Duty Calls - Dinner at Maraboo (June 9, 2010)

It must be quite obvious by now that my dining and wining activities have dwindled recently. Ever the optimistic explorer of food and wine, I recently joined my friends in an attempt to remedy this sad state of affairs. The wines we tasted ranged from very good and tasty to excellent and tasty (plus a DOA bottle of Bruno Clair, Corton-Charlemagne, 1996). Maraboo, on the other hand, was something of a disappointment, as I found none of the dishes especially creative, inspired, or generous.

All the red wines were decanted thirty to sixty minutes before we drank them.

Jean Milan, Oger Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs, Symphorine

What a terrific nose! The first adjective that leapt to my mind was "inspirational" and as I write this, two days after the fact, I still stand by it. It reeks of lime and chalk and, most of all, that champagne-y yeast aroma that has mellowed very nicely with a few years of bottle age. Very complex aromatics. It's a tasty wine, sure enough, even if the palate is less complex than the nose, starting out with a sweet impression that turns dry on the finish, thus combining lushness with a touch of intellectual stoicism. Another mark against it is that the mousse doesn't really last a long time in glass.

Imported by Boutique de Champagnes, 309 NIS.

Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 1995

This wine doesn't score extremely high on the classy, pretty, or elegant scales but it's the kind of wine whose aromas will always make me salivate and, thankfully, the palate follows suit and satisfies my cravings. The nose and palate both offer mellow fruit flecked with black and green peppers, a relic of the days before wine-makers lived and died by the ripeness of their ware. Others around the table commented on its juicy acidity but it wasn't that notable to me, but then again, I thought the wine was served a couple of degrees too warm, which only makes its showing an even greater achievement. I did love its savory, tannic bite. While it was obviously not in the same class as the other reds (and priced accordingly), I found it more food friendly than the more renowned wine that went up to bat next and I would enjoy owning a couple of bottles.

I think WineRoute is now importing Mondavi to Israel. I don't know what current prices are like but I see the 1995 can still be found in the US for about 60 USD.

Altesino, Brunello di Montalcino, Montosoli, 1998

I know that, in hindsight, the fact that I found more similarities than differences between the Mondavi and the Montosoli is odd, but there it is. I can't say there are a lot of similarities in specifics of the aromatic and flavor profiles, it's just that both wines seem to subscribe to a vaguely similar school of style. Which is, again, odd and I can only explain it away by Tuscany 1998's relative coolness. This is, like the Mondavi, a savory wine, if not quite as food friendly as the other reds, despite its obvious class. A certain aroma of chives lends it an Italian character, even if that's not enough to make its origins easily discernable.

Also imported by WineRoute, usually costing around 450 NIS.

Chateau Pichon-Longueville, Pauillac 2me Cru, 1996

Before Bordeaux prices hit the ceiling, this wine didn't cost that much more than the Altesino. It's not leagues beyond it in quality, either, but somehow, there's enough of a difference here to put the final touches on my conversion to the land of Gironde: you can't beat a good Bordeaux, not really. If you want anything resembling a claret stylistically, ultimately Bordeaux will simply have more class and elegance and that touch of aloofness. By this I'm not talking about the common definition of claret; rather, I mean any red wine where the tannins are the big players alongside the fruit, which covers the Altesino, the Mondavi - every red wine, in fact, outside of Burgundy, which has its own set of rules and where the fruit is balanced by acidity first and then tannins.

Anyways... The nose here has a great focus and purity, despite a wash of sewer stink, with an excellent balance between graphite, tobacco leaves and red fruit. This is echoed on the palate, which has the best acidity of the evening - its trump card, actually, as it lends the wine a great vivacity and freshness. A winner.

More recent vintages are imported by WineRoute. The price of this bottle is unknown.

Chateau Coutet, Barsac Premier Cru, 2003

When it comes to stickies, I'm starting to part ways with Bordeaux, as it's usually my fourth choice these days after Germany, the Loire and Tokay. The reason for that is the alcohol can be too obvious to me (you can also read that as "not enough acidity"), but that's not the case here, as the extract and acidity are balanced and vibrant enough to mask the 14% ABV. The botrytis is obvious, but beyond that I don't really remember too many specifics of aromas or tastes, but when it comes to such gorgeous liquid candy, who cares?

Imported by WineRoute, this cost me about 150 NIS in futures.