Pearl Morissette Cuvée Blackball Riesling 2013
$36 Winery Only
I honestly don’t know where to start with this wine. It’s an outlier in so many ways, challenging so much of what we know and expect about Riesling – nay wine – that I could probably write a million-word essay and no one would read it because – let’s face it – that’s bad content.
Plus, it’s just so fucking good.
So let’s just start at the beginning. It’s made by a tiny little winery in Jordan that specializes in natural winemaking. That is, they do as little as possible to the grapes, simply pressing the juice, sticking it in a vessel, and letting it do its thing. They use minimal sulfur, never add weirdo additives like Mega Purple (ugh), and they rarely filter or fine their wines. It’s a methodology that’s as old as time, but really only got started in Beaujolais (my favourite) and a few other classic regions over the last 30 years or so (maybe less) and has recently spread around the globe like wildfire . Natural wine has its detractors, of course, but it can produce some of the most alive and delicious wines around.
So there’s that.
Then there’s the fact that winemaker François Morissette allows his Riesling to ferment until it’s fully dry (super unusual in Riesling) in old oak casks (also weird) and undergo full malolactic fermentation (virtually unheard of). So you can see why it’s been black balled by the VQA tasting panel year after year (hence the name).
What’s even weirder: the 2013 vintage passed VQA and was very briefly available at the LCBO last year.
So what’s it like? It’s is bone dry, textured, acidic but not harsh, flavourful, funky, lively, low alcohol, and just really so good. It’s nothing like any German Riesling you’ve tasted. Hell, it’s nothing like any Ontario Riesling you’ve tasted. But it’s still so distinctly Riesling (that acid, though).
We opened the bottle on a Friday night, and it was funky and weird and really delicious. The next morning, I discovered that we’d left a bit in a glass overnight and it still smelled and tasted (yes, I had to try it) super fresh and delicious after 12 hours or so (which is crazy). We finished the bottle as I was typing this, watching US election coverage, and it was even better than when I first opened it. The tension in the wine naturally matched (and somewhat eased) the tension on my TV screen.
So, please, give it a try. It’s a fantastic introduction to the weirder side of wine and I think you’ll like it. Better yet, set up a tasting at the winery and spend a couple hours tasting through magic.
Nose: Ginger-lemon-lime soda, apples, minerals (sorta kinda like hot asphalt) and bergamot (almost, but not quite, Earl Grey tea notes). Funky, for sure, but still totally inviting nose.
Palate: That lemon-lime minerality carries through with richness and tart, soft acidity livening the wine. The ginger mellows, so it’s all zesty citrus and apples and orchard fruits. There’s even a hint of white peach and savoury spice. It’s a mouth-filling flavour that lasts and lasts and lasts. I don’t even want to go on nitpicking flavour components, because it’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s alive and delicious, drinkable but thinkable. I’m about to pour another glass, so grateful I have two more bottles in my cellar.