Bring on 2011 - Part One (Jan. 1, 2011)

New Year's celebration with wine laymen. I guess I've educated this crowd well, because the class of wine we've been drinking on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays is now on par with what I drink with the wine geeks on regular outings.

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

A floral nose with apples (and, later, more typical notes of guayava/litchi) and a hint of botrytis that creates an impression akin to a dessert wine. The palate is sweet but not dessert-wine sweet, with striking clarity of expression. The difference between this and the 2005 Spatleses, which I went through the last year or so like a lush, is obvious in the ripeness of the fruit, but also in the style. In hindsight, I could have done with a couple of Spatleses less in favor of this. Lovely.

Giaconda, about 160 NIS.

Chateau Haut Batailley, Pauillac 5me Cru, 1996

This has the kind of Bordeaux aromatics that make me tingle with delight: mellow, cedar-y fruit with a touch of iron and blood and just a whiff of barnyard. Firm, yet savory, tannins provide ample grip for the delicious fruit and will help it keep for a few years but without, I think, very much improvement. Which is fine, I love it as it is: exquisitely typical in its Pauillac-ness.

Not imported to Israel.

Ishmael Arroyo, Ribera Del Duero, Gran Reserva, 1996

The aromatics evoke images of rugged finesse, with their black fruit and cardamon, and there is touch of barnyard here as well. As handsome in its grainy, Old World way as you'd expected a Gran Reserva to be. Friendlier and sweeter than the Haut-Batailley, with arguably better balance. Ready to drink.

Giaconda, about 350 NIS.

Jaboulet, Hermitage, La Chapelle, 2004

The nose started out almost Aussie-like at first but then... sweaty socks, yay! And my guests thought the barnyard aromas of the previous wines were bad enough. Beyond the stinky veil (which I like), lurks peppery black fruit with typical North Rhone allure. On the palate, the 14% ABV doesn't show as heat or sweetness, instead I get bitter, young tannins. It doesn't soar to any great heights, really, at least not to those I'd expect from the appellation, but it does have the stuffings of a Hermitage. At the end of the day, there's something a bit shaky about this wine that I don't think time will help.

Price unknown.

Postscript for Hebrew readers

People are asking: how did Haaretz finally grow a set of cojones?