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Posts Tagged ‘Provence

Alois and Eloi

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The only connection between the wines in the last flight was that both were bigger reds that had caught my attention, the Trebulanum because it is made from a grape I’d never heard of, let alone tasted, the Trévallon because it was reportedly excellent and I’d been giving the wine a pass since an unhappy encounter with the 2007. The wines were double-carafed about four hours before we tasted them.

Terre del Volturno 2011, Trebulanum, Casavecchia, Alois ($44.00, 12628604)
Contrary to what claims, this is not made by the Piedmontese Azienda Agricola Casavecchia but by the Campanian estate Vini Alois, which is based in Pontelatone. 100% Cassavecchia from organically farmed wines averaging 20 to 25 years old and rooted in the mineral-rich volcanic soil of the 1.5 ha Cesone vineyard. Manually harvested. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration on the skins with regular pump-overs took place in stainless steel tanks and lasted 20 days. Transferred to large botti for 18 months, during which time it underwent complete malolactic fermentation. Racked into large botti for 12 months’ further maturation. Aged in bottles for six months. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Diamond Estates.
Wafting nose of ink, old leather, Chambord, “peat” and “smoke.” Dark and dense on the plate, rich in black raspberry fruit and slatey minerals. Tannins confer a velvet astringency, acidity a certain freshness. Finishes long. Spice and leather linger. Powerful, earthy and “too young” but not hot or harsh. Speaks of its place and, despite the modern wine-making, of an older time. (Buy again? Yes, and not just for curiosity’s sake.)

Alpilles 2013, Domaine de Trévallon ($85.25, 13269359)
Now in his mid-60s, Eloi Dürrbach began making wine in 1973, when he gave up architecture to manage a vacation property and a few vines his parents had bought. This, then, is his 40th vintage. A 50-50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from organically farmed vines rooted in limestone and clay. The whole clusters were fermented with indigenous yeasts with regular punch-downs and pump-overs. Matured 24 months on the lees in foudres (95%) and barrels (5%). Fined with egg whites. Unfiltered. No added sulphur. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
An initially disconcerting nose of peas, “ketchup maison,” “beets” and beef bouillon gives way to plum, cassis, blackberry and garrigue. Rich and satiny in the mouth. The balance between the layered fruit, fleshy tannins and racy acidity is something to behold. Overtoned with black olive and leather, the minerally, bitter-edged finish seems to go on forever. Accessible yet capable of long ageing. One of the great wines of Provence. (Buy again? If I can scrape together the bucks…)

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

August 10, 2017 at 13:10

Rosés de Provence

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Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence 2016, Château Vignelaure ($24.50, 12374149)
Grenache (40%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Syrah (30%) from organically farmed vines averaging 25 years old and rooted in pebbly clayey-calcareous soil. Manually harvested. Saignée method after two hours’ maceration for the Grenache; direct pressing for the Cab and Syrah. The must is chilled to 10°C and allowed to settle for 48 hours. Fermented at low temperature (17°C) and matured in stainless steel tanks except for 7% of the Cab, which is aged in a 400-litre new oak barrel. Maturation on the lees with regular stirrings lasts three months. Reducing sugar: <1.2 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: LBV International.
Rubber bands, straw, yogurt, background minerals and a hint of chile; look for it and you’ll find some stone fruit and red berries. Clean, pure and very dry on the palate, with low-key fruit, good acidity, a long bitter-edged, pink grapefruity finish and a lingering pastry note. Not particularly complex – and not quite the equal of the impressive 2014 – but tasty enough. (Buy again? Sure.)

Bandol 2016, Rosé, Domaine du Gros ’Noré ($32.25, 12931021)
Mourvèdre (50%), Cinsault (35%) and Grenache (15%) from vines averaging 30 years old. Farming is organic though not certified as such. Manually harvested. The Cinsault and Grenache are macerated 24 hours at 10°C, then pressed. The juice is combined with direct-pressed Mouvèdre juice and fermented. Reducing sugar: 2.1 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Saltine crackers, “far-away Creamsicle” and lipstick give way to garrigue and minerals. “Fresh and dewy” in the mouth. Veils more than layers of fruit, sleek acidity, mineral depth and a a long, faintly bitter finish. “A bit more moreish than the Vignelaure,” notes one taster. Drinkable indeed. Will almost certainly gain complexity and presence with a year or two in the cellar. (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes de Provence 2015, Rosé, Cuvée Clarendon, Domaine Gavoty ($27.65, 11231867)
This saignée method rosé is a blend of Grenache (70%), Cinsault (15%) and Syrah (15%) from vines rooted in clay and limestone. The grapes, which were vinified separately, were macerated in a vat for three to six hours. The free-run juice was drawn off and combined with the first-pressing juice, chilled and racked into stainless steel tanks for temperature-controlled (17°C) fermentation, which lasted two to four weeks. The various batches were sampled and selected in January 2016 and blended, with the best lots set aside for the Clarendon. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vini-Vins.
Closed, minerally nose that, with coaxing, gives up notes of flan and red berries. Sweeter and flabbier than its flightmates, though improving with time in the glass. Fruitier too, bringing nectarine and strawberry to mind. A stronger acidic and mineral backbone would be welcome. Decent finish. Maybe time in the cellar or a carafe will help? At this point, not up to earlier vintages. (Buy again? Maybe.)

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

July 29, 2017 at 13:07

Two misses and a hit

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Bandol 2016, Blanc, Domaine de l’Olivette ($26.05, 10884559)
Clairette (80%), Rolle (aka Vermentino, 10%) and Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano, 10%). Manually harvested. After destemming, the grapes are cold-macerated on their skins, then pressed. Fermentation in oak vats is at low temperatures for about two weeks. The resulting wine is chilled and allowed to clarify by settling. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vins de Châteaux.
Complex nose: “sweaty” (per another taster) with notes of fired minerals, dried flowers (linden), almond pastry cream, “straw fruit,” “celery salt” and more. Rich and round in the mouth and “a bit reductive.” The combination of highish extract and lowish acidity means the wine comes across as lethargic, a little flabby, “kind of flat” and “gassy.” The appealing nose and minerality aside, not a strong showing. A disappointment then, especially as I and others in the group have enjoyed earlier vintages. (Buy again? Meh.)

Bandol 2015, Blanc, Domaine la Suffrene ($26.45, 11903491)
A 50–50 blend of Clairette and Ugni Blanc from vines averaging 35 to 40 years old. Manually harvested. To increase flavour extraction, the crushed grapes are kept on their skins for 12 hours at 8°C before pressing. After clarification by settling, the juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks for around 15 days at around 19°C, then racked into other tanks for fining and maturation. Filtered before bottling. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Sélections Vin-Coeur.
Lemon and peach blossom, apple and honey. Rich on the palate but more fluid than the Olivette. Quite dry and minerally though turning fruitier on the long finish. Soft-glow acidity and a lingering bitterness complete the picture which, unfortunately, became less interesting as the wine breathed and warmed. Again, a wine that doesn’t seem equal to earlier vintages. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Bandol 2016, Blanc, Domaine du Gros’Noré ($34.00, 12206989)
A 70-30 blend of Ugni Blanc and Clairette from organically (uncertified) farmed vines averaging 30 years old. The must is macerated on the skins for 24 hours, then fermented at low temperatures with indigenous yeasts. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Unfiltered and unfined. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Lovely, wafting nose of white grapefruit, fired quartz, lemon flower and a “kaffir-like herbaceous note.” Clean and fluid with smooth acidity. Very minerally, especially on the finish. Dry, layered, long and savoury. “Apple seed bitterness” linger. Became better as it warmed and breathed. We have a winner. Try this with the winemaker’s recommended pairing: grilled mussels with rosemary (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 2 of 7

Written by carswell

July 28, 2017 at 12:01

Rocca fortis

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Located in Roquefort-la-Bédoule, about 15 km east-southeast of Marseille and at the northwestern edge of the Bandol appellation, Château de Roquefort today comprises 24 hectares of vines located on a northwest-facing mountain slope at about 375 m. The soil is mainly flinty clay-limestone. The vineyard’s orientation and altitude are said to give its wines a rare balance, which is attributed to the grapes’ slow development. The estate has been owned by the De Villeneuve family since the early 1800s and is farmed organically. Most of the wines are blends and in all the blends the grapes are cofermented. Cellar work is gravity fed whenever possible.

In this instance, Roquefort has nothing to do with the celebrated blue cheese from Aveyron and envrions in the French southwest. The Provençal roquefort is derived from the Latin rocca fortis (rocky outcrop), one of which dominates the estate’s vineyards.

IGP des Bouches-du-Rhône 2016, Petit Salé, Château de Roquefort ($25.90, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Mostly Clairette with lesser amounts of Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano) and Vermentino; the Clairette, locally called petit salé, comes from vines planted in the 1950s. The hand-picked grapes were destemmed, crushed and cold-macerated on the skins before being pneumatically pressed. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts took place in temperature-controlled (18-23°C) tanks. Malolactic fermentation was blocked. Matured in concrete tanks and bottled in February and March of 2017. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Lemon, white flowers, mineral dust, faint peach. Light yet intense and very fresh. Bone dry but not austere. A vein of salinity runs throughout. Long, clean finish. Much more akin to a Cassis than a Rhône white, this has seafood – including the raw variety – written all over it. (Buy again? Def.)

Côtes de Provence 2016, Corail, Château de Roquefort ($25.60, private import, 12 bottles/case)
This rosé is always made from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Vermentino and Clairette, though the proportions vary from vintage to vintage; in 2016 they were 30%, 25%, 20%, 10%, 10% and 5% respectively. The manually harvested grapes were partially destemmed. Some of the varieties were cold-macerated from eight to 24 hours. All the grapes were direct pressed, with the juice being combined and fermented in temperature-controlled (18-23°C) tanks with indigenous yeasts. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Subtle nose of peach, lime, sun-baked rocks and garrigue. Clean and fresh in the mouth. There’s a core of sweet fruit (though the wine is very dry), a bit of an acid bite and, again, a current of salinity. Finishes long and savoury. Even rosé skeptics liked this. (Buy again? Def.)

MWG June 8th tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

July 10, 2017 at 15:15

Daube duty II

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Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence 2014, Les Béatines, Domaine des Béates ($20.20, 13027886)
Per the winemaker, Syrah (50%), Grenache Noir (30%) and Carignan (20%) from organically farmed vines (’s percentages are different and probably wrong). The manually harvested grapes are destemmed and given a brief (15-day) maceration on the skins and in stainless steel tanks with regular pump-overs and push-downs. After fermentation with indigenous yeasts, the free-run and press wines are matured separately in stainless steel tanks with regular racking. Reducing sugar: 1.7 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV (new and improved website!).
Somewhat introverted nose. Coaxing reveals leathery raspberry, sawdust, faint spice, dark minerals. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and suppler than the Revelette. The ripe fruit is an equal partner with mineral and old wood flavours while gleaming acidity and fine, taut tannins provide an air-frame structure. Turns lightly astringent on the medium finish. A nicely balanced, fruity but dry wine. Dandy with leftover daube but light enough to pair with tuna and other meaty fish if served slightly chilled. The quaffability quotient and QPR are high on this one. (Buy again? Yep.)

Written by carswell

November 10, 2016 at 14:08

Daube duty I

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Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence 2014, Château Revelette ($23.30, 10259737)
Syrah (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (34%) and Grenache (11%) from quarter century-old organically farmed vines. The varieties are vinified separately. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts) in temperature-controlled (25-27°C) concrete tanks. Matured in concrete tanks except for 15% of the Grenache and Cab, which are matured in neutral casks. A tiny amount of sulphur is added at bottling. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Fresh nose. Starts out Cabernet-ish (cassis, graphite) but gains blackberry, plum, game, spice, earth and turned leaves. Full bodied, rich textured and quite structured, with sustained acidity, medium but bitey tannins and some mineral depth. Very dry, the ripe-sweet fruit notwithstanding, especially on the long finish, where the tannins’ astringency comes through along with tea, tobacco and nougat notes. Straightforward and enjoyable. Doesn’t have the dimensionality of its bigger brother but, then again, it’s about half the price. Made a fine match for a Provençal beef and mushroom stew scented with orange. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

November 8, 2016 at 14:16

Different drummers

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Saint-Chinian 2014, Antonyme, Domaine Canet-Valette ($17.80, 11013317)
A 50-50 blend of Mourvèdre and Cinsault from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. The grapes are destemmed and fermented in tanks for 15 days. The wine is then transferred to other tanks for four months’ maturation. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Reducing sugar: 2.5 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Maître de Chai.
Slightly candied red and black fruit with faint smoke and animale notes. Medium-bodied. Smooth, dense, fruity and dry but also listless and lacking relief, especially next to the À ma guise. I recall an earlier vintage (the 2006?) being more Beaujolais-like. Admittedly, the context didn’t do the wine any favours and I expect it will show better with food, ideally something red meaty and grilled (I’ll be hanging on to my backup bottle to see). (Buy again? Maybe.)

Vin de France 2014, À ma guise, Domaine Les Terres Promises ($25.87, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The 13-hectare estate, which includes a parcel in the Bandol AOC, is owned and operated by former Parisian political operative and author Jean-Christophe Comor and located in the Var department in the foothills of the Massif de la Saint-Baume near the village of La Roquebrussanne. The farming is organic, the wine-making is non-interventionist and the chai is open to the air. This primeur-style wine is a blend of around a dozen varieties including Carignan, Grenache, Cinsault, Clairette and Carignan Blanc. Unfiltered. No or very little added sulphur. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Vin dans les Voiles.
Complex, “natural” nose. Fleet yet mouth-filling. Chewy, juicy red fruit with exuberant acidity, supple tannins, a healthy dose of minerals, a squirt of vine sap and a dusting of earth. Smackingly tart finish. So very drinkable. A joy. (Buy again? Done!)

I first encountered the À ma guise at Satay Bros., where it was being poured by the glass. I liked it enough to have a couple of refills and, a few days later, to trek through the rain on foot and public transit to the middle of nowhere, aka the SAQ’s Futailles Street warehouse, to pick up a case so I could serve it at the tasting. The tasting’s bottle was cloudier than I remembered, a bit funky and not quite as stellar as the Satay Bros. bottle (which may have been open and poured from for a while), though it was still good enough for me to have no trouble selling the remainder of the case. Opened day or two later, a third bottle was verging on vinegar. Such are the vagaries of natural wines. Yet when the wine is on, such are the rewards that we put up with the disappointments.

MWG March 31st tasting: flight 5 of 6

Not for contemplating

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Côtes de Provence 2015, Rosé, Domaine Houchart ($17.50, 11686503)
Grenache (35%), Syrah (25%), Cinsault (20%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) from vines rooted in clay and limestone. Most of the fruit was harvested mechanically. The varieties were vinified separately. Ninety percent of the fruit was direct pressed (pneumatic press); the remainder underwent cold maceration (10°C) for 12 to 24 hours. The chilled must was allowed to settle, then fermented in temperature-controlled (18°C) stainless steel vats for 12 to 24 days. After blending, the wine was bottled and closed with a screwcap. Reducing sugar: 4.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Franc-Vins.
Pickled nectarine, strawberry, sun-baked quartz, a whiff of garrigue. Vibrant, glyceriny fruit dominates from entry through mid-palate, then gives way to more mineral, saline and savoury flavours. Bright acidity brings freshness. A red berry/cherry note and some sotto voce orange sound as the finish fades to a faintly bitter aftertaste. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the perceived sugar levels – the SAQ figure seems so low as to have one questioning its accuracy – make this a bit cloying after a glass or two. One of those wines that are pleasant enough to sip but that you don’t want to think too much about when drinking. (Buy again? While waiting for the 2015 Alzipratu to show up, maybe.)

The evening before, friends and I found Tempier’s 2014 Bandol rosé to be a glorious, synergistic pairing for Chez Tante Paulette’s chicken bouillabaisse. The following evening with the leftovers, this was an interactionless meh.

Written by carswell

April 23, 2016 at 13:46

Blancs de Provence

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IGP Méditerranée 2013, Viognier Sainte-Fleur, Triennes ($22.30, 12625681)
Triennes in the project of two well-known Burgundians (Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée Conti) and a Paris-based friend. The estate is located in the Var, east of Aix-en-Provence, was founded in 1997 and began converting to organic farming in 2008 (the 2011 vintage of the Sainte-Fleur was the estate’s first certified organic wine). This 100% Viognier is fermented in temperature-controlled tanks and matured in tanks. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Séguin & Robillard.
Quartz dust and faint peach filigreed with honeysuckle, smoked salt and garrigue. Bordering on unctuous in the mouth, where it proves more of a fruit cocktail, albeit a dry and alcoholic one that’s freshened by smooth acidity and backdropped by sun-baked stones. A faint bitterness threads through the long finish. Not bad for an inexpensive Viognier – no one’s going to mistake it for a Condrieu – and pleasant enough to drink but not really memorable and not the bargain that the red is. Might well show better at the dining table than it does at the tasting table. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Bandol 2014, Domaine du Gros’Noré ($30.75, 12206989)
Despite what you’ll read on and on the Quebec agent’s website, this is a 70-30 blend of Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano) and Clairette from sustainably farmed vines averaging 30 years old. The must is macerated on the skins for 24 hours, then fermented at low temperatures with indigenous yeasts. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Unfiltered and unfined. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Shy nose of quartz, wet ash, earth and white flowers. The rich texture is balanced by a steady stream of underlying acidity. Somewhat neutral in flavour yet somehow savoury and mouth-filling. Stones and lemon pith haunt the long finish. While this will never be an exuberant wine, it is a baby at this point and, as a second bottle showed, it doesn’t stop evolving for hours after opening. Definitely a food wine: I thought sea bass with pesto might make a good match but that second bottle was transporting with the winemaker’s recommended pairing of grilled mussels with rosemary, my recipe for which you’ll find after the jump. (Buy again? Done!)

MWG October 8th tasting: flight 2 of 7

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Written by carswell

October 17, 2015 at 13:43

Rosé de Romanin

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Les Baux-de-Provence 2013, Château Romanin ($28.50, 11542041)
Biodynamically and organically farmed Grenache (47%), Syrah (29%), Counoise (18%) and Mourvèdre (6%) from vines between 18 and 57 years old. Manually harvested. The whole clusters are slowly pressed. The must is chilled to 10°C and allowed to clarify by settling before being racked into temperature-controlled (18-20°C) stainless steel tanks for alcoholic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation is blocked. Matured six months on the lees with regular stirring. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Farty at first but after 10 minutes or so an appealing, nuanced mix of red berries and peach, stones and herbes de Provence. The first sip reveals an elegant and balanced wine. The fruit is light but clear and sustained, backed by minerals, shifting from sweet-seeming to savoury as it moves through the mouth, textured by fine acidity and just a hint of tannins and, as the wine approaches room temperature, a touch of alcoholic heat. A thread of bitterness winds through the finish, while the unmistakable fragrance of strawberry lingers long after. A beautiful bottle and an excellent pairing for cedar-planked salmon topped before grilling with a paste made from orange and lemon zest, fresh Provençal herbs, olive oil and a smidgen of garlic. (Buy again? Imperatively.)

One of the best of this year’s crop of rosés at the SAQ, a wine that perfectly demonstrates that rosés have a raison d’être, that they are indeed a category unto themselves, one deserving of equal status with whites and reds. Carafe a half hour before serving. The long cork may indicate that its makers think it’s ageable; I wouldn’t hesitate to cellar it a year or two.

There’s quite a bit of this around (at least on Montreal island), so rumours of the good rosé season’s demise are slightly exaggerated. Other recommended rosés still widely available – possibly because many shoppers can’t bring themselves to spend upwards of $25 on a bottle of pink wine – include: Bandol 2013, Domaine de Souviou ($25.10, 12200798), Sierra Foothills 2013, Vin gris d’Amador, Terre Rouge ($25.40, 11629710), Patrimonio 2013, Domaine d’E Croce, Yves Leccia ($26.20, 11900821) and Corse Figari 2014, Clos Canarelli ($34.00, 11917666).

Written by carswell

August 3, 2015 at 18:30