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It’s a white! It’s a red! It’s Brutal!!!

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Brutal!!! 2015, Partida Creus (ca. €10-15/$15-20 in Barcelona, importation valise)
Apparently, the wine is sin denominación, demoninationless. In any case, it’s a blend of several Catalonian grape varieties (probably Vinyater, Subirat Parent, Xarel·lo, Cartoixa Vermell and Blanc de Sumoll) from biodynamically farmed vines planted in clayey-calareous soil. Manually harvested. The varieties are vinified separately and blended before bottling. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured seven months in stainless steel tanks. Unfiltered, unfined. No added sulphur. 11% ABV.

Cloudy pink to the eye. Spicy/funky nose of dough, distant sweet berries, “pink peppercorns” and an evanescing whiff of volatile acidity that one taster describes as “latex gloves.” A bit spritzy in the mouth. Lightly fruity and quite dry but tangy like “kambucha” and “hibiscus.” The tannins are light while the acidity is electric. So refreshing and drinkable and such energy! Like nothing else I’ve tasted yet also like an instant old friend. Wow. (Buy again? By the case.)

On the Raw Wine website, Partida Creus describes themselves thus: “We are winegrowers and winemakers in the Massis de Bonastre terroir of Catalunya, working with our own production of grapes and with rescued ancient vineyards with interesting native variety of grape. All the vines are organic farming, our organic and natural wines express the terroir with its variety typicity. We try to put in the bottles our deep respect and love for wild and Mediterranean landscape, nothing else. A tribute to nature and biodiversity, our work is a way of life making wine. Certified organic by CCPAE Consell catalá de la Producció Agraria Ecologica.”

Partida Creus is represented in Quebec by Vinealis. A Brutal inquiry to the agency’s prime mover, André Papineau, elicited the following reply: “Oui je bosse avec Partida Creus depuis presque 4 ans maintenant. Quantités confidentielles au départ et de bons volumes maintenant. Par contre le Brutal a longtemps été seulement disponible pour le Bar Brutal; il est un peu cher, se vendrait @ ± 36 $ la bouteille le carton de 6, alors j’hésite un peu. Par contre j’aurai beaucoup de différents vins en août : VN blanco et tinto, BN blanco, TN Tinto, et les grandes cuvées de Vinyater, Cartoixa Vermell, Xarel-lo. Toutes les bulles sont réservées pour le groupe Joe Beef…” [Yes, I’ve been working with Partida Creus for nearly four years. Tiny quantities at the start and good volumes now. However, the Brutal!!! was available only at the Bar Brutal [in Barcelona] for the longest time. It’s kind of expensive, going for around $36 a bottle, case of six, so I’m hesitant. On the other hand, I’ll have a bunch of other Partida Creus wines in August: VN blanco and rojo, BN (white), TN (red) and the top wines, made from Vinyater, Cartoixa Vermell and Xarel-lo. All the sparklers are reserved for the Joe Beef group…”]

MWG June 22nd tasting: flight 4 of 7

Notes from the edges

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Vin de Sologne 2014, Quartz, Domaine Étienne Courtois ($39.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Located in the Sologne, Étienne and his father Claude make wines exclusively using ancestral methods and sometimes run afoul of authorities. Farming is strictly organic and biodynamic. This 100% Sauvignon Blanc comes from 15-year-old vines. Manually harvested, destemmed and gently pressed. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts) and matured in oak barrels for 12 to 24 months. 11.7% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Striking, complex nose of turpentine, “eucalyptus,” “wild ginger,” California bay leaf, dried lemon, quartz crystals and parafin. A core of fruit (“candied lemon”) and more (“braised fennel”) wrapped in salt, energized by bright acidity. Good balance and length and real mineral depth. “The best Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever had,” declares one taster. That said, I don’t imagine most people tasting it double-blind would guess it’s a Sauvignon Blanc. Whatever. It’s spellbinding. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

Bourgogne Aligoté 2015, Troma-Onirique, François Écot ($38.15, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Based in Mailly-le-Château in the Yonne department of northeastern Burgundy, François Écot not only runs, with his American wife, a natural wine agency in New York City, he makes wines using grapes from an abandoned one-hectare vineyard that he resurrected. This 100% Aligoté, however, comes from purchased biodynamically and organically farmed (though not certified) grapes. Manually harvested. Vinified and matured eight months in foudres, fûts and amphorae. No added anything, including sulphur. Unfiltered and unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
The nose prompts comments along the lines of chalk quarry, “match stick,” “waxy” and lemon juice. A sip reveals a rich and minerally wine with a mouthfeel as much like a Chardonnay’s as an Aligoté’s. There’s some surprisingly juicy fruit, bright but smooth acidity, impressive purity and depth and a long, minerally finish. It’s still a surprise to see a $40 price tag on an Aligoté, but that’s what the top wines go for these days. And this is definitely a top wine. (Buy again? Yes.)

Coteaux Bourguignons 2015, Pinot Beurot, Domaine Bouillot Salomon ($32.20, private import, 12 bottles/case)
This admirable northern Rhône estate recently acquired 2.7 hectares of vineyards west of Dijon. 100% Pinot Beurot (aka Pinot Gris) from biodynamically farmed vines rooted in clayey-calcareous soil. Manually harvested. Non-interventionist wine-making with no added anything, including sulphur. Matured in stainless steel and cement tanks. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Pear, minerals and more than a hint of reduction, which other tasters describe as “durian” and “cow piss and camomile.” Smooth, round and dry in the mouth. Soft acidity enlivens the verging-on-unctuous texture and brings welcome freshness. There’s a certain minerality and some white spice and butter on the long finish. Not a wine that will have Alsace quaking in its boots but more than just a curiosity. Carafe it at least a couple of hours before serving if drinking now or hide it in the cellar for a two or three years. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG June 8th tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

July 12, 2017 at 13:29

Doubleheader

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Côtes du Jura 2014, Naturé, Domaine de l’Aigle à Deux Têtes ($29.00, 13200183)
Located in Vincelles in the southern Jura, Henri Le Roy’s micro estate has been making wines since 2005. 100% Naturé (aka Savignan) from organically farmed vines. Fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation (on the fine lees) took place in old barrels. As Le Roy is not a fan of oxidized wines, the barrels were kept topped up. No added anything, including sugar, except for a tiny squirt of sulphur dioxide. Wax capsule. Reducing sugar: <1.2 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
The fragrant nose of browning yellow apple, drying hay, limestone and hints of wax, honey, butter and marzipan draws you in. A sip reveals a complex, exquisitely balanced wine. While Savagnin’s pronounced acidity structures, it here is softened by the richness of the fruit, which is so ripe it almost convinces you the wine isn’t bone dry, when in fact it is. And yet this isn’t a fruit-forward wine. The minerality is of a kind normally associated with Chablis or Santorini. The very long, pear-scented finish brings what the French call des beaux amères, a subtle complex of bitter notes, in this case including citrus pith. Unullaged Savagnin is often – and deliciously – done in a bold and bracing style; this adopts another approach, less primary colours, more pastels. A gorgeous wine and a certifiable bargain. (Buy again? Imperatively.)

Written by carswell

July 3, 2017 at 12:40

Busch babies

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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 (or <s on at least some labels) stands for “low sulphur” and the wine contains only about a third of the already low amount of sulphur dioxide 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, focused, complex and balanced. Bone dry but with compensating fruit and layered minerals that, in combination with the lithe acidity, give 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

Written by carswell

April 24, 2017 at 14:15

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

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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