Wednesday, October 22, 2008

If You Open A Few Bottles, They Will Come (Oct. 16, 2008)

One thing led to another. Ran Shapira wanted to drop by Giaconda for a chat and bring along a bottle. He asked me to tag along and soon other friends heard about it through the grapevine (an apt term if there ever was one) which eventually led to an impromptu tasting, nine wines split among five wine junkies and their two dealers. Due to, ahem, short term memory loss, some of the following notes are really off the cuff this time.

Gaston Chiquet, Brut Blanc de Blancs D’Aÿ, n.v. had a promising nose of nuts and yeasts that is becoming habit-forming, though it lacked a lot of nuances it displayed when I tasted it in the spring (mushrooms, leather). The palate also underperformed, showing a bit too much sweetness. Chalking it up to warm serving temperature, we put it back in the fridge to cool down and moved on (but forgot to come back to it later). Imported by Eldad Levi, 229 NIS.

Olivier Leflaive, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2004 managed to obscure its oak for a while, while displaying unexpected elegance. Gorgeously flinty and tasty, albeit in the stage where you wait for it to open and by the time it does, the oak is also fully awake. Imported by Wine Route, about 250 NIS before discount.

Interspersed among the wines were four Chenin Blancs from the Loire, which for comparison's sake, I will describe and discuss as a group. All are imported by Giaconda.

While I'm not ready to make a total overhaul of my criticism of the Closel style, I must admit the performance of the Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Les Caillardieres, 2003 (135 NIS) gave me room for thought. The nose was very reticient at first but the mouth was very long and powerful with barely a hint of the alcoholic style that so bothered me last month. Then the nose opened to show multi-tiered aromas of minerals, peaches and honey to close off a very attractive package. Slightly disappointing, though, was the Domaine des Baumard, Savennieres, Trie Speciale, 2003 (189 NIS) since it lacked the smokey-spicy signature I loved so much last time. Still, the first-timers around the table were quite taken with it and anyway, it's still a lovely wine that I want to get back to in a few years. Let's just call it bottle variation.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Art Monia, Moelleux, 2003 (126 NIS) is an outstanding value that strikes a balance between acidity and sweetness that is similar to what a good Spatlese or even an Auslese does in Germany. Taking into account the different feel and shape of the Chenin grape, of course. One thing this tasting showed me is how hard it is to guess when to open a Chenin. With this wine, I'd say you could drink it this year with a spicy Asian dish or put it away for another five. With the Chateau Bell-Rive, Quarts de Chaume, Cuvee Traditionalle, 2002, I think the best food pairing strategy is to treat it just like a Sauternes. At 216 NIS per 500 cc bottle, the price point is of the same order. And so is the quality.

Aiming to stump Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen on their home turf, Ran and Meir Ido brought the Weingart, Mittlerhein, Schloss Furstenberg, Riesling Spatlese, 2006 which was like a muscular version of Mosel. While lacking the elegance of wines from the more prestigious areas (Ach, only in Germany would a wine like this be criticised for a lack of elegance) you have to bear in mind one fact: this cost a single digit figure (in euros) at the winery door.

Jamet, Cote-Rotie, Cuvee Harys, 1997 was the first wine served with the cured meats and cheeses, quite appropiately as its nose matched them almost perfectly, with similar aromatics over what to me come across as red fruit (at least, the nose doesn't have the ripe notes I associate with black fruit). On the palate, it was a smoother, more elegant wine than the funky nose had led us to expect. While Ran Shapira complained of a certain lack of complexity, I found the 90 points scored by Robert Parker to be justified. Bought in Washington DC for 80 USD.

The second red wine was a Barolo and not just any Barolo, but an eighteen year old Barolo. Ceretto, Bricco Rocce, Barolo, Prapo, 1990 finally struck home the fact that my neglect of Piedmont is criminal (even if the only person harmed is me). This conviction is based on its length, elegance (coupled with just a touch of rustiness) and most of all, freshness. Ran and Meir Ido, who brought this one as well, did not disclose the price.

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