Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Feb/Mar 2017)

Sphera, White Signature, 2014

I think this runs a longer distance than most local whites and I always catch it at a reticent stage. Right now, this Chardonnay based (or was it all Chardonnay in 2014?) wine shows a character that is just about all lightly spiced pears, with plumpness akin to old school Meursault. (Feb. 15, 2017)

About 150 NIS.

Hubert Bouchard, Pouilly Fumé, 2015

Wine Route have a new Loire producer in their portfolio. Maybe they wrote it up in their newsletter and I missed it. I found it scouring the shelves. It's solid and shows enough potential to lure me back for more, especially if Wine Route has also brought the old vines and single vineyard bottlings the producer's site mentions. Maybe they have and they advertised the fact in the newsletter I missed. It's a lean wine, very saline and moreish, and even if there are hints of tropical fruits, they only serve to counterpoint the minerals and acidity, rather than take it too far down the New Zealand stretch. Very good. (Feb. 17, 2017)

About 110 NIS.

Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso, Guardiola, 2012

My personal wine map of Italy is very bare, Piedmont in the north, then a huge blank desert (that I don't bother to fill in) and finally Sicily in the south. And not even the entirety of Sicily. Just one DOC. And actually, just a single winery. But a damn great one, producing wines that have been prodding me to explore the area further.

What everyone notes with the Terre Nerre reds is the tarry, spicy, dusty bouquet that immediately references Nebbiolo, and it is truly on display here, as well as hints of flowers. 2012 is considered a hot vintage and the wine weighs in at 14.5% ABV, but I don't feel excessive weight or sweetness on the palate, but rather a bitter, astringent finish that challenges my palate. (Feb. 18, 2017)

Fat Guy, 225 NIS.

Hugel, Classic, Gewurztraminer, 2013

This is a rather basic Gewurtz, and the upside of that is you get a soft rendering of the variety and not the revved up turbo it can be when it is ripe and extracted. Thus, it shows rose petals and litchi - and less mustard/ginger/white pepper spiciness -  as well as hints of sculptor clay. A good quaffer, albeit an expensive one. (Feb. 20, 2017)

Wine Route, about 130 NIS.

I'm going to start cellaring my serious Loire reds as though they were mid-tier Bordeaux, otherwise I'm never going to enjoy them at all.

Château du Hureau, Saumur-Champigny, Lisagathe, 2009

I bought this bottle before Eldad Levy started importing the house with the 2010 vintage. I wish I could find a way to capitalize on this kind of omniscience. This is a very typical Cabernet Franc, so typical that some might object to the green streaks in the bouquet. I find them minty green rather than pepper green, and the discreteness of the fruit helps center a certain pungent earthiness in the foreground. The fruit, initially buried in its own womb, shows a fresh, red aspect after a couple of hours, but even though it has emerged, it is not free of the cumbersomeness of youth, and is still raw and one dimensional. (Feb. 25, 2017)

30 USD.

Rapet Père et Fils, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2014

This is a hidden germ in the Bourgogne Crown, one that I always try to unveil to the world. If you're looking to nail the white Burgundy experience -  pungent apple skins, dry grass and flint, thrilling acidity, a savory finish characterized by roasted herbs - you've come to the right place. The En Caradeux will intrigue you all night long. (Feb. 26, 2017)

290 NIS.

Tzora Vineyards, Judean Hills, Misty Hills, 2010

The first Misty Hills produced in consultation with  ex-Petrus winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet is rich in earthy and mineral aromas and flavors, almost muscular, with the warm ripeness that is the local DNA - which winemaker Eran Pick manages to tame. I've tasted every vintage since 2009, and the 2010, despite a very hot year, was the first in a string of very successful wines. (Mar. 7, 2017)

220 NIS.

Nothing says I Love Me like Champagne. 

Larmandier-Bernier, Longitude, n.v.

We drank this to celebrate another half marathon under my belt. Forget the other two, those were just getting the race over with - this one I'm proud of. Anyway, Larmandier. Larmandier has a style that marries a direct delivery and purity on the palate - that comes from broad, ripe fruit - with very precise nuances on the nose. This is a Blanc de Blancs, a blend of a couple of vintages and various Larmandier Premier Cru holdings, with a low dosage, so the ripe, near sweet flavors come from the fruit and make for a upfront effect, an incredibly fresh and moreish one, rather than an overdone one. And that's just what it does to the palate. As far as aromas, you get sauteed mushrooms and chalk, which are echoed on the palate, where their bracing impact balances the ripeness. (Mar. 13, 2017)  

Fat Guy, 350 NIS. 

Vieux Telegraph, Chateuneuf-du-Pape, Le Crau, 2005

I sometimes wonder, if I went back in time a couple of decades, would I still be turned off by the style? Is the thickly muscled style a product of terroir, vintage and grapes, or the meddling of Robert Parker? A historical property like Vieux Telegraph should be a good place to find some answers, but I've got to tell you, I still don't know for sure. I'll tell you what I like about it. It's impressive without kissing ass and the nose has plenty of pepper, pungent earth and garrigue. The palate, with its rusty tannins and bitter, espresso finish, wrestles the palate to a standstill. So that's a very welcome authenticity there, although not one I'd want to deal with too often.

Based on my experiences with the 2001, 2004 and finally this, I'm willing to hypothesize that the domaine went through a bad patch where they paid too much heed to the US reviews and may be navigating themselves out of that mess. (Mar. 18, 2017)

Wine Route, 250 NIS.

Ahat, 2015

There are rules. One is, don't write tasting notes for the same wine less than six months apart unless you have something new and/or meaningful to say. Two, don't compare a Chardonnay to Burgundy unless it can stand up to scrutiny.

I follow my rules, and this definitely has the dry grass/flint and salinity of a white B, which was not this obvious when I first drank it, married to a much more ephemeral body. Well done, Nitzan. (Mar. 20, 2017)

120 NIS.

Domaine Pierre Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2014

Great! I was in the mood for a Bourgogne and opened this, thinking I was opening my last bottle. Turns out I have another one. Do you really need a formal note or can I just submit excitement as evidence for the defense? But if you really want a note, this is a lithe wine, with floral freshness, the Gevrey funk expressed in the higher registers and a tart, welterweight frame. (Mar. 21, 2017)

Bourgone Crown, 205 NIS.

Moccagatta, Barbaresco, Bric Balin, 2008

I was warned Moccagatta is a modern winery, has modernistic tendencies, something modern. Apparently, they age the wine in barriques. The Bric Balin doesn't impress me as modern. This has very classic Old World charm, with a nose evoking exotic spices and herbs, tea, tar - that sort of thing, rough yet sensual aromas. A compactly muscular body, firm with rusty tannins and fiery acidity, looms over red fruit that is much softer than appears at first glance. I like it a lot, more than I did the 2001 Cole. Even though I had the Cole at fourteen years of age, after it had developed more tertiary aromas, the 2008 Bric Balin is clearly superior - rightfully so, since its considered Moccagatta's top cru. (Mar. 23, 2017)

40 Euros.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher, Riesling Feinherb, 2015

The focus and lithe intensity of the sour apples and slate is a remarkable forecast of the quality of the upper echelons of the Wili Schaefer catalog. That's all. (Mar. 24, 2017)

Fat Guy, 99 NIS.

Guy Breton, Morgon, Vieilles Vignes, 2013

Piercing aromas of fresh red fruit, forest floor and iron, a healthy meaty stink, and a sleek, elegant body. A touch of Pinot lightness of being without losing the more rustic character of Gamay. Very Gevrey, in fact. (Mar. 25, 2017)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Le Domaine d'Henri, Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume, 2012

I must have written hundreds of words on Chablis, trying to nail its essence and the myriad ways producers express it. Various things marine play a part - saline aromas and flavors akin to sea shells, sea breeze, sea weed - as well, as tart fruit flavors that recall green apples and apple skins, and sometimes a touch of citrus fruit. But if you just list these out, you still don't really capture it, because Chablis is also a unique texture, steely and cold on the one hand, yet porous and chalky as well. That's how Chablis should be, but of course the different crus, vintages and house styles contribute to the final effect. In my experience, Fourchaume across different producers and years tends to refine and culture the marine effect and shows a focused elegance reminiscent of Puligny. The Henri version is exactly what I expect of the vineyard and is made with the same excellence and clarity I find the Bourgogne Crown's best white wine producers, such as Lamy, Ente, Leflaive. (Mar. 25, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 165 NIS.

Château Olivier, Pessac-Leognan, 2000

If I'm being honest with myself, this isn't a great Bordeaux, but I was being honest with my expectations when I ordered it, so I'm not disappointed. This is appropriately earthy, with mellow black fruit and a touch of lead pencil, but with its lackluster astringency denying it any sex appeal, this is just about the least impressive 2000 I've had, rather an expensive bistro claret. (Mar. 27, 2017)

60 USD.

La Maison Romane, Marsannay, Les Longeroies, 2014

Punching out of the corner with tart black cherries, iron and a hint of underbrush - then comforting with its fresh fruit, sweet and saline at once - this, like every Longeroies Oronce de Beler crafts, is so appealing in its youth, the quantity so small, that I haven't been able to keep away from any long enough to age them. (Mar. 28, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 240 NIS.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Riesling Spätlese, 2008

If the elegance and depth sketched by the detailed shadings of slate, sour apples and spices on both nose and palate isn't enough to convince you of the pedigree of the Hermannshöhle terroir, then the thrilling bond of fruit and acidity would have you speaking in tongues. (Mar. 29, 2017)

Giaconda, 270-280 NIS.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bar Au Vin (Mar. 2, 2017)

How the fuck do we always come up with these unholy eclectic lineups? Why can't we just all get along? Like a lame joke, we always wind up with an Austrian, a Sicilian and an American in a bar. At least this time we brought a couple of Burgundies and a Bordeaux.

Leo Alzinger,  Wachau, Loibenberg, Riesling Smaragd, 2010

Very expressive with its yellow fruit and mineral funk, this is complex, long; ripe, yet finely and tightly sculpted, braced by acidity and does wonders for the palate. Eldad Levy imports it for 250 NIS, which is a steal. I brought it because I knew no one in the group had tasted it, and even Eldad hadn't tasted the 2010 for a few years. Never underestimate the loyalty of a faithful customer, Eldad.

Domaine Leflaive, Bourgogne, 2013

Really? A regional Bourgogne?! The only wine we tasted blind, no one even considered the possibility this was just a Bourgogne, but at least I guessed Puligny (due to the very specific interaction of apples, lime and minerals), which is where the house hails from. With its length and focused power, it has to be a declassified village wine, it just has to be - for God's sake, we thought it was a Premier Cru! I hope Eldad will sell me a bottle.

Terre Nere, Etna Rosso, Calderara Sottana, 2010

The nose evokes and tantalizes, with black fruit, leather, rock and hints of forest floor. The palate, though, scampers and punches, tannic and bitter as it is, yet somehow the experience is favorable to the palate and very memorable. A wine that challenges but leaves a lasting impression. 225 NIS.

Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauilliac 5me Cru, 2002

2002. Always an underrated vintage. Lynch-Bages is the epitome of luxury, costing a fortune these days, always showing a velvet richness (black fruit, cigar box) designed to seduce the upper class twits, that you almost hate yourself for loving. At 16 plus years, it still has the forward currant aromas and rawness of youth. 

Dominus Estate, Napa Valley, Napanook, 2009

This Bordeaux blend is the second wine of Dominus. It's ripe, but balances well the ripeness of its black fruit with a crusty, tannic backbone. Eventually, it spews minerals like Ol' Faithful on crack. 

Pierre Marey, Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2011

The fruit is so dormant, all that is left is metal minerality and spices and a discord between a lean frame and extract of fruit. A very nice nose, less than stellar palate - at least it's better than a bottle a couple of years ago

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Derrières Chez Edouard, 2014

Exhilarating steely finesse, with citrus fruit and flint tantalizing and delineating a wine structured for the ages with its balance of ripeness and taut, electric tension. This is another steal at 290 NIS. My honesty is probably going to cost me when I find out it's out of stock, but whoever buys it is going to treasure his bottles.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Recanati - 2017 Releases

If local interest in wine writing extended beyond reviews, gossip and marketing promotions, I'd be interested in doing a story on the Recanati  Mediterranean series, Now, Mediterranean wines is a term I don't like much, but it will do as a shorthand for lithe, yet robust, wines suited to the local climate, based on grapes that can reach phenolic ripeness in Israel at palatable sugar levels.

How much did the borth of the series have to do with the inclinations the people involved (for what it's worth, the winemakers and management people that I personally know share the same tastes as me) and how much of it was a business decision to carve out a new identity and find a marketable niche? Does anyone besides me even care that much how a winery shifts its profile and its product line?

In Recanati's case, these questions are so interesting because the decisions the winery took have made them the most interesting outfit of its size in Israel - broadly speaking, if you want to drink interesting Israeli wines, there's a short list of boutique wineries and then an ever shorter list of medium sized outfits, like Recanati and Vitkin. The changes in the last decade extend even to the packaging; hell, I'd even say the labels of the Reserve series are among the top five best or so in Israel. *

* In case you're curious, in no special order: Recanati Reserve, Feldstein, Tzora.

So that's the buildup to my notes about the so called 'Mediterranean' Reserve series as well as the Special Reserves, that I bought pre-release in the Recanati summer event.

Reserve, Marsellan, 2015

I'm willing to concede Marselan is an actual Mediterranean grape. It's a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, first bred near the French town of Marseillan, which is actually on the Mediterranean coast. So yes, it's a Mediterranean grape.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it: "Marselan was bred by French ampelographer Paul Truel in 1961 at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) as part of a collaboration with the École nationale supérieure agronomique de Montpellier (ENSAM) to produce high yielding varieties with large berries of moderate quality. As Marselan could only produce small berries, the vine variety was shelved and considered not likely to be commercially released. But viticulture trends in the late 20th century that begun to value lower yielding varieties with good disease resistance to hazards like powdery mildew encouraged the INRA to revisit Marselan. The vine was submitted for approval for commercial release and was entered in the official register of grape varieties in 1990."

The history of wine making in the late 20th century in a nutshell.

Recanati makes a user and food friendly wine out of it, with fair complexity and  greater character and interest. With its black fruit trimmed with back pepper, herbs and dusty earth, it comes off as a Crozes-Hermitage transplanted to Vacqueyras. There's a warm, ripe breadth to it, but without the cheap ripeness that can be so off-putting with local Cabernets. (Mar. 4, 2017)

Reserve, Syrah, 2015

Calling Syrah a Mediterranean grape stretches the credibility of the concept, but I'm willing to concede it's a grape that can be suitable to to Israel, even if hasn't turned out to be the dominant force that ten years ago many expected it to become. The Recanati version went through a couple of production and marketing schemes before it was wedded to Viognier in a nod and a wink to Cote Rotie a few years ago. I loved the first couple of vintages, but the pair have since been divorced. The current vintage shows the succulent, peppery aspect of the grape. It's riper and less stellar than the version that Recanati winemaker Kobi Arviv makes. But then, that Syrah is one of the best ever made in Israel and is a testament to the skills of the Recanati winemakers and their employers' recruiting acumen. As for the wine under discussion, initially, the bitter tannins turned me off, but a very pretty purity of expressive fruit came out after a couple of hours. Wait and see, with optimism. (Mar. 5, 2017)

But I'll tell you what, though. Recanati's renaissance starts with, and hinges on, one wine, made from a grape that is as good a candidate as any to be our national grape. 

Reserve, Wild Carignan, 2015

This is always a deep wine that reveals its aromas and flavors reluctantly in its first couple of years, the 2015 especially so. What I get here at first is mostly a sense of warmth and a spicy/tannic mouthfeel. Then it finally offers up surprising aromatic complexity - not surprising for being complex, but rather because the aromas offer a gentle elegance I'd not found in previous vintages. Really, the Wild Carignan should live up to its name, but the 2015 defuses its punch with mellow blue fruits and wisps of black pepper. Wisps that become muscular strands as the wine shows its wild heart. (Mar. 16, 2017)

The Reserves are priced at 130-150 NIS (your mileage may vary) and you get a lot of quality fruit for the price. The price is in line with the price of many wineries' flagship wines and what you don't get for that price, thankfully, is histrionic helpings of oak.

The actual flagship wines, the Special Reserves, do cost more, of course.

Special Reserve, White, 2015 

This is a Rousanne/Marsanne blend, and I surprised myself for fancying this white Rhone combo at the launch. I guess these grapes do like the local landscape. There's not a huge level of acidity, but there is enough to support this rather fat, fleshy wine and the gently spicy punch on the finish. The spices also embellish the nose, which also features some chalk. Taste this alongside other local whites and it will show well; it probably won't finish first, but the results won't embarrass the people who made it and you'll be satisfied with the price (about 150 NIS). (Mar. 17, 2017)

Special Reserve, 2014

When Recanati started, and for a good part of the previous decade, this was your typical Israeli blend, Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot. Then along came Ido Lewinsohn, first, and then Gil Shatzberg, who replaced Lewis Pasco as main winemaker, and finally Koby Arviv - and little by little the blend changed. I noticed the change with the 2008 SR and wrote about it and then a wonderful thing happened. Some interchanges on an old wine forum led to a Recanati tasting event and I met Ido and that started a long, random chain of events that ended up with the group of friends I currently taste with. 

Recently, it's been a blend of Bordeaux and Mediterranean grapes, according to the winery's site. I'd guess that means Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Sirah and Carignan, in various permutations. This is a wine where you actually notice the oak. It's well handled, and the winemaking and barrels are both equally top notch, but it's there for now. Its aromatic and flavor profile reminds me of what Ido and Kobi do in their own boutique wineries: the freshness of the fruit, a welcome helping of black pepper, even a light streak of green. With that, I do sense a greater emphasis on sheen and gloss; which is not necessarily a bad thing and I'm not detracting the quality of the wine. Obviously the target audience is different from that of a boutique winery's, even if there is some overlap. The SR needs to acknowledge a great proportion of unhip buyers and naturally the team needs to be less adventurous, consciously or not. I'm trying to describe the effect, not criticize it. The quality of the wine would place it in the local top ten and you should buy it (for 200 NIS or whatever the release price is), if you haven't already, and then cellar it for at least three years (Mar. 18, 2017)

I want to close with off with an offhand note about a wine that we've been drinking casually at home for a while, the Jonathan, White, 2016. I'm not sure whether it replaces the old Yasmin series or cohabits the shelves, but this Chardonnay/French Colombard blend shows that quality control at the winery goes down all the way to the lower rungs. It's a light, fruity blend that won't blow you away but is very useful when you need to entertain a lot of friends and want to be able to enjoy yourself as well. This is where democracy wins.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Attack of the Killer Grenache - Vitkin, Early 2017

Time to check in, once more, on the winery that has always been located on the "road less traveled" part of the Israeli wine map - ever since the pioneer days when they were one of the first to break the paradigm of using Bordeaux grapes in Israel.

Grenache Blanc, 2014

A personal favorite, in my humble opinion already one of the top ten Israeli whites, this has an earthy character driven by tart acidity. Air fleshes it out (and I'm not ruling out that it should be served at a temperature close to that of a red wine, which is what I wound up doing and it worked for me) so that its lean frame is embroidered with nuanced flecks of bitter and savory flavors. The nose, while also austere, starts off with a nutty greenness and it, too, develops nicely, flaring into a bouquet flaunting an 'otherness', which I can't really break down meaningfully - perhaps something along the lines of chalk laced with sweet herbs and a hint of flowers, tobacco and iodine?  (Feb. 19, 2017)

The 2015 version is, at this point, more floral. I wish I could write more about the differences between the two vintages, but besides the year's worth of evolution, there's not much to tell them apart except for the greater clarity of the 2015 and a lither structure. I think the grape is comfortable in its new home. (Feb. 27, 2017)

125 NIS.

Israeli Journey, Rose, 2016

I prefer my roses so dry they could detox Keith Richards, and this more or less hits that sweet spot, with a wild freshness of fruit, almost floral, that is charmingly tempered and tamed by minerals. Assaf Paz says he thinks he finally nailed the formula, mostly Grenache with a modicum of Carignan. I agree. (Feb. 21, 2017)

70 NIS.

Grenache Noir, 2014

Grenache can easily go over the top and become too ripe, intense and candied. Assaf, however, confidently controls the grape and this wine just nods at that aspect with candied notes, but it also shows the same fresh wildness of fruit and flowers as did the Rose, as well as hints of raw meat. Most importantly, for any wine, but even more so for a grape so easily whored by producers prone to excess, this is a personable, very drinkable wine, with a raspy, yet savory finish adding plenty of jism. The label says "Collector Edition" and, while the wine is certainly special enough, it is no high octane trophy wine, just a wine that someone made because he wanted to do something different and so eased it into being, let the grape express its character without letting it get out of hand. (Mar. 3, 2017)

140 NIS. This is a terrific wine, really worth the price, showing, like the only other local Grenache that I know of (Feldstein), that the variety has great potential in Israel.

So that takes care of the various permutations of Grenache in the Vitkin portfolio. With that out of the way, let me finish with another example of how Vitkin does things differently. And yes, I know there are at least six other Israeli Rieslings, but Vitkin was there first.

Riesling, 2015

According to Cellar Tracker, the first Israeli Riesling was made by Golan Heights. Which I suppose makes Vitkin's inaugural vintage the first good local Riesling. But I quibble and anyway, making Riesling in Israel is always a leap of faith, on paper at least. I'm a classic German Riesling guy, also willing to accept their dry versions as well as those from Austria and, to a much lesser extent, from Alsace. While I appreciate the effort involved in making extraterritorial versions, you have to understand that I approach Rieslings from other regions with a very critical eye - uh, palate. This is a good wine. I think it brings a local touch. There's a certain herbal languor on the palate that I like, as well as bracing acidity and a healthy, cleansing salinity. The nose is fine, demure if not outright austere, showing lime and white fruit rather than apples (well, maybe some apples). I like it, and I'm happy I have another bottle to age, as well as a bottle of 2014, but I think it's a little short and the nose doesn't evoke the same thrill of discovery that the Grenache Blanc does. (Feb. 2017)

125 NIS.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The World Is My Oster (Feb. 23, 2017)

Getting ready for the Selbach tasting
The Selbach-Oster house is a masterful domain, even in Mosel, a region with no shortage of master artists. I was honored to participate in a tasting with Sigrid and Hanna Selbach.

Sekt, Brut, 2013

Sekts always torture me with montages of two of my big loves, German Riesling and Champagne. For example, this marries the complex, yeasty nose of a sparkling wine married to the light body of a Kabinett, showing citrus fruit, mushrooms and stone. 

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Kabinett, 2014

Even though this is relatively young and mute compared to the older Kabinetts that followed, this manages to show a charming nose of apples and pastry and cold slate, with a precise balance of fruit and acidity. The true measure of its lovely, evocative nose is evidenced when I sniff the remnants of the glass, which is when the aromas really open up.

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Kabinett, 2013

Something happened in 2013 to heighten the impact, a little more depth, visceral urgency and icy petrol pungency to the aromas, make the finish more savory and salivating, like a fine drill sparking the taste buds. 

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Kabinett, 2012

This is a regal wine, its pungency is a little more restrained - simply a wine that doesn't need to raise its voice. And one whose voice will keep ringing for a very long time.

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Spatlese, Trocken, 2012

You cross an invisible border when you move from classic, off dry/sweet Rieslings to the dry versions. Here, the aromas and texture are a totally different world, even though some similarities remain. The minerals dig deeper, as though the earth came alive. I usually prefer the classic style, but this is one of the best dry Rieslings I've ever had, a very detailed wine that doesn't try to slug its way in, as can be the case with Grosses Gewaches.

Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Spatlese Feinherb, Ur Alte Reben, 2012

This an off dry Spatlese, so it sort of takes the best of what the Kabinetts have to offer and changes gears. If the Spatlese Trocken shifts into mineral mode, this highlights the savory and steely aspect of the grape, with crystalline purity and a very complex and unique character. 

Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Spatlese, 2012

This is a textbook Mosel beauty that sweeps you with lemon sherbet/drops and an almost creamy seductiveness. 

Zeltinger Schlossberg, Auslese, 2011

This exists in different quadrant of space-time, creamier, more embryonic, like being hugged by a friendly panda bear. Again, this shows how all these wines have paint different colors with brushstrokes unto different canvases, but all were wrought by the same hand.

Anrecht, 2012

Ah! This feels like the Schlossberg Auslese sank into a black hole, and, while struggling to escape, is sending out a radio signal that broadcast hints of the same creaminess, but with a killer focus, highlighting the minerals, luring you in. And you don't resist. You can't.

A brief explanation on the Anrecht. Selbach-Oster stick to the usual strictures of German winemaking and makes multiple harvests of their vineyards in order to produce the expected pradikats from Kabinett all the way to Trockenbeerauslese and Eiswein. They make an exception for three sub-parcels (Anrecht, Schmitt and Rotlay), where they make a single harvest. They target Auslese but vinify all the grapes together regardless of the sugar level (presumably after sorting out grapes of lesser equality). The idea is to showcase the terroir in its purity, without any attempt to adhere to the stylistic demands of a specific pradikat.

Zeltinger Himmelreich, Auslese, 1990

This is a fine example of what happens to an Auslese after decades in the cellar. The nose, while no less detailed than in its youth, is less explosive, chamber music rather than a symphony. And time has taken the sweet fruit of youth and delicately sculpted it into a nuanced dryness. There was obviously botrytis when young, but it's implied and insinuated by now. A lovely gift of time.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lost In the Supermarket

The things you find on the shelves. Jesus.

I am an ardent shelf stalker. I go through 'em all. Wine stores, supermarkets, duty free. Even when not actively looking to buy anything, I glance through, look again, compile and file away the inventory and prices. Why do I do even do this? Maybe someday this arcane data will make a difference. What can I tell you? I was a weird kid and I wound up a weird adult.

But, sometimes my compulsive behavior pays off.

Faccenda Enrico, Barolo, Rocche di Castelletto, 2005

Once upon a time, an Israeli engineer on relocation in Italy decided to import Piedmont wines to Israel. His nickname was Doosh and he called his company the Doosh. No English speaker was able to contain a smirk. The operation has long since ceased to exist, but I recently found this bottle, from what looks to be a small, family firm in Barolo, in a local supermarket chain. This type of discovery is one of the thrilling twists in the plot that makes a wine lover's life so wonderful. Firstly, because finding it was exciting and remembering the Doosh was like revisiting an old Damon Runyon story. Then, the wine. With typical, intensive aromas of iron, tar, dust and black fruit, this is not the most refined of Barolos (often a grungy style of wine in the first place) - the discreet sweetness of the fruit, the tart acidity and the rusty tannins play Chuck Berry, not Beethoven. Old World charm doesn't get a lot better than the twisted, long, saline finish, its kinky, spicy intensity whipping your palate to set it up for the next mouthful, right after the nose pulls on your heart strings.(Feb, 3, 2017)

300 NIS.

Joseph Drouhin, Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru, Les Proces, 2001

The reason I found the Enrico in the first place was a friend tipped me off that he'd found a small stash of the Drouhin Proces in the same store. I won't share the details. If this store has any more hidden treasures, hell, avarice is a virtue. But I imagine my friend running into this unexpectedly. I know where the wine was kept and I know you need an employee to access the shelves where it was kept. Did he suspect what he might find there? What was he looking for in the first place? It's hardly a store that raises a lot of expectations.

And then he spotted it. He's a Bourgogne head, just like me. He knows Drouhin is one of the good negociants, so he recognized the potential in the name itself. He knows 2001 is a tough, old school vintage for the die-hards. The rare, unknown vineyard must have thrilled him; he must have relished the notion of stumping the illuminati in blind tastings. He did, in fact stump us. We recognized it for Nuits, I think we recognized the vintage. To his credit, my friend didn't insist we name the vineyard. We would never have gotten it.

It's really an old school wine. It's not a sexy vintage. You get a lot of iron, a lot of rotting leaves and rusty tannins. You don't get sleek, fleet footed fruit. This isn't where Burgundy seduces you, it's where it scratches you in the face and threatens to claw your eyes out. (Feb. 14, 2017)

400 NIS.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bourgogne Crown - End Of Year Tasting (Jan. 26, 2017)

Has the End Of Year tasting become a tradition by now? Or was this just an excuse to taste highlights of the 2016 portfolio before the new catalog is emailed to us loyal customers?

Four or five years into the venture, the catalog is a mix of proven stars and (mostly) new up-and-comers. The portfolio become a proven commodity: I could plow into the catalog blind and come up with gold medalists as well as tasty little regional and village wines that make me purr, which is something I wouldn't say about any other importer. But, that's really just me and my tastes and there's the usual caveats: the Bourgogne Crown folks are my friends, and I tend to be loyal to my friends - although not loyal enough to overlook the rawness of the Berthaut and Taupenot Merme, nor the fact that the Guyot Clos Vougeot is, at the end of the day, a Clos Vougeot (more details on that ahead).

The tasting discounts were very generous, which is why you can all afford the following vin de garde:

Domaine Denis Berthaut, Fixin, Les Clos, 2013

An intense nose, heavy on the spices. Tannic and acidic, with good, substantial fruit beneath the unaccommodating surface. I really hadn't expected it to show younger than the higher breed wines of the evening; right now, with its raw, adolescent edges, it is more about focus and oomph than expression, and thus not showing the same pretty drinkability and grace as the Berhtaut Bourgogne and basic Fixin.

140 NIS.

Domaine Pierre Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2014

This is the basic Village wine (Duroche has four lieux-dits as well). A touch of funk - not brett, but rather the famous Gevrey sauvage character - and very ripe flowers, to the point where you'd be right if you called it rotting petals. The fruit is fresh and lovely now, not complex, but of true to the Gevrey mold and charming.

160 NIS. 

La Maison Romane, Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice, 2014

La Justice is a classic Gevrey village parcel, where just about every producer has a holding. Less precise, dirtier, than the Duroche. As it airs, it reaches a balance between iron, earth and rusty fruit that I expect to become more precise with cellar time. I love this domaine, but Duroche's approach seems to convery the essence of Gevrey much better. At any rate, the palate is much fresher and cleaner than the nose initially suggests. 

285 NIS.

Domaine Gerard Julien, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Bousselottes, 2013

For me, what the domaine made of this rather obscure premier cru is a thrilling discovery. The initial whiffs suggest spices and flowers, before those flowers just erupt in the glass. On the palate, the flowers are very pronounced in the mouth in a very elegant package, nervy tannins wrapped around almost silky fruit.

285 NIS. 

Domaine Amiot Servelle, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Charmes, 2013

A winner nose, with aromatic complexity that pulls you inward, even though I miss the explosive florality I found in previous vintages/encounters. In Burgundian terms, the palate is on the tough side, that is cool and aloof, which is also something I've found in the Amiot Charmes in its adolescence.

390 NIS.

Domaine Taupenot Merme, Morey St. Denis Premier Cru, Riotte, 2013

I have limited experience with Taupenot Merme, but from what experience I do have, the wines are muscular, yet fluid and sexy. Here, on the other hand, the palate is almost all muscles, with firm tannins pinning the fruit. I suppose that's terroir, as I never find overt sexiness in Morey. Surprisingly, however, the nose is delicate, with almost fragile strands of earth and flowers.

440 NIS. If I had enough experience with how the Riotte ages, I'd go for it, but the Charmes and Fremiets just kill it as far as value goes.

Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Fremiets, 2013

This is a Premier Cru on the Pommard border, and it shows: this is the closest thing to a Pommard in the Bourgogne Crown catalog these days, with iron, black fruit and minerals as well as a distinctly saline finish. A demanding customer, this is, even if I do prefer the more typical of the Marquis' Volnays.

370 NIS.

Domaine Olivier Guyot, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, 2013

Powerful, deep, broad - fruity and floral, carried by a mineral laden character, it is not very complex or elegant, showing not only the power of Clos Vougeot but also the plaintive beauty so typical of Guyot. It expresses the Clos Vougeot terroir, alright, but it's a personal decision whether Vougeot is enough of a Grand Cru to justify the price. That is hardly the fault of the domaine, which, even here, is the epitome of filigree without artifice.

695 NIS.

Domaine Gerard Julien, Echezeaux Grand Cru, 2013

This is, for me, what a Grand Cru is all about. It's not about power for sure, not even necessarily about intensity (which is not the same thing as power) or even complexity. For me, it's about pedigree, and my take on that elusive term is the capacity to captivate the senses with as little effort as possible. And, as monolithic, distant and almost harshly herbal as this is, it says Grand Cru to me, whereas whoever classified the huge Clos Vougeot vineyard as a Grand Cru instigated centuries of debate. But sticking with the Echezeaux, fifteen to twenty years for it to hit its stride seems about right.

585 NIS. 

Domaine Amiot Servelle, Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru, Amoureuses, 2013

WOTN. Effortlessly powerful. Also a twenty year wine, you sort of gasp when you realize how offhandedly it wears its greatness, as well as its myriad shadings of spices and flowers. This is what I meant by Grand Cru before - and Amoureuses is one of a handful of Premier Crus that got senselessly shafted when the Cote d'Or was classified.

900 NIS.