Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Drugs Of Choice (Dec. 28, 2017)

Back at Basta TLV, for a night focusing on Burgundy, which is appropriate, given the guest of honor was Cyrielle Rousseau of the famed Gevrey property, Domaine Armand Rosseau. Basta's private room and menu are an epicure's Arcadia, and sharing wines, in that setting, with someone whose great-grandfather transformed Burgundy by pioneering domaine bottling, is a good candidate for the most memorable outing of 2016 (even in a year redolent with amazing evenings and a week long fiftieth birthday binge).

Domaine Benoit Ente, Aligote, 2013

This shows funky, taut, limey fruit that has a definite filigree. If you ever doubted that Aligote is a worth grape, try this. It's not only a fine wine (consistently the best Aligote I drink), but, to me. it expresses the character of Puligny with offhand ease. Indeed, tasted blind, we thought it was a village level wine.

Vilmart, Grand Reserve, n.v.

With intense, youthful vigor of citrus, green apples and chalk, this shows the bold, fresh aspect of a youngish Champagne. Despite this being a blend dominated by Pinot Noir, and Vilmart being a sort of Pinot specialist, this takes time to show the hints of autumnal aromas the grape can at times bring to a blend.

Domaine Amiot-Servelle, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Charmes, 2010

Raw red fruit - even grungy, at first - on the nose, then showing mellow forest floor and minerals, as well as hints of mint. The palate is in a mid way phase, a tannic and grungy surface belying the savory, precise backbone, which promises an elegant evolution..

Domaine Hubert Lignier, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, 2006

This, too, shows a rough elegance, but where the Charmes reverses the classic metaphor of an iron fist within a velvet glove, here the tannins make me think of a boxer calmly flexing his muscles before a fight. It starts impressively enough, expressing its power as iron-laden, black fruit, before blooming with exotic spices. And that's just the one-plus glass I had; I believe that a full bottle shared with a smaller group over the course of an evening would show ever more facets. Superb, wine of the night, at this point the best 2006 I've had yet.

Domaine Jacques Fredric Mugnier, Chambolle-Premier Cru, Les Fuees, 2002

An opulent and heady, sexy nose, that shows red fruit and spices and a sweetness that I tentatively wrote down as saddle leather. The palate is linear, with just a little padding, not fat, that gives it a jaunty bounce.

Lopez de Heredia, Tondonia, Rioja Grand Reserva, 1991

Lots of iron at first on the nose, as well as that old wood aromas that mature Riojas often give, while the palate shows, sweetly sauteed fruit driven by intense acidity, its power belied by a relatively mellow body.

Produttori di Barbaresco, Barbaresco, Montestefano, 2001

A very classic showing (tar and rose petals), pedigree without vanity. I bought a few mid 2000's crus from Wine Route, and after drinking this, I regret not buying more. This is great stuff.

Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac 5me Cru, 1981

Minty, dusty, reticent, black fruit that doesn't stoop to flattery. Textbook Pauilliac, requiring some concentration to gleam the fair complexity embedded within its depths. If the modern, latterday style of the property doesn't appeal to you, you might be in for a pleasant surprise with an older vintage such as this.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Dec. 2016)

Feldstein, Anu, 2014

This is mostly Carignan, with touches of Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, but initially, what I get is a resemblance to new World Pinot Noir, with fresh red fruit on the nose. Not something I picked up at the launch. At the launch, Avi discussed the steps he took to capture the grape's meaty aspects, but at this stage, it shows a rather floral character. Even when those meaty traits do show up, they are delicate and suggestive, shadowed by similarly delicate herbal tones. In short, this is likely the most feminine Israeli Carignan yet, not to mention one of the best, with finely tuned tannins. (Dec. 2, 2016)

260 NIS.

Cedalion, Eastern End Waiheke Island, Block 31 Single Vineyard Syrah, 2014

This is a new venture by Sam Harrop, a New Zealand Master Of Wine. The self promotion on his site is a little heavy handed, but the results here are very good, even excellent. The black fruit is lithe and clean, focused without being over technical, conjuring what I love about the North Rhone without being a copy cat. So pepper and bacon adorn the black fruit and the structure is almost Burgundian, but without the brawny iron of the east bank AOCs or the nervy edge of the west. (Dec. 6, 2016)

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Oberhäuser Brücke, Riesling Spätlese, 2008

The usual cool elegance that is the trademark of the Nahe trio (Donnhoff, Emrich-Schonleber, Schafer-Frolich). Complex aromatics of minerals and herbs, apples and peaches, with a lithe, succulent body that is hardly the quasi Auslese that you sometimes get in recent years, what with global warming and all. Despite the length, it doesn't pack a wallop or complexity of flavors - I keep waiting for a stinging jab that never comes, but this is limp and tepid for a Riesling of this pedigree. (Dec. 11, 2016)

Giaconda, about 200 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Bernkasteler Lay, Riesling Kabinett, 2012

Mosel Kabinetts don't last long in my fridge. I can't keep my hands off, really. But Wine Route wasn't able to unload all their stocks and I found another bottle at one of their branches. This is still vibrantly nubile and fresh, all granny apples and slate, with some aromatic complexity slowly blooming and coming into its own, so that I also get a hint of pastries and kerosene. (Dec. 12, 2016)

About 100 NIS.

Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Le Clos Guillot, 2011

This is in a rather chunky place right now, hinting at possible complexity, but for now only offering simple, homely pleasures: aromas red fruit adorned by lead pencil, hints of brett like dew drops on grass - all echoed on the palate, which shows a rough, rustic poise. I want to like it more - I opened an bottle I bought in the States to share with friends a year or two before Wine Route first started imported Baudry, so I feel a foolish, vain possessiveness about the domaine - but to be honest, I've drunk better Lore reds. (Dec. 18, 2016)

Wine Route, 125 NIS.

Ahat, 2015

I always advocate the virtues of low alcohol wines, but when I read that the latest vintage from Nitzan Swersky's micro-boutique weighs in at 11.5% ABV, I was worried it was too much of a good thing and that the fruit might be too green and anorexic. Especially since it's a varietal Chardonnay this year, not a grape I'd expect to see at 11.5%. Well, the 2015 Ahat is green, in a floral, green soybean sort of way, and it won't load a lot of flavors on your taste buds, but those flavors will be virtuously savory and rocky/salty - think Muscadet with lesser lees contact. Meanwhile the nose is a charming trompe l'oeil of rain water, apple peels and flint. an almost ephemeral mist of aromas and scents. The well defined acidity, bracing with a twist of lime, makes it a very gastronomic wine. (Dec. 19, 2016)

120 NIS, which is on the expensive side. If you buy it, and I urge you to get a bottle, don't buy it to partake of obvious greatness, buy it to hop along for the ride - wherever Nitzan's muse will take her, I'm sure she'll agree this is just a piece of the final puzzle, and you and I will enjoy figuring it out with her.

Flam, Reserve, Syrah, 2014

It's been over a decade since I last bought a Flam. I probably stopped buying at the same time I stopped buying Israeli wines, period, and then when I resumed flirting with the local wines, I guess I was looking elsewhere. For me, the 2000 Flam Reserves signaled the start of the modern wave of local boutique wineries, even though Castel, Margalit and Tzora were around for about a decade at that point. When I returned to the fold, what interested me were wineries that were searching for a different type of identity - more suitable grape varieties and fresher, more elegant wines - and Flam just didn't grab me. I have to say, this wine doesn't look likely to hook me. Aromatically, very nice: black pepper, fresh black fruit. Palate, also nice, lithe with good acidity. So, what's wrong? Nothing, really, but there's just no sense of excitement. At the same price range, Mia Luce races ahead with ease, making this feel like a pale also-ran, while Kishor offers the same quality, with more personality, at less than half the price. (Dec. 24, 2016)

140 NIS.

Abaya, Syrah, 2013

This is similarly styled, but livelier - the fruit is arguably a little sweeter but with a touch more energy, the nose more characterful and layered. I can't put my finger on any specific thing or things that are better here, or more mundane with the Flam. In the end, personality just goes a long way, personality that shows in little details and nuances that keep unfolding with air, at the end exhibiting both an exuberant side - in the succulent fruit that is just a little candied, while retaining hints of black pepper and meat - and a serious, somber aspect, as well. (Dec. 27, 2016)

About 120 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Riesling Estate Trocken, 2015

I can't really put my heart into actively not liking a German Riesling of any sort, but I usually think the trocken (dry) versions miss the point, which is how much charm and joy a little sugar adds to the classic style. But Willi Schaefer makes a great version, where the racy acidity plays the same role as does the sugar in the off-dry version of the Mosel idiom, that is, it anchors the granny apple flavors in a sensual, exuberant vivacity. The quality of the fruit is noticeable in the detailed complexity of the aromas and belies the easy price. (Dec. 25, 2016)

Fat Guy, 99 NIS.

Quinta do Portal, Porto, 20 Year Old Tawny, n.v.

Nice, but, although the pungent, nutty aromas are very pleasing, this a bit too soft and lightweight for me, and doesn't gain more presence over subsequent days.

300 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, Blanc, 2015

Ido Lewinsohn manage to coax the same flinty/nutty aromas out of his Chardonnay that we love so much in Bourgognes, as well as a similarly tasty saline aftertaste. That's the obvious point that everyone picks up on and writes about. In 2015, the oak is even subtler and more precise than in the past, or maybe the vintage conditions were better, allowing the sweetness and flesh of the fruit to better assimilate it. I think his red is the real killer - but, even if he only made this white wine, he'd still be one of the nest winemakers in Israel. (Dec. 29, 2016)

140 NIS.

Max and Lydie Cognard-Taluau, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Les Malgagnes, 2009

Slow to open, this shows depth belied by its austerity, as well as minerality and a herbals streak that is a cross between tobacco and garrigue. (Dec. 30, 2016)

13 Euros in the Loire. Seems like a decent value, although I have no idea who Cognard-Taluau are - this was a whim purchase on a family vacation in a well stocked store that didn't seem like a tourist trap.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bourgogne Sightings and Ramblings

Rapet Père et Fils, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2013

I know what I was looking for in white Burgundies when I started out. I read what the wine the books had to say about the classic idiom and the notion appealed to me: savory, focused whites, carrying hints of nuts and minerals and offering saline, rather than sweet, flavors. Most of the wines I tried at the time (say, seven to ten years ago) were fairly young, naturally enough given the nubile state of my collection and my friends', so they only insinuated at their potential to evolve into the ideal I was looking for. Many were at least a little oaky and fat and they remained that way when we returned to them years later. At best. At worst they didn't keep well at all, as Burgundy whites have been cursed by premox for the last two decades, meaning the wines show premature signs of oxidation in wines that used to carry their age much better in older vintages (don't confuse premox with general old age in wines never designed to age).

Eventually, I learned how to find what I was looking for. Some winemakers cater to easily impressed consumers, offering wines whose body fat and immediate pleasures make good first impressions, i.e. they were ripe and oaky - and let's face it, ripeness and oak sell wines to newbies. Many buyers remain newbies forever, so there's obviously a market share out there for wines whose lack of focus and depth is obscured by oak.

On the other hand, there are wines that start out fat and oaky, yet I'd sense they have enough substance to carry them through the cellar. Or would, if not for premox.

So I'm on the lookout for a third option, wines where the fruit is clenched in a compact, relatively lean frame in youth and where you can easily get a sense of purity and clarity. I'm not saying everything about the wine needs to be obvious, but I want to be able to easily see past the oak and baby fat.  And I do prefer to err on the side of leanness and acidity. And I don't like oak. If it's there, I want the fruit and acidity to be dominant enough that I don't have to fret about aging the wine for so long that premox might be an issue, even though I do believe that wines dominated by acidity and fruit are less likely to be cursed by premox to begin with.

But I was going to write about a wine, and the reason I'm boring you with this spiel is that the En Caradeux easily typifies my ideal in Bourgone whites. It really ticks off every checkbox I need: clarity, purity, that compact, focused leanness that belies substance. And it comes from an excellent terroir, a Premier Cru close to the Corton-Charlemagne hill. Which means importers will hype this as a mini-Corton - and they'd be right. Except that with its green apple peels, flint, Atlantic salt, great length and focus, you could just as easily mistake it for a cooler climat Puligny Premier Cru. (Dec. 1, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 290 NIS.

I knew what I'd written for the Rapet went beyond a mere tasting note. I seem to be full of thoughts, simple and intricate, about Burgundy lately. So I just let my muse go rambling though the woods this month.

Domaine des Miles (Domaine Fourrey), Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2015

Chablis was relatively innocent of the issues that bothered me with the Cote d'Or whites, the steely leanness of the style too easily identifiable and marketable for producers to be tempted to go for too much oak (except for some top crus, and even there I take issue with lack of typicity rather then a general bluntness of oak). This is an excellent example of getting Chablis right, aromas of apples and chalk echoed on the palate, carried by vibrant acidity to a saline finish. The internet says Miles is owned by Domaine Fourrey, and I have to say I wasn't very excited with the Côte de Léchet 2014 from Fourrey proper earlier this year. I assume the two domaines are run by one team, but who knows, and anyway, the media (as well as my limited experience) doesn't seem to make them out to be earth shakers, no Raveneau, Duavissat, Henri or Droin. However, this - this would be a good house wine, especially if Wine Route sell them at a discount, as they are wont to do with wines in this price niche. For now, the selling price of 169 is just okay. (Dec. 3, 2016)

Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Premier Cru, Côte de Léchet, 2013

I wouldn't go as far as saying the Dampt team are better winemakers than Miles/Fourrey, but someone in the domaine is more sensitive to the Chablis ideal and has a finer artistic flair. Certainly if what you're looking for are the maritime aromas and salty crunch on the finish, you could lose yourself in a bottle all evening long. I know I would, if I had been more conservative with my small stash. This is almost my last bottle and my pleasures have been consistently bountiful. (Dec. 4, 2016)

This was bought at a 2 for 300 NIS discount at Wine Route and I've always been pleased with the purchase.

Château de Beru, Chablis, Clos Beru, 2012

This is the flagship wine of the Château de Beru, unique for being a sort of cult house with no Grand Cru holdings, just a Premier Cru Vaucoupin, a few Chablis cuvées and this, a monople, walled single vineyard in the basic Chablis AOC that costs more than most Premier Crus. It's worth it, though, if you buy a wine for what it's inside the bottle and not what's on the label; I agree that some houses abuse that notion, but in this case, the price is reasonable. Having said that, it's a rather idiosyncratic version of Chablis, somehow managing to be both ripe and racy at the same time, coming on almost like a Champagne, offering baked apples and mushrooms as well as more typical chalk and salt. The acidity is excellent, a perfect counterpoint to the fruit, which is as deep as a Grand Cru's - almost fat in a vaguely Meursault vein, in fact. (Dec. 17, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 250 NIS.

Simon Bize, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Aux Grands Liards, 2010

I'd been aging this for three years, fretting about opening my 2010's too early (and I opened the Bize Perrières 2010, a mere Bourgogne, too early and never enjoyed it). But this is in a remarkably enjoyable phase, the nose somehow mixing iron, clay and spices with cool black fruit to make for an intriguing complexity, the tannins persistent enough to support the acidity and lend structure without blockading the fruit, asserting themselves as the wine airs to make a point: this village wine will keep and develop for some years to come. Really savory and delicious, the first Bize I've had that lived up to the house's reputation. (Dec. 7, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 240 NIS - still available.

A. et P. de Villaine, Côte Chalonnaise, La Fortune, 2011

Aubert de Villaine has been leading Domaine Romanee-Conti for the last three or four decades. His residence is at Bouzeron where he grows and vinefies Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligote. Villaine is said to be the driving force behind the promotion of the Aligote-only Bouzeron AOC. I like his Bouzeron, but to be quite honest, I'm more enamored of other Aligotes (Ente, Bouisson). Following the Bouzeron promotion, Pinot and Chardonnay wines from the village are bottled as Côte Chalonnaise, so this is actually a village wine. I was a fan of Villaine for years and bought La Fortune and La Digoine regularly. Both are Côte Chalonnaise reds from Bouzeron vineyards, the La Fortune sourced from relatively young vines. I wouldn't have thought of drinking a La Fortune at five years of age, especially from a vintage like 2011, which by all accounts is one to drink on the younger side - but a stash at a local restaurant had really tempted me. And it really is drinking remarkably well, stinging me with the Burgundian Cupid arrow of autumnal, mellow strawberries and underbrush. If I set aside this romantic enthusiasm, I have to admit that, while the attack and middle palate are fresh enough, the fruit is just starting to dry out on the finish. Despite my reservation, for me, this is a very good wine (Dec. 10, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Domaine de Montille, Beaune Premier Cru, Perrières, 2010

A simple Montille Bourgogne 2002 was what hooked me on to Burgundy, some twelve years ago. Etienne de Montille turned père Hubert's domaine into a mini-empire, that by now has extended beyond the family's original Volnay and Pommard holdings, into significant Vosne and Nuits vineyards. The Perrières bottling is located relatively low in the hierarchy, but it's a very good Beaune Premier Cru, and a good value in Burgundian terms, year in and year out. Off course, in a great vintage like 2010 it's an especially good buy. Typically for Beaune, we have here aromas of black fruit and minerals - Mediterranean market spices adding a touch of exotic splendor - and vividly fresh fruit and acidity on the palate (more so than the Bize, just to give a frame of reference). It's a good example of Etienne's style: friendly, sexy fruit, with a subtle, yet persistent, tannic structure. A very attractive wine. (Dec. 15, 2016).

Burgundy Wine Collection, 290 NIS for recent vintages. Starting with the 'classic' Montille Crus in Volnay and Pommard, the prices become a little too dear for comfort, but this is, like I wrote, a recommended buy.

The go-to names for Burgundy in Israel are Burgundy Wine Collection and Bourgogne Crown. Both specialize in the region and carry a mix of classic names and up and coming stars. What about the Wine Route empire, though? My problem with Wine Route's Burgundy portfolio has always been lack of commitment. Producers come, producers go. I never get a sense that someone is trying to build up a following or a true partnership. Just look at how they handle Chablis. Dampt one year, Fourrey/Miles the next, only the obvious crus from ubiquitous Fevre hanging in there year to year (Vaillons, Valmur, Clos - a rather short list for a producer with holdings in just about every Chablis vineyard). Burgundy proper has always been even more slapdash, only Jadot maintaining a consistent presence. I sometimes wish they'd just hand over their Burgundy contacts to someone who actually gives a fuck. But, sometimes, they do surprise me.

Charles Van Canneyt, Bourgogne, 2013

This is an interesting offering from from Wine Route, perhaps hinting at a potentially attractive addition to their sporadically interesting Burgundy portfolio. Van Canneyt is the winemaker at famed Domaine Hudelot-Noellat (owned by his grandparents), who started a micro-négociant business in 2012. Demand for Hudelot-Noellat was higher than the supply, and Charles wanted his own business, so there was a personal, as well as a business, justification for the moonlighting gig. His intent is to to produce “classic styles” from vineyards not produced at Hudelot-Noellat (I can't find out if he buys grapes or must, but I hope it's the former if he's capitalizing on the Hudelot-Noellat name). Since the range was initially restricted to top AOCs - only Grand Crus in 2012 -  the assumption is that this 'basic' Bourgogne is made of declassified grapes of pedigree origins. And, indeed, I believe this is no lowly Bourgogne, as this is very elegant and focused, offering a great deal of flavor on a silky texture, with smooth tannins and poised balance of fruit and acidity. The finish is long and vibrant enough to justify the suspicions that it is a declassified village - the internet says Chambolle, and it's true that the floral scents typical of the village become very visceral, nearly intoxicating, in fact. Lovely, (Dec. 16, 2016)

169 NIS. It would be very sweet indeed if this is a trailer for future offerings from Van Canneyt, or even Hudelot-Noellat.

Post Script

My friends and I went through a flight of Premier Crus, that represented all the joys, intellectual and sensual, that the Cote d'Or can provide.

Josepgh Drouhin, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Proces, 2001

We tend to overlook Drouhin around here, but this is arguably the best of the big houses, and looking over my notes, their wines always shows well whenever someone bothers to bring any to a tasting. Which doesn't happen a lot, because we overlook Drouhin, like I said. Also, the imports are in a weird state of limbo in Israel. Drouhin was never well marketed while the Scottish Company carried them, and then the company folded and Tiv Ta'am inherited the stocks, and now nobody knows what's on offer. Take this for example, Zacki found it just last week in a Tiv Ta'am branch, where it's been lurking for god knows how long. It's drinking really great (and should continue to do so for five more years, at least, although I doubt it will get better), very complex and full of iron and rust accents, an elegant version of the Nuits muscle bound rusticity, that I found easy to spot blind. What makes this bottle even more special is how rare a bird the Proces vineyard is. I looked it up, it's one of the 4-5 smallest of the forty or so Premier Crus in NSG.

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Clos des Ducs, 2001

My friends and I also tend to overlook 2001, probably because it was overshadowed by 2002, the current 'great' Burgundy vintage when we started out. Later, when we started buying back vintages, I suppose many of us opted for for 2002's, 1999's and 1996's, the other 'great' vintages easily available. This is another example of what a lovely vintage 2001 was, and it also shows what a great producer d'Angerville is, a perfect example of his elegant muscular style. It also shows the quality of the Clos des Ducs monople vineyard, or its longevity anyway: you get the feeling it still hasn't released every nuance of flavor it has to offer. If a tag is needed, let's call it a reserved wine. I loved it.

Etienne de Montille, Pommard Premier Cru, Pezerolles, 2007

If 2001 is overlooked because we just missed it when we jumped on the Burgundy train, then 2007 is ignored because it wasn't, in most cases, a vintage for long cellaring, or for showing off at tastings. The Pezerolles, though, is a wonderful specimen, and, like the 2010 Perrières, typical of the house style. Also, with notes of iron threading through the aromas and flavors, it is quite typical of Pommard. The reasons why 2007 is a vintage that pleases but doesn't thrill is that it lacks inches to a yard in every dimension: it;s not quite deep enough, not quite broad enough, not quite bright or sext enough.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Gourmandy (Dec. 8, 2016)

Not pictured: Lucien le Moine
Out of sight, its dreariness sadly not out of mind
Habasta may not boast the kind of high tech cuisine or the elegant backdrop that garner awards, but the sheer lust for life that Maoz Alonim's kitchen staff puts in every dish makes the place the most hedonistic eatery in town, my favorite, hands down. Every notion I've ever had about friendship bonded by a gourmand feast comes true whenever I eat there, Maoz' Gargantuan presence always booming in the background, the picture postcard image of the genial host.

The wines were the usual eclectic lineup.

Kumeu River, Mate's Vineyard, Chardonnay, 2013

Back when the New World was first trying to emulate the white wines of Burgundy, the winemakers would prop the fruit with a heavy dose of wood, because that's how they interpreted the style. Today, pure, precise fruit flavors are (or should be) the vanguard, the oak refining the structure of the wine during the elevage in barrel without defining the flavors. This vibrant little wine - which we've had before - is an example of this idiom, the flavors on its lithe figure echoing the aromas of apples, peaches, chalk and matchstick.

Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Chambolle-Musigny, 2012

Bourgogne Crown carries the domaine, but not this wine. I was very much captivated by what I'd tasted from Taupenot-Merme, mostly different vintages of Mazoyeres-Chambertin. The house style is very floral, mercurial and vibrant; made for Chambolle, I thought when I bought this at London, and the wine was exactly what I expected, easily the star of the evening.  Demure initially due to its youth, the vivid freshness stands as a testament to the pedigree and attentive winemaking, its vibrancy and length giving it the punch, if not the complexity and depth, of a Premier Cru.

Rhys, San  Mateo Country, Family Farm Vineyard, Pinot Noir, 2009

The other Pinots we had were a mess. Rhys is a winery I'd been curious to try for a while, a new hipster cult fave stateside. There is brett here, not a lot, but it does make the result a sort of a cross between Beaujolais and Rhone, the lack of structure denying it the charm of either of the two.

Lucien Le Moine, Clos St. Denis Grand Cru, 2009

If I had a tumor, I'd name it Lucien Le Moine. Despite the aspirations to purity and the "old way" that the domaine's site boasts, winemaker/partner Mounir Saouma just doesn't get Burgundy, the elegant beauty and lightness of being that should be its ideal (unless he interprets old ways as being the tannic soup that used to be sold as, say, Pommard). If Burgundy is ever buried, Mounir will be there to put stones on her grave. He's certainly earned the right, with wines that obscure the loveliness and nuances of Pinot Noir, recalling, as here, a Chateauneuf, with horse saddle, garrigue and sweet fruit.

Chateau Moulinet, Pomerol, 2009

I read this is considered a "value" Pomerol (23 euros in Bordeaux), and this certainly fits the bill, a tasty drop that combines lush fruit with adolescent tannins.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2016)

The ongoing tale of the man who was heavily into Bourgogne
Domaine Alain Burguet, Gevrey-Chambertin, Mes Favorites, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

2011 is considered a user-friendly vintage, with little aspirations of longevity. So, despite the age of the vines, and the quality of the domaine in general, this is already very enjoyable. There's a herbal, earthy pungency on the nose and a focused, palate-cleansing, tannic finish, that are so gastronomical and French. What I love in the domaine's wines is the floral freshness, which only signs in after the slight initial murkiness clears and the red fruit is highlighted. At which point you also get iron and animal musk. This is the kind of wine that convinces you early on it has breed past Village Cru level, but it takes almost three hours for me to figure out that pedigree carries it, in 2011, as far as a footstep or two away from Premier Cru tier, but no closer. (Nov. 4, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 310 NIS.

Charles Joguet, Chinon, Les Varennes du Grand Clos, 2009

As dense as a latter day Bordeaux, hints of lead pencil giving away its origins, this broadcasts the use of oak, but I definitely get the feeling that it will integrate nicely. Opened a decade too early, although a few hours are enough to signal its potential. (Oct. 8, 2016)

32 USD.

Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon-Uchizy, Maranches, 2008

Ordered by the glass at Habasta, this surprised me for its youthful vibrancy. It's been so long since I drank an eight year old Burgundy white this vital, and this is but a village wine from the Macon. It's flinty with decent complexity, green apples seguing into peaches. (Nov. 9, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 198 for a bottle at the restaurant, 140 NIS for a latterday vintage.

Domaine Pierre Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2014

Maoz, owner of Habsta, treated me to a tasting glassful from the remains of a bottle opened for 6 days. The oxygen apparently did it negligible harm, and my glass showed the same floral character I remembered from a tasting in May (a common feature for many of the domaine's wines), backed by elegant, yet persistent tannins. (Nov. 9, 2016)

Burgundy Crown, list price, 205 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Champagne, Dizy, Brut Rosé, n.v.

Refreshing, while packing a lot of saline-delineated flavors into a lithe frame, with autumnal red fruit and nuts on the nose. A good rosé Champagne should capture the essence of both Champagne and Pinot, and this one does with style. (Nov. 9, 2016)

Fat Guy, 299 NIS.

Weingut Hirsch, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Zöbinger Heiligenstein 1er Lage, Riesling, 2011

Riesling often wears a spicy veil in Austria. Here for instance, where it also adorns a rocky corset, which is also quite typical. Beyond that, there are variations on that theme. For one thing, the body wearing the veil and corset is lithe and fluid, the fruit savorily dry, ranging from green apples to red apples and beyond, flirtingly evoking redcurrants. (Nov. 10, 2016)

Fat Guy, 229 NIS.

Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Le Clos, des Hospices, 2008

Wine poses no real aesthetic value to me without romance, and no wine is more romantic than Chablis, because Chablis evokes the sea - and the sea is the essence of romance. Chablis should offer a breath of marine breezes, sea weeds washed ashore, rainwater, shells and fossils, but sometimes the purest and most complex expressions of Chablis are found in the Premier Crus, and not necessarily the Grand Crus. It's almost as though the producers try too hard to impress, are too generous with the oak. And some Grand Crus are just too... grand, their character and breadth more akin to Chassagne and Puligny than to their Premier Cru neighbors. Especially Le Clos, which usually appeals to me less than, say, Valmur. I always hope a mature Grand Cru will combine the best of all worlds, but the premox curse seems to have hit Chablis has hard as it has the Cote d'Or. At eight years of age, this bottle, a monopole within the Le Clos vineyard, nails a sweet spot where the Chablis character is coming to terms with the size of Le Clos and all signs of oak are gone or so deeply submerged within the chalky, limey acidity that they might as well be gone, allowing for great length and a truly wonderful complexity of flavors. (Nov. 12, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 390 for recent vintages (the straight Le CLos and the other Grand Crus are 290 NIS).

Feldstein, Syrah Rose, 2014

I didn't write about this wine in my write-up of the launch, because Avi never released it, concerned that three roses was too much for the local market. I say, releasing two roses was not enough. Releasing three would have been a momentous, historical statement and Avi will regret his decision. Especially since this seems like the most interesting of the lot, with a hint of meat on the nose and a long finish that evokes salted cashews. There's even a hint of black pepper eventually - Syrah, you know. (Nov. 13, 2016)

By the way, this inspired a revisit to Avi's Carignan Rose, where I now notice a similar meaty salinity, as well as, surprisingly, a hint of apricots.

Yannick Amirault, Bourgueil, La Petite Cave, 2010

The 2006 taught me that this wine is slow to mature, but with the 2010, I figured I'd drink it over the course of a long evening and aerate it ahead of time. At first, I get dirt and graphite, and not a whole lot of depth or complexity. But that is a deceptive impression, just as the seeming softness is misleading. These is depth here, with a core of juicy fruit still dormant. (Nov. 17, 2016)

Fat Guy, 189 NIS.

Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2008

Further proof that this is a signature Israeli grape (never mind its actual origin), this has matured wonderfully, showing black fruit, even blue, that is succulent and fresh, the fruit not overripe but balanced with juicy acidity. Maturity has rendered the graphite notes, that are always the telltale stamp of this wine, with greater nuances and depth. (Nov. 19, 2016)

Domaine Chavy-Chouet, Bourgogne Blanc, Les Femelottes, 2014

From the fringes of Puligny proper, this is a precise, classic rendering of the village style, infused with green apples and flint. I don't know whether this needs the same keeping time as a bona fide village wine, but there's a cool aggressiveness about it that I think needs a year or two to soften up. (Nov. 19, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 105 NIS - to grab!

Abaya, Red, 2011

The lithe freshness of the fruit managed to surprise me, even though I didn't approach the wine expecting a ripe, muscle-bound Cabernet. Quite the contrary, having read of Yossi Yodfat's philosophy and goals. This is a Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon-Petite Sirah blend, that has been discontinued. I think many wine lovers don't appreciate the magic in a light wine such this, that drinks like fermented juice, a wine you can drink to quench your thirst, which is what wine was originally made for. It's short and simple, thriving on the interplay of black pepper and berries. (Nov. 27, 2016)

Margalit, Enigma, 2013

On the other hand, we have this Bordeaux blend from the former leader of the pack. I say 'former' because Margalit seems to be hanging on to the style of the previous decade, with grainy, dusty tannins and sweet oak not quite counteracted by minerals. The fight turns the next day, as the nose blossoms into a charming lattice of earth and olives. The grainy tannins, and the oak, are still too distracting for me, but then, it's really not a style I favor in the first place. (Nov. 29, 2016)

About 200 NIS.

Domaine de Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) , Côtes du Roussillon Villages,  L'Esquerda, 2013

A bit unusual for the region, this is a Syrah dominated blend, with some Grenache and Cairgnan. It's softly tannic, red fruit and white pepper, becoming more complex and structured with air. (Nov. 30, 2016)

Hakerem, 100 NIS.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pick Your Poison - Garrigue, Tel Aviv, Nov. 5, 2016

Eventually, modern medicine was able to find a cure for our addiction, but until then, we partied with precise and alarming regularity.

Moet et Chandon, Cuvee Dom Perignon, 1978

This was a totally dysfunctional bottle, but I feel duty bound to report. An ullage the size of the Grand Canyon, the color of a dead rat and aromas and flavors of a savory manzanilla.

Domaine Vincent Bouzereau, Meursault, Les Narvaux, 2012

Did the denizens of Meursault come up with the concept of the village lieux-dits because the lack of a Meursault Grand Cru necessitated a new marketing approach? I'm just wondering. Anyway, Narvaux is a fairly well known vineyard. This is only my second or third sample and if I were to generalize from such a small sample, the wines are rather limey and flinty/marine in a Puligny style, with an nervy edge. That would be my tasting note here, although I'll add that this does end up somewhat fat and generic on the finish.

La Maison Romane, Corton Grand Cru, Les Perrieres, 2008

This is a Grand Cru that floats by on its complexity, long and rusty, with exotic spices and iron. It's very true to the style of 2008 from my experience, with the acidity upfront, and will need more time to fill up its lithe frame.

Chateau Meyney, Saint Estephe, 1982

Black fruit, barnyard, decent length and complexity, but not much more. Nice, but seriously, it's amazing that you can actually find any of these: anyone that bought this and aged it for this long was a fool, there was absolutely no upside in cellaring this past the late 90's.

Dunn Vineyards, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain, Cabernet Sayvignon, 1998

This displays a less common manifestation of Brett, according to Ido. Interesting to learn the foulness has multiple aspects and that winemakers can actually tell the difference. Thankfully, it's less prominent here than in the Meyney, and overall, this is tasty, just not a star.

Yannick Amirault, Bourgueil, La Petite Cave, 2006

Finally, a brett free claret, which is appropriate, as Amirault makes the cleanest Loire reds I've tasted. I'm sure some will find fault with that and label him a modernist, but here's what I think: start off with clean flavors and a balanced wine and then let time in the cellar do the rest. That's what his forbears would have done if they could have afforded cleaner facilities. This is way too young, even at ten years of age, but the vivid fruit makes this a great little gem, with a hint of spices providing interest even now. This is costs much less than 200 NIS and will age as long as a Bordeaux costing twice the price, say twenty years - in fact, it will need those decades in order to provide significant enjoyment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How To Taste A Spätburgunder

Pinot Noir - it takes a lifetime to understand the simple truths it expresses with its clarity of acidity driven fruit. And that's assuming you limit yourself to its homeland in Burgundy. So what happens when your broach its Teutonic counterpart, which the Germans call Spätburgunder, inflicting pain and confusion on spell checkers everywhere?

The late Bernhard Huber was a pioneer and master of the Bourgogne varieties in Baden, which, along with Nahe, is the classic Spätburgunder region (even though producers like Laible make wonderful Rieslings and Scheurebes there). As any lover of Burgundy knows, mastering Pinot Noir means finding ways to let it clearly, subtly, voice the nuances of the vineyard, vintage, even the winemaker's temperament, without forcing the issue or losing sight of the grapes lightness of voice and form. As any lovers of Burgundy will tell you, it's never an easy task.

Bernhard Huber, Baden, Spätburgunder Alte Reben, 2011

After following this over three bottles, I have finally concluded that Huber was very much interested in capturing the lithe, acidity driven structure of a fine Burgundy red, but much less interested in replicating the specific aromas and flavors of the homeland of Pinot Noir. Which means he treated Spätburgunder with great respect, because, above all, the Pinot family reflects land and climate. So, let's play a game. Pretend this was served at a being Bourgogne tasting. Where is it from? Something about the weight and darkness of the fruit would point you to the Cote de Nuits, only you'd be hard pressed to settle on a village. There's nothing exotic or floral about it, so that rules out Vosne or Chambolle. There's a bit of sauvage about it, but also some iron, so you oscillate towards Nuits-St.-Georges rather than Gevrey and realize it's complex and persistent enough to be a Premier Cru. But you still can't really place it - there's a scent of coffee grains impregnating the autumn leaves and a rather serious aspect, so studious, struggling to hide a smirk. Nothing you ever found in Burgundy, really. (Oct. 25, 2016)

35 GBP.