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Posts Tagged ‘Upper mid

Lebanese legend

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Bekaa Valley 2009, Château Musar ($54.75, 13393000)
A blend of nearly equal proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan from organically farmed vines averaging 40 years old and planted in gravelly soil over a limestone base. The vintage was unusual in that the harvest was interrupted by an unprecedented two days of heavy rain in early September; the grapes picked after the deluge were said to be juicier and more perfumed. The varieties were vinified separately. Alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts was slow and took place in temperature-controlled (sub-30°C) concrete vats. Six months later, the wine was transferred to French Nevers oak barrels for one year’s maturation. The monovarietal wines were then blended and transferred to concrete tanks for another 12 months. Finally, the wine was bottled and aged four years in the bottle before being released in 2016, seven years after harvest. Unfiltered and unfined. A small amount of sulphur dioxide was added at bottling. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Complex, enveloping bouquet of roasted plum (“pruney” per another taster though not to my nose), spice, graphite and a whole set of aromas heading into tertiary territory, including baked earth, leather, dried herbs, dried leaves and camphor. Medium- to full-bodied and dry. The sun-ripe fruit is inflected with minerals, minty herbs and old wood and structured by vibrant acidity and shaggy tannins. Though you wouldn’t call it deep, the wine has plenty of ballast. What’s most remarkable, however, is the sensuousness, the fluid savour that lasts through the long finish, and that sui generis combo of Bordeaux-Rhône structure and solar fruit. At peak? If so, it’ll stay there for several years. Maybe not a great Musar but definitely an enjoyable one. (Buy again? Yep.)

Bekaa Valley 2006, Château Musar ($52.75, 13391389)
Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), Cinsault (33%), Samsó (possibly a clone of Cinsault, 17%) and Carignan (16%). The summer was one of the coolest on record, reportedly producing grapes with higher than usual acidity. Wine-making was as for the 2009, with the blending taking place in 2009. Musar releases its wines only when it considers them ready to drink, normally seven years after the vintage, but in this case the estate waited until the spring of 2017. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
A redder-smelling and decidedly tertiary bouquet: raspberry liqueur, “tobacco,” herbs, old wood and leather. Smooth, round, velvety and a notch less weighty than the 2009. Here the brambly fruit definitely has a “pruney” edge. The tannins are approaching full resolution and, while the acidity is present, the wattage is low. The long finish brings a faint cabbage aftertaste. Tasty but also about to leave the plateau and enter the downslope of its life span. Of course, that could just be our bottle, consistency not being one of Musar’s strong points. (Buy again? A bottle for one last fling?)

Revisiting the wines after the tasting was over and everyone else had left only confirmed my earlier impressions. After an hour or so in the glass, the 2009 was alive and kicking while the 2006 seemed increasingly loose-knit, even to the point of beginning to fall apart.

MWG February 8th tasting: flight 5 of 5

Written by carswell

March 20, 2018 at 14:30

Zingers

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Located on the north shore of the Danube, about 65 kilometres upstream (west) from Vienna, the 11-hectare Alzinger estate has parcels in two of the Wachau’s most prized vineyards: Loibenberg and Steintertal. Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are the primary grape varieties, though a small amount of Chardonnay is also grown. Leo Alzinger took the helm of the family estate in the 1970s. In 1983, he decided to stop selling its grapes to a local cooperative and to start making wine and selling it under the Alzinger label. Today, his son, Leo Jr., handles the wine-making though Leo Sr. still looks after the top vineyards.

The wine-making is similar for all the cuvées. The manually harvested whole clusters are pressed. The juice is given a short maceration on the skins and then allowed to clarify by settling for 24 hours. The Smaragd wines are matured in large neutral wood barrels, the others in stainless steel. Indigenous yeasts and selected yeasts (especially for the Rieslings) are used. Malolactic fermentation is routinely avoided.

Federspiel 2015, Dürnsteiner, Riesling, Alzinger ($29.10, 11581744)
100% Riesling from several small plots near the village of Oberloiben (Dürnsteiner). Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Green apple, lemon-lime, flint and a whiff of smoke. Spritzy on opening though that quickly dissipated. Bright, fresh and lemon-appley in the piehole with sleek acidity and a strong mineral current. Seems a bit watery at first – like it could be deeper and more structured – but gains presence and weight as it breathes. Finishes long and clearn. Not a knockout but definitely gluggable and probably even better in three to five years. (Buy again? Sure.)

Smaragd 2015, Loibenberg, Grüner Veltliner, Alzinger ($48.00, 11864955)
100% Grüner Veltliner from the lower reaches of the south-facing terraces of the Loibenberg vineyard, considered the warmest in the Wachau. The vines are rooted in loess. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Grass, asparagus, white pepper, white meat, flint and eventually a jalapeño note. Medium-bodied. The juicy kiwi fruit is overtoned with green herbs and white spice while the acidity fairly glows. There’s real mineral depth. The finish is long and saline. A beautiful baby. (Buy again? Yes.)

Smaragd 2015, Steinertal, Grüner Veltliner, Alzinger ($57.00, 11581736)
100% Grüner Veltliner from lower down on the terrace, where the soil is richer and deeper. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Textbook Grüner nose. Finer, more savoury and more closed than the Loibenberg but still redolent of lime, melon, green herbs, minerals and distant smoke. A real presence and a little more of everything in the mouth. The brilliant acidity and dense extract are in perfect balance. Fruit and minerality are among the unfathomable layers of flavour arrayed against a honeyed backdrop. Remarkable precision and depth. The finish is endless. (Buy again? Yes.)

Smaragd 2015, Steinertal, Riesling, Alzinger ($57.00, 11581779)
100% Riesling from the barren, steep Steinertal terrace (thin topsoil over gneiss). 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Aromatic and multifaceted: green apple, lemon-lime and white flowers and the telltale Riesling note that here is more eucalyptus than petrol. Dense yet fleet on the palate. The sweet fruit tames the electric acidity. The stony minerality seems inexhaustible as does the finish. So complex, pure and flawless – in a word, stunning. Surprisingly accessible for a wine that probably won’t peak for another 10 to 20 years. (Buy again? As many as I can afford.)

MWG February 8th tasting: flight 3 of 5

Written by carswell

March 16, 2018 at 14:31

A ramble round Vittoria

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In Italian, cerasuolo means cherry-red. The word also appears in the names of two appellations. Cerasuolo d’Abrruzo is a Multepulciano-based rosé from central Italy. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a red wine from southeast Sicily, specifically the province of Ragusa and parts of Caltanissetta and Catania.

Though Cerasuolo di Vittoria has been made since the 17th century, it wasn’t granted DOC status until 1974. Since 2004, it has been Sicily’s only DOCG. By law, Cerasuolo di Vittoria must be a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, with the former constituting between 50 and 70%. Within the DOCG is a large zone, centred around Vittoria and including the original DOC, whose wines are entitled to the Classico designation provided they have been matured 18 months or longer.

Cerasuolo di Vittora 2015, Planeta ($24.00, 10553362)
A 50-50 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato from vines rooted in sandy top soil over tufa. The two vineyards are at 70-80 metres above sea level. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Macerated on the skins for 14 days. Fermented in temperature-controlled (23°C) stainless steel vats. Gently pressed in a vertical press. Matured in stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La Céleste Levrue.
Bright nose of red berries, pine forest floor, fresh oregano, “turnip” and “pepper oil” that takes on candied notes as the wine breathes. A medium-bodied mouthful of red berries and red peppercorns. Smoothed-edge acidity brightens the fruit while a mineral streak adds a modicum of depth. The tannins are soft on surface, more sinewy underneath. A bitter thread runs though the caramel-overtoned finish. Best, by which I mean freshest and most lively, just after opening. With time in the glass, the wine loses nuance and buoyancy, becoming more fruit-forward and sweet-seeming, even cloying. (Buy again? Meh.)

Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2015, Classico, COS ($36.50, 12484997)
A 60-40 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato from organically and biodynamically farmed vines averaging 25 years old. Elevation: 230 m. Fermented in stainless steel tanks on the skins and with indigenous yeasts. Matured 15 months in 20- and 40-hectolire Slavonian oak foudres and several months in bottle. Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Nuanced, complex, savoury nose: red fruit, cured wood, dark minerals and spice. Fluid, silky and on the lighter side of medium-bodied. The gossamer fruit is grounded in a mineral substrate and structured by lacy tannins and pronounced but seamlessly integrated acidity. Finishes long and clean. A balanced, complete and enchanting wine. Not remarkably deep but a here-now pleasure to drink. (Buy again? Yes.)

Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2014, Classico, Gulfi ($41.50, 13477828)
A 70-30 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato from organically farmed vines from a single vineyard near Ragusa. Elevation: 400-500 m. The varieties are vinified separately. The manually harvested grapes are given a short cold-maceration, followed by fermentation in stainless steel for about two weeks. After pressing, the base wines are blended and matured a few months in stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 3.4 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Sélection.
The nose of blackberry, sandalwood, old wood and leafmould is darker, richer and sweeter than the others but also jammier. In the mouth, it’s bordering on full-bodied and possessed of a satiny texture. Minerals darken the very ripe fruit. Structure is provided by smooth though resilient tannins and sufficient acidity, depth by layers of flavour. A bitter note chimes through the decent finish. Remains fresh despite the density. An enjoyable, even elegant wine albeit one that’s atypically rich – more southern and solar, less like a Burgundy and more like a Languedoc – for the appellation. (Buy again? Sure.)

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

Written by carswell

March 7, 2018 at 12:48

Could-be Chiantis

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The daughter of an oenologist, Giovanna Morganti studied oenology and then began working for San Felice, where she focused on preserving some 300 old Tuscan grape varieties. When her father gave her the three-hectare Podere le Boncie, an olive-growing estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Giovanna created a vineyard, populating it with Sangiovese and her favourite old varieties – Ciligiolo, Foglia Tonda, Mammolo and Prugnolo – planted very densely (7,000 vines per hectare). She has since acquired another 1.3 hectares nearby. The farming is mostly biodynamic. Fermentation, with indigenous yeasts, takes place in traditional open-topped wood tanks. Two wines are produced: the flagship Le Trame and a “second” wine, Il Cinque, a young-vines cuvée that was originally sold only at the winery.

Located in Carmignano, Italy’s smallest wine appellation and one of its oldest (granted special protections as far back as 1716), Fattoria di Baccherto has been in the hands of the Tesi family since 1920. Currently run by Rossela Bencini Tesi, the estate is centred around a former Medici hunting lodge. In 2001, unhappy with the quality of her wines and the condition of her soil, Rossela switched to natural wine-making: organic and eventually biodynamic farming, no additions in the cellar other than a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide at bottling, spontaneous fermentations, no temperature control, no filtering and no fining. Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon (long present in the appellation and possibly introduced in the 16th century by Catherine de’ Medici), Canaiolo, Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia del Chinati are the main grape varieties. Annual production is around 10,000 bottles of red wine, 2,000 bottles of white wine and 1,000 bottles of vin santo as well as olive oil, honey and figs.

IGT Toscana 2015, Cinque, Podere le Boncie ($33.50, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Sangiovese (70%) with Mammolo, Colorino, Foglia Tonda and Ciliegolo making up the balance. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Matured 12 months in barrels and six months in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Wafting nose of ripe plum, sawed wood, spice, moldering leaves, ink and tobacco. Medium-bodied, silky textured and oh, so flavourful. The ripe, almost juicy fruit is grounded in a earthy mineral substrate. Bright acidity and wiry tannins provide a light but tensile structure. Finishes long and clean. Accessible now and best drunk over the next two or three years, methinks. (Buy again? Done!)

Carmignano 2014, Terre a Mano, Fattoria di Bacchereto ($50.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
75% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo Nero, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from vines planted in 1979, 1994 and 2004. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in glass-lined concrete tanks and lasts 15 days. The wine is then transferred to used 350-litre Allier oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and maturation, typically lasting 18 to 24 months. Unfiltered and unfined. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Pure cherry faceted with plum, dried herbs, sun-baked earth and a hint of leather. Medium- to full-bodied. Ideal balance between ripe, savoury, satiny fruit and a lovely airframe structure comprising robust tannins, bright acidity and real mineral depth. A floral note creeps in on the long finish. The touch of rusticity in no way detracts from the wine’s overall elegance. (Buy again? Yes.)

IGT Toscana 2014, Le Trame, Podere le Boncie ($54.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Sangiovese (90%), Foglia Tonda, Colorino and Mammolo (10% combined) from vines averaging 20 years old. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermented 20 days in small wood vats with indigenous yeasts and twice-daily punch-downs. Matured 26 months in large barrels and six months in the bottle. Annual production: around 6,000 bottles. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Echt-Sangiovese nose of cherry, sawdust, terracotta and sandalwood with earthy overtones of mushroom and humus. Rich, the fleshiest of the three but in no way heavy. Glowing acidity enlightens the sweet-ripe, somewhat dusky fruity. Round tannins add a light, drying rasp. Dark minerals abound, including a ferrous rumble that lasts well into the long finish. Red fruit, terracotta, spice and a hint of mint linger. Already showing considerable complexity, not to mention superb depth and balance, this will age beautifully for another five or 10 years. (Buy again? Done!)

MWG November 10th tasting: flight 4 of 5

Written by carswell

February 4, 2018 at 13:05

Lumpps in our throats

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Givry Premier Cru 2015, A Vigne Rouge, Domaine François Lumpp ($58.75, 13366829)
100% Pinot Noir from a 2.45-hectare vineyard planted in the early 2000s. The soil is mainly limestone and clay. The farming is generally organic though synthetic products are sometimes used if warranted by the weather conditions. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Given five to 10 days’ cold maceration prior to fermentation, which takes place in stainless steel tanks with light punch-downs and lasts around three weeks. Matured in French oak barrels, around 70% of which are new. Racked and filtered before bottling. All wine-making operations are done according to the lunar calendar. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve & Sélection.
Fairly closed nosed of cherry, slate, spicy oak and dried leaves; it’s very true to type though it doesn’t yet pinote (sing like only Pinot can do). Medium-bodied and satin-textured. The pure fruit seems more cranberry- than cherry-like, partly a function of the tart acidity. The fine tannins show not a trace of greenness. An earthy depth provides ballast that lasts well into the bitter cherry-inflected finish. The combination of richness, structure, energy and precision seems more like a Côte de Beaune’s. It’s a bit austere for now but probably won’t be in a couple of years. (Buy again? Yes.)

Givry Premier Cru 2015, Crausot, Domaine François Lumpp ($59.50, 13061857)
100% Pinot Noir from a 0.92-hectare vineyard planted in the early 1990s. The soil tends to limestone interspersed with fine marl. The wine-making is more or less as for the A Vigne Rouge. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Réserve & Sélection.
Even more closed and stemmy: oak, coconut and Christmas spice have the upper hand for now. In the mouth, it’s bigger, denser and even more primary. The beautifully pure fruit (mainly cherry) is overtoned with tea and brightened by acidity. The tannins are impressive but tight and unyielding from start through the long finish. “Dries your mouth right up,” notes one taster. Needs five or 10 years to knit together and open up. The $60 question: will the fruit still be vibrant when the tannins finally resolve? Probably but only time will tell. (Buy again? If in a gambling mood.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

January 9, 2018 at 13:23

Three Rieslings/countries/price points

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Rheingau 2015, Riesling Trocken, Von Unserm, Weingut Balthasar Ress ($20.65, 12510788)
100% Riesling from vines planted in clayey limestone soil in Hattenheim and Rüdesheim. Manually harvested. Direct pressed. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Clarified by settling. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 4.1 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Balthazard.
Classic Riesling nose of lemon/lime, green apple, white slate and a hint of peach yogurt. A faint spritz is detectable on the palate. Welterweight build. Dry but fruity: apple and lime set on river stones. The acidity stays underground until surfacing on the decent finish. A bit simple but fresh and likeable. (Buy again? Sure.)

Alsace 2014, Riesling, Le Kottabe, Josmeyer & Fils ($31.00, 12713032)
100% Riesling from organically and biodynamically farmed 40-year-old vines rooted in the gravelly, sandy, pebbly soil of Herrenweg. Manually harvested. The whole clusters were pneumatically pressed over five to eight hours. Spontaneous fermentation lasted from one to four months. The resulting wine was matured in a mix of stainless steel tanks and century-old oak foudres. Reducing sugar: 2.4 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Symbiose.
Appealing nose of lemon pound cake, icing sugar and eventually white spice. Medium-bodied and super dry. The pure fruit (“crab apple” with hints of citrus and peach) is brightened by relatively low-Watt acidity. The long, taut, saline finish has a bitter edge. Tasty. (Buy again? Sure, though not without wishing it was $5 cheaper.)

Alto Adige Valle Iscaro 2014, Riesling, Brixner Eisacktaler, Weingut Köfererhof ($49.00, 12958013)
Founded in 1940, the five-hectare estate is located in the South Tyrol at the foot of the Dolomites, near Italy’s border with Austria. 100% Riesling from vines planted in 1998 and rooted in gravely silt and sand at 650-700 metres above sea level. The grapes are manually harvested in two passes; half when fully ripe and the other half two or three weeks later. The two harvests are vinified separately and blended before bottling. The clusters are not systematically destemmed. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled (20°C) stainless steel tanks and matures on the lees for six months. Sulphur is added only at bottling and then in minute quantities. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Maître de Chai.
A whiff of sulphur blows off, leaving a complex nose of chalk, “papaya,” clean sweat and “lemon grape” that’s like walking through a balsam forest after a rain. Time in the glass produces floral and herbal notes. Equally interesting in the mouth: a dry, structured, dimensional wine of great precision and purity. The ripe fruit, deep minerality and lively acidity are in perfect balance from the clean attack through the long finish. Loses none of its qualities after warming to room temperature, always a good sign. Austere but delicious and absolutely world-class. Wow. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

December 20, 2017 at 14:24

Step up, Riesling!

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While the Melsheimer winery, which is located in the village of Reil, has been owned by the family of the same name for 200 years, their vineyards have been cultivated for far longer than that. Documentation for one goes back to the 12th century. The current wine-maker Thorsten Melsheimer began the switch to organic and biodynamic farming in 1995. The estate makes a broad range of Rieslings and little else. Annual production is around 60,000 bottles, about 40% of which is exported, with Denmark being a primary market.

Mosel 2015, Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Kellerchen, Melsheimer ($48.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from biodynamically farmed vines averaging 30 years of age and rooted in the slate and quartz of the Mullay-Hofberg vineyard. Manually harvested. Macerated on the skins for 30 days. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured one year in neutral 500-litre Slavonian oak barrels and one year in bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Wafting nose of white flowers, yellow apple, quartz/chalk and background lemon/lime. Fine, clean and engaging in the mouth. The bright – not sharp – acidity gives the ripe fruit a sweet-and-sour quality. Dusty minerals add another layer of flavour and texture. Finishes long and dry. A lovely wine that was slightly overshadowed by its flightmate though that may no longer be the case in five years, when both wines should reach the plateau of maturity. (Buy again? Yes.)

Mosel 2015, Vade Retro, Melsheimer ($48.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The estate’s flagship wine. Its name derives from a medieval Catholic phrase used in exorcisms, Vade retro satana (“Step back, Satan”), perhaps a wry nod to the wine’s lack of fire and brimstone, er, added sulphur. 100% Riesling from biodynamically farmed vines in some of the Mosel’s steepest vineyards. Manually harvested. Spontaneously fermented on the skins in large oak barrels and no pumping. No filtering or added sulphur. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Smoky, minerally, fruity nose with hints of nuts and lees. Rich yet fleet in the mouth. It’s dry (reportedly about 1 g/l of residual sugar) and full of minerals though it’s the fruit (mostly stone, some apple, a little citrus) that holds your attention. The acidity is pervasive but very well integrated. Layered, deep, long and pure. A baby but a beautiful one. Entirely consistent with a bottle – one of the stars in a stellar evening of wine and food – enjoyed a few weeks earlier at Candide. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 9 of 9

Written by carswell

December 6, 2017 at 14:14