems with indigenous yeasts. No added anything, including sulphur. Unfiltered. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Intriguing nose of dark fruit, “wet clay,” “withered flowers” (including rose), ink and “raw doner.” Light- to medium-bodied yet surprisingly intense. A swirl of forest berries, dark minerals and fleet acidity overtoned with spice and leafmould. The long, tart, earthy finish has you craving another sip. The quaffability quotient is dangerously high. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG August 11th tasting: flight 7 of 9

Written by carswell

October 17, 2017 at 14:28

AOC shunners

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Vin de table 2014, Zacmau, Causse Marines ($35.62, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Mauzac from organically and biodynamically farmed 90-year-old vines in Gaillac. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled tanks. Maturated in stainless steel tanks and, on the lees with regular stirring, in barrels (30-50%). Fined and filtered only on an as-needed basis. Sulphur use is kept to a minimum. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Striking nose of apple, sushi, “pumpkin,” and flat champagne. Smooth and rich in the mouth, with lowish acidity. The “loose attack” gives way to a savoury-overtoned, limestoney mid-palate. Not a lot of depth but a certain opulence and a great complexity of flavours, with tasters noting “apple compote,” “dried white flowers” and “propolis” among other things. Long finish. Fascinating. (Buy again? Sure.)

Vin de France 2015, Le Pont Bourceau, Les Roches Sèches ($31.38, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Technically an Anjou blanc. 100% Chenin Blanc from organically farmed vines planted in 1973. Manually harvested. Direct pressed. Vinified and matured in tanks for around 12 months. Filtered. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Attractive nose of pear, quince and quartzy limestone. Rich, fruity and dry in the mouth. The smooth surface is unperturbed by the pervasive acidity. Great minerality. Honey overtones. Fundamentally savoury. Very long. Intense yet civilized. Delicious. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG August 11th tasting: flight 4 of 9

Written by carswell

October 10, 2017 at 12:35