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Posts Tagged ‘Under 13 percent

Cava brava

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Cava 2013, Brut Nature Gran Reserva, Terriers, Recaredo ($39.75, 13319715)
A gift from Cyril in honour of the Mo’ Wine Group’s revival. Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada (reportedly 59%, 42% and 4% respectively) from biodyanmically farmed vines rooted in highly calcareous, loamy soil. Whole-cluster fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Around 10% of the blend was aged in oak casks. Bottled with neutral Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast for second fermentation and matured 53 months on the lees. Reducing sugar: <1.2 g/l. Quebec agent: La QV.

The dense white foam disappears fast leaving a fine bead. Lemon, stone fruit, crushed shells and a whiff of yeasty brioche dominate the nose. In the mouth, the wine is bone-dry, minerally, tight, even a little austere. There’s a certain heft though the tiny bubbles and sleek acidity provide plenty of lift and life. A hint of oxidation tinges the citrus and yellow apple fruit on the long, savoury finish. Absolutely impeccable cava, unfazed by coming after a flight of orange wines and sending us off with revived palates and renewed energy. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG March 20th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

April 29, 2019 at 11:45

Skin or not

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Kakheti 2016, Chinuri No Skin, Pheasant’s Tears ($43.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Chinuri. Direct pressed (no maceration) but still made in large beeswax-lined qvevri sunk into the ground. Spontaneous fermentation. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Subtle nose: white fruit (pear?), quartz, a faint floral note. Medium-bodied. Very dry though fruity enough that that’s not immediately apparent. Smooth on entry, then the tingly acidity kicks in. The fruit is more citrus than, say, stone and the sustained finish is mineral-laden. Clean, crisp, refreshing and more complex than it initially seems. Cyril, who visited Georgia recently, says this wine is magnificent after 10 years or longer in the bottle. (Buy again? Def.)

Kakheti 2017, Rkatsiteli Bodbiskhevi, Pheasant’s Tears ($39.55, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Rkatsiteli from the village of Bodbiskhevi. Spent 30 days on the skins. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Bronze to the eye. Fragrant, savoury nose: ramen, apple and apricot skins, dried sawdust. Pronounced tannins and fluent acidity structure the fruit (peach leather?) and confer a slightly grippy texture. Herbal overtones and mineral undertones add savour and depth. A touch of nuttiness (walnut skins?) emerges on the long finish. Complex, flavourful, engaging and about as close to a classic Georgian orange wine as you’re likely to get. (Buy again? Yep.)

Kakheti 2016, Rkatsiteli, Pheasant’s Tears ($44.80, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Rkatsiteli. Reportedly spent about a month on the skins. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Hazy, even turbid beige. Odd nose with a plastic note that opens up to yellow fruit, white minerals and straw. In the mouth, it’s a bit spritzy, perlant as the French say, and fuller-bodied than you might expect. Fruity but dry, with zingy acidity and faint tannins. Overtoned with herbs and dried flowers. Little if any oxidation but a long, clean, tangy finish. So charming. (Buy again? Yep.)

Yet another set of excellent wines from Pheasant’s Tears. The only downside is the prices, which have taken a jump well in excess of 10%. Cyril says that’s primarily because the SAQ, which imports the wines into Quebec, doesn’t have a pickup point in Georgia or environs, meaning the wines have to transit through a country that does. Earlier shipments have gone through Sweden, which, as a non-member of the Eurozone, doesn’t charge Eurozone tariffs. This current shipment transited through Italy, which does.

MWG March 20th tasting: flight 6 of 7

Georgia straight

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Most ampelographers and wine historians consider the South Caucasus region – and more specifically, the part occupied by modern-day Georgia – to be the birthplace of wine-making, with archeological evidence stretching back some 8,000 or 9,000 years. Although modern-styled Georgian wines can be found, the most interesting continue to be made using traditional techniques. The grapes – some of the hundreds of indigenous varieties found in Georgia – are picked and trod. The resulting must is transferred, often along with the skins, ripe stems and seeds, to large qvevri, terracotta jars and sunk into the cool ground, where it ferments (with indigenous yeasts) and matures. The process, from start to finish, is nicely summarized in this video.

The resulting wines are full of character – they’ve got guts, as Hugh Johnson puts it in another video – and are unlike any other. Like Jura wines, they aren’t to everyone’s taste and even those of us who are fascinated by them may find ourselves forced to abandon our usual appreciation criteria and descriptors, taken out of our comfort zone and questioning what it is we want from a wine. It’s a brave old world and one we’re glad to have the opportunity to explore.

Established in 2007 by an American artist and a Georgian, Pheasant’s Tears winery is located south of the Greater Caucasus mountains in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia. The wines are made traditionally in qvevri lined with organic beeswax. Skin/stem/pip contact varies from wine to wine but no sulphur is added to any of them.

Kakheti 2017, Poliphonia, Pheasant’s Tears ($44.80, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Georgia counts 525 indigenous grape varieties. This is a field blend of 417 of them. The vines – between one and 10 of each variety – are co-planted. The grapes are harvested in three or four passes and so are a mix not only of colours but also of ripeness levels. Co-fermented in qvevri. 12.5%. Quebec agent: La QV.
Technically a red but actually a dusky rosé with an amber cast (the colour reportedly differs from vintage to vintage). Initially reduced nose – “durian,” per one taster, and sulphur – gives way to hard-to-pin-down fruit (“strawberry rhubarb” was the best anyone came up with). In the mouth, it’s barely medium-bodied and quite dry. The beautiful if – again – elusive fruit has an acidic/citric streak. Complex set of flavours. Smooth, fluent texture. The tannins are light, more like a full-bore orange wine’s than a structured red. Tangy finish. Evolves – improves – in the glass. Delightfully disorienting: unlike anything any of us had encountered before. The wine of the night for many and the only wine in the tasting that the group ordered three cases of. (Buy again? Done!)

Kakheti 2015, Tavkveri, Pheasant’s Tears ($44.80, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Tavkveri. 12.5%. Quebec agent: La QV.
Reticent, faintly funky nose with notes of fur and dog hair that segues into dark berries. Medium-bodied and juicy-fruited. Dry. Fine structure: sleek acidity, limber if a little raspy tannins. Long, tasty but a bit of a wallflower in comparison to its weirder flightmates. Will be interesting to see what time in the cellar brings. (Buy again? A bottle to spend time with now and another to revisit in 2022.)

Kakheti 2016, Saperavi, Pheasant’s Tears ($44.80, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Cabernet Saperavi. 14%. Quebec agent: La QV.
As, always, the biggest red. Unevolved nose of dark fruit and minerals, the reductive notes quickly blowing off. Smooth even elegant in the mouth for such a rich and full-bodied wine. The fruit (“cherry on the attack”) is dense yet the wine is fluid and fleet. Husky tannins, sleek acidity and dark minerals provide structure and relief. The long finish is bitter-edged. Somewhat monolithic but, hey, it’s young. It’s also vigorous and well-balanced and earlier vintages have aged beautifully. Enjoyable now, even better in two to five years. (Buy again? Done!)

A couple of decades ago, when wine on the Web was becoming a thing, there was a site where you could keep a list of the grape varieties you had tasted and, when you reached 100, receive a certificate. (Given the rarity of obscure varieties on the North American market at the time, it was a much bigger challenge than it would be today.) Anyway, a friend points out that a single sip of the Poliphonia would have qualified you for the certificate more than four times over.

MWG March 20th tasting: flight 5 of 7

Wind power

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Run by owner-winemaker Primož Lavrenčič, the Burja Estate is located about 30 km northeast of Trieste in Slovenia’s Vipava Valley, historically one of the main routes between western and central Europe. Geographically and oenologically, the valley can be seen as an extension of Friuli, which it opens onto (the Vipava River flows through Italy, where it is known as the Vipacco, for 4 km before emptying to the Isono River).

The Lavrenčič family traces its roots in the valley back to 1499 and has been making and selling wine for three generations under the Sutor label. Primož left the family estate in 2008 to found his own winery, named Burja after the strong wind that blows through the valley. His aim was to focus on local, indigenous varieties as opposed to the international varieties pushed by the government.

Based in Podnanos, the Burja estate has five vineyards totalling 7.16 ha. The soil is varied but mainly sedimentary rock with layers of silt, sandstone and, occasionally, marl. A student of philosophy, Primož says his approach to wine-growing is based on Artistotle’s Metaphysics and informed by his affinity for Spinosa and pantheism. A mix of western and central European grape varieties are grown: Blaufränkisch, Laški Risling, Malvazija, Pinot Noir, Rebula, Refošk, Schioppettino and Zelen. Farming is certified organic.

Vipavaska Dolina 2016, Reddo, Burja ($54.20, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Winemaker’s note: “My challenge: playing with the idea of former red wine varieties in the Vipava Valley, which were once in minority, for home consumption only. Pokalca (Schioppettino) 50%, Modra frankinja (Blaufränkisch) 30%, Refošk (Refosco) 20%. Young vineyards, from 4 to 6 years old. Aged for two years in large barrels (10 to 15 hl) and 225 l barrique barrels. On the market since 2016.” Spontaneously fermented with no temperature control. Unfiltered, unfined. Total sulfites: 45 mg/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Alluring nose of plum, wood, leather, horsehair, pencil lead, “smoked meat” and more. No more than medium-bodied. Silky texture, not unlike a fine red Burg’s. Nicely structured by bright acidity and lithe tannins. The clean, fresh fruit is underlain with minerals. Good energy. Depth and complexity are there if you look for them. Savoury overtones rise retronasally as the finish fades to a caress. Clearly food-friendly, this works as an easy drinker but also rewards contemplation. Perfectly accessible now but surely able to age and develop over the short to medium term. Beautiful – one of the wines of the night for me and some others around the table. Too bad about the price. That a few of us said we’d consider ponying up for a bottle tells you something about its appeal. (Buy again? Sigh. Yes.)

This was the group’s second encounter with a Burja wine, the first being the similarly gorgeous 2015 Bela white. Clearly an estate to keep an eye on.

MWG March 20th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

April 9, 2019 at 11:30

Bugey whites

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…and a red.

Not many wine drinkers are aware of the Bugey wine region, which is wedged against the Savoie between Beaujolais and the Jura. And if they are, it’s probably because of Bugey-Cerdon, the off-dry, dark rosé sparkler made from Gamay and sometimes Poulsard. But still wines are also made in Bugey.

The region’s low profile means that it, like parts of the Roussillon, is one of the few places left in France where small start-up winegrowers can afford to buy land. As a result, it is seeing an influx of new vintners. The Decoster Coiffier familiy (Jérémy, Isabelle and two children) is one of them. With the backing of some 30 subscribers, they acquired the six-hectare Domaine Les Cortis just before the harvest in 2016. As the Descoter Coiffiers didn’t make the 2015s that came with the property, 2017 was their third official and second real vintage.

The estate’s five vineyards sit at around 500 metres in altitude. While they are not contiguous, all have stony, predominantly clayey calcareous soil. Mondeuse, Chardonnay, Gamay and Altesse are the main grape varieties; a little Pinot Noir, Corbeau and Chasselas are also grown.

On acquiring the estate, the Coffiers began converting it to organic farming. Wine-making is traditional: the manually harvested grapes are pressed and transferred to stainless steel vats or oak barrels for maceration (only for the reds), fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation. Sulphur dioxide is limited to a tiny squirt at bottling. Gravity is used in preference to pumping. Annual production is around 25,000 bottles of red, white, sparkling and other wines.

Weather conditions – hail in particular – made 2017 a potentially disastrous vintage for the new owners. Chablis’s renowned De Moor estate, where the couple had worked for many years, took pity and sold them part of its Aligoté harvest, whence the Valorice.

Vin de France 2017, Valorice, Les Cortis ($34.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A 60-40 blend of organically farmed Aligoté from the De Moor estate in Chablis and Chardonnay from Bugey. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Delicious nose of lemon, oats, straw and chalk with a lactic note. Medium-bodied and mouth-filling. The fruit is tensed with tamed but trenchant acidity, grounded in a light minerality. Finishes clean and saline. Such a tonic wine. Seems to embody everything I like and none of the things I dislike about each variety. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bugey 2017, Teraxe, Les Cortis ($34.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Altesse from organically farmed vines. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
More introverted and minerally on the nose than the Valorice, with hints of pear. In the mouth, it’s a round and very dry middleweight carried on a current of smooth acidity. Flavours are neutralish, though there’s an unmissable savour along with pronounced minerality. Good finish. Enjoyable. (Buy again? Sure.)

Bugey 2017, Uzée, Les Cortis ($34.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
80% Gamay and 20% Mondeuse. Matured on the fine lees. Added sulphur dioxide (at bottling): 20 mg/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Nose like a Beaujo’s only with extra minerals. Medium-bodied. The clean and spicy, red berry-leaning fruit is structured by acidity and minerals as much as tannins. The juicy texture turns a little tongue-tingly on the finish. Fun and super drinkable. I’ll gladly take this over many similarly priced Beaujolais. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG March 20th tasting: flight 2 of 7

Rebholz range

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Pfalz 2016, Riesling, Trocken, Ökonomierat Rebholz ($26.65, 12690707)
100% Riesling from organically farmed 20-year-old vines rooted in sandstone. Manually harvested. Macerated 24 hours on the skins. Clarified through sedimentation. Fermented (with selected yeasts) for two weeks and matured for six months in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation was prevented. Filtered but not fined. Screwcapped. Residual sugar: 3.1 g/l. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Granite dust, faint lemon and apple, distant straw, “canned mandarins” and a note described as “floral” by one taster and “jasmine” by another. Pitched somewhere between light- and medium-bodied. Slight fizzy at first. Clean and quite dry, with bright acidity, a dusting of minerals and lots of lemon. More linear than deep but mouth-filling. Sour apple and a touch of salt linger. Not dancing though that may well change as the wine matures. Accessible now but surely better in a year or three. (Buy again? Sure.)

Pfalz 2015, Riesling, Trocken, Vom Rotliegenden, Ökonomierat Rebholz ($42.50, 12353196)
100% Riesling from 25-year-old organically farmed vines rooted in red slate. Manually harvested. Macerated 24 hours on the skins. Clarified through sedimentation. Fermentation with selected yeasts lasted four weeks. Matured six months in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation was prevented. Filtered but not fined. Residual sugar: 1.3 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Gorgeous nose of apple, lemon-lime, spring meadow and a hint of almond. Not quite as gorgeous in the mouth, at least for now, though hardly without appeal. Medium-bodied and smooth-textured with bright but integrated acidity. Minerals provide a backdrop to the fruit, which tends to citrus and apple and has fresh herb harmonics. The depth and length are admirable. Finishes with a faintly salty tang. Give it at least a couple of years in the cellar and you’re in for a treat. (Buy again? Yes.)

Pfalz 2015, Riesling, Großes Gewächs, Kastanienbusch, Ökonomierat Rebholz ($99.25, 13350704)
The estate’s top wine. Großes Gewächs (“great growth”) is an unofficial designation for top-level dry wines from selected sites that is increasingly used in the Mosel by the members of the Bernkasteler Ring and elsewhere (except the Rheingau) by the members of the VDP growers’ association. This 100% Riesling comes from 50-year-old organically and biodynamically farmed vines in the Kastanienbusch vineyard (the name refers to chestnut trees that grow nearby). The soil consists of loose deposits of granite, slate and melaphyre with a high iron content giving it a dark red colour. The manually harvested grapes were destemmed and then macerated on the skins for 24 hours. The must was clarified through settling. Fermentation (with selected yeasts) and maturation in stainless steel tanks lasted about seven months. Malolactic fermentation was prevented. Filtered but not fined. Bottled in May 2017. Residual sugar: 4.8 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Closed yet super complex nose, an inexhaustible mine of minerals veined with citrus, stone fruit, apple, flowers and grassy herbs. In the mouth, it has it all, including great purity and an exquisite mineral-fruit balance. The acidity is very present, very tense but also unedgy. Flavours include apple, white peach and mineral water. The dazzling finish lasts forever. Such delicacy and yet such cut, precision and focus. Five to ten years in a cool, dark place will do it a world of good. Expensive, yes, but perfection has a price. (Buy again? If you’ve got the bucks, absolutely.)

In case you’re wondering, Ökonomierat is a German title of honour conferred upon individuals and organizations in recognition of their outstanding service to agriculture.

MWG March 9th tasting: flight 2 of 5

Written by carswell

April 11, 2018 at 13:47

Austro-Hungarian fizz

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Somló 2017, Foam, Meinklang ($23.75, private import, 12 bottles/case)
An unclarified ancestral method sparkler, meaning the wine is still on its lees and a bit hazy as a result. Blend of Hárslevelü (60%) and Juhfark (40%) from biodynamically farmed 35- to 60-year-old vines grown at Meinklang’s estate at the base of the long-extinct Somló volcano in western Hungary. Spontaneous first fermentation in stainless steel tanks. No temperature control, fining, filtering or added sulphur. Crown-capped. Residual sugar: 4 g/l. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Complex, savoury nose of lemon, wax, lees and hints of brett and sweat. Fine bubbles. Cidery, minerally, tart and longish in the mouth. The flavours are hazier than – not as precise as – the Prosa’s, not that there’s anything wrong with that. This fresh and fun sparkler reminds me of some of the natural Proseccos we’ve tried and seems purpose-built for a summer day. The winery’s suggested food pairings of leek and goat cheese quiche and smoked eel sound right on target. (Buy again? Yep.)

Österreich 2017, Prosa, Meinklang ($23.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Another ancestral method sparkler, but this time 100% Pinot Noir from biodynamically farmed wines grown in Meinklang’s east Austrian estate. Spontaneous first fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Unfined but filtered. Residual sugar: 14 g/l. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Minerally nose of crushed cherries and more than a slight hint of boudoir. Fine bubbles. Clean, fresh and bright in the mouth. There’s a touch of residual sugar (a bit more than in earlier vintages, if memory serves) though it’s in no way cloying and may be attributable to our bottle being a little warm. “Strawberry-rhubarb,” including the rhubarb’s acidic tang and streak of green, dominate the mid-palate. An almond note lingers. If you like Bugey-Cerdon, you’ll probably like this. Works as a summer sipper, an aperitif and as an accompaniment to not-too-sweet strawberry desserts (berries on vanilla ice cream drizzled with basil syrup? hmm.). (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG March 9th tasting: flight 1 of 5