Riesling Lesson #1: Domaine Schoffit, Clos St. Theobald, Rangen de Thann, Riesling, Vendages Tardives, 1998
The nose shows off the best of Alsace: tropical fruit dominated (but not domineered) by white pepper and minerals. The palate might just be another example of why I usually prefer Germany, with the acidity so subdued it's hard to recognise the wine's Riesling-ness. It might be the vintage or just the wine's age but the nose made me want to like it more than I did in practice.
Riesling Lesson #2: O'Leary Walker, Australia, Polish Hill River Riesling, 2008
Be it age or the vast difference in winemaking philosophy between Old and New World (trite cliche though that may be) but not one sage soul 'round the table recognized this as a Riesling. The first consensual guess was Sauvignon Blanc and it is rather a reasonable guess what with the wine's taut, crisp structure. There are also a lot of lemons and minerals on the nose and an almost aggressive acidity on the palate. Australian critics loved this wine and claim it will age so I will return to it in four-five years. Right now, it is not very appealing.
I returned to this wine two nights later. It held together very well by virtue of its high acidity with lip-smackingly saline, bone dry finish. However, it still showed little Riesling traits. In fact, it now seemed more like a Chardonnay, but the good kind, with no oak.
Imported by Mersch, sold for about 130 NIS or so.
Chateau Beaucastel, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1998
A wine that needs little introduction, it played an almost cruel game of hide and seek. Upon first opening, it seemed remarkably ready to drink, thus it was served as the first red wine. But by the time we got to it, the various varieties in the blend were struggling against each other, I guess, as that is the best explanation I have for the dramatic changes we were to experience. First it was too overtly fruity for our delicate Old World tastes, but after about 15 minutes in glass, it showed its true breed: a fantastic nose well delineated by notes of smoke, leather and herbs - and an impressive structure on the palate already softening up enough to let the taste buds enjoy its full complement of flavors.
Imported regularly by WineRoute, sold five-six years ago for about 210 NIS. Those were the good ol' days...
Chateau Calon-Segur, St. Estephe, 2002
A classic Bordeuax nose that wrenches a smile without half trying, with a smoky-earthy personality over fruit that is right at the borderline of black and red. The palate pulls of a nice trick of offering enough fruit to balance its bushelful of tannins while remaining only medium bodied. Still a youngster, it is already drinkable with the right steak.
Also imported regularly by WineRoute, this was sold four years ago for about 250 NIS.
Castellare, Sodi St. Niccolo, 1997
This super-Tuscan was one of the first wine I ever bought and as a pure Sangiovese hailing from just one of the Chianti DOCG's (I forget which), it is labelled an IGT solely for promotional purposes, I think. The nose is excellent, somewhat modern at the very outset, but its plethora of aromas is a product of terroir and bottle age by now, not any barrel-regime. If only the palate was as good, but it's an ungainly combination of sweet fruit and tannins with little of the nose's complexity. Oh well, it sure was nice to dream about drinking it these past six years.
Another WineRoute import, it cost about 250 NIS at the time and I do believe WR have stopped carrying it.
Aldo Conterno, Barolo Cicala, 2000
The neat sleight of hand here is how much finesse this wine displays despite its high acidity and firm tannins. Can we all spell "iron first in a velvet glove"? It might strike some as too tannic right now, but we had aired it for about three hours before approaching it and I have no qualms about drinking it now with that reservation. For once, the palate is better than the nose, though the elegant chocolate and coffee aromas are impressive in their own right.
This was truly a night for red WineRoute imports. This final item from their catalog used to cost in the upper 300 NIS range, as far as I recall.