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Posts Tagged ‘Rhône

In vino Valréas

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Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Valréas 2011, Clos Bellane ($21.35, 12577085)
The 48-hectare estate, which used to be known as Clos Petite Bellane, was acquired in 2010 by Stéphane Vedeau. It is located on the Vinsobres plateau, southwest of Valréas in the Vaucluse. Vedeau claims the relatively high elevation (400 m), northerly situation and eastern exposure give Clos Bellane’s wines a freshness and balance unusual for the area. The farming is organic (the estate has applied for Ecocert certification) and the winery is gravity-fed. The grapes for this 50-50 blend of Grenache and Syrah were picked by hand and destemmed. Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine was matured in concrete tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Dark fruit and cherries along with some dried pine needles and a floral note. Balanced and silky textured in the mouth. Medium- to full-bodied, with smooth tannins and glowing acidity. The pure fruit brings blackberries to mind, while savoury overtones, including a hint of animale, add complexity. Slatey minerals come out on the bitter-edged finish and the alcohol is warming, not hot. The overall impression is indeed one of freshness. An honest wine sold at an honest price. Very food-friendly. Carafe an hour or two ahead of time and don’t serve it too warm. (Buy again? Yep.)

Written by carswell

November 5, 2015 at 16:11

The SAQ does natural wines – part 2

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The Barbera d’Asti 2008, Terra del Noce, Trinchero ($24.50, 12517710) has considerable initial appeal, provided you’re not bothered by the whiff of volatile acidity. The vibrant attack, pure fruit, upfront cherry and slate flavours, bright acidity and light rustic tannins are typical of the grape and appellation. Too bad, then, that the wine falls short on the finish. Buy again? Twenty-five bucks for a dead-ender? Probably not.

Having enjoyed other wines from the winemaker in his Domaine la Fourmente guise, we had high hopes for the Côtes du Rhône Villages Visan 2012, Native, Rémi Pouizin ($19.90, 12517832). How disappointing then to report it has as many cons as pros. Burned rubber and barnyard cancel out the otherwise attractive nose of raspberry jam, black tea leaves and black pepper. And though I don’t quite agree with one taster’s dismissal (“blackberry yogurt with tannins”), the lean, way peppery fruit is dominated by a parching dryness and tannic astringency while a metallic edge and flaring alcohol do no favours to the finish. Improves – turns sweeter and fruitier – after a couple of hours but not enough to dispel the impression that this is a textbook example of why I sometimes find Grenache hard to love. Buy again? Probably not.

A cipher when opened, especially on the nose, the Corbières 2012, L’Enclos, Domaine des Deux Ânes ($24.70, 12518000) doesn’t really come around until an hour later, at which point it shows itself to be the richest and roundest wine of the six, an agreeably earthy mouthful of red and black fruit, dried herbs and spice with a mineral underlay. The plush tannins and soft acidity have just enough presence while the finish provides a warm-and-fuzzy send-off. Not a throat-grabber by any means but easy to drink. Buy again? Sure, though not without wishing the price was closer to $20.

SAQ natural wines tasting: post 2 of 3.

Written by carswell

May 27, 2015 at 15:22

MWG January 8th tasting: A pair of Cab-based blends from Provence

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IGP Principauté d’Orange 2012, Daumen ($17.90, 12244547)
For background on the estate, see here. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Grenache (30%), Merlot (15%), Syrah (15%) and Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre (5%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines in Daumen’s own vineyards in the Méreuilles and Clavin lieux-dits. The Syrah vines are 20 years old, the others 40 to 60 years old. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled vats. Matured about 12 months, half in lined concrete vats and half in 50-hectolitre oak foudres. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and with only a little added sulphur. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Expressive nose: red and black fruit and jam, incense, spice chest and hints of green pepper and violet. Full-bodied but fresh and fluid. The ripe fruit and dark minerals are structured by glowing acidity and firm, round tannins that come to the fore on the long, warm, black pepper-scented finish. Pure, balanced, even elegant. Outstanding QPR. (Buy again? Done!)

VDP du Var 2010, Les Auréliens, Domaine de Triennes ($20.60, 00892521)
Founded in 1989, the estate is a joint project of Jacques Seysses (Domaine Dujac), Aubert de Villaine (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) and a Paris-based friend. Les Auréliens red is a 50-50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from organically farmed vines. Vinified on a lot-by-lot basis. Fermentation and maceration last 12 to 25 days for most lots and up to 35 days for exceptional lots, with the Cab receiving daily pump-overs and the Syrah getting daily punch-downs. Matured 12 months in used oak barrels sourced from Domaine Dujac. Lightly fined but unfiltered. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Séguin & Robillard.
Plum, raspberry and cassis with whiffs of herbes de Provence, leather and aged red meat. An appealingly round middleweight in the mouth, less dense and structured than the Daumen but far from flaccid. The tannins are supple, the acidity lambent. Transitions from ripe-sweet and fruity to dry and savoury on the long finish. Very enjoyable. (Buy again? Yes.)

(Flight: 5/8)

Written by carswell

February 1, 2015 at 14:36

Bordel de Noël workshop (4/6)

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IGT Terre Siciliane 2013, SP68, Arianna Occhipinti ($55.75/1.5 L, 12429470)
A 50-50 blend of organically farmed Nero d’Avola and Frappato from vines averaging 11 years old. Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and macerated 30 days on the skins with daily pump-overs and punch-downs. Matured six months on the lees in tanks and two months in the bottle. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Bottled unfiltered, unfined and with minimal sulphur dioxide. 12.5% ABV. Also available in 750 ml bottles ($28.45, 11811765). Quebec agent: oenopole.
Delightful nose: candied rose petal, plum, cherry and basalt dust. A supple middleweight in the mouth. The ripe and juicy fruit – so not heavy or sweet – is framed by lacy tannins and tanged with a mineral sourness. The long finish shows some tannic astringency and exits on a white pepper and anise note. A shade lighter than the 2012 perhaps but, as ever, one of the most drinkable reds on the planet. One of the most food-friendly too, as demonstrated by its compatibility with all the foods on the plate. Along with the Canarelli rosé, my turkey dinner pick of the evening. (Buy again? Automatically.)

Côtes du Rhône 2012, Lieu-dit Clavin, Domaine de la Vieille Julienne ($28.75, 10919133)
Organically farmed Grenache (80%), Syrah (10%), Mourvèdre (5%) and Cinsault (5%). Manually harvested and partially destemmed. Temperature-controlled maceration and fermentation with indigenous yeasts lasted 20 days. Matured 12 months in 50-hectolitre foudres. Unfiltered and unfined. Sulphur was added – and then minimally – only just before bottling. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
A nose both exuberant and savoury: dusty plum, spice, turned earth, slate, dried herbs. Rich and dense with satiny, ripe, remarkably pure fruit. Tannic but not harshly so. Any sweetness is checked by the vibrant acidity. Bitter, earth and fired mineral flavours mark the long, full finish. Fundamentally dry and – that word again – savoury. Too intense for unadorned turkey and in no way synergistic with the Brussels sprouts, this really needs food that’s darker and more substantial: grilled lamb, say, or a beef daube. (Buy again? Absolutely, just not for Thanksgiving dinner.)

And that roasted turkey that even us turkey haters loved? Cooked using what some refer to as the blast-furnace method, which is nicely explained by chef Marek’s co-blogger here.

Written by carswell

January 14, 2015 at 15:12

MWG November 13th tasting: Confounding expectations

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I’d normally serve a Côtes du Rhône before a Châteauneuf but Cyril suggested otherwise. He was right to do so.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011, Les Vieilles Vignes, Domaine de Villeneuve ($59.00, 11884913)
A blend of Grenache (70%), Mourvèdre (16%), Syrah (8%), Cinsault (4%) and Clairette (2%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines up to 90 years old. The varieties are vinified separately. The grapes are manually harvested and gravity fed into the underground winery, where they are left whole, crushed and/or destemmed as the winemaker sees fit and transferred to ceramic-lined concrete vats (80 hl for fermentation, 60 hl for maturation). Maceration and fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) last 20 to 40 days depending on the variety. The cap is punched down and rack-and-return and pump-overs are used when deemed necessary. The must is then pressed with a pneumatic press; the press juice is separately matured and may be added to the free run juice at a later stage. Maturation on the lees lasts 18 to 20 months, with no more than 20% of the wine being matured in a mix of new to third-fill oak barrels. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Scents of raspberry, plum, Asian spice, cedar and graphite waft from the glass. In the mouth, it’s a middleweight with an almost Burgundian texture and fluidity though the savoury flavours – garrigue, black olives, sun-radiated fruit – are clearly Provençal. Bright acidity and lacy tannins add structure and lingering well into the long, perfumed finish. The alcohol is remarkably unapparent. The estate’s website says their goal is to make fine, delicate wines. Well, mission accomplished. This is one of the most civilized Châteauneufs I’ve tasted. Surprisingly accessible now, balanced enough to age for a decade, I’d guess. (Buy again? For a special meal, sure.)

Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Visan 2011, Grains sauvages, Domaine La Fourmente ($38.08, private import, 6 bottles/case)
In 2014, the estate changed its name and is now known as Domaine Dieulefit. This 100% Grenache comes from low-yielding, organically farmed vines between 45 and 70 years old. The grapes are manually harvested, given a long maceration, fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured on the lees, all in lined concrete tanks. No added sulphur. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV/Insolite.
Reductive nose (Brussels sprouts?!) gives way to dried plum and tamari with earthy dried herb and spice notes. Mouth-filling, dense and velvety. The rich, ripe fruit (red berries, pomegranate) has a peppery kick. Etching acidity and fine tannins provide sufficient structure, while dark minerals emerge on the bitter-edged, faintly flaring finish. A wine with lots of there there. (Buy again? Sure, though not without wishing it were $5 cheaper.)

(Flight: 8/9)

Written by carswell

December 3, 2014 at 10:56

Balanced bruisers

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Côtes du Rhône 2011, Domaine de Fontbonau ($37.00, 12280134)
Longtime friends Frédéric Engerer (president of Château Latour) and Jérôme Malet (owner of Domaine Sarda-Malet) joined forces in 2008 to acquire the Fontbonau estate, which is located about 15 km northwest of Nyons. The third vintage of this wine is an 80-20 blend of Grenache and Syrah from organically farmed 70- and 30-year-old vines respectively. Vinified on a parcel-by-parcel basis. After manual harvesting and sorting, the grapes are destemmed, cold-macerated and fermented with alternating pump-overs and manual punch-downs. The wine is transferred by gravity to a mix of new (10%) and old barrels and a few 600-litre demi-muids for 12 months’ maturation. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. 15% ABV per SAQ.com, 15.5% per the label. Quebec agent: SAQ.
Pleasing, warming nose: plum, sweet spice, whiffs of garrigue, a peppery note and a hint of leather. Rich but not heavy, extracted but not a bomb. Possessed of round tannins, fresh acidity and a certain dark-minerally depth. The long, spicy finish is marked by a fine astringency and vaporous alcohol. A surprisingly well-balanced bruiser that punches above its AOC weight. (Buy again? Not my style but those who appreciate heady Rhône reds needn’t hesitate.)

Opened at a BYOB (so no notes taken), the Côtes du Rhône Villages – Cairanne 2010, L’Ebrescade, Domaine Richaud ($50.00, 12205097) is a 40-30-30 Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blend of organically farmed grapes grown on vines between 20 and 50 years old that’s fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and matured in used barrels and bottled unfiltered and unfined with little or no added sulphur. The estate is represented in Quebec by Rézin. It had an entrancing bouquet of plum, fig, black cherry, fired minerals and violet. In the mouth, it proved a big wine with dense fruit, vigorous if fine-grained tannins, sturdy acidity and a long, heady finish. A monolith, it needs another five years or so to open up, though like the Fontbonau, it will always be a warmer (15% ABV), never a refresher. (Buy again? Not my style but those who appreciate heady Rhône reds needn’t hesitate.)

Written by carswell

September 12, 2014 at 14:35

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MWG July 17th tasting: Syrah shoot-out

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Syrah 2010, Okanagan Valley, Le Vieux Pin ($54.00, 12178674)
Mostly Syrah from vines between five and 11 years old grown in two Okanagan sub-appellations. As is often the case in Côte-Rôtie, a dollop (around 2%) of Viognier is added prior to fermentation. Matured 17 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les vins Alain Bélanger.
On the nose and in the mouth, predicated around a core of sweet fruit and overtoned with spice, meat, graphite and oak. The medium weight, lean tannins and sleek acidity prompted on taster to describe the wine as “linear,” with all that implies in terms of flow and depth. Elegant for a New World Syrah, though I’d like it even better with less oak. Still quite young at this point, so a few more years in the bottle may digest the wood and deepen the fruit. The New World aficionados around the table preferred this to the Côte-Rôtie. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Côte-Rôtie 2012, Nature, Jean-Michel Stephan ($72.75, 11953616)
Last year the “nature” on the label was blacked out with a magic marker; this year it isn’t. A blend of Syrah (90% or 80% depending on whom you believe) and Viognier (10% or 20%) from organically farmed vines between 15 and 45 years old. Half of the Syrah – a clone (some would say a separate variety) known locally as Sérine – underwent semi-carbonic maceration. The Viognier was macerated on the skins for 15 hours, then destemmed and pressed. Alcoholic fermentation (with regular pump-overs for the first two weeks) took place at 15°C for five days, then at 31°C until complete. Matured 18 months in Burgundy barrels ranging from two to six years old. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
An echt-Syrah nose of violets, black pepper, red berries, animale. Sits suppley on the palate yet is intensely present. The remarkably pure and fresh fresh fruit is supported by a framework of fine tannins, carried on unfurling skeins of silky acid and sustained well into the long, aromatic finish. Time in the cellar will surely reveal more depth but, for drinking here and now, this is a joy, albeit an expensive one. (Buy again? Budget permitting, yes.)

Written by carswell

August 27, 2014 at 10:46

MWG July 17th tasting: A rosé is a rosé is a rosé?

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Côtes du Rhône 2010, Rosé, Domaine Gourt de Mautens ($73.50, private import, NLA)
The inaugural vintage of this wine. A blend of co-planted organically and biodynamically farmed Grenache Noir, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Counoise from nearly century-old vines. Very low yields (10 to 15 hl/ha). Manually harvested. Sorted on picking and in the cellar. The grapes are pressed on arrival. The must is then co-fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured ten to 18 months in stainless steel tanks and neutral demi-muids. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. The winemaker says this is essentially a blanc de noirs and can be aged up to ten or 15 years. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Soft orange-pink. Impossibly complex nose that never stops evolving: grilled peach, red currant, blood orange, white pepper, quartz, garrigue, dried flowers, roast chicken, talc. In the mouth, a dry and savoury middleweight with sustained acidity and layer upon ethereal layer of fruit and flinty minerals. Structured and tense in the manner of a fine white. An orange wine-like hint of tannin textures the long finish. Delicious even when warm. The alcohol is totally unapparent. Phenomenal. (Buy again? If the price isn’t a barrier, yes.)

Written by carswell

August 10, 2014 at 12:28

MWG July 17th tasting: Marsanne shoot-out

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Saint-Joseph 2011, Les Granilites, M. Chapoutier ($39.25, 11873018)
100% Marsanne from organically framed vines. Manually harvested. The whole clusters are pressed, with the must going directly into vats, where it is chilled and clarified by settling for 48 hours. It is then racked into 600-litre fûts and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured ten months in fûts with stirring of the lees for the first two months. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vins Philippe Dandurand.
Complex nose: honey, white spices, wax, pear, lychee, minerals and a whiff of cheese. On the palate, it’s rich, dry and mouth-filling, weighty but balanced , possessed of a satiny texture. There’s a suggestion of spiced pear and peach though, as with its flightmate, the fruit flavours are elusive. Long and complete. If the wine has a downside, it’s that it’s not particularly refreshing. That said, it might prove the perfect accompaniment to a dish like scallops or langoustines in curry cream. (Buy again? If in the market for a 100% Marsanne, sure.)

Northern White 2011, Washington State, Rôtie Cellars ($33.00, 12115462)
100% Marsanne. Slow, cool (13°C) alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts. Malolactic fermentation is not completed. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. 13.9% ABV. Quebec agent: Insolite.
Inscrutable nose of minerals and ash. Middleweight and balanced but lean and not exactly characterful, the firm acidity notwithstanding. Flavours? Saline with hints of pear and white peach and a faint oxidized honey note. “A lot of surface but doesn’t stick around very long,” noted one taster. The tail-end – tellingly about a quarter of the bottle was left at the end of the tasting – had lost all personality the next day. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Written by carswell

August 1, 2014 at 18:04

Morel certainty

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Gigondas 2010, Pierre Henri Morel ($33.00, 11996157)
Grenache (60%), Syrah (30%) and Mourvèdre (10%). Fermented in concrete vats for three to four weeks, with daily pump-overs. Matured for 12 to 18 months, mostly in concrete vats but partly in 600-litre barrels. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Clos des vignes.
A nose more closed and subdued than the Signargues‘s, the blackberry and sour cherry wrapped in leather, garrigue and old oak. Bigger, sterner and more structured too, with grippier if fine tannins. The fruit is pure, focused and held in check by savoury and mineral flavours and sleek acidity, while the spice-scented finish lasts long. This has leg of lamb written all over it. Carafe an hour before serving at cool room temperature. In contrast to some overachiever Gigondases, not a blockbuster and all the better for it. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

July 13, 2014 at 10:30

Posted in Tasting notes

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