Saturday, March 29, 2008

Misc. Notes (Feb.-Mar. 2008)

In this winter of discontent and strife, I found myself drinking a lot of Rieslings at home, imported by Giaconda.

Langwerth von Simmern, Rheingau, Erbacher Marcobrunn, Riesling Kabinett, 2004

Developing nicely. Mineral notes float lightly over aromas of ripe peaches and both red and green apples. Green apple acidity and round, ripe fruit on the palate, with the apples more to the fore, with minerals and spices, even light quince notes, on the finish. It's got more fat than I'd expect from a Kabinett but that's not a fault and anyway, it's a wine I find delicious beyond any score I might award it. (Feb. 16, 2008) 100 NIS.

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Mussbacher Esselshaut, Riesling Kabinett Trocken, 2004

This seemed off-dry when I first tasted it a year and a half ago. Maybe it has absorbed its residual sugar or maybe my palate has adjusted to German Rieslings by now but it feels very dry now. It smells like a Champagne, with apples, lime, yeasts and spices. There's also just a trace of minerals in the background. The palate echoes the nose very much with a trace of petrol on the finish while the fizz it showed in its early youth is gone. Needed a couple of hours to open up, surprisingly. (Feb. 19, 2008) 116 NIS.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kalstadter Steinacker, Riesling Kabinett, 2004

Talc, peaches and honey on the nose with hints of green herbs and mint, and that's only scratching the surface of this wine's complex and elusive aromatics. A soft yet agreeably acidic backbone contains a fairly wide array of flavors in a compact, Kabinett frame. The somewhat austere, grapefruit pip finish is reminscent of a young Alsace Riesling, only softer. (Feb. 27, 2008) 117 NIS.

Donnhoff, Grauschiefer Riesling Kabinett Trocken, 2006

The aromatics resemble a Chablis: Chalk, sea-salt, a hint of flint, peaches, lime, lemon peel, though there is a lees-y note in the background which would be out of place in Bourgogne, I think. The palate and mouthfeel carry on the resemblance, with the fruit a bit rounder than a Chardonnay. It's drinking nicely but just a bit tight on the finish, so I'd give it another year or two. Nice, though it's a bit too precise in character, but worth another bottle. (Mar. 1, 2008) 113 NIS.

Keller, Rheinhessen, Riesling QBA Trocken, 2006

Pungent green apple peels and lime on the nose, with plenty of chalk, and also dough-y and candied notes. Trocken for sure, with plenty succulent fruit that I think would serve as a very good introduction to German wines for neophytes. A saline, quinine finish of medium length and a textbook example of racy acidity. Not very complex, but a pretty good QBA, that tastes like a declassified Kabinett. Just slightly disjointed and, though probably not very age-worthy, another 6 months will do it good. (Mar. 13, 2008) 90 NIS.

Leitz, Dragonstone, 2005

Quite the same as last time, except for minor differences like more dough and nuts on the nose alongside the lime and minerals. And one somewhat bigger difference being a better balance of acidity and sweetness highlighting the minerals and green apples of the finish. Lovely fruit. (Mar. 18, 2008) 98 NIS

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Urziger Wurzgarten, Riesling Auslese ***, 1990

There are peaches and petrol on the nose but it only in the background, the aromatic essance of this mature Riesling being cold, wet stones and dill, lending a pungent kick. The palate is elegant and subtle, the fruit and minerals having melted into one another, married by a juicy, green-apple acidity that only pure fruit can offer. (Mar. 29, 2008) 245 NIS.

Recanati, Special Reserve, 2003

Typical New World Cabernet nose (though it's only 2/3 of the blend, the other third being Merlot, no surprise) of red currant with mildly noticeable oak, albeit very integrated, with plenty of earth and eucalyptus notes. It's shed some baby fat on the palate since last time but it's still a bit sweet on the attack before the bitter tannins kick in on the finish. But overall, the structure shows potential as the fruit and acids are well balanced. (Mar. 6, 2008)

Domaine Jacques Prieur, Beaune Premier Cru, Champs -Pimont, 2002

Classic Bourgogne nose - one of the variants anyway - of wild strawberries and cherries, a bit animalistic at first with a streak of violets and blue fruit, which assert themselves more and more as the wine opens, at the cost of the complexity the other elements provided at first. On the palate, there are ripe black and black fruit on the attack, which contract to a minerally mid-palate and finish, which some might find too green, though I personally appreciate this austere style up to a point - which this wine (barely) manages not to cross. At any rate, this was a very good match for tbeet, a thick, mildly spicy Iraqi rice dish, a dish I'd never expected I'd find a good match for and a match that manages to complement the greeness. (Mar. 22, 2008)

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001

At first, the nose is somewhat reticient but gains fair complexity and even greater depth in time to show cranberries, currants, red and black cherries, spices, violets and hints of dust and mildew on the fringes. Fruity on the attack then tannic on the finish. Rather blunt off the bat for a wine that was relatively elegant in its youth and eventually the elegance creeps back in after some time in glass but to its detriment, it does lack the knockout power of the 2000 and lags behind the nose. Though, when all is said and done, this is a delicious, well crafted wine and makes even an anal retentive, homegrown vineological worrywart like myself proud. And oh yeah, I'd drink it now and over the next two-three years. (Mar. 25, 2008)

Marc Bredif, Vouvray, 2003

A ringer for a Chablis Premier Cru now, especially the nose with its nose of white fruits, minerals and a hint of sea brine. The palate is just a bit waxier than a Chardonnay would be, though. Ther's a hint of baked apples on the nose that emerges in time which suggests the wine's age and though the green apple finish is fresh enough at first, the palate displays maturity and displays a somewhat alcoholic streak after an hour which suggests that this bottle is at its peak. (Mar. 27, 2008)

Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2004

Rather a young one, ain't it, which I opened to decide whether to invest in the 2005 version. Prototypical, mouthwatering white B nose: pears, flint, some flowers, dry summer evening grass. Dry and saline on the palate with impressive power, though the intensity is evidenced as length, not breadth or depth and it is lacking in complexity and finesse. The oak is still in there, in the process of being submerged. Hmmm, the same level of oak, married to 2005's ripeness sounds interesting. Here, the oak will take a year or more to melt away but I find it tasty even at the current level of oak, at the start anyway - it doesn't really improve with airing. (Mar. 31, 2008)

Tomer Gal imports it, Hinawi sold the 2004 for about 145 NIS. The 2005 is more expensive.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Boutique de Champagnes Tasting (Mar. 20, 2008)

It's all in the name: a new local importer of artisanal, boutique Champagnes. The visible force is Eldad Levi, a veteran wine writer in Israel and on whose 'pet' wine forum, Fat Guy, I am an active participant.

I don't have much experience with Champagnes. I joked with Eldad after the tasting that I tripled the number of Champagnes I'd tasted over the course of the evening and that is the truth.

The full catalog (including full details of the grapes, crus, dosages and vintaged blended into the N.V's) in Hebrew can be found here. Non-English speakers are directed to the Terry Theise Champagne catalog which covers some of the wines and will give an overview of the growers.

All list prices are before any discounts.

A. Margaine, Cuvee Traditionelle Brut, N.V.

90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, from Villers Marmery (1er Cru village). A blend of six vintages, mostly 2004, the nose initially dominated by tropical fruits, but once their sweetness subsides, a greater complexity and minerals and yeasts notes are uncovered. The palate has a crisp, tight structure of bitter minerality but offers less complexity. My guess is the restaurants will go for it to a greater degree than the private customers, who I think will opt to pay extra for more finesse. 189 NIS.

Larmandier-Bernier, Brut Tradition, N.V.

80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 70% Grand Cru vineyards, the rest 1er Cru, a blend of 2002/3/4 vintages, 40% from 2004. The nose is mostly bread and minerals and you can sense the Pinot. The palate is very impressive, tight, crisp, intense with no loss of elegance. The best non-vintage of the tasting. 249 NIS.

Jean Milan, Cuvee Millenaire Brut, NV.

100% Chardonnay, 100% Grand Cru, 2002 and 2003 in equal parts. White fruits and minerals on the nose, with some tropical fruits in the background. Like the Larmandier, a crisp, minerally, tight structure, but more feminine and easier to approach. 249 NIS.

Vilmart, Cuvee Rubis, N.V.

90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay, from Rilly La Montagne (1er Cru village), 60% from 2004, the rest from 2003. This really has a Bourgogne nose of strawberries and forest floor, with a Champagne toastiness. The big question on my mind was how much I'd have enjoyed it as a still wine as there is something a bit obvious about the nose, but having said that, it is a very tasty wine and I finished my glass rather quickly. 309 NIS.

A. Margaine, Special Club, 1999

100% Chardonnay from Villers Marmery (1er Cru village). A flowery nose with a bit of dough. A very elegant palate that retains a lot of fresh fruitiness. If it were a still wine, it'd give the Cote de Beaune Premier Crus a run for their money. 299 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Millesime "Or", 1999

60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. The yeasty, oxidised aromas take time to get used to for Champagne neophytes and I'm still unsure how much I like the style. Beyond them are the kind of mineral notes I applaud and despite the mature impression of the nose, the palate is surprisingly fresh. I guess this is for the Champagne 'specialists'. 279 NIS.

Pierre Gimonnet, Oenophile Extra Brut, 2000

100% Charodnnay from old vines from Cramant and Chouilly (both Grand Cru villages) and Cuis (1er Cru). A knock out nose of great complexity and subtlety dominated by minerals, earth, dough and bread. A sharp, crispy palate with a long saline and lemony finish. This would give a Chablis Grand Cru a good, even fight. 309 NIS.

Vilmart, Coeur de Cuvee, 1993

This magnum was disgorged in 2006. Vilmart's flagship wine, it is made of 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and comes from Rilly La Montagne, a 1er Cru village. Now if the Oenophile would give, say, Le Clos a fight, this is at the Corton Charlemagne level, I think. A really deep, compex nose that offers just about everything for everyone, with no loss of elegance and finesse: nuts, tropical fruits, mushrooms, a slight oxidation (works better here, to my taste, than with the Millesime). The palate is just as gorgeous and multi-layered, with amazingly refreshing acidity and a long, complex finish. 1199 NIS for a magnum.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Burgundy Tasting (Mar. 15, 2008)

I hope this turns into a regular gig. Hagit and Noam Koren invited me and the others in our wine tasting circle to a BYO Burgundy tasting at their home, about a year after the previous such tasting. Except for the starter, the wines were Premier Cru and up and included vineyards and producers I'd been eager to taste (in retrospect that is, the wines were of course served blind). What's more, all the wines were in fine drinking shape.

I'd like to thank Hagit and Noam for their warm and generous and the rest of the participants (Oron, Ran, Michal and David) for the great wines.

A. Et P. De Villaine, Bouzeron, 2005

This Aligote has softened since my first taste a year ago, but I don't think it's ready yet as the fruit is very backwards , but its crispy minerality is very lovely right now. Served as an appertif but it is really a food wine. 88-89

Domaine Cauvard, Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, 1998

It's hard to believe this is the same producer that Shimon Lasry imports with such if-fy results. It has a lovely, complex nose where age has rendered the fruits somewhat muted in the sense that it's hard to identify them but that is more than made up for by a stone-y minerality - you know, not the pungency of flint or chalk but something that Ran Shapira aptly described as crushed stones - and notes of mustard that reminded me of Sauternes. Long and flavorsome, with great balance between fruit, acid and wood. It will hold for a few years but I don't think it will improve. 91

Not imported, price unknown.

Domaine Jacques Prieur, Beaune Premier Cru, Greves, 2002

Aromas of red fruit, leather, sweat and I spotted some chocolate as well. It's tannier and chewier than most expected from Beaune without the grace and balance of the wines we were to drink later, but I like its personality. It's at the start of its window, at the stage where it won't get any more complex but I think the tannins could still use a couple of years to soften. 90

Imported by WineRoute for about 170 NIS at the time, but the price for the 2005 has jumped to 220 NIS.

Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits-Saint-George Premier Cru, Les Roncieres, 1995

A complex nose of red fruit and herbal, underbrush notes. There was a bit of debate about this wine as most prefered its palate over its nose while I loved the nose but thought it could use a bit more body as the acidity seemed a bit shrill to me - and I don't normally have any problem with high acidity. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, but despite the great appeal of drinking a mature Bourgogne, I expected more from the nose, the year, the name. 90

Lucine Le Moine, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Amoureuses, 1999

Not very complex at first, it takes its sweet time to open and close until it finally reaches a plateau of spicy red fruits. It's a forward rendition of Pinot, but you have to be a very tight assed conservative to overlook its charms and balance. 91

Imported these days by Private Wine Collection, price unknown.

Rene Engel, Vosne Romanee Premier Cru, Les Brulées, 2002

So ripe, a touch of black and even blue fruit combine with red on the nose, but so very elegant despite the ripeness. This is a different type of young wine than the Greves: it's already very silky and integrated and the fruit seems near-sweet, albeit without the brute force, sweet attack of a modern blockbuster. The tannins are buried inside and the overall impression is of embryonic, primal fruit. I'm really not an expert but if I would start drinking it in 2012. 92-93

Imported by Tomer Gal but sold through Hinawi and I'm not sure about the current price.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Marc Bredif, Vouvray, 2005 (Mar. 11, 2008)

Here's a wine that justifies that existence of wine blog because my fellow wine bloggers (2005 and 1985 by Wino Sapien, 2004 by Joe's Wine) seem to be the only people writing about this wine at all.

Very pale straw in color, for those who are interested in those things. The nose is a cross between Chablis and Cote de Beaune, flint and chalk mineraliness over citrus fruit and an enchanting, musky herbal essance in the far background that vaguly recalls cured meats. It breaks with Bourgogne on the palate which can't be Beaune because there's no oak, and can't be Chablis because it's just a few degrees too round. And at the core has a slightly off-dry, succulent, elegant fruitiness that is too delicate to be Chardonnay. Though the fruit, residual sugar and acidity are deftly balanced and integrated, it's hard to gauge the aging potential of this pretty wine because it's just so drinkable right now (albeit it shuts down somwhat in glass and it is not very complex to begin with) but let's put it this way, if someone served it blind and told me it was a three year old Chablis Premier Cru, I'd guess it could keep at least five more years. But according to my fellow bloggers and friends who have tasted aged Vouvrays from Bredif, my estimate is conservative.

Imported by Hakerem and sold for around 100 NIS (depending on where you find it, I guess). A good buy even at that price but if you ever find it on discount, buy a half case.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Meat Goes On - Porterhouse, Mar. 8, 2008

The idea was one white and all reds to come from either Bordeaux or Piedmont, but as will be quite obvious, rules are made to be broken.

Rene Mure, Alsace Vorbourg Grand Cru, Clos St. Landelin, Riesling Vendages Tardives, 2001

Hailing from Mure's Clos St. Landelin monopole in Vorbourg, this is more or less their flagship wine, which I bought in Paris; and, since ignored by virtually all English-speaking wine writers, a wine I knew little about and had to guess whether I nailed its drinking window correctly. I predicted it would be ready but on the young side and in the event, I was right. Spicy aromatics that are typical Alsace, I guess, though they could also have been typical Pfalz: minerals, peaches and baked apples. Though what I term typicity here goes beyond a grocery-list of aromas but rather how the aromas interact with each other. Slightly alcoholic at first and at any rate, a delicate frame that is somewhat overloaded with spices. Maybe time will tone it down. 91.

Caves Des Papes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Les Closiers, 2000

The nose shows a lot of strawberries and raspberries, and in my opinion - in the minority, I must confess - a bit Pinot-ish at first. Though it picks up some nuances and spices, the major weakness is the palate, where the tannins overwhelm the fruit to such an extent I don't believe time will resolve the imbalance. 86-87.

Cuvee Du Vatican, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Reserve Sixtine, 2000

A much better CdP, albeit a bit too precise. Though after making that resevration, I must admit I'm biased towards the wilder breed of Rhone reds(I'm thinking of the red Marcoux, which is my notion of a wild, affordable CdP). Whatever, a balanced wine that needs, I'd say, a couple more years in the cellar, at which time it might be less mannered and more to my liking, because there is already a streak of spiciness on the nose that is very promising. A well-made wine, though, by any standard. 90.

Prunotto, Barolo, 2001

A well made wine with a juicy acidity that nails it as Italy. I wish I could say more about it, but a couple of pounds of cow had just arrived at the table, somewhat distracting me. I probably wouldn't have called it amazing even with more of my cerebral functions operational, but it is a well-made Barolo. 89-90.

Chateau Talbot, St. Julien, 2003

Whaddaya know, another excellent 2003. A classic profile with lots of leather complementing ripe fruit on both nose and palate. A taut yet elegant structure with more leather on the finish. Guess Bordeaux is too varied to generalize about even in a very hot vintage like 2003. 92.