Sunday, February 28, 2010

Introduction to Wine 101 - One Chablis, One Barolo, One Chateauneuf (Feb. 26, 2010)

I am a student of wine. That's how I see myself. But every so often I get to play teacher to my neophyte friends.

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis, 2007

If I approach this wine rationally, it is textbook stuff - with citrus fruit and smoky flint on the nose and a languid mineral cut on the palate - but somehow, it doesn't thrill me as much as it did last time, when it managed to soar beyond the limits of its classification. It's still a handy wine, though.

Giaconda, 126 NIS.

Paolo Scavino, Barolo, 2001

The nose is red cherries with freshly turned earth and spices in the background. The mouthfeel is typical Barolo, middle-bodied with rusty tannins, although their effect is a mild rasp and not a grate. I don't think opening it now was blatantly premature, but there is something a bit one dimensional about it now and hopefully it should be friendlier and perhaps more complex in a few years.

Imported by WineRoute, 279 NIS.

Domaine du Marcoux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2001

This also is very typical, with cherry liquor, dry fruit and garrigue on the nose, ripe fruit and round tannins on the palate. The ripeness is held in rein, recalling to me what I loved about CdP's in the first place: New World fruitiness in an Old World context. Lovely, although a bit vulgar; a Professor Higgins type, I suppose.

Imported by WineRoute, 249 NIS.

Finally, one of our guests brought the following as extra-curriculum work:

Venturi Schultze, Vancouver Island, Brandenburg No 3, 2007

The winey says the wine is made up of mostly Madeleine Sylvaner, whatever that may be, and it looks, smells and tastes, to me, like some bizarre cross between Muscatel and Pedro Ximinez. Thank God I don't score wines, so there is no need to try and contextualize its quality; nonetheless, I enjoyed it, if only for (but not just) its novelty.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

75% Bourgogne or Sperss-way To My Heart (Feb. 19, 2010)

The Winter Burgundy Evening chez Hagit Koren is a tradition by now. This year we aimed too high. The idea was to limit the reds to Grand Crus. Well, turns out we just don't have enough drinkable Grand Crus between us. Thus, a ringer was pulled in, but as you will see shortly, this is a ringer that no wine lover in his right mind would ever turn away.

Morey-Blanc, Meursault Premier Cru, Genevrieres, 1999

This is a love song to the Burgundian ideal, with enough complexity for a Grand Cru. The nose plays a short game of hide-and-seek before fully unfurling a complex portrait etched in gunpowder, pears and hints of sea shells. The palate is just as good: long, deep and focused with a lingering, saline finish and subtly integrated oak. Sublime.

WineRoute, about 500 NIS and just about worth it. Thanks, Hagit.

Rene Engel, Grand Echezaux Grand Cru, 1996

An anti-Establishment wine, from the murky orange-brown color that would get it disbarred from the New World, to the rusty tannins that are gruff-yet-elegant in a Clint Eastwood fashion. In between are a complex nose of earth, leather and sour cherries and a deep, flavorsome palate of fair, if not outstanding, length. This bottle is surprisingly very, very ready to drink.

Bought in the US for about 125 USD and, as such, amazing QPR.

Chateau de la Tour, Clos de Vogeout Grand Cru, Vieilles Vignes, 1996

Much more firmly entrenched in the mainstream. The color, the nose, the palate - they're all much more clearly delineated, more obvious and less interesting as it were. The style is different - it's fruitier, the fruit being more black, the Pinot spicing is different, the character and weight of the earth tone is different - yet the style in itself is just fine, it's just that personality-wise, this wine is too tame. For current drinking.

Price unknown. Thanks, Ran.

Gaja, Langhe, Sperss, 1997

This was a totally unexpected surprise. Granted, Oron Stern didn't have a drinkable Grand Cru in stock and decided to sub with a Barolo, but throwing in such an expensive one almost goes beyond the call of friendship. If the previous two wines were like weathered country dons, this is a city slicker - sleek in a modern way, yet restrained in a way few New Worlders ever are. The nose is very shy at first, hinting at nail polish and red fruit bordering on black, then it suddenly throws a sneaky overhand right and wham! in come smoke and raspberries. The palate, even when closed down, immediately impresses as being very high class and balanced with polished tannins that are so finely integrated into the fruit they feel softer than they really are. Still a youngster.

Imported WineRoute, I think this was priced at around 1000 NIS. Many thanks, Oron.

This was such a great night, the best epitaph I can conjure is dedicating it to the most romantic niches of our collective hearts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Misc Notes (Jan. 2010)

Ironically enough, given my un-patriotic palate, the first wine I opened in 2010 was a local red.

Vitkin, Cabernet Franc, 2005

This has 12% Petit Verdot and almost 15% ABV. The nose has a very nice herbal/leathery tinge and the varietal green pepper signature is obvious as well. Meanwhile, the fruit is, kindly enough, oriented towards the red end of the spectrum. The palate is sweetish and round, but underlined by grainy, slightly bitter tannins and a dollop of minerals on the finish. It won't win any points for elegance, but it has a polished sort of rusticity and becomes leaner and more focused as it opens. (Jan. 2, 2010)

About 100 NIS.

Dujac Fils et Freres, Meursault, 2004

If there's a Platonian ideal of fat, buttery Meursault laden with smokey, spicy pear fruit, then this wine is a good candidate for that role, even if at times it escapes the paradigm. Let's see, there are no hazelnuts on the nose, which isn't a bad thing, it only detracts from its ability to fully fulfill the Meursault style. Then, the palate is fat and creamy, too semi-sweet for me in the middle, even though I must say the finish has enough lip-smacking salinity to satisfy me. But the overall effect is rather simple and obvious, and although I didn't set my sights on greatness when I bought this negociant bottling, I'm a bit disappointed. (Jan. 7, 2010)

About 150 NIS on discount at WineRoute, two years ago.

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

This wine captures the essence of Gewurtz, in its telltale signature of lychee, rose petals and spices - as well as being archetypical Koehler-Ruprecht in its aromatic complexity, edgy acidity and bitter-cum-bitter undertow. And since the K-H style implies a certain austerity, that serves to rein in the headiness of the variety. So the combination works very well indeed and creates a very balanced, delicious wine of a low-key nature that I prefer to a lot of big-scale Alsatian versions. (Jan. 8, 2010)

Giaconda sold this two years ago for 117 NIS.

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

The nose shows yet another facet of Chenin Blanc, showing cantaloup this time and a pungent, yet light minerality over laid with sweet spices. On the palate, the acidity balances the sweetness so the fruit comes off as fleshy yet light and crisp. Let me quote my dinner partner, bless her soul: "this is delicious and unique". After just over a year of drinking Loire Chenin in all its permutations, it's easy to lose track of how idiosyncratically yummy it is. (Jan. 14, 2010)

Giaconda, 130 NIS.

Vitkin, Carignan, 2006

I feel vindicated yet again. If the local idiom is ripe fruit with sweet tannins, best it be based on a grape best suited for it. Here, the fruit is ripe yet still mainly red with leathery nuances and enough tannic bite to balance the sweetness. I'll try aging it this time. (Jan. 15, 2009)

About 90 NIS.

Domaine du Closel, Savennieres, Clos du Paillon Moelleux, 2003

It's hard to be indifferent towards the wines of this Domaine. Two years ago, I was almost repelled by roughly-hewn, vaguely whiskey-like power, but learned to find a rough elegance beneath the near-alcoholic brawn. The nose is idiosyncratic, even for an appellation renowned for its mineral quirkiness, with a sweetness reminiscent of carmelized apples, overlain with an ashy minerality and perhaps a whiff of cumin. The sweetness carries on to the palate, where it is tempered by a liquid-rock cut and subtle salinity. In all, this wine is multi-layered and fascinating, even if you need to be in a certain mood to approach it, and it offers a lot of interest for its price. (Jan. 22, 2010)

Giaconda, about 150 NIS.

Chateau du Seuil, Graves Blanc, 2005

Any traces of oak have finally been integrated. No baby fat remains and the wine is seamlessly crisp and mineral-laden now. In short, a 2GrandCru wine for the masses, assuming the masses can cope with such a low-key, elegant bastard. (Jan. 23, 2010)

Giaconda, 117 NIS.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

De Montille Tasting At The Burgundy Wine Collection Tasting Room (Feb. 1, 2010)

While Clive Coates ranks the De Montille domaine in the second tier of Bourgogne producers (the first tier is populated by the likes of DRC, just to place things in context), some afficiandos remain unconvinced, claiming pere Hubert's wines were always in the twilight zone between "not ready" and "over the hill". Personally , I came on board with new generation Etienne's lower end bottlings of the 2002 vintage, which delighted me, but then my enthusiasm was doused by a tasting of the 2004's. These, whether due to the actual quality, the style of the vintage or poor setting, I found lacking grip. However, recent tastings have renewed my faith as I was quite enchanted by the more polished and complex post 2004 Pommard and Volnays.

Beaune Premier Cru, Aligrots, 2006

I forgot that it is sister Alix who makes the whites for the family domaine, so my first thought when sniffing and tasting this wine was that Etienne has certainly improved (I am not crazy about the white wines he makes for Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet). Certainly the aromatics are right up my alley, with subtle citrus fruit lurking beneath a smokey, flint overcast and some meaty notes that remind me of Francois Jobard. The palate is austere and seems to strain a bit to contain the oak right now, which I have to admit is subtle enough to retreat with time. My problem is that as much as I admire Alix' work, I get the feeling that the terroir itself as not as good as similarly priced Meursaults that she creates at Deux Montilles. 270 NIS.

Beaune Premier Cru, Perrieres, 2006

This wine sets the pace for some of the 2006's, which had less stuffing than the the 2005's, but with more interesting quirks, plus the price differential make some of them good buys. Since not every vintage can be a 2002 or a 2005, I'd rather have the in-between vintages resemble 2006 rather than 2004. Anyway... This wine certainly is quirky, with initially pungent, almost scathing aromas of strawberries and raspy tannins that make gleaming any complexity a very elusive task. Certainly an appealing, mineral-imbued structure is in place, but it's just so hard to get at the flavors. But I like it and time brings out more minerals and leather on the nose and then fruit and ripe acidity start asserting themselves on the palate. 220 NIS and good value for Burgundy.

Beaune Premier Cru, Greves, 2006

The nose is almost agonizingly liquerish at first (you know the cherry-filled chocolates that your mother's aunt saved in her cupboards for ages before trying to force them on you when you were eight years old?). Thank god for oxygen, because this flagrantly extroverted - in Bourgogne terms - beast of a nose calms down after a while to show minerals and even animalistic notes, and although those chocolate notes remain for the ten minutes or so it takes me to finish my glass, they become a welcome afterthought after a while. The palate is deeper than the Perrieres, which might be the more intellectually challenging wine, but it's obvious there is more stuffing in the Greves, giving the wine, winemaker and God more material to work with. Finally, and I will wine up saying this about each wine, as the wine opens, the palate shows a savoury minerality that I find very appealing. 260 NIS and another good value.

Volnay Premier Cru, Champans, 2006

I've sniffed wines like this one before and they always conjure the adjective "languid", for me. Thus strolls this wine across the stage with almost indifferent poise, without the same mineral fingerprint as the other Montilles; although, once again, it's a matter of time until that fingerprint shows up here, too, but there is, at the same time, an aroma of flowers over the red cherries that none of the other wines have. There is a step up in overall balance now, as the raspy tannins seem to skewer the fruit with great precision. At 360 NIS, this is about 25% cheaper than a 2005, so it's very appealing, although personally I'd go for the Pezrolles (see below) which is an even more convincing 2006.

Beaune Premier Cru, Perrieres, 2005

The fruit is obviously riper and sweeter than the 2006 and what's great about these 2005's is that even with such ripeness, the fruit is always well within the red fruit end of the spectrum, which is what red Burgundy is all about, to me. And there is no loss in mineral cut. In short, this has more going for it than the 2006, except it's more obvious and less challenging. The 2006 makes you think while this tries to spoil you. At 260 NIS, there is no great penalty for it being a 2005, so it's another good value and an even better wine to show off at tastings.

Beaune Premier Cru, Greves, 2005

If the Perrieres 2006 was a stylistic break from the 2005, in this case the two vintages are more similar, as the 2005 is more or less a magnification of the 2006.The meat and minerals of the nose are more prominent, the minerals are even more lovely and there is a smoky veneer that obscures the chocolate aromas. It feels bigger on the palate, too, while remaining decently balanced. At 320 NIS, I would buy it for personal use but it would present a problem at friendly tastings. I suspect some of my friends would be prejudiced against a Beaune Premier Cru at events where the entry fee is a 300-350 NIS wine, impressive as this wine may actually be.

Volnay Premier Cru, Champans, 2005

As someone remarked at the table, this is another case of a 2005 being a bigger and better balanced version of the 2006, without any change in style. The aromatics are similar but this wine really makes its splash on the palate, begging for roast beef from the first sip due to its spicy flavors and the pungent tang of its tannins. And no, these tannins cannot obscure the succulent fruit that lurks below them. 450 NIS is where the reputation of the vintage starts to take its toll. Is it worth paying 90 NIS for the additional intensity on the palate, not to mention the impression it would make on my guests? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Pommard Premier Cru, Pezerolles, 2006

A valid challenger for Wine Of The Night - and quite likely the most delicious one due to its gorgeous acidity - it too starts out with liquerish aromatics, which quickly blow off to show great finesse and notes of raw meat and subtle nuances of minerals, which were much appreciated. It is a class act that builds its depth slowly and from within, keeping its power and complexity in reserve. Excellent value for 360 NIS.

Pommard Premier Cru, Rugiens, 2006

The nose is very similar to the Pezerolles, with a similar mix of raw meat and minerals. Last time I tasted it, Tomer posed the question whether Rugiens should have been a Grand Cru vineyard. At the time, coming after the powerful Comte Armand Clos de Epeneaux, it won an affirmative nod from me by dint of elegance and mystique. Here, following a wine of a fold and style similar to its own, it breaks ahead on sheer power and length, yet somehow in this setting, its claim to Grand Cru status is vaguer. However, one of the trademarks of a Grand Cru is that the palate manages to overshadow even a grand nose, which is certainly the case here, and I refer to an almost pungent spiciness that is balanced by joyful fruit. 480 NIS, so if you think that, despite some reservations, my arguments still win the case for this being a shoulda-been GC, then it's a great value indeed.

Corton Grand Cru, Clos-du-Roi, 2006 (from magnum)

The extroverted nose is the best of the night, combining just about everything the previous wines brought to table, without lacking in nuances and subtlety. It's only drawback is a certain obviousness. The palate, on the other hand , is less sophisticated than the Rugiens' and I swear to God it is even shorter, even though it is very vital and refreshing. Corton is one of the lesser-reputed Grand Crus, many questioning its claim for the exalted status, so let me make one thing clear: this bottle was a true Grand Cru, because frankly it leaves you wanting not a thing. It's just not a great Grand Cru.

Pulign-Montrachet Premier Cru, Cailleret, 2006

A very balanced and tasty wine, with a savoury, dry finish which could and should serve as a blueprint for top-echelon Bourgogne whites. On the nose, I get peaches and a bus-load of flint. The palate is complex and intense, with no lack of finesse, yet why did I wind up missing a certain 'wow' factor that I remember from the 2004?

Friday, February 5, 2010

2GrandCru Makes Ossobucco (Jan. 30, 2009)

My mood was not particularly inspired on the day my friends partook of my first attempt at making ossobucco. I think I did a creditable job on it and on the other dishes, but my mood was dour and personal issues distracted me. Which is a a shame because two of the accompanying wines were quite memorable.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenhur, Riesling Auslese, 1993

Nuance and poise are the key to this wine. I can't really say I can come up with a lengthy gallery of aromas and flavors, as this is a reserved wine and really seems to hint at apples, honey and petrol rather than say anything obvious about them. Very fine (god, I sound just like Clives Coates now).

Imported by WineRoute, price unknown to me.

Louis Jadot, Vosne-Romanee, 2002

Louis Jadot usually does not come close to pleasing my posse, and this example is no exception, although I personally rather like it. The nose is very pretty, typical red fruit and a light dash of meatiness and exotic spices. Medium bodied, the palate is elegant and decently long, although on the round side which works to soften the impact of the succulent fruit.

Imported by WineRoute, I'm guessing it sold for 200-250 NIS, making it too pricey for the actual quality.

Fattoria dei Barbi, Brunello, Vigna Del Fiore, 1997

I am going to telegraph the punchline of this note, but this wine performed much better two and a half years ago. This has black fruit with earthy and herbal notes on the nose, while on the palate the acidity builds up slowly until it flares on the finish. Solidly built but emotionally hollow, this is tasty but uninspired.

Not imported to Israel, price unknown.

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien 2me Cru, 1990

Oh, how my spell checker hates this wine and how my taste buds enjoy it. It's not a great wine per se, but a mature claret at this level of quality doesn't have to be great to be great. What makes the experience more memorable is that this wine has a controversy behind it. You'd think it's a no-brainer: a great property and a great vintage; but no, the chateau, to judge by the reviews, had hygiene issues at the cellar when the wine was made and the writers were uncertain about the potential outcome at the barrel tastings and release. Whatever, we enjoyed it, although bad nerves on my part had me opening it too late. It could have used two-three hours of shoulder-leveling instead of one, thus it started out extrovertedly enough to make the Ducru-Beaucaillou fans 'round the table think it was a Super-Tuscan at first. As my comment about the timing of the opening should make clear, it needs time in glass to settle down and show greater depth and nuances, with hints of tobacco. There is a tannic bite even after twenty years but enough fruit for yumminess' sake.

Purchased in London for 90 GBP.