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Posts Tagged ‘Under 13 percent

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

Pairing Melon with Burgs

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Vin de France 2015, Melon, Domaine de la Cadette ($28.80, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Melon de Bourgogne (aka Muscadet) from organically farmed 25- to 30-year-old vines in the Bourgogne-Vézeley appellation (despite its name, the grape isn’t one of Burgundy’s permitted varieties, which explains the VDF designation). Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts, matured six months in stainless steel tanks and bottled unfined with only a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Lemon, chalk and the faintest hint of grass. Wonderfully clean, round and fresh. Fruitier than your average Muscadet. Less crystalline too, though with the grape’s trademark mineral substrate. Soft acidity gives it a glow. Straightforward, long and pure. “I like the lingering sourness,” notes one taster. Me too. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

Bourgogne-Vézelay 2015, La Châtelaine, Domaine de la Cadette ($29.35, 11094621)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed 25-year-old vines rooted in clay and limestone. Manually harvested. Gently pressed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured 14 months on the fine lees. Lightly filtered. Sees only stainless steel until bottlng. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Lemon, oats, quartz, white flowers – typical, wot? Clean and fresh but less overtly fruity than the Melon. More minerally though. The stuffing and bright acidity are well balanced, the finish long and clean. Even at this early point, one of the best vintages of this wine I’ve tasted, with the potential to improve over the short and medium term. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bourgogne-Vézelay 2015, La Piècette, Domaine de la Cadette ($31.25, 11589691)
100% Chardonnay from organically farmed 20- to 30-year-old vines in several parcels. The hand-picked whole clusters are gently pressed. The must is transferred to 228-litre barrels (called pièces) for six months’ alcoholic and malolactic fermentation (no added yeasts or bacteria). Matured 11 months on the lees. Lightly filtered. Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Initially reticent nose of butter and faint vanilla, opening to lemon and quartzy chalk. Rich but not happy. There’s bright acidity, entwined minerals and oak, a certain depth and, disconcertingly, a “weird sweetish taste” that lasts through the long finish and makes the wine taste not so much off as unsettled. A taster notes that a recently opened six-year-old bottle was “amazing,” supporting the impression that the 2015 is a wine that will benefit enormously from a few years in the cellar. (Buy again? A bottle or two to lay down.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

June 16, 2017 at 13:25

Hit and miss

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Crémant du Jura, Rosé, Domaine Désiré Petit ($24.00, 12399717)
100% Pinot Noir from vines averaging 20 years old and rooted in calcareous topsoil over red marl. Sparkled using the traditional method. Reducing sugar: 12 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Tannins.
Engaging nose dominated by cherry and almond. Softly effervescent. Dry. Fruity attack, savoury mid-palate. Lots of minerals. Crisp acidity adds cut and freshness. Spice and “pink grapefruit pith” mark the fair finish. Parabolic in that it got better as it breathed but then became a little one-note as it warmed. That said, this would make a fine starter at a backyard barbecue and you could keep going with it if you had some salmon on the grill. (Buy again? Sure.)

Crémant du Jura, Rosé, Domaine André et Mireille Tissot ($30.75, 13236670)
Pinot Noir (50%), Poulsard (25%) and Trousseau (25%) from biodynamically farmed vines around a quarter of a century old and rooted in clay and limestone. Half the grapes were direct pressed, the other half pressed after a short maceration. Fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks. Once malolactic fermentation was completed, the wine was bottled and sparkled using the traditional method. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
Yeasty/briochey nose of red berries, yellow plum and, a bit disconcertingly, “ketchup maison.” Very dry on the palate (I suspect this may be a zero dosage sparkler). Fine effervescence with bubbles one taster describes as “crunchy.” Minerals galore, peekaboo strawberry and soft but sufficient acidity. Sadly, all that takes a backseat to an overwhelming bitterness. Improved slightly with time in the glass, though never enough to win over a single taster. Tissot is one of our favourite Jura producers and this was the first Tissot rosé any of us had tasted, so the letdown was huge. Didn’t smell or taste like an off bottle. Just off the boat so maybe suffering from travel shock? (Buy again? Only to give it a second chance.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 1 of 6

Written by carswell

June 12, 2017 at 13:06

Beach wine

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Swartland 2015, Kedungu, Intellego ($27.82, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Owned and operated by Jurgen Gouws, Intellego Wines sources its grapes from its own vineyards and from growers with whom it works in close collaboration. All the fruit is certified organic and the wine-making is as close as possible to non-interventionist, small amounts of sulphur dioxide being the only additive. The wines are made in a small rented facility in the Paardeberg region. Named after a Bali beach where Gouws enjoyed himself surfing, the easy-drinking Kedungu is a 66-28-6 blend of Syrah (from vines planted in the 1980s) and Cinsault and Mourvèdre (from vines planted between 2000 and 2004). The varieties were separately whole-bunch fermented in closed tanks, with the Syrah spending 14 days on the skins and the other varieties about a week. The lots were then blended and directly pressed together into old French oak barrels for nine months’ maturation. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.

Plum, burnt sugar, “blond tobacco and butterscotch” on the nose. On the fuller side of medium-bodied but fundamentally fluid. Red and black fruit are the dominant flavours, though the wine is more terroir- than fruit-driven. Bright acidity lends a welcome sour edge, while the tannins are just firm enough. The finish is long and savoury. Wines like this and the Leeuwenkuil Cinsault are convincing me that South Africa and more specifically Swartland are worth keeping an eye on. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG April 21st tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

June 5, 2017 at 13:52

Red ends

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After working with the Les Vignerons d’Estézargues cooperative for several years, Édouard Laffitte, who had no background in farming, decided to set out on his own. Invited by Loïc Roure, then newly settled in the Roussillon, to share the wine-making facilities he had just acquired for his Domaine du Possible, Laffitte began searching for vines, specifically ones growing in north-facing, high-altitude vineyards, the better to make wines that were fresh and not excessively alcoholic. He eventually pieced together 7.7 hectares of parcels in the communes of Lansac (granitic sand), Rasiguères (shale) and Cassagnes (gneiss) to make the Domaine Le Bout du Monde, so named because visitors told him that getting there was like travelling to the end of the earth.

The farming is organic and the vineyards are worked manually. The wines are vinified by soil type with as little intervention as possible (indigenous yeasts, no filtering or fining, no additives). The estate currently makes five reds (Grenache, Carignan and Syrah alone and in blends) and one white (Roussane).

Côtes du Roussillon 2014, Tam-Tam, Domaine Le Bout du Monde ($29.30, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Syrah from vines rooted in slate. Vinified in tanks. Given three weeks’ carbonic maceration. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Nose: red fruit, spice, cedar, background earth, distant funk. Mouth: Dry, spicy, sawdusty. Lively acidity, supple tannins. Medium body, satiny texture. Pure, straightforward, fruity and enjoyable. (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes du Roussillon 2014, Hop’là, Domaine Le Bout du Monde ($32.25, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Grenache (40%), Syrah (40%) and Carignan (20%) from vines rooted in gneiss. Vinified in tanks. Given three weeks’ carbonic maceration. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Far more savoury nose: black raspberry, leafmould, slate and leather. Medium-bodied and fleet, with bright acidity, springy tannins, lively pure fruit. Clean finish. (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes du Roussillon 2014, La Luce, Domaine Le Bout du Monde ($43.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Grenache from 35-year-old vines rooted in gneiss. Vinified in tanks. Given four weeks’ carbonic maceration. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
The most complex of the three. Floral, licorice, plum cake, marzipan. Smooth and satiny. Layered berry fruit, wood and minerals. Fine complex tannic structure. Sleek acidity. Long finish with a vaporous note. Gorgeous. Delivers all of the upsides of Grenache and none of the downsides. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG April 21st tasting: flight 5 of 6

Natural born swillers

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Colli Trevigiani 2015, Rosso, Costadilà ($23.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Located in Valdobbiandene in the Veneto, Costadilà is best known as a producer of Prosecco. The small estate practices organic polycultural farming, uses only indigenous yeasts and never filters or adds sulphur. This is a blend of Refosco and Merlot. 10.5% ABV (!). Quebec agent: Glou.
Morello cherry, gingerbread, a hint of animale and notes described as “asparagus” and “old leather-bound photo albums.” Medium-bodied, fluid and fresh, full of ripe if tart fruit, brilliant acidity and supple tannins. Finishes long with a faint terminal rasp. Seems tailor-made for salume and stuffed pasta in red sauce. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

Umbria 2015, Il Rossodatavola, Collecapretta ($36.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Cantina Collecapretta is located about 20 km north-northwest of Spoleto. Of the estate’s eight hectares, only four are given over to vines, the remainder being planted with olive trees, farro and other ancient grains. In a good year, the wine production totals 8,000 bottles. Farming is organic. The grapes are manually harvested and fermented in open-top cement vats with no temperature control. The wines are matured in glass-lined cement vats and resin tanks before being bottled unfiltered and in accordance with the lunar cycle. No sulphur is added at any point in the process. This red table wine is mostly Sangiovese, maybe with a little Barbera, Merlot, Sagrantino and/or Ciliegiolo. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Initially reduced nose of barnyard and seaweed segues into red fruit, red meat and sandalwood. Medium- to full-bodied. Spicy cherry hard candies and a touch of green. Extract, bright acidity and medium tannins are well balanced. A bit bitey on the long finish. Intense, authentic and appealingly rustic. (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG April 21st tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

May 31, 2017 at 12:14

Red bubble

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Vin de France 2015, La Bulle Rouge, Les Capriades ($35.25, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Based in the Loire Valley’s Touraine region, Les Capriades founder and co-owner, Pascal Potaire, is considered the king of pet nats (short for pétillants naturels, natural sparkling wines produced using the ancestral method). This red example is a blend of juice from three varieties of organically farmed red-fleshed GamayGamay de Bouze, Gamay de Chaudenay and Gamay Fréaux – explaining the cuvée’s former name, BCF. 11% ABV and I’m guessing somewhere around 10 g/l of residual sugar. Quebec agent: Glou.

Medium red with scarlet glints and fast-disappearing shocking pink foam. The nose is a swirl of raspberry vinegar, burnt hair, burnt sugar, lipstick, chocolate, pink blossoms and spice. A sip reveals a soft-sparkled wine that’s fresh, fruity and definitely not dry. Sleek acidity, a mineral underlay and a lingering bitterness counteract the sweetness to some degree. “Raspberry freezee” concludes one taster. A tad richer than but otherwise not dissimilar to a Bugey-Cerdon, which can be had for about $12 less. (Buy again? Maybe.)

MWG April 21st tasting: flight 3 of 6