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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

Buy again? Repeatedly.

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Santorini 2015, Assyrtiko, Domaine Hatzidakis ($27.25, 11901171)
100% Assyrtiko. No maceration. After clarification, the must is fermented at 18ºC with indigenous yeasts. Matured on the lees for 40 days. Aged in stainless steal tanks. Lightly filtered and dosed with sulphur dioxide before bottling.1.9 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Sandy beach, preserved lemon and a note that trills between petrol and resinous herbs. A mouthful of minerals, dusted with dried lemon zest and salt, infused with tincture of dried peach peel. Acidity would be glaring were it not for the mellowing extract, chalk and quartz. A thread of dried honey twines through the long finish. This has paired deliciously with dishes as varied as grilled chicken (recipe after the jump), veal scalloppini finished with lemon juice and parsley and, of course, oysters on the half shell. It also makes a deluxe aperitif. The price hikes are unfortunate (the 2011 retailed for $21.95) but inevitable: the world has discovered Santorini wines and grape prices on the island are skyrocketing. That doesn’t make this overpriced – far from it – just less of an incredible bargain than it used to be. (Buy again? Repeatedly.)

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Written by carswell

December 22, 2016 at 13:32

Best yet

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Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine 2014, Granite, Domaine de l’Écu ($23.55, 10282873)
100% Melon de Bourgogne from organically and biodynamically farmed vines 45 to 55 years old growing in stony topsoil and mica granite subsoil. Manually harvested. The winery is gravity fed, so no pumping occurs. Pneumatically pressed. The unclarified must is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Sulphuring is limited to 25 mg added between alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees in underground concrete tanks for 15 to 18 months. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Raisonnance.
Outgoing nose for a young Écu: lemon fruit and pith, chamomile, minerals, faintest hints of wax, honey and almond essence. In the mouth, it’s fruitier than usual: silky, complex and wonderfully pure, acid bright and bone dry, with real mineral depth and overtones of peach and fresh herbs. The long, long flinty, iodiney finish leaves a white peppery afterbite. This will only improve with a few years in the cellar but, in contrast to most vintages, is beguiling young. Perfect, of course, with raw oysters and moules marinières but has the wherewithal to accompany fine fish and, even, sushi and stinky cheeses. Or see what the winemaker has to say about possible pairings. (Buy again? Imperatively.)

Written by carswell

October 16, 2016 at 12:43

Among the great Mediterranean reds

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The technical information for these two wines is identical. The fruit comes from organically farmed, 70- to 90-year-old, dry-farmed, low-yielding, ungrafted vines grown on the Ziros plateau in eastern Crete. The must is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement vats and matured in old French oak barrels. The wines are bottled unfiltered, unfined and with only a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide.

Since the late 1990s, the Sitia appellation has required reds to be a blend of Liatiko and Mandilaria. As the 2006 is all Liatiko, it had to take the broader Crete appellation. Economou doesn’t release wines until he thinks they are ready; that said, this isn’t the first shipment of the 2006 to arrive in Quebec.

Both wines were carafed two or three hours before serving and both benefited enormously from it.

Crete 2006, Liatiko, Domaine Economou ($56.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Liatiko. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The room fell silent as the wines were poured and people started smelling them. Aside from oohs and ahs, the first utterance was in reference to this: “I could drown in it.” An in-pulling, umami-rich nose of plum and cherry, Mediterranean scrub and the earth its rooted in, sea breeze, obsidian dust, violets and more. In the mouth, it’s medium-bodied and possessed of a fluid texture. Ripe but not jammy fruit, smooth but very present acidity and fine but sturdy tannins are all in perfect equilibrium. Dark minerals run like an underground river. Flavours and aromas echoing the nose unfurl from the mid-palate though the long finish. Still vibrant and vigorous at ten years of age. A beauty. (Buy again? Yes.)

Sitia 1999, Domaine Economou ($78.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of 80% Liatiko and 20% Mandilaria. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
More subdued and, if anything, more involving. Evolved, profound nose: mushroom and truffle, leather, dark fruit, cocoa, hints of violets and dried orange peel. Dense and velvety yet medium-bodied. The fruit is a mixture of fresh and dried plums and cherries, the acidity is fluent and sustained, the tannins are resolved but still structuring. Strata of minerals, earth, tar and old wood provide ballast and depth. The finish goes on and on, like the afterglow of a perfect summer day. A magnificent, transporting wine that I suspect is near or at peak, though most definitely not on its last legs. (Buy again? If the opportunity ever presents itself again, yes.)

I repeat what I wrote two years ago: these are among the great Mediterranean reds. While neither wine could come from anywhere but Crete, Economou’s training at top estates in Bordeaux and Barolo is apparent in both.

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 7 of 8

Written by carswell

September 22, 2016 at 14:21

A rocky landscape shimmering in a summer haze

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Crete 2014, Rosé de Liatiko, Domaine Economou ($32.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Liatiko from organically farmed, ungrafted old vines. After a short maceration on the skins, the grapes are pressed and the must is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Maturation is in old barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. Minimal added sulphur and then only at bottling. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Wafting, complex nose: pumice, dried herbs, distant red fruit and a touch of animale. In the mouth, it’s both mysterious and present, like a rocky landscape shimmering in a summer haze. Dried strawberry and stony, sun-baked earth are carried on a stream of acidity. The gauzy layers include garrigue, salt and dried flowers. Dry and long. A rosé with the colour and weight of a Poulsard but aromas and flavours that transport you to a Mediterranean mountainside. A profoundly beautiful wine. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 4 of 8

Written by carswell

September 15, 2016 at 13:55

White gold

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The centrepieces of the August 12th tasting were five newly arrived wines from one of the stars in the Greek wine firmament, Domaine Economou. We began with the whites. Reliable technical information for Economou wines is hard to come by. As far as I can ascertain, both wines are made in a similar way: fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks, matured in assorted containers (possibly including old casks, stainless steel tanks, fibreglass vats and underground cement tanks) and bottled unfiltered and unfined with a tiny shot of sulphur dioxide.

Sitia 2013, Vilana/Thrapsathiri, Domaine Economou ($51.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend, typically 70-30, of Vilana and Thrapsathiri from organically farmed, ungrafted, estate-grown vines. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Fascinating, nuanced nose: honey, almond, sea salt, distant apple, pear and maybe even pumpkin, a not unappealing hint of rancid butter. Dry, rich and savoury with a slightly oily texture. Fresher than the 2009 due, I think, to sustained acidity and discreeter oxidative notes, which give the white fruit a yellow facet, as if it were poached with apricot and dried orange peel. The smooth, underlying minerality has me thinking of river stones. Long, layered and profound though not as deep as its flightmate. Unique and involving. (Buy again? Yes.)

Crete 2013, Assyrtiko, Domaine Economou ($51.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Assyrtiko from organically farmed, ungrafted vines. Assyrtiko not being a permitted variety in the Sitia PDO, the wine qualifies only for the broader Crete PGI designation. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
“Round nose, like a Bâtard-Montrachet,” notes one taster. If there’s fruit, it’s poached pear intertwined with threads of pine tar, salt-rimed stone and an scent I peg as oak but the aforementioned taster characterizes as “roasted chestnuts.” In the mouth, the wine is weighty, structured, complex, deep and glowingly acidic. There’s an oxidized edge though not a distracting one, as it allows notes of lemon, honey, white nuts and anise seed to come through. Possessed of a long, uniquely savoury finish with a delectably bitter aftertaste. Different from its high-end Santorini counterparts – rounder, richer and less crystalline – but fully worthy of standing alongside them. (Buy again? Yes.)

In a discussion about the Assyrtiko, agent Theo Diamantis drew an analogy with a grand cru Riesling. He also wondered about food pairings. My ideas: fine white fish in a rich sauce, butter-poached lobster, grilled lamb chops, beef tartare (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it).

MWG August 12th tasting: flight 3 of 8

Written by carswell

September 14, 2016 at 14:04

A flight to remember

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Rosso di Valtellina 2013, Ar.Pe.Pe. ($36.50, 12257997)
100% Nebbiolo from vines grown in the lower parts of the estate’s Sassella and Grumello vineyards. The farming is mostly organic. Manually harvested. Cold-macerated a couple of days before fermentation. Fermented in vats with indigenous yeasts. Matured three months in 50-hectolitre wood barrels (oak, chestnut and acacia) and five months in the bottle. Reducing sugar: 1.5 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
A fragrant mix of red cherry, blood orange, violets, tar, “the ashtrays at Cinéma Parallèle,” a vegetal note and eventually beef consommé. Technically medium-bodied, though delicate may be a more accurate descriptor. The balance between ripe fruit, fluent acidity and supple tannins is ideal. A rumbling of dark minerals lasts into the long, clean finish. Direct and to the point, maybe even simple, yet the purity and freshness of the fruit are an unadulterated delight. As if to remind us that wine is a living and therefore variable thing, another bottle tasted a few days later was rough-edged and sharply acidic. You pays your money and you takes your chances. (Buy again? Will definitely take my chances on this one.)

Boca 2010, Le Piane ($72.50, 12817114)
An appellation that nearly vanished but is now enjoying a revival, in no small part due to Le Piane. Starting with a half-hectare vineyard, the estate has acquired other plots and reclaimed abandoned vineyards from the forest. It now totals eight hectares. This is a blend of Nebbiolo (85%) and Vespolina (15%) from a mix of 30- to 50-year-old vines and vines planted between 1998 and 2004. The farming is mostly organic. Fermented on the skins with indigenous yeasts and daily punch-downs in open steel and wood casks (2000-3000 litres). After pressing, the wine was transferred to large Slavonian oak barrels for maturation. Lightly filtered before bottling. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Cherries and red berries, clay, leather, a drop of balsamic vinegar and a hint of banana peel, then rose and pastrami spice. In weight, texture and delineation, positively Burgundian. The ripe-sweet fruit is laced with iron and slate, framed with silky tannins and carried on a fresh current of acidity. New layers of flavour and aroma – veils might be the better word here – appear with each swirl and sip. Gains an earthy note on the long finish. How can a wine be simultaneously so vibrant and so ethereal? Pricey but, in its way, perfect. Drinking beautifully now if carafed well in advance and likely capable of ageing for a decade or more. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Barolo 2011, Brovia ($64.00, 12831266)
100% Nebbiolo from organically farmed vines planted in 1971, 1974 and 1993 in various vineyards in the Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d’Alba production areas. The manually harvested fruit is lightly pressed and destemmed. Macerated and fermented in temperature-controlled (28°C) tanks for 15 to 20 days. Matured in 30-hectolitre Slavonian and French oak casks for two years. Unfiltered. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins de Dame Jeanne.
Marzipan, cherry, “felt pen,” dried tarragon, eventually rose. Sumptuously fruited and beautifully structured; the sleek acidity and round, firm tannins confer a velvety texture. Complex, layered and long, with a tarry note colouring the finish. Surprisingly open and expressive for such a young Barolo. A gorgeous wine. For a Barolo of this quality, the price is more than reasonable. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Not surprisingly, the tasters spent far more time than usual smelling, tasting and discussing the wines in this flight and seemed reluctant to empty their glasses.

MWG March 31st tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

May 17, 2016 at 13:01