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Posts Tagged ‘White wine

Clean, crisp and elegant

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Champagne, Brut, 7 Crus, Agrapart & Fils ($69.75, 12632275)
For background on the Avise-based estate, see here. A blend of Chardonnay (90%) and Pinot Noir (10%) from two vintages (40% 2012 and 60% 2013 per the Agrapart website). The grapes came from vineyards in seven villages. After alcoholic fermentation, the still wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Half of the 2012 wine was matured in oak barrels. Bottled unfiltered and unfined in May 2014. Matured in bottle on the lees for three years. Riddled manually. Disgorged on an as-needed basis 60 days before being released to market. Dosage was limited to 7 g/l of sugar and 50 g/l of sulphur dioxide. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Bella Vita.

Not much foam but lots of tiny bubbles. Lovely nose of pear, apple and minerals with background yeast, vanilla, honey, toast, white flowers and a lactic note. In the mouth, it’s as minerally as it is fruity, the minerals tending to chalk, the fruit to lemon and green apple. Fundamentally a lightweight yet the underlying wineyness gives it a depth not often found in champagnes at this price point. The fine, tickling effervescence adds texture and lift, while the long finish brings “des beaux amères” (a beautiful bitterness, quoting another taster). Remarkably clean, crisp and elegant, this is a superb aperitif champagne. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 1 of 6

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Written by carswell

December 12, 2017 at 12:12

Unmissable Muscadet

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Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu 2015, Clos de la Butte, Éric Chevalier ($19.65, 12886831)
After spending a decade sourcing grapes for a négociant in the Tourraine, Éric Chevallier returned to his family estate, Domaine de l’Aujardière, in 2005. His father, a highly regarded grape grower, was set to retire. Éric took the helm somewhat reluctantly but soon found himself challenged and rewarded by the task. He began converting his 28 hectares of vineyards to organic in 2016. This bottling is 100% Melon de Bourgogne from 50-year-old vines planted in serpentinite, eclogite and quartz in the La Butte lieu-dit. The grapes are pneumatically pressed and the must transferred to glass-lined tanks. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured eight to 10 months on the lees with regular stirring. Unracked and unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Subtle, nuanced, complex nose: quartzy granite, sea beach sand, pear, faint lemon, straw and a hint of marzipan. Clean and unassertive on the attack. Super dry. Not a lot of fruit though plenty of extract and tons of minerals, all carried on a stream of fluent acidity. The flavours turn rainwatery on the mid-palate and swell on the finish: pear, wax and tangy salted butter, with a faint bitterness adding intrigue. More than just an outstanding here-now Muscadet, this is one of the best under-$20 whites currently available at the SAQ. Excellent as an aperitif but also with mollusks and white fish. I look forward to trying Chevalier’s Fié Gris and La Noë bottlings, both private imports.  (Buy again? A case.)

Written by carswell

December 7, 2017 at 13:25

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

Collio rodeo

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For its October agency tasting, the Mo’ Wine Group welcomed the personable Vadim Fonta, whose currently nameless wine agency – unofficially Agence sans nom – is usually referred to by his name. A couple of years ago, Vadim gave up a career in finance for one in wine, a field he felt far more passionate about. His primary focus is on a niche not particularly well represented in Quebec: organic, biodynamic and natural wines from Slovenia, the Balkans and eastern Europe as well as Italy, especially the northeast.

Once again the wines weren’t exactly in flights, though I’ve arranged them into such for reporting purposes.

Collio 2015, Bianco, Edi Keber ($40.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The estate, which has 10 hectares of vineyards, is located a short distance from the Slovenian border. The family has been making wines for more than three centuries though Keber’s first bottled vintage was 1957. This, the only wine it makes, is a blend of Friulano (aka Sauvignon Vert, usually around 70%), Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla from organically farmed vines averaging 40 years old and rooted in “ponka” – poor, stony, friable marl – soil. Manually harvested. Direct pressed (no skin contact). Fermentation in stainless steel tanks with selected, non-aromatic yeasts lasts three to four weeks. Matured one year in concrete tanks except for 20% of the Friulano, which spent six months in neutral tonneaux. Clarified by settling and fining with bentonite. Total production: 60,000 bottles. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
A bit reductive on opening, then dried lemon and limestone with some Sauvignon Blanc overtones. Rich and dense – not heavy – in the mouth. So clean and pure. Layers of yellow fruit (apple, peach), minerals, spice (anise), “almond blossom” and more make for an engagingly complex palate. Gleaming acidity keeps things fresh. The finish is long and bitter-edged, with herbal notes chiming in toward the end. (Buy again? Yes.)

Collio 2011, Bianco, La Castellada ($53.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in the mid-1950s, the estate is located in Oslavia in the Gorizia hills close to the Slovenian border. A blend of Pinot Grigio (50%), Chardonnay and Malvasia from organically farmed vines averaging 35 years old rooted in ponka (see above). The Pinot Gris was direct pressed; the Chardonnay and Malvasia were macerated on the skins for four days. Spontaneous fermentation. Matured one year in stainless steel, one year in 200-litre Slavonian oak barrels, one year in neutral oak barrels and one year in the bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Upfront minerals (including, per another taster, “plaster dust”) along with yellow tropical fruits and a shot of creamy vanilla. Richer and more honeyed than the Keber yet also “very savoury.” Great breadth, depth and length. The complex of fruit and minerals is sweetened by oak, lightly soured by acidity and complicated by a light but pervasive bitterness. Several tasters found this a little too rich and oaky, though nearly all conceded they might feel differently if it were served with a fancy seafood dish. (Buy again? A bottle for experimenting with food pairings.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 1 of 9

Written by carswell

November 21, 2017 at 12:50

Mainlining Assyrtiko

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Santorini 2013, Pure, Volcanic Slopes Vineyards ($45.50, 13109697)
Run as a separate operation, Volcanic Slopes Vineyards is a second label of sorts of Argyros Estate. It is the brainchild of Argyros’ winemaker and commercial director, Stefanos Georgas. The idea is to make as pure an expression of Santorini Assyrtiko as possible using a hands-off approach. This 2013 is the first vintage of what is, so far, its only cuvée. Assyrtiko (100%) from 80- to 150-year-old ungrafted vines in two parcels: one with pumice soil in Episkopi Gonias, the other with basalt soil in Megalochori. Manually harvested. Half of the must is free-run juice, the other half is juice from gently pressed whole clusters. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured 14 months on the lees with frequent stirring in a naturally temperature-controlled underground concrete tank in the old Argyros winery. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oneopole.
Multifaceted nose that prompts descriptors like lemon, quartz dust, “sour fuzzy peach,” “distant honey,” bay leaf and lingering apple. Imposing and enthralling from the first sip: a “decadent” yet austere amalgam of clementine and incredible minerality and salinity. The rich extract and electric acidity are in breathtaking balance. There’s great breadth, depth and length – every dimension, in fact. Pure is no exaggeration, no marketing gimmick. A stunning wine, “like mainlining Assyrtiko.” It will be fascinating to see how this evolves over the next three to five years and maybe beyond. Surely one of the great white wines of Europe and, as such, more than fairly priced. The 2013 is almost sold out. Tasted at the winery in July 2016, two days after it had been bottled, the 2014 seemed every bit its equal. (Buy again? Imperatively – even the group’s white wine skeptic felt compelled to run out and acquire a couple of bottles.)

Santorini 2016, Assyrtiko, Hatzidakis ($28.50, 11901171)
The estate’s entry-level bottling. Sadly, 2016 was Haridimos Hatzidakis’s last vintage. 100% Assyrtiko from organically farmed, ungrafted vines up to a century old in Pyrgos, Megalochori, Akrotiri and Vourvoulos. The manually harvested grapes were direct-pressed. The must was clarified by settling, then fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled (18°C) tanks. Stayed on the lees for 40 days. Matured in stainless steel tanks. Lightly filtered and dosed with sulphur dioxide before bottling. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oneopole.
Lemony, “ferny” nose with notes of “modelling clay,” peach and distant sea shore. In the mouth, the dense extract and unctuous texture are counterpointed by crystalline minerals, vibrant verging on trenchant acidity and a fundamental dryness. Fruitier (lemon and quince) than in some earlier vintages. The saline finish brings some dried herb notes. Not as deep, broad or long as the (older and much more expensive) Pure, though hardly lacking dimension. Almost too rich for an aperitif; probably best thought of as a food wine (to date, it has made a matchless match for spaghetti with leeks, olive oil, lemon juice and zest and bottarga and for oysters on the half shell). (Buy again? Multiples.)

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 4 of 7

Written by carswell

November 11, 2017 at 14:01

Antipodal Savagnins

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Côtes du Jura 2015, Savagnin, Les Sarres, Domaine Rijckaert ($29.95, 12951356)
The estate avoids herbicides and insecticides and limits its use of synthetic chemicals to treatments against mildew and odium. All the estate’s wines are made in barrels. 100% Savagnin from the Les Sarres vineyard located in Buvilly. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Underwent full malolactic fermentation. Matured two years on the lees in neutral French oak barrels with no stirring. Kept topped up, so not oxidized. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Slightly hazy pale electrum to the eye. Minerally nose of lemon and grapefruit with hints of potpourri and almond. In the mouth, it’s clean and tonic. The fruit (lemon, yellow plum) is sweet-seeming on the attack, though the wine is actually very dry. There’s a real mineral depth, including a shot of salinity. The bright acidity combines with a faint bitterness on the long finish to provide a bit of grip. Less electric than some Savagnins but still a fine example of what the grape can do. (Buy again? Sure.)

Adelaide Hills 2016, Skin n’ Bones White, BK Wines ($35.00, importation valise)
The South Australian estate was founded in 2007 by Brendon and Kristy Keys. This monovarietal is made using Savagnin from organically farmed 10-year-old vines rooted in limestone and sandstone over deep clay in Lobethal in the cool-climate Lenswood subregion. The grapes were manually harvested and fully destemmed but not crushed. Spent one month on the skins with twice-daily pump-overs, then was pressed and racked into neutral French oak barrels with regular stirring for nine months. Alcoholic and full malolactic fermentation were spontaneous. Total production: 200 cases. 11.8% ABV. Represented in western Canada by Calgary-based Crush Imports.
One-of-a-kind nose of “smoked fish,” “sushi” and “barbecued corn” (quoting other tasters) as well as dried apricot and, with time, green fruit (kiwi, melon) and herbal notes. Dry, fluid and layered. Nicely structured with pervasive but smooth acidity, a current of white minerals and ghostly tannins that last well into the long finish. Grape skins and apricot pit linger. As unusual and engaging as it is savoury and delicious. (Buy again? Gladly.)

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

November 10, 2017 at 13:31

Native whites

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Gaillac 2016, Les Pierres Blanches, Domaine De Brin ($24.85, 13314666)
A blend of Mauzac (60%) and Len de l’El (40%) from organically farmed vines rooted in stony calcareous-clay soil. Manually harvested. The grapes are direct-pressed and the must is chilled and clarified by settling. Vinification – including sponatneous alcoholic and complete malolactic fermentation – and maturation take place in neutral barrels and last nine to 12 months. Unfiltered and unfined. No added anything except possibly a tiny amount of sulphur at bottling. Reducing sugar: < 1.2 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
The first sniff brings a hint of reduction and volatile acidity followed by an odd mix of apple, flowers and sauerkraut. In the mouth, it’s clean, fresh and sleekly acidic, dry but full of applely fruit and quartzy minerals with a bitter undertow. Fair depth and good length. Not bad but not the revelation I was expecting. A taster who had enjoyed an earlier bottle didn’t peg our bottle, which was served double-blind, as the same wine. Nor did the wine match the description of the trustworthy SAQ advisor who recommended it. In other words, probably an off bottle. (Buy again? Yes, especially to give it another chance.)

Terre Siciliane 2016, Versante Nord, Uve Bianche, Eduardo Torres Acosta ($35.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Born in the Canary Islands, Acosta headed to southeast Sicily in 2012 to intern with Arianna Occhipinti. He later did a stint as a winemaker at Passopisciaro, eventually renting and farming a few parcels and making wine under his own name. His first commercial vintage was 2014. The grapes are grown in the Etna appellation but the wines are made at Occhipiniti’s facilities in Vittoria. That and the fact that at least some of the vineyards are higher than the allowed 800 metres of altitude are why the wines qualify only for the broad Terre Siciliane IGT designation and not the Etna DOC. This blend of Minella (60%) and other local varieties is made using grapes grown in six plots on the north face of Mount Etna. The organically farmed vines average 45 to 50 years old and are rooted in soils with a high volcanic ash content. The grapes are manually harvested, crushed and macerated on the skins for five days in concrete tanks with no temperature control. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured eight months in neutral oak botti. The 2016 is the first vintage of the wine. Total production: 2,000 bottles. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Complex nose, initially of “garlic sausage,” summer savoury and poblano chile, then more lemon and quartz. Dense and apricoty in the mouth, with citrusy acid and a mineral structure beyond the obvious current of salinity. The very long brings a lingering pithy bitterness. A multifaceted, engaging wine if not exactly a charmer. Probably better viewed as an accompaniment to dinner than an aperitif. Nearly the entire shipment was snatched up by Montréal Plaza restaurant, where it’s currently on the list for $76 and would make a smart match for many of their super-savoury dishes. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 2 of 7

Written by carswell

November 8, 2017 at 12:09