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Ward & associés tasting (4/9)

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Moravie 2014, Klasika, Hibernal, Milan Nestarec ($31.33, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Hibernal from estate-owned, organically farmed, 14-year-old vines grown in southern Moravia in the Czech Republic. Fermented and matured for 13 months in 600-litre barrels, one-third of which were new. No clarification or filtration. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

nestarec-hibernal

Rich gold-bronze in the glass. Refulgent nose that, notes of “sesame oil” and “dried orange peel” notwithstanding, you could be forgiven for thinking belonged to a sweet Tokaji. Dry and unctuous on the palate, the lively acidity softened by the dense extract. Flavours are a beguiling mix of “canned peaches,” “apricot jam” yellow apple and dusty minerals. Great breadth, good length and not a lot of depth, making this a here-now wine. Unique and memorable, especially for the bouquet. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 4 of 9

Ward & associés tasting (3/9)

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Steirerland Landwein, “Trauben, Liebe und Zeit”, Weiss No. 7, Strohmeier ($50.73, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Trauben, Liebe und Zeit means “grapes, love and time” and is the name given to the estate’s line of natural wines. Mainly Pinot Blanc with some Chardonnay from the 2014 and 2015 vintages. The grapes are estate-grown, organically farmed and manually harvested.  Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured 11 months in neutral 500-litre barrels. No added anything, including sulphur. Unfiltered and unfined. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

strohmeier-weiss-no-7

Cloudy light green-gold in the glass. Nose of white pepper, lemon, “sour orange,” lees and more besides. In the mouth, it’s soft textured and a bit spritzy. A wallflower at first though chewing reveals all kinds of complexity – including pear, herbs and chalk – and some depth. Comments from the peanut gallery: “like a gueuze,” “tastes like scrapes” (which, as I learned, are light metal shavings), “stealth acidity.” The long finish is faintly bitter and sour. Unique, fascinating and delicious. I was ready to lay down my money until I saw the price… (Buy again? Only if feeling flush, alas.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 3 of 9

Written by carswell

February 14, 2017 at 12:08

Ward & associés tasting (2/9)

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Located near Bockenheim in the Palatinate, the 20-something Brand brothers took over the estate from their father in 2004. Farming practices, rigorously sustainable since 1994, were certified organic in 2015. The wine-making is non-interventionist.

Pfalz 2015, Riesling trocken, Vom Berg, Weingut Brand ($23.53, private import, 12 bottles/case)
The estate’s entry-level line. 100% Riesling from estate-owned organically farmed vines. Fermented in stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

brand-riesling-vom-berg-2015

Initially sulphurous nose (not uncommon with screwcapped Rieslings) gives way to slate, lemon-lime and green apple overtoned with honeysuckle. Dry and fruity with nipping acidity, tons of crushed minerals and the faintest hint of caramel. Long, savoury and alive. Like Germany meets Alsace in a glass. Great QPR. Deservedly one of the hits of the tasting. (Buy again? Multiples.)

Pfalz 2015, Weissburgunder trocken, Weingut Brand ($26.37, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Inspired by a similar drawing on the cornerstone of a local church, the front label’s raised hand indicates this is part of the Schwurhand (oath-taking) line of wines made using grapes from the estate’s top vineyards 100% Weissburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc) from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Gently pressed and briefly macerated. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. No added anything. Unfiltered and unfined. Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

brand-weissburgunder-2015

Intriguing nose of chalk, gooseberry/quince, green tea and coriander seed. Equally intriguing in the mouth with a texture that has people grapsing for descriptors like “soft oily velour.” Lactic, bitter and faintly fruity (“like bad plum”) threads intertwine with dusty minerals and soft acidity. A distant mustardy note chimes on the long finish. Complex, savoury and satisfying. If you think Pinot Blanc makes only facile wines, think again. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 2 of 9

Ward & associés tasting (1/9)

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In early February, David Ward paid the Mo’ Wine Group a visit to present some of his eponymous agency’s new arrivals. “Drinkability first” is the agency’s credo and all the wines poured emphatically met that criterion. The tasting also featured winemakers, grapes and even regions that most of us had little if any experience with. No surprise then that a large order followed. Note that while some of the wines are still available, others are in very short supply.

We began with one of the less unconventional wines in the lineup.

Bourgogne Aligoté 2015, Sarnin-Berrux ($32.89, private import, 12 bottles/case)
With the exception of one cuvée, all Sarnin-Berrux wines are made from purchased grapes. The firm works closely with the growers, insisting on organic methods and often picking the grapes themselves. The wine-making is non-interventionist and based on the lunar calendar. The grapes for this 100% Aligoté are manually harvested. After slow pneumatic pressing, the must is clarified by settling. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts lasts four to six months. Unfiltered and unfined. No additives other than a tiny shot of sulphur. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

sarnin-berrux-aligote-a

Somewhat muted nose: faint lemon/citronella, quartz and “pear flower.” Quite dry and buttery textured with lively but not trenchant acidity. Russet apples and honey up front, minerals (flint and chalk) on the finish. A white pepper note – as much a sensation as a flavour – lingers. Subtly complex and very civilized. If only it were a few dollars less. Then again, Ente’s 2014 Bourgonge Aligoté currently lists for $33 at the SAQ while De Villaine’s 2014 Bouzeron Aligoté runs a buck shy of $40, so maybe it’s not so pricey after all. (Buy again? Hmm…)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 1 of 9

Written by carswell

February 10, 2017 at 13:13

Santorini siblings

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Santorini 2015, Assyrtiko, Argyros ($25.25, 11639344)
100% Assytriko from 60- to 70-year-old ungrafted vines trained into low-lying nests and rooted in the island’s rocky, sandy pumice soil. Fermented and matured in stainless steel tanks. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole. Also available at the LCBO ($22.95, 387365).
Somewhat reticent nose that, with coaxing, reveals stones, lemon, brine and, according to one taster, “olive.” Very dry. True to the Assyrtiko grape, which is to say as much about minerals as fruit. The acidity would be trenchant were it not blunted by the slightly viscous texture. Finishes long on an appealing briny/sulphurous note. Bracing, savoury and ready to roll, though the winemaker says it can age for up to eight years. (Buy again? Yes and yes again.)

Santorini 2015, Assyrtiko, French Oak Fermented, Argyros ($32.00, 12338800)
100% Assyrtiko from ungrafted vines more than 150 years old and located in Episkopi. Spent six months in second- and third-fill 500-litre French oak barrels. Reducing sugar: 3.8 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Softer nose that smells a little sweeter than its sibling’s, with the oak relegated to the background. On the palate, too, the oak is discreet, evident more as gras than, say, vanilla, caramel or toast. It, along with the richer extract, explain the rounder texture; even so, the wine is tighter and more closed than its flightmate. The brilliant acidity, complex minerals and fruity heft are in ideal balance. The finish is long and saline. Already complete, this will only improve with age. If any wine can convince me that oak isn’t beside the point with Assyrtiko, this is it. (Buy again? Yes.)

Technical info is minimal because the estate’s website is offline, probably so it can be overhauled in conjunction with the launch of the estate’s impressive new winery and visitors centre, which opened just in time for the 2016 harvest.

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

January 29, 2017 at 11:08

Greek trio

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Crete 2015, Vilana, Lyrarakis ($14.05, 11607553)
100% Vilana from vineyards in Alagni, central Crete, south-southeast of Heraklion. Manually harvested. Half the grapes were whole-cluster pressed; the other half were destemmed and cold-macerated on the skins for several hours. Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled (17-19°C) stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Focus Cellars.
Chalk, quartz, matches and a hint of dried herbs. Clean, light and smooth in the mouth, with citrusy, Sauvignon Blanc-like fruit, good acidity and a decently long, clean, minerally finish. Certainly drinkable but also somewhat simple and a bit anonymous. Would like to taste the more upscale bottling. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Patras 2015, Roditis, Tetramythos Winery ($15.80, 12484575)
100% Roditis from organically farmed vines in limestone-soil vineyards located about 10 km south and 800 metres above the Gulf of Corinth. The manually harvested grapes are destemmed and pneumatically pressed. The must is gravity-fed into small, temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Expressive nose of candied white berries, quartz dust and a hint of jalapeño. The fruity extract and lemon overtones notwithstanding, minerally – even rainwatery – on the palate, an impression only heightened by the brisk acidity. Ripe-sweet upfront, dry on the long, saline finish. Direct and to the point. Experience shows this really comes into its own with a selection of meze or a grilled porgy. (Buy again? Yes.)

Markopoulo 2015, Savatiano, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Papagiannakos ($16.55, 11097451)
100% Savatiano from unirrigated 50-year-old vines in rocky, limestone soil a few kilometres east of Athens airport. Manually harvested. Fermented with selected yeasts in temperature-controlled (16-18°C) stainless steel tanks. Matured on the lees for three months. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The nose’s combination of floral notes, sandy beach, lemon curd and white peach is unique. Lemon with hints of tropical fruit, a mineral substrate and bright but unaggressive acidity mark the palate. A bitter thread weaves through the long finish. Probably the most versatile of the trio. As the 2008 Estate bottling tasted last summer showed, Savatiano is capable of improving with age. (Buy again? Yes, including a couple of bottles to cellar for five or six years.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 2 of 7

Written by carswell

January 27, 2017 at 14:49

Odd couple

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As is the Mo’ Wine Group’s longstanding tradition, our first tasting after the holidays focused on inexpensive and affordable bottles.

Vino da Tavola 2014, Il Brut and the Beast, Valli Unite ($25.35, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Based in Costa Vescovato in southern Piedmont, Valli Unite is a 35-year-old organic cooperative whose members grow local grape varieties as well as grains, fruits, vegetables and livestock. Accurate information on this wine is hard to find. It’s not listed on the coop’s website and online reviewers tend to be all over place about its constituent grape varieties, production method (some say it’s a filtered Charmat-method sparkler) and stopper (some say it’s a cork). For all I know, there may be more than one bottling. This much seems clear: the wine we tasted was made from Cortese and may also contain some Favorita. The biodynamically farmed grapes were manually harvested. The wine was fermented with indigenous yeasts and bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur was added during the wine-making process. The fizz is the result of natural, in-bottle fermentation. Vegan-compatible. Crown cap. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Pale straw. Hazy in all the glasses though the last glass or two also contained a lot of brown-coloured lees. Interesting, leesy nose of lemon, sour apple, chalk and “bonbon de banane.” Soft but ticklish effervescence. There’s some fruit on the attack (one taster described it as “fruité austère”), lots of chalky minerals and fair acidity. A lactic note sounds on the long finish. Somehow the elements don’t coalesce into a whole and, as the wine breathes, the alcohol becomes noticeable and the wine seems “oxidized” and a bit “flat.” Not the hit that the 2011 was. I suspect our just-off-the-boat bottle was travel-shocked or otherwise upset. (Buy again? To give it another chance in a few months, yes.)

Crémant d’Alsace, Extra Brut, Paul-Édouard, Domaine Bott-Geyl ($26.00, 13032845)
A blend of Pinot Blanc (50%), Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Noir (20%). The hand-picked grapes are purchased from growers, all of whom are converting to organic practices. This traditional-method sparkler was matured in the bottle for 24 months before disgoring. Reducing sugar: 5.1 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: LVAB.
Straw heading toward bronze with a fine bead and next to no foam. Outgoing nose eliciting descriptors like white strawberry, honey, acacia, stone fruit and, surprisingly but accurately, jalapeño. Round and rich in the mouth. The bubbles are low-key, the ripe fruit has a slightly honeyed quality, the minerals are dusty. Soft acidity and hints of lemon provide some welcome freshness. A whiff of yeasty brioche colours the long finish. Impeccable though not what you’d call lively. (Buy again? Personally, I’d go for something tenser but several tasters were quite taken with this.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 1 of 7

Written by carswell

January 26, 2017 at 12:51