Friday, June 26, 2009

Three Guys, Three Wines (June 20, 2009)

Heymann-Lowenstein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Kirchberg, Erste Lage, Riesling, 2004

Sigh. This isn't one of my big go-to guys in Germany (a matter of taste, really, rather than quality) and I don't really find Heymann-Lowenstein typical of the Mosel, but this is still a wondeful wine. Very much so. The nose is a charmer, with peaches and some green apples later on, sweet spices, and a vaguely tropical note. The palate could be Alsatian or Austrian due to its dryness, except that the taut structure offers spots enough hints of sweetness over the crisp mineral bite to make it friendlier and less harsh than what I usually find in those counterparts.

Giaconda, about 160 NIS.

Poliziano, Tuscany, La Stanze, 2000

Am I missing out on something by not investing more time and money in Tuscany? This is a modern styled Super-Tuscan by a Montepuliciano producer with modern leanings, but nine years post-harvest, this wine seems very Italian in personality to me, despite a very polished facade. No matter how I'd label the wine style-wise, the nose shows green olives and black fruit while the palate is well built with a tightly wound structure and typical Tuscan acidity. A handsome wine.

Poliziano used to be imported by Anavim (and might still be but I've lost touch with the importer/store) and cost about 300 NIS in store. No way I'd pay that much for a Super-Tuscan these days, despite my praises above, but five years ago - before the market for such wines shrunk- it was a relatively reasonable price for a Super-Tuscan.

Rene Rostaing, Cote Rotie, La Landonne, 1998

This might have been my wine of the night, however, I rather expected more power, even though Cote Rotie should be the softer of the big North Rhone appellations. There is light funk on the nose, but it is reminiscent of sea air rather than barnyard. The palate is light and elegant, almost surprisingly so. A terrific food wine, it develops exceptional minerality on nose and palate but in the end, I expected more oomph. I had waited a long time to taste a top flight Rostaing yet this reads like somewhat of an anticlimax. Thus I sense a score is in order for a change so as to put things in context, and thus: 90-91.

Price unknown.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

F.X. Pichler 2007 Tasting At Giaconda (June. 13, 2009)

Warning: Mine Field Ahead!!!

Coming into this tasting, I thought "only four wines, this should be easy to write up". Except, these wines were too young for me to easily pass judgment upon, in fact a couple were so bitter that they were almost tannic. If I go by the book on Pichler, then these are excellent wines tasted too early, but I can't really quote other people's book, just my own. And I was stymied. Whatever, it was an enjoyable (for social and intellectual reasons, if not for purely hedonistic reasons) tasting, with the usual Giaconda finger-foods, tasty as always.

Federspiel Loibner Klostersatz, Gruner Veltliner

This is the most ready of the lot, the nose showing a vaguely Chablis-like personality, with lemon and flint as well as a hint of herbs and toast. The palate is crisp with appealing acidity that almost balances a certain bitterness. Structure-wise, a well made wine well worth the price, but I'd wait a further six months and hope the bitterness mellows.

91 NIS. Good value.

Urgestein Terrassen, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd

The nose is tight at first, then flares with an even greater wealth of flint than the previous wine. The palate is obviously more compex and concentrated, with greater finesse on the finish, but here the bitterness is blatant enough to put me off. In this case, I admit it's not easy for me to decide whether the bitterness will mellow in time or whether this is just the style of the wine.

126 NIS. Potentially good value, depending on the evolution of said bitterness.

Loibner Berg, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd

This is actually singing quite nicely now. The nose continues in the same vein as the previous wines - although the flint notes are drawn with greater care and a finer brush - with some floral and honied notes. The nose shows some alcohol but this is not as obvious on the palate, which is tasty and balanced. None of the Gruner Veltliners seemed overly elegant, but the Loibner Berg seems very close to it.

167 NIS. Nice price.

Loibner Berg, Riesling Smaragd

A cool, elegant nose, that is fruiter and less minerally than the GV's. The feeling of coolness continues on the palate, which is concentrated yet balanced enough to feel light despite boasting 13.5% ABV. The flavor profile leans more towards grapefruit, with a light salinity on the finish. I can't see any great complexity right now but it is very tasty.

234 NIS. There's enough optimism is me and enough interest in what I tasted to think it is also worth a try.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Do Try This At Home, Kids - Three Vouvrays

Summertime in Tel Aviv is like the Georgia Savannah without the mint juleps. A week or so into into June, its sticky fingers are already painting street signs with 2GrandCru's campaign slogan: "Drink White Wines Lest Ye Wither And Die!"

In a perfect world, German Rieslings, Chablis and Loire Chenin Blancs would be sold on street corners. In this world, however, the following three Vouvrays are still something of a novelty.

Marc Bredif, Vouvray, 2005

There are whiffs of pungent, poached pears alongside notes of flint which might be appropriate for a young Bourgogne, but there is also a specific sizzle of spice on the nose which I think by now I'd spot as Loire, only this wasn't tasted blind so I wouldn't give myself any credit for that observation. It has a charming mineral appeal on the attack but is at first rounder and mellower than other Chenin Blancs I've been drinking lately. But time has the effect of winding up its springs - bringing out a green apple acidity and in general giving it a heightened focus- and although it ends a bit too abruptly to be truly memorable, it is quite tasty and the aromatics keep improving in glass. Thus, a good wine that I suspect will be better in a year or two. (June 4, 2009)

Hakerem, about 100 NIS as I recall.

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

The nose opens up after a lazy start to reveal a fruity core that seems like it's all about sweet pears yet has a citrust zest that takes it to another place altogether. This core is then sprinkled with minerals and sweet spices that are hard to break down into separate sensations yet seem quite Loire-ish to me. The palate is yummy, opening with notes of sweet pear, with the slight bitterness that I usually find accompanies that fruit, then finishing with a green apple acidity, all backed up by a slender, mineral vein. I've had this wine a couple of times before but this time, that zesty finish is giving me a clearer picture of what this wine might offer in two-three years. (June 6, 2009)

Giaconda, 130 NIS. Excellent value, especially when factoring in the idiosyncratic personality.

Bourillon d'Orleans, Vouvray, Bourdonnerie Demi-Sec, 2003

The nose is pungent and sweet at the same time, showing lime and lemon with an electric zest, with a hint of apple skin as well as brown sugar in the background. The palate is very friendly, the most complete encounter I've yet had with this wine despite more fat in mid-palate than I expected, delicious and seemingly sweeter than the Art Monia. Time in glass brings out hints of minerals on the nose and a totally appropriate salinity on the finish. A very nice wine altogether that should improve in a year or two.

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gaston Chiquet Tasting At Tamara (June 7, 2009)

I have some fond memories of Tamara, one of the earliest French Bistros in Israel, from back in the day when it was located in a gas station in Ramat-Gan, within walking distance from theapartment I was renting with my ever lovin' wife. I also have some fond memories of Gaston Chiquet and it had been a long time since I'd attended any of Eldad Levi's tastings. Thus, I reserved a seat at the tasting refered to by the title, with the petty reservations that there are Champagne growers in the Boutique de Champagnes portfolio that are dearer to my heart and that I'd hadn't run into any any written or word-of-mouth evidence that Tamara had kept up with the ever evolving local cusine scene.

Rose, Brut, Premier Cru, n.v.

The nose is very Pinot-ish, delightfully so, with mellow red fruit and hint of forest floor. The palate is crisp with fine acidity but, if Villmart's Rose has concentration of red fruit worthy of a village wine from the Cote d'Or, the Chiquet is more on the order of a good Bourgogne and lacks depth of pizzazz to justify its price tag, although I am aware of the current commercial appeal of pink bubblies.

299 NIS.

Tradition, Brut Premier Cru, n.v.

The nose shows sweetish yeasts and baked apples while the palate veers more into citrus territory, where it shows a crisp structure on the surface. But beneath that surface is a one-dimensional sweetness, albeit one that doesn't bother me that much with food.

219 NIS.

Blanc de Blancs d'Ay, Brut, Grand Cru, n.v.

The increase in quality is immediately obvious. The nose is much more focused, the yeast aromas are not as sweet, rather reminiscient of fresh bread. The palate is also less sweet, broad yet also sharp and focused, with an intriguing, chalky minerality. Eldad Levi says Ay's trademark is baked apples, yet here they are way in the background, the Blanc de Blancs' personality being rather more citrusy. A very good wine and, considering the wine is always comprised of a single vintage, an excellent value.

235 NIS.

Or Millesime, Brut, Premier Cru, 1999

Another step up, the nose shows baked apples and light notes of oxidation which are quite charming in this context. The palate has a wide, complex array of flavors with a tight structure keeping things in checks, while allowing a touch of wildness to add interest. A delicious wine with an mineral veneer adding an intellectual aspect to it.

Not for sale but before it was sold out, it cost somewhat less than the Special Club.

Special Club, Brut, Premier Cru, 1998

The personality is similar to the Or Millesime, but tighter, more focused and fresher. Although I wanted to prefer the Or Millesime out of spite, I would never be able to justify such a stance. The scope of flavors is similar yet the Special Club shows no oxidized notes and is much more elegant, its buttons polished to perfection, while still exhibiting the same sense of wild energy.

Not for sale.

Special Club, Brut, Premier Cru, 1999

This is it, baby. This is in the same vein as the 1998, and although it is rawer, it is also fresher, less sweet and even more energetic. This is a special wine that will need a few years and while I don't know where it's going, I want to meet it when it gets there.

329 NIS.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Misc. Notes (May 2009)

Recanati, Special Reserve, 2005

This Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blend blasts off with a mineral-infused cranberry note, a dash of spices and jammy overtones. The palate has lively acidity but is not altogether integrated, the influences of the barrel (or something, anyway) making for an unappetizing flavor, even two hours after opening. (May 12, 2009)

150 NIS.

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Caillardieres, 2003

There's so much going for this wine, despite it being something of a bullying brute and it is simply fascinating to peel off its monolithic layers. The nose has an intriguing character that reminds me of a hot waters bath on one hand and honeyed apples on the other; while the the palate, the palate feels like there's a Hummer driving around on it. But in the end, the big alcoholic punch, combined with a mineral streak, gets my guard down and I find it both tasty and a great companion for an evening of hanging around doing nothing. (May 17, 2009)

Giaconda, 135 NIS.

Francois Jobard, Bourgogne Blanc, 2005

One of my favorite of the relatively inexpensive Bourgognes, the nose is utterly classic, with pears, nuts and, above all, f...f...flint! The palate, alas, is too green in mid-palate but still offers vary handsome acidity and a savoury, saline finish. (May 18, 2009).

Tomer Gal, 140 NIS or so.

Domaine Jacques Prieur, Beaune Premier Cru, Greves, 2002

The color is more mature than I'd expected, while some caramel notes on the nose at first worry me about premature aging. But it really only needs some time to show its Pinot aromatics: wild red fruit, herbal notes, a hint of underbush and some chocolate in the background as well. The palate has solid acidity and a saline finish and is fairly tasty once an initially unappetizing note through the mid-palate fades away with air. A solidly good wine, though it's too foursquare and ripe to be highly memorable.

Imported and sold by WineRoute three years ago for about 170 NIS.

Jean Durup, Chablis Premier Cru, Vau De Vey, 2005

My ol' Chablis "go to guy" is slowly being replaced in my heart by recent arrivals on the local scene, I guess, but it's still a good bargain and a charmer, with green apples, citrus skins and a mildly pungent minerality. I don't try very hard to cellar it any more but I think this bottle would have been better off resting for another year. It's hard to get these things right. (May 24, 2009)

Tomer Gal, about 120 NIS.

Koehler-Ruprecht, Pfalz, Kalstadter Steinacker, Scheurebe Spatlese, 2005

The guayava aromatics and flavors are more obvious this time and there's also a fascinating note of ginger. The palate starts off round and winds up with a chalky texture on the finish that reflects a certain herbaceousness that is present on the nose. The roundness of fruit and the lively, refreshing acidity makes this a summer pleasure but there is also an intellectual pleasure in it. However, as refreshing as the acidity is, there's a certain harshness to it that I worry will never quite soften, so I would wait a couple of years with my remaining bottles and see. I'd still like it if it doesn't soften, it could just be a teeny weeby bit better. (May 26, 2009)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Domaine les Pallieres, Gigondas, 2004

This is the kind of nose only the Southern Rhone can produce, herbal and dusty with aromas of scorched earth overlaid with dried cherries. And it really screams "MEAT"! The palate is tasty, although the acidity is on the high side at this time while the meaty tannins make for a rusty finish. Give it two-three years to smooth out a little? (May 27, 2009)

WineRoute, 150 NIS.

d'Arenberg, Sticks And Stones, 2002

Even though I'm no longer on the market for too many Australian wines, I still have a soft spot for d'Arenberg and I still think they make good-value wines that are savoury and not too sweet (at least not north of the 100 NIS mark). The nose displays has a somewhat exotic facet - as though d'Arenberg had rendered its own version of a New Wave Rioja or Priorat - with a core of black cherries and raspberries overlaid with notes of tobacco leaves, earth, meat. The palate is over-extracted for my tastes but well structured with good acidity and crisp tannins that almost manage to balance the sensations of sweetness created by the alcohol. (May 30, 2009)

WineRoute, about 150 NIS. If I were to compare this wine to a Priorat or to a Super Rioja like Artadi, then it's a very good price. But for my personal taste, I know I can get a good Rioja Reserva for less money and trade off some alcohol for elegance.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tasting Note Drudgery (May 24, 2009)

I've had better Saturday Night line-ups. I've also had worse, but this time I found it particularly hard to find anything very interesting to say about most of the wines. On the other hand, we only had three wines, so I didn't have a lot of homework.

Chateau du-Puligny-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, 2004

The story behind this wine is that a good portion of it is comprised of de-classified Premier Cru, whose top-soil was replaced by top-soil originating elsewhere, thus forever damned by AOC regulations. However, I have so far found that it, and the 2002 vintage, do not quite live up to the hype. The nose is reticient and after an hour finally shows a hint of fruit and minerals. The palate is crisp and tasty enough but lacks concentration and has a hard time fighting the oak. Not that there's a whole lot of oak, but the wine has an austere style that can't balance what oak there is and it just doesn't feel like it will ever find any more balance in the cellar. Oddly enough, this wine is made by Etienne Montille, whose P-M Premier Cru Cailleret (made under his own de Montille label) is fashioned in a much more luscious style.

Tomer Gal, about 220 NIS.

Domaine de la Charbonierre, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, 2000

This is a CDP in a very ripe and extracted vein, unlike some of the more mineral-laden beauties of the appellation. Or maybe it's just the warm vintage? Whatever, although it improves in glass, it retains a very overt character and, frankly, just doesn't taste that good.

The 2006 vintage is sold by Giaconda for 288 NIS.

Tardieu-Laurent, Rasteau Cotes du Rhones Villages, 2001

This is surely the best CDR Villages I've ever tasted and although Rasteau is a Southern Rhone village, this wine is just blatantly Syrah, with a meaty, muscular personality that is somewhere between Hermitage and Cornas. Now, I know Tardieu-Laurent has good juice which they bring up well, but they're also somewhat on the expensive side. So think about it. T-L don't own any vineyard, they're negociants, so somewhere in Rasteau are one or more or growers who are capable of this brilliant juice and there's a good chance it might even have cost less directly from them. It's about time Rasteau got its own (red-wine) AOC.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown, but I'd guess it was priced at 30-40 USD originally.