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Posts Tagged ‘Quebec

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

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Props to Propolis

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Propolis, Saison multi-grains au miel, Brasserie Dunham ($7.99/750 ml at La Fromagerie Atwater)
Brewed from April through August. Ingredients: water, barley malt, wheat malts, oats, rye, hops, honey, spices, yeast. Unfiltered. Available only in 750 ml bottles. 5.2% ABV.
Hazy straw-gold. Abundant, creamy snow-white head. Fine effervescence with tiny bubbles. Complex nose: white flowers, crushed yellow fruit, wheat and oat with hints of lemon yogurt, honeycomb and spice. Light yet flavourful. The initial bready sweetness is quickly checked by a citric sourness and clean bitterness that last well into the finish and prompt another sip. The honey and spice are present as perfumes as much as flavours. Longer than many wines. Refreshing as befits a summer ale but far from facile. One of the best Quebec beers I’ve tasted in ages. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Written by carswell

July 10, 2013 at 23:47

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MWG December 14th tasting (3/4): Four Quebec reds

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Besides bubblies, the December tasting always includes a few off-the-beaten-track wines. This year, they came from Quebec.

Pinot Noir 2010, Venice, Vignoble Carone ($36.00, 11345258*†)
The winery is based in the Lanaudière region, about a hour’s drive north-northeast of Montreal. 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Landot Noir. Manually harvested. 12.5% ABV.
Oak, candied cherry, undergrowth, licorice, spice, faint vinyl. Medium-bodied and silky tannined with good acidity. Oak – in the form of sweet vanilla, coffee and smoke flavours – initially dominates the ripe fruit. Seemed better – by which I mean drier, less manipulated, more natural – on the finish than the entry. Not bad but not typical: no one around the table guessed it was a Pinot Noir. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Double Barrel 2009, Vignoble Carone ($55.00, 11506630†)
92% Cabernet Severnyi, 8% Sangiovese. Manually harvested as late as possible. Manually sorted, destemmed, crushed and given a 24-hour cold soak. Fermented in temperature-controlled tanks using Saccharomyces cerevisae yeast. Matured 12 months in new American oak barrels and four months In new French oak barrels. 14.5% ABV.
Tastes like it smells: ripe red and black fruit, some sweet spice and above all oak. Full-bodied, velvet-textured and richly extracted. Round tannins and sufficient acidity. Not heavy but also not refreshing. Showed oakier, sweeter and more monolithic than the bottle tasted in January 2012, possibly due to that bottle’s having been open for several hours and, with repeated pours, being well aerated. (Buy again? While I’d be curious to see what happens to this, arguably Quebec’s first ageable red, in five years or so, no.)

Solinou 2011, Les Pervenches ($15.00, La QV†, NLA)
Blend of Frontenac, Maréchal Foch and Zweigelt farmed biodynamically near Farnham, about an hour’s drive southeast of Montreal. Like many Beaujolais, made using carbonic maceration. 12.5% ABV.
Fresh, bright, juicy, tart and, unfortunately, corked.

Bin 33, Vignoble Carone ($18.50, 11004550*†)
100% Frontenac. Manually harvested. 13% ABV.
Nose of red fruit and, of course, sweet oak along with hints of mineral and turned earth. The flavour profile includes crushed strawberry and not much else. Guessing here but the acid levels seem low and the residual sugar levels, well, not so low. Sweet-tart finish. Little depth or charm. (Buy again? No.)

*Also sold at the Marché des Saveurs (Jean-Talon Market).
Also sold at the winery.

As usual, the wines were served double-blind. Initial guesses as to their place of origin ranged wide and were limited to warm-climate regions: Australia, Greece, California, Mexico, South Africa, etc. Some guessed the first two were Shirazes. As a group, the Carone wines came across as designed to impress, albeit not in ways we found appealing. They also seemed to lack a sense of place (unidentifiable expression of terroir, cool climate, grape variety), to be wines made in the winery more than in the vineyard. The model appears to be New World; that would explain the bin reference, the big fruit, the heavy oak regime and the “I can’t believe it’s not Syrah” Pinot Noir (like some from California’s Santa Rita Hills). Whatever you think of the style, the winery is to be applauded for marching to its own beat, for pushing the envelope: what other Quebec winemaker is producing reds from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese, wines that can be mistaken for Australian Shirazes? That its wines are antithetical to the MWG’s collective palate (as we’ve explained, “our tastes tend to Old World ‘natural’ wines”) and strike many of us as overpriced is irrelevant. Consumers will determine whether there’s a market for blockbuster Quebec reds or whether wines like Les Pervenches’s eminently quaffable Solinou are the way forward. My money’s on the latter.

Written by carswell

January 14, 2013 at 11:15

Double blind

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This evening the friendly wine advisors at my regular SAQ outlet were offering small, double blind tastes of a wine – the leftovers of a bottle they’d opened for a staff tasting earlier in the day – to geeks they thought might be interested. Apparently I fall into that category. With the glass came a series of questions: (1) Is it New World or Old? (2) What country is it from? (3) What grape varieties are involved? (4) How much does a bottle cost?

My tasting note (from memory): Dark, nearly opaque maroon. Nose of red and purple fruit, a little spice and a good dose of oak. Quite rich and round on the palate, though not heavy, with good acidity, ripe tannins, supple fruit and noticeable but not overwhelming oak. A bitter note appears on the longish finish.

I was at the store about ten minutes before closing and had wines to pick up for tomorrow’s tasting, so I didn’t have time for extended reflection. My answers: (1) Because it was fruit- and oak-driven but not gallumphing, either a New World wine made in an Old World style or an Old World wine made in a New World style. (2) Italy, maybe the Veneto, due to the medium weight and that lingering bitterness. (3) No idea. Merlot? Bonarda? (4) Guessing high because of the oak treatment, around $30. (The advisors said several others had guessed Italian and almost everyone had pegged it as costing $25 to $30.)

The wine? Double Barrel 2009, Carone Wines ($55.00, 11506630), a blend of Cabernet Severnyi (92%) and Sangiovese (8%) grown in Quebec’s Lanaudière region. The wine’s name refers to the oak regime: 12 months in new American oak barrels followed by four months in new French oak barrels. Cabernet Severnyi (aka Cabernet Severny) is a Russian-developed red grape variety that, according to The Oxford Companion to Wine, “was created by pollination of a hybrid of Galan × Vitis amurensis with a pollen mixture of other hybrid forms involving both the European vine species Vitis vinifera and the famously cold-hardy Mongolian vine species Vitis amurensis.” According to the wine’s data sheet, the grapes are manually harvested as late as possible, sorted and crushed, then cold-soaked for 24 hours. Fermentation is at controlled temperatures and uses Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast “isolated from the Montalcino region of Tuscany, Italy.” The fermented must is given prolonged maceration on the skins.

I’d actually noticed the wine on the shelf a few days earlier when scouring the outlet for wines for the tasting. I’d rolled my eyes at the massive bottle, the corny name (and in English – talk about adding insult to injury), the implied oak regime and the price, and guessed it would be undrinkable. Well, I was wrong. It’s still pretentiously and unecologically packaged, badly named and oakier than I like, but undrinkable it’s not. And if I and others valuated it at about half its MSRP, only the market will say whether it’s overpriced. Certainly it’s rare (only 1,000 bottles made) and unique (Quebec-grown Sangiovese?!). While I’d never buy a bottle for myself, if the theme of tomorrow’s tasting weren’t affordable wines, a bottle would probably have made its way into the lineup.

Written by carswell

January 11, 2012 at 22:48

Posted in Tasting notes

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