Faustino's premium cuvee once again impresses me as being caught half way between classical and modern Rioja. Which is not a bad place to be, actually. Despite being raised in French barriques, the nose is very Spanish, if not outright Rioja, lovely in its red fruit and hints of saddle leather. The medium-bodied palate is even better, with good acidity and savoury tannins playing against a raspberry sweetness.
If this is still imported to Israel by the France-Israel Group, then I'll pass, as it's probably as atrociously-priced as in the past. Meanwhile, you can get it at the Heathrow duty-free for about 20 GBP.
Ishmael Arroyo, Ribera Del Duero, Reserva, 2001
This is a blacker wine in every sense of the word, with what comes off at first as barrel-influenced spiciness. At no point, however, is the oak influence very blatant and it soon blows off to show hints of sea salt and leather on the minerally nose. The the nose shifts into fourth gear, thence showing this mixture of cardamon and smoke. Just a fucking gorgeous nose, forward yet graceful with Old World reserve. And the palate is even better; rustier than the Autor, it will never pass off as elegant yet has the grace of a Joe Louis and a fantastic grip and makes a very deep and characterful impression on the taste-buds before it even starts to fade.
Giaconda, 220 NIS.