Posts Tagged ‘Off the beaten path’
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.)
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.)
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
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.
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
Moravie 2014, Klasika, Hibernal, Milan Nestarec ($31.33, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Hibernal from estate-owned, organically farmed, 14-year-old vines grown in southern Moravia in the Czech Republic. Fermented and matured for 13 months in 600-litre barrels, one-third of which were new. No clarification or filtration. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Rich gold-bronze in the glass. Refulgent nose that, notes of “sesame oil” and “dried orange peel” notwithstanding, you could be forgiven for thinking belonged to a sweet Tokaji. Dry and unctuous on the palate, the lively acidity softened by the dense extract. Flavours are a beguiling mix of “canned peaches,” “apricot jam” yellow apple and dusty minerals. Great breadth, good length and not a lot of depth, making this a here-now wine. Unique and memorable, especially for the bouquet. (Buy again? Yes.)
MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 4 of 9
Crete 2015, Vilana, Lyrarakis ($14.05, 11607553)
100% Vilana from vineyards in Alagni, central Crete, south-southeast of Heraklion. Manually harvested. Half the grapes were whole-cluster pressed; the other half were destemmed and cold-macerated on the skins for several hours. Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled (17-19°C) stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.
Chalk, quartz, matches and a hint of dried herbs. Clean, light and smooth in the mouth, with citrusy, Sauvignon Blanc-like fruit, good acidity and a decently long, clean, minerally finish. Certainly drinkable but also somewhat simple and a bit anonymous. Would like to taste the more upscale bottling. (Buy again? Maybe.)
Patras 2015, Roditis, Tetramythos Winery ($15.80, 12484575)
100% Roditis from organically farmed vines in limestone-soil vineyards located about 10 km south and 800 metres above the Gulf of Corinth. The manually harvested grapes are destemmed and pneumatically pressed. The must is gravity-fed into small, temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Expressive nose of candied white berries, quartz dust and a hint of jalapeño. The fruity extract and lemon overtones notwithstanding, minerally – even rainwatery – on the palate, an impression only heightened by the brisk acidity. Ripe-sweet upfront, dry on the long, saline finish. Direct and to the point. Experience shows this really comes into its own with a selection of meze or a grilled porgy. (Buy again? Yes.)
Markopoulo 2015, Savatiano, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Papagiannakos ($16.55, 11097451)
100% Savatiano from unirrigated 50-year-old vines in rocky, limestone soil a few kilometres east of Athens airport. Manually harvested. Fermented with selected yeasts in temperature-controlled (16-18°C) stainless steel tanks. Matured on the lees for three months. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The nose’s combination of floral notes, sandy beach, lemon curd and white peach is unique. Lemon with hints of tropical fruit, a mineral substrate and bright but unaggressive acidity mark the palate. A bitter thread weaves through the long finish. Probably the most versatile of the trio. As the 2008 Estate bottling tasted last summer showed, Savatiano is capable of improving with age. (Buy again? Yes, including a couple of bottles to cellar for five or six years.)
MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 2 of 7
North Fork of Long Island 2014, Rosso Fresco, Channing Daughters (US$20.00 at the winery)
Always a blend, though the grapes and percentages change from vintage to vintage. The 2014 is 39% Merlot, 21% Dornfelder, 16% Syrah 3% Lagrein, 3% Teroldego and 1% Blaufränkisch. The grapes are hand-picked, destemmed and crushed by foot. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and regular punch-downs. Matured eight months is old oak barrels. Filtered but not fined.
Red berries, graphite and a hint of barnyard. Medium-bodied. Structured more by bright acidity than the supple tannins, the juicy fruit slow fades to old wood and minerals. Overtones of sweet spice and “salted plum” linger into the finish, which seems anchored by a not unpleasant bitterness. Simple but not facile, and really quite drinkable. (Buy again? Yes, especially at the US$14 it goes for in some New York City wine shops.)
The Hamptons 2013, Blaufränkisch, Sylvanus Vineyard, Channing Daughters (US$26.00 at the winery)
A 75-25 blend of Blaufränkisch and Dornfelder from vines planted in 1999. The grapes are picked by hand, destemmed and crushed by foot. Fermented with regular punch-downs. Matured 12 months in old hogsheads, puncheons and barriques made from French and Slovenian oak. Gravity-bottled without fining or filtration. 12% ABV.
“Smells like a permanent” says one taster. “Aubergine” and “rotting leaves” add others. I also get blackberry tea, sawed wood, graphite and eventually spice. In the mouth, it’s richer, rounder and more dimensional than the Rosso Fresco. Bone dry, with sleek acidity and medium if chewy tannins. The fruit has noticeable dark cherry and mineral components, especially iron, like you sometimes get in red meat. A radicchio-like bitter streak appears on the finish. Savoury, even earthy and a bit unsmiling, this would probably be better with food. At C$33.75, the QPR seems a little off compared with its Austrian counterparts. (Buy again? Another bottle to try at the dining table.)
MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 3 of 6
The technical information for these two wines is identical. The fruit comes from organically farmed, 70- to 90-year-old, dry-farmed, low-yielding, ungrafted vines grown on the Ziros plateau in eastern Crete. The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement vats and matured in old French oak barrels. The wines are bottled unfiltered, unfined and with only a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide.
Since the late 1990s, the Sitia appellation has required reds to be a blend of Liatiko and Mandilaria. As the 2006 is all Liatiko, it had to take the broader Crete appellation. Economou doesn’t release wines until he thinks they are ready; that said, this isn’t the first shipment of the 2006 to arrive in Quebec.
Both wines were carafed two or three hours before serving and both benefited enormously from it.
Crete 2006, Liatiko, Domaine Economou ($56.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Liatiko. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The room fell silent as the wines were poured and people started smelling them. Aside from oohs and ahs, the first utterance was in reference to this: “I could drown in it.” An in-pulling, umami-rich nose of plum and cherry, Mediterranean scrub and the earth its rooted in, sea breeze, obsidian dust, violets and more. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied and possessed of a fluid texture. Ripe but not jammy fruit, smooth but very present acidity and fine but sturdy tannins are all in perfect equilibrium. Dark minerals run like an underground river. Flavours and aromas echoing the nose unfurl from the mid-palate though the long finish. Still vibrant and vigorous at ten years of age. A beauty. (Buy again? Yes.)
Sitia 1999, Domaine Economou ($78.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of 80% Liatiko and 20% Mandilaria. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
More subdued and, if anything, more involving. Evolved, profound nose: mushroom and truffle, leather, dark fruit, cocoa, hints of violets and dried orange peel. Dense and velvety yet medium-bodied. The fruit is a mixture of fresh and dried plums and cherries, the acidity is fluent and sustained, the tannins are resolved but still structuring. Strata of minerals, earth, tar and old wood provide ballast and depth. The finish goes on and on, like the afterglow of a perfect summer day. A magnificent, transporting wine that I suspect is near or at peak, though most definitely not on its last legs. (Buy again? If the opportunity ever presents itself again, yes.)
I repeat what I wrote two years ago: these are among the great Mediterranean reds. While neither wine could come from anywhere but Crete, Economou’s training at top estates in Bordeaux and Barolo is apparent in both.
MWG August 12th tasting: flight 7 of 8