Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Gift To The Living (Oct. 10, 2011)

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man
of wealth
and taste

Doesn't a good claret always make you feel like you're the richest fellow in the world? That's due to the confident, self assured poise of a robust, mature Bordeaux.

If you want to do right, woman, do right, man - serve a claret!

Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Medoc, Cru Bourgeois, 1989

This used to cost like 10 bucks twenty years ago, but this bottle set me back over a hundred, and recent vintages are just as expensive. But, damn, it was worth it.

Initially, the fruit is very red, with trimmings of iron fillings and invigorating, meat-laced spices I find vaguely Nebbiolo-ish. In time, the fruit grows darker and deeper. It's nothing like Pauillac or Saint Julien or Graves - rather more of a feminine version of Saint Estephe. Despite the freshness in mid palate, it is less elegant than I'd expected. As is always the case with mature Bordeaux, I love its sweetness of fruit,which is, as expected, deftly skewered by savory, palate-cleansing tannins. Aromatically, I sense a bit of weariness after a couple of hours, as it shows hints of balsami, but the Sociando retains its yumminess until the very end - there's nothing at all tired about the fruit, acidity or tannins.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Two Groovy Austrians

Hirsch, Kammerner Heiligenstein, Gruner Veltliner, 2010

I must be doing something right, if a knowledgeable blogger like bob68 has purchased a wine because of my recommendation (I'm sure most, if not all, of my Israeli readers read this very honest and detailed culinary and wine blog, which is more informative than any restaurant critic I've ever read. If you're not a local - you wish you had a critic this good at home!). However, as flattering as it might be, it kinda put the scare into me, to learn that he bought the Heiligenstein: what if he doesn't like it as much as I did? Turns out he did, only he didn't spot the minerality that I found in it. So I decided to open a bottle and check whether my impressions at home were in line with what I got at the tasting last month.

Well, it's just as good, to my great relief, and the minerality is still there, on the nose. It's a pungent sort, that reminds me of overturned earth and mud (and also something else, that I think is what a pond of fresh water would smell like, only I'm not sure I've ever encountered a pond of fresh water), but there is also a typical GV green peas thing going on, and if you try to focus on that, the minerals sort of fade to the background. If you wait a couple of hours, you will also find a floral element. On the palate, there are few traces of minerals; instead, there is fresh fruit running the gamut from green apples to peaches and melons and a bit of residual sweetness that combines with the racy acidity to make for a savory finish. So while it's crisp and light on its feet (unlike, say, Pichler and Nigl), you won't get the saline fuzz you'd find in archetypically mineral-laden wines, such as Chablis. So bob68 and I are both right.

Like I said last month, this wine has both immediacy and depth, and usually when a wine is this tasty now, I'd say drink up, but I feel this is just scratching the surface of its potential. The problem is, from that I've read, Gruner Veltliner doesn't move a lot in the first few years. Disregarding that, my gut feeling is that, no matter how the variety is supposed to behave, this wine will show a different attitude if you open a bottle, say once a year. (Oct. 7, 2011)

Eldad Levy and Iggy Aloni's Austrian catalog. 129 NIS.

So, being in such a GruVe mood, I took another one for the team.

F. X. Pichler, Loibner Berg, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, 2007

This is in a wildly different vein. Initially, there is not a trace of minerals, on neither nose nor palate; instead, there is a quince and quinine combo that reminds me of Alsace. It feels more alcoholic, despite the difference being of only one degree (12.5 % vs. 13.5%). With air, I get aromas of smoky minerals (think dry steam bath), along with summer fruit on the nose, while the palate becomes fiery on the finish on the one hand, and very textured and multi-dimensional on the other. Unlike the Hirsch, I suspect this will stay in more or less the same place for a few years before evolving.(Oct. 8, 2011)

The Pichler is very much the kind of wine that impresses you for its sheer presence and physicality, while the Hirsch has a more laissez-faire approach. If I prefer the Hirsch - and I certainly can't deny that the word count alone exposes my prejudices - it's not just for any ideological bent, but because it expresses just as much, while imposing less of itself. But do buy both if you can. Just make sure you're self-aware enough to understand your own needs.

Giaconda, 167 NIS.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Further Miseducation Of 2GrandCru - A Volnay/Pommard Tasting (Oct. 17, 2011)

Proving once again, you can't get drunk off Bourgogne!

Deux Montille, Bourgogne, 2008

Sweaty red fruit, earthy with decent complexity and depth, and quite tasty with a measure of juicy acidity. So Alixe does reds well, too. Unless it's Etienne who made this wine.

Bouchard, Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru, Les Lavieres, 2007

On the nose: red fruit with great focus, speckled with minerals. Good length and focus on the palate as well. Having said that, the palate feels a little unyielding (although not enough to bar enjoyment, especially when paired with the right food, I would assume).

WineRoute, 150 NIS. Pretty good value.

Montille, Volnay Premier Cru, Les Taillepieds, 2004

Mildew on nose and palate, which kind of overpowers the fruit, so you have to like the style. I liked it, but it felt rather shy to me, until the fruit came forward to blanket the mildew. This split the public opinion - I liked it, but I've had better Montilles. The General Surgeon would have you know that the bottle had landed on the local tarmac the week before.

Burgundy Wine Collection, recent vintages sell for 440 NIS.

Thierry Violot-Guillemard, Pommard Premier Cru, Rugiens, 2004

Observation #1: There are no surprises in Bourgogne, as this unknown producer's bottle will attest. Look, there's a reason why unknowns in Burgundy remain unknown. Observation #2: I think this is an example of why old school Pommard was called soupy. It lacks acidity, but that's the vintage; but the tannic structure is formless, which I think is due to the winemaker.

Not imported, price unknown.

Comte Lafon, Volnay Santenots-Du-Milieu Premier Cru, 2006

Ripe, round, long. It's sweet, but there's a savory backbone that makes it very appealing to me. Yes it's modern and almost too ready and all, but the fruit is joyous and the saline finish enticing. But it is too damn expensive indeed. And not really Volnay, both stylistically and legally, as Volnay-Santenots is actually a red appellation in Meursault.

460 NIS. I like this, and I also liked a Jobard Meursault Premier Cru Rouge I had three years ago, so I guess I like red Meursault, but the Lafon name carries too big a premium here.

Henri Boillot, Volnay Premier Cru, Les Caillerets, 2007

Enticing nose! Complex and full, with red fruit and forest floor. Clean yet animalistic at the same time. The palate is full yet restrained, and despite the ripeness lending a sweet effect, the overall impression is very balanced and harmonious.

WineRoute 530 NIS.

d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Champans, 2002

The nose carries us back to lean (but not soupy) old school. Elegant and mineral laden. The palate is sparse, not austere mind you, think of a Japanese rock garden. Sleight of hand wine.

Not imported, 80-100 USD, depending on your luck.

Dugat-Py, Pommard, La Levriere, 2004

Armpit of a lusty wench, red fruit and an abundance of minerals. This gets by on sheer presence, but the finish also claims its share of complexity.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 560 NIS - holy receding hairline, as good as this is, it costs more than many a Premier Cru!

Friday, November 4, 2011

TNweets (Oct. 2011)

"In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy,
growing heavy for the vintage."
Meanwhile, 2GrandCru had another good month.

Sang des Cailloux, Vacqueyras, Cuvee de Doucinello, 2005

What a lovely surprise! The nose is gritty Old World, redolent with roasted coffee and meat, and also a hint of brine, over a backdrop of sour cherries. The palate is along the same lines, big and fleshy but not over-ripe or sweet. In fact, the tannins are still downright oaky-bitter, so it's more of a challenge than a tasty drop (and I intuit that it will retain this characteristic as it ages), but that's fine, sometimes all I look for is a memorable puzzle. (Oct. 1, 2011')

Giaconda, about 170 NIS.

Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Macon Villages, Milly-Lamartine “Clos du Four”, 2008

Lively and lovely. Not particularly challenging but delicious. Oranges, with a touch of marmalade, on the nose, complemented by dry grass and a hint of flint, and the pungency of citrus peels. The palate is sweet and succulent, without being even in the slightest bit flabby thanks to its quite juicy acidity, and of decent complexity and finesse. That touch of sweetness is why these wines come around earlier than the big boys up north. As always, a good white from the deep south of Bourgogne always appears, to me, to be a mirror image of Chablis, as though the same ingredients were turns inside out to conjure the image of a sun-bathed grove, instead of the brooding ocean. Just fanciful imagery, but they do serve to place the wine, for me. (Oct. 5, 2011)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS. I bought a sampler of every 2008 and 2007 Heritiers that Tomer had imported and now regret not having bought more.

William Fevre, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2007

I'm sure this will age well and gain additional user-friendliness, but it's already complex and I love Chablis Premier Crus at about four years post-vintage, when they're on the cusp of trading the intensity for finesse. And this has the marine/fossils/pungent citrus peel thing that I love in Chablis going full-throttle. Plus, that delicious, green-apple acidity never did me no harm. (Oct. 13, 2011)

WineRoute, this is usually sold on discount at about 130 NIS or at a similar price for multi-bottles.

Ella Valley Vineyards, Vineyard's Choice, Merlot, 2003

Yes, I know it's an odd choice for me (eight year old Israeli Merlot, mama!), but trusted sources liked the 2003 and 2004, so I thought I'd give it a try, when Wine Depot had it on discount. The color was surprisingly deep ,and both palate and (especially) nose showed signs of life, albeit a bit alarmingly mature. So I sat and waited.

And this is what I got.

The nose is interesting and is what I often term Mediterranean, due to a herbal streak, which sometimes flirts with green here, but not so much as to be off-putting. It's complemented by a musky, earthy note. The nose also shows typical Merlot fruitiness, yet isn't very forward or ripe at this point, which is a big plus for me, and the palate shows similar restraint. Ah, the palate. The palate is what has me worried. It's tasty and elegant for sure, but it initially feels frayed and bitter. But it pulls itself together nicely and its refreshed composure is quite impressive for what it is. So the initial weariness resolves into a dried fruit effect, which I think is appropriate for an eight year old Israeli red. Finally, it does contain its 14.5% ABV quite well. (Oct. 15, 2011).

All in all, a nice experience for the 119 NIS it cost me and better than I'd have thought, but not a re-purchase (for this specific vintage at this point; I would try more recent ones).

As much as I can objectively examine my mental innards, I think I was impartial in my study of the wine and my emotional state. But I do confess that if people I like didn't like both wine and winemaker so much, I might have dismissed the wine within the first thirty minutes. Having said that, this was probably better two years ago.

Recanati, Reserve, Wild Carignan, 2009

I think the showing at the Recanati tasting was better, which leads me to ponder how objective I'd been at the event. Well, even if the Wild One had worked some strange hoodoo and charmed me with its mysterioso, the mystery was certainly present at the time and is missing now. So why am I still a fan? Because of the fine, savory tannins on the finish, which amplify the spiciness of the black fruit (which from my limited experience typifies the variety). And because the ripe fruit is warm, rather than flabby or overwrought - which is probably those savory tannins again, anyway, along with some juicy acidity. (Oct. 20, 2011)

Usually this sells for 145 NIS, WineDepot sold it over the holidays for 119 NIS.

Leitz, Rheingau, Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck, Riesling, Spatlese, 2004

While reserved at first - showing talc and slate, sauteed apples and peaches, red apples - the sheer essence of its personality grows more intense until you can get lost sniffing it, studying the understated interplay of fruit and minerals. On the palate, the way the joyous acidity complements the sweetness creates an impression of the Platonic ideal of fresh fruit, while its light touch hammers again the Teutonic claim to fame: no one else makes delicate beauties like this. (Oct. 22, 1011)

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Marc Tempe, Alsace, Burgreben, Riesling, 2001

As always, the honeyed apples on the nose, along with some botrytis funk, make me anticipate a dessert wine and belie the dryness of the palate. An overlay of minerals and an additional layer reminiscent of green tea add further aromatic complexity, while a delicately saline finish completes the game, set and match. I don't have much experience with mature Alsatians but this is a very lovely sample, even if it doesn't appear to have changed a lot over the last couple of years. (Oct. 28, 2011)

Giaconda, 160 NIS.

Recanati, Reserve, Syrah/Viognier, 2009

Nothing more to add to my previous observations. A properly peppery Syrah, with sun-drenched ripeness typical of Israel, yet with great vibrancy and focus, as well as, dare I say, savory tannins. Well, it could use more acidity, but what the hell, this is Israel, it's time I started accepting that. Even so, although I do like it a lot, a whole bottle is still a lot more fatiguing than a Crozes or a Loire red (which were the bottles it had contended with tonight as a possible roast beef match). On the other hand, I don't have to drink them all alone. (Oct. 29, 2011)

Usually this sells for 145 NIS, WineDepot sold it over the holidays for 119 NIS.