Better than the first night if only because Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen opened four young and beautiful, sigh-wrenching German Rieslings (preserving their policy for the BYO nights, the wines are not actually from their portfolio, though the producers themselves may be). Youngsters they were, perhaps, but at this level, even young Rieslings will make you purr.
Egon Muller, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Scharzhof, Spatlese, 2004
This set the pattern: pour, sniff, long sigh of content. When this one hit, the combination of white fruits and minerals made me realize this is what I want all the time - or at least whenever I can get it. The beauty of these four wines is how they each showed a different facet of German Riesling at its elegant best. This was perhaps the lightest and most graceful of the four, albeit with a bitter, lightly raspy finish.
J. J. Prum, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graachen Himmelreich, Auslese, 2004
Though just as well balanced, this a more extroverted wine that is more about power than finesse. In comparitive terms anyway, as, drunk on its own, I'm sure most drinkers would only see its grace and elegance. Riper than the Muller, as you'd expect of the higher pradikat, leaning towards apples on both nose and palate with the same mineral trimmings and hints of petrol. Young, with less frills and complexity than the Muller.
Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfaltz, Saumagen Auslese "R", 2002
This needed a few swirls before opening up aromatically. Less minerally than its predecessors (actually, less minerally than I'd expected from Koehler-Ruprecht in general) with a barrelful of red apples and hint of botrytis and talc. Very concentrated on the palate and quite delicious - not that the others weren't, it's just that with the "R", it was more or less the first thing that came to mind while drinking it.
Emrich-Schonleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Auslese, 2004
A very fruity wine, though you have to realize what that means with these kind of wines: purity and freshness of fruit, not an in-your-face extravaganza. Aromatically, it's the least complex of the four right now but it makes up for that in sheer size. It just smells and tastes 'big' (again, in comparative terms, for a Riesling), while still maintaining its composure.
My offering, Brocard, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2002, was, quite frankly, a bomb. The nose might have simply immature - with minerals, iodine and ttraces of lime - but the palate was harsh and flat with nothing to commend it, not young, just akward, bad, off, whatever. A very disappointing bottle. Not imported to Israel, it sells for about 50 USD in the States.
These whites were bookended by two Israeli whites. Clos De Gat, Semillon, 2005 was ripe and spicy on the nose with surprising acidity on the palate. A good food wine, it would make an excellent house wine if priced right for restaurants, but as it sells for about 90 NIS, if I'm not mistaken, that's not going to happen. Tzora, Shoresh Blanc, 2007 is an interesting Gewurztraminer, flowery and laden with lichi. Surprising austere on the palate, I thought it was a cool climate Gewurtz and I'm not sure what happened to the varietal spiciness. Young vines? Winemaking?
On to the reds.
Etienne de Montille, Volnay Premier Cru, Mitans, 2004
A ripe nose but a complex and perfumed one, with trademark Bourgogne spiciness. The color is on the paler end of the Bourgogne spectrum, which makes it almost a dark rose. It has an angularity on the palate which might prove interesting if it gains any body after a few years of cellaring, but right now it is too harsh to be very palatable. But it's much more drinkable than Montille's 2004 Champans, which I tasted last summer. So let's hope it's on an upward curve. Imported by Tomer Gal, sold through Hinawi, not sure about the price.
Domaine de la Vougeraie, Gevrey-Chambertin, Evocelles, 2004
Only a village wine, wow... Another nose for us Bourgogne freaks, glorious in its typicity and complexity. Better balanced, right now anyway, than the Mitans in the palate, but its youth is obvious. Another wine that has improved since the last time I tasted it. Imported by Tomer Gal, the 2005 sells for 240 NIS.
Chapoutier, Hermitage, La Sizeranne, 1999
Another bomb, we suspected bad storage at the importer. Once upon a time we used to keep track of bad bottles of the 1996, which was imported by Karmei Zvi at the time, and over half were off. A shame. Imported by the Scottish Company and five years ago, you could find it at anywhere between 200 and 400 NIS.
Antinori, Tignanello, 1999
A gorgeous, extroverted, spicy nose, which is a very ripe at first but settles down. Very complex on the palate, although I thought it lacked acidity, on the attack anyway, but the acidity creeps back on the savoury, leathery finish. Listed by HaKerem at 350-plus NIS.
Tommasi, Amarone, 2001
Aromas of coffee, ripe black cherries and leather. Very, very ripe on the palate, with sandpaper tannins that that nicely complement the ripe fruit and high alcohol. Imported by WineRoute and sold for about 220 NIS.
Bertani, Amarone, 1999
Not that I'm a big fan of Amarone these days, but if I had to buy one of the two, I'd go for the Bertani (though we all agreed it's in a drink now phase): it's more elegant and surprisingly enough, given that elegance, more Amarone in its mix of bitterness and sweetness. Tthe bottle I do own is the Tommasi, though, which is an excellent wine on its own terms, mind you. Not imported to Israel.
Viking, Odin's Honor, Reserve Shiraz, 2001
And then way over to Australia... A big wine, very concentrated and outgoing, with enough complexity and balance too offset these traits and make sure they don't turn into too much of a good thing. I really haven't tasted enough Australian wines so I'm limited in my critique, but I'd say it has the size of the big, chocolate-ish Shirazes imported by Mersch and the savouriness of, say, d'Arenberg, with a mix of black fruits and eucalyptus that is ripe yet balanced. Not imported to Israel and that's a big shame.
The evening ended with two Spanish wines, rounding out an evening of fourteen live wines and two dead ones. Aalto, Ribera del Duero, Reserva, 2000 was young on both nose and palate - surprising considering 2000 is supposed to be a good vintage but not great - the tannins are still bitter, the nose still displays quite a few traces of barrel-derived spiciness. Finally, the Mas Martinet, Priorat, 2001 was a very good wine with ample ripe fruit but proved too much for my palate. As it is (semi?) regularly imported to Israel and I'm sure more than one of my friends has bought a few, I hope I'll run into it again when my palate is fresher.