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Posts Tagged ‘QPR winner

Unmissable Muscadet

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Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu 2015, Clos de la Butte, Éric Chevalier ($19.65, 12886831)
After spending a decade sourcing grapes for a négociant in the Tourraine, Éric Chevallier returned to his family estate, Domaine de l’Aujardière, in 2005. His father, a highly regarded grape grower, was set to retire. Éric took the helm somewhat reluctantly but soon found himself challenged and rewarded by the task. He began converting his 28 hectares of vineyards to organic in 2016. This bottling is 100% Melon de Bourgogne from 50-year-old vines planted in serpentinite, eclogite and quartz in the La Butte lieu-dit. The grapes are pneumatically pressed and the must transferred to glass-lined tanks. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured eight to 10 months on the lees with regular stirring. Unracked and unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Subtle, nuanced, complex nose: quartzy granite, sea beach sand, pear, faint lemon, straw and a hint of marzipan. Clean and unassertive on the attack. Super dry. Not a lot of fruit though plenty of extract and tons of minerals, all carried on a stream of fluent acidity. The flavours turn rainwatery on the mid-palate and swell on the finish: pear, wax and tangy salted butter, with a faint bitterness adding intrigue. More than just an outstanding here-now Muscadet, this is one of the best under-$20 whites currently available at the SAQ. Excellent as an aperitif but also with mollusks and white fish. I look forward to trying Chevalier’s Fié Gris and La Noë bottlings, both private imports.  (Buy again? A case.)

Written by carswell

December 7, 2017 at 13:25

Mainlining Assyrtiko

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Santorini 2013, Pure, Volcanic Slopes Vineyards ($45.50, 13109697)
Run as a separate operation, Volcanic Slopes Vineyards is a second label of sorts of Argyros Estate. It is the brainchild of Argyros’ winemaker and commercial director, Stefanos Georgas. The idea is to make as pure an expression of Santorini Assyrtiko as possible using a hands-off approach. This 2013 is the first vintage of what is, so far, its only cuvée. Assyrtiko (100%) from 80- to 150-year-old ungrafted vines in two parcels: one with pumice soil in Episkopi Gonias, the other with basalt soil in Megalochori. Manually harvested. Half of the must is free-run juice, the other half is juice from gently pressed whole clusters. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured 14 months on the lees with frequent stirring in a naturally temperature-controlled underground concrete tank in the old Argyros winery. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oneopole.
Multifaceted nose that prompts descriptors like lemon, quartz dust, “sour fuzzy peach,” “distant honey,” bay leaf and lingering apple. Imposing and enthralling from the first sip: a “decadent” yet austere amalgam of clementine and incredible minerality and salinity. The rich extract and electric acidity are in breathtaking balance. There’s great breadth, depth and length – every dimension, in fact. Pure is no exaggeration, no marketing gimmick. A stunning wine, “like mainlining Assyrtiko.” It will be fascinating to see how this evolves over the next three to five years and maybe beyond. Surely one of the great white wines of Europe and, as such, more than fairly priced. The 2013 is almost sold out. Tasted at the winery in July 2016, two days after it had been bottled, the 2014 seemed every bit its equal. (Buy again? Imperatively – even the group’s white wine skeptic felt compelled to run out and acquire a couple of bottles.)

Santorini 2016, Assyrtiko, Hatzidakis ($28.50, 11901171)
The estate’s entry-level bottling. Sadly, 2016 was Haridimos Hatzidakis’s last vintage. 100% Assyrtiko from organically farmed, ungrafted vines up to a century old in Pyrgos, Megalochori, Akrotiri and Vourvoulos. The manually harvested grapes were direct-pressed. The must was clarified by settling, then fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled (18°C) tanks. Stayed on the lees for 40 days. Matured in stainless steel tanks. Lightly filtered and dosed with sulphur dioxide before bottling. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oneopole.
Lemony, “ferny” nose with notes of “modelling clay,” peach and distant sea shore. In the mouth, the dense extract and unctuous texture are counterpointed by crystalline minerals, vibrant verging on trenchant acidity and a fundamental dryness. Fruitier (lemon and quince) than in some earlier vintages. The saline finish brings some dried herb notes. Not as deep, broad or long as the (older and much more expensive) Pure, though hardly lacking dimension. Almost too rich for an aperitif; probably best thought of as a food wine (to date, it has made a matchless match for spaghetti with leeks, olive oil, lemon juice and zest and bottarga and for oysters on the half shell). (Buy again? Multiples.)

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 4 of 7

Written by carswell

November 11, 2017 at 14:01

The best moment of the day is now

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Vermouth, Dry Red, Fontalia ($19.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A red vermouth from the Priorat region, south of Barcelona. Made by Cellers De Bellmunt Del Priorat. Flavoured with 38 botanicals and matured in oak barrels for eight months. 15% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.

Such a complex nose: dried and fresh fruit, spice (cinnamon, clove, pepper), citrus peel, incense, a hint of caramel and more. The flavours echo the nose. Surprisingly fleet and, while sweet, far from cloying due partly to the bright acidity. The spice-laden finish has an appealing bitter edge. Clearly appropriate for cocktails but good enough to sip on its own with a single ice cube and a twist of orange or lime (the label says tangerine or grapefruit). Infinitely preferable to Cinzano and not that much more expensive. (Buy again? For sure.)

WMG September 14th tasting: flight 9 of 9

Written by carswell

November 6, 2017 at 12:40

Toro solo

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Toro 2015, 4mil cepas, Cuatro Mil Cepas ($24.95, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in 2008 by 11 friends, the estate now comprises 7.5 hectares in three plots in the Toro DO. It also makes wine in the Sierra de Salamanca PDO. I’ve not succeeded in finding any information about this bottling, which is 100% Tinta de Toro (aka Tempranillo) and comes from sustainably farmed vines. It is probably fermented in stainless steel tanks and matured in barrels (likely a mix of American and Hungarian oak). 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.

Black and red fruit, old wood, graphite, sandalwood, Chambord, leafmould. Full-bodied. The flavour is a mix of ripe but not jammy fruit and a layer of spicy but unaggressive oak. Firm yet pliable tannins and sleek acidity confer a velour-like texture. Balanced, fluid, long. Young but delicious and delivering high QPR. If in the mood for an affordable, oak-inflected Toro, this will do just fine. (Buy again? Not really my style but if it’s yours, go for it.)

WMG September 14th tasting: flight 8 of 9

Written by carswell

November 5, 2017 at 09:33

A serious vin plaisir

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TN 2015, Tinto Natural, Partida Creus ($27.45, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of biodynamically farmed Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Garrut (aka Mourvèdre). Very little technical information to be found on this but André “Vinealis” Papineau describes Partida Creus as one of the most natural winemakers around, so manual harvesting, fermentation with indigenous yeasts, non-interventionist wine-making and no filtering, fining or added sulphur. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.

Red berries, slate, peppery spice and some background funk. Medium-bodied and quite dry, though, as André notes, there’s some “sucrosité” on the attack as well as a hint of carbon dioxide. In contrast to other red quaffers from, say, the Loire valley, there’s a solar quality to the fruit. Fresh acidity adds buoyancy while the fine, tight tannins turn a little raspy on the long finish. Built around a core of red cherry but as savoury as it is fruity: a serious vin plaisir as it were. Quite popular with the assembled masses. (Buy again? Yep.)

WMG September 14th tasting: flight 5 of 9

Written by carswell

November 1, 2017 at 12:38

Natural Catalans

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BN 2015, Blanco Natural, Partida Creus ($27.45, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A skin-contact white made from biodynamically farmed Macabeo (90%) and Cartoixa Vermell (10%). Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Bronze to the eye. Engaging nose of hayloft, dried white fruit, sawed wood, apricot skin and lees. Smooth and buoyant on the attack. Layers of flavour, only one or two of which are fruit. Broad and long though not remarkably deep. A light tannic astringency adds some structure to the finish. So savoury. A very good orange wine at a very good price. (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes Catalanes 2015, L’Année blanc, Les Clos Perdus ($26.85, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Macabeu (aka Macabeo, 65%), Grenache Gris (30%) and Muscat (5%) from biodynamically farmed grapes. Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured in stainless steel and barrels. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Sulphur use is minimal. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Delicious nose. Blast of minerals, especially granite (“presque pétrole” notes André), along with orchard fruit (yellow apple in particular), a hint of funk and eventually “honey” and white meat notes. The ripe fruit and dense, almost oily texture come with compensating acidity. Finishes long and strong with a mix of spice and minerals. A serious, savoury wine that delivers considerable bang for the buck. (Buy again? Yes.)

Wein wine

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Vinealis was the featured agency at the Mo’ Wine Group’s early September tasting, which was led by the agency’s founder and head honcho, André Papineau. Despite the fact that I’ve known André for longer than about anyone else in the Quebec wine importing business (we first met when he was a sommelier at Montreal’s Laloux restaurant), this was his first visit to the group. I suspect it won’t be his last. We began with a wine from the outskirts of Vienna.

Wein 2016, Riesling, Wieninger ($28.15, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from biodynamically farmed vines rooted in loess and limestone. The grapes are manually harvested and macerated on the skins for five hours. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured on the fine lees. Residual sugar 1.2 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.

Beautiful nose: apple, peach, chalky minerals, white flowers, crushed leaves and, per another taster, “passion fruit.” Pure, dry and grippy (due not to tannins, of course, but rather to the bracing acidity and high mineral content), filled with ripe yet austere fruit. Impressive dimensionality for a wine at this price point, including a long, stony finish. (Buy again? Done!)

WMG September 14th tasting: flight 1 of 9

Written by carswell

October 24, 2017 at 12:27

Champagne naturally

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Champagne, Fidèle, Vouette et Sorbée ($87.47, private import, 6 bottles/case)
This is nearly all 2014 except for a dollop (about 5%) of reserve wine from a solera-type system started in 2001. A blanc de noirs: 100% Pinot Noir from 30-year-old biodynamically farmed vines from several parcels but all rooted in Kimmeridgian marl. The manually harvested grapes are gently pressed. The free-run juice is transferred to 400-litre oak casks for fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Indigenous yeasts are used for primary and secondary fermentation. Matured 10 months in used Meursault barrels. The bottled wine is aged on its lees on lattes and riddled on racks for around 15 months. No dosage. Sulphur dioxide is added to the incoming grapes but not at bottling. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
A white wine but with a rosé cast. Intriguing nose of distant strawberry, fired minerals and “garlic brioche.” Fine, non-aggressive bubbles, pure fruit, silky acidity and an unmissable mineral depth. Long flavourful finish with lingering rhubarb crème brûlée. Absolutely not an aperitif wine, rather one to open ahead of time, maybe even carafe, and drink with food. (Buy again? Yes.)

Champagne, Extra Brut, Blanc d’Argile, Vouette et Sorbée ($114.58, private import, 3 bottles/case)
A blanc de blancs: 100% Chardonnay from biodyanmically farmed vines planted in 2000 in a single plot. The vines – massale cuttings from Jacques Sélosse and Vincent Dauvissat – were planted “wild” (directly in the unprepared clay and Kimmeridgian limestone soil). Manually harvested. Fermented and sparkled with indigenous yeasts. The still wine is matured 18 months on the lees in oak casks. Undosed. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Dried apple, yeast, icing sugar and a faint, nougaty oxidative note. Fine, caressing bubbles. Smooth, caressing acidity. Browning apple upfront, apple Danish and salty seashells on finish. Still a baby. Clean, tonic and bracing, this cuvée lives up to its reputation of being a Chablis with bubbles. As a group, champagne is arguably the most overpriced wine in the world; that said, this delivers exceptional if relative QPR. (Buy again? Yes.)

The first time I tasted them, Vouette et Sorbée’s champagnes did not impress. Subsequent encounters, which have mostly involved bottles laid down a few years, have been much more positive and I now rank the house among my favourite producers.

MWG August 11th tasting: flight 9 of 9

Irrepressible

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Moonlighting from his daytime gig at Rézin, the irrepressible Steve Beauséjour returned to the Mo’ Wine Group in August to lead another of his sui generis wine and food tastings. It goes without saying that the assembled masses enjoyed themselves. Our tastings start at 7 p.m. and normally end between 9:30 and 10; this one finished after midnight.

While the wines weren’t really served in flights, I’ve organized them that way for reporting purposes.

Québec 2016, Seyval-Chardo, Nature SSA, Les Pervenches (ca. $19)
A private bottling of the estate’s regular Seyval-Chardonnay blend. The wine went directly from the barrel into the bottle, with no filtering, fining or added sulphur. While I don’t have the exact proportions of the grape varieties, they’re normally 80% Seyval Blanc and 20% Chardonnay from biodynamically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Matured in neutral French oak barrels. 11.7% ABV. While this bottling was never retailed, the estate’s other wines are (though they usually sell out a few weeks after their release) at the winery, at a few area food stores specializing in local products (e.g. Dans la côte, Fromagerie Hamel) and through the Quebec agent, La QV.

Clean nose of lemon, chalk and mowed fields. Fresh and pristine in the mouth. Medium-bodied. The pure fruit lends some sweetness that’s immediately checked by the incisive – not harsh – acidity and dancing minerality. Gains breadth and depth as it breathes. Finishes clean, fresh and long. A bracing, super-drinkable and, yes, irrepressible wine with “lots of energy” (quoting another taster). I’d buy a case if I could. (Buy again? Please!)

MWG August 11th tasting: flight 1 of 9

Written by carswell

October 6, 2017 at 13:15

Bargain Branco

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Dão 2016, Indigena, Adega de Penalva ($11.25, 12728904)
A blend of Encruzado (40%), Cerceal Branco (30%) and Malvasia Fina (30%) from vines rooted in sandy soil over schist and granite. Farming is sustainable converting to organic. Manually harvested. The more aromatic varieties are macerated overnight. After pressing, the juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled early in the year following the vintage. Reducing sugar: <1.2 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Wafting, aromatic nose of pear compote, white spice, white flowers, chalk and a little sap. In the mouth, it’s unctuous but not heavy, redolent of white orchard fruit, white grape juice and eventually citrus. At first you wonder whether the wine isn’t too soft but as it breathes and your palate adjusts, the unaggressive acidity and thin vein of quartzy minerals form a definite if pliant backbone. A thin thread of bitterness runs throughout and is joined by a faint honey note on the dry finish. Gains presence as it warms from fridge temperature, so don’t serve it too cold. The price is unbelievably low for a wine of this quality and character. Some might enjoy this as an aperitif, though I tend to like a sharper white in that role. Seems like a natural for simply prepared cod or soft Portuguese cheeses. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

September 23, 2017 at 12:14