Posts Tagged ‘White wine’
Based in Pünderich on the banks of the Mosel River, Clemens Busch took over his family winery in 1984. Starting with the original two hectares, he has expanded the estate’s holdings to 25 hectares, mostly in the 1980s by buying vertiginously steep, hard-to-work vineyards from neighbours who abandoned them to plant faddish Pinot Noir on the much flatter plains above the slopes. Sixteen of the hectares are in the Pünderich Marienburg vineyard, south-facing and considered one of the top Mosel sites. Though a 1971 law consolidated all the hillside’s parcels under the Marienburg name, Busch vinifies them on a parcel by parcel basis and bottles his top cuvées under the original names.
The farming is organic (since 1986) and biodynamic (since 2004). The wine-making is non-interventionist, with no fining and nothing added except a small squirt of sulphur dioxide at bottling for most cuvées. Most of the wines are dry, though small quantities of sweet and botrytized wines are also made.
The estate’s website features some impressive, full-screen photographs of the vineyards and winery.
Mosel 2015, Riesling, (alter)native, Clemens Busch ($32.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
This is an unfiltered, low-sulphur bottling. Nearly the entire production goes to Quebec, though a little also makes its way to New York and Japan. 100% organically and biodynamically farmed Riesling from the Marienburg vineyard. Manually harvested. Macerated 12 to 24 hours on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation lasted until the end of December. Matured 15 months on the lees with no stirring in large (1,000-litre), old (50 years) wooden barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur was added at bottling. Residual sugar: under 4 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Hazy to the eye. The nose elicits descriptors like “pear cider,” “blanche-ish,” bread dough and lemon apples. Mouth-filling, bone dry and clean, with a slightly chewy texture and acidity that’s more puckery than crisp. Apple and mineral flavours last through the long finish. Fuzzier than – not as precise or delineated as – its flightmate and not a traditional Mosel Riesling by any means, but on its own terms it absolutely works. (Buy again? Yes.)
Ordered at Marconi a couple of nights after the tasting, a glass of the Mosel 2015, Riesling Trocken, LS, Clemens Busch (ca. $32.00, private import, 6 bottles/case) – the LS stands for “low sulphur” and the wine contains only about a third of the already low amount of sulphur used in the regular bottlings – was in many ways similar to the (alter)native but clearer and a little more focused if also slightly more conventional. It elicited an “Oh, wow” from my Riesling-loving dining companions, whose first Busch wine it was.
Mosel 2015, Riesling, Marienburg GG, Clemens Busch ($61.34, private import, 3 bottles/case)
100% organically and biodynamically farmed Riesling from 25- to 60-year-old vines rooted in the grey slate section of the original Marienburg vineyard. Manually harvested in late October and early November. Macerated 12 to 24 hours on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation. Matured 12 months on the lees with no stirring in large (1,000-litre), old (50 years) wooden barrels. The barrels are not topped-up for the first month to encourage a little oxidative complexity. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur was added on bottling. Residual sugar: under 6 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Classic Mosel nose of green apple, lime, slate and a touch of petrol. In the mouth, it’s astoundingly pure, balanced, focused and complex. Bone dry but with compensating fruit and layered minerals that, in combination with the lithe acidity, gives the wine a strong though not rigid backbone. Very long. Doesn’t stop evolving in the glass, pointing to a long ageing potential (five to 20 years per Ward’s Alex Boily). A complete and beautiful wine. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)
The GG stands for Großes Gewächs (“great growth”), 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. Busch makes four GG cuvées: the Marienburg, Marienburg Rothenpfad, Marienburg Fahrlay and Marienburg Falkenlay.
MWG April 6th tasting: flight 3 of 7
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 came 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
Crémant d’Alsace 2013, Bernhard & Reibel ($25.75, 13133224)
Not listed on the producer’s website, this appears to be a Quebec-only bottling. A blend of organically farmed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (50-50 per the SAQ, 80-20 per the agency whose technical info for the wine is identical to the producer’s info for the non-vintage crémant with a different label). Manually harvested. Slow pneumatic pressing. The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Sparkled using the traditional method. Matured at least one year in the bottle on lattes. Lightly filtered. Reducing sugar: 6.9 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Boires.
First bottle: Pale gold with fine bubbles. The nose is described variously as “more apple than pear,” “caramel apple,” apple seeds, “sweat or maybe volatile acidity,” chalk, “rancio” and “wet laundry.” In the mouth, the wine is fruity and dry, with good acidity and a fine effervescence. Yet there’s a fuzziness about it, a touch of oxidation and a lingering impression of something a little off. No one is enamoured and one or two perceptive tasters suggest our bottle is defective. Plates of Scottish-Asian gravlax having been set out (thanks, Mike!), we decide to open the backup.
Second bottle: Less gold in colour, the bubbles equally fine. The nose is fresher and fruitier, full of apple, citrus and mineral aromas and a whiff of brioche. On the palate, it’s crisper, cleaner, brighter, more textured and even drier. The racy acidity and mineral substrate last well into the creamy finish. We have a winner. (Buy again? Sure.)
MWG April 6th tasting: flight 1 of 7
Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu 2013, Les Hautes Noëlles, Domaine Les Hautes Noëlles ($36.46, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded in 1930, the estate, which has some 25 hectares of vines, is located in St-Léger-les-Vignes. 100% Melon de Bourgogne from organically farmed vines more than 80 years old and rooted in sand and clay on mica schist. Production is limited to 2,000 bottles a year. The grapes are picked by hand and macerated briefly before pneumatic pressing. The must is clarified by settling. Fermentation (with indigenous yeasts at c. 18°C) and maturation (c. 12 months on the lees with regular stirring) take place in oak barrels, a quarter of which are new. Sulphur use is kept to a minimum. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Multi-faceted nose with scents of apple, “strudel dough” (per another taster), faint marzipan, quartz, dried banana, lemon and more. Rich, fluid, complex, layered and dry. The initial fruit makes room for minerals (“chalk grotto” my note arcanely reads), while sleek acidity lends a soft glow. Honey, “ginger” and faint bitter notes colour the impressively sustained finish. A delicious, absorbing wine quite unlike any other Muscadet I’ve tasted. Would make an interesting ringer in a flight of Chenins or Chardonnays with some age on them. (Buy again? Yes.)
Tasted at Moleskine the following evening, the estate’s 2014 “Les Parcelles” bottling ($20.50, WINO, 12 bottles/case) was crisp, clean and appetizing though far more conventional.
MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 2 of 6
The Mo’ Wine Group’s latest agency tasting was led by the affable Martin Landry from WINO. Around three years old, the agency specializes in wines that are, at a minimum, organic or biodyamic and often “natural.” You’ll find them on the lists at many of the city’s hipper restaurants and wine bars, including Diplomat, Pullman, Rouge Gorge and Moleskine (to name a few recent sightings).
We got things rolling with a classy sparkler from Limoux.
Blanquette de Limoux 2015, Monsieur S./Étienne Fort ($25.33, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Fort is a barely 30-something vigneron who works the family’s two hectares of vines at the Château Saint Salvadou in Bourliège in the Aude department. In 2011, he decided to stop selling his fruit to the local co-op and to start making his own wines. The grapes for this 100% Mauzac come from organically and biodynamically farmed, 30-year-old vines rooted in deep clayey limestone. Manually harvested. Made without additives of any kind. Fermented in stainless steel. Sparkled using the traditional method. Matured 12 months on the lees. Undosed, unfined, unfiltered. Spent 12 months in the bottle on lattes. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Yeasty, leesy nose with quartz and lemon notes. Tiny, tingling verging on prickly bubbles. Bone dry, crisp and clean. Trenchant and minerally upfront with lemon and gooseberry emerging on the mid-palate. A pithy thread runs throughout. The long, savoury, fairly complex finish has a touch of salinity. This bracing and refreshing sparkler would make a fine aperitif or, as Martin suggested, a dashing companion to oysters on the half shell. (Buy again? Yes.)
MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 1 of 6
[Hover over pics to display captions and credits; click to embiggen.]
One of the leaders of the Greek wine renaissance and the modern day king of the ancient Moscofilero variety, Yiannis Tselepos is a phenomenon. A Cypriot by birth, he studied oenology at the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon and, after graduating, spent a couple of years working at several Burgundy estates. He then moved to Arcadia in the eastern Peloponnese, where he found employment as a consulting oenologist, married a local girl, Amelia, and with her founded the eponymous winery. The Tseleposes currently own two estates and have an interest in a third.
Located in Rizes, central Arcadia, Ktima Tselepos is the larger and older of the two estates, dating back to 1999. It sits on a plateau on the eastern flank of Mount Parnon. While the main buildings are surrounded by 30 hectares of vineyards, the estate’s holdings actually total some 240 hectares. The soil here tends to shale and rocky clay and the average elevation is 750 metres, helping ensure the all-important wide difference in day and night temperatures. The handsome winery is built in the traditional local architectural style; less flashy and touristy than some, it feels like a facility whose main vocation is wine production. Although around two-thirds of its output is devoted to Moscofiliero, the estate makes a wide range of wines, from sparklers to still dry reds and whites to sweet wines, from international as well as local grape varieties. With a total annual production of 350,000 bottles, half of which is exported, this is no small operation.
In 2003, Tselepos acquired a second property, Ktima Driopi, an 8.5-hecatre plot of 50-year-old vines rooted in steep clay soil in Kousti, near Nemea, about an hour’s drive to the north-northwest. The estate specializes in Agiorgitiko, another ancient indigenous variety. A small winery has since been built to handle the estate’s output. The estate’s striking labels, as classy as its wines, feature a dormant tree in silhouette.
Tselepos’s latest project is a joint venture with the Chryssou family on Santorini. The Chryssous provide the grapes (from 12 hectares of ungrafted 50- to 100-year-old vines in Pyrgos and Emporio) while Yannis provides the wine-making expertise. Dubbed Canava Chryssou Tselepos Santorini, the estate currently produces around 12,000 bottles a year of a single wine, a 100% Assyrtiko.
At all three estates, the viticultural practices are enlightened without being full-bore organic. In Arcadia, the vines are trained on wires, a virtual necessity in the region’s humid climate. On arid, wind-blasted, sun-stroked Santorini, the vines are coaxed into nest-like spirals that lie close to the ground, the better to protect the fruit and preserve precious water. Irrespective of the estate, the grapes are manually harvested in the cool of the early morning and transported to the winery in small crates. Though the facilities are outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, Yiannis views technology as limited to a supporting role. “Good technology makes for good wine, but only the right vineyard will yield a great wine,” he says.
One aspect of this balancing act between technology and terroir was the focus of an interesting exchange during our technical tasting. A member of our party, a professional sommelier with an impressively acute palate, wondered why Tselepos used selected instead of indigenous yeasts since, he felt, the former scalp and compress wines. Yiannis countered with “I have 17 families besides my own who depend on the winery’s success. I’m not going to put their livelihoods at risk.”
I can see both sides of the argument. Obviously, indigenous yeasts – the yeasts native to a place – are a factor in terroir. And many other winemakers have shown that fine wines can reliably be made using them. So it seems a little paradoxical that the winery, which proudly describes its central wine-making philosophy as “to grow Greek varieties within their specific native ecosystem” and which, as the following notes show, does indeed make terroir-expressive wines, doesn’t go all the way down the terroir path.
Then again, Yiannis is clearly more than just a winemaker. He’s also a successful businessman, a player in the local community and a standard bearer for the wines of his region and country. His Moschofileros and Agiorgitikos are widely viewed as models for what the grapes can achieve. His Mantinias have almost single-handedly put that appellation on the map. One of the reasons this has happened is the wines’ consistency. Why, then, tinker with a winning formula? Why introduce another variable into the process? Why do anything that could undermine the livings of so many and the reputations of a business and a region?
More than just a winemaker? Yes. But still a winemaker at heart, as the following story shows. At one point, Yiannis told us how he came to chose oenopole to represent his wines in Quebec. One day this Greek-Canadian showed up, introduced himself as Theo Diamantis and explained that he was setting up an agency dedicated to selling “real,” terroir-driven wines with a high drinkability quotient, wines made not by industrial producers but by vignerons. Which was why he wanted Tselepos in the portfolio. “It was the first time anybody called me a vigneron,” Yiannis beamed, “and it was all I needed to know. I was ready right then to sign on the dotted line.”
You’ll find my notes on all the day two wines after the jump. For details about where we stayed and ate and what we ate and saw, including some of Tselepos’s vineyards, see the day two report on carswelliana.
Epanomi 2016, Estate White, Ktima Gerovassiliou ($18.65, 10249061)
The village of Epanomi is located about 25 km southeast of Thessaloniki in central Macedonia. A 50-50 blend of Malagousia and Assyrtiko from estate-grown vines After a brief maceration, the grapes are pressed and the juice is fermented in temperature-controlled (18-20°C) stainless steel tanks. Does not undergo malolactic fermentation. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Le Maître de Chai.
Redolent of flowers, fruit and something green: jasmine, orange blossom, grapefruit, lime, stone fruit, lemon grass and maybe a little kiwi and mint. Round in the piehole, fresh with aromatic fruit and bright acidity. A minerally vein runs well into the long finish where it’s joined by an appealing salty bitterness. The Malagousia’s exuberance makes this seem less dry than it actually is, while the Assyrtiko’s acidity and minerals provide welcome structure. Fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc looking to broaden their horizons should make a bee line. Food-friendly by nature, this made a fine match for herb-roasted salmon with a squeeze of lemon. (Buy again? Sure.)