Saturday, 30 April 2016

WOTW: Franck Massard Humilitat 2012

Loco cuerdo. Crazy sane. Things that are so incredibly bizarre, yet make perfect sense….  no better city than Barcelona to be the example, and no better region than Catalunya .  Every aspect of that place is loco cuerdo…. artwork of Salvador Dali, Gaudi’s Casa Milà and Basílica de la Sagrada Familia,  jamon, Ferran Adria’s elBulli (though now closed) , late night tapas, Montserrat, oh…and let’s not forget the wine.  

Enter Franck Massard - a Frenchman, awarded best sommelier in the UK 1996, who had a dream to make his own wine, and Priorat the location.  In 2004, he bought a plot of land from who else, but a taxi driver (loco), and started making beautifully fruit driven wines that have depth, freshness, and reflect terroir (cuerdo).  

Franck Massard at Poboleda        Photo: Epicure Wines

After working as brand ambassador for Torres and studying towards his MW, Massard realized that to truly understand how wine is made, he would have to get his hands dirty and take it on himself.  Particularly fond of its wines, and perplexed by the soil/terroir, Priorat seemed a fascinating and likely place for him and his close friend Christophe Brunet to begin.  The plot was only 3.3 ha, which included a shed.  Making a garage wine for them was nothing short of loco.

With a little refurbishing and obtaining a bit more land, what was meant to be a hobby turned into something much more.  His vision for making wine was clear, as Massard states: "Priorat displays energy, power, but a good Priorat should also have a lifted finish.  Meaning that we have the Mediterranean warm side, but the wine should have an element of herby scent and savouriness.  Somehow the qualities of  northern Rhône, but less aromatic than a Syrah and the savouriness that is in good Italian wines."

 Llicorella in the Priorat                 Photo: Epicure Wines

Priorat is famous for its llicorella (schist) soil and the oldest in Catalunya are found there.  Due to its poor organic matter and good drainage, the vines have to work hard to develop their root system, and this has a huge impact on the wine.   The results are naturally low yields (about 25hl/ha) creating rich, intense fruit and low pH. 

Humilitat is made with grapes purchased from the villages of Poboleda and Torroja, which is a little further north from his facility.  Massard noticed a difference of one month in terms of ripening period in that area due to location and altitude, resulting in better acidity and freshness - one of Humilitat’s key characteristics.  

Terraces of Poboleda, Priorat       Photo: Epicure Wines

Starting from a very small plot to 2013 Naked Winemaker of the year, Franck Massard is founder and owner of Epicure wines and has an array of different bottles in his portfolio.  So… I guess it is fair to say every great mind does not come without a bit of craziness. In Massard’s case,  no one gets to live their dream by waiting for things to happen.  It starts with an idea - a seemingly impossible one… but tasting Humilitat 2012, it all makes perfect sense to me.   

This wine is so elegant and alive, it shook to me to my core and I was instantly transported back to Priorat - back to Spain…. loco cuerdo.  With production of about 20,000 bottles, Humilitat is fermented in stainless steel tanks at a temperature between 24-26 Celsius, and is then aged for 12 months in 500-litre used French oak barrels. 

Medium purple with ruby hues, the legs are long and slow.  Smells like Italy with all the violets, Mediterranean herbs, and ripe strawberries and blackberries.  The palate brings me back to Spain though....  Juicy, ripe blackberries and plum with elements of minerality, spice, and slight smoke.  The mouthfeel is rich and full, yet not heavy due to the excellent acidity, fine tannin and very long, complex finish. The flavours play over and over again, so elegant.   So powerful.  Drink now or within the next 4-5 years.

Humilitat has been out in SAQ stores for while now, so bottles are few and far between. I cannot sing the praises of this wine high enough, so if you want your hands on a future Importations Syl-Vins.  

Wine: Franck Massard Humilitat 2012
Grapes: 60% Grenache, 40% Carignan
Alcohol: 14.5% 
SAQ Code: 12598273
Price: $27.50

Agent:  Importations Syl-Vins

The label is stunning and instantly caught my eye!
Almond trees in bloom...something special in that region.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Wine of the Week: A.A. Badenhorst Curator Western Cape 2013

What is a curator? A curator, let’s say for the sake of this post, is someone who finds the best things in a given category, and builds them into a collection.  The men in my family are curators of sorts…. A seal pelt here, moose antlers over there, and perhaps even a rabbit’s foot hanging on a key chain or two. 

I love moose.  I love their big heads and those dangly beards on males, and although I do not have a huge display of antlers on my living room wall, I happen to love the taste of the big fat moose steak every now and then.  The way I see it - as long as I am on top of the food chain, I will enjoy whatever the heck I want. Seal, caribou, porcupine, geese - you name it, it’s all at my disposal and I think I have found the perfect wine to pair with all those proteins. At $14.30 a bottle, it’s also one that will leave me with a bit of spare change in my pocket.

Recently released at the SAQ, Adi Badenhorst’s 2013 Curator is a really nice wine, especially for the price.  It is big and bold - just the wine you want as your partner in crime for your next BBQ, and it would be perfect for any wild game or hearty steak.  You may want to hurry though.  There are limited quantities at SAQ stores and once word gets around about how great it is…..BOOM! Gone.

An interesting red hailing from Swartland, South Africa, this wine is a little bit different and can raise a few eyebrows (in the best possible way) when sharing with friends. Made with a blend of EIGHT different varieties, grapes were hand picked and cooled overnight before being de-stemmed and put into tanks for fermentation.  Curator is matured mostly in concrete tanks and old casks, and blended  early so that the components get some time together to integrate properly before the wine is bottled.  Approximately 15 months maturation.  

Medium purple in colour, with ruby hues.  The nose mirrors the palate here: Loads and loads of blackberries, blueberries, with smoke signals in the distance. There is meat, there is spice, there is just the right amount of acidity and medium grained tannins adding a lovely rustic texture. The finish is balanced, fun, pleasant and juicy. Drink now or within the next 3-4 years.  Pleasantly, pleasantly surprised. Amazing wine for the price.

Wine:A.A. Badenhorst Curator Western Cape 2013
Grapes:  61% Shiraz, 20% Cinsault, 6% Mouvedre, 6% Grenache, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Tinta Barocca, 1% Carignan, 1% Pinotage     
SAQ Code:12819435
Price: $14.30

Agent: Symbiose Vins et Cies

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Spirit of the Week: Distillerie St.Laurent Gin

There are some pretty awesome things coming out of Canada these days: old time favourite maple syrup, Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye, Justin Trudeau…. 

Just recently, I discovered something so very unique and so damn good that I had trouble believing it was real.  A gin.  A gin made in Rimouski. A gin made in Rimouski Quebec, macerated with sea algae from the St. Lawrence River. If that is not terroir for a spirit, then I don’t know what is.

This gin…… it’s something. There is nothing else like it made in the world, never mind the market.  Its taste and quality are stellar. It checks all the boxes of your favourite gin with an added, kick ass element of saltiness, giving it freshness and even more flavour and personality.  Make no wonder, considering the two boys behind the product. ‘stubborn-as-hell-ninja distillers’, Joël Pelletier and Jean-François Cloutier, hailing from Rimouski, started the ambitious project back in 2013, inspired by their mutual love for fine spirits. A recipe for success calls 1 part talent, and 1 part drive with a touch of madness. Passion and determination can take you everywhere and since launching their product in August 2015, the St.Laurent Gin has been selling out in SAQ stores within hours of it being on shelves.  

Laminaria longicruris and Laminaria saccharina (say what?!?!) are the seaweeds of choice, which imparts a green tint and marine salty finish to the gin.  The seaweeds are hand harvested, washed, dried, and ground into a ‘seaweed flour’.  This along with other exotic botanicals get vapour infused and slowly macerated into the spirit. Voilà! 1000+ bottles are produced every week and everything is hand made; blending of botanicals, distillation, bottling, labelling, wax sealing.  

This is more than an authentic artisanal product, it’s legendary.  These guys have risked and sacrificed everything to live their dream and keeping it a success through a relentless and gruelling process.   Stay tuned for future projects coming from these two guys, they know what they are doing.  

Photo: Distillerie St.Laurent

This product hits close to home for me.  Living in Montreal, I am miles away from the ocean that is my backyard.  Having a glass takes me back to when I was a little girl on Christmas Day on the Coast in La Tabatiere.  My grandfather is a lover of gin and I am instantly reminded of him pulling out that ol’ gin bottle at 8 in the morning, the only time of year it was acceptable to drink that early in the day. A jig and a step dance or two wouldn’t be far away.  When I drink the St.Laurent Gin, I see him on Christmas Day, I hear the waves outside, I smell the salty air….a gin fit for my soul.  

Photo: Distillerie St.Laurent

Slightly green in colour, the nose has generous and complex notes of  juniper, coriander, dried citrus peel, fresh sea air, and delicate black liquorice.  The palate, reflecting the nose, is bold yet silky and vibrant showcasing orange zest, herbaceous pine, liquorice and delicious saltiness.  The finish is long, smooth, complex and elegant. Every sip is spot on. 

Distillerie St.Laurent is not open to the public so if you want to snag a bottle for yourself, keep your eyes peeled at SAQ stores and follow the distillery on Facebook.  I am proud that something like this is being produced right here in Canada - even more so coming from my home province of Quebec. Well done boys….wishing you much continued success.  

SAQ Code: 12881538

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Wine of the Week: Elian Da Ros Le Vin est une Fête 2013

It will come as no surprise that I open a bottle of wine pretty much for any occasion….In all honestly, there does not even need to be an occasion… sometimes opening a bottle itself IS the occasion.  Besides the fact that wine is more enjoyable with food and vice versa, most of us have the idea that when we have something nice to celebrate we crack open a special bottle of wine and share it.  But, why? Where does this romantic notion come from? Why are the best wines we have, the ones we share? 

I guess for wine geeks and novices alike, wine can be seen as something nostalgic…. It takes us back to the winery we bought it from, or think about all the hands that took part in making it.  
Maybe the event of opening a special bottle will be what creates special moments and memories we will look back on at a later time.

Like life, wine is something to celebrate - without needing a cause.  We never know where this crazy ride will take us, so should we live in the moment? Love in the moment? Save every single dime we have and never end up enjoying any of it?  Do we hold on to a wine and wait for the perfect moment to drink it, though that may never come?  Maybe the best thing to do is to find that middle ground.

I have only a few ‘special’ bottles tucked away in my cellar, and I look forward to the day I can open them. I wait, not because I do not want to share them.  In fact, it is the opposite. I wait until the wine is ready to drink and so that I CAN share them.  Some will be opened with my ‘wine’ friends and it could very well be the conversation piece for the entire evening. (Yeah - we go on with wine lingo that would put most non wine drinkers to sleep.  My good friend Erika can attest to that.)  Some others will be opened when the time is right, when it feels right.

Not too long ago I did that very thing.  I had the pleasure of opening something for a friend who was not at all into wine, but it was the perfect opportunity to share it and create a memory I will forever look back on. I knew the wine was fab. I knew I would enjoy it, and I was confident that she would too.  

We didn’t talk about the wine. A simple, “ This is really good.”, was all that was said about it. I did not feel as though it wasn’t appreciated by her, I knew it was.  On my part, I just wanted to share something of quality, unknowingly to them.  The sharing of the wine and time spent together WAS the celebration. Life was the celebration.

My wine of the week is the Elian Da Ros  Le Vin est une Fête 2013.  It is affordable, ready to drink, and totally packed with flavour and freshness.  The perfect wine for every palate.

Abouriou is put in closed vats with whole clusters and vinified using semi-carbonic maceration. Maturation of twelve months in used foudres and barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered in December 2014.

Purple with ruby hues, the bouquet is pretty, generous and pick up notes of ripe red cherry, violet with a touch of spice.  Plush and full, there is a generous amount of fruit such as red cherries, blackberry, plum and spice, highlighted by a fresh acidity.  The palate is playful and juicy with a finish that is long,supple and silky.  Drink now or within two years.  I just love this one.....

Wine: Elian Da Ros Le Vin est une Fête 2013
Grapes:  40% Abourio, 40% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot       
SAQ Code: 11793211
Price: $21.00

Agent: réZin