Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Matching Pair (Dec. 16, 2015)

Tscharke, Barossa, Touriga Nacional, Matching Socks, 2012

I'm an Old World man, but Avi Feldstein has turned me on to this winery, with the Potter Grenache. I'm not a Grenache fan, so the very fact I liked the Potter was enough to tempt me into trying this. I don't have a lot of experience with Touriga Nacional, except for the occasional Port and whatever Eyal Marom has had me taste. The other extraterritorial samples I've had were Yarden's (T2 or 2T or whatever that lousy liquid was called) and I'm almost certain d'Arenberg also had some Touriga based bottling. The Socks would definitely beat the crap out of the Yarden, which is an easy claim to make. Banana juice would beat the crap out of the Yarden. But I'm pretty sure it would also win over the d'Arenberg, assuming my memory is correct and such a wine does indeed exist. I'm sure the Socks would beat an hypothetical d'Arenberg Touriga Nacional wine, should a real one not exist.

Maybe it's about time I explained why I like this wine. I don't know the variety well enough to vouch that what I'm reading is an apt representation of what the grape is supposed to show, but there is a smoky, meaty bouquet that the wine has preserved beautifully, with notes of white pepper. The palate has a round, friendly feel with a firm, succulent backbone that is borne of juicy, acid driven freshness and savory tannins. Just a splendid piece - New World hygiene, Old World charm. I can't speak for other Francophiles, but this is definitely a welcome addition to my diet.

Mersch, 104 NIS.

Avi also introduced me to Kalleske, Barossa, Clarry's GSM, 2013, which I revisited the day after I went through the Matching Socks. At 169 NIS, it initially  and ultimately gives less pleasure than the Socks, but that's mainly because it's a bruiser - a lithe bruiser, but a bruiser nonetheless - so it's just a little beyond the fringes of my personal tastes. Still closed and opaque, with black fruit, leather, pepper and earth, it really plays a better game of Chateauneuf than the originals do these days.

Monday, January 18, 2016

WhiteWineAge (Jan. 15, 2016)

You can drink white wines during the Israeli winter. You should. Because there are usually less than 20 days of actual winter, the kind of winter days that call for a hearty red wine. The rest of the time, the weather begs for white wines. Or a red Burgundy. Because you should also drink a lot of red Burgundies. But that's a topic for a different post.

What this post is about is a joint initiative of local wineries and importers to promote the drinking of white wines. Most of the the wines below are being offered at participating restaurants by the glass and at discounts. The selection is a no-brainer for me. If I had to select the best sources for local whites, Lewinsohn, Tzora and Sphera would top the list. And everyone who's reading me would agree the best choices for still and sparkling white wines are Burgundy and Champagne.

These wines were tasted at Friday morning buffet luncheon at the Tel Aviv Shulchan restaurant, marking the official launch of this initiative.

Gaston Chiquet, Tradition, Premier Cru, n.v.

The Champagne portion of the event was, for me, challenging, as I found The Chiquet relatively sweet and preferred the Lallement, which others found lightly oxidized. But that's one of the great things about Champagne (and Eldad Levy's selection in particular): there's great diversity in styles, even within specific Champagne regions, and everyone has a favorite. Anyway, whereas I usually agree that Champagne should accompany food, this, with its forward citrus and apples would make for an invigorating aperitif. But just remember that my use of the word "forward" should be taken in context -  this is a Champagne that would seem reserved and bone dry compared to sparkling wines from most areas. 239 NIS.

Jean Lallement, Verzenay Grand Cru, Brut, n.v.

This is more up my alley, being minerally and funky, but, while unlike others I didn't feel there was an excessive amount of oxidization (oxidization may be a stylistic consideration in some houses), this is the second bottle I've had recently that was sub-par. 265 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage du Papa, Blanc, 2014

One of the things I admire about Ido Lewinsohn is that he is equally adept in both red and white wines. And he is very adept  (and all of the above goes for Tzora's Eran Pick). This is a pure Chardonnay, an excellent one that is poised between cool and warm weather Chardonnay (that is, it shows minerals and a bit a bit of flowers, as well as tropical fruit) that needs more time to compose itself - although the nose is excellent already 140 NIS.

Tzora, Judean Hills, Blanc, 2014

If I have to nitpick the Lewinsohn white and find a single fault, it is that it doesn't display, to me, the same sense of origin as his red wines, or as much as the Tzora whites. If you wish to experience a very deep sense of terroir, you'd need to have a go at the white Tzora Shoresh, which is pure Sauvignon Blanc, and of world class quality. The Judean Hills, tasted here, is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon, heavier on the Chardonnay. It's rather more mundane and sweeter than the Shoresh - a working horse, restaurant wine, whereas the Shoresh is more of a wine for special occasions. But it's a wine that usually manages to exceed my expectations when I let it warm up and open. 100 NIS.

Sphera, White Signature, 2013

Unlike Ido and Eran, Sphera's Doron Rav Hon chooses to specialize in white wines (he did make excellent reds during his tenure at Ella Valley, mind you). Pure and reticent, this flagship wine is comprised this year of 65% Chardonnay, the rest Semillon. This drinks youngest of the wines tasted at the launch and needs time to express itself, even in bold strokes. Like all of the Sphera wines, this is a very pure and hints at minerals and rain water - Doron's wines displayed this signature from the first vintage and he has only improved and focused his touch since.  160 (?) NIS.

Domaine Matrot, Bourgogne, 2013

The motherland . Matrot is imported by Bourgogne Crown (Elday Levy again with Daniel Lifshitz). In a portfolio with many good value wines, Matrot is one of the most decently priced producer of white Bourgognes. Let's go back a bit and review what this wine drinking business is all about. The French, who allegedly invented it, discovered that savory, salty, sweetly bitter flavors accompany food better than overtly sweet and fruity ones. Burgundy whites perfected the formula and the Matrot Bourgogne is a good example of it, even though it might hang low in the Bourgogne hierarchy. 115 NIS.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Dec. 2015)

Heiligenstein - birthplace of a dream or two
Weingut Hirsch, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Zöbinger Heiligenstein 1er Lage, Riesling, 2011

Hirsch is great, Heiligenstein is great. This is so amazing and regal in its crystalline expression of fruit and minerals that it's almost like dating out of your league. It's almost daft to say it's young and will improve, but I'm sure that any time I ever open a bottle, I'll want to keep it all to myself.  (Dec. 2, 2015)

Fat Guy, 229 NIS.

Weingut Hirsch, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Zöbinger Gaisberg 1er Lage, Riesling, 2011

This is also great, but different. If the Heiligenstein is stellar and drinking it is like dating a super-model, this is the girl next door. A very beautiful and sexy girl next door, but more accessible, the expression of green apples, spices and minerals a more mundane one. (Dec. 27, 2015)

Fat Guy, 229 NIS.

Recanati, Wild Carignan Reserve, Judean Hills, 2013

This manages to somehow be the most massive of the local Carignans I've tasted, while also the most refined, as though the rocky core was chiseled with mean intent. Spicy/peppery black fruit, good acidity, roasted meat. Very impressive. (Dec. 5, 2015)

149 NIS.

Château Potensac, Medoc Cru Bourgeois, 2006

I don't know how many wines shined in 2006 in Bordeaux, but this sure didn't. It's a very plaintive wine that, while showing a very typical claret facade, has little to offer in terms of complexity, depth or power. Just a simple luncheon claret, the kind that retailers are forced to buy and then wind up offering at discount, which, given the high prices for Bordeaux in the first place, are not usually great value anyway. (Dec. 1, 2015)

Wine Route, 199 NIS on discount.

Chateau Tour Seran, Medoc, 2010

A charming little claret, way better than the Potensac, earthy and upfront, with classical restraint. (Dec. 6, 2015)

135 NIS.

Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Le Clos Guillot, 2010

Light notes of earth that combine with grape's typical green/herbal notes for a good example of how a dash of brett that is embedded in the mix can add complexity. A decent showing, but either I'm less enamored than I used to be or this is a wine that needs time. (Dec. 7, 2015)

Wine Route, 120 NIS.

Fratelli Brovia, Barbera d'Alba, Ciabot del Fi, 2012

This is from Dani Galil's latest catalog. This is sweet and bright, buoyed by good acidity, with spicy vanilla notes  and no discernible tannins. There are also signs of caramel. Not my style. (Dec. 4, 2015)

110 NIS.

Fratelli Brovia, Barolo, 2011

I may not have liked the Ciabot del Fi so much, but this is a winner, infused with spices, tea and minerals and utterly charming. Even the typical tannin crunch of Nebbiolo is more languid than usual and works to great effect. And how wonderful it is to find a young Barolo that sings this well. If I read the producer's site correctly, this is a blend of different vineyards from Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga d'Alba and some the vines are as old as 40 years. (Dec. 8, 2015)

Dani Galil, 175 NIS. Great value.

Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello, Barbera d'Alba, Scudetto, 2011

Higher in alcohol (15%) than the Ciabot del Fi, both are not doing a good job of converting me to the grape. No worries, as you can see, this note is bracketed by two wines that easily sell me on the merits of the king of Piedmont grapes. (Dec. 10, 2015)

Dani Galil, 140 NIS.

Ellena Giuseppe, Barolo, 2011

This, like the Brovia Barolo, is another approachable young Barolo that doesn't sacrifice Old School character for said approachability. Basically it's sourced from thirty year old vines matured in French casks and traditional Slovenian foudres (half and half, but the I don't feel that the French oak dominates the wine). It's more floral than the Brovia but both are recommended as Barolos one can actually drink for pleasure rather than for show. (Dec. 11, 2015)

Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits St. Georges, Vieilles Vignes, 2010

Opened to test drive a batch I bought on discount at Wine Route, not that I had any expectations that a 2010 would be at its best, especially a vieilles vignes. Wait, I want to say something about that. I checked their page at the Kermit Lynch site and the vines are fifty years old, but they're not much older than most of the other bottlings, including the Aligote, and those are not labelled vieilles vignes. Anyway, this has lovely aromas, black cherries and forest floor laced with minerals, while the palate is still bitter and a little puckering. In short, it will indeed need a few years in the fridge - it's approachable now if you enjoy studying a wine's development over the course of an evening (I do) but I assume this will shut down soon. (Dec. 12, 2015)

This is listed as 399 NIS, but I bought it at a 1+1 deal, which makes the price lower than just about anywhere outside of France.

Michel Redde et fils, Pouilly-Fumé, Les Champs des Billons, 2011

Come on New Zealand, Italy, do you really think you can do better than Pouilly-Fumé when this is the competition? This is smoky, saline, with the depth of a Chablis Grand Cru at its best. (Dec. 15, 2015)

Fat Guy, 259 NIS.

Cantine San Marzano, Salento IGT, Il Pumo, 2013

The Salento IGT is located at Italy's 'heel' and going by its geography should be very unremarkable. in practice, it's distinguished for reds from certain indigenous grapes. This is a white comprised of Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia, and the reason I bought it was because I enjoyed Malvasia as a very fun quaffer in Slovenia this summer. This fits the bill indeed, a simple wine, with peaches and minerals that is a great wine to serve to guests. (Dec. 18, 2015)

Mersch, 58 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Pape, Rouge, 2013

Enjoyable and simulating as always, with pepper and minerals decorating fresh black fruit. (Dec. 19, 2015)

149 NIS.

Château Teyssier, St. Émilion Grand Cru, 2009

What a nice claret, quite typical, too, with black berries, cedar and earth, hints of leather.The tannins are grainy, yet savory. I expected this to be modern, maybe too extracted, but it rather seems to be a modern production cast in a classic mold. (Dec. 24, 2015)

Giaconda, 170 NIS.

So long, 2015. You were good to me, in many ways.

Pierre Péters, Champagne, Blanc de Blancs Brut, Cuvée de Réserve, .n.v

The good stuff always gets me with the brioche and nuts and mushrooms, but the ace here is an elegant bedrock of steely chalk that wouldn't be out of place in Puligny. Despite the fact that the Cuvée de Réserve is based on a solera system comprised of multiple back vintages, it is very fresh and vibrant for all that, the nutty character of those older vintages requiring time to show. (Dec. 31, 2015)

Fat Guy, 289 NIS.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Cavin (Dec. 9, 2015)

These are notes from a dinner at Bertie in honor of visiting ambassadors from the famous barrel-maker firm Cavin, one of which is pictured to the left, above. Accompanying the dinner (great as always) were wines matured in their barrels, except for the first two.

Francois Mikulski, Cremant de Bourgogne, n.v.

I'm not really convinced by this sparkling wine, made by a "New Wave" Meursault producer. It's fruity and floral, with light minerals that assert themselves in time, a nice nose, but a little too loose on the palate.The second bottle (opened because the mingling part of the evening required plenty of wine in its own right) was more structured and interesting.

Giaconda, 140 NIS.

Marie et Paul Jacqueson, Rully Premier Cru, Gresigny, 2011

This, on the other hand, is always a pleasure to drink. Although there is an initial abundance of oak, probably due to warm serving temperature, the minerals assert themselves in time. A mini Chassagne.

Giaconda, 150 NIS.

Pierre Marey, Pernand-Verglasses Premier Cru, Sous Fretille, 2013

We had a bad experience with a Corton from this same producer earlier this year, but this is much, much better. The nose is closed, but shows minerals when it opens and a hint of Corton honey and spices, while the mouth is very generous, inasmuch as classic Bourgognes are generous. 

Patrick Pruze, Chablis Grand Cru, Le Clos, 2012 

A different style of Chablis, an oxidative wine-making style according to the professional winemakers in the crowd, but it does show the classic oyster-y character of Chablis, even if the wine comes off more mature than it actually is.

David Duband, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2012

A fun wine from a producer I've been indifferent to the few times I've tasted it. This has joyous, succulent fruit, with pepper and minerals.

Domaine Francois Legros, Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru, Les Millandes, 2012

An obscure producer, I think, so this is a surprise, with restrained elegance and measured amounts of earth and spices. The kind of wine that makes you come for it but greets you half way. Even at its miserly youth.

Emmanuel Rouget, Nuits-St.-Georges, 2011

This is a very revered name, the heir to historic Henri Jayer, who was really a revered name in Burgundy. This tempers an intense mineral vein with balanced elegance, more than you usually find in Nuits. Special.

Burgundy Wine Collection, about 500 NIS.

Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Vignes Rondes, 2012

The Mugneret family is a known name, but I'm not sure I'd call it a revered name, and certainly this is less a wine to revere than the preceding two. The nose is evocative in a restrained way, but the palate has much less structure and breed.

Domaine Georges Noellat, Grand Echezeaux  Grand Cru, 2011

Now this is a wine to be revered! it is very intense and complex, sculpted and fully present and detailed without being massive, showing tobacco, pepper, spices. Grand.

Bourgogne Crown sells the 2012 for 1350 NIS.

Chateaux Vieux Taillefer, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2012

Jammy and dull.