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See You in Hell, Winter!

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SEE YOU IN HELL, WINTER!

First grill-out of the summer

WEINPLATZ + DEUX CAVES + PLAN VIN + AGENCE SANS NOM + PORK FUTURES

This Sunday, May 20, three of our favourite wine agencies are joining forces with one of our favourite food purveyors to hold an event at one of our favourite venues. Specifically, Deux Caves, Plan Vin and Agence sans nom (aka Vadim Fonta) will be pouring two wines each while the Pork Futures guys will be serving grilled sausage sandwiches (buns by Automne) at Alexandraplatz (6731 de l’Esplanade) between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. Among the imbibables will be a Beaujolais from Kéké Descomes, a skin-contact Riesling from Chanterêves, an orange wine and sparkling red from Vadim’s portfolio and a sparkling Riesling made just outside Champagne by Jacques Beaufort’s son. The agencies involved are waiving their fees, so glasses will probably run around $10. What’s more, the forecast is now for clearing skies and mild temperatures.

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Written by carswell

May 17, 2018 at 12:10

Orange line

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The Mo’ Wine Group have been fans of Radikon’s “blue label” orange wines since discovering the Oslavje when it was a private import. All three wines are now carried by the SAQ, albeit in minute and fast-disappearing quantities. This year, though the 2010s were released on different dates, all three were on the monopoly’s shelves for a few days in late February or early March, giving us our first opportunity to taste them side by side.

The wine-making is the same for all three cuvées. The manually harvested grapes are destemmed, then placed in neutral Slavonian oak vats (no temperature control) for maceration and fermentation with indigenous yeasts and manual punch-downs three or four times a day. When alcoholic fermentation is complete, the vats are topped up and closed until the wine has been in contact with the skins for two to three months. The grapes are then gently pressed and the wine is racked into neutral 25- to 35-hectolitre Slavonian oak barrels for about 40 months’ maturation, with further racking performed as needed. The wines are bottled unfiltered, unfined and with no added sulphur and aged another six months in bottle before release.

The bottles are 500 ml because the late Stanko Radkion felt that is the ideal amount of wine for one person to drink by himself or for two people to share, assuming they’ll also share a 500 ml bottle of red. Convinced that using a standard cork would allow too high a rate of oxygen exchange, he designed his bottles to have smaller bore necks and long, narrow corks. Long corks usually indicate that a wine is age-worthy and, in fact, the ageing potential of these wines is not in doubt: opened last year, a bottle of the 2002 seemed at or near peak and likely to remain so for another 10 years.

Venezia Giulia 2010, Jakot, Radikon ($44.25/500 ml, 13571312)
100% Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano, as referenced by the cuvée’s name, which is Tokaj – the Hungarian spelling – spelled backwards) from organically farmed vines. 13.75% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Lovely, wafting nose that elicits several unexpected fruit descriptors, including “preserved plum,” freeze-dried strawberries and “peach Melba.” Swirling and time bring out savoury aromas, including yellow spice (turmeric, saffron), beeswax and old wood, and a hint of oxidation. Quite substantial on the palate. Zingy acidity pushes the fruit into citrus territory (kumquat, maybe?), while light tannins dance across the palate. Mineral and savoury threads intertwine with the fruit and last well into the long finish. A dense yet cutting wine with great focus: intense and exciting now but sublime in 10 years. (Buy again? Def.)

Venezia Giulia 2010, Oslavje, Radikon ($44.25/500 ml, 13571283)
A blend of Chardonnay (40%), Sauvignon Blanc (30%) and Pinot Grigio (30%) from organically farmed vines. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Complex, engaging nose of honey, “cedar,” “anisette,” pear compote, sultanas and a jasmine-like floral note. In the mouth, it’s rich and smooth, verging on opulent, despite the underlying acidity and tannic rasp. The flavours are less fruity, more savoury than those of its flightmates, with old wood and minerals providing ballast. Spice, dried fruit, an almond note and a faint bitterness linger. Approachable if a bit monolithic, this will benefit enormously from extended cellaring. (Buy again? Def.)

Venezia Giulia 2010, Ribolla Gialla, Radikon ($44.25/500 ml, 13555953)
100% Ribolla Gialla from organically farmed vines. 13.75% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
At this stage, the most complex bouquet of the three: dried clementine, floor wax, straw and cedar, among other things. Dense, somewhat waxy texture. Subtle tannins provide grain, piercing acidity freshness. A surprising creamy streak marks it out from its companions. Spice and minerals linger. Breadth and length it has in spades; greater depth and complexity will come with time. Astoundingly pure and savoury and nowhere near its prime. (Buy again? Def.)

MWG March 9th tasting: flight 5 of 5

Written by carswell

May 13, 2018 at 11:17

Austro-Hungarian fizz

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Somló 2017, Foam, Meinklang ($23.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
An unclarified ancestral method sparkler, meaning the wine is still on its lees and a bit hazy as a result. Blend of Hárslevelü (60%) and Juhfark (40%) from biodynamically farmed 35- to 60-year-old vines grown at Meinklang’s estate at the base of the long-extinct Somló volcano in western Hungary. Spontaneous first fermentation in stainless steel tanks. No temperature control, fining, filtering or added sulphur. Crown-capped. Residual sugar: 4 g/l. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Complex, savoury nose of lemon, wax, lees and hints of brett and sweat. Fine bubbles. Cidery, minerally, tart and longish in the mouth. The flavours are hazier than – not as precise as – the Prosa’s, not that there’s anything wrong with that. This fresh and fun sparkler reminds me of some of the natural Proseccos we’ve tried and seems purpose-built for a summer day. The winery’s suggested food pairings of leek and goat cheese quiche and smoked eel sound right on target. (Buy again? Yep.)

Österreich 2017, Prosa, Meinklang ($23.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Another ancestral method sparkler, but this time 100% Pinot Noir from biodynamically farmed wines grown in Meinklang’s east Austrian estate. Spontaneous first fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Unfined but filtered. Residual sugar: 14 g/l. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Minerally nose of crushed cherries and more than a slight hint of boudoir. Fine bubbles. Clean, fresh and bright in the mouth. There’s a touch of residual sugar (a bit more than in earlier vintages, if memory serves) though it’s in no way cloying and may be attributable to our bottle being a little warm. “Strawberry-rhubarb,” including the rhubarb’s acidic tang and streak of green, dominate the mid-palate. An almond note lingers. If you like Bugey-Cerdon, you’ll probably like this. Works as a summer sipper, an aperitif and as an accompaniment to not-too-sweet strawberry desserts (berries on vanilla ice cream drizzled with basil syrup? hmm.). (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG March 9th tasting: flight 1 of 5

Coup de Fouet

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Vin de France, P.M.G., Pétillant naturel, Domaine Fouet ($21.65, 13497802)
The family-run estate is located in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg in the heart of the Saumur-Champigny region. It began officially converting to organic farming in 2017. The P.M.G. stands for “pour ma gueule” (for my mouth/gullet). A 100% Chenin Blanc ancestral method sparkler fermented with indigenous yeasts. No dosage. The wine’s clarity makes me wonder whether it wasn’t disgorged. Reducing sugar: 2.6 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Benedictus.
Delicious nose of pear and quince, white blossom and whiffs of white spice, limestone and lees. Less remarkable in the mouth. The bubbles are delicate and not profuse. The extract gives the wine a certain roundness that softens the pronounced acidity. The fruit takes on a citrus and maybe malic edge. Follow-through is fair but there and the wine did gain breadth and depth as it breathed, the last glass being better than the undeniably drinkable first. Clean-cut, dry and refreshing though not particularly complex. Probably best thought of as an aperitif, raw bar or maybe even sushi wine. Niggling aside, the price is hard to beat; to get something significantly better at the SAQ, you’ll need to fork over another $6 or $7. And while there are more engaging and entertaining pét-nats around, you won’t find them at the beloved monopoly. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

April 8, 2018 at 14:16

Unique, authentic, treasurable

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Dolceacqua is a commune and village in western Liguria, just inland from the Mediterranean and touching the border with France. It is also a DOC for red wines made from the Rossese grape. The DOC’s annual production averages a mere 1,500 hectolitres.

Founded in 1961, Testalonga is widely considered the top estate in Dolceacqua. Its owner-winemaker is Antonio Perrino, now in his 70s and preparing for retirement (his niece Erica has begun assisting him and will eventually take over). The estate’s holdings total around one hectare of vines in small terraced plots on steep hillsides, like all the best vineyards in the appellation. Testalonga’s overlook the sea and are located a half hour’s drive from town. The vines average 35-45 years in age though some are as old as 100. Two varieties are grown: Vermentino and Rossese. The farming is organic (uncertified) and the vineyards are worked manually. Harvesting is manual, too.

The wine-making takes place in a converted garage in the centre of town. The wine-making equipment is pretty much limited to a vertical press and a couple of old large barrels. All fermentations are spontaneous. No temperature control is used. With total annual production typically being seven 600-litre barrels (five red, two white), Testalonga qualifies as a micro-producer. Antonio says he makes wines like his father made them and there’s no denying that have a rare timeless quality.

Vino da Tavola 2016, Bianco, Testalonga ($43.12, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Vermentino. Macerated on the skins for five days. Matured in 600-litre old oak barrels. Unfined and probably unfiltered. 14% ABV. Total production: less than 1,000 bottles. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
More deep yellow than “orange” in the glass. Somewhat closed yet intriguing nose dominated by dried citrus and whiffs of alcohol. Suave and spicy in the mouth. Tending to full-bodied. The savoury fruit is overtoned with dried herbs, deepened by minerals, tensed with acidity. Ghostly tannins confer a lightly gritty texture, most noticeable on the mid-palate and long, saline finish. Involving and rewarding. (Buy again? Def.)

Rossese di Dolceacqua 2016, Testalonga ($51.74, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Rossese di Dolceacqua (aka Tibouren), nearly all of which comes from the Arcagna vineyard, considered one of the best in the appellation. Made using the whole clusters. Matured in 600-litre old oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. Total production: around 2,000 bottles. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Dusty cherry with notes of dried flowers and iron shavings. Medium-bodied. Dry and savoury, with rich fruit, a dusting of black pepper, light but pervasive acidity and rustic tannins in the background. While there’s plenty of breadth and a certain depth and length, this seems more about flavour and texture. Not a knockout, then, but unique, authentic and teasurable. Reportedly ages well. Probably shows best with food; a Ligurian rabbit stew sounds like just the ticket. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 22nd tasting: flight 5 of 5

Related by marriage

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A historian by training, Grégory Leclerc did stints as a journalist and marketer before falling into the world of natural wine-making. He purchased his four-hectare estate – downsized from the original 6.5 hectares, named Chahut et Prodiges and located in Chargé in the hills near Amboise in the Tourraine – in 2007. He farms organically and makes wines from Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Côt and Grolleau. The land is worked using a tractor, though Leclerc says he may switch to horses at some point. Harvesting is manual. Vinification of the reds involves placing the whole clusters in concrete tanks for two to three weeks with no punch-downs or pump-overs – a form of carbonic maceration, what? Pressing is slow and gentle. The wines are unfined and lightly filtered. No sulphur is added to the reds; a tiny amount is added to the whites at bottling.

Anne Paillet, the owner-winemaker of Autour de l’Anne, 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 her husband’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.

Vin de France 2014, La Mule, Domaine Chahut et Prodiges ($28.74, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from 25- to 30-year-old vines grown on clay and limestone. Matured around nine months in fibreglass tanks. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Funky nose whose many facets include somewhat candied red berries, “forest floor” and burned minerals. Medium-bodied and richly textured: a mouthful of ripe fruit, deep minerals, smooth acidity and wiry yet pliable tannins. Spice and a hint of jalapeño linger. So energetic and so easy to drink – the kind of wine that can make Gamay skeptics reconsider their aversion. (Buy again? Def.)

Vin de France 2014, Les Têtes Noires, Domaine Chahut et Prodigues ($28.74, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Côt (aka Malbec). 11% ABV. Matured in neutral barrels. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Plummier nose complicated by aromas of turned earth and crushed foliage. Medium-bodied, smooth, dry, fluid and long, though not particularly deep. The pure fruit, supple tannins and sleek acidity are in perfect balance. Simple but pleasurable. (Buy again? Yes.)

Vin de France 2015, Pot d’Anne, Autour de l’Anne ($30.47, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The cuvée’s name, which translates as “Anne’s pot,” is a homonym of peau d’âne (donkey skin). 100% Cinsault from 22-year-old vines grown on limestone and red clay. Half the grapes are destemmed, the other half left as whole clusters. Semi-carbonic maceration lasts 12 days. Maturation lasts 12 months. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Plum, dark minerals, spice and, yes, a hint of animal hide. Medium-bodied. The faint spritz on opening disappears moments after pouring. Dried herb notes give the ripe fruit a savoury character. Enlightening acidity and fine tannins provide just enough structure. Long. Northern in weight, southern in savour. High quaffability quotient. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 22nd tasting: flight 4 of 5

Burgundy, (not) Burgundy

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Based in Bonnencontre, Domaine Bonardot is sometimes referred to as Domaine Ludovic Bonnardot to avoid confusion with the Domaine Bonnardot based in Villers-la-Faye. Ludovic has been in charge of the estate since 2005, when he took over from his mother, Élisabeth. She founded the business in 1981 after studying oenology and apprenticing with Jules Chauvet. Over the years, she became interested in more natural approaches to farming and wine-making, an interest Ludovic shares, and it is under his watch that the estate has begun converting to organic. The 15-hectare estate has two operations: centred in Santenay, the wine-growing focuses on Côte de Beaune and Hautes-Côtes de Beaune appellations, while blackcurrants, aspaagus and grains are grown in Bonnencontre.

(That charcuterie, which tasted even better than it looks, came from Phillip Viens.)

Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune 2014, En Cheignot, Domaine Bonnardot ($34.21, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chardonnay from a relatively high-altitude (440 m) parcel of 40-year-old substantially farmed vines near Orches. The soil is clay and limestone with pebbles and occasional rock outcrops. The grapes were manually harvested and the whole clusters direct-pressed. Spontaneously fermented in temperature-controlled conditions. Underwent spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Matured 12 months in 228-litre, fourth- to sixth-fill oak barrels and a further six months in stainless steel tanks. Clarified naturally, then lightly filtered before bottling with a small amount of sulphur dioxide (the only sulphur added during wine-making). 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Faint lemon and apple, minerals and distant cedary spice. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied, lean and minerally, fresh and balanced. “You get rocks and chalk,” as one taster notes, along with nuances of yellow stone fruit and lemon. Clean, long and complete. A QPR winner, as far as I’m concerned. (Buy again? Def.)

Vin de France 2015, Les Grandes Terres, Ludovic et Émilien Bonnardot ($40.24, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from organically and biodynamically farmed vines in the Santenay-Villages appellation (am unsure why it is declassified). The whole-clusters are spontaneously fermented and pressed when fermentation/maceration are complete. The wine is transferred to oak barrels for 12-18 months’ maturation. This is from Bonnardot’s natural line, so no added anything, including sulphur, and no filtering or fining. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Lovely, complex, fruity nose with an appealing rustic edge: red berries, some spice, a hint of beet and a whiff of turned earth. Rich and velvety (“the texture is very thick”) on the palate, though still medium-bodied. The acidity is smooth, the tannins are round and both are well integrated; in short, everything’s in balance. Finishes long and clean with a lingering tang. While there’s lots happening on the surface, most notably a fruity denseness, you wouldn’t call the wine deep, at least at this stage in its development. And yet your interest is engaged and held. A here-now pleasure. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 22nd tasting: flight 3 of 5