Wine Club April 2018

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Hello wine clubbers and Happy Easter! We’ve got a great line-up of wines for you this month, ranging from a fun and crushable muscat from South Africa (breakfast wine?) to a legendary Bordeaux that you can choose to open or age for years to come. As always please don’t hesitate to reach out should you have any questions or concerns. Cheers!

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Miraval Blanc Coteaux Varois – Provence, France $30

Where

The mad painter Vincent Van Gogh left Paris in 1888 in search of the “Yellow Sun”. He was bewitched by the azure blue skies, flowering trees, and ochre earth of Provence. His paintings from this time seem to radiate with light. Provence is in fact the sunniest region in France. The vine needs a minimum of 1400 hours of sunlight to ripen grapes. Provence gets 2700-3000 hours! Situated to the east of the Rhone in the southeast of the country, it’s a smaller region than its reputation would suggest. Wine has been made here for 2600 years, longer than anywhere else in France. The diverse landscape of craggy mountains, undulating hills, and sheltered valleys is ideal for grape growing. The Mediterranean and “Mistral” wind moderate temperatures and keep vines dry and pest free.

What

The winemaker in Provence has lots of colors to paint with. There are 36 approved grape varieties. Well known grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon rub shoulders with lesser known grapes like Terret Blanc and Tibouren. Côtes de Provence, the largest AOC (a specific area for growing grapes), produces 3 out of every 4 bottles of wine. The vast majority of this (89%) is Rosé. The regions white wines receive less attention, but are equally delicious. Perfectly paired with the regions legendary cuisine of vegetables and seafood, they are made from varieties such as Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), Marsanne, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc, to name a few. In the case of the Miraval Blanc we have a wine made from Rolle and Grenache Blanc. Also grown in Sardinia, where it is known as Vermentino, Rolle produces wines with lively freshness and complexity. A higher than average phenol count lends a snappy bitterness to its finish. Chateau Miraval, whose vineyards straddle two appellations, sources fruit for this wine from the Coteaux Varois en Provence. Elevage is mostly in stainless steel tanks, with 10% in oak barrel.

Who

To get it out of the way, yes, Chateau Miraval is owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Yes, it is where they held their wedding in 2014. More importantly though, it is where Pink Floyd laid down tracks for The Wall album. A former owner, pianist Jacques Loussier, had installed a record studio on site.

The Chateau is located in its own private valley by the ancient village of Correns. 30 hectares of vineyards are surrounded by 470 hectares of olive trees, woodlands, and garrique. In addition to wine, the estate produces high quality olive oil from 13 varieties of olives. Prior to its acquisition by Pitt and Jolie, the estate already produced wine under the guidance of American owner Tom Bove. Wisely the couple enlisted some big league talent to manage winemaking when they took ownership. They joined forces with the Perrin family, owners of the legendary Château de Beaucastel. Under the guidance of Marc Perrin, Miraval has achieved considerable success. The first 6000 bottles of their Rosé sold out within hours of being released. 

Taste

The Miraval Blanc combines racy citrus notes of lime and and grapefruit, with a slightly oily texture and salty bitter finish. Bright gold in color, like Van Gogh’s “Yellow Sun”, with crunchy notes of minerality and almond, its an ideal match for classic la bourride (fish stew with aïoli). 

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Craft & Origin No Monkey Business Moskato – South Africa $11

Where

South Africa’s wine regions are renowned for their sheer beauty. The rugged landscape of the Western Cape is home to the country's finest vineyards. The lush landscape of mountains and fertile valleys is ideal for growing grapes. Influenced by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, vineyards enjoy a moderate mediterranean climate. The Cape Doctor wind keeps vines reliably dry and disease free. Vineyards planted in the Northern Cape experience a decidedly more extreme and hot climate. 

What

Wine has been made in South Africa for 300 years. A important resupply stop for the Dutch East India Company during the 1600s, early wines were made for sailors and settlers. Quality was not important. It wasn’t until the 1700s that things improved. The dessert wine of Constantia, produced just south of Cape Town, was a favourite of the European aristocracy. Over time the industry would suffer many setbacks, not least of which was a crushing boycott of South African wines during the era of Apartheid. In 1990, almost 3 out of 4 grapes grown in South Africa went into distilled spirits or basic table wine. Coming out of these tough times, the industry has bounced back. During the Mandela era winemakers were able to travel and benefit from international experience. The countries red wines are often made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and of course, Pinotage. For the white wines, Chenin Blanc (known locally as Steen) is the favoured variety. With such a long history though, there is much diversity in plantings. Take for instance the Craft & Origin No Monkey Business, which is made from Muscat. Although there are 200 different types of Muscat, overall it is known for juiciness and floral aromas. Made in the tradition of Moscato d’Asti, Craft & Origin have bottled this wine with some residual sugar and bubbliness. The alcohol level is a very manageable 5.5%.

Who

Craft & Origin was created by European grocer ALDI in partnership with South African wine company Origin. Dubbed “Craft Wine”, they created four wines targeted at new wine drinkers. Packed in 50cl brown glass beer bottles with crown caps, they were conceived to look similar to craft beers. As ALDI have stated, they are “targeting millennials, students and young people - the Wholefoods generation who are buying less and drinking less but paying more. They are buying craft beers and gins but they’re not buying wine in the same way.” Whether keen awareness of changing times, or shrewd marketing, Craft & Origin are certainly looking outside of the box.

Taste

The No Monkey Business Moskato is light in body, sweet, and spritzy. It tastes like honey/orange sorbet with a zest of lemon. It would be perfect by the pool, but this being Calgary in April, its more likely to be your best option for a little Spring Après ski out in the mountains.

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Château le Puy Emilien – Bordeaux, France $42

Where

Situated on the “right-bank” of the Gironde Estuary in southwestern France, is the obscure area of Côtes de Bordeaux. When people speak of the fashionable areas of Bordeaux, such as Pauillac and Pomerol, the vineyards of the Côtes do not often factor into the discussion. The youngest appellation in Bordeaux, created in 2009, it merged the areas of Côtes de Blaye, Côtes de Bordeaux, Côtes de Castillon, and Côtes de Francs. Altogether this consolidated 11,000 hectares of vineyards. The amalgamation was intended to bring greater attention to this often overlooked part of Bordeaux. The “right-bank” is altogether larger and more varied than its cross-river neighbour, the Medoc (“left bank”). While Cabernet Sauvignon favours the gravel dominate soils of the Medoc, Merlot and Cabernet Franc prosper in the clay and limestone dominant soils of Côtes de Bordeaux. The best sites have elevations, slopes and good drainage. 

What

It’s troublesome to try give an overarching description of the wines of Bordeaux when relating them to Château le Puy. This winery is an enigma, with very little in common with corporate Bordeaux. The prevailing perception that “bigger is better” does not apply. Winemaking here favours purity and poise. 

It all starts in the vineyard. A little over 50 hectares of 50 year old vines are farmed according to biodynamic principles. Unlike the tidely ordered, homogeneous vineyards of big Bordeaux, the vineyards of Château le Puy are a cacophony of polyculture. The vine intermingles with an additional 61 hectares of fig trees, hazelnut trees and beehives. Chemical treatments have never polluted this self governing ecosystem. This is how things have always been done at Château le Puy. Why? “My grandfather was too stingy to buy chemicals,” says owner Jean Pierre Amoreau. Rather than using modern heavy tractors, which compact the soil, Mr Amoreau chooses to employs a team of 4 horses to plow ⅓ of his vineyards. Some rows are left unplowed to allow the spraying of natural biodynamic preparations. This uncompromising approach requires plenty of “boots on the ground”, but great wine is born in the vineyard.

When there’s great fruit, things in the cellar are less complicated. As Jean Pierre puts it, “We have one guy in the cellar, 20 people in the vineyard.” Fermentation occurs using indigenous yeast, without any added sulphites or sugars. After fermentation, the wine is transferred to old oak barrels for maturation. The cuvée Emilien, Château le Puys workhorse blend of 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Carménère; is aged in large foudres for 24 months. The wine is regularly stirred according to the lunar calendar and bottled without fining or filtration.

Who

The Amoreau family have been making wine at Château le Puy since 1610. Located at the highest spot of Côtes de Bordeaux, the estate has never been classified. Jean Pierre Amoreau pays little attention to this. “We’re just Château le Puy,” he says. Clashes with local bureaucrats who judge his wines to be “atypical”, have not altered his course. In a curious twist of fate it would not be his fellow countrymen that would unearth this hidden gem, but rather the Japanese. 

First published in 2004, The Drops of God (Kami no Shizuku) is a Japanese manga written by Yuko and Shin Kibayashi. The lead character of the series, Kanzaki Shizuku, is tasked by his deceased wine critic father with identifying 13 hidden wines. Only then will he claim his inheritance. The story enthralled Japanese readers. The first 12 wines, known as the "Twelve Apostles", featured great wines such as Château Palmer and Chateau d'Yquem. The series led to a hugely popular television adaptation. The finale of the show in March 2010, would unveil the 13th and final wine, the “Drops of God”. What a surprise when the final wine was no Grand Cru, but rather a “miracle wine… produced with the most natural methods.” That wine was the 2003 Château le Puy. Jean Pierre Amoreau only knew something was afoot when his fax machine kept spitting out order after order from Japan. Demand was so high that he had to refuse all international orders to deter speculative buying. The Drops of God, a series of graphic novels, has been cited by Decanter magazine as "arguably the most influential wine publication for the past 20 years".

Taste

“It’s the best Burgundy wine from Bordeaux,” - Steven Hewison, Jean Pierre Amoreau’s son-in-law and head of production.

The 2014 Château le Puy Emilien is a wine that speaks of people, tradition, and place. Expect flavours of dark berry and plum, complemented by notes of leather, tobacco and forest.

 

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Le Casematte Nero d’Avola – Sicily, Italy - $21.50

Where

Italy’s most southern wine region, Sicily has a 2500 year history of producing wine. An ideal mediterranean climate brings lots of sunshine and little rain. Vine disease has never been much of a problem here, so growers are often organic by default. Vines thrive so readily in Sicily’s volcanic soils that the biggest danger has historically been overly high yields and overproduction. The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, its inner hinterland is mountainous and sparsely populated. Vineyard elevations range from sea level along the coast, up to 3600 feet on the slopes of rumbling Mount Etna. Although vineyards are found across the island, the highest achieving areas are situated to the east. The key wine regions are Mount Etna, Vittoria, Noto and Faro. 

What

When many think of Sicilian wine they think of Marsala. Made in the city of the same name, Marsala is a fortified wine that was first made in significant numbers by English trader John Woodhouse in 1796. Similar to Sherry, it first became popular with English wine drinkers. Even today, much of the grapes grown in Sicily are destined to become Marsala. Dry wines are made from a combination of international and indigenous grape varieties. In the 1980’s winemakers looked to Chardonnay and Syrah to elevate the status of the islands wines. More recently they have ‘rediscovered’ the potential of local varieties such as Nero d’Avola and Catarratto (which account for 16% and 32% of Sicily’s vineyard plantings). Named after Avola in the south of the island, Nero d’Avola is considered the most important red grape in Sicily. Originally planted in the south of Sicily, it does well in hot and dry climates. In the case of Le Casematte Nero d’Avola, the fruit is sourced from vineyards situated in Faro, on the extreme northeastern tip of the island. Grapes from 15-20 year old vines, planted at 984 feet above sea level, are fermented and aged six months in stainless steel, plus an additional 3-4 months in bottle.

Who

Le Casematte is found in the tiny appellation of Faro. Only 20 hectares in size, Faro is located within the historic district of Messina. Recognized as a designated wine region in 1976, the name Faro refers to the Pharii people, an ancient Greek population that grew grapes in the area as far back as the 14th century BC. Located high above the Strait of Messina, Le Casematte is owned by Gianfranco Sabbatino and partners: Filippo Pistone & Andrea Barzagli. Founded in 2008, the winery derives its name from two casematte or casemates (a.k.a. pillboxes) from World War II, which served as observatories and defensive structures at that time. Today they stand as sentinels over the estates 7 hectares of terraced vineyards. Planted at an altitude of 820 - 1,215 feet above sea level, the vineyards benefit from constant cooling sea breezes.

Taste

Nero d’Avola is a variety that lends bold, fruit driven flavours. Often compared to Australian Shiraz or Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, it has full body and firm tannins. The Nero d’Avola from Le Casematte has primary notes of black plum, prune, mulberry. A punctuation of chewing tobacco and dark chocolate rounds out a savoury finish. Pair with saucy gamey red meats. 

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Telmo Rodriguez Corriente Red – Rioja, Spain $25

Where

Rioja is Spain’s most prestigious wine region. Located in northern Spain, it takes its name from the river that runs through it, the Rio Oja. Not far from the Atlantic, the region is protected by the Cantabrian Mountains, which block cold and wet influences. The first Spanish wine region to receive DO classification (a quality wine area), it is one of two regions to achieve the top level of DOCa. Within its borders, Rioja is subdivided in 3 areas: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. The vineyards of Rioja Alta are planted at higher elevations, leading to lighter, ‘classic’ wine styles. Rioja Alavesa, while similar to Rioja Alta, is warmer and known for more robust wine styles. The climate of Rioja Baja is markedly different, being decidedly hotter and drier

What

The key innovation in Rioja winemaking is the use of oak barriques. The technique was first introduced by Bordelais wine merchants who made their way to Rioja. The regions elaborate classification system puts oak maturation at its center. In this system there are four levels: Rioja (formerly Joven), Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. The first level, Rioja, sees no oak ageing and 1-2 years bottle ageing. A Crianza will see 1 year oak ageing, plus 1 year in bottle. A Reserva will see 1 year oak ageing, plus 2 years in bottle. A Gran Reserva will see 2 years in oak, plus 3 years in bottle. This traditional system is no longer observed by all winemakers, but is still used by most. In the case of the Telmo Rodriguez Corriente, a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Garnacha is aged for 12 months in a combination of barriques and foudres. The grapes are sourced from declassified vineyards in the Lanciego zone within Rioja Alavesa. Following hand harvesting, the grapes are fermented using wild yeast in a combination of concrete and stainless steel tanks.

Who

Telmo Rodriguez is a force of nature. A pioneering winemaker, his advocacy for native grapes and unique terroirs has opened the door to a new era of Spanish wine. Telmo, who studied viticulture at the University of Bordeaux, first started at his family’s winery in Rioja, Remelluri. In the 1990’s he started a project to discover new viticultural opportunities across Spain. This would lead to making wines in areas like Toro, Rueda, Valdeorras, Malaga, Alicante and Cigales. His viticultural approach is evangelical. Indigenous varieties are bush trained (the traditional Spanish method), and often biodynamically farmed. All new plantings are from massal selections. Grapes used are always native to that particular area. Robert Parker has described him as “Rioja’s Number One Terroirist”. Dubbed the “Driving Winemaker”, he travels the breadth of the country behind the wheel of his car rather than flying, never wanting to be too far from the land he loves so much.

Taste

“Rioja Corriente” is an expression from the turn of the century used by growers from Rioja Alavesa, referring to an honest/everyday type of wine. It’s your Monday, just had a rough day at work, bottle of wine. Flavours of red berries and fig are complemented with a dollop of clove and vanilla. It’s juicy but not bombastic.  

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The Other Wine Co. Grenache – McLaren Vale, Australia -  $31.50

Where

35 km south of the Australian city of Adelaide is the wine region of McLaren Vale. First settled by English farmers, the region takes its name from David McLaren, a Colonial Manager of the South Australia Company in the 1800s. Early winemaking pioneers were drawn to the regions dry Mediterranean climate. The region rarely experiences frost or drought and reliably receives 580–700 mm per annum of winter rain. The nearby Gulf St Vincent has a beneficial moderating effect. Soil types are varied (terra rossa, rendzina, soft sands, etc) and free draining (this is a good thing). Most vineyards are planted on gently rolling slopes that can rise to an elevation of 320 meters. Mount Lofty Ranges in the north and the Sellicks Ranges in the south, create unique microclimates for grape growing. Along with the Barossa, McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s most prized winemaking regions.

What

Vine age in McLaren Vale can often surpass 100 years. Early winemakers set the trend by planting varieties that many of us would come to identify Australia by: Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Grenache and Mourvedre, often blended with Shiraz, round out the so-called “Holy Trinity”, or GSM for short. Often overlooked, Grenache has made a claim for the right to be a solo act. For this wine, Grenache has been sourced from 45-year old vines at Blewitt Springs. This vineyard, where fruit is hand harvested, is considered one of the best sites for Grenache in Australia. Once harvested, a mixture of whole berries and whole clusters are placed into open-top vats for fermentation.

Who

The Other Wine Co. is the spinoff project from the guys behind Adelaide’s Shaw + Smith. Michael Hill Smith and Martin Shaw wanted to tell a different story than the one being told in McLaren Vale. Rather than setting their sites on Shiraz, they set out to elevate Grenache. Winemaker Adam Wadewitz, who was himself born in McLaren Vale, thought that single varietal Grenache fit well with the wineries mantra of “wines from the right grape, grown in the right place”. As Adam relates, “we felt there was an ability to make a wine that was light, crunchy and really drinkable, but that could handle some complexity as well.” Alongside their inaugural release of a Grenache, the winery also released a Pinot Gris from Adelaide Hills.

Taste

"A wine so fresh and vibrant, it virtually throws itself from bottle to glass with joyful abandon”, is how one wine writer describes this wine. There is without a doubt a solid drinkability to it. Medium bodied, it has lively notes of red fruits and cinnamon spice. Neither too dainty, nor too robust, it’s perfectly down the middle.