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Posts Tagged ‘Quebec

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

All’s well that gins well

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Gin Sauvage, Cirka ($46.50, private import, 3 bottles/case)
Made in Montreal from non-GMO Quebec-grown corn and more than 30 boreal forest botanicals. A pot still and custom botanicals basket are used. 44% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Nose dominated by the expected juniper and coriander aromas but faceted by a complex of floral, herbaceous, spice and fruit notes. Smooth and silky, mouth-filling and long, with little alcoholic burn even when drunk neat at room temperature. Subtle, elegant and involving. Just lovely. (Buy again? Done!)

Cirka’s Terroir vodka ($43.50, 13012414) is available online via

MWG July 15th tasting: flight 8 of 8

Written by carswell

September 1, 2016 at 11:24

Fluid and energetic, juicy and tart

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Quebec 2015, Pinot Noir, Les Pervenches
100% Pinot Noir from biodynamically farmed, estate-grown wines. The grapes were destemmed, crushed, macerated several days and fermented with indigenous yeasts. The wine was  transferred to plastic vats for eight or nine months’ maturation, then siphoned into bottles without filtering, fining or adding sulphur. Ours was one of only 12 bottles made. The rest of the wine was used in the estate’s ultra-chuggable Zweigelt-Pinot Noir blend. 11.5% ABV.
Complex if not effusively Pinot Noirish nose: “cinq épices” (quoting another taster), lees, “raspberry vinegar,” thread of green, “dried mushroom,” cedar. Fluid and energetic, a light-bodied mouthful of ethereal raspberry and rhubarb fruit, delicate but raspy tannins, electric acidity and a mineral backbone that last well into the nicely sustained finish. Pure, refreshing and tonic. Once again, Les Prevenches proves that authentic and delicious vinifera wines can be made in Quebec. (Buy again? If only…)

Cheverny 2015, Domaine du Moulin/Hervé Villemade ($26.46, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Pinot Noir (60%) and Gamay (40%) from organically farmed vines averaging between eight and 37 years old and rooted in sandy clay with flint. Manually harvested. Macerated on the skins for 15 days. Whole-cluster fermentation is with indigenous yeasts and no chaptalization. Matured in wood vats. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Cherry and raspberry upfront, ink and slate in the background with cedar and spice overtones. In the mouth, it’s on the lighter side of medium-bodied. Juicy and tart, it flows like a stream over smooth stones. A faint astringency textures the clean finish. Another dangerously drinkable wine and a delight with Boucherie Lawrence’s headcheese terrine. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

MWG July 15th tasting: flight 3 of 8

Written by carswell

August 16, 2016 at 12:27

Thinking globally, drinking locally

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The MWG’s early March tasting was led by the irrepressible Steve Beauséjour, who daylights as a sales rep of Rézin. To say he outdid himself would be an understatement.

We got things rolling with a stupendous dry white served double-blind from a labelless bottle.

The bouquet is a kaleidoscope of seashells, citrus, oats, limestone, bread, a hint of nuts and more. On the palate, it’s a mouth-watering mix of saline minerals, restrained fruit and trenchant acidity, dazzlingly pure and so dry, especially on the long finish. As bracing and engaging a white as I’ve encountered in a coon’s age.

I happened to be sitting next to two French expats, both of them Loire lovers, and all three of us had the same initial reaction: a faintly oxidized Chenin Blanc from a top Loire producer. As we spent more time with the wine and listened to Steve, doubts began to creep in. “Un chablis peut-être,” hazarded one of the français. Other tasters guessed the Jura, Italy, Austria and South Africa. All were shot down.

“Maybe it’s from Laval,” quipped a taster, throwing up his hands. (Île Jésus’s improbable Château Taillefer-Lafon has become something of a meme for the group.)

“You’re getting warm,” said Steve to the astonishment of everyone.

The wine? A special bottling of Québec 2014, Chardonnay, Les Rosiers, Les Pervenches, the regular bottling of which retailed for $25 during the few weeks it was available. This 100% Chardonnay is made from fruit from organically and biodynamically farmed vines grown near Farnham. The grapes are manually harvested and sorted, vinified naturally (indigenous yeasts, no additives, minimal intervention) and matured in casks. The 24 bottles of this special bottling were filled with wine drawn directly from the cask after one year’s maturation. In contrast to the regular cuvée, the wine is unfined, unfiltered and unsulphured.

If I’ve tasted a better Canadian Chardonnay, I don’t recall it. Truly world-class.

MWG March 12th tasting: flight 1 of 7

Two sweet meads

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Hydromel, Cuvée de la Diable, Ferme Apicole Desrochers ($19.95/375 ml, 10291008)
An off-dry mead made near Mont-Laurier in the Upper Laurentians from a selection of organic honey (spring, fall and buckwheat) and aged in oak casks for three years. The raw honey is mixed with water. The resulting honey water is decanted to eliminate impurities and transferred into stainless steel tanks for fermentation at ambient temperature for three to six weeks. Fermentation is stopped naturally by the alcohol and winter cold. The mead is then matured on the lees for six to 12 months before being transferred to oak casks for two and a half to five years’ aging. Selected casks are blended and bottled. Residual sugar: 80 g /l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV. The product is named after the nearby Diable River, la [rivière du] Diable in French (if it were named after the devil, it would be Cuvée du diable).
Complex nose of flowers, caramelized white fruit, honey, dusty beeswax, a touch of vanilla and more than a hint of cheese. Smooth, even buttery texture. Not particularly sweet. Possessed of a certain heft but far from heavy, thanks in no small part to the sustained acidity. Long finish with citrus and nougat notes. (Buy again? Sure.)

Hydromel, Or d’âge, Ferme Apicole Desrochers ($76.75, 12644145)
To make this sweet honey wine, the best barrels of the Cuvée de la Diable are given extended aging (between eight and 18 years) under a flor-like veil in oak casks that are not topped up. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: > 60 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Astoundingly complex nose of dried honey, spice (especially cinnamon), dried flowers, aged pine, faint nuts and more. In the mouth, it’s semi-sweet, spicy and ultra-refined, infinitely more layered than the Cuvée de la Diable, with great balance between extract and acidity. The complex flavours are dominated by caramel and dried pear. An intriguing bitter thread emerges on the mid-palate and wends its way through the long, dry finish. Unique, disorienting, fascinating and ultimately convincing. Excellent with blue cheese. (Buy again? Definitely.)

As usual at MWG tastings, the wines were served double-blind and it was interesting to see people’s reactions to this flight unlike any other. Within seconds of taking their first sniff of the Cuvée de la Diable, two of the more critical tasters declared it to be a mead and did so with a frown on their faces. Their initial reaction on tasting the wine was hardly more positive. Other tasters were less vocal, uncertain what to make of it. The grumbling died down as more time was spent with the mead and turned positive, even enthusiastic, as people moved on to the Or d’âge and tasted both meads with cheese. In the end, the consensus was that, while both were impressive, the Or d’âge was exceptional, a world-class if unusual product and the solution to the sticky problem of what made-in-Quebec gift to take when visiting out-of-province wine lovers.

MWG November 12th tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

January 13, 2016 at 10:31

Three lighter reds

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Württemburg 2014, Trollinger, Without All, Weingut Knauss ($28.00, private import, NLA)
100% Trollinger from organically farmed though uncertified vines. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. No added anything, whence the “without all.” Unfiltered and unfined. 9.5% ABV. Screwcapped. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
A bit spritzy and reduced at first, then sour berries, slate and developing clay and animale notes. Light and fluid on the palate. Airframe tannins and bright acidity provide some structure and faint minerals some depth but this is mainly about the pure fruit. Lip-smacking, sweet and sour finish. Light-bodied almost to the point of lacking substance and yet refreshing and ultra-drinkable, this ethereal wine was a hit with several around the table, despite its high price. (Buy again? Gladly.)

Côtes du Forez 2014, La Volcanique, Cave Verdier-Logel ($21.80, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Based in Marcilly-le-Châtel, the certified organic 17-hectare estate grows Gamay and a little Pinot Gris and Viognier. This cuvée is 100% Gamay from old vines rooted in basalt soil. Manually harvested. Macerated 21 days at around 20°C. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Lightly filtered (earth filters) before bottling. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Sappy in the way of a good Beaujolais, though the red berries are a little candied and shot through with some greenness. Supple and tasty. Juicy fruit and sustained acidity play against a schisty backdrop while the tannins turn a little bitey on the sustained finish. Finely balanced yet appealingly rustic. To my surprise, this didn’t create the same sensation that the 2013 did (different contexts?). (Buy again? Yes.)

Quebec 2012, Pinot Noir Réserve, Domaine les Brome ($26.00, 12685879)
100% Pinot Noir according to the winery’s website ( says the wine contains 7% Maréchal Foch). Macerated and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Matured 12 months in oak barrels. Reducing sugar: 1.9%. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Univins.
A nose that tasters described as “electrical fire,” “cordite” and simply “weird.” Reactions to the taste were similar, “copper penny” being the one I noted. The not very pinot-ish fruit is brightened by good acidity but deflated by saggy tannins and muddied by extraneous flavours. Odd-tasting finish. I’m hoping ours was an off bottle. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

This flight was built around the Trollinger and the other two wines were chosen in the hope that they might be close to its light body. Neither was. In fact, I’ve encountered only one wine recently that is: Domaine de la Pinte’s 2012 Arbois “Poulsard de l’ami Karl,” which we tasted back in October.

MWG November 12th tasting: flight 4 of 6

Hip hops

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Three India pale ales (IPAs) from one of Quebec’s most interesting mircobreweries.

IPA Anglaise, Brasserie Dunham ($3.99, 341 ml/12 oz.)
5.0% ABV.
Hazy tawny bronze with a frothy, off-white head, a mix of small and medium bubbles that are slow to disappear. The malty, hoppy nose shows some fruity esters. In the mouth, it’s very dry and so mildly effervescent it may surprise you. Smooth and malty on entry with dried apricot and citrus peel overtones that transition to faint butterscotch. Endless, intensely – though not harshly – hoppy finish. (Buy again? Sure.)

Imperial India, Brasserie Dunham ($3.99, 341 ml/12 oz.)
An imperial IPA. Dry-hopped with Amarillo (USA) and Nelson Sauvin (New Zealand). 8.6% ABV.
Hazy deep amber. A mostly fine-bubbled head slowly shrinks to a thin, persistent cap, leaving quite a bit of lace on the wall of the glass. Markedly estery nose of spice (cardamom), citrus (dried orange peel) and resin (spruce). A sip and it’s softly effervescent. Dry, rich and malty on the attack. Hints of papaya fruit leather and sweet spice fade as an intense, hoppy bitterness crescendos and lingers through the long, citrus-oiled finish. Not for the faint-hearted. (Buy again? When in the mood for an ale to contend with, yes.)

Black IPA, Brasserie Dunham ($3.99, 341 ml/12 oz.)
Centennial and Chinook hops, Harris Otter and crystal malts. 5.7% ABV.
Fine cappuccino-foam head and a stoutish nose of toasted grain, chocolate-covered raisins and espresso beans. Gently effervescent once again. Mildly flavoured and malty-sweet up front though the hops soon kick in, intensifying after you swallow, the bitterness lingering for minutes and eventually joined by a faint burnt Earl Gray tea note. Despite the dark colour − near black with a ruddy cast − more an IPA than a stout. Personality disorder aside, it’s a certifiably great sipper. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

I’ve long thought of myself as a hop lover but I’m not sure what to make of the recent trend at local microbreweries to produce super hoppy beers. While they definitely have character, they frequently taste unbalanced, out of whack, hops-dominated, bitter to a fault. Fortunately, that’s not the case here: all three IPAs have lots of malty sweetness and richness to counter the remarkably heavy hopping. That said, I still have a minor issue with them. Tastings aside, I usually don’t drink unless I’m eating and these beers’ full-bore bitterness is not food-friendly. What, other than a hunk of cheese, goes with them? Certainly not dishes that make you thirsty, for these are beers for sipping more than guzzling. Certainly not Indian or Mexican or other spicy food because the beers’ many positive qualities don’t include refreshment. Or maybe my palate’s not macho enough…

Written by carswell

March 28, 2014 at 20:42

Posted in Tasting notes

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