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Posts Tagged ‘Upper mid

Brand new and old

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The April 21st tasting featured wines represented in Quebec by Glou and was led by the agency’s prime mover, Jack Jacob. We started with a flight of four fine Alsatians.

Created in 1950 and based in Ergersheim, Domaine Brand sits in the middle of La Couronne d’or, a swath of vineyards stretching from Strasbourg to Marienheim. The estate’s 10 hectares of vineyards are in the communes of Ergersheim, Osthoffen and Wolxheim. Farming has been organic since 2001 and certified biodynamic (Demeter) since 2015.

Current winemaker Philippe Brand took the helm in 2008, following stints at Domaine de Montchovet in Burgundy and wineries in the Peloponnese (Greece) and Barossa Valley (Australia). He soon imposed a regime of non-interventionist wine-making where the only additive, if any, is small amounts of sulphur dioxide. The estate makes a separate line of unsulphured natural wines under the Apollinaire moniker whose labels feature calligrams by the eponymous artist.

Alsace 2013, Riesling, Kefferberg, Brand & Fils ($33.06, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from the Kefferberg vineyard. Manually harvested. The whole clusters are gently pressed. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and matured in large barrels. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Gold bronze to the eye. Complex nose of apple, pear and chalk with hints of petrol and “Meyer lemon” (quoting another taster). Rich but not heavy in the mouth, the fruit tending toward baked apple. Dry and very minerally. The combination of acidity and minerals lends an almost “tannic bite” to the long finish. (Buy again? Sure.)

Alsace 2015, La Chimère, Charles et Philippe Brand ($34.76, private import, 6 bottles/case)
One of the estate’s Apollinarie wines. 100% Riesling from the Osthoffen vineyard. Manually harvested. The whole clusters are gently pressed. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts and 12 months’ maturation take place in third- and fourth-fill barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Paler. Faintly funky nose of white flowers, lemon peel, flint, barley sugar and a pungent note some described as bubble gum and others as camphor. A bit spritzy on the palate. Less rich and extracted, more crystalline than the Kefferberg. Bone dry (0.5 g/l residual sugar). Lingering green mango. I like. (Buy again? Yes.)

Alsace 2015, Fleurs, Charles et Philippe Brand ($37.64, private import, 6 bottles/case)
One of the estate’s Apollinaire wines. 80% Pinot Gris, 20% Riesling. Manually harvested. The whole clusters are gently pressed. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts and 12 months’ maturation take place in third- and fourth-fill barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. Residual sugar: 1.0 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
Engaging nose of white peach, white spice and slate with honey and lactic notes. Very dry yet with an “implied sweetness.” Buoyant acidity. Faint spritz. Pearish with bergamot overtones. Mineral-rich. Long bitter-edged finish. Complex. Impressive. (Buy again? Gladly. And I’m really looking forward to trying the orange version.)

Alsace 1999, Riesling, Kefferberg, Brand & Fils ($56.34, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from the Kefferberg. Manually harvested. The whole clusters are gently pressed. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and matured in large barrels. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.
A deep bronze colour approaching that of iced tea. Complex, unfathomable nose: dried apple, brown sugar, smoke, hints of petrol and “spicy green” or “dried mint” and more. Equally complex in the mouth, the flavours echoing the nose and resonating on their own. Super dry. Smooth acidity. Considerable depth. Endless finish with, once again, a hint of something camphor-like. The price is more than reasonable for a wine of this age and quality. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

MWG April 21st tasting: flight 1 of 6

Archetypical and atypical

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Sancerre 2015, Domaine Vacheron ($36.25, 10523892)
100% Sauvignon Blanc from organically farmed massal selection vines. The grapes are manually harvested and gently pressed. The must is chilled and clarified by settling. Low-temperature (<20°C) fermentation and maturation on the lees take place in stainless steel tanks. Filtered before bottling. Reducing sugar: 3.0 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Maître de Chai.
Textbook Loire Sauvignon Blanc nose: gooseberry, citrus, grass, chalk and flint. Rich bordering on lush, sleek and impressively pure. Fruity upfront with a mineral substrate emerging as the wine moves through the mouth. The considerable extract rounds the bright acidity. Long, lively, saline finish. Initially engaging, the wine’s youthful exuberance comes across as a little caricatural and fatiguing by the end of the glass, a bit like a bouncy puppy or some New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs for that matter. Will be interesting to see what transpires in two or three years. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Sancerre 2013, Constellation du Scorpion, Vincent Gaudry ($41.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
This is a new name for a bottling formerly called L’Esprit de Rudolph in honour of the founder of biodynamism, Rudolph Steiner. Gaudry is reportedly secretive about his methods and not much technical information about this wine is to be found. 100% Sauvignon Blanc from biodynamically farmed vines rooted in flinty soil. Partially matured in oak barrels. Unfiltered. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Wafting nose of grapefruit, chalk and quartz dust, “pink flowers” and “thyme.” Rainwatery yet also very present. The rich texture is lightened by “lime acidity,” deepened by a chalky underlay. A hint of caramel appears on the long finish. “A Sancerre that wants to be a Chardonnay,” concludes one taster. Subtle and subdued yet complex and delicious says me. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG April 6th tasting: flight 2 of 7

Written by carswell

April 21, 2017 at 15:39

WINO tasting (5/6)

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Vin de France 2015, Le Vin de Blaise ($49.67, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Run by Paris-based Stéphanie Rougnon and located in Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes in the Rhône valley, the three-hectare family estate is in the second year of conversion to organic farming. (Blaise Granier, Nathalie’s great-great-grandfather, first planted vines there.) This, the inaugural vintage of its first wine, is mostly Cinsault with a little Grenache and Carignan from vines more than half a century old. In 2015, a total of 1,167 bottles were produced; in 2016, production rose to 1,800 bottles plus 100 bottles of rosé. The grapes are not coplanted but are cofermented after being hand-picked and crushed. The free run juice is transferred to a stainless steel tank and the grapes are pressed. The resulting must is added to the free run juice and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Unfiltered and unfined. No added anything except maybe a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide at bottling. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.

Solar red and black fruit and minerals (“like the Siccagno” notes one taster), sukiyaki, spice, lemon zest and background leather. Medium-bodied and fruit-forward, and such pure fruit it is. Coursing acidity delivers freshness in spades and imbues the fruit with a lip-smacking tartness. Layered minerals add depth while supple, raspy tannins give grain to the silky texture. Finishes long and clean. So bright and alive, so up my alley. Just about everyone around the table loved this wine and also felt the QPR was wacky. The price of admission to a limited edition? A natural wine that demands a credit line? (Buy again? A case… if it were 30 bucks a bottle.)

MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

April 6, 2017 at 12:00

WINO tasting (4/6)

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Based in Curtil-Vergy, between Nuits-Saint-Georges and Vosne-Romanée, Bertrand Machard de Gramont founded his eponymous estate in 1983. In 2004, he was joined by his daughter Axelle, who has since taken the reins and converted the estate to organic farming. A replanting of the long-abandoned Vallerots terraces in 2001 raised the total surface area to six hectares. Besides the five wines we tasted, the estate makes an Aligoté, a Vosne-Romanée and occasional other bottlings.

The wine-making is the same for all the red cuvées. The manually harvested grapes are destemmed and crushed. Two weeks’ fermentation with indigenous yeasts is followed by 18 to 20 months’ maturation in 228-litre used oak barrels. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. Sulphur use is kept to a minimum.

Bourgogne 2014, Les Grands Chaillots, Bertrand Machard de Gramont (c. $40.00, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
100% Pinot Noir from 27-year-old vines. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Attractive nose of crushed red berries, earth, slate and gentian. Light- to medium-bodied and silky textured. Ça pinote, though with a lactic edge. The tannins are lacy and the acidity comes with a bit of a bite. The long drying finish shows some spice. Pure and elegant if less dimensional than its flightmates. (Buy again? Sure.)

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2013, Les Terrasses des Vallerots, Bertrand Machard de Gramont 2013 ($70.58, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from a two-hectare parcel of 12-year-old vines rooted in clay and limestone. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Complex, savoury nose of spice, candied berries, sweat, “orange papaya,” drying leaves and more. Pure and delicate, beautifully balanced between ripe fruit, sourish acidity and supple tannins. Finishes long and clean. Not remarkably deep but the clarity is impressive. Very approachable. (Buy again? Sure.)

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2013, Les Vallerots, Bertrand Machard de Gramont ($81.74, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from 39-year-old vines in a half-hectare parcel located above the terrasses. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
As above though somewhat closed and showing hints of dried mint and “orange oil.” Richer and deeper than the Terrasses. Given a tart edge by sleek acidity, the gorgeous fruit glows against a mineral/earth backdrop. Pliant tannins provide just enough structure. A spice note chimes on the persistent finish. Lovely. (Buy again? Yes.)

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2013, Aux Allots, Bertrand Machard de Gramont ($85.57, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from 80-year-old vines rooted in deep clay and limestone at the bottom of the slope near Vosne-Romanée. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Slightly candied red berries, spice, slate, oak smoke and a floral note make for a classic Burgundian nose. In the piehole it’s verging on voluptuous: a medium-bodied, fluid mouthful of spicy fruit, airframe tannins and silky acidity. Darker and deeper currents lurk below the sleek surface. An elegant wine whose energy and presence last through the long, clean finish. Of the five BMdG wines, this was the favourite of nearly everyone around the table, including Martin. (Buy again? Would love to.)

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2013, Les Hauts Prûliers, Bertrand Machard de Gramont ($89.14, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from 48-year-old vines planted in thin soil in a 1.5-hecatre plot on a steep slope above the Prûliers premier cru. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Complex, savoury, earthy nose dominated by leafmould, cherry, spice and a “peat thing, like Scotch peat.” Medium-bodied and fluid. Cherry, slate and old wood – the dominant flavours – are carried on a stream of acidity while firm tannins provide texture as well as a structural framework. Finishes as impressively as it starts. A beautifully structured wine of great precision and depth and the one most in line with a conventional NSG (or, as Martin put it, a wine with “une austerité que je retrouve chez Gouges.”). Though far from rebarbative at this stage, it will benefit from five to 10 years in the cellar. (Buy again? If I had the bucks and patience, yes.)

MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

April 3, 2017 at 12:08

WINO tasting (3/6)

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Located in the commune of Montaigu in the southern Jura, the estate now known as Domaine Pignier was created by monks in the 13th century and acquired by the Pignier family in 1794. It was certified biodyanmic in the early 2000s. The focus is on the vineyards, with a minimalist approach in the cellar (no added anything except occasionally minute amounts of sulphur).

Crémant du Jura, Rosé, Domaine Pignier ($36.46, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from biodynamically framed vines. Manually harvested. Briefly macerated and fermented using a pied de cuve starter. The base wine is matured six months in oak barrels, then sparkled using the traditional method, with no dosage. No added sulphur. The bottles are aged on lattes for 12 months. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Deep salmon pink with pink foam and fine bubbles. Intriguing nose: strawberry cheese danish, “cheese rind,” prosciutto, “baker’s yeast” and more. Dry and buoyant on the palate. Though there’s a soft-glowing core of red berries, the fruit is ethereal, haunting more than inhabiting a matix of minerals that prompted descriptors like “saline” and “seaweed.” Long savoury finish. Lovely. (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes du Jura 2014, Trousseau, Les Gauthières, Domaine Pignier ($57.33, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Trousseau from biodynamically farmed, massal propagated vines. Yields are kept very low (25 hl/ha). The manually harvested grapes are destemmed, macerated and fermented using a pied de cuve starter and manual punch-downs and pump-overs during an entire lunar cycle. Matured 12 months in oak barrels of various sizes. Unfiltered. Bottled by gravity and with no added sulphur on a fruit day (per the lunar calendar). 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Morello cherry, hard red candy, dried leaves, limestone, eventually tomato and “umami.” More like cranberry in the mouth with charcoal overtones. Medium-bodied and satin-textured. Chewing brings out the fruit and reveals dimension and complexity. The fine tannins add a mild astringency to the long, vapourous finish with its faint almond note and Szechuan pepper-like numbingness. Accessible but young and best cellared for five or 10 years. Way pricey but one of the most beautiful Trousseaus I’ve tasted. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 3 of 6

Bargain Barolo

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Barolo 2012, Riva del Bric, Paolo Conterno ($41.50, 10860223)
100% Nebbiolo from youngish vines (around 20 years old). Manually harvested. On arrival at the winery, the grapes are crushed, destemmed and transferred to tanks for two to three weeks’ maceration and fermentation. Matured 30 to 36 months in 35-hectolitre French oak barrels and six to 12 months in the bottle. Reducing sugar: 1.6 g/l. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Sélections Fréchette.

Cherry, sawdust, kirsch, rose water and eventually hints of leafmould, candied violets and truffle. On the fuller side of medium-bodied. Very dry. The sweet fruit cloaks the fine but firm tannins though it can’t hide the astringent undertow. Bright acidity adds sheen to the velours-like texture while spice and floral notes overtone the long finish. A step up from most Langhe offerings, this is like mainlining Nebbiolo. Impressive QPR. Accessible for a five-year-old Barolo but still primary and best cellared for a couple of years or carafed for an hour or two. (Buy again? Sure.)

My bottle was a generous gift from a Mo’ Wine Group member. Merci Julien !

 

Written by carswell

March 18, 2017 at 11:43

Three Bierzos from Raúl Pérez

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Bierzo 2013, Ultreia St-Jacques, Raúl Pérez ($25.95, 12331835)
A Mencia-dominated blend with Bastardo (aka Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet) from organically farmed vines in a five-hectare, clay-soiled vineyard planted in 1900 to 1940 in Valtuille de Abajo. Manually harvested. Fermented (80% whole clusters) in large oak vats. Maceration lasts between two and five months. Matured in 225- and 500-litre barrels, foudres and cement tanks. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 2.1 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Umami-ish nose of slatey plum, blackberry, spice, “bay leaf,” “sumac,” “blond tobacco,” India ink. Medium-bodied and supple-surfaced with clean fruit, fine tannins, streaming acidity and an underlay of minerals and old oak. The persistent finish is complexed by a light astringency and bitterness, while leaf mould lingers. A little too dark and weighty to be a vin plaisir but sharing that genre’s qualities of being straightforward, accessible and delicious. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bierzo 2014, Vico, Raúl Pérez ($40.25, 12335035)
Also available as part of a recent Cellier operation for 25 cents less ($40.00, 13193761). 100% Mencia from dry- and organically farmed 80-year-old vines in Valtuille de Abajo. Soil is sandy with small river stones. Manually harvested. Fermented (30% whole clusters) and macerated for 60 days. Matured 11 months in third-fill, 300-litre French oak barrels. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Complex nose of gingerbread, black pepper, “grape cola,” “Brio Chinato,” slate and balsam fir. Denser and more structured than the Ultreia but even more Burgundian in texture. The remarkably pure fruit is deepened by minerals, structured by fluent acidity and firm but round tannins. The finish is long and savoury. Young and a little monolithic though accessible with a few hours’ carafing. Would be interested in seeing how this tastes in ten or 15 years. A second bottle – opened (by mistake) and immediately recorked 26 hours beforehand – paired deliciously with braised lamb. (Buy again? Yes.)

Bierzo 2013, La Poulosa, La Vizcaina, Raúl Pérez ($54.25, 12332264)
Mencia (90%) and Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet, 10%) from dry- and organically farmed vines planted in 1940 and rooted in the clay and river stone soil of the two-hectare La Poulosa vineyard in Valtuille de Abajo. Fermented (80% whole clusters) in large oak vats. Total maceration time: 60 days. Matured 12 months in 225-litre used French oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Wood and leather then smoke, spice and plum then blackberry cordial. Medium- to full-bodied and beautifully structured. A wine with every dimension, including unplumbable depth. The alcohol is well integrated; indeed, the wine is quite fresh, with that balsam note appearing once again. Dark minerals last well into the long finish. Needs five or 10 years but has the potential and balance to convince you it will only improve with age. (Buy again? Yes.)

A flight that made less of an impact than I expected it would. I suspect that’s partly because the wines were young and partly because of what I call the Chianti effect: that, like many Chiantis, these are wines that show better in the dining room than in a tasting room. Before the tasting, the winemaker’s cult status had me worrying that the wines – especially the Poulosa and the second flight’s La del Vivo – would be Parkerized overachievers but they were anything but. They may be a little pricey but their quality is undeniable. Pérez is obviously someone to keep an eye on.

MWG February 17, 2017, tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

March 13, 2017 at 14:53