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Posts Tagged ‘Off the beaten path

Asphalt and corn

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Bekaa Valley 2012, Musar Jeune, Château Musar ($25.80, 13210197)
A blend of Cinsault (50%), Syrah (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) from organically farmed vines grown on the western slope of the Beqaa Valley at around 1,000 metres above sea level. The jeune refers to the wine’s early drinking window, not the age of the vines. The varieties are vinified separately. Fermented in temperature-controlled (28°C) concrete vats with indigenous yeasts. After blending, the wine was matured three to four months in concrete vats. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Clove, plum, blackberry evolving into leather and earth. An asphalt note is very present. On the palate, the wine is medium- to full-bodied and fruit forward though fundamentally savoury, not deep but far from superficial. Round tannins and soft acidity give the wine a satiny texture. The fruit tends to mullberry and black cherry. Unfortunately, the asphalt is also present as a flavour and the notes of “nail polish remover” (a marker for ethyl acetate, popularly if inaccurately referred to as volatile acidity) are hard to ignore. A bottle opened the weekend before was far fresher, cleaner and more interesting, leading us to suspect this was an off bottle, a not uncommon occurrence with Musar wines. Still, after more than a decade’s absence, it’s great to have this storied estate back at the SAQ. (Buy again? Yes but keep your receipt in case your bottle is defective.)

Texas 2013, Merlot, Reserve, Becker Vineyards (c. $20.00, importation valise)
100% Merlot from various parcels; the winery is based in the Texas Hill Country AVA but the wine’s broader appellation may mean some of the grapes come from outside the viticultural area. The grapes were harvested over four weeks, cool-soaked for 10 days, fermented with selected yeasts and pressed. The wine was transferred to French and American oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and maturation, with stirring several times a week. 13.8% ABV.
One of the oddest noses I’ve encountered in a red wine: rubber, “bacon,” “pâté chinois” and ash but, above all (and congrats to J. on pegging it), “canned corn.” In the mouth, it’s heading into full-bodied territory. There’s some red and black fruit if you look for it but the corn is unavoidable. Acidity is sufficient and the soft tannins gain some presence on the finish. Yet, even setting the corn aside, this is simple, vague (not identifiably a Merlot) and pretty much devoid of appeal except as a curiosity. (An off bottle? Maybe. Buy again? Nope.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

June 23, 2017 at 13:26

Barrel’s worth

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Located in Mirabel in the lower Laurentians and founded in 1993, Vignoble Négondos is one of Quebec’s more interesting producers of wines made from hybrid grapes. The winery is certified organic and has adopted a non-interventionist approach in the cellar: spontaneous fermentations, gravity feeds, clarification by settling, minimal if any filtration, and so on. The result is honest and enjoyable wines for which few if any excuses need be made. The winery’s most celebrated – and hard to procure – product is Julep, a world-class Seyval Blanc orange wine whose label and name wryly refer to Montreal’s iconic Gibeau Orange Julep drive-in and its signature drink.

Négondos wines can be purchased at the winery. A limited selection can be found in a few local food stores; contact the winery for details. Our bottles came from Loco and Dans la Côte respectively. Note that the prices vary depending on who’s doing the markup.

As usual, the wines were served double-blind to everyone except me. A few hints were provided: the wines were close-to identical blends from the same producer, the main difference being that one was matured in stainless steel tanks and the other in oak barrels.

Québec 2016, Suroît, Vignoble Négondos ($18.00-$20.00)
A blend of organically farmed Maréchal Foch, St. Croix, Frontenac and Marquette. The manually harvested grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts at high temperatures. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. 12% ABV.
On first sniff, the Suroît’s nose prompts one taster to declare the wine “Ontarian.” My note reads: unsubtle gush of plum, almond, red meat, earth and eventually sweet spice. In the mouth, it’s fruity but dry, with an earthy backdrop. Light tannins and bright acidity provide a kind of balance and the finish is clean. That said, relief from the juicy onslaught and most especially nuance are in short supply. Probably best thought of as a food wine. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Québec 2015, Chesnaie, Vignoble Négondos ($20.00-$22.00)
This is the Suroît but with six months’ barrel ageing. 12% ABV.
“Wait. This can’t be Ontarian. Now I’m confused,” says the aforementioned taster. A nose far more complex and subtle: wafting plum with dill, spice, wood and “black tea” notes. In the mouth, it’s deeper, smoother and more fluid. Fine acidity and tannins structure the layered fruit, which takes on a savoury, even minerally edge that lasts through the credible finish. The difference between the two wines is astounding (a glass of the Chesnaie served double-blind a few days earlier had me guessing Austria or northern Italy) though how much of that is due to vintage and how much to barrel-ageing is a subject for future research. (Buy again? Yes indeed.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

June 21, 2017 at 12:14

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

Stone wine

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Robola de Céphalonie 2015, Vino di Sasso, Domaine Sclavos ($26.95, 12485877)
100% Robola from organically and biodynamically farmed, ungrafted old vines on the Ionian island of Cephalonia. Vino di sasso means “wine of stone,” a reference to the island’s rocky cliffs and outcrops and the vineyard, composed mainly of calcerous pebbles at an elevation ranging up to 850 metres. The manually harvested grapes are directly pressed. The must is fermented at low temperatures with indigenous yeasts and matured eight months on the lees. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and with only a tiny squirt of sulphur dioxide. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Limestone dust, dried hay, yellow apple, faint peach, dried herbs, almonds and smoke. A striking combination of minerality and richness. Bone dry. Seems built around an acid-mineral core. A saline current runs under the ethereal orchard fruit and tangs the long, fruity, almondy, smoky finish. A unique, fascinating wine, more enigmatic and involving than the 2014. The price of admission is more than fair. (Buy again? Yes, including a couple of bottles to cellar for a year or two.)

Written by carswell

May 22, 2017 at 12:42

The difference a day makes

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Crete 2014, Kotsifali, Lyrarakis ($13.75, 10703818)
100% Kotsifali from unirrigated vines rooted in loamy sandy soil in the Alagni region of central Crete. Manually harvested. Fermentation with selected yeasts and on the skins in temperature-controlled (24-27°C) tanks lasted 10 days. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.

Day one: Popped (well, twisted) and poured, the wine was dull, hard and one-dimensional, seemingly incapable of providing pleasure. After a couple of glasses, the remainder was transferred to a half-bottle, sealed and stuck in the fridge.
Day two: The wine is transformed. Engaging, surprisingly complex, not exuberantly fruity nose of plum, blackberry, spice and ashy earth with dried herb, raw meat and floral notes. In the mouth, it’s savoury, dry and medium- to full-bodied. The ripe but not sweet fruit and dark minerals are structured by soft tannins and smooth acidity. The fair finish brings a wood note, a whiff of alcohol and a lingering taste of sour bitter plum.  Honest and enjoyable. Not only is it off the beaten path, it’s one of the better wines in its price range. (Buy again? Yes, though there’s not much left in the system.)

Written by carswell

April 14, 2017 at 13:37

Two Galicians and an ugly duckling

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Ribeiro 2014, Coto de Gomariz ($26.95, 13075554)
A blend of Treixadura (70%), Albariño (10%), Godello (10%) and Loureiro (10%) from biodyanmically and organically (non-certified) farmed vines grown in granite, schist and clay on slopes and terraces near the village of Gomariz. The grapes are hand-picked, destemmed, crushed and lightly pressed. The juice is cold-settled and fermented in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures. Bottled from the tank on demand and always on a flower day. Vegan-compatible. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Promising nose dominated by white grapefruit along with apple, pear, pineapple and background herbs and stone. Smooth and suave in the mouth. Quite dry. Brisk acidity lightens the somewhat viscous texture. Marked by sweet fruit upfront but minerals and dried fruit on the long finish. A sensation – faintly biting, like pepper can be (though the flavour isn’t at play) – that I suspect results from a combination of acid, mineral bitterness and maybe stealth tannins lingers after the fruit has disappeared, adding intrigue. (Buy again? Sure.)

coto-de-gomarizlagar-de-cerverala-del-vivo

Rias Baixas 2015, Lagar de Cervera ($27.40, 13159272)
100% Albariño from estate vineyards in O Rosla and Cambados. The manually harvested grapes were destemmed and macerated on the skins for 10 hours, followed by gentle pressing at 10C in an inert-gas atmosphere to prevent oxidation. After settling and racking, the must was fermented at 15C. One quarter of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured on its fine lees with occasional stirring. Saw only stainless steel until bottling. Reducing sugar: 2.8 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinicolor.
Straightforward nose of grapefruit and quartz with faint white flower notes. In the mouth, the wine is middle-weighty, clean and as minerally as fruity. The smooth acidity barely ramps up the tension. A touch of bitterness on the fairly long finish adds welcome intrigue. Tasted twice – first at the store, then at the tasting – with consistent impressions, this well-made but somewhat listless wine was a disappointment, especially in view of the estate’s reputation and the glowing reviews the wine received in the media. Would likely show better alongside grilled fish. (Buy again? Meh.)

Bierzo 2013, La del Vivo, La Vizcaína, Raúl Pérez ($57.00, 12332045)
A relatively new project, La Vizcaína (“the Biscayan”) produces five wines – four reds and this white – using fruit from vineyards around cult winemaker Raúl Pérez’s hometown of Valtuille de Abajo. This is a blend of Doña Blanca (80%), Godello (10%) and Palomino (10%) from organically farmed vines, some planted as long ago as 1916. The manually harvested grapes are handled in two ways. Around 80% are pressed and racked into 500- and 700-litre French barrels for fermentation and maturation; they are left untouched for one year. The remainder are fermented on the skins in clay amphorae for one year, again untouched. The two parts are blended and the wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
The wine in our bottle was double-carafed about an hour before we tasted it. Gold bronze in the glass. Complex nose of straw, chalk, honey and a faintly acrid note that several tasters found off-putting, at least initially. Improved with time, developing scents of white spice, “sage,” “late corn field,” “yellow flowers” and “faint nuts.” A sip shows it to be rich, extracted, broad, just acidic enough, dry and not particularly fruity, and what fruit there is is candied. Wax, bitter, mineral and oxidative threads intertwine, most apparently on the long finish. Still, some tasters wanted nothing to do with it and “interesting” was about the best any of us could say. However, those of us who kept our glasses until the end of the tasting – four or five hours after the double-carafing – were amply rewarded, as the acridity had vanished and the wine had deepened, sweetened and become beautifully layered and coherent. Memorable. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 17, 2017, tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

March 1, 2017 at 16:40

Ward & associés tasting (6/9)

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Franken 2015, Kleine Wanderlust, 2Naturkinder ($28.32, private import, 6 bottles/case)
80% Regent and 20% Dornfelder from estate-owned, organically farmed vines around 15 and 30 years old respectively. The former was fermented on the skins for two weeks; the latter was crushed by foot and given semi-carbonic maceration for a week. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees in old oak. No added anything, including sulphur dioxide. Unfiltered and unfined. Bottled in April 2016. 3,000 bottles made. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

kleine-wanderlust

Effusive nose: floral, slate, pink peppercorn, “raspberry-cherry hybrid.” Some rose shows up in the mouth along with a bit of grip on the finish. The fruit is dark and black curranty, the acidity energetic but well integrated. A touch of velours in no way interferes with the wine’s impressive fluidity. Certifiably chuggable. And check out that alcohol level! (Buy again? Yup.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 6 of 9