Monday, February 2, 2009

Misc. Notes (Jan. 2009)

Carpineto, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, 2001

Here's a wine I haven't drunk in years and that I rather wish I liked more these days. Ah, nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Good red cherry notes on the nose are marred by what I can only call barrel seasoning (meaning an overbearing spiciness, with somewhat carmelized overtones) but luckily, this doesn't follow through to the palate, which is relatively pure, albeit simple, with ripe acidity and a saline finish.

Imported by Geffen/Flam, I picked this up at Vino Cigar for 149 NIS.

Vitkin, Carignan, 2006

My problem with 'conventional' red varieties in Israel is the high alcohol level and hyper-ripeness creates a sweet sensation that I feel is inappropiate for those varieties. But the sweetness of this wine seeem appropiate, which might have to do with the structure of the grape or just good wine-making. The sweetness shows in the nose as a chocolate overlay over black fruit that with occasional blue nuances, earthy notes and hints of leather. That same sweetness is held in check on the palate by sharp tannins and good acidity and the whole package retains its shape until the finish, whereas with an Israeli Cab, I usually feel it unravelling towards the end. So, once again, this unique offering from this small winery lives up to its reputation. Bought for about 60 NIS to go with a winter cholent, it was a very appropiate match for my taste. As for aging, I have read some optimistic predictions, but going by today's experience, it feels so right just now that I don't know what bottle age might give it that it doesn't already have. It's certainly fairly complex now and the balance works. Oh well, at 60 NIS, it's worth experimenting with...

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray Moeulleux, Art Monia, 2003

The nose is a lovely mix of pears, cut grass, an evocative flint mineral essance and perhaps a hint of quince. The palate is still a bit simple, and like Bourillon d'Orleans' 2003 Bourdonnerie, it is somewhat disjointed, the acidity dormant, and there is a bitter note on the finish that is at odds with, instead of complementing, the sweetness of the fruit. Though I liked it more the last time I tasted it, it has a lovely mineral cut and is an enjoyable experience.

Giaconda, 126 NIS.

Donnhoff, Nahe, Norheimer Kirscheck, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

Lovely. The nose is so complete and nuanced it's hard to believe this is just a youngster in Riesling terms, with peaches and grapefruit framed and caressed by a pungent, saline minerality reminscent of the sea breeze aromas you might find in Chablis, only more delicate. The palate is obviously adolescent and on the fat, creamy side, although the juicy, mouth-watering acidity already balances the sweetness so seamlessly that it creates an impression of a higher ABV than it's 8%. Terribly, terribly delicious.

Sold out, but the 2007 vintage costs 178 NIS at Giaconda.

d'Arenberg, Laughing Magpie, Shiraz-Viognier, 2002

Although I haven't been buying d'Arenberg in a while, I have enjoyed drinking up the various wines and vintages and my fridge (well, the mid-tier wines and upwards, I haven't been able to digest the Custodian or the Footbolt for years). Except for the 2002 Magpie, which I found last year to be sweet and coarse. But it's really settled down and improved since. There's still a lot of ripeness on both nose and palate, especially on the nose which has a tinge of candied over-ripness, but aromatically, it is tempered by an black pepper as well as underpinning of earth, violets and coffee beans. Meanwhile, on the palate, there are enough tannins and enough acidity to lend it plenty of savouriness and some relative elegance. Having said all that, I have no idea where Robert Parker finds any resemblance to Cote Rotie, except, of course, for the grapes in the blend.

Imported by WineRoute, usually priced at around 150 NIS.

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Elrom Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001

This wine brings to the table Israel's finest raw fruit, and, as fine tannins etched out to millimeter precision will attest, Israel's finest winemaking. But here's the thing. When I think of the fatal attraction I have for Germany, Burgundy, the Rhone and the Loire, Bordeaux, Barolo - it has to do with sating an intellectual hunger, the need to always fit another piece into my personal diary of wines and wine regions, of winemakers striving to express their heritage as well as individual lots and make wines that are not just about tasting good while clouding one's faculties. That's what I want, something that will be mine as well as theirs and yours. I want to enjoy the wines I drink but I also want them to teach me something new, I actually want them to help me get somewhere in my private Oddessey, I want them to do the same thing for me in my 40's that Dylan, Richards, Welles and Reed did to me in my 20's and that D. Boon, Davis and Parker did for me in my 30's. So as good as this wine is, and it is, it just doesn't quite move me that way and so I am not inclined to write about its youthful currant and cranberry fruit or its jejune bitterness. In the end, all it tells me is that Victor Schonenfeld heads a really fine team of wine scientists and that in the course of creating one of Israel's finest wines, all they manage to do is repeat someone's else best trick.

Sold at the time for about 130 NIS but of course GHW saw how successful it was and like any Israeli entrepreneur, upped the price.


Anonymous said...

Hi Chaim,

Regarding the Vitkin, I agree with everything you wrote except when to drink it. Having tasted it a couple of times since its release, I find the palate to shed off some coarseness and the nose to open up and give more. I'm not talking about long term aging, but I'm gonna keep my bottles for about a year. Their excellent petite-sirah needs more than that, in my opinion.

As for the El-rom, putting aside your declared bias against Israeli wines, and not rejecting anything you pointed out - I think one should admit that beyond the technicalities, this is one of the first attempts in discovering the uniqueness of the different vineyards in the golan. So even though it's done with the hand technology, and covered with a healthy dose of oak - I think it's a small step in the direction you so poetly describe, and some credit is deserved there as well.


2GrandCru said...

Hi Lior,

I beg to differ with you regarding the El-Rom, I don't think the GHW will ever make truly moving wine with their current approach, not in the way I define a moving wine. Which is fine, there is a big market for reliably impressive wines. Thus, the small step you refer to will always remain that, a small step.

I don't think I have a bias against Israeli wines. I have a bias for complex, structured wines with juicy acidity, mineral notes (for whites) and savory tannins (in the case of red wines).