Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bourgogne Sightings and Ramblings

Rapet Père et Fils, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru, En Caradeux, 2013

I know what I was looking for in white Burgundies when I started out. I read what the wine the books had to say about the classic idiom and the notion appealed to me: savory, focused whites, carrying hints of nuts and minerals and offering saline, rather than sweet, flavors. Most of the wines I tried at the time (say, seven to ten years ago) were fairly young, so they only insinuated at their potential to evolve into the ideal I was looking for. Many were at least a little oaky and fat and they remained that way when we returned to them years later. At best. At worst they didn't keep well at all, as Burgundy whites have been cursed by premox for the last two decades, meaning there are premature signs of oxidation in wines that used to carry their age much better in the past.

Eventually, I learned how to find what I was looking for. Some winemakers offer wines whose body fat and immediate pleasures make good first impressions, i.e. they were ripe and oaky - and let's face it, ripeness and oak sell wines to newbies. Many buyers remain newbies forever, so there's obviously a market share out there for wines whose lack of focus and depth is obscured by oak.

On the other hand, there are wines that start out fat and oaky, yet I'd sense they have enough substance to carry them long enough through the cellar to shed the fat and oak. Or would, if not for premox.

So I'm on the lookout for a third option, wines where the fruit is clenched in a compact, relatively lean frame in youth and where you can easily get a sense of purity and clarity. I'm not saying everything about the wine needs to be obvious, but I want to be able to easily see past the oak and baby fat.  And I do prefer to err on the side of leanness and acidity. And I don't like oak. If it's there, I want the fruit and acidity to be dominant enough that I don't have to fret about needing to age the wine for so long that premox might be an issue, even though I do believe that wines dominated by acidity and fruit are less likely to be cursed by premox to begin with.

But I was going to write about a wine, and the reason I'm boring you with this spiel is that the En Caradeux easily typifies my ideal in Bourgone whites. It really ticks off every checkbox I need: clarity, purity, that compact, focused leanness that belies substance. And it comes from an excellent terroir, a Premier Cru close to the Corton-Charlemagne hill. Which means importers will hype this as a mini-Corton - and they'd be right. Except that with its green apple peels, flint, Atlantic salt, great length and focus, you could just as easily mistake it for a cooler climat Puligny Premier Cru. (Dec. 1, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 290 NIS.

I knew what I'd written for the Rapet went beyond a mere tasting note. I seem to be full of thoughts, simple and intricate, about Burgundy lately. So I just let my muse go rambling though the woods this month.

Domaine des Miles (Domaine Fourrey), Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2015

Chablis was relatively free of the issues that bothered me with the Cote d'Or whites, the steely leanness of the style too easily identifiable and marketable for producers to be tempted to go for too much oak (except for some top crus). This is an excellent example of getting Chablis right, aromas of apples and chalk echoed on the palate, carried by vibrant acidity to a saline finish. The internet says Miles is owned by Domaine Fourrey, and I have to say I wasn't very excited with the Côte de Léchet 2014 from Fourrey proper earlier this year. I assume the two domaines are run by one team, but who knows, and anyway, the media (as well as my limited experience) doesn't seem to make them out to be earth shakers, no Raveneau, Duavissat, Henri or Droin. However, this - this would be a good house wine, especially if Wine Route sell them at a discount, as they are wont to do with wines in this price niche. For now, the selling price of 169 is just okay. (Dec. 3, 2016)

Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Premier Cru, Côte de Léchet, 2013

I wouldn't go as far as saying the Dampt team are better winemakers than Miles/Fourrey, but someone in the domaine is more sensitive to the Chablis ideal and has a finer artistic flair. Certainly if what you're looking for are the maritime aromas and salty crunch on the finish, you could lose yourself in a bottle all evening long. I know I would, if I had been more conservative with my small stash. This is almost my last bottle and my pleasures have been consistently bountiful. (Dec. 4, 2016)

This was bought at a 2 for 300 NIS discount at Wine Route and I've always been pleased with the purchase.

Château de Beru, Chablis, Clos Beru, 2012

This is the flagship wine of the Château de Beru, unique for being a sort of cult house with no Grand Cru holdings, just a Premier Cru Vaucoupin, a few Chablis cuvées and this, a monople, walled single vineyard in the basic Chablis AOC that costs more than most Premier Crus. It's worth it, though, if you buy a wine for what it's inside the bottle and not what's on the label; I agree that some houses abuse that notion, but in this case, the price is reasonable. Having said that, it's a rather idiosyncratic version of Chablis, somehow managing to be both ripe and racy at the same time, coming on almost like a Champagne, offering baked apples and mushrooms as well as more typical chalk and salt. The acidity is excellent, a perfect counterpoint to the fruit, which is as deep as a Grand Cru's - almost fat in a vaguely Meursault vein, in fact. (Dec. 17, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 250 NIS.

Simon Bize, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Aux Grands Liards, 2010

I'd been aging this for three years, fretting about opening my 2010's too early (and I opened the Bize Perrières 2010, a mere Bourgogne, too early and never enjoyed it). But this is in a remarkably enjoyable phase, the nose somehow mixing iron, clay and spices with cool black fruit to make for an intriguing complexity, the tannins persistent enough to support the acidity and lend structure without blockading the fruit, asserting themselves as the wine airs to make a point: this village wine will keep and develop for some years to come. Really savory and delicious, the first Bize I've had that lived up to the house's reputation. (Dec. 7, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 240 NIS - still available.

A. et P. de Villaine, Côte Chalonnaise, La Fortune, 2011

Aubert de Villaine has been leading Domaine Romanee-Conti for the last three or four decades. His residence is at Bouzeron where he grows and vinefies Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligote. Villaine is said to be the driving force behind the promotion of the Aligote-only Bouzeron AOC. I like his Bouzeron, but to be quite honest, I'm more enamored of other Aligotes (Ente, Bouisson). Following the Bouzeron promotion, Pinot and Chardonnay wines from the village are bottled as Côte Chalonnaise, so this is actually a village wine. I was a fan of Villaine for years and bought La Fortune and La Digoine regularly. Both are Côte Chalonnaise reds from Bouzeron vineyards, the La Fortune sourced from relatively young vines. I wouldn't have thought of drinking a La Fortune at five years of age, especially from a vintage like 2011, which by all accounts is one to drink on the younger side - but a stash at a local restaurant had really tempted me. And it really is drinking remarkably well, stinging me with the Burgundian Cupid arrow of autumnal, mellow strawberries and underbrush. If I set aside this romantic enthusiasm, I have to admit that, while the attack and middle palate are fresh enough, the fruit is just starting to dry out on the finish. Despite my reservation, for me, this is a very good wine (Dec. 10, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 130 NIS.

Domaine de Montille, Beaune Premier Cru, Perrières, 2010

A simple Montille Bourgogne 2002 was what hooked me on to Burgundy, some twelve years ago. Etienne de Montille turned père Hubert's domaine into a mini-empire, that by now has extended beyond the family's original Volnay and Pommard holdings, into significant Vosne and Nuits vineyards. The Perrières bottling is located relatively low in the hierarchy, but it's a very good Beaune Premier Cru, and a good value in Burgundian terms, year in and year out. Off course, in a great vintage like 2010 it's an especially good buy. Typically for Beaune, we have here aromas of black fruit and minerals - Mediterranean market spices adding a touch of exotic splendor - and vividly fresh fruit and acidity on the palate (more so than the Bize, just to give a frame of reference). It's a good example of Etienne's style: friendly, sexy fruit, with a subtle, yet persistent, tannic structure. A very attractive wine. (Dec. 15, 2016).

Burgundy Wine Collection, 290 NIS for recent vintages. Starting with the 'classic' Montille Crus in Volnay and Pommard, the prices become a little too dear for comfort, but this is, like I wrote, a recommended buy.

The go-to names for Burgundy in Israel are Burgundy Wine Collection and Bourgogne Crown. Both specialize in the region and carry a mix of classic names and up and coming stars. What about the Wine Route empire, though? My problem with Wine Route's Burgundy portfolio has always been lack of commitment. Producers come, producers go. I never get a sense that someone is trying to build up a following or a true partnership. Just look at how they handle Chablis. Dampt one year, Fourrey/Miles the next, only the obvious crus from ubiquitous Fevre hanging in there year to year (Vaillons, Valmur, Clos - a rather short list for a producer with holdings in just about every Chablis vineyard). Burgundy proper has always been even more slapdash, only Jadot maintaining a consistent presence. I sometimes wish they'd just hand over their Burgundy contacts to someone who actually gives a fuck. But, sometimes, they do surprise me.

Charles Van Canneyt, Bourgogne, 2013

This is an interesting offering from from Wine Route, perhaps hinting at a potentially attractive addition to their sporadically interesting Burgundy portfolio. Van Canneyt is the winemaker at famed Domaine Hudelot-Noellat (owned by his grandparents), who started a micro-négociant business in 2012. Demand for Hudelot-Noellat was higher than the supply, and Charles wanted his own business, so there was a personal, as well as a business, justification for the moonlighting gig. His intent is to to produce “classic styles” from vineyards not produced at Hudelot-Noellat (I can't find out if he buys grapes or must, but I hope it's the former if he's capitalizing on the Hudelot-Noellat name). Since the range was initially restricted to top AOCs - only Grand Crus in 2012 -  the assumption is that this 'basic' Bourgogne is made of declassified grapes of pedigree origins. And, indeed, I believe this is no lowly Bourgogne, as this is very elegant and focused, offering a great deal of flavor on a silky texture, with smooth tannins and poised balance of fruit and acidity. The finish is long and vibrant enough to justify the suspicions that it is a declassified village - the internet says Chambolle, and it's true that the floral scents typical of the village become very visceral, nearly intoxicating, in fact. Lovely, (Dec. 16, 2016)

169 NIS. It would be very sweet indeed if this is a trailer for future offerings from Van Canneyt, or even Hudelot-Noellat.

Post Script

My friends and I went through a flight of Premier Crus, that represented all the joys, intellectual and sensual, that the Cote d'Or can provide.

Josepgh Drouhin, Nuits-St.-Georges Premier Cru, Les Proces, 2001

We tend to overlook Drouhin around here, but this is arguably the best of the big houses, and looking over my notes, their wines always shows well whenever someone bothers to bring any to a tasting. Which doesn't happen a lot, because we overlook Drouhin, like I said. Also, the imports are in a weird state of limbo in Israel. Drouhin was never well marketed while the Scottish Company carried them, and then the company folded and Tiv Ta'am inherited the stocks, and now nobody knows what's on offer. Take this for example, Zacki found it just last week in a Tiv Ta'am branch, where it's been lurking for god knows how long. It's drinking really great (and should continue to do so for five more years, at least, although I doubt it will get better), very complex and full of iron and rust accents, an elegant version of the Nuits muscle bound rusticity, that I found easy to spot blind. What makes this bottle even more special is how rare a bird the Proces vineyard is. I looked it up, it's one of the 4-5 smallest of the forty or so Premier Crus in NSG.

Marquis d'Angerville, Volnay Premier Cru, Clos des Ducs, 2001

My friends and I also tend to overlook 2001, probably because it was overshadowed by 2002, the current 'great' Burgundy vintage when we started out. Later, when we started buying back vintages, I suppose many of us opted for for 2002's, 1999's and 1996's, the other 'great' vintages easily available. This is another example of what a lovely vintage 2001 was, and it also shows what a great producer d'Angerville is, a perfect example of his elegant muscular style. It also shows the quality of the Clos des Ducs monople vineyard, or its longevity anyway: you get the feeling it still hasn't released every nuance of flavor it has to offer. If a tag is needed, let's call it a reserved wine. I loved it.

Etienne de Montille, Pommard Premier Cru, Pezerolles, 2007

If 2001 is overlooked because we just missed it when we jumped on the Burgundy train, then 2007 is ignored because it wasn't, in most cases, a vintage for long cellaring, or for showing off at tastings. The Pezerolles, though, is a wonderful specimen, and, like the 2010 Perrières, typical of the house style. Also, with notes of iron threading through the aromas and flavors, it is quite typical of Pommard. The reasons why 2007 is a vintage that pleases but doesn't thrill is that it lacks inches to a yard in every dimension: its not quite deep enough, not quite broad enough, not quite bright or sexy enough.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Gourmandy (Dec. 8, 2016)

Not pictured: Lucien le Moine
Out of sight, its dreariness sadly not out of mind
Habasta may not boast the kind of high tech cuisine or the elegant backdrop that garner awards, but the sheer lust for life that Maoz Alonim's kitchen staff puts in every dish makes the place the most hedonistic eatery in town, my favorite, hands down. Every notion I've ever had about friendship bonded by a gourmand feast comes true whenever I eat there, Maoz' Gargantuan presence always booming in the background, the picture postcard image of the genial host.

The wines were the usual eclectic lineup.

Kumeu River, Mate's Vineyard, Chardonnay, 2013

Back when the New World was first trying to emulate the white wines of Burgundy, the winemakers would prop the fruit with a heavy dose of wood, because that's how they interpreted the style. Today, pure, precise fruit flavors are (or should be) the vanguard, the oak refining the structure of the wine during the elevage in barrel without defining the flavors. This vibrant little wine - which we've had before - is an example of this idiom, the flavors on its lithe figure echoing the aromas of apples, peaches, chalk and matchstick.

Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Chambolle-Musigny, 2012

Bourgogne Crown carries the domaine, but not this wine. I was very much captivated by what I'd tasted from Taupenot-Merme, mostly different vintages of Mazoyeres-Chambertin. The house style is very floral, mercurial and vibrant; made for Chambolle, I thought when I bought this at London, and the wine was exactly what I expected, easily the star of the evening.  Demure initially due to its youth, the vivid freshness stands as a testament to the pedigree and attentive winemaking, its vibrancy and length giving it the punch, if not the complexity and depth, of a Premier Cru.

Rhys, San  Mateo Country, Family Farm Vineyard, Pinot Noir, 2009

The other Pinots we had were a mess. Rhys is a winery I'd been curious to try for a while, a new hipster cult fave stateside. There is brett here, not a lot, but it does make the result a sort of a cross between Beaujolais and Rhone, the lack of structure denying it the charm of either of the two.

Lucien Le Moine, Clos St. Denis Grand Cru, 2009

If I had a tumor, I'd name it Lucien Le Moine. Despite the aspirations to purity and the "old way" that the domaine's site boasts, winemaker/partner Mounir Saouma just doesn't get Burgundy, the elegant beauty and lightness of being that should be its ideal (unless he interprets old ways as being the tannic soup that used to be sold as, say, Pommard). If Burgundy is ever buried, Mounir will be there to put stones on her grave. He's certainly earned the right, with wines that obscure the loveliness and nuances of Pinot Noir, recalling, as here, a Chateauneuf, with horse saddle, garrigue and sweet fruit.

Chateau Moulinet, Pomerol, 2009

I read this is considered a "value" Pomerol (23 euros in Bordeaux), and this certainly fits the bill, a tasty drop that combines lush fruit with adolescent tannins.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Taking Care Of Business (Nov. 2016)

The ongoing tale of the man who was heavily into Bourgogne
Domaine Alain Burguet, Gevrey-Chambertin, Mes Favorites, Vieilles Vignes, 2011

2011 is considered a user-friendly vintage, with little aspirations of longevity. So, despite the age of the vines, and the quality of the domaine in general, this is already very enjoyable. There's a herbal, earthy pungency on the nose and a focused, palate-cleansing, tannic finish, that are so gastronomical and French. What I love in the domaine's wines is the floral freshness, which only signs in after the slight initial murkiness clears and the red fruit is highlighted. At which point you also get iron and animal musk. This is the kind of wine that convinces you early on it has breed past Village Cru level, but it takes almost three hours for me to figure out that pedigree carries it, in 2011, as far as a footstep or two away from Premier Cru tier, but no closer. (Nov. 4, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 310 NIS.

Charles Joguet, Chinon, Les Varennes du Grand Clos, 2009

As dense as a latter day Bordeaux, hints of lead pencil giving away its origins, this broadcasts the use of oak, but I definitely get the feeling that it will integrate nicely. Opened a decade too early, although a few hours are enough to signal its potential. (Oct. 8, 2016)

32 USD.

Heritiers du Comte Lafon, Mâcon-Uchizy, Maranches, 2008

Ordered by the glass at Habasta, this surprised me for its youthful vibrancy. It's been so long since I drank an eight year old Burgundy white this vital, and this is but a village wine from the Macon. It's flinty with decent complexity, green apples seguing into peaches. (Nov. 9, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 198 for a bottle at the restaurant, 140 NIS for a latterday vintage.

Domaine Pierre Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2014

Maoz, owner of Habsta, treated me to a tasting glassful from the remains of a bottle opened for 6 days. The oxygen apparently did it negligible harm, and my glass showed the same floral character I remembered from a tasting in May (a common feature for many of the domaine's wines), backed by elegant, yet persistent tannins. (Nov. 9, 2016)

Burgundy Crown, list price, 205 NIS.

Gaston Chiquet, Champagne, Dizy, Brut Rosé, n.v.

Refreshing, while packing a lot of saline-delineated flavors into a lithe frame, with autumnal red fruit and nuts on the nose. A good rosé Champagne should capture the essence of both Champagne and Pinot, and this one does with style. (Nov. 9, 2016)

Fat Guy, 299 NIS.

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

Riesling often wears a spicy veil in Austria. Here for instance, where it also adorns a rocky corset, which is also quite typical. Beyond that, there are variations on that theme. For one thing, the body wearing the veil and corset is lithe and fluid, the fruit savorily dry, ranging from green apples to red apples and beyond, flirtingly evoking redcurrants. (Nov. 10, 2016)

Fat Guy, 229 NIS.

Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Le Clos, des Hospices, 2008

Wine poses no real aesthetic value to me without romance, and no wine is more romantic than Chablis, because Chablis evokes the sea - and the sea is the essence of romance. Chablis should offer a breath of marine breezes, sea weeds washed ashore, rainwater, shells and fossils, but sometimes the purest and most complex expressions of Chablis are found in the Premier Crus, and not necessarily the Grand Crus. It's almost as though the producers try too hard to impress, are too generous with the oak. And some Grand Crus are just too... grand, their character and breadth more akin to Chassagne and Puligny than to their Premier Cru neighbors. Especially Le Clos, which usually appeals to me less than, say, Valmur. I always hope a mature Grand Cru will combine the best of all worlds, but the premox curse seems to have hit Chablis has hard as it has the Cote d'Or. At eight years of age, this bottle, a monopole within the Le Clos vineyard, nails a sweet spot where the Chablis character is coming to terms with the size of Le Clos and all signs of oak are gone or so deeply submerged within the chalky, limey acidity that they might as well be gone, allowing for great length and a truly wonderful complexity of flavors. (Nov. 12, 2016)

Burgundy Wine Collection, 390 for recent vintages (the straight Le CLos and the other Grand Crus are 290 NIS).

Feldstein, Syrah Rose, 2014

I didn't write about this wine in my write-up of the launch, because Avi never released it, concerned that three roses was too much for the local market. I say, releasing two roses was not enough. Releasing three would have been a momentous, historical statement and Avi will regret his decision. Especially since this seems like the most interesting of the lot, with a hint of meat on the nose and a long finish that evokes salted cashews. There's even a hint of black pepper eventually - Syrah, you know. (Nov. 13, 2016)

By the way, this inspired a revisit to Avi's Carignan Rose, where I now notice a similar meaty salinity, as well as, surprisingly, a hint of apricots.

Yannick Amirault, Bourgueil, La Petite Cave, 2010

The 2006 taught me that this wine is slow to mature, but with the 2010, I figured I'd drink it over the course of a long evening and aerate it ahead of time. At first, I get dirt and graphite, and not a whole lot of depth or complexity. But that is a deceptive impression, just as the seeming softness is misleading. These is depth here, with a core of juicy fruit still dormant. (Nov. 17, 2016)

Fat Guy, 189 NIS.

Vitkin, Petite Sirah, 2008

Further proof that this is a signature Israeli grape (never mind its actual origin), this has matured wonderfully, showing black fruit, even blue, that is succulent and fresh, the fruit not overripe but balanced with juicy acidity. Maturity has rendered the graphite notes, that are always the telltale stamp of this wine, with greater nuances and depth. (Nov. 19, 2016)

Domaine Chavy-Chouet, Bourgogne Blanc, Les Femelottes, 2014

From the fringes of Puligny proper, this is a precise, classic rendering of the village style, infused with green apples and flint. I don't know whether this needs the same keeping time as a bona fide village wine, but there's a cool aggressiveness about it that I think needs a year or two to soften up. (Nov. 19, 2016)

Bourgogne Crown, 105 NIS - to grab!

Abaya, Red, 2011

The lithe freshness of the fruit managed to surprise me, even though I didn't approach the wine expecting a ripe, muscle-bound Cabernet. Quite the contrary, having read of Yossi Yodfat's philosophy and goals. This is a Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon-Petite Sirah blend, that has been discontinued. I think many wine lovers don't appreciate the magic in a light wine such this, that drinks like fermented juice, a wine you can drink to quench your thirst, which is what wine was originally made for. It's short and simple, thriving on the interplay of black pepper and berries. (Nov. 27, 2016)

Margalit, Enigma, 2013

On the other hand, we have this Bordeaux blend from the former leader of the pack. I say 'former' because Margalit seems to be hanging on to the style of the previous decade, with grainy, dusty tannins and sweet oak not quite counteracted by minerals. The fight turns the next day, as the nose blossoms into a charming lattice of earth and olives. The grainy tannins, and the oak, are still too distracting for me, but then, it's really not a style I favor in the first place. (Nov. 29, 2016)

About 200 NIS.

Domaine de Bila-Haut (Chapoutier) , Côtes du Roussillon Villages,  L'Esquerda, 2013

A bit unusual for the region, this is a Syrah dominated blend, with some Grenache and Cairgnan. It's softly tannic, red fruit and white pepper, becoming more complex and structured with air. (Nov. 30, 2016)

Hakerem, 100 NIS.