Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Let's Talk GruVe (Nov. 3, 2017)

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

I've written about the winery quite a lot. About this very wine, actually. So let's talk about the grape, Gruner Veltliner. 

It's a big white grape. I mean, it makes wines that feel big. Big and spicy. It feels like it just soaks up the sun. Which is good, I think. I think grapes that give that impression usually manage to contain the heat of summer quite well. 

Gruner always makes me think of Pinot Gris and Gewurztranminer. Not because it tastes like them, especially not like Gewurtz - by definition, nothing tastes like Gewurtz. But it's rich and spicy like them. If the great white star in Austria is Riesling, same as in Alsace, then Gruner plays the same sidekick role that Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer do in Alsace. But what a sidekick!  I think it can make more of a grand vineyard then Gewurtz and Pinot Gris usually do, and, because its character is less dominating, it doesn't overwhelm the landscape.

It won't make you swoon the way Riesling does, not at the entry level, at any rate. And even the top wines are going to appeal to your brain more than your heart and loins. But something about its texture and breadth, the way the flavors insist on attention but don't bang you around, makes you realize it's quite a unique fixture in our kaleidoscopic world of wine and deserves a place at the top of the pops.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Taking Care Of Business (Oct. 2017)

October is the best month of all because the weather allows you to drink wines of every color and style
Sebastien Dampt, Chablis Premier Cru, Côte de Léchet, 2013

Last bottle, out of three or four I bought two years ago. And every single one has been a pleasure. It may not be grand, but if you drew a Vern diagram of all the Chablis characteristics, this would be at dead center. (Oct. 2, 2017)

Wine Route, 200 NIS (2 for 300 on discount).

Rizzi, Barbaresco, 2013

Rizzi is a small Barbaresco producer imported to Israel by the Yaffo Tel Aviv restaurant. Or Eldad Levi. Or both. It's very old world, dusty, tarry, tart and opaque. I have a Riserva and a couple of single vineyards that will need long cellaring since even the basic bottling is so defensive and reserved - although both the rose-water-and-salt nose and the tough-as-rusty-nails core are compelling. (Oct. 4, 2017)

Tscharke, the Potter, Grenacha, 2011

The reason this wine gets me is I sense it can teach me something about Grenache and how it evolves, if you start out with a good specimen, which this is. I'm an avid pupil - this is my fourth bottle over the last three years. The basic premise of the Potter is black fruit, just a little candied on the fringes, spiced by white pepper, the ample fruit supported by acidity and to a lesser extent very fine tannins. What I was looking for is what complexity it would develop and what its glass ceiling might be. The answer is, it's moderately complex with a filigree figure and I get a sense it could go another seven, eight years, deepening just a bit without gaining a lot more complexity. At the same time, it won't pick up ungainly wrinkles,either. (Oct. 5, 2017)

Mersch, 130 NIS.

Drank through a few Burgundies at Habasta. Olivier Guyot, Bourgogne, 2015 is very typical for the house and the village (this is a declassified Marsannay), so if you've enjoyed the previous vintages as much as I did - and this is one of my favorite house wines - go for it and consider aging it for a few years. Because it's my go-to wine, I ordered a bottle for a party of four, but the the wine I ordered to expand on my own knowledge was a pre-dinner glass of La Maision Romane, Eaux Vives Blanc, nv, which is a multi-vintage blend from Macon (the Bourgogne Crown catalog says 2012/13). I'm going to say it's a funky, earthy wine that is so much more about Burgundy than about Chardonnay that you might confuse it for a red wine in a blind tasting - and you're going to think it's an orange wine. I doubt it is, but if it is, well, Oronce de Beler may have pulled off a minor miracle and came up with an excellent orange wine. (Oct. 6, 2017)

Domaine Pavelot (Jean-Marc et Hugues) Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Aux Guettes, 2010

Apropos the Burgundy Crown catalog, they carried Pavelot through a couple of vintages and stopped. I believe it's the only producer they dropped - or vice versa. I didn't mean to open any more 2010's for a while, I swear, but my I guess it's time for bifocals because I thought the label read 2011. This is fun to sniff, very pure red fruit, very alluring, sexy even, its complexity developing slowly. There's a good balance of red fruit,spices and iron fillings with no component dominating at the cost of the others. The palate is up to par, just as alluring and inviting. (Oct. 7, 2017)

230 NIS.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Oberhäuser Brücke, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

A bad start. The color was not a good sign, light-amber and gold, way too deep for a ten year old Spätlese. The nose was a little more promising - apples and spices - but the palate is the worst offender of all, fat and cloying. Forty minutes later and the Brücke has gone through a full makeover. All the fat gone, it shows a lithe, fresh, racy figure - all the things you want in a top flight Riesling. Maybe the dollop of sweetness at the end is more fitting for an Auslese but it's balanced by salty flavors. Ultimately not a great bottle but its come back is very impressive. (Oct. 8, 2017)


Tabor, Shahar, Riesling, 2017

Well structured, an interesting nose - fresh apples and white pepper - now, if only it had a bit more flavor... (Oct. 9, 2017)

Feldstein, Sauvignon Blanc, 2015

It was so hard to get a good read of this wine at Avi's launch that I had to get an extra bottle for a second peek. The big block last time was the predominance of gooseberries and the second bottle is just the same, except it's starting to show minerals on the nose. In a way, it mixes Kiwi hygiene and ripeness (to the point it even hints at currants) with the kinky salinity of the best of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. Except it's still very much cloaked in its own monolithic shell. (Oct. 13, 2017)

About 120 NIS, your mileage may vary.

Giacomo Fenocchio, Barolo, 2012

This is very classic, but probably proves that most of the pleasure in Piedmont today is in the crus. (Oct. 14, 2017)

Álvaro Castro, Quinta da Pellada, Dão, Tounot, 2011

The importer says this is a blend of Touriga Nacional and Pinot Noir, but some online wine shops say Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro Preto. There's certainly a fresh, floral sensuality to it that is Pinot-ish but the dark color and savory herbs, recalling tobacco leaves, is all Portugal. I think this has reached its peak plateau; it'd have needed sterner tannins and sharper acidity for a longer shelf life. (Oct. 15, 2017)

Tshernichonsky, about 300 NIS.

Tzora Vineyards, Judean Hills, Blanc, 2016

Nowhere is the modern winemaking evolution in Israel more evident than in our Chardonnay. The best of the crop have steered away from the bland, oaked products of copycat producers of a decade ago that fooled so many consumers and critics, some of which, in hindsight, should have known better. This is a firm, yet friendly, wine, its acid backbone providing ample support to the ripe fruit. But fuck the polite description of measured balance, what should win you over is the lovely bouquet of citrus fruit and minerals - even if the palate is going to remain bitter for 2018 and a long stretch of 2019.  (Oct. 17, 2017)

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blancs, 2009

For years I'd been wondering when they'd finally do it, when GHW would manage to ruin their last remaining great wine. When the BdB would go the way of the dodo and the elegant Yarden Cabernet. Don't worry, that hasn't happened yet, not quite - but, the 2009 is only good. Which, when you think about it is a minor miracle - a good, worthwhile Israeli sparkling wine with no local predecessor and virtual no peer - that I don't stop to think about too much and I should. It's a shame that, while I thought previous vintages could give a good n.v. Champagne a run, this lacks body and presence, even though its complex and savory enough to make a fine dinner companion. (Oct. 19, 2017)

Luis Pato, Bairrada, Vinha Pan, 2011

I wonder whether Luis Pato might be interested in a barter deal for my translation skills. I think he broke Google Translate. It took me a couple of passes through the winery's notes to suss that the wine is sourced from the same vineyard as his sparkling Baga wine, Pan being short for "a place called Panasqueira" - or a more marketable label. Tne vineyard is first harvested for the sparkling wine, then for this a month later. According to Pato, this gives the wine "unusual concentration". Thankfully, six years after that second harvest, that concentration shows as a very good integration of fruit, tannins and acid, rather than a monster bomb - which, to be honest, is what the phrase "unusual concentration" often implies. It's still in its formative days, though, so it's very dusty, almost tarry a la Nebbiolo. I also find graphite, iron and ink and a very saline finish. Days will tell, quite a few of them - right now, that dusty character is a little too much. (Oct. 21, 2017)

Tabor, Sufa, 2013

This Petit Sirah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend is the best wine I've tasted from Tabor recently, including more prestigious wines like the Shahar above or the Tannat. The nose is subtly earthy and dusty - I stress the word "subtly" because the offhand nuances are a relief after the Pato Pan - and the fruit is at quite a precise juncture between ripeness and freshness. Lovely.

But seriously, Tabor people, what's with the back label spiel? "An exciting, fascinating wine that offers a sensual experience that leaves a long lasting impression" reads like a parody. (Oct. 22, 2017)

Niepoort, Ten Year Tawny Port, nv

This is lighter than the Colheita, 2005, with roughly the same level of complexity and character, though: nuts, cured meats, mildew. The rusty, savory finish takes it beyond aperitif/digestif territory where it's actually not a bad accompaniment to a winter stew or the like. (Oct. 29, 2017) 

Porto, 160 NIS.

Chateau Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc 5me Cru, 2008

When I bought this six or seven years ago, it was already quite sad to think what 200 NIS could have bought a decade before. In 2017, 200 NIS will hardly even get you a Cru Bourgeois and that's depressing. But this is a very, very nice wine, its nose very fine, actually, a mix of black fruit, crushed rocks and a touch of cedar, detailed and refined. The palate has solid weight and length and is very refreshing - rusty and tart in a textbook claret way, the same rust and tartness fanning out into a splendid savory bite on the finish. (Oct. 31, 2017)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Iterum Caftory

For my money, Uri Caftory (IPVinum) is one of the most distinctive local importers, one of only two or three with anything like a individual voice that they actually came up with on their own. The range is limited to France, usually to the less traveled parts of southern France (that is, less traveled by local importers). Even when he strays closer to the more familiar appellations, he either fishes unknown names or comes up with obscure satellite appellations most of us never knew existed. I can't say I'm always an ardent follower of his approach, but he has come up with a few names that are very dear to me (Redde foremost, but I'd also recommend Matthieu Barret from Cornas and Domaine de l'Horizon in Languedoc - there are others, but these are a good place to start). 

Two recent additions to the portfolio especially illustrate his approach and its appeal to his fan base, such as it is.


The first hails from Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine, which is an appellation which I explore whenever I get the chance (but which is sadly under-represented locally). The cognoscenti claim Muscadet can age for a very long time. My stance so far is that I'm happy with five to eight years on them. The three wines I tried from Bonnet-Huteau should reach that milestone with ease.

Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Les Dabinieres, 2015

I'm not a terribly perceptive lover of fruit. Usually, what I pick up is apples, peaches or just generic yellow or tropical fruit. I'm useless beyond that. So here, I just noted yellow fruit, but there's a lightly spicy kick to it and touches sculptor clay. This is just a pleasant pairing for a light meal, but there's an elegant small scale sparkle to it. (Sept. 7, 2017)

80 NIS.

Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Les Gautronnières, 2015

I checked the winery's site. Each of the bottles under discussion here come from vineyards with different soil types. The Dabinieres comes from "schist and gneiss" and the Gautronnières doesn't. It is an "expression of a terroir made of green rocks and amphilolitic silidous-clay soil". Well. It has a different character, anyway, steelier and more elegant, very tense minerality. With both these wines, you get an insinuation of potential of additional complexity and breadth. (Sept. 8, 2017)

80 NIS.

Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie, Les Laures, 2015

This is the priciest, but it doesn't yet show where the expense went, because it is so drenched and entrenched in minerals that they actually obscure the fruit. Almost like tannins, really. The potential is here as well, but the wine doesn't insinuate the need for cellaring, it actually insists on it. (Sept. 10, 2017)

125 NIS.

Guilhem et Jean-Hugues Goisot

Goisot is a producer from St. Bris outside the Chablis border. Caftory says Goisot is just as good as any good Chablis producer. If I were the importer, I'd say the same thing. But I googled around and it seems to be a fairly consensual opinion. Goisot seems to be as close to a household name as that area ever gets. What Uri brought are wines from Côtes d'Auxerre, which is even more obscure. How obscure? The edition I have of the Johnson and Robinson Atlas Of Wine devotes a couple of sentences to it. The New Sotheby's Encyclopedia of Wine dismisses it and Hugh Johnson's Wine Pocketbook doesn't even miss but does recommend Goisot under the St. Bris and Irancy entries.

St. Bris is a Sauvignon appellation, Irancy is Pinot Noir and, finally, Côtes d'Auxerre is Chardonnay. You're all set to go on to the tasting notes.

Côtes d'Auxerre, Gueules de Loup, 2014

This is as good as a Chablis Premier Cru: lithe, long and complex, the acidity so vibrant it's almost combustible. There's enough to differentiate it from Chablis. It mixes the fossil and salt thing with flint, and it might be a tad fatter, I'm still undecided on that. Whatever, it's so tasty you'd be a real dumbass not to buy it. (Sept. 12, 2017)

175 NIS.

Côtes d'Auxerre, Corps de Garde, 2014

I suppose this sort of parallels a village Chablis. This is very racy and rocky, impressing as lime juice poured over oyster shells. It's not of obvious lesser breed than the Gueules de Loup, a little less complex for sure, but its steely focus stands out and the marine character is less overt (Sept. 13, 2017)

125 NIS.

Côtes d'Auxerre, Biaumont, 2014

This seems the most intense and pungent of the three to me. Whereas I thought the Gueules de Loup was fatter than most Chablis, this might be leaner, actually. It's very savory, though. You could argue with my enthusiastic assessment of Goisot - I think I was fairly sound and levelheaded here, but I wish I'd had more exposure to the house before making my final call - but that savoriness is what makes it cross over. That same tasty, saline savoriness that is the grail stone we always seek in Bourgogne. (Sept. 16, 2017-

175 NIS.

Some other wines from the portfolio:

Domaine Bott-Geyl, Kronenbourg, Lieu-dit, Riesling, 2009

Even though I consider Alsace a distant third among the classic Riesling countries (after Germany and Austria), I do like to have a try at it every now and then. It is a beautiful place, really it is, and the terroir is intricate in a way that appeals to the more bookish wine geeks. There are literally hundreds of producers no one outside of France has ever heard of.

Caftory has been carrying Bott-Geyl for years. It's an interesting little house, given to wines spiked with an abundance of minerals. This wine comes from what in Burgundy would be a village or Premier Cru vineyard. Since Alsace has about fifty Grand Cru vineyards, I'm not sure the difference between a mediocre Grand Cru and a good Premier Cru would be very pronounced, but Kronenbourg seems good enough to broach on GC territory. I've had a few vintages of the Bott-Geyl version and it's always very mineral laden. I've even had the 2009 before. At the time, I was hoping it would improve its interest level with age, without actually expecting to run into it again. Now that I have, I love how it spikes the apple fruit with quartz. I know, I already used the verb "spike" earlier in my spiel, but "lace" is a little too tame for the the complex and fierce impression the Kronenbourg makes on the taste buds. It's at its peak now, but I'd definitely buy more. (Sept. 22, 2017)

125 NIS for the 2013.

Dirler-Cade, Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes, 2012 

Caftory has been recommending this for a while. Naturally, I shied away. Sylvaner is the neutral, workhorse grape of Alsace. There's every reason to pursue other wines, even if this specific wine is made of old vines. Nonetheless, I was in an adventurous, explorative frame of mind, so I took home a bottle. This is a neutral wine, indeed. Aromatically, at least. Nothing explodes out of the glass. yet, there is a delicate, nutty earthiness to it. The payback's on the palate. The texture is firm, complex and interesting, with spicy, rocky finish. Nothing very neutral there. (Sept. 23, 2017)

100 NIS

And one red.

Domaine Christophe Peyrus, Coteaux du Languedoc, Pic St. Loup, 2014

Christophe Peyrus is the owner of Clos Marie, a Languedoc property that Uri has been importing from the start. This is pure Syrah, I think, and it has the same vibrant freshness as a young Saint Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage. Except, it ups the mineral quotient and there's almost no black pepper. I think that conveys its personality. It's a little dirtier than I prefer these days, but all in all it's a tasty wine. (Sept. 30, 2017)

135 NIS.