Monday, September 18, 2017

Summer Of Riesling, 2017

Only Reggie Jackson has ever had a more successful autumn season
than Riesling in the Mosel
Fritz Haag, Mosel, Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, 2011

This is a much more classic rendition of Mosel, a light bodied, almost ethereal Spätlese, smokey slate and apples, icy cold and steely, and there're even hints of sea salt and lemons. Look, this is the annual Riesling roundup, I'm going to go full retard poetic on you by the time I'm through, but I was hoping to start off much more critical and analytic. Yet this gossamer abstraction of Teutonic cool -  complex and youthful, monolithic and welcoming at the same time - claws elegantly at my heart and jabs my intellect into silence. (May 8, 20170

33 euro in Berlin. Giaconda carry some Haag.

Max Ferd. Richter, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 2004

Unctuous enough to be a beerenauslese, I swear, monolithic enough to be a five year old, the acidity buried until the very end of each sip. I think this will be massive for a decade or more and I'm not sure it will ever shed its fat, even then. Right now, brutally simple. (May 3, 2017)

Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Auslese, 2004

Although also years from maturity, this much better structured and racier, more complex, the honeyed apples flecked with apples skins and dill. (Jul. 13, 2017) 

40 GBP.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel, "L", 2015

Efrat asked me to buy some wines for "her'. What she means by that is the following. A relatively inexpensive, fruity white, with good acidity and residual sugar. A tasty white. A wine to refresh yourself after a long run. What the hell, I know what she wants. She wants a Riesling. There you go, babe. (May 22, 2017)

Wine Route, 70 NIS.

There's a new German Riesling producer in town, imported by Wine Route, which brings their total up to two. Well, any new news is good news, and this is an especially venerable name.

Markus Molitor, Mosel, Haus Klosterberg, Riesling, 2015

This is the basic regional wine, and it comes in two styles, dry and off dry (white and green capsules - this is the only way to tell the two styles apart at house Molitor, throughout all the predikats). This is as good an introduction to Mosel as you will get from any marquee name, likely as good as many a kabinett. (Jun. 30, 2017)

About 90 NIS.

Markus Molitor, Mosel, Bernkasteler Badstube, Riesling Kabinett, 2015

Even if all the Mosel produced was kabinetts, it would still be one of the greatest wine regions of the world. Here is some corroborative evidence. The Bernkasteler has great length and filigree structure, fine acidity - normal ante penny stuff for a great producer of the Mosel. What gets me, really, really gets me, is the way the Mosel style is tweaked, the racy greenness of the granny apples transformed into guyava fruit laced with a touch of salt. The Mosel has so many great vineyards that I suppose the Badstube might be overlooked (for example, the 2001 edition of the Johnson and Robinson World Atlas of Wine calls the Bernkasteler Doctor a great first class vineyard but the Badstube is only a first class vineyard - and it was great fun tracking that down), but Molitor solicits a potent raciness here that elevates it to greatness. (Jul. 3, 2017)

About 130 NIS.

Markus Molitor, Mosel, Wehlener Klosterberg, Riesling Kabinett Trcoken, 2014

Molitor has a myriad bottlings, Wine Route are bringing in only two kabinetts at this time. This is very fine, high praise from someone who's never eager to buy dry Mosels - hell, I'm going to buy more of this! Forget nuances and complexity. I'm sure they'll come in time, the balance ensures at least five years if cellaring potential. Just enjoy the visceral essence and laser sharp intensity of the green apples. (Jul. 4, 2017)

About 130 NIS.

Markus Molitor, Mosel, Riesling Alte Reben, 2015

The producer's site doesn't go into the details of specific wines, so I can only guess this is a blend of old vines from different vineyards. It's dry and more intense and denser than the Haus Klosterberg. More yellow and white fruits than apples, it is a mellower style than a Grosses Gewaches, yet its backbone of minerals is persistent and long. And tasty. (Jul. 6, 2017)

About 160 NIS.

Markus Molitor, Mosel, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

This is far as I got with Molitor. The ausleses were just too expensive. But you could stop right here and be totally happy. Everything I love about the lineup is in place: the purity, the elegant delineation of form, the tasty, moreish effect on the palate. Compared to the others, though, this is the "it girl". (Aug. 5, 2017)

About 170 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

As undeniably great as Molitor is, Herr Schaefer is a national treasure. If you were building a German Riesling portfolio, and started off with Schaefer, I could see myself forgiving you for stopping right there. This has always been an intense, moreish wine, but it's now settled down a bit to show lime and apricots in addition to green apples. Without any loss of focus and vividness. You know, I don't think I've ever drank a wine that managed to do so much with the primary aromas and flavors of youth. (Jul. 5, 2017)

Fat Guy, 139 NIS.

And now, here's...

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Oberhäuser Brücke, Riesling Spätlese, 2008

Brücke is formally the 2nd or 3rd best vineyard Dönnhoff works, but looking back at my notes, it doesn't always hit very high peaks. This, however, is a high class beauty, whose claim to greatness lies in its purity and clarity of fruit. as well as a complexity carried by mellow nuances of rock and salt. Nuances. That's what this Brücke is all about: nuances worthy of a full evening of contemplation. (Jul. 8, 2017)

Giaconda, about 200 NIS.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2008

Hermannshöhle is, of course, the Dönnhoff Grand Cru (not to mention the source of many scatological puns). And Großes Gewächs is the price you pay for being VDP. Seriously, I know what I'm saying is nigh heresy, but at best you pay a fifty percent markup on the price of a Spätlese from the same site just to get a dry version of grapes of the same quality. Anyway, this can be a great wine, don't get me wrong. But so is the Hermannshöhle Spätlese, that's all I'm saying. The question is, is this bottle a great bottle? I can sense this has the making of a great one, I get a notion of the quality and tensile structure of the fruit, the minerals on the verge of being uncoiled on both nose and palate, there is intensity on the finish - but it doesn't bloom or move, and I can't tell if it's on its way to future greatness or just missed a turn on the way there. Mostly what I miss is the presence of a great wine, that sense of multifacetedness, that feeling that every bit is just so vibrant with being that you feel the bottle is a chapel you could walk around in. (Jul. 9, 2017)

Giaconda, 350 NIS. I had the 2009 a couple of months later and had the same reservations. Same disappointment at the lack of presence. 

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Kabinett, 2012

This was always a great kabinett, with precise balance, but I'm really running out good things to say about it. It's actually harder than coming up with a cute meme or picture for this column every year. (Aug. 12, 2017)

Fat Guy, 139 NIS.

Great companionship can elevate an already great wine, into, well, magic...

Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Spatlese Feinherb, Ur Alte Reben, 2012

I've had this wine twice in the past. I'm actually quite proud of myself for having Selbach-Oster in my sights before Eldad started importing the house -  so early, in fact, that my first bottle was so embryonic when I drank it that it might as well have been a barrel sample. It hasn't developed a lot since. It might actually be a Mosel trocken that deserves as much time in the cellar as an Auslese. It's all steel and apple/lime acidity, but the texture and salinity not only provide obvious hints at its potential, but they also make it a wonderful match with sushi - because another thing it hints at is ginger. Hints, hints, hints - in ten year it will will finally make an overt statement. (Aug. 27, 2017)

Fat Guy, 169 NIS.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Aug. 2017)

Domaine Pattes Loup, Chablis Premier Cru, Beauregard, 2014

A new Chablis in town. Even with the recent influx of new producers, but this is definitely a Chablis we need: intense with salty minerals on the nose, long and infused with limey acidity on the palate. Tightly focused and pure. (Aug. 3, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 210 NIS.

Maison Romane, Chateau de Berze, Macon, 2014

The intense iron-drenched minerality on the nose is almost reminiscent of Bordeaux, actually, while earthy cherries do pin it down in the vicinity of Bourgogne. Very tangy and succulent and tasty as always. (Aug. 5, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 185 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Fixin Le Clos, 2014

I'm infatuated with the Maison, but because I can usually spot Oronce de Beler's stylistic fingerprint from miles off, I had started to fret that the style might overwhelm the specifics of the terroirs he works. Ha! This is not only softer and more sensual than the Berthault Le Clos of the same year, it is also a much different creature than the Maison's Macon, Gevrey or Marsannay. So while I might not have a good notion yet of what Fixin is like, I know Oronce had let it have its voice. This is, as I said, soft. It's also floral and and so succulently and lightly red that it borders on orange and the fruits that come to mind are pomegranate and mandarin oranges. Very lovely aromatics - the red fruit is adorned by earth, clay, spices and a hint of meat - and a moreish palate, acidity driven, the tannins very tame and lithe. (Aug. 13, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 255 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Fixin Le Clos, 2013

More of the same, but more advanced and, at this point, tastier, with lithe, delectably sweet fruit. The clay and meat are still there, but there's a more pronounced presence of forest floor. This is really the kind of 'little' Bourgogne that keeps you coming back for more. (Aug. 20, 2017)

For some reason, it was more expensive than the 2014 - 305 NIS.

La Maison Romane, Gevrey-Chambertin, La Justice, 2012

If you want justice, go to Gevrey, where every producer seems to bottle a bunch of cases from the Justice lieux-dit. Joke aside, this is very typical of meaty, sauvage Gevrey and shows the complexity of a Premier Cru, albeit with less substance. The nose shows fine nuances of iron and sweat - as well as the exotic spices that permeate most of the Cote de Nuits to a lesser or greater extent - while the palate is charmingly rusty, the fluidity of the finish making up for any deficit in the weight of the body. The fruit is mostly red, with some blue - I don't know why it is that wines with red and blue fruit are more elegant than those with red and black, but they are usually quite lovely . (Aug. 23, 2017)

Expensive at 420 NIS.

Vitkin, Grenache Blanc, 2015

This is, as always, a classy and interesting wine, lithe and very food friendly, given its dry finish and good acidity. The grocery list includes apricots, flint and spices. (Aug. 12, 2017)

125 NIS.

Vitkin, Grenache, 2014

Such a lovely wine, floral and spicy where most Vitkin reds are mineral and/or meaty. It always strikes me as Assaf Paz' labor of love, the flavors and aromas seeming to toy with the notion of bursting into a wild, outre cacophony, yet remaining respectable, but never tame. (Aug. 17, 2017)

140 NIS.

Lewinsohn, Garage de Papa, 2015

Of all the candidates for best Israel red, this pulls it off with seemingly the least effort. Its graceful ease and comfort and generous helpings of black pepper make it an Israel Saint Joseph in style and kinship. (Aug. 12, 2017)

Chéreau-Carré, Comte Leloup de Château de Chasseloir, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Cuvée des Ceps Centenaires,  2013

If you like Chablis, you'll like Muscadet. There must be enough people in Israel who feel the same way about it, because Wine Route have been importing Chéreau-Carré for six years now - and they're always very conscious of the bottom line. It's not a Chablis clone, of course. I'm just using Chablis as a reference for the salty aroma/flavor profile that strikes me, as well as a majority of writers, as marine-like. The Muscadets I've drunk were less steely in feel and texture than Chablis. You'll usually find Chéreau-Carré ranked among the recommended sources and rightly so. This is the flagship wine and it's a steal at 90 NIS. (Aug. 16, 2017)

Domaine des Lises (Maxime Graillot), Saint Joseph, 2013

I expected more, because I'm a fan of Maxime's dad, Alain, and I also enjoyed a Maxime Crozes last year. But this is softer and less impressive than either one, very correct and typical but not very exciting. (Aug. 19, 2017)

About 20 GBP.

The father, however, crafts a classic Crozes that can match any of the classic North Rhone wines.

Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage, 2011

A fantastic nose, meaty and peppery, detailed and sensual. The palate is just as alluring, soft enough for any practical usage around the dinner table, at the same time fresh and lively, teeming with potential, the juicy acidity effortlessly guiding the whole thing to a long, splendidly saline finish that evokes olives. I've drunk ten year old Graillot, twelve year olds, I know they age well - but it still amazes me what a fresh wine he makes from this backwater AOC, even in a purportedly less than stellar vintage. (Aug. 25, 2017)

Wine Route, 190 NIS.

Shvo, Sauvignon Blanc, Gershon, 2013

At least three other Israeli wineries make world-class candidates for best Israeli Sauvignon Blanc (Tzora, Sphera, Feldstein) and they all show distinctive, personal character. Where the Gershon stands apart stylistically is that it is the most Bourgogne. Some local pundits have lately made a hobbyhorse of the dogma that making comparisons with other wine regions is narrow minded and snobbish. Well, you can tuck it back in your pants. I like the best of the local fare and I make such comparisons all the time, from wines all over the world. It helps me understand a wine by seeing how well I can fit it into different molds. Or not. The Gershon starts out with a lean, funky mineral shimmer that is a cross between Chablis and Puligny. The the oak comes out with a little more force and the wine gains a spicy pear nose akin to Meursault. And it can definitely age, too; the 2011 is now hitting its stride and the 2013 appears to need 2-3 years to find a golden path between the different stylistic frameworks. But even now its intensity of flavors is impressive. (Aug. 22, 2017)

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, DAC Reserve, Grub Erste Lage, Grüner Veltliner, 2010

Gruner is a grape like no other. I suppose you could say the same about Gewurztraminer, except Gruner doesn't come chained to the same baggage as Gewurtz. The Grub's nose is bold in the way it lays out yellow fruit, smoke and spices, but it's not overbearing, and the palate is broad and ripe yet manages to balance its ripeness with a deep bottom of flavors. Which is a combination very much more suitable to spicy food, because it's robust enough to face up to it without being tiring in its own right. (Aug. 30, 2017)

Fat Guy, 211 NIS.