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Posts Tagged ‘Piedmont

Bargain Barolo

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Barolo 2012, Riva del Bric, Paolo Conterno ($41.50, 10860223)
100% Nebbiolo from youngish vines (around 20 years old). Manually harvested. On arrival at the winery, the grapes are crushed, destemmed and transferred to tanks for two to three weeks’ maceration and fermentation. Matured 30 to 36 months in 35-hectolitre French oak barrels and six to 12 months in the bottle. Reducing sugar: 1.6 g/l. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Sélections Fréchette.

Cherry, sawdust, kirsch, rose water and eventually hints of leafmould, candied violets and truffle. On the fuller side of medium-bodied. Very dry. The sweet fruit cloaks the fine but firm tannins though it can’t hide the astringent undertow. Bright acidity adds sheen to the velours-like texture while spice and floral notes overtone the long finish. A step up from most Langhe offerings, this is like mainlining Nebbiolo. Impressive QPR. Accessible for a five-year-old Barolo but still primary and best cellared for a couple of years or carafed for an hour or two. (Buy again? Sure.)

My bottle was a generous gift from a Mo’ Wine Group member. Merci Julien !


Written by carswell

March 18, 2017 at 11:43

Sausage love, 2017 edition

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Forget those overpriced Valentine meals prepared by bored chefs and served by jaded waiters in stuffy restaurants. On February 14, sausage lovers, wine lovers and just plain lovers will be heading to Nouveau Palais for a hit of Pork Futures goodness (mild sausage sandwiches with french fries and “piccante” hot sauce on the side) and glass after delicious glass of Dolcetto poured by oenopole.

The Seventh Annual Valentine’s Sausage Party
“Because nothing says love like sausage”
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
17:30 to 23:30 (or until they run out)
Nouveau Palais
281 Bernard St. West, Montreal

RSVP: or 514 273-1180


Written by carswell

February 9, 2017 at 20:04

Odd couple

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As is the Mo’ Wine Group’s longstanding tradition, our first tasting after the holidays focused on inexpensive and affordable bottles.

Vino da Tavola 2014, Il Brut and the Beast, Valli Unite ($25.35, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Based in Costa Vescovato in southern Piedmont, Valli Unite is a 35-year-old organic cooperative whose members grow local grape varieties as well as grains, fruits, vegetables and livestock. Accurate information on this wine is hard to find. It’s not listed on the coop’s website and online reviewers tend to be all over place about its constituent grape varieties, production method (some say it’s a filtered Charmat-method sparkler) and stopper (some say it’s a cork). For all I know, there may be more than one bottling. This much seems clear: the wine we tasted was made from Cortese and may also contain some Favorita. The biodynamically farmed grapes were manually harvested. The wine was fermented with indigenous yeasts and bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur was added during the wine-making process. The fizz is the result of natural, in-bottle fermentation. Vegan-compatible. Crown cap. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Pale straw. Hazy in all the glasses though the last glass or two also contained a lot of brown-coloured lees. Interesting, leesy nose of lemon, sour apple, chalk and “bonbon de banane.” Soft but ticklish effervescence. There’s some fruit on the attack (one taster described it as “fruité austère”), lots of chalky minerals and fair acidity. A lactic note sounds on the long finish. Somehow the elements don’t coalesce into a whole and, as the wine breathes, the alcohol becomes noticeable and the wine seems “oxidized” and a bit “flat.” Not the hit that the 2011 was. I suspect our just-off-the-boat bottle was travel-shocked or otherwise upset. (Buy again? To give it another chance in a few months, yes.)

Crémant d’Alsace, Extra Brut, Paul-Édouard, Domaine Bott-Geyl ($26.00, 13032845)
A blend of Pinot Blanc (50%), Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Noir (20%). The hand-picked grapes are purchased from growers, all of whom are converting to organic practices. This traditional-method sparkler was matured in the bottle for 24 months before disgoring. Reducing sugar: 5.1 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
Straw heading toward bronze with a fine bead and next to no foam. Outgoing nose eliciting descriptors like white strawberry, honey, acacia, stone fruit and, surprisingly but accurately, jalapeño. Round and rich in the mouth. The bubbles are low-key, the ripe fruit has a slightly honeyed quality, the minerals are dusty. Soft acidity and hints of lemon provide some welcome freshness. A whiff of yeasty brioche colours the long finish. Impeccable though not what you’d call lively. (Buy again? Personally, I’d go for something tenser but several tasters were quite taken with this.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 1 of 7

Written by carswell

January 26, 2017 at 12:51

Vini per salumi

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Grignolino d’Asti 2014, Grignè, Montalbera ($19.35, 13014372)
100% Grignolino from five- to 25-year-old vines. Manually harvested. Fermented in stainless steel tanks for 15 days, with the seeds removed after four to six days. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Racked into stainless steel tanks for four months’ maturation. Lightly filtered. Reducing sugar: 7.0 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Cedar, “old lady’s rose perfume” (in the words of another taster), tea leaves, sour cherry. Becomes perfumier as it breathes and eventually takes on a honey note. Light- to medium-bodied. The bright acidity and higher-than-usual residual sugar confer a sweet-and-sour edge, “like rose kombucha.” Tannins are slim and only a little raspy. Dark minerals and a sappy green streak tether the floral component. A faint bitterness lingers through the finish. Quite different (more Ruchè- or Larcrima di Morro-like) from other Grignolinos I’ve tried – this one, for example. (Buy again? Probably not, though I’ll gladly check out the 2015 if it’s drier.)

Dogliani 2014, San Luigi, Chionetti ($21.80, 12466001)
See here for background on the producer. 100% Dolcetto from vines averaging around 25 years old and grown in the San Luigi vineyard. Manually harvested. The soft-pressed grapes were macerated and fermented in temperature-controlled (max 29–30°C) tanks with indigenous yeasts and daily pump-overs for seven days. The wine was racked into new tanks for malolactic fermentation and 11 months’ maturation. Saw only stainless steel until bottling. Cold stabilized but unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Mulberry, morello cherry, animale and sandalwood. A silky middleweight. Fruity but dry and nicely tart. Slightly rustic tannins give it a light, pervasive astringency, the rumbling of minerals a modicum of depth. Finishes faster than I’d like though a bitter almond note lingers. Pure, tasty and easy to down. (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG October 27, 2016, tasting: flight 4 of 7

Written by carswell

November 18, 2016 at 09:24

Tre vermut eccezionali

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It has been great to see artisanal vermouths becoming available in Quebec in recent years, first through the private import channel and now, with the arrival of this Piedmontese paragon (among others), at the SAQ.

The mash-up known as vermouth (vermut in the Turin dialect) has been a thing since at least the 18th century. Originally considered medicinal, the concoction quickly became popular as a digestion-promoting aperitif. During the reign (1831 to 1849) of Carlo Alberto, King of Sardinia and Duke of Savoy, the royal chef developed a vermouth specially for the famously dyspeptic ruler. After the latter’s demise, the recipe made its way into the hands of a Turin shopkeeper, Tumalin Baracco Bartolomé de Baracho, who named the product after the deceased monarch. Production has continued to this day.

The company explains the production process as follows:

Starting from the base wine, which must be an excellent one. As per the 1837 recipe, we use the DOGC Asti Muscat and the DOGC Caluso Erbaluce, the latter produced in a very limited quantity, almost impossible to find. To this superb base, we add 43 botanical elements: herbs, berries, spices, flowers and fruits selected and infused in 45° alcohol for 40 days. Afterward, we lightly filter the steeping and decant it in Piedmont barrels for approximately 3 to 6 months, regularly testing for the perfect ripening of the matrix before bottling. This Vermut can be tasted similarly to Carlo Alberto’s way who sipped it straight as an aperitif, 10 minutes before meals. Otherwise, it expresses its best characters in cocktails.

At the tasting, the wines were first sampled on their own. Then ice cubes, club soda, tonic water and sliced lemon, lime and orange were set out so the tasters could experiment with various combinations.

Vermut di Torino, Extra-dry, Riserva Carlo Alberto ($32.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Flavoured with 21 herbs and spices, including yarrow, ginger, tarragon, coriander seed, gentian and nutmeg. Filtered only once. Plastic stopper cap. Reducing sugar: 60 g/l. 18% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Disconcertingly ashy/smoky along with fresh birch leaf and clove aromas. A couple of days later, the ash was fainter and earthier, leaving more room for a complex bouquet with nuances of green herbs (think tarragon) and bergamot. Unctuous and, residual sugar notwithstanding, coming across as dry. Ash dominates the palate though not to the point of obliterating other flavours. In fact, this seems the deepest of the trio. Lemon pith joins the herb-spice complex on the long, bitter-edged finish. Less appealing on its own than its siblings though lovely in a Cirka gin martini. The Quebec agent says this is normally devoid of ashy aromas and flavours, so ours may have been a slightly off bottle. Still, as one of tasters later wrote “the extra-dry was intriguing to say the least and I was bouncing between ‘wow that’s great’ and ‘wow, that really tastes like ashtray.'” (Buy again? Yes, for investigative purposes and martini-making, if nothing else.)

Vermut di Torino, Bianco, Riserva Carlo Alberto ($32.00, 12928594)
Erbaluce (90%) and Moscato (10%) flavoured with 25 herbs and spices, including wild rose, mandarin, bitter orange, clove, cherry, absinthe and coriander seed. Plastic stopper cap. Reducing sugar: 140 g/l. 18% ABV. Reducing sugar: 140 g/l. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Effusive nose dominated by scents of fennel seed, sap, sweet white spice and honey. Intensely flavoured but delicious and not at all saccharine. Stealth acidity enlivens without disturbing the smooth surface, letting you focus on the kaleidoscopic flavours. A bitter current runs throughout and comes to the fore on the long, spice-laden finish. A little overpowering straight up but a knockout with lemon and tonic. (Buy again? Done!)

Vermut di Torino, Rosso, Riserva Carlo Alberto ($32.00, 12928720)
Erbaluce (90%) and Moscato (10%) flavoured with 27 herbs and spices, including marjoram, saffron, dandelion, rhubarb, nutmeg, vanilla, star anise, tonka bean and carnation. Plastic stopper cap. 18% ABV. Reducing sugar: 60 g/l. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The colour is more brown than red. Impossibly complex nose: gingerbread and molasses, canned mincemeat, cherry, chocolate, a whiff of fennel and more. Soft and semi-sweet in the mouth, the flavours echoing the nose with some old wood in the background. Vivid acidity and a faint tannic bite add interest while a hint of black pepper and that telltale bitterness appear on the long, long finish. In contrast to something like Cinzano, a bit too intense to sip on its own. Better with a splash of club soda (or more than a splash of ginger beer) and a slice of orange. Also makes a killer negroni if used in smaller amounts than most recipes call for. (Buy again? Done!)

MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

November 4, 2016 at 12:52

Motley cru

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Langhe Rosso 2013, G.D. Vajra ($21.95, 12464953)
Barbera (40%), Dolcetto (25%), Nebbiolo (25%) and Freisa (10%) per the SAQ, though chances are good it also contains small amounts of Albarossa and Pinot Nero. The grapes come from young vines and are manually harvested. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats with pump-overs and punch-downs. Matured around 15 months, mostly in stainless steel tanks as well as neutral barrels. Reducing sugar: 3.2 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Importations Syl-Vins.
Pleasant nose: cherry, mulberry, blackberry, sandalwood, dried leaves, slate, a hint of leather. Medium-bodied, clean and charming. The silky fruit is carried by smooth acidity that turns a little edgy as the wine moves through the mouth, while light raspy tannins gain a faint bitter astringency. Dry, especially on the long, aromatic finish, one of whose components reminds me of fresh apple seeds (yes, I eat apple cores) along with spice and herbal overtones. This may not knock many socks off but it’s well made, imbued with a sense of place and really quite enjoyable. It’s also food-friendly: easy-going enough to pair with pizza or pasta, elegant enough to accompany ossobucco or rabbit stew. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

October 3, 2016 at 12:24

A flight to remember

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Rosso di Valtellina 2013, Ar.Pe.Pe. ($36.50, 12257997)
100% Nebbiolo from vines grown in the lower parts of the estate’s Sassella and Grumello vineyards. The farming is mostly organic. Manually harvested. Cold-macerated a couple of days before fermentation. Fermented in vats with indigenous yeasts. Matured three months in 50-hectolitre wood barrels (oak, chestnut and acacia) and five months in the bottle. Reducing sugar: 1.5 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
A fragrant mix of red cherry, blood orange, violets, tar, “the ashtrays at Cinéma Parallèle,” a vegetal note and eventually beef consommé. Technically medium-bodied, though delicate may be a more accurate descriptor. The balance between ripe fruit, fluent acidity and supple tannins is ideal. A rumbling of dark minerals lasts into the long, clean finish. Direct and to the point, maybe even simple, yet the purity and freshness of the fruit are an unadulterated delight. As if to remind us that wine is a living and therefore variable thing, another bottle tasted a few days later was rough-edged and sharply acidic. You pays your money and you takes your chances. (Buy again? Will definitely take my chances on this one.)

Boca 2010, Le Piane ($72.50, 12817114)
An appellation that nearly vanished but is now enjoying a revival, in no small part due to Le Piane. Starting with a half-hectare vineyard, the estate has acquired other plots and reclaimed abandoned vineyards from the forest. It now totals eight hectares. This is a blend of Nebbiolo (85%) and Vespolina (15%) from a mix of 30- to 50-year-old vines and vines planted between 1998 and 2004. The farming is mostly organic. Fermented on the skins with indigenous yeasts and daily punch-downs in open steel and wood casks (2000-3000 litres). After pressing, the wine was transferred to large Slavonian oak barrels for maturation. Lightly filtered before bottling. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Cherries and red berries, clay, leather, a drop of balsamic vinegar and a hint of banana peel, then rose and pastrami spice. In weight, texture and delineation, positively Burgundian. The ripe-sweet fruit is laced with iron and slate, framed with silky tannins and carried on a fresh current of acidity. New layers of flavour and aroma – veils might be the better word here – appear with each swirl and sip. Gains an earthy note on the long finish. How can a wine be simultaneously so vibrant and so ethereal? Pricey but, in its way, perfect. Drinking beautifully now if carafed well in advance and likely capable of ageing for a decade or more. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Barolo 2011, Brovia ($64.00, 12831266)
100% Nebbiolo from organically farmed vines planted in 1971, 1974 and 1993 in various vineyards in the Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d’Alba production areas. The manually harvested fruit is lightly pressed and destemmed. Macerated and fermented in temperature-controlled (28°C) tanks for 15 to 20 days. Matured in 30-hectolitre Slavonian and French oak casks for two years. Unfiltered. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins de Dame Jeanne.
Marzipan, cherry, “felt pen,” dried tarragon, eventually rose. Sumptuously fruited and beautifully structured; the sleek acidity and round, firm tannins confer a velvety texture. Complex, layered and long, with a tarry note colouring the finish. Surprisingly open and expressive for such a young Barolo. A gorgeous wine. For a Barolo of this quality, the price is more than reasonable. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Not surprisingly, the tasters spent far more time than usual smelling, tasting and discussing the wines in this flight and seemed reluctant to empty their glasses.

MWG March 31st tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

May 17, 2016 at 13:01