Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Meal and a La Meal At Halutzim (Sept. 28, 2017)


Gvaot, Gofna, Jandali, 2016

This is yet another wine made of indigenous grapes that predate the plantings of commercial wine grapes in the nineteenth century. It's fresh, floral and saline, but simple and short. The background story is more interesting than the wine itself. It'd make a fine summer wine to sip on a balcony and I suppose if you paid a few euros for a carafe at bistro on a holiday you'd be more pleased with it than had you paid the 100 NIS or so that it costs in Israel.

Roulot, Meursault, Vireuils, 2014

This is a good village wine that doesn't reach a lot beyond its class (and at its list price of 400 NIS it might be expected to show almost Premier Cru breed) but does show a racy, mineral edge and understated finesse I usually associate with Puligny, as well as a fine, smooth texture, with long, persistent grip.

Pierre Gimmonet, Oger Grand Cru, 2004

This is the first single vineyard Champagne Gimmonet had ever made. It is still explosively young, but long with great multi-dimensional presence. A delicious mix of chalk and salty and sweet flavors, it has all the power and complexity of Gimmonet's Special Club wines, except that it's a single vineyard Grand Cru. Unless the concept and bottling is purely a marketing ploy, I would expect to find some differences in a side by side tasting. 

Yves Cuilleron, Cote Rotie, Madiniere, 2008

It has that signature I associate with the North Rhone, black pepper and a core of smoked meat. But it's awkwardly structured, with green tannins in the finish and not a great Cote Rotie, despite my enjoyment .

Chapoutier, Hermitage, La Meal, 1999

A great Rhone really gets me at my core, a delectable siren of aromas and flavors. And this, which had been sitting in my fridge forever, it seems, is one of the best wines I ever brought to a tasting. It has power, it has presence, but for all that it is nuanced - a detailed tapestry of tapenade, pepper and minerals. We pay (or pretend we do) wine writers for their tasting notes, but a grand vin like this is an exercise in futility because words can't really capture or convey its understated grandeur.

Miles, Gewurtzraminer, 2013

This is a very typical expression of the grape, and while it is not really a great dessert wine, its mineral bitterness will at least ward off the casual Gewurtz drinkers out for an easy, flattering drop.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Sept. 2017)


Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon, La Croix Boissée, 2011

I assumed that 2011 in the Loire was the equivalent of 2011 in Burgundy and the Rhone: a vintage you could approach early while waiting for the 2010's to start showing facial hair. And this is indeed approachable, but not quite. It impresses me as a nubile claret, much cleaner than other Baudry cuvees, which I'd grown just a bit disillusioned with lately. There's much potential here, natural fruit sweetness whose personality is rendered with notes of cedar and bell pepper and a sort of earthy, gritty, saline finish. Approachable my foot, it could age anywhere between five and fifteen years more. But it's really a great pleasure to follow it now, if you have more than one bottle. (Sept. 1, 2017)

Wine Route, 160 NIS.

Domaine Hubert Lamy, Saint-Aubin Premier Cru, Clos de Meix, 2013

There's always a sense of classicism with Lamy: class form, classic flavors, classic aromas. You'd think so much typicism and adherence to a paradigm would be boring, but the wines are so vivid and flavorsome they would escape any pigeon hole. Like just about any Lamy white, Clos de Meix displays the same kind of complexity and finesse I associate with Puligny and makes me very happy when I find it in the less expensive villages. Not that Lamy is cheap, exactly, but the wines are usually cheaper than Puligny, except for the flagship Haute Densité bottlings. (Sept. 4, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 270 NIS. 

Sphera, First Page, 2016

This time it's a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Semilon. However, it's hard for me to spot any of the components (not that there's anything wrong with that, I'm just commenting on the fact). Aromatically, there is a sort of vaguely gray and muddy rainwater character, which I like, that reminds me of Muscadet, a bit. It's easy going on the palate: the fat comes from the Semilon, the sweetness from the Pinot and Riesling? Just a guess. Anyway, this is an interesting wine and there is both austerity and and an interplay between clarity and brittle, muddy bitterness that I take to be the winery's signature. (Sept. 5, 2017)

Sphera, Chardonnay, 2016

This is even better. It catches one fine aspect of Chardonnay: the fruit mostly apples with a touch of oranges, cloaked by flint; smoky, savory, almost salty, on the finish. It's actually the best aspect of Chardonnay and the reason people make those comparisons with Burgundy - before the grape became misused and abused, people looked to Bourgogne whites to showcase Chardonnay's ability to reflect changes in climate and field as nuances of savory, mineral drenched flavors. The flavor here is just a little more dilute than what you get in the Cote d'Or, at least, but there is a lithe structure and a fine sense of purity. Doron Rav Hon is a fine winemaker. (Sept. 6, 2017)

Both should be about 110 NIS, but this is Israel and your mileage might vary.

Francois Villard, Saint Joseph, Mairlant, 2013

A fun Syrah from an excellent practitioner: peppery and meaty, lithe and succulent, with persistent yet friendly tannins and iron on the nose. Deep, fulfilling nose, the palate a step behind. (Sept. 10, 2017)

Domaine Duroché, Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Jeunes Rois, 2014

It will age well - there's no way a wine with such balance of fruit and acidity could fail to age - but it's so unnervingly delicious and tasty I forgive myself for opening it now. This lieux-dit, like most of the domaine's wines, has a nose that shows a floral side of Gevrey with a touch of animal hide minerals. It's a lithe wine that makes me wonder how the hell a tart wine like that wound up with so many flavors without tiring my palate.

Cool fact to impress your friends: les jeunes rois means the young kings, but the vines are actually over sixty years old. (Sept, 18, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 240 NIS.

Benoit Ente, Aligote, 2014

I really have no idea how he does it, but all Benoit Ente's wines show filigreed purity and complexity and punch above their weight. In the case of the Aligote, make that way, way above their weight. It's probably my favorite Aligote, year in, year out, a prime showcase that it can be a world class grape. It has a very attractive flint and matchstick bouquet and a sour/sweet/salty melange on the finish. (Sept. 27, 2017)

Bourgogne Crown, 100 NIS.

Tabor, Shifon Vineyard, Tannat, 2013

Everyone seems to be planting everything, trying to carve out  a niche while participating in the national hunt for the ideal local grape or grapes, hoping to nail one that can be marketed as "Mediterranean". One of Tabor's candidates is the Tannat grape. They've got a precedent, at least. Originating in southwest France, it's already the Uruguayan national grape. It's usually a tannic wine, appropriately enough given its name, and that is also the case here. It's not a very easy wine - it's not very friendly and it's certainly not elegant, it's actually rather awkward. (Sept. 29, 2017)

100 NIS.




Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Playing Guess The Wine at Claro (Sept. 14, 2017)



Schafer-Frolich, Nahe, Felsenberg, Riesling Großes Gewäch, 2008

Even though the nose suggests sweetness, this is a very dry wine. It's very elegant - unlike some Großes Gewäches - its dryness and mineral drenched backbone tempered by hints of sweetness on the finish. It's complex on both nose and palate, where the clean fruit complemented by minerals and dill. 

It was obliviously German. Nahe to me was also an obvious call - the marriage of elegance and dryness is very much in the Nahe style, even though I suspect that the "Nahe style" is really the style of three-four producers. Once we got that far, the playing field narrowed down, because we all buy from the same places and we all know what Nahe producers are available locally. It just didn't seem like a Donnhoff. Donnhoff's dry wines are much rougher and grainier than this and, to be honest, somewhat less fine. So we narrowed it down to Schafer-Frolich and Emrich-Schonleber and took random shots at the year. A decent round.

Simon Bize, Savigny-lès-Beaune Premier Cru, Les Fournaux, 2002

When I tested it at the start of the evening, it was very murky, all rotting forest floor leaves and old wood. By the time we got to it an hour or so later, it had emerged to show sweet cherries, the rot and mud transformed into iron and wet earth.

In Burgundy, you have the bad stuff, the good stuff, the really good stuff and at the top, the glorious, moving bottles of juice spearheaded by the expensive unicorns you just can't afford. This edges into the "really good stuff" category that is where the Bourgogne freaks would love to live every day. It has excellent balance and finesse, although, to be honest, it is just a tad foursquare.

This was my wine and I knew that only a real die-hard would guess the village. Everyone got Cote de Beaune and said it was not from Beaune itself. Which was a good direction because this really is a cross between the finesse of Volnay and muscular Pommard.

Segal, Unfiltered, 2008

This is obviously a warm, New World wine. Wait, it wasn't obvious at the start. It was a struggle to decide between a modern winemaker from warm, Old World country and a New World wine outright. I guessed south France because the depth and fullness of the fruit suggested, to me, a cross between Cahors and a less tannic Madiran. I was just following wild impressions and wild guesses. The difficulty was that the wine itself eludes obvious categorizations. Basically, it has sweet fruit that is structured as well - and that combination is always hard to peg down - with notes of iron, brine and spices.

Once its origin was revealed, I guessed the year based on my assumptions on how a local red of this style might age. It was a convoluted guess, though. Assuming an age-worthy style, anything post 2010 would have just felt too young. It had to be something older, but I don't think a lot of winemakers in the last decade managed to get that much fullness; a lot of wines were a blend of ripe and green. So there was really a limited period when someone could have made a wine of this style, and arguably less than five who actually did.



Josheph Drouhin, Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru, Champeaux, 2009

During this round of the guessing game, I was the last one to succumb to the idea that this is a Bourgogne. Once I bought into that, Gevrey was a good choice. I didn't guess the year, I got Drouhin after going through a couple of Gevrey names. A bad round for me, but a truly excellent wine, very much in the Gevrey style, floral and earthy, black fruit driven by soft tannins with fresh acidity that is quite surprising given the year. Will easily age for another decade.