Fantastic Voyage - Burgundy Tasting Chez Hagit Koren (Feb. 26, 2009)

Once a year, Hagit Koren hosts a Burgundy tasting with her husband and it just keeps getting better, Hagit expending greater effort in the kitchen each year while ever greater wines emerge from our coffers. This year, for example, all the reds were Grand Crus.

Bordeaux may be more consistent, but Burgundy, like Germany, has the capacity to rend through my heart and touch off poetic spiels like "a chainsaw running through a dictionary" (Elvis Costello). So read on and I hope you enjoy reading the notes as much as I enjoyed tasting the wines in such a friendly setting.

Egly-Ouriet, Verzenay, Grand Cru, Extra-Brut, n.v.

Well, obviously the tasting wasn't 100% Bourgogne, but Champagne is an honorary cousin anyway... This wine has an enticing nose of grapefruit, brioche and chalk, echoed on the palate, which isn't as complex as the nose, and not very long either, but goes a long way on pure tastiness.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin, Chardonnay, 1995

This blantantly octogenarian ringer was a surprise. Not that this is a great wine or any proof that Israeli whites can survive this long but... The nose is obviously oxidized but there are animalistic and mineral notes that are quite intriguing. The palate is sweetish, lacks acidity, thus not very lively and fades quickly. But this is overall an interesting wine to taste if you just happen to have a fourteen year old version lying around. Just don't try aging it for this long at home, folks.

The Katzrin usually costs around 80 NIS on release.

Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Ruchottes, 2002

Three years ago, I attended a tasting hosted by Burgundy importer Tomer Gal. As he was pouring this wine, Tomer said gleefully, "now you're going to taste one of the wonders of creation" and this hyperbole actually rang true. Watching us succumb to the Ruchottes' magic, Tomer then added archly, "and you won't believe how much this wine costs, only 270 NIS, it's almost ridiculous. And there are only three bottles left." And as we all mulled over that, super wine afficiando Uri Gilboa roared "I'm buying them all", creating quite a ruckus as everyone explained that he was breaking some unspoken rule. We finally worked it all out (and Ran Shapira and I both left with a bottle) but for years, until I actually got to know him, Uri Gilboa was the man who tried to take my Ruchottes away from me.

Light jesting aside, tonight, the circle finally closed as Uri Gilboa brought his last bottle of the Ruchottes, though I must say that the bottle was so disappointing at first that I considered selling him my bottle. Because whatever wonders this wine is sequestering for the future, it is so oak laden and caramelly right now, that if you don't give it enough air or time, you will not feel very felicitous about it. But even before it sheds its sweet baby fat, it is very promising indeeed, with terrific, pungent notes of flint on the nose and a saline finish. And with time, time, time it flares into a very vibrant life in the glass.

As I said, imported by Tomer Gal and sold at the time for 270 NIS, which was amazing QPR. But life's a bitch and I believe the price is close to 400 NIS by now.

Brocard, Chablis Grand Gru, Le Clos, 1995

An interesting and tasty wine that ultimately gives meager meat for a tasting note. Light notes of cheese on the nose, tropical fruit and, finally, subtle saline notes. Perhaps slightly oxidized but there is enough acidity in there to keep it rocking, for my taste.

Price unknown.

Domaine Francois Lamarche, La Grand Rue, 2001

A lovely nose, highly perfumed, with loads of red fruit and some animalistic overtones. It's impressive and tasty, yet strikes me as not quite typical Bourgogne, as the sweetness of the fruit is somewhat heavy handed. It is still tannic, in Burgundy terms, but very drinkable given suitable airing time (about four hours in this case).

Imported by WineRoute, I'm not quite sure about the price.

Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands Echezeaux, 1997

This feels less open, more challenging, more serious, more interesting than the la Grad Rue. The nose is slightly pungent at first but shows red fruit and exotic spices. 1997 is much maligned but this wine has a solid structure, lively fruit and a lovely espresso note on the finish.

Price unknown.

The final flight of the evening was something Oron Stern and I had been scheming for a few months.

Rene Engel, Clos de Vogeout 1996 and 2002

Even tasted blind, at least a couple of people noted that these wines obviously share the same DNA. I can't really abstract the similarities but the concerned consumer can note that they both have juicy acidity and are impressive and delicious. The 2002 is the type of young Bourgogne that proves how approachable these babies can be. It is so well balanced that the only drawback of its youth is the that the fruit is raw and primary - but it is beautiful fruit! - so that you long for more complexity but do not suffer unduly.

For greater complexity, approach the 1996 and drink slowly, as it offers the same gorgeous fruit tempered by age (and with a murky color that would get it thrown out of Bordeaux butt-first). The nose offers red fruit, pepper and forest floor while the palate expounds on the virutes of fine tannins.

The 1996 is one of the best buys of my life, costing 130 USD this summer while the dollar was down to 3.20 NIS, which made it about 60-70% of the local price.