Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

Posts Tagged ‘No added sulphur

Les élixirs de Xavier

leave a comment »

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


Garage music

leave a comment »

Vermont 2016, House Music, La Garagista ($42.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
An ancestral method red sparkler made from a field blend of Marquette, Saint Croix, La Crescent, Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc, and Frontenac Noir. Co-fermented with indigenous yeasts. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.
Protean nose of red berries (and “blueberry pie” per one taster), earth, “good canola,” shoe cream and a not unattractive whiff of barnyard. Lightly fizzy and dry, smooth and fleet. The fruit is sweet-tart, the acidity bright, the slender tannins relegated to the background. A slatey vein extends into the lip-smacking finish. Fresh, juicy and well-neigh irresistible. (Buy again? Def.)

Vermont 2015, Damejeanne, La Garagista ($42.54, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Damejeannes are better known in English as demijohns or carboys, the glass vessels most of La Garagista’s wines are fermented and sometimes matured in. This is a blend of Marquette (90%) and La Crescent (10%). Fermented on the skins with indigenous yeasts, matured one year. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.
Wild red berries including cranberry, earthy notes of slate and beet, spice, an evanescent touch of volatile acidity and an orange-almond note reminiscent of the Vinu Jancu. Denser and rounder than its flightmate, a mouthful of sweet and sour-edged fruit that has me thinking of pomegranates, cherries and red plums, among other things. A mineral base provides foundation for a structure of lightly raspy acid and supple if sinewy tannins tannins. Long, clean, tart finish. (Buy again? Yep.)

Whatever else the assembled tasters thought about the La Garagista wines, everyone agreed they had an energy and a vibrancy – a closeness to the fruit and terroir – that are rare for any wine, let alone ones made from hybrid grapes grown in a harsh climate. The buzz around the table in the tasting room and the Vins Dame-Jeanne booth at the Salon des Quilles was palpable. People, myself included, were stoked about the wines themselves but also about realizing that truly exciting wines unlike any others can be made in our part of the world. Quebec vintners should take note.

Mo’ Wine Group November 23rd tasting: flight 5 of 6

Dufaitre trio

leave a comment »

Based in Saint-Étienne-des-Oullières, Laurence and Rémi Dufaitre began working their first hectare of vines in 2001, initially selling the fruit to the local co-op. They started making wine and bottling it under their own label in 2010. Today their holdings, which include the former Domaine de Botheland, total around 12 hectares, one of which is planted to Chardonnay. Inspired by Jules Chauvet and his disciples, especially Jean Foillard, the Dufaitres use organically farmed grapes that undergo carbonic maceration and are given long, naturally low-temperature fermentations with indigenous yeasts. Chaptalization, filtering and fining are strictly avoided. When used, sulphur dioxide is kept to a minimum.

Beaujolais Villages 2016, Prémices, Laurence et Rémi Dufaitre ($28.40, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from 35-year-old vines grown in the granite, sand and gravel soil of a plot named Prémices. Carbonic maceration lasted 16 days. Fermented and matured in concrete tanks. No added sulphur. Bottled in February 2017. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Cherry, red berries and vine sap with background slate and ink. Fresh and light on the palate, with lovely ripe fruit, bright acidity and light, caressing tannins. Ripe-sweet upfront, drying on the long, savoury, spicy finish with its lingering hint of stem. Straightforward but far from simple, a wine of great purity and finesse. A second encounter, a bottle drunk on its own at dinner, impressed me even more; tasting double-blind and fooled by its raspberry-leaning fruit and peppery spice, I guessed it was carbonic-macerated Grenache. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Brouilly 2016, Laurence et Rémi Dufaitre ($34.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from 60- to 65-year-old vines rooted in granite and volcanic soil. Carbonic maceration lasted 18 days. Fermented in concrete tanks. Matured in old 200-litre oak barrels. Bottled in March 2017. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Earthy nose, the fruit overtoned with old wood, spice and a hint of barnyard. In the mouth, the wine is a bit more intense – a bit less vin plaisir – than the Prémices though still on the lighter side of medium-bodied. Veils of fruit, great minerality, buoyant acidity and light tannins hold the attention. As Theo notes, there’s a lovely “clarity [that] comes in the middle of the mouth.” The longest of the three. (Buy again? Yes, though not necessarily in preference to the Côte de Brouilly.)

Côte de Brouilly 2016, Laurence et Rémi Dufaitre ($36.50, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Gamay from 50- to 70-year-old vines rooted in granite and volcanic soil. Carbonic maceration lasted 18 days. Fermented in concrete tanks. Matured in used Burgundy barrels. Bottled in March 2017, a month earlier than usual. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
A nose similar to the Brouilly’s but deeper, more complex and savoury, with mushroom creeping in and the spice taking on Asian overtones. A medium-bodied mouthful of rich yet crunchy fruit and slate. Finely structured by sleek acidity and supple yet resilient tannins. So pure and elegant, this complete and balanced wine is delicious now but has the wherewithal to age for several years. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG November 10th tasting: flight 3 of 5

Written by carswell

January 31, 2018 at 12:31

Atlantic Brancos

leave a comment »

Vinho Regional Lisboa 2015, Fossil, Vale da Capucha ($21.30, 13286992)
The estate is located about 50 km north of Lisbon and about 8 km east of the Atlantic coast in an area with a relatively cool and wet climate. Fernão Pires (aka Maria Gomez, 45%), Arinto (45%) and Gouveio (10%) from organically farmed vines rooted in marine fossil-rich clay and limestone. (A red Fossil is also made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Syrah.) Manually harvested. The whole clusters are quickly chilled to 4°C and direct pressed. Fermented in temperature-controlled (15-18°C) stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. Matured eight months in stainless steel tanks, including a portion on the fine lees. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Boires.
Reduced, sulphurous nose on opening that evolves into an odd mix of “kimchi,” chalk, white spice and “brown banana.” Medium-bodied, waxy textured and very dry. The stone fruit and citrus come with quite a load of minerals and an “asafoetida” note. While there’s enough acidity to keep things fresh and lively, it’s hard to shake the impression that the wine’s a bit simple and short on follow-through – at least for now: maybe this naturalish, just-off-the-boat bottle is suffering from travel shock? (Buy again? A bottle to lay down for a few months.)

Beira Atlântico 2015, Vinhas Velhas, Luis Pato ($19.50, 13212598)
Bical (34%) grown in chalky-clay soil and Cercial (aka Cerceal Branco, 33%) and Sercialinho (a rare cross of Sercial or maybe Vital with Alvahrinho, 33%) grown in sandy soil. (Pato also makes a red Vinhas Velhas from Baga.) Fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.5 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Pot de Vin.
Attractive nose of “spruce,” “rosemary,” “green apple” and “pineapple water,” becoming fruity and “floral” as it breathes and warms. Clean in the mouth. Built around a core of sweet-tart fruit with a savoury undercurrent. The acidity is smooth but there’s not a lot of it. Fair length. For now an easy drinker, though it might gain structure and depth with a year or two in the bottle. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

December 13, 2017 at 13:17

Step up, Riesling!

leave a comment »

While the Melsheimer winery, which is located in the village of Reil, has been owned by the family of the same name for 200 years, their vineyards have been cultivated for far longer than that. Documentation for one goes back to the 12th century. The current wine-maker Thorsten Melsheimer began the switch to organic and biodynamic farming in 1995. The estate makes a broad range of Rieslings and little else. Annual production is around 60,000 bottles, about 40% of which is exported, with Denmark being a primary market.

Mosel 2015, Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Kellerchen, Melsheimer ($48.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from biodynamically farmed vines averaging 30 years of age and rooted in the slate and quartz of the Mullay-Hofberg vineyard. Manually harvested. Macerated on the skins for 30 days. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured one year in neutral 500-litre Slavonian oak barrels and one year in bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Wafting nose of white flowers, yellow apple, quartz/chalk and background lemon/lime. Fine, clean and engaging in the mouth. The bright – not sharp – acidity gives the ripe fruit a sweet-and-sour quality. Dusty minerals add another layer of flavour and texture. Finishes long and dry. A lovely wine that was slightly overshadowed by its flightmate though that may no longer be the case in five years, when both wines should reach the plateau of maturity. (Buy again? Yes.)

Mosel 2015, Vade Retro, Melsheimer ($48.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The estate’s flagship wine. Its name derives from a medieval Catholic phrase used in exorcisms, Vade retro satana (“Step back, Satan”), perhaps a wry nod to the wine’s lack of fire and brimstone, er, added sulphur. 100% Riesling from biodynamically farmed vines in some of the Mosel’s steepest vineyards. Manually harvested. Spontaneously fermented on the skins in large oak barrels and no pumping. No filtering or added sulphur. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Smoky, minerally, fruity nose with hints of nuts and lees. Rich yet fleet in the mouth. It’s dry (reportedly about 1 g/l of residual sugar) and full of minerals though it’s the fruit (mostly stone, some apple, a little citrus) that holds your attention. The acidity is pervasive but very well integrated. Layered, deep, long and pure. A baby but a beautiful one. Entirely consistent with a bottle – one of the stars in a stellar evening of wine and food – enjoyed a few weeks earlier at Candide. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 9 of 9

Written by carswell

December 6, 2017 at 14:14

Orange anarchy

leave a comment »

Based in Šentjur, in eastern Slovenia, about 20 km northwest of Zagreb, Aci Urbajs became interested in wine-making in 1969 when, as a boy, he worked in a vineyard his parents had acquired. In 1987, he received, as a present for graduating from university, a small vineyard on the Rifnik hill, where unearthed Roman artifacts pointed to a long wine-making tradition on the site. A disciple of organic farming from early on, he was soon attracted to biodynamics and joined the Slovenian Demeter association in 1999. In the cellar, his approach is resolutely minimalist: spontaneous fermentation, no racking, no filtering, no fining. Two lines of wines are made: one with a small amount of added sulphur (20 to 30 g/l vs. the allowed 250 g/l), the other a “natural” line with no added sulphur. Chardonnay, Kerner, Pinot Gris, Welschriesling, Blaufränkisch and Pinot Noir are grown. Production is tiny, only a few thousand bottles a year.

Posavje 2012, Organic Anarchy, Aci Urbajs ($59.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Chardonnay, Kerner and Laški Rizling (“Italian Riesling” aka Welschriesling) from vines planted in 1988 and rooted in marble-rich soil. Two weeks’ maceration on the skins. Fermented in open barrels using indigenous yeasts. Matured one year. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. Vegan-friendly. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy orange. Surprising, evolving nose: spicy, “kind of soapy,” “lit cigar,” dried orange peel and a hint of honey, among other things. Medium-bodied. Surprisingly fresh and vibrant for a five-year-old orange wine. The mineral-dusted fruit (stone fruit mainly) is almost sweet and yet so savoury. A hint of botrytis only increases the already complex set of flavours and aromas. Bright tingly acidity and a tannic rasp turn the silky texture a little raw-silky. The long finish is marked by pepper and nut notes. The way the wine evolved in the glass suggests carafing an hour or two beforehand may be a good idea. Very impressive. I look forward to encounters with Urbajs’s other wines. (Buy again? The high price notwithstanding, yes, a bottle to savour at leisure.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 4 of 9

Orange crush

leave a comment »

Located in Šempas in the western Vipava valley, about 20 kilometres east of Gorizia on the Italian border, the family-run Batič estate can trace its roots back to the late 16th century. It is known locally for its organically grown fruits and increasingly for its wines made from local and international varieties.

Primorska 2015, Zaria, Batič ($44.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Pinela (55%), Zelen (20%) Rebula (aka Ribolla Gialla, 5%), Vitovska (3%), Rumeni Mušat (aka Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, 2%) and Chardonnay (1%) from biodynamically farmed vines planted in 1982 and rooted in marl soil of the Zaria vineyard. Manually harvested. Spontaneous co-fermentation on the skins in non-temperature-controlled open vats. Matured in Solvenian oak barrels. Unfiltered, unfined. No added sulphur. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy orange-bronze. A whiff of volatile acidity gives way to white spice, “cake,” yeast, minerals, peach and orange aromas. Lighter-bodied than expected (based on the appearance and nose) yet also very present. Complex and intensely flavoured with fruit, spice and minerals vying for attention. Light tannins and bright acidity give it some bite. The long, saline finish brings a hint of nuttiness and “lingering tortillas.” Characterful, engaging, satisfying, food-friendly and relatively affordable: what’s not to like? (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 3 of 9

Written by carswell

November 27, 2017 at 13:13