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Posts Tagged ‘Wow


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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

Cider house jewels

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The most recent edition of the Salon des Quilles, the trade-focused wine expo held alongside the late October/early November Salon des vins d’importation privée, was filled with delights familiar and un-. In the latter category, the two stand-outs for me were unexpected: Switzerland’s Cidrerie du Vulcain and Vermont’s La Garagista. Fortunately, the Mo’ Wine Group was able to secure bottles from each estate for inclusion in a new arrivals tasting.

Run by 40-something Jacques Perritaz, Cidrerie du Vulcain (vulcain is the French name for the red admiral butterfly, which feeds on the juice of fallen apples) is located in Le Mouret, in the canton of Fribourg, Switzerland. While working as a freelance biologist specializing in the management and preservation of natural habitats and rare native plants, Perritaz decided to try his hand at cider-making, initially as a hobby. In his work, he had noticed old apple and pear trees in the fields of many dairy farmers. The trees, remnants of the once-thriving local cider industry, were trimmed à haute tige, with the lower branches removed, the better to protect the cows from the elements and prevent the beasts from eating the unfallen fruit. When asked, the farmers said they did nothing with the fruit and Perritaz was free to harvest it. He bought a small press and, in 2000, began making cider, his annual production eventually increasing to about 250 cases.

In 2006, while vacationing in Normandy, he encountered cider-maker extraordinaire Éric Bordelet, who took him under his wing. Perritaz soon invested in a larger facility and bottling line and went commercial. The fruit he uses come from around 200 trees, some of them leased. When I inquired whether he was planning to buy any trees, Perritaz said he would like to but land prices in Switzerland made that impossible, though he was open to acquiring land elsewhere, including in France or possibly even Quebec.

Most of the old Swiss varieties Perritaz uses are low in tannin, which makes natural clarification difficult. As a result, he is more interventionist in the cellar than he might otherwise be, adding an enzyme derived from natural mushroom extract (approved for organic uses) to encourage precipitation. All fermentations are with indigenous yeasts. However, as initial fermentation are over-vigorous, at the two-week point he lightly filters the fermenting juice through diatomaceous earth to “tire” and slow the yeast, thereby ensuring enough sugar remains for the second, in-bottle fermentation. The only other intervention is the addition of a small amount of sulphur dioxide at bottling.

The MWG’s late November new arrivals tasting began with three ciders, two from Cidrerie du Vulcain and one from La Garagista, which estate I’ll profile in the third instalment of this report.

Cidre demi-sec 2016, Transparente, Cidrerie du Vulcain ($19.66, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Made from a blend of Transparente de Croncels, Reinette de Champagne, Pomme Raisin and Rose de Berne apples. Usually demi-sec but can be sec, depending on the vintage. Added sulphur is limited to about 20 mg/l. 4.2% ABV. Quebec agent: Planvin.
Engaging nose of apple blossom and skins, “kind of like bottle caps candy” (quoting another taster). Off-dry and softly effervescent. The “juicy” yet ethereal – transparent? – fruit has a slightly bruised and browning quality. There’s just enough acidity is to brighten and freshen. A trickle of salt and white spice surfaces on the long finish. “Like being in an orchard.” Delightful now but I’m saving my other bottles for refreshment on hot summer days. (Buy again? Yes.)

Cidre 2016, Trois Pépins, Cidrerie du Vulcain ($24.81, private import, 12 bottles/case)
A blend of apple, pear and quince in equal proportions. 5% ABV. Quebec agent: Planvin.
A nose more subdued, complex and savoury with a mastic note. “Ça me fait penser au boudin noir” notes one taster. In the mouth, it’s dry, minerally and not particularly fruity. Soft round bubbles and smooth acidity provide lift, a salty mineral underlay some depth. Ghostly tannins appear on the bitter-edged finished. Opens up with time in the glass. Layered and faceted enough to be absorbing on its own but also excellent with pre-meal nibbles and substantial and savoury enough to accompany raw or cooked white fish and shell fish and mild cheeses. Wow. (Buy again? A case or two at least.)

Cidre Mousseux Vintage No. 1, Bouleverser, La Garagista ($29.89, private import, 6 bottles/case)
This is a blend of 17 varieties of biodynamically farmed apples, mostly American heirloom varieties, grown on the estate, which is located in Bethel, Vermont. Most of the juice is from 2015 fruit, though some is from earlier vintages going back to 2010, in a kind of solera system. Both fermentations use indigenous yeasts. The sugar for the second, in-bottle fermentation was provided by the addition of 2015 juice. 7% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.
An initial odd note of vinyl and “new shoes” blows off, leaving a nose dominated by apples, though not to the exclusion of a whole set of savoury aromas including straw and fresh mushrooms. Dry and saline on the palate, electric with bubbles and acidity, complicated by a faint sourness and showing real depth of flavour. Finishes long and clean with a tang that virtually demands you take another sip. Less airy and alpine than the Vulcains, somehow closer to an ale or wine, this is stupendous. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Mo’ Wine Group November 23rd tasting: flight 1 of 6


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Dolcetto d’Alba 2015, Cantina Bartolo Mascarello ($34.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Dolcetto from organically farmed vines. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in non-temperature-controlled concrete tanks with no pump-overs but with the skins and seeds kept submerged in the must. Matured one year in neutral, Slavonian oak botte. Lightly filtered before bottling. 14% ABV. The lovely label features a painting done by Bartolo when he was in his 70s. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Closed nose that, with coaxing, gives up mullbery, coffee, turned earth, “vanilla Coke,”Asian spice and “florals.” So dense, tannic, tight and primal in the mouth and yet so beautiful. The ripe fruit, which includes “black olive,” is carried on an underground river of acidity over a deep mineral substrate. The finish is endless. Balanced, profound, even mysterious, and full of potential: clearly a great wine. Give this monolith five years or longer to open up, then prepare to be wowed. (Buy again? Whenever the opportunity presents itself.)

Dolcetto d’Alba 2015, Giuseppe Rinaldi ($33.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Dolcetto from organically farmed vines. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in large wood vats. Matured in neutral Slavonian oak botte. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Constantly evolving nose of, among other things, bitter cherry, sweet spice, leafmould, slate, incense and cascara. Medium- to full-bodied. Packed with fruit (mainly black cherry) and minerals. Structured by bright, smooth acidity and firm yet pliable tannins that another taster describes as “silty.” The long, silky finish is overtoned with earth and spice. A complete wine. Accessible, especially compared with the Mascarello, though capable of ageing a decade or even longer. (Buy again? Definitely.)

MWG October 26th tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

December 23, 2017 at 12:55

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

Primo Malvasia

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Uroš Klabjan’s eponymous estate is located on the Istrian peninsula in Slovenia just south of the Italian border and three kilometres inland from the Gulf of Trieste. The around 10 hectares of vineyards are devoted mainly to indigenous varieties, primarily Malvasia and Refosco. Most of the vines are several decades old though one plot of ungrafted Malvasia is well past the 100-year mark. The estate is certified organic and the wine-making practices are traditional and non-interventionist. Annual production is typically in the 30,000-bottle range.

Primorska 2013, Malvazija Maceracija, Klabjan ($53.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
As far as I can tell, Klabjan makes two Malvasias: the fresh and easy-going white label and this, the more savoury and complex black label. 100% Malvasia from dry-farmed old vines. Manually harvested. Macerated 10 days on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured 30 months on the lees in oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur (total sulphites: 35 mg/l). Vegan-friendly. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy straw-bronze. Inexhaustibly protean nose of orange, apple, apricot, “rye whisky” and hints of vanilla and smoke that eventually heads into earthy mushroom territory. Smooth textured and possessed of a certain weight, layered and enveloping. The complex set of flavours echoes the nose and adds lees and minerals. Luminous acidity throws it all in relief, a effect sustained through the very long finish. Perfectly accessible now but also capable of ageing for years. Vibrant and engaging, this spellbinding wine was a favourite of just about everyone around the table. Despite the high price, we would have taken a couple of cases had any been available. (Buy again? Gladly. And I’ll make a beeline for any Klabjan wines I run across in the future.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 2 of 9

Written by carswell

November 25, 2017 at 11:49

Northern exposure

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Terre Siciliane 2015, Versante Nord, Eduardo Torres Acosta ($35.00, 13387380)
Nerello Mascalese with 20% other varieties, including Nerello Capuccio and possibly Alicante Bouschet and Grenache from vines in two co-planted parcels (Pietramarina and Crasa, totalling 1.5 ha) at 550 to 750 metres in elevation on the north-facing side of Mount Etna, hence the bottling’s name. The vines average 45 to 50 years old, with the oldest being about 80. The manually harvested grapes were transported to Arianna Occhipinti’s winery in Vittoria. Some clusters were destemmed, others left whole. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and macerated on the skins for 15 days in a cement tank with no temperature control. Matured 16 months in 750-litre Slavonian oak botti. Minimally sulphured. The 2015 is the second vintage of the wine. Total production: 6,000 bottles. 13.5% ABV per the label, 12% ABV per the SAQ. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The expected cherry and plum plus cedar, blood and stone. No more than medium-bodied. Structured by silky acidity and gossamer tannins, the fruit seems shot through with minerals. The sustained finish brings a light astringency and a dusty aftertaste. So pure and savoury, so effortlessly complex. A pleasure to drink. (Buy again? Yes.)

Terre Siciliane 2015, Pirrera, Eduardo Torres Acosta ($59.00, 13387371)
The blend is similar to the Versante Nord but with 90% Nerello Mascalese. All grapes come from the high-altitude (850 metres) Pirrera vineyard on the north slope of Mount Etna, which had been abandoned until Acosta began rehabilitating it. The vines average 50 years old and the soil is sandy with volcanic ash and stones. The wine-making was identical to that for the Versante Nord. The 2015 is the second vintage of the wine. Total production: 1,100 bottles. 13.5% ABV per the label, 12% ABV per the SAQ. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Inexhaustible nose of spice, cedar, old wood, forest floor, background dried cherry, floral and balsamic notes and more. Richer than the Versante but still medium-bodied and silky. There’s a pure core of fruit, racy but integrated acidity, an airframe tannic structure, minerals galore, a feathery astringency and a very long, subtly inflected cherry marzipan finish. More serious than its flightmate yet still so fresh. A flawless, complex, engaging, delicious wine. (Buy again? Yes.)

Soon after the wines’ release, a MWG member who was wondering which if any to buy asked a well-regarded SAQ wine advisor for input. The advisor said he was enamoured with the Versante Nord but felt the Pirrera wasn’t worth the extra outlay. The member bought some of the Versante and gave the Pirrera a pass. At the tasting a few days later, our experience was more the opposite: both wines were delightful but the Pirrera was the standout. The member made a beeline to the SAQ and scored a couple of bottles.

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

November 16, 2017 at 13:37

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