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Cider house jewels

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The most recent edition of the Salon des Quilles, the trade-focused wine expo held alongside the late October/early November Salon des vins d’importation privée, was filled with delights familiar and un-. In the latter category, the two stand-outs for me were unexpected: Switzerland’s Cidrerie du Vulcain and Vermont’s La Garagista. Fortunately, the Mo’ Wine Group was able to secure bottles from each estate for inclusion in a new arrivals tasting.

Run by 40-something Jacques Perritaz, Cidrerie du Vulcain (vulcain is the French name for the red admiral butterfly, which feeds on the juice of fallen apples) is located in Le Mouret, in the canton of Fribourg, Switzerland. While working as a freelance biologist specializing in the management and preservation of natural habitats and rare native plants, Perritaz decided to try his hand at cider-making, initially as a hobby. In his work, he had noticed old apple and pear trees in the fields of many dairy farmers. The trees, remnants of the once-thriving local cider industry, were trimmed à haute tige, with the lower branches removed, the better to protect the cows from the elements and prevent the beasts from eating the unfallen fruit. When asked, the farmers said they did nothing with the fruit and Perritaz was free to harvest it. He bought a small press and, in 2000, began making cider, his annual production eventually increasing to about 250 cases.

In 2006, while vacationing in Normandy, he encountered cider-maker extraordinaire Éric Bordelet, who took him under his wing. Perritaz soon invested in a larger facility and bottling line and went commercial. The fruit he uses come from around 200 trees, some of them leased. When I inquired whether he was planning to buy any trees, Perritaz said he would like to but land prices in Switzerland made that impossible, though he was open to acquiring land elsewhere, including in France or possibly even Quebec.

Most of the old Swiss varieties Perritaz uses are low in tannin, which makes natural clarification difficult. As a result, he is more interventionist in the cellar than he might otherwise be, adding an enzyme derived from natural mushroom extract (approved for organic uses) to encourage precipitation. All fermentations are with indigenous yeasts. However, as initial fermentation are over-vigorous, at the two-week point he lightly filters the fermenting juice through diatomaceous earth to “tire” and slow the yeast, thereby ensuring enough sugar remains for the second, in-bottle fermentation. The only other intervention is the addition of a small amount of sulphur dioxide at bottling.

The MWG’s late November new arrivals tasting began with three ciders, two from Cidrerie du Vulcain and one from La Garagista, which estate I’ll profile in the third instalment of this report.

Cidre demi-sec 2016, Transparente, Cidrerie du Vulcain ($19.66, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Made from a blend of Transparente de Croncels, Reinette de Champagne, Pomme Raisin and Rose de Berne apples. Usually demi-sec but can be sec, depending on the vintage. Added sulphur is limited to about 20 mg/l. 4.2% ABV. Quebec agent: Planvin.
Engaging nose of apple blossom and skins, “kind of like bottle caps candy” (quoting another taster). Off-dry and softly effervescent. The “juicy” yet ethereal – transparent? – fruit has a slightly bruised and browning quality. There’s just enough acidity is to brighten and freshen. A trickle of salt and white spice surfaces on the long finish. “Like being in an orchard.” Delightful now but I’m saving my other bottles for refreshment on hot summer days. (Buy again? Yes.)

Cidre 2016, Trois Pépins, Cidrerie du Vulcain ($24.81, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of apple, pear and quince in equal proportions. 5% ABV. Quebec agent: Planvin.
A nose more subdued, complex and savoury with a mastic note. “Ça me fait penser au boudin noir” notes one taster. In the mouth, it’s dry, minerally and not particularly fruity. Soft round bubbles and smooth acidity provide lift, a salty mineral underlay some depth. Ghostly tannins appear on the bitter-edged finished. Opens up with time in the glass. Layered and faceted enough to be absorbing on its own but also excellent with pre-meal nibbles and substantial and savoury enough to accompany raw or cooked white fish and shell fish and mild cheeses. Wow. (Buy again? A case or two at least.)

Cidre Mousseux Vintage No. 1, Bouleverser, La Garagista ($29.89, private import, 6 bottles/case)
This is a blend of 17 varieties of biodynamically farmed apples, mostly American heirloom varieties, grown on the estate, which is located in Bethel, Vermont. Most of the juice is from 2015 fruit, though some is from earlier vintages going back to 2010, in a kind of solera system. Both fermentations use indigenous yeasts. The sugar for the second, in-bottle fermentation was provided by the addition of 2015 juice. 7% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.
An initial odd note of vinyl and “new shoes” blows off, leaving a nose dominated by apples, though not to the exclusion of a whole set of savoury aromas including straw and fresh mushrooms. Dry and saline on the palate, electric with bubbles and acidity, complicated by a faint sourness and showing real depth of flavour. Finishes long and clean with a tang that virtually demands you take another sip. Less airy and alpine than the Vulcains, somehow closer to an ale or wine, this is stupendous. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Mo’ Wine Group November 23rd tasting: flight 1 of 6

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Petite Arvine × 3

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Valais 2013, Petite Arvine, Nobles Cépages, Charles Bonvin ($38.00, 11339915)
Bonvin is the oldest estate in the Valais region. This 100% Petite Arvine is manually harvested and gently pressed. Fermentation and maturation take place in stainless steel tanks, with regular stirring of the lees. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: AOC & Cie.
Limestone, citron, whiff of herbs (or maybe it’s the rumoured rhubarb compote). Medium-bodied. Light and clear, the fruit tends to citrus with stone fruit overtones. Grippy acidity and tons of minerals structure while a touch of residual sugar and faint spritz round and lift. Long, clean, appetizingly saline finish. Elegant and complex, tense yet balanced, the most interesting of the three. (Buy again? Yes.)

Valais 2013, Petite Arvine, Grand Métral, Provins ($34.75, 11194963)
Founded in 1930, the Provins cooperative is Switzerland’s largest wine producer and the Grand Métral is their upscale line of wines meant for consuming young. This 100% Petite Arvine is fermented in temperature-controlled tanks. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Sélections Fréchette.
Nose not unlike the Bonvin’s – lemon and quartz – though fruiter and displaying honey, floral and ramen-like umami notes. In the mouth, it’s rounder and richer, more glyceriney, though similarly possessed of high acidity that’s balanced by a little residual sugar and the fruit. Again, lots of minerals and a faintly saline finish. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Valais 2012, Petite Arvine, Valais d’Or, Maurice Gay ($33.50, 12319991)
No technical info on this wine that I could find other than that it’s 100% Petite Arvine. The grapes may come from the estate’s vineyards or they may be purchased. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: SAQ.
Rich nose of cantaloupe, sweat and candied lemon. Still rounder and denser yet also – surprisingly – more rainwatery. Less acidic too. The fruit occupies the centre stage, the minerals the background. Ends on a salted caramel note. More immediate than the Bonvin but with little of the latter’s tesnion, elegance or nuance. (Buy again? Probably not though several other tasters said they would.)

MWG March 12th tasting: flight 3 of 7.

Written by carswell

May 1, 2015 at 11:35

MWG July 18th tasting (1/5): Swiss quartet

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Valais 2011, Fendant de Sierre, Domaines Rouvinez ($19.95, 11598538)
100% Chasselas. Vinified in tanks. Matured on the fine lees. 12% ABV.
White flowers, flint, faint lemon. Light- to medium-bodied. Slight residual sugar and spritziness at first. Clean and bright if a bit hollow on the mid-palate. A fresh mint note scents the dry, bitter-edged finish. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Neuchâtel 2011, Auvernier, Domaine de Montmollin ($20.95, 00721233)
100% Chasselas from vineyards located near the village of Auvernier. No winemaking information found. 11.5% ABV.
Similar to the Fendant though showing some pear and a hint of ash. Dry and just a little spritzy. The pure fruit and bright acidity intertwine with bitter quartz on the finish. Simple but fresh and lovely. (Buy again? Yes.)

La Côte 2010, Doral, Expression, Uvavins-Cave de la Côte ($23.25, 11885609)
100% Doral, a relatively new cross between Chardonnay and Chasselas. Uvavins is a large growers’ cooperative. No winemaking information found. 12.9% ABV.
Slightly oxidized sour apple. Clean and rich with ripe fruit, just a hint of sugar, soft acidity, faint chalky minerals, a honeyed note and some hay and straw on the solid finish. (Buy again? Sure.)

Valais 2011, Petite Arvine, Château Lichten/Domaines Rouvinez ($34.75, 10867599)
100% Petite Arvine from 20-year-old vines. Vinified in tanks. Prevented from undergoing malolactic fermentation. Matured on the fine lees. 13.5% ABV.
Quartz, lemon, mountain air, faint apricot, rhubarb and apple. Smooth and rich on entry, with a winey, almost creamy texture. Somehow both present and ephemeral, the fruit is carried over smooth stones on a gurgling stream of acidity. A faint bitterness surfaces on the long, lightly sour and saline finish. Such poise and balance. Unique and delicious. (Buy again? Done!)

Written by carswell

August 4, 2013 at 14:41