Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Portugal Report 2016

I paid Eyal Maron a visit, had a late lunch with my kids and tasted a few Portugese wines. It was really an excuse to buy some wines, but it was such a lovely afternoon that even a flat tire didn't damper my mood. I'm going through my new stash now, and I really love their style. I owe Eyal for introducing me to the region and I think the wines deserve an annual review. Portugal has a number of interesting indigenous grapes that are full of punch and personality.

The bottom line is, Luis Pato rules! But I wouldn't kick Álvaro Castro out of my bed.

Quinta do Portal, Douro, Grande Reserva, 2009

Duoro is, of course, the famous home of Port, but the last decade or two have spawned many excellent tables wines, such as this one, with its Old World reserve, with charm borne of inherent spiciness of the fruit (a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca). Texturally and structurally, it comes off as Medoc, transplanted to a different locale, in vigorous maturity. The flavors, though, are wilder, spicier than a claret's, while the acidity is marvelously fine. This is aged for a year in new French barrels, according to the winery's technical sheet, but the oak is virtually unnoticeable. Either the grapes take well to oak or the wine-making is very sensitive. I love it. (Dec. 30, 2015)

240 NIS.

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vinha Barrosa, 2011

I tasted this in May when Eyal organized a Portugese wine and food festival, and I felt my note was too cursory, given that even short stand up taste was not enough to obscure how excellent this wine is. Luis Pato is one of the stars of the Bairrada region, specializing in the difficult, yet signature, Baga grape. This is a single vineyard bottling, from ungrafted vines, and it has iron, meaty aromas - as well as a funk that I perceive as a character of the grapes, rather than lack of hygiene or brett (I find the same thing in Carignan sometimes). The tannins are very supple and savory, if still puckering, and the acidity livens up the black and red fruit. This is simply a very appealing wine, and still young. Glad to have another bottle to age. (Jan. 1, 2016)

216 NIS.

Quintas do Portal, Duoro, Moscatel Galego Branco, 2014

Litchi and guayavas galore, a refreshing delight, with a salty finish, reminiscent of a dry Scheurebe. (Jan. 2, 2016)

93 NIS.

Quinta do Mouro, Alentejo, Estremoz, 2008

This is a blend of Aragones (local version of Tempranillo), Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose, especially, reminds me of Nebbiolo, with a similar spicy/tarry character, yet with a unique, piercing herbal streak that is very far off from anything Piedmontese. It's full and ripe, but the black/blue fruit is tempered by the acidity and tannins. I like it less than the previous two reds, but it really fits the bill as a cold winter evening wine. (Jan. 8, 2016)

210 NIS.

Quinta do Vallado Douro, Sousao , 2012

I was intrigued by the interesting spices when I tasted it with Eyal from an open bottle, but the bottle I had at home was marred by bitter tannins. Nevertheless, this is a good bistro wine from a workhorse grape usually used to bolster color, which is probably why Eyal called it the Portugese Argaman. Or maybe because Sousao was crossed with Carignan to create Argaman in the first place. (Jan. 9, 2016)


Luis Pato, Fernão Pires Bairrada, 2012

It seems Luis Pato is the most consistently special producer in the catalog (along with Alvaro Castro). This is an example of an especially creative mind, as it is a red wine comprised of 94% Fernão Pires, which is a white (!) grape and 6% Baga. Pato, as I wrote above, is a master of Baga, and this outre blend somehow works, as the two grapes combine for a very Burgundian effect (although the wine doesn't work well in a Bourgogne glass, believe me, I tried). It's an earthy wine, transposing the spicy kick of Baga unto a mellow tapestry and a lithe frame that encourages a saline finish, one I didn't find in the other reds. (Jan. 9, 2016)

100 NIS.

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vinha Formal, 2010

Unlike most of the Pato wines (at least the ones imported to Israel), this is made of Touriga Nacional. The vineyard is young, but the yields are comparable with old vines. Enough forensics. This is elegant and saline, with red and black fruit that are layered with minerals and smoked meat and shows a funk similar to the the Vinha Barrosa. (Jan. 15, 2016)

200 NIS

Álvaro Castro, Dão, Quinta da Pellada, 2011

I knew this report wouldn't be complete without one of Álvaro Castro's flagship wines (the other available locally is the Pape, which I drank and loved last year), but the bottle seemed off when I opened it, so I moved on to another wine and stuck this in the kitchen fridge for cooking purposes. I returned to it four days later, which, honestly, is something I never do. I guess it was never off. What bothered me the first day was that it seemed flat, with little tannins. Just dumb. Days later, it's more than tannic enough, with an earthy, spicy nose halfway between Bourgogne and Bordeaux. The palate, though, is in a land of its own: lithe, yet muscular, with a long, savory finish and flavors that have more to do with tobacco and jamon than with fruit. It will need about five years to show its best. (Feb. 1, 2016)

220 NIS.

The  Quinta da Pellada would have been a fitting finale for this month long love affair. Except I ordered a couple of wines at a Saturday brunch before this post 'went to press'.

Álvaro Castro, Dão, Tinto Reserva, 2012

Since I now realize the flagship Castro reds need time to mature, I will content myself with this pretty mid-tier red, with its floral, earthy fruitiness and vibrant freshness, and a measured bit of rusticity. Like the 2011, this gives the impression that it was picked at its phenolic peak, just before the fruit started to lose its verve. Terrific acidity that vitalizes the palate, black cherries, earth and iron aromas that spark the heart. (Feb. 6, 2016)

131 NIS.

Quinta do Estanho, Tawny Port, 20 Years

Tasted this alongside the 10 Years version. The Ten Years was a fruity version of the tawny style, thus the roasted nuts were not at stage center, whereas they were in fact the centerpiece of the older wine (similar to the way the fruit is the supporting actor with dry Old World wines). It's a meditation wine, not a dessert wine, designed for the aesthetic pleasure of sifting through its nutty, leather nuances. (Feb. 6, 2016)

283 NIS.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Jan. 2016)

Holy Durif! Two Petite Sirahs in the same month!
La Maison Romane, Macon, Eaux Vives, 2012

This Macon sourced from young Gamay vines carries on with the style of the 2011 version - sour cherries laced with funky earthiness - and presents an example of good use of brett (assuming it's something one actually plans for rather than allows to happen). Which pisses me off a bit, as I've been coming up with arguments why brett is always wrong. But here it just conjures romantic images of horses and farmland, rather than that of festering germs. Which I think has to do with how the light brett is just one more detail of aromatic landscape, in which it finds a rustic affinity. And, mmm, that acidity is very refreshing and savory. (Jan. 3, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 120 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Macon, Chateau de Berze, 2012

It surprised me to find brett in the Eaux Vives, because I'd assume brett is the product of a hygienic condition and thus would show up in other wines from a given property, and it doesn't in this case, in my experience. To wit, this higher tier Macon. While the house style is dirty and funky, it has more to do with a generic funk and rust, and mud, supplemented by spices - and this is a showcase of that style, with juicy, saline acidity complementing the plump Gamay fruit. I've said it before, this could beat the best Beaujolais Cru I've had. (Jan. 6, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 200 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2013

This is a soft and silky wine that yet manages to convey the Gevrey character. Again, this has a funky stink that makes me consider the possibility of brett. In the context of Gevrey, it's appropriate, because we expect a certain animalism.  (Jan. 15, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 430 NIS.

Domaine Benoit Ente, Aligote, 2013

Look, Daniel really brings in great Aligotes, that usually punch above their weight. This is so full of minerals and dried grass that it would be a dead ringer for a good Chassagne, only the lithe, limey character of the grape giving it away. That, and the acidity that would cleanse your palate even if you were eating a uranium sandwich. (Jan. 11, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 125 NIS.

I attended a very enlightening tasting presented by Itay Lahat. Itay was one of the wave of winemakers that came on the scene in the late 90's, early 2000's and worked at Barkan before becoming a consultant winemaker at various local establishments. He talked about his approach and philosophy and we tasted some of the wines he felt presented his beliefs. If that sounds stuffy, then you obviously don't know the people in attendance and have never dined at the private room at Brut. The best of the lot were the Kishor, Riesling, 2012 and the Kishor, Savant Red, 2013. Kishor is a winery where the workforce is people with special needs, but the reason I'm recommending them is that they're just plain good. The Savant is tannic and focused, while the Riesling is very special indeed, steely, chalky and off dry, almost a ringer for Pfaltz Spatlese, yet a hint of wet fur (which might put some people off, but which I liked) adds an original  touch. The Ortal, Ga'ash, 2012 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a touch of Syrah, and is muscular, yet lovely, with an appealing overlay of minerals and smoke.

Giuseppe Cortese, Barbaresco, Rabajà, 2005

This is one of my favorite Barbarescos. This is one of the few times that a Nebbiolo actually reminded me of Bourgogne, as along with the typical spicy/dusty tar and iron I also find a lot of forest floor. It's only 13.5% ABV and I feel it in its lithe, mellow structure. The relative lightness also allows the saline favors to come to the fore and meld with the rusty tannins. When I want to explain to people why I love wine (as opposed, I guess, to people who just casually date wines), this is the kind of wine I'd have them taste. (Jan. 14, 2016)

Dani Galil (Gene Proof), 220 NIS. A very good bargain.

Lewinsohn, Petite Sirah, 2014

This is single barrel that Ido made of whole cluster grapes. It doesn't have a name yet and the labeling hasn't been finalized yet, but it already hold great promise for being a very special wine, and one of the best made in Israel. One the one hand, it is sweet and very Israeli, yet it shows a focus few local reds show. The nose is intense and infused with green tea and herbs. It's still tannic, whereas the regular Lewinsohn red is already user friendly. (Jan. 15, 2016)

Vincent Paris, Cornas, Granit 30, 2010

This cuvee comes from young vines and a modest inclination. It's well made and amply displays the characteristics of Northern Rhone Syrah - suave black fruit, black pepper, bacon and juicy acidity. It also shows the rocky grunge and rusty tannins I expect from Cornas. A very good introduction to Cornas, I'm quite happy with it, as would any lover of old school Rhone. (Jan. 16, 2015)

28 GBP.

Fratelli Brovia, Barolo, 2011

A classic Barolo I liked a lot, admired and loved, when I first drank it last month - so much I chased down a few more bottles, so much I couldn't keep my hands off. The nose is intriguing and evocative of the Old World - cherries, dried petals and earth, iron, tar - and even though the palate seems a little oxidized, the acidity is lively enough and the tannins savory enough to hold it together. (Jan. 21, 2016)

Dani Galil, 175 NIS. Great value.

Vitkin, Grenache Blanc, 2014

A leafy, minty greenness a la Gruner Veltliner, a blend of sweet and saline flavors. I shy away from Rhone whites because of their low acidity, but this is very fresh and bright, which, combined with a certain earthy fat, makes for an intriguing wine. (Jan. 22, 2016)

Sold out, cost 125 NIS.

Kalleske, Barossa, Clarry's GSM, 2013

A friendly showing, with spicy, ripe, yet fresh, black fruit. (Jan. 28, 2016)

Mersch, 169 NIS.

Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2005

There's a post about a recent Vitkin Petite Sirah vertical tasting in the pipeline, so consider this a preview. The 2005 was one of the stars of that tasting, tied with the 2008 for first place, but it stood out for being a robustly mature ten year old Israeli red, that not only retained the vigor of its youth, but also showcased how the Petite Sirah can evolve into something resembling its namesake Syrah. In this case, the black fruit emboldened by graphite and black pepper and driven by dusrty tannins is, for me, Cornas crossed with Bairrada. There's enough brett to lend character, not enough to detract per se, although I do think the fruit has enough substance to be just a interesting without it. (Jan. 30, 2016)

Latter-day vintages sell for about 120 NIS, your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Zacki And The Case Of The Deep Sixed '06 (Dec. 28, 20150

Brother Zacki put together a brand new Bourgogne tasting group. I got suckered into it, like he knew I would. I love the company and I love Burgundy. However, the kickoff tasting highlighted a sore point.


The 2006's initially held great promise of classicism, for me, anyway, but they then went into a charmless shell. Merchants in need of a sound bite call it a vintage for purists. But the press calls every vintage that is not blatantly ripe (2003, 2005, 2009) a purists' vintage. I'm a purist and I prefer 2008 and 2010. These are the real deal for hardcore Bourgogne lovers. And the 2007's can be a real joy for us as well, an easy going joy. But not, as the following notes will show, the 2006's.

Jean Lallement, Verzenay Grand Cru, n.v.

This is usually a Champagne I adore, but this time it lacks the usual chicken broth that has capivated me in the past and the mousse is very meager. An off bottle, perhaps?

Generally decently priced at 265 NIS. Fat Guy.

Bouchard et Fils, Meursault Premier Cru, Perrieres, 2004

This is tight, stingy at first, and even when it opens up, it remains very lean, coming off as a compressed Meursault. It stays away from the hardcore, fat Meursault school of yesteryear - even the typical nuts show as nut oil. But along the way, it has lost some of the charm it had when it was younger and now seems almost too lean for comfort.

Domaine de Montille, Pommard Premier Cru, Pezerolles, 2006

It starts out earthy, a little metallic, but with some forest floor, and then air brings out flowers, iron and pungent minerals. The general consensus is it would have been a good Village wine, and while I am a little more generous, I agree it lacks the obvious stuffing of a Premier Cru.

Burgundy Wine Collection, this cost me 350 NIS six years ago, but recent, low yield vintages cost about 500 NIS.

Domaine de Montille, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, 2006

The nose is detailed enough,with forest floor and leather, but not really expressive or vibrant. The palate s even worse, without the length or depth of a Grand Cru. Useless for all intents and purposes.

Wow, I don't know how much this cost back in the day, but the recent vintage is listed as 960 NIS at the Burgundy Wine Collection site, making it the most expensive red in the Montille portfolio, barring the Vosne-Romanée 1er cru Malconsorts cuvées, and in general expensive for a Clos Vougeot.

So these 2006's obviously did not spark. But it could be de Montille reverting to pere Montille's non-user friendly, austere style.

Domaine Hubert Lignier, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Baudes, 2007

I've always loved what I had from this house, and this is no exception. Very complex and deep, yet electric with vibrancy, with typical Chambolle flowers and exotic spices along with fresh red fruit and iron. My wine of the night.

Louis Jadot, Gevrey-Chambertain Premier Cru, Combes Aux Moines, 2002

Everyone seemed to like this more than I did. I found it too overworked, with a convoluted nose that is exotic on the surface but really tries too hard. The palate is decent plus, but the tannins are very drying, and even at thirteen years of age, I think a 2002 Premier Cru should be fresher.

Domaine Arlaud, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, 2007

The nose is lovely, languid and redolent of rotting leaves. Tasting it blind, I thought it had a vibrancy that was testament to how well the wine had aged, because I had pegged it as late 90's. Everyone else did, too. So, its quite a letdown to learn its true age, because, while it's vibrant enough for a 16 year old, it is surely more mature than you'd expect from an 8 year old Grand Cru. Many of us have noticed that imported Arlaud's have aged faster than bottles purchases abroad. A shame, as, at its best, this is a marvelous domaine.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Christmas Came Early This Year (Dec. 23, 2015)

I need to get out more, vary the routine. It's like I'm always drinking Bourgognes with the same people. On the other hand, if I had to send Santa a list of wines for Christmas, I'm sure Lamy, Burguet, Guyot, Merme et al would be on it.

The setting this time: Eldad Levy and Daniel Lifshitz organized a small end of year tasting of the Bourgogne Crown portfolio at the Norman, a Tel Aviv boutique hotel,

In lieu of the usual Champagne, a 'simple' red was served as aperitif.

Domaine Gerard Julien, Côte de Nuits Villages, 2012

This is basically just a house wine, but I vouch it's one of the best house wines you can find, with tasteful red fruit aromas coupled with light earthiness, and a very inviting, soft palate that is more floral than the nose. 165 NIS.

After the aperitif, we went on to three young whites and a vigorously mature one. I'm a big fan of Lamy and Matrot, buying a few bottles from each year's catalog. The other two are also very good, and I enjoy them tremendously when I chance upon them, but don't buy consistently.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de la Chateniere, 2013

Gorgeous nose: flint and dried grass, pears flecked with Atlantic salt. Fine acidity (the Lamy signature) provides structure, but, having said that, this will be even better once some baby fat is sweated off. 365 NIS.

Domaine Morey-Coffinet, Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru, Les Caillerets, 2012

If you were to ask the enlightened Burgundy lover what is the most off-putting aspect of Chassagne, I wager the typical answer would be its four-squareness. I've tasted Morey-Coffinet a few times, and while I have found them at times to be in a four squared stage, at their best they prove to me that this is one of the Chassagne producers that can break out of that mold. Likewise, here I get a sense of the inherent balance, so even though the spicy oak is too obvious, I think it will integrate with the fruit, which is about pears, basically. At any rate, it's lovely to sniff: floral, with a minerality that is very rocky and salty. 380 NIS.

Domaine Charles Buisson, Meursault Premier Cru, Bouches-Cheres, 2012

None of the young whites were quite ready, this even less so - and they had all been open since the morning. The lovely nose shows a complex lattice of minerals, some white meat. The palate is fat, but, where the Lamy and the Morey-Coffient balanced that fat with acidity, here the balance comes from the density of the fruit. 500 NIS.

Domaine Matrot, Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru, 2007

This is, basically, a very communicative, wide wine, that has gained focus in bottle and is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Granted, that crowd would by nature be lovers of clear, saline whites, but it does lack some subtlety. 390 NIS.

Domaine Olivier Guyot, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, Champeaux, 2011

People call Gevrey sauvage, but for me, that has to do more with the personality of the wines, rather than animal aromas and flavors per se. Anyway. Red fruit and minerals, here, as well as a hint of flowers . The minerals provide force, but this is basically a likable, straightforward, clear wine with no artificial flash, yet with enough nuances to urge to reach for it. Lovely. 390 NIS.

Domaine Amiot-Servelle, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, Les Charmes, 2012

Every time I drink a Charmes from this house, I almost overdose on the flowers. They're everywhere, both on the nose and palate. With 2012, the florality is even denser. In fact, everything this about this wine is dense. In Burgundian terms, anyway. Even the fine tannins are dense, which is not to say the wine is muscular. It's not. It's quite elegant. It's just that its texture is dense. Beyond the flowers and the tannins, it packs red fruit and exotic spices. 620 NIS.

Domaine Burguet, Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, Les Rouges du Dessus, 2012

Burguet always makes very floral wines, even in Gevrey. But don't expect the same type of flowers as in the Charmes. If I knew my flowers, I'd tell you which is which, but I don't, so all I can tell is it's a different bouquet. The end result is very Vosne and very harmonious and tasty, with integrated saline flavors and a complex fusion of spices and flowers. 750 NIS.

Domaine Taupenot Merme, Mazoyeres-Chambertin Grand Cru, 2011

Because 2011 is very approachable and because, like all the wines, this was opened in the morning, you can get a good feel for this Grand Cru. And a lovely, sexy, fluid Grand Cru it is, lush with intoxicating wild fruit and flowers. 990 NIS.

Domaine Pierre Duroche, Latricieres-Chambertin, 2013

This, on the other hand, is still very primal, putting all its weight in the sweet, but firm, mid-palate. It's opaque, yet there is a purity to it, and even clarity. How can a wine be both opaque and clear? Let's just call it another example of a great wine's contradiction. 850 NIS.