Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vitkin and Carignan

I admit that it's not a coincidence that the people making my favorite local wines are drinking buddies, at the very least, and good drinking buddies at that. For one thing, I like wines that capture not only the the spirit of the land, but display some essence of the winemaker's personality. So, it stands to reason that likable men and women are going to make likable wine, and, Israel being a small country, I'm likely to run into them. And, all other things being equal, I prefer to do business with friends.

But I liked the Vitkin Carignan even before I ever met Assaf Paz, and the reason I wound up buying a six pack from winery was this. I enjoyed the Carignan 2009 a few weeks ago and told Assaf I regret never aging any, and he told me the winery was selling some library wines, so I bought a Carignan 2006, a Riesling 2008 and rounded out the purchase with a few bottles of White Journey 2010.

How were the wines? a sage reader might ask.

White Journey, 2010

Something must be driving local vignerons to make eclectic white blends. Maybe it's just easier to blend Viognier and Gewurztraminer in Israel rather than make varietal wines out of them. Whatever, here they're complemented by French Colombard and Roussane they make for a very interesting, Mediterranean quaffer,  somewhere between the Rhone and Italy in style and flavors, with quite a lot of complexity and stuffing for the price tag. Aromatically, the Viogniner and Gewurtz seem to dominate (because they're bitches and do that and I don't know French Colombard and Rousanne enough to note their contributions). There's a fair portion of acidity here, which is either very careful or adjustment or the French Colombard making up any deficiencies on the part of its fattier, lower acidity playmates. Which just proves why it was a good idea to make a blend in the first place. (Mar. 18, 2013)

About 60 NIS. Your mileage my vary.

Riesling, 2008

The question every Riesling lover will ask himself when drinking this (or, indeed, any New World Riesling) is: "which paradigm does it remind me of?" Germany? Alsace? Austria? Well, a little of all three, although as far as body is concerned, it's as lithe and steely as a decent Teutonic. It has the aromas of dill and petrol of a fairly mature specimen, although it's very fresh and vibrant on the palate, with green apples and a mildly spicy punch, and you can just taste the warmth of the local climate, without any accompanying fatigue. It's not especially complex, but its charm is unquestionable, even surprising - despite my bias towards Assaf's work, it managed to catch me off-guard. (Mar. 19, 2013)

120 NIS, from the winery library.

The wine that started this all thing.

Carignan, 2006

Sweet-ish blackcurrant fruit with pepper notes and hints of cedar and leather. The palate is quite balanced and elegan, in it its own manner, beneath the muscular facade, containing its 14.5% ABV quite well. It's in a stage of healthy maturity and still displays varietal traits, showing decent complexity and definition, although I wish it had a tighter grip - although the finish is admirably tannic, the mid-palate is too broad for comfort. It's still living up to its reputation of being one of the winery's best loved wines. (Mar. 22, 2013)

To put things in perspective, here are the two other prominent local Carignans.

Recanti, Wild Carignan Reserve, 2010

Beneath a dense facade, laden with mineral, sanguine notes, is tasty, earthy black fruit, with meaty, savory tannins and lively acidity. I'm a fan, but judging by the indifferent reaction on the part of the neophytes round the table, I would cellar it for a couple of years before serving it to the uninitiated. (Mar. 16, 2013)

140-150 NIS.

Carmel Winery, Appellation Series, Carignan Old Vines, Zicron Yaakov, 2007

The has the most developed and appealing nose of the three, with comely herbal and earthy notes. This might not have been designed to age (I certainly didn't cellar it; this was a surprisingly mature holiday gift from work) and everything that could possibly have ever resolved on the palate already has. I know it's not especially deep or compelling, but it's a great little food-wine and if I'd drunk it out of a carafe in a bistro in Europe, it'd have my attention and appreciation. (Mar. 23, 2013)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Back To Jerez (Mar. 9, 2013)

I used to drink the stuff all the time, seven years ago. Quality sherries were available at attractive prices on my business trips, so it was the first classic wine I drank on a regular basis. Then my attention wandered, and as drinking partners for sherry became harder to find, my luggage space began to be allocated to more popular styles.

During the two-three years that the sherry bug had hit me, I'd never had a vintage sherry. So when I recently saw the Lustau, Rich Oloroso, Abocado, Anade 1997 (about 20 GBP for a 50 cl bottle), I knew I'd have to try it.

I still get what it's saying. A pungent nose of roasted nuts, olive brine, mildew infested wood. A rich palate that is sweet, yet cleanses the taste buds like a dry wine. It's very classical in style and temperament, and it offers remarkable freshness for a 16 year old wine (that is made in an oxidized style in the first place) but it doesn't offer any angles or edges, which is what I expect from a really special sherry - and that is what I assumed the Anada to be, since the bodega felt the casks the vintage matured in were special enough to be bottled separately. Maybe it's just my relative indifference to the Oloroso style. I always preferred the greater elegance of an Amontillado or a Palo Cortados.

Efrat made this absolutely amazing avocado spread, that I'm sure has red hot peppers in it. It made a match made in heaven with the Abocado 1997, not to mention an apt one etymologically.

Check out the Lustau site.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bourgogne Crown Reds (Mar. 7, 2013)

My new hero. Oronce de Beler of La Maison Romane, with a friend.
Another report from Daniel Lifshitz and Dan Roman's portfolio, from a formal sit-down tasting. The setting put some of the wines I'd already tasted in a different context, adding one important highlight: The Corton offered by La Maison Romaine is the first Corton I've tasted worthy of the Grand Cru label. Chapeau!

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny les Beaune Premier Cru, Aux Guettes, 2010

From the highest vineyard in the village, 20% new barrels, 20 year old vines. Earthy red fruit, flowers and a touch of minerals. Silky tannins. Still on the one dimensional side, especially when compared to the La Dominode, tasted in the same flight. 230 NIS.

Domaine Pavelot, Savigny les Beaune Premier Cru, La Dominode, 2010

A lower vineyard, but with a better, south-facing aspect, 30% new barrels, 80 year old vines. The nose is more intense and mineral laden. The palate is denser and deeper. Both these wines are delicious and terrific value. 270 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Pommard Premier Cru, Largillere, 2010

45-65 year old vine, no new barrels. Funky red fruit, languidly ripe, with a mineral strain. Reservedly wild and individualistic.

La Maison Romane is the brain and love child of Oronce de Beler, wine writer turned biodynamic wine maker. Oronce doesn't own any parcels, instead he tends the vineyards of some esteemed, like-minded names in Burgundy, with his two horses, in exchange for fruit, which he then elevates very non-intrusively in his tiny cellar in Vosne. Daniel remarked that he finds a lot of Vosne in this wine, seeing as it was fermented in Vosne, with Vosne yeasts. Maybe so. I still get a lot of Apollonian muscles of Pommard. 350 NIS.

Domaine Alain Burguet, Gevrey Chambertin, "Mes Favorites", 2008

20% new barrels. A cuvee of vineyards bordering on the Gevrey Grand Crus. An explosive nose, even funkier than the Largillere, very detailed and dense, and the palate is on the same level, with silky fruit. 365 NIS.

Domaine Amiot-Servelle, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Charmes, 2010

Loads of fucking flowers, on both nose and palate. Raspberries and lacy tannins fill out the picture. I wasn't crazy about the basic village I tasted a couple of  months ago, but this wine is something else. With more air, a more attentive setting, its Chambole-ness is striking - and that intense essence of flowers is memorable enough to make me want more of the same: I'm a hoarder of memorable moments! 500 NIS.

Both of the following wines were opened a day before the tasting, yet remained closed. So my report is going to be quite vague.

Chateau de la Tour, Clos de Vougeout, 2008

Intense, almost black, fruit, on the nose. Very young and monolithic. 640 NIS.

Chateau de la Tour, Clos de Vougeout, Vieilles Vignes, 2007

90-100 year old vines. More elegant than the "regular" 2008, with sweet, sexy fruit. 1000 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Corton Grand Cru, Perrieres, 2008

Anarchy in the Cote de Beaune. There is something so wild and out of the box here, that descriptors are useless, but I will try. Limpid, juicy fruit that thrives on an indifference to putting out. Exotic spices. Angles, mirrors and smoke, and a pale color not unlike that found in a Leroy or an Engel. 500 NIS.

Domaine Amiot-Servelle, Charmes-Chambertin, 2010

Very elegant and feminine, with a flowery perfume similar to his Charmes. A purity of fruit that telegraphs its origin. 900 NIS.

Domaine Alain Burguet, Chambertin Clos de Beze, 2007

Elegant with a Middle Easter bazaar kind of bouquet. Long and balanced. I wish I could afford it, but I can't, so for now I just enjoy encountering it at tastings. 1300 NIS.

The prices are quoted from the price list, but discounts at the importers' tastings are quite attractive.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Taking Care Of Business (Feb. 2013)

A great discovery from Traisental, Austria.
Of course, whoever is in charge of the wine
list at NOPI found it before I did.

Chateau Lascombes, Margaux 2me Cru, 2003

2003 certainly has its faults, but in this case, hardly the ones I'd expected. The fruit is ripe, but far from being a blockbuster; and with its 12.5 % ABV, it might have been picked on the early side, if a certain greenness in the tannins is any indication. Other than that, there's a lot of claret here: a perfumed nose redolent of cedar wood, a touch of minerals, suave currant fruit; and a palate with a solid backbone of acidity.

WineRoute, about 250 NIS seven years ago.

Midbar Winery, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

This feels even more like a Graves white than before, with its summer fruits infused with an ever intensifying mineral overlay. Still in a shell at this point, with a sensation of bitter peels at the end. This should be left alone for a year. (Feb. 8, 2013)

Contrada Michelle, Taurasi, Hirpus, 2005

It's nice to find an Italian with some bottle age on it on the local market, especially one that's not one of the "usual suspects". This is Aglianico, from Campania, and it's a tasty, rustic treat, displaying a very Italian nose of chives and earth, red cherries and tobacco leaves; a nose that leaves me anticipating, and finding, similar enjoyment on the palate - where the highlight is a saline, juicy finish. (Feb. 9, 2013)

Giaconda, 120 NIS.

Ecker-Eckhof, Wagram, Schlossberg, Gruner Veltliner, 2011

This is a work horse, mellow and deep, with loads of minerals and pepper, deftly framed by apples and apricots. The fruit seems to have sucked every second of sunlight without becoming overripe in any way. (Feb. 11, 2013)

Wine Domains Of Austria, 100 NIS.

Vitkin, Carignan, 2009

The best yet. The leathery, peppery lift framing the blackcurrants on the nose is a cross between Bordeaux and the Rhone, while the palate retains a fair measure of elegance despite the sweet fruit, with a delicious, saline finish. (Feb. 16, 2013)

In the great Land Of German Riesling, Donnhoff is King.

Dönnhoff, Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2004

Apples and slate, a hint of petrol , bound together in a cocoon of focused and racy acidity. The saline finish is all about finesse. This delicious wine doesn't wow so much as soothe. (Feb. 19, 2013)

Giaconda, about 180 NIS once upon a time.

Deux Montilles, Meursault Premier Cru, Poruzots, 2006

Very much a Meursault, roasted nuts and pears, with a light overlay of minerals and a hint of mushrooms. The palate is on the honeyed, fat side, but healthy dose of acidity gives it a semblance of elegance, at the very least. Decent, but I expect more from Alix Montille.(Feb. 22, 2013)

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 300 NIS.

Domaine du Pegau, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvee Reserve, 2004

I suspect that when I finally drink my last bottle of Chateauneuf, my fondest memories will be of Pegau. This bottle is as close to my ideal of elegant, old school wines that as the Southern Rhone idiom manages to come. First of all, because it's still really old school. As dense and ripe as the best - or worst - of the appellation, it still manages to pack a savory, mineral-laden punch, with rusty tannins and trademark notes of iron and garrigue. Just freakin' yummy! (Feb. 23, 2013)

WineRoute, about 300 NIS.

Nicola Joly, Savennieres, Roche Aux Moines, Clos de la Bergerie, 2006

Fascinating. This has a complex,"old wood furniture" musk of a mature red, and yet beneath that, are aromas  of clementines and baked apples, and, to throw yet another spanner or two into the works, there is also a funky note a la botrytis, as well a bit of ash. The palate is taut, yet lush at the same time, dry, yet with a ripeness that hints at sweetness. Very well proportioned, this is a wine that doesn't really fit into any pedestrian sort of niche. I figured it out in the end, though. This is an orange wine. (Feb. 24, 2013)

Giaconda, 283 NIS.

Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Macon-Milly-Lamartine, Clos du Four, 2011

This is the third vintage I've had of this wine and it's always remarkably consistent. Oranges and green apples, spiced up by pungent notes of flint and dry grass, with ripe acidity. A pretty little classic. (Feb. 25, 2013)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 150 NIS.

Stepping outside my jurisdiction, here are a couple of wines from London. The Gruner is a minor gem.

Rivera, Apulia, Castle Del Monte DOC, Rupicolo, 2010

70% Montepulciano, 30% Nero di Troia from Apulia in Puglia. Red fruit, chives, tobacco leaves, soft tannins. The sort of mellow, slightly spicy red that Italy can produce and should produce more of. About 23 GBP by the bottle at Ciccheti.

Huber, Austria, Traisental, Gruner Veltliner, "Obere Steigen", 2010

Very pure GV, peas, melons, red apples, earthy spiciness, and aromas reminiscent of rain water, broad and ripe. Too fat to be a Grand Cru, but excellent, no matter where it came from. 10 GBP by the glass at Nopi.