|The Crianza that decided to be a Grand Reserva|
The problem with mature white Riojas is that the style is the quintessential acquired taste. I have acquired a taste for them over the years, to the point I now regret I didn't buy more of the Gravonia. It's easy to pigeonhole the savory aromas - roasted nuts and minerals bordering on cured meats - as oxidized, and that's certainly what I thought when I first encountered white Riojas. And, surely there is light touch of deliberate and measured oxidation. Yet, the Gravonia's bouquet is so complex, vibrant and convincing that it wipes out any preexisting bias. Same for the palate: there's a richness bordering on sweetness, but even after years in bottle, the acidity is still in vibrant balance with the fruit, so that the form remains focused and culminates in food friendly saltiness.
There is actually another problem with mature white Riojas: bottle variations I've had a decent amount of white Riojas from Heredia. Some were gems, some were really off and some just did not meet expectations. I've had Reservas playing at Grand Reserva level and vice versa. The best white Heredia I've had was a twenty one year old Grand Reserva Tondonia 1991. This is a very close second. (Aug. 15, 2018)
Fat Guy, 150 NIS.
Joseph Drouhin, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2012
I don't have too many data points on Drouhin, but the best of the wines I've drunk ranked as the best wines of their class from the negociant houses. A wine store near our offices accepts lunch vouchers as payment and I'd had my eye on this for a few months. The thing was, I didn't trust the store's climate control. When I asked the seller to bring a bottle from the back of the shelf (less exposure to light), he said the batch came in "just this week". Yeah, right. But this bottle is in decent shape, a sous bois, umami shape. It's an old school Gevrey, a wine that coughs and scratches, rather than seducing: drying tannins and aromas of black fruit, blood and iron, and not one to age further. Yet it does have its roguish charm and those tannins eventually soften up and put out. I like. (Aug. 2, 2018)
Vitkin, Israeli Journey, Special Edition, 2016
What's special about this edition is that it's based on Marsellan (and then Carignan, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdo), which has been hit and miss with me so far. It's different from the regular Journey in that it is more floral and riper, whereas the regular shows iron and graphite. It reminds me of their 2014 Grenache, and although it is less convincing than that beautiful wine at this point, I think there's mid term promise here. (Aug. 3, 2018)
About 90 NIS.
Vitkin, Grenache Noir, 2015
I didn't think this is up to the par of the 2014 when I first drank it a few months ago, and I still don't think so now, but it's improving. The nose is more complex and the palate has gained a lithe shape that I really like. I do find it hard to find a tangible reason why it's a lesser wine - mostly the length and I probably miss the floral element that I loved about the 2014 - but it is a wine that I want to follow in future vintages. The reason for that is the way Assaf Paz was able to get pure, fruity, spicy flavors out of Grenache while keeping the alcohol, sugar and extract down to very reasonable levels. Take that, Chateauneuf! (Aug. 16, 2018)
Arnaud Baillot, Montagny Premier Cru, Vieilles Vignes, 2016
This is the new Burgundy negociant that Wine Route has started importing and I know nothing about the enterprise. It was a whim buy and I forgot that Premier Cru is overvalued at Montagny, with about 50 Premier Cru vineyards. This is a decent wine, nothing especially exciting here, it could serve as an introduction to Bourgogne but that's it. (Aug. 4, 2018)
About 200 NIS.
Margalit, Paradigm, 2016
2015 was the vintage where Margalit released their first red made of non-Bordeaux grapes since the one-off 1999 Carignan. I liked it a lot and I like the latest release almost as much, with some reservations, as it it's on the oaky side, on the cusp of the area where I tend to lose interest. My gut feeling is that another year of experience with the Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre grapes and the better harvest conditions in 2016 promise a wine I'd like even more down the road, when the oak integrates better. It's very well made, balancing deep dark fruit with a good flair of acidity, and despite the 14.5% ABV, it's lither than its Southern Rhone peers - even if right now the finish becomes coarser as the wine airs. (Aug. 11, 2018)
Chateau Clerc-Milon, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2008
A fifth growth that sometimes deserves its rank and sometimes overachieves. This is the former, although it is enjoyable. The nose is typical Pauillac - blackcurrants, iron, earth and cedar. And a little rustic, with a touch of brett. The palate is still disjointed, the tannins and acidity in disharmony, and that makes it tough to enjoy the bottle. (Aug. 18, 2018)
Wine Route, 299 NIS.
Netofa, Latour White, 2016
Netofa is a new one for me, a small winery in the lower Galilee. I checked out the winery's site and I'm a little bothered by the formulaic nods at contemporary PR trends, i.e., references to "Mediterranean varieties" and "compatibility with the terroir" - but the wines are so attractive and tasty, with so little artifice, that they should be judged by their own merits. The Latour White is a pure Chenin Blanc, aged 10 months in barrel, and it's a well made, worthy wine, with demure notes of pears and earth and a dry, bitter finish. How the Israeli wine world has changed. Fifteen years ago, if anyone made a Chenin, they certainly didn't position it as one of their flagship wines. And, fifteen years ago, a flagship wine was certainly never as understated as this. (Aug. 20, 2018)
Tel Netofa, Tel Kasser Red, 2016
This is an appealing Grenache-Syrah blend, one of two or three that Netofa positions in its top tier. To be quite honest, it's the kind of wine that's easier for me to enjoy than to write tasting notes for. It's very understated and it just doesn't have a very trendy story - just an aromatic signature that recalls Portuguese reds and a gently lithe structure that will pair well with many foods. (Aug. 22, 2018)
Charles Van Canneyt, Bourgogne, 2013
I thought this was close to village level when I drank it three years ago, and certainly the fact that it's still thriving three years later lends credence. As do the weight, texture and complexity - neither of which are world shattering, but of village level nonetheless. Black fruit, fresh forest leaves, rusty tannins. (Aug. 26, 2018)
Wine Route, about 170 NIS.
Harashim, Blue Moon, 2017
Harashim is a bio-dynamic, vegan-friendly winery in the Galilee I'd actually never heard about until we more or less drove by. This Chardonnay is fermented with wild yeasts, like all their wines, and it weighs in at 11.6% ABV. Until I tasted it, I was worried it'd be either too sweet or too lean. Well, it is lithe and on the lean side, but it's a welcome change of pace and I love its matchstick aromas and a salty, citrus finish. On the minus side, it's a little awkward and rough. This is a wine that will force pundits to drink some Muscadet-Sevre-Maine, instead of Chablis, when they try to find a foreign reference point. (Aug. 27, 2018)
80 NIS (I think).
Denis Race, Chablis Premier Cru, Montmains Vieilles Vignes, 2015
I suppose I may have found it too formulaic the first time around, but the Chablis formula is a pretty good one in the first place - and six additional months have made the experience a more intense one. (Aug. 29, 2018)
Wine Route, 2 for 300 NIS
Domaine Triennes, Côtes de Provence, Les Aureliens, 2014
This is a co-venture located south of Aix-en-Provence and co-owned by Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. This is a Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend. I wish it was as interesting as the owners' resumes, but it's basically a solid wine that's duller than many local so-called 'Mediterranean' wines, some of which I've written about above. (Aug. 31, 2018)
Wine Route, 2 for 150 NIS.