The first two wines are imported to Israel by Mersch, whose portofolio otherwise leans towards big, Australian reds. I like to think I was their first all-white order.
O’Leary Walker, Watervale, Riesling, 2005
Listed at 78 NIS. It would have been easy to approach this wine with a preconception of a very precisely made wine but the jury's still out on that issue. On one hand, enough 'fuzzy lines' were left to encourage personality while on the other, it's just a bit too tame for me. You can read the vintage specs here, by the way.
A fruity, crisp Riesling. Dry, austere, with a quinine finish. Slightly complexified by herbal and minerally notes. Opens nicely though lacks depth, ultimately, but very good for what it is: in Germany, this would be a QBA from a good producer; a very good nose on the lower rungs of the major leagues and a balanced, albeit simple and short, palate. Decent plus value. (Jun. 16, 2007)
Thorn-Clarke, Sandpiper, Pinot Gris, 2006
Listed at about 70 NIS, the nose is quite good, with tropical fruits, herbs and sweet spices. The palate is a bit bitter and hot and though it has decent acidity, it's a bit too fat for my tastes. But eventually I switched from a Riesling glass to a Bordeaux and it showed much better. According to the spec at the Thorn-Clarke site, it's made with French yeasts so I kept looking for Alsace. I couldn't find it but whether it's due to the use of lab yeasts or other winemaking considerations, this comes off as a high octane wine rather than elegant and flavorsome.
I don't want to give the wrong impression. I'm critical of these wines because I look for different things than what they have to offer but they're well made and interesting and are an important addition to the local scene. I would say the same thing for all of the Mersch wines that I've tasted, though they're not cheap.
Zind-Humbrecht, Tokay Pinot Gris, Herrenweg de Turckheim, 2004
Meanwhile, hailing from the Old World, comes a Pinot Gris I've enjoyed for several vintages (even the 2003, though its faults were obvious). WineRoute sold it for about 130 NIS last year and it's the Alsace equivalent of a village wine, I suppose. True to my past experiences, it's ripe, tropical and spicy, with broad hints of sea breeze. 'Finesse' would not be the first word to spring to mind but this big wine carries it's 15% ABV rather well (on the palate that is, my stomach and knees might argue the point) and the palate really balances all that fruit and alcohol with savoury mineral notes. It unravels somewhat after an hour, the alcohol coming to the fore, but it's a very good drink even then and its constrained power would be good for 90 points if I were still scoring. (Jun. 21, 2007)