Tag Archives: White wine review

Strasserhof Sylvaner Valle Isarco 2015

4 Sep

Strasserhof Sylvaner Valle Isarco, by Hannes Baumgartner; DOC Süditirol/Alto Adige, Italy, 2015. ABV 13.5%, MSRP $22/bottle.

 

Color is pale straw. The delicate nose has traces of lemon, wildflower, and a hint of funk in the background that was gone by day 2. On the palate: Lemon and freshly cut grass, with backing notes of gooseberry, lime zest, and schist. High acidity and nice heat fill the back palate. The long finish features gentle flavors of citrus and sour candy behind the acidity and heat of the wine, and the combination of delicate flavors plus the elegance of a well-made wine make this a real wine nerd’s favorite.

 

 

After tasting this by itself, the next day I made grilled chicken, which complemented the sylvaner beautifully, as could chicken or veal piccata and marsala. This wine could also work nicely with spicy fare such as  Thai, Mexican, Indian, Lebanese, and Halal, as well as the traditional food of the Trentono-Alto Adige region. Some obvious local pairings would include schnitzel, fresh water fish, sausages, dumplings, sauerkraut, root vegetables, and of course, cured meats like prosciutto. But by day 3, I just wanted to enjoy the subtle flavors and structure of this wine by itself, sipping slowly and savoring the experience.  And for the non-wine nerds who had a taste of this wine? Their response was always the same: positive and interested. So buy some for your wine-centric friends, or for your own edification and education of the great white wines of the world at an affordable price. It might be your first Sylvaner, but it won’t be your last.

à votre santé!

 

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Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Sauvignon 2016

24 Aug

Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Sauvignon 2016, Alto Adige AOC, Tramin, Italy. 13%ABV; MSRP $17/bottle.

 

Color is goldenrod. The nose offers a complex balance of grapefruit, gooseberry, tall grass and a hint of sandy loam. On the palate, gorgeous peach is primary, followed by starfruit, lemon zest, and a hint of hay. The long finish leaves beautiful citrus lingering after the tart completion, with tiny notes of salty, sandy limestone echoing like choirs of angels singing the beauty of the terroir of the Alto Adige.

 

 

Impeccably dry with lovely acidity, this wine is a delight for those who enjoy complexity in a white wine: it has depth of flavor with inspiring acidity to cleanse, along with a excellent ability to pair with food -fish, salad, vegetable, or pasta course- but is of course, stunning when served by itself in the afternoon sunshine or dockside. I’m consistently impressed by the wines of Elena Walch. She delivers elegance and complexity in her world-class wines, and I heartily suggest that when you see her wines, snap them up to enjoy a great value in a higher-tier delights that can be enjoyed immediately or aged gracefully in the cellar for a few more years.

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Drinking Island Wine: Locations Corsican White Wine

22 Aug

Locations Corsican White Wine by Dave Phinney; Corsica, France. 13%ABV, MSRP $18/bottle.

 

The color is medium golden straw, while the nose offers fresh-cut wildflowers with a hint of salty sea breeze. On the palate, I found this flavor profile unique! Instead of white stone fruit, my mouth experienced a bundle of youthful and vibrant herbs popping forth first, followed by lemon zest, green apple, marzipan, and a long but gentle citrus finish with notes of almond, schist and sand. This wine is uniquely Corsican in its demonstration of a medium-bodied vermentino.

 

This wine is another great example of what Locations Wines is: singular to a locale, top quality fruit with great acid and a unique terroir. Phinney continues to make tremendous world wines on his journey, providing a drinking experience that is as special as the island in the mediterranean. Pair with mediterranean food: seafood, fresh vegetables, lighter fare for a hot, breezy climate. Feel free to open early in the day and enjoy in the sun or shade: drinking this wine is just like island life- everything moves just a little slower, a little more freely, and definitely without a care in the world.

The beach in Corsica: for some reason (possible the fortifications and cannon) make you feel quite secure on the island while sunbathing in this location!

 

The Corsica town market with statue of Napoleon.

 

The town market is full of locally cured meats, wines, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and herbs. If the sight and smell of these foods doesn’t make you want to eat and drink something local, nothing will! 

 

 

à votre santé!

How Dry Is Alsace? Cuvée René Dopff Riesling

20 Jul

Dopff & Irion ‘Cuvée René Dopff’ Riesling 2015 Vin D’Alsace, Pfaffenheim, France. ABV 12%; MSRP $17/bottle.

 

Color is medium straw; the nose is floral blend of tulip, iris, and sweet honeysuckle. But the sweetness stops on the nose. On the palate, this is so deliciously dry! Gorgeous white peach, youthful pear and white stone fruits, with lively, flowing acidity, hint of almond, beautiful minerality, nary a hint of wood, but a tiny note of lemon peel on the finish.  This is so beautifully dry, such balanced flavor and acidity. It is never over the top; every sip is a mature, reserved, solid mouthfeel that makes me want another.

 

As for pairing, Cuvée René Dopff Reisling demonstrates how extremely flexible it is, coupling with  both high acid and rich, savory dishes. Baked goat cheese, bruschetta, and spinach bourekas in phyllo dough were great matches! It’s an obvious home run pairing for shellfish, raw or crudo, from sashimi to mussels to baked fish or delicate entrees. On a lark, I tried it with a beef stew my wife and I made; I assumed (incorrectly) that it would not be able to stand up to the powerful flavors of red meat. It turns out that the high acidity was a great choice with the huge number of vegetables in the stew, some sweet and some bitter, and could cleanse the palate while matching up with the various flavor profiles and make for a solid pairing.

 

I’m a fan of Alsace, and this wine is a perfect example of why: this wine is entirely hand-picked and sorted, pressed at low pressure, matured on the lees for four months before filtering, treated with such love, care and devotion- and it shows! This screams of the terroir of Alsace, of the brilliant, war-torn soils, the mineral layers, the subtle fruit profile, and of gentle, caring handling. And at this price, what’s not to love? Under $20 a bottle for a wine that is so beautifully demonstrative of the region and made by hand in one of the adored regions of France? Back up the truck, I need more than a few cases.

 

 

à votre santé!!

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 1: The Whip and Dry Rosé

6 Jul

The Whip 2015 White Wine Blend, Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

Color is pale gold center with straw edging. The delicate nose offers sweet starfruit, gooseberry and wildflower. On the palate, the blend features soft fruit with strong acidity,  designed foremost to complement food. A gentle blend of pear, apple, lemon and pineapple fruit are followed by subtle wood notes. Great acidity and solid heat across the top and back palate; citrus finish with hints of pebbly gravel, clay and loam. I’d suggest allowing for a touch of air to allow some of the heat to dissipate. I really like how this wine is crafted; the nose shows off viognier, semillon, and muscat but the mouthfeel is sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. It has a refined, Bordeaux-style blending but is lighter and more delicate in flavors.

Winemaker Robbie Meyer must like food as much as I do, as this is a wine made for pairing. This blend shows enough expression to handle the most delicate of dishes, yet enough acidity and weight to handle shellfish, crudo, and sashimi. The body and mouthfeel are perfect for anything from the Southwest to the Northeast, from fish tacos to grilled chicken, salads or cream-based pastas. What I love is the gentle, refined nature of the blend, instead of having a pure citrus, lemon peel cleanse. This whip is that of the master herdsman: the sound of the crack that convinces the herd to gather and calmly move where they are told. This approach and “touch” is far from the rough, daily hire, roundup-cowboy whose whip is without compassion, allowing the angry snap on the hide, the searing pain of contact, and the flow of blood to upset the herd and make them rush, agitated.

What I should share with you: this wine haunted me. I kept going back to the glass to enjoy and savor this wine, taking in the flavors and aromatics from the glass, even long after it was gone: a fascinating, beautiful blend. Solid value and a tremendous food wine.

 

 

 

 

2016 Dry Rosé By Murrieta’s Well, Livermore Valley. CA. 14.1%ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

Color is pale pink, the nose offers raspberry, carnation, and green cuttings. On the palate, watermelon, raspberry and cantaloupe melon. Immensely dry with pronounced acidity and searing heat on the front and top palates, perfect for pairing with savory dishes that need a deft hand. Capable of handling carpaccio, steak tartare, and raw to rare proteins in the secondary courses, I’d also love to see this rosé complement full-bodied soups like New England or Manhattan chowders, lobster and seafood bisques, New Orleans turtle soup, and southwestern bean/chicken/tortilla soups. Spanish, Peruvian, Cuban, Mexican, Asian, and American cuisines are just the tip of the iceberg for this flexible blend. Also on my list of things to pair after tasting this wine are: soup dumplings, cold noodles with sesame sauce, ramen, and barbecue.

The 2016 Dry Rosé is made from 55% grenache and 45% counoise grapes, both from the Hayes Valley. Each grape type was cold fermented and aged separately in stainless before blending and final aging in stainless prior to bottling.

 

 

Both wines are incredible approachable and offer tremendous value, intrinsically as well as in food pairing. They could be a host’s or chef’s secret weapon, if you can stop tasting to serve them with food.

(For part 2 of this piece, click here!)

à votre santé!

Villa Maria Estate: Elegance from New Zealand

3 Jul

Helen  Morrison, Senior Marlborough Winemaker at Villa Maria Estates, is doing something right. I know, because she just wowed a team of wine industry insiders and wine bloggers during a live tasting where she demonstrated her Villa Maria wines.  To say the least, everyone was impressed…and wanted more to taste!  I know, I know…to the wines!

Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

A fun, carbonated/bubbly wine I first tasted (and really enjoyed) a year ago at a NZ Trade tasting , I was pleased to see that this vintage felt more elegant and refined from last year’s. Tiny effervescent bubbles precede elegant citrus and floral notes with a hint of baker’s yeast and a dry, welcoming finish. Half the pressure of champagne, this is incredibly fun, easy to open with a standard screw-top stelvin closure, and is an immediate crowd-pleaser. Drink by the patio or poolside all day, but when it’s mealtime, you can pair up with shellfish, cheese, raw or cooked fish, salads, up to medium-rich entrees such as spicy fish tacos, chicken fried-rice, and especially lime-marinated dishes to marry flavors beautifully. When I shared a bottle to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday, the responses were stellar and happily surprised when I told them what they were drinking.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

Color is pale straw; the nose provides a massive grapefruit zest with grass and the essence of cut flowers. On the palate: pink grapefruit, gooseberry, and lemon-lime. Delightfully crisp, grassy, herbal, with a very dry, stony finish. A striking resemblance to the last two years’ efforts demonstrates that you don’t change something that is working well! This is perhaps the powerhouse sauvignon blanc that defines the terroir and flavors from the Marlborough AVA. The massive citrus allows you to pair this with just about anything you want, but my favorites are fresh veggies, raw fish, and chicken caesar salad.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Chardonnay 2015. Marlborough, NZ. 13.5% ABV; MSRP $45

This is a “whoa” wine to add to your portfolio! Color is medium gold. Sweet peach and white orchid dominate the nose. Gorgeous lime zest married to a definitive Belle of Georgia peach on the palate, with secondary notes of marzipan, yeast, toasted oak, and gravel, and an elegant mouthfeel.  This was my “WOW” wine of the tasting, and I know was a real surprise to others who are connoisseurs of the chardonnay grape.  Delicious from the moment I put it in my mouth, I wanted to stop there, put my glass down and cede the game so I could start food pairing this single vineyard chardonnay. Why? Let’s add it up: Killer terroir + hand picked + whole bunch pressed + 9 months spent on the lees+ natural ML in oak (25% new French oak,  75% seasoned French oak)= OMG this wine is stellar. Short version? If you see this bottle, pick it up. Drink it, and you’ll know what I say add it to your cellar: it compares well to classic and new world chardonnays in the $60-75 range. And if you don’t care about price? Then for you, it’s just SOOOO tasty!

 

 

 

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé, Hawkes Bay 2016, NZ. 12.5%ABV; MSRP $14.

Deep salmon in color, the nose offers fresh-cut wildflowers and berry compote. On the palate, fresh strawberries atop the tongue while the sides feature ginger, lemon pepper, and allspice notes. Racing acidity crosses the top palate, but the finish is when you recognize the significant body in this stainless fermented rosé of (mostly) merlot.  At this price point, this is a serious wine for serious food or fun in the sun.

 

 

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ ABV 13,5%, MSRP $26.

 

Color on Day 1: translucent color and bright red fruit!

 

Color is transparent rose with garnet edges and just enough clarity to read a newspaper through it. The nose offers young red fruit and a hint of wildflowers, while the palate takes the bright cherry and raspberry flavors and marries them with a secondary group of spices and then hints of earth and smoke, remaining gentle, yet refined, and medium-bodied overall with a medium finish. On day 2 after opening, the fruit has taken on deeper, darker colors and flavors of mature red plum and cassis, showing baking spice, red pepper flake, paprika, clay and granite on the back palate with a sour cherry across the top, maintaining a quality balance and graceful presentation, while the finish now lingers with a pleasant sour cherry, spice and stone.

 On day 2: Standing tall, with darker & deeper flavor -a delightful surprise to my palate!

 

So, hey! If you’re not already a fan of New Zealand wines, you might need your head examined,  But don’t take it from me. Pick up some of Hellen Morrison’s Villa Maria Estate wines and check them out for yourself- and let me know what you think!

 

à votre santé!

Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

World-Class Wines, from the Middle East. That may not be the first region that comes to mind, but a few great winemakers are changing that. Victor Schoenfeld, a California native who has been the Yarden head winemaker since 1992,  is credited with being THE single greatest influencer in developing world class wines in Israel, most specifically in the Golan Heights. He’s also a very nice guy, and loves to talk wine. I could have chatted with him for hours and talked terroir and winemaking…but we had wine to taste!

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

And these are some really good wines. World-class, kosher, made-in-Israel, non-mevushal, kick-butt wines.

Don’t believe me? Please, be your own judge and let your mouth tell you. Taste the wines, it’s that easy. I did, and I will tell you, they are worthy wines. I tasted seven wines, and each was impressive in its own way.  Here are my top three that will blow your mind; each of these was so good, I didn’t want to do anything but drink what was in my glass:

 

Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009, Sparkling Brut Chardonnay, MSRP $30

Light gold in color, with a delicate nose. Beautiful, mature white fruit with gentle effervescence. A delicate sparkling with nice complexity, this wine shows delightful minerality with a hint of toast and no sweetness on the palate. A low-dosage sparkling brut, your mouth will think it is champagne. It was a perfect foil for a raw crudo appetizer.

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

Medium straw with a green tinge. Citrus & banana peel on the very floral nose. On the palate, an exotic blend of kiwi, passion fruit, and lychee is matched by a perfect acidity; secondary notes are floral and spice box.  I found this paired so gorgeously with asparagus risotto. I just kept going back and back to it and didn’t want the pairing to end.

 

Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, MSRP $96

Deep, dark, maroon with garnet edging. The nose offers black plum, cassis, aged leather and cigar box. On the palate, mature red fruit along the tongue, with cassis along the sides. A lengthy finish features gravel, granite, and sandy clay. The price on this is worth every penny, comparing well to New and Old world wines in the same price range. This wine was as complex as the lamb I enjoyed with it: flavorful, sensual, evocative, exotic.

 

 

With a few tastes, it’s obvious that Victor Schoenfeld is doing something right, not just great wine (yes!), not just organic (oh, yes, that too!), and not just a few grapes with tremendous terroir. Yarden’s library of wines is varied and includes syrah, malbec, merlot, rosé,  muscat, sauvignon blanc, in addition to these listen just off the top of my head- surely something for every wine drinker.

If you haven’t tried Yarden wines, it’s time for you to taste how the Middle East compares to what you’ve been drinking. You will find yourself impressed, and might be tasting more and more of them. With a full stable of tasty delights, you are bound to find a wine that compares well, and maybe even blows away one of your current favorites.

 

à votre santé!

Dopff & Irion Grand Cru Vorbourg 2009 Pinot Gris

28 Jun

Dopff & Irion Grand Cru Vorbourg 2009 Pinot Gris by Chateau de Riquewihr; AOC Alsace, Riquewihr, France. 14.5% ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

Color is clear, golden sunshine. The nose offers grilled pineapple, toasted almond, and clover honey. A complex palate features mature Anjou pear, citrus,  honeysuckle, limestone and clay. An initial note of honey hits the palate early and disappears, secondary notes of sweet lime zest, marzipan, and minerals linger behind with a touch of heat across the top palate, a result of the higher alcohol on this wine. Refrigerated after opening, this bottle showed consistent notes with little shift in profile over five days. FIVE DAYS!  The gentle age on this is impressive, and the wine tastes capable of aging for another half century for those who would cellar properly.

 

Make no mistake, this is a wine that I’d be so happy to sit in the backyard and drink all afternoon long while chatting up my neighbors, but the hidden power here is in food pairing. There is plenty of acidity to drink this alongside raw fish, crudo and vegetables, as a matter of fact, I think this wine would be extraordinary for sashimi pairings. In the realm of cooked fowl, fish, salads, and vegetarian dishes, this pinot gris is ideal; while also capable of handling exotic flavors- Chinese and Japanese cuisine, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Peruvian foods.

 

 

This bottle offers history and respect before you even consider popping the cork: it is a Grand Cru wine from ancient soils and an insanely dry climate, that consequently provides complex, direct, and mineral expression. But open and enjoy it, and that thought automatically gains weight. The fact that I can purchase this for $30 is mind-blowing, compared to how hard I have to work to find a chardonnay at the same price point that is this wine’s equal, when I could easily count off chardonnays at double the price that could handle the job.

And why do we reach for Alsace wines when the weather is warmer? There’s really no question as far as how refreshing and expressive the wines are. But why we don’t automatically drink them all year long really mystifies me, perhaps it is how well I enjoy pairing Alsatian wines with food that is closer to the equator. The more I ponder it, the less it makes sense, as in Strasbourg I recall the cabbage, white sausages, tarte a l’oignon, meat pies and hearty casseroles served with these delightful white wines.   I will challenge myself to return to these during the brittle cold of winter and try tasting them again! I expect a similar level of pleasure, but I will have to wait and see if that is true.

This is a bottle worth picking up and enjoying, whether you drink it alone or pair it with food. Then you’ll consider when to pick up more and when to enjoy it next.

 

I need to hear from you, Dear readers! What do YOU like to pair with your wines from Alsace? Let me know! 

 

à votre santé!

 

Chateau Smith Cabernet & Kung Fu Girl Riesling

23 Jun

Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 by Charles Smith Wines, Washington State, USA. 13.5% ABV; MSRP $20/bottle.

The color is dark, inky purple, while the nose provides black fruit, vegetation, spice, and eucalyptus. On the palate: cassis, mature black and red plum dominate, with an undertone of potting soil. Secondary notes of oak, forest floor, granite, slate, and loam. Nice extended finish with lasting tannins. After some air the wine opened, the acid mellowed a touch, and the tannins act brilliantly taut, making this wine a lovely foil for red meat. Smart to achieve by decanting, or 30 minutes in the glass should achieve the same result- but who can wait that long for a Charles Smith wine? Not I, so that air will have to be on glass #2 or #3.

I like the choice of name, as it reminds me of a right bank Bordeaux. Focused, direct, drinkable while young, but age-worthy. Delightful to pair with powerful flavors like red meat, heavy sauces, strong to medium-bodied cheese. If you haven’t had a Columbia/Yakima Cabernet, or you didn’t know that Washington State makes great cabernet, then you owe it to yourself to taste this juice. At this price point, it’s an easy one to put in the cellar or keep ready to go.

 

Kung Fu Girl Riesling, 2015; Charles Smith Wines. Ancient Lakes AVA, Washington,USA. 12%ABV; MSRP $13/bottle.

 

Hang on. $13/bottle? I have to double check myself on this. Seriously? Why am I even telling you this? Back the truck up to my house with this juice…ok, my readers deserve to know the inside scoop: Kung Fu Girl is a black belt in wine, with delightful fruit, just a hint of sweetness, great acidity, and lovely balance. I want to drink this all day long while cooking, gaming, watching movies, shooting pool, or hanging out at the beach house. And it pairs beautifully with asian cuisine and medium bodied cheeses, but it also can hold its own with red meat-  just to try, I paired this with a ribeye last night, and it was a solid choice, proving once again that (a) the old wine rules don’t matter, and (b) you really can pair white wines with red meat if they have enough acidity.

This is so good, I have gone through four one-ounce tasting pours and haven’t even begun my review… that should tell you that I’d rather drink this wine than talk about it, but here goes:

Color is medium straw. Nose of lychee, lime zest, starfruit, and honeysuckle. On the palate, a stunning key lime/citrus with backhanded acidity that surprises the palate. Notes of limestone, calcium and sodium in the lovely minerality. A complex, evolved wine, 2015 must have been an amazing year as the balance of this wine is tremendous and it drinks like much more expensive bottle. As I held the wine in my mouth and pulled air across, a tiny sensation of petrol deep under the surface- but this wine is such a delight in the mouth, it’s impossible to fault. Say again, $13? I’ll be curious to see where this wine is priced next year, and I wish I had room for a couple of cases. If you love bargain riesling, you should give this a try- it could be your wine of the summer.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Tasting the Terroir of Domaine Auvigue

10 Jun

Domaine Auvigue “Solutre” Pouilly-Fuisse 2014; Burgundy, France. 13%ABV, MSRP $29/bottle.

 

 

Spend a few minutes with Jean-Pierre Auvigue, and he will endear himself to you, without ever trying. He is both direct and charming, and to my delight, he can discuss winemaking and the terroir of Burgundy to the point of exhaustion.

Jean-Pierre is quick to point out that each year, they simply try to make the best wine they can within the realm of the weather. Since they have tremendous terroir and history already, the goals are to represent the growing season with the finest chardonnay they can make. Techniques are largely traditional; all work in the vineyard is done by hand. Very little new oak is used to keep the focus on the fruit; but to me, the balance is what shines.

 

Jean-Pierre Auvigue with his 2005 Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse

 

Tasting a mini-vertical of the three most recent vintages (’12-’14) and the 2005 Auvigue Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse , I was thrilled to taste the subtle similarities and differences and hear how many varying preferences people had to their own personal favorite from these areas that boast vines that rage in age from 50-85 years of age. Most importantly, they are all delightful and offer tremendous value in white Burgundy wines.

2014/Current Release: Color is a clear, medium straw. The nose offers a delicate citrus scent with a hint of sodium. On the palate, a very linear first impression, a smooth  balance of lemon-lime fruit, acidity and minerality: limestone, clay and flint belie the famed AOC.  As it crosses the mid-palate, the flavors expand to include savory sensations without losing the initial character. Flint and quartz notes cross the back palate with the medium finish, which is as satisfying was the first sip. A wine that starts with drive and delivers complexity, terroir, and a tremendous definition of the Chardonnay grape.

 

 

 

Not to be ignored, another AOC was represented:

Domaine Auvigue Le Moulin du Pont Saint-Véran 2014; Burgundy, France. 13% ABV, MSR $20/bottle.

Color is pale straw with green tinge. The nose offers lime zest and a hint of cut grass and vegetation. On the palate young white pear, starfruit, and orange peel dominate while the top and back palate reveals notes of cedar, gravel, schist and clay, before the medium-long finish leaves your mouth refreshed. Saint-Veran being a newer AOC, this is a tremendous introduction to white Burgundy and a great every day/any day wine at this price point.

 

 

With either one, you can’t go wrong, whether to add to your cellar to hold, or to drink and chill tonight. 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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